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August 2007 Zoon Awards for Technical Ignorance and Incompetence

Zoon Awards
Daniel Eran Dilger
In an effort to recognize the spectacular efforts of individuals and organizations promoting the regression of human achievement in the field of technology, a series of nominations await your vote to determine the recipients of August 2007 Zoon Awards.


Meet the Zoons.
Segregated by color, the various Zoons highlight the world’s absolute worst in small minded ignorance, paid to say propagandism, and blind devotion to products without merit.

  • The Pink Zoon is awarded for a spectacular effort in fear-based propagation of uncertainty and doubt, or efforts to infect headlines with false information with the primary goal of preventing innovation, competition, and the emergence of new ideas, or simply to make a quick profit.

  • The White Zoon is awarded for the blinding glare of a shiny blank brain, particularly when such ignorance is presented with authoritarian emphasis by an individual or news source operating well outside its abilities. This award may also be assigned to a company or organization in recognition of epic failure.

  • The Brown Zoon is awarded for squirting extraordinary amounts of intentionally noxious misinformation, whether dredged from an impacted recollection of twenty years ago, sucked from the trusty bucket of canned responses, or simply invented as needed to create an intolerable outburst of stink.

These should not be considered as first, second and third placements, as each tie for an equal standing in the Zoon Hall of Shame. It is also possible to award multiple parties for the same award, either as shared participants or, in the case of an unclear majority vote, tied nominations.

Meet the Zoon Nominees.
As one might imagine, determining the most fitting recipient might be difficult given the wide range of potential candidates standing in line. Here’s a brief background on the nominations for August.

Troy Wolverton, San Jose Mercury News.
A writer for the Street and most recently, the San Jose Mercury News, Wolverton always manages to dig up an unattractive headline for any news related to Apple. A series of articles documented his negative spin and inaccurate reporting, particularly when the subject related to Apple.

Wolverton promised me and other readers that he would answer the questions related about his shoddy journalism record, then cowardly ran away. He also wrote emails to RDM readers assuring them that he was only ever honest and unbiased, and that RoughlyDrafted should be read with great suspicion.
Merc False Apple Scandal

[10 FAS: 8 - San Jose Mercury News’ False Apple Scandal]
[Troy Wolverton Documents Faux Apple Shareholder Outrage]

Wolverton is nominated for a White and Brown Zoon.

Neil Cavuto, Fox News.
While actually based on reports from the end of July, I wrote about Cavuto in August, qualifying his nomination for arrogantly complaining about how Apple purportedly over promised iPhone shipments it then failed to deliver.

In reality, Apple didn’t indicate any sales goals for its first weekend. Cavuto also confused AT&T authorization numbers with Apple’s sales figures.

Fox News subsequently corrected his comments to suggest that he hadn’t made the error, but still failed cover up the core problem that Cavuto’s entire rant been a specious bit of ignorant rambling delivered–rather hypocritically–with far too much arrogance than the subject required.

Cavuto is nominated for a Pink and White Zoon.
Troy Wolverton, Neil Cavuto, and the Apple Stock Scandal

[10 FAS: 9 - Troy Wolverton, Neil Cavuto, and the Apple Stock Scandal]

Jim Cramer, Scott Moritz and Brett Arends, the Street.
After documenting how he would spin false information to manipulate the market as a hedge fund manager, Cramer praised his apprentice Moritz for publishing a string of articles dredging up or simply inventing false information about the iPhone with the intent to knock value from Apple and suggest that Apple’s phone was not competitive, not selling as expected, and that Apple’s deal with AT&T was an unprecedented deal earning unconscionable profits.

Arends is thrown in for good measure after delivering similar work directly from the mouths of Street-savvy Verizon shill, Roger Entner of IAG Research.

Cramer, Moritz, and Arends are nominated for a White and Brown Zoon.

[More on Scott Moritz and the Jim Cramer Street Misinformation Engine]
[The Street's Flaccid Campaign Against the iPhone]
[Unraveling Anti-Apple Panic: the iPhone Launch Success]
More on Scott Moritz and the Jim Cramer Street Misinformation Engine

George Ou, ZDNet, CNET.
Nominated in August primarily for his article misrepresenting typography technology and falsely portraying Mac OS X as incompetent in the area of text rendering, Ou deserves extra reason to earn your Zoon vote for failing to admit that he falsified his report, and instead attacking those who pointed out his error.

