Galen Gruman has a good Infoworld column on why Windows tablets aren’t selling, and why the new Surface Pro 3 is unlikely to do much better — although there’s nothing there that Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ haven’t known since the first model was introduced two years ago. But something still stood out:
The iPad is four years old this year, and in its short life it has taken the world by storm, creating a new class of computing device that has sold well over 200 million units. Everyone is trying to copy it, with many Android tablets and a bunch of Windows tablets all trying to ride the iPad’s coattails. Never mind that the iPad itself seems to be running out of gas, and it’s unclear whether Apple can refill the tank.
A big part of last quarter’s decline in iPad sales was nothing more than adjustment, not in sales, but in the sales channel. Tim Cook had overshot the year before, making the same quarter this year look worse than it actually was. But overall, sales were down slightly after a phenomenal Christmas quarter.
What it looks like from here is that the tablet market is already a mature one, after just three years. And just like the smartphone market, you have Apple sucking up most of the profits, Android generating tons of sales to people who don’t much use the things, and Windows in a distant third place wondering what the heck just happened.
Up until, and I guess including Jurassic Park, Hollywood could drop our jaws with only the special effects. Something really new might come along every once in a great while like the wire work from The Matrix, but once the computers took over we became jaded pretty quickly. We used to marvel at practical special effects, because some smart and talented people had to figure out a means to make something jaw-dropping happen, really happen, in front of a camera. Now the computer artists just draw it, if you’ll allow me to oversimplify the amazing work that they can do. But we’ll never again wonder, “How did they do that?”
Which means that special effects once again have to go back to doing the simple work of servicing a good story.
Remember good stories, Hollywood? A little less spectacle, please, and a little more storytelling.
Smokers trying to quit are 60 percent more likely to report success if they switch to e-cigarettes than if they use nicotine products like patches or gum, or just willpower, scientists said on Wednesday.
Presenting findings from a study of almost 6,000 smokers over five years, the researchers said the results suggest e-cigarettes could play an important role in reducing smoking rates and hence cutting tobacco-related deaths and illnesses.
As well as causing lung cancer and other chronic respiratory diseases, tobacco smoking is also a major contributor to cardiovascular diseases, the world’s number one killer.
“E-cigarettes could substantially improve public health because of their widespread appeal and the huge health gains associated with stopping smoking,” said Robert West of University College London’s epidemiology and public health department, who led the study.
“60% more likely” and “could substantially improve public health” are the things to take away from this report — and yet the busybodies want to regulate e-cigs the same as regular smokes because…
My theory is they want to ban e-cigs because they look like the real thing and because they bring people pleasure.
So this is a thing that happened in Portland:
The last thing the woman from Northeast Portland probably expected when she got up Tuesday morning was that she would be attacked by a sword-wielding elf.
But that’s what happened around 7 a.m. as she drove her red BMW by the intersection of Southeast 7th and Morrison.
A man dressed in chain-mail with a helmet, shield and carrying a sword and staff ran into traffic and started attacking her car.
She called 911, reporting that “a pirate” was attacking her car.
When police got there, they detained Konrad Bass of Glendale, Oregon.
Bass told officers that he wasn’t a pirate but a “high-elf engaged in battle with the evil Morgoth.”
Bass told police that he had taken LSD, which comes as a shock to exactly nobody.
The first Apple Store opened 13 years ago yesterday in McLean, Virginia. What’s remarkable is how little Apple had to sell at first.
There was no iPad until 2010, no iPhone until 2007, and even the iPod didn’t debut until months later in October of 2001. Pretty much all Apple had at the time was the four Mac product lines — iMac, iBook, Power Mac and PowerBook. None sold in any great numbers.
Watch the video and you’ll see what Apple did have to sell — “the Apple experience,” for lack of a better phrase. Buy a Mac and you enter the world of the Mac as your digital hub, and the Apple Store was the place where they’d teach you how to put it all together. The hub is now cloud-based, but the experience customers buy into is the same — great gear which comes with well-trained “geniuses” to help you get the most out of it.
Other companies make great product — maybe not insanely great, but still — but they can’t duplicate Apple’s experience from purchase, through training, and, yes, through the inevitable problems and eventual upgrades.
Tech geeks who look at price and specs without ever actually shopping at an Apple Store, or talking to people about why they do, suffer from a very bad case of Just Not Getting It. And that’s OK, because price & specs is all that many people need when making a buying decision. But for millions more, there are now 424 stores in 16 countries — and they generate more profit per square foot than any other retail store anywhere, ever.
