By Rick Sutcliffe

The Spy’s Fourth Law reminds us that marketshare lags mindshare by two to five years. Long before the Internet was invented, but was detailed here as the Metalibrary, the Spy warned that bringing people closer together electronically, far from creating the other pundits’ global village, would exacerbate old prejudices, hatreds, and uninformed beliefs, thus promoting division, not unity.

This is exactly what the Internet has delivered–an echo-chamber platform for reinforcing differences rather than enabling dialog, much less promoting true tolerance. The latter was already denigrated in a headlong rush to enforce a narrow view of “liberal” that (at times forcibly) excludes any competing ideas, thus creating a deep sense of philosophical and political alienation on the part of those who differ, and at the same time provoking a twisted collection of extremist counter-prejudices that are only a parody of conservatism. The “liberals” and “conservatives” of old would neither of them recognize the current political landscape.

This plays out daily on university campuses and in the media, supposedly our civilization’s bastions of free speech, where rigid extremist censorship has become the norm–a microcosm of the rise of virulent nationalism on the world stage. The “different” is no longer tolerated as a legitimate discourse partner; rather it is exorciated as an enemy to be obliterated.

Can anyone still claim that the world has become a safer, better, more tolerant, less dangerous place? The biggest loser is the very liberal democracy that prematurely proclaimed itself as the end of history without realizing that the very intolerant triumphalism inherent in trumpeting its victory predicated its own demise. A truly tolerant society entertains, even promotes, the free exchange and polite debate of competing views–even of those that threaten its very existence, for if its fundamentals are too weakly-founded to allow them to be exposed to the give and take of dialogue over ideas, it cannot survive, and the Greek view of political history as a mere endless cycle from democracy to dictatorship to kingdom to empire to anarchy and back to democracy will prove correct.

The democracy of the West has been losing mindshare for some time now, and the emergence of dictatorially-leaning power-seekers in various parts of the world is one inevitable consequence. Another is the clashes among them as they and the countries they rule clash over territory and trade routes–witness as sample points the collapse of the old Yugoslavia, India and Pakistan, Italy and France, China vs the world, the pending disintegration of the EU, and the failure of once prosperous countries such as Venezuela.

Intellectually, socially, geographically, and politically, the American experiment in Democracy seems to be sputtering out as its two major political parties fan mutual antipathies to play to their respective choirs, its splintering into three or more entities or slide into dictatorship gathering momentum with each passing day. The rise in racism, sexism, corruption, nasty nationalism, dishonourable behaviour, “political correctness” gone mad, the intolerance against religion, even the ugly resurgence of anti-semitism, all pile on. When the epistemological and moral basis for a civilization fractures, it inevitably either rigidifies in a vain attempt at nostalgic forced restoration, or it becomes prey for an assortment of political vultures masquerading as saviours, or both. We live in perilous times

The mundane consequences for technology firms like Apple are that heavy reliance on the Chinese market was misplaced in the light of that country’s uncertain economy, crushing debt load, territorial and political dominance ambitions and xenophobia. Worse, most of Apple’s manufacturing is located there, but in the light of recent events, little of its future for market expansion. 

The Communist Party controls that nation’s mindset and marketshare, and in their ideology there need be no lag between the two. Neither is enterprise private; it exists to serve the party’s interests. Paralleling Western group think, it seeks to forcibly rewrite even religion to conform to party dogma.

The situation is exacerbated by the emergent issues around Chinese technology giant Huawei, which are threefold. First, that China’s government want its people to develop and purchase strictly domestic products. Second, that some Western politicians, whether justified or not, have become paranoid about spyware in Huawei products, particularly in nascent 5G technology. (This may be misplaced, but if true would be consistent with the way intelligence is routinely gathered in most parts of the world.) 

Third, the arrest in Canada of Huawei executive and favoured daughter of the founder, Meng Wanzhou, on U.S. fraud charges has created a political three-nation firestorm, which has resulted in China’s random retaliatory arrests of Canadian citizens accompanying demands that she be released immediately, and that American extradition proceedings be ignored or dropped.

Apple is caught between a rock and a hard place. For both political and financial reasons it can scarcely extract all its manufacturing to another country overnight. Meanwhile its hoped-for marketshare in China vanishes by the day. This situation will get much worse before there is any chance of improvement. The only long-term solution is to gradually move manufacturing to more stable environments, while accepting smaller margins and unit sales, in addition to a much lower share price. Mind, the coming stock market crash will take care of the latter.

The Cupertino giant simultaneously faces the twin issues of market saturation, and its own sorry recent track record on innovation–which are combining to further damage iPhone sales, the mainstay of its passing success. Apple has not kept pace with the competition, its quality control is in decline, people are realizing this, and either buying elsewhere, or hanging on to their three- and four-year-old devices rather than upgrading to the latest and no-longer-insanely-greatest Apple product. 

