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My AppleCare Experience

It’s actually quite difficult to believe that my MacBook is 18 months old now. About a month ago, I noticed that mounting DVDs became unreliable. CDs worked fine, you put them in the slot, it span up fine and everything was good. DVDs, though, would take a long time to decide whether to read, involving a lot of spins up and spins down.

Eventually, reading DVDs became unreliable to the point of not working most of the time, and on Tuesday, since I could now do without the MacBook for a few days if necessary, I decided to ring AppleCare (I have the three-year Protection Plan) and get booked in to get it looked at.

I called the number and got through pretty much instantly. The guy on the other end didn’t sound like a native English speaker and occasionally was difficult to understand, but I got my message across quickly as to what the problem was. I got booked in at the Genius Bar at the Southampton Apple Store. It’s about 30 miles away, and I had to take two trains to get there, with a total journey time (including walking to the station and to WestQuay at the other end) of about 2 hours.

Apple Store, WestQuay, Southampton

So on Wednesday I arrive at the Apple Store. Despite the fact that it was still being intermittent, in the sense of working, but being slow about it and making some funky noises, I was surprised that the Genius didn’t need much convincing that there was an issue.

It was checked in there and then for a new DVD drive (they call them SuperDrives, but for some reason I don’t like calling them that).

The one thing I didn’t like at that point is that the agreement you sign to give it away for service states that if you don’t let them take it, they apparently charge you £100 plus VAT. It’s labelled as a diagnostic fee, but really it’s a lock in to get service done with them if they think you need it. Well, fair enough, but that should have been disclosed up front, before the ‘diagnostic’ is done. This is especially important if you don’t have AppleCare, or you’ll be at the mercy of Apple’s repair prices, whatever they make them, or £100 odd and nothing done.

Anyway, it went off and they reckoned 2-3 days to get fixed, as they didn’t have the drives in stock.

The next day, in fact little over 24 hours after I checked it in, I get a call saying it’s ready for pickup. I headed back down and picked it up.

They even managed to handle the potential confusion due to the fact that it was bought in my dad’s name, but I alone did this whole process. I made this clear at the initial Genius Bar appointment, and it was subsequently well communicated between the staff for when I picked it up.

The result? I have a new … er, SuperDrive and DVDs work fine again.

Overall, a pretty positive experience. Just watch out for diagnostic fees, and don’t go to the Genius Bar unless you’re sure you can hand the machine over there and then for service.

An interesting footnote – they quoted that without AppleCare, the repair would have cost just under £200. Which incidentally, is what AppleCare costs. So, it’s already paid for itself, perhaps?

The photo is hideously blurry… but for some reason I like it.

Almost the End of Another Era

To follow up, I’m now done with all of my coursework, and therefore pretty much done with the whole Further Education experience as well.

I’ll still be sporadically going in next week, for what is probably the last week for a few reasons, but subject to any potential moderation and official things happening, I now know what I’m going to get.

Which, is a Distinction Distinction Distinction (DDD). Or 360 UCAS Tarrif points, if you prefer. Equivalent to three A grade A-levels. Yeah, I’ll stop now.

Again, provided that nothing unexpected and untoward happens, I’m well on my way to taking my place at Reading in October time. Looking forward to it.

WPGet 0.6 – a major new release with major new features

I’ve been working on it for a while, and now it’s here!

WPGet 0.6 includes a new one-click Config Tool, less copying and pasting required for configuration, a new date format and credit controls plus a (beta) category-controlled mode where only the posts from certain categories are displayed.

Of course, the Config Tool has been updated with these new features and you can get started with WPGet right now. Just go to the Config Tool, enter your database details and then click the button to download a fully ready-to-run version of WPGet customised just for you!

Then, copy and paste the snippet to your page in Step 2 and you’re away with WPGet!

If you need any more help installing, check out my guide on How to install WPGet in less than 10 steps.

As ever, get the latest release from here or from PHP Classes.

Welcome to the new home

If you’re reading this, you successfully managed to get to the new home of Peter’s Web Development Blog. That’s A Good Thing. I’ll be posting here from now on, and although not everything is quite in place here yet, that will slowly click into place over the next few days.

All my previous posts should be accessible, although there are some formatting issues that I’ll be looking into as well.

Well, wish me happy blogging at the new home!


I’ve been doing a bit of playing about with OpenSolaris Belenix (yet another Unix-based OS, but this time based on Sun’s commercial Solaris product). If you’re interested, I got it off the cover DVD of the latest edition of Linux Format (Issue 79).

I’d really love to get stuck in to OpenSolaris and do the old Apache, PHP and MySQL compile to get myself acquainted with the system, but at the moment I can’t seem to get a network connection. At all.

And that is a shame as it means I can’t really run a web server. I’ll keep you posted.

RenameIt – my second OSS app

First of all, yes, I cross-posted again. I’m sorry, but that story was big and I couldn’t be bothered rephrasing it just for this blog.

Now, onto the subject of RenameIt. Now I’ve been needing to do some batch renaming of photos recently on Windows, so I thought I would build a batch renaming tool. Yes, I could have downloaded one of the many already built freeware ones, but, where’s the fun in that??

So I set about using Visual Basic 2005 Express Edition to make a batch renaming application which would be fully open source under the GPL.

And my result can be downloaded, both an installer and the VB source files. Enjoy, and if you like it, post a comment. It does need the .NET Framework 2.0 installed to run. No, it’s not cross-platform, but Linux has many open source batch renamers (KRename, for example), and I don’t yet have a Mac.

Get the installer here.
Get the source code here.

Apple Boot Camp

Apple have officially released Boot Camp, a public beta version of a patch to make Intel-powered Macs to run Windows. Yes, you read that correctly, Apple released a patch to run Windows on the Mac.

