TV-PGOctober 21, 2003: If you put your mind to it, you just might be able to score a retail copy of Panther a few days early. Meanwhile, Apple takes definite steps toward expanding the iTunes Music Store north of the border, and Microsoft tests the terms of its antitrust settlement as the Justice Department watches, worries and even complains...
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Smells Like Teen Panther (10/21/03)

Something special's in the wind, people, and it's so close we can smell it! Can't you just smell it? Go on, grab yourself a lungful-- treat those nostrils. Snnnffffffffahhhhhhhhhhh! Unless we're sorely mistaken, that's the smell of Panther approaching, kids, and it's only three days away. That scent marks the impending end of an agonizing months-long wait and the imminent Exposé-ing of Mac users the whole world over. (Those with delicate sensibilities should avert their eyes.) Yes, that heady aroma will just keep getting stronger and stronger, until finally on Friday night at 8 we won't just be able to smell Panther; we'll also be able to see it, touch it, buy it, install it, and yes, even lick it. This is one odor that portends Great Things!

Oh, wait... that's not the smell of Panther approaching after all. It seems that we accidentally used Butter Flavor PAM as spray-on deodorant this morning. Never mind.

Great, now we smell like popcorn.

It's actually kinda nice, though.

Anyway, our point is that in just three short days Apple will be taking Mac OS X to its next big level-- and if you're really lucky, it's possible that you might score a copy a little bit early. According to AppleInsider, "a small number of Apple's select retail partners have reportedly received shipments of the Panther OS, though they are prohibited from distributing copies to customers until Friday evening." To which we can say only this: bribery, bribery, bribery! Or blackmail. Or possibly threats of physical violence. The point is, your local Mac resellers may have copies of Panther stashed in the back even as you read this, and there are all sorts of ways to "persuade" them to "forget" about that embargoed-'til-Friday mandate.

Then again, there's a decent chance that you'll be able to snag Panther a couple of days early without having to resort to unwholesome shenanigans at all. You might recall that when Mac OS X 10.0 first came out lo these many moons ago, it was officially released on Saturday, March 24th; however, apparently no one bothered to tell Staples that, because they had copies on the shelves as early as the previous Tuesday night. Staples doesn't appear to carry Mac operating systems anymore-- the wrath of Steve?-- but if you've really got a jones for Panther and you don't want to do anything borderline-illegal to get it early (oh, you're no fun anymore), you might consider scouting the shelves at big retailers likely to forget about the not-'til-Friday decree without your help.

Personally, we think we can wait until Friday night. Indeed, even though we've got a Family Pack on pre-order, we're planning to send an AtAT staff member or two to Night of the Panther anyway, just to witness the crazed throngs, hand out AtAT stickers, and get a chance to win a free iMac. We haven't decided if we're going to do Cambridgeside or Northshore yet, but we'll let you know. We can just smell the excitement!

Wait a minute... that's not excitement...

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Great White North Boogie (10/21/03)

Okay, we decline to mention how we know this ("We plead the fifth! The fifth, we tell you!"), but if you've ever wondered whether laundering money through iTunes gift certificates would allow Canadians (and anyone else) to circumvent the iTunes Music Store's "must have a credit card with a U.S. billing address" technical bugaboo, wonder no more-- it wouldn't. Trust us. Now, the Allowance feature, on the other hand, might be a different story; we're not saying that it is, mind you, but any feature intended to allow the kids to buy songs without access to Mom and Dad's plastic might indeed provide a means by which ruthless foreign Terms of Use scofflaws could patronize the iTMS via an allowance given by a U.S. "parent."

Just a little thought experiment to chew on-- we certainly aren't suggesting that any impatient Canucks should actually try this, of course, since even if it technically works, it'd still be a violation of the iTunes user license ("recipients must reside in the U.S."). If you live in Canada and you want to buy downloadable music from Apple, what you should do, of course, is obvious: simply wait for Canada to be annexed as the 51st state.

