Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large
ISSN 1534-0937
Libraries · Policy · Technology · Media

Selection from Cites & Insights 11, Number 6: June/July 2011

Interesting & Peculiar Products

Google TV

The first couple of Google TV products emerged in early 2011—Logitech’s Revue set-top box and a Sony Blu-ray player with Google TV built in. A fairly long writeup in the February 2011 Home Theater is interesting—including an odd little slap at both devices for requiring wall-wart power supplies, which—for devices that are always plugged in—“always screams cheap, off-the-shelf design to me.” The main conclusions: Google TV isn’t there yet, partly because none of the three main networks will allow streaming of their shows, partly because in the process of passing your other TV signals through the Google box, you lose surround-sound capabilities. We do get a sideswipe from a writer who’s clearly an Apple fancier—as made clear in this passage: “If you’re one of those staunch opponents of all things Apple, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about, and you’ll forever be subjected to complex hierarchies and poorly integrated UIs…” Wow. Nobody but Apple is capable of producing good UIs!

For an amusing contrast, there’s “Kill Your Cable, If You Dare” by Jeff Bertolucci in the December 2010 PC World. Bertolucci was spending $85/month on his cable service, and of course the only solution was to get rid of cable entirely. (Since, you know, moving to limited-basic is clearly out of the question.) He concludes that “Google TV…is the best way to find content online.” He also discusses lots of other options…and admits that, well, “if you live in an area where the over-the-air broadcast channels are difficult to receive through antenna,” maybe you shouldn’t cut the cable. What I notice consistently throughout the article: There is never any discussion of video quality. None. (At the very end, he does mention limited-basic cable.) So on one hand, Google TV is the way to go; on the other, it’s not ready for prime time.

Ayre Acoustics DX-5

I’m never sure quite what to make of a product like this, glowingly reviewed by Michael Fremer in the December 2010 Stereophile. First there’s the question of how to approach a digital-product review by someone as adamantly anti-digital as Fremer claims to be—but set that aside. The other issue is that the Ayre, at $9,950, is an Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player with some additional electronics and a new case. The Oppo, highly rated by most reviewers, costs $400. So you’re paying $9,550 for a better case, power supply and electronics. Maybe that’s reasonable; maybe not.

It’s clear that Fremer knows his audience: Proper wealthy audiophiles who wouldn’t be caught dead watching TV—or at least not sharing their high-and-mighty audio systems with crass TV requirements. Here’s the tipoff, word for word:

The DX-5’s backlit remote control belongs to a Blu-ray player, so it has many video functions and buttons you won’t use.

Not “I didn’t use” but “you won’t use.” Right.

The Really Big Desktop Display

Did you know you can buy a 2560x1600-pixel display for your PC? It’s 30” and a mere $1,200 to $2,100. But for serious computer users that’s not nearly enough. A “Geektech” piece in the December 2010 PC World has the answer: You buy four 1080p projectors, “each around $1000,” and project the images onto a single curved surface much larger than a 30” display.

I haven’t heard of any decent-quality $1,000 1080p projectors, but maybe I’m missing something. What this writeup omits: What it would actually cost to have such a monster display (and to have the graphics muscle to drive it). The companies involved in figuring out how to synchronize multiple projects to make single huge pictures work aren’t building desktop displays—they’re designing theater-scale units, such as a 32x20 foot screen using 20 projectors to create a 55 megapixel image.

This writer thinks that one of these days “you could have a big, curved, quad-HD screen on your desktop for roughly the price of two or three 30-inch monitors.” You know, for some serious gaming over your 100mb broadband. (I dunno: Would 100mb be enough for quad-HD?)

Touchscreen Differences

I’m interpreting this section’s title more broadly, partly to include some old material that I think’s worth noting but doesn’t necessarily relate to one product, partly because otherwise Trends & Quick Takes becomes even more top-heavy.

So, for example, there’s this: “Finger Fail: Why Most Touchscreens Miss the Point,” by Priya Ganapati at’s “Gadget Lab” on March 4, 2010. It’s about smartphones and other touchscreen (not touchpad) devices (touchpads are another tricky subject), and it’s an interesting if perhaps not wholly convincing discussion. Basically, although smartphone touchscreens come from a small set of suppliers, there’s enough interplay between hardware, software and overall design so that some touchscreens seem far more responsive and workable than others…and, yes, iProducts tend to rank high in this area.

