iMessages for the Rest of Us

My Dearest Apple,

It saddened me greatly to receive your email today regarding the ending of the Messages beta program for Mac OS X Lion. Even though the app is technically in beta, it has been very stable and has been a pleasure to use.

Unfortunately, my MacBook is the 2008 model that you decided wasn’t quite recent enough for Mac OS X Mountain Lion although I am certain it would run just fine based on the specs of the next model you did decide to support. What this means to me is that I will lose the ability to use iMessages on my MacBook on December 14th.

I do have to admit that I’m a little confused about this whole thing. Clearly, Messages runs on Mac OS X Lion. I have a working app to prove it. If this is a matter of revenues or some other technicality, I would gladly fork over a few bucks to buy Messages from the Mac App Store. Remember FaceTime? How about you do something similar to that approach. It would be great to continue to enjoy iMessages on my MacBook that still has a lot of useful life left.

Please let me know what you think when you have a chance.

Best regards,
Tim

Who Has An Apple Household?

Last week, one of my Facebook friends asked if it made sense to share one Apple ID between he and his wife so they did not have to buy their apps twice on each of their iPhones. The short answer here is yes, but does it really make sense in a world where individuals personalize their devices?

As a family with more iOS devices than I would like to admit, we use the same Apple ID on all of our devices and in iTunes on all of our computers. This works for us now because my wife and I don’t mind using the same Apple ID, and our kids are too young to have accounts of their own. In less than a year, the oldest will want an account of her own, and I can’t really blame her. I would too.

So, how does Apple solve this issue with an insanely great solution? Well, here’s my plan.

It is time for Apple to implement the Apple Household. A Household will be comprised of one or more Apple IDs. All purchases made with any of the Apple IDs in the Household will roll up into one iTunes in the Cloud library. This will make purchases available to anyone in the Household.

So what are the benefits of having several Apple IDs rolling up into one Apple Household? The biggest advantage is that a family will be able to easily consolidate their purchases in the cloud and will be able to take advantage of iTunes in the Cloud and iTunes Match as a family while still maintaining individual accounts on iOS devices.

Of course, an Apple Household would also create a lot of opportunity for parents to monitor and control the purchases of their minor children. Apple already provides a way for parents to give an iTunes allowance to their kids. The Household could take this even further by using the concept of a head of household. The head of household, most likely a parent or guardian, would have the ability to easily set parental controls over all of the minor accounts in the Household via a simple iTunes-based control panel.

So, to summarize, the Apple Household provides the individualism that typical Apple users need, families get the consolidated iTunes library they want, and parents get the controls they require. Seems like everyone wins. Apple, let’s make this happen!

Thanks Steve!

Steve JobsSteve Jobs and Apple have had an enormous impact on my life and the lives of most of the people I know and love. Steve’s passing leaves a massive hole in the world of technology and in many of our lives. Many of us feel like we had a personal connection with him because he was just one of us: a user. He was always the one that just got it. He helped his designers and developers create products that he wanted to use himself, and he brought the rest of us along for the ride. His products “just worked.”

It was Apple (and by association, Steve Jobs) that turned me on to technology at a very early age. Does anyone remember programing an Apple IIe in elementary school to show images based on pixel coordinates? I sure do. I was amazed I could make a computer do exactly what I wanted it to do. Looking back now, I think it was that time that locked me in to being a technologist even though I have meandered through music and finance along the way.

I am personally thankful to Steve for providing the perfect example of how a technologist should approach their work. Each of his keynote addresses provided a master class of how to teach an audience about a new product and convince the audience that they needed that product at the same time. His keynote addresses have significantly influenced the way I approach my product demos and training classes, and I often go back and watch his addresses to get inspired before a big client meeting. I believe this influence has made my presentations more productive and entertaining for my clients.

Steve’s endless pursuit of perfection in his products has also influenced me in my work. Whenever I design a product, I feel like it should “just work.” Whether it is a massive enterprise system or the smallest of reports, I have always believed that the solutions should do what they are supposed to do in a logical, focused way. If the targeted audience for a solution cannot use it without a user manual, I have failed as a designer. Let’s be honest, no one ever wants to read a manual. So, if I create a banking app that a banker cannot instinctively use: FAIL. If I create a photography app that a photographer cannot instinctively use: FAIL. You get my point. This, I think, is the most important lesson Steve Jobs has taught me and many others in the technology industry. Can you imagine if we all created technology solutions that kind of worked and that were so complex that you needed a manual to use every feature? None of us would be having any fun or moving forward. For this lesson, I will be forever thankful.

Finally, I would like to thank Steve for choosing October 23, 2001 to introduce the iPod to the world. It was a beautiful sunny day in Chicago, and I cannot think of a better way to celebrate my birthday than to sit at the Michigan Avenue Apple Store to watch the announcement in person. The iPod and I will always share the same birthday, and that’s pretty cool!

Thanks Steve!

