AMITIAE - Monday 23 January 2012

Cassandra - Monday Review: It will soon be Friday

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Apple and jobs. Apple and workers. Hon Hai chairman calls workers Animals. Feedback from the Education event. Apple, publishers and Amazon. Kindle orders down 50%: 20% of Kindle Fire tablets delivered by Santa remain unused. Patent news, good, bad and excellent. Someone steals your Mac and your iPhone: so sue Apple. Frustration initially, but my wifi is up and working at the new condo. S.P. Somtow needs some help.

Apple Stuff

On Sunday morning at breakfast we were drawn to an article on the NYTimes with the title, "Apple America and a Squeezed Middle Class" by Charles Duhigg and Keith Bradsher (David Barboza, Peter Lattman and Catherine Rampell contributed reporting). This has a broad look at why Apple and other US companies have moved their operations overseas, with some input on Foxconn. This is a fairly lengthy piece of writing with several useful quotes. Part of that examination of the factories, includes a disputed report of a shift change at Foxconn that had the company getting several thousand workers out of their beds at midnight and building iPhones with a changed specification. Foxconn denies this ever happened. Well, they would, wouldn't they?

And then, Oh, oh, oh! Some people really ought to button their mouths and control their emotions if the reports on The MacObserver by Jim Tanous are correct. The chairman of Foxconn where there are already negative comments about the way the company handles its staff -- despite the constraints that Apple tries to put on its suppliers -- called his workers animals. Oh dear: "Hon Hai has a workforce of over one million worldwide and as human beings are also animals, to manage one million animals gives me a headache" which does not read too well at all even if taken in the context of a new years party and a wide-sweeping comment. While Apple has taken steps to deal with problems, it needs to do more and impress on the Chairman here that he is now in an international world where feudal Chinese management methods are not acceptable. Apple should buy Hon Hai: that would fix it.

Siri is one of the more important parts of the iPhone technology, not just for the gimmickry but also for the future with ways that this may allow users to control their devices. This week we were told by Patently Apple that the patent filing has been published and there is more to it, and more history, than people may have imagined making this something well worth reading.

Also on Patently Apple this weekend was information about future battery development with the quest for thinner and lighter batteries that have longer life always being chased by Apple. Again, the PA article has some really useful background information concerning the technology and the potential.

I just could not believe this one. A lawyer (somehow it had to be a lawyer) bought an iPhone plus a Mac. On the way home, he parked up and bought a soft drink. Back at his car, his rear window was smashed in and the new Apple stuff was gone. What do you do? Sue Apple of course. In an item by Francine Koupon on The Star (Toronto) we are told that the lawyer, Michael Deverett, claims Apple isn't doing enough to warn customers. A great shame I am sure (having had computers stolen) but sue Apple? Read the rest if you must.

Having spent part of the weekend setting up my own wifi system at home (see below) I was delighted to see a report by Daniel Eran Dilger on AppleInsider concerning a new standard of wifi that gives even faster networking speeds than the current 802.11n standard. These numbers by the way are the specifications agreed to and set by the Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and another I know is IEEE 1394 which is Firewire. The new standard is 802.11ac which will give greater bandwidth, better data transfer and allow more antennas. Work on the standard is progressing and already Broadcom have announced chips that comply. In a useful article, Dilger also outlines the way Apple has used wifi ever since Jobs was the first to demonstrate it as a consumer product in 1999.

We wrote a comment on iBooks and eBooks during the weekend. It was meant to be part of this column, but the more articles I looked at, the more it grew until I decided to separate the content and put it online as an article.

I had better keep this next section here as well, though as it is part of current news. Related to its books access on the iBookstore, Apple is being sued by book purchasers for price-fixing. The publishers wanted more control over the model than Amazon allowed. This case has been ongoing for a while and the amended suit uses part of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs we are told by Matt Brian on The Next Web. The publishers were happy to get together with Apple as Amazon was viewed as the threat. We note also that several publishers were happy to climb on board with Apple at the recent textbook event when low prices were announced for such usually expensive books. The article also details some comments from publishers which suggest that the Amazon model was not good for the publishers and they were happier with what Apple was willing to do.

