It’s been and will continue to be a busy week filled with reviews, planning and report, not to mention some real work with some of our best folks on product quality, customer service and satisfaction. So here’s a quick post of what I’ve read over the last week.
I love it when words that don’t somehow seem quite, well, technical enough surface in official, technical documents.
Case in point: DirecTV confirmation of an HD DVR receiver ‘glitch’ as noted here: ‘glitch’ is now a defined technical term.
As reported by engadget, "DirecTV has sent out e-mails to loads of affected users which were unexpectedly forced to mash the red "Reset" button located within a door on the front panel of their HD DVR / receiver in order to get things going again. Of course, even the mighty satcaster can’t replace any missed recordings that were scheduled, but it is "sincerely" sorry for the inconvenience. You’ll still be paying your full bill, though, so it’s not that sorry…"
Interesting election news (no, not that election). It looks like one incumbent’s re-election chances turn on daylight saving time changes (or so reports The Indianapolis Star, by Mary Beth Schneider, October 5, 2008). "Two days before voters go to the polls to pick Indiana’s next governor, they’ll have to turn back their clocks an hour as daylight saving time comes to an end for the year. For Gov. Mitch Daniels, who pushed the controversial time change through the legislature during his first year in office, the timing couldn’t be worse."
More than 100 people have commented on this story, so you know it’s a major issue in the state.
Now, on to the reading list.
HP Mediasmart Connect HD Video Streamer Lightning Review – Gizmodo offers a review of the new HP Mediasmart Connect, "a networked receiver that plays back H.264, DivX, XviD, MPEG-2, WMV video, photos, and even connects to your Media Center to act like an extender. It’s also expandable space-wise with HP’s Pocket Media Drives, and supports 10/100 Ethernet and 802.11a/b/g/n. It comes in a glossy piano black finish which attracts dust and fingerprints as easily as an actual piano. The Price: $299 The Verdict: The Mediasmart Connect is a decent video player, Media Extender and photo viewer, but it doesn’t shine in any area other than video quality. "At $299, it’s hard to recommend the Mediasmart Connect over something like an Xbox 360 because of everything else the 360 can do." Personally, I see value in this box over an Xbox 360 in the wireless streaming and web-based video playback from the likes of Live Video, YouTube and other services. I also like the on-board storage option as I have other HP PCs with USB drive bays.
New Best Buy stores being designed with women in mind – BloggingStocks – Posted Oct 6th 2008 2:43PM by Brian White "Best Buy, Inc. (NYSE: BBY) is ditching the warehouse-blue store format that it’s grown famous for. Well, not really — but in some newer stores in Denver, that cheery blue is being supplemented by earth tones and skylights as the largest consumer electronics chain in the U.S. sets its sights on the female demographic. That’s right — the anti-gadget crowd who rolls both eyes when guys start salivating over that 50-inch flat screen television."
Ick: World’s Deepest Fish Filmed For the First Time – gizmodo has alink to video of "a group of snailfish—the deepest living fish in existence—filmed alive for the first time in history in the name science and nausea. They live at depths of 4.6 miles (7,500 meters) or more, so scientists had to develop new camera technology capable of supporting a pressure of 8,000 tonnes per square metre—"the equivalent to that of 1600 elephants standing on the roof of a Mini car"—for a period of days."
Powerwise desk recharging station (lifeiscarbon) – I see a new Ikea hack coming… engadget reported on this new Powerwise desk recharging station. I particularly like the individual on/off switches for each of the storage compartments. "In a fruitful new collaboration, the Swedish based designers Johanna Strand and Åsa Elmstam have developed a highly functional and stylishly minimalist new piece of furniture. Powerwise is designed to help people handle their everyday electronic devices in a smarter way. As we all know, cell phones, Mp3-players, cameras and handheld computers are forever in need of recharging and rather annoyingly they all come with their own adaptors. By now, most of us also happen to know that a charger that’s constantly plugged in to the wall is not only an environmental burden and an unnecessary electricity cost but also a potential fire hazard. Sadly, if chargers aren’t plugged into sockets they seem to have a tendency to go missing just when they’re needed most."
