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  • Newsletter Issue #462

    October 5th, 2008

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE RADIO UPDATE

    It’s that time again. If you’re a loyal user of one of Adobe’s flagship applications, such as Photoshop, get ready for the arrival of Creative Suite 4, with lots of great new features, some of which (with the right Mac of course) can really speed up your work. The various CS4 packages are due for release very soon now, so save up your dollars, Euros or whatever, because these apps can get mighty expensive, even for upgrades.

    So on last week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we paid another visit to “The David Biedny Zone,” where our Special Correspondent detailed features you never knew about that will arrive in Photoshop CS4. In fact, David says he has even more material to present, so we’ve asked him to return for an encore presentation on our next episode

    Cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, from Roughly Drafted Magazine, explained why certain iPhone applications were rejected by Apple, and then presented his fearless opinions about Microsoft’s failed Vista advertising campaign.

    One thing’s certain with Daniel, and that’s his tremendous devotion to facts, particularly when they embarrass Apple’s competitors. I know some of you feel he’s a little too enthusiastic about praising Apple, but if you read his commentaries carefully, you’ll see he criticizes them as well, and sometimes severely.

    In another segment of the show, you heard from intellectual property attorney Arthur Shaffer, who explained what you can and cannot do when it comes to using photographs online or in printed materials. You’ll also gained insights from his experiences defending people who have been sued by the RIAA for alleged music piracy.

    On The Paracast this week, broadcast legend Hilly Rose talks about his long-time history as a paranormal talk show host, his own paranormal encounters and the evidence that impressed him the most.

    And don’t miss the second half of the show where David’s alter-ego, the politically-incorrect “Angry Human,” makes a surprise appearance.

    IS APPLE FINALLY LEARNING HOW TO LISTEN TO YOU?

    On quite a number of occasions, Steve Jobs has said that Apple listens to its customers. In fact, he’s mentioned some examples when it comes to new product features and changes. Surely, when he made some unbelievably flippant remarks about last year’s major price cut to the iPhone, that it was the price early adopters pay for technology, he got an earful. It was such an earful, in fact, that Apple decided then and there to give a $100 credit to those most impacted by the price reduction.

    As a result of such thoughtless behavior, it didn’t come as a surprise to see Apple referred to as “opaque” in a recent commentary about their inscrutable nature by columnist Rob Pegoraro in the Washington Post.

    When Rob appeared as a guest on The Tech Night Owl LIVE recently, I found myself pretty much in agreement with everything he had to say. Apple’s typical public relations approach is notoriously secretive, even in situations where they need to be forthcoming about an important matter.

    Certainly, the health of Steve Jobs is a matter of critical importance to the success of the company. Sure, there are thousands of smart people working at Apple developing and supporting their insanely great products. But it’s the vision of Steve Jobs that provides fuel to the company’s huge creative engine, right? How would they survive without him.

    Well, supposedly, after some health issues earlier this year, he’s healthy, despite his gaunt appearance. However, when a fake report appeared on a CNN citizens blog that Jobs had suffered a major heart attack, the stock took a huge beating. The story turned out to be false, and some conspiracy theories suggested it was planted by nefarious hedge fund people who wanted to manipulate the stock price.

    The severe impact of that hoax, which knocked billions of dollars from Apple’s market cap, can also be blamed on Apple’s board of directors. If they would only announce a reasonable plan of succession — rather than simply claim it has one — such dirty tricks, which may have come from unsavory folks hoping to short sell the stock, would stand very little chance of success.

    Sure, the S.E.C. is investigating, but they have by and large been far too much of a paper tiger when it comes to financial frauds. So I’m not expecting any real action against anyone as a result of this particular episode.

    On a more mundane level, Apple has been in dire need of a dose of clarity even in delivering reasonably complete information about a product update. Certainly the oblique phrase “bug fixes” didn’t begin to explain the changes in two updates to the troubled iPhone 2 software.

    However, with version 2.1, you got a pretty good dose of details about the fixes and enhancements. Just this week, with the release of Tunes 8.0.1, there were several reasonably detailed bullet points about what was new and different. While most people probably usually don’t pay an awful lot of attention to the descriptions in the Software Update preference panel, you had to feel a little better informed at the end of the day.

    Now Apple didn’t just spring this new approach upon an unsuspecting world just to amaze us. They were reacting to ongoing, and sometimes heated criticisms about their refusal to provide meaningful information about product changes.

    But it didn’t stop there. This past week, they announced a major change to the iPhone developer SDK, one that will make it a whole lot easier for those who build software for the iPhone to talk about what they’re doing to people outside of their own company.

    The whole thing might sound strange to you, but yes, the current SDK prohibits iPhone developers from talking about programming matters even after their products are released and available on the App Store. That has meant, for example, that publishers of computing books can’t release titles on how to write software for the iPhone, nor can magazines publish articles on the subject.

    It meant, also, that developers couldn’t talk shop, and exchange programming tricks and war stories.

    In its defense, Apple claimed that “We put the NDA in place because the iPhone OS includes many Apple inventions and innovations that we would like to protect, so that others don’t steal our work. It has happened before. While we have filed for hundreds of patents on iPhone technology, the NDA added yet another level of protection. We put it in place as one more way to help protect the iPhone from being ripped off by others.”

    So why did they change their tune? “…the NDA has created too much of a burden on developers, authors and others interested in helping further the iPhone’s success, so we are dropping it for released software.”

