February 28, 2005

XM Satellite Radio Raises Prices and Adds Features

XM Satellite Radio announced today it is raising prices 30% from $9.99/month to $12.95/month effective April 2, 2005. With the increase, subscribers will now get XM Radio Online and the High Voltage channel as part of their service. XM Radio Online lets you listen to XM channels through your internet connected computer and High Voltage channel has shows like Opie & Anthony.

XM is offering current subscribers an option to lock in the $9.99/month rate for 1-5 years before April 2nd. It looks like XM didn't like the fact that its competitor Sirius was getting 30% more money, so they decided to match their service and pricing. [Discuss]

February 26, 2005

Bank of America 1.2 Million Accounts Info Stolen

Following the recent Choicepoint identity theft disaster where over 100,000 people's confidential information was stolen, Bank of America decided to pitch in by announcing it lost computer tapes that hold account information on 1.2 million federal employees.

The missing tapes contain names, addresses, and social security numbers. I have a feeling though the government is going to step on this incident because U.S. Senators' info were also on the tapes. Companies that compromise our data like this need to be punished, so they take greater security measures. They need to be taught a lesson that our data is just as important as protecting against bank robbers.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, told Reuters that he had been informed by the Senate Rules Committee that the data tapes were likely stolen off a commercial plane by baggage handlers. "Whether it is identity theft, terrorism or other theft, in this new and complicated world baggage handlers should have background checks and more care should be taken for who is hired for these increasingly sensitive positions," he added.

February 23, 2005

Sonos Digital Music System Review

Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal [sub required] reviewed the Sonos Digital Music System. He loves the ease of set-up, gorgeous remote control, and feature-set. Moreover the sytem is the "best music streaming product I have seen and tested. The Lexus of the category." The downside however is the hefty price of $1,199 for two ZonePlayers and a remote. Also it can't play copy-protected music files downloaded from music stores like Apple's iTunes.

100,000 Domains Sold for $164 Million

Marchex Inc. bought 100,000 domain names for $164 million in cash. The deal was driven by the rise of keyword advertising revenue models. People accidently mis-type URLs and visit these random sites. The click-throughs from internet keyword ads let companies like Marchex make money. The company estimates the 100,000 domain names had more than 17 million unique visitors a month.

My question is what happens if the ad revenue dries up or goes south just like in the year 2000? People sure seem to have a short-term memory.

Apple Updates iPod Lineup

Apple updated the iPod lineup today. The iPod Mini gets an upgrade to 6 gigabytes and a longer battery life of 18 hours. Unfortunately the rumors of a color LCD and Bluetooth turned out to be false. The old 4 gigabyte model will still be available for $50 cheaper at $149. The poor selling Gold color SKU however got discontinued.

A new 30 gigabyte iPod Photo is released at $349 replacing the $499 40 gigabyte model. The 60 gigabyte iPod Photo gets a price decrease from $599 to $449.

Canon PowerShot SD300 Review

Anandtech reviews the 4 megapixel Canon PowerShot SD300. Attributes include a fast startup time, good resolution, great 30fps 640x480 movie mode, and tiny form factor. On the minus side, there is slight purple fringing, corner blurring, and a yellowish cast on some pictures. Let's up the SD400 will be even better.

February 22, 2005

Sirius Gets NASCAR in 2007

Sirius announced today it will broadcast NASCAR starting in 2007. In an exclusive 5 year deal, Sirius will pay NASCAR a whopping $107.5 million. XM Radio currently has NASCAR from a deal done in 2000. From the following quotes, it looks like XM is crying sour grapes for being out-bid on this contract. Go big or go home. And this is coming from an XM subscriber. What's the difference from losing $20 million more a year vs. a few hundred million they alreay lose a year? Sometimes I don't get business [tongue firmly in cheek].

"We are disappointed that we were unable to reach an agreement on extending our arrangement with NASCAR beyond the 2006 season," said XM spokesman Chance Patterson. "Certainly this deal will fuel the ongoing debate about the cost of sports programing across all media." Both XM and Sirius, money-losing companies not expected to turn a profit for several years, have signed expensive deals to broadcast professional sports. XM last year signed a $650 million deal to broadcast Major League Baseball, while Sirius will pay $230 million for National Football League games.

Shuttle XPC SN25P Review

The Tech-Report has it going on with the Shuttle XPC SN25P for the Athlon 64. They love the spacious interior, tool-free design, robust 350 watt power supply, and nForce 4 chipset. In fact the nForce 4 is filled with great goodies like PCI express, Envy24PT audio, gigabit ethernet, and Serial ATA RAID. Other than the $420 retail price point, it looks like Shuttle has the winner in the small form factor category.

Panasonic TH-42PD25 Plasma Review

Home Theater reviews the Panasonic TH-42PD25. Attributes include the price/performance value, the best black levels, color accuracy, and picture detail. On the downside was a need for significant calibration out of the box and poor processing.

Sony Dumps Clie Line

Sony announced today it will stop making Clie handhelds. The company will focus on smartphones made by Sony Ericsson and the Playstation Portable handheld game machine.

Sony started off slow, but near the end of its lifecycle, the Clie was the best designed multimedia handheld on the market. However with fierce infighting between the Clie and Sony Ericsson divisions and the trend toward smartphones, stagnant handheld growth, Sony chose to dump the Palm OS and Clie. It would of been fascinating to see what the innovative Clie engineers could of done with a Palm OS smartphone, but alas we shall never see it.

February 21, 2005

$300 Million Lawsuit Against GTA

Another year, another GTA lawsuit. The attorney of the victim's relatives is suing Walmart, Gamestop, Take-Two, and Sony for $300 million because the murderers learned how to kill from Grand Theft Auto. Of course the lawsuits were filed in Alabama, the crowning jewel of American "get rich" jury justice.

At a December hearing, authorities said Devin Thompson, when he was apprehended, told officers, "Life is a video game. You've got to die sometime."

Videogames are just another form of entertainment. You don't see people suing the makers of Godfather and Pulp Fiction movies do you?

Sony 2005 MP3 Player Lineup - NW-E405, E407, E103, E105, E107, E505

A slew of new Sony MP3 players were posted on the net today. The NW-E405 and E407 offer ATRAC3 and MP3 playback support, 37 grams of weight, 3-line OLED screen, and built-in lithium battery with 50 hours of playback time. WMA playback can only be done after transcoding the file. Due the picture, it probably has a FM radio too. The NW-E407 has 1 gigabyte of storage and the E405 has 512 megabytes.

The NW-103, E105, and E107 has a circular design with 70 hours of playback on one AAA battery, 26 grams of weight, and a one-line LCD. Storage capacities range from 256 megabytes to 1 gigabyte.

The NW-E505 is available in blue or silver with 512 megabytes of storage. It has a 3-line OLED display, FM radio, 37 grams of weight, and 50 hours of battery life.

The different colors are nice as is the built-in OLED displays, however my prediction is Apple's iShuffle will still wipe the floor against these offerings due to iTunes, the iPod brand, and minimalistic design.

GSPDA to Make First Palm OS Cobalt Smartphone

Palmsource's first version of Cobalt, which is the next generation Palm OS, was given to licensees early last year. Even after an upgraded version in the fall, no-one bit till now. Group Sense PDA announced over the weekend the company will be the first to release a Cobalt OS smartphone by the end of this year.

Pretty sad for Palmsource to have resort to an Asian company, as Sony dumped them and PalmOne hasn't even commited to Cobalt yet. Rumors are PalmOne will launch at least some their next generation of devices on Windows Mobile OS, which would be a slap in the face to Palmsource.

Palm OS Cobalt was designed to speed development of new categories of smartphones and other wireless devices by offering support for telephony features, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. It also includes other advanced features such as multitasking and multithreading, memory protection, support for more memory and larger screens, industry-standard security, plus advanced graphics and multimedia features.

