March 15, 2006
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Our far-flung correspondents

We had the good fortune to go to school with Darlene Lieblich Tipton, who spent three decades as an executive with a couple of television networks and is now spending her time as a film producer. Her website is River City Entertainment; her first film, Heart of the Beholder, is based on the story of a family who stood up to a group of religious zealots over the banning of Martin Scorsese's The Last Temptation of Christ.

We asked Darlene to take a quick look at a story about a film that will be released as an Internet download shortly after it premieres in theaters. One of the producers of 10 Items or Less, Lori McCreary, says that the strategy of making the film available online will allow more people to see her film.

Darlene's take: "The "10 Items" thing is a total gimmick; however, the future of the film industry is in internet downloads. Blockbuster is nearly defunct; Netflix has a few more years, but why would you bother when the movie of your choice is ALWAYS available for a nominal fee, to be paused, rerun, slo-moed -- in fact, everything that you can do with a DVD player? In some cases you can even burn the film to DVD if you prefer.

"And why is this my take? Our film IS available for download, both for short-term or for DVD burning.

"They predicted the end of the movie theater when television came along. It didn't happen. I don't see it happening now. They also predicted the end of the world with the home video market, which in fact is what has kept Hollywood afloat all these years. This is just the next logical step in the evolution of home video."

Asked what would become of movie theaters -- both the large multiplexes and the smaller ones in rural areas, Darlene expects that many will survive for a number of reasons: "I suspect that, oddly enough, the non-urban theaters will survive -- simply because of the lack of other social amenities. Where can a guy take a girl on a safe date? There aren't a lot of concerts, malls, or other venues [in rural areas] that are available in cities. We've already had a couple of small (i.e, small multiplex) theaters go out of business in our area [the Los Angeles area]. The mega-complexes remain, primarily because they're in malls, theme parks, or other areas where people would congregate anyway, for dining, shopping, and other entertainment. The smaller stand-alones are fading fast.

"In places like rural California, there IS no other entertainment. So IMHO they've got a future, even with downloads."

Take a look at Heart of the Beholder; it's a fine piece of work.

When the news media ARE the news

Headline: McClatchy buys Knight-Ridder

California has always been a strong newspaper state, with solid organizations that have always done a good job of covering their local turf -- the hallmark of a paper that is committed to being profitable and good. So it came as a bit of a surprise a few weeks back when the Knight-Ridder company, owners of the San Jose Mercury-News, came under pressure to either raise the price of their stock or sell their newspapers.

What is more of a surprise is that the new owners, the McClatchy chain, will turn around and sell off the Merc to someone else. Not that the Sacramento Bee is a bad paper -- it's actually always been pretty good -- but we can't imagine how unloading the Merc is a good move. It has stronger writers and editors, and it's right in what is arguably the center of California's economic universe.

We also saw, last week, an interesting discussion unfold due to the Associated Press's decision to offer videoclips using Microsoft's MSN video technology. For the news organizations that will be using it, it's an interesting dichotomy, since most of them use Macintosh equipment and software to produce not only their print and television versions, but their online versions as well.

It goes without saying that Microsoft has a vested interest in helping AP; it forces visitors to websites to keep Internet Explorer around, and since it's still the dominant player in the browser market, it also makes sense that AP wouldn't have an objection to using what Microsoft considers to be the technology that would logically dominate in the future. More to the point, the Microsoft system comes with a built-in revenue source, which makes it easier for AP to pass along to its members; its members won't object, because they get their hands wet in the revenue stream as well.

What doesn't make a lot of sense is that AP is telling one out of five viewers (and a lot higher percentage of its clients) that it MUST use a browser made by a company with a long history of paying lip service to web standards. Most people worth their salt in the web design/programming business want their sites to work no matter which browser or which platform is viewing it; news organizations want as many people as possible to see their websites as well.

The $64,000 question is whether one believes (somewhat cynically) that Microsoft's virtual monopoly on both operating systems and browsers can be maintained, or whether open source software and/or web-based applications will eventually become the standard -- and how Microsoft, given its dominant position -- will react.

