Apple Support is now just a bad joke

Anyone that reads this blog knows I am an Apple fanboy.  And I still am in most respect, but there is one area that the Apple has lost it’s shine:  tech support.

Back a few years ago, Apple support was one of the best around.  If you had an issue, you could be relitively certain that before all was said and done, the issues would be fixed.  And for good reason: you paid for the support.  Nothing was free, but what you paid for you usually got.

It seems, however, with the passing of Steve Jobs, that level of support has also passed.  Now when I call all I get is poorly informed “techs” who know nearly nothing about the products they manufacture.  

My mort recent run-in with the Apple folks is regarding a headless (AKA remote) install of OS X server.

The first woman that was on the phone with me insisted that I had to set up the server initially before I could remotely set it up.  I’m going to say that again to let it sink in:  In order to do a remote setup of an OS X server, I would fist need to set it up locally and then I could set it up remotely.

I told her she was wrongs and that was not the intend function of the remote set up.  She said, yes, that is how it worked.  So I quoted to her from their own web site:

I asked her to read along with me:  “You can set up a new Mac mini Server or Mac Pro with OS X Server by connecting to it via Screen Sharing or Apple Remote Desktop.”

She said, yes, that was true, but you needed to set it up with a monitor and keyboard first.

“A-ha!” I said….”please continue reading with me…stay with me on this”


“See where it says you don’t need a screen or keyboard?”

“Well, yes,” she says, “but that’s after you set it up initially with screen sharing.  That you have to do locally.”
“Really?” I question “Because that’s not how it worked in the class I took.  And reading a little further on the page it says…”

“Please hold”

After a while she came back and told me that this feature was no longer supported.  I questioned that and asked her to show me where it stated that this was no longer support.  On hold for about 20 minutes and she came back and said “I just confirmed that this is no longer supported.”

“Great.  Where is the documentation that states this wildly beneficial feature is no longer available on Mac server?”

“Ummmm….please hold.”

Ten minutes later she returns with a “Senior tech” on the line (this is already after being transfered to the “Enterprise support” department) who states that this “headless install is not supported after 10.7.”

“Really?  Because the date on the web page is December 16, 2013…long after 10.7 was gone. “

“So…” I continue,”either the web page, the class, and the test I just took are wrong, or you are.  Which is it?”

“Please hold.”

About 10 minutes later he returned.  “Hey Ed, yeah, sorry about that.  I forgot that was a feature in this version.”

So finally we began troubleshooting the issue (50+ minutes after I initated the call.  Please remember that to this point all I am doing is convincing the Enterprise support group that the server OS has a feature they don’t even know about.

So now we are rolling on getting a solution to this issue.  Suffice to say, he checked pretty much everything I checked.  A few more holds and he comes back and says “Is this server local?”  I tell him it is on the local network.

“No.  I mean is the server on site there?”

“No.  It is remote.  That’s why I am trying to do a remote install.”

“Oh, well we only support devices that are on the local site.”

I say “So what you are telling me is that you cannot support me doing a remote install because the remote computer isn’t local?”

“Yes.”

“Seriously?  That’s what you are telling me?  You can’t help someone remotely install an server, which is a feature of the opeation system, because the remote system isn’t local?”

“Correct.”

“And you are comforatable telling this to a customer?”

“I’m sorry, but that’s our policy.”

So, kids, remember…when trying to set up that remote Mac server, make sure the remote location is local….

Sheesh!  Apple is really sliding down hill…

So glad I wasted the $3000 on the Apple Helpdesk support.  I’ll be sure not to make that mistake again.

Awsomebar issues in Firefox on a Mac

I use to do the IT support for a company we supported in the same building as us.  On occasion I would have to get into their spam filter and change some settings.  The url was spam.downstairscompany.com.  It was nice and easy to get to and manage.

Once I was relieved of the “joy” of supporting those * ahem * people (they were a pain in the ass) I no longer needed to go to that spam filter.  I did, however, need to go to my spam filter which was named spam.mycompany.com.

