What is happening at Apple?

Apple's new iPhone 4S

As I die-hard fan of Apple I often find myself wondering about what Apple is up to, don’t you? Take the latest iPhones for instance. The iPhone X is their most expensive ever and it’s sooo expensive to repair. That shiny new OLED screen, for example, will cost you $279 to get fixed! The screen on their shiny new iPhone 8 Plus screen costs the same to repair as the one on the iPhone 7 Plus at $179. It doesn’t stop there either. Other repairs will cost you $549 which is breathtaking!

If you are not a US citizen then the current rate of exchange gives Apple the excuse to charge us Brits for example £286 to repair the iPhone X screen. The current rate of exchange means $279 + £212.52, which means us Brits are paying an extra £73.48! There is no way Apple can justify this. Its a similar situation with it’s other charges. This is particular galling in light of the billions of unpaid tax that Apple gets away with by using offshore banks to ‘launder its money’. Yes, you heard right, I said ‘launder its money’. Now normally the term ‘money laundering’ (which I didn’t use – take note any Apple lawyers reading this) is used to refer to criminals cleaning their ill-gotten gains through the use of complicit banks or supposedly legitimate businesses.

So, let’s be clear here folks, I am not accusing Apple of ‘money laundering’. I am saying however that its business practices as far as paying it’s fair shares of taxes in countries where it operates is as bad as those of criminals who do commit money-laundering. I say that because when a company doesn’t pay it’s fair share of taxes and instead uses all sorts of financials shenanigans to avoid doing so, it is not that dissimilar to my mind to the way a criminal organisations carries out it’s financial dealings.

It pains me to say that I have lost faith in Apple (and Amazon & Google as well) and no longer see them as some sort of benevolent organisation dedicated to bringing tech into the world that makes life better and does so without harming the environment or the communities it impacts. Unfortunately, all of us as consumers face a dilemma when it comes to the likes of Apple. Amazon and Google. We have become dependent on the tech they provide us with or use to provide their services to us. It’s difficult to see how we can extricate ourselves from this without significantly changing our lifestyles.

During Steve Job’s reign at Apple there was a feeling that the company was different from all the rest (Dell, IBM, HP and Compaq etc), that it’s ethos was altogether different. Now Apple is worth $752bn and has sales of $217.48bn a year. According to the IMF, it is, in fact, larger than the annual gross domestic products of every country on earth, bar 19 of them (based on GDP in US dollars, according to International Monetary Fund data for 2014). The truth is, companies like Apple, Amazon and Google are so big and so powerful that we can no longer think of them as benevolent companies who only seek to do good. Remember Google’s motto: “Don’t be evil“? Well, I am not sure anymore that any of these companies don’t do evil, in the sense that if you are not manifestly ‘doing good’ then you must be, even if only by omission, doing the opposite to some extent. Do you recall the quote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” It was Edmund Burke who said that. He was an Irish statesman born in Dublin, as well as an author, orator, political theorist, and philosopher who, after moving to London, served as a member of parliament for many years in the House of Commons with the Whig Party. [Wikipedia].

So, coming back to my original question:”what is happening at Apple?”, I don’t really know but they say that you can know a tree by it’s fruit and for me, I can only see bad apples are starting to make up more of the crop from their particular tree. It’s not just about money (well it is, mostly) but also about how materialism, consumerism, capitalis – whatever ‘ism’ you choose -are impacting our lives, fuelling our desires for more expensive tech. Examples would be the scheme where you can get a new iPhone every year. This is consuming so many resources and I would doubt that all the energy and resources spent on fuelling this are recovered through recycling. So, whatever the degree to which the iPhones over 1 year old are recycled there will still be a net cost to the environment. At the rate Apple is growing this must be unsustainable and frankly someone needs to hold Apple to account. I know that I won’t be jumping on that particular bandwagon. I am keeping my iPhone 6 Plus for at least another year and then I will make sure it gets recycled. Who knows, I may continue to use long after Apple brings out the iPhone XI or whatever they will name it.

