AMITIAE - Saturday 9 January 2016

Cassandra: Weekend Review - Tears in the Rain

apple and chopsticks


By Graham K. Rogers


I had a lucky escape on Wednesday evening when the writing table I was working on collapsed. Down went MacBook Pro, iPad Pro and under the Mac, the iPhone 6s Plus. Not a mark on any of them and they all seem to be working OK.

What is not working is the GMail account and every morning I am asked to enter the password. This is getting stale. I am guessing (pure speculation) that this may be connected with updates to OS X - not that I am running a beta right now - but I had noticed in the past that when a full update to El Capitan was released the Google problem went away. Friday it appeared twice: 7am when I started work, and 11:43 PM just before I went to bed (I guess that is Google for close to midnight)

Despite trying to destroy it, I have been enjoying my tenure of the iPad Pro and a couple of sources also seem to see this as something more than just a big iPad. In a Tweet this week, MG Siegler (@mgsiegler) writes, "I must say, after weeks away, I missed the iPad Pro. So much faster than every other iPad" and, "Had to use iPad Air 2 - like an animal."

In replies, he adds, ". . . I know it's crazy, but this thing is *so* much faster. I'm getting increasingly annoyed how slow MB is.

I am not particularly annoyed, but I notice how much less I am using the MacBook - and I really like it - now that the iPad Pro is around."

iPad Pro

This is pretty much what I have been finding too. In addition to those tweets, MacNN have been slowly going through ownership of an iPad Pro and report on this from time to time. Rather than the early, breathless reports that so many wrote which were black or white - like or dislike - which skewed what a lot of people thought about the device, they are analysing their use methodically.

In an article this Wednesday, "Pointers Extra: Getting Things Done with iPad Pro," they describe it as "hands-down the best Apple device for GTD." This matches what MG Siegler has found and what I am discovering too. Unless I have particular work to do with the MacBook Pro, this is the one I now prefer to take to work with me (it is also lighter in my bag). The MacNN comments are quite lengthy but a useful slant on the device and just how productive it is for users.

I acquired some glue and repaired the writing table.

A nice little example of the value of smartphone cameras occurred this week in Thailand when a driver of a pickup truck accused a car driver of ramming his vehicle in the rear and exited carrying a wheel brace: just for protection, mind you.

Unfortunately for him, the nearby motorcycle-taxi riders saw the incident and stepped in to protect the car driver. Even more unfortunate was the point that several videos of the pickup reversing deliberately and hitting the car quite hard were circulated putting the lie to the tale that he was hit in the rear.

The driver of the pickup is known as DJ Keng and was later sacked from his job at a university as well as reporting to the police where his driving licence was taken away, plus several charges laid.

There was great excitement when Netflix announced at CES that it was to be available in 130 more countries, and even more when local users (particularly on Twitter) found that it was also to be available in Thailand from next month at a price of 280 baht a month. This comes a week after I changed the True Gold package to Platinum after they cut the must-have Sundance channel.

I tried for the Netflix URL but that did not work, so then tried which defaulted to and the sign-up page was shown. There was considerable interest on Twitter that morning with many indicating they had signed up. It seems that just about everywhere except China and North Korea are now covered.

Considerably more comment on the rumour that Apple could be replacing the headphone jack on future devices has appeared in the last couple of days. One of the suggestions going about, Sam Oliver reports on AppleInsider, is that Apple will replace the jack with separate (left and right) Bluetooth speakers. Whether this is instead of or as well as Lightning-connected earbuds, we are not told. This is where I dig my heels in. As Lightning would probably be retained anyway, I see that as the sensible way to go.

iPhone jack

A petition with over 200,000 signatures has been drawn up in an attempt to stop Apple withdrawing the headphone jack, Drew Olanoff reports on TechCrunch. Dare I level the accusation of Luddism? I think this change is well overdue, and there will be adapters: we are not exactly talking about Hi-Fi here with these devices.

