Stories related to Apple Computer Inc.

Apple Now “Owns” the Page Turn

A blog posting at the New York Times:

“Yes, that’s right. Apple now owns the page turn. You know, as when you
turn a page with your hand. An “interface” that has been around for
hundreds of years in physical form. I swear I’ve seen similar
animation in Disney or Warner Brothers cartoons.  (This is where
readers are probably checking the URL of this article to make sure
it’s The New York Times and not The Onion.)”

Yet more proof that the US patent system, and possibly the whole concept of intellectual property law, is well and truly insane.

What’s even funnier is that, when I read the New York Times blog page that carries this story, I noticed that NYT may be in grave danger of having their pants sued off by Apple (which is, after all, a much larger and more litigious corporation).  At least two of the animated graphical ads on the page feature a little character that rolls down a corner of the ad, inviting you to “Click to see more.”  If you click or even mouseover the ad, then the little figure “turns a page” to let you see the rest of the ad.

(This interface appears to be a standard for either the NYT or Google Ads, since refreshing the page a few times gave me the same display for two different auto manufacturers and, somewhat ironically, for Microsoft.)

(In discussing this with Gloria, she mentioned an online magazine based in Australia which uses a graphical page turning interface for the electronic version of the magazine.  Prior art?  Or are they in danger of getting sued by Apple as well?)

Apple and “identity pollution”

Apple has obtained a patent for “identity pollution,” according to the Atlantic.

I am of not just two, but a great many minds about this.  (OK, admit it: you always knew I was schizophrenic.)

First off, I wonder how in the world they got a patent for this.  OK, maybe there isn’t much in the way of prior art, but the idea can’t possibly be called “non-obvious.”  Even before the rise of “social networking” I was prompting friends to use my “loyalty” shopping cards, even the ones that just gave discounts and didn’t get you points.  I have no idea what those stores think I buy, and I don’t much care, but I do know that they have very little about my actual shopping patterns.

In our advice to the general population in regard to Internet and online safety in general, we have frequently suggested a) don’t say too much about yourself, and b) lie.  Isn’t this (the lying part) exactly what Apple is doing?

In similar fashion, I have created numerous socmed accounts which I never intended to use.  A number of them are simply unpopulated, but some contain false information.  I haven’t yet gone to the point of automating the process, but many others have.  So, yet another example of the US patent office being asleep (Rip-Van-Winkle-level asleep) at the technological switch.

Then there is the utility of the process.  Yes, OK, we can see that this might (we’ll come back to the “might”) help protect your confidentiality.  How can people find the “you” in all the garbage?  But what is true for advertisers, spammers, phishers, and APTers is also true for your friends.  How will the people who you actually *want* to find you, find the true you among all the false positives?

(Here is yet another example of the thre “legs” of the security triad fighting with each other.  We have endless examples of confidentiality and availability working against each other: now we have confidentiality and integrity at war.  How do you feel, in general, about Apple recommending that we creating even more garbage on the Internet than is already there?)

(Or is the fact that it is Apple that is doing this somehow appropriate?)

OK, then, will this work?  Can you protect the confidentiality of your real information with automated false information?  I can see this becoming yet another spam/anti-spam, CAPTCHA/CAPTCHA recognition, virus/anti-virus arms race.  An automated process will have identifiable signs, and those will be detected and used to ferret out the trash.  And then the “identity pollution” (a new kind of “IP”?) will be modified, and then the detection will be modified …

In th meantime, masses of bandwidth and storage will be consumed.  Socnet sites will be filled with meaningless accounts.  Users of socmed sites will be forced to spend even more time winnowing out those accounts not worth following.  Socnet companies will be forced to spend more on storage and determination of false accounts.  Also, their revenues will be cut as advertises realize that “targetted” ads will be less targetted.

Of course, Apple will be free to create a social networking site.  They already have created pieces of such.  And Apple can guarantee that Apple product users can use the site without impedance of identity pollution.  And, since Apple owns the patent, nobody else will be able to pollute identities on the Apple socnet site.

(And if Apple believes that, I have a bridge to sell them …)

New computers – Mac – batteries and the Apple Store

My MacBook battery, which has had problems in the past, suddenly decided not to charge at all.  Well, one Mac fanatic friend had been on at me to take it in to an Apple Store and have it repaired, as it was still under warranty.I have now had my first, and hopefully last, experience of an Apple Store.

I’m fortunate.  I live in one of the few places in BC where you are less than 500 miles away from an Apple store.  I looked it up on the Web.  I even made a reservation.  Turns out that was porbalby a good thing.

I made the appointment later in the day, after business hours.  The Apple store I chose was in the downtown core, so I figured that I had best do it after office hours, to reduce demand from businesspeople needing to have their devices fixed.

As I approached the Apple Store, I could see which one it was.  This is because, unlike every other store in the mall, it had signage sticking out into the mall.  All the other stores had signage above the front face of the store.  The Apple was relatively small and tasteful.  But it also seemed to indicate a “the rules don’t apply to us” attitude.

Since it was late in the day, the mall was not crowded.  However, my second indication that I was near the Apple Store was a crowd of people outside the store, all looking at iPhones or iPads or with iPods plugged into their ears.

