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  • Newsletter Issue #430

    February 24th, 2008

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    Will Blu-Ray’s victory over HD-DVD be short-lived, eventually to be supplanted by online downloads? Maybe, but I think it’ll take a few years for that to happen, during which time the high definition DVDs, if the price is kept at a reasonable level, will prosper.

    Well, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, the Night Owl explored the end of the high definition DVD war, the return of Director, as an Adobe product, to the Mac platform and other hot topics with our Special Correspondent David Biedny.

    Did the recent Leopard 10.5.2 update fix problems with Macs and cross-platform networking? Cross-platform guru John Rizzo of MacWindows.com, suggests that Leopard still has irritating bugs that prevent smooth networking with the Windows world. Does he have a point? Perhaps, which is why what he says bears serious consideration.

    Tech pundit Andy Ihnatko also came onboard to regale us with the latest news and views on Apple and other subjects. He focused some of his attention on Microsoft’s plan to acquire Yahoo, the better to compete with Google.

    You also received an update on Mariner Software’s newest products, which include blogging, novel writing and screen writing software, from company CEO Michael Wray.

    On The Paracast this week, Gene and David are joined by “Dr. Sue” and Jeremy Vaeni (author of “I Know Why The Alien’s Don’t Land!”), to discuss the Atlantic Coast UFO Conference held on February 15-17 in Atlantic City, NJ.

    This is going to be a discussion with frank opinions on many intriguing aspects of this event, and not all of it will be, as you might expect, complimentary.

    Coming March 2: Discover the incredible life story of Dorothy Izatt, who claims to have been in contact with UFOs and UFO entities for over 30 years and has taken some 30,000 feet of motion picture film depicting her experiences. You’ll hear the insights of Frank Longo and Peter Gutilla on the subject. Longo also produced and directed a DVD documentary on Mrs. Izatt entitled “Capturing the Light.”

    APPLE AND MICROSOFT: WHERE’S THE TRUST?

    It’s clear that trust is hard to earn, and extremely easy to lose. Here in the U.S., we don’t trust government, and we certainly wonder about those lavish promises the presidential candidates are making that will be promptly forgotten the day after the election.

    With the endless battle between Apple and Microsoft taking on new directions, it’s important to consider just how much of their PR chatter can be believed.

    Back in the 1990s, for example, Apple made all sorts of promises, but few came to pass, and where they did, the products were often something less-than-spectacular. Most of you remember Copland, for example, the vision of a world-class operating system that was killed during the fitful start of its initial beta stage.

    When Steve Jobs returned and took control of the company, he also made promises that were difficult to deliver, such as the first iteration of Mac OS X, known as Rhapsody. It’s not that Apple couldn’t produce what was essentially an updated version of its NeXT operating system, but Apple’s key software developers balked. They didn’t want to undergo the time and expense to do major rejiggering of their applications.

    That’s why Apple went back to the drawing board, and created Mac OS X’s Aqua interface, a modern updating of the original Mac’s look and feel.

    Since Mac OS 10.0 first came out, Apple has pretty well kept on schedule, except for Leopard, where the iPhone got first digs and Leopard was put on the back burner until the fall. To be fair, some of you feel Leopard could have come out a few months later, still,, with more intense efforts to exorcise its worst demons, before it made its debut.

    Regardless, when Apple is late, with this rare exception, it’s usually a matter of no more than a few weeks, which is hardly significant. When they promise a feature, it’s usually delivered, and the exceptions are few.

    So this ought to mean that Apple is fundamentally trustworthy. Whether you like their products or not, you can depend on them to provide what you expect, and usually more.

    Compared to Apple, Microsoft appears to never stop talking, about this product or the other, this service, or that one, but their record of delivering the goods is not noteworthy.

    At the time that Apple was looking to ditch the aging Mac OS and create something better Microsoft’s response to that, NeXT and other industrial-strength operating systems, was something known as Cairo. Their promise, at the time, was for you buy their second-rate stuff now, and you’ll get something first-rate later on, only it was a moving target. Cairo never appeared.

    In contrast, Windows Vista, first introduced is Longhorn, actually made it to market, but several years late, without such key capabilities as a brand new file system. Yes, it does have the glitzy Aero interface — and you wonder why they chose a name so similar to Aqua — but it requires powerful PC hardware to display. There’s even a class-action lawsuit in the works because of the alleged misleading labels put on some PCs that were unable to run more than the very basic version of Windows.

    More recently, Microsoft has encountered fundamental difficulties attempting to set up its download system for Vista SP1, its first major bug fix update. Imagine your PC downloading files from Microsoft, and suddenly suffering from a bout of frequent restarts.

