eXtensions - Tuesday 13 September 2016

Cassandra: Tuesday Review - Uneven Playing Fields

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Needless to say I have been writing about Apple and the event last week in San Francisco this week. I put out a comment at the weekend and my column in the Bangkok Post tomorrow morning looks at some of the new ideas that were announced with the Apple Watch and iPhone 7 announcements. New? Well, of course, it depends on whose words you have been reading, but over the last weeks the main theme has been one of an iPhone release with nothing really new.

The outside is the same. Well, actually no, although it does have the same dimensions, along with stereo speakers (top and bottom) better sealing for buttons, a solid state home button and no 3.5mm headphone port. So apart from those things, Yes, I guess you might be able to say it is the same if you don't look, just take everybody's word for it and don't try to use the iPhone 6s case. There were also different camera lenses - two on the iPhone 7 Plus - so that can't be the same.

iPhone Specs iPhone Specs

I noted months ago that I was all for the end of the headphone jack: it is just so like Apple to move on, before others. In an honest comment from Jeff Dunn on Business Insider, he admits he does not like the removal of the headphone port, but outlines several other times when Apple has been ahead of the curve with removing tech from its devices and suggests it will work out all right in the end. That is more than I can say for the BI URL that must be one of the longest I have ever seen at 420 characters.

Less convinced is Don Reisinger at Fortune (rarely a positive outlook from them) who writes "Most People Have No Interest in Buying iPhone 7", citing a survey from research firm Morning Consult. The survey report reads a little more positive than the Fortune text, which was partly obscured by a panel demanding I download the latest version of Flash. Fat chance there. I have duly marked the calendar for a date 6 months into the future to see how prescient this was.

This survey is contradicted by another (surprise) reported by Benjamin Kerry on Apple Magazine who refers to the Samsung battery problems and outlines a survey that suggests this may cause about half of Galaxy owners to switch to the iPhone.

Air Buds and iPhone 7
iPhone 7 and Air Buds - Image courtesy of Apple

Inside the iPhone 7, its A10 Fusion 4-core processor not only has more power than the processors used in the current iPad Pro, but a clever design that uses the cores in different ways depending on the power each app needs. Daniel Eran Dilger took some of the commentators to task over their lazy reporting in a long but readable article on AppleInsider. Some of the opening comments are worth digesting: " It's almost as if they'd been caught in a huge lie and were now forced to ad-lib a toddler-like series of distractions in a bid to avoid any consequences to their reputations."

But this was the same for the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 6s. New technology and upgrades (especially cameras and processors) that came with these devices were completely ignored as that did not gel with the pre-conceived narrative: S means interim - a "tock" as opposed to a "tick" year.

A10 in iPhone 7
A10 Processor in iPhone 7

Apart from the news sites that have been picking up on airlines and the FAA comments on the latest Samsung thing, most of the comments I read concern the waterproofing, not the fire risk. This is especially apparent with the local Twitterati who giggle over any perceived iPhone problem (real or not), but have been almost totally silent about Samsung's problem device. Some of those iPhone problems have concerned fires.

While they and local TV have been vociferous in condemnation, with one unlucky owner saying he would never buy an Apple product again, when the test results are released (3rd party charger with faulty wiring, unauthorised repair which left a screw misplaced causing a short and similar), we heard nothing from these experts.

Earlier today, several articles appeared that may have been held by an embargo from Apple (over iOS, perhaps?). Rather than the knee-jerk, "same, same" comments put out by some who ought to know better, these have the benefit of several days' use and are clearly different:

  • Apple tees up the future with iPhone 7 (Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch), with the idea that this is a bridge device to what will be coming in the years to come;

  • The iPhones 7 (John Gruber, Daring Fireball);

  • iPhone 7 Review: The future in disguise (Nilay Patel, The Verge), "Inside that case, everything else about the iPhone 7 is a decisive statement about the future."

I was sure that Samsung would recover from its exploding battery débacle, although now I have some doubts. For one thing, how they are going to find 2.5 million batteries in a week or so is beyond me. Note there, that one of the criticisms levelled at Apple in the light of the Samsung release, was that the fast-charging feature was innovative in a way that Apple would not be. Perhaps now we know why.

An interesting comment from a local, concerning other problems that Samsung may have, mentioned that Google is dumping Samsung for Qualcomm for its Pixel chips and that also Apple has also now dumped Samsung as manufacturer of its A series chips.

Then on Monday evening, the news was circulated that Samsung was selling its printer business to HP (Don Clark and Eun-Young Jeong, WSJ) and I am not really sure who has the worst part of that deal although once the $1.05 billion deal has gone through, Samsung will apparently "make an equity investment of $100 million to $300 million in HP". Beware the back door. . .

Daniel Eran Dilger commented on Twitter that "HP is a binge eating black hole devouring the 1990s: Compaq, 3Com, Palm, SGI, now more printers!"

Daniel Eran Dilger

That Samsung is leaving the printer business is significant, and HP also has a long-term foothold in that area, so (I asked myself) why buy more, especially when it is fairly well-known that HP is not the healthy company it once was. Indeed, when Mr William Redington Hewlett and Mr David Packard were in control, Steve Jobs was known to look up to them.

I reviewed it a long time ago, but David Packard's The HP Way is a great book that would help anyone understand the founding years of that company. I rate it and Jon Gertner's, The Idea Factory on Bell Labs and its innovation, as two of the best books to help understand how the US is at the forefront of modern technology.

