December 31, 2004

Philips Announces 19 inch 190P6 LCD Monitor with 8 ms Fast Response Time

Philips has announced a new 19 inch LCD monitor with a wicked fast response time of 8 ms for games and movies. Release date is March 2005. Features include:

-Light Frame Digital Reality display enhancements for clearer text legibility
-Dynamic automatic adjustment of brightness under all lighting conditions
-USB 2.0 hub
-1280x1024 resolution

We'll see how this monitor compares to Dell's 2001FP and 2005FPW. The lower resolution is probably the only drawback.

December 30, 2004

Samsung SCH-A890 EV-DO Coming to Verizon Wireless

Samsung Electronics announced today it will export the SCH-A890 EV-DO phone to Verizon Wireless starting with an initial shipment of 20,000. The SCH-A890 is a clamshell phone with rotating 1.3 megapixel camera. It's 8.9 cm in length and has voice recognition/dial features.

December 29, 2004

Incredible Indian Ocean Tsunami Videos

The Tsunami disaster video clips hosted on this thread are absolutely insane. Incredible. It is like watching something out of a Ten Commandments movie.

MP3 Cellphones Hot in 2005

Camera phones drove handset sales to an unbelievable 20% growth in 2004, so everyone is looking for the next big thing. reports that 2005 will be all about MP3 playback and ringtones on cellphones.

"MP3 phones are going to be much bigger than camera phones," says Charter Research analyst Ed Snyder..Sanford Bernstein analyst Paul Sagawa sees the MP3 phone trend not as an overnight success, but growing over the coming years as 3G takes hold and hard disk storage becomes available in phones. He expects total phone sales will grow somewhere between 10% and 12% next year. "Long term," says Sagawa, "I expect most phones above entry level will have both camera and MP3 by 2006."

Apple as always is right on top of this wave with an iTunes enabled Motorola phone slated for early 2005. LG, Nokia, and Samsung are also coming out with Mp3 phones in the coming months.

I'm a bit of skeptic as the storage capacity still won't rival the 4-20 gigabytes found on a typical iPod. I hardly ever use the MP3 player cabability on my Treo 600, even though its with me all the time. But what do I know, when the first camera phones came out, I was like who would bother with this crappy VGA picture quality?

Victory for Vonage, Federal Appeals Court Bars State Regulation for VOIP

Vonage, the leader in VOIP internet phone services, won another victory as a federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a lower-court ruling that states may not regulate VOIP phone service as they do traditional wired line service.

The Tuesday order by the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis upholds a lower-court ruling and is a victory for companies like Vonage Holdings Corp. of Edison, N.J., which provides voice over Internet protocol, or VOIP. - Associated Press

Detractors say states should have authority to tax and regulate VOIP to ensure the reliablity of 911 calls and service to rural areas. I'm sure higher taxes to pay for their porkbarrel projects has nothing to do with it.

Time Warner Cable and Sprint Partnership?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting [subscription required] Time Warner Cable is in deep discussions with Sprint to offer cellular service on a trial basis early in 2005. As the second largest cable company with 11 million subscribers, Time Warner will start new service in Kansas City, Mo and if it goes well, it could lead to a nation wide roll-out. If the deal goes through, the company will be the first to offer TV, high speed internet, wire line through VOIP, and wireless phone service all on one bill.

Cingular LG F9100 Approved

The FCC approved the LG F9100 today. This GSM phone has a slide-out keyboard, which is perfect for instant messaging and text SMS messages. Specs include world roaming, internal antenna, and color display. However there is no bluetooth or camera builtin. [Via Phonescoop]

Headless sub-$500 iMac Rumor

Highly reliable sources have told ThinkSecret, Apple will announce a headless sub-$500 iMac at MacWorld Expo on January 11th. The new computer will go for $499 and come with a G4 1.25ghz processor in a tiny package similar to the 1.73 inch high Xserve server PC.

The computer will come with DVI or VGA ports, 256MB of RAM (paltry!), USB 2.0, FireWire 400, 10/100 Ethernet, 56k modem, and 40-80GB hard drive. Software will include iLife and Appleworks. Apple is going after the PC iPod owner, who now wants to dabble on the Mac side.

December 28, 2004

Tsunami Survivor Emails

Our prayers and our hearts go out to the 80,000+ that perished and their families. CNN compiled many survivor story emails about the worst natural disaster of our time. I recommend donating to World Vision to help the victims. They are totally legit and are among the highest in giving aid per dollar with the lowest administrative overhead.

I was sunbathing with my girlfriend on the beach in Phuket when suddenly I heard an unbelievably loud roar, it sounded like I was standing next to an airplane as it took off. I looked up and found a 20-foot high wall of water coming at me -- it looked like a scene from the Ten Commandments. My girlfriend and I just got up and started running for our lives. The water caught up to us and briefly pulled us under before we surfaced and somehow managed to hold onto a utility pole. Finally the water subsided and we were able to make it uphill to safety. We saw at least 25 bodies float by. Next year I am going to Florida. - Vijay Patel, Phuket, Thailand

Motorola V635 Specs from FCC

Thanks to the FCC, the first initial specs of the Motorola V635 are out. The phone will add an exernal color display, Transflash memory card slot, quad-band GSM network, bluetooth, video capture, a megapixel camera with LED flash, and EDGE high-speed data capability. [Via Phonescoop]

Olevia 50" LCos HDTV Review

Extremetech reviewed the Olevia 50 inch LCos HDTV. Olevia is a low end brand of HDTVs. This model goes for an amazing price of $2100 especially for all the features. All in all the performance was a mixed bag with good color response, but poor light-scatter which is prevalent in rear projection TVs. The value is decent, but they recommend spending $500 more for the Samsung.

Craigslist Killing Newspapers

According to InternetWeek, is killing traditional newspapers by taking away ad and classified revenue. A consulting firm estimates the site cost San Francisco area newspapers $50 to $65 million in help wanted ad revenue since it launched in the mid 1990s. The site now is 25% owned by eBay and gets 1 billion pageviews a month.

Motorola MS400 EV-DO Launches in Korea

Motorola launched the MS400 EV-DO 3G CDMA phone for the Korean market. Along with a sexy form factor, the phone includes a hefty internal memory capacity of 87 megabytes, VGA camera, and support for the GIGA 3d graphics gaming engine. No telling when this phone will be available in the U.S. The specs include:

-CDMA 800mhz EV-DO network
-90mm x 32.4mm x 21.2mm
-99 grams of weight
-230 hours of standby time, 150 minutes of talk time
-262k color TFT, 128x160 resolution
-TransFlash memory card slot [Via Mobileburn]

Satellite Radio Companies Hit their Targets

Both satellite radio companies have announced they have hit their year-end targets for subscriber growth. Sirius hit their goal of 1 million and XM Radio hit their goal of 3.1 million subscribers. XM also said GM has signed their 1 millionth XM customer. Toyota recently announced they will install both XM and Sirius as options for their cars in 2005.

December 27, 2004

AOL Spam Down 75%

AOL announced today spam email to its users is down 75% vs. a year ago. In November the company received 2.2 million complaints daily for spam, which is better than 11 million the year before. Spam uses up 83% of all internet traffic and wastes up to $500 million in bandwidth costs. AOL spam filters blocked 1.2 billion spam emails every day vs. 2.5 billion a year ago. I'm sorry AOL, but 2.2 million spam complaints every day is still a problem in my book.

Samsung i730 EV-DO Details

Thanks to the FCC we now know Samsung's SCH-i730 smartphone will have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and EV-DO. The phone uses a Windows Mobile 2nd edition operating system and have a slide-out keyboard. Moreover it includes a 1.3 megapixel camera, 64MB of RAM, a 2.8 inch 65k QVGA color display, stereo speakers, and SD memory card slot. Release date is unknown. [Via Phonescoop]

Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z55 Review

PC Magazine reviews the Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z55 with a 3.5 out of 5 rating. They like the sharp, well exposed images, good battery life, and form factor. However the LCD frame doesn't show the whole image and flash photography is lacking. The specs are:

-5 megapixels
-9.3 megabytes of internal memory
-SD Card memory slot
-2.5 inch color LCD
-Lithium Ion battery
-2560x1920 maximum resolution

Broadband Lines up 38% in Past Year

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has released their semi-annual statistics report for the year June 30th, 2004. The report says there are 32.5 million broadband lines in the United States, a growth of 38% from the year before. DSL was up 49% to 11.4 million. Cable however still dominated with 18.6 million lines growing at 36%. However even with this impressive growth, the United States only ranks 13th in the world in broadband penetration. The FCC rationalizes that many Americans have broadband at work, so therefore don't need it at home.

