Steve Jobs: One Man, One Incredible Vision

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday October 6 @ 10:14 am

stevejobs

People come and go throughout our lives and throughout history. Yet, while we are here we all change the world by our actions, hopefully for the better. Be it building a loving family and helping to bring new life into the world, building a stable business that creates work and better lives for others, creating new technologies, new ideas and new approaches that change and improve the way we did things before, or simply changing the world by making the people around you smile. The things we do define us and define the world we live in and leave behind. While we all make a contribution, the impact that some make on the lives of all of us can be simply staggering.

Steve Jobs was one of those people. As co-founder of Apple Computer (now Apple Inc) he helped bring about a new era in computing, shaping the way we would use personal computers for decades to follow, while showing that computers could be a thing of beauty on the outside, as well as incredible inside. He also played a key role in transforming computing from geek hobby into an aspirational mainstream activity.

Even after he was ousted from Apple, his wonder and excitement about technology refused to wilt, leading him to found NeXT and invest in Pixar Animation Studios, creating not only the technology that would later become the foundation of MacOS X and help save Apple, but also the animation technology (and of course bringing together talented people) that delivered some of the most popular family movies in modern history, bringing joy to millions and raising the bar for what can be achieved with computer generated imagery and animation.

His return to Apple unquestionably helped save the company, which was on the brink despite the efforts of previous CEO Gil Amelio to steady a sinking ship. On his return, Jobs not only brought fresh ideas and new approaches with him, he helped inspire a demoralised workforce, and encouraged them to do more and do better with the limited resources left at the company.

The subsequent products that Apple produced, while not necessarily technologically advanced, achieved an important goal – they changed the way we lived, worked, communicated and had fun – all for the better. The iMac, which helped kill off the anonymous beige box design ethos of personal computers, or the MacBook, that helped trigger a massive shift towards portable computing among both consumers and business users. Then there was the iPod. Not that advanced, and among the last products to market, it was the one that learned from the mistakes of its predecessors. Combining good looks, massive storage, and ease of use. When combined with a revamped iTunes app and one-click purchasing of music, it revolutionised the way we chose, purchased and listened to music and audio content.

The iPhone has had a profound effect on the mobile phone industry, While still accounting for a small percentage of the overall market, it is still a very lucrative product and has not only become a must-have item, it has inspired the rest of the industry to raise its game and advance product development far beyond where it would be today without such robust and creative competition from Apple.

As for the iPad, it is another example of a product and market sector (tablet computers) that Apple has achieved huge success with where others have failed, doing so by creating something that did not fall foul of the mistakes made by those before it. I would be absolutely lost without my iPad 2 – it goes with me almost everywhere.

These are just a few of the creations that Apple produced during Steve’s second period at the company, and all were produced with Steve taking a major hands-on role in their design, usability testing and even the packaging. Steve believed that every Apple product should feel special every time you use it, including when you unbox it for the first time. It is an approach that always appealed to my child-like wonder of technology and something that is neglected by so many other companies.

Steve Jobs has always been at the top of the list of people that have inspired me to do more, do better and to be passionate and excited about technology and what it can do for the greater good. His passing is deeply sad, but at the same time we should try not to dwell on the fact he is no longer with us, but be happy that for 56 years he was here and during that time he had a profound and positive effect on the way millions of us live and enjoy our daily lives.

As I write this, I am sitting at a desk surrounded by Apple technology. From my MacBook laptop to my iPad 2, to my iPhone and my iPod, Apple is a major part of my life thanks to Steve Jobs and his vision, determination and passion for technology. Most of us will have at least one piece of Apple technology in active use, or have done so in the past. That alone speaks volumes for the lasting legacy created by Steve’s work.

Steve Jobs showed the world (and me) how to “Think Different” and with it, he changed the world, for the better.

Thank You, Steve.

Why you should never buy a car from the Citroen main dealer attached to Citroen’s UK Head Office!

Posted by Chris Green on Tuesday August 23 @ 9:46 am

The Citroen C4 I was supposed to buy - you can see the wheel arch dent in this pic that was not fixed as agreed

The Citroen C4 I was supposed to buy - you can see the wheel arch dent in this pic that was not fixed as agreed

This past weekend I was supposed to be picking up a new (well, low-mileage used) car from Citroen’s Slough dealership. The one directly attached to Citroen’s UK headquarters in Slough. As you’ve probably already guessed, things didn’t go to plan and I am about to deliver the most deserved naming-and-shaming ever.

