AMITIAE - Friday 23 March 2012

Cassandra - Friday Review - The Weekend Arrives

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Mother Jones hit-whoring for the second time in a month. That 5" iPhone screen rumour again. Haptic technology: touch screen output. Heat from the iPad: depends on who is doing the testing, how they do it and what they want to say. RIM to develop apps for the iPad. Apple tried to negotiate with Samsung and were rebuffed. New Commodore Amiga computer: price drops $500 overnight. SingTel loses 500 staff who are immediately snapped up by Huawei: oh? . . . CAT and TOT rolling in clover for the next few years.

Apple Stuff

I am going to call out Mother Jones Magazine again for hit-whoring on Apple for the second time in a month. On 24 February in the Cassandra column I noted that a headline on an article about a rare earths processing plant soon to open in northern Malaysia's Kuantan read "Radioactive Fallout from iPhones and Flat-Screen TVs?" but the iPhone was not mentioned once in the story. This week, Andy Kroll on Mother Jones had a good article on Wallmart's attempts at sustainability programs that are linked to the many factories in China they used. The headline, again: "Are Walmart's Chinese Factories As Bad As Apple's?" Again the question mark in the title; and again not a single mention of Apple within the article body. The article itself was really well researched and a good if lengthy read, but it failed totally to link the title with Apple and the only conclusion I will draw is that this is a feeble attempt to gain hits from people who might otherwise not bother: I mean, Wallmart is hardly sexy. This is a shame. I regard the hard work done by Mother Jones as valuable and normally well-researched. The work reaches a far higher level than quotidian journalism and if there is something in the title, it should be covered within the body of the text, otherwise it is just bait and not worthy.

Again we are beginning to hear noises about the next iPhone and its screen which everyone knows is going to be 5" (or actually 4.6"). Electronista reports on the rumours and some of the reasons why Apple has not done this so far.

One of the hopes for the iPad was some form of haptic technology: feeling output via the screen. According to Patently Apple, Cupertino now have a patent for such technology and there is a diagram of how it is meant to work.

More heat but from an older iPhone 4 which allegedly self-ignited while its owner was charging it. She took it to Mashable when Apple provided her with a replacement iPhone 4 when she really wanted an iPhone 4S, AppleInsider reports.

We thought that the idea of The Daily was excellent but has been badly executed, first by the app not being available outside the US, and when that was changed, but the US-centric content. What would be the point? I have access via the iPad, iPhone and computer to a host of world-side sites that give me a good spread of news without subscribing to a local New York newspaper. Now we are told by Kelly Hodgkins on TUAW that there is a rumour that The Daily is to be available as an iPhone app too. I don't really see the point.

There is a rather good point to the use of iPads for aircraft use and several airlines have taken to the device as a way to reduce unnecessary weight, with the USAF also joining the party with some 18,000 iPads for their crews. Now we read in an item by Kelly Hodgkins on TUAW that one of the Middle-East airlines, ETIHAD is using the device to supplement training courses for Airbus A340 aircraft engineers. All that information on that little device: what a good idea, eh?

Although I was not that keen on the iPhoto app for the iPhone (I guess it makes a lot more sense on the iPad), a lot of people like it and sales have passed the 1 million mark according to iPodNN. Not bad for a couple of weeks.

A report I saw Friday morning (linked from MacDaily News) on Reuters suggests that RIM are looking for a software developer. OK. Ah, but this is a software developer who can writes apps for the iPad. Oh? It would be nice to finally see the Messenger available for us iOS users.

A number of problems with the new iPad are being reported: heat, wifi, charging and problems with 3rd party cases.

AppleInsider has a report about how the WIFI story is taking shape, particularly in the forums. There were also reception problems with other iOS devices in the past. OS X Daily has some suggestions for tackling this although it might be that Apple releases an update as they did in the past.

But it is the heat that has the headlines buzzing. Some say it is bad, others say not so bad, while I haven't a clue. RixStep who also may not have a clue and were really quite cross, are relying on anecdotal evidence (like I do) and conclude that it is all an Apple conspiracy and that Tim Cook is paying John Gruber to tell fibs. We carried the Gruber story on Wednesday which noted that percentage figures change depending on whether Fahrenheit or Celsius were used in comparisons.

Not good enough and Rixtep have a couple of items from the forums, which if true (and we have no reason to doubt) suggest a serious problem. For some. I do not hold with the fanboi comment of Rixstep as an excuse: it either is or it isn't and a Tweet from Andy Ihnatko told us that because of the reports, he tried for a long time -- playing a graphics intensive game -- and noticed "warmth". Might this be a case, like the wifi differences, that some units do have a problem and some do not? If so, Apple should replace the defective units and investigate. Rixstep is correct in writing that "The iPad is a handheld device. It's meant to be held. If it's too hot to hold then one has a design flaw and one goes back to the drawing boards to fix it. Period."

One of the sites that Rixtep might consider as fanboi, iMore has a report from Rene Ritchie who unscientifically tested out his iPad and ran several apps and videos over the course of 40 minutes, he writes "the temperate did rise from a cold start of 30 deg C (86 deg F) to a high of 35 deg C (95 deg F), at most it was warm to the touch along the left edge." He also tried the iPhone which showed the same temperature and the MacBook Pro with a Flash video (guaranteed to get the fans at full speed). That hit higher temperatures. But no one is reporting on hot notebook computers. Not fashionable enough I guess.

