AMITIAE - Monday 20 February 2012
Cassandra - Monday Review: It will soon be Friday
By Graham K. Rogers
Opening GambitTim Cook begins to reveal himself. Apple begins to reveal Mountain Lion (the next version of OS X). Comments and links for 10.8 information and ideas: some useful parts of iOS borrowed. I try out Messages: useful. Foxconn news: ABC recording a Nightline Special; NYTimes at last names other companies. NYTimes not in favoured news outlet status with Apple. Countdown to 25 billion app downloads. Proview is broke, so needs to make sure Apple pays up front for iPad name. Education on tablets makes kids smarter: should politicians be allowed near them (iPads not the kids)? Microsoft is not needed to get real work done: some of us knew that anyway.
Apple StuffOver the weekend I listened to the Tim Cook question and answer session at Goldman Sachs IT conference that took place last week. There were some really interesting points that were made, but one of the most fascinating was the way that Cook became so animated when answering some questions. Apple put the audio webcast of the event online and the full event at almost 48 minutes is still available.
There is also a transcript available by the good graces of MacRumours.
Apple re-affirmed its commitments to improvements of the workers' lives, so perhaps the pay-rises that have been awarded by Foxconn is part of that drive; and (earth-shattering in its own way) Apple invited ABC to film inside the factories.
More on that below and obviously when this is televised in the US. All this was coupled with the way that Apple made its announcements about Mountain Lion last week, omitting the NYTimes from the favoured few list, and aiming at a new type of resource, including a couple of bloggers. Powerful bloggers (John Gruber and Jim Dalrymple), but bloggers nonetheless. This was especially pointed as David Pogue and some formerly important others did not have the one on one approach granted to them. As Federico Viticci of MacStories Tweeted, "Look, IMO is just normal that when you piss off a company, they are not gonna let you see stuff. Even if you're the NYT."
We are also told that neither Walt Mossberg nor Andy Ihnatko were given the special treatment although like Pogue they did get pre-release software. A new CEO sweeps clean.
There is a definite sense of sniggering from some of these publications when discussing what didn't happen to the NYTimes. I guffawed myself.
A good place to start is with Federico Viticci of MacStories who has written on this before. He has a number of ideas on this and summarises the ideas of others. Note particularly the idea here of iCloud which was mentioned by Tim Cook as being fundamental to Apple's future directions.
As ever there are to be changes. We noted on Friday how some Macs will not make the grade, and there is news from Daniel Eran Dilger on AppleInsider about other things to go: X11 and a deprecation of Carbon Core. I was a bit worried about X11 as I sometimes run Unix programs (like GIMP), but there will still be support for these. So far anyway. We also read on Electronista that the USB option (a spare OS X on a flash drive) will not be available from Apple as it is not needed. The problem with a download-only version is that not everyone has super-fast broadband and some (even in the US) are still stuck with POTS: the plain old telephone system.
And right on cue, OS X Daily has an article on "How to Make a Bootable OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion USB Install Drive" which is a little premature as only developer versions are out.
One of the other features is Gatekeeper a technology that allows only trusted apps to be installed on the computer. Steven on Panic Blog has an excellent outline of the workings of Gatekeeper and its code-signing techniques and encryption. He also looks at how this works now for iPhone apps: "Since Apple is the only entity able to sign App Store applications, iOS will simply refuse to run any app that doesn't have Apple's signature" which is why so many here like to jailbreak their phones (and then wonder why they have problems: they usually blame Apple's). Apple has found a middle ground, he tells us, that has some of the best points of signatures but also allows users the freedom to install apps from other sources that have a unique ID and this can be revoked if things go wrong (malware or other problems).
Take a look yourself. There is a fair amount of information available on the Apple Mountain Lion pages with the new blue star-scape background. I rather like the Share Sheets and as well as the current Photo-sharing, this shows the way cloud use is going to become more useful. There is also a section on the Mountain Lion pages that is aimed specifically at China: "Mail, Contacts, and Calendar work with QQ, 163, and 126. Baidu, the leading Chinese search provider, is a built-in option in Safari." The page adds, "The video-sharing websites Youku and Tudou are included in the new Share Sheets, so users in China can easily post videos to the web. They can also blog with Sina weibo, the popular microblogging service."
The heading at the top of the page is "Inspired by iPad. Re-imagined for Mac" and a lot of the information (and the video) make it clear how OS X is borrowing some good points from iOS. Some of the main ideas seem to be firmly connected with the use of iCloud.
We first read of the Foxconn pay rises on Friday in an item by Matt Brian on The Next Web who relates that this is actually the third raise in 2 years. We do note that Brian includes the "increasing number of suicides" meme, but like others omits to include the point that the number of suicides at Foxconn is below the national average, perhaps making it a safer place to work.
