AMITIAE - Friday 30 March 2012

Cassandra - Friday Review - The Weekend Arrives

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening gambit:

Apologies for Wednesday's non-appearance. Enderle outshines himself: he moons too apparently. Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs, but Apple is not doomed. Tim Cook in China meetings. iPad tested for heat: what heat? There is no 4G in Australia: Apple knew that and only advertises 4G in the US. iPhoto update. Lady breaks nose on glass door and demands $1m: it was an Apple glass door and it was New York. Apple to give royalty-free licence for nano-SIM. We will sue you say Nokia. RIM reports poor quarter, Balsillie resigns from board. Huawei banned from bidding in Australia because of security fears (inside info on that from the US?). Thai taxman's wide-sweeping data collection.

Cassandra Disparu

Just after posting Monday's Cassandra column saw a medical emergency here which left me in something of a poor shape. No need for sympathy. I am a big boy now and stuff happens. A couple of things (apart from medics and friends) got me up and running, albeit a little slowly, and one of these was the truly excellent article (irony alert on) by Jon Enderle that appeared in my mailbox just before collapsing. Maybe it was reading his words. Perhaps I should sue.

I was also a bit disappointed when I returned to the computer screen after a day or so to find that so few people had read my review on The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation. This is a really interesting read. I thought it was a good review too, so you have another chance. Grab a look, then buy the book.

Enderle Supreme

This is so good I have to give Rob Enderle his own section, thus playing into his hands, the canny old hit-whore. As I read through the item I was slack-jawed with a couple of things I saw. Apart from the usual Apple negativity and the Meg Whitman is wonderful stance: this is par for the course as he gets paid by HP (on one of their committees) which he did not tell readers, and he has a long history of being wrong about Apple just about every time he starts up that old Compaq computer.

Let's see, the iPad overheats, he tells readers citing the Consumer Reports comments, which did not actually say that at all -- warm, below 120 degrees, and above that could burn if held against bare skin for a period. I am not sure about anyone else, but I do not usually hold my iPad against bare skin, even when reading in bed at night. But then Enderle outdid himself and called it a "penis iron." I try and avoid bad language here -- not needed -- and even the term, "hit-whore" is common terminology for those like Enderle and Dvorak, who write controversial things which then draw people to the pages. And to the ads. Maybe I should be more controversial.

Ah, but some of the reactions are gems. I put them all together for easier reference. First up is SlashGear, whose Chris Burns sounds as put out as I was and writes his own "deconstruction" of Enderle's article. I had one or two giggles there and a couple of sage nods. Of course, MacDaily News has a go and apart from suggesting he keep taking his meds, adds "This one is so bad, we really can't tell if it's trying to be serious or of it's meant to be a joke." I did not see it as a joke.

More revealing were the comments on the TechNews World site from readers and these should cary some weight with the publisher or the advertisers. As in recent cases, with Glen Beck and Rush Limbaugh, where offensive comments have brought forth a spate of demands that advertisers need to take note of, one comment here threatened to write to all advertisers listed and inform them that the customer was no longer going to buy anything.

Without doubt the funniest was from Kate MacKenzie on PixoBebo who accuses Enderle of all the usual faults and adds the point -- she says -- that the consultant is really a plumber, showing a photo of Enderle (in Enderle Consultants jacket -- one for him, one for the wife) adjacent to the rear end of a man engaged in some form of maintenance. True or not, it is the sort of comic sarcasm this ego deserves. This site duly went into my "must follow" list.

And John Gruber on his link to the article, comments, "It's getting harder and harder for Enderle to stay in character as the 'Apple is in trouble and I'm the only guy smart enough to see it' guy."

This sort of thing also cannot be good for HP or Meg Whitman if they are identified with the writer.

Apple Stuff

Despite Enderle's claims that Tim Cook is not Steve Jobs and so Apple is doomed, the new CEO was in China this week -- he likes China -- and met with lots of important people, including Guo Jinlong, the mayor of Beijing according to Electronista. We later read a report on TUAW by Steven Sande that tells of a visit to Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang. These were hardly social visits and there has been talk of expanding markets and greater investment.

