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Newsletter Issue #600

THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

We get curious online reviews at iTunes about both shows. While I grant that listeners are free to like and dislike what we do to their heart’s content, it’s unfortunate that some of the comments are just plain wrong.

I mean, it is true that we’ve focused heavily, for example, on the goings on at Apple Inc., largely because that’s the most important tech company on the planet. Yes, that position used to be held by Microsoft, but since Apple gets more press coverage, has a higher Wall Street market cap, and now earns more money, you have to give them their due.

But that doesn’t stop us from covering lots of other subjects from week to week. On our latest episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we had a quartet of special guests covering a variety of topics.

For the latest on new Web hosting technologies, including “dual hosting,” you heard from Oliver Mauss, CEO of 1&1 Internet. But that’s not the only company touting something unique, or at least different, in the lower cost shared hosting packages. Just recently, GoDaddy, the number one hosting and domain registrar on the planet, began to tout their 4GH plan, where sites are supposedly “abstracted” and placed on cloud-based servers, rather than hosted on a single box. That, and the dual server setup from 1&1 Internet, are intended to allow for easier scaling and more reliability, but time will tell whether it’s all hype or whether there’s any real world advantage.

On the next segment, Steve “Mr. Gadget” Kruschen was on hand to talk about a host of fancy gadgets for both dads and grads.

GroupLogic Product Manager Brian Ulmer introduced their new networking app, mobileEcho, which allows the iPad to share files with a company network.

And for the latest news on a potential Mac malware threat that even Apple takes seriously, and why “active” 3D glasses are the wrong way to go, you heard from noted author and commentator Ted Landau.

On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris explore the magic and mystery of crystal skulls with one of the pioneers in the field, researcher Joshua Shapiro. Are these quartz artifacts simple artistic constructions, or do they harbor mystical or advanced scientific properties?

Coming June 5: Gene and Chris reintroduce noted parapolitics author Kenneth F. Thomas, publisher of Steamshovel Press, who will discuss the new revision of his famous book about the curious events surrounding the Maury Island UFO incident. He’ll also cover the classic conspiracies, such as the Kennedy assassination.

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.

THE WWDC TALK INTENSIFIES

Up till recently, the common meme had it that Apple would devote the next Worldwide Developer’s Conference, scheduled for June 6-10 this year in San Francisco, to touting the latest and greatest Mac OS and iOS technologies. So you’d get an update about the status of Mac OS X Lion, and iOS 5 would likely be demonstrated as well.

What you weren’t supposed to get was new hardware. Unless there’s a major change in the lineup, new Macs are usually heralded with a couple of press releases, a short shut-down of Apple’s online store to revamp the product catalog, and perhaps a few press opportunities with Apple executives. That low-key approach hasn’t really hurt Mac sales. Even those cute Mac versus PC ads are history, but Mac sales are way, way up, particularly in the enterprise where Apple used to be an afterthought, while overall PC sales are flagging.

In recent years, the WWDC has also been used to introduce a new iPhone, but it may well be that it won’t happen this year. Supposed indications of early production of a new iPhone are said to be absent. Since the contract factories Apple uses to assemble such gear aren’t rumored to be stamping out increasing numbers of any new models, it appears the next iPhone won’t arrive until fall.

The other possible indication of a delayed iPhone introduction — assuming you can call it delayed — is the fact that the long-postponed white iPhone 4 didn’t go on sale until late April. It wouldn’t make sense to introduce a new version of an existing product, only to discontinue that model two or three months later. Only Apple’s competitors, well at least some of them, are dumb enough to switch model lineups quickly.

As to Mac OS X Lion, I gather most tech pundits expect to see Apple provide a final or release candidate build to developers, to give them another couple of months to make their products compatible. This would signify an actual release for Mac OS 10.7 in August or September. Remember that Snow Leopard came out in August of 2009, so that month might be a suitable timeframe for introducing 10.6’s successor.

Or maybe not.

There’s another published report that Apple is now inviting European journalists to attend the session. This would seem a curious move if it’s going to be all about forthcoming operating systems, rather than something that’ll be released then and there.

So speculation about the next iPhone has grown again. Some have suggested an all-new design, with a unibody rear similar in concept to what Apple has used on Mac portables, and others have talked about a larger, edge-to-edge screen. That way Apple seems to be offering greater value, and a more compelling product compared to Android OS smartphones that already feature a larger display. This so-called iPhone 5 would also be a “world phone,” meaning that the hardware would allow it to be activated on either a GSM network, such as AT&T, or CDMA, such as Verizon Wireless. But the device would still be locked to a single carrier unless jailbroken. And forget about LTE, the next-generation network. Apple reportedly isn’t happy with the stage of current LTE chipsets.

