AMITIAE - Wednesday 20 January 2016

Cassandra: Wednesday Review - Controversies Abound

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


It is earnings season again and Apple will be reporting next week (26 Jan). In the meantime, Brett Howse of AnandTech tells us that AMD have just released their latest figures. They are down 10% from last year, although Gross Margin did increase after a write-off.

stormy skies Despite a brief rally when markets opened on Tuesday, Apple shares have now fallen back to around $94: the lowest since the beginning of 2014. With market forces apparently unrelated to (or unconcerned with) the general health of the company, the price is not seen in some quarters as reflecting what Apple really performs at.

It basically makes a cheap gambling chip right now, although the odds should improve when the Q4 figures are announced and we know how many iPhones were really sold.

In other Apple notes, several sources report that the company has filed with the Indian Government and intends to build a number of retail stores there. Remember also there is one being built ion Orchard Road in Singapore currently. In Thailand, Apple would have to get past a lot more than the government to open its own store.

For once Apple is not in the lead when it comes to child labour problems, although Cupertino is included. Jon Russell reports on TechCrunch about the information made available widely this week by Amnesty International that some products used by Samsung, Microsoft and Apple, as well as several other companies, contain cobalt. The problem is the sources of the material, mainly in Africa, are suspected of using child labour in the mining of the ore.

Russell writes that "The [Amnesty] report focused on Congo Dongfang Mining (CDM) and Huayou Cobalt, DC-based subsidiaries of companies from China and Korea respectively". The minerals are sold on and somewhere down the line the named manufacturers are making products made from these dubiously-sourced materials.

Samsung has denied it uses the source companies and Apple's response also states its ongoing efforts to help stamp out these practices. This is an ongoing problem that Apple does its best to deal with, but it seems to be like trying to plug a leaky sieve.

Also reporting on this question is Mikey Campbell of AppleInsider, who points out that "Apple has been under media scrutiny for years, especially when it comes to human rights violations." And not only human rights: Greenpeace took up a lot of the street in San Francisco and burned much fuel for its generators when protesting Apple's use of non-recyclables outside the Union Square Apple Store. the same week that the iPhone was introduced

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GreenPeace GreenPeace

A couple of days ago I was startled by the latest pronouncement from Donald Trump, although I bet Tim Cook was even more alarmed than me by the suggestion that, were Trump to become president, he would make Apple move its manufacturing to the USA. I wrote an item about this on Tuesday and it is online. One wonders if he will apply the same rules to himself and move his clothes labels to manufacturing facilities in the USA.

The UK Parliament, Petitions Committee has also been debating the petition that sought to ban Trump from Britain, following the outrage about his comments on Muslims. Almost 574,000 signed the petition. 43,900 signed another petition to not ban him although 30,000 of those signatures were disallowed (one source). The Petitions committee debated both together to decide if they were to be forwarded to the full House of Commons for debate. For the life of me, I have watched the end of the debate and the vote (The Ayes have it) several times, but still don't have a clue what was decided.

Just imagine for one moment if Apple had to comply with such an insane and badly thought-out knee jerk comment like Trump's: for a start factories would have to be set up, machinery purchased and installed, a workforce trained. Just these things would cost Apple billions of dollars; and this would be gross interference in the operations of a company such as had never happened in the USA out of wartime.

If Trump were to be elected, the US would exchange a President who has been unable to govern effectively because of the hate for him, for one who will not be able to govern effectively because of his hate for everyone who is not him.

Around the same time as Trump was making this unreasonable announcement (one of many, I understand), Horace Dediu made a comment in a Tweet, that this year, the billionth iPhone will be sold. Wall Street ("It will never last") might want to take note of that, particularly as a comment in a reply Tweet said that this was not bad as the original target was 10 million. I seem to remember Steve Jobs saying at that keynote speech that Apple's intention was to aim for 1% of the market after 12 months.

Tweet - Horace Dediu

There were a number of software releases this morning, including iOS 9.2.1 and OS X (10.11.3). I have a slight problem with the OS X update as the 10.11.4 beta is shown and I am not in the program currently. Last time 10.11.2 arrived, that cleared the backlog and I updated normally, but this time the 10.11.4 beta arrived before the 10.11.3 release. I am OK with the pre-release versions of OS X, but I prefer not to work with the betas once the main version has been released. I need to contact Apple and try to remove myself from the program.

imovie update

As well as the OS X update, there was an new version of iMovie, which is now at 10.1.1 which has some changes that will help users working in 4K - these can be produced on the iPhone now and it is possible to edit in iMovie on the iPad Pro already.

Affinity Photo update

Also updated was one of the best graphics editing programs on the Mac: Affinity Photo (1.4.1). There are a lot of new features in an application that was already rich in tools. The update does mention the extensions for Photos, but these were available with the previous update too. I checked: no new ones have appeared.

Apple hit another controversy over the weekend, when it declined to unlock an iPad for a widow, saying that she would need a court order first. At first this looks incredibly cruel and much ink has been wasted on this, but as Chris Matyszczyk points out, the conditions here are ripe for exploitation via social engineering, although he does still think Apple is being harsh.

Digital assets are assets nonetheless: for example I have a couple of dozen works of digital Art bought from [S]edition and they have monetary value, as may some of the photographs and other data on my computer. Apple does not know that and a phone call or internet query may not be enough. Of course, with the publicity, someone at Apple waved a hand and Mrs Bush will be granted access, MacNN reported later, also outlining the problem of transferring digital assets after death.

Samdung I despair of some comments in certain outlets. Certain writers only mention Apple when it is a negative and omit some of the poorer points of the platforms they favour. I searched carefully (but unsuccessfully) in local news for mention of a problem that many had found with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 S Pen. If users put the stylus back into its silo the wrong way round - which was possible as there was nothing to prevent it - it stuck on a catch in there and the device was impaired if it was removed forcefully.

Surely someone at Samsung should have entertained the point that this was possible, and fixed it before release? Apparently not, and now Matthew Miller on ZDNet reports that (several months down the road) the silo has been fixed. His headline, "but some folks found a way to break the S Pen by putting it in backwards" seems to blame the users rather than the design team. Just imagine if Apple had produced an iPhone that broke when used slightly wrongly, although there was nothing to indicate which way was up: what a rabid reaction there would be then.

A useful tip appeared late Monday concerning the speed of the iPhone home button. It does work a little too fast for me, I would agree. Anthony Bouchard, on iDownload, outlines to way to access the controls that allow users to make adjustments to this if needed.

As well as the applause about the arrival of Netflix in 130 countries last week, there were some negatives, especially here when it was found that less than 10% of the US programming is available to subscribers. Another question concerned China and it was presumed that this was another Great Firewall problem. This may now have been solved: at least in part. Daniel Van Boom reports on CNET that Netflix has been meeting with the authorities in China's hoping to provide the service there and CEO Reed Hastings suggests that they may have a licence there soon. Or a couple of years.

Also concerning Netflix, Kellen Bleck reports for Mashable that there may hundreds of hidden categories under all the stuff they display at the front. The article describes how to enter special codes into a browser to bring up this hidden cache, although there seems to be nothing on how this could be done on Apple TV using the Netflix app. At least knowing it is there, may help with searching.

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



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