Print 9 comment(s) - last by SarAT.. on Nov 24 at 12:23 PM

Another Apple quality problem... experienced first hand.

Andy Schlafly learned first-hand the folly of bringing the intellectual equivalent of a knife to an intellectual gunfight.  (Source: Arizona State University)
Why Apple is actually doing some smart things for once, how not to win a scientific argument, and more

Often I come across tech and science topics that bemuse or amuse me.  So I have compiled a list of my top five tech musings for the week.

1.  Google TV is a very, very big deal.

I remember when DailyTech founder Kris Kubicki told me back in 2008 what a big deal Android was going to be.  At the time I admit, I didn't really "get it".  I remember thinking, "An OS?  No Gphone?  This thing seems weak at best."

Today I'm a proud EVO owner and, like more than a few people, now realize what a motivated Google is capable of outside the realm of search.  I think many people may not realize what a big deal Google TV is, much like I failed to realize the implications of the original Android OS in 2008.

Like the release of Android, it doesn't sound that flashy or amazing.  But Google here has the potential to dominate an entirely new OS market segment.

Google clearly has an edge on Apple TV in that its less restrictive (in terms of apps) and needs one less box in that it embeds its functionality inside pre-existing devices (Blu-Ray players, HDTVs).  Also, Google is a bigger name that other bit players in this emerging market (e.g. Boxee).  And Google TV is really only a specialized build of Android OS, so much of the improvements to the smart phone OS were portable to the TV Android OS variant.  In short, Google is poised to conquer this domain.

At first Google seemed to be having trouble getting multiple OEMs on board with the project, but now it has at least two in its camp.  Following Sony's initial Google TV-powered lineup, Samsung will be launching a lineup of "Smart TVs" next year, powered by Google TV.

These days most people have a cell phone.  And most people have a television.  The way things are going, unless Google seriously drops the ball it looks like in 5 years people will be likely to have a Google OS powering both.  That leads one to wonder -- what other OS realms might Google conquer?  Cars?  PCs?  Microsoft clearly has the edge in these arenas, but a late start has hardly stopped Google in other markets thus far.

A final observation worth noting -- it is important to remember that a victory for Google's Android is a victory for Linux -- as Android IS a Linux distro, something many casual users don't realize.  Could a Google-powered Linux OS lineup unseat Windows as the global OS king someday?  We'll get the first taste of that battle later this fall when Google steps foot in Microsoft's territory -- the PC -- with Google's Chrome OS (also Linux-based) taking on Windows 7 in the tablet and netbook market.

2.  Apple is doing some things right in the smart phone market.

In a blog/editorial (all editorials are essentially glorified blogs), I mention what the Apple could do to try to hold off Google in the smart phone market.  Among those things was to scrap exclusivity ASAP, come up with alternate form factors, and relax app store restrictions.

Apple appears be following or preparing to follow all three of these suggestions.  It has dropped the ban on Flash to Objective C app ports, potentially luring Flash developers back into the fold.  It is preparing to launch a Verizon iPhone.  And it reportedly is even working on a different form factor, which could potentially be sold alongside the traditional iPhone (perhaps the long rumored iPhone Nano).

When it comes to the corporate tech world, Apple has been, by degrees, one of the most reclusive, arrogant, and moralistic companies out there.  Thus it's hard not to react negatively to many of their actions.  However, in this case I think some praise is due for Apple finally embracing what seem like common sense when it comes to certain aspects of its smart phone business gameplan.

I doubt Apple followed my advice (or even read it!), but I'm glad that at the end of the day, they're finally seeing the light of reason (sorta).

3.  I've experienced the dark side of Apple's quality issues.

My MacBook Pro, purchased last November during a Black Friday sale hasn't yet seen its first birthday, but has not one, but TWO problems. 

First, the rubber coat of the power cord (which I always carefully wrap in the prescribed fashion) has split, and the cord itself (or at least surrounding wiring) is fraying.  I probably will just end up buying a new adapter, but to get less than a year of life out of a critical component is a disturbing sign of quality shortcomings.

My second issue is that the audio card also seem to be going bad.  When playing music sometimes the sound sporadically is coming out garbled and crackling.  Bass-heavy tracks seem to accentuate this problem.  I play a fair amount of music, but who doesn't?

The sound deterioration occurs both over the headphones and the built in speakers, so it's clearly either a drivers or sound hardware issue, not a failing speaker.  I exclusively run in Boot Camp (with Windows 7) and the sound originally worked flawlessly, so I'm left to conclude that failing hardware is likely to blame -- unless Apple somehow rolled out a firmware update that broke things.

