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Thursday, February 22, 2021

Of all the kitschy iPod plug-in portable speaker accessories out there, the FUNKit Robotic DJ has to be the most entertaining of the bunch.

Witness its faux turntable-cutting action:

Yes, YouTube managed to distort the first few seconds. For as long as it lasts, watch this pristine version.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/22/2007 10:38:56 PM
Category: Tech, Comedy | Permalink | Feedback


Yesterday, my brother was telling me what a hassle it was for him to call international numbers. His wireless phone plan doesn’t allow for it, so he has to scramble to find a landline, and often at night to account for the time difference.

Today, while recalling his complaint, I realized that I should have clued him into FuturePhone, the telco venture that allowed you to make overseas calls for the price of phoning a telephone number in Iowa. Skepticism over the deal was allayed by the likeliest rationalization of how the company made its money.

But then, I checked FuturePhone’s website, and saw that the jig was up: The (712) access number is defunct, and the company and its rural telco partners are being sued by AT&T over what it claims is $2 million in termination fees.

The details are pretty intricate, and I’m not in the mood to wrap my head around them. Suffice to say that the prospects for Iowa hosting a cottage industry of telecom-provider services are kaput, and that my brother is still stuck making calls to Greece and Germany from his office at 1 o’clock in the morning.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/22/2007 08:03:39 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Wednesday, February 07, 2021

breakin' the law
Crossing a Manhattan street with your ears full of earbud might get pricey. A lawmaker in Albany is proposing a $100 fine for walking the streets while iPod-distracted, after recent incidents of pedestrian accidents.

Good luck enforcing it. No one in this town walks more than six feet without something — music player, phone, whatever — pressed to one or both ears. Most people are on the ball enough to know to keep their unengaged senses on higher alert to compensate; those who can’t figure that out need more of a dose of common sense than a shielding law.

I used to have some disdain for everyone who walked around in this shut-out-the-world manner. A few months later, and half the time you’ll see me shuffling around in my precious iPod-produced audio cocoon. I do try to limit it to short distances — under three blocks.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 02/07/2021 10:52:46 PM
Category: Tech, Society, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Sunday, February 04, 2021

The release of Windows Vista last week made it de rigeur to discuss whether or not you should upgrade your current computer from XP or 2000.

To which I thought: Why on earth would you want to go through that headache?

It’s not like XP won’t continue working and being supported for several more years; Win2K likely has a ways to go as well before it becomes more trouble than it’s worth. And previous new Windows rollouts, on machines that were optimized for earlier flavors of the OS, often go wrong due to new system requirements, hardware and software incompatibility, etc. Finally, unless you just bought your machine, it’s likely near enough to the end of its functional life to warrant replacement.

The only thing that makes sense, if you really really want to run Vista, is to buy a new computer with it pre-installed. You avoid the hassles and finger-crossing of basically grafting a new OS onto a maybe-or-maybe-not compatible system.

Then again, I’m of the view that these days, most people’s primary computing functions don’t rely on a specific OS:

A few short years ago, having a computer meant heavy use of a few key software programs for word processing, research, video viewing, online games and so forth. If your computer didn’t have the right operating system, some programs were out of reach. If you wanted easily portable documents, information at your fingertips and networked first-person shooters with high-end graphics, you had to own a Windows PC.

That’s seldom the case anymore. The ultra-compatible Firefox Web browser, online word processors and portable flash drives have leveled the word processing playing field for users on every platform. Google, Wikipedia and other online resources have expanded research options. Flash video on sites like YouTube are making viewing video as simple and universal as surfing the Web. And the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, new gaming consoles with the power of PCs, are making computer compatibility for games less of an issue.

I’m probably on the extreme end of the spectrum when it comes to disregard for what’s under my computer’s hood. Ninety-five percent of what I do on my home notebook involves Web access, which requires cross-platform browsers and limited media-rendering players. I could be running Windows, Mac OS, Linux or any other OS, as long as it keeps the machine humming fast enough. At this point, I can’t imagine relying on some accounting or graphics program that must run only under Windows; if it’s that dependent on an OS, I have no use for it.

This loops back to my years-long contention that I’d switch from PC to Mac anytime. I still would, but it matters less these days, because again, using Mac OS for mostly Web work doesn’t offer any advantage. It’s no longer a relevant concern. Just so long as it keeps the circuits humming, reliantly and speedily.

