Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for January, 2012

Apple Enforces the Warning in Their Email Footers

On January 14, David W. Boles wrote a post wherein he describes a little hiccup he had when trying to transfer the warranty from his dead Apple display to his replacement one. He notes his difficulties with AppleCare with quotes from the email exchange. There’s no identifying information attached.

Today, he received a curious email ostensibly from Apple:

I am one of the policy representatives here at Apple. It came to our concern that our policy was broken. It is illegal to transmit information from voicemails, e-mails, transactions, etc, into public or private blogs and forums, vlogs, as well as documentation onto the internet, except for the proper authorities.

It goes on to demand a takedown within 24 hours.

This email is curious for a number of reasons. First, it contains a number of basic grammatical errors and does not contain the standard email footer that is the very subject of the exchange.

Of even greater curiosity is “why?”. People have posted contents of emails from AppleCare, Apple Developer — heck, even emails from Steve Jobs. Nobody, to my knowledge, has received one of these emails before. Of course there have been prior legal threats: blogs have received takedown notices for images, and ThinkSecret got sued out of existence because of inside information that they published. But none of these cases are for posted email exchanges. Very, very curious.

Amazon’s Sales Miss Estimates, Profit Drops

Amazon.com Inc., the world’s largest Internet retailer, missed analysts’ fourth-quarter revenue estimates and reported a 57 percent decline in profit, dragged down by…

Wait, let me guess.

Alright, got my prediction. Carry on.

…shipping costs and the money-losing Kindle Fire.

I was going to go with Bezos makin’ it rain.

Symantec Clarifies Counterclank Malware Claim on Android

Chris Ziegler:

Counterclank isn’t malware, per se, it’s just an “aggressive” ad SDK designed to help apps (usually free ones) monetize. It has some capabilities that most users would find unpleasant (sending ads as push notifications, for instance), but it simply doesn’t meet the typical benchmark for malware — it doesn’t exist with the goal of trying to steal users’ data, and it’s not trying to compromise devices in an illegal or fraudulent way.

It doesn’t steal your data, it just pushes ads in an obnoxious extension of its function.

Apple Updates AirPort Utility, Firmware

Nice new AirPort Utility. There’s a strange mixture of Helvetica and Lucida Grande that Apple is employing throughout OS X. I think it’s only a matter of time before they switch the whole OS over to Helvetica (Neue).

Do You Have the Paperback or the Hardcover?

Ben Brooks wrote an interesting counterpoint to the rising argument that the medium of purchase is irrelevant, specifically that of eBooks vs. dead tree books:

I can tell you from first hand experience that the reading experience is very different on each of the different mediums and that’s why the distinction matters to me. I don’t care which version you bought because it changes what you read, but I do care because it may not be the same as the book I read (sometimes in the minor content differences, but always in experience and layout).

Curiously, Brooks implies that he cares what version others buy, which I overreaching. But the main point he is trying to communicate is that books are not books in all forms; some forms are superior to others. Brooks also thinks it’s extremely important to note which version of the book one purchased:

Perhaps the content isn’t different, but saying “there’s a great quote on page 51″ will yield very different results depending on the version you buy.

That’s why the differentiation is important. An iBook versus paper or Kindle book is a very different thing than the others. They will visually look different and that’s why it isn’t fair to lump the different types of book all into one category.

While that’s true, one has never said (or should never say) the page a quote is on in these general terms. If one is citing it, it becomes important to note exactly which version of the book it is. But if you’re referring to it in general conversation, there’s simply no need.

Marco Arment rebuts thusly:

Whether I’ve bought a book made of dead trees or encrypted bits doesn’t really matter, and I don’t think my experience suffers when I choose the bits.

Since I don’t think the distinction matters, I rarely need to say “I bought the Steve Jobs book in iBooks,” or “I bought the Steve Jobs book on my Kindle.”

I just say, “I bought the Steve Jobs book.”

The format is irrelevant in informal contexts. It’s what you’re reading, not what tool you’re using to do so.

A Lot Less Guilty Than You Think

Jennifer Granick, writing for the Center for Internet and Society at the Stanford Law School, regarding the allegations against Megaupload:

But from a criminal law perspective, the important question is did Defendants believe they were covered by the [DMCA] Safe Harbor? This is because criminal infringement requires a showing of willfulness. The view of the majority of Federal Courts is that “willfulness” means a desire to violate a known legal duty, not merely the will to make copies.

An interesting perspective from a legal standpoint. This comes in the wake of a report that the case against Megaupload might not be successful for the prosecution, and will therefore set a precedent for similar sites.

How You Like Them Now, Newt?

Insanely great British band The Heavy on their Facebook page:

“If you heard How You Like Me Now being used by Republican, Newt Gingrich, in his campaign, we’d like you to know it had fuck all to do with us and we are trying to stop it being used. Twats.”

Newt doesn’t deserve the majesty of this song.

Millions Download New Trojan Discovered in Android Market

Sara Yin, for PC Magazine:

The Trojan ‘Android.Counterclank’ was packaged in at least 13 free games published by three different publishers, making it harder to trace. Symantec notified Google on Thursday and at press time, 9 of the apps were still available in Google’s official app store.

[…]

According to Symantec researcher Irfan Asrar, ‘Counterclank’ can carry out commands from a remote control center on your mobile device. According to Symantec’s virus definition, it steals information and can potentially display ads on your device.

The knee-jerk response to these alerts is that you only get malware when you download sketchy files, but this trojan was discovered in a number of very popular titles. Creating a greater problem is the decrease in people’s inhibitions about downloading apps due to the proliferation of these stores.

It’s utterly ridiculous that Google doesn’t have measures in place to prevent this, leaving it up to the user to figure out when it’s too late. It’s equally absurd that the first recommended thing to do after buying an Android phone is to install antivirus software.

