Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mac Adventures in the App Store

Today I decided to redeem a few of my iTunes gift cards that I received for Christmas. I didn't really tell anyone what I wanted this year, so I got lots of gift cards. I'm actually pretty happy with that so maybe I'll stick with the strategy for next year :)

Before I talk about the apps that I downloaded, I have to take a moment to vent. Apple iTunes has always been frustrating to me. I have been using it with my iPad since I got one almost 2 years ago when they were first released. My biggest complaint about the App Store is that it isn't very intuitive, particularly when it comes to purchasing or downloading an app. One would think that apple would want to make it an easy and intuitive experience... but there have been a few gotchas.

I'll bring up my iPad App Store story once again, because even after all this time it still irritates me and I want to make a point. You may remember my earlier post about having gone through a few defective iPads, mainly due to the sync not working or giving out after a short period of time.  In addition to the hassle of trying to return it and find a new one, there was another frustration that quickly followed-  re-loading my apps through the App Store.

At that time there was no cloud backup, so if you didn't back up to your PC or Mac, you were in for a headache when you wanted to reload your apps to your new device. Well you guessed it- I was in for a painful reloading experience. At that time, the only way to re-load apps would be to find all my receipts/ purchases and "re buy" the apps.  However, if you had already purchased the app you wouldn't get charged.  Needless to say, this was a very manual process and due to the way app purchases work (there are the "in app" purchases, and the buy from the app store purchases) you can very easily make a mistake and purchase the same app twice.   Let me illustrate- Sound Hound was an app that I originally downloaded the "free" version for.  When I decided I wanted to purchase it, I did so within the app.  I completely forgot how I had purchase this by the time I went back to the app store. I found Sound Hound and purchased it. I fully expected not to be charged, but you don't find out it has already been purchased until after you click buy.  NOT INTUITIVE.  Sure enough, I was charged again for the app.  Fortunately, I complained to apple support and got my $3 back. The rep kindly pointed out that the Sound Hound I had downloaded was Sound Hound with an infinity symbol by it, not the original Sound Hound free and in app upgrade, which is why I was charged again.  Wowzers, how was I supposed to remember that?

Anyway, today I was contemplating a purchase from the App Store for my Mac. I signed in, redeemed my gift cards, and went to buy an app for 3.99. After typing my password in, I was prompted again for billing info.  As if I had never entered the codes in.  Hmm, that's not right!  There was a little message in red text that said something about entering in my security code again, but not really any good explanation. It certainly seemed that it was trying to charge my card for this purchase.  Bahh!  I did some quick googling and didn't find anything useful. I then proceeded to email apple support- why do I need to enter my credit card info when I have a credit?  In fairness, they responded a few hours later and gave what I thought was a pretty a lame-o reason: apple is all about security. Since this was the first purchase I was going to make on the app store from my Mac, I needed to re-confirm my credit card security code.  AFTER that, I could utilize a different form of payment, ie, my app store credit from the gift cards.

Blech!  NOT INTUITIVE.  Why not have a message that says something like that right on the page? Why not make me re-enter my credit card when I downloaded several other "free" items?

Anyway, I guess it isn't a huge deal, but it just bugs me about how UNINTUITIVE the app store still is. On the flip side, I am very glad there is a Mac app store, which makes it very convenient to download.

There is much more venting that I'd like to do because of the App Store policies when using it in a Corporation, but I will save that for another day.

Let's change the tone and get on to a more positive note!

Apps that I just downloaded that seem to be pretty slick:

1. FreeMemory - A freebie that is a very useful "menu bar" app, letting you easily see memory usage. This is especially useful when running VM's, and also when you are not sure what apps are hogging memory.

2. Caffeine - this is another freebie. It forces your make to stay awake indefinitely (or different intervals).

3. There will be many many more downloads of the freebies!

Paid apps that I am considering:

1. Moom - it lets you hover over the green maximize window button.  It presents another pop up menu that allows you to easily maximize to the full screen, similar to what happens on a PC when you maximize (by default, maximizing windows just makes them somewhat bigger).

2. Air Display - lets you add a second monitor wirelessly. I downloaded this for my iPad (it was free) which works with a Windows 7 machine.  Before I buy this app ($20) I want to find out if I can basically share a monitor between a PC and Mac, which would be very useful.  Currently I am using Chicken of the VNC when I need to go back to my PC (which is admittedly rare). Chicken of the VNC is horrible from a resolution / color perspective.  It would also be nice to let the PC have the ability to use a monitor, and have the Mac take it over when needed.

3. Again, many more... so much out there to explore!

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