AMITIAE - Monday 12 March 2012

Cassandra - Monday Review - It will soon be Friday

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

A weekend with iPhoto for OS devices and iPhoto for iOS. Update to iOS brings improvements in battery life. The new iPad has a much more powerful battery with a couple of mms and a few grams extra. The new device which is good for looking at pretty flowers (according to 2 writers on the Register), is selling out already: a week before it is due on the shelves. Device makers should be losing sleep over the iPad. Apple hires 73 Korean-American lawyers. DOJ looking at Apple and publishers over kneecapping Amazon. Raspberry delays.

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Apple Stuff

A busy few days since Thursday as news from the Apple event that started to trickle through by Friday here, began to firm up and more details became available.

The iOS 5.1 update has a lot of changes incorporated, including an improvement to battery life we are told by OS X Daily who suggest this is far better than before. I am finding it hard to tell as mine has been in almost constant use ever since the release and me getting my hands on iPhoto.

The battery on the iPad has also been improved, which I had expected when I looked at the device before its announcement. With all that extra reputed to be coming, and a better display, Apple had to do something if the battery life was to be kept at 10 hours. They did. It has gone from 25Wh to a massive 42Wh, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes reports on ZDNet: "in milliamps this boosts the battery from 6944 mAh to a monstrous 11,666 mAh." He suggests that the battery is not much bigger than before, so the power density of the cells has been increased. All rather clever he suggests.

Another interesting snippet concerning the iLife apps came from Daniel Eran Dilger on AppleInsider. He tells us that while these apps cannot be normally installed on the iPad 1, they can if you use the new Apple Configurator utility, which is really meant for office or family use.

I had a couple of days playing with the new iPhoto app, starting on Thursday as soon as it was announced, and once I was able to install the iOS 5.1 update, which could not happen until iTunes was updated (slowed by Garageband): how about that for a chain reaction. I was initially disappointed with some of the interfacing especially on the iPhone and wrote about that, following up with some clarifications and corrections a day later (Saturday). I mentioned in the second article that Erica Sadun's analysis of Beaming had confirmed what I had initially surmised: that the connection between two devices is over wifi and not Bluetooth; but she also adds that it uses Bonjour to make the secure link.

Also writing about iPhoto over the weekend was Leanna Lofte on iMore. She mentions that the interface is not intuitive (as I found) but enthuses over the Information tags. I fumed about the lack of these on the iPhone, which also lacks an Undo control for editing. You can undo, but it is not easy to find.

I managed to find out a lot about how to use iPhoto when I finally ran the video of the Apple event and watched the 10-miute demo from Randy Ubillos. The penny dropped on a couple of things and iPhoto began to make a little more sense.

With iWork and iLife on the iPad and iCloud online, Apple has told users that come the end of June, is to shut down, Topher Kessler reports. Any documents still on the site will evaporate.

But it was the iPad that dominated the end of the week and into the weekend as everyone rushed into print determined to score hits off the news from Apple. There were some praising the device and some, like two lady writers on the Register who belittled the display suggesting it was good for flowers -- two writing almost identical words: a remarkable coincidence, don't you think? I was interested in news about the specifications. Ignoring the two flippantes from the Register, users ordered so many that it was sold out in two days. Sold out in two days? It is not eggs we are dealing with. Some people must be losing sleep, and not over simply not being able to see pretty flowers.

As confirmation of the iPad having been sold out, Electronista reports that Apple has now confirmed that launch-day pre-order stock is sold out although there will still be some available for the first day of sales: those long lines make great publicity. "Off the charts" is in an AppleInsider article by Josh Ong on this too. Also in that Electronista article we read that in other countries, there is an expected 2- or 3-week delay for new iPad orders. So much for early April here.

Although it came out on Thursday, I did not see the article by Farhad Manjoo on Slate until well into the weekend and his text analysed what some were hoping the device would be (an incremental improvement, the same shiny tablet with a better screen and faster cellular access, etc.) with what it is under the skin. We cast our minds back to the derision from some on the release of the iPhone 4S which was really quite a step forward when you looked at what was inside that similar case. Farhad examines what Apple has presented and what the rivals have been presenting for the last couple of years -- none of which has been able to match the iPad either in sales, although some have come close in specifications. Almost. To the CEOs his warning is "Be very afraid."

One of the comments in that article reminded me of something I have suggested in the past concerning the processors that Apple is using. These are home brewed and that means that, unlike using an Intel chip, which could be hawked to any other manufacturer, Apple can design its own features that are built into a processor and no one else will be able to use these, plus no one else will have any idea of what they are until the device is pulled out of Tim Cook's hat. Take the A5X which is dual core with quad core graphics: does anyone else have that?

