Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Getting to the bottom of Apple and human cost

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  • Michael Hogan,

    Isaacson's biography of Jobs is a riveting read. Although I suspect some will resent the many references to his difficult personality, I thought it was balanced and gave me great insights to the man, the company and the industries he shook up in such a big way (Disney/Pixar dramas were fasinating). I particularly enjoyed hearing about his influences of LSD, Zen and calligraphy. He was also so brutally honest with competitors, he often told them when their products "sucked" (which most of them did), and was such a perfectionist, he couldn't furnish any of his homes, because they just didn't design any furniture that worked for him. I will never look at or read about and Apple product the same way again.
    As for China, this is a global marketplace.Outsourcing is not even used as term any more. 37 million iPhones sold in 3 months thru December. Who's gonna do that for ya?

    Waiheke Island • Since Nov 2006 • 31 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Ross Mason,

    Geez, of all the things to sacrifice at the altar of Mammon.

    And now New Zealanders have a reputation here in China for shite business skills. Coincidence?

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1732 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Russell Brown,

    the West should also look to itself.

    I am presently studying my reflection in the mirror and as much as self-praise is no recommendation, I must say I look exceedingly good.

    I would like to own a Mac for the garage band program but the 0.70 c and hour thing bugs me.

    The PC I use is the same box and power source I had when I started out in 2000, the only thing that has changed is the mother board, CPU and drives get updated every few years by a local PC shop to the highest spec you can buy at the time.

    The last time I upgraded the innards some three to four years ago it was a new mother board, Hard Drive, 3.0 Ghz Processor with 3 Gigs of RAM and it cost under $450 – I run windows XP and Office 2000.

    I effectively live in a fish bowl and support locals over brands as much as I can.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1157 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    I would like to own a Mac for the garage band program

    I wouldn't bother - I found it deeply average compared to Ableton. Although that runs way better on a Mac than a PC with similar levels of grunt.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4218 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Geez, of all the things to sacrifice at the altar of Mammon.

    Note the date the programmes ended: 1985.
    Not a lot went right that year - or, rather, matters started to lurch rightwards in ways us unsuspecting Labour voters couldnt forsee-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Thanks I'll look around sometime later this year for something good to play with..

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1157 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Islander,

    Note the date the programmes ended: 1985.

    I did note that, and that's about the time my political memories begin and the era I started developing my political leanings.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1732 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Whilst making a peanut butter and jam sandwich for someone small, I was just thinking about that very fact of the treacherous Labour lurch to the right and how the culmination of that disturbance in the force spewed forth the abomination that is Act and Rodney Hide, and others.

    This term of Govt is all about finishing off the unfinished business - so we are back in the time warp again..

    I had a vision of kicking Rodney, numerous select others including all of the 1984 Labour cabinet fair and square in the nads – but really it is far less than they deserve – I dismissed it as not worth the busfare and made myself a cup of coffee.

    Funny how David Shearer and Len Brown aren’t really embracing the lot of working persons as regards POAL and all measure of things – IMHO. - I just wonder what these guys are about.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1157 posts Report Reply

  • 3410,

    I just wonder what these guys are about.

    With you on that one. I'm still waiting for each of them to say something I can either agree or disagree with.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2007 • 2618 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ross Mason,

    But we threw the baby out....

    fascinating

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15741 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to DexterX,

    I dismissed it as not worth the busfare and made myself a cup of coffee.

    Seems like a very fair assessment to me.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1732 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Yes really - the fact that China is not hindered by the restrictions of human rights and Labour laws has been advanced as reasons for its success and the basis of why the West, including NZ can't compete.

    I acknowledge that China in China will do some good stuff and even some green stuff and develop innovative solutions regarding all manner of things and some of these things will have a positive 'global effect"

    I was looking at some of the big city transport solutions with buses (in the form of urban public transport platforms on wheels) that were raised up so that traffic could pass under then whilst they were stopped at a bus stop or terminus or travelling along a road - really mind blowing futuristic stuff.

    As far as engineering and development of big projects there is a lot happening in China.

    But there will also be violations of what are widely regarded as basic human rights and a lot of the tools and equipment that come here from China is of low quality. I bought a ruler and a string line made in China and they lasted less than a day.

