More Thoughts on the Apple Store

Almost two months ago, my MacBook Pro started exhibiting weird behavior. When I opened the lid, I would see a brief screen of garbled artifacts, similar to when a TV channel was having technical difficulties. I didn’t think much of it until my computer started freezing and wouldn’t recover unless I did a hard restart. This escalated until I wasn’t able to make it past the log in screen without my computer rebooting.

Screen artifacts

The first thing I did was make an appointment at the Apple Store. I described the symptoms and they did the usual and ran some diagnostics. They could not find anything hardware related so they suggested that if I ran into issues again, that I reinstall the OS. And since I was 4 days out of warranty, any hardware repairs would be paid out of pocket. I took their advice and did a clean install. Once I did that, I thought I was in the clear as I was able to make it past the log in screen and started to reinstall some apps. I didn’t get far though as my computer shut down unexpectedly.

I made another appointment at the Apple Store.

This time, another genius had me downgrade to the OS my computer originally came with, Mac OS Sierra. She said that there seems to be a bug with High Sierra that was causing these random reboots. So she downgraded my computer and I left to set up my computer on Mac OS Sierra.

Same thing happened again. Random reboot and I was unable to make it past the log in screen.

At this point, I didn’t want to make another trip to the Apple Store so I called Apple Care. At this point, I was ready to pay whatever it took to repair my laptop. I again described my symptoms to the tech on the phone. Within a few days, a box showed up at my apartment and I sent off my computer.

Almost a week later I received my laptop and was surprised to find out that Apple covered my repair costs even though my computer was technically out of warranty. I could not be more surprised.

A few thoughts:

Apple Stores get a bad rap for being crowded and a terrible experience, which is true. But when I first brought in my computer, I was watching the Genius who was helping me out multitask while he was running tests on my computer. Whatever app they use on their iPads to track and triage their customers is pretty slick. I can’t imagine what it’s like to work Apple Retail nowadays but we had nothing even close to what they use to track customers.

Apple Stores are convenient if you have an issue with your Apple device (if you live near one). But if you want to avoid the mall and the crowds at the Apple Store, call in. The Apple support over the phone is top notch. I don’t think they outsource overseas since they seem to operate around US time zones, although the last guy who helped me had a Scottish accent. Either way, the phone support is excellent and even though I described the exact same symptoms to the Apple Genius at the mall, he said my computer would be covered if any repairs had to be made. He had my model and serial and he would have been able to see that I was technically out of warranty. But I was surprised and delighted to know that the repairs to my computer were covered.

I was afraid I’d be out a couple hundred dollars to repair this computer, but I’m happily typing this on my newly repaired MacBook Pro.

Some Thoughts After Spending Over an Hour in an Apple Store

I’ve been stuck in an Apple Store for over an hour. Some observations:

  • It still boggles my mind that there are people who walk into the store not planning to buy anything, walking out with a $2,000+ laptop.
  • There are still not-nice people who give retail employees a hard time.
  • Wednesday afternoons are as busy as Saturday afternoons were for me back in 2004.
  • I haven’t had the chance to look at the iMac Pro because the same guy has been on it this entire time.
  • It takes an hour and a half to replace a cracked iPhone screen.
  • And that’s actually pretty quick.
  • Try not to crack your iPhone screen.

2017 iMac Pro Review

2017 iMac Pro Review:

A typical use of CFD is to evaluate the aerodynamic performance of aerospace vehicles like rockets and airplanes. The first step in this process is to create a mesh of the vehicle geometry from a CAD definition. This essentially lets us break the problem down into thousands or millions of small cells in which we numerically simulate the physics that govern flow.

There are generally two lines of work mechanical engineers end up doing once they graduate: HVAC or aerospace. My undergrad was heavily based on mechanical design. I fell into my career by chance. It’s interesting to see that an aerospace engineer was one of lucky ones to get a review unit.

Thoughts on iPhone 8 Plus

I picked up an iPhone 8 Plus on Friday, September 22. I go over my logic as to why I picked the 8 Plus instead of waiting for the iPhone X on this episode of my podcast. In short, I really didn’t want to wait until November for the X and the increased cost pushed me towards the 8 Plus.

Since I’m part of the iPhone Upgrade Program, I’m able to bring in my current phone and trade it in for the new one. I went to the Valley Fair Mall Friday morning and while the line was short, there were already a ton of people inside. I waited about 10 minutes before I was able to go in and pick up my phone.

The process of trading in is relatively easy if you go in prepared. The main thing is to back up your phone because you’ll have to restore your phone from your backup if you want it exactly how it was before. I was in and out within 45 minutes.

I picked up an iPhone 8 Plus in Space Gray with 256 GB of storage. Going from a 7 to an 8 Plus wasn’t too much of an adjustment since I’ve owned a 6S Plus previously. The glass back is impressive and I’m sad I’ll have to hide it in a case (a must if you have a toddler). The camera is simply awesome. The one thing I regretted from not getting a 7 Plus was not having the dual cameras and missing out on 2x optical zoom and Portrait Mode.

I tested out Portrait Mode and Portrait Lighting over the weekend and I was impressed. I’m no professional but the bokeh effect could fool me if I didn’t know it was from an iPhone. I welcomed going back to a larger screen. I know one of the reasons why I went 7 last year was because it got tiring carrying a larger, heavier phone. I did miss the larger screen when typing and watching videos. We’ll see how long before I start to complain.

All in all, no regrets going for the 8 Plus. We’ll see how I feel once I hold an X in hand.

