Tag Archives: Asus

Overpricing or Segregation?

What is enough in a PC? That is the question many have asked in the past. Some state that for gaming you need the max hardware possible; for those using a word processor, a spreadsheet, email and browse the internet, the minimum often suffices.

I have been in the middle of that equation for a long time; I was for well over a decade in the high end of it, as gaming was my life. Yet, the realisation became more and more that high end gaming is a game for those with high paying jobs was a reality we all had to face. Now we see the NVIDIA GeForce GTX Titan Xp 12GB GDDR5X Video Card at $1950, whilst we can do 4K gaming and that one card is a 4K 65″ TV with either the Xbox X or the PS4 pro. Now consider that this is merely the graphics card and that the high end PC requires an additional $2K that is where the PC with 4K gaming requires 4 thousand dollars. It is a little stretch, because you can get there with a little less, but then also the less requires the hardware to be replaced quicker. So I moved to console gaming and I never regretted it. We all agree that I have lost out, but I can live with that. I can truly enjoy gaming without the price. So in this situation, can someone explain to me how the new iMac Pro will cost you in its maximum setting $20,743? Is there any justification to need such an overpowered device? I reckon that those into professional video editing might need it, but when we consider those 43 people in Australia (on that high level) who else does it benefit?

In comparison, a maximised Mac Pro costs you $11,617, so it is almost 50% cheaper. Now the comparison is not fair because the iMac Pro has an optional 4TB SSD drive, and that is not a cheap item, but the issue is that the overpowering of hardware might seem cool and nice, but let’s be fair, when we compare this through MS Word, we see the issue. The bulk of all people will never use more than 20% of that text editor, which is a reality we face yet at $200 we do not care, take the price a hundred fold, with $20,000 in the balance it adds up and even as MS Word has one version the computers do have options, and a lesser option is available, in this, that new iMac Pro is in minimum configuration $7K and at twice the price of a 4K gaming machine, with no real option for gaming, is that not a system that is over the top?

Now, some might think it is, some will state it is not and it is really in the eyes of the beholder. Yet in this day and age, when we have been thrusted into a stage where mobiles and most computer environments are set to a 2-4 year stage at best, how should we see the iMac pro? In addition, where the base model of the pro is 100% more expensive than the upgraded iMac 27″, is there a level of disjointed presentation?

Well, some do not think in that way and they are right to see it as such. One source (ZDNet) gives us: “The iMac Pro is aimed at professionals working with video (a lot of video), those into VR, 3D modeling, simulations, animation, audio engineers and such“, a view I wholeheartedly agree with, yet that view and that image has not been given when we see the marketing, the Apple site and even the apple stores. Now, first off, the apple stores have not been misleading, most have kept to some strict version of ‘party line’ and that is not a wrong stance. Also the view that ZDNet gives us at the end is spot on. With “It’s Mac for the 1 percent of Mac users, not the 99 percent. For the 99 percent, yes, the iMac Pro is overpriced and just throwing away money, but for the 1 percent who need the sort of power that a system like that can generate, it’s very reasonably priced” and that is where we see the issue, Mac is now segregating the markets trying to get the elite back into the Mac fold. Their timing is impeccable. Microsoft made a mess of things and with the gaming industry in the chaotic view of hardware the PC industry has become a mess. It moved towards the gamers who now represent $100 billion plus already we see that others went on the games routine whilst to some extent ignoring the high end graphical industry. It is something that I have heard a few times and to be honest, I ignored it. I grew there whilst being completely aware of all the hardware, which was 15-25 years ago. The graphical hardware market grew close to 1000%, so when I needed to dig into the PC hardware for another reason, I was amazed just how much there was and how affordable some stuff was, but in the highest gaming tier, the one tier where the gamer and high end video editing need overlaps, we see a lag, because selling to 99 gamers and one video editor means that most will not give a toss about the one video editor. Most will know what they need, but that market is not well managed. Issues like video drivers and Photoshop CC 2017 against Windows 10 are just a few of the dozens upon dozens of issues that seems to plague these users. Important is that this is not just some Adobe issue; it seems that the issues are still in a stage of flux. With “Microsoft warned that the April 2017 security update package has a known issue that could affect users’ computers and which the company is seeking to fix” a few months ago, we are starting to see more and more that Windows forgot that its core was not merely the gamer, it was an elite user group that it had slowly snagged away from Apple and now Apple is striking back in the best way possible, by giving them that niche again, by pushing these people with money away, they might soon see that the cutting edge Azure targets for high end graphic applications become a pool of enjoyment for the core Microsoft Office users. A market that they are targeting just as Apple gets its ducks in a row and snatches that population away from them.

That is indeed a clever move, because that was the market that made Apple great in the first place. So as we read on how Azure is aiming for the ArcGIS Pro population, we see that Apple has them outgunned and outclassed and not by a small amount either. Here the iMac Pro could be the difference between real time prototyping and anticipated results awaiting aggregation. That would instantly make the difference between a shoddy $5K-$8K gaming system used for data and the iMac Pro at $20K that can crunch data like a famished piranha, you can wait and watch those results become reality before you finish your first coffee.

In addition, as soon as Apple makes the second step we will see them getting a decent chunk out of the Business Intelligence, forecasting and even the Enterprise sized dash boarding market, because with 18 cores, you can do it all at the same time. This is not the first, not the second and not even the third case where Microsoft dropped the ball. They went wide, and forgot about the core business needs (or so you would think). Yet, the question remains how many can or are willing to pay the $20K question, even as we know that there are options in the $8K and $13K setting in that same device, because there is room for change between 8 and 18 cores. It seems that for a lot the system is overpriced, we can all agree on that, but for those who are in the segregated markets, it is not about a new player, it is more that the windows driven PC market, they just lost a massively sized niche, it is the price we pay for catering to the largest denominator, the question then becomes: ‘Can Microsoft and will it hit back?

Time will tell, what is the case is that the waiting is over and 2018 could potentially see a massive shift of high end users towards Apple, a change we have not seen for the longest of times, I wish them well, because in the end many average users will benefit from such a shift as well, because in confusion there is profit and Microsoft is optionally becoming one of the larger confused places in 2018.

So why should I care?

Apple started something that will soon be copied by A-brands like ASUS. It will remain a PC, but they now see that the high end users they do have, they want to keep it. This makes it almost exactly 20 years after I learned this lesson the hard way. There was a Dutch sales shop who had a special deal, the deal was the Apple Performa, maxed (as far as that was possible) for almost $2750, I was happy as hell. My apple (My first 100% owned by my own self) and I had a great time. I never regretted buying it, but there was a snatch, 3 months later that same shop had the Power-Mac on special, the difference was well over 300%, the difference $1000 (a lot in those days), but still 300% more power and new software that would no longer support the Performa system and older models, a system outdated before the warranty ran out. We are about to see a similar shift. We know multi-core systems, they have been around for a while, yet the shift is larger, so as we see new technologies, new solutions pushed on us whilst the actual current solutions as still broken to some extent, we will be pushed into a choice, will we follow the core or fall behind? Even as we see the marketing babble now on how it is upper tier, merely for the 1% and we feel to be in agreement (for now) we see a first wave of segregation. As the followers will emphasise on the high end computers, we will see a new wave of segregation.

And? So what? I do not want to pay too much!

This is the valid response for many players, for many users, they do not have the needs IT people have, many merely see the need they have now and that is not wrong, not in this life as the economy is not coming back the way it needs to be. Yet two elements are taking over, the first is Microsoft, we can’t get around them for the most and as e-commerce and corporate industry is moving, shows to be both their option and their flaw. As we see more push where 90% of the Fortune 500 is now stated to be on the Microsoft cloud, we see the need for multi-core systems more and more. Even as some might remember the quote form early 2017 “Find out why it’s the most complete #cloud solution“, the rest is only now catching on that the Azure cloud is dangerous in several ways. Chip Childers, the fearless leader of the Cloud Foundry Foundation gives us “We are shifting to a “cloud-first” world more and more. Even with private data centres, the use of cloud technologies is changing how we think about infrastructure, application platforms and software development“, yet the danger is also there yet not mentioned. This danger is slowly pushed onto us through the change that the US gave yesterday. As Net Neutrality is being abolished, there is a real danger that certain blocks could grow on a global scale. So as we see trillions in market value shift, how long until other players will set up barriers and set minimum business needs and cater to them above all others?

