• MacTalk's 2013, All Wrapped Up

    2013 was a particularly tumultuous year for MacTalk, and for more reasons than one. We started the year on a strong note, sailing the internet seas with our captain, the meritable Peter Wells, at the helm of the good ship MacTalk, crewed by his hand-picked band of merry men; first mate Anthony Agius, helmsman James Croft, seafarers Athol Hill and Alec Fraser, crewmen Jonathan Nalder, Ben Johnston, and Remy Numa, along with yours truly, the self-proclaimed bard of this particular outfit.

    Together, we told many a tale, published daily on the front page. Stuff that was actually worth reading; insightful, well-written, and always interesting, even if they weren’t specifically about the Apple Isle which we found ourselves drawn towards on many an occasion, such as Pete’s review of the Aeropress Coffee Maker, or one of my favourite articles from the year gone by, where James ended up at the Queensland State Archives to answer the question: in a hundred years, will anyone know who we were?

    We wrote about the tools we used during our time on the high seas. There was a review of SongSheet for iPad by Ben, Athol compared Lightroom 4 and Aperture, Anthony risked life and limb by using a no-name iPhone 5 battery case from eBay, James studied the heavens with Science Quest 8 for iBookstore, and Jonathan claimed his new-fangled time-telling gadget was not a smart watch, yet. And when it came time for some after-hours entertainment, we had that covered, too: Anthony considered going legit with his sea-shanties and moving pictures, Remy was on deck with his reviews of a new Simpsons game and a new app that made trading easier, James raced toy cars in Real Racing 3 whilst dodging the myriad of in-app purchases, and occasional contributor (and full-time quizmaster) Kelly gave us the rundown on 8-bit games.

    And even though we didn't see land (i.e. an Apple event) for the entire first half of the year, the articles kept on coming. I mean, we had to do something to occupy our time in between choosing between the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro with Retina display, and so we became prolific writers, apparently. When it came time for a not-so-friendly joust with pirates, Anthony's call to arms told us that yes, us nerds can change the world. When Pete did emerge from his cabin of solitude, it was only so he could gloat about apps he had deleted before we had even used, which led to us calling him an "app hipster". Some would call it mutiny, but others would just see it as friendly banter between old friends. At times, tensions ran high on the good ship MacTalk, which lead to much cursing and gnashing of teeth. Ben said he was tired of new smartphone releases, Anthony complained about the high price of solid-state storage in the latest iMac, whatever that was, and Iain commented about how he was losing his faith in Apple. Even I pointed out how technology was getting harder and harder to use, let alone fix. When that happened, Athol was there to calm things down and say things like "sometimes, Apple gets it right".

    In news back home, Apple Australia decided (after pressure from the ACCC) they would quietly extended the warranty of its products to 24 months, thanks to an implied warranty as part of consumer rights and Australian Consumer Law. Later on in the year, this eventuated in a stronger decree of the above, as well as the added conditions of improved service and refunds for products sold in Apple Retail Stores, even when the products were not specifically Apple-branded. Apple Australia were also involved in a Government-led inquiry into Australian IT pricing, along with fellow conspirators Adobe and Microsoft. Apple Australia VP Tony King said that "Apple must consider differences between countries in product costs, freight charges, local sales taxes, levies, import duties, channel economics, competition and local laws regarding advertised prices" to justify their so-called "Australian tax", and the representatives from Adobe and Microsoft had similar things to say.

    But those of us at sea paid little heed to the bigger picture. We were too busy saving space in the (menu) bar with Bartender, discussing the purpose of elephants in the living quarters, making the perfect orange juice, inspecting other ships from afar with new lenses for our telescope, or just taking some HD selfies. James played doctor, Ben entertained us with his new loudspeaker system, and I enjoyed a brief stint as an immigration agent for the land of Arstotzka.

    In truth, there were many more tales just like the ones I've already pointed out, far too many to point out individually in this short exposition of our journey in the year gone by.

    Then one day, it happened. When we least expected it, news of a most pressing nature arrived from the motherland: the pockets of those who had seen fit to fund our shenanigans thus far were empty, and thus, our journey was over. Captain Pete penned one final goodbye, delivered it the front page via his fastest carrier-pidgeon, and that was it. Just like that, the articles stopped. There were no more iOS app reviews from Rémy. Jonathan’s pieces on education and how the iPad fitted into the scheme were no longer. We didn’t get an update on how Anthony went with his crazy Litecoin mining, James didn’t post any more video reviews, Ben never told us how sore his feet were after his standing desk experiment, Athol's insights into photography were nowhere to be seen, and my own gaming reviews slowly, but surely, ground to a halt.

    The good ship MacTalk, it seemed, was done.