    Looking at the future for NZ it isn't a matter of competing with China but playing a different game - what concerns me is that NZ will find itself as the little skinny kid kept up the high side of the see saw by the much bigger stronger kid China and not able to come down.

    NZ has, since the 1980s, opened itself up to the degree that it will shortly not possess enough of its own infrastructure and resources to provide an adequate quality life for the people that work here. Presently with the Nats we are set on a course to borrow and sell assets to sustain ourselves economically - the management of the economy in a manner that provides growth seems to me to be lacking.

    I don’t trust the present govt to get the little stuff right let alone the big stuff they don’t seem to possess the wit or thoroughness, what one could call rigour, for such tasks.

    An example of getting the little stuff wrong is abolishing LAQC so that someone setting up their own business in any year does not get to offset their loss against their taxable income – this will stop people from starting out in small business and have a detrimental effect on economic growth.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1157 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Clarke, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Hmm, I built my alarm clock from components. If I had to cost it up based on my hourly rate, it would have been considered pretty 'boutique' if someone had to buy it.

    So yeah, I guess the questions is, who built the resistors I used?

    -36.76, 174.61 or thereab… • Since Nov 2006 • 164 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    The other parallel universe China could be compared to is the peasantry moving from tenant farmers into the cities of the UK at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. The focus back then was cotton and wool. This century it is silicon, plastics and electrons.

    The more one thinks about it the more one can see how similar it was/is. When will the emigration begin from China??? Or maybe the movement of capital / people has already started. Crafer farms et al.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1459 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Ross Mason,

    Scales.
    Compared to China, the UK was -and is – tiny. And relatively recent as a civilisation. And rather poor, comparatively, in *home-grown* resources(whether farmed or mineral.)Yeah, it swung it’s ships & armies and bureaucracy wide round the world for about 3 centuries – but China has done that several times in the past as well.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to DexterX,

    I basically agree with your view of the NZ government, but here is where we disagree:

    Yes really – the fact that China is not hindered by the restrictions of human rights and Labour laws has been advanced as reasons for its success and the basis of why the West, including NZ can’t compete.

    Well, I know that a few have pushed that argument, but my answer is: no, not entirely.The Cultural Revolution ended the year I was born, and even then China wasn't a complete autocracy and there was a fair bit of too and fro (by the severely restricted standards of the time) between different factions. For example, Zhou Enlai and Jiang Qing weren't the best of friends and had a disagreement or two. China now is in a state of transition towards a rule of law, and it is very, very far from perfect and human rights and labour laws are severely abused, but China is not unhindered, and when the law is insufficient to cut through corruption and Party meddling (redundancy in that clause? perhaps) public opinion can and does force the government to at least moderate, if not reverse or abandon plans.

    Don't believe me? Why isn't there a maglev line from Shanghai to Hangzhou? What happened to the Xiamen PX plant? Why do you think the cadmium spill into a river in Liuzhou just the other day was reported so quickly and openly when the Jilin benzene spill into the Songjiang a few years ago was covered up until they were just about to turn off mains water supply in Harbin for several days? Take a look at the Shanxi brick kiln slavery scandal I referenced in a previous comment, or follow the links to the ChinaSMACK articles I posted in probably the same comment and read the translations of discussion that happened openly on the Chinese internet.

    Now, don't get me wrong, I have personally witnessed people get away with shit here that would cause one hell of a scandal in NZ. All I'm saying is China isn't that simple. This is a massive country with huge variations in language and culture and massive regional discrepancies in level of development, quality of governance and corruption, with an authoritarian government trying to move into the rule of law and a modern economy and society with a growing middle class that's starting to demand it's say in how things are done and a peasantry that throughout history has been more than willing to overthrow its rulers (local, provincial or national) once they've passed their use by date, and that makes for one horribly complex situation.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1732 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Islander,

    And rather poor, comparatively, in *home-grown* resources(whether farmed or mineral.)

