October 21, 2009

Movin', movin', movin'...

Yes, I know, it's been awhile since I've updated the blog, but I've got a good excuse...the wife and I just moved to new digs, a slightly larger (and nicer) apartment in Carroll Gardens. We've got a great new kitchen, a dishwasher, a washer/dryer, and (hallelujah) a home office.

That's the good news. The bad news? My home theater/gaming setup is looking pretty sad right now. The 46-inch Sony Bravia is propped up on a couple of end tables, and while I've got the DVR, PS3, and Xbox 360 hooked up to the TV, the Onkyo receiver and speakers are still sitting in a closet...and yes, that means all the sound is currently being piped through the Sony's built-in speakers. I've got the fake surround sound enabled, but...c'mon, that's no match for a true 5.1 speaker system, right?

What's the holdup, you ask? Well, we need to find the right media stand for our new living room (it has to be just the right width/height), and we'll also need a rug to hide the wires for the rear speakers. Both items have to be...just so, I'm told. And that means I'll have to be patient. As in 3-4 weeks patient.

Still...I've got this great home office now, with a desk, so no need to break down all my equipment every night. And that means more productivity, more writing, and more blogging goodness.

That's the plan, anyway. Wish me luck.

August 21, 2009

Sony unwraps slimmer, cheaper, uglier PlayStation 3

The long-rumored PS3 "Slim" finally made its debut earlier this week, and it turns out that the leaked spy shots from back in May were authentic, right down to the new, trim profile, the matted case, and the revamped "PS3" logo on the side. Nice, I guess, but ... kinda ugly, right? In fact, the reason I initially doubted the original "slim" spy shots was that the console in the pictures looked like a $99 knock-off you'd find in a fly-by-night electronics store on Seventh Avenue.
In any case, the new PS3 is a lot cheaper than before—$100 cheaper, to be exact, with the 120GB console set to go on sale Sept. 1 for $299. Maybe that'll help kick-start sluggish PS3 sales.
Also this week on Yahoo! Tech: Waiting for the Xbox 360 "Quiet"; a portable photo printer that prints and talks; Hollywood execs blame Twitter for summer box-office duds; and rumors fly that the Beatles will mark 9/9/09 by (finally) putting their classic catalog on iTunes.

August 07, 2009

Hey, look Ma -- I'm on TV! (Er, streaming TV, anyway)

The global economic crisis, the safe return of two U.S. journalists held captive in North Korea, Leonardo's new girlfriend ... borrrring! What the world really needed to know were my picks for the best 25 back-to-school gadgets, and a breathless planet got its wish during my five-minute segment Wednesday on CNN.com.

Was I a little nervous for my first-ever TV interview, even if it was only to be broadcast over the Web? Well, yeah, actually. Luckily, I did the piece from an empty studio at Time Warner Center, totally alone except for a desk, a funky NYC-themed backdrop, an earpiece, and a big video camera pointed at my head. In the end, it was a lot like doing a radio interview (especially once the studio monitor was turned off), but hey -- next time I'll be ready for you, Wolf.

And on Yahoo! Tech this week: Twitter falls victim to a massive denial of service attack; Sony's new "Party-shot" camera dock automatically snaps photos of everyone in the room, whether you like it or not; RadioShack becomes "The Shack"; new Nikon camera packs in a tiny projector; and Google's Eric Schmidt steps down from Apple's board, surprising no one.

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July 31, 2009

Too early for a back-to-school gadget guide? Nah...

The last time I checked, it was still July (well, for one more day, anyway). But if you ask me, it's never too early for a back-to-school gadget guide -- in fact, I've already cranked one out for TIME.com. Among my picks: Apple's latest MacBook Pro, the upcoming PSP Go from Sony, a carpet-cleaning Roomba, a truly awesome-looking smart pen, and even an electric toothbrush. You can find the guide right here; click early, and click often.

