eXtensions - Wednesday 8 August 2018
eXtensions - The Wednesday File (69): Apple Notes, Accessory Sellers and Box-shifters
By Graham K. Rogers
Business Week, to give it due, retweeted one of its covers from 1996, when (to be fair) Apple was in a lot of trouble after Sculley, Michael Spindler and Gil Amelio who was really there to see to the burial of Apple had done their worst. Despite the criticism he still suffers, Amelio was sharp enough to buy NeXT computer for its operating system (which we are still using) and as part of the deal, Steve Jobs came back.
The cover was a little premature, but no one really knew that in 1996, nor was the phenomenal growth that followed the iPhone expected (even after the iPhone was announced), with several industry executives, who may now regret their hasty words, all making derisory comments.
Some of the bottom feeders in certain sections of the press followed these so-called leaders and, without having handled the device, were making expert predictions which turned out to be wrong. I had handled one of the first iPhones the day after the keynote announcement in a back room of the Moscone Center and knew right away that this was going to be a game-changer, but no one listened back then.
This time, there was a surge in the share price to over $200 and Apple became the first company with a Trillion Dollar valuation. The tone of some reports suggested disappointment that Amazon was not the first past the post. Tim Cook sent a message to all employees (MacDailyNews). As I write this, the share price is just over $209 and the valuation is $1.01T. When I went to the 2007 iPhone announcement, my Apple handler was pleased that the shares he had bought when he joined the company had just passed $200. Of course, since then there has been a 7 for 1 split: $1400. Needless to say, not everyone was ecstatic and a dour note from Shira Ovide (Bloomberg) commented on the shrinking of profit margins, mainly due to increased Research & Development spending. And that's a bad thing?
There were also a few Bluetooth headphones then, and of course when the day came, most users shrugged and listened to the music using the Lightning earpods in the box, while those who had some special analog earphones used the connector that Apple had thoughtfully provided in the box at no extra charge (about $10 - or 390 baht here - if you lost one as I did). What was also useful was the medical devices that connected via analog continued to work with the connector. What a surprise!
Now we have another shock/horror episode coming as it is rumoured that the digital to analog adapter will no longer be provided. I would guess that far fewer people need these now and they are clogging up the drains in Cupertino. Stephen Silver (AppleInsider) along with many others writes about this revelation that came in the figures from Cirrus Logic which makes lots of things for Apple and makes a tidy profit too.
Some sources think there may be delays - or not - with the reports of a virus attacking the computers at TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co) which is a significant supplier of chips for Apple. Debby Wu and Mark Gurman (Bloomberg) report that fabrication tools were affected by a virus outbreak last Friday, but that the company says the affected computers have been restored. Full production was to start again on Monday. Other sources suggested that (even without the quick restart) sufficient supplies would have been built up to guard for such events (fire, earthquake, flooding) as organised companies should do.
The Bloomberg report suggests that the 12-inch wafer fabrication plants had been infected and that many customers had been affected, but that the impact will be limited. This will however affect the company's profits slightly. As a warning note, Ben Lovejoy (9to5 Mac) confirms that the virus was on unpatched Windows machines and that the cause was "an outbreak of the WannaCry virus." You would think that a company running such mission-critical operations might be a little more careful.
There were several transcripts of the Conference Call and the first one I saw was from Jason Snell on 6 Colors, and there is a link to it here. A lot of hard work goes into transcribing something like this and it is much appreciated.
A related note on the HomePod and how good the competition is (we are told). It was reported this week (Devin Coldewey, TechCrunch), that despite the noise surrounding the Amazon Alexa, few people are actually using it for purchasing: "Hardly anyone, it seems". But I thought that was the point.
A few more HomeKit devices nowadays
I hunted round and discovered that Belkin made a microB to USB-C cable which was perfect. Despite the wide availability of Belkin accessories in Bangkok, these cables were nowhere to be found and in early 2017 I ordered a couple from Amazon. Even though the MacBook had been available since July 2015 here, the MacBook Pro models arriving in November 2016 and external drives with microB ports being the most widely sold here, these cables are still not sold here. Last month I found an online entry at Lazada which had been showing Out of Stock. When I tried again on Monday, I found that they were now available: I ordered two right away to go with the pair I had ordered from Amazon back in early 2017.
I had kept one of these original cables at home and one at my office, which gave me a useable workflow, with the occasional swapping about: I still have several disks with that MicroB connector, although some of my newest ones are USB-C so that is a simple connection, and really fast.
The Nikon D850 changed things, and heightened the problems with poor local support when it comes to accessories. I was slightly disappointed to see that the Nikon used the MicroB connectors. The latest Hasselblad digital cameras have been using USB-C for the last couple of years and I would have thought that would be a better step for Nikon to make. The MicroB was slightly better than the previous use of micro-USB of course.
Another change with the Nikon D850 was that the main card was the faster XQD card, with a second slot for SD. Despite selling the camera, the shop I bought it from was unable to help with the XQD card. I had a deer in headlights moment. The first such card I saw was 64GB and a touch overpriced I thought. I confirmed that by finding another a few days later (also 64GB) for about 1,000 baht ($30) less in another mall.
I had the card, so burst shots (and 4K video if I wanted - it does 8K time-lapse) would write to the card at a respectable 400MB/s, but transferring the files to the computer was not so straightforward. I have a reader for SD cards, but where are the card-readers for this new technology? I could not find these even in the Sony shop: it is their technology after all and they do sell their own cameras in Bangkok. But not the card readers.
I had two work-rounds: I could transfer files in-camera to the SD card, but this changed the date and time of the file; or I could use the microB to USB-C cable and link the camera to the Mac. This actually works well with the speeds involved and Apple Photos recognises the camera as a source, but the computer does not recognise the camera (or its card) as an external disk, which is how the SD card and reader work. That restricted my use when handling the files: once imported to Photos, I had to export from Photos to my external SSD drive for archiving. I keep only the best images on the Mac as the huge number of large files (95MB each) would soon overwhelm the disk.
Sony XQD Card reader, Hard disk with micro-USB connector and (right) WD SSD with USB-C port
The reader is manufactured by Sony and this must be the first item I have bought from them since the Rootkit affair in 2005. Unlike the Moshi SD card reader I have, it feels quite flimsy. There are two card slots: SD and XQD at one end. At the other end is a single microB slot. In the box was a microB to USB 2 cable, which is about as useful to me as a SCSI connector. With the camera and the reader, it was time for more of these quite useful cables, which (as I say) are still unavailable here.
Sony XQD Card reader
I use Amazon and Apple online ordering because the service and delivery are more efficient. I have now tried B&H (the XQD card reader) and Lazada (cables) and find them as effective, although I had to set up accounts for these one-off transactions. Once this was done, everything sailed through. With Lazada all communications are in Thai and English. High street retailers are in competition worldwide and need to lose some of their complacency, although I don't think that has hit home here yet.
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. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)
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