As yet I have only had a cursory glance at the iTunes U app and wonder how it might be possible for educators to add their own content, or even if it is possible locally. Perhaps a restricted distribution could be possible. Electronista has a hands-on examination of the app and have given it a bit of a run.

There was an interesting experiment carried out by some researchers who, using an iPhone, managed to create a system of virtual projection. The Electronista text tells us that, it "would send a rapid-fire series of screenshots to a desktop display or TV using the rear camera to provide a frame of reference for where the image appears". It does need a display and not a screen. The article has a series of diagrams as part explanation.

Some Apple news with local content was revealed this weekend in an article on Electronista when it was reported that China has given Apple a licence for the CDMA-2000 network perhaps leading the way to sales of iPhones by China Telecom. Buy those Apple shares now. . . .

Half and Half

A new twist on that concert that was interrupted by the iPhone Marimba tone a couple of weeks back, when a violinist was similarly caught by a Nokia tone. Instead of getting angry, he started to play the ringtone (Chris Matyszczyk). It is beautifully done and he improves no end on the tone, closing with a smile.

Apple has a good record in terms of equal opportunity appointments, especially in the area of LGBT relationships, extending rights to both partners in a relationship. We read on MacDaily News that Microsoft is creating the same type of initiative at Redmond, "in support of Washington State legislation recognizing marriage equality for same-sex couples." I am not sure about the MDN comment here: perhaps a little more positive rather than a hit on MS?

As Steve Jobs held the largest number of shares (7.7%) in Disney as a result of the Pixar takeover there was some speculation about who would take his seat on the board after his death. A report by Edward Moyer tells us that neither his widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, nor a representative of the Steven P. Jobs Trust will be on the ballot in March when 10 out of the 11 members will stand for re-election to the board. Might we expect changes at Disney?

With Kodak trying to protect itself by going into Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the patents it hoped were going to be its salvation, may be worth a little less if Apple gets its way as some of the development for the original digital cameras, of which Apple's Quick Take 100 was one, may actually be owned by Apple according to the agreement they both signed at the time according to Daniel Eran Dilger on AppleInsider (link from MacDaily News). That Citibank loan may not be as safe as was hoped. As part of the general commentary that we have been reading over the past few days concerning the decline of Kodak -- this really is a wakeup call for many -- an article on the UK Independent by Lucy Tobin looks at the history, the successes and where it all went wrong, fixing the date at 1986. As a note 15,500 souls in the UK are employed by Kodak. And how many elsewhere? Will the directors fall on their swords or take their golden parachutes?

The Kindle was jumped all over by the popular press as this was the iPad killer. It was until you looked at it and saw what it did not do. And apparently, it was until you got one for Xmas. You would think the recipients would be delighted to get one of these in their bundle from Santa, but according to the Daily Telegraph (link from MacDaily News) they were popular as far as givers were concerned, but 20% of those receiving haven't used them yet. Less than 10% of iPads have not yet been used.

And then we read on DigiTimes in an article by Yenting Chen and Steve Shen that orders for the Kindle Fire have been cut to 3 million, down from 6 million. I wonder why. The article also reports on lower orders for the Nook. [Original source for the link was from MacDaily News who make a comment on the falling orders.]

As a note, Sony who produce many of the batteries that Apple uses in its notebook computers (including one type that goes in my older MacBook Pro and only lasts for a year) are thinking about moving their lithium-ion production offshore as well we are told by Ali Robertson on the Verge. Part of the reason is as a result of factory closures after last year's earthquake, but we are sure that economics will play a part in the move which is expected to be to China and Singapore.

Other Matters

We were in two minds about Twitter when it first started to become popular, but not any more. Although I am not sure about the management when they buy a company that makes use of the information in the feeds and shut it down. According to Kelly Hodgkins on TUAW, Summify was a curation service and even had its own iOS app. It was bought by Twitter and the service was shut down right away with the app no longer available. Some of the features of Summify may be absorbed by Twitter as the team have moved to San Francisco.

On Friday we read on The Hill in an item by Brendan Sasso that the GOP chairman had decided that SOPA was not going to fly. We understand that Congress made a similar decision with their similarly silly legislation. Politicians should keep away from things they do not understand, but the nature of politicians is that they never can: infinite meddling.

