Uphill/Upgrade Slog

Lombard Street Optical Illusion

Lombard Street Optical Illusion

There are early adopters of technology and then there is us. Some technology companies should close the door before we ever arrive. We bought two new iPhones today, an iPhone 5S for Anne and an iPhone 6 for me, plus an iPad mini too, which is still sitting in its box and two Life Proof cases for the phones. The reason for this haul began at work this week, a friend of mine, James, had his AT&T iPhone 4 hacked, cloned, used to steal two new iPhone 6s and then disabled. His iPhone 4 runs the 3G network protocol, which has a vulnerability. Anne was still running her 2010 era iPhone 3GS, which also has this same vulnerability and just happens to be our AT&T account’s controlling phone. Since James’s mishap occurred while he was on vacation, we resolved to fix our problem, before we went on vacation later this summer.

Going into the AT&T store, our going in position was to simply upgrade Anne’s old 3GS with Dave’s slightly newer, iPhone 4S, which has been sitting in a drawer for a year and a half. Our fallback position was to upgrade to two 5S iPhones. Well, we meaning me, quickly melted under the onslaught of our AT&T salesman, Chas. He must have been gloating with himself at this point, but he was more than glad so see us go, two hours later. The crux of the problem boiled down to our habit of sharing online accounts. We have always used one Apple account, which apparently you can’t do any more. Like I said, two hours later we were shown the door. I’m still wrestling with the upgrade’s aftermath.

The photo with this post was lifted off Dave’s old phone. It is from our 2012 tour of California. We were walking from the motel up Lombard Street in San Francisco, which is a very steep hill. On the opposite side of the hill is the more famous part of the street, with all of its tight switchbacks.

iCrane Fly

Crane Fly

Crane Fly

What looks like the great north-wood’s huge cousin to our local mosquitos, is in fact another insect altogether. It is the crane fly and is relatively harmless. It doesn’t bite. For some species of adult crane flies, their lives are so short that they don’t even eat at all. Yesterday, I took this picture at the Laumeier Art Fair. Few of the artists at such fairs appreciate people taking photos of their work and some openly object to it. I respect these wishes. [Well, so long as my lovely bride is not posing in front of one of them.]

This crane fly was posing on the pedestal of one artist’s display and since I figured that he didn’t own any intellectual property rights to the fly, I took its picture. The photo is an iPhone photograph. I know that I am always railing against iPhone photography, because so much of it is crap, but I had some new toys to play with. A while back, I bought a 3-in-1 lens pack that works with the iPhone. A little plastic lens holder slips over the iPhone and holds the lens of choice in place. For $10 it actually works pretty well. There is a wide-angle, fisheye and macro lens in the pack. I used the macro lens for this shot.

Last week, I had heard on NPR about a low-cost, back-bush diagnosis regime for River Blindness. This disease is caused by very small worms. The diagnosis regime uses an iPhone and a strap-on microscope, similar in concept to my 3-in-1 lens set. On Amazon, they go for about what I paid for what I already have. I was almost ready to impulse buy one, when I decided that I should exercise some more what I already have, before I go out and get something new.

The MFA is the New MBA

Dan’s New Place

That row of windows on the second floor gray building with red trim is ours. It runs about the length of those windows and 20 feet in. Via iOS 6 Magic Vision!

Dan sent us the preceding message, along with the above photo of his new property. As near as I can tell, from looking at the photograph, all nine windows in front are part of his space, along with at least one if not both of the windows on the side. It ought to have plenty of natural light. Right now it is one big open space, but he and his friend plans to build interior walls for offices and such for this studio property.  He will take possession on Monday.

The preceding was originally envisioned as just a lead up to another one of my dearly loved Apple Attacks, dearly loved, at least by me. Dan’s iOS 6 Magic Vision photo coincided nicely with the Mea Culpa from Apple’s CEO, over their new mapping app. My spovely louse, steered me away from that more hateful path, to something more uplifting. Before I totally depart for higher ground, I just have to get one more dig in about those cars that look painted on the roof, in the upper left-hand corner of the picture. 😉

The teacher mom came back from school on Friday with a reading assignment for me, “A Whole New Mind – Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future” by Daniel H. Pink. In reality, I was only asked to read four pages, but it hurt. Man, it hurt. Here is my synopsis of my reading assignment. This thumbnail, also-know-as my C- book report goes like this.

You got your right-brainers and you got your left-brainers. Left-brainers, like me, we do all the work. While, you right-brainers sit around, talk, drink lattés and spout. That’s fine, division of labor and all that. We get paid and you get to ask if we want fries with our happy meals. That was the social contract. Who knew that all of us could be outsourced? We knew that muscle could be off shored, but not left-brain power. Apparently, we were wrong. Call centers are just the tip of the spear of this coming change. Indian computer programmers are taking on my skills. White-collar workers are the new blue-collar workers.

