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Showing posts from May 27, 2018

So, How Many Of Those Updated Privacy Policies Did You Actually Read?

Thanks to the EU and the introduction of the GDPR, every single man and his dog has been emailing you over the last few weeks, telling you about their updated privacy policies and asking you to opt in to their mailing lists.Did you actually read any of those new agreements, or just accept them sight unseen, like just about everybody else?Our understanding of how our data moves around is clearly limited - take the Cambridge Analytica scandel. Facebook never knew what was happening to the data, never mind its users. So it really does feel like all of those privacy policies are pointless. We don’t read them, the companies don’t necessarily comply with them.What we need is a standard simple, plain english agreement, made up of check boxes, detailing what will and won’t be shared. Of course for many companies that might not be in their best interests, given how they thrive on you not realising how widely your data gets shared.

Google Removes Android Tablets From Site, Preparing For A Chrome Tablet Future

Google’s Android website no longer contains any references to Tablets, suggesting that the death of that form factor is imminent. We already know what is going to replace them, Chromebook Tablets, the first of which arrived earlier this year.Android tablets have all but disappeared in recent years, wih only Samsung and Huawei really playing the game to any extent. In truth the iPad has more than seen off any sustained challenge, with Windows hybrid devices mopping up the high end.With Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S4 already having been spotted in testing, this doesn’t mean the end of Android tablets full stop, and Google will still need developers to build Android apps for them to run on Chromebook tablets via the Android Play Store.For now the tablet market is all about the iPad and Google’s move to Chromebook is unlikely to change that anytime soon.

F1: Robert Kubica An Option For Toro Rosso

After another disappointing performance at Monaco, Toro Rosso driver Brendon Hartley is in danger of losing his seat in the Red Bull junior team. The Kiwi has had a disappointing start to the 2018 season, and whilst team mate Pierre Gasly has been putting together a solid run of results, Hartley seems to be spending more time getting in Gasly’s way than producing results.With patience in a rare commodity in the Red Bull operation, it’s looking more and more likely that Hartley will shortly get the dreaded Helmut Marko elbow.That seemed a lot more likely this weekend, after rumours that Toro Rosso might look to Robert Kubica as a substitute for Hartley. The Pole put in some impressive running during his free practice session in Barcelona, and there seems to be a lot he can offer to the team and Honda for the rest of the season.With Canada, the scene of Kubica’s highest and lowest points, that huge accident in 2007, and first win one year later; next on the calendar, it would seem like …

Microsoft Still Hasn't Learned The Value Of Dog Food, Does It Really Want To Be In Hardware At All

I was at a Microsoft event this week where every single Microsoft member of staff was using a MacBook of some variety as their computing device of choice. Given the efforts Microsoft is making in the hardware space this is not a good message to be sending.
If Microsoft is unable to persuade its own staff to use its own products - Surface or Windows - how can it present a compelling case for customers to do so?
Not dogfooding was one of many reasons for the failure of Microsoft's mobile efforts. Failure to do so in platforms will be one of the reasons why Microsoft hardware fails and dies too.
Now I have worked in many blue chip enterprises and one thing they all had in common was a strict policy of hardware purchasing from a single supplier. When managing large fleets of PC hardware its just a common sense policy. I've implemented those same rules in those businesses myself, because when you are responsible for managing a fleet of tens of thousands of PCs, having to deal with…

Chelsea's Hideous New Stadium On Hold After Abramovich Visa Rejection, Financial Implosion Imminent?

This monstrosity was going to be Chelsea's new Stamford Bridge stadium, costing the Premier League club an estimated £1bn, but now on hold due to the changing financial climate.
Under normal circumstances we would be talking about the financial climate globally, or at least in Europe, where political crisis on Italy threatens to derail the EU. In this case however, we're talking about a rather more localised financial climate, one centred firmly on Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea's owner, Russian multi billionaire Roman Abramovich announced yesterday that he had become an Israeli citizen after being denied a permanent visa for the UK. That the announcement was closely followed by the decision to cease all work on the new stadium can't have been a coincidence. Abramovich was almost certainly funding the development through increased loans to Chelsea.
Where does that leave Chelsea and Abramovich? I suspect it leaves the latter facing very real trouble and the former preparing …

