It’s Here! Apple Releases iOS 11

The release of new iPhones usually heralds the imminent release of the newest version iOS, the operating system that runs the famed smartphone and its tablet cousin the iPad.  True to form, after pulling the curtain back on the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X last week, the whiz kids from Cupertino popped the cork on iOS 11 today.  It’s now available as an over-the-air download directly on your iOS device, or through iTunes with the device connected via Lightning cable.

First impressions:  I’m a stickler for an easy install, and Apple has done a lot over the years to de-complicate the upgrade process.  It’s one of the reasons that they have a better OS adoption rate than Android could ever dream of.  It’s also why IT guys like me don’t have to spend hours and hours shepherding nervous users through an upgrade.  With iOS 11, I’m happy to report that installation is a snap.  I was a little doubtful at first, as I had less than a gigabyte of free space left on my 16GB iPhone 6s Plus, but somehow Apple managed to slipstream a 2GB installer into the existing OS without me having to cable sync with iTunes.  Downloading was unexpectedly quick, as I expected Apple’s servers to be slammed, but in less than 10 minutes I was good to go.  Installation took about another eight minutes, with a couple of reboots, and completed without incident.

The lock screen looked a little different when the phone came back on, with what appeared to be a bolder font and the thin white circles missing from around the number buttons.  What really interested me off the bat, though, was how much free space I had recovered with the new OS.  Installing iOS 10 and subsequently converting over to the new Apple file system had given me back a couple of gigabytes of space, so I was hoping iOS 11 would do the same.  I found a new item under Settings/General screen called “iPhone Storage” that took the place of the old “Storage & iCloud Usage,” and much to my amazement I found that I now had 7GB free!  So if you’re on the fence as to whether or not it’s worth it to install iOS 11, that’s more than enough reward for the effort.

As to the OS itself, it seems to run pretty snappy on my 6s Plus.  Animations are smooth and fluid when you open and minimize apps, plus the wallpaper seems to retreat a little into the background whenever you return to the home screen.  I also noticed a few new background animations included in the Messages app, and a few of the icons–such as Calculator, Maps and Contacts–sport a slight redesign.  Swiping up from the bottom reveals a customizable Control Center, which seems to be all the rage, and the buttons there are responsive to 3D Touch if your device supports that feature.  Swiping down from the top of the screen, meanwhile, has changed in that it now takes you to the lock screen where you can see your notifications.

Safari seems to be a big improvement too, with pages rendering noticeably faster than in iOS 10.  Other than that, I haven’t had much of a chance to do a deep dive with iOS 11 on the iPhone–but for the most part, it has a very similar feel to the previous iteration.  If you don’t really care to learn the new features, you won’t have any trouble doing most things the old way.

On the iPad, however, the changes are much more pronounced.  For one thing, the Dock has become much more MacOS-like–one of the few times iOS has moved closer to its desktop cousin rather than vice-versa.  It now has the capability to hold up to 15 icons, and on the right side it will collect the icons from your three most recently launched apps for easier access.  You can also access the Dock while you’re inside an app by swiping up from the bottom of the screen–a real convenience that saves you from having to pop over to the home screen to launch another app.  Another swipe from the bottom will also show a tiled view of all your open apps along with Control Center, much like Mission Control in MacOS.

And that’s about it for now!  I’m looking forward to playing around with iOS 11 more, along with WatchOS 4 which also got released today.  It’s definitely one of those days when it’s good to be a geek.

I’ve Seen The Future, And It Has An Apple Logo On It

To say that today’s Apple event was eagerly-anticipated by the device maker’s fans would be a lot like saying that The Force Awakens generated mild interest by Star Wars devotees.  It has been ten whole years since Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone to the world, and everyone who watches the technology company–from the fanbois  who line up for days to be the first to get their hands on the latest gadget to the titans of Wall Street who live and die with the price of Apple stock–wanted something big, something spectacular, something  worthy of the iconic smartphone that literally changed the world forever.

Luckily, Tim Cook seems to have learned a few things from his former boss and put on a pretty good show to inaugurate the Steve Jobs Theater on Apple’s brand new campus.  Cook started with a nice tribute to Jobs himself, and even choked up a time or two while sharing his memories of the man who revived a moribund Apple after the company had unceremoniously dumped him twelve years earlier.  He then went on to introduce the Apple Watch Series 3, the latest generation wearable that hasn’t changed much in form since it hit the market two years ago.  The Series 3, however, does pack in some cool new features–chief among them its own cellular capability, which is a something users have been lusting after from the beginning.  How this will affect battery life, which has always been a critical issue in such a small device, remains to be seen–but regardless, it’s an important evolutionary step for the watch as it gains more independence from the iPhone.

