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  • Newsletter Issue #685

    January 14th, 2013

    THIS WEEK'S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    We just can't stop talking about non-existent products from Apple. Two cases in point: The mythical Apple smart TV and the mythical iPhone mini.

    The first got traction because of some boastful comments Steve Jobs made, as quoted in his authorized biography. It was all about cracking the code to delivering the greatest TV interface ever. But the greatest interface doesn't mean Apple plans to build the whole widget. It may be misdirection, to spook competitors, and keep people talking, or it may be all about a souped up Apple TV set top box.

    Or maybe Apple hopes to get somewhere in the TV space, but we still can't predict how.

    When it comes to a cheap iPhone, Apple, of course, claims not to make cheap products. But the iPod starts at $49, and I'd call that cheap. But Apple actually means they won't accept something that's cheaply made, and so the alleged $199 iPhone mini or nano may be an elegantly designed smartphone designed in the Apple tradition, with the same elegant interface and features of the more expensive spread. Only it may lack a few frills, such as a Retina display and perhaps even Siri. The price you'd pay not to pay a high price for an unsubsidized genuine iPhone.

    Now this possibility might make some sense, considering that the 2010 iPhone 4 is still approximately $400 unlocked, so it would be nice to be able to get one for less. At the same time, predictions that Apple would sacrifice traditionally high profits to get market share, particularly in the third world, don't have much innate logic to sustain themselves. That's not Apple's way.

    Meantime, on this week's episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, tech author Keir Thomas, author of "Mac Kung Fu: Over 400 Tips, Tricks, Hints, and Hacks for Apple OS X (Pragmatic Programmers)," joined us to present some of his favorite OS X secrets. He also commented on current news in the Apple universe.

    You also heard from Macworld Senior Editor Dan Frakes, who discussed the possibility that Apple will release a low-cost iPhone, as is being predicted in the media, and the potential outcome of the company's Apple TV hobby.

    From Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus, you heard his comments about the possibility of a cheaper iPhone, and whether Apple wants to build a smart TV set. He also offered OS X and iOS tips from some of his best-selling books.

    Special Sci-Fi Update! In November, our second sci-fi novel, "Rockoids II: The Coming of the Protectors" was released. The novel continues the exciting adventures of the unique characters introduced in the first novel in the series, "Attack of the Rockoids." Rather than retread the same ground as some sequels do, the story moves forward in unique directions. My son, Grayson, and I had lots of fun writing the story, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we did. It's available in both print and Amazon Kindle editions. Why Amazon? Well, since Kindle software is available on various platforms, we only had to make one version to satisfy as many readers as possible.

    On this week's episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present a rare interview with Raymond B. Palmer, the son of legendary UFO and occult researcher Raymond A. Palmer, the co-founder of "Fate" magazine and one of the early promoters of flying saucer research. Raymond A. also introduced the world to the Shaver mystery, about a man who claimed to have been in touch with advanced beings from beneath the Earth. Also joining us with his own perspectives will be veteran UFO researcher Tim "Mr. UFO" Beckley.

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt -- Now with New Design! 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 huge selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show, along with a redesigned storefront.

    WHY STILL COVER APPLE'S NEW PRODUCT ANNOUNCEMENTS?

    If you can believe the silly speculation from some portions of the media, there's no longer any sense actually covering Apple, since we know exactly what they are going to release this year. Just read the speculation, and start placing your orders when the time arrives.

    What do I mean? Well, just this week, I read a number of stories suggesting that Apple is busy developing a lower cost iPhone. Well, some might call it cheap, but since Apple denies ever building cheap stuff, I'll go for one that will cost you less money in unlocked form.

    Obviously there are certain assumptions being made in stories of this sort. One is that, when the mainstream media, such as Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal, report that Apple is planning something, it has to be true. Why would they publish it otherwise? Possibly, but it all depends on their sources, and whether those sources can be taken seriously.

    If Apple has given this information to selected members of the media, with the guarantee of no attribution, it must be true, right? Perhaps, but it may also be a trial balloon designed to gauge public reaction, or perhaps to freak the competition. Since Apple has never actually revealed their plans, they have plausible deniability. If no such product arrives, nobody's credibility is hurt, other than the news outlet, of course. Even then, few will remember or worry one way or the other about an Apple prediction that never comes true.

    The story may also come from one or more suppliers with loose lips. This may be a more likely source, because it seems that information about most of Apple's hardware releases in the past year or two has leaked like a sieve.

    Apple may not like the state of affairs, but, as the number of suppliers who are privy to confidential information about Apple's product plans increases, it may just be impossible to shut it down. Or maybe Apple also realizes that all that free publicity simply raises anticipation for the new product, if it sees the light of day. It doesn't require spending extra money for ads or holding more than a very few press events. The media can't stop talking about Apple.

