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Rants and Miscellanea

Apple "Repair"...

KB / 6 JUL 2006

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.

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Rants and Miscellanea


KB / 11 JUN 2006

Wow. I've just been called a Mac fanboy (or near enough) over on the Apple support forums. Despite the fact that I bemoan Apple as much as extol them. Why are people so rude and downright nasty on forums? A question on University Challenge recently revealed that given a certain number of users and a certain amount of time, the chances of someone calling somebody else a Nazi on any given public forum on the internet soon rises to 100%. Someone elsewhere pointed out that because they can't be seen, many people forget basic manners when using the internet. No one has a chance to say, "Say that to my face." What sad, little people they must be, if the only thing they can do to make themselves feel better about their lives is to insult strangers whilst hidden behind a mask of anonymity.

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The brand new yellow MacBook

KB / 11 JUN 2006

Well, this is annoying. Lots of people have complained about issues with the new MacBooks - "mooing" coming from the fan, whining, overheating, crashing, warping; you name it. Of course, much of this seems disproportionate: if you hang out at a support site, you are only going to hear from people with problems, not satisfied customers. All the same, I have not had a single problem with my white MacBook (touch wood) - sure, it runs hotter than I'd like, and I'm going to get one of those lap cooler thingimajigs so that, should we want more children, the option will not have been cooked away, but other than that this thing is lovely.

Except... After two weeks of heavy-ish use, I noticed that the trackpad and palm-rests (especially the right one, because my right-hand does all the trackpad work) had started to turn a horrible yellowish colour:

It looks like I've been smoking 60 a day and breathing heavily on the surface of my MacBook for two years. Not pretty. It's also very surprising, given that I have owned an iBook for two years and it never suffered from anything like this - it's a bit scuffed, but there is no discolouration anywhere. And it seems that other's are having the same issues after a few weeks' use, too:

(I hope that last one doesn't disappear - I've noticed that the Apple mods are quite trigger happy when it comes to deleting posts.)

I wonder if this is why Apple charge extra for the black MacBook? Someone somewhere noted that Apple only care about how lovely their products look in the store; they don't care how they look a few days later, because cosmetic issues aren't covered under AppleCare. Well, I hope whoever said that is wrong, but judging by the bad press that Apple is receiving recently for this sort of thing, it seems not.

Personally, I can live with it. My MacBook is just a machine, after all, and so long as it works well, I'm happy. I couldn't afford to wait for another revision, because I need an Intel machine now so that I can make sure Scrivener is Intel-ready, but I do hope that Apple fix this issue for the next batch of MacBooks - if you are thinking of buying one and don't want to pay the "black tax", you might want to wait.

What you don't see on those Apple ads:

"Hi, I'm a Mac."
"And I'm a PC. Is that jaundice or are those just liver spots?"

I do wonder: why is there a continued discrepancy between the brilliance of the Apple software engineers and the rest of the company?

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Pedanticism gone mad

KB / 3 JUN 2006

From today's Guardian:

Dan Chiasson... he has a lot about which to be smug

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Mobile phones

KB / 2 JUN 2006

Much as I hate them,* mobile phones have reinvigorated a part of our language which was hitherto sadly neglected outside of learning to read and clever literary novels: present tense. Before mobile phones, anybody standing at a bus stop announcing loudly, "I am at the bus-stop," or proclaiming, "I am in a shop," whilst paying for their groceries, would have been taken and locked away. Now, I'm not saying it wouldn't be a good idea to lock away the loud and rude mobile-phone-users who do this on buses and in shops, but that's just the way of the world.

Salinger: "The human voice conspires to desecrate everything on earth."

*Or used to. Now it's more a grudging tolerance. I even own one - though, much to the annoyance of friends, I refuse to put any numbers into the thing or have it switched on. Ever.

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Christmas Tree Farm and toddler talk

KB / 2 JUN 2006

You know, when I was younger and greener, a friend of mine had a young child who spent a lot of time with us. We all lived in a big post-student house and her daughter spent a lot of weekends in said house. And I, what with being younger and greener and all that, had a notion that capitalism and ownership must be a learned concept, based on an isolated observation of this girl's daughter giving away without any qualms whatsoever some pine cones she had collected. ("When you have your own children" is a sentence-starter that can be on a par with "When I found God", so I apologise for the next sentence:) When you have your own children, such illusions are soon shattered (I wanted to put in a simile referring to a chimera and Belleraphon here, but my Greek mythology just isn't up to it). The first words most of these little tykes learn is ,"No, mine! Mine, mine, MINE!" Ho-hum.

