Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 19th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
Content copyright © 1995 - 2014 to Bruce Simpson (aka Aardvark), the logo was kindly created for Aardvark Daily by the folks at aardvark.co.uk
The following represents recent feedback marked "for publication" received from Aardvark readers.
In response to a column and discussion titled Microsoft (still) owns the media, Peter Griffin, IT writer for The NZ Herald writes:
From: Peter Griffin
I'm responding to your article "Microsoft (still) owns the Media" published yesterday on Aardvark (Feb 1, 2007).
As a long time reader and fan of Aardvark it was a surprise to find myself, for the first time, the subject of one of your cutting editorials! I know you like to foster open debate, so I offer these comments in response and, I suppose, in my own defence, seeing as my reputation as an independent journalist is being questioned.
You note correctly that I give Vista a four star rating in my review of it. You also suggest I give a "long list of Pros and just a couple of Cons" when it comes to summing up Vista. This is what I wrote:
*Pros:* Better security, good multimedia features, more user-friendly
*Cons:* Demanding on hardware, pricey
Hardly a long list of Pros and I think balanced out by the fact that Vista is demanding on hardware and pricey. I stand by the four star rating. Most reviews of Vista I've read have come to the conclusion that it's the best version of Windows yet, but is demanding on hardware and pricey. Therefore, reviewers, as I did, recommend people wait until they buy a new computer and take the pre-installed version.
Bruce, you write in your article:
"By all means publish stories about the technology writer's experiences with the new OS."
That's exactly what I did, pointing out what happened during installation and thereafter. I was upfront about the fact that it didn't run well on my entry-level machine, hence my "demanding on hardware" comment.
You raise a good point about the DRM issues. You may not have noticed but I have covered this issue in several previous articles very recently. In particular, you may be interested in reading this 750 word article, "Consumers the losers in copyright wars" published on January 18 in which I asked Microsoft senior vice president about his views on DRM and quoted from Peter Gutmann's paper.
Again I covered the issue here as the lead story in the Connect section last week "Microsoft's image problem", which again dealt with the issues raised in the Gutmann paper.
On the day Vista was launched, I was quoted in a page 2 *Herald* article by Clair Trevett, who asked my opinion about Vista.
"[Griffin] said there were valid concerns first raised by Auckland University computer science researcher Peter Gutmann last year that the copyright protection built into the system would result in a lower quality of songs and movies, especially of high-definition movies."
The article also stated:
"…Griffin said Vista had good new features, but given its price and the level of satisfaction with Windows XP, most people were unlikely to upgrade until they bought new computers with Vista already installed.
'While there are lots of little great new features, it's not the revolutionary change as when Windows 95 was launched in 1995, which was a sea change.
'This is off the back of Windows XP, which is very robust, so it is less of an explosive thing than in 1995.
'It will be a couple of years before this version takes off."
The same day, I appeared on TV One's Breakfast show, during which I said the same things telling Kay Gregory that people should wait until they buy a new computer to get a pre-installed version of Vista.
With all of that prime-time exposure, I think my criticisms of Vista got good exposure. My inbox was full the day after the "copyright wars" column in particular.
As for the DRM issues, and why I didn't mention them in the review, let me explain how I approached this.
As you can probably tell from those articles I'm no fan of DRM either, But I still think Vista is worth moving to when you buy a new computer for a few reasons even when the DRM issue is considered:
1: HD content is very much in its infancy in New Zealand - very few people have HDCP-compliant hardware. In fact, our product lines are often a fair bit behind the US so when you're being pitched HDCP we're often still getting unprotected HDMI.
2: New Zealand has very poor broadband so downloading HD content will take forever and blow your data download cap (on average 5 - 10GB here). I wouldn't bother with it - get it standard definition or get it on DVD.
3: A lot of people will get downscaled when they buy an HD-DVD or Blu-ray drive and try and feed it into their non-HDCP compliant TV or computer screen. That's a fact of life. We've pointed this out before, as has the New Zealand Consumers Institute. Sky's new decoders with have HDCP built in. The problem is that the screens that have been selling in the TV space, by and large, aren't HDCP compliant because consumers are piling in at the $2000 - $2500 price point which is an older line of stock. They don't want to pay more for newer screens that also have HDCP built into them.
4: Microsoft claims the downscaling will only apply to "premium" HD content that is played on hardware the copyright provider doesn't approve of.
That's pretty bad, but I wouldn't buy premium HD content to begin with if I knew that was going to happen. I think most consumers will do the same and we'll see then what the copyright holders think of that ie: they'll freak out that no one is buying it.
Also, this parallels what's going on in the consumer electronics industry ie: in flat-screen TVs and HD players that use HDCP. People could boycott buying these screens and players I suppose, in the same way you're suggesting they stay away from Vista. But I'd rather tell them to think about getting an HDCP-compliant TV or player next time they buy, rather than telling people to stay away from new technology. They are confused enough as it is!
The reality is we don't know exactly how far content providers are likely to push this with consumers when it comes to Vista DRM - time will tell, I think Vista DRM will go the same way as Sony's Rootkit. But that's an issue consumers can make a stand on by not buying premium HD content that's going to be downscaled because of their hardware configuration.
However, I don't think it's enough of an issue to not take Vista as offered when you buy a new computer which is why I was happy listing those things I like in Vista that others may like to have WHEN THEY BUY A NEW COMPUTER, Bruce.
