March 2011

The Apple Store Needs a Checkout Counter

The Apple Store is a great place to go if you want to play with new Apple products or get help at the Genius Bar. But if you go there to buy something, the experience is confusing and humiliating.

Everyone knows how the process of buying something at a store is supposed to work:

  1. You pick up the product(s) you want to buy.
  2. You go to the end of the line at the checkout counter.
  3. When it's your turn, you step up to the counter, transact your business, and go on your way.

In contrast, here is how things work at the Apple Store:

  1. You pick up the product(s) you want to buy.
  2. You stand there like a child who has lost his mommy, looking around for a friendly Apple associate who can help you.
  3. As the Apple associates are always busy helping other customers, you pick one and stand nearby, hoping to catch their attention when they are finished with the current customer.
  4. Eventually, after helping the current customer, and maybe a few others who are also standing nearby, the associate asks how they can help you. You say you want to buy the things you have been holding. The associate says, "OK, I'll find someone to help you", and goes to look for one of the associates who has one of the magic credit-card-reading devices. You stand there looking lost again for a while.
  5. Eventually, a person with a magic device arrives to let you make your purchase. You fumble around, juggling products between your armpits, your crotch, and under your chin while you present each item for scanning. Then you drop all the items while you dig out your wallet and credit card.
  6. While you pick up the items you have dropped, the person swipes your card, then hands the little device back to you so you can check some boxes and sign your name. Again, your items have to go into your armpits and onto the floor.
  7. While you pick up your items again, the person goes to one corner of the store to get your printed receipt, then to the opposite corner of the store to get you a bag, then back to you. You help the associate put your items into the bag, and then you go on your way.

Wouldn't this all be easier if there was a checkout counter?

Sometimes the old ways are best.

What I've Learned about iOS Development

I've been playing around with development for Mac OS X and iOS for a few years. I've had a pretty good grasp of how Cocoa and UIKit worked, and I've written some simple apps, but for the past month I've been working on my first Real iOS Application. I've had to solve some problems that were easily ignored when writing little apps for fun. What follows is a randomly ordered collection of some of the little techniques and tips I didn't know before, which may be useful for other Cocoa newbies.

App Idea: Prose Translation Assistant

(This is just an idea. As I explain my post about Why I Loved The Social Network, I think ideas are cheap, so if you want to "steal" this idea and make the app, I heartily support you.)

A friend has started a personal project to translate the works of Jules Verne from the original French into English, as he is dissatisfied with the existing English translations. He is going about it pretty much the way I would: he has a browser window open with the original French text, a browser window with Google Translate, and a text editor where he is writing the English translation. He also has a French-English dictionary on hand.

I wondered whether there might be some software available that is specifically designed for this purpose. Some Googling finds plenty of applications to assist in translation, but all the ones I found are designed to help translate conversations, e-mails, or other such things. I couldn't find anything designed for assisting with translating a novel, play, or other such work, where the translation needs to be written by a human in an accurate-but-artful way.

It got me thinking about how I would design an application to assist with this process, making it less necessary to switch between various applications and documents.