Not bad for a company which had no prior retail experience and had been weeks away from bankruptcy just four years before opening its first store.
The next time someone makes fun of you for never updating Microsoft Word or for still typing on an old iMac, consider yourself on the cutting edge compared to George R.R. Martin.
The “Game of Thrones” author confessed to late-night talk-show host Conan O’Brien that he prefers to write his popular books on a DOS word processor instead of the latest laptop.
“I actually have two computers,” Martin told Conan. “I have a computer I browse the Internet with and I get my email on, and I do my taxes on. And then I have my writing computer, which is a DOS machine, not connected to the Internet. I use WordStar 4.0 as my word processing system.”
The last word processor I really loved was Word 95, which IIRC was just a 32-but recompile of the previous version to run on Windows 95. It was fast, stable, not wired into the internet in any way, and it didn’t try to do anything “for” me except to format my text the way I told it to.
But WordStar? Niiiiiiiiiiiice.
I’ll wait for a heavier-duty version capable of hauling my camping equipment.
A frisky California wife ended up in the ER after she put exploding candy into her genitals during sex.
The unnamed woman, from Newport Beach, reportedly thought inserting the tingling Pop Rocks confectionery into her vagina would increase her pleasure.
But the sweet treat actually had the opposite effect, and she started suffering burning and itching sensations.
You know you’re not supposed to…
…oh, who am I to judge?
ALSO: The video is a TLC dramatization and not the actual ER visit or anything else.
Want to see a potential good result of Disney milling the Star Wars universe for everything it’s worth? Read:
Unadulterated, “pure” versions of the original Star Wars films are difficult to come by. Except for one sad, low-resolution release on DVD in 2006 (which we’ll discuss in a moment), the films have only been available in their modified “Special Edition” forms since 1997, when George Lucas re-released the films to theaters with a series of changes. Some of those changes aren’t bad at all—the fancy new attack on the Death Star in Episode IV is perfectly cromulent—but others are absolutely terrible. In Return of the Jedi, Jabba’s palace gains an asinine CGI-filled song-and-dance interlude. Dialogue is butchered in Empire Strikes Back. And in the first movie, perhaps most famously, Han no longer shoots first.
Each subsequent release has piled on more and more changes, culminating in the Star Wars Blu-ray release, which now has Return of the Jedi climaxing with Darth Vader howling “NOOOOOOOO!” as he flings the Emperor into the shaft (spoiler alert from 1983, I guess). For every round of changes, the fan outcry for an unedited original release has grown. And now that Disney has its hands wrapped firmly around the Star Wars steering wheel, the company seems to be in the perfect position to give the fans what they want.
It all depends on the analog source material, which the story reports is “actually in pretty terrible shape.”
Better start restoring it now, is all I have to say about that.
Ben Affleck done up right for 2016′s Batman vs. Superman. I go into anything helmed by Zack Snyder with more than a little trepidation, but thought that last year’s Man of Steel was overall a nice refresh for the oldest superhero franchise.
This Batman is very Frank Miller and earns the Coveted VodkaPundit Seal of Approval™.
What’s your take?
With its notoriously strict gun control laws, this story should come as no surprise:
Yoshitomo Imura allegedly downloaded and printed five plastic guns, two of which could fire real bullets. He was arrested last month, but the news was only revealed on Thursday. It’s believed to be the first arrest made for possession of 3D-printed guns in Japan, a country with extremely strict gun laws. A law passed in 1958 forbids a person from possessing a “firearm or firearms or a sword or swords,” although it lists list several exceptions.
Imura defended himself, saying he didn’t know it was illegal to own a plastic gun.
“I produced the guns, but I didn’t think it was illegal,” Imura said, according to Japan Times. “I can’t complain about the arrest if the police regard them as real guns.”
This one guy was caught and arrested, and to this American reader, strangely sanguine or even passive about it. But the internet is undermining all kinds of laws, in all kinds of places, in all kinds of unexpected ways.
A story of pure awfulness on both sides and it comes to us from California? Say it isn’t so!
But it is so:
A tenth-grade California girl allegedly passed out cupcakes to bullies at her school which she said contained “bodily fluids.”
I was pretty sure she got the flour and sugar and whatnot down at the Safeway, but it was more difficult figuring out how exactly she obtained the male bodily fluids in question. But then there was this:
As it turns out, the cupcakes were made with mayonnaise, barbecue sauce and soy sauce.
