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Showing posts from November, 2017

Apple Fixes Root Security Hole - At The Cost Of File Sharing

Apple has moved very quickly to close the privilege elevation bug in MacOS, which became public knowledge yesterday. The fix closes the hole, but appears to break file sharing for many users.
Now this particular introduced bug can probably be forgiven, given the speed at which Apple has responded to the issue. However Apple still needs to address the testing process which allowed such a major bug to make its way on to millions of customer devices.

Endeavour Wireless Ear Buds Review

The trend towards fully wireless ear buds was started, almost inevitably, by Apple with its Airpods. Despite some intelligence, decent battery life and a surprisingly reasonable price, the Airpods are totally undone by having no mechanism for keeping them in you ear.
For me that means a fit which is nowhere near secure enough and the constant worry of loss. Considering the price, whilst reasonable, is still high enough to make this a potential pain point, I've been trying some alternatives.
First off, the entry level Endeavour Wireless Earbuds. These retail for NZ$49 and are far and away the best price you'll see on totally wire free ear buds in New Zealand.
The box contains the Earbuds, a USB cable with two mini jack connections for charging each unit and an instruction sheet which contains all the information you need to get up and running.
There's only one set of silicone tips, which means that if your ears vary from the standard size too much you're going to stru…

F1: Alfa Romeo Returns To Grand Prix Racing With Sauber

From next year the Sauber team will become the Alfa
Romeo Sauber Racing Team, as the marque makes its returns to the sport after a more than thirty year absence. 

Alfa Romeo may be the name on the tin, but the engines will be provided by Ferrari. Unlike in previous years these will be the same spec units as used by the Ferrari team, promising a big jump in performance in 2018.

Sauber completes a full circle of technical partnerships with this move having previously been Sauber-Mercedes, BMW-Sauber and now Alfa Romeo Sauber.

For Alfa Romeo it marks a reentry to the sport after controversially splitting with the Ligier team in 1986. That was driven by Fiat's desire to prevent it's newly acquired Alfa Romeo unit competing with Ferrari, saving it millions in the process.

As far as drivers are concerned this probably means a seat for Charles Leclerc, the reigning F2 Champion. Whether ties to the ownership of the Sauber team will help Marcus Ericsson retain his seat is open to question.…

What Has Happened To Apple's Quality Control

Today we learned of an enormous security hole in MacOS which allows any user to gain privileged access using a blank password. Companies who have given their users Apple equipment and, more literally, schools who have bought into the Apple ecosystem will be quaking in their boots right now.

It's just the latest in a growing list of QC screw-ups from a company that, blessed with outright hardware and software control, should be running a near faultless record. 

Apple asks a high price to join its club and that is only justified if it offers significantly improved quality when compared to its peers. 

I'd suggest that not only is that not true, it's actually reversed. 

There's a serious shortcoming to address here and it's not in MacOS, iOS or the hardware; rather it seems to a failing which is embedding itself across the whole company. It really is failing at Quality Control and that's a cornerstone upon which a premium brand reputation is built.

Motorola Trolls Samsung Trolling Apple

I've discussed my reservations on the Moto Z family and the fundamental problems with Moto Mods before, however here's an ad from Motorola which makes the mod the main focus of the sell. In this case the projector.
It's a riposte to Samsung's similar advert last month which suggested iPhone users upgrade to a Galaxy. Cleverly done, but don't let the humour fool you... Moto Mods are still an incredibly awkward and expensive way of getting a feature which can be added to another phone by easier, cheaper and reusable methods.

Face ID Hacked Once Again - Bypass Simple To Execute

So Face ID is looking less and less like the fully secure authentication method Apple painted it as when it launched the iPhone X. Having already been proven to deliver weak security against bypass by twins, siblings and even offspring was bad enough. Then researchers in Vietnam developed and showed a mask capable of defeating Face ID which cost just $200 to put together.
That hack required a detailed 3d scan to put the mask together. Now the same team from Bkav has developed a hack which required no 3d scan to develop its new mask, being able to use a couple of regular cameras placed at specific angles to capture images which can then be used to algorithmically develop a 3d face map.
To counter the naysayers this video shows Face ID data being deleted before a new scan is taken, just to prove that there is no learning trick powering this hack.

HTC U11 Oreo Update Goes Global

Days after HMD Global announced that it would be pushing Android Oreo to unlocked Nokia 8 devices around the world, HTC  has begun doing the same with the U11. U11 owners in Taiwan have been receiving the update for a while now, but today HTC confirmed that unlocked devices worldwide would start receiving it too.

For smaller players in the Android market this is a key diferentiator. Whilst Samsung and Huawei struggle to get Oreo onto even the smallest proportion of their existing devices, HTC, Nokia and Sony are getting customers up to date in a much more acceptable timeframe.

Whilst it's not an iOS level of upgrade performance it does suggest that looking away from the crowd for your next handset can really pay dividends, if you value timely updates, anyway.

Apple Planning iPhone SE Update Next Year

Sources in China are telling publications that Apple is planning to refresh the iPhone SE next year, in order to grow its sales in price sensitive markets.

The SE is currently based on iPhone 6S internals, an iPhone 5 chassis and screen. It's unlikely there will be a screen or chassis change, which means Apple will be restricted to updating the processor and probably adding OIS to the camera.

Other 'improvements' like 3D Touch and removing the headphone jack will add cost - something Apple will be been to avoid.  Adding volume to its Foxcon owned SE manufacturing facility in India is the other change likely to be hastened by the new version.