What Does An Integrated Transport System Look Like For The Mega Cities Of 2050 (Part One)

Around the world we are seeing the growth and merger of cities to form what are becoming Mega Cities. Packing in tens of millions of people and stretching further than some countries, these huge conurbations introduce challenges around transportation of people and goods.
Those challenges need to be resolved - and quickly. Today half of the world's population lives in cities, by 2030 that number is expected to rise to 80% or more. Those cities which have made the transition from being a large city to being a Mega City are already suffocating under the weight of traffic.
Take London as an example. The Greater London area is home to around nine million people. However if you extend the city to its furthest limits - the regions where its workers commute from (Northampton in the North, Bath in the West, and the most of the South-East coast region) that number swells to more than twenty million people.
Moving that many people around is a logistical nightmare - even for a city enjoying …

Dutch Court Declines To Force Samsung Android Updates

A Dutch court has ruled on a case brought by a consumer group seeking to force Samsung to provide upgrades for its Android phones in a timelier fashion and for a longer period.
Samsung currently guarantees to provide updates for two years after a smartphone's initial release - which the consumer group wanted to see increased to four years.
The Court agreed with Samsung's claim that it clearly stated its update policy on its website and released updates in a timely manner, once testing has been successful.
Whilst there's no legal compunction for Samsung to change its update policy, this remains the biggest chink in its armour when compared to Apple. Until it can match the speed and length of Apple's updates it will always bleed customers to Apple.

Did Apple Miss A Trick By Leaving The Smart Connector Off The iPad 2018

Apple's decision to add Pencil support to the new iPad (2018) was something of a surprise and probably did much to persuade existing customers to upgrade. After all we've all seen how quickly the Pencil has been adopted by developers and users since its introduction with the first iPad Pro.
What about the keyboard though? The Smart Connector, used on all iPad Pros to provide access to the Smart Keyboard, is missing from the entry-level iPad. So what, you might ask... it's a low price device, who's going to miss that?
The answer is Apple, which I believe is leaving money on the table by not adding the Smart Connector to the iPad.
The cost of adding the Smart Connector to the iPad is small - no more than a couple of dollars I'd guess. On the other hand the Smart Keyboard sells for $149 - and I'd imagine there's a pretty hefty profit tucked away in there.
Consumers buying the entry-level iPad are far more likely to add a keyboard to their purchase than the Pe…

Xiaomi's Mi 8 Is A Shameless iPhone X Lookalike

Since Apple introduced the iPhone X, with its very different look, we've seen Android OEMs add their own notches and quasi full surface displays. None has so blatantly ripped off the new design in quite the manner that Xiaomi has achieved with the Mi 8.
What we have here is a phone which is going to sell exclusively on the fact that it could be mistaken for an iPhone X from even quite close range. That's going to be a big factor in its popularity in certain markets.
Now that's not to say there isn't a good phone lurking under that disguise - and for the expected price it looks like Xiaomi might just have served notice on the OnePlus 6. Xiaomi have added IR emitters and receivers on the front face, to enable a more secure face unlock feature. Its front facing camera is 20mp and it packs a dual rear camera array (which has been packaged to look exactly like the iPhone X camera). 
There's also an Explorer edition, high end phone, which adds an in display fingerprint …

Tesla Model 3 destroyed in Greek Highway Autopilot Crash

Tesla and its Autopilot system have been getting some bad press recently, with a number of accidents, criticism from consumer groups and questions over the system's suitability for public consumption.
The latest accident happened on a highway in Greece, where a Model 3 being driven with Autopilot engaged swerved hard right into a lane divider, badly damaging the car.
So far, so standard. We've seen that Autopilot is far from being a perfect system in the past, and the company still markets it as a feature still in testing. Driver attention and readiness to take control are made quite clear to drivers all through the Autopilot process.
What's different is the Facebook post from the owner describing the accident. It is a frank assessment of Autopilot's capabilities and suitability for on-road testing from a Tesla fan and owner. Clearly the experience has opened the owner's eyes. Whilst admitting fault for the accident for being too trusting of the Autopilot system, …

