Tag Archives: Apple

Apple and U2, tax avoiders

I’ve never purchased an Apple product. In the beginning, I steered clear of the Apple II because its BASIC language lacked floating-point arithmetic routines and it was unable to display lower-case ASCII characters. My business applications simply wouldn’t work on the Apple II.

Bad Apple
Credit: Americans for Tax Fairness

More recently, I avoid Apple products because I like the flexibility of open systems, and Apple’s products are very very closed. It’s their way or the highway. They’ve done a good job of integrating most Apple products into Apple’s universe. They’re fine “for the rest of us”, but not for me.

Tim Cook’s recent reception of U2’s Bono (née Paul Hewson) has given me one more reason to avoid Apple products. I don’t want U2’s muzak on my new phone. Maybe Mr. Cook admires Bono because, like Apple, U2 has avoided taxation by keeping its profits offshore. These hypocrites deserve each other.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

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The Joy of Fix

Today I restored a neighbor’s mail program on his MacBook Pro. Both his IMAP and SMTP server name and port settings were incorrect. What had corrupted them? I don’t know. At least one “expert” had previously fiddled with this MacBook. After I restored its email function, the owner was elated.

It can feel delightful to fix systems and it was good to see the joy in my neighbor. Moreover, after solving server problems, it’s even better to see this joy in hundreds or thousands of users. It’s what keeps me in this biz.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Apple’s Tim Cook looks ahead at WWDC

Today, Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the keynote address at Apple’s World-Wide Developers Conference. His speech should quell fears that Apple lost its way since Steve Jobs’ death.

imageAll new product announcements were software only: OS X v10.10, IOS 8, and a replacement for Apple’s Objective C programming language called Swift. I like the opening of the iPhone 5S thumbprint reader interface to third-party IOS 8 app developers. This could allow banking apps to use the reader as second-factor user authentication, which could help secure bank accounts.

Mr. Cook promised more integration with Apple’s iCloud. If Apple succeeds, this could hurt Google Drive, Dropbox, and Microsoft OneDrive, but Apple’s previous cloud efforts have been troubled: Mobile Me was a mess and today’s iCloud has problems. So we’ll wait and see.

For most of today’s announced products, we’ll need to wait until autumn 2014, when they begin shipping.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Apple’s TLS/SSL bug

A serious flaw in Apple’s TLS/SSL (Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer) was discovered last week. All current Apple hardware and software was found to be vulnerable to bogus security certificates. Apple reportedly pushed out patches to iPhones and iPads using IOS 6.0 and later. This week they released a large OS X update that includes a fixed TLS/SSL module.

Visit https://gotofail.com to learn if your Apple device is vulnerable. If so, get thee to the update.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Best Super Bowl ad

My vote for the all-time second-best Super Bowl ad is Audi’s Green Police, which aired in 2010.  It’s out of control environmentalism, with the emphasis on mental.


The all-time best, in my opinion, remains Apple’s 1984 Macintosh ad.

What do these two ads have in common? Each ad claims that their gadget allows its owners to break free of a dumb society.  Each paints an unflattering picture of the herd.  Each appeals to vanity and a desire to break away from that herd.


The Mac ad was directed by Ridley Scott (Bladerunner, Alien).  When previewed, Apple’s board of directors hated it and wanted to axe its airing during the Super Bowl.  Steves Woz and Jobs loved it and together with John Sculley they managed to get it aired during the Super Bowl.

Microsoft, Apple et al as patent trolls

When Nortel (née Northern Telecom) went belly up, its assets went up for auction. Microsoft bought a block of more than 600,000 IP addresses from Nortel for $7.5 million. A consortium comprising Microsoft, Apple, BlackBerry, Sony, and Ericsson was high bidder at $4.5 billion for Nortel’s patent portfolio. Google bid, but lost to the consortium.

