Monday, August 15, 2011

A Home Town Apple Store

Santa Clarita, California is a classic example of an American boomburb and it's a city that has come into its own over the past twenty years amidst the continuing growth and population migration in Southern California. Santa Clarita is situated about 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles and north of the terminuses of the three-digit numbered highways that carry traffic through and around America's second largest city.

Although Santa Clarita has grown dramatically over the past couple of decades, residents can still hear the sounds of freight trains as they ramble their way across what was once a remote and semi-arid scape. In a bygone era the area served as the location for many Hollywood westerns. 

COC Performing Arts Center
The City of Santa Clarita
Incorporated in 1987, the City of Santa Clarita has an estimated population of 176,971 and is home to the world renowned CalArts, the burgeoning College of the Canyons and is near the popular Six Flags Magic Mountain and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor amusement parks. The city is now the site for a new Apple retail store that recently opened at the Valencia Town Center. A home town Apple store is one more indication that Santa Clarita has not only come into its own, the city has also come of age.

Apple Retail Stores
At my last count there were 50 Apple retail stores in California, representing about 15% of the total number of retail stores in the company's global chain. No matter the fact there are a couple of dozen Apple retail stores within a two-hour drive from the city, having a store within a twenty minute drive of most residents of the Santa Clarita Valley will be a boost to Mac and iPad sales in the local area. 
I shop at Apple retail stores the way others might shop at home improvement stores. There's often something new to see and there's usually something for which I'd like to save to buy. 
Just over ten years ago I stood in line to visit the original Glendale, California retail store on its opening day. It was the second Apple retail store to ever open and followed the first retail store opening in the Tysons Corner, Virginia by three hours. From that day to this day, about 340 Apple retail stores have opened around the world. 

Apple Retail Store at the Valencia Town Center
In the most recent four fiscal quarters, Apple retail stores generated revenue of $14.109 billion and represented about 14.1% of the $100.322 billion in revenue the company reported during that time. Over this 12-month period the retail stores sold 3.29 million Macs or more than 21% of the company's total Mac unit sales of $15.407 million units. 

In the last holiday quarter, the busiest time of the year for the Apple retail stores, revenue averaged over $12 million per store and the margin generated by the stores exceeded $1 billion. These stores create local jobs, generate local tax revenue and increase customer traffic to the shopping centers in which many of the stores are located.
Apple's retail stores are at the epicenter of the Apple product mutual halo effect. Management has stated repeatedly 50% of Mac buyers at the retail stores are new to the platform. The Apple retail stores sell Macs and the Apple iPad is a traffic magnet for the stores. 
Apple carefully selects the location for each new Apple store. Proximity to colleges and universities is among the site selection criteria as well as particular consumer demographics about the local community. The new Apple retail store at the Valencia Town Center is a boost for Apple product users in the area and I look forward to frequent visits to what's now my favorite local store. 
A City Comes of Age
Santa Clarita is the fourth largest city in the Los Angeles County expanse and is the twenty fourth largest city in the nation's most populous state. From rural studio back lot to boomburb, Santa Clarita now has a home town Apple store. It's a city that has come into its own and it's a city with a new store for the digital age. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why Time Machine is a Mac Essential

In our large household the collective investment in iTunes content might rival the GDP of a few small island nations (slight exaggeration). From music to movies and from photos to college papers, our hard drives are filled with items that can not be easily replaced if they could be replaced at all. 
Today's Macs are not only the storage centers for our desktop or laptop data, they also store the backup data for our iPhones, iPads and iPods. Without a reliable backup system a lost hard drive can be the source of months of frustration, weeks of lost work and vanished memories of special occasions and everyday moments that become special when viewed through the passage of time. 
To reduce the risk of lost data disasters in our household we deploy a regular Time Machine backup regimen. Last week one of our laptop hard drives gave out. After a year of near 24/7 use by a college student in the household who makes generous use of Netflix streams in between bouts of school work, the drive became unresponsive. A quick trip to an Apple retail store (AppleCare is another Mac essential) the MacBook Pro had a new drive installed and all that was needed to restore the old drive's data was an easy Time Machine step following the new drive's startup and the welcome message from Apple.

