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New York Times Gripes
Technical errors in articles in the New York Times
Vista Is Ready. Are You? by Larry Magid in the New York Times. December 7, 2006. This is puff piece that could have been written by the Microsoft PR team. It puts the best possible light on upgrading to Vista and ignores a huge amount of ugly, problematic details.
A Workaround for Internet Calling's Drawbacks by Matthew Haughey March 2, 2006. This was a short article about Chatterbug, a device that plugs into a phone line and offers unlimited long distance calling in the US and Canada for $10 a month. Quoting: "It kicks in when a "1" is dialed to begin a long-distance call..." Residents of New York City dial a "1" for local calls, something a New York City based newspaper should be aware of.
December 9, 2005. I subscribe to the hardcopy version of the New York Times. As such, I am entitled to a free membership in "Times Select" a sort of first-class version of their web site. The fact that subscribers are entitled to this is not obvious from the web site at all. I stumbled across this fact in the paper, not on the web site. The URL for subscribers to sign up is www.nytimes.com/free
There is a bug in the sign up process. The email address I provided had a plus sign in it. This caused the web site to say that it was not able at this time to create a new account. Three days later the same thing happened, which made me suspect the error message was not true. It was not true. When I signed up with a different email address without a plus sign, it worked fine.
After creating my new userid, I was dumped at a web page for configuring the dead trees subscription. Why? To do what? It didn't say. All I wanted to do was sign up for Times Select.
There is link there to go to the home page of the New York Times. When I click on it, I am not logged on with my new userid/password. Instead I am still logged on with an older userid/password, one for just regular folk. I had to log off the old userid and log on with the new one.
October 6, 2005. Q and A by J.D. BIERSDORFER. Huge mistake.
Q. The hard disk on my personal computer is partitioned into four 1.99-gigabyte drives. My C: drive frequently runs out of space, no matter what I have deleted. Will I have to erase my hard drive to consolidate the partitions?
A. Partitioning a hard drive ... can help organize and manage the data stored on the computers. But ... a small partition can easily fill up with digital photos, movies, music and other files that take up a lot of space. You can manually back up all your data; erase, reformat and repartition the drive; then copy all your files back. You can also get utility software to ease that process. Programs like Paragon Partition Manager ... Partition Commander ... and Symantec Partition Magic ... can simplify the whole experience and automatically adjust and resize partitions on the drive.
The whole reason that programs like Partition Magic exist is to avoid the need to erase and reformat a hard disk. I tried to explain this to the paper, but their web site was broken. Doesn't it figure.
May 26, 2005. In this article The Virtues of Virtual Memory about virtual memory, J. D. Biersdorfer says "The physical memory automatically shifts data not currently in use into the virtual memory page file as you work...". This is not true. It's not even close to being true.
Regarding the article Flash Drives: Always on the Go, Without Moving Parts by Douglas Heingartner from February 17, 2005:
Article: A Debate on Web Phone Service By Matt Richtel. This article is about VOIP - Voice Over IP focusing mostly on regulatory issues as opposed to technical issues. Good thing, because it has a technical mistake in this paragraph:
"And adding to the costs is the fact that with conventional telephone service the line that carries the voice signal to and from homes is dedicated exclusively to one call at a time. With Internet-based calls, the information is broken down into small packets, so that the lines that carry the voice conversations can simultaneously transport many other packets of Internet traffic, like e-mail messages and World Wide Web pages. And Internet calls do not require lots of expensive circuit switches, because each packet of data carries an address that helps it find its own way across the network."
The last point being made is not true. Internet data packets do not find their own way across the network. Data packets do not transfer themselves. They are at the mercy of routers, often made by Cisco, that do the job of moving packets to their intended location. The packets contain the IP address of the computer where they should be sent, nothing more. Getting them there is solely up to routers.
Also, Internet calls that terminate at a normal telephone do require "expensive circuit switches". The normal telephone is connected to a circuit switch, even if the other end of the phone call is VOIP based entity.