Another brand of speculation has it that the iPhone 4 will simply be upgraded to an iPhone 4GS. As with the transition from iPhone 3 to iPhone 3GS, you’ll get essentially the same case design, with more powerful inner workings, the dual-mode mobile radio (likely from Qualcomm), and perhaps some minor rejiggering of the controversial external antenna system. The latter change would be intended to reduce the impact of that alleged “Death Grip” that became such an issue, particularly after Consumer Reports got the lame-brained idea that no other smartphone on the planet exhibits signal loss when held the “wrong way.”

As to Mac OS X Lion, the question is distribution. One unnamed tech blogger got bent out of shape suggesting that an Apple decision to offer Lion via the Mac App Store would amount to a failure of the scope of Windows Vista. Obviously there’s no corollary, since Vista was late to market, bloated and buggy. Vista’s problems weren’t due to Microsoft’s distribution scheme.

While I do expect that you’ll be able to download the multi-gigabyte disk image of Lion from the Mac App Store, I see no evidence to indicate that you won’t be able to buy a physical copy at your local Apple dealer. After all, huge numbers of potential customers are seriously challenged when it comes to speedy online access. It wouldn’t make sense to force people to spend hours — or days — downloading a copy, while hoping that their Internet connection won’t be interrupted during the process.

I suppose the real news will be whether Lion will somehow emerge out of the code mines in time for the WWDC, and will be available immediately. Developers claim that their preview editions still have serious bugs, though, at least the developers who merely give lip service to their Apple confidentiality agreements.

The other question is the price. While charging $129 for Lion would be in keeping with previous Mac OS X releases, other than Snow Leopard and the original 10.1 upgrade (which was free unless you wanted Apple to ship you a copy), the trend points towards a cheaper price. Apple has been on a cost-cutting binge for software. iLife ’11 is $49, rather than $79, as with previous versions. So if Lion appeared for that $79 purchase price, or less, I wouldn’t be surprised.

The answers are out there, and we’ll all know the truth in just days.

SO ARE YOU READY TO DUMP YOUR INKJET PRINTER?

When author Ted Landau appeared on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, he said he was more and more inclined to give up on inkjet printers.

From a strict standpoint of dollars and cents, he might have a point if you find yourself tempted to print too many pages. Unless you need physical output for your business, you’ll find that the upkeep cost of even the most economical inkjet to be extremely high. Although more and more companies are starting to boast about lower cost consumables, and more pages per cartridge, they still operate by the infamous Gillette razor principle. They charge an affordable price — sometimes almost nothing — for the hardware. But they get you when you need to replace ink.

Of course, Ted is also concerned about the poor reliability of inkjets, which seem to suffer from mechanical failures within a year or two, while laser printers often keep chugging away for over a decade. Since repairs don’t make sense, you end up sending the inkjet to the recycling bin, and buying a new model.

But the real expense is the ink. The few precious drops of ink in a typical cartridge are far more expensive than a gallon of gas, even at today’s inflated prices. You have to wonder whether it really costs the printer makers so much to pour tiny quantities of ink into plastic cartridges that they have to sell them for the usual $10 to $30 each. Since I do not pretend to know the costs of manufacturing those consumables, I’ll only suggest you check a company’s quarterly financials to see from where most of their profits originate.

Now Ted’s solution is to use a black and white laser printer where possible, since the costs per page are far less than even the most efficient inkjet, and let the local drug store or supermarket handle color prints when you really need them. That, of course, requires that you abandon your addiction to photo-grade color printers, which can be extremely costly. Yes, there are color lasers too, but ultimate image quality is not usually as good as inkjet. The hybrid alternative, those wax-based ink stick Phaser printers from Xerox, are far less cost-effective these days. Their latest models require far costlier consumables, taking it well into the range of laser toner and then some.

My current inkjet, the Lexmark Genesis S815, seems about average when it comes to the cost of keeping it purring. Lexmark sells ink in two versions, with a higher-cost XL variant promising three times as many prints for nearly twice the price. In my brief testing with mixed text and graphics, the cheaper consumables delivered 230 pages before the black ink was spent. The extra capacity version yielded 572 copies, which isn’t bad. But you’d still want to shop around for the best price regardless of which model you have.

Yes, you can save a bundle if you buy recycled, or refilled consumables, but print quality often suffers, and none of the off-brand ink cartridges I’ve tried seem to last quite as long as the original manufacturer’s version.

But if you really want to save money, just try as much as you can to go electronic, from using online fax services, to reading the material you’d normally print directly on your Mac, PC, or mobile gadget. It may not make the printer makers as fat and happy, but your wallet will be lots thicker as a result.

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
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