Toys R Us Losing the Battle

The New York Times reports that Toys R Us may shut down its toy division or sell it off to focus on its Babies R Us stores. Toys R Us used to be the dominant toys category killer in the 1990s with a peak market share of 20%. Now Walmart is at 20%, Target is at 18%, and Toys R Us is rapidly declining at 17%. Analyst are expecting the company to close down hundreds of stores in early in 2005.

December 26, 2004

Xbox 2 and Halo 2.5 Rumors

Team Xbox is reporting an insider source has revealed Halo 2.5 will come pre-loaded on Xbox 2 hard-drive SKU to drive sales next year. Halo 2.5 will have new and improved textures and graphic effects and HDTV resolution capability. It will also include a ton of extra stuff Bungie wasn't able to fit into the current version of the game in time.

PalmOne Sells 15 Million Tungsten E Handhelds

PalmOne announced it has sold 1.5 million Tungsten E handhelds world-wide in just 14 months. Business users and consumers alike have both gravitated to this mid-range PDA which costs about $200. A lot of companies like the basic PDA functionality, nice screen, 32MB of RAM, and multi-media capabilities like MP3 listening, photo viewing, and video.

December 24, 2004

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas

I want to wish all our readers the happiest of holidays. Please travel safely. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and hang out with us on our discussion forum. We are talking about our Christmas Wish List, what you got and what you wanted even if you didn't get it.

December 23, 2004

Netflix Says NO to more Price Cuts

The CEO of Netflix has said they will not match Blockbuster's new price cut to $14.99 a month for 3 at a time unlimited online rentals. The company tried to lower prices once and Blockbuster with its business life at stake seems to only be willing to go lower. In a valiant attempt to bash his competition, the CEO of Netlfix said all Blockbuster is doing is accelerating the move online.

“In my view, Blockbuster just killed the video store by offering $15 pricing for online, but maintaining $25 a month for store-based subscriptions,” Hastings said. “They are telling their customers to go online.”

Since this new price is only guaranteed till January 2006, it's pretty obvious this is just a marketing ploy by Blockbuster to drive up its user base and then raise prices later.

Nintendo DS Sells 2 Million Units

Nintendo announced today that the Nintendo DS sold 2 million units. 1 million each in the USA and Japan. The company expects to ship more than 2.8 million by the end of the year. European launch is set for early 2005. Sony however sold 200 thousand units of the PSP on its first day of release in Japan and plans on selling 500 thousand by the end of the year.

December 22, 2004

European Court Tells Microsoft to Unbundle Media Player

A European court told Microsoft to offer a version of its Windows operating system without the bundled media player. Microsoft has two month to appeal this decision or comply. Just in case, the company is working on a special version of Windows without the media player for the European market. It could be available as early as February at the same price as current versions of Windows. The whole exercise is laughable as consumers will not buy an operating system at the same price with less software and features.

AOL Free Web Email Coming Soon

AOL is beta-testing a free web-based email service with its members. The company plans on offering the Yahoo Mail and Gmail competitor to the general public sometime in 2005. All the basic features are included like address book, contacts, and decent storage space of 100 megabytes. AOL is trying to develop new revenue opportunities by copying MSN and Yahoo portal business models. The company lost 4 million subscribers to their ISP service in the past 2 years. Currently they have 22.4 million members.

December 21, 2004

C64 All-in-One Game Joystick Story

New York Times has a good article on how a 30 year old high school dropout designed the 30 games in one Commodore 64 joystick and her life-long journey following her passion.

Her efforts in reverse-engineering old computers and giving them new life inside modern custom chips has already earned her a cult following among small groups of "retro" personal computer enthusiasts, as well as broad respect among the insular world of the original computer hackers who created the first personal computers three decades ago.

Chinese Prisoners Counterfeiting Playstation 2

Sony's investigation into Chinese piracy uncovered 10 sub-contractors who used Chinese prisoners to make counterfeit Playstation 2 consoles, controllers, and mod chips. These pirates had capacity of 50,000 units a day and sold their wares world-wide. This kind of makes you worry about buying any PS2 hardware from sites like eBay, especially if the seller is from Hong Kong.

December 20, 2004

Cellphone Radiation Harms DNA

A four year research study in Germany concluded that after being exposed to electromagnetic fields human and animal DNA had a significant increase in single and double strand DNA breaks. The damage was sometimes unrepairable by the cell. Mutated cells are one of the possible causes of cancer. The project leader recommends using a fixed line or headset vs. bringing cellphones to your ear.

Walmart Sells Linux Laptop for $498

Walmart today started pre-selling what it says is the cheapest laptop available with an operating system and office suite. The Balance Linux Notebook computer comes with:

-Via C3 1 ghz processor
-14" LCD panel display
-Lindows/Linspire version 4.5 operating system
-128MB of memory
-30GB hard-drive
-CD-ROM drive
-4 USB 2.0 ports
-3 month FREE CNR service for automatic software updates office suite

Retail Sales and Traffic are Weak

Retailers are starting to get nervous as the AP reports store traffic has been weak. The Chief economist of the International Council of Shopping Centers said, "We are not getting the kind of lift we need. Traffic and sales were below expectations." This firm tracks the sales figures for 30,000 retail stores. Total sales on Saturday was down 7 percent vs. the same day last year. Luxury stores have out-performed the middle and working class stores this Christmas as discount shoppers got hit with higher oil and heating costs. Moreover there hasn't been a "must have" item this Christmas, especially since there is a Playstation 2 hardware shortage.

EA Buys 20% Stake in Ubisoft

Electronic Arts continued its money spending ways by buying a 19.9 percent stake in French vidoegame developer Ubisoft. Ubisoft's games include the successful Tom Clancy Splinter Cell franchise and Prince of Persia. Reuters industry sources said EA paid $85-100 million for the stake. Ubisoft has now said they cousider EA's stake-building a "hostile operation."

Cingular Sells OGO for Cheap

Cingular is selling the OGO device for $49.99 after a $60.00 instant rebate on their website. OGO is a dedicated IM, email, and text messaging device with unlimited messaging fees $17.99 a month. It can access AOL, MSN, and Yahoo accounts. OGO specs are:

-Full QWERTY keyboard
-8 way navigation control
-Color screen with 16-bit graphics
-5.7 ounce weight
-4.5 x 2.95 x 0.98 dimensions
-up to 2.5 hours of usage
-standby up to 120 hours
-dual band GSM/GPRS networks

CEO of eBay Company in India Arrested

The CEO of an eBay subsidiary in India was arrested because someone tried to sell child porn on the firm's site. took down the posting as soon as it was discovered. However it didn't matter to Indian officials because when the CEO voluntarily traveled to India to cooperate with police officials, he was arrested. eBay and the U.S. Embassy is following the case closely and obviously are very upset.

Bajaj's arrest has "many ramifications," especially at a time when Internet usage in the country is rapidly growing and foreign investors are increasingly looking to India for e-commerce opportunities, said Amit Mitra, the chief executive at the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.

Silk Screen Labels for your CD-Rs

Lightscribe technology lets you silkscreen professional quality labels right onto your burned CDs and DVDs inside an optical drive. The technology requires a special Lightscribe enabled CD or DVD drive and proprietary CD-R or DVD-R media. The company is aiming for a launch date of January 2005. Pricing will be a few pennies for each disc and few dollars for each drive.

Hotmail Dumps McAfee Anti-Virus

Starting today Microsoft is going to use Trend Micro instead of McAfee for anti-virus on Hotmail. The reason for the change is unclear although an Austrialian Microsoft executive said Trend Micro's products offer "deeper virus protection." Hotmail has 187 million web mail accounts. Notice I said accounts not individual customers. I hate when companies fantasize that all their accounts are individual users.

December 19, 2004

Motorola i605 Bluetooth Phone for Nextel

FCC and industry websites have posted details on a new Motorola phone for Nextel. The i605 will be Motorola's first Bluetooth iDen phone and will feature a large color display, speakerphone, voice dialing, GPS, and Java. Unfortunately the phone looks pretty ugly. [Via Phonescoop]

eBay Buys for $415 Million

eBay announced on Friday, it is buying for $415 million in stock and cash. was launched in 2001 and matched landlords with prospective renters. The site received a commission for each lease signing that was result of the free property listings. The company expects 2004 revenue of $40 million and is profitable.

It sure makes me wonder why I didn't load up on,,, and, when I could of bought those domain names back in the 1990s and made a fortune. I still remember playing around with the first version of Netscape and thinking this "internet thing" is going to be big.

