Macworld ’97- How bad was Apple actually hurting?

I was watching some videos on You Tube earlier, and came across the one I have embedded below. The video is Steve Jobs’ comeback keynote presentation at Macworld ’97. I’ve watched a few clips of Steve Jobs’ presentations, and I have to say that he seemed incredibly nervous in this presentation. Normally he seems very at peace and confident, but here he is introducing a lot of Microsoft software for the Mac and his audience is booing left and right. Of course, nobody understands the Apple cult like Steve Jobs, so I can’t help but wonder just how much trouble Apple Computer was really in.

I did notice the cheers when Steve announced Microsoft Office for the Mac.

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Online Scams

A month or two ago, I tried to put my dog up for adoption. I decided to use Petfinder, because it worked so well last year when we decided to get rid of my other dog and one of my cats. It is a great service and I do recommend it. I ultimately pulled my ad down, however, because I was getting way too many scams and nobody really seemed interested in my dog. If anybody actually is interested, he’s a 6 year old American Eskimo, about 30 pounds, neutered, and UKC registered. He has been to obedience school. We decided to keep him for the time being. He’s a great dog, but since we had children, animals are getting to be a hassle.

I don’t have the wording of my original ad, but I laid out the details, the price, my contact information, and the fact that I would only deal with local buyers. Over Memorial Day weekend, I tried to sell some bedroom furniture on Craig’s List, and I got all kinds of international scams. I’m no expert on import/export, but until I understand what profit there could be in paying an international shipping service to pick up a $150 waterbed, I will not deal with those people.

I saved the emails I got in reference to my dog in an seperate folder in Microsoft Outlook. I decided to post some of the more amusing ones here in case somebody is wondering what one of these scams looks like.

The first email that I got seemed legitimate and simply asked if I still had my dog. I replied that I did and never heard from the person again. Such is life trying to sell things online. The second email I got follows:

hello, how are you doing and your pet? Am **** by name and i will love to give your pet a loving home. i reside in utah with my husband and children and we will love to take your pet as an indoor family pet and we love pet so much than any other thing on earth ,so please let me know the last asking price and i will love to view the pics if available. payment will be made before shippment and my shipping company will handle the shipping , dont be bored about the shipping of this pet cos this company deals with transporting live pets across the coast which i have been a witness of. more so my mode of payment will be in an american cashiers check or money order check which will include the cost of the pet along with the shipping fees, you can get a hold of this shipping company for more information asper the shipping at skymit_shipping_agency001@yahoo.com and they made it known to me that the pet will be pickup right in your door step with out you streesing your self and a vet check will be carried out on the pickup day by the shipers vet doctor. i look forward to hear from you in giving this pet a loving home , i await your response

I have edited the name out just on the off chance that this could have been legitimate. I completely understand that some Americans just cannot handle written English and I can live with that. However, I have NEVER in my life seen one American offer to pay another American in "American cashiers check". The shipping agency also is listed with a Yahoo address. I believe that the days have passed when a legit business would use a free email address. Shipping live animals probably involves extensive certifications anyway. I also specified the adoption fee in the ad, and that I would only deal with local buyers. Therefore, this is either a scam at worst or the person cannot read at best. However, looking at the poorly translated English ("dont be bored with the shipping of the pet"), I assume this is somebody somewhere else trying to scam me. I did not reply.

The next offer for adoption is as follows:

Dearest.

With sound of good health. I would like to re-home your lovely pet to become part of my loving and caring family. I want to make your pet a friend and a companion. I’m us citizen. I live at delray beach FL, but presently in ontario canada to accept a job offer with the american christian missionary as a Clergyman. I’m happily married with a kid and 2 house maids. I lost my most adorable pet some couple of days ago due to old age. I can assure you a 100% loving forever home for your pet. Pls, briefly tell me these: adoption fees,mode of feeding, present health condition, breed, and pic if available.

