Archives for category: Tech

So, it’s almost that time folks, and about time I spouted another load of techno-babble. Below, we have what looks suspiciously like a new iPhone, and you’d be right.

Output from the latest cycle of the rumour mill

These images surfaced a few weeks ago, following leaked parts of the device indicating a smaller ‘nano’ SIM tray; smaller dock connector; taller display and a slightly differently positioned FaceTime camera. However, the same images have appeared from various locations now, some comparing this new device to the current 4S model and displaying the size decrease of the new handset.

So it would seem, having had it confirmed by so many people, that we are in fact looking at the new iPhone 5.

Other details have confirmed some of the rumours. Developers who have been given beta versions of iOS 6 have noted that the new operating system automatically scales itself to a different resolution depending on the size of the display.

Pretty big giveaway, if you ask me. The quad-core processor found in the iPad 3 was discovered in the same way, a year ago.

Of course, because none of this has came from Apple, and we can only tell so much from images, there is still no telling exactly what this handset will feature when we see it. Legend has it however, that we’re going to be seeing it on September 12th, with a release date some 9 days later… The more astute among you realising that this is less than a year since the launch of the iPhone 4S!

Going on from the launch of the iPad 3, we can be sure of a few things however. Like the iPhone 4s, the new model will be both IS-95 and GSM compliant, so there will be one handset compatible with networks from all providers in the states – more or less. LTE compatibility is a given, but if you’re not reading this from across the pond I’m afraid you’re going to be missing out there, as it’s unlikely that the device will be tuned to function on the LTE bands which are being implemented in the likes of Europe. It will be DC-HSDPA compatible though, so you will see faster 3G speeds with this device than you would using an iPhone 4; a good enough reason to upgrade in itself, really.

That is a real gripe for me, with this handset, however.

Previously, I posted about this whole LTE thing; what does and what doesn’t technically class as 4G, if you’re going to be pedantic about it, and I have a correction to make.

DC-HSDPA, Dual Carrier-High Speed Download Packet Access, is what is being branded as 4G as a marketing scam in some countries. *cough* USA *cough* With DC-HSDPA, two streams of downstream data are amalgamated, increasing throughput with Multiple-Input Multiple-Output.

Both LTE-Advanced (true 4G) and DC-HSDPA+ use multiple antennae to send and receive data, and for this reason the ITU-R has permitted networks to brand their networks as 4G, despite not being capable of the throughput which they defined the 4G standard should be capable of.

I digress…

The real purpose of this post, is to discuss something else: fragmentation.

In the 80’s, we Europeans got together to form a new digital cellular telephony standard because the systems we currently had in place were incompatible with each other, and in violation of two treaties of the European Union; namely:

  • Free Movement of Goods and Services
  • Free Movement of People

Thanks to my sister for that useful byte of information there!

Due to high volumes of population movement around Europe, it was decided that mobile communication should be unified across all countries on the continent, to allow for things like business growth in new territories and for those of us with camera phones to be able to send photo’s of our view of the hotel pool back home to our (ever jealous) mates.

Granted, photo messaging wasn’t a part of the original GSM specification.

This all came about, because we saw a need for unified communications, at least across a whole continent.

Now let’s fast-forward 30 years. GSM is now at the bottom of the food chain, superseded by standards which offer high-speed internet access, video calling, video streaming, and any other ‘ing’ that you happen to think of. The world is an ever more connected, smaller place, and international travel for business and pleasure is now going a lot further than just the south of France!

In the United States, LTE networks operate on the 700MHz and 2.1GHz band. In Europe, the plan is to place them on the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands, meaning that devices bought in one country will not be compatible with the devices from another, and vice versa.

LTE is therefor, simultaneously, a massive step both forward and back. 4G was specified by the ITU-R as a way of implementing further, high speed, wireless telephony, internet and mobile broadband access. The possibilities for change which come about with LTE, particularly for impoverished countries and areas where landline internet access would be a costly activity to rollout, are literally endless. Since spending some time in a communications department I’ve learned the advantages of using wireless comms in places like West Africa, for the simple reason that copper is so valuable down there, you can lay as many cables as you like, but there will always be someone waiting behind you to lift it again and sell it!

What we are now seeing, is analogue Europe on a global scale. This needs to be addressed. Granted, this is going to be massive undertaking to bring everything into line, and it will be done at the expense of the consumer. The ironic part of this situation is the name, LTE.

It stands for Long Term Evolution.

How long term a solution can it really be, if we can’t all make use of it’s capabilities when we’re looking for a pizza-by-the-slice joint in New York City; to share a photo of you and your girlfriend in front of the Colosseum; to conduct a video conference with a home based colleague?

Sort it out, lads.

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“Apple fined over Australia iPad trouble”

This annoys me.

Granted, I spend many hours on here, spouting about how I know that Apple are pretty good at what they do, but todays rant is coming from a totally different angle. Many of you are aware now, that I did my honours thesis on Mobile Communications. As such, I know a thing or two about how it all works, although I’m not about to claim to be some kind of expert.

For those of you who are not aware, the above quote taken from an article in The Independent relates to a court battle which Apple has lost in Australia regarding The New iPad. They’ve lost the case, because it is incompatible with the LTE networks which are used in Australia, and as such the Australians do not see how the iPad can be branded as a ‘4G’ device.

There is a great anomaly surrounding so-called 4G, with many different specifications and alternatives currently floating around. However, the globally accepted standard appears to be LTE, despite my recommendation in my thesis that we should go for Wi-MAX, providing both a high-speed mobile network and a global wireless internet access system simultaneously. Killing two birds with one stone, we’d be able to increase internet access in both our homes and whilst out, and it would work with everything we have already.

Of course, that doesn’t work well for hardware manufacturers, Apple included…

Bar the United States, there are few countries which have successfully began implementing a TRUE 4G cellular network. Some claim to, some are working on it, but as I said before there is a great deal of confusing regarding what 4G really is, and I intend to clarify this right now.

