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  • Newsletter Issue #385

    April 15th, 2007

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Whenever we interview someone for either show, there’s always the possibility that the guest will make statements that strike us as wrong, statements that should be corrected or disputed. This can be done with respect, or in a confrontational fashion, say as TV talking head Bill O’Reilly is apt to do.

    Unlike other paranormal shows, with The Paracast, David Biedny and I won’t hesitate to ask the tough questions, but there may come a time that the responses just don’t add up. Now we face the inevitable dilemma. Should we confront the guest then and there, directly, or just voice our conclusions in a later wrap-up?

    Either way, someone will object. Listeners might suggest we should have reacted in a more vigorous fashion, while others consider the “Monday morning quarterback” approach akin to talking behind someone’s back. But since it’s all happening in public, and we do have discussion forums for further discussion, we really aren’t preventing the guest from responding.

    In any case, on this week’s show, David introduced investigator and documentary filmmaker David Sonnenschein, who spent the two-hour session exploring the subject of psychic surgery and the incredible saga of Brazilian healer Arigo, the “Surgeon of the Rusty Knife.” David has long been fascinated by this story, seldom heard on American radio, and we think you will be too, once you hear the episode.

    On this week’s all-star episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we called upon Macworld Editorial Director Jason Snell to explore the potential or lack thereof of Apple’s new eight-core option for the Mac Pro. Is it the fastest computer on the planet, or does it only perform up to expectations strictly with a very limited amount of software?

    In the end, it’s a little bit of both.

    In another segment on the show, Adam Engst of TidBITS came on board to talk about the ins and outs of Apple’s new AirPort Extreme “n” base station. We also presented the latest tips, tricks and troubleshooting hints for your Mac from MacFixIt Editor Ben Wilson.

    THE MAC BECOMES A LOW-KEY SURVIVOR

    I still recall the questioning looks and comments after the last Macworld keynote, as we all wondered why the Mac got short shrift. If you had never heard of Apple Inc. before, you might think they make iPods, AirPort routers, the Apple TV and, of course, the iPhone.

    Macs? What are they? Oh yes, those silly personal computers that are the subject of sly humor in the ubiquitous Mac versus PC spots. Oh yes, that computer. So whatever happened to the Mac?

    Didn’t Steve Jobs once say, before he returned to Apple, that he thought they should market the Mac for all its worth, and then move on to the next great thing?

    Well, maybe Apple has taken those words to heart at long last, because it would seem, at first glance at least, that not a lot has happened on the Mac front of late. Most of us have spent time talking about what’s already happened, what might happen, and what might not happen.

    It’s clear, for example, that Leopard isn’t happening, at least not yet. Aside from that public demonstration at last year’s WWDC, we don’t know much more about it than we knew before. There’s still Time Machine, Spaces, a revitalized iChat and Mail, some developer-oriented enhancements, and “top secret” features that have never been revealed.

    And it is far too late for Microsoft to unpack its copying machines, since Windows Vista has been out for a while, and heaven knows when the next major Windows upgrade will be out. You don’t believe Microsoft’s promises, or do you?

    So where indeed does the Mac stand in Apple’s brave new world of consumer electronic goodies?

    That’s a good question and one that may not be easily answered until the drama has fully played out. I don’t actually think that Apple intends to abandon Macs anytime soon. Instead, they are using it precisely as Steve Jobs claimed when he talked of the PC as the “digital hub.”

    Indeed, all of those fancy gadgets depend on computers to provide their services. The iPod downloads its content from a computer, as does the iPhone. The Apple TV serves as an interface that delivers the stuff on your computer to your HD TV.

    Without the computer, they all exist in a vacuum, more or less. They will function, of course, but the audio and video material will never change without the hub on which they depend.

    So it’s clear to me that Macs will not soon disappear, nor is Apple going to just sit back and depend on Windows users, although they form the greater part of the iPod user base. The Mac is still an essential part of Apple’s product line.

    But why does it seem to be garnering less prominence in recent months? Look at the product upgrades, for example, which have been extremely modest. A faster processor here, a bigger hard drive there, and a few other differences, such as adding chipsets that support the new 802.11n Wi-Fi standard, but the computers look just about the same. You can barely tell them apart, except, perhaps, by some arcane entry in the serial number.

    Where are the exciting new form factors to advance the state of the art? Or does it even matter if my MacBook Pro looks different from yours?

    Then there’s Mac OS X. Apple is leveraging the technology for the Apple TV and the iPhone, so it’s clear that it’s not going away. All right, Leopard is going to be four months late, and I suppose you can feel a little skeptical over the claim that it’s all because some engineers had to be “borrowed” to complete the iPhone project.

    I mean, how can that add up to a four-month delay? So is it really possible that some unexpected pitfalls have been encountered in the development process, or did Apple devise some great new features and needs the extra time to make them ready for prime time?

    Perhaps we’ll never know, and maybe it doesn’t really matter whether Leopard comes out in June or October. Except for a small number of people having trouble with Tiger, it works well enough for the rest of you — it surely does for me. Even compared to Windows Vista, Tiger comes out way ahead, except in the minds of a few Windows fanboys who worship the very ground Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer walk upon.

    So is the Mac now reduced to second-rate status? Or has it reached a state of development where it functions reliably and predictably as it is, and doesn’t require constant tweaking and reworking to keep it ahead of the game?

    A good question, one that may not be answered right away. But it’s always a good topic to consider, particularly when there’s little that’s new to report about.

