Podcast #167

Parental Controls; plus Apple Financial results, with updates and other news.

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Rabbit Last week we heard about the new notebooks from Apple and a couple of other points. There is rumoured to be some more hardware this week when the Q4 financial results are announced.

In the Bangkok Post this week I am writing about Parental Controls in System Preferences.

OS X System Preferences: Parental Controls

This week there was an update to Aperture, which is now version 2.1.2. The update improves the printing quality of books ordered through the Aperture printing service. The download was about 50MB and took a long time to come down. The internet to outside of Thailand has been lousy in the last few days.

There were some good points and some less than good points, and some that were highly criticised concerning the new MacBook and MacBookPro ranges. Many users do not like the lack of a matte screen, for example.

And there have also been many criticisms from users about the lack of Firewire on the MacBook. The MBP has FW 800 and an adapter can be used for FW400 devices.

Steve Jobs in a one line reply, claims that the change in movie camera technology has made this port less necessary:

"Actually, all of the new HD camcorders of the past few years use USB 2".

The AppleInsider article that carries this has some interesting observations concerning the development, or lack of it, for Firewire that support this. Frankly, although I have a couple of firewire 400 devices and occasionally use Target mode, I have nothing that uses Firewire 800, but USB all over the place. While a MacBookAir user commented that he suddenly realised that he had not missed it at all.

bamboo Come Monday, however, there was an online petition to ask or demand, depending on your viewpoint for Fireire to return. In a computer that is already designed, tacking something on as critical as that, plus all the software to go with it, seems to me to be a gargantuan task. Maybe later?

When I checked on Monday evening, there were just over 9000 signatures.

And in related news, there is talk of Firewire over Ethernet, although not yet. Maybe with Snow Leopard. One suddenly gets the feeling that pices are dropping into place.

Surely it is only a matter of time before that ability to use gestures on a glass trackpad is transferred to the same ability on the screen. And we hear that not just the battery, but also the hard disk is user-swappable, which would make for some easy diagnosis or repair, rather than having to resort to Firewire and Target mode.

Also the MacBookAir was mentioned in the presentations last week, but there may have been more updates to this under the skin than meets the eye. Brooke Crothers in CNET News, who already uses a MBA, has a look at the change in the processor from Merom to Penryn, the new graphics chip and some other touches that seem to have made this an even better computer.

MacBookPro 17" which did have some tweaks announced last week, has its major upgrade apparently delayed until next year.

bookshelf There was some concern among users when Apple also announced a change in the video output. We are used to the DVI connectors and I have some converters in a drawer at work. The new one, DisplayPort, is actually an industry standard used by several other manufacturers, so you can't get Apple on the new device rap this time. There are also several good technical reasons for moving to this type of connector as is explained by Peter Cohen in MacWorld. We will have to see if there are any converters in the box when the first ones arrive.

One of my colleagues, who is also a Mac user, on and off, mentioned that he had seen prices for one of the new Macs in Bangkok at 48,000 which I guess would be MacBook. There are no online prices here as yet, but the current machines are going to be bargains for those willing to go for them as there are bound to be some offers in the next weeks as the new ones arrive.

I mentioned last week about the battery indicator lights. I have confirmed that they are on the side and there is some other news about these. They now send messages. Like the startup beeps if something is wrong with a Mac, the way in which these lights flash will give information about the battery.

Jonny Ive described the way the notebooks are now made with a process that cuts the frame down from a solid block. The aluminium is recycled. What this has enabled are part of what some are describing as "beautiful internals" and iFixit have a complete set of images from a total strip down of the new MacBook Pro.

With others taking the stage there was some speculation that Steve is winding down [See below]. If so, it was clear from the presentations that at least three people would be able to take the helm without Apple so much as blinking: Ive, Tim Cook and Phil Schiller. I think that as a major shareholder, Jobs would be keen to demonstrate that he is not the company and the company is not Steve Jobs.

On Friday last week, I was asked to be one of the faces in the audience -- the equivalent of a theatrical spear carrier -- at the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Mahidol University's Engineering Faculty, where I work, and the International College there, MUIC, on the setting up of a jointly-run international program in Computer Engineering.

trees And let's hear all those comments when it becomes wider known that the Googlephone has a kill switch for apps just like Aple's iPhone. Anyone . . . anyone? Nope. Only willing to criticise Apple of course; so there was no mention of the recent problems with Sony PlayStation batteries, nor of delays for Windows releases, again; nor the XBox red ring of death. Strange that.

News on the development of the next edition of OS X, 10.6, which is being called Snow Leopard: apparently the Finder is being written in Cocoa -- Objective C. It is currently in Carbon, a hold over from earlier systems. I didn't know that.

There is also to be a feature called Image Boot which seems to allow a Mac to boot from a centrally located image on a network, although how this differs from the Network Boot, is not fuly clear to me although seems to have other attributes which concern centralised updating. If that means one download to cover all the computers on a home network, that will be a good idea.

As well as the Java Update and the Security Update which I finaly got round to downloading this weekend (bad internet at home -- worse at work), there was a new one: Migration and DVD/CD sharing, which provides enhanced customization capabilities and improved performance for migration over FireWire, ethernet, and wireless networks.

