Wednesday, October 24, 2007

AT&T Tilt by HTC
Originally uploaded by gadget
This week I have been at the CTIA Wireless I.T. and Entertainment show in San Francisco. I've not seen anything revolutionary, just evolutionary. Take a look at my Flickr Stream for photos from the event. There are a few new handsets like the HTC Touch and Tilt, as well as some cool LG phones with touch screens more akin to the iPhone than the Treo... No iPhones though!

PC Magazine Productivity Expo

It's time again for the PC Magazine Productivity Online Expo, which opens Thursday, October 25th (9:30AM - 6:00 ET/6:30AM - 3:00PM PT)

I'll be speaking on PC Magazine's online trade show, the Mobility Technology Online Expo. There will be a cast of other experts and characters speaking on how you can achieve excellence in the latest in mobile computing and connectivity.

My topics are: Productivity for Road Warriors: On-Demand ApplicationsFor low monthly fees, providers of on-demand applications keep small- and medium-size business from having to pay large up-front costs to keep mobile workers productive. And the good news is that the quality of on-demand applications has risen dramatically in recent years. In this interactive webcast, experts from PC Magazine and leaders from top on-demand application companies will show you how to optimize on-demand solutions for any kind of business.

Friday, October 12, 2007

In July 2007 a law took effect that mandated the cable industry move to a method of conditional access, or content security that was open to users selecting their own tuners, while still being protective of premium content like HBO. This technology is known as cable card where a small PC-Card (formerly known as PCMCIA) form factor descrambler can be installed into your late model LCD or Plasma screen, digital video recorder (DVR), or even some new Vista Media Center PCs, and eventually accessory PC cable QAM tuners. Cable TV subscribers need only call their operator to get for free, or a low monthly fee, a cable card for their chosen tuner. Currently, as this is a new technology, these cards are installed via a truck roll from your cable company, at a cost that you can frequently have waived. In the near future I expect this to be self-installed like DSL as the process is extremely straightforward. Cable companies today do not have their customer service representatives trained yet on this new activation process, as their legacy set top boxes are installed by technicians as well.

Because of this government mandated user empowerment, the newly released TiVo HD looks like it is going to replace my Mac Mini running XP Media Center Edition 2005 via Boot Camp with tuning via a Silicon Dust dual QAM tuner in the living room. The reason? It's cheaper than my Mac configuration, it's way easy, and it always works. You can pick up a TiVo HD for about $250 delivered depending on tax from Amazon; which supports dual tuners and can pull in all encrypted digital cable channels, except the on-demand programming. Best of all, thanks to cable-card for conditional access, and the M-Card supporting multiple streams, a single coax cable plugged into the TiVo; along with a single M-card unlocks both internal high-definition tuners. My favorite model of TiVo before this, the DirecTiVo supported two tuners as well, but required two coax lines feeding it from the satellite, a difficult installation proposition for most users. The TiVo HD also has the ability to record from two ATSC UHF HDTV digital signals through a second airial port, so you can stay away from cable fees, enjoying great HD content from over the air (OTA) reception.

The internal 160GB drive is a little small; supporting 20 hours of HD content and 184 hours of SD content (at the High quality setting) but rumor has it that TiVo will be releasing software to enable the external hard disk eSATA port for expansion plus the ability for the home media option to work as well - giving bi-directional content sharing with PCs. With that "open" access to additional content, we will have a winner on our hands. I have already seen two updates on my unit, one to fix macroblocking problems that some users experienced and a second that enables more sophisticated "Universal Swivel Search" which searches not only the program guide information within TiVo, but also new movie releases and Amazon Unbox content - which can be delivered to the TiVo from the living room user interface! Take that AppleTV!

Best yet, between October 11th and November 8th, 2007, you can transfer a previously purchased lifetime service from an older box, activated before October 2003, to a new TiVo HD for $199. From here:

Now if you are lucky enough to find or have a TiVo activated back then, that unit's lifetime cost you between $199 and $249. At $16.95 per month, it seems to be a good deal, with a quick 1-year payback, considering you got your "lifetime's worth" on your original TiVo hardware. If you add the TiVo HD on as a second receiver however, and go with a 3 year commitment on your HD box, the monthly payment is only $6.95 per month, which means 29 months to equal $199. This means a two-and-a-half year payback of the transfer fee. If you buy a lifetime box off of eBay, which are available yet carry a premium (note, do NOT buy a "LifeTime DirecTiVo" box as MANY are hacked via software and are not elidigable due to these boxes receiving their program guide from the DirecTV satellite stream) consider the additional preium to pay back your investment versus $16.95 per month. By the way, you can find Lifetime subscription "cards" from retail stores that were once sold on eBay too, but they go for around $600. Yikes!

I am a huge fan of the TiVo interface, and with the features of the HD like simultaneous digital and analog output (some early receivers only allowed digital or analog via a switch) so I can run my HDMI TV and Slingbox Pro simultaneously and not be stuck with a cable provider user interface. This does come at a time when Comcast is slowing rolling the TiVo user interface out to its subscribers on a market by market basis. This at a premium cost over their plain vanilla DVR hardware from Motorola.

