Nick's Notes

Mac Musings

I wrote the bulk of this blog on the train. Nothing unusual about that I spend a lot of time on trains these days. But I wrote this on my MacBook Pro, and that is unusual. I like my MacBook – it has a great screen, sufficient power for the sorts of things I do on the move and a good battery life. It’s thin, and not very heavy. But I hardly carry it anywhere these days.

I used my MacBook because the keyboard for my iPad Pro 10.5” is broken. The symptoms are very similar to when the keyboard for my iPad Pro 9.7” broke. First the message “Accessory not supported” appears occasionally, then frequently, then it stops. The keyboard goes from working, to intermittent working – a restart fixes it, to not working at all – and you no longer get messages about it, because I think it is dead at that point.

The Apple Smart keyboard is a neat piece of kit. Barely thicker than the original smart cover, by a convoluted set of folds it can be a keyboard and also a stand for the iPad as well as a cover. Mine gets many convoluted folds every day, and I suspect that is why it isn’t working anymore. I don’t use the keyboard all that often but when you need a keyboard you really need a keyboard, and the onscreen iPad keyboard is fine for a short piece of text but not for anything substantial or when you need to see a lot of screen. Most of the time I use my Apple Pencil and write directly to the screen, but my handwriting is not neat enough to get a reasonable conversion into text with the software I use – Notes Plus (nor any of the others I’ve tried) – hence the keyboard and a slight feeling of guilt for being a dinosaur, in this respect only, of course.

When I went to the local Apple Store, the genius on the bar agreed to swap the keyboard out, just as they did with the previous one. I did worry that I would have eight months of it working fine before I go through the same thing again. However, the old keyboard will be replaced under warranty with a new improved Apple Smart keyboard which has been redesigned to avoid the problem I have encountered. If I remember, I’ll let you know if it’s still working in a year’s time. Chances are there will have been an irresistible new iPad and fractionally different keyboard to have distracted me by then, though.

It wasn’t like this in Steve Job’s day. I’d probably be folding it wrongly. Search online and there are a lot of questions or complaints that the keyboard isn’t working. Apple have a routine to go through to clean the connectors when the “Accessory not supported” message starts. But I think there is a design flaw in the material used to make the keyboard or with the smart connector and that is not something I ever expected to write about Apple.

Last time the genius bar didn’t acknowledge there were lots of faults with the keyboard. Some things haven’t changed since Steve’s day. There are other manufacturers’ keyboards available for the iPad, but they need batteries or a Bluetooth connection, or they are bulky or heavy or both.

Design is more than all of those things, of course.

CIO Connect ran a workshop about Design Led thinking in IT this week. We had two great speakers and lots of ideas about how some of the usual problems about making change in organisations can be addressed in a different way. The key thing is to put the problem first. Not the organisation, nor the solution. Check you are addressing a problem that will make a difference. The first stage of this way of creating a design is “Empathise”. This involves looking at all aspects of the problem and requires a cross-functional team to get all of the perspectives.

As Steve Jobs said – most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

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