    Days passed. Weeks, even. To his credit, Remy did post a summary of Apple's WWDC event in June, but besides my own daily news posts and the occasional article from contributors unknown, the front page was barren, completely bare. I went to the very first PAX Australia and wrote about a place that made people feel welcome, a strange irony given the place where that piece was published had alienated many.

    The seasons passed. Even though I rounded up a few Australian app developers to ask them what they thought of iOS 7, the release of iOS 7 came and went with little fanfare, since the good ship MacTalk lay in its berth; silent, still. Eventually, it was ransacked by the very worst Syrian pirates, which also happened right around the time of Apple's iPhone 5S and 5C announcement event, as well as something called "MacTalk Live" which seemed like a last-gasp revival of the MacTalk name. Yours truly fought valiantly, but the damage was already done: forum posts were lost and the site suffered extended downtime as as result.

    There was another Apple event in October where several respected and influential men were seen in public with untucked shirts, a most scandalous affair indeed. The front page was not entirely barren, but the occasional articles that accompanied my daily news posts were a far cry from what was being produced before; never original content, and often lacking the special ingredient that made them as enjoyable to read as earlier articles had been.

    That pretty much rounded out the end of the year, and while it completely sucks to end on such a bitter note, there's absolutely no denying that somewhere along the line, something went very wrong. However, this particular bard prefers looking at all the stuff that went well, and all the stuff that's still to come. Pete's farewell post was actually the post with the most comments this year, showing that at the very least, people cared — about what he, and his hand-picked band of merry men — had done, and, on some level, that they also cared about MacTalk itself.

    The reality of the thing may be a cruel mistress, but at the end of the day, there's no sense in being upset at a few cases of scurvy here and there. After all, there's plenty to look forward to. I'm not here to apologise about what did or didn't happen during the year. We had a good time, we did our best. And if that wasn't good enough, well, we'll just have to try harder next time.

    I've already named a few people I'd like to thank, but I'll name people again for the sake of completeness. MacTalk wouldn't have been the same in 2013 without editor emeritus Peter Wells and his crack squad of writers, who are all legends in their own right: Anthony Agius, James Croft, Athol Hill, Jonathan Nalder, Ben Johnston, Rémy Numa, Alec Fraser. Thanks also to the likes of Kelly Vieira and Phill Farrugia — they might have not been full-time contributors, but they pulled their weight and then some all the same.

    To the forum mods, whether you stayed or whether you left: Jesse, Nathan, Toby, Jordie, Mike, Ashley, and David, thanks for keeping the peace. We'll try and make your job a little harder next year, hey?

    Even though the MacTalk podcast is no more, thanks that everyone that appeared on the show over the past few years. To the people we've chatted to at Webstock over the years and the people we've frantically dialled over Skype at the last minute, the MacTalk podcast wouldn't have been the same without you.

    And thanks to you, dear reader. MacTalk wouldn't be where it is today (wherever that may be) without your readership. If you hated the design of iOS 7 with us in the forums, or if you complained about the anti-Apple rhetoric the site had at one point, told us we were spelling skeueomorphic wrong on the front page, or whatever way you contributed to one of the best little Apple communities in the world, thanks. Even if you're not a reader any longer, trust me — we appreciate the time you did spend with us, and hope there aren't any hard feelings.

    Finally, I'm somewhat loathe to thank them for everything they've done (or in some cases, not done), but it would feel amiss to not thank the team at Niche. I can totally understand it hasn't been the easiest thing in the world to keep MacTalk running (smoothly or at all, in some cases), and sometimes, you gotta make the hard calls, and to be fair, your efforts in those areas are appreciated. But guys — Dave, Jonathan, and everyone else — seriously, you gotta lift your game. MacTalk is something incredibly special, and to lose that would be indescribable. Screwing it over is even worse.

    I'd hate to end on such a bitter note, so I'll point to last year's wrap up post when things were looking a little brighter. Besides a few contributors not contributing anymore, nothing has changed since last year's post; this little Apple community still offers some of the best people and best experiences this side of Cupertino. We've been here before. We've all experienced some kind of hardship throughout the years, and we've all come out the other side; battered, maybe bruised, but with a stronger sense of purpose and direction. I have every confidence MacTalk will persevere through this tough time we're facing right now, and in closing, I'll leave you with the immortal words of our dearly departed leader: "stay hungry, stay foolish".

    Space. The final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship MacTalk. Its years-long mission: to explore strange new gadgets, to seek out the very best iPhone and iPad apps, to boldly touch where no man has ever touched before.

    OK, maybe not that last part.

    With my sincerest apologies to Gene Roddenberry. The news returns Thursday.
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