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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