Everytime I started typing in Firefox address bar the URL, the one for the comany I no longer supported would come up first.  This seemed like a minor annoyance, but a fear down the road, it was beginning to bother me.
The auto-complete (or autofill) feature in the URL address bar just would not forget that I once supported them, no matter how hard I tried.

I started trting to fix this by deleting my history.  That did nothing.  So I headed over to Mozzila support and came across this link that told me to start typing the address and then press Shift+Delete to clear it from the autocomplete history.

That did nothing.  No matter how many times I tried it, it still did nothing.  It rise highlighting the address and doing it, nothing.  Hover over the URL and do it?  Nothing.  No matter what I did, the Shift+Delete did nothing.

So I started to play with my settings and found that if I wen into preferences and then went to Privacy and set the location option to suggest nothing and that actually worked in eliminating the offending URL, but it wasn’t a pretty solution and honestly I want it to suggest from history and bookmarks.

So I re-enabled it and the offending URL popped right back up again.  Ugh!!!

I figured there had to be something about this in the configuration, so I typed about:config in the address bar and did a search on “autofill”  Here is what I found:

I toggled the browser.urlbar.autofill to false and closed and opened the browser.

Darn…so close.  I was hoping the cache or database would be deleted but no such luck.

So next I decided it was time to perhaps start over.  I made note of the plug-ins I hade installed and made sure everything was up to date with xmarks.  Then once it was done, I opened Firefox and went to help>>Troubleshooting Information.  There I selected the profile finder and chose “Show in finder”

The folder opened, I closed the browserand then, in the profile folder located places.sqlite and remaned it (not deleted) the file to place.old.

Once that was was done I reopened Firefox, re-installed my plug-ins and once again all was right with the world again.  No more annoying autofill URLs.

(As an FYI, I opened the places.old file and Lo and Behold the offending URLS were in there.  So that is where they were coming from.  Attempts to edit the file directly did not achieve the desired results.)

Hope this helps.

Apple maps, you suck!

All I wanted to do is go get me some Mongolian Beef extra crispy at PF Chang’s. Was that asking so much? Instead, you put me in the middle of nowhere between a parking garage and a construction site. Then you had the audacity to mock me with “Arrived at PF Chang’s!!!”

I hate you, Apple Maps!

VMWare, I have bested you!!!

I recently got a new iMac at work to replace my desktop and clunky, heavy HP Elitebook laptop(which clocks in at a mighty 8.25 pounds).  The idea was to slim down to an iMac and a Macbook Pro and use VMWare Fusion to run the Windows operating system for the items I could not do with the iMac.

Everything started off great.  I began by installing Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 (which is pretty great) and then a few other nifty little programs I cannot live without on my Mac (Dropbox, LastPass, XMarks, KeePassX, Jump Desktop, and Evernote) and then downloaded and installed VMWare Fusion 5.

Pretty sure I was on my way doing a migration from my clunky 32-bit Windows 7 machine to the new Mac.  I kicked it off and went home.  The next morning, the migration was complete and I fired up the VM with no issues. Yes!  One down, two (or three) to go.migration

The next one was an already existing VM for Windows XP, and that was simply moving the VM from an old machine to the iMac.  About an hour later that was finished (And the was moving from VMWare workstation 7 to VMWare Fusion 5.)

So then it came time to do my main PC: An HP Elitebook 8540w with 8 GB of RAM and 4 CPUs.  As I had great success with the Migration Assistant in Fusion 5, I would give that a shot.  I kicked it off and let it run its nine (ugh) hours.  Sadly, nine hours passed and I got the “migration failed” message.

I tried again (thinking perhaps it was a transient error and got the same result.

So it was time to try the Standalone converter.  I uninstalled the PC Migration agent and installed the new version of VMWare Standalone Converter.  I had a pretty good feeling about this as I had run this converter before and it worked very well.  So I attached an external hard drive to the machine and kicked of the conversion.  It got to 98% and failed.

So I uninstalled the Migration Agent, the Standalone converter, and my AV and firewall, then reinstalled the latest Standalone Converter agent and tried again.  It failed again at 98%.  It was time to call VMWare.