I have a viable and reliable pet carrier that will come to visit you face to face for the pick-up. I wait to hear back from you so that i can inform a Church member to issue out the payment. But for the payment, you have to forward your name,address and your phone number so that a certified money order/CK will be issue on your behalf which’ll cover the adoption fees + $50 as reward offer for the up bringing of the pet + the shipping fees.

Reply swiftly. I’ll forward the pictures of me, my house and my famly so that you can rest assure that your pet is coming to a loving family.

We cares for your pet. **** & ****

 

***Dedicated for your pet***

Animals are great to see

Fun to have as pets

Some I know I’d rather have

Than people that I’ve met

They never ask you questions

They rarely disagree

But always seem to know just when

To be there when need be

will make a bit of noise

To ask if we’re ok

It’s just their way of letting us know

That things will work some way

It’s like they’re trying to say to us

They know just how we feel

And only try to help us through

Our bothersome ordeal

Dogs will come wag their tail

Lift you up a paw

Looking at you with helpful eyes

Understanding what they saw

Cats will sit and study you

Before they come around

Trying to figure out when is best

To lift you when you’re down

Birds are quiet when you’re mad

Noisy when you’re not

They’ll only make a bit of noise

When the blues is all you’ve got

Animals know more than we think

They all have their moods too

Have you ever noticed when

They spend more time near you

Sometimes we take them all for granted

As well as some people too

Do you ever ask yourself

If you’d be there for you

Pets become a part of our hearts-

we adopt them as family right from the start.

We cast all our love on their kind, gentle souls,but, like you and I they too, grow old.

When we grow tired and weary, God gave us a choice- we have doctor’s and care, but our pets have no voice.

***Loving heart **** & ****

                                                                                             

Again, name has been edited just in case this was legit. This one came with a prose dedicated to "my pet". Still, even if this was legit, the adoption fee was clearly marked in the ad, as well as my insistance of a local adopter only. Scammers typically will request however they translate "latest price and fees" because they pretty much spam a lot of ads and hope for a hit.

This next one just about made me want to knock my head against the wall. I believe this is the one that made me rewrite my ad to say "I love my dog, and I will only deal with somebody that I can meet face to face".

Hello,
i am mr micoud  a vetenarinarian  doctor and the director of
pethouse hospital i live at ,31 Natal Road,Streatham,London,England,SW16
6JA, my phone number is +447024032112 i am highly interested in
your pet coz i want  to take it to my house to live with my
family and I will like you to let
me know the condition of the pet.I’ll be paying with money order
or cashier cheque  which will be issue out by my  client which will
be coming to your location for the pick up of the pet.I’ll
instruct him  to issue $3800 in your name .Immidiately you
receive this cheque , i want you to take it to your bank, cash it
immidiately and deduct your selling price and also deduct extra
$200 for your running around and you’ll send the excess to my
client for the shipment of the pet alongside  some  other (pet ) i
placed in order in care of him.he will also use the funds you’ll
send to him to settle some customs problem and for ticket fee in
other to get to your location for the pick up of the pets
immidiately you send the excess funds to him.
                                                                        
                
                           
                                       
                                                 
The excess
funds will be
send to the
client through
westernunion for him to come to your place  for the pick up 24hours
after receiving the payment from you without giving you any
stress.So, i do hope i can have trust about the excess funds which
is meant for my client.I will like you to get back to me with the
price of the pet  and send the following information for the
process of the payment.
NAME……..
ADDRESS…………
CITY……
STATE….
ZIP CODE……..
PHONE # BOTH HOME AND CELL…..
I await your this info so that I can fax it down to my client that
will send u the payment.
THANKS

I didn’t even bother to edit the name from this one. I also shouldn’t have to bother pointing out why I believe this one to be nothing more than a scam. OK, I’m trying to put my dog’s best foot forward, but seriously, he answers to the name "No, bad dog". You think he’s worth $3800? This person also starts out by saying he wants to take my pet to live with him, then speaks of his client. Keep the story straight, OK? Again, all the info was clearly posted in my ad, including my number. One other point: scammers will typically offer to send you far more than the item is worth and ask you to cash the payment and send some back.

