Archive for the 'Apple' Category

The church of Apple tests the faith of its flock

[link] Sunday, November 17th, 2013

This morning’s Observer column.

Poor Steve has gone to the great computer lab in the sky, but the church he founded endures. And it still knows what is best for its adherents. Recently, the company launched the latest release of its OS X operating system, codenamed Mavericks. What happened was this: one day, while millions of the devout were tapping industriously on their keyboards, a small dialogue box appeared on the top right-hand corner of their screens. It informed them that important upgrades were available for their computers.

For members of the Apple communion, such a message has much the same status as a text from the Vatican would have for devout Catholics. So they acted upon it. And lo! It came to pass that their computers were upgraded…

Read on

NSA revelations show that Tech journalism is as much of a failure as mainstream media

[link] Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

Terrific post by Dave Winer.

He starts by berating technology journalism for the way it obsesses over Apple.

All the while, tech news has come to dominate all the news, only Apple isn’t it. The big story is the NSA. It’s huge and has been building for 20 years. While we were all watching the public Internet grow, a private, secret one was being developed by the US military. But was it actually hidden? Where were all the comp sci grads going? Some were going to Redmond and Silicon Valley for sure. But a lot of them were going to Maryland and Virginia. The story was available to be grabbed by any enterprising news organization. It wasn’t.

We can learn from the Snowden leaks and adapt and reorganize the way we cover tech. Instead of accepting the stories that the industry feeds us, we can look more broadly, ask our own questions, and seek the answers outside the public relations departments of the big companies. This might result in small rebellions, like asking why the companies remove features from their products that users depend on. And big ones, like sensing things like the NSA’s social network before the leakers show up with all the documents spelling it out.

The sheer size of the Snowden leaks are themselves a judgement on the inadequacy of tech journalism. Why were none of these stories broken before? Couldn’t sources have been found to talk off the record? Weren’t there people of conscience inside the tech companies who might tell the truth? Or were the reporters even available to listen to these people?

Tech is where big news is happening this decade. It’s time to start doing it seriously.

Right on.

Breaking through the Reality Distortion Field

[link] Sunday, September 29th, 2013

This morning’s Observer column.

When Steve Jobs was still with us, many commentators – yours truly included – used to complain about the “reality distortion field” that surrounded Apple’s charismatic leader. Those in attendance when Jobs launched the devices and services (iPod, iTunes, OS X, iMac, MacBook, iPhone and iPad) that blew such huge holes in the business models of established industries told of events that were more like religious revival meetings than corporate press conferences. As Apple’s dominance grew, the man who led it came to be seen as a unique combination of visionary, guru, saint and mogul.

But then mortality intervened and His Steveness passed away. The reality distortion field persisted, however, though now in reverse. It led people to conclude that the death of the magician would inevitably lead to the end of the magic that made Apple the most valuable company in the world. In comparison to Jobs his successor, Tim Cook, was seen as charismatically challenged. And while we could expect Apple to thrive for a little longer, it was only because Cook would be unveiling innovations that were in the works when Jobs was alive. After that, the well would surely run dry.

It was against this background that the hapless Cook unveiled the new iPhones on 10 September…

Why I’m thinking of saving up for an iPhone 5s

[link] Saturday, September 28th, 2013

iPhone 5s Slow Motion Video – 120 fps from Rishi Kaneria on Vimeo.

Why having a passcode might not protect your iPhone 5s from unauthorised use

[link] Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

Well, well. Alongside the discovery that the iPhone 5s fingerprint system isn’t quite as secure as advertised comes this.

If you have an iPhone 5 or older and have updated your operating system to Apple’s new iOS 7 version, you should be aware that the password (or “passcode”) required on your phone’s lock screen no longer prevents strangers from accessing your phone.

They can use Siri, the voice-command software, to bypass the password screen and access your phone, instead.

The good news is that distressed iPhone 5S owners can apparently foil this workaround by controlling access to Siri in the phone’s settings menu. The trail is: Settings –> General –> Passcode Lock [enter passcode] –> Allow access when locked > Siri > switch from green to white.

If Big Data is “the new oil” then we’re the wells

[link] Sunday, September 1st, 2013

This morning’s Observer column.

Should you be looking for an example of hucksterish cynicism, then the mantra that “data is the new oil” is as good as they come. Although its first recorded utterance goes as far back as 2006, in recent times it has achieved the status of an approved corporate cliche, though nowadays “data” is generally qualified by the adjective “big”. And if you want a measure of how deeply the cliche has penetrated the collective unconscious, ponder this: a Google search for “big data” turns up more than 1.5bn results. And a search for “data mining” turns up 167m results.