In an article that managed to eschew, fruit, Jobsian, fondleslab, and boffin among all the usual registerian register (a pun, look it up), Rik Myslewski wrote this week about a new campus to be built in Texas by Apple helped by a $21m investment from a Texas job-creation fund. As the campus will cost $304 million this is modest. The sting in the tail (there must be one from this source) was the mention that Apple is "sitting on $97.6bn in cash and securities". This was all very tame: no spleen, no anger, no sarcasm. Just facts.

Another article by Gavin Clarke on the Register on MIME was not able to avoid Apple or Jobs. The opening told us that the creator of the standard, Nathaniel Borenstein, survived saying No to Steve who apparently understood the implications and wanted to hire the team, later Jobs also wanted MIME to force all email to use Unicode, which Bordenstein liked but, despite this better solution, there would have been legacy problems. Having dealt with Jobs, Next and used the necessary Jobsian adjective, Clarke tells a sensible story over three pages with several other characters like Tim Berners-Lee and no epithets for any one of them. Typical Register: don't let facts get in the way of a good dig at Apple or Steve Jobs.

Before wifi and mobile phones, we connected devices using wires: how quaint. We still do if you look behind some of the equipment. However, this cable connectivity spurred some interesting developments (the first computer -- Colossus -- was built entirely from spare parts from the telephone organisation in the UK). Apple also tried its hand, in some desperation in the mid-1990s methinks, at higher level technology for the POTS devices and one creation was the WALT phone companion (Wizzy Active Lifestyle Telephone -- aww come on. . .) which had "a stylus-driven touchscreen and ran a heavily modified System 6 with Hypercard replacing the Finder to supply not just basics like contacts but banking, faxing, and a message pad." There is a prototype for sale right now on eBay we read on Electronista. It does not work (though could be fixed) and the bidding was at $8,000 then. . . I will stick to the iPhone.

Half and Half

Within a day or so of the iPad announcement, the first patent litigation was starting. Patently Apple reports about Adaptix -- a respected company -- that is claiming it had developed some of the equipment in the iPad and is staking its claim. Apple was also being sued over technology used in its virus protection software.

The Samsung patent fight has caused a bit of a problem for Apple as a lot of the documents that could reveal information are not in English and Samsung is not being all that helpful, understandably I guess. But Apple is not going to let this pass and there is a report on Foss Patents that the legal team has added some 73 Korean-American lawyers and 20 reviewers to work on the documents. Related to this, "in one of the federal lawsuits, Apple was given a chance to take second depositions of up to ten Samsung witnesses since it previously didn't have a fair chance to sift through late-produced documents in time for the original deposition."

Related in a way -- the iPad is the core here -- was the news last week that there may have been some collusion between Apple and authors or publishers over pricing, with an intent to fox Amazon and its stranglehold on ebooks. Amazon had been annoyed by this and now the US Department of Justice is interested and has warned that lawsuits will fly we are told by Sam Byford on The Verge. Approving of the D.O.J. actions and comments is Charles Cooper who thinks that ebooks are way overpriced and is convinced that this is due only to Apple's desire to make life miserable for Amazon. Never mind about Amazon making life miserable for the authors. I thought that in America it was supposed to be free market economics and the level would adjust itself. And yet Cooper seems to praise the previous status quo in which Amazon had a monopoly: Apple's approach ended that.

Other Matters

We saw last week that there was a problem with production of the Raspberry Pi computer when the ethernet ports were wrongly soldered to the mother board on several production models. The soldering has to be undone and the ports correctly done and this, Sam Byford reports on The Verge, will cause some delays. I also had a couple of emails from RS Components telling me that they will be in touch as the product becomes available.

Linked from a Tweet, I let out a laugh when I read in an item from Megan Geuss on Ars Technica that a Porn site called Digital Playground was hacked: the hackers say it was "too enticing to resist". There was no link in the article, but Google is always your friend. Although the front page is shown (goodness, aren't they impressive?) there was a notice telling users that "Digital Playground is temporarily unavailable" and inviting them to play elsewhere free of charge, but it was lunchtime and I was hungry.

Of some local interest perhaps is the news in a report from Sam Byford on The Verge, that WD (who have factories here) has completed its buyout of Hitachi GST and so becomes the largest manufacturer of hard disks.

Local Items

I finally had a call back from True on Sunday morning, 7 days after I asked for technical help to get my iOS devices to sync like they used to before the arrival of the Zyxel wifi router, and as they still do when I am in other locations like my office. The implication was that the Zyxel thing did not let the devices play with each other. I ended up writing something and putting it online.

They could not grasp the problem: internal not external; firewall ports, not ethernet ports; and wanted remote access to my computer initially (I declined) and later for me to reset the router. I declined and ended the call. My solution, which also proved it was what I said, was to attach the old Airport Extreme router which worked first time. I can now synchronize the devices, but not using the device that True -- the main dealer for iPhones in Thailand -- gives to its customers. As a note, the big boss of CP, Dhanin Chearavanont (and family) which owns True, is at number 133 on the Forbes 400 list, with $7 billion. There are 12,216 billionaire's by the way.

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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