October 31, 2008

Too many phones!


Not the worst problem in the world, mind you. Today I got a grand total of three new phones in for testing: the BlackBerry Bold (beautiful display, if kinda heavy), the HTC Touch Pro (slide-out QWERTY keypad, also heavy, and thick), and the new Katana for Sprint. On top of that, I've got a couple of Samsung messaging phones, plus a new Moto camera phone (mum's the word, for now). When it rains, it pours ... anyway, time to prioritize, with the Bold and the Touch Pro probably jumping to the front of the line. And hey -- since the Touch Pro is a 3G Windows Mobile phone, I'm hoping to test the mobile SlingPlayer on it (finally). Anyway ... stay tuned for review on Yahoo! Tech next week. Update: The MOTOZINE ZN5 post is here, and the Bold review is here. Another update: And here's the HTC Touch Pro review.

October 30, 2008

Close call: Netflix HD streaming will (probably) work over Xbox 360 component outputs

Panic in the streets! Early word had it that Xbox 360 users would need HDCP-compliant equipment to watch HD Netflix streaming over their consoles -- and given that HDCP protection schemes are generally associated with HDMI, some (including me) feared that older, component-only 360 consoles would be stuck with standard-def Netflix. Quel horror! Luckily, Engadget managed to get HD Netflix working over component, and now an Xbox 360 rep tells me he's "almost positive" older, non-HDMI 360s will stream HD Netflix video. Still waiting for the final word, so stay tuned. (But in the meantime ... phew!)

October 29, 2008

27 years later, spooky "Evilspeak" poster comes in handy


Check out this movie poster -- scary, right? Well, I sure thought so back when I was 11 years old. The film in question? "Evilspeak", released in 1981 and starring the ubiquitous Clint Howard (well, he's in all of brother Ron's movies, anyway). I've never actually seen "Evilspeak" -- and given the disastrous reviews, I should probably leave it that way -- but man ... the poster sure stuck with me. (OK, so it looks a bit hokey now ... guess you had to be there.)

In any case, the old "Evilspeak" poster turned out to be the perfect, inspirational touch for my "10 terrifying tech tales" on Y! Tech today -- and at the risk of tooting my own horn, it was a blast to write (and luckily, I had plenty of material thanks to my hard-working fellow bloggers). Please take a look -- and thank you, spooky "Evilspeak" poster. May you continue to scare the bejesus out of me.
 

October 28, 2008

How I learned to stop worrying and love my commenters

Don't get me wrong -- 99 percent of the readers who comment on my posts are totally cool, on-topic, and insightful. It's that stubborn 1 percent -- the spiteful, badly spelled, poorly constructed, and irredeemably churlish comments -- that drives me around the bend, sometimes making me want to pack it in altogether and go back to fact checking.

But just because they're trolls (the stubborn 1 percent, that is) doesn't mean that they're wrong.

I got to thinking about my prickly commenters after reading Michael Arrington's diatribe on TechCrunch. I read the list of common, "least favorite" comments, nodded my head, mumbled "yeah, man" under my my breath, and felt a comforting tug of solidarity.

Just one problem, though: Almost every time I find myself on the bottom of a comment dog pile, there's a good reason for it.

For example: When readers sarcastically ask me, "Slow news day?" -- as in, "You couldn't think of anything better to write?" -- I've often been forced to admit that yes, it was a slow news day, and I couldn't think of anything better to write about.

Or this one (from the TC article): "Nice journalism ... where's the balance?" Now, it's true that as bloggers (versus, say, reporters writing for the news section), we have the freedom to express our opinion -- as we should. But when I get dinged with the "You're biased!" thing, looking back ... I've sometimes seen that yes, I did fail to at least present the other side, even if I don't agree with it -- either that, or my arguments were so weak that I invited the criticism. (When readers smell blood, i.e. that you're not confident in your argument, or you're hedging, believe me -- they pounce.)

