My name is Matt Henderson—I’m a founder at the Makalu products company, and author of Money for Something. Living on the southern coast Spain, I enjoy writing about design, business, investing and living abroad.
Back in August, I purchased a 4TB G-Drive at the Apple Store in Marbella to serve as the destination that CrashPlan uses when backing up our family’s various Macs.
Last week, CrashPlan started getting stuck; stuck synchronizing file information, and stuck backing up our data. The superb staff at Code42 inspected my CrashPlan logs, and discovered numerous read and write errors on the disk. Although Disk Utilities and Tech Tool Pro both reported that the disk was fine, the venerable Disk Warrior got “stuck” in its (evidently much deeper) drive check.
Convinced that the drive had problems, I then set off to the Apple Store—four-month-old purchase receipt in hand—to get a replacement.
After explaining the problem to the Apple Store employee, he replied that Apple only takes back disks during the first three months; after that, the customer has to deal directly with the manufacturer. He then volunteered to help me identify the manufacturer’s contact details.
As the guy was Googling, “G-Technology service and repair”, I was imagining what my next few days and weeks were going to look like:
…all the while, not having a backup at home, because the drive is getting repaired.
I was just about tell the Apple representative to forget it, that I’d just buy a new drive, when he spoke up and said, “Hey, G-Technology doesn’t have customer support in Spain, so we’re just gonna replace the drive for you here.”
Then a few minutes later, returning from the back room, he reported that unfortunately Apple didn’t have any more of those particular drives in stock. But, they did have a 4TB Seagate drive they could offer me. And… that drive costs 100 € less, so in addition, they’ll refund me 100 €!
Now that is great customer support!
Update: Sometimes blogging really pays off. Not 15 minutes after posting this article, someone on Twitter tipped me about a solution—In some recent release of Ulysses, they added the ability to add “external sources”. Using this feature, which is unfortunately only accessible via the small plus icon in the lower left of the screen, you can choose any folder as a document repository, and that works just fine with my Dropbox Notes folder.
Like many people these days, I have a “Notes” folder in Dropbox that acts as the central document repository for a variety of writing and editing workflows on my Mac, iPhone and iPad mini.
For long-form writing on the iPad, I use iA Writer, which reads from and writes to my Notes folder in Dropbox. For creating quick notes on the go using my iPhone, I use Simplenote, which synchronizes with nvALT (Notational Velocity ALT) running on my Mac. nvALT, in turns, keeps everything in sync with my Dropbox Notes folder.
While nvALT, on the Mac, is great for creating quick notes and searching my Notes folder, it’s not a particularly great environment for authoring in Markdown. For that, I prefer to use Ulysses III.
Ulysses is a great environment for authoring in Markdown. In addition to a quiet “focus” mode that’s common among writing apps these days, the killer feature of Ulysses for me are convenient visual controls for constructing those Markdown structures people like me tend to forget, like links and inline images. And those same controls result in a document that’s far easier to read, as meta-text like URLs are hidden from view.
But as much as I love Ulysses, it has one short-coming that, for me, is almost a show-stopper—it doesn’t support Dropbox as a document repository. So to work in Ulysses, I have to copy and paste text from a document in nvALT into a document in Ulysses, which introduces the risk that when I later move to the iPad to work, I won’t be working on the latest version
So my wish list for Ulysses contains only one item—Dropbox integration. And if—heck, let’s be optimistic and say, “when”—that happens, it’ll become one of the core apps running on my Mac.
A passion for design is a passion for the interests of one’s customers, because respect for their time and a desire to make them happy is at the core of the design process.
Naturally, the flip side of that coin is that poor design often reflects, either directly or indirectly, the absence of real interest in the customer on the part of a product creator. And I suppose it’s for that reason I feel so sour, and nearly offended, whenever I stumble or lose time over poor design.
Between Makalu, RaceSplitter and Rego we have a lot of customers to keep track of. And for that, we use the software Daylite from Marketcircle. As powerful as Daylite is, I frequently stumble upon design shortcomings in the product—and today I hit a particularly annoying one.
One of the important new features in Daylite 4 is Find Duplicate Contacts…, allowing us to identify and combine those duplicate contacts which, over time, inevitably find their way into our data. After identifying potential duplicate sets, here’s what the feature’s UI looks like:
The Daylite designers implemented a two-step resolution process:
First, you select which of the possible duplicate records should be the “master” record, whose data is used for any conflicting fields.
Second, you click the “Combine” button, which combines the duplicate records into one.
Once you’ve combined a candidate set, you move on to the next and repeat this process.
So what’s the problem here?
