• Newsletter Issue #486

    March 22nd, 2009


    Why do you need a Mac? To check email, surf the Internet, perhaps do your taxes (hopefully more accurately than the Secretary of the Treasury) and keep your checkbook balanced? Regardless, you are as a result what some would consider a consumer. However, that’s only half of the equation. The other, the one that may be most of important of all, is to use your Mac to make something, to be creative. Whether just making home videos, or creating special effects for the movie industry, you are using the best tool available for the task at hand.

    So on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, the Night Owl entered “The David Biedny Zone,” where our Special Correspondent not only talked about the creative aspect, he introduced you to a new music application that he’s found extremely compelling.

    Author Kirk McElhearn returned to discuss iTunes 8.1 and why the new features have made it easier for him to manage his huge music library.

    Cutting-edge commentator Daniel Eran Dilger, of Roughly Drafted Magazine, gave you the information you need to understanding the ins and outs of Apple’s iPhone 3.0 SDK and the forthcoming 3.0 update. As usual for Daniel, this particular session offered special insights on why the forthcoming iPhone software is so significant for Apple.

    On The Paracast this week, experiencer Mike Clelland brings us up to date on his “discovery pilgrimage” to a UFO conference in Nevada, and he also shares additional details about his paranormal encounters in this wide-ranging discussion.

    Coming March 29: Dr. Richard F. Haines, Chief Scientist for the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena (NARCAP), talks about airline sightings, airline safety, and his extensive research into these strange aerial mysteries.

    Coming April 5: Ed and Kris Sherwood bring you up to date on the mysterious crop circles. Are they pranks, messages from a universal consciousness, or manifestations of ET? Or all of the above?

    Now available! The Official Paracast T-Shirt. We’re taking orders direct from our new Official Paracast Store, where you can place your order and pay with a major credit card or PayPal. The shirts come in white, 100% cotton, and feature The Paracast logo on the front. The rear emblem states: “Separating Signal From Noise.” You can get them for $14.95, each, plus shipping, and you can select from most popular sizes.


    They say that first impressions are often the most important, and that a product that doesn’t grab you right away may be doomed to failure.

    Now after a decently-long gestation period, the latest version of Microsoft Internet Explorer, version 8, is now available for download. Forgetting preliminary reports about its performance potential — or lack thereof — I decided to give it a fair shake, download a copy and try it out.

    Well, typical of Microsoft’s products, this was not so easy a process. Let me explain, and don’t miss the contrast where an installation scenario is handled properly.

    You see, when I first launched my Vista installation, which comes courtesy of a Parallels Desktop virtual machine, I got a familiar notice, but not from Microsoft. Instead, if was the Windows version of Apple’s Software Update, informing me about the recent updates to iTunes and QuickTime.

    Interesting how Microsoft might learn a thing or two from Apple, even on their own platform. In any case, finding out where I might acquire a copy of Internet Explorer was easy enough. Microsoft’s home page had several Download links for the new version.

    After clicking one, I waited for a few seconds for something to happen. I was soon taken to a page at Microsoft’s site thanking me for choosing to download Internet Explorer 8. After a couple of minutes, nothing happened, so I clicked the link that was put there for that purpose.

    The next page I came to had several links where I had to select the language and my operating system. Seemed strange, in passing, that Microsoft couldn’t ascertain that information from the user agent of the browser I was using, which happened to be Internet Explorer 7. You see, I felt at the time that using their own browser ought to ease the download process.

    You’ll see how right I was in a moment.

    In any case, after choosing Vista, I was returned to that thank you page, but this time I decided to show more patience. Perhaps Microsoft’s servers had become overloaded due to the high demand for the long-awaited revision to the number one browser on the planet.

    There was no indication, however, of anything happening even after I left the computer alone for a long lunch break. I tried a third time to get the downloaded started, but once again, no download screens appeared.

    So I decided to innovate, a concept Microsoft evidently doesn’t understand. Well, maybe it wasn’t an epiphany, but I launched the Safari 4 beta for Windows. Within less than 30 seconds, the download had begun. From here the process seemed normal for a Windows file download, though it required more steps than anything from Apple might entail.

    Since Internet Explorer changes some core system components, a restart was required. well, at least the thing worked. Alas, other updates had evidently been downloaded in the background, for the startup process was delayed as these files were installed.

    Well, thank heavens for virtual machines. I simply returned to one of my Mac programs to get some productive work done while the process completed. Indeed, a short while later, the familiar if garish Windows desktop finally appeared, and I decided to give Internet Explorer 8 its first launch.

    As browsers go, it was all right. My sites were certainly rendered with a reasonable degree of fidelity, but then again I have special code in them to accommodate the eccentricities of Internet Explorer. Certainly it seemed stable enough, though the appearance didn’t seem all that different from the previous version.