So yes, the OS does matter in terms of running things. But no, it doesn’t matter which OS is running things. It’s total computerized agnosticism, with the Internet increasingly at the center.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 02/04/2021 05:05:47 PM
Category: Internet, Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, February 01, 2021

It’s come to this. The new Toshiba Satellite A135 series of notebook computers sport two separate built-in hard drives, for separating business and pleasure:

Toshiba Satellite A135-S4467 and Satellite A135-S4427 have SATA hard drives with 160GB and 120GB of storage, respectively, while Toshiba Satellite A135-S4499 notebook incorporates two 120GB SATA hard discs, “one drive for business applications, and second hard drive for music, photos and other multimedia files”.

That’s only one possibility, though. A more practical use is setting up one drive as a backup to the other:

The [Satellite A135-S4499] laptop has two gigabytes of memory and an Intel Core 2 Duo processor running at 1.66 gigahertz. The two 120-gigabyte hard drives can be configured in three ways: they can be used separately; both can be chained together to create one large drive; or one can be used to back up the other.

Does this make sense? It seems to me the point of a backup drive is to preserve your data in a safer location than the active drive. Even if it’s a whole other drive, in this instance it’s still under the same hood; therefore, I’d imagine it would be susceptible to the same hazards as the main drive.

Granted, the wearing-down process that a regularly-used drive goes through wouldn’t be experienced by a co-located backup, so in that sense this works. But let’s face it, most people wreck their hard drives the old fashioned way: Dropping their notebooks or otherwise damaging them. When that happens, I’d guess both drives would bite it — thus making that all-in-one backing up tragicomically pointless.

Now, if the drives are removable, that would do the trick. I doubt that’s the case, though.

In short, I think the backup option in these dual-drive machines is a dubious prospect. In fact, it’s more harmful than helpful, because it will probably dissuade users from using an external storage option. The best option for using these computers is probably a dual-active drive setting, forgoing any thoughts of backup.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 02/01/2021 10:39:28 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Wednesday, January 31, 2021

Having just given the Zune a backhanded swipe, a new listing of the last 10 shuffled tracks that poured out of my iPod somehow seems like an appropriate followup. Not sure why, since I could get the same results from a Zune set on random play (in the event that I ever get one, which is unlikely); but whatever.

Besides, it’s been a while since the last time, which translates to many-many spins of the 30-gig hard drive. And I like the minor editing process that comes from selecting that vaguely-ironic-yet-perfect lyrical clip to accompany each song. (That’s what I’m shooting for, anyway — results may vary.)

So, here we go. And no, “artic” is not misspelled in this instance:

1. “Good Times”, Chic - Clams on the half-shell, and rollerskates.

2. “Boy in the Window (Ursula 1000 Artic Chill Extended Remix)”, The Gentle People - He had the coolest of haircuts.

3. “Ice Cream (Van She Tech Remix)”, New Young Pony Club - Covering your nights and days.

4. “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above (original)”, Cansei de Ser Sexy/CSS - You are so tentative, I’m in love.

5. “Take Me Out”, Franz Ferdinand - I know I will be leaving here.

6. “Jenny From the Block”, Jennifer Lopez - Don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got.

7. “American Idiot”, Green Day - Everything isn’t meant to be okay.

8. “Surrender”, Cheap Trick - Every time I got to thinking, where’d they disappear?

9. “Nice Day (Wamdue People Remix)”, Persephone’s Bees - Happy to be alive.

10. “Brain Damage”, Austin Lounge Lizards - There’s someone in my head, but it’s not me.

Y’know, looking over the above lyrics, it seems like you can almost construct a story from them. When read in order, from top to bottom, I’m discerning a schizophrenic narrative. Or maybe that’s just me.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 01/31/2007 10:53:47 AM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Tuesday, January 30, 2021

The most famous incident of Googlebombing is no more. Google has fixed the rigged Presidential result that once came from a particular query:

Indeed, a search on Saturday of “miserable failure” on Google leads to a now-outdated BBC News article from 2003 about the “miserable failure” search, rather than the previous first result, President Bush’s portal at whitehouse.gov/president.

