I’m launching Tweet Speaker on Thursday and have begun sending promo codes out to friends and acquaintances in the press. With the avalanche of pitches, press releases, and SPAM flooding their inboxes, I sometimes don’t hear back and wonder if they even saw my email or had time to redeem the promo code I sent. Apple doesn’t provide a direct method of checking the validity of promo codes, so I searched google looking for some sort of hack to see which promo codes I’ve sent out have been redeemed.
One of the first posts I came across was written back in June by my friend, Dave Caolo, who writes for TUAW and 52Tiger: How to check if an Apple promo code has been used or not
Unfortunately, the steps outlined in that post didn’t work, but after thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized that Dave’s tipster left out one very important step. Most heavy App Store users, especially developers, end up checking the “Don’t warn me about purchases” box at some point. For Dave’s tip to work, you have to go into the iTunes Account account and reset all warnings.
So, here’s how to check if an App Store (or other iTunes) promo code has been used or not:
1. Launch iTunes and log out
2. Log back in and go the the Account view
3. Look for “Reset all warnings for buying and downloading” and click the “Reset” button
4. Quit and relaunch iTunes [I’m not 100% sure this is necessary, but I didn’t want to risk a promo code to find out]
5. Follow this link to the promo code redemption page: https://buy.itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZFinance.woa/wa/redeemLandingPage
6. Enter a code and click “Redeem”
If the promo code has been used you’ll see a warning stating: “This code has already been used. Each promo code may only be used once.”
If the promo code is still valid, you’ll be prompted to enter your password. Click cancel and the promo code will remain unused.
Over the past few months, I’ve been thinking a lot about intellectual property and the underlying moral and legal issues. In blogging and tweeting about these thoughts, I’ve tended to use the word “borrow”, but at times I’ve used the word “steal” to assert the implicit moral judgment.
As I thought more about and researched these ideas today, I came across this excerpt of an essay by T. S. Elliot:
One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.
In dancing around the moral and semantic differences between borrowing and stealing, I’ve been missing the greater point. Elliot used the word steal, not for its immoral connotation, but to suggest ownership. To steal something is to take possession of it.
When you steal an idea and have the time and good taste to make it your own, it grows into something different, hopefully something greater. But as you borrow more and more from other products, there’s less and less of you in the result. Less to be proud of, less to own.
While watching Microsoft’s overview of Metro, its new user interface paradigm, it struck me as somewhat odd how much emphasis was placed on the removal and abstraction of user interface chrome.
Though we act directly on many objects in our day to day existence, many of those objects are themselves tools for acting on other objects. We are, in fact, completely surrounded by object interface chrome.
We don’t carry water around in our hands, we carry it in a some sort of cup. The cup is a tool we use to more effectively carry, store, and drink water. Our food is cultivated, transported, prepared, and eaten with tools.
History was not “recorded” until we imprinted it on rock, clay, and paper — using tools. Most great works of art are created with brushes, chisels, and other tools — music with drumsticks, guitar picks, and piano keys.
The iPhone, iPad, and other touchscreen devices are the meta-tools that enable the primary tools of computing — apps. And apps themselves are a collection of software tools that ultimately become, as Steve Jobs said, “a bicycle for our minds”. Tools to enhance and enable our cognitive endeavors.
Apps completely take over the touchscreen experience. The device becomes a book, a calculator, a map, a stopwatch, a sketchpad, and even a musical instrument. We shouldn’t view apps and the devices they run on merely as portals to content, but as tools for learning, sharing, and creating.
To that end, the ultimate goal of user interface design isn’t to minimize chrome, the goal is to build the right tool for the right job.
I have to admit I was rather charmed watching a demo of Microsoft’s Windows 8 tablet. I bounce back and forth between my iPad and MacBook Pro quite often during the day, so merging the two into a single device looked appealing. After a few minutes daydreaming about the unification of iOS and OSX, it struck me that I don’t want an El Camino.
My wife, Liz, and I share a 2001 Honda Accord for a reason—it’s an incredibly practical vehicle that handles 99% of our transportation needs. Every once in a while we need a truck to haul a large piece of furniture, or handle some other cargo that just wont fit in our Accord. Fortunately, we have quite a few friends who own trucks we can borrow, but even if we didn’t, renting a truck once in a while is significantly more cost effective than buying a truck just to have one around. And buying an El Camino would be absurd. It compromises the functionality of each vehicle class such that it would be completely impractical for us.
Liz and I also happen to share my MacBook Pro. It’s the only non-iOS computing device in our home. Sharing the computer was a minor source of contention until recently when I bought Liz a keyboard for her iPad. She still uses my computer on occasion, but it’s mostly for things like buying plane tickets or ordering flowers, which should be much easier on iOS.
Some people still have a hard time believing this, but I have no doubt that the future of computing—especially casual computing—is iOS, not OSX. And I’m starting to doubt the viability or necessity of a hybrid. The car vs. truck analogy will become less applicable over time. iOS isn’t bound by physicality as is a car. Through speech-to-text, gestures, software innovation, and even hardware accessories, Apple can empower more and more iOS users to make a complete break from OSX. And iCloud is a big step in that direction.
Microsoft’s El Camino approach to computing may ultimately be saved by Moore’s Law if hardware can catch up fast enough to adequately and cost effectively run the behemoth they’re building. But Apple already has an 18 month head start on the future of computing and Windows 8 wont launch until Fall 2012 at the earliest. While the hybrid approach looks attractive today, it will look less and less attractive over time, and will likely look like a complete kludge by the time Microsoft is able to ship it.
Upon making an acquaintance…
THEM: So, what do you do?
ME: I develop software.
ME: iPhone apps.
THEM: Oh! I’ve got this great idea…
ME: [listens patiently]
THEM: So, you’re a programmer?
THEM: So, you’re a designer?
THEM: What do you do then?
ME: A lot, actually.
It’s difficult to succinctly communicate what it is I do, I wear many hats. My role goes far beyond what would traditionally be described as product management, though I do manage the development process. I’m not a programmer, though I do work in Xcode and even tweak isolated bits of code. I’m not a designer, though I do spend quite a bit of time in Photoshop. I work on marketing, writing, networking, tech support, business development, brainstorming, quality assurance, usability testing, user interface drafting, etc.
Trying to describe what I do has, over time, helped me better understand it and focus on getting better. Focus doesn’t seem an apt word in the context of the many hats I wear, but I do have focus, I just haven’t had a great way to describe what it is I focus on. After a compelling conversation about it on Twitter, it finally dawned on me—I’m an app producer.
At some point in junior high school I decided I wanted to be a record producer. I enjoyed performing and composing music, but what really fascinated me was the process of capturing that talent and creativity. Capture. As if music is some wild animal roaming the wilderness, and the recording studio is just an elaborate trapping mechanism.
After reading MIX Magazine for years, obtaining a degree in Sound Recording Technology, interning at a big studio in Nashville, and even spending a couple years as a freelance recording engineer, I still essentially viewed the studio as an elaborate system for capturing the talent and creativity of musicians. Then I got the opportunity to work on an album with a great producer. It changed my life.
Over the course of a few weeks I saw the producer craft the album. It’s a sort of meta-creativity, working iteratively with talented musicians to create something that’s greater than the sum of the parts.
There’s a reason George Martin was sometimes called “the fifth Beatle”, and why the Red Hot Chili Peppers have worked with Rick Rubin on every single studio album since the break through Blood Sugar Sex Magik. A great producer sees the forest for the trees and thoughtfully guides the recording process.
That’s what I do, except with apps. I was pretty bad at it when I founded App Cubby back in 2008, but it’s my art and I’m constantly striving to be a better app producer.