WordPress Post Formats

Ever since WordPress 3.2 was released, I have been curious about how Post Formats work because the default theme supports them.  The theme I normally use with Probstisms does not support Post Formats so I have switched to the default theme for a while to give them a try.

It seems to me that the Status Port Format has potential to be used as a way to initiate both Twitter and Facebook status updates.  The Link and Image Post Formats also have potential. My only hesitation is that there does no seem to be a character count in the WordPress post editor so it would be a bit of a guessing game as far as making Twitter status updates look good.

Now, some of you may be asking why I would want to initiate things like status updates and links through my blog.  Well, my guess is that Twitter and Facebook will not be around forever. Maintaining so much content on a third-party’s server seems to be a short term solution. On the other hand, my blog uses a SQL database to store content.  SQL has been around for a long time and will be around long after Twitter and Facebook become old news.  If I can use the blog as an archive for this type of content, I will be able to have all of my posts, updates, and links in the same place.

We’ll see if I can make this work in a convenient way. Otherwise, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to go through the hassle. I will report back soon!

Donnell Probst Photography Featured on Showit LIVE!

It is with great pride and excitement that I share this video. Donnell worked many days and nights to get her web sites to be just right, and her hard work really paid off. She has an incredible eye for design (and photography, of course), and I am so ecstatic that her work is being recognized by other professionals. Her clients will love it too!

Showit Live 149 – Wild Animal Wednesday from Showit on Vimeo.

Cannot Wait for Angry Birds Rio!

We here at the Probst residence are extremely addicted to Angry Birds. I’m talking five completely out of control cases of Angry Birds fever! Well, it would be an understatement to say that all five of us are very excited to get our hands on Angry Birds Rio in March. Check out the trailer below. If the game is half as good as the trailer, we’re all in for a treat.

Vonage: Facebook’s Phone Company

With the release of the Vonage Mobile App for Facebook, it appears Vonage is attempting to become the mobile phone company for all of those Facebook users out there with iOS-based and Android OS-based devices.

The solution is incredibly easy from a user’s perspective. All it takes is a free download from the App Store or Android Market to get the app. Once installed, the app asks you to connect to Facebook, and that is really all there is to it. The app displays a list of other Vonage Mobile App for Facebook users who you can call for free over Wi-Fi and cellular networks as well as a list of your Facebook friends that are available via Chat.

Tapping into the enormous Facebook user base is a smart move for Vonage. Let’s face it, the company advertises like crazy, but if it can provide a quality service for a massive user base like Facebook, perhaps it can convince some people to switch their home phone over to Vonage as well. The key here will be to get the non-geeks to actually give the app a try. If that happens, I see good things coming Vonage’s way.

Blogging from 36,000 Feet

When I first started blogging, never did I imagine that I would be writing posts on an iPod while connected to the Internet on a plane at 36,000 feet, but that is exactly what I am doing. Thanks to Gogo Inflight Internet, I have been able to spend my flight getting caught up with email and chatting with my wife on my way home from a business trip. Now that is truly an incredible thing. Gogo seems to be quite fast, and I have even been able to watch YouTube videos posted on Facebook. The price is really not all that bad at less than $8.00/day, but I cannot say for sure if I would have spent the money if I had not been on a per diem for my trip. Future flights without Wi-Fi will seem so lame now that I have experienced being connected while flying. If your next flight offers Wi-Fi, give it a shot. You won’t be disappointed.

Dell’s Windows 7 Support Fails

Although I would love for our home to be a Mac-only home, the reality is that we bought a Dell laptop two and a half years ago so my wife could go to school and use the software she needed for her program. The laptop in question is an Inspiron E1505 with a fast Core 2 Duo processor, 2 GB of RAM, and a dedicated ATI graphics card. It came with Vista Home Premium which had been nothing but trouble since day one.

So, when reviews of Windows 7 started coming in and were positive, I was excited to finally rid our lives of Vista so my wife could have a more stable computer to do her photo editing. I figured that the computer more than met the requirements of Windows 7, and it couldn’t really get much worse.

Only one problem. Apparently, Dell feels our computer is obsolete already. Here is Dell’s list of computers that have compatible drivers for Windows 7. I especially like their suggestion of buying a new computer if your computer is not on their list.

So, if I’m reading this list correctly, Dell sold a computer to me two and a half years ago that is not officially supported by them on only the first Windows release since I bought the computer. This is just shocking to me. It’s not like I bought a piece of crap computer for $600 that I wouldn’t expect to last more than a year or two. I bought a computer that has enough horsepower to last.

The fact is that the computer more than meets the minimum requirements of Windows 7, and Microsoft’s utilities think the computer is ready to go for the new operating system. Needless to say, I have installed Windows 7 on the computer using the drivers that ship with the operating system. Microsoft even had a couple driver updates for some of the components available after the completion of the installation.

I am incredibly disappointed in Dell for not updating their drivers for all of their shipped computers that meet the minimum requirements of Windows 7. All PC makers should be required to maintain their drivers until the requirements of Windows exceeds the abilities of their computers as they were shipped. There is no other approach that makes sense.