Friday, September 26, 2014

A Few Biz To Take Care Of - Puzzled about 8.0.1 Release and Overblown Bending Issues

I'll make this quick.  I got the iPhone 6 Plus:  space gray, 128 GB.  I took my first photo with it today that was worth posting onto Eyeem (I abandoned my Instagram account).  I have some early thoughts about it but I'll get into my own review at a later time.  First, a couple of items today that are iPhone related.

First, iOS 8.0.1 was a mess if you don't already know. It bricked the cell connection and made its iconic TouchID useable for new iPhone 6 users.  So, Apple issued 8.0.2 quicker than I expected.  Supposedly it fixed that.  I'm using it now and it seems fine.  I care more about TouchID and it works just as before.  

What I find puzzling is how Apple could have released 8.0.1 thinking it was ready for primetime.  I assumed this to be Apple's testing sequence.

  1. They installed iOS 8.0.1 on all qualified iOS devices.  By that, I mean any device that can run iOS 8.  They installed it and rebooted them.
  2. Then they made sure everything is working.  Wi-Fi, cell, multi-touch, Touch ID on the 5S, 6, and 6 Plus.  All working, right?  I'm sure there is a battery of tests they conduct to make sure it was working fine.  
  3. They might make some adjustments here and there.
  4. Then someone, I assume to be a manager or managers, signed off on it.
  5. Release it to the public.

So, somewhere in there, someone dropped the ball?  Maybe TouchID wasn't tested?  I find that unlikely just as unlikely is that all those brilliant Apple engineers who tested 8.0.1 did not make one sign call or attempted to collected to a cell service.  

I'm sure more industrious journalists or bloggers will do the leg work and get to the bottom of that.  

Anyway, it's all good now.  8.0.2 is working fine as far as I can tell.  

Now, the fiasco that may or may not be real regarding the iPhone 6 Plus bending.  While the media has made it out to be a big deal out of it, it has largely been defused on a number of levels.  Having learned from Antenna-gate (we Americans love our "gates"), Tim Cook and his PR team got in front of the potential brush fire and started to build backfires to keep it from spreading.  

In the past, Apple under Steve Jobs would not respond for days or weeks.  That Steve Jobs had to called a press event to address the antenna issue in the iPhone 4 was just stupid but he did it and Apple is better for it having learn that valuable lesson.  A lesson that was applied to what could have been an ugly "gate" over iPhone 6 Plus bending merely by putting in someone's jean pocket.  

Short story, as media reports about iPhone 6 Plus' bending, someone released a Youtube video (which some claim to have been faked) showing him bending the iPhone 6 Plus along with competing flagship mobile devices from Samsung, HTC, LG, and Motorola.  Never mind that it was the bending tests conducted on these phones was not scientific, but the dude, you can't really fault him, got his few minutes of fame and further inflamed the Android-iOS religious war.  

What Apple did next was to invite selected journalists to visit its testing facilities where an assortment of Apple products, including the iPhone 6 Plus, was put through various torture tests (The Verge via Appleinsider).  Of course, not everyone was satisfied.

So, up stepped Consumer Reports with its own tests.  First, a bit about on the history between Apple and Consumer Reports.  CR was one of the leading media outfits that was leading the charge against Apple over the iPhone 4 antenna issue. So there is no love between the two.  If you're in the middle like I am or are anti-Apple, you have to assume that CR will be at least impartial in their bending tests of the iPhone 6 Plus.

So, what they did find?  Well, according to Apple, they have only 9 documented complaints over the 6 Plus bending and Apple made sure to test the heck out of the new iPhones.  Well, CR seemed to agree and more.  In fact, CR found that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus can withstand more pressure than even Apple claims.  Furthermore, the bigger iPhone 6 Plus which the Youtube guy, in his unscientific bending tests, claim to bend more easily than the smaller iPhone 6, is actually stronger than the iPhone 6.

The iPhone 6 Plus withstood 20 pounds more pressure than the iPhone 6 before any deformity to the case was witnessed and ten pounds more pressure before the cases cracked.  

