Tims selling the iPadPro

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“Thrilled to spend some time with the incredibly talented , whose exquisite new collection was created with iPad Pro.”

So Tim’s talking up the iPadPro.

In the wake of poor iPad sales, and the lacklustre sales of the iPadPro in particular, Tim Cook is talking up the iPadPro on Twitter, showing everyone that there is someone who’s using it and nothing else to create their, well, creations.

Apple certainly isn’t giving up on their mantra that the Mac is the past, and the iPad is the future.

Except he’s not actually saying that is he?

He’s saying that the iPad isn’t the future – it’s the now.

You can ditch all those old doorstop PC’s and iMac’s, and MacMini’s with your silly mice, hardware keyboards and ‘pointers’, and do all that on an iPad.

Except you can’t – not yet.

I can’t give up the Mac and I bet you can’t either.

Pro apps, access to file systems and other storage media, larger screens etc, these are all things that are lost on Tim.

I’m not saying that at some point a rich multi-touch OS on a huge screen isn’t part of our future, I know it’s coming.

But to neglect the computer system that you’re trying to replace (the Mac), whilst your replacement has serious shortcomings is arrogant, shortsighted and plainly a bad business decision.

We need a ‘cross-over’ period where the Mac and iPad coexist, until the iPad is the computer system we all want it to be.

We can’t simply put our Mac’s on eBay and turn to the iPad. At least not yet.

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So I need a product that Apple doesn’t sell anymore…

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Advice on building a home server.

A great article concerning a common issue in home computing.

We all have a lot of data, so the question arises, should we store this locally, in the cloud or on a server like device on the network.

Running a small studio with 5-6 designers, opening huge files all day, a simple networked Mac file server has been my solution.

But it’s never been an easy set-up, and Apple, to their discredit have never helped me get to a simple solution.

For years I survived by sharing files on an old G4 Quicksilver MacPro with the rest of the Mac users.

Slow, but simple to set up and very reliable.

But then an Apple reseller convinced me to buy Apple’s then server solution, a MacPro RAID 5 with Snow Leopard Server.

It promised a lot, but it never delivered.

Not at least, until I gutted it, and set it up for my needs.

Firstly it was set up with the OSX Server software. I never figured out its quirks and eccentricities.

It flat out didn’t work reliably until I restarted the server software several times, in as many weeks.

Files would fall out of sync or disappear.

The network time machine backups failed regularly.

Error messages galore, impenetrable help documents.

After months of trying, I decided to simplify everything.

I copied everything off it, installed a PCIE SSD card, installed the client OS on it, erased and reformatted the RAID, rebooted and copied the work back.

I then had a Mac that serves files reliably and quickly, and I backup the bejeezus out of it.

But even though I have good backup (even off site), sooner or later it’s going to fail, so the paranoid design studio manager in me is searching for an alternative.

So what’s currently out there?

Well nothing from Apple, that’s for sure. Apple left the server market a long time ago, and never really got back into it.

After the XServe, came MacPro server, then Mac mini server, then nothing.

Other than the atrocious macOS server software.  

Apple track record with the server market, at least in terms of servicing that market to the ‘it just works’ crowd, is zero out of ten.

So what’s left?

  • Networked attached storage.
  • A big SSD or RAID drive connected to a spare Mac.
  • Rely on macOS’s SMB stack to connect to the Windows network.

None of these are a suitable solution for me.

The problem is I need as few points of failure as possible along the curve to my files.

By that I mean the setup had to be as straightforward as possible so that no software update or system malfunction stops the users getting to their files.

This is why the current set up works.

No arcane server software (like MacOSServer) to go wrong, it’s just the client OS.

No weird hardware that runs its own proprietary middleware that one day decided not to work, like networked attached storage.

No relying on separate departments who may update something or decide to change a setting which has the side effect of blocking access.

Apple’s track record on the server front is bad, but their SMB implementation is even worse, I can’t rely on it.

So I’m at an impasse – my only options are to upgrade the SSD to 1 terabyte in an old Mac Mini (the same one that was sold as the Server version, it just came with the client OS), and purchase some old MacPro SAS drives as spares, if I can find someone who sells them.

That way I have some sort of solution, but Apple – you are really trying my patience and you’re leaving me with more and more reasons to jump ship entirely to Windows.

 

 

The iPads future


The future of computing

Many years ago, back before Steve returned to Apple, he was asked what he thought about Apple, the Mac and what he would do to ‘save’ it.

