Mac Information

Apple Macintosh, iPod, iPad and iPhone news and advice in Dublin, Ireland


Software gems

Small pieces we can't live without...

We are regularly asked about small items, such as how can you combine two PDFs, or is there a quick way to update a website? People want small apps which will do a particular task, and do it without waiting ages to launch programs (Adobe are you listening?), or offering too many over complex options.
Here are a few of the gems we use again and again, and which we feel are essential to the way we work:
1/ Combine PDF: This app allows you to take multiple PDFs, combine them (as the name suggests!), but also to lets you merge, remove pages, change their order, and generally manipulate the PDF document's order. And its free..

Mac Info Highlights of 2007

What we liked in the past year...

5/ AppleTV: it hasn't been the headline act of 2007, but the Apple TV is just a good, useful machine. We have our music streaming across the network using Airport wireless, and like watching the photos, TV shows and movies from any of our networked Macs. Apple TV brings our Macs together and in a usable and fun way. The interface is great, and watching a streamed movieworks flawlessly. Now if only we could download a great selection of movies directly from the iTunes Store....

Leopard: Dublin training session announced

Cryptic Peach offer experience of new Mac OS...

Training provider Cryptic Peach is offering a free session in Dublin on November 30th 2007, covering the new Mac O X Leopard. Leopard is Apple's latest OS version, including new features such as Time Machine (automated backups), improved Spotlight searches and new versions of Apple applications such as Safari, Mail and iCal..

Special Report: What we like about the iPhone

Our experiences using the iPhone in Ireland...

There are many things we like and dislike about the iPhone after our first few weeks of use. Here is a selection:

What we love about the iPhone:
1/ the screen- we love the clear, crisp display. But above all this, it has no scratches. Whatever Apple have done with the design, it is robust and scratch-free so far, and the materials used are just what are needed.
2/ Safari- this has transformed our use of a mobile phone or PDA. We struggled to use a Treo 650 before the iPhone, and the internet experience on the iPhone is miles ahead of any other handheld device.
3/ The unlock procedure- to wake the iPhone you press the home button and then slide your finger across the screen to push open the slider bar. This is just intuitive and pure genius. There is no chance of the phone accidentally turning itself one, unlike other mobiles..

Vodafone: watch those data charges

Data plans and upgrading...

We discovered one important lesson this week in relation to data charges and conflicting plans. Vodafone have introduced a new data plan recently, which gives 500MB per month for around 10 euro. However this is for Vodafne Live services only..

Apple report $904 million profit for Q4 2007

Sets new record for Mac sales...

Apple reported some astonishing results for the fourth quarter of 2007. Profits hit $904 million, with $6.22 billion in sales for the past three months. One of the most notable figures was for Macintosh sales, hitting a record of around 2.2 million units for the quarter. .

Leopard launch in Dublin and in the UK

Spectra Photo to sell Mac OS X Leopard on day one...

Spectra Photo on Grafton Street, Dublin, are to start selling the new version of Mac OS X, Leopard, at 6pm on the day of its launch. This matches events being held in the UK and in the US, when Leopard goes on sale on October 26th..

Special Report: Using an iPhone in Ireland

Our experiences setting up the iPhone with our carrier...

[For updated information on the launch of the iPhone in Ireland- see this page]
We have been using an iPhone in Ireland for the last three weeks and so thought we would share our experiences in setting up the iPhone and using it with our Vodafone account.
Firstly, the background. We bought an iPhone in the US in September, having read stories of users being able to hack the phone and use a SIM card from a carrier other than AT&T, Apple's US cellphone partner. However we were unsure if this would work successfully. We just decided that it was worth the risk. We were going to be asked about it by our clients and it was worth investigating the options..

Apple announces new iMacs plus iLife, .Mac and iWork updates...

Mac focused announcements...

At a special news event held in Cupertino, Apple announced new iMacs, alongside a slew of software product updates.
The new iMacs have been designed with glass and aluminium, making them thinner and lighter. They now come in two sizes, with 20 and 24 inch models.
The keyboard has been completely redesigned, and is much thinner than its predecessor. The iMac also comes with a wireless Mighty Mouse as standard. Both the keyboard and the Mighty Mouse work using Bluetooth technology. Prices start at €1199 or £799.

Apple Expo Paris: the keynote we hope for

Our list of expectations from the Expo...

