AJA is now shipping its US$1495 Io XT, AJA’s first Thunderbolt device which I covered in detail when it was first announced in September 2011. Some of you have asked me whether the Io XT is the same as the prototype code-named “Riker” product that AJA showed at NAB back in April 2011. The answer is no. This article will explain why the Io XT is not Riker, review the currently-available Thunderbolt audio/video i/o devices I’ve covered so far (including the Pegasus Thunderbolt RAID), and clarify William Riker’s involvement in the Pegasus cover-up, as well as that of Leo Laporte, who recently declared Thunderbolt to be “D.O.A.” and “too late” on MacBreak Weekly. Even though neither is true, I think Leo had a very good reason to say those things.
Review of my other Thunderbolt articles so far
- Thunderbolt in MacBook Pro: a new era for demanding video editors who prefer laptops from February 27th, 2011
- Mac Mini w/Thunderbolt: preferred platform for many new editing systems from August 8th, 2011
- Blackmagic delivers its first Thunderbolt-based i/o interface, the UltraStudio 3D from September 5th, 2011
- Matrox adds optional Thunderbolt connectivity to existing MXO2 family interfaces from September 5th, 2011
- AJA announces Io XT interface with Thunderbolt at IBC in Amsterdam from September 9, 2011
- Blackmagic breaks Thunderbolt price budget with US$299 Intensity Extreme from September 9, 2011
Mac Mini for pro video editing: a field report from Guatemala:
Despite gloomy predictions from the naysayers, the Mac Mini beats the MacPro tower for video editing from October 18, 2011
- Pegasus Thunderbolt RAID5 from PROMISE: The high-performance video RAID5 you need for today’s modern Mac systems from January 31, 2012
Why the Io XT is not “Riker” but “Phaser”
At NAB 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, AJA showed a tech preview of two Thunderbolt devices code-named “Phaser” and “Riker”. The first code name refers to the standard-issue weapon from all of the Star Trek series and films, and the second makes obvious homage to a main character known as Commander William Riker from Star Trek: The Next Generation. But the Io XT was represented by the code-name “Phaser” at NAB 2011, and the product code-named “Riker” -which involved a modular architecture- is yet to be announced by AJA. Devoted Star Trek:TNG fans who are interested in Thunderbolt peripherals will have a special appreciation for the fact that in seventh-season’s episode 12 “The Pegasus”, Riker must confront his former commanding officer, Admiral Eric Pressman, over a cover-up related to the destruction of the USS Pegasus twelve years earlier. Pegasus is (coincidentally) the name of the first Thunderbolt-based disk array from PROMISE which I have covered in several articles in ProVideo Coalition magazine, and more specifically here. Conspiracy theories and backstories to explain this uncanny historical coincidence between Riker and the Pegasus will likely be forthcoming from multiple sources, including myself, as you’ll see ahead in this article.
Leo Laporte, MacBreak Weekly, William Riker and the Pegasus cover-up
Above you’ll see a very short excerpt of MacBreak Weekly episode 280 from January 3, 2012, where Leo Laporte, Alex Lindsay, and Andy Ihnatko are discussing their views on Thunderbolt. Despite declarations by Alex Lindsay and Andy Ihnatko during the show about present and future Thunderbolt products, Leo insists that he believes Thunderbolt is “D.O.A.” (“dead on arrival”) and “too late”. Since Leo must be reading my articles in ProVideo Coalition (as you are), he must have already been aware of all of these Thunderbolt devices, and the fact that professional video producers like Alex Lindsay, Andrómeda Productions, iLevel.us and Staff HDTV have already been using Thunderbolt technology (including Apple’s Mac Mini, Blackmagic’s UltraStudio 3D and Matrox’s MXO2 Mini with Thunderbolt, together with PROMISE’s Pegasus RAIDs) for several months, and therefore Leo must have been pretending when he made those statements, especially after hearing from Alex and Andy in the same program. (You can see the full episode 280 of MacBreak Weekly here.)
The apparent conspiracy behind the Riker/Laporte Pegasus cover-up
I have absolutely no direct access about this topic, and the following information is simply a product of my reading between the lines. Only time will tell whether my conjecture turns out to be true:
Sometime in late 2011, Apple Corporation, Intel, Paramount, the Pixel Corps (Alex Lindsay), PROMISE, and TWiT (Leo Laporte) apparently entered into a secret agreement to produce yet another Star Trek film, which will include animations created by Alex Lindsay and will star Leo Laporte (as himself) and Jonathan Frakes (as William T. Riker). As part of that secret agreement, Leo Laporte must temporarily downplay Thunderbolt technology (especially the Pegasus Thunderbolt disk array from PROMISE) to avoid spoiling the plot of the film, which involves time travel, Thunderbolt technology, and the ship known as the U.S.S. Relativity -previously seen in the episode of the same name (Relativity) from the Star Trek: Voyager series which exists to fix mistakes in the historic timeline. In a nutshell, all mentioned above will participate in a secret Starfleet mission to change history (or the future, from our perspective) and prevent the destruction of the U.S.S. Pegasus before it even occurs. In addition to Leo Laporte and William Riker, Steve Gibson will apparently also co-star as himself in order to integrate 21st-century encryption with 24th-century encryption, and will be temporarily enlisted by Starfleet in the film. Even though the only TWiT staff person who will actually time-travel to the 24th century will be Leo, there will apparently be some futuristic Skype communication across time between Leo, Tom Meritt, and other TWiT staffers, although with a slight delay as messages travel across time.
As soon as the mentioned Star Trek film is announced, I expect Leo Laporte to retract his negative statements regarding Thunderbolt technology and lack of acknowledgement of the Pegasus RAID from PROMISE, and to explain his prior position as part of an agreement to avoid spoiling the plot of the upcoming film. By analyzing the facial expressions and tone from the MacBreak Weekly excerpt you saw above, it becomes clear that Alex Lindsay has been aware of Laporte’s contractually-required downplay, but is personally free to mention Thunderbolt and the Pegasus RAID as long as he doesn’t reveal anything (yet) about the agreement or production. Even so, Alex was apparently choosing his words carefully. It is also clear after analysis that Andy Ihnatko has not yet been aware of it at all (at least before reading this article), and therefore was able to concentrate completely on the topic at hand while discussing Thunderbolt technology and products during the MacBreak Weekly show. Leo knows that it is never “too late” when you have the luxury of traveling in time!
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