• Newsletter Issue #929

    September 18th, 2017


    I turned 72 on September 9th. I have worked long and hard for some 55 years to earn my keep.

    Unfortunately, the Night Owl is suffering from a severe financial crisis.

    If anything I’ve ever done has ever made a positive difference to you, please help me survive and get past this nightmare.

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    IMPORTANT! Please don’t forget to uncheck the box labeled Paying for a good or a service? so I’m not charged a service fee. Thanks.


    Over the summer months, the Steinberg family usually ends up watching  a TV show repeat of one sort or another. There’s not a lot of new shows to be found, except for a handful of summer programs of varying quality, so it’s time to watch this show or another for the umpteenth time. Or catch something that we might have missed, such as “Shooter,” a series based on a 2007 movie about an ex-sniper on the run after being falsely accused of a crime. All right, it’s not such an original concept, but the TV show was pretty well done nonetheless.

    It just so happens that some of our favorite network TV dramas are also carried on Netflix, with the added advantage of the lack of commercials. Of course, you do see where those announcements were inserted, since there’s almost always a fade-to-black after a pivotal scene.

    Now a lot of you might regard network shows (broadcast or cable) as mostly junk, which is what I feel about reality shows. But there are thousands of talented actors, writers and directors dedicated to doing their best work ever for scripted dramas. Indeed, during the fall and winter seasons, one can feel overwhelmed at the sheer amount of quality programming.

    But this is the era of cord cutting, and more and more people aren’t signing up for the standard cable or satellite packages. Instead, they try to save money by choosing a streaming service or two, and, perhaps, set up a digital antenna to receive broadcast TV. You know, the way it used to work. You can even buy a DVR that will record your favorite on-air shows for later viewing.

    A potential downside is that, with all the buzz about the best from Amazon and Netflix, more and more services are entering the fray. CBS, with its All Access service, is using a new Star Trek series, the first since Star Trek: Enterprise went off the air in 2005, as a wedge to persuade you to sign up. The premiere episode will be broadcast on the CBS television network, then it moves to the streaming service.

    What these entertainment conglomerates fail to realize is that people may not be able to afford so many services, regardless of the quality of programming. Or even have enough time to watch much of it.

    It may reach a point of diminishing returns, at which point I suppose the networks might decide to just release their product to the usual cable and satellite outlets, at which point we’ll be back where we started.

    Or maybe it’ll become more fragmented than ever.

    In any case, on this weekend’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we presented outspoken columnist and podcaster Kirk McElhearn, who talked at length about Apple’s controversial changes in iTunes 12.7, in which they removed access to the App Store. This means that iPhone and iPad users will have to download and organize their apps on their mobile gear rather than Macs and PCs. With the release of a developer and public beta seed of the Golden Master of macOS High Sierra, Gene and Kirk discussed Apple’s decision to remove the ability to convert Macs with Fusion drives — which consist of a regular hard drive and a small solid state drive — to the new Apple File System. They also talked about Apple’s iPhone announcements, which included the iPhone X. And what about the controversial “notch” at the top of the unit? What about the new Apple TV with 4K and HDR?

    You also heard from writer/editor Adam Engst, of TidBITS, who covered the new Apple Watch Series 3, which includes an LTE radio and can make phone calls. He reflected on how the product has become more of a health and fitness accessory as Apple has continued to develop refine the concept. Gene and Adam also talked about the iPhone X, the notch and its impact, plus Apple’s last minute change to the High Sierra OS and APFS that no longer supports Macs with Fusion drives. You also heard an extended discussion about the Apple TV, its new features, and about the growing fragmentation of TV streaming services. This is creating a situation where you may have to join a number of these services to watch their exclusive shows. How does this impact cable cord cutting? Does it end up costing more than cable and satellite what with all the separate services?

    On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and guest co-host J. Randall Murphy present Joshua Black, one of the leading academic researchers in the field of dreams of the deceased. The discussion includes precognitive dreams. He has focused all of his graduate work on investigating this neglected topic (MA and PhD). He continues to publish scientific research in the field as he finishes his Ph.D. at Brock University (Ontario, Canada). To raise awareness about the topic, he started a website (www.griefdreams.ca), Instagram page (@griefdreams), Grief Dreams Facebook Group, and the Grief Dreams Podcast (with co-host Shawn Ram). Additionally, he frequently gives presentations and workshops on the topic to the bereaved and those who work with them.


    You may have noticed that, whenever new gear is expected from Samsung, say an update to the Galaxy smartphone line, it will often be touted as yet another iPhone killer. Well, except for one blog from a major publication in which the writer claimed that the iPhone X was meant to be a potential Samsung Galaxy killer.

    So turnabout is fair play?

    Now before I go on, I will certainly not argue anyone’s taste in any tech gadget. There’s lots of product out there. Some of it is really good, some of it is all right, some of it is cheap and not much else. But the quality of such gear is better than it used to be, so it’s really hard to find a clunker. Well, unless you buy a premium smartphone with a battery that might overheat or burst into flame.