[Tech: Zoon for George Ou]
 Rd Techq307 Entries 2007 8 30 August 2007 Zoon Awards For Technical Ignorance And Incompetence Files Shapeimage 1

After posting the article detailing why he was wrong and establishing a pattern of his consistently inaccurate and tilted writing, someone who appeared to be Ou emailed me to say:

“If you’re gonna do a hit piece, at least do it accurately… I’m not going to get uptight about a little man like you chewing on my feet and I’m not even going to bother cursing at you for writing a blatant hit piece on me. It’s not worth my time.”

Assuming that the author was unlikely to actually be Ou, I did a search on the email and found an online comment from the same address mentioning being a former ballet dancer. To determine if the author was Ou or just simply a joker trying to get a response, I wrote back, “Hi George, What was inaccurate in my article? Are you really a ballet dancer?”

Ou tu?
In reply, Ou wrote, “I was a professional Ballet dancer up till 2000 and I still try to perform now and then,” but didn’t note anything that was incorrect in the article. When I asked for the correction again, I got two emails, one insisting that, “The ‘FreeBSD community’ is essentially Sam Leffler. Sam pretty much wrote all that wireless code. Sam is an employee (contractor) of Atheros. Atheros is involved in that FreeBSD code.”

The second said, “You don’t even understand the fact that the same Atheros ‘team’ led by Sam Leffler that wrote Apple’s wireless drivers is the same team that wrote the open source MadWiFi drivers for Linux and FreeBSD. The same wireless drivers Apple said there was no problem on had to be patched three times a month later. And here you are slandering me because I defended two researchers against a billion dollar corporation.

”When you smear my photograph and slap a “SHILL” on top of it, that is slanderous and insulting. You’re accusing me of taking payola which is a crime and only a ‘little man’ would slander someone like that. It’s one thing to disagree with me or not like a certain piece I wrote, but smearing someone’s photo with accusations of shill is nothing but the act of a coward. Unprofessional? There’s nothing unprofessional about calling trash like you little and I’d say that to your face.“

Pearls Thrown.
How could a professional writer fail to understand his subject matter, fail to grasp basic logic, and then be so arrogant about it on top? I wrote, ”George, I don’t have to prove that people from FreeBSD did not contribute to Apple’s driver. I never stated that, and it has no relevance to statements I made. You had to prove that Atheros did not deliver the driver, and that it came directly from FreeBSD without Atheros’ involvement. That was the question, and your misunderstanding of the architecture of Mac OS X helped you to confuse the situation.

“The truth is that Atheros contracted with an expert to port some of the FreeBSD code for use in its driver for Mac OS X, which only shares significant similarities with FreeBSD in its userland environment. Atheros had to deliver unique work for Apple to offer a working driver for Mac OS X, and paid a contractor to complete that work.

”You maintained that Atheros simply wasn’t involved at all, and that Mac OS X’s driver just came from the FreeBSD repository. That was wrong. Your explanation of why this was the case was also wrong. It is clear you still do not understand the situation entirely. That’s why you shouldn’t be writing about it as if you are an expert, simply because someone told you something that sounded believable off the record. You don’t understand the issues involved, but operate under the assumption that everything you think up as a plausible idea is also the truth. It isn’t.

“Slander, as noted in my article, is spoken. Libel is written. Just FYI. Also, a shill doesn’t necessarily need to be paid, so calling you a shill isn’t ‘accusing you of payola.’ Also, payola really only is illegal in broadcasting. There are plenty of people who are paid to say things, and nobody is arresting them. The company you work for largely serves advertisers; that isn’t
illegal, or all of CNET would be shipped off to jail.

”There is nothing cowardly about pointing out that you are a shill and then documenting your attempts to spread misinformation in efforts to make Vista look good and Apple look bad. There is something very cowardly about fuming that you’ve been outed, and rather than apologizing and correcting your error, and then maintaining that you’re simply better that others so your misinformation campaigns don’t matter.

“I don’t have a little man complex, so repeating that doesn’t really bother me. It does make it clear that you have some size issues in addition to your general lack of professionalism and technical incompetence.”