Hardly a surprise was a visit to the Foxconn empire by Cook as reported by Steven Musil, who writes, "as the company grapples with criticism over its handling of working conditions in its supply chain" thus further adding to the FUD concerning this when it is clear (A) that Apple has been doing something for quite a while now and (B) Musil has forgotten to add the other manufacturers who also use Foxconn facilities. He adds also, "after a series of stories highlighted the working conditions at Foxconn". The use of "supply chain" is also a clear dig at Tim Cook as this is his area of expertise.

So what about those conditions, apart from Mike Daisey who is adding lines to apologies the way some add lines to their résumés, Bloomberg had a look and they tell us there was nothing they would have liked more than to have found something -- anything -- that would add to the "criticism over its handling of working conditions" by Apple. But, hey, there was nothing. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Only some hot air left over from some other US writers that passed by a while back. Tim Culpan on Bloomberg (not a lightweight by any means) has a clear note for the Steven Musils of the world who keep gnawing at this marrowless bone: there is nothing there. Culpan writes a clear essay on what wrongs there are (or in some cases were) at Foxconn, and going back a number of years -- rather than the shallow reporting that was done by hearsay from others. He describes what was not wrong, ending "Compared to the lies, the truth just doesn't make good theater." The NYTimes may now be calling Cook, Timothy D. Cook, but they still precede their articles (Kevin Drew) by reference to "a string of critical reports" which mainly the NYTimes is root of. Again, no mention of Foxconn's other customers.

However, Josh Lowensohn (among others) reports on the FLA report that was released yesterday and begins, "The first results from the Fair Labor Association's audit of Foxconn have revealed violations in wages and overtime, conditions that the Chinese manufacturing giant has pledged to remedy." This is something that Apple has known about and been working on, which is why the FLA was asked to go in, in the first place. That of course does not stop the cries of anguish about what Apple is doing wrong. Reading the article, it does seem to me that, while we have heard comments from both Apple and Foxconn before about addressing the issues, the problems may lie with the middle and lower management and their direct control of the labour force. And a quick read of the report suggests that Foxconn is not complying with local laws in this area. Another useful summary is by Simon Sage on iMore.

On the Daisey apology on an apology, Daniel Eran Dilger comments on AppleInsider that although he apologises to the audiences and to his colleagues in theater, there is no apology for either Apple nor Foxconn, nor apparently for Brian Ford whom he insulted when the interviewer was rightly (in more ways than one apparently) doing his job.

Although the iPad sales have been going well in part, there are still niggles. Despite what many write, the heat issue is not going away yet, and things like the Rob Enderle drivel (above) are not going to help: can you believe people read that and believe it?

On heat, because it is has caused so much publicity, some people want to find out for themselves, empirically -- recording facts, not making wild guesses -- and Electronista reports that MacWorld found "concerns over its temperature have been overstated in light of competition". You mean they all do that? Right, with the Galaxy Tab a little hotter: there are some suggestions as to why. Daniel Eran Dilger comments on PCWorld which has also tested the iPad and like their Mac counterpart find nothing amiss although they did try notebooks too and the Dell Inspiron runs 113 degrees (F) playing games.

Another problem concerns the 4G claim and this may show Apple at its Californian weakest as it has been commented to me in the past that some people at the Mother Ship are unaware of a world outside Cupertino, nice place that it is. The iPad is 4G in the US, and Apple's site apparently says this. However, this has not been clear enough for consumers (and the consumer organisation) in Australia who claim that as it does not work on their 4G it cannot be 4G. Legal proceedings have started according to the BBC Business site. Rachelle Dragani on E-Commerce Times reports that "some Australian consumers have noted that the new iPad had stickers warning consumers the 4G network wouldn't work." We also read a report on AppleBitch that tells us while Swedish and UK authorities are now looking into advertising claims, the iPad is only marketed as 4G in the US and Canada with their being clear differences on the Apple sites of other countries. In the meantime, Apple is refunding in full to anyone who wants it and Apple are clarifying the position.

This is all such another non-event like the antenna problem on the iPhone 4 (which I could never get to drop the signal) and flak put out by those who would either wish to damage Apple and its customers, or (more likely) increase their own hits and advertising revenue.

Not just the 7" mini-iPad or the 4" larger iPhone, but now we hear on AppleInsider about a new device with a 5" Retina screen which is rumoured to have a screen resolution of either 1,600 pixels by 960 pixels, or 1,280 by 960 pixels.

