AMITIAE - Friday 13 July 2012

Cassandra: Friday Review - The Weekend Arrives

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Apple and EPEAT. Tim Cook goes to a conference. Update to iPhoto. Sales of PCs down, sales of Apples up; sales of ultrabooks down, sales of the MacBook Air up. Is there a link? Samsung designs an Apple store. Dangerous bridges being crossed -- UK law to steal your photographs; UK government to steal your emails too: does the UK get the Internet, or do they understand it only too well? Having upset OEMs, now Microsoft says the Surface was only a point of reference. Nokia sues RIM. RIM patent values marked down considerably. RIM clumsy Twitter campaign. Nokia sacks social media man.

Apple Stuff

We had a bit of news over the last few days concerning Apple and its EPEAT withdrawal. There were concerns that with San Francisco City pointing out that it could no longer buy Apple products without the EPEAT seal of approval, Apple sales would take a dive: hardly likely in world terms.

However, Apple did respond (that Tim Cook is changing things at Infinite Loop) and Dara Kerr reports that Apple says its own standards are a better measure and makes some other points about this too. However, the article adds that design of the new MacBook Pro with Retina display with its integrated circuitry and new battery design, was difficult to disassemble, so that made it impossible to certify.

Talking of Tim Cook: Apple's CEO had a surprise day out recently, when made a brief visit to the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference in Idaho: a retreat organized by the Company, a private investment firm every July, when business leaders and philanthropists meet to network and listen to talks MacNN reports. Don Reisinger also mentions the trip and includes the point that Cook was "talking to a lot of people" there.

Apple posted a video on its website earlier in the year to give potential employees an idea of what it might be like to work for the company, Chris Oldroyd reports on iMore and includes a version of the video. I ran this and there are a couple of places that are worth freezing the frame just to look at stuff, for example the scenes where whiteboards are in use.

Apple has also posted an official list of which Macs will be able to upgrade to Mountain Lion, the next iteration of OS X, which is coming real soon now. The page confirms it is July (and we only have 18 days left) at the top, while a bit further down is that list as part of the set of information instructions about how to make that upgrade: first check your Mac specs. There are sure to be some noises and rumours as the time approaches and to start the ball rolling I checked my MacBook Pro this week using Disk Warrior.

One of the turning points for me with the arrival of the iPad was the announcement that News Corp was setting up a digital newspaper expressly for the medium. But what a disappointment that was. First it was US only, when the market is clearly worldwide. When it was opened up so that other countries were able to use the app on the iPad, all that was available was news that was totally US-centric making any payment a waste for those outside the US, and from what I read, not much value for those inside America either. Now Mel Martin on TUAW reports, there are rumors that The Daily is losing about $30 million per year and on "life support". Murdoch will not countenance that for long.

More malware for the Mac is appearing, but it does not affect computers with the latest versions of OS X as it needs Rosetta to run and, as Steven Sande reports, the earlier versions also warn that the certificate is not trusted. If you still go ahead and install the applet then, well serves you right.

The Chinese are convinced they know what the iPhone 5 will be like and so some sites there already have pre-order web pages, AppleBitch reports with suitable dismissive comments.

On Friday morning I found an update to iPhoto (9.3.1) with the following notes from Apple:

  • Addresses a problem during the migration of albums from MobileMe Gallery that may cause photos to be moved from their original events into a new event called "From MobileMe"
  • Fixes an issue that in rare cases could cause iPhoto to hang when upgrading libraries

There was also information in the Software Update panel about the earlier 9.3 update (such as the shared Aperture library). On my MacBook Pro the update was shown as 630.4 MB -- quite hefty. Time for a coffee methinks. This is also available from the Apple downloads pages.

Half and Half

It was interesting to read (although not totally a surprise) that PC shipments have dropped by some 6% in the 2nd quarter this year. However, for the same quarter, inexplicably, sales of Apple grew. Everyone else saw a drop AppleInsider reports. The same was true for world markets, although Apple's overall share here is much lower -- room for growth I suppose

Related to this is a report by Brooke Crothers who writes that the clones of the MacBook Air that so many makers thought they were going to make a killing with because Apple could, are not going well at all. On the other hand, sales of the MacBook Air are up. Do you suppose the buyers are beginning to notice something?

However, despite the good figures from Gartner, Jeff Blagdon on The Verge tells us that IDC report that sales of Apple devices shrunk. Both agree that worldwide PC shipments are falling.

I have commented before about looking at Samsung products and thinking I can see something from Apple, but this week Chris Oldroyd reports on the opening of the first Samsung store in the US and as he implies in the headline, the photograph makes it abundantly clear where the design inspiration came from.

As Apple and Samsung move to trial, the jury selection questions are interesting with Apple producing 6 pages (49 questions) and Samsung 40 pages (700 questions). Confuse-a-jury day in court Electronista suggests or perhaps another attempt to delay the whole show. Asking those questions of each juror would take days. While the judge, Lucy Koh has been pressing for limitations in the case and is likely to be frustrated by this, cutting questions may be grounds for an appeal. There is also a lengthy analysis on the question of the questions from Florian Mueller on Foss Patents whose excellent site I again urge people to visit for information about all the patent disputes Apple and others are involved in.

Other Matters

I was appalled recently by news that the UK government was planning to change laws regarding what are called "orphan works" and this will play right into the hands of large media companies -- such as the BBC, News International or Google -- who will be able to use your photos on Facebook, Flickr or other sites if they are unable to find the copyright holder: and according to the article by Andrew Orlowski on The Register, they will not have to try very hard before grabbing these works, saving themselves the need to pay people for using their photos.

