Archive for December 6, 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Apple’s Support Gap

Nick Heer:

I’ve been trying to book some time at my local Apple Store to get my iPhone’s battery swapped, and it has not been easy — at least, not compared to the way it used to be. Previously, I’d open the Apple Store app on my phone, open up my store’s page, and tap the button to get support. I could easily make a Genius Bar appointment from there with just a few taps.


Once you’re directed to Apple’s support site, you’re in for another blow: it’s probably the least-stable online service Apple offers, in a really big way. It frequently doesn’t load at all; when it does, I often see some form of server-side failure midway through the booking process. This isn’t new — a friend of mine asked me several months ago to help him book an appointment because the website wasn’t loading for him, and I wasn’t able to make it work either.

Marco Arment:

Even then, for me, it usually takes 3+ days to get an appointment, or a 2-hour walk-in wait.

My iPhone 6s suffers from the unexpected shutdown issue. When I talked with Apple about what to do, I had two options. I could do a mail-in repair, which would mean not having a phone or camera for a week or so. Or I could wait 2+ weeks until one of the local Apple Stores might be accepting appointments to replace the battery. (There is apparently a shortage of replacement batteries.) Even if I could get an appointment, this would be a big time commitment, as the closest store is about two hours away. So far, I’ve opted to do nothing in the hope that sometime I will happen to be near an Apple Store and be able to make a last-minute appointment. I’m also considering whether I should stop selling my old iPhones when I upgrade, so that I’ll have a spare.

Update (2016-12-07): It turns out that my local Best Buy, only 15 minutes away, offers iPhone battery replacement services. However, they do not expect to have batteries in stock anytime soon. Another local Apple service provider, which previously did not service iPhones, says that they do not have batteries in stock but can get one within three days after verifying that an iPhone 6s is eligible.

Ben Lovejoy:

Apple initially said that it found that battery components in a particular batch of iPhones were exposed to the air for too long before assembly, causing the batteries to cut out. It has now updated its statement to say that some customers with phones from outside this batch have also experienced shutdowns, and that it will be issuing an iOS update to help track down the cause…

Update (2016-12-12): Dr. Drang:

The first thing I learned at our appointment was that the store had no batteries in stock and we might have to wait up to two weeks for them to come in (that was an overly pessimistic estimate). We were assigned to a store employee who checked the condition of our phones and filled out all the forms necessary for the replacement. She also walked us through the steps of turning off Find my iPhone, but she didn’t have us erase any data. The replacement, she said, would take an hour or two to perform.

One thing that surprised me was when she asked for our phones’ passcodes and typed them into the form she was filling out on her iPad. I guess it makes sense that they need the passcode to turn the phone on and test it after replacing the batteries, but I was taken aback by the sort of matter-of-factness with which she asked for the keys to all our data. I changed the passcode after I got the replacement, but had I known ahead of time that they’d need it, I would have created a temporary code for the store to use and then changed it back to my regular code afterward.

We left the store without new batteries or any concrete sense of when we’d get them.

Update (2016-12-27): Dr. Drang:

I’ve never had bad service at an Apple Store before. They’re very busy, and service is never instant, but I understand that and have always been happy with how I’ve been treated. This, though, was a pile-on of what used to be considered very un-Apple-like behavior. Whatever system they’re using to track customers and service requests failed 2–3 times on the same request. Both my wife and I wrote about the problems on the customer feedback forms we got from the store.

Is this whining? If I were dealing with a discount store, I’d say yes. But expectations for Apple are higher, commensurate with the price you pay for their products and the quality image the company projects.

David Heinemeier Hansson:

Need iPhone repaired. Didn’t have patience for Genius route. Tried setting up mail service. 5 reps and 2.5 hours later I’m still on hold.

Update (2017-01-02): Joel Spolsky:

Bought new MacBook Pro. One of the keys didn’t work unless you really whacked it. Spent 4 weeks waiting for a replacement from Apple

Update (2017-01-03): David Heinemeier Hansson:

Remember those 3h I spent with Apple Support to get my iPhone registered for a screen change? Well, they just sent my phone back, no fix ;-(

Despite being willing to pay whatever for the screen change, scratch apparently wasn’t big enough for them to act. Need to smash it more ;-(

Dealing with Apple Support really is akin to DMV. You wait in line forever to be served. Then they send you to the back with “wrong form!”

Update (2017-03-11): Nick Heer:

It’s good to hear that Laptop continues to find Apple’s support channels the best in the industry, but I worry that it’s seeing a reduced focus within the company. Yesterday, I linked to a report from MacRumors stating that Apple will no longer be training their Genius Bar staff in Cupertino, or even on real devices.

How to Disable Magic Mouse Scrolling

Brian Dunagan:

Yes, yes, multi-touch is amazing. Unless you’re my grandmother, and you’re just trying to use the mouse that came with the computer to get your email. She was constantly getting frustrated with how Magic Mouse responded to her touch rather than her click, so I disabled the multi-touch features.

My grandmother had the exact same problem. He has a list of Terminal commands to disable scrolling entirely. I think you can turn off inertial scrolling in the Accessibility pref pane, and you can turn off gestures in the Mouse pref pane, but there’s no checkbox for scrolling itself.

Distributed Visa CVC Guessing

Juan Buis (via Andrew Abernathy):

According to research from the University of Newcastle, there’s a gaping hole in credit card security that makes it easy for hackers to retrieve sensitive information. The researchers discovered that if guesses for the card’s CVC number are spread out between a lot of different websites, the card’s security systems aren’t triggered and the owner isn’t notified that a fraudulent activity might be taking place. The video above shows it only takes six seconds for a specially designed toolkit to reveal a card’s secure code.


Only Visa cards are susceptible to the security flaw, as other card issuers like MasterCard track the hacker’s guessing efforts across different websites. The Visa ecosystem, however, isn’t setup to take actions on multiple websites into account.

Anil Dash Is the New CEO of Fog Creek Software

Joel Spolsky (Hacker News):

In short, we need Anil to help support us with ideas and leadership for HyperDev (now renamed Gomix) and any future products we come up with, and we need his soapbox and industry connections to continue to keep Fog Creek Software relevant. Thus I think the perfect position for him is as CEO of Fog Creek Software.

A typical startup is built around a single product, and some theory that people will pay money for that product. This theory eventually become false, and the company goes away. But Fog Creek was different. We were just a place where great people come together to build great things. People come here because of the other people that are here. And that makes it fundamentally much stronger and longer lasting.

That sounds great for the employees and company, but I was really hoping to read about a strong commitment to continuing to improve the supposed flagship product, FogBugz.

Benjamin Pollack:

The downside, of course, is redundancies and frayed vision. In a world where Trello and StackExchange remained at Fog Creek, I can imagine Fog Creek being the productivity company, with all of these tools tightly integrated à la Microsoft Office and presenting a coherent vision of how to develop software. You won’t get that if you’re spread across multiple companies. And, of course, you can end up in situations where, specifically because of all the reasons I pointed out above, two of your companies are going at each other a bit (e.g. Trello vs. FogBugz), which, even if subtle (those products don’t honestly actually compete much), means you’re spending at least some money competing with yourself. And, of course, you lose out on being able to easily move employees from one company to another, reusing technology amongst multiple companies, etc.

See also: what happened with Co-pilot and Kiln.

Update (2016-12-07): Anil Dash:

Fog Creek’s flagship product FogBugz has long been the best tool for helping teams make great software — I know because we used to use it to make Movable Type and TypePad back when I was helping get those products off the ground a decade ago.