Apple’s Unusual Situation with its Struggling HomePod

HomePod Siri light

Page 2 – News Debris For The Week of April 9th
Are Autonomous Cars Doomed by Pollyanna Expectations?

Technology is cool. It’s fun. It produces all kinds of benefits, most notable in the form of our modern internet and personal electronics. The tech giants are wizards. We want them to succeed for our own benefit. We root for success, even if we’re a bit starry-eyed.

Autonomous car concept
Come on in! Trust me. But first, a software update is required.

But when it comes to autonomous vehicles, there are some annoying facts. They’ll put people out of work. And, from time to time, they will kill people.

In that vein, there’s an interesting article at Wired this week that explores the issue of continuous software updates.

The article describes a situation which is very similar to the modern state of television. It used to be that you’d plug in the power and antenna to a TV, turn it on, and tune to a channel. Done. (Unless you were watching The Outer Limits. ) Today, it’s like we’re in Jeff Goldblum’s iMac commercial in full reverse. There are endless wrinkles and software updates when it comes to setting up a proper, fully-functioning 4K TV system. Complexities abound.

[My Crazy Apple TV 4K & Dolby Vision Adventure ]

Except that no one dies setting up a TV system. But I digress.

The autonomous car project depends on auto companies convincing us that the technology is fully-baked, (or at least safe enough) even as they’ll spend all future time tweaking the software. (Because bug-free software doesn’t exist.) At some point, the software-induced deaths will become so rare, they’ll be passed off as acceptable. Maybe. Unless the public turns against the technology before it’s mature enough.

Questions remain: how much do we want and need the technology? When’s the right time to fully embrace it? What are the practical risks vs. benefits? And what are we willing to put up with as we take a starry-eyed journey? This Wired article is very good.

More Debris

• If you had any doubts about the challenges setting up a modern TV system, see: “Guide to buying a TV: what is the best time to buy a TV, and everything else you need to know when shopping for the best television.” This article is excellent, but it’s also sobering. One almost needs an advanced degree in electrical engineering to understand and set up a 4K/UHD TV system.

Hey, Apple. How about some help? Hint: watch that glorious iMac commercial linked to above.

Sony OLED w. HDR
Getting here is like climbing a mountain.

• Yet another rumor has cropped up that Apple will kill off iTunes and music downloads in favor of Apple Music streaming. But Apple has denied any immediate plans. “RIP, iTunes? Apple rubbishes rumours it’s planning to kill off downloads.

Even if Apple does end up killing iTunes next year (which it now says it won’t), the same sources have said that users will continue to be able to access their existing iTunes library, meaning you won’t be forced to subscribe to Apple Music to listen to a song you already own.

• Finally, DuckDuckGo’s CEO and founder Gabriel Weinberg has some very sharp questions for Facebook. “Four Questions For Facebook That We Still Need Answers To.

There’s no doubt that we’re in an information collection era. Any technology that can be used will be used. It’s impossible to stop. But perhaps proper legislation can be enacted that regulates how personal data is traded, sold or even given away. Just like copyright protection for creative works. Just a thought. More on that is discussed here:

[Facebook’s Shadow Profiles – TMO Daily Observations 2018-04-13 ]

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 holiday weeks.

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Ok, something many tech writers have failed to notice in the past: Many of Apple’s most popular products ever had slow sales initially -like the iPhone🙌🏻. This is probably due to Apple’s strong and popular ecosystem, which boils down to the fact that basically, mom, dad, brother and sister all have iPhone’s, iPad’s, AppleWatch’s, maybe a family iMac, MacBooks etc etc. Calculating that would easily account to way above $20 000 per family every 4 years or so… With that said, many consumers as wealthy/snobbish as they may seem, don’t necessarily have cash on hand just to walk into an… Read more »


Recently playing an online game and a commentor was complaining about “everyone camping out” as the team was losing. When we came out of hiding, turned the tide and won the match, I explained: “Sometimes camping out can be a strategy.” – holding forces in reserve. I don’t think this has been Apple’s strategy. Half baked projects and knee jerk reactions. Focus on better sound than the competition but ignore the “smart” home with a consistently dumb assistant. And push the limit on pricing, see what the market will bear. Thinner, lighter, a new color, a notch, more speakers; for… Read more »


John, ironic you would have an early iMac commercial, because vehicles that age are still on the road. 🙂 The tech industry will need to come to grips with a product that has a much longer service life than, say, a smart phone. When did the Mac G3 last have an OS security update? What happens when a 10+ year old self driving car needs a safety-critical software update? “Time to upgrade, you got your use out of it” is the wrong answer, and isn’t going to fly with government regulators. Hopefully in a decade the serious bugs will be… Read more »

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD


I think we’re in agreement.

As I argued above, an ideal system is one in which the individual chooses the route, the car AI executes that choice but the central AI manages traffic flow, not unlike air traffic control manages air traffic. The individual should be free to opt for any change they wish, such as changing the route or stopping for a coffee – just like we do today with no restrictions. Central AI controls the traffic. Auto AI the automobile and the driver decides when and where to go.


I think a few more software updates can make the HomePod pretty awesome. It definitely has the best sound of any of the speakers out there. More Siri support, Airplay 2 needs to be done already and also third party support for Pandora and they will easily have a hit on there hands.

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD

John: I think one of the important services, albeit with a delayed tangible benefit to the readership, is your continued focus on the self-driving cars, in addition to robotics and AI. But, since you brought up self driving cars, let’s talk about this. To begin with, let me concede that the Wired article does indeed ask important questions. Where I diverge is that I think these are not merely the wrong questions, but that they reflect a conceptual shortfall and failure of imagination that is not confined to Wired, but to a great many commenters and analysts. I’ll be the… Read more »

Central AI has no control or say in any destination or route choice, or changes along the way of the human, but the human has no potentially detrimental input on vehicular performance on the public road. If the human decides to change the route, return home, take a break or whatever, they input this to the auto’s AI, who then coordinates with the central AI to make it so. Safely and securely. The human should have control only in the event of emergency or the unexpected, or on smaller service or private roads and private property, unless they prefer to… Read more »


As a happy owner of 3 HomePods, I am a bit at odds with your article. I have two HomePods in my living room that are the sound output for an AppleTV. Yes, I am running the beta software for this to work. When I first got my first HP it needed to be almost at max volume for my 77 year old ears to enjoy the sound in a room that is 18’ x 24’ with a 15’ vaulted ceiling. The third unit is in the bedroom (recent birthday present for my wife) where she can listen to music… Read more »

W. Abdullah Brooks, MD


I think you need to fix a link in your PD. The link to your Gabriel Weinberg article took me here when I think that it meant to take me here

I’ll return later to comment. Nice reads.


Very good points about autonomous cars. I keep thinking of the early days of aviation, when, yes even commercial planes often had trouble and killed people. But the public was able to see the future and put up with the risk. Remember Glenn Miller, Will Rogers, and Carole Lombard were all killed in plane crashes but people didn’t panic and stop flying. However I wonder if people’s expectations are too high for autonomous vehicles, pollyannaish as you said. They expect perfection even as the systems are developed. Today perfection is the only standard. Police must always get the bad guy… Read more »