Demand for a cheaper, better and faster iPhone in the world's fastest growing market is something Apple will definitely want to stoke.

Apple Expands iPhone X To New Countries

As of this weekend the iPhone X can be purchased in thirteen new countries, bringing the total number of markets to seventy. As l mentioned in a previous post, that reflects an easing of supply problems across markets where the iPhone was already available.

l also mentioned that a number of retailers in Auckland were holding stock of the new iPhone. To the point where l saw at least two dozen on the shelf of one Auckland store this weekend. Despite this availability, there were no customers clamouring to buy and the display model sat completely ignored whilst the Black Friday crowd went about their bargain hunting.

The iPhone X has been undoubtedly popular, however l can't help but wonder how deep the well of customers willing to spend NZ$1800 on a new iPhone really is.

Sony Adds XZ and XZS To Oreo Rollout

Having been the first Android OEM (Google aside) to get the Android Oreo upgrade out to market, Sony has now become the largest purveyor of the latest version of Google's mobile platform.

By adding the Xperia XZ and XZS to its list of phones receiving upgrades, as well as the XZ1 and XZ1 Compact, Sony now offers more options for Android Oreo than anyone else - even Google.

The fact that the XZ, XZS and XZ1 are effectively three generations of the same phone is immaterial. In this game any upgrade is a scoring point and, right now, Sony is winning.

NZ Police Are Top, And So Are Their Recruitment Videos

Living in Auckland one of the things that you get used to is the incredibly low rates of crime versus comparable cities elsewhere. I'd imagine the same is true across all of New Zealand.
Still, New Zealand's police force are a bunch of top people who get to do one of the toughest jobs there is around.
In a bid to increase recruitment the force has launched this recruitment video, which is a masterpiece of Kiwi culture. Sit back and enjoy.

Nokia First To Go Global With Oreo Update

HMD Global have made good on their promise to keep Android fresh and current on their new Nokia phones. The Nokia 8 starts receiving the Android Oreo update from today. 

Despite being beaten to the punch by Sony and HTC, the Nokia 8 still claims something of a first by being the first to go global with the update. Sony and HTC have released their's only in a restricted number of territories. 

Signs of improvement in the flagship Android arena as far as updates are concerned. But until Samsung and Huawei start delivering updates to the more popular handsets, it remains an update with very limited penetration.

Smells Like Teen Spirit - But Different

It's my son's thirteenth birthday today, so this rendition of Nirvana's breakthrough by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain seem appropriate. I can't believe this recording is almost as old as he is though...

iPhone X Supply Problems Easing

Today I walked into two different electronics stores here in Auckland to find the iPhone X available for purchase. Not order or pre-order, but actual devices, in stock to walk away with, if you were prepared to lay down the NZ$1800 entry fee.
That comes on top of reports that in other countries lead times are down to around one week.
Apple has boosted production and all is well in the world. Well, maybe. If you visit any of the carrier stores in NZ you find that there are still lengthy delays to getting your iPhone X. So what gives?
My guess is that the sky high price of the iPhone X has meant that more and more buyers are having to pay by installments. Even if they could afford the upfront purchase, the interest-free purchasing options being offered by carriers make sense.
Those retailers who only offer the iPhone for an upfront purchase - or with more onerous payment plans - are finding that demand is soft for the  most expensive iPhone ever.

Macau GP Carnage Raises Questions Of Track Safety

The Macau GP is as old as the hills, a race run through the streets of the former Portuguese colony. This weekend saw one of the most bizarre incidents in the race's more than fifty year history.

On the opening lap of the GT race almost the whole field was wiped out, in an incident which blocked the track and delayed racing by more than two hours.

GT cars are big beasts, and the Macau circuit is incredible narrow in places, meaning that when an incident occurs in the wrong place, carnage ensues.

Fortunately this time around the damage was just mechanical. Next time the event and drivers might not be so lucky.

Nelson Piquet used to say that driving an F1 car around Monaco was like flying a model helicopter in your bedroom. A GT car around Macau is like landing a jumbo jet in your garden.

Several drivers have asked for advanced warning systems in cars to combat this kind of multi vehicle pile up. Others have scoffed at the idea.

The truth is that the speed at which an incident of this typ…

Apple's Vrvana Purchase Spells The End For Hololens

TechCrunch is reporting that Apple has bought Canadian AR headset manufacturer Vrvana for $30m, adding further weight to rumours that the company intends to back its next iPhone release with an AR headset to further strengthen its position in what many believe to be the next big growth space.
Of course Microsoft have been here for a while and the Hololens wowed the crowds when it was first announced. It's still far and away the best solution available on the market today. It's also incredibly niche, with Microsoft targeting industrial and enterprise buyers.
Apple will almost certainly be targeting consumers when (not if) its AR headset launches. At the same time Apple has done little to actively market the iPad to enterprises but the growth of its usage in the workspace continues to surge.
It seems likely that wherever there's an application for AR, Apple will outgun Microsoft for customers.
Then there is Google. Its Glass was first to market and crippled by the way Googl…

F1: Kubica Deal With Williams Not Done Despite Rumours

It's being reported that Williams has signed Robert Kubica to a two-year contract as a replacement for Felipe Massa, much to the disdain of former drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve.
The story is very much being denied by Williams and common sense would more than back up the veracity of the denial. Kubica will drive a Williams for the first time in the post Abu Dhabi Grand Prix tyre tests. This will be his opportunity to demonstrate both pace and resilience in a  bid to seal the deal for a race seat.
That being the case - and it being generally acknowledged that no other team is interested in Kubica's services at the moment - it would be crazy for Williams to commit anything to paper without being able to assess the Pole's capabilities.
At the moment it looks to me like Kubica is Williams' first choice, but that Kubica is going to have to be incredibly impressive in next week's tests to edge Daniil Kvyat out of the seat.