Core Cloud Solutions become a danger, because it forces the contemplation that it is no longer about bandwidth and strength of your internet connection, the high end of business is moving back to the Mainframe standards that existed strongly before the 90’s started. It will be about CPU Time Used. So at that point it is not about the amount of data, but the reception of CPU channels, as such the user with a multi core system will have a massive advantage, and the rest is segregated back towards second level, decreased options. It does not change consumer use of places like Netflix, but when you require the power of your value to be in Azure, the multicore systems are the key to enable you and disable connection huggers and non-revenue connected users, consumers at a price for limited access.

This is the future we push for; it is not created by or instigated by Apple. It merely sees what will be needed in 4 years when 5G is the foundation of our lives. I saw part of this as I designed part of a solution that will solve the NHS issues in the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany, but I was slow to see that the lesson I was handed the hard way in 1997 is also around the corner. As Netflix and others (Google in part) is regressing towards the mean in some of their services and options that they will offer the global audience at large. The outliers (Google, Amazon, IBM, Microsoft and SAP) will soon be facilitators to the Expression Dataset of the next model of usage that comes. There will be a shift and it will go on until 2022, as 5G will enable some players like NTT Data and Tata Communications to get an elevated seat, perhaps even a seat at that very table.

They will decide over the coming years that there is a shift and as people decide the level of access that they are getting they will soon learn that they are not merely deciding for themselves, because the earlier their children get full access, the more options they will get beyond their tertiary education. Soon we will learn that access is almost everything, but we will not learn that lesson the way we thought we would. Even I have no idea how this will play out, but such a shift beyond the iteration IT world we see now is exciting beyond belief. I hope I will end up being part of that world, I have been part of the IT/BI Industry since 1980 and I am about to see a new universe of skills unfold before my very eyes. I wonder how far I am able to get into that part, because these players will all need facilitation of services and most of them have been commission driven for too long, meaning that they are already falling behind.

What a world we are about to need to live in!

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, IT, Media, Politics, Science

The Taxing Delicious

Taxing delicious is a new sweet tasting Apple, even sweeter than the golden Delicious, and it is to be regarded as healthy for body, mind and government. Yes, in this case it is not a new Irish Cider (which would be a nice idea too), this is about a company getting a bill. You see, the funny part of it was that if there had been no EU, Apple would have been 13 billion wealthier. How doesn’t that beat the odds?

These are some of the thoughts rising within me again as I read ‘Apple tax ruling must be overturned, says US business group‘ (at https://www.theguardian.com/business/2016/sep/16/apple-tax-ruling-must-be-overturned-says-us-business-group).

As I see it, if it is such an issue, why not do an appeal? You see, this entire issue is as convoluted as it is ever likely to get. When I see ‘Ireland Doesn’t Want Apple’s Back Taxes, but the Irish Aren’t So Sure‘ in the New York Times (at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/12/business/international/ireland-doesnt-want-apples-back-taxes-but-the-irish-arent-so-sure.html), my initial response to Enda Kenny would be “Are you out of your bloody mind?” Now, let’s be partially fair. There is a method to the governments madness, yet even as giving in to big business might seem appealing, but the US is changing its taxation parameters (as well as tax accountability) and after the elections there is no way to tell how the US governments hats will be pointing, so getting what you can now is not the worst idea. In addition, when Apple et al will make the jump away and to other places, they will leave you with buildings that remain empty and will not have been paid off, so you will have a billion in real estate, whilst not having any return on investment, just empty buildings wasting away. That situation is not as unimaginative or as surreal as you might think. The idea that a government is appealing against a tax bill on behalf of a Forbes 500 company is entertaining, upsetting and obscene all at the same time, but that is sometimes how the cookie crumbles.

What is interesting in all this is how the EU courts will act, you see, if they give in now, it should be regarded as the utter uselessness of that court to begin with. It gives weight that not being part of that very expensive club is indeed the way to go, which will now give weight that Brexit was not a bad move and it will in addition fuel Frexit too. All that over a mere 13 billion invoice. Less than 5% of the costs of Greece, which fuelled Brexit to begin with. This is at the heart of the matter of what the Americans just cannot comprehend. They just received the massive blowback on the lesson that you cannot win every fight and that Economic Status Quo is an illusion that will collapse upon those believing in it.

So as we see the idiotic roundtable threaten those European leaders “In an open letter to the leaders of the 28 European Union countries, the Business Roundtable group defended Apple over its tax dispute with the European commission” and “US businesses have warned European leaders they risk a “grievous self-inflicted wound” unless they overturn Brussels’ demand that Apple pay the Irish government €13bn (£11.4bn)“, I just wonder if they even considered the stupidity of their actions. On the other hand, should those leaders cave, how stupid are the European elected officials to begin with? So as we wonder whether Randall L. Stephenson has looked into the long term issues of his act, when we see that these actions drive Frexit and possibly even Italy’s act on a referendum (although the major influences would be Brexit and Frexit), will Randall respond with a ‘this is much more complex and should not have been pushed by our, what we regard to be a righteous act‘, or will we see a spokesperson state ‘Our Chairman is currently unavailable and is taking his personal time teaching the Youth how to do a proper sheepshank‘? I will let you decide, but consider that tax accountability has been an issue for over a decade and now we finally see an actual result against a large corporation we see people backing down? Perhaps they thought it would never get that far? Just like Brexit was never going to be a reality!

Yet the Irish Times did not remain quiet and less than 24 hours ago reported (at http://www.irishtimes.com/business/technology/apple-fined-in-japan-for-under-reporting-earnings-sent-to-ireland-1.2793469), ‘Apple fined in Japan for under-reporting earnings sent to Ireland‘. So when we read “The Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau determined that the unit, which sends part of its profits earned from fees paid by subscribers in Japan to another Apple unit in Ireland to pay for software licensing, had not been paying a withholding tax on those earnings in Japan, according to broadcaster NHK“, I just wonder who the Tax Auditor was here.

Now I am not out to make Apple the bad guy, even though they screwed me over twice! What is important is that through all the presentations and all the boasting and ego based actions, there are now 4 groups in play all trying to get Brussels to back down on a legal verdict. We need to wait the appeal on this, yet should this remain and if the US makes noise we will have clear evidence that the EU is no longer something with validity, even stronger, these events are clear signals that the TTIP is an even worse idea than initially thought of in opposition. The one sidedness aside, the fact that American business has basically become the corporate ‘bully’, we need to reassess the situation and remain clear on where our priorities are. I personally remain with the belief as I always have that the Commonwealth nations need to stick together. In these times we now see the Democratic Party under leadership of President Obama do the following “The Obama administration on Thursday took action to limit the use of foreign tax credits by American multinational companies to reduce their U.S. tax bills, a move that followed an EU order that Apple pay back taxes to Ireland“, which I think is not a bad idea. You see, Apple et al might claim how they are so investing everywhere, but that is only done (as I personally see it) to avoid paying tax in America. It is one of the massive reasons why America is so deep in debt (apart from their impossibility to manage a budget) and something has to give. If those tax dollars are used to lower that debt then I would state: “Barack, you legend you, well done!“, because an America with low debt (read: no debt), would be again the superpower it once was and currently pretends to be.

In the end, nations that have a minimal debt, these nations get to decide for themselves, not having their actions overruled by financial institutions or Large Corporation, or by Randall L. Stephenson for that matter. Yes, we can see that those moves will have impact all over Europe and not in a nice way, but that is part of the game. You cannot have it both ways that was never a reality to begin with. Now they only need to fix the holes that Mario Draghi has in his hands and we are possibly perhaps on route to get something sorted.

