Direct Links to Apple’s iTunes App Store Categories

If you ever wanted to post a direct link that opens to an App Store category on iTunes, you’ve probably ran into a bit of trouble. If you right click and copy the link from an app’s category, you’d probably end up somewhere like:

No problem when you try opening it from a iOS device, but if you open that link on a computer browser, you’ll most definitely be disappointed.

You can change https:// to itmss:// and if the protocol is registered, it’ll open up on iTunes. But Facebook and Twitter don’t really treat itmss links correctly. Facebook redirects to http:// and Twitter doesn’t even linkify it.

I have gone on a quest to find the regular http links that’ll open App Store categories and I have found the following. Basically what you’ll need is the MZStore.woa API which calls viewGrouping and figure out what the group id is.

Unfortunately I didn’t look far enough to figure out some of the newer categories: Books, Catalogs, Food & Drink, Medical, Newsstands

So if you know the direct links to the newer categories, feel free to post it in the comments below and I’ll update my post.

My Thoughts on the MacBook Pro Retina

About This Mac

So Ryan IMs me this morning letting me know that our MacBook Pros had arrived. I wasn’t even expecting them to arrive today and became super excited! I’m not going to post any photos of the MacBook Pro, as if you want to look at nice shiny photos of the laptop, there’s tons of good sources online, include Apple’s own website.

I was torn between getting the new MacBook Air or the new MacBook Pro Retina. I really liked the 13″ MacBook Air that I currently have and ever since using my ThinkPad X31 in college, I’ve always been a fan of small light portable laptops. But the retina screen and the lowered 4.5lb weight finally sold me on the MacBook Pro Retina. I really wished they would’ve released a MacBook Air Retina. Next year maybe?

Retina Display

It’s so PRETTY!

At first I wasn’t very impressed. It was very pretty and very sharp, but it’s similar to seeing a movie in 720p and then upgrading to 1080p. I just wasn’t blown away. It wasn’t until I switched back to my cinema display that I realized how awesome the retina display is. The cinema display just wasn’t very pretty nor very sharp anymore. Hopefully they’ll release the Cinema Display Retina soon!

What you’ll realize soon with the Retina display is any app that doesn’t support HiDPI looks horrible. Using Firefox and Chrome on the retina screen literally hurts your eyes. I know Chrome nightly builds have already begun supporting HiDPI, but I was sad to find out that Firefox doesn’t have plans to support HiDPI any time soon. I might very well switch to Safari because of this. Maybe that was Apple’s plan all along. Those evil geniuses!

The screenshot above was taken from the retina screen and measures less than 3″ on the retina screen and almost 6″ on my cinema display.


The second most noticeable thing for me is the spinning fan or lack thereof. I don’t think my fan has turned on once ever since I finished my migration, and I’ve ran tests and watched HD trailers simultaneously. When the fan does spin on (I was listening to Ryan’s), it’s still very quiet. I can’t really tell you what the decibel measurement is, but let’s just say Ryan’s old laptop used to sound like a jet engine and now it sounds like a summer breeze.

Update: A quick clarification. Ryan’s old laptop was a last gen 15″ MacBook Pro. He was powering 3 displays (2x 27″ Cinema Displays + Retina display), so that may be why his fan was spinning up. Even when compared to my MacBook Air, the new MacBook Pro Retina’s fan noise is still a lot quieter.


Coming from a MacBook Air, I can’t really say I appreciate the extra 1.5lbs. However, I do have to say the 4.5lbs is rather manageable. The laptop is almost as thin as my MacBook Air and the screen is 2″ bigger.

Battery Life

At full charge, my battery indicator reports that I have 5.5hrs of usage left. I can’t really comment on battery life yet as I haven’t had a chance to run it on just batteries, but for comparisons sake, my old 13″ MacBook Air usually reported 2-3hrs of battery life at full charge.


Coming from a Core 2 Duo 2.13GHz with 8GB of RAM to Core i7 2.6GHz with 16GB of RAM, this machine is significantly faster. But it doesn’t really take much to beat my 2-generations-old MacBook Air. This would probably explain why my fan hasn’t really spun up yet.

Yahoo! IM Links broken in Messages Beta

Messages So I’ve been playing with the Messages Beta and it’s pretty neat.

Messages is touted as the replacement for iChat for its upcoming OSX release. Not only will it support existing IM networks, but you will now be able to chat with people on its iMessage network, where anyone using an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch running iOS 5.0 is already on.

I’m currently attempting to switch completely from Adium to Messages and see how that’ll work out. Messages currently supports AIM, Yahoo! IM, and Google Talk. The only obvious missing network is MSN/Live Messenger.

