John McCain is an Idiot.

I’ve never been a fan of John McCain.  I can appreciate his service without blindly following his philosophy.  And nothing proves to me that the man is an absolute idiot more than his current attack on Apple, Inc.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an Apple fan.  I’d like to think I’d feel the exact same way if McCain attacked any other corporation the way he is attacking Apple, but I may not have the information about those companies that I do about Apple.

That said, McCain is just way off base in his thinking about the mega tech company.  In statements he made in the Senate hearing about Apple’s alleged tax evasion, an evasion in which it has never been asserted that Apple violated any laws, McCain claims that “It’s time for Apple to invest in America.”

Funny, that’s EXACTLY what Apple was trying to do when they pulled the alleged shenanigans that got them called before the hearing.  Here’s the back story.

Over 30 years ago, back when Steve Jobs was in charge the first time, Apple started to expand into overseas markets.  They developed a holding company to handle the overseas business, Apple International Operations (AIO) and looked for a tax friendly country to set up shop.  Ireland came to the rescue and offered AIO a sweet deal on corporate tax income if they set up shop on the Green Isle.  Apple accepted, and AIO has operated out of Ireland ever since.  Starting with the iPod and moving on to the iPhone and iPad, Apple has seen it’s overseas market skyrocket.  Two thirds of their sales and three fourths of their revenue is now from selling products and services overseas.

During all this time, the one thing Apple has always kept in the good old USA is research and development.  As such, Apple has a mammoth campus in California, and is building an even larger building.  The giant ring shaped “Campus 2” will be the home of Apple’s R&D for decades to come.  This is a multi-billion dollar investment in America that McCain flat ignores.

Since 2001, and I’d argue that the change really started in 1998 with the colorful iMac and Steve Job’s return to the company, Apple has seen revenue skyrocket.  Completely free of debt, Apple has amassed a fortune in cash.  While Apple often pays generous dividends to shareholders, and buys companies and technology from that stockpile, many shareholders have complained that Apple was under leveraged with its lack of debt, and over hoarding on their cash.  Apple listened and decided that over the next year, through dividends and share buy backs, Apple would return $100billion to shareholders worldwide.

Except the vast majority of shareholders are in the United States.  So despite the billions Apple is investing in America building Campus 2, Apple plans to return $100billion to the US Economy.  But to do that, Apple was about $17billion short.  AIO, however, was not.  AIO could have transferred about $26billion to Apple and after Apple paid $9.2billion in taxes it would have the $17billion it needed for the $100billion investment.

However, since that represents a 35% tax payout, Apple looked around for another way.  And when Apple walks into your bank, with hundreds of billions of dollars in cash and asks for a deal on a loan, banks listen.  Apple swung a sweet deal on a $17billion loan on the strength of the billions in cash and the yearly income of tens of billions it currently makes each year.  As a result, Apple will be paying 2% on $17billion rather than 35% on $26billion.

It was this huge loan that caught the eye of McCain.  For a sense of scale, this is roughly the same amount of money the Bush administration ultimately gave the Auto Industry during the bail out.  No matter how you cut it, $17billion is a huge sum of money.  What upset McCain isn’t that Apple took out a massive loan, but that they did it to avoid paying $9.2billion in taxes.

Again, $9.2billion in taxes versus the $100billion in American Investment in the form of share buy backs and dividends.  After Apple already paid billions in taxes last year, and will pay billions in taxes this year.

Again, Apple didn’t break any laws.  And the accusations that Apple lobbied for tax loop holes is ludicrous.  Apple pays far less than other tech companies in lobbying.  While that is about to change, historically Apple has been a small player in politics.

But like a typical politician, when McCain sees a pot of money, he looks to figure out how he can tax it.  McCain desperately wants to get the governments hand into Apple’s cash reserves.  So accusing Apple of evasion makes sense… even though the money didn’t come from American consumers or American sales.

If McCain was serious about trying to get American companies to repatriate their cash reserves, maybe he should try to be more like Ireland.  Or any other tax haven country.  Allow these companies to repatriate their reserves at a reasonable rate, say 2%-5%, and they will do it.  If Apple could return money from overseas sales (the sole reason for AIO to exist) at the same rate as Ireland, there would be little reason for AIO to continue to exist.

But ultimately McCain is an idiot because he truly believes Apple doesn’t invest in America.  So let’s see exactly what Apple DOES invest in this country.

Apple employs 50+ thousand people at highly competitive wages.  Besides being a massive employer of American talent, all those employees pay income tax, taxes collected by Apple FOR FREE as a service to the government (and another issue for another blog). Apple imports, and pays import taxes, on millions of units brought back from manufacturing in China (and don’t think that Apple hasn’t looked elsewhere for manufacturing, they have.)  Apple has a billion dollar campus in California and is expanding it on a massive scale to increase R&D space.  Apple has routinely HIRED during the recent recession while other companies in their sector have been laying people off.  And, perhaps most importantly, Apple created an entire economy with it’s App Store, a marketplace that didn’t exist 5 years ago and has paid developers around the nation over $9billion in sales.  And don’t forget the upcoming $100billion in payouts to shareholders.  All of which will be TAXED.