Microsoft Begins Surface Hub Offensive

The Surface Hub is probably the Surface product you're least likely to come across in everyday life, because it's extremely niche. But within that niche it's an incredibly big noise.

Now Microsoft has decided to put some marketing muscle behind it with a set of videos demonstrating the power of the big screen Windows 10 PC. Some work, some look a little contrived.

There's no denying that there's a place for these devices though. More than a decade ago I moved two large hospitals onto Digital Radiology solutions replacing light boxes with large wall mounted touch screen PCs running Windows XP Tablet Edition. It was a workable solution - but barely. Now the Surface Hub would make that kind of project trivial to achieve.

Progress is a damn fine thing, and so is the Surface Hub.

Huawei Mate 10 Quick Review

Huawei's Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro arrived in New Zealand this week and I had an opportunity to get some hands on time with both phones.

The standard Mate 10 is the phone which is more interesting because Huawei have kept the 16:9 screen aspect ratio and shrunk the bezels around it. As a result the Mate 10 is closer in size to a 5.5" phone than its predecessor. 

The all glass design is a step away from the Mate 9's metal unibody, and the Mate 10 feels much nicer by comparison. There's a new arrangement of cameras on the back of the phone, with a matt / glossy effect highlighting the sensor pack. The effect is visually pleasing, if not in the same league as HTC's seriously shiny backs.

Even now the Mate 9 is one of the better performing handsets you can buy, so the jump from the Kirin 950 to the Kirin 970 CPU adds a further boost which smooths out any lumps resulting from Android 8.0 and EMUI 8 which come installed on the Mate 10.

The EMUI skin has come a long way recent…

Quality Control On Premium Smartphones Seems Lacking

When you're dropping $1,000 on a smartphone it's reasonable to expect that what you receive is going to be well built, from quality components and with software which is properly optimised for that hardware.
For Google and Apple, responsible for both hardware and software on their devices, it really is the minimum we should be able to expect as customers.
Yet somehow both have managed to deliver devices with significant failings in both hardware and software.
Google's Pixel 2 XL is probably the biggest culprit, but the Pixel 2 is not perfect either. The larger Pixel has an average (that's being kind) OLED screen, but has also had problems with the touchscreen, Bluetooth and camera app. The smaller phone has a locked bootloader issue.
The iPhone X has had the cold weather touchscreen issue, green lines on the display, blue shift (although to a much smaller extent than the Pixel 2 XL), poor audio reproduction, with crackling on the upper speaker, and it ships with a che…

Who Is The Second Biggest Smartphone Manufacturer? It's Not Huawei Or Apple

Looking at global smartphone sales figures it's clear who is the biggest manufacturer of mobile phones in the world. Samsung. It plays big in every sector of every market and comfortably outsells everyone one else by some margin. 
Who's the second biggest? According to the sales charts its either Huawei or Apple, who are waging a sales war to achieve that accolade. Unfortunately, the way most analysts present their results skews the positions of the top five OEMs.
The second biggest smartphone maker in the world is BBK Electronics. Who? A Chinese OEM based out of Guangdong province, that's who.
The reason BBK's name is never found on the sales charts is because of its branding of devices. Becasuse BBK is actually the company that owns the Oppo, Vivo and OnePlus brands and manufactures the phones that go out under those names.

In both Q2 and Q3 of 2017, combined sales of Oppo and Vivo phones made BBK the second biggest smartphone vendor worldwide. Whilst Apple may reta…

Did Siri Shortcomings Force Apple To Delay HomePod

Apple's HomePod smartspeaker was due to begin shipping to customers next month, but today Apple delayed it until 'early 2018'. Unlike an iPhone X, the HomePod seems to be a particularly simple piece of technology to assemble and production yields should be high.
This suggests that something other than the hardware has caused Apple to delay the launch until after its prime selling season and my guess is that thing is Siri.
Siri lags behind other virtual assistants when used on the iPhone or iPad, even with the benefit of a screen to display information. If it struggles to cope with complex queries or instructions on a smart speaker, with no display to back it up, the user experience is going to be horrible.
Having taken some flak for poor quality control for its latest software on its latest devices, it's more than likely Apple is avoiding damage to the HomePod's reputation by holding back until it has an experience which is at least as good as Amazon Alexa or Goog…

Some Phones Do, Some Phones Don't, But Can You Tell Which

Since Google announced Android Oreo almost exactly three months ago, a lot of new Android phones have been announced.

Not a lot of them are coming with Oreo installed though.

We've seen recent launches from OnePlus and Razer fail to deliver the latest Android build. Samsung, LG and Nokia all announced new flagships around the time of Oreo's launch, yet when they reached retail shelves they were still running on older versions of Android.

None of these phones have seen an update yet.

In fact you can count the number of phones running Android  on one hand. Google's Pixels, Sony's XZ1, XZ1 Compact, XZ Premium, HTC U11, U11+ and U11 Life and Huawei's Mate 10, Mate 10 Pro. Of those only the original Pixels, Sony XZ Premium and HTC U11 haves seen upgrades.

Android is so fragmented that the version which comes installed on a newly announced smartphone is a complete lottery. 

