Friday, March 25, 2011

Dear CNN - You suck!

This is an open letter to CNN, regarding your reporting, or lack thereof regarding the ‘Crisis in Japan’.

Two words can sum up my feelings: YOU SUCK.

No really, your reporting on Japan is absolutely horrendous. I’ve been irritated by it over the last week, and this evening what I saw was enough to put me past my boiling point.

I tuned in to catch some news about the situation in Libya, figuring that I’d learn something I hadn’t on BBC World (my other English language news service). One of your CNN anchors was discussing the situation in Japan with the Iodine-131 in drinking water. He introduced the story, before handing off to one of your gaijin correspondents in Japan, by saying (from memory), “Now to Tokyo for an update on the contamination of drinking water there. Officials announced yesterday that drinking water was unsafe for young children, because of radioactive contamination. But today, they are saying it’s safe to drink. How can the water be unsafe to drink one day, yet safe the next? We take you to ________ in Tokyo.”


Stop right there. What kind of reporting is this? The issue is that the levels of Iodine-131 fell in the last day, and are now below the 100 Bq/kg limit set for infants. That’s it. By introducing a story like this, you are leading the viewer to believe that there is a controversy or misrepresentation or something awful happening that shouldn’t. Unfortunately, there’s nothing to support this claim, in your story or otherwise.

Then, the correspondent in Japan comes on to repeat the same line saying (from memory), “People don’t know what to think. The water is unsafe one day, then safe the next. This is causing worry and concern amongst Tokyo citizens.” Then you move on to interview a Japanese mother with an infant telling you she’s worried about safe drinking water.

So, where the hell is the story here? If you want to imply that the government of Tokyo, or central government of Japan, of cooking the numbers and/or misleading the public, you should follow this up with some actual reporting. How about some evidence that there is some monkey business from eyewitnesses or an inside source? Or even a response from government spokespersons or officials to your question of ‘how these levels could have changed’ or to your implication that something untoward happened?

There was none of this - absolutely nothing justifying that provocative lead-in. So, what we have here is a clear case of idle speculation instead of actual reporting, investigative or otherwise. WTF?! This isn’t why I pay for access to English news on my satellite dish.

Now I’m going to speculate. I can only envision two explanations why CNN took this tack on their report. The first is that you guys are really, really stupid. Perhaps you cannot fathom in any way how radiation might dissipate over time or how diffusion might actually result in dispersal of these substances to lowered concentrations throughout the water supply. I thought that’s why you had paid experts come on and pontificate - you know to explain concepts like basic science to you that are beyond your comprehension. Or perhaps you actually think that the government doesn’t know how to measure these things or wants to just lie, and make people drink water that isn’t safe. Never mind that you don’t have any facts to back this up, or bothered to investigate.

The other explanation I can come up with, is that you just don’t care about the truth and you want to suck in viewers, preying on their fear and gullibility. Given that your business model is based on advertiser revenue, which is based on number of viewers (ratings), I guess it’s OK (in your minds) to do whatever it takes to suck people in - even if it means creating problems or crises that aren’t actually there. It’s quite clear that whenever that you can milk some event for ratings, CNN is there. We know, because you keep the “Breaking News” legend at the bottom of the screen, for days, even weeks at a time for any ongoing issue - even when there isn’t any new news. You often introduce stories as “breaking” or “this just in”, when the information is 4-12 hours old. And you often give the ‘meta-story’ a title (e.g., “Crisis in Japan”) which you show whenever you present a story on some ongoing topic. These are all very subtle ways for you to subliminally implant in people’s minds that there is something really important on-going and CNN is on the job, telling you what you need to know. I’ve seen this in your reporting of the trapped West Virginia coal miners a couple years back (wondering why you guys just didn’t lay off the poor relatives of these guys). I’ve seen it in Haiti, where one of your reporters (A. Cooper) decided to interview some desperate people trying to dig relatives out of the rubble, as opposed to actually getting in there and helping them.

But I digress - let’s get back to the truth. Whether or not CNN is really stupid or you are purposely misleading to gain viewers probably makes no difference to you, as long as there is (as Stephen Colbert describes it) some ‘truthiness’ to what you are saying or reporting. The problem is that in crises, making inflammatory, speculative, provocative statements really has a negative impact on the people actually in those crises and their relatives around the world. It’s leading to panic and stress among foreigners, and their relatives back home that don’t have better information sources than the crap you are putting on the air. It’s enough, and I demand you stop!

