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2 April, 2010
Good morning (and Good Good Friday)
I'm semi-distracted while writing this,
counting down the days, hours, and minutes until some uncertain time on
Saturday, at which time I hope to receive an Apple iPad. I
received an email from Apple on Monday with tracking details for my
iPad's shipment - it was sent, via UPS express international courier
service, direct to me all the way from Shenzhen, China. Wow.
I'm guessing what Apple is doing is
packaging all their orders at the Chinese factory, then shipping them in a
consolidated shipment to somewhere in the US before then breaking
them down to individual UPS shipments. As of Thursday, the unit
has only got to Hong Kong, so I'm a bit unsure if it will arrive on my
doorstep on Saturday as promised.
Saturday is the official launch of the iPad,
but if you haven't already pre-ordered one, you may have some challenges
finding one in a store. While it isn't clear how Apple is
allocating inventory, last weekend they stopped accepting pre-orders for
3 April delivery, and delayed the promised delivery date for new orders
to 12 April. It seems likely that Apple stores may have a limited
number of units for sale at each location, and Best Buy stores with an
Apple section are also believed to have some inventory on launch day.
Here's a tip - apparently the Apple stores
will be holding their pre-ordered and reserved units in stores until 3pm
on Saturday. If they haven't been claimed by then, they will
release them for general sale. If you really want an iPad
tomorrow, it might make sense to go to the store early and, if none
available, ask if you can put your name on a standby list for any
unclaimed units being held in the store until 3pm.
Initial reports of the iPad from the
privileged very very few people who have been given a pre-release sample
are positive, but the big unknown still remains the question of what it
can best be used for. There are expected to be about 1,000 apps
specially written for the extra capabilities and large screen of the
iPad available on Saturday, with of course, many many more being added
every day subsequently.
The most amazing disclosed fact so far - the
claimed ten hour battery life, which many commentators had derided and
expected to be wildly over-optimistic, is actually proving conservative,
with testing showing it to last 11 - 12+ hours, even when playing movies.
Needless to say, next week's feature column will
be an iPad review.
As for this week's feature column, what can I say, other than 'Oh, my, I've done it again.' I had started to pen some
thoughts about the Moscow subway bombings that occurred on Monday
morning as part of the regular section on security horror stories, for
there are some valuable lessons to be learned from this terrorist
attack, and after a paragraph or two of comment, I realized that perhaps
I could expand it to a complete article to add to my Scary, Silly and
Stupid Security Stories section of the website.
So, off I went, and several days, five pages and 6,000+ words later, here
I am, with a much more detailed analysis and commentary on the issues
and implications of this event.
In case you don't want to treat yourself to the entire oeuvre, here are
a few quick bullet points :
everyone acting so surprised by this event? It is the seventh
time that Moscow's subway system has been bombed. Other
subway systems around the world have been attacked in the past, too.
subway systems around the world tightening their security now?
Russia's problems with its domestic Muslim separatists have no
flow-on effect nor security risks for other countries, and even if
there were linkage, there's never been an example of a global
campaign of terror unfolding in a coordinated manner.
tightened security that is occurring is useless and just for show.
For example, machine gun toting police on the NY subway system won't
deter suicide bombers, who have no intentions of waging gun battles
with over-armed police - they just want to quietly and demurely
surround themselves with commuters and blow themselves up.
airport security type procedures to subway systems is impossible,
and, for the NY subway system alone, would not only cripple its
ability to handle peak flows of commuters, but would also create the
equivalent of 440 terrorist deaths a year (due to the time lost
the US not suffered a multitude of terror attacks, such as have been
formerly experienced by countries as disparate as England (by the
IRA), Israel (the Palestinians, etc) and Russia (their Muslim
separatists)? Is our security better? Are our enemies
If these questions have whetted your appetite, please now help yourself
This Week's Feature Article(s) :
Lessons from the Moscow Metro
Bombings : The ongoing metro bombings in Moscow show us that
you can't conveniently secure mass transit. But there are some
things that can be done to increase our safety.
Many thanks to everyone who sent in suggestions in response to my
request about how to make a hotel Wi-fi signal serve multiple devices.
You may recall from last week's newsletter
that some hotels charge a daily internet fee per device that you wish to
connect to the internet.
There are lots of ways to take a hotel's wired internet access and to
share it among multiple devices without having to pay per device access
fees - just about any router will do this - but taking a Wi-Fi signal
and rebroadcasting it in a manner that saves you from incurring multiple
per device fees is a rarer ability.