    Alas, things weren’t as smooth as I might have expected under the circumstances. My firewall software, a special bundled version of Kersparsky’s security suite supplied by Parallels, kept posting warnings as to whether I should approve changes to Internet Explorer. Evidently those changes were initiated every time I accessed another site — and these were all my own sites. Curious.

    Well, maybe Kersparsky needs to update their product to recognize Internet Explorer 8, or Microsoft has a few fixes to do before their new browser is really ready for public consumption. Or at least that was my first assumption. A second restart ended those annoying prompts.

    Now I realize that some of you might suggest that my original problem was strictly the result of running Windows in a virtual machine, rather than a “genuine” Windows PC. Perhaps, but that would seem like a lame excuse to me, simply because both Parallels Desktop and VMWare Fusion are known to present highly compatible Windows environments. Certainly, this is the first time I encountered any troubles whatever in installing software from Microsoft or anywhere else.

    However, the real dilemma Mircrosoft needs to cope with is the simple fact that Internet Explorer 8, at best, only begins to catch up with the competition. When it comes to absolute performance, it falls way, way behind by any benchmark I’ve seen.

    Just what is Microsoft thinking here? More important, why do they seem to have so much difficulty delivering credible products, despite their vast financial and personnel resources.


    Just the other day, Mrs. Steinberg ordered some cosmetics from FragranceNet.com, a discount supplier that does all its business online. Now this is not the first time she’s ordered merchandise from this company. Certainly, we get discount coupons via email every few days, so there’s an incentive to check out the special offers for the products she prefers.

    Now FragranceNet.com is a highly-rated company that offers a reasonably large selection for both men and women, extremely competitive prices and great quality. She orders, they deliver. What more can you ask? She’s not their largest customer by any means, but so long as they continue to offer high-caliber merchandise at low prices, and deliver that merchandise in a timely fashion, she will remain a customer of theirs.

    That is the way things should be, of course, but not everything is so certain in the real world. However, I thought it would make sense to present a positive article for a change.

    Certainly I’m a long-time customer of Amazon. Even when Wall Street was claiming they’d never turn a profit, I was happy to get the books and videos I wanted promptly delivered to my home at discount prices. Eventually, founder Jeff Bezos and his marketing plan were vindicated. Amazon turns a nice profit these days, and the financial “experts” who ignored the company early on must feel regrets. Or maybe not.

    However, I don’t buy movies except for the few that I might want to watch more than a a time or two. Most of the movies I see — outside of the cinema of course — come courtesy of Neflix. The reason they have succeeded far better than their major competitor, Blockbuster, is that they were there first. More to the point, Netflix offers excellent service, and a huge movie library, including a growing number of titles in the high definition Blu-ray format.

    When it comes to buying new Macs, sure I’ve purchase products from Apple, both online and at their retail stores. However, I’ve also patronized third-party dealers, notably MacConnection and MacMall. Now I haven’t really required anything in terms of special support during the selection and ordering process. I simply went to the sites in question, selected what I wanted and placed my order.

    In most cases, considering the fact that I had ordered several thousand dollars worth of merchandise, my initial order was always followed with a phone call, to verify the details. These days, when identity theft remains a growing threat, this verification process makes a lot of sense.

    There really isn’t much more to say. I’ve never had a problem with Apple or any of their authorized resellers when it comes to online ordering. The merchandise almost always arrived as advertised and on schedule. When there were delays, it was usually the result of some early-production hangup on Apple’s part.

    So there you go. Most of the time the system works, but still you should always do a little homework in advance of placing an order with a firm you haven’t dealt with before. If they display emblems from the BBB or any other rating organization, it’s also a good idea to go to the source to make sure those emblems are genuine and not just put there without authorization for good effect.

    Yes errors may be made. You might get the wrong merchandise, or it may arrive damaged, though that’s usually the fault of the carrier delivering the product. In that event, call the vendor right away and make sure you follow their instructions precisely about returning the products and getting a replacement delivery.


    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 #486”

    1. John Davis says:

      “Just what is Microsoft thinking here? More important, why do they seem to have so much difficulty delivering credible products, despite their vast financial and personnel resources.”

      A very valid question indeed. From my observation, Microsoft is run by committees. There’s no one at the helm. Have you ever tried to get anything done through a committee? By its very own nature, everything is a compromise.

      With the charisma of a Monty Python charted accountant, Bill Gates never had an original idea in his life. He didn’t care whether things were “insanely great,” or not. His motto seems to have been, “Slap on a couple of patches and get it out the door, if there’s any competition, buy it or destroy it.”

      And Balmer seems to be carrying on the tradition.

      “Mediocrity Rules!”

    2. james holley says:

      I downloaded ie 8 and my computer crashed why is that?

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