Episode 425 – Aussie Tech Heads Shownotes

posted in: Show Notes

Apple Store revamp,

In a sprawling, fascinating profile of Apple’s VP of design Jony Ive at the New Yorker this week, it’s revealed that the company is working on a revamp of its Apple Store retail locations. Ive is reportedly working with Apple’s retail head Angela Ahrendts, who the company hired away from Burberry.

The piece makes it sound like the updated stories will have more of a luxury-minded design, breaking from the ultra-minimal aesthetic employed today, as to better accommodate pricier items like the Apple Watch Edition. “These new spaces will surely become a more natural setting for vitrines filled with gold (and perhaps less welcoming, at least in some corners, to tourists and truants),” reads Ian Parker’s profile.

It’s one tiny tidbit from an absolutely massive piece that touches all corners of Ive’s career and life. For example, did you know that his input may have shaped the three-prong lightsaber seen in the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer? It’s in there, along with his thoughts on the modern state of car design (useful, considering Apple’s reported plans).

Apple wins patent for a virtual reality device

Granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office, Apple’s patent, entitled “Head-mounted Display Apparatus for Retaining a Portable Electronic Device With Display”, describes an electronic device worn on the users head, which uses an iPhone inserted into it as a screen.

sounds very familiar to Samsung’s Gear VR and LG’s recently announced VR for G3. However, while Apple’s patent has only just been approved, it was initially filed back in September of 2008 – well before the Gear VR or VR’s biggest champion, Oculus, existed.

Interestingly, Apple’s patent also allows for a remote control to work with the headset and iPhone so a user could interact with the device without needing to touch the screen.

Hong Kong Telecom launches Asia’s first 10Gbps service

HKT has become the first Asian telco to launch 10Gbps Fibre-to-the-Premises (FTTP) services. HKT is set to deliver services to its first customers in mid-March

the availability of 10Gbps services to around 80% of total homes in Hong Kong

US govt can spy on and sabotage computers

Kaspersky discovers hidden firmware-level spyware

The US government has developed spyware designed to invade your computer and sit on your hard drive’s firmware, watching everything you do.

According to a report from Kaspersky Lab, the spyware is found deep within the computers of government and military institutions, as well as the computers of telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media outlets, and Islamic activists.

While only apparent on high-level computers in 30 countries

Kaspersky’s research shows the spyware works on most major hard drives, including those from Western Digital, Segate, Samsung, Toshiba, Micron and IBM.

according to Neowin, Western Digital, Seagate and Micron said they had no knowledge of such spyware existing on their devices, so how did it get there

if you think you have the infected firmware the only fix is get rid of the hdd and start again. but if you destaroy one drive out of fear – will you not have the same fear with the next drive you buy anyway ?

HTTP/2 speeds up the web for the first time in 16 years

the new version of the Hypertext Transfer Protocol is all done and dusted. It’s currently being scrutinised on RFC Editor, and will shortly be assigned an RFC number and be published, so that it can become the standard protocol for the web.

The last update to HTTP came 16 years ago in 1999 with HTTP 1.1, since then we’ve all been using this outdated method of web building and finally it’s time to change.

While still retaining the same APIs as HTTP/1, allowing developers to work effortlessly with it, HTTP/2 brings many benefits to the world wide web.

The biggest change for general web users, and for those of you who stress out over web server strain, is how HTTP/2 reduces the cost of page requests. This means faster load times for users, and an end to worrying about pages crashing from too many requests being made all at once.

HTTP/2 should also reduce the strain on servers and networks thanks to a reduced number of connections being made. It also allows for servers to push content to users, allowing them to proactively send things to a user’s cache for future use – once again, lowering load times as multiple requests for stylesheets and fetching HTML aren’t needed.


  1. Get and build the latest Chromium source: https://code.google.com/p/chromium/wiki/UsingGit, OR join the Chrome Canary channel.

