News for March 2011

Jobs Re-Elected to Disney Board…

Walt Disney Co. (DIS) investors re- elected Apple Inc. (AAPL) Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs to the board of the entertainment company, rejecting the views of proxy advisers who say health issues may impair his ability to serve.

Thankfully real investors have carried the correct decision again. I can only assume that the same fuck-wits who wanted to cripple Apple’s strategic planning by forcing it to announce a succession plan were also behind the move to block Steve Jobs’ re-election at Disney.

Posted: March 24th, 2011
Categories: Apple, News
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Fukushima in Plain English…

First, at magnitude 9.0, this was one of the top ten strongest earthquakes in recorded history.  (Wow!)  The subsequent tsunamis, combined with the earthquake, make this one of the worst natural disasters EVER.  (Also Japan is apparently having a minor problem with a volcano, now.  Guys can’t catch a break.)

The reactors were designed 40 years ago, and in 2008 were certified for ground motion corresponding to about a magnitude 6.7 earthquake right under the plant.[11]  The reason this ground motion was selected was that Japan’s regulatory agency expected (rightly so!) that a ground motion stronger than that had a chance of happening only once in 10,000 years.  We lost the statistical gamble on that one.

One of the best plain English explanations of what has happened, and is likely to happen at Fukushima.

Posted: March 17th, 2011
Categories: News
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“Nuclear Boy” : うんち・おならで例える原発解説

If you are still having problems deciphering the inane babble about Fukushima, from so called “experts” on international news networks, then this cartoon actually does a better job than any panel of guests on a news show has done to date…

Stick with it. It’s worth it.

Posted: March 17th, 2011
Categories: News
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[Updated] AAPL Downgraded…

Analyst downgrades are a rare event for market darling Apple Inc. (AAPL ) these days, especially with iPhones and iPads flying off store shelves.

But JMP Securities’ Alex Gauna is taking a bit of a contrarian view, concerned that the tech giant’s seemingly unstoppable growth rate is set to slow. He downgraded Apple today to “market perform” from “market outperform,” citing a significant slowdown at its primary partner, Hon Hai Precision Industry, Taiwan’s top electronics firm.

Mr. Gauna is going against the tide. He’s among just five of 54 analysts with a “sell,” “hold” or “neutral” rating on the stock, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Personally, I think Gauna is smoking crack.

What he has achieved though, is a short term window (cynically constructed on the foundations of a natural disaster, which has panicked the markets) where certain people could make an absolute fortune selling, and then re-buying AAPL. If I didn’t know any better…

Update : Apparently some other people think Gauna smokes crack too…

Analysts with far better track records than Gauna felt obliged to shoot holes in his two chief arguments for downgrading the stock: 1) That Japanese supply lines are in turmoil and 2) that Hon Hai (Foxconn), which does much of Apple’s assembly, has experienced a slowdown in what had been breakneck growth.

Oppenheimer’s Yair Reiner pointed out Wednesday that Hon Hai — which is dependent on other manufacturers for nearly 80% of its business — is a lousy proxy for Apple. And Piper Jaffray’s Gene Munster issued a note Thursday in which he addressed Japan’s supply line troubles. While it’s true that Toshiba (which makes 40% of the world’s flash memory) and Mitsubishi (which is a major supplier of the resin used in iPhone and iPad circuit boards) have shut down their plants, Tim Cook buys these components in large pre-payment deals that guarantee supply and pricing. Apple is probably in better shape than any of its competitors to weather the storm.

But for me, nothing better underscored the shallowness of Gauna’s analysis than the appearance Wednesday of a 100-page report on Apple by a team at Credit Suisse headed by Kulbinder Garcha. Under the headline “The Most Valuable Company in the World?” Credit Suisse set a $500 target — $170 above Wednesday’s closing price — and summarized its findings with five bullet points:

Posted: March 17th, 2011
Categories: Apple, Opinion
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In Japan, Many Undersea Cables Are Damaged

According to research firm, Telegeography, the following cables have been damaged:

  • APCN-2, which is an intra-Asian cable, forms a ring linking China, Hong Kong, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan.
  • Pacific Crossing West and Pacific Crossing North, which are out of service.
  • PacNet has reported outages on segments of its East Asia Crossing network.
  • Korea Telecom reports that a segment of the Japan-U.S. Cable Network is damaged
  • NTT has reported damage to some segments of the PC-1 submarine cable system.

A report from Dow Jones Newswires suggests most companies are working hard to fix the network problems. The Dow Jones report has the following additional details:

  • KDDI says its cable between the U.S. and Japan is broken and it cannot transmit signals.
  • NTT is using back-up cable systems.
  • PCCW says the Internet traffic to the U.S. is slow.

In a story on Friday, Stacey Higginbotham pointed out that Chunghwa of Taiwan had reported an outage on the APCN-2 system, while China Unicom had reported some unspecified damage to “two or three cables.” There is clear decline in Japan’s Internet performance, according to the data from JPNAP.