Variables include engineering details such the calibration of the touch sensor so it can separate the signal from the noise, the quality of the firmware and the level of integration of the touch experience into the phone’s user interface. There are also more difficult-to-quantify things such as as the level of the company’s commitment to making the best touchscreen experience possible.

[Yes, there’s a double “as” in the original—worth pointing out since this is a long article, not really a blog post, and given Condé Nast’s reputation for attention to detail.] Early touchscreens were mostly resistive, requiring serious pressure or a stylus to make two thin layers connect. Current ones are (mostly) capacitive, responding to the electrical properties of skin. But even capacitive touchscreens vary a lot, for reasons discussed by a couple of sources here, including one from Synaptics (a huge supplier of touchscreens and touchpads—not that they always get the hardware/software combo right for touchpads either). An interesting discussion…

NuVision 55FX10LS HDTV

The writeup in the January 2011 Sound & Vision isn’t a review, but it’s a half-page wowie-zowie writeup for this 55" “3D-ready” HDTV. (Since it comes with two pairs of 3D glasses, I’d assume it’s a 3D set, not 3D-ready, but never mind.) What makes it special? Not LED backlighting, apparently, but “you can custom-order the bezel to match any color,” it’s made of aluminum, and NuVision dealers are supposed to “perform responsible recycling” at the end of the product’s “lifecycle”—all assuming that the dealer is still in business, of course.

All that for $6,999, only $5,300 more than most top-rated 54-56” plasma and LCD HDTVs from brands you’ve actually heard of. Man, that’s some expensive aluminum.

Of course, this feature—written by Ken C. Pohlmann—is given to hyperbole, such as the writeup for NextGen Copperhead Xtreme HDMI Cable, which seems to suggest that using any lesser cable will lead to “attenuation, far-end crosstalk or interpair skew” (whatever that might be). As overpriced cables go, they’re only mildly overpriced, but to date there’s never been any plausible demonstration that, especially for HDTV, bits aren’t bits—that the cheapest HDMI 1.4-certified cable won’t work just as well.

Bryston BDP-1 Digital Music Player

Take, for example, Pohlmann’s breathless writeup of this $2,150 device in the December 2010 issue. He thinks it’s “pretty cool” because, unlike some other digital music players, it does not have a hard drive, streamer, disc player or even digital-to-analog converter. What does it have? Hmm. You can connect it to a storage device and send bitstreams to something else that actually plays, you know, digital music. So it’s a controller of sorts, I guess. But hey, it’s “audiophile” and it’s only a little more than $2K, so why am I being picky?

The Trouble with Tablets?

I suspect Jon Stokes knew he was writing a flamebait piece when he wrote “Why I don’t care very much about tablets anymore” in, I guess, March 2011 at ars technica. It’s not about any particular tablet; it’s about why he doesn’t find that tablets much interest him.

It’s a thoughtful discussion—if you accept one huge premise. We’ll get there in a moment. Briefly, he finds that typical desktop setups—with the keyboard and display in separate planes—are similar to those of old scribes and are sensible: the separation of productive workspaces just plain works. He also misses tactile feedback. I think most importantly, he doesn’t believe a tablet will be the best gadget to do any of the things he thinks he’d do with them.

For watching video, my TV wins. I prefer to read books and papers on either the Kindle or as dead-tree color printouts and books. Surfing the Web is easier on a computer, especially if you leave a lot of tabs open. I've yet to have a tablet gaming experience that really surpasses a good console or PC game. And so on.

What the tablet is valuable for is for letting me easily cram a downsized version of all of those experiences and functions into a single, lightweight, compact, long-battery-life gadget. So it's great for traveling light. But if I'm at home it's just not the richest or most productive way for me to do anything that I do.

Yes, Stokes owns an iPad. There’s more: from what he sees, the “new media” being pushed for iPads feel a lot like CD-ROMs and he prefers to drop back to pure text. Oh, he’s always going to have tablets but he’s not excited about them.