I've now identified at least one and possibly two or three devices that
can do this, as well as other workarounds typically involving two
back-to-back routers that provide the same functionality. The
device that definitely will do this is the Linksys WTR54GS wireless
In addition, readers have also pointed me to a
wonderful piece of free
software that runs on just about every Windows 7 computer with a Wi-Fi
card. I've tested it myself, and it is very easy to install and
operate, and provides a complete flexible solution without requiring any
additional hardware or hassle or expense at all. Brilliant.
The product is Connectify
and it works for sharing both wired and wireless internet connections.
I'll be releasing a more comprehensive review of Connectify and the
various other ways of controlling Wi-Fi access costs in the next day or
two and will advise Twitter
followers when it is online.
But the bottom line is clear. This is a great solution and should
be loaded, even if only as a stand-by 'just in case' program, on all
your Windows 7 laptops and netbooks.
Dinosaur Watching : An unusual airline pairing was announced this
week. American Airlines and JetBlue - two airlines that have been
at each other's throats, competitively, in the past, announced they
would start to work closely together, swapping 12 landing slots at JFK
(formerly belonging to Jetblue) with 8 at Washington/Reagan and 1 at
White Plains, and interlining on some flights in the northeast.
Part of the purpose is to make it easier for passengers flying in to JFK
or Boston on Jetblue to then connect to international flights out of
those airports on American. The two airlines also coyly teased in
vague no-comment terms about further and closer workings together in the
future, even possibly extending to a Oneworld membership by Jetblue.
This is the third partnering of note by Jetblue. Earlier (in 2007)
it had announced tie-ups with Aer Lingus and with Lufthansa, in part due
to LH buying a 20% shareholding in Jetblue.
And that is the really surprising thing - Lufthansa is a key member of
the competing Star alliance; so one would have expected any alignments
between Jetblue and other US carriers to have been more sympathetic to
the interests of its 20% shareholder. Lufthansa's response to this
new announcement is to stoically say that what is good for Jetblue
benefits them as a shareholder.
A not so surprising pairing (or trebling, to be more exact) was also
announced this week, with frequent flier linkages between Virgin America
and two other of the Virgin fleet of carriers - V Australia
(international airline based in Australia) and Virgin Blue (domestic
At the same time Jetblue and American are cozying up together (and I'm
much too well mannered to make any jokes about the three Virgins
entering into a relationship) there's another as yet unconsummated
relationship apparently on the rocks - that between Westjet and
Southwest, with the Montreal Gazette reporting that Westjet may withdraw
from the still not yet in place agreement with Southwest in favor of an
alternate arrangement with Delta, Air France and China Airlines.
I was very skeptical of the announcement, now almost two years ago, of a
linkage between Westjet and Southwest, and noted with complete lack of
surprise how Southwest, subsequent to boldly announcing the
relationship, then proceeded to go very slow on making it happen, citing
problems with their computer reservation system that were preventing
them from moving forward.
Westjet is recently under the leadership of a new CEO and it seems he is
keen to move forward with something with someone, and if it isn't to be
Southwest, it will be someone else.
It seems to me that Southwest would be best served by
flying into Canada itself.
Talking about Southwest, it has retained its mantle as
carrier, as measured by domestic passengers carried, making it the third
year in a row it has been the largest US domestic carrier.
American was the largest international carrier for the 20th year in a
row, but look for that probably changing this year due to the DL/NW
I'm as quick as everyone else to decry the lessening standards of
airline service, and the continued trend to charging extra for items
that used to be included in a standard airfare.
But I have always
conceded that the real reason the airlines do such things is because
they can - in other words, because we let them. We have never
shown any resolve in such matters - for example, as much as we might
complain about inadequate leg room, when American Airlines offered its
'more room in coach' concept - better pitched seats on planes than
competitors, but at the same price - they failed to get extra market
share, and so they gave it up.
When airlines introduce
negative policies, they don't lose any appreciable share of their
traffic, so other airlines copy and the airlines lose all fear of any
market repercussions as the continue to gouge us with patently unfair
fees and policies. For example, as much as we dislike the baggage
fees charged by most airlines now, how many of us switch our loyalty to
Southwest due to it not charging baggage fees?
The most recent example of this was Continental's decision to stop
offering free food in coach on its domestic flights.