T-Mobile May Bid for Nextel

Every reporter at every magazine and newspaper is trying to out-scoop one another on the Sprint-Nextel merger story. Now Forbes is out there saying T-Mobile may put a bid for Sprint. Citing a report from Bank of America, the article suggest T-Mobile needs to get big fast or lose market-share. Nextel is attractive because of its high profit margins and dominance of the Business and Government vertical.

Yahoo Video Search

Search video files on the internet with Yahoo's new video search site. It's pretty neat, however I think site owners will be more hesitant to post large video files now as this site will drive traffic and cost them more in bandwidth costs.

More Details on the Apple Motorola Cellphone

Forbes got more details from a VP at Apple about the Motorola iTunes cellphone. According to Eddie Cue, VP of Applications at Apple, the phone will a mass-market device not $500 high-end. Moreover the release date is sometime in the first half of 2005. Many people expect Steve Jobs to show off the phone at his annual keynote speech at MacWorld Expo on January 11, 2005.

T-Mobile Launches Samsung p735

T-Mobile launched the Samsung p735 camera-phone this week for $499 with a new contract. The features include:

-Tri-band GSM/GPRS networks
-3.6" x 1.73" x 0.95" dimensions
-4.5 oz. of weight
-5-8 days of standby time
-4 hours of talk time
-262k color LCD with 178x220 resolution
-0.9 megapixel camera
-64MB of internal memory
-RS-MMC memory card slot. Comes with 32MB card
-MP3 Player, voice recorder
-Hands-free headset
-Infrared (IR) transmission
-Picture Caller ID

The phone seems a bit pricey for what it offers. You can get a full fledged smartphone or a thin RAZR V3 in this ball park range, but some I guess have to use T-Mobile as their carrier.

iPod Mini Still Rules

The New York Time writes about the success of the iPod Mini and why even with a ton of new copy-cat competitors, the Mini still rules. It's about fashion, intangibles, status, and the little design interfaces that make all the difference in the world. From the scroll wheel that lets you pick songs quickly to the ease-of-use of iTunes, the competition still has a long way to go.

December 17, 2004

Verizon Wireless Launches Audiovox XV6600

Verizon Wireless has launched the Audiovox XV6600 at a price of $549.99 with a 2 year contract. It will be available in Verizon stores in January 2005. Features include:

-integrated slide out QWERTY keyboard
-SDIO expansion slot
-EV-DO network for 300-500k/sec download speeds
-Backwards compatible to seemlessly switch to 1xRTT networks
-Microsoft Pocket PC 2003 Phone Edition OS
-64MB ROM and 128MB RAM
-3.5 inch QVGA 65k color screen

Walter Mossberg gave this Pocket PC phone a lukewarm endorsement. Although it's great for downloading emails and attachments quickly, it doesn't have the all-in-one integrated smartphone design of the Treo 650. Fortunately for Audiovox, the Treo 650 probably won't be EV-DO capable anytime soon.

Nvidia Media Processors on New 3G Cellphones

Nvidia announced that the GoForce 4000 media processor has been chosen to be featured in the Motorola E1000, V980, and C980 3G cellphones. Key features include hi-resolution graphics, videos, and games. The chipset supports up to 3 megapixel real-time camera capture with 8x digital zoom. It can also simultaneously encode and decode video conference streams and play a digital file. I'm looking forward to playing some multiplayer games with 3d accelerated graphics on the next generation of smartphones.

ICANN Tax You Without You Knowing

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the international organization that oversees domain names, is trying to levy an additional 75 cent annual fee on .net domains. Moreover ICANN plans to raise the fee to other domain suffixes like .com and .biz. They want to use the extra money for: 1/3 develop country stakeholders, 1/3 security and stability, and 1/3 anything they want. Critics complain ICANN has no oversight from any government or entity and can use this stealth tax for wasteful projects. Verisign is fully supporting this fee increase, as the company maybe wants to win the favor of ICANN so it can renew its contract.

December 16, 2004

Mossberg Reviews Verizon EV-DO, AudioVox XV6600, and LG VX8000

Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal was able to review a couple of devices using Verizon's new EV-DO wireless data network. Currently EV-DO is available in 18 cities and lets you download data at speeds of 300-500k per second. Verizon says most cities will be hooked up by end of 2005. Sprint also plans to roll out the service next year.

First up is the AudioVox XV6600 which uses Microsoft's PocketPC OS and also is a phone. The one redeeming feature is the slide-out keyboard as it costs $549 with a 2 year contract and only has 2.5 hours of talk-time. Plus you have to pay an additional $45 a month on top of your voice package for unlimited data. However because of EV-DO it provides "PC connected to broadband" experience in terms of email downloading and web surfing.

Mossberg bashes the LGVX8000 EV-DO phone which will come out in the first quarter of 2005 for under $300. Although the monthly charge will be $25 a month for data, he sees little point in the phone. The email program is weak and the EV-DO speed is wasted on downloading short videos and ring-tones.

How to get your free 128MB SD Card if you own a Treo 650

To order your free memory card as a stop gap measure for the memory allocation problem, go to this PalmOne site and type in your serial and ID number. The memory shortage issue comes from the different way the Treo 650 stores data. Instead of 14 byte long chunks, the Treo 650 need 512 bytes to store any piece of data. This leads to an estimated 30% less usable space vs. the previous Treo.

Interview with Tim Sweeney, Founder of Epic Games

GamingGroove has a good interview with Tim Sweeney, the founder of Epic Games. He talks about the current state of graphics technology, video capture technology, programming languages, and gaming company startups. Worth the read as this guy is a pioneer and knows his stuff.

The great thing about game development is that there are a broad spectrum of opportunities available for developers, from 1-3 person teams creating Nintendo GBA games, 5-10 person teams developing budget PC games, 10-20 person teams creating smaller PC and console games, and then the big leagues of 25-60 person teams creating triple-A games for PC and console. Arguably, the massive multiplayer games are a step above that. In addition, there are mod teams aspiring to "go commercial", and numerous startups looking for initial opportunities like add-on packs and contract development while building their teams.

Grand Theft Auto San Andreas Release Date for Xbox and PC

Take-Two announced the release date for Grand Theft Auto San Andreas today. The game will launch on both PC and Xbox on June 7th, 2005 in the US and June 10th, 2005 in Europe.

MP3 Player Purchasing Survey

MacWorld reports Sigmatel, the company rumored to supply Apple with flash memory next year for a new smaller iPod, did an interesting survey of MP3 purchasing behavior. In a population of 656 people between the ages of 18-35:

-59% plan on buying a new MP3 player to give as gifts
-39% would pay up to $100, 24% up to $150
-31% of current MP3 owners would pay between $149-$249

It looks like they are trying to figure out a good price point for a flash memory iPod.

December 15, 2004

Casio Announces 6 Megapixel QV-R62

Casio announced their latest digital camera, the 6 megapixel QV-R62. The camera is set for release in January 2005. The features include:

-6 megapixel, 3x optical zoom
-Direct On and 0.01 second shutter release technology for action shots
-2" TFT color screen
-88.3 mm x 60.4 mm x 33.4 mm dimensions
-SD/MMC slot
-9.7 megabytes of internal memory
-Runs on regular AA batteries

IDC Predicts Cellphone Slow Down in 2005

IDC is predicting a slow down in the growth rate of cellphone sold in 2005. The reason being there aren't any incremental drivers like the integration of digital cameras and color screens in 2004. The research firm says it will take new 3G services and content to drive another wave of significant growth. They expect 3G phones to be 25% of the market by 2007.

Time Warner Cable Road Runner Speed Increase

Time Warner Cable Road Runner cable internet customers will see an increase of their download speeds of up to 67% next month. Basic subscribers that pay $45 will see an increase of 3 to 5 mbps. Premium subscribers that pay $85 will see an increase of 6 to 8 mpbs.

Cable companies are deciding to offer better service to fight off the price competition of DSL, which can cost as low as $26 a month vs. cable's $45 a month.

Sprint to Buy Nextel for $35.17 Billion

It's finally official as Sprint agreed to buy Nextel for $35.17 billion. The combined company of the number 3 and 5 wireless carriers will have 40 million customers. Sprint plans to spin-off the local phone business to focus on the wireless. The merged name will be Sprint Nextel.

Cost synergies are expected to be $12 billion. Each Nextel share will get 1.28 shares of Sprint Nextel and 50c in cash. The Sprint CEO, Gary Forsee, will become the CEO of Sprint Nextel. And the Nextel CEO, Timothy Donahue, will become the chairman.

