AMITIAE - Friday 16 December 2011

Cassandra: Friday Review - The Weekend Arrives

apple and chopsticks



Opening Gambit:

Apple's investments in Israel. Cupertino is one of the top 10 places to work at (#10). Is iChat finally getting into bed with MSN? This week, there's an awful lot of Apple in Brazil. Plus the iPhone 4S in Thailand (+pic). OK to use iPads on flights for pilots but not for passengers. Apple is going to fail real soon according to the gnomes of Taiwan. Microsoft hypocrisy. Kindle Fire security problems. New HP logo mooted: 6 slash marks is all it takes. Copyright, Straits Times, facts, information and Yahoo! BlackBerry 10 delayed.

Apple Stuff

Late Tuesday we caught the tail-end of a story about the acquisition of an Israeli company, Anobit, that Apple was making. This has legs as it is not simply the company or its technology -- useful as these are -- but a larger view of investment in that part of the Middle-east. In a useful article, Daniel Eran Dilger on AppleInsider examines the news and the idea that a semiconductor development center was to be set up there. This was also discussed by MacNN who tell us that Dr Edward Frank is in Israel at the moment as part of this long-term investment plan which may be a part of Tim Cook's desire to make Apple less dependent on 3rd party suppliers.

Related to this in a way is the problem that many manufacturers are facing with hard disk supplies after the flooding that there has been here. Ed Sutherland on Cult of Mac tells us that Apple is least affected among the computer makers, partly because of the move to SSD drives. There have been some delays -- particularly with special orders -- but Tim Cook has not put all of Apple's eggs in one basket.

A nice rumour appeared this week in a number of online sources concerning the next MacBook Pro computers and their displays. Electronista among a number of sources have suggested that this is to be 2880 x 1800. I did a quick check and the maximum on the 15" computer I use daily is 1440 x 900 (half of that rumoured resolution) while the current 17" MBP has 1920 x 1200 pixels. These increases would also need better Graphics processors and more RAM.

A while back we seem to remember reading some articles by former Apple employees, who told of the dire regimes that existed at Cupertino and how the Apple secret police would stop and search anyone at random. It seemed a bit of an axe-grinding session to me at the time, as most I know who continue to work at Apple are quite happy. Now we read in an item by Julie Kuehl on The MacObserver that as far as good places to work, Apple is rated in the top 10, albeit at 10 and we are also told that Tim Cook has an approval rating of 96%.

A piece of good news this week regarding iChat which I have tried to use a number of times, but give up on. This is in part because no one I know online or at my office uses this, so half the value of the application is lost; but also because most of those I know online use MSN in one form or another (for example Adium which organises groups better than MSN but does not run video). We have suggested time and time again that Redmond and Cupertino might do themselves some good if the gulf were narrowed. Several reports this week, for example Daniel Eran Dilger on Roughly Drafted tell us that Microsoft has made considerable steps in this direction by opening Messenger (MSN) to XMPP so all it needs is Apple to tie up some loose ends and we could be connected at last. Perhaps this is part of Microsoft's recent push to embrace iOS a bit more. Stephen Shankland also has some useful input on this.

Brazil has had a good week. We reported on Wednesday that along with the rest of Latin America there was now an iTunes Music Store there (including iTunes Match) and now we read in an item by Anna Heim on The Next Web that the iPhone 4S is expected to be available in Brazil as of Friday. But. . . . There is apparently no Siri because she does not speak Portuguese (the language of Brazil). Well, there may be an English speaking version, but that does not work for many there. Or here of course.

A student of mine is raving about Siri after his mother bought a grey import iPhone in Bangkok. She apparently paid around 26,000 for the 16GB version although he was not clear on this. He told me he had tried it with the comment, "I love you Siri". After a pause, Siri expressed thanks and suggested they get back to work.

The airlines have been doing some trials with iPads, partly because they are about 20 Kilos lighter than the books, charts and other stuff the pilots have to carry on board for every flight Mikey Campbell on AppleInsider reports that American Airlines has been allowed by the FAA to use the device instead of all that paper for all stages of its flights. Despite such electronic devices being banned for passenger use because of the stated risk to navigation equipment (but probably because if you are playing with your iPad you are not watching their boring videos on lifejackets), there is to be no relaxation of this, but pilots can use them as the FAA have given an exemption. In other words, black does equal white.

