Buying a Second-Hand Mac

Look for something less than one-year-old so you have the chance to purchase AppleCare for the Mac. Caveat Emptor. If something does go wrong, you’re not going to be able to go after the seller. Your best bet is Apple.

The following is my checklist when buying a second-hand Mac. It’s meant to run through sequentially so that you can rule out listings without wasting too much of each other’s time. For example, if the price is not right, don’t bother asking the seller for more information.

Before You Even Meet The Seller…

  1. Ensure that the asking price is within your expectation, or negotiable if it’s not, before proceeding down the list. If it’s negotiable, do your homework to find out the average asking price for the same model of Mac. You may not want to start negotiating until you’ve gone through the remaining questions.
  2. See if the seller lists any physical defects. Scratches are fine for me; chips and dents usually indicate knocks and drops. I’d avoid them.
  3. If the seller doesn’t list any physical defects but a condition like 9/10, asks why the seller rated it 9 instead of 10.
  4. Ask whether the original receipts are still available, and if the seller will provide it to you on purchase. According to Apple, the AppleCare confirmation document and original sales receipt are required “if there is any question as to your product’s eligibility for coverage”.
  5. Ask for the Mac hardware serial number and check it against Apple’s database to verify if it’s still under the one-year warranty, or if AppleCare has already been purchased for the Mac. Apple Service and Support Coverage
  6. If you’re buying a laptop, ask for the battery cycle count. Batteries have limited lifespan, and a laptop that needs to be tethered to power all the time is not useful. For a laptop less than a year old, you should look for something less than 100. Apple says its recent laptops have a maximum cycle count of 1,000; I’m not too sure about that.
  7. Ask if all original accessories (e.g. charger, keyboard, mouse, trackpad) will be provided. If the seller even has the box available, there is a good chance he took good care of the Mac.
  8. If everything is good, then ensure that the seller is agreeable for you to inspect the Mac for about 15 minutes before confirming the purchase. Arrange to meet at a location where you can do so. For a desktop, that probably means at the seller’s home where you can plug it in for testing.
  9. Many sellers protect their laptops with sleeves and screen protectors, I’d ask the seller to remove them before the meet-up if possible. If not, he should be prepared to remove it during the meet-up for inspection.

When You Meet The Seller…

  1. Check the Mac hardware serial number to make sure it tallies with what you were given before.
  2. Check the battery cycle count to make sure it tallies with what you were given before. The cycle count may increase by 1–2 if the seller continues to use the Mac.
  3. While you’re checking your battery cycle count, also ensure that the Condition listed under the Cycle Count is Normal.
  4. Open TextEdit in full screen and check the display for anything strange. Type on the keyboard to make sure it functions correctly.
  5. Bring a USB thumb drive to check that the USB ports are working. If you’re buying a recent Mac with USB-C ports only, then you’d need either a USB-C thumb drive or a USB-C to USB adapter.
  6. Check the iSight camera, microphone and speakers by recording a movie with QuickTime Player and playing it back.
  7. The final test before you hand over the money is to run Apple Diagnostics on the Mac. This will probably take a while. On a MacBook 2016, it took me less than 10 minutes.

And with luck, you’d bring home a good Mac while saving some money.

Being First

Apple users are ordering more iPhones than they need. Not because they need one in each pocket, but because they want to resell the phones for profit.

Android users too are rushing to pre-order the new iPhones 6. Not because they’re switching to Apple, but because they too know that they can turn a profit by reselling these phones.

Recently, my friend told me about how people are offering to buy the new iPhones 6 at a premium over Apple’s prices.

These buyers offer the highest prices for your iPhones 6 on launch day. Then, the offer price decreases with each passing day. How strange it is that the same, exact iPhone 6 is worth a few hundred dollars more than it will be a week later.

When you think about it, it’s crazy that an entire market can not only exist, but thrive, by preying on consumers’ desire to be the first to own something.

I too tried to pre-order the iPhone 6, but to no avail because of problems with my telco’s system.

Hundreds of pages of forum posts have spawned discussing the availability of (or more like the lack of) the new iPhones.

In them, angry customers have rubbished the telco and its staff, and spewed expletives at them.

When you think about it, it’s crazy that we’re losing sleep, losing cool, just because we’re getting the phones a few days later than others.

Locking focus and exposure on iOS5’s camera

Since the iPhone 3GS, you could tap on any part of the image in the Camera app to lock focus and exposure. The exposure and focus however shifts as you recompose your image.

New in iOS5, you can finally lock focus and exposure on a spot and keep it locked even as you recompose the frame. But it’s not entirely easy to figure out how.

Tap and hold on the spot for 2s until the focus box animates. The words ‘AE/AF Lock’ appears at the bottom of the screen as you let go of your finger.

Starting Objective-C for iOS development

Some people have been curious as to what are the resources that I’ve used to pick up Objective-C in a relatively short amount of time (about 3 months, including the time taken to develop and ship the first release of Due in September 2010). There are two books have been indispensable in my learning that I’d recommend to anyone picking up iOS development:

Programming in Objective-C 2.0 (3rd Edition) by Stephen G. Kochan

Best introduction to Objective-C. Mostly command-line (so it can be quite boring), but that takes away the distraction from learning the language as the learning curve is really steep (mostly in memory management). If you’ve some programming background, you don’t need to go through the entire book, and you’ll know which to skip.

iOS Programming: The Big Nerd Ranch Guide (2nd Edition)

This runs you through the graphical user interface development (the fun part) on the iPhone. But I really recommend to start with Kochan’s book first as the language learning curve is steep. Having the GUI stuff coming in can be even more confusing for someone new to programming or Objective-C.

Updated both title and and links with newer 2011 editions.

Posting to Twitter is like throwing valuable things into a junk drawer…

Justin Williams on the Twitter’s Great Migration:

Hopefully those new product offerings include giving me full access to the 15,290 tweets I have written since joining the service five years ago. That data silo is one of the major reasons I am so gunshy of posting content I care about to Twitter anymore. At least with this site, I know I can instantly access everything I’ve written.

I’ve always wondered why nobody else is complaining that it’s just so damn difficult to find anything more than a day old in Twitter.

Bragging about stuff that doesn’t matter

Joshua Topolsky for Engadget:

In a post-PC world, the experience of the product is central and significant above all else. It’s not the RAM or CPU speed, screen resolution or number of ports which dictate whether a product is valuable; it becomes purely about the experience of using the device.

Ever notice it’s always the anti-Apple and pro-Samsung/HTC/Android/Nokia friends always bragging about RAM, CPU, etc? Stuff that don’t matter, basically.