Saturday, June 14, 2008

Blog #40: Apple's banner week

As you probably noticed, this was indeed a banner week for Apple, Inc. The former computer company turned gadget maker supreme's chief guru Steve Jobs announced a brand new iPhone that indeed threatens to blow the competition out of the water. According to Wall Street Journal technology reviewer Walter Mossberg, Apple has indeed covered most of the customer criticisms of the original iPhone. The speed on cellular networks, 3G service (where available) is almost that of the also offered WiFi speed, and the new phone, available on July 11, 2008, will be offered in many more countries as will be the service to travelers. There is still no editing of Word, etc. documents, and no copy/paste for editing. However, most predictions have the phone flying out of Apple and ATT stores, and estimates are that Apple, which has sold six million of the first incarnation, will easily have sold ten million by the end of the year.

Jobs made the announcement as he keynoted the Apple World Wide Developer’s meeting in San Francisco, and the keynote did indeed live up to it’s hype. Thanks to the Apple fan sites, many of it’s surprises had been leaked in advance, but Jobs gave his usual compelling presentation, and the new iPhone looks to be a vast improvement over the original in every way, 3G, GPS, push email, even the price: $199, down from $399 for the 8 gigabyte entry model, $299 for the 16 gigabyte. However, although Jobs’ gave his usual flawless performance, he does not look well. He looks thin, like skeleton thin. He has color, almost too much color, causing one to wonder about jaundice. I noticed this on my first viewing of the presentation on the small screen Quicktime version of the event, and my concern was echoed by the Wall Street Journal’s reporter who also took note of his condition, and who made inquiries. He was informed that Jobs is recovering from a recent bug, but he didn’t want to miss the presentation, and so unlike his traditional solo presentations much of Monday’s keynote was taken over by Scott Forrester who demoed the iPhone SDK and introduced a few of the people who have developed or ported their programs and games to the iPhone, and longtime Apple executive Phil Shiller who demoed Apple’s new push web service From the live coverage:

10:25: (Forrester) The tools have been out for three months, and thousands of developers are using them. We asked a few of them what they think.”

10:26: Infoworld: “I have coded fairly extensively with symbian, window mobile and blackberry. iPhone just blows them away.”

10:27: Disney: “After working with hundreds of other mobile devices, developing for the iPhone is a breath of fresh air.”

10:28: David Pogue: “You’re witnessing the birth of a third major computing platform. Windows, Mac OSX, and now the iPhone.”

Next Steve returned and introduced, the new push and web hosting service that Apples original web server .mac has morphed into. Phil Shiller then came on stage to demonstrate the service.

The entire video of the address may be accessed from Apple’s website, and it may be seen in normal Quicktime or in HD. I viewed it for the second time around Thursday morning in HD, and was amazed at how good the picture was as it was spread the width of my 17” iMac. There a couple of times in which the demands of HD overworked the processor and the image froze and broke up for a minute or so, while it caught up. But overall the improvements of the QuickTime platform through the years have been significant.
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You would have thought that no less than a president had left us in viewing CNN’s coverage of the passing of Tim Russert. It began by showing Tom Brokaw announcing the death of Russert, NBC's Washington bureau chief and host of Sunday morning’s Meet the Press. Russert always seemed to me to be a little combative with his guests, although that was hailed as his doing his homework and bringing out sides of his guests that other interviewers were rarely able to get. I think there is no doubt he will be missed, but the flooding in the midwest hardly got the coverage it was due as show after CNN show Friday afternoon and evening devoted itself to Russert’s life.
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Where is Hillary Clinton Now That Barack Obama Needs Her? Have you noticed how flat Barack has sounded since Hillary dropped out of the race leaving him with only John McCain to run against. And what is really scarey to me is that the polls are showing those two as running practically neck to neck, within a statistical difference of only 3 or so points pushing Obama ahead. How could this be? Are we Americans really skating that close to the edge of the cliff by electing a third term for George W. Bush/John McCain? Can’t people see that the changes America really needs for its economic well-being as well as its philosophical health require a complete divergence from the political philosophies of the Republican Party and the Bush administration? What will happen to this country, financially not to mention spiritually if we subject ourselves to another four years of squandering our children’s children’s financial future down that Iraq rat hole?