But one good thing about Continental - their new CEO has said he won't
take a salary or a bonus until Continental has made a profit for an
entire year. That's a brave decision to take - doubtless many of
his staff are hoping he won't require them to be similarly magnanimous.
The almost certain to be approved anti-trust immunity application by BA,
AA and other Oneworld carriers for flights across the Atlantic became a
bit more critical this week. One of the most distinguishing
aspects of this tie-up is that it concentrates a lot of the traffic
in/out of Heathrow into the hands of the new merged airline group, with
Heathrow being a more strategically vital airport than those controlled
by other merged airline groups (eg Star and Frankfurt, Skyteam and
The development this week was news that Heathrow's oh-so-long awaited
third runway may not be able to proceed after all. With new
terminal developments reducing and promising to, in time, eliminate
Heathrow's overcrowding on the ground, the remaining bottleneck was its
two runways and the flights it could handle.
Clearly, the third runway would have transformed Heathrow's traffic
handling capacity and greatly reduced the stranglehold on the airport
currently enjoyed by AA/BA, but as
this article reports, a
High Court ruling found that the government had acted incorrectly in
approving a third runway. At the least this will delay a third
runway by some unknown number of years (it took six years for the
approval to be first given in early 2009, so at least another five), and
it may possibly be the last nail in the coffin of the expansion at all.
More about London's airports and
their future plans are in this series.
But perhaps the British government is wiser
than we thought? In November it will be increasing the per
passenger 'Air Passenger Duty' from an already usurious £55 up to £85
per person. If you're flying in other than the coach cabin, the
fee will double to £170 per person (ie $255).
With costs like that, if your final
destination is actually somewhere in Europe, wouldn't you prefer to
avoid flying through any UK airport en route to and fro? Might
this depress passenger numbers into Heathrow and London in general so
much that there'll no longer be any need for a third runway?
The answer actually could be yes.
Other European countries have reduced their comparable fees on
passengers, after discovering that by making travel through their
airports more expensive than travel through other airports, passengers
truly do switch their travel plans to avoid connecting through the more
One other solution of course to Heathrow's capacity constraints is to
smaller planes with A380s, but this is only a partial solution because
while it increases the passengers per plane, it doesn't allow for
airlines to boost the number of flights a day in/out of LHR. These
days most airlines seem to be more fixated on operating lots of smaller
flights rather than fewer big flights.
But this week did see the announcement of more A380 service into
England, however the A380s will be flying not to Heathrow but to
Manchester, making it the first time that an A380 has been scheduled to
fly into a secondary rather than major primary airport.
You can probably guess the airline that will be flying the planes into
Manchester. None other than, of course, the indefatigable
Emirates, which currently operates double daily 777 service between
Manchester and Dubai. They plan to replace one of the 777s with an
Why are so many people flying to Dubai? One has to guess that
people increasingly only change planes in Dubai en route to a friendlier
destination - or maybe the growth in traffic is not people flying to
Dubai, but people flying (fleeing) away from it.
Just a couple
of weeks ago I described some of the judicial horrors suffered by
foreigners in what seems to be increasingly a hostile prudish nation,
and this week there's news of another ridiculous action.
A 56 yr old Briton has been banned from
leaving Dubai since August last year, while a criminal trial slowly
proceeds against him, with the threat of a six month jail sentence at
the end of it all if he is found guilty. He is charged with - wait
for it - after getting into an argument with an Iraqi student resident
in Dubai, he apparently gave the Iraqi youth 'the finger'. This
resulted in him being arrested for 'outraging public decency',
being stuck in Dubai for the last eight months, incurring who knows how
much in legal fees to defend the charge, and worrying at the concept of
six months in prison.
this article for more dismaying details of this latest Dubai
extremist action. When it comes to 'outraging public decency' the
Dubai authorities should perhaps find themselves guilty and lock
themselves up somewhere where they can't do any further harm to the
image of the country, once seen as 'western-friendly' and a great
place to visit, to relax, to indulge oneself, and to spend huge sums of
money while doing so.
Talking about the A380, some news about
Boeing's new 787 plane. It seems to be showing some risk of
encountering further delays, with its flight testing program now six
weeks behind schedule. Boeing continues to project the first plane
will be delivered to launch customer All Nippon Airways prior to the end
of the year.