In the case of the earthquake and its aftermath, the real crises involve the victims, refugees in the Tohoku region, and nuclear plant recovery. Although people are inconvenienced in Tokyo, it’s currently nothing more than that. Suggesting or implying otherwise is irresponsible, regardless of whether or not you think the government is telling the truth. Most of the reason foreign governments asked citizens to evacuate also had more to do with fear than reality. CNN and other foreign news services are responsible for helping to generate and sustain those fears. As a foreigner living west of Tokyo, I have concerns and fears for my family here too. And if things deteriorate to the point of real danger, we will certainly leave. But unfortunately, we won’t be able to rely on information from CNN to help us make that decision.

Wake up and stop the exaggeration and misinformation! Be responsible journalists, and just tell us the facts. Leave the speculation to people that actually take the time to investigate. Maybe take lessons from some of your iReporters, those “amateurs” that often truly grasp what journalism is.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

iOS 4 Leaves iPod Touch G1 in the Cold

Thanks for nothing Apple.

The newest OS update for iPod Touch and iPhone (formally iPhone x.x) is iOS 4. Apple chose not to support its first generation iPhone and iPod Touch devices with the OS, and only partly support devices other than the iPhone 3GS and iPad and iPhone 4.

I don't blame Apple for not wanting to implement all the parts of iOS 4 on older devices. Multitasking and complex graphics won't fly on the 1G devices. But by leaving users without any OS upgrade path, it also leaves those users with no way to update the apps they have already purchased or downloaded on their devices. And new apps won't work on iOS 4, AFAIK. This is because devs have no incentive or way to make their iOS 4 apps backwards compatible.

In one fell swoop, Apple has cut off these users from access to new apps or new versions iOS 3 apps from the App store. Users of 1 G devices get app upgrade notices, but can't take advantage of them at all.

Hey, I don't need multitasking or bluetooth keyboard connectivity, or the myriad of other features iOS 4 has. But the cutoff from the app store (and fixes to my current apps) is really unforgivable.

Thanks for nothing to those of us that got the iPhone & iPod Touch ball rolling in the first place.

Way to go, greedsters.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

iPhone 4 and iOS 4: Oh My


The good: Faster iPhone with longer battery life, better screen, better camera, thinner profile at the same price as the iPhone 3GS. New OS has multitasking, native viewing of pdfs, video capabilities, free upgrade for v. 3 users.

The bad: Changing the name of iPhone OS to iOS - WTF? Way to sow confusion, but then again the same OS is going to be used for iPads and iPod touches. Is Apple going to change the name of the iTunes store to the iStore b/c it sells more than music now?

The ugly: iAds. I can't for the life of me understand why Apple presents this as a feature to users. Sure, if you want to put them into free apps, fine. But please keep ads OUT of paid apps and elements of the OS itself. Don't waste my screen space on iAds when I'm looking at my address book, browsing in Safari, or using iBooks, for example.

The fluff: The gyroscope isn't that useful, except for games. Video calls really aren't necessary when you can only do them via WiFi. The inclusion of Bing as a search option is pretty much useless.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Geotagging Photos with your Nikon DSLR

A recent Engadget post requesting info on camera geotagging solutions prompted me to do a little digging. Nikon's GP-1 unit is pricey, and it's performance has not be impressive. If you have a Nikon DSLR, check out some of the offerings on these links.
(Note, some Canon models and others also have products here).
(near clone of Nikon GP-1)
(also have Canon products)
(Nikon and Fuji-Film)
(two Nikon units, and the pro unit may be used with any camera)

There are a few other makers out there, but these seem to be the most reliable. If you check forums on DPReview an Flickr, you can find some user comments. I also found several blog reviews on the interwebs.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

New iPods & iTunes - Oh joy...

This morning Apple had press event to announce its new music products. Prior to the event, there was much speculation about a new touch pad computer, iPod Touch with camera, and even some suggestion that the Beatles collection would finally make it to iTunes (I thought this one had legs).

Instead, Apple announced
  • discounts on iPod Touch models, and increases in speed 32gb & and a new 64gb size model. However, no cameras to be seen at all.
  • new iPod Nano models with a built in video camera (no stills), motion sensing with pedometer function
  • iTunes 9 with a revamped interface
  • iPhone/iPod Touch OS 3.1
My overall take - meh! The iPod touch is a big seller, and it’s great to see it hit 64gb, but many folks were expecting some sort of camera. Rumors that a Touch w/camera may have been shelved at the last minute may get more credence now. The camera on the new Nano is not so great - it shoots video but no stills. I can’t see people really wanting to use this much, or buying the Nano for this feature. The iPhone/iPod Touch software upgrade is free for Touch users, but on my 1st generation Touch it sucks up 200-300mb more storage, critical for those of us with only 16gb storage. Furthermore, using the iTunes interface for synch-ing content was comparatively sluggish. As for iTunes 9, I’ll have to tinker with it more. Most of the changes are cosmetic, IMHO.

