Lost post: Apple “community”

This is a ‘lost post’ that I found unpublished when fixing up my WordPress install. I wrote it about six years ago, and I’m not sure that much has changed, except that I don’t find myself needing help with the basics so often…

I can’t decide whether the bits of “Apple community” I keep encountering reinforce the idea that Apple is as much cult as company, or whether its just confirmation bias, but it’s getting on my nerves.

I’ve become increasingly enmeshed in the Apple universe, particularly in the past year. I’ve had a few iPods over the years, so my legacy music collection lives in iTunes. I bought an iPad a little over a year ago, and found that a thin, light, always-connected internet device was something I could really use. I’ve collected a selection of smartphones for work and am using an iPhone now as my primary.

I’ve always been PC-based at work, but even that’s about to change. Thanks to a 32bit-only Windows install image and both the gradual migration of my tools to 64bit only and the need for more memory, I’m switching the Mac. Ironically, I’m switching to Mac just as “serious” video people seem to be switching back the other way — Final Cut Pro X doesn’t seem to be working for production houses who were using Studio/Server, and Apple have been neglecting/killing off their pro hardware for a while now — but for my uses, that’s not such a big deal and I may continue to use Premiere on Mac anyway. I’m also picking up a personal Mac while I’m on.

Now in “professional” discussion spaces, the conversation does tend to be more rational but whenever I search for a “how-to” for any of my consumer devices, I invariably see a conversation which looks a bit like this:

OP: “Hi Guys, I want to <do a thing> but not by <a method the OP can’t to use>. Any ideas how?

1P: “That’s easy, you just <method the OP doesn’t want to use>

OP: “No, I want to do it without using <method>

2P: “The best way is to <differently worded explanation of the OP’s do-not-use method>

1p: “Why wouldn’t you want to use <unwanted method>? Why make things difficult?”

OP:<reasonable explanation of why they can’t use the suggested method>

2p: “That’s stupid, just <unwanted method>. If you want to do it stupidly, use WinBlows”

3p:<Alternative method which ignores the problem with the first method and therefore doesn’t help>

4p: You can’t do it, because Mac users are sheep/Use Linux/trolling

Everyone: *bun fight*

Additionally, if the thread lasts for more than a single page, then at some point there’ll be an argument over iOS sales vs Android sales, market cap, lawsuits, icon design, profitability and favourite colour. If it gets to a third page there’ll be additional arguments about the Metro UI, Mountain Lion and the tabletisation of everything. And skeuomorphism.

Jokes aside, my anecdotal observations suggest that not only is there not much help around if you deviate from the standard method, but that a non-trivial elements of the community sees it as a bad thing to even try. I’m not so worried about finding workarounds in things like Final Cut, Motion or Keynote — there are plenty of “professional” forums covering that sort of thing where people are pragmatic about getting work done. My main concern is that, as I’m acclimating to OS X, I’m going to want to rapidly dial-up my knowledge of how the OS works, its tricks and secrets etc. And it seems that at a general level, that might be harder.


So long, Veer … for good.

Once upon a time I was a happy Veer user, delighting in their quirky approach, their random giveaways, their husky Austrian customer support folks.

Then it changed, and I was sad.

So long, Veer 🙁

And now, in 2016, another change. Veer is gone. No more. Kaput. Surplus to requirements following the Getty/Corbis thing.

Once more with feeling: So long, Veer. :'(

Outlook 2011 fix autodiscover

…or rather disable autodiscover.

At my place of work, we have various options for remote access. If you have a corporate laptop, you can connect via VPN and have full access to all internal systems. Or, if you just need to check mail, you can fire up Outlook and it will connect with or without the VPN (I think this is using Exchange Web Services, but don’t hold me to that). Finally, if you don’t have a corporate laptop, you can connect to Outlook Web Access and do your emailing and IMing that way. All fairly normal.

Except… while my laptop is supplied by my employer, it’s a Mac (for various complicated reasons). Our environment is Microsoft-based and isn’t really set up or tested to be Mac-friendly — which is fair enough. Plus Microsoft quite obviously doesn’t put as much effort into the Mac version of Office as they do into the Windows version.

So: I can enter the appropriate details into the server configuration preferences for Outlook and everything will work remotely, without needing a VPN connection — helpful when working on things which require me to be disconnected from the office network. But as soon as open Outlook “inside” the corporate network (whether physically in the office, or on VPN) the mailserver details I entered are replaced with the fully-qualified name. Which doesn’t work outside the office.

This was irritating but something I could cope with until last week, when problems with the endpoints meant my VPN connections were very unstable. Not knowing that this problem was related to autodiscover, it took me a little while to figure out the right search to lead me to this helpful comment on officeformachelp.com (which simplifies the advice in the article). So, to disable autodiscover (and this annoying behaviour), I created and ran this applescript:

tell application “Microsoft Outlook”
set background autodiscover of every Exchange account to false
end tell

Which worked a treat. Just in case, I also created the following applescript:

tell application “Microsoft Outlook”
set background autodiscover of every Exchange account to true
end tell

to re-enable autodiscover. And now I’m happy 🙂

Testing Twitter

So long, Veer :(

For a long time, I’ve enjoyed finding imagery via Veer.com. Well, ok, perhaps “enjoyed” isn’t quite the right word. Anyone who has spent an afternoon viewing 6,000-7,000 photographs of too young, too pretty and entirely too sharply or provocatively dressed men and women will know “enjoyment” isn’t what you feel. When you’re looking for images to represent the serious work of a remuneration committee, a bunch of permatanned 20- and 30-somethings grinning goofily at pie charts or all clustered around a single laptop (is technology rationed in stockphotoland?) doesn’t really work. Neither does the oh-so-typical “one person in the room who spotted the camera” group shot.

Aaaanyway. I could ramble for hours about the shortage of credible, 50ish, focused businessfolks in candids, and even longer on attempting to include Indians, Southern Europeans or non-US diversity in general, and briefly-but-passionately on the continued existence of the “pretty-young-woman-takes-orders-from-an-older-man” shot, but I wanted to write about Veer.

I liked their search engine system — it wasn’t perfect, but I liked it. I liked that I’d find images which weren’t in Getty’s vast library, images I could use on a regular basis. I liked the site design. I liked the super-friendly European telephone support people, who were always able to solve the problem (and several of whom sounded…rawr). I liked their crazy side projects, the blog, the merch, the various silly things they did in addition to the main type-n-images focus. And then they were acquired by Corbis.

Fast forward a little while, and the dismantling of Veer as it was appears close to complete. Don’t get me wrong, Veer.com is still there, and it still has much the same site design. But Corbis have apparently decided that Veer is to be its *budget* brand, for microstock and the like. They’ve even introduced Veer “credits”. Example: a search today, looking for technology images with a Middle East slant wasn’t especially productive. Even with the “illustration” option unticked, it was about 50% cheapy map outlines and flag buttons made in photoshop.

I guess that means searching only on Corbis.com in future. Which is fine, but I *liked* Veer, for more than just the list of things above. It seemed small, and a bit personal, and a bit creative, and it was useful to me and I liked it. And now it’s not anymore.

Valid business reasons, economic downturn, consolidation in the market, blah blah I DON’T CARE. I won’t be weeping into my whiskey tonight, but my image searching duties are now even less appealing.