Another rumour concerns the MacBook Pro which some say is having an update this year. Josh Ong on AppleInsider reports that rumours from the mysterious East say that the 15" will be updated in April and the 13" in June, which sounds most un-Apple like to me.

I guess we file this one away until the right time, but according to iPodNN, Apple has added a couple more price tiers to the App Store of $124.99 and $174.99 as options. Speculation is that this could be for specialist apps and there are already those, like theater lighting apps that are not cheap.

If anyone likes the new Autosave feature in Lion I would be surprised. Especially as it is related to the loss of Save As. There are some wise words on this from Pierre Igot on Betalogue. Like John Gruber (whose link I used) I also agree with the comment on the way BBEedit works with the save command. It is the same in TextEdit that I favour (from the same developer).

I can empathise with the old lady who walked into a door of the Apple store n Manhattan as reported by Steven Sande on TUAW, having done a similar thing with a bank on the campus where I work. However suing is one thing, but for $1 million?

Apple released an update to iPhoto bringing it to version 9.2.3. We are told that the update improves overall stability; and addresses an issue that could cause iPhoto to quit unexpectedly on systems with multiple user accounts. The download is shown on my computer as 256.9MB.

Half and Half

We were sort of pleased to read earlier this week that Apple's desire to produce a nano-SIM was serious as according to Foss Patents it was ready to provide the technology licence-free to all handset makers. Florian Mueller read this as a good sign among the constant cases of litigation. Not so fast. . . . Nokia demurs. And according to Florian Mueller, is not only unwilling to accept the apparent gift from the geeks of Cupertino but is ready for a fight in the courts which could last several years. There are a lot if ifs, ands and buts here, but one would think that a faded Nokia would go for this. But what do I know?

Related to this is the news that RIM (and see below for news of more troubles there) is also moaning about this and claims that Apple is trying to sway the nano-SIM standard vote by having company representatives change their affiliation to cast proxy votes we are told by Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider.

A surprise this week when it was revealed that Apple and Microsoft agree on the need to dump Google Maps and are both embracing the Open Maps standard according to Preston Gralia on PC World.

Not just the final results of litigation, but the process itself can produce some interesting information as Devin Coldewey on TechCrunch reports. Writing on the case between Hasbro and Asus on the Transformer trade name, he tells us that the judge found in the favour of Asus -- no infringement, which sort of surprised me. But what do I know? Ah, what I do know now from the court documents is that pre-orders of the tablet device have reached an astounding 2,000. In some ways, Asus has clearly lost something here. My original source for this was MacDaily News.

Other Matters

I was sorely tempted to put this in Local Items, but am sure it will seep down there. I Tweeted it just in case as well. Huawei have an aura if suspicion about them and many European governments are wary as there is a fear that they have inbuilt backdoors in some of the network facilities they build and export which would allow unrestricted access to the Chinese government. Just to play safe, Nathan Ingram writes on The Verge, the government of Australia has banned Huawei from the bidding on the contract to build the national broadband network. The PM is acting on the advice of the security services there who do tend to work rather closely with their counterparts in the US and UK. However, they do have some private contracts there. And of course much of the Thai networking is built and operated by CAT and True whose staff have visited the factories in China.

RIM have posted another set of dismal results and coincidentally, Jim Balsillie has quit the board we are told by Electronista. CTO, David Yach is also leaving. Last one out the door, please turn out the lights.

Local Items

We have heard about call gangs in and around the region, but the Thai police broke one up this week, according to the Nation, and arrested 22 people: all Chinese or Taiwanese, who had been deceiving Taiwanese people to hand over lots of money.

Talking of handing over lots of money, it is this week that taxes are due in Thailand (and many other countries). For a change this year, the government apparently owes me a little, so I was going to file online. First, I would have to register and part of that needs some personal details, including the names of my parents. My mother, who is over 80 was here earlier in the year, but my dad died in 1969, so what purpose that could assist to the building of any database except satisfying some IT person's manic desires for control, is beyond me. It is odd that a society that so often cites security -- yet is so lax in internal enforcement -- demands such a wide sweep of data collection that would be accessible by few, and useful to none.

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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