Oh, in case you are wondering, I am writing this on my Mid 2014 MacBook Pro. I also have a Mac Pro made in 2009, which I regularly use. It has a graphics card that is almost as old. Believe it or not, I even have a G3 in the shed that last time I dusted it off still worked and ran OS 8!

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Will we ever see an end to the Patent Wars?

Tim Berners-Lee at a Podcast Interview

The news that Apple and HTC have agreed to end their patent war and settle is good news for the industry (but maybe not for lawyers!). However, Samsung have said that they are not prepared to come to a similar arrangement. Now we have seen how bitter the relationship has become between Samsung and Apple in recent years and the court battles are still raging in various courts around the world. Now, to me and to many others, this all seems a great pity. Here we have two great companies known for innovation and creativity who both manage to produce some of the most desirable products known in history. However, they are spending hundreds of millions on lawyers dragging each other through the courts. That’s good money that could be better spend on research and product development.

What makes the whole thing between Apple and Samsung even more bizarre is that Samsung supplies plenty of key components in Apple’s products and presumably they must work closely on developing these products. Seems something like a crazy situation if you ask me. Why they can’t agree to cross-licence each others technologies and get on with creating something excellent and useful instead of paying lawyers is beyond me.

According to one source, the cost of these patent wars in the past two tears is $20 billion! According to the New York Times this just in the smartphone industry (mainly between Apple, Samsung and HTC). Apparently Apple and Google are now spending more on litigation over patents and in buying up companies to bolster their position in these patent wars than they are on Research & Development. Crazy!

Now I am not against patents per se but this situation can only hamper future developments and innovations. Cast your mind back to when these companies started out – if someone had slapped a huge patent infringement case on them then they may never have grown from a small start-up in a garage into great companies.  I am talking about Apple, Microsoft and HP here. All of them started off small and grew because of their founders’ innovation and creativity. All that patent wars have done is stifle innovation and creativity, make lawyers rich and one could argue that the problems the likes of  HP, IBM, Dell and Nokia have had in recent years is down to this very issue.

So what’s the solution? Maybe its time to think the unthinkable and abolish patents – yes abolish the lot of them and replace the whole caboodle with a different system. After all, if we look at open source we can see immediately that the lack of patents here has not stifled creativity and innovation, rather the very opposite. Open source produces progress much quicker and leads to greater creativity. Yes it is largely software but there is a lesson to be learned here. Think of the world wide web. Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented it and gave it away, to the world and so we owe him a great debt. he could have patented it and where would be then? Not here for sure.

If you think this is a stupid idea then check out this article. It may change your mind.

Problems with Samsung MFP

Staples (Canada)

Image via Wikipedia

Today, I bought a Samsung CLX-3715 Multi-Function printer from my local Staples store. Once I have installed the printer and its software I decided to try it out. Imagine my despair when I discovered that it wouldn’t scan or copy, only print. Whatever settings I choose, only blank sheets were the result, except when printing. So, I can get beautifully sharp prints but nothing when copying or scanning.

After searching a few forums via Google I discovered that this was not an uncommon problem. I then rang Samsung support who confirmed it was a hardware fault and that I should return it Staples. Having rang the store I have now arranged to return it to the store for a refund tomorrow.

Such a shame as it promised so much and yet failed to deliver.

Apple takes Google’s crown as world’s No.1 brand

Apple is now the No. 1 brand in the world, having overtaken Google, at least according to the annual ‘BrandZ‘ report from WPP-owned research agency Millward Brown. According to the report, Apple’s value grew by a massive 84% over the previous 12 months, whilst Google’s declined by 2%. Apple is now worth over $153 billion, whilst Google lags somewhat behind at a ‘mere’ $111.5 billion.