Sony Ericsson S710a Launched by Cingular

After a long time coming, Cingular finally launched the Sony Ericsson S710a this week. Pricing will be $449.99 for 2 year commitment and $499.99 for 1 year commitment. Features include:

-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

February 20, 2005

Paris Hilton Hacked T-Mobile Sidekick and Privacy Attacked

Various leading tech sites on the internet are pointing to links that show Paris Hilton's private camera phone shots, address book filled with phone numbers of her celebrity friends, and travel notes that were hacked from her Sidekick smartphone. I'm certainly not a fan of Paris Hilton as a celebrity, but this is going too far.

Showing someone's private data is not what the blogosphere and tech news sites should promote. Where are our ideals of privacy and common decency? How would you like it if all your emails, notes, private camera phone shots, and phone numbers were hosted on the internet for all the world to see? It is simply wrong.

I certainly have a ton of personal information on my electronic devices that is not for public consumption. So instead of adding fuel to the fire of celebrity tabloid journalism, the tech blogosphere should stand together and condemn this or all our privacy rights are at risk.

Are we going to pander to the lowest common "Jerry Springer" denominator for extra pageviews or are we going to aspire to a higher level of journalism for the common good? Would the New York Times ever post or link to a person's confidential information, so carelessly?

And no, it is not Paris Hilton's fault. When consumers use their cellphones for private information, they have every right to believe it is secure. The real news is T-Mobile and Sidekick should have hell to pay for not protecting their customer's data.

This incident also makes one contemplate if any internet accessible data is truly secure. From the Half-life 2 leak, to cracked Blackberries, and now Paris Hilton, maybe the only true security is keeping information on an offline system like the CIA does. [Discuss]

February 19, 2005

Sony Cybershot DSC-W5 and DSC-W7 Announced

Sony announced the Sony Cybershot DSC-W5 (5 megapixel) and DSC-W7 (7 megapixel) today. Both cameras have 3x optical zoom and 32 megabytes of internal memory. Memory stick / Memory stick PRO is the storage media of choice.

I love the movie feature of Sony cameras that allow 640x480 video recording at 30 frames per second. Unfortunately I like Canon image quality a bit better. Moreover being forced to use the proprietary Memory stick medium is another detraction. However in terms of feature set, overall performance, and form-factor, these Cybershots are still at the top of the list next to Canon's G series.

New Jersey Sues Blockbuster Over Late Fees

New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey has sued Blockbuster for deceptive advertising over its "No Late Fees" campaign. He takes issue over the fact the company doesn't inform customers that in the no late fee program, there actually ARE late fees. After one week, the customer is charged a $1.25 restocking fee and then if the item is 30 days overdue, Blockbuster goes ahead an charges the item on the customer's credit card. Never mind the fact that certain Blockbuster stores can opt out of the program at its own discretion.

"Blockbuster boldly announced its 'No More Late Fees' policy, but has not told customers about the big fees they are charged if they keep videos or games for more than a week after they are due," the attorney general said in a statement.

First Mobile Phone Virus in USA

Oh virus writers, how we hate thee! It was only a matter of time before we discovered the first cellphone virus here in the states. This one is called "Cabir", which was found in the Philippines eight months ago.

It has already spread to 12 countries and into 15 deriavtive strains. The virus spreads over Bluetooth short range wireless connections and drains your battery. Luckily this is relatively harmless. Can you imagine that in the future, I'm sure there will be viruses that call random international phone numbers in the midde of night to rack up your phone bill. Not looking forward to that one.

Unlike computer viruses that spread quickly around the world via the Internet, Cabir spreads slowly because it travels only over short distances through a wireless technology known as Bluetooth. It also requires a user to restart the phone after it has been exposed for the virus to take hold.

Color iPod Mini Coming Soon

Thinksecret has a mole inside Apple, no doubt about it. According to its source, the company will release a color iPod Mini with a larger hard-drive within 2 weeks.

This new iPod Mini will have a 176x132 color LCD screen that can display colors clearly even in direct sunlight. Storage space will be bumped up to either 5 or 6 gigabytes vs. the 4 in the current model. The price will remain the same at $249. Moreover the rest of the iPod line will get color upgrades later this year.

It is only a matter of time before we get our video iPods. This upgrade is just for aesthetics, as functionality will remain the same.

Dell W4200HD Plasma TV Review

PC Magazine reviews the Dell W4200HD Plasma TV. The W4200 is one of most inexpensive 42 inch HD capable plasmas and regularly goes for under $3000 with coupons. The native resolution is 1024x768 and it also has 2 built-in tuners.

Overall the reviewer appreciated the image quality and price. On the negative side, the default settings were washed out. This is perhaps the best price/performance value in the HD 42 inch segment.

February 18, 2005

Identity Theft on Massive Scale

This was bound to happen at some point, Choicepoint has informed 145,000 consumers their identities may have been compromised. The personal data at risk includes names, social security numbers, addressess, and credit reports. Basically everything a thief needs to steal your identity and ring up huge debts under your name. The company already admits 750 cases of identity theft from this disaster, which is bound to go much higher.

The irony is Choicepoint itself was mislead by stolen identities, which let the thieves pretend they were legitimate businesses searching the database. Even then, I'm not happy that any company with a clean record can have access to all our personal data. There needs to be boundaries and vicious retribution for companies like Choicepoint that have lax security over our most prized possession, our privacy.

ChoicePoint also said that law enforcement officials informed the company of 750 cases of identity theft tied directly to the incident. One California man has already pleaded no contest to felony charges related to the ChoicePoint attack, while federal and state law enforcement agencies continue to look for others involved in the operation.

Google Search Cheat Sheet

For internet search newbies wanting to use Google to its fullest potential, visit here.

Tivo Surpasses Over 3 Million Subscribers

Tivo announced today it has surpassed over 3 million subscribers. In the fourth quarter the company added 698 thousand net subs with 251 thousand coming from Tivo itself and 447 thousand coming from DirectTV.

Too bad Direct TV is dumping Tivo in the few years with their own PVR technology. As of now I'm sticking with Tivo as I have a expanded hard-drive that gives me over hundred hours of storage and the 30 second commercial skip easter egg is a god-send. How much you want to bet the cable and satellite TV PVRs will never have that feature?

MSN Desktop Search Review Version 2

Internet guru Michael Sippey is recanting his initial review of MSN Desketop search. Now he loves it. For those that are locked onto the PC platform, which is unfortunately 98% of the known universe (go Mac Mini go), he has some great tips on using the product.

With those simple steps, you'll end up with lightning fast access to your email and local docs. After a couple of months of solid use, I've found that I rarely use the full search results window. The popup "list results as you type" window typically is all I need to find the message / document / contact I'm looking for.

Motorola e680 Review

Howard Chui reviews the Motorola e680 cellphone. Overall it seems to be a great multimedia playback phone with good sound quality. On the negative side is bad RF performance and difficult text entry. Howard is the best, so read up.

Unfortunately the e680 has terrible RF performance. It does a very poor job of finding and hanging onto the network in areas with coverage. If you live somewhere with weak signal avoid the e680...Where the e680 really shines is when it's used as a portable video player. With the e680, you can actually listen to music or share a movie with a bunch of friends.

HP to Get Aggressive on Printer Pricing

HP has vowed to get aggressive on printer pricing, which is good news for all of us. Ah, don't you love price wars?

"We are not satisfied with our consumer hardware performance in the first quarter, and we will take aggressive action to correct this in the coming quarter," said Vyomesh Joshi, who runs both HP's printer and PC businesses on a conference call with analysts on Wednesday.