RIM’s New CEO Is Staying the Course

Businessweek:

The message was different when, under shareholder pressure, the board of BlackBerry maker Research In Motion finally replaced co-Chief Executive Officers Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis with COO Thorsten Heins on Jan. 22. “I don’t think that there is some drastic change needed,” said Heins, a former Siemens executive, in his first conference call as RIM’s new boss.

At least it will be a quick death.

Recycled iPhone 5 Rumors Miss the Point

Sascha Segan, on the reheated iPhone 5 rumours:

Hey, did you hear the iPhone 5 is coming? And according to the latest rumors from 9to5Mac, it has a 4-inch screen and a new body design!

Repeat after me: Nothing to see here.

Good point. These rumours are almost exactly what we’ve been hearing since the middle of last year, which could mean a few things. On the one hand, you could argue that because these rumours are relatively constant, it’s been the iPhone 5 design all along. Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire, right?

On the other hand, though, these rumours are often lazy and lukewarm. Segan points out that the latest rumours also suggest that there isn’t a final design at this point, and that Apple is testing a number of contenders. Furthermore, he argues that all these hardware rumours really miss the point:

The success of the iPhone 4S also shows that Apple’s secret sauce isn’t hardware as much as software. […] What drew consumers to the 4S – and what will draw them to the iPhone 5 – is iOS, Apple’s apps, Apple’s cloud services and the spectacular third-party developer community that Apple has nurtured through the industry’s best app store.

That’s a great argument. Of course, software isn’t the entire story. Apple’s success in hardware has been about balancing available technology with their priorities and values. As long as they continue the balance and the precedent they have set, the iPhone 5 will have excellent hardware with an amazing software stack on top.

Please, Let Me Pay for That Movie

Kate Heartfield:

Why would the people who control the release of this show make pirating it so attractive for people in much of the world?

Heartfield gives two examples of things she tried to watch recently only to find that they aren’t available: the BBC series Sherlock, to which this quote pertains, and the Disney classic Cinderella. The former is restricted by geography, and the latter is unavailable due to the dickish “Disney Vault”.

But one can replace “this show” with “media” and the above quote would still be true. The difference in legal content that’s available online in the US versus Canada is enormous, despite much of it available in other forms here. For instance, Discovery streams nearly all of their shows via their web player, but not Mythbusters. It is, however, available on iTunes, but if you just want to catch up on an odd episode, purchasing it is not an attractive option.

The Human Cost is Built Into an iPad

Last week, an extensive report by the New York Times addressed the myriad of reasons why companies, including Apple, have moved labour overseas. This is the followup article, in which the human costs are addressed. It’s a fascinating and deeply moving read that illustrates the tension between Apple, their suppliers, and the people who assemble the products.

Cars Do Not Belong in Cities

Derek Edwards has a smart analysis of how absurd the use of cars is in an urban environment:

A standard American sedan can comfortably hold 4+ adults w/ luggage, can travel in excess of 100 miles per hour, and can travel 300+ miles at a time without stopping to refuel.  These are all great things if you are traveling long distances between cities.  If you are going by yourself to pickup your dry cleaning, then cars are insanely over-engineered for the task.  It’s like hammering in a nail with a diesel-powered pile driver.

Some may argue that many cities require a car due to the great distances one must travel to pick up dry cleaning. But that’s exactly the problem Edwards argues is a function of the car.

Next iPhone Not In Production

Seth Weintraub of 9 to 5 Mac received information from what he calls a “reliable source at Foxconn” that the iPhone 5 is in production, based on a number of new designs being produced. Gruber denies that because it’s “too soon“. Weintraub also has some notes on a new form factor:

No teardrop-shaped devices, as rumored in the lead up to the iPhone 4S. Samples so far have been symmetrical in thickness (also longer/wider).

Gruber responded to that in the same post:

Longer and wider? Sounds like bullshit. I can see Apple putting a bigger display on a device of the same size. I can’t see them making a bigger device.

I agree that Apple probably won’t be making a physically larger phone, and I think it’s also plausible that they’ll put a four-inch display on the iPhone within a similar-sized package. But I also think it’s highly unlikely. There are so many good reasons for them to stick with the 3.5″ display.

Google is FUBAR

Sebastian Anthony:

Late yesterday, Google announced perhaps the biggest change it has ever made to its massive network of web services: Starting in March, your search and surf habits across all of Google’s products will be combined to form the mother of all behavioral profiles.

I’m not certain this is Google’s intent, but rather a convenient side-effect of placing everything under one privacy policy and one shared data collection rule. This is absolutely insane. The real kicker is that there’s almost no way to remove oneself from the enormity of what Google owns or has interest in. Even if you (like I) have disabled the keyword based ads and search history, or if you change to another search provider and another news aggregator, there isn’t a video sharing site as prolific as YouTube nor a book search as good as Google Books. Google is everywhere, and I bet nobody can fully disconnect from the company.

It’s Also a River

Analyst David Nelson in a widely-circulated blog post on November 15:

This is still a great company and should continue to innovate for years but it is NOT and WILL NOT be the hyper growth company of years gone by

Can’t spell “analyst” without the location from where they pull these predictions.

Staggering Results

The Company sold 37.04 million iPhones in the quarter, representing 128 percent unit growth over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 15.43 million iPads during the quarter, a 111 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 5.2 million Macs during the quarter, a 26 percent unit increase over the year-ago quarter. Apple sold 15.4 million iPods, a 21 percent unit decline from the year-ago quarter.

The iPod decline is predictable, and the Mac sales are great, but digest that iPhone figure again. 37 million iPhones. Insane. The iPad sales are equally enormous. Both sold over double what they did the year prior.