    Unfortunately, China has now found itself poor in [ETA: home-grown] resources, if not in absolute terms, certainly in per capita terms. Water, especially.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1732 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    THAT is a VERY big problem (I do know a bit about desertification,)

    Water - is - finite.
    We all know(well, thinking people)that water is NOT an infinite resource,
    The seas seem limitless?
    Um, not so.
    Aquifers? Groundwater? Glaciers? The very Antarctic Ice?
    Are going.
    Earth is a blue & watery planet, but She has lived as a fireball without us (or anything we would understand as life) and shall continue unto the heat death of the - well, *this* universe anyway-

    I, personally, would miss such a lot stuff-
    you know, starting with my mother & working down to the tui in the morning
    and whitebait in due season-

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Islander,

    Ae, but here's what I see: On a regular basis I drive my car across a bridge named Guanting, after the reservoir it's supposed to cross. This should be Beijing's second largest reservoir. I look upstream and see a dam holding water in the Guishui River so that the residents of and visitors to Yanqing County Town get the illusion of a healthy river. I look below the bridge and downstream and see a couple of tiny creeks and acres of grass and mature trees. On a clear day I see where the water is gathered. I look around Beijing and see a myriad of place names referring to bodies of water or springs or wells that no longer exist.

    This kind of problem is by no means unique to Yanqing or Beijing or China. I get really upset when I hear of new dairy farms going into, for example, Canterbury, because I see regularly the real results of over-exploitation of such a basic resource.

    Water, theoretically, is not finite - it's just a matter of buring hydrogen, right? But in the real world, you're right, and we're really pushing the limits.

    Beijing • Since Jan 2007 • 1732 posts Report Reply

  • Islander, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    I regularly drive from Okarito to Oamaru (where my mother lives.) I do it via the back way (i.e turn off just after Sheffield, head through Geraldine.)

    There are massive pine plantations that have been felled, BURNT, and the shingle-based land smoothed down. For dairy farms. Based on the adjacent rivers.

    I cry a karaka for coming generations everytime I pass over the bridges. It is also a taki-aue.

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Given the sheer scale of Chinese manufacturing, there must be the possibility to have an "ethically-produced" cellphone built, yes? The fact that it hasn't been done may tell us quite a bit about the genuine cash-meets-the-road purchasing intentions of the average Western consumer, despite what outrage the NY Times article may have stirred.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1712 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Gareth Ward,

    I'm not sure how much of a component in production cost is labour - 25% maybe?

    So if Foxconn were (somehow) required to comply with developed world labour practices, then that might send the price of a finished article up by 50-100%, depending on the amount of this that the distribution chain absorbed.

    At those prices ($1500 for an iPhone. $6k for a Macbook Pro) the products would still be viable. People might not buy as many and as often, but they'd still buy them, right?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4218 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Water, theoretically, is not finite – it’s just a matter of buring hydrogen, right? But in the real world, you’re right, and we’re really pushing the limits.

    Well, AFAIK humankind hasn't managed to speed up the process of atmospheric water loss into space, which is the only way it actually leaves the planet. (Reminds me of that old Asimov(?) story about the Martian colonists mining the rings of Saturn - forget the name, but the imagery was beautiful.) Actually using up all the H2O on the planet - not a real concern.

    But there is less and less accessible water in some regions. Hint: if it was a desert/low-water biosphere when you got there, there was probably a reason.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2087 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Chris Waugh,

    Chris, I really appreciate hearing what you have to say about China, it's most enlightening to hear from people on the ground there. You're not the only person I know there who regularly brings some reality into my perceptions from afar. I feel vaguely ashamed that I've never seized the opportunity to go there.

    One thing one of my other in-China contacts often says is that our perception of their lack of political involvement is heavily skewed by our own perspective on what public life means, particularly the fixation on elections. Getting involved in politics is something people do there, they just do it differently - you join the vast party machine at a local level and involve yourself in decisions that way, if you're interested in doing that sort of thing. Of course you have to respect Mao, and other ideological things, or at least not speak out against them, but in a funny way we have similar mechanisms here - if you can't speak our economics, you don't have credibility, even if our economics is also based on some pretty unjustified assumptions. You're allowed to speak out, but you will be ignored and excluded if you do.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8027 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to BenWilson,

    Chris, I really appreciate hearing what you have to say about China,

    +1!

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1354 posts Report Reply

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