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  • Newsletter Issue #597

    May 9th, 2011

    THIS WEEK'S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    I know some of you believe that the Mac platform is virus free. While it's true there haven't been major outbreaks for years, long before Mac OS X arrived, it doesn't mean Apple's Unix-based environment is necessarily immune. Don't forget that the very first computer viruses debuted on the Unix platform, and clearly the developers learned a thing or two over the years.

    Despite the ascendancy of Macs in recent years, you haven't seen near the grief that befalls Windows users if they don't have malware protection. But there have been a few contenders here and there, most recently a Mac application that is itself the actual malware.

    Well, we covered that subject in detail this week on The Tech Night Owl LIVE, where we discussed this new potential malware threat on the Mac, involving a bogus application, MAC Defender, which claims to protect your computer from viruses, if you're willing to pay for it, but actually doesn't work.

    You'll heard first from commentator Kirk McElhearn, who also offered information about a backup solution that is resistant to flood or fire, an ioSafe. Author Adam Engst, from TidBITS and Take Control Books, offered more information about the danger of Mac malware, and also discussed the so-called "crime kit," which allows Internet criminals to create malware.

    Also joining us this week were Kyle Wiens, from iFixit, who revealed the surprising results from his company's recent efforts to take apart one of Apple's new iMacs. Macworld Editorial Director Jason Snell described how more and more professional features are being added to the iMac and why, to some, it has become a worthy replacement for the super expensive Mac Pro.

    On this week's episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris attempt to explore what the U.S. Presidents and other government officials knew and didn't know about UFOs and their possible reality with Grant Cameron, who presents his evidence on The Presidents UFO Website.

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt. We're taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: "Separating Signal From Noise." We've also added a selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.

    IS THIS A CANDIDATE FOR THE LAMEST COMMENT OF THE WEEK?

    There's have been several published reports suggesting that Apple might use the Mac App Store as the main method to distribute Mac OS X Lion. What this would mean is that, upon ordering the upgrade, it would download to your Mac and show up in the Dock. To install, you'd just click on the Installer icon, and follow the usual steps from then and there.

    All well and good. It would make it far easier for many Mac users to get ahold of their Lion upgrades without having to rush to an Apple Store or order a copy online. But you have to assume the upgrade will be several gigabytes in size, thus requiring a lengthy download. This can become particularly irksome if your Internet access is, shall we say, bandwidth challenged.

    But the stories also suggest that Apple is not going to stop offering Lion on physical media. That would be no different from previous OS releases, and you can take your choice which method suits you best.

    Of course, if you wanted a backup of a digital download, nothing would stop you from making a perfectly legal backup on a DVD, in case something went awry with your Mac's hard drive. And don't forget Time Machine and other methods of protecting yourself from lost data.

    All this seems perfectly reasonable to me, and the theory is buttressed by published reports that Apple is distributing prerelease versions of Lion to developers via the Mac App Store. Besides, the logic is unassailable. Apple would certainly want to make sure that as many products as possible are available that way, even though some apps are restricted by the nature of their installation or design.

    Are you with me so far?

    Nothing I have written seems farfetched, or, so far as I can see, difficult for anyone to understand. None of it has anything to do with Mac OS 10.7's quality as a major OS upgrade. There's already a fair amount of information online about Lion, based on Apple's own information repository, not to mention frequent leaks from developers who seem to have forgotten the nondisclosure agreements they signed with Apple.

    Unfortunately, a certain misguided blogger is using the possible availability of Lion as a digital download to fuel the incredible theory that Apple's counterpart to the Windows Vista failure beckons. This crazy theory goes that, since online availability of such an upgrade is a flawed means of delivery, the product itself is flawed. It's destined to go down in history as an ignominious failure.

    If that doesn't make sense to you, I assure you that you're not alone. As I said, we're not talking of the quality of the product, but the delivery mechanism. I've already explained the potential pitfalls of the digital download, such as the loss or corruption of your copy. But unlike digital music and movies, where downloading a second time is verboten unless you buy the product again, you can download any app you buy a second time if need be, on any Mac covered by your iTunes license.

    What's more, as I said, you should be backing up your data anyway.

    The second objection is that a digital download would force you to install two operating systems, the one your Mac shipped with, and Lion in the event you had to rebuild your Mac's drive from scratch. Forgetting the fact that new Macs will ship with Lion preloaded shortly after 10.7 is introduced, nothing stops Apple from making a bootable installer, one that you can copy onto a DVD with Disk Utility.

    And, as I said, there's little doubt that Apple will provide Lion on a DVD for those who just don't want to accept the digital download for whatever reason. Lest we forget, Apple hasn't announced Lion's delivery scheme yet, and probably won't until June's WWDC. Talk about strawman arguments.

    So far, I think my theory is very reasonable. You can buy Lion your way, and be done with it.

    But why does our foolish blogger believe that any of this harkens back to the well-known failure of Windows Vista? Lest we forget, Vista was late, bloated, and buggy, and loads of Windows users opted to stick with XP, a known commodity, instead. Vista was expensive, and offered on standard physical media, but that wasn't the problem. Microsoft learned their lesson and cleaned up Vista, added a few visual flourishes, and produced Windows 7.

