AMITIAE - Wednesday 1 October 2014

External Forces and Confusion on Apple (Bangkok Post, Life)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


What started as a good week, with reports of 10 million devices sold in the first week that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were available, turned into something of a disaster when a video of an iPhone Plus that bent was posted on YouTube and social media took over.

If you view the video, you will see unusual forces being applied to a device that already has a weakness, by a man who has rather large hands. When he later tested a (plastic) Galaxy Note 3, the thumbs were at the center point. With the iPhone 6 Plus one thumb was close to a button: a location where the aluminium frame is at its thinnest.

The way the clock jumps about has some people suggesting this was not as straightforward as it initially seemed. By then, of course, the Internet had hold of it and all the Chicken Littles were running around claiming the Apple sky was falling again.

Not so fast. . . .

iPhone6 & iPhone 6+ With all the time that Jony Ive and his team take to design the thing, you don't think that stress was left to chance? Some did and reacted as if this were a major flaw in the new product. Apple opened up the test labs to Josh Lowensohn of The Verge who had a valuable (from an engineering viewpoint) series of photographs of the types of tests that are carried out on products.

Consumer Reports, who have not been noted for being pro-Apple - particularly with antenna problems on an earlier iPhone - took it upon themselves to test the latest iPhones too, using a three-point flexural test.

They found that the forces that would need to be applied to the iPhone 6 Plus and other smartphones was way above anything that could be considered normal usage and that the iPhone 6 was more bendy than the 6 Plus. After breaking in the tests, the iPhones continued to work, although one of the other devices tested did not.

Apple had 9 complaints about the device bending and will consider replacing certain devices. As one of the problems was alleged to be the iPhone 6 Plus being bent while horizontal in a pants pocket, I tried to emulate this with my iPhone 5s which tends to sit comfortably in a vertical position in my pocket.

For the life of me, I found it really hard to position my iPhone horizontally (it could be done), but when I tightened the muscles in the leg, nothing happened. Unscientific I know, but if the iPhone 5s won't sit horizontally, how would the 6 Plus?

Those reporting this as some sort of idea that everything Apple does is wrong are not being objective; but are they ever? Haters are going to hate: everything Apple does is wrong for some.

iOS 8
iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iOS 8 Images Courtesy of Apple

On the other hand, the release of the first update to iOS 8 did cause some problems. When iOS 8.0.1 was put out, with the bug-fix that had seen HealthKit withdrawn from iOS 8.0.0 at the last minute, several users of the iPhone 6 (mainly in the US) began to report problems with Touch ID and with loss of carrier signals.

ioS 8.0.2 Before people woke up on these shores, Apple had withdrawn the update and provided instructions for those users affected to go back to iOS 8.0.0.

A number of online sources pointed the finger at a Quality Assurance manager at Apple who was also implicated in the problems a while back with Apple Maps. Tim Cook has admitted that the company was wrong with that - local users of Maps are still finding some strategic locations sited wrongly, many in the Chao Phraya - but not everyone was willing to accept responsibility. Some in the press are now calling for the manager's head (metaphorically speaking).

A revised iOS 8 with the version number 8.0.2 was waiting for me when I woke on Friday and I downloaded it to my iPhone right away with no problems. There were, however, some reports later that a few users in Australia had experienced loss of signal.

As if that was not enough, a problem with the UNIX was also reported at the end of the week. This was affecting various UNIX distributions, including Linux as well as OS X, but it was Apple that garnered the headlines. Underneath the OS X interface, there is a UNIX command line interface which Apple licences from the University of California, Berkeley.

To make it easier to work with, users operate in what is called a shell: this interprets commands between the user and the operating system (like MSDOS used to). There are several shells, but the most common is the Bash shell (after Bourne Again); and it is this that has an insecurity.

It is likely to be fixed fairly soon - see update below - (although Apple cannot do this because of the licence), but we are assured that unless users configure advanced UNIX services, it will be safe.

Late Comments

C Shells As an update to the above: several sources reported that late on Monday, Apple issued updates to fix the Bash weakness. There are separate updates for Lion and Mountain Lion as the Mavericks update is different.

There is no news as yet on an update for those running the Yosemite beta versions (Mike Beasley, 9to5Mac), although there was an update to the beta version of Yosemite available on Tuesday evening, marked as GM Candidate 1. Gold Master? Coming soon. . . .

A note also on the naming of the Bash shell. There was a Bourne Shell (sh) that was created at Bell Labs by Stephen Bourne. When this was later revised for the Gnu project, it picked up the name Bourne Again (bash). The name Bourne Again, is a bit of a play on words, but programmers often have an odd sense of humour: "Gnu" is derived from Gnu's Not Unix; and there were also a C Shell and a Korn Shell.

And if you have iOS 8 and are a user of iWork, do not use the reset button (at least, not for now) as Mike Beasley reports that a bug - soon to be addressed I am sure - will remove all your files in iCloud. Apple is working to recover those too, for the unfortunate users who found this out the hard way.

It was also reported Tuesday evening here in several sources (MacThai) that, a week after China has the iPhone 6, it will be released in Thailand with prices rumoured to be:

  • iPhone 6 - 16 GB 25,500 baht
  • iPhone 6 - 64 GB 29,400 baht
  • iPhone 6 - 128 GB 33,400 baht

  • iPhone 6 Plus - 16 GB 29,400 baht
  • iPhone 6 Plus - 64 GB 33,400 baht
  • iPhone 6 Plus - 128 GB 37,300 baht

See also:

  • Inside the building where Apple tortures the iPhone 6 (Josh Lowensohn, The Verge)

  • Yes, the aluminum iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will bend if put under too much pressure, because physics (Derek Kessler, iMore)

  • After Apple Inc. dodged the iPhone 6 Plus BendGate bullet, detractors wounded by ricochet (Daniel Eran Dilger, AppleInsider)

  • The iPhone 6 Plus Bend test

  • Consumer Reports test results find iPhone 6 and 6 Plus not as bendy as believed (Consumer Reports)

  • Apple quality control manager responsible for iOS 8.0.1 also tied to Maps app debacle (AppleInsider)

  • Apple's statement on the UNIX Bash vulnerability (Jim Dalrymple, The Loop) -

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. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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