But getting back to Mr. Obama, he is sounding flat as he challenges McCain on their various, and quite substantial, differences. He was a lot better when he was running against Hillary. And as of late he has not been able to add many substantive ideas to his wonderful sounding generalizations, leaving many of us to begin to wonder whether or not we are in grave danger of four more years of youknowwhat by youknowwho come November. In the bygone words of Walter Mondale, “where’s the beef?” Mr. Obama could put our fears to rest by ignoring whoever his vice-presidential search committee comes up with and selecting Hillary Clinton as his running mate. For one thing a year and a half of her running for the presidency has really allowed her to hone her campaign skills. Her concession speech ranks as the best I have ever heard her give, and in my book puts her right up there among her husband and Franklin D. Roosevelt as three of the more compelling Democratic speakers of our time.

And to further seal the deal her presence on the ticket would bring to the polling booth those constituencies with which Obama is weak with at present, including older women, white blue collar workers, rural democrats, hispanics, etc. Secondly, she would add an aura of experience to Obama's rather inexperienced background. And thirdly, in the background would be Bill Clinton, perhaps hated by Republicans, but who proved that a Democratic administration could operate the country for eight years of peace and prosperity, all the while bringing new jobs and whittling away at the national debt. Imagine an administration operating with a surplus? It has certainly been a condition not imagined (or attained) by any recent Republican administration. And for any who might think that Republicans don’t foster wars we would make the point of Richard Nixon extending the Vietnam for the life of his first term and into his second (after Lyndon Johnson had turned JFK’s peace keeping mission into a full scale conflagration), to Ronald Reagan who actively fostered rebellion in Nicaragua and El Salvador, to George Herbert Bush who oversaw the first Gulf War against Iraq but whose administration at least had the good sense to know when to stop, to of course, George W. Bush’s deliberate and uncalled for invasion of Iraq for the political purposes of bringing the country together to support him and his reelection.

John McCain, aside from serving in uniform himself, is from a family filled with admirals and other high military officers, a man who has spent his entire life involved the military. He is also a man who spent much of the Vietnam war in a North Vietnamese prison camp, where he did not see the devastating effect that war was having on our country, something that many of his fellow veterans, men like Chuck Hagel and John Kerry, did see, consequently McCain feels that the only reason we lost Vietnam was because we pulled out, quit, threw in the towel! Consequently he is hell bound for us to remain in Iraq for (in his words) “as long as it takes,” be that the hundred years he mistakenly mouthed that one time. Note that later his fantasy mind came up with total victory by 2013, at which time most of our troops could safely leave Iraq, so says he. But what is really shocking to this viewer is that McCain is an old, tired, wrinkled man shilling a bunch of old, tired. wrinkled ideas for America’s future. The fact that he has any standing at all in the polls, much less one statistically tied with Obama, is absolutely the scariest thing I have come across all year.

Newspapers in Texas report that the Texas GOP which conventioned yesterday in Houston came down on Barack Obama. Not surprising, what else can you expect? However, the question that all voters, Republican, Democrat, and Independent need to ask themselves is a very simple one. Republicans rant about Tax and Spend Democrats, but every Republican regime since Ronald Reagan’s has proven itself at least the spending equal of the Democrats. And the present administration has proven itself the biggest spender of all time. No, the question we need to ask ourselves is not which party will do the spending, they both do that quite well thank you, the question is who are they going to spend it on? Republicans are tightfisted with America’s needs, like disaster relief after Katrina, and rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure. But they are happy to fund America’s military industrial complex, which is fed by the conflagration in Iraq. Democrats on the other hand tax and spend too, however they spend on programs which help our citizens, rather than kill citizens of other lands across the globe. It is our choice come November: fund the military industrial boys, or help your neighbor. It is so simple and logical a choice, but how often lately have we made the wrong choice. Here is Dwight Eisenhower with a reminder of what got us here:

