AMITIAE - Monday 17 December 2012

Cassandra - Monday Review: It will soon be Friday

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Sandy Hook tragedy: Westboro Baptist Church disgust. How the Bondi Blue iMac saved Apple. Irish government drops Blackberry for iPhone and Android. Rumuors on new iPads. Maps, apps, Apple and Google. Samsung blamed for and denies underage workers. Cancer causing agents used at Samsung factories. Apple blamed for worker conditions at a Foxconn site under construction. Intel strategy to change. Why Windows 8 is not flying off the shelves. Huawei security risks may cause a trade war with the UK (UK, trade? They will back down). Dual pricing in Thailand goes viral and the resulting back-down.

Sandy Hook

On Friday, like a lot of folks I was shocked to hear of another shooting at a school in the US: Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT. 20 kids and 7 others, including the attacker, who also killed his mother. The President and the world have made their comments.

This sort of act also brings out the worst in some people, so it was with some disgust that I saw, via a Tweet, that the Westboro Baptist Church, who have attended a number of other funerals (including that of Steve Jobs) for little reason than apparently to incite hatred, "will picket Sandy Hook Elementary School to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment."

Not much I want to add to that, except I would not be surprised, if they do attend, that they would be met with some righteous anger. It began with the hacking of their site, Steven Musil reports.

Apple Stuff

Back in the mid-1990s, Apple was pretty much dead. A series of mis-steps and a lot of poor management that had focussed on the balance sheet rather than the product, had seen prices rise and customer numbers dwindle. By the time Apple took over NeXt and brought back Steve Jobs, it was expected that Apple would fold in about 6 months. Then it all changed, with some ruthless product gutting and some new products. Chief of these was the bondi blue iMac which at the time seemed an improbable concept, but was clearly new design.

An article on Stephen Hackett on 512 Pixels details the arrival of the new Mac in 1998 and the effect it had, with its lightning fast 233 G3 PowerPC processor as well as a lot of other innovations. There is also a link in the article to Steve Jobs' presentation of the product with some slick ideas. Without the iMac (and that $100 million from Microsoft) Apple may not have made it, which would have meant no iPod, no iPhone and no iPad.

The stuff that dreams are made of.

While we are on the iPhone, it is reported by Michael Grothaus on TUAW that the Irish government is another that has dropped BlackBerry for the Apple device and for Android phones. One reason cited is that their "ICT unit no longer wishes to pay to keep a BlackBerry Enterprise Server running when no such server is required for Android or iPhone devices." I wonder if Microsoft would take that on board with the way use of their servers is becoming more expensive yet less relevant with the number of enterprise users who use mobile devices?

Likewise, Google may want to think carefully after it has been reported, for example by Dieter Bohn on The Verge, that syncing of Gmail is harder as it has dropped Exchange Active Sync. There is more on this in an article by Randy Nelson on TUAW.

These companies need to understand that customers do not like being dictated to and want freedom of choice when using devices and services.

As the iPhone 5 was released in China last week, some sources were reporting that there were so few people lined up at the stores, that this was another dud for Apple: signs that the company was in decline. Of course, the sources that carried this with great glee forgot to mention (or perhaps even forgot to consider) that with the public order problems that have been seen at previous Apple releases in China, Apple has gone over to a different ordering system and that only those with the necessary documentation will be able to buy an iPhone on the day: so there is no need to line up and the scalpers will have to figure out another way to carry out their business. The situation is put into context by Paulo Santos on Seeking Alpha who outlines the system and also points out that carriers who did not have such a system did have lines. Apple's stock took another hit on this false set of rumours.

As ever, rumours swirl around Apple and while we have seen hints of an iPhone 5S or iPhone 6, the iPad mini is also joining the rumour party. Chris Oldroyd writes on iMore that the new device will have a higher resolution screen apparently. But there is more and Apple are also said to be working on a full-sized iPad that will be thinner.

I have a lot of email links that sometimes produce some interesting things to look at. This week a question on Ask Dave Taylor mentioned the keyboard being displayed in the centre of the screen, which I had not realised was possible. The way this is done is the same as revealing the split keyboard: tap and hold the keyboard button when the keyboard is displayed onscreen. The secret is in the "hold" part.

