Why I Don’t Have an iPhone

Another answer to a frequently asked question.

Twentieth Anniversary MacintoshI’m a devoted Mac user and have been since I got my first Mac back in 1989. I’ve written dozens of books and hundreds of articles about Mac OS and applications that run on Macintosh computers. I currently own six Macs, including two Mac laptops, a 24″ iMac, and a Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh. I have four iPods. I even own Apple stock.

But I don’t have an iPhone.

People ask me why I don’t have an iPhone. The answer is very simple: AT&T.

I won’t switch to AT&T. I’ve used them in the past and their service frankly sucks. I don’t like talking to India when I have a billing or technical support problem. I don’t like the fact that if they screw up your bill, you can’t get it fixed and they put a black mark on your credit report. For as little as $26 they claim you owe them.

ATT Coverage

AT&T’s Voice/Text Coverage


Verizon Coverage

Verizon Voice/Text Coverage

And if personal opinions regarding AT&T’s service aren’t enough, then let’s look at its service area. It simply doesn’t cover the areas I need coverage in. Like at my house — AT&T’s coverage is spotty. Or at our place on Howard Mesa — AT&T won’t work there at all. And other places I’ve been to.

Don’t believe me? Look at these two coverage maps, keeping in mind that I live in a small town on the edge of nowhere in Arizona. AT&T’s service in my town is through a “partner” — it doesn’t even have regular service here.

I need a cell phone that works everywhere I go. I go a lot of places in the west and I go a lot of places where there simply aren’t any cities. AT&T is a city cell phone provider.

Apple partnered with AT&T for the iPhone. While I believe this was a mistake, AT&T probably doesn’t think so. Right after the iPhone’s introduction, many users dropped their carriers (no pun intended) to switch to AT&T so they could buy iPhones. If Apple had gone with Verizon, it probably would have killed AT&T’s mobile business. It seems to me that the iPhone is the only reason someone might want to use AT&T.

I invested in a Palm Treo 700p with Verizon a month before the iPhone came out. I knew it was going to AT&T and I knew I couldn’t have one. So I invested in the Palm with a 2-year plan, just so I wouldn’t be tempted to do something stupid. I didn’t regret it at all. Although my Treo didn’t look slick, like an iPhone, it did things that an iPhone couldn’t do — like act as a Bluetooth modem to get my laptops on the Internet when I’m hanging around an off-the-grid cabin on top of an Arizona mesa. Or on a cruise ship off the coast of Alaska. Sure, an iPhone can connect to a WiFi network, but what if no network is available? Can it get a laptop on the ‘Net? My Treo could.

Blackberry StormLast month, I stepped up to a Blackberry Storm. The darn thing sure looks a lot like an iPhone. It even works a lot like an iPhone. Yes, I know there aren’t as many apps, but do I really need all that crap on my phone?

And guess what? Even though they told me it wouldn’t work, I can still use the phone’s Bluetooth connection to get my laptops on the ‘Net when there’s no WiFi network around. I can still sync flawlessly with my Mac’s Address Book, iCal Calendar, and other data applications. I have voice dialing, better Bluetooth support, MP3 player capabilities, a built-in GPS that works with the mapping application, and more features than I know what to do with.

So while I admit that I did look longingly at iPhones when I was a Treo user, I no longer feel as if I’m missing out. I have what I need in a cell phone — including the most important thing: coverage — and more to explore in a slick, user-friendly package.

Choosing a cell phone should be a logical decision; not an emotional one. Logic told me to stick with Verizon and choose the Treo and then the Storm.

Please don’t think I’m knocking the iPhone. I’m not. I’m just saying that it isn’t the only solution for an Apple user. Some things are more important than having a cool-looking, popular phone. Service and features are right at the top of my list. AT&T and the iPhone simply won’t deliver the service and features I need.

Back to Basics with my 12″ PowerBook

Who needs a netbook? I got this old clunker.

PowerBookYears ago, I bought a 12″ PowerBook. I was attracted to its small size and great power. Back when it was first released, you may remember, it was considered a tiny marvel. While other people flocked to the 17″ PowerBook, I wanted sheer portability and the 12″ was my dream laptop.

Time marches on. A G4 processor operating with 640 MB of RAM isn’t anyone’s dream machine anymore. Hell, when I tried to install Leopard on it last year, it was so slow I had to rebuild the hard disk with Tiger on it.

And I think that’s when I fell out of love with it.

You see, in the meantime, I’d bought a 15″ MacBook Pro. Not one of the new ones — this one is about two years old now. I’d bought it as a test mule — a computer to run software on while I write about the software. But when I finished my Leopard book in September 2007, I began using the MacBook Pro more and more. And when I couldn’t get Leopard to run on the 12″, I realized that it was silly to use an old laptop when I had a newer one. The 12″ wound up on the shelf.

But this morning I pulled it out and dusted it off and fired it up. I let it update Microsoft Office 2004 and various Apple software. I updated my ecto database to pull in all the blog entries I’d written over the past year. And I started writing this.