Next up, the new Apple TV made an appearance–and in 4K no less!  Okay, maybe this is less exciting than it sounds.  Leaked code snippets had revealed that this was the direction Apple was taking with its set-top box, and with the proliferation of cheaper 4K television sets and the need to set itself apart from less expensive competitors such Roku and the Fire Stick, this one was a no-brainer.  Still, welcome news for those of us who have owned an Apple TV since the first one came out back in the dark ages of 2007.

You could tell, however, that by then the audience was really itching for Cook to get to the good part already.  Where’s our new iPhone?  Funny that you should mention that, because that’s exactly when he presented–drum roll please–the iPhone 8!  First impression is that it looks like the iPhone 7.  A lot like the iPhone 7, in fact.  The big exterior difference is that the phone has a glass backing again, which we last saw with the iPhone 4s, and that the color scheme has shrunk somewhat.  It’s not exactly Model-T limited, but if you want one of these babies you’ll have to take it in Space Gray, Silver or a rather attractive shade of Gold.  A very cool feature of the new backing, though, is that iPhone 8 can now be charged wirelessly.  This is done via an inductive pad that’s a lot like a bigger version of the puck you use to charge the Apple Watch.  Aside from that, most of the changes are internal–faster processor, better camera, blah blah blah.  In all, a great new interation for the iPhone.

But revolutionary?  Where’s the device to make the fanbois burn with desire?  More importantly, what’s going to get all the analysts looking at Apple stock like Bill Clinton drooling over Ivanka Trump?

Have no fear, gentlemen.  Get a load of the iPhone X:

Apple VP sold separately.

No home button.  Super Retina OLED display.  Facial recognition technology.  Built-in neural chip.  Custom animated emojis.  Oh, yeah–and it makes phone calls too, if you’re so inclined.  But really, who even does that these days?

Yep, she’s a beaut.  Instead of using your finger to unlock iPhone X, you use your face–and no matter how homely you look in the morning, Siri promises not to judge.  Supposedly this technology, known as Face ID, will work even in dark conditions and at different angles, but there was one embarrassing moment during the demonstration when Apple VP Craig Federighi failed at first to get the phone to unlock with his own mug.  I’m guessing that it’ll probably be a few software updates before this feature will work reliably in the wild, but as a method of biometric interaction it’s a pretty big leap forward.

But if you want one, you’ll have to pony up a cool $999 for starters.  Oh, and you’ll need to wait until November–assuming you’re lucky enough to snag one that early.  iPhone 8, meanwhile, will ship later this month if that’s more your style.

Welcome to the future, everyone!  Now if I could just get the iPhone to beam me somewhere…

Leakers Take a Bite of the New Apple iPhone 8 Before Launch Date

Apple has been comprised yet again in the latest leak about the forthcoming  iOS operating system. This comes at an interesting time as Apple is set to launch the new iPhone 8 tomorrow.

The leak is being described as an “intentional act of sabotage” by Apple insiders:

“As best I’ve been able to ascertain, these builds were available to download by anyone, but they were obscured by long, unguessable URLs [web addresses],” wrote John Gruber, a blogger known for his coverage of Apple.

“Someone within Apple leaked the list of URLs to 9to5Mac and MacRumors. I’m nearly certain this wasn’t a mistake, but rather a deliberate malicious act by a rogue Apple employee.”

For those curious about the leak, here’s what was revealed about the new iOS operating system:

 

  • a reference to iPhone X, which acts as fresh evidence that Apple intends to unveil a high-end model alongside more modest updates to its handset line
  • images of a new Apple Watch and AirPod headphones
  • a set-up process for Face ID – an alternative to the Touch ID system fingerprint system – that says it can be used to unlock handsets and make online purchases from Apple, among other uses
  • the introduction of Animoji – animated emoji characters that mirror a user’s captured facial expressions

In a time where major entities and prominent individuals are proving to be vulnerable to attack through leaks, it’s important to secure digital means. How can Apple continue to make itself susceptible to these kinds of attacks? Perhaps it’s blowback? Perhaps those saboteurs (likely disgruntled former employees) think Apple isn’t too big to fail anymore?

Regardless, secure your systems. Simple as that. These frequent data breaches and leaks shouldn’t be occurring on this large scale in 2017.

