Daniel Eran Dilger
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Gizmodo has its Slashdot Halloween moment 11 years later with iPad mini

Daniel Eran Dilger

Remember when Slashdot lost its remaining credibility after describing the new iPod as “No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame”? Well of course you don’t remember Slashdot. And soon, you won’t remember Gizmodo, either.
This all happened before

Let me tell you a ghost story, kids. Slashdot was once a place to find tech headlines, sort of like Digg (what, you don’t remember that either?) Well, both were sort of like Gizmodo, where a group of kids posted links to actual sources of news with snarky little lines conveying both their lack of experience and openness to new ideas, as if too young and too old at the same time.

In the case of Slashdot, the October 2001 release of Apple’s iPod was filed under the site’s “well-thats-not-very-exciting dept.” Comments on the iPod were almost as scary, at least 11 years later in hindsight. One top comment, highly ranked as “interesting” stated, “At $199-$250, I would have bought two, immediately. Instead, at $399, I am buying zero, and expect that many other people will feel the same way.”

Wait, is this time warp comment about the iPad mini or the iPod? It’s almost hard to tell as the guy continued, “I am more than willing to pay a premium for Apple designed hardware and software. This thing will undoubtedly have a great interface. But that is not worth $200 extra (double the price!).”

Slashdot was comparing the $399 iPod to the Creative Nomad Jukebox 20G, a heavy, clunky device with really slow USB 1.0 (and also lacking wireless), but which was priced at $249 (actually it was also $399, but Creative also sold other devices with far less flash storage for cheaper). It also supported Microsoft’s then-apparently-relevant WMA audio format, the lynchpin of its “PlaysForSure” program, which was the wheels behind Zune, which was the vehicle for Windows Phone, which is the driving force behind the user interface of Windows 8.

“Gizmodo counts pixels, recommends Kindle Fire HD” says Amazon

Fast forward by 11 years, and there’s a new halloween trick or treat comparison: Gizmodo’s apparent endorsement of the $199 Amazon Kindle Fire HD over the $329 iPad mini.


Thanks to inflation, Apple’s $399 iPod from 2001 would cost about $517 in today’s dollars, versus the alternative music players you could buy for around $323 in inflation-corrected bucks at the time, or just over 60 percent of Apple’s price (adjusted or not). So, remarkably, Apple’s new iPad mini is substantially cheaper in today’s dollars than the iPod was in 2001 money.

Unsurprisingly, the difference between the iPod and the cheapest MP3 players at the time was almost the exact same ratio between Apple’s iPad mini and the 7 inch Amazon Kindle Fire HD tablet (actually, the modern products are closer in price than the iPod was to its competitors).

What do you get for that extra price? “Far fewer pixels!” Gizmodo says. Amazon specifically says it offers “30% more pixels than iPad mini.”

What do you get to do with those 30% more pixels? Amazon suggests it improves media consumption, pointing out you can “watch HD movies and TV” on the Kindle Fire, but that there is “no HD movies or TV” on the iPad mini.

That’s odd, because the original iPad can play HD content. And by odd, I mean “outrageously dishonest deception.”

Amazon says this because the Kindle Fire HD has a 1280×800 display; the iPad mini (same as the iPad and iPad 2) has a 1024×768 screen. But when you view actual “HD” content, whether from iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu or other sources, there’s no discernible difference in video quality between the Kindle Fire HD and the original iPad.

Amazon says the iPad mini has a “standard definition” display, but that’s a term with a specific meaning related to televisions with resolution of less than 720×480. “High definition” means 720p or 1080p, but implies a 16:9 resolution. So the iPad is not technically the same resolution as an HDTV, but it’s also clearly not a “standard definition” display either. It’s an XGA computer resolution.

However, when you play back widescreen movies, both the Kindle Fire HD and iPad mini (any iPad) play them back with letterboxing. So you’re not using every pixel anyways, making Amazon’s hay over 32 extra lines of resolution particularly absurd. Kindle Fire HD does not offer higher resolution video playback; it’s just a smaller screen on a larger, thicker, heavier device than iPad mini.

Watching iTunes HD video, it’s virtually impossible to see any difference between even the original 1024×768 iPad and the 2048×1534 iPad with Retina Display, which has 400% more pixels. That’s because even a lot more pixels don’t make much of a difference when watching video at the same resolution. One can make out significant differences in the UI elements, which look twice as sharp on the new iPad.