I called and spoke with a person that seemed to want to help at first, but wasn’t real committed to the process.  He remoted into the machine and kicked HDSourceoff another migration, this time setting the processors to 1, the memory to 2 GB, disabling all NIC cards and setting the hard drive pro “preserve source.”

I told him it would take a few hours and I would email him when it was finished.  Naturally it failed again (at the now incredibly frustration 98%) and I emailed him the results and asked him to call me.

The next day he called me (he when home sick apparently) and remoted in to see the results screen.  He asked around a spoke to a few other techs there and they were all in agreement that this issue was unresolvable and nothing further could be done with this PC or to assist me in getting this converted.

I didn’t like this answer.

I thanked him, hung up the phone, opened a web browser and started doing some investigating.  Certainly I couldn’t be the only person with this issue, right?  The frustrating part of this is that I had done a Standalone migration on this PC before and it worked fine.

I took another look at the error that it generated.  The warning before it failed said “Warning: Unable to update the BCD on the destination machine’s system volume” followed by the Error “An error occured during reconfiguration.”  The final status of the job was “FAILFailureErrorVMED: Unable to find the system volume, reconfiguration is not possible.”

So I started my search on the VMWare website and came up with a document that explained how to use BDCEdit to modify the the boot configuration data to allow the Standalone converter to proceed.  It seems there was a 100 MB “system reserve” partition that was defining itself a C: and where my data was as D:. I booted up with the Windows 7 install disc and proceeded as instructed, and retried the migration.  Again, failure.  I went back using the command prompt in the recovery console and BCDEdit shows that the settings had reverted to what they were originally.   I changed them once again and rebooted.  On a hunch I decided to go back in and, once again, the settings had revered to their original settings.  So regardless of how many times I tried this BCDEidt, as long as that system reserve partition existed, the issue would persist.

And this is where it gets a little scary.  I knew I needed to get rid of that system reserve partition, but I also need to make sure I could get back into it if the VM Migration didn’t work.

So I proceeded to make a clone of the original disk.  I used a Apricorn Sata data cable and EZGig data transfer software to make a duplicate of my original drive on a spare laptop HD that I had laying around.  The cloning took about two and half hours but once finished I had a duplicate I could safely play with and not jeopardize the original.

I found a good article on sevenforums.com on how to go about removing the system reserve partition and then another on running the startup repair to restore the boot.ini and such to allow the computer to once again boot.  I ran through the startup repair twice and on the third boot attempt I saw the happy windows screen jump to life prompting me to give it a ctrl+alt+del.

Once in I initiated the Standalone conversion.  After two hours this time, however, I was met with a much-longed for green “Success!” prompt.

I copied the VDMK over to my iMac, imported it in the Fusion and, ta-da, it worked like a charm.

And the techs at VMware said it couldn’t be done…pashaw!

They just weren’t motivated enough.  🙂

Hacking a Samsung LCD TV

I have a 46″ Samsung monitor on my wall (Model UN46C5000) that I use to display the output of some Network Monitoring software we use (Passler, btw.)  This monitor is attached to a Mac Mini via the HDMI port.

The one fly in the ointment has always been turning the darn thing on every morning.  I know it may seem trivial, but usually the mornings are the busiest time of day of me in IT and sometimes that computer just doesn’t get turned on.  And I am kind of opposed to just leaving it on and wasting energy.

Now Macs are grsamsungeat at starting themselves up and shutting themselves off, and my Samsung TV has the same capabilities.  However it can only turn on and off the the TV input or a USB input, not the HDMI input (which seems pointless to me, but whatever.)

So I turn to my old friend Google.  I found a forum on CNET where people were complaining about this exact same issue.  A few pages down someone had found a hack that worked around the issue (which the Samsung Rep that was posting to the forum failed to tell anyone which I find both deceitful and troubling.)

