Monthly Archives: March 2019

Two days of iPhone line-waiting: a sordid tale

admin | 08/03/2019 | COMMENTS:Comments Closed

I trekked out to downtown Chicago early Friday morning, while the rain was still falling from Thursday night's downpour. As I made my way over to the Apple Store on Michigan Ave, I passed by an AT&T store on Chicago Ave with about 20 people in line. When I arrived at the Apple Store, I found a media circus, with the local stations broadcasting live from the scene. Our friend and lucky first-in-line Andy Pichotta was being interviewed by WGN News. HangZhou Night Net

Andy Pichotta, first in line at Apple's Michigan Avenue retail store, gets interviewed by WGN News.

When I spotted the line, I found it had stretched down Huron Street to two city blocks in length overnight. As much as I wanted to get ahold of the iPhone 3G, I wasn't interested in waiting in that line. I wanted to get my phone and get home, and hopefully start reviewing some apps. So after grabbing a few shots of the insanity, I headed a few blocks back to the AT&T store.

The corner of Michigan Ave. & Huron St., with news crews everywhere.

The view from the back of the line, two blocks away from the store entrance.

By the time I arrived at about 7 AM, the line had nearly doubled. I ended up being #39 in line, and it seemed pretty safe to assume I would walk away with a 16GB iPhone. Two friendly people were in line right behind me, and we spent the bulk of our wait—which ended up being three hours—chatting and joking.

The line for iPhones at this AT&T store in downtown Chicago began at 1 AM.
Passersby were either mildly amused or slightly annoyed by the line on their way to work.

Mary and Peter, the fun couple waiting to pick up iPhones together. Awwww.

The weather began to clear around 7:30 AM, and in that regard the wait was rather pleasant. The assistant manager came out every few minutes to try and keep people updated, but his attempts at humor and to "charge up" the crowd were generally met with, "Where's my freakin' iPhone?" A couple of store employees also gave out free bottles of water as the line wrapped around Rush Street and grew to nearly 200 long.

AT&T employees did their best to keep the crowd comfortable, but the experience
was just not up to Apple Store standards.

Several companies had marketing representatives passing out fliers and tchotchkes to those in line. Over at the Apple Store, for instance, a guy from Pandora was passing out free hats, while a rep from Invisible Shield was dressed as a "bulky case" and passed out fliers extolling the virtues of a stick-on scratch guard. A young woman in a t-shirt that read, "Have you ever seen the Jesus phone float on water?" handed out fliers for an iPhone insurance policy.

"Have you ever seen the Jesus phone float on water?" No.

When 8 AM rolled around, the first four people in line were led in to the AT&T store. It was 45 minutes before the first person in line, having waited since 1 AM, walked out with his new iPhone. AT&T employees came out to quell the crowd, which was quickly growing restless. As you've no doubt heard, the iPhone 3G launch has been a clusterf*ck of global proportions, with Apple's iTunes servers non-responsive most of the day. There were two issues at this particular AT&T location: the store's POS terminals weren't all operating properly, and they were having trouble activating iPhones via iTunes—a necessary step before the phone will work. At about 9 AM, the assistant manager let us know that folks would just be sent home to activate the phone via iTunes later. So much for requiring activation in the store.

Those in line assumed that would speed up the line considerably, but it was still another hour before I was allowed to enter the store. One clerk asked me, "How can we help you?"

"Just get me an iPhone, please," I replied, as if it weren't obvious. But my iPhone 3G dreams were quickly dashed when I was told the store was out of 16GB phones. They didn't even have white ones. The couple behind me got 8GB iPhones, but I stuck to my resolve to find a 16GB model. The assistant manager offered to let me "preselect" a phone, and then I would be guaranteed to receive it in 3 to 7 days. "Naw, I'll take my chances," I said as I made a beeline for the door.

Saturday afternoon, people still waited two hours to buy the latest iPhone, including this pregnant woman. According to reports, she got her iPhone before the baby was born.

My hopes of 3G bliss plummeted, but with reports of additional shipments coming in to AT&T and Apple stores all weekend, I was sure I'd be able to pick one up during the weekend without much trouble. I had plans to go to H&M on Saturday, just a few blocks away from the Apple Store on the "Magnificent Mile." So I dragged my girlfriend down to the Apple Store around 2:30 PM, only to find another long line. Hoping it would subside as the day wore on, we went to H&M.