The deal is subject to regulatory approval, but analysts widely expect no problems. The target date for close is the second half of 2005. Sprint Nextel plans to switch Nextel's network to CDMA in the coming years.

Sony Ericsson S710a Approved by FCC for Cingular

The Sony Ericsson S710a was approved by the FCC. This phone is another Cingular exclusive as the carrier flexes its market power with the cellphone suppliers after the acquisition of AT&T Wireless. The phone should be available very soon for $399. As an update to the S700, the S710a features:

-1.3 megapixel digital camera with 8X digital zoom
-2.3 inch 240x320 pixel 262k TFT color screen
-EDGE 3G acces for downloading speeds up to 240kps
-Tri-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE network compatibility
-Bluetooth and Memory Stick Duo slot
-up to 7 hours of talk-time and 300 hours of standby [Via MobileTracker]

Samsung VP-D907i 2.11 Megapixel Camcorder

Samsung unveiled their latest line of digital camcorders including the first ever 2.11 megapixel CDD digital camcorder VP-D907i. The new features include enhanced image quality, 10x optical zoom, 2.5" color 211k LCD, 1600x1200 still image capture, Sony Memory stick slot, and 900x digital zoom. [Via Engadget]

MPAA Sues BitTorrent Servers

MPAA decided to continue their "sue until they drop" strategy by going after BitTorrent servers all around the world from France, Netherlands, Finland, United States, and England. A spokesman said they have taking legal and criminal action against 100 servers on four continents. eDonkey and DirectConnect networks are also among the P2P technologies under the MPAA's watchful eye. On a humorous note, the MPAA Director of World-wide Anti-Piracy feels the need to whine in the press release that these BitTorrent sites forbid pornagraphy, but allow downloading of copyrighted movies and TV shows. How dare they!

December 14, 2004

DICE Shareholders Say No to EA

According to a Swedish newspaper and translation, two factions that control 16% and 12% of Digital Illusions (the creator of the Battlefield series) are rejecting Electronic Art's offer to buy the company. Both shareholders believe next year will be the biggest year yet for DICE and think the valuation of their company is likely to go higher. Unfortunately for EA, the company needs 90% of the shareholder count to approve the merger.

Apple Fights Real - Don't Touch my iPod

Apple has quietly updated the firmware of iPods, so the players will not play songs purchased on Real's music store. The company has criticized Real for using hacker-like tactics to break open the iPod proprietary Mp3 player market. Apple does not want competition for iTunes, especially since they charge 99c vs. Real's 79c per song.

Oh Geekmas Tree, Oh Geekmas Tree

Tech-Report forum member, JavaDog, hit a new high water mark on computer geekdom by putting together a small Christmas tree with RAM ornaments, USB lights, and an AMD CPU as the tree-top star. I want one!

"I got the ram from ebay. 65 sticks for $1 (plus $3 shipping).
Tree is from Target - $7.99.
Total Cost = CHEAP.
Total Awesomeness = 150%" - JavaDog

Cingular Launches Motorola MPx220 Smartphone Online

Although it has been out in the retail channel for a few months, Cingular just started selling the Motorola MPx220 on its online store. The price is $300 with a 2-year contract. The features are:

-Digital Talk Time of 5 hours
-Standby Time of 8.3 days
-Quad-band world phone on GPRS and GSM networks
-Syncs with Microsoft Outlook, Calendar and contacts
-Windows Mobile Smartphone OS
-Pocket Internet Explorer
-176x220 pixel color screen
-3.9 ounces
-1.2 megapixel digital camera
-Bluetooth capable for headsets
-200mhz TI OMAP 1611 CPU

This is the second generation Motorola smartphone that replaces the MPx200. Improvements include faster CPU speed (200mhz vs. 132mzh), better digital camera, and multimedia playback.

Sirius Add Traffic Reports

Although XM Radio had local traffic reports for a while, Sirius announced today it will add 30 local metro city traffic reports and hook up with in-car GPS navigation systems to navigate the best direct route. Sirius is using Navteq as their service provider.

Blockbuster Getting Rid of Late Fees

In an effort to stem the tide to online video rentals, Blockbuster has decided to kill one of the largest complaints against them. Starting January 1st, the company will drop late fees and give customers a 1 week grace period. After one week, Blockbuster will charge the full price of the DVD, VHS tape, or videogame on the credit card. The customer has 30 days to return the product less a restocking fee. It is reported Blockbuster made $250 to $300 million a year from late fees alone.

Sources Say Verizon Not Interested in Sprint

It's a tough week to be a reporter on wireless companies. Now sources close to Verizon and Vodafone are telling Reuters Verizon isn't interested in bidding for Sprint. Vodafone said they are not in discussions with Verizon or Sprint. The main impediments are regulatory hurdles, overlapping assets, and the unattractive Sprint land-line business. The theory is the FCC would be more against a Verizon take-over due to the hefty power Verizon already has as a Baby Bell.

Verizon Got Approval to Bid for Sprint

Wall Street Journal and Reuters are reporting that Verizon got approval from its partner Vodafone to make a bid for Sprint. This may throw a wrench into Sprint's impending $35 billion merger with Nextel. Vodafone however wants to keep their stake at 45% in any future combined entity. So Vodafone will also have to pony up tens of billions of dollars to stay at the table.

Technically it would be a much cleaner combination as both Sprint and Verizon use CDMA as their platform. The bid however may be weeks away as Verizon needs to decide how much to bid and what to do with Sprint's land-line business. Moreover there are anti-trust concerns, as the combined company would have 1/3 of the U.S. market.

As a Sprint subscriber who is quite happy with their low prices, I'm not looking forward to paying Verizon rates any time soon.

Google to Add Major Library Volumes to its Database

According to the New York Times, Google plans to announce an agreement with some of the world's best research libraries to convert their volumes into digital files freely searchable on the Internet. The libraries include Harvard, Oxford, University of Michigan, Stanford, and the New York Public library. A rough cost estimate to digitize all those books is about $10 each for 15 million volumes. Librarians say it will take about a decade to complete the job. The Library of Congress will also put 1 million books online. The focus will mainly be on works no longer under copyright. The copyrighted material will only turn up short excerpts.

Seagate Hard Drive Warranty Explanation

The Tech-Report has the scoop on Seagate hard-drive warranties. Basically consumers get a five year warranty from the date Seagate ships the drive from their factory and maybe a few additional months to allow the it to work itself through the channel. Hard-drives sold inside a computer are the responsibility of the computer system manufacturer. OEM hard-drives resold individually do not have warranties as they are considered "grey market" products.

December 13, 2004

Great Deal: Sony Ericsson T637 Cellphone for -$225

Amazon is offering the Sony Ericsson T637 Cellphone for -$225 with free shipping ($94.99 minus a $320 rebate and contract). Yes you read that right, you get PAID for buying this cellphone, although you have to sign up for a long term agreement. Act fast as the crazy rebate expires on 12/15/04. I like it when companies pay me to buy their products, more should do that.

The Sony Ericsson T637 has:

-Bluetooth, Infrared support
-Digital camera
-AOL, Yahoo, and ICQ Instant Messaging client
-Weighs 3.35 ounces
-Size is 1.73 X 4.02 X 0.75
-315 hours of standby time and 14 hours of talk time
-5 way joystick for navigating menus and games
-internal memory of 2 megabytes

The phone has been out for a few months and doesn't have a lot of memory, but at these prices who can complain.

Electronic Arts Signs Exclusive with NFL and Players

EA announced an exclusive 5 year deal with the National Football League and Players Inc. to develop, publish, and distribute interactive football games. The company negotiated each deal separately to get the rights for NFL teams, stadiums, and players. Moreover EA gets the rights to use all the trademarks for online console gameplay. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Both agreements are exclusive for action simulation, arcade-style and manager games on the PC, handheld game devices and consoles -- including console online features. The agreements do not include exclusive rights to other types of games or games accessible from the Internet or wireless devices, including cellular phones.

This is the ultimate strike back blow to Take-Two and EPSN franchises. As the ESPN line took major share vs. Madden this year due to great reviews and the $19.99 price point.

Update: Take-Two responds, "We believe that the decisions of the National Football League and Players Inc. to grant an exclusive license for video games do a tremendous disservice to the consumers and sports fans, whose funds ultimately support the NFL, by limiting their choices, curbing creativity and almost certainly leading to higher game prices."

Update 2: Although financial terms were not disclosed. Gamespot published a rumor on 5/18/04 that speculated an Electronic Arts exclusive deal with the NFL Players Association.