The next one is short and sweet and still smells of a scam. In the "to" block is another address than mine. It is possible that this one went to quite a few ads on Petfinder.

HELLO SELLER,
I AM MRS ****, I WILL LIKE YOU TO KNOW THAT MY FAMILY IS REALY INTRESTED IN MAKING YOUR PET PART OF OUR FAMILY…PLEASE IT WILL BE OF GREAT JOY IF YOU CAN LET US HAVE IT COS WE REALY NEED IT AMONG OURS SINCE WE LOST OUR PET…
SO I WILL NEED YOU TO SEND TO ME IT’S RECENT PICTURE,WHY YOU WANT TO SELL IT AND YOU LAST ASKING PRICE…… THEN AS SOON AS YOU SEND ALL THIS WE CAN MOVE FAST TO PAYMENT. BECOUSE I WILL COMING OVER TO YOUR PLACE TO PAY AND PICK THE PET UP MY SELF…
THANKS….
THE **** FAMILY

  I edited the name, however. I did not see a reason to take this one seriously.

This final one was my last straw:

Hello Dear Sir / Madam,

Good to meet you, My name is ****.I located at Arlington,Texas. I saw your profile online that you are will rehome your pet to your posted PET/DOGS for adoption and also immediately, I got so fascinated about having the item. I am an honest, caring Woman with the utmost fear of God. Having the item is like owning a fortune and the thought of me makes my vein leap for joy because i really Love PET.I have a very big compound and a wide playing groung where the pets can also play.I have 3 kids and they really loves pet.I will really take goodcare of her.

I will like you to foward to me the LAST COST PRICE so as i can make payment sent to you as soon as possible.I will have my Pet Transporter Company comes for the Pick-Up as soon as the Payment is Cleared from the Bank.Will email you the Pet Transporter Companies Email address when you got the payment pet.

Get back to me with the Adoption fee charges.I will be responsible for the pick-up my my personal pet transporting company who will come for the pick-up of the pet at your destination after you might have gotten the payment for the adoption charges cashed.

I will prefer you email me back as soon as possible with your details to make the payment via A Certified US MONEY ORDER or a CERTIFIED US CHECK .

Email me back with this Below Information:

NAME ON CHECK:
ADDRESS:
CITY:
STATE:
ZIP-CODE:
COUNTRY:
PHONE NUMBER :

Have a splendid day.

Regards

Again, name edited out. This one seriously reeks of a scammer’s form letter. "Having the item is like owning a fortune and the thought of me makes my vein leap for joy because i really Love PET." I don’t even want to know what that means. My dog is not "the item". After this one, I pulled the ad down and told my wife that if she wants my dog in another home, she can post the ad and deal with the nutcases herself. I’m through with it.

Not all of my responses were this horrible. I did have an email exchange with one person about an American Eskimo adoption agency. However, I had no serious inquiries and I decided to keep my dog.

By the way, if you’re interested in hearing about how one person scored a victory over a scammer, check this out.

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A Tech Confession

I have a technological confession to make.  Last year while chatting with a friend of mine who used to be a Apple Service Rep at CompUSA, I became intrigued by the concept of the Mac. Last week while browsing some ads on Craig’s List, I came across an iBook going for $100. The power cord had shorted, and the hard drive had been removed and the computer was being sold for parts. I inquired about the system and asked if the original install disks were available. I have a couple of extra laptop hard drives, so I figured with a power cord I could make this system work. I went to pick it up.

The specifications of this laptop are fairly impressive for $100. It’s a G3/600Mhz with 256 Megs of RAM, a Combo drive (CD-RW/DVD) and an Airport Card, 2 USB, and 1 Firewire port. The battery is apparently shot but I’ll see. I was able to reassemble the iBook in an afternoon, although I didn’t bother with very many screws. For a company that was started by computer hobbyists, Apple Computer doesn’t seem to like hobbyists messing with their computers. The same computer toolkit that I have used for years to rip apart PC’s and laptops (including some star screws on a Compaq notebook) did not contain a jeweler’s screwdriver small enough to turn the tiny little screws from the iBook. That turned out to be a minor problem, because for an electronics tech/wannabe engineer I have short stubby fingers and was not able to line the little tiny screws up with the little tiny holes anyway. I put all the pieces back, put in about 3 screws in strategic locations, and snapped the plastic back in place as best as I could.