Plus, on Yahoo! Tech this week: Massive SMS security hole threatens smartphone users; analysts still hate the slumping Zune; my hands-on review of the T-Mobile myTouch 3G; Netflix lets you add and even rate movies that haven't been shot yet; and (a holdover from last Friday, actually) one inventor's plan to turn the moon into a cosmic billboard.

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July 17, 2009

15-year-old stuns media execs, readers stunned that execs were stunned

Well, I thought it was a funny story, anyway: the tale of 15-year-old Morgan Stanley intern Matthew Robson, and the media report (his, actually) heard 'round the world.

See, the precocious young'un wrote up a note about how he and his little buddies consume (or don't, as the case may be) media, including such observations as "teenagers do not use Twitter," and that he and his peers "cannot be bothered" with physical newspapers. Well, Robson's supervisors liked his report so much that they sent it out to their biggest clients -- who, apparently, were floored by the teen's frank analysis.

In my post, I wrote that it was impressive the kid demonstrated both the initiative and the stones to pen such a blunt, honest report, and asked any teen readers to do likewise. The response was interesting: teenagers were happy to oblige, flooding my inbox with hundreds of e-mails. Adults, on the other hand, took me to task for essentially asking teens to survey themselves, allowing freeloading advertisers watch and learn. (Indeed, I "should be castigated," according to one angry reader.) Another recurring theme from the comments: How stupid were Morgan Stanley's clients that they were stunned by such "obvious" observations as "teens don't read newspapers"? Well, I guess they've got a point there.

Also this week: The recession finally hits the video-game industry; the editor of the Financial Times predicts that "almost all" newspapers will be charging for online content within a year; New York City will spend a million bucks over the next three years for, uh, typewriters; and "Real Racing" just might be the hottest iPhone game I've played yet.
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July 10, 2009

Hollywood looks to "Asteroids," View-Master for inspiration

In what's been a relatively quiet week after the July 4th holiday (well, unless you count the whole Chrome OS thing), a head-scratchingly odd trend began to emerge out of Tinseltown.

First, Universal snapped up the rights to "Asteroids," the classic Atari video game from the late 70s/early 80s that, so far as I remember, has neither a plot nor characters. Kinda strange -- that is, until we learned that DreamWorks bought the movie rights to the View-Master, the plastic 3-D picture-disc viewer that's been around for decades. (The creative geniuses behind "Transformers" and the new "Star Trek" movie are set to produce).

Now, "Asteroids" may lack a backstory, but at least it features a little spaceship zipping around the universe blasting rocks. But as for the View-Master ... um, I loved it when I was seven, but who was the one who thought it would make for a killer movie? (Oh, and while I'm at it, turns out that the film rights for "Battleship" and "Candyland" have been acquired, as well.)

Also this week: The New York Times mulls a $5/month online subscription fee (finally); rumors of Microsoft's so-called "Pink" phone project continue to circulate; no price cuts or streaming Netflix for the PlayStation 3 (or at least, not yet); and I got a hands-on look at the T-Mobile myTouch 3G.

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June 26, 2009

Huge weekend for new iPhone; Jobs returns to storm of controversy

The lines for the new iPhone may not have been as long as they were for last year's model, but the weekend tally for the 3GS -- more than million sold, according to Apple -- was no less impressive than the initial three-day total for the iPhone 3G, and easily dwarfed the estimated 50,ooo-odd Palm Pres sold during its June 6 opening weekend. (Sounds like we're talking about summer movie grosses, right?) As I suspected, it looks like the majority of iPhone 3GS shoppers elected to pre-order rather than wait in line at brick-and-mortar Apple and AT&T stores. That said, Apple's weekend wasn't without its glitches; many customers (myself included) complained of activation woes, and Apple ended up handing out $30 store credits to make up for the trouble.

Meanwhile: Steve Jobs was reportedly back in the office this week, but he caught all kinds of flack after his liver transplant was revealed, raising questions of whether he jumped the transplant queue and why shareholders weren't told of his (apparently life-threatening) condition.

