TV-PGMarch 23, 2005: Apple settles its lawsuit against a student developer who posted prerelease copies of Mac OS X on the 'net. Meanwhile, Microsoft posts a not-so-subtle page telling customers that the ideal flash-based music player is "Anything But the iPod shuffle", and if you're having trouble with your new PowerBook's trackpad, why not just tilt your worries away?...
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Why Not Settle For Less? (3/23/05)
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Oh, sure, we know-- when it comes to Apple-related lawsuits, the drama junkie side of you pictures knock-down, drag-out courtroom brawls with Perry Mason badgering witnesses into tearful confessions, a crimson-faced hanging judge banging his gavel while threatening to clear the court and jail the lawyers for contempt, and Steve Jobs up on the stand screaming "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!" before lunging at the bailiff with teeth bared while growling like a rabid animal. Oh, to live in a perfect world! Sadly, in all but the rarest cases, the reality is far less entertaining, and in fact most of these lawsuits are settled out of court before even the possibility of fun begins to materialize.

And so it goes with one of Apple's latest suits, specifically the one in which it sued three members of the Apple Developer Connection for having leaked prerelease versions of Mac OS X via the 'net. Faithful viewer Darcy informs us that, according to Reuters, Apple just settled its beef with one of the three developers: evil BitTorrent-wielding pirate mastermind Doug Steigerwald. Presumably to comply with one of the terms of whatever deal was cut, Steigerwald has informed the press that he now realizes that his "actions were wrong" and "caused substantial harm to Apple." He has agreed to "pay an undisclosed sum to Apple" to make the suit go away so that he can focus more on being "the subject of a criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office." My oh my, what a busy guy.

This settlement doesn't bode well for drama fiends counting on rough-and-tumble courtroom fun in one of Apple's other highly visible cases, either, since Mr. Steigerwald is not only an evil BitTorrent-wielding pirate mastermind, but also a 22-year-old student. (He wears many hats, which is tricky, 'cause those big, black pirate ones are pretty huge all by themselves.) When speaking about the settlement, an Apple spokesperson ominously said that "while Apple will always protect its innovations, it is not our desire to send students to jail." That sets the stage, of course, for an imminent settlement with 19-year-old Harvard undergrad Nick Ciarelli, aka "Nick DePlume" of Think Secret, whom Apple is suing for knowingly publishing trade secrets. So if you were hoping for a bitter, drawn-out struggle in the Think Secret case, prepare for disappointment, because it sounds like Apple's in a settling mood and is dangling Doug's "pay some cash, apologize in public, cut your losses and get on with your life" deal out there like a carrot on a stick.

As for the other two developers in the Mac OS X leak case, well, they're still getting poked with the business end of the Lawsuit Stick™, but we won't be the slightest bit surprised if they take Doug's path and settle too. Sigh. Quality Apple-flavored courtroom drama really is hard to come by when everyone just wants to get along. What we need is a high-profile criminal case involving a top Apple exec, and a DA unwilling to cut a deal. Anyone with a little extra time on their hands up for framing Steve Jobs for, say, attempted murder, or high treason, or something like that? You know, just to spice things up a little bit. Just a thought. We'll even lend you a black turtleneck; who could ever tell you two apart?


 
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Need A Secret Decoder Ring (3/23/05)
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How many ways can one company tell you not to do something without ever actually telling you not to do something? Answer: six. That may sound like a lot, until you consider that the company in question is Microsoft and has untold armies of FUDmeisters in its marketing department working around the clock (at which point six sounds a little like maybe their manager was a little light with the whip that day). Faithful viewer Simone Bianconcini alerted us to a very informative page on Microsoft's Windows Media site called "Six Tips for Buying an MP3 Player with Flash Memory," and let us tell you, now that we've read it, we haven't felt this educated in minutes.

In this completely unbiased article with absolutely no underlying agenda or ulterior motive whatsoever, the Redmond Beast makes a humanitarian effort to warn you about certain pitfalls that dot the path of buying a portable digital music player, so that you don't wind up with a music device without a built-in stopwatch, which, of course, would be a fate worse than death. Here, with brief summaries of Microsoft's explanations, are the six tips that could save you from inadvertently spending all eternity in Flash Hell:

  1. Understand the basics, i.e. flash players are inherently better than hard-drive players because they don't skip unless you throw them at the water just right.
  2. Make sure you're getting all the goodies, i.e. you just won't be happy unless your player can record FM radio and includes, for some reason, a stopwatch.
  3. You'll want a display, i.e. there's no nobler way to die than by trying to change songs with a three-line, teensy-button human interface while jogging and being struck down by a Dodge Stratus.
  4. Let a professional make your next playlist, i.e. why listen to your own music when you can listen to nonstop commercials and obnoxious local DJs on FM radio? And record them digitally, so you can share that great beer jingle with your friends and loved ones?
  5. Pick the right size for you, i.e. Windows Media is great, and we just wanted to harp on that for a minute. Have we mentioned that Windows Media is great?
  6. Don't get locked into one online store; it is, however, just fine to get locked into one proprietary data format and DRM scheme-- as long as it's ours.

