• Newsletter Issue #901

    March 6th, 2017


    To some, having a car is a convenience, a way to get from here to there and back again in relative comfort and, one hopes, safety. To others, a car is a significant personal asset, a deep expression of one’s taste and sometimes success. The driving experience is a way to assert oneself and the special relationship between person and machine. If the sales figures are accurate, however, more and more younger people who live in and around cities, where there is plenty of public transportation, just choose not to bother.

    My son fits in the latter category. While he’s a decent driver, he foresees no circumstance under which he will ever buy a car. Well, at least so long as he lives in Madrid.

    Now on this weekend’s edition of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we featured outspoken columnist and podcaster Kirk McElhearn, also known as Macworld’s “iTunes Guy.” During this episode, Kirk, a resident of the UK, discussed his decision to lease a 2017 Toyota Yaris Hybrid subcompact car. He’s not the sort of person who views a motor vehicle as anything more than a means of transportation, so the decision struck me somewhat surprising. I would have expected him to buy a used car when the need arose.

    In any case, the discussion soon moved on to the Tesla and the potential for self-driving technology. Kirk has problems driving at night, and thus doesn’t even bother. As an older person, I continue to wonder how long I’ll be able to drive for myself before I must surrender the keys. When the time arrives, I hope there will be low-cost self-diving technology to provide an alternative.

    During this segment, you also heard why Kirk is skeptical of Apple CEO Tim Cook’s hint, during the corporate shareholder’s meeting, that the company would address the needs of professional users with new Macs and creative users with Mac apps. Will there actually be a revised Mac Pro that is a more credible alternative as a computer workstation?

    You also took a romp through the sometimes wacky world of social networks with Cella Lao Rousseau, a reporter with iMore. During this segment, Cella talked about the Snapchat IPO, its impact, and how the network plans to leverage its large user base to earn money.The discussion moved to profiles of the most popular social networks and how they meet the needs of their members. Snapchat’s unique slant is to allow you to send photos and videos that self-destruct shortly after they are viewed. The discussion included Facebook, which Gene says has become too bloated for him except for the Messenger app, which he uses regularly because most of his contacts are on the service. Has Twitter outlived its usefulness despite becoming the medium of choice for high-profile people, such as the President of the United States, to make announcements? What about WhatsApp, Instagram, Mashable and Reddit? What happened to one of the original social networks, MySpace?

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present a special women’s roundtable featuring Erica Lukes, Chase Kloetzke and Kathleen Marden. What obstacles have the women of Ufology faced in breaking the glass ceiling, and being taken seriously, and how about some of the great achievements of women in the field? Erica Lukes is currently researching historical and current sightings in Utah and is the Communications Director of the International Association of UAP Researchers. She hosts a weekly show on KCOR called “UFO Classified.” Chase Kloetzke is Deputy Director of Investigations and Special Case Manager for MUFON. Kathleen Marden is associated with the Mutual UFO Network, as Director of Experiencer Research and the Foundation for Research into Extraterrestrial Encounters, as an advisory board member and consultant to its research subcommittee.


    I cannot remember where I read my first Apple rumor. Perhaps it was in the late, lamented MacWeek magazine, a trade journal that catered to computing professionals, or at least those who successfully filled out a questionnaire that supposedly listed your business credentials. Well, real or imagined at any rate. Although I kept forgetting just how many employees my alleged corporation was supposed to have, I was never refused a subscription, although it had to be renewed every year.

    Well, MacWeek, and it was often referred to as “MacLeak,” had a notable rumor column penned by someone named “Mac the Knife.” It was said to have been written over the years by different writers under that house pen name, and there has been speculation as to whom. A possible descendant is the Macalope, who writes an often humorous column for Macworld that joys in tearing apart fake news about Apple.

    I’m not prepared to guess who Mac the Knife really was, though I have known the people who were sometimes identified with the column. Perhaps one of those people later assumed the Macalope moniker, though I have my suspicions.

    In any case, today’s rumors about Apple aren’t restricted to a single column or sites that truck in such stories. You can read speculation about what Apple might be doing in such august publications as the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and other print and online media outlets. Apple has become much too large to restrict such stories to a handful of fan-based digital watering holes.

    Apple has usually ignored the rumor sites, though when the story migrates to the mainstream press, they will sometimes issue the requisite denial that the company doesn’t comment about unreleased products. But in one notable series of actions, Apple actually filed lawsuits in an effort to stop leaks about its product plans.