LTE stands for ‘Long Term Evolution.’ A fitting name, the motivation behind LTE is to create a new mobile network standard which will stand the test of time more effectively than 3G did. There are two subdivisions of LTE; LTE and LTE-Advanced. True 4G, which will be covered later, is the latter of the two. Networks classed as LTE are not fully 4G, but comply in the sense that they are based on the same standards which will

The ITU-R, the radio communication sector division of the ITU, are responsible for defining the specification for new wireless communication systems. 4G was drafted over 10 years ago, and the ITU-R intimated that for a mobile network to be truly classed as 4G, it should be aiming to provide an experience which lends itself to high-speed data provisioning, and the delivery of broadband internet access to remote areas. Although new networks will continue to provide traditional means of conducting telephony, the emphasis is now on moving to an IP-based core network, to converge services onto the same core standard, and thereby make them more scalable and efficient.

This is all that the ITU-R do. They do not design the solutions themselves; manufacturers develop systems and present them to the ITU-R, in the hopes of being awarded a license and a section of electromagnetic spectrum in which to operate it.

The ITU-R also has the responsibility of ensuring that the available electromagnetic spectrum is divided equally, and that only one service is broadcasting on a particular segment of it. 

There have been several attempts to create a 4G network, and some of the confusion regarding it comes from the mobile networks themselves, which I’m going to explain now.

3G was based on a standard known as UMTS. It outlined a new core network and radio access method for wireless networking in the third generation, but was also compatible with legacy networks, such as GSM, to allow an easier migration from 2G to 3G. 3G has been improved however, and in it’s latest iteration, which is known as 3.9G, is High Speed Packet Access.

High Speed Packet Access, or HSPA, is an IP based form of mobile networking. On an HSPA connection, a mobile device can see a download rate of around 7.1Mbps. Upload rates peak at around 2Mpbs. As with an Asynchronous DSL link, the upload rate is expended to make downloads faster, as it is assumed most subscribers will spend a greater majority of their usage receiving, rather than sending. HSPA can be further broken down into 2 components: HSDPA and HSUPA. The D and U can be interchanged for Download and Upload, respectively, and only refers to the uplink and downlink of the connection.

For those of you with Android phones, this is what the ‘H’ means in the status bar at the top of the screen. iOS users, the phone just says 3G regardless of the type of network you’re connected to. 

HSPA has evolved in itself; adequately named HSPA+. On an HSPA+ connection, and in perfect radio conditions, a subscriber can expect a peak data rate of 168Mbps down and 22Mbps up. This is under perfect radio conditions, i.e. when standing in the immediate proximity of a cell tower and in the absence of external interference.

The latter is a phenomena that is wholly impossible to reproduce, as wireless interference is present everywhere.

The ITU-R have ruled that, despite HSPA+ being too far beyond the original 3G specification for it to be considered a 3G networking method, it does not come close enough to the minimum requirements of 4G to qualify. However, as it’s based on the technology which will power LTE-Advanced, mobile networks can brand their HSPA+ services as 4G if they see fit.

Now, spot the problem.

In the United States, AT&T operate an HSPA+ network, alongside the LTE-Advanced network which they are currently rolling out. They market it as a 4G network, and as such, Apple were forced to modify the iPhone 4S with iOS 5.1 to display ‘4G’ on the status bar when the device connects to an HSPA+ network, thereby tricking consumers who owned an iPhone 4S into thinking they had purchased a 4G device unknowingly.

This is not the case.

In Australia, HSPA+ networks are also in operation, although no providers down under market them as 4G, through their own choice. The New iPad is compatible with HSPA+ networks, along with LTE networks provided by AT&T, who’s network is predominantly GSM based, Verizon and Sprint, who’s networks use Quolcomms IS-95 standard plus it’s third and fourth generation developments.

The problem we have here is spectral availability. Although the ITU-R governs radio communication globally, the responsibility for it is devolved to a group in each country. OfCom is the organisation which is responsible for the use of spectrum in the UK.

When a new mobile service is developed, it is given a license to operate within a particular band of the electromagnetic spectrum by the ITU-R, through the local governing body of the country it operates in. This permits the systems operation in that country.

This does not guarantee however, that the same segment of electromagnetic spectrum is available in every country which the system is going to operate. Hence the issue we now have in Australia…

The same goes for us unfortunately. For LTE-Advanced to be implemented in the UK on the same band as the US, the digital television service will need to be moved. Not something that many will be happy with, as this will require a change in end-user hardware, in order to be able to pick up channels on the new band that would be needed.

Apple got into trouble with marketing legislation in Australia, for falsely advertising the capabilities of the device in Australia. They’ve already been forced to re-write the web-page for the iPad on their website, stating that:

4G LTE is supported only on AT&T and Verizon networks in the U.S. and on Bell, Rogers, and Telus networks in Canada.

Nothing can be done about this by Apple. The iPad is a 4G compliant device, as ruled by the ITU-R, as it connects to networks which meet the 4G specification which they outlined. It is not the job of a hardware manufacturer to align the infrastructure of several countries.

I think this is utterly ridiculous, and it would not have received half the media attention it had if Samsung had been at fault here. Apple is an American company and will naturally ensure that customers on home turf are satisfied before looking elsewhere.

I have nothing against the Australians. However, the networks themselves must realise the potential business growth the iPad would hold for them, and as a result they should be looking to standardise on the same band for LTE as is used elsewhere.

It’s really not that much to ask. After all, standardisation of cellular communications is what led to the development of GSM by the Europeans; to allow mobile communications to continue to operate seamlessly, in a continent where there is a great amount of inter-population movement. Subscriber migration is now on the same scale globally, so these countries that throw a hissy fit because one hardware manufacturer has done something that doesn’t match up with them need to wise up.

