Archive for January, 2009

MacBook Pro Battery

January 23rd, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

I bought a new MacBook Pro in May 2007. By August 2008, after I had taken it back to the Genius Bar at the Apple Store in Regent Street three times for various problems, I noticed the battery life was down to about an hour.

In September it developed an irritating little quirk. After about 10 minutes with the battery still in the 80th percentile it shut down without warning. This became more than irritating, but I didn’t really have the time or inclination to schlep down to Regent Street again so soon.

I put up with it, leaving it plugged in all the time, and when I needed a portable computer I used the old PowerBook G4, which was a very fine machine.

Finally I could stand it no longer, and on Monday I went online to the Apple store to see about a replacement battery.

First shock was the price — £97. That’s $135. That’s a lot of money. Then I noticed the reviews. 102 reviewers had given this battery one star out of five. There was a chorus of protest about the quality and durability of the MacBook Pro battery. Clearly Apple had bogged this one, and from the chatter on the site they had stuck their corporate fingers in their ears and were going La-La-La very loudly.

I rang the Apple Store. A very nice chap whose accent I could barely understand tried valiantly to help me for about 20 minutes, before giving up and suggesting I took it to the Apple Store in Regent Street.

So I booked an appointment with the Genius Bar for Thursday, the earliest available time from Monday. I told the Genius I had a battery problem, and that he may already have heard about it. He grimaced. I opened up the machine and it ran for just over a minute before shutting down without warning.

He carried out a few diagnostic tests, shrugged, and gave me a brand new replacement battery. No charge.

The computer was nine months past its warranty.

The battery (made by Sony) may be crap, but the Apple service was absolutely superb. No fuss, no quibble, just a new battery.

Nearly full marks to Apple. If only it hadn’t happened in the first place.


Pricing conundrum

January 21st, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Setting prices, billing and collecting the cash is one of the most important services fotoLibra provides to its members.

Apparently for rather more than the cost of fotoLibra’s Pro Membership you can buy a software program that suggests prices if you’re selling photographs in the United States. That’s about all it does.

Unlike fotoLibra, it doesn’t store your images, promote them, sell them, deliver them, invoice, collect or pay you money. It leaves all that to you. I am lost in admiration for its business model.

We have 1,447 set prices for rights managed images, derived from a complex algorithm that takes into account Size, Circulation and Repetition. Embedded in this are other licences such as territory and duration. We cover most bases, but occasionally we find we’ve missed something out.

Like today, when we were asked for a price for an image that covered the following rights: editorial use; book; 5 year licence; single territory; 5,000 print run; half page; eight languages.

Straightforward — till you get to those eight languages!

What’s the answer? I’ll post our price here as soon as somebody makes an educated guess.

I wonder how that software program would have coped?


Data Protection

January 20th, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

The Data Protection Act is another great law like Helf ‘n’ Saiftay — you can use it to hide behind, use it offensively, obstructively or aggressively. Or all four.  It is a Godsend to the sort of mindset that seems to run through half the population.

Don’t you know there’s a war on?

I was only doing my job.

I’m alright, Jack.

It’s more than my job’s worth

Computer says no.

Now they have the law on their side, and it’s infinitely adaptable. I’ve been calling some photographic companies recently on the phone — a shocking enough tactic nowadays, given the silence that lies heavy over most offices today — and the reactions have been varied, to say the least.

Look, I’m guilty of this myself. The smaller the company, the more guarded and suspicious the response. People ring up fotoLibra and say “Can I speak to the managing director or the owner of the company please” and frankly that’s as far as they get. We always apologise before we put the phone down, because that’s how we were brought up.

Some of them have done a little research. “Can I speak to Miz Gwine Heeedlee please?” Depending on how mindless the caller sounds, I either switch to basso profundo — s p e a k i n g ? — or warily ask who is calling. At the moment the calls are about water coolers or investment plans.

But the boot is on the other foot when it’s me making the calls. I’ve got something they should be interested in. The default state is that they’re not, of course, and it’s a tough barrier to break down. The big problem is getting through to the right people.

First there’s the voicemail barrier. Speaking to someone is never one of the options. As soon as I hear voicemail kicking in, I hit Nought, which usually gets me the operator. Here comes the operator barrier. If you have a name, there’s firstly the tone of disbelief, as if you’ve asked to speak to Pol Pot or Robert Mugabe, then the suspicion that he left the company late last century.

Then the Data Protection Act kicks in. “I’m sorry, we’re not allowed to give out names.” What am I going to do with them? Make voodoo dolls?

If you’re lucky, you might be allowed to get through to a department in the company.

The person who picks up the phone at this stage is one of two people. Either it’s the trainee managing director, on her way up through the glass ceiling, or the deputy assistant’s secretary’s temp’s daughter, who happens to be eating her McDonald’s by the phone.

The TMD is a whirlwind of efficiency, all instant comprehension, ‘right’ being the most crucial word in her vocabulary, barking out rapid fire instructions and leaving you bathing in a warm glow of efficiency. Nothing at all will happen.

The temp’s daughter will not know what to do. You run through your pathetic spiel, trying to rid yourself of the mental image of a golden retriever listening to Wittgenstein. At the end, there’s a silence. “Err, yurrr. Can you send us an email?” Nothing at all will happen.

I do what’s wanted anyway. Then I follow up. Sometimes I strike gold. The largest company I spoke to listened to what I had to say, said “That sounds great, but you need to speak to Jerome. Here’s his mobile number.”

I’m too awed to call.


Happy New Year

January 4th, 2009
Gwyn Headley

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Let’s hope it’s a good one and we all survive the financial turmoil. We’ll do all we can to help you!

But I’m sorry we won’t be answering your emails for a day or so — our email server is down, Support is on holiday, and the skeleton staff (me and Von) have no idea how to reboot the server. So if you need to communicate with us please leave a comment on this blog.

Sorry about that; we’ll be back ASAP.