It obviously doesn’t have all the plugin support such as OTR (Off-the-Record Message), but for a beta, it’s actually working pretty well. I understand this is still in beta and any of the problems I see will probably be fixed by the time Mountain Lion comes out.

One annoying thing is there’s no way to disable all sounds. If you’re a fan of the beeps and boops you get with text messaging on the iPhone, you’ll probably enjoy it. The preferences allows me to disable sounds for each event individually, but I can’t seem to find a way to disable sounds globally.

An issue that my only friend on Yahoo! keeps reminding me is that they appear to have broken the Yahoo! IM protocol for links. Whatever it’s doing, the links are showing up multiple times on their end. I’ve confirmed this by doing a test with my dad’s Yahoo! account also. Here’s what happens when I send a simple link:

Yahoo! IM Links broken on Messages Beta

One rather cool thing is that you can link up your IM contacts with your address book entries. Took me quite some time, but I’ve finally mapped out most of my IM contacts. Previously I would attach a note/comment on the user in case I forgot who they were (which happens to people I don’t talk to frequently).

I had hoped that conversations would be synced to the cloud, but unfortunately it doesn’t look like it’s happening yet. Something I was hoping to see was if I was having a conversation on my laptop, I would be able to see the full conversation in Messages on my desktop (and vice versa).

All in all, I’m enjoying Messages and looking forward to see it in its final form when Mountain Lion is released.

iPod nano Replacement Got Upgraded!

iPod Nano Replacement

I sent in my first gen iPod nano I purchased on launch day because of the battery defect issue. Apparently due to supply constraints, we are getting upgraded to the current gen with twice as much storage!

Dear Apple Customer:

Thank you for participating in the iPod nano (1st generation) Replacement Program. Please find your replacement iPod enclosed.

Serial Number
Please note that your replacement iPod has a serial number different to that of your original iPod nano. In some case due to limited availability of replacement stock of iPod nano (1st generation) Apple may have replaced your iPod with a more recent iPod model of equivalent or better specification. Always retain a record of your serial number(s) for future reference.

Your replacement iPod product is warranted to be free from defects for 90 days from the date of service.

To ensure that your iPod software is up to date, download the latest iTunes from Apple’s website at Questions regarding the operation of your iPod can be answered at Apple’s online support site at

Apple’s Cards App NEEDS to Group Purchases

So as I mentioned a couple days ago, I’ve been playing with the Apple’s Cards App on my iPhone 4S and have been mostly satisfied with the experience so far, but I hit into a couple hitches today.

The first thing I noticed was the server was overloaded this afternoon. Half the time, I would get an alert telling me there was a problem connecting to the server and to try again later. But if I tap Buy again, it usually went through.

Then I got to a point where my card was being declined. I logged into my credit card’s website and looked at the pending transactions:

Apple Cards App Charges

No, I didn’t create that many cards. Half of them are $1 authorizations. Of the remaining half, about 1/3 are duplicates from server failures, which I’m hoping I won’t be charged as these duplicate orders don’t show up under my account. The cards are $2.99 each + tax. If you want to deliver them internationally, it’s $4.99 + tax.

So I expected a call from my credit card fraud/security team, but that call never came. I eventually called customer support myself assuming that the flood of Apple transactions was the cause of my card being declined. After speaking with someone on the security team, it turns out there’s a limit of 25 transactions per day before my card starts rejecting additional charges. And each of those $1 authorizations count toward that limit.

Here’s my suggestion to Apple: Please group multiple card orders like you group iTunes purchases and make one charge at the end of the day. Given it’s the holiday season, the perfect time for someone to use your Cards app, sending out 13+ cards should not be uncommon and that assume I won’t be using the credit card anywhere else that day. Plus with your server issues, some charges are showing up twice. If needed, I can even create all the cards I want beforehand and then submit them all to be charged together, but that’s currently not an option via your app. This would not only avoid having so many transactions which would easily trigger fraud alerts, but you wouldn’t have to make so many separate authorization checks. Plus it’s better for you in the long run too, since you’ll be saving on per transaction credit card fees.

I’ve already submitted the same feedback at Apple – Cards – Feedback. Hopefully we’ll see this fixed soon before the holidays are over.

Apple Cards App

Apple Cards AppGiven it’s the holiday season, I got a chance to play with Apple’s Card app. Despite the greatness of iPhone 4S’ camera, it still wasn’t as great as my Canon 60D SLR, so I took the picture I wanted with my Canon and imported it into iPhoto. Like magic, it was on my iPhone Photo Stream moments later.

The app is still rather primitive. The selection of templates to choose from was decent, but still felt lacking. I didn’t really find a particular one that stood out to me, but I guess the card is really about the photo you’ll be choosing.