The problem is that the user ends up spending about 12 seconds per duplicate candidate set—i.e. 1 to 2 seconds selecting the “master” record, and then 10 seconds after clicking “Combine”, waiting for the database merge to complete.
In my case, I had 300 potential candidate sets, the resolution of which required about an hour of my time.
Had the designers been more thoughtful—had they deeply had my interests in mind—they would have implemented an option for the following alternative workflow:
Walk through each candidate set, selecting the master record.
Press a “Combine All” button, and then go back to work on something else while all the database transactions happen.
This workflow would require adding a select box on each candidate set, and possibly a slight change to the feature layout, in order to exclude sets that aren’t in fact duplicates. But in my case such a workflow would have required only about seven minutes of my time.
Postscript: In fairness, there could be a counter-argument. If it turned out that having to process lots of potential duplicates is relatively rare, then an argument could be made against complicating the UI for the majority of use cases. But Daylite is a power-user’s application, meant for a multi-user, complex business environment. And, as with my own case, it’s only after running into a lot of duplicates that I was even prompted to look for such a feature! So I’m not sure that argument would apply here.
Whenever any one, or combination of, these apps saturates the ADSL upload bandwidth, downloading then becomes very difficult. And that presents a big problem when trying to do things like watch content on iTunes, or have a conversation over Skype.
These apps all try to address the problem, but in collectively (and sometimes individually) ineffective ways:
Although I’d love to find a single-interface, elegant solution to the problem, life right now would be much easier if:
For a little more than a year my daily home/office commute bag has been the Tom Bihn 11″ MacBook Air Ristretto. This afternoon, I switched to the Tom Bihn Co-Pilot and this article talks about that decision.
The following image illustrates what I carry in my bag each day:
The vertically-oriented Ristretto has two compartments:
The bag has 10.6 liters of volume and weighs 560 grams.
Here’s what all that gear looks like in the Ristretto:
Although I loved the Ristretto—and like all Tom Bihn bags it’s very well designed and constructed—the bag presented two problems for me:
Although the Tom Bihn Co-Pilot is labled as a “carry on” bag, you’ll find it listed in the “laptop bags” section of their website, and that’s where I discovered it in my search for a Ristretto replacement.
The horizontally-oriented Co-Pilot has four compartments:
The bag has 9.6 liters of volume (9% less than the Ristretto) and weighs 385 grams (30% less than the Ristretto).
In addition, I paid $30 extra for the “Absolute Strap”, which I’d read good things about, and turns out to be quite comfortable.
Here’s what the bag looks like, both closed and open with my stuff inside:
I’ve only had the Co-Pilot for a little more than a day, but here are some considerations I’ve already noted regarding the switch from the Ristretto.
As you can probably tell from this review, I’m optimistic about the choice of migrating from a Tom Bihn Ristretto to a Co-Pilot! The Co-Pilot is light, spacious and very well designed!
If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll try to answer them as soon as possible.
A few weeks ago, as I reported here on the blog I opened my iPad mini and saw, “iPad is disabled”.
In this state, the iPad can’t be used until it’s connected and sync’d with iTunes on its rightful owner’s Mac; a major pain if you happen to be traveling with nothing but the iPad! But this behavior is a safety measure by design, as “disabled” is the mode into which an iPad goes after one too many incorrect unlock PIN codes have been entered.
Wondering what could cause this, my suspicion was that somehow my iPad was getting frequently switched on and off while being transported in my bag. Why did I suspect that? Well, I’ve also recently noticed that while running with my iPhone in a fanny pack, I’ll sometimes hear what appears to be telephone dialing coming through the headphones over the music. When that happens and I take the phone out of my pack, I’ll find it displaying the “emergency call” screen. So somehow, just the friction of the fanny pack material against the face of the iPhone, while running, causes the iPhone to switch on.
But what could cause the iPad in my bag to switch on in a similar way?
I’ve noticed that if you twist the Smart Cover of an iPad mini in the same plane as the device, you can hear it switching on and off. So it’s not only separation of the cover from the device that activates it; but also disalignment of the cover against the device as well. (I suppose there’s a magnet in the cover whose specific position relative to the device is monitoried.)
My iPad has a Smart Cover, and when transported I slide the whole thing into a neoprene ACME MADE iPad mini sleeve. So my suspicion was that somehow, the device inside the neoprene sleeve, while being transported in my admittely tightly-packed Tom Bihn Ristretto bag was causing the Smart Cover to twist just enough to repeatedly activate and deactive the device until the “iPad is Disabled” state was engaged.
But around the same time as this was happening, something else frequently happened as well. I’d sometimes open the iPad and find the brightness control enabled, and pulsing up and down as if the light sensor had gone mad. I thought that, with a bit of imagination, that might also be related to whatever was causing the disabled mode.