    In other words, they listened to the complaints from their developers and made an important change in their policy.

    That, however, is only a part of the picture. I see others are now coming to agree with me that there should be some sort of pre-approval process, where Apple examines the plans for a new iPhone/iPod touch application and indicates whether the finished product would stand a chance for approval. With proper terms and conditions, such as not guaranteeing final approval, the current guessing game environment would be largely eliminated.

    This doesn’t mean Apple gets off completely free. But it’s a good beginning.

    MARGINALIZING THE MAC OR JUST PLAIN STUPIDITY?

    So I made my monthly appearance on columnist Craig Crossman’s nationally-syndicated radio show, Computer America, the other night, when he brought up an unfortunately typical example of a major hard drive manufacturer ignoring the Mac OS.

    He bought a large external hard drive, 1TB capacity, as a backup device for his Mac. He noticed after a while that it would slip into sleep mode after 15 minutes of inactivity, so he checked the settings in the Energy Saver preference panel.

    However, the hard disk sleep option was unchecked. So what was going on here? Well, Craig quickly found out that the drive itself had been configured to go to sleep. Unfortunately, there was no Mac software to change that setting. It can only be done from the Windows platform, using the software provided for that environment.

    Now I won’t say this 100%, but I wouldn’t be surprised if any qualified Mac developer could develop a Cocoa-based application to configure that drive’s internal functions in less than a week. In other words, the manufacturer in question — and Craig chose not to announce it publicly — was selling the Mac platform short.

    Another episode of this foolishness was caused by Panasonic. Recently, I checked their support site to see if they had any updates for the DMP-BD30 Blu-ray DVD player, using the URL provided with the unit’s instruction manual.

    Sure enough, there was an update but the firmware file was posted in the Windows .exe format. For me, it was only a minor convenience. I simply launched Windows Vista on my Mac Pro, courtesy of Parallels Desktop, and downloaded the file. Once extracted, I simply dragged the expanded file to the Mac OS X desktop and made a CD copy.

    If you’re really interested, all you have to do is insert the CD containing the firmware file into the player, and it will automatically determine whether you have the proper update, and whether it’s needed. The actual installation takes about five minutes, after which the disc tray opens and the player’s internal display flashes a message that the installation is finished.

    Now I fail to see why Panasonic can’t simply post the file in Zip format, so people who use the Mac OS and Linux can update their players without going through extra hoops. Unless there’s some specific programming issue involved that forces them to use a Windows-based format — and I can’t imagine what that might be — it sounds like just another boneheaded move to me.

    In Panasonic’s favor, however, they make great products, and the DMP-BD30 is another example of fine engineering, great performance, and a reasonably affordable price. But their support staff needs to use a little common sense before they post the next update.

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

    Publisher/Editor: Gene Steinberg
    Managing Editor: Grayson Steinberg
    Marketing and Public Relations: Barbara Kaplan
    Worldwide Licensing and Marketing: Sharon Jarvis



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    4 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #462”

    1. Paul says:

      Gene,

      I had a similar issue with non-mac compatible .exe files. It really annoyed me. When you sign up for internet service with Comcast you have to download a .exe file and run it to get set up. Thing is with a Mac I cannot do this. So Mac users that do not run Windows have to call Comcast, wait on hold for a service rep, then have them activate your account from their end. I had to go through this twice in the last year (because I moved twice).

      You would think a provider as big as Comcast would make it easy for Mac users. They would probably save a lot of money on tech support phone calls to say the least. Very backward thinking, and shall I say ignorant move on their part.

      Paul

    2. Paul wrote:

      Gene,

      I had a similar issue with non-mac compatible .exe files. It really annoyed me. When you sign up for internet service with Comcast you have to download a .exe file and run it to get set up. Thing is with a Mac I cannot do this. So Mac users that do not run Windows have to call Comcast, wait on hold for a service rep, then have them activate your account from their end. I had to go through this twice in the last year (because I moved twice).

      You would think a provider as big as Comcast would make it easy for Mac users. They would probably save a lot of money on tech support phone calls to say the least. Very backward thinking, and shall I say ignorant move on their part.

      Paul

      That seems awfully strange. You should be able to automatically connect to a cable ISP just by provisioning the cable modem and having it restart, and then it’ll sync with any connected device, be it a computer or a router.

      Sounds like a boneheaded setup move to me.

      Cox presents no such difficulty.

      Peace,
      Gene

    3. Paul says:

      Gene,

      I think comcast has its customers do this so they can “register” the router they are renting from them. I rent the router because I fear if I buy one and have a connection problem, they will say well it is not our router and the router may be at fault. This way I can drive to comcasts office, swap for a new router, then if the problem still persists they will have to send someone out to check the lines.

      Paul

    4. Paul wrote:

      Gene,

      I think comcast has its customers do this so they can “register” the router they are renting from them. I rent the router because I fear if I buy one and have a connection problem, they will say well it is not our router and the router may be at fault. This way I can drive to comcasts office, swap for a new router, then if the problem still persists they will have to send someone out to check the lines.

      Paul

      The provisioning step registers the router. You give them the MAC (hardware) address and serial number, and that’s it. It doesn’t need a special software file for this process. If it did, any Mac programmer could probably whip it out as a Cocoa app in a few days.

      Peace,
      Gene

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