Smiling a Little More

Filed Under Computers & Tech on April 12, 2016 | Leave a Comment

Since my initial, rather negative, reaction to Smile’s release of Text Expander 6, with it’s move to subscription pricing and forced use of their un-encrypted in-house cloud, Smile have announced some important changes.

Critically, they will continue to sell the non-cloud versions of their OS X and iOS apps (TE5 & TE3 respectively). This means that users can continue to use TextExpander for the foreseeable future, without having to trust their data to an un-tested and un-encrypted cloud. Smile have also addressed the cost issue by extending the 50% discount for existing users from 1 year to a lifetime.

It’s great to see Smile responding to their customers, and I think the price-drop for existing customers will resolve the cost issue for many people. It does for me.

Personally, I would like to be in a position to move to the new subscription version of the apps in the future, but I’m not going to feel comfortable doing that unless and until they address the privacy concerns I have about their current cloud design. I’m hopeful that they have heard that feedback too, and that encryption will show up on their cloud offering within the next year or so. If that comes to pass, I’ll happily make the switch.

I’m also hopefully that as Smile conduct their postmortem of this troubled launch, that they look again at how they use data from their support inbox when planning product changes. Support requests can serve as a good metric for what new features would be of the most value, but they provide no information at all about the relative importance of existing features. Text Expander 6 removed an existing feature, DropBox/iCloud sync, to facilitate the addition of a new feature, sharing. The support mailbox provided evidence of the desire for the new feature, but the value of the old seems to have come as a complete surprise to Smile! You simply cannot infer the value of existing features from support inboxes of Twitter feeds – the only way to figure that kind of thing out is to ask users, or to run betas. Smile kept all this totally secret until they had made a massive investment of time and resources. A mistake IMO, but then again, I am only an armchair CEO, and it’s not my livelihood that’s on the line!

The bottom line is that Smile have clearly been paying attention to the feedback, which can only be a good thing.

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With the release of Lion there seems to be wide-spread fear, bordering on panic in some quarters, that it’s the start of the end of the Mac. The feeling seems to be that Steve is pushing us all towards iPads and iPhones, and that he’s going to leave all us power users in the lurch. Sine Apple watching is so much like Kremlinology, we can’t just ask Apple PR where they are headed, we have to infer and imply based on the past and the present. The doom-sayers are projecting a future where Apple dumb-down their desktops and laptops to the point that they have no more power than their iPhones and iPads. When I look at the same past and present, I see Apple moving towards a very different future, not one where Macs become iPad-like, but one where Apple unify the look, feel and design philosophy across all their computing products, but where no features are lost. The best analogy I can come up with is the computing experience aboard the Star Ship Enterprise (the D of course), Apple are not moving to ‘iPadify’ the Mac, they are moving to ‘Startrekify’ their entire line.

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New Aluminium iMac – WOW!

Filed Under Computers & Tech on August 28, 2007 | 3 Comments

20″ Aluminium iMacThe new iMacs look great in the ads and on the Apple web page, and, on paper, they look like good value for money. That was all I could really say about them until this afternoon, when the first of them arrived here in work. Believe it or not they look even better ‘in the flesh’, they just make you go ‘WOW’. Within moments of the box being opened there was a crowed of curious windows users gathered around it! Apart from the aluminium and glass being nicer materials than the old white plastic, the new case is much better proportioned so the old ‘chin’ that people complained about with the previous generation of iMacs is effectively gone. Sure, there is still space under the bottom of the screen but it doesn’t look out of proportion any more. The second thing I noticed is how much I like the new glossy screens. I’m a big fan on them on the MacBooks and MacBook Pros and I think they also work well on the new iMacs. Everything you load on it just looks shiner than on the old iMacs. The model I played with had the 20″ screen, a 2.0GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 1 GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, and cost around €1,200. I didn’t get to play with it for long but it seemed very fast and very snappy. I would have no hesitation in recommending this machine to family and friends.

New Aluminium Apple KeyboardThe one thing I was a little worried about with these new iMacs was their new hyper-thin keyboards. So, I opened up Text Edit and started typing. Shockingly the feedback from the teeny keys is fantastic. The keyboard is an absolute joy to use despite how odd, and indeed un-usable, it looks. One of the lads in the office is even thinking of buying one for his PC!

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Just a quick follow-on from my initial review of my new 17″ MacBookPro. In my initial review I had said that the MBP does not get very hot but that is not entirely true. It is true that when just running on the battery it gets significantly less hot than my old Pentium 4 Fujitsu-Siemens LifeBook however, while it is charging it does get annoyingly hot. Still not quite as hot as the LifeBook but the battery it self gets hot enough to be un-comfortable on the legs. However, the base of the 17″ MBP is more than big enough so you can easily sit it on your lap in such a way that the hot bit is not resting on your legs!

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Following on from my review of the 17″ MacBookPro yesterday I got to play with a 13″ Black MacBook today. I was, to say the least, underwhelmed. The black is horrible and tarnishes instantly. The machine I was playing with had had nothing more done to it than have it’s initial setup done and it already looked like it was a few years old. I could get over the look of it but the screen is just too small for me with too poor a resolution and the keyboard is terrible. It looks ‘unique’ which I can live with but then I tried to type with it and was not at all impressed. On a more positive note it is not too heavy and feels much more sturdy and robust than the old iBooks. It’s also very fast to boot and apps load quickly (as you’d expect from a CoreDuo machine). I guess if you had an iBook the MacBook will feel like an upgrade but if you had one of the small PowerBooks you’ll really feel like you’ve gone down in the world. Having said that I only got to play with it for a few minutes so this should be taken as nothing more than ‘first impressions’, this is FAR from an exhaustive review.

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17″ MacBookPro Review

Filed Under Computers & Tech on June 18, 2006 | 2 Comments

I’m typing this in a swelteringly hot terminal in Valencia Spain waiting for my plane to arrive and hopping that the thunder and lighting in the distance stays in the distance long enough for us to get outta here! Anyhow, I’ve had my 17″ MacBookPro for a week and a half now so I think I have enough experience with it at this stage to go a head and give it a review! BTW, the machine I got has the standard 1GB of RAM, the glossy 17″ monitor and I opted for the smaller but faster 100GB hard disk. Read more

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Musings on the New Mac Mini

Filed Under Computers & Tech on March 1, 2006 | 1 Comment

Mac MiniWell I was about half right with my predictions for yesterday’s Apple announcement. New Mac Mini’s are a reality but no super video iPod and, as I expected, no iTablet. What we did get instead was an iPod stereo. I have zero interest in the iPod stereo so I’m just going to talk about the new Mac Mini.

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