AMITIAE - Monday 3 December 2012

Cassandra - Monday Review: It will soon be Friday

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Tim Cook interviewed by NBC. Apple and Alpha and Intel. The release of the new iMac produces several articles and photos. Apple and changes in technology: no innovation remember. Apple iPhone delivered in Thailand with yellow screen and loose home button. Input on the updated iTunes. Register hack compares iPhone prices in US and UK but forgets to mention VAT included. Microsoft buys fewer components for Surface. Analyst suggests the Redmond death spiral is in play: Ballmer to become a golf expert. Cyber-security in Thailand: or not. 3G in Thailand: or not; again.

Apple Stuff

A lot of sites had information about a TV interview that Tim Cook is giving to NBC which is due to air 6 December. As part of the interview process, we are told by Jake Smith on 9to5 Mac that Tim Cook went with Brian Williams to the Apple store at Grand Central Station where they were photographed while filming.

It was reported at the end of last week that Bob Mansfield has sold off some more shares. This time about $20 million. Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider reports that he sold 35,000 Apple shares last week but still has quite a few more. There is not much to this really as Mansfield is one of those who sells off shares at quite regular intervals.

We have heard lots of rumours concerning the idea that Apple could switch from Intel processors after its iOS successes with the Alpha chips, but now in a useful analysis on Seeking Alpha, Ashraf Eassa has the idea that rather than dump Intel, Apple needs the chip maker more than ever after its spats with Samsung.

Right now, despite the gearing up to make chips for Apple in Taiwan, there is not the capacity that Apple needs. The idea is then that Intel will make the A series for the iPhone, but that Intel (I stick at this) will make processors for the iPad. For me, the very point about use of the Alpha is that no one else can have the features designed in by Apple, but with an Intel solution, all the world and his dog can have the same.

Some may remember the scandal that followed last year when a teenager sold his kidney so that he could get an iPad. The problem was not so much the mental capacity of the kid (now quite ill) but the culpability of the doctor and his staff who talked the young man into it. Bloomberg reports that nine people have been sentenced for this.

Last week the new iMac appeared at last and the reviews began to appear quite quickly. Electronista looks at some of the reviews and summarises that it is more than just a redesign. There is also a look at the Fusion Drive and it appears that some people are still not convinced about the innovation here: not simply flash bolted onto a disk.

One of the articles appearing had a look inside and it is quite impressive. Steven Sande on TUAW has information on what we might see and the photographs to go with it. Also looking inside is iFixit and an article by Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider introduces this and the point that the repair site gives it low marks for poor repairability: we said things were moving that way and this should not be a surprise at all. I had not noticed this point from iFixit in that article, but Brooke Crothers points out that their report indicates that some iMacs show a new label: "Designed by Apple in California, Assembled in USA" which is not what we usually see (. . . assembled in China). Mind you, that would keep some politicians off Apple's back.

Another article from AppleInsider, this time with photos of the box, who comment that the unusual shape -- wider at the bottom than the top -- must play havoc with stacking. Some of the best pics of the inside of the new iMac are in an item by Lee Hutchinson on Ars Technica who shows a device without the Fusion Drive.

It was when a new iMac arrived in Bangkok and Toy Li did the introductory presentation at a hotel in the center of the city that I clearly remember him discussing the way Apple is reducing cable connections (this was in relation to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi) but he joked they were still working on a way to charge wirelessly. That time is coming closer and it is possible now in a limited way with induction coils as well as the theoretical charging using changed frequencies over wireless transmissions: not magic after all. Now we are told by Mike Wehner on TUAW that Apple has filed a patent for wireless charging technology . . . Not yet, but on its way, perhaps.

Over the last couple of years, it has been noticed that the Mac has been shedding technology. Some people think it is part of the Apple think thin philosophy, but the increase in the number of ways Apple products use wifi and other forms of networking is beginning to make some people sit up and take a lot more notice. Glenn Fleishman on MacWorld analyses the moves that are being made now, and their potential for the future, concluding that the next big thing is not a new device but connectivity, with Thunderbolt and LTE taking star parts.

I was contacted by one of my students over the weekend who had just taken delivery of an iPhone 5, he told me, that he had ordered from the Apple online store. He was not too happy as the screen was yellow. This was not something that I had seen reported about the iPhone 5, although a search found me some hits about the 4S.

I suggested that he should register a complaint early with Apple as there ought to be consideration of a replacement. Then he told me that the Home button was loose as well. It has to go back. Other models of the iPhone 5 I have seen do not have these problems, which is all the more reason why he should get a new one.

I had been considering buying the iPhone 5 via the online store myself and have had a number of good experiences there (as well as some delayed deliveries), but I see the price is now the same as for buying at a real store, so that might be an avenue I will think about now. Yellow screens and loose buttons: not good enough.

I like to pass on tips that I see from time to time, and this weekend was pleased to see a fairly long article by TJ Luoma on TUAW that examines security on Macs. I managed to score quite highly with what he suggests and I already do, although his last one about protecting unseen parts of the startup process should be examined carefully before anyone rushes to change things.

With the complete change to iTunes when version 11 was released last Friday, there have been a number of articles on what has gone and where it might be now. Topher Kessler on MacFixit has a number of tips and tricks that those new to this might want to look at. I wrote to Topher as one feature I like -- the ability to copy the icon of an iOS app -- appears to have gone and I liked that so that I could put the icons in any reviews I wrote. I had a look at the app for Dandy -- a UK comic I took as a kid that is now digital only -- and ended up with a screen shot: it will do, but it breaks the mould.

On the same theme, Josh Lowensohn has an article on 7 features that were killed with the update to iTunes. Nothing I will particularly miss in that list, but some might. On TidBits, Jeff Carlson has a look at the different way in which iTunes 11 works and, as I noticed, it is a bit like working on an iPad although it is not completely straight forward right now and there do seem to be some things I cannot find. This is a useful run through of this new version of a central application.

