Mars exploration: Mac or PC?

So what computers do scientists prefer to explore the planet Mars?

When asked by a user the simple question “Mac or PC,” Curiosity’s fault protection engineer Magdy Bareh responded from a joint account: “In this room: 12 Mac, 3 PCs.”

Specifically, the science and engineering team appears to favor Apple Macbook Pro laptops, based on a photo they provided during the Reddit AMA.

Other members of the larger Curiosity team also seem to favor Apple Macbook Pros, according to a screenshot captured by a Reddit user of NASA’s live feed of the entry, descent and landing phase process on Aug. 6.

At the time of this article’s publication, the team had not clarified on Reddit why they preferred Macs to PCs, nor what specific operating system they were using.

(From TPM)

Romney finally gets the nomination, already

Santorum’s out. The gig is up.

Apple Inc.

Mr. Vice President?

GETTYSBURG, Pa. — Rick Santorum, with an abrupt decision to end his campaign Tuesday, cleared the way for Mitt Romney to claim the Republican nomination while dashing the hopes of social conservatives who had propelled Mr. Santorum’s surprisingly successful challenge to the Republican establishment.

So for all those Tea Baggers who paraded with their funny hats and their misspelled signs and swore they were going to shake up the status quo, they end up with the personification of big business who showed that when it’s a battle between ideology and money, the dollars always win. If Romney wasn’t loaded, there would still be a race and other Republicans … let’s call them Establishment Republicans … like Mitch Daniels and Chris Christie and maybe even Jeb Bush would have jumped in. And one of them would have taken the nomination because that’s where the money would have gone.

The golden rule: He who has the gold …

And since the nominee says “Corporations are people, my friend,” maybe he can get Apple Inc., which has a market cap of $600 billion, the highest amount ever for a corporation, as his vice presidential candidate. It fits the requirements for the presidency under article II section 1 of the Constitution.

No person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty-five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

Apple was born in 1976. And its papers of incorporation serve as its birth certificate. Now there’s a candidate that can’t lose.

The zombie story that won’t die is shot in the head

Image representing iPad as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

More than a year ago, I posted on a story that refuses to die: the treatment of workers at an Apple subcontractor in China. Foxconn is where they manufacture major Apple products like the iPhone and iPad. The links are here and here.

My reaction was that the story was overblown. The allegations of abuses and worker suicides were minor when put in context of the overall size of the workforce and the number of incidents reported. It was a nice “worker abuse” story that didn’t live up to the hype.

The story should have died, but it didn’t.

Then came a one-man monologue called “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs” by a guy named Mike Daisey, which made the rounds of Washington and New York theaters. The monologuist decided to put Apple users on a guilt trip, saying essentially when you touched your Apple product, you’ve got blood on you hands because of the exploitation of workers.

I saw the presentation in Washington, front row, and my opinion didn’t change. I left the show still thinking “This story really needs to die because it’s not true.”

But it didn’t die. Eventually, the New York Times did a major piece on Apple abuses following the opening of Daisey’s show in New York, and public radio’s “This American Live” devoted an entire episode to the issue.

And this happened this weekend:

Earlier on Friday, the public radio program This American Life was forced to retract an episode about Apple’s Foxconn factory in China because it contained “significant fabrications.”

Ira Glass devotes the entire episode of this week’s This American Life to set the record straight on Mike Daisey’s story about the extreme working conditions at Apple’s Chinese factory.

“I’m coming to you today to say something that I’ve never had to say on our program,” Glass said, opening in the episode: a story on the program was not true. Glass admits mistakes that were made in the fact-checking process. Below is a transcript of the episode — titled “Retraction” — that aired Friday evening. It’s a rush transcript, and may not be 100 percent accurate.

Meanwhile, the Times is doing this in a piece Daisey wrote for the paper in October:

Editor’s Note: Questions have been raised about the truth of a paragraph in the original version of this article that purported to talk about conditions at Apple’s factory in China. That paragraph has been removed from this version of the article.

Turns out Daisey made up a bunch of stuff in his monologue under the guise of “artistic license.”

Now, there are legitimate issues in the Apple story. Working conditions can be improved. But the bottom line in this story has been that when reporters asked workers what they thought, people said they were getting paid better than at any other company and that they were willing to work even longer hours to get paid overtime.

Here’s what really bothers me about stories like this and Invisible Children (the Joseph Kony extravaganza), and the Gay Girl in Damascus who turned out to be a middle age guy from Georgia. When people do decide to deal with reality, the issue no longer focuses on the abuses that exist, but on the Westerner who created or enhanced the exaggeration or deception.

So people who have fallen for the ruse lose interested in the real abuses because some egocentric American got his 15 minutes of fame in national media. When the messenger is discredited, the message is discredited, even though there may be validity to the allegation.

