Friday, September 21, 2007

Lots of iPhone posts recently, I am aware. I promise I will get other topics up here. But I need to tell you about my service experience with Apple this week, as it exemplifies why great service is so valuable - not just to the customer, but to the company as well.

As I described recently, I had a mishap with my iPhone where a new holster that was way too tight resulted in a flying iPhone that bounced off my hand, off my knee, to the floor and a subsequent small dent that prevented the power/lock button from working at all. In a nutshell, the phone got damaged after I dropped it (although I maintain it should be a bit more resilient and the holster I bought sucks design-wise).

So, as I said I would the other day, I took the phone and a small dose of hope with me to the Apple store here in the Portland area to show it to them and see what it would take to get it fixed (meaning how many dollars). As I also said that day, my expectations were low in terms of service coverage. Boy, was I ever surprised.

I took the phone to the store, signed up to speak with one of their experts on the in-store concierge system, walked around the mall for about 30 minutes, and then went back to the store. The techs looked at the iPhone, saw the problem, listened to me for about 15 seconds as I described what had happened, and immediately proceeded to arrange to have the situation rectified.

Wow. As I listened to the service tech telling me they didn't have a replacement phone available right then and there (they were out of stock) and that he expected more in the store the next day, I actually got a little confused. "So how will this work?" I asked. "Will I use the loaner and bring it back here when my phone is fixed?"

"Nope," he said. "We stopped the loaner program. We're just going to give you anew phone. I'm sorry I don't have any in stock right now, but we'll call you as soon as we get one in, probably tomorrow. Since your phone is basically working except for this button why don't you take it with you and you can bring it back when the new one comes in, and then we'll just swap out the SIM and everything right here when you come back."

I think I looked shocked. At least based on the look on his face. He smiled.

"Wow," I said. "Thanks!"

"Not a problem, not at all. You need a working iPhone." said the tech.

And less than 24 hours later I received the call, went to the store, and got the replacement in short order, no waiting. They even let me exchange the decidedly crappy holster case that was so problematic for a much better model, which you can see here.

Kudos to Apple for its quick, unflinching, natural and truly customer-centric reflexes. It felt 100% authentic and the focus was on whether I was happy as a customer and if the product was meeting my needs and working properly. I can tell you this: I have already started looking at other Apple products in the store and have visited the online store a few times since this experience, as well. I am much, much more likely to buy Apple sometime in the future as a result - and that means in my personal decisions as well as professional business ones.

There's something to be learned here, for sure.

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Friday, September 21, 2007 10:36:55 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
 Thursday, September 20, 2007

It's been quite a while since I have posted one of my reasons why it's nice to live in the sticks and to have to drive an hour each way to get to the city, but here's another reason why... I got to watch these at the bottom of the hill on my property off and on for a couple hours this evening. You can click the image to see the larger version.


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Thursday, September 20, 2007 5:26:47 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)

imageOver at there's information about a new service, listed as currently in beta, that will allow you to get your Exchange information on your iPhone. Appropriately dubbed iPXSync, it's offered SaaS style and they say will be simple to set up and get running.

UPDATED: Someone from iPXSync sends along this link to a FAQ page (nice that they're watching the discussion and participating!), and Kevin over at JKOnTheRun also posted about this, and has posted a follow-up that helps to answer some of the same questions I have.

All security concerns aside (the iPhone has quite literally no IT controls available for it in case you lose it or something), it's an interesting possibility and it'll be fun to see how they deliver this. I'm hoping it's what people are assuming - wireless connectivity to the information on Exchange in the actual installed apps on the iPhone, although without proxying and (therefore) potentially storing highly sensitive information on the service's hosts, that might be really hard to do (and a big red flag for any corporate user with half a brain). So, I hope they have something really smart and secure dreamed up. We shall see. I am also wondering how they'll deal with tasks from Exchange. And that makes me wonder if this will all be browser-based, or if they'll be app-tapping their way in, or what (in which case iPhone OS upgrades become a concern).

Ahh, questions abound. :)

From the web site:

iPXSync provides iPhone users with real-time m

obile access to all of their critical Microsoft Exchange Server information including email, message folders, calenders and tasks.

iPXSync is a zero-installation solution that requires no special software, hardware or configuration changes on the Exchange Server.

iPXSync is offered as Software as a Service (SaaS), which means it is immediately available with no expensive upfront fees, and you can be up and running in just minutes.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007 1:39:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
 Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Navizon is a cool company that has some great technology that takes data from your mobile device - such as cataloged WiFi access points and cell towers your phone can "see" - and then uses that data to triangulate and plot you on a map.