Silicon-Liberal Valley Got Their Scalp

This was inevitable. Once Travis Kalanick made his first, and unrecoverable, mistake of showing insufficient enthusiasm for opposing Donald Trump, Silicon-Liberal Valley was out to get him. And get him they did.

Kalanick stepped down as Uber CEO Tuesday amid demands from the company’s major shareholders that he resign immediately.

In the letter, titled “Moving Uber Forward” and obtained by The New York Times, the investors wrote to Mr. Kalanick that he must immediately leave and that the company needed a change in leadership. Mr. Kalanick, 40, consulted with at least one Uber board member, and after long discussions with some of the investors, he agreed to step down. He will remain on Uber’s board of directors.

This particular railroading of a tech executive isn’t as egregious as, say, Brendan Eich, but it is fraught with hypocrisy.

The NYT called Uber “a prime example of Silicon Valley start-up culture gone wrong.” Sexual harassment, avoiding government regulators, mistreating employees (and drivers) were all part of this toxic mix. Except we don’t see Tim Cook being made to resign.

Just nine months ago, a stinging report that “Apple is a sexist, toxic work environment” hit the press. Apple genuflected, said a few Hail Gloria Steinems, issued a new “tough” policy, and was absolved. (I won’t even comment on one report that Apple was accused of being a “white, male, Christian, misogynist, sexist environment.” They might as well just said “Christian.”)

And Uber’s SVP of engineering, Amit Singhal, was dismissed because he didn’t tell anyone he left Google over a sexual harassment claim. Google has its own troubles with “start-up” culture. (That term is hilarious. Apple is the most valuable company in the world, and Google parent Alpabet is worth $660 billion.) Nobody is demanding Larry Page’s resignation, even though he played “Red Rover” tossing Singhal to Kalanick.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX was cleared of wrongdoing by a jury in a sexual harassment trial, and faced another one at Tesla, recently sued by AJ Vandermeyden, a female engineer who alleged the company has a climate of “pervasive harassment.” And…nobody’s asking for Musk’s head on a platter.

I think you see the picture here. The difference between hero and zero in Silicon Valley isn’t necessarily what goes on in the rank-and-file. Uber’s board acknowledged that Kalanick “always put Uber first.” In other words, he was a good CEO. So the reason he’s gone must be that he’s a lousy person.

Silicon Valley is full of lousy people and SOB’s. They are the subject of movies. I mean, Steve Jobs, right? But you can be a lousy person and a liberal, and be absolved. What you can’t be is a little bit too close to radioactive President Trump.

You can’t defend a “working relationship” with Trump to your employees. “We’ll partner with anyone in the world as long they’re about making transportation in cities better,” he told them, “creating job opportunities, making it easier to get around, getting pollution out of the air and traffic off the streets.” Once Kalanick said that, just days after the inauguration, he was doomed.

One driver managed to get him into an embarrassing tirade. The driver recorded it, and three weeks later, slipped it to Bloomberg, which published it. At the time, in March, I wrote this:

I have to believe that there’s more than this. I’m sure there’s a whole treasure trove of damaging stuff that Kalanick’s detractors have sitting around, waiting to release to the press. Staff problems, sexual innuendoes (mentioned in the Bloomberg piece), and other issues will plague Kalanick until he quits.

And Tuesday, the Silicon-Liberal Valley viewpoint posse got their scalp. The message is clear: just about any sin will be forgiven by “start-up culture,” except appearing to be a social conservative.

Apple’s New Filesystem and Why it Matters to You

In March, Apple began rolling out a new filesystem named, appropriately enough, the Apple File System (APFS).  It is a replacement for the existing HFS+ filesystem which Apple has used since 1998 for its devices.  If you are an Apple user, as you upgrade to iOS 10.3, tvOS 10.2, watchOS 3.2, or MacOS High Sierra (coming this Fall), your device will be automatically updated to the new APFS.

Why does this matter to you?

