Archive for August, 2019

Now We Know Why Apple Apologized For The Siri Listening Fiasco… They’re Facing A Really, REALLY, Big GDPR Fine

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 30, 2019 by itnerd

Earlier this week, Apple apologized for the Siri listening fiasco. At the time I said this:

Wow. An apology from Apple. Mind blown.

I said that because Apple is notorious for not apologizing for anything unless it was in their best interests to do so. Now we might have a clue what those interests are via the Irish Examiner:

The Data Protection Commission has sought further details from Apple after it was revealed by the Irish Examiner that employees at a third-party company in Cork were listening to recordings collected from Siri.

Companies found to be in serious breach of GDPR obligations may be liable to face penalties of up to €20m, or 4% of its annual global turnover, whichever is higher.

That’s what I love about the GDPR. If you run afoul of it, you’re going to pay and pay big. This must have sent Apple into full panic mode and before you can say “there’s one more thing” out comes an apology from Apple. Which I suspect is either meant to stop them from having to cut a pretty large cheque or cut down the size of the cheque that they would have to write. How large would that cheque be? According to this, Apple’s annual turnover…. which is another term for revenue….. was $265.6 billion USD in 2018. So 4% of that is $10.62 billion USD. That’s about the size of Apple’s profits a single quarter over the last little while, and is more than the €20m floor that the GDPR specifies as a punishment. Once you see that, Apple’s apology suddenly makes sense.

So, will Apple get slapped with a fine? Well, by the time the person doing the slapping makes a statement like this, it would imply that a fine is inbound to 1 Apple Park:

This statement issued by Apple will be taken into account during the “engagement” between the company and the Data Protection Commission, added a spokesperson for the commission.

Good luck to you Apple. You’re going to need it.

 

 

#EpicFail: Fitbit Ignored Customers Who Had Their Fitness Trackers Bricked By Faulty Software Update Until The Media Knocked On Their Door

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 30, 2019 by itnerd

If you’re the owner of a Fitbit, you might want to take note of this story from the CBC where apparently the company put out a software update that effectively bricked devices. Then either ignored customers who complained about that, or offered them a discount of 25% on a new device. And only when the CBC started asking Fitbit questions, did they acknowledge “a very small subset” of devices had issues. Which from what I see is spin at best.

Here’s the thing. It should never, ever take bad press to make any company do the right thing. Companies screw up and flaky software updates get out that are customer impacting. But how a company handles that will define if the company continues to have customers and if that bad press continues. A case that illustrates this is Apple. They have twice have had software updates that have bricked Apple Watches. But both times they pulled the update pretty quickly and anyone who had a bricked Apple Watch got it replaced within hours or days. Was it embarrassing for Apple both times that this happened? Yes. But they dealt with it and the negative press went away very quickly.

Now contrast this with Fitbit. It appears that didn’t do any of that. No wonder they’re getting this blowback on Twitter among other places:

And this bad press could not have come at a worse time for Fitbit as they just released a new device called the Versa 2. But I suspect that sales of that device are going to take a hit because of this. After all, if Fitbit behaves like this when they put out a flaky software update, does that inspire confidence that they will take care of you if you run into a problem?

The bottom line is that this is an #EpicFail by a company who at present, is getting its posterior handed to it by Apple via the Apple Watch. Not only that, they are bleeding cash at the moment according to their most recent financials. Situations like this don’t help the company, and I would not be surprised that as a result of all of this bad press that they themselves created that Fitbit’s problems worsen.

More Airlines Restrict Or Ban The MacBook Pro….. And One Wonders What Apple Is Doing To Address This?

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 30, 2019 by itnerd

It seems that more airlines are restricting the MacBook Pro in some way, shape, or form. Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways have both posted warnings on their website letting customers know that affected 2015 15-inch MacBook Pro models cannot be brought on board at all unless those models have received a replacement battery. That goes a lot further than Virgin Australia or Qantas. On top of that, United Airlines has asked passengers not to use affected models during flight.

To be frank, you can’t be surprised that this is happening as there’s no easy way for an airline to determine what year a MacBook Pro is from. Sure, there’s a online serial number check that they can use. But is an airline really going to train ground staff to do this? No. Even if they wanted to it would slow down everything from security checkpoints to boarding of aircraft. Thus restricting or banning the MacBook Pro is an easier way to go.

