• Newsletter Issue #302

    September 12th, 2005

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE UPDATE

    Has it been a while since you’ve heard the show? We’ll, we had a real busy summer, more active than we expected. First, we moved to a new network, a process that had a few glitches along the way. The reason? Growth, primarily. For months, you had asked us to make a version of the show available that you could download to your computer or perhaps your iPod, but we couldn’t persuade the people left in charge of the network to make the appropriate changes. When Podcasting came about, it seemed the ideal solution, but again, no movement.

    So, with the help of Jay Menna, who runs purestatic.com, a firm that hosts some of the larger entertainment-related sites, we added Podcasting within just a few days, and made the wholesale move to a new server. Some of the arrangements are temporary, until a single server can be devoted to The Tech Night Owl LIVE. As a result, we’ve had to contend with some service interruptions and difficulty in hearing the live stream. But we’re making progress and we’re now poised for a tremendous expansion of the show over the next few months.

    On our September 8th episode, Spam fighter Ted Green brought us up to date on the latest developments in the fight to rid your mailboxes of junk mail. Christopher Breen and Dan Frakes of Playlist joined us for a special conference to discuss the iPod nano, the Motorola ROKR E1 phone and other music-related product developments, and we took another fascinating visit to the “David Biedny Zone.”

    For September 15th, Joe Wilcox of JupiterResearch, will bring us up to date on a number of computer industry developments, including a brief comparison of Mac OS X Tiger and Windows Vista beta one.

    And don’t forget our weekly contests. So far we’ve given away such prizes as iPod shuffles, iPod accessories, memory upgrades, network music players, software and books. More great prizes will be offered in the weeks to come.

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

    TIGER WAR STORIES: THE BUGS THAT WON’T GO AWAY

    I want to believe that Mac OS X has become more and more reliable as it has matured. After all, it’s five years since the public beta first appeared, and a good thousand plus features must have been added. From a barely useful operating system, we have something that’s supposed to be world class.

    Now I’m not about the say, as some do, that Tiger is a buggy mess. Nor am I going to, as others have done, take a few bugs that nobody else has reported, and extrapolate them to involve a major scandal on the part of Apple Computer. On the other hand, Mac OS 10.4 has been out just a little over four months now, and it also took a while for Panther to, well, settle down.

    That takes us to a conversation I had with a long-time friend, a sound engineer for a well-known night club singer. He had purchased a 17-inch iMac G5 a few months back, and his experiences have been decidedly mixed. At times, it runs like a “jewel,” but there are still irritating problems that rear their ugly heads.

    But rather than just assume that the problems he’s encountered must apply to everyone, he did some investigating. He consulted Apple Knowledge Base documents, message boards on Apple’s support site and independent Mac sites and even sought help via phone. His experiences led him to paint a troubling picture of persistent bugs that, while not hurting everyone, should have been wiped away before Tiger saw the light of day.

    Sherlock: Here’s one particular Mac user’s complaint on an Apple message board: “When I start Sherlock, none of the pages will load. Sometimes the spinning wheel just spins forever sometimes it stops like it has finished but there is no info on the page. Part B of this problem is that sometimes the different channels show up in other languages.”

    According to my friend, who experienced the same problem, the “fixes suggested by Apple included removing the entire /Library/Caches folder and an Archive & Install. Tried each, each would fix things until a logout, then return. Ultimately, the suggestion…to empty and lock a folder works, but slows down Sherlock.

    Spotlight: In theory, Spotlight should be able to find all the files on your drive that relate to your search request. In practice, some of you claim that it’s not 100% reliable. Based on his investigation of the problem, my friend says, ” The trick to select and deselect the drive in the Spotlight privacy pane doesn’t work for me (even with a logout or restart, which some have noted as a necessary step), nor does trashing the hidden Spotlight index file (with a utility or in Terminal). In the first case, no new indexing activity occurs; in the second the new index job apparently stops long before it should, taking only a few minutes to complete and never ever restarting, even when the Mac was set not to sleep overnight.

    “Possibly related to this is it appears to ignore my preferences settings not to show search results from certain categories…or respect the order I set for result categories to appear in Finder window searches. Again, this behavior persists after an Archive & Install or if I boot from an external drive with a brand new install of OS X from the DVD (and allowed to update to 10.4.2 via Software Update).”

