The Mac App Store: Falling In Love Again

BPL Staircase

Y’like that photo? It represents two things: the grand staircase of the Boston Public Library, and the regular renewal of my love for the Mac App Store.

It’s one of those rare scenes where it’s almost impossible not to come away with a great photo. I mean, just look at what’s there. Plus, the balcony that the camera is sitting on is at exactly the same level as the bottom sills of the windows on the other side, and there’s even a seam in the marble that shows you where to center your lens.

The shot and the composition is right there waiting for you but you can make things better with proper technique. I’ve taken this same photo over and over again and I think this version includes pretty much every mix-in ingredient from the sundae bar. The camera was sitting flat on the balcony to eliminate camera shake; I selected an aperture from the lens’ “sweet spot”; I used a super-wide-angle lens to get the whole thing in one shot; I shot on an overcast day so that the west-facing windows didn’t blow out the stairs; I manually selected an exposure point from the midtone range of the scene; I waited until the area was clear of people (or for there to be a person in there standing still and doing something that enhanced the scene); and I shot seven bracketed exposures, which I assembled into an HDR image to get around the limitations of the image sensor.

To summarize: I tried to Ansel Adams my ass off with this one. Gosh!

The HDR image was created by Photomatix by HDRSoft. It’s the go-to app for people who think a High Dynamic Range photo should look like a photograph and not like a frame from a computer-generated short circa 1998.

Generating this image was a needlessly long and complicated process. Oh, the app is easy as pie. It was only complicated because I hadn’t really used the app in ages. I downloaded a fresh copy from HDRSoft and looked in my Mail archive for the license code, but I couldn’t find it. I used their website’s automated thingy to have it re-sent to me, but they didn’t have the code on file and it was a holiday weekend.

So I had to dig through my closet for Lilith 9, my 2008-edition MacBook Pro. After thirty minutes of charging, I booted it up for the first time in a year and a half. I remembered my admin password after seven failed tries and I had to remember how things work in MacOS 10.6. But then it was like I was entering the tomb of The 2009-2011 Version Of Andy Ihnatko. Here, arrayed in the undisturbed air almost as though he had just departed moments ago, were all of the tools and amusements and artifacts that he surrounded himself with in life. For what purpose were they buried with him? History may never know.

Anyway, yes, Photomatix was installed and licensed on this machine. More good news: I could upgrade to the 2012 edition and still use the old app’s registration credentials. I copied over the source images and soon had the merged HDR image that I’d come for.

If I’d acquired Photomatix from the App Store two years ago, I’d have had it up and running on Lilith X after just five minutes of clicking…no registration code required. Every time I encounter into a situation like this, I love, love, love, freaking love the Mac App Store. I want to put five dollars in an envelope and send it to Apple, in the hopes that it might land in the hands of someone who was responsible for making the App Store happen.

The Store is still a source of some worry. Apple is the sole authority on what apps can and can’t run on an iPhone, iPod, or iPad. That rankles, given that an iPad costs as much as a Windows 7 notebook. Shouldn’t I have the right to do whatever the hell I want with a computer I paid $400 to $875 for? The situation is different on MacOS but developers still feel enormous pressure to kowtow to Apple’s rules and seek their approval. The App Store’s where all the money is.

So noted be. But damn, yes, the Store makes life so much easier for every user.

Which is why we sigh and we move on, instead of driving to Cupertino with a trunk full of V for Vendetta masks and a collection of signs that we hope will be amusing enough for people to reshare on their Tumblrs.

11 thoughts on “The Mac App Store: Falling In Love Again

  1. Tom Hood

    No freakin’ license codes is terrific, but the licensing agreement is even better:
    If there’s a tool I need, I go and buy it from the Mac App Store, AND it’s immediately available for me to use on my other Macs. My work environment follows me, no matter which computer I’m using.
    I understand the rules of the house, and don’t have a problem buying direct from the software creators for funkier stuff that doesn’t meet Apple’s approval.