Ok, you can breathe again. It’s not happening, yet…

Kind of old news now, although Apples new love child is yet to be released into the wild, but I finally had a chance to watch the iPad Keynote from last week. Although he said he was excited to be there, the droll tone voice Tim Cook used to air that particular feeling on his tech-hungry onlookers certainly left a lot to be desired. So in many ways, without even having had the opportunity to announce anything, he hasn’t failed to disappoint me; by being disappointing.

I was recently asked by a close friend of mine whether or not he should consider purchasing an iPad, despite the fact that he already owns a laptop. Many have asked me the same question in the past, so I’m going to put forward my case for it now.

At the original iPad launch, Jobs stated that Apple is ‘now a mobile device company’ – owed to the fact that most of Apples revenue (pre-iPad) was coming from the sale of iPods, iPhones and laptop computers. Obviously, when one re-invents the market definition of a mobile device (phone and music player) this is to be expected. However, as most people live on the move and have no other alternative when purchasing a Mac, a laptop was the only option available. Apple had been challenged by many for not developing and releasing their take on the ‘netbook’ and that same day Jobs unveiled their company’s take on the device.

I concur with him entirely here: netbooks are shite. My Dad was given one as a gift from a company he used to work for and, when placed on your lap with the screen positioned at a particular angle, the machine will tip backwards when your hands are raised mere inches from the keyboard. Not ideal when trying to watch a movie…not that it has enough power or battery life to do either.

This irritates me. Netbooks are designed for those who live a mobile life; who require a machine which they can throw in a bag and whap out in a coffee shop. Straight out of the box, this laptop was slow and unresponsive. Then again that could be due to the fact that it runs Windows… Jobs felt the same, and had decided the world was now ready for the tablet PC. But a tablet PC that worked, and ran a mobile OS, rather than a stripped down version of something meant for a desktop machine. Fortunately, he already had this in place, so it was simple.

Now I’ve explained where his vision came from, hopefully you can see what he imagined when he began the development for what was then ‘K48’, a term so top secret, muttering it outside the walls of 1 Infinte Loop Cupertino would likely result in a visit from the Apple police and an untimely death.

To fully understand the iPad, it has to be examined not as a big iPhone, but as a whole new category of device, as Apple describe it. Fair enough, the tablet PC game isn’t a new one. In fact, it’s a game that has already bruised the Apple, so to speak.

It is a device which allows you to do the stuff you do every day, like surf the web, send and receive email and update social networks, from something light, compact and intuitive. I far prefer taking my iPad to uni for a day than my Laptop. Unfortunately I can’t do a Cisco router configuration from it owed to its lack of a serial port… It is the device which allows for further integration of digital media and technology into our every day lives, and as it only needs a finger to operate, we already know how to use it.

It faced criticism. For lacking a USB port. For lacking an accessible file system. For lacking native support for Adobe Flash, an aged and dying multimedia platform! For requiring jail-breaking to allow non-Apple approved apps to be installed on it. But it’s not that kind of device people! It’s main tie is with the Internet, and Apple have deepened that tie with the implementation of iCloud. We are now, indefinitely, in the post-PC era of technology. The desktop computer is not dead, but is now merely another device in what makes up our digital lives.

And this is what I meant by the death of the PC.

Don’t get me wrong, it still has a place; sitting in a corner holding all our digital content, which we then direct to the far flung corners of our homes using wireless networks. However, I can see a day (as can many) when the PC will one day become obsolete.

Let’s be honest, now we have iCloud, those of us who own one of each Apple device no longer need our computers to maintain consistency across them. iCloud mail pushes new messages to your devices (not a new or revolutionary feature, by any means, but still important). iTunes in the cloud pushes new music, apps, books, TV Shows and Movie purchases to each device you own, automatically. The same with photos you take on your iPhone, or download to your iPad from a camera using the connection kit. These tasks were all performed by a Mac or PC historically, and are now done for us, by some servers in a building in Carolina.

Oh do we live in a privileged world.

With iTunes Match, your entire Music library can be stored in iCloud. A record of iTunes purchases is already held here. A scan of your non-purchased (imported from CD’s that is, because no one steals music, do they…) content in your library will place additional records there, meaning additional content will be automatically made available there also. Anything which iTunes doesn’t have will then be uploaded manually. The idea behind this being that the upload process is minimal, and as quick as possible.

The advantage of this? Your entire music collection stored online, securely, and available to you wherever you are (internet connection dependant). Yes, the PC is obsolete. Of course, Apple prefer you build your music library from their store instead of your own collection, but that’s how you would expect it to be.

The world is moving to cloud computing. Imagine never having to worry about losing your hard drive contents and consequently your photo and music libraries, because someone else is performing the back-ups for you? This is the world we’re moving towards. One day the home PC will just disappear, meaning the first thing I’m going to have to buy my kids will be something similar to what I’m working on right now…what spoilt brats they’re going to be!

So, in answer to you question: yes the iPad is worth it. Whether you’re going to be travelling a lot taking pictures and want somewhere to store and review them on the move; require something for mobile email that’s a little more tactile than a smartphone but with the same communications capabilities or you want to watch movies on the go. It does it all, and it really does last 10 hours. Mine certainly used to, although I’ve watched half the battery charge level disappear in the hour I’ve been typing this. It’s not quite a full replacement yet, but it’s getting there. Quickly.

Lewis
x

Oh, and one more thing before i forget. New iPad: Retina display, new core processor, LTE Networking and a better camera. Most of my predictions were right folks! Which leaves me with something I have to say…

Tim, I might think you’re boring, and you might not deem me good enough to work in one of your retail stores, BUT I’VE GOT YOUR COMPANY’S NUMBER. Game set, and match. Roll on the iPhone 5, predictions regarding this to follow.