I suspect he’s right on two counts for some people: That is, a tablet is typically a second-best platform for a whole bunch of things, and a tablet typically isn’t a very good way to create things. (Yes, you can do it, but I have yet to hear very many people claim that it works anywhere near as well as a PC or notebook.) That said, there are millions of people for whom a lightweight convenient compromise is a great idea—and who do very little creation other than email, but lots of consumption.

Didn’t check the full range of comments; of those I did check, fewer are flames than I expected, and a fair number agree. Some of them even understand that Stokes is not saying tablets are useless.

Windows XP and Big Hard Disks

This one’s interesting, but probably getting less and less relevant given the quality of Windows 7: An April 2010 piece by Peter Bright in ars technica, “Why new hard disks might not be much fun for XP users.” It’s a long piece that explores error-correction technology, hard disk sectors and other aspects of this old but still dominant storage technology. What it boils down to: The newest hard disks are likely to insist on 4096-byte sectors rather than 512-byte sectors, for very good reasons…and that may be a performance issue for Windows XP, given some very old and apparently hard-wired assumptions.

By now, the answer should probably be clear: Time to move from Windows XP to Windows 7, even if you believed the overwrought bad press for Vista. Or, realistically, since the only time most users will ever get a new internal hard disk is when they get a new computer, it’s long past time to stop downgrading new PCs to XP.

Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB

This appears in the December 2010 Sound & Vision “Experts’ Guide to Great Gifts 2010.” It’s a turntable with a built-in phono preamp and USB port (it comes with a CD-ROM containing Audacity in Mac and Windows versions, to save you a free download of this first-rate audio conversion & editing freebie). It includes an Audio-Technica cartridge.

And it sells for around $210. All of which is actually pretty good—except for the years of obloquy audiophiles have heaped upon direct-drive turntables. After being demeaned as destroying sound quality and various other crimes, now direct-drive is OK, as long as you’re playing vinyl (which, of course, any good audiophile must be doing)? Interesting times.

Promises, Promises: The $75 OLPC

Sometimes running behind on items pays off directly—as in this May 27, 2010 item by Charlie Sorrel at’s Gadget Lab, “Negroponte Promises $75 OLPC Slate by December.” Given Wired’s general swoony attitude over anything from the magic lips of Negroponte, it’s hardly surprising that—even given a little doubt in the article—there’s a general air of belief. After all, the final sentence is “The original OLPC had a long and difficult gestation, but Nick Negroponte is stubborn enough to pull it off.” Which he did such a brilliant and successful job of with the original OLPC, right, Charlie?

Negroponte’s promise is crystal-clear: An XO-3 tablet in prototype form by December 2010 to show at CES in January 2011, with a 9” screen (dual-mode: backlit indoors but not outdoors) and a $75 price. That’s for the developed world, not just developing nations.

Interesting. One supposed OLPC website ( seems moribund, with the most recent story from April 2010. What appears to be the official site,, offers a “news” page that’s formatted such that it’s nearly impossible to use (but very colorful). The closest I could get to the promised $75 tablet is the announcement of a $165 “hybrid tablet-computer model” at the 2011 CES and a new promise of a 2012 tablet for $100. Negroponte’s promises? Quietly forgotten—and very little on the current XO-3 page appears to be less than a year old.

Arcam FMJ BDP100 Blu-ray Player

I’m not sure whether this one’s interesting or peculiar, but I’m inclined toward the latter. As reviewed in the March 2011 Home Theater, it’s a Blu-ray player that handles the usual range of other formats, much as a $99 Blu-ray player would. Unlike most $150 Blu-ray players these days, it doesn’t include any internet streaming options, doesn’t handle 3D and, unlike Oppo’s $500 players, doesn’t support SACD or DVD-Audio. It also won’t just play a disc precisely as recorded, with no upconversion or deinterlacing. It’s a lot slower to load complex BD discs than, say, the Oppo. It might “look sharper” than some other players, but that may be because of edge enhancement, usually considered a no-no among purists. Oh, and it supposedly sounds better—in part because it puts out a much higher audio level than the standard for digital output. As it happens, it isn’t really a great performer—on objective tests, it’s not up to, well, players like the $500 Oppo.