Is It Time For Samsung To Abandon Google

Samsung and Google are strange bedfellows. Samsung uses Android in some of its smart devices, but not in others. It has its own suite of apps which conflict with those provided by Google as part of Android and it even has its own Android app store. Then there are the products which compete with Google’s - the Gear VR headset, Gear smartwatches and Smart TVs. There’s Bixby, which competes directly with Google Assistant, and when it arrives on Samsung’s smart speakers, competing witth Google Home too. With Google’s recent moves to bring hardware and software together in devices across all categories, Samsung is going to face increased competition in the premium sector from a company which it relies on to provide its core software. Is it time for Samsung to divorce itself from Google? It can do so without ditching Android by using AOSP. The altenativw option, Tizen, just isn’t viable right now and probably never will be. Using AOSP means that Samsung won’t be able to install Google apps …

Greggs The Baker Tricks Foodies With Its Summer Menu

Greggs might be famous for sausage rolls and sarnies, but apparently it has plenty of more exciting options to offer too. So it took its summer menu to a foodie fayre incognito and recorded foodies thoughts on its offerings.Some of the reactions to finding out the menu is from Greggs are priceless.

Things 3.6 Shows How Apple iPad Users Can Get Around The Absence Of A Mouse

I've been complaining about the lack of mouse support on the iPad for a while now, primarily because it makes the keyboard / desk experience nonsensical. Having to reach up and hit the screen every time you want to do something for which there is no keyboard interaction is a complete pain.
Clearly Cultured Code, developer of the to-do app on steroids, Things, felt the same way. Without the option of adding mouse support, they've re-engineered their app's user interface to support keyboard navigation and, as you can see in the video above, they've done a pretty fine job. Other developers - of serious applications anyway - need to take note.
This doesn't remove the need for a mouse though, especially when using an external display. Without a mouse the iPad can only manage to mirror its screen. With mouse support it would be nice to see the iPad Pro at least, gain the ability to use an external display to extend its working space. 
Until Apple decides to make a mouse…

Americans Spend A Quarter Of Their Lives On The Web

Kleiner Perkins and Mary Meeker released their Internet Trends report yesterday, and it documents the way that the internet - and smartphones in particular - have taken over American's lives.
Last year Americans spent six hours a day on the internet - that's 25% of their lives.
That doesn't need to be read as a negative though, being on the internet can mean many things, from working, communicating or gaming, for example. Being continually connected means so many changes to previous generations. We don't read newspapers any more, they are online resources. Shopping has moved online, as has research. Music now streams, rather than broadcasts. Those extra hours reflect a change of information type, not lost time necessarily.
The change over the last decade has been entirely drive by mobile usage - internet access through other devices has remained static, fallen slightly even. But the smartphone has driven overall usage through the roof.

Quebec Sets Itself Up As The Future Home Of Crypto Currency Miners

Crypto mining farms eat electricity, something which is unsustainable when that energy is being created in CO2 generating power stations. That's without considering the impact on power supply at times of peak demand from every other customer.
Quebec's cheap electricity recently drew in a number of data centre scale miners, seemingly fleeing the new regulations applied by China which ban mining. With mining consuming up to a quarter of all power generation in Quebec, the local government applied the brakes, putting a hold on new applications for mining data centres.
That ban has now been lifted, according to Le Journal de Montreal, which says that a deal has been worked out which allows crypto-mining to continue, and even encourages miners to move their operations to Quebec.
Why is this important? It's because almost all of Quebec's energy generation is by renewables, specifically an extensive network of hydro-electric stations. To the point where Quebec has more elect…

Apple Will Become A Music Publisher - And Change The Music Industry Forever

Reports in the music press today suggest the Apple Music has a new division responsible for publishing. The division is the first visible sign of change implemented by Oliver Schusser, who took over last month.

The suggestion is that the publishing division will be responsible for developing existing songwriters and easing the publishing process, it seems clear that the end game is for Apple Music to sign, develop and publish its own artists. In the process it will disrupt the current music industry model which sees those responsible for creating the work receive the smallest slice of the pie.

It seems inevitable that Spotify, Amazon and Google will also have to follow this path if they want to continue in the streaming business. Which spells curtains for the music industry at large. At the very least it will have to rewrite its contracts to offer at least an equivalent deal to Apple's; at worst a drain of artists to Apple will leave its cupboard bare of new work.

