AMITIAE - Monday 31 December 2012

Cassandra - Monday Review: It will soon be 2013

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

More from the Apple SEC filing. Another reason for stock price drops. The NYTimes and Pulitzer lust. Apple makes others improve working conditions. Demand for Apple products, especially in China. Apple increases crime figures in New York: Mayor Bloomberg really said that. Did Apple kill the netbook: no, the netbook killed the netbook. iTunes movies in Thailand: dire trailers; and a need for subtitles. Security predictions. Samsung told to post large bond over patent abuses. The Google internet and standards. Trying to find RAM for my Mac.

And, of course, I wish you all a happy new year.

Apple Stuff

On Friday we reported that the SEC filing that Apple makes, before its shareholders meeting in February, was available and in it we were able to see Tim Cook's salary and Bob Mansfield's enticement package. iPodNN reports that also in the text was the information that a Human Rights Committee is to be proposed at the meeting, but this will be opposed by Apple.

With the stock price dropping for no real reason except that many speculate the analysts are talking it down so that they can reap the profits when the price rises again, another culprit came to light in an article by Even Niu on The Motley Fool: the shorts are piling on.

For those not used to such terminology, this concerns short interest, and this is explained in the article with a clear graph: as the short interest increased, the price fell accordingly. As I said, Greed.

The article also suggests (as do some of the figures coming in from Xmas retail sales) that Apple is going to have another excellent quarter when the figures are reported in February. [My link for this was MacDaily News.]

Along with all the other troubles perceived by some is a report from ForeSee that indicates customer satisfaction with Apple is dropping. The drop is 3% in a survey of some 24,000 customers. Mel Martin at TUAW writes that the survey covers merchandise appeal, price competitiveness, website functionality and website content, but there is no straight answer as to why there was this drop.

Also targeting Apple over the last 12 months has been NYTimes and a series of articles beginning with the Mike Daisey inspired examination of Foxconn's factories in China, all along targeting Apple and conveniently omitting the other manufacturers that use the same facilities and produce goods there rather than in the US. This continued despite the revelation that Daisey was a liar and Apple was taking steps to make sure things were run better. That did not matter: there were hits to be had, headlines to be made. And a Pulitzer Prize to be sought.

Not everyone is taking the bait (we hope the Pulitzer committee don't either) and Philip Elmer-DeWitt takes the NYTimes to task over the way it has worked towards this apparent goal. As he writes, forget all the stuff about the others, ". . . Apple -- always a draw for readers -- made a big, fat, easy target."

The source for this is MacDaily News who are even more critical than Philip Elmer-DeWitt. Indeed, some of the comments are not for reading until the children have gone to bed.

Further on the allegations made against Foxconn, but aimed by the NYTimes towards Apple, there were already processes in place, of course, such as the Apple Supplier Responsibility document, but reading these seemed only to inflame some reactions. One of the incidents that was repeated over and over was that of the suicides at plants, when the suicide rate at the factories was lower than the national average; and that the numbers of suicides dropped when Foxconn stopped paying the families of those who died by their own hand.

Without doubt improvements needed to be made, but the critics were holding these factories to western standards when the modes of operating are somewhat different in Asia. However, under Apple's leadership, change has begun, Chris Foresman writes on Ars Technica, and there is an effect being felt by others too, not just in factories that make Apple products. But then, the NYTimes and the other critics conspicuously failed to mention these other (particularly US) OEMs.

As demand for Apple products, particularly in China is so great right now, workers at Foxconn were required to keep working over the new year period. Mikey Campbell who tells us about this on AppleInsider mistakenly writes, over the Chinese New year and as those in this part of the world will know well, that is something completely different. It changes every year depending on the Moon, and this year is 23 February, bringing in the Year of the Snake.

The demand for the iPad mini, in particular, is seen as "Insatiable" according to comments in a MacNN article and we are told that "virtually every model of the Mini appears to be selling out in Hong Kong", with similar sellouts at mainland Stores. The article also mentions high demand for the iPhone 5. Also looking at the demand is Neil Hughes on AppleInsider who reports similar facts: insatiable demand; and stock sellouts. And that is just China.

Indeed, Jeff Gamet reports on The MacObserver that sales in the App Store jumped 87% over the Xmas period with the implication being that a lot of these sales were to new users of iOS devices. Revenues increased by 70% for the same period. How many new iOS devices does that translate into?

The increase in Apple products being sold is being blamed by NY Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, for an increases in crime, Katie Marsal reports on AppleInsider. More iOS devices are being stolen, so the crime figures are going up. The NY mayor's office thinks that the "crime figure was singlehandedly skewed by Apple", or poor police work? That includes being out on the streets deterring, stopping and arresting criminals, not whining about it later.

A few months ago, I bought the Susan Kare book that has all the icons she designed for the first version of the Mac operating system back in the mid-1980s. Some of these are standards and still used. Also from that era is a new book by Hartmut Esslinger of frog design, who was responsible for some of the earlier Apple products and some that did not make it. Electronista outlines some of the information in the book, including a number of prototypes that did not see the light of day.

Also looking back is Jaqui Cheng on Ars Techica who examines the rise and rise of OS X from the origins at NeXT and the first version: 10.0, called Cheetah. The first version I used was 10.1, called Puma, and the screenshots show the familiar pin-striped interface and the Aqua look. Page 2 of the article goes through Jaguar, Panther and Tiger, when it begins to look a bit more up to date. With Page 3 we have Leopard and Snow Leopard, with Lion and Mountain Lion on the last page bringing us up to date. All along are comments from John Siracusa who was not wholly positive about the earliest versions, but enthuses about 10.8.

