Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Apple's war on usefulness and its own customers

After wading into the incompetent mess that was the cell-phone market before the iPhone and improving it, Apple has done a 180 and is now driving it backward.

Apple continually degrades its products, waging a war on usefulness and its own customers. The removal of the headphone jack is the latest and most offensive insult to customers and consumers in general. Apple and Jony Ive continue to call the public stupid, by releasing ever-more-crippled and anti-customer designs. And their only excuse is the long-tired and unasked-for marketing gimmick, "thinner."

The majority of customers have declared that Apple's iPhone design is a failure. How do we know this? They bury the "thin, elegant" iPhone in a tacky, bulky case. And with Jony Ive's insistence that you don't need a battery in your phone, those cases are even bulkier and tackier because they must also serve as the battery. Even Apple was compelled to release an embarrassing humpbacked condom for its flagship product.

Another testament to Apple's design failure is the legions of people carrying a power brick and wad of wire around with their "thin, elegant" iPhone, begging bartenders to plug them in or crawling under tables at restaurants to do so themselves. Ask anyone in the industry: Service establishments are having to lay down employee rules and policies about this behavior, a behavior that could easily be made nonexistent by simply putting a proper battery in the phone.

And then there are the functional and UI defects. The most embarrassing of which has existed since day one of the first iPhone, and has inexplicably not been fixed (an extremely simple fix at that): no audible notifications of missed calls. Seriously, on A PHONE. There's simply no excuse for this.

How about another software blunder, which causes people to miss flights and appointments and who knows what else? Yes, it's Apple's ridiculously incompetent calendar, which (without your permission) changes the times of appointments when you travel. And there's no way to prevent this behavior.

Then there's the UI, which is increasingly based on Easter eggs and secret "gestures." This is lazy, incompetent design. After setting the standard for phone UI and just nailing it with the best mobile browser right out of the gate, Apple is going backward fast. Now we have controls disguised as plain text. We have a music player where most of the toolbar controls are useless junk, and selecting a song doesn't bring up its album art and metadata anymore. We have an address book that once let you select a group (say, "Doctors") and go into it with one tap, but now inexplicably makes you go to the groups list, find and deselect the group you were showing, then find and select the one you want to see, and then dismiss the list. WTF? Who works like that?

The sad part is that Apple hasn't reached the bottom. They continue to call you stupid more aggressively and in more ways, making your investment in the Apple ecosystem less and less useful... and yet people still serve as tools and apologists for this behavior.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Why consumers and shareholders should punish Apple for removing the headphone jack.

Apple is waging a war against usefulness. Under design chief Jony Ive's regime, Apple's hardware has suffered continual regression that makes it less useful with every iteration.

I'm not talking about power users, either; I'm talking about the general public. And right now I'm talking about the iPhone.

You see it every day: People squatting in the corner of a coffee shop with their iPhone plugged into an outlet... and that's before lunch, when no battery should be dead. People carrying power bricks and wads of wire around, begging the bartender to plug their iPhones in. Or crawling under tables to do so themselves. This is what Jony Ive says you want. And it's pathetic.

Apple's excuse is its continued, baffling, and unasked-for mania to make things "thinner." As internal components shrink, Apple doesn't use the space for battery. It just makes the phone "thinner" (but not really, because the camera lens sticks out). Yet Apple wants us to use MORE battery power; for Bluetooth to communicate with the Watch, or stream music over the cellular radio, or use GPS-based apps and games. And the thinner phone is less ergonomic and more prone to being dropped and broken.

But we already knew that the majority Apple's customers have condemned the iPhone's design as a failure. How do we know? By simply observing that the vast majority of them have buried the "thin, elegant" iPhone in a bulky, tacky case. Because they believe it can't withstand being used for its primary purpose, and they simply can't reliably grasp it. And a growing number of those cases are even bulkier and tackier, because they must also serve as the phone's battery.

Even Apple felt compelled to introduce an embarrassing battery case for its so-called mobile phone.

But that's not the worse aspect of all of this. Now Apple has removed the audio output from its primary music players. Let's consider the stupidity of this move, which should anger every user and shareholder. Starting with a quote from MarketWatch (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/frank-ocean-cranks-up-the-apple-vs-spotify-beef-2016-08-26):

"With sales of iPhones stagnating, Chief Executive Tim Cook has focused on software and services as a growth engine for the world’s most valuable company"

Apple's aggressive promotion and spending on Apple Music prove that it considers music to be a major part of that "growth engine." So why on earth would Apple impede the public's consumption of that service by deleting the music output from its music players? To sell a relatively few clunky headphones?

