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Apple: “We are committed to diversity”, but what about its Resellers? December 2, 2008

Posted by April Ayres-Griffiths in Apple, australia, Equality, job, mac os x, technology.
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“We are committed to diversity. Apple is an Equal Opportunity Employer.”

These words grace the bottom of the jobs page on the Apple corporate website, and they are indeed committed to diversity.  It was Apple who stood up publicly and opposed proposition eight in the US, when the rest of the corporate world said nothing. It was a proud moment for Apple, when so many others only paid lip service to diversity, here they were trying to defend it.  Diversity means many things, freedom of religion, race, sexual orientation just to name a few.  Many companies would be hard pressed to live up to its example.   

However, Apple is not just its core business, its own stores and its own people.  It business was built on the backs of its resellers as well, companies representing Apple in the world at large, committed to delivering its products and services to people all around the globe.  Although Apples website proudly states that it is committed to diversity, what about its resellers?  Do they hold the same core principles to be true?

Sadly, my wife’s (we are married in Canada) recent experiences with a major Australian premium reseller leave us both with sour taste in our mouth, and wondering if resellers truly live up to the hype.  But the sad truth is that its resellers here in Australia that give people the most impression of what Apple is about.   Apple is in the process of opening more official Apple stores, but its reputation is really whatever the resellers convey.  In many respects for many communities, they are Apple.

But first, a little back story…

In Canada, my wife had over five years experience working with an Apple Authorized Reseller, had her ACTC, and several other certifications.  A couple of years ago, she came to Australia to be with me (we met online, and fell in love – another story for another day), and at the time it seemed natural that she would come here, as I was at the time in less of a position to reciprocate.  She is very good at what she does, has a good rapport with customers, is tech savvy, and was a valued technician and sales person at that store.

She recently interviewed for a permanent part time technical position with an Apple Premium Reseller, and after a brief phone interview with the recruiter for the parent company (who incidentally, was very excited about my partners certifications and experience) put her forward and arranged an interview with the Technical Manager for Victoria.  She was told several times during that interview that her qualifications were better than other people they had spoken to (in that no-one else so far had Apple certifications), and also that she seemed to understand the business.  You would think that after five plus years doing what she did and doing it well, that this would indeed be the case.

She came out of the interview feeling somewhat confident, however there were a few things nagging at her. During the course of the interview, they had joked about the fact they had a few “girls” around to do RMAs on iPods and such, and there seemed to be the implication that they seemed to think of “the girls” as they put it, only in terms of pretty faces to have around and do simple tasks.  In spite of this potentially chauvinistic attitude, my partner felt she interviewed well, and we were quietly hopeful, since she seemed a good fit for the position.  She has many years of experience dealing with customers, is Apple certified (both ACTC and APP), and was seeking what this role offered: a part-time semi technical position on the service desk.  My partner is an author and wants to ultimately pursue her writing, and the permanent part-time role gave her exactly that opportunity.  

At the end of the interview, she was given the impression that she was well suited to the position, and that she was a front-runner for the role.  The usual pleasantries were discussed, including when she could start, whether or not she had flexibility with hours.  All of which my partner replied to in the affirmative.  She had even stated that she would help out, when the service desk was idle, offered to get herself refreshed on the latest service manuals, and update her certifications to the most recent ones.  She parted with the interviewers on what she thought was good terms and was told that would be calling her early in the next week.

Time passed. No phone call.  Instead, an impersonal boiler-plate email arrived via the recruiter telling her that although she “interviewed well”, she was not considered “suitable” for the position.  The usual pleasantries and drivel that one comes to expect.  “We will keep your details for future opportunities”. 

What is particularly galling in this case, is that my partner was an ideal fit for the position.  She was seeking a permanent part time position (which this was) – something that left enough hours in the day to do other things.  She has a great amount of technical expertise, is Apple certified, has five plus years experience in a both a sales, support and technical roles.  She has good references from her store in Canada, who have maintained that she is always welcome back there.  Not something that one says to everyone they have hired.  In fact, when we spent almost a year back in Canada in 2007, she was welcomed back with open arms there.

