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  • Newsletter Issue #351

    August 21st, 2006


    Sometimes it’s difficult to know when a comment will generate disagreement. For example, when we had WiredNews.com’s Leander Kahney on The Tech Night Owl LIVE earlier this month, he wondered whether Steve Jobs looked healthy during the WWDC keynote. I responded that I didn’t notice any such thing from my fifth row berth during the session, and let the matter drop.

    But last week, Macworld’s Christopher Breen, who was accompanied by his fellow Senior Editor Dan Frakes during his appearance on the show, felt the comment was downright irresponsible. I suppose you’ll be hearing more about this topic in the weeks to come.

    Also appearing on the show was John Rizzo, of MacWindows.com, who told us what annoyed him about the event, and the things that impressed him. David Biedny was once again in the “Zone,” to provide the eulogy for the Power Mac.

    Maybe you haven’t heard, but David says that he was the person who actually persuaded Apple executives to name their desktop computers Power Macs when they switched to the PowerPC in 1994.

    I’d also like to invite all of you to visit our new Tech Night Owl LIVE forums and check out a special section we’ve added covering Apple War Stories. You’re invited to participate with your own tales of woe or even your positive experiences.

    Coming up on Tuesday evening on The Paracast is another session with my long-time friend Jim Moseley, who is regarded as the “Court Jester” in the UFO field. But there’s a serious side to this man, too, as you’ll see in this no-holds-barred interview. You’ll also hear from Royce J. Myers III, of UFO Watchdog, who has created both a “UFO Hall of Fame” and a “UFO Hall of Shame.” As I’ve often said, the show tries to be an equal-opportunity offender.


    Yes, I know the stories. Mac users are not susceptible to viruses because the criminals responsible for malware don’t really care about a platform with a worldwide market share in the low single digits. If Apple’s efforts to boost the number of Macs in homes and businesses bear fruit, there will be plenty of threats coming our way.

    Of course, the people who insist this is true don’t bother considering the fact that Mac market share was actually higher years ago, and the number of computer viruses affecting the platform was still small. Today, with a solid Unix foundation, Mac OS X surely isn’t totally immune to infection, but the situation still will be far better.

    But nothing is perfect. Worse, there’s one thing that even the most powerful anti-virus, anti-virus and firewall software can’t prevent, and that is human error. Even on your Mac, you can do things that will cause you not only unending grief, but severe financial loss.

    And, no, my friends, this is not just a scare tactic. It’s the cold, hard truth!

    Now you might consider the prospects outlandish. Take, for example, the infamous Nigerian scam, where you get a message from someone who claims to be the granddaughter of a wealthy African king or something similar. If you’d like to share in their huge largess, you merely have to give them your bank account information. Within days, you’ll find an extra $10 million or so at your disposal.

    The very idea sounds absurd. How could anyone fall for such nonsense? But the reason the scheme continues to this very day is the fact that enough people do fall for the scheme, despite the illogic, to enrich a few online predators.

    Then there are those phishing scams, where you get a message purporting to be from your bank, or perhaps eBay. You are told that your account information has been compromised, and all you need do is click on the link, re-enter your account information, and everything will be all right in the world. Or at least with the account in question.

    If you actually click on the link, of course, you will be taken to a site that closely mirrors your financial institution, down to the minutest detail. These crooks are smart! As you might expect, when you deliver your account number, password and social security number, identity thieves will steal your savings, and open credit cards in your name to enrich themselves.

    This particular scheme depends on the fact that a lot of people are naive about how the Internet works. After all, why would someone write to them, using their address, if it wasn’t true? They don’t fully comprehend the fact that mass mailings of millions and millions of those messages are dispatched every single day by criminals who only need a few positive responses to line their pockets with your money.

    Again, if the messages didn’t bear fruit, you wouldn’t see them over and over again. The same holds true with the entire world of spam. Some people actually fall for those offers, which promise lower-rate mortgages or perhaps sexual enhancements of one sort or another.

    The investment required to send spam is very small, which is why it can be so profitable. In fact, some genuine companies do run email marketing programs, although, in theory, they are supposedly sent only to opt-in lists, people who actually requested the mailings. When you expose their irresponsible, greedy behavior, they’ll often provide the excuse that a third party fulfillment house did the dirty deed, and they will mend their ways.

    Sure they will!

    It’s very likely that phishing and spam will never go away, nor will computer viruses. Some day there will even be a Mac OS X infection that spreads into the wild in sufficient numbers to cause real damage.

    The best method of protection from the dangers of the Internet is just to be careful, and if you get something in the mail that your gut tells you doesn’t ring true, trust your instincts!


    It seems that every few weeks, some mobile phone provider is touting a fabulous new phone, one that truly raises the bar, to crib one particular advertising campaign. For example, there’s the new LG Chocolate phone, which rises from a bath of dark goop to tantalize your senses. Do you eat it, play it, or hold conversations with it?

    It seems like an intriguing device, but I wonder why they built it without a speakerphone? Even cheap phones have that feature. Didn’t anyone notice during the design phase?

    In the meantime, the U.S.’s two largest services, Cingular and Verizon Wireless, are boasting about the quality of their networks. Cingular has fewer dropped calls, and Verizon delivers a network that almost always surrounds you with something or other.

    Now maybe it’s true. Maybe there are fewer instances of disconnects, intermittent call quality and that sort of thing. Frankly, I haven’t noticed any changes in particular. Perhaps the customer base still increases as fast as the network, so the services never catch up.

    But one thing that hasn’t changed over all the years I’ve used mobile phones is voice quality. It still doesn’t quite measure up to the old fashioned landline that Ma Bell delivered decades and decades ago. Sure, the fidelity wasn’t terribly high in the scheme of things, but at its best, voices were clear, distinct, and the amount of background noise was minimal.

    Even the best mobile provider can’t deliver that level of call quality on any consistent basis, if at all. Far too many calls deliver a sort of gurgling sound effect, as if the caller’s head were immersed in a swimming pool. Is that the best that billions of dollars of investments can deliver?

    You can buy the most advanced handset, and enjoy enough features to keep you fascinated or just plain confused for months. But voice quality seldom varies.

    I won’t say it’s always bad. At it’s best, the audio fidelity, such as it is, can sometimes approach that of a traditional phone. But that “digital fuzz” invariably returns on the next call. I can’t tell you how often I must ask someone to repeat what they said at the other end of the call, or vice versa.

    Will there ever come a day when a cell phone company tells you that calls on their network sound as good as those on a regular phone? No, that’s not going to happen. That’s not a sufficiently sexy feature, because you can’t bathe a phone in it in a TV ad.


    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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