In the Youtuber's video, he found the HTC M8 to be quite strong.  One of the strongest as a matter of fact.  What did CR find?  The HTC M8 was weakest of the lot.  Besting the iPhone 6's was the LG G3, iPhone 5 (I question why didn't they use the iPhone 5S), and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.  

I have no theory as to whether the youtuber did anything improper.  I can only say that the media is always hungry for eyeballs and, in this quest, have managed to embarrassed themselves and does nothing to make themselves accountable when they make a mistake.  We'll see over the next few days whether of the mainstream media publish retractions or at the very least acknowledge the Consumer Report tests.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Politics Of Selling iPhones in China - Record 10 Million iPhone Sales Forced Beijing To Lose Face

Assuming you follow everything Apple either as a financial analyst (you guys suck by the way), Apple fan, or a general mobile tech fan, you know that Apple has not yet begin to sell the latest and greatest iPhones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.  Why is that?  Didn't Tim Cook say that China is one of Apple's most important market? 

Yes, but see with the Chinese government, as bad as they are, they really are worse than one might imagine because not only is it a biggest apparatus in the history of mankind at suppress freedom and truth, justice, and the American way (yes, to me, Superman still stands for that - DC, grow one, please), they really like people to respect them.  Fine, I'm okay with that.  But what they hate more than freedom is losing face.

Now, recently, Beijing has been bully foreign companies around. Why are they doing this?  Because many of these companies including Apple and Microsoft are American companies.  And spying scandals aside, Beijing is really trying to foster its own home-grown companies to compete better no only on its home turf but globally as well.

However, to think that Xiaomi, an even better copycat of all things Apple than Samsung is, will ever be a high-end player against Apple is laughable.  But Beijing is trying hard.  And that means if it can delay the sales of the new iPhones by a few days or weeks, it will.  Plus, I'm sure Beijing is also attempting to extract additional concessions from Apple.

However, Beijing did lose face today and big when Tim Cook, Apple CEO, announced proudly that Apple has sold more than 10 million iPhones since it went on sale in select countries on Friday, Setpember 19th (pre-sale started on the 12th).  While the number of 10 million is impressive compared to the sales figure of the 5S last year, there is one major difference.

Last year, Apple launched the iPhone 5S in China the same time it did in the US.  Let me repeat:  the sales of 5S and 5C during opening weekend was 9 million.  Without the Chinese market, Apple still managed to top that by 1 million. 

While, Apple only cares about making the best products it can, without actively participating in Beijing's political game, it for the Chinese government to lose a lot of face.  Beijing overplayed its hand with the iPhone sales. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Best To Wait For 4K/5K - Reason Isn't Cost But Graphic Horsepower and Actual Support for More Models and Ports

I want a 4K TV too.  Though it's not for watching videos since no service, over-the-air or streaming, is quite ready for it.  Rather, I want it for my late-2013 Macbook Pro.  I've thought about it on and off.  The last time I did it was when a Chinese brand called Seiki was offering a 39" 4K HDTV for less than $400 ($339 now on Amazon).

In fact, they've got a 65" version that is decently priced for less than $1200 today and likely can be had for lower right around Black Friday.  However...

Of course, there is always a "however".  However, while they might be a step above "gimmicky" in terms of have a higher resolution than the ubiquitous 1080p HDTV, they are no suitable for use as Retina Display monitors that we have become accustomed to on our Apple laptops or iOS devices. 

The reason is because while they have the resolution, the Seiki 4K TV cannot support 60Hz, which is the very least you need to have a smooth display for daily computing uses.  Running at only 30Hz, scrolling and mouse pointers become jagged.  Not the smooth experience we expect and see on our Macbook displays.

That was then, about two months ago.  Time to revisit, yeah?

Well, the 4K monitor situation is a bit more clear.  There are dozens of different 4K monitors and HDTV out now.  There still isn't an Apple 4K monitor.  Moreover, you can forget about a 4K HDTV from Apple.  Seiko still has not come out with a 2014 model of its 2013 lineup which I hope would offer better 4K support for computing purposes. 

That leaves the more expensive but reliably better options for computing use.  You've got 4K monitors from Dell, Acer, and a few other brands.  Even now, Dell offers a $2500 5K monitor (Tom's Hardware).  So, the right time, ya?