As I got to the store, I could see that it was narrow, but fairly deep.  There were devices of all types (in boxes) wallpapering the walls.  There were two rows of tables, with various devices and laptops on them.  And hordes of people.

It was packed.  It was crowded.  It was noisy.  It was a zoo.  I had a hard time fighting my way to the back to the service desk.  (Sorry.  “Genius Bar.”)

One of the staff asked what I wanted, and I told him repairs.  I told him my name and the time of my appointment.  He said someone would be with me shortly, probably before my appointment time.

At the appointment time, someone found me.  He asked what the problem was.  (At least, I think so.  He had a slight accent, but the noise of the crowd made it extremely hard to hear anything.)  I told him about the consistent problem with charging time, the refusal to charge, and the fact that, after having tried all kinds of rebooting and pulling plugs and checking profiles, that leaving it plugged in while I did some other work had apparently resulted in it finally charging up.

He looked at it and told me it was charged up.

I told him about the consistent problem with charging time, the refusal to charge, and the fact that, after having tried all kinds of rebooting and pulling plugs and checking profiles, that leaving it plugged in while I did some other work had apparently resulted in it finally charging up.

He said he couldn’t do anything while it was charged.

All this had taken place at one of the tables, not the “genius bar.”  (I guess you have to be relatively near the bar to be an actual genius.)  So we moved over there, and he decided that looking at some YouTube videos might run the battery down a bit.  (I suggested that news sites seemed to be faster, but he’s the genius.)  After running the battery down a bit, he looked at the power profile.  Then he rebooted and looked at some diagnostic utility that must be built in, but not accessbile to us plebes.  Then he looked at some other similar utility.  Then he looked at some logs.  Then he ran a short diagnostic.  He told me there the utilities showed that the battery was fine, but the logs said that at one time it wasn’t.  So I’d have to get the battery replaced.  He gave me some forms to sign and disappeared into the back.

I signed the forms and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Eventually I started to think that maybe he was, in fact, doing the battery replacement.  I waited some more.  And more.

Finally he came back.  He said he had replaced the battery.  It certainly seemed to have less charge than before.  He showed me the power profile, and it now showed 0 cycles rather than the 47 it had showed before.  (This is less comforting than you’d think, since one of the other diagnostics had showed 42 cycles.)

I will take it on faith that he replaced the battery.  Since then I have run down the battery (watching an hour of live video on what was supposed to be a five hour charge), fully charged it, and run it for about seven hours.

But I sure don’t have much faith in them …

Since then, another Mac fanatic has told me that I should buy the extended warranty on the MacBook, since it was really comforting to know that Apple would fix all the problems that would happen over a three year period.

This advice is less reassuring than one might suppose …

REVIEW: “Mac OS X Snow Leopard: The Missing Manual”, David Pogue

BKMXSLMM.RVW   20110202

“Mac OS X Snow Leopard: The Missing Manual”, David Pogue, 2009, 978-0-596-15328-1, U$34.99/C$43.99
%A   David Pogue
%C   103 Morris Street, Suite A, Sebastopol, CA   95472
%D   2009
%G   978-0-596-15328-1 0-596-15328-7
%I   O’Reilly & Associates, Inc.
%O   U$34.99/C$43.99 800-998-9938 fax: 707-829-0104
%O   Audience i+ Tech 3 Writing 2 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P   885 p.
%T   “Mac OS X Snow Leopard: The Missing Manual”

The introduction to the book states that it is intended for all levels of users, although it is primarily directed at those with an intermediate level of familiarity with previous Mac versions.

Part one introduces the Desktop, and general interface functions.  Chapter one is about folders and windows.  It definitely provides the information necessary to begin to operate the computer, but it also gives the lie to the statement that the Mac is easy to use.  There are a huge number of options for different functions, so many that it is impossible to remember them all.  The material is generally organized by topic, but there are notes, tips, and mentions buried in the text, and it is almost impossible to find these again, when you go back to look for them.  (Given the size of the book, I hesitate to suggest an expansion, but a page or two, at the end of each chapter, listing the points made, would probably be quite helpful.  And the “delete” key definitely needs to be listed in either the index or the key shortcuts appendix.)  The descriptions of operations are also incomplete in some cases.  There is mention of an indicator under Dock items which have open windows, but not that processes with no open windows may still show this indicator.

Chapter two proceeds in much the same way, dealing with the filesystem, and a great deal of trivia related to the associated windows.  The search function, referred to as Spotlight, is very, very detailed in chapter three.  The Dock and Desktop, further aspects of the operating interface, are described in chapter four.  The review of the functions is sometimes annoying in terms of the jargon used: does “go straight to the corresponding window” mean that the window becomes active, or comes to the foreground?  Does it open a window if it doesn’t exist?  Does it relate to programs, or just folders?  You need to work through the material with the book in one hand, and the Mac under the other.  (This process is not aided by inconsistencies in the operation of the Mac itself.  As I was working through this content I tried to create a new document from within the TextEdit program, and found that I did not have any options to create a file in any of the new folders I had established previously.  Later in the chapter there was mention of dragging folders to the Dock, and so I tried that to see whether it would allow me to use that folder.  Lo and behold, now I could create files in any of the new folders I had made, not just the one I dragged to the Dock.  Handy for my purposes, but not very informative in terms of why it worked that way.)

