AMITIAE - Wednesday 2 January 2013

Cassandra - Wednesday Review - The New Year in Full Swing

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening gambit:

Apple rumours and speculation: an iPad stylus and iPhone pico projector. First hints of iPhone 6 and iOS 7. Apple EBooks arriving in Japan. Apple stuff stolen in Paris. Digital art exhibition. More end of year maintenance: cleaning out the dust and dirt. Enderle on the wonders of RIM: Android and iOS to falter? Apple, Samsung, patents, Google, EU and the ITC. Tizen: another free OS for Samsung. TrueVision's new ultra-thin TV guide: lots of fastfood ads; few details of programs.

And a happy new year to all

Apple Stuff

Remember how Steve Jobs said that Apple was not interested in a smaller sized tablet device? That iPad mini is doing quite well, eh? And remember how with the iPhone announcement, he said that if you need a stylus, you blew it? Patently Apple comments on a filing by Apple for an advanced "Active Stylus." The article explains how the pointing devices used now are passive and that this can "significantly improve stylus sensing on a mutual capacitive touch sensor panel". I must admit, with my stubby fingers I have considered a stylus for drawing apps on a couple of occasions.

Also on Patently Apple is a comment on the Samsung iPhone 5 advertisement. Not that Samsung made an ad for the iPhone, but they made one commenting on the new device and suggested it was uncool, especially the headphone port on the bottom. However, there are suggestions now that moving the port was done to make room for something else, and the article speculates that this could be a pico projector.

I saw a Tweet from Federico Viticci of MacStories on Tuesday wondering when the iPhone 6 rumours would start. I thought we had seen some of those in December. But there is more. When new products are used, they leave a trail across the internet and Matt Brian on TNW reports that some developers have informed them of a new iPhone identifier (a unique device type number) for the iPhone 6 (or is that 5S?) and evidence of iOS7 use, which is pre-beta software run by Apple personnel as the IP number identifies it as coming from Cupertino.

After its recent problems in China over copyright material, Apple is to expand its EBook service into Japan by cooperating with local publishers, Catherine Shu reports for Tech Crunch. There are 80,000 titles from Japanese publishers, including Kodansha, Shogakukan and Kadokawa ready to go.

We are aware that Apple products are popular, despite the numbers of critics that write columns explaining why we should not buy them. Actually, some people don't and the Mayor of New York was complaining recently that without Apple stuff, the crime figures would be much lower, while in other parts of the US Apple's own stores are often the target of robberies and burglaries (there is a difference, though many writers choose the wrong one).

Now the trend for forcefully breaking in to Apple's stores has spread to Paris and Edward Moyer reports on an armed entry via the janitor's entrance: a robbery. The thieves knew what to take and had boxes of goods, to the value of about $1.32 million, loaded in under an hour. More on this to come, methinks.

As Apple has all the serial numbers of whatever was taken, the moment these appear online, the new owners (innocent or not) will be brought in: And just where did you get that shiny new Apple toy, and how much did you pay?

I was sent information this week on what is happening at [S]edition, the digital art company I use that has apps for the iPhone and iPad. I have examined their offerings as an alternative display: high class wallpaper or interesting displays for an event. One of the links in the email that was sent, concerned a Pop-Up Digital Art Gallery at the the WIRED Pop-Up Store in November - December. There are photographs of some of the displays that used Samsung Smart TVs. In a couple of these are QR codes visible and scanning the photographs opened a page on the iPhone.

One family not having iPhones or iPads this Christmas was that of Grinch Gates former CEO of Microsoft who appears to have followed the lead of Ballmer who stopped his kids having Apple toys a couple of years back. Even though the Zune is dead, there has been no relaxation of the Gates family rules, Mike Wehner tells us, although there are rumours. . . .

Just before the Xmas period, I took some time to clean the system on my two Macs and detailed this in an article: End of year Maintenance on OS X: Minor Niggles Worth Tidying up. I also spent some time cleaning the screen on the MacBook Pro, which picks up a lot of dust. I should really do this more often. Kirk McElhearn has a useful article on MacWorld detailing some of these dust-busting tasks (and more), including the keyboard which picks up a lot of dirt.

He does not mention it, but one of the utilities I use is KeyboardCleanTool (I reviewed this last February) that locks the keyboard so that I can clean between the keys with no spurious input. It can be downloaded from the CNET Downloads site.

Half and Half

I was sent into a coughing fit in the early hours of 2013 when I saw that Rob Enderle was quoted as saying that 2013 is RIM's Blackberry year. Kate MacKenzie is not really convinced by his arguments and nor is MacDaily News. The comments by both the editor and the readers are worth reading.

Like a fool, I actually read the Enderle article which seems to need some fact-checking or opinion rerouting and was not surprised to see that he had been talking to RIM and probably taking all their comments at face value. It has all the feeling of PR spoon-feeding.

I do not actually understand his comment that Apple is "a firm that has never learned to spell "IT," unless he is referring to iTunes; and to drag up the Lisa (and the Apple Server) as Apple's biggest failures, seems a bit tardy. And tawdry: the Lisa was in started in 1978 and despite what Enderle claims, Jobs was forced out of the project, so trying to blame him is disingenuous.

