July 31, 2004

FirstAdopter.com Editor’s Choice Personal Technology Products and Services – July 2004

Every few months, FirstAdopter.com will publish an Editor’s Choice article to list the best personal technology products and services in each category. The products listed are often not the most expensive or fully-featured. However they represent what we believe is the current sweet-spot on the price/performance curve for personal technology enthusiasts.

LCD Monitor
Dell 2001FP – bar-none the best LCD monitor value for gaming and all-around performance on the market today. Dell is often selling the 2001FP after discounts for $750 and lower. Read the raves on our 80 page 2001FP discussion thread.

Mp3 Player
Apple iPod – after all these years, no-one has come close to the ease of use and simple user interface of the iPod. With iTunes, you may never buy another CD again. [Read More]

DVD Rental
Netflix – other services are cheaper, however Netflix has quicker service due to its dozens of distribution centers, a better selection, and the best intuitive website.

Satellite Radio
XM Roady 2 – one can argue that Sirius may have better content, but for $3 cheaper a month, the best form factor on the market, and 3rd generation chipset that has great reception, you can’t beat the Roady 2.

Audio Headphones
Sennheiser HD600 – the classic lives on, look for it under $300. Sennheiser 600s let you hear audio detail that usually comes from speakers that cost over $1000. You can pick these headphones up for under $250 these days.

Smartphone PDA
Treo 600 – it’s not perfect, but it’s the best overall solution on the market. Useable email, Palm PDA functionality, a speakerphone for your Trek communicator dreams, and a RIMM-like keyboard that lets you instant message your life away.

Video Card
ATI Radeon X800XT – with Halflife 2 coming and Nvidia still having problems with heat, power connectors, and noise, ATI is your best bet.

Home Theater Receiver
Panasonic SA-XR50S – you can pick this up for $250. This digital amplifier is getting wildly positive reviews for its performance at a value price.

Phillips 963SA – there is a clearance on this player currently. Look for it around $250. Excellent DVD performance and SACD playback for the price.

Personal Video Recorder
Tivo Series 2 - still the best. Imagine watching your favorite shows whenever you want. Instant replay? Pausing live TV? No problem. It is simple, easy, powerful, and it just works. The competition is still failing to do things like accurate Season Passes and scheduling. Buy a Tivo and your life will be changed.

Online Store – Computer Parts
NewEgg.com – my one stop shop for computer parts. Great service and speedy delivery. NewEgg has never let me down.

Online Store – Consumer Electronics
J & R – this consumer electronic store is right next to 9/11 ground zero. I love their prices and the promise they have of 100% factory fresh. That being said, you can not return your purchases without paying a nasty re-stocking fee, so be sure you order what you know you will keep.

Online Email Service
Gmail – imagine Yahoo email with Google search technology. Imagine finding that lost email with that key information you need in less than a second.

Pair.com – they are not the cheapest, but Pair has never let me down for many years of quality service. Remember these guys run a profitable company, so you don’t have to worry about them going under.

If you agree or disagree with our choices, be sure to participate on the forum, which is full of the smartest and nicest early adopters in the world.

DOOM 3 Trailer

We're just a couple days away from the official release of iD Software's DOOM 3. Take a gander at the final release trailer, which I must admit is pretty darn impressive and makes you want to get the game. I'm going to still be a skeptic as iD hasn't really done much to innovate gameplay and story since the original DOOM. I will give them the best graphics and animation technology kudos in the business though. They are the best at the bleeding edge in that, no doubt. Link

No Xbox 2 in 2005?

The internet is going gaga with this quote from the Steve Ballmer, the CEO of Microsoft. "There's no new Xbox in the next year, but, man, are we hard at work on that next Xbox" I wouldn't go nuts though because this was said at a financial analyst meeting. And in finance speak, it probably means next FISCAL year which ends in June 2005. With all the developers leaking out how hard they are working for a late 2005 launch, I am still willing to bet Xbox 2/Xenon will be in our grubby hands at the end of next CALENDAR year. Read

July 28, 2004

Nintendo DS Make-over

Nintendo announced the official name for their new portable handheld coming out later this year. They decided to keep the same name "DS" as the project code-name. More importantly, the company revamped the previous blocky design to one that is sexier. Improvements include larger buttons, thinner body, smoother curves, stereo speakers, and a black base. I guess the big N didn't appreaciate being out-oogled by the slim Sony PSP. Read