Toshiba Qosmio G55-Q802 (PC Magazine review) By Cisco Cheng, 9/24/08 The $1,500 SRP Toshiba Qosmio G55-Q802 is an attractive and affordable media center laptop that PC Magazine says was "made for video editors who aren’t performance seekers or feature hounds." Pros: Secondary cell processor for quicker video editing. Good graphics card. Half a terabyte of storage. Affordable. Excellent speaker system. Upconvert feature lets you watch enhanced standard-definition content. Cons: Would like to see a higher resolution. Cell processor effective only for certain tasks. Gesture Controller is hard to master. Heavier than its rivals.
Sony VAIO VGC-RT150Y – At A Glance – Reviews by PC Magazine – From my PC Magazine email update today, a review of the new Sony VAIO VGC-RT150Y, noted as "even more expensive and powerful and has a bigger screen than previous all-in-one PCs. It will compete with the iMac for digital-content-creation artists. Pros: Quad core in an all-in-one PC. Huge 25.5-inch LCD screen. Wireless networking and connectivity (Wi-Fi, BT, keyboard/mouse). HDMI input and output. Lots of I/O ports. ATSC/HDTV TV tuner. eSATA. Easy access to hard drives. Looks like a monitor. Blu-ray burner. Cons: Crazy pricey. Runs a little hot under load. Still some crapware (but much less this time). Tray-loading Blu-ray drive. Only 90 days Windows Live OneCare (antivirus, backup, and firewall)." But it looks soooo nice. This 25.5-inch media center with HDTV and Blu-ray support would be a killer. But I’m afraid in this environment a $4K SRP is a little steep.
Exclusive HP / Toshiba laptops first in Best Buy’s Blue Label lineup – Engadget’s Darren Murph posted Oct 8th 2008 at 9:37AM that "Best Buy is practically admitting that it is just now starting to "gather insights from customers and work with manufacturers to design products that address [consumers’] needs." In a rather odd release, the big box retailer is announcing two new laptops that’ll be exclusive to its store: the 14.1-inch Toshiba Satellite E105-S1402 (we which already knew of) and the 13.3-inch HP Pavilion dv3510nr. As for the former, expect a 1.2-inch thin frame, WXGA (1,280 x 800) panel, backlit keyboard, DVD burner, 5.5-hours of battery life and an $1,199 price tag…"
Starbucks wiped from Apple’s site, but what does it mean? – Chris Ziegler of Engadget reports (posted Oct 8th 2008 at 11:10AM) that "We just happened to notice that the Starbucks page on Apple’s site is now stone-cold gone, redirecting to the standard iTunes 8 stuff. You might say "no big deal, Apple’s just playing down an agreement that’s now been in place for a full year," but there’s some other weirdness, too…"
‘CDO Squared Senior Tranche’ Prompts Bank Woes : NPR – Back in April (April 17, 2008), Michele Norris and Adam Davidson on All Things Considered covered how "For the third time in just a few months, Merrill Lynch has taken a huge, multi-billion-dollar "writedown" on its investments in mortgage-backed securities. Banks are suffering big losses because of one particular financial instrument: the CDO-squared senior tranche. What is it?
Linux Netbooks Are Returned 4X More Than Win XP Versions, Says MSI – "Netbooks were supposed to be this great inroad for Linux development, but it turns out that the XP side of the netbook business is doing a lot better in the area of customer satisfaction: MSI today told Laptop that, according to internal studies, "The return rate is at least four times higher for Linux netbooks than Windows XP netbooks." "Lest you think I’ve somehow chopped this figure and embedded it out of context, here’s what MSI’s US sales director Andy Tung told our friend Joanna at Laptop when she asked about high return rates…"
Nicholas Ciarelli: Apple no longer sues leakers, says Think Secret blogger– Nick dePlume, as the 13-year-old Nicholas Ciarelli dubbed himself in 1998, became more than Internet-famous as the target of an Apple lawsuit. Why have Apple’s lawyers gone silent? Ciarelli essay boils down to four reasons, bullet-listed here: Apple leaks have shifted from scrappy fan sites into the mainstream. Apple’s legal efforts to identify leakers have been entirely fruitless. Strong-arming fan sites into removing their reports only serves to confirm those reports. Negative PR ultimately tarnishes Apple’s brand when it threatens, subpoenas, and sues sites run by some of its biggest fans.
