13 New Lessons in Customer Service from a (Good) Car Salesman

OK, so it’s over one month later, and I finally got a car. I’m actually pleasantly surprised by my final day of car shopping. The first go-round was quite frustrating and ended with me giving up, but I’m happy to report these latest lessons in customer service from a car salesman (and this time a good car salesman). Read More about 13 New Lessons in Customer Service from a (Good) Car Salesman

Apple Extends MacBook Pro NVIDIA GeForce Service Policy to Three Years

Nvidia GPUs Possible

Addressing what evidently is a common defect in the NVIDIA GeForce 8600GT graphics processor units used in the May 2007 and Early 2008 revisions of the original MacBook Pro (remediation of which involves replacing the entire logic board), Apple (s aapl) has announced that it will lengthen coverage of its extended service program for this defect for at least another year.

A revised announcement on the Apple Support web site reads:

In July 2008, NVIDIA publicly acknowledged a higher than normal failure rate for some of their graphics processors due to a packaging defect. At that same time, NVIDIA assured Apple that Mac computers with these graphics processors were not affected. However, after an Apple-led investigation, Apple has determined that some MacBook Pro computers with the NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics processor may be affected. If the NVIDIA graphics processor in your MacBook Pro has failed, or fails within three years of the original date of purchase, a repair will be done free of charge, even if your MacBook Pro is out of warranty.

Last January, I commended Apple and NVIDIA (s nvda) for stepping up and taking some responsibility for this defect, but contended that the two-year coverage in effect at the time almost certainly did not go far enough. It seemed likely that the problem would eventually afflict most examples of those MacBook Pro models if they were used long enough, and once repaired, owners could not be confident of the issue not repeating itself after the two-year extended service eligibility or even three years of maximum AppleCare extended warranty coverage. Read More about Apple Extends MacBook Pro NVIDIA GeForce Service Policy to Three Years

Is Keeping Older Mac Notebooks in Service False Economy?

Many enterprise IT departments are exercising false economy by extending the service life of notebook computers from the traditionally recommended 3-5 years in an effort to keep a lid on replacement cost, according to a new research report (PDF) released by Northborough, Mass.-based market research firm J.Gold Associates.

The report estimates that squeezing out an additional two years of use would typically cost an average of $1,050 per machine, based on analysis of actual costs associated with business notebook failures, including variations in failure rates over the life cycle as well as costs of repairs both in and out of warranty. The report also calculates that hanging onto outdated hardware typically costs an organization $9600 in diminished end user productivity.

“Failure Tax”

Additional findings of the study include:

  • The cost to repair a failed notebook while under warranty is $1,070
  • The cost to repair a failed notebook not under warranty is $1,525
  • The per-machine “Failure Tax” for each notebook deployed in the organization is $138 in the first year and increases dramatically throughout the life of the machine, but will change based on variations in machine failure rates from different manufacturers and/or models.

Now, presumably J.Gold Associates’ main research focus was WinPC laptops, which begs the question: Would their conclusions similarly apply in the Apple (s aapl) notebook space? Read More about Is Keeping Older Mac Notebooks in Service False Economy?

OnLive Will Make a Hardcore Gaming Machine Out of Your MacBook

onlive

The Game Developers Conference for 2009 is just underway, and already there’s some big news which has particular relevance for that rare and frustrated breed, the Mac gamer.

I’m a Mac gamer myself, and have pretty much given up the OS X side of things and just decided to do all my gaming in a Windows Boot Camp partition. My days of option-booting may be drawing to a close, however, thanks to a new venture that could make gaming a lot more democratic, much to the dismay of hardware manufacturers.
The service in question is called OnLive, and it will basically offer game streaming to whatever machine you happen to have. You can either get it via a very small set-top unit that attaches directly to your TV, or through a desktop software client. That’s when the magic happens. OnLive uses server farms to do all of the heavy lifting for your computer, so that your resources aren’t important. That means my Eee PC can handle Crysis, though I would never actually use that tiny machine for gaming. More importantly, my MacBook and my Mac mini can both handle Crysis without breaking a sweat. Which means I’m belatedly glad that I didn’t spring for that MacBook Pro or Mac Pro desktop. Read More about OnLive Will Make a Hardcore Gaming Machine Out of Your MacBook

GigPark: Turning Social Networks into Testimonials

gparkIn professional services, you are only ever as good as your last engagement. Which is to say, if you have no one to vouch for the quality of your work, then you’ll probably have a hard time finding more.

