How Microsoft’s Surface Pro Crushes MacBook Air And iPad Air

Tongue firmly planted in cheek, yours truly with a different way to compare Microsoft’s slow selling Surface Pro with Apple’s entry-level MacBook Air and iPad Air:

Of nine important considerations, Microsoft wins four, two are tied, and Apple wins three. Microsoft’s Surface Pro just crushed both MacBook Air and iPad Air in a head-to-head comparison.

Numbers don’t lie, folks.

Radioactive Rice?

If your next piece of sushi glows in the dark, here’s the reason. AFP:

Japan is to restart exports of rice grown in Fukushima for the first time since foreign sales were halted due to fears of contamination by the nuclear disaster there

How will a buyer know the rice came from Fukushima?

Its provenance will be marked and it will not be mixed with other produce… The rice was grown some 60-80 kilometres (37-50 miles) west of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Glow in the dark sushi might be a new trend.

Not As Sharp As Samsung

The iPhone rumor mill is working overtime. James Cook has details on the latest rumor item– the iPhone 6 screen resolution.

If the rumors are true and the iPhone 6 will come in two models: one with a 4.7 inch screen and another with a 5.5 inch screen, then both will be well over the 300 PPI figure touted by Apple as its Retina benchmark. The 4.7 inch screen would come in at 359.34 PPI, while the larger screen would be 307.07 PPI.

How does that compare to the competition?

While the rumored new resolution is impressive, it doesn’t beat the iPhone’s competitors. As Forbes reports, the Samsung Galaxy S features a 1920 x 1080 screen, which gives the phone an impressive 423 ppi.

Will you be able to see the difference? No.

‘If You Don’t Want To Get Shot, Shutup’

The shooting and violence in Missouri is shameful on all sides. Nick Wing with quotes from an L.A. cop:

Even though it might sound harsh and impolitic, here is the bottom line: if you don’t want to get shot, tased, pepper-sprayed, struck with a baton or thrown to the ground, just do what I tell you. Don’t argue with me, don’t call me names, don’t tell me that I can’t stop you, don’t say I’m a racist pig, don’t threaten that you’ll sue me and take away my badge. Don’t scream at me that you pay my salary, and don’t even think of aggressively walking towards me. Most field stops are complete in minutes. How difficult is it to cooperate for that long?

Microsoft’s Plan To Take Back The Enterprise For Windows Phone And Surface Pro

As it stands right now, guess who owns the enterprise for smartphones and tablets? BlackBerry? Microsoft? Android? Samsung?

None of the above.

Almost without trying Apple seems to have a solid lock on the corporate world with iPhone and iPad, and one can argue that it’s our favorite Mac maker who brought the concept of BYOD (bring your own device) to corporate IT departments.

On the PC side of the product ledger, Microsoft still has a deep grip on IT with Windows PCs, Office, and Windows Server, not to mention growing influence on cloud services. It’s the mobile arena where Microsoft has failed. Here’s what I see of Microsoft’s plan to take back enterprise for Windows Phone and Surface Pro.

I call it the ‘stir the pot and feed the journalist‘ approach.

Microsoft needs to get the attention of corporate IT executives and what better way than to give a Windows Phone to a well known tech journalist for a well known tech magazine and have him write about it. Not just a single article. Five articles. Five. For a smartphone that has negligible enterprise marketshare.

Even after a few thousand words describing his experience with Windows Phone 8.1, David Gewirtz came up with this:

Bluntly, if I wanted to just carry one phone around, I couldn’t switch to Windows Phone because it doesn’t support my work collaboration needs. I communicate with my colleagues using Google ecosystem tools that are simply not available on Windows Phone.

Wait. There’s more.

Colleague Steve Ranger asks the question which has already been answered: “Windows, iOS or Android: Who will win the business tablets battle?

I wonder how score is being kept here because Apple’s iPad owns about 90-percent enterprise marketshare. Microsoft’s Surface Pro hasn’t made a dent, and the various and sundry Android-based tablets have not fared much better.

It’s a good thing there’s no time limit on this battle that’s really a war. So far, Apple is winning the battles and the war, despite Microsoft’s long and cozy relationship with corporate IT departments.

Methinks ZDNet is stirring up a pot that’s already been cooked.