Anyone trying to get Siri to work with Thai names may mot have a lot of success, but Thai is not the only language that may have such problems, so I was interested to see a hint from Paul Horowitz on OS X Daily that reminds us of the phonetic name field that can be added. We might also remember that there is a nickname field which could also be useful here.

Maps and Maps

The release of a Google Maps app this week brought forth so much writing (I use the term loosely) that I have a separate section on the app release and its supposed effects.

I will start the ball rolling with an example of the utter crap that some people put out and the way this affects the markets. Writing on Seeking Alpha, Josh Constine (in what appears to be a Tech Crunch article) claims in his headline that the release of Google maps humiliated Apple and that millions will finally upgrade (to iOS 6), adding in the body that he "watched several people learn of the existence of Google Maps for iOS, and the first thing they did was update their phones' firmware."

One swallow does not make a summer.

If you believed Constine's anecdotal evidence that here was what everyone had been waiting for (I don't doubt some people had), the rug would hve been pulled out from beneath your (and his) feet by a later report on TechCrunch by Daniel Etherington that the adoption rate was actually so small as to be reported as "no immediate impact." My link for this item was MacDaily News.

The MacDaily News site also linked to an analysis by John Gruber on Daring Fireball who examines the app from an early viewpoint and makes a number of comments including how it has all worked out for Apple.

One of those making observations on the new app and on the dispute between Apple and Google, was Evan Wiener, who does point out that one of the reasons Apple stopped using the Google data was because Google refused to supply turn by turn navigation. Magically, that now appears in the new Google Maps app. So why not before? Wiener makes some interesting observations on the way Apple protects user data. John Gruber also picks up on Wiener's comments.

So it is all the more interesting to discover that the way the Google Maps app is set up, it may violate EU laws on data protection: calling Al Franken; calling Al Franken. Nathan Mattisse points out that when users start the app, there is an initial screen that users have to click on to Agree to terms, and this includes sending anonymous data to Google. Only it may not be all that anonymous; and there does not seem to be any way to opt out: the only thing we can do is turn off Shake to Send. However, Google will likely fold if there is any pressure from the EU as they did last week over an FTC enquiry on the question of using snippets of news in searches, Edward Moyer reports. Some sources were claiming that Google had used their text without permission.

Without doubt lots of people downloaded the Google Maps app, making it number one in most countries I have seen evidence for within hours, although the Thai site was a bit slow to update. And what does Google get from this: not a lot.

It gets many apparently grateful users, although not me as where I am there is not much improvement over the Apple Maps app. The satellite image for example must be over a year old as I can see an almost-complete BTS station from my window, but a concrete slab on the maps app. Nor, Adam C. Engst reports on TidBits is it possible to use Siri or other features, but he does tell us about the Transit Directions. However, unlike other places, the Public Transit item in the menu tells me that this is not available in this region. Engst also examines some of the other differences and has a look in part at the politics involved.

There is no in-app purchasing; and there is is no advertising on my iPhone, which is what Google does: gaining income from hits (and paying out not that much either).

Reminding us of Flash and the fallout from that, Dr. Drang on Lean Crew also makes a number of interesting comments and points out that while Google (and Apple) played hardball, in the end, Apple got what it wanted, albeit with a bit of a black eye.

Half and Half

Samsung are having a hard time of it right now and are experiencing what Apple did earlier following a report on child labour. Shara Tibken writes that China Labor Watch found at least 3 girls working at a factory there. This was also reported in Patently Apple. Samsung however reject the claims and say there are no underage workers at its sites, Ben Kersey writes on The Verge.

In related news, a South Korean agency claims that a chip making factory run by Samsung causes cancer in a rare link of the illness to manufacturing (even rarer that Samsung gets the blame there), after exposure to organic solvents and radiation, Youkyung Lee reports for AP on Huffington Post. I wonder if anyone will attempt to link Apple to this?

Of course Apple is not totally in the clear with its Foxconn relationship and, once again, a report suggests that there are still unresolved issues at Zhengzhou in China, Josh Lowensohn reports. But then I looked at the claims that had been made by a French TV program and these are not actually at a real factory, these are at a construction site. If anone has looked at the way buildings go up here, it is no surprise to see workers in such conditions.