Looking forward to new products is AppleInsider with a report that suggests that, although there will be updates to the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air, the designs will be unchanged. What lies beneath, however, is something else and Intel's Haswell architecture is expected to be used.

Because I use the video in teaching, I particularly remember Steve Jobs' comments, at the iPad introduction, on the Netbook when this was put forward as an alternative to modern computing needs, "Nah" he said, and listed the reasons why this was not an alternative at all.

I was interested to seem an item by Louis Bedigian on Forbes, with the title "Is Apple's iPad, MacBook Air Behind the Death of the Netbook?" as the reasons that Jobs listed were reason enough (unless you were Acer or Asus) to kill the device.

The article relates what the netbook is (or was) and there is an out of place comment in brackets after paragraph 2: (Which Apple products are going to be built in America?) with a link to another article by Louis Bedigian. I just don't get the relevance.

Back at the main article he then explains the superiority of the MacBook Air and the price comparison of the iPad which did the job better. Like me, he comes to a conclusion that it wasn't Apple (but the headlines have already got the hits of course) but the Netbook killed itself. Which was what Steve Jobs said in 2010. [My original link for this was MacDaily News.]

One of the features of OS X is the ability to run a slideshow of photographs as a screensaver. Settings are limited, Topher Kessler writes, but there is a way to change these if you are willing to edit the property list (.plist) file. There are a number of ways these can be edited, but I cannot find any such file to change the number of Notifications from the maximum of 20 to something better able to handle all those RSS feeds I take.

During the last few days with too much time on my hands, I had a look at the movies section in the iTunes store here. While the music available has expanded somewhat and the earlier problems with some works being unavailable here have now been solved, the movies need a lot more work; and if anything the section has got worse.

While there is still a limited selection, many of the movies listed have different trailers from the Board of Censors green screen offerings and instead of a selection of clips giving an idea of what to expect, the trailers here are a single section with all the voices dubbed in Thai; and if you have ever seen a movie here with Thai voiceovers, these are dire. These trailers do the movies a great disservice.

I suppose I could go to an iTunes store in another country, or visit the website of the movie, but these alternatives are not alternatives: the iTunes store needs to serve all customers better.

Reviews are also not positive about the delivery, with some wanting Thai subtitles (there is Thai in a stereo version) and some wanting English subtitles, which I would like as this is good for learning.

Half and Half

McAfee, the former security company, not the crazy guy in Guatemala, have issued their estimate of threats for 2013, Charlie Osborne writes. Predictions are increased mobile cyberattacks, ransomware, and "hacking for profit", with activists declining. There is an interesting comment on the "bump and infect" mechanisms expected to increase. I am not sure what platform is being discussed, but mobile phones and tablets are mentioned. There is also a mention of ransomware with a link to this for Android, but nothing for OS X. So I went looking and this is a type of worm, so is less likely to appear on OS X computers that are properly maintained and even less likely on iOS.

Over the weekend there was the news that a judge in the ITC had made further decisions regarding the finding that certain Samsung products had infringed on Apple patents, Florian Mueller on Foss Patents reports. Of particular note (and a lot of sources picked up on this point) was the requirement that Samsung post a bond of 88% of the value of all mobile phones. There was also a requirement to post a bond of 32.5% of the value of all media players, and 37.6% of the value of all tablet computers found to infringe Apple's patents-in-suit during the Presidential review period.

Samsung argued that a 4.9% royalty rate was a more appropriate bond amount but they have been warned not to push this point as he may raise the figure to to 100%. However, Mueller does point out that design-arounds are possible, but things are not yet good for the company.

Other Matters

There was an interesting take on the way Google, and the demand for advertising revenue, is changing what the web is. Ron McElfresh on Mac360 has an item critical of the way Google keeps changing the maths in the algorithms it uses and this affects the ways a site appears in searches.

This is another way in which the standards are being affected: many write to gain the hits and thus gain advertising revenue, usually with a eye-grabbing headline, but with content lifted from others. [My source for this was Pixobebo.]

We have heard one or two things about the way devices can be used (or not) during flights and while some seem a little ridiculous - the pilot can use his iPad but you may not use yours - there are some useful developments. Steven Musil reports that the FCC is adopting new licensing rules for in-flight internet. The purpose is to speed deployment of Internet services on aircraft.

Local Items

I need more memory for the MacBook Pro I have. At times, with 4 GB it creaks, especially if I use Aperture: I wish Apple would rejuvenate that. I have been thinking about more RAM: putting it up to 8 GB, which is the maximum for the model, with 2 x 4 GB modules. The last couple of times I bought RAM it was easy. For the PowerBook (was it that long ago?) I took it into Apichaya in the Paragon Center iStudio and he put in an upgrade quite quickly. The iMac I did myself as the modules are easily accessible on the model I have.

I prefer a technician to do the job on a notebook computer, so went into iStudio in Pinklao where I was quoted about 720 per 4 GB module. None in stock: call me on Monday. I am still waiting. The iStudio across the road is new and there I had the "No have. No can" treatment. In Siam Discovery this week, I asked at the iStudio there and was quoted 4,580 for the 2 modules. As much as I want this upgrade, 720 is feasible, 4,580 could be better put towards a new Mac.

I did make another call in at the iStudio in Pinklao, and the moment the manager there saw me, he said, "Memory" which was a positive note. Nothing yet, he told me and the time of year has made things difficult. But there may be some hope here.

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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