Mac Mini Accessories - Clear Acrylic Case

Plasticsmith has already launched a slew of Mac Mini accessories. The most striking of the bunch is the clear acrylic case that makes the Mini look like the old G4 cube for $39.95. I kind of doubt it is good for heat dispersion, but it sure looks nice.

50 Most Important Games of All-Time

1Up did a in-depth retrospective on what it considers the 50 most important games of all-time. It's a good list and makes me reminisce about how I grew up in the gaming culture. I played 90% of those games through the years spending countless hours and money in front of the PC and console. The 80s were the golden years where gameplay ruled over graphics. Read up and take a trip down memory lane.

In just four decades, video gaming has grown immensely as a medium. While games probably aren't really as popular as the movie industry, despite what some claim, there's no doubt that gaming is a remarkably popular form of entertainment -- especially considering how long it's been around. With each passing year, games grow more sophisticated: the graphics become more realistic, the sounds more convincing, and the interactivity feels more engrossing.

February 17, 2005

Nextel Fourth Quarter Earnings

Nextel reported fourth quarter earnings of $471 million. Revenue came in at $3.58 billion as it gained 955 thousand new subscribers. For the year the company acquired 2.9 million new customers to end at 16.2 million.

Nextel is having success on the low-end youth market by adding 755 thousand pre-paid wireless customers. The average ASP is in the high $30s, while the overall ASP was $68. Churn came in at 1.5% a month, about flat from the year before. Nextel is in the process of being acquired by Sprint.

HP iPaq hw6500 Coming in April

According to Brighthand, the current object of nerd-dom's desire will come out in late April. The site expects the carrier to be Cingular as it is the main proponent of EDGE capability. The ballpark pricing should be around $600.

Can you imagine a Treo 650 knock-off with a more stable multimedia OS, GPS built-in, Goodlink email software that is as good as RIMM, Treo like keyboard and form-factor, and high speed internet access? I can. EDGE supports downloads of 110-130 kbps a second. I bet with Skype support, you can turn it into a Wi-Fi phone also. The only con maybe be the weird square screen at 240x240, which may require a driver re-write for your Pocket PC programs.

The latest info is that FCC already approved the device, so it looks like its a green light. Also it will run Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition and have a 520 mhz processor. The size is slated to be 4.5x2.8x0.63 inches. Yummy.

Mark Jen Fired Google Employee Interview

Gelf interviewed the most famous ex-Google employee this week. It comes across that Mark is a young naive kid. I had no idea before that he was only 22 years old. But I'm sure he will land on his two feet from this experience.

That Friday, the same manager Jen had talked with previously called Jen back into his office. A human-resources officer was in the room when Jen entered. It was a termination meeting. “I was shocked,” said Jen. “I asked why.”

“At first, they beat around the bush,” Jen said. “But then they told me my blog had upset people and that I wasn’t a good fit. I asked them if there was anything I could do to change their minds, but it was a one-sided conversation. So I said ‘I’ll see you guys later.’”

It doesn't sound like Jen got much of severance, but he didn't sign a non-defamation agreement either. It's a sad commentary though on Google management as the company didn't even have a "blogging policy" to nail Mark on. This is from the company that actually OWNS Blogger.

Mossberg on Switching to Mac

Walter Mossberg writes this week that switching to the Mac isn't for everyone. Gamers, people that use specialized Windows programs, and anyone else that needs Windows, probably shouldn't switch because the upkeep and maintenance of two platforms may outweigh the benefits.

Of course, you can overcome most of these obstacles if you buy a Mac as a companion to, rather than a replacement for, a Windows machine. But then you'd still be battling Windows viruses and spyware, and having to spend money and time to maintain dual platforms.

The bottom line is that the Mac is a great alternative for mainstream consumers doing mainstream tasks who are sick and tired of the Windows security crisis. But it isn't for everybody.

I can tell you after 2 weeks of being a switcher. It is NOT easy getting used to a new platform. All the shortcuts and program tricks have to be re-learned. Am I glad I did it though? Yes.

New York Times Buys About.com for $410 million

The New York Times bought About.com from Primedia for $410 million in cash. About.com gets about 22 million unique visitors a month and has a network of 500 experts providing content and discussion. Originally Primedia bought About.com for $690 million in stock during the bubble.

By cross-selling their products, the New York Times believes the transaction will be accretive in 2007. The price is 10 times About.com's sales and 30 times 2004 EBITDA. Yes indeed, the internet bubble is coming back.

Nike Philips MP3 Player - PSA 610

Nike and Philips have teamed up to bring out a sporty 4GH hard-drive based MP3 player this summer. The PSA610 has a interesting oval design. It will include a buffer to prevent skipping, however I still have qualms about jogging with a hard-drive player. [Via i4u]

Toshiba Tecra M3 Specs

Toshiba announced the Tecra M3 lightweight notebook this week. The specs include:

-Intel Pentium M processor 1.73 ghz
-Nvidia GeForce 6200 or 6600 graphics chipset
-512MB of PC2700 DDR2 RAM
-14.1 inch XGA display
-60GB hard-drive
-Intel 802.11b/g Wi-fi chipset
-4.98 pounds in weight
-3 hours and 25 minutes of battery life

Toshiba laptops used to be the best. Now there designs look kind of drab, don't you think?

Toshiba Tecra S2 Specs

Toshiba launched the Tecra S2 this week. Features include:

-GeForce Go 6600 Nvidia graphics chipset with 128MB or 64MB of video memory
-Gigabit ethernet and V92 modem
-Intel 80211a/b/g builtin
-Inten Pentium M or Celeron M processor from 1.4-2.3 ghz
-15" XGA screen
-256 megabytes of RAM standard
-13.3x11x1.5" and 6.2 pounds

Toshiba and Apple need to upgrade the default memory configuration of their PCs. Who uses 256MB any more?

PC Game Sales Not Good

TheStreet.com wallows on PC game sales which are down 12% year over year, while console game revenue continues to rise. This is especially shocking as Doom 3, Half-life 2, and Sims 2 were released in 2004. However I kind of doubt NPD, which tracks retail game sales, has a handle on Valve's Half-life 2 sales over their STEAM broadband download service. Moreover I doubt they are counting the success of online roleplaying games like Everquest 2 and World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft is on track to do $200 million in revenue in a year. Take that consoles!

Canon EOS 350D Digital Rebel XT Preview

Dpreview has an exclusive preview of the Canon EOS 350D. The camera improvements include:

-8 megapixel CMOS sensor
-smaller body, 17% lighter weight
-0.2 second power-on time
-USB 2.0 connection
-Weight is 1.2 lb with battery and CF

List price is only $899. I salivate after this camera, even though I'm quite happy with my G4. There is just something about Canon image quality which is stunning. I just wish they had better movie modes of VGA at 30fps like Sony does.

Sony PSP UMD Movie Prices up to $28.95

Sony announced pricing for UMD movies which are played on the Sony PSP videogame handheld. UMD (Universal Media Disc) measures 60mm in size and can hold up to 1.8 GB data.

XXX, Hellboy, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, and Once Upon a Time in Mexico will all retail for just $19.99, roughly in line with their DVD editions. Given its upscale pedigree, The House of Flying Daggers will retail for around 30 percent more, for $28.95. All five UMD films will be available on April 19, just under a month after the PSP goes on sale on March 24.

Sony is smoking something to expect consumers to pay MORE for UMD movies than higher quality DVDs. Are you kidding me?

Motorola CEO on RAZR Expansion and iTunes Phone

Reuters interviewd Ed Zander, the CEO of Motorola:

"RAZR is a 'wow' product. Look what this product has done for us. We sold less than a million RAZRs in the fourth quarter, on a total of 32 million phones. But this product has driven a lot of people to the Motorola brand," Zander said in an interview at the 3GSM wireless trade show in Cannes.

