eXtensions - Sunday 9 January 2022


Sunday Review: Vested Stock Options; Turning point for VR Glasses; Evil AirTags; More on Stacked Frames

By Graham K. Rogers


Tim Cook's remuneration is in the cross-hairs. $100 million looks a lot until analyzed or compared with the income of other executives. AirTags are also under fire, despite the warnings given to those unlawfully tracked: not afforded by other manufacturers' devices. Is this the moment that VR glasses take off with Meta, Playstation and Apple all interested?

With Apple's Q1 2022 figures about to be announced (27 January) it is noted that the shareholders meeting a few days later on 4 February, will be held (wisely) online this time. A note released by Apple this week as part of its filing to the SET reveals that the income last year for Tim Cook was $100 million (Oliver Haslam, iMore).

The actual figure was $98.7m but $100m looks better in headlines. $3m of that was his salary but the rest was made up of vested shares: an individual is given options on a number of shares as long as they stay at the company for a certain number of years. In Cook's case some of these were for a 10 year period. This is to discourage hopping about from company to company. It also creates continuity and there is less risk of company secrets being released, as might be the case when those worth knowledge of Apple's plans is hired elsewhere (see below).

Icon Siam Apple Store

Needless to say, there were negative comments about this. Oliver Haslam (iMore), for example, used "raked" in his headline: Apple CEO Tim Cook raked in almost $100 million in 2021. The sub-headline, although confirming the main sum was made up of the divested shares, added to this, with "A stock award of more than $82 million made up the main chunk of the money". It must be remembered too that in January 2021 when Cook was granted the stock options, the share price was under $15. It is now $183 and Cook's leadership had no small part in that. Those with stock options at Dell were less lucky as the value tanked (Sean Gallagher, ArsTechnica)

I regard "raked in" (which was used in a summary as well) and "chunk" as negative words, meant (perhaps mistakenly) to put a spin on this. The article also mentions that other members of the management team were similarly awarded divested shares, as have been a number of engineers at Apple recently in an attempt to dissuade them leaving for other companies.

It is not hard to show that other companies award top management shares as part of remuneration. Beqom, a company concerned with compensation management in several industries, says that not everyone will have such packages, but "those who do are usually considered crucial to the success of the company". Companies like HP also offer stock options as does Tesla, Google's Sundar Pichai has a $242m package (Nick Statt, The Verge), with additional benefits that far outstrip what Cook had. These really are not hard to find if reporters bothered to look. Somehow it is different when Apple is in the frame.

On that theme, in the last few weeks I have been looking at the ways in which Apple's AirTags could be better used, and also the problems with secret tracking. I mentioned in particular at the end of the year in this context, that AirTags are not evil, people are. Following news that a fashion model had been tracked, which made headlines on Fox and in the NYTimes (always ready to tilt at Apple), Chance Miller wrung his hands in a Tweet, writing, "I don't know what the solution to this problem is, but it's becoming clear that something needs to change. It's only a matter of time before one of these stories ends very badly."

Apple AirTags

At least Apple provides information to someone being tracked by devices not registered to them, which others apparently do not, as another tweet in the same thread made clear: "Imagine how many people are being tracked by non-Apple devices and have no idea it's happening", while Miller added, "yeah Apple's anti-stalking features are generally working as expected it seems like" commenting that this event took 5 hours to come to light. There may be some need for more information to be made available to Android users.

There are several other trackers on the market, as well as devices that may be used by the authorities, such as the FBI (who need a warrant), but although Apple is in the doghouse again, apparently Samsung, Tile et al do not make those being tracked aware of the problem. The best response to Miller's Tweet was from Samir Estefan:

So let me get this straight: Out of all of the manufactures of Bluetooth Trackers only one (Apple) alerts people if someone else's device is tracking them and so THEY NEED TO CHANGE THEM??? We should be pushing for Samsung, Tile, et al, to include this privacy measures!

As a related aside, recent comments on the Pegasus insecurities on smartphones initially focused on Apple because of better logging. More analysis showed that Android phones were also being attacked, but this was not quite so obvious.