I emailed the newspaper at firstname.lastname@example.org on January 6, 2004. As of
January 20th, no reply.
Update: A reader of this page pointed out that I should have emailed to email@example.com. Next time. March 12, 2003.
There was an article by David Pogue about the new AOL version 9 software (AOL's Makeover Reviewed).
The article discussed new anti-spam features in the AOL software. However, it failed
to mention a very important issue with AOL and spam, one that was featured in a front page story in the Wall Street Journal only a
couple days earlier:
AOL throws away messages it considers spam and neither the sender nor the recipient is told.
Someone who depends on email for anything but the most trivial of uses, should be made aware of this. Not an error, rather an omission.
Q and A column By J.D. Biersdorfer One of the questions was: "Do I need a system-recovery program like Roxio's GoBack if my computer has the System Restore function as part of Windows XP? How do the two programs differ?" The answer contained more than one mistake.
Regarding System Restore it said "At regular intervals, the program records and stores a snapshot, or restore point, of the Windows system". There are two errors in this sentence. System Restore does not take snapshots at regular intervals. There are about eight different rules for when it takes a snapshot, there is nothing regular about it. The time between snapshots is quite varied.
Far worse is that the author does not seem to understand the basic fundamental purpose of System Restore. It does not take snapshot of the Windows system. It takes snapshots of critical Windows system files. This is totally different from GoBack. In fairness, the author does say "System Restore only concerns itself with operating system functions." However, this is wrong too. System Restore backs up and restores files, not functions.
The reply says that System Restore "does not return the contents of the hard drive to the restore point, so individual files or documents do not revert to what they were." This is half true. System Restore does return portions of the hard drive to the restore point, specifically it restores the Windows system files that it backed up. What the author is trying to say, is that System Restore does not effect your data files. In general, it is true that System Restore will not effect your data files (Word documents, spreadsheets, etc.) however, there are exceptions to this and it is possible, because of the way System Restore defines Windows System Files, that it might back up and restore a file you care about.
As for GoBack the reply says that it "also takes a snapshot of the Windows system at scheduled intervals." Again, this shows a lack of understanding of how the product works.
GoBack is not a snapshot oriented product like System Restore. Most of the time, System Restore does nothing. When it wakes up, it takes a snapshot copy of some files and shuts itself down. GoBack is totally different, it runs all the time. It is always copying all the files on your computer. Constantly. It tracks every change that affects your hard drive (even those caused by a virus, by the way). During periods of no hard disk activity, GoBack finishes writing to its log/cache pending changes that it did not want to write while you were using the hard disk. GoBack uses the term "safe point" to describe a period when there is no pending writes to its log/cache. You have no control over the timing of these "safe points". They are not scheduled as the author says.
Finally, the reply also says "If you decide you need a file backup component to your system recovery software, you might want to consider GoBack...."
The meaning of "file backup component to your system recovery software" is not clear to me at all and I doubt many readers would understand this either. Even disk imaging programs can restore individual files.
GoBack should not be considered for file backups. Even the vendor says that it does not replace normal file backups. For one thing, you can not restore a file to any point in time, only to a safe point, and you have no control over when GoBack makes a safe point. Also, GoBack is only for short term recovery. It is not designed to recover files to their state more than a couple days ago. Again, you have no direct control over how far back GoBack will let you recover files. Also, GoBack only backs up to the hard disk, so a whole host of problems can wipe out the original file and the backups.
I also have omission gripes. GoBack needs a lot of care and feeding, a point not raised here. There are a number of situations where GoBack is obviously not appropriate, some of which are mentioned in the product manual, none are mentioned here. Also missing is that there are two editions of GoBack and that the cheaper Personal Edition does not offer individual file recovery.
and A column By J.D. Biersdorfer One of the questions was: "What does
it mean to ping a machine?" The answer was:
"To ping a machine basically means that you send out a small amount of information, or packet, to another computer connected to the Internet. Then you wait for a response from the other computer to see if it acknowledges the communication with your machine. Utility programs for pinging computers are free for downloading on the Internet. Although there is potential for abuse, with intruders pinging potential victims, pinging a computer can be useful if you suspect that a Web site or other file server you are trying to reach happens to be offline. For example, if you are not getting any e-mail, you can ping your mail server to see if it is there. If you get no response, the odds are that it is down."