Another new model, the yet-to-be-unveiled ROKR, will be Motorola's first phone that is fully compatible with Apple Computer Inc.'s iTunes software, which will be Motorola's default music player on handsets. Unlike Apple, which allows Motorola users to carry a limited number of songs on their mobile phones in order to protect its popular iPod portable music player business, the rivals will allow consumers to carry as much music as they can store on their phone's memory cards. There are already tiny memory cards on the market with capacity of one gigabyte that can store hundreds of songs.

Interview with ATI Director of Marketing

Firingsquad scored an interview with Lyle Wagner, the Director of Corporate Marketing for ATI. ATI plans to introduce new exciting AGP products for the installed base. About the half the time however, the interview is like "yup! watch out for future announcements in this area!".

Samsung i270 Microsoft Smartphone Approved

The FCC has approved the Samsung i270 Microsoft Smartphone. Features include:

-176x220 internal TFT display
-128x96 external display
-1 megapixel digital camera
-MP3, WMA, AAC, MP4 player
-64MB of ROM and 32MB of RAM
-mini SD expansion slot

Canon Selphy CP500 Compact Photo Printer Review

Trusted Reviews reviews the Canon Selphy CP500. The printer is the size of a paperback book and prints 4x6s on the go. It doesn't even need a PC, as it supports Direct Print from digital cameras. Using dye-sublimation technology, the quality is said to be far better than the color inkjets we are used to.

FireFox Hits 25 Million Downloads

Over a third of First Adopter readers now use FireFox as their main browser, you are not alone. The FireFox team announced that 99 days after launch the browser has reached an amazing 25 million downloads. More than 250 thousand people are now downloading it daily due to better security and more accurate rendering vs. Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Microsoft Recalls Xbox Power Cords

Microsoft announced today it is recalling 14.1 million Xbox power cords due to 30 reported injuries and property damage incidents. The defect may cause smoke damage to the carpet. You can order the replacement cords here, which may take up to 4 weeks to arrive.

Google Toolbar 3 Beta

Google has launched Toolbar 3 beta. New features include a spell checker, word translator, and street address automatic mapper. Of course the old features of search, pop-up blocker, and automatic form filler are still there.

February 16, 2005

Peter Thiel on Internet Companies

Peter Thiel is negative on internet company fundamentals for at last a year. Mr. Thiel was the CEO and co-founder of PayPal and was bearish at the start this year, which turned out to be correct. Check out this video interview, interesting stuff. From his fund's website:

Mr. Thiel is Clarium's President and the Chairman of the firm's Investment Committee, which oversees the firm's research, investment, and trading strategies. Before starting Clarium, Mr. Thiel served as Chairman and CEO of PayPal, Inc., an Internet company he co-founded in December 1998 and that was acquired by eBay Inc. for $1.5 billion in October 2002. Prior to founding PayPal, Mr. Thiel ran Thiel Capital Management LLC, the Menlo Park-based predecessor to Clarium, which started with $1 million under management in the fall of 1996. Mr. Thiel began his financial career as a derivatives trader at CS Financial Products, after he practiced securities law at Sullivan & Cromwell. In addition to managing Clarium, Mr. Thiel is active in a variety of philanthropic and educational pursuits; he sits on the Board of Directors of the Pacific Research Institute and on the Board of Visitors of Stanford Law School. Mr. Thiel received a BA in Philosophy from Stanford University and a JD from Stanford Law School.

Motorola E1120 Specs

Motorola launched the E1120 at 3GSM World Congress. Specs include:

-3 megapixel camera with 8x digital zoom
-30 Lux Lamp for photography
-2 way video conferencing
-MP3 player with stereo playback
-Transflash memory slot

The E1120 is slated to come out in the fourth quarter of 2005. The phone is obviously focused on the photography ethusiast. The added benefit of stereo music playback is nice, however at current storage limitations of 512MB in Transflash, don't expect this to replace your iPod.

Motorola A1010 Specs

Motorola launched the A1010 smartphone at 3GSM World Congress. Specs include:

-WCDMA 2100mhz, GSM/GPRS 900/1800/1900 for global use
-208x320 pixel TFT display
-2 megapixel digital camera with VGA video recording
-2 way video conferencing
-Transflash memory slot
-Symbian 7.0 OS

The phone is slated for the fourth quarter of 2005. With impressive specs like these, the PalmOne's Treo line is in a run for its money with Motorola and HP iPaq breathing down its back.

MP3 Player Survey

According the a survey by the Pew Internet & American Life Project of 2200 people, 11% of the country or 22 million Americans own an MP3 player. 20% of people under the age of 30 own one. About 1 in 7 own one from the ages of 30 to 48. 25% of owners have incomes of $75,000 or more a year.

These figures make you think that the MP3 player and the iPod are truly the Walkmans of the 21st century. In addition there is 89% of the population to go to expand market share. I'm happy dancing along with my iShuffle, and I'm sure Apple's new iconic device will go a long way into capturing more MP3 virgins.

February 15, 2005

Internet Explorer 7 Announced

Bill Gates announced in his keynote address at the RSA Security conference that Internet Explorer 7.0 beta will be released this summer. Improvements will include stronger defenses against phishing, malicious software, and spyware. A Microsoft employee wrote more on his blog about the release: Today at RSA, Bill Gates talked about Internet Explorer 7. As the guy responsible for IE, I wanted to say a couple of things about it.

First, some basics: we’re committing to deliver a new version of Internet Explorer for Windows XP customers. Betas of IE7 will be available this summer. This new release will build on the work we did in Windows XP SP2 and (among other things) go further to defend users from phishing as well as deceptive or malicious software.

Why? Because we listened to customers, analysts, and business partners. We heard a clear message: “Yes, XP SP2 makes the situation better. We want more, sooner. We want security on top of the compatibility and extensibility IE gives us, and we want it on XP. Microsoft, show us your commitment.”

I think of today’s announcement as a clear statement back to our customers: “Hey, Microsoft heard you. We’re committing.”

Why are we talking about it today? Because our customers and partners have asked us, with increasing urgency, what our plans are. We want to convey our intentions to our customers and partners clearly and in a timely way.

I’ve gotten questions about the ship date. Yes, we have a date in mind. I’ll talk about the date after we get feedback from customers and partners. We’re going to release a beta and listen, then refresh the beta and listen some more. We’ll ship when the product is ready.

I’ve also gotten questions about support for Windows 2000. Right now, we’re focused on XP SP2. We’re actively listening to our major Windows 2000 customers about what they want and comparing that to the engineering and logistical complexity of that work. That’s all I can say on that topic.

Please know that the IE team is working hard. We’re eager to improve and better secure the web experience for the hundreds of millions of IE users around the world. We delivered on our part of XP SP2. We are actively delivering on our part of a great 64-bit Windows client. We continue to deliver on security updates for customers (across several versions of IE (back to IE 5.01) and Windows). We’re going to deliver on IE7.

It's safe to say the recent surge in Firefox usage, primarily due to security issues, is lighting a fire underneath Microsoft to update their browser. It's about time, since IE has been stagnating for years now after Netscape died.

Motorola E1060 iTunes Phone Specs

Motorola announced the E1060 iTunes phone at the 3GSM World Congress. Features include:

-1.3 megapixel camera with 8x zoom
-VGA 2-way video conferencing
-streaming and playback audio/video support for MP4, MP3, and WMA
-32MB of internal memory
-Transflash memory slot for up to 512MB of storage

The E1060 is slated to come out in the fourth quarter of 2005. At 512MB of external storage capacity, that doesn't seem to be a lot of space for iTunes. I guess it is analogous to Apple's iShuffle in practicality.

