• Newsletter Issue #537

    March 14th, 2010

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL LIVE RADIO UPDATE

    I’m still on the fence about buying the iPad, but it appears from early reports that enough customers are out there to guarantee that Apple will sell every one they can build, at least for the initial sales period. How well it fares on the long haul is anyone’s guess, and the figures about that potential have been all over the place. Nonetheless I’ll be watching those developments with interest. I’ll also have further comments later on in this newsletter.

    Now on last week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we had two extended discussions about all things Apple. First onboard was commentator Jim Dalrymple, from The Loop, who explained why he was wrong about the potential failure of Macworld 2010. I suppose I was as well, as I didn’t expect to see it succeed so well the first year, and this augurs well for the future of this trade show even without Apple’s participation. In fact, that may have been that act that freed them from depending on the whims of a single company when setting up conference schedules or planning special events.

    During my session with Jim, he also addressed the ongoing controversy over Apple’s App Store approval policies, and, of course, his hands-on encounter with the iPad. Yes, he’s going to buy one. Did you expect otherwise?

    We also presented Paul Curthoys, Editor-in-Chief for Mac|Life, who joined us for a wide-ranging introductory discussion about his experiences with the original NeXT operating system, his hour-long iPad encounter, Apple’s App Store approval policies, the future of print magazines and his hopes and dreams for iPhone 4.0.

    This week on our other show, The Paracast, guest co-host Paul Kimball presents a pair of highly experienced paranormal investigators from the UK-basedUnknown Phenomena Investigation Association. You’ll hear from Steve Mera, author of “Strange Happenings: Memoirs of a Paranormal Investigator,” and Dave Sadler, author of “Paranormal Reality: Ghosts, UFOs and Pussy Cats.”

    Coming March 21: Guest co-host Christopher O’Brien presents an animal mutilation roundtable featuring Ted Oliphant, a former law enforcement officer, and Philip Hoyle, of the Animal Pathology Field Unit. This is reported to be the first such broadcast discussion involving three experts on the subject.

    Coming March 28: Guest co-host Paul Kimball presents documentary filmmaker Michael MacDonald, who has made a number of well-received films about UFOs and the paranormal.

    Now Shipping! 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.” We’ve also added a selection of additional special custom-imprinted merchandise for fans of our show.

    MORE TECH PUNDITS FAIL AT THE JOB

    Sometimes I feel that I’m becoming the tech equivalent of the Media Matters Web site. That’s the one where they analyze what they regard as erroneous reports from their opponents. Since they have a liberal orientation, that means anyone with a conservative bent; their biggest target is Fox News.

    But I have no political agendas to advance. I’m just interested in reading responsible and informed commentary and news about my favorite subjects. Contrary opinions don’t bother me, so long as they are based on logic and reason and not knee-jerk reactions to something that hits the wrong emotional nerve.

    Unfortunately, far too many news sources, particularly the online variety, seek hits and ad revenues above everything, and the facts be damned! Combine that with the terrible proliferation of lazy research, where it doesn’t seem they are even doing a basic Google search, and you understand why such much misinformation passes muster.

    I’m also deeply concerned about the fact that some of the sources quoted in these stories have their own overt agendas that make anything they say suspect. Unfortunately, what they say is taken as near-gospel anyway.

    Take the recent report from a respected mainstream news service, listing potential teething problems with the iPad, and suggesting that maybe you avoid buying one when it’s first released.

    Now let me make it quite clear that I agree that there may be a risk in buying the introductory version of any new product, particularly one as complicated as a personal computer — and make no mistake, the iPad is a personal computer first and foremost. There are apt to be early production defects, software bugs and certain key features are likely withheld by marketing people to entice you to upgrade to Version Two.

    On the other hand, the piece in question loses its credibility pronto by quoting alleged industry analyst Rob Enderle near the top of the article, and treating him as a genuine expert on technology. He claims that owners of the first iPhone were not satisfied with the product, which is demonstrably not true, based on every single owner survey conducted. Worse, Enderle is nothing more than a paid shill for such companies as Dell and Microsoft. He’s no better than any run-of-the-mill PR flack. How can anyone take what he says seriously?