    So Apple created fake information about a new product that would be seized upon by those responsible for spreading confidential information in order to find out who they were and where the rumors were being circulated. One of the rumor sites that fell for this sting was Think Secret, a site run by one Nicholas M. Ciarelli, then a Harvard student.

    In 2005, Ciarelli was sued by Apple for publishing trade secrets. In a settlement announced in 2007, Ciarelli agreed to shut down Think Secret. There may or may not have been an exchange of cash to persuade him to give up publishing Apple rumors.

    After a brief flurry of news coverage about the lawsuit and the settlement, he took a low profile. The most recent news I read about Ciarelli had it that he was involved in a venture called BookBub, an “eBook discovery service for readers.”

    These days, rumors from the supply chain are often far more specific than anything Ciarelli published in his heyday running Think Secret. You will even see photos of purported prototypes of new Apple gear, often iPhones, and some of the deep, dark secrets about a new product are described in explicit detail. If Apple went after the sources of all such leaks — if they could even locate them — their lawyers would be overwhelmed, and it would be difficult to do much of anything else.

    So Tim Cook more or less tolerates such rumors. Sure, if the intimate details of a new Apple product or invention were disclosed, I’m sure the appropriate action would be taken. But Cook appears to otherwise be far more measured about the rumor process than Steve Jobs. So it’s hardly likely you’ll hear about legal actions similar to the ones filed against Think Secret and other news sources in the previous decade.

    That said, the latest round of rumors continue to be fascinating.

    So there’s a published report claiming that Apple has, over the course of months or years, been in touch with Paramount, Sony TV and even Time Warner about possible acquisitions. This may have all been a part of Apple’s so-far unfilled desire to establish a TV subscription service.

    But while I have little doubt talks may have taken place, an outright acquisition, costing tens of billions of dollars, would hardly seem to be a worthy investment. Apple is not known to buy large, successful companies. Such acquisitions rarely make sense except, perhaps, to kill the competition, or to expand one’s portfolio to give it more clout. So we have Comcast owning NBC/Universal, which is one of the biggest content providers that deals with cable and satellite companies. AT&T owns DirecTV, the world’s largest satellite TV provider, and is in the midst of acquiring Time Warner. That move would put AT&T in roughly the same league as Comcast in providing service and content.

    Apple? I just don’t see it. The company has become successful by dint of a limited portfolio of tech hardware and software. While it appears Apple is going to originate some content to expand Apple Music and gain more subscribers, such a move would hardly justify buying a movie and TV production studio outright. It would be far cheaper and more sensible just to pay production companies to create content, as Netflix does with its repertoire of original shows.

    On to other “reports”:

    The latest rumors about the next iPhone mention fast-charging capability on all models, and embedding Touch ID and facial recognition in the edge-to-edge OLED display of the reputed iPhone 8. Or maybe it’ll be called the iPhone X, to signify the tenth anniversary of Apple’s best-selling product.

    There are reports that Apple might be expanding the use of ARM processors on Macs, possibly delegating Power Nap tasks to an A-series CPU in order to relieve some of the load on Intel silicon. Supposedly that will result in greater battery life for notebooks, and putting less of a load on the system may also boost performance. That remains far short, however, of a wholesale move to ARM processors for macOS.

    But there don’t seem to be any rumors, so far, about what form a possible Mac Pro refresh might take. Would it retain the same controversial form factor as the 2013 version? Or will Apple create a larger model that will include some level of internal expandability? To assume either would depend on accepting Cook’s recent comments about taking pros seriously at face value.

    Of course, there weren’t terribly specific rumors about the 2013 refresh either, but that might have been the result of the fact that the Mac Pro is assembled in the U.S. It thus remains separated from the usual supply chain leaks, which occur in Asia.

    In all this, however, I wonder how Ciarelli might feel when and if he reads about rumors that often go beyond what he did during the days of Think Secret.


    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

    | Print This Issue Print This Issue

    2 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #901”

    1. DaveD says:

      Thanks for sharing stories of the old rumor places. I only know the “Mac the Knife” name, but followed “Think Secret.” Times were different when Apple had to make a big splash at the annual Macworld Conference at the start of new year. From what I gathered is Steve Jobs didn’t like anything that took away the thunderous applause from his presentation. It seems that rumors are on every sites. I ignore most of them except for AppleInsider and MacRumors.

    Leave Your Comment