After a rocky start, I’ve had the best part of five hassle-free, but expensive, years’ service from my trusty and beloved Rover 75. Unfortunately, as much as I want to keep the 75 until it’s old, rusty and the doors fall off, its low mpg (24 on a good day with the wind behind you) and my 70 miles-a-day commute mean that it’s just not a financially viable car to keep using seven days a week. I’m pouring around £350-£400 a month into the petrol tank, and that’s a big expense. The car was bought in a different time, when I commuted to work on the Tube and only really drove at weekends. In that scenario, owning a V6 gas guzzler was a manageable and enjoyable luxury expense. Sadly, it’s now a much larger dent in my pocket that I can no longer sustain.

Having looked around a fair few car marques including Skoda, Kia, Nissan, Fiat, Peugeot, MG and Ford, I settled on a Citroen C4. I found a viable example of the car, a Citroen Approved Used 2008 (57 plate) 1.6 HDi (Diesel) VTR+ in Puss Beige (Sahara Gold) with Citroen’s EGS semi-automatic gearbox. Fortunately, I’m not fussy about car colour at all. The car can allegedly achieve 62mpg (manufacturers claimed combined fuel consumption) and had a nice array of toys on it including cruise control, speed limiter, stability control, trip computer and a boot that you could comfortably stuff a dead body into without folding the rear seats down. You never know when this might come in handy!

Having viewed the car at Citroen’s Slough dealership (remember, this is the one directly attached to Citroen’s UK headquarters in Slough) on July 30th, we proceeded with an agreement to buy the car (on finance) on agreement that certain remedial work be carried out on the car prior to handover. These items included:

  • Repairing a large paint scuff and dent on the passenger side rear wing wheel arch
  • Repairing a large paint scuff on the passenger side front bumper
  • Investigate and mend faulty electric mirror control on driver door window control panel
  • Replace or skim warped brake disc on drivers’ side rear wheel

I was assured this would all be done, and we shook on the deal (and I paid a £250 deposit). We agreed for the handover of their car (and my part exchange car) to take place on the morning of August 20th – giving them a full three weeks to complete all the works on the car to a high standard, including completing the bodywork repairs to Citroen paintwork and corrosion warranty standard.

We arrived at the dealership (Citroen Slough – the one directly attached to Citroen’s UK headquarters in Slough) at 9am on August 20th as agreed, only to find no sign initially of the sales rep. He showed up about five minutes later as we were fetching coffee from their machine – all fair enough so far. Whilst he was very keen to get me to sign a myriad of paperwork (as well as get another £750 out of me – the rest of the cash I was down paying on the car – which I stupidly paid up straight away, albeit on a credit card so have some protection), I was more concerned with inspecting the car before I made the sale final.

Having been asked to sign a checklist confirming that everything was in order, I downed my pen until I could inspect the car, and produced my own five page check-list of things based on information and advice from the Citroen C4 Owners Club forum.

Reluctantly, the sales rep led me out to where the car was waiting in their collection area.

The first thing I inspected was the bodywork repairs – which were a joke! The rear wing repair was pathetic; with no effort made to restore the wheel arch crease and curve (it now has a completely flat patch in the middle of the arch. There were also clearly visible dents still around the centre of the damage as well as paintwork scratches.

The front bumper scrape looked like it had been T-Cut polished as part of a wash and wax, and nothing else. They again only did the middle of the scrape, leaving the ends of the scrape untouched and a large deep scratch above it untouched and dirty. They also managed to create fresh damage in the form of scraping the passenger-side body-coloured bumper insert so deep it’s down to the underlying plastic. Looking at the damage, it would appear that either someone reversed into the car, or the car has hit a bollard or roof support in a car park.