One difference: it costs $1,500. So, you know, it must be three times as good as the Oppo and 10 times better than a $150 3D-supporting Internet-streaming Blu-ray player.

Back to the Future!

That’s my immediate reaction on seeing the C64X as described in a December 20, 2010 Gadget Lab story by Charlie Sorrel. It’s a Commodore 64, or at least it looks like that great old computer-in-a-keyboard. Except that this one has a dual-core Atom processor, 2GB RAM, NIVIDIA graphics and a Blu-ray drive. And typical contemporary slots (USB, memory card, HDMI), all within a faithful reproduction of the Commodore 64’s body and keyboard (with original Cherry switches, offering an IBM-like keyboard feel). Oh, and if you want, you can actually boot it into C64 emulation mode to play your old Commodore games.

When the article appeared, there were no prices or anticipated date. When I check the site on April 19, 2011, I see prices, apparently for current delivery—with Ubuntu (Linux) provided ready to install, Commodore 64 emulation to be mailed later. The prices range from $250 to $895, but $250 gets you nothing but chassis and card reader. The cheapest fully-functional version, C64x Standard, costs $695 and includes 2GB RAM, WiFi, Bluetooth, a DVD tray drive and 250GB hard disk—but for $895, you get 4GB RAM, a Blu-Ray drive and a 1TB hard disk, making it probably the best value. (There’s a $595 system, but since it lacks both optical drive and wifi, I don’t consider it fully functional.)

HDTV Calibration Discs

Some of you might find one of these worthwhile, and they might even be good items for libraries with lots of Blu-ray-using patrons (by now, that’s probably around 20% of your patrons). A December 2010 Sound & Vision article, “DIY TV Calibration,” details what’s involved in doing your own picture calibration and notes the three discs, each $25 to $30: Spears & Munsil High-Definition Benchmark Blu-Ray Edition (aimed at people who have a fair sense of what they’re doing), Digital Video Essentials: HD Basics (also aimed at advanced enthusiasts and professional technicians), and the most likely candidate for the average user who wants to improve their picture: Disney’s WOW: World of Wonder.

Zero Dollar Laptop

It sounds like a great product writeup, if a trifle impossible—but that’s not quite what this is. It’s a manifesto of sorts, published at Bricolabs: It’s not dated; I tagged it on June 8, 2010. The article doesn’t read like a typical manifesto, but that’s what it is.

The current typical specification of the zero dollar laptop in the UK is around 500mHz, with 256mB RAM, a 10 gigabyte hard disk, a network card, a CD-ROM, a USB port and a screen capable of displaying at least 800×600 pixels in 16-bit colour. Many zero dollar laptops are better specified. (Its close cousin, the zero dollar desktop, typically runs at 1000mHz or faster.)

What is the zero-dollar laptop? Basically installing Linux on the laptop/notebook you’ve replaced with a newer, more powerful model. That’s all there is to it: This is a manifesto urging people to install Linux on old notebooks and reuse them or give them to others. It’s written in lots of tiny little paragraphs, I suppose to make it less intimidating but actually making it a little tiresome. It’s one of those “you must switch to free software for the good of the planet!” approaches. Still, you might find it interesting reading.

The Google Cr-48

There is, to be sure, a zero-dollar notebook, if you’re one of thousands of people Google wanted to bribe persuade to give them loads of free publicity for the Chrome OS—that is, the freebie Cr-48 cloud notebooks (that is, all your work is necessarily done in the cloud, as there’s no local storage and it must be internet-connected to work) that Google shipped to those considered worthy. (Literally thousands: 60,000 of these devices were produced and shipped.) One of those was John Scalzi. He offered very preliminary impressions in “Early Cr-48 Impressions,” posted December 20, 2010 at Whatever, after he’d had the Cr-48 for “six whole hours now.” It’s a charming set of bullets, from the matte-black look of it (and accompanying hard-to-read keytops) to the “awesome” replacement of CAPS LOCK with a search button. An interesting quick read, including the note that you can readily simulate the experience of using a Chrome OS laptop: Just do all your computing in the Chrome browser running full screen.