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All your data are belong to us

There were several little items that came across our desk last week that, taken separately, are blips on the radar screen, but taken together, amount to quite a sizeable hill of beans.

The first was Google's acquisition of the company that makes Writely, an online word processing system. Then there were more than a few blog posts about GDrive, Google's plan for online storage. And the Desktop Search, in and of itself, doesn't really bother us that much -- especially if Redmond considers it a threat to its dominance of the world's desktop computers. Of course we use Windows software, but that doesn't mean we like the idea of seeing the Yankees win the World Series every year.

But put all of that into the context of a Department of Justice subpoena, and all of a sudden, the idea of all of one's information being stored where someone else controls access to it doesn't seem like such a good idea. It's all well and good to put legal barriers to the uses and availability of such information; that has never stopped governments (and even companies and private parties) from ignoring those barriers. To be fair, Google isn't fighting the subpoena on privacy grounds, but rather on trade secrets grounds, but still, the matter brings into focus what information is being kept on the web and who has access to it.

We don't trust governments; call it the legacy of a skirmish that started in the latter half of the 18th century. Governments are about control and self-preservation; much of what the US Constitution is about has to do with what government shouldn't be allowed to do. As a species, though, we seem to be genetically encrypted with both the instinct to organize ourselves, and once we've done that, the instinct to see the fruits of our social creations maintained; after all, when was the last time you heard of a government program or office being shut down? (One of our college professors used to insist that somewhere in Washington DC, there is a company that is an official maker-of-Presidential-buggy-whips.)

But we're learning that we can't trust big companies very much either. It's not that we think the people who run Google or Microsoft are evil people; in fact, we'd argue that there is a lot of evidence to the contrary, although the jury is still out on Steve Ballmer. But we do know that the people who ran Enron had no qualms about stealing billions of dollars -- there's something about those zeroes to the left of the decimal point that causes another instinct to kick in.

Of far greater concern, though, is that a big company with a lot of information is a target for someone. Last week, CitiBank blocked transactions in the United Kingdom, Canada and Russia following a breach of security by a third-party company. A story the next day says that the breach is more widespread than had previously been revealed, as it wasn't just the cards that were stolen, but the personal identification numbers as well. That means the thieves didn't even have to go through the exercise of phishing for PINs.

Tip from the Moderators: Three more from Community Support

You've just gotten your first certificate, and you want to print it out so that it has your real name, and not your username, appears on it. Easy: Edit your profile so your real name appears in the text boxes, and check the box that says "Display my Personal Settings." Then submit the form. Then, when you print the certificate, your real name will appear. Remember to change it back (if you want) after you're done.

There's been some discussion about how to award points for a question where you didn't get a complete answer, but want to give some of the Experts some help. Technically, when you ask the question, you offer the points based on what you think the question is worth -- which has nothing to do with the Answer. You give your evaluation of the Answer with the grade; just remember that a C is the lowest grade you can give, so it's common practice (and polite behavior) to at least explain a C grade if you feel compelled to give one. Most Experts would rather see the question deleted (post a request in Community Support) than have a C grade on their record. They'll generally also try to help improve the grade by giving you more information.

That means you should be very careful about how you ask your question. If you ask "can I use a form to submit information to a database?", the answer is Yes -- but that doesn't tell you how to do it. It's still a correct answer, however. You should also be aware that "you can't do that" is sometimes a correct answer as well -- even if you don't want to hear it.

One final request from the Mods: when you're posting to the Community Support topic area, please include the URL to the question you want them to look at.

Page Two: More News and Notes
Nata's Corner: Teach your children... please

woman in specticalsI've been a mom longer than I've been a computer user. Everyone who has read my column over the last few weeks knows I've been concerned about MySpace and some of the stuff that happens to young people who post too much personal information, or who get involved with the wrong kind of people.

Well, there's some good news. A group of boys in Fontana, California, created a MySpace profile to cheer up one of their friends who had recently broken up with his girlfriend. The profile attracted the attention of a man who wanted to meet the "young lady" at a local park; instead, the boys called police, who arrested the man. In a story that made the television news, police charged him with "attempted molestation of a minor" -- which opens a whole new can of worms. Just by showing up, did he really commit a crime? I'm glad I'm not going to be on the jury to have to decide that one.