Update: It appears this phone is not the vaunted iTunes version everyone was expecting. Sorry about the confusion. More news on this later.

Nokia 6101 Specs

Nokia announced the 6101 at the 3GSM World Congress. Features include:

-integrated VGA camera
-tri-band GSM 900/1800/1900 with EDGE
-Xpress audio messaging, lets you send voice mails
-push to talk technology
-2 to 4 hours of talk time
-150 to 350 hours of standby time
-2 color displays. 65k colors and 128x160 pixels
-97 grams and 85x45x24 mm
-3.5 megabytes of internal memory
-video/music player with stereo output
-FM radio

The phone is slated to ship sometime in the second quarter of 2005.

Nokia 6681 / 6682 Specs

Nokia announced the 6681 / 6682 at the 3GSM World Congress. Features include:

-1.3 megapixel integrated camera
-tri-band GSM 900/1800/1900 with EDGE
-music player with stereo output
-5-way directional pad
-MMC card slot
-push to talk functionality
-snake, card deck, and snowboarding game pre-loaded
-Symbian OS
-131 grams and 108.4x55.2x20.5 mm

Availability will be April 2005 in Europe. The American version will be available in Q2 2005.

Casio EXILIM EX-Z57 Specs

Casio launched the EXILIM EX-Z57. Features include:

-5 megapixel CCD with 3x optical zoom lens
-no view finder
-2.7 inch TFT color display
-320x240 video recording
-Super Life battery for 400 shots on single charge
-1.6 second power up speed
-voice recording
-4.6 ounces
-3.5x2.3x0.9 inches
-SD card slot

The camera will be available in the UK in April 2005. No word on the US release.

Casio EXILIM EX-Z750 Specs

Casio launched the EXILIM EX-Z750. Features include:

-7.2 megapixel CCD with 3x optical zoom lens
-2.5 inch TFT color display
-30 fps MP4 video recording at VGA
-Super Life battery for 325 shots on single charge
-0.9 second power up speed
-USB 2.0 for image transfer
-4.5 ounces
-3.5x2.3x0.9 inches
-SD card slot

The camera will be available in the UK in April 2005. No word on the US release.

February 14, 2005

Nokia 6680 Specs

Nokia announced the 6680 at the 3GSM World Congress today. Features include:

-2 integrated cameras at 1.3 megapixel and VGA
-3G and EDGE hi-speed data network capable
-2 way video conferencing ability
-262k color display with 176x208 pixels
-Music player with stereo sound
-2.2 to 3.3 hour talk time
-6 to 11 day standby
-10MB of memory with MMC memory slot
-Bluetooth and USB synchronization to PC

The phone is slated to come out in the first quarter, which means any day now.

Motorola Launches Black RAZR V3 Special Edition

It's not just for Academy Award celebrities, Motorola announced today at 3GSM World Congress that the black special edition will be launched to the public "very soon." It's so pretty in black too.

Motorola SLVR V8 Specs

Motorola launched the SLVR V8 today at 3GSM World Congress. Specs include:

-razor thin candy bar shape 0.45 inches thick
-3.4 ounces in weight
-250 to 380 minutes of talk time
-310 to 420 hours of standby
-VGA camera and Bluetooth
-176x200 pixel 262k color LCD
-Transflash memory slot

Motorola plans to make this the anchor of a whole new line of sleek slim RAZR like phones. I'm excited. Sexy phones are cool.

Motorola PEBL V6 Specs

Motorola launched the PEBL V6 at 3GSM World Congress. The specs include:

-clam shell design that lets users open and use one-handed
-integrated Bluetooth
-5 MB of memory
-1.93x3.41x0.79 inches in size
-262k color display with 176x220 resolution
-builtin VGA camera
-tri-band network compatibility

Mobileburn expects the phone to come out in the second half of this year. It is probably the ugliest phone out of this year's launches.

Sony Ericsson Z800 Specs

Sony Ericsson launched the Z800 today at 3GSM World Congress. Specs include:

-1.3 megapixel camera with 4x digital zoom
-Buitlin photo light for video and pictures
-USB/Bluetooth/IrDA synchronization with PC PIM
-64MB Memory Stick Duo with support for 1GB
-Worldmate preloaded
-hands-free stereo music player with MP3/AAC/M4A support
-Dual mode UMTS-GSM/GPRS 900/1800/1900

The phone wil be commercially available in Q2 2005.

Sony Ericsson K600 Specs

Sony Ericsson launched the K600 today at 3GSM World Congress. Specs include:

-1.3 megapixel camera with active lens cover
-1.8 inch 262k color LCD
-USB synchronization with PC PIM
-3d graphics games, Vijay Singh Pro Gold 2005 preloaded
-FM radio and built in music player
-Dual mode UMTS-GSM/GPRS 900/1800/1900

The phone wil be commercially available in Q3 2005.

Dell 2405FPW 24" Widescreen Ultrasharp LCD Monitor Launched

Dell has launched the 24" Widescreen Ultrasharp 2405FPW LCD Monitor on their website today. Specs include:

-24 inches of widescreen goodness
-1920x1200 native resolution
-12 ms response time for movies and gamers
-Dual input support for DVI and analog connections
-Consumer electronics inputs such as S-video, composite
-Picture in picture capability for PC and TV viewing at same time
-4 port USB hub and 9 in 1 memory card reader built-in

Dell also notes some video cards will not support the 1920x1200 wide-screen resolution. Please check with your video card manufacturer before buying the monitor. This monitor sounds awesome for games, PVR use, and movie watching. Who is going to get the first one? It is slated to come out in March. Join us on the biggest Dell LCD monitor message boards on the internet. [Discussion] - thanks to bshort for the link

Celebrity Behavior in Apple Stores

Wired has the scoop on how celebrities behave at Apple stores:

Melanie Griffith: threw a tantrum when she was unable to buy a pink iPod mini early last year, according to the sales associate who tried to serve her. "She then proceeded to get pissed off at me personally because we didn't have any in stock," the associate said. "She said we have a special stock of iPods for people like her.... I hadn't seen any celebrities there up until then, so at first I was like, 'Oh wow, cool, Melanie Griffith.' But then she opened her mouth and used me as a doormat, and I was like, 'What the fuck is this shit? Milk Money sucked.'"

Levar Burton: ..tongue lashing from LeVar Burton, presenter of Reading Rainbow and a member of the Star Trek crew. The associate, who also asked to remain anonymous, said he made the mistake of asking Burton for some ID when the actor was making a big credit card purchase. The associate said he recognized Burton, but wanted to reassure him he was doing a thorough job of checking credentials. Burton "began shouting at me to ask anyone in the store who he was, all the while telling me that he left his ID in the car and he didn't want to have to go get it," the associate said. "I finally caved in, only because I could see a vein pulsating in his forehead and I didn't want to be the one responsible for causing the blind dude from Star Trek to have a stroke."

Val Kilmer: "looked like he was still in the role of Jim Morrison -- high, spaced out, wandering around the Grove," one of the associates said.

Fred Durst: the Limp Bizkit frontman, always demands a discount, said one of the salesmen. His record company has a special 5 percent discount at the store, and Durst demands it for every purchase, including for a $20 iPod cable -- a saving of $1.

Shuttle XPC SB95P V2 Review

Once again the Tech-Report does an excellent job reviewing Shuttle's XPC SB95P V2 system. The attributes include an amazing form factor, a tool free design, very low noise levels, and great performance. The negatives are a lack of a PCI expansion slot and the focus on the Pentium 4 platform. However a Athlon 64 version for the P-series cube is supposedly on its way.

Verizon Buys MCI for $6.7 Billion

After all the talk, Verizon pulled the trigger and bought MCI for $6.7 billion. This was actually much less than the $7.3 billion Qwest offered, but MCI decided to go with the more solid company. Qwest is much smaller and under a large debt load.