This is in fact a pretty accurate assessment. Basically, the experiencing of using Chrome OS is like having the browser up all the time. The good news here is that I already use the Chrome browser on a frequent basis, so there’s not too much of a learning curve. The bad news is all the annoying things about the Chrome browser are here too.

Scalzi wrote “What I’ve Learned With the Cr-48” on March 1, 2011. It’s a relatively brief and carefully thought out discussion, with four major points. He loves the form factor for a laptop—with a 12” screen, it’s halfway between his too-small netbook and large-for-a-lap 15” Toshiba. He likes the keyboard configuration. He likes the nearly-instant-on nature and generally likes Chrome OS. Then there’s #4:

BUT. At the end of the day, I have my doubts that a cloud OS is going to be the way to go. I see two major problems.

Summarizing, the first problem is that “there’s not enough there there”—Google Docs really isn’t a wholly-baked competitor to Word for long projects and once you get beyond Gmail and Google’s online suite, “it gets sketchy fairly quickly.” The second: Chrome OS might be better suited to a place like South Korea, with very fast consistent online infrastructure, than the U.S. and Canada, where broadband wireless “is relatively slow and full of all sorts of holes, gaps and dead zones.”

So in the end while I’m enjoying my Cr-48, I don’t really think of it as a fully functional computer. I think of it as an appliance to access the Internet, with a nice keyboard thrown in so I can type more easily than I can on the iPad (my other Internet appliance). I’ll take it with me when I travel, but only if I know I don’t have to do any really serious work outside of e-mail and posting online.

Personally, I’m just not interested in a cloud-based PC, but that’s me—and apparently a fair number of other people. As usual, Whatever’s commenters are generally more interesting and sane than at many other sites—but I was surprised at the number who apparently felt compelled to tell Scalzi he really should buy a Mac Air, or whatever it’s called.

Did Google succeed in getting millions of dollars worth of unpaid advertising? Probably. Jason Griffey devoted a five-part series at Perpetual beta to his experience with the freebie (not hard to find the posts), and I’m sure you can find similar streams in other areas.

Our Ads: Great. Other Ads: Terrible

Ken Fisher must love controversy, based on this ars technica article from, I guess, June 2010: “Apple’s ‘evil/genius’ plan to punk the Web and gild the iPad.” He looks at two different situations, based on Steve Jobs’ speech at last year’s Apple World Wide Developers Conference. Specifically, when Jobs defended Apple’s take-it-or-leave-it approach to approving apps for the App Store—and the convenience of iAds, “a 100 percent Apple-owned, Apple-powered advertising platform” that Apple’s called “a pillar of iOS.” So Apple’s pushing for easy, unskippable ads on the iPad, with Apple taking 40% of ad revenue. Meanwhile, Safari 5 has a great new feature: “Safari Reader removes annoying ads and other visual distractions from online articles.”

So the company that has made an advertising platform a major part of its iOS strategy is also hawking an ad-blocking technology for its Web browser, where it has no stake in ads. App Store: use our unblockable ads, developers! They help you get paid for your hard work! Web: hey, block some ads, readers! They're annoying!

After a little more discussion, we get this:

So in the end we're left with a) an open platform where Apple is willing to toy with Web publishers, modify their content presentation, and suppress their ads, and b) Apple's curated, closed platform, where everything is done by Apple's rules or it's not done at all.

On its own, a) is understandable. On its own, b) is understandable. But a) + b) = hypocrisy, unless Apple is going to allow users to suppress iAds, for free, on Apps that use iAds in the app store.

Fisher knew what he was getting into: he adds ten bullets of disclaimers and asides, including a clear definition of hypocrisy and several other issues he knew would show up in comments—including his own environment: He wrote the article using Windows 7 while listening to streaming music from his Mac Pro and his home has two iPads. And he added this update:

So the pro-Apple camp has brought me this retort: Apple's iAds just won’t be as obnoxious as the ads you find online, so there is no need to block them. My response: if the ads are so great that no one in their reasonable mind would block them, then Apple should give us the ability to block them and put this conviction to the test. What’s the risk? Apple gives users the ability to make the call on websites. Give users the ability to make the call on Apps.