First of all, Ranger’s headline is click bait and creates a parity where none exists. If we stopped counting today Apple is the winner, hands down. But this is business, so the counting must continue. Apple is still winning the battles and the war, but as business goes there must be winners and losers. Right now there is only one winner and the score isn’t even close.

What impact Microsoft has on such click-bait I don’t know, but why would a journalist ask a question that has already been answered? Maybe it has something to do with all the Microsoft and Intel advertisements on ZDNet pages. If that’s Microsoft’s plan to take back the enterprise with Windows Phone and Surface hybrids, it’s not working very well.

A New Sound From Apple

If ever there was a company intent on moving the bar, it’s Apple. Sound systems are tried and true and not subject to much generational change, right? Patently Apple on a new Apple patent:

Apple notes that their invention may be advantageous for acoustic transducers that are used in “thin” devices where the height of the acoustic transducer must be small to fit within the device… It would be desirable to provide an audio speaker that can displace a larger volume of air from a more compact structure suitable for use in portable devices.

In other words, more sound from a smaller device.

The Left-Handed Minority

Have you ever wondered why there are so many more people who are right-handed vs. left-handed? A few thoughts from Alasdair Wilkins:

Handedness:

Handedness – the idea that one hand is better able to perform certain tasks than the other – is, if not exclusively a human trait, then certainly a mostly human one. After all, how could you tell if a dog was left-handed or a lion was right-handed? Their paws aren’t evolved to handle complex tasks like our hands are, and there’s no evidence that non-primates favor one limb over any other.

Right-Handedness:

Another possible way of phrasing that is, “Why is the language center usually in the left hemisphere of the brain?” After all, if the energy intensive language centers happened to evolve so that they were usually in the right hemisphere, then most people would probably be left-handed instead. To that point, there’s no reason why our brains couldn’t have evolved that way – it’s simply a historical fact that they didn’t.

I’m left handed.

Mistakes Atheists Make

Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie:

I still find myself intrigued by the God-debunking that serious atheists offer. When Richard Dawkins claims that biology and evolution demonstrate that God does not exist, I must take notice, even if his arguments do not work for me.

Interesting read. The mistakes, in essence:

  • They dismiss, often with contempt, the religious experience of other people.
  • They assert that since there are no valid religions but that religions do good things, the task of smart people is to create a religion without God — or, in other words, a religion without religion.
  • They see the world of belief in black and white, either/or terms.

No Surprise: Gregory Out, Todd In

It’s official. Chuck Todd will replace the much maligned David Gregory on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Tony Maglio:

The move was anticipated for some time, and is expected to become official sometime on Thursday or Friday. Gregory is expected to leave NBC altogether

Gregory moderated “Meet the Press” for six years, all with declining ratings.

Samsung And Apple Have Hit ‘The Wall’

Samsung’s latest smartphone, the long-awaited Galaxy Alpha looks pretty much like an iPhone, which should tell us something about the state of the industry. Both Samsung and Apple have hit ‘the wall.’

The wall?

Smartphones have matured and the days of dramatic innovation, started by Apple’s iPhone in 2007, have mostly ended. Today’s smartphones have larger and higher quality screens, they hold more apps, the apps are better than ever, and battery life hasn’t improved much, while graphics have. Apple added a Retina display which Samsung copied. Apple added Touch ID which Samsung copied. Apple added a metal body with chamfered edges which Samsung copied.

That list could go on for awhile but you get the idea. For now, disruptive innovation has been replaced by iterative innovation in the form of improvements, though one could argue that the Samsung Galaxy Alpha has taken a few steps backwards.

Backwards?

It’s more of an iPhone-inspired knockoff than previous Galaxy models, only has 32GB of storage and no Micro SD expansion slot, though it sports plenty of RAM (which Apple’s iPhone could use more of), a much maligned fingerprint sensor, and a fast, octa-core CPU which still doesn’t top Apple’s 64-bit A7 (Android is 32-bit, while Android smartphone and tablet CPUs remain 32-bit).

Otherwise, the Galaxy Alpha is more bling than bang. Why? The wall. Until Apple or some unknown competitor shows the way to the future, Samsung, Xiaomi, and other knock-off smartphone makers are merely re-mixing current ingredients and expecting something special to come out of the oven.

The wall that smartphone and tablet makers have hit should be expected. Products mature over time and become similar across the industry, but that does not make every smartphone a commodity product. Differentiation still rules– except at Samsung and Xiaomi whose very business model depends on Apple designs to lead the way.