Also this week: I finally got some hands-on time with the PSP Go; the online fashion experts at Trunk Club give my closet a much-needed makeover; the first iPhone porn app appears, then gets yanked; HTC makes a splash with its new, Android-powered Hero smartphone; and I chronicle my month with the diminutive HP Mini netbook from Verizon Wireless.

June 19, 2009

The new iPhone's here! The new iPhone's here!

Well, it's not in my hot little hands, unfortunately (I'm still waiting for the FedEx truck to arrive), but the iPhone 3G S -- now with an auto-focus, 3-megapixel camera, digital compass, voice commands, and up to 32GB of storage -- went on sale around the world this morning. According to the latest reports, the lines weren't nearly as long (or chaotic) as last time, and the activation process seems to be going smoothly. Despite the modest crowds, some are saying that the iPhone 3G S launch might actually be bigger than the 3G's last year. Why? Many, many pre-orders, apparently. Update: Finally got my iPhone 3G S from FedEx; check out my hands-on impressions.

Also this week: Attorneys for AT&T and Verizon Wireless went to Capitol Hill to defend their clients against charges of SMS price fixing; the IRS did an about-face, admitting that a 1989 law calling for taxes on the personal use of company cell phones is seriously out of date; the last two Virgin Megastores, already picked clean by bargain hunters, closed their doors; and last week's DTV transition appears to have gone about as smoothly as can be expected.

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June 05, 2009

E3: Microsoft wows with "Natal," Sony delivers PSP Go

This year's E3 conference in Los Angeles turned out to be a blockbuster, starting with a jam-packed Microsoft keynote that featured not only trailers for several hotly-anticipated games (like "Halo: ODST," the newly-unveiled "Halo: Reach," "Left 4 Dead 2," "Modern Warfare 2," and "Final Fantasy XIII," not to mention the news that Metal Gear Solid is coming to the 360), but also word that Facebook, Twitter, and streaming 1080p movies and TV shows are on the way, plus the unveiling of "Project Natal," a motion-sensing camera that'll let you frag bad guys, swipe though Dashboard menus, swat bouncing Brickout balls, and more, all without a controller. Pretty awesome.

Also impressive: Sony, which finally confirmed the widely leaked PSP Go (small and slick, but pricey at $249), along with its own new motion controller (set for release next spring). Sony's motion-control demo wasn't nearly as flashy as Microsoft's Natal demonstration, but those present in the audience appeared bowled over by the level of precision in the bulb-shaped, LED-equipped controller, which managed to map such virtual objects as a sword, flashlight, tennis racket, and even a Japanese fan into the hand of a Sony engineer, all with pinpoint accuracy. Sony also scored the biggest surprise of the show: The unceremonious announcement of "Final Fantasy XIV" for 2010 on the PS3, which left a few hundred jaws hanging open (especially given that "Final Fantasy XIII" hasn't even bowed in the U.S. yet).

In other news: Apple gears up for next week's WWDC in San Francisco (I smell new iPhones in our future); an online personal shopping service for men (like me) who hate, hate, hate shopping for clothes opens for business; a News Corp. exec floats the idea of charging for Hulu videos (now that'll be popular); and a new study reveals that just 10 percent of Twitterers account for 90 percent of the activity on Twitter.
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May 29, 2009

Gamers locked, loaded for E3 conference

Looks like we're in store for some exciting announcements out of E3 2009, the annual gaming conference that's set to kick off next week in Los Angeles.

Besides the usual parade of new game titles, Sony appears poised to show off the PSP Go, a rumored PlayStation Portable revamp complete with slide-out controls, flash memory, and -- most interestingly -- no UMD disc drive, leading to (even more) speculation that Sony might also be prepping a downloadable game rental service and an online PSP music store.