After you select the photo you want, it allows you to zoom and move around. I guess if you wanted to edit the photo, you can use iPhone’s new photo editing software, which is supposedly good, but I haven’t had a chance to mess around with it yet.

The text was where I found the app lacking. There was no way to choose a different font or change the font size. When I wanted something left aligned, there wasn’t an option for that. Given a box, the font, size, and alignment were unchangeable. It also wasn’t immediately obvious that some text can be changed, but I soon found out that any text can be changed.

You can enter a name/address to mail the card to, but it was a lot easier to pick the person out from my address book.

Halfway through making a card, but need to stop temporarily? No worries. The app allows you to save the card and come back to it later.

I was hoping they would allow me to use my iTunes credit to purchase these cards, but unfortunately it’s hooked up with the Apple store and not the iTunes store. After logging in, it showed me my credit card on file and ask me to enter the card security code.

Then ZOOOOOOM, off my greeting card goes. The total cost was $2.99 + tax and I got my receipt in my email shortly.

Update: They also need to fix their Online Order Status for Cards. I’m not even talking about the inability to cancel the order as I can see how once your order is submitted, it could be processed for printing immediately. What I’m talking about is there’s no indication which order is which. You can click on order details or print invoice, but the only info you’ll see is your own. The email they send you does include who it’s for, but even on that email, there’s no confirmation of the mailing address. You can open the Cards app and confirm the mailing address there, but there’s no order # in the app so you can easily look up the order status.

How to cancel a download in iTunes

I’m shocked at how difficult Apple makes it for the user to cancel downloads from iTunes. Being a freebie junkie, I am sometimes addicted to downloading iTunes freebies. That’s when I discovered just how hard it is to cancel a download in iTunes. I had queued up several large video clips to download which I’m no longer interested in:

iTunes Downloads

That adds up to about 4.8GB, bandwidth I don’t really feel like wasting given how hard ISPs are cracking down on high bandwidth users. So I tried to pause and delete the downloads. It appears to work, until I restart iTunes, which then immediately resumes downloading when I log back into the iTunes Music Store. I search online for solutions and found the following 2 threads:

Sorry, but you can’t yourself remove an item from your download queue. Contact the iTunes Store customer support department through the form linked from the bottom of their Download FAQ web page (I recommend that you use the form, not the link in your Purchase History as they advise; that’s not proven to be very reliable) and explain the problem to them. They may be able to clear the download queue for you.

Good luck.

So I just got off the phone with Apple tech support and the representative seemed very interested in this problem… He said there wasn’t any solution that he (or his associates) knew of, but that he’d bring it to attention at a meeting this afternoon. I referenced a number of forums to stress that many users have this problem.
So I guess we’ll have to wait and see if it becomes an update in a future version of iTunes.

Anyways, at this point I’m just going to let them download completely and then delete them. Sucks.

Apparently there is no way for me to do it myself and I have to contact customer support (either on the phone or through the webform). You can go to the contact form directly.

I can understand why they make it difficult, given the fact that iTunes doesn’t allow you to re-download and they want to make sure you actually did complete your download of any items you purchased (or in my case – obtained for free). However there should still be able way for me to stop/cancel any of my downloads, even if I have to go deep into my account and find that delete button. This is very unlike Apple, which typically tends to make great UI/UX. Then again, iTunes is a disaster waiting to happen. The only reason I even have it installed is because of my iPod Nano.

Another very annoying thing is that when you purchase an HD video, they FORCE you to download both SD and HD. Once again, either they need to allow me to suspend downloads (until I want to download it), or allow me to cancel the SD version from being downloaded at all. It’s just wasted bandwidth.

Here’s the email I sent to Apple:

I have 3 items in my download queue which apparently I can’t remove and have to submit this form according to:

The 3 items are large (several gigs in total) and I’d prefer to not have to download them, but am annoyed by the fact that it keeps wanting to resume downloading whenever I start iTunes. I’m surprised there’s no way for me to delete it from the queue.

The 3 items are:
Order #***** – Truth In 24
Order #***** – Whap – Harper’s Island (SD)
Order #***** – Whap – Harper’s Island (HD)

I’d appreciate if you would remove these from my download queue.

I’ll post back to let you know if this actually works.

Update: Got a reply from iTunes Store Customer Support:

Dear *****,

Thanks for contacting iTunes Store Customer Support. My name is Blaine and I understand you would like some large files removed your download queue. I will be happy to help with this.

*****, please accept my sincere apologies for the frustration this download has caused. I took the liberty of removing the file(s) causing the issue from your download queue.

Thanks for being an iTunes Store Customer, *****!


iTunes Store Customer Support

w00t! Apple’s customer support is still top notch. 🙂