To which Ou elegantly replied, “Go find yourself a bathhouse in the city where you belong. You have no business writing.” Using the same address, Ou responded to several other online sites defending himself and ignoring the errors of his article. How does Ou have a job?

Ou is nominated for a Pink, White, and Brown Zoon, and his winning will also earn a Zoon for ZDNet and its CNET parent.

Windows Genuine Advantage, Microsoft.
After choosing a delightfully ironic name for its software DRM system, Microsoft then bungled its validation system for users worldwide. The hundreds of millions of PCs running Windows XP and Windows Vista phone home to Microsoft at regular intervals, but the company set up the system with a single point of failure.

An inevitable failure prevented the company from maintaining resilience to downtime–something the company highly touts as an Enterprise feature of Windows Server–but it also highlighted the problem of validating software in general using a system that assumes guilt when there is any question in reaching the validation server.

Windows users who tried to verify their genuine software had software features remotely turned off because of the WGA problems.

[Tech: WGA the Dog]
WGA the Dog

WGA is nominated for a White Zoon.

Oliver Rist, InfoWorld, IDG.
Suggested by reader Robert de Bie, Rist yesterday wrote an article titled “Does Mac OS X suck? Apple’s desktop platform has impressive technical chops, but it falls short from a business perspective.”
Oliver Rist, InfoWorld, IDG

Never mind the sophisticated and professional headline, the real question is, did Rist back up his headline, or simply cower in a bed of second hand fear, uncertainty and doubt? No need to guess, really; this is InfoWorld, a rag primarily useful for its ads. No competent IT manager wastes much time reading the ramblings of such stuffshirt columnists.

Rist brings up the idea that Mac OS X is really just Unix with some frosting, making it easy to coo about, but not really ready for real business. Unfortunately, Rist offers no basis for anything that he says. In fact, his headline and (forgone) conclusion don’t even match what he writes in between.

Under the subject of networking, Rist says, “OS X has an excellent networking client, both wired and wireless — due in large part to FreeBSD rather than anything coming out of Cupertino.” But wait, does FreeBSD write the Mac’s Apple File Protocol? Does it maintain Samba for Windows networking? Wrong on both counts. By spouting the dittohead myth that Mac OS X is just FreeBSD with an Apple logo, Rist has already established that he knows nothing about the subject he’s pretending to be an expert in. He then says nothing else about networking, granting that Mac OS X has no real issues.

Security Absurdity.
On the subject of security, he says “It’s a pretty secure system. Yes, ever since OS X has become more popular, attacks and breaches on the platform have become more numerous. And, yes, those numbers are high enough that if I were managing a portfolio of MacBooks I’d be installing anti-virus on them.” Rist linked his comment to another IDG article reporting on a Mac OS X worm threatened by the anonymous “InfoSec Sellout,” which turned out to be a fraud.

That’s the extent of the acceleration in Mac OS X “attacks and breeches,” a crank call? There are yet no viruses for Mac OS X, and all the malware that exists is proof of concept ideas hatched in a lab. Strike two for Rist in trying to write about security issues.

Even so, he concedes, “once the personal firewall is up and the AV installed, I’d fully expect to see far, far fewer security-related problems from my Mac clients than my Windows clients.”

[10 FAS: 10 - Apple’s Mac and iPhone Security Crisis.]

Apple’s Mac and iPhone Security Crisis

Many Words, Little Point.
On the subject of reliability, Rist beats up Artie MacStrawman for insisting that Mac OS X apps never crash. He then provides some recollected figures for estimating how many times he has noticed a Mac app crash compared to Vista crashes. He passes by saying, “Apple’s probably less crash-prone overall.”

On the subject of software compatibility, Rist says Apple “treats third-party developers like the proverbial redheaded stepchild, which results in significantly fewer third-party software options for Apple users than Windows users,” then follows up with the genius, “When it comes to mission-critical, vertical-type business software, Windows clients far outnumber Apple clients. If they didn’t, Macs would be populating a much larger number of corporate desktops.”

How does this guy get work writing? By the end of page one, Rist had said nothing at all. On page two, Rist really gets going. He starts off referring to “Apple jihaders,” as if he has a fundamentalist shock radio show rather than a column designed to inform IT managers.

