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Newsletter Issue #560


Please understand that the The Tech Night Owl LIVE isn’t just about Macs and iPods. We are really just finding our way what with a network deal and all, so it will take time to decide on the best mix for content. But we are certainly going to spread far beyond the original focus of the show now that we are reaching a very new and far larger audience.

Now on Saturday night’s episode, we started with author and commentator Kirk McElhearn, who discussed Bento, a consumer-level database app for the Mac and iPhone from Apple’s FileMaker division, but then we veered off to WordPress, the world-famous blogging platform.

By the way, we have also scheduled a special interview with Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of WordPress, for next weeks episode, and you’ll certainly gain loads of insights into the newest version, along with plans for future updates of this highly-popular open source application.

Commentator Peter Cohen, co-host of the “Angry Mac Bastards” radio show, and a columnist for The Loop, talked about the problems with gaming on the Mac platform and whether the situation is poised to improve. Indeed, the recent Snow Leopard Graphics Update from Apple has reportedly provided major improvements in gaming performance on a number of Macs.

Peter also covered some of the inaccurate predictions about Apple from so-called industry analysts.

This week on our other show, The Paracast, co-host Christopher O’Brien presents a rare interview with Louis Jarvis, focusing on such topics as comparative prophesy, how some possible religious miracles can be looked at in a paranormal context, and conspiracies about a New World Order.

Coming August 29: Co-host Nicholas Redfern presents an interview with journalist Jason Offutt, who returns to The Paracast to talk about his latest book, “What Lurks Beyond: The Paranormal in Your Backyard (New Odyssey Series).”

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.


Let’s just turn back the clock a few months. Apple CEO Steve Jobs gets his lumps from my favorite enemies, an uninformed tech media, for stating unequivocally that Flash is not ready for Apple’s mobile platforms. Adobe cries crocodile tears to the Feds, and there’s an ongoing investigation by the FTC into this complaint and others.

On several occasions, I’ve issued a very public challenge to Adobe on this site and The Tech Night Owl LIVE: If they believe Flash can be made to run satisfactorily on the iOS — and that Apple is wrong to deny them the opportunity — it would be a trivial matter to stage a demonstration. Adobe is an Apple developer. They already build apps for the iOS, including a slimline version of Photoshop, so nothing ought to stop them from proving what they claim is true.

Except for one thing: Adobe has so far failed to demonstrate that they can build a credible mobile version of Flash!

After missing several self-imposed deadlines, there is a Flash 10.1 that’s now available for Google’s current Android OS, version 2.2. Unfortunately, Adobe didn’t realize, evidently, that product reviewers would actually put the thing to the test to see what it’s made of, and the results vindicate Jobs big time.

Worse, the most significant review doesn’t come from a Mac blog or magazine. Instead, it was posted by Laptop, a publication that covers mobile devices without centering on any specific make or model. In an article from Editorial Director Avram Piltch, the conclusion is inevitable: “After spending time playing with Flash Player 10.1 on the new Droid 2, the first Android 2.2 phone to come with the player pre-installed, I’m sad to admit that Steve Jobs was right. Adobe’s offering seems like it’s too little, too late.”

Orginally, Piltch regarded Jobs’ blog post on the subject as little more than “showmanship.” This despite the fact that the article was, in fact, quite detailed as to the technical reasons why Apple won’t allow Flash on the iOS. Jobs also stated that they could no longer wait for Adobe to deliver the goods, and thus they decided to embrace HTML5 instead for multimedia content.

Consider the Laptop review, where Flash seems to work all right on some sites, but not others. Sites with Flash content took more time to load, and, as Jobs said, there’s no support for touch-based devices. That makes it almost impossible for people with smartphones to navigate a Flash menu or use a game.

Even if Adobe were to build a version of Flash that worked reliably and speedily on mobile devices, millions of sites would have to be extensively redesigned to provide an alternate user experience to accommodate touch screens. If they’re going to do that, why not just dispense with Flash altogether? Clearly loads of Web developers are doing just that, and with over 100 million mobile devices out there that will clearly never support Flash, the rush to dispose of Flash may become an avalanche.

Not that any of this should come as a surprise. When Android 2.2 was rolled out at a special media event some weeks back, there were several reports about Flash’s shortcomings. In the rush to cover Antennagate and other non-issues, that was conveniently forgotten. But now that the actual Flash release is being deployed on more and more smartphones, it’s time to sit back and take notice.

Yes, I suppose it’s possible for Adobe to fix some of the performance and reliability issues, but let’s not forget that Android and the iOS aren’t new platforms. Adobe had to realize several years ago that it would ultimately come to this, and they’d need to deploy extraordinary resources to prove that there’s a compelling argument for Flash to continue.

