(Wired, August 1999)
Aside from the loss of its visionary founders, one of the problems that Wired has is that it's no longer the only kid in the pool. There's more of a hip, new media press out there that also looks into the same stories that Wired does. Now, it has to compete with the Industry Standard, Business 2.0, and even old stalwarts like Forbes and Fortune, mags who have revamped their science and technology sections--realizing that that's where the money is no doubt.
Timeliness is also a problem because of the FTL speed at which net culture seems to be moving at. If you keep up with just the sites in the Three Rivers Links section, you realize that its kind of hard to be on the cutting edge of tech as a monthly. Frankly, I've come to the conclusion that the Wired online (now owned by a separate company) version is now better than its founding magazine. Wired online still has attitude and a certain edge that the Conde Nast owned Wired just doesn't seem to have anymore..
Still, there was some good stuff in this month's Wired and I keep rooting for it to recapture some of its glorious past.
But I can't say anything new got captured too much in the lead MP3 stories that they did. If you read the wires everyday, especially the Industry Standard, you kind of know this story. You know about the tech's origins (I've got a few MP3 songs myself, although I'm not to the Burning CD stage yet.). Yet the pieces were very thorough and detailed, including everything from an MP3 timeline which veered into prediction--it included real cool stuff that will happen in 2003 and 2004--to interviews with those very worried music industry moguls.
This is where the time issue hurts them. Because the gist I'm getting from the wires is that one, the moguls are starting to smarten up and realize that this can't be stopped, and two, they're beginning to realize how they can make money off this technology. But Wired provides interesting history and background nonetheless.
The most interesting piece in their set of MP3 stories that covered everything from tech origins to specific hardware was the profile of Real Networks founder Rob Glaser, one of the few Out leftists of this new tech elite. I found it very interesting that he tried to give away or lease (it's not entirely clear in the story) his streaming technology to progressive groups in order to help them compete, presumably, with the Establishment's monopoly over traditional media like television and radio. Knowing the myopia and tech phobia of the left--as someone who's been a part of it and worked within it--I'm not surprised that he didn't get anywhere.
I'd be curious to see if he's spending any of his reported $3 to $4 billion in net worth on left causes now or what his future plans are.
There were also some interesting stories outside that group of main stories: an interesting profile on popular science writer James Gleick who lost his adopted son recently in a small airplane crash. There was also a good profile on yet another Hollywood effects wizard who wants to go beyond blue screens and create viable Artificial Intelligences. (One of the things that I learned is that a lot of the shots for that Richard Gere vehicle Red Corner were blue screened. Apparently, they weren't allowed to film in China.)
Last but not least, there was an interesting small story about how one of the ecommerce platforms could be used to create completely private transactions. Something that drug dealers, money launders and those few of us who don't like paying all of their taxes may come to enjoy.
(The Sciences, July/August 1999)
The Sciences is one of the most beautiful, languid reads that you can find on the newstand. It seems to be a perfect combination of The Atlantic and Discover Magazine. Every story kind of glistens with style. Not only that, but its full of interesting paintings, mostly modern ones that it uses to illustrate each story.
It's also very demanding despite the poetry of its prose. I picked up the magazine because of a piece that was done about quantum computing. Again, because this is a monthly, the story's writer probably wasn't aware of the new development in quantum computing, which was based not on silicon cells, but manufactured biological ones. (The story can be found in Three River's Daily Meme section.)
Yet the story gives us a lot of back history about how scientists first thought of the possibility of quantum computing and how, if you could build a working prototype, quantum computing could far outstrip computers based on classical physics. I have to admit some of the "entangled" states stuff went over my head a bit, but I caught the gist of some of it.
Other stories and art of interest: In a section called Common Ground, Stephen Jay Gould writes an art review of a compelling piece that's on the other side of the page. While Stephen found that in Rosamond Purcell's work "this island of artificial order has been infiltrated by the human institutions", I found that her montage was "you know, like, pretty."
There was also an interesting short piece about the possibility of an atom laser. What does that mean? I'm not sure but it sure sounds cool. Probably means better CDs in the long run.
(PC World, August 1999)
Imagine Media's mantra is "Media with Passion".
After reading this month's PC World, I'm assuming that its mantra must be "Duller is Better". Or "We Write By Committee, Can You Tell?".
There was very good information in this month's PC World. But sometimes I felt that I kind of had to slosh through the prose in order to get at it.
As usual, I sort of gravitated toward the editorial section, because I truly believe that analysis of tech needs a point of view, not just refresh rates and IRQ conflicts. Editorial Director Phil Lemmons penned an interesting piece on AMD's K7 chip. He's hoping the new chip catches on, because as it stands AMD is the only competitor in town left standing now that Cyrix has left the building. Or as he puts it "AMD is the last hope for keeping competitive pressure on Intel".
He even makes the rather unpleasant prediction that if AMD's new chip fails to catch on, you had better budget more for your next PC.
The lead stories on computer maintenance and utilities were also interesting. I learned some things I didn't know about CMOs settings and hard drive installations. I also learned why I haven't been able to get my scanner and my printer to affably share the same parallel printer port.
The other story that struck my eye was an early review of Windows 2000. Apparently, it impressed these analysts but they warned readers not to buy the first edition of the software. For those of you not in the know, Microsoft has a very reliable beta tester for their first runs: You the Public. (Hey, I haven't even upgraded to 98. I'm still scared.)