That's extremely poor strategy, as the market has reached maturity and people are simply bored with the iPhone.

Every investor should take Apple to task for this irresponsible and inexcusable step backward. Not only will Apple lose iPhone sales to this (yes, they will), but it undermines Apple's future business by hampering consumption of its services. This kind of gross misstep should also be punished by the stock market; another loss for investors who are already part owners of Apple.

All the excuses for this blunder are laughable at best. Let's dismantle a few:

1. You can use an adapter.

The asinine adapter isn't the answer, because (aside from having to carry yet another piece of crap around everywhere with your "thin, elegant" iPhone) you can't charge the phone while using it. Want to listen to music on that long road trip while navigating? NOPE.

And good luck replacing that adapter when you lose it on your overseas trip. And if you can, it'll be $30 (or more; we don't know yet).

2. The headphone jack is outdated, like floppy disks and physical media.

This may be the dumbest one. Your ears are analog, and that's not going to change. To hear music, it must at some point be converted from digital data into an analog waveform by a digital-to-analog (D/A) converter. That waveform is used to electrically move a piece of material that moves air against your eardrum. If the music player has a speaker (like every phone), it must contain a D/A converter. So that's not going away; Apple's just denying you the connection to it.

Now Apple wants everyone else to put redundant D/A converters in every listening appliance. Every headset, earbud, car stereo,  home stereo, boombox, hotel-room clock radio, TV, portable amp, PA system. Yeah, this isn't just about headphones. It's about an entire planet's worth of sound reproduction equipment that does and always will have to deliver an analog waveform to your ears.

So no, this is not comparable to abandoning an obsolete format.

3. Removing the headphone jack will allow Apple to make the phone thinner.

This is a crock. The Lightning port is 3mm across. The headphone jack is 3.7mm across. And the iPhone's thickness will be dictated by the protruding camera lens.

We already covered this excuse above, and nobody is campaigning for thinner iPhones. To continue to push this played-out marketing gimmick embarrasses Apple and lends credence to the claim that they're out of ideas.

4. Almost everyone uses wireless headphones, proven by the fact that more wireless ones are sold now.

Lame strawman that only a shut-in would believe. Look around you in the real world. Even at the gym, the vast majority of earphones in use are wired. The sales-figures argument is invalid, because music players and iPhones have come with earbuds, so most people (sadly) will simply put up with them and not buy anything better. It stands to reason that those who do buy additional headphones are likely to buy wireless ones (because they already have wired earbuds, in case I need to spell that out).

But that doesn't matter anyway: The headphone jack doesn't prevent anyone from using wireless or digital headphones.

In the end there simply is no excuse for removing the headphone jack. There are only lame attempts to explain why we shouldn't care.

Friday, August 5, 2016

NBC continues to rip off the public and screw Team USA at the Olympics.

NBC, a broadcaster granted a portion of our public spectrum to transmit content for profit, is once again denying United States viewers access to coverage of their Olympic athletes online. And its excuses embarrass the network and insult the viewers.

So much wrong here. From NBCOlympics.com:

Q: What do I need to watch video on NBCOlympics.com?
A: In order to watch any video on NBCOlympics.com, you must install the latest version of Adobe(R) Flash(R) (supports v10 and above). Adobe(R) Flash(R) will provide you with the best NBC Olympics viewing experience including HD quality video, DVR controls and much more.

That's right people: NBC is still using Flash. That's pathetic by itself, but it also screws mobile users. Oh well!  Don't worry about moving into this decade anytime soon, NBC.

Q: What is required for access to view "Live Streaming" video content?
A: You can access live streams of EVERY NBC Olympics event by authenticating with a cable, 
satellite or telco TV subscription through your service provider.

Ah yes, the big lie of NBC's proud claim of "streaming every event." Does a bear shit in the woods? Maybe, but if you can't see it, who's to say? Now here's the most insulting part of NBC's fraud:

Q: Why is authentication being required?
A: Authentication supports our ongoing investment in sports programming for all of our platforms and is consistent with industry trends. Digital platforms require significant investment, and authentication allows us to capture the value of that investment, which in turn allows us to continue to provide cable/satellite/telco customers with high-quality sports coverage wherever and whenever they want at no additional cost.