Meanwhile, Microsoft will have its new touchscreen Zune HD on hand, plus more details on how the Zune Marketplace will take over the Xbox Live video store. Will the Zune finally be able to play movie purchases and rentals from Xbox Live? I certainly hope so.

Finally, motion controllers might make a big splash at E3, with both Microsoft and Sony rumored to have new, Wii-like motion-sensitive controllers in the pipeline. All in all, great stuff.

In other news: Sprint says its Palm Pre exclusive runs through 2009, meaning AT&T and Verizon Wireless subscribers will just have to wait their turn; IMAX boss promises to better inform moviegoers about the smaller digital IMAX screens; the Circuit City Web site comes back to life; and teens are apparently sending scores (or even hundreds, in some cases) of text messages a day, much to the consternation of physicians and psychologists.

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May 22, 2009

Sprint finally tees up the Palm Pre, but supply could be scarce

Feels like we've been waiting months for the Palm Pre to finally get a release date -- and, in fact, we have been waiting for months (since early January, to be exact). But on Tuesday, the word finally came from Sprint: June 6 will be the magic day, and as for the price tag? $199, with a two-year contract and $100 mail-in rebate. Analysts (and even Sprint CEO Dan Hesse himself) have already predicted a shortage of handsets, which means we could be looking at an instant sellout. That would be great publicity for Sprint and Palm, of course, both of which are in dire need of a hit. Release strategy aside, I'm looking forward to the Pre more than I have any smartphone since ... well, the first iPhone, to be perfectly honest. With any luck, I'll be getting a review unit soon.

Also this week: More leaks about the rumored new iPhone (remember the iPhone?) and the BlackBerry Storm 2; I checked out the Novatel MiFi for Verizon and loved it; Sony reportedly mulls a music store and downloadable game rentals for the PSP; and the Air Force promises that it's got the increasingly shaky situation with our aging fleet of GPS satellites well in hand, really.

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May 08, 2009

Countdown begins for Palm Pre, new iPhone

We're just a month away from Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco, and for those of us who cover tech, that means just one thing -- a new iPhone is on the way, and the rumor mill has already kicked into high gear. Purported new featuers include an upgraded camera, a digital compass, and voice recognition, as well as (potentially) an upgraded processor for better gaming performance. Of course, Apple and AT&T are under added pressure to wow us this year, given word that the BlackBerry Curve just surpassed the iPhone as the most popular smartphone in the country.

Adding to the suspense this year is Palm's impending launch of the much-anticipated Pre, which is giving the iPhone a run for its money in the hype department. Still no word from Palm about when the Pre will actually launch (it's supposed to arrive in the "first half" of this year, which is almost over), but recent rumors peg either June 5 or 8 (the eve of the WWDC) as the big day.

Also this week: Verizon Wireless and Novatel unveil the MiFi, a credit card-sized Wi-Fi router that taps into Verizon's EV-DO network; 3D Realms, the developer behind the still-unreleased "Duke Nukem Forever," bites the dust; I field reader questions about the upcoming 3G Sidekick LX; and RIM's CEO confirms that a next-generation BlackBerry Storm is on the way.

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May 01, 2009

Psst! It's all about rumors this week

Facts, schmacts. Instead, rumors ruled the week, starting with the buzz Monday that Verizon might get its very own iPhone and ending with Friday's chatter about a motion controller for the PlayStation 3. In between, we learned that Verizon might actually get two new "iPhone-like" devices (a smaller, thinner version of the iPhone, plus a droll-worthy "media hub"), while Verizon may or may not be talking to Microsoft about the long-rumored "Pink" phone, as well. (Or is Verizon just playing Microsoft off of Apple? Or is Apple simply putting pressure on AT&T? Questions, questions.)

Then there's the talk about a new "mini-Pre" from Palm, which may (or may not) be called the "Eos" and arrive on AT&T and/or Sprint later this year, or ... not. And don't forget whispers about a new PSP, dubbed (maybe?) the "PSP Go!," that could/maybe/possibly be unveiled next month at E3.

