The myth of premium hardware or why Ottawa needs Apple Store

2009/02/23

Back in November 2007, when I was buying Macbook Pro, I did order the AppleCare option, which added several hundred dollars to already pretty expensive notebook price. For moment I was tempted to go without it – after all, Apple makes top grade, high quality hardware and considering pretty low failure rate I have seen with my Windows based notebooks between 1998-2006, why to pay more ? Little did I know how much mileage will I get from the extra cost :-(.

It is sad to admit, but during last 12 months, I had three major hardware issues with my Macbook Pro. Maybe it was just my bad luck and I got a lemon, but frequency and seriousness of hardware failures makes MBP the least reliable notebook I ever owned.

In June 2008, the 250 GB hard drive failed and had to be replaced. Fortunately, I had disk clone and Time Machine brought back  everything, so no data was lost. One month ago, one of two 2GB DIMMs died and had to be replaced (to be fair, this one was not original Apple RAM, but cheaper version purchased and installed by authorized service centre). And third issue was failure of graphic card last week – which will likely mean mainboard replacement. The notebook is still in service and I am for 8th day computationally impaired, locked to spare Mac Mini or my home iMac/Macbook, stubbornly refusing using Windows based notebook …

So how would Apple Store help the situation – other than walking in and buying replacement ? As it seems, from discussion with other Mac users, Apple Stores may be the only type of service provider that actually can (and does) keep stock of replacement parts. All other service centres have to take your computer in, detect the cause, order replacement part and wait until is shipped to them from Apple in order to finish the repair. How quickly the part arrives is completely out of their – as well as your – control.  It can add up quite a few days to your repair time.

Another consequence of no-stock rule is that in this economy, to optimize shipping costs, the parts are most likely to be send in batches.  Which means more delay …

Yes, I know – it could be much worse, one could have to mail the computer somewhere in USA or overseas rather than dropping them to friendly hands of local Apple certified service depot, and have it mailed back to you. Which would add even more time, more cost, and much more chance of additional damage in transport. But on the other hand, if we had Apple Store stocked with replacement parts in the city, with a bit of luck one could walk in, drop the machine and pick it up fixed next day. Would not that be cool ?

Let’s hope that Ottawa’s Apple Store is more than just a rumor …


It’s alive !

2009/02/18

I was aching to blog about this since December 18th, when our system quietly and gently slipped into public visibility. Marked as Beta (thanks, Google for making this a legitimate way how to go live) it comfortably made it through Christmas shopping season into 2009.

Now when the site has been announced and mentioned few times in the media, I guess it’s OK to mention it here too.

What is “it” ? A new, fresh eCommerce site selling music. A lots of really good music. Without any DRM or any other nonsense, as plain good high quality (mostly 320 kps) MP3’s. The selection is actually very good – starting from several hundred thousands in December to several few million songs when full catalog is loaded. More great music being added every week.

The design of the site is pretty, modern, leveraging lot of jQuery and flash magic. In the backend powered by the probably most powerful eCommerce platform – ATG eCommerce Suite.

We go back long time with ATG. Starting in 2001 when we (we means Montage at that time) decided to bid solution based on ATG for two major RFP’s in federal government and won them both. During following years, we have digged deeper into very rich and powerful platform and built more functionality and added few more customers. This project was our first full eCommerce implementation based on ATG 2007.1. But definitely not the last one – it looks like despite the economy maladies, demand for eCommerce and specially ATG based eCommerce solution is surprisingly large and interesting amount of work is coming our way …

I am tremendously proud of what our team was able to deliver. It took lots of dedication and sweat: we had pretty aggressive deadline (full store was implemented in under two months) and complexities of the environment. To make me even more proud is that the system is running in production environment architected and developed by our team. It is not often that developers team has opportunity to be involved into complexities of the large enterprise system deployment and putting to production.

Ah, almost forgot – the URL is http://www.zik.ca/. See for yourself. Right now, only in French (primary target audience is French speaking Canadian population), English coming later.

picture-2

I would like to thank everybody who helped to make this an amazing project experience. We were lucky to build great relationship with both our customer and the end-customer, as well as with our development partners in Montreal working on different stores in Virtual Shopping Mall.

Thanks to ATG for such rich and powerful product suite. It is like great sports car: very powerful, requires skills to master it, but once you get it, you can do amazing things with it.

And last but not least, big thanks to everybody from our delivery team that made this possible. You guys rock.

Btw, if you would like to work with people that can build things like this, and have either ATG experience or at least solid J2EE, Spring, Hibernate and JSP/JSTL skills, send your resume to careers at thinknostic dot com.
We are hiring again :-).

No telecommuters please – you must be able to live and work either in Ottawa or Toronto. Speaking French is not required but is definitely a plus.


How to un-stuck unsuccessful OS-X upgrade

2009/02/07

Here is the context: in order to upgrade iLife 08 to iLife’09 (which is very nice, btw), I had to install 10.5.6 upgrade. And according Murphy’s law, one of the 2 GB DIMM’s in my MacBook Pro went bad exactly during the OS-X upgrade process.

It had two rather unpleasant consequences:

  • some of the patch files got downloaded and saved in corrupted state
  • The machine did not boot back after restart

The second problem was fixed by replacing the bad DIMM, but the first caused that upgrade to 10.5.6 was impossible: the files were downloaded, verification failed, after restart I was back to square one. There was no obvious way how to “undownload” the files.

The Apple Support representative recommended downloading the update as DMG from Apple Downloads, and run installer. The DMG of 10.5.6 had over 300 MB, while the patch file was barely 190 MB, so I was wondering whether there is better way. As it turned out, it is very easy.

The location of the downloaded files is  /Library/Updates which is normally almost empty:

picture-105

During update process, this is the location where OS-X will keep the downloaded files, as shown here:

picture-102

All you need to do is to delete these downloads (keep the plist, of course) and try Software Updates again. The updater will re-download the files and everything will work as expected:

picture-103