Apparantly there is a thing called “Hotel Mode.”  Like all good hacks, this one has some very dangerous setting that can mess your TV up pretty bad, so use with caution.  Also please not that this also has the effect of clearing any of the settings you already had setup (like color settings, timers, time, etc.) Anyway, apparantly on many Samsung TV models, to get into this Hotel Mode, what you do is turn the television off and then press the mute button followed by the numbers 1, 8, and 2  (in that order) and then power on the television again.  When the television comes back on there will be a service menu there with all kinds of crazy cool stuff.  Digging through the menus you’ll want to turn the Hotel Mode to “on” and the Power On Source to “HDMI/DVI”.  Once finished, power cycle your television again.

Once that is finished, go in and setup your timers but ignore the source, antenna, and channel settings.  They no longer do anything.  😉

And that’s about it.  I have tested it a few times now and it seems to work great.  Good luck and have fun!

MDM Solution: Air-Watch and mobilEcho implementation

Over the past few months I have been working on a system to unify the management of our mobile devices and allow a BYOD policy at the same time. Currently we do not allow Androids in our business because of the security risk associated with them. But there is a lot of drive from our employees to go to them, as well as some good business reasons to do so as well. These reasons include the wide selection of carriers and the relative low cost of both the phones and the tablets. This makes the Android a very attractive platform. The security and fragmentation of the platform, however, have made it kind of hard to make a jump to the Android OS company-wide.

And being a small IT department of two people managing 300+ users, I didn’t want to manage another device or server to accomplish these goals.

So with that in mind, I began looking for a MDM solution that would meet the following criteria:

The solution should

1) Manage multiple platforms including iOS, Android, Windows Mobile, and even Blackberry.

2) Be easy to use. I don’t want to go through six weeks of training just to figure out how to use it.

3) Allow apps to be rolled out en masse.

4) Allow enforcement of security policies.

5) Allow selective wipe of company data from personal phones.

6) Roll out company settings for mail, VPN, WiFi, etc.

I chose four different solutions to evaluate. (Well, technically five, but since the Apple Configurator won’t magange Androids, Blackberries and Windows phones, it was DOA.)

The first was MobileIron. I was enthralled by MobileIron, but that soon waned when I discovered that MobileIron was on “on-premises” box that would need to be configured and maintained. But I was still tempted. MobileIron definitely has the security nailed down. I liked how it could handle rouge apps and the management seemed very smooth and tuned.

Next I looked at Meraki. Meraki was just bought by Cisco and honestly that’s the reason I took a look at them. And oddly, it was also the thing that drove me away from them. Right now, the price is free. Yup, free. However, while they state they have no intentions of changing that, I have seen things like this change dramatically shortly after the little fish is eaten by the big fish. This would force me to either reevaluate the MDM solution and possibly re-implement another MDM solution at some point in the future. Worse yet, they could discontinue it all together and leave me in the lurch. It is a fine solution, and spreads far beyond just mobile devices to include PCs and Macs, but I need to minimize disruptions to the employees and this uncertainty didn’t leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling.

The next two on my list were Air-watch and MaaS360, both at the recommendation of my CDW rep. After asking some folks I know at other companies and at the recommendation of some folks over at the IT Admin Forum at LinkedIn, I decided to try Air-watch first.

After they went through a short tutorial and got the initial test server configured, there were some minor issues but nothing huge. It did seem, at the beginning, that the profiles that Air-watch pushed out were hit or miss in regards to their implementation and their effectiveness. But after a while the basics were covered and everything was working fine. I was ready to broaden the test and implement an EIS (Enterprise Integration server) server internally and start rolling it out to some test users. Now I know, dear reader, that this flies in the face of my requirement of not having another server to manage, but please understand that this is merely a piece of software that runs on an existing server and has an agent that synchs Active directory information with the off-site Air-watch server. It also allows the Air-watch Secure Content Locker to map internal WebDAV shares, network shares, and Sharepoint Shares. This was going to be, for my company, the true selling point and power of Air-Watch.SCL

Or so I thought. Initially everything worked fine. But then I started adding more shares and the problems began. Without getting into to gory of details, the shares that I had way exceed the normal capacity of Air-watch. And truthfully, even I was surprised by the quantity of documents we had and were trying to share. It turns out that in our main folder structure there were over 2,500,000 documents. It seems that currently (and I am speculating here because it is where AW stopped indexing the documents) that AW is limited to about 184,000 files. Which is probably fine for 99% of the users, but we needed either a) something that would get all of them, b) change the way the data is retained and structured or c) limit what we put in the SCL.