As part of this some suggest that there are to be wireless Beats headphones. Well, so what. The iPhone can handle Bluetooth sets now, and if that were to be WiFi as well, it is not beyond the ability of Apple to incorporate that. But that does not count for the earbuds in the box, and Apple is unlikely to supply iPhones without those. It is not impossible of course, but the outcry would not be in Apple's interests.

Of course, the removal of the analog headphone jack would allow the iPhone to be thinner, but some wonder how desirable this could be. What it does also remove is another component and makes space inside for a slightly larger battery in the same available space: that is more desirable.

Along with the rumours about the headphone jack, Ben Lovejoy on 9to5 Mac reminds us that this is the season when all the images for claimed iPhone components begins. He has a few in the article.

Apple Car

A number of people became excited when it was found that Apple had registered three domain names for its rumoured car project Zac Hall on 9to5 Mac (as well as several other sites) reported. Apple has hundreds, if not thousands of domain names, of course.

Apple revealed the remuneration for its executives this week (as it has to by law) and there were no real surprises, considering the value of the company and the payments those from other companies receive for poorer results. With an income of about $10 million for the CEO, the other execs were all better off by $25 million. Chance Miller on 9to5Mac, writes that "CFO Luca Maestri earned $25.3 million, up from $14 million in 2014, while retail chief Angela Ahrendts earned $25.7 million, down from $73.4 million in 2014. Eddy Cue, SVP of hardware engineering Dan Riccio, and SVP general counsel and secretary Bruce Sewell all brought in $25.1 million each."

Tim Cook had a relatively low income of $10.3M in 2015, which was an increase over last year, with Yoel Minkoff on Seeking Alpha wringing his hands about the falling share price. No mention of income or profits, because I guess he doesn't know.

Having a good guess is Ashraf Eassa who compares Apple with Google and implies that with cash reserves and other positives, Apple is a far better bet than Google. With the share price hovering around $100 in unsupported fears about iPhone sales (they forget everything else that makes up the company) and after the Chinese stock market falls, this is almost a guaranteed win.

Apple shares actually broke the $100 barrier briefly on Wednesday (going down, not up) and that triggered a massive order. Tyler Durden has a chart of 30 seconds of trading (amazing how it rises and falls) but the speculation on the chart of whether Tim Cook made the surprise purchase was cheap and not worthy of ZeroHedge. The price hovers just below $100 as I write this ($96.96 and beginning to climb again). Dow, Nasdaq and everything else are also down but starting to recover. We saw this back in 2012-2013 of course along with lots of Apple is doomed articles.

Bob Ciura on Seeking Alpha looks at the situation and paints a rosy, if frustrating picture of Apple: massive growth, raising its dividend, and returning billions to shareholders, yet a falling share price. He dismisses selling, and considers buying more shares: "The worst mistake investors could make is to sell out of fear."

And right on cue, Michael Blair appeared on Seeking Alpha with an article congratulating himself on his earlier assumptions and providing a few more to go with the stale Katy Huberty mention and the supposed fall in sales of iPhones. One can almost hear him rubbing his hands. We shall see if this is so in a couple of weeks time. When I read this, there was only one comment: "I clicked on the article before realizing it was MB. Same old stuff. Bye."

A little later there were several more, most dismissing the bias with some pointing out erroneous use of statistics and figures. Some supported the writer.

Wall Street's share of the pie
The Share of the Pie

With the hits that Apple shares are taking with Wall Street's panic selling right now, it was suggested that Apple should buy Netflix. And in the midst of all this panic, Apple is coolly continuing its buy-ups of Artificial Intelligence startups, Eric Jhonsa reports on Seeking Alpha. The latest is Emotient, to follow Perceptio and VocalIQ.