    Later on in the article, the hack writer in question claims that all existing iPhone applications will look pixellated on the iPad because of its larger screen and resolution. That’s only half true. You have the option of opening one of those legacy apps in the standard view mode, where they’ll appear in a small window with their full resolution intact. Sure, if you’ve read any respected publication about the iPad’s features, you’d know that it can optionally double the screen size, and you would experience an expected falloff in picture quality. How much depends on the artwork contained in the app and other factors that don’t necessarily mean they’ll look bad.

    Over the next few months, more and more of these apps will be optimized as “universal,” meaning they will display at the proper resolution on either the iPhone or the iPad. But half-truths are nothing new when a writer wishes to instill fear, uncertainty, and doubt and, of course, build profits from ad revenue.

    Now before you jump on me about the money issues, I have no problems with a site being popular, nor do I oppose getting as much revenue as you can — legally of course. But I was trained early on as a mainstream broadcast journalist, and I like to think I have a respect for facts and research, and making sure you put your opinions and agendas out front for everyone to judge. That’s something that’s, alas, missing from a large portion of the journalistic community these days.

    I’m also not opposed to people who don’t like Apple’s products, despite what some of you may think. There’s plenty of choice, and if you prefer Windows, a Motorola Droid or one of the new tablet computers not designed by Apple, that’s all well and good. This site is designed to be viewed by everyone, although we put up a warning notice for those of you still using Internet Explorer 6. But that’s strictly for your protection, since it’s buggy, lacks security and simply doesn’t render pages accurately. You can’t believe the hoops we have to jump to make this site look acceptable in that browser.

    Going forward, I think the jury is really still out when it comes to the potential for the iPad to succeed. Yes, a few hundred thousand orders may be placed before April 3, and loads more may be sold that day assuming Apple has enough units in stock. You won’t know how well it’ll do, however, until the iPad has been on sale for a few months, and additional content offerings become available.

    I expect, for example, that the iPhone 4.0 OS will bring a watershed of changes. Some are claiming there will be enhanced support for multitasking, taking advantage of the faster processors and extra memory in the recent iPhone releases and the iPad. If that’s true, however, how will the original iPhone be supported? Or will some features simply work on the newer models, but be omitted from the old due to resource limitations.

    But I’ll return to the iPhone 4.0 wish list in another article. Right now, I fully expect the feeding frenzy about the iPad to continue unabated for months, regardless of how well it does.

    THE OBLIGATORY BLU-RAY RANT

    Despite lots of skepticism in some quarters, it’s a sure thing that Blu-ray players are doing quite well. Prices began to dip below $100 during the past holiday season, and a quick glance in recent days at the Best Buy site reveals some models, labeled as factory refurbished, that are below $90. Regular models are weighing in at around $120 and up. You get closer to the $100 ideal at Wal-Mart and its Sam’s Club warehouse subsidiary.

    Even though you can buy a decent upconverting DVD player for less than half that amount, the price difference is no longer as significant as it used to be, particularly now that the state of the economy appears to be improving. It’s also encouraging that second-tier or older movies are now available for $10 or less in many instances. The availability of affordable software is also a great incentive towards convincing people to upgrade to the high definition DVD format.

    In building an affordable DVD technology that supports 1080p movies, interactive features and other goodies, however, the industry appears to have forgotten one or two things from the past. Remember when you’d stop a regular DVD before it finished, go off about your business for a while, and resume the movie where you left off simply by pressing Play?

    Go ahead and try that with a Blu-ray disc and tell me how many of them actually support the auto-resume feature. Indeed, I saw a movie a few weeks ago where there was a button on the introductory screen that allowed me to do just that. Most require that you scan through the entire movie to return to the spot where you left off.

    Now this is not necessarily a problem with a specific make or model. I’ve tried a medium-priced Panasonic and a high-end LG with the very same symptoms displayed. I’m inclined to think it’s part and parcel of the way the movie is authored rather than to any limitation in the players.