Although there are delays in the ongoing
testing, it seems the delays sure aren't due to Boeing conducting more
rigorous than normal testing. In actual fact, one would wish
Boeing to do exactly that and test the plane much more rigorously than
normal - here's a plane with an airframe built in large part from new
composite materials (ie glorified fibreglass) that have never been used
on a plane before. The problem isn't what we do know about the
composite materials; the problem is what we don't know and so can't
predict, plan or test for, and I'd sure prefer to find any such
surprising things about this new material on ground tests than as a
passenger on a commercial flight.
Some of us may know about the first ever passenger jet plane - the
British Comet - and how a series of mysterious crashes of the Comet taught us about metal
fatigue - a previously largely unknown and unconsidered factor in
What lessons are waiting for us with the 787?
Boeing should in particular take note of one
of the victims of the Comet crashes - the airplane company that made the
The particular issue that concerns me
slightly is that Boeing is not doing the typical wing stress test of
a new plane, where the wings are loaded progressively further and
further until the point that they actually break and fail.
Instead, the 787 wings are simply tested to a load described as 'more
than one-and-a-half times anything the jet will experience in service';
if the wing and plane survives that test, then the testing stops.
For all we know, the wing might have been about to fail at 151%, and
more to the point, if we stressed the wing all the way to failure, we
might learn some invaluable lessons about how composite materials fail.
Earlier stress testing had also uncovered
some problems - doesn't that mean the testing of the fixes should be
much more rigorous now?
One more question. How is this 'more
than one and a half times' factor calculated? Is it 150% of what
the plane encounters flying at normal cruise speed in still air?
Or is it 150% of extreme rough weather when flying through a massive
thunderstorm, such as was the case with the Air France A330 that crashed
mysteriously off Brazil? My guess is that the 150% factor is
somewhere between these two extremes, and all the claims about no planes
having had their wings fall off in the last some decades are rather
invalidated by the new composite materials in the new 787 and the less
rigorous testing protocol.
The fact that all aluminium wing and
fuselage planes have withstood the stresses of regular operation is of
little relevance when now introducing a plane that is not built of
There's another factor in the testing, too.
The stress test involves the slow steady buildup of loading to the 150%
point, and then the test ends. But, in very rough weather (can you
say 'turbulence') stresses are not slowly and gently/smoothly applied.
They are suddenly impacted on the wing - first one way, then suddenly
the other way, and so on.
I'd like the stress testing to reflect
the way the wings are stressed in the real world. And rather
than do it in a hangar at regular temperature, I'd like it to be done in
real world temperatures such as -40°
or more, such as is encountered when flying at altitude. And
rather than a single stress test with the force being steadily applied
in one direction only, I'd like it to involve sudden random stresses
both up and down, and to proceed for, oh, 100 hours. Better still,
For all we know, icy cold weather and
an extended series of semi-random sharp stresses both up and down might
wear out the composite material or cause it to separate from itself or
make it brittle and snap or who knows what.
You can read more about the testing
here. As for me, while I'm eager to fly an A380 any time the
chance presents itself, I'll attempt to avoid the 787 as much as I
can for, oh, maybe 3 - 5 years.
For a long time, Apple's acolytes have
laughed sneeringly at Microsoft's security vulnerabilities.
I've always felt that the main reason for Apple's lesser problems have
simply been that hackers, along with most other people, just can't be
bothered with the niche product that is the Apple Mac.
Now it seems that even Apple's Mac operating
system is also not perfect.
article reports how Apple just released updates to its operating
system that addressed not just one or two, but 92 different security
vulnerabilities, a third of which were deemed to be critical.
Here's a very interesting chart that shows
the share of mobile phone data traffic that is generated by each of the
main different types of mobile phone (from
this article). There are two extremely obvious trends here -
the extraordinary growth of Android based phones, and the steady
decline of both RIM (Blackberry) and Microsoft Windows based phones,
both to near trivial market shares.
RIM has just reported a good result for 2009, with increased sales and
profits, it would seem, at least by this measure (which is not the only
or even necessarily the best measure), their market share is dropping
steadily. I continue to predict that unless they come up with 'the
next big thing' - some sort of new revolutionary breakthrough - they are
destined to be consigned to the scrapheap of techno-history along with
all the other 'one trick ponies' that briefly flared into prominence
before being obsoleted and overtaken.
They've really only ever had one good idea -
a convenient way of accessing email on a portable device, and their
first mover advantage is being steadily eroded by newer devices that not
only do email better than RIM now does, but which also offer many other
features vastly better than anything available on a Blackberry.
We are told that increasing amounts of
carbon emissions as a result of human activity are causing the planet to
warm up, with various types of tragic consequences being forecast.
