AMITIAE - Wednesday 21 November 2012

Cassandra - Wednesday Review - The Week in Full Swing

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Apple and iOS success. OS X duds, and the next version: Lynx? Rumours on iPhone 5S and iPhone 6: perhaps false. iMac delay rumours shown to be untrue. OS X Notifications Center: needs adjustments. Hints on wifi. Beware Facebook photo sharing. Samsung and Apple patent woes again. Feds will be able to read your emails if Leahy's Bill goes through. Intel's Otellini to retire: three execs in two months (Forestall, Sinofsky and Otellini). Microsoft's Surface: oh . . . that. HP defrauded? iPad mini in Bangkok.

Apple Stuff

While all the news in local media was about the visit of President Obama to the region, just before he left the US for his whistle-stop tour he met with a number of industry leaders including Tim Cook, Apple's CEO, Kelly Hodgkins reports on TUAW. Also there were JPMorgan Chase's Jamie Dimon and Warren Buffet. They talked about "the need to find a balanced deficit-reduction solution".

With most of the mileage coming from iOS devices and downloads these days, it was apt that a lot of sites, among them MacNN, reported this week that the number of apps approved for the App Store has now passed 1 million, of which approximately 736,247 are still active.

This week there was news of two mapping apps: Nokia and Google. The Google one is coming soon and it is expected by many that Apple will open the gates. The Nokia one sailed through without problems and a number of sources reported on this, including Kelly Hodgkins on TUAW. However, I did see a Tweet on Tuesday from a Microsoft man who is based in China who downloaded this and opines that it is not as good as the Apple one. There's praise for you.

Another app available for the iPad allows users to control robots from iRobot (that Will Smith movie was on last night coincidentally). Steven Sande reports on TUAW that a number of settings, including a medical scenario, are available and there is a video of the robot in action.

Not going quite so well were a couple of recent OS X updates. MacNN reports that "the App Store software update for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion to 10.8.2 was removed for the new Mac Mini, iMac, and 13-inch Retina display MacBook Pro. Additionally, the Mid-2012 MacBook Air/MacBook Pro Update 2.0 has been pulled due to problems reported by users." That update has now been re-released to fix the earlier problem, but this only affects some users. Other than that, I see no updates available this morning.

However, work is under way on the next version of OS X, 10.9 (which some rumours suggest will be called Lynx) and Chris Foresman on Ars Technica reports that it may be the update could incude Siri and Maps. On Siri, Apple is hiring translators, iPodNN reports and there is a job listing asking for those "native or fluent" in Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, Korean, Norwegian, and/or Swedish (and English of course). But not Thai. Not yet.

Another rumoured release is that of an iPhone 5S which could be out in early 2013 with the iPhone 6 coming later in the year. How can we keep up? The answer is, we don't. Buy when we need, rather than line up for the latest tech. Beatweek (never heard of this before) has this rumour and my orignal source for this was MacDaily News.

All of these devices have to be built somewhere and while China is the top source for most, Foxconn is reported to be expanding in Brazil as well, we read in an AP report carried in The Times of India. My source for this was MacDaily News. The report did not say where in Brazil this was, but this weekend the Brazilian GP is to be held in Sao Paulo. I hope that I shall be watching.

A report on Patently Apple tells us that apparently the iPhone 5 is shipping faster in the USA but not in Asia. This refers to orders made via the online stores although the Thai online store now shows shipping of 2 weeks, down from 3 earlier.

We carried reports a week or so ago in which the iMac was said to be delayed until the new year (isn't it odd how these rumours, like this and the iPhone 5S keep appearing), but now Andrew Cunningham on Ars Technica reports this is not now believed to be the case. There are also reports on the method of making the iMac using friction stir welding, which I reported on weeks ago when the iMac was first announced. Jeez, is no one listening?

It is perhaps a perfect moment to insert an item from Seeking Alpha by DutchJay who seeks to explain the way Apple's share prices work. He has been looking at the charts and every time a new product is launched -- he focuses in part on the iPhone 4S -- the fall and fall (yes, you read that right) are not what might be expected.

I still think it is a false depression with the shares being kept low so that some people can make lots of money when the price springboards back.

The Notifications Center in OS X seemed like a good idea at the time, but I am having a problem or two with RSS feeds. These were missing in the update to Safari and are much missed in this house, but I have tried a couple of alternatives. One went in the trash after a couple of wipeouts, while I now use mainly a 3rd party app called NetNewsWire, which works OK but does mean working in two apps where one (Safari) had been OK before. Firefox RSS handling was hopeless so I switched away from browsers.

I also have an RSS utility that sends feeds right to Notification Center where I can click on them and the browser opens a page. All OK except for one slight problem: the maximum number of items that can be displayed is 20 and I may come home to see 37 from one source, 20 from another and then some more from a third: but still I see only 20 in the listing. The others are gone. I have looked for a PLIST file wondering if I might tamper with that, but so far no luck and I am getting cross.

I have been having an email correspondence in the last few days with a friend who lives in Indonesia. He has been setting up an Airport (wifi) router and found that the concrete walls and ceilings cut down signal strength. They would of course. Even in my small apartment, where there is just one wall between the computer and the wifi, the signal only shows 54% in iStumbler and that works fine. It was lower in the house I lived in before, but the only room the bars showed any reduction on my iPhone was the bathroom (don't ask) -- more concrete makes a difference, even though radio waves are not line of sight.