A better response to that justification: Give me a break.

There are 407 comments as of this writing. I have not gone through all of them. “darconi”’s full comment is worth repeating, with the caveat that ars technica comment streams are much more reasonable than most: “Isn't it kinda sad that you need to put so many disclaimers when you publish an article critical of apple? What does that say about the fanboy environment?” Based on just the first hundred or so comments, the chief objections were that Apple’s a corporation and therefore profit is the only proper motive, and that, yep, Apple’s ads are good, so it’s not an issue.

Prima Cinema

Jacqui Cheng describes this wonderful new product/service in an ars technica piece from, I guess, December 2010: “Want to watch a first-run movie at home? $20,500 please.” That’s right: This startup, clearly aimed at high-end homeowners and their $250,000 home theaters, will charge a one-time $20,000 fee to set up a digital delivery system in your home. After that, it’s $500 per flick (not film: these are digital streams), and you can have as many people over as you like—and movies will be available on the say day they reach theaters.

The service is targeted for late 2011. Universal is on board and apparently so are some other major studios. Movie theater owners aren’t wild about this, although one comment from a NATO (National Association of Theater Owners) spokesperson is a little extreme: “Only billionaires can afford $500 per movie.” Not really; anyone worth at least, say, $10-$20 million could afford the $20K startup fee and the $500-per-movie fee.

Cheng makes the story a lot more interesting by doing a little checking: How much does it cost to take over a movie theater for a private showing of a first-run flick? She found highly variable rates depending on location, time of day, and day, but for what’s probably one of the most expensive cases—Saturday night for a brand-new movie—the prices were typically $400 to $600. (I’m guessing this is a small sample; the article notes that a Chicago chain cited $1,700 as the lowest non-matinee price, and that’s for a 140-seat minicinema.) You wouldn’t be in the comfort of your own home, but you could have a lot of friends over—and you’d avoid that $20K startup fee. Still, assuming Prima has figured out how to get a big enough digital pipe to these households, I’d guess this service would have a few thousand customers, probably enough to make an interesting business: There are a lot of multimillionaires out there. (My $250K figure for a home theater is, if anything, on the modest side. We don’t have such a theater, to be sure—or any home theater.)

50 Worst Inventions

I can’t even attempt to summarize this Time Special, but you can browse it at,29569,1991915,00.html. That link gets you to a list of links, “in no particular order.”

I suspect you could get some interesting discussions going about some of these as being “worst” inventions. While the :CueCat was a hugely expensive failure at the time (one that I thoroughly enjoyed dissing, since the notion was silly), it’s had an odd little renascence in the library field—certainly not as a success, but as something less than an abject failure. Some inclusions are fascinating (crinoline), some are fairly obvious (hydrogen blimps), some are interesting given current, possibly-faddish, use (Foursquare, Farmville) and some are simply wrong—for example, Betamax, which was a great product that ran into marketing problems (as the actual piece notes). In any case, it’s an amusing set of items.

Maylong M-150 TabletPC

Another Jacqui Cheng story on ars technica, apparently from December 2010, and this review has a surprisingly strong title: “Worst gadget ever? Ars reviews a $99 Android tablet”

Worst ever? That’s a tall order! Does this device, apparently on sale at Walgreens, live down to that claim? Here’s the second paragraph:

The Maylong M-150 TabletPC is an Android-based device sold by Walgreens for a mere $99 a pop. The obvious purpose for this tablet's existence is to appeal to bargain basement shoppers—grandmas, poor college kids, those on a tight budget—by claiming to offer a full tablet experience for cheap. I mean, it runs Android, right? That's a legit operating system nowadays. Unfortunately, the Maylong M-150 is the very epitome of "race to the bottom," and anyone looking to buy one would get more bang for the buck by setting it on fire for warmth.

