Hard News by Russell Brown


Dead Elephant Frenzy

I just sat through a Digipoll survey on business telecommunications services being conducted for, I'm fairly sure, Telecom. It was a struggle. But these things always are. You're told it will take 12 minutes and, even at the best possible clip, it takes 25 – largely because you're obliged to mechanically plough through a list of exercises in rating redundant, soundalike propositions from 1 to 10.

There were a great many questions about my awareness of various Telecom IT services and some mildly interesting mentions of voicemail services, including transcriptions and what I'd be prepared to pay for them. But at no point did the survey actually seek from me what I wanted to say about my current services from Vodafone – that their billing system is messy and that their inability to make all online account services available via a single website is lamentable.

These surveys are designed to produce presentable results: how many of those results are truly useful is another matter altogether. And they are far, far too long – had I not been somewhat interested in the content of the survey I'd have bailed out after 10 minutes, as I'm sure most small businesspeople do.

Still, at least it wasn't a brand perception survey. If I never again have to say how much a certain petrol station chain "cares about the community" on a scale of 1 to 10 it'll still be too soon.


I was cursing not getting to Magnum Mac in Wellington on Saturday, but it turned out it didn't matter anyway. The only shop in the country that had Mac OS Snow Leopard in stock was Magnum Mac's swanky Newmarket store.

So on Sunday morning, I phoned the Newmarket store to check they had Apple's new operating system. It's running out the door, the young man said. They had five copies left of the five-user family pack, which was pretty good value at $99. (It's just a shame that the half-price sale of Mario Batali cast-iron cookware in the Rialto centre on the way back added $115 to the price of the outing. But you should see how big and deep my new sauté pan is.)

Warning: what follows is subject to a fanboi alert.

Installation was, predictably, a breeze, and, as advertised, finished up with more than 10GB extra of free disk space. It's not really a bug-fix release, as some are suggesting: more a code-optimisation release. The Mac OS Finder, for one, is sharply quicker.

It does seem likely that the optimisation – and the introduction of under-the-hood features to facilitate the use of multiple processors and allow CPU tasks to be shared with graphics processors – is aimed at setting up the OS for what comes next. Which is cool.

But the answer to my question about what QuickTime Pro users get out of the new QuickTime X is very mixed. I've played with a couple of the Snow Leopard betas and noticed that the ability to both edit and export video had been dumbed down. Or, rather, re-orientated towards the needs of the average user – so there are easy options for posting to YouTube or Mobile Me, but no way of exporting to DV, which is something I do every week for the TV show. The new iPhone-alike "Trim" feature is also a poor substitute for being able to select and edit video in the old player.

The mercy is that QuickTime Pro users get a special version of QuickTime Player 7 installed in their Utilities folder. But that doesn't take advantage of the new and better API of QuickTimeX. Indeed, that's the point: QuickTime 7 needs to be there to avoid breaking all the third-party applications that rely on the old API. I hope this gets sorted sooner rather than later.

Having blagged a copy of Office 2008 (an irritatingly bad install) to replace my non-compatible Office 2004, I struck compatibility problems only with iStat Menus (an excellent system monitoring utility that I'd be delighted to pay for) and Azureus (a problem opening files with a drag-and-drop workaround).

I haven't installed Snow Leopard on my MacBook yet, but it looks like I'll get access to three-finger multi-touch commands.

Subject to conflicts with third-party software (largely the fault of developers who haven't caught up with new APIs), I'd recommend this update to anyone using an Intel Mac. (Just quietly, and contrary to Apple's PR, it appears you can install it over Mac OS 10.4 Tiger.) See Macintouch and Mark Webster's Mac-NZ site for more advice.

Fanboi alerts for the next little while include a new line of iPods on September 9, possibly with iTunes 9 (which boasts a belated embrace of social media features), and then The Thing. Mebbe a meaningful upgrade to Apple TV would be in order?


I had no idea what was happening when I pulled out of our street yesterday morning, but clearly it was something big. The streets of Pt Chevalier were filling up the way they only do for Pasifika, and more so than for a major concert at Western Springs. Out on the main road, I could see streams of families: thirtysomethings and their families; the parents just of the age to have been captured by the legend of Kashin the elephant as small children themselves. They were heading for The Zoo. It was Dead Elephant Frenzy.

It got, frankly, mental. The Western Springs exit of the northwestern motorway was badly backed up, and the eastbound lanes turned into a car park for some time, possibly as the result of an accident. But, even if it meant nothing to me, Kashin's passing was clearly a take-your-kids moment for very many Aucklanders, who hung on even through several downpours. It's clearly a cultural touchstone I missed through not growing up in the city where I live.

Did else reading go? How was it?


And finally: in tomorrow's Media7 recording we'll be exploring the "smacking" debate in the news media with Brian Edwards, Larry Baldock and the Herald on Sunday's Matt Nippert, who revealed last week that Focus on the Family New Zealand has received a million dollars in funding from its US affiliate in the past six years.

We'll also take a look at the US healthcare "debate" with Tracey Barnett and John Dybvig.

If you'd like to join us we'd need you at TVNZ from 5pm tomorrow. Hit "reply" and let me know.

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