★ Apple Camp

Every summer, Apple Stores offer Apple Camp for children ages 8-12. This year, they offered 3 different camps: Coding Games and Programming Robots; Creating Characters and Composing Music; and Stories in Motion with iMovie. Malia has shown an interest in making movies and YouTube, so I decided to enroll her in the iMovie camp.

I was impressed overall with the camp. It’s 3 days and each day is 1.5 hours. Enough time to keep them engaged, but short enough that they don’t lose interest. Each camper gets a free t-shirt and an Apple USB flash drive that doubles as a bracelet. They would be storing their footage and creations on these drives.

Each day focused on different aspects of making a film. The first day, they covered brain storming ideas, story boarding, and different filming techniques, such as panning, close ups and landscape shots. The second day focused on editing in iMovie. They took the footage they filmed and started editing in them in iMovie on iPads. And on the last day, they all presented their films for everyone to see.

I was surprised at the level of detail. I noticed when they plugged in their flash drives into Macs to transfer their files, each drive was already labeled with the name of the camper. So when my daughter plugged in her drive, it was already named “Malia” on the desktop. When it was time to edit, each camper was given their own iPad and their own set of Beats headphones so they could only hear their movies. And when it was presentation day, instead of loading each flash drive and double clicking every person’s file, the employees created a Keynote presentation and had each movie as it’s own presentation slide and each movie was preceded by the creator’s name. So that way they could just hit play and not have to load each movie file.

It was a great experience, for myself and for Malia, and I definitely see us doing this again next summer. And it was completely free. Highly recommended.

★ Internet Beer Users

In June of last year, I attended a live recording of The Talk Show. Being the huge nerd that I am, I went by myself. No one that I know is nerdy enough to go to something like this and my wife fully supports my weird interests. I’m totally comfortable going to events on my own and this was no different.

The show itself was great. I had a fun time and I even got to meet other nerds that I’ve followed on the Internet over the years. After I decided I’d had enough free alcohol, I was about to leave when I heard someone call out my name. I thought this is impossible. Having only lived in the Bay Area for a few years, the few friends that I had were not going to be at a live recording of a podcast. I looked in the direction of the voice and saw this guy approach me and ask again, “Jay Torres?” I said yes, and he introduced himself by his Twitter handle, “I’m Nick Pro.”

It’s now July and by this Friday, we will have put out our 26th episode of our podcast. We made our podcast public on February 10  after over 6 months of planning and brainstorming. I’ve always had a thing for making digital stuff. I started a blog in 2001. I’ve been listening to podcasts since 2010-ish and I’ve found them to be interesting and they are now my main form of entertainment. I always wanted to try and make one but I didn’t want to make one on my own and I didn’t know what to talk about.

On that night, over a beer at Cellarmaker, I mentioned to Nick that I’d always wanted to make a podcast and mentioned those two points. He mentioned the same and it kind of clicked. We’re both into tech obviously and we enjoy craft beer. We can talk endlessly about both, why not do that? Here we are, with half a year’s worth of episodes out into the world.

We’ve been having a great time recording it. It gives me something to do aside from being an engineer, husband, and dad, it scratches my creative itch. If you’re into drinking above average beer and/or into Apple, video games, or nerdy things as well, give us a listen. Cheers!

★ 2016 MacBook Pro

About a month ago, I got a new 2016 MacBook Pro. Here are my quick thoughts on it.

  • The hardware is so well built. It is solid. My 2007 MacBook Pro was the generation before they were machined from aluminum blocks. It would flex whenever I picked it up. When you pick up this thing, it is like picking up a 3 lb aluminum slab
  • This is my first Mac with a Retina screen. I’ve used Retina screens since the iPhone 4S but using it on an actual Mac is great.
  • The keyboard is good. I agree with Casey Liss that the Apple Magic Keyboard is the best feeling in terms of travel. This keyboard is loud when you get on a roll, but it’s not as bad as the original MacBook keyboard
  • Having to deal with USB C ports is ok. I picked up a few dongles. One I really like is this one from Satechi. It has 1 USB C, 2 USB A, and an HDMI port.

Being my first new Mac since 2014 and first personal Mac since 2007, I’m super happy overall. Let’s hope this one lasts 10 years also.

Apple Watch And Water

Craig Hockenberry took his Apple Watch out for a swim.

I’m also thrilled that the watch is working so well with my favorite workout: swimming in the ocean. Despite some hiccups in functionality, I still get enough information to improve my performance and extend my goals.

I hope the information in this report will help others understand what the watch can and cannot do in the presence of water. I also hope my experiences will help Apple improve the watch’s capabilities for swimming workouts.

In short, you can swim with your Apple Watch, just be sure to rinse it after.

★ “Are You Getting It?”

When Steve jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007, he teased the crowd by initially saying they were announcing three revolutionary products that day: a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a mobile phone and a breakthrough Internet communications device. We all now know that he was really talking about one product. The iPhone was all three of these things. When you look back at that keynote, which was arguably Jobs’ best keynote, the thing that got the biggest reaction from the crowd was the phone part of the tease. For years, the tech world was waiting for Apple to make a cell phone.

Looking back at the iPhone introduction, the part of the keynote that got the least cheers (2:06), the Internet communications device, is obviously the feature of the device we use the most. The phone aspect (1:52) got the most reaction. Five years later, we should all have been cheering for the Internet communications device part since that is what we use the iPhone for most.

Gruber wrote a great piece on the iPhone’s disruption of multiple industries. He argues that the iPhone didn’t disrupt the mobile phone industry; it destroyed it by disrupting the computer industry. Its success was not because it was the best cell phone, but because it was the best portable computer. We had no idea that we’d be here today and it’s all because the iPhone was not only a mobile phone, but more importantly, it was the Internet communications device we never knew we needed.

Five years later, we’re finally getting it.