We still don't know if there will be a keynote at the Apple European Expo in Paris, but here is our wish list for the event. There are a number of expectation from the event, and this is our eternally optimistic favourites....

Apple Expo Paris: will there be a keynote

No announcement on Jobs' and other executives' presence...

The Apple Expo in Paris is to be held in just under one month's time, starting on September 25th 2007. However, there is still no word on whether there will be a keynote address by Apple. The last keynote by Apple CEO Steve Jobs was in 2003, with Phil Shiller stepping in in 2004 when Jobs was recovering from a cancer operation..

Mac OS X training available in Ireland

Amsys offer OS X 10.4 and 10.4 Server courses in Dublin and Cork...

Amsys, an Apple training specialist, is now offering courses in Ireland, covering OS X and OS X server. The 10.4 Support Essentials course runs over three days and is an intense course on an introduction to the OS and troubleshooting Mac OS X 10.4 issues. The Server Essentials course runs for four days and covers setup and implementation of an OS X Server..

Special report: repairing your Mac in Ireland

Repair agents for Irish customers are few and far between...

At Mac Information we are often asked for advice as to where customers can get their Macs or iPods repaired when calamity strikes. We have found that the options are quite limited and easily accessible only to those who live in or near the major cities.
We have written before about the ambiguity in the AppleCare provision for Irish customers. Those who have purchased AppleCare have, in theory, a number of options should they need repair for a piece of Apple hardware; they can arrange for Apple to pick up the computer/iPod that needs fixing, they can have repairs carried out on-site, or they can use a third party for the repairs and the costs are covered through the AppleCare warranty. Currently in Ireland, the third party option seems to be the only one available, and we are still seeking clarification from Apple on this..

Recycling your old Mac

Apple Ireland runs a scheme for recycling old Mac equipment...

Apple Ireland currently run a free scheme to allow for the recycling of old equipment for customers who have purchased a new Apple product.
The service is available only to those customers who have bought something from the Apple online store in Ireland, or using the telesales service. The scheme is also based on a 'like for like' exchange, so that buying a laptop doesn't become an opportunity to clear several generations of desk-top computers out of your attic!
What it does mean, however, is that if you buy a piece of Apple equipment from Apple Ireland, they will take charge of recycling your old Apple equipment (no Dells or Hewlett Packards please!). The customer contacts Apple and makes a request for the equipment that is ready for recycling to be picked up. Apple send a confirmation email detailing the time and date for the pick-up..

The iPhone in Ireland and the UK

We deal with some of the myths surrounding the iPhone...

When will the iPhone be released in Europe?: Apple have always said it will be towards the end of 2007, followed by early 2008 in Asia. There is currently no indication that this date will change.

Will the iPhone be available in Ireland and the UK?: This depends almost entirely on the final choice of operator. If Apple choose to go with O2 and Vodafone, then this would point to both countries being included in the release. However if they go with T-Mobile or another operator, Ireland may be left out. Apple are likely to aim to include France, Germany and the UK at the outset..

Bad reporting strikes again

The 10 mistakes we can find in the Sunday Business Post's article, 24th June 2007...

Another record quarter for Apple

270,000 iPhones sold in first 30 hours...

Apple's third quarter results have shown a profit of $818 million. Revenue was $5.41 billion with 40% of revenue coming from international sales.§.

MacBook Pro update: speed bumps

Faster chips and more RAM...

On June 6th 2007, Apple updated the MacBook Pro range, moving the entry model's Core Duo chip from 2.16 to 2.2Ghz. The middle (15") and top of range (17") move from 2.33 to 2.4Ghz. The increases seem to be small, but these are new Core Duo chips, offering better speed increases than may be first apparent..