This aspect of Apple’s woes is of its own making, and even if corrected, will not show on the bottom line for several years. (The gap between mindshare and marketshare is much longer on the way up than on the way down.) A case in point is the rush to market by competitors of foldable phones, a space in which Apple seems stalled at the early design phase. A second case in point is the sad neglect of the Mac line, especially the all-but-forgotten Mac Pro.

What we need to see at the very least at June’s WWDC is a proposed lineup including a larger MacBook Pro (16+ inches) and a new modular MacPro, then in the fall, something to inspire phone buyers–IOW new commitments to Apple’s previously loyal base. The Spy notes, BTW, that Apple’s shareholders this past month re-elected their board. They should rather have shaken it up thoroughly to inject in new blood and new ideas.

Who will be the first to introduce a phone that rolls up and slides into my pocket protector? (The Spy brushes up his nerd credentials.) Who will produce the first full-fledged PIEA (Personal Intelligence Enhancement Appliance), the first functional textbook reader, fully implement the universal Metalibrary, or invent their practical wearable interfaces, all of which he first described decades ago? Not likely Apple as things stand. Time for some new and creative upstarts building and tinkering with gadgets in their garages.

Also reprising comments about the Spy’s upgrade of his 2010 workhouse tower Mac Pro, he notes that the Sapphire Nitro Radeon RX 580 card he installed in order to move the box to Mojave has solved a long standing problem with the PCI bus, which had been suffering from intermittent outages, thus rendering the USB3 card he installed useless, for such a blip during backup had the potential to ruin the destination partition. It all just works again. He guesses the old graphics card must have been either failing or suffering from a lack of power. 

In a second reprise of recent notes, does our reader know whether upgrades beyond Excel 2016 fixed the problems it has with dialog boxes built with definition tables not entering the list box choice in the related text box? The Spy sees no information about this online, has not received an answer from MS, and does not relishing wasting more money on a further downgrade. Tinkering with code without testing the result is hardly the stuff of a company that cares about old customers. If the Spy must rewrite all his macros, it will be in the confines of a different company’s spreadsheet.

In a third such, Mojave, while generally sound, turns out to have stability issues after all. IOW, it behaves a little more like W*nd*ws. Scrolling occasionally freezes, and both it and the current IOS have crashed a couple of times–something new and unwelcome in an Apple OS. Let’s hope this is an anomaly that will vanish in subsequent point revisions.

Oh, and that upgrade of his LAMP server to Easy Apache 4 did proceed without a hitch. (Sigh of relief). Now he must upgrade MySQL beyond version 5.5. However, some users have old passwords that will not pass muster any more and these must be changed first. Getting there, but kilometres to go. Then there is the looming and necessary transition to CentOS 7 before November 2020 when version 6 will no longer function with CoudLinux. Another sigh, not of relief. Lots of work.

Finally, there will be no further novels any time soon. The Spy’s role as Interim Dean of Science at TWU as been extended, perhaps as much as a year, and he was re-elected a chair of the university Senate for three more years. Who has time to write when you are managing mission fulfillment, people, teaching, research, complex facilities, new construction, and the faculty budget while herding cats? No thought of retiring for the foreseeable future. Life is anything but dull.

Another log standing prediction of the Spy seems, by recent reports, about to be realized, as WWDC 2019 may turn out to be the event where iCook announces Apple will finally abandon the Intel chip platform and begin using its own ARM-based chips for Macs, thus more tightly integrating its two platforms. 

The Spy still bemoans the demise of the RISC Power PC chip that Apple stopped using because IBM was uninterested in solving the heat and efficiency issues for a chip it uses in server farms where there is plenty of wasteful external cooling. Now that Intel’s own innovation in chip design has apparently stalled out, change has become inevitable. Dare we hope that Apple’s success in chip design will exceed its software engineering prowess and macro hardware innovation skills?

How to assess such reports/rumours? In the Spy’s view, the Apple would indeed be insane not already to have functional prototypes with a variety of such chips running a ported Mojave on its test benches. That much one can take for granted, even though Apple’s first rule is that nothing not yet announced even exists. That many such experiments do exist can be taken to the bank. And, if and when ARM-inspired chips exceed the performance of the Intel ones, Apple will flip the switch. Expect an announcement in year 2019+n for a implementation one year later. The value of n is either zero or one.

There will be important consequences of course. Every Apple app will have to be rewritten/recompiled to work on the new processor. Not all will succeed. Running W*nd*ws on a Mac will become harder (extinct?) even though at times even the Spy must do so, as he is required to work with software whose vendor is unwilling or unable to port it to MacOS.

OTOH, Apple would consolidate total control of its platform so that it no longer was beholden to an outside vendor’s schedule for its chips. Uniformity of thinking in action. Hmmm. Faintly evocative that.

–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, Interim 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, the most recent published in 2018. 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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