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Fair enough, the idea actually refers to the 15th, not the 7th, but those of you who read my previous entry will know that I made a prediction, based on evidence I’ve gathered from the Apple rumour mill, that we could expect to see the new iPad for the first time on the 7th of March.

I was right.

20120229-091910.jpg

From that alone, it’s obvious what this is about, although unlike last years ‘Let’s talk iPhone’ Keynote there has been no official announcement regarding the content it. There is no mistaking, however that this is to be a Keynote, if the iPhone 4S event last year is anything to go by. And here’s why…

20120229-092435.jpg

That is a sample from the invite Cupertino sent out prior to the unveiling of the iPhone 4S, on October 4th last year. From that alone, we knew the event was going to centre around the iPhone. However, take a look at the four graphics included on it.

Firstly, they are all icons we are familiar with, as they come straight from the home screen of a lesser iPhone device. But they all point to something. The first is the calendar icon, which gives the date of the event. The second gives the (U.S. Pacific) time of the event. The third is the Maps app icon, which coincidentally shows 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA. Aka Apple Headquarters. The final icon is obvious, the phone app from the iPhone also. Looking back I think that the badge containing a ‘1’ indicated that we were only going to see one device; the rumour mill was showing signs of potentially seeing an iPhone 5 and a 4S, which was potentially being marketed at budget and pre-paid consumers.

So, bearing that in mind, let’s look again at the invitation for next Wednesday. Going along the same lines as the iPhone 4S event last year, we can see that there is to be an event, in Cupertino, on March 7th. If that’s the case, it’s a presentation. But look closer.

The icons are being displayed on a device this time, not a white background. The first thing we can see is the clarity of the display. Ergo, it is almost a certainty that the third iteration of this market defining device is to finally be given a retina display! The most worthy addition of any of the new features this tablet is going to have.

To go along with this, it is expected that the iPad 3 may have dimensions that go against the grain of the usual Apple product progression. I.e. To facilitate the addition of the retina display, it looks as if the iPad 3 is going to be slightly thicker than its predecessor. From what has been seen anyway, and of course we won’t know for definite until the dust sheets are taken off next week, it looks as if the iPad 3 will be 0.81mm thicker than the iPad 2. For what exactly, still remains a mystery. The retina display requires more power than previous models, hence the reason (or one of them anyway) that the iPad 2 never had one. To maintain the 10 hour battery life benchmark set by the original model, and provide dual-core processing power, the retina display was skipped for the second iteration. To my mind, it cannot be missed out for a third time, and if I’m honest the iPad 2 was about as thin as I’d like a device like this to go. Any more so, and it will retain the structural rigidity of a communion wafer…

Of course, a new product launch wouldn’t be complete without an upgrade of the innards of the device. Rumours have been circulating regarding both the processing power and mobile networking components that the iPad 3 will include, leaked through developer preview access of the upcoming iOS 5.1 release, which will no doubt accompany the iPad 3.

Firstly, it would appear the number of cores the device is “packin'” is set to double. Again. Evidence of this was seen in the source code for the new OS version, and images have been leaked of an apparent Apple ‘A5X’ chip; the ‘A’ chips being the processors which have been used to power iOS devices since the release of the original iPad in 2010.

20120229-095146.jpg

Usually, the iPad has been used to unveil the new chip, as it is always released before the iPhone; the iPhone being a vehicle for the new iOS version and usually most of the ‘revolutionary’ technology we’ll see in the subsequent products that follow. The iPhone is and always will be, Apples flagship product now, as much as it pains me that this is no longer the Mac. That being the case, there will be nothing in Apple’s product portfolio that will better it. If you’ll remember, the 1GHz A4 was first seen in the original iPad 2 years ago, the only differentiation between the iPad and the iPhone 4 being the amount of RAM it’s equipped with. (The iPad has 256MB vs the iPhone 4’s 512MB, something iPad users are made increasingly aware of as the iOS version running on their slates is upgraded.)

Nothing has been said about this, but I would imagine that this is the brain of what we’re going to see next week. If we see the A6 this year, it will be in October with the iPhone 5. A lot of people were disappointed with the release of the iPhone 4S, and Apple will need to step up it’s game and make the iPhone 5 a real crowd pleaser if it is regain its foot hold as the drive behind the smartphone market. Be that as it may, sales of the iPhone 4S have not been impeded as a result.

I could be completely wrong with that. We may see the A5X in the iPhone 5, to keep in line with the device and processor numbering convention. The A6 may be the first ARM developed chip we see being used to power a Mac, as there have been whispers of Apples intentions to drop Intel and return to manufacturing their own chips.

iOS 5.1 will undoubtedly be unveiled with the new iPad, bringing with it a whole host of new features. Again, we wont see iOS 6 until the new iPhone, although I think we’ll be given a sneak preview of it when Mountain Lion is released this summer; most likely at the WWDC developers conference, held in San Franciso every year.There is also a possibility that we will finally find Apple adopting LTE this year, for the 3G model of the iPad and the iPhone 5. LTE is the new 3G, (commonly referred to as 4G, although the current LTE systems in place do not meet the standards defined for 4G mobile networking, as outlined by the ITU-R) and stands for Long Term Evolution. Apple has always refused to adopt the standard for previous iterations of the handset, preferring to wait on the sidelines for the emergence of a common standard and then adopting it. The attitude to the introduction of previous cellular standards in the US has always taken a ‘hands off’ approach, allowing multiple standards to develop and letting the consumers decide with the brainwashing assistance of service providers marketing campaigns to form their decisions. By leaving the standards to form before adoption, Apple ensure that their devices will always remain popular, rather than taking a gamble and ending up with a failed generation. Something it cannot afford to happen, if it wants to retain market share.