There is also paint damage in the passenger side front wheel arch lip (down to the bare metal, but easy to touch up to seal it. After these botched bodywork repairs, they then had the cheek to apply the £299 GardX protection I paid for – an utterly pointless exercise on such bad bodywork that, thanks to the shoddy work (and no work in the case of the front bumper) does not conform to Citroen paintwork and corrosion warranty standard

Next, I checked the boot wiring loom rubber sheath. The wiring loom in the boot is subject to a recall at present, as the loom has been fitted too short/too tight on a significant number of cars, causing it to rub on the bodywork, breaking the cables and causing the electric boot lock to fail (there is no key override). When that happens, you can’t open the boot.

The wiring loom rubber sheath where the wires exit the main car and enter the boot lid looks a bit manky where it joins the boot lid itself, suggesting it is going to be susceptible to water ingress in the future, if not already. The dealership insists this particular car is not subject to the boot wiring loom recall. However, I expect this to be an area for future problems, if not from broken cables then from water ingress based on the malformed and ill-fitting wiring sheath.

The car was advertised and sold as having a full dealer service history. However, on finally seeing the service log book it was completely blank! It turns out there were no manuals with the car, so they put an old spare set in (and incomplete at that, just the main user manual and log book, no getting started guide, no RD4 car stereo manual). After much arguing, a single A4 laser printed page (that looked like it had just been knocked up in a hurry in Microsoft Word) was produced, claiming to detail the full service history from a Citroen dealership in Wrexham where the car was first registered and allegedly maintained. Suffice to say this was not convincing. It also has no value as nobody will accept the piece of paper as a legitimate service history and proof of accumulative mileage.

Furthermore, I asked for proof of what work had been carried out on the car by Citroen Slough. A printout was produced that revealed they replaced 2 wiper blades, had a new remote control key produced and they claim to have replaced the Air Doseur (which is known to leak oil on a C4, dripping into the Alternator which is directly underneath it). On inspection there was an oil stain on top of the Alternator. However, the Air Doseur does not look new at all, and had dirt and other muck on the two rubber pipes, suggesting it’s been in place and undisturbed for quite a while.

No evidence of addressing the brake disc issue or the dodgy electric mirrors control on the driver’s door panel. Also no recent service (allegedly the mystery Wrexham dealership did it in November last year) – the oil was as black as tarmac and Citroen Slough failed to even do a basic courtesy oil and filter change, instead sticking me with a £200 service bill almost immediately in order to make the car safe and reliable to drive.

On further inspection, I noted that the faux carbon fibre trim surrounding the gearstick was extremely loose and had acquired several scrapes and indents in it, which I am confident were not there when I first inspected and test drove the car.

The car also only had a 10-month MOT, not the full 12 month I was expecting and as would be normal with any other manufacturer-approved used car of MOT age.

I also discovered the two front tyres are two different makes. Both rears are factory Michelins, but the driver’s front is a Goodyear, and the Passenger front is a Pirelli! Both have completely different tread patterns and the wear is uneven. I consider this to be extremely dangerous, a view that has been backed up by both the RAC and by Michelin, Citroen’s recommended tyre supplier. Replacing the tyres will cost in excess of £300 if I have to do it.

Odd tyres and a mixture of tread patterns on the front will significantly compromise handling and grip, as well as overworking the stability control and ABS as it tries to compensate.

The end result is I refused to take possession of the car. I scooped up the V5 for my Rover, along with its manual and service history and the keys and walked out. They still have my £1,000 and I’ve stupidly allowed them a window to make good the car when I should have reclaimed all my money and never set foot back in there. However, having received expert advice, I am no longer prepared to accept the car in its current form at the agreed price.

The simple fact of the matter is I’ve had to endure significant aggravation, cost, lost time and, quite frankly, was left quite upset at the disgusting way I was treated on Saturday. This included the sales rep I was dealing with went and grabbed a decidedly yobbish and extremely aggressive colleague (who’s presence was never explained or justified) to try and intimidate us into taking the car as was without complaint (which didn’t work). The problems, the botched remedial work, the additional damage to the car caused by the dealership, the odd tyres, the damaged and loose trim panel around the gearstick – it all damages the resale value of the car, my confidence in the car, my confidence in the dealership and its ability carry out any of the work properly, and my confidence in Citroen full stop.

I highly expect my next visit will reveal the car still has not been prepared as agreed and I will be rejecting it for good and claiming a full refund of the £1,000 I’ve paid so far as a deposit.