And as a result, people die and nobody cares.

That’s the true scandal.

Steve Jobs on life and death

Steve Jobs, from a Stanford University commencement speech in 2005:

Steve Jobs dies at 56: Changed the world

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

Image via Wikipedia

Steve Jobs, the chairman of Apple Inc. who resigned as CEO in August because of health problems, died today at 56. This from the Los Angeles Times:

Steven P. Jobs, the charismatic technology pioneer who co-founded Apple Inc. and transformed one industry after another, from computers and smartphones to music and movies, has died. He was 56.

Apple announced the death of Jobs — whose legacy included the Apple II, Macintosh, iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad.

Any one of the above listed products can be considered a great achievement in technological hardware. But combine that with the Apple operating systems, which predated the overused Windows operating system by years, or look at his contribution to the entertainment world with Pixar studios, and you realize you’ve witnessed the passing of a legendary figure.

The New York Times has an interactive graphic of his 317 patents. Spend a few minutes here to see how much of his innovation has become a part of how the world works today.

Steve Jobs: the art of innovation

Years ago, Steve Jobs of Apple appeared on a PBS special on Silicon Valley. The segment began with the announcement of Windows 95, Microsoft’s new user interface that was supposed to revolutionize personal computing.

But Macintosh users knew that the new version of Windows was inferior to the operating system that Mac had four years earlier. Macintosh software was always more user friendly that Microsoft’s. The Macintosh computer was easier to used than anything put out by any other company. Apple put out a far superior product. But the company languished.

In the following two clips, we see the unappreciated dominance of Apple’s products, and, for lack of better words, the contempt Jobs held for his competitors at Microsoft:

Steve Jobs and Pat Summitt: legends and mortality

Two big stories today on two legendary figures in business and sports: one man, one woman. Each revolutionized their fields. Each will be studied for generations to come. And both reveal the sadness that greatness does not mean immortality.


Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple. He has been on medical leave since January, having gone through pancreatic cancer and undergoing a liver transplant just two years ago. His resignation letter was brief:

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.


It’s clear from this letter that his health is getting worse, but he remains Apple’s chairman.

This is a man who has simply changed the world. When I was a kid, I wondered what the future would be like. Jobs has brought the world beyond my imagination.

Fifty years ago, a computer was a giant machine that took up multiple rooms. Jobs has made the computer a household appliance. The computers used in the Apollo space program to put men on the moon were less powerful than the machine I’m using now to type this post. I’m working on a mini-Mac, something I can carry in a backpack.

Back in the mid-1960s, the most advanced technology offered in television science fiction included a hand held communicator that Captain Kirk would use to contact the USS Enterprise from the surface of a planet. Spock carried a device that could give data at the touch of a button. In comic strips, the detective Dick Tracy had a two way wrist television as a communications device. That’s all those inventions did.

I have an iPhone, and it does thousands of things more than those concepts of the future ever could.

In the “olden days,” people kept thousands of albums that filled bookcases, milk crates, cabinets and shelves, taking up walls of space.

I have an iPod that does the same thing, but I don’t use it much because my iPhone also holds the music that would take up a room.

A little less than a decade ago, Tom Cruise was in a movie where he had a touch screen device that contained data, records, video and could call up any information imaginable.

I have an iPad. It doesn’t predict the future, but really, how far off can that be.

These are products that Steve Jobs brought to the world. More surprising, he did it after the company that fired him asked him to come back.

I haven’t even gotten into how he changed the music industry with iTunes. Or how he revolutionized animation with Pixar.

Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal explains how Steve Jobs is a historical figure here.


Pat Summitt, the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers women’s basketball team announced she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Summitt is simply the greatest living basketball coach today. Her record at Tennessee says it all: 1,037 wins to 196 losses, 18 Final Four appearances; and eight national championships.

Some will dismiss that, saying she’s just a women’s coach, but that isn’t fair. Her success at Tennessee has made women’s sports viable. The Volunteer women constantly sell out their arena. Her program is stronger than the Tennessee men’s program. If you’re a middle-school or high-school girl who’s a star at basketball, there are two places you’d want to go: Connecticut and Tennessee.

Summitt has proved women are competitors, and that influence carries into other team sports: soccer, softball, track and field, even ice hockey. Girls watched Tennessee women tear up their competitors and realized they, too, could excel at whatever sport they chose.

The coach is a legend, and, according to Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post, her encounter with mortality is a painful one:

“I just felt something was different,” she says. “And at the time I didn’t know what I was dealing with. Until I went to Mayo, I couldn’t know for sure. But I can remember trying to coach and trying to figure out schemes and whatever and it just wasn’t coming to me, like, I would typically say, ‘We’re gonna do this, and run that.’ And it probably caused me to second-guess.”