Yeah, its Apple's fault again, although - let's be clear - those being tracked are most assuredly victims.

It is reported (Christian Zibreg, IDownloadBlog) that Meta have given up on developing an operating system for AR/VR but it is not clear if Android will be used. Another report (among several) from Adi Robertson (The Verge) suggests that Meta is looking for another OS. I do not think that iOS is likely.

An acquaintance, currently living in the USA, has been gung-ho for VR glasses over the past couple of years and believes this is the future of computing. I have been les convinced, partly because of the tasks I use my devices for, but have kept a weather eye on developments. This is as much because I distrust Facebook/Meta and its use of data, as wondering what Apple is up to.

Goggles? - Image courtesy of Apple

With technologies, there is often a point at which ideas come together. For example, while I had been using the internet for a while as a text-based means of communication, including the early world-wide web with the UNIX app Lynx (still installable on the Mac), it was not until Mozilla came up with its graphic browser that the whole show took off. I hate to say it, but although Apple had its GUI in 1984 (I first used a Mac in 1985), I was unconvinced about these expensive devices and like many stuck to text-based MSDOS PCs. When Windows 3 arrived, computers became usable for a wider user base. It was about then that I switched from DOS 6.1 to a Mac Quadra running system 7 when my last PC died.

This week a couple of apparently-unconnected news items joined some dots concerning VR glasses and this seems to be a moment which will lead to wonder adoption of such glasses when they are released. As well as the changes in the Meta approach to its XROS on the PlayStation blog, Senior VP for Platform Experience, Hideaki Nishino writes . . . "It is my great pleasure to start off 2022 with news on our next generation virtual reality system for the PS5 console, starting with the official name: PlayStation VR2, and our new VR controller, PlayStation VR2 Sense controller."

We can expect more news in the next months concerning VR/AR solutions: from PlayStation, Meta (Oculus), Microsoft and perhaps even Apple. I tried Microsoft's glases at a health-oriented exhibition in Bangkok a few years back and could see glimmerings of how a hands-free approach could help in some situations, but neither the displays nor the interface were good enough at that time and I felt disoriented. Cupertino has been rumoured to be working on a "glasses" solution for a while. One would expect that there will be limits on innovation, but that the device would be effective out of the box.

After the announcement of Intel's new processor which is claimed to be faster than the M-series chips (currently), there were a number of comments. Several made the same points that I had also covered: fast, yes, but the power use far outstrips that of the M1. And power (high Wattage) means heat. I have not heard the fans on my MacBook Pro since I have had it, even when working on photo-editing that would have had both fans screaming at 6,000 rpm on my previous MacBook Pro with Intel inside.

A point that I made that I have not seen mentioned yet is that all companies leapfrog each other with technology developments. When Apple announced its SoC (system on a chip) M-series, others (including Qualcomm, AMD, Microsoft) decided that they, would develop similar chips. Despite ridiculing Apple in several advertisements Intel mentioned a move in this direction too. As what may be part of the development plans, a senior Apple engineer, Jeff Wilcox, has now taken up a position at Intel (where he had worked before) as leader of the Client SoC Architecture team, Evan Selleck (iDownloadBlog) reports.

Apple silicon
Apple M1 Max - Image courtesy of Apple

Alex Coleman on Fstoppers (a photo site) compared benchmarks for Alder Lake and other related processors using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. These were reported by Puget Systems who are highly regarded. 11 processors were tested: 7 from Intel and 4 from AMD. I presume these benchmarking tests were all run on PCs. Apple or the M1 processors were not mentioned at all. Of course, the new chips perform exceptionally well, but I could not help noticing that there was also no mention of Watts, although power was mentioned in the article and the Comments section. Also missing was "heat".