After coming back over three hours later, the line was still wrapping around the entire store—not quite two city blocks long, but the wait was quoted to be about two hours. I went ahead and got in line, remarking, "Let's just see how long it takes." My girlfriend simply looked annoyed. She finally agreed to wait in line on the condition that I buy dinner and carry all our bags. Frankly, I would have done that anyway, but she doesn't have to know that, does she?

The concierge posted at the door was taking in about 10 people at a time, so about every 15 to 20 minutes, the line moved quite a bit. Folks in line chatted while onlookers simply stared in disbelief: "You're waiting in line for what? A cell phone?" Having someone to wait in line with proved to be an advantage; when the heat and humidity got the best of us, I sent my girlfriend off to grab us some frosty beverages from the Walgreen's down the street.

Young and old alike wait to grab a piece of the iPhone 3G action.

After about an hour and a half, we were finally given the go ahead to go inside, and up the stairs to the second floor. Waiting there was yet another line. We had just spent an hour and a half waiting in line to, yes, wait in line. Thankfully this line was much shorter. The entire area normally used at the Chicago Apple Store for the iPod Bar and Studio was being used to sell iPhones, about 12 at a time.

Once I got up to the counter, I had convinced myself that I really didn't need a 16GB iPhone after all. I could have settled for an 8GB the day before, but now I had waited in line twice for a 16GB iPhone just to buy the 8GB anyway—sweet, sweet irony. The guy at the counter was nice and friendly despite my abrupt command: "Give me an iPhone." We got all the way through the process of getting the AT&T contract—I'm already an AT&T customer—when AT&T's servers said I was not eligible for "promotional upgrade pricing." I tried contacting AT&T customer service only to find they were "closed for the weekend." Another Apple clerk let me use a MacBook to verify my account online, and sure enough, I was eligible for upgrade pricing. The clerk called a special AT&T line for "authorized resellers," verified my status, and was able to get the purchase to go through.

At least 12 Apple Store employees were dedicated to selling iPhones at any given time.

Once everything was done, my phone was put into a very nice, almost box-like bag, as if I had just purchased a diamond necklace at a jewelry store. Tired from all the waiting and the general din of the store, we walked quickly toward the door to leave. A couple of Apple Store employees were stationed downstairs, offering to help activate the phone via iTunes. We had planned to see a movie later, and we wanted to grab dinner first, so I declined and just resigned to do it once we got home. That turned out to be a mistake.

After waiting in line twice, here was my iPhone 3G—almost.

We walked towards the CTA train stop and serendipitously found a nice restaurant to eat at. While waiting for our appetizers, I pulled the iPhone out to snap a few pictures and take a look at it. Here I noticed that the protective plastic covering wasn't on properly. The back seemed creased, the tab looked like it have been pulled away, and on closer inspection, there was a chunk of foreign material in the camera lens. I hadn't even turned the thing on, and already my iPhone bliss had been spoiled again!

AT&T sure wasn't putting iPhones in these super-nice bags. And neither AT&T nor Apple were serving organic mead, but maybe it would have made the wait seem shorter.

After dinner, we walked back to the Apple Store. It was just after 8 PM, and the line was still wrapped around the store, even though the store was closing in an hour. I was able to go straight in, and after about half a dozen employees looked over the phone and scratched their heads, an Apple Genius took me over to the iPhone sales area and approved me for an exchange. Since I had had so much trouble, the extremely helpful and understanding clerk walked me through activation and let me make some test calls and sample photos before letting me leave the store. Finally, after nearly 38 hours and two attempts waiting in line, I had a working iPhone.

8 PM on iPhone Day 2, and folks are still lined up around the block.

To be honest, it would be easy for people to use my story as an example of how lousy this whole launch went. But to be quite honest, it's no surprise that launching something with this level of demand has potential for problems. The customer service and experience I got from the Apple Store far exceeded that from the AT&T store, though, and I was pleased with the exchange process. And having used the phone for a couple days, I can honestly say it was worth the waiting and frustration.

After testing the camera and making sure it works, I decide it was worth the waiting to get the iPhone. My girlfriend feels it was decidedly less so.