I wanted to compare screen shots of the Kindle Fire with standard and Retina Display iPads, but the Kindle Fire refuses to take a screen shot of a playing movie. So here are photographs of the two iPads alongside a Kindle Fire HD to show the huge difference a 16:9 screen makes on a tablet for watching movies: that is to say, not any whatsoever, whether letterboxes or full screen.

Look how many pixels are lost on the Kindle Fire HD in widescreen, despite ostensibly being a widescreen tablet. If Amazon wants to draw an imaginary line at defining HD as being “1280×800” playback, then it fails its own test, because it isn’t using the whole screen, even in wide orientation. And that’s because it’s not a true 16:9 ratio like an HDTV, the very thing it is claiming to exclusively be.

More pixels don’t even improve text legibility on the Kindle Fire HD

Move to looking at detail in still photos or in text, and you can see a big difference with higher resolution displays. The Retina Display iPad makes text and UI elements appear razor sharp, while earlier generations look like a PC screen: noticeably pixelated.


But pull up text on a webpage and the Kindle Fire HD looks worse than the original iPad, despite having “more pixels” and a greater pixel density. It looks absolutely terrible. A side-by-side of the two looks like a regular/Retina Display comparison (above: Retina Display iPad, original iPad, Kindle Fire HD). What is the Kindle Fire HD doing with its 30 percent more pixels?

The screen is also less suited to looking at pages of stuff. In some cases, you see more of the page at the expense of text readability (above). In other cases, you see less content on the page, but that text is still worse (below). Things get especially bad when you try to use it in its wide orientation. Amazon’s Silk browser automatically zooms in on content, meaning you can’t even see the description of the first story on AppleInsider, while the “low resolution” iPad shows the first three top stories.

Having nearly a third more pixels and a slightly higher pixel density doesn’t make the Kindle Fire HD better at video or at text, never mind how poorly it responds to touch, or the flaws in its user interface, or its limited support for video (it can’t play any iTunes content, and trying to find top movies in Amazon’s store is frustrating). But it does have more pixels.

Two speakers are better than one, but not better than headphones

What about speakers? Amazon promotes the Kindle Fire HD as having two for stereo sound, while previous iPads only had one (update: the new iPad mini does actually have two speakers, delivering stereo sound). The quality of the builtin speakers on either device are only smartphone-level, but having two speakers is better than one; the iPad’s single speaker makes its sound very directional, while the Kindle Fire HD’s is less so, and is in stereo.

But that only really applies in its horizontal orientation. Held vertically, its two speakers are at the top and bottom of the device, which is kind of odd. (I haven’t yet tried out the iPad mini’s stereo sound).

Chances are, though, if you want decent sound (especially when playing games or watching videos) you’ll be listening via headphones, not through the tiny builtin speakers on either device.

Alternatively, you might want to play content out through your TV. With any iPad, you just touch the AirPlay button and wirelessly stream HD video, a feature Amazon doesn’t match. The Kindle Fire HD does have an HDMI output port, so if you want to deal with plugging in a cable to your TV, you have that option. With any iPad, you’ll need both a dongle and a cable for HDMI (making wireless AirPlay that much more preferable).

And what about “Ultra Fast MiMo WiFi”?

Amazon indicates “Ultra Fast MiMi WiFi” is a feature exclusive to Kindle Fire HD, suggesting that it’s something the iPad mini lacks. If you examine the device’s Amazon page, the company compares it to the iPad 3 and a “Google tablet” saying the Kindle Fire HD’s 32Mbps WiFi is 41% faster than the 22 Mbps iPad 3 and 54% faster than Google’s 20Mbps tablet.

But the previous generation iPad 3 doesn’t have the same WiFi as Apple’s new iPad mini or iPad 4: both support what Apple says is “advanced Wi-Fi that’s up to twice as fast as any previous-generation iPad. With dual-band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) 802.11n Wi-Fi and support for channel bonding, download speeds can reach up to 150 Mbps.”

Why does Amazon say that Kindle Fire HD is faster in WiFi than iPad mini when in reality it is slower?