If I were running Apple, I would milk the Macintosh for all it’s worth and get busy on the next great thing. The PC wars are over. Done. Microsoft won a long time ago.

This was 1996 and it’s tempting to think that the iPad is envisaged by the current incumbents, as the next great thing.
But Apple’s own sales figures say otherwise. As Marco’s article points out, it’s been 7 years and sales peaked 3 years ago.

Many have said that the lacklustre figures are due to the buying cycle, i.e. the iPad is more like a computer than a phone and has a 4-5 year replacement cycle.

I’d tend to agree – I still use an original iPad mini, and although it’s a bit slow, in all other regards it’s fine for what I use it for.

Right there is the point – what you use it for. 

The reason why the iPad’s sales are poor, is because despite Apple’s efforts, customers aren’t using it as their main computing device and replacing their ‘trucks’ with them.

Customers have a habit of doing that – they tell you how they use your product, not the other way around.

You’d think Apple would realise this and act accordingly, as they have had their fingers burnt with the Apple Watch.

The initial launch pushed the device in one direction, but after the data came in, version 2 changed direction and concentrated on fitness.

So why don’t they do this with the iPad?

Accept the way customers want to use it and build on that?

Instead of listening to customers, their answer has been, “we will just make it more pro” towit, a ‘pro’ version and pencil input.

And still sales fall.

There’s a simple dynamic at work here. Customers would accept the iPad as their main computing device, if the Mac (or the Windows PC for that matter) didn’t exist.

But they do.

Any, (and I do mean ANY) task is easier, quicker, more efficient and less frustrating to do on a device that has a big screen, a keyboard and a mouse.

We really did hit gold here. A screen, keyboard and mouse is the answer, there is nothing better and the iPad will never replace them.

So what should Apple do with the iPad?

I do admit that a multi touch OS is the future, but something like the Microsoft Surface Studio is closer to that future than any current iPad.

But we’re not going to get there by simply releasing a hobbled device that can’t do any task better than the device it’s designed to replace.

When it was first released, the Mac didn’t replace the job that it now currently does.

It was a slow process, and it started by replacing the things it could do better first, and slowly adding, to the point where the entire design process was done digitally. 

It took years, partly because of technological constraints, but also because you had to prove to the consumer that the Mac was better. 

The iPad needs the same approach.

In order to replace the Mac, it has to work alongside it, helping it do certain tasks, replacing jobs that the Mac did because it can do them better.

Here’s a few examples:

Why can’t I attach a written note to a folder on the Mac? This is something I would literally do dozens of times per day and would help me immensely.

Why can’t I draw alterations on a PDF that’s on the iPad screen and have this mirrored on the Mac’s screen?

Why can’t the iPad see the Macs file system and open files from the Mac?

Why can’t I start a design on the iPad and then throw it to the Macs screen? Adobe has shown Apple the way here.

If the iPad worked with the Mac instead of trying to replace it today, Apple would have a better chance of of being part of the future of computing.

If they don’t, by the time they get their Microsoft will have beat them to it.

The future of computing…

og

iPadPro. A computer for everything.

Except inDesign.

And Photoshop.

And Illustrator.

And accessing an external file system.

And installing a font.

And simply importing a tif or eps into a page layout.

Basically what I do as a ‘pro-user’ 100 times a day.

Please don’t tell me ‘I’m a niche case’

The entire market is made up of a series of niche cases.

Please Apple, don’t tell me that every Mac user should use an iPad.

I’m quite happy to move to an iPadPro Apple, just make it a true ‘pro’ device.

20″ plus screen, access to a file system and pro apps and make it quick.

Whoops – I’ve just described the SurfaceStudio.

OK, so I might buy some AirPods…

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A breath of fresh AirPods.

The thing is, I have real problems in filtering out office noise.

The constant chatter, laughing, half heard conversations and inane music playing in the background all drain the creative concentration that sometimes is needed.

So, some people bring their own background music with them.

This isn’t necessarily frowned upon, but is a bit ignorant, cutting yourself off from your colleagues.

So I’ve tried some ‘background noise filtering’ apps for the iPhone and there’s two that stand out.

Binaural is an unusual app and it does 2 things: plays white noise (it calls this rain) and overlaid this is your selection of frequency of sound (handily labelled for different activities).

Press play and let it do the rest. It’s a very unusual feeling but it does help you focus and I’ve found certain frequencies alleviate headaches.

It’s free to use, with in-app purchases.

However it’s Noisili that stands out. It’s not free but it takes a different approach, in having a selection of different looping sounds, not just rain, but thunder, wind, train (my favourite) and also the deep hum of a fan and straightforward white noise.

