AMITIAE - Friday 6 April 2012

Cassandra - Friday Review - The Weekend Arrives (Updated)

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


Opening Gambit:

Apple to look at iPad wifi. Apple and publishers are not in agreement with the DOJ. A Trojan horse: how to find and fix. Intel Ultrabook (3 years after the MacBook Air). New tech rumours from Apple. The ASUS Padphone really is coming and for a bargain $980: that will sell lots. Enterprise (and Veterans Affairs) moving away from Redmond and closer to Cupertino. Motor racing fans, apps and the internet. Freedom in short supply in the UK: land of 1984. A buyer for RIM: it's a rap? Ferdinand Porsche dies.

Apple Stuff

There have been enough reports of problems with the new iPad that Apple is going to take a look and a number of sources, including Electronista, write about the way that AppleCare has been instructed to retain and replace those that may be faulty. Apple wants a look and wants to get to the bottom of the problem.

We see that Apple is rumoured to be doing over the store front for the education sales online according to a report on MacNN. From the looks of the note posted there are changes afoot, but this may only be for the US. I checked the Thai online education section and it looked the same as usual.

As I got through the news day by day, I save the articles that interest me and use some of these as the outline for the Cassandra columns. It is a process I have been doing for a long time now and the same format was used as a basis for the podcasts I used to put out. One of the items this week was another one of these, "I have nothing to write about, so I had better write something", items. Donald Bell -- and I am becoming increasingly disenamoured with all CNET writers (except Topher Kessler who plugs away at technology) -- suggests that it is about time that Apple did away with the iPod touch. He puts this forward for no real reason except he can. It is still a money maker for Apple, and Bell is clearly only thinking about the US market: there are several reasons that people around the world may prefer the iPod touch to the iPhone. Before I could write these comments out, I was sent to a useful site called Curious Rat, where Harry Marks pulls apart Bell's silly suggestion in a useful article.

A couple of days ago there were reports suggesting that Apple and the publishers were moving towards some sort of settlement with the DOJ on eBook pricing, but Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider suggests that those reports were a little premature. He writes that only 3 of the 5 publishers were ready to settle, and Apple was also digging in the corporate heels. Do we detect a form of brinkmanship?

One of the results of the 2007 keynote speech by Steve Jobs, apart from the obvious release of the iPhone, was the recognition that there was really something special about his presentations. I took notes as he spoke and still have the longhand rendition of what he said and how it was delivered. A few months later, Carmine Gallo released his, The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs which I reviewed in 2009 and still use when teaching. Gallo distilled some of the points down to a series of important points and these are significant for anyone intending to make effective presentations. Walter Isaacson too has reduced important ideas in his biography of Steve Jobs to a number of important lessons which he has written about in Harvard Business Review. The article is some 7 pages long and full of what Isaacson calls the real leadership lessons of Steve. I have saved a copy for future reference as a PDF and put it on my iPad (drop it on the iTunes icon in the Dock and it appears in iBooks the next time the device is synced).

A link from Jim Dalrymple's, The Loop, will open a page on the F-Secure site with instructions to check for and (if found) remove the recent OS X/Flashback.I Trojan horse malware that is now reported to have affected more than 600,000 users worldwide according to Thomas Ricker on The Verge.

Ricker's article has a world map showing the spread of the malware, which if it is on a computer, "connects to a remote site to download its payload; on successful infection, the malware modifies targeted webpages displayed in the web browser" (F-Secure).

Apple released a Java update earlier via Software Update, to deal with the insecurity. There are versions for both OS X Lion and the earlier OS X, Snow Leopard. These are also available via the Apple Downloads pages.

The process for checking as outlined on the F-Secure page requires use of the Terminal, however, the commands can be copied and pasted from the web page into the Terminal screen. This would be best done in the Admin account as, if there is a problem, the SUDO command will be used.

A couple of interesting tech rumours from Apple were reported on AppleInsider this week. The first concerns face recognition as a way to unlock devices Neil Hughes writes. Your face is your password? Another idea that has cropped up before in a different guise is the use of radio waves to charge devices but Neil Hughes (again) tells us that this would be for display products (albeit in the box) while on the shelves in the stores. On Patently Apple there is information about a surround sound system that Apple has filed a patent for.

IBM reports that to celebrate the history of math and its impact on the world, it has released Minds of Modern Mathematics, an iPad app that re-imagines a classic 50-foot infographic on the history of math created by husband-and-wife design team Charles and Ray Eames and displayed at the 1964 World's Fair in New York City. The download is over 500MB.

I usually buy the apps for Formula 1 and MotoGP every year as I like to follow these sports closely. However, this year, while Soft Pauer put out the F1 app as usual there was no MotoGP app. This week I found out that Dorna Sports -- the guys who run the commercial side of motorcycle racing (like Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management for the 4-wheeled guys) have now released their own: MotoGP Live Experience Full. I downloaded the $24.99 app -- the value is for the user to decide -- and hope to put it through its paces this weekend. I am not over-impressed with my first look at this compared with what I remember of the Soft Pauer version.

Dorna also have a live site that allows users to follow the racing via the Internet. One cut from True and will push me over to this. it is a bit over 4,000 baht for the season and I am sorely tempted. It is not just for the computer but will run on PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad and Android. Now why doesn't Bernie Ecclestone do this for F1?