Now that that’s taken care of, I guess the nominations can begin for a new “miserable failure” top result. Given Google Inc.’s late competition with Microsoft, and Redmond’s recent music-playing flop, I think I have the most apropos candidate.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/30/2007 11:30:41 PM
Category: Internet, Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Sunday, January 28, 2021

Everyone’s well used to it when booking an airline flight. Now, paperless ticketing is poised to transform the way seats are sold for sporting events, with Cleveland Cavaliers games serving as the testing ground.

Why the Cavs? They happen to have an inside connection to the e-ticket biz:

While some Major League Baseball teams have introduced electronic ticketing, the Cavaliers have taken it a step further, providing a completely paperless transaction. Nearly a third of their season-ticket holders use Flash Seats, [Cavs] owner Dan Gilbert’s online ticketing company.

The firm is looking to sell other professional teams on the concept, allowing them to cash in on the lucrative secondary ticket market. Teams have long been frustrated by the fact that they sell seats for the price listed on the ticket only to see scalpers outside the stadium get double and triple that figure.

“I hope to be in every league starting next fall,” said Flash Seats chief executive officer Sam Gerace, who would not say which teams have expressed interest.

The real genius of this development? It kills several birds with one stone:

1. The obvious: It makes the event-ticketing transaction more completely electronic, cutting down on paper.

2. It addresses the major issue of ticketbuyers giving away their tickets — something that’s fairly negligible in the airline business, but is a constant when it comes to sports season tickets. People buy into season ticket packages knowing they’ll give away some to friends and associates; for corporate accounts, the whole point is to give away tickets to guests. Observe:

“I love it,” said [Cavaliers season ticket holder] Lee Baskey, who won’t go back to paper tickets next season. “It’s a neat concept. When I first heard about it I had 8,000 questions.”

Baskey, who uses his tickets for both his family and customers in his insurance business, said his main concern was how easy it would be to transfer tickets. He said there’s been no glitches.

It would have been too easy, and shortsighted, for Flash Seats to have made their e-tickets nontransferable, thus sinking the concept instantly. But they accounted for it, and make it as easy as sending an email to the person receiving the gift ticket (I wonder if the guest has to register with Flash Seats to complete the transfer; that’d be a pain, but then again, I can’t think of a better incentive to go through with a laborious registration process than getting gameday tickets!).

3. It comes with a controlled ticket-selling exchange marketplace, where season ticketholders can sell individual game e-tickets to others, with Flash Seats taking a 20 percent cut. This freezes out traditional ticket brokers and scalpers — at least until they figure out how to infiltrate it. It also makes eBay’s recent $310 million purchase of StubHub look like a dead-end proposition, since the e-ticketing system would put entire process into the teams’ hands.

The fit with sports, especially for extended schedules like those in the NBA, NHL and MLB, is a natural for e-ticketing. I wonder how bumpy the process would be for one-time-only event, like concerts. Indeed, that’s an area that can be addressed when they start offering e-tickets for single-game sales.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/28/2007 09:10:08 PM
Category: Tech, Basketball, SportsBiz | Permalink | Feedback

Saturday, January 27, 2021

budding
Remember when I snagged a free pair of replacement iPod earbuds at the 5th Avenue Apple Store? Of course you do.

Well, like the originals, this second pair also crapped out in short order. They were free, so it’s hard to complain. Although given that Apple redesigned its signature earbuds in the interim, I now know just why it was so easy to get those free replacements…

Anyway, rather than go back to the mothership, I picked up a non-Apple set of earphones. I saw the Philips HE592 Surround Sound Ear Buds on a store shelf, saw the relatively low pricetag on them, and picked them up mostly on impulse.

I’ve had them for several weeks now. They sound fine; not sure if they’re better or worse than the standard-issue buds that come with the iPod. And they’re white, so they match the iPod itself. But that asymmetrical cord length for each earphone — one’s three times the length of the other, allegedly an improved ergonomic design — gives it a weird, factory-second kind of look. I don’t know how noticable it is to the average passerby, but I feel like I’m giving off the visual impression that I’m one of those insufferable audiophiles, sporting some sort of specialized (read: unnecessarily pricey) listening equipment.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 01/27/2007 08:11:46 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (2)

Tuesday, January 23, 2021

Not happy with what the camera captures? You can always run out and buy one of those figure-slimming models from HP.

