Apple Road Trip

Well, it’s a Monday afternoon road trip for AL and I. Just a quick reminder; AL is what I call my MacBook Pro and of course Yves (the iPhone) is with us as well.  We are sitting in a café waiting for the missus to join us after work.

It is weird to leave the comfort of your own home where one has pretty much everything at hand and go somewhere you will have to pay for anything you want. However, I had to get out of my house. The weather was somewhat agreeable to go for a short walk to my local Internet enabled café. The agreeable weather is a balmy -7C (-13C with the wind chill); which compared to last 10 days or so makes it feel like summer outside. Prior to today, the temperature hovered around -30C (-40C with the wind chill), so going outside was not an option I would have even considered. The more agreeable weather and the chance to get some fresh air is not why I decided to leave the creature comforts of home. I had to get out of my apartment because I could no longer take the noise all around me. To say the walls in my building are paper-thin would not do justice how thin the walls are. From the outside they look thick enough, but once you spend a few minutes inside, you quickly realize there is nothing between them but air.

When my fiancée and I visited the apartment last summer, there was no noise at all. All seemed peaceful and although the living room was not as big as I would have liked, the rest of the apartment was great. There are six apartments in the building; the elderly landlady occupies one apartment and another by her son and daughter in-law. The other renters are couples in their 30s. The building is within walking distance a few grocery stores and in the summer, is a 10-minute bike ride to an outdoor market. There are a few cafés, restaurants, bistros, and bars within the area. So when we signed the lease, we had no way of knowing what we were walking into.

We met our downstairs neighbor on our second day in the building. He warned us the walls were thin and that he was able to hear the previous tenant sneeze. He told me that if ever I thought he was being to loud, I should come and see him. I thought to myself, he must be exaggerating to how thin the walls were. Well, he wasn’t. As I mentioned, the landlord, her son, and daughter in-law live in the building and they don’t talk, so much as they yell. Not angry yelling; but rather just normal conversation yelling. Sometimes, they hold entire conversations between floors. I can turn off the volume on my TV and found what station my neighbors are watching, and I sometimes I feel a part of their conversations.

If it was only the landlord and her relations who were loud, I could live with it, maybe. However, the guy who lives on top of us doesn’t walk so much as stomp. There are times I think he is going to come through the ceiling the way he walks.  He’s another loud talker. My fiancée and I have nicknamed him Boomboom. When Boomboom comes down the stairs, it sounds like a charging herd of elephants. If any of you think I’m exaggerating, I will gladly have you over so you can experience first hand the stampede every morning and those evenings he goes out at night.

My biggest beef is with the guy who lives in the apartment below me. You remember him, the one who warned me the walls were thin and I should let him know if he was being to loud. This genius decided to install a home theater unit with what I can only guess is surround sound, speakers on the wall and ceiling. He watches TV or plays a video game sometimes so loud, that the floor under me vibrates. I can feel these vibrations sometimes when I am lying on the couch, that is how loud it is.

In a battle to listen to what I am watching/playing, I have to raise the volume on my TV. I have to raise it to such a volume that it is no longer pleasant to me. In the evenings, my fiancée goes to bed before I do, so I lower the TV so as not to bother her. However this asshole keeps his as loud as ever. Sometimes I end up watching my show; but listening to his. Some of you may be thinking why not go down and talk to him? Well, I’ve done that and my fiancée has as well. Each time, normal listening volumes lasted about a week. Neither my fiancée or I should have to go downstairs every night to ask him to lower the volume on his TV. If he hasn’t understood how loud it is by now, he never will.

I am not sure if these people don’t realize how loud they are or if they don’t care. In the end, I have two solutions. I can stay at home and live with the noise. I can keep complaining; but then I just look like a complete asshole; especially if I’m going down to complain about the noise at three in the afternoon. My other choice is to do what I am doing now, going out to a café. It is kind of sad that I find it quitter in a café full of people, than I do at home.

The only thing I am sure of is that we will not renew our lease on the 1st of July. In Montreal, it is necessary to give notice at least three months before the end of your lease if you don’t want it automatically renewed. My fiancée and I are now sixty days away from giving notice. The end of my lease can not come soon enough.