The idea of big data as a metaphor for oil is seductive. It’s also revealing in interesting ways. Given that the oil business is one of the biggest industries in the history of the world, for example, the metaphor hints at untold future riches. But it conveniently skates over the fact that oil wealth overwhelmingly benefits either ruling elites in corrupt and/or authoritarian countries, or huge corporations in democratic states.

But at least oil is a physical, non-renewable resource that is extracted from the earth. Big data, on the other hand, is extracted from the activities of people and machines…

Google’s choice: between a rock and a very hard place

[link] Sunday, June 9th, 2013

My Observer Comment piece about the dilemma facing Google and the other Internet giants: do they co-operate with the National Security State? Or look after their users’ (and their own commercial) interests?

The revelations of the past week explain why Schmidt was so preoccupied with the power of the state – especially of the national security state, which is what our democracies are morphing into. The apparent contradictions between, on the one hand, Google’s vehement insistence that it has “not joined any programme that would give the US government – or any other government – direct access to our servers” and, on the other, the assertions to the contrary in the leaked National Security Agency slide-deck that demonstrate the extent to which Google (and the other internet companies) are caught between a rock and a very hard place.

The rock is that the national security state, as embodied in the National Security Agency, GCHQ and kindred agencies, shows no sign of withering away. Au contraire. In the end, companies such as Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Apple will be compelled to obey the state’s orders. If they don’t, their executives will find themselves sharing jail cells with the likes of Bradley Manning.

The hard place is corporate terror that their users will become alienated by the realisation that personal communications cannot be safely entrusted to internet companies based in the US. Crunch time has arrived for Google & co, in other words. I look forward to the second, revised, edition of Schmidt’s book.

Paper(less) aeroplanes

[link] Saturday, May 18th, 2013

Well, well. The US Air force is buying 18,000 32G wifi-only iPads and expects to save $50M as a result.

Using lightweight iPads instead of heavy paper flight manuals will amount to $750,000 annual savings on fuel alone, a spokesman for the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command said in an interview with James Rogers of The Street. And the AMC will no longer have to print those flight manuals either, which will save a whopping $5 million per year.

Major Brian Moritz, manager of the AMC’s electronic flight bag program, said the Air Force expects Apple’s iPad to help save $5.7 million per year, which would result in savings “well over $50 million” over the next 10 years.

“We’re saving about 90 pounds of paper per aircraft and limiting the need for each crew member to carry a 30 to 40 pound paper file,” Moritz said. “It adds up to quite a lot of weight in paper.”

Rogers was embedded recently with the U.S. Air Force and got to see Apple’s iPad in action. He revealed that the switch from paper manuals to the iPad could cut up to 490 pounds in weight from a C-5 aircraft.

They’ll never work on Ryanair flights, though. The pilots would have to turn their iPad manuals off for take-off and landing, and so wouldn’t have a clue which levers to pull.

Al Baba

[link] Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Well, isn’t this interesting. Turns out that Al Gore is quite well off. Almost as wealthy as Mitt Romney, it seems, according to this Bloomberg report.

In 1999, Al Gore, then U.S. vice president and a Democratic candidate for president, sold $6,000 worth of cows.

The former senator, who spent most of his working life in Congress, had a net worth of about $1.7 million and assets that included pasture rents from a family farm and royalties from a zinc mine, remnants of his rural roots in Carthage, Tennessee. Funds from the cattle sale went to three of his kids, according to federal disclosure forms filed as part of his presidential run.

Fourteen years later, he made an estimated $100 million in a single month. In January, the Current TV network, which he helped to start in 2004, was sold to Qatari-owned Al Jazeera Satellite Network for about $500 million. After debt, he grossed an estimated $70 million for his 20 percent stake, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Two weeks later, Gore exercised options, at $7.48 a share, on 59,000 shares of Apple Inc. stock that he’d been granted for serving on the Cupertino, California-based company’s board since 2003. On paper, it was about a $30 million payday based on the company’s share price on the day he claimed the options.

That’s a pretty good January for a guy who couldn’t yet call himself a multimillionaire when he briefly slipped from public life after his bitterly contested presidential election loss to George W. Bush in late 2000, based on 1999 and 2000 disclosure forms.

And he’s still got another 50,000 Apple shares to go. Seems like Forrest Gump isn’t the only innocent to profit from Steve Jobs’s largesse.

The PC: the new sunset industry

[link] Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

IDC says PC sales fell 14 percent in the first quarter on a year-over-year basis. That’s worse than its forecast of a 7.7 percent drop.

This is the worst quarter for PC industry since 1994 when IDC started tracking sales. So, that pretty much makes it the worst quarter in history.

IDC blames Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system for alienating consumers. The new tile-based interface is too weird for consumers, says IDC.

Instead of buying new laptops or desktops, people are buying tablets and smartphones which serve as good-enough alternatives.

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