There are two problems with the ping command. A perfectly healthy computer may not respond to it and a sick computer may respond.
A computer can be online, functioning perfectly and still not respond to a ping. It can be specifically configured to ignore Pings due to the potential for denial of service attacks. If a computer does respond to a ping, it only means that the OS is running and it is connected to the Internet. It does not mean the computer is functioning in the way you expect, want or need. For example, if the computer is an email server, the email server program could be experiencing problems, but the machine can still respond to pings. Likewise, a web server program could be faulty or have crashed, but the machine it is running on might very well be able to respond to pings.
In the News Watch section (Page G3) there was a write-up of a new Toshiba
laptop, the Satellite Pro 6100. The first sentence is "Laptop speedsters
on corporate Wi-Fi networks can surf even faster with a new notebook computer
from Toshiba". This is not really true. The new networking standard
supported by this computer (802.11a) is faster than the currently popular
standard (802.11b) but this speed increase will not translate into faster web
surfing. A WiFi network (802.11b) is rated at 11 Mbps, but actually transfers
data at 4 or 5 Mbps (a fact not mentioned in the story). This is almost always
faster than the Internet connection used by the wired portion of the network.
Assuming for example, that the wired network has a 2 Mbps connection to the
Internet, the fact that this laptop can talk to a base station at a speed of 54
Mbps (no doubt, in practice the actual transfer speeds will be far less) vs. 11
Mbps is irrelevant. Even if the wired portion of the network has an Internet
connection faster than 4 or 5 Mbps, it is very unlikely that anyone would notice
the increased speed offered by the faster wireless connection through 802.11a.
Plus, this assumes the person with the 802.11a network connection is the only
one using the Internet. The speed increase would only show up marginally, when
transferring very large files. For web surfing, it would not be a factor.
Laptop Sends Network Cruisers Into 802.11a Overdrive By J.D. Biersdorfer
Rule Your Own Realm: The Ultimate E-Mail Address. By Jeffrey Selingo. The article says "Then you need to make some changes to the configuration of your e-mail software. The incoming mail server will be pop.yourdomain.com". This is not true. Every company that provides email services gets to chose whatever name they like for the incoming mail server. Assuming anything about this name is a mistake. The same mistake is made in the next sentence: "the outgoing mail server is the name of your Internet service provider or the name of your new hosting company". Again, do not assume anything about what the outgoing email server name will be. Every company decides on a name just like parents do for children. There is no standard.
Minor issues with article: The article assumes that your new domain name provider does not provide web based email. This is not true, many do. AOL users can both use AOL and still get their own domain, a topic not addressed. Also left out is an explanation of the different types of email which is necessary for non-techies to understand some of the concepts.
December 19, 2002. Last-Minute Gadget Gifts
By DAVID POGUE. A trifecta, three mistakes in a single paragraph. The evidence:
It's great to get a gift that you love but would never have bought for yourself. Among computer fans, a U.S.B. flash drive may fall smack into that category. It's a tiny device that acts as a fast, portable data bucket for transferring files between computers (home and work, for example). Any flash drive works on any Mac or PC: you just plug it into the computer's U.S.B. jack. (No software installation is necessary.)
The mistakes: (1) Flash memory drives (a.k.a. keychain drives or keychain storage devices) do not work on "any" PC. Most, if not all, will not work with Windows 95. None will work with Windows NT4 which does not support USB at all. Some (many?) will not work with the first edition of Windows 98. In general, the oldest supported version of Windows for these devices is Windows 98 Second Edition. (2) Software drivers do need to be installed when using these devices with Windows 98. They are not required with Windows Me, 2000 and XP. (3) These devices have two major uses, not just the one (transferring files) mentioned in the article. They are also great for off-computer file backups.
