Friday, January 06, 2006

A Very Techie Christmas, Part the 1st

I must have been a very good boy in 2005, as Santa was extremely generous to me. An unanticipated benefit of blogging I've found - especially if you're a compulsive "I want this" type like me - is that friends and relatives who read the blog bought me items that I said I liked.

No, I didn't get my own personal Zepplin NT, but near about everything else I mentioned in 2005 at one time or another, many totally unexpected and deserving of their own posts (I figure this is going to be a 3-parter post at least).

So, gift the first, but the not the least, The Complete New Yorker, one of my presents from Peggy. Eight DVDs, 4,109 issues of the magazine from February 1925 to February 2005. Every article, every cartoon, every illustration, every advertisement, every story. Every cover - the one to your right is from the issue that was on the stands the week I was born.

The CNY has my vote for one thing I'd want to be stranded on a desert island with... given that the island came with a DVD-capable laptop and electricity. There was a time, quite a long time in fact, where I found The New Yorker unreadable, even though my more literate friends kept foisting it off on me, or I'd pick up a copy out of sheer boredom in some waiting room. But I was more an Esquire and Rolling Stone reader in the ``70s and `80s. I didn't get "The Talk of the Town," half the time I couldn't even figure out what it was talking about. Most of the fiction and articles left me cold.

Sometime in the `90s I started reading The New Yorker seriously, and by the end of the decade I was subscribing. There's the occasional issue that I still skim through and have finished within 20 minutes. But more often, it's a several-day read. I'm not sure whether the magazine or my tastes changed dramatically over the years. More likely the latter, like Mark Twain's story about the son who said that at age 15 he couldn't believe how stupid his father was, and at age 21 couldn't believe how much the old man had learned in just six short years.

So, the CNY set. Like the magazine itself, the DVD implementation is a little ah, quirky. On the plus side, the text is surprisingly clear and readable on a computer screen, something I was relieved to discover, as I'm not much of a fan of non-paper reading. The interface is relatively simple to use (in my opinion, several reviews have bitter complaints about the interface). And the content is unbeatable. Orlean, Capote, Liebling, Salinger. The cartoons. Enough good reading material for several lifetimes. And even the old ads are a hoot. "Damn Yankees" first run on Broadway, a brand-new Triumph yours for only $2200.

In the "could use improvement" column, the search tool seems to have been written by someone who had never actually seen a search engine, but had had one described to them and then earnestly set out to do their best. See the exchange below where even their technical support team was unable to locate a fairly well-known Salinger story.

Although I haven't run across any myself yet, there are several on-line complaints about poorly scanned pages. The CNY home page notes that some issues on the DVDs are inaccessible, and have provided them as online downloads. And during my first serious read of the CNY, I was happily trekking through Salinger's "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters," when I found a glitch, leading into to the following correspondence with CNY support.

EMail ID 3008
> Thank you for your inquiry to The Complete New Yorker Technical Support
> department.
>
> Fred,
> Thank you for bringing a possible error to our attention. If possible,
> could you reply and include the date of the issue regarding "Raise High the
> Roofbeam, Carpenters." We were unable to locate the article that you're
> referring to.
>
>
> Sincerely,
>
> The Complete New Yorker Technical Support
>
> ...................................................
>
> On 1/2/2006we received the following question from you.
>
> NAME: Fred
> PLATFORM: win
> OS: winxp
>
> DESCRIPTION: Missing page on "Raise High the Roofbeam,
> Carpenters." There's a duplicated page (105) instead of the correct page
> 109.

***

On 1/4/2006we received the following question from you.

Hi,

Sorry, should have given more complete information. Disc 6, Nov, 19, 1955
issue, see pages "108-109". Page that should be 109 is actually page 105.

Can I get a scan of 109? It kind of ruins the story with it missing. :-)

regards,

Fred

...................................................

Thank you for your inquiry to The Complete New Yorker Technical Support department.

Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention. We have replicated the problem and are forwarding this to the developers.

We will release periodic application updates that will hopefully resolve this and other issues as they emerge.

We are not be able to scan an image of page 109 for you currently.

We apologize for the inconvenience. Thank you.

Sincerely,

The Complete New Yorker Technical Support

So, you pays your money, and you take your chances. But even if not perfect, the CNY is just so good that I can put up with unreliable search results and missing pages. If you have a New Yorker fan in your household, they probably can too, and if you're looking for a gift that really will keep on giving... here it is.

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