MacOS KenDensed: Google, HP & AT&T Rant-a-paloosa

Ken Ray. He's on fire.What do you get when you throw together sneaky Google stuff, HP going copy-cat, and AT&T going on a cry-fest? Mac OS Ken’s Ken Ray on his soap box. We’ll sedate him later.

Don’t Be Evil-ish
“Remember when Google was busted back in February for secretly circumventing privacy settings that Apple put into its web browser, Safari?” That’s how a piece from BusinessInsider begins, and I’ve got to admit, I needed a refresher on it.

This was the thing where Apple’s browser, Safari, doesn’t allow tracking cookies to be placed on a user’s device without that user’s permission. But Google basically pulled an end-run, finding a way to attach ad-tracking cookies to Safari users without their permission.

Google might debate whether such an action violates its “don’t be evil” motto. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission says what’s not up for debate is whether such an action violates the “terms of a consent decree signed with the commission last year.” It does, and Google could be fined more than US$10 million for the infraction.

That sounds like a big fine, except for two things: First, the piece says “Google has become pretty good at negotiating fines,” so it may bring this whole thing in for considerably less than the ten mill. And second, Google’s rich and big, not to be confused with the country duo Big and Rich.

According to Yahoo Answers, “Google is worth a lot of money, more money than most people can imagine.”

Illustrative, if not helpful. Suffice it to say Google’s worth is in the Carl Sagan Memorial Wing of worth, among the billions and billions, making a fine in the $10 million range a slap on the hand of a mosquito on the hand of a guy who works at Google.

Still I guess it ends up on the scale in some respect. Maybe they should change their motto to “Don’t be caught being evil.”

Things are Just Things
HP seems to see something in Samsung it likes, namely Samsung’s ability to totally rip-off Apple’s design, then say, “What? Things just look like things, don’t they?”

I’m paraphrasing.

HP’s got this new ultrabook, the Envy Spectre XT, and it bears more than a passing resemblance to the MacBook Air. Silver in color, just like the MacBook Air (and the MacBook Pro line for that matter), black keys on the keyboard, just like the MacBooks Air and Pro, and kind of wedge shaped from the pictures, just like the MacBook Air.

Now AppleInsider has Stacy Wolff, VP of Industrial Design at HP saying, “Sure there are similarities… but sometimes things look like things.” Again I’m paraphrasing, but not by that much.

Asked about the Spectral similarities to the MacBook Air, Mr. Wolff was dismissive, saying, “Apple may like to think they own silver, but they don’t … In no way did HP try to mimic Apple. In life there are a lot of similarities.”

See? Sometimes things look like things.

“Speaking at the Global Influencer Summit in Shanghai, China,” the piece says “Wolff highlighted what he feels are some key differences between the Spectre XT and the MacBook Air. He noted that HP’s new Ultrabook is rubber-coated at the bottom, and it is made of magnesium, compared to Apple’s use of CNC aluminum.”

There’s also a brush pattern on the Spectre XT that’s not on the MacBook Air. And, of course, there’s no Apple logo.

From many angles, though, you’d be hard pressed to spot the differences.

Says Mr. Wolff, “If you want to look at a macro level, there are a lot of similarities to everything in the market that’s an Ultrabook today … It is not because those guys (Apple) did it first. It’s just that’s where the form factor is leading it.”

Dude. You are the vice president of industrial design at Hewlett-Packard. Are you seriously saying you are powerless to make a laptop that looks different from a laptop made down the street because that’s just what laptops look like now? Because, if that’s what you’re saying, I could be vice president of industrial design at Hewlett Packard. I know what a lot of stuff already looks like.

Giving Wolff the benefit of the doubt, maybe it wasn’t HP’s intention to mimic the MacBook Air. Once they realize the raft of similarities, though, should they not be intentional about changing it up a bit?

And if not, I’d like to apply to be vice president of industrial design at Hewlett-Packard. I have a great idea for a phone.