At least we got a few facts this week, including Cablevision's (official) plans to roll out 101Mbps broadband service for $99 a month starting this month (Verizon execs are calling it a "parlor trick," though), as well as a real-live, 3G-enabled Sidekick, which I got to test on Friday. Also: Readers go nuts for Redbox, the $1-a-night DVD kiosks.

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April 24, 2009

The "Mac vs. PC" ad that broke the camel's back (for me, anyway)

I've silently endured Apple's parade of smug, arrogant "I'm a Mac! I'm a PC!" ads for years (they first started back in 2006, believe it or not), but I finally hit the roof this week after watching Justin Long's "Mac" taunt John Hodgeman's "PC" with iPhoto's new "Faces" feature, which lets you "tag a face once, and iPhoto automatically find other pictures of that person for you!"

Au contraire
, Justin; after many hours painstakingly tagging hundreds of snapshots in iPhoto, only to watch Faces come up empty whenever my wife, I, or another oft-tagged loved one pops up in a picture, I can tell you that no, Faces does not tag all your people automatically after just one tag. And besides ... after three years of cringe-worthy "I'm a Mac! I'm a PC" ads, haven't we -- the viewing public -- been punished enough? (And yes, in case you're wondering, I'm the proud owner of two Mac laptops, an Apple TV, and an iPhone.)

Also this week: The Madden curse claims two more potential victims, Netflix faces competition from an army of buck-a-day DVD kiosks, Apple gets a black eye from the "Baby Shaker" app, and our cable bills keep going up, and up, and up ...

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April 17, 2009

TWC plays with bandwidth caps, gets burned

It's been almost a year since Time Warner Cable began its first experiment with bandwidth metering in Beaumont, Texas (which charges subscribers anywhere between $15 for 1GB of data a month to $75 for 100GB, plus overage charges for exceeding the cap), but the carrier didn't really stir up the hornets' nest until last week, when it announced that it would expand its usage-metered tests to four new markets (Rochester, NY, Greensboro, NC, and Austin and San Antonio, TX). Surprised by the public outcry (uh ... what did they think was going to happen?), TWC officials wisely scrapped the new tests on Thursday, although they left the door open for future bandwidth-capping plans. In any case, I've decided to shelve my own plans to ditch Time Warner Cable for Verizon DSL ... well, for now, anyway.

Also this week: The T-Mobile Sidekick finally gets 3G and GPS, along with what promises to be a gorgeous new display; Microsoft decides to expand its three-year Xbox 360 warranty to include the increasingly troublesome "E74" error; and AT&T looks to extend its iPhone exclusive with Apple for one more year, to 2011.

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April 04, 2009

CTIA 2009 most notable for the no-shows

No new Android phones, still no Palm Pre release date, and no truly innovative new handsets: that was pretty much the story at this year's CTIA in Vegas, which saw little else of interest besides the launch of the new BlackBerry app store and a Skype app for iPhone.

Several new handsets debuted, of course, although many of them -- such as Motorola's eye-catching Evoke (pictuered here), the LG Xenon, and the Samsung Impression -- were basically just iPhone knock-offs with slide-out QWERTY keypads. And while I was holding out hope that HTC would surprise us and unveil the Android-powered Magic for the U.S., instead we had to settle for the Snap, a Windows Mobile QWERTY phone that'll likely replace the Dash on T-Mobile.

Also: The Palm Pre gets a legacy Palm OS emulator but still no release date or pricing, RIM follows in Apple's footsteps with BlackBerry App World (sorry, Handango), and a few cool accessories made some waves, including this around-the-neck headset that projects a "dome" of music around your head.