Yet there is one part we need to get back to and that is the verdict. You see, what is in play here is the statement “an agreement allowing Apple to pay a maximum tax rate of just 1%. In 2014, the tech firm paid tax at 0.005%. The usual rate of corporation tax in Ireland is 12.5%“, this implies that Apple didn’t just get preferential treatment, all the other players were discriminated against. When we see the parts we had already known for a long time, the fact that “Ireland’s tax arrangements with Apple between 1991 and 2015 had allowed the US company to attribute sales to a “head office” that only existed on paper and could not have generated such profits“, which was a given and the result we saw on a global scale “Apple avoided tax on almost all the profit generated from its multibillion-euro sales of iPhones and other products across the EU’s single market. It booked the profits in Ireland rather than the country in which the product was sold“, gives way that a single market is perhaps not the best solution for all but one nation and in addition to this we must realise that the solution I mentioned 5 years ago to set the tax laws that taxation should be set into the nation of the buying consumers physical location could have avoided this and many other issues. A simple taxation change that made all the difference, yet it seems that no one in legislation in those nations as well as those political players ever considered changing that simple law that could have made all the difference.

You see, as the Guardian by-line offers, this case could have another escalation soon enough “Charlie Harrington, 53, a paramedic in Cork, expressed frustration that the Irish government penalized small taxpayers but seemed ready to protect Apple“, which is exactly how millions feel in both France and Italy. If this tax case caves and Apple ends up not being due this invoice, the jump to anti-EU sentiments will go up massively and very fast so. At that point President Obama will only have himself to thank for the mess he started to create when he went 180 degrees on the corporate tax issues discussed in the ‘The Hague Summit of 2013’. That was the first step that could have avoided a few things, this case being one of them.

Cause and Effect

The question becomes ‘What will happen now?’ This is something not easily answered. At present Apple has a few other issues knocking at its door and the iPhone 7 is one of them. The population at large is less money blessed, so paying $1295 for a new phone that according to Forbes is “Purchasing the iPhone 7 this morning from my local Apple Store I found a device that is remarkably similar to last year’s iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6 from 2014. The external design cues remain, the chips inside are faster, and iOS 10 is more polished but is fundamentally the same operating system. Nothing ‘feels’ news even though the package is professional and projects a revolution that is hard to find“, this is at the heart of the matter. Trying to create waves by limiting the system, whilst overall the system is still the same is an issue and at nearly $1300 a very expensive one. That whilst Android competitors are coming into the field with comparable devices, including a headphone jack at 50%-60% of the price of the iPhone 7 and the world is starting to consider the non-IOS alternative. What Apple should fear is not just the market they are losing, the dangers that people could, in regard to the tax pressures they have and the pressure that Apple seems to be able to avoid, is one that could make them feel frustrated and vindictive. The idea that a person could think ‘If the need not pay taxation, they do not need my business either is not that far a stretch‘. People are starting to see the ethical imbalance that large corporations have impressed upon nations and in Europe where the quality of life is not that great at present, seeking the much cheaper alternative that Huawei and LG are offering is one worth considering. That could bring considerable consequences for Apple soon enough. Now I am not stating that the iPhone 7 will be a flop, but for Apple in this stage, should they lose even as little as a 2% market share, the consequence for apple will be intense to state the least. In addition, the fact that the iPad has remained a success for so long could equally be the next problem child for Apple. In that regard releasing the iPad Pro was a really good idea, yet the tablet contenders are starting to realise what it takes to be a contender and if that knowledge is applied properly, there too non-IOS devices (read: android) could start to make a killing and as such undermine that market Apple has at present. The origin is not the device makers, but Google. As Google has been pushing ‘the year of mobile’ for two years, the shift of usage is also growing. There is a growing visibility that at times the mobile screen does not cut it and it gives more and more opportunity to both Phablet and Tablet. These are all examples showing quite clearly that there is no status quo to rely on and the temporary nature of devices shows that Apple needs to really push forward in an innovative way, preferably before the makers of tablets realise that an affordable 128 GB version of an Android tablet is every bit as appealing as the iPad Pro, especially when the Android version could be a lot less than the IOS edition. With Android having its own set of quality games, Apple has more to lose than they are willing to admit to and time is slowly running out for their streak of ignorance to continue. However, it is important to note that Apple has been pretty super innovative with the iPad pro, so there is still a gap to overcome for the competitors. In that regard it is equally interesting that the Android device market have ignored that side of the consumer’s need (read: desire). In all this, it was about taxation and not on markets. Yet one is linked to the other, mainly because if there is no market there is in equal measure no taxable revenue, which gets us to the final part. You see, I have written about these issues before in one form or another and now we see that the Wall Street Journal is finally waking up to this (at http://www.wsj.com/articles/lew-is-right-on-eu-tax-grab-but-lacks-credibility-1473962171), when we read “The Obama administration has had 92 months to tackle corporate tax reform. Now that Europe is making a grab for taxes on profits held by U.S. companies overseas, President Obama is ready to use his last few months in office to address tax issues that were ignored or made worse under his watch“, my response is that neither was done, as stated in earlier blogs in April 2016, when I wrote ‘Ignoranus Totalicus‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2016/04/24/ignoranus-totalicus), he refused to act (as voiced by “Senior officials in Washington have made it known“), so the non-actions are now back firing as event are now escalated. Another iteration of status quo.

What now?

This now all related to the issue at hand. IT corporations decided to maximise their profit by a consumer iterative annual approach of products. The IT market in the US nearly collapsed as it allowed for what was once regarded as a Taiwan Clone (a cheap alternative) to a quality A-brand to catch up. This is the problem with iterative thinking, when you are not in a niche market like Northrop Grumman (who at one stage actually there software patches ‘Iteration version’ I believe), you allow the market to catch up with you. ASUS caught up so and soon thereafter surpassed the original market owners. This lesson was not learned and the Telecom market decided that the profit was good in this way. So, please feel free to correct me. What happened to Ericsson and Nokia? Apple came and overwhelmed everyone and instead of truly remaining innovative, they started to largely iterate their device and called it innovation, now that LG, Samsung and Huawei have caught on and pretty much caught up, they are now offering equal, if not better options at lower prices. So how long will it take Apple to learn that status quo is merely an illusion? I reckon will see that revelation close after Christmas, after the annual sales are gone (and they will be improbable but not impossible a bit disappointing this year).

I reckon we will know in about 15-19 weeks!

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, IT, Media, Politics, Science

What was the right question?

There is an article in the Guardian called ‘Which laptop should we buy for our child?‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/askjack/2015/nov/05/which-laptop-should-we-buy-for-our-child), you might think that I have an issue with the article, and I do, but not perse with the article. The article is quite decent, however the article is about a ‘solution’. I learned recently that solutions are vague, they are transient and they fade the moment you give them. You see, as a great teacher not too long ago taught me, it is about trust and about answering needs.

I understand what Jack writes, he gives good advice and I would have given a similar advice, yet at some point I learned something new (we all do, trust me). What are the needs of the child? Now, the child might not understand it has needs here (other than cool games, and we can see that in schools laptops, or better stated ‘fat’ mobile devices are going to be the trend. Whether this is an Airbook like the Mac has, a Chromebook like ASUS has or another device in a similar capacity, the child will need to move forward.

Yet, am I not in a mode where the answer is given? No, let me explain. Jack mentions the Windows 2-in-1 “detachables”, which sounds nice Mr. Schofield, but that trend is now, it is 2015, what about 2016 or 2017? What happens when those trends shift? By the way the sentence “we can’t afford to spend lots of money“, so as such Apple will not become a solution any day soon. Interesting the Chromebook solution that many carry are on average of $250 cheaper (Australian comparison), a part not mentioned anywhere, that optional solution did not make it to the table.

For me, do I think it is a solution? I am not at all certain, you see, the needs of the child are unknown. So why spend money? To give the kid some skills? Well that is all good and fine, so why is the possible solution for a tablet; a mere Android based tablet at one third of the cost of a Chromebook not decently investigated? The mention of the tablets (all 6 mentions was regarding the push to the 2015 trend of a ‘detachable’. You see, the object of usage is a small person about to celebrate the moment of his ninth birthday. Kids have accidents, they break things (unintentional), your youngling drinks lemonade and other liquids. So you want to put a laptop there? With his excited friends that is an accident waiting to happen. So, how will you afford the second laptop?