It's going to get worse for parents before it gets better, though. For one thing, NBC is turning this into what is almost a weekly primetime TV show. I'm not so cynical to suggest that NBC is trying to pick on MySpace, even though the website is owned by one of its rivals: NewsCorp, which owns the Fox TV network. But I will say that I don't know if it's a good idea for Cingular and other wireless companies to be developing mobile communities geared towards young people. It's hard enough to keep track of what they're doing now.

Maybe this will help (make sure your browser allows popups to see this video).

Inside the numbers
ameba, one of EE's prominent Experts, provides us with a list of newly earned Certificates. His list of all of the Certified Experts is located at his site. The list below covers the period from February 27 through March 13.
Expert Certified in Topic Area
mbizup jimpen Sayedaziz netcool Datrias MikeToole angelIII zzzzzooc amit_g bukko aneeshattingal mherchl PaulBarbin LPurvis ralmada nurbek leew giltjr r_naren22atyahoo keith_alabaster calvinetter Lilshooter Abs_jaipur MarkDozier GavinMannion andycwk fizch pravinasar Niversoft cpc2004 jkr carl_legere rsivanandan burrcm jss1199 Wizard Wizard Wizard Master Master Master Sage Sage Guru Master Guru Guru Guru Master Master Wizard Wizard Guru Guru Guru Master Master Master Master Guru Master Master Wizard Master Wizard Guru Master Master Master Master MS Access MS Access MS Access MS Access MS Access MS Access Visual Basic Visual Basic Visual Basic Visual Basic Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL Microsoft SQL ASP Networking Networking Networking Networking Networking Networking Networking Networking ASP.NET ASP.NET ASP.NET JavaScript JavaScript Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP Windows XP Exchange_Server
Expert Certified in Topic Area
rakeshmiglani FernandoSoto bruintje existenz2 BigRat FernandoSoto Sancler S-Twilley YZlat appari aykrishna wtconway bramsquad TheCleaner robberbaron wwwally irwinpks amit_g Roonaan deepaknet bglodde jmelika Zyloch JB04 LoNeRaVeR9 tmharvey Infinity08 jhshukla war1 pushpakumara adamdrayer vmaheen Gnart jvuz aneeshchopra Master Guru Master Master Master Sage Sage Wizard Master Master Master Master Master Guru Master Master Master Wizard Guru Master Master Master Guru Master Guru Guru Master Master Genius Master Wizard Master Master Master Guru Exchange_Server C# C# C# Delphi VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET VB.NET Windows Server 2003 Windows Server 2003 Windows Server 2003 Hardware Web Development Web Development Web Development Web Development Web Development PHP PHP Excel Excel C++ C++ Outlook Outlook Microsoft Network Microsoft Network Operating Systems Operating Systems Flash
Expert Certified in Topic Area
Cerf DavidCrossman brettmjohnson mgh_mgharish leew ljo8877 Roonaan a_twixt_in_the_tale burrcm smiffy13 PeteLong rpggamergirl dylanyee Pentrix2 hstiles bloodredsun GrahamSkan caterham_www blue_zee jason1178 suhashegde ravenpl duncan_roe oBdA sandeep_patel ShineOn amit_g shuboarder wyliecoyoteuk periwinkle TechSoEasy sjm_ee lherrou ECollin mrichmon Guru Master Master Master Wizard Master Guru Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Master Genius Genius Wizard Guru Master Master Master Master Guru Master Genius Wizard Master Guru Guru Master Master Master Master Master Flash Flash Linux PHP and Databases Storage CSS HTML HTML Desktops Desktops Desktops Security Crystal Reports Routers WinNT Net. JSP Word Apache Browser Issues DreamWeaver FoxPro Linux Setup Linux Prog. Windows NT PowerBuilder Netware Web Languages MultiMedia Apps Printers Hosting Sharepoint AIX IBMs UNIX OS Fonts Weblogic Web Dev. Software
1969 experts have 3286 certifications: Genius:85 Sage:148 Wizard:204 Guru:583 Master:2266
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