Or, just keep your current camera and flip it 180 degrees while snapping that shot:

Believe it or not… turning your camera upside down impacts how the light from the flash illuminates your subject. Most people have circles under their eyes and when you turn your camera upside down the flash hits the skin at a different angle and helps diminish the circles and makes them look younger.

Click through the above link to see actual before-and-after photo samples. Impressive results from such a simple maneuver. And note: It’s not like this disorients the photos you take; the shutter-frame is upside down, but it still results in the same picture, easily flipped back to the proper perspective either digitally or in prints.

Of course, it begs the question: Why don’t camera manufacturers build the flashbulbs so that they impart optimal lighting to begin with, right-side up? It’s strange to think that for all these years — figure well over a century, even taking into account substantial evolution in camera design — the flash has been misplaced. All those decades of cruddy photos could have been avoided!

I wonder if this trick would work with my LG VX8100 cameraphone. It’s got a flash on it, although it’s the unconventional steady-lit kind. Maybe this will improve my nascent shutterbug impulses…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/23/2007 11:18:44 PM
Category: Tech, Creative | Permalink | Feedback (6)

Monday, January 22, 2021

OK, I think it’s official: The Grey Lady has a distinct fixation on pornography.

Witness: It closed out 2006 with a look at the aging demographics of adult performers (which somehow threw me for a loop when it described a graying female actor’s hairdo as a chignon). Then, it reported on the financial potential of pay-per-view porn in hotel rooms, obviously laying on a thin veneer of business-news merit to mask its curious preoccupation.

And today, the smut parade continues, with this hard-hitting report on the cosmetic challenges presented by the onset of the high-definition video format in the adult film industry.

Call me crazy, but I think there’s a directive at New York Times Co. to push the porn as a way of pushing print copies and pageviews.

Anyway, on to the obligatory pertinent snippet:

Jesse Jane, one of the industry’s biggest stars, plans to go under the knife next month to deal with one side effect of high-definition. The images are so clear that Ms. Jane’s breast implants, from an operation six years ago, can be seen bulging oddly on screen.

“I’m having my breasts redone because of HD,” she said.

The stretch marks on Ms. Jane from seven years ago when she gave birth to her son are also more apparent. But she deals with those blemishes in a simpler way: by liberal use of tanning spray.

Who figured hi-def TV would be a boon to plastic surgeons and makeup manufacturers?

Incidentally, this article mentions Pirates, the landmark first high-definition porn flick that was filmed in my former hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida. And wouldn’t you know it: One of my original sources for that story was, yes, the New York Times…

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 01/22/2007 11:24:35 PM
Category: Publishing, Tech, Movies | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, January 21, 2021

Remember the late ’90s, when the explosion of phone-based gadgets led to an explosion of extra phone numbers, which led to an explosion of new telephone area codes? It seemed like a new numerical designation was being assigned every week, turning what used to be a fairly stable, geographically-designated map into a hopelessly convoluted jigsaw puzzle. The future looked bleak, with more splits/overlays down to the street level, and eventually the rollout of 12+ digit numbers.

But somehow, the insanity stopped. Changes in number bloc assignments have resulted in a slowdown in area-code proliferation, to the point where some newly-instituted ones are, unexpectedly, practically moribund:

“These area codes are living longer,” said John Manning, director of the North American Numbering Plan Administration, which manages the registry of area codes, phone numbers, and the database used by North American carriers to route calls.

Indeed, the numbering administration has extended the projected “exhaustion” dates of nearly all 322 geographic area codes. Among the few estimated to be depleted earlier than expected are the 212 and 646 codes that serve Manhattan; 229 for Albany, Ga.; 254 for Waco, Texas; 309 for Peoria, Ill.; 702 for Las Vegas; and 904 for Jacksonville, Fla.

What’s going on? Obviously, the telecom device landscape has thinned out since circa 1998. Back then, people were adopting cellphones, but also had their established landline phone. Plus, they had their pagers, and additional landlines for home-office fax machines and dialup Internet service. Granted, not everyone loaded up to this degree; but enough did to put a strain on the numbering system.