Interestingly, of the top ten brands, Google was the only one to decline. The next best performance in terms of growth was the number 4 brand, McDonald’s, which grew by 23% to $81 billion. The top ten brands are now worth a staggering $2.4 trillion! That’s an awful lot of iPads or double quarter pounders!

The growth in the value of these corporate behemoths shows that the world’s economy s on the up, at long last. Another interesting trend that is highlighted in the report is the growing importance of companies from China, Brazil and India. As well as being important markets for western companies, they are also producing home-grown corporations such as China Mobile, at No. 9 and worth over $57 billion, an increase of 9% over 2010.

Also, its clear that technology brands dominate, with a third of the top 100 brands being technology companies. Of the top ten, 7 are technology companies. Even non-tech companies though are increasingly dependent on technology and tech companies, with the growing importance of socia media such as Twitter and the dominance of Google. Even in China, the home-grown search engine, Baidu, which is China’s largest search engine and is worth already an impressive $22.5 billion, ranking 29.

Google Chrome Canary for Mac available

If you are a fan of Google’s Chrome Browser than you will be interested in Google latest incarnation for the Mac – Chrome Canary. It is now available from Google’s Chrome Canary download site.

Google Chrome Canary

Canary is a developer version of Google Chrome, not unlike Chromium. However, Canary comes with some extras. Windows users have had the option to download Canary, essentially an experimental build of the Chrome browser, for some time now. Now, at least, Mac users get the same access to these developer versions and the great thing about them is they don’t overwrite your existing installation of Chrome.

To get Chrome Canary for Mac, head to the download page or check out some of the other more stable releases on the Chromium Early Access Release Channels page.

Quicksilver is back!

Quicksilver utility for Mac

Quicksilver is the ultimate file launching and manipulation utility and for a while was the must-have utility for the Mac. However, after its developer got snatched up by Google, it withered on the vine and and fell behind with each new update to the Mac OS.

However, it seems now that it is back and has been updated by a secretive group of developers, at least according to the LoveQuicksilver blog.

Quicksilver version number

Latest version according to the blog is ß59 (3842) and comes with various updates:

Auto Update of Application using QSApp.com (this is the last time you’ll ever have to go looking for a new release!)
Automatic updates. No-one will be waiting a year or more for the next version…

‘Open Url in Background action’. Also set as alternate action to ‘Open URL’ (hit ⌘⏎)
Great for opening links for later reading.

Speed improvements through the use of ‘fast enumeration’ in Leopard and Snow Leopard
Enumerates, er… fastly.

PPC build support removed
Sorry, Power users. ß54 still works great in Tiger, and is very usable in Leopard. A lot of the current changes are fixes for features that broke after that.

‘Latest Download’ proxy, corresponding to the latest file in the ~/Downloads folder
Pull this up in the first pane and the relevant file is automatically displayed. No need for a rescan of the catalog first. Rename it, move it, and open it before even leaving the browser.

For the full list check out the update at http://lovequicksilver.com/post/4658001693/quicksilver-lives-again

On a personal note I did use Quicksilver and found it a very useful utility but once it got buggy I gave up and moved on. Looks like I need to revisit it.

Typekit enables you to use real fonts on your blog

Lower case ‘a’ from Adobe Caslon Pro, superpos...
Image via Wikipedia

Typekit is easily the best way to use real fonts on your blog. Although it’s a subscription-based service for linking to high-quality Open Type fonts from some of the worlds best type foundries, you can use two fonts from a wide selection on one site for free, once you have registered.

The fonts are served from a global network on redundant servers, offering bulletproof service and incredible speed. In my experience it works well and I haven’t noticed any delay in rendering the pages of this blog. However, I would say that some browsers may not render the fonts as well as others (you know who you are!). I recommend testing your blog out in different browsers on Mac, PC and Linux platforms to be sure that everyone can see your blog and read your posts in all their glory as intended.

Check Typekit out and register (it’s free) so you can start using great fonts on your blog for free.

BTW for anyone who is interested I am currently using Molengo for the body text and Liberation Sans for the Headings.

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