There are other so-called wild card rumours out there also, such as the introduction of a smaller iPad aimed at students. Apple has always denied this, and a prototype of such a device has never been seen. Then again, they said they would never develop a CDMA iPhone, before unveiling the Verizon (CDMA network compliant) iPhone 4 a year ago! I imagine the 8MP camera found in the iPhone 4S will also have worked its way into the iPad 3, providing it with 1080p video recording. This would go along with the potential release of an Apple TV 3, which is guaranteed to offer up 1080p resolution video capabilities. Undoubtedly, the airplay mirroring feature of the iPad 3 will require an Apple TV 3 in order to stream the retina display resolution to an HDTV. It may also be worth considering the potential for Apple to unveil the iPad 3 with new storage capacities and perhaps even further price reductions on the iPad 2, although I think that’s unlikely. The iPhone 4S saw a 64GB model iPhone for the first time, and with the inclusion of a 1080p camera on the rear, and potentially a 720p front-mounted FaceTime camera (the same as what can currently be found in current MacBook Pro and Air models) we will require more storage for the video footage and wacky PhotoBooth picture’s we’ll be taking with the device. Bearing in mind the flash chips used within the iPad are mounted on the logic unit in the same was as the MacBook Air, we could see a 128GB model being made available following this launch. This is pure speculation on my behalf, as nothing has been announced regarding this previously. However, the inclusion of a 64GB spec. iPhone was never rumoured and only realised on the launch day, so only time will tell.

Finally, it would also appear that Apple are intending on releasing the device fairly soon after it’s unveiling. That being the case, we may see it as soon as the 9th of March, or perhaps the following week, meaning the Ides is a rather fitting title for this entry. Again…the only person who knows is going to be standing before us next Wednesday (all be it, for me, through the medium of the Engadget Live blog, which I will be glued to all night next Wednesday.)

Can’t wait for it folks. I’m probably not going to invest in one, because I’m skint and my original vintage iPad still works. Just. Still, it gives me something to watch when I get home from uni!

Lewis
x

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Ok folks, time for another post paying my homage to the church of Apple. Although this one is going to take a slightly different stance, which will surprise many of you.

So, the Apple machine has given a sneak preview of this years release of OS X: Mountain Lion. And I’m pretty pissed off about it, if I’m honest.

Notice first, the removal of ‘Mac’ my previous statement. This, spells trouble.

I foresaw this coming a while ago, and how I have no idea. This version of OS X is paving the way for something which I have been dreading: the amalgamation of Mac OS and iOS into one platform.

Don’t get me wrong, I do rather enjoy my iPhone. And despite being a BlackBerry supremacist until just over a year ago, I would never go out and buy anything else. Partly due to the fact I enjoy the user experience, but also because I now have Apple so deeply engrained in my day-to-day life, changing my smartphone would only hinder my productivity.

I say productivity, I really refer to the transmission of pointless emails, Facebook Mobile Uploads via Instagram and the incessant Tweeting I seem to do on a daily basis.

The Mac community first saw this realisation of the unification of the two platforms starting a year ago, with the release of Mac OS X Lion. Lion brought in a few features of iOS, but left most of the customary Mac OS user experience unharmed. As with most major software upgrades, the customary obseletion of hardware took place; any Mac out there not running a Dual-Core Intel processor was deemed unfit to cope with the upgrade, and were therefore prevented from following the company on its iOS coordinated world take-over attempts.

We’ve seen this happen before. Snow Leopard was another of their interim updates, released a year after Leopard and designed to do one thing: exterminate!

I had to purchase a copy of it to re-build my previous MacBook after the hard disk died, and I grudged the £25 for it as I couldn’t locate the Leopard disk I’d paid nearly £100 to do the job.

There were no real differences with Snow Leopard, and it irked me in the same way Mountain Lion does. The three tent-pole features of it were built-in support for MS Exchange 2007, 64-bit architecture and some kind of ‘core animation’ thing. That, and apparently the installation process was shortened.

I thought that last feature was a lie. It wasn’t however, the repair of my machine to get it back up and running at least, only took around half an hour. The upgrade of my machine from Tiger to Leopard only several months before this took well over an hour!

It very soon became, and remains, my favourite release of Mac OS. It was without a doubt, the most robust release of the operating system to date, and further concreted my belief that the Mac platform really provides the most simple and intuitive user experience of any desktop PC OS on the market today. An argument you are hard put to counter when I’m in the room anyway…

It did one thing however, that I didn’t like. Snow Leopard may have been 64-bit, but it was also Intel only, and marked the end of the reign of the Power PC Mac rendering my parents old white beast upstairs frozen in time in the process. Not that I think it would have been capable of running anything else anyway, it seems to struggle getting itself switched on, never mind actually doing anything semi-productive.

So, along came Lion a year later, and the Mac App store. It turned out to be the fastest adopted Operating System release the world has ever seen, over taking Windows 7 within its first fortnight! However, I watched the unveiling Keynote, I read all the stuff on the website when it first appeared, and I wasn’t convinced. Here was Launchpad, an iOS style way of locating all the apps on your machine; and a place to watch them as they were downloaded and installed to your machine from the Mac App store. It facilitated organisation of your Apps into iOS style folders, but had no correlation between how you organised them in Launchpad to how they were organised in your Applications folder under the Finder.

Full screen Apps, something which Windows users are accustomed to (thanks to a lost patent battle with Apple in the 90’s, when Jobs returned as CEO I believe) ported over from the iPad. Until then, an application could go full screen if you positioned and sized the window appropriately, but there was no short way of doing so. I didn’t really worry about this, I like the way the windows on a Mac float around without carrying unnecessary clutter with them, owed to the fact that the menu bar remains firmly anchored across the top of the screen.

Along with this, to allow easier movement between Apps, was mission control; an evolution on the Exposé feature from Mac OS X. This groups all open windows together by application and zooms out so you can see everything from a glance. Handy when dragging or copying stuff from one application to another, or moving quickly from one full-screen app to another, as they’re displayed across the top of the screen. I quite like this feature, and it’s accessible (as are most things) from a simple movement across the trackpad of my laptop with four fingers.