On the other hand, the bureaucrats of the EU sometimes get it right. We are not sure if they have this time, but they are attempting to create new internet data privacy regulations that would put in place, so Dieter Bohn on The Verge tells us, "strict guidelines on internet companies like Facebook when it comes to users' private information as well as fines if a company violates those rules".

Condo Online

On Saturday, my Internet connection finally arrived. Sort of. On Saturday morning, the day the True connection was due to be activated (4 days it takes), the condo wifi was finally recognised and I was able to log in. It worked OK some of the time, but lagged a bit and would have me biting my nails if I were to have this as a permanent solution.

I was told by True that there would be a phone call or message when the ADSL was active. By 6pm I was getting a bit annoyed, so walked over (I am about 500 metres from the Mall) and, despite all the lines of people, was taken to the young man who had helped me on Tuesday. To be fair, the place was packed and he was already working hard, but he stopped and began to search for my application. While he was doing this, he managed to field a couple of other questions from customers. "It is already working" he said and there was a sort of smile when I said I had been expecting some sort of message.

We discussed briefly the setup and he told me that the device was already set up with the user name and password. This was not what I wanted to hear as I had intended to use my own router along with an Apple (Airport Extreme) wifi. I am still not sure that this was taken in. He said, "It's all in the book", which is like a line from the movie, Beetlejuice. It is all in the book, sort of. The manual is in Thai and English, but the English part must have been written by a technician using Google translate. It is very concise and does not give enough information or reasons.

What is also missing from the handbook is information that True prints on a separate sheet in which the only browsers mentioned are Explorer, Firefox and Chrome. It is in that sheet that users are told that to connect to the internet, it is necessary to enter the True Online web page and click Enter. I was able to set up the connection with an Ethernet cable easily, but not with the wifi. I tried hard several times with variations of the password that was shown on the router, but had no luck. In the morning, I again looked through that brief sheet from True which gave a method for setting up the wifi router which contradicts the manual: we need to use the setup page in a browser and enter a password.

I tried that. Changing the security to WPA gave me a time-out when I tried to link to the wifi; and going back to WEP gave me the same password that had failed. Trying to change that brought up a panel that told me the number of alphanumeric characters to enter (which I had), but every time I clicked OK, the panel reappeared before I was able to change the settings. Table-banging time, made worse when I restarted the browser and had no internet downloading even via Ethernet. Restart router.

I did manage to get the iPad and iPhone connected using a new password I created, but that was only WEP: I could not get anything to connect with WPA. The computer would not join the network even after restarts, so in the end I resorted to the telephone help-line.

We may be frustrated by the shops and some of the problems there, but whenever I have contacted Help, the staff there have been patient and talked me through all the steps needed. A suggestion was to change the name of the router and also to change the type of security. There was also a change to the Landing Page of Security in the Zyxel browser setup from Enabled to Disabled. With these changes: name, security, password, Landing Page, we were online right away. Before we said goodbye, however, the young lady had the sense to make sure my iPad and iPhone would also work with these changed settings. I of course thanked her for her advice during the call and when she asked me if I would mind being transferred to Customer Service, I had no objections and gave her a 5 out of 5 for the job well done. But why couldn't that advice have been in the printed settings: manual and additional sheet?

Local Items

I was woken on Saturday and Sunday mornings by firecrackers, and when I went to check on the ADSL arrival on Saturday evening was treated to a dragon dance and fireworks outside the Mall: it is Chinese new year. Looking out of my window this morning, I could see the locals burning fake money for the dead, but Jon Russell on The Next Web also reports on fake iPads -- paper ones that are meant as part of the gifts to the dead sent by fire and the smoke.

S. P. Somtow is a rather a significant figure when it comes to the arts here and as well as books, he has written operas and symphonies. He has done much more of course and recently took the Siam Philharmonic on a rather successful London tour. That was also rather expensive he writes on a Facebook posting. he is asking for support but I am afraid has too few links to get what he needs. There is the Gustav's Angels page that has a PayPal donate button (5,000 baht) and the Facebook entry has some more information buried deep in the page, such as Somtow Sucharitkul, Siam Commercial Bank, 0013513547 for this purpose. Perhaps the best link (and it took me a while to find it) is Somtow's Blog where I was easily able to make a donation.

Late News

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.



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