And why does Gizmodo only say, in Jesus Diaz’s “iPad Mini – everything you need to know” article, “It naturally comes with 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (like Amazon and Google’s models).”

But that’s not true at all, not any more than Amazon’s purely false comparison of WiFi speeds. All WiFi is not the same. More antennas, channel bonding and other features mean a huge leap in speeds, far larger than the difference between HSPA+ and LTE that nerd sites like Gizmodo liked to prattle on about as a life and death difference before Apple released any support LTE.

And technically, Kindle Fire HD is Bluetooth 3, not Bluetooth 4 like Apple’s gear over the last year.

I wanted to install the free Android Speedtest.net app on a Kindle Fire HD, but it’s not in Amazon’s store. It is in Google Play, but Amazon works hard to prevent you from being able to use that – you have to jailbreak the device to install apps from Google’s store. And to jailbreak it, you apparently need another Android device to download the apps you need to jailbreak the Kindle Fire.

Is Amazon trying to hide the fact that the Kindle Fire HD has less impressive WiFi than it does, or is the tablet just saddled with a poor software store and competitive barriers that effectively make it a nonstandard pseudo-Android device? Unfortunately, the former is true, no conspiracy needed.

Of course, WiFi speed is not the top problem for the Kindle Fire HD. No matter how fast it can download, its still hobbled by a laggy user interface, poor software selection, a third rate browser and other flaws that essentially make it an oddball, oversized Android phone without the phone (or subsidy).

It’s similarly clunky and annoying to use as the Creative Nomads were a decade ago. I don’t think being 60% of the iPad mini’s price will make a difference to people who want a functional tablet, any more than being a bit cheaper than the iPod helped Creative. On top of that, the value of a tablet today is largely related to how well it can surf the web and the apps available for it, software issues that weren’t really an issue with MP3 players.

But these are the issues that a tech blog like Gizmodo is supposed to draw attention to. Instead, Jesus Diaz simply compared some spec numbers and gave his readers misleading generalizations and false information they could get from Amazon itself.

  • http://www.van-garde.com adobephile

    Lies may fool some for a while, but they condemn the author to a shortened and troubled existence.

    Great analysis, as usual, and gratifying as it confirms my own impressions upon first viewing the product that it was a POS.

  • warlock7

    I just sent Amazon a nasty e-mail about lying about their competitors devices when they’re competing directly with their own devices. This just makes them look bad.

    This seems a lot like a bait-and-switch operation. You go to the Amazon site and there on the front page is them disparaging their competition when comparing against their own product. It’s a long held belief in retail that you simply do not disparage the competition.

  • http://madhatter.ca The Mad Hatter

    Even with those faults, I suspect it will outsell the Microsoft Surface.


  • John E

    Amazon has obviously decided just to lie its way into the market. hey, why not, it works for Romney too.

    and btw, turns out the mini also has two speakers – stereo.

  • http://www.giveyourbrainachance.com jeromec

    Just a quick remark about Amazon’s WiFi speed claims.
    I have an iPad 3 and get more then 40Mbps download over WiFi, which is a tad faster than Kindle Fire HD’s “twice as fast” speed.

    As a footnote, I get over 70Mbps with my iPhone 5, and 180Mbps on my MacBook Pro. That is with a 200Mbps (10Mbps) fiber internet connection, which you can get for 42€/month (ca. $55) in most of paris, France.
    Here is a screenshot of the Speedtest app on my iPad: https://www.dropbox.com/s/c90nve8puhry4pp/iPad3%20to%20Paris%2C%20noVPN.jpg

  • enzos

    Here’s a more balanced review that deals with the issues that you mention by actually testing and comparing the two / three devices: http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/oct/31/ipad-mini-review


  • warlock7

    Amazon has taken down the offending advert from the main page now.

  • stefn

    “Selling tablets to those who don’t know better.” Amazon’s new motto.

  • FreeRange

    Daniel – Brilliant as always. I’ll be spreading a link to this all over the place in response to all the clueless techtards and apple haters. Confirmation – the kindle fire is a fraud, and junk.

  • Arnold Ziffel

    Hey, Dan, Phil Schiller let it be known today iPad mini does indeed have stereo speakers after all.

