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  • Newsletter Issue #407

    September 16th, 2007

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    All right, one week Apple has a music-related special event, where they announce a new line of iPods, the alignment with Starbucks and the huge price cut on the iPhone. The latter, as a matter of fact, almost upstaged the rest of the news.

    But the following week they introduce still another music-related product, Logic Studio, bundling lots of extras, and cutting the price to a fraction of what it would cost to buy all this stuff separately. At $499, it’s a bargain for anyone wanting to build a new studio, or simply upgrade from, say, GarageBand.

    On the day of that announcement, our Special Correspondent, David Biedny, called and we had a brief conversation about the subject. A few minutes later, the studio console and mics were set up, and we prepared to do a segment for this week’s all-star episode The Tech Night Owl LIVE, where David appeared for an encore discussion of the new Apple announcements, focusing on this week’s surprise release of Logic Studio, and wondering why it didn’t happen last week.

    Why indeed!

    In addition, Adam Engst, of TidBITS, described his upgraded site, the new beta of the Eudora email client, and the iPhone, a product he says he’ll probably never buy. Why? Well, he spends maybe $60 for his mobile phone service for an entire  year, since he doesn’t require buckets of minutes. Such a deal!

    In this week’s Web Tips segment, Denis Motova explained the ins and outs of DNS and how you can take control of its power for your site. Now if you don’t think that DNS is especially important, consider what happens when you set up a new Web site, or just move to a new server or host. It may take up to three days for your visitors and/or customers to see the new site, and it’s all the fault of DNS, which is why we asked Denis to explain what it’s all about.

    This week on The Paracast, meet UFO investigator Frank Warren,  who discusses the controversial Walter Haut affidavit, the state of UFO research and other subjects. Among the issues he’ll deal with: Whether it still makes sense to continue to investigate the Roswell case after all these years.

    Coming September 23: Discover the secrets of the rarely-discussed 1948 Aztec, New Mexico UFO crash with researcher Scott Ramsey.

    MEMO TO PC USERS: WHY DO YOU TAKE ALL THIS ABUSE?

    I must admit that I am perhaps a little too tolerant of people who use Windows. Yes, when the occasion arises, I do express the appropriate Mac preference, but I don’t wear an Apple logo on my sleeve.

    In fact, I readily accept the need to use Windows on some occasions, particularly in situations where there is no Mac equivalent to the software you need for your business, or adapting to a new application may prove difficult and costly.

    On the other hand, I often feel sorry that so many businesses depend on Microsoft to operate their mission-critical software, particularly banks and hospitals, where any service interruption or slow-down can have serious consequences.

    A year or two back, I read a report from Consumer Reports, which tends to favor PCs in its coverage, talking of billions of dollars of losses to industries as a result of Windows malware. You had to consider just how the affected companies financed those losses, and the conclusion is obvious. They would simply raise the cost of their products or services, and you and I would foot the bill.

    Now I realize some of you really and truly feel Windows is a better product, that it has more features than the Mac OS, and thus provides a richer computing experience; if you’re a power user that is.

    I am not going to dispute that. Go through the control panels of Windows XP and Windows Vista and you’ll find a byzantine array of options from which to select. This may appeal to you, if you want to customize your user experience to the nth degree, but for regular people, it just engenders lots of confusion.

    Sure, you can go back through Microsoft’s history, about their corporate deception, bait and switch tactics, and so forth and so on. But we can’t change the past. Windows has become an entrenched operating system, and Microsoft is the fat octopus that dominates the computing industry.

    But that doesn’t mean they do not have serious problems. Despite all the hype and PR spin, Vista has not been the monumental success that Microsoft claimed it to be. The largest part of its adoption has been courtesy of the sale of new PCs, and the likes of Dell have been forced — no doubt kicking and screaming — to continue to offer XP as an option.

    Worse, Vista is bloated and resource-hogging. If you have a PC more than a year old — or perhaps something more recent that’s below the middle-of-the-pack — your Vista experience is apt to be tremendously unsatisfactory. For a cheap PC, you usually get Vista Home Basic, which is mostly a gussied up XP, without the garish 3D eye-candy known as Aero, media features and so on.

    The initial reaction to Vista on the part of the tech press has been mixed. Many have encountered incompatibilities with peripherals and lethargic performance. Now maybe a lot of this will be resolved with driver updates and the Vista SP1 update, which is promised for the first quarter of 2008.

    But it’s also true that Microsoft is notorious for not getting products out on time. Sure, Apple postponed Mac OS X Leopard by four months, but that’s a rarity for them.

    Into this climate, moving to the Mac may still be a difficult proposition. Sure, the Intel-based Mac can run Windows XP or Vista and lots of other operating systems with great performance, but the cost of new hardware can be prohibitive, even though Apple has become fully price competitive with equivalent PC gear.