Either way, this is unacceptable performance for a laptop under a year old, and a reminder of how far from "magical" Apple's products truly are.

There are some good reasons to buy a MacBook Pro.  I love the aluminum unibody case, the long battery life, and the light weight.  In particular the weight has been a great perk as I haul my laptop around several times a day, every weekday. 

But those strengths are somewhat overwhelmed by Apple's inability to practice quality control, as showcased by the problems with my unit.  Like many Apple customers I'm left to ponder whether my problems are bad enough to necessitate a headache of digging up my warranty and being without my primary laptop for weeks.

4.  Google's text message email password recovery is very, very dumb.

In a facepalm-worthy moment, my Gmail account reminded me "are you sure you don't want to give your phone number so we can send you a reset pin if you lose your password?"


What a great idea.  So let's see -- many Gmail users have a smart phone (check).  They have their email account attached to that smart phone (check).

So if you lose your phone, someone has your account, all they have to do is request a reset pin and they've entered your email account.

God help you if you lose your phone and have your Gmail account set for other password recovery services.  And God help you if you use the same password for multiple sites online.

All someone would need to do in such a seemingly common situation would be to:
i. Take your phone and gain access to it.
ii. Request a reset pin, gaining access to your account.
iii.  Scour your email history for common services.
iv. Request a password recovery email from these services
v.  Use the recovered passwords to compromise your various online accounts.

All of this starts with the reset pin.  I'm not sure what kind of great security mind dreamed up this feature, but in my opinion its one of the worse things that have come along since the password recovery question (e.g. What's your elementary school's name -- hint Google/Facebook search!) or recovery email (which is also probably sitting on your smart phone).

About the only good thing is at least if you lock your smart phone with Android you'll have a degree of protection, unless they can crack your password pattern.  Of course, with the recent iOS lock screen bug, you might not be quite as lucky if you have an iPhone.

5.  No matter where you stand on the evolution debate, this is downright funny.

"Conservapedia: Lenski dialog"

There's people that you want as a spokesperson, such as Michigan State Professor Richard Lenski.  And there's people that you don't want as your spokesperson -- like Conservapedia owner Andy Schlafly.

Mr. Schlafly tried to accuse Professor Lenski of faking or distorting the results of his famous E. coli experiment, which showed bacteria evolving a new enzymatic capability.  After a couple of ineffectual attempts at badgering Lenski into a response, he finally got one.  And Lenski's resulting pwnage of Mr. Schlafly via logic and the written word was so severe that his previously noisy detractor couldn't even muster a reply.

Again, it's always important to consider who to adopt as the champion of your particular philosophy, lest ye look foolish.

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password complaint
By tykazowsky on 11/1/2010 9:57:46 PM , Rating: 2
ok. this is just being nitpicky sir.

as you noted, most people will have a smartphone.... just in case you didnt realize... almost EVERY SINGLE user will have email, facebook, and any regularly used services CONSTANTLY signed in if not pushing. thus, they will already have access to the email. and would not be hard to change all their passwords.

the step that needs to be taken is to have an app that will lock down your smartphone. not disable conveniences that google provides.

RE: password complaint
By EddyKilowatt on 11/2/2010 2:28:20 PM , Rating: 5
It would be great if we could lock down our phones by application, rather than all-or-nothing. I hate having to unlock my phone just to take a picture or check the sports score. And speaking for myself, I'm actually not too concerned if someone finds my phone and rummages thru my photos or contacts (yes, I lead a boring life). *But*... I sure as heck don't want someone looting or vandalizing the five email accounts I've got the phone signed in to.

A lock that covered just the email app would suit me just fine. Being able to selectively lock various functions on our phones would represent a big increase in mobile-device security.

By wgbutler on 11/5/2010 5:23:36 PM , Rating: 4

There's people that you want as a spokesperson, such as Michigan State Professor Richard Lenski. And there's people that you don't want as your spokesperson -- like Conservapedia owner Andy Schlafly.

Mr. Schlafly tried to accuse Professor Lenski of faking or distorting the results of his famous E. coli experiment, which showed bacteria evolving a new enzymatic capability. After a couple of ineffectual attempts at badgering Lenski into a response, he finally got one. And Lenski's resulting pwnage of Mr. Schlafly via logic and the written word was so severe that his previously noisy detractor couldn't even muster a reply.

It just wouldn't be a Jason Mick blog without some mention of evolution, obviously one of Mick's favorite topics. (And incidentally, one of mine as well).

