Hard News by Russell Brown

Crisis at the Herald!!

Apparently. Having spent half the week calling his PA several times a day to try and get an answer on whether the New Zealand Herald's managing editor Gavin Ellis could speak briefly to Mediawatch about his paper's redesign and new weekend magazine, I was told late yesterday he would be available at 10am this morning, by phone.

This is outside our usual production window, but we made the necessary arrangements, waited and called at 10am. He was in a meeting "with eight people", we were told, but could be out in five to 10 minutes. We waited, tying up busy studios in Auckland and Wellington, until 11am, when after yet another call, we were told he wouldn't be available at all. He had gone into another meeting and would likely have meetings until the afternoon, when he would be going out. There was, we were told "a crisis".

One would hope so. I realise the managing editor of the country's largest newspaper will be busy, but so are all of us. On the understanding that an interview would actually take place, we spent an hour waiting, rather than looking to fill the show.

When "soon" eventually became "never", we didn't even have time to reclaim some of the material we'd cut from an interview with a Middle Eastern media analyst, or to record some more script. As a result, our 24-minute programme will be only 17 minutes long this Sunday. Sorry about that.

Anyway, Sony sprung a surprise this week - it showed off the first consumer-level blu-ray recorder:

Blu-ray uses a blue laser to record data on discs, while CD and DVD systems use red lasers. Blue lasers have a shorter wavelength than red - when means a smaller area on the surface of a disc is needed to store one bit of data. So that means much greater capacity - like 23GB, or two hours of full-whack DV, or four hours of digital broadcast quality video. And it's out next month. If there's a civil war within Sony, then I think the hardware side just won.

Most people had expected the blu-ray recorders to be held back until a little closer to the release of the PlayStation 3. That jaw-droppingly ambitious project posits a whole new model for computing design: one in which you scale up from a handheld to a server simply by adding more processors.

With the PS 3, Sony will apparently put 72 processors on a single chip: eight Cell chips - each composed of a IBM PowerPC microprocessor controlling eight auxiliary processors. The architecture is such that if it needs more processing power, the PS 3 just reaches out across the network to other Cell devices and borrows a little CPU time.

Well, that's the theory anyway. I'm not quite convinced they can pull it off - certainly not the whole enchilada at once. But I'm glad they're trying.

Interestingly, such cell or grid computing is already big in Japan. Their economy might be in a permanent yawning fit, but the Japanese perspective on IT continues to serve the world well.

And hey, Apple Computer is about to launch its own digital download music service for Mac and iPod users. The big five record companies (with the possible exception of Sony) are on board - even though Apple is proposing to protect their music with something other than trussed-up, Big Brother, Microsoft-style DRM. Steve, I love you man …

And finally, a judge has declined to send Ike Finau to jail for refusing to obey council bylaws and take down his signs - because proceedings in court had led him to believe that Finau is being manipulated by others and is "but a pawn in a game being played out by others, using him for their own ends …In short, the persons truly responsible for his defiance of the court's order are not before the court."

Brian Rudman is annoyed. But if Finau really is being used the way the judge says he is, I think it's sad. Not entirely surprising - given the form of the people involved - but sad …