Cingular Motorola RAZR V3 for $370

The hottest cellphone this Christmas is the Motorola RAZR V3 available from Cingular. A buddy of mine already has it and I'll admit it's the sexiest phone I've ever seen. Motorola hit a home-run in the design department with this baby. If you want to turn a lot heads at clubs and bars, this is the phone to get. It is razor-thin hence the name and as wide as a credit card. The cheapest deal I've found is on Amazon where it goes for $369.99 after rebate. The phone features:

-Razor-thin Aircraft aluminum case
-176 X 220 pixel 2.2" 64k color display and 3D graphics engine
-MPEG 4 video
-Picture Caller ID
-22khz speaker with MP3 ringer support
-Nickel plated copper-alloy chemically-etched keypad
-Blue-tooth wireless technology
-Builtin speakerphone
-Digital camera with 4X digital zoom
-3.26 ounces
-1.75 X 3.43 X 0.91 size. It has the width of a credit card
-Quad-band GSM network compatibility for international roaming

The phone is reported to allow .GIF wallpapers, have good battery life and reception. Talk times are about 3 hours and standby time is up to 200 hours.

Motorola Reorganizes Business Divisions

Motorola announced a reorganization of the company's businesses and functions today into four groups. They are personal devices, networks, government and enterprise, and connected home.

Personal Devices will focus on multi-band, multi-mode personal communications devices (duh). The company will try to leverage economies of scale and "consistent experience design."

Networks constitutes existing cellular radio access networks, IP and next-generation IMS/softswitch technologies (VOIP stuff), iDEN infrastructure (Nextel is going away though, no?), telco wireline services (old Baby Bell phone service), and new 802.xx mobile broadband infrastructure.

Government and Enterprise will focus on market and solutions oriented businesses for Fortune 500 and the government for voice and data-delivery services.

Connected Home will serve existing and new cable and satellite customers for the broadband networked home. Sounds like cable set-top and networking solutions.

The changes are set to take effect January 1st and there will be no change in reporting relationships. Supply chain operations will also be a new organization. The company is conducting an internal and external search to fill the leader of this position. I bet the guy in charge of the Nextel relationship is a bit worried.

Cingular Launches Sony Ericsson Z500a Camera Phone

Cingular is now selling the Sony Ericsson Z500a Camera phone on their website for $99.99 with a 2 year contract. It's good to see reasonably priced multi-media phones with good feature sets out there as everyone can't afford the $500 Motorola RAZR V3. For a limited time Cingular is offering a free faceplate with a mail-in rebate. The phone has the following features:

-Size of 3.6 x 1.9 x 0.9 inches
-Weight of 3.9 ounces
-Digital Talk Time of 5 hours
-Digital Standby Time of 10 days
-Integrated VGA Camera with zoom and brightness control
-Video and picture messaging
-AOL instant messenger
-128x160 65k internal display and 4k external color display
-POP3/IMAP email
-MP3 player
-Wireless modem capable with optional USB cable
-510 contacts phone book
-Tri-band world phone using GSM and GPRS networks

Cellphone Peeping Toms Beware

Congress passed a law banning using camera phones or other video devices on people undressing or being nude without their consent. Fines are up to 100,000 dollars and one year in prison. The law only covers federal property including government buildings, national parks, and military bases. In many Asian countries, the government forces cellphone makers to have a verbal click or cue when taking a photo. That legislation may not be far off here.

Samsung Develops Another Memory Card Format

Samsung announced a new removable, thumbnail sized memory card format for cellphones. The dimensions are 12x14x1.1 mm which is about 1/3 the size of normal MMC cards. The cards operate on 1.8 or 3.3 volts of power and have 10MB per sec read and 7MB per sec write performance. They can be reused 100,000 times and will initially come in 32, 64, and 128 MB sizes. Do we really need another flash memory format? Sigh.

Travel Aggregators Taking Share

The biggest news in online travel has been the arrival of "travel aggregator" sites like Sidestep, Cheapflights, Qixo, Kayak, and Farechase. These sites crawl the net in search of the best deals and get referral fees for pointing users to the online travel companies. Sidestep even searches the inventory of JetBlue and Southwest, which hasn't been done before. Qixo even charges consumers a fee for their service. The big boys are starting to notice as Yahoo bought Farechase in July and AOL took a minority stake in Kayak.

Fujitsu Siemens Lifebook P7010 Review

Pocket-Lint has a review on the Fujitsu Siemens Lifebook P7010. The P7010 has a 10.5 inch TFT LCD panel in 16:9 aspect ratio, Pentium M 733 CPU, 512MB of DDR SDRAM, and a 80 gigabyte hard-drive. I've owned one of the the predecessors and the combination of built-in DVD drive and ultra-portability is perfect for watching DVD movies in the air.

Panasonic Announces 3 Megapixel Camera Module for Cellphones

Panasonic, a subsidiary of Matsushita, announced a line of digital camera modules for mobile phones. The new 3, 2, and 1.3 megapixel modules use the latest Maicovicon camera sensors, auto-focus, and image stabilization technology. Panasonic also says at 8.63mm these sensors are the thinnest in the world. Moreover they can capture video at 30 frames per second. The company expects volume production of the 3 and 2 megapixel modules in March 2005.

Motorola Stands to Lose from Nextel Sprint Merger

Analysts are expecting the Nextel Sprint merger to hurt Motorola the most. Nextel's platform is the proprietary iDen. The combined company would have a much eaiser time switching the Nextel network to Sprint's CDMA due to lower costs and a better upgrade path. Unfortunately for Motorola which was the exclusive supplier to Nextel, this means Sprint's suppliers are likely to gain major share. They include Qualcomm, Lucent, Nortel, Samsung, and Audiovox.

Mobile Phone Users Double Since 2000

According to a U.N. report, mobile phone users have doubled since the year 2000 to 1.5 billion. That is about 1/4 of the world's population. The biggest increases have come through the economic devleopment of China, Russia, and India. Already 1/4 of China are using cellphones, which alone is larger than the population of the United States.

T-Mobile USA Delays Broadband 2 Years

The CEO of T-Mobile USA, the wireless unit of Deutsche Telekom AG and the fourth largest US wireless carrier, said there will be no broadband mobile services using UMTS for at least 2 years. The company wants to build out the broadband technology only when they have enought wireless airwave capacity.

Sony PSP Impressions and Q&A

Gamespot writers in Japan have gotten their hands on the Sony PSP and have written a question and answer article. In terms of battery life, Ridge Racers lasts between 90 minutes to 3 hours. Wireless features drain the life even further. Load times are about 15 seconds for Ridge Racers and 15-20 seconds for Vampire Chronicles.

IGN also posted their impressions. They absolutely love the screen, but have issues of image bleeding and quirky D-pad sounds when you press the game-pad.

Blizzard Threatens to Sue People Who eBay Warcraft Online Items

According to Blizzard and their legal fine print, all the in-game items you slave over in questing through many hours of play are owned by Blizzard. The company is threatening legal action to any person who sells in-game content on eBay as it ruins the “fun and fair environment” of those who play by the rules. This is an interesting take on the online role playing game economy as Lineage, Everquest, and Ultima Online players have always suffered or gained through off-line auctions and sales of in-game items.

In order to promote a fun and fair environment for all our customers, we are actively investigating those individuals who engage in this inappropriate activity and reserve the right to take legal action against these individuals to protect World of Warcraft for all those who "play by the rules.We understand the temptation to purchase better items, but Blizzard, and not the seller, does own all in-game property. In addition, we feel that characters can find ample equipment and money within the game through their own adventuring and questing. Please understand that if you do purchase in-game property from sellers on eBay and personal sites, we may temporarily suspend your account, and at the very least, delete the offending items.

Cellphone Talk Time in Flight?

Federal regulators are planning to meet next week to consider ending the ban on cellphone usage on airline flights. Detractors worry that 200 people on their cellphone would make for a much more annoying flight experience. The safety concerns seem overblown as many passengers have snuck in conversations in the bathroom and through their wireless Blackberries.

BitTorrent Scaring Hollywood

According to research reports, BitTorrent is now 1/2 of file sharing P2P bandwidth. The software’s brilliance is it solves the bandwidth problem of downloading large files like movies. The more people that download the file, the faster everyone can get it as it makes every downloader into an uploading server. Bram Cohen wrote the program and is now getting legal action threats. He absolves himself of any liability as he just wrote the technology and has no control over what its used for.

Great Deal: 128MB Compact Flash Memory for $5

Amazon is selling Viking 128MB Compact Flash Memory for $4.99 after -$16 rebate. It's also eligible for free shipping. A great deal!