The state of Apple retail in Ireland

The possibilities of Apple Stores in Ireland...
In the last few years there have been many changes in the presence of Apple products in the Irish marketplace. The first major change has been within mainstream stores in Irish retail spaces, with Apple products now available in 02 Experience stores, 3G and Spectra Photo. This is certainly a change in the market, as for years Apple products had been dogged by poor positioning in relatively few outlets. We certainly welcome the development in this direction. Apple hardware and software can be viewed, tried and enquired about in high street locations for the first time in many years.
In fact the arrival of the new crop of sellers came after the demise of PC retailer Compustore, and just in time to prevent the complete absence of Apple products in the centre of Dublin. The Compustore shop on Kildare Street was for many years the only prominent Apple outlet the heart of Dublin city. The collapse of Compustore left an impression in the consumer's mind that the "Apple store" had gone out of business (curiously this store used the Apple logo and the name "Apple Store" on its signage). The arrival of the 02 Experience store on Grafton Street re-established a presence for Apple and meant that the consumer could have a hands-on experience of the product before purchasing.
Around the time that the Compustore shop was open, the United States saw the first of the new Apple retail stores which was Apple's first venture into owning the whole customer experience. In 2001, Apple began to build and run their own retail outlets, and since then this has become the benchmark against which all retail experience of their products is judged. This is now carried through to other countries such as Japan, the United Kingdom, Canada and Italy. Anyone who has visited an Apple retail store, such as the one on Regent Street in London, will know about the unique experience of entering a genuine Apple shop, and will have seen the way in which Apple products are presented to the consumer, a far cry from many consumer experiences of the past.
The Apple retail experience is one of detail, knowledge and presentation to would-be potential purchasers. The Genius bar, where Mac users can ask questions about their product such as support questions and technical queries, values the purchaser and builds the feeling of community for anyone moving into the Macintosh market. The Apple retail outlet is a sanctuary for the Macintosh user. In contrast, if you have visited the average PC store, such as PC World, you will very quickly feel and experience the difference between the technical jargon-based PC purchasing experience and the open friendly and supportive nature of the Apple retail store.
However, therein lies the problem for Dublin. Any Mac user who has visited London and the Regent Street store will be painfully aware of the absence of such a consumer experience in Ireland. Whilst the 02 store has moved the availability and presence of Apple products many steps forward, there is still no comparison to a genuine Apple run store. Consumers who have struggled for years to receive good customer service as a Mac user in Ireland will long for Apple's move into this country.
So how likely is it that Apple will launch a new retail store in Dublin or any part of Ireland? Given that Apple now have a number of stores throughout the United Kingdom, such as in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Kent and Southampton, it seems likely that extending these retail outlets into the only other English-speaking country in Europe would be a logical step. Apple have also entered the euro-zone by opening a store in Rome, and so there seems no barrier stopping Apple launching in Dublin, except maybe the issue of mass. They may consider that Dublin is too small to warrant a full Apple retail outlet, and indeed it's possible that Apple Ireland's view is that the Mac community is better served by partnerships with third-party companies, such as 02 and 3G.
There are two tiers in the experiences of a Macintosh customer. Firstly there is the purchase experience. As mentioned, this has improved dramatically in recent years, but the potential Macintosh purchaser still faces issues when walking into a store. The current crop of outlets normally stock a very selective range of hardware and software products. It is extremely difficult to find any store stocking a wide range of software titles and so the option of 'browsing', or dropping into a store to pick up an accessory, really doesn't exist in the Irish marketplace.
The second tier is that of support and service. In our own personal experience this has been one of the most difficult aspects of being a Macintosh user in Ireland. Up until about two years ago AppleCare warranty normally offered a level of support and security as, in the event of a hardware failure, Apple would collect the Mac via courier, repair and return it. Although AppleCare isn't cheap, we felt it was a price worth paying to provide a full service from end to end. However in 2006 Apple appeared to withdraw the direct courier service, leaving consumers dependent on third-party repair agents. Our direct experience, and the experience of our clients, is that we have found these third-party agents to be in many cases below the standard we would expect from Apple. We have encountered problems with delays in repair, lack of good quality customer service, and issues around delivery and collection. Quite why Apple withdrew the full AppleCare service in Ireland is unclear. We have contacted Apple on three separate occasions looking for answers, but have yet to receive a full response.
We strongly believe that the introduction of Apple retail stores in Ireland is simply a matter of time and we would strongly welcome any such move. The services currently being offered pale in comparison to a genuine Apple retail store, and we hope that the experience which is now available in the UK and other countries will soon come to these shores.
Simon Spence/2007

Apple report profit of $770 million for Q2

Gross margin reaches 35%...

Apple have reported a $770 million profit for the second quarter of 2007, with $5.26 billion in revenue. This compares to $4.36 billion and profit of $410 million in the same quarter in 2006. Operating expenses rose by almost $100 million to $863 million..

New Mac Pros bring quad-core power

New prices for Apple displays...

