TWiT Number 38: Comments from the live taping

Victor Agreda Jr
V. Jr|01.12.06

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this week in tech
this week in tech
this week in techIn lieu of other parties on Tuesday night, I was lucky enough to get registered for the live recording of This Week in Tech, or as it is popularly called, TWiT. For those who don't know, TWiT is one of the most popular podcasts out there, featuring the inimitable Leo Laporte (he used to be on TechTV) and his band of merry tech pundits and writers. Regular guests include Patrick Norton, Kevin Rose, and resident grumpy old guy John C. Dvorak.

This particular recording found a few Mac notables, including Chris Breen, and Amber MacArthur of Command-N (though she was also on TechTV for a bit too, and still is in Canada). There was the potential of Woz joining in, but I believe he had obligations to his company Wheels of Zeus, who have an IPO beginning soon. The last bit of the show found the Energizer bunny known as David Pogue also joining in. If you get a chance, be sure to listen. Hopefully it'll be ready by this weekend...

More after the jump.twitSome interesting tidbits emerged from the show. One big topic had to do with Otellini's presentation of the Intel chip to Jobs. Otellini got like 2 minutes of Steve's time. He appeared in a bunny suit, and practically knelt before Jobs, offering him the sacrifice of an entire wafer of silicon. No man hug (which Leo and Breen demonstrated) this time, as they had done at the initial announcement of their arrangement. Leo said it was humiliating for Otellini. I don't know about that, but I do think it was kinda cutesy. No doubt they thought it was dramatic at the time it was conceived.

Now contrast this with Roz Ho's several minutes of solo performance, reading a script, informing the audience that Microsoft is formally agreeing to continue developing Office (at least) for the Mac for another five years. Steve wasn't getting in her way, or being funny. This was strictly business. And it was clear that Microsoft had the upper hand. The message seemed to be: "You have five more years. Enjoy it." This was an interesting switch from the Otellini song and dance. I wonder what the name of the spreadsheet app for iWork was? You know, the one Apple is keeping in a vault next to the Intel-native VirtualPC/WINE killer app?

leo laporteAnyway, the TWiTs continued their analysis in a somewhat haphazard manner. Leo and John, and perhaps others, had just come in from having dinner, where apparently a certain quantity of booze had been enjoyed so the conversation meandered a bit. Dvorak was obsessing over minute-by-minute details provided by Macrumors. Amber didn't say much, though what she did say was pretty accurate and to-the-point. Patrick Norton was his usual cynical self, explaining to the audience that his IBM laptop exists only because it has to, and that he'd love to be running a Mac.

Some hilarious confusion on Dvorak's part came from the discussion around iWeb. Now, it seems like Dvorak can barely bother to care what Apple is doing at all. I've come to expect this, but discussion of iWeb had him alternately confused and annoyed. It didn't help when Leo (or someone) sort of compared it to Myspace. Why? Because both apps allow "normal" people (I'll leave the Myspace = normal discussions to the comments) to create web pages with things like music, video, graphics, and blogs and such.

dvorakAs anyone who has been on Myspace for more than five minutes will tell you, iWeb and Myspace are as different as Yoda and Darth Sidious. Let's face it, most Myspace pages will make your eyes bleed. While you can indeed use iWeb to generate hideous pages, you really have to try quite hard, and overcome the built-in design goodness Apple provides. That is Apple's speciality. Myspace seems perfectly suited to horrid design; never mind the audiences for the two are totally different. Myspace is designed for teens, and iWeb is really designed for family members, with some teen and college crossover. People can put ugly pics on Flickr too, but by and large the people on Flickr take pride in good photos, not bad ones.

pogueAt any rate, Dvorak didn't quite understand what iWeb did. I kept wishing someone would shout "it's like Frontpage without the suck" or "it's online publishing for the rest of us." Of course, it is more than those things, but you have to dim it down a bit for John to get it. Amber had a clear explanation for grandpa though, and I think ultimately he got the clue.

Audience members asked a few questions from time to time too. One young lady was adamant that IR remotes are the work of the devil. She kept complaining that the IR remote on the Macbook was stupid, and that an RF remote was the only good answer. I don't know about that, as another audience member brought up the availability of programmable remotes. And Pogue nailed it: if you don't like it, throw it away and you have your Macbook unfettered by evil IR.

patrick nortonThe best question of the evening was asked by a kid probably no older than 10. He asked why did Apple release a pro Mac (sorry, the Macbook Pro) when the pro apps aren't ready, and many people need those to work properly. The way he said it, and what he asked was impressive for someone so young. Everyone in the audience was sort of looking at each other like, wow, who is this kid? Someone yelled from the balcony, "what's your podcast URL?" The kid replied, "oh, I'm not doing one any more." Leo about fell back in his chair. The kid elaborated, saying now he helped one of his friends get one started. Patrick mentioned that's where the money is. Good to see there are some smart young folks out there in San Francisco... We were all very impressed with the kid who was so advanced that podcasting was old school to him, before puberty even.

macarthurAt the end of the show I managed to snap this pic of Amber, and found out she does indeed read TUAW. So that's nice to know. I have no idea if Leo ever reads us, and I can only assume this blog would enrage and confuse the addled Dvorak (kidding John, love ya). While it might not be the best TWiT ever, as Leo's toasty brain struggled to get the name of the Macbook Pro right (OK, to be fair, I've had trouble too, sans alcohol), Dvorak didn't seem to care too much, and Patrick kept working on his laptop, it was a lot of fun to be there live. If you ever have the chance to see a TWiT recording, I highly recommend it. Leo and the gang (yes, even JCD) are a swell bunch, and incredibly gracious and entertaining.

One final note: Leo or Chris said this keynote didn't have the sparkle, or flair of past keynotes. True, there were no John Mayer jams, or dancing elephants. He said it was more businesslike, sort of the meat, without the fat. Breen said it was a balanced meal of sorts, nutritious, but not particularly spectacular. You got what you needed, but that's about it. What do you think?
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