The simplest tablet with a decent casing costs less than a hundred quid. For £49.99 you get a very basic one. The best thing is that the skills will transfer to a laptop or a larger tablet when your child is ready, more important, there is no way of knowing what the needs will be when he gets to a decent school level, when he gets to year 10, what will he need? Perhaps the school provides? Also, the pricing would have gone down to such an extent, that the one device you cannot afford now, could be really affordable in 2016.

So many people so many options, why answer them at all? Why not give the device that at least lets your little one to grow skills and answer the call to the device your young one needs when the moment is there?

So yes, Jack Schofield gives advice, it is sound advice but in all this, he failed to mention that some devices are limited and to get a better return, a much higher cost comes into view. You see a mere simple version from Asus might be £195.64, yet when you consider how fast 32GB is gone you will need something bigger, that will take you to £289.99 very fast. In my situation, I do not offer a solution, for £49.99 you get a very simple device that allows the little one to grow skills, and in 2-3 years when his skills have really outgrown the 8GB device, he might get that same device not for £289.99, but for £179.99, perhaps even less, so the little tablet paid for itself.

Part of me understands that the next generations needs to be clued in, logged in and online earlier in life, I will not stop it, oppose it or question it. Yet in all this we must also answer what is the best to make your child grow. Perhaps it is the 2 in one that Jack Schofield mentioned, but I am not convinced. You see with the quote: “there are several ways to run Android apps on Windows PCs, such as BlueStacks and AmiDuOS” is all about getting someone to windows. Why? I do not oppose Windows as I use it myself. After the blunders Windows 8 had, I am not willing to trust Windows 10 at this point, yet Microsoft is willing to mandatory push it to its user base regardless of what the consumer thinks. A methodology I do not support. This was shown in another Guardian article by Samuel Gibbs where we see: “Consumer users of Windows 10 will have no choice but to accept the installation of automatic updates, even if they break software for them” (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jul/17/windows-10-updates-mandatory-home-users), what happens when our choice of software breaks? Are we forced to a Microsoft solution? How is that not an instilled dictatorship? The final quote from that article was “Automatic updates may also create a situation where an update breaks something on a computer system, perhaps a legacy program“, which is what many will face over the next decade. Microsoft is starting a cleaning operation and the user is losing their rights. I might have had to pay $199 for my Windows 7, but at present trusting my system on the net is not an option, that trust was destroyed by Microsoft in a way 10,000 viruses could not. Regardless of that choice, Jack should have remained a lot more neutral than he did. I believe for the bulk of all needs Android fills the requirement of a user, this does not take away to prospect of Microsoft, but last time you looked, which software was free? Weirdly enough, for the normal student, the software like writing, calculating and presenting is free on android and Linux. Apple and Microsoft charges for that.

Yet in all this, where are the needs of the user? When he gets to the setting up of things he is addressing fear in my humble opinion. Now let me add one too. The text: “Windows 8.1 and 10 will email you a weekly record of your son’s activities: how many hours he’s used his PC, the websites he’s visited, and how long he spent in his favourite apps“, so are you the only one who gets this, or will Microsoft have this data too? There is validity in keeping your child safe, but that starts with the need for strong passwords and knowing what to do and what not to do. Your child will make mistakes and even today many adults still make these blunders and larger ones too!

So in my view, spending little is not a shame and your child should be safe, but consider the options hackers and malware have nowadays, it is close to impossible to stop, in that case let it be a device that when it happens will not infer heavy losses. In that part, let me end with another quote the article has “I don’t think it’s worth buying or installing the full desktop programs for a 9-year-old“, which is true, so how large are the hands of a nine year old. Can they not hold onto a 7” tablet easier? More important, when he gets soaked in the rain and his backpack got drenched, my money will be on a skinned tablet not any laptop or ‘2 in one’ solution to survive that ordeal.

In the end it is as I expect growing skills with your child. I get that, and I applaud that approach, yet let it be skills, playful skills and artistic skills. Let the child enjoy their life until year 6 when the skills will be tested, let them grow into the savvy programmer they can be and get them the system they can handle and let them grow into a stronger system, the needs of any child will grow stronger when ingenuity is required, factual evidence that has been known for decades. Yet how they grow will usually be up to them, not you or me, or their teachers for that matter, we can only hope to guide them in a decent direction, let’s not forget if you as a parent do not have the skills to guide them, where will they get their example? What happens when they follow the wrong example?

In the end, what was the right question? Which device allows your child to grow in all directions a device offers growth? On which device are their drawing skills challenged? Anyone can type a text, anyone can do ‘math’ with a spreadsheet, yet the art of drawing (a skill I never mastered) is getting lost more and more in this world of laptops, is that not a shame too?

Leave a comment

Filed under IT, Media, Science

Getting back on the horse

Finally a blog article from me that is for the most all about my view of gaming  (because there is nothing interesting about reading stories regarding Varoufakis being a sore loser in the Guardian).

We all have these moments where we go shopping, whilst there are no funds available. A situation I have been very familiar with, yet we still go browsing in many places to see whether there is something to work towards. This certainly describes my case and as I found out soon thereafter, I got myself into a mingled world of facts and none facts a lot more than I bargained for. So what started this?

I’ll be honest, ever since the release of Elite: Dangerous I have been living on the edge of my previous addiction. It is one of the most loved games I had ever played. I still think back with utter fondness playing this game on the CBM-64. Wireframe and low resolution were at the core of a game that offered such fun, its challenge and entertainment that left its mark on me ever since. I played the remake on the Amiga somewhere in the 90’s, but the original was still the soul breaker for me. With David Braben making the ‘now’ version for today’s PC environment and by adding not just a galactic map, but by almost mapping the ENTIRE galaxy, this game is now an entirely new revelation and because Sean Murray keeps on not giving a release date for his upcoming masterpiece No Man’s sky, my desire to play Elite: Dangerous increases. It is however not that simple, my PC (which still works excellently) is now 9 years old, so it cannot deal with today’s gaming. As I stated, there is no way to afford a new PC at present, which is why I kept on browsing.

Now we get to the issue: The amount of gaming systems out there appear to be a joke! I lost two days getting back into the field I had high expertise in, but as I moved to consoles (as keeping up with gaming PC’s became way too expensive, even when I had my good income), the market moved on (as it would) and I learned that changes had been many. Now, for the most I understand it all, but the diversity to learn what is needed to know is one that a non-hardware savvy person, gamer or not, is one that could boggle the mind.

It took me two days to get back onto the level of knowledge I once had. Even now, there are still diminishing gaps.

So, why is all this an issue?

Well, even though the graphics card was always an issue, in my days I moved from a Diamond Viper (which was top of the market in 1998) to a NVIDIA GeForce 6800 card (in 2005), which was again pretty high up (and not cheap), at this point I could game pretty much anything, I had the top of the range SoundBlaster and a good screen and I could game and compute my life away behind my desktop.

Now gaming has changed. For one, it is no longer really about sound cards, the system board has all it needs for gamers, so we are left with the proper processor, the right amount of memory and the graphics card. This is where the issue starts. The diversity of graphic cards is now a jungle, how can any parent choose the right system for their kid, or for that matter, how can any newbie gamer select the best card for their needs?

I can tell you right now that many shops are truly lacking in knowledge there. When you go to online places (which is an initial MUST), you get a boatload of options too. System prices range from 999 to 4299, so where is the best choice? In the middle or at the far end? Questions that many do not have and others state: ‘the more expensive the better’ (which is a truth to some degree). You see, at some point I decided to stay one hardware iteration behind, so that I could game at a very high level, yet needing a decently less amount of money. That truth in gaming remains to be an almost absolute truth. There is a new property in play, one that was never a real issue even 5 years is now a massive part, it is about the noise level of the graphics card as some of those bad boys make noise when they are working, which is not that dissimilar an issue from the Xbox 360 DVD drive and fan noise. So getting a quiet system is worth it. A lesser item is the power consumption of such a card, which at maximum uses as much energy as two PS4 systems in full gaming mode and at the price of $999 (just for a graphics card), that bad boy costs the same as two PlayStation 4 systems. So is gaming on the PC worth it?

