AMITIAE - Monday 26 January 2016

Cassandra: Tuesday Review - Countdowns

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


In a few hours time the most anticipated financial results from Apple will be announced. Will it be the Bears or will it be the Bulls who are right? There are still reports predicting disappointment, while some insist that the results will be just above guidance. No matter what, I expect the shares will fall again because it will be presumed that Apple couldn't possibly repeat the trick again, despite having done so every quarter for the last few years.

It must go down some time. . . .

iPhone Although the analyst Colin Gillis of BCG does not think there is a problem with iPhone sales, Philip Elmer-DeWitt writes, he does have 5 hard questions that he would like Tim Cook to address: on video streaming, Apple apps rankings, Apple Pay advancements, iAd, and the subscription model for replacement iPhones. These are good strategic questions and suggest that someone in Wall Street is thinking further than the next quarter.

A report of a fire at a Foxconn factory in China over the weekend seemed to be an omen, but a report by Joseph Keller on iMore tells us that Foxconn have said that production at the facility would not be impacted, even though several floors were affected.

New beta builds of iOS 9.3 and OS X 10.11.4 were made available yesterday so it may be that the new versions are nearing release time. Jeff Benjamin on iDownload also reports that a new beta of the WatchOS has been released (2.2 beta 2). I am keen to see this appear along with the iOS 9.3 update as this will allow pairing of more than one watch with an iPhone: having two currently creates an inefficiency.

It was also reported that there is an update to tvOS (9.1.1) with the addition of a podcasts app, Zac Hall writes on 9to5 Mac. This is not a beta. When I arrived home Tuesday evening a check revealed the tvOS update and I was able to install this in a few minutes: sure enough the Podcast app was there.

OS X Safari icon As a simple example of what can occur, over the last couple of days some sources have been reporting on an odd URL that can crash Safari and other browsers. A web page called Crash Safari has some JavaScript code that kills the browser. This was originally circulated via email, but it is now being delivered by other means, including social network sites. Beware of odd-looking links as you always should anyway. Rene Ritchie on iMore outlines the problem, shows ways in which it can be avoided, and tells us that help is on the way.

Also writing on this, with some useful details, is Benjamin Mayo of 9to5 Mac, who includes some of the offending code. He notes that although Apple is expected to deal with the problem in a future update, "there is no immediate rush as the site does not compromise the system at all and poses no practical security risk".

With no sarcasm intended, I do like the way Microsoft is beginning to work with iOS: their job is to sell software (and services) after all. Mikey Campbell writes on AppleInsider detailing a future keyboard for the iPhone coming from Redmond that has the ability to allow one-finger typing. The image on the page shows a keyboard that is curved, although this might need some adaptation for those who are left-handed.

Samsung expect to release many apps for iOS this year Roger Fingas reports for AppleInsider. The Korean company is trying to grow its "cross-platform appeal of its devices," like speakers, tablets, and fitness trackers. It already has a camera app. I hope that the Apple unit responsible checks the code carefully as users would not want a Samsung back door (or anything else untoward) to be installed.

money I normally rank the current Lord Mayor of London, Boris, in the same class as Donald Trump, but this week, MacNN reports he has come out in favour of Apple over the question of tax liabilities in Europe. I am (sort of) alarmed to read that he makes exactly the same argument as I have several times on this site: that any company (and Apple is usually the poster boy) is right to try and avoid any taxes using the tax laws and regulations that exist.

It is hypocrisy for politicians to write the laws then complain when a company uses them. Look at personal allowances, like life assurance, mortgage relief, reductions for children and so on. Anyone would be daft not to claim these when filing tax returns and governments do not blame claimants for doing this; it is only when people claim for wives and children they don't have that problems (rightly) begin: that is evasion.

At the weekend, as part of a look at the way the media are changing, I noted that the Guardian is having to trim down quite significantly. I looked at this as part of a general move away from print and to digital means of delivery, which several publications in recent months have also had to confront. It may be that the Guardian's problems are more deep-seated as Ian Burrell on The Independent explains.

The former editor Alan Rusbridger, currently heading an Oxford college, is expected to return to the management of the group, but Burrell thinks that journalists on the staff may be less responsive to his input. Much pruning has been done, but more is needed as the Guardian Group appears to have been somewhat over-ambitious in recent years.

