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  • Newsletter Issue #905

    April 3rd, 2017

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    You can bet that, if there is a way to fear monger about Apple, someone will find a way to do it. So when Apple changed the file system with the iOS 10.3 update, I read one article that called the move “nasty,” and another that called it “risky.” After all, the file system is some obscure low-level stuff about putting data on storage devices, and if it is fouled up somehow, there is reason to be concerned.

    But with such gear as iPads and iPhones, customer access to the file system is extremely limited. It’s not the open book you find on Macs, and thus Apple was able to manage the upgrade to the Apple File System (APFS) with the proper checks and balances. That explains why it has apparently succeeded, and most people who ran the 10.3 update were completely unaware of what was going on. They might have noticed a somewhat longer installation process, but there are also reports of slightly faster boot times, and, in some cases, available storage has increased slightly because of more efficient file placement.

    So, regardless of the claims from the critics, whatever Apple did accomplished its goal. But it’s apt to be a far more difficult process on Macs, where APFS was introduced in beta form at last year’s WWDC. Apple has no doubt been working on its flaws, such as lack of support for startup drives, Fusion Drives, and encryption. Assuming those issues have been dealt with, it’s very possible the next macOS will offer the upgrade as standard issue, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it optional.

    Besides, whenever you do an iOS or MacOS update, even if it seems minor, it’s always a good idea to make sure that you have a recent backup. Just in case, and not because Apple is taking risky or nasty steps.

    That takes us to this weekend’s edition of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, where we featured the inimitable Peter Cohen, long-time blogger and podcaster. Peter discussed the latest developments on the security front and how reports of hacked iCloud accounts might impact Apple. You also heard about a consumer’s “right to repair,” the subject of pending legislation in Nebraska, which would force such companies as Apple to sell parts and repair manuals to anyone who wants to buy them. Peter also explained the ins and outs of the Apple File System (APFS), recently introduced in the iOS 10.3 update, and expected to arrive this fall as standard issue on the next macOS. If you’re wondering what this is all about, Peter detailed how Apple customers will benefit from a more reliable storage system and enhanced security.

    You also heard from ethical hacker Dr. Timothy Summers, President of Summers & Company, a cyber strategy and organizational design consulting firm, who talked about the recent public disclosure of CIA “trade craft,” the methods they use to recover data from tech gear, which was posted on Wikileaks. Does this development put your personal data at risk? Dr. Summers also described the ongoing risks of data disclosure in light of the claims of hacked iCloud accounts, and the possible security dangers in all those fancy “Internet of Things” devices. What steps should you take to keep yourself safe from Internet intruders, should you just keep your old appliances? Or just expect that your online behavior will be watched, and learn to live with it?

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: In the early days of the UFO field, such characters as George Adamski, Daniel W. Fry, Truman Bethurum, George Van Tassel and others gained some measure of fame — or infamy — when they claimed to be in regular contact with beings from other planets. UFO researcher and amateur paleontologist Ray Stanford, and his twin brother Rex, were there to observe these people in action; the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ray will tell you how Adamski and Fry faked their UFO photos and movies to help spread their wacky tales of ET contact. You’ll learn, also, about a possible case of genuine contact with someone from “out there.” As he tells us, there’s “a lot to share.”

    COMPARING UNRELEASED APPLE GEAR WITH THE COMPETITION

    It goes without saying that Apple rarely tells us much about a new product or service before it’s available, or almost available. True, there are exceptions. The iPhone was demonstrated months before it went on sale, in part because Apple needed to get FCC approval, which threatened to reveal what was going on. Besides, since there was no existing Apple product to make obsolete — except, perhaps, the iPod — it was easy to spook the competition and send them scurrying for a response.

    Or an outright dismissal that Apple was onto anything.

    So we had all those complaints that Apple had no business building a product in a new category without prior experience. But how does that explain any company’s first product, or even the iPod? Even when Apple’s lack of experience wasn’t cited, there were dire predictions that the iPhone would be a big fail. Indeed, as sales climbed, those predictions were repeated, because any Apple success must be a one-off.

    Now it’s fair to compare one product with another with benchmarks, specs, user experiences and such. You will certainly want to look at a product’s potential in advance of its release, to see if it ought to be put on your shopping list, or long-term wish list. Even when a tech gadget’s specs haven’t even been revealed, there are inevitable comparisons, even if some of those comparisons are based strictly on rumor.

    So there are a raft of rumors about the next iPhone. Current theories have it that there will be three models. Two will be simple refreshes of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, with the usual “s” suffix. The third is being labeled the iPhone 8 or the iPhone X, or something similar. It’ll supposedly be a premium model that’ll sport an OLED edge-to-edge display, facial and iris recognition, and other goodies. The venerable Home button might even become virtual to squeeze extra display space in a smaller case.