July 23, 2004

Jobs Jabs at Microsoft

Walter Mossberg of the Wall St. Journal, the personal technology powerhouse that FirstAdopter strives to become, interviewed Steve Jobs at a recent conference. Here are some of his most interesting points: We make really only the second-highest volume operating system in the business, and we think it's the best now. We think Microsoft is following our taillights again with a copy of Mac OS X about a year ago, and that's kind of fun. If you look at the core of Apple, what Apple is great at is figuring out how to invent cool technology but making it wonderfully easy to use. That's what we've always done. That's what the Mac was; that's what a lot of things we do are. From the very beginning we looked at the iPod and said the ultimate competitive barrier is going to be software. We're pretty clever at hardware, and ultimately people will copy us and do other things, but the competitive barrier will be software. The more consumer products evolve, the more and more they look like software in boxes. A lot of traditional consumer electronics companies haven't rocked software. Like we said before, Jobs is the master at having his finger on the pulse of what consumers want and need. They want devices that are easy to use and simple without reading a detailed manual. This is a lot more difficult to duplicate than Sony thinks it is. Microsoft always talks about innovation, but I challenge anyone to tell me what they have truly innovated over the years ex-Expedia. Almost every OS improvement was copied from Mac and many of the core Microsoft Office applications with direct rip-off of competitors or acquired. Even the original MS-DOS was a hack that Gates bought off some poor guy at the last minute to sell to IBM. I will admit Gates wrote a mean BASIC compiler back in the day, but his genius has always been business acumen of screwing his business counter-parties. Now we will see Microsoft's new OS in a couple of years, which I guarantee will look strikingly similar to OS X and Microsoft's upcoming music store later this year. iTunes anyone? Read

Corporate Email Snooping

According to Forrester, 44% of large corporations are now snooping their employee emails. They are worried about corporate espionage or inappropiate content like porn. Big brother is watching, watch your back and don't email stupid stuff. According to research from Forrester Consulting, 44 per cent of large corporations in the United States now pay someone to monitor and snoop on what's in the company's outgoing mail, with 48 per cent actually regularly auditing e-mail content. Imagine being the guy who gets paid to read other people's email. Ha! Read

July 22, 2004

Half Life 2 Bug Fixed in 16 Days

Some fan boy got a response from Gabe Newell saying Half Life 2 is 16 days away from having all the bugs fixed. That puts a release candidate date in roughly 2 weeks. This however doesn't mean it goes gold at that time, but it shows the game is oh so close. From: Gabe Newell Date: Tue, 20 Jul 2004 15:51:23 -0700 Subject: RE: Need comfirmation Right now we are looking at our bug numbers. Each day you fix some bugs and you find some new bugs. The net number tells you how quickly you will get to zero. At our current rate of find/fix bugs, we'll be down to zero bugs in 16 days. Read

July 21, 2004

Birth of iPod

Wired has a fascinating article on the birth of iPod. Steve Jobs was intimately involved in the design process and the whole project was almost nixed because of poor battery life. I find it amazing that the simple intuitive user interface was designed in only 3 months. Good UI is very, very difficult. Ask Microsoft and every consumer electronics manufacturer on the planet. "The interesting thing about the iPod, is that since it started, it had 100 percent of Steve Jobs' time," said Knauss. "Not many projects get that. He was heavily involved in every single aspect of the project." Read

July 20, 2004

Doom 3 Minimum Specs

The Houston Chronicle got a hold of the minimum specs for Doom 3. • A 1.5-gigahertz Intel Pentium 4 chip or AMD Athlon 1500. • 384 megabytes of memory. • Two gigabytes of hard drive space. • An nVidia GeForce 3 graphics card or better; or an ATI Technologies 8500 or better. These are the highest I've seen for a game. There are also reports that NOTHING out there in current hardware can play Doom3 at playable frame-rates at the highest resolutions and detail settings. This engine will grow with all of us over the next few years. I hope my 2.66ghz P4/ATI 9700/1 gig of RAM can do it justice. Read

July 18, 2004

New iPod Announced

Newsweek has the scoop on the new iPod. It's amazing that Apple gets cover stories on mainstream news magazines every major product release. I mean talk about marketing. Then again, Jobs has always been the master of marketing. Remember it was the Woz that made the Apple II and all the early technical designs. Steve just handled the business and marketing side. The new iPod has 50% better battery life, a centered phone jack, thinner by 1mm, and removes the 4 mini-buttons. Pricing is $100 cheaper with the 40GB model going for $399 and 20GB going for $299. Only one color will be available - white. After years of iPod-dom, Apple is sticking to its guns the simple user interface is the best. With all the hoopla over 60gb hard drives being bought by Apple few months back, I guess that version is coming out later. Read

July 16, 2004

First Review of Airport Express

iPodLounge has one of the first reviews of Apple's Airport Express on the net. Looks like it's everything it's cracked up to be, a great wireless music server for your home stereo. What will Jobs think of next? The Good: Easy and high-quality wireless music serving from a computer, particularly for Mac users, plus the ability to fully replace one’s outdated wireless hardware with faster, more secure 802.11G. Small, attractive, and highly portable. The Bad: High price tag relative to competing but lesser products, Windows software is glitchy, Mac configuration software could be easier to use. Link [Via Engadget]

July 15, 2004

Webshots Sold Twice

CNET announced yesterday it is acquiring Webshots for $70M. Webshots has 14M monthly users that share digital photos and download them for new screensavers and desktop wallpaper. I tried the site a few years ago and thought it was pretty nifty. I had no clue that it was worth this much. The amazing thing is the founder of Webshots sold the company once to ExciteAtHome in 1999 for $82.5M and then re-bought it a few years later for $2.4M. And now just 2.5 years later, he sold the same site AGAIN for $70M. Not often you see someone sell the same business twice for such huge gains. CNET Networks Inc. said Wednesday that it will pay $70 million to acquire Webshots, a digital photography Web site that was salvaged from the ruins of bankrupt ExciteAtHome for $2.4 million 2 1/2 years ago. The deal represents another coup for Webshots founder Narendra Rocherolle and his business partners, who sold the site to ExciteAtHome for $82.5 million in 1999, near the height of the dot-com boom. Read