  2. Run Chrome with the “–enable-spdy4” command-line flag (an internal name for HTTP/2).

  3. Enjoy!

Microsoft integrates Office with Apple iCloud

Microsoft has unveiled the integration of its Office apps with Apple’s cloud platform, iCloud, signalling the company’s push to accept various cloud platforms for its services.

Microsoft Office app users with iOS 8 will be able to edit and back up their files to iCloud, for services such as Word, Excel and PowerPoint.

In November, Microsoft unveiled a similar partnership with Dropbox, allowing mobile users on the iPad, iPhone and Android-based smartphones and tablets to access Dropbox from Office mobile apps and edit Office filed directly from Dropbox.

Microsoft trademarks Windows 365

While the option of a subscription-based Windows wasn’t discussed at the event, it certainly appears to be something Microsoft is actively investigating. The company has registered a trademark for ‘Windows 365,’ a name which suggests at least the same relationship between it and Windows as between Office 365 and Office.

Shayne – 19/2

Facebook Patents Clever Way To Advertise Just To Important People

  • Celebrities aren’t like you and me. They’re better. Or at least Facebook thinks they’re worth more money.

  • Convince experts and influencers to like something, and everyone will follow their lead.  Facebook’s just patented one of the trickiest ways yet to identify who these special people are.

  • Facebook watches the rate at which a piece of content like a link is shared, then figure out whose posting led to a sudden increase in share rate in their network. Those people are the influencers, and the people that they discovered the content from are the experts.

  • Facebook could then target those people with ads and presumably charge businesses a boatload to reach them.

  • Other tech giants like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have received patents for this so-called “Influencer Marketing” but none use as clever of a technique do determine who the VIPs are.Google’s looks for volume of connections, Yahoo’s can look at how influential someone’s own followers are, and Microsoft aims to assemble a set of influencers with the largest unduplicated audience.

  • But these all have the same flaw. They use connection count as a proxy for influence rather than measuring influence itself.

FAA Proposes Rules To Open The Sky To Some Commercial Drones, But Delivery Drones Remain Grounded

  • After a number of delays, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) today officially announced its proposed rules for small commercial drones.

  • The proposed rules are pretty straightforward and more lenient than expected, but while they open up a number of use cases, they are still strict enough to make it impractical to operate the kind of delivery drones Amazon and others have envisioned.

  • The rules for drones weighing fewer than 55 pounds (25Kg):

    • Pilots will have to pass a knowledge test (but not a practical test) to get a newly developed drone operator license and will have to be vetted by the TSA.

    • They will have to take a recurrent test every 24 months and be at least 17 years old.

    • Pilots will only be allowed to fly during daytime hours and must be able to see the drone at all times (though they can also use a second operator as an observer).

    • Once an operator has this license, it will apply to all small drones.

    • FAA will not require drone pilots to get a private or commercial pilots license, and operators will not have to pass a medical exam.

    • Commercial drones will only be allowed to fly under 500 feet and no faster than 100 mph (160 Km/h).

    • Drones will have to be registered with the FAA. Flights over people are prohibited and visibility has to be over 3 miles (4.8Km).

    • Drones can fly autonomously, but all of the other regulations (line of sight, maximum height, etc.) still apply and the pilot has to be able to take manual control at all times.

    • The FAA is also considering to create a separate category for very small drones under 4.4 pounds (2Kg)

ERIK 19/2/2015

Old flip-phones are the iPhone’s newest rival in Japan

Buster Hein (11:30 am PDT, Feb 18th)

Are flip-phones making a comeback? Photo:Oscar Avellaneda-Cruz/Flickr CC

The iPhone has been killing it in Japan lately. Apple’s smartphone marketshare in the tech-obsessed country iscontinuing to dominate year-over-year, even though the company had a hard time giving out iPhones just five years ago.

With the iPhone 6’s bigger screen, the company is making more of an inroads than ever, but according to a report from Reuters, smartphones in Japan are facing stiff from competition from an unlikely suspect: flip-phones.