I did not see these as I do not have the necessary software or hardware, but MacNN is reporting that this week Apple updated Logic Express (9.1.6) as well as releasing new drivers for Brother and Lexmark printers.

I commented on Wednesday about the news of the next version of iOS 5 which will probably have a change to PhotoStream to allow users to delete individual pictures (which may save some reputations or even marriages). However, Jesse Hollington on Google + makes a fairly good case as to why Apple might have done the all or nothing deletion this way.

And what about iTunes Match. The service is rolling out in several countries soon and mysteriously (again) the Match icon appeared in my iTunes sidebar. Not that I could link with anything. I see now (Friday) that the icon has gone.

Half and Half

One of the success stories on Facebook and on iOS devices has been Zynga who produce games like Farmville. Apparently something like 54 million people a day play their games and to play successfully, you have to pay: to buy commodities and skills. Zynga is about to go public today (Friday). Don Reisinger reports on the IPO, citing some impressive figures, but also sounding a cautionary note or two.

Every so often the gnomes of Taiwan feel they have to say something to appease their major shareholders -- Mum and Dad and all the cousins -- and come out with comments that sound really daft to the outside world, but make nice noises over there. "They will come to their senses," for example was Acer's response to the iPad until Acer came to its senses (sort of) with the overkill of the Pad-phone thing, while still assuring everyone this was just a fad (if a fad why were they rushing to embrace it?) and the real solution had been Netbooks but now was the Ultrabook, like the MacBook Air. Now, Electronista reports, JT Wang of Acer is telling everyone that Apple will soon be going away and that Windows (and Acer presumably) will reign supreme again as bottom feeder supreme. The article is unusually dismissive for this source. Apple weakening? where do Acer get the evidence for such self-assuring statements.

As a sort of side-note, we read in an item by Joanna Stern on The Verge, that Dell has quit making netbooks.

While we comment favourably on Microsoft above, we were less than happy earlier in the week when we reported that several apps they have for the iPhone are just not available here, while one (Bing) was available but is no longer, despite Bing being accessible via a browser. It sounds as if there is a serious case of the left hand not knowing what the right is doing up in Redmond. We can add to this, according to a report by Alex Wilhelm on The Next Web who writes about some perceived Microsoft hypocrisy in that an they released this week Kinectanimals -- one of those not available here for the iPhone but on sale elsewhere -- uses a gaming engine called Unity3 for the Windows phone, but other developers who use this engine are blocked from the phone.

We have reported a couple of times of the less than positive noies now being made about the Amazon Kindle Fire -- remember when it was launched and everyone wet their pants because here was the long-awaited iPad killer? Along with the problems of parental controls and other difficulties with slow scrolling and all, there appears to be a security problem that may see a user's credit card emptied. Mark Smith on USA Today reports about the way the links to the Amazon account work: with a credit card on file. The next person who uses it can have instant access to the user's account. Not wishing to minimise the problem, but my iTunes account is so linked on the Mac, the iPhone and the iPad, but before anyone can buy something with my device (downloadable only to my devices), they have to pass the device password and enter the password for the iTunes account. Is there nothing like that on the Fire? Well, apparently coming soon. . . .

Also coming soon may be The Missing Manual for the Kindle Fire, but once it is out (on ebook too I understand) the author will be putting his Fire back in the box and will never use it again, according to David Streitfield on Bits (NYTimes). Peter Meyers -- in an email to Streitfield -- is rather critical of the device: "Apple would have never shipped a device like the Fire" he begins but does write that "For $200, is that enough to satisfy millions". . . .

Other Matters

A bit more on Microsoft. We saw earlier in the week that an exec at Redmond, Andy Lees was being moved to a new position and thought little of this. However, it appears according to a report on Electronista (as well as other sources) that he was moved as a punishment: Windows 7 failing in the market. That sounded a bit to me like shooting the messenger: I mean the public are now aware of just what it is Microsoft keeps putting out and whether you call it Vista 7, 8 or Brightness it is still the same basic foundation underneath. But I am corrected by Electronista who tells us he was indeed the author of several problems, most notably the insistence on CE Code that ended up causing no end of problems and that the corrective measures may go some way to putting things right. Yeah?

Oh, and despite the rumours, Electronista reports that Bill Gates is denying there is any chance of him returning to head Microsoft as he is committed to his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. So does that mean Ballmer keeps doing what he is doing?

