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Newsletter Issue #278

THIS WEEK’S MAC NIGHT OWL LIVE UPDATE

It was triple header time again on our March 24th show. First up was Jeff Tolbert, who has written two e-books from the Take Control series on GarageBand. Jeff brought us up to date on version 2.0 of Apple’s music making software, and also delivered plenty of advice on making good recordings not just of your voice, but musical instruments too.

A last minute addition was Pieter Paulson, our favorite network guru. In a brief interview, Pieter talked about whether the increasing popularity of the Mac OS would also make our computers more vulnerable to viruses. In a word: Yes, but the Mac still remains more secure than Windows. Even when the Mac had several times the market share it has now, viruses were still few and far between. Perhaps Symantec needs to check its history a little more carefully before it tries to sell us more product.

Wrapping up the show was a lengthy interview with Owen Linzmayer, author of Apple Confidential 2.0. With the recent round of lawsuits against Mac rumor sites getting continued coverage, Owen gave us a history of Apple’s rocky relationship with the press through the years. You may not remember, but before Steve Jobs returned to the company, news often leaked from the top at Apple. How things have changed!

Oh yes, in case you haven’t heard, contests are back, and we’ve been running them pretty regularly in recent weeks. But stay tuned. The best is yet to come. Beginning some time in April, we’ll be giving away iPod shuffles.

If you haven’t heard the show, be sure to visit The Tech Night Owl LIVE Web site to listen to our archives. Enjoy.

IS THIS THE FIRST MAC OS 10.5 WISH LIST?

Although I don’t have any inside information to offer, it would seem logical that Tiger is just weeks away from shipping. I suppose that last minute glitches could arise, but Apple is still promising delivery in the first half of the year, so there’s still plenty of time.

In recent weeks, I’ve watched Apple’s Web site just to see if any unannounced Tiger features might appear. While the layout has changed over time, it’s still basically the same features Steve Jobs touted at his January Macworld keynote. At this point, it wouldn’t be realistic to expect any major changes, although I suppose Steve could amaze us at the last minute.

How many new features? The original claim was 150, which expanded to 200 in January. Try as I might, I cannot find anything near that number in my journeys through apple.com. Maybe I’m missing something, but I doubt it. If some new capability for Tiger is significant in any way, Apple would have already shouted it to the skies, and that hasn’t happened.

So I don’t expect any last-minute surprises, despite my hopes it will be otherwise, so that, as they say, is that.

So what’s next? Well, there will someday be a Mac OS 10.5. It won’t come as quickly as previous releases, if Tiger’s development schedule is matched, but even if it’s not out until 2007, it isn’t too early to start speculating about what it might contain. I rather suspect Apple is already building a list of what it would like to see the next time around.

Since this is my first foray into 10.5 hopes and dreams, I’ll start with the stuff that doesn’t seem to have made the cut for Tiger. As I said, Steve could still bring us one or two more things, but I’m not very optimistic. If you’ve heard this before, well, as I said, I wanted to see this stuff for 10.4. In any case, here goes:

All right, I suppose this is just a list of leftovers, and I haven’t begun to think what feline Mac OS X 10.5 will be named after. In the end, maybe it’s high time for Apple to rethink the entire graphical user interface and find a better way, before some startup company in someone’s kitchen gets there first.

THE TECH NIGHT OWL: IT’S OUR WAY OR THE HIGHWAY

Here in the Phoenix metropolitan area, we are lucky when it comes to telephone and TV service. In most neighborhoods, and I emphasize most, you don’t have to rely on the local phone provider, Qwest Communications, to keep your telephone ringing. Aside from a dwindling number of companies that lease Qwest’s lines to deliver alternatives, the main local cable provider, Cox Communications, has a phone alternative using its own fiber optics. Then there are Internet phone services, such as Vonage, but don’t forget you have to have broadband service installed for VoIP.

When it comes to TV, again we have choices. Some residents still prefer their old fashioned antennas, but when it comes to digital TV, you can choose Cox, Qwest Choice TV, which uses your regular phone line, Direct TV, Dish Network and, if it survives a heated boardroom fight, Voom, the HDTV-oriented satellite service. There are exceptions, of course. Choice TV isn’t licensed in some of the cities around Phoenix, and Qwest hasn’t built network pedestals in others. Also, a few neighborhoods use a service other than Cox for regular cable television.

In some housing developments, however, the builders have decreed that they can pick and choose our telecommunication services for us. Over the weekend, Mrs. Steinberg and I decided to spend the afternoon checking what’s available in the event we decide we need a new home. Talk about sticker shock; we didn’t realize how much home prices have risen!

In any case, one particular developer, DC Ranch, who has large tracts of land with hundreds of houses in North Scottsdale, has inked a pact with Qwest to be the exclusive provider of wired telephone and television. For most residents, it probably doesn’t make much of a difference, but there are limitations that, for us, would be the deal breakers even if we found a home of our dreams in that area.

First of all, Qwest Choice TV, while it delivers decent quality digital television, still doesn’t support HDTV. If you don’t have high definition in your radar, this isn’t a problem; otherwise it’s critical. Choice TV does feature integrated broadband, but the speed tops at at one megabit downloads, whereas Cox delivers from four to six megabits, depending on the service you choose. You want a different phone company, other than an Internet-based solution, forget about it!

What about satellite? Well, I got the unofficial word they wouldn’t object, although they’d prefer the satellites were installed in some locale other than the roof.

When it comes to local phone service in these parts, it doesn’t matter much. Qwest has reduced its prices to a point where it’s almost competitive with the alternatives, in a desperate bid to stop the hemorrhaging of subscribers. But broadband is different. In my business, I require the fastest possible download speeds, and Qwest has nothing better available to homeowners in that development. HDTV? Well, as I said, there is satellite.

I asked whether it would be possible to order Cox, for example, assuming I was willing to pay to have them bring the lines to my home. The answer was absolutely not and so we left! While I can see the advantages of prewiring for both telephone and television, I don’t like someone telling me what services I must use, and I particularly object to exclusive contracts of this sort.

As I said, for most of you, it’s no big deal. But for me, it is, and if and when we decide to buy a new home, it won’t be in that development.

THE FINAL WORD

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

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