The Maylong has a 7” screen with 800x480 resolution, which Cheng calls “limited” but is still pretty decent. It has 256MB RAM and 2GB storage, comes with b/g WifFi and no 3G support, weighs less than a pound…and, hmm, uses a resistive touchscreen (see earlier in this roundup). It’s all plastic, and does have a built-in camera. It comes with a stylus (loose in the carton), which you’re likely to need for a resistive screen. There’s nowhere to store the stylus. As to using it? Cheng says “doing so is basically impossible for any sane person who values their time in any way.” She calls the screen atrocious, with terrible sensitivity and inconsistent lag in response to make it hard to figure out what you’re actually doing. Cheng could never get the Maylong to stay connected to the internet long enough to download anything.

Then there’s battery life: two to three hours standby time, with an hour or less of actual usage, even with WiFi “on.” But, as Cheng says, “it's so infuriating to use, you probably would never find yourself using it for more than an hour at a time anyway.” The overall verdict: “Run screaming in the other direction.”

There’s a link at the bottom of the review to BBYOPEN, which seems to be related to Best Buy, and specifically a post “Maylong Android: more versatile than you think,” offering screenshots “showcasing the wide variety of possible uses for the Maylong tablet.” It’s quite a gallery, showing that the Maylong will make a good coaster, cutting board, mouse pad and more, including a “pretend ‘smart phone.’”

“Microsoft’s raw deal”

I think this is a small but interesting product story: To wit, Microsoft says IE10 (that’s right, 10—even though IE9 is just starting to hit the street) will only run on Windows 7, not on XP or Vista. I might not even bother to note that—it’s not going to matter for a while, for one thing—but Peter Bright’s April 2010 story at ars technica makes it a bigger deal than it should be with the title “Microsoft’s raw deal for Vista users: IE10 for Windows 7 only.”

IE9 doesn’t support XP. That seems sensible to Bright. But he thinks it’s unreasonable for Microsoft to take the latter move—and maybe that’s because, unlike most sources, Bright didn’t seem to think there was much reason to move from Vista to Windows 7. (It’s fair to say Bright viewed Vista much more favorably than most.)

Personally, I don’t get the big deal. If you’re sticking with XP, you can’t move to IE9—but IE8’s not that bad and there are, ahem, alternatives such as Chrome, Firefox and Opera. Are there tens of millions of people who are delighted with Vista, not willing to spend the money to move to Windows 7, but absolutely in need of the newest version of Internet Explorer? Somehow, that combination doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Bright makes it out to be a big deal affecting tens of millions of users. Maybe, maybe not.

RIP Flip

The full title of Mashable’s quick early-April piece is “RIP Flip Video Camera,” and that’s the message. Cisco bought Pure Digital, the company that produced the Flip—and is closing down that part of its consumer business. The Mashable take is that Flips were superseded by smartphones with builtin videocams. Maybe, maybe not. There are several other brands in the space. Perhaps Cisco just didn’t know how to run a videocam company?

Editors’ Choices and Roundups

I was bemused by the December 2010 PC World list of “Top 10 Budget Desktop PCs”; if nothing else, they show one reason I abandoned my PC price-point feature years ago. There are indeed ten desktops in the list, ranging in price from a $390 eMachines (bottom of the list) through the top-of-the-list Best Buy $589 Gateway, to an $899 HP, which stretches the definition of “budget” (the only machines over $600 are that and another HP). What I really noticed, though, is that there are three companies on the list: Acer (in the form of two Gateways, one eMachines and three Acers), Dell, and HP (both as HP and as Compaq). Three. I find that a little sad. (I should note that the January 2011 roundup of “Top 10 Budget All-in-One PCs”—and who knew there were that many all-in-ones?—represents seven companies, including Acer via Gateway, HP, MSI, Lenovo, Asus and ViewSonic.)

The February 2011 PC World has another roundup of “security packages”—suites that go beyond antivirus software. No surprise in the winner: Norton Internet Security 2011 still comes out on top. One minor surprise in the Top 10: McAfee didn’t score well enough to make it into the table at all. (Kaspersky is second, if you’re wondering.) One interesting question: How do the malware components of these suites compare to, say, Microsoft Security Essentials, which is free and remarkably unobtrusive.

Cites & Insights: Crawford at Large, Volume 11, Number 6, Whole # 141, ISSN 1534-0937, a journal of libraries, policy, technology and media, is written and produced by Walt Crawford.

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