Whatever Apple does this year you can be sure Samsung and Xiaomi will do next year. But what if Apple cut prices?

Apple’s Mind Boggling Opportunity

More hype than substance is a look at an emerging opportunity for Apple from TMF. The accompanying graphs are impressive, but the whole thing can be summed up in a single word:

One of the biggest criticisms for Apple stock as a long-term investment is the company’s size. With $176 billion in trailing-12-month revenue, some investors worry the company will run out of room for growth — or, even worse, run out of ways to sustain current levels of sales. While Apple bulls have a wide range or counterarguments, one of the most significant arguments lies in the long-term potential in China for smartphone growth sales.

China. More specifically, China Mobile’s exploding 4G customer base, and Apple’s prestige among China’s affluent and growing middle class.

War Is Big Business

Stunning Graphic from BI on worldwide arms sales:

They say the Cold War is over, but Russia and the U.S. remain the leading supplier of weapons to countries around the world and are the two biggest military powers… The U.S. supplies much of NATO and Middle Eastern allies like Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Russia supplies many BRIC nations, as well as Iran, much of Southeast Asia, and North Africa… Overall, the U.S. sent more than $26.9 billion in weaponry to foreign nations, while Russia sent weaponry exceeding $29.7 billion in value around the globe.

Worldwide Arms Sales

Is it any wonder the world is messed up?

Samsung Copies Apple Again

Aaron Souppouris with the basics on Samsung’s new Galaxy Alpha which looks like another familiar brand.

Samsung has today announced the Galaxy Alpha, a smartphone with a metal frame. The Alpha is an ultra-thin (6.7mm) Android phone with a 4.7-inch 720p display, 12-megapixel camera, a fairly small 1,860mAh battery, and (depending on your region) a quad- or octa-core processor. It’ll be available in September, but Samsung has yet to announce pricing.

Samsung. Always moving the bar in Apple’s direction.

8 Best Steakhouses in America

You gotta love lists like this, especially if one of your favorite food places makes the grade. From Answers:

Cut in Beverly Hills
Bern’s In Tampa
Peter Luger in NYC (been there)
Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Oklahoma City
Kevin Rathbun Steak in Atlanta
Killen’s Steakhouse in Pearland, Texas
Gibson’s Bar and Steakhouse in Chicago
Dickie Brennan’s Steakhouse in New Orleans

Amazon vs. Apple: It’s Flopping vs. Flying

What happens when a company’s shine begins to wear off? Remember how BlackBerry shipped more smartphones than ever a few years after the iPhone was launched? More BlackBerry’s, lower margins, and eventually no profit, followed by huge losses. BlackBerry’s shine wore off quickly.

What of Amazon, the online retail giant that has become more of a wooly mammoth than a dominating digital retailer? Amazon’s days of hoodwinking Wall Street seem to have come to an end, with one flop after another. Kindle Fire and Fire Phone go for fire sale prices, and have tumbled down Amazon’s own list of best selling electronics, while the company’s stock is nearing a $100 a share drop from the historic high.

What happened?

Where Amazon excels is where the standard wireless telephone company excels. It does one thing and does it well. For what it’s worth, what the telephone company does best one thing– telephone lines. Whether mobile or land line, that’s about all they do well. Customer service sure isn’t high on the list.

Amazon does one thing well, too. It delivers products that you purchase online. Selection is broad, pricing is competitive, delivery is quick, and customer service is good. That’s Amazon’s claim to fame. Let me give founder and CEO Jeff Bezos some kudos and props for his attempts to diversify Amazon, despite the obvious failures in electronics.

Electronics? Yes. The Kindle Fire tablet and Fire Phone already are notorious flops. Why? Because they are products that benefit Amazon more than they benefit the customer or user.

Think about it. Both Kindle Fire tablet and Fire Phone exist for a single purpose– to get customers to buy more content from Amazon, by hook or by crook.

How does Amazon’s technology gadgets compare to similar fare from Apple– Mac, iPhone, and iPad?

Apple’s products are loved by hundreds of millions of customers, so they fly off the shelves, get used, get handed down to appreciative generations, and are anxiously awaited by legions of customers who are fans.