Now the puzzling part. We are faced with the inevitable question why they would choose another candidate in her place, after having stated that she was the most suitable candidate with certifications and experience.  Was it that I gave her a kiss goodbye before her interview?  Because we are gay?  Did they see that? (I kissed her and wished her luck near the store, not directly out the front of it.)  Or did they only interview her because they were amused by a woman with technical certifications? Or perhaps because they had to, for fear of causing an incident by rejecting her application outright.  Perhaps Steve Job’s nephew appeared in a puff of smoke, and needed a job desperately.  All we have is some vague platitudes, some non-existent feedback, and the nagging fear that, Australia, seems to be stuck in the 1950′s.

Sadly, I have observed more much more gender bias here regarding technical jobs than in Canada.  It seems like the glass ceiling still exists here, and it makes me very sad and angry.  It takes many applications submitted for suitable jobs for my wife to get an interview for a technical role.  I can’t help feeling that betrayed by this country, after all, she deserves much better than this after giving up so much to be here.  It makes me feel deeply ashamed to be an Australian.   

“Do I smell?”, she asks sadly. I assure her that she is skilled and talented, and wonderful.  But my words can do little to ease her hurt, when the world at large seems determined to deny her a “fair go”.

But now I come back to my original question, and some advice for Apple proper.  In Australia in particular, where Apples own stores are still being built, and the market is still in its infancy, are not its Resellers its corporate representatives? Apple needs to be aware and reminded that its resellers are in most respects its public face, that they carry a branding that is Apple, and indicates to the community at large its perceived core values by their behavior.  

Does Apple expect its resellers to follow its corporate policies?  I believe in Apple; that it does indeed represent diversity as it suggests.  Perhaps though it needs to look a little closer at its resellers, and decide for itself if they too, represent its ideals.  Ask a simple question – perhaps the resellers themselves should be asking… Are they in alignment with Apples core beliefs? Do they have a diverse workforce and do they value that diversity? Ask your local Apple reseller what proportion of their workforce is female. Do they have a diverse mix in technical roles? If not why not. 

We have given the reseller in question three days to provide clarification on why my partner was rejected for the role, in accordance with equal opportunity legislation and guidelines.   We are not going to take this lightly, as she has every right to understand why they said one thing, and acted in a completely different way.  It pains me to see her hurt this way; I expected and hoped that we were in a more enlightened society here in Australia. Sadly, that seems not to be the case.

All my wife wants to do is to contribute to society, be a part of something and utilize her skills.  Surely that isn’t too much to ask?

But as the old adage goes, a few rotten apples can spoil the bunch.

Red Dwarf and Massage November 2, 2008

Posted by April Ayres-Griffiths in Uncategorized.
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It’s taken us a while to catch the digital TV wave here.  Partly because we don’t actually have an antenna socket in the apartment we live in, and we only barely get a signal on analogue TV with the assistance of a booster box a co-worker kindly donated to us.

This morning, Melody and myself went and visited the local rotary market, as is our custom every so often, and found little of interest there.  To be honest, it can be very hit and miss, especially when people are asking more and more money for second hand goods.

We had intended to go to Chadstone later that day and have a look around for a massager that would help work out some of the discomfort that Melody deals with on a daily basis.  However, by the time we had been to Safeway to do the grocery shopping, we were a little tired, and it looked like we would not make it to Chadstone.  

I suggested to Melody that we visit Dick Smith Electronics and see if they had any massagers, as a quick google that morning turned up a few results on their site.  It was on our way home, and with little to lose, we decided to give them a chance.  

When we got there, we found they had several types of massagers, and acquired a couple.  One is a heavy duty one that I hope will give melody some relief and relaxation.  The other was smaller, but quite versatile.  All in all a good haul for a whim.

So how does this relate to digital TV? 

Our primary purpose served, Melody suggested we have a peek at digital set top boxes.  I must admit I was skeptical.  Our TV reception is all in all, quite terrible, and I didn’t have a high degree of confidence that we could get enough signal through the indoor antenna to get a clear digital signal.  