With all the problems HP have seen of late, there seems to be a cure coming: rebranding. Yes, they are going to change the logo to something you have to look at a couple of times to get half an idea of what it means, and all their problems will be washed away. Electronista tell us that a company called Moving Brands -- they get paid for this? -- has made the suggestion and we are all waiting with bated breath (bate, you notice, not bait). To be fair, if you look at that logo from a few feet away, or half close your eyes, it sort of makes sense. Mind you, it seems that, along with other decisions, HP have been sitting on this for a couple of months.

I also just realised you can do this with a couple of slash marks over three lines:

 // //

We also hear from HP that they have appointed Marilyn Crouther as head of Enterprise Services, U.S. Public Sector. The press release tells us that she "is responsible for driving growth in the government IT marketplace, while strengthening relationships with federal, state and local government agencies. She will manage the delivery of secure, mission-critical technology infrastructure, applications and business processes to address government priorities, challenges and policy requirements."

While in another press release, IBM tells us that the corporation is linking with China's Shandong province to improve the safety of pork:

Pork is a major pillar of the economy in the Shandong Province, one of China's most important agricultural regions. To limit the impact of porcine diseases and prevent tainted pork from being sold to consumers, Shandong Provincial Municipality asked Lushang Group, one of China's top 10 retail companies, and its affiliate the research body - the National Engineering Research Center for Agricultural Products Logistics, to devise a system that would improve accountability and safety in the region's pork industry.

Local Items

We are often disturbed on the one hand by local reporters who simply rework news items and put their names to them over and over again, while we also worry about the way local news seems to lift items from elsewhere without accreditation (the Bangkok Post has good arrangements with news services and these are usually indicated). I also get annoyed when people lift my stuff -- text or photographs -- and put it on their sites without a single mention of where it comes from.

It works both ways, of course and the proprietor of The Straits Times (SPH) is currently in a dispute with Yahoo!, claiming that the web giant has done exactly what I object to and lifted items from the Singapore sources putting them online: no accreditation and no money, of course. Yahoo! claims -- I love this -- that copyright does not protect facts and information. The article by Natalie Apostolou in the Register (you note how I always give credit) tells us Yahoo! adds, "there is an important public interest issue regarding the right of the public to be informed of news and current events in Singapore".

Well yes. And you note, for example, I might use the ideas of Irene Tham from Singapore, but I always summarise and link to her article: they are her words, not mine.

According to a Tweet from Richard Barrow the launch party for the iPhone 4S was at Siam Paragon Thursday evening, starting at midnight. I could not ever imagine wanting a device that badly that I would wait up to such a late time in order to claim I was one of the first. And indeed, I was sent a number of pics overnight, including Number One. True apparently made a large donation to the Red Cross which I think (if Google Translate is correct) was for Thai flood relief and came from the first 1,000 phones sold.

True iPhone 4S launch

Anyone who reads my articles will realise that I am rather a fan of motor racing and motor cycle racing. This week, for example, I downloaded and reviewed the new Motor Sport app for the iPad which I am rather impressed with, at least on first acquaintance. I also saw this week that Dorna Sports S.L. who organise motorcycle racing in a similar way to how Bernie Ecclestone runs Formula One had released a MotoGP History app priced at $4.99 in the iTunes app store here. Actually, let me qualify that last sentence. While Dorna Sports control MotoGP like F1 Management, their approach is considerably different.

I have begun to get back into the swing of running my own eXtensions site and am in the process of rebuilding. It occurred to me that in the last few months I had written a few hundred articles, some of which might be useful to a lot of users. I have begun to go through, revise some of these and put them online on the eXtensions site. This week, I rewrote the item on the olloclip iPhone lenses as well as the two parts of "What Can I Do? My Mac is Running Slow": Part One - Applications; and Part 2 - The Hard Disk. There are of course others that readers may be interested in.

Late News

The BBC is reporting Wednesday morning that RIM is to delay the release of its BlackBerry 10 phones because of processor shortages. The item also includes less than stellar financial information about RIM.

Apple has released a minor update for the iPhone 4S according to MacNN although they are unsure why they would do this. With the release of the phone in several countries this week, including Thailand last night, there may have been some minor carrier changes needed. The article also mentions an update to Apple TV.



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