Today, Monday, long lines continue to form at the Michigan Ave store. According to store employees, there is still a large queue and a two-hour wait to get a new iPhone. Despite having sold over 1 million phones in the first weekend, it appears demand is still strong. Some may be baffled at having to wait over two hours to buy a phone, but some iPhone owners believe that it's worth it.

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Windows Update posts 100% uptime, beats Apple, Ubuntu

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Royal Pingdom has posted the results of a short study that looked at the availability of the software update services for three popular operating systems: Windows, Mac OS X, and Ubuntu. The site looked at "access point" availability for Windows Update (update.microsoft.com), Apple Software Update (swscan.apple.com/content/catalogs/index-1.sucatalog), and the main Ubuntu repositories (archive.ubuntu.com) throughout the second quarter of 2008. Pingdom's uptime monitoring service performed a test once every five minutes and if downtime was found, it was confirmed from two different locations and was counted for however long it lasted. The results were then tabulated in a graph. HangZhou Night Net

Microsoft won with 100 percent availability (0 minutes of downtime), Apple came in second with 99.9 percent availability (2 hours and 34 minutes of downtime), and Ubuntu came in last with 98.64 percent availability (1 day, 5 hours and 45 minutes of downtime). Microsoft is the biggest of the three so it's no surprise it took first place. Apple's 99.9 percent is also quite respectable. Finally, it is important to underline that Ubuntu's repositories have mirrors around the world, and the Ubuntu update manager automatically connects to the nearest one if the main repository is not available.

Overall though, for a three-month study, all three operating systems did very well. The ability for an operating system to keep itself up-to-date by automatically connecting and downloading updates (or having the user manually do so) is critical from a security point of view. Still, this is just one piece of the security puzzle and should therefore be taken as such.

Further readingRoyal Pingdom: Microsoft’s software update beats Apple and Ubuntu

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OCZ releases much cheaper, slightly faster SSDs

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The SSD market is getting more and more crowded by the month, anda recentannouncement by OCZ continues the trend. The technology firm recently announced its new "Core" line of 2.5" Solid State Disks, which have strong performance numbers and large sizes while slashing costs by at least 30 percent. Retail availability will follow shortly, and OCZ CEO Ryan Petersonhas told Ars that a sizable number of OEMs will offer the new drives in laptops. HangZhou Night Net

The new Core SSDs come in standard 2.5" form factors, and are available in sizes of 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB, costing $169, $259, and $479 respectively. OCZ calls that a 50 percent reduction in cost per gigabyte, but it's more like a 30 percent drop from a preexisting Super Talent drive in the 120GB range. The new line claims sustained read speeds of 120-140MBps, and sustained write speeds of 80-90MBps. This makes them far from the fastest available SSDs, but somewhere in the pack, and certainly much faster than 2.5" hard disks.

Although OCZ cites reliability as one of the key driving points for the new series of drives, it uses Multi-Level-Cell NAND Flash, which has a lower speed,reliability, and longevity than Single-Level-Cell Flash. Laptop-targeted SSDs frequently use MLC, but server devices almost always use SLC for its superior durability. Peterson has told Arsthat MLC is advancing and concerns about reliability have been obviated by new manufacturing advances and firmware developments, presumably including advanced wear-leveling algorithms. In OCZ's vision, MLC will dominate and"SLC will go away" as technology matures, and even theserver space will adoptMLC. This vision is bolsteredby Samsung's recentdecision to switch a major SSD line from SLC to MLC. Indeed, Peterson said, the new MLC drives are already significantly more reliable thanhard disks. The new drives claim a 1.5-million-hour MTBF, higher than any other commercially available SSD, but MTBF numbers are of disputed utility, so real reliability figures will have to wait on field testing.

The new product capitalizes on falling prices for NAND to push SSDs within a factor-of-five price difference from7200RPM laptop hard disks of the same capacity. Expect to see this figure fall rapidly as NAND continues to grow cheaper. SSDs have come a long way, and it looks increasingly likely they're going to see strong adoption in notebook PCs and elsewhere in the relatively near future.