Apple makes products that customers want to use for whatever their purpose, and that attitude is reflected in the company’s ‘Your Verse’ video commercials. Amazon’s Kindle, Kindle Fire tablet, and Fire smartphone exist for Amazon’s benefit, while Apple’s products exist to benefit customers.

That’s a distinctly different approach. Amazon’s products flop while Apple’s products fly off the shelves.

America’s Most Corrupt States

It’s a 10 page gallery, but worth it to see if your state made or missed the list:

Spoiler Alert!

  • Florida
  • Kentucky
  • South Dakota
  • Alaska
  • Alabama
  • Pennsylvania
  • Illinois
  • Tennesee
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi

New York and New Jersey were not on the list? What’s up with that?

Wedding Traditions

As someone who is planning a wedding I found these to be the kinds of traditions I should avoid. From Brides:

In Ireland when the bride and groom are dancing the bride must keep both feet on the floor at all times. Irish folklore states that if they don’t, evil fairies will come and sweep her away

I guess that leaves out Irish step dancing at the wedding reception.

Brides and females of the Tujia people in China take wedding tears to a whole different level. Starting one month in advance the bride starts to cry for one hour everyday. Ten days into the waterworks extravaganza her mother joins the picture, and 10 days after that grandma does the same. By the end of the month every female in the family is crying alongside the bride.

Yeesh.

A Few Words On Cutting The Cable TV Cord And Using Apple Instead

As much as I would like to cut the cable TV cord the only way that can be done is by losing much of the television content I want to watch. A digital video recorder (DVR) is the best tech entertainment invention since sliced bread and it works wonderfully with the 300 channels on my cable subscription so I can watch what I want, when I want to watch it.

How can an Apple watcher and gadget geek girl cut the cable TV cord?

Frankly, it’s not easy, but there are plenty of entertainment and information alternatives if you’re willing to explore what cable TV does not provide. First, you’ll need an Apple TV connected to the internet and your television.

Second, you’ll need to explore the alternatives. That means Apple TV apps (many of which require you to have a cable TV subscription anyway; what a waste) combined with some good old fashioned elbow grease, and a healthy dose of YouTube.

YouTube is built-in to Apple TV but all too often YouTube videos get pulled and can’t be viewed (I’m not talking videos of cats and babies). I get plenty of mileage from using the Mac app Downie to download YouTube videos and keep them stored locally, on my Mac, DVR style.

Downie will cost you a few dollars but you’ll see the value right away, especially if you’re willing to try cutting the cable TV cord. Downie is a video download app for the Mac. Drag and drop a video link to Downie and it downloads the video and stuffs it into iTunes in a format you can use to view on Apple TV, iPhone, or iPad.

Oh, and it’s not just YouTube. Downie supports downloaded videos from over 500 different sites that do video, but also handle 4k video on YouTube. That’s Ultra HD resolution. It’s simple to use, too. Drag a video link to Downie and it just works.

Downie

If there’s a better, easier-to-use video download app than Downie, I haven’t found it yet. It’s that good.

The problem with cutting the cable TV cord is the barrier to entry for alternatives. Unlike a DVR which can be set to record specific shows automatically, Downie is a manual effort. That’s the same issue with other cable TV alternatives. Cable TV, with 300 or so channels, is just there, ready to be captured by a DVR and time shifted.

Every other alternative requires manual intervention, even though the number of video sources increases substantially. You have to go get the content you want to view, and some of what you may want to view can only be obtained through a cable TV subscription.

Using Apple TV, the Mac, and iPad through AirPlay is a good combination, and can certainly fill the day with plenty of information and entertainment– just not all the two dozen channels I want out of the 300 I pay the cable TV company to make available.

Is Anyone Safe?

AP:

Russian hackers have stolen 1.2 billion user names and passwords in a series of Internet heists affecting 420,000 websites.

The culprit? Usernames and passwords that are easy to hack. Security expert John Prisco:

This issue reminds me of an iceberg, where 90 percent of it is actually underwater. That’s what is going on here. So many cyber breaches today are not actually reported, often times because companies are losing information and they are not even aware of it.

Is anyone safe online? If so, how?

10 Happiest Colleges In The U.S.

Princeton Review’s annual college rankings include a list of the ‘happiest’ students, which, somehow translates to the happiest colleges.

The Review surveys 130,000 students about topics that range from how good the food is to how much financial aid they are receiving. Vanderbilt University took the top spot for the college with the “happiest” students.