    Worse, it has been reported that the SP1 update apparently disables many Windows security products, due to alleged “reliability” issues. The affected produces include Jiangmin KV Antivirus, Tend Micro’s Internet Security, BitDefender AV and Zone Alarm Security Suite. Evidently there’s not a whole lot left that does work. Surely Microsoft understands that they need to make their software compatible with products like these, or would they prefer to just blame it on the “other guy”?

    You wonder who is testing their software in-house and how such a blatant defects could be allowed to persist.

    On the Mac side, the first release of Office 2008 was several months late, and it seems Microsoft’s Mac BU copped a few of the fancier features from Apple’s iWork. Worse, it’s widely reported to suffer performance shortcomings on PowerPC Macs.

    The first update is due in March. As a result, Microsoft has postponed its file format converter for Office 2004. Is such a translator so hard to develop that it takes a crew of 200 several more months to complete the task? Or is Microsoft’s development process so inefficient that they can’t do anything in a timely fashion?

    This isn’t to say that Microsoft doesn’t have smart people. They probably have thousands of the best programmers in the industry, but the company is so disorganized, or bureaucratic, that acting fast isn’t part of their DNA.

    When it comes to that proposed takeover of Yahoo, I rather think Microsoft is in way over their head, and that they will encounter monumental difficulties trying to find some synergy in such a transaction. But they are so desperate to gain market share against Google that they will even consider outlandish solutions at this stage.

    So whom do you trust? Well, how often has Microsoft delivered anything on time with all or most features intact? When they tout a new technology, do you just sit back and yawn? You should.

    To be fair, Apple and Microsoft share one thing in common. They are profitable corporations and both exist to separate you from your money. In the end, though, who really deserves to earn that money?

    TWO MONTHS WITH AN iPHONE

    I suppose I was lucky to have had a one-month iPhone demonstration, courtesy of Apple’s corporate communications and editorial loaner departments. Well, it was actually two weeks at first, but the arrival of the 1.1.3 update in early January brought me a two-week reprieve.

    After I sent the unit back to Apple, I made a deal to acquire one for myself, and the very next day, Apple released a version with twice the storage for just $100 more. But rather than spring for the updated model, which was otherwise the same as the 8GB version, I simply looked at the remaining storage capacity and decided that I’d do better investing $69 for an extended warranty. I used my change to take my son out to lunch.

    Yes, I’m not much of an iPod user, and I’ve had plenty of opportunities. It’s not that I don’t like music, or spoken matter, but I have grown to prefer listening to live radio, which is more unpredictable and exciting to me; I can’t wait until my radio shows are presented in that fashion too. And, yes, I have a decent collection of music, and the best will be downloaded to the iPhone, particularly when I plan on a long trip.

    As to the other functions, let’s deal with the most essential, which is the iPhone’s ability to make and receive phone calls. As a relative newcomer to AT&T, I’ve only compared the iPhone with two other models, a Motorola RAZR and an LG CE110. It does seem that the iPhone’s reception is a little bit better than the former, with superior sound quality, but otherwise, they all do a pretty good job with their core function.

    When it comes to an Internet device, up till now, my main portable was a note-book computer, and when it comes to certain types of work, such as writing articles and other material, the iPhone doesn’t rate, and I didn’t expect it to. A so-called smart phone or feature phone is best for short notes. When a longer response is required, I still find myself going to a regular computer for that task.

    I expect the same is largely true for the BlackBerry, although my experience with that product is quite limited. Of course, if I were to become accustomed to typing with my thumbs, maybe my views would change.

    This isn’t to say the iPhone is necessarily perfect otherwise. On a couple of occasions, I had to initiate a restart, when the unit stopping handling phone calls properly. And even with a strong Wi-Fi connection to a really high-speed Internet installation, Web performance isn’t as snappy as it ought to be. Whether this is a limitation of the processor, the amount of memory installed, the operating system or some combination of all three, I don’t know. By the way AT&T’s Edge network can deliver performance that ranges from acceptable to pathetic, depending on your location and the number of bars displayed on your iPhone.

    With millions of iPhones in the hands of users — whether locked or not — it’s no longer a novelty. I still hear the fateful phrase, “Is that an iPhone?” from time to time, but not so often anymore.

    I am also extremely satisfied with Apple’s extraordinary efforts in making what could have been a complex mess — as most wireless phones end up being — into a simple yet sophisticated device that you can master with just a little bit of practice, and without reading any manuals.

    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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