Either way, students in the girl’s French class were left with a bad taste in their mouths during a food day event last week.
Before the Bakersfield Police Department announced that the cupcakes weren’t laced with anything other than condiments, it was believed they may have contained “pubic hair, semen and expired food and pills.”
image via shutterstock / Ruth Black
Researchers have uncovered Android-based malware that disables infected handsets until end users pay a hefty cash payment to settle trumped-up criminal charges involving the viewing of illegal pornography.
To stoke maximum fear, Android-Trojan.Koler.A uses geolocation functions to tailor the warnings to whatever country a victim happens to reside in. The screenshot to the right invoking the FBI, for instance, is the notice that’s displayed on infected phones connecting from a US-based IP address. People in Romania and other countries will see slightly different warnings. The malware prevents users from accessing the home screen of their phones, making it impossible to use most other apps installed on the phone. The normal phone functions in some cases can be restored only when the user pays a “fine” of about $300, using untraceable payment mechanisms such as Paysafecard or uKash.
Here’s how the malware takes over:
“The ransomware’s main component is a browser view that stays on top of all other applications, Bitdefender Senior E-Threat Analyst Bogdan Botezatu wrote in an e-mail. “You can press Home and go to the homescreen, but a timer would bring it back on top in about 5 seconds. I managed to uninstall it manually by swiftly going to applications and dragging the icon on the Uninstall control, but it only works if the application icon is on the first row. Otherwise, one wouldn’t have the necessary time to drag it to the top, where the uninstall control is located.”
Users must first choose to allow out-of-market apps permission to install, and then install a porn “player” which is actually the malware. But it’s certainly easy to imagine scenarios not involving shady porn sites tricking the unwary into having to ransom their own phones.
image via shutterstock / Olena Zaskochenko
Star Trek is coming to your iPhone:
Accidentally slicing into an unripe avocado or trying to guess the nutritional value of a restaurant meal might soon be problems of the past thanks to SCiO, a pocket-sized spectrometer that lets users analyze the molecular structure of anything from food to plants — even the human body — and view the results on their iPhone.
Consumer Physics, SCiO’s creators, promise a Star Trek-like experience with the device. Users can point the Zippo-sized scanner at an avocado, for example, and find out how ripe the fruit is without touching or peeling it.
SCiO could be used to analyze a plate of food to determine its caloric and fat content, making meal tracking easier. It might also help users ensure their medication is authentic, or check soil conditions and alert gardeners that their plants aren’t receiving enough water.
$299 might seem like a steep buy-in, but that’s just for the first-generation model. There will be newer models and knockoffs for $99 within a couple of years, at which point the Tricorder SCiO becomes almost as ubiquitous as smartphones are.
Half a billion dollars for a company whose new console flopped, and whose handheld gaming business is being systematically dismantled by Android and iOS.
The Wii U (rhymes with “peew”) was such an obvious stinker I called it a “desperate Hail Mary pass” way back in October of 2011, months before it was even released.
It’s time for new management at Nintendo.
MacWorld connected and daisy chained 36 external hard drives to a new Mac Pro. Why? Because they had 36 external hard drives and a Mac Pro — I know I’d do it if I could. More:
While a dozen or so of these drives were bus-powered, most required external power. We plugged 24 power cords into three power strips and plugged each of those strips into a Watts Up power meter. When running a script that copied data from the Mac Pro’s internal PCIe connected flash storage to each of the drives, the combine power draw peaked at a whopping 865 Watts.
The script also tracked the amount of time it took each drive to write 6GB of data. The fastest was OWC’s Mercury Helios, which was able to write at an average of 271 MBps with all other drives running.
That’s an impressive write speed even without competing for CPU time with 35 other drives. 36 others if you count the boot SSD inside the Mac.
My needs are slightly more modest. I picked up a stock six-core Pro a couple weeks ago, with two external drives. The first is a 4TB LaCie d2 Thunderbolt drive for my Time Machine backup. Its only job is to stay out of my way until I mess something up. Or until we get an evacuation order some summer due to wildfires — it’s nice to be able to grab just one drive and then scoot. The second is a 4TB LaCie 2big, also Thunderbolt, in a striped 2TB RAID 0 config.
I dunno how fast that thing is, but I honestly can’t tell a difference between the LaCie RAID and the PCIe SSD boot drive. The new setup is so fast that I’m considering merging my year-by-year Aperture photo libraries into one big-ass 250GB library.
