Tag Archives: apple

The Morning Grumpy 5/3/12

3 May

All the news, views, and filtered excellence that’s fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

 

1. On Tuesday, Alan wrote a blog post about President Obama starting off the general election season on offense, rather than playing defense against Mitt Romney. I replied with the following comment:

Within weeks, the Republicans will put his ass right back on defense. They’ll attack him where he is strongest, it’s the Rove strategy.

The killing of Bin Laden will be discredited and conspiracy theories around it will make John Kerry’s Swift Boat fiasco seem tame.

Well, I appreciate a good opportunity to pat myself on the back. Within 24 hours of the release of that Obama2012 campaign video, the swiftboating of President Obama began.

On Tuesday night, Veterans for a Strong America, a political action group led by Joel Arends, a lawyer and veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, released an ad attacking Obama for exploiting the killing of Osama bin Laden.

I’m still a little unclear, is Obama a socialist terrorist hugger who is always apologizing for America or a football spiking braggart? Anyhow, Hannity, Limbaugh and the rest of the right wing media mafia will continue pounding this home until election day. Next up? How Mitt Romney actually saved General Motors and the American Auto Industry over the objections of the Obama Administration.

2. Keep buying those Apple products!

Apple currently keeps about two-thirds of its $97.6 billion in profits abroad.

While some of Apple’s monumental success is due to the undeniable popularity of its products, the Times reports that Apple “has devised corporate strategies that take advantage of gaps in the tax code.” This has ultimately saved the company (and thus cost the public) as much as $2.4 billion a year, according to a recent study by a former Treasury Department economist.

Apple fights for favorable tax policies in the United States with a formidable army of lobbyists. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Apple spent $2.3 million on lobbying last year and its lobbying expenditures have been steadily increasing over the past decade – in 2000, it only spent $360,000 on lobbying.

What a great American company.

3. 40 years of workers being left behind. AKA, the reason behind the Occupy movement.

From the article:

Particularly striking is the fact that for years leading up to the 1970s, productivity gains were broadly shared, as theory predicts. Then the linkage abruptly broke. What explains the shift?

Yeah, what could it have been?

“The continuing growth of the wage gap between high and middle earners is the result of various laissez-faire policies (acts of omission as well as commission) including globalization, deregulation, privatization, eroded unionization, and weakened labor standards,” he writes. “The gap between the very highest earners — the top 1 percent — and all other earners, including other high earners, reflects the escalation of CEO and other managers’ compensation and the growth of compensation in the financial sector.”

The article and the study it references note that this isn’t a global problem. It’s an American problem.

4. Here’s an article which eloquently supports a point I’ve been trying to make for at least a year. Why Facebook won’t matter in five years.

Facebook is the triumphant winner of social companies.  It will go public in a few weeks and probably hit $140 billion in market capitalization.  Yet, it loses money in mobile and has rather simple iPhone and iPad versions of its desktop experience.  It is just trying to figure out how to make money on the web – as it only had $3.7 billion in revenues in 2011 and its revenues actually decelerated in Q1 of this year relative to Q4 of last year.  It has no idea how it will make money in mobile.

Facebook was never meant to be a mobile company and they don’t have the core competencies required to become a mobile company. Now, they are about to become a public company, which means they will slowly curtail innovation and focus on shareholder return and risk mitigation. They will innovate, like most large public technology companies, through acquisitions. Even then, the street will judge those acquisitions on the short term and turn bearish on the stock if it becomes too reliant upon the strategy, which is why Mark Zuckerberg raced to acquire Instagram prior to Facebook’s IPO.

Will someone build a better social network? Probably not, but someone will invent a mobile or augmented reality technology that makes traditional social networks obsolete.

