Aleksandar • Vacić

iOS bits and pieces

Apple killed the Pro line of its notebooks

Surprise appearance at the WWDC turned out to be the least welcome, at least for me. Refresh of the entire notebook line with better hardware and lower prices is fantastic and I would be tempted to buy new MBP when Snow Leopard is out (same as I did with Leopard). Especially given the fact that I would very much welcome huge increase in battery life (got to be seen to be believed).

However, I was quite shocked to see that Apple decided to remove its only expansion slot – ExpressCard/34 – while keeping the FW800 and 2 USB ports, with no additions at all. No eSATA port. No additional USB nor FW ports. No integrated SIM slot for 3G connection.

Instead of EC/34 slot, we get measly SD card reader. Wonderful, it would serve as nice dust conduit.

It’s ridiculous change. On the so-called professional machine, you’re stuck with slow connection methods, you’re stuck with consumer-level card type and you have no means to add what’s missing. Expresscards are not exactly large presence on the market but are by no means non-existing. I own two. Novatel Wireless Merlin X950D for 3G connection and Digitus eSATA 300 card. Both add the stuff pro-level notebook should have outright, but I didn’t mind getting them because the machine itself is great.

These new models are so good, but sadly crippled in the expansion area.

So, if you buy MacBook Pro you’re left with 3 ports and no other option to expand. All that with the portable machine which is a dream to own otherwise - very large hard disk, up to 8GB of RAM (amazing stuff for a 15" which is my target size), very, very fast CPU and strong graphic card and 80% better battery life than anything else out there. You can do wonders on a machine like that. But if you do video, you’re stuck with FW800 and USB2, both 2-4x slower than eSATA so you’ll be left twiddling your thumbs while things are copied back and forth. Or if you use CF-cards (most hi-end DSLRs do) your best bet is FW-based card reader, instead of EC/34 types which connect directly to PCIe bus and offer much faster transfer rates.

I hope Apple will come to their senses – like they did with bringing FW800 back to all models – and bring EC/34 back. After all, if they wanted to add SD, they could supply simple 5-in-1 card reader that uses that slot – something Sony did with 13" VAIOs several years back. Those things probably cost few bucks now.

The way things are now, I will not buy a new MBP. I doubt Apple will lose a moment of sleep for that, but if there’s enough of us sending them appropriate feedback, we could have something next year.

How are Hulu, Amazon, iTunes and others actively stopping me to give them money

Today, for the who knows what time these few weeks alone, Hulu lost a sale from me. I know they don’t sell things but operate on ad-revenue basis, but my point stands.

No, thanks, this would be waste of my time

So, only US. Given that I’m living in Serbia, chances of Hulu appearing here are worse than 0. Thus Hulu will never work for me. The blurb on this dialog is rather telling - they will have to cross quite a bit of legal hurdles to get this working here. Given the size of Serbia internet audience and the part of it willing to pay for stuff online, I can safely say that legal costs to make this happen would probably outweigh a year worth of revenue.

Same thing certainly applies to sites like iTunes and Amazon MP3 Downloads. The only way I’m able to buy anything on the iTunes is using gift cards brought by friends from their US vacation (or bought off eBay). Amazon uses Geo IP filtering and card billing address checks to prevent people buying MP3s of their store, if they are not in the US.

I seriously wonder when will content producers figure out how much money they are losing this way. I have valid debit cards I can buy stuff from various web sites in the world. If my money is acceptable when I’m buying electronic goods on the UK Amazon, it’s should be perfectly acceptable to buy music.

The way things are now, Hulu, iTunes and Amazon are actively working to prevent me to give them money. I don’t think that can be more stupid then it is.

I’m fully aware that stores would be happy to have me and collect their cut of my buys, that they are forced to do this thing. So I’m puzzled by the continuing insistence of the content rights holders to prevent me to buy Galactica or Heroes on iTunes/Hulu. Instead, I wait for EasyTV crew to publish the gorgeus looking HD capture of the latest episode and torrent it down. I adored Battlestar Galactica and would buy entire seasons, if only I was let to.

In the age of global economy, I see no reason to prevent people from any country in the world to buy things in any other country. When I look at my purchases over the last few years, I spent quite a bit of money on places like PragProg where I bought several products and asked my company to buy some stuff of them too. None of those sales would be possible if they acted in the same way like music/TV/cinema industry worked. Actually, if they did work like that I would probably torrent down their stuff too, because I needed those screencasts.

Food for thought.

Howto: find UDID of the iPhone or iPod Touch

Easiest way is to get it through iTunes.

On the main device screen, click on the serial number (the blured area below):


When you click on it, it will change into this screen, which has the UDID:


Now do Cmd+C (Mac) or Ctrl+C (Win) – or use menu Edit/Copy – to get it into clipboard.

Using existing iPhone apps

If you have an iTunes Store account, get the free Ad Hoc Helper application. You need to have an email account setup so you can send the UDID to whom ever it’s needed.