    What’s more, you have to factor in the cost of buying Mac versions of your apps. Sure, some companies will provide so-called “sidegrades” to a different computing platform for the standard upgrade cost. But it can still represent a considerable expense. Add to that the cost of training. Yes, even though the Mac OS and Windows share lots of interface similarities, there has to be some degree of a learning curve, particularly since some things do not work quite the same.

    Despite the obstacles, however, a business has to evaluate the continued cost of maintaining a buggy dinosaur. Although companies are mostly concerned with near-term profits these days, they have to consider the total cost of ownership of their computing systems across a period of at least a few years. There, Macs have traditionally been cheaper, regardless of the initial purchase price.

    More to the point, consider the mental abuse a worker suffers when their PC goes down or becomes suddenly sluggish for no discernible reason. Consider the cost to the company of lost productivity, if nothing else.

    There has to be a limit to how much aggravation you should tolerate before you decide there are better options. For a home user, it’s a no-brainer. For a business, it may require a extra tips to the calculator and some long-range planning. But even there — unless the software forces a company to stick with its present system — it’s time to abandon the aging behemoth and choose something that not only works, but doesn’t abuse its user base.

    THE TECH NIGHT OWL: FOR THOSE OF YOU DISGUSTED WITH VONAGE AND SUNROCKET

    All right, maybe you’re intrigued with the prospect of saving a lot of money on your next phone bill, and trying one of those Internet, or VoIP, phone companies. At the same time, the recent and widely-publicized meltdown of SunRocket, one of the better known providers, has to hurt the other independents.

    You all have to wonder who might be next? Certainly, with the outcome of the appeals to the Verizon victory against Vonage over patent issues still uncertain, you must surely feel a little shaky about using Vonage right now.

    Understand that I was an early adopter of Vonage, and, in large part, service was satisfactory. But as the apparently outsourced customer support got worse and worse, I decided I had taken enough abuse, so I went over to Packet8, where I saved a small sum in monthly payments.

    Now Packet8 uses its own proprietary technology, so it’s apparently not vulnerable to those patent disputes. On the other hand, customer service has been hit or miss, and the service has had a couple of unpublicized outages. Worse, some features, such as the ability to customize Caller ID with Name, never worked properly.

    With my son, Grayson, off to Spain for a semester of studies, I wanted to cheap way to communicate with him, aside from iChat and Skype of course. In reviewing the VoIP services, I found one, VoIPYourLife, which seemed to garner almost universally favorable reviews. Most of the comments extolled the superb call quality, and speedy customer service.

    Amazing!

    So, after checking into the ease of porting my existing Packet8 numbers to the new service, I signed up for their $29.97 Premier Global Unlimited package. In addition to all the usual calling features, this one provides free calling to landlines in 30 countries, including Spain.

    It took about a week for VoIPYourLife’s router to arrive, but only minutes to set it up. The first week was mostly good, with a few glitches that required them to configure the router via their servers to better support my office-style desk phone. Until then, I’d dial a number, and occasionally reach a totally different party, or it would fail to recognize the touch tones when trying to navigate a company’s phone menu.

    Those problems are not uncommon, by the way. I ran into the same situation at Vonage, only they only resolved them with difficulty. It appears to be an artifact of the technology, but once VoIPYourLife had it under control, everything worked perfectly.

    As those reviews stated, call quality was indeed first rate, sometimes even better than my Cox land line. Connections to Spain were near as good, with only a slight echoing effect detracting from perfection. That and an occasional background noise were the only symptoms to indicate you weren’t making a local call. In passing, however, the fault could just as well lie with the local phone company in Spain used by my son’s host family in Alicante.

    The only problem that remains is the screwy Caller ID behavior, where the number is repeated in the first line of my phone’s LED, where you normally see the name displayed. VoIPYourLife is apparently aware of the issue, and is working towards an eventual revolution. In the scheme of things, though, this isn’t a serious defect, and one most of you can live with.

    It took less than a month for my phone numbers to be successfully transferred, by the way.

    After two months, VoIPYourLife continues to deliver first-rate Internet phone service. If you’re wary of Vonage, and not sure whether to pay extra to your local cable TV company, assuming they also offer VoIP, you should check out VoIPYourLife and see if their attractive mix of features and low-pricing meets your needs.

    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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    3 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #407”

    1. James Lee says:

      Warning to Vonage users. If you want to leave them just having your new carrier transfer your number is insufficient. They have been billing my credit card for 6 months after the transfer and will not stop. I just noticed it and have escalated it to my credit card company, but yes, their outsourced service is now terrible AND dishonest.

    2. Warning to Vonage users. If you want to leave them just having your new carrier transfer your number is insufficient. They have been billing my credit card for 6 months after the transfer and will not stop. I just noticed it and have escalated it to my credit card company, but yes, their outsourced service is now terrible AND dishonest.

      My experience wasn’t so difficult. I canceled, and they stopped billing me. But that was well over a year ago, so maybe things have changed for the worse — or they are hoping most people either won’t notice or they can at least hold onto the money for a while. 🙁

      Peace,
      Gene

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