The Northern Spy: much ado about something
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

The Northern Spy: much ado about something

By Rick Sutcliffe

… but, what are those somethings?

Rumours continue to swirl about Apple and its certain/probable/possible/mythical/impossible product introductions for 2014 (some may be all five at once). Given Apple's recent history, and that we've made it this far into the year without any major introductions, the Spy is convinced (has managed to convince himself—Nellie) that WWDC will be the venue for some significant product announcements.

Our reader may recall that by delaying two minutes after 0900 on ticket sale day in 2013, he missed by nearly half a minute the "sold-out" state for the 5000 tickets. This year, he put in his name on receiving Apple's kind invitation to do so, and was astonished to receive approval to buy after a random draw a few days later, so is one of the favoured ones--his first WWDC in several years. He anticipates interesting days in early June San Francisco. In what respect?

By all appearances Apple is focused these days on hardware rather than software, though the Spy opines that this perception is due to supplier and partner leaks on the hardware side providing the meat for a kind of speculation for which Apple's high-security cloister on the software front throttles the fuel for any such rumours before they can exit the campus.

Immediate focus should be on new MacBook Pro models (likely introduced before WWDC and showcased there), a new and larger iPhone/iPod Touch (to be announced there but not available till later) the iWatch (mentioned tongue in cheek last month, and a definite maybe to join an increasingly crowded field in the next few months) and a new TV product--almost ready, and the best candidate for a blockbuster hardware announcement. Call it an iTV+/pro/s.

The Spy recently purchased one of the current models to supplement his video centre--not that he is even connected to a TV network, but as the only available window on the iTunes store videos. Not withstanding that Apple has made a billion dollars on these little boxes in the past year, they still are a hobby--as indeed appears to be the entire genre. Selection is limited, the interface unimaginative and awkward, there is no live programming, little older TV or movies, and some services, like Netflix, are available in many other ways (through the receiver, TV, or Blu-ray player software). It's nice to have, it's very fast, the store connection of course exclusive to it, and the iPod app remote convenient, but it won't get used a lot here. Neither will his subscription to Netflix once the free month runs out. The Spy supposes one could stretch a point and call the offerings content, but like most television programming it's repetitious, thin, hackneyed, and dull. You'd think there would at least be live news.

So a new TV product must be much more to be worthwhile and to fit iSteve's enthusiastic descriptions--not likely just a software upgrade, but a whole new approach in a set top box and/or full blown large screen TV. However game-changing the interface and hardware, however, content is the key, and tie-ins to movie studios, TV networks, and/or cable providers to stream their content through Apple's hardware the only way this product category is ever going to be more than a hobby--and it would take extreme doses of all those to persuade the Spy to open his wallet. More, he believes the delays in bringing the concept to market are due to a paucity of content agreements, not of engineers to instantiate Jobs' concepts.

No doubt the current box would be downgraded to an iTV Jr/-/v1, though possibly with some of the new feature set so as not to antagonize the billions of dollars already spent. But unless Apple indeed raises the art to something far beyond the entire current set top box niche tools, the company is better off not bothering. Ditto very many more models of the iPhone or even a first model of an iWatch--Apple needs to give its imitators something genuinely new to copy rather than run merely to catch up with them.

Besides being more opaque the software side of the Apple machinery is perhaps more interesting. It's been a truism for some decades that software utility lags far behind hardware capability, and this remains true today. Indeed the lag grows yearly.

That leads one to ask what, besides the obvious iOS 9 and OS XI, the legions of Apple's software gnomes are mining behind the multiple closed doors at One Infinite Loop.

Apple's iWork is thus far kin to iTV--a moderately lucrative hobby for the home market, but scarcely a marketing threat in the professional workplace. The Spy, for decades an avid reviewer and consumer of word-and number-smithing products, uses none of its components except Keynote, a true upgrade on the Office suite, whose other components earn first, his best overall software product award (all categories) for Excel--he uses it a lot--and second, his worst of category raspberry for Word--never, never, never open it! There is, by the way, no single best-for-everything writing product. BBEdit and Alpha have their strengths for code, Nisus Writer Pro for general writing, and the incomparable Scrivener for books and scripts. This is probably the way it must be, though an alliance among the three could produce something amazing in a componetized product.

