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Only a couple of days left in official summer! Earlier this week, the weather here was cold. I mean COLD for mid-September. On Monday and Tuesday there were residents sitting in the lounge wearing their coats. So management took the hint – a bit later in the week. (Mucking around with a 50-year-old heating system requires time, don’t you know?) So yesterday the heat came on in both buildings (which are joined together on the first floor and basement levels.) Tonight, my suite is a comfortable temp – about 68F. But the common areas on the main floor, where on Monday we were shivering, are now so hot that they are uncomfortable to occupy. The dining room was a sauna tonight. The next 2 days are predicted to be very warm. Of course, most of us had been getting ready to put away our summer clothes. Oops- not quite yet! I will be happy to see the cool weather settle in.

In other news, I have been wrestling with my iPhone, trying to get the new iOS8 installed. Having a hard time. Tonight I have been forced into searching the depths of the phone’s memory, and trashing old files, trying to make room for the new operating system, which requires a lot of GB. So far, no joy. More work and more trashing of files is required. I hate it that I am throwing out all these old files without actually looking at them to see if they should be saved. I just tell myself that if I haven’t looked at them for the last 2 years, then they are not high priority for saving. Out they go!

Speaking of iPhone, the sales of the new phone have gone through the roof. Here in the big city, a few people started standing in line on Monday, to be among the first to own the new phone. Did you see the picture of the lineup in NYC? If I read the news correctly, the lineup stretched out for 10 blocks at opening hour at the Apple store in NYC. I always feel sad that Steve Jobs did not live to see the amazing successes of his best-ever product. Anyone who did not get their hands on a new iPhone today, and had to reserve one for future delivery, will be waiting for it at least until the end of October. I also read that the sales of the new iPhone went through the roof in China, among other places. BTW, I am not a buyer of a new iPhone. I am happy with my current model, which I have had for 3 years, I think. It’s always with me.

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~ A biography by Walter Isaacson

I bought my first computer in 1981. It was an Apple computer, and I’ve been an Apple user ever since. I think the new iMac that I bought a couple of days ago was my 10th or 11th new computer. All I can say upon finishing this book is, “Thank you, Steve Jobs.” Reading this book was like a walk through time: the time of the birth of  personal computing. It was largely Steve Jobs with his genius who brought us the world of personal computing. And yes, he truly was a genius, one of the defining geniuses of the 20th century. He went from being a hippie who tinkered with electronics with his friend Steve Wozniak, to being the co-founder (with Woz) of one of the largest, most successful corporations in the world. And he did it all by intuition. He knew what we wanted before we did.

But Steve Jobs was also a testy and often rude person. He felt that the rules did not apply to him. He drove a car that had no licence plates. He parked in handicapped spaces. If he didn’t want to deal with something, he mostly would ignore it. That’s why he died young (in his mid 50s) of cancer, because he just ignored his cancer for 9 months. He didn’t want to deal with it. That delay in his getting treatment undoubtedly signed his death warrant. This book shows Steve with all his many faults – it is not a whitewash of this complex, driven man.

Steve did not set out (as did Bill Gates) to develop a wildly successful business corporation. He set out to make computers that would be simple to operate, that everyone could use, that would work almost intuitively, and that would be clean in design, and operate right out of the box. His computers would be fully closed systems, whereas Gates was producing open systems that users could muck around in. Furthermore, outside developers could create software for the Gates computers because they were open systems, and subsequently their users would be dogged by incompatible software that fought with other software. If you are reader who is a PC user, you’ve been there and done that, haven’t you?

Put another way, Jobs’ eye was always on the product and how it could be improved, while Gates’ eye was always on the business and the bottom line. The actual products were secondary. I ask you, whose products would you like to spend your money on? It’s just a no-brainer, or so it has always seemed to me.

We Mac users, from the very beginning of Apple’s computers, have not had the problems the PC users have dealt with, because Steve’s attitude was always that he was creating computers for those who didn’t want to mess around with the insides, but just wanted to open the box, plug in the computer and start using it immediately. He built not for “hackers” (not meant derogatively) but for creative people who wanted to just get on with it. And that’s exactly what he gave us–closed systems where Apple governed totally what OS was used, and what applications would run on the hardware. This is for true for each and every version of an Apple product, including iPod, iPhone, iPad. He wanted his products to be sporting clean lines, and to look seductive even as the user was opening the box. He had the same attitude to the stores once he started opening them. Next time you see an Apple store, take a look. Steve was totally responsible for the look of the stores. He picked the granite floor tiles himself, and put them into every single store. All the granite floor tiles come from the same quarry, and they look the same in every Apple store no matter where in the world it is located. He was a very picky guy when it came to what he wanted in his products – store or hardware or software. Ever notice that your Mac has no buttons on the front? Steve hated buttons of every kind, so the on/off button is on the back of the Mac, where it does not spoil the clean lines of the front. The book is filled with examples like this of his obsessive control- which ultimately paid off in spades for him and his company. And now you know why he always showed up to display his products while wearing a black turtleneck shirt.He really hated buttons–of every kind.

