Podcast #198

More iPod apps for Thailand; plus local and international news.

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Thai menu I am in the UK this week in a sort of technological dead zone and I have to walk a couple of kilometres to get to the only public Internet access in the town. In the Post this week, we are having a look at some more of the apps that have a connection to Thailand.

More iPod apps for Thailand

Sorry about the slight echo on the recording. I noticed this last week and I must have done something to the microphone on the way over here. I'm still trying to work this one out.

I went down to the public library here the day after I arrived and asked about getting online. As expected I filled in a form and came back later. The lady who had taken thew form had disappeared and no one knew where it was. Sweet smiles all round and a vague admission that they did not have a clue. Most were members anyway and used the library's own PCs; but there was a public wifi. Bit by bit we sifted through the information, and in the end it was just like getting on True WiFi, only free.

I had limited access the first time -- just enough to upload the podcast -- but was later given temporary membership. The next day I got an hour out of it, so downloaded loads of pages for offline reading.

After the weekend I came to my sister's house and she has wifi, so no problems there for a couple of days. Indeed, it is quite good access here. And one of the emails I received was an invite for the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco at the beginning of June.

Now, we all wondered how Apple would be dealing with anouncements about new products, and we are expecting some new ideas at this conference; but if journalists from the less technical press are being invited, let's crank this up a bit and suggest that there is something interesting in the offing.

power Another problem I found here in the UK, concerns the power sockets. British plugs are massive three pin affairs with 13 amp fuses. Some of my devices, because they came via Singapore or Hong Kong, already have these, so getting the MacBookPro charged was easy. I had thought these plugs were only used in a few countries, but I see there is a list of over 20 others.

Some of the plugs from home look similar to US plugs and we were able to use adapters; but one or two, like the iPhone, had those mini connectors and nothing is that narrow, but fortunately this and the iPod touch can be charged using the USB port on the computer. As I have my LaCie hard disk with me for backup and emergencies, that was one of the essentials and I got that going in the end too.

My sister always insists that no one uses Macs, so it was interesting to be able to show her the item on the Unofficial Apple Weblog that showed Apple as number 5 in the UK. She tells me that the only person she knows who has Macs has a print shop. Christina Warren's useful conclusion is that "despite Microsoft's quips, price doesn't necessarily dictate market share."

Living Statue While in the UK, I am making good use of the iPhone camera, although I am finding that using refills (or vouchers as they call them here) is fearsomely expensive. The camera takes some crisp shots in good lighting conditions, ut does have some shortcomings. AppleInsider reports that among the improvements in the 3.0 firmware update, beta testers are finding the camera output much improved, including in dark areas, which I have found produces very grainy images without a flash.

A more significant upgrade -- and this will only be a hardware change -- is that there is expected to be a magnetometer in the iPhone and one of the functions of this is for a compass.

Thinking about convergence and the way Apple re-uses technology developed for one device in others, it is interesting to see that in one of the builds for the upcoming Snow Leopard, there is support for 3G and WWAN: wireless widea area network. So what new hardware is coming?

Cheeses Last week we saw that Apple had an interesting page or two on the use of Twitter and on the way Macs are used in the San Francisco headquarters of the networking phenomenon. Several made comments on a rumour that Apple was thinking of buying Twitter during the week. As Insanely Great Mac writes, "It's fascinating because it makes no apparent sense."

I guess not unless Apple has seen something that no one else has, either now or for the future. Twitter's Biz Stone and Even Williams, were on a program called the View and they stated clearly, Not for Sale. We've heard that before.

Dennis Sellers of Macsimum News on an extended commentary of Apple rumours suggested that EA Games and Twitter are not on the shopping list for Apple; and that Apple is not going to release a games console. While a lot of people thik that Apple should get into games, I don't and think the market is fairly well tied uop, if somewhat imperfect, already.

In the meantime, Hary McCracken at Technologizer who also dismisses the Twitter rumour, looks at some other acquisitions that never happened.

Statue While I am here in the UK it is interesting following some of the breaking news. One of the major stories could come out of the Thai politicians play-book and concerns the claiming of expenses: particularly who they are paid to.

Another long-running item is about the way the government, via the police here, have been going about systematically collecting DNA samples from everyone they come into contact with. Clearing the innocent and catching the guilty is a convincing argument, but the politicians here are up against something that the US refused to deal with in the last few years and that concerns the balance of freedom.

The European Court has ordered the British Government to destroy the samples taken, but they announced this week a modified national database that would allow the police to retain records of thousands of innocent people for up to six years. With the expenses problems and the DNA database, the tide has turned somewhat against the current government. The Register adds to this and confirms that while the samples themselves may be destroyed, the profiles - the data produced from those organic samples -- will be retained. They include the dangerous information that "All those convicted of an offence recorded on the Police National Computer, from prostitution to taking a pedal cycle without consent, will have their DNA profile and fingerprints stored forever."

The point that many MPs are making here in the UK is that all their claims were within the rules may not be totally true and there are suggestions that some line-fudging may have taken place. Sun, who are in the throes of a takeover situation with Oracle have just produced a corruption wild card by admitting that they may have been guilty of bribery. Apparently, Oracle did know abut this before putting its offer forward and must have factored in future fines to the $5.6b purchase.