Furthermore, Apple did absolutely nothing different than what John McCain does every year. McCain has accountants that file his taxes and make sure that the Senator has the smallest tax exposure possible.  That’s all that Apple has done.  Perhaps we should be asking McCain what he has done to “Invest in America” instead.  Can he boast as much investment in America as Apple has done?

Apple Comes To The Rescue

I don’t know if this is a “Apple” thing, or just a human thing.  But I can’t imagine being in a “Microsoft” store and having the same thing happen.

The day after Christmas I went to the Apple Store.  I had a gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and wanted to use it.  I took my 6 year old son with me, and he headed straight to the little table in front of the Genius Bar where Apple had set up a couple of iMacs with games.   My son seemed happy, so I started looking over the software and other low end items I could afford with the card.

It should be said that the place was fairly packed with people spending their Christmas money on iPods, iPhones and accessories.  I couldn’t find any must have item on the software wall, and was moving to the iPhone accessories…  but my son wasn’t at the computer.  I looked around the best I could and he wasn’t in the store.  I’m about to freak out, when I go up to the Genius Bar and had them page him.

No luck.  Now I’m pretty upset, and I head out front where it was a bit quieter and called the wife to get her to come down to the store and help.  As soon as I’m out front, a group of about 10-15 people joined me.  All had their iPhones out.  “Send me a picture,” the first one said.  “I’ll help you look.”

You read that right.  10-15 people I did not know stepped outside, all wanting me to text or mail or bluetooth them a picture of my son, and they were all ready to go looking for my son around the outdoor mall.  I pulled up a recent photo and was getting numbers to text the picture too, when one of the women asked “Is that him?” and pointed down the way.

There was my son returning from the other end of the mall.  He saw me and ran and grabbed me.

Seems he couldn’t find me and thought I’d left.  He knew his mom was down on the other end, and thought I’d gone down there to her.  But he couldn’t find the store she was in, and was coming back to the Apple store to try and me.

These strangers and their iPhones were ready to come to my aid and find my missing son.  I was moved beyond words.  I’m sure they think that I’m an ungrateful git for not saying more, but the relief was overwhelming.  Needless to say I had a long talk with my son explaining that I would never leave a store without him, and that instead of leaving himself he should have gotten help in the store.  He understands that now.  (In fact, he’s done that in the past, but I think the loud crowd scared him and he felt “safer” out of the store.)

So while I was EXTREMELY nervous for a while, it all turned out great and I saw just how wonderful iPhone users can be.

I do want to stress something, though.  At no time did I think my son had been “taken.”  I didn’t feel the need to rush and grab a cop, or call them, at that time.  I was worried, more worried that he’d fallen in the lake at the mall or stepped into traffic, than that he had been abducted.  For one thing, he’d scream bloody murder, and for another that just so rarely happens.  My fear was finding him before he got so scared or worried that he got hurt.

In fact, he was nicely calm, and taking care of himself.  While he made a “bad” decision, I’m ever so happy he made a decision and acted on it, instead of being unsure of what to do.  Yes, it meant he wandered the length of an outdoor mall all by himself, but he acted.  He made a plan and went with it.  Find Mom.  Can’t find Mom, go back to where Dad was.  Overall, not a bad plan.  Just not the best.

And I got the chance to see how many people still give a damn.  And that was worth the worry.

iPhone Love

Since my friends online are all showing thier iPhone love, I thought I’d take a second to do the same.

Recently Apple announced the newest operating system for the iPhone. 3.0 brings the platform up to speed with the typical features of other smartphones.

That’s kinda an important point. 3.0 won’t be out till summer. Summer will mark two years since the introduction of the first iPhone. That’s two years of the iPhone being not up to speed with features found on most other smartphones. Two full years behind the curve.

Yet in that time, Apple has managed to corner 10% of the mobile market. And those 10% make up 60% of the mobile web market. 60%!

That means with a phone with a smaller feature set than other phones, Apple has managed to give users a superior experience and dominate the market.

That is no small feat. While other phones have arguably superior feature sets, they have significantly inferior interfaces. Be it software or design, the iPhone provides an intuitive look and feel that users like and more importantly will use.

I know I use my phone like mad. I’ve used my phone to get online over walking ten feet to my computer. Ive become fatally addicted to the thing and I’m not sure I could function if I lost it.

And the new software isn’t going to make putting my phone down any easier.

Cut and paste is a feature I’ve missed. Other smart phones have had it for a while. But I’ve tried cut and paste on a blackberry and it’s clunky. It isn’t much better on a palm. But the cut and paste Apple came up with rocks. Again design matters.

Multi media messaging. Apple should have always had this, and the work around sucks, but they will finally have it this summer.

Application push, Apples answer to backgrounding, is finally here. Now I can get instant messages and facebook updates without lanching the apps. Sweet!

I am a iPhone GOD.