OTOH, FileMaker Pro is a superior product, OTOH the MS offering--what's it called again?--not worth accepting even as free. The Spy is baffled over this. MS must know they have an eviscerated turkey (bad metaphor considering it never had any vis) in this category, yet never does anything about it. Why not? Because they can't?

The bottom line on the number crunching front is no new opportunities, unless Apple decides to do an accounting product that includes fund accounting--a category not currently available on the Mac, and not well done elsewhere thus far either.

Now you would think that with WWDC showcasing the overwhelming plurality of Apple ecosystem developers over all others, Apple's development software would be a shining example of how to do things right in enabling programmers to do things righter. Not. xCode could use considerable work. Indeed, the pre-OS X MPW, though primitive in some ways, was easy to use, more versatile and more customizable, especially when it came to dropping alternate languages into the environment.

The ideal programming environment has superb file handling (including multiple-user version control), program editing with multiple language keyword highlighting (think BBEdit or Alpha), has all the back end tools for building end products, low-end libraries of procedures and constants for binding, comes with a choice of two or three languages and plenty of current examples for starters, and allows for simple, easily integrated alternate language drop in support.

Apple's XCode has Objective C. Nothing else. Worse, it makes it difficult (not impossible) to integrate other language packages, and increases that difficulty by changing and removing functionality from version to version instead of adding to a solid base. The Spy gets that this is supposed to be in the name of consistency, a closed ecosystem, and their ease of support. But convenience, versatility, and appropriateness are all being sacrificed. Apple does not get that no language is ideal for every problem solving domain--all have their strengths and weaknesses; some are better for some things, others for others.

For instance, the Spy would never dream of teaching beginners in either C++ or Objective C. Far too steep a learning curve, and too many inconsistencies in the language designs. Python and Modula-2 (the latter despite being older) are far better. Modula-2 can be made to run in XCode, but not easily. A combination of the commercial p1 compiler, the open source Alpha editor, and the RSMP/RASS back end utilities with gcc seems best, but without XCode's unnecessary awkwardness. Coming up: Modula-2 R10, which incorporates many new programming paradigms and may turn out to be the easiest-to-use high level notation yet. (Disclaimer: The Spy is one of the designers.) And, on the gripping hand, many people in numerical analysis still prefer to use Fortran. Still others overlook the complexity of Ada for its elegance. Further examples abound. Why not encourage multiple language use. The linker doesn't care. This could have been done much better, Apple.

But there is a software category for which a dramatic re-think is possible, one Apple could exploit to move way ahead of the curve (again). Computers are touted as having the potential to make all aspects of life, community, and work simpler, faster, easier, better, and the Spy has been one such prognosticator for decades. Mind, he has worried equally long about the potential to empower destructive behaviour, but it is important to note for both evil and good, that computers are mere tools. They add no meaning, have no intentionality--both, for whatever purpose and end, reside entirely in the user. A hammer can both build and destroy. Computers are no different.

To some extent (though the tools are primitive compared with what they could and will be, this promise has been fulfilled by word processors, spreadsheets, database management and accounting software--all of which do make many work tasks far easier than they once were. However, the whole communications sphere is primitive and fragmented--one-purpose tools like social media, texting, instant messaging, notification, email, and voice telephone have their use-strengths, but the collection lacks the kind of integration and unity that would make it truly a communications game changer that even present day hardware could enable, were the software up to it. What we need, and someone will eventually supply, is a one-stop communications shop with all tools integrated into a single user experience. An iPhone goes partway there, but Apple can do better--much better--and it is unlikely anyone else could, except by way of slavish imitation.

And, as the Spy has mentioned more than once in this space
Tim Cook remarked to him at a previous WWDC that Apple had not yet figured out how to do a textbook reader right, and wouldn't release a product until they did. The Spy knows as well as anyone that textbooks are not novels, and cannot be properly read in the same simplistic way. However, the clock is ticking, iTim. The first company to do it will hand the entire paper textbook publishing industry an instant death sentence and take over what is left. Why should a student pay $350 for an Abstract Algebra or Principles of Compiler Writing textbook instead of downloading it into a suitable reader for a mere $10.