Now I just have to wait for a power cord. The iBook came with the original install disks and a Jaguar update CD (Max OSX 10.2). Up till now, my only experience with Mac comes from the Apple IIe that I used in a computer class in the 7th grade (almost 20 years ago!) and the iMac that my friend gave me last year. It’s a G3/333Mhz with 32 Megs of RAM. It came with Mac OS 8.6 and I got my hands on 9 which was automatically upgraded to 9.2.2 with the built in update feature. Considering the animosity that Mac fanatics have for Microsoft, Mac OS9 sure has a lot of Microsoft products on it. It came with Internet Explorer 4.5 for Mac, which I upgraded to IE 5 for Mac right before Microsoft discontinued support. When I clicked on mail, I got Outlook Express 4.5. This iMac is very slow and painful to use, and I really only play with it when my laptop bogs down and I need something to do. I’m sure if I upgraded the RAM and put OSX on it the iMac would be a lot more useful, but for now the system is little more than a toy.

I still see the whole operating system thing being a shell game, but I keep hearing how great OSX is and I would like to see for myself. Every sysadmin I know who has to support Macs hates them, and when I read forum posts and even opinions in the Apple online store, I read about a lot of hardware failures. Apparently these iBooks suffer from failing power cords and exploding batteries. The batteries don’t last very long at all. I’ll see once I get my power cord.

I’m currently reading the book iCon by Jeffrey Young and William Simon. This is a very interesting read. Steve Jobs is a very interesting a colorful character, and even though I imagine he was very difficult to work with or work for, I highly doubt that the personal computer would be what it is today without his influence.

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Why Can’t We Disable the Alt Key?

I would like to share a frustration with the rest of you. Why can’t we disable the Alt key while we’re typing? I am getting so fed up with the stupid thing that I would like to rip it out of the keyboard. I just spent a half hour composing a blog entry, and in one second with a fat finger to the ****ing Alt key combined with an unfortunate tap on whatever key I was using, my browser window shut losing my half hour of work. Note, when Firefox brings up the dialog asking you if you want to close all of your tabs, hitting "cancel" does not work! I lost the whole thing.

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Music and Gadgets

Recently, Joel Spolski wrote a scathing review of the LG Fusic phone that Sprint is distributing. Sprint apparently had been giving these phones to prominent bloggers in the hopes that the bloggers would use the phones and in gratitude post great reviews of them. (By the way, Sprint, where is my phone? I’m sure at least 1 person reads this blog.) Joel was not easily impressed by the offer, but I’m sure he appreciated the chance to play with the phone for a while.

My in-laws recently upgraded their phones. They got base models for themselves, but bought a more expensive phone for my sister-in-law. When I saw the phone, it turned out to be the LG Fusic. I spent a good chunk of a Saturday night helping her set up the phone, get the Bluetooth headset working, and dealing with issues related to DRM (Digital Rights Management) and her songs.

DRM is a touchy subject. I can’t say I’m very happy with the whole concept, and it’s caused me to largely stay away from music for the last few years. When I was younger music meant a lot more to me, and I went out of my way to build somewhat of a collection of tapes and CDs. As I got older, music meant less and I reached the point of being fine with what I can get over the radio. I got sick of paying up to $20 for a CD with only 1 song on it that is any good, and decided I can live without paying the record companies to keep this business model going.

The problem with Digital rights is that a balance needs to be struck between the rights of the artist and the rights of the user. If I’m going to go to the trouble to create content, then shouldn’t my work be rewarded? The problem here is, if you’re going to go to the trouble to pay for my work, shouldn’t you have rights as well?