December 12, 2004

Samsung RL-a760 Sprint PCS Launched

Samsung RL-a760 for Spring PCS is released. It's a dual-band phone that weighs 3.8oz and has up to 180 minutes of talk time. It is available right now and has the vaunted Nextel-like (kind of makes you think about the merger) push-to-talk functionality. The price is a reasonable $49.99 with a new contract.

-128x160 65k color display
-3.5" X 1.8" X 1.0"
-No camera, no video
-SMS/MMS/VSMS messaging

Siemens SX66 is Launched by Cingular

Cingular has launched the Siemens SX66 PocketPC for the price of $549.99 and a 2 year contract. The Pocket PC phone has:

-Digital talk time of 4 hours
-Digital standby time of 7 days
-Windows Mobile Pocket PC 2003 Second Edition
-Unique slider design QWERTY keyboard
-Wifi, Bluetooth, IrDA interfaces
-64k color screen 240x320 pixels
-32 bit Intel PXA263 CPUS 400mhz speed
-64MB of flash ROM and 128MB of RAM
-Quad-band world phone. GSM and GPRS network capable

December 10, 2004

Nvidia Spills the Beans on Playstation 3

According to Nvidia, the Playstation 3 will come out in the spring of 2006 for Japan and the fall of 2006 for the States.

Sprint and Nextel to Merge

According to Reuters sources, Sprint has offered 1.3 shares for each Nextel share in a $36 billion stock deal between the number 3 and number 5 largest US wireless companies. Barring any last minute issues, the deal could be announced as early as next week.

Sony Executives Admit Battery Life Smokescreen

This is pathetic that Sony now admits the initial 4-6 hour battery life number for the PSP was based on playing a simple card game with the screen dimmed, speakers turned off, and with no wireless features. No wonder Nintendo is now beating its chest on the DS sales.

The PSP will also have to solve some technical challenges, most notably concerns about battery life. Sony estimates that a fully charged PSP battery will be good for four to six hours of game playing. But Sony Computer Entertainment President Ken Kutaragi acknowledged in a Japanese press interview last month that those estimates were for playing a simple puzzle or card game with the screen dimmed, speakers turned off and wireless connectivity disabled. Turn on all the bells and whistles and load up a graphically complex racing game, and the battery will drain faster. Nintendo's market-leading Game Boy Advance SP, by contrast, runs for more than 10 hours between charges. The Sony representative said the company was confident the PSP's battery would be sufficient for most owners, but spare battery packs will be available.

War of the Worlds Trailer

Steven Spielberg's latest project is War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise. The movie is set to come out in the summer of 2005 and is based on the classic sci-fi novel of the same name. Watch the trailer here.

December 09, 2004

Videogames Good for Kids in the Hospital

Researchers say letting kids play Gameboy before they go into surgery is a great way for them to relax instead of holding mother's hand or tranquilizers. Moreover the games help reduce anxiety as kids become so into their videogame playing they forget where they are and or what they are about to go through.

Patel studied 4- to 12-year-olds in three groups of 26 children each. All had parents with them in the operating room until they were anesthetized. One group also got a tranquilizer, and the third group played with a Game Boy. On average, the Game Boy group showed no increase in anxiety before surgery. But on a standard, 100-point scale for measuring preoperative anxiety, the tranquilizer group jumped 7.5 points and the parents-only group 17.5 points.

Apple to use Toshiba Flash Memory in 2005

Toshiba told China Daily that it will sell flash memory to Apple starting "early next year." A flash memory iPod is widely expected by analysts to be announced at January's MacWrold Expo. Merrill Lynch expects a price range of $149 to $199. Toshiba already provides 1.8 inch hard-drives to Apple for their iPod line.

Sprint and Nextel Merger?

The Wall Street Journal reported today according to "people familiar with the matter" Sprint and Nextel are in discussion for a merger of equals. Sprint spokesman Nick Sweers said, "Our comment is no comment on rumors and speculation."

AOL to Launch New Media Player

According to BetaNews sources, AOL Music is in rampant development of a new media player to be the foundation of a new music store. There is a beta release for AOL members. AOL Media Player, code-named "AMP", will let non-AOL users access AOL content and services. I like how they took Winamp name and built upon it, now that almost all the original WinAmp programmers have left the company.

Vonage to Do Videophones

Vonage, the leader in VOIP, announced a relationship with Viseon to develop a video phone service for its customers. The company plans to offer its small business customers affordable video conferencing ability and allow consumers to make video phone calls in real-time. I wonder if pricing will be better than iSight/iChat on the Mac. Probably not. [Via Engadget]

Tapwave Cuts Zodiac Prices

Tapwave has cut the prices of its Zodiac line of PDA portable gaming handhelds for Christmas. Zodiac 1 which has 32MB of RAM is $30 cheaper to $270. Zodiac 2 is $50 cheaper to $350. Zodiacs run Palm OS 5.2 with a 320X480 pixel screen and a 200mhz processor. However the line will face steep competition from Sony PSP early next year and the Nintendo DS which is out already.

Amazon UK Starts DVD Rentals

Netflix actually cancelled plans for UK DVD rentals and I bet Amazon had something to do with it. Amazon UK has started two DVD rental plans of 7.99 pounds for 2 DVDs at a time with a 4 per month limit and 9.99 pounts for 3 DVDs at a a time with a 6 per month limit. Notice the different business model vs. Walmart, Netflix, and Blockbuster of limiting DVD rentals to a set number each month. We probably can expect more of the same when Amazon decides to start their US service.

Nintendo Talks Smack About Sony PSP

Nintendo President Satoru Iwata bashed the Sony PSP for "its lack of understanding of what modern consumers, using a handheld system require from its software... naive belief that home system softawre comprises the same elements as portable system software." I too am a bit worried about battery life and load times which initially look pretty bad from the early PSP reports in Japan. However I can't get myself to pick up a Nintendo DS for lack of killer software. Plus who wants to buy a portable Nintendo 64 in this day and age?

Sony Fights Back with Disney for Blu-Ray

Disney has decided to throw its hat with the Sony camp on high definition DVD platform technology. Now we almost have an even split on movie content, which is a disaster for consumers as we will have to go through another video format battle like VHS vs. Beta. On one side we have Sony, MGN, Disney, Dell, Samsung, and Matsushita (Panasonic). The other side has Toshiba, NEC, Paramount, Universal, and Warner Bros. Twentieth Century Fox and Microsoft Xbox are the two companies who has yet to take sides.

Hybrid HD-DVD to Be Developed

Memory-Tech will start mass production of hybird HD-DVD discs that contain both DVD contend and HD-DVD content. This is a great idea that Sony has also used with SACDs. I love being able to play CDs on both my SACD player and normal car CD player. The upper layer will have a capacity of 4.7GB and the lower HD layer will have a capacity of 15GB. Paramount, Universal, Warner Bros., and New Line Cinema have lined up to support Toshiba with movie content starting in holiday 2005. Sony is fighting back with their own technology, which will be bundled with the Playstation 3.

No, IBM Not Going to Buy Apple

One of the strangest rumors circulating now is that IBM sold its PC division to buy Apple. Unfortunately for these conspiracy buffs, IBM is not allowed to get back into the PC business for at least five years according to their contract with Lenovo. No Apple for you!

Nintendo DS Selling Over 1 Million Units

According to the Nikkei Industrial Daily, the Nintendo DS has sold more than 500,000 units in both U.S. and Japan. At over a million sold it's roughly at the same pace as the last handheld launch, the Gameboy Advance. That is amazing especially since the DS costs $149.

December 08, 2004

Two Console Modders Get Arrested

The Department of Justice raided three videogame stores in the Washington D.C. area for selling modded "super Xboxes" for $500. The modded consoles let gamers install bigger hard-drives and play downloaded pirated games. The confiscated consoles had 15 games ripped onto them. Selling hardware with copied games definitely is a crime, but is it under "fair use" to have a modded console with backup copies of your own games?

Apple Cellphone Using Motorola?

So I know a guy, who met a guy Apple cellphone rumors are spreading. Supposedly some poster on TreoMac met an Mac consultant who had a scoop that Apple is working with Motorola on an Apple branded cellphone. My skeptical mind says this is just a Motorola cellphone with the vaunted iTunes functionality which was announced some time ago.

Palmsource Explains Linux Acquisition

In an open letter to the Palm OS community, Palmsource tries to explain what the acquisition of a Chinese Linux company means to its users. The company plans to port the Palm OS look and feel to the low-end Linux OS platform to achieve lower price points. Moreover development on the hi-end Cobalt system continues with devices expected in 2005. This seems pretty weak as the Cobalt OS was shipped to licenses at the beginning of this year. Where is Cobalt?