Another one: "How can you review a product that you haven't even seen?" Dozens of readers attacked me for this after a recent preview post on an upcoming phone -- one that, indeed, I had yet to see in person (a fact noted early on in the post). At first, I was surprised and annoyed -- I never said it was a review! And I clearly stated that I hadn't seen the phone! But in re-reading the post, a few key sentences set up the expectation of hands-on impressions ("So, how does the keypad feel?") -- and when I didn't satisfy those expectations ("Well, I haven't tried it yet"), readers were pissed.

I've tried my best to learn from even the angriest, most nonsensical comments; for example, after the "You reviewed a phone you never saw?" debacle, I carefully calibrated my next hands-off preview post (making damn sure not to promise anything I couldn't deliver), and guess what? No one complained.

So, yes -- I may have resisted at first, but eventually, I learned to stop worrying and love my commenters. In fact, I'd say that all of them -- yeah, even the guy who called me an "ass clown" the other day -- have helped me become a better writer.

No, thank you.

October 27, 2008

Google Earth for iPhone is nice, but...


...check out Earthscape, a similar (free) iPhone app that lets you snap and upload geotagged photos directly from your iPhone. When you zoom in on the world, you'll see hundreds of other user snapshoots, all placed onto the map according to their GPS coordinates. Nice.

Amazon WindowShop: When you're just looking


Spotted by TechCrunch: A beautiful new "window shopping" interface for Amazon. No search here; instead, you just wander the aisles, using either your arrow keys or by clicking and dragging. Big, bold panels for each book, DVD, game, etc., and expanding a panel launches audio and/or video previews. It reminds me a bit of the old Tower Records on Columbus in S.F., with its wall-sized posters for the latest albums. Will probably blog about this on Y! Tech tomorrow -- have to say, I like it a lot. Update: Apparently, WindowShop might be powered by a service called Cooliris, which I'd heard about before but never tried till today -- sleek, 3D "wall" interface that lets you browse news, videos, and online storefronts. There's also an iPhone version available.

October 24, 2008

Should CNN be in the Digg business?


That's the question at the heart of my iReport story ("18-year-old planted fake Jobs heart attack post") on Y! Tech today -- a story that I initially worded much more strongly before finally toning it down (chalk it up to too much coffee). Anyway, here's the gist: Should CNN (via its iReport "citizen journalist site") really be dabbling in Digg territory, given that CNN is a major (and supposedly trusted) news brand?

Consider the iReport tagline: "Unfiltered. Unedited. News." Now, I'm fine with the "unfiltered" and "unedited" parts, but "news"? If a given post actually has some basis in fact, then sure -- but as the site itself plainly states (and as the fake Jobs heart attack headline proved), there's no fact-checking going on at iReport. (To be fair, Digg labels its posts as "News, Images, Videos," as well -- then again, Digg doesn't present itself as a global news-gathering organization.)

Don't get me wrong -- I think user-generated sites like Digg are a great way to see what readers are buzzing about. I just think it's dangerous to mistake Digg, iReport, and the like for "news" sites. But by plastering its brand on the iReport home page, CNN is arguably (if inadvertantly) inviting confusion -- and as we learned earlier this month, that confusion has the power to move markets.

To my mind, you can do the CNN or you can do the Digg thing, but you shouldn't do both. Were I king for a day at CNN (hey, why not?), I'd consider implementing some editorial safeguards for the iReport home page (even though that would fly in the face of the whole Digg concept) -- or, even better, leave iReport alone but spin it off into a separate entity, minus the CNN branding.

Anyway, that's my $0.02. Thoughts?

LG Lotus review is up


And hey -- I liked it, much to my surprise. The surprisingly easy-to-use keypad really won me over, as well as the compact form factor (fits quite nicely in a jeans pocket). Add tons of messaging features, a nice UI, 3G and aGPS, and laptop tethering, and the Lotus looks like a winner. Only problem: The $149 price with service (should be more like $99 or less, if you ask me). Check out the full review right here.

