By Graham K. Rogers
It has been a busy week for me with exam marking and a couple of questions from local users about Mac stuff. Apple also had an interesting week with good scores and a home goal. I also had an item in the Bangkok Post (also put out on eXtensions) on the use of the iBeacon here. Not that there are any here as yet, but there is potential. I was able to follow that on Thursday with a link to a deployment at DX3, in Toronto, where an interactive shop had been created inside the exhibition hall.
I also see Friday morning in an article on MacNN that there will be iBeacons deployed at the SXSW (South by South-west) festival: "The features will be available for iPhone users that have downloaded the SXSW Go app from the iTunes Store."
The most positive part of Apple's week was with the arrival of the in-car system that Eddy Cue talked about last year. It has arrived now, rebranded as CarPlay and was shown off at the Geneva Motor Show in a Ferrari, with Volvo and Benz also having examples available. I must say, the one from Stuttgart was the ugliest and, as one outlet said, it was like sticking an iPad on the dashboard: not what Apple would have really wanted.
Nor was the Ferrrari. As well as Greg Joswiak at the show, there was a nice young lady putting the system through its paces for selected members of the press and Christian Zibreg on iDownload included a video of the young lady showing it off to Engadget, although as Zibreg notes, "Unfortunately, the car manufacturer has made a terrible decision outfitting the Ferrari FF with a resistive touchscreen that requires users to press firmly to register touches".
It looks as if Volvo understood best what was needed and their touch system - also outlined by Christian Zibreg - have a demo of what the system should look like.
I did read later, in an item by Jordan Kahn on 9to5 Mac that Mercedes-Benz were planning to offer after-market installations of CarPlay on older vehicles later in the year. In that item, Kahn also writes that, "Apple also confirmed in its announcement earlier this week that it's also working with other car companies, including, BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Kia, Nissan, Subaru, Suzuki and Toyota. . . ."
We have mentioned Yukari Iwatani Kane and her upcoming book, Haunted Empire: Apple After Steve Jobs, which I ordered this week from Amazon. I would order from the iBookStore, but Apple does not allow any purchases to be made in Thailand, while Amazon has been selling books online here for years. I wonder if the Department of Justice (DoJ) knows that. Early reports about the book suggested that she is gunning for Apple and is on the "fail without Jobs" path, but I looked at an excerpt in the Wall Street Journal - on Tim Cook - last week (my decision to buy was based on that) and was pleased enough with what I read.
Now Yoni Hessler on TUAW has an early release copy and is dropping a few interesting gems. He had some on Eddy Cue and the way he defied Steve Jobs early on in his career and again with questions on Apple TV, and still lived. There was also a lovely quote concerning the control Jobs had over presentations at a company retreat:
One font family per presentation, three or five bullet points per slide, never four, and titles 30 percent above the center line. The file size also could not be more than eight megabytes, just enough to show up well on a projection screen. Jobs hated big files.
Hessler also includes some more information about the Tim Cook outline from Yukari Iwatani Kane and this is positive.
As head of Apple, Cook has not had a good press from certain reporters, but looking at the overall picture, including products, purchases and profits, things are looking rather good under his leadership. As well as a number of companies that have been bought, it was recently revealed that Apple has been buying a lot of stuff from Pixelworks: enough for 10% of its overall income, Neil Hughes reports for AppleInsider.
He adds that while it is not known what it is that Apple has been buying, "the company makes video and pixel processing semiconductors and software, benefitting from high-resolution screens like Apple's Retina displays". Also taking up a lot of output are NEC and Hitachi.
This week it was announced that Peter Oppenheimer was to retire and he is off to relax, but also has a seat on the board at Goldman Sachs. We now read on AppleInsider that 6 other Apple executives, were awarded 35,780 Restricted Stock Units, "scheduled to vest in three intervals through 2018"
A few months ago we were treated to the spectacle of Tim Cook taking on a couple of sanctimonious politicians who were after Apple for all the taxes it was legally not paying. The two houses created lots of laws on taxation, with lots of loopholes and then think it is wrong when a company uses these. There was much grandstanding as they hypocritically wanted the Apple headlines, but managed to keep the many other companies that similarly avoid taxes legally out of the limelight.
Now Australia is trying some of the same and is criticising Apple for using legal means to keep its tax bills low, although the figure is admittedly rather staggering. Mike Beasley reports that in about 10 years, the Apple tax bill was only $200 million on $8.9 billion in profit and he explains how the rest of the money was routed legally to Ireland.
As a note, I see that when I pay a bill to Facebook for the small amount of advertising I do for eXtensions, the bills are paid to a company in Ireland too. Is John McCain looking into that? Probably not.
As well as that Apple TV, all the Wall Street analysts, most notably those who are most often wrong about Apple (cheap iPhone anyone?) are betting the family homes on an iWatch. There is still not enough firm information to suggest that this is what Apple will produce, although health apps and sport applications are bubbling under the surface.
Bryan Chaffin reports on The MacObserver that certain Swiss companies are claiming that Apple is trying to poach staff, so that the iWatch (whatever) could be "Made in Switzerland". Chaffin accepts that certain personnel may have been approached - calling the source of the rumour, "colorful" - but does not buy this as a confirmation of the iWatch: there may be other uses for such skilled persons.
Also linked to the iWatch and the next iPhone is the fairly firm information that Apple is to use sapphire glass in an upcoming device or devices and this would obviously mean that Vorning's Gorilla Glass would no longer be used. It is not unexpected, therefore, to read that Corning is on the offensive against sapphire glass. Brooke Crothers reports that Tony Tripeny, a senior vice president at Corning Glass let rip somewhat when he was asked about the rumoured change, although the questions read as if they were planted. He explained in quite some detail why sapphire was not as good as Gorilla Glass and that in itself makes a good read.
