When Companies Lie

There are so many companies springing up all the time in the US, each in turn claiming to want to change the world. Some do eventually succeed against all odds but most of them are doomed to fail.

I mean, I do get it, it’s not only tough to start a company, but to then grow it until it becomes established in the minds of consumers and achieves self sustaining growth? Now that’s really really hard. Running a business is complicated and companies can fail for a variety of reasons; maybe their business model wasn’t viable or the product just wasn’t as revolutionary as they’d hoped. It hurts to shutter a company but if the people involved did their best work, they can at least learn from the experience and walk away holding their heads high.

But to resort to deceit in order to sustain your companies massive growth — now that’s downright wrong. But that appears to be exactly what the Theranos and Hampton Creek founders have done. Continue reading “When Companies Lie”

Rodrigo Duterte and the Future of the Philippines

I’m endlessly fascinated by the new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

Is he the leader that the country needs or could he be a harbinger of further trouble for this large and complex nation?

This week I got to read two articles which provide some of his back story.

1. Criticized Abroad, Philippines’ Leader Remains Hugely Popular In Home City

Back in the 1980s, Davao City was a largely lawless city on the largely lawless island of Mindanao, known to the wider world mostly for its Muslim and communist insurgencies.

But on this day, I’m sitting at a Krispy Kreme in the SM Mall, meeting with Vicente Lao, the chairman of the Mindanao Business Council. If Duterte had not been mayor of Davao, he says, this mall probably wouldn’t be here. And without Duterte, he continues, Davao wouldn’t be one of the safer cities in the country.

“He made it that way,” Lao says.

2. The Bloody Biography of Rodrigo Duterte

To understand what seems to validate Duterte’s seemingly maniacal thirst for blood in the pursuit of order, you’ve got to grapple with the world that shaped him when he entered public life in the 1980s, at the height of the anti-communist campaign. In Davao in the early 1980s, guerrillas tested urban warfare strategies on the city’s streets. They deployed “sparrows,” or assassins who gunned down policemen and criminals in broad daylight. Both in Davao and across Mindanao, the communists purged their ranks of suspected military informers, torturing and killing hundreds of innocent cadres.

Unless you saw the madness with your own eyes, it was hard to believe. On one trip to Davao, I found a city terrorized by bands of vigilantes, roaming the streets with guns or long knives, hunting for communists. The radio blared anti-communist tirades, the most incendiary of them from Jun Pala, a broadcaster who compared himself to Goebbels. Pala walked around Davao armed with a Magnum revolver and a hand grenade. On air, he threatened to behead rebel sympathizers and egged on the vigilantes as they gunned down or knifed suspected communists. One day, news photographers chanced upon a vigilante band that had beheaded a suspected guerrilla­. The killers posed for pictures, and said they drank the blood from the sundered head.

and,

In Davao, which has benefitted from both U.S. development aid and a brisk trade in agricultural produce with China, Duterte did not have to concern himself with foreign policy. In the presidential palace, however, things are more complicated. Casual presidential pronouncements take on the weight of official policy, whether Duterte means them to or not. It’s hard to tell whether the new president is reinventing the Philippines’s foreign policy, or merely thumping his chest.

Reading into all this background makes me wonder if parallels can be drawn to Singapore.

Looking back in history we see that Singapore’s government also took a famously hardline approach against criminals and stamping out corruption; Albeit without so much profanity and ‘death squads’.

Today the governments efforts have been vindicated as Singaporeans now enjoy unprecedented peace and prosperity. But that’s also because behind all the tough suppression of criminality there was also an equally important plan, for developing the country, being enacted behind the scenes.

It’s hard to draw any further comparisons between Singapore (a nation of 5.5 million with no natural resources) and the Philippines (a self sufficient nation of 100 million) so it’s anyone’s guess how the future will play out.

Right now all I can say is that it is rightfully hard to clean up such a large nation spread over so many cities, towns and hundreds of islands. The authors of the second article linked above, notes how much the Philippines economy is dependent on remittances coming from Filipinos who are working overseas, hence why Duterte shouldn’t be so quick to insult his allies overseas.

But if the president proves successful at reforming the nation and economic development starts picking up, this could actually be the beginning of a beautiful future for the country. Then, it might actually be the rest of the world who’ll be turning to the Philippines for employment instead of the other way round.

More Thoughts on Apple and Cloud Storage

This paragraph below, from the Verge’s review of macOS Sierra, gels with my own thoughts about Apple and cloud storage:

One has to wonder why Apple, among the wealthiest companies in the world, would even bother charging $0.99 per month for a basic amount of storage if it really wants these features to create a better experience for everyone. (I seem to recall a designer once saying that file syncing is “a feature and not a product.”) If Google is able to give a free 100GB of storage for two years to everyone who purchases a $300 Chromebook, certainly Apple can offer more than 5GB to everyone with a $1,300 Mac. I don’t think that it needs to give away 100GB or even half of that, but what it offers now simply isn’t enough.

Certainly echos the points that I made a few days back, writing about how Apple should just give free storage to people who buy their devices. How much to give would of course be decided by Apple, but anywhere more than 5GB would be good.

Maybe Apple is thinking of giving away storage for free but just hasn’t worked out how much yet. This thought I find intriguing, since Apple often likes to line up all their ducks first before making some dramatic change.

When MobileMe ( (remember that, har har) first came out in 2008 it was a subscription only service, one who’s potential I recognised back then but would never have paid for simply because gmail was so much better and also, free. But in 2011 I predicted that Apple would do more to promote the service, believing that they’d make it free, which they eventually did. The new service was rebranded as ‘iCloud’ and today has over 780 million users. Making it free helped remove barriers for adoption which has undoubtedly helped position iCloud as the online brain for all of a users important data.