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March 27, 2009

Heading back to Vegas for CTIA; OnLive promises on-demand 3D gaming

Wait a minute, didn't I just come back from Las Vegas? Indeed, CES was just a couple of months ago, but now we've got CTIA Wireless on tap -- the biggest wireless show in the U.S. -- and of course, it's in Vegas. But hey ... all moaning aside, I'm actually looking forward to checking out the latest and greatest cell phones. Even better, I'm staying at one of the swankiest hotels in Vegas -- the Encore -- for barely $100 a night. I'll take it.

So that's next week, but what happened this week? For me, one of the biggest stories was OnLive, the new, on-demand 3D gaming service that promises to deliver cutting-edge games to entry-level PCs and Macs, as well as to a compact, paperback book-sized "micro-console." Pretty cool concept, if you ask me, although early impressions have been somewhat mixed, with bloggers complaining about blocky compression artifacts and lagginess. Still, looking forward to trying out OnLive (which is slated to launch before the end of the year) for myself.

Also: Apple announced June dates for its Worldwide Developers Conference, widely seen as the launchpad for the next iPhone; I reviewed Verizon Wireless' new femtocell, dubbed the Network Extender; and the tabloids breathlessly reported that Jennifer Aniston finally had it with John Mayer's Twitter obsession and dumped him. No official word on whether that last one's actually true, but whatever happened, Mayer is still tweeting away.

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March 20, 2009

Cut & paste, MMS finally coming to iPhone; Beatles kid wants more $$$

Another big week for Apple, which scored Tuesday by announcing that cut & paste and multimedia messaging -- two of the biggest missing features on the iPhone -- will finally arrive this summer in software update 3.0. No background apps, unfortunately, but push notification (which Steve Jobs promised almost a year ago) is on tap at last, along with Spotlight for iPhone, "peer-to-peer" connectivity for games and other apps, and "in app" purchases -- perfect for buying new levels in a game, or even newspaper and magazine subscriptions.

Also this week: March Madness tips off online and on the iPhone, Obama's nominee for the Department of Commerce pledges that there won't be any more DTV delays, rumors fly that the PlayStation 3 might get a long-overdue price cut, and George Harrison's son floats the idea of a Beatles-only digital music store, adding that "we don't agree" 99 cents a song is a fair price for the Fab Four's music.

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March 13, 2009

Apple grabs headlines with new Shuffle, netbook rumors

It was all Apple, all the time this week, with three big stories coming out of Cupertino in just a few days (well, besides Woz looking like "a teletubby gone mad" on "Dancing with the Stars").

First: Rumors fly that Apple is prepping a netbook -- or something -- for the second half of the year, with both the Dow Jones Newswire and Reuters piling on to the story. Next came the new, even tinier iPod Shuffle -- so tiny, in fact, that its playback controls now sit on the proprietary earbud cord, sparking yet another Apple headset controversy (remember the original iPhone?). Finally, Apple announces that it will offer a sneak peek at iPhone software 3.0 next Tuesday, setting off a round of speculation about which new features (MMS? Video capture? Laptop tethering?) might be included.

Also this week: Hulu marks its first anniversary (yes, I was skeptical at first, but the numbers don't lie), a new service offers to keep all your online logins and passwords safe until you die, and it turns out that TV viewers actually prefer their shows with the ads (go figure).

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March 07, 2009

"Snide" remark outrages "Marley & Me" fan

Well, now I've done it. My offhand comment about the Owen Wilson/Jennifer Aniston shaggy-dog flick "Marley & Me" in a recent post has rubbed at least one passionate fan the wrong way.

