Apple Gear Microsoft

A Switcher Repents

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Back in September, a friend lugged away the last of my Macs. I relinquished them following a July switch back to Windows. I determined to use Windows on a full-time basis, which suited my fickle mood and work situation. But the Macs are back, in a surprising return to previous enthusiasm. The decision is a personal one and does not reflect my work position with respect to covering Microsoft.

Microsoft’s approach to its MSN Spaces blogging service is what set me off. The service requires proprietary technologies to either view or post some content to MSN Spaces blogsites. I decided that going back to the Mac, which I had grown to miss over six months, best supported my philosophical position. The Internet is classic example of what kind of scale open, supported standards can create. Personally, Microsoft’s technological approach isn’t wholly consistent with my personal position.  Read More

Events Journalism News Media Responsibility

Small-minded American News

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I am in one of my ticked-off moods at the U.S. news media. This morning’s seaquake off the coast of Indonesia has wreaked untold devastation, not that you would know anything from U.S. news outlets. Kudos to BBC for taking charge in delivering painstaking, breathtaking coverage.

My fear is that sometime during the next 12 hours that someone will figure out there are probably a bunch of U.S. tourists missing or found dead. Then, suddenly the story will tick off some headlines, but I’m sure nothing like the 24-7 coverage that followed 9/11. Right now, the estimated death toll—in six countries!—is more than 10,000, or more than three times the horrific loss from the attack on the twin towers. But, of course, America the small-minded country pays no mind.  Read More

Gear Mobility

Heck, Is That a Phone or Camera?

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I have burned through a few phones in recent months trying to find the right phone that was smart enough for my portable needs. Yesterday, I hit pay dirt.

A few months back I picked up the HP iPAQ h6315 Pocket PC PDA phone, which I liked for lots of reasons. But I found I just didn’t get enough use out of all its informational capabilities; maybe if I commuted daily or traveled every week. A good friend bought that device, so I cut some of my losses.  Read More

Apple Gear Music

Gothic Punk

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Late this afternoon, my daughter and I hauled down to Tysons Corner Center in McLean, Va., shopping for jackets at L.L. Bean. Next shop is Apple Store numero uno, being the first of the retail operations opened. I like to get my daughter’s reaction to technology. Kids growing up with the stuff often have a refreshing perspective.

She cracked me up by describing the U2 iPod as “Gothic punk”. Now, where would a 10 year old come up with that? But it’s the appropriate description. I asked for her aesthetic opinion of the new flat-panel iMac. “Ugly, dad,” and I wouldn’t disagree. I typically side with Apple design, but I’m no fan of the newest iMac. For my taste, there’s too much white space below the screen.

People packed the store anyway. I’ve watch the store for more than three years. I’d say it’s been busier the last three or four months than ever. Some of the financial analysts are red hot on Apple right now. If apparent store traffic at the first Apple shop is a measure of success, maybe the Mac market is looking better. Maybe.

Photo Credit: Daisuke Matsumura

Critters Living People Storytelling

A Summer Story

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A cold November day is good time to reminisce about summer past—and to point out that behind every picture is a good story. So, what’s with my daughter and the bird?

On July 6 my wife and I picked up a Styrofoam giant glider plane at the local toy store, which my daughter and I took it out for an evening fly across the back yard. But my daughter’s throw put the plane across the fence and in the neighbor’s lot behind ours. So she and I had to walk round the block. Along the way, as we sheepishly shortcut past some condos, we caught a flash of feathers before a load SMACK of birdie hitting a window.  Read More

Pulp Media

The SpongeBob Movie

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I took my 10 year-old and her friend to see the “SpongeBob SquarePants Movie” the other night. My daughter didn’t think much of the cartoon feature, nor did I. Disappointing more, because we’re both big SpongeBob fans, and we saw the movie with a big crowd of kids quick to laugh. Sigh.

The problem: Timing. What’s the saying about comedy and timing being everything? SpongeBob episodes have good timing, and they have to. Episodes can’t be much more than 10 or 12 minutes long. Pace is fast moving and the laughs going rat-tat-tat. For 90 minutes there has to be a script capable of sustaining nine times the typical SpongeBob segment. Instead, the movie felt like one episode stretched and stretched and stretched.  Read More

Pulp Media

Small Superman in ‘Smallville’

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The school year opened with my booting our TV and accompanying entertainment center—unaffectionally called “the shrine”—from the living room. In its place, there is a Windows XP Media Center 2005 PC. The dual TV tuner offers more recording capability than TiVo, which I put to good use. The timing meant I could start recording “Smallville,” which, for the new TV season, started running from episode one on the ABC Family channel.