I decided to go see Apple, and they seemed convinced it was a hardware problem and immediately replaced the device.
I thought the problem was resolved…until yesterday, when I pulled my iPad mini out of its bag and sleeve, opened the cover to once again find, “iPad is disabled”.
So now I’m back to the theory that this is being caused by twisting action on the Smart Cover, somehow happening when my iPad is being transported in its sleeve and bag.
I could try disabling the Auto-Lock feature. Having to manually press the button to turn it on wouldn’t be to bad. What’s bad, though, is the muscle-memory I have related to the action of just closing the cover to switch the device off. I’m pretty sure if I disabled Auto-Lock, I’d often close the cover, and then return later to find the battery completely depleted.
And that’s where are today—still a mystery. Hopefully somebody with a solution will stumble across this article!
I run Daylite Server on an internet-connect Mac mini, and after upgrading to Mavericks (and OS X Mavericks Server) neither Daylite (running on my MacBook Air) nor Daylite Touch (running on my iOS devices) could connect to the server.
I noticed that if I disabled the firewall on the server, Daylite could then successfully connect. I inspected the server’s Firewall Options, and saw “Allow Incoming Connections” green on the Daylite Server Admin app, as well as the handful of Daylite-related server daemons.
I tried deleting those entries from the firewall and restarting the Daylite Server—hoping to see the familiar “Do you want to allow incoming connections?…” dialogs. But after restarting the Daylite Server those dialogs didn’t appear, and I still couldn’t connect.
As a last resort, I tried restarting the mini itself. Upon restart (and upon reconnecting via Screen Sharing), I finally saw the handful of Daylite daemon-related “Do you want to allow incoming connections?…” dialogs, and I confirmed them all. After that, Daylite could then successfully connect.
So my suspicion is that the first time the mini started after the Mavericks update, those dialogs appeared, but since I wasn’t connected to confirm them, they were declined by the OS. Which, if true, is strange, because there’s an option in the firewall that’s enabled, which should automatically allow incoming connections from “signed” apps. Could it be that Daylite Server, or some of its daemons are unsigned?
Anyway, problem now results, and I just wanted to post these notes for the benefit of anybody else that runs into this.
My iPad mini seems to have a hardware problem. Frequently, when I activate the device by opening its Smart Cover, I find it in one of two states:
In this state, the brightness control is visible, and pulsing up and down, on its own without any input from me, until it finally settles in the completely down position. Here’s a video:
Although I can authenticate with my pin code and use the device, the brightness control remains fixed on the screen and can’t be dismissed without a full power cycle of the iPad. (And, in this state, the brightness can no longer be manually controlled.)
The other state in which I might find the device is Disabled.
This is the state the device gets in after too many failed logins. And if “Find my iPad” was previously enabled, you can’t recover from this mode through normal means. For example, if you try “Restoring from Backup”, iTunes will report that you must first unlock the device with your pin code—something that’s obviously impossible to do. Furthermore, logging into iCloud and removing the device from “Find my iPad” doesn’t help either.
When the device is disabled, you have to boot in Recovery Mode—by pressing the power-home button combination until the device restarts, and then continue holding the home button until it says “Connect to iTunes”—and then restore it from scratch, from iTunes. This requires a full download of the iOS software over the internet.
This—the device getting disabled—has actually happened to me twice now, and in both cases there was some mystery around its recovery.
The first time, I booted into Recovery Mode, started the restore process, and went to have lunch. When I returned, expecting to find the iPad in a “new” state and requiring a restore from backup, I instead found it completely up to date, with all my apps and contents. It was as if nothing had happened. Given my certainty that I’d need to subsequently restore from backup, I actually wondered whether the restore process had happened at all, or whether the device had somehow just recovered.
The second time, I was in the car and found it disabled while at a stoplight. (Yes, I was going to check email at a stoplight.) When I got home, the problem had cleared up on its own.
This afternoon while at the office, I opened the iPad to discover it in the “Possessed” state, and decided to immediately drive over to the local Apple Store, five minutes away, to have a Genius look at it.
The folks at the Apple Store, though, wouldn’t let me speak with a Genius, because I didn’t have an appointment. The problem, I explained, was that by the time I got an appointment, I would be left having to describe the problem to them, while right now, I can actually demonstrate it! Unfortunately, that wasn’t a good enough reason to break protocol, so they gave me an appointment for next Tuesday.
At this point, I can (a) leave the device as-is, without using it until next Tuesday in order to demonstrate the problem, or (b) reboot it, so that I can continue to use it, and then hope they’ll be able to investigate the problem next week with just a description (and perhaps the above video.)