The author also notes:

It’s fair to say that Apple has always been behind when it comes to cloud services. Either it’s messed them up (MobileMe), or it’s underwhelmed (early stages of iCloud), or it’s just iterated at a glacial pace compared to its competitors (Google Photos, for instance,launched a new feature on Monday; its last significant update was less than two weeks ago).

But Sierra starts to change that, particularly when it comes to iCloud syncing and Optimized Storage. The two features feel like meaningful extensions of the Mac, which is what makes it so disappointing that not everyone will get to use them due to Apple’s decision to charge for even a modest amount of cloud storage.

A small iCloud plan is available for $0.99 per month, offering 50GB of space. For me, that’ll probably be enough to store my extra documents; in fact, I’ve signed up, and I intend to keep paying. But it’s not enough to store my photos, so for that, I’m sticking with Google.

Now if Apple really wants to be the online service for all of it’s users they’d better up their game. And we know that there’s only one real way to do that.

I’m now expanding my previous argument and saying that Apple should study how to give a meaningful amount of free online storage to everyone who buys a device, be it iPhone, iPad or Mac. Considering how little Apple already makes from iCloud subscriptions it makes little sense why the 50GB storage isn’t already free for everyone. And unlike it’s competitors Apple makes loads of profit off of it’s hardware sales, money which can prop up their cloud services without having to serve ads to users. Companies like Microsoft and Google simply can’t compete against that!

The more I think about it the more I’m convinced that Apple will eventually give free storage to all of their subscribers. As another key differentiater of their products this would drive an incredible amount of hardware sales. It’s just a matter of when.

 

A quick overview of all the new neatures in macOS Sierra>

From Lifehacker:

Apple’s just released macOS Sierra, and while it’s a minor update, it does include Siri, a universal clipboard, and a handful of other new features. Let’s take a quick look at all the new stuff.

Good overview of the features in Apple’s latest free update for the Mac operating system.

Doubt I’ll use many of them though, especially the Siri ones. Talking to my phone is weird enough, so I can’t imagine myself barking orders at my Macbook Air.

Update: And for those looking for instructions to make a bootable USB for the installation, Lifehacker also has you covered.

Austin Mann’s iPhone 7 Camera Review in Rwanda >

And in case you wanted to see the true capabilities of the best smartphone camera (aka the iPhone 7s) look no further than Austin Mann’s on the ground review in Rwanda:

As many of you know, in the past I’ve created this review in Iceland (twice), Patagonia, and Switzerland, but this year I wanted to really change things up. With indicators pointing toward possibilities of optical zoom, I asked myself: Where’s the best place in the world to test optical zoom? Africa, of course.

Those are some pretty pictures.

 

Are Smartphones Threatening the Camera Industry? >

From the site Photography Life:

When I posted the article about the iPhone 7 Announcement, talking about all the great camera features of the phone, I was a bit surprised to see a few comments and emails from our readers, who said things like “It’s another nail in the coffin for paid photography in all areas”, or “iPhone will soon replace DSLRs”. While overall image quality and features are certainly getting better on smartphones, they will never be able to compete with dedicated interchangeable-lens camera systems. It is one thing to take a decent picture in broad daylight and totally different when photographing people in a dim wedding reception

This debate has been raging for some time now and I think it’s still too early to see what’s going to happen.

I think the fact that less people are choosing to buy cameras or DSLRs isn’t because these products are any less desirable, but instead reveals that the actual demand for these products has probably been inflated in the first place. Prior to smartphones becoming so good for taking photos, most people had to rely on digital cameras, which are often bulky or too good for what most people want to do at the spur of the moment, like taking photos of their food.

I agree with the author’s argument that digital cameras will never go away because they can take far superior photos that a smartphone cannot. This is limited by the form factor of the phone. No one wants a huge sensor or larger lens taking up valuable space that could otherwise be used for batteries on their phones or making a phone that much thicker and heavier to lug around.

The interesting thing though, is that now that everyone has a camera in their pocket, more people are actually taking photos and learning about photography. This might actual do camera companies a favour if they know how to capitalise on that increase in interest, and therefore, target these people who are unsatisfied with what smartphones can achieve. Companies should just ditch the ‘good enough’ camera models and really create amazing cameras that these users would love to use everyday. At least that’s my humble take on the matter.

On a related note, thanks to the fact that my iPhone’s camera has become so good, I often struggle to decide what camera to bring along with me depending on the situation.

At the moment I have a small DSLR (Canon EOS 350d), a compact camera (Sony RX100 iii), a Panasonic Camcorder (HC-V180) along with my iPhone 6. Each has it’s strengths and weaknesses, but I definitely don’t want to bring all of them with me everywhere I go.

The fact that my iPhone is with me all the time makes it my most used camera and because most of the images I take on it are just meant to record small moments, the quality of the shots is just fine. But for recording special moments (my kids first steps, for instance) using the Panasonic is far better as it has image stabilisation and is just more comfortable to hold for long durations.

For night shots and events I like to use the Sony because it takes really good shots in low light. It’s also small enough to fit in my pocket.

But for adventurous occasions I really love to use my Canon. I got a 18-200mm lens which really works well outdoors and the fast shutter means I usually don’t miss a shot. My 50mm f/1.8 lens was also great for taking portraits, that is until I broke it.

Next year my family is going on a trip to Myanmar which is really exciting but I’m faced with the difficulty of deciding which camera(s) to bring along. Something big that shouts out ‘tourist’? Something small to capture events even in crowded spaces, but that doesn’t allow me to zoom into details? I’m aware that the more stuff I bring the more likely I’m to lose things when I travel as well. Bringing the iPhone only would be a cop out but not an entirely tragic decision.

Guess it’s a good problem to have right?