Part two deals with applications and utilities that ship with the Mac.  Chapter five outlines programs in general, along with documents (in terms of association with specific programs) and spaces (virtual, multiple, or external screens).  (More inconsistency: hiding the Finder behaves differently from hiding other applications.  And hiding used with Expose can give you some very … interesting effects.  The book warns you about neither.)  There is also an overview of the Dashboard and “widgets.”  Various aspects of data (entering, checking and moving it) are addressed in chapter six.  At this point in the book, items and tips start to repeat in the content, which possibly addresses the shortcomings in organization and the index.  Scripting (AppleScript) and mechanization (Automator) of common operations are dealt with in chapter seven, along with a set of somewhat related functions known as services.  As could be expected with an activity of the complexity of programming, the description of the associated applications is unclear, but there are some examples that take the reader in lock step through the process, and this exploration should provide a better understanding.  Chapter eight discusses the installation of the Microsoft Windows operating system on a Mac.  The review of Boot Camp (multi-boot installation) is detailed, but the outline of the virtualization options is limited to a mention of functions.

Part three is entitled “The Components of Mac OS X,” which sounds odd in view of the pieces that have already been covered.  Chapter nine addresses System Preferences, which are fundamental and significant settings and operations.  The programs generally provided along with a new Mac are described (in varying levels of detail) in chapter ten.  Removable storage, such as CDs and DVDs, are outlined in chapter eleven, which also notes the iTunes system.

Part four is entitled the technologies of Mac OS X (which sounds a bit odd given that the whole book would be about said technologies).  Chapter twelve deals with account aspects and functions.  Given the importance of access control, it is a bit disappointing to see security factors dispersed throughout, and not presented clearly.  Networks and sharing are discussed in chapter thirteen, with an odd gap in terms of sharing a wired Internet connection.  Printing, in fourteen, misses out on the sharing of printers in a mixed environment.  Chapter fifteen lists some aspects of multimedia, but is strangely reticent about video capture.  Some commands from the default UNIX bash shell are described in chapter sixteen.  Chapter seventeen notes a few customizations, mostly dealt with via outside programs.

Part five stresses the Mac OS online.  Chapter eighteen examines the setup of an Internet connection (and the discussion of sharing it is still limited and confusing).  Setup and operation of the Mail program is covered in chapter nineteen.   The Safari Web browser is dealt with in chapter twenty, and, as usual, there are a number of little tricks which would probably take you years to find out (by accident) on the “intuitive” Mac.  Chapter twenty-one explains iChat, the networks you need to make it run, and an enormous number of tweaks for such a simple function.  Some Internet server programs are listed in chapter twenty-two.  They are given the level of detail that any average computer user would need–except that the average computer user would have no idea of the network connections needed to set up a server on the Internet.

Part six is a set of appendices.  The dialogues for basic installation are listed in the first, but I was sorry not to see anything about installation on non-Apple hardware.  Appendix B has handy tips and suggestions for troubleshooting the most common types of problems.  One of the appendices is a Windows-to-Mac dictionary, which can be
quite handy for those who are used to Microsoft systems.  It could use work in many areas: the entry for “Copy, Cut, Paste” says they work “exactly” as they do in Windows, but does not give the key equivalent of “Command” (the “clover” symbol) -C rather than Ctrl-C.  You also need to know that what the book, and most Apple keyboards, describes as the “option” key is portrayed, in Mac menus, with a kind of bashed “T.”  Appendix D has URLs for a number of resources.  A set of keyboard shortcuts is given in the last.  This can be handy, but I found, in trying to rediscover keystroke combinations that I vaguely recalled from somewhere in the book, that I could not find many of them in the appendix.

There is a style issue in the written material of the book: the constant assertions that the Mac is better than everything, for anything.  The first sentence of chapter one says “When you first turn on a Mac running OS X 10.6, an Apple logo greets you, soon followed by an animated, rotating `Please wait’ gear cursor–and then you’re in.  No progress bar, no red tape.”  Well, if the gear cursor isn’t an analogue of a progress bar, I don’t know what it’s supposed to be.  (While we’re at it, I’m not sure what the difference is between the “gear cursor” and the “spinning beachball of death/SBOD.”)  Also, this statement is false: when you first turn on a Snow Leopard Mac, you have to go through some red tape and questions.  This is only one example of many.  This style may have some validity.  After all, anyone who does not use a Mac comes across the same attitude in any Mac fanatic, and, even without the system chauvinism, a positive approach to teaching about the computer system is likely helpful to the novice user.  However, the style should not get in the way of factual information.

For those using the Mac, this book is enormously helpful, and contains a wealth of information.  It’s not limited to the novice, or even the intermediate user: I found items in the work that none of my Mac support contacts knew.  With some minor quibbles I can definitely say that it is a worthwhile purchase.

copyright, Robert M. Slade   2011     BKMXSLMM.RVW   20110202