Sunday, February 28, 2016

Wait, Just Wait: Improved Graphics and More Efficient and Powerful Chips Are Coming to the Macbooks

There are a couple of good deals going on right now from Best Buy and others that knock down $300 from the baseline 12" Retina Macbook.  But with the rMB now 11 month-old and in dire need for a refresh, I recommend waiting.  The new chips would have better graphics and CPU power that provide users more headroom for this computing needs.  More at On Apple.

If you ask around, friends or go into forums, the common sense recommendation is that there is always something better around the corner and if you need to get a new Mac now or are faced with an adequate deal, pull the trigger.  And if you can wait, wait. However, this is a unique situation here.

The 12" Macbook on the market is a first generation computer. And as with most first generation device, from Apple or anyone else, typically are really beta devices that customers pay for the privilege of owning and using.  This was the same for the original Macbook Air and iPhone.  This was also the same for the Xbox from Microsoft.  The Galaxy S 2 from Samsung was a much improved device than the original Galaxy.

Furthermore, there were complaints about this Macbook regarding its compromises.  One common complain is the lack of parts and only one USB-C port is available for expansion.  If you find this a constraint and hope for a second port, might as wait a couple of months and hope that Apple adds a second port.  However, I would not hold my breath.  The design evolution from Apple is that we will eventually lose all ports and everything will be connected wirelessly.  And this includes charging.  Perhaps, that will not happen in the immediate future but it will happen.

So for now, hold tight.  Wait.  You will not regret it.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

FBI Used iPhone Wrong and Locked Themselves Out of iPhone Belonging To San Bernardino Terrorists

Apple and the FBI, and, by extension, the rest of the federal government has been locked in an epic battle that will define what privacy in America means.  Parsing through the carefully worded statements from both sides and smoke created by the media and tech pundits, the government does want a backdoor or a key to the whole iOS walled garden so they can access user data whenever they want while Apple is fighting to prevent that from happening.

Despite claims to the contrary, making tech companies build backdoors to their devices or platform is the ultimate goal of the government.  However, a recent development in the fight between Apple and the FBI shows that the government cannot be trusted to use the technology correctly much less responsibly.  

More at On Apple.

Telcoms Don't Like Whatsapp: What They Don't Like Is Change and Competition

Source:  Bloomberg.

When the mobile phone companies owned every aspect of their customers' experiences, it was a blissful world.  They get to maximize their investment, squeeze every last cent out of their customers, and hardly had any competition.  Along came Silicon Valley, and the struggle continues to this day over the mobile experience which has largely been revolutionary.  So, what else is new when telecoms complained about Whatsapp, a $20 billion buy by Facebook, that continues to be one of the top go-to app for messaging and voice calls.

Here is the real news alert:  telecoms don't like Skype, Facebook, Google Hangout, iMessage, Line, and any dozens of messaging and voice apps that exist.  No longer can companies charge 10 cents per  message or charge users a monthly allotment of texts.  No longer are voice calls metered (most plans anyway).

And here is the shocker to come:  mobile payment.  More control will be wrestled away from telecoms and the users will have more choices over how they pay for apps and products.  And telecoms will continue to devolve into the dump pipes that they deserve to be.

All of this is their own doing.  Had they treated users better and at more reasonable prices, users would not be looking elsewhere for apps and services as much as we do today.

If anything, telecoms should promote competition on their platforms that encourage usage.  Continue to innovate in ways that they can.  The best ways they can.  That is how they can best serve us.  And yes, we may even one day learn to appreciate them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Apple's App and Service Quality Requires A Balancing Act to Maintain "Just Works" Ideal

Just works is the mantra many attributes to Apple and its products and services.  For the most part, it is a very true statement.  But because of the nature of its successes, when something does not just work as advertised, it gets amplified in the media -  traditional and social.

First, it is important to state that with more than 1 billion devices in the wild still being used and who knows how many Macs there are, it's quite obvious that people are using Apple's products and services including, yes, iCloud and other cloud related services. 

More at On Apple.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Apple Executives Open Up About Apple and Apps and Services

Apple is the richest company in the world by valuation and wealth it has on hand in terms of cash, product profolio, and, more importantly, the following that is the envy of just about everyone in the world. So, when two high-profile Apple executives go onto a popular fan/Apple centric podcast instead of CNBC, Bloomberg, BBC, or another national news organization, you have to wonder who Jon Gruber is and why he was selected for this interview that is a must-listen episode even if you're not a fan of his blog, Daring Fireball, or his podcast, The Talk Show.