  • kdaeseok

    Dan I think you’re missing the point here- Native 720p is 1280 x 720. iPad Mini can’t play it and Kindle Fire can.
    Of course, iPad mini can play the materials converted to 1024 * 528 and I’m sure it’ll play them brilliantly- but connect both devices to the 720p TV and you will see the difference.

    [Have you looked at the pictures? The Kindle does not play uncropped video at 1280×720. You either get a cropped “full screen” or a letterboxed “widescreen” presentation, just like the squarer iPad.

    If you black out the top and bottom of the screen, the Fire HD’s effective resolution does down because ALL THOSE PIXELS ARE NOT BEING USED! You’re quibbling over the “definition” difference of 80 lines of pixels, then ignoring the fact that the KF HD blacks out more than 80 lines in its letterboxing.

    The reality is that most people can’t tell if they’re watching 720p or 1080p on a tablet sized device — what matters is that when you look at both the iPad and KF HD, you see pixels on both, but the iPad’s video is identical and its text is clearly better. – Dan]

  • http://www.giveyourbrainachance.com jeromec

    I was able to output 1080p at is native resolution from my iPad 2 using Apple’s 30pin-to-HDMI adapter and I cannot seee why it would be different with iPad mini and Apple’s Lightning-to–HDMI adapter.
    And the same is true through an Apple TV.

    That was for my 1080p home movies. If I remember well, iTunes Store content on the iPad 2 is limited to 720p (I do not remember if you can sync 1080p iTunes store content from your Mac/PC though).

    Anyway, this 720p content on the iPad 2should not look worse than Amazon’s 720p on an HDTV, don’t you think :-) ?

    Even better, Apple’s specs page for iPad mini lists 1080p H264 support and 1080p output through the HDMI adapter or Apple TV 3.
    So, connect both to an HDTV, and you will clearly see a difference between the iPad mini’s 1080p and the Kindle Fire HD’s 720p videos!!!

  • http://themacadvocate.com TheMacAdvocate

    Gizmodo went beyond jumping the shark years ago. They’re currently humping the decomposing carcass of a shark for their livelihood. Their attempt to resurrect the specter of Chinese labor because of the iPad mini is the latest descent into the pageview sewers.


    And Diaz is by far the worst of the bunch.

  • http://madhatter.ca The Mad Hatter

    For those who are missing Daniel’s political writing…



  • kdaeseok

    Dan I still don’t understand what you’re trying to say. 1280 * 720 (HD) is displayed on Kindle Fire as 1280 * 720. You get letterbox that takes 80 lines – but the image itself is not scaled or cropped.
    1280 * 720 is displayed on iPad mini as 1024 * 576. Simple as that.

    [Well it’s good to know that the HD can magically display 720 lines of resolution even when it’s not. But rather than argue back and forth, why don’t you take a screen capture of both and show me the detail that’s missing on the iPad? Because I couldn’t see this.

    What you’re saying sounds suspiciously like people who insisted that 720p wasn’t really HD and 1080p was, or that 42Mbps DCHSPA isn’t 4G but 40Mbps LTE is. I prefer real distinctions in value to dick measuring specifications that are misleading – Dan]

  • gus2000

    There’s no debate that fewer pixels means less content. That’s just arithmetic.

    BUT, measuring a display based solely on pixel count is like judging the quality of a meal by it’s weight. There are other factors that contribute far more to perceived Picture Quality, such as black level, contrast, brightness, color accuracy, refresh rate, etc.

    For instance, some displays are unable to produce all 16M colors and can only muster 64K, such as some of the early plasma HDTVs. So you either suffered banding-effects when viewing subtle gradients, or it “dithered” the pixels. Dithering will create the appearance of more colors, but at the expense of effective resolution and flicker.

    When viewing highly-compressed digital video, the decoder is as important as the display. Avoiding visual pitfalls like pixelation and spatial-temporal distortion require good algorithms and sufficient processing power. A good scaler is a must for odd-size displays like on the iPad/iPhone, which are excellent IMHO.

    No doubt that the Kindle has more pixels than the iPad. But that doesn’t mean it has a better display, or has a better overall experience when watching video.