Now, nearly a decade later, the requirements have changed. In addition to the new assignment rules that cut down on unused numbers, the ability to transfer and retain your phone number across landline and cellular networks means people are keeping a single number longer, regardless of their physical location. Customers are also increasingly abandoning their landlines, which frees up more numbers. And of course, in addition to pagers going the way of the dinosaur, broadband Internet eliminates the need for another telephone-based pipe in the house (and also, incidentally, takes out the fax, which can be subbed for email or even Web-based fax-and-print options).

All this represents a fundamental shift away from the telephone wire as the main medium of communications. The unfortunate side effect is that the concept of “area codes” — i.e., their identity as representative of a specific physical location like New York City or the state of New Mexico — is now practically dead. It used to be a convenient knowledge shortcut to know that a phone number with an (813) area code, for instance, was surely connected to someone in Tampa. Not any more, obviously.

I’m thinking the term “area code” will fade out in due time. I’m already hearing the word “prefix” used more and more, which makes more sense, given the context.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 01/21/2007 06:12:24 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Thursday, January 18, 2021

cross-currency
Attention, senior citizens of America: Next time you make a run for the (northern) border for your discounted meds, make the most of your trip and pick up an iPod Nano or two for the grandkids.

Sound like an expensive proposition? Actually, you can’t afford not to splurge on the kids! According to a newly-instituted purchasing power index, Canada is the cheapest place on the globe to buy the ubiquitous MP3 player.

Along the lines of the Big Mac index launched 20 years ago by The Economist magazine, the survey prices the 2GB Nano in U.S. dollars and found Brazilians pay the most for an iPod, shelling out $327.71, well above second-placed India at $222.27.

Canada was the cheapest place to buy a Nano at $144.20, while Australia ranked 19th at $172.36, cheaper than Germany ($192.46), France ($205.80), South Korea ($176.17) and China where the machine is manufactured. The U.S. was fourth cheapest at $149.

Looks like border-crossing officials are going to have to start eyeballing what’s attached to drivers’ earbuds, before this gets out of hand.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/18/2007 10:23:00 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech, Business | Permalink | Feedback

Saturday, December 09, 2021

Despite being issued a free notebook computer for use with her schoolwork, Northern Virginia high school student Liza Conrad finds it to be an inconvenience:

“Mine was pretty much under my bed all last year, except for one time a quarter, when it was mandatory,” the 18-year-old senior said. “I thought it was just a pain to have to lug it to school.”

I got news for you, kid: You might as well get used to toting a computer around. In my office, it’s standard operating procedure. People routinely take their notebooks home at night, to catch up on emails and other work before bed; and to maintain the easy option of working from home if desired. It’s also something of a security issue — oddly, it’s almost safer to keep your machine under lock and key at home than in the office.

I imagine more offices are moving toward this model. Notebooks are more flexible for workers and IT departments for a number of reasons — mobility is just one of them. Telecommuting is more trackable when it’s centered around the company computer, as well.

I’m one of the few who doesn’t take the office PC home with me — I can’t manage a network connection from home, which is a mixed blessing — and sometimes get quizzical looks when I leave empty-handed for the night.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/09/2021 06:34:27 PM
Category: Tech, Society | Permalink | Feedback

Friday, December 01, 2021

Microsoft’s sorry excuse for an unPod, the Zune, comes with a curious product slogan:

Welcome to the Social.

It’s clever, in that it implies a community phenomenon for the media player, which of course you’d want to join. It also boosts the much-hyped Zune-to-Zune wi-fi file transfer capability that Microsoft has used as the key differentiator from the iPod.

For me, though, the first thing that came to mind wasn’t really the uncommon noun definition, ala “ice cream social”.

Rather, it was one of the outcomes of my favorite college drinking game, Three Man. As in, roll a 9, and then call out “SOCIAL!” as the cue for everyone in the game to take a swig.

I’m guessing someone in Zune marketing dredged up some beer-soaked memories of their college drinking days when they settled on that tagline. College kids have been a primary grassroots market for promoting the Zune, so I’m sure that consideration went into it as well. Positioning an mp3 player as a drinking accessory? It’s got to work better than the Zune’s cruddy design and features…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/01/2021 08:30:34 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Tech, College Years | Permalink | Feedback

Thursday, November 30, 2021

Well, it’s probably not all straight talk. But the Fortune interview with Seagate chief Bill Watkins is plenty entertaining in its apparent frankness. The highlight:

At a San Francisco dinner on Tuesday evening, he was candid about his company’s ultimate mission: “Let’s face it, we’re not changing the world. We’re building a product that helps people buy more crap - and watch porn.”