Apple have introduced new Mac Pros, with new chips inside. The new Mac Pros come with two “Clovertown” Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5300 series processors. They comes with 1GB of RAM, but there are eight FB-DIMM slots on two memory riser cards (four slots per card) supporting up to 16GB of main memory. The price of Mac Pros remain unchanged..

Adobe announce CS3 products and pricing

New Universal applications available in April...

Adobe have announced the price and range of new their CS3 products. New versions of Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Flash and Contribute will be available from April 2007. There are also four main bundles: Design Standard, Design Premium, Web Standard and Web Premium..

AppleTV: Pros and Cons

First views of the AppleTV...

We have spent our first few days with AppleTV and so far we like its simplicity and ease of use. We also see its potential, and how Apple may add more features in the future.
Here are some of the pros and cons of the product, based on our initial experiences.

The problem for Apple and the iPhone in Ireland

The choice of network in Ireland...

One of the most important decisions Apple will have to make will be to choose a network when they launch the iPhone in Europe towards the end of this year. There have been a number of recent rumours about their choice of network provider, and this is all the more relevant in the Irish market.
To date, O2 have embraced Apple products in Ireland, including them in their 02 Experience stores. The 02 Experience store on Grafton St in Dublin stocks a number of Apple laptops and desktop machines, along with a selection of accessories and software. It is unclear what would happen if Vodafone won the iPhone contract. The Irish mobile market could see a very unusual set of circumstances, with O2 stocking Macs and Vodafone stocking the iPhone.

Apple TV and iTunes video content coming to Ireland and UK?

Ireland to be able to download movie and TV content...

With the release of the new iTunes this week (version 7.1), one change has caught our eye. The "Parental" section of the iTunes preferences shows a new option to choose ratings for Ireland and also for the UK. Given that there are almost no video downloads for the Irish and UK iTunes Stores, this seems to point to a future introduction of this type of content..

Reaction to the DRM debate

The debate on iTunes music and copyright protection...

If you have been following the recent debate on DRM, you will see the way in which the various parties have begun to set out their stalls. The debate was started by Steve Jobs, Apple Inc. CEO, when his open letter was posted on Apple's website. "Thoughts on Music" suggested that DRM free music was the future for selling tunes on the internet. .

Apple TV delayed to late March 07

Irish & UK buyers receive e-mail from Apple confirming change...

Apple have sent e-mails to customers informing them of a delay in shipping the new Apple TV units. Originally, the online Apple Store for Ireland and the UK listed the shipment date as the end of February. This has now been changed to shipments being made on 20th March, with an estimated delivery date of 30th March..

PressWatch: How to miss the point of the iPhone entirely...

  • Weckler ignores the keynote and most of the facts about the iPhone...

  • Following our earlier article on press coverage of the new iPhone, it was down to Adrian Weckler's Sunday Business Post column to miss the point of the new iPhone entirely. We are also sure that Weckler didn't sit down and watch the keynote, despite the fact that it is available on the internet and in iTunes.
    Jobs clearly stated that a 3G version of the phone is on the cards. At present Apple have just announced the iPhone, and what we saw on Tuesday was a prototype. It was not the iPhone which will ship in the US in June. Given that Cingular in the US uses EDGE for data, Apple has announced it will ship a EDGE enabled iPhone in June in the US. Logical. He also stated that as 3G became more popular, Apple would look at the situation and may introduce a 3G version. Given that a date for the launch of the iPhone in Europe has not been finalised, it is highly likely that a 3G enabled iPhone will be the one that ships here at the end of 2007..
    Other reporters, such as David Pogue of the New York Times, managed to include this fact in their reporting (Pogue mentions it twice in his iPhone FAQs- Part 1 and Part 2), so Weckler seems to to be unaware of what Jobs said, or deliberately left this out to create a more "controversial" story.

PressWatch: Truth and Imagination in iPhone articles...

  • Checking facts is only an optional extra...

  • OK we're picky. We hate when detail is over-looked, or very obvious mistakes are made. Does no one read this material you would hear us cry. This was the type of noise coming from Mac Information this week. We read article after article which would let detail slip and hyperbole flourish.
    Let's begin on a positive note. David Pogue's column in the New York Times is by far the best source for Mac news and IT in general. We like Pogue. We like his writing style, we like the videos, but most of all, we like his attention to detail. You see anyone can voice an opinion, but Pogue knows what he is talking about and has a real feel for technology. On the surface, Pogue has a whacky and irreverent style, but he knows his facts. We can't think of an article which had the wrong details or rattled off a few almost-correct technical details.
    Which leads us to the rant. You see, we get a little tired of articles which do one or more of the following: repeat old stereotypes, rattle off technical facts as if they are optional extras, or make ludicrous connections between unrelated events.