On that bad internet, I had it let me down again at the weekend, and I found the phone line was working with a sound like frying eggs -- a sure sign of a bad connection. When the engineer came, I checked again and although I had internet, there was no phone at all. Up on the roof, he found the problem: squirrels. The line was replaced and that cost me 350 baht which I did not think was excessive.

There has been an update to Apple personnel in China with the appointment of a former HP man, Qiu Qiuliang. He will be general manger of Apple there. The position was vacant after Ye Peng left last April.

Heads up for a site that pops up sometimes called MacGuard, which would appear to do the same as Winiguard and offers to scan your hard disk for viruses. Clock on the Mac link and nothing happens, while the Winiguard link apparently does download something. It appears that this is all connected with a credit card fraud and the Intego Mac security blog has a good article on this. There was another by Derik DeLong on MacUser with some comments and Ars Technica added to those later.

One of the first things I did when my internet link was fixed [above] was to download the latest Open Office. It was impossible to do this a week or so ago as so many had the same idea. It was still slow and timed out, but came down in about 40 minutes for the 163MB.

Q4 Results from Apple

Although Peter Oppenheimer usually makes the financial report -- he is CFO after all -- Steve Jobs put in an appearance, perhaps to prove yet again that he is not dead. I have some of his comments after an outline of the results themselves.

    Some quick notes from the report:
  • Stronger-than-expected 26 per cent rise in quarterly net profit at $1.14 billion
  • $7.9 billion revenue
  • Most Macs ever sold in a Quarter at 2.6 million
  • Most iPods sold in a non-holiday Quarter
  • More iPhone 3G units sold than during the entire run of the original iPhone and the sales surpass that of the Blackberry (6.9m to 5.4 million).

builders Apple Insider notes that "Apple's Asia Pacific . . . accounted for 205,000 Mac shipments and $562M in revenues. These figures are up by 32 percent and 27 percent compared to the same period a year ago." . . .

Steve's appearance was a bit unusual and he made several comments. At one time he put up a slide showing his blood pressure (110/70). The CNET article also had some quotes (and their own comments) from Steve including,

  • "We may get buffeted around by the waves a little bit, but we'll be fine, and stronger when the waves recede in the future."

    and . . .

  • "We choose to be in certain segments of the market and we choose not to be in certain segments of the market."

    There were some more comments over at Macsimum News.

    Tom Krazit also looks at the results and analyses some of the comments on predictions that are made at such conferences. Apple is always conservative on these which often leads to a fall in share prices, which seems to have happened again. Apple said it expects to record revenue for the next quarter of between $9 billion and $10 billion. We'll see.

    Krazit also explains the way Apple is reporting revenue that takes into account deferred income from iPhone subscriptions. I haven't a clue what it all means and even have trouble balancing a cheque book.

    An interesting fact emerged. Apple now has $25 billion in the bank and is debt free, so could easily buy Dell. Apple supporters like me love to rub it in Michael Dell's face ever since he said that Apple should sell the company and give the money back to the shareholders, ever since which he might have been contemplating the same for Dell.

    And there were several rumours that the Mac mini is about to be dropped. Is this vanguard of the new product we have been anticipating? Several sources were reporting that European retailers have been told that they cannot place any more orders. Mac User has some words on this. We know that end of line bulletins are often issued, not just when a product is dead, but when a replacement is coming down the line.

    One of my favourite applications on the Mac, Posterino, which as the name suggests is for making posters, has been updated this week to version 1.4. There have been several improvements to the way it handles Photo events, and it is also localised for Japanese.

    When I first heard of this software, I downloaded it and within about 10 minutes of starting to use it, bought it online.

    Too Good to Miss?

    rabbit again I will be writing about this in the Bangkok Diary when I have some time to update the new apps, but last weekend I was using a free app called Fring on both of the touch versions I have right now: my own and a test generation 2 touch. With a bit of effort, we can use Skype on the iPod touch. I got it to work on both by having them phone out, although it was a bit of a waste of time other than testing as I had no microphone: and the G1 does not do voice. All I could do was listen, but I did prove the point.

    However, if that was the major product transition we had been expecting since the last financial results -- the one before this week -- it seems somehow low key. Watching Jony Ive I thought back to British politics: they used to say about Mr Anthony Wedgewood-Benn that the shorter his name became, the more he moved to the left; and in the end he had changed from, Lord Stansgate, then back to Antony Wedgewood Benn down to Tony Benn. Next time, Jon Ive?

    Ives seems to be joining Phil Schiller in the lunch club and looked descidedly porky on camera, while Steve retains that slimmness that so many have fretted about. Ives has a hold on not only the design -- his job after all -- but also the technical niceties and it was a delight to listen to his explanation of how the old MacBookPro was built up and then how the MacBook Air and MBP are carved down: from a block of aluminium to a slender half of a notebook computer.

    In more news, it was rumoured at the weekend that, after the changes to Apple's notebook computers, the iMacs could be in for some changes too. But not a major product transition.


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