It's one of the key reasons why I think the smartphone market will still fall Apple's way, given…

New iPad Ad Signposts Apple's Future Direction

This is Apple's latest iPad ad, which showcases many of the new features in iOS 11. It also makes a statement about Apple's future vision for computing. The iPad is touch and stylus friendly and packs versatility that a Mac could never deliver. 
It's a signpost to a world where the deeply flawed MacBook Pro no longer exists and Macs live on desks if they exist at all. 
Of course, this isn't actually Apple's vision at all, just one they've copied from Microsoft. And whilst the versatility and power of the Surface Pro (and its many PC lookalikes) makes for a real and uncompromised experience, the iPad user will bump up against its limits all too often. 
This advert tells a great story but its one which isn't reflected in real world usage. I'd also question whether it's healthy or wise for Apple to depict a child so absorbed by technology that her only direct  interaction with another child is to briefly show them her screen

Tesla Launches A 500 Mile Truck With Hot Hatch Acceleration

Tesla launched its promised Semi today and it managed to beat expectations in many areas. The truck will have a 500 mile range, rather than the expected 300 miles, will charge to a 400 mile range in around half an hour and can go from 0-60 in five seconds.
The days of being stuck behind slow moving heavies may just be numbered.
Tesla says the Semi will achieve the performance figures whilst fully loaded, and it is prepared to guarantee the powertrain for one million miles. 
The result is a truck with a per mile cost of ownership around a third of that of a diesel powered equivalent. 
Elon Musk threw in a surprise announcement to close the show. A new Roadster, successor to Tesla's original vehicle. As well as being the fastest accelerating production car ever, the new Roadster packs a battery pack which gives it a range of 1000km - a first for an electric vehicle. 
A good day for Tesla then, just the thing to draw attention away from its issues with building cars in volume. 
The …

OnePlus 5T Arrives Packing 18:9 Screen

OnePlus has announced its latest device - the 5T, packing a new 6" screen which fills the face of the device thanks to its 18:9 aspect ratio. Its a 1080p screen at 400dpi, which is a bit of a disappointment. The screen is AMOLED though, so colours should pop.
The 5T also gains a Face ID clone, which promises to be as awkward as the real thing on the iPhone. At least OnePlus has retained the fingerprint sensor, which means you can unlock your phone without having to hold it up to your face.
For the rest, it's much the same as the outgoing 5, a Snapdragon 835, 6 or 8GB of RAM and a USB-C port at v2.0 only. Dash Charging is still one of the, if not the, fastest way of juicing up a phone.
It also retains Android Nougat - which is something of a disappointment too. Joining Oreo in the MIA box are waterproofing and memory expansion. 
The cameras have been updated, with both having the same focal length, meaning no more zoom, but improved performance for the pictures you're mor…

F1: Toro Rosso Retain Gasly, Hartley For 2018

Toro Rosso have announced that both Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley will be retained for the 2018 season, as the team switches to Honda engines. The news isn't altogether surprising, both have performed well given the limited running time available to them before stepping into Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz's shoes mid-season.
With Ricciardo likely to depart Red Bull at the end of his current contract, the two Toro Rosso drivers are effectively fighting for a seat in the 'A' team for 2019. Which should make for some interesting racing.
Assuming Honda's engine allows them enough running time to do any racing, of course.

F1: One Year At Mercedes, How Has Valtteri Bottas Performed

Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix was a watershed for Valtteri Bottas. Having clinched pole position on Saturday he was beaten to the race win by Vettel on the Sunday in what was probably the most disappointing race of the season for the Finn.
There's no question that in the same position Lewis Hamilton would have won the Grand Prix. Even starting from the pit line, the new World Champion finished within sight of Bottas. I'd even wager that Nico Rosberg would have taken the Mercedes to victory in Sao Paolo.
And that's a problem for Mercedes. This year its fair to say that Ferrari could have won the title despite having a demonstrably inferior car over the season. Vettel was able to beat both Mercedes on several occasions and even when he didn't he was generally able to insert himself between them.
But for the events of three races, Singapore, Malaysia and Japan, where an accident and two car failures cost Vettel a significant haul of points the title could still be in…

iPhone X Lead Times Dropping - Higher Production Yields At Last

Apple Stores across the world are showing much shorter lead times on the iPhone X, with most now offering just a 2-3 week lead times for online orders. In some places its even possible to walk in and picking the new iPhone off the shelf.
Now its a pretty safe bet that demand for the iPhone X hasn't collapsed in the last week so this seems to be an indication that Foxconn and the various component suppliers responsible for putting the handset together, have resolved whatever issues were limiting production yields.
With Christmas just around the corner that's good news for those looking to drop a new iPhone into someone special's stocking.

Heuer Autavia Limited Edition Celebrates Jack Heuer's Life

This is the Heuer Autavia Limited Edition, released to celebrate the 85th birthday of Jack Heuer, the fourth generation of his family to lead the company. The watch has been designed by Heuer himself and takes inspiration from the 1933 Autavia designed by his father and uncle.
The watch is available in a 1932 piece limited run (reflecting Heuer's birth year), and will cost £4,650. It's certainly not cheap, but it has heritage and looks on its side, without the brash image which attaches to many other premium watch brands.