All the same, watching language develop is fun and interesting in equal measure. I wish toddler social habits could be carried on into the adult world (admittedly, some adults have toddler social habits). It being half-term and all, today we did one of our family trips and visited Christmas Tree Farm in Downe. I was surprised there was so much greenery so close to South London. Anyway, of all the animals on display, Thurston went straight for the chickens, turkeys and ducks. Over and over again. We dragged him around the rest of the farm, to be sure, but that was where his heart was. But you know, as we walked around the farm, it kind of depressed me. The parenting skills on display, I mean, You get into the farm and you can buy, for a mere 50p, a bucket of animal feed. And strewn across this farm were empty buckets. Not just one or two, but dozens. Which adds up to a lot of parents who just do not give a flying donut about their child littering. At this point, I need to calm my blood pressure. But I digress. Blah blah, terrible kids, terrorising animals, blah blah, and then Thurston, after saying, "Sorry chicken" to some chicken he's bumped into with the gate, pours the rest of the animal feed right over the top of a chicken, laughs his lungs out, and then spends the next ten minutes chasing ducks. Toddler fun, parental consternation (which could be a mantra). And after that, we go to a local pub, and in the garden there is a toddler play area, and a little girl playing in the wooden den-house. And this is how Thurston, without further ado, introduces himself to the little girl: "I chased ducks." Now that's an introduction, and no mistake.

I sort of wish, now, that I hadn't spent so much time in my younger days (not that I'm exactly old, but hey, Jesus died when he was my age, and Kurt Kobain, who, let's face it, has had far more impact on my life than Jesus, died when he was six years younger than I am right now) wasting time on deliberating about how to meet people (did I say people? I meant girls). You just march right up and, without further ado (or embarrassment), announce the most important aspect of your day or life. Some possible introductions:

"I ate eggs for breakfast."

"I bought PCGamer."

"I surfed for porn."

"I typed over one thousand meaningless numbers into Excel today. That's more than yesterday. Meaningless, I mean."

Come to think of it, I doubt if it would have helped. But it might be worth a go anyway. At worst, the other person will just think you're talking on your hands-free mobile phone. Feel free to leave your own, should you happen by.

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Half-Term: Nearing the end of Kafka on the Shore

KB / 1 JUN 2006

Half-term... How come doing nothing for days on end speeds up time? Makes me think of that character in Catch 22 who spends his time trying to be as bored as possible, so as to prolong the hours he has left alive.

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Apple Pie

KB / 19 APR 2006

I don't get it. What is it with Apple? Why does the brand inspire such religious zealoutry in its consumers? Let me start by saying, I love Mac OS X. Love it, love it, love it. I first bought an Apple machine a couple of years ago because, despite their reputation for making expensive machines, the iBook was, at the time, the cheapest laptop available that did not weigh about the same as a small off-shore tanker. I wanted small, I wanted light and I wanted portable, and the iBook was all that. And I fell in love. Actually, another reason I bought an Apple was that I figured:

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Geek Joke of the Month

KB / 10 JAN 2006

"There are only 10 kinds of programmers: those who know binary and those who don't."

I came across that in somebody's signature on a forum. I know it makes me an irredeemable geek to find that funny, but I do. I do, I do.

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If you really want to know about it...

KB / 10 JUL 2005

It's been about a year since I decided to learn how to program in Cocoa so that I could design and build my own application for writing in. I've been meaning to write down my thoughts on this process and on the reasons I decided to embark on this project for some time, so thought I'd start this 'blog as a place for those, and other, more general, blatherings.

The last 'blog I started (over on LiveJournal) died a death after only a few entries. It started with a rant on Why I Hate The Lord Of The Rings Films, and degenerated (which was quite a feat in itself) into an angry rant about how someone had stolen my son's name. I'm hoping this one will fare better.

It's probably safe to say that the reasons for my decision to build a writing application and for me deciding to start this 'blog are one and the same: procrastination. It means I don't have to face the fact that I'm not doing the one thing I should be doing: working on The Novel. It's a strange doublethink: I *want* to work on The Novel, but I feel I can only ever look at it sideways, like the spaceship on the cricket pitch in So Long and Thanks For All the Fish. So I find a hundred other things to do to avoid facing it. One of my favourite quotes in this regard comes from the film Sliding Doors (otherwise complete tosh): when the writer boyfriend of Gwynneth Paltrow bursts into the pub announcing that he's got amazing news, his best friend asks him if he's finished his novel. The writer looks at him with contempt and snaps, "Of course not - I'm a writer, I'll never finish the novel." So at the moment I'm headed the Peter Camenzind route: forever collecting notes and writing down snippets, but never putting it all together.

There are some good 'blogs out there too (and from here on in, as much as it pains me, I shall abandon the grammatically-correct apostrophe that prefixes 'blog - blog, there we go, that... wasn't... so... pain...ful), so I guess I also want to try my hand at this medium.

As for the name, Literature and Latté, I always wanted to open up a coffee-cum-bookshop-cum-vegetarian-café with that name. I've probably been beaten to it somewhere - certainly the phrase googles a few hits. But it kind of sets the sort of tone I want for myself here - general coffee-conversational waffle in a bookish setting. And the Marcus Aurelius quote is just there 'cos it's one of my favourites, but it may well prove to be very apt: trite babbling, and I'll probably forget all about the blog after a few posts. God and Guatama, as I used to say when I didn't know any better.

There, that's as good a blog introduction as any. Or at least, 't'will do.

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