Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Apple Mac: Mountain Lion: buyer beware!

I have been a Mac user for almost 20 years. I use and recommend them professionally and have no less than four machines, of various ages, at home, plus my son's Mac Book Pro.

I am an avid Applescripter and have recently begun teaching myself Cocoa programming (programming for Mac).

I like the Mac product.

But I am liking the company behind the product less and less as the years go by.

Late last year I went to my local Apple reseller to buy, yes buy, a copy of the Mountain Lion operating system (OS) for my son's laptop. I was shocked when the authorised reseller told me they could not sell me the operating system and that I would have to download the software directly from Apple.

The download is around 4GB.

Downloading a file that size on my slow, regional internet connection seemed an unlikely thing to happen (If digital TV roll-out is any indication, then I think we're getting the NBN down here sometime around the next millennium). And if I managed to download it, it would use a good chunk of my monthly download allowance.

And I still wouldn't have installation discs at the end of the process.

If all goes wrong, at anytime in the future, I was told, I'd have to download it again.

The alternative was to take the computer to the store and leave it with them, for however long it took, so they could download and install the new OS - at still further cost I assume. And I still wouldn't have installation discs at the end of the process.

That's a lot of rigmarole for what could be achieved simply and inexpensively by selling me an OS DVD.

Remember, this all began because I wanted to spend money on the most fundamental Apple product - at an authorised Apple reseller.


My concerns about Apple worsened this week when a friend suffered an apparent hard drive crash on an iMac that's around one year old.  I suggested he might have to start-up from the discs that came with the computer and be prepared to format the drive and re-install the OS.

I was to be shocked again.

It seems that Apple don't even supply installation DVDs with their computers any more. You pay around $1400 for a brand-new iMac, and if your system crashes, you've got a very stylish desk ornament.

Sure, there's a "recovery drive" feature built in - but it wouldn't work for my friend. He just gets the grey spinning wheel of death.

Sure, there's supposedly an internet recovery option built in - but it doesn't appear to work if you have a "recovery drive", even if that "recovery drive" refuses to work.

If he had an installation disc, I could have whipped it in the drive, got Disk Utility fired up and had a go at diagnosing and potentially fixing the problem. It would have taken minutes. But Apple apparently don't think purchasers of their products will ever need installation discs.

So that leaves the lucky owner of the $1400 paper weight with only one practical option. Go back to the reseller and pay them to trouble-shoot. That's likely going to come at a hefty price even if all they do is run Disk Utility over it and fix it in a matter of minutes. Minimum charge is $50 - and he still won't have a set of installation discs.

Oh, but it turns out that my friend can give Apple another $20 to send him some OS discs for the machine - discs that probably cost Apple a couple of cents each to produce and which, in a non-penny-pinching world, should have been supplied with the hardware in the first place.

Maybe he was supposed to create some installation discs when he first fired up the computer. I don't even know if that's possible (I've never needed to know because operating systems usually come on discs supplied with the hardware). Making your own installation discs also seems like an odd idea given Apple's supposed ease-of-use philosophy. It doesn't get much easier than the manufacturer chucking two cents worth of discs in the box with the product. And one can only imagine the variable quality of media users would choose, even if this was an option. And for what purpose?*

I repeat. I have been a Mac user for almost 20 years. I use and (used to) recommend them professionally and have no less than four machines, of various ages, at home, plus my son's Mac Book Pro. I am an avid Applescripter and have recently begun teaching myself Cocoa programming. I like the Mac product.

I don't much like the company.

If you're looking at buying a Mac anytime soon, can I suggest you insist on receiving a set of installation discs with it - included in the cost? If the reseller says they can't do it, get them to explain why not and what, exactly, you're supposed to do when simple things go wrong - as they will.

If you've fallen victim to what seems to be penny-pinching madness by Apple, can I ask that you make your grievances public on the social media outlet of your choice.

*Yes, I understand that one drawback of install discs is that they are almost always out of date but if they get the system back up and running, or at least allow you to do basic troubleshooting before giving up and taking the product back to the reseller, then they are well worth the couple of cents it would probably cost the manufacturer to include them.