    What I don’t often see is an article from a presumed Samsung fan explaining why he or she isn’t all that interested in the latest Galaxy handset, before it’s even on sale, claiming it’s sure to be a huge fail or seriously flawed.

    When something new is expected from Apple, however, you can be certain that the usual offenders will be mounting their soapboxes asserting why you shouldn’t buy it, or why they won’t buy it.

    Remember that putting Apple in the title, particularly with an unfavorable slant, may be sure hit bait. More hits, more clicks, more ad revenue. You get the picture, but I have nothing against earning a living from one’s labors. I would just hope that a purported journalist or commentator will actually try to present facts and reasoned opinions and not just make up stuff to get attention.

    That takes us to a major tech portal, real major. It’s owned by a large multinational media company. In fact, I used to write for them, way back when. But I was often at odds with my editors because they insisted that I provide unfair criticisms or slant an article so it was deliberately negative regardless of the facts.

    Well, one particular columnist for this site has a habit of tossing in a bunch of nonsense to what might otherwise be a justifiable position. That takes us to an article where he explains why he’s not going to buy an iPhone X, claiming that, “The downsides, unknowns and potential productivity hits outweigh the upsides.”

    Once again, we all know that the iPhone X won’t ship until November 3rd. At best, tech journalists had a few minutes with one at last week’s iPhone bash. There is a fair amount of information about the new flagship smartphone, however, so I suppose it’s possible to reach a reasoned opinion about it without actually holding one, or even seeing one in the flesh.

    But the article makes two assumptions that are, first, wrong and, second, a little premature at best and perhaps illogical in light of a key fact.

    So we’re told that the writer has been using an iPhone 6 Plus for three years. It appears to be working just fine, but he claims that the handset’s AppleCare+ policy is about to run out, so it’s time to make a move.

    I’m sure many of you may have chuckled at that pronouncement since, of course, Apple’s extended warranties for its mobile gear only last two years! So he’s been using his iPhone 6 Plus on borrowed time for the past year.

    But reliability is to be expected for an Apple gadget. Although some do fail, and damaging an iPhone or any other mobile handset isn’t so hard to do, you should be able to expect that they’ll last a reasonable amount of time if not abused. Barbara’s iPhone 5c still works great even though it’s a little slow for my taste. It won’t run iOS 11, but she doesn’t care. It meets her needs and fits neatly in her purse. As regular readers know, I own a 2010 17-inch MacBook Pro, which is running macOS High Sierra. Aside from a few surface scratches on the case, it looks and runs like new; better than new since it was updated with an SSD and more RAM a couple of years back.

    Forgetting the confusion about the extended warranty, why is that blogger skipping the iPhone X?

    Because it’s version one! It might be buggy, and it has changes in usability that may require a little relearning. A key example is that there is no Home button, so you have to swipe up instead. And what about Face ID? Apple’s critics have been fear mongering about that one for months, ever since it was rumored that a facial recognition scheme would debut on the iPhone X.

    Now before I get to the concerns, I should remind the blogger about something. His iPhone 6 Plus is a version one product! That and the iPhone 6 were Apple’s first forays into really large screen mobile handsets. Indeed, some people claimed that the Plus was just a little too prone to bending. Even though tests indicated that the unit was no more susceptible to such damage than than other gear, Apple did beef up the internal structure for the iPhone 6s Plus.

    So we have the owner of a version one product being gun-shy about buying a new product because it’s — version one!

    That said, I understand that some might want to give Apple another year to perhaps work out potential kinks with Face ID. Don’t forget that Touch ID had some issues when it debuted on the iPhone 5s. It was a tad sluggish, and sometimes failed to recognize your fingerprint even after the proper training setup. iOS updates fixed a lot of that, and no doubt Apple continued to smooth out the hardware to make it more responsive.

    Even if Face ID is nearly perfect, and this won’t be known until reviewers have an extended amount of time with it, I suppose the loss of the Home button might be an issue. Another potentially controversial matter is the notch at the top of the screen. Looking at the illustrations, I just wonder why Apple chose to wrap the display around it. Maybe if it cut off below that region? Perhaps people will simply get used to it, or Apple will provide a more elegant software solution when it’s used in landscape orientation.

    Again, this will require reviewer and customer experience before the advantages and tradeoffs are obvious.

    On the other hand, why should anyone care that a blogger doesn’t want to buy something? I haven’t purchased an Apple Watch for many reasons, and I’ve explained why. But in the scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter, just as it doesn’t matter that yet another online columnist has decided not to buy something from Apple before it even ships.


    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
    Sales and Marketing: Andy Schopick
    Worldwide Licensing: Sharon Jarvis

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    One Response to “Newsletter Issue #929”

    1. dfs says:

      Well, I know one very smart woman who says “I never by the v. 1.0 of anything.” and I can see the sense of that. Any new product is liable to have initial teething problems, Let the Cutting Edge people discover them, give the manufacturer time to fix them, and then by the non-problematic new version.

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