Sunday, July 27, 2014

The great cocoon

Apple doesn't call it a cocoon of course, the euphemism they use is 'environment' or 'eco-system', suggesting that within the world all is well but beware outside, it is a free for all.  Anarchy.  Chaos.  Nothing is ordered or more importantly works.

First of all I am an Apple fan.  Since I first bought a Mac, I like the fact that when you plug it in everything just works.  Having owned PC's for many years you do know that that is simply not the case with them.  They crash all the time.  Of course Apples do crash too, but far more infrequently but annoyingly when they do, you don't actually realize it all the time.  It takes the form of something not working quite right and you simply don't know why.

I put it down to my ignorance.  Being an older guy I don't intuitively understand tech things as well as the young uns but unlike them I do try to read the manuals and how-to guides that Apple annoyingly doesn't produce.  However that does mean that the manuals being written by Mac fans respect the glitches and deal gently with the stupidities within the Apple systems and provide a sensible and practical series of suggestions how to get round things.  In short, they are pretty good.

But they don't always answer all the questions that you have.

Isn't that always the case though?  If you don't know things then you don't know what you don't know and you're sort of happy as a result... geeks call you ignorant and sneer when they say "Oh yes, well this is how you take care of that... go into Settings, then Preferences, then...."

I can't go through more than 2 layers of stuff like this before clicking off which is why I like the manuals.  You just re-read it.  The geeks don't repeat themselves.  They just sniff and smile sympathetically.

But being in Toronto for a bit there's a nice Apple store in the Eaton Centre where they run workshops explaining things in layman's language... well that's the idea anyway.  So we signed up for some classes starting with iPad before moving onto the iCloud.

I realize things are moving away from storing everything to do with your life in one place as there's just too much (what DID we used to do before computers?) so things are moving to the Cloud.  Got that but why can I not put my photos from my computer onto the Cloud when that is the most data hungry thing around and when everybody takes photos on their 'devices'?

Seems dopey to me but apparently this is changing with a new thing iCloud Drive in a few months enabling mega-something of storage in the sky to include photos.  However I talked to an Apple store guy somewhere recently and talked just about this and he suggested Flickr as the better suggestion.  A non-Apple product that works, he said.  Well I dutifully signed on and it didn't.

That brings me onto another thing.  Why is it that when the PR blurb says that such and such is the greatest thing doing X since sliced bread and when you say OK, here you go, it just doesn't do X?

For a tech ignorant this is eternally annoying and also makes you question if its YOU, not the other thing.  That's when I found the chat pages and blogs devoted to just stuff such as this.  The Flickr rants were endless and made me realize that it wasn't me but Flickr's foibles.  Quite a relief but it actually didn't help out with a solution though.

The classes Apple provided were very informative with a college age person providing very patient answers to endless dumb questions -- "Now that's a really good question..." as a start to any reply always gives it away.  It wasn't but they are making you feel good.  The answer was so obvious... "Go to Settings, click on Preferences, then...."


The iPad course
But both courses were informative and answered many annoying little questions we had (and of course created some more that we didn't know about before). We've signed up for 3 more in the coming week!

My current struggle is with a new iTunes feature called iTunes Match, a service that enables you to store your music in Apple's cloud and connect from any Apple device you have, iPad, iPhone or Computer.  It costs $27.99 for a year's subscription and was THE solution I was looking for so I connected and made all the Settings changes suggested and pushed a few buttons.

It is a simple 3-step process.  The first is Apple gathering information about my iTunes library.  Tick, all done.  The second is Matching all songs with songs in the Apple iTunes store -- this is a nice feature as if there is a match, then Apple simply upgrades any matched song with the Apple format which is probably better quality than what you had to start with.  Finally, it matches all the songs not on the iTunes store, including any pirated tunes you may have from various sources.  Well my installation is currently locked at 3313 out of 6570 songs in stage 2.

Based on the original reason why I like Apple (it works), this isn't the way its supposed to be.  It should just work... like say Apple TV, for example.  So I looked at the blogs on the subject and find that it is entirely normal to be hung up in stage 2.  The rants again are again endless.  One caught my attention because it did the full geek things, "go to Settings, click on Preferences...."  There's no escape!

Russell, an IT consultant at my company, always told me that most issues can be resolved by turning the machine off then on again. So I thought I'd do the same with iTunes Match so I 'stopped' the download (which of course has already stopped but the button says STOP) and then restarted it.  The first time it jammed the number of matched songs was 2500 or thereabouts.  Its taken 5 resets so far to make it to 3313 so I'm getting closer.

Locked at.... 3311 this time!  Aaaghh!!!

I could of course call online support, but then I'd get a geek who'd tell me it was a great question and then tell me to go to Settings, then Preferences...

And now a disclaimer.  I am a shareholder of Apple and they have done very well indeed.  So thank you for your efforts, Mr. Cook and Apple staff. As the world has sold its soul to the IT devil, there's no escape from these things that it appears that we cannot now do without.  So you have to own the best.  But then again I am a Mac fan so don't take this as a stock recommendation or anything like that.

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