This blog entry may not have had much to do with my new life with Apple products; but it was written on my MacBook while sitting in a café, listening to music from iPhone.

My Kingdom for a Widget

A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!
William Shakespeare (Richard III)

As cool as it might be to have a horse, I really don’t need one; but a widget on my phone, now that is something I could use. Not being able to put a widget on my home screens, is the one thing I miss the most since switching to an iPhone from an Android phone. I can not for the life of me understand why Apple is so dead set against widgets in iOS. I can understand Apple not wanting 3rd party applications having access to certain parts of the phone’s OS; but at the very least, Apple itself could offer widgets. I know Steve Jobs was against a smaller iPad and a larger iPhone, yet since his passing we have the iPad Mini and the 4 inch iPhone. Would it be so far-fetched for Tim Cook to sign off on widgets or even for Sir Johnathan Ive to give the green light to widgets? I use the “Sir” part of Ive’s name in the hope that by chance he reads this blog and seeing the respect I showed him, orders widgets ASAP on every iOS known. I can dream, can’t I?

I truly believe I’m in widget withdrawal. Just thinking about them, brings a smile to my face. Widgets, those beautiful little mini-windows packed with all kinds of useful information at a glance. I miss not seeing the information I want right away. I should not have to first tap on one of the context menus, then the app, and maybe another menu, to see what I want. A widget is a great tool for smartphones that Apple should embrace and not reject out-rightly.

On my Samsung Galaxy, I had a widget for almost every kind of information I wanted. I had my Google widget for quickly searching the web. Spotlight is close, but there is an extra step in having to tap on “Search the Web”. Not a big deal; but none the less an extra step to get what I want. I had a widget for Facebook, to easily see all of my family/friend’s updates. I had my Twitter widget. I had a widget for my 3G usage. The is is one of two widgets I miss the most. The 3G widget not only kept track of my usage; but estimated how much data I was going to use for the month and let me know if I might go over my quota. The other widget I miss the most was the one that tracked my monthly talk time minutes. I know I can check this information in Settings; but it isn’t nearly the same, as I only get a global total since the last reset. I’m sorry, that is an asinine way of keeping track of your monthly minutes.  In my plan, I have free minutes from certain incoming/outgoing numbers and during certain times of the day. There is no way for me to configure these exceptions within iOS, something I was able to do with my Android widgets. Does Apple expect me to write the length of my calls from my free numbers and free minutes, than do the math? I can connect to my carrier to get the information; but I shouldn’t have to.

Even if Apple doesn’t want to give me some of the above mentioned widgets, at the very least, give me an easier way to turn on/off WiFi/Bluetooth, and please give me an easier way of going into Airplane mode, rather than having to go through Settings each time. The Notification Center seems like the perfect place for these buttons. Why aren’t they there? There should also be a button to instantly kill all open applications in one shot, rather than tapping on each one individually. Closing apps the Apple way is tiresome, time-consuming,  and feels so much like an old school way of doing it. I know these types of changes are possible to iOS, because I am able to do all of this and more on my iPad. The difference between my iPad and iPhone? The iPad is jailbroken and the iPhone isn’t. I’m waiting for a jailbreak to be available for my version of iOS (6.0.2) and then, faster than Superman can leap a tall building, I will have jailbroken (jailbreaken?) my iPhone.

I can’t believe more Apple users haven’t asked for all or some of these innovations. Why haven’t Apple developers tried to push for these changes over the years? Is it because Apple is so blinded by its way of doing things, that it can’t see how useful widgets are? I know widgets have more of wear and tear on the battery; but the iPhone battery is still better than most Android based phones, can’t we just assume that even with the ability to add widgets the phone would still have a better battery life? If having widgets on my screens, cost me 1 hour of battery life, I think I would be fine with it. In the end, I can only hope Apple one day sees the light and allows widgets.