There was news at the end of the year concerning that 88% bond that the ITC judge was demanding from Samsung who are wriggling like a worm on a hook. Jeff Gamet on The MacObserver, is another who has words on this and the judge's dire warnings. However there was a little respite as Electronista reports that the final ITC ruling on Samsung's complaint against Apple will be delayed two and half weeks until February 6. This may be due to the change of position that Samsung is taking with the EU in their examination of FRAND and SEP abuse by Samsung. Note also that Google has filed in the EU case and has taken exactly the opposite position it has taken in its own cases. Do no what? . . .

Other Matters

We know that certain western governments are, shall we say, unsure about Huawei: uncomfortable with its possible intentions. Not that anything has been proven, it is just that nasty feeling that if you let Huawei in, the secrets will flow out. As most of the companies here using Huawei equipment have strong Chinese connections already, that does not seem to be of concern in these parts.

However, the West may well become apoplectic following the news that the company has been linked to restricted equipment that is being sold to Iran, including HP computers, Steven Musil reports. While Huawei claims it complies with all laws, there is enough smoke for some to sense there could be more to this.

With a lot of American companies being burned by involvement in Asia, it is not a surprise to read in an article by Steven Musil that Yahoo has completed its withdrawal from South Korea. Market share was the problem as the local search engines were preferred - little content there is in English. I take the Yahoo! statement, "efforts to streamline operations and focus our resources on building a stronger global business that's set up for long-term growth and success" to mean that we are getting out while we can.

Over the New Year weekend, Josh Constine on Tech Crunch reported that Zynga who have been in a bit of trouble since the over-ambitious IPO are cutting several of the games they produce and focussing on the winners. In all it is said that 10 titles, plus Petville are to go. It is also said that new games are to be developed.

A couple of days ago I saw a lot of Tweets concerning a new Samsung device that was going to be running Tizen. Those cheapskates at Samsung are after another free operating system as the free Google one is beginning to prove a little expensive with all the patents used in that supposedly open source Android. Tizen is a Linux-based OS (iOS is loosely based on Unix, as used by NeXT and OS X). For anyone interested, there is a Tizen website with links to developer resources and to the free 2.0 version source code.

Local Items

The Thai dictionary app I have been using for a couple of years has begun to show a panel in Thai which had just one button under the text marked ok. When that was pressed, the app quit. When I asked a Thai friend he translated the panel and said I had to be a Truemove member. As I was using true wifi at my apartment I thought this was a given. But obviously not. I did a search in the iTunes store and that came up with a large selection of alternatives. I downloaded one called Thai Dictionary Free which is bi-language (English and Thai, depending on keyboard, they tell me) and has a database, so I do not even need to be online; and it is not from True, so there are advantages all round.

TrueMove's Thai Dictionary app went in the trash. Thanks guys. I now have one fewer way to link with True.

I was already seething that afternoon as I had just opened the new TV guide for January. I was unimpressed by the poorly designed pages: excess content and badly set out. The idea of this being some sort of service and that customers were the driver behind the company took a serious hit when I examined this new ultra-thin guide that sometimes appears in my mailbox before the first of the month.

There is lots and lots of advertising, mainly from fast-food delivery companies, but the real content took a major hit with a compact display of programs. What that means is that the channels shown in the guide have a small window of a couple of hours of evening viewing, as if customers only ever watch at those times. [If you have a Mac with a trackpad double tap with 2 fingers to make the image zoom out.]

TV As I examined the pages, it got worse. Page by page, day by day, the listings do not match, either by channels or columns, so it is even harder to make viewing plans. Does no one at True understand design?

On New Years Eve I was watching an old program (nothing unusual there with True) on branding. It was noted that some companies like Sony take a serious financial hit on certain devices as they make money from content.

Part of the TrueVisions operation should accept the inevitable monetary losses of a print guide as the information is supposed to help the customers, but the company seems seriously set in the old ways that everything needs to show a profit.

They are not the only ones: the 290% price rise that the first company here (DataNet) handling adsl modems imposed as they had to show a profit, lost me permanently as a customer. They were willing to lose a few ordinary consumers as they calculated that businesses would absorb the cost. DataNet? DataNet. Anyone hear of Datanet these days?

The answer that True might offer is that the program information is available online, but the convenience factor of starting another device and opening a browser, plus the way the information is displayed on that dreadful website, is not at all convincing when all you want to do is relax and watch some TV.

The opening page of the TrueVisions site is such an over-designed mess that it is hard to find anything easily; and to venture further users, are also expected to log in. I want TV not a surfing experience, especially a bad one. Even the supposedly English pages are loaded with Thai characters that not everyone from outside can read, so there is a certain arcane experience here. This is almost impossible to use.

Trying to find a contact address is also not easy, but by waving the cursor over a few possible entries on the Contacts page, I found an email address: not linked of course (the code you need, guys, is "mailto")'. I sent most of the above comment to and am waiting for a template reply.

I ended that email with the closing, "Service: ever heard of that concept?"

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.



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