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July 27, 2007

Let's Schedule Downtime for Month End

Just got this notice from the South Africa Revenue Service:

In line with our policy of continuous improvement, please note that the SARS eFiling service will be unavailable during the following times:

From 18:00 Friday 27th July 2007 2006 until 07:00 Monday 30th July 2007

Whilst the times above have been set aside, we will endeavor to minimise the offline duration as much as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience you may experience.


Great time for downtime guys.

July 26, 2007

Apple TV Rescued: iTunes Plus

Shortly after the drama getting the Apple TV to play DRM encoded content had played out, I discovered iTunes Plus from Apple.

iTunes Plus offers higher quality encoded digital music, with no DRM, for an extra 30c per song.

Paid the extra money within a heartbeat, and the DRM worries are a thing of the past.

I can now play the music I paid for.

July 12, 2007

More Fun with Apple TV

So I took my Apple TV to be swapped out today. The Apple Store in regent street starting asking why I had taken "so long" to return it but stopped that question in their tracks when they saw my face.

Brand new Apple TV, repeat the installation process, and what do you know? The new one is as broken as the old one was.

It got better.

While at the Apple Store, they sold me an AppleCare Protection Plan, which my pinky toe told me I am going to need. According to the instructions, you have to register your AppleCare online.


Turns out the AppleCare Protection Plan needs to be registered online using your existing Apple ID.

No worries, go to http://www.apple.com/uk/support/register and follow the prompts.

One of the prompts asks you for the country - the UK, where the AppleCare Protection Plan was bought.

What follows is the message "Our records indicate that the service you are trying to use is not available in your location".

Or in English, "Our support service is broken, just like our Apple TV".

So why the rant?

Apple represented a dying breed of companies who believed that technology is an enabling thing that makes people's lives easier. But now it seems they are falling into the same trap of general sloppiness that blights the computer industry and the internet the world over.

I've seen the future, and it no longer works.

July 5, 2007

Apple TV and the DRM Achilles Heel

Having managed to get myself an Apple TV a few weeks ago, I finally had a reason to go off and buy some video content on iTunes. So far the ownership experience had been relatively straightforward: Plug it in, answer some simple questions, sync it with iTunes and you're done.

Only the software update didn't want to work, giving the rather vague message "can't check right now, try again later". Um, ok. But apart from that, a relatively pain free experience.

Having had a bit of time, I took the credit card, went "what the hell", and started buying a few music videos on iTunes. Unfortunately the heady experience of shopping was short lived just as the first video had finished downloading.

Despite having paid good money to buy the videos, my Apple TV told me "You are not authorized to play this content".

A storm was brewing on the horizon, and that heady rush of shopping with gay abandon cooled swiftly to a nasty case of buyers remorse.

Is Apple TV a lemon?

It was soon becoming clear that this device was going to put up a fight, so it was off to trusty old Google. Surely someone else on the net has had this problem and solved it? Other people have had this problem all right, but as to solutions, they are few and far between.

Apple themselves offer a vague and non committal iTunes authorizations page entitled Apple TV may not play content purchased from the iTunes Store, and it offered a number of things I might try. Not the definitive solution to the problem, just a few vague things that might work, but then again, might not.

Some of the things they suggested include "deauthorizing and reauthorizing your iTunes" - it was not clear why this would have made any difference, as it was the Apple TV device that refused to play the content, not the iTunes player itself. Regardless, I tried it, and it made no difference.

Their next strategy was resetting the device - first by using the "reset" option, then when that made no difference I performed a factory reset of the device, and resynced all the music and videos back to the now blank device from iTunes.

Again, no effect.

The next step that was recommended was to follow an elaborate process to delete and reimport all my iTunes music, and at this point I went "whoa there, hang on just a minute".

All this drama, because a device I paid good money for, refuses to play content that I paid good money for.

Apple have perfected the art of making their customers want their products, keeping buyers remorse at bay long after the product was purchased. But in this case, I have a product with amazing potential that is virtually useless to me.

The traditional music industry has bent over backwards to devise strategies to sell content to people, but at the same time restrict the devices on which that content can be viewed.

The problem is that once you have crossed the threshold beyond which it is too difficult for an average person to get their purchase to work properly, the potential purchaser will simply stop bothering.

Buying those music videos was a cool idea earlier this evening, but right now, I couldn't be bothered.

The traditional music industry would have you believe that piracy is their biggest threat, but in reality it is the hurdles the industry has built into their own devices that ultimately will be their downfall.