Also in that examination of how media is changing, I noted that Bill Gates had sold his Corbis photo archive to a Chinese company, but as Mike Masnick on TechDirt points out, one of the images in that collection is the iconic image of the single man standing in front of a tank in Tiannamen Square as well as several other damning photos taken of that whole time in Beijing. They will still be accessible via Getty Images, he writes, and the article provides a link to the current Corbin pages where they are still online, for now.

In my column tomorrow in the Bangkok Post, I have an all-too brief mention of the GarageBand update for iOS which arrived late last week. And what an update. . . . I just don't have the space in the newspaper and did not have time to take anything more than a brief look so far - actually creating some music quite easily. Sanjiv Sathiah on MacNN however, has now reviewed this and is as enthusiastic as some of the other early comments I saw. And me.

car News of Apple's Project Titan, the long-rumoured electric car, have veered from bad to good and back in the last couple of days. While the head of the project was said to be leaving, for personal reasons, we were also told that the head of Daimler-Benz was surprised by the progress made by Apple and Google, but now there are reports of a hiring freeze, Sam Oliver writes on AppleInsider after Jony Ive apparently "expressed his displeasure" with the group's headway.

Also reporting on this, is Christian Zibreg (iDownload) who includes the comment I noted yesterday that Dieter Zetsche of Benz was impressed. Of course Dieter Zetsche is not Jony Ive.

How detached from reality are the security services? As a starting point, as a policeman, at one time I lived in a police station, went to work with policemen, and socialised with the same at the weekend. The only contact I had with the public was when their were problems, or if shopping. I learned to take time out, but others may find support in such an environment where everyone is on the same page. Tim Cushing on TechDirt, reports on the incredulity of the NSA that they were portrayed as bad guys in Enemy of the State which although fiction seems to give a fairly reasonable picture of their capabilities.

Cushing writes: "for the NSA to expect it would be portrayed as the heroes - despite holding meetings with the producers before the film's release - is a pretty good indication of how isolated it is from the general public." Especially risible were the reported fears from the NSA on concerns about their privacy.

Security services and politicians are sometimes detached from the real world, and examples like Thatcher's relentless pursuing of Peter Wright (a former MI5 agent) who wrote Spycatcher, or more recently Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning (Wikileaks) or Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, Ewen MacAskill. And of course the notorious bullying of Greenwald's partner, David Miranda at Heathrow: detained under anti-terrorism laws.

This week, several sources, including Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept, report that the Appeals Court has "ruled that the United Kingdom's broad counterterrorism laws breach fundamental rights" when considering Miranda's case. He was detained rightly under terrorism laws (I would question that), but the law used was too broad and did not "afford effective protection of journalists Article 10 rights." Bullying.

lock There has been considerable tightening up in Thailand in recent months with the country under the control of the Army. For example, there are constant rumours that a single gateway - like the Great Firewall of China - will be developed, despite frequent denials from the authorities.

Early today, Don Sambandaraksa on Telecomasia wrote about the intended purchase of surveillance software that will be able to watch "all public Facebook and Twitter accounts against a target list of up to half a million individuals that can be identified through names, keywords or even facial recognition." The list of those to be watched includes a popular local forum,

Despite the legal requirement to allow the public to comment on anything like this, Don reports that the document was posted from 19 - 22 January, but not discovered until 25 January: past the date for comments. Although it is a tender, the specifications look as if the supplier has already been decided on.

A Tweet, linking to another take on the story on Prachatai suggested that as certain of the bidding documents were not also in English, the process was illegal now that Thailand is in the AEC.

Also in Thailand, the Bangkok Post (Suchit Leesa-nguansuk) comments on analysis of the smartphone market which suggests that sales here will be flat in 2016. Sales last year increased by 47% to a record 22 million units, but with those high sales and the contracting economy, the outlook is not really positive. An IDC spokesman suggested that carriers were expected to give away phones, but he was talking low-end handsets and the sales slump was really about those in the 2,000 to 4,000 baht area.

A sad note this morning, carried in many sources was the news that a pioneer in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Marvin Minsky, passed away aged 88. Among many other commentators, Glenn Rifkin (NY Times) has a respectful and detailed obituary of a man who defines concepts we are beginning to work with

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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