That is the question you must ask yourself, especially considering that gaming will take another bang in hardware in 3-4 years, even as you might only need to replace the graphics card, you see a devaluation of 25% a year. That is the part many people are not always considering, which fair is enough. Now, the truth is that if you see some games like Skyrim, where some mods were made to truly blast the hell out of the word pretty, as an RPG fan, I would fold like a bad poker player at the mere sight of the created graphics, yet, I never felt that Skyrim was anything less than amazing on a console, and I knew that the PC was a lot better.

Fortunately for me Elite: Dangerous does not require the most massive card, so that system is a lot less unaffordable than any new system, but unaffordable it remains, so what is this about? First of all, people need to really take a look at what they are willing to afford online before walking into a computer shop. Places like http://www.pccasegear.com and http://www.mwave.com.au/ (for Australian consumers) are good places to take a first look. When you see the prices you are in for (that is before you add the keyboard, mouse and display), you need to see what the graphical needs will be, and moreover, how some games perform. In this I relied on http://www.tomshardware.com/  in the past and it is still around. It is here where we would read “In the graph, MSI’s card is listed at 34 decibels. This is done to represent just how quiet the Twin Frozr V solution really is. The meter wouldn’t register a reading two inches from the rear panel, even when the fans started up“, that is indeed one part that matters, another part is frame-rate, so how smooth is the game, this site gives us that too, although one setback is that Tom does not seem to test all resolutions whilst the new gamers all want 1440p and a few now demand 4K resolution performance graphs, but the new upcoming cards will likely show that too.

There are other sites that give good independent review of cards, just be willing to spend an hour looking at the different places before you go shopping, I have tried a few conversations out there and I can tell you now that these places (read: shops) are often devoid of true inside knowledge on cards, finding one gamer amongst that lot is a treasure, but also a hindrance, as you might find yourself overspending a bit sooner and a little more than you expected.

In all this, PC gaming will remain and there is no reason why it should not, but in this day and age that part is too often forgotten, and electricity, especially in the UK does not come cheap. The amount of gamers not considering their electricity bill is growing on a daily basis.

For example, 9.429p per 1kWh, 600W PSU means 0.094 x 0.6 x 24 = £1.35 per day, meaning that your gaming PC (if you keep it on all day) will cost you £495 a year alone. The Australian example is harder as energy suppliers seem to REFUSE to give out clear pricing, only when they know all your facts will they give you any information, making them slightly less reputable than the ice dealers in Kings Cross. So if we go by the same system and a 20c per KwH, we get: 0.2 x 0.6 x 24 = $2.88, which amounts to $1042 a year on power to the gaming system alone.

You might think that this is trivial, but in this day and age, in these moments, you better consider shutting down your PC. A friend of mine got scared as he got his quarterly bill, he now shuts down the computer properly. It is one of the running costs of gaming that people forget as they think it does not matter, and when you are renting in a university dorm it might not, but when you work, you are not working to be the bitch of Energy Australia, or EDF Energy for that matter, are you? At least UK power (www.ukpower.co.uk) gave me some decent prices to work with.

How does this relate?

Getting back on the horse is a term we see ourselves confronted with, because the term ‘is the juice worth the squeeze’ is becoming a predominant question in gaming, not just in PC gaming, the fact that several high profile cases have changed the industry is linked to all this. When we see Assassins Creed: Unity, with needing gigabytes in patches, where a game almost a year old is still receiving patches (number 5 was released 3 days ago). The gamer’s view of quality demand and the industry of lacking the ability to meet even the minimal requirement here is also affecting the choice of gaming system. Why spend $4200 on a system that will require patching for a year? And that game is not alone. Arkham knight is now treading that same line, an industry inherently unable to even meet basic expectations. And even though Witcher 3 exceeded expectations wildly, the new patch is massive at 7Gb and as Forbes is informing us (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/davidthier/2015/07/18/theres-a-problem-with-the-witcher-3s-new-patch/), where we see “the new patch means that The Witcher 3 doesn’t perform as well on either the Xbox One or the PS4, dipping down to 20 FPS fairly consistently in some of the game’s busier locales” gives clear indication that PC gaming is however much desired a path that is riddled with issues at a price so much higher than the console world.

So even if it were possible for me to get back on that horse, I have serious doubts whether the juice will be worth the squeeze, because at $4200 ($1999 is a more realistic choice in decent gaming PC’s) I would demand a decent level of perfection in gaming and even though the hardware meets it, it seems more and more clear that the industry is no longer able to meet these expectations, so even though I will require a PC at some point, my old one still (thankfully) suffices for non-gaming purposes and gaming on a PC is no longer truly surpassing the joy of a console.

Many will not agree with me on the latter and that is just fine, some will get great gaming on their PC when it comes down to World of Warcraft and League of Legends, yet when we consider the following headlines ‘Battlefield 4 – what can we expect from the summer patch?‘ (July 10th 2015), ‘Batman: Arkham Knight PC Version Fixes Not Coming Until Fall‘ (July 16th 2015), ‘The Huge Witcher 3 Patch Is Rolling Out Over The Next 24 Hours‘ (July 17th 2015) and the least said about ‘F1 2015 Errors, Crashes, Bugs, Performance, Low FPS, and Fixes‘ the better, with 2 patches within a week (including a day 1 patch) and as stated “PC community still seemed to struggle to get a decent gameplay experience” the question is not just about the massive cost of hardware, the issue becomes, if this industry does not up its game by a lot real fast, will there still be a long term future for these less affordable gaming PC’s?

 

1 Comment

Filed under Gaming, IT, Media

Dark side of the moon

The Guardian ended up with an interesting article on Friday. The title ‘Malware is not only about viruses – companies preinstall it all the time‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/22/malware-viruses-companies-preinstall), it is a good article and Richard Stallman is a great man, but there are parts in this article that I have an issue with. Mind you, the man is not telling stories or lying, but he is showing one side of the coin. He is also reinforcing other sides to the software industry that are a definite issue.

The first part is a part I am completely in agreement with “In 1983, the software field had become dominated by proprietary (i.e. non-free) programs, and users were forbidden to change or redistribute them“, a side which I do not oppose. In addition there is “But proprietary developers in the 1980s still had some ethical standards: they sincerely tried to make programs serve their users, even while denying users control over how they would be served“, I have a partial issue with the last bit ‘denying users control over how they would be served‘. I disagree for two reasons.

The first is based on resources. In those days, an IBM PC was a massive behemoth, it had 256Kb memory and if you were really really rich, you also had a 10Mb hard drive. So, yes, the expensive personal computer had less resources then the cheapest $39 Non-smart Nokia phone. Go figure! By the way, that 10Mb hard drive was priced at $1499 in those days. So, user control was an issue, because resources did not allow for them, but soon thereafter, the 512Kb PC was released and there was so much we could do then! No sarcasm here, it was true! In those days I learned and mastered Lotus Symphony an excellent program! This was also a time when we started to get some choices in control, control remained limited, but some control was gained.

Next we see the first part that is an issue, even though he makes a nice point on End User License Agreements. I would like to add the Terms of service as a clear point here, but overall there is a part that is too coloured. The quote “So many cases of proprietary malware have been reported, that we must consider any proprietary program suspect and dangerous. In the 21st century, proprietary software is computing for suckers“.

I cannot completely disagree that Microsoft soured the market by a lot, it has done so in several directions, yet Corporate Earth is at times too stupid to consider growing a brain, which is also part of the problem. It is an element that is shown all over the place. The Netherlands, Sweden, UK, France, Germany, Denmark and even Australia (I worked in all those countries). Instead of sitting down and considering a switch to LINUX with open office, the IT and other elements are just too lazy and too under resourced to push for a change, so the users are no longer people, they are for the most mere meek sheep following the ‘corporate standard‘, which means that they too use windows and Office.