WWAD? WWDC will tell much of this year's story, but the Spy anticipates the majority of the announcements will be hardware related. And, the Spy will be there. Thus, the June column will appear a couple of days late, and will be written on the floor of the convention hall as revelations are made. Indeed, as in previous visits, much of it may be written ahead of time, and only polished there. Likewise, there may be a second column later in the week. Stay tuned, and remember, you read it here first.

--The Northern Spy

Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member or consultant with the boards of several community and organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and nine novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Arjay Enterprises:
The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com
opundo : http://opundo.com
Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org
WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net
WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net
nameman : http://nameman.net

General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Books:
Author Site: http://www.arjay.ca
Publisher's Site: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Richard-Sutcliffe.html
The Fourth Civilization--Ethics, Society, and Technology (4th 2003 ed.): http://www.arjay.bc.ca/EthTech/Text/index.html
URLs for items mentioned in this column
p1 Modula-2: http://modula2.awiedemann.de/
ETH RAMSES/RASS project: http://www.sysecol.ethz.ch/RAMSES/RASS.html
AlphaX programming editor: http://alphatcl.sourceforge.net/wiki/pmwiki.php/Software/AlphaX
Modula-2 R10--see the link at: http://www.modula-2.com/

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Bookends 12.8 - Reference management and...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Bookends uses the cloud to sync reference libraries on all the Macs you use.... Read more
Apple iTunes 12.6 - Play Apple Music and...
Apple iTunes lets you organize and stream Apple Music, download and watch video and listen to Podcasts. It can automatically download new music, app, and book purchases across all your devices and... Read more
Default Folder X 5.1.4 - Enhances Open a...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click on... Read more
Amazon Chime 4.1.5587 - Amazon-based com...
Amazon Chime is a communications service that transforms online meetings with a secure, easy-to-use application that you can trust. Amazon Chime works seamlessly across your devices so that you can... Read more
CrossOver 16.2 - Run Windows apps on you...
CrossOver can get your Windows productivity applications and PC games up and running on your Mac quickly and easily. CrossOver runs the Windows software that you need on Mac at home, in the office,... Read more
Adobe Creative Cloud 4.0.0.185 - Access...
Adobe Creative Cloud costs $19.99/month for a single app, or $49.99/month for the entire suite. Introducing Adobe Creative Cloud desktop applications, including Adobe Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC... Read more
MegaSeg 6.0.2 - Professional DJ and radi...
MegaSeg is a complete solution for pro audio/video DJ mixing, radio automation, and music scheduling with rock-solid performance and an easy-to-use design. Mix with visual waveforms and Magic... Read more
Bookends 12.8 - Reference management and...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Bookends uses the cloud to sync reference libraries on all the Macs you use.... Read more
Adobe Creative Cloud 4.0.0.185 - Access...
Adobe Creative Cloud costs $19.99/month for a single app, or $49.99/month for the entire suite. Introducing Adobe Creative Cloud desktop applications, including Adobe Photoshop CC and Illustrator CC... Read more
Default Folder X 5.1.4 - Enhances Open a...
Default Folder X attaches a toolbar to the right side of the Open and Save dialogs in any OS X-native application. The toolbar gives you fast access to various folders and commands. You just click on... Read more