By the way, users who said the TiVo HD interface was slow may have been talking about its operating during initial setup, as the box was parsing its data files. I have had nearly every TiVo, from Series 1 @ 30GB, Series 2 with 120GB and a DVD burner (a favorite for making DVD's faster than real-time) the DirecTiVo with integrated Dual Tuners for DirecTV and finally the TiVo HD. All have what I feel to be some un-necessary lag during operations that could be performed in the back ground (like re-prioritizing season passes) but overall this new TiVo HD performs better or as well as my other units.

TiVo, thanks for putting Multi-Stream M-Card support on the TiVo HD box, versus the single stream S-Card on the Series 3 TiVo, which would require a second card and additional monthly charge in my Comcast territory. You've come up with a great product at a decent price. And Amazon has it for $244 now! Oh, and when you activate your service, tell them tivo at referred you!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Johnny, you are the man. You get it! The Internet has leveled the playing field for music (and soon video) and we want to pay you, not the machine.

On October 10th, 2007 Radiohead will release their 7th album In Rainbows with a "pay what you want" model. You name the price that you want to pay for the entire album! Pay what you would for one track on iTunes, or an album at retail, maybe more if you really love the band. This trumps the last innovative sales technique by the steady flower, Chuck D of Public Enemy who in 1998 said that "musicians will circumvent the record label's distribution role." After dropping his label Def Jam in December of 1998, the group who includes current TV star Flavor Flav created history in May of 1999 by releasing the first album over the Internet from a platinum selling group. "There's a Poison Goin On" was available in Real Audio format via the web, with a CD mailed direct to consumers for $10. This was during an age of RIAA lawsuits over the first mass-consumer MP3 player, the RIO PMP-300. I had one and its parallel port interface and 32MB of storage was a joke by todays standards. You can still buy PE music from and their current album, still $10, is "New Whirl Odor." Now instead of one portable MP3 player there are thousands on the market, with more than 110 million sold according to an April 2007 announcement from Apple.

But I digress. Back to Radiohead. You visit their website and enter the amount of UK Pounds that you wish to pay for their new album "In Rainbows," register for their site, then plug in your credit card digits and presto. They get money directly in their bank account. There is a 0.45 pound credit card processing fee, and Waste Products, LTD is handling the transactions for them, since an iTunes song has a similar processing fee, I would venture that Waste is making 0.15 pence (or UK pennies) on each transaction.

Read deeply into these artists album titles. They have more meaning than we imagined... Labels look out! The artists are restless!

Neiman Marcus Gifts 2007 Fantasy Gifts

2008 Lexus IS F
Originally uploaded by gadget.

Neiman Marcus dropped their 2007 Fantasy Gifts catalog insert with over-the-top ideas for the holidays on us this week. My favorite vehicle is the $68k Lexus IS F with a 400 HP V8 under the hood and quad pipes sending a growling note out the back. You get this car, a concept gone production from Steve Millen, plus Skip Barber racing school with accommodations for one extravagant price. The rocket racing team (A.K.A. Red Bull Air Race) is even a little more pricey for me at $2m with just one year of support, and I'd probably get disoriented flying those little jets every-which-way.

For technology the interactive Swami at $75k is clever to visually recognize members of your family and carry on conversations; plus it comes with an unknown model of laptop to run his virtual brain. I predict that WowWee will have this in stores for the 2008 holiday season for $100. What I do like however is the $100k Interactive Touch Media Wall from Jeff Han - AKA the visual and user interface from Minority Report. Think of it as a huge 8 foot by 3 foot iPhone as the keyboard floating letters and pinch and flick features are replicated with it. Remember, that the software you run must be compatible with this wall, so do not expect Excel to interact like the demo video here is - otherwise your fingers will work like a human mouse. But with their proprietary software, it looks like a great way to slide photos around, do some cropping and show your rich friends how well your stock portfolio is doing...

Finally, stay away from the $110k chocolate his and hers portraits. That will just attract ants into your mansion.

BTW: I'll take the wall inside and the Lex outside. :)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

San Francisco is the #1 City for Singles

This August, I was tapped by a freelancer at Forbes for an interview of the best spots to date in San Francisco. Since I live in and love this great city, I was up for the challenge. However, by the time the story was posted it was changed to a brief with bachelor and bachelorette picks plus some rankings on culture and cost of living amongst many great cities. take on San Francisco as a dating city.

This year, San Francisco beat out New York for top honors and I have to agree. The hustle and bustle of NYC can kill its inhabitants and the weather buries them under snow, rain or humidity for many months of the year. I love to visit New York, but see it tear too many people to shreds. San Francisco is nice and easy, and breezy. Literally.

For my part, Instead of recreating my "top dat spots" Violet Blue, author, sex columnist and all around vixen, headed to one of my picks, "Dateway" the Marina location of the Safeway grocery chain, where she and a girlfriend tested the isles for love. Her gal pal picked up a local with a Berkeley sweatshirt and she headed to a speed dating event at the Crush Lab. And scored too.

So there it is, the 2007 Best City for Singles. San Francisco, California. It's good to be perched in the middle of it.