Sony Thinks PSP Can Beat iPod

An executive VP of Sony Computer Entertainment of America conjectured that the Sony PSP would mount an attack on Apple's iPod as a way to sell music to consumers. Andrew House explains that PSP will be a huge presence and the 2 gigabyte capacity of the UMD disc format can be used for movies and content. I found the argument a bit weak as the PSP is a LOT larger than almost all MP3 players. It might take some share of the MP3 player business as the Treo has, but people simply aren't going to give up their iPods even if they do buy a PSP. The memory stick pricing alone kills the idea.

Interview with Tivo User Experience Director

PVRBlog got an interview with Margret Schmidt, the Director of User Experience at Tivo. She explains how much work it takes to create great user interfaces. Although it looks simple, it certainly isn't as Apple's MP3 competitors can surely attest.

The design concept is a walkthrough of the most frequent tasks we expect users to undertake. If the stakeholders believe the concept meets the requirements, we begin usability testing of the design. TiVo has an on-site lab and a strong research team. Typically we will create a fully functional prototype that we can display on a TV and control with a TiVo remote -- it feels just like the real thing! Based on the findings, we iterate on the design. (Some times *many* iterations!)

World of Warcraft Review

Gamespy gives its highest rating to World of Warcraft for its "rich and complex gameplay, excellent quest system; great art and world design; solid interface." The downside is the yet to be implemented PvP system and the problems with overloaded servers at launch. I'm having a grand old time myself in this game. I agree wholeheartedly this is the best online role playing game yet. Blizzard is a master at taking an existing genre and improving it close to perfection.

iPodLounge Year in Review

iPodLounge has an excellent year in review piece on the ups and downs of the Apple iPod product in the 2004. From the amazing success of the iPod Mini to criticism of iPod Photo, why Sony failed, and the significance of the iTunes Music Store, this site gets the analysis right and conclusions spot-on. A must read.

IBM Sells PC Division to Lenovo for $1.25B

IBM is ditching their PC hardware business for $1.25B to Chinese PC manufacturer, Lenovo. The company plans on focusing on their higher margin businesses, software and services. Lenovo will pay IBM $650M in cash, $500M in debt, and $600M in stock. IBM will still hold a 18.9% position in the combined company, which will become the third largest PC company in the world. Already Michael Dell is laughing at the deal citing that no merger in his industry has been successful in the long run. By golly, he is right.

Pixar Delays Cars to Summer of 2006

Pixar and Walt Disney announced they will be delaying their next movie, Cars, by six months to June 9, 2006. Pixar says they are going to finish the movie on regular schedule, but delay releasing it because of the advantage of the summer movie time-frame. Basically the company wants to release movies in the summer and then come out with a DVD release in the holiday season to maximize revenue.

Gallup Survey on Most Honest Professions

Americans ranked public service professions highest in honesty and ethics.

1. Nurses 2. Grade school teachers 3. Druggists, pharmacists 4. Military officers 5. Medical doctors 6. Policemen 7. Clergy 8. Judges 9. Day care providers 10. Bankers 11. Auto mechanics 12. Local officeholders 13. Nursing home operators 14. State officeholders 15. TV Reporters 16. Newspaper reporters 17. Business executives 18. Congressmen 19. Lawyers 20. Advertising practitioners 21. Car salesmen

What a shocker! Lawyers and cars salesman near the end?

Hollywood Sues DVD Jukebox Maker

The DVD Copy Control Association is suing Kaleidescape for offering products that let users rip DVDs onto their home entertainment servers. The company is flabbergasted as it admits working closely with the DVD CCA for more than a year making sure their products fit within its guidelines. It's pathetic because it seems customers can't rip DVDs for their own fair use under the association's interpretation.

"The express intent and purpose of the contract and CSS are to prevent copying of copyrighted materials such as DVD motion pictures," Bill Coats, a DVD CCA attorney, said in a statement. "While Kaleidescape obtained a license to use CSS, the company has built a system to do precisely what the license and CSS are designed to prevent--the wholesale copying of protected DVDs."

December 07, 2004

Sony PSP More Impressions

Lik-Sang was also able to get a hold a Sony PSP. Along with plenty of screen-shots, they seemed pretty impressed with the device. MP4 video playback works fine and the screen is awesome. The drawbacks are long loading times of 16-24 seconds due to the disc based media and finger print city on the shiny case. Bottom-line though the gamers that played with it are all smiles. I hope someone will post some battery life times as soon as possible as that is the main scare among people now.

Nintendo Fixes Dead Pixel DS

Nintendo is showing awesome customer service by fixing DS systems that have even ONE dead pixel. Most companies have stringent guidelines how many pixels in which size areas are enough to get a replacement. There is this report where Nintendo sent back a DS in four days AND paid for shipping FedEx BOTH ways.

Computers Broke the Red Sox Curse

eWeeks has a fascinating article on how the Red Sox leveraged information technology to help their baseball team. The club as a state-of-the-art video archive system that can queue up video on opposing players in an instant. Now the IT infrastructure is 200 PCs strong with 130 terabytes of hard-disk space. VOIP phone service is available to the scouts and managers and a new CRM system is on its way.

There, Roberts asked Billy Broadbent, who handles video systems for the Red Sox, to queue up footage of New York Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera pitching from the stretch with a man on first base. Two innings later, Roberts put to good use what he had learned from the team's massive digital archive of opposing pitchers.

Half-life Story and Timeline

Don't you love people with way too much time on their hands. Someone put together a great site with the Half-life story and time-line written in scientific fashion. Another warning though as it obviously contains spoilers if you haven't played both games.

Finish Half-life 2 in 3 Hours

Someone finished Half-life 2 in under three hours and posted the Divx videos of it in both hi and low resolution. The hi res version weighs in at 1.5 gigabytes. I downloaded it and its amazing. Of course if you don't want to see the whole game, don't download it as it spoils it for you.

Videogames and Kids Quote

"Computer games don't affect kids, I mean if Pac Man affected us as kids, we'd all be running around in darkened rooms, munching pills and listening to repetitive music." - Kristian Wilson, Nintendo 1989

Nvidia to Supply Playstation 3 Graphics

Sony and Nvidia announced this morning a collaboration agreement for graphics technology. Nvidia gets to supply next-generation GeForce technlogy through a broad, multi-year, royalty-bearing agreement for Sony "computer entertainment systems" that use the Cell processor. It's pretty safe to say that it is the Playstation 3.

"In the future, the experience of computer entertainment systems and broadband-ready PCs will be fused together to generate and transfer multi-streams of rich content simultaneously. In this sense, we have found the best way to integrate the state-of-the-art technologies from NVIDIA and SCEI," said Ken Kutaragi, executive deputy president and COO, Sony Corporation, and president and Group CEO, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. "Our collaboration includes not only the chip development but also a variety of graphics development tools and middleware, essential for efficient content creation."

Mossberg Says Portable Media Players Stink

The Wall Street Journal's personal technology columnist bashed the three latest portable media center players from Samsung, Creative Labs, and iRiver. For $500, these devices play video, audio, and picture files on a nice screen. Mossberg didn't like the interfaces and the severe lack of legal software. He recommends people just buy a cheap portable DVD player instead.

Sony Confirms MPEG-4 Playback on PSP

Sony's newest handheld videogame machine will allow users to playback MPEG-4 videos off their memory sticks. This is a boon for people who want to play video files on-the-go. Moreover many Sony digital cameras and camcorders record in MP4 format. And trust me, people will figure out how to get their Tivo recorded TV shows on there.

FCC Approves Motorola MPx

The FCC approved the Motorola MPx smartphone to come out in early 2005. The latest and greatest offering will have a SD card slot, megapixel camera, bluetooth and Wi-Fi, dual hinged design, Windows Mobile operating system, and enhanced PDA functionality. [Via Mobile Tracker]

Cellphone Flower Power

Around 650 million cellphone will be sold this year with most being thrown away within 2 years. The environment gets the worst of it because phone are filled with plastic, heavy metal, and harmful chemicals. Not to mention the wicked battery. Scientists at University of Warwick developed biodegradable plastic casings that are non-toxic. The kicker is there is a sunflower seed embedded in the case, so once you throw it out you may find a flower somewhere in the land-fill.

Sid Meier Interview

Euro Gamer got an interview with Sid Meier, one of the greatest game designers of our time. Interesting tidbits include: reasons why they dumped Dinosaurs, currently working on Pirates! for Xbox, and Civilization IV. They also talk about the new Pirates! release for PC. I'm looking forward to playing this over Christmas. I still remember fondly raping and pillaging the Caribbean on my C64 and Commodore Amiga. Arrrr!