A widget! A widget! My kingdom for a widget!
Pareech (iPhone 5, iOS 6.0.2)

Windows Users vs Mac Users

Windows vs Apple

The first thing I have noticed early in my life as an Apple user, is that it is much more difficult to customize the visual aspects of the OS. In Windows there are hundreds and hundreds of sites, that allow me to download different themes for desktops, icons, points, etc. It is one of the things I always did with my new machines and even did from time to time. What I’m seeing with Apple, is theme modifications is much more difficult as it appears OS X is getting closer and closer to what can be called iOS. From what I have been able to gather, even as recently as Lion, there were many different ways to personalize your machine. However, in the latest version of OS X, Mountain Lion, although some of these personalization can still be applied, most of what could be modified, no longer can.

Another difference I find between the users of the two OS’ is the forum experience. Although I haven’t mentioned it before in my postings, my distaste for Apple products was not solely based on my previous experience with a Macintosh Classic. It also stemmed from the people who used Apple’s products. I found and still do find, Apple users have a sort of  arrogance and superiority when you talk to them or ask them questions. I’ve noticed this whether I was reading some tech website or when I’m in a forum looking for the answer to a question I have. I’m not saying all Apple users are like that; but I find the expression “The Cult of the Mac” very fitting for Apple users and not a term I would ever dream of hearing about a Windows user. In my opinion, the major difference in the two types of users is Apple users love their gadgets, while Windows users, use their gadgets.

As a new user of Apple’s OS X, I find myself often searching the web to find out how to do certain things. My low point, at least from a personal point of view, was when I searched how to easily rename a file. In Windows, tap the F2 key and type the name you want. I would have never guessed in a million years that in OS X, tapping the Enter key on a file, would allow me to change a name. Hitting Enter is so engrained in my psyche that it opens a file/folder, that I would never think to use that to rename a file. However, that is neither here nor there.

While there are many people in the various Apple forums who are helpful and answer questions with precision and sometimes patience, I find there are just as many if not more, who seem to have an arrogance in their answer. The single most popular answer I have seen to the more technical questions, is “Why do you want to do that”? Does it really matter why the person wants to do it? Even after the person answers why they want to do what they want to do, they are more often than not faced with multiple people explaining why they should not. If people are warned about the consequences of doing something and they still want to do it, that should not be yours, mine, or anyone else’s problem. The adage of buyer beware should apply here.

In one of the forums, a question was asked about needing the default root password to modify a configuration file. The first answer the person received was, the aforementioned “Why”. The person explained what he wanted to do and once again asked if anyone knew the default root password. Rather than explain to the person why you should not log in as root and explain to him the dangers of modifying configuration files. The person received yet again another response of “You shouldn’t use it”. The original poster explained that he was a UNIX and Linux Administrator, he has been working on these OS’s for years and was quite familiar with the dangers of using root for anything. One would think at this point, someone would have either private messaged him the password to avoid less knowledgeable people from getting it or just given him the response. Instead he was told again what the dangers of using root and that he should use other methods to modify the file. He then explained that he had tried different methods; but none let him save the file after modification because of a problem with rights. The discussion on the inherent evils of having the root password went on for another two pages, by which, I no longer saw the OP posting in the forum.

Even sometimes the simplest questions get the most asinine of answers. I was searching what the different symbols meant for doing keyboard shortcuts. The first answer I came across, was in response to a similar question. The reply was simply RTFM. The OP didn’t even bother to respond and probably did what I did, look somewhere else. The problem with this kind of answer, is that there is no manual that comes with your new laptop. You get a few brief instructions how to start-up the machine and configure for internet access; but after that you are on your own to find the answers.

If I compare all the above to the experience of asking and having questions answered in forums dedicated to Windows users, I can sum it up as such. Your question is asked and an answer is given. No one asks why you would want to do what you want to do or questions your motives. If clarification was needed, a more detailed answer was given. Easy Peasy.

I think the forum experience, can go a long way to improving someone’s perception of a product and its ease of use. It is in these forums where people like myself go for answers and not disapproving remarks or comments asking why someone would want to do something. Although the experience in the Apple forums, is drastically different from that of  Windows, does not take away from the Apple experience. The internet can sometimes be seen as the bullies domain. You can sit behind your screen, say whatever you want and know there will be little to no consequences to what was written. It’s just a shame that sometimes I have to go to a few sites or pages to the find the answer I’m looking for. It’s more frustrating than anything else; but not something I blame on Apple, just a few bad seeds.