The sad part about this PowerBook is that the battery is so toasted that it won’t hold a charge for more than 20 minutes of operations. So as a portable computer for use in coffee shops, etc., it fails miserably. But plug it in and sit at the kitchen table and it does everything it’s supposed to.

I want a netbook. I’m sorely tempted by the Dell Mini 9. A buddy of mine says he can transform it into a Hackintosh for me. But I’m also hoping that Apple comes out with their own netbook. If they price it reasonably — and I’m talking about well under $1,000 — I’ll be the first on line to buy one.

And frankly, I don’t give a damn about the so-called “Apple Tax.” Dan Miller of Macworld.com was right in his article, “The Microsoft Discount.” He could be speaking for me when he says:

But for the benefit of my Windows-using friends, I will say for the record: I don’t use a Mac because it’s cool. I use it because it works better for me. I use it because it doesn’t stink.

I’ve got a hopped-up Windows laptop that’s way faster than this little old PowerBook. But when it came time to do a little blogging this morning, I left it gathering dust on the shelf.

Visual QuickStart Motor Skills

It’s all coming back to me.

It’s no secret that Apple will soon — well, hopefully sometime in 2009, anyway — release an update to Mac OS X. It should be numbered 10.6 and it’s definitely called Snow Leopard. But that’s all I can say about it. I’m under nondisclosure and I take this stuff very seriously.

I’m working on a revision to my Mac OS X Visual QuickStart Guide. I just rather belatedly realized that this is the first VQS I’ve worked on in over a year and a half. The last was Leopard (10.5), which was released the same day Leopard hit the Apple stores. I think it was late October 2007. I clearly remember working on it while I traveled. I even blogged about it here, here, here, and here.

I don’t just write VQSes. I also do layout. I write and lay out in InDesign. This year, it’s a real breeze. Not only do I have all the real estate on my 24″ iMac monitor, but I also have another 24″ of real estate on the Samsung sitting next to it.

As I work, I find myself repeating the same keystrokes and mouse drags I performed all those months ago. The shortcuts and techniques have all come back to me — my hands fly over the keyboard and mouse without consulting my brain — and miraculously, they get it right. I even reprogrammed Photoshop actions using the same keystrokes I used for the last VQS project.

Is it any wonder I can completely revise typical page, with new screenshots and added page references, in less than 30 minutes?

The page reference addition is something I’m pretty excited about. Because InDesign has always lacked a good cross-referencing feature, I had to manually reference everything. As a result, I kept it simple and stuck to chapter references. For example, “I tell you more about disks and volumes in Chapter 6.” But when InDesign CS4 was released, it had one feature that made it worth the upgrade for me: cross-referencing. I think that by referencing exact pages in the book, rather than making vague references to chapter numbers, I’m making the book far more valuable as a reference tool than ever before.

At this point, two chapters are done. I’ve got 24 more to go. I’m sure you’ll read more about my progress here.

You’ll have to wait until Snow Leopard hits the shelves to read more about it.

Welcome to Macintosh

A movie review.

Welcome to MacintoshThe other night, I watched Welcome to Macintosh, a new documentary by filmmakers Robert Baca and Josh RIzzo.

Here’s the review I just entered on Netflix, where I gave it 3 out of 5 stars:

I’m one of the “Mac faithful” and have been for years. I found this documentary mildly interesting — especially parts discussing trivia, such as how startup tones came about. In general, however, I found it to be a rather amateurish production, with far too much time spent on various collections of old Macs. The cutaway scenes with Mac models decorating the landscape was reminiscent of the “How It’s Made” television series and rather silly. I would like to have seen more interviews with Mac users, movers, and shakers, as well as some of those old Macs running some of the software from the early days.

This movie will appeal to any Mac fan interested in Apple’s history. But Apple haters will hate this movie; it comes across as real Apple “fanboy” material.

You can read another take on the movie from its premier on the Unofficial Apple Weblog: “TUAW On Scene: from the premiere of Welcome to Macintosh.”

On Keynote Queues

Wondering about the kind of person who would wait in line overnight to see an Apple keynote.

I’m not going to Macworld Expo this year. I used to go regularly and didn’t miss a show for about 10 years. Then I started skipping them. It just didn’t seem worth the time and expense. I went last year but am skipping this year.

I always watch the Apple keynote presentation, though. For a while, it was available as a live Webcast. Since then, it’s been available a day or two afterwards as a streamed QuickTime movie. That’s good enough for me.

Evidently, it isn’t good enough for some people. When I finally tracked down the date and time for this year’s Keynote address on the Macworld Expo Web site, I also stumbled upon some information for attendees wishing to see the presentation live. Here’s part of the instructions:

As a Platinum Pass attendee, you have priority seating to view the Keynote in the main presentation room, based on availability. You may queue up on line any time beginning Monday evening, along 4th Street adjacent to the Moscone Center. We urge you to make every effort to be on line by 7:00am Tuesday morning to ensure your place in the queue, as we cannot guarantee seating late arrivals. Show management staff and security will be present to assist with any questions.