I also understand their position. They acquired Macromedia in 2005 in a $3.4 billion stock transaction. Macromedia, in turn, owned Flash and, by the way, Adobe Illustrator’s lone significant competitor, FreeHand, and Dreamweaver, a powerful web authoring app.

Dreamweaver quickly supplanted Adobe’s entrant, GoLive, but FreeHand was sent packing. It’s history, although there’s actually a movement to compel Adobe to bring it back, or sell it or give it away to someone else to continue development. As much as I admire the persistence of the people behind this “Save FreeHand” movement, I don’t really think anything is going to happen.

So what’s left? Well, of course, Flash. Adobe has clearly invested a lot of money to embed Flash support in most of their creative apps. So they have a strong vested interest to justify that acquisition, particularly to Adobe’s shareholders. If Flash fails, they’d have a lot to answer for.

In a sense, I suppose Adobe may come across as rather like Microsoft. If something fails, they will spend loads of money in an effort to force success. At some point, they have to admit that Flash is yesterday’s technology and it’s time to move on, but it won’t be an easy decision.

Yes, it’s true that Adobe recently added additional HTML5 support in Dreamweaver, which may be in part a case of hedging their bets. At the same time, even if Flash were to go away, Adobe would still have a compelling lineup of creative apps that will still provide loads of income for the company.

And fewer complaints.

In any case, now that the cat is out of the bag about how bad Flash works on a powerful smartphone, maybe we can return to some valid issues for once.

Oh and by the way, I have actually received requests for Adobe representatives to appear on my radio show. However, I’ve also insisted they be prepared to answer questions about Flash. You’ll notice that I’ve not heard back from them since with a firm date for that interview.

And, my friends, I don’t expect to ever hear from them about that interview, not as long as Flash is on the agenda.


As most of you know, I have written tech product reviews since the early 1990s, which were published by a number of print and online publications. So I like to think I know something about the process, having covered all sorts of categories of tech gear that include Macs, Windows note-books, digital media players, storage devices, office printers and a wide variety of software.

For the most part, the editors with whom I’ve worked have been brutally honest about the process. It didn’t matter if I had to trash a product, so long as I could back up my statements. Indeed, I remember granting a slightly too-favoriable rating for an early PowerBook, only to have my editor downgrade the conclusion based on the computer’s poor screen quality and tepid performance.

As you might expect, my status as a frequent reviewer didn’t endear me to some tech companies. I remember walking the exhibit halls at a Macworld Expo on one occasion, only to be accosted by a product manager whose flagship app had been given an extremely unfavorable rating.

No, I didn’t expect him to take me to a room in the rear and confront some heavily muscled security guards with black suits and dark glasses. I was certainly caught off-guard, but I tried to behave with as much professionalism as I could muster under the circumstances.

But I ultimately ran afoul of my editors, because I repeatedly expressed concerns about the reliability of a removable storage device that had a potentially fatal flaw that could wreck the media and the drive in a single act — not to mention destroying your data.

The product had gotten rave reviews. A competitor showed the promise of greater reliability, but the publication was slow to review the device in question, and they refused to mention that well known defect.

I learned, in retrospect, that I shouldn’t have stuck my nose into that situation, because within weeks, I was dismissed as a contributing writer for spurious reasons that, ostensibly, had nothing to do with my big mouth.

I wouldn’t assume the manufacturer whose product I had concerns about somehow intervened, although they bought lots of ad space in those days. You see, I was told over and over again that there was a brick wall between advertising and editorial. I guess those bricks sometimes crumbled under certain circumstances. And, no, I won’t name the product or the publication, since I am still on friendly terms with some of the current editors.

These days, I write reviews strictly for this site. If a company doesn’t appreciate my conclusions, I suppose they won’t advertise, but it’s not as if I’ve had to confront that dilemma. At least I try to be as honest as I can about the process.

That takes us to the unfortunate situation involving Consumer Reports, and their unfortunate treatment of Apple’s gadgets. From their pathetic attempt to duplicate the infamous iPhone 4 death grip, to their inability to explain why the Mac and Windows operating systems are different, CR rates low on the credibility scale.

It doesn’t matter that the magazine is owned by a non-profit corporation, that they buy all the products they test and do not accept ads. They still fail big time. It’s one thing to appear to be incorruptible. It’s another to be incompetent. As someone who has been there and done that with regard to reviewing tech gear, I think I have a perfect right to place CR into the latter category.


The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

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