Well, I’m glad someone in tech finally admitted it.

Beyond that, Watkins has more cogent thoughts about the current businessworld trendiness:

Sarbanes Oxley: “CEOs who whine about Sarbanes Oxley don’t belong in their jobs. Come on guys, get over it.”

The private equity boom: Seagate went private in 2000 - in a $2 billion buyout led by Silver Lake Partners - only to go public again in 2002, giving Watkins insight into the current privatization wave. “It’s all about investors getting short-sighted. They’ve lost their patience. There’s nothing these private equity firms do that Fidelity couldn’t do. If you’re Fidelity, and you own $40 million of my business, and you want a meeting to discuss how my business could be run more efficiently, I’ll take the meeting. I’ll listen. But that’s not the way things work. When you go private, the only thing you think about is going public again.”

A man after my own heart, on both counts.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 11/30/2006 10:56:30 PM
Category: Tech, Business | Permalink | Feedback

Tuesday, November 28, 2021

Yup, after years of resisting the digital-music migration, the legal entity known as The Fab Four is finally ready to license its tunes online. And it looks like the music catalogue will be legally available through iTunes — and only iTunes.

While details remain to be worked out, Fortune has learned that iTunes is close to a deal to bring the Beatles catalog online. Apple Computer is said to be angling to become the exclusive online music store for the Beatles for a limited window of time. Other music stores, such as Microsoft’s MSN and Rhapsody, have courted the Beatles over the years to no avail, but it appears Apple is close to getting first dibs on the band’s hits.

Even with a time limit to the exclusivity, this amounts to a killer app for iTunes and iPod. But I have a sinking feeling that, even if this comes off, part of the conditions will be to sell Beatles songs in the dreaded “album only” blocs that various rightsholders (notably for movie soundtracks) demand. So even if you want to pay only 99 cents just for “Taxman”, you’ll have to pony up $9.99 (or more?) for the entire “Rubber Soul” “Revolver” album.

Which isn’t the worst thing in the world. Despite my recent resolve to bolster my music collection only with current stuff, I can see splurging on a collection of Beatles tracks. Including all of the aforementioned album, which — like many a musical snob — I prefer to “Sgt. Pepper’s”.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/28/2006 10:54:28 PM
Category: Pop Culture, Tech, Business | Permalink | Feedback

Friday, November 24, 2021

So tell me: Why would anyone pay for an answering service, in this age of voicemail, answering machines, and cellphones?

I understand that doctors and certain other professionals need to be reachable at all hours. But why have some telecom center relay the incoming calls? It’s an extra level of access, and even if that filter is desirable, I don’t see how it’s more worthwhile than the aforementioned modern-day options.

This comes to mind because of one of the more frustrating aspects of calling into one of these services: They don’t initially reveal themselves as a third-party go-between, and they never have any specific information about who you’re calling. In the past, I’ve wasted several minutes talking to one of these drones, who couldn’t tell me a thing about basic information like office hours, services offered, etc. All they could do was take a message — which is something so basic that you don’t need a live person to cover.

It seems that part and parcel of having an answering service is fooling non-probing callers into thinking that they’ve reached the office at odd hours. I can’t believe that holds up for long. I also wonder if this is a modern adaptation — I believe that back before answering machines became widespread in the ’80s, declaring that you used an answering service was a mark of distinction, and therefore not something you tried to keep secret. In today’s over-saturated IVR landscape, I guess any use of third-party telecom services needs to be shrouded.

The only justification I’ve run across is the phobia some businesses have over potential customers calling in and being put off by having to leave a message via voicemail. I guess there’s a psychological reassurance in leaving your info with an actual human being — even if that human being provides no additional information and, again, does nothing that an automated system couldn’t do.