Circuit City Post Weak Same-Store Sales

Circuit City, the number 2 consumer electronics retailer, reported weak November quarter sales due to lower discounting on CDs and DVDs. The company also blamed changes on how it sells cell-phones and satellite TV services. Analysts were expecting same-store sales to be up 2-4 percent; the company announced it would be -4.3 percent year over year. It makes sense however, as whenever I go to Circuit City the videogame inventory is an absolute mess vs. Best Buy.

December 06, 2004

Electronic Arts CEO at UBS Conference

Electronic Arts CEO, Larry Probst, spoke today at UBS Annual Media conference. I took some interesting notes from his presentation:

-Will launch 3-4 cell-phone games in next few months
-Had 27 one million unit sellers last fiscal year. Expect to have more this year
-EA Sports games tracking to 60% unit share and 80% revenue share vs. Take-Two/ESPN
-Sims 2 doing “extremely well” and has already sold 4 million units globally
-Some disappointments are PS2 hardware shortage, Sims Urbz, Goldeneye, and MOH: Pacific Assualt
-NFS Underground 2 doing great, up 70% vs. last year and already sold 1 million units
-Simply have to get better managing game development as today’s business model of crunch time and killer hours is not sustainable
-Will try to create new online revenue opportunities with Playstation 3
-Will launch next year sports games at $39.95 or $29.95

Nvidia nForce 5 Intel Chipset Details

The Inquirer has posted the latest specs for the nForce 5 motherboard chipset for Intel CPUs. Their sources are saying:

-Intel 800 or 1066FSB P4 socket 775 capable
-DDR2 677 memory
-2 IDE ports, 10 USB 2.0 ports, 4 Seria ATA II ports
-1 gigabit ethernet LAN

Samples will be available in first quarter of 2005 and shipments may even come out in that time-frame.

First Sony PSP Impressions and Review

Seven days before launch in Japan, Play-Asia was able to finagle a Sony PSP for a review. They paid about $1500 for it at a charity auction. Not much insightful commentary yet, but they did post a few dozen screenshots and videos.

VOIP Phone Deals - Lifetime Free for $999

VOIP startups are jumping over themselves to see who can offer the lowest price. You have to love commodity pricing warfare. is reporting that RNK Telecom has announced a $999 for life offering. This compares to the $30 a month unlimited plan from AT&T and $25 a month from Vonage, which has 200,000 subscribers. With prices like these, I don't expect some of these companies to last very long.

Latest iPod Mini Rumors

AppleInsider is reporting Apple will boost iPod Mini storage by 25% early next year from 4GB to 5GB. New colors and metallic finishes are also being discussed. This is in addition to the widely expected flash iPod with a even smaller form factor. My recent trips to Best Buy show plenty of inventory for the mini; it looks like they got the manufacturing constraints fixed.

Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth Review

Gamespy has the initial scoop on Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-earth PC real-time strategy game. Thumbs up so far with great epic battles, graphics, and a good single player game. However the engine still chugs frame-rate wise and the unit AI could use some work. I'm still going to pick it up thought, since this is the psuedo-sequel to the Command and Conquer series using the Generals engine.

MSN Spaces Review - Microsoft's Blogging Service

The early reviews on Microsoft's new blogging service are tepid at best. No WYSIWG interface, weak administration features, and just being late to the blogging party are only a smattering of the complaints. Not to mention the fine print, which lets Microsoft censor your writing. Great stuff indeed.

Half-life 2 in HDTV

Gamespy has several screenshots that show the differences between playing Half-life 2 on a widescreen HDTV television or monitor vs. normal aspect ratio displays. It seems like there is a bit of screen real estate advantage for 16:9 ratio players.

Playing the game on a 60 inch widescreen plasma sure makes me salivate. Imagine gravity gun deathmatch mayhem on a TV like that? Wow.

EA Responds to Labor Practices Complaints

Kotaku has a leaked email from a senior vice president at Electronic Arts. The email basically admits there is an issue here and that the company will work to fix it. In the near future, some positions will be given overtime pay status. The promise of less labor because of Renderware sounds pretty doubtful however. It's amazing how much impact one journal entry on a blog from an EA spouse has had in just a few weeks. First a blog explosion, a New York Times article, class action lawsuits, and now EA relenting.

December 03, 2004

Rio Forge 512mb MP3 Player Review by Arogan

requirements: flash based, expandable memory, FM, resume

- about $170 shipped from newegg. I believe a $20 rebate has just started so you should be able to find a better deal now.
- solid state player with 512mb internal memory and a SD slot for expansion. Takes up to a 1 gig sd card though I'm thinking it's possible larger ones will be supported. Read/writes standard Fat32. No software needed. Just drag and drop with file explorer. When you plug it in you get two drive letters, one for the internal memory, and one for the sd card. This is very convenient. usb 2.0. I'm currently using it with a 512mb sd card for a total of 1 gig of storage.
- to remove the sd card you have to take out the battery first. [MORE]
- flashed to latest 1.20 firmware. There are reports of faulty hardware if you get firmware version 1.01 out of the box. If you get 1.16 out of the box then you have the latest hardware revision. All 512mb versions are at least 1.16 because they didn't introduce the 512mb version until later. If you get the 128 or 256 then beware. I tried a 1.01 128mb version from best buy and the big problem is the fm reception is horrible so I returned it. I can confirm that the 512mb has much much better fm reception. You also gain the ability to record from fm (wav format).
- supports mp3, wma, and audible even.
- amazing resume/bookmark support. When turning the unit off or switching between mp3 and fm it ALWAYS remembers the exact track and second where you left off. I believe everything gets written to flash memory so I believe even with a dead batter it will remember where you left off. You have 10 independent bookmarks you can set. Saving a bookmark couldn't be easier. Hold down the middle button, a menu pops up letting you pick your bookmark(1-10) and save. This is the best implementation of resume/bookmark I've seen on any player. This is a critical feature for those who listen to audio books.
- claims of up to 20hrs on a single AAA battery. There is even a NIMH/alkaline setting so the battery indicator will be correct.
- 5 band equalizer. not just presets but a real equalizer.
- has a standard usb mini connector. the little plastic cover for the usb port is very easy to lose.
- comes with an arm band and a clip. You can bend the clip so everything fits very tightly. The headphones aren't too bad actually and wrap around your ear for a very good fit.
- good stop watch with lots of lap times
- tons of settings. You can configure many aspects of this player.
- volume and sound quality seem fine.
- when you first turn it on after changing songs it has to rebuild the database. This takes a while. After that boot time is about 4 sec.
- navigation: It has really good navigation based on id3 tags. You can choose by artist which will then drill down to albums. You can go straight to albums, genre, specific track, year, and new music (time based - when you added the songs). Every single level has a play all option, so you can play everything in memory, all albums of a specific artist, a specific album, etc.
- m3u play lists are supported. I've tried ones generated by audiograbber and ones from mp3tag. Just make sure you use relative paths.
- nice display and back light. Shows lots of information like codec and bitrate along with the usual mp3 tag info.
- no glitches or lock ups so far.

bottom line:
A great solid state player that's a tad over priced.

other players considered:
Rave-MP 256 MB - dirt cheap (was as low as $50 at, price has gone up now), uses sd cards up to 512mb, very buggy, frequent crashes and freezes during navigation or changing settings (requires taking out the batter to reboot), long 25sec boot times, resume only to last track not position in the track, 126 file limit no matter how much free space you have. No way to access the SD card through the player. You must remove the SD card and use your own card reader. They claim that a firmware update will come out sometime early next year that will fix most of these problems.

rca lyra rd2010 - saw this at frys and did some reading. I don't know much about this player.

Motorola DAP025
I didn't find this one until after I ordered the rio.

Nex ia+ mixed reviews. Questionable build quality, out of country support.


December 01, 2004

Half-Life 2 Deathmatch is OUT

Let's get the party started right! Let's get the party started quickly!

A Half-Life 2 update has been released via Steam. Please restart Steam to apply the update. Included in this update:

Half-Life 2: Deathmatch
* New multiplayer game featuring physics simulation system Half-Life 2/Source SDK
* Includes game code needed to create Half-Life 2/Source MODs
* Ability to edit Half-Life 2 maps
* Maya model exporter
* 3d Studio Max model exporter source code
* Sample MOD with vehicles

Source Updates
* HTTP and non-HTTP map auto downloading functionality
* Enhanced dedicated server logging capabilities
* Various tweaks and fixes

A Half-Life 2: Deathmatch Map Making Contest has been announced. The winning entry will receive a cash prize of $5,000. Two runner up entries will receive a cash prize of $3,000.