Play Doom ONE

A user on Shacknews outlined the best way to play the first version of DOOM on today's PCs. For you Doom maniacs, you should go back and play the shareware version in hi-res all over again. Bring back those old memories. First thing you should do with the Doomsday Kickstart is set the color depth to 32 and select a higher resolution than 320x200 (it goes up to 1600x1200!) under the graphics tab. Launch the game and go to Control Panel. This is just a suggestion, but it makes the game look hawt. Go to the Graphics tab and at the top it says Smooth Camera Movement. Select YES. This makes the game move faster than 30FPS. Under the Sound tab you can choose a higher sample rate than the default 11khz. This improves the sound alot. Also be sure to enable free mouse look...you can use just about the same control config found in today's FPS now. Read

July 14, 2004

DOOM 3 Gone Gold

The CEO of iD Software announced today Doom 3 has gone gold and is set for release on August 5th. I'm in "show me" mode with this release. iD is promising brand new innovations, but in the past their games haven't really improved beyond the original Doom and the 3D nature of Quake. I mean the latter iterations had the same basic shoot'em up technical razzle dazzle with fancier graphics and sound, but no real gameplay and story improvements. Compare Quake 2 to Half-life's story and fun, and it's not even close. I am looking forward to Doom 3 engine games from other vendors though. 7-14-2004 11:52 AM CDT - IT'S DONE!!!!!!! Yes, this is the official word that DOOM 3 has been code released and has been approved for manufacturing! It won't be long now until the anticipation ends and the PH34R begins ;-) We literally just hung up with Activision and have confirmed that our latest release candidate has been mutually approved and is finally GOLD. Read

July 13, 2004

Interview about the Next Grand Theft Auto

EuroGamer has a nice summary of an interview with Dan Houser of Rockstar. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is going to kick it this October with a bunch of upgrades such as swimming, better physics & graphics, and different fighting styles. Rockstar goes on and complains how a DVD as a storage medium, as it is reaching full capacity with all the music, graphics, and 400 speaking parts. Let's hope they don't start forcing us to switch multiple discs like the old Commodore 64 days. Read

July 09, 2004

ESPN Football Moved up to July 20th

In the words of Mary Jane, go get'em tiger. Sega moved up ESPN Football 2k5 3 weeks to July 20th, way ahead of Electronic Arts Madden on August 10th. It will be interesting to see if this has any impact on the ultra-competitive football videogame market. Remember that both Sony and Microsoft decided to opt-out of the game this year. Looking at the opportunity Sega decided to offer their top quality offering for only $19.99, less than half the price of Madden. Read

July 04, 2004

Circuit City Videogame Sale $4.99

Circuit City is blowing out of old videogame inventory at their stores for $4.99. Check out the link below for the full list of games on sale. They are NOT marked down on the shelf, but they will show $4.99 at the register. Some classics on the list include: DOA Beach Volleyball Mario Party 4 NBA Street Def Jam Vendetta ICO and dozens more. *UPDATE*: I just picked up 12 games at my local Circuit City for $4.99 each. They were 2 copies of Dead or Alive 3, Kung Fu Chaos, Secret Weapons over Normandy, Robin Hood Defender of the Crown, Burnout 2, and 6 copies of Dead or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball. The selection there has been combed over, but there are still games left as of this Sunday. Link

Happy 4th of July!

Happy Fourth of July celebration to everyone. Let's all remember how lucky we all are for living in a country where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are founding ideals ex-the Patriot Act. Remember also to tell all your buddies to participate in the most happening forum for early adopters on the net. You will be glad you did.

Saturn Gamepad for PC and Mac

I've always wondered why PC gamepads sucked so much and why console makers wouldn't just release a USB version of their gamepads. I guess its because they don't want competition on the PC. Microsoft sidewiders and Gravis gamepads simply don't hold a candle vs. their console brethen. Since Sega is out of the console hardware business, they decided to release the Saturn gamepad on PC/MAC in Japan. Let's hope they can follow suit in the states soon. The pearly white color looks delicious. Read

July 02, 2004

Delphi XM Roady 2 Review

PC Magazine reviews the new XM satellite tuner, Delphi Roady2. Sounds like a great device with integrated FM transmitter and improved size. It is 2 ounces lighter than the previous version and only 2.4 x 4 x 0.7 inches. I haven't been able to find it yet online, so it looks like XM is trying to dump the first Roady inventory. If you were thinking of getting XM radio, I would wait for Roady2.

Discussion Topic of the Week - Dell 2001FP LCD Monitor

The most comprehensive forum on the Dell 2001FP 20" LCD monitor, bar-none. Join the smartest and nicest personal technology community on the net. Discuss