    A quick Google search on the subject shows a wide variety of complaints about this lost feature, so it’s clearly not confined to the players I’ve used. What most concerns me, though, is why those concerns aren’t getting more traction.

    I know that when I first evaluated that Panasonic, a DMP-BD30, a couple of years ago, I contacted Panasonic support about the missing auto-resume feature, since it was mentioned in the user manual. The support rep basically confirmed what I discovered independently, that it’s up to the movie companies to include support for that feature in their DVDs. If it’s not there, the player can’t somehow add it.

    Now perhaps most people just don’t care. I mean, Blu-ray has extraordinary picture quality, and it’s great that they are cheap enough to allow for widespread adoption, at least until high definition online downloads and streaming really gain traction. Since I don’t think the movie companies really want to inconvenience their paid customers, maybe they’ll listen and make sure there’s some way to resume playback in their new releases.

    On the horizon is a 3D version of Blu-ray, to accompany all those 3D flat panel TVs that are just now hitting the market. Maybe those new DVDs and players will offer this missing feature. Or is it too late to care?

    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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    8 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #537”

    1. […] Continue Reading… Please Link to Us!<a href="http://www.technightowl.com/2010/03/newsletter-issue-537-more-tech-pundits-fail-at-the-job/&quot; >Newsletter Issue #537: More Tech Pundits Fail at the Job</a>Related Articles:Reviewing Products They’ve Never UsedThe Search Engine Report: Hey Apple, Why Not More Choices?Apple’s Not-So-Secret Plot to Change Technology StandardsSo is the Mac at Death’s Door?Newsletter Issue #536: The Silly Season Starts Early […]

    2. LogarithmicPig says:

      Gene,

      You are right on the mark with today’s posting. One definitely has to have an active, robust, shockproof ‘crap detector’ when reading anything on the web, especially postings about the tech world and Apple. You mention Rob Enderle being a shill, and there are others. Scott Moritz, John Dvorak, and Paul Thurrott immediately come to mind.

      Clearly, objective tech reporting is hard to come by, and you are one whose opinions and writings I respect. Thanks for taking the time and using your energy to create and maintain “The Tech Night Owl.”

      By the way, I reserved a 64GB wifi iPad Friday and can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    3. Louis Wheeler says:

      I am unconcerned about the Microsoft shills, Gene, because they diminish their viewership through their lies and biases. These people are disconnected from reality or expect that their viewers will be.

      Reality has the means of asserting itself; reality can be defined as “that which hurts you, even when you don’t believe in it.” The lies get found out and public becomes wary. Unfortunately, the liars can think up new canards faster than they can be disproved. Apple ignores these pundits and keeps on designing equipment which pleases its markets. Thus, it earns record profits in a down economy. Results matter, Gene, not talk.

      Of course, I think the iPad will be growing the computer marketplace by extending it to those people who dislike or fear computers now. These people do not read the technical press or the Microsoft shills, so a bad or corrupt press will have no effect on iPad sales. Placing an iPhone or iPad in someone’s hands is what sells people; word of mouth is the best advertising. I expect a very enthusiastic word of mouth for the iPad.

      It bothers me that there is no reputable Press, these days, technical or otherwise. Journalism schools have had a corrosive influence; the relativism, multiculturalism, post structural dialectics and the deconstruction of the simplest of statements taught in those schools look like gobble-de-goop to the average reader, so they turn it off. The veracity of the Media is in rapid decline; new Media is bypassing the entrenched Press. At the current rate of decline in viewership, I wonder how long the New York Times, The Washington Post and the “Big Three news networks” will remain operational.

      I just finished reading an article about the iPad on what is purported to be a reputable source, Infoworld. You knew that the article would be derogatory from the title: “What Apple won’t say about the iPad: A few answers emerge.” The webpage’s bias is from the IT perspective, so I expected an Enterprise Market viewpoint.