Getting accepted as an MFA to UCLA is harder than entering Harvard Business School as a MBA. Only 3% of applicants are taken versus 10%. Titans of industry, like GM, scour art schools across America. They are searching for the creative class, tomorrow’s makers. Pink sums it up nicely:

Before that Indian programmer has something to fabricate, maintain, test, or upgrade, that something must first be imagined, or invented. And these creations must be explained and tailored to customers and entered into the swirl of commerce, all of which require aptitudes that can’t be reduced to a set of rules on a spec sheet — ingenuity, personal rapport, and gut instinct.

According to the Economist, in 1993 61% of business consultants had an MBA. Less than ten years later their number is down to 43%. MBA tasks once foisted upon young recruits trying to earn their spurs to get to Wall Street or the like, are now moving overseas to India instead. Meanwhile, in the US the number of graphic designers has increased ten-fold in a decade. Since 1970, there are 30% more people earning a living as a writer and 50% more full-time musicians. The “creatives” represent a growth industry for America.

Performance Priced

Dark Drama Iris

Many years ago, I worked for the second largest computer company in the world. The company was Control Data Corporation or CDC. For a brief time it was second only to IBM in the world of computers. It is gone now, consigned to the dust bin of history. Enough time has passed that even some successor firms have also passed-on. Digital comes to mind. Even garage upstart Microsoft is starting to look long in the tooth, compared to today’s modern titans of Silicon Valley. One of these garage bands for whom the blush is still on the rose is Apple. Under the tutelage of the late Steve Jobs, innovative products like the iPhone and the iPad have powered Apple to record profits. However, record profits or even innovative products are no life insurance policy in the breakneck world of computer technology. CDC had both of them then, but look at it now.

Back in the day, selling computers, or “pushing iron” as it was called, wasn’t a simple process. The machines were big, expensive and arcane. Salesmen, and they were mainly men, sold the computers one at a time. Half-a-dozen machines could count for a very good year. The number of options available, the complexity of the product, and the constant evolution of the industry led to a business model called performance pricing. Simply put, if machine A could perform the task twice as fast as machine B, then machine A was priced at twice that of B. This model worked well, so long as no one peeked behind the curtain.

Sometimes midlife performance upgrades were made. When no one was looking, a technician would flip a well hidden switch and then look busy for an hour or so. CDC made a lot of disk drives and we figured out how to convert cheaper 20 MB drives to more expensive 60 MB drives. [Yes, this was a while ago.] This was accomplished by low-level reformatting the drive. They were all the same hardware, they were just formatted differently. They were all performance priced. You got what you paid for.

I was thinking about a modern application for the kind of performance pricing of computer equipment. The iPhone comes to mind. Each model comes in several variants. The sole variation is the amount of internal storage that the device has. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to make just one kind? The trick of low-level formatting of hard-drives, to size the amount of storage, was an industry standard. At the time, we were making 2/3 of all the drives. Back then disk drive platters were all the same size; software formatting determined the amount of available memory. In the iPhone storage is solid state, but the old principles still apply. For example, extra sectors are made, to replace sectors that go bad. Firmware normally controls the allocation of this storage. Why not have the firmware also control the amount of storage available to the customer. If you’ve priced USB storage, you know that 8/16/32 GB doesn’t cost anywhere near the $100s that Apple charges for it. Why not just build one device and build the extra hardware cost into your pricing model and save on manufacturing costs? I realize that it says how much storage it has on the case, but you are already committed to two colors of skins. Another 3X is a modest bump in cost, for a lucrative opportunity for Apple to up-sell their most popular product.

These business practices might seem nefarious to some, but they are not. Streamlining production costs save all customers money. If you ever bothered to read your Apple license agreement, then you would realize that you have already concurred with this too. Like Control Data’s competitors, Apple’s are not fooled by any of these shenanigans. They are already scheming to take advantage of this or any opening, and maybe take Apple down too.


A prostitute solicits a young man, “For fifty dollars, I’ll let you talk to me about your iPhone.

Apple’s stock rose over 6%, to almost $450, a record high, after it reported its most recent earnings. CNN was putting a target price on Apple of $666, or the number of the devil. No one who knows me, would call me an Apple-phile, but I do love my iPhone. This dichotomy, love the product, but hate the company, would present difficulties for some, but not me. I am prepared to condemn Apple, all of its products, even the iPhone, just not my instance of this device.