Which brings me…

Tesla Model 3 Gains Consumer Reports Recommendation After Over The Air Brake Fix

When Consumer Reports declined to recommend the Model 3, Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk initially came out punching, suggesting bias and even flawed testing methods, despite CR's extensive history of unbiased and fact based testing. To their credit that response was quickly canned, and instead an over the air fix for the braking issues was promised.
That fix has now landed, and with it - following retests - comes Consumer Reports 'Recommended' award.
The OTA fix improved braking performance to match that originally claimed by Tesla, rather than the 'worst performing car ever' the original setup achieved. And it's incredibly impressive that Tesla was able to fix this with a software update.
But it isn't something we should be giving credit for.
A car is not a piece of software running on a computer, where an occasional crash causes frustration and possibly loss of some work, and a patch released after delivery is an acceptable mechanism for dealing with proble…

India Is Apple's Next Big Move, Manufacturing And Retail Announcements Imminent

India is the world's second biggest smartphone market, and whilst the majority of the devices sold their are entry-level Android handsets from Chinese OEMs or Samsung; there's a massive appetite for the iPhone and Apple knows it.
It's currently negotiating heavily with the Indian Government to gain tax concessions which will allow it to assemble more iPhones in India, giving it an immediate toe hold in the market. A retail presence is also being mooted, as Apple looks to the next decade of iPhone growth being powered by the billion user strong Indian smartphone market.
Apple will need to have a lower priced iPhone to drive sales, which is why I'm expecting the current SE model (currently built in India in small numbers by Wistron) to remain on the books for a while yet. Apple can afford to play the long game here. As I've said many times in the past, the smartphone market tends towards Apple over time, especially once the influx of first time smartphone owners dri…

New Zealand Warns Apple For Misleading Consumers

Apple has received a warning from the New Zealand Commerce Commission after it was found to be likely to be misleading consumers when discussing their rights under consumer law.

Customers are alleged to have been told that their warranty period of two years was the extent of their guarantee under consumer law, however under the current regulations there is no limit to the time at which a claim can be made for manufacturing faults.

Apple also directs purchasers of third-party products on its Apple NZ website to the manufacturer for any repairs when it is responsible for providing these repairs as the retailer.

This mirrors similar problems Apple has previously suffered with its interpretation of EU consumer law, when it was forced to provide customers in the EU with a two year warranty.

HP Now Offers A Direct Intel / ARM Comparison In Always Connected PCs

HP's Envy x2 with ARM hasn't been out for long, but it already feels like it's obsolete. Pity those who invested on one. First, we have confirmation of newer Always Connected PCs powered by the new SnapDragon 845 CPU - an upgrade of the 835 in the Envy x2 ARM, and now we have a new version of the Envy x2 with an Intel processor and modem.
It's an opportunity to see how Microsoft's Windows on ARM investment has paid off.
The new Envy x2 Intel version has a low power Intel Core i5-Y CPU - what used to be badged Core m5. Otherwise specs on the ARM and Intel versions are the same.
This will make establishing the trade off in ARM v Intel decisions much easier to calibrate. The Intel version costs 15% more and should perform better whilst the ARM version should have an extended battery life.
I'm not sure the ARM version is going to win out in many buying decisions. We know Core m  powered laptops and hybrids can get pretty impressive battery life, to the point where…

Calvin And Hobbes, Karl Marx, The TV And The Smartphone

Who doesn't love Calvin and Hobbes? If you're not old enough (or were old enough but just missed out for some reason) I strongly recommend getting down to your local or online bookshop and picking up an collection or two. This comic strip of a boy and his stuffed tiger turned out to have some incredibly incisive commentary on life.
Take the above header from a Sunday strip. When Marx made his observation in 1843, religion did indeed occupy a place in people's lives which was to be usurped by television. Bill Watterson captured that beautifully above.
What would that strip look like today? Indeed what would Marx observe in the strange master servant relationship we now have with our smartphones?
Astonishingly (to me anyway) this particular strip is more than thirty years old, and Calvin and Hobbes stopped enchanting us with their antics more than twenty years ago. There hasn't really been anything to compare since.