  • gslusher


    My old 20″ iMac G4 had a 1680×1050 display, so it should have had no problem with 720p, right? Wrong! It could NOT display 720p video unless the video were uncompressed–and, even then, only VLC could do it, not the QuickTime Player. 1080p was out of the question. Why? The iMac’s 1.25 gHz G4 PPC CPU and NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics card with 64MB couldn’t handle the decompression. The only way that I could view compressed HD video clips was to convert them with VisualHub to, at most, 960×540 and often smaller than that. (My 12″ PowerBook G4, with 1.33 gHz, was actually a bit better, though it has a 1024×768 display.)

    My current “new” (to me–bought used) Early 2008 15″ MacBook Pro has no problem showing 720p or 1080p on its 1440×900 display. Its 2.5 ghz Core 2 Duo and NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT graphics card with 512 MB make all the difference.

    So, screen size isn’t everything.

  • kdaeseok

    Sure I agree. I didn’t say screen size or everything (nor I believe it that way.)
    I am just saying that what Dan said was wrong.

  • kdaeseok

    screen size or everything -> screen size is everything

  • Willi

    I’m quite frankly shocked at Daniel’s complete lack of understanding of video formats. If you want HD videos to be displayed in 16:9 (using all 1280×720 pixels), obviously you have to play back a video that was *produced* in 16:9, not in CinemaScope (that’s the wider cinematic aspect ratios like 2.35:1). If you view a video that has a different aspect ratio, obviously you have to either accept black bars or zoom in – just like on the iPad. Your comparison clearly shows that

    A) when displaying black bars, these are significantly smaller than on the iPad (same as watching a widescreen movie on a 4:3 TV vs. 16:9 TV), and
    B) when zooming in, less image area is cropped.

    Simply concluding that both devices either show black bars or zoom in, so they are the same, is just absurd. YES, the Kindle Fire HD absolutely displays 720p content: All 1280 horizontal pixels are used, and depending on the aspect ratio, up to 720 pixels are used. At the same time, the iPad only ever shows 1024 pixels wide and 576 pixels tall when displaying true 16:9 content and even less when displaying narrower widescreen formats. Evidently, this reverses when displaying 4:3 or (theoretical) square video, but it’s much less popular.

    I agree that overall the iPad mini is a much better device, but for video (and frankly, only for video) 16:9 is definitely an advantage. I think it’s a joke that this horribly, horribly flawed comparison is written only a few paragraphs above your rant about Gizmodo spreading false information. Don’t throw rocks when you’re standing in a glass house.

    [If you’re going to throw out an arrogant critique and call me inaccurate, you should make sure you are being technically precise yourself.

    16:9 (aka 1.77:1) is the ratio of HDTV. It’s not what any movies are shot in outside of HD made-for-TV shows. Tech sites keep saying 16:9 is cinematic and so movies look better on it, but it’s not really. Movies are shot wider. The first 5 Pixar movies were 1.85:1, which most US movies are. More recent Pixar movies are shot in the wider 2.35:1.

    So if you’re trying to make the case that widescreen tablets like the Kindle are “better for movies,” you have to realize they aren’t using the same aspect ratio. You can’t fit a cinematic HD movie on a 16:9 screen without bars. If you have bars, you don’t have use of the 720 pixels they advertise as being superior to the iPad’s squarer ratio. Can’t have it both ways. It isn’t “more HD,” its just an awkward smartphone style ratio, not a cinematic one. So it’s bad for apps and really no better for movies.

    The thing is, tablet users are using apps, not just watching movies. That’s where the demand is, and that’s why Apple is making money on tablets and Amazon isn’t. It’s that simple. -Dan]

  • NikYZF

    20 Willi,

    I mostly agree, but HD/Widescreen is a mess, isn’t it? First of all, we were sold “HD” TVs with screens 720*1280. These were then rebranded as “HD-ready” when 1080*1920 sets were launched as “Full HD”. I’d be p***ed off if I’d bought a 720 set!

    Next, for reasons unclear, Widescreen TVs are 16:9. Why that ratio? It’s obviously wider than 4:3 but still much “squarer” than most films. Imagine spending a small fortune on a huge HD TV for Home Cinema which can not show films correctly without letterboxing, distorting, or cropping the image (related pet hate: stretching 4:3 material to fill a 16:9 display so that everyone looks fat and circles are ovals)!