The offending comment:
Besides "Slumdog," which goes on sale March 31, other Fox rental DVDs to get the "no features" treatment include "Day the Earth Stood Still," "The Wrestler," and "Notorious," according to Variety. Don't worry, "Marley and Me" fans (all five of you)—apparently, you'll still get bonus features on the rental disc.
...and the barbed response, from "Ron":
Do you live under a rock or do you write snide comments just to be clever? In your article on FOX stripping extras from rental DVDs, you felt the need to add "all 5 of them" when talking about fans of the box office hit MARLEY & ME. You do realize that the movie made more than $150 million at the domestic box office and was also well reviewed by critics, right? So what's with your silly comment? If it was a joke, it's lame. If it was an attempt to marginalize the movie, you are way off base. MARLEY & ME will be a hit on both the rental and sell through charts. I've read your stuff before and it doesn't surprise me you'd make an inaccurate remark like this. Let's just say accuracy is not your strong suit. A real gadget guy would certainly know better.
Well, who knew -- one of the five fans of "Marley & Me" reads my blog! (Well, he used to.)

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March 06, 2009

Grim news from Circuit City, Blockbuster, Virgin; Bill Gates's "no iPhone" policy

Talk about a depressing week. Circuit City -- or its liquidators, anyway -- announced that its 500-odd remaining stores will close forever on March 8, while the last U.S. Virgin America stores will sell their final CDs this summer. Blockbuster is fighting off bankruptcy, and Palm's balance sheet is still soaked with red ink (let's hope the Pre gets a release date soon).

Oh boy ... but hey, at least there were a few fun items to report in the past week. Quake Live is a blast, and Killzone 2, while not quite the ground-breaker many had hoped for, is the best-looking PlayStation 3 title yet. Bill Gates doesn't allow iPhones or iPods under his roof (a post that generated a staggering two thousand-plus comments), and a start-up called ZillionTV has a new set-top box that'll deliver free TV shows and movies to your living room, although you'll only be able to get the box through your ISP. Last, but not least: Fox looks to boost sagging DVD sales by chopping the (often inane) special features from its rental DVDs. Good luck with that, Fox.

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February 27, 2009

Quake Live hiccups; Virgin Megastores closing in SF, NYC

Still waiting to squeeze off a few bullets in Quake Live, the free first-person shooter (based on 1999's Quake III Arena) that's playable in a Web browser? Me too. Untold thousands of gamers have flooded id Software's servers since Quake Live's launch on Wednesday, leading to massive player queues and hours of waiting, while others (including me) are having trouble installing the mandatory browser plug-in. Yes, I know -- Quake Live is still in beta, and it is free, after all. Still, you didn't expect us trigger-happy Quake fanatics to be patient, did you?

Also this week: Virgin Megastores in San Francisco and New York's Union Square are set to close in April, leaving only three Virgin outlets standing (and probably not for long); the NYC locations are still profitable, but with music downloads taking over the market, there's no question that brick-and-mortars are (sadly) a dying breed.

Meanwhile: They're giving away iPhones ... in Japan; Nokia might start making laptops (personally, I'm looking forward to it); green tech invades Times Square; and Apple unleashes the Safari 4 beta, complete with a thumbnailed "Top Sites" interface, a Cover Flow version of your browsing history, and a new home for the browser tabs (above the address field, strangely enough).

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February 20, 2009

Lost city of Atlantis found (sort of); Hackers target Halo 3 players

Big news Friday morning: Google Earth user discovers a strange, rectangular shape carved in the floor of the Atlantic, off the coast of Africa. Researchers get excited -- it's one of the possible resting places of Atlantis! (Sounds like a line from an "Indiana Jones" movie, right?) But then, Google comes along and bursts our bubble: The oddly shaped box with the cross hatches doesn't exist; it's just a digital manifestation of the criss-cross patterns made by sonar-equipped boasts scanning the ocean floor. Bummer!

Also this week: Hackers target their Xbox Live rivals with "denial of service" attacks (and even offer their services -- for a price -- to like-minded sore losers), the latest and greatest cell phones take the spotlight in Barcelona, Verizon considers a bare-bones, $5/month landline plan, and Warner Brothers says it's prepping "Gone With the Wind," "The Wizard of Oz," and "North by Northwest" for Blu-ray in 2009 -- and no, they won't be using digital noise reduction to wipe out the film grain.