Full Disclosure: Following several attempts to complain via Twitter to Citroen UK, I received a very polite and constructive call from their PR department. They in turn escalated my complaint to an extremely confrontational, rude and argumentative person at the Citroen Slough dealership (a real let-down as I was hoping for progress on this). The individual who called displayed little interest in rectifying anything other than begrudgingly addressing the bodywork and getting the original dealer that allegedly maintained the car to reissue and stamp a service history booklet. He demonstrated no interest in delivering good customer care, rebuilding trust or making good the obviously poor performance and attitude displayed by the staff at the dealership and the overall sub-standard state of the car.

On the basis of this so far, I would have to say avoid buying a Citroen car from a Citroen main dealer, and in particular avoid Citroen Slough at all costs!

In memory of Guy Kewney

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday April 8 @ 10:28 am

Guy Kewney, one of the finest journalists I have ever had the honour of working with, passed away in the early hours of this morning after a long and brave battle with cancer.

Like so many people, I grew up reading Guy’s articles in magazines like Personal Computing World, Computing and PC Magazine. His work always oozed enthusiasm for good technology, delight at the good decisions of those charged with running the technology companies of the day, along with frustration at bad technology that could and should be better and annoyance at the silly decisions that held back progress. Through it all, Guy had a passion for technology, and for sharing insight, advice and guidance with the rest of us.

Tucked away inside that wise mind was an excited five-year old that wanted to escape and play with as much shiny stuff as possible and then share everything about it with the world (and usually break it – we never figured out how he managed to turn so much stuff into doorstops, but he always found a way). One of Guy’s greatest skills was being able to channel that sense of boyish wonder into clear, concise and informative articles that could appeal to everyone, without losing that sense of excitement and passion.

Over the last 20 years I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Guy in a number of guises. We worked together for many years at VNU – his desk used to be a few feet away from mine – and we would regularly share ideas, information, event invites and even review kit. Before that, Guy was one of the journalists who went out of his way to help me when I was a young and naive freelancer, trying to make some progress in the world of technology journalism.

Guy was one of the first people to offer me a helping hand, looking out for me at events, pointing me in the right direction and making sure I met the right people.

For many years Guy wrote for the publications and sections I’ve edited, such as Data Business, IT PRO, and the technology sections of Computing. As a commissioning editor, working with Guy was always fun, not because copy was late or anything (it never was), rather having conversations with him to flesh out a commission were as much fun as reading the finished article. He would always find a way to make a planned article even better, and his enthusiasm and passion never waned.

Press trips play an integral role in how we work and Guy and I went on more press trips together than either of us could remember. Nonetheless, there are several that will forever stand out.

At CeBIT, he would always keep an eye out for me and would make sure I didn’t get lost in the chaos. There were many trips with Microsoft, including the ‘fishing hats’ trip to Copenhagen for Microsoft’s IT Forum when the anecdotes and stories were flying to-and-fro for the entire trip. Not to mention trips that took us all over America and Europe in search of new technologies and new insights into computing. These were magical times, and sharing them with Guy made them all the more special.

Guy and I were on our last press trip together in Faro, Portugal at the end of 2008. It was a networking industry conference and we were able to enjoy the last of the summer sunshine before winter set in. I will always remember our last day, swapping notes and thoughts as we filed our last pieces of copy before settling down to a much needed beer and a chat as we relaxed before the flight home.

The encouragement and concern he showed for me in my early days remained twenty years later, when it was announced that I was leaving IT PRO. Guy was the first person to call me, not to ask about copy deadlines or his outstanding invoices, he just wanted to make sure I was OK.

It is one of many memories of Guy I will treasure forever.

Guy was a kind, caring and selfless person, and these qualities alone make him irreplaceable.

We miss you Guy. Thank you for everything.

It’s Sky Broadband Day…….hopefully!

Posted by Chris Green on Friday March 30 @ 12:55 am

OK, so this is a really optimistic post, as it is not long past midnight.

According to my recent letter from Sky, today is the day it is supposed to enable DSL on my recently restored BT line (having finally moved the phone away from the idiots at Telewest/Virgin Media). To be fair, it is not the end of the wold if it doesn’t happen today, and the letter did want that it may slip by a few days as they are still struggling to keep up with demand. I’m not surprised.