It's strange to see companies not selling to the highest short-term bidder, but instead focusing on the long term strategic value. It is good to see.

"It was not only a matter of economics, but also a matter of which deal offered the best strategic value going forward," said Rick Black, senior telecom analyst with Blaylock & Partners. "Even though Qwest offered more, you have to ask yourself if Verizon will be more competitive in the future."

Treo Blackberry Software in Final Beta

Treonauts was able to get their paws on a final beta of Blackberry Connect email software for the Treo. The email client looks a bit hokey and the headers are too large. Blackberry users will not be happy with only 6 emails showing vs. the dozens on the RIMM handhelds. Hopefully there will be a way to fix this.

Panasonic Announces 2005 Phone Lineup

Panasonic announced 9 new cellphones at the 3GSM World Congress today. Here are the specs and details:

The VS series - VS7 and VS3
The VS7 incorporates a 2.5 inch LCD screen that can display 16 million colours. It has a 2-megapixel digital camera that can take 15-frame continuous shots. The phone is 19mm slim.

The VS3 has a 1.3-megapixel camera and 2.2-inch high-resolution LCD screen that can display 16 million colours. It also comes with messaging illumination, a SMS feature that lets you flash different colors depending on the Emoticon within the message. VS3 also comes with matching X-Changeable Covers.

The MX series - MX7, MX6
The MX series features high-powered, long life batteries designed for 'Maximum Endurance'. With almost double the battery capacity of the VS series. The MX7 features a 2.5-inches LCD screen that can disply 16 million colours and a 2-megapixel camera with a 15-frame continuous shot facility. The phone is only 19mm thin. The MX6 has a 1.3-megapixel camera, a 2.2-inch clear display and features messaging illumination.

The SA series - SA7, SA6
The SA7 comes with a 2-megapixel camera, 2.5-inch display and a longer battery life. The SA6 has all the features of the MX6 but with a different finish.

The SC series - SC3, A210
The SC3 features a minimal stylish finish with a 65,536-colour LCD and VGA digital camera. This phone also has 'Emoticon' messaging, which adds picture characters (users can choose between 40 embedded 'emoticons') into SMS messages. The A210 is ultra-light, weighing only 68g with a 65,536-colour LCD screen.

Panasonic X800
The X800 smartphone incorporates the Symbian Series 60 Platform and features Quickoffice - software that allows users to view, edit and save Microsoft Excel and Word documents and view Powerpoint documents. The phone is 17.2mm slim. [Source: Phonescoop]

February 11, 2005

Xbox Next-Generation Coming in November or October

We're getting a wave of new confirmations today that the next version of Xbox whether it is called Xbox 360, Xenon, or Xbox 2 will be released later this year around November or October. From internal sources in Microsoft, game developers, Electronic Arts' game lineup, and the "dry-up" of Xbox 1 games, it's a pretty sure thing we'll see it this year.

The big questions are will it come with a hard-drive? Will it be backward compatible? Will it use a high density DVD storage format? Inquiring minds want to know. As of now, it looks like the power of the Playstation 3 with its amazing Cell processor specs will blow Xbox 2 out of water in 2006. The battle awaits; we will be watching.

Senior US sources have revealed that third-party publishers are working towards a simultaneous launch for the new format in both key Western territories in time for the crucial holiday season...However, Xbox 2 - which is codenamed Xenon - is expected to arrive this side of the Atlantic within weeks of the US launch, MCV can exclusively reveal.

Browser Speed Study

Someone with a lot of time on their hands did a comprehensive survey of dozens of internet browsers on Windows, Linux, and Mac operating systems. Opera seems to be the final winner on Windows and Linux. On the Mac, he recommends Opera and Safari 2, which will come out with OS X Tiger.

Personally I'm happy with Firefox on the Mac. First it's 100xs safer than browsing in Windows and it renders most websites nicely vs. Safari, which sometimes can't do certain sites properly.

Opera seems to be the fastest browser for windows. Firefox is not faster than Internet Explorer, except for scripting, but for standards support, security and features, it is a better choice. However, it is still not as fast as Opera, and Opera also offers a high level of standards support, security and features.

On Linux, Konqueror is the fastest for starting and viewing basic pages on KDE, but as soon as script or images are involved, or you want to use the back or forward buttons, or if you use Gnome, Opera is a faster choice, even though on KDE it will take a few seconds longer to start. Mozilla and Firefox give an overall good performance, but their script, cache handling and image-based page speed still cannot compare with Opera.

On Mac OS X, Opera and Safari are both very fast, with Safari 2 being faster at starting and rendering CSS, but with Opera still being distinguishably faster for rendering tables, scripting and history (especially compared with the much slower Safari 1.2). Camino is fast to start, but then it joins its sisters Mozilla and Firefox further down the list. Neither Mozilla, Firefox nor IE perform very well on Mac, being generally slower than on other operating systems.

Apple 2 for 1 Stock Split

Apple announced a 2 for 1 stock split today. For every share you own, it will be converted to 2 shares at half the price on February 28th. The company is increasing authorized shares from 900 million to 1.8 billion to accomodate the stock split.

Electronic Arts May Buy More Ubisoft Shares

Electronic Arts said in a French filing it may buy more shares of Ubisoft and seek representation on the board of directors. The company has already acquired 19.77% of Ubisoft and is open to buying a controlling stake. Ubisoft is vowing to stay independent and is looking at ways to fight off what it considers a hostile EA bid.

Unfortunately for the Ubisoft founders their voting control is only 22.8% vs. EA's 20.88%. It won't take much more buying for EA to take over. Ubisoft owns many popular intellectual properties like the Splinter Cell and Prince of Persia series.

EA said at the time it wanted to "keep all its options open regarding this investment in Ubisoft and could buy more Ubisoft shares, possibly a controlling stake". Ubisoft shares have gained over 80 percent since EA bought the stake on Dec. 20, sparking speculation it could launch a bid. They closed Wednesday at 31.68 euros.

February 10, 2005

Fun FirstAdopter Facts

The latest readership metrics are in.

Browser FAer's use:
53% Internet Explorer 6
36% Firefox
5% Safari
3% Mozilla
2% Internet Explorer 5
1% Opera

Operating System:
74% Windows XP
12% Windows 2000
7% Mac
4% Linux
2% Windows 98
1% Windows ME (good god!)

32% East Coast
25% West Coast
20% Central
13% Asia
10% Europe

I'm shocked at how much share FireFox has taken so quickly. I guess I shouldn't be surprised since the readership are bleeding edge early adopters. Linux and Mac are a respectable 4% and 7% too. And I would of never imagined that 23% of our readers are from outside the States. All of you, why not grab a pint and join us on our discussion forum. Great people and free alcohol. Well except for the free alcohol part.

Temco Sues Website for Nude Volleyball Patch

Temco has filed a lawsuit against a site which hosted patches that let users make volleyball players nude. The company is using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and is seeking unspecified damages.

Real smart Temco, sue your own most passionate customers for customizing games for their own personal use. This might of worked in Japan, but here in the States it is going to backfire big time. American companies want these kind of customers that establish a community around a game. And to use DMCA to sue people who bought the software legally and used reverse engineering? Sheesh. In the world of John Stossel, "give me a break!"

"On behalf of the game industry, the gamers and all future innovations in gaming, the protection of intellectual property is a serious issue that affects everyone in the game industry, and can no longer be ignored," John Inada, general manager for Tecmo, said in a statement. "Ignoring the situation will ultimately hurt future gaming experiences for both casual and hardcore gamers, which is why Tecmo must take action to protect our intellectual property." [Discuss]

Sprint 2005 Business Strategy

Sprint outlined its business strategy plans for 2005. The company plans to spend over $4 billion in capital expenditures. About $2.8 billion will be invested in EV-DO technology and expanding the wireless network footprint. $900 million will be spent on DSL coverage expansion and $300 million will be spent on local long distance.