You can mix these together and save your favourite combinations. 

Which brings me to the AirPods, from what I’ve read you can say in summary:

They’re expensive, but on par with similar products on the market.

They aren’t just Bluetooth headphones, they contain the W1 chip that aids pairing.

They’re Siri enabled, but it seems that’s not ready for prime time.

The battery life is excellent.

You may look a bit of a dork wearing them.

But, the main reason I’m buying them us so I can wear them at the office without drawing attention to the fact that I’m filtering out all that office noise, and the noise cancelling features are balanced so that you can still hear what’s going on around you.

Many have said that this product is a sign that Apple is getting back it’s mojo – they ‘just work’ by all accounts.

The reason I’m getting them is so I can ‘just work’ also.

Customers aren’t data…

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Get to know your data…

Sorry I mean customers…

When I was studying marketing the thing I was told is that half of my ad spend was a waste of time, trouble was you would never know which half.

The only chance you had was to grab the customers attention with a great idea that changed their behaviour.

The drive to data driven marketing is trying to solve that initial problem – which part of my ad spend is wasteful.

The idea is to focus on the group of customers that will respond to your spend.

The best bang for your buck as it were.

Trouble is, customers don’t think like that.

One time, you may get it right, but those dang pesky customers won’t react the same next time, to the same stimulus.

That’s because people aren’t data, they’re not numbers, they’re not a spreadsheet that conveniently adds up to 100.

People are unpredictable & illogical.

You have to focus on what people are, not what they aren’t.

People are passionate, scared, excitable, fearful, full of want, desire, lust, envy and anger.

These are the traits that change behaviour, and they only thing that pushes those buttons is creativity.

And by creativity I don’t mean the marketing department ‘getting creative’ in a brainstorming session.

Are you confused that your target market didn’t respond to the targeted campaign you ran, when all the data pointed to the fact that 72% would because of their buying patterns or the fact there was correlation between their demographic position and the product?

It’s because you ad was shit, just like this one – PEOPLE DON’T DO THIS!

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They do however DO THIS!

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The Sainsbury’s ad was designed by committee and bears no resemblance to any customer behaviour.

The iPod ad was designed by the BWA/Chiat/Day team of Lee Clow, James Vincent, a former DJ and musician, and art director Susan Alinsangan, read the story here.

 

I want to see what I don’t ‘like’…

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Programmatic Myopia

A very interesting viewpoint from Dave Trott.

I don’t know about you, but the 2 social networks I frequent the most are Twitter and Pinterest.

And they are full of things I ‘like’.

Lots and lots of lovely posts about Atheism (in Pinterest) and Brexit (in Twitter).

In fact, over the period I’ve used them, it’s over 50% full of these things.

Now I admit I am an atheist, and (for many complicated reasons, none of which have anything to do with the EU per se) support the UK leaving the EU.

(Don’t let that put you off, I’m really quite a nice guy).

So I tend to ‘like’ and ‘retweet’ the things I agree with – as we all do.

So, Twitter and Pinterest’s artificial intelligence thinks that that’s all I like to hear about.

It thinks that don’t want to hear anything remotely challenging, negative, upsetting or otherwise counter to those things I ‘like’.

There’s that word again, ‘like’.

The most depressing word I’ve ever heard – how do I know if I like something, if I’ve never had a chance to experience it?

What about all those counter-views, opinions that as far as I’m concerned (from Twitter & Pinterest’s opinion) – don’t exist?

What if I stop liking something – that is possible, isn’t it?

Or am I slave to the things I like – forever?

How did I come to ‘like’ these things?

Not just these things, but let’s say, the paintings of Jackson Pollock?

He is nowhere in my social sphere, but I am partial to his work, and fascinated by his life.

I like the Cocteau Twins, but I also like Nirvana – am I allowed to like opposites anymore?

Under a system where ‘what I like’ is decided by an algorithm, is that even possible?

I like those things because I spent the first 30+ years of my life being exposed to millions of different stimuli, randomly – nobody or no-thing chose for me.

What kind of person will develop under the system we have now, where you will never be exposed to things you don’t ‘like’?

There’s that word again, ‘like’.

The scariest word I have ever heard.

We are all afraid that one day, robots will rise and overthrow us, has it ever occurred to anyone that they have already, it’s that they’re just not physical yet, and go by the name, ‘algorithm’.

Creatives and marketeers

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The Creatives versus the marketing team.

