Writings about Macs, music and more by Kirk McElhearn



New York Times Tinfoil Hat Squad Accuses Apple of Intentionally Slowing Down iPhones; and Why They’re Wrong


There’s a lot of stupid at the New York Times, but an article today wins the stupid of the month award. Under the innocuous headline Hold the Phone: A Big-Data Conundrum, Times author Sendhil Mullainthan claims that “every time a new iPhone comes out, my existing iPhone seems to slow down,” and shows evidence that this is a huge conspiracy led by the evil masters of Cupertino.

You see, the author has a chart; based on research by a PhD student, who looked at Google Trends to see how many people searched for “iPhone slow,” the author concludes that somehow slows down your iPhone when a new model is released:


In Apple’s case, the company sells the device and makes the operating system. In principle, this creates the motive (to sell more devices) and the means (control over the operating systems) to slow down the old phone.

Yet this doesn’t happen with Samsung Galaxy phones; that curve is constantly ascending with little variation:


The author points out that “This data reveals only correlations, not conclusions.” Indeed. And the reason for this search – “iPhone slow” – is obvious, and the author of the article even explains it. But rather then ending with that explanation, he finishes the article with statement “And if those correlations allow conspiracy theorists to become that much more smug, that’s a small price to pay.”

But go up a few paragraphs to the point where the author tells why this happens:

Every major iPhone release coincides with a major new operating system release. Though Apple would not comment on the matter, one could speculate — and many have — that a new operating system, optimized for new phones, would slow down older phones. This could also explain the Samsung-iPhone difference: Because only 18 percent of Android users have the latest operating systems on their phones, whereas 90 percent of iPhone users do, any slowdown from a new operating system would be naturally bigger for iPhones.

Yea, that’s exactly what’s happening. iPhone users get free updates to iOS, whereas Android phones mostly do not get updates at all; or, if they do, they are staggered over a long period of time. And iOS has a high uptake rate, with more than 50% of users upgrading in the first week of the availability of a new version of iOS. So why dress this article up in conspiracy theories?

Yes, this is a good article for click bait, and all that “big data” ballyhoo is just a mistake in basic assumptions. Not only does correlation not equal causation, but one needs to know what one is looking for. In this case, the PhD student who played around with Google Trends clearly did not understand the issue.

Let the Beats Go On: European Commission OKs Apple’s $3B purchase of Beats


The European Commission issued a press release to say that the Apple-Beats deal cleared under the EU Merger Regulation legislation. The goal of the EU’s merger policies is to examine such deals and "prevent harmful effects on competition."

Apple has confirmed it will buy Beats for $3 billion, making it the company’s largest acquisition ever. Beats is best known for its premium headphones, but also recently launched a subscription music streaming service that was the key to Apple’s interest.

The commission said on Monday that although both Beats and Apple sell headphones in Europe, their combined market share is low and the two companies are not close competitors. The EU noted that headphones from Apple and Beats "differ markedly in functionality and design."

It was also said that major headphone competitors, such as Bose, Sennheiser and Sony, would remain in the marketplace after the Apple-Beats deal closes.

It’s now up to US regulators to issue their approval, and it would be surprising if this didn’t happen soon.

via European Commission OKs Apple's $3B purchase of Beats.

ReadKit RSS Reader for OS X on Sale 50% Off


ReadKit.175x175-75ReadKit, an RSS reader for OS X, is on sale at 50% off for a limited time. I use ReadKit, and it replaced NetNewsWire for me. It’s got a nice, clean interface, and works smoothly. It’s not perfect, but I like it better than the other apps I’ve tried for managing RSS on the desktop.

Get ReadKit from the Mac App Store for $5.

Bose accuses Beats of using patented noise-cancelling tech


Bose Corp. filed a lawsuit on Friday that accuses popular headphone maker Beats Electronics of infringing upon several of its patents.

The suit claims that Bose lost sales because Beats—which Apple announced it would acquire for $3 billion in May—used patented noise-cancelling technology in its Studio and Studio Wireless headphone lines.

Beats’ products that allegedly use the technology “can also be used for noise cancellation when no music is played, a feature that Beats also advertises,” the suit states. “Thus, Beats specifically encourages users to use the infringing functionality. Beats advertises no method to turn off features that cause end users to directly infringe.”

Bose is probably taking advantage of the fact that Beats is now valued at $3 billion. But why didn’t they wait a few months more? Apple doesn’t yet own Beats, and any money that can be obtained in a suit like this would come from Beats, not Apple.

Also, noise-cancelling technology is quite old; I’m surprised that there are patents like this, but these may simply be patents that refine the technology.

I’m reminded of the Grateful Dead’s wall of sound concerts, where sound engineer Bear (Stanley Owsley) discovered that he could cancel out the sound coming from behind the musicians using two microphones. If you watch The Grateful Dead Movie you can see those noise canceling mikes: the singers sing into the top one, and the lower one picks up the sound from behind them to cancel it out. Alas, the technology was in early stages then, and the sound of the vocals from that period isn’t great.


via Bose accuses Beats of using patented noise-cancelling tech | Ars Technica.

DVD Notes: The Forsyte Saga


Forsyte saga dvdA few years ago, I watched the 2002 TV adaption of The Forsyte Saga with Damien Lewis. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) I was impressed by this series, which looks at an upper middle-class English family and the events that unfold as people in the family stop conforming to tradition. From a trilogy of novels by the hugely prolific Nobel-prize winning author John Galsworthy, The Forsyte Saga is, to be blunt, a high-class soap opera, but in the style of Marcel Proust or Henry James.

I was therefore tempted to go back to the BBC’s 1967 television adaptation, which shows the trilogy in 26 episodes, rather than the twelve episodes of the freer adaptation of the later version.

This work looks at the truth behind the veneer of an established, monied family, and how some of its members break with tradition. A son falls in love with his daughter’s governess, and goes off to live with her, giving up his life of comfort to eke out a living as a painter. His daughter later grows up and falls in love with a bohemian architect. Another of the sons makes a bad marriage. A daughter marries a gambler who loses too much money.

But throughout the entire series – and trilogy of novels – this family is seen as losing its anchors as modernity catches up with it, and as people begin questioning the sacrosanct idea that “He’s a Forsyte,” as though that will get everyone through the tough times.

This TV series bears the mark of the times. Shot in black and white, it’s fairly rigid, because of the type of cameras used. Some of the acting is a bit melodramatic, but the direction is interesting and, in some ways, innovative. While most of the series is shot like a play on a soundstage, some shots look like those used in French nouvelle vague films.

It’s a fascinating series, a bit like Downton Abbey on a lower budget (I’m sure that Downton Abbey was strongly influenced by this series). While it shows its age,

The Forsyte Saga runs 1295 minutes on 7 DVDs, and is available in the UK at the astoundingly low price of around £13. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) The US edition is about $55, but if you’re in the US, and have a multi-region DVD player, get it from the UK.

If you wish to read the books, you can get them in Penguin paperbacks, but there’s also a decent Kindle edition of all of the Forsyte Saga novels, plus Galsworthy’s later series A Modern Comedy, which follow the Forsyte family through the 1920s, and The End of the Chapter, which goes on even later. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

CD Notes: The Transcendentalist, Music by Scriabin, Cage, and Feldman


Listened to this recording a few times yesterday and today to review for MusicWeb. Great stuff. A nice selection of calm music, including a good performance of Morton Feldman’s Palais de Mari. Includes a work by a young composer, Scott Mollschleger, in the Feldmanesque vein.

(Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

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