Half and Half

After starting the very idea of the Ultrabook with the MacBook Air, all the world and its friend have been trying their own versions and somehow coming up short, mainly because of cost: not something that Apple has always competed on. Intel must have decided it would take over and its counter-attack is coming today (Friday) with the Intel Ultrabook. Original, eh? Lots of information about this from Patently Apple. While Apple has probably already moved on and the next evolution is in the wings for a release real soon now.

While we dropped Microsoft products several years ago others cannot, will not or whatever other way they express the point that they are not going to change, although recently I see more and more Macs wherever I go, especially where I work which had always been a traditional Windows environment. The US Department of Veterans Affairs is also changing we are told by Electronista. They have (or had) a volume licence for Windows and they have some 300,000 employees. It does not take a genius to see that Redmond was raking in a fortune from this one organisation year by year. Not now. Moving to mobile devices: the iPad methinks.

That dovetails nicely with the report on AppleInsider by Mikey Campbell that suggests nearly half of US corporations are moving to Macs. 46% he writes are issuing Macs to employees: does Apple have enterprise too now? Electronista are also reporting this 46% figure.

A report carried in a number of sources, including one by Slash Lane on AppleInsider, suggests that Larry Page of Google did not think that Steve Jobs was serious with his famous comments about Android being a stolen product and that he was willing to go thermonuclear. Lance Whitney has a comment from Walter Isaacson that, Jobs really was annoyed. Perhaps Google is deluding itself again.

Other Matters

I cannot believe it but ASUS is really going to produce that Padphone according to Jamie Keene on The Verge. It should probably sell about 10,000 worldwide as a maximum and will then be a massive hit when ASUS has to backdown from the price which is a lofty $980. If any product is an indication that Taiwanese mass producers do not understand the markets they swamp, this is it.

HP has seen quite an exodus in the recent past and now Prith Banerjee, who was head of HP Labs -- Hewlett-Packard's research division -- is on the way out of the door, according to Sean Hollister on The Verge, perhaps because he does not like the way new big boss, Meg Whitman wants HP Labs to perform.

Not only HP, but after RIM's dismal earnings report last week, lots of people are headed for the door: the rats leaving a sinking ship. Chris Ziegler writes on The Verge that "additional executives at the VP and senior VP level have departed . . . RIM in the days since last week's grim earnings call".

We have all been watching the slow and painful death by mismanagement of RIM and wondering when the last rites would be over, but it ain't dead yet: there may be a buyer for the ashes. Vlad Savov on The Verge reports that a country-style rap innovator called Dr. Nono C. Pearson (I am not making this up) is having a serious look. This is sort of sad in a way.

Something which may affect us if it takes hold is the news that Neil Young -- who was reportedly a bit disturbed by the quality of downloaded music -- has come up with his own file format according to Daniel Terdiman: "Young has applied for a series of trademarks on what appears to be potential names for a new high-definition audio format. . . ."

Early in the week we mentioned the quasi-1984 that the UK government was trying to create. As a note, this was originally suggested by the Opposition when they were last in power but the current lot and the public shouted them down and they had to back off. Now the current lot are playing the same game and the PM, old-Etonian David Cameron -- who has already been tainted by his links to the Murdochs (whose Sky News admitted this week they had joined the hacking party too) and others at News International -- has come out in defence of the plan, we read in The Independent. All the usual keywords are there, except "freedom". We need to plug the gaps. By logging everyone's communications?

In a similar light -- safety, security, terrorism, etc. -- we read this week that there are plans for secret trials in the UK, perhaps mirroring those travesties of justice at Guantanamo Bay, although an editorial in The Independent suggests that the criticism may be causing the government to have a change of mind, but not a rethink. Not a bad idea, old boys, the tables can turn.

A little reminder from Ben Franklin, who had a lot of wise words: "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Local Items

I read a Tweet on Thursday that suggested a former prime minister was applying for a licence so that he could have a TV station. I thought he had gone through all that before, joining his satellite service (that may have been acquired in a questionable manner) to a cable TV service then selling out a short while later, leaving us with what is now called TrueVisions. I know he fell out with the bosses there, so is this a real service, a voice to connect with the people, or a means of revenge against True?

Ferdinand Porsche

A number of sites arre reporting the death of Ferdinand Porsche, who among other things was responsible for the design of the iconic 911. He later founded the Porsche Design Studio, where the items produced are all examples of excellent design. His philosophy perhaps came from the direction of Bauhaus with the idea that "A formally harmonious product needs no decoration, it should be elevated through pure form" an idea often demonstrated in products from BMW, Braun and (these days) Apple.

Late News

The Bangkok Post scare headline this morning, "Hackers hitting Macs with virus: industry experts" is factually wrong. As the article comments (also see above), OS X/Flashback.I (the real name, not Flashback) is Trojan Horse malware, which means it cannot install on a computer (PC or Mac) unless the user allows this, by clicking on Yes, Install, or some other method of allowing the action to complete. Note also the source of the item: McAfee who have not been the most secure themselves in recent times and have a vested interest in selling protection.

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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