    Posted: March 16th, 2011
    Categories: Interview, News
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    Apple Japan…

    Full disclosure:  I work at Apple at one of its stores in Japan.  The earthquake hit while I was working on the first floor of one of their stores.  As the entire building swayed, the staff calmly led people from the top 5 floors down to the first floor, and under the ridiculously strong wooden tables that hold up the display computers.

    7 hours and 118 aftershocks later, the store was still open.  Why? Because with the phone and train lines down, taxis stopped, and millions of people stuck in the Tokyo shopping district scared, with no access to television, hundreds of people were swarming into Apple stores to watch the news on USTREAM and contact their families via Twitter, Facebook, and email.  The young did it on their mobile devices, while the old clustered around the macs. There were even some Android users there. (There are almost no free wifi spots in Japan besides Apple stores, so even Android users often come to the stores.)

    You know how in disaster movies, people on the street gather around electronic shops that have TVs in the display windows so they can stay informed with what is going on?  In this digital age, that’s what the Tokyo Apple stores became.  Staff brought out surge protectors and extension cords with 10s of iOS device adapters so people could charge their phones & pads and contact their loved ones.  Even after we finally had to close 10pm, crowds of people huddled in front of our stores to use the wifi into the night, as it was still the only way to get access to the outside world.

    Anyway, I mention this not because I work at Apple now, or because I’m an admitted fanboy, but because I’m genuinely proud of the Apple Japan staff and their willingness to stay open to help people that day. And I’m also impressed with the way Apple’s products (and yes, Google’s, Twitter’s, and Facebook’s) helped them that day. Even after we had to close, many of the staff stayed outside the store to fixing iphones and teaching people how to contact family or stay informed via wifi.

    From Kevin Rose’s blog.

    Posted: March 15th, 2011
    Categories: Apple
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    Apple A5 Teardown…

    We had decapsulated the A5 a couple of days ago, but as you could see in those early pictures, you can’t tell much of a chip’s layout from the top metal – it’s all power and ground buses.  So we have to de-layer the chip down to a level where we can see the block layout of the chip; not an easy thing when there’s nine layers of metal!  In fact, these days it’s easier to go in from the back and remove the substrate silicon, and look at the gate level from below.  Then we can identify the circuit blocks that make up the full device.

    [W]e’ve labeled the key blocks; the ARM cores are in the right half of the die, with ~4.5 Mb of cache memory each.  We can also see the USB interface at the top, and the DDR SDRAM interfaces at the bottom right, for the memory in the top part of the package-on-package.  Other I/O blocks are strewn around the edge of the die.

    Interesting stuff.

    Posted: March 15th, 2011
    Categories: Apple, Geek, Technical Specs, ipad, iphone
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    iFixit : iPad 2 Smart Cover Teardown

    An amazing array of magnets, both in the iPad 2 and the Smart Cover, with polarities carefully organised, and each magnet positioned, to ensure that when you snap it on it “Just Works”. Very cool. Very Simple. Pretty much exactly how I assumed it worked. But the amount of R&D and practical experimentation that went into making sure the concept behaved as expected is obvious.

    Posted: March 14th, 2011
    Categories: Apple, ipad
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    Dear Japan…

    “To those who have been affected by the earthquake and tsunami, we send sympathies from our heart – In this deep …sadness, we are praying for the victims and their families.”

    *You can donate to the Red Cross via iTunes here. Apple has of course waived its 30% cut.

    *Unfortunately this link does not work in some iTunes regions, like for example Thai accounts. Please use a US account to make your donation until Apple fixes this.

    Posted: March 13th, 2011
    Categories: Apple
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    iPad 2 : Some Definitive GPU Benchmarks…

    This is the first definitive set of GPU benchmarking for the iPad 2, courtesy of AnandTech…

    Developers with existing titles on the iPad could conceivably triple geometry complexity with no impact on performance on the iPad 2.

    With a lit triangle, a simple test for fragment shader performance…

    While the PowerVR SGX 535 in the A4 could barely break 4 million triangles per second in this test, the PowerVR SGX 543MP2 in the A5 manages just under 20 million.

    Texture fetch…

    5x increase in texture fetch performance. This has to be due to more than an increase in the amount of texturing hardware. An improvement in throughput? Increase in memory bandwidth? It’s tough to say without knowing more at this point.

    Those of us working with multiple FBOs for post processing effects, should be very pleased with both the increase in fragment shader performance and the apparent increase in texture fetch throughput.

    GLBenchmark 2.0 app & Infinity Blade tests…

    While we weren’t able to reach the 9x figure claimed by Apple (I’m not sure that you’ll ever see 9x running real game code), a range of 3 – 7x in GLBenchmark 2.0 is more reasonable. In practice I’d expect something less than 5x but that’s nothing to complain about.

    There are more in depth details in the full article, and they promise follow ups.

    But for a simple head to head comparison running GLBenchmark 2.0 Egypt…

    Apple iPad 2 (1024 x 768) : 44 FPS

    Motorola Xoom (1280 x 800) : 11.8 FPS

    Apple iPad (1024 x 768) : 8.1 FPS

    Posted: March 13th, 2011
    Categories: Analysis, Apple, Benchmarks, ipad
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