Charts show increases in man-made CO2 emissions, and for
sure, they reveal impressive increases over the last century or so.
But have you ever seen a chart showing all
the other sources of CO2 emissions as well, so we can get a
handle on just exactly how much of the total CO2 that is
emitted into the atmosphere is manmade? No, I thought not.
There's probably a reason the global warmers don't want to show us such
data, because the amount of CO2 caused by human
activity is a trivial tiny percentage of the total CO2
emissions from all natural sources.
interesting article about the level of CO2 emissions from
soil. The key data point is about halfway down.
Micro-organisms in ordinary soil emit ten times more CO2
into the atmosphere than does man.
So, clearly, if CO2 emissions are
a problem, there's an obvious solution. In the interests of saving
the planet, perhaps we should concrete it over entirely.
Or maybe there's not even a problem at all.
This article reports that the Arctic sea ice extent is returning
back to the historic baseline level (historic in the sense of
applying to the 1979-2000 period) this year.
Of course, we should all be doing our bit
and buy only the most energy efficient appliances, right? We
should look for appliances, large and small, with the EnergyStar
certification? Because that is an accurate impartial rating of
the energy efficiency of each appliance?
Or, then again, maybe it isn't.
This article points out that EnergyStar ratings are usually self
determined by each manufacturer, and, ummm, not always tested or
confirmed by the EPA.
The EPA's oversight is so ridiculously
lacking that Congressional auditors managed to get EnergyStar
certification for such obviously fake devices as a gasoline powered
alarm clock and an air purifier that was a space heater with a feather
duster pasted on top.
Every week I get newsletters
self-righteously returned to me by anti-spam filters that oversee many
of your email inboxes, incorrectly telling me that my newsletter is
spam. Who knows how many more newsletters get censored without me
being told that you failed to receive the newsletter.
So I'm very attuned to the issues raised in
fascinating article about some of the problems and failures of
This Week's Security Horror Story :
One could say that the five part article offered as the feature article
for this week is the security horror story for the week, but why limit
ourselves when there's so much else to offer as well.
Such as, for example, Homeland Security
Secretary Janet Napolitano's
strange statement that the new expensive full body scanners being
rushed into airports everywhere 'do not see everything'.
Ummm - wasn't that exactly what they were
supposed to do?
If they don't see everything/everywhere, how
are we being made safer - especially when it is rumored that terrorist
organizations have sometimes acquired working units themselves so as to
test them for weaknesses?
I may have mentioned this before, or maybe
this is a new example of a terrorist threat that even the best full body
scanner could not possibly detect -
The threat is perhaps not quite as serious
as might be seen at first blush, because an explosive contained within
one's body would have a lot of its force absorbed by the body it was
within. But when you also consider that the Moscow metro bombers
had less than 3lbs of explosive each earlier this week (the explosive
was equivalent to about 3.5lbs of TNT, but was more powerful than TNT so
less was required), you don't actually need a large volume of
explosive to cause a sizeable effect.
So - today is the day after 1 April, which
means rather than offer you an April Fool's Day joke, I can merely
report on them. Here's a
good roundup of some jokes.
One of my favorites doesn't appear on this
list. It reports on what is perhaps termed 'cellbow' or 'cell
phone elbow' - a bona fide problem a bit like carpal tunnel syndrome.
This is caused by bending your arm too sharply at your elbow for an
extended period of time - for example, when holding a cell phone to your
ear. The net result, apparently, can be painful and serious, as
the video on this special website
vividly demonstrates. (The proposed solution is to buy one of
their Bluetooth headsets.)
Kazuo Inamori, the new CEO of Japan Airlines
said that an 'extremely low' number of the airline's executives had any
business sense, saying to reporters that he had told them 'You guys
wouldn't be able to run a greengrocery with your ideas'.
This is not an April Fool's Day joke.
He really did say that.
I fly to Anaheim on Thursday next week
for a repeat Disneyland experience with my daughter, who has already
wondered if the coins in her half-full money box will be sufficient to
buy us a third trip to Disneyland shortly thereafter. How to explain to
her that at Disney's prices, they wouldn't even buy us a bottle of water
inside the park, let alone a complete trip for two from Seattle.
However I plan to
release an iPad review for Friday, so hopefully there'll be no internet
problems at the hotel interfering with the newsletter's publication.
Until next week, please enjoy safe travels
and have a great Easter