Honestly, I don't have a "yes" or "no" answer for that as far as I'm concerned given my 4K needs.  I'm not going to be doing any major 4K video editing or gaming at such a resolution.  I just need smooth scrolling and text movement for my day-to-day uses.  And I do want a future proof option for today's 4K buy if I were to get into in the next month or two. 

It comes down to whether my Macbook Pro will have the horsepower to support my needs - mostly for smooth scrolling of text, moving windows around, and just duplicate any other functions I can ready do on my Macbook Pro's 15" Retina screen.  And when 4K content does come our way, I wonder if the dedicated graphics card will be able to handle the load - running 4K  content through an external monitor.

Then there is the confusing issue of various parts and what versions they support and whether they can be upgraded to provide adequate 4K support for computing needs. 

On top of that, it does not appear that the current version of OS X supports 4K well.  There are some questions whether Apple's current OS supports 4K at 60Hz - it may depend on models and ports supported. We may have to wait until Yosemite (the next OS X upgrade, 10.10) is out and running in order to see how much support and smoothly Apple's 4K implementation is.

In conclusion, while I tend to be an early adopter for technology (when I can afford it), I don't see 4K support in my future for at least another 4-6 months.  Yosemite will be out soon and I probably will wait for 10.10.1 or later to see.  Plus, there are two points to consider.  waiting for Apple's 4K displays which likely will cost more than competing options or go with the likes of Dell and risk running into some issues.

Here is an in depth Anandtech look on what is currently possible for the late-2013 Macbook Pro (with models with discrete graphic cards) to run 4K natively at 60Hz. 

Mobile Gaming: Microsoft Said Minecraft To Continue To Have Cross Platform Support, Why the Buyout Now?

I'm not a big Minecraft player.  I barely know what's going on in the world there.  However, after seeing my nephews automatically figure out how to pay it and link their games together, I began to give it a deeper look.  Then I found out that Microsoft was buying out Minecraft maker, Mojang.

And yes, while Microsoft has pledged to continue support the game across the various platforms, I can't help but think about Bungie and Halo.  Microsoft bought Bungie and Halo support for other platforms including OS X and other consoles stopped. 

So, you'll understand if I don't believe Microsoft.  Here are a few questions and notes regarding this purchase.

Why now?  My first reaction was that it would help solidify Windows platform among the Minecraft mobile players.  The game would be exclusive (eventually, support for other platforms would dissipate) and if you want to play Minecraft you'll have to buy a Windows phone or Surface tablet. 

Still, that makes no sense.  It's possible that Microsoft saw Minecraft as a chance for it to own a very popular brand and there was a way to monetize it in ways much like Lego has - movies, TV shows, toys, etc.  I think this would help Microsoft evolve and expand into other products and services.

Really?  Cross-Platform Support?  I'm dubious - as much as you are when Microsoft or any other companies make this kind of pledge.  At best, I reckon support with continue but at the cost of a windowed period or degraded game play for non-Xbox or Windows platforms.

At best, we can be looking at exclusive content for those residing within the Redmond ecosystem. 

What are mobile gamers looking at, really?  I'm tell you the forecast is dark and stormy.  It doesn't look good.  At best, Microsoft's pledge actually holds water.  Android, iOS, Sony, and other platforms will get the best Microsoft will offer.  But this isn't likely to happen.

You'll see high turbulence inthe coming year with Minecraft support.  In this scenario, current versions of Minecraft will get supported.  Newer versions will roll out along to all platforms but you'll be sure they will also work on Windows platforms and Xbox.  That means if they're not ready, we all will have to wait.  Then over time, Microsoft will drop some platforms.  Sony will probably be the first victim.  Microsoft will degrade some versions with lame excuses and more promises it knows it'll will break.  It's not for the sake of the gamers but PR.  After that, subsequent Minecraft updates will be windowed with those coming out for Windows/Xbox first.  Even more degraded versions for Android and iOS will eventually be released and by then, gamers will not have bother with them.

And at the end of the day, anyone who will want a meaningful Minecraft game play will need to own an Xbox or have bought into the Surface or Windows ecosystem. 