Let’s hope the next slew of products Apple releases are truly revolutionary.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

WWDC 09 June 09

The wife and kids were at Baba and Jiji’s, so I could stay up to listen to the WWDC coverage unimpeded and undisturbed. I felt Phil Schiller’s Keynote started off very well at first, but then really bogged down in the product demos about half way through. I could barely stay awake during the last half.

I followed coverage on gdgt’s live feed and wasn’t disappointed. Except for one glitch, their coverage was thorough, kept pace, and had lots of photos. Big improvement Ryan and Peter! Tod Ogasawara pointed me (via Twitter) to a live (and unauthorized) video feed that was in the background of folks from TWiT on TWiT tv. The video feed was also available by itself via ustream (?), but I had issues getting that to play correctly. The video quality itself was poor, but the audio was fairly intelligible. The TWiTtv feed pissed me off, because Leo LaPorte’s commentary was annoying - too loud and uninteresting. I guess you could say I’m not a very big TWiT fan.

OK, several things were announced...

MacBook Pros
Pretty much the entire line of MBP’s (and the MB Air) was revamped, plus a new 13“ MBP is announced, faster and cheaper than the 13” Aluminum MacBook. In fact, the aluminum MacBook is no longer listed.

The good: Faster processors, longer battery life, SD card slot (except for 17“), less expensive across the board, Firewire 800!

The bad: Battery is no longer removable (like in the MBA), the SD slot replaces the express card slot.

The ugly: Apple isn’t getting it on the weight issue for the MBP line - all got heavier. WTF. Looks like Apple wants all train commuters in Japan to only carry MacBook Air laptops.

Snow Leopard
Blah, blah, blah, blah blah. Lots of new features, some of the awesome, some not - ship date maybe in September.

The good: Cheap upgrade pricing ($29/59 for single and family packs), install is 6gb smaller, 64bit, better Quicktime, better multicore processor support.

The bad: Lots of fluff I don’t need, like integrating Coverflow more into the OS (I never use it in iTunes or the Finder), Exchange support (what a waste of coding resources).

The ugly: Intel ONLY. I guess with the $70 you save on the upgrade, you can buy a new Intel Mac, ne?

Safari 4.0
Available now! If you were a beta tester, you know all about it.

The good: Sometimes snappier, free.

The bad: I don’t need this coverlow shit on my spash page!

The ugly: Some software conflicts like VideoBox, and 1Password (which is now fixed), some website conflicts including the one I use for university admin stuff. This is disappointing, and I may go back to FireFox.
iPhone OS 3.0
Announced for 17 June, lots of new features - many that we know about already.

The good: Speed enhancements, interface enhancements, new language support, remote wipe (to keep your info from the hands of thieves), YouTube login, sync notes, landscape keyboard.

The bad: Features I don’t need or are useless with my iPod touch like Cut ‘n Paste, Spotlight (WTF do I need this for? My iPod isn’t packing tons of docs), voice memos.

The ugly: Hosing iPod touch users $10 for this, some features WON’T WORK with US ATT users (like tethering.. - cheap bastards!)

iPhone 3Gs
Two sizes (16 and 32gb) with many enhancements, available 19 June. Some of the camera features will appeal to the Japanese market - the iPhone is catching up finally.

The good: Speedier (hence the S), 3mp camera with autofocus and video mode, voice control, compass (available in my Japanese Casio phone already), the old iPhone 3G gets dropped to $99 in the US, slightly better battery life.

The bad: No hardware keyboard, non-ergonomic shape, have to use ATT in the US and SoftBank in Japan.

The ugly: ATT is really hosing people that want to upgrade their 3G to a 3Gs. You have to front at least $400 out of pocket if you haven’t used your old iPhone at least 18 months.

Summary: I rate the new MacBooks as the best news, with the iPhone 3Gs second, and rank the software upgrades last. Much of iPhone 3.0 is lost on iPod touch users, and although the upgrade price for Snow Leopard is great - I’m not sure the features are if you are using older Macs.

Will I go out and finally buy an iPhone? No - the price will stay high in Japan for half a year, perhaps. And I much prefer the feature set in the PalmPre, though I’d like to try them both side by side.