Monday 5 December 2011

YAHA! (Yet Another 'Hey, Apple…') Hey, SingTel, you, too.

Hey, Apple…

I like what works, and what helps me work better/faster/more enjoyably; the more of these boxes that get ticked, the better. After all, that's why I'm sitting in front of two iMacs with a MacBook Pro and iPad close to hand.


The new iMacs are a wonder. A 27" display, 2560 x 1440 resolution; absolutely gorgeous. I can have two full-page views plus a Terminal open on the same screen. Two steps forward for usability.

Now for one step back. The mouse cursor appears to be the same size as on my 15" MacBook Pro, even though I'm now looking at nearly three times as many pixels and, more importantly, screen area. How about taking a page from somebody else's playbook (for a change) and have some key sequence that would do a "radar-style" visual locator for the mouse cursor?

The Middle, or The Muddle, or Both

Seriously, I'm in love all over again with this new system. And if I weren't in one of the last Soviet-class customer-last economies, I'd be able to make even better use of the new tool.

With new hardware and software come new opportunities for learning. Anyone who's ever learned or discovered or done something new, or even new to him- or herself, has experimented; has pushed boundaries. Sometimes, they push back the first few times. "You'll know the pioneers because they're the ones with all the arrows in their backs" might be an Americanism, but its meaning is perfectly clear to anyone who's ever challenged Donald Rumsfeld's "unknown unknowns"; it's the things you don't know that you don't know that offer the greatest opportunities for learning — if you survive them.

Apple have always had a symbiotic relationship with leading-edge technical norms. The latest example, in OS X Lion, is that for the very first time since Macs have shipped back in 1984, no operating-system media (floppies, CDs, DVDs) come with the system. If you want to nuke from orbit and start over fresh, you use something called Lion Recovery. It's a sweet, eminently sensible idea: most Mac customers have access to fast enough Internet connections that downloading most of what you need to reinstall is less of a hassle than rooting around trying to find some discs that you just know you put in a drawer. Somewhere. Maybe it was in your home office. Maybe in the away office. Maybe they're in one of those bulging boxes marked "Computer Stuff" up in the attic. It could easily take you longer to find physical media than to download four gig or so of bits on a reasonably-modern, properly-managed and -provisioned connection.

Hey, SingTel…

And then there's Singapore.

Advertising here is (in)famous for always having the language "Terms and Conditions Apply", which in practice seems to mean "We don't have to do a single thing we said we would once you give us the money if we can think of a reason not to, or if we do deign to provide the promised product or service, we expressly reserve the right to make the experience as unpleasant as our most innovative Government Scholars™ can conjure up".

Case in point: said Lion Recovery. The way it appears to work is that when your Mac phones home to Cupertino, it then fires up a for-purpose Web server that listens on the usual ports for authenticated incoming connections (from Apple). Cupertino or its CDN upload the data to your Mac, which uses it to reinitialise your installed system. This only works, of course, if your Mac is connected to a network that allows you to do such things, without being blocked by either policy or incompetence. Ah, those terms and conditions.

The Singaporean Interwebs are full of woe documenting Apple customers' fate as victims of SingTel policy and/or incompetence, with Lion Recovery being the latest poster child for the meme. SingTel and StarHub, two of the three major telecoms companies here (and the two popularly thought of as more closely tied to the PAP Government) have intermittent-or-worse problems, while the third (M1) is apparently less hassle. People speak of tethering their Macs to their M1 phones and spending over five hours (in at least one case) successfully performing Lion Recovery. This would be greatly preferable to not being able to recover at all. Unfortunately, the M1 signal in the HDB tenement-with-pretension that I'm living in is too weak and unreliable to support that.

So I'm back to waiting, impatiently, for SingTel to get their cranial appendage out of whatever orifice it's presently stuck in, and work with Apple on fixing the problem. Apparently Apple have run against the proverbial brick wall on multiple occasions to try to help solve a problem over which they have zero control.

Hey, SingTel…

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