The same thing can be done with iStat app, which is not free and it’s main purpose is not to get the UDID. But it does displays it and also allows you to send it over email.

Using backups

On Mac, iPhone backups are at:

/Users/{USERNAME}/Library/Application Support/MobileSync/Backup/{UDID}

On Windows Vista, iPhone backups are located at:

C:\Users\{USERNAME}\AppData\Roaming\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\{UDID}

On Windows XP/2003 it’s:

C:\Documents and Settings\{USERNAME}\Application Data\Apple Computer\MobileSync\Backup\{UDID}

Using iPhone Configuration Utility

On the iPhone Enterprise page at Apple’s site, you can find links to Mac and Windows versions of this utility. One of the things it does is allows you to get the UDID.

Once you connect the device, this is the place to get it:


Now just select the identifier and copy into clipboard.

DHL international express - do not use

I have recently ordered a product from the web site in Hungary. They had a great price on the particular product I was after. The only shipping option they had for me (to Serbia) was DHL Express. I used DHL once way back in the 90s –  from USA to then Yugoslavia – and was far from happy with the service on the serbian end. Since the price of the product was twice better than anywhere else in Europe (103€), I went for it, hopping local DHL improved.

Turned out they did, but not much.

The shipping costs, as listed in MobilX site were 13€ to ship into Serbia, with 1-2 business days time frame. Since I ordered few days before Orthodox Easter, I wasn’t really expecting it in that time frame. I didn’t mind that, I was not even at home during the holiday. So, on next Tuesday, I checked the site, saw that it has arrived into Serbia, that it was delayed at customs and called DHL.

I knew that I should go through the customs import procedure where things could take a day or two, so I wanted to speed things up. I went through 3 different persons with no luck, finally the 3rd telling me that someone will call me with more info “in few minutes”. Almost 5h later someone did call me, to tell me that my package needs to go to the customs and that I need to pay 3540din for DHL service for custom declarations + any customs expenses based on the package price.

Initially I was shocked. 3450din is 3000din for their service + 18% VAT. So, VAT excluded, they were charging me additional 31€ for doing the customs procedure in my name. I did not want to pay this so I asked for information about the package and wanted to do that myself.

Like, yeah.

First, there’s immensely stupid Serbian Law that says that only regular postal packages can be declared to customs by ordinary people. Express packages must go through certified customs agent. This is utter bullshit as there is nothing different in the paperwork. This is clearly a setup for the various express courier companies (DHL, UPS, many other local ones that have sprang off the ground in Serbia, in last few years) to charge abnormal service charges on top of their regular shipping charge.

So, my only option was to try and find some other customs agent with better rates.

However, in order to actually do that, I need to buy the shipping list from DHL for mere 944din + unknown amount per day, for keeping the 300g package in their storage until the process is done. That’s 10€ + unknown amount. Adding the other agent rate, this could very well again be 30€ or even more.

Out of options here, I sent the payment to DHL with appropriate papers and was anxiously waiting to see what exactly I’m being charged for. Things did not finish there though, as this customs procedure took 2 days – I payed 31€ for that? – and then took two more days until actual delivery. You see, even though I sent two emails when can I be reached at home and left contact phone and alternative address (my office) I still missed the delivery guy for 15mins who came to my home address at about 6:25pm, did not find anyone there and left. I arrived home 10mins later. I immediatelly called their office, they told me that deliveries can be made after 10am and in about 6-8pm, even though their working hours are 8am-8pm. We huggled for some minutes on is it possible that delivery is made after 7pm when I knew I will be home and apparently it was impossible since it could be anywhere between 6-8pm and they can’t tell me precisely. Jolly.

The whole experience was abysmal and the DHL was nothing but problematic. The hidden charges are simply despicable and the shipping charge is blatant lie. (This has nothing to do with MobilX, they are probably using whatever DHL gave them as rates). I know that this is all down to local DHL office, but to me, as customer, that is irrelevant. It’s their job to get all their branches in order, because they are all called DHL. It’s one brand and the bad experience damage entire brand.

Just to clear any doubt - mentioned 31€ is pure DHL charge. Actual charges that Serbian Customs office is taking for filing the papers are 300din+600din (a bit less than 10€) and these were payed by me, clearly shown on the invoice given. Thus it’s not transparent customs charge that DHL is graciously doing for me as certificed customs agent - it’s DHL ripping people off.

And what do they do for those 31€? I fill two Word document templates they sent me, they fill half of another paper (half is done by the customs clerk on arrival) and fax all three to the customs office. I also pay the charges directly to them and customs office, they don’t process any money in my name. Like I said, this law is clearly a setup for the shipping sharks.

They basically do nothing. The airway transport from Hungary to Italy to Serbia costs 13€ and this paper shuffling costs 31€. Absolutely despicable abuse of the local laws. This is the last time I have ever used DHL and would actively dissuade anyone I know from using their services.