Polaroid Moto Mod Makes No Sense At All

Having been teased earlier in the year, the Polaroid Instant Printer Moto Mod has finally arrived and, frankly, I can see no reason to buy this Mod.
When I looked at the Moto Z2 Play earlier in the year my view was that it was a decent enough mid-range smartphone, but the Moto Mods were of no use to anyone. Indeed buyers were potentially throwing themselves under a bus thanks to the lock-in and limited re-use and resale potential of these add-ons.
The Polaroid Insta-Share Printer Mod perfectly demonstrates this.
This is effectively a Polaroid Zip printer, repackaged to fit onto the back of the Z series phones. It's smaller and lighter, but whereas the Zip will work with any modern smartphone, the Insta-Share is tied to a Moto Z of some type.
In a year's time when its time to upgrade your phone you'll have a choice of buying another Moto Mod phone (assuming Lenovo hasn't abandoned the concept) or trying to sell on your Mods to a restrictive market.
And then there's…

Apple Watch Biggest Wearable In Q3, Expect Significant Growth In Q4

Apple is once again the biggest vendor in the wearables market, pipping Xiaomi and Fitbit for top spot. This despite the new Apple Watch 3 only being on sale for a handful of days in the quarter. The report from Canalys suggests Apple sold more than 3.5 million Watches in the quarter.
Those numbers might be good enough to top the market, but in Apple's terms its a poor achievement. Apple managed to sell an Apple Watch to around one in twelve new iPhone buyers in quarter and around one in 250 iPhone owners as a whole. 
Part of that might be due to users resistance to the idea of replacing a real timepiece with a wrist mounted gadget; partly because many users just don't want the pain of keeping it juiced up.
However I suspect the iPhone X will drive a significant upswing in Watch purchases in the next couple of quarter, as users realise that unlocking a phone with Face ID in a queue of shoppers is going to be  less fun than they first though. Lighting conditions and even the a…

Formula E: Kobayashi In At Andretti For Hong Kong

Kamui Kobayashi was one of F1's most popular drivers when he raced in the series. His aggressive, take no prisoners style making him a firm favourite with fans. 

Now Formula E fans will get to see how the experienced Japanese racer gets on with the series' very different set of challenges, after it was announced that he will partner Antonio Felix Da Costa at Andretti Racing in the Season Four opener in Hong Kong.

No comment on whether this is a one off or whether Kobayashi will be a permanent replacement for Tom Blomqvist, who had originally been signed by the team.

Having not driven the car before, not the Hong Kong street circuit it's going to be a tough baptism for Kobayashi.

Firefox Quantum Is Probably Your Best Choice Of Browser

The latest version of Firefox hasn't been out long enough to fully assess its performance, but based on past experience I'm going to call this the most successful Firefox release in a while. This is Firefox Quantum.
Mozilla has updated the look of Firefox, it now looks like an integrated part of the Windows 10 experience, and slimmed it down so it performs better. I didn't have a problem with the last version, which worked well on all of my hardware. Yet the new version definitely feels spritelier all the same.
What Firefox has also always done is avoid the resource hogging which blights the Chrome experience. Whilst opening multiple tabs in Chrome on your PC or Mac makes everything more laggy and less smooth; the same process has no discernible effect with Firefox Quantum.
So it looks good and performs well, Firefox is already ahead of the game. Only Microsoft's claims of better battery life when browsing in Microsoft Edge remain unchallenged.

Kantar Reports Android Sales Surge Ahead Of iPhone X Launch

Android saw a large increase in market share in the lead up to the launch of the iPhone, as iOS buyers kept their powder dry waiting for the first new iPhone design in years. Apple managed to maintain its market share in most territories and even saw an increase in others.

Those gains came at the expense of Windows - no surprise there. At this point its debatable whether such a small share even warrants reporting any more.

HTC U11 Out Of The Blocks With Oreo Update

HTC made a commitment to early Android updates for its flagship phones and today it became the second Android OEM  to deliver Android Oreo to an existing phone, the U11, hot on the heels of Sony with the Xperia Premium.
Whilst its good news for owners of HTC's beautiful handset, there is still a wider Android problem here. Currently the two OEMs getting Oreo out to their phones are two of the smallest. Samsung, Huawei, Oppo? Nothing from them yet. 
HTC's rollout is hitting Taiwanese handsets from today, with the rest of the world to follow over the next few weeks.

Face ID May Not Keep Your Kids Out

Children generally look like their parents, it's a genetic thing. However they are generally no more alike than siblings and it's rare where a child and parent are so close in looks that you would describe them as twins.
This is turning out to be a problem for iPhone X users, as children are now finding that it's possible to unlock their parents fancy new devices just by looking at them.
On the back of the news that Face ID can be beaten by twins, siblings and even a $150 mask, the quality of the iPhone X security solution is certainty in question.
Now it's possible that they child in this video bore an uncanny resemblance to its parents but that's still well outside the limits of risk Apple proposed when launching the feature.

Is The IPhone Notch A Means To An End Or A Feature?

Analysts are starting to talk about Apple's plans for next year and the design of future iPhones. One report claims that Apple is doing to replace is iPhone 6 based design across the board next year, launching the new iPhone X style devices.

That seems like overkill, given the range of sizes is suggested to be between 5.8" and 6.5". Even Samsung hasn't packed out its range so tightly.

So unless Apple is planning a Note like unique feature for one of the new iPhones, three just seems to be too many.

The other question concerns the notch. Does Apple intend to retain this as a feature or is it something to be engineered out of future designs?

If it's disappearing on future iPhones then developers are putting a lot of effort into a software update for a very limited number of customers.