    Software Update: In theory, when you run the 10.4 updates, all files addressed by the update should be installed. The possible exception is if you’ve moved some of Apple’s applications from their default locations in the Applications folder. In practice, it’s not happening to some people. My friend reports: “After the Archive & Install from the DVD (which reinstalled 10.4.0), eight of the newly reinstalled apps (Automator, Disk Utility, Font Book, iChat, Installer, Mail, and Stickies) would not update…no matter what AppleCare suggested I try, which was a lot, including a manual download and application of the Combo update. Eventually, they suggested I just drag the newer versions from the Previous Systems folder into the active one’s Applications folder, since the newer versions of these apps could not be downloaded individually. This appears to have worked and solved crashing issues with iChat (v3.0 is not happy with 10.4.2; 3.0.1 is) and with Automator (v1.0 no go; 1.0.1 OK). I can’t say what other problems it may have solved… or made worse.”

    Maybe this is why some people report absolutely dreadful experiences after running the updates. Maybe some of the files were simply not properly updated.

    Faxing: Does it work for you? Or have you just given up on relying on your Mac to send and receive faxes, purchased a third party program such as Page Sender, or simply invested in a multifunction printer? To be sure, I still send occasional faxes from my Mac, simply to avoid having to print the documents first. Even here, performance is flaky. Sometimes it dials out, sometimes it doesn’t, and when it does succeed, it uses pulse rather than tone dialing. Now maybe Steve Jobs lives in one of those few older neighborhoods where touch tone dialing hasn’t arrived, but don’t take that too seriously.

    This oddball phenomenon has reared its ugly head in both Panther and Tiger, after clean installations, preference removals, and other troubleshooting steps. Maybe it’s a symptom of the built-in modem in a first generation Power Mac G5, which is why few make a fuss over it.

    I’m sure you realize that these problems aren’t necessarily show stoppers. Except for my friend’s problems with that older version of iChat, there were no crash-related issues, and maybe that’s why the priority level is low. I’d like to say that this represents the entire list, but I’ve only just begun.

    THE TECH NIGHT OWL: A YEAR WITH SATELLITE RADIO

    When it comes to broadcasting, I like to feel that I’m on the cutting edge. I mean, I bought an FM radio when it was just the province of a small number of classical music lovers, and that dates me. But I was not an early adopter for satellite radio. It’s not that the prospect of being able to listen to music stations without dozens of commercials doesn’t appeal to me. I just didn’t give the prospect of paying for radio a terribly high priority.

    But when I interviewed an XM Radio executive for The Tech Night Owl LIVE last year, I arranged for a temporary press account and was sent a Delphi Roady2 receiver, which was promptly installed in my car. After a while I acquired a Cambridge SoundWorks PlayDock speaker system, a sort of boom box adapter for portable music players, inserted the Roady2, and placed the unit on a file cabinet in the rear of my small home office.

    It took a while to position the antenna for optimum reception and this is the achilles heel of satellite radio. Unlike any old table radio, you just cannot move it around your home and expect to get clear and crisp reception. Being digital, satellite radio either works or it doesn’t, which is why my encounter with the Delphi MyFi, a tiny portable satellite player, wasn’t very favorable.

    I expect, over time, satellite radio makers will improve sensitivity to the point where such ills are history. As to the service itself, XM is simply marvelous. When you have a good sound system, audio quality is superior to FM. Not quite CD-like, but certainly good enough for most of you unless you pride yourself on your golden ears and also eschew compressed music downloads.

    As for music, almost every reasonably popular musical genre is represented on XM, and there’s even a channel for unsigned bands. There are also audio versions of your favorite all news cable channels, including CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. Several talk channels deliver both conservative and liberal commentary, and if you are looking for something more extreme, there’s always the raucous environment of Opie & Anthony.

    I have to tell you that satellite radio can be downright addictive. Once you get accustomed to the great reception and the sheer variety of stations, it’s hard to go back to a standard radio station, except for programming that hasn’t made it to satellite.

    Right now, XM is leader of the pack, with over four million subscribers and accelerating growth. But Sirius is a scrappy number two, and it is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new programming, including controversial shock jock Howard Stern. My limited experience with Sirius shows that, for me at any rate, audio quality is quite similar, as are many of the channel offerings, although there is more variety on XM right now.

    If you’re buying a new car, you may not have a choice as to which service is offered by the factory, although a few auto makers are smart enough to offer either service.

    My fervent wish, however, is for someone to devise a radio that offers both XM and Sirius in a single unit. Assuming both companies will license such a product, it’s strictly a matter of adding another chip or two, and might even have a negligible impact on pricing. Sure, you’ll have to pay a monthly fee for both services if you want this luxury, but it may be your best option if you want to conveniently enjoy, for example, major league baseball and Howard Stern without having to buy two separate radios.

    Will it happen? I think it will, in time. Maybe not this year, but it’s inevitable.

    THE FINAL WORD

    The Mac 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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