iPhone 5

An industry insider told me that sales of Samsung’s Galaxy S III sky-rocketed the day after Apple’s big reveal of the iPhone 5. Evidently potential customers were holding off their upgrades until they had seen the new product, but what they saw disappointed.

I probably shouldn’t be admitting this, but I have already used the iPhone 5 and I was underwhelmed too. iPhone has become the safe (even boring?) option, something you would confidently give to your Mum and Dad. Apple’s runaway success has become the de facto smartphone, but the commercial imperative not to alienate their mainstream customer base has stifled innovation.

The original popularity of iOS (then iPhone OS) was due to its perfect blend of technology, form and function. Often it wasn’t possible to customise something to your liking, but that was by design and the intention was to keep things deliberately simple.

I look at iOS 6 and wonder where Steve Jobs’ painstaking obsession with simplicity has gone. I never expected CEO Tim Cook to share the same ethos, but since Jobs had apparently described Sir Jonathan Ive as being his “spiritual partner” there was a hope that he would carry forward Jobs’ legacy. It’s likely however that Ive’s control only extends as far as the hardware design, not the operating system, which is the responsibility of Scott Forstall.

Watching the official iPhone 5 promo video, it’s hard not to be impressed by Apple’s manufacturing techniques and the obvious attention that has gone into the hardware design (like crystalline diamond-cut chamfers!), but it doesn’t detract from the hard truth that to the average customer the new iPhone just doesn’t seem all that different.

With each new iPhone Apple usually succeeds in generating enough excitement and desire to persuade existing customers to follow the natural upgrade path, but they also lose some customers to Android – and they rarely return. I don’t know anyone (including myself) who has switched to Android and then gone back to an iPhone. Once you’ve broken away from the closed iPhone ecosystem it feels quite liberating to have the freedom of open services and a wide range of devices.

Conversely with each evolution of the Android platform the gap has been closing and arguably the Android 4.1 ‘Jellybean’ release has leapfrogged iOS by delivering a simple intuitive user interface and powerful features – much like the original iOS.

Samsung are seizing the opportunity to capitalise on the apathy surrounding iPhone 5 with a marketing campaign directly comparing their two flagship products:

Apple fanbois have responded with their own parody advert, but when the best they have to brag about is ‘fits all pockets’ and ‘elastic bounce back’ (the subject of Apple’s recent patent dispute with Samsung), it doesn’t bode well.

It’s certainly not all doom and gloom for Apple. They will of course sell iPhone 5 by the millions, but the shine is starting to fade.

I do have an answer to their predicament. Apple needs another product with which to dazzle and showcase their technical excellence and suppressed innovation.

Dear Tim, how about you add a new model to the iPhone range? Call it the ‘iPhone X’, pack it with enough fancy gizmos and new technology to satisfy the Android crowd and demonstrate what the biggest company in the world can really do.

LTE, 4GEE and sleeping giants

For many years Vodafone and O2 have been regarded as the heavyweights of the UK’s mobile operators, but the status quo is changing.

First to set the scene with a bit of telecomms history.

In the beginning there were two UK cellular radio operators – Vodafone and Cellnet. They operated TACS analogue radio in the 900MHz band, but this radio technology didn’t make the most efficient use of radio resources and it was open to eavesdropping. Five years later a new standard for digital cellular communications (GSM) was introduced.

Vodafone and Cellnet launched GSM networks in the 900MHz band and gradually migrated existing customers onto the new service. In 1990 the GSM standard was updated to support the 1800MHz band (then known as DCS 1800) and in 1993 two new entrants – one2one and Orange – launched GSM digital services.

The new operators were at a technical disadvantage because the higher frequency of their 1800MHz radio signals didn’t penetrate as far as 900MHz. This particularly affects in-building coverage and it meant they had to build out considerably more network infrastructure than the competition. Despite this one2one and Orange started a mobile revolution and through innovative tariffs and services they can be credited with making mobile phones accessible to the mass market.

In 2000 the UK Government raised £22.5 billion in a spectrum auction for the new 3G mobile standard operating in the 2100MHz band. Licences were won by all four existing mobile operators and Hutchison 3G became the fifth entrant to the UK mobile operator club.

Some rebranding went on at the operators, with Hutchison 3G becoming “3”, BT Cellnet becoming “O2” and one2one becoming “T-Mobile”. There was one constant however and that was the size and dominance of the original two operators, with Vodafone and O2 still sharing over 50% of the total UK market between them.