As our media choices go digital, so goes the rush to deliver in digital format. The presents changes in the paradigm. If I go out and buy a book that I think is good, I can give it to my wife or a friend and let them read it. I can pass the book along to a few other people if I think they would benefit from it. On one discussion forum that I frequent, one person had a book that several of us were interested in, so she mailed it to me, I read it and mailed it to the next guy who read it and mailed it along… We probably paid for the book several times over in postal fees, but at the time it made sense for some reason. However, let’s say I buy this same book for my Pocket PC. I purchase it with my credit card and a key is generated based on my credit card number and some unique hardware identifier on my Pocket PC. Now, if I think my wife should read it, I have to give up my Pocket PC because I can’t just hand her the book. Another solution is to pay for the book a second time so that she can read it on her laptop, a highly unlikely scenario anyway.

The DRM issue really raised it’s ugly head with the LG Fusic phone. My sister in law can transfer to her phone songs that she ripped from CD’s in iTunes, but the songs that she bought from the iTunes Music Service (ITMS) cannot be transferred. They have to be registered to a device, and although Apple Computer does allow purchased music to be registered on up to 5 devices, there is no way to register this cell phone without an iPod service. I doubt I could purchase music through iTunes and transfer it to my Pocket PC either. An iPod yes, a Pocket PC, no.

However, I will say that Apple Computer actually "gets it" when it comes to music and such. Windows Media Player (even the 11 beta) is great for watching movie files, but for managing my own media collection it makes little sense. I can’t quite figure out the playlists. When I try to sync media content to my Pocket PC, it takes at least 5 times as long as when I simply transfer the files through Windows Explorer. It sets up a very complicated file structure on my device, breaking folders down into some weird hierarchy based on category, artist, album, etc. The playlist feature is incredibly non-intuitive and trying to set the system up to automatically sync leaves me wanting. By contrast, iTunes in incredibly simple and intuitive. One other thing I appreciate about iTunes is the podcasting feature. Microsoft’s media seems stuck in the same mold as the rest in assuming that the only people who use MP3s are those darn pagan gyrating silhouettes in the original iPod commercials. Not everybody actually uses the service for music, and iTunes 5 and higher include a podcasting feature. At one point I was trying to use iPodder, but I found the program to be a little complicated and rather than prove I’m smart enough to master it, I just used iTunes for my podcast subscriptions because it works for the most part.

The LG Fusic phone raises another issue as to how you acquire content. Sprint obviously wants you to purchase music from their service. The price is $5 for 3 songs. Songs are 99 cents at iTunes and 88 cents at Wal-mart’s download store. This seems to be yet another case of a service being tailored to the needs and interests of the service provider. This is another area in which Apple actually seems to understand that the customer has interests too, and by taking those needs into consideration, everybody profits. Steve Jobs, for all of his personality issues in the past, has done a wonderful job of getting the music industry to cooperate with him in the iTunes service. As the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) every single day finds new ways to show their customers that in the eyes of RIAA, the customer is a criminal just waiting to be busted, Apple actually tries to treat us in a respectable manner by offering a service that people want at a price that most are willing to pay.

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Norton Strikes Again

I got a call from a friend of mine yesterday with a tech support question. He had last used his laptop on a wireless network while traveling, but once he got home and tried plugging it back into his router, he couldn’t get anywhere with Internet Exploder. He said the laptop was connected but IE would not connect to anything. He had already called HP and was told it might be a driver problem. It’s too bad tech support desks don’t hire people with real experience to offer tech support. Of course, how many of us with real experience could stand to do that kind of work for that kind of pay?

I walked him through some of the basics (does the network icon in the system tray have an x on it? etc). Then the answer came to me. I asked him if he was running Norton Internet Security. He said yes. I told him to right click on the Norton IS icon in the taskbar and select "Close" or "Exit". He did. Wouldn’t you know that suddenly IE could connect to websites?