Because like the MacWorld guys — why not?
As Longtime Sharp VodkaPundit Readers™ are aware, I hate Blu-Ray. Love the picture, love the sound, hate what the studios have done to the disks. “Coming Soon” previews you can’t skip, even years after the “new” movies have come and gone. Stupid menus. Ridiculous load times. Anyone with small children knows just how exasperating Blu-Ray can be. So when I still buy physical media, I rip the movies or shows to un-copy-protected M4V files and stick them in my iTunes library.
The problem with ripping is unpredictable file sizes. Some movies just don’t compress well, usually ones with lots of camera movement, or random detail like fog or mist. The first time I tried to rip Aliens, the resulting file was actually bigger than the Blu-Ray. Insane.
But then a few days ago I thought of something. The iTunes Store always has excellent digital copies, virtually indistinguishable from Blu-Ray discs despite having enviably tiny file sizes.
NOTE: I don’t expect the phrase “enviably tiny” to catch on.
How do they do it? I dunno. But I know now how I get the same results.
Find a nice online bitrate calculator like this one. Plug in the movie running length and the file size of the iTunes Store movie — which Apple handily provides. Plug the result into Handbrake under “Average Bitrate,” and then set it to Two-Pass Encoding to make sure those bits are averaged as well as they can be.
I got Aliens — previously a network- and hard drive-hogging 16 gigabyte file — down to 5.49GB. That’s actually a little smaller than the iTunes version, and the picture looks great.
You don’t have to go through all this for every movie or show you rip — but for the ones you just can’t seem to compress, this method is flawless.
image illustration via shutterstock / nikkytok
Come see the violence inherent in Seussianism:
Dr. Seuss is safe at the Toronto Public Library — at least for the time being.
But one of his books was targeted for banning. A letter of complaint filed in March with the facility petitioned for the removal of all copies of the 1963 book penned by Dr. Seuss, “Hop on Pop,” United Press International reported. Why?
It promotes violence, the letter of complaint read.
Hop on Pop also encourages innocent youth to bite tigers’ tails, suffocate fish in trees, and to crush mice with houses.
If you were looking for a story to disprove the old notion that men are stupid and women are crazy, then this is not your story:
Lorena Bobbitt, who made world headlines after chopping off her husband’s manhood and throwing it away in a park, has revealed she didn’t have any problems getting a date afterwards.
Twenty-one years after slicing husband John Wayne’s penis off with a kitchen knife Lorena revealed: “Believe it or not, I had quite a few gentlemen that wanted to date me.”
I got nothin’.
A fabled tale from my childhood about the fate of thousands of unsold E.T. video game cartridges turns out to be true:
Back during the so-called video game crash of 1983, a struggling Atari was stuck with truckloads of the game and other unsold hardware. With little recourse and a crashing interest in video games in North America, the company decided to dump its excess merchandise into a landfill, according to reports at the time. The story was never confirmed, however, and it’s carried on as a legendary tale from a time when video games were near worthless. It reportedly cost Atari millions to get the rights to produce a video game tie-in to the incredibly successful Steven Spielberg film, but the resulting E.T. game was a massive flop and it’s considered one of the worst titles of all time.
My buddy Chris had a copy and I can confirm it was the Worst. Game. Ever.
Flash users, beware:
Adobe on Monday disclosed a new vulnerability in its Flash platform that may allow attackers to remotely take over and control Macs, PCs, and Linux machines and advised users to update their system as quickly as possible.
The bug affects Flash Player 188.8.131.52 and earlier on the Mac, Flash Player 184.108.40.206 and earlier on Windows, and Flash Player 220.127.116.110 and earlier on Linux. Adobe says that attacks exploiting this flaw have been discovered “in the wild,” so users are strongly urged to apply the latest updates sooner than later.
I uninstalled Flash from my desktop and laptop years ago and never looked back. My computers run faster and my browsers crash almost never — down from almost once a day, almost entirely due to Flash. Also, uninstalling Flash removed a major security weakness. There is no good reason to have it on any of your computers, especially with browser plugins available like FlashToHMLT5.
But it gets worse.
A few months ago I “subscribed” to Photoshop, because I thought I needed it again for a little something I was working on. The experience with Adobe’s cloud services was horrible, their front end was an intrusive nightmare, and it would never leave me alone to actually get anything done with it. So I eagerly paid the early cancellation penalty and then used CleanMyMac to make sure I’d removed every little last bit of Adobe from my system.