Or we suppose you could just wait for the iTMS to come to Canada. New evidence even suggests that might actually happen first. Maybe.

It's aboot time, eh? So rejoice, Canadian Mac fans; Apple really is taking active steps to bring the iTMS north of the border, and we're finally seeing the first real proof of that effort. Faithful viewer Russell Gordon tipped us off to a situation described over at MacRumors: David Basskin, the president of the Canadian Musical Reproduction Rights Agency, has publicly stated that "the process of negotiating a licensing deal with Apple is now under way." He met with Apple reps just last week, and reportedly Steve Jobs told him that "Apple couldn't wait to come to Canada" and that getting the iTMS into the Land of Degrassi was "a very high priority for him."

So it should happen any minute now, right? Well, except that the CMRRA only deals with reproduction licensing for songs; Apple still needs to deal with the labels to license the actual recordings of the songs. We aren't at all sure, but we figure that might happen through the Canadian Recording Industry Association-- think RIAA but with more hockey fans (and hopefully a lot more sense). As far as we can tell, Apple hasn't actually contacted the CRIA yet, but since it wouldn't make a whole lot of sense to license a recording of a song until securing a license for the song itself, we figure the CRIA will get a phone call as soon as Apple concludes negotiations with the CMRRA. All things in good time, eh?

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Tales Of The Implausible (10/21/03)

So is everyone digging the new fall shows? It's a magical time of year, you know, what with all the new televisual neatness saturating the airwaves. (New episodes of "The Brak Show" alone are enough to put a spring in our step.) That said, occasionally new series crop up that we just don't buy even for a second, and we're not just talking about that insipid and monumentally incompetent remake of "Coupling." Here's the part where we all say "ha" a lot: believe it or not, "Redmond Justice" is back, this time in a warmed-over sequel spinoff with a premise so ludicrous it makes "Baywatch Nights" look like E freakin' R.

Yes, folks, it's "Redmond Justice 2: A Spine Grows In Washington," in which we're supposed to believe that the Justice Department has returned to its classic first-season roots. You remember the old DoJ, right? Filing the antitrust suit in the first place? Sending David "I Ate Three Companies Less Anticompetitive Than You For Breakfast" Boies to make Microsoft the laughingstock of the courtroom? Seeking a conviction, and getting it? Seeking a Microsoft breakup order, and getting that too? Yeah, you remember all that great stuff.

Of course, the show dragged on so long that once the White House changed hands, the DoJ suddenly went all jellyfish on us; despite having proved that Microsoft did in fact violate the Sherman Antitrust Act (a finding that stood upon appeal, we might add), the feds eventually opted for a settlement with Redmond that, as far as remedies go, ranked right up there with trying to put out a forest fire with a Super Soaker and a "Fire Is Bad" t-shirt. "Toothless" was a word that came up a lot when people discussed the terms of Microsoft's penance. We instead opted for "brainless," but hey, that's just us.

Well, get this: according to the Associated Press, Microsoft is all-too-predictably violating even the terms of that "toothless" settlement; reportedly when one clicks on Windows XP's "Shop for Music Online" button, the resulting web page pops up in Internet Explorer, even if the user had previously specified, say, Netscape as his or her default browser; that's apparently a no-no according to the settlement terms. That part we believe. The bit we find far-fetched is that the DoJ reportedly had enough backbone to have "formally complained to a federal judge" about the alleged infraction. Strains believability just a tad, wouldn't you say? Maybe they hid behind the 19 state attorneys general when they did it.

Assuming that it's true, the DoJ and the attorneys general have asked a judge to intervene "if the dispute isn't resolved by week's end," but given that the judge in question is the same Colleen Kollar-Kotelly who approved the slap-on-the-wrist settlement in the first place, the most we expect is some finger-wagging, a sly wink, and an indulgent smile. Even if you ignore the outlandish premise, the plot's a little thin; frankly, we don't expect this show to last through Thanksgiving.

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