Monday, 24 July 2006

Argh! I don't believe it! (As Victor Meldrew would say.) I'm on my third top case and trackpad for this ruddy MacBook, and now they are starting to discolour too - after less than a week. This is ridiculous. Will I have to send my MacBook back to Apple every fortnight forever just to make sure that it doesn't look like a dirty pancake? What was the point of them agreeing to repair it (twice) if they didn't have replacement parts that were immune to the same problems? Is it just me? Do I have corrosive, yellow sweat? I think not... My white T-shirts and work shirts don't turn yellow. My white iBook never turned yellow. But this MacBook... It would seem that there is a whole batch of faulty plastic still out there, and the Birmingham repair centre is still using them. Very frustrating. Anyway...

Another shot of Scrivener to cheer me up:

Monday, 17 July 2006

Buggy monitor...

I think this is the funniest post to the Apple support forums I have ever seen:

I feel sorry for the guy, I really do, but I couldn't help laughing my head off. Here's a direct link to the YouTube vid, in which you can see the guy try, but fail, to swat the insect living inside his monitor:

I'm going to make no jokes about buggy machines... Oh, wait - I just did. And in the title too. Whoops.

Saturday, 15 July 2006

When I was teaching at Harvard, darlings...

In today's Grauniad, Zadie Smith writes about the "genesis" of her recent Booker-prize winning novel, On Beauty. Some quotes:

"Public accounts [of how a book begins] tend to have a fictional texture - this is not to say they're untrue, but they are writerly explanations, fished from the sea that is the book itself."

"The clues to the more personal elements of that process are in the writer's private past, the subconscious family romances that return you to the same ideas over and over. I'm too superstitious to unpick those..."

"The larger clues are on the shelves and piled up on the desk. In the case of On Beauty, these books were old favourites, because I was teaching them at Harvad. Nabakov, Forster, Kafka, Zora Neale Hurston, Paula Fox, John Updike, WG Sebald..."

"With a brazen ahistoricism I can't intellecutally defend..."

"When I was writing, I thought the comic tautology and sheer metaphysical weirdness of..."

"My sympathy is with old-fashioned existentialism; it is the struggle to 'be' that interests me when I write; to 'be' without mediation or self-delusion."

Bollocks, more like.

She goes on to quote (predictably) David Foster Wallace (she is clearly proud that she has read his tomb stone of a book that normal people file away on their shelves next to Ulysses - that is, if they are strong enough to hawk it home from the bookshop).

Smith wrote half a good book - the first half of White Teeth. The second half was utter crap; I can only speculate that this may have been the result of her getting a lucrative and infamous publishing deal halfway through writing it. The Autograph Man was utter tosh and I could only bear to read the first three chapters. Perhaps I should give On Beauty a chance, but pretentious writing like this only alienates me even more. Anyone can throw in a clever-sounding quote, see:

Good writers have two things in common: they prefer to be understood rather than admired; and they do not write for knowing and over-acute readers.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Something of which Smith would do well to take heed. Until then, she should be locked in a room with A.S. Byatt, the other chief Grauniad-favoured prolix bag of wind, and have a camera pointed at them with a direct feed to the world's living rooms so that we can all learn how to say very little in a large number of incredibly lengthy words (apart from the most frequent word you would hear from their mouths, which would, of course, be "I").

Wednesday, 12 July 2006

The Mac is back... to Apple

Sigh... UPS just came around to take my MacBook back to Apple - again. I do hope they fix everything this time around - the discolouration, the poorly fitted replacement top-case, the chip they caused in the polycarbonate and so on. I don't have particularly high hopes, but at least they are trying to do something about the whole mess. It does mean that I am back on my beloved iBook for a few days, but I do miss the lovely keyboard of my MacBook, not to mention the glossy screen. (A lot of people were very upset that the MacBook had a glossy screen, but I actually prefer it.)

Tuesday, 11 July 2006

Edward Wheatley of Norfolk

Edward Wheatley of Norfolk, wherever you are, I salute you for your hilarious parody of antiquated and anachronistic attitudes in your letter to the Sunday Times of 9th July, 2006! It perfectly captures the sort of thing you might have expected a Daily Mail reader to have written twenty years ago. Ha! Oh, hold on a minute. You weren't being serious, were you?

"The problem with Saxondale (BBC2) is that it is simply not funny. But, of course, it's not meant to be. Like so much comedy, its purpose is not to amuse a mass audience but to impress the writers' friends, demonstrate their "right-on" credentials to students and win prizes from gullible judges. How much better it would be had these writers and their target audience done national service rather than gone to university."
- Edward Wheatley, Norfolk

Yes, because national service clearly did you the world of good, didn't it? Quite honestly, I think that anybody who can possibly suggest that the best strategy for sorting out the world's ills is to put guns in the hands of the younger generation and train them to think like sheep and shoot Johnny Foreigner is clearly pathological and should be locked up for everybody's sake.

That said, I often think of the inverted "Assylum" in So Long And Thanks For All The Fish. The number of toothpick-like triggers out there is accumulating exponentially on a daily basis (if this last part means nothing to you then your life is impoverished but you can fix it immediately: go out and read the Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy collection - now).

Sunday, 9 July 2006

M for Mac Junkies

I am a Mac-user. Obviously, or I wouldn't be developing an application in Cocoa for OS X. I like OS X. Actually, I love OS X. OS X is a wonderful operating system. And Apple machines look rather nice. THIS DOES NOT MAKE APPLE COMPUTER INFALLIBLE. It just means they have some good software engineers and designers. Okay. There, I said it. Now go ahead and flame me all you want.