ROBOTS DREAMS: ROVIO Rolls Out: First Impressions of WowWee’s Surprising Robot – "We’ve always been enamoured with ‘remote presence’ as a future concept, but our experience this week with the new ROVIO robot quickly converted us from skeptics into true believers. This extremely well thought-out robot has been designed with the user’s needs in mind from the start. The ROVIO is intuitive and is a pleasure to use from the moment you first open the box."
Toshiba’s MacBook Pro-esque Satellite E105 arrives at Best Buy – Engadget – The Toshiba E105 has been sneaking around the fringes for a few days now, but apparently it’s not just announced — it’s available for purchase. That’s right, the oddly familiar looking 14.1-incher can be had at Best Buy for the totally reasonable price of $1,199.99, packing a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo, a 1280 x 800 TruBrite LCD display, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, and an Intel 4500MHD integrated GPU. The Satellite also sports 802.11a/b/g/n, an HDMI out, Vista Home Premium, and that all-important fingerprint reader (just remember, this increases the odds of someone cutting off your finger). The laptop is available right now online, no word if it’s on store
HTC’s Touch HD gets very early review, called an iPhone killer in German – Engadget – "Not even a fortnight after HTC’s Touch HD went official in Germany, out pops a review from Deutschland calling it the best thing since sliced bread. Okay, so maybe our translation skills are a bit off, but one thing’s for sure — it was hailed as the first "iPhone killer to deserve that name." Right off the bat, reviewers praised the TouchFLO 3D interface for masking Windows Mobile, and of course, the expansive display was drooled upon numerous times. Additionally, critics praised the Opera browser while scolding Internet Explorer, and while it’s hard to say for certain whether the battery life was remarkable, it definitely seemed to get their vote of approval."
eBay’s first PR person, unveiled startup: Tokoni – "Mary Lou Song, eBay’s first PR person, has formally unveiled her own startup. Tokoni, which has come out of beta to let people tell their stories online, is unremarkable, considering the number of self-indulgent self-publishing websites already out there. Except for this: Song, at eBay, is best known for inventing the company’s fictitious origin myth. That old canard about Pierre Omidyar starting the site to sell his girlfriend’s Pez dispensers? Years later, Song confessed she made it up. But the invention paid off: Omidyar is investing in Song’s effort to collect other people’s imaginings.
Exclusive Lifehacker Interview: How Dave Brown Hacked His Way into the Green Room – A few career highlights cited by Brown: 1. Death Cab For Cutie playing acoustic in my living room 2. Backstage with Ron Jeremy during Sigur Ros at Hollywood Bowl 3. Meeting Bob Moog (the guy had a great sense of humor) and then getting him a feature in Entertainment Weekly 4. Traveling the film festival circuit for Boxers and Ballerinas 5. Making a documentary on my friend Kumar 6. Touring Europe, Iceland, Taiwan and Japan with The Album Leaf 7. Bright Eyes playing acoustic in my living room 8. Booking Superdrag on Conan 9. Licensing indie music to Grey’s Anatomy, The OC, CSI, MTV, Jeep and Hummer ads… 10. Steve Poltz taking me into the Padres clubhouse last w
Hidden USB Storage (from instructables) – Oct 6"If you’re like me, you may or may not have secret files plotting world domination and other devious deeds. These files obviously need to be hidden from the prying eyes of sisters, FBI agents, grandparents, etc. We are going to convert a phone jack in the wall into a secret USB memory device. Note: I am not responsible for any illegal files or folders hidden on this device. Use your discretion before downloading any content you may believe to be illegal
Hive Five: Five Best Media Converters – On Lifehacker: "We’ve all been there: you’ve downloaded an episode of your favorite TV show to watch on your commute or stream to your living room, but the file you downloaded isn’t supported on the device you want to use it with. Once a significant obstacle to enjoying your media anywhere, this problem is easily solved by any number of free media converters. On Wednesday we asked you to share your favorite media converters, and today we’re back with the five most popular answers. Keep reading for a closer look at the most powerful and easiest to use media converters, then cast a vote for the one you like best."