I would urge anyone to put a digital watermark in any image they put online and make sure there is something to identify the ownership in the metadata. Orlowski's article suggests that there is an indecent haste to the way the legislation is being put through partly because there is a Euro-law in the pipeline. If the UK gets there first, it can claim precedence for what goes on in Britain. I can't find much else about this in the UK news sources and this is something that should be right up the street of some of them.

It may also need the major social sites to amend their rules so that the rights of users posting images are assured. It is not only us poor photo-uploaders who are upset these days as the EU law is upsetting some artists, like Raadiohead and Pink Floyd the BBC reports: Pink Floyd already took Apple to task over their works and now the tunes of some albums may not be sold separately because of artistic integrity. The law apparently does not go far enough in giving artists rights over their royalties. This has long been a bone of contention as some artists who became famous in the 1960s report not earning a penny from recordings.

Not only is the UK government intent on removing all rights of users to their photographs, but they seem determined to remove all users' rights on the Internet. The Register's Kelly Fiveash reports on another nasty bit of legislation that the current government (who have not cornered the market in UK government evil) which I have written about before on Cassandra. When even your friends -- such as a Conservative MP -- are describing your law as "an odious shopping list of new powers" there may be cause for the public to be alarmed.

I am not a Conservative supporter by a long chalk, but Labour when it was in Power had similar ideas, but in both cases they are prompted by the Mandarins in the Home Office (Interior Ministry). The latest information that prompted the outburst was the news that ISPs would need to provide (and pay for) storage facilities that the government security agencies would have free access to. In the past, such access has needed a warrant and someone, like a police officer, has to stand in front of a judge to ask for the legal permission and to do so -- I have done this -- a fairly solid set of reasons has to be presented, not a set of excuses for a fishing trip. A dangerous bridge is about to be crossed here.

And if you want to understand some of the mindset of Conservative MPs Anna Leach reports that one of them is dissing the Raspberry Pi and suggesting that they be taught the rudiments of radio technology like we were some 50 years ago: conservative with a small "c" too. I could teach them all about vacuum tubes as well.

I am not sure if it is over the Artists' law or the legislation concerning orphan works -- becoming stolen works -- that has prompted William Hague to announce an "audit" of EU law according to the BBC. It looks as if he is trying to limit what EU law can do: something that will be popular in some quarters there. The problem with the Brits on the EU is that they want to cherry-pick:" OK to have all those juicy subsidies, but not the Euro; and fine to have free trade, but not the laws that regulate it. Now it seems they are going to try and insert another barrier between Europe and the UK forgetting that there already was one: the Channel. Maybe the UK should never have joined the Common Market in the first place. That was a Conservative decision after a referendum.

Only a couple of weeks ago we were all supposed to be thrilled by Microsoft's venture into hardware: the novelty of a tablet computer. Some people were rude enough to point out that Redmond had been this way before, but each time the promise of "this is the one" turned into just so much vapourware. The difference here was that it was all ready to go sort of. Not everything would work, and no one was allowed to get their hands on one for more than a few seconds; and if they tried any tricks, it was taken away. Those surprised the most by this were Microsoft's OEM partners. All were a bit sniffy about this, with HP going into a proper sulk and reaching for the jelly beans or something. Stan Shih -- I laughed at his head in the sand approach -- said it wasn't going to happen, despite Ballmer's insistence that it was.

Stan Shih may have been right and Ballmer among others is trying to walk this back as fast as they can and the key words are beginning to change, almost as if a government propaganda office were in control.

A number of articles have some updated information on what the Surface is (or maybe isn't now) including MacDaily News which has a rather good reprise and is in full sarcasm mode, with the usual comments on "a sweaty Ballmer T. Clown", while also linking to John Paczowski's article on All Things Digital who reports the latest Ballmer climb-down, but fails to mention the Surface release comments that were made before.

How many writers were fooled again, like they were with the Kindle Fire and earlier Redmond claims?

With MSNBC about to lose the MS part, we are also told on Huffington Post that Microsoft is cutting more advertising jobs but of course it is OK as they are thinking about the exciting new possibilities for their partners. An odd way to think, isn't it?

In a race to the bottom, there is still rivalry and it was revealed earlier in the week by Foss Patents that although each may be approaching bankruptcy (despite vehement denials) RIM is being sued in Germany by Nokia over three patents that it has also made claims against HTC and Viewsonic about.

There were some gasps when the real value of RIM was discussed this week. Much of what it claims as assets, is contained in patents, Foss Patents reports: about 85%. However, the value they claim has recently been marked down, by their own information sent to the ITC. I urge you to read this lengthy article which examines the filing and in just what a parlous state RIM may actually have found itself to be in.

And as if they don't have enough problems, there is criticism in the US of a RIM advertising campaign using Twitter that backfired. The message to retweet was "Fill in the blank: BlackBerry helps me ________." Well, the possibilities are endless aren't they? A lot of users thought so too, according to Salvador Rodriguez on The LA Times and some examples are given.

While RIM is contracting -- imploding almost -- Nokia is trying to follow suit and in what may be a bad PR move, have sacked their PR guy, Phillip Schwarzmann, who is US head of Social Media, Chris Ziegler reports on The Verge. In his blog posting, he mentions the "burning platform," which was an infamous comment by Elop when Symbian was dumped last year. And for their next trick? . . .

Local Items

With True Visions cutting service Sunday night through 0900 Monday morning to update encryption software (Richard Barrow Tweet) can we expect major problems turning the TVs on when we want to view anything on Monday? I am not betting against it.

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.



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