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Newsletter Issue #380


We don’t have fixed times when taped interviews will be done. Normally it’s during daylight hours. However, there have been exceptions, such as the time I interviewed someone for like The Tech Night Owl LIVE who resided in France at 1:30 AM my time. Although the interview went well, I had to work harder to sound awake.

On another occasion, the guest didn’t return home from his “day job” until 9:00 PM Pacific time, which created a somewhat similar situation in reverse, except this interview was for The Paracast and David Biedny was looking at an after-midnight session. However, he’s more of a night person than I, despite my “Night Owl” nickname.

That takes us to this week’s episode of the tech show, where we led off with Steve “Mr. Gadget” Kruschen, who gave us a different slant on cool technology, as he devoted the first part of his presentation to smart household gadgets. But it wasn’t long before he was back to his usual coverage of the latest and coolest tech gear.

If you have one of the first-generation Intel-based Macs, and you were left out of the built-in higher-speed Wi-Fi card, which supports the new 802.11n that’s a part of Apple’s newest AirPort Extreme, Rick Estes of QuickerTek might have the solution for you. His company is now selling an upgrade card to replace the one in your Intel-based iMac and MacBook Pro, and he’s promised to send us one to try, so we’ll have more to say on this topic in the very near future.

We also presented news about the latest and greatest Mac stuff from our own staff announcer, prolific author Bob “Dr. Mac” LeVitus, who also presented his first review of the AirPort Extreme.

On The Paracast this week author Ann Druffel talked about the tragic case of UFO investigator Dr. James E. McDonald and other issues of concern to the UFO community. Dr. McDonald committed suicide at the age of 51, and his death was a huge blow to the field, particularly because of his stellar scientific credentials and dedication to his research.

In addition, paranormal investigator Michael Miley returned to reveal some startling UFO encounters that may make you rethink what the enigma is all about. His presentation included such topics as out-of-body experiences, abductions, and more

On our discussion forums at The Paracast, listeners have speculated whether contactee Jim Sparks would return to the show to submit himself to more tough questions. We he has and you’ll hear the result during the first hour of our March 18th episode.

Speaking of discussion forums, we’ve completely revised the format for the ones we’ve built for The Tech Night Owl LIVE and we’re expanding the topic list. Feel free to drop over to the site, click Discussion Forums, and join in.


When Microsoft was under the gun defending itself against antitrust charges from the U.S. Department of Justice, they said they only wanted to be free to “innovate.”

Now it’s fair to say that there is a lot of disagreement over just how much Microsoft innovates, and how much it cribs from others, such as Apple. In fact, the legendary $150 million dollar investment Microsoft made in Apple in the 1990s — plus unannounced payments that may have amounted to hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more — were designed to settle the ongoing dispute over patent rights and such.

So even if Microsoft stole a Mac user interface element wholesale, there would be no legal repercussions, at least from Apple. Maybe that’s why Outlook Express is now Windows Mail and resembles Apple Mail.

Which brings us back to Bill Gates, who is quoted as saying that, like Windows, the Mac is regularly infected by malware. Maybe he’s been reading Consumer Reports magazine, which once came out with an extremely odd survey that indicated that some 20% of Mac users had encountered viruses on their computers.

Now if that survey was conducted before Mac OS X came along, I might believe they could be right. Over the years, there have been several dozen Mac viruses, and I can see where long-time users might have encountered one or more of them at one time or another. In fact, I did within days after I bought a brand new Mac back in 1989.

But that survey occurred well after Mac OS X was in full bloom, so it doesn’t make sense from a logical point of view, simply because no virus has ever infected Apple’s Unix-based operating system on a widespread basis. Yes, there was one small infection that maybe hurt a few hundred, more or less, but that’s about it.

Indeed, all those stories you hear about the Mac OS X security leak of the day or week are nothing more than potentially invasive. They could be exploited, but they haven’t been. Now maybe we’re just lucky, or Apple acted fast enough to plug the leaks.