Anyway, if all works out, and the broadband is up to my high standards, I will be pulling the plug on my cable modem service. Keep in mind I was one of the first people in the UK – excluding the People’s Republic of Hull – to have cable broadband, so it will bee the end of an era, and hopefully the start of a better one.

Cometh the hour, cometh the MG!

Posted by Chris Green on Wednesday September 20 @ 8:44 pm

Rover 75

I had planned to write a blog post about motoring this evening, but one with a happier start than this post now has.

As I sat down to start writing the news came through that Top Gear presenter Richard Hammond has been involved in a serious car crash while attempting to break a land speed record as part of a Top Gear film shoot.

Information is still sketchy, but it would appear he was either driving or riding shotgun in a jet powered car doing 280 MPH when it flipped over. He’s currently in hospital in Leeds after being airlifted from the scene at a disused RAF airfield just outside York. Here’s hoping Hammond comes through this in one piece – get well soon!

The original point of this post was to talk about car manufacturing in the UK. With the collapse of MG Rover, the closure of Peugeot’s Ryton plant and question marks over the future of Aston Martin, TVR, Caterham, Jaguar, Land Rover, Rolls Royce and Bentley as UK-based car manufacturers, the once proud British car industry is all but finished.

It would appear that only Honda, Nissan and Toyota have kept faith with the UK, with the UK operations of all three standing as examples to the world of how to run a car factory – efficient, profitable, producing world-class cars and home to happy workers (hopefully).

I am pleased to say that we can soon add one more to that list – Nanjing Automotive. This Chinese car maker bought the remains of MG Rover following its collapse – the production lines, the robots, some of the remaining stock, intellectual property to several very good cars and the most valuable thing of all, the MG name and logo.

As far as I am concerned, MG is and has always been among the greatest sports car brands ever created, right up to the end. If we look at the last line of MG cars, we see three excellent cars, and one OK one.

The MG TF is a fantastic two seater, it is fun to drive and as a bloke, you can drive one without having your sexual preferences brought into question. The MG ZR started life as the already good Rover 25, but with redesigned bumpers, interior, and the addition of sports tuned engines and suspension it became the best hot hatch on the market.

The MG ZS was the sporty version of the Rover 45, itself a rework of the Honda Civic. Due to Honda reclaiming the plans and equipment needed to build it, we will not be seeing this one again, which is no massive loss. Both the Rover and MG versions were OK cars, but not life changing.

The MG ZT is a remarkable car. Take a Rover 75, itself an awesome piece of machinery and quite possibly the best car BMW ever bankrolled, retune the already impressive V6 and V8 engines, add sports seats, suspension and other touches and you have a car that not only looks like a retro classic, it can leave most mass-market sports cars for dead.

Now under the ownership of Nanjing, the company is going to use the MG mane and these cards (minus the ZS) as its way into the European and UK car markets.

The first announcement from the company confirmed that the MG TF will be put back into production, only this time built in China using the machinery the company has stripped out of MG Rover’s Longbridge factory and shipped to China. Component kits will then be shipped back to Longbridge where a small team of engineers would assemble the kits for the UK and European markets – with anticipated sales of 20,000 a year. It’s not groundbreaking, but its another car put together by the hand of British man, and I’ll take it.

However, news that is even more fantastic has emerged – the company is going to put the MG ZT back into production, and they will MAKE it at Longbridge, not just assemble it in this country but actually fabricate parts here as well.

This is a major win for the UK, and shows a real vote of confidence in the country and the West Midlands. It also means that a superb car in the form of the ZT/Rover 75 will be back on our roads in increasing numbers within a year.

As someone with a real soft spot for Rover and MG cars, and as someone who only buys cars that are built in this country (Three Rovers, a Peugeot built in Coventry and briefly, a Jag built in Liverpool), it is good to know that in a few years time when I look to replace the 75, there will be decent, well-priced British-built cars on the market, with a respected brand on the bonnet as well.

How can Google recapture its ‘cool’?

Posted by Chris Green on Thursday February 23 @ 9:28 pm

I recently participated in an article for PR Week about Google and its rather strange attitude and approach to PR, marketing and press relations. Along with my views being quoted, the article also contains a story I recounted about the fun we had trying to photograph Google’s UK headquarters.

You can read the article by clicking on the link below.

read more | digg story

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