This is absolute bullshit. First off, "consistent with industry trends" means, "other providers are ripping people off, so we're going to try it too."

Then there's "digital platforms require significant investment." Hey NBC, broadcasting went digital a decade ago. What analog distribution are you doing?

Finally, and most damning, there's the fact that NBC sued Aereo, a company that would have expanded NBC's viewership (thus increasing its ratings and the value of its content) by building online infrastructure free of charge to NBC. So NBC is whining about "significant investment" after idiotically attacking a company that was set to do that investment free.

More historic NBC stupidity.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Apple calls you stupid by getting rid of the headphone jack.

Another day, another apologist pretending that this is "progress."

WRONG. Your ears require analog audio waveforms. Those come from headphones or speakers, which move AIR to produce pressure corresponding to those waveforms. There's nothing Apple or anyone else can do at the moment to "progress" beyond that.

So by removing the source of sound from its music-centric phones, Apple will idiotically require redundant conversion hardware in EVERY listening device. Not only will every headphone, car stereo, hotel-room clock radio, boom box, and home stereo have to decode whatever crap-ass protocol Apple will use (which will most likely recompress your already-compressed music), it will then have to do the D/A conversion.

Or... it could be done by the player device ONCE.

Never mind that anyone who cares about sound already has good headphones. And don't even float the turd of, "Well, get an adapter."  Yes, that's classic Apple "elegance:" carrying a wad of adapters and wires around, making your "thin, elegant" iPhone into a Christmas tree of crap because of course you'll need some kind of Y adapter to charge it while listening. Oh, and don't forget all this junk when you go on vacation. Want to play tunes in your rental car?  WOOPS, just when every car has an auxiliary input... Apple makes it useless.

Oh, and never mind that the Lightning port is an embarrassing engineering fiasco that delivers worse quality than the ancient 30-pin port it replaced: https://panic.com/blog/the-lightning-digital-av-adapter-surprise

And finally, if you're all keen on a junked-up, recompressed, battery-sapping, all-digital pipeline to your headphones... you can have it WITHOUT getting rid of the headphone jack. There is no excuse for removing it, period. The "thinness" argument is not only a lie (LOOK at the thing), but it's stupid anyway because nobody asked for a THINNER phone.

Grow a nut and demand better, instead of rolling over and showing your flabby white belly to your corporate masters because it's too uncomfortable for you to admit that Apple is calling you stupid... and you're proving them right.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The Los Angeles Times: Censoring comments to protect its offensive practices and... state cronies?

The L.A. Times implements at least a couple of offensive, anti-reader practices. They launch noise-making ads without user approval, and they inexplicably disable zooming on their mobile site.

That's bad enough. But then they compound the offense by censoring comments that call them out on it. And there's yet more: On top of that, they censor comments that call the state of California out for its rip-offs as well.

Look at this bullshit:

Now what kind of publication is so ashamed of its own work that it bans comments that refer to it? A deliberately deceitful one. There's more:

So this is "journalism" today. It's free, so it's worth nothing. And that's exactly what the L.A. Times delivers and tries to defend. Shoddy work and disgraceful cover-ups, instead of simply fixing the problem.

I guess it is embarrassing when comments provide more information than the "story" above them. Some publications (honorable ones, that is) would use this as incentive to do better. The L.A. Times simply tries to bury the problem.

Hey L.A. Times: Take a lesson from local cats and bury your shit, instead of your readers.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Apple's idiotic "time-zone support" sets users up to miss flights and everything else.

Apple loves to operate in a fantasy world of its own, ignoring reports of glaring defects until they've become embarrassing PR debacles.

This is because Apple doesn't seem to relate to how real people do real things.  For example,  how they use a calendar.

When you book a flight, the airline gives you an itinerary with times on it.

Those times are LOCAL TIMES.  Is there anyone on the planet who thinks that United is putting non-local times on its itineraries, as if you're not going to change your watch or something?  YES: Someone at Apple thinks that.

Consider the craven stupidity of this "logic:" 

So neither of these settings ensures that your iPhone will go off at the specified numeric time shown on the phone's screen.  In fact, it doesn't appear to do anything.  It's incredible: Apple's handheld Unix computer can't do what a $9 alarm clock can.

And yet Apple gets a free pass on grossly defective designs like this, which aren't just cosmetic annoyances.  They cause people to miss important events.  Why do you allow it?