AMITIAE - Monday 19 March 2012

Cassandra - Monday Review - It will soon be Friday

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Mike Daisey lied. How much has this cost Apple? Daisey attacks the messenger (or at least the translator). Much solid news on the iPad. AnandTech produce an A5X floor-plan. Twitter, Path, Facebook, Apple and others to be sued for uploads of address data. Rumours on new MacBook Pro computers. A hint from OS X Daily for dealing with a stolen Mac. Has Google forgotten to write the developer checks this month? Spying: on room mates (bad) on the general population (no problem, eh?): your tax dollars at work (yours, not mine). Late news: Apple conference call - cash.

Apple Stuff

What a weekend. The news was dominated by more solid information appearing about the iPad and the news (not a surprise to some of course) that the performer, Mike Daisey, who has based his monologue on what he said were first-hand experiences of a visit to China and meeting with workers, out and out lied about most of what is in the monologue and of what he wrote in a NYTimes Op-ed which may have been the inspiration for the NYTimes own one-sided exposé of Apple and what goes on in the Foxconn factories.

I put up an article on this on Sunday: Daisey, Daisey, Give us an Answer Do: Truth, Art and Apple.

I had much more and when it came to the cassandra column today, cut that too and put that online as a second commentary: Apple, Daisey and Bandwagon Journalism.

Now let's get away from fiction and back to Apple. As ever, after a few days of a new product from anyone -- not just Apple -- some of the more serious analyses appear and these are usually far better than the knee-jerk reactions of the hit-whores. A useful example of the careful approach is from Bryan Bishop on The Verge who has some pictures of the closely-spaced pixels (and comparisons with the iPad 2) that were taken by a designer named Lukias Mathis using a USB microscope. A little earlier, I had seen another photographic comparison from someone called Dom Sagolla, who had used the same olloclip lens that I have. I will have to try my own pics.

To cite again the giggly, knee-jerk schoolgirls from the Register, the higher quality will of course make pretty flowers much more pretty, dears, but the quality of the output will also make it easier on your eyes as you grow older -- as you will -- mature and eventually need glasses for reading.

Let's look at some of the comments. PC Magazine is always fair to Apple products, which shows a lack of bias when one would think that the very title suggests they are going to be anti-Mac. Nothing could be farther from the reality: over and over again they give Apple products the thumbs-up and this week we read a review from Sascha Segan on this with some adjectives that Steve Jobs would have been proud to use. The 2-page review is worth reading end to end. And at the end is a neat quote: "the new iPad, to borrow a phrase, is the tablet for the rest of us". My link for this was MacDaily News.

Also well worth waiting for is the deep analysis that is carried out at AnandTech and their work on the iPad processor does not disappoint. They have a complete plan of the A5X as used in the iPad and their images detail what each part of the processor is used for, and the implications. More to come here, I am sure. Josh Ong on AppleInsider also brought out some more from the iFixit tear down that was still appearing as I was writing Friday's Cassandra column. Brooke Crothers also had this information on a page that was headed by a beautiful picture of a butterfly on an iPad (the butterfly was not on the iPad it was in a picture) which shows the new device can display more than pretty flowers, the Register girls should note. As some people are just beginning to realise (and as I have said many times already) the chip is now designed to Apple's specifications and that means they can include new specifications for all their hardware that none of the other manufacturers will be able to match.

More news of the type that makes some people just frenetic and writing stuff that cannot match the facts. Simply put, as it is by Steve Sande on TUAW, Apple has topped the J. D. Power customer survey for smartphones again. That makes 7 years running. I guess some people think they are doing it right. The Register, on the other hand, takes the same set of facts and introduces them with the headline, "iPhone stroking keeps us satisfied the most, say fanbois" which is not exactly what the J.D. Power survey reported. Oh, I get it: anyone who has an iPhone (or iPad or whatever) is a fanboi now: old ladies, teens, the Queen of England, President of the US. On a slightly more realistic note, Bill Ray ends with "JD Power is just putting numbers to the facts we already know." Indeed.

