Dismayed by the realization that my geekiest posts also tend to be my longest (or rather, my most long-winded), I decided to add some handy links for you to jump to whichever parts interest you: I've been annoyed the way Apple lately has rapidly changed their products at the expense of older users...it never used to be like that.... I got a wireless router...then returned it...then had more beef with Apple...but had a surprisingly good experience at CompUSA...and love love love my new AirPort Express. ...Wow, even that abstract sounds really dull and doesn't interest me at all, show me that cute kitten again!
It's not like I'm going to switch or anything, but Apple has really lost a lot of my good will in the last couple of days. The products are still fab, but I'm having corporate issues. The iPod thing was a symptom of a larger problem I have with them lately. Since the initial release of OS X, they've put out a major upgrade of the system software about once a year. Back in the pre-OS X days, this wouldn't have mattered much. But now they've got all these applications sort of built-in to the system, like iCal, Safari, iChat and Address Book, that I love and use constantly. In our wonderful age of constant, high-speed Internet, I can get little software updates to these freebies constantly, fixing bugs and adding features. But when a new operating system comes out, so do the new versions of the system apps, and all support for the old ones go away. Want the new features? Pay for the system upgrade. So goes the iPod -- though the current software still has some bugs (like inaccurate battery level readings), I suspect that I will never again see an update compatible with my barely 6-month-old iPod.
This is actually a common thing in computer-land, of course, but it still surprises me coming from Apple. I remember through most of the 90s, I could still get tech support and accessories for my old Apple IIe if necessary. They sold peripherals for years after discontinuing a PC, because they understood that not everyone actually got all the newest hardware right away, or ever. I just feel like in the rush to bring out new products, they're ignoring the old ones, and the loyal long-time customers.
And speaking of the rush to bring out new products, here comes gripe number two...
Boy and I sort of put the kitten before the horse, getting a pet together before actually moving in together. So since the arrival of Radish, Boy has been spending almost every night at "my" place. This has been great except for the way he can't get online with his laptop. For months we thought the tricksters at Time Warner had somehow set up my cable modem to only work with my laptop, but we recently learned that the simple act of turning it off and then on again when switching machines solves that problem. But we still can't both be online at the same time, and for two geeks like us, that can be problematic. We had planned to get wireless when we move in together officially anyway, so I went down to the Apple Store and impulse-bought an AirPort base station. It was dreamy and perfect...though the very same day Boy's HP laptop died and had to be sent back for repair, so we didn't get to try out the both-online-at-once thing, but it was dreamy for me.
A couple of days later I was tooling around online and I discovered that the brand-spankin' new AirPort Express had features I hadn't thought it had, on top of being tiny and about $70 less than the one I'd just purchased. I checked out the return policy, and even with the restocking fee I'd save 50 bucks. So I packed up the big mushroom and brought it back to the store. I asked a few questions about the new model to confirm that it was what I wanted, then waited on a very short line and took care of my return in about a minute -- and they didn't charge me the restocking fee. I don't know if I'd misread the policy, or if the clerk made a mistake or was just being nice, but any way you slice it, it was a bonus.
From one of the computers in the store, I checked out the online store. The Express was due to ship in "mid-July," and it was already almost the second week of the month, so I ordered it right there, thinking it would be the fastest way to get the thing as soon as it was released. Then I went home and began the horrible pangs of wireless withdrawl.
So, mid-July is here, and the website declares proudly that the AirPort Express is "Shipping Now." Yet for some reason my order is now scheduled to ship in August.
Last night I read on Mac 911 that the same thing is happening with the new iPods. Apple's press release claims that they're "available immediately," and the website exhorts customers to order them online or go to an Apple Store for "instant gratification," but no one actually has them. The article did mention, though, that the Express was in stock, though my order online still said August.
Never big on patience, I decided to run down to the Soho store and buy one today, then cancel the online order. They sold out this morning. Seriously? How many did they order? I know we Mac folks are some freaky geeks, but was there really a rush on wireless routers?? Come on!
So I was all kinds of irritated, more on principal than anything else, since it's not like I needed the thing. But determined to somehow manufacture a happy ending, I called CompUSA, thinking it was futile. I hate CompUSA. It makes me feel dirty and and inevitably pisses me off. But the surprisingly friendly rep on the phone told me they had 20 in stock. Even more surprisingly, in the Apple section I found a very helpful salesman who, based on his conversation with the customer ahead of me, knew his shit when it came to Macs. He asked a colleague to show me where the AirPorts were, and as we walked over he admired my iPod case. At checkout, the original salesman returned, and told me he'd set up his Express last night and it was great. I said I was excited, and told him the Apple Store was sold out. "Oh, so you went there first?"
I told him I was actually shocked to a) find an employee in CompUSA, and b) to find one who knew Macs. It used to be impossible to do either. The guy said that most of the staff now were Mac users themselves, and there was always someone assigned to the Apple corner. Good to know! Considering the clerk at the Apple Store had done everything but actually say "duh" when telling me they were sold out, I may have a new secret toy store.
Good geek that I am, all crankiness was washed away by the sight of a good new toy. The new AirPort is so shiiiiiny. Hell, even the box is well-designed. I plugged it in and Boy and I were both online in about five minutes. From across the room, with no cords attached to my laptop, I can get streaming Internet audio in iTunes and send it back to the speakers across the room. I can't imagine why I would actually need to do that, but I had a little techgasm (tm Boy) when I tried it out. And did I mention that it's pretty? And tiny?
Oh, who am I kidding, Apple, I can't stay mad at you. You had me at "bong."