7 December 2006

The Tech Guy

Saturday afternoons for me are typically devoted to errand running, crisscrossing across town in the car, guided by checklists of weekly purchasing needs and dry cleaning or other articles to pick up. And for some reason, Saturday afternoon is the dedicated time slot for computer talk shows on the radio.

On the surface, computer chit chat over the airwaves seems as exciting as standing in line at the grocery mart. But I suppose there's quite a bit of computer brokenness to be addressed, and no shortage of callers who need help in restoring their machines to an operational state.

The two leading talk giants in the Valley, KTAR and KFYI both feature such programming fare in the same time range. Both offerings pale in comparison to one that airs in the Los Angeles market on KFI, at roughly the same time, but is available for download and as a podcast to subscribe to. But first, let me assess the choices available on the local radio dial, as this article is structured on a worse to best sequence.

Data Doctors (KTAR 620 AM/92.3 FM, Sat 12-2p)

The KTAR (620 AM, 92.3 FM) showpiece is Data Doctors, hosted by Ken Colburn and Brandon Disney. Colburn and Disney oversee a burgeoning empire, centered on, but not limited to, providing computer repair and data recovery services. They also provide networking setup and consultation. So they are indeed very qualified to speak on matters of broken PCs. However, that strength is offset by the notion that everything on the show is a reflection of that fact. Basically, broken PCs, dysfunctional software, virus and malware epidemics, networking problems is what the show is entirely centered upon. I rarely hear the positive side of technology, or coverage of alternative solutions that would strike out 80-90% of most user problems. Like getting a Mac. Alright, seriously, even coverage of "technology in general", like PDAs, cellphones, digital music players, etc. If your only tool is a hammer, I guess everything looks like a nail. I am probably being a bit harsh here, but all the negatives, including the over-geeky sounding hosts far outweigh all the positives. The hosts are extremely knowledgeable, but that knowledge seems pigeon holed a narrow frame of Windows PCs, and even there, a fraction of that realm. And when I listen, I can't shake the feeling that the show is just a crafted public relations funnel to siphon ailing Windows users into their financial fold.

The Data Doctors offer up podcasts of past shows as well as some other resources on their web site.

Kim Komando Show (KFYI 550 AM, Sat 12-2p)

Strange that the competing show just down the radio dial airs on tape delay, despite the fact that KFYI is the flagship station for the WestStar Network. Mrs. Komando is the wife of Valley KFYI 550 AM talk host Barry Young, or Mr. Komando. Mrs. Komando runs a lively, fast-paced show, and like the Data Doctors, is very knowledgeable about the subject matter, though her expertise is a more user centric variety. And, she doesn't sound like a nerd either. While callers are treated to an endless grab bag of software and hardware giveaways, the canned sound effects are tediously annoying. Unlike the Data Doctors show, Komando applies a wider scope and technology in general is apt to be covered as well as mundane PC issues.

One thing not so polished about the Kim Komando Show is the crap-tacular nature of her website. Most of the stuff there is stashed behind a subscription based "Kim's Club" setup. Even queries for listing the radio stations and times requires one to enter an email and the response is e-mailed back to you, not displayed. There is a message board available there though.

The Tech Guy (KFI 640 AM, Sat/Sun 11a-2p)

Yes, I know, I can't receive Los Angeles broadcasts (at least during daytime) via a standard AM/FM radio. But I cannot write an article on computer radio shows without mentioning the best there is in this category. How Leo Laporte, the host, is not a household name, baffles me. Leo might be recognizable to some as the former host of the The Screen Savers, a show that aired on the now defunct cable television network TechTV.

Leo Laporte is amazing, in both the breadth and depth of knowledge imparted to listeners. On top of that, he's affable, patient, and in possession of a wonderful radio voice. In the opening monologue of the show, Leo stresses that he covers the entire gamut of tech, from cell phones to digital cameras. Honestly, I am amazed at Leo's ability to field caller questions and problems. And even if he is unable to formulate a solution, or even complete diagnosis, he's always able to provide a resource that can answer the question or resolve the problem. Although Leo has forged sponsorships with vendors like Dell and others, he's straight up and assesses tech affairs on what he believes is best for the user. He is a fan of Macs and Mac OS X, but he'll champion any product he believes is a good deal for the user.

The Tech Guy is just one piece of a podcasting empire that Leo is a the center of. Checkout twit.tv and you'll now see over a dozen podcast shows, each featuring a different flavor of tech. Shows on open source, Macs, Windows, gadgets, biotech, tech law, media tech, security, and my favorite, This Week in Tech are available for your listening pleasure or to point your iTunes (or other podcast capable software) to and subscribe.


Send Leo My Thanks,

I have been a faithful follower, and no matter where I go I am the Geek. I am the one that Downloads your Pod casts In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, I hope to get home soon to the USA, Miss home. Just keep me geekey.

Bill AKA soupy