Here is the link for this week's episode where Gruber interviewed Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi.

I love to get into it more when I listen to the podcast again. It was a very unique experience for Gruber and the listeners. Apple fans are familiar with the top echelon of Apple who brought us so many of today's best consumer products but it is almost always in a setting that is carefully controlled and choreographed. I'm sure Cue and Federighi were coached by Apple's publicity and marketing teams and they know their stuff, but it was still good to hear them address some issues that a few have brought up like Apple's software quality, which recently has been questioned about their unofficial "it just works" motto.

To be sure, what these issues have been brought up by tech pundits and not necessarily the hundreds of millions of users. However, I think there is a slight disconnect at times between how apps work and how they should communicate with users in terms of use. Apple's OS X and iOS has become much more complex since the days of the original iPhone. Users asked for new features and got it.

It does feel that Apple need to look at they balance between giving users options and not overwhelm them while not breaking anything else in the process.

Some of the criticisms are well deserved and I'm sure Apple appreciate it. Others, however, not so much. You'll have to decide that for yourself.

Apple Execs Open Up On, Well, Apple

Apple is the richest company in the world by valuation and wealth it has on hand in terms of cash, product profolio, and, more importantly, the following that is the envy of just about everyone in the world.  So, when two high-profile Apple executives go onto a popular fan/Apple centric podcast instead of CNBC, Bloomberg, BBC, or another national news organization, you have to wonder who Jon Gruber is and why he was selected for this interview that is a must-listen episode even if you're not a fan of his blog, Daring Fireball, or his podcast, The Talk Show. Here is the link for this week's episode where Gruber interviewed Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi.   I love to get into it more when I listen to the podcast again.  It was a very unique experience for Gruber and the listeners.  Apple fans are familiar with the top echelon of Apple who brought us so many of today's best consumer products but it is almost always in a setting that is carefully controlled and choreographed.  I'm sure Cue and Federighi were coached by Apple's publicity and marketing teams and they know their stuff, but it was still good to hear them address some issues that a few have brought up like Apple's software quality, which recently has been questioned about their unofficial "it just works" motto. To be sure, what these issues have been brought up by tech pundits and not necessarily the hundreds of millions of users.  However, I think there is a slight disconnect at times between how apps work and how they should communicate with users in terms of use.  Apple's OS X and iOS has become much more complex since the days of the original iPhone.  Users asked for new features and got it. It does feel that Apple need to look at they balance between giving users options and not overwhelm them while not breaking anything else in the process.   Some of the criticisms are well deserved and I'm sure Apple appreciate it.  Others, however, not so much.  You'll have to decide that for yourself.  

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mobile Tip: Delete the Facebook App To Extend Battery Life On Mobile Devices

Source:  9To5Mac.

This is a great tip from 9to5Mac and while the name implies Apple, iPhone, and all things iOS, it applies to Android devices as well.  Get rid of your Facebook app if you want your battery life to last longer.  And I've stop using the Facebook app on my mobile devices for years and have not suffered the battery debilitating drainage that many millions have reported and suffered from.

When absolutely, I do download it on the quick and do what I need to do and delete the sucker again.  And surprisingly, my friends on Facebook have not disappeared and they continue to exist in the mobile version of Facebook in my browsers. 

And the browser version of Facebook works just fine for addicts.  Think of it this way, you can stay on Facebook longer and satisfy your addiction with the browser version than if you were using the Facebook app.  It's a win-win if you're that hooked. 


Playing Defense Against Climate Change And Any Chance of Rolling Back The Clock

In reading this KPCC (public radio in Southern California) about snowy and windy conditions up in a local mountain, I kept thinking about better it is this winter than the last few years where sustained drought in California has devastated us.  And while we are trying to cut back on water use, reduce carbon emissions, and doing more for the environment, all we are doing is playing defense.

We don't think about what we can gain should we reach our goals and possibly even see conditions change back to what it was before.  Now, I know it'll take decades and may not even happen in our life time.  As the dominant species on earth, an no matter what your political leanings are, liberals who want to do something about global warming or a conservative denier, protecting and conserving should be in our nature.

I hope I can see the day when our local mountains are covered by snow again in a regular basis. 

Space: Man and Others Injured by Meteor

This has not happened in over two hundred years but a bus driver in India was killed by a meteor strike.  It didn't hit her but the blast radius was big enough to leave a crater and killed her while a few others in the blast were hurt.