In the context of a 425 word review of Vista, I decided therefore to steer clear of the complicated DRM issue and not over-simplify it by writing off Vista as "riddled with DRM" or suchlike.
I notice that The *Wall Street Journal*'s Walt Mossberg, a highly respected viewer, decided to do the same and he had more like 2000 words of newspaper real estate for his review. He came to the conclusion that Vista was demanding on hardware and pricey. Oh, and it was a rip-off of OS X.
As for my Webwalk piece about the 10 things I personally like about Vista (I don't write the headlines, which in this case was "Ten good reasons why it's worth switching to Vista"), I prefaced the list by saying:
"It's true what the analysts say - a move to Windows Vista is inevitable. Unless you make late conversion to the Apple Mac or Ubuntu Linux, you'll be using Vista before long. It's not a matter of if, but when.
"Buying an off-the-shelf version of Vista Home Premium is expensive, so the first time you start using Vista may be when you buy your next computer. Here's my top 10 list of things to look forward to when you do make the move."
Bruce, this was the first article I have ever written for the *Herald* or any other publication which actually listed some of the new features of Vista. The only article looking at things like the security features, Direct X 10 support and the like. It came after all that high profile criticism. I thought it was only fair to write a piece outlining some of the new things consumers buying new PCs today, would be able to experience, especially considering the emails I have had from readers asking for such a list. Is that unreasonable?
Microsoft sponsored my trip to the CES show in Las Vegas last month and every story filed from the show and the Seattle headquarters visit, including a front-page story about the Apple iPhone which made no mention of Microsoft itself, carried the disclaimer "Peter Griffin attended CES as a guest of Microsoft".
Such sponsored trips are common in the media across all industries from politics and travel to entertainment and business. Frankly, it's the only way journalists get to cover overseas stories in this country and I was glad to have the opportunity to be the only New Zealand journalist to report from the show (along with Maricio, editor of Geekzone). I'm always completely open in disclosing who has funded overseas trips. Many other publications do not do so.
So there you have it Bruce, my (lengthy) defence. I always encourage your readers to send feedback to my stories and if they're interested in doing so, giving me feedback on their use of Vista as well. I'll be writing plenty more on all of the issues mentioned above.
In response to Spam and bombs, Leanne Wilkins of OneCard writes:
From: Leanne Wilkins
Regarding your article this morning in Aardvark Daily I would like to clarify some of the information presented in your story.
Onecard is a programme where cardholders can opt out of receiving communication from the time they join up and at any time thereafter. All offers presented to Onecard holders are made solely by Onecard.
PEL does not share Onecard holders email addresses with any outside organisation. The addresses are used to inform cardholders of specials that are of benefit and relevance to them.
Onecard sends relevant offers to cardholders on behalf of FMCG marketers in the form of a Onecard communication. At no time is private customer information including email addresses shared with any external source.
To ensure each cardholder is not subject to a deluge of spam PEL operates a contact strategy that limits the number of emails a cardholder receives.
We would appreciate you making the above points clear to your subscribers.
With thanks and kind regards
on behalf of PEL
In response to Today's treasure, tomorrow's trash, Rob K writes:
How is it that so many sites have this one hit wonder phase and die out? I don t know. How is it that Aardvark has kept my attention for YEARS... at least six or so including when you ran 7AM.com and I would hit it and you DAILY. I still try to hit Aardvark daily.
I was in Baton Rouge LA - now I m in Ft Bragg NC and keeping with the trend of putting food on the table I ll be moving to Atlanta Georgia soon. But I ll still keep checking Aardvark as frequently as possible.
It appears that you have not read the report I wrote to industry on 6 June available from the Home Page on the WDANZ website or perhaps you have missed a few key points. Reading this report carefully will help you to understand what the industry actually asked for from us and should be read before making any about us.
To clarify a couple of points you raised
WDANZ is not an industry body. The industry made it perfectly clear that they did not need another organisation that just took their money and talked. They wanted an organisation that actually provided them meaningful commercially based services. Not all web developers will choose to join us and neither would they all be accepted for membership. WDANZ is a business developed on strong industry feedback and is designed to serve the WDANZ members. In the Report you will see the results of Market Research that established that there was strong support for WDANZ in its current form. The bottom line is that we will enjoy success if we meet the needs for our members.
WDANZ established very early on that it is impossible to guarantee web development work in terms of quality due to the wide range of disciplines within our industry. We deliberately chose to promote our members as professionals rather than to focus on their quality of work i.e. attempting to guarantee a certain standard of work. Again you can see this explained in detail in the Report. We have looked carefully at certification issues and have chosen to keep membership entry to this one aspect only professionalism. The only guarantee we can therefore offer is that our members have agreed to a Code of Ethics that assures professionalism. We stop there deliberately.
You may perhaps be confusing the roles of an industry body and a commercial operation. Again I refer you to the Industry Report that explains clearly what the industry asked for and how we came to be. WDANZ is a commercial operation and enters into commercial arrangements with the industry at several levels – sponsors preferred vendors joint venture partners our members and this includes commercially based advisory services. As such there is no conflict of interest.
Should you require clarification of any issue prior to producing a commentary I invite you to contact me on 09 486-6410 or 021-WEBSITES at any time.
Thank you for your best wishes of success.
Web Developers Association of New Zealand
Remember, this is purely a gift, you'll get nothing other than a warm fuzzy feeling in return.