Okay, that may be a bit of a stretch.  I’m probably more like a demi-being of some sort.  I’ve been wanting to do some podcasting, sort of audio blogging I suppose, but the major downfall is how to get people to call in and carry on a conversation with them and record it.  Radio stations use some specialized recording equipment to do it.  I have one at work, but not in my home studio.

Besides, I don’t have a landline at my house.  At all.  So I figured I’d have to do it the low tech way…  put my cell phone on speaker and put a mic up close to it.  Not exactly the best way, but I’ve done it in the past and it works.

But I got to thinking, and I knew there must be a better way to do this.  There had to be.  I’ve got an iPhone, damnit, I should be able to record with style.  I just had to figure out a way.

I looked at the connector for the headphones that come with the iPhone.  Its a pretty standard four ring connector, and I knew that the cable for my camcorder was a four ring plug.  If I could figure out the pin out on the connector, I could make this work.

The standard pinout on a camcorder cable isn’t the same as the pinout on the iPhone.  For one thing, the iPhone doesn’t have video out!  It has microphone in.  A little research and here’s how it breaks down, and you can use any camcorder cable sold at most any big box store.

white: right audio
red: Mic in
yellow: left audio

So, using my handy dandy Roland VM3100pro mixer (and ancient artifact, but still does what I need it to do) I plugged the white and yellow into an input on the mixer, and the red into a bus out.  The mic I was planning on using for the podcast is sent to the bus out, and there you have it…  a perfectly working iPhone podcast recording.

Okay, so YOU don’t have a mixer, but you wanna record a conversation from you iPhone?  I can’t help ya much.  I mean, really…  you gotta have something to record on.  But assuming you do, you could use the same cables to plug into whatever… a tape deck or the mic input on your computer.  Either would work.  Then find you a simple mic that will connect to the red RCA jack on the camcorder cable.  You might need to visit Radio Shack and get some adapters.

But ultimately, my system works, and works well.  I can answer the phone and record a conversation with no trouble.  And incorporate said recording into my podcast.  And for figuring all that out for ZERO BUCKS…  and a cool new use of my iPhone… that’s worth a little smidge of godhood, right?

Life Changing Technology

Technology can be lifechanging. In medicine new tech could be a matter of life or death. But forget all that heady stuff, here is my list of the most personal life changing tech of the past twenty some-odd years.

Everything from Apple:
Okay, this is a big topic. Apple computer has certainly changed my life over the past couple of decades. From there revolutionary computers (which Is why we all have mice in our hands) to the iPhone I’m using to write this blog, Apple impacts my life more than any other technology on the planet.

Before I am labeled a MacEvangelist, although I am, let me say this: I use PCs to and even like them. This isn’t about which is the better computer but which impacts my life the greatest. I use Final Cut Pro daily. I love my iPhone. My home has 20 Macs, with most of them working including a Mac 128, with the signatures in the case. (for the uninitiated, that’s a really old mac) Apple permiates my life in a way no other company does. If I was richer, it would be even more in my life. I want a big screen tv with an apple tv box.

Microsoft Office:
Love it our hate it, Office dominates much of what we do on a computer. Word has all but eliminated the idea of a secretary while powerpoint has addicted more executives than meth. I don’t think I go through a day without dealing with some sort of office document.

The digital video recorder has become the main way I watch television today. I would never have kept up with Michael and Fiona (Burn Notice, I love that show) without it. I watch very few shows with any regularity. All of them are watched through the DVR rather than “live.”

Cellular Telephones:
I know I’ve recently become enamored with my iPhone lately, but I’m talking cell phones in general. For nearly two years I have been a part of a growing number of Americans who have given up landlines in favor of going compleatly wireless. My first phone was a massive contraption in a bag back in 1988. Today it Is this tiny iPhone that can do things that bag phone couldn’t dream of. But it has the same phone number. That’s right. Twenty years this christmas.

Fingerprint scanners
Okay, I don’t really know if that technology I’d new or not. And frankly I hope I never need it again. I adopted both my kids and in Alabama you need a background check. Usually one goes to the local sheriff and gets one the old fashion ink and paper way. That gets sent off and scanned and a few weeks later you get a report. Only it didn’t work that way for us.

With a court date looming and my wife’s fingerprints rejected we needed drastic measures. So my wife drove to Montgomery and had her fingerprints scanned directly into the system. The result was a report on the judges desk in minutes. And a new baby in or home.

Now that is truly life changing.

In love

I love this phone. No doubt getting the iphone was the best purchase ever. It is one of those rare life changing products that don’t happen often enough.

What it really means is freedom. No longer am I restricted at work to a desktop run by an IT department. I can get whatever I need for work or for myself however and whenever I want it.

No longer am I teathered to a desktop or even a laptop. Pure freedom.

Till the battery died.

New phone

So I got a new iPhone today. I am just now figuring it all out, but so far I am totally in love with it. Typing on it I’d getting easier and quicker and the correction feature makes it nice when it does figure out what you meant instead of what you blondered with your giant fingers.

I even managed to post this via the phone. Cool huh?

The photo below is the boy last year at this time.