Apple launches new colourful line of iPod shuffles...

  • Four colours added to range...

  • Apple launched a new range of iPod shuffles, adding four new colours to the original metallic version. The new shuffles are still 89 euros, and come with 1GB of flash memory. Battery life is estimated at 12 hours.
  • The shuffles hold approximately 240 songs and come with a set of earbuds, a small docking station and a USB cable to sync/recharge using your Mac or PC.

Opinion: the Pros and Cons of the Apple iPhone...

  • Will the iPhone be launched in Ireland...
  • The screen is superb, and the high resolution is a real change for the mobile market. We always hated the way mobile phones had such poor quality screens, especially when operators would tinker with the icons for impose their own low-res designs.
    • It's good to see Apple highlight the phone aspect of the device. This might sound obvious, but the quality of voice calls on some mobiles is poor.
    • Runs a cut down version of OS X. Could third party applications be developed for the iPhone? This isn't possible right now, but maybe in the future... Imagine a mobile version of Skype on this phone, given its wi-fi capability.
    • The user interface is beautiful. In fact the widget-like interface seems more at home than in Mac OS X on a Mac. The widgets lend themselves to the iPhone in a way that doesn't work as well on a Mac screen.
    • The ability to switch between landscape and portrait views by turning the phone on its side is exceptional.
    • Thank goodness for good syncing. Having battled with syncing contacts ad calendars for the last few years (esp. with Blackberry phones), having a top class mobile with smooth syncing would be welcome.

The State of Broadband Services in Ireland...

  1. The lack of Customer care with Eircom and BT...

  2. Recently we contacted Eircom and BT Ireland about their broadband services. We had to call on behalf of clients and on behalf of ourselves, inquiring about changes to accounts, upgrading services, and to order new services. What has shocked us has been the level of service given by both these suppliers. We knew in advance about the level of the technical service. For instance, glancing at BT in the UK shows you that their broadband offers speeds up to 8Mbps. The best you can get in Dublin as an average home user is 3mbps We knew this in advance, and accepted that this was the best out there and there is nothing we could say to change this.

Apple launches AppleTV...

  1. Available in Ireland in February...

  2. With all the talk this week about the Apple iPhone, its easy to forget that the AppleTV device was also launched. AppleTV (called iTV during its development) allows for content to be streamed from a Mac or PC to your television.

The ups and downs of 2006...

Our completely arbitrary view of the best and worst of the year, from a Mac user's perspective...

Its not scientific, its not even widely canvassed, but below is our view on the 2006, and the highs and lows for Macs users from a customer service perspective. These are the things we loved and the so-called providers that got under our skin! Enjoy.
Best product of 2006:
  1. The new iPod shuffle: impossibly small, superb design around the clip function, and only 90 euro. This for us is the kind of device we want to buy just because it is out there. We already have full video iPods, but have the urge to buy a new shuffle anyway! Top marks Apple.
    2 The new MacBook: we love the new Intel based MacBook. Cheap, robust, and features such as the iSight camera and a Magsafe adapter.
    3 The wireless Mighty Mouse: what did we do before the track-pea was invented? Damn you Windows oriented USB mice- we don't want a clunky track wheel- the wireless Mighty Mouse just works perfectly for us. The wireless version appeared in July and is just what we were waiting for.
    4 Parallels Desktop- we run our accounts package on Windows, simply due to a request by our accountant. This is fine as we only use it for about 2 days a month. Parallels have developed one of the nicest Windows experiences for a Mac user (sounds like an oxymoron!). Plus the fact that the Intel chip now runs Windows apps at a good speed, this makes Parallels one of those break-through products that comes along every now and again. Makes Boot camp look so yesterday!
    5 Canon HV-10. We liked this HD video camera so much we jumped in and purchased one! Small, compact, light and superb picture quality. Alright, it costs over 1000 euro, but this is what we paid for our original DV camera five years ago at the start of the DV camera boom. Its form and shape means we can now bring this out without feeling like we are a film crew lugging around our equipment. A real gem.