That’s a big problem for Apple. At the moment their flagship notebook has the reputation of a Samsung Note 7. As in it has a very bad reputation. And as the number of airlines who restrict or ban the MacBook Pro increases, the more likely this becomes a PR disaster for Apple. Not only that, why would anyone buy a MacBook Pro right now if there is all this noise going on? Sure a model bought today isn’t affected by this issue. But one is sure to get hassled at the airport simply by having one. So maybe that person will+ spring for a Lenovo or HP instead to avoid this.

Thus Apple has to do something here. At this point it’s not good enough for them to simply replace these batteries. They have to find some way to work with organizations like the European Union Aviation Safety Agency who issued warnings to airlines under their jurisdiction as well as the Federal Aviation Administration who did the same thing for US carriers to make it easy for airlines to spot affected models and not have them hassle the person who bought their MacBook Pro last week and isn’t affected by this. So far it doesn’t seem Apple is doing that. At least not in public. But they need to before this goes really sideways for them.

 

 

ASUS Celebrates 30 Years At IFA 2019 With A Livestream Next Week

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 30, 2019 by itnerd

On Wednesday, September 4, ASUS will be making several announcements leading into IFA 2019 in Berlin. I invite you to tune into the livestream, which kicks off at 7:00 a.m. ET and you can watch it here.

The announcement will build on the company’s 30th Anniversary celebrations at Computex, reinforcing its commitment to refined design, outstanding performance and delivering exceptional user experiences.

After the livestream, I’ll also be sharing a recap of the announcements. So stay tuned for that.

IRIS Launches Its New IRIScanTM Desk Range

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 30, 2019 by itnerd

IRIS (Canon Group), a leader in information management,announces the market launch of a new range of scanners, including two new products: IRIScan Desk 5 and IRIScan Desk 5 Pro. This technology, developed thanks to the brand’s investment in R&D, combines the functions of a high-resolution camera and an ultra-fast scanner.

For use by businesses in the field of tourism (hotels, apartment rentals, etc.), public services (town halls, hospitals, libraries, etc.), financial institutions (banking and insurance), specialist companies (telecom operators, etc.) or, more generally, any professional needing to retrieve and/or extract data. This camera scanner can speed up data collection by shortening the process of inputting official information, whilst preventing errors.

IRIScan Desk 5, stylish and ergonomic, the new advantage for professionals

Thanks to this new camera scanner, you can scan any type of document or book: contracts, invoices, receipts, plans, newspapers, and magazines, without the need to cut them and damage them (up to A4)! Bound or spiral-bound documents are easy to scan. Simply enable automatic page change detection and convert the whole document into a Word, Excel, or PDF file.

It is now possible to scan an entire paperback book by placing it under the camera and holding its edges. The page will be flattened, and your fingers will be detected and erased from the final image.

Finally, IRIScan Desk 5 can also create video formats thanks to its function that records the progress of an operation or demonstration. A very practical function for recording web tutorials, unboxings, or live screenings for online courses.

IRIScan Desk 5 Pro, the technological advantage that combines simplicity, performance, and time saving.

In addition to the capabilities of its little sister, IRIScan Desk 5 Procan handle bigger documents (up to A3), and is intended forarchitects’ offices, notaries, hotels, schools, and the security sector. Itcan also scan official documents such as passports and ID cards withjust one click (using an optional dedicated IRISPowerscan solution).Amongst other things, it allows hotels to satisfy their legal requirement to send a daily guest list to the local authorities. Finally, it can also scan business cards or driving licences. Just place the document under the device, in any orientation. Thanks to its integrated multilingual OCR technology, the data, once scanned, are automatically extracted without any manual intervention.

It can also recognize 1D to 2D barcodes, as well as QR codes, and export the results to an Excel or text file.

IRIScanTM Desk 5, with its 8-megapixel camera, will have a recommended retail price of €199 or $220 USD. IRIScan Desk 5 Pro, with its 12-megapixel camera, will handle up to A3 format documents and will have a recommended retail price of €299 or $330 USD.

Apple APPEARS To Be Opening Up Repairs To Third Parties

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 29, 2019 by itnerd

I’ve been very critical of Apple and how they have seemingly made it impossible to have your Apple gear repaired by someone outside an Apple Store. I say that because they’ve fought hard against right to repair legislation wherever it has appeared as evidenced by this example, or this example. Apple has also done things at an OS level to stop things like third party batteries being used in repairs. Though that’s apparently for your own good if you listen to Apple. Finally, they’ve also gone as far as suing independent repair shops. In short, Apple is giving off the impression that they don’t want you to have your Apple gear repaired by anyone by Apple. Possibly so that they can sell you a new iPhone or MacBook instead of repairing it.