    THE TECH NIGHT OWL: FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND THE DON IMUS AFFAIR

    When I started working in radio years ago, there were no shock jocks, and I was strongly cautioned about using the “wrong” language on the air. Just one vulgarity and I would find my career to be short-lived.

    How things have changed. Today, radio hosts who stretch the limits of acceptability become multi-millionaires, and attract the rich and the famous as listeners and guests. With the advent of satellite radio, you can even use the “frank” language that’s still illegal on the terrestrial airwaves.

    With his “bad boy” and redneck swagger, Don Imus was one of the originators of the shock jock format. He knew how to push the right buttons with a coy turn of phrase at just the wrong (or right) time, and he got in lots of trouble for his efforts. He’d be fired, only to be rehired by another station. He also had to combat alcohol and substance abuse problems over the years, but he seemed to have settled down as almost an establishment figure, their personal gadfly who earned awards as one of the top broadcasters ever.

    His downfall came as the result of just three words that upset the wrong people. It was nothing that rap and hip-hop artists haven’t used over and over again, but coming from an aging white redneck sent the wrong message.

    Yes, he apologized, and made the proper motions to the powers-that-be, but the tide had turned against him. First his sponsors began to desert him, and finally his employers decided to pull the plug.

    As national talk show hosts go, Don Imus ranked number 14, way behind Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and even Bill O’Reilly. But he was a huge money maker for his employers, and I expect that he’ll turn up again somewhere, plying his trade and offending others just as he’s done for decades.

    Has the saga of Don Imus taught us anything about freedom of speech and how it may be abused? That’s hard to say, but we need people like him to continue to test and stretch the boundaries. His silencing — even if only temporary — feels just a little chilling to me.

    As you know, I do talk shows too. I am not a shock jock, and my audiences are presently in the tens of thousands, not in the millions. On the other hand, I like to feel that I can say what I want to say and that I can also push a few limits here and there from time to time.

    For that, I have to thank the people who came before me and paved the way.

    While I was never a fan of his, Don Imus helped all of us discover where we can go and where we can’t go. Let’s hope that the FCC, advertisers and broadcasting companies will not now decide that there are two few limits, for if that happens, we will all lose just a little bit more of our precious freedoms.

    Note on Old Time Radio: If you want to discover (or rediscover) the progenitor of such police procedural dramas as “Law & Order,” you might want to seek out the original “Dragnet” on recordings of the original radio episodes, where the show originated.

    Featuring the late Jack Webb as star and producer, this classic series involved two Los Angeles police detectives investigating and solving crimes that were supposedly based on real events. This echoes the “ripped from the headlines” phrase used to promote “Law & Order.”

    After several years of success on radio, “Dragnet” made the leap to TV and became one of the most popular series of the 1950s. A 1960s revival was less successful. You can read more about the show and its history in a Wikipedia entry.

    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 and Marketing: Sharon Jarvis



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    4 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #385”

    1. […] Story continued in this week’s Tech Night Owl Newsletter. […]

    2. Michael says:

      “As you know, I do talk shows too. I am not a shock jock …”

      I’d not expect ungallant remarks about young ladies here. But if you do feel the need to use shocking language when discussing Mr. Gates or Mr. Ballmer please don’t feel inhibited. πŸ™‚

      The same goes for Thomas Hesse:

      http://www.boingboing.net/2005/11/24/sony_rootkit_tee_why.html

    3. “As you know, I do talk shows too. I am not a shock jock “Β¦”

      I’d not expect ungallant remarks about young ladies here. But if you do feel the need to use shocking language when discussing Mr. Gates or Mr. Ballmer please don’t feel inhibited. πŸ™‚

      The same goes for Thomas Hesse:

      http://www.boingboing.net/2005/11/24/sony_rootkit_tee_why.html

      Well, one of our shows is carried on terrestrial radio, so we face the wrath of the FCC. In fact, when we brought “The Paracast” to the station in question, KLAV-AM in Las Vegas, we had to agree to abide by FCC regulations.

      But there are ways to say things without using those seven dirty words πŸ™‚

      Peace,
      Gene

    4. Eric says:

      Hi Gene, I really have to reply to your comment: “So is the Mac now reduced to second-rate status? Or has it reached a state of development where it functions reliably and predictably as it is, and doesnΓƒΒ’Γ’β€šΒ¬Γ’β€žΒ’t require constant tweaking and reworking to keep it ahead of the game?”

      The Mac platform has had a major amount of tweaking and reworking over the last few years. The switch from OS 9 to OS X and now to the Intel platform has my publishing customers forking out their cash left, right and centre on hardware and software upgrades just to keep compatible with the ever-changing demands of their industry (don’t get me started on Quark vs. InDesign.) And a lot of expensive equipment, scanners and printers, did not get their drivers updated for OS X and now even recent software like Office do not have great performance on Intel Macs. Of course, innovations have to keep coming to improve people’s technological lifestyles. But my publishing clients would certainly appreciate a pause for breath every now and again, so they can get a good return on their equipment and software purchases and get on with their jobs and focus on making money and keeping overheads down.

      The Mac, with well over 1 million units shipped every quarter, will continue to provide Apple with a solid technology and financial foundation for many years to come. Apple of course will naturally head for the next big thing, as they are very good at it and even the incredible iPod success will not last forever. Computers are now commonplace, so a new model is not as exciting as a whole new class of product, but sales are assured. With the Mac and Mac OS X as the digital hub and the platform for other great technologies such as the Apple TV and iPhone, they are assured a long-term future and I am sure will never be seen as “second-rate status” even though it may not be the focus of the next big thing.

      Thanks for putting your time into some great articles. Keep up the good work.

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