Your Tech Night Owl Newsletter — Issue #963

Gene Steinberg

Forum Super Hero
Staff member
***Issue #963***
May 14, 2018


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After suffering through cyber hacks in the past two months — I may have been targeted — I have become more and more interested in credit bureaus and the horrible support they provide, after confronting the horrible support for a former bank. Barbara has spent hours on the phone clearing up her scrambled credit records, where some data has been mixed up with a totally different person, with a similar name. Obviously they have different social security numbers, but it has taken months to sort things out.

I’ll spare you the details. The long and short is that we both see frightening evidence of incompetence. Businesses depend on the three major credit bureaus in the U.S. to give them accurate data, so they can decide whether or not to grant credit to someone. If there’s incorrect derogatory information, you can be denied credit even though you didn’t do anything wrong.

While there is a normal procedure for correcting errors, and the bureaus are supposed to act within 30 days, that deadline isn’t always followed. Instead you get excuses, such as the inability to confirm your home address, and you have to go through the process of giving them that information, answering a range of security questions to confirm you’re the right person, and then repeating it again a few times before it “takes.”

In any case, on this week’s episode of The Tech Night Owl LIVE, we met Major General (Ret) Earl D. Matthews: He spent three decades at the nexus of big budgets and cybersecurity, including stints as Director, Cyberspace Operations and Chief Information Security Officer at HQ, U.S. Air Force, and VP for Enterprise Security Solutions at Hewlett-Packard. In his current role as Senior VP and Chief Strategy Officer at Verodin, Inc., he champions the concept of security instrumentation, a process that continuously validates the effectiveness of each security element in place. During this episode, he covered a gamut of cybersecurity issues that included the privacy issues at Facebook, the DNC hack, along with managing your personal privacy at a time when tens of millions of Americans have had their credit reports hacked. Major General Matthews also revealed two episodes of ID theft that impacted his own family.

So even if you’re a former Air Force Major General who is a cybersecurity guru, you may confront hackers. I particularly enjoyed this interview, by the way. He’s a personable gentleman, down to earth, and fun to talk to.

You also heard from tech columnist and former industry analyst Joe Wilcox, who writes for BetaNews. During this episode, Joe explained why he regards Apple’s Siri voice assistant as worse than Microsoft’s Skype, despite all the connection glitches with the latter. Will hiring former Google executives help Apple make Siri more responsive and accurate, without sacrificing your security? You also heard about Google I/O and Android P, and about all those fake news reports that the iPhone X was a failure. For two quarters straight, however, Apple reported that the iPhone X was not only its best selling smartphone for each week it was on sale, but the hottest selling smartphone on the planet. Gene shared his 20 years experience with the iMac, which began with the original Bondi Blue model that he beta tested for Apple as part of the former Customer Quality Feedback (CQF) program. You also heard about the Apple Watch and whether it makes sense for Apple to switch Macs from Intel to ARM CPUs.

On this week’s episode of our other radio show, The Paracast: Gene and very special cohost Don Eckerobserve the May 6, 2018 passing of prolific author Brad Steiger, at the age of 82. They are joined by two author/researchers who knew Steiger well: Jerome Clark and Kevin D. Randle. The discussion begins by remembering their first meetings and ongoing association with Steiger, and segues into the seldom-revealed limitations of writing books covering the UFO genre and similar subjects. You’ll also hear forthright discussions about the value of Steiger’s research, pop culture, the world of sci-fi and other topics.


Having used Apple gear for over 30 years, I realize there’s no such thing as perfection. Different models had different glitches that sometimes required extending the warranty to cover repairs.

That didn’t happen with such models as the Macintosh IIcx, the first personal computer that I brought into my home, after using Macs at the office for a few years. But floppy drive failures were frequent, because it appeared that the cooling system drew in the dust rather than push it away. I remember the office admin, Adam, took on the task of repairing Macs, with my help, and he constantly complained about the poor design.

My IIcx never developed any problems, or maybe our home wasn’t a dust magnet. Regardless, the first Mac I owned that exhibited a product defect was my PowerBook 5300ce, the first model with a PowerPC CPU. It was expensive, late to market due to an early battery defect, and a source of constant annoyance.

An adhesive kept leaking from the screen bezel at the bottom of the display. My PowerBook made two or three visits to Apple’s repair depot to fix that glitch before I sold it off, with fair warning to the new owner about its limitations. He returned it to Apple for one more repair before selling it to someone else. I never heard of its fate after that.

While there were other Apple products that received extended repair treatment due to persistent defects, one the also comes to mind after is the iMac G5, which was first introduced in 2004 before being replaced by a model with Intel Inside in 2006. It had a penchant to suffer from a defective power supply, and Apple made moves to do right by its customers.

But a client, a graphic artist, hadn’t gotten the memo and thus paid hundreds of dollars to a repair shop to fix his out-of-warranty unit. When he called me over to fix a system problem, he told me about the problem, and I informed him of the repair program. He contacted Apple about it after the power supply failed yet again. His iMac was repaired free this time, and Apple arranged for him to get a refund for the original repair. The shop he sent it to was authorized, and thus should not have charged him.

It has since gone out of business, but that was probably more about the expansion of Apple Stores throughout the Phoenix metro area.

In any case, nobody should expect every single part in every Apple gadget to always run flawlessly. There are occasional chronic defects, and Apple will usually agree to set up a repair program to address such problems.

That take us to the controversial short-travel butterfly keyboards that debuted in the 2015 MacBook and the 2016 MacBook Pro. It’s become the subject of the latest class action lawsuit, which was filed in the Northern District of California.

The plaintiffs claim that these ultra-thin keyboards suffer from an unusual number of early failures, and that, if the notebook’s warranty has expired, customers must pay for the replacement. They demand that Apple admit to the design flaw and agree to replace such keyboards free of charge.

So far, there are only two parties in this lawsuit. One would expect more if there have been frequent failures of the keyboards on a computer that has sold in the millions. But one piece of evidence in favor of the claim of a defect is a story in AppleInsider claiming that the butterfly keyboards fail twice as often as the ones on older models with scissor keyboards.

This may, of course, be true. For now it can be used as fodder for a lawsuit.

Now I don’t own a recent Mac notebook. My MacBook Pro was acquired in 2010, and it still runs fine. Since I have mostly used it while it was connected to a power outlet, the original battery still registers as healthy.

I do have a Magic Keyboard, however, a unit with similar butterfly keys. It was actually a warranty replacement for my iMac’s original keyboard. I bought it to a nearby Apple Store, and persuaded the Genius that I couldn’t wait for them ship a replacement when they didn’t have one in stock. He brought out a Magic Keyboard and sent me on my way.

Despite the shorter key travel, I like it just fine. It continues to work flawlessly, but that doesn’t mean it won’t fail someday without warning. In any case, I remain unimpressed with that lawsuit. If there is a problem with early failures on these keyboards, I am confident Apple will do the right thing.


The Tech Night Owl Newsletter is a weekly information service of Making The Impossible, Inc.

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