In the latest version of OS X there is no X11 Windows system but for those who want (or need) to run this, William Pearson on OS X Daily has an alternative: the Apple-supported XQuartz. He has details of what it is and where to download it. I had not noticed this was gone as one of the applications that used it on my computer, GIMP, has been updated and is now OS X friendly.

Is the Register deliberately not doing its homework again when it comes to Apple just to make another point? Anna Leach (one of the Register girls whose best criticism of the Retina display iPad concerned the fact that the device would display pretty flowers) comments that the unlocked iPhone 5 is more expensive in the UK than it is in the US. With 20% VAT that is bound to be the case, but she does not mention that, nor does she mention the point that prices of Apple products in the US stores are shown with no taxes included.

Note that in the Thai online store, the VAT and other charges are shown beneath the price for the product, like the UK where it shows beneath the 32 GB iPhone 5, "includes VAT of approx £100", which is not that hard to find. The US site also shows the cost of iPhones with plans (e.g. AT&T), while the UK site only shows the unlocked phone as does the Thai store. Plans from True, AIS and DTAC show lower initial prices. Want the article? Find it yourself.

Half and Half

This week's star patent troll, Arendi S.A.R.L. may have hit the mother lode as there is a claim that it has a patent for everything and they have already won against Dell and Microsoft, Patently Apple tells us. Now they are after Apple.

Samsung are like a pit bull: they have their teeth into Apple and refuse to let go. They are happy when they win a case, and make Apple suffer (as in the London advertisement -- they were happy to see Apple tell the world that the judge said the Samsung devices were not as cool) but they lost in California and will not let that one go.

The foreman of the jury apparently had a dispute with Seagate, later taken over by Samsung, so the Samsung lawyers suggest that, of course, he would be biased and he did not tell anyone about his tech knowledge. On these grounds, as well as others, they want a retrial. However, under questioning, Apple's lawyers say that they had zero knowledge that the foreman had been involved in a law suit. But, MacDaily News wonders, did Samsung?

Other Matters

When I read that Facebook which is already overloaded with features that I am not sure everyone wants to use, was going to bring in (bring on?) photo-syncing I was a bit shocked. At least with the Apple solution to this, clunky as it can be if the connections are not perfect, there is a limit to the people who can view what images the devices produce, and it is also now mercifully easy to delete if someone puts online a photograph that would be best not made public. Can Facebook guarantee that: once a pic is out there, it is out there. Leanna Lofte on iMore has a look at this new Facebook feature which, she reports, is set to private by default when it becomes live.

Analysts often try to make predictions about Apple's future sales from the quantities of components it orders from suppliers. We note that a report from Christopher Mims on QZ.COM late last week tells us that Microsoft has cut its orders to suppliers for the Surface RT tablet in half which suggests that things may not be as perfect as Ballmer has been telling everyone. Other tablet computers over that side of the aisle are also not too strong right now.

This all leads in perfectly to an analysis of Redmond and its falling position by Jay Yarrow on Business Insider who last year laid out the nightmare scenario, but concluded it was not going to happen. Now he thinks they were wrong and the nightmare scenario is actually starting to take hold. In a series of slides Yarrow explains how Microsoft's business is beginning to fall apart. Needless to say the iPad figures prominently, but also mentioned is the collapse of Redmond's former cash cows, like Windows (with the Windows 8 weaknesses) and Office as that suite becomes less relevant.

I have written a lot of late concerning the way some so-called analysts have put Apple down in terms of negative reporting on almost everything which had the effect of pushing the share price down: then when it is low, the "buy" command goes out. That cuts both ways and a number of sites commented on an article by Charles Sizemore who claims that Microsoft will crush Apple and Google (eventually). Kate MacKenzie of PixoBebo is one of those commenting on this and, like the others, she points out that Sizemore is "stuck holding a lot of Microsoft's flatlined stock" so naturally he would want the share price to rise. And then on Apple, Sizemore concludes that the company is damned because "Apple has no durable long term advantages to keep customers loyal". Kate begins with, "Say what" and the rest of the article lays into him for this myopia (at best).

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned my enthusiasm for the Phillips' Hue light bulbs and iOS app, which should be coming here in the new year. Christopher MacManus reports on another company's venture into this field with a startup company called iLumi. The apps are available for iOS and Android and there is a video on the news item page.

Local Items

We have often worried about security here and we are apparently not alone as Ellyne Phneah on Ziff-Davies examines the state of cybersecurity: Thailand in crisis, is the conclusion.

I was happily surfing away on Sunday morning just after breakfast when the Internet disappeared. I looked at one page, closed the Window, then decided to go back. Nothing. Facebook, Nada. Apple (always a good test), Nope. Sometimes it might come back after a minute or so -- heaven knows what True is up to in that time -- but not this Sunday morning. I gave it 5 minutes -- FIVE MINUTES FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE -- but then reached for the restart. Out comes the plug, count to 30, then plug it all back in again. Refill coffee cup while waiting for the Airport green light. That did it.

That story I wanted to reload was on The Nation website, titled, Thais wear poor English as badge of honour. Ain't that the truth. Poor internet too. And 3G.

Oh, and on 3G, I read Monday morning in the Bangkok Post that, while the rest of the world is beginning to move towards LTE (4G) and there are stirrings about 5G, this week, the courts are to rule on the 3G licence auction that some say was unfair. What is unfair is that the public are being held to ransom while a few chickens try to fight their way to the top of the barrel once again, unhappy that others have won.

There is also more on the questionable deal involving CAT, Hutch and True in the Bangkok Post Business Section. Slapped wrists for CAT?

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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