In 2010 T-Mobile and Orange merged their UK businesses to become ‘Everything Everywhere’. It was initially dismissed by some as a forced marriage of desperation, but by combining their networks under a common umbrella, with double the network capacity and vastly superior mobile coverage, a sleeping giant was born.

This brings us right up to date with the arrival of LTE. This is the latest evolution of digital mobile communications which delivers wireless speeds of up to 40Mbps, but it requires new radio spectrum in which to operate. In the UK Ofcom have reserved the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands for LTE, with another spectrum auction due to take place in 2013.

While the big two operators waited patiently for the forthcoming LTE spectrum auction, Everything Everywhere were busy plotting. They were in possession of more 1800MHz spectrum than they needed to satisfy current demand and so they made a tactical strike. They asked Ofcom to vary the terms of their licence to allow them to re-farm the 1800MHz band for use with LTE.

After a brief consultation period and despite protests from Vodafone and Telefonica (the Spanish owners of the O2 brand), Ofcom agreed to the request:

1.2 On 23 November 2011 we received an application from EE for variation of its 1800 MHz licences to enable it to provide services using LTE technology in those frequencies. The application encompasses all frequencies currently licensed to EE in the 1800MHz band, i.e. the 2×15 MHz that it undertook to divest as a result of its merger in 2010 and the 2×45 MHz it will retain.

1.8 Although we consider it likely that EE will enjoy a competitive advantage during the period before other operators are able to launch their own LTE services, we consider on the evidence available that any such advantage is unlikely to result in an enduring advantage which distorts competition to the detriment of consumers. Our assessment takes account of the impending release of additional spectrum in the 800 MHz and 2.6 GHz bands which will enable other operators to launch competing LTE services during the course of 2013. We have also taken into account EE’s obligation to divest itself of some its 1800 MHz spectrum.

1.9 In light of this assessment, and for the reasons explained in more detail in this decision, we consider that it is in the interests of consumers for us to vary EE’s licences now, in accordance with EE’s request. We have therefore today issued EE with varied 1800 MHz licences with the provisions authorising LTE and WiMAX coming into force on 11 September 2012.

It’s interesting to note that Ofcom made it explicitly clear that the ruling covered the 1800MHz spectrum which Everything Everywhere are required to relinquish.

Shortly afterwards Everything Everywhere announced their immediate plans to launch a LTE service starting in 16 major UK cities, and a week later they agreed to ‘dispose’ of a sizeable chunk of 1800MHz spectrum to 3:

As part of the commitments given when the European Commission approved the merger of Orange and T-Mobile in the UK in March 2010, Everything Everywhere was required to divest 2X15MHz of its 1800 MHz spectrum.

In accordance with these commitments, Everything Everywhere has today announced an agreement with Three to transfer this 2×15 MHz of its 1800MHz spectrum to Three. Ofcom and the European Commission will review whether the divestment satisfies the merger commitments, and a response is expected within the next three months.

This means that 3 might not be far behind in their own commercial launch of LTE in the 1800MHz band, since it does not require a separate application to Ofcom.

Vodafone and O2 were clearly on the ropes, but without a decent range of desirable handsets Everything Everywhere’s LTE rollout would only be in demand from data hungry road-warriors using mobile broadband dongles.

On September 11th Everywhere Everywhere announced their re-branding as ‘EE‘ with their 4G LTE service branded as ‘4GEE’. The following day the final piece of the jigsaw slotted into place with Apple’s public announcement of the iPhone 5.

As expected the new iPhone does indeed support LTE, but only on some frequency bands. The surprise was Apple’s choice of LTE bands for the European hardware variant, omitting support for the 800MHz and 2600MHz bands which are due to be auctioned next year. It does however support the 1800MHz band which EE are using for their 4GEE service. This has effectively handed EE a virtual exclusive on the iPhone 5.

Was this just a fortuitous coincidence for EE? The exquisite timing of EE’s new brand launch and Apple’s iPhone 5 LTE announcement was a marketeer’s dream. I have no doubt that EE and Apple have been working out this arrangement to marginalise Vodafone and O2 for quite some time. The sleeping giant has awoken!

The old guard are guilty of standing still and the tables have been turned while they were napping. There is an argument that Ofcom has not been fair in handing EE a considerable head start and commercial advantage in starting LTE without any competition, but the damage has been done and there is little to be gained from late legal challenges.

