Tech Week in Review

More on CD copy protection, Microsoft shuts down eBay auctions, Office X demo a nag, MS-ware that shouldn't be ported to the Mac, online subscriptions, Apple sued over poor support of older G3 models in OS X, and more.

When a CD is Not a CD Redux

Go2Mac has an interesting piece on a Universal Music Group boycott. Why? Because Universal is now using copy protection on all its "compact discs" — and they won't play in your Mac. Keep in mind this copy protection is in clear violation of US copyright law governing "Fair Use," and also note last week's rant about "CDs" not really being CDs.

Universal just lost my business, and it should lose yours as well, until, as Go2Mac says, "they treat customers with respect, and not as crooks." In the same vein, Napster may have been handed a legal argument on a silver platter by district judge Marilyn Hall Patel, who apparently thinks the record companies and the RIAA are colluding to prevent Napster's licencing of music for online distribution, an anticompetitive practice.

You Can't Sell That Here

For another one from the "you-must-be-a-crook-because-we-say-you-are" category, look no further than osOpinion's Russell Peterson. His horror story of a canceled eBay auction is nothing new, unfortunately. Microsoft and Adobe, in particular, are particularly aggressive about canceling auctions for perfectly legitimate software on eBay. It makes it nearly impossible to sell software even if you do own a license for it — yet there is still rampant piracy on eBay.

Perhaps the software giants need to target their aggressiveness at the real pirates, not the innocent individuals who happen to be selling their old software.

Microsoft Antitrust Opinions

Last Monday, 28 January, was the final day to submit comments to the US government in regard to the Microsoft antitrust concession . . . I mean, un, "settlement." ComputerWorld is running a story quoting two "big guns" — Ken Starr and Robert Bork, both noted conservatives — as saying the settlement is too weak and should be rejected. Also voicing an opinion against the settlement: the winner of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economics, Kenneth Arrow, who said the settlement as it stands "wouldn't check Microsoft's power or spur challenges to its operating system monopoly."

MSNBC is also running a story on the comments, including those by a second Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, who also voiced his dismay with the current terms. Hopefully, Judge Kollar-Kotelly won't roll over and play dead, as Dubya's DoJ did.

I Want My Demo, Not Nagware!

Alex Salkever has an interesting open letter to Bill Gates and Microsoft over at BusinessWeek. The essence: Office X's "demo" is too intrusive, prompting the user to purchase the full version of Office after nearly every user action. I fully support Alex's arguments. Since Microsoft already charges $500 or so for Office X, and the demo is already 30-day time limited, why must potential customers be subjected to these constant nags? Can you imagine what Office would be like if you couldn't turn off the paper clip? If you want to nag, nag once every time the program is quit, or every time the program is started, or both. Don't nag every time the user sends an email. Entourage isn't that good.

Microsoft Dropping the Mac?

David Coursey seems to think Microsoft has several more compelling reasons to stay in the Mac software market than most other people. Coursey's list of "areas where Microsoft should improve:"

Media player

Right. The world really needs a Mac version of WMP. Because there's so much compelling content out there in WMP format that isn't available in any other format. I — and probably a lot of other people — couldn't care less if Microsoft never gave the Mac version of WMP another thought. And c'mon, if you're gonna make a Mac version, call it "Microsoft Media Player" or something.

Windoze Media Player on the Mac? That has "confusion of identity" written all over it.

Pocket PC compatibility

Again, I struggle to understand this point. Are there actually people out there who use Macs and find Windoze CE more compelling than the Palm OS? Somehow, WinCE/PocketPC just seems like a sort-of-lightweight, portable version of Windoze. I don't want to run Windoze on my Mac. I want to run OS X on my Mac. Give me a Palm PDA that runs OS X, or at least one that runs something less Windoze-like than PocketPC. Sheesh. (Of course, the point might actually be relevant if you happen to be an employee of the BBC.)

Palm compatibility

Okay, good point. Then again, is this really any surprise? Microsoft doesn't want Palm to be compatible, at least to the extent M$ can get away with it. Palm is a competitor to M$. M$ wants to own every market. Therefore Palm must be marginalized as much as possible. Am I wrong? AM I WRONG?

Web authoring: "No Web authoring tool for the Mac supports Microsoft FrontPage extensions. While I appreciate there isn't a market for FrontPage for Mac, perhaps Microsoft could convince some other developer to support its extensions."