Let me first dispense with the rest of Apple’s product line. I’m a PC and I am proud of it, the Mac and its ilk are just overpriced versions of the same product. All of Apple’s innovations were actually stolen from Xerox, which was too stupid to squash the upstart Apple. Ridley Scott’s famous 1984 Macintosh commercial was great, but it fingered the wrong villain. He should have implicated Apple, today’s Big Brother. Let’s segue now to Apple, via the iPhone.

“NPR’s “This American Life” recently showcased, Mike Daisy and his monologue, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs”. Check it out. Mr. Daisy, a self-professed Apple-phile, learned of an iPhone that was sold with photographs on it, taken in its factory, in China. These pictures led him on an odyssey, to China. Exercising his own brand of investigative journalism, he uncovered many examples of labor abuse, child labor, blacklisting and unsafe working conditions, to name a few of the offenses that he cataloged.

Daisy’s similarities to Michael Moore, both physically and in journalistic temperament I found unmistakable. The second half of the “This American Life” show does some fact-checking that shows that Apple has corrected many of these abuses. This went only part way to assuage the guilt of an iPhone owner, such as myself.

A Conversation with Siri

Piling on with Apple’s sins, there is its recent debacle, when it attempted to market the iPhone in China. Riots ensued and all sales were soon suspended. Those iPhones were retailed for $800, four times what I have paid for any iPhone. All this in the country of its manufacture.

I have lambasted Apple, but what about its customers? Just like Latin American drug kingpins couldn’t survive without their American drug users, neither could Apple survive without its sycophants. You, the American Apple customer are just as guilty as Apple is of unfair labor practices, etc.

Then there are the injuries that iPhone owners perpetrate upon the rest of society. Case in point, was the recent, much publicized incident at a performance of the NY Philharmonic Symphony. The iPhone’s marimba ringtone went off in the middle of Mahler’s Symphony No. 9. Sure other cell phone users have disrupted a myriad of other performances, but have any of those phone users been dressed down in public, by the conductor?

I want to come clean with you, the reader now. I am a Microsoft Secret Ninja (MSN). I report directly to Mr. Gates and have been working to combat the international Apple conspiracy for many years now. An Apple a day, keeps the doctor away? Don’t believe it, it is all propaganda. They can have my PC, when they sieze it from my cold dead hands, and about my iPhone? I’ll have to text you on that one.

Mystery Cannon iPhones Dave

The cannon pictured below is in the Park.  The article about Forest Park in the most recent issue of Saint Louis Magazine has a blurb about it.  According to the magazine article, the cannon was forged in Mexico City in 1783.  It arrived in Saint Louis in order to celebrate Admiral George Dewey Day, in 1900.  It then sat in a city warehouse until some wag at the Post-Dispatch wrote a tongue-in-cheek article pleading for its release.  The article was written in the first person, as the cannon.  The cannon has been on display ever since.  People just forgot why until an enterprising Park ranger dug in to its history.

Today’s header was taken a couple of weeks ago, while bicycling in the Park. I was on my way out of the Park, when I spied a guy parked the wrong way, holding a camera out of his car’s window. Sensing a photo opportunity, I stopped too and took the picture. The other guy and I talked for a few minutes and then I rode on home. I met him again at Edward Crim’s art opening. His name is John and like me, he is an amateur naturalist and photographer. Saint Louis really is a small town.

Dan and I took Anne to Pomme Café for Mothers Day, on Sunday morning.  This is the same café that I took her to for the previous Mothers Day.  We liked it last year and liked it even better this year.  While we were there, Dan showed me his iPhone Apps, some of which I have already downloaded:

  • Bump communicates with another iPhone by bumping them together.
  • iHandy Level lets your iPhone act as a level, a bit geeky, but still a lot of fun.
  • NASA lets you know things, like where is the International Space Station.
  • Pandora is an App that gives the iPhone internet radio.
  • Stanza is an eReader application.

This blog went a bit viral the last couple of day.  It was nothing like the Freshly Pressed episode of a few weeks ago though.  It all had to do with the post that I published for Mothers Day a year ago.  In that post I recited the lyrics to that song about mothers everywhere, M Is for the Many things she gave me …

Dave was a member of a team of four students that collaborated on their senior design project.  Their topic was entitled, Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy Diagnostics.  The teamed worked to develop a device to measure pressures on the foot to determine regions with an increased risk of ulceration for patients in developing countries.  Their team won second place among the fifteen competing teams at Rochester.  Dave will get some part of the $3,000 in prize money that the school offers.  His team plans on submitting their project at the national level and hope to win part of the $10,000 in prizes offered there.

Dave will be returning with us from Rochester, for a little victory lap.  There is a gap between when he has to vacate his current housing and before his summer housing is available.  It will be good to see him for more than a weekend.