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  • Newsletter Issue #614

    September 5th, 2011

    THIS WEEK’S TECH NIGHT OWL RADIO UPDATE

    I realize most people take corporate mottos or pledges with a grain of salt. When Google says, “Do no evil,” you assume they will still do whatever it takes to earn a living, so long as it doesn’t violate the law. But the story that Google is paying the U.S. authorities $500 million after being charged with accepting ads from Canadian drug stores, you have to wonder how far the corruption goes. After all, it’s no secret that accepting such ads is just not allowed. How could Google not know, since they were engaging in that practice for a number of years?

    Consider that other story, a while back, where Google was busted for sending vans around the world, ostensibly for mapping, but also engaging in sniffing data from personal and business Wi-Fi networks. What does that have to do with gathering data for Google Maps?

    Although much of the recent tech news has been mostly about Apple, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we explored the dark side of Google with Ben Edelman, PhD., an Assistant Professor of Harvard Business School, who has covered the search giant’s alleged missteps for a number of years. After listening to this segment, I wonder how many of you might seriously consider switching search engines, dumping Gmail, and using other free services instead of, say, Google Maps.

    In other coverage, we continued to examine the curious problems author and commentator Kirk McElhearn encountered with his 2011 27-inch iMac. You’ll also heard an insider’s report on life at Apple Inc., and possible solutions in Apple’s quest to conquer the living room with John Martellaro, a Senior Editor for The Mac Observer.

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and Chris present Fortean investigator Andrew B. Colvin, author of “The Mothman Speaks: Candid Conversations Concerning Cosmic Conundrums – Cryptic Creatures, Chimeras, Contactees, and the Cleverly Coded Coincidences of the Collective Unconscious (Volume 1).” You’ll learn about Mothman encounters, military/UFO disinformation and other fascinating subjects, not to mention Andrew’s recent UFO sighting report, which includes photographic evidence.

    Now Shipping! The Official Paracast T-Shirt — Now with New Design! 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 CURIOUS PRODUCT REVIEWS

    Just recently my son, Grayson, came home for a one-month visit; he works as an educator in Madrid. Since we have only one car, he paid for a rental so he could socialize with his friends during his stay. Public transportation in this area is poorly implemented.

    Well, he took advantage of one of those Priceline deals, yes the same Priceline that actor William Shatner hawks on TV and radio, and got a compact car, a Mazda3, for the same price as a lesser vehicle. While the car was perfect for his needs, my wife remarked, after riding in it briefly, that the air conditioner didn’t seem up to the task of handling those 100-plus temperatures in the Phoenix area, although Grayson, not having an air conditioner in his own apartment in Spain, didn’t seem to notice. In passing, I also took a ride, and confirmed that it was near impossible to get the car’s interior temperature down to my comfort level.

    Grayson replaced the car, not for the quality of the air conditioning, but as the result of a curious thump that appeared to emanate from the real axle. The noise was gone, but the air conditioner still seemed sub-par. So I examined the reviews for the Mazda3, just to see if any of the critics mentioned the poor-qualty air conditioning.

    Well, The Car Connection, a publication devoted to auto news and views, seemed to like the Mazda3, but did complain about three problems, consisting of mediocre fuel economy, road noise, and reduced headroom if you have the moonroof. Nothing was said about the air conditioner.

    Consumer Reports, supposedly the paragon of accurate information about cars — although I would dispute that impression — heaped high praise on the Mazda3, mostly downgrading the car because of somewhat tight rear seat room, expected in a compact, and a firm ride that could be a little “choppy.” Unlike the 2012 Honda Civic, where I didn’t notice the choppy ride described by CR, I agree with their assessment of the Mazda3.

    Unfortunately, nothing was said in the review about the quality of the air conditioning. It’s not even listed as a category in their “Comfort/Convenience” ratings, which focus on seat comfort, passenger room, ride, noise and other facets of the driving experience. But you’d think a poor air conditioner, particularly when the temperatures and humidity are high, would be essential. Or maybe CR tests its vehicles with air conditioning off, or, because fuel economy is reduced when the cooler is running, or simply regards it as harmful to the environment and thus not worth further discussion.

    At the same time, most auto reviews I read don’t mention air conditioning at all, except for the convenience of the climate controls. You’d think this would be an important consideration in making your purchase, and, while you can certainly check an auto’s air conditioner during a test drive, you may not notice during the colder months that it’s not up to the task of keeping the cabin temperatures at an acceptable comfort level in the summer.

    As I said, CR ought to know better, but the same is true for their personal computer reviews. In the October 2011 issue, for example, there’s a single page of lab tests for desktop computers, both “full-size,” meaning towers or minitowers, and “all-in-one,” such as an iMac, which include the display and the rest of the components in a single box.

    While Apple has only one contender in the full-size category, the Mac Pro, it was not covered. CR concentrated on products ranging from $480 to $950, which would only include the Mac mini, a model that is decidedly not “full-size.” More to the point, the selected models seem to have been picked strictly for price and some basic similarities in raw specs.