That may be changing with the posting of a press release from Apple in the last hour which among other things says this:

Apple today announced a new repair program, offering customers additional options for the most common out-of-warranty iPhone repairs. Apple will provide more independent repair businesses — large or small —  with the same genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics as its Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs). The program is launching in the US with plans to expand to other countries.

If you read through this, this new program is only targeting iPhones. At this point it doesn’t seem like MacBooks, iPads, iMacs or anything else is on the table. And it’s my perception that Apple is only doing this because it is facing an investigation by the Justice Department in the US. Not to mention that sooner or later, right to repair legislation will pass someplace. And as a result they’ll be forced to play ball on this front.

There’s one other thing that I should point out. From the Devil is in the detail department comes this:

  • Meeting program requirements does not guarantee acceptance into the program.

I will bet you any dollar amount that this will allow Apple to reject the applications of anyone in the right to repair space who have been critical of Apple’s behavior such as Louis Rossmann. We’ll have to see if that actually happens or not. One other thing. Consumers will be getting genuine Apple parts. I bet the pricing will be such that it at best makes it a level playing field between Apple Stores and independent repair shops. And I would not be surprised if the result of that was that consumers would think twice about repair and go towards buying a new iDevice as the cost of repair would not seem to make sense. But to be fair to Apple, that’s the cynic in me making an appearance. Apple would be making a big mistake by doing either of the things that I mentioned, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did.

So is this a step in the right direction? Maybe. We’ll have to see how this plays out. But make no mistake. Apple isn’t doing this because they want to do the right thing. They are doing this because they are more afraid of being forced to do the right thing.

 

Airlines Ban MacBook Pros From Checked Luggage Due To Fire Risk

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 29, 2019 by itnerd

Qantas airlines is now restricting MacBook Pro laptops from checked-in luggage on concern that batteries could catch fire. All 15-inch versions of Apple’s MacBook Pro must be carried in the cabin and switched off, Qantas said in a statement Wednesday. The rule went into effect Tuesday morning. This comes after rival airline Virgin did the same thing. The reason for this ban is that Apple recalled certain 2015 MacBook Pros because the batteries in them had a tendency to catch fire. And you can expect more airlines to do the same shortly.

I don’t blame the airlines for doing this as there’s no practical way for them to tell what is a 2015 MacBook Pro and what isn’t. Thus banning everything from checked luggage is the path of least resistance. Also almost nobody carries their laptops in checked luggage. Thus this really doesn’t change the behavior of most travelers. The only thing it does is give Apple some really negative press that I suspect that it will have to deal with at some point.

Apple Apologizes For Contractors Listening To Siri Requests…. Vows To Make Changes

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 28, 2019 by itnerd

It’s not every day that Apple apologizes for anything. But today is one of those days. A few minutes ago, this was posted to the Apple website where they said this among other things:

As a result of our review, we realize we haven’t been fully living up to our high ideals, and for that we apologize. As we previously announced, we halted the Siri grading program. 

Wow. An apology from Apple. Mind blown.

The company also committed to making changes:

  • First, by default, we will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. We will continue to use computer-generated transcripts to help Siri improve. 
  • Second, users will be able to opt in to help Siri improve by learning from the audio samples of their requests. We hope that many people will choose to help Siri get better, knowing that Apple respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place. Those who choose to participate will be able to opt out at any time. 
  • Third, when customers opt in, only Apple employees will be allowed to listen to audio samples of the Siri interactions. Our team will work to delete any recording which is determined to be an inadvertent trigger of Siri.

All these changes are great. But I have to agree with the thoughts of YouTube star Aaron Zollo:

I would have expected a company that claims to take privacy as seriously as Apple claims to would have done this from the jump. But clearly that wasn’t the case and now they are paying for that. Hopefully they learn from this and make future decisions with privacy at the forefront as clearly this did not happen in this case.

UPDATE: Apple has posted an FAQ on Siri privacy and grading.

Is Apple Releasing New Apple Watch Models Or Not? Let’s Look At The Evidence….

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 28, 2019 by itnerd

Normally I don’t jump into the rumor mill when it comes to Apple products, or any other products for that matter. But because I’ve gotten so many emails in terms of the potential of a new Apple Watch, I figured that it would be more efficient to just discuss what is out there in terms of what Apple might be bringing to market.

