2001 – Are you a news junkie? I used to watch news on TV until my wife and I had twins. Now I get to watch Teletubbies and Disney’s Dinosaur five times a day!
I get my news fix from the Internet now. There are many news sources on the Web. I recently toured some of the big names to see how Mac-friendly they are. Here is what I found out. I tested these sites with Netscape 4.7 on a 300 MHz Beige Power Mac G3 running Mac OS 9.1 on a cable modem connection on a Sunday evening.
At a recent conference I attended, the comment was made by several participants (who were displaying websites they made) – “This doesn’t work on a Mac.” What they meant to say is, “I didn’t design this for everyone.” What they really should have said was, “This doesn’t work in Netscape,” which PC users often confuse with the Mac OS itself.
As they say, “results may vary.”
Fox News Channel •• (out of 5)
Fox News Channel loads fast and looks good in Netscape. Fonts displayed large enough to read with no annoying “Windows Only” effects like broken picture links or weird formatting. When I looked, there was no video posted on the site. There’s no science or technology link on the main home page, which is probably a good thing considering the crap Fox News Channel puts out.
Other comments: The page is very, well, white. They display the anchors’ photos in a sidebar on the right, and they’re all middle aged white guys. The one woman (also white) shown was at the bottom of the list. Although their motto is, “We report. You decide,” my impression of their news shows and science coverage in particular (this is the Mac Lab Report, after all) is that their motto ought to be “We Make It Up and Tell You to Believe It.” The recent moon conspiracy show (skewered by www.badastronomy.com) is a prime example.
CBS News ••
CBS News offers video in Real format only and loaded very slowly on my machine. There was much less emphasis on talking heads (read: Fox), and the content seemed pretty ordinary with the usual AP rewrites and national feeds providing content.
Easily the best general website for news for science teachers and Mac users, CNN.com is very Netscape friendly and displays well. As far as I could tell on this and later visits, QuickTime is always offered as an option (along with Real and WiMP) for streaming downloads (none of which work at my school, due to the firewall). A sidebar provides a link not only to sci-tech stories but also to space. Some links required obscure plug ins (Cult3D), but the ones I saw always had a Mac version. Speed was middle-of-the road for page loading. My only complaint is that the archived story list should run a little longer for those of us who cannot read the news every day. And I wish you could download the news files instead of just streaming them. Then I could catch up on the news as I eat lunch.
ABC News.com •••
I used to go to ABC News.com because of story content, but I have given up on trying to read their microscopic Windows fonts. Changing the default font size in my browser helps to some degree, but I have to do it on every machine I touch (and I use several). ABC News.com provides all video in Windows Media Format or RealPlayer; I could detect no QuickTime on the site. The best feature of the site is the length of the archived story list, which takes several days to push a story off the bottom of the stack. This site includes a sci-tech index with some good stuff in the sidebars which isn’t updated often enough. Load speed is fairly quick.
Other comments: On several occasions the banner headline at the top advertising World News Tonight shows Peter Jennings’ head tilted over but still cropped off at the top. To me, this looks like he doesn’t have enough room to sit up straight and gives me a neck cramp looking at it.
I once corrected the ABC news website when they showed a map of the earth attempting to illustrate the equator, and the line they emphasized was not the equator. Neither was it the line discussed in the caption, which reads: “This is the actual route of the equator – It’s not, as some science books say, through the United States.”
Right after they replied with a generic form letter, they removed the picture. I kept screen shots to prove they changed the article.
Cnet news – technology only (no science)
This site offers no QuickTime video offerings. It does load fast and provide large fonts by default on my Netscape browser. However, we all know how Cnet feels about Macs, and this is reflected in the stories about technology you will find there. Little science content except for technology/business information.
Update: I was taken to task by Gene Steinberg over my comments about Cnet, and prompted by his comments I went back to have a more careful look. I think he may be right. Cnet is careful to include Mac reviews in almost every hardware review category and has a couple of regular Mac columnists. Its Mac news section is all external feeds and a little thin, but its hardware indicies and reviews guides for lifestyle, business, home, and so on are all careful to make sure the Mac is well represented. In several categories, the Mac rates an editors’ choice rating, and none of the top five categories fail to include a Mac. Therefore, my less-than-complimentary original review of their overall Mac-friendliness should be revised.
It is true however, that they do not offer QuickTime when video is available.
This quick loading, pseudo-newspaper format is easy to read and gives a good quick overview. However, the annoying subscription requirement to read the entire story provides one more password and login I have to track. I can never remember my login, so I wind up creating a new account every time I go in, and I refuse to accept that the NYTimes needs to place a cookie on my machine. No particular emphasis on science and tech that I could detect without opening another account.
Other comments: Would earn three stars by dropping the subscription requirement. If people continuously re-register, how reliable can their membership data be?
Yahoo provides the longest archived list of news item links, and it provides science, space, and tech subcategories. Font sizes are rather small, and the overall appearance of the site is rather ugly in a mostly successful attempt to make the site fast-loading. Only Real and WiMP video formats were offered. Using the Real option for a couple of stories generated a “cannot find WiMP” error, which does not occur on other sites I visit. Content wise, a pretty good site, but not particularly Mac or Netscape friendly.
Since its debut, space.com has continuously added content and features for both the casual reader and the educational user. A large amount of information is stored on this site, and the mostly RealPlayer videos they provide work fine for me. I haven’t had difficulty loading or reading the page. Space.com usually loads fast unless there’s a big space-related event occurring .
CNN.com is the best site for general news junkies using Netscape on a Mac, inclined to read science and technology news. Space.com is a definite bookmark for any space enthusiast. So far, however, no site meets my full criteria for five stars:
- QuickTime Streaming and Download formats offered.
- A long list of recent articles easily accessible without a search.
- Displays well in Netscape without fighting with preference settings.
- No general bias against Macs via plug ins or editorial content.
- Serious, reliable coverage on science and tech news.
Do you have a favorite news site or do you agree with these admittedly unscientific and cursory site reviews? Email me!
Short link: http://goo.gl/JQYTYJ