The strike left a crater along with a blue diamond like artifact. 

What made this such a rare and interesting (and very tragic) event is that most meteors burn up in the atmosphere even before hitting the ground.  Although some are large enough to break up in the air and still be felt or seen over a large area like the 2013 blast in Russia.  According to Wikipedia, that blast was felt over a wide range, causing windows to be blown out and more than 1,500 people sustained injury. 

Source:  Reuters.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Be Wary Of The USB-C Cables - The Wrong One Can Destroy Your Devices

Source: CNN.

Never knew it would bee this complicated but you need to be aware of this as USB-C ports and cables become more common. Apparently, not all USB-C cables are the same. 

See, the new USB-C cables should be able to provide power, charge devices, and transfer data. Very convenient. But only off they're wired correctly. 

 A Google engineer was kid enough to sacrifice his Chromebook for is to make this point. Right now, the other mainstream laptop with an USB-C port is the 12" Macbook from Apple. Soon, more will follow including phones, tablets, and other devices that can benefit from USB-C connection to get power or for data transfers.

For now, get brand named versions of the cables. It'll be more expensive than cheaper ones from a Chinese company you've never heard of. But it'll be worth it when your device or laptop contents to work as advertised and not turn into a smoldering piece of plastic and fried electronics. 

Look for special seals of approval.  Even then, best to play it safe.

Sent from my Mobile

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Netflix - Awesome if Co-Owned by Apple and Disney

Apple and Disney are practically famiiy.  This was made possible when Disney bought Apple CEO Steve Jobs' Pixar.  Relationship between the two companies have been cozy since with Disney being president for Apple's video store on iTunes and Disney CEO, Bob Iger, sitting on Apple's board. So, with Apple struggling into the video streaming market, maybe Apple should buy Netflix with Disney or another studio like Fox as a partner.  Apple buying Beats showed that CEO Tim Cook is not adverse to making a buyout to get what Apple needs. 

As for Disney, it already owns a part of Hulu and have linked to possibly buying the Netflix competitor.  But Disney taking a stake in Netflix makes more sense than buying Hulu because if a deal between Disney and Netflix to produce some Marvel titles (Marvel) has already bear fruit.  Furthermore, Netflix will begin showing Disney movies starting in 2016. 

Disney does not have the financial muscle to do it alone. And this is where Apple comes in with its more than $200 billion just ready to make some major M&A damage. With Apple's financial backing and Disney's Hollywood connection, there is no end to the possibilities what these three juggernauts can come up with for overall entertainment values, not to mention cord-cutting options.  We are talking about local broadcasts, ESPN, Disney channels, and more.

For Apple, it provides a platform that has the influence of a major studio when it comes to negotiating with other studios to provide content or broadcast for its streaming service.  It would allow Apple to get much needed licenses easier and quite possibly with an international reach.

I know, I know.  Just a pipe dream, right?  Well, we are talking about a dream team of sort after all.

Security Bug Found in Chinese Branded Android Devices Like A Beijing Backdoor, Not a Bug

Source:  GSM Arena, Phandroid. 

A high level security bug has been found in Android devices sold by major Chinese brands like Lenovo, I find it very generous that the media, including Android blogs, calling this a bug.  In all likelihood, it's a backdoor demanded by the Chinese government. 

So, let's call it for what it is.  A Backdoor for Beijing to monitor its citizens.  Why else would Phandroid say this is not an issue for Americans?  

What other companies are involved?  Huawei was mentioned but this likely goes deeper if, in fact, these Chinese government is involved.  So, you have to wonder about Google's Nexus 6P, made by, you gussed it, Huawei.  When Google selected Huawei to make one of these phones, I had my reservations.  So, I've been recommending folks to go with the Nexus 5X made by LG. 

In recent weeks and months, the Chinese economy has suffered contractions while it's equity markets have suffered huge losses and shaking global financial as well as commodity markets.  The Shanghai Stock Exchange has suffered more than 22% year-to-date and nearly 50% drop from its high.  Fearing widespread unrest over a contracting economy (Industry Week), fraudulent investment schemes (NPR - more than $7.5 billion Ponzi Scheme), corruptions (Google), and  the Chinese government has increased Internet monitoring and censorship (Fortune) while jailing human rights supporters and their family as well as kidnapping foreign nationals like British and Swedish booksellers based out of Hong Kong (Reuters). 

Bug?  Please...