It's obvious from these numbers the action is in wireless data through EV-DO. I can't wait for an EV-DO enabled smart-phone that will let us access the internet at broadband speeds. Please make unlimited monthly wireless data access cheaper, don't expect us to pay-by-the-drink for content and video streaming. Predecessors have died on a vine trying to do that. This isn't Japan.

In his remarks at the company’s annual investment community meeting in New York, Gary Forsee, Sprint chairman and chief executive officer, said, “Today’s customers want access to voice and data anytime, anywhere – seamlessly from home, the office and everywhere in between. Communications services provide the underpinnings of convergence, whether it is devices, lifestyles, networks or applications. Moreover, this growing convergence is rapidly changing the competitive landscape and the traditional definition of the telecom industry. It is a market poised for growth, particularly as consumers desire more and more data applications like gaming, special ringers and video streaming and as businesses increasingly insist upon an integrated communications experience in the office and on the go.

Kazaa Workers Hate Their Own Software

Court documents in Australia reveal Kazaa employees hating their own software because it slows down PCs, causes crashes, and fills it with adware junk. Another jaw-dropper is one of Kazaa's partners kept logs of download filenames, which may let RIAA sue more people.

"It is reasonable that we show ads in order to create our free software," he wrote, "but I do not believe it is reasonable to place a user in a position where this free software will also make their machine sluggish." He added later: "Consider how many people that work for Sharman Networks and its partners ... hate installing Kazaa on their machines."

Symantec Software Virus Vulnerability

Symantec anti-virus software users should update their software as soon as possible. The company has admitted there is a vulnerability that may actually execute a virus rather than block it. It affects the majority of Symantec's antivirus and antispam products including Norton Systemworks and Symantec Mail security.

"This could allow an attacker to potentially exploit high-profile systems used to filter malicious data, and potentially allow further compromise of targeted internal networks." The problem exists in how the scanning code handles a compression format known as the Ultimate Packer for Executables (UPX). An attacker could create a virus designed to exploit the UPX flaw and send it to victims through e-mail or host it on a Web site. An unpatched Symantec scanner checking incoming e-mail or the Web pages that users browse would run the program instead of catching the virus.

RIM Blackberry 7100g Launched by Cingular

Cingular will launch the RIM Blackberry 7100g next week. It will cost $249 for a 2 year contract after rebates. Specs and features include:

-GSM/GPRS 850/900/1800/1900 mhz network compatibility
-4.6x2.3x0.8 inch size
-192 hours of standby and 240 minutes of talk time
-65k color 240x260 screen
-4MB of RAM and 32 MB of flash memory
-SureType keyboard

This latest RIM smartphone has an attractive form-factor and look. It will give the Treo 650 a run for its money. However someone needs to bang PalmOne and RIM over the head and tell them 32 megabytes is not enough storage for the next-generation of smartphones.

iPodLounge Takes Off

Ipodlounge is basking in the success of being the authoritative iPod resource. The site gets 2 million unique visitors and over 1000 new forum members each month. The founder, Dennis Lloyd, is now a rock star at technology conferences. When he founded the site in 2001, he was collecting unemployment.

When I went to Macworld, the buzz was about the iPod." Lloyd said he was treated like a VIP at Macworld. All the vendors wanted to press his flesh, slap his back and pitch their products, he said. It's a big difference from a couple of years ago.

"I just wanted to do it for myself," he said. "I wanted to build a site and see if they came. I built it and they came, and they came and they came. Nobody could have predicted. Nobody's been as amazed as me. I feel like a spectator, watching this unfold on a stage."

Sci-Fi Channel Renews Battlestar Galactica

Sci-Fi Channel has ordered a second season of Battlestar Galactica. The first season has 13 episdoes, of which 5 have been aired. The last episode had 3.2 million viewers trouncing Star Trek Enterprise, which has been canceled. Who needs Star Trek? Battlestar Galactica is the best show on television. I'm ecstatic it is getting traction. The show airs on Sci-Fi on Fridays at 10pm.

For the show's second season, creator and executive producer Ronald D. Moore previously told SCI FI Wire that he has already been working on as many as six new scripts to resolve the multiple cliffhangers that will end season one. Moore added that he wants to delve deeper into the show's religious themes and open up the Cylon world a bit more in the coming season. [Discuss]

Activision Executives Sell Stock

Executives at Activision filed to sell over 7 million shares of stock this morning according to a SEC filing. 7 million shares represents 5% of the company’s value. CEO Bobby Kotick is selling 2.55 million shares, Chairman Brian Kelly 2.5 million, and President Ron Doornink 1.07 million.

One has to wonder if these sales have any significance to the executive’s thoughts on the video game cycle or if it is just a diversification move. Investors however don’t like the news, with Activision stock down 12.26% in the pre-market.

None of the selling stockholders sold more than one-third of their respective total holdings of common stock and options. This is the first sale of common stock by either the Chairman or the Co-Chairman since May 2002. The sales were conducted in a single block transaction to obtain the benefits of an orderly sale. The sales were also made to take advantage of a brief trading window and do not reflect any individual or collective judgment about the company's prospects. The sales were made to enable senior management to diversify their personal holdings.

Verizon Going After MCI

According to the Wall Street Journal, Verizon has informally offered to acquire MCI. MCI's talks with Qwest have reportedly cooled down.

Verizon is trying to compete with SBC, which has recently acquired AT&T for $16 billion. The Baby Bells are doing their best to transform themselves from local phone companies to global telecommunication powerhouses with large business customers. AT&T and MCI although faltering have plenty of enterprise clients that Verizon, Qwest, and SBC want to get their hands on. With the advent of VOIP startups like Vonage and their core telephone business at risk, they need to move up the chain into new markets.

February 09, 2005

World of Warcraft at $250 Million in Annual Revenue

The New York Times covered the fantastic growth of World of Warcraft. According to the newspaper, the game is on track to reach over $200 million in subscription revenue this year in addition to $50 million retail box sales. The game has sold over 700,000 copies since launch and regularly has over 250,000 players online at the same time.

I had to quit after one month because it was taking over my life. Never before had I spent so many hours on a game in such a short time. The closest thing was the first Civilization, but even that pales in comparison since that addiction only lasted one week of constant play. Be careful, WOW is dangerous. [Discuss]

ATI Catalyst 5.2 Drivers Released

The latest and greatest ATI Catalyst drivers are out here. Along with the typical bug fixes, enhancements include:

-Efficiency improvements in vertex processing have produced performance enhancements in key applications such as Far Cry and 3DMark05 on RADEON™ X850, X800 and X700 series products
-Far Cry "Regulator" and "Volcano" scores are up as much as 20% on RADEON™ X800 PRO at 1600x1200 resolution
-3DMark05 gains range from 1-3% on RADEON™ X800 series products to as much as 9% on some RADEON™ X700 configurations

February 08, 2005

Virgin Mobile Hits 3 Million Subscribers

In less than three years, Virgin Mobile has hit the 3 million subscriber mark. Virgin is the leader in mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs), which lets companies run a wireless service without owning a physical network.

Virgin was started by Richard Branson, the eccentric billionaire of the Virgin line of companies. Using the Sprint network, Virgin mobile targets teenagers who do not want to pay high monthly fees and sign long-term contracts. The pay-as-you-go method was a instant hit. Moreover these young customers are more liable to use extra content services. 70% of Virgin's subscribers use text messaging and 60% downlaoded extra content like ring-tones.