Another direction is the hardware world. Windows comes preinstalled, more important, Windows and Microsoft have been a driving force, forcing people to buy stronger and more expensive computers. Even though many users have not needed any need for more powerful and stronger hardware, Windows forced them to upgrade again and again. Anyone not into gaming and using their computer merely for office activities and browsing mail on the internet should not have needed to upgrade their computer for the better part of 10 years, but that is not the reality, go to any computer shop for windows hardware and we see how the ‘old’ ASUS, ACER, Lenovo, HP or Toshiba no longer hacks it. Which is actually weird, because if you reinstall your old laptop with LINUX and Apache Open Office there is a high chance that you will work in 90% of the time just as fast as with that new $2000 laptop on Windows 7. Setback? You have to install and configure it yourself. Upside? LINUX and Open Office are both free software, no costs and no fees!

Is it not interesting how companies are not jumping on that free horse? Why is that you think? In addition, with all the needs for government costs to go down, why are they not more pro-active to push for a shift towards LINUX? Is it security? This is also odd, because with the massive amount of non-stop security patches, Windows is not that secure to begin with.

So where do I disagree? Well the first clear quote is “Some are designed to shackle users, such as Digital Rights Management (DRM)“, I believe that if a firm makes software, it has every right to prevent illegal use, for a long time, how many people do you know that have a LEGAL version of Adobe? Even when the stars are in your favour. In many Universities, Adobe offers the entire master collection (all their software) for $400, which is an amazing deal! I got my legal versions of both Windows 7 and Microsoft Office Ultimate for an additional $199. Why not buy it? No many just find a download place and get the software for free, in addition you can get the codes. It goes even further that I stumbled on a place in Germany some years ago where they were offering the OEM stickers for PC complete with license key for 20 Mark. I could not tell the difference from the original sticker in the software box I had bought. Do you think that DRM would have been such a push if people just bought their software? I will take it one step further, I feel certain that if every person was charged $275 a year, we all would have the complete Adobe, Windows and Office programs free to download, with no need to illegally copy anything.

But there is still that other side. You see, I still believe that Microsoft and hardware providers have been forcing a technological armistice race upon the consumers, which now adds up to us all wasting resources on iterative junk we should not need. So even though I do not completely agree with Richard Stallman here, he does have a point.

Now we get to an issue that I actually faced without knowing it “Even Android contains malware in a non-free component: a back door for remote forcible installation or deinstallation of any app“, you see, I thought I was bonkers (which I actually are) but for some reason one of my apps had suddenly be removed and not by me. It was not something I needed. I had just downloaded it from Google play out of curiosity, but suddenly it was gone! In addition, on more than one occasion it just decided to update my apps, without my permission. When you have bandwidth issues, seeing a force upgrade which could cost you is not that nice a moment.

Yet, for the most, I remain a loyal fan towards Android, even though at times programs use background resources for reasons unknown, or are they unknown?

We get the next part from the quote “Even humble flashlight apps for phones were found to be reporting data to companies. A recent study found that QR code scanner apps also snoop“, there is a lot more at http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/ejsmith/scan.this.or.scan.me.2015.pdf; now we have ourselves a massive issue, although the paper shows that there is a prompt for GPS and the sending of GPS, none of them has the situation where they do not prompt for GPS and still send it. Eric Smith and Dr Nina A. Kollars who wrote the paper give us another consideration on page 8. There we see “Moreover, contemporary privacy norms are increasingly threatened as what initially appears to be signals of consumer preference slide further into determining bigger-picture life patterns and behavior. The term most commonly used to address this creeping phenomenon is the literature on consumer panopticism“, which now refers to ‘Gandy, Oscar H. The Panoptic Sort: A Political Economy of Personal Information‘. Before getting the book (which is worth the purchase), you might want to take a look at a paper by Adam Arvidsson, from the Department of Film and Media Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark (at http://www.surveillance-and-society.org/articles1(4)/prehistory.pdf), you see, my partial issue with the article by Richard Stallman becomes slowly visible now. He is right in his view and his vision as he sees this, but you the user did this to yourself! You think that Facebook is ‘free’, that these apps are there merely for amusement (some actually are), their goal is income! Some work the Freemium game market, where games like ‘Book of Heroes‘ gives you a free game, but if you want to grow faster and better in the game, you will have to invest. For the most, these games will rely on the investment from $10-$25 to truly open up, which is, if you consider the amount of hours played still great value. Freemium games also come with that ‘try before you buy’ approach, as you can play the game, but to enjoy it, to get more moves and more joy a few dollars will be essential. The other part that relies on ‘captured data’ did they inform you? If not, there is an issue, but the app programmer will get his pound of flesh, either by cash of by data!

Yet the other side is also true, you see, as Richard mentions and as Adam Arvidsson report on, there are places like Red Sheriff, that rely on hidden script, which is more advanced/intrusive as it keeps track of ALL your online movements. You get this script as a ‘present’ when you visit one of its affiliated sites. Did you the internet user sign up for that? When we see the reference on who pushes this. We see “since most major commercial sites use Redsheriff“, which means that nearly all will somehow be tracked. I for one do not really care that much, but I never signed up for any of it, so should we see this as an invasion to our privacy?

This is where we see that freeware is almost never free.

Yet Richard also alerts us to another state of freedom, or lack thereof! In the quote “If the car itself does not report everywhere you drive, an insurance company may charge you extra to go without a separate tracker“. Can anyone explain to me why it is ANY business of the insurer where we are?

In the end, Richard states three parts, which are fair enough, but overall the issue is missed. The issues reported are:

Individually, by rejecting proprietary software and web services that snoop or track“, here I do not completely agree! I used Adobe as an example for a reason, there is simply no viable alternative, it only became worse when Macromedia bought Adobe (I know it is the other way round, but I will remain a faithful Macromedia fan until the day I die!), there is in addition, no tracking done by Adobe, other than keeping track whether you have a valid license, which I never opposed.

Collectively, by organising to develop free/libre replacement systems and web services that don’t track who uses them“, which I whole heartedly agree with, I am even willing to devote time to this worthy cause (not sure how I could ever size up to the hundreds of Richard Stallman’s, but I am willing to give it a go!

And last there is “Democratically, by legislation to criminalise various sorts of malware practices. This presupposes democracy, and democracy requires defeating treaties such as the TPP and TTIP that give companies the power to suppress democracy“, this is the big one. The political branches all over Europe and the Commonwealth have sold us short and have not done anything to properly enforce the rights to privacy. In addition, Google and Apple remains in a state of non-clarity on what data these apps capture and what they convey. In that regard Facebook is equally guilty. Facebook goes further that it does not even proper police those who claim to give a free app, only to no longer work, but when you went to the install the data is as I see it already captured by the app provider, which gives wonder to where that data went.

In regards to suppressing democracy, which is perhaps partially overstated, there is an issue with the TPP that seems to empower large corporations and nullify the protection to smaller innovators and even governments as the TTP wants to enforce “where foreign firms can ‘sue’ states and obtain taxpayer compensation for ‘expected future profits’”, how long until we get an invoice for overinflated ego’s? Especially from those people in the entertainment industry claiming the loss of so many billions in an era when the bulk of the population can hardly pay their rent!

I regard Graham Burke of Village Roadshow to be one of the greater jokes this era has brought forth. Consider who he is supposed to ‘protect’, he goes on regarding “‘crazies’ whose hidden agenda is the ‘theft of movies’“, which is not that far-fetched a statement, because movies will be downloaded and not bought, it happens, yet not to the degree Graham Burke claims it is! So we get him soon enough to claim billions from losses due to the massive download of ‘the LEGO movie’ perhaps? Yet in the public forum on copyright infringement, we did not hear him utter a word on bandwidth, perhaps the response from Telstra’s Jane Van Beelen would likely have been a little too uncomfortable Mr Burke?

