Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Week of the iPad 2 ...

It's been an unusual week for me, I've got a week leave from work. It's not a holiday as such, I'm not doing anything special. It's not even convenient timing, there's lots to do at work and a week out of the schedule is problematic. But it is the end of the holiday year and I had 10 days to go and can only carry over 5, so here I am.

The upside to this is that it is the week after the iPad 2 launch in the UK. I couldn't take the time to queue on Friday, although I went after work to join the back of about 300 people outside the Covent Garden Apple Store to be told straight away that there were no 3G models left after only 20 minutes of selling. I figured with my week off and nothing in particular to do that I would try queuing for the first time.

I've never queued at an Apple store before, mostly I've been either too lucky or too lazy. Pre-ordered my first gen iPod Touch, iPhone 3G and iPad 1, waited a few weeks till stock improved for iPhone 3GS and 4.

Online ordering was something I wanted to avoid. Firstly it's currently a 3-4 week wait, but mostly because Apple's delivery arrangements in the UK are terrible. They will only deliver to the card holder's address and only during working hours. This isn't really the most suitable arrangement for Apple's target audience, myself included. You can't redirect delivery until a first attempt has been made and then you have to contact Apple who tell the delivery company, if you are lucky they'll do it the first time you ask. The one time that tried this was my iPod Touch pre-order, it took 3 weeks from original delivery date to get it, I could have walked to an Apple store and back in my lunch break. I would have cancelled the order but once it's at the delivery depot you have to accept it and then ship it back to them, that just sounded like prolonging the hell.

So this time for the iPad 2 I decided to queue. Not having done this before and the store staff saying you had to arrive early to get one I did just that. I might have overshot the mark a little though, arriving at 3:45am Monday where I waited till gone 5:30am till anyone else joined the queue. At 8am there were still only 11 of us when store staff came out and said that there would be no iPad 2's today.

Tuesday I gave myself an extra hour or so and arrived at 5am, to wait with about the same amount of people till 7:30am when a member of staff told us that there were no iPad 2's and that we shouldn't queue anymore as they were shifting to online reservations only. This is where at 9pm they post available inventory for reservation for in-store pickup.

At 9pm I was sat in front of the iPad 2 reservation pages for Regent Street, Covent Garden, White City and Brent Cross (all easily reachable for me) as well as Cambridge, Milton Keynes and Brighton. Regent Street showed some inventory, but no 32Gb 3G models which was what I was planning to get. So I selected a black 64Gb 3G instead, and also a 16Gb black 3G that a friend wanted. I signed in and proceeded to the screen to select a reservation slot, by which time the 16Gb models had sold out and so that one dropped off the reservation. I quickly clicked next, which resulted in an error because the 10am time which was the default first selected slot was taken. I changed to 10:15am and clicked next ... Success! :)

The time was now 9:03pm and Regent Street had no more 3G models at all for reservation. 15 worried minutes later I got a confirmation email.

This morning I arrived at the store well before my reservation time. Glad that I did, because as I waited in line I heard the staff discussing that they had no more 32Gb Wi-Fi left but still had reservations for them to fulfil. Happily mine was waiting for me, I also got an orange smart cover and the digital AV cable.

All in all, a desperate, but interesting experience. Not sure if I'll do it again though, guess we will see when the iPhone 5 comes out ...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

So it's been a while ...

I'm sitting here at the iMac, something that is happening less and less thanks to iPhone, iPad and AppleTV, and I thought I should post an update. Skipping the testing/source code rant from late last year, when last we spoke the iMac was in trouble. After much restarting and disk recovery attempting, the internal HD was declared dead. Now, thanks to the folks at M.R. Systems, I now have a wonderful new 500GB internal drive, and a much cleaner iMac (running about 5 degrees C lower than before).

Most importantly, on returning the iMac home, I told it to restore from Time Machine and 3 hours later I was back to exactly where I had left things. It is a wonderful technology and if you have a Mac you really should be using it. Although while my machine was quickly dying I also appreciated my SuperDuper! bootable cloned drive too.

I said I am sitting at the iMac. What I am actually doing is watching the Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-133 preparing, in the next couple of hours, to dock with the International Space Station. There are many wonderful things to think about in this scenario.

I could be thinking how amazing it is that a craft with 6 people in it was launched to space 3 days ago and is about to dock with a freaking space station! A space station that also has 2 Soyuz, 1 Progress, 1 HTV and 1 ATV space craft docked to it. That all these were launched from 4 different places by 4 different space agencies.

Of course I probably should be thinking how amazing it is that all of the above is happening ~180 miles above my head and the video is being beamed through multiple satellites, many ground stations, back up to satellites, down to somewhere, encoded and streamed to and from there to me. It's pretty cool :)

Strangely though, I keeping finding myself in awe of the iMac itself. In respect to the recent problems, which given it's non-stop performance for the 3 years prior I totally forgive, it is amazing that I don't really think of it as old or ailing.

The iMac I am sitting at is a first gen aluminium iMac, bought late 2007. At the time, having put up with a slow iBook G4 for a couple of years, I knew I was willing to spend up on it. I wanted it to be my computer for a good few years. I did build to order with it and got a Core 2 Duo Extreme 2.8 GHz CPU, 4Gb of Apple installed RAM. That was about all you could do to the iMac at the time, but it was totally worth it.

The photo above is from the day the iMac arrived home, with the slow iBook next to it. You will notice the complete lack of anything else. In the 3+ years since that photo, the iMac has become the brains of a much wider mess of technology. Highlighted to me when I took it away to be repaired and left a hole on the desk with wires hanging there looking for a home. I think of the iMac as like the V'Ger probe from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. A single piece of tech which has drawn other tech into its orbit, making it more than it was. Right now, hanging off the iMac is;

  • HP Printer/Scanner/Copier
  • 1 TB WD TimeMachine drive
  • 500 GB Seagate cloned drive
  • 20" Apple Cinema Display
  • iPhone in Dock
  • iPad in Dock
  • Wired Keyboard
  • Magic Mouse
  • Magic Trackpad
  • Wacom Bamboo tablet
  • Via network;
    • Apple Airport Extreme
    • Apple Airport Express
    • AppleTV
Beyond the nest of cables and technology that the iMac supports I am also in awe of its capability. I don't treat it well, I have 4 Spaces set up and treat each almost as if it were a separate computer. One contains controls and management for the 2 web servers and MySQL DB's that are running, another is for web development with Eclipse, Sequel Pro, JEdit and CyberDuck always open along with a collection of browsers including IE running under Wine. There's another space for Apple dev with XCode and Kindle open. Then finally there's my main space which, while I am writing this, has Twitter, Chrome, iPhoto, Spotify, iTunes all running. There's also a Chrome window full screen on the second monitor with the Nasa TV stream running as well as a copy of Video Monkey current converting a copy of a Space Station tour video available on Wikipedia, from OggVorbis to H.264 ready to stream from here to the AppleTV.

True, iStat Menus is telling me I've been at 100% CPU for a while now, that I'm using a lot of network bandwidth and the overal temp is up a couple of degrees from before all this started. But I'm still using this computer without really thinking about it. Pretty awesome don't you think.

Unfortunately the next couple of years must bring the iMac to the end of it useful life as my main machine. OS X Lion reportedly removes support for Core Duo chips putting mine as the lowest allowed spec. When the iMac was last updated (October 2010) it was reasonably 10 times more powerful overall. Of course you pay for that, maxing out the current iMac in the way that I did back in 2007 puts it almost twice the amount I paid. Guess I've got a couple of years of hard saving to do, but as before it will totally be worth it.