Before I continue, however, I want to take a moment to mention the customer support at Air-watch. From the sales rep to the tech support, they are one of the most dedicated group of folks I have ever seen in the industry. I could be cynical and say it was just because I was testing the software that they were so dedicated, but honestly the numbers just don’t support such cynicism. We simply don’t have a large enough user base for that to be true. So I feel they were doing it out of the commitment to the product and the customer. A number of times I had called it quits on AW because I didn’t think it was going to be a good fit, but they worked with me and held my hand until I realized that it was a good fit and had a place in my organization. And more than that, they were going to help me make this MDM solution a success come hell or high-water. You don’t find that often enough in IT companies.

Because of their dedication to product and customer, I never even made it to testing MaaS360.

So with the MDM solution secure, except for the ability to get network documents on the mobile devices, I decided to see if there as a piece of software dedicated to just that: putting data in network shares on mobile devices.

So after some investigation, I found MobileEcho by GroupLogic. Like AW, it also places a a few small files on the server (which I placed on the same server with the AW EIS software) and runs two services: one to index the files in the locations you want to share on the mobile device and the other to me1manage some extended permissions, handle wiping data, sending out enrolment notices, etc. All the management for the software, other than the indexing portion, is done through a simple but effective web interface.

Out of all the installations I have done and software I have implemented, I would have to say that this one of the simplest and easy to configure software packages I have ever seen. I had it up and running in about ten minutes. And the speed is incredible. Navigating the network shares on the mobile device is literally faster than doing it on the computer. I don’t make this statement lightly: this software is amazing. The reaction from my test users were as follows:

“Wow!”

“Buy it.”

“Holy S*%$”

“How can I get this on my PC?”

The only caveat to it, and this is really a matter of choice, is that we are not going to open it up on the firewall. So my end users will need to access it via VPN. That means there is an additional step or two they will need to do to get access to their data which they would not have needed to do using the AW SCL. But in the
end, that’s okay because the tradeoff is speed is well worth those couple of extra steps.

I am now working on getting a firm count on mobile devices and users and working out pricing. I think these two products are going to benefit my company enormously and increase our competitive edge in our market.

5 Cool Things To Do in (and with) Evernote

Simply put, Evernote is the bomb!  There seems to be no end to what a person can do with it.  Here are the five latest things I have discovered to do with and in Evernote

 1.   Create a Journal – By creating a new note and inserting the date (as the Subject on a Mac using Shift+Command+D or Shift+Alt+D on a PC in the first line of the note) a person can quickly convert Evernote into a daily journal.

2.    Encrypt your Secrets.  In my previous post, I mentioned an issue with security and the risk involved with posting items of a confidential nature to Evernote.  Little did I know there was another level of security that I didn’t even know about.  By highlighting text in a note and right clicking the highlighted text, it allows you to encrypt the text with a password.  The password is the encryption key, so the longer and more complex it is, the better the encryption.

3.    You can add a note to Evernote via email.  Each account has an email address associated with it.  This can be found under “account info” and should end in something like @m.evernote.com.  You can use that email to send a note, picture, etc. right to Evernote.  The subject will the title of the note.  Additionally you can direct it to a pre-existing notebook by putting @notebookname in the subject line too.  And, so we don’t neglect the tags, it can also be tagged by #tagname in the subject line.  So if I wanted to put a note with the name of Macbook in my Apple notebook with a tag of Wishlist I would put the subject line as: Macbook @Apple #Wishlist

4.    Autosynch Dropbox and Evernote. If you use Dropbox as well as Evernote, you can use the folder Synch to auto-import Dropbox items into Evernote.  (Please note that currently there is no native way to do this on the Mac as the Mac Evernote client does not have a “Import Folder” command.) Here’s how I do it:

a.   In Evernote I created a notebook called “DropboxSynch”

b.   In Dropbox I created a folder called “EvernoteSynch”

c.   From within Evernote, I used the “Import Folder” and point it to the “Dropbox\EvernoteSynch” folder on the PC and direct it to import into the “DropboxSynch” notebook

impfold

 

Please note that deleting a note from the DropboxSych notebook in Evernote will delete the item from Dropbox as well.