Again and again I am baffled by the fanboy-ism of a certain breed of Mac user. This is, I know, only a sub-species of Mac user which just happens to be the most vocal. They no doubt emerged from the same shallows of the gene pool as did PlayStation and Xbox fanboys who have endless slanging matches about which console is "best". They do Apple no favours. Such fervent and inherently irrational devotion to a computer manufacturing corporation put me off buying a Mac for years. (I still feel queasy if I have to step into the Apple church of Scientology, sorry, I mean Regent Street store.) The quiet majority are a much better advertisement for Apple; I doubt you will ever find Phillip Pullman on a forum accusing anybody of being a Microsoft troll merely for stating that they have a problem with an Apple product, as did one poster to the Apple support forums today:

"Quite honestly I think a majority of the complaints are coming from non-Mac users who have infiltrated these newsgroups. As an OS/2 advocate for many years I was always under attack by Microsoft fanatics masquerading as OS/2 users. Their intent is to scare or drive people away from one OS and to their chosen product. Microsoft was actually found, at one time, to have paid employees to do such work... So don't pay much attention to them."

Paranoia, paranoia, everybody's coming to get me... Whenever I post on that forum, I feel that I have to balance any problems I have with my machine with praise for Apple, lest I am flamed for daring to imply that a single Apple machine out there might not be perfect. I confess that there are times when such users, and Apple's attitude to its users and the press, make me think about returning to a PC just to be away from such ugliness of attitude. Of course, such madness is only momentary: one look at OS X, or at the Cocoa support forums, where Apple software engineers such as Douglas Davidson, John Randolph and Ali Ozer all give support to programmers for free, reminds me that I could never return to Windows. But like I say, such users do Apple no favours.

Meanwhile, the new top case to my MacBook - which was replaced because the old one suffered from the discolouration problem - seems to be, er, suffering from some minor discolouration already. It was only replaced three days ago, and already, if I look at it from an angle, I can see a yellow-ish patch which I cannot clean off. It seems that Apple are aware of the problem and have taken a decision to replace affected top cases but still haven't tracked down the root cause. Great.

Thursday, 6 July 2006

Apple "Repair"...

Well, after much moaning to AppleCare, they finally agreed to take my MacBook in and replace the top-casing, which has suffered from the infamous "discolouration" issue - it seems that Apple are finally starting to take this seriously. And I have to say that the AppleCare service was quite amazing. They agreed to take my machine in for repair on the Friday. A box arrived with TNT the following Tuesday, and TNT took it away there and then. Apple repaired the machine on the Wednesday and I received it back on the Thursday (today) - fantastic. Except...

Except that the "repair" seems a bit of a botch-job to me. I don't think it's being too fussy or anal to expect a near-perfect machine from the get-go for nearly £1,000. It looks like Apple may disagree, though... They have indeed replaced my top-casing with a lovely new, pristine white one. However, they have only replaced the plastic around the keyboard. I naively assumed that they would also replace the plastic around the screen while they were at it, given that they are made of the identical material. But no such luck. The plastic right around the iSight camera is starting to discolour where my thumb lifts up the lid. It's not very noticable as of yet, but then my thumb only comes into contact with it several times a day, whereas my palms were in contact with the palm-rests for several hours. It doesn't take a genius (or a Genius) to work out that within a couple of months the plastic around the screen is going to look pretty shabby, too.

On top of that, the top-casing doesn't even seem fitted properly to me. It's certainly not flush against the polycarbonate case as it used to be. There is a millimetre gap between the top-casing and the polycarbonate in front of the left palm-rest and the trackpad. I can fit a thumbnail under there. All it will take is to catch it on something, and the plastic is going to get damaged - not to mention that dust is going to get under there.

And on top of that, the Apple engineers who replaced the top-casing obviously weren't too careful. There is now a small nick in the polycarbonate on the left of the keyboard, right next to the top-casing - obviously where they have used a screwdriver or something to prise off the old top-casing.

And if all that wasn't enough to weep into my bank statement, when I booted up my machine I found that everything was gone. It turns out that they replaced my hard-drive, too, as when they did lots of diagnostic tests before returning the machine to me, they found the original hard-drive was dodgy. Great! So now I have to reinstall everything, and I am really annoyed because there was one picture of Thurston that I used for my user account picture that I forgot to back up. Grrr.

Obviously, I called AppleCare about all of these issues about ten minutes after checking out the returned machine. Again I spoke to someone very helpful, although he told me that because the repair centres check over the machines very carefully before returning them to customers to try to ensure that they won't need to be returned for repair for anything else anytime soon, the fact that my machine had been returned to me probably meant that all the problems I have are considered "within spec" (which to me sounds horribly close to "it'll do"). He said he only knew of problems with discolouration of the top-casing on MacBooks, and not with the area around the iSight, and he wasn't aware that they are made of the same plastic (which seemed odd to me, given that he was the laptops expert - hey, he said "laptop", surely he must have meant "notebook"; these things are too hot to be "laptops"! It made me wonder if he had ever actually seen a MacBook, as it only takes one glance to see that the area around the screen is made of the same plastic as the top-casing...). Anyway, like I say, he was very friendly and helpful, and asked me to send him some photos of all my issues so that he could discuss them with engineering. He promised to get back to me next week, so I will just have to wait and see what happens.

To be honest, I could probably live with all these minor imperfections - the machine works, I can use it to develop and then use Scrivener quite happily. But why should I just "live with" a brand-new machine? After all the discolouration fuss, I think I'm entitled to a little perfection.

Rant Ends.