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One of the reasons Hillary Clinton had given for her staying in the race so long was because of the lesson of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. Her saying that opened a raw wound in the American psyche, for the truth is that whether we will admit it or not we truly do have a secret government operating behind the scenes in this country, an arm of the government responsible to no committee of Congress, nor to the president himself. A secret government which is not above using assassination as a tool in its political nation shaping, the slaying of Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were living and dying proofs of its existence and unfortunately its skill.

In 1968 there was a rabid peace movement swirling around Eugene McCarthy, a torch which Bobby Kennedy had taken and was running with, but his assassination in California after winning its primary ended all talk of peace, and of bringing the Vietnam war to a close. After Kennedy’s assassination Eugene McCarthy got the message and clammed up about peace. And four years later George McGovern’s peace message was also subdued and he got plowed under by the Nixon administration. We Americans don’t like to admit that at heart we are just another Banana Republic whose leaders when they cross some imaginary like can be freely eliminated, but the evidence of this string of assassinations doesn’t lie. And the idea that two of the four victims were from America’s premiere political family of the time just goes to show the lengths that they were willing to go to in the reshaping of America’s political scene. And if anything, this force is undoubtedly still lurking in the shadows, and if they see Obama as a serious threat to their war, well, take care Barack Obama. Watch your back. You have the Secret Service, but so did John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy, and a lot of good that did them. We plead with you Obama, have Hillary as your vice president waiting in the wings in case the unthinkable actually happens. The American people deserve no less.
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BAGHDAD — Iraq’s negotiations with the United States on a security agreement governing America’s long-term involvement in the country are at an impasse because America’s demands infringe upon Iraq’s sovereignty, that country’s prime minister said Friday. Those comments were the first by the prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, in which he explicitly detailed the main points of contention between the United States and the Iraqi government on the security agreement, which would authorize American forces and operations in Iraq after a United Nations mandate expires at the end of the year.

And so the truth begins to come out about the Bush administration’s attempts to work out a treaty with the Iraq government which would allow US troops to remain in Iraq after the UN mandate runs out at the end of this year. The administration has attempted to keep the facts of the negotiations secret as any agreement allowing for long term presence of American troops would infringe upon the right of the next president to determine the future of the war. However, fierce opposition to the early drafts of the agreement have come not from American peace mongers (who have been left in the dark about them), but from the Iraq government itself. Mr. Maliki said there were four areas in which proposed versions of the agreement failed to give sufficient deference to Iraqi sovereignty.

“Iraq rejects Washington’s insistence on granting their forces immunity from Iraqi laws and courts,” he said. “We reject Washington’s demand to have a free hand in undertaking military operations without cooperation with the Iraqi government.”

He added: “We cannot give permission to the American forces independent right to arrest Iraqis or execute operations against terrorism. We cannot allow them to use the Iraqi skies and waters at all times.”

The question of immunity for American contractors accused of the unprovoked killing a number of Iraqi civilians is a particularly sensitive point with Iraqis who want to be able to bring the wrongdoers to trial in Iraqi courts, as we would certainly want to do if the situation was reversed and Iraq civilian contractors were riding shotgun with guns a-blazing through American streets. May we also suggest that the Iraqi’s object to the shape of the table, which worked for South Vietnam as it attempted to thwart LBJ’s attempt to establish an end of the Vietnam war in 1968. We have envisioned ourselves as saviors of the Iraq people, but after the cowboys from Blackwater who can really blame the people of Iraq from refusing to sign documents which would allow us to assume the status of Occupier, and they the status of Occupied. Ah, freedom, a truly potent opiate.
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Although the Guantánamo Bay detention center will not close today or any day soon, the Supreme Court’s decision Thursday stripped away the legal premise for the remote prison camp that officials opened six years ago in the belief that American law would not reach across the Caribbean to a United States naval station in Cuba.