Apple - London Apple is being sued. Again. This time over its lovely MagSafe connectors. These have saved me and countless others the problem of flying MacBooks over the years, but if you don't use them properly, the cable might fray. I bought a new one after about 18 months and have it with me now, while the earlier one doubles asa spare in my office. The lawsuit claims these were negligently designed and manufactured and that the cable from the power supply to the MagSafe connector "dangerously frays, sparks, and prematurely fails to work."

MacResearch, whose Drew McCormack has a lot of interesting, science-flavoured information on his pages, tells us that Apple has a "mysterious" announcement on coding on its WWDC pages. The page itself refers to both iPhone and Mac coding and includes Medicine as well as science.

McCormack later updated that information with a long explanation of what this announcement apears to be: something called Core Plot framework; an Open SOurce development framework that will be for OS X and the iPhone. It is all connected with earlier work and concerns graphing which is important in scientific applications. Drew explains it much better on his web page.

Balancing Act And I see that finally this week, the 10.5.7 update to OS X, has now been released. Using Software Udate, I was offered a download of 286MB while the normal update is 442MB and the Combo version is 729MB.

There are loads of fixes for this, but be wary of putting it on unless your system is running well. Shut down, restart, do it again; think about running the repair utility on the install disk; and also repair permissions before and after. It boots up twice as is common nowadays. I have downloaded the Combo version, which is over 700MB, because at my sister's house there is a good link, but I am not going to do this until some days after I get back to Bangkok.

Ah, I have found that infuriating echo. Somehow, Reverb got turned on.

And for those using Safari, there is an update bringing it to version 3.2.3 and there is a Security Update for those using 10.4 Tiger. I also read that there is an update to the Safari 4 beta.

This week we hear from the Register about the way Microsoft is beginning to contract. Several services that it has pushed over the years like the .NET Micro Framework, MSN Direct Service and others are being scaled back after they reduced the workforce by some 3,000 last week. You may remember that 1,400 went in January. When are the shareholders going to get the idea?

St Pauls Not directly connected with the above item, although some suggest there was a link, some may remember a couple of years back SCO going all out to sue the Linux world and several large companies over their use of what was claimed to be proprietary UNIX code in their operating systems. But by bit SCO lost the cases and the Open Source community, and quite a few others, breathed a sigh of relief; and then SCO slipped into voluntary receivership.

Now it seems probable that the bankruptcy courts will make SCO swallow the poison pill and go into liquidisation as there is apparently no way it can pay off its depts.

Apple has taken some flak over the way that some iPhone apps are authorised (and then some deauthorised) for the app store, and this has sort of come to a head after a recent rejection of an update to the Nine Inch Nails app. There is a chance that in the upcoming 3.0 update in June, there will be a rating system thus making the whole process somewhat easier to deal with.

At the weekend, I saw that the NIN app had finally been authorised and downloaded it along with a number of other updates. There was also a neat little New Zealand Air app which oddly gives tourist information for those going to London, or already there I suppose.

It is a nice bit of work and it is free, but works better with an Internet connection. The user has no option but to wait for it to search for data updates, and if the device is not online, that may take a while before it wakes up. Better an option to allow a user to opt out.

Carnaby Street Bento is a user-friendly database application for the Mac that appeared about a year ago to much good comment. Now there is a Bento app for the iPhone.

The new 3.0 beta of the iPhone software is now up to version 5 and Apple has decided, or decreed, that any new submissions from now on must be compatible with the 3.0 update.

Michelle Myers on CNET reports about a major security breach at UC Berkeley that was on the go from October last year to April this year before it was discovered. Lots of data has been stolen and the university is in the process of informing all those whose identity data may be compromised. Access was gained using an attack on a public website, then bypassing other security on that computer.

It is appropriate, therefore, that Jon Oltsik has an article this week, also on CNET, concerning security on Macs. Safe as they may be, there is no place for complacency and I am afraid many users are thewir own worst enemies when it comes to security. Hands up those with only an admin account and no password. For those who are less willing to come to terms with the dangers that modern computing places in front of us, his final sentence is worth repeating: "is risk management really that bad?"

I had a look at a couple of Apple shops this trip. First the one in Milton Keynes as I was trying to get the iPhone running on a UK system. I was directed round to the O2 shop where I got it up and running: fearsomely expensive comapred to Thailand.

Tower Brideg This week I went down to London and visited the flagship shop in Regent Street. Let me try some comparisons. The Milton Keynes shop reminded me of the smaller store in Stanford which we visited last year trying to find the new iPod touch. The London store, which blends in with the street's architecture, looks like the San Francisco store initially, but is far wider and deeper. And, I think, the ceilings are higher too.

With SF as you go up the stairs, and the glass used here has a different non-slip surface perhaps because the UK is health and safety mad these days, the demo theatre is far further back leaving room for more table displays and a glass lift in the centre of the floor.

And as a minor technical note, as we were crossing Tower Bridge, the alarm went off and traffic stopped for the bridge to be opened. I had never seen that before.



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