    Among the all-in-ones, the iMac was mostly on top, although a model from MSI (Micro Star International), with the typical meaningless model number, achieved second place. Why? Well, it appears the the MSI PC rates better than the iMac for “Ergonomics,” a category not defined, although it appears to include the convenience, number, and variety of peripheral ports, and the ease of internal expansion.

    CR never reviews the operating system. They only occasionally acknowledge that there’s such a thing as the Mac OS and Windows. Even then, OS quality is not regarded as an essential factor to consider. It’s not on their radar, nor does it seem that they fully understand how the OS might impact the customer experience more than almost any other factor.

    Unfortunately, tech publications will correctly mention that Apple got high ratings again in CR, without actually explaining why the magazine’s ratings are seriously flawed. But I’ll keep reminding you. CR’s PC reviews are, as always, useless. If you want to know which one to buy, look elsewhere.

    SO LION HAS HOW MANY USERS?

    There’s a report this week that Mac OS X usage has leaped to a tad over 6% worldwide, and 1% of that number consists of folks who have upgraded to Lion. Unfortunately most of the news outlets who have quoted these numbers, based on statistics from Net Applications, an online research firm, aren’t translating them to useful information.

    So based on Apple’s statement, some time back, that there were 54 million “active” Mac users out there, some 16.6% of them, or over 8.9 million, appear to have upgraded to Lion, or have purchased new Macs on which Lion is preloaded. That’s an awfully large figure, indeed one that’s incredible considering that Lion was only released on July 20th.

    Of course, all this depends on whether you accept the estimates from Net Applications as accurate and truly representative of OS market share around the world. I wouldn’t presume to make that sort of judgement. The survey is based on Internet traffic from a number of sites monitored by the company. If the visitor profiles of those sites truly represent an accurate picture of personal computer users around the world, so be it. But the numbers seem a little optimistic to me.

    I suppose Apple will let us in on the fine details the next time they hold a press briefing where the Mac or OS X is a topic of discussion, or perhaps at their next quarterly meeting with financial analysts in October. Till then, I suppose the estimates are all we have, but I would hope that the media would consider their worth more carefully.

    Even assuming the figures are close to the actual numbers, the uptake on Lion appears to be quite high, even if probably two million represent sales of new Macs. Apple’s strategy of making the upgrade as simple as possible to acquire has clearly paid off. By focusing attention on the Mac App Store, other developers who have put their apps there are getting extra attention. Certainly after the Lion upgrade is installed, loads of Mac users will be busy searching for 10.7 compatible versions of their apps.

    But Apple isn’t just counting on upgrades to earn a profit. The warm and fuzzy new features in Lion are designed to appeal to the tens and tens of millions of customers who own iPhones and iPads. Many are still using Windows, and if Apple’s scheme to provide at least some integration between the iOS and Lion makes sense, a number of them will be buying new Macs soon. Remember that, quarter after quarter, Apple continues to claim that 50% of the people buying new Macs at their retail outlets are new to the platform. This one huge level of conversion, and it clearly demonstrates that more and more PC users want an alternative, despite the false impression conveyed by the likes of CR that the OS is not relevant.

    Certainly the gradual erosion in Windows market share, slight as it might be, is a clear reason why Microsoft is looking closer and closer at Lion in crafting Windows 8. There are already reports of monochrome icons, extra gestures and other features that ape Apple. Of course, Microsoft will claim that they are being inspired by their barely limping Windows Phone 7 OS. But the very idea of making a desktop and mobile OS closer in look and feel came out of Apple’s development labs.

    Sure, Apple isn’t above cribbing a few ideas from other platforms. Consider that the ability to resize a screen from all angles in Lion actually came from Windows. The improved Notification Center in iOS 5, fixing the broken Push Notification feature, was clearly inspired by Android. Only Apple somehow manages to take the obvious influences and find a better way to implement them, well mostly.

    The success of Lion will, one hopes, also inspire Apple to work that much harder to clean up the rough edges. In previous columns, you’ve read about the few problems I’ve had, plus a number of issues reported by our readers. I’ve got to think that, as we move to a 10.7.2 and a 10.7.3, the worst of those ills will be eradicated.

    Meantime, however seriously you take those figures, it does appear that Lion is destined to be an extremely successful upgrade. Does this mean that the iOS and OS X will, some day, be one and the same? That may be a stretch, but it’s clear they will become more and more similar over time.

    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: Sharon Jarvis



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    2 Responses to “Newsletter Issue #614”

    1. […] Continue Reading… Please Link to Us!<a href="http://www.technightowl.com/2011/09/newsletter-issue-614-more-curious-product-reviews/&quot; >Newsletter Issue #614: More Curious Product Reviews</a>Related Articles:AT&T’s Eternal Search for Cell Tower SalvationA Verizon iPhone: Will it Make a Difference?So is AT&T the Pits?Newsletter Issue #561: Is This Why We Should Hate AT&T?The iPhone, AT&T and Verizon Wireless: What Should You Believe? […]

    2. Keyword says:

      The motto is “Don’t Be Evil” – and they blew that some time ago with crap like dropping h264 from Chrome and other corporate warfare moves. They’re not super evil (as corporations go) compared to say, Goldman Sachs or Big Pharma, but they’re a corporation.

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