Comments online also mentioned the purchase of Compaq, of Palm, the iPaq, the nice-looking HP tablet thing: all killed. The shape shifting that the company has gone through is like something trying to hold off the inevitable dying process that it knows it is going through. And then to buy Samsung's print business. This has left many scratching their heads.

By now iOS 10 should have arrived, although at the time I write it is still not available in these parts. One of the interesting little additions is the Markup feature in Photos. That can be accessed by pressing the extensions item at the bottom of the screen (next to Crop, Filters and Adjust). Along with any app extensions already available for a user, Markup now appears: Text, edit, drawing and other tools.

The Swift programming app for youngsters should also be available and I am going to try and learn something about programming myself.

I saw an interesting comment by JP Mark on Seeking Alpha who suggests that the lack of surprise about the iPhone 7 was perhaps engineered by Apple. The leak about the removal of the 3.5mm headphone port most probably was; but he thinks it went further. He writes, "Apple cares very little about what investors want. Apple's passion has always been, and will always be, about the user experience, the quality of its products and its reputation. . ." I would concur.

Also having a look at this, with good analytical comments and a look back at its history is Tracey Lien on LA Times. This is worth taking time over.


I despair sometimes of IT in Thailand. It was just a gut feeling, but I have been enlightened a little more this week. A recent thread on Twitter here was about the way the Thai Airways failed to work properly with Internet Explorer, Chrome or Firefox. It started off when a local user (KristoferA) pointed out that "TG's website won't let you make a reservation if you use any of the major browsers." An alternative offered was to visit one of Thai's ticketing offices. After allowing popups (it is optimised for IE6), that only produced a blank display and others weighed in on the vintage nature of popups: Insane, one commented.

After checking with the user and asking for permission to quote the thread (ethics here, you see) I was enlightened with a series of problems that afflict other sites here, suggesting that IT expertise here is locked into some cloud-cuckoo land that does not recognise the security problems that exist online these days, especially when online transactions are concerned.

  • TG won't allow a user to make a reservation online if any major browser is used;
  • Thanachart Bank: no passwords, but a 6 digit pin for internet transactions (000000 and 123456 are allowed);
  • Overuse of domain names, making it nearly impossible to differentiate real from spoof (phishing)
  • A UOB app using embedded javascript crypto (perhaps copied from an unsecure source);

And there were other similar examples with the user confirming what I had only suspected: that with almost any local company or government IT installation, no one is following the best practices, nor do they even attempt to do so. He added that the only thing surprising him was that the Chinese and Russians weren't taking advantage. Perhaps they are. Any competent foreign cybercrime gang could make easy money and it may be just a matter of time.

What started as my own problem with IT pales into comparison after that. I have had an ongoing problem with local bank, Krungsri Ayuddhaya over a credit card I never asked for and the never-ending email advertising that keeps appearing. I did have a credit card issued by the bank, but that was because my insurance company offloaded all its customers and the bank took them on. I was annoyed when trying to find a copy of the Terms & Conditions a few years back when a snarky young man there told me they didn't have T&C in English as the bank was not geared for non-Thai customers.

As soon as I paid off the card, I tore it in two and eventually statements stopped coming. But then emails began to arrive, sometimes several a week: mainly in Thai but always ending with the following:

If you cannot read this promotion properly, please click here

This promotional e-mail is sent to you by Krungsriayudhya Card Co., Ltd. (KCC). If you prefer not to receive promotional message from us or update your e-mail address and other information, please contact Krungsri Credit Card Call Center at 0 2646 3000

Please do not reply to this e-mail. If you prefer to e-mail us, please e-mail to marketing.creditcard@krungsri.com

To check other promotions, please visit www.krungsricard.com

Note that second section. Unlike many email lists that we might be on, there is no option to click a link and unsubscribe by an automatic process. In the end, I tried the phone link and it began with an automatic voice response sending me down several levels.

When I did make contact with a real voice, she wanted the credit card number: don't have one. So she asked for my passport number, which seemed to do nothing her end, so we switched to name and email. I am proud of myself for the patience I displayed as she spelled out each letter in a type of phonetic alphabet (not the alpha, bravo, charlie, delta of the NATO phonetic alphabet) while also having problems hearing what I was saying, due to line quality.

At the end, she told me she would pass this on to the IT Department for action. What an utter waste of time. I urged her to pass on to the IT department the normal way of unsubscribing from such a list using an in-message link; but this is another example of an IT department that takes on the role of a medieval guild with all the secrecy that goes with it. From what I see of IT here it is more about preventing customers doing things, rather than easing their relationships (and purchasing) with the company.

Hasselblad H6D-50
A Different Beast - The Superb Hasselblad H6D

A few weeks ago, Hasselblad announced a new mobile attachment that would work (only) with Moto Z phones: the Hasselblad True Zoom. Jason Cross reviews this on PCWorld and despairs of what the company has put out in its name, writing "Hasselblad should be ashamed to have their name on this."

He has a quite thorough review but nothing in the add-on device really justifies the $250 cost when a point and zoom would do just as good a job, apart from the RAW. But then, that capability is to be available for the iPhone 12MP cameras as soon as users download the iOS 10 (10.0.1 apparently) update.

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. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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