Had my appointment at the Apple Store Genius Bar this morning, and given the combination of both a brightness anomaly and frequent “iPad is Disabled” occurrences, they replaced the iPad mini on the spot, saying that my old one almost surely had a motherboard problem.
This article is about a frustrating experience with the WIRED Magazine iPad app, by Conde Nast.
I have an active subscription to WIRED Magazine on the iPad, valid through July 2014. After a recent iOS update, I found that most of my subscribed magazines, including WIRED, were missing from the Newsstand app.
After re-downloading the WIRED app, I launched it and found myself looking at a “Store” screen full of issues available for purchase at $4.99. Same thing on the “Library” screen. What I should have seen were a bunch of “Download” buttons, not “Purchase” buttons. In other words, the app didn’t recognize that I’m an active subscriber. (When I re-installed The Economist, for example, it did recognize that I’m a subscriber.)
So I began looking for a way to tell the app that I am a current subscriber.
The app has five sections: Library, Store, My Account, FAQ and Video.
I started by visiting the “My Account” area.
The “All Access” and “Complete Account Setup” would seem like candidates, but after poking around in those sections I discovered they are only relevant to print subscribers.
Next it was off to the FAQ section. There, I discovered content that apparently hasn’t been looked at in ages:
“What is iOS 5?”, “How do I update to iOS 5?” Seriously, this from a magazine positioned to be on the cutting edge of technology? We’re long past iOS 5, guys.
So it’s back to the Store screen. The current issue displayed two options — ”Purchase for $4.99″ or “Subscribe”. I decided to tap the “Subscribe” button, and was asked to choose between a monthly subscription for $1.99 or a yearly subscription for $19.99. I tapped the yearly subscription option, expecting that when the app submitted the purchase request to Apple, it would be told that I’m already a subscriber.
Which is exactly what happened! Shortly after entering my App Store password, a message came back saying:
You are already subscribed to WIRED Magazine, through July 2014.
Except for one problem—all the magazine issues were still listed as purchasable, not downloadable. So even after confirming that I’m an active subscriber, the app still didn’t update its state to reflect that.
Noticing that I was still on the Store screen, I thought, “Oh, I’ll bet the app updated its state on the Library screen.” So I switched and … nothing; all the issues there were also listed as purchasable, not downloadable. Good grief. But then I noticed a “Sign In” link in the upper left corner, and thought, “Oh, maybe that’s where it’s done!”
But that wasn’t it either. After some fumbling around, I discovered that’s related to your WIRED website account, and unrelated to your app subscription.
Given that trying to subscribe to the magazine resulted in a confirmation of my active subscription, and running out of options at this point, I decided to just try purchasing an issue, hoping that that will also return a message like, “You’re already subscribed; this download will be free.”
So I tapped the “Purchase” button on the November issue and…got a confirmation that I’ve just spent $4.99. Heavy sigh.
For a moment I almost didn’t believe it, but then got the Growl notification as Mail.app announced the incoming iTunes purchase receipt email.
Unwilling to believe there’s no way to tell this app that I’m subscribed, I finally noticed the gear icon in the upper right corner of the Library screen.
For whatever reason, I had previously discounted this as an option. I guess my subconscious just assumed that given the presence of a “Sign-in” service opposite this gear, that the gear section wouldn’t contain account-related services.
But lo and behold, under the gear menu I found an option called, “Restore Purchases”, which when tapped finally changed the state of the app to reflect my active subscription, allowing me to download issues without purchase.
Setting up a new device or restoring from a backup would seem to me common enough use cases, that apps like WIRED would, on the Store or Library screens, offer a message like, “Already subscribed? Click here to restore your subscription.”
They do that for print subscribers—i.e. they have very prevalent messages under the “My Account” area communicating, “Already a print subscriber? Click here for iPad access.”—so why not an equally-prevalent service for iPad-only subscribers?
I ended up making an unfortunate $4.99 purchase, and wasting a lot of time unnecessarily, due to what, in my opinion, is unthoughtful interaction design.
I emailed iTunes, explaining what happened and requesting a refund of the $4.99 purchase. Although they did grant a refund, their reply was almost as disappointing as the experience with WIRED.
First, they communicate appreciation for me having contacted them, and confirming an understanding that I’ve asked for assistance with an “accidental” in-app purchase. Then, they communicate how much pleasure it gives them to have the opportunity to help me and proceed to reference some knowledge-base articles explaining what in-app purchases are, and how to disable them in my apps—all of which suggests they didn’t even bother trying to understand what actually happened.