I should probably mention here that the folks who have “platinum passes” spent $1,695 to get them — if they bought them before December 1. If they waited, they paid $1,895.

I don’t know about you, but the thought of waiting on line in San Francisco overnight in January after paying nearly $2K for “priority seating” seems a little extreme. What kind of person would do this?

Now there’s a lot of hoopla over the fact that Steve Jobs is not doing this year’s keynote address. There’s even a bunch of whiners who claim they’re going to give Phil Schiller, who is doing the presentation, the cold (and silent) shoulder with each announcement. (These could be the same people who are willing to wait in line overnight to see a trade show keynote address.) So although I don’t expect a bunch of people to be standing out in the cold tonight on 4th Street (or Howard Street for the people who don’t have “platinum” passes), I do wonder how many people stood on line overnight in the past. Anyone have this info? Use the comments link or form for this post to share it.

Silent Keynote Campaign? Get a Grip.

Some spoiled kids plot to whine in silence.

Here’s a sad example of the mentality of some Mac users. The “Silent Keynote Campaign at Macworld Expo” is one way some people think they can send a message to Apple about how “mad” they are about Apple dropping out of future Macworld Expo. In reality, all they’re doing is exposing themselves as whining fanboys (or fangirls, perhaps).

If you’re attending the Macworld Expo keynote on Tuesday, Jan. 6, you can send a message to Apple by remaining silent during the 2009 keynote. While Phil Schiller is on the stage, let there be no applause, no whistling… just utter and complete silence.

Boo hoo. Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks this campaign is stupid and childish.

Get a grip, folks. This isn’t the end of the world.

I’m as big an Apple supporter as the next guy — probably even bigger, since I’ve been using them and writing about them since 1989. I have to admit that although the announcement saddens me because it marks the end of an era, it’s not going to have a major impact on how I buy and use computers and software.

I get better attention and support in an Apple store than I ever got in the Apple “booth” at Macworld Expo — and half the time I had a Press badge on at the show. Indeed, an Apple Store is like having a Macworld Expo Apple booth with attentive staff available almost every day of the year. And I’d rather see Apple cut back on its trade show budget than cut back on employees or development costs. Wouldn’t you?

As for the silent treatment aimed at Phil Schiller, that’s not only rude, but it’s inconsiderate and unbelievably childish. And think of the message that sends to the rest of the computing world about Apple users.

Giving My iMac a Fresh Start

Why I’m reformatting my iMac’s hard disk.

iMacAs I type this, I’ve set the wheels in motion for my iMac’s internal hard disk to be reformatted and a fresh installation to be installed on its clean surface. This is a “clean install,” in the real sense of the phrase, and I expect it to take most of the Christmas holidays to get things back up and running in a way that I can be productive again.

This may seem drastic, but drastic times call for drastic solutions. My computer has been plagued with problems for the past two months — since my return from points north after this summer’s galavanting — and I simply cannot tolerate it anymore. I not only get kernel panics several times a week, but I also get what I call “blue screen restarts” (screen turns blue and computer restarts itself for no apparent reason), frozen mouse pointers, and unresponsive applications. I’m losing unsaved work — although less than you’d think because I’ve actually come to expect problems and save often.

I’ve run every diagnostic tool I have on the hard disk, booting from the CD/DVD drive whenever possible. Disk Utility says the hard disk is fine, but it finds all kinds of problems with permissions, which it just can’t fix. Drive Genius won’t even check the permissions, but it finds an error with my preferences file and gives up scanning. Permissions are definitely screwed up because my document permissions include permissions for (unknown).

Did I mention that it’s just over a year old now?

I know the cure for the problem — reformat and reinstall. So that’s what I’m doing.

Oddly enough, I used to do this regularly back in the old days, before the operating system got so darn complex and my hard disk filled up with music and video files. Each time a new version of Mac OS came out, I’d install it by reformatting my hard disk and putting the software on a clean disk. Then I’d reinstall all my applications and copy back the documents I needed on my hard disk. It took about a half a day to get the job done and the computer worked flawlessly afterwards.

But nowadays, things aren’t that simple. Reformatting a hard disk and reinstalling everything from scratch is a real pain in the ass. Before I could even think of doing it, I started by making three backup copies of what was important on the disk: the Time Machine backup I always have, a disk image of my entire hard disk, and a copy of my home folder. All this had to wait until I got an external hard disk large and fast enough to make the extra two backups. I bought it yesterday: a 1TB Western Digital FireWire/USB drive.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d own a 1 TB hard disk. The amazing thing: it only cost $200. So storage is no longer an issue here.

At least not for the next few months.

Right now, my iMac is still verifying the installation DVD. I can still change my mind. But the thought of dealing with daily blue screen is too frustrating for words. So I’ll do the drastic thing and fix my problem.

And next week, I’ll pump my iMac up to 4 GB of RAM. If that doesn’t make it happy, nothing will.

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