You see, in my view it is less about the democracy as Richard Stallman sees it. The legal protection seems to be massively delayed as bandwidth is income, and when piracy is truly stopped bandwidth will simmer down. If we accept the word of Village Roadshow with global revenue of 13 billion since 1997. Yet, I wrote about movie piracy in ‘The real issue here!‘ on June 17th 2014 (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2014/06/17/the-real-issue-here/), in the calculation, which I kept very conservative, Telstra could lose up to 320 million a month in revenue, due to diminished bandwidth, which gets us 4 billion a year. Consider that Village Roadshow is global, which means that Australian revenue is a mere fraction of that, how soon until they see that Village roadshow might only get 5-10 million a year more, against the 320 million a month loss for Telstra? So Mr. Burke is not regarded as a serious party as I see it (yet he is not an invalid party), Telstra would have too much to lose, not to mention the loss Optus and iiNet could face. However, if the TPP changes that with ‘expected future profits’, whilst there is absolutely no quality data to prove that the loss is nothing more than there ego’s talking.

There is the crunch that politicians are too afraid to touch!

Yet, in light of many factors, legal protection (including protection for Village Roadshow) is essential, yet the large corporations seem to hold the game to the need of their bottom dollar, which is the dollar, not democracy or decent rights. If it were decent rights than telecom companies would properly monitor abuse of digital rights, because the movie is for Village Roadshow to sell, or to stream for a fee via Netflix. I do not deny this at all, I just oppose the outlandish income some of them claim that they ‘lost’!

So on the dark side of the moon we see that (actually we do not see any of that) things are not right. I do not completely adhere to the idealist view that Richard Stallman validly has (we are all entitled to our views), but he touches on several parts that definitely need change and until we see a governmental push away from Microsoft solutions, we will see that the government will spend loads of money on never-ending updates to hardware and software. We all agree that such a change is not easily made, but in light of the cost of living, the fact that nearly no one makes that change is equally worrisome.

When we stare up to the sky we always see the same side of the moon, the dark side is wild, and is covered with impact craters, impacts we never see. It is a lot more reminiscent of the chaotic wild life of malware, a side that is constantly lacking the exposure it should have, mainly because it affects the bottom dollar.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, IT, Law, Media, Politics

Who runs America?

This is a question that has been in the back of my mind for some time. When we consider the economic events from 2008 onwards and how slow (almost 2 administrations) it has taken for any economic legislation to take shape for the (at present) ineffective halting of moving tax dollars off shore. Even now, several economic boffins are slowly and casually mentioning that current measures are not going far enough.

The entire issue took a new foothold as we see the Ukrainian events unfold. We see how some politicians are acting so….outspokenly against certain acts. Now, I am not speaking out against these people, I believe in the freedom of speech and as such, we need to hear all sides. The issue was shown the most visible in the UK when some stated on how economic sanctions against Russia would be taken, like getting gas from a different source.

It was at that point when I saw just how hollow their boasts were. In my view those politicians would soon be dragged to a separate room where several high powered industrials would add these politicians to the Christian choir of ‘Mare Castratum’, see this as a slightly more efficient form of gagging a politician.

Why this view?

Consider that politicians would make that rash decision and also consider the fact that in the UK (amongst most EEC nations), the energy prices are way above normal. So in a place where like the US, 1 in 7 lives below the poverty line, where these people can hardly pay their bills, get confronted with a 10%-15% raise on energy bills. What do you expect to happen?

I expect something similar to happen in the US, as I see it there are two elements in play here. The first is the claim (at http://www.skynews.com.au/world/article.aspx?id=957624)

The two quotes are “The Senate on Tuesday expressed its support for Ukraine by passing strongly worded resolutions, using tough language against Russia and urging it be suspended from the Group of 8 world powers.” and “The House of Representatives also passed a resolution to condemn what House Speaker John Boehner called ‘Russia’s hostile acts of aggression’

I understand the second quote and I reckon that House Speaker John Boehner was quite correct to pass such a resolution. It is the first one that is an issue, I understand that governments want to stand in support of the Ukraine, there is no way that any objection to that is valid, consider however what the G8 stands for. If we accept the following ‘G8 nations comprise 50.1% of 2012 global nominal GDP‘, then without Russia, will the G8 be a valid office of existence and what to do to keep its validity? Replace it with China?

That part would make sense as in many ways, the Chinese economy would be much more interesting to America then Russia is for the mere fact that China imports almost 3 times more than Russia does (based on 2012 numbers). Yet, if this happens, then what will be the long term consequences? Consider that the Ukraine is in an even less prosperous situation then most EEC countries. Now consider the information (at http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenrapoza/2014/03/05/in-ukraine-crisis-russias-natural-gas-tactics-could-backfire/), basically the Ukraine was getting gas at a 36% discount. If that fell away, then what will the Ukraine do? The quote seen here “The UK National Balancing Point (NBP) futures for natural gas jumped nearly 10% to $10.28 per MMBtu, according to Bloomberg. Prices have since moderated as the political situation appears to be calming down” gives validity to my claims of the energy prices; if futures would take that must a blast, then I reckon the people could face a charge at nearly twice that percentage. There was a side in all this that I had not reckoned on. When we see the quote “The U.S. wants to become a large LNG exporter later this decade and a portion of that would be bound for Europe” we see two dangers. The first is that this is not just government, but this is definitely a ‘Big Business’ push. Yet, consider the amount of customers could be the issue as the amount needed would far outstrip what could be delivered. That part is implied in the Dutch article (at https://decorrespondent.nl/299/eerst-het-gas-dan-de-moraal/32952491-c7e501ab) called ‘Eerst het gas, dan de moraal‘, which could be loosely translated and paraphrased as: “Business before morality“, which is basically at the heart of all these events. The article states that the Russian pipeline is supplying well over 26 million households, which is well over twice the size of California (in households). There should be no illusions that Gazprom has its powerful claws firmly in the EEC.

Let’s make sure that I am not stating that the politicians are acting purely or mostly out of economic reasons. I am to a lesser extent implying that it is possible that the Natural Gas lobbyists in Washington have been speaking with politicians over a lunch or two (which is how things are done in the US and UK). That latter part was discussed in the Guardian in October 2013, as UK Labour leader Ed Miliband mentioned that these lobby groups are not getting the proper levels of scrutiny (at http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/oct/07/energy-firm-lobbyists-scrutiny-ed-miliband). So it is IMHO Big Business that is the second danger element in these cases. If the politicians represent the people, yet big business has the funds, ability and know-how to override the views of the people, then what use are the people at the end of all this?

This all goes a few steps further than just the energy groups. I started all this with a mention of economic sanctions. So how does this connect? Well, it does not directly connect, yet the elements all have their political influence. Consider the needs of Apple in Russia (at http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/03/07/russias-megafon-deal-with-apple-inc-guarantees-sales-of-750k-iphones-over-3-years). This was less than a week ago. So we consider the value of a little over 20,000 iPhones a month for the next three years and we should expect that this sparks the sale of iPad and iPod and other Apple articles. Do you think that the members in charge of Apple are hindered by morality? They have parked billions in taxable dollars away from the collecting hands of the IRS (and other taxing governments). The commission these people get from their deals in Russia will not stop them in any way. Whether there will be some ‘illusive’ distributor in India, Japan or China will not matter, the show (read sale) will go on. The same could be said for Dell. You think that they stop selling to Russia and leave their market share to ASUS? I think not! These are just two examples of the dozens of massively large companies doing business with Russian one form or another, not just from the USA, but also from Europe. In that same regard, there is not export without import, so as we see the boasts of economic sanctions to Russia by politicians, remember that when we see that when Russians show off their latest Apple gadgets on TV, the question ‘who runs America?‘ should remain firmly on your mind. In the end you should also remember that the entire situation is a lot more complex then I make it out to be.

As we focus on ‘Business before Morality‘ then remember the bills most of you have in your drawer still awaiting payment. We are nearly all of us overdue to the smallest or a larger extent and as some are more fortunate not to be one of the seven people living below poverty, consider that most of us are in the same place where 45% of us are, most of these people are all a little below getting by, which comes down to one step from a total nightmare life.