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NVIDIA to manufacture all GPUs on 55nm by year’s end

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Nvidia will transition all its GPU manufacturing to Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp's new 55nm manufacturing process by the end of the year, Digitimes has reported. The move involves launching a number of new products on the new manufacturing process and transitioning some older products to the new process. The shift is likely motivated by manufacturing costs, which are expected to be reduced 20 percent. HangZhou Night Net

The process transition is a nonstandard one; most manufacturing is on the same 90-65-45 schedule of half-size shrinks that Intel and most foundries use. Nvidia is probably using the nonstandard size because it is availablenow from TSMC and because the half-node shrink will allow it to transition existing products with less engineering effort. NVIDIA made GPUs on a 110nm process between 130nm and 90nm, and an 80nm process between 90nm and the present 65nm.

NVIDIA doesn't manufacture its own products, but contracts the manufacturing to foundries like TSMC and United Microelectronics, and must use the processes these semi firms provide them. A wave of launches is expected to follow the shrink, including the midrange G96 and its cousins G94b, G96b, and G98b. According to the report, NVIDIA and ATI both will skip the 45nm node and transition directly to 40nm, with tape-outs by the end of the year.

NVIDIA's design philosophy has made the company keen to reduce its manufacturing cost. These large dies are scaled down and gimped to make smaller chips, which makes NVIDIA's midrange chips more transistor-heavy and makes aggressive process changes more desirable. The GT200 die on which the company's latestGPUs are based (left, 200mm platter) is a staggering 576 mm^2 at the 65nm node, over five times the area of a dual-core Penryn die (right, 300mm platter), and reducing this figure by 30 percent is doubtless very pleasing to NVIDIA. Manufacturing of the GT200 and G92b has already switched to the new process; all others will follow by the end of the year, as a bevy of new 55nm products launch. When the huge new die is produced in volume for midrange products, it will be shrunken significantly.

Process shrinks continue on their downward spiral, continuing to bring more and more transistors to products at lower and lower cost. With this new transition, NVIDIA may see fit to reduce prices on some of its products, or may simply accept higher margins from its lowered costs. In either case, transitioned products may have lower power consumption, or tolerate greater clock speeds for higher performance. Process shrinks are good for everybody.

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Canary Islands to host 2009 KDE-GNOME joint desktop meeting

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In past years, KDE and GNOME have each had one major annual conference, Akademy and GUADEC, respectively. While these conferences are not run in exactly the same way, the KDE e.V. and the GNOME Foundation boards solicited proposals to host a joint conference for 2009. This new conference will encompass both Akademy and GUADEC to encourage cross-desktop communication and development. Three good proposals were received, and after some consideration by the membership and boards of their respective non-profit councils, the Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain proposal was selected and will be known as the Gran Canaria Desktop Meeting. The event will occur in the first week of July, 2009. HangZhou Night Net

"This is going to be a humongous event. Not the biggest in terms of numbers of attendees or vendor floor, but it's a big event in historic importance — bringing the two big Free Desktop project conferences together in a joint or co-located week of free exchange of ideas, implementations and of getting work done on each individual project," KDE e.V. vice president Adriaan de Groot told Ars. "The eight and a half days of the conference make it longer than previous events and the breadth of planned activities is impressive as well: it's not just one community conference, or even two together, but also a Free Software event for the entire islands group. That is important for bringing new people into the Free Software desktop community; in turn, that's good for maintaining a vibrant and healthy community in the long-term."

This sentiment is echoed by Behdad Esfahbod, president of the GNOME Foundation. "We're looking forward to having the opportunity to extend those relationships to our KDE colleagues at Akademy/GUADEC," Esfahbod wrote in a statement.

Feedback from within the KDE and GNOME communities has been very positive about this planned event, as it will potentially bring thousands of free desktop developers and enthusiasts to one place to plot, plan, and hack. Additionally, some Linux distributors have been discussing canceling their distro-specific events to send their entire team of developers to the combined event. This event has the right elements in place to make it the biggest developer meeting in the history of FOSS development.

Of course, there are many reasons why this event is going to the Canary Islands, and it's not just because it's warm. The local organization team is pitching in 250,000€ to help cover the costs of the event. FOSS is booming in the Canary Islands, with the schools and governments using FOSS software everywhere. Their commitment to improving the software they use is quite visible in their government's vested interest in this event. The event itself is being organized by their Secretary of Tourism, Technological Innovation and Foreign Trade.

Having attended several free-software developer events in the past, I am certainly looking forward to this one with much anticipation.

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