A report from the direction of darkest Taiwan suggests that there are new MacBook Pro computers already in production (which if true is going to pay merry hell with my budgeting). Sam Oliver on AppleInsider reports on a story in the usual source of DigiTimes who suggest there will be no optical drive -- I cannot remember the last time I used one -- and more advanced specifications that the MacBook Air. So we might be expecting solid state drives (SSD). With Intel producing a 600GB drive (max) that would satisfy my desire for 500GB as I have now. But how much?

As they often do, OS X Daily have a really useful tip this week concerning the wiping of a lost or stolen Mac using iCloud features which are free. Users also need an Apple ID and access to Find my iPhone (in a browser or on an iOS device). The method outlined not only wipes the data, but with a password, essentially locks the computer, preventing further use. They add that this "rates up there with some of the best anti-theft software available. . . ."

Half and Half

Another week another set of litigation. This time, Apple is being sued for video distribution over the iTunes store network according to Patently Apple. Apparently, Sony won the case they had against this litigant: Trans Video Electronics.

And on Sunday evening I read in an item by Elinor Mills that 13 people have started an action against several mobile app makers, including (she writes), Path, Twitter, Apple, and Facebook because of the uploading of address book details (which was fixed last month). Some good background and information here.

Late last week the news wires were red hot with the letter that a resigning exec at Goldman Sachs had written about the poison atmosphere there and that customers were the last consideration. This weekend we picked up news from Jim Dalrymple on the Loop concerning insider trading there with one member of their personnel being caught on a wiretap leaking secrets about Apple and Intel.

Other Matters

Apple often announces how much it has paid to developers and it is right that a large company like this should send the checks out on time. So what to make of what Jim Dalrymple on The Loop reports: that Google payements for March (due on 7th) have yet to appear?

An interesting case that involved privacy and spying ended this week with the conviction of Dharun Ravi who had used a web cam to spy on his gay roommate and invited others to watch. An AP report on Huffington Post outlines the case, the conviction and the penalties he might expect. From reading this, had he admitted his part, he might have got away with some community service. The fact that his victim died after jumping off a bridge was played rather low key during the trial.

Also on the question of surveillance, I wrote some articles for the Bangkok Post a few years ago on the Echelon program that was several governments round the world joining up to spy on their citizens with massive resources at their disposal. My articles are still online:

Now they are at it again. Well, the US anyway. Emboldened by the War on Terrorism which has given the men in black licence (and the funds) to do anything, including kill its own citizens in the face of an imminent threat (although "imminent" is fairly loose), we are told by Bryan Bishop on The Verge that the NSA is expanding its operations so much that there will be the capability for total spying on the domestic populace. I thought the Cold War was about opposing all this sort of stuff. Not in your own back yard, apparently: another, "one rule for them, another for us" stance. Some of the figures are astounding in the article, like "between 15 and 20 trillion communications have been intercepted since 2001." The data must be processed and stored and if we thought Apple had a big operation at Maiden in North Carolina, think again. Building 5300 -- a sort of mega Hut 6 (for Bletchley fans) will "easily collect and read transmissions from around the world". With this updated Echelon, everybody's a target, they say.

Local Items

We are expecting the iPad to arrive in Thailand officially in the next month or two and I would anticipate mid-April, even though this puts it smack bang in the middle of a major holiday here and a time when I never venture out of doors. With the iPad going on sale in Singapore and Hong Kong on Friday (though Macau has to wait), it was no surprise to see several turn up in the Mahboonkrong Centre for those daft enough to pay the inflated prices there. Richard Barrow reports that the 64GB wifi one which I want is about 38,000 baht there. He also reports that the expected price will be 21,900 baht when it arrives.

Late news

And Jenson Button won the Australian GP on Sunday. I have no cable TV as yet so was forced to watch a schematic and the timing screen using the Soft Pauer Formula One App on the iPad and iPhone. For the Moto GP I may be able to subscribe to direct internet transmissions. I am surprised Bernie Ecclestone doesn't do this for the Grands Prix.

Late Late news

Apple is to hold a conference call at 0900 Eastern Time today (6 am Pacific), which is just before the markets open, and the sole matter for discussion is the cash that Apple holds: about $100 billion. There is already speculation about what the announcement is to be with the favourite at the moment being the announcement of a one-time dividend.

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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