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The Geek’s Reading List: Week of October 3rd, 2014

Windows Ni…er Ten.
The follow-on to the current Windows 8 operating system will be known as Windows 10. Originally codenamed Windows Threshold, the new operating system essentially does away with the dependency on the tiled “Metro” user interface that Microsoft had attempted to implement across its entire device line. This has been another slow tech news week. There were drips and drabs about Windows 10 (really Windows 9) and continued damage control by Apple and its acolytes regarding the bendable iPhone 6. I found the dated article on Tesla batteries life (actually the study itself) interesting, but for all the wrong reasons.

This is an excerpt of this week’s stories. The complete Geeks List, how to subscribe, and all back issues, can be found here.

Roadster batteries likely to perform better than Tesla predicted

This is a dated article which was brought to my attention through a web-argument. The headline sounds encouraging, especially if you don’t read the actual study, which appears to have no statistical merit – it uses self reported data from a non-random sampling of Tesla owners, for example, and it makes the rather odd assumption that you can extrapolate battery life. Of particular interest from the study itself: “A considerable number of owners reported that some or all of their battery pack had been replaced: 23 out of 122, or 18.9%.”. My experience with car owners, in particular luxury car owners, is few them have a clue what has been done to their vehicles, especially if that service was done under warranty. In other words, you can be pretty confident that 18.9% may be the tip of the iceberg. Regardless, a 20% failure rate after one year would probably lead to widespread seppuku if Tesla were manufactured in Japan, regardless of the failure mode, because it implies a reliability nightmare over coming years. Since lithium ion batteries are extremely well characterized, there is simply no reason to believe reports such as these which fly in the face of what is known, especially if it is produced by an advocacy group.

“See, in 2006, when the Roadster was new, Tesla said the Roadster’s 53-kWh lithium-ion battery pack – good for 244 miles of range when new – would have 70 percent of its capacity after five years or 50,000 miles. With plenty of “old” Roadsters on the road, PIA studied four percent of the packs out there today and discovered (PDF) that the packs have an “average of 80- to 85-percent of capacity after 100,000 miles driven.” The numbers were self-reported to PIA’s website by Roadster owners in a project that started in January.”

Surprise! Microsoft jumps to Windows 10

Is Microsoft going out with a whimper instead of a bang? After the unmitigated fiasco of Windows 8 the company eventually relented with a hybrid which covered up most of the abject stupidities of the user interface. Because I wiped my only Windows 8 computer and installed Linux, I have no idea whether Windows 8.1 would make said computer useable or not, however this Windows 7 machine is probably on its last legs and I dread buying another laptop to find out. I was hoping Windows 9 would be timely as well as useable, but the Fall 2015 release date strikes me as as a big problem. You can safely ignore whatever nifty and useable features promised for Windows 9 (even though it’ll be called 10): Microsoft rarely delivers a fraction of the advanced features it announces at such events.

“Microsoft just said no to 9. The follow-on to the current Windows 8 operating system will be known as Windows 10. Originally codenamed Windows Threshold, the new operating system essentially does away with the dependency on the tiled “Metro” user interface that Microsoft had attempted to implement across its entire device line, from desktop PCs to Surface tablets and Windows Phone devices. In its place is a combination of the so-called live tiles, present in areas like the new Start Menu, and a more classic Windows experience that aims to please both touch and keyboard-and-mouse users.”

Apple blacklists tech journo following explicit BENDY iPhone vid

Blacklisting for bad reviews is quite common and that alone is a good reason to ignore any non-negative review of any product. Positive reviews might be accurate but they are more likely bought and paid for by the company making the product, while negative reviews are far more likely to have been the result of objective analysis (or have been bought and paid for by the competition). Frankly I find forum discussions on a product to be far more useful: while they can be “astroturfed” real consumers usually outweigh those efforts. Regardless, I do find the efforts Apple suppressing coverage of an issue it says does not exist to be rather amusing.

“Apple has allegedly blacklisted a German tech journalist who filmed a video that proved the new iPhone 6 Plus could be bent. Axel Telzerow, editor of Computer Bild, was determined to see if the new mobe could be persuaded to take on a more curved shape, only to be “shocked” to see how easy it was to buckle the already quite curvaceous device. However, he was even more shocked to receive what he claimed was an ominous phone call from the Apple cops after posting a video of his bending activity. Telzerow claimed a fruity stormtrooper said he would never again receive Apple products for review purposes, or be allowed to come to any Apple events.”


Not there yet – BlackBerry’s promised comeback has not yet materialised

Investment commentators have a great deal of difficulty differentiating “not falling quite as fast as expected” from flying so this short piece is a bit of fresh air. It takes a long time for a large company to disappear – Nortel’s management destroyed that company as quickly as they did through sustained effort and skill. Setting aside sabotage, and there is still time for that at Blackberry, a platform with a small market share is expensive to maintain, both from the manufacturers and users perspective. Similarly, 3rd parties see little incentive to include such support in applications, interfaces, etc.. If, however, the market share is growing, various parties are willing to make an investment because they want to be in on the ground floor. This is not the case when you go from a large market share to a tiny one: the cost for all concern of supporting the platform becomes astronomically large, and nobody sees the point at making that investment. Eventually the remaining high margin businesses at Blackberry will collapse (they are, after all, a legacy of purchase decisions made long ago) and, for them the war will be over.

“BlackBerry, which once dominated the smartphone industry, now accounts for less than 1% of sales worldwide. As a result, the firm is haemorrhaging money. Analysts say that the only good thing that can be said about the firm’s $207m loss last quarter was that it was slightly less than expected. However, BlackBerry’s cheery boss, John Chen, portrayed the firm’s latest results as the first part of a comeback plan, which he hopes will see the company return to profit by 2016.”

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