On the other hand if Apple sees it as a feature and intends to position it as a way of getting the most screen real estate into any particular device we can look forward to a lifetime of u…

F1: Kvyat Likely To Replace Massa At Williams In 2018

Thrice rejected Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat looks odds on to take Felipe Massa's seat in the team for 2018, with the team's first choice driver Robert Kubica having failed to prove his ability to complete a full season for the team.
Kvyat has proven to be somewhat erratic, but always aggressive and fast; and the same calm atmosphere which allowed Massa to thrive at Williams will do wonders for Kvyat's shaken confidence and performance.
Kubica will be given one more run in order to prove his re-attached arm, after the season closing race in Abu Dhabi. The two day official test will be the first time he will get to drive the current Williams F1 car, having impressed in side by side tests with Paul Di Resta in a 2014 car.
It seems Di Resta's hopes of picking up the drive have reduced significantly, and he's now third choice for the seat.

HP Spectre Goes Touch, Remains Incredibly Thin

HP's Spectre 13 Laptop received plenty of accolades when it launched late last year and for many it was the laptop to own right up until the point when Microsoft launched the Surface Laptop. Even then, if you weren't sold on touch the Spectre was still a winning choice.
This year's version of the Spectre launched this week and every model now features a touchscreen, with an option to choose a 4K version too. Even with the extra touch layer, the Spectre remains just 10.4mm thin.
Being part of HP's Premium Laptop range the headlines don't stop there, most being carry overs from last years model - full day battery life, B&O audio and a full size keyboard - but aside from the touchscreen, there are new 8th gen Intel Core processors, fast charging over the USB-C and a new Ceramic and White finish to add to the distinctive Ash and Copper finish from last year.
Will the Spectre reclaim the king of laptops crown for HP? Until reviewers start getting their hands on on…

Google Puts Accessibility APIs Off Limits, Threatens To Drop Ban Hammer On Apps

Google has given developers thirty days to remove features which leverage the accessibility API to provide access to provide functionality which would otherwise require a jailbreak or custom ROM. If they fail to comply Google will boot their apps from the Play Store. The only exception is for apps which can show a true accessibility requirement.
This is bad news of app developers who rely on these APIs to deliver key features - Tasker for example, as well some forced rotation apps and passowrd managers. They'll need to update or lose access to the main Android storefront.
Being Android there are no reasons why these apps can't live on in their original form outside of the Play Store. That means either direct downloads from the developers own website or another app store - Amazon for example.
Google's move is user unfriendly - especially as many of the apps affected are paid apps for which the main draw are features enabled through use of the accessibility APIs. Still, unl…

Blue Monday - Old School Style

And by old school, I'm talking about Victorian Boarding school here. Well not quite, but you get the idea. New Order's iconic Blue Monday played on a selection of instruments last used before the War.

HTC Takes Vive To The Next Level - Standalone Focus Launched

HTC announced its new standalone VR headset today, the Vive Focus. With power coming from the Snapdragon 835, OLED screens and advancing tracking which HTC is calling World-Scale, with six degree of freedom tracking (I'm not sure whether that differs from any other standalone VR headset though).

The Vive Focus seems to be targeted towards China initially, with the launch only acknowledged on the HTC China website for now.

I'm not convinced in the bright future for VR, especially with AR about to get a hefty, Apple shaped boost if rumours are to be believed.

VR gaming definitely has immersion on its side, however most gamers are looking at a seat in front of a big screen TV, rather than leaping around in a virtual environment. That's likely to be the same obstacle which Microsoft's Kinect failed to overcome.

America's Millionaires And Billionaires Want To Pay More Tax

CNBC is reporting that a group of extremely wealthy American individuals have come together to demand that President Trump does not cut their taxes. That's an impressive number banding together to try and get the Government to do the right thing, cut taxes for those on the lowest incomes whilst raising it for higher income groups.
Unfortunately, with Donald Trump likely to be one of the biggest benefactors of the proposed tax cuts this group is unlikely to get their wish.

No Italy At The 2018 World Cup. What Just Happened Here?

If there's one thing you can count on in a World Cup year it is dramas in the Italian World Cup camp. The team will scrape through the qualifying round before going on to overachieve, usually all the way to the final. 

Not next year though, as Italy have failed to qualify for the Finals for the first time since 1958. 1958!

And that's with an entry list expanded to 48 teams. 

It's a huge disappointment for the Azzuri and their supporters, demonstrating how far the national game has fallen. 

It also breaks a less well known record stretching back to 1970. The Italians have appeared in the World Cup Final every twelve years since then. Losing to Brazil in 1970 and 1994; beating Germany and France in 1982 and 2006.

If the pattern had held it would have been a safe bet that Italy would lose to Brazil in the final next year.

iPhone X Has Crackly Speakers, Pixel 2 XL Has Unresponsive Edges, Not So Premium After All

The highest end phones from Apple and Google haven't had particularly glorious entries to the world of premium products, each now packing a list of issues which doesn't bode well for customers.
The iPhone added crackly top speakers to the green lines and unresponsive screens we already knew about. Meanwhile the Pixel 2 XL was revealed to be suffering from unresponsive screen edges, on top of the blue shift and colour of its screens and issues with Bluetooth headphones.
All these issue (well, 2 XL screen blue shift aside) seem to be affecting small proportions of the phones' users, yet headlines have been made and reputations have been sullied.
I don't think the issues affecting the iPhone X are going to stall sales - at this point I'm sure nothing will outside of Apple's ability to get them out of factories and into customer's hands. Even so, either phone now becomes more of a lottery purchase, knowing that problems exist.

HTC At Twenty - The Real Innovator?