My preferred Time Machine regimen is to backup data on the hour using an Apple Time Capsule that also serves as the household's Wi-Fi base station. In the case of the hard drive that failed last week the data had been backed up using Time Machine to a local external hard drive. The Time Machine data restore operation took under an hour to complete and all data was restored as if the user hadn't missed a beat. While flash drives and optical media can be deployed to backup work or school files, the automatic backup regimen and the thorough backup routine of Time Machine makes it a better and more comprehensive backup solution. 
As the author of the Posts At Eventide blog my financial analysis worksheets are stored all over my drive along with several years of financial reports and regulatory filings from the nation's top technology companies. Absent a regular backup regimen replacing the information on my drive would require months of personal work and needless hours spent searching the Internet to replace volumes of lost data.
Time Machine is free and is installed with the latest versions of Mac OS X. Time Machine provides for the peace of mind that comes from knowing your Mac's backup data is a virtually up-to-the-minute copy of what's on your drive and all music, movies, photos and personal files are backed up safely in the event of a lost hard drive, a corrupted drive or a more complex repair issue involving your Mac. 
Large capacity external backup drives can be purchased for around $100. A Time Capsule can be purchased for $299. Either of these backup options are worth the price when some of what's at risk might be considered priceless.

Robert Paul Leitao

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two iPhones And A Rice Bowl

This is a tale of two Apple iPhones and one big bowl of uncooked rice:
In mid-January my sister called because she had lost her Apple iPhone 3GS. The iPhone was off so she couldn't call it or send a "Find My iPhone" signal. She suspected it fell from her pocket while shoveling out from one of the winter's biggest storms. As a precaution she had the iPhone deactivated and considered it a loss. She reckoned if it was lost under a couple of feet of snow there was no way it would be found weeks later in working order when the snow eventually melted away. The next day she purchased an iPhone 4 as a replacement.  The Apple store staffer suggested if the iPhone 3GS was found as the snow melted to immediately place it in a big bowl of uncooked rice to draw out the moisture. 
A little over a month later and following snow accumulations of an additional four feet, sub-freezing temperatures and a few sub-zero overnights, there was one sunny 60 degree February day. The rapidly melting snow left a shimmering black iPhone in its wake. To her astonishment the phone started up with all of her apps and data available. Because the phone had been deactivated, the only thing she couldn't do was make a call. 
Two months hence and on the other side of a continent, my daughter accidentally dropped her Apple iPhone 3G into a small, manmade bowl of water commonly found in restrooms stalls. That's as descriptive as I want to get in this story. This was an obvious cause of upset. When I saw the phone after she brought it home it was undeniable that water had penetrated the device. One could see the water move when the touch screen was pressed. Recalling the conversation I had with my sister back in January, I immediately filled a kitchen mixing bowl with uncooked white rice from the pantry and gently pushed the iPhone into the middle of the bowl with the touchscreen facing down. 
Eager to see if the rice advice would work, the following day I pulled the phone from the mixing bowl. The iPhone was dry to the touch, but unresponsive to attempts to startup the device. Only slightly discouraged I put the iPhone back in the bowl and waited for a second day. The next day I pulled the phone from the mixing bowl and while the phone wasn't immediately responsive, there was no hint of moisture in or around the device. I plugged the iPhone in to charge it and sure enough the Apple logo appeared. A few minutes later the phone began to beep and a stream of previously unreceived text messages appeared on the screen. Although the iPhone was now encased in a thin film of dry rice residue and the battery was taking a much needed charge, it was apparently no worse for wear. Yesterday, day three, my daughter took her iPhone to school and work as if the mishap had never happened.
Two iPhones and one big bowl of uncooked rice have proven the iPhone is made to be a resilient device. 