      Since the iPad is targeted at consumers, a business should be wary of the iPad. Also the very cautious “suspenders and belt men” in IT should wait until the first hardware and software revision is released.

      Even so, I never expected Infoworld to caution readers against buying until the iPad is proven to have the same capabilities as the iPhone or iPod Touch. What is bogus is that all three have the same software, so why should’t they have the same capabilities? Of course, the bigger screen may affect matters, temporarily. Updated versions of its applications should quickly correct that.

      Then, Infoworld repeated a laundry list of Anti-iPad / iPhone screed. The point is that, until we get an iPad in our hands, we don’t know what it can do. The author is making something out of nothing.

      How the author acted as was a “Concern Troll” to spread doubts about the iPad’s utility in business. I have my doubts too, but I am not second guessing the matter until we have some user testimonials. The iPhone turned out to have capabilities which exceeded Apple’s claims; why not the iPad, too?

      The iPad is likely to find niches in business markets, but I suspect that Small to Medium sized Businesses are apt to find those uses, not the IT personnel reading Infoworld. I also expect the FOSS community to have a field day with the new hardware. Meanwhile, the tech pundits complain that the iPad does not satisfy their needs. That is only natural, since Apple did not design it for them.

      We must wait to see if the iPad will please its target market. That target market is likely to be unconcerned about cameras, Flash, background processing for third party apps, the lack of USB or Printer outputs, the absence of removable batteries or how well the iPad communicates with Microsoft software.

      Ps Where one places MediaMatters on a political chart depends on how far to the left WE are. From a Conservative perspective, MediaMatters is not Liberal (that is, freedom seeking); It is Marxist. At least, its opinions dovetail with the political positions and biases of the Marxists who I knew in my youth.

      Unfortunately the Democrat Party, which I used to belong to in the 60s, has tilted far to the left. Even George McGovern is far to the right of MediaMatters: he has public denounced the New Left Marxist orientation of the current administration. But, McGovern actually was a Liberal, albeit, the soft on communism kind.

      • @Louis Wheeler, I won’t get into the politics. But let me correct a couple of things. It’s the Democratic Party, not the Democrat party. The latter is a notorious pejorative used by Republicans to denigrate the opposition. As to Media Matters, saying they are left-wing is more accurate than the Marxist appellation. But let’s drop it there, since I only mentioned them in passing to describe a site devoted to correcting what they perceive to be media mistakes.

        Peace,
        Gene

    4. Louis Wheeler says:

      You can call the democrat party anything you wish, Gene, as will I.

      I am merely making the point that the Party stopped being democratic long ago. This lack of democracy was what squeezed me out; the McGovern reforms of the 70’s made sure that conservative democrats had no voice. That was why I left, so why should I agree with any of your propaganda points? I will call a spade a spade, thank you. Prove me wrong, Gene.

      My exit from the party did not automatically mean that I became a Republican. I did not register Republican until 2002 and I have become disenchanted with it since. My position is that both political parties are corrupt and must be overturned. Neither party serves its members well; both are overloaded with fat cats. That why a political realignment is taking place, as shown by the American T.E.A. party movement. Polls show that 30% of T.E.A. party members are former democrats.

      The point that I was making was that there is nothing liberal or freedom seeking about the politics of MediaMatters. So, it was your error to even bring it up. You invited dissent.

      I also said that MediaMatter’s perceived political location depended on how far to the left that YOU are. Since I am to the right of Fox news, then it very far to the Left for me. I consider Fox excessively centrist.

      But, I have been careful about the politics, position statements and attitudes which define MediaMatters as Marxists. I use political labels as definitions, not slurs.

      Many of democrat party’s talking points originated in Fascism. But, Communism, Fascism and NAZIism are minor variations on the same origins; They are all collectivist. The democrat party’s leadership became Fabian Socialists after 1906; Their first Progressive President was Woodrow Wilson. The Republican President, Teddy Roosevelt, was a progressive, so this movement chose no particular party. The Progressive Herbert J, Crowley was amazed that it was the democrat party leadership which caved, not the Republicans as he assumed. The early Progressives objected to using the word Liberal, because they knew what it meant and tory were anything but Freedom Seekers. There is no freedom in the Health Care take over, the Cap and Trade CO2 taxing scheme, Card Check or the “Fairness Doctrine” to shut down the first amendment rights of Conservative talk radio.