HTC is celebrating twenty years of innovation in portable devices this year. It may surprise how many HTC built devices you have used, without knowing it. Aside from a multitude of carrier branded devices, HTC built PDAs and phones for Compaq, HP, Palm and even Sony.
It's interesting to see just how many firsts HTC brought to market, some successfully, some not so much.

What Was Google's Reason For Buying HTC?

HTC turns twenty years old this year and more than any other company it had been responsible for shaping the smartphone market and the devices in use today.

The list of the company's innovations is unfeasibly long, and that innovation has been in more than just technology, it has been responsible for almost all the exciting form factors which have graced handheld devices in the last two decades.

When Android launched on the HTC Dream I wrote that we would find out whether HTC was held back by Windows Mobile our vice versa. HTC went on to thrive, leading the Android charge until 2012, when Samsung passed it.

Since then HTC's story has been one of mistakes and missed opportunities. With sales and revenue plunging it was announced that Google was acquiring HTC's smartphone development team.

That looked like the end for HTC smartphones. Except that since the deal was announced the company has announced two attractive handsets which have been having a large share of the ( non-iPhon…

More Quality Control Issues Hit IPhone X

Apple hasn't exactly faced a Note 8 style failure, but it does appear to be having some quality control issues with the iPhone X. 

First we had the issue with auto correct forgetting that "I" was a valid word in English (a problem which affected more than the iPhone X to be fair). Now there are two screen issues affecting the new flagship.

The first affects users in the Northern hemisphere currently, when moving from a warm climate to a colder one. This results in unresponsive or wildly inaccurate touch sensor performance. Apple is suggesting this will be fixed with a software update.

The second, less common problem results in a green line appearing at one side of the screen. No word yet on whether this is a hardware problem or can be fixed with new software.

Finally there's a third issue affecting GPS performance, which causes the reported location to drift away from the phone's actual location. This one will receive an update from Apple in order to resolve.

Has Appl…

Contrary To Apple Claims, Face ID Beaten By Mask And Make Up

Apple claimed that Face ID was secure against impersonation with a mask when it launched the iPhone X. Turns out that despite working with Hollywood make-up artists, this may not be completely true.
Vietnamese security firm Bkav published the above video showing the technology being defeated by a mask, allowing the iPhone X to be unlocked wthout the users in frame.
Given that we now have questionable statements around siblings accessing phones and now masks, the accuracy of the technology must be called into question.
As well as being less convenient than a fingerprint sensor it may also be no more secure.

Satya Nadella Tells iPad User To Get A Real Computer

Satya Nadella hasn't been Microsoft's most outspoken advocate since taking over the role of CEO from Steve Ballmer, at times he's been all to keen to bow down before competitors like Google and, especially, Apple.

Whilst in India promoting his book, Nadella struck a verbal blow against iPad, telling Tech Radar's Sahil Mohan Gupta to 'You need to get a real computer' on spotting the Apple tablet in use.

It's a very fair comment, which Microsoft under Nadella hasn't really made a big noise about, and as Apple brings more computer-like features to the iPad one that it will soon be too late to discuss.

He went on to take shots at both Google and Apple, calling one a middleman and the other a luxury goods maker. Although his most interesting one was that for Microsoft to win, Google and Apple don't have to fail. It's an interesting reworking of an old Steve Jobs quote from twenty years ago at MacWorld.

Steve Jobs was right, in that his intention as …

F1: Hugo Boss Heads To Formula E

Hugo Boss has been in F1 for decades. It's most recent involvement being as a major sponsor of Mercedes as the team carried all before it on the easy to four season long white washes of its competitors.

The problem seems to be that the snore-fest of modern F1 hasn't been a big drawer for Hugo Boss's customers. Instead the forward looking Formula E crowd seem to be more like Boss's target market.

Now Boss's decision has some interesting timing, as we know that Mercedes will be entering Formula E for Season 6. It seems entirely likely that Boss will remain with Mercedes, just not in F1. 

Right now it's hard not to see Formula E as the future of top level motorsport. Its racing is better, the show happens in city centres and the noise levels mean that it's suitable as family entertainment. 

With manufacturers choosing to switch from other codes  to Formula E and sponsors now following, it seems like F1 is in danger of losing its 'King of motorsport' crown.

The iPhone 8 Is Selling So Badly They're Giving It Away

Apple fans may be going wild fire the iPhone X, but they're apparently passing up the iPhone 8 in ever greater numbers.

According to a report on pocketnow, AT&T is giving away a free iPhone 8 with every iPhone X purchase. I'd guess that's not because the regular iPhone is selling so well.

It's not just Apple that is suffering weak sales as a result of the success of the iPhone 8. Samsung is reported to have dropped orders for the Note 8 and Galaxy S8 as a result of demand for Apple's flagship.

The difference is that for Apple this is actually a good thing. Apple's ARPU is going through the roof this quarter.

The iPhone X has launched an iPhone upgrade super cycle and it's now looking likely that Apple will surpass Samsung as number one smartphone vendor in the final quarter of the year.

Which further raises the question of stock market manipulation in the run up to the release of the device. Those stories of production issues really do seem to have bee…

Why Don't MacBooks Have Face ID?