Vodafone and O2 will have to accept defeat on iPhone 5, concentrate their efforts into playing catch-up on LTE, then try and win back customers when their EE contracts expire. Whatever happens, the long established landscape of the UK’s mobile network operators has changed and once again Apple have had a hand in shaping it.

Mac nap

Macs are generally good at honouring power saving controls, but occasionally your Mac will either not sleep automatically or wake for no apparent reason.

If your Mac won’t sleep then open a Terminal window and use this command:

/usr/bin/pmset -g assertions

This should give you output similar to the following:


Assertion status system-wide:
   PreventUserIdleDisplaySleep 0
   CPUBoundAssertion 0
   DisableInflow 0
   ChargeInhibit 0
   PreventSystemSleep 0
   PreventUserIdleSystemSleep 0
   ExternalMedia 0
   DisableLowPowerBatteryWarnings 0
   EnableIdleSleep 1
   NoRealPowerSources_debug 0
   UserIsActive 0
   ApplePushServiceTask 0

What you are looking for is the PreventUserIdleSystemSleep line, which should be set to zero. If it’s not then the process which is prevent the idle sleep should be listed, like in the example below:

Assertion status system-wide:
   PreventUserIdleDisplaySleep 0
   CPUBoundAssertion 0
   DisableInflow 0
   ChargeInhibit 0
   PreventSystemSleep 0
   PreventUserIdleSystemSleep 1
   ExternalMedia 0
   DisableLowPowerBatteryWarnings 0
   EnableIdleSleep 1
   NoRealPowerSources_debug 0
   UserIsActive 0
   ApplePushServiceTask 0

Listed by owning process:
  pid 194: [0x000000c2012c0368] PreventUserIdleSystemSleep named: "com.apple.audio.'AppleHDAEngineOutput:1B,0,1,2:0'.noidlesleep"

To check which process this is:

ps u -p <pid>

If your Mac is waking unexpectedly, check the system log for what woke your Mac from its slumber:

/usr/bin/syslog | grep -i "Wake reason"

This will return a number syslog entries which give a clue as to the reason for the wake.


Jul 29 08:49:42 mac kernel[0] <Debug>: Wake reason: EC.PowerButton PWRB (User)
Jul 29 08:50:10 mac kernel[0] <Debug>: Wake reason: EHC2
Jul 29 08:52:28 mac kernel[0] <Debug>: Wake reason: EHC1
Jul 29 08:54:13 mac kernel[0] <Debug>: Wake reason: ?

In the examples above the wake reasons were:

EC.PowerButton PWRB (User): The power button being pressed
EHC2: Wireless keyboard key press or mouse movement
EHC1: Connecting an iPad using the USB cable
?: Wake-on-Lan magic packet

Some of the wake reason codes you might encounter:

  • EHC/OHC/USB: A USB or Firewire input device such as a keyboard or mouse
  • LID0: The lid of your MacBook or MacBook Pro being opened
  • PWRB: The power button being pressed
  • RTC: Real Time Clock scheduled wake event (check for a wake schedule in System Preferences > Energy Saver > Schedule)

If there is nothing obvious in the system log then you can try finding the culprit through a process of elimination. Try each of these settings in turn and see if that makes a difference.

The first setting to check is in the Energy Saver settings in System Preferences.

Check that ‘Wake for network access’ is not checked. This prevents Wake-on-LAN ‘magic’ packets from waking your machine.

Next click on ‘Schedule’ (bottom right) and make sure there isn’t an automatic wake schedule set.

Finally if you use Bluetooth connected peripherals go into System Preferences > Bluetooth > Advanced and uncheck ‘Allow Bluetooth devices to wake this computer’.

Some applications are also known to be incompatible with Mac OS X’s sleep routines.

This is the list of apps I’ve had problems with:

  • Dropbox – disable LAN sync in Preferences
  • Drobo Dashboard (DDAssist / DDServiced / DDService64d) – uninstall completely
  • Google Drive – just quit the app, no need to uninstall
  • smcFanControl – uninstall

Good luck and happy Mac napping.

Dealing with App Store rejection

In the course of my work I’ve been submitting iOS (originally iPhone OS) apps since 2008, so I have quite some experience in this area.

Although Apple have always been diligent in manually inspecting app submissions and successful in weeding out the chaff, I get the impression that the demands of quality over quantity have gained greater emphasis in recent months.