By a lovely coincidence, Christopher Breen on MacWorld had an item early this week on how to evaluate the strength of your AirPort network, which I forwarded to Indonesia.

Half and Half

A report on Inside Facebook this week, by Brittany Darwell, tells us that a feature that has been available for Android users for a while is now available for those with iOS devices. We can now sync photos from our iPhones and iPads to our Facebook pages which sounds to me a recipe for disaster. I already have Apple's PhotoStream and on more than one occasion have had to rush round devices to clear an embarrassing shot or two: not all photos are well composed and focus can be a problem. Imagine those wild moments that some of the younger members of the species have: ten minutes later these are plastered all over Facebook for the world to see. No thanks. Mercifully at the moment it is something that a limited number of users have to turn on: not activated by default.

Apple, Spotify and Amazon are being sued by a California company that claims the technology they all use in their cloud services belongs to them. Anna Leach at The Register writes, "Innovative Automation filed the cases in the Eastern District of Texas and is suing for damages, reasonable royalties and costs. The firm has asked for a jury trial." That sounds like Tyler (i have been there), a court which is notoriously sympathetic to those suing big companies over patents.

Apple was cleared of infringing some Samsung patents by the ITC, but now that court is to have another look at the preliminary decision, Mikey Campbell reports on AppleInsider. If upheld, some iOS devices could be banned in the US. There's justice for you.

Other Matters

They are at it again. After many attempts by UK and US authorities to extend the abilities of law enforcement to access online traffic, a report tells us that the Senate has rewritten a bill on privacy that allows the Feds to read your email. The report that MacDaily News has on this (with a link to the source) carries the famous Benjamin Franklin quote: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Late Monday night I had a heads up from Bloomberg on my iPhone on the retirement of Paul Otellini in an item by Lisa Rapaport. I put a small article online myself with the added comment about the coincidence of Steve Sinofsky's departure from Microsoft: was this to be three little Steves all in a row?

I was not the only one thinking along these lines as I later found an item on Patently Apple that refers to this retirement as the Third Tech Titan to Fall in Q4 2012: the others being Sinofsky and Scott Forestall. The article includes the comment, "Otellini's inability to sway Apple to use Intel's architecture for any of their hot iDevices such as the iPhone or iPad was a troubling trend for Intel and today it exacted a very high price. In hindsight, the writing was on the wall."

Adding to this is Robert X. Cringely who also makes the point that dealings with Apple may have hastened the end of Otellini, but thinks the whole board should have gone and has some quite fascinating background to the recent history and moves within this essential part of the IT industry: and where Intel was going wrong.

To the Surface. . . .

A lot was written enthusiastically about the Surface when it was first announced, as had been on the Amazon Kindle Fire. Since which, of course, many of those writers have been walking their comments back.

A biased commentator, although sometimes on the mark, is MG Siegler of Tech Crunch who admits he loves the iPad but still wanted a look at the Surface (I would too, if only for the experience). He went and bought one, but should have saved his money as he writes, "it's a strange, buggy, and clunky product that I simply can't imagine many people buying after the initial hype wears off."

As I read through the not so good review, I kept seeing the word, Buggy, and this was not a reference to old transport technology. I did a search and he uses this word four times which itself is revealing in a not nice way. He trashed it: literally.

On the NYTimes, Damon Darlin had a collection of reviews with all except Walt Mossberg being fairly negative.

In another comment on Microsoft, Slash Lane of AppleInsider looks at sales of Windows 8 which are apparently falling far short of what was predicted: there's that Ballmer bluster again. And note the departure of Sinofsky might figure into this picture somehow.

In among the critics it is hard to find any words of good about the Surface, so who should we turn to, apart from Oprah Winfrey Tweeting its praises (source Alex Wilhelm, TNW and others) from her iPad (that sure fell flat): why not Steve Wozniak who is always good for a soundbite or two with his long experience in computers? He apparently thinks it is OK, which prompts Kate MacKenzie on PixoBebo to ask, besides him, is there anyone who likes Microsoft Surface more than Apple's iPad? She is actually rather forgiving as it looks as if the Woz may have been taken out of context again.

Actually there is someone else who is not going for iPads, although they are not going for the Surface either. Emil Protalinski on The Next Web reports that Emirates (the airline) has developed a Windows 8 app and are buying 1,000 HP ElitePad 900 devices: that is Hewlett Packard, not Horse Power I presume.

Note to self: do not fly Emirates.

Also related to HP is a report that when it bought the British company Autonomy last year, it misrepresented its value by $5 billion. What on earth happened to due diligence? Timothy Prickett Morgan writing on The Register tells us that this slight oversight is leading to an $8.8 billion write-down (where did that other $3 billion in change come from?).

Oh there is much more to this than meets the eye.

Local Items

Although they have just arrived, and are sold out in some stores here, I saw two iPad minis in use this week: one in the print shop I use in Siam Discovery, Italia Design; and another in one of my classes. A year 2 Mechanical Engineering student had one sitting next to his iPhone. This was the same class where the previous week another student had a new iPhone 5. Smart kids these.

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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