5. How would America be different if rational, realist adults were in charge, rather than emotional reactionaries?

#7. A normal relationship with Israel. Realists have long been skeptical of the “special relationship” with Israel, and they would have worked to transform it into a normal relationship. The United States would have remained committed to helping Israel were its survival ever threatened, but instead of acting like “Israel’s lawyer,” Washington would have used its leverage to prevent Israel from endlessly expanding settlements in the Occupied Territories. An even-handed U.S. approach would have taken swift advantage of the opportunity created by the 1993 Oslo Accords, and might well have achieved the elusive two-state solution that U.S. presidents have long sought. At a minimum, realists could hardly have done worse than the various “un-realists” who’ve mismanaged this relationship for the past 20 years.

Someday, we might return to a rational foreign policy, but not right now it seems.

 

Fact Of The Day: Homosexual behavior is found in at least 1,500 species of mammal, fish, reptile, bird, and even invertebrate. I hope those fish know that Rick Santorum believes they’re going to hell.

Quote Of The Day: “Death gives meaning to our lives. It gives importance and value to time. Time would become meaningless if there were too much of it.” – Ray Kurzweil

Video Of The Day: A Real Life Robinson Crusoe

Laugh Of The Day: “Grapes vs. Grapefruit” – Gary Gulman

Song Of The Day: “The Way I Walk” – The Cramps

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chris@artvoice.com

The Morning Grumpy – 1/23/2012

23 Jan

All the news and views fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

Flo Rida, “Low

1. The Buffalo News story about 97 Rock’s morning show left me asking a few questions.

Since late 2008 — Norton has been broadcasting most of his morning show — announcing school closings, celebrating Bills victories and bashing local leaders — from Florida.

“We were hesitant to talk about this story because I don’t want to offend listeners who think that somehow I’ve given up on Buffalo,” Norton, 55, said over the phone from his home in southwest Florida. “That’s not the case at all. I came down here for good reason.”

What’s his reason for being in Florida?

For years, Norton’s father Wallace “Wally” Norton lived in Cape Haze, Fla., where he had moved after losing his wife, Bertha, to cancer in 1995.

“[Barb and I] had been going down here almost every month checking on him, getting him to the doctor. He asked if we could take care of him, because he didn’t want to go into a nursing home,” Norton said. “It’s what I had to do. He was my father.”

Well, I know I would do the same thing if I were in Larry’s shoes. Family always comes first with me as I’m sure it does with you, but that isn’t the issue.

Larry’s father passed away nearly two years ago, but Larry is still in Florida. Noting the emphasis I put on Larry’s quote at the beginning of this story, why didn’t the reporter ask him why he is still there? Why has Larry not moved back to the city “he hasn’t given up on”?

Norton may very well have a good reason and I suppose he doesn’t owe anyone an explanation about his residency. However, if a reporter is going to do this story, asking why he isn’t back here full time seems like the logical followup, doesn’t it?  Since Larry tried to assuage concerns of his listeners who might be upset that he doesn’t live here anymore, the reporter should ask why he doesn’t. Half-assed reporting annoys me, even when it’s a silly little story like this.

2. The intellectual dishonesty by the executives featured in this story is simply breathtaking. In short, why does Apple make the iPhone overseas?

Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.

The president’s question touched upon a central conviction at Apple. It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.

Really, I wonder what they mean when they say “flexibility, diligence and industrial skills”? Oh, here it is!

Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul. New screens began arriving at the plant near midnight.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

“The speed and flexibility is breathtaking,” the executive said. “There’s no American plant that can match that.”

Ah, yes, the lament of America’s wilting middle class. If only we were willing to live in tiny dormitories, working in hostile conditions, exposed to unregulated and dangerous chemicals, paid less than $17 per day, forced to work 16-18 hour shifts six days per week and forced to sign a pledge to not commit suicide due to the live/work conditions…we’d all have jobs from our benevolent corporate masters.

I guess we’re just not “flexible” or “diligent” or “industrious” enough. America’s new motto should be “Maximizing Shareholder Value”.