      The Progressives assume that the Federal government should have unlimited power, but believed that the American public would not adopt Socialism unless it was imposed very slowly. The Progressive’s plans are not in accord with the founders of our limited, constitutional Republic, so the progressives at MediaMatters and in the democrat party are Un-American.

      MediaMatters does not correct media mistakes, either, on Fox news or otherwise. They are promoting their own Leftist dogma.

      The point is that America is a center right nation and true blue leftists are small in numbers. 60% of Americans, on George Washington University’s Battleground Poll going back 30 years, call themselves conservative or very conservative. Only a little more then 20% call themselves Liberal or Leftist. 20% are moderates unable to determine which side is correct and some conservatives vote for the democrat party for historical or economic reasons.

      But, the politics of America are in flux; a major realignment is taking place. It is uncertain what the future will bring, except for fear and pain. The last election was an aberration; most of the people who voted democrat are learning their error. Obama did not campaign as a Liberal or Leftist; He did his best to hide his roots and beliefs. He has ruled as a progressive ideologue and this has scared many Americans.

      I consider his election as a great blessing for America because it rips the mask off of the progressives. It should be clear to anyone with an open mind what the progressives want. Most Americans will be repulsed in horror just as they were from Jimmy Carter’s administration. It was why the word ‘Liberal’ became a curse word by 1980 and the democrats had to start calling themselves Progressives. Too bad, that America must relearn that lesson.

      • I call it the Democratic party because that’s the correct name.

        As to the rest: You’re welcome to your political rant and your beliefs, but this isn’t the forum for it. It begins and ends here.

        Peace,
        Gene

    5. dfs says:

      I’m not exactly sure what a tech pundit is or what you have to do to become one (other than finding somebody who is willing to print or post what you write). Personally, I don’t put much stock in other people’s opinions, unless they are visibly backed up with some visible knowledge and experience. Yeah, I have my own opinions, and I listen to other people’s, in about the same way I’m willing to get into discussions about baseball over a couple of beers. That goes under the general heading of fun But it’s not often that I seriously change my thinking on the basis of what I hear, and I suspect I don’t seriously change many other people’s thinking either. And I certainly tune out as “static“ anything said or written by somebody in the computer press with a visible axe to grind: both shills for the opposition (read “Microsoft“ and maybe lately also “Adobe“) and shills for Apple itself (read “MacWorld“). There are of course times when I am interested in getting some more solid input than mere opinion or stargazing: when I’m thinking of buying some product or investing in some stock. Then I’ll go to a knowledgeable source which deals in fact rather than opinion and that I can actually trust (read “Ars Technica“). And, yeah, I agree that this is a lousy forum for partisan political rants. The world is full of that crap, it amounts to little more than noise pollution and I bet a lot of us take refuge in sites like this to get away from it.

    6. Louis Wheeler says:

      dfs said:
      “And, yeah, I agree that this is a lousy forum for partisan political rants. The world is full of that crap, it amounts to little more than noise pollution and I bet a lot of us take refuge in sites like this to get away from it.”

      I agree, dfs. That is why I disagreed with Gene. There were many ways for him to make his point without introducing politics. Politics is far too divisive, these days. Conservatives and leftists have completely different world views. They often cannot agree on the facts, let alone the opinions. They can have biases which preclude communication or have pet peeves that they demand we conform to.

      But even so, an error which is left unchallenged can be assumed to have won. It pollutes the discourse.

      Partly, this is why we dispute the contentions of the tech pundits. There is FUD of many kinds, technical or not. It constitutes a propaganda to shape men’s minds. Lies, slurs and propaganda should be confronted with truth and good argumentation. We should demand that people defend their beliefs. Right?

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