Scripting News for 2/27/2007

Blame the bloggers 

On the plane last night I read the first half of the galley of Andrew Keen’s upcoming book entitled The Cult of the Amateur. I’m not the first to mention the book, Dan Farber wrote about it in his reflection on the first decade of blogging.

Keen’s work is a book-length sneer at most of what we hold dear. He blames bloggers and podcasters for the demise of professional media, as if somehow we’re responsible for the endless coverage of Anna Nicole Smith on cable news, for Judith Miller’s complicity with the Bush White House, for the shameless way the press, without notable exception, hounded Howard Dean out of the 2004 presidential race. Of course we’re not responsible for any of those horrors, and Keen should, somewhere in this book, consider that blogging might be an attempt to solve some of the problems caused by a vacuum of responsible high-integrity journalism. I think, for the most part, bloggers would be happy to have real journalists at work at the professional pubs. I want more Woodward and Bernstein, more of the kind of investigative journalism done by the SF Chronicle following steroids in baseball, more reporters who are willing to go to jail for their principles, but I’m usually disappointed. There are countless examples in Keen’s book where he credits the pros for doing thorough work, when their work is anything but thorough. (And he owes a huge apology to Josh Wolf, a blogger who is in jail right now, for exactly the causes Keen extols.)

Further, he says over and over that Craigslist is responsible for undermining the business model of newspapers. But he doesn’t ask why the newspapers failed to embrace the Internet, making Craigslist necessary. What’s the lesson here? That the news industry is allowed to hold back progress? To what end? Sure Wikipedia has problems, but it also responds much faster than the older encyclopedias, and while I agree it’s wrong to dismiss experience and scholarship, it’s equally wrong to dismiss knowledge when it occurs in a person without the trappings of academia. The solution isn’t to call the amateurs names, the new world requires thought, and Keen does not provide any.

His book, while based on an important and valuable premise, that Silicon Valley is too-much admired for the good of all of us, including the tech industry, fails to enlighten while he props up the egos of obsolete people and businesses. Each of his arguments is easily refuted, too easily. There’s no food for thought in this book. I was ready for a work that would inspire a thoughtful response, because I like Andrew, at a personal level, but this book is beneath criticism. Back to the drawing board.

When in doubt, disclose 

Interesting piece by Tim O’Reilly where he talks about a new set of products from Adobe. He also says they’re presenting at his upcoming ETech conference.

O’Reilly is a board member at Adobe and presumably has an interest in the success of these products.

It’s important to disclose conflicts, so the reader knows when they’re reading a biased or interested opinion.

Mike Arrington, who invests in companies, often gets heat even though he carefully discloses when he has an interest in a company he’s writing about.

I don’t invest as often as either Tim or Mike, but when I write about a company I have an interest in, if there’s any doubt whether it’s clear, I disclose.

Update #1: Dan Rabin says that O’Reilly was on the board at Macromedia, which merged with Adobe, and he is not currently on the board of Adobe.

Vista backlash 

Chris Pirillo: “The shipping version of this OS is late beta, at best.”

Jason Busch: “It’s an absolute travesty that Microsoft would have released such a half-baked product.”

MyBlogLog 

The last laptop? 

I was going to buy a new MacBook Pro, it’s finally time to graduate to something real, enough trying to make-due with a consumer laptop. But then I heard that they were getting ready to announce a whole raft of new products including a sub-notebook Mac, and I put the brakes on. It’s hard for me to walk by an Apple store, I’m so tempted to just plunk down the money, but I lust after a Sony Vaio-like MacBook with its 6-hour battery life. That might be the last laptop I ever buy. Really.

The Bushes are scaring me 

Have you been following the world travels of Vice-President Cheney?

What the hell is he doing?

It’s beginning to remind me of the waning days of the Nixon presidency, when the administration had been whittled down to Nixon, Kissinger, Alexander Haig and not much else. At some point it stopped feeling like they were officers of a great country, and rather individuals, desperate to recall the trappings of power, and the harder they try, the more they reveal how alone they are. But it’s scary, because whether or not they’ve lost their gravitas, they still have the power to blow up the world.

NY Times: “A suicide bomber blew himself up this morning outside the main gate of the United States military base at Bagram while Vice President Dick Cheney was inside the base. Mr. Cheney was not hurt in the attack.”

Then Condoleeza Rice compares Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler. That’s so over the top. She talks about “Chapter 7″ as if we know what that means. Sounds like a special form of bankruptcy, but I doubt that’s what it means. She’s so incredibly dishonest, it’s better to assume that everything she says is a lie than to try to sort out the truth from the lies.