3. Next time you hear Newt Gingrich talking about Barack Obama being the “food stamp President” or hear other Republican candidates imply that the unemployed are lazy, maybe watch one of these videos. People waiting on lines for hours on end for the chance to apply for a job. This is America. People with real problems, living lives of quiet desperation in search of their piece of the American Dream. Yes, Newt is running for President on a platform of ridiculing a program which kept people from starving during a recession they had little part in causing. GOP 2012!

4. The fruits of abstinence-only sex education in schools.

A new government study suggests a lot of teenage girls are clueless about their chances of getting pregnant. In a survey of thousands of teenage mothers who had unintended pregnancies, about a third said they didn’t use birth control because they didn’t believe they could pregnant.

Nationally, teen pregnancy rates have been falling, but they are up significantly in the south and southwest regions of the country. Broadly speaking and due largely to religious influences on school curriculum, these regions are leaders in the promotion of abstinence-only sex education in schools. Where kids are taught about birth control and STDs, pregnancy rates are lower. Big shock.

5. Respected journalism professor and media critic, Jay Rosen, linked to a story the other day which highlighted the polarized media that now influences elections and politics.

With just hours remaining before South Carolina’s Republican primary, it’s clear to campaign strategists and voters alike that the revolution in how Americans get their news has dramatically altered the political process. There’s more campaign news and commentary out there than ever before, but more and more citizens are tucking themselves inside information silos where they see mainly what they already agree with. The result, according to voters, campaign strategists and a raft of studies that track users’ news choices, is an electorate in which conservatives and liberals often have not only their own opinions but also their own sets of facts, making it harder than ever to approach common ground.

The reporter rarely, if ever, asks the $64,000 question. What role did we play in this and why? Did we drive them away? Until editors ask themselves that question rather than blaming the audience, newspapers will grow increasingly irrelevant. If Marc ever puts my WNYMedia archives back online, I’ll link to the dozens of articles I’ve written about his issue over the years. It merits serious discussion in this one newspaper town.

Fact of The Day: Keep buying that cheap shit at Wal-Mart, if you hate America. The world’s biggest retailer, U.S.-based Wal-Mart was responsible for $27 billion in U.S. imports from China in 2006 and 11% of the growth of the total U.S. trade deficit with China between 2001 and 2006. Wal-Mart’s trade deficit with China alone eliminated nearly 200,000 U.S. jobs in this period.

Quote Of The Day: “The business of government is justice” – Millicent Fenwick

Song Of The Day: “Girls In The Backroom” – Ike Reilly

Follow me on Twitter: @ChrisSmithAV

Email me links, tips, story ideas: chrissmithbuffalo[@]gmail.com

On Steve Jobs’ Passing

6 Oct

When I was first introduced to computing in 4th or 5th grade, it was to type on a large, beige device with no screen, it was just attached to a printer. For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what that thing did, or was for. In 6th grade, we got Commodore computers that loaded programs via cassette tape.  Sometime in 7th grade, however, my school got a bunch of Apple ][ pluses. These things were a quantum leap forward. Programs loaded and saved much faster on 5 1/4″ floppies than on cassette. I was fascinated, and took the time to learn AppleSoft to the point that I was enjoying spending hours experimenting and writing programs.

These programs didn’t do much, and I wasn’t all that good at it, but it was an introduction to a whole new world.

Much as people insist that Android phones are better than iOS devices, back then the real hardcore computer geeks much preferred the lonely TRS-80 that was inexplicably kept in a hallway outside a teacher’s office. I didn’t like that machine – it may have been more powerful and professional, but it wasn’t user-friendly. It wasn’t the machine that caught my attention and interest.

We eventually bought an Apple ][e, which was quite expensive and didn’t really do much. We didn’t spring for a printer, and modems weren’t in a lot of homes in the early 80s. By 1984, the first Macs appeared and completely changed how we looked at computers. When I was in college, many of my peers had these compact little machines.  We’d use them for drawing, for games, and for writing papers. They were also expensive, but so revolutionary.