Password Protection? Yeah, Right
If you used FileVault encryption before the introduction of Lion, and kept using it through the introduction of Lion, ZDNET says you may want to change your login password or passwords.

The ZDNet piece says “An Apple programmer inadvertently left a debug flag in the latest 10.7.3 version of Mac OS X that turns on a system-wide debug log file. This log file stores the user’s login passwords in plain text and is located in an unencrypted area.”

And that’s about a bitch.

According to the piece,

Any user with admin or root access can read this file, grab the login credentials and access your encrypted data. If you use Time Machine to backup your system, this log file is also available from your archive.

The piece says the issue only affects legacy users. Any users who started with or switched to FileVault 2 are not affected.

Apple fixed the months-old problem on Thursday with OS X 10.7.4. But still, change your passwords.

AT&T’s Cry-fest
I have no idea how to present this story in anything like an objective way. It just makes me angry. So let me begin, I guess, by saying I’m sorry. This will not be an objective telling.

AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson regrets the past and fears the present.

A blogpost for the New York Times has Stephenson speaking at a wireless industry conference last week, sharing some frank thoughts about the iPhone. For starters, he regrets the all-you-can-eat pricing model for data with which the Death Star started iPhone sales five years ago. He said,

My only regret was how we introduced pricing in the beginning, because how did we introduce pricing? Thirty dollars and you get all you can eat … And it’s a variable cost model. Every additional megabyte you use in this network, I have to invest capital.

For which iPhone and other smartphone users are paying, right?

Way back in 2007, you got $20 a month from people for using 2G/EDGE service, which went up to $30 when 3G rolled out. iPhone owners had no choice but to pay it if they wanted to own an iPhone, and that was before AT&T even subsidized the iPhone. I, for one, would have been happy to pay less than $20 at the time.

But okay.

Then, the world catches up with Apple’s phone. AT&T’s network catches up with Apple’s phone. Suddenly there’s stuff that makes the $30-dollars-a-month worth it, so what does AT&T do? Cuts off the unlimited option, except for the people who’ve been paying the unlimited rate for — literally — years, and puts the screws to them by changing the meaning of unlimited from time to time. All while reporting record profits and continued subscriber growth.

Now Stephenson regrets having started with unlimited data, which is a bit like a drug dealer regretting having to give away the first hit for free. Only a bit, though, because what AT&T did wasn’t free. It was expensive. And people paid it and got hooked, and they keep paying.

And still, somehow, Stephenson finds a way to feel screwed rather than wondering if — in some ways — his customers might feel screwed.

I mentioned not being able to be fair on this one, right?

As for the “fear and now,” Stephenson did say he worries about services that could replace services offered by AT&T. Apple’s iMessage, for example. According Stephenson, it and services like it “are eating into (AT&T’s) revenue from text messages.”

Says Stephenson, “You lie awake at night worrying about what is that which will disrupt your business model … Apple iMessage is a classic example. If you’re using iMessage, you’re not using one of our messaging services, right? That’s disruptive to our messaging revenue stream.”

I’m sorry he loses sleep. Really. I don’t hate Randall Stephenson. But it seems to me that the iPhone has been nothing but a “win” for AT&T, and a relatively expensive prospect for its owners.

I know. He was at a telecoms conference, not an Occupy rally. Still, dude. You rode the iPhone to within a hair’s breadth of number one wireless network in the country. Imagine how much better you might have done if you hadn’t treated your customers like combatants.

Jinkies. This soapbox is sturdy.

Flaming iPhones: Not So Much
And finally this week, good news! There was nothing wrong with that phone that started spewing smoke on an Australian plane last year that Apple couldn’t have fixed. But when there was problem: the phone’s owner didn’t let Apple fix it, leading to much bigger issues.

AppleInsider says the problem started with a botched screen replacement. According to the findings of the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the non-authorized repair shop punctured the lithium-ion battery with one of the iPhone’s own screws, which led to the smoking and the burning and the fire extinguisher and the news stories.

Know your repair person, friends. Or at the very least make sure they know what they’re doing.