    There is then the further issue that “widescreen” computer displays are nearly always 16:10 (like the Fire HD’s 800*1280), not 16:9, so you will get slight letterboxing even with widescreen TV material (films are letterboxed more, of course, depending on the actual ratio).

    So, yes, the Fire HD can play 720*1280 material natively, but so what? Does it actually look any better than the iPad mini?

    (First comment here. Really enjoy Daniel’s posts. Even if he doesn’t always get it 100% right, he still does much better than most tech pundits.)

  • markos741

    As always, a fearless and great analysis.
    To those who think that you were rough on Kindle Fire HD, I thought you were far kinder that you could be.
    Even if Gizmodo was right about specs (which is not), so what? What really matters is the overall experience with your device. Even if Amazon made an amazing tablet, what are you going to do with it? iOS’ competition offers a fragmented experience, with no tablet-dedicated apps. Even if the hardware was great, it would be like a Ferrari driven by a 4 year old.
    The competition’s slogan could be: “Apps? Who needs them?”

    Congratulations for the powerful article, shame on Gizmodo.
    One last thing: I was following you since your YouTube-times, and I’m not the only one who misses that. Please reconsider about making videos again. If only this article was on video…

  • kdaeseok

    I definitely agree that iPad mini will provide the overall better experience, but again, Kindle Fire’s $199 while iPad mini starts from $329. People can buy Kindle Fire if they just want the contents Amazon has regardless of the number of apps. That’s how the original Kindle ebook reader sold.

  • Willi


    –”So if you’re trying to make the case that widescreen tablets like the Kindle are “better for movies,” you have to realize they aren’t using the same aspect ratio. You can’t fit a cinematic HD movie on a 16:9 screen without bars. If you have bars, you don’t have use of the 720 pixels they advertise as being superior to the iPad’s squarer ratio. Can’t have it both ways.”

    So I take it you are neither the “half full” nor the “half empty” guy but the “if the glass isn’t filled to the very top it’s practically empty anyway” guy? Yes, you have black bars on both devices. No, it’s not the same because on the iPad those bars are far bigger. If we take a CinemaScope movie at 2.35:1 for comparison, it fills 68% of the Kindle Fire HD’s display area, while only using 57% of the iPad’s display area. The black bars take up 32% and 43% of those displays, respectively. The same principle applies to other wide screen aspect ratios. The actual resolution doesn’t matter here – it’s the display area that’s always filled to a greater degree on widescreen displays.

    Obviously the iPad counteracts this somewhat by simply having a bigger display to begin with. If both displays were roughly the same diagonal size, the Kindle’s advantage for watching movies would be even more apparent.

    The Kindle Fire HD does also have a real HD display, because HD is defined as 1280×720 or better. The Kindle Fire HD is capable of displaying a 1280×720 HD video without downscaling, the iPad is not. In this case, the resolution is the only thing that matters. To be more precise, the horizontal resolution, because the vertical resolution exceeds the requirements anyway (800>720). Any video with an aspect ratio of 16:9 or wider will be displayed with a horizontal resolution of 1280 pixels, while the actual vertical resolution will obviously depend on the specific aspect ratio. On the iPad mini however, those videos cannot be played back with a higher resolution than 1024 pixels wide. 1280px is HD, 1024px is not (hence it’s standard definition). The same is true for the Retina iPad: It’s full HD no matter how big the black bars might get, because the horizontal resolution meets the required 1920px and even exceeds it. It can display 1920×1080 without downscaling.

    –”The thing is, tablet users are using apps, not just watching movies. That’s where the demand is, and that’s why Apple is making money on tablets and Amazon isn’t. It’s that simple. -Dan]”

    I agree with this quote and I also prefer 4:3 over widescreen for tablets as well, because I believe it to be more versatile (widescreen displays in portrait orientation are just odd). But that’s a completely different argument. The argument I was referring to is plain and simply wrong. If you really had any more integrity than Diaz and the rest of the Gizmodo kindergarten, you would realize this and have the guts to update your article to correct for this mistake. The fact that you haven’t done this so far shows that you are no better than those other third-class pundits: big mouth, sensationalist, extremist (your black and white view on these matters is just silly), but with little actual substance behind that smoke screen. You should take a leaf out of John Gruber’s book: he’s not nearly as big-mouthed and has no problem posting a correction when he’s been wrong.