Shipments of traditional flip-phones in Japan rose for the first time in seven year in 2014 while smartphone shipments fell. Total shipments of flip-phones hit 10.58 million in 2014, according to data from market researcher MM Research Institute. Smartphone shipments still far exceed flip-phones with 27.70 million units, but that figure is 5.3% lower than 2013, and is the second consecutive year-over-year drop.

Japanese companies Panasonic and NEC have pulled out of the smartphone wars, but they’re still making flip-phones that are back in high demand. The retro flip-phones still lack apps and advanced features, but do offer voice calling, email, and basic Internet services.

Flip-phones are supposedlycoming back into fashionin the U.S. this year too. Fashion icon Anna Wintour wasspotted using one at the U.S. Open. Rihanna, Kate Beckinsale, and Scarlett Johansson have also been photographed using flip-phones, and even New York City mayor Bill DeBlasio is getting in on the dumb phone action too.

Handset makers will still have a tough time squeezing out iPhone sized profits from the flip-phone market though. Mobile penetration is saturated at 98.5 percent in Japan with 125 million subscriptions.

Read more at http://www.cultofmac.com/312711/old-flip-phones-iphones-newest-rival-japan/#62KEK13JVgcFzRGW.99

Apple’s Electric Car Dreams May Bring Detroit Nightmares

    (Bloomberg) — Before Apple Inc. decides to move ahead with its Project Titan project and build an electric car, the company may want to look at the menu of challenges that come with being in the automobile business these days.

Apple has put a few hundred people, including some new hires from the auto industry, on a skunkworks project to do the early development of an electric vehicle resembling a minivan. Such a car would challenge Tesla Motors Inc. as well as electric and hybrid cars sold by Nissan Motor Corp., General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and other companies.

If Titan results in a real car, Apple must be ready for such challenges as growing safety rules and an ever-changing regulatory environment for zero-emission vehicles. And let’s not forget that electric cars generate low margins, and usually losses, that Apple’s profit-loving shareholders have rarely experienced.

“They weren’t in the phone business and succeeded, but the car business will be more difficult by two orders of magnitude,” said Erik Gordon, professor at University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. “You can easily contract with a company in China to do the simple assembly of a phone but you can’t so easily do it with the complicated assembly of cars.”

Apple does have the advantage of a $178 billion cash hoard. That’s six times the cash Volkswagen AG has on its books and seven times what GM is carrying, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. In fact, that cash hoard alone could fund GM’s capital expenditures budget for 20 years.

The company is probably looking at several options and would be more likely to engineer the software that controls autonomous-driving cars or rethink the human control of today’s cars, said Jon Bereisa, CEO of consulting firm Auto Lectrification LLC who worked on the Chevy Volt program.

“It’s still a car and it’s very foreign to them,” Bereisa said in a telephone interview. “With autonomous cars, there will be more software, more computation and more controls and some of that could even reside in the cloud. They could work with car companies to put Apple inside.”

Private Location

Steve Zadesky, vice president of iPhone product design, is leading the car project, according to a person familiar with the project.

Zadesky was given permission to create a 1,000-person team and poach employees from different parts of the company, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. Working from a private location a few miles from Apple’s corporate headquarters in Cupertino, California, the team is researching different types of robotics, metals and materials consistent with automobile manufacturing, the newspaper said.

The iPhone maker may be looking at the car business simply because it needs a way to spend money, said Sam Jaffe, a senior research analyst at Navigant Consulting Inc., in a phone interview.

“So how do they spend all of that cash?” Jaffe said. “They are going to have to enter into new markets. It’s inevitable that one of those markets will be automotive. The future of the car industry is how to replicate the design ethos of consumer electronics.”

While Apple is seen as being a design leader, that alone won’t make an electric car a great bet. Falling gasoline prices have pushed down sales of fuel-efficient cars. Nissan dropped the price on its electric Leaf to boost sales and GM lowered prices on the plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt for the same reason.

