TV-PGAugust 6, 2001: First it was iReview; now KidSafe gets the shaft. Meanwhile, Apple struggles with a Memphis suburb's sign ordinance that effective makes Apple's logo illegal to display outside a retail store, and Microsoft bigwig Steve Ballmer wins "Missing Link" status from noted anthropologists worldwide...
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Another One Bites The Dust (8/6/01)
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Put on a black suit and a somber look, because another arm of Apple's Internet strategy just got lopped off without warning. About a year and a half ago, Uncle Steve rolled out an initiative by which Apple intended to improve the Internet experience both for Mac users and (to a lesser extent) for people using those "other" computers. Apple's four iTools-- iDisk, HomePage, Mac.com email, and KidSafe-- were billed as Mac-only features, while iCards and iReview provided Internet-based greeting cards and web site reviews to the 'net community at large. iReview got off to a slow start, but after six months of near-zero growth it really started to take off. Unfortunately, after six more months, iReview was unceremoniously canned because, according to an Apple representative, the company was "concentrating [its] efforts around the iTools that [its] customers value most. Specifically, iCards, Email, iDisk, HomePage, and KidSafe."

At the time we recall being a little bummed, and not just because our own five-star iReview vanished into the ether when Apple pulled the plug on the site; we had genuinely grown to like iReview, and had found out about quite a few sites that we otherwise would never have discovered on our own. Moreover, we were a smidge puzzled: Apple discontinued iReview so that it could concentrate on KidSafe? At the time we expressed befuddlement at Apple's decision to axe iReview in favor of its answer to the thorny problem of protecting younger eyes from the seedier side of the 'net. You remember the idea, right? Instead of trying to filter out all the bad stuff (a losing proposition almost by definition), KidSafe only allowed specific pre-approved content through in the first place.

That approach had its pros and cons. The big benefit was that, unlike competing filter-based products, KidSafe really could boast a 100% success rate in preventing kids from accidentally winding up at some site featuring homemade bomb recipes and photos of naked people abusing normally-wholesome foodstuffs in various unsavory and unsanitary ways. The downside was that since KidSafe would only serve data specifically approved beforehand by Apple's stable of overworked teachers and librarians, the vast majority of the 'net (including a ton of perfectly safe and moral educational content) had a big "no access" sign stuck in front of it. Which is why we had never heard of anyone-- seriously, anyone-- who actually used it.

We had a sneaking suspicion that perhaps we've just been associating with debauched and unwholesome people, but as faithful viewer Jeff Campbell notes, if that's the case, then we're all in very good company: Apple has posted an announcement that the company is "discontinuing the KidSafe service due to low customer usage." Evidently Apple's approach to maintaining a kid-friendly 'net was just a wee bit too restrictive for most people. Interestingly enough, after publicly declaring that filter-based systems are inherently ineffectual, Apple is now recommending existing KidSafe users (all six of them) to migrate to Cyber Patrol filtering software. Go figure.


 
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Hint: It's Not The Pinky (8/6/01)
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It just isn't Monday without a little dose of surrealism and opaque bureaucracy, so it's with great pleasure that we submit for your approval Apple's struggle with the Germantown, TN Design Review Commission. Evidently the company has run into a teensy snag with respect to its plan to open one of its new retail stores in the Memphis suburb; faithful viewer sketcha.com pointed out a GoMemphis.com article which reports that our protagonist is struggling to obtain a "variance on the city's sign ordinance," and is currently in the throes of revising its proposal.

What's wrong with Apple's sign, you ask? Well, you're probably aware that Apple went with the "PowerBook light-up logo" look for its store signage; instead of actual words identifying the location, Apple simply posts a pair of giant luminous Apple logos. According to the Germantown planning commission, there are apparently two things wrong with that approach. One is that the Apple logos are luminous. The other is that the Apple logos are Apple logos.

It may be funny, but it's no joke; evidently Germantown has a sign ordinance which prohibits "internal illumination" in store signs, as well as-- and we swear we're not making this up-- representations of "food items." (A suburb of Memphis doesn't allow pictures of food on store signs? Are we sure that Elvis used to live there?) We're not even going to try to fathom what the town has against pictures of food. Despite the fact that Apple is selling computers, not food (no matter how lickable said computers may in fact be), and despite the fact that Apple's logo is recognized worldwide as the mark of a computer maker, not a fruit market, Germantown has decided to make life difficult for the company. Any bets that the design commission is staffed by Wintel enthusiasts?

We could see Apple trying to argue that an apple's primary raison d'être is to play a role in the reproductive cycle of a particular kind of tree, and the fact that we just happen to eat them is purely coincidental. Pity there's a huge bite taken out of that sucker, though. Still, it could be worse; imagine the hassle if the company's logo were a giant light-up Slim Jim, instead. May we suggest a potential alternative sign for Apple just in case the town refuses to grant a variance? We're picturing a big picture of a hand with one particular finger extended...


 
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Sweet Lord, Take Us Now (8/6/01)
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Be afraid... be very afraid. We're about to point you toward a video clip that contains approximately seventy-three seconds of the most frightening video footage ever captured on tape. Forget the Blair Witch Project; loop this sucker eighty times, strip out the color and toss in a bunch of camera-shake, and we guarantee that twenty percent of every test audience will be throwing up in the bathroom. (And half of them will even be vomiting out of fear.) Those of you with weak hearts (and weak stomachs) should turn away before things get ugly; the rest of you should brace yourselves and load up this 3 MB video clip of Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer trying to rally the troops, as pointed out by emotionally scarred faithful viewer Demian De Wit.

Still with us? Do you need a minute to collect your wits-- and your lunch? We don't blame you. What the heck was that? Is it an excerpt from Ballmer's screen test for Planet of the Apes, as suggested by The Register? Is it the portrait of a fat bald man who has taken to pouring crystal meth on his Lucky Charms in the morning? Is it final, undeniable proof that human civilization is going to come crashing down around our ears within the next decade? We can't say. All we know is that there are some things that mankind was just never meant to see, and we're left trying to figure out if there's any way to scrub the backs of our eyeballs with bleach and steel wool.

Here's a mental exercise for you: close your eyes (no, not yet-- finish reading first, you goofball) and try to picture Steve Jobs acting the same way as the dignified Mr. Ballmer. Try to imagine Steve jumping around the stage while hooting like a WWF wrestler after an adrenaline shot and a lobotomy. Picture him shrieking "GIVE IT UP FOR ME!!" in a disturbingly shrill voice while pointing his finger in the air and getting all sweaty and red-faced from those eight seconds of actual physical exertion. Visualize him desperately trying to catch his breath and then shouting "I... LOVE... THIS... COMPANY!! YYYYYEEEEEEESSSS!!!!"

Can't do it, can you? Thank heaven for small mercies. Now pardon us, but we're off to go pluck out our own eyes and call it a day.


 
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