I am open to correction on errors in any of the above.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Just testing

Just testing the blogspot video upload feature before posting this video to my oil painting blog.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Blogger DARKBox returns

Sometime in the recent past, without notice, the Blogger DARKbox (Lightbox) made it's unwanted return. Despite several pleas from users for the expected return of this hideous viewer to be OFF by default, Blogger developers once again decided they know what's best for all our blogs and they turned it to ON by default. Millions of bloggers now have their images being viewed in a manner of someone else's choosing, whether they want it or not.

If you've been hit, again, by the imposition of this major design decision on the way users interact with your blog, you'll have to go into your Settings > Formatting and turn it off.

Lightbox is a dog - a very, very, very slow dog. On one of the blogs I follow, I'm still waiting for a single image to load. It's been minutes and I can still see thumbnails for every other picture being generated.

Many bloggers don't check their own blogs by clicking on pictures to see how they load. These bloggers will now be using Lightbox whether they know it or not. In many cases, in my experience, this will not improve their images or their readers' experience of their blog. In fact, if there are several images in a single blog post, Lightbox will take a long time to render thumbnails of each image, when a reader clicks just one image.

If you have an art or photography blog, or a blog in which images are intended to be viewed in the context of the article's narrative content, then you might want to turn this "feature" off as it is probably breaking your blog and annoying your readers.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Something different

For years I've wanted to do caricatures. I'd give it a go from time to time but never really stuck at it. That changed a few week's ago and I think it's starting to pay off. If you're interested in caricatures, check out some my latest work on my art blog and leave your thoughts...

Julia Gillard Caricature
Tony Abbott Caricature
Kevin Rudd Caricature
Emily Deschanel - Bones Caricature

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My landscape oil painting blog

I have just started a new blog dedicated to my principal artistic passion - landscape & seascape oil painting.

I began oil painting over ten years ago and have enjoyed quite some success with it although I don't pursue it especially seriously. The time has come to dedicate more serious time to it and the blog is a part of that effort.

If you enjoy traditional art then you might want to take a look and share your thoughts.

Andy Dolphin, Artist, Australian oil painter - landscapes & seascapes - blog.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Shawn Kelly Tips & Tricks - FREE!

I'll never cease to be amazed by the numbers of professionals in the animation industry who willingly pass on their valuable experience for free. Now we can add Shawn Kelly to the list.

Shawn is a founding member of and has a solid list of animation credits under his belt. He's been writing his tips and tricks for members of for a few years and since anyone can subscribe to the AnimationMentor newsletter for free, I guess we can say Shawn's tips have always been free. But now he's gone one better, compiling all past tips into a 99 page eBook!

Topics covered in this "treasure trove of information" on character animation include Planning, Observation, Blinking, The Face, Expressions, Exaggeration, Walks, Arcs, Timing and, well, lots more. In short, if you're learning animation then you can't go wrong to have this eBook in your eLibrary.

Get the eBook HERE and while you're at it, you might as well sign up for the AnimationMentor Newsletter too so you get more of Shawn's tips as he writes them.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wacom Woes


UPDATE: Problem solved!

I purchased a Wacom Graphire 4 tablet last year and within a couple of weeks of using it, I filed my mouse in the bottom drawer. Driving graphics programs, especially painting applications, with a pen just makes sense but I was surprised how the pen also makes even mundane tasks like menu selection and shifting files around easier. It's just more comfortable than any mouse I've ever used - and, unlike a lot of mice with more than one button, the pen doesn't care that I'm left-handed.

BUT - and it's a big but (and, unlike Sir Mixalot, I don't particularly like "big buts") - the pen has one major failing. The Graphire 4 pen comes with a comfy rubber grip that supposedly makes it superior to older Wacom pens - but it is too flimsy to do the job.

At first I thought it was just a matter of me getting used to holding the pen in such a way as to make the buttons accessible but, as time went by, it became apparent the rubber grip was too loose to stay put. Eventually it has become so loose that it actually twists around the body and on more than one occasion it's covered the buttons, holding them depressed (I know how they feel). This week I've also noticed that the very thin slip of rubber between the buttons is starting to split.



After a few emails to Wacom, I received a replacement pen from them this week. The new pen is a different model with a single toggle switch and no rubber grip. After one night, I already love this pen whereas I never was comfortable with the grip pen. Thanks Wacom.