A salesperson directed us to the set top boxes, and we saw the cutest little box.  It measures all of about 6cm x 10cm x 2cm.  “Is that it?”, I asked incredulously.  This thing was tiny, and looked like it could not decode its way out of a paper bag.  But the salesperson assured us, that it worked fine, and we bought it.  

 

Our ickle DVB decoder box.

Our ickle DVB decoder box.

 

 

The end result? We have a crystal clear digital picture on ABC and SBS (and their digital variants).  All the other channels are pretty much terrible, but to be honest there isn’t really anything worth watching on Ten, Seven and Nine, anyway. *

To cap it off, ABC2 was showing Red Dwarf one of our favorite British comedies.  Welcome to the digital age indeed. 

* Someone please feel free to correct me here, but I don’t count gritty Melbourne dramas that paint the city as a hotbed of crime worth watching. 

Job satisfaction September 14, 2008

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Those who know me well know I’m a pretty mellow person generally.  In most situations I’m content to go with the flow, and roll with the punches (metaphorically of course, since I’m certainly no heavyweight boxer – I have trouble opening a jar of pickles).  Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking regarding what exactly makes me happy in my job.  

Naturally, this involves a lot of thought about where I am now, versus where I was at several years ago,  Outside of work, things are wonderful.  I’m married to a delightful woman (my wife Melody), and things generally are happy and fulfilling.  

In the sphere of work, however, I am starting to find things wanting.  I used to do a lot of production support work, and helping other software developers.  I guess you could say my job involved making sure everything from development, to testing, and then finally production goes smoothly.  By and large, although there never quite seemed to be enough hours in the day, I went home from work with a sense that the place was better for having me there.

I’ve come to realize just how important such a payoff is for me personally.  A decent salary is one thing, but if you are not leaving work at the end of the day with that feeling that you accomplished something, eventually you start to feel like there is little point to the job you are doing.  Sadly that seems to be the situation that I find myself in right now. I do work with a wonderful bunch of people, however I’m finding it harder to get that payoff.  

So now is a time of contemplation.  What can I do to make my job more interesting, more fulfilling? I do have a lot of experience that is going to waste right now.  I’ve worn so many hats in the past, that just being a “Software Developer” is feeling too restrictive.  There are other forces at work (no pun intended) that make me feel this way, but I’m certainly not going to go into those in such a public space.  

I suppose it is about finding a balance, and finding a path in my career that gives me back that feeling that what I do, means something.  If I can find that feeling again, then things will be better.  

In the meantime, I am so very thankful for the love and support of my wife, Melody.  She makes everything else worthwhile.

Samsung J700i and Video tinkering September 7, 2008

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Well, I finally upgraded my phone from a black and white Nokia, to something a little more up-to-date.  It’s a Samsung J700i, which is a nice little black slider handset released this year.

Not bad for $99.00.  It’s call quality is good, and is the first phone I can actually hold a meaningful conversation on whilst in the supermarket, or walking down a busy road.  

It has a built in MP3 player, Camera, and also plays back MP4 video clips.  I bought a 2Gb micro SD card for it and have started to put videos on it.

Melody and I have resurrected a project we were working on to build a generic converter for video files to various mobile formats, including the AMV format used by many so called “ChinaPods”.  I reworked the code a little yesterday, so that the software works with “profiles” for each type of device, and one simply specifies what the target platform is.

So far (with our custom build of ffmpeg), it is generating videos for my Samsung phone, and for the Chinapod (erroneously labelled an MP4 payer), which Melody bought in Canada.

I might start a development blog for the project, but there are too many projects and not enough time!

I deny the rumor… August 21, 2008

Posted by April Ayres-Griffiths in Perl.
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This was not me…

http://developers.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/08/19/2335246&from=rss

So there, I’ve officially denied the rumor.  Although oddly enough it is my writing style, and I wholeheartedly endorse the opinions posted there.