Rockstar logoThat consortium has named itself Rockstar and become a NPE (non-practicing entity – a polite term for “patent troll”). On its website www.ip-rockstar.com, it calls itself “an intellectual property (IP) licensing company”. It has sued Google, Samsung, et al for patent infringement by Google’s Android operating system. The suit was filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas — the favorite venue for patent trolls.

Android really bugged Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs. According to biographer Walter Isaacson, Steve swore,

I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

The majority of the industry press disagrees with Steve:

Apparently Rockstar consists of a handful of ex-Nortel software people, who’ve spent the last 18 months diligently looking for patent infringements. Rockstar itself has few assets aside from its patents, and is clearly acting as an agent for its principals. The existence of Rockstar seems to allow Microsoft, Apple, et al to disavow knowledge of the dubious dirty work done by patent trolls . . . while still doing the dirty work of patent trolls.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Learn how to fix gadgets

I like the philosophy expressed by http://www.ifixit.com: stuff should be repairable, and users should have free access to repair information for their stuff. ifixit logoThe site’s goal is ambitious. It provides illustrated maintenance and repair information for everything from automobiles to cell phones.

ipad air teardwonSome modern handheld devices, including Microsoft’s Surface and Apple’s iPad tablets, aren’t designed for ease of repair. Quite the opposite. By gluing in their batteries, their manufacturers exhibit disdain for society and environment. Rechargeable lithium ion batteries in such devices might have a lifetime of 1.5 to 2 years, so it makes sense to allow the owner to change the battery in a device that might enjoy a 4 or 5 year useful lifetime. Otherwise, when their batteries die, these devices are likely to become landfill.

The iPad Air and Surface Pro 2 teardowns show just how service unfriendly these designs are. The ifixit people rate these tablets a 1 or 2 on a repairability scale of 0 to 10. In my opinion, this makes them poor designs, despite their other virtues.

Bookmark ifixit.com. You just might need it soon.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Clear Business English

Cliché-drenched confused writing is so common in corporate communications that I must take note when I find someone who writes clearly.

I was pleased to discover a blog that’s maintained by a U.K.-based copywriting firm that shares my communication values. The blog is Good Copy, Bad Copy. Its owner, Doris & Bertie, describes it as A blog about good business writing and bad. Especially the bad. Because there’s so much more of the bad. Their writing contains

No “leveraged synergies” or “integrative frameworks”. No “holistic solutions” or “ideating roadmaps”.

Apple Inc.

In their article titled Are jargon-weary investors ditching Apple?, Doris & Bertie point out that Apple’s investor relations webpage has recently become jargon-cluttered:

It’s hard to be sure, but this text appears to be saying: “we’ve jigged a few columns around to make the figures look better”. Hardly instils confidence, does it?

They point out that

JJB Sports, Clinton Cards and Kodak are all examples of ailing firms that have hidden a poor performance behind the kind of pretentious, highly abstract biz-blather Apple now seems to be adopting.

Incidentally, we’ve also noticed that, post-Jobs, Apple has begun talking to its customers in the kind of mealy-mouthed corpspeak that was previously the preserve of its competitors.

Biz-blather! What a perfect expression. Elsewhere, David Pollack writes

Whatever you think of Jobs – he was a great communicator. Another of the small details that made Apple so different, so successful. Now they’re beginning to appear like just another corporate megalith.

The Good Copy, Bad Copy blog makes good reading. I wish that more business people would follow their suggestions.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

This guy’s cloud burst.

How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking

Never put all your eggs in one basket cloud.

The sad story of what happened to Mat Honan has been big news for the past ten days or so. All of his devices and data were interconnected via Apple’s iCloud, and they all got wiped clean within minutes. Here’s his story, in his own words. Excerpts:

Apple tech support gave the hackers access to my iCloud account. Amazon tech support gave them the ability to see a piece of information — a partial credit card number — that Apple used to release information. In short, the very four digits that Amazon considers unimportant enough to display in the clear on the web are precisely the same ones that Apple considers secure enough to perform identity verification . . .