Personally, I’d prefer talking to a machine in appropriate instances. It’s way more efficient, and I don’t get lulled into the illusion that I’m talking to an interested party.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 11/24/2006 08:58:18 PM
Category: Tech, Business | Permalink | Feedback

Sunday, November 12, 2021

So why, in this kinder and gentler post-antitrust era for Microsoft, is it still near-impossible to buy a decently-powered out-of-the-box Linux computer? Business 2.0’s Owen Thomas breaks down the industry economics:

To settle the government’s massive antitrust lawsuit, Microsoft agreed to charge all PC makers a uniform royalty, based on the number of Window licenses they buy. The more Windows licenses a PC maker buys, the cheaper the cost per unit.

While Microsoft can’t punish companies for selling rival operating systems, machines with anything but Windows installed don’t help PC makers meet the quotas necessary to pay Microsoft lower rates…

In a nutshell, switching to a rival OS system will hurt more than help the bottom lines of PC makers. The straightforward economic scheme that regulators set up to keep Microsoft in check is essentially keeping the PC industry in the Windows fold - just as Redmond’s brass-knuckle tactics once did.

This explains why Walmart.com sells a Linux PC made by Microtel Computer Systems, an obscure PC maker few people have heard of. The companies that are brave enough to sell Linux PCs are the ones that aren’t unloading large volumes of Windows PCs to begin with. And because they’re small, they can’t negotiate volume-based price discounts with component suppliers like Intel. That’s why Microtel’s Linux PC is less powerful than a Windows machine at the same price.

Mass-volume production has made that $70 per-unit Windows license a negligible concern. In this ironic development, Microsoft has locked up the low-cost end of the computing market, effectively making the use of no-cost Linux the pricier option.

That being the case, the solution for Linux proponents is to switch gears, promotionally:

There’s clearly an opportunity here for Linux suppliers. Seizing it, however, is going to require a whole new marketing mindset. They should forget touting Linux as a cheaper alternative to Windows. Instead, pitch Linux as a luxury product whose stability, versatility, and virus-resistant technology deserve a premium price.

That is the approach Apple’s used, to modest niche success. It will require having the most rabid penguin-pushers abandon the idea that people should buy their machines and then download their own do-it-yourself Linux installation, because that simply won’t work for the consumer market.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 11/12/2021 07:15:55 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback

Monday, November 06, 2021

It’s time again for a new strain of Microsoft Office. What will the 2007 edition bring in terms of look-and-feel?

For one thing, say goodbye to the decades-old drop-down menu:

The new Office programs, including Word and Excel, abandon the familiar drop-down menus in favor of a “ribbon” that shows the command icons in a strip across the top of the window. The contents of those ribbons are designed to change automatically as the program detects what the user is doing at any given moment.

Messing with the UI is treacherous territory. People are accustomed to the drop-down — it’s fairly intuitive. I would assume that Microsoft did tons of user testing before committing to such fundamental shift; but it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t, and simply ended up with this redesign as a concession to engineering demands.

I would take this new spring-action featuring on a test drive, but I don’t feel like going through the onerous registration process. If anyone out there has messed with it, feel free to share their feelings here.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 11/06/2021 10:53:55 PM
Category: Tech | Permalink | Feedback (1)

Saturday, November 04, 2021

What will New York City look like 100 years from now?

The dystopian view will probably be a nuked-out crater, or a towering landfill. I doubt those visions were allowed at the “City of the Future” architectural planning competition at Grand Central Terminal yesterday.

Among some of the way-out conceptualizations of the Gotham of Tomorrow:

The team from Konyk Architecture came up with “Cloud 09,” a city floating in air. It included a vertical subway system of high-speed lifts, or “vrams”; annexed Hudson and eastern Bergen counties in New Jersey; and envisioned office buildings as so technologically advanced that “business travel would cease to exist,” [Craig] Konyk said. “Travel would be strictly for recreational purposes.”

Glancing through this article, it seems like most of the visions for NYC 2106 involved literal in-the-sky living, with the ground below left to re-green itself. I guess building skyward is more fun and glamorous than, say, predicting underground shelters.

Then again, this was a History Channel “Engineering an Empire” promotional gimmick, and the professional architectural firms weren’t likely to show off their chops by conjuring up doom-and-gloom scenarios. Like I said, the point of this display was to accentuate the positive, not offer up plausible futurescapes. Still, I’d like to see the speculative converse to all this.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 11/04/2021 02:30:04 PM
Category: TV, Tech, New Yorkin' | Permalink | Feedback

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