Interestingly enough, before it was refined into the Six Commandments you see above, an earlier draft version of the list was considerably terser. AtAT operatives have secured a copy, and it seems to imply that Microsoft might have had some sort of unstated underlying objective in mind when it put these tips together, although we're having a tough time seeing just what it might have been. Maybe you can help:

  1. Don't buy an iPod, iPod mini, or iPod photo.
  2. Don't buy an iPod shuffle.
  3. Don't buy an iPod shuffle.
  4. Don't buy an iPod shuffle.
  5. Pick the right size for you (as long as you don't buy an iPod shuffle).
  6. Don't buy an iPod of any kind whatsoever.

We know the hidden message is there, lurking just beneath the surface. Maybe these three additional tips found in another draft unearthed by faithful viewer DT will shed some light on the subject:

  1. Make sure your flash player isn't white. You don't want to get it all dirty now, do you?
  2. If your flash player has a fruit on it, you might get poisoned by insecticide.
  3. Always listen to Uncle Bill; he knows what's best for you.

Hmmmm. Nope, it's still a mystery. Impenetrable. Guess we'll never know.

Say, is that the smell of fear wafting over here from the Pacific Northwest?...


 
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Of Trackpads And Tilting (3/23/05)
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Since things are generally pretty quiet right about now, we thought we'd take a minute to square up an account or two-- you know, just to keep the karma straight. Regular viewers (well, as regular as possible given our erratic broadcast frequency of late) may recall that we recently purchased a new 15-inch PowerBook, but the last thing we mentioned about it was that the new scrolling trackpads are terrific at scrolling, and infuriating at pretty much everything else. And we're the lucky ones; all we have to contend with is the stiff-yet-mushy hardware button, a very hit-and-miss tap-to-click function, the inexplicable loss of triple-tap-drag to select contiguous words, and an occasional total lack of trackpad response for about four or five seconds at a time. Some others are seeing lots more trackpad dropouts, and even getting shocked by the thing every so often.

So all that might lead you to believe that we're unhappy with our purchase, when nothing could be further from the truth; on the contrary, the latest addition to our stable of portables is a sleek-'n'-snappy DVD-burning dynamo that's handled pretty much every task we've tossed at it with aplomb. Not a sliver of buyer's remorse creeps into our hearts, even when staring directly at the $2,299 credit card charge that acquiring this slab of solid cool heaped on top of our own personal Mound o' Debt. And so, lest you get the wrong idea about Apple's latest PowerBooks, allow us to point out one of the single coolest unpublicized features ever to grace any computer ever made by anyone ever ever ever: the Sudden Motion Sensor.

Okay, yes, Apple does publicize that every new PowerBook has a sensor capable of detecting when the unit is falling, in which case it parks the hard drive heads so they're less likely to dig into the surface of the disk and turn your data into Tossed Bit Salad. What the company doesn't tell you is that, as faithful viewer Kurt Gharbi reminds us, applications can read data from the sensors and determine how far the PowerBook is being tilted in any direction, which has led to the release of some pretty funky little demo apps, such as AMS Visualizer and Stable Window, literally the first two applications we downloaded after getting our PowerBook online. AMS Visualizer shows a window with a 3D rendering of a PowerBook; tilt your real PowerBook, and the virtual one tilts the same way. Stable Window is-- surprise!-- a window, but one that automatically rotates to remain level with the ground even as you tilt your PowerBook back and forth.

Those just scratch the surface, of course; there's also a tilt-controlled game called Bubblegym, and a quick hack that lets you skip iTunes tracks by nudging your PowerBook. And more will surely come-- maybe even software for which a tilt-controlled interface is useful instead of just wacky. After all, it's only a matter of time before someone writes a shareware app that tells you how sober you are based on how steadily you can hold your PowerBook. Right?

Which brings us full-circle to the ideal solution to the new PowerBook's trackpad woes: someone just needs to write a mouse driver that's actually tied directly to the Sudden Motion Sensor. Why drag your fingers across a boring little rectangle when you could be controlling your cursor the intuitive way, simply by tilting your PowerBook in the direction you want it to travel? To click, just smack the PowerBook sharply against a nearby wall. Need to scroll? Tie the driver to the PowerBook's microphone, too, so all you need to do is tilt while yelling "SCROOOOOOOOLLLLLLL!!!" Nothing could be more natural. Oh, sure, cases of carpal tunnel syndrome would explode (possibly literally), but just think of the Popeye-like forearms you'd develop while performing even the simplest everyday tasks. You'll never need spinach again.


 
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