  2. Laura

    If keeping what I can buy and how I buy it under tight control results in the experience I have had since 1982 then GO FOR IT APPLE! Might I also add a heartfelt thank you for such maniacal control of my computing universe. Each time I look at a different kind of machine I breathe a large sigh of relief.

  3. Steve

    What happens when a vendor goes out of favor with Apple?

    Like Google did with Google Voice. It was pulled and only much later returned! Many more like Camer+ etc!

    You don’t OWN the software, you can only use it as long as Apple wants!

  4. Adam

    The only thing that could make the Mac App Store better would be a good way to transition a paid license of software from pre-App Store to an App Store version. I think this would solve a lot of problems like the one you faced. I know I’ve been in the same bucket, except didn’t have my old computer to go back to.

  5. Chris

    “You have updates available for other accounts. To update this application, sign into the account you used to purchase it.”

    Every time I try and update. Every damn time. I have one account.

    Spotlight re-indexing doesn’t fix it, arch -i386 mdimport /Applications doesn’t fix it.

    I loathe the App Store with a passion.

  6. Sylvester Becker

    That is convenience, I agree totally.

    Btw. if you buy an app through Amazon you have nearly the same service. Difference: You need a license key, but it is stored in your Amazon account in your purchased folder. It is a very similar experience then the Mac App Store.

    If I don’t get the software at the Mac App Store I look if I can get it as download from Amazon. If it is not there I try to solve the problem with another software.

  7. DeadLazlo

    For those Apps that may never get into the Mac App store and still require license keys, might I suggest AppShelf to keep track of and organize them?
    Ironically it’s available in the Mac App Store,
    or from here:
    Great app for keeping track of things, especially if you buy lots of software, or participate in Bundle promos.

  8. Oluseyi

    «What happens when a vendor goes out of favor with Apple? … You don’t OWN the software, you can only use it as long as Apple wants!»

    Not completely true: when Apple removes software from the store, they don’t remove it from your devices.

  9. Hamranhansenhansen

    > Shouldn’t I have the right to do
    > whatever the hell I want with a
    > computer I paid $400 to $875
    > for?

    No, because the reality is that gun owners shoot themselves and their families, often by accident. They do not shoot intruders. That is just a fantasy that is used to sell more guns.

    If there is a way to disable iPad security, it will more likely be done remotely in order to victimize the iPad user than be done by the iPad user. And iPads already run any HTML5 app — the user can run any app they want. Any ISO audio video. To the consumer, native apps started to exist with App Store. The typical consumer simply did not install native apps before App Store. So Apple has added capabilities for the consumer (native apps that are safe enough and easy enough for a consumer to install) not blocked them. They ran 4 apps on Windows, all from Microsoft, and didn’t even have Web apps, and on iPad they have 75 apps from 50 developers, large and small, plus a universe of very capable modern HTML5 Web apps. So they get MORE apps on iPad.

    Windows XP put all the power of root-level system access into the hands of accountants, dentists, and cashiers, and not only did they not use it or benefit from that, they suffered for it as programmers around the world used that power to steal the user’s data and put their computer in a botnet.

    iPad specifically provides the OPPOSITE of that. So no, you don’t have the right to want to use an iPad as Windows XP. Get Windows XP if you want that.

    Other ways to prove I am right:

    – If I pay $150,000 for a car, surely I can drive it at 200 kph? Or run an alternate fuel that is not approved and pollutes and sometimes explodes? No.

    – If I pay $250,000 for some land, surely I can set it on fire? Or cut down all te trees? Or build a 50 meter wall? No.

    – If I pay $100 for a symphony concert ticket, surely I can sing along at the top of my lungs throughout the show? No.

    – If I pay $10,000 for an Anaconda, surely I can wear it on the streetcar? No.

    Whatever you pay for an iPad, just make sure you want an iPad. Because all you are going to be able to do with it is iPad things. That is not even ambiguous. Apple never promised anyone anything else.

  10. Chris


    If only…the conversations I’ve had with Apple support on this issue would be hilarious, if it wasn’t for the amount of time I’ve wasted on them.

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