There's a new third-party app for the iPhone that runs Navizon and connects to their service to use the data from the iPhone, and which then feeds your location to the Google Maps app and pinpoints you. Nice. Requires the AppTap installer, of course.

Not nearly as good as something like TeleNav, but very cool and useful nonetheless. It gets you fairly close, especially where WiFi access points are used for reference. I have installed the app on my iPhone and am trying it out today. It was able to find me accurately within a city block earlier, and other times it reported there was no known data points visible to the service. At least so far all it has used is WiFi access points to get a fix, not cell towers, so there might be something I need to change or set up, not sure.

Expect their service to be a little bit overwhelmed with excited iPhone users today and in the near future, in the event you experience problems signing up for a Navizon account.

Reference: iPhone Atlas

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007 2:53:53 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
 Tuesday, September 18, 2007

I was chatting with my friend John Batdorf the other day ...

[EDIT: Actually it was several days ago, because I lost this post twice and didn't realize it was not already on the blog, so it's being posted again late - But I've made some edits below to include more info from him]

... about home Network Attached Storage (NAS) solutions. I have a 750GB Seagate drive that I use via USB2 to store all kinds of stuff on, but you have to plug it in, unplug it, take it to the next machine, etc. And I use a laptop a lot, so it's extra clunky to have to plug in a big external device and corral it up if I want to move, and I move a lot. A network-based mass-storage device would be great for me. And it turns out John is was also looking for something similar.

We discussed some of the requirements. For me it needs to have some redundancy and fail-safe capabilities built in. I have been burned too many times by single-point-of-failure drive crashes. I've almost always been able to do some heavy-lifting and time-consuming recovery (I've learned a few pretty crazy hardware tricks for recovering data over the years), but I really have been quite fortunate not to permanently lose any important data. It's a miracle, really - a lot like dodging bullets. Anyhow, I need RAID and all the good sleep and awesomeness that goes with it.

We both really wanted a true NAS solution providing direct network attachment from anywhere on the LAN, and preferably the flexibility to connect from a variety of common platforms: Windows, Mac OS-X, Linux, Vic20, whatever. Okay not that last one, but the others for sure.

I asked John to send me a summary of his requirements, and here is what he came up with:

Network Attached Storage Requirements on my 10/100 wired network

The primary goal of this purchase is to get all the iTunes media off of my laptop and desktop home systems. It would be a good place to store all my photos (gigs) too. The last ‘goal’ is to be able to backup said laptop and desktop (data files) somehow. It would be cool if the Xbox could access it too, but I think you have to run the connector software to do that.


  • iTunes Library shared between multiple computers
    • Should be fast enough to support music transfer with no problems.
    • Would be great if it could do video too.
  • Store photos
  • The device must be able to be mapped as a drive in windows with no software installation
  • 500GB storage
  • Price point under $300 for WAF.

Nice to Have:

  • Backup software/solution
  • Xbox Connectivity
  • USB port to add other drives

Not a bad list. Starting with John's list, here is what I would add/change for my needs:

Greg's NAS Requirements List for a 10/100/1000 wired and Wireless-N/G Network

Everything on John's list, with these changes:

  • RAID disk subsystem controller
  • 1TB+ total storage, which will be divided for RAID purposes (if I can afford it I'd like to get 1TB usable space, but we'll see)
  • Hot-swappable drives are a big plus
  • Web-based connectivity from the Internet is nice to have, but it must be properly secured
  • Skip the WAF since I am not beholden to that, but I want to keep it as low as possible - best bang for the buck

So, it turns out John ordered and just set up a 500GB LaCie Ethernet Disk mini NAS system for under $200, and he likes it a lot so far. It's does everything he needs it to do, it's fast, and it took him literally just a couple minutes to set up and start using it. That's a good sign. Read about his day-one impressions on his blog.

But, for my purposes I still have some researching to accomplishate before gearing my brain-organ into the decisionation phase. So, Dear Reader (I always wanted to say that), what do you think is the best way to go about this and stay within the requirements? What requirements have I missed?

Here's a run-down of the couple things I have under consideration so far, but don't let my little list limit you, and feel free to comment on these as well as provide your own ideas:

I am sure people who read this will have plenty of other ideas to suggest, as well.



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Tuesday, September 18, 2007 10:33:17 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)

Something appears to have changed today with Google reader. I was looking at the screen and something felt, well, different. But I couldn't place it. Then I realized - the "Labs" label seems to be gone. Wow, that was quiet. And there I thought it has already moved up and out.


And it looks like the Google Reader blog explains it. Well, kind of explains it. No more "Labs." Nice job.

I use Google reader almost exclusively now. To be honest, it took more than a year to grow on me, and only when I got to a point where I wanted to be able to access it from anywhere did it really get interesting.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007 12:18:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)