Great article –  it’s nice to have the point of view of a creative in this situation, instead of another marketeer hiding behind marketing-speak they only half understand.

I’m a trained graphic designer, from a marketing background and now work as a design lead of a design team in an in-house role which I’ve done for many years. So I’ve seen it all from both sides.

I’ve worked with dozens of marketeers, all with very impressive degrees and even more impressive job titles.

Most of them do not understand what marketing actually is, or how to do it.

Marketing isn’t design, or being creative or working with colours, or pictures or shapes.

It’s not using google image search to find a design you like and then telling my team to copy it (which happens constantly).

Marketing isn’t sitting with the designer and telling them where to move the mouse until you happen upon something marketing ‘likes’ by chance, days later.

Marketing is market research.

Really boring market research into the behaviour of those really boring customer we all have.

Marketeers should research the problem that the client (or boss) has presented to them to solve.

Demographics, customer data, focus groups – they can call it whatever they like – they’re the experts.

They should use that research to come up with a marketing plan, that will form a ‘brief’ to a designer, usually centred around one or more relevant advertising channels.

A brief – remember those?

This briefs tells the the designer THE PROBLEM, not THE SOLUTION to the problem.

It used to be like this in my early agency days – marketeers (or account managers/sales managers as we used to call them), would do all this and do it really well, and then leave it up to the designers to solve the problem creatively.

A designer used to present to the client directly along with the account manager – this way the idea could be justified along with sound design reasoning.

The account manager didn’t have to change the creative or tread on their toes because they didn’t have to justify it to the client – the creative did.

What happens now is that marketing thinks that they are the sole arbiter of the solution – marketing stands between the designer and the client – everyone else is simply a tool to be used in the process.

We all have a part to play in the process.

If marketing don’t like the design, (“it strays too far from the brand”, or “it doesn’t solve the client’s sales problem”, or “I don’t like the colour”), the problem is with the brief they briefed to the designer – not the designer.

Not that ‘liking’ it or not is even relevant.

It should solve the problem outlined in the brief.

Whether the designer or the marketeer like it is irrelevant.

A great designer can design something they don’t like. We are all solving the customers problem, not the designer’s, marketeer’s or the client’s.

It’s up to the account manager to explain that to the client, not to stand over the designer’s shoulder debating which shade of blue they like this week.

This is the reason why there’s so much conflict between design and marketing now – marketing have forgotten what their role and responsibilities are, they treat everyone else as a ‘service provider’ and they’ve forgotten how to write a good comprehensive well researched brief.

This is why the advertising we surrounded by is tepid, committee driven dross.

Apple, take my (employers) money!


I’m currently the design studio manager of a small Mac-based in-house design studio, which is part of a much larger, PC-based company. 

Every 3 years I refresh the Macs as the AppleCare run’s out. 

Last refresh I moved all users to 27″ iMacs, leaving behind a collection of cheesgrater MacPros of various denominations.

Apart from the odd screen quality issue it was the right decision. 
Speed, small footprint, a lot less cables to worry about, identical installs and less dust, all make managing those Macs a lot easier than it used to be. 

I’m not sorry that the cheesgraters were discontinued, as the iMacs are perfect for what we need. 

However there is one left, a venerable cheese grater MacPro RAID, that handles all the file serving, backup etc.

I can’t replace that, because, well, Apple hasn’t got anything to sell me that would replace it. 

I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a big SSD with thunderbolt and hooking that to the network, but it’s a bit of a kludge. 

So the money stays in my pocket. 

And so the iMacs. 

AppleCare runs out next year, so I’ve looked at what’s on offer. 

And, well, there’s nothing to replace them with. Current iMacs are not that much different from what we’ve got. 

So the money stays in my pocket. 

Upwards of £20k, and Apple just doesn’t want it. 

Next year, let’s see who does. 

Ooooh dear…

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The Verge likes the Surface Studio.

And so do I.

The fact that Microsoft is even being considered an alternative to Apple’s line of machines for creatives is not something anyone, not even Microsoft, was expecting for the Surface devices. The Surface Studio won’t take over Mac-focused design houses just yet, but that it’s even a possibility is remarkable. The Studio is special because it knows exactly what it is and who it’s for — and it’s largely spot on. If Microsoft keeps developing its strengths here, some of Apple’s most loyal customers might well be tempted to switch camps.

There was a time that Apple would have done something crazy like this.

Chuq’s advice for Apple…

A long time Apple commentator and ex-Apple employee, gives his view.