April.

Z80 based systems still kicking July 29, 2008

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It’s nice to know the Z80 is still alive and kicking in one form or another. 

Melody bought a chinese ipod knockoff, and it is powered by a 32Mhz Z80 based CPU.  Scarily enough the thing plays video too, although admittedly a custom format called AMV, which only had windows software available for conversion. Since we are currently using a mac, we downloaded a special version of ffmpeg, which supports AMV, however it crashed unless we disabled altivec support (we are using a G3), and then actually failed to link because a subroutine was not compiled unless altivec was enabled.  

After some coaxing, I managed to get it to compile, and we can now convert videos to the device quite happily.  I’ll need to get around to creating a patch for ffmpeg so this problem is fixed permanently.

Oh, well.

The journey that was July 29, 2008

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In what now counts as our longest commute in history, we finally arrived in Langford at about midnight on the 15th. 

Before we even got off the ground, our flight was delayed by almost four hours leaving Melbourne Airport, as it was late leaving LAX previously, and that delay carried through. This meant that we had already lost our connecting flight and we were told that arrangements would be made at the other end. Qantas gave us a meal voucher so that we could get some breakfast and apologized for the delay.

After about four hours in the air, one of the passengers took ill, and we were advised that we were to make an emergency landing in Fiji in the middle of the night, about one hours flight in the previous direction. We landed at the airport in Nadi, and Fijian paramedics boarded the plane to assist with the stricken passenger. While this was happening, we were refueling, as the plane had expended extra fuel during its detour. 

After what seemed like an age, the plane was refueled, but we were unable to depart due to security rules as they had been unable to easily locate the passengers luggage, and ended up having to unload all the luggage to more easily search for the missing bags. Eventually we were in the air again, but another 3 to 4 hours behind schedule.

We flew faster to try and make up time to LAX, but we didn’t arrive until about ten minutes to two in the afternoon, a full six and a half hours after our scheduled arrival time. Because of the lateness of our arrival, there wasn’t a proper arrival gate available and we ended up berthed at one of the departure gates. We were escorted out across the tarmac (and under the wing of our 747-400) by armed TSA officers and onto a series of buses which deposited us at the regular arrivals area. 

Thankfully immigration processed us quickly (special priority was being given to our flight) and then we had to collect our baggage, and queue up to find out what our new connecting flights were. As far as we knew we had missed the last flight to Vancouver, but thankfully it turned out there was a 4:44 flight we had been rebooked onto. 

Next we had to go through American customs, which would not normally happen, but since our connecting flights were lost, we would have to check our luggage into the new flight manually. Customs cleared our bags, and we proceeded to the Domestic terminal to check into our new flight. We got the dreaded “SSSS” on our tickets and were subjected to additional security screenings. This was fine, but took forever for me, as they pulled everything out of my carry on luggage and swabbed it for traces of banned substances. Eventually we made it to the departure lounge with about half an hour before our flight left.

The flight to Vancouver was fairly uneventful, although at one point we flew over the top of Mount Baker, which looked absolutely amazing. We came in for landing hot at Vancouver, which was a little unnerving. Apparently airlines are doing this to save fuel, but it made us very nervous. 

We raced through the airport towards Immigration and Customs as if we were on “The Amazing Race”, as we had a very limited window in which to catch the bus to the Ferry. Unfortunately due to a hold up waiting for our baggage, we missed the bus (the last for the evening), and instead ran to the Taxi rank, where we hailed a cab and got him to get us to the Ferry terminal in time for the last Ferry. The driver obliged, and made record time, getting us to the terminal a full half hour before departure.

On the ferry, like the victims of airline food that we were, we ordered lavish helpings of food from the cafeteria. At about 10:30pm, we made it to Swartz bay, and Melody’s father and brother were waiting for us in the arrival lounge. Another hours journey, and we were back at our Canadian home.

Thankfully, gidget (our cat) forgave us quickly for being away.

It’s been a few difficult nights sleep for us as we fight jet lag, but things are returning to normal. Early next week we plan to go camping for a while, and I will get to see the Rocky mountains. 