First, Apple last week registered a number of new products in the Eurasian database which is a required activity for companies in that region of the planet if they want to sell anything there. Among the new iPhones and MacBooks that were registered were four unreleased models of the Apple Watch. This appeared on MacRumors, 9to5Mac, and AppleInsider at about the same time which isn’t a shock as entries in this database are a reliable means to figure out what Apple is about to release. Also of note, the existing Series 3 and 4 Apple Watches were re-registered with watchOS 6. Something confirmed by MacRumors in a tweet to me:

Tied to this was this find in iOS 13 beta 7 by Brazilian site iHelpBR of assets that show two new Apple Watch variants. A ceramic version and a titanium version. Apple has had ceramic versions of the Apple Watch in the past, but they don’t presently offer that case material as an option. And there’s never been a titanium version. Though having one would make sense as many high end watches are made of the metal and Apple has tried to go high end with the Apple Watch in the past.

So what does this all mean? Here’s my guess. Apple is about to release 40mm and 44mm ceramic version and titanium versions of the Apple Watch that will use the Series 4 hardware. These will be sold alongside the existing aluminium versions and possibly the stainless steel version. I say possibly because I can see a scenario where the stainless steel version gets replaced by a titanium version as titanium is more durable and lighter.

Another thing to note is that only four new models made it into the Eurasian database. In the past, when Apple has released a new version of the Apple Watch, the company has entered six or more variants into this database. Thus this implies that Apple is not doing anything new and cool with the Apple Watch this year from a hardware perspective. And there is precedent for this as Apple went about 18 months between the release of the original Apple Watch (April 24, 2015) and the release of the Series 1 and 2 (September 16, 2016).

Another factor is that the Series 4 Apple Watch was the closest thing to a redesign of the Apple Watch that we’ve seen via the bigger screens that were present on that model. While Apple isn’t above blowing up the universe a year after redesigning a product, I am thinking that you can expect a hardware redesign to support things like a longer battery life and sleep tracking next year. And that may come via a microLED screen replacing the OLED screen as that would make the Apple Watch far more power efficient while maintaining the screen quality that Apple Watch users expect.

Finally, here’s the key thing about this. Rumors of an Apple Watch “Series 5” have been close to non-existent with the exception of the above and this picture. But if you look at rumors about a new iPhone or new MacBook Pro, they’ve been rampant. That suggests to me that Apple is either keeping what they are doing with the Apple Watch a secret, or nothing new is coming other than what I explained above. Thus my take on this is that Apple will still be selling the Series 3 and 4 Apple Watches, but add in ceramic version and titanium versions into the mix to boost sales. And a new and cool Apple Watch will be inbound next year. It will be interesting to see if I am right on or around September 10th which is when I expect the Apple Event that announces all of these products to take place.

 

Jim Lee Launches New Backpack for Comic Book Artists And Collectors

Posted in Commentary with tags on August 27, 2019 by itnerd

HEX, award-winning fashion accessory brand, launches the new Jim Lee Collectors Backpack. Working with Jim Lee, Hex realized that not only do the artists need a better backpack solution, but so do their fans! Comic conventions have become immensely popular events where collectors can gather to follow their favorite characters and artists. They buy, sell and collect comic books, posters, autographs, etc etc. Comic books are not kids business anymore as many of these books reach values well into six-figure territory. But there was no way to safely transport them.

The HEX x Jim Lee Collectors Backpack has been created for comic book collectors as a way to safely transport comics. Comic convention goers routinely carry hundreds if not thousands of dollars of comics around in flimsy bags. This backpack provides secure and safe storage for comic book enthusiasts.

Inside the top of the backpack is a file folder with individual sleeves so that multiple bagged and boarded or slab comics can be held securely. Additionally, there’s a fleece lined laptop section. It’s even possible to lock the top of the files for extra security.

There is an easy access pocket that is the exact size of the Overstreet Price Guide. Plus, there’s an expandable mesh pocket on each side to carry poster tubes.

The Collectors Backpack features the same custom Batman lining as the Artists Backpack. There is also a Special Edition version of the Collectors Backpack that extends the Batman artwork to the external pocket. Other unique features include “Batarang” zipper tags.

HEX x Jim Lee Collectors Backpack Features:

  • Individual Fleece Lined Comic Carrying Pockets
  • Padded Laptop Sleeve
  • Overstreet Price Guide Pocket
  • Anti-theft Zipper Lock
  • Poster Tube Holder
  • Exterior Phone Pocket
  • Organizer
  • Custom Jim Lee Batman Lining
  • Water Resistant 600D Polyester with PU Coating
  • Limited Edition Only Features
  • Jim Lee Front Pocket
  • “Batarang” Zipper Pulls