Not to nitpick, but these things plug into USB "ports", not USB "jacks". And data bucket?
September 5, 2002. Circuits section. Scaled-Down Software in PhotoShop's Image. David Pogue. The article says that you can download a trial version of PhotoShop Elements from the Adobe web site. I had tried to do that just a few days because the article appeared and there was no trial for Elements. I checked again a couple days after the article appeared and there still was no trial of Elements. I checked again on September 22, 2002 and there finally was a trial available.
The Q and A column on May 2, 2002 said that it is not possible to write to a CD in the same manner as you would write to a floppy disk. This is not true.
The question was 'Why can't you simply copy files onto a CD the way you can onto a floppy disk? With Windows XP, I can copy files to the CD, but then must go through a process to "Write these files to CD."'
The answer first addressed how to burn files to a CD using Windows XP native functionality, then commiserated with the user about how confusing it can be to burn a CD and finally talked about some new software initiative that is not scheduled to see the light of day for a year. Nowhere did the Times reporter mention the fact that CDs can, be written to like floppy disks. One software product that does this is called DirectCD, originally from Adaptec, now marketed by Roxio. It uses a different file system on the CD, is typically used with a CD-RW disc for obvious reasons and requires pre-formatting the disc. It also limits the disc capacity to somewhere around 550 meg rather than the 650 meg you get the "normal" way. I know this because I've done it and so have many many other people. Just not the reporters for the New York Times.
This is not the first time the New York Times made this same mistake. David Pogue did it in July 2001 (below). I emailed the paper at firstname.lastname@example.org and also at email@example.com. I've written a few times to the "circuits" email address and had never received a reply, however, this time the author of the Q and A column did reply to my note.
It’s Impossible To Build a Completely Secure Network. Newsweek Magazine. March 15, 2002. A 21-year-old high school dropout with no job and no permanent address hacked into the supposedly-secure corporate intranet of the New York Times. He accessed sensitive employee payroll accounts, subscriber information, and Social Security numbers and home phone numbers for contributors to the Times op-ed page. Among the security lapses were seven open (misconfigured) proxy servers and default passwords.
The New Iomega Hard Drive by David Pogue. In comparing the use of an external Iomega hard disk to a CD-RW disc, the article says
|Consider...the recordable, erasable CD (CD-RW) drives that come in most new PC's. Who would...pay $200 for a 20- gigabyte cartridge that's useless without a Peerless drive, when recordable CD's cost less than a dollar apiece and can play in virtually any PC or Mac? If all you want to do is make backups, that's a good point; you'll save a lot of money by burning your own CD's. But you can't use a CD-RW as a hard drive, freely adding and removing individual files and folders, as you can the Peerless.|
The last sentence is wrong. You can use a CD-RW as a hard drive, albeit one of 600 meg in size. You can add and remove files to a CD-RW using any program at all, the most obvious of which is Windows Explorer. It requires different software than that used to burn a CD-R disc and it requires pre-formatting the CD-RW disc. But it is very possible and has been for years.
I emailed the author at Pogue@nytimes.com He responded on August 2, 2001 with
|You are so right, and I was so wrong. By some quirk, I had never run across that software (I assume you mean DirectCD), so I never knew about it. Interestingly, almost everyone who wrote to tell me about it also noted that it is very flaky...|
The Q&A column by J.D. Biersdorfer. Page G4. Someone asked What is an .asp page on the Web? The answer included the following:
Dynamically created .asp pages use different types of programmed scripts, often written in ActiveX, Jscript or VB Script code, to generate the content... Although some Web pages are static and contain the same information every time they are viewed, an active server Web page is one that is dynamically created — often with new content — each time the page is seen. In many cases, fresh data that is requested by the user or refreshed automatically by the site is downloaded from the site's Web server onto a standard HTML page template for the user to see.