“To the extent that Guantánamo exists to hold detainees beyond the reach of U.S. courts, this blows a hole in its reason for being,” said Matthew Waxman, a former detainee affairs official at the Defense Department. “And without that, much will change.” The decision granted detainees the right to challenge their detention in civilian courts, meaning that federal judges will now have the power to check the government’s claims that the 270 men still held there are dangerous terrorists. That will force officials to answer questions about evidence that they have long deflected despite criticism both internationally and locally and repeated expressions of support for closing the camp.
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Sega Toys today announced [JP, PDF] they will start selling a new humanoid robot in Japan, E.M.A., on September 26th. E.M.A. stands for “Eternal, Maiden, Actualization” (whatever that means). The robot is supposed to be female and stands 38 cm tall. Sega says E.M.A. is especially remarkable because of its “glamorous body” and high level of interactivity. The robot is able to hand out business cards, it can sing and dance and walk “like a lady.” The kiss function is especially interesting. If your head comes close to the robot, its love mode kicks in and your will receive a kiss.

The battery-powered robot is equipped with infrared sensors for obstacles, position and sound. Moveable parts include the elbow, shoulders, the waist and the knees. The Japan-only E.M.A. will set buyers back $175. Sega says they are targeting adults in particular with their robot and hopes to sell 10,000 units in 12 months. The article didn’t attest to the doll's anatomical correctness.
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The following is also from Tech Crunch by Eric Shonfeld: Going to the mechanic is like going to the doctor. When something needs to be fixed, for most people there is no easy way to tell if they are being charged the going rate or are being ripped off. Enter RepairPal, a new site launching publicly today where you can get price estimates for different parts and repair jobs for your car. You enter your car year, model, and mileage, and it spits out price ranges for your zip code. For instance, replacing the front brake pads on a BMW in New York City should cost between $158 and $310.

Not sure where to take your car? There is also a directory of 287,000 local mechanics, with each shop placed onto a Google Map. Members can rate each mechanic. Once a repair is completed, you can keep an online service record at RepairPal. It is kind of like keeping your electronic medical record at Google Health, but it’s for your car.
__________________________________________________ (for beta signup) also another service is at:
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And finally a website called posted a blog by Simon in Cellularland in which he lists 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Cellphones. The article has some observations which are not surprising, like #1. There Are Lots of Them. Half as many cellphones on the planet as there are people . . . #2. And They Make a Mess. 125+ million are discarded each year (Koreans replace on average every eleven months) . . . #3. M-Voting in Estonia Estonia is letting mobile phones act as a convenient vote delivery platform, but also as a personal identity confirmation (as opposed to we in America where Republicans are forever trying to deprive voters of their right to vote, most especially all of those who don’t vote Republican.) #4. Koreans Love to Text Message. Korean teens between 15 and 19 send well over 20,000 text messages a year (60.1 texts per day.) #5 First Cell Phone Came Out in 1983. First with FCC acceptance was called the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X. (stood for Dynamic Adaptive Total Area Coverage--say what?) #6 Cell Phone . . . or Flashlight According to a Sprint survey, two thirds of cell phone users use the backlight as a flashlight. For the rest of these tidbits go to:
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And so another week rides off into the sunset. Was it a good week? Well, in truth, any week that finds us still pecking away at our keyboard and freely moving about getting into what little mischief is left to one in his 80's is a good week. What next week will bring who the hell knows, but it can’t help but be interesting and different, and knowing me, I can’t help but write about it? So, to get a rundown of what next week brings, come back again then. And thanks for stopping in this week.

The Real Little Eddy

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