 

5.   Send an RSS feed, Email,Tweet, etc. to Evernote.  This one requires the use of another service, ifft.com.  If you aren’t familiar with ifft.com it is a service that takes various things and does other things with them.  Sound confusing?  Well it is a bit.  But pretty simple too when you think about it.  It takes a trigger and does an action.  For example it can take a calendar event from Google Calendar and send it to Twitter.  In my case, I took an RSS feed (lets say CNN’s top stories) and send it to a note in Evernote.  The trigger is a new RSS entry on CNNs RSS feed and the action is append a note in Evernote.    The “recipe” for this can be found here https://ifttt.com/recipes/55670.  This is just an idea of what you can do with iftt.com and Evernote.  But it doesn’t stop there…you can send emails, web pages, tweets…just about anything to Evernote through iftt.com.  Give it a try.  It’s kind of fun.

Finally….streaming MY media to my iPad from my WD TV Live!!!

One of the “Holy Grails” of the iPad for me has aways been to be able to view movies I already own to the iPad.  But  the ability to do this has always eluded me.  Like Ford Prefect looking for a S.E.P., I could almost get it to work but not entirely.

I am using the iPad 2 and the Western Digital TV Live Plus

The issue always came down to one of two things:  either the player couldn’t navigate the wireless network correctly, it could navigate to the the fomat couldn’t be played on the iPad (.mkv or avi).

In early attempts I was able to browse the wireless and get on the WDTVLIVEPLUS using the File Browser App, so I knew what I was trying to do was possible.  But I was only able to view and stream those media types that iPad could natively, which limited me to .mp4, .m4v, and .mov.  This left me in a rut, since most of my 100+ movies were in .mkv format.  But as I said, at least I knew that it was at least possible to do as the File Browser app let me test the wireless streaming and I knew that part would work.

So I was left with the choices of either converting all those movies to a format that could be played by the iPad, of find another app that could both see the WDTV live box on the wireless network and p[lay the right format.

I tried several apps and finally found one that met both conditions:  GoodPlayer .  GoodPlayer plays AVI, Xvid, Divx, DAT,VOB,FLV,WMV ,MKV,MP4,RM,RMVB, and AC3 file types.

gp1
GoodPlayer

To connect it to my WD box, I simply went to the SMB/CIFS Client and added the IP address of the WDTVLIVEPLUS box.  (One important thing here is to make sure your WD Box has a static IP address on your network.  It will work with a dynamic address, but you’ll have too re-add the box everytime the WD Box gets a new address from DHCP.)

Once it was added, the WDTVLIVEPLUS was easily navigatable.  It now gives the choice of, once a file is selected, downloading the file and playing it or “play this URL” which will stream the movie from the WDTVLIVEPLUS attached hard drive to the iPad.

GoodPlayer also allows various other sources such as a UPnP and DLNA Client, WebDAV, and direct streaming from a URL.  The quality of streaming via Wifi ranges between acceptable to what I would consider to be pretty good.  As and oddity, the higher the quality of encoding, the worse it seems to look on the iPad.  I think this is due to the limitations of the data rates of the wifi.

Of course, not being satisfied with getting my movies to stream to just one iPad, I wanted to see if I could stream to two iPads at the same time because you never know when I want to watch TWO movies at the same time.  For those curious, yes, it does work.  Two seperate movies can be watched from two different ipads at the same time.

gp2

 

I have only been using GoodPlayer for a few hours now and already it seems to be a great solution for all the streaming I want to do.  I have only begun to scratch the surface about what this awesome app can do, but at $2.99, it is already paying itself off.

So if you are a WD TV Live user and have wanted to stream to your iPad

 

Soundhound App on iPhone 4

One of my favorite apps, one one most recently deemed the most popular music app ever is Shazam. For those unfamiliar (and with over 75 million users, chances are good that you’re are familiar if your are reading this) Shazam is an app that uses your mobile device (iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry, etc.) to listen to music and then identify the song by artist, album, and title. This was one of the first apps I got on my iPhone and I really enjoyed it. I thought it was one of the best apps ever.