    In the real world, we don't really know whether there will be a cheaper iPhone, or whether Apple will find it's better just to continue to sell the older models. But that doesn't stop members of the media from making assumptions.

    Very much the same is true when it comes to Apple's TV solution. Yes, it may be nothing more than a souped up Apple TV box, or, as I suggest from time to time, some sort of expanded Digital Hub version that eases the connection to all your devices, but that doesn't stop people from dreaming of an Apple TV set. It may indeed happen, though I'm still not at all certain what Apple can contribute to the clutter besides the fancy interface and easy setup process. That can mostly be accomplished with the box, not the set.

    What irks me most, however, is the insistence on the part of some tech commentators that Apple must listen to them to remain relevant. They seem to forget that the people in charge of Apple are making millions of dollars to run that playground. If they didn't know what they were doing, they'd be shown the door real fast. Success is proven with revenue and profits, and thus Tim Cook and his team will continue to keep their jobs.

    As for those who fail, well consider the recent executive changes at Apple in the wake of Mapgate.

    If one of those eager beaver media pundits thinks they know so much, I'm sure they can take their bright ideas to some venture capitalists and start their own company. Maybe they can build a better iPhone or iPad than Apple. Maybe they can develop some cutting-edge technology that will set the tech world afire, in which case they will get the investments they require and become billionaires.

    By just sitting in front of a keyboard, or touchpad, and writing what comes to them means they have no accountability. They don't have to prove anything, just get traffic to keep their jobs. It's a nice deal, I suppose, though I'd rather write what I really believe and not just make up things for the effect and the higher hit count.

    A TALE OF SAFARI BOOKMARKS GONE ASTRAY

    It all happened a few days ago. My wife complained that the bookmarks she added on her iPad were missing in action. So I looked, and it was really curious. Now she doesn't waste her time setting up loads and loads of folders to store bookmarks. They are all lodged in the main Bookmarks Menu, meaning the top level of her collection.

    Since the iPad, the iPhone, my iMac and MacBook Pro all connect via the same Apple ID via iCloud, and most functions are activated, they should all be in sync. Knowing the raft of sync problems for which Apple has been responsible over the years, I decided to first look for the missing bookmarks.

    I found them, but not where they were supposed to be.

    You see, when you add a bookmark in Safari, it simply goes to the bottom of the list. But in this case, the bookmarks were put somewhere in the middle of a collection of a couple of hundred. Yes, real curious. Yes, I could manually move them to a new position easily enough on my Mac, and they'd stay there. But add the next one, and that one would still put itself in the wrong place. How rude!

    Now there are several solutions that may or may not work, depending on the cause. One suggestion is to turn off iCloud, accept the warnings about possible lost sync data, and turn it on again. I tried this, in turn, on all the computing devices with no change.

    The next step was to rebuild the bookmarks on my iMac. The best way is just to quit the app, and move the Bookmarks.plist file to the desktop. It's located in the Users > Library > Safari folder. With Lion and Mountain Lion, your personal Library folder is hidden, the better to keep your eager fingers from messing something up inside. But hold down Option, and you will be able to choose Library from the Finder's Go menu. There's also a handy Terminal command, but it's hardly worth the bother unless you to Library on a regular basis.

    In any case, on the next launch of Safari, it reverted to the app's default bookmarks. I imported the contents of the original Bookmark file, did a little reorganization, and tried to add another new bookmark. No change.

    The next steps were to, in turn, Restore the iPhone and the iPad. But I took the cheap way out, which was to restore them from backups, not set them up as new devices. It may have saved me a little time, but it resolved nothing, so I tried one more step as a test before the final solution.

    Going back to the iMac, I manually moved all the bookmarks located below the ones that were newly added. That seemed to help, because bookmarks added on the Mac and the iPhone were happily ensconced in their proper positions at the bottom of the list.

    But not on the iPad, where, first time I checked out the bookmarks, I found three had stubbornly placed themselves below the ones that were added. Aha!

    So I restored the iPad again, this time setting it up as a new device. I didn't use the backup, and thus went into iTunes to choose what I wanted to sync. I also spent a short amount of time redoing all the iPad's preferences to Mrs. Steinberg's taste. She hadn't customized it very much, and so I was able to get things pretty much in shape within 10 minutes or so after the sync process had concluded.

    You guessed it! The bookmark problem appears to have been solved. Evidently the bookmark file on the iPad had become corrupted along the way. But since you have no direct access to such files, there was no officially sanctioned method to fix what ailed it, nor is the iOS smart enough to report file corruption of any sort.

    There was a phone call to Apple service in the course of all these diagnostics and explorations. They had to take me through two support people before they got a grasp of the problem, though it's quite simple to explain. The solution the second rep proposed merely confirmed my final solution for the iPad, which was to restore it as a new device.

    I wish there was a faster way, but all's well that ends well I suppose.

    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: Sharon Jarvis



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