Apple is planning to do away with Touch ID  on the iPad and replace it with the sensor pack and gesture driven model of the iPhone X. That's probably a sensible move, given the iPad has more space and less of a requirement for minimal bezels. As long as Apple doesn't intend to replicate the Notch, it's a move that I'd support.
It does beggar the question of the MacBook Pro. Why go to all the trouble of implementing the ridiculous Touch Bar and embedded Touch ID, if Apple believes Face ID is a better solution and is going to roll it out across other devices?
A laptop or desktop is the perfect place to put Face ID. It's such a good idea that Microsoft did it more than two years ago with Windows Hello. That works so well on my Surface Pro that the thought of going back to  machine which requires you to take some action to login is just unthinkable.
Windows Hello sees me arrive at my desk and unlocks my Surface without me having to make any conscious effort. That'…

Facebook Wants Your Nudes, What Could Possibly Go Wrong With That?

Facebook has a revolutionary idea for preventing revenge porn on its social network. It will get used to upload nude pictures of themselves.

Nope, can't see anything there that gives rise to concern. Hang on though...

Seriously, this is fundamentally stupid idea with no redeeming qualities. Unless you happen to be the 'lucky' Facebook employee who gets to scrutinise the nude photos.

Facebook's justification is that by cataloguing your nude photos that can prevent them being uploaded by someone else. No, they can't. Let's be honest, if someone had nude photos of you and they want to share them they will get around any machine learning algorithm which tries to match your photo with the one being uploaded.

The far bigger worry would be the security of the files held by Facebook. I mean let's face it, you would create, in one fell swoop, the most valuable hacker prize of all time. A treasure trove of ordinary people's nude photos. Ready for the sort of blackmai…

Fixing Tech Tax Cheats Shouldn't Be That Hard

Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft. Between them they are guilty of robbing governments and citizens of the countries they operate in of billions of dollars in tax income. The use of tax loopholes and offshore subsidiaries to move taxable income to more generous jurisdictions may be legally allowable, but it is morally unacceptable and should be condemned whether you live the companies involved or hate them.

Fixing this seems relatively straightforward, whilst requiring an act of government shouldn't really be too controversial in any country losing out on tax income.

Apply a comparison between the company's declared profit margin globally and the margin locally. If the discrepancy is more than a couple of percentage points, tax should be based on the global margin as a proportion of revenue.

So if Apple UK sales are £20bn a year and it has a reported global margin of 38% Apple owes the UK tax on $7.6bn - or just over £1.5bn, rather than the £11m it actually paid. 

Multipl…

Microsoft Near Share Is A Flawed AirDrop Imitator

Days after Google launched an early access programme for an app which adds AirDrop capabilities to Android, Microsoft added it's own version into the latest Windows 10 Insider build. 

Near Share uses Bluetooth to enable file sharing between devices in the absence of a network connection. It uses Bluetooth to find the receiving device and transfer the file. 

I'm not sure that WiFi Direct might not have been a better solution, but never mind that for now. 

Near Share is effectively a point to point Bluetooth network connection for file sharing. Exactly as the standard Bluetooth file share protocol is. So what has Microsoft added to the party here?

There's another roadblock too. Given that most PCs are connected to a network most of the time, there's no real use case here.

AirDrop is used mainly for phone to phone sharing and Microsoft doesn't have a phone platform to do this any more. 

Android users already have the far more useful Pushbullet and iOS will stick to native A…

Snap's Share Price Diving After Another Terrible Quarter

I mentioned this recently, after news that Snap's Spectacles had been something of a flop, but Karma is a bitch. 

After a disastrous earnings report yesterday, Snap's share price fell through the floor in after hours trading. 22% of the company's value was wiped off in a matter of hours. 

Given the way Snap threw Windows Phone users under the bus, it's hard not to take pleasure in seeing the company struggle.

Twitter's 280 Character Change Is For Those Who Want It

Twitter raised a storm amongst it's own users yesterday by announcing that it will roll it's upgraded 280 character message to all users. 

Cue hysterical outcry from the Twitterati. Ridiculous posts and end of the world warnings. 

It's all so unnecessary. If you don't want to post more than 140 characters, don't. It's really as simple as that. If you don't want to expend the extra effort to read the longer tweets, stop following those who post them. 

Some users will want the extra freedom to express themselves, others will welcome longer posts. Those are the users Twitter is racing out to here.

I, for one, am happy to see how this plays out once the hysteria has subsided. However, I'm expecting Twitter to still be the same old Twitter once users get used to the idea.

Google's Pixel 2 Outscores iPhone X As Best Smartphone Camera

At this point I can't help but think that the quality of the top dozen or so smartphone cameras is so close that nobody who owns one is going to be dissatisfied with the images produced. Camera comparisons are so close now that only pixel peepers can really tell the difference between the output of adding contenders.
However, there has to be a class leader and it looks like this year that will be the Google Pixel 2, which outscored the iPhone X to claim number one spot in DxOMark's comprehensive testing.
Google's computational photography manages to bridge the gap in hardware specs to the iPhone X - remember this accounts for both the rear dual camera setup and fancy new front camera array - to produce photos which are measurably better.

Facebook And Apple Making Moves In Finance

Both Apple and Facebook have made moves in peer to peer payments this week. Facebook extending its existing Messenger Pay to the UK, whilst Apple adding its Apple Pay Cash service to the latest iMessage beta.

Both serve almost exactly the same function. Sign in to use the service and then pay any other user of the service.

So far, so straightforward. However this is very much a Trojan horse move into finance. Apple holds more credit cards than any other company. Facebook holds that much information on you adding payment information isn't going to be an issue for most users.

In the longer term though, both companies have to be considering how much of the very lucrative banking market they can eat into with these sorts of tools. Banks are one of the few industries to rival the profits of tech giants like Apple.

Next stage disruptions are bound to follow. Add businesses - especially smaller ones - to the mix and Message based payment systems could eat into Payment Card Industry profi…