The App Store Review Guidelines (a living document) have been tightened-up and certainly from my experience the App Review Team have been policing them with increased vigilance.

I’ve read about developers complaining that their app has been unfairly rejected, but in most cases I can sympathise with Apple’s stance. They have the expectations of a enormous customer base to fulfil and a squeaky-clean brand image to protect. If your gut instinct is that your app might be contentious, then Apple will probably think likewise.

Don’t for a minute imagine you are going to reverse their decision by engaging the App Review Board in a battle of wits. It’s Apple’s game and you must play by their rules. If they don’t like your app then they won’t publish it and no amount of picking holes in the App Store Review Guidelines is going to help your case.

Apple doesn’t respond well to legal threats or external publicity. Let’s face it, they haven’t grown to be the largest company in the world by being agreeable with everyone. They retain the best lawyers, designers and technical experts in the world and there is no benefit to be gained by arguing with them.

So enough of the ‘do nots’ and on to my advice.

Do thoroughly read Apple’s developer documentation before embarking on a new development project. The App Store Review Guidelines are actually written in an engaging and almost humorous style, so take the time to digest them fully.

If you feel that your app has been unjustly rejected or perhaps misunderstood then respond using Resolution Center. Ask for further clarifications if required and politely ask for their assistance in identifying precisely what it would take to overcome their objections. Make your responses courteous with a sprinkling of humility and you might be in with a chance.

Some developers might feel powerless going up against the 800 lb gorilla, but I have been successful in reversing some app rejection decisions by using diplomacy and a collaborative approach.

If all else fails, my expert consultancy is available – for a modest fee 😉

Mac OS X Lion and legacy SMB

mount_smbfs: server connection failed: Unknown error: -5996

For anyone else experiencing problems connecting to older Windows networking shares (using SMB/CIFS protocols) from OS X Lion hosts, here is why and what to do about it.

For many years Mac OS X included the Open Source Samba client, but from OS X 10.7 onwards this was replaced by Apple’s own Windows networking software. In making this change Apple also chose to disable support for the older SMB 1.0 protocol, which some file sharing devices still depend on.

If you cannot connect your Mac to a network storage device, then try this command which temporarily resurrects support for the older SMB 1.0 protocol:

sudo sysctl -w net.smb.fs.kern_deprecatePreXPServers=0

Note that this is a transient kernel fix which will revert back when you reboot your Mac.

Unfortunately I’ve heard that this option no longer works in OS X Mountain Lion (10.8), so if you can’t update your legacy storage device to support SMB 2.0 then you had better not upgrade!

(Apple support article HT4697 also describes this issue)

Gmail window in Safari

I like to have a separate Safari browser window for Gmail sessions, without the Safari toolbar or bookmarks bar.

It’s a bit of a pain to set this up each time the browser is reset, so here’s a handy tip for creating a bookmarklet which opens Gmail in an uncluttered window of its own:

javascript:window.open("http://gmail.com/","gmail","titlebar=0");

Save this bookmarklet to the first position in your personal bookmarks bar and you can also access it using the shortcut key Command+1.

EvoCam vs SecuritySpy

The options for network camera recording software are a bit limited on Mac OS. The two most popular products in this space are Evological’s EvoCam and Bensoftware’s SecuritySpy.

So which is best?

On price alone you might be tempted by EvoCam as it costs just $30 (under £20) for an unlimited number of cameras, while SecuritySpy will set you back £30 for a single camera license and a whopping £500 for unlimited camera support.

I’ve had an opportunity to evaluate both products and have come to the conclusion that you really do get what you pay for.

EvoCam does the job well enough and has a more polished user interface, but it also suffers from a major problem that lets it down badly, almost to the point of being unusable. For reasons unknown it ties up the processor for even a simple one camera recording setup.

Activity Monitor output taken for identical recording sessions is below:

In these examples (from a Mac Mini 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo with 4GB RAM), EvoCam consumes 85% CPU and 90MB real memory, while in comparison SecuritySpy consumes a meagre 6% CPU and 21MB real memory. That’s quite a difference and it’s very noticeable when you try to use the same host machine for other work.

So if you have the luxury of a dedicated powerful server for your camera recording then EvoCam is probably the most cost effective option, but if you want something that works reliably and doesn’t take over your machine then SecuritySpy is well worth the extra investment.