Then there’s system wide auto-save and document versions…this is an absolute GOD SEND! No longer do I need to remember to save documents as I work on them, meaning my Thesis is safe from system crashes (this almost never happens), loss of power or anything else. I can also, in reverse-chronological order, flick through documents as I work on them, tracking changes and replacing sections with old/new content as I write it. A blessing when working on a thesis…it’s a shame it doesn’t work with these though.

There were a lot of other new features in OS X Lion (some 250+ the website tells me), and they have integrated themselves into the way that I work with my laptop in a very subtle fashion. It may the a buggy release, but I can’t go back to Snow Leopard, especially now that I’ve got an iCloud account – it just won’t work! I will never get used to the Auto-c0rrect thing they implemented though…last thing I want is to send an email to a prospective employer and find, minutes later, that my computer has changed a vital work and altered the entire meaning of the email. It’s done it to me on numerous occasions with these entries I write, and it irritates me like you wouldn’t believe.

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Google

A household name, synonymous with the internet and just about everything we don’t know. No longer a meagre search engine, it now provides us with a means of communication, navigation, news, shopping and low rate international telephony.

For many, Google is the answer to a lot of things. Further aided by the addition of many Google search bars to web browsers on both PC’s and smartphones/tablets. However, there’s something sly afoot with our colourful and multi-faceted internet companion.

A mate of mine from uni showed me a video on Monday, a TED Talk by Eli Pariser.

This video discusses the pro’s and cons of the ‘personalisation’ of the internet.

Put simply, what one person sees in one set of Google search results will be entirely different from another; even if the same search term is entered!

To some, this is advantageous. In fact, it is for most people. Based on: your browsing history; location; time of day; the browser you’re using and 53 other factors, Google will return a list of results which you will find the most useful.

Now, this is great. Imagine, a tailored list of Google search results which are designed to help you get that university assignment written with 10 minutes to spare. However, thinking this is entirely aimed at the user would be foolish. Google, like most other things on the internet, is a profitable organisation. Not that it’s charging you for every search you make (but if it did, you can guarantee it would be the most valuable company in the world – sorry Apple). No, Google makes its money selling advertising space down the side of the search results pages.

What it’s actually doing with the information it gathers from these 57 points, 57 points each user is unaware they possess, is deciding which advertisements are best to present you with. That way, they can charge the companies extortionate amounts by ‘guaranteeing’ exposure to the companies target audience.

This is why, whenever I Google something, I’m presented with ads for cheap iPhone deals from strange places. I should really learn to stop spending so much time on the Apple website, it’s not like I haven’t read it ‘t all already…

However, it’s not all bad. You can stick the word ‘restaurant’ into Google Maps and be bombarded with pins indicating where one might be able to go for a little sustenance. (That came in handy, first night in Rome with my Dad in an area I didn’t know, when at 10PM at night neither of us had eaten and were understandably famished.) This is, of course, based on your location. Something the iPhone provides the application through it’s built in GPS tracker.

Some of you may not be content with your location being sent out like that. In fact, every cynic on the planet will have a reason for why they feel this is a ploy by Apple to send out private information without your knowledge. However, bear in mind that YOU as the user have to grant permission to each application to use your location, and the use of your location is indicated by the arrow in the top right hand corner. (Handy to know this, as it’s always obvious to me when someone is using that ‘Find My Friends’ app they released with iCloud last October.)

This is unfortunately the way that the internet is going, and like many others I agree: the reign of the desktop PC is over. Steve Jobs said, in the iPad 2 keynote a year ago, that Apple were now a ‘mobile device’ company, having sold more iPads, iPhones and MacBooks than desktop machines in the quarter prior to the iPad 2’s release. With the iPad 2’s popularity, I can only see that number increasing exponentially.

We can’t look at this as a negative. Progress is progress, and you can’t stand in the way of it. Apple will always progress things in a way which makes them the most profit; even I’ll admit that this is through duplicate spending by their (rapidly growing) cluster of loyal users.

With the increasing number of mobile devices being used to access the web, the importance of your location becomes paramount to providing you with relevant information. Every time you open the notification centre on your iPhone, you’ll notice the location icon appear in the bar across the top. This is so your iPhone can provide you with the weather in your local area at a glance, if you’ve got the weather widget there.

We cannot ignore the usefulness of tailoring internet content to suit the eyes of the user. I think it’s great that Facebook automatically filters the folk you don’t interact with very often out of your news feed, in favour of the ones you do. (Yeah, Facebook does it as well.) However, I agree with Eli: the internet was developed as a means of connecting us all together and providing an un-filtered, un-regulated forum for freedom of speech and information. How am I meant to go out and research my thesis if Google is only going to return me stuff to make me want to spend money or speak to people – because that’s all I use the internet for. By using this information, we do exactly as he says and reduce the internet to a user base of one.

I’ve been struggling for something to blog about since I got back from Italy. (Life at home is nowhere near as exciting, and that’s got more to do with the fact that Britain has no culture any more, not the fact I’m back to working 6 days a week.) Then I woke up this morning, with two messages on Facebook from my pal Scott and a text from him waiting for me, instructing me to ‘Seriously, wake up and check the news.’ So I did…

Wow… I can’t explain it, but I had a gut feeling as I pulled up the BBC news homepage that I knew what was coming:

Steve Jobs had died during the night.