I listened to Chuq on the Appletalk podcast and his point about Apple, “cutting the ends off the bell curve” is a really good point.

The marketing & finance people have taken over at Apple and they are drowning in data.

They’ve looked at the data and like all marketing people, want to be spending their money on things that are likely to return on the investment.

They’ve looked at the usual market sectors, and because nobody in marketing actually does any serious heavy lifting, they don’t understand those that do.

There’s a current illness in marketing where any market they can’t measure, they just don’t see, and marketing is full of people who can only truly understand people like them.

They look the all that data from sales, social, email, web and the only data that is shown by that are trendy millennials sat in coffee shops.

They respond to social, email, branding etc., so the data marketing collects is full of them.

The real pros who rely on Apple’s kit to make a living are too busy working to ‘respond to branding cues’, they just buy Apple every few years, because it works.

Problem is with all that data, it seems like servicing these pros is a waste of money.

The data doesn’t show the mindshare and influence that pros give Apple.

Marketing doesn’t care about that because you can’t measure it, and in their view, they don’t want pro’s evangelising and advertising Apple – that’s marketings’ job.

Problem is with all that data, it only tells what people have done, not what they will do.

Problem is relying on data, you lose your gut instinct – that ‘Steve Job’s’ effect where Apple entered markets because they wanted to create a great product, not simply did what the marketing’s data was telling them to do.

You make the odd insanely great mistake, but that’s what made Apple great.

I do sincerely believe that Apple is changing from a company that used to service professionals creatives, into a company that simply wants to be a dumbed down, lowest common denominator, lifestyle company.

We’ll see what this year brings, from what I can see it’s just minor updates to the iMac.

Next year we are promised more – new processors and a big jump ahead in terms of performance.

After that, 2019, we’ll all know what company Apple wants to become, because by then, they will certainly be there.

Whether the pro market is with them remains to be seen – I not that hopeful.

Real artists ship… but only if they exist…

Hey look! It's smiling!

Hey look! It’s smiling!

Amazon to pay Kindle authors by pages read

No, this isn’t an April’s Fool, to quote the article:

Amazon is to begin paying royalties to writers based on the number of pages read by Kindle users, rather than the number of books downloaded.

I could get really angry about this.

I could start a huge post about how Orwellian, how unfair, how this completely screws any and every person who has ever put pen to paper.

I could write about how this illustrates perfectly that Amazon are abusing their DOJ sanctioned monopoly and that someone needs to do something.

I could get really angry about this statement from Mr Bezos:

We’re making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read.

See authors! You shouldn’t be angry because you asked for this! Great feedback people!

I could get even angrier about some of the comments in this article from people who have never written a book or done anything creative in their entire life:

I think popular writers will get paid more under this new system.

As if being ‘popular’ is something that benefits society. Hurrah for conformity!

I could be apoplectic with rage about the privacy issues that Amazon know’s which freaking page I’m on in a book I’ve purchased from them.

But I won’t – all I think about are the writers. Those poor (and I mean poor) authors who spend the best part of a decade labouring over something that means everything to them, only to be screwed at every turn by people who haven’t one ounce of creativity in them and leech off those who do.

I know that the changes are purely for Kindle Unlimited where subscribers pay a set amount each month to borrow as many books as they like, but Amazon has form on this and this is the thin end of a very shitty wedge.

Trying to look past all this and to see a bigger picture here, it illustrates a very important point.

Everything around you was created by someone. That film you saw, that music you heard, that painting you experienced, that game you played, that book you read are all created by artists in one form or another.

But art in itself doesn’t put food on the table, doesn’t pay the mortgage, doesn’t put your kids through school.

Artists will only create those things if they get paid fairly for them, if they can’t make a living out if them, they aren’t going to just sit there and starve. They will just stop doing it and go and find work elsewhere – probably as a slave in one of Jeff’s automated warehouses.

A film director, a musician, a painter, a game designer and that poor author, doesn’t have a clue whether what they are creating will be successful and make back in monetary terms what it cost them in effort, effort that’s sometimes measured in years.

The creative process isn’t perfect, sometimes you get it right, sometimes you don’t, but if you only get paid for the ‘popular’ hits – you will starve. The money you make on the ‘misses’, allows you to create the ‘hits’.

Imagine a society where artists only create sure-fire ‘populist’ content, nothing challenging, divisive, opinion-forming, upsetting will ever be created again – that’s not a society I want to be part of.

It’s a worrying development and it stems from people who have never created anything in their life, but have found a business in leeching of those who do.