By Rick Sutcliffe

Further On Apple’s latest iterations

The Spy notes that Apple parts suppliers have been notifying shareholders of massive reductions in their order books. Stocks have fallen, and Apple shares in turn have led the whole premium high tech stock sector into a deep downward spiral. Indeed at this writing, Apples market cap, having lost some 20% was below that of Microsoft for the first time in many moons. Should anyone be astonished? 

Christmas buying season is well advanced and Apple has no new compelling product to entice buyers. To be sure, there will be iPhone replacements and a few Mac minis will go out the door, but these are hardly the stuff of exciting innovation that once fueled Apple. Indeed, the current iPhones, when measured against the competition appear overpriced and pedestrian, so can scarcely be called significant upgrades. 

Samsung, meanwhile, appears to be on the verge of bringing a foldable product to market. This has a phone form factor when folded, and a mini-tablet format when unfolded. Samsung and others will eat Apple’s lunch if products like these do turn out to be viable. An application of iTimbits is insufficient to staunch the bleeding. Apple has lived on innovation. No longer insanely great, it may well die for the lack of it. Sic transit gloria mali. Perhaps the new Cupertino Apple barn will one day be inherited by another.

That old Mac Pro upgrade that the Spy mentioned in last month’s column is not going well at the moment. He purchased the Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 580 card and it was delivered satisfactorily. But to install it as generally recommended, two PCI-e mini to PCI-e internal power cables are needed, and he only had one. An order to OWC (MacSales) followed in early November. Sick transit, on the third glorious Monday since, and their order status still says only that their local post office has been notified that a shipment is on its way. OWC says to wait to December 20 before putting in a lost order ticket. Ah…they cannot trace it, or they don’t want to try? 

‘Course, one has to cut the current system some slack. After all, perhaps their local post office burned down. Perhaps the parcel made it farther, into the now completely dysfunctional Canadian postal system, hit by strikes in a labour dispute that had Christmas parcels delayed perhaps as late as March, even before black and cyber stuff was ordered en masse. 

Another cable issue was somewhat more easily solved. The card boasts (full sized) DisplayPort output as well as HDMI and DVI. Used to mini Display Port, the Spy never gave that bit of info a thought when ordering the card. Display Port cables are not that easy to come by, but he’s found a few with either DVI or Mini Display Port female on the other end. These, with the other ports ought to be sufficient for his three monitors.

It’s been a rude welcome back to cable hades. It reminds the Spy of the days when RS-232 computer-printer cables were so non-standard one had to employ a breakout box to determine which signal was being requested or delivered on pins 2,3,5,7, and 12 (+ sometimes others, as the whim struck manufacturers), and build a custom cable accordingly for each installation. Now we need a large and growing supply of anything- to-anything dongles and cable converters. All this, and the Spy has yet to buy a TB3/USB 3.1 emitting device, which will require yet another whole set of dongles and docks–a boon for cable manufacturers, but a grand expensive nuisance for anyone supporting just their own desktop, let alone several. Apple take note. You have left your customers behind several times on this issue. Sooner or later they may leave you behind.

Quality teaching and research are the femurs on which every academic institution (and for the latter every technology vendor) stand. A college or university that does not do serious QA in both areas will soon empty of students. Indeed current demographic trends tell us that many such schools will have to close in the coming years for lack of prospective students in the pipeline. (Go online and foreign markets or go home.)

TWU, the Spy’s own school is intentional in both areas, and now that he is Dean of the Faculty of Natural and Applied Sciences (again, and for at least the interim until a  search is done) he is first-line responsible for that QA. Of course, in any university, the Senate is the place where that buck ultimately stops, for that is where the policies on academic quality are formulated and enforced via suitable conformance reporting mechanisms. Deans for instance must report compliance to syllabi standards or face the wrath of the Senate Chair. (Oh wait, the Spy is still that person too.)

On the teaching and general student experience side, TWU can point to the Globe and Mail surveys of student satisfaction conducted from 2006 to 2012 where the university received an A+ rating for the seven straight years it ran, and the more recent National Survey on Student Engagement (NSSE) where it ranked second in Canada among all universities for enriching educational experience. 

Innovative research is equally as important as quality teaching, and indeed the latter depends on the former, for quality teaching atrophies once its content passes its best before date. A professor can only claim to know the field if (s)he is both current on relevant research and can successfully teach it. Only those who can are able to teach, and only those who teach successfully may claim they can. This is especially true in science.

This is where mainly undergraduate institutions can serve their students better than the large research-oriented schools. Not only do students get quality teaching from senior faculty (who they would never meet until grad school in the big public institutions) but they can work as markers or TAs and partner with those professors on their research projects. Many are the TWU grads with their names on peer reviewed papers in major journals. A number of those grads have been accepted directly into PhD programs, having been deemed to have passed the M.Sc. hurdle of learning how to do original research. For others it is their ticket into professional graduate schools.

So, good on the Murdock Foundation for sponsoring undergraduate research development and holding the conference to showcase the results. May their tribe increase. Meanwhile the students this work benefits will be the new renaissance men and women of the next generation. Good on them too. May they surpass their teachers.

–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, Dean of Science, and Chair of the University Senate at Canada’s Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member of or consultant with the boards of several 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 ten alternate history SF novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His articles, columns, and papers have appeared in numerous magazines, newspapers, and journals (dead-tree 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 B.C. since 1972. 

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

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