But I didn’t get one. I didn’t get another computer until I got a PC for law school in the early 90s. It had an 80MB hard drive and 1MB of RAM. It couldn’t run Windows 2.0, and at that time it was Bill Gates who was the computing world’s wunderkind. Apple wasn’t doing well at all.

I owned another string of mediocre PCs until 2003 when the Apple store opened in the Walden Galleria. It’s like a magnet, that store, and I often went in there to admire the computers and the revolutionary iPod. We got an iMac G4 and it was revelatory after years of crappy PCs. It had wifi before we had a wireless router. The store threw in extra RAM to make the sale. We soon got an iPod. Then an iBook. Then a MacBook. Then another. Some Nanos. A Shuffle. Then, the iPhone – we’ve owned every generation, and it’s an incredible device. I can’t imagine going back to a flip phone. The iPad may seem redundant or silly, but I love it, and use it daily for everything from web surfing, to blogging, to reading the paper and my magazine subscriptions.  After returning to Apple, he began making devices that were as beautiful as they were excellent.

Steve Jobs helped ensure that the US was at the technological forefront. He was a visionary, a pitchman, a designer, and an innovator.  He was one of the best and most successful businessmen in American history, and he created not just products, but entire market sectors.  He changed our lives. He changed the world.

I don’t know really why his passing bums me out so much, but it did. He was too young, and we’ll never know what else he could have come up with over the next 20-some years of his average life expectancy. I’m not sure there’s anyone left out there right now who’s quite like him, or if there ever will be again.

And this post was made on a Mac.

Standing in Line

25 Jun

In the long long ago, people would stay up all night to wait for the release of record albums and concert tickets.

Now, we download from iTunes in the comfort of our homes, whenever we want.

Now, we hit “refresh” on our computers until the tickets go on sale online, or else we join the band’s fanclub to get a super-secret password enabling us to get the tickets a few days earlier than they go on general sale.

Instead, people wait hours for iPhones and iPads. I can’t think of another consumer product of any type that prompts people to wait literally hours in the heat to get it on day one. Clearly, those people could have waited until, for instance, today to get the phone without a wait, but part of the appeal is being the first, I suppose. When the very first iPhone came out in 2007, Apple stores shut down for the day and opened at 5pm. I showed up without a reservation or anything, and waited a mere hour.

Apple’s products have transcended being mere computers or phones. It’s like it’s a movement. Practically a religion. And to think less than 20 years ago, Apple was barely surviving.

The only other cultural phenomenon that I can think of that prompts folks to queue up like that involves not specific products, but the time of year – namely, Black Friday.

Sense, Indeed

14 May

The largest Apple store in the world opens on Boston’s Boylston Street on Thursday morning. It is located just inside Boston’s famous/infamous Back Bay Architectural District. Let’s just say that this organization does not make it easy for developers in the tony Back Bay.

Here’s what the store looks like:

(Photo courtesy CKelly at Flickr)

The store is literally eight years in the making, and the preservationists did not make this remotely easy for Apple.

Preliminary design proposals for Apple Computer’s first Boston store got a cool reception last night from the Back Bay Architectural Commission, but several commissioners said a revised design might address their concerns.

Apple hopes to demolish a small building at 815 Boylston St., which is occupied by a Copy Cop store at street level, and build a flagship store across from the Prudential Center.

Projects involving the demolition of an existing building in the Back Bay Architectural District generally require the commission’s approval

Sounds almost Buffalonian, no?

One concept presented was a three-story building whose front would be largely glass. The building would likely have a green roof, said Bob Bridger, an Apple vice president of retail development.

Glass. Green roof. Definitely modern. Definitely different, given the brownstone-y nature of that neighborhood. But this is the quote that helped to underscore how similar Buffalo and Boston are:

Donna Prince, an alternate on the commission, acknowledged that the design was ”beautiful,” but that it ”doesn’t have a sense of place.”

Luckily, Apple prevailed, and the glass, green building opens tomorrow for business.

Here’s the building with “sense of place” that it replaces:

Photo courtesy Clarkwood at Flickr.