Before I diss “Smallville,” I should say that I generally really like the show. It’s not exceptional TV the way, say, “Alias” or “Sopranos” might be. But “Smallville” moves along, even if watching requires some serious reality suspension.  Read More


The Raw and the Raw

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Oh the stinging raw emotions rumple through offices along the Northeast and West Coast. The Kerry crowd is none too happy about Tuesday’s election results. I talk to lots of really angry people, during the course of a work day. My advice: Drive the speed limit (to avoid road rage), stay out bars (to avoid a table aside the head), and read a trashy novel (to separate from all the post-election anxiety).

Me, I’m ambivalent. I live in the metro-D.C. area and just don’t take politics too seriously. Besides, I didn’t much like either candidate. I’m also pretty emotionless about the election. In the end, I just wanted a winner, whichever candidate that turned out to be.  Read More

Humor Pulp Media

Why Offensive ‘Team America’ Rocks

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Without question, movie “Team America: World Police” is one of the most offensive pieces of filmmaking to be released in a couple of decades—and what a delightful offense, too. The movie had me crying to tears within the first 30 seconds, and laughing and crying and laughing for the next hour and a half. I’m waiting for the news story that some poor movie goer either laughed or was offended to death. Either is likely.

I could see the aftermath audience reaction as the lights lifted in the theatre. A group of young black men whopped, “America, Fuck Yeah!”; from the movie’s theme song. About 10 rows behind them, several older, black and white couples sat immobile. Stunned I think, because they were so offended by the movie’s philosophical conclusion.  Read More

Google Microsoft Web

What Google Desktop Search Means to Microsoft

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Since I received a bunch a calls today about Google’s new desktop search utility, larger perspective is warranted.

The browser wars really set the stage for the search competition underway between Microsoft and Google. While the Justice Department looked to Netscape as the threat to Microsoft’s monopoly, I view the Web was the greater threat. The Web introduced a vast, informational network that did not require Windows for access. Microsoft attempted to thwart the threat by way of browser-operating system integration, by making Windows more a required utility for getting at the information.

Search is really an extension of Microsoft’s original, informational problem with the Web. More than any other search vendor before it, Google has demonstrated the effectiveness of fetching information without the need for Windows. If you look at how people use computers, information is increasingly a major priority, whether accessing text or digital content, like photos and music.

On the surface, Google’s desktop search utility appears to be about the desktop PC. It’s much bigger, because Google brings the desktop search capability into the same browser where people search the Web—and provides information simultaneously from both locales. Google essentially is blurring the informational divide between desktop and Web information, which is a smart approach that should concern Microsoft.

Google is shifting the focus away from specific technologies, like Windows, to the greater utility of Web-based information. This shift grows in importance as people increase the number of different type devices they use to search the Web—not just computers but also PDAs with Wi-Fi capabilities, cell phones or Smartphones, among others. Google’s desktop search tool may run on only Windows, but that’s because of the sheer volume of people using the operating system. And that’s where Google can fill in search capabilities left out by Microsoft.

Google’s desktop search strategy syncs well with other Google initiatives, too, like GMail, Blogger and Picasa. Information—and finding it—underscores all three initiatives. I see their importance growing as people create more and more sharable content, whether personal online diaries (blogs) on photo albums.

Microsoft won’t let search get away. The same competitive problem facing Windows 10 years ago, when the Web started to generate interest and buzz, is the same with search: Access to a vast, informational system without the need for Windows. Now Google has brought search home, to Microsoft’s front door: The Windows desktop. That’s turf Microsoft won’t relinguish easily.

More importantly, Microsoft understands that as information grows more complex, such as with digital content, some vendor has to provide robust, cataloging, searching and managing capabilities, whether across the desktop, network or Internet. Microsoft wants to be that vendor.

Google may be first, but AOL and Microsoft also are preparing desktop search tools. Competition is just beginning.

Marketing Media News Media Politics Stupidity

If It Looks Like Bias, Walks Like Bias, Is It Bias?

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Oh PLEASE! What is the New York Times doing? This morning, I clicked on a story by reporter Todd Purdum headlined, “Best Defense: More Offense”; I had been reading different stories around the Web about the second presidential debate. Before I could get to the story, a banner ad touting John Kerry’s success in the debate filled a separate page; the Democratic National Committee had paid for the ad.

Now as a former journalist, I do know something about boundaries between editorial and advertising content. In print, placement of an ad next to a related news story is a big no-no. Reputable newspapers or magazines would never place, say, an ad about Microsoft Windows in the same spread—or two-page layout—as a positive review of the product. In politics, this rule is typically more strictly followed in the United States. In broadcast journalism, the now defunct “Fairness Doctrine” helped ensure political fair play.  Read More