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  • Newsletter Issue #476

    January 11th, 2009

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE RADIO UPDATE

    Most of you probably agree that Apple’s participation in Macworld Expo ended with a whimper, and that Senior VP Philip Schiller’s keynote, while competently presented, didn’t deliver any knockout blows. A major part of the problem is, of course, the lack of compelling new products.

    Yes, the iLife ’09 and iWork ’09 upgrades are worthy. Yes, you are probably glad to see Apple reach an agreement with the rest of the music industry to ditch DRM, even if it comes at the expense of the end of single-tier pricing. Yes, it’s nice to see a 17-inch unibody version of the MacBook Pro with that “eight hour” battery. But little of this was unexpected. Even the enhanced, non-removable battery was predicted by the rumor sites.

    However, Steve Jobs is the consummate showman, and he can often weave a compelling case even with relatively mundane material. So, yes, his presence was greatly messed, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t things to talk about.

    So on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE , the Night Owl explored the implications, or lack thereof, of that keynote and Apple’s updated products.

    Our guest list included Special Correspondent David Biedny, who says that Apple is going to unfortunate lengths to ignore their own history and the unsung heroes who continue to build third-party software.

    Cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, from Roughly Drafted Magazine, had his own slant on the event announcements. And, in his comments on the Expo, columnist Kirk McElhearn focused on the inflexible upgrade path for folks who want to upgrade their iTunes music and videos to iTunes Plus.

    In addition, Adobe’s Chad Siegel, Group Product Manager, Design Segment, presented an informative profile of some of the applications upgraded in Creative Suite 4.

    On The Paracast this week, Gene and David introduce newspaper reporter Angelia Joiner and UFO investigator Frank Warren discuss the Stephenville, Texas sighting and other important events in the field in 2008.

    APPLE CONFRONTS YELLOW JOURNALISM

    Once upon a time, you had two fundamental classes of journalists. One group worked for regular newspapers or broadcast facilities, plying their trade; the others were employed by the supermarket tabloids, offering up gossip, real and otherwise, about various and sundry celebrities, political figures and notables from the business world.

    While there are gray areas, in which some media outlets cross both lines with equal fervor, that constitutes the way most have characterized the press, at least until recent years.

    These days, it is often difficult to know where responsible journalism ends and tabloid coverage begins. Even formerly respected publishers have decided that profits are more important than a respect for the facts.

    Certainly the life and times of Steve Jobs would seem to be fodder for such coverage, which is, unfortunate, considering that he is also CEO of a huge multinational corporation with roughly $30 billion in annual sales and over 30,000 employees.

    In the larger scheme of things, it shouldn’t make a difference whether Jobs once dated famous women, or had a child out of wedlock. The latter is, I suppose, no longer a bad thing anyway in the eyes of many people.

    Since Jobs has been essentially mum on most details of his personal life, and the people who work for him and his friends are naturally reluctant to provide any such information for obvious reasons, the sources of accurate information are far from ubiquitous. Those unofficial biographies largely depend on people having lesser associations with Jobs and former employees, and thus the information may not always be so accurate.

    This is not to say that the authors of those books deliberately set down false information. Most of what you’ve read about Jobs, his legendary temper and sometimes obnoxious behavior, is no doubt reasonably accurate. I have no reason to think it’s not.

    On the other hand, you have to wonder how the press has treated concerns about  his physical condition since he revealed he had been cured of a rare form of pancreatic cancer several years ago.

    Considering that Jobs is no doubt the most important CEO on the planet right now, surely fans of Apple, the company’s employees and stockholders are all rightly concerned that he will remain healthy and happy. More important, that he will keep that job for years to come. Certainly I share their wishes.

    While I have written several columns on the subject, I’m concerned that the media’s penchant for a Jobs death watch may get out of hand. As you no doubt read, a false blog entry over at CNN a few months back that Jobs had suffered a heart attack quickly resulted in the loss of several billions of dollars in Apple’s market cap.

    I don’t know if any laws were violated, but clearly the offender has some explaining to do. More to the point, if that person somehow profited by this regrettable stunt, surely some legal repercussions ought to be follow. But, of course, they won’t.

    More recently, a certain Mac publication, struggling, no doubt, to gain some circulation and better compete with the market leader, published a totally irresponsible piece in which they allegedly got a physician to state that Jobs “probably” had a recurrence of cancer

    Why? Well, because a sudden loss of weight is one symptom that might point in that direction. However, it may also be a symptom of other illnesses too. Since the physician in question had no possible way to access the personal medical records of Steve Jobs, he may have been speaking out of turn. Or, in the fashion of the doctors who frequently appear on cable TV news shows, he framed his statement with certain terms and conditions that made the statement much less certain. However, the article lacked such fine print, and if the quotes were accurate, it represents a new low in irresponsible journalism.

    Whether it’s the health of Steve Jobs or any other aspect of the state of Apple Inc., I would hope most of you will choose to ignore these blatant examples of yellow journalism and, instead, read the publications and visit the sites that still hold themselves to high ethical standards.

    I like to think there are still a few such outlets left.

    A SHORT NOTE ABOUT BROADBAND INTERNET SPEEDS

    I recall the days when 56K modems first came out. I actually used a few of these products, and still have a couple of Apple USB modems at hand for a rainy day — or the rare occasion where I want to actually send a fax from my Mac.

    Of course, you never did achieve a genuine 56K speed. It was usually in the mid-40s for most people at best, and if you looked at the fine print, you’d find such magic phrases as “up to,” which got the modem company off the hook. It all depended on line conditions, and these modems stretch the limits of analog phone networks.

    Except, of course, for digital, and DSL actually can work quite well, although it lies at the bottom rung of the ladder when it comes to broadband. My brother-in-law, Stephen, has a DSL hookup at his home, largely because the apartment complex in which he lives has no contract with the local cable provider and that is his only alternative, other than satellite.

    I have measured performance, and his seven megabit condition actually tops out at less than four. So should he complain? Well, for his modest requirements, that’s more than sufficient. More to the point, with DSL, it all depends on your distance from the telecom company’s network interface, and the farther you get, the worse it becomes.

    With cable, a clogged node, a local network of users in your neighborhood, can also conspire to reduce connection speeds. With Cox, we’re promised up to 20 megabits for their Premier Internet package in the Phoenix area, along with something called “Powerboost” that’s supposed to give a little extra juice to your downloads.

    In the real world, I got about 75% of that at best, and when the kids got home from school and went online, performance would drop tremendously. I complained, and helped influence their decision to speed up plans for a node split in my neighborhood, which means creating two nodes where one existed before and thus increasing throughput.

    The end result is that my download speeds, allowing for that Powerboost feature, can go as high as 27 or 28 megabits most times, and even when network congestion is high, it seldom gets slower than the upper teens. The promised two megabits upload speed is usually exceeded and remains rock solid. So I’m rather pleased, but hoping that when they migrate the network to the DOCSIS 3.0 cable standard, speeds might go significantly higher without a large price increase.

    Or just inspire the cable company’s greed and let them have a few expensive profits to help cover the costs of upgrading their systems.

    I consider myself pretty lucky, however, because I am probably getting better performance than many of you, and that’s true even if advertised speeds are similar. So long as your ISP can use the “up to” condition as a dodge or excuse for seldom or never delivering the advertised download speeds, don’t expect miracles.

    The only possible miracle, in any case, would be competition. If another system comes to your city, such as Verizon’s FIOS, you’ll see how fast the local cable company struggles to boost its network performance.

    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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