October 23, 2008

iPhone e-mail fetch still busted

And it's getting pretty annoying, frankly. As has been widely reported, many iPhone users -- myself included -- have noticed that ever since firmware 2.1 came out, their handsets aren't fetching POP/IMAP messages automatically anymore (or at least, not unless their phones are docked). Now, whenever I wake my iPhone, I get a big batch of messages from the past few hours, even though I have my phone set to fetch messages every 15 minutes. There's a huge thread on the Apple support site about it, but for now ... not a peep from Cupertino. For tomorrow, I'm planning a post on a site called Please Fix the iPhone (which catalogs various complains, wish-list items, etc.), and trust me, this e-mail fetching bug is gonna come up. Update: Here's the post.

October 22, 2008

Check it out: LEE/GENDARY

It's a new play written by a friend of ours, Derek Nguyen -- actually, more of a "performace piece inspired by the life of Bruce Lee," as the program says. Tickets are just $20 -- perfect for this era of crashing stock markets. Review TK. Update: Great stuff -- gender-bending, by turns soulful and hilarious (reenactments of Bruce's various kung-fu epics are particularly clever). Nicely acted and staged. And it's closing Oct. 30, so don't wait. More info right here.

Hands-on with the new MacBooks, at last

Finally made it down to the Soho Apple store to handle the new MacBooks. Impressions? Gorgeous, yes, and similar in design to the Air: same contoured case, magnetic "latch" for the lid, new black keyboard is solid and easy to use. That said ... the 13-inch MacBook still felt pretty heavy, and the glossy screen means glare galore. Also, unless you're looking at the LED-backlit display head-on, colors look a bit washed out. Personally, I'm sticking with my MacBook Pro circa July 2007, at least until a Mac netbook arrives (Jobs coyly hinted at the possibility during yesterday's earnings call).

October 21, 2008

In the house: Three new Sprint phones


Just got the short & squat LG Lotus QWERTY clamshell, along with the Samsung Highnote and the Rant. The Highnote and Rant look like your standard messaging and music phones, but the Lotus is an interesting one -- with a tiny, tiny QWERTY and one heck of an odd shape. Keep your eyes peeled for reviews.

October 11, 2008

The Phone I Can’t Talk About is here


Sorry to be so cryptic, but if you’ve been following phone news lately, you can probably guess. Got it via FedEx on Friday morning, been testing it out sporadically over the past day or so. Look for a full review next week. Update: Yes, I meant the T-Mobile G1; here's the full review.

October 09, 2008

Dow drops another 600+ points, would-be tech consumers freak out

…as well they should. At the rate we’re going, consumers are gonna skip pricey new phones like the G1 and the Storm and opt for the old RAZR V3 — or maybe just a pair of styrofoam cups and some string. It’s lookin’ bad, folks.

SlingCatcher on the way


Shipping now, for $300. Pretty cool, but frankly, I’m much more interested in the Sling.com portal, which will let you watch your Slingbox from any Web browser, as well as watch full-length network TV shows (a la Hulu). So … will Sling.com let you sling those very same network TV shows to SlingPlayer and SlingPlayer Mobile? Hmmmm…

Check out my review of the Slingbox PRO-HD.

Apple MacBook event set for Oct. 14

Apple sure made us wait for it, didn’t they? Anyway, MacRumors confirms: the event is on, 10 a.m. PST on Tuesday in SF. Look for the new “Brick” manufacturing process, plus maybe an $800 MacBook. Stay tuned.

October 01, 2008

New look, and more posts

It's been awhile since I've updated this blog -- hey, I've been busy blogging elsewhere -- but I felt it was time to give this old site a makeover, along with some new content. In the past, I used "tech.benpatterson.net" mainly to show off my published work, but now, I'd like to try something different. I'll be offering daily (well, nearly daily) updates on the stories I didn't cover on Yahoo! Tech -- the events and notable that slipped through the cracks. I'll also try to give you an idea of the reviews I'm working on -- kind of a sneak preview of what to expect on my Y! Tech blog. And if the odd movie review manages to sneak onto these pages, well ... hey, you never know. Enjoy, and feel free to ping me with your thoughts and feedback.

See (more of) you soon.