I find Apple TV+ somewhat hit and miss, with several series or movies I really enjoy, followed by a fallow period when little appeals to me. There are a few potential winners in the pipeline and coming next week is the Frances McDormand, Denzel Washington version of MacBeth. Apple has finally released a full trailer, after a number of teasers, but the same black and white theme remains, with the tick-tock of a slow walk over flagstones enhancing the inevitability. Joel Coen has some good input and I particularly liked the foreshadowing. As the door is opened to the King's chamber, prior to his murder, so the handles are lit so that they appear to be shaped like knives. Blood will have blood.

This week I finally finished Suits, the New York lawyers series that had some mighty egos working with thin scripts. There were some bright spots as well as some excruciatingly embarrassing moments, particularly with the character, Louis Litt. How any partnership could succeed as they seemed to over the years with that many upsets, is a little beyond me. The consistent high spot for me was at the beginning of every episode with the short extract of Greenback Boogie by Ima Robot, which reminds me of the Woodstock hit by Canned Heat, On the Road Again, released 1968, itself a remake of a 1953 song by Floyd Jones which was also covered by Willie Nelson.

While on the subject of older recordings, Rusty Blazenhoff (BoingBoing) reports on newly discovered tapes of Johnny Cash "recorded by LSD chemist Owsley Stanley" the same year Cash made the famous appearance at Folsom Prison. Stanley was an exceptional sound engineer, as detailed on the Owen Stanley Foundation site, who had a second string as an exceptional chemical engineer, producing high quality LSD when it was legal. He may have also produced some when it was made illegal.

On Netflix, I also watched, and enjoyed, Don't Look Up, despite its general rejection by critics who clearly did not see the same movie I watched. Many people have tried to bring ideas to the public sphere, only to be rejected by those in positions of authority who are just not interested. Where I work, I joke that my ideas are often rejected only to be taken up 5 years later, although Apple picked up a couple within 6 months coincidentally (see below).

John Naughton (The Guardian) begins a comment on NFTs (non-fungible tokens) with references to Don't Look Up and compares it to Johnathon Swift's satire in which it is proposed that Irish babies could be sold as food to rich gentlemen and ladies. Swift was seriously critical of absentee landlords in a country with a starving populace and the critics miss this seriously understated approach in this movie that has a stark hidden message about the climate, disguised as the inevitability of the comet.

Apple silicon
Apple MacBook Air (May 2020) - First introduced in 2008

A footnote to that comment about Apple and ideas. In January 2008 I was in San Francisco for the second time. That was the year when Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air, magically bringing it out of the manila envelope he had carried on stage. He also introduced the second version of the iPod Touch. This was identical to the first apart from the enhanced software, which users could download from the Music Store. The problem for me was that there was no Music Store for users in Thailand at that time. I was critical of this, voicing my concerns to my Apple handlers.

Tony Li whom I had met several times at product introductions here was almost apologetic, saying that Marketing were adamant this was the way it was to be done. Later that evening at a meal for journalists from this region provided by Apple, I brought this up again and suggested that there was a case for a second tier store that would allow users in some countries (like Thailand) to download apps. Apple controlled them and I was aware that music was subject to copyright and therefore availability was really beyond Apple's control. With this second tier, Apple would be able to collect data from its users (names, devices, credit card information) without copyright problems. Tony seemed interest and said he would pass the comments on. Six months later the App Store came into existence. I do not claim this as my idea: great minds think alike.

Andrei Duman insect images

Last time I outlined the process by which Andrei Duman photographed 2 dozen beetles in exquisite detail using Phase One cameras and stitching software to merge around 8,000 photographs for each final image. The next day I saw another article from Jaron Schneider (PetaPixel) on the use of a Hasselblad H6D-400MS to take 8439 photographs of Rembrandt's The Night Watch at the Reijksmuseum in Amsterdam producing a 717 Gigapixel image, when all were combined, of 6.6 TB.

Like the comments on the superb images of the beetles, my summary hardly does justice to the process outlined in the article by Jaron Schneider, nor (of course) to the finished task, which is to be used in the painting's preservation process.

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. After 3 years writing a column in the Life supplement, he is now no longer associated with the Bangkok Post. He can be followed on Twitter (@extensions_th)



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