I’m not sure of the technical issues behind it. I can pretty much sum this up with "Norton sucks". I can’t say I’ve ever had pleasant experiences with Norton’s security products. Several years ago, I was given a copy of Norton Internet Security 2003. The first thing I noticed is that it sucked more than half of my computer’s performance capability away in the resources it consumed. I ran it for a couple of weeks before I got home from work to a message that Norton AV had crashed and needed to be reinstalled. I reinstalled the product. Then I started getting messages from Norton Anti-Spam that some emails had been deleted. Funny, this was about the time that my mom started calling me to ask when I hadn’t replied to a question she asked. Then Norton IS crashed again and had to be reinstalled. I used the products for a while because don’t you know how insecure Windows is? I got tired of emails being deleted with no chance of retrieving them, and I got tired of reinstalling both applications every 3 weeks. I finally shelved the product.

My laptop that I got last Christmas came with Norton Internet Security and a 90 day subscription to Norton Anti-Virus. This time it was the 2005 version. I didn’t bother with Norton Anti-Spam for long. I don’t think anti-spam programs are very effective and you can read my strategy for dealing with spam here: http://emuelle1.blogspot.com/2006/06/how-i-deal-with-spam.html.  I found Norton Internet Security to be about as painful to use as always. I had one program I liked to use that for some reason I could not get Norton to allow. Any time I tried to manually input this program into Norton’s allow menu, Norton locked up and I had to force my laptop to shut down and then reboot in order to recover. Whenever I wanted to run this program, I had to manually shut Norton down. When my subscription for Norton AV ran out, I happily uninstalled the suite.

Norton lately is bitching and complaining that Microsoft won’t make it easy for users to switch their security center over to Norton’s. I see this as a good thing. With the pains that I’ve been through with Norton’s 2003 and 2005 suites, trust me, you’re better off with the built in security center in Windows Vista. At least Windows won’t suddenly start blocking Internet Exploder for no apparent reason.

If you suddenly find a your web browser not connecting, but Windows says there is a network connection, and you have Norton installed, try shutting down Norton. Then uninstall it.

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Those Sea Salt Stands At The Mall Are Evil

I left work early today to run by the mall and pick up "The Little Mermaid" DVD for my wife. Disney likes to control the market, but that’s for another entry. There used to be a time when I could leave work early and expect the mall to not be crowded, but I guess those days are long since past. As I left the Disney Store, I noticed a woman trying to avoid one of those pushy kiosk cosmetics saleswomen. As I walked out, I got caught in a tractor beam that preys on politeness. "Oh, sir? Excuse me, sir, I just need a minute of your time."

"Uh, I’m in a hurry."

"This will just take a minute."

At this point, I should have just bolted, but years of conditioning to be polite still override years of pushy mall sales people. I was then put through a sales pitch that forced me to have sea salt put on my hands, then a choice of creams. I took coconut because it was that only one that made me feel like I had any testosterone left.

She kept asking me how great it felt. To be honest, it felt very greasy. Women might enjoy this feeling, but I felt like if I had to crack open a computer at that moment, I wouldn’t be able to hold any screws in my exfoliated hands. I thought they would slip right through. You know how small computer screws are.

Then, just as suddenly as I was sucked into this demonstration, she picked up 2 jars of their product and tried to give me a high pressure sales pitch about how "today, only, they’re half price for $59.99!" I told her my wife didn’t authorize me to spend that much, then I politely withdrew myself and left. I went to the Gourmet Chef to eat some free samples before driving home.

Where do women, whether pushy salespeople or benevolent wives, friends, or relatives get the idea that men will enjoy blowing $60  to exfoliate their hands? I could use that plus another $20 and expand the RAM in my laptop. I could buy camping gear with $60. I could buy beer and steaks with $60. Men like a little bit of "non-skid" on our hands, because as I said we sometimes work with small screws and we need the traction. What if I’d had to change a tire? Try keeping a grip on a tire iron when you’re missing the top layer of rough skin.

Trust me, ladies, if a man really wants to feel exfoliated, he will seek you out. Until he does, leave the rest of us alone.

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