Opportunities for Others.  Lego, anyone?  I think there will be others to replace Minecraft if Microsoft thinks shafting mobile gamers not on Windows is a worthy gamble.  I would be excited to see a Lego competitor to Minecraft.  I also see an opportunity for other studios to shine in this arena.  That Minecraft has already sold out is a dire warning for users to begin looking else where for their virtual world building fixes. 

So, what do you think?  Does my experience with Bungie and what Microsoft did with it warrant my dire prediction about what Microsoft will do with Minecraft? 

Monday, September 8, 2014

iPhone 6 Looks Like The Original iPhone with A Better/Bigger Screen And Specs But Half As Thick

We're less than a day from Apple's, what we hope, game-changing media event that will once again propel the company ahead of everyone else in the mobile market and mark 9/9/14 as the true launch date of the wearable computing market.

Having said, that, I'm sure you've been looking the rumors and and pics of the iPhone 6.  And there have been plenty.  However, there is one thing that I noticed about these mock-ups that no one else has mentioned in their observations, tweets, or blogs.

The iPhone 6, whether it's the 4.7" or 5.5" versions, looks like the original iPhone if you stretch it out a big and half its thickness.

I still like the look and feel of the original iPhone.  The weight gave it a premium feel as does the aluminum.  The black front does as well.

While I am still out on whether I'll be upgrading this cycle, I think if I do, I would get the black and gray version.

Privacy: Apple, Please Give Me Two-Step Verification For Logging On

I love two-step verification.  I want it and I know a lot of folks do too.  I've been using it for Google and other cloud-based services for years now.  While Apple does offer it for some app purchases, it's time that Apple brings it to logging into iCloud.

Right now, I just get a lame e-mail like this.

This is useless in more ways than I can think of.  First, if I'm not in front of a computer that allows me to log into a desktop based browser (it's not that I can't use it on my iPad or iPhone Safari.  It just isn't optimized for them) to do get into the Apple ID page, it's useless.  Second, there is no option for me to do something about it within the e-mail.

It's nice that I get a warning but doesn't help if I'm in no position to stop an unauthorized log-in.

By the time I log in, the hacker could have already log-in himself and have already changed my password and other credentials.

Now, the main impetus for me writing about this now is largely due to the celebrity photo dump on darknet that was likely done through some sort of social engineering or phishing on the part of the scumbags who perpetrated those crimes.

Most objective observers will come to the conclusion that while Apple is not at fault if Jennifer Lawrence wanted to naked selfies and use weak passwords, Apple could have done more to beef up security in the first place.

So, I think a two-step verification scheme is a good start.  What do you think?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Social Privacy: Guy Who Leaked Nude Pics of Celebrities Is Now Public Enemy No. One

According to the Los Angeles Times, the FBI has joined the hunt for the culprit or culprits who leaked nude pictures of mostly female celebrities.  I didn't say actors because I have no idea who a couple of the names I read are.  Maybe they were sports figure.

Anyway, if this could happen to them, it could happen to anyone - opening us up to potential blackmailing or other sorts of crime.  At best, just embarrassment.  This is a kind of sexual predation. Privacy is a big deal to me and I think we need to keep any eye out on this.

If companies are not being careful about our cloud privacy and security, a large scale and very public case like this should.  So, let me go back a bit and explain in a couple of sentences what happened in case you like myself was away from the Web or television for this Labor Day weekend in the US.

Apparently, someone hacked into an online photo account, with iCloud being named as the source of these pictures (there was talk that some of the pics were taken on Android and Blackberry phones), of a celebrity or others and leaked them online.

I watch movies that I like and there are few actors or actresses that I really know by name.  So, I don't know who some of the victims are but their names are familiar.  Also, I don't want to name sites that some of these pictures were uploaded to.  This is a despicable act and I hope these guys are found and put away forever.

When are the Macs Getting M4 Chips? Prediction: MacBook Pro With M4 At the WWDC

What are the new M4 chips? Presumably, Macs could get the M4 chip tomorrow if Apple decides to pull the trigger on them.  First, let's a...