Until that parent company decided to change their once free service to a pay structure.

It is also the app that disappointed me the most. It disappointed me because the company that brought us this fantasitc app also decided to commit the ultimate sin for iPhone apps….they decided to start charging for what they once offered for free.

So as a disgruntled former user, I looked for an alternative and I found one in Soundhound.  Soundhound is available for both the iPhone and android.  The infinity version has, in addition to unlimited tagging, lyrics, fast taging, geotagging of the song, iTunes integration, vioice search (where you can say a lyric of title and it will find the song), and much more.  The tagging speed seems okay, but a recent test of Shazam proved it to be a bit faster in my opinion.  Also it seems that Shazam has gotten the clue and is now back to unlimited tagging.  Too little, too late.   I have since fallen in love with the way Soundhound tags songs and the various features it provides.  The live lyrics never fail to astound those I show it to and the accuracy and speed are very good.

I highly recommend Soundhound.

 

The Daily

Today, in addition to a massive snowstorm that covered most of the U.S., “The Daily” was finally released via the Apple iTunes store.  For those following this App, this has been a long time coming.  The app was originally slated to be released in November, but was delayed until today.

In the cloud of mystery that has surrounded The Daily in the preceding months, many have asked if it was just another “Early Edition” or “Flipboard” or other RSS aggregator.  I can assure you, it is not.daily

The goal of Rupert Murdoch is to have the first daily “newspaper” available on the iPad.  Apple and News Corp, Mr. Murdoch’s news company, worked many months together to get this right.  And by and large I would have to say they did.  The Daily has an “all-star” line up of reporters and editors.  It is quite apparent that Mr. Murdoch was determined to do this endeavor correctly.

The Daily contains six sections, much like a normal newspaper.  These sections are News, Gossip, Opinion, Arts & Life, Apps & Games, and Sports.  But unlike a normal newspaper, The Daily takes advantage of the multimedia capabilities of the iPad.  For example, in one story discussing the issues with Venice and the problems with canal levels rising, a multimedia 360 degree panoramic view of the city.  In the sports section a Steelers’s offensive play is detailed with Madden-like explanation.  Stories contain videos where appropriate and hyperlinks abound.  Additionally there are daily Suduko and crossword puzzles. 

Frequently I found myself going “Wow” to this app.  One moment in particular was in a story about the protest in Egypt, there was a picture of the demonstrators gathered in a city square.  For a second the picture was there to show you what was occurring.  And then, slowly and flawlessly as if for dramatic effect, the picture panned out to show the wider area and show the size of the demonstration.  In a moment, my eyes were opened a bit more because of this news story and how it was presented.

The general feel of The Daily is very much like a news magazine more than newspaper. I was not expecting this from an on-line daily publication.  Frankly I was expecting a much less coherent package, more along the lines of a bunch of stories pulled from a variety of sources (like the aforementioned RSS feed aggregators), rather than the smooth unit that is The Daily.

And  of course no app would be complete on the iPad without the embedded social media components.  The stories can also be Twittered, posted to Facebook, and emailed.  They can also be saved for future reference.

On the downside, the load times are long, even on wi-fi.  Perhaps that will change as The Daily gets better and tweaks the app.  The price point, however, is great.  Currently priced at $0.99 per week (for seven issues a week) or $39.99 per year, it seems like a great value for me.  But I cannot attest to how they are going to implement this pricing structure yet, because right now The Daily is free for the next two weeks thanks to Verizon.

 

I have a few complaints about The Daily, but nothing that will prevent me from subscribing to it.  Overall, it is an outstanding effort and all involved with it can be proud of the job they have done.  I highly recommend this app.

Update: 3/3/11:  After further reading I have found most of the writing subpar, woefully lacking in analysis and in some cases quite bigoted.  In short, “The Daily” is a hideous, hate-filled little app.  I’m sorry Apple had anything to do with it.  *app deleted*