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Quick review of ratings: Five Stars: Means Must Have. Worth killing for. Four Stars: Very close to being worth killing for, but is somehow flawed, Three Stars: Take it or leave it. Professional, but without passion or feeling. Two Stars: Should only be read for free at Borders or Barnes and Noble. One Star: Not worth reading for free at Borders or Barnes and Noble.


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Maximum PC, August 1999

3.4 stars out of Five

Nothing earthshaking appeared in the newest issue of Maximum PC, but there were some interesting bits in the margins.

There’s a section they have that’s called Spin Cycle. It’s sort of like the Conventional Wisdom column that I believe appears in either Newsweek or Time (Who can tell the difference?) (They had matching Blair Witch covers this week. It's all a part of the conspiracy.)

Turns out that the Playstation 2 is under government scrutiny because its chip, which is reportedly about 3 times as powerful as a PIII, could be used for nefarious purposes. For a long time I’ve known that the passion that drives game designers were pushing them beyond what business app producers were doing (Face it: What would you rather design for, Excel or Quake?) Or as is noted in the mag: "Gee we had no idea that the Playstation was so powerful. We wonder when PC Technology will finally catch up?"

In that same section there was also some commentary about the court ruling that declared RIO legal. It ended with a tough warning for the music industry "Let the music begin. You can’t stop change with lawsuits. Innovate or get out of the way."

As for their lead story on networking, I came away thinking that USB was the way to go because of accessibility and the low costs. The article gives pretty thorough reviews on all the options on phoneline, wireless, classic ethernet and USB networking options. So, if you’re tired of carting around floppies from one computer to another by hand to get access to your lone printer, then this might interest you.

In the opinion and editorial department, there was also a very good piece about in defense of video games in the aftermath of Columbine. He trots out the usual common sense arguments about if the games create killers, then why isn’t Japan awash in blood? I found his arguments persuasive. But then again, Max PC is a tech magazine with a focus on gaming and gaming performance as it relates to hardware. The columnist, T. Liam McDonald is probably preaching to the converted.

 

 

PC Magazine, Sept. 1, 1999

3.0 out of 5

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I must confess:I don’t find reading PC Magazine to be enjoyable. I would not, for example, compare it to sex, or an imaginative Baskins Robbins flavor. I don’t read PC Magazine as so much slog through it, imagining that the Nazis will win if I don't endure the torture and finish every painfully researched article word by word. I guess I have to read it because I’m in the industry, but does tech writing have to be this dull?

So, anyway, now that I’ve shared my pain with you, this was another workmanlike and professional issue of PC magazine. If you’re not up on computer security issues, I suggest that you take a look at this week's lead story entitled "Protect Yourself (And your business) online". But you can actually check out these particular stories online.

I suppose it’s my job to look at what else is in the magazine, or what isn't a double click away. As always, I find the small bits of info to be the most interesting. There was a piece explaining how it might be cheaper to connect fiber optics directly into the home. If that were proven to be so, then that would make for an incredible internet experience. It might even lead to the holy grail: Television like quality over the internet.

Dvorak was also very interesting as usual in his dual columns. I find that his are the only pieces that I find myself reading all the time. His dissection of Iridium was very entertaining. He’s the only person writing for the magazine who I sense isn’t worried about advertisers might think or can at least write independently. Everything else seems to be written by professional "consensus". The magazine feels overedited. Like reading the yellow pages.

Look, there was more stuff in this issue, including an informative piece about a new Microsoft utility that lets users share a single ISP connection, but I don't feel like I’m paid enough to talk about it. Go to the bookstore and check it out for yourselves. I mean, the Yellow Pages ain’t writing. Factual, yes. Storytelling, no.

 

Business 2.0, August 1999

4.0 out of 5

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And now for something completely different. This month's Business 2.0 is chockful of interesting stuff and, hey, it's even interesting to read. What a stunning concept for a tech mag wrote the reviewer still embittered over his boredom wracked PC Mag reading experience.

My favorite story appeared in their marketing section, where they did a review of some of those hilarious Net Economy tv ads that you may have seen on the tube. There are some concise reviews of two of the funniest. You know that one where the guy who's photocopying his face teaches his boss how to invest online, which Business 2.0 says preaches "digital democracy making the low high". It's funny too. I sort of also got the impression that tech expertise is so valued at companies that smart ass punks can get away with anything. No doubt another subtle marketing theme.

There's also a review of the other really funny new net economy ads featuring those kids who say things like "I want to claw my way into middle management". Biz 2.0 calls it cynical, but effective. I actually think it's a rip off of the schoolchildren reciting their futures in Annie Hall. But it's still funny.

Tons more interesting stuff as well. There was a nice piece about how you can copyright your work over the net called "Netary Public". There was also a nice short about a private and more affordable competitor to the space shuttle, the Roton, being funded by tech guy Tom Clancy amongst others. And there was yet another interesting piece about a Burger King that gives customers tokens to surf the net while they are sloshing down their Whoppers. Oh, and their lead stories about wireless were also decent, even had a glossary so that you will know that LEO means Low Earth Orbit.

So, if you're down to  your last $5, this is the magazine to get. A good read.

 

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