    Again, the well-known issues surrounding Vista have nothing to do with Mac OS X Lion. Apple's Vista? Yeah, right, sure.

    As you've noticed, I'm not providing a link to the article. Unless the person who wrote it is just misguided and uninformed, it may well have been written strictly to attract comments and get hits. But I wonder why anyone would deliberately want to be labeled as stupid. Controversial maybe, but there's nothing in that commentary that reflects reality or logic. Of course, it'll all be forgotten soon enough, but not before yet another silly blog takes its place.

    AT&T HEDGING THEIR BETS?

    Predictably, AT&T isn't feeling the love from government officials and the wireless industry in reaction to their plans to merge — make that take over — T-Mobile, the fourth largest U.S. wireless carrier. The plans were announced with great fanfare some weeks back, with AT&T saying they needed this corporate marriage in order to be able to speed up expansion of their network.

    It's a sure thing that AT&T's network has troubles. iPhone users in some of the largest U.S. metropolitan areas report loads of problems getting stable connections and keeping them. Where AT&T once touted "fewer dropped calls," real surveys demonstrate precisely the opposite. Among the major carriers in this country, AT&T traditionally sits at the bottom of the pile.

    There are undeniable advantages to AT&T's GSM system, so long as that connection is solid. You can access voice and data services on your iPhone or other smartphone simultaneously. AT&T is making a huge deal of this in recent ads, where the ability to multitask in this fashion is demonstrated as a counterpoint to Verizon Wireless, which otherwise has a superior network, but lacks this capability. That should change as the next-generation network, LTE, is deployed, and smartphones are updated to support the new network architecture.

    The merger theory, in AT&T parlance, is that it would take five years for them to build out and upgrade their network. They can accomplish that goal lots faster with T-Mobile. However, this whole deal isn't going to get a stamp of approval very soon, if ever. The early talk had it taking at least 12 months, maybe more, for government regulators to pore over the documentation, and set proper terms and conditions in hopes of reducing the anticompetitive market situation.

    With AT&T and T-Mobile as one, the merged company and Verizon Wireless will thoroughly dominate the market. Sprint will be a distant third, followed by regional or prepaid carriers (where you pay before you get service, not after). Certainly Sprint's outspoken CEO, Dan Hesse, the same personable guy you see in those TV ads, has been very vocal about the unsavory consequences of this merger.

    But let's say it really happens in that 12 to 18 month timeframe. After all is said and done, the engineers of the two companies will have to work 24/7 to make it possible for the networks to work together. Right now, T-Mobile's 3G operates at different frequencies than AT&T's, and perhaps it will only take special tuning or hardware modifications to make them compatible. I don't pretend to know, but I do see it taking a year or two to sort things out and find the proper network synergies that allow AT&T to truly expand their coverage.

    That puts the total at two or three years for this venture to click.

    The price of the merger is $39 billion, though not all of it is in cash. Other than killing a  competitor, AT&T is saving maybe a couple of years in expansion time at most, but clearly paying a whole lot more for the privilege. What would happen if AT&T simply invested more money to fix their existing network troubles? Well, they wouldn't have tens of millions of former T-Mobile customers to pay the bills, and help them get a good return on that investment.

    Regardless, I do expect the merger will pass muster, with paper-thin terms and conditions to make it seem as if the regulators truly care. At the same time, it doesn't appear AT&T is going to set aside plans to expand their network not just to be competitive with Verizon, but in case this deal goes sour.

    Indeed, just the other day, I got a letter from AT&T boasting of adding or enhancing 100 cell towers in the Phoenix area alone. Not that I'm complaining. Service is pretty good now, but there are a few dead spots in the area, and I hope some of those promised fixes will address those problems.

    On the long haul, however, I do expect to pay more for my wireless telephone service as a result of the impending nuptials between AT&T and T-Mobile. People will also lose their jobs, because their positions will be deemed "redundant," and that's not a good thing. But I doubt the government regulators or the two companies who agreed to this marriage of convenience will care.

    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
    Business Development: Gil James Bavel
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis



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    2 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #597”

    1. [...] Continue Reading… Please Link to Us!<a href="http://www.technightowl.com/2011/05/newsletter-issue-597-is-this-a-candidate-for-the-lamest-comment-of-the-week/&quot; >Newsletter Issue #597: Is This a Candidate for the Lamest Comment of the Week?</a>Related Articles:Apple Making Waves AgainThe Lion Report: Will Apple Finally Fix Long-Time Problems?A Fast and Dirty Look at Apple in 2011The Mac OS X Lion Report: Where Are the Compelling Features?The Mac OS X Lion Report: So Where’s the New Finder! [...]

    2. Kaleberg says:

      If AT&T upgraded their system, it would require hiring lots of legal, technical and construction people, training them in the AT&T way and then figuring out what to do with them when the build out is over. It's much easier from a management point of view to buy an existing network, fire people, and struggle to get the two systems working together. They can avoid creating jobs, and they can get immediate improvements by prioritizing problem areas. They'll probably just shut down T-Mobile equipment in areas where AT&T coverage is adequate, but integrate in known problem areas. Since T-Mobile has a working system, they can do the triage slowly once they get the performance bumps in NY, SF and the like.

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