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February 13, 2009

Tough times for Sirius XM, Muzak, and Pioneer

Some stark reminders this week of how desperate our economic straits have become. Sirius XM is reportedly flirting with bankruptcy, Muzak (yep, the elevator music titan) bit the bullet and filed for bankruptcy, while Pioneer—maker of some of the finest HDTVs on the market, including the eye-popping Kuro line—announced that it's quitting the TV business for good.

Meanwhile, the DTV delay story goes on (and on), with the FCC blocking some 123 TV stations from turning off their analog signals next week. That said, some 360-odd stations will indeed pull the switch on or before Feb. 17, the original DTV transition date.

Also of note: Samsung unveils the solar-powered Blue Earth touchscreen phone, more details about the upcoming Palm Pre emerge, and Apple might—just might—let iTunes users stream their purchased movies and TV shows over the Web (well, if the rumors are true).

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February 06, 2009

Readers ask, "What the hell is Twitter?"; DTV gets delayed after all

Earlier this week, I posted what I thought would be an amusing little story about Tweet Congress, a Web site (which I found via the L.A. Times tech blog) that tracks the Twitter feeds (or lack thereof) of the nation's various House and Senate members. Interesting, but no big deal, right?

Well, little did I know that I'd get bombarded with angry comments -- some with the usual "red vs. blue" rants (predictable, especially after the "Republicans outnumber Democrats two to one on Twitter!" headline on the Yahoo! front page), but mostly complaints from irate readers who raked me over the coals for ... that's right, failing to explain what this "Twitter" thing was ("what is tweeting??? Horrible piece of journalism not explaining what they are referring to"). Note to self: Immediately write a "Beginner's Guide to Twitter" post, then link said post in every Twitter story from here on out.

Meanwhile, barring a sudden about-face by President Obama, the DTV transition date will indeed be delayed until June 12, four months after the initial Feb. 17 deadline. That said, about a fifth of all U.S. TV stations might switch off their analog TV broadcasts early, pending FCC approval.

Also of note this week: Hands-on impressions of the "Halo Wars" demo (loved it), a brief review of Motorola's green "Renew" phone, bargain no-name Blu-ray players might be on the way this year, and desk phones might be an endangered species by 2011.

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January 30, 2009

The DTV delay story: The gift that keeps on giving

It's a legislative and public-policy train wreck, no question, but for a tech blogger like me, well … the ongoing back-and-forth over the DTV transition date is pure gold.

First, the $1.5-million government program that hands out $40 coupons for DTV converter boxes -- which those with analog TVs and over-the-air antennas will need if they want their TVs to work after the analog TV shutoff -- ran out of money. Next, the Obama administration and Democratic lawmakers proposed pushing back the impending Feb. 17 DTV transition date to June 12, to give everyone more time to prepare. Republicans said no -- that'll cause too much confusion, and it would put too much burden on TV stations and wireless companies that have been planning years ahead for the switch.

Following so far? Good. So Monday rolls around, and the Senate passes Jay Rockefeller's DTV delay bill, and everyone (including me) writes that a delay in the DTV transmission is inevitable. But on Wednesday, the fast-tracked bill goes before the House, and -- whoops! -- fails to win the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. (Republicans ganged up on the bill, as did a handful of Democrats; the final vote was 258-168, just shy of the necessary two-thirds.) DTV delay dead, right?

Wrong. Thursday night, the Senate passes (unanimously) a slightly tweaked version of the same bill, which now appears headed for a House vote next week under standard adoption rules -- meaning that it only needs a simply majority to pass. And it will, right? Well ... who knows, given all the twists and turns in the DTV saga so far.

Now personally, I think we should just go ahead and flip the switch; after all, I'm not sure how a mere four months will clean up the mess, nor get us any closer to 100-percent readiness for DTV (and besides, about 94 percent of the country is ready).

That said ... talk about a great story. I can't wait to see what happens next.

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