    If true, Apple won’t be first to use an OLED variant, or an edge-to-edge display. That ship has already sailed, and one can argue why Apple hasn’t gone there. Having a display that extends over the edges, however, is sheer nonsense, although Samsung is not above adding features that have little or no discernible value.

    Comparing what Apple may or may not do with existing gear is often a wasted exercise. Some of those other displays exaggerate color saturation and sharpness, which may seem impressive at first glance. But Apple prefers accuracy, and lately has added wider color gamuts to some gear for even superior color reproduction. Samsung and other Android handset makers also build gear with outrageously small pixel densities, way below Retina. What this means is that you have graphics hardware struggling to keep up, while providing no visible benefits over what Apple is offering.

    Still, these are valid comparisons, or at least there will be when and if Apple releases an actual iPhone with an OLED edge-to-edge display and the added biometric recognition hardware.

    However, it’s easier to attack Apple for something that doesn’t exist. If the rumors say edge-to-edge, why won’t it be curved? Is there any advantage to curved? Other than an IMAX movie theater, do you need a smartphone or a TV with a curved display? Samsung believes you do, I suppose, though I wonder how many people even care.

    I recall that absurd Tilt to Scroll feature on an older Samsung Galaxy smartphone. For me, it would work long enough to set preferences, but never in the real world. When Samsung responded to Apple’s implementation of Touch ID, they had the bright idea to place the fingerprint sensor at the rear of the unit.

    Maybe it was reverse logic. They want to be different from Apple, or they were saddled with a technology that didn’t allow the sensor to be integrated into the Home button. Regardless, reviewers remarked that it was an awkward reach. With the Samsung Galaxy S8, it’s adjacent to the camera lens, meaning it’s just as easy to smudge that lens when trying to unlock the unit with your fingerprint.

    Or perhaps they hope you’ll use the facial or iris sensors instead at the front of the unit. But there’s already a published report that the facial recognition system can be defeated with a photo. Not a 3D photo, a photo. Samsung has already tried to spin their way out of that dilemma, suggesting that, ” It is important to reiterate that facial recognition, while convenient, can only be used for opening your Galaxy S8 and currently cannot be used to authenticate access to Samsung Pay or Secure Folder.”

    Notice that Samsung claims they provide “the highest level of authentication from the iris scanner and fingerprint reader. ” But not facial recognition?

    What’s more, they are not disputing the fact that the facial sensor can be defeated with a photograph.

    Then there was the claim that the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active was water-resistant. In fact, the specs indicated that it was somewhat superior to the iPhone 7 in that respect, but it didn’t survive the Consumer Reports dunk test. The iPhone 7 did. Just saying.

    But the biggest argument against Apple remains the claim that other companies will release new products and new product features first, and Apple’s late to the party. So there were digital music players before the iPod, BlackBerry smartphones ruled the roost before the iPhone arrived, and don’t forget all those PC tablets — or whatever they were — before there was an iPad.

    And did you happen to notice that Fitbit sales slumped during the holiday quarter, while reports estimating Apple Watch sales indicate they rose? All this while the critics continue to claim that Apple’s smartwatch is a failure, and that’s for being number one in the market. Oh well.

    I am curious about the next iPhone, but it’s hard to express opinions about products that haven’t even been announced. The supply chain chatter may well paint a fairly complete picture of its form and content by summer, but even then comparisons with gear from Samsung and other companies will be premature. Whoever Apple plans for the next iPhone, it’ll be evaluated in a negative light even before something actually goes on sale, but isn’t it always thus?

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Sales and Marketing: Andy Schopick
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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    One Response to “Newsletter Issue #905”

    1. DaveD says:

      I was looking for bad news for the iOS 10.3 update all last week and was quite surprised to hardly read anything negative coming from the user base. Not even the typical loss of battery life. Just the usual few ones from the tech media dealing with downgrading back to iOS 10.2.1 which I don’t why from the vast security fixes and a new disk file system. Too bad for the tech writers with no doom articles to dream up except for the mythical iPhones coming in the fall. Of course, I would never touch on those articles for the time wasted reading on any opinions of Apple’s products that don’t exist.

      Apple deserves a big acknowledgment on a job well-done of pushing a new disk file system to the masses.

      It looks that Apple going forward with a GPU design is making bigger headlines today. Those who have followed Apple for the last several years like hiring former AMD engineers already knew that in time future “A” processors would likely gain a GPU designed by Apple.

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