Another article on the heat question by Josh Ong on AppleInsider looked at a test by Repair Labs on the A5X processor which found temperatures up to 36 degrees C as opposed to the 27 degrees of the older A5. This was on an iPad that had been opened up. An interesting point was that they "speculated that a difference in materials between the A5 and the A5X may be a contributing factor, as the A5 is believed to be ceramic, while the A5X is 'obviously metallic.'" External tests were unable to produce the high temperatures that Consumer Reports found. Hmmm, they were the same guys who found that antenna problem on the iPhone 4, weren't they? However, Josh Ong does tell us that Consumer Reports did not claim the device would burn: that was done by other sources afterwards.

A report by DisplayMate Technologies -- we mentioned this on Wednesday -- tells users that "the thermographic portraits circulating the web "overblown" and says the extra heat is the natural consequence of increased power". The report on Electronista also carries a lot of wise words from DisplayMate boss Ray Soneira.

When I first read the report of the iPad not charging properly when a game was being played, I wondered if the USB cable and connecter being used were up to the job. It turns out, however, we read in an item by Jon Russell on TNW that the heavier loads of graphics, processor and display do mean that when it is being used fully, the charger will bring in enough power to keep it going, but the charge will not rise. I would also add that when the iPad 2 is not connected to a power source and I play games or view videos, the power levels actually go down.

Some iPad cases were not working properly as the magnets that are supposed to turn the iPad on and off when the case opens (or shuts) would not do the job. It appears that the polarity of the magnets in the case, which did not matter for the iPad 2, is critical. If the magnet is facing the wrong way -- is that it? -- it cannot work we are told by Electronista.

Stupid, stupid Safari. Sits there doing nothing for 30 minutes then when I try to open a new webpage, tells me that webpages are not responding so pages in all tabs will have to be reloaded if I want the new page. Give me a break, pray when will I be allowed to do that. Alternative: kill Safari again and reload all from History. What an utter waste of time and resources.

I don't quite know what to make of this. In a survey, as reported by Anna Leach on the Register 10% of consumers in the UK said they would bank with Apple if it opened a bank. Is that dissatisfaction with the status quo or trust in Apple. Trust perhaps as 43% of those who own Apple products answered yes to the same question on the Bank of Apple. And then the Register spoils it by using the term, fanbois, when the user base has widened considerably over the last couple of years and probably includes grannies and businessmen. Along with their vocabulary, The Register needs to update. Would you bank with a Register Bank if it were to exist? 0% so far. Too old-fashioned: no evidence they are thinking. Wait, wasn't Ms Leach one of the giggly Register girls who thought the new iPad would only be good for looking at pretty flowers? . . .

I rest my case.

Half and half

A report on The Verge by Matt Macari claims that Apple had approached Samsung four times in 2010 in an effort to avoid litigation and attempt to come to some for of agreement over patents, even if Steve Jobs was willing to go Thermonuclear.

Apple also has a disagreement with a number of other handset makers over a new nano-SIM standard. While European carriers seem to be all on the side of Apple, we read in an item by Sam Oliver on AppleInsider, Motorola Mobility, Research in Motion and Nokia are not happy, fearing that Apple will take over the standard and the World. What Apple really wants is a SIM-less design, but the carriers won't play that game.

A fair amount was made of the report from Mary Jo Foley that Microsoft was banning its sales and marketing group personnel from buying Apple products using Microsoft money. Although there was a "no comment" from Redmond on this when asked by Foley (and others) it does seem sensible in a way but does not mean that Microsoft does not buy Apple stuff: they would be fools not to; and then take them to the labs and pull them apart. We note also that in the report an older memo suggests the staff were not supposed to buy Palm, RIM or other non-MS devices using MS money.

With the Windows phone being readied, Microsoft is full of confidence about its release in China and say it will surpass Apple there, a report in Bloomberg News suggests. Could be. Apple has one device, while the others will have a range of much cheaper handsets, starting at about a fourth of the Apple product: sure people will go for the Microsoft option. But Microsoft only makes software, Apple makes the whole thing.

Other Matters

Sony Corporation announced the development of the industry's highest picture quality "IPELA ENGINE", capable of the first 130dB wide dynamic range in full HD quality at 30 frames/second, which dramatically enhances image visibility. Clear images can be created in low-light conditions through detection and removal of noise within a single frame, in addition to the reduction of noise in the consecutive frames.

Some of us had a lot of regard for the excellent Commodore computers that used to be so good at graphics work in the 1990s and even before, but all that faded and the company got into financial trouble: not even a good product will save you when things start to go wrong. Ryan Helse on The Verge reports (among others) about the new Amiga with a 3.5GHz i7 processor in a body that looks like a slightly bloated Mac mini with a 1GB NVIDIA GeForce GT 430 GPU, 16GB of RAM, a Blu-ray drive, and a 1TB hard drive for $2495 (see later) and there are several other options too. I thought that price was a bit high, so did a lot of people according to Jim Dalrymple on The Loop who reports (with a mea culpa from the CEO) that Commodore have dropped it by $500.

I put out a Tweet earlier in the week about a "must have" when I read an item by Andrew Webster on the Verge about a camera that was developed at MIT that takes pictures round corners. Not that this is likely to be in the shops just yet as the lasers that are needed may be a bit cumbersome, not to say risky. Possibilities here: possibilities.

Local items

A bit of a shuffle took place in Singapore recently as reported by Natalie Apostolou on The Register, but it left me with a mega-question in my mind and a nasty taste in the mouth. We are told that SingTel axed 500 staff, but then these same workers were immediately offered positions with Huawei Technologies will use the staff to operate and maintain SingTel's copper-based voice and data network infrastructure for an initial period of five years. This has all the feeling of a fix in much the same way that the news that CAT and TOT in Thailand were to be gifted bandwidth for the next few years, when they have hardly demonstrated any form of competence with modern telecommunications in the last couple of decades has also left a lot of people feeling uncomfortable.

Late Comment

Remember, the iPad is released today in Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macau, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. And then? . . .

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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