Amazon is Just Getting Started With Alexa/Echo

Amazon Echo

Page 2 – News Debris for the Week of February 13th
Welcome home, traveler!

Last spring, the FBI and Apple locked horns about data privacy, encryption and back doors into our smartphones. Where are we one year later? Shara Tibken at CNET brings us up to date: “Apple vs. FBI one year later: Still stuck in limbo.” Author Tibken covers a lot of ground, including the impact on Apple as a result of the withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).


The New York Times tries to answer the question, “What Are Your Rights if Border Agents Want to Search Your Phone?” For additional reading, see ars technica’s What could happen if you refuse to unlock your phone at the US border?

The upshot of these two articles is that, absent definitive legal rulings, it’s your call.

More Debris

Apple’s MacBook Air isn’t discussed much nowadays. We assume it’s at the end of its life as a product. However. if you like the product and want to know all there is to know, Macworld UK has an article that goes into more detail than I’ve seen anywhere. “New MacBook Air 2017 release date, price and specs rumours UK.” Lots of questions; not many definitive answers.

11-inch MacBook Air discontinued after "hello again" media event
Apple killed off the 11-inch MacBook Air.  The 13-inch lingers on.

Do you remember the glorious days of office automation in the 1970s and the popular Wang word processing system? It exploded onto the scene and looked ready to take over the world.

Then Wang died an ugly, precipitous death.

Ernie Smith, in delightful fashion, tells the story of how Wang went wrong, and IBM crushed it. “We’re Gunning For IBM.” I love business analysis stories like this. They provide insights into why some companies fail.

Gene Munster, now a partner in Loup Ventures, weighs in on Apple’s history and interests regarding Augmented Reality (AR). “Apple’s Thundering Baby Steps Into AR.

We know that address space layout randomization (ASLR) in an OS is a technique to foil hackers and malware. It was partially introduced in Mac OS X Leopard, gradually expanded, and, later, fully implemented in Mac OS X Mountain Lion. Recently, a small weakness has been found. It doesn’t seem time to panic, but it’s something to be aware of. “A Chip Flaw Strips Away Hacking Protections for Millions of Devices.” The lesson here: when Apple updates Safari or macOS, apply the update as soon as you can.

Finally, I’m pointing to this article for a specific reason. It’s very, very geeky, mostly designed for developers. “Testing out snapshots in Apple’s next-generation APFS file system.” The reason I’m linking to it is because APFS, Apple’s new file system, will soon be upon us in iOS 10.3 and later this year in macOS. The article gave me some warm fuzzies about the maturity of APFS and the possible technique used for backups in macOS. Ignore the code and read between the lines. You’ll learn just enough about APFS to up your geek factor.


Particle Debris is a generally a mix of John Martellaro’s observations and opinions about a standout
event or article of the week (preamble on page one) followed on page two by a discussion of articles that didn’t make the TMO headlines, the technical news debris. The column is published most every Friday except for holidays.

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Haven’t seen any articles in the last few months proclaiming Apple’s entry into electric vehicle production. Remember when that was the big discussion and everyone was “sure” Apple would produce one? Maybe they discovered vehicle production’s expense wouldn’t generate the margins they need. Clearly, nobody is talking about it. Apple’s focus on AR instead of VR is interesting. VR requires more horsepower than the consumer-oriented devices ( i.e. smartphones ) Apple favors, so its selection allows them to augment their sales leader, the iPhone. Augmenting iPhone capabilities seems to be Apple’s strategy recently with new products ( i.e. watch ).… Read more »

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

John: Unfortunately, work keeps me from my usual perusal of your PD offerings this week, as well as from a satisfactory deep dive into some of the points raised. One observation might suffice to address a number of related issues, namely that of the capability comparisons between Alexa and Siri. Given the recent and continued rise in the chorus of criticism levelled at a number of Apple products, whatever one might think of any of the merits of any specific criticism, it is important not conflate, for example, end product performance and the strategy behind product development. This is important,… Read more »


Apple has nothing to worry about. Neither the Amazon Echo and Googles Home are flying off the shelves.

Scott B in DC

When I can say, “Alexa, tell me when Amazon or the government is listening in on me,” then I will consider one of these things. I don’t trust Amazon, Google, or the government. And since I am not Edward Snowden, all I will say there is a good reason not to trust the government!


Wang OK I have to share this. It’s a college story so you already know what the joke is. It’s HOW the joke was done. At the University of Oregon the Physics Department had a once a year party calle Wanton Mechanics. (For all I know they still do.) Grad students and faculty were encouraged to do skits making fun of things in the department. (I was a Geology major but emphasizing Planetary Geology so I hung out with the Astronomers. That’s how I got invited.) One of the senior professors was Dr. er…Smith. Yeah we’ll call him Smith. He… Read more »


My wife and I talked about whether to bring a phone on our next trip to the US, (we are both US citizens). I will not. Nor will I bring a computer. My wife OTOH feels she must stay in contact with her work so she will. We will see what happens. This reminds me of Loyalty Oaths back during the MccArthy era. Most signed them thinking it was their patriotic duty. A number of solid American citizens refused to sign them on principle. However you could be sure that any spies were very willing to sign. So now Border… Read more »