As most of you who know me relatively well, you can imagine how I’ve taken this. Celebrity deaths never bother me really, with the exception of Michael Jackson – but who wasn’t bothered by that? My response to Scott was that I no longer see a point to life any more, and that my route to work that morning would include a slight detour, ending in a jump from Union Bridge onto the Denburn Road… All amateur dramatics aside however, I got into the car and drove to work, noting the motorcyclist who had met the wrong side of a lamp-post on the Kingswells road and was being loaded into the back of an Ambulance. (Another Apple fanatic clearly taking the news well…)

It got me thinking, where the hell is that company going to go now? When he announced his resignation as CEO in August, I wasn’t worried. As head of the board of directors, he was still going to have a huge say in the running of the organisation. All decisions about the operation of the company, from a financial perspective anyway, would be authorised by him to an extent. As finances control everything in a company (and I’ve come to know this the hard way, through recent experiences on my university placement) I imagine that Apple would continue to operate in the way that it did under his leadership as Chief Exec.

Lets not forget, that he was ousted from Apple in 1985. A slump in computer sales in 1984 led to a fallout between Jobs and John Sculley (then CEO of Apple Inc.) which resulted in Jobs being fired from Apple. He began his own computer company, NeXT, manufacturing workstations which were marketed towards the scientific, financial and education sectors, but were never widely adopted due to the price tag. Something Apple is known for today. Even then, Jobs demonstrated an obsession for design and form factor, manufacturing the outer casing of NeXT workstations from Magnesium. The second generation, the NeXT Cube, bears a striking resemblance to one of the most iconic Macintosh’s ever built – also known as the cube.

Power Mac G4 'Cube'

Nabbed this photo from an Engadget article...for all those copyright folks out there (I'm NOT about to start Harvard Referencing this, jeez I'll be here all night...)

Not necessarily the most successful model (I’m led to believe it would overheat occasionally and cause the thick, moulded plastic around the machine to crack) you have to admit it’s got style! NeXT was acquired by Apple Inc in 1997 to bring Jobs back to the company and prevent it from going ‘beneath the surface.’

In 1986, he bought The Graphics Group. Better known to you and I as Pixar, giving us the delights of Toy Story, Finding Nemo and the like. Pixar also developed its own machine, known as the Pixar Image Computer, but after struggling financially, they contracted with Disney to produce several feature films which Disney agreed to co-finance and distribute. Bring in Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo, among many others! Things went pretty well with Disney and Pixar, but the decision was made in 2004 not to renew the contract after negotiations between Jobs and Eisner (Disney CEO) broke down. A new CEO at Disney later and things were patched up.

How Steve came to be CEO of Apple however, has to be the best part of this story (obviously reaching the top of your game has to be your best bit, but it’s not for that reason that I enjoy it so much) He was never formally re-hired by the company as a permanent fixture, but on a six month contract while a new CEO was sourced. During his absence from Apple, three CEO’s came and went, each driving the company into the ground in their own way. Such ‘innovations’ as the Newton:

Nabbed this from Techbuffalo also...

and licensing Mac OS to run on ‘clone’ machines made by other manufacturers, gave Apple a bad rep and forced the company into decline.

Shrinking rapidly, Jobs was called in to repair the damage. He re-joined Apple in 1997 as deputy CEO, finally taking over in 1998. He axed the Newton, OpenDocs and licensing requirements for the Mac Cloning program were changed to make it extremely difficult for third-party manufacturers to make their own models and undercut Apples sales. Although seen by many as greed by Steve Jobs, IBM were facing the same problem from manufacturers like Packard Bell and Compaq, and were facing complete loss of control of their own platform!

He signed a deal with Microsoft, for $150 million dollars worth of shares in Apple. For this however, Jobs demanded that they were non-controlling, and Microsoft were bound by this deal to continue making a Mac compatible version of Microsoft Office. They then went on to lose several patent battles with Apple over desktop items like the trash can and the Macintosh ‘floating window’ interface.

Jobs went on to revolutionise and innovate, in a way only he seemed to know how. Many compare it to nothing other than the captivation of an audience with a clever marketing campaign. I guess there is some truth in that, I think we’ve all seen the infamous ‘1984’ ad campaign that accompanied the original Macintosh at the Superbowl. To say that Apples advertising strategy has changed would be a blatant lie… However, if the Newton is any example to go by, he had a nasty habit of turning up in San Francisco every year with something these folks want! Like it or lump it, the iPad is the most successful selling tablet PC out there now, and I think it’s going to be a long time before anyone manages to compete with it – unless those Koreans have anything to do with it…

Now I suppose, this brings me to Tuesday, and my first ever disappointment following an Apple Keynote. Every time something major’s happened, I’ve been watching it happen, then spend hours perusing the Apple website absorbing every piece of information available. I know it’s sad, but then I don’t criticise the many millions that sit in the pub every night watching 11 men chase a ball around a patch of grass, falling over and pretending their life is over… I realise I’ll probably get lynched for saying that, however here is my cup of care:

courtesy of demotivationalposters.org (good for a laugh!)

In all honesty, it’s not the introduction of yet an other ‘S’ iPhone. (The 3GS was responsible for making me the avid iPhone hater I was this time last year) But more to do with the fact that our new CEO seemed to be desperate to delegate the responsibility of unveiling ‘the most amazing iPhone yet’ to other members of his team! Many of you will remember the original iPhone launch in January 2007 – or I do anyway – in which Jobs presented most of the Keynote single-handedly, and unveiled the iPhone himself.

Now I realise that was the launch of a whole new kind of product, but if you take over from someone like Steve Jobs, you’ve got some pretty big shoes to fill. Not to say that he should become Jobs, but at least show the same enthusiasm. Half the excitement of a product launch was watching Jobs regress into childhood, moments before he unveiled a new wonder on the world. I only hope that we see more of Tim in the coming months. I doubt I know we won’t see another major launch from them again this year. However, early next year, we can expect a MacBook Pro refresh (usually around February – April) and I imagine we’ll see the iPad 3 shortly after. Not sure what we’ll see with it, although I imagine that the next iteration will feature a widely anticipated retina display. I wouldn’t hold your breath for a USB port though folks, IT’S NOT THAT KIND OF DEVICE!