The patch works a bit like the hacked-up bootloader for Windows XP, developed by some enthusiasts to try and get Windows running on some Macs, which was largely a success. Boot Camp, however, provides a GUI (graphical user interface) for installing Microsoft Windows alongside Mac OS X. From the official Apple press release:

Available as a download beginning today, Boot Camp allows users with a Microsoft Windows XP installation disc to install Windows XP on an Intel-based Mac®, and once installation is complete, users can restart their computer to run either Mac OS® X or Windows XP. Boot Camp will be a feature in ‘‘Leopard’,Â’ Apple’Â’s next major release of Mac OS X, that will be previewed at Apple’Â’s Worldwide Developer Conference in August.

So in Mac OS X Leopard, you will have a dual boot system built directly into the Mac operating system. Apple go on to say that:

“Apple has no desire or plan to sell or support Windows, but many customers have expressed their interest to run Windows on Apple’Â’s superior hardware now that we use Intel processors,” said Philip Schiller.

This seems quite a big step to take for Apple, who seem to be embracing the idea that people will switch to Mac if they can run their Windows applications at the same time. Robert Scoble (a Microsoft employee) seems to think that Apple are listening to bloggers, and have made this decision as a direct result of what people want, thinking it might boost Mac sales.

Will it boost Mac sales, and get more people using Macs? Or will people just buy nice-looking hardware to run Windows on? It seems only time will tell what this momentous move by Apple will do for it, or against it. No official word from Microsoft about this yet, but I’ll follow up when there’s news.

[Cross-post at Gizbuzz]

Mod_rewrite trouble

OK, this is really starting to irritate me now. I’ve been playing around trying to get Apache’s mod_rewrite to behave and I’m having no luck, I’ve Googled and visited about every single mod_rewrite tutorial there is, so I’m starting to lose patience now.

I’ll get there eventually.

What? Vista blocked in the EU? Not likely

According to the Unofficial Windows Vista Weblog, the EU aren’t happy about some of the new integrated features planned for Windows Vista. You can read that story here (I wrote this one at Gizbuzz), here (the Vista Weblog) and here (Yahoo News).

To be honest, I think that the Vista Weblog have blown this a little out of proportion. I think that it might be likely that Microsoft be forced by the EU to remove some of the new bundled features of Windows Vista (perhaps Windows Defender, their anti-spyware client?) just for Europe. As I mentioned, they were forced to do this before, with Windows Media Player, and ‘N’ versions of Windows XP were released in Europe without WMP. If anything comes of this story, it will be that Microsoft might have to do the same thing again with the disputed features (probably Windows Defender, or Windows DVD Maker or one of those new programs).

However, the EU might be a little more harsh about it, and say that they must remove the features for all copies of Vista shipped in the EU, and have the bundled products sold separately.

Anyway, it remains to be seen, and this story might still be speculative. So there’s your warning, don’t rely on these sources to be 100% accurate (I’ve already said this in my post).

My Firefox Extensions

Just in case anyone’s interested (unlikely, I know), these are the Firefox extensions that I have installed. I’ve taken this screenshot from my Windows box, but they’re also installed (with the exception of IE Tab), on my SUSE and Fedora Core Linux setups.

I’m now going to go through and say what I find useful about each one.

DOM Inspector:

Comes with Firefox I think, so I don’t really know about this one.

Firefox Showcase:

This is a really cool extension, a bit like IE7’s Quick Tabs that allows you to see and organise all your currently opened tabs/windows with a press of F12. I originally blogged about this here, back in February, but I still think it’s cool.

Download here


Another one that comes with Firefox, for sending bug reports back to Mozilla. Not too interesting really.

IE Tab

This is useful for those stupid sites that don’t work properly in Firefox, and you’re forced to use the dreaded IE (just be careful of the security vulnerabilities). It loads the desired page inside a Firefox tab, just using the IE rendering engine. Of course, this one works only on Windows, so it does mean those stupid sites might force me to use a different computer. Grrr. Open standards, people.

Download here

User Agent Switcher

This is the first place to go if a stupid site says “please open this page in Internet Explorer and try again”. Grrrrrr. It simply switches the User-agent header sent by Firefox, so it can ‘pretend’ to be IE, while really still being Firefox. Most stupid sites work when you do this, so that’s why it comes first. And cross-platform too.

Download here


This is so cool, and really should already be in Firefox. Hopefully something like this will get into Firefox 2.0. What it does is it creates a nice GUI view of an RSS or Atom feed, so that if you view a feed directly (for example it will display a nice Safari-esque page with the latest stories ordered by date, rather than the ugly XML source. Go on, try it.

Download here

Google Toolbar for Firefox

Extends on the Firefox search box with PageRank display, convenient access to Google Desktop, Blogger, Gmail etc. and it’s looks just a bit cool as well.

Download here

Google Safe Browsing

Now this is very nice. A neat anti-phishing extension from Google, exclusive to Firefox that gives you an alert if you are on a suspected phishing site. I’ve never needed to use it yet, but it’s always good to know you’re safe. Privacy people/paranoids, you might want to steer clear as it does have to send the URLs you visit to Google, although they promise they don’t keep this information.

Download here


Quite cool, it gives you a ‘visual history’ with screenshots of pages you’ve visited, for example, hovering over the back button shows a mini-screenshot of what the last page you visited looks like. Very useful if you forget what a site’s called, but you know what it looks like. It also has a handy triple-click magnifying glass feature, so you can get closer to your webpage.

Download here

Finally, the extension for the popular Web 2.0 social bookmarking service It gives you tagging features built directly into Firefox with a tag button for your toolbar and new menu. Admittedly, I don’t use this that much, but it does come in useful from time to time.

Download here

Whew! Well, there’s my Firefox extensions, I’d love to see some comments sharing your favourites too.