Robert Paul Leitao

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Wonders Never Cease: My Mother Is Getting An iPad

Wonders never cease. My mother is getting an iPad. The dear woman blissfully bypassed the PC era and has never used a personal computer. This isn't to say she doesn't have one. There has been a designated Mac in the house for use by grandchildren and my mother's wayward adult children who are challenged to spend more than a day in an Internet free zone on trips home. 
To provide Internet access in the post dial-up era I labored one summer day to extend an Airport network from my sister's house on an adjacent property to and through my mother's house via of relay stations. Still, my mother until now has never used the Internet and the closest she has come to using a Mac is dusting the dust cover on the keyboard. 
That's all about to change. It's not that the woman is information starved in any way. She has an amazing capacity for news and information consumption from traditional sources such as books, magazines and TV. Thanks to satellite TV if my hectic workday keeps me from reading the headlines a quick call to my mother during my evening commute will usually provide an earful of the day's top stories filtered through her unique editorial outlook. For years she has supported and endorsed the use of Apple devices in the educational lives of her grandchildren, but she has never once touched a keyboard.
When the Apple iPad was released last April my sister and I thought this was a natural device for my mother's interest in news and information. Perhaps it was my nephew's enthusiasm for the profusion of apps available, but showcasing Angry Birds and similar digital wares wasn't an enticement. For all my mother has experienced and endured in life, spending time engaged in aerial assaults of digital pigs isn't among her desired hobbies. But recently she has come to realize as a news and book reader the Apple iPad is beyond compare. The home screen and icons that will deliver the tailored content she desires makes sense for a no-nonsense consumer. The abundance of easy-to-use news apps and the iBookstore are a winner.
The Apple iPad is an engaging device. Piercing a demographic of older consumers who view the physical keyboard as a step back and not a step forward is an example of how Apple's tablet product transcends the PC and is ushering in a new era of more intuitive and useful digital devices. 

Robert Paul Leitao

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Work PC Has Become A Fork

In what's now called the post-PC era, I view my work PC as a utensil similar to a fork. Like most kitchen utensils a fork sits in a drawer until selected for limited-use tasks. The difference here is the Windows PC that adorns my work desk won't fit inside a drawer and it can't be cleaned quite as easily. But it has now been relegated to limited and specific-use purposes. 
My work PC has become a casualty of the Apple iPad. I've foregone any effort to try and make Outlook work as a productivity solution and rely on OmniFocus, iCal and Apple's Address Book to maintain my schedule, manage projects and tasks and keep my contact register up-to-date. In addition to using my iPhone for personal communication, it has become a "pocket iPad" for personal and business productivity. Alas, my work PC has two functions: business email during business hours and one regular work task for which a conventional desktop or portable PC is still required. 
Last week I purchased through the Apple app store the Mac version of OmniFocus for my iMac at home. It syncs with the iPad and iPhone versions of the product through MobileMe and it adds my project due dates into iCal. I now keep one calendar for all of my activities and commitments (personal and business) and it's constantly updated on all of my Apple devices. 
Although the iPad 2 was introduced last week, for my uses the original iPad works just fine. There are plenty of uses remaining to be explored and none of those uses at this time require a camera nor a faster processor. I've been pleasantly surprised how many workday tasks can be accomplished more quickly, more easily and more productively on an iPad versus a conventional PC. 
It's not that the iPad is a replacement PC. It's that the need for conventional PCs is being eliminated quickly. The conventional PC is becoming irrelevant through a process of consumer and enterprise selection. I just wish my workday fork could be cleaned of its issues and digital debris as quickly as the kitchen variety can be put through a dishwasher.

Robert Paul Leitao

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Daily

The Daily
On February 2nd the first daily news publication specifically designed for the Apple iPad debuted in the market. Each new issue of The Daily is sent automatically to subscribers and is available at the rate of $.99 per week or $39.99 for a yearly subscription. The Daily app is available at no cost through the iTunes app store. For the first two weeks following the February 2nd release, issues of The Daily are available for free. 
I couldn't pass up the opportunity to explore the type and style of content available in The Daily during the two-week promotional period. Downloading each issue does a take just a bit of time. The publication is media rich and covers virtually all areas of popular interest from news to sports to opinion to arts & life and even apps and games. For those who missed last week's launch event, a video is available on the publication's website. 
Navigation through each issue is definitely Apple Cover Flow-style and the app tracks each column or article that's been read or sampled. After reviewing The Daily over the past few days I'm impressed by the array of content available, though not all of sections are of personal interest. In my view the style of writing is a mix of a daily newspaper and  weekly magazine. The news coverage is timely and topical and each news story can be consumed in just a few minutes time. 
I'm intrigued by this first daily news publication designed specifically for the Apple iPad and I intend to purchase a weekly subscription when the trial period ends. 

Robert Paul Leitao