I remember when Adobe made the software that professionals couldn’t live without. Now they make the crap you can barely tolerate to live with.
Question: Will PC-like upgrade cycles keep iPad sales flat? I can tell you that here at Casa Verde, the answer is an unequivocal Yes.
Four years ago, Melissa and I bought two of the first-generation iPads. I upgraded mine to the original Retina Display model in 2012, because I do a lot of photo editing on the thing. Melissa finally upgraded to the new iPad Air late last year, but only because two of her favorite apps would no longer upgrade on a 2010 model. But that’s not to say we threw the old ones away. Mine is now armored in a very strong Fisher-Price kid case and is one of my three-year-old’s favorite toys. The other is mounted on a fold-away arm under a kitchen cabinet, where it runs our favorite recipe app, Paprika. Our older son has a first-generation iPad mini from 2012 which has taken all the abuse an eight-year-old can dish out, and then some.
Of the five iPads purchased by the Greens over the last four years, all five are still being used. I don’t have any reason to upgrade, since the A5X chip in the 2012 Retina model can still handle anything I throw at it. Melissa got three years out of her iPad 1, which was a slow beast even when new. She should get five years out of her Air. Preston’s mini has essentially the same CPU as my Retina, so he should be good for as long as I am.
So after an initial burst of purchases, we’re covered for a few more years — just like the broader market.
This might be a good time to mention that PC upgrade cycles aren’t what they once were, either. Before I switched to Mac, I’d buy a new top-of-the-line-everything Windows PC about every 30 months. And in between, I’d upgrade pretty much anything upgradeable. But my first iMac lasted more than four years, and is still in service for the kids. My first Mac Pro lasted five years, upgraded just this month to a new Mac Pro I expect will stick around even longer. (Damn fool trashcan-looking thing has no moving parts; it had better last longer!)
Thirty months became four years became five years will become six years? Seven?
I dunno, but if my buying habits are any indication, then the slump in the PC and tablet markets* might be a long-lasting trend.
*Don’t talk to me about explosive growth in Android tablet sales, because those are almost entirely Crackerjack models people don’t actually use for anything, as usage statistics bear out. Even Samsung got caught lying about its Galaxy Tab sales figures.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is proposing long-awaited regulations governing the fast-growing electronic cigarette industry.
The new rules, to be made public Thursday, are expected to regulate e-cigarettes as tobacco products, placing them under the same requirements as cigarettes. That would likely include a ban on the sale to minors.
“That would be a little less stringent than if they were regulated as medicinal products used in smoking cessation,” said Dr. Hilary Tindle, assistant professor of medicine and director of the tobacco treatment service at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
The FDA said the public, the electronic cigarette industry and others will have 75 days to comment on the proposed regulations.
I’ll go ahead and add my comment before the 75-day period even begins.
Back off, bub.
I don’t smoke e-cigarettes, but a close friend of mine used them to quit smoking the real thing after years and years of failed attempts. He’d tried patches, gum, cold turkey, only smoking when his wife was at work — everything.
I’ve thought about buying one, just because I still sometimes miss that feeling of well-being you get from a rush of nicotine with that first cup of coffee in the morning, or right after a big meal. And why not? Nicotine inhaled via vapor isn’t going to give anybody any cancer. The only reason I don’t do it is I’m afraid the busybodies will take them away, leaving me craving a real smoke for the first time in a long time.
That’s not a risk I’m willing to take, not after it took me years of failed attempts to quit, just like my close friend.
But that’s what busybodies do: Restrict pleasure for the sake of restricting pleasure.
No joke — what you see above is the latest and goofiest razor from Gillette:
Procter & Gamble Co. is preparing to roll out its latest weapon in the fight for men’s faces—a razor featuring a swiveling ball-hinge that allows the blade to pivot and comes with a high-end price, according to marketing documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Dubbed the ProGlide FlexBall, according to the documents, the new device is aimed at winning sales in a crucial and profitable business that has come under pressure as styles have favored facial hair and men have shifted at the margins to cheaper discount options.
I reserve the right to point and laugh at anyone dragging a FlexBall across his face.
If you want a good shave, just buy an old-fashioned safety razor, a brush, and some soap. You can buy a year’s worth of safety razor blades for the price of just one of those newfangled doohickeys — and you’ll get a better shave, too.