  1. This is an important step towards streamlining the experience on all Apple devices.  Laptops, desktops, phones, watches, TV devices, and whatever else Apple releases in the “undiscovered country” of the future will use the same underlying filesystem.  As Apple increasingly merges the experiences of the iOS and MacOS-based devices, sharing the same filesystem will help in this endeavor.
  2. This filesystem is optimized for flash and solid-state storage devices.  When HFS+ was released in 1998, spinning magnetic media (e.g. floppy disks and spinning hard drives) were the normal means of storing data.  Now, however, these have largely been replaced by SSD and flash storage, particularly in Apple devices.  With a new filesystem optimized for these devices, Apple can increase performance with regards to speed, storage capacity, and data integrity.
  3. Native encryption is supported.  APFS supports full disk encryption, no encryption, and two levels of file-based encryption.  This ensures the security of the data on the device so that non-authorized persons cannot gain access, even if they have the physical device.
  4. Ability to address up to 9 quintillion files in a single filesystem.  This is owing to the fact that APFS uses 64-bit inode numbers.  An inode is basically a logical pointer to a file; each file requires one inode number.  The previous HFS+ filesystem used 32-bit inode numbers, allowing for “only” approximately 4.3 billion files.   The improvement for APFS will really be seen in server environments where large numbers of files are stored.
  5. The existing HFS+ filesystem can only handle dates up to February 6, 2040.  Does that seem like a long way away?  Well, it’s only 23 years in the future, and we’re 19 years removed from the introduction of HFS+.

There are other under-the-hood improvements with APFS.  The main takeaway, however, is that going-forward APFS will be used on Apple’s devices and will make better use of SSD and flash storage.  You shouldn’t have to worry or even know about the change; as you update your devices to the latest versions of the Apple’s operating systems you’ll get the new filesystem automatically, along with the benefits it provides.

 

Apple’s New Cash and Revelation 13

The world’s largest company will brook no competition where it wraps its smoothly polished tentacles. The latest business it seeks to dominate is peer-to-peer cash payments.

Apple just announced that iOS 11 will support peer-to-peer payments through a new feature called Pay Cash, making it a direct competitor to similar services offered by Square Cash, PayPal, Venmo and even Facebook.

Of course, since everyone’s moving into that space formerly solely occupied by Elon Musk’s creation, PayPal, why wouldn’t Apple leverage its position as the Beast from Revelation 13? I mean, since more iPhones have become appendages of hands and heads than just about any other device in the world, it’s only Biblical to expect Apple to use it for all kinds of buying and selling.

He required everyone—small and great, rich and poor, free and slave—to be given a mark on the right hand or on the forehead. and no one could buy or sell anything without that mark, which was either the name of the beast or the number representing his name. (Revelation 13:16-17)

Honestly, if I decided to study Bad Theology™, I could easily draw comparisons between Apple’s rise, demise, and reemergence, and the Beast from Revelation. But Steve Jobs, as far as we know, remains in his eternal tomb.

All prophecy aside, I do expect Apple’s peer-to-peer cash feature to severely cut into the other players in this market, if not dominate it. That’s how Apple rolls.

(Apple didn’t invent the cell phone, or the smart phone, but they practically own it now. They didn’t invent the PC, or the GUI, or the mouse, or many of the technologies used in Apple products today, but they did make them beautiful. I say this as an Apple fan, albeit with a grain of holy fear.)

Crony Capitalism Goes High Tech: What Every Apple User Needs To Know

One of the trends that has alarmed many of us who believe in free markets and conservative principles is the rise of crony capitalism, where powerful companies try to use government to benefit their bottom line and/or to hamstring their rivals.  Powerful companies find ways to take advantage of subsidies, regulations, tax changes and even government lawsuits.

The trend took off during the Obama administration, where they took many actions to benefit influential and favored companies and industries.  Of course policies that lead to bigger and more intrusive government create more opportunities for powerful companies and interests to take advantage of bigger government.

In the closing days of the Obama administration many conservatives warned about the dangers of midnight regulation and a number of us also joined to warn about potential “midnight litigation.”  The administration did just that when the FTC launched an antitrust case against Qualcomm only 2 days before the Obama FTC was to leave office in a 2-1 vote – in a case that reeks of crony capitalism.  The sole Republican commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen (who is now the acting Chair) issued a strong dissent and said the case was being rushed out as the current commission was on its way out and based on no evidence of actual harm.

The case is a clear example of companies (mainly Apple) running to the government to help them do through courts and the regulatory process what they can’t in the marketplace.   It’s evident that Apple lobbied for the FTC to take this action.  Only days after the FTC case, Apple filed its own private lawsuit against Qualcomm – which read almost exactly like the FTC complaint. Other companies, like Samsung and Intel, who would benefit from hamstringing Qualcomm, have joined in.

Qualcomm, which developed the technology that allows smartphones by Apple and Samsung (and others) to connect to cellular networks offering multi-functionality, licenses their technology to these companies.  Qualcomm developed the technology and holds the patents.  The smartphone companies, like Apple, want to pay less for the licenses.   That’s their right but it’s something they can work out in negotiations (like others do in the marketplace). Instead, Apple wants the added leverage of a government antitrust case to help them bring down the cost – or even get someone else’s intellectual property for free.