The main reason for share price falls after the fallout from China, is the reports that looked at the supply chain reduction in orders and presumed that means lower iPhone sales. As myopic Wall Street thinks that Apple is only the iPhone, they want to protect their investments and panic sets in. Jason Snell writing on MacWorld suggests that these reports may not be the death knell some are hoping for. ZeroHedge describe it is the worst ever week in US trading, so it is not surprising that Apple took some hits.

A side note from Daniel Eran Dilger (AppleInsider) on smartphone sales tells us that even though Samsung has reported low profits (Q4) their sales of smartphones rise by 12.5% which suggests the market has not contracted (or at least not by so much) or remained flat as many analysts have been predicting. This presumption was then extrapolated to suggest Apple sales are falling. They may be wrong.

Building on this, with a good analysis of the effects that misreading the input about Cirrus has had is Mark Hibben on Seeking Alpha. Although the data appears to show a decline, which everyone has jumped on, a closer look at the data - and the other players involved in buying from both Cirrus Logic and Qorvo - suggest that the fears are unfounded. And in another article, Mark Hibben (who does seem to be biased towards Apple) suggests that the data available is really pointing to an increase in iPhone sales.

The article also looks at the "iPhone supplier" (or two) allegedly reporting lower shipments of parts and mentions that some of this may be due to a switch in certain chips Samsung uses, and nothing to do with Apple at all. Remember Tim Cook's warning on data from suppliers? . . .

We often hear about Apple being sued for this or that and it is clear that some of the patent-related cases are a little thin; but when ordered, Apple pays up and looks big. However, a lawyer in Texas tried it on over Apple Care and the point that some replacement devices may be refurbished.

Her case was weakened somewhat by the point that the one she was using as example in trying to make a Class-action lawsuit was actually a new device. But that was nothing really compared to the rest of it which the judge (the case was moved to California) dismissed and as part of his judgment called her "manifestly incompetent" (Joe Mullin, ArsTechnica) [My original source was MacDaily News].

About 4 years ago, I had an iPhone 4 and ordered the olloclip lens system for this. It was delivered as the flood waters slid down my street so the first shots I took were of the arriving deluge. A couple of days later as the Navy came to rescue me, I walked into the flood with the iPhone in my pocket, which did it a lot of good. A replacement cost me about 7,000 baht. Then the iPhone 4S arrived.

That lens system fitted the 4S, but not the iPhone 5 that followed. Instead, I bought a lens via a Kickstarter project that would fit on any phone and even the iPad with a clip system. It may not have been quite as accurate as the olloclip, but the flexibility compensated somewhat.


PetaPixel report this week on a new lens system from Zeiss which is to arrive soon with 3 separate aluminium lenses that look as if they fit flush with the camera lens on the iPhone and are held in place by an aluminium bracket which also has a tripod mount. These are not coming until late 2016, but the article by Michael Zhang has some useful information (no price as yet) and several examples of photos taken using the lenses.

News via Twitter on Thursday was that the New York Public Library has made some 180,000 high resolution images available for download and free use. When I used the link to the site, as well as the recently digitized items, we are told that there are some 672,002 items available. The site was a little slow when I tried, but the collection is rich.

NYPL Digital Collections
505 Eighth Avenue - West 34th Street - Photo by Wurts Brothers (From NYPL Digital Collections)

The well known tennis player, André Agassi has long been a campaigner for education and Katie Roof on techCrunch tells us that he is to invest in Square Panda. His Agassi Foundation is to work with Square Panda on its digital games that promote literacy in preschool age children, citing his own lack of education at an early age as prime motivation here.

I saw several Tweets yesterday with an ID card for Roy Batty. That was the name of one of the replicants in one of my favourite movies, Blade Runner, played by Rutger Hauer, and today 16 January 2016 is the day he was incepted: Happy Birthday, Roy Batty. His "tears in the rain" speech (Zack "Geist Editor" Parsons, Something Awful) that comes near the end, is still moving:

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe.
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate.
All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.
Time to die.

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. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.



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