Uhhh...yeah, and perhaps Microsoft could buy the W3C and make the FrontPage extensions an HTML standard, because last time I checked, they weren't, and they required the use of a Microsoft WWW server, which means using IIS. IIS is so full of security holes it looks like so much Swiss cheese to hackers and malware like Code Red and Nimda. FrontPage is probably one of the worst Web authoring tools out there aside from — perhaps — Netscape Composer or Microsoft Word (yes, Word has an HTML exporter). And Coursey wants Mac support for this junk? Sure. Why don't we get some folks to port all the Windoze security holes to the Mac while we're at it.

.Net: "If Microsoft is developing a .Net client for Macintosh, they are keeping it very hush-hush."

Let's hope to high Heaven that Microsoft is not developing one. I'd greatly prefer they keep their grubby little paws off my personal information, and so would millions of others. I fail to see what good this would do at all.


Because AIM and ICQ and Jabber and Yahoo! and Odigo aren't enough. Yeah, we need more Mac messaging clients. No. What we need are Mac messaging clients that don't suck. Bare Bones Software ought to write one. Then it would definitely not suck™. Combine the best features of Fire with a decent videoconferencing client, and you have a pretty killer program, as long as AOL doesn't do silly stuff like block it every week.


Two words: Why bother? Exchange only matters in corporate environments, and the PHBs in charge of hardware purchasing aren't going to be buying Macs any time soon. If there are a lot of Macs, in all likelihood, the company is using a non-Redmond-based solution anyway. I'm not complaining.

Strangely enough, Coursey isn't the only one who thinks that. David Morgenstern (is it something about that first name?) finds himself agreeing with Coursey on most of the points.

Does Steve Ballmer have an RDF generator now? I didn't know Jobs's RDF machine was for sale...

Whores? Or Just Good Capitalists?

Speaking of things for sale, Rodney O. Lain's short take on the paid-subscription issue on the Mac Web takes an interesting — though, I feel, mistaken — view.

I don't mind The Mac Observer or Low End Mac offering their content ad-free at a price; after all, in order to pay for hosting and writers, money must come in somehow. I do, however, have strenuous objection to MacFixIt's model, which will remove all archived content from free public access and restrict it entirely to paid subscribers.

Bob McCormick over at MyMac has also berated MacFixIt for this decision, which he compares to the CDDB/Gracenote debacle. In both cases, a great volume of freely-contributed work and information has been turned into a pay-for-access archive.

Having never contributed anything to MacFixIt myself, and not being a MacFixIt junkie as some are, this doesn't particularly affect me, but it still bothers me a great deal.

My advice, and probably the only recourse most have: If you have freely contributed information to MacFixIt that is now part of the "pay-for-access" archive, write to MacFixIt and explain that you hold the copyright on your contribution and that you expressly forbid them to charge for access unless you get a percentage of the take. If only a hundred people did this and MacFixIt got a hundred letters from lawyers asking for as little as one percent of the take, I guarantee MacFixIt will back down. NB: I have no idea what MacFixIt's contribution policy is (there may be some legalese that makes submissions the property of MacFixIt, for example), but as I understand it, the contributor retains control over the copyright and thus the distribution.

The Tower of Power...for Now

eWeek's Matthew Rothenberg (whose column, by the way, is entitled "Mac Matters," which I thought was an interesting little factoid, especially in light of some recent articles on other Web sites) has some very intriguing speculation on what the low-key nature of the recent 1 GHz Power Mac announcement may mean. Here's to hoping it's true, and we will see some G5-based Power Macs in July, with 200-300 MHz DDR RAM/system buses, 800 MBps FireWire, and other assorted goodies. After all, everyone's been expecting it for so long...

An Apple Lawsuit With Merit? Who'd-a Thunk it?

For the first time in memory, a lawsuit against Apple has reasonable merit, at least in the eyes of most of the Mac Web. What suit would this be, you ask? The suit filed by King and Ferlauto in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of all G3-based Mac owners whose video cards remain unsupported under OS X. Hey, if this is what we have to do to get Apple and ATI to write OS X drivers for the Rage Pro chipset, then this is what has to be done.

We tried asking nicely. We tried petitioning. Neither worked. See you in court, Apple.

Semi-Unknown Link of the Week

We conclude this week by bringing you this link, which I had some witty and insightful commentary on earlier. Now that it's 0200 on Friday morning, I can't get to Go2Mac's server for some reason, and thus I can't jog my memory as to what the heck I was going to say. I guess you just have to take my word for it that the link is worth reading and is relevant to this week's column.

Having dug around at MacSurfer, I find this is a link to an excellent article about PowerBook screen replacement options. Unfortunately, Go2Mac is still down as of 0215 EST, and has been for the last hour or two. I can't get to the new site either, but I would hope this problem will be rectified soon. It's really a good article.

Until next week.

copyright ©2000-2004 by Chris Lawson