Traditionally, the best way to sell to future prospects was by shopping around the recommendations of previous employers. There’s nothing wrong with that strategy, but clients may be skeptical because you control who is providing testimonials, not people they already know and trust.

GigPark means to bring word-of-mouth recommendations to the web, using a social network model. You can browse existing recommendations just by visiting the site, but the innovative twist offered by GigPark comes into play when you register an account with the site.

Read More about GigPark: Turning Social Networks into Testimonials

Apple Tech Support Trials Begets Better iPhone Headset + License Woes

It’s been quite a while since my last post due in large part to my dead MacBook Pro. Perhaps, unstable would have been a better choice of words as my trusty 15″ developed a very nasty power issue where it would just randomly power off without warning. The instability made it impossible to do any serious work and the ensuing extended service call forced me to rely mostly on my iPhone for keeping up with the happenings of the internets. Our household has other systems but they were all taken up by end-of-school-year projects or dedicated for other uses…or were Windows-based. While Safari made the Windows work slightly bearable, I found living in an all-Windows world (for personal use) to be a less-than-stellar experience (and, I’m a very experienced 3.1 through Vista user & developer).

It took three visits to the local Apple Store – over the course of 8 days – to finally get my machine back. Two logic board swaps and keyboard + top cover replacement later and my MBPro feels like new again. I definitely want to give kudos to the team at the Alderwood Mall Apple Store for doing everything in their power to get me back up and running. While a loaner Air would have been nice, the techs did a good job giving me updates and making things happen as quickly as Apple processes would allow. If you haven’t had to deal with Apple support, they really do an excellent job between online scheduling, in-store attempts at problem resolution and speedy return of items in repair. Even though this fix took a while, they definitely showed they cared at every step of the way.

Service Generates Sales

During the course of those three visits I had a great deal of time to hang at the Apple Store waiting to be processed by a Genius (scheduled times can be off a bit as they do make every effort to fix problems right there). Staring at the walls of Apple-compatible products, it was difficult to resist the urge to buy…everything. I did manage to successfully leave twice without a single purchase, but one item caught my eye: the Monster® iSoniTalk™ Microphone Headphone Adapter for iPhone

From one of my earlier posts, you should know that I’m ever on the lookout for the best accessory for the job when it comes to my Mac’s, iPhone or iPod. While the Shure adapter reviewed in that post has done a great job, it is far from an optimal product. The headphone cable is extended way too much and the weight of the cable + mic is a bit much for the clip to support well.

While I generally find Monster products to be overpriced and not always better than their “normal” counterparts, the iSoniTalk has some definite merits (and a few detractions). First, you can find it online for close to $10.00 USD, which is significantly cheaper than the Shure counterpart. Second, because of the combination jack & extension you do not have to deal with a ton of extra cable to manage. Third, there are built-in clips along the adapter cable which make it very easy to manage the cable from your existing headphone sets.

Lastly, the mic + clip + button combo control attaches securely and works very well (not nearly as sensitive as the Shure, which for me is a good thing). I probably should mention that sound quality for music and calls is not impacted in any negative way by the adapter.

There are a few “gotchas”, however. The same jack + extension dongle combination can be a bit unwieldy, especially if you use any type of case with your iPhone. It just doesn’t hold in as well given the overall size of the unit. The actual cable itself could use a couple of inches as it comes up short to most headphones I own. One extra clip near the mic would also be nice in the event you just want to use it without talking.

I’d have to definitely recommend it over the Shure on price and convenience, but I’ve only had it a few days and would really like to hear from TAB readers on your experiences with the product.

Hardware-tied License Woes

While Apple managed to get some additional hard-earned cash out of me from my free repair (1-year warranty FTW!), my support saga continued with the annoyance of hardware-based software licenses. At least two products on my system – iTunes and launch2net tie themselves to data that is specific to the logic board of the system they are installed on. I had to burn an iTunes activation (no time to deal with Apple online support just now) and e-mail the customer service folks at nova media to deactivate my old launch2net code from their database. This should serve as a notice to consumers to ensure you deactivate your hardware-specific licenses prior to service (if possible) and a plea to developers to find an alternate mechanism to secure software purchases. nova media may have lost a future upgrade sale since Leopard works fine with my 3G modem without their software and I do not need the hassle of waiting 3 days for tech support to reset a license. I understand Apple’s constraints, but they should make it easier to manage authorizations online rather than the “reset all” feature once per year.

