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Usually, I buy at least one Mac per year. Since my Mac Book Pro is about two years old, I was keen to upgrade to the new model. However, I will not be buying this generation (October 2008) of Mac Book Pro (or Mac Book, for that matter) for two simple reasons:

1. The glossy display is hard to see under the best of conditions. With only moderate levels of ambient light it turns into a mirror reflecting all kinds of things instead of showing what I want to see on screen. There is also the problem that glossy screens are much worse in a color calibrated environment due to color shifts with the viewing angle. Unfortunately, there is no option to select a non-glossy screen.

2. The keyboard is a piece of junk. Sorry for the blunt words, but fast touch typing is simply not possible on what feels like the cheapest and nastiest keyboard I have touched in years. A $5 keyboard bought at the supermarket is better than this.

So for my two most important applications, digital photo editing and typing text, the new Mac Book Pro is much worse than what I currently have, so I will refrain from updating and Apple looses the sale.

I hope that despite the strong words about the keyboard Apple take this as positive criticism and – perhaps – improve their product. I really would like to buy a new Mac Book Pro once I can justify the purchase. 😉

Nikon have released a new “serious” compact camera, the Coolpix P6000. This camera – at least on paper – competes directly with the Canon G9. This seems like excellent news.

But then I read this:

COOLPIX Picture Control NRW (RAW) files can only be processed in-camera. NRW (RAW) files are compatible for use in-camera, with ViewNX (Windows version only) or with WIC based applications. Capture NX, Capture NX2 and NEF files are not compatible with NRW (RAW) images.

WIC is Windows Imaging Component, a Microsoft API for Microsoft Windows. In other words: converting RAW files to something else can happen only in camera or on MS Windows.

So what does that mean? Not only does Nikon introduce yet another completely useless RAW format (how hard is it to realize that DNG is the present wave and certainly the future?) they clearly think that Mac users are not to be customers of their fine camera.

It strikes me that Nikon seem to be unable to understand a fundamental fact: as a photographer I want full control over my image files. That is one reason I shoot RAW. I do not want encrypted data in the file. I do not want strange and proprietary formats that reduce my software choices and leave me high and dry in a few years when the special software no longer runs on whatever computer I will have.

I do want an open, fully documented format – such as DNG. Simple as that.

So Nikon, you are quite welcome to spend lots of money on advertising this wonderful new camera, but I will not buy it. Too bad, it seems like a really nice camera that would be very tempting otherwise.

Update: At least Adobe know their stuff and Adobe Camera Raw can now read the raw files from the P6000. Nikon still don’t seem to get it … read the review by Thom Hogan for the entire depressing story.

In order to run Microsoft Windows software on my Intel Mac, I use the fine software Parallels Desktop for Mac (referred to as “Parallels” from now on). It runs everything I have thrown at it up to now and it is getting beter and faster with each new release.

The only annoying technical limitation is that Direct X does not work, so modern games are out of the question. But who needs games on a work machine, right? 😀

There is a problem with Parallels, Inc. and the way they handle their overseas business, however: we are being treated as second rate, at best.

Let me explain: “Paralles” (the software) is not localized in a technical sense. Customers anywhere in the world get the same American English version of the software. This is no problem for me and it should not be for anyone because Parallels, Inc. makes no claim of language localization.

However, the activation key used to activate the software is different in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world. I have no idea why this is so, but I assume that it is because of some business problem this approach fixes. Again, I have no issues with this.

What I object to is that beta versions of the software, which Paralles, Inc. makes available months before a new release (again, a move that I applaud) require an activation key which must be a U.S. activation key. International keys do not work. International users must request a new demo key every 30 days until the system locks them out for requesting too many keys.

Do international customers have less of a need for new features? Have international users paid less than U.S. users to justify this treatment? Are international users challenged in some way when dealing with beta software?

But wait, it gets better: you also can not upgrade to the latest final version of the software until several days after the U.S. customers get to do so. And (as opposed to the beta version) Parallels will not tell you that this is so.

I downloaded the newest version (1986) right after it was released on 27-FEB-2007 because an email message from Parallels, Inc. urged me to. The new software simply rejected my activation key. So I contacted Parallels,Inc. support using the form on their website. I made it clear that I am a paying customer (I gave them my key) and requested assistance. I am still waiting for a reply today (05-MAR-2007).

A few days later Parallels, Inc. quietly published a different version of the software that is called “Parallels-Desktop-3186-Mac-uk-AQ” and only available using the built-in update function, it seems. This version installs and activates without a hitch. Unfortunately, I was not told about it by Parallels, Inc. like I was with the U.S. version and I could not find this version on the website.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that for some unfathomable reason, international customers are only second rate customers in the way Parallels, Inc. treats us. I can only hope that this is due to a flaw in the way the company handles it’s processes and not a deliberate decision.

I’d really like to hear from a representative of Parallels, Inc. on this issue, but – alas – I have not received a reply yet.