AMITIAE - Friday 23 November 2012

Cassandra - Friday Review - The Weekend Arrives

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Pagan festival keeps IT world quiet. More US businesses buying Apple; and buying fewer PCs. iTunes 11 this week, this month maybe, perhaps. Apple campus delayed till 2016: shock, horror, yawn. Bug fixes, hints and tips. Apple does use Samsung patents; is willing to pay; but not when no one else pays such special foreigner prices. But now Apple also has its own LTE patents. Microsoft 8: disaster, disappointing and problematic, says professional Windows 7 user.

Apple Stuff

This week is Thanks Giving, a festival that is celebrated seriously in the US but not so much in the UK or Europe where it had its pagan origins. I spent two lovely Thanks Givings in the US in the 1980s. I found I enjoyed them more than Xmas and wondered why we did not go back to the origins, although sacrificing a turkey is a poor substitute for the real thing.

As a result of the holiday, things are always rather quiet apart from sales on what is called Black Friday -- the day after the family dinners -- and which signals the start of the holiday season. Sales of devices over the next few weeks can decide a company's perceived fate or success.

While everyone is still selling Apple shares hoping for massive profits when the price leaps up again, Bob Iger of Disney is leading the charge, MaccNN reports, and has leapt in with $1 million (to go with the $1 million he invested last year) just after he made $17.9 million from the sale of Disney stock.

While Iger is buying shares, US businesses are buying Macs, Neil Hughes claims on AppleInsider, writing that sales of Macs to businesses grew by almost 50% in the recent quarter, but sales of PCs were less than before. The analyst he quotes suggests a number of reasons for this to have happened, but in reality it just boils down to the point that the Mac delivers more and that the high starting price -- that had been the stumbling block for many IT personnel and for the accounts departments -- ends up not to be a major long-term factor at all.

It was promised last month, but slipping by in a rare delay by Apple, but this week we are told that the update to iTunes 11 is coming for sure . . . soon. Josh Lowensohn explains that the software update with some useful new additions will be with us shortly. My link to this was from MacDaily News. Another item on this from Randy Nelson on TUAW does not get us any nearer with a date, but does have some corroboration by way of a hurry-up to artists on the subject of artwork.

On the other hand for some reason, an old friend, OS X Snow Leopard, has returned to the Mac App store MacNN reports. While this was pulled when Mountain Lion came out, it has been brought back, and there is speculation that this is because it is the last disk-installed OS X that allows access to the online store.

Also slipping is the completion date for the Apple "spaceship" campus. The main reason is that an environmental report cannot be completed until next year AppleInsider reports, and ground breaking may not start until that is accepted. The whole thing now gets pushed back to 2016. Sounds OK to me.

But according to the Register I am frothing at the mouth along with millions of Mac owners round the world who are all devastated by the news. Where does the Register come up with such crap? Other than the title which is hit-whoring, Anna Leach's article (find it yourself) made almost no mention of Apple's fans. All in the Register's obviously very tiny, juvenile mindset.

And to show how really silly that was, Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider reports that the plans have now been uploaded to the Cupertino city site and we can download them: why bother?

Apparently the most recent update to iOS 6 fixed an odd bug that meant messages were sent to a stolen iPhone, even if it had been wiped. The system used the UDID which would never change, Chris Foresman reports on Ars Technica.

As it is the time for people to go travelling, it is also useful to remind them of the ways in which they might lose their treasured electronic possessions (howmany stolen at airports each week?), what may happen if thieves do get their hands on them, and how (hopefully) to get them back. Glen Fleishmann has a number of timely hints on MacWorld this week worth more than a glance.

As a point, I mentioned on Wednesday the importance of backups and when I was teaching a couple of classes this week, the question came up in the materials I had prepared. I used the opportunity to probe a little and in two classes of Year 2 Engineering students, not one (53 students) had a backup process in place. It is not much better with year 4 students despite them having knowledge of computers stolen (while they were at a party) and the knowledge that the senior year projects are critical to their graduation.

These guys are not alone, and many professionals do not make backups: just wait till you get your computer stolen. I did and lost lots. But when I had two hard disks crash (albeit on different computers and a couple of years apart) no data was lost.

A few weeks ago I mentioned the imminent release of Sid Meier's Railroads -- an update on his original Railroad Tycoon and for the first time available for the Mac. Peter Cohen reviews this game on MacWorld and while not perfect -- he reports a couple of minor glitches -- it will keep some of the fans happy for some of the time. It is available on the Mac App Store.

Half and Half

Apple and Samsung have been in dispute for a while now over various devices and technologies they both use but one point that keeps appearing is over the use of FRAND patents: the essential technologies that we all use and that are usually licensed to companies at reasonable rates. Hold that point.

Although Apple disputes a lot of points with Samsung it does not deny that certain patents that are used in the devices are owned by Samsung: no dispute. However what is in dispute is the amount that Samsung specifically wants Apple to pay for these fair use patents: fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory. I have written on this concept several times before.

Unfortunately, Bryan Chaffin reminds us in a useful item on The MacObserver, Samsung wants what Apple thinks is not fair, not reasonable, and apparently discriminates: "many times more in licensing fees than it charges competitors". Happy to pay what is truly owed, but not at those prices.

However, Samsung may have been outmanoeuvred (at least in part) as Patently Apple reports that a number of Apple "registered US patents directly related to LTE" have been discovered. Part of that was the transfer recently to Apple of Nortel patents. This is going to run on and on.

While we reported earlier in the week that Samsung was more than interested in the details of the deal that HTC had worked out with Cupertino, one piece of information not available to the S. Korean mega-industrialist was the price tag. Now, Chris Smith reports on Android Authority, now a judge in the case has decided that they (and only they) can see the full information. It is relevant to Apple and Samsung dealings; and HTC cannot expect special treatment. I hope the judge remembers that when it comes to calculating FRAND rates and that Apple cannot expect special mistreatment.

As a later note to that decision, the judge has ordered the document released not to Samsung itself but to the lawyer, John Ribeiro reports on MacWorld: it is "to be marked "Highly Confidential - Attorneys' Eyes Only" as provided under a protective order entered by the court."

There is more in this case, like preventing Samsung from taking over HTC (or Apple come to that -- unlikely as this is) as any major change in shareholdings wil make the agreement null and void.

I am dying to get hold of the Phillips Hue lighting system when it arrives in Asia in the new year (I was told) and already have the app installed on my iPhone. A site called GitHub, has a download available that looks to me as if it needs a jailbroken iOS device, but if installed, it will allow control of the lights via Siri.

Other Matters

You want to see how bad Windows 8 is? The Loop links to a piece by Jacob Nielsen on the UseIt site who works his way methodically through the operating system as installed on the Surface, outlining how disappointing it is.

He does praise the readability of the typography but there is not much else, with words like "disappointing", "Cognitive Overhead", "worst aspects" and "problematic". He calls Windows 8 UX, Weak on Tablets, Terrible for PCs. And just in case you think this is some crazy Mac user working out frustrations, he writes, "I switched from Macintosh to Windows many years ago and have been very pleased with Windows 7."

The Loop also links to John Gruber on Daring Fireball for some comments on this: devastating he calls it.

Local items

I went into that new iStudio in The Mall Tha Phra on Tuesday and had another look at the iPhone 5. Sure, I am weakening. A friend with me wanted a new case for his iPhone 4S as the Moshi one he has now goes through a lot of harsh treatment in his hands: my iPod sock works just great. However, when we went looking in the areas for phone cases, there were really few available (and most were unsuitable): most cases on offer were for the iPhone 5. A few weeks and everything moves on.

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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