After some trepidation, it is good to be back…

Preparing for Canada July 13, 2008

Posted by April Ayres-Griffiths in Uncategorized.
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It’s been a while since I last posted, and a lot has happened since.

Melody was granted her temporary residency visa (which means she is legally able to stay here), and we are preparing to head to Canada for a month in a couple of days, for a holiday and to visit Melody’s family.  During that time we hope to go camping in Bannf, and this little black duck will see a mountain the way that nature intended it – big!

We are looking forward to a lot of simple things while we are there.  For one thing, we plan to eat a lot of Salmon.  A whole salmon big enough to feed four people as  a roast dinner costs around five dollars there, which is amazing when you see it costing around thirty to forty dollars a kilogram here.  We also plan to have ice-cream (in my case it is Rice cream hehe), as there aren’t many deserts in Australia that are sweetened by fruit sugar or Splenda.  Everything here is sweetened with dreaded sweetener number 951.  In addition to that we will wash down our ice-cream coated Salmon roast with ludicrous amounts of decaffinated drip coffee, something conspicuously absent in Australia.  A coffee in Canada costs about two dollars and change for something that fills a medium sized slurpee cup.

Our journey will take us via LA International Airport, which we are not so pleased about, but it will be the last time that we will have to pass through there, as we will be returning via New Zealand, as Air New Zealand does a flight from Vancouver to Auckland to Melbourne, which means we don’t have to pass though the United States at all.   The last time we flew to Canada, I got the short straw with an “SSSS” on my ticket stub, which meant that I was subjected to tighter security checks than a person would normally encounter.  I’m not fond of getting patted down by a TSA officer, and would prefer not to repeat the ordeal.

But I do feel a measure of excitement at the prospect of visiting Canada again.  Its just the prospect of forty hours of transit that makes me feel a little aprehensive.

Visual Editing now works in Safari – Test April 5, 2008

Posted by April Ayres-Griffiths in Uncategorized.
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This post was created using the visual editor in Safari.

It now seems to respecting paragraphs, and other formatting. It now seems to respecting paragraphs, and other formatting. It now seems to respecting paragraphs, and other formatting. It now seems to respecting paragraphs, and other formatting. It now seems to respecting paragraphs, and other formatting. It now seems to respecting paragraphs, and other formatting. It now seems to respecting paragraphs, and other formatting. 

As you were… 

April.

29. April 5, 2008

Posted by April Ayres-Griffiths in Uncategorized.
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Yesterday I turned 29.

It is the second birthday that I have spent with my love, Melody, and as usual she spoiled me rotten with all manner of wonderful, tasty, treats; she cooked me both lunch and dinner. Lunchtimes are a special part of the day for me, as I get to go home from work and see her; however, this birthday lunchtime was doubly so. Melody had prepared a veritable multitude of food. A wonderful tomato noodle soup, delicious gluten free sausage rolls, and delightful pineapple custard cupcakes.

My love also cooked me a dinner. We could have had the option of eating out, but all I really wanted for my birthday was a home-cooked chilli pot. A meal shared between us, as we do every-night. Melody made tacquitos and salsa, to go with the chilli. It was a positively decadent affair, and we filled our bellies, talked, and just enjoyed each others company.

After dinner, we snuggled close on the couch, which unfolds into a bed, and we watched a couple of movies before we drifted off to sleep in each others arms. That was the most wonderful birthday present, elegant in its simplicity. I feel truly blessed in the sense that all I want is what I have. I do, however, wish there were more of the waking hours that I could spend at home. To be there and comfort Melody when she has a rough day; to always be available to her. It is one of my dreams that I can be present more in future.

The greatest gift I have in my life, is the love that Melody feels for me, and that I feel for her. It is genuine, and sincere, and not based on so many superficial factors. Sadly sometimes I look around and observe other couples, and it seems they don’t necessarily feel the same way we do. I wish that more people felt that way.

All I want is to make her happy.

April.

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