Interestingly, it’s been reported in the media that analysts estimate the cost of Qualcomm licenses as approximately $15 per phone (on a $600 plus phone).  Seems like a small price to pay to allow your phone to actually function as a mobile supercomputer, with more connectivity than a laptop.  In their response to the Apple lawsuit, Qualcomm argues that Apple (and Samsung) have engaged in the equivalent of a global regulatory assault.  They have lobbied the FTC and according to media coverage of their filing, Apple encouraged Samsung executives to “get aggressive” in asking South Korean competition regulators to target Qualcomm.  According to their filing, “Apple and Samsung’s inducement of regulatory action had nothing to do with the protection of competition. Instead, they saw an opportunity to try to avoid paying fair value for Qualcomm’s intellectual property and to impede Qualcomm’s licensing program—and they acted.” Intel, who has also weighed in on this case, has developed a competing modem chip and would be more than happy to see the government hold back Qualcomm.

This is exactly the type of crony capitalism and competitor driven government action we need to stop – and part of the environment that led to the election results of 2016.  These types of lawsuits and regulatory actions must end.

Unfortunately the FTC doubled down last week and rejected Qualcomm’s motion to dismiss (with cheerleading and supportive briefs from Qualcomm competitors). Because of a delay in appointment of new commissioners, the current makeup of the Commission has not changed enough to allow for a change in direction, despite the acting Chair’s opposition to the current case.

Alden Abbott of the Heritage Foundation, an expert on Intellectual Property and antirust who previously worked at the FTC, criticized the case against Qualcomm when it was first filed.  “Qualcomm is more than one exceptionally ill-advised example of prosecutorial overreach, that (hopefully) will fail and end up on the scrapheap of unsound federal antitrust initiatives,” he wrote.  Echoing concerns raised by Ohlhausen, a champion of IP protection and of regulatory restraint, he added this case, “may be used by foreign competition authorities to justify unwarranted actions against American firms.”

It’s past time to put an end to crony capitalism and government doing the bidding of powerful and well-connected companies who’d rather win in the courtroom, halls of Congress or the regulatory sphere than in the marketplace.  The spurious case against Qualcomm is a prime example of crony capitalism and is an attack on the broader concept of Intellectual Property rights, which are fundamental to conservatism and to our leading global role in innovation.  We need to stand up for property rights and stand up to crony capitalism – and it’s time for this case (and others like it) to come to an end.

Ken Blackwell is a Fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration, in Washington, D.C. and a former Domestic Policy Advisor to the Trump Transition Team.

Apple Launches New Initiative To Better Humanize Their Services, Products

Fellow Apple users should check out the company’s new initiative “Today at Apple” if they haven’t already. This includes a whole host of free classes–ranging from photo and video to music, coding, art and design and more–at your nearby Apple store to become a more adept iPhone or Mac user. The planned initiative is said to go live this month in 271 domestically-based Apple stores and overall in 495 stores.

In a press release, the company’s Senior Vice President of Retail said the initiative is all about educating and inspiring the clientele they serve to produce a better Apple experience.

“At the heart of every Apple Store is the desire to educate and inspire the communities we serve,” said Angela Ahrendts, Apple’s senior vice president, Retail. “‘Today at Apple’ is one of the ways we’re evolving our experience to better serve local customers and entrepreneurs. We’re creating a modern-day town square, where everyone is welcome in a space where the best of Apple comes together to connect with one another, discover a new passion, or take their skill to the next level. We think it will be a fun and enlightening experience for everyone who joins.”
The free courses will be available to Apple users of all ages and skill levels. Moreover, the series will include a section dedicated to children called “Kids Hour“:
  • Kids Hour is designed to spark imagination and creativity through fun, hands-on projects. Sessions include coding with Sphero robots, Creating Music with GarageBand and Making Movies Together with iMovie.

The “Today at Apple” sessions will also include the following courses: Photo or Sketch Walks to capture moments using new techniques, coding via Swift Playgrounds, exploring new techniques and styles in Photo Lab,  Pro Series classes on Final Cut Pro X and Logic Pro, and a lecture called Perspectives and Performances that allows artists and musicians to share their talents live.

Apple is one of the most successful companies out there–often attracting a cult-like following. Their attempt to humanize their products and services, however, should be applauded. Apple realizes technology should be a friend and not a foe. More companies need to be attuned to customer needs and offer some skill building  in the process.