It turns out, a billing address and the last four digits of a credit card number are the only two pieces of information anyone needs to get into your iCloud account. Once supplied, Apple will issue a temporary password, and that password grants access to iCloud.


GET OFF OF MY CLOUD
(M. Jagger/K. Richards)
Chorus

Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Hey! You! Get off of my cloud
Don’t hang around, baby, two’s a crowd

No technical skill was requs guy’s e-life. The hacker(s) just needed patience, knowledge of customer service procedures at each provider, a method, a couple lucky guesses, and convincing telephone presence. We worry about the security of 128-bit encryption, or the virtues of SHA-2 (secure hash algorithm) versus SHA-1, when the most vulnerable part of any system is the humans who use it.

The fact that the authentication value of a credit card’s last four digits is zero at Amazon and significant at Apple is worrying. Apple claimed that a service rep didn’t follow its password reset procedure. In fact, the procedure WAS followed; it was just a flawed procedure. Apple has reportedly changed their customer service procedure for authenticating an account owner over the phone.

This was their finest leader.

'This was their finest hour' speech
Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965)
Winston Churchill convinced a nation to believe in itself. Steve Jobs did the same for a company.

I’m loving the BBC Podcasts app on my Android phone. Today I listened to a 27-minute Great Lives summary of Winston Churchill.

I learned that on 12 June 1940, after visiting the French government and learning that they planned to surrender to Hitler within a few days, his aid General Hastings Ismay saw that Mr. Churchill was depressed. When asked why, Mr. Churchill lamented, “You and I will be dead men in three months’ time.” Despite his doubts, he stepped up just six days later and delivered this stirring speech to the House Of Commons. It closed with:

What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, This was their finest hour.

Mr. Churchill made what was at best only a hope sound like confidence. That’s a talent that’s shared by born leaders. Steve Jobs was said to have inspired people to do more than they thought possible; it was part of his famous “reality distortion field”.

Both Messrs Churchill and Jobs (and Herr Hitler, come to think of it) endlessly rehearsed their speeches in front of mirrors, making sure that every nuance was just so, and their troops responded by accomplishing more than anyone thought possible.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695
 

Today is the iPhone’s 5th birthday.

Steve Jobs introduces iPhone video clip

screenshot: Apple
Happy birthday to a revolution.

It’s hard to believe now, but some pundits in 2006/2007 predicted failure for Apple’s rumored new phone. They felt that Apple should stick to making computers and iPods, not phones. (Of course, the iPhone is a computer.) The pundits argued that the smartphone market was already overcrowded: the Palm Treo, RIM Blackberry, and Nokia E61 controlled the market, leaving no room for Apple.

And then exactly five years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone:

“Today, we are introducing three revolutionary products. The first is a wide-screen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary new mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.” <insert patter here>

“Are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device. Today Apple is going to reinvent the phone!”

The pundits were wrong, of course. A major reason is that Apple made it easy for third-party developers to create and distribute iPhone applications. The hardware was very nice, but I think it was the software — the friendly user interface and the proliferation of useful apps — that powered the iPhone’s runaway success.

In five years, neither RIM nor Palm responded with a viable competitor, and they’re now footnotes. Microsoft responded with an operating system that nobody liked. Only Google and partners provided viable competition.

Well done, Steve!

One indicator of success is that the wireless carriers are reporting less voice traffic per subscriber, and more data traffic. They’re responding by making more attractive voice offers and capping their data plans.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Occasionally, Apple’s single-vendor model makes sense.

Simply connecting my cellphone wirelessly to my netbook proved to be much harder than it should be.

Last week I bought my third Samsung SGH-T439 cellphone. It’s a 2007-vintage product: a very small flip-phone. I’m fond of the product, so when I found a great deal on eBay, I pounced. I learned on howardforums.com that Samsung has a program (called PC Studio 3) that allows a Windows PC to exchange files with cellphones such as mine.