Spoiler Alert!

  1. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.
  2. Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA.
  3. Clemson University, Clemson, SC.
  4. Tulane University, New Orleans, LA.
  5. Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA.
  6. Rice University, Houston, TX.
  7. Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS
  8. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, MA
  9. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY
  10. Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, MI.

 
Unfortunately, my alma mater didn’t make the list.

BYOD Is All The Rage These Days. So Is BYO-ID!

Apple co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs was famous for ignoring corporate enterprise as a business option, reportedly telling Intel engineers that Apple would build products so compelling and useful (the iPhone) for business employees that corporate IT departments would simply have to deal with it. The growing popularity of Mac, iPhone, and iPad has developed into a trend known as BYOD. Bring your own device. That means business IT departments have to deal with what employees want to use instead of dictating what employees can use.

Another one is called BYO-ID. Bring your own identity.

This new trend basically means your login ID or username and password are managed by a third party. You see it often these days when you need to register for a new website and are given options to use your Facebook or Twitter or Google account.

There’s also a growing trend to use BYO-ID as a subscription-based service that gives subscribers access to specific apps in a somewhat more secure environment. Think of it as identity as a service. This is an idea I like and one which Apple probably does not.

For example, we can use our Mac’s as multi-user devices simply by adding more users. Each use may have full access, or limited access to the applications and files stored on a single Mac. Apple could but does not provide multi-user access to iPhones or iPads.

Why not?

Apple makes money the old fashioned way. Hardware. Why should a single iPad be usable to five members of a household when Apple could make more money by selling multiple iPads to the same household?

BYO-ID is a bit different, but is gaining traction thanks to cloud apps from Google, Microsoft, and now even Apple. The growing trend of BYOD and BYO-ID means that all anyone needs to conduct their work on a computer is a computer– mobile, desktop, notebook– connected to the internet.

Simply use your authenticated identity from any connected device and your data is available, ready to use– and that could easily include photos, documents, spreadsheets, as well as social apps. This may explain why schools are adopting Google Chromebooks by the millions. By themselves, the Chromebooks don’t do much, but with user data on the internet or school servers, each device can easily be used by multiple students and teachers from anywhere.

It’s as if communism came to personal computing devices. There’s no ownership; just usage rights. Equal usage rights.

This cannot be a trend that Apple likes, despite the growing popularity of iCloud-based apps like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, and eventually Photos. Apple makes money by selling hardware. If we as users need less hardware– whether PCs, smartphones, or tablets– because all we need to do is to be online to the internet and we can use any device to access files, Apple loses sales.

USB Is Broken

Andy Greenberg with the Hack of the Week™ and how USB security is broken:

That’s the takeaway from findings security researchers Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell plan to present next week, demonstrating a collection of proof-of-concept malicious software that highlights how the security of USB devices has long been fundamentally broken. The malware they created, called BadUSB, can be installed on a USB device to completely take over a PC, invisibly alter files installed from the memory stick, or even redirect the user’s internet traffic. Because BadUSB resides not in the flash memory storage of USB devices, but in the firmware that controls their basic functions, the attack code can remain hidden long after the contents of the device’s memory would appear to the average user to be deleted. And the two researchers say there’s no easy fix.

So much for sneaker net.

The Richest Person In Each State

Just in case you wanted to know, Kevin Short’s list of the richest people in the country– by state:

Washington resident and Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ $80 billion net worth makes him the richest person in the country (and the world). The least rich individual on the map is Robert Gillam, founder of McKinley Capital, an Alaska-based institutional investment firm. But don’t feel too bad for him — he’s worth a cool $700 million.

Interestingly, the Waltons of Walmart fame, are tops in Arkansas, Texas, and Wyoming, while Kansan David Koch is New York’s richest.

Comcast Rage

It’s like road rage, complete with irate gunman, but only happens to the cable guy. Daniel Bean with details on a Comcast customer who didn’t want to pay an extra service charge:

When the customer became upset and refused to agree to pay these fees, the Comcast tech began loading his equipment back into his vehicle, during which time the customer allegedly took a bag of the technician’s tools, brought them into her home, and locked the door. The Comcast agent claims that, when he knocked on the door to ask for the bag of tools — valued at $400 — the customer opened the door, pointed a handgun at his torso, and told him to get off her property.

Sigh.