More rumours about Apple products were reported by AppleInsider who suggest that the lower end 13" MacBook Pro - the last one without a Retina display - would be phased out later on this year. Significantly, this would also mean that there would be no computer with a built-in optical drive, sealing Apple's reliance on wifi. The source of the rumour (DigiTimes, who have been wrong before) are also suggesting that there will be a new 12" MacBook this year.
Those of us who remember the 2007 announcement of the iPhone will also remember Steve Ballmer's amused dismissal of the product, which ranks among some of the most bad decisions ever. Note too that Ballmer's predecessor, the great Bill Gates, did not see the Internet coming until Microsoft was almost swamped. Patently Apple this week report on Ballmer's speech at a business school in Oxford, UK, where a sager person "admitted that he would re-do the last ten years if he could." Mind you, he still thinks that buying Nokia was a good idea. Jack Purcher also outlines some of the other Ballmer missteps.
While we are on Nokia, there were some raised eyebrows when it appeared a few months ago that Samsung counsel had shared the Apple-Nokia licensing information with the Korean company. There were even expected to be sanctions coming from this. On Wednesday this week, however, a disturbed Christian Mueller - "I'm almost speechless . . ." - noted that it had been discovered that Apple had itself put details of the agreement online and that anyone could have read this. I could imaging Mueller shaking his head in disbelief. A big error. Mikey Campbell has some information concerning this on AppleInsider and that Samsung is also claiming that "Apple inadvertently filed, on two separate subsequent occasions, additional documents containing licensing terms with Samsung and Google."
When the iPhone was announced, the audience was highly amused by Steve Jobs' first slide of the device, which was actually an iPad with a rotary dial: poking fun at all the Photoshopped images that had been online in the weeks and months preceding.
It is hard to realise, but some people do not know what a rotary dial is. I was entertained this week by a video link in an item by Bryan Chaffin on The MacObserver, which had a bunch of kids who were presented with an old phone and who clearly did not understand what it was or what it did. Their reactions and comments are priceless.
I am sometimes annoyed by people who simply lift the content of items on my site - words as well as photographs - and use them as if they were theirs. I am careful about this, and even today putting marks for a video project on Facebook I made it clear that the photograph had been taken from one of the student videos. Imagine then a large organisation that depends on income for the media it can sell: what do they do if everyone keeps lifting the files? Oliver Laurent on The British Journal of Photography are reporting that Getty Images is making most of its photographs free for non-commercial use in an unusual move which has upset some photographers. Mind you, looking at the internet comments on this, there are still many questions about what can or cannot be done.
Patents are important and Apple - the company that does not innovate - had another bunch awarded this week, including a way to pair between Devices using wireless using biometrics. Jack Purcher on Patently Apple outlines the patent and its technology and notes that "Such biometric data may include any kind of biometric data, such as fingerprints, handprints, thumb prints, facial images, retinal images, voice signatures, and so on."
Patently Apple also reports on a patent that would help users set up wifi systems, for example when going into a new coffee shop, just by telling Siri, Jack Purcher tells us. The patent covers entering the name of a wireless network and password automatically using (for example) QR code or telling Siri the information.
I found a few useful tips this week on some of the sources I access regularly:
- Topher Kessler explains how to set up custom keyboard shortcuts in OS X;
- On iMore, Allyson Kazmucha writes about how to restore archived contacts on a Mac. I bet you didn't know you could archive these. In the Contacts, File menu, use the Export item to create an archive and keep that somewhere safe; also use iCloud.
- Downloading of files can take a long time and it may be useful to monitor progress. We can do this for different downloads in iTunes, MacApp Store, in Safari and in Launchpad, but OS X Daily reports that we can also watch file download progress in OS X from Dock or Finder windows.
- Allyson Kazmucha on iMore has the top shortcuts that we need to know when using the Apple TV remote.
- Make use of the iCloud keychain (Topher Kessler)
Early on Thursday morning I saw that among the app downloads available was Zite, but then a short while later I read in an item by Federico Viticci on Macstories that Flipboard had just acquired Zite. Other apps that were updated at the same time are ApMobile, Image Blender, LINE, Mirrorgram, Pen & Ink, Phonto, Snaptee T-Shirt design (I am wearing the t-shirt I had made using this app as I type this) and Transport Tycoon.
Unsurprisingly there were some more Friday morning: Genius Scan (really useful), Apple's iTunes Festival app which has been updated for SXSW (a "bucket list" festival for me), and an app called MyScript Calculator.
The iOS 7.1 update has still not arrived (7.0.6 is current) and there are no updates available for my Mac. There are reports that a beta of the next OS X version (10.9.3) has been seeded: situation normal.
A local user contacted me in a panic on Thursday concerning what appeared to be DNS problems: he was trying to use Facebook and Safari did not recognise the certificate, suggesting a redirect was being done. I made some suggestions regarding clearing cache and cookies and then he started a malware check using Sophos, finding something called Mal/Badsrc-C which was a Windows nasty and unlikely to cause any problem on the Mac.
I decided to have a look at my malware checker, ClamXav and as I had not used this for a while, it needed an update. I was also asked to donate, so I sent £15 (about 850 baht) as developers like Mark Allan need to be encouraged. I had downloaded mine a long time ago, but the link here is for the version on the Mac App Store.
When the software and the database were updated, I found 25 problems, all attached to emails and safely out of the way. They keep trying.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. 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.