The best deals on the App Store this wee...
Deals, deals, deals. We're all about a good bargain here on 148Apps, and luckily this was another fine week in App Store discounts. There's a big board game sale happening right now, and a few fine indies are still discounted through the weekend.... | Read more »
The best new games we played this week
It's been quite the week, but now that all of that business is out of the way, it's time to hunker down with some of the excellent games that were released over the past few days. There's a fair few to help you relax in your down time or if you're... | Read more »
Orphan Black: The Game (Games)
Orphan Black: The Game 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Dive into a dark and twisted puzzle-adventure that retells the pivotal events of Orphan Black. | Read more »
The Elder Scrolls: Legends is now availa...
| Read more »
Ticket to Earth beginner's guide: H...
Robot Circus launched Ticket to Earth as part of the App Store's indie games event last week. If you're not quite digging the space operatics Mass Effect: Andromeda is serving up, you'll be pleased to know that there's a surprising alternative on... | Read more »
Leap to victory in Nexx Studios new plat...
You’re always a hop, skip, and a jump away from a fiery death in Temple Jump, a new platformer-cum-endless runner from Nexx Studio. It’s out now on both iOS and Android if you’re an adventurer seeking treasure in a crumbling, pixel-laden temple. | Read more »
Failbetter Games details changes coming...
Sunless Sea, Failbetter Games' dark and gloomy sea explorer, sets sail for the iPad tomorrow. Ahead of the game's launch, Failbetter took to Twitter to discuss what will be different in the mobile version of the game. Many of the changes make... | Read more »
Splish, splash! The Pokémon GO Water Fes...
Niantic is back with a new festival for dedicated Pokémon GO collectors. The Water Festival officially kicks off today at 1 P.M. PDT and runs through March 29. Magikarp, Squirtle, Totodile, and their assorted evolved forms will be appearing at... | Read more »
Death Road to Canada (Games)
Death Road to Canada 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $7.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Get it now at the low launch price! Price will go up a dollar every major update. Update news at the bottom of this... | Read more »
Bean's Quest Beginner's Guide:...
Bean's Quest is a new take on both the classic platformer and the endless runner, and it's free on the App Store for the time being. Instead of running constantly, you can't stop jumping. That adds a surprising new level of challenge to the game... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

2.6GHz Mac mini on sale for $559, $140 off MS...
Guitar Center has the 2.6GHz Mac mini (MGEN2LL/A) on sale for $559 including free shipping. Their price is $140 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model. Read more
SSD Speeder RAM Disk SSD Life Extender App Fo...
Fehraltorf, Switzerland based B-Eng has announced they are making their SSD Speeder app for macOS publicly available for purchase on their website. SSD Speeder is a RAM disk utility that prevents... Read more
iPhone Scores Highest Overall in Smartphone D...
Customer satisfaction is much higher among smartphone owners who use their device to operate other connected home services such as smart thermostats and smart appliances, according to the J.D. Power... Read more
Swipe CRM Free Photo-Centric CRM Sales DEal C...
Swipe CRM LLC has introduced Swipe CRM: Visual Sales 1.0 for iPad, an app for creating, managing, and sharing visually stunning sales deals. Swipe CRM is targeted to small-and-medium creative... Read more
13-inch 2.0GHz Apple MacBook Pros on sale for...
B&H has the non-Touch Bar 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 2.0GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray (... Read more
15-inch Touch Bar MacBook Pros on sale for up...
B&H Photo has the new 2016 15″ Apple Touch Bar MacBook Pros in stock today and on sale for up to $150 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 15″ 2.7GHz Touch Bar... Read more
Apple’s iPhone 6s Tops Best-Selling Smartphon...
In terms of shipments, the iPhone 6s from Apple bested all competitors for sales in 2016, according to new analysis from IHS Markit, a world leader in critical information, analytics and solutions.... Read more
Logitech Rugged Combo Protective iPad Case an...
Logitech has announced its Logitech Rugged Combo, Logitech Rugged Case, and Logitech Add-on Keyboard for Rugged Case for Apple’s new, more affordable $329 9.7-inch iPad, a complete solution designed... Read more
T-Mobile To Offer iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus...
T-Mobile has announced it will offer iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition in a vibrant red aluminum finish. The introduction of this special edition iPhone celebrates Apple’s 10... Read more
9-inch 128GB iPad Pros on sale for $50-$70 of...
B&H Photo has 9.7″ 128GB Apple WiFi iPad Pros on sale for up to $70 off MSRP, each including free shipping. B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 9″ Space Gray 128GB WiFi iPad Pro: $649 $50... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple,...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Fulltime aan de slag als shopmanager in een h...
Ben jij helemaal gek van Apple -producten en vind je het helemaal super om fulltime shopmanager te zijn in een jonge en hippe elektronicazaak? Wil jij werken in Read more
Starte Dein Karriere-Abenteuer in den Hauptst...
…mehrsprachigen Teams betreust Du Kunden von bekannten globale Marken wie Apple , Mercedes, Facebook, Expedia, und vielen anderen! Funktion Du wolltest schon Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions- Chicago...
SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Fulltime aan de slag als shopmanager in een h...
Ben jij helemaal gek van Apple -producten en vind je het helemaal super om fulltime shopmanager te zijn in een jonge en hippe elektronicazaak? Wil jij werken in Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.