But surely Bill Gates isn’t so divorced from reality that he doesn’t know any of this. In fact, I dare say he is fully aware of what’s really happening, which hasn’t stopped him and his company from telling a few tall tales.

Now corporate spin is one thing. Apple is no less guilty of that than any other large company. To be sure, corporations and governments both engage in the practice to one degree or another.

Of course, if you can believe Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer, Windows Vista is doing quite well, the Zune music player is destined to take the industry by storm one of these days and Microsoft, though losing billions on the various failed ventures it’s subsidizing, will end up more profitable than ever in the end.

In the real world, just about everything Apple does is being taken seriously by tech writers around the world. But so is Microsoft, as they have been for years.

But there’s a huge difference. You see, if you look at all the product promises Microsoft has made over the years, you’ll find they have established a dismal record of actually delivering something that closely resembles the original concept.

Don’t believe me? Well, take a look at the original blueprint for Windows Vista — which was then known as Longhorn — and tell me about the new file system and the other features that fell by the wayside. Consider the original shipping date too.

But that’s no recent phenomenon. Go back a decade and see what Microsoft was touting then and there and how those products actually ended up. The problem, however, is that all of this, whether sprung out of whole cloth from the mind of Bill Gates, or an over-eager corporate PR division, is accepted as gospel by far too many mainstream journalists.

So long as their claims aren’t seriously questioned, Microsoft will continue to promise the moon and deliver a handful of rocks, and pretend that they are innovating.

True, Apple lost a lot of credibility in the 1990s, when it promised Copland — an attempt to create a state-of-the-art operating system — and other technologies that it couldn’t deliver. Of course, Apple, under the direction of Steve Jobs, promises little, but somehow manages to meet its deadlines almost every time, or at least comes close enough to be consistently credible.

As for Bill Gates, 100 years from now — assuming our lifespans haven’t been greatly extended and he’s still around — he’ll be remembered as the great philanthropist who gave away billions to the needy and the sick. It’s quite possible Microsoft will still exist, but it’s an open question how much clout it will have in the industry. But I suppose you could say the same thing about Apple.


One of the major debates in the political world these days concerns the apparent erosion of our personal freedoms. Just the other day, the FBI came under fire for allegedly seeking private information from citizens without obeying the procedures spelled out in the Patriot Act.

However, that sort of abuse doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone should be free to do the same thing, although I suppose some of you are tempted from time to time.

So it came as no surprise to see a TV spot the other day announcing a product designed to amplify ambient sounds. At first it was presented in the gentlest, most subtle terms, showing a woman reveling in the sounds of nature, and someone using the device, consisting of a receiver the size of a small music player and a set of earphones, to watch TV without disturbing one’s spouse.

Certainly there’s are commendable uses for such a device, particularly if your hearing isn’t what it used to be and you’re not quite ready to invest in a hearing aid. But then the other shoe fell, as they ran a scene of a woman checking her mail while overhearing a personal conversation from two neighbors across the street. Aha!

Indeed, assuming this gadget actually works as advertised (which is never certain nowadays), you can now snoop on your neighbors for a mere $14.95, plus shipping and handling. Tempted? Well, I’m not going to afford the company selling this gadget any further publicity. If you’re curious, go ahead and seek it out for yourself, because I won’t help you.

In the end, it’s hard to say that this sound amplifier really works as advertised, or that a lot of the people buying it will be using it for nefarious purposes. Or at least I hope not.

Of course, such gear isn’t terribly new. In my late teens, I remember buying a gadget consisting of a mic connected to a long goose neck of some sort, which was supposed to ferret out sounds from a long distance. It even worked, at least for a short amount of time, after which it just stopped, as did its replacement.

I suppose one can imagine teens playing with devices of that sort, hoping to learn something secret from a friend and maybe using it against them. All in good fun of course.

Alas, as government spying intensifies, maybe more and more people will find themselves tempted to do a little spying themselves. And that’s really unfortunate, and I hope I haven’t helped that mail order company sell a few more of its eavesdropping gadgets.

Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut.


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