I would respond by mentioning a couple of points:

#1) Even though I might disagree with Andy Schlafly on the topic of evolution (I suspect he might be a young earth creationist who thinks that evolution doesn't happen at all, but I'm just guessing here as I really don't know one way or the other) I really don't think that Lenski's response "was so severe that his previously noisy detractor couldn't even muster a reply".

If this were truly the case I don't think Schlafly would have further humiliated himself by posting the entire dialog on Conservapedia for the entire world to read. I think Schlafly's main point in posting the dialogue was to illustrate to the world Lenski's rather flippant and condescending response, where he implied that Schlafly was bearing false witness and breaking the Sabbath in response to a basic request for data by Schlafly.

Granted, Lenski's response was pretty tame compared to the histrionics that we usually get from internet Darwinists, but it still smacked of condescension and superiority.

#2) If anything, the Lenski experiments back up the case for Intelligent Design, not Darwinism. We have 40,000+ generations of bacteria and TRILLIONS upon TRILLIONS of organisms (more organisms, btw, than the total number of mammals that have ever existed upon planet Earth) and all we see are minor mutations that confer minor survival benefits to the bacteria.

The organisms are still bacteria, nothing has evolved into a new form of non-bacterial life. No multicellularity, no Eukaryotic cells, nada. Just more bacteria.

Furthermore, all of the mutations that have been discovered involve some breaking down, disabling, or neutralizing of existing genetic information, and not the creation of completely new genetic information that appears out of nowhere.

Micro-evolution obviously happens, and it almost always involves the breaking down of some existing gene which confers a survival benefit upon the organism. This usually ends up being a double edged sword, as breaking an existing gene usually causes other problems as well (though these other problems may not be as urgent).

In the case of the ability to eat citrate, the bacteria already had the machinery to use citrate as a food. The problem was that the membrane around the bacteria blocked the citrate from being absorbed. A mutation occurred which affected the ability of the cell membrane to block the citrate from entering the organism.

#3) I might be wrong, but I'm pretty sure that I've read that even the ability that evolved in Lenski's experiment has been discovered by bacteria in the wild.

#4) Another bacteria experiment conducted by Ralph Seelke illustrated that even in situations where Escherichia coli bacteria could evolve a great survival benefit for tryptophan biosynthesis by repairing two previously broken genes, where the first gene conferred a minor survival benefit and the second gene conferred a major survival benefit which you can read about here:

illustrated that rather than evolve by repairing broken genes, the bacterial organism instead shut the entire system down in order to conserve energy!

RE: Bacteria
By SarAT on 11/24/2010 12:23:23 PM , Rating: 3
Isn't the great flying spaghetti monster awesome! I am so glad to see another believer!

Let’s keep faith where it belongs. You won’t cure cancer with faith. Faith only makes our journey through life easier and more fruitful.

Lenski Letter
By Kim Leo on 11/2/2010 11:21:18 AM , Rating: 2
Ok I finally read through the mails, and I only have one response: Pwned.
Although it's a long read it is pretty funny. The fun bits are in "Second Reply"

RE: Lenski Letter
By clovell on 11/2/2010 3:59:23 PM , Rating: 2
Very true, but upon reading the discussion page and browsing the site a bit more, I lost any faith I might have for humanity (which was pretty high today as I stumbled across the page for Freeman Dyson).

You are somewhat right...
By jbwhite99 on 11/1/2010 6:29:04 PM , Rating: 2
1. Networks don't like Google TV - note that Hulu, etc can't access it. Won't matter how good GoogTV is until you can access content.

With your MacBook (sure Pirks will respond), wouldn't be under warranty? I am sure the nice folks at Southpoint or Crabtree could replace your AC Adapter, unless you were holding it wrong.

google tv
By kattanna on 11/2/2010 12:03:15 PM , Rating: 2
google TV will only work IF the networks can get out of their own way and become part of the solution. which i highly doubt as they are too focused on quarterly results instead of long term business models.

but since the people in charge have their bonuses tied to such short term thinking, its not likely to change on its own, or anytime soon.

but yes, google TV has the potential to be awesome, just like napster did. but we all know how that worked out.

i only hope i am very wrong on this.

Google TV
By BernardP on 11/3/2010 10:38:16 AM , Rating: 2
As my cable TV bill keeps rising, and considering I watch no more than 7 to 8 hours of TV each week, I wish the best success to Google TV.

My hope is that, in time, I will be able to end my cable TV subscription to get all the TV content I want through Google TV.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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