This is Glenn your iTunes Store Advisor and I appreciate your inquiry regarding our services today. I understand that you need assistance about an accidental in-app purchase on your iTunes Store account.
I’ll take care of your concern and it would be my pleasure assisting you to straighten this matter and I’m happy to help you with this issue
I checked your account and it looks like the purchase was made within an iOS app. This is called an “In-App Purchase”. For information on this type of purchase, read:
iTunes Store: About In-App Purchases http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4009
I checked your account and it looks like the purchase was an auto-renewing subscription, made within an iOS app. To learn more about auto-renewing subscriptions, read:
iTunes Store: Purchasing and managing auto-renewing subscriptions http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4098
I understand that this purchase was made accidentally. Within 10 business days, you’ll see a credit posted to the payment method listed on the receipt.
Please note that this refund is a one-time exception, as the iTunes Store Terms and Conditions state that all sales are final.
To prevent more In-App Purchases, you can block them on any of your iOS devices. Follow these steps for each device:
1) Tap Settings on your device’s home screen. 2) Tap General. 3) Tap Restrictions. 4) Tap Enable Restrictions and enter a passcode. This passcode will prevent restrictions from being disabled without your permission. 5) Scroll down to the Allowed Content section. Switch the In-App Purchases option to OFF. You may need to enter your passcode again.
I hope I was able to assist you with this matter. Have a good day!.
Glenn iTunes Store/Mac App Store Customer Support
In my search for a lightweight app to satisfy my basic photo enhancement needs, I stumbled across FX Photo Studio in the Mac App Store, I wrote the developer—”MacPhun”—to confirm whether the app does the two things I need:
A reply soon came in from “Kyle”:
Hi Matt, FX Photo Studio is an app with a very large collection of high quality photo effects created in cooperation with pro photographers and graphic designers. It has both Cropping and Auto-enhancing features in it. There is a trial version if you are still hesitating [url].
Regards, Kyle. Stay awesome! MacPhun Software Support Team
I always find it irritating to receive boilerplate text—I didn’t ask about their cooperation with “pro photographers and graphic designers”—but hey, we’re looking good; he confirms it does cropping and auto-enhancing.
So I downloaded the trial version he linked to and launched it. Uh oh—there’s no way to get past the activation screen. Evidently he sent me the wrong version.
I was going to email Kyle about that, but thinking that the app’s only $9.99 in the App Store and since he did confirm it does what I need, I went ahead and bought it…
…only to discover that I can’t find any auto-enhance functionality. Time for another email to Kyle:
Hi Kyle. I downloaded the trial version, but couldn’t get past the activation screen. Being in kind of a hurry, I just purchased FX Photo Studio from the App Store. I’ve found cropping, but I can’t find auto-enhance. Could you please perhaps let me know where that can be found? Thanks so much!
…to which Kyle replied…
Unfortunately, you may only do this manually in your version of FX Photo Studio.
FX Photo Studio and FX Photo Studio PRO versions have different number of options FX Photo Studio lets you manually adjust Exposure, Brightness, Saturation, Contrast and Hue FX Photo Studio PRO includes the following adjustable parameters Brightness and Color Tab open a sub-category to adjust Exposure, Brightness, Saturation, Contrast, Temperature, Hue and Color Balance (Red, Green, Blue) Levels Tool allows moving and stretching the brightness levels of an image histogram. It has the power to adjust brightness, contrast, and tonal range by specifying the location of complete black, complete white, and mid-tones in a histogram. Sharpen and Denoise tools. Sharpen increases contrast along edges to increase apparent sharpness of the image and Denoise tool is used to eliminate the noise from the pictures. Shadows and Highlights adjusters help to fix pictures, taken in low light.
Regards, Kyle. Stay awesome! MacPhun Software Support Team
Sigh. What does he mean by “my version”—maybe that auto-enhance is only available in the “PRO” version of his app? If so, why doesn’t he just say that. And why the boilerplate bomb!
So I wrote back…
Hi Kyle. Rather than copying and pasting some text (I didn’t ask for a full list of manually adjustable parameters), can you just clarify which version of your software contains an “auto” enhance feature, i.e. which automatically enhances the images without having to manually adjust anything? Thanks, Matt
…to which I got the almost expected reply:
Hi Matt, Sorry for the inconvenience! I might have got your question wrong. Right now “Auto-enhance” feature is not available. We plan to add it in the future releases.
Regards, Kyle. Stay awesome! MacPhun Software Support Team
So he claims to have misunderstood what I meant by “auto-enhance”, although it is something he’s got planned for a future release. Thanks—you “stay awesome” too, Kyle.
So now it’s off to the Mac App Store, to figure out how to request a refund.