MacBook sound woes 

Somehow I ran the battery on my MacBook down to zero on the flight home last night, no problem, I charged it up to 40 percent and then sat down to watch the end of the movie I was watching when the battery got low (I shut the case at about 15 percent).

But the sound is off and I can’t figure out how to get it back on. I pull down the sound icon in the menu bar, but it’s dimmed out. I pull up the control panel for sound, the slider is dimmed. I tried rebooting twice.

Any ideas what causes this and how to cure it?

Update #1: Vanni suggests looking at this technote, which causes me to run Audio Midi setup utility, which reveals that the system thinks it has no audio output. He asks if I hear any sound at all. Only when I reboot, it makes the big chime sound as the system starts up.

Update #2: Ideas that didn’t fix the problem — launch and quit GarageBand, zap the PRAM, etc. Ben Tucker suggested that the computer may be confused, and he was right. I had been using headphones on the plane, and when I plugged the headphones in, the slider enabled. When I unplug the headphones, it dimmed. So at least I can finish watching the movies, but only with headphones.

Update #3: Here’s the club I belong to. Not an isolated problem. Probably a bug Apple should be aware of. Apparently a toothpick properly inserted in the headphone jack will fix it. I’m reluctant to do that.

28 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by vanni on February 27, 2007 at 9:17 am

    Dave – does this apply to your situation:

    http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=300832

    Do yo uget any sounds at all?

    Reply

  2. Posted by Allan Smith on February 27, 2007 at 9:37 am

    I’ve never seen that, but a random online search shows that someone with the same problem was able to fix it by opening Garageband, then closing it. No idea why that would reset it, but it may be worth a try.

    http://forums.macrumors.com/archive/index.php/t-272825.html

    Reply

  3. Allen, I tried it, but no luck. Still no audio output.

    Reply

  4. Have you tried zapping the PRAM? Reboot, and then as soon as it starts, hold down Apple+Option+P+R Let the system restart and chime… repeat. I usually let it go 4 or 5 times for good measure.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Allan Smith on February 27, 2007 at 9:54 am

    Another vote for resetting PRAM as a possible fix.

    Reply

  6. I know this sounds dumb, but I’ve experienced my PowerBook getting confused about whether I had headphones connected or not. Since I’m guessing you had headphones on in the plane, try plugging them in see if you get sounds out through them. If you do, try unplugging them, and see if the machine then recognizes it’s own output speakers again.

    -Ben

    Reply

  7. Zapping the PRAM didn’t change anything…

    Reply

  8. Ben, it does sound dumb, but get this — when I plug the headphones in, all of a sudden the sound slider works. I noticed when I held the computer up sideways that the headphone jack has a red light inside, presumably this is the optical sound signal.

    Reply

  9. But when I unplug the headphones, the sound slider goes dim again. Sigh.

    Well at least I can watch the end of the movie now. :-)

    Reply

  10. Posted by vanni on February 27, 2007 at 10:04 am

    I second the idea of using headphones, check the sound input/ouput i sound systm settings to make sure the headphones are in the options, then start iTunes to see if you get output through the headphones.

    Reply

  11. Posted by vanni on February 27, 2007 at 10:21 am

    ….ps have you checked that you don’t have it on MUTE?? (F3 Key) ;-)

    Reply

  12. Have you checked the audio section in the system preferences? Click on the “output” tab and make sure that “internal speakers” is selected. I have had your problem in reverse (getting the built-in mic working) and a quick trip to preferences always fixes it…

    Reply

  13. Posted by vanni on February 27, 2007 at 11:06 am

    ok: from a friend i get this:
    Yes, some of the MacBooks have exhibited this problem. It may be as simple as reseting the PRAM and / or SMC of the computer, (see below) or more involved in trouble shooting the software.
    Please try the options outlined by Apple’s article and let me know how that goes.

    http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=303319

    Reply

  14. this is sad…i remember zapping the pram back in 95. you’d think they’d fix stuff like this by now.

    Reply

  15. Lemon, I agree!

    Another sign of the past catching up with Apple…

    I was going to buy a new MacBook Pro, it’s finally time to graduate to something for real, enough trying to make-due with a “consumer” laptop.

    But then I heard that they were getting ready to announce a whole raft of new products including a sub-notebook Mac, and I put the brakes on.

    It’s hard for me to walk by an Apple store, I’m so tempted to just plunk down the money, but I lust after a Sony Vaio-like MacBook with its 6-hour battery life. That might be the last laptop I ever buy. Really.