Electric cars are still a tiny portion of global sales. Nissan needed three years to sell 100,000 of its Leaf EV. Tesla’s record was 31,655 of the Model S last year in an industry that sells more than 100 million vehicles a year. The company plans to sell 55,000 this year and is still losing money.

Right Choice

There is even an open question about EVs being the right choice for the future, said Eric Noble, president of The CarLab, an automotive consulting firm in Orange, California. The California Air Resources Board, whose clean-air rules for cars tend to be adopted by many other states and also influence federal emissions standards, requires automakers to produce a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles for sale in the state. They can be hydrogen fuel cell-powered, electric or hybrid vehicles.

Changes to the regulations now favor hydrogen-powered vehicles because they can be refueled faster than electric cars can be recharged and can often drive longer before needing to fill up. Also, state tax rebates for hydrogen fuel cells can be double that given to buyers of electric cars. These incentive programs may start to turn the tide toward hydrogen over electric drive, Noble said.

U.S. Effort

Both Toyota and Honda plan to sell fuel-cell vehicles in the U.S. this year. Toyota has wound down its electric RAV4 sport utility vehicle and Honda stopped selling the electric Fit subcompact.

“Another risk is that electric vehicles are in danger of being passed over,” Noble said. “You could argue that Honda and Toyota are already doing that.”

While electric cars may turn out to be the wave of the future, there is no question that they are a tough business now.

“For Apple, the problem isn’t paying to build the car, its getting a return on the investment,” Gordon said. “Shareholders and analysts will hate the margins and the distraction. They’re not even the cool, first player. They are following Tesla and Google.”

Google has its own self-driving car program and showed a prototype in December.

Tesla Losses

Tesla has racked up $1.3 billion in losses since 2008 and doesn’t expect to break even until 2020.

The carmaker has been blunt about the challenges and costs of high-volume manufacturing. In an earnings call with analysts on Feb. 11, Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk said the company was going to “spend staggering amounts of money” as it delivers the first Model X SUV to customers this summer, builds the gigafactory for battery production and designs the Model 3 sedan, due in the second half of 2017.

“If Apple is starting now it would take a couple of years to catch up to Tesla,” said Ben Kallo, a San Francisco-based analyst for R.W. Baird. “Even after a car is designed, the competitors will have to source batteries in quantity and cost. Tesla is a couple of years ahead on this front.”

There’s another big challenge. This is a car we’re talking about. After many decades of building cars, even the auto industry’s venerable players like Toyota and GM have stumbled at the seemingly simple task of making all of their vehicles free of safety defects.

Government Fines

The Department of Justice fined Toyota $1.2 billion in relation to a 2009 recall of millions of its cars for a sticky gas pedal caused some cars to accelerate unexpectedly. GM is bracing for the possibility of a similar fine after recalling 2.59 million cars because the ignition switch could turn off while the car is in motion.

The fine is big enough that GM Chief Finance Officer Chuck Stevens said this month that the carmaker will likely delay a decision to return more cash to shareholders until after the company sees what its fine will be.

Dealing with government safety rules and investigations has gotten tougher and very expensive. The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration is scrutinizing cars and safety issues more closely. While vehicle quality has steadily improved for the industry, last year saw a record number of recalls as carmakers contend with stiffer safety rules.

Carmakers recalled 64 million vehicles, which was double the record set in 2004, according to data from NHTSA. The agency’s administrator, Mark Rosekind, has vowed more vigorous oversight.

So why would Apple bother? Apple could just use its mastery of human-to-machine interaction and make drive controls or self-driving car technology, Noble said. That way they could profit from their expertise without the headaches of being a true carmaker, he said.

Musk has another thought that could explain Apple’s car project. On Tesla’s earnings call, before news of Project Titan became public, he said Apple is “just running out of ways to spend money. They spend money like it’s water over there and they still can’t spend enough of it.”

To contact the reporters on this story: David Welch in New York at dwelch12@bloomberg.net; Dana Hull in San Francisco at dhull12@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net Bruce Rule, Cecile Daurat


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