This is just a small sample of the many things I learned about Steve from this book. It’s a big book, over 650 pages. It’s also well-indexed. It’s not a book that you read straight through. You dip into it, read a chapter or two, and set it aside for a day or two, and then go back to it. I bought it just after Christmas and finished it two days ago.

As a dedicated Mac user, I really enjoyed this book. I recommend it to all Apple/Mac lovers.

Are you unhappy with your PC (and I know many of you PC users are hurling insults at your computers) and yet again calling your techie person to come and help you? I see my friends posting  remarks such as “I hate computers,” and when I read that, I can bet you are a bogged-down PC user who is waiting for your son, daughter, grandchild, or hired technician to come and sort out your problems with your computer. And this is when I say to myself, “That person should have bought a Mac!”  I even sometimes brag that in 31 years of using Apple computers I have never had to ask for technical help, or take a computer to the Apple store for repairs or any other kind of help.

Steve Jobs knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way. He was making user-friendly computers that everyone could use, be creative with, and even enjoy. His computers stood at the intersection of technology and the humanities, which is exactly where he wanted them. H knew there was a vast market out there of people who did not want to access the guts of the computer. They just wanted to get going and use the computer. I liken this to drivers who have no clue how  a car works, they just want it to start and work for them.

Not everyone will want to read this book. I get that. But be assured that it’s a good read, well-researched, and also a summary of what was going on in the personal computer revolution. There is much in this book to learn about Steve Jobs, how he got that way, and what drove him. It’s engrossing, and I recommend it highly – even to those who have never used a Mac. It’s non-fiction, an excellent example of well-done biography (it didn’t hurt that Steve gave liberal interview time to the author!) You may not love Steve Jobs after you read his biography, but you’ll probably wind up admiring him for his vision, and his tenacity in creating what he knew in his heart we needed.

I give this biography a 10/10 on my personal scale. I cannot imagine anything that would make this book any better than it is.

Recommended reading!

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photo by Noel D.

On the afternoon of New Year’s Eve, I went downtown to the Apple store in the mall. Unremarkable event, except that I have not ventured downtown alone since my quintuple bypass two years ago. I’d been trying to buy an iPad for a couple of days, but the 3 different Apple-authorized resellers in my end of town had been sold out of the model I wanted since Christmas. So off I went on the streetcar, an easy ride from my front door to the front door of the mall.

I arrived after 25-minute ride to the mall and took the escalator up to the Apple store on the next level. The mall, incredibly busy with throngs of people, was looking more like it was Christmas Eve, not New Year’s Eve. The Apple store was as crowded as I have ever seen it. Every computer station was occupied, and all the sales associates, dressed in festive red t-shirts, were engaged. The Genius desk at the back of the store appeared to be jammed, but it was hard to tell because there were so many bodies between me and the back wall.

Suddenly a young sales associate indicated that he was free.
“How may I help you?” he asked.
“I want to buy an 16GB WiFi iPad.”
“Certainly,” he said, and turned and reached up on the wall behind him and pulled down an iPad box. The wall was lined with iPad boxes, I noticed.
He did not try to upsell me.
“I also want a case for the iPad.”
He turned and opened a lower cupboard, and pulled out a box containing the case.
“Will there be anything else?”
“That’s it,” I said.
“Would you like to take out a subscription to me.com?”
“I already have one,” I said.
An iPhone suddenly appeared out of his pocket.
We were still standing in the middle of the store.
I handed him my VISA card and he swiped it through a card reader that was affixed to his iPhone.
He handed me the phone and asked me to sign my name on its screen using my fingertip.
“Your receipt will be in your me.com inbox in a moment.”
He slipped the two boxes into an Apple bag.
“A pleasure doing business with you,” I said as I shook his hand.
Five minutes later I boarded the streetcar for the trip home. I hadn’t stood in a lineup and no paper had changed hands.
I’d been in the mall exactly 7 minutes.

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