Rist says people don’t want to retrain employees to use Macs, and then suggests that retraining users for the significantly different Vista would not be an issue. He gives the Mac a “grudging” pass again and moves to hardware.

[Paul Thurrott's Merciless Attack on Artie MacStrawman]
 Rd Techq307 Entries 2007 8 30 August 2007 Zoon Awards For Technical Ignorance And Incompetence Files Strawman

Mac OS X’s Hardware Features.
He says that Gateway has more USB ports and a finger print scanner in the same form factor for less cost, without outlining his comments with any factual basis. He then complains that his MacBook suffered a hard drive failure after four months. “That’s a pretty short time frame for serious hardware failure,” Rist wrote.

It’s odd that hardware issues are being outlined in an article about “why Mac OS X sucks,” but someone writing to an audience of experienced IT users should be aware that computing hardware–particularly hard drives–is most likely to fail in its first few months. Past that break in period, most hard drives typically have a relatively stable three year life span, after which problems become statistically more likely to occur.

It’s called the bathtub lifespan curve, because like the contour of a tub, it starts high, then drops low for a long stretch, then begins to rise again. Clearly, Rist doesn’t know what he’s talking about at all, even when complaining about consumer Mac hardware in the context of Mac OS X as a business operating system.

Dude, You’re Being a Shill.
After “passing” all of his categories, Rist then fails Mac OS X in “business orientation.” There are good and justified reasons for faulting Apple in the IT arena, but Rist doesn’t mention a single one. Instead, he prattles on about Apple’s consumer ads, and how they portray the typical Mac user with a “SOHO, I’m-cooler-than-you, coffee house image.”

For all the dittoheads who like to repeat this idea, I’d like to remind you all that Dell’s memorable mascot was a smirky pothead who couldn’t finish sentences beyond, “Dude, you’re gettin’ a Dell! (excited thumbs up).”

That had no impact on Dell’s Enterprise sales, because serious enterprise users don’t make their decisions based on watching prime time TV and deciding whether they like the advertisements targeted at families. So please shut up about the Justin Long and John Hodgman Get a Mac ads.

Enterprise Worthy Dell Pothead Vs. the Too Good for You Coffee Drinking Mac.

Enterprise Worthy Dell Pothead Vs. the Too Good for You Coffee Drinking Mac.

Highly Unqualified.
Rist is a “senior senior contributing editor” at InfoWorld. With this sort of incompetence and ignorance, it makes one wonder what kind of single celled organisms must pass for junior editors at IDC and its various ComputerWorld, PC World, and InfoWorld properties.

While writing “a column devoted to running Microsoft technologies in medium and large enterprise environments,” Rist only notes experience in running a small Microsoft-oriented software business and writing for rags like Computer Shopper. That qualifies him as a Microsoft shill, but not as a columnist offering advice about ‘medium and large enterprise’ IT environments.

Rist is nominated for Pink, White and Brown Zoons.

Microsoft’s Pseudo-Philanthropy in New Orleans.
Bob Emery notes that Microsoft is offering free software for hurricane-hit businesses in the devastated New Orleans area. However, in order to qualify, users have to sign up for a three year plan, of which Microsoft only covers the first year.

A local paper noted “For the typical small business of 50 employees and 25 personal computers licensing Microsoft Windows Vista and the Office 2007 suite of programs, the free year can result in savings of as much as $12,050.”

Of course, what that really means is that recovering small businesses will actually have to shell out $24,100 just for software licenses, in addition to buying computers capable of running Vista. One might think that a company earning $50 billion in revenues might be able to offer more than an advertisement to struggling businesses, particularly since software costs Microsoft nothing to deliver.

[Microsoft gives free software to hurricane-hit businesses - New Orleans CityBusiness]

Votes toward Microsoft’s headline friendly, fake philanthropy will help the company earn its White Zoon for its WGA fiasco.

Vote in the Forum and add your comments.

Official awardees:

  • Pink : George Ou, ZDNet, CNET
  • White : Windows Genuine Advantage, Microsoft
  • Brown : George Ou, ZDNet, CNET

What do you think? I really like to hear from readers. Comment in the Forum or email me with your ideas.

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1 comment

1 Zoon Awards Hall of Shame — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 11.10.07 at 5:58 am }

[...] August 2007 Zoon Awards for Technical Ignorance and Incompetence [...]

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