Although (here) construction companies put up temporary housing that does have facilities, it is all a bit ramshackle and it is hardly a surprise to learnt that these workers are living on site. This looks like another reporter applying western values to a company that is probably a sub-contractor of a sub-contractor of a company hired to build the place and somehow they want to link Apple to that. Of course, it would not make news otherwise. And to make that point, Lowensohn also rolls out the same old allegations. Not shooting the messenger: the messenger shot himself.

We are aware of the way computing has changed over the last couple of years with the advent of the iPad and then some other devices, but key players in the industry also think about this as their decisions must be critical for our use and their survival. Brooke Crothers reports that Intel is thinking less about the desktop computer these days and much more on mobile devices. But computers aren't finished yet.

Every once in a while, Steve Wozniak, the other founder of Apple makes comments on tech and there is a moment of awe as The Woz has spoken but often there is a lot taken out of context. This week he has a guest column for Forbes but when you sift through it all there seem to be only some rather general pronouncements.

On Friday we reported on some patent news both good and bad for Apple, but Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider tells us that an ITC judge has ruled that Apple, Intel and HP had not infringed patents allegedly owned by a company called X2Y, but ruled them to be invalid.

Other Matters

After the initial euphoric reports telling us how wonderful the Surface was, despite being stopped by Microsoft from any proper hands-on examinations, there has been a waking up by many, particularly when the device was firmly linked to a release of Windows 8 which itself does not appear to be the new broom sweeping clean that Microsoft claims/wanted/needs. Horace Dediu on ASYMCO plots what lies beneath (I am trying to avoid the obvious puns here) and explains why there is o magic bullet here and Microsoft's own pricing structures (definitely plural of course) are its biggest headache when it comes to both the operating system and Office.

The answer, as the desktop sales are not materialising, is the Surface. That is the answer? As MacDaily News (from where I got the link) comments, Apple is starving Microsoft to death.

There has been occasional news, from Australia and the USA, as well as the UK on the way it is thought that Huawei may be less than trustworthy when it comes to its hardware. James Cusick reports on The Independent that the UK government is prepared to blacklist Huawei over these security concerns, despite the risk to supply of 4G networking hardware and the further risk of a trade war between the UK and China.

The evidence that there could be cyber-security concerns is apparently quite strong, and David Cameron would be wrong to ignore this, but in terms of trade . . . that is another matter and the Tory party has often buckled in the past when there is a threat to their markets; and if Cameron keeps true to his "pledge . . . to double UK trade to China to £62bn by 2015" my money would be on Huawei continuing to do business, unless Britain's bosses in the US said no (but of course they could then pick up the slack in China).

Local Items

There was a bit of a fuss here over the weekend following the revelation that the big wheel at Asiatique was to charge non-Thais 250 baht, while Thais pay 200 baht. In some ways this is par for the course and some people do as I do -- Madame Tussauds, Siam Ocean World (Thai prices in Thai) and other places, like the Dusit Zoo -- and just don't go. These companies are free to charge what they want, and I am free to decline.

As part of his tourism related tasks, Richard Barrow commented on this on their Facebook page and several others added their comments too. The upshot was that Richard's words were censored and he was blocked from the FB page, causing much more negative publicity.

Richard wrote an explanation on the banning which is available on his site, but I also saw on a Tweet on Sunday morning, that Asiatique are now saying they own the land but it is a farang owner of the wheel that set the prices. That information is on the 3rd update to the article down at the bottom of the page. If you use the link to the Asiatique FB page there are lots and lots of negative comments: the power of the internet.

To make that point, it was also picked up by Trip Adviser.

However, on Sunday evening I read that, after all the pressure and adverse comments, the company backed down, Richard Barrow reported, and revised the Thai price upwards, so I am not sure it was that much of a victory after all. However, Richard's FB access to the site is also restored: they would need that.

The new prices are 150 baht for children, 250 baht for adults and 125 for those over 60. To complete the rout, there is a further price reduction from now until 28 February: children 150 baht, adults 200 baht and Seniors 100 baht. With my good looks I will have to take my passport to prove I really am over 60.

Let's take time to redress a balance here. The Internet can be used to get bad news round fairly quickly, as in the Asiatique item above, but we can also use it for a good report. And the Thai police have more than a fair share of bad news, so to see a pic of three of these guys helping a motorist, deserves some wider circulation. This is an Instagram picture that came my way via Twitter.

Late news

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.



Made on Mac

For further information, e-mail to

information Tag information Tag

Back to eXtensions
Back to Home Page