Tesla Model S In Autopilot Ploughs Into Police Car

Laguna Beach PD has tweeted the above picture showing the aftermath of another failure of Tesla's Autopilot system. In this instance the Model S appears to have failed to see a parked Police SUV, hitting it at sufficient speed to half spin the car around - if the skid marks leading to the car are any indication anyway.
The PD's tweet confirmed that Autopilot was engaged at the time of the accident, although whether the driver was engaged remains up for debate. 
Yet more evidence, if any were needed, that Tesla owners are putting far too much faith in the Autopilot system and Tesla's controls on driver inattention are proving to be ineffective.
The police vehicle was unoccupied and the Tesla driver had 'minor' injuries.
With last week's consumer group attacks on Tesla and self-driving cars in general, this probably wasn't the best time for this particular incident to occur.

HTC Makes The Right Decision In Dropping The USB-C Headphone Adapter From U12+ Box

Customers who buy the HTC U12+ won't be able to use standard headphones straight out of the box, as it has decided to forego the USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter in the standard package. It's the right thing to do, for more than one reason.
First of all HTC's USonic headphones are included in the box, and these are probably the best standard headphone offering of any phone on the market today, with adaptive audio shaping and active noise cancellation.
Users who choose not to use the included headphones will almost certainly opt for Bluetooth options instead. On my daily commute I see no third-party wired headphones being used. Only standard in box sets, or Bluetooth options instead.
Which leaves a smaller group of diehards who want to use their existing wired headphones. Some of those (probably most of them to be honest) will be upgrading from a previous HTC smartphone, so will have the USB-C DAC already. The remainder can fork out the $11.99 for the DAC if they choose to…

iOS 11.4 Arrives, Finally Brings Delayed AirPlay 2, Messages In iCloud

Apple dropped iOS 11.4 today, and the big news is that, finally, AirPlay 2 has arrived. That's big news for HomePod owners, who will now be able to do things like multi-room streaming and use two HomePods to create a stereo pair. 
I'd imaging those feature alone will bump HomePod sales over the remainder of this quarter. To get the new capabilities HomePod owners will need to update the firmware on their HomePods as well as iOS devices.
There's also the much touted arrival of Messages in iCloud, which promises to improve synchronisation of messages between devices. It will be interesting to see how that works out. I've never experienced any delays or problems with Message synchronisation so far, but have found iCloud to be slow and buggy. Let's hope Apple hasn't broken the experience for some to fix it for others. 
Fortunately, it looks like the feature is opt in, so there's no need to  enable it just yet, as long as you aren't suffering for storage sp…

Tesla Model 3 Owners Set New Arbitrary Range Record, Kill Car In The Process

If you come here often, you’ll know that Hypermiling electric cars is something which annoys me greatly. The arbitrary numbers achieved bear no relevance in day to day use and serve only to reinforce the idea that range is still an issue in everyday EV ownership.
In this case the test itself was to have negative consequences for the two Californian Tesla fans who ran their Model 3 around a closed loop circuit, at extremely low speeds and in rocketing temperatures for a day and a half. After running out of juice, the Model 3 refused to charge and has had to be shipped to a Tesla Service Centre to see if it can be fixed. Potentially the two could have damaged the battery pack by running it past its point of no return.

Tesla owners seem to be particularly prone to these sorts of number chasing exercises, however Tesla in particular, and the electric car industry as a whole, has reached the point where recharging is a minor inconvenience, not a life changing issue.

Every EV on the market …

F1: Monaco Once More An Excitement-light Paradise

Daniel Ricciardo took a well earned victory on the streets of Monte Carlo yesterday, despite his Red Bull being 25% down on power as a result of a hybrid system failure. That Sebastien Vettel wasn’t able to pass the hobbling Red Bull was an indication of the turgid nature of the race. At stages the leaders were lapping nine seconds slower than in qualifiying. This wasn’t a demonstration of motorsport at its finest, rather an exercise in follow the leader, lapping way off the pace and generally staying well inside the comfort zone.Contrast the dour nature of the race with the thrill a minute Formula E race in Berlin last weekend and there’s no question which was the better spectacle.The two drivers behind Ricciardo are acknowledged to be the talents of their generation, yet neither looked remotely capable of taking the win. Whether that’s the fault of the regulations, the drivers, the cars or the tyres is immaterial. Monaco is the jewel in the F1 season crown, and this was a snoozefest…