    Reply

  16. Posted by vanni on February 27, 2007 at 11:51 am

    I had an iBook. But then within two months i traded that in for a 12 Powerbook G4. Best thing i did. Next one will be the 13.3 MacPro duo core. A friend had the lower run Vaio, he too ended up for the top of the line for his replacement. I think all manufactures go “cheap” on their “consumer” line.
    PS my next portable will also be my last. They are too finicky and require too many extra gadgets and paraphernalia… i would rather travel about with something the size of the iPhone.

    Reply

  17. Posted by Julian on February 27, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Dave,

    Take a look at http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?messageID=2117797&#2117797

    It’s probably a problem with the optical output. They say you can fix it with a toothpick :D

    Reply

  18. Posted by heavyboots on February 27, 2007 at 12:49 pm

    Have you tried nuking the caches yet? Sometimes that helps with the really weird problems…

    Download Onyx from Versiontracker. Go to the “Cleaning” tab, then the “Caches” subtab and check ‘em all. Then you can click the Execute button and it will flush them all. Last step is to reboot.

    I honestly have no idea if that will help in this specific case or not, but like I said, it is the last ditch effort I make before starting to mess with System Software updates and the like…

    Reply

  19. Posted by Sleepydog on February 27, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    Dave, buy the MacBook Pro now. Don’t wait for the new products. First, they may never arrive. Second, if you buy brand new products, they will have problems, as all new products do. Then you’ll complaing about the problems.. We don’t need that. Neither do you. So, buy what is available now.

    Reply

  20. Posted by vanni on February 27, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    I just recalled that a few months back i had a problem with trying to reset something in my systems prefs….but i was not able to do anything. it turned out that my NUM LOCK key was On (f6) togged that and all was fixed. weird but true.

    Reply

  21. Dave,

    Tim O’Reilly was on the board of Macromedia, which no longer exists. He is not on the board of Adobe Systems Inc. according to the 2006 10-K statement at .

    Reply

  22. On a totally unrelated note, it just occurred to me, while uncovering an old bit of development with feed reading over at http://podbat.com/lab/injector_test.php that your RSS feed now has titles! Yay Dave!

    Reply

  23. Dan, that’s interesting. I’ll point to your comment from Scripting News.

    Kosso, it’s always had titles for items with subordinate heads.

    Reply

  24. Posted by Hieronymous Coward on February 27, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    Chapter 7 resolutions in UN-speak authorise military action: http://www.un.org/aboutun/charter/chapter7.htm … it’s fairly common diplomatic shorthand.

    Reply

  25. Got it. It’s just the way you’re structuring your posts in the outliner.

    Seems to have happened alot recently. Signs of a different structure in your thoughts perhaps? Affecting writing style? ;)

    ps: In Firefox, the text box form spell check thingy thinks that ‘outliner’ is not a word, but ‘podcast’ is. How bizarre.

    I.P.S.T.I.Q

    Reply

  26. Oh, and the MacBook Pro is an excellent (if sometimes warm) laptop. I have two – a 15 and 17 inch

    The killer being that I can choose to boot into whichever OS I like – and as a web-based developer, it means I have no excuse to not test stuff on every platform – all one one pukka piece of engineering.

    It’s a beaut.

    The 17 inch is HUUUGE (but not fat) and is really more of a desktop replacement. The 15 inch is just about small enough to carry around in my bag, but I think the smaller ones which may be coming are just too small for what I need. Doing anything really productive on screens that small is like doing keyhole surgery.

    They are both dual booting to XP with BootCamp and they’re the fastest windows installs on a laptop I have ever had. (given that they have 2gb ram too)

    Reply

  27. Hey Dave,

    Once again retrevo to the rescue – this came up for

    http://www.retrevo.com/search?q=macbook+sound+problem&rt=fb

    and from here

    http://www.macfixitforums.com/showflat.php?Board=Forum19&Number=779820

    This thread from Macrumors suggests it’s a faulty jack problem.

    http://forums.macrumors.com/archive/index.php/t-232084.html

    Here’s the most recent post:

    Virtual1

    01-05-2007, 10:11 PM
    Mine did the same thing. The problem is there is a switch in the jack that tells it if you have a mini headphone plug or an optical plug plugged into the headphone port. The problem is when you remove the plug, the jack doesn’t know it and keeps shining the red light to talk with the optical. This disables the internal speakers and you see digital out instead of internal speakers in the speaker conrtol panel. Plugging and unplugging the speakers may get it working right for awhile but it won’t last forever.

    The repair is warrantied, and involves replacing the left IO board. Parts and labor are covered, and the repair should take about 1/2 hr to perform.

    Reply

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