rotten to the core

My son’s iPod won’t sync with the computer anymore. It works fine when disconnected, but iTunes won’t recognize the device. This sucks mostly because Apple’s support is among the worst in the industry.

To correct the problem (iTunes not recognizing the iPod) the The Apple website has such helpful suggestions as “restore the origial software on the iPod by…” yes, you guessed it, applying the update to the iPod from within iTunes. But iTunes doesn’t recognize the iPod, so the solution is to have iTunes recognize the iPod… … Apple brilliance strikes again.

As for tech support, Apple will only talk to me if I pay them $30. That’s not a charge to fix the problem, that’s the cost for the phone call.

Since the device otherwise works and since it will accept a charge through, it appears that the problem is a software problem. A software problem that, because it’s Apple, can only solved by replacing the hardware. That kind of idiotic hardware/software lock in is, of course, a feature to the kind folks at Apple, not a bug.


Premium Apples!

I’m the “computer guy” to many of my friends. I had a friend ask for recommendations. Specifically, if I thought it was worthwhile buying from Apple.

I told him I’d check on it, but that I didn’t imagine it would be worthwhile. I had no idea how bad Apple would be until I ran the numbers.

For a high end Mac Pro, lists a suggested configuration for $2,799. That’s a lot of money, but the machine is pretty impressive:

Two 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon “Harpertown” processors
2GB memory
ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT
320GB hard drive
16x double-layer SuperDrive

It looks great (but we’d want to add some more memory). Problem is, I priced the same rig, with 180gb more drive space, for $2,360. That makes the Apple $400 more expensive. I guess that’s not sooo bad, since the Mac comes with an OS. Vista ultimate 64 bit edition costs $169 with a system, so that makes the Apple OS more than twice as expensive. Maybe it’s worth it, I doubt it, but maybe.

However, my friend is unlikely to drop 2 grand on a computer and unless you’re rendering massive videos or doing large-scale computational analysis, dual quad core processors (*jazz hands* “Harpertown!” *jazz hands*) don’t actually make much difference. More cores doesn’t mean faster unless the applications are specifically tuned to use those extra cores. Neither World of Warcraft or Club Penguin are specifically tuned.

So I took a look at a “midrange” Mac.  The 24inch iMac, which apple retails for $1,799:

2.8GHz Intel Core 2 duo processor
2GB memory
ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT
320GB hard drive
8x double-layer SuperDrive
24 inch LCD monitor

This is where it got really ugly. I priced the same system for $891. That’s $908 cheaper. $908. The iMac is more than twice as expensive. But the iMac is white. And you can’t upgrade it. And it’s white.

Now, to be sure, I’m not looking at Dell, or HP; I’m building my own. But that means that I can get better hardware than I could at Apple, Dell or HP. Since Apple switched to a commodity platform, they compete within a mature ecosystem of motherboard/ram/drive suppliers. I can get premium components for less, much less, than Apple charges.

I could also upgrade the hard drive, ramp up the video card, downgrade the processor and bulk up the RAM for what would wind up being an even faster, more powerful system, for substantially less money.

So, I guess this is my offer: if you’re thinking of buying an iMac, I’ll build you the equivalent system and only charge a $400 premium! That’s a $500 savings! Buy three! With the savings, you could subscribe to Club Penguin for 25 years. (Or WoW for 9.6 years.)


This is fabulous.

I am now, for the first time in my life, the owner of an Apple product; I got an iTouch for my birthday.

I love it.

It’s a beautiful piece of technology and it has met all of my expectations, both good and bad. I love the screen, the software is fluid and intuitive. The interface is elegant and efficient. The keyboard sucks and typing is a horrid chore. The lack of flash is irritating, but mitigated by the hordes of developers working to create iPhone replacements for web-based flash video.The apps are creative and clever and I’ve found a number of ways to while away hours playing with it. Storage space is severely limited, but with a handy little product called Orb, the limited storage isn’t an obstacle.

The biggest drawback, without a doubt, is iTunes. iTunes is simply an awful piece of crapware that I loathe more every time I launch it. It’s buggy, unresponsive, and installs hidden spyware and masked utility processes on your computer without notifying you. The interface is clunky, counter-intuitive, unresponsive, confusing, and uninformative. The product can’t be customized, support is non-existent and the user community is too stocked with fan-boys and clueless tweeners for user-based support to be of any practical use.

I’ve not found a way to completely ditch iTunes yet, but Songbird is my best bet right now, but I think I’ll always be in some ways tethered to iTunes, which stinks, stinks, stinks.

iTunes is now DRM free, which is nice, but the program still stinks. Don’t get me wrong, iTunes has great content, but it makes finding and accessing that content a major pain.