Technology | A Continuous Lean.

The Hunt | iPad Mini Cases

Mar 27th, 2013 | Categories: Made in the USA, Technology, The Hunt, Travel | by Michael Williams

The Hunt is a series that aims to find the best-in-breed products that we’re all searching for — let’s dig deeper.

It’s surprising that I have such a difficult time finding cases that I like for my technology. Everything is either too synthetic or too complicated for my taste. There are certainly a lot of options out there and I’m sure plenty of good things I have yet to discover (feel free to comment and suggest). Gear Patrol did a nice round up of options a while back which I referenced a lot (and seriously considered a few), and Lotuff makes a few really good options, but much of what I see is just too logo-heavy and or is made from materials too synthetic. I wanted something simple from natural materials that fit with all of the other stuff I wear in my daily life. For the past few years the undisputed champion of my iPad protection program has been Portland, Oregon-based The Good Flock and its simple wool sleeves. I’ve traveled all over the world with the iWooly and couldn’t be happier with it. Then came the iPad mini and I was back in the market looking for a new case.

An American Made Apple iPhone?

Jan 21st, 2012 | Categories: Made in the USA, Random, Technology | by Michael Williams

The New York Times today published a startling article discussing the manufacturing of the Apple iPhone and the economic impact of the company’s production decisions over the past several years. The crux of the piece centers on Apple’s global supply chain and the dominance of Asia when it comes to electronic manufacturing. The article also questions whether it would be possible to make the iPhone in the United States and how the shift of manufacturing by U.S. companies has impacted the American economy and the middle class. As an American, the article is utterly terrifying.

Some excerpts from How U.S. Lost Out on iPhone Work:

For over two years, the Apple had been working on a project — code-named Purple 2 — that presented the same questions at every turn: how do you completely reimagine the cellphone? And how do you design it at the highest quality — with an unscratchable screen, for instance — while also ensuring that millions can be manufactured quickly and inexpensively enough to earn a significant profit?

The answers, almost every time, were found outside the United States. Though components differ between versions, all iPhones contain hundreds of parts, an estimated 90 percent of which are manufactured abroad. Advanced semiconductors have come from Germany and Taiwan, memory from Korea and Japan, display panels and circuitry from Korea and Taiwan, chipsets from Europe and rare metals from Africa and Asia. And all of it is put together in China.

In its early days, Apple usually didn’t look beyond its own backyard for manufacturing solutions. A few years after Apple began building the Macintosh in 1983, for instance, Mr. Jobs bragged that it was “a machine that is made in America.” In 1990, while Mr. Jobs was running NeXT, which was eventually bought by Apple, the executive told a reporter that“I’m as proud of the factory as I am of the computer.” As late as 2002, top Apple executives occasionally drove two hours northeast of their headquarters to visit the company’s iMacplant in Elk Grove, Calif.

But in the last two decades, something more fundamental has changed, economists say. Midwage jobs started disappearing. Particularly among Americans without college degrees, today’s new jobs are disproportionately in service occupations — at restaurants or call centers, or as hospital attendants or temporary workers — that offer fewer opportunities for reaching the middle class.

“We shouldn’t be criticized for using Chinese workers,” a current Apple executive said. “The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”

I hear a lot of Americans say that we don’t need manufacturing anymore, but the truth of the matter is: jobs at Wal-Mart rarely turn into anything better than low wage retail jobs. And they certainly don’t hold much promise of economic advancement. As the Times points out, it’s all about job multipliers.

Read the full article here.

One more thing while I am on my soap box. Reporting and news like this is the reason why The New York Times is worth supporting through digital subscriptions, or better yet, through traditional subscriptions. Just my two cents.

The Original IBM ThinkPad

Oct 1st, 2009 | Categories: Technology | by Michael Williams

This is the notepad (the pencil and paper kind) that in the late 80s / early 90s inspired an IBM researcher to name the company’s new mobile computer the ThinkPad. To me, the IBM ThinkPad was the classic laptop computer to have. At least that was the case until I went full time Apple and the Chinese got a hold of the brand. At any rate, it is interesting to see the little promotional give-away that inspired a massive brand.


Urban Camping | The Mobile Power Conundrum

May 12th, 2008 | Categories: Japan, Technology, Urban Camping | by Michael Williams

Urban Camping is a reoccurring look into the products, services and experiences that enhance the city living adventure.

If you live anywhere outside of New York City your car provides you with everything from secure storage space to a mobile charging station, something city dwellers could only dream of. Recently the problem of on-the-go recharging of mobile devices has posed a significant annoyance. There is nothing worse than being embroiled in a heated SMS exchange and going dark or having a raucous night out on the town and not being able to fully document your debauchery.

It is no surprise that the Japanese are one step ahead of the game when it comes to mobile refueling. One of the best options (and a current obsession of mine) are the public cellphone charging stations that can be found all over Japan. These genius little machines are the size of an ATM and are placed in train stations, shopping centers etc., allowing you to lock up and recharge your phone while you shop. Why these aren’t in every bar, bodega and coffee shop in New York City is beyond me. Put this on my list of companies to start.

Below: the genius that is the Japanese mobile phone charging station. Why is America so far behind on these things?

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Introducing ACL Maps.

Mar 26th, 2008 | Categories: Men's Stores, New York City, Service, Technology | by Michael Williams

I put together two Google Maps for the ACL faithful. One is a men’s shopping guide, and the other is a reference to where to drink and dine in the city. The restaurant/bar map is an adaptation of a friend’s very well made map of the same subject. I owe many of the well researched listings to him. The maps will live in the aptly named “Maps” section of the sidebar on the right. Your suggestions for additions are much encouraged and appreciated.

[Shopping Map]

[Where to drink and dine in NYC]


The State of American Shoes.

Mar 3rd, 2008 | Categories: Americana, Footwear, Made in the USA, Media, Men's wear, Style, Technology | by Michael Williams

hs.pngThere is an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal today about the state of American shoe manufacturing. The article profiles a small Pompano Beach custom shoe company Otabo and its owner Howard Shaffer, as it closes its lone U.S. factory. The closure is due in part to the lack of domestic resources for American shoe manufactures as nearly all of the U.S. shoe production has moved offshore. The article interestingly pointed out that, “almost 99% of the 2.4 billion shoes purchased in the U.S. every year are imported, 86% of them from China.”

The story also makes reference to an ACL favorite Red Wing. “David Murphy, chief executive of closely held Red Wing Shoe Co. in Red Wing, Minn., an iconic American boot maker that has kept a large manufacturing operation in the U.S., says even a larger-scale company like his, with annual sales of more than $400 million, has to worry about the shoe industry’s withering infrastructure.”

A major problem that led to Ocabo’s demise was the difficulty the small shoemaker faced sourcing components and materials. “One thing that made the constant battles with suppliers irksome for Mr. Shaffer was knowing how much easier it was for shoemakers in Asia. “There are places in China where you have city blocks made up of nothing but makers of shoe materials,” he says ruefully. “You can buy 10,000 laces or 10 laces.”

“The problem of obtaining components is especially acute when it comes to materials uniquely designed for shoes, as opposed to generic items such as cardboard boxes that are used by a wide array of manufacturers. This is one reason why Red Wing prepares its own shoe leather, says Mr. Murphy.”

All the more reason to appreciate the few shoe manufactures that are still operating in the U.S.

Thank You for the Support | A.C.L. Linkage.

Feb 9th, 2008 | Categories: Style, Technology | by Michael Williams

Many thanks to Men’s Vogue and The Moment for being the first sites to add A.C.L. to its blogroll.

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