Livestation streaming television player for Windows/Mac/Linux (all platforms) – Thanks to LifeHacker for this heads up on Livestation, "the previously invite-only streaming television player, has released its free desktop client for all platforms. The app cites an available 1,275 channels, but the majority are—how should we say—not essential viewing. Still, there’s live CNN, BBC, NBC News, Bloomberg, and a smattering of local stations. The full-screen "carousel" view is pretty slick, as is reducing the player to a corner and having it always stay on top. After creating your account, you can also watch live streams from Livestation’s web site, and send twitters marking what you’re watching. All in all, a pretty decent solution to quickly pulling up news and information while you’re at your desktop. Livestation is a free download for Windows, Mac, and Linux systems; requires a free sign-up to use."
AdelaideNow… Daylight saving starts earlier but Rann rules out moving to eastern states time zone – GREG KELTON, STATE EDITOR October 01, 2008 11:50am "DAYLIGHT saving starts this weekend but any further attempts to have South Australia move to eastern standard time will be rejected by the Rann Government. "Premier Mike Rann said today that with the onset of daylight saving at the weekend, earlier than normal, there had been suggestions of shifting permanently to EST. "This would put SA on the same time zone as NSW, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania. "On Sunday, SA moves to daylight saving four weeks earlier than in the past prompting protests from communities on the state’s West Coast."
Daylight savings starts in Australia | The Courier-Mail – October 03, 2008 04:36pm .DAYLIGHT saving time is upon us again, with the southern states winding their clocks forward on Sunday morning. Debate still rages in Queensland. From two o’clock this Sunday morning, clocks will go forward an hour in New South Wales, Victoria, the ACT, Tasmania and South Australia. Western Australia will also observe daylight saving this year, starting on the last Sunday in October but Queensland and the Northern Territory won’t be putting their clocks forward.
Dear New Circuit City CEO: Here’s How To Fix Your Stores – Since CEOs are super busy, the Consumerist summarized their recommendations: "Hire people who know what they’re doing. Offer a better selection of products that will interest high-end cash-heavy consumers, and staff your store with people who know at least as much as they do. Clean your stores. Hire enough people so that you can have a register open at all times. Concentrate on the products that people actually want to buy, like handheld devices, cameras, consoles, and other gadgets. Mop the floor and tidy up. Don’t let your employees huddle in the back of the store. Make shopping through the website easy. Lower the prices on your accessories to compete with Best Buy. Find friendly people and put them to work behind the customer service desk."
Songwriters Get No Pay Raise – Bits Blog – NYTimes.com – October 2, 2008, 8:55 pm By Saul Hansell "It turns out that Apple is not going to close its iTunes store over six cents. "The company had threatened to do just that if the royalty it pays songwriters for every 99 cent track its sells was raised from to 15 cents from 9 cents, as the music publishers (who represent the composers) had requested. At least that’s according to an article in Fortune. (This seems a bit farfetched. In the worst case, wouldn’t Apple have been better off raising the price of a song to say, $1.09?) "In any case, the Copyright Royalty Board, a panel of three judges that sets the royalty rates for various classes of works, decided Thursday to keep the royalties for music sold as downloads at 9.1 cents per track."
Google Boasts of Its Energy-Efficient Data Centers – Bits Blog – NYTimes.com – October 1, 2008, 7:41 pm By Miguel Helft "Google is many things: the most used Internet search engine, the largest seller of online advertising, the busiest online video site (YouTube), a maker of maps, e-mail and scores of other applications delivered over the Web. And all these things are possible because, first and foremost, Google is an immense collection of electricity-hungry data centers, packed with hundreds of thousands of computers that deliver all these digital services almost instantly to virtually any computer around the globe. "Google has always considered these data centers among its most prized crown jewels and has gone to great lengths to protect information about them — their design, operation, energy use and even their location — as a corporate secret. So it came a bit as a surprise to industry watchers when on Wednesday Google boasted that its data centers were perhaps the most efficient in the industry."
Daylight savings shift to cause phone havoc Down Under | Register Hardware – By James Sherwood [More by this author] 2nd October 2008 13:33 GMT "Unsuspecting Aussies could be in for a spot of time travel this weekend, because Australian network operator Telstra has warned that some Down Under phones won’t support the country’s upcoming daylight savings time adjustment."
