TV-PGMarch 26, 2002: First at the Grammys and now at the Oscars, it's the hottest fad to sweep the nation: free iPods for the rich and famous. Meanwhile, just after Mac OS X turns one year old, a pair of long-awaited crucial apps hit the release stage, and a group of middle school kids are analyzing high-resolution images of the surface of planet Mars-- using suspiciously new and expensive equipment...
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Free To The Rich & Famous (3/26/02)
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Ladies and gentlemen, allow us to present the cruel irony of the iPod: Joe Average drools over the product but can't justify spending $399 for the convenience of carrying a thousand songs in his pocket, while the lucky few who can afford to buy them by the gross and use them as stylish clay pigeon replacements for a few rounds of skeet-shooting, well, those folks get them for free. We first noted this cosmic injustice just last month, when it came to our attention that the performers at the Grammy Awards were going to receive free iPods as one of the bits o' loot inside their $15,000 goodie bags. Because, as we all know, there's no way that Britney Spears could ever afford to pay for her own iPod, supplemental income earned as a semiconductor physics tutor notwithstanding.

But the gross injustice doesn't stop there, because MacCentral notes a New York Times article about Oscar fashion which just happens to mention in passing that all those Academy Award nominees and presenters who kept us glued to our screens on Sunday night received "gift baskets" brimming with expensive toys. Anyone care to guess which expensive toy tops the list? Yes indeedy, it's not just for musicians anymore; one actress reportedly found an "iPod digital music player" in her pile of swag-- along with a "digital camera," "gift certificates for a resort vacation," a "meditation chair," and, um, a mattress.

Leaving aside for a moment any snide and shamefully inappropriate comments about why said actress might need a new mattress (let alone any discussion about how anyone managed to stuff a mattress into a gift basket), let's try to focus on the inclusion of the iPod in this veritable plethora of gifty goodness. At least when it was just the Grammys, there was some sense of a logical connection-- musicians, iPods, natch. But now that the movie folks get free iPods, too, clearly Apple's digital music player has become the hip stocking stuffer at massive entertainment awards shows these days-- and why not? It's trendy, it's pricey for the average shmoe and therefore sort of "exclusive," and above all else, it's shiny. (Ooooo.) And if this trend continues, award-wise, pretty soon iPods are going to be easier to score than Golden Globes.

Actually, is it really specifically an "awards" thing, or is there just some bizarre compulsion to give away iPods to people for whom $399 constitutes lunch money? Next thing you know, we'll be hearing that they'll be handed out as amusing party favors at the annual Billionaire's Convention. Forget lighting cigars with a $100 bill; any day now, we bet that lighting them with a flaming iPod will be all the rage. Note to Apple: maybe it's time to start selling them in six-packs.


 
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It's Mellowing With Age (3/26/02)
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C'mon, tell the truth-- last Sunday, on Mac OS X's first birthday, did it feel to you like the operating system was a whole year old? You'll notice that Apple, which has always found some way in which to celebrate the iMac's birthday for three years running, kept absolutely quiet about this Mac OS X milestone. And while we certainly don't mean to imply that Apple is actually embarrassed about what some might consider to be Mac OS X's slow progress to greatness, it's worth noting that Apple still hasn't tossed together a TV commercial to show the masses just what all the fuss is about. Or should be about. (Yes, the print ads that have been showing up in national magazines are spiffy, but nothin' says lovin' like thirty seconds during Must See TV.)

Don't get us wrong; we love Mac OS X. We're using it right now. The last time we booted AtAT's main production system into Mac OS 9 was to play Unreal Tournament-- before a playable Mac OS X version surfaced. Sure, the system still has some warts, but for an OS that's only been out for a year, Mac OS X's warts are surprisingly few. Nonetheless, we get the distinct impression that, from a public relations perspective, Apple doesn't yet think of Mac OS X as a home run so much as maybe a ground-rule double, and here's why: you can have the bestest operating system on the planet (as, arguably, they do), but without a solid line-up of applications, it's still not something you want to trumpet from the rooftops. After all, one year out of the gate, Mac OS X still lacked official release versions of Photoshop, Palm Desktop, and Retrospect.

Well, apparently some developers were sitting tight until that first birthday rolled around, because as faithful viewer Chris Harrison pointed out, Palm waited until a day after that blessed occasion to announce that Palm Desktop 4.0, long in beta, is now finally available in a 1.0 release. Or, rather, a 4.0 release-- but a non-beta version, which is the important thing. Maybe this will prompt some of those third-party developers to get off the fence and start porting some of the conduits upon which we rely for our daily survival. (Are you listening, AvantGo? And this means you, too, Vindigo. Don't make us come up there.)

And whoa nelly, apparently what they say is true: after the first birthday it's all downhill-- because just a day after Palm blessed the platform with its sync software, Dantz went public with the official release of Retrospect 5.0, complete with full Mac OS X compatibility. Finally, we can actually back up our Mac OS X systems, instead of relying on a backup strategy based entirely around fastidious prayer, self-flagellation, and the occasional human sacrifice to appease the dark and hungry primeval gods of irretrievable data loss. Although, you know, we're going to miss at least some of that.

But yessiree, life begins at 1, and it just keeps getting better from here on in. Heck, in just a few short weeks, we Mac OS X users will even have Photoshop at our disposal. Support for backups, handhelds, and industry-standard image processing software? Brace yourselves, people; maybe Apple will soon start shoving its new operating system down our throats in thirty-second chunks during prime time after all. Happy birthday, Mac OS X!


 
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Bribing Schoolkids Is Fun (3/26/02)
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As all of you paranoid Mac conspiracy theorists are no doubt well aware, Steve Jobs has been quietly skimming funds from Apple's sizeable cash stockpile for the past several years and using the moolah to pay for the construction of a massive underground alien weaponry and cloning facility far from the snooping eyes of this planet's nosy world powers-- in other words, on Mars. So far that's worked out just fine, what with most people far too concerned with earthbound matters to consider the possibility of a Jobsian Death Ray and warlord clone research lab soon going live on the Red Planet, especially since most right-thinking individuals never take a single word we say at all seriously. (Funny, that.)

But what's this? Faithful viewer Brian tipped us off to an article in Science Daily about how the camera system aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft is being used to obtain pictures of the Martian surface that are the "most detailed... ever obtained." Normally, that would be nothing for Steve to worry about, since most people in this country are flash-hypnotized to ignore any strange doings that might be related to His Steveness's plans for global domination; it happens during the eye exam when getting a driver's license. But as it turns out, the inquisitive little munchkins remotely poking around in the dirt on Mars's surface are none other than middle school students, and as such, they've yet to succumb to mind control devices in play at the Department of Motor Vehicles. If those students were to discover Steve's outpost (and no, it doesn't look like a face; we're told it's shaped more like a waffle with a Bic pen thrust through it), it could set back his plans by up to a decade.

So what to do? Fear not, Apple fans; Steve's got the situation well in hand. Just take a gander at these College of Liberal Arts and Sciences photos of those middle school kids processing their Mars photographs. Notice anything interesting? Those kids are all using brand new Quicksilver Power Mac G4s with flat-panel displays-- you know, the kind that most schoolkids dream about as they doodle in KidPix on their school's LC IIIs with the twelve-inch greyscale monitors. Heck, you can spot three Quicksilver-and-LCD Mac systems lined up in one photo. And we take it we're not supposed to surmise that those shiny new machines were a "gift" from a certain mercurial sugar daddy in exchange for the kids' silence, should they happen to stumble upon any suspiciously waffle-and-Bic-shaped crater formations, right? Right. Oh me oh my, that man is smooth...


 
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