I emailed the paper about this and never got a response.
There were two articles on page C1 about wireless internet access; each contained a technical mistake or omission. The first article is called "Untangling The Wireless Web" by Simon Romero. The second is called "Next Big Thing Has Big Promise But a Few Kinks" by Saul Hansell.
The first article said:
"For now the fastest wireless speeds range from 9,600 to 14,400 bits a second, much slower than the Internet connections of up to 56,000 bits a second available to people using dial-up modems..."
The first mistake is that dial-up modem access can never run at 56,000 bits a second, the maximum speed is 53,000. In a lab the technology is capable of 56,000 bps which is why modem manufacturers can market the modems as "56K". However, US government regulations limit "56K" dial-up modems to a top speed of 53,000 bps. This is true for X2, K56flex and v90.
The second mistake is that there is a company called Metricom (MCOM is the ticker symbol) that offers wireless Internet access at 28,000 bits per second. The second article made the same mistake. It includes a table called "Comparing the Wireless Options" that lists only Verizon and GoAmerica as providing wireless modems for use with laptop computers. Metricom has been providing this service for at least two years, maybe longer. Because of the omission of Metricom, the table incorrectly states that wireless Internet access from a laptop computer runs at 14,400 bps.
The current Metricom service, called Ricochet, runs at 28,000 bps. They are about to start rolling out the next generation of their service that runs at 128,000 bps. The down side to Ricochet is that it is only available in a few cities.
In overlooking Metricom the reporters have not done their homework. Metricom is a publicly traded company and the Ricochet service has been around since 1995. They exhibited at the PC Expo show in New York City (home of the New York Times) and won the Best Internet Service award at the show from CNet.
There was an article and a sidebar about recording your own audio CDs. The article, Janis and Jimi, Out of the Attic A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Turning Those Stacks of Old LP's Into New CD's appeared on Page G1. It was written by Peter H. Lewis and is available online at http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/12/circuits/articles/09pete.html
The article says "CDRW discs can be played back only on a CD-RW drive, which rules out most stereos, cards and CD-ROM drives". This is not true.
A related article, also by Peter H. Lewis, called The ABC's of CD's: Read-Only, Recordable and Rewritable, repeats this wrong information when it says "Because of their much-lower reflectivity, CD-RW discs can be played back only on CD-RW drives."
In fact, a CDRW disc can be played back in some CD-ROM drives. A more accurate description of this issue can be found online courtesy of Time Magazine at http://www.pathfinder.com/time/personal/19990628/tech.html. There it notes the reason why a CDRW disc is usable in some CD-ROM drives and not in others.
I verified that the New York Times was wrong by creating a CD-RW disc with my HP CD-Writer drive and trying to read it in two PCs. The CD-RW disc was usable in a Sony PC, but not usable in a Gateway PC. In fairness, the Times article is devoted to audio discs and I tested with a data CD-RW disc, but this is not really relevant to the point at hand.
Some articles that I read said that a CD-ROM drive that supports MultiRead will read a CDRW disc. Another article said that they will work if the CD-ROM drive is 24x speed or faster. I'm not sure, but either way, the New York Times article is wrong.
I wrote to the New York Times about this at firstname.lastname@example.org
on Dec. 22, 1999. They never responded.
I also wrote to the author directly at email@example.com on Dec 22, 1999. He too, never responded.
New York Times Stomps on Satiric 'Corrections' Site by Dan Gillmor March 12, 2004
John Woram all but accused the Times of lying. When All Else Fails, Lie July 1, 2001. He quotes the newspaper as saying: "Because of a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court, The Times is obliged to remove from electronic archives, such as Nexis, the work of freelance writers that appeared from 1980 through 1995." The real story, according to Mr. Woram, is that the newspaper opted not to pay writers and therefore has to remove their stories.
To provide feedback on technology to the paper: www.nytimes.com/membercenter/formtech.html
|Page created: December 1999||Page last updated: December 9, 2006|
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