Since I was using a Windows XP netbook with a Bluetooth adapter, I thought that I’d try connecting the netbook to the cellphone via Bluetooth. It sounds easy . . . and it could be, except that multiple hardware and software vendors’ products need to communicate nicely and securely with each other.

After failing several times to get this multi-layer system to work, I carefully documented the interface of each layer: function, ports, protocols, passwords, and eventually got it to work. The task required at least an hour . . . and I understand most of the technology and vocabulary! The layperson would have little or no chance of making this setup work.

It’s at times like these that I appreciate the rationale of Apple’s single-vendor approach.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Speech distortion with iPhones varies

I know it’s a lame headline, but I see no pattern to iPhone speech distortion.

photo: Apple Inc.

Months ago I planned to write an article that documented my observations of speech distortion when conversing with iPhone users. I thought that I saw a pattern: Verizon iPhone subscribers and iPhone 4S users had more speech distortion; AT&T iPhone subscribers and iPhone 3 and earlier users had less speech distortion.

I became interested in the topic because my phone conversations with iPhone users were frequently very low quality. Distortion would obscure syllables, words, or whole sentences.

My testing resources were nil; I would rely upon my very imprecise ear and the patience of my iPhone friends. A funny thing happened on my way to this article: any pattern that I thought that I saw initially, vanished.

Even the simplest analog system can introduce speech distortion caused by a number of anomalies. Modern cellular phone systems add still more variables that can cause speech distortion. One source is multi-path reception: the same radio signal arrives at the receiving antenna after following multiple paths. Each path involves different delays, so the signals are out of phase and interfere with each other. This is most likely to be a problem in urban areas with tall buildings. GSM systems such as AT&T’s can reduce this effect through frequency hopping.

Test equipment is required at both ends of a telephone conversation to perform most audio distortion tests. One useful test is for intermodulation — the mixing of two tones, resulting in additional tones that weren’t in the original two-tone input signal. The difference in amplitude between the original tones at the test system output and the new tones is measured in decibels (dB). An acceptable difference of signal level to intermodulation (IM) distortion product levels might be -35 dB or more. My ear tells me that cell phone (not just iPhone) IM noise is frequently much, much worse than -35 dB. If I had to guess, IM distortion often is perhaps -10 dB or worse: there’s plenty of audio level; it’s just completely garbled. I’ve not found any real-world iPhone IM distortion test results.

I have one friend with an AT&T iPhone 3 that sounded great one day (no distortion at all), and much worse another day when connected to a different cell tower. Another friend with a Verizon iPhone 4S sounds consistently bad.


One positive result: I found a good mobile phone forum and blog: howardforums.com

I’m surprised that we accept such abysmal speech quality from our mobile phones. (In the old Ma Bell wired telephone days, Bell Labs devoted enormous resources to minimizing speech distortion. Low speech distortion meant that people talked more via phone, which resulted in more revenue.) I wish that I could document a pattern to iPhone speech distortion, but I can’t. Sorry.

What are your iPhone speech distortion observations?

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

iPad2 supersedes an ancient Xubuntu laptop PC

photo: Apple
This 80-something lady moved to an iPad.

W

e upgraded an ancient Dell laptop (333 MHz Pentium, 256MB RAM, 4.7 GB disk) from its original Windows 98 to Xubuntu 8.04 in May 2009. (Resurrect old hardware with Linux) It worked well, for such a wimpy piece of hardware. It was destined for use by a lady who’s over 80 years old and non-technical. Initial reports were positive.

This weekend I learned that she has replaced this feeble laptop with a new Apple iPad 2. Seems like a smart move to me.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs


Mona SImpson's eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs
High School yearbook

T

his appeared today in The New York Times:

A Sister’s Eulogy for Steve Jobs
By MONA SIMPSON
Published: October 30, 2011

Mona describes the close relationship that she and Steve shared, and the relationships that he had with his other family members. Then she describes Steve’s last days.

Who was Steve Jobs? If you watch nothing else about Steve, listen to his 2005 Stanford commencement address.

Visit my website: http://russbellew.com
© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695