Netflix! | MediaMall Technologies – Posted on October 1st, 2008 by dkarlton All right, the moment is upon us! We have just released the latest version of PlayOn with Netflix to our subscribed beta testers. We’ve been kicking its tires for the past week or so, and it’s looking pretty slick. There are still a few glitches here and there, but overall, it should deliver for the vast majority. Give it a spin! Also, Netflix has made some really cool announcements recently, adding content from Disney and CBS, as well as Starz. We’ll be taking a look as this content becomes available, and expect the vast majority of these videos to be available through PlayOn.
Starz Gives Netflix Fans a Reason to Stream – Bits Blog – NYTimes.com – October 1, 2008, 12:01 am By Brad Stone "Netflix and Starz, the premium cable television service, plan to announce a deal on Wednesday that will make films aired on Starz available to Netflix subscribers for online viewing at no additional charge. Since it was introduced last year, Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” feature has had more potential than watchable movies. The service lets subscribers stream any of 12,000 movies and TV shows on their Windows computers, instead of waiting for the DVD to arrive in the mail in the familiar red envelope."
How To Be Productive Working From Home – "In my last post I asked my readers for tips to help me be more productive as an at home worker. They responded with a boatload of tips—thanks all! I also did quite a bit of online surfing and reading to see what I could turn up. I found some great stuff."
steve clayton: geek in disguise : PDC2008: Dear Boss… – Steve offers "A handy template to ensure you get your PDC ticket :)"
Economy: Batten Down Your Hatches for the Financiapocalypse – The economic meltdown on Wall Street during the past few weeks is going to trickle down to your street, whether or not you’re a big investor in the stock market. Not to sound all doomsday—because goodness knows we’re all stressed enough watching the news these days—but chances are things are gonna get ugly this coming winter and continue into an even worse-looking 2009. While foot rubs, yoga, and deep breathing will certainly help, getting your financial and career ducks in a row can also help you feel prepared, capable, and confident for whatever comes your way. Let’s take a look at a few smart financial and career moves you can make in the coming months to prep yourself for these tough times. Photo by wallyg. Note:
gOS – a Google good OS for your Mum • The Register – Mac-like Linux serves the Windows crowd By Scott Gilbertson • Get more from this author Posted in Operating Systems, 25th August 2008 19:06 GMT Review What’s free, looks like Mac OS X, just works and is actually Linux? The answer is gOS, which recently launched a new beta that builds on the distro’s initial success and adds new tools like integrated Google Gadgets for Linux. When it launched onto the scene late last year, gOS (which stands for good OS) made quite a splash for getting Linux into the U.S. retail giant WalMart. Through a partnership with PC manufacturer Everex, gOS brought Linux to your parents’ generation via WalMart. But chances are, if they picked up a gOS equipped machine, Mom and Dad would have no idea the
‘Windows Cloud’ to descend this month, says Ballmer • The Register reports (Kelly Fiveash, Posted in Operating Systems, 1st October 2008 13:53 GMT) that "Microsoft will let loose a new operating system, Windows Cloud, at the company’s annual developer conference later this month. "Boss Steve Ballmer announced Redmond’s plans at a Software plus Services partner event in London this lunchtime. He playfully gave the OS the temporary name of Windows Cloud. Apparently, we’ll learn more from Microsoft about the platform at the Professional Developers Conference in Los Angeles, which takes place at the end of October. "We need a new operating system designed for the cloud and we will introduce one in about four weeks, we’ll even have a name to give you by then. But let’s just call it for the purposes of today ‘Windows Cloud’," said Ballmer."
Toshiba Media Server Concept Looks Awesome – Of interest from CEATEC 2008, Sep 30, 08 03:03 AM PDT "First of all, this media server is a concept – not a commercial product (how unfortunate!). It was part of a Toshiba demo about how the telephone, the media server and a TV (with wireless HD) could interact. The media server automatically downloads media files form the cellphone as soon as the user drops it nearby (using near field communication or NFC). The media files can then be displayed from the media server to a wireless HD 1080p TV (I’m sure that in their concept, it works better if everything comes from Toshiba…)."