I am not stating it is a good place or an acceptable place; it is merely a realistic place. It is in this realistic place the question gets the volume it needs to have: ‘Who runs America?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Finance, Politics

The danger ahead

It was the BBC that gave me an insight I had not been aware of. It is easy to miss an item, even though I have been involved in IT on many levels for over 3 decades. It is just not possible to keep it all in focus all the time.

It is kind of fun to consider the words of my late grandmother. It was the only issue we could never see eye to eye on. She had an expression ‘Johnny of all, master of none‘. It was not a positive expression! I always went the other way in that regard. Whilst most went to some ‘temporary’ master as they mastered a certain niche skill. I went into the width of IT. I got exposure to such a wide field that my knowledge covered the entire foundation of IT (yes, in the time of the mainframe). After that I started to grow the base of this knowledge trying to evenly grown my knowledge of all IT fields (to some degree). My knowledge grew from programming, to consulting, to training and so on.

So where is this going?

I wrote at an earlier date about IT and the iteration approach to IT (at ‘Year of the last Euro?‘). The entire field goes a lot further. In an age of the similar devices, last week as I was prohibited from moving for 4 hours, I decided to let my mind wander and I came up with an entirely new Notebook. I categorise it as a fat notebook and I call it the ‘True Mobile System’. In an age where Sony, Asus, IBM et all seem to come up with a different names for the same flavour, my mind designed a new approach to a mobile business system.

Was it clever? Not sure! The issue is that many could have come up with it and either they are limited to what their boss dictates or they are just not thinking in a user based forward motion. Here lies the crux of many issues we have seen lately. Their way of thinking is not user based. It is often revenue based, there is a HUGE difference!

If you have read my previous blogs (especially ‘Fifth in a trilogy!‘) then you might notice a trend. In my mind most corporate IT is now all about what is in charge, not who! So as marketing decides on deadlines and evolutions, many learn the hard way that marketing is basically the extension of the CFO (and/or the stakeholders) and as such it is all about the money. If development is the science, then marketing should be seen as the ‘tainted’ picture. The problem is that too many CEO’s and others are all about this tainted picture (and as such the perception of what comes next), the science/engineering side gets too often ignored, or just briefly listened to and after that they get shut down and pushed forward to meet the deadline.

In that regard I still see the game ‘Assassins Creed 4’ (yes that pirate game), which could have been truly great and ended up being less than that (at least in my personal view)! The same can be said for business based ideas. If we consider this message (at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-25859360), where Google Chrome might be considered an eavesdropping risk, then what is safe to users?

The quote “The malicious site you visited can continue listening in on you long after you have left it said Mr Ater. As long as Chrome is still running nothing said next to your computer is private.” gives ample reason for worry. The danger from our side is that this could be a topic for conspiracy theory. Was this really ‘accidental’? I am not saying it was not or was not. It is however interesting how we as computer users have been exposed to a massive amount of security flaws in the last year alone.

In my mind, is this due to shoddy programming, or is their local marketing so set on certain deadlines and as such proper testing is no longer done? I personally think it is a combination of the latter two. As additional ‘evidence’ in my train of thought, my recent Yahoo experience comes to mind.

I have been a faithful Yahoo user since the early 90’s, for me it always sufficed. The e-mail was robust, it gave me the space I needed and as such I never regretted it. Yet, since the ‘remake’ of Yahoo it changed by a lot. The amount of failures I viewed are on a new low level of customer experience and as such, at present I am seriously considering leaving Yahoo mail and move to Google permanently.

The feedback does not have any options for filing bugs or complaints. It is all about ‘submit an idea‘ and ‘send public feedback‘. To me this all seems like the marketing image left by someone who should be lobotomised and left somewhere far away from any IT endeavour (preferably forever). Yahoo mail now exposes us to additional dangers as we no longer see a status bar in certain places. So, we no longer see ‘the’ link, which I consider a bad thing. The new system also ‘assumes’ spam, so I now have to scan my spam even more often. I can no longer sort by sender, which means that organising my inbox take a massive amount of time longer. The list goes on and on. Is it marketing at the expense of functionality?  To be honest, I would need a little more evidence before I can state that as a fact to some level, but the deadline push has been visible with too many corporations and for far too long.

These issues go a lot further when you consider the article called ‘Android’s biggest security flaws‘ at ZDNet (at http://www.zdnet.com/androids-biggest-security-flaws-1339338283/). As they mention the dangers of inexperienced and malicious developers, they actually forgot about the third group, the ‘callous developer’. These firms (not the individual programmer), who are all driven to meet certain deadlines and as such might not properly test or secure their application.

It is important to note that I do not see the inexperienced developer as a real threat. Yes, they offer the same level of danger, but they are not out to harm you. You, the user, who wants applications for free (as many do) should not blame that new person for trying to get a foothold. If that developer is to be held for one thing, then in my mind it would be that too many of these freebies should bare the mark ‘Beta’ or ‘Trial’, to add an extra warning level for user downloading their new endeavour.

The big issue becomes: ‘What to do about Android?’

As the influence of android increases and interacts with all manner of devices in other ways (like with a person’s Sony-id account, so that a gamer keeps online with friends and achievements when they are not at home), gives way that security flaws become more and more harmful. More important, as we become more and more oblivious of the interaction, we might be spreading all our personal details all over the internet and that danger could grow exponentially with every additional application.

These events also shine an interesting light on an article that was in the Guardian last Friday (at http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/jan/24/justify-gchq-mass-surveillance-european-court-human-rights). When we consider the issues I listed on application security, we should take a second look at the quote in the article “Nick Pickles of Big Brother Watch said: ‘This legal challenge is an essential part of getting to the bottom of why the public and parliament have not been properly informed about the scale of surveillance and why our privacy has been subverted on an industrial scale.’

Perhaps the quote could also be read as “Speed and disregard of proper development has allowed for open access to many computers and devices, which allows for almost complete collection and stored and such storage can only be done by just a few. This open level of availability allows the NSA and GCHQ (amongst others) to collect open source intelligence, hoping to gain the upper hand in the war on terror.

I am not stating this is the case, but it could be seen as such. In that regard I call for the issue I mentioned in a previous blog called ‘Internet Privacy?‘ on December 27th, where we see the dangers of some applications (at http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/dec/27/snapchat-may-be-exposed-hackers). If we consider the dangers consumes are exposed to for whatever reason, it seems odd that Big Brother watch is not more outspoken on the industrial subversion of privacy by software designers.

So here we get back to the beginning of this blog where I wrote “I designed a new way for a mobile business system.” As Microsoft has moved into a field of computers utilising an approach in the air of “With our computers you do not need to use the brain you never had in the first place“. An automated system that assumes all the time to cover 95% of its users, loaded with gaps and security flaws.

People need to get licensed to get a gun, drive a car, a boat or a plane. Yet, the dangers that computers expose us to are currently not dealt with in any serious way. I reckon that in the next two years identity theft and identity fraud will be regularly in the back of our minds, as it grows into the very visible danger it already is. If we look at some of the numbers then I could speculate that 90% of the people will directly know one victim of identity fraud or identity theft. Lexis Nexis, in their paper ‘2013 LexisNexis® True Cost of Fraud Study‘ state numbers that should scare us all. In 2013, 58% of the merchants were confronted with credit card fraud and 36% of the 2013 population was confronted with lost or stolen merchandise. These numbers by themselves are not that useful as such (at http://www.lexisnexis.com/risk/downloads/assets/true-cost-fraud-2013.pdf). Yet consider that 12.6 million U.S. adult victims of identity fraud had to deal on average with $1,653 of damage per fraud victim. The total amount becomes a staggering one and this is just the US! As technology is not properly attuned to a better level of security, but to set to please a growing marketable population these dangers will only increase. This is the true danger ahead, not what the government can see. In that regard Foreign Secretary William Hague is quite correct when he states “law-biding members of the public have nothing to fear“.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Gaming, IT, Politics, Science