A brilliant basketball mind is being destroyed by an irreversible degenerative brain disease. Summitt’s interview with Sally Jenkins is here.

She’ll still be coach at Tennessee. Jenkins’s story indicates Summitt wants to stick around another three years. It’s possible she’ll win another national championship. That would be great to see.


We have no immortals. But we have legends. And for now, they’re still with us.

iThink therefore iAm (if iPaid attention)

Image representing Apple as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

I remember when Apple Inc. was considered to be on its deathbed and was selling for less than $5 a share in 1997. Then Steve Jobs came back, and today it’s selling for more than $300 a share.

But I didn’t realize the company had gotten this powerful:

The second quarter ends in less than two weeks. When it does, I expect Apple will have over $70 billion in Cash, Cash Equivalents, Short-term marketable securities and long-term Marketable Securities. That figure has been growing predictably.

Also predictable has been the decline in value of Apple’s mobile phone competitors. Most spectacularly Nokia and RIM. …

Given the current valuations, it would not be difficult for Apple to acquire every phone vendor except for Samsung with cash alone.

The more remarkable thing is that as market values of phone vendors continue to decline, Apple’s cash will continue to grow dramatically. Indeed, a time may soon come when Apple’s cash will be worth more than the entire phone industry.

Apple can by the phone industry. And the company is now so enormous, it doesn’t even have to, because the iPhone is doing well enough on its own.

This is why I’ll never be rich. I don’t see these stock buying opportunities when they’re just lying there for anyone to grab.

Techno junkie

I’m on the road, headed for a new job, and as I settle in temporary housing, I realize what a techno junkie I’ve become.

I brought a computer, an iPad, an iPhone, HDMI cables and assorted keyboards, mice and chargers, totally set to blog and surf the web.

But the temporary housing is a couple of years behind me. I was all set to use the television here as a monitor, but it doesn’t have an HDMI port. That is so 2005.

My fallback was to use the iPad, but there’s no wireless Internet in this apartment. (paying more money to AT&T for a 3G connection is out of the question)

So here I am, typing out a post on the iPhone’s tiny keyboard.

Now that’s desperation. Gotta get a blog fix somehow.

This story really should die

A blogger at the Web site Ramblings heard about the Foxconn factory in China that makes Apple computer products through an NPR story and through a story in the Daily Mail in the U.K.

Back in September, Bloomberg Businessweek did a story about the success of the company, but hyped the fact that stressed workers have committed suicide. As noted, there are major problems with that story.

It says there’s great hand wringing because 11 employees have killed themselves. A minute of research shows the annual suicide rate in China is 13 per 100,000 men and 14.8 per 100,000 women. The company has more than 900,000 employees. If the suicide rate was higher than the national average, it would be worth playing up. But to justify that focus, there will have to be well more than 120 suicides at Foxconn by year end. There was a similar reporting frenzy in Europe this year because of a number of suicides at France Telecom. Turns out the suicide rate there was way below the national average, too. So, wouldn’t it make more sense to look at professions where stressed workers take their lives and exceed the national average than to hype the deaths (that are way below the norm) in these companies?

And the NPR and Daily Mail stories played up how the workers hours caused all the stress, but as the Bloomberg Businessweek story buried:

The Longhua workers interviewed by Bloomberg Businessweek objected to various aspects of how they are treated but not in terms starkly different from the complaints many people have about their jobs. More than two dozen Foxconn employees were interviewed; none showed signs of being afraid to speak freely to a reporter. Those interviewed on the job did so without a supervisor present. Other discussions took place in Internet cafés, staff dormitories, and in the company canteen. Most seem keenly aware of their choices. They work at Foxconn because they want to make money as quickly as possible. Some want cash to buy the things they make. Others want to become entrepreneurs. None of the workers was upset about having to work overtime. To the contrary, the availability of overtime hours was a big attraction.

We tend to view the world through an American perspective, but this is just wrong. The suicide rate for Foxconn workers significantly lower than that of the general Chinese population. The workers are paid much higher than the typical Chinese worker, and for all the cultural quirks that make conditions at Foxconn look extreme to American eyes, the company’s workers are living what we used to call “the American dream.” They work hard to make more money to better their lives.

So this is how a misleading story festers. A news organization does a bad job in September. Other news organizations read the story months later and repeat the same bad job, broadening the audience, but not adding any context. Then individuals read the story and rail against something that is improving conditions for people in poorer countries.

Yes, wages went up for Foxconn workers as a result of the outcry. But the end result of this will be that the typical Chinese worker will resent the Foxconn worker like the typical American worker resented higher paid unionized auto workers. And long term, we know what happened to American auto workers who were resented and undermined because of misleading talking points.