I’ll admit I’m a sucker for a good advertising campaign, and my gullibility makes me a marketing execs dream when it comes to convincing me that my life will be better with this money pit of shiny-electronic-computer goodness. But you cannot deny that the iPhone has changed everything, and that’s not because it’s marketing slogan was “This changes everything.” Before the iPhone, the only people wandering the streets with smartphones were businessmen. Fact. Who would want to browse the internet or reply to/send emails on a device with keys so tiny? Who else would need to? The iPhone came along and suddenly everyone wants the internet in their back pockets. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that the iPhone has changed the way the internet impacts day-to-day lives. Jobs never claimed to have done things first, most of the time, but he sure as hell made it desirable! By taking something and making it user-friendly, you force it to reach out to those who would be otherwise blissfully unaware of the capabilities because they’re too idle to learn. (In my honest opinion and limited experience providing first line IT support this year, computers aren’t difficult – USERS ARE!)

The real magic of Apple comes from the way that they bring things together, and make users want to adopt them. iCloud is a classic example of this, and I have to say that my real excitement for October 4th was not the unveiling of the latest hardware, but the launch date of iOS 5 and iCloud.

Now I know, as well as many other geeks out there, that ‘the cloud’ is not a new idea. But again, I find myself having to remind people I speak to about this that Apple never claimed to be the inventor of ‘the cloud.’ Neither is iCloud their first attempt. Apple have been in the cloud computing game since the release of Mac OS X, which launched a set of online tools, in true Apple style known as iTools.

Apple has been in the cloud business for a while, and as a subscriber of MobileMe, I cannot fault them. Through the MobileMe service, my phone is kept up-to-date with everything I use, and all data is pushed to it automatically. Now again, I know this is not a new thing, and will remind everyone that it was RIM that pioneered the push-data technology. It also gives push email to the iPhone, which is not available with a Gmail account or similar, unless it supports Exchange Activesync. Don’t ask me why, I’ve never been able to get to the bottom of it, other than that it might just be to convince people to subscribe to MobileMe.

However, iCloud changes everything, and yes I know I’m using that slogan again… The problem with most cloud based services is that users have to make the effort to use them. Files have to be saved to a specific location to enable their upload to the cloud for access elsewhere or a website has to be visited and the file uploaded manually. This is all a major inconvenience!

iCloud seeks to change that, and it will!

I know the hassle of not synching my iDisk before I shut my MacBook down at night, and the number of times I’ve gone to work or uni and what I’ve needed isn’t there would astound many. What Apple have done is integrate it in such a way that, in the way you expect electricity when you plug your vacuum cleaner into the wall, you will expect the service from iCloud.

There is no synchronisation process. No folder system. The system does it all for you. Furthermore, many have complained about the lack of capacity with it. First off folks…it’s free…and a free account on Dropbox only entitles you to 2GB of storage in their cloud. That 5GB only accounts for documents, iOS device back-ups, email and any songs you may have in your iTunes library which don’t feature on the iTunes store and have consequently been uploaded as part of ‘iTunes in the Cloud.’ Any purchased content (books, apps and music), and photos in photo stream don’t count towards that. So you’re actually getting rather a lot of bang for no buck! iCloud also enables users to purchase iOS devices without the need for a computer, as it will allow them to import music onto them from the cloud, back it up centrally in case the devices get lost or replaced/upgraded and synchronise across multiple devices. All this is done, of course, completely automatically, so even if you buy music using the iTunes store on your mac and your device has a data connection, you’ll find it there mysteriously next time you pick up your phone!

Apple is about to set the standard for cloud services, just in the way it has done in terms of the personal computer user experience, smartphone capability, the way we listen to music and the re-definition of the tablet PC market. All this comes down to one man…and we have a lot to thank him for. He may have been controversial, and at times described as ‘erratic’ when it came to his management style, but James Bond once said that: “The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success.”

No matter how you swing it, Steve Jobs influenced a lot. Without the Macintosh, we wouldn’t have computer mice. Without the iPhone, we would still be using stylus’ to control our smartphones (although poking people on Facebook with a stylus might be a little more fun that way…) Without my iPod, I don’t think I’d have made it to uni and be sitting in the position I’m in now. Call me extremely sad, but there is nothing I get more enjoyment out of than my collection of Apple stuff, most of which is surrounding me right now as I write this along with my parents old G5 iMac – a true relic! It saddens me that I may never see a visionary like that again in my lifetime, in many ways he was the Michelangelo of my generation, undermining society to do things his way – not unlike Michelangelo with the dome over St Peters Basilica, deliberately made 1cm smaller than that over the Pantheon to piss off the popes, a worthy cause in my book.

...sad...I know...

I’ve followed him, and his leadership of Apple, since the age of 14. I’ve seen the transition from PowerPC to Intel (a decision which almost made me renounce my faith in the Church of Apple, when I saw it as a step away from the company’s heritage) the rise of the iPod and the introduction of the iPhone. I’ve owned about 5 or 6 iPods actually, and despite having an iPhone I cannot shake the dependancy I have for it now I own a car. I’ve used every iteration of Mac OS X since OS 10.3 “Panther,” which was installed on that white beast you can see in the photo above; jumping straight onto my laptop at 1AM following arrival home from a wedding on July 20th to start the download for OS 10.7 “Lion” for installation whilst in the shower before work the next morning, and I’ve drooled longingly over the Mac Pro’s in the Apple shop.

I realise now that I’ve rambled for the best part of 3000 words, I’m hoping that I can channel this much effort into my uni work this year so I can aim for a first class honours! So I end this with my favourite quote from our leader, Mr Jobs to John Sculley who, at the time, was CEO of Pepsi.

“Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?”

My god, did he do that.

R.I.P. Steve.

Lewis
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