We also note that it was not until Sunday that the NYTimes finally got round to putting an item on its pages reporting on the pay rises that Foxconn are implementing, but (what a surprise) now it is Apple, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other electronics companies that use Foxconn. David Barboza (now the sole reporter on this story) might have included these names, and others, earlier. Who am I trying to kid?
A note from Electronista on insider trading that was uncovered when an analyst from Oregon used information concerning Apple, from SanDisk and Flextronics. If he is convicted, he could get 20 years in prison.
And on the iPad 3, we read over the weekend that the screen should be the Retina Display, the camera will be 8MP and the casing is more tapered. Rene Ritchie on iMore has this and some more information on the next competitor to the Kindle Fire and the Motorola XyBoard. Several more reports appeared by Monday morning, but one -- from Electronista -- also mentioned the processor was marked A5X and not A6 as had been expected: another evolution. Will this be the iPad 2S; or is this actually a test mockup that has been released (also on AppleInsider)?
Microsoft's biggest miss was allowing the world to finally see the truth behind the big lie - they were not needed to get real work done. Or anything done, really.
I note that on Slashdot on Sunday there was a question posed by theodp asking whether Redmond should put Office on the iPad and one of the comments in there suggests that "The iPad's momentum not only in the home but in the workplace opens the door for Office alternatives to take hold on the Apple tablet". The door is shut. This small Slashdot article also quotes the Rhone item (above). There are lots of writing and spreadsheet apps already and I use Keynote for presentations on the iPhone and the iPad (the slides can be exported in a number of formats including PPT), so what is the point? Microsoft has not only missed the boat here, but exposed the shallowness for all to see: not needed, go away.
There are some teachers and authorities in other parts of the world (start as close as Singapore) who are keen and are succeeding. Jim Dalrymple on The Loop for example writes this week on a study that proves kindergarten students using iPads score better on literacy tests: "classes using the iPads outperformed the non-iPad students in every literacy measure they were test [sic] on". There is another nice quote in that article that needs to be sent around all offices that even think they are connected to the Tablet project in Thailand: "The objective has to be learning, not just getting the technology out there"; although I don't suppose that will gel with most of them.
Half and HalfOooh, Google lied. Although they are denying this totally. At the end of last week, it appeared that Google had put in place some technique for getting round cookies in mobile Safari and on other platforms (I am sure Android was one) and tracking the user. Julia Angwin and Jennifer Valentino-DeVries on Wall Street Journal report on this and how it works and how Google is denying things. Apple is working hard to block this -- no friend of Google these days of course -- and there are a number of other experts cited to make me think that there could be something to it indeed. What I want to know is where is Al Franken and the other Senators and Congressmen who wanted their nanoseconds of fame when Apple was thought to be some sort of data location ringleader? We hope the EU too goes after them.
As a note, Charles Cooper tells us that Eric Schmidt of Google -- former Apple board member -- is to sell 2.4 million shares of Class A stock in Google: about $1.4 billion. It is part of a prearranged trading plan.
Other MattersOne of the things I like to keep track of is DSLR camera releases and we read in an item by Nathan Ingram on The Verge this weekend that the Nikon D4 (a whopping great, rugged camera) is expected to be released in mid-March in America. He also includes the release a few days later of the D800.
Local ItemsA thing about modern technology that dinosaurs still haven't grasped, is that once you put yourself in the public eye, it may be there for all the world to see: warts and all. The National Parks service, whom I have never really liked since they put the price of entry up several times for non-Thais, because tourists don't pay taxes and charged everyone the same whether we pay taxes or not, making it a pure case of racism, are at it again.
This time they are targeting the Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand (WFFT), an organisation set up to protect animals. The problem is that Edwin Wiek has broken one of the unwritten rules here and publicised the trade in young elephants that has been going on, not just under the noses of the Parks officials, but apparently with their collusion: gatekeepers turned gate-openers.
I first got wind of the problems Wiek was facing on Friday, via Twitter. He is being raided on a daily basis, ostensibly as he does not have the paperwork for some of the animals, but really as punishment for speaking out. Animals have been taken away, they have been hurt; his Thai wife was also arrested as she is titular head of the WFFT, but was bailed out later. Other NGOs are also being targeted in this sweep, so orders may have come from Bangkok.
There are a number of videos now on YouTube, a couple of which are a bit disturbing. There is also a video of a local singer, Tom Dundee, taking officials to task (in Thai). The reason there are videos is because of the number of non-Thai volunteers there, so the actions are immediately out there for the world to see. As a note, in one or two, we can also see officials photographing the volunteers, which I would note as a threat of future actions, either at the WFFT sanctuary, or at visa time.
A later Tweet from Richard Barrow informs users that Edwin Wiek will be at the Foreign Correspondents Club on Tuesday evening so there may be some wider publicity after this.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs.
For further information, e-mail to