If you have had similar experiences with license woes post-repair or want to provide data on software that you use which ties itself to hardware, definitely drop a note in the comments.

Beware of Employees Tossing ‘Roses Where You Walk’

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Editor’s Note: Chris Lyman is the founder and CEO of the enterprise VoIP service provider, Fonality, in Los Angeles. He’s also one of our favorite bloggers, penning candid and humorous essays on the many challenges he faces at his Janitor’s Blog. See Startup Math: 1 + 1 = 1/2, The Power of “I Don’t Know”, How the ‘CEO-Janitor’ Cleaned Up With DellToday we get another, this time on the dangers of employees trying too hard to please the boss, published originally as Roses Where I Walk.

A fellow blogging friend of mine gave me a hard time tonight about not blogging more. He wrote “I would prefer more than one nugget every five weeks.” So, I decided to put digital ink to ethereal paper and talk about a subject that has been on my mind of late.

This entry is issued as a warning to other employees, managers, CEOs, and janitors alike. I call this corporate disease: “Roses Where I Walk”.

See, I have noticed an insidious little pattern that arises as your company grows. As a CEO, sitting at the top of my firm’s food chain, it affects me every day. But, I imagine that in larger (thousand+ person) companies, it probably creeps all the way down to the VP and Director level. This dastardly practice is born with no ill intention – nay, narry a dash of malice nor a whim of Machiavellian bent. Quite the opposite in fact – this rose is born from the desire to please “the boss”. Read More about Beware of Employees Tossing ‘Roses Where You Walk’

It’s All Greek To Me: 15 Lorem Ipsum Resources

Lorem IpsumWeb designers, font purveyors, professional paginators and even application developers need sample data to test their layouts, creations and algorithms. “Lorem ipsum” has been the de-facto standard when placing non-distracting text into test areas and has been shown to exhibit characteristics of standard lettter, word and space distribution. While one could just keep a copy of a few paragraphs of Cicero’s De finibus bonorum et malorum text around, there are many tools for your Mac (and on the Net) that make this task even easier.

Ipsum Everywhere!

If Rosborough Technology’s lipServiceX (1.2) didn’t exist, someone would have built it. As an OS X Services menu item, it gives you quick and (almost) ubiquitous access to “lorem ipsum” no matter what application your using. A key combination makes this the quickest way to get some ipsum into your project.

Dashboard Widgets

While there isn’t exactly a plethora of widgets, the following ones cover all the ipsum bases:

Editor-support

  • TextMate has a built-in generator invoked via tab completion of the magic word.

Browser-based

Online “lorem ipsum” generators

While not exactly a comprehensive list, these sites get the job done:

For the “do it yourself” folks

Finally, this Joel on Software forum discussion is a great primer on the efficacy of even using standard “lorem ipsum” with some creative suggestions on alternatives. I’d be very interested in what tips and tools other TAB readers use to “get their ipsum on”, so drop a note in the comments!

The Apple Store Shopping Experience

Over the past few weeks I’ve had to make multiple trips to my local Apple store to pick up this, that, and the other. I’m the typical guy in that I when I go shopping I don’t actually “shop.” I go in, get what I need, and get out as fast as possible.

At most stores this is easy to do…except for Apple stores.

I’ve yet to actually need any help from an employee in the Apple stores. I know exactly what I want and I just want to purchase it and get back to my office to use it. But it would seem Apple doesn’t care to actually have a set checkout spot. No place to to get in line and buy stuff. Nothing. You just have to aimlessly wander around the store and hope to A) get approached by a free employee or B) randomly pick an employee that’s helping someone and follow them around until they’re done.

I honestly don’t understand how this entire setup is a good idea. Sure I get that they want you to interact with the employees so they can hopefully sell you more stuff…but what about the people like me who just need to go in and buy something? I spent almost 15 minutes the other day in fairly uncrowded Apple store just waiting for an employee to free up so I guy by an adapter.

Yes, I’m ranting a bit here. But I really am curious what benefit Apple sees in setting up the store like this. Are all Apple stores like this? Or did I just luck out with the one closest to me?