Online Gambling Revenue Explodes Upwards

The latest online gambling figures are out with an estimated $10 billion in revenue this year. That is up 40% from last year. Poker is about 20% of that with 1 million players a month. PartyPoker supposedly has 50% marketshare with $1 billion in revenue a year. That is some major money.

I find it quite hilarious to see the poker sites advertising on TV by using PartyPoker.net and Pokerstars.net as "free poker school education sites." It's a loophole since the actual gambling sites are the .com addresses. Some ads even put the .net in a hard to read format, so most people will type in the .com gambling site anyway. The U.S. government should legalize online gambling and get a chunk of that $10 billion in tax revenue. The cat is out of the bag, people are going to find ways to gamble with these off-shore sites.

More than 2,000 gambling Web sites this year will rake in nearly $10 billion in revenue, most from U.S. consumers. That's up 40% from 2004. In 1996, when lawmakers first sought to curb Internet gambling, 30 sites collected $30 million, says researcher Christiansen Capital Advisors. That makes gambling one of the Internet's largest moneymakers, even though it is illegal... Almost all gambling sites are offshore, where they are immune from U.S. law.Federal and state officials have discouraged some banks from allowing their credit cards to be used for cyberwagers. [Discuss]

Dust Your PC

Sudhian did a study on the impact of dust inside your computer case. The results are shocking with an unbelievable 15 Celsius degree temperature difference on the CPU before and after the dusting. Get out your air compressors people, looks like we have another chore to do along with anti-virus, backup, and spyware cleanings.

Whether you’re a regular computer user just wanting to check email or a hard-core gamer, dust buildup and its impact on system stability is a problem that’s only going to keep getting worse. Personally, I expected that cleaning out the system and CPU cooler would make a significant difference, but the drop was far larger than I expected—it may not be long before “excessive dust” gets added to the list of general problems that cause systems to start crashing—even less than a year after purchase.

Google Maps Launched

Another day, another rocking Google service. Google Maps is now launched and is easily a better mouse trap vs. the withering no innovation competition of Mapquest and Yahoo Maps.

It has a better user interface, layout, and features. They include real-time zooming, ability to click and drag maps, ability to use the keyboard to move around, driving directions, traffic conditions, and instant location of businesses in the area. This has the potential to be a nice gold mine with local advertising and of course the ever-present AdSense advertising. Enough of me blabbering, try it yourself.

RIM Blackberry 7250 Launched by Verizon

Verizon announced that it will launch the RIM Blackberry 7250 handheld on February 11th. The specs and features include:

-built-in phone and bluetooth
-full HTML web browsing
-email attachment viewer of Word, Excel, and PDF documents
-65k color screen
-32MB of flash and 4MB of SRAM for storage
-800/1900 mhz CDMA2000 1x network

The phone will be available for $349.99 with a 2 year commitment.

Sonos Digital Music System Review

The first Sonos Digital Music System reviews are trickling in and on the whole they have been positive. My main issue is incompatability with Apple's iTunes, but this is not Sonos' fault. Also it doesn't seem anyone has really reviewed the audiophile characteristics of the 50-watt amplifier using loss-less tracks. My gut tells me it won't win any Stereophile awards. However the core demographic market probably doesn't care and just wants iPod-like convenience for multiple rooms in their homes. At this, it seems like Sonos works fine.

Unfortunately, DRM-protected files, like those purchased from Apple’s iTunes Music Store or any Windows Media music service (such as MusicMatch, SonyConnect and MTV), are not currently supported... As the above description makes pretty clear, the ZonePlayer is an impressive piece of hardware; it also looks attractive and feels solid. The functionality I’ve described so far is likely what you’d expect from a system like this, but where the Sonos system truly shines is in its zone management. Using the Zone Menu, you can easily combine zones into linked zones that play the same music in sync. The easiest link is “Party Mode,” which combines all zones into a single uber-zone, but you can also create smaller, independent linked zones.

February 07, 2005

Shuttle SB86i i-Series Review

The Tech-Report reviews Shuttle's new SB86i, the first in the company's i-Series. With the name and even the look, it's obvious the company wants a little bit of Apple's iMac magic. Frankly I think the Mac Mini is going to take a lot of share away from users who were in the market for a cube design with low noise, myself being one of them. The SB86i seems to be a solid offering with the only downside being memory cooling stability and mid-level noise volume. The styling is nice and I like the location of the USB and Firewire ports on the side.

The big issue is stability with lower fan speed settings. With the Smart Fan and lower fan speed settings, the system consistently crashed in memory benchmarks. Interestingly, it was perfectly stable otherwise. No amount of stress testing could invoke CPU throttling, suggesting that while processor cooling is sufficient, memory cooling is not... Cooling and noise issues aside, the SB86i is really quite attractive. The system offers a good mix of expansion options, the internals are tidy and surprisingly easy to work with, performance is generally competitive, and aesthetics are clean and stylish.

Intel to Launch Dual Core Processors

Intel announced it will launch two versions of their new dual core processors sometime in the second quarter. The company has already completed initial production runs and has more than 10 dual-core projects already underway. Gamers are salivating at a nice performance step function increase if Intel can ramp these chips up over 3-4 ghz in speed. The last few years have seen minor performance increases with Intel losing to the 64-bit AMD line for multi-media performance.

Dual- and multi-core products are designed by including two or more full CPU cores within a single processor enabling the simultaneous managing of activities. When combined with HT Technology, which allows a processor to present itself as two logical processors, the Pentium Processor Extreme Edition product can process four software threads simultaneously by more efficiently using resources that otherwise may sit idle.

Platforms based around Intel’s dual-core Pentium Processor Extreme Edition are an ideal solution for PC computing and entertainment enthusiasts who crave computing power for audio, video, digital design and gaming tasks. The Pentium Processor Extreme Edition will be combined with a new chipset named the Intel® 955X Express chipset, formerly codenamed “Glenwood,” that includes features such as Intel® High Definition Audio, PCI-Express and faster dual-channel DDR-2 memory. Intel will also couple its mainstream “Smithfield” processor with two new chipsets named the Intel® 945G Express chipset and Intel® 945P Express chipset, both previously code-named “Lakeport” in the second quarter of the year.

A dual-core Intel processor and HD-Audio should hit OEMs like Dell in just a few months. The downside is it looks like you have to buy new motherboard and chip-sets to take advantage of the new technology.

Playstation 3 CPU Cell Details

Engineers from Sony, IBM, and Toshiba gave more details on the cell processor today at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference. The Cell is a 64 bit POWER processor with an additional 8 "synergistic processing" units. It will launch at over 4 ghz (analyst estimate 4.6 ghz at this time) and have 2.5 megabytes of onboard XDR Rambus memory. The chip will be manufactured with 234 million transistors through a 90 nanometer process.

Having 9 processor cores and speeds of over 4 ghz is very impressive. If the can deliver on these specifications, the Playstation 3 will blow away Xbox 2 and Nintendo Revolution in computing and graphics horsepower. The problem with being so ambitious is the prospects of long delays like Gran Turismo 4. Sony has grand plans for this chip to for home media servers, graphics workstations, and consumer electronics.

Ask Jeeves to Buy Bloglines

According to the blog rumor mill, Ask Jeeves will announce the acquisition of Bloglines tomorrow. Bloglines is the leading RSS aggregator and a god-send for internet nerds the world over. Let's hope Ask Jeeves keeps it free and keeps any advertising from being intrusive.

"Ask Jeeves...could build a system like this very quickly," Napsterization creator Mary Hodder wrote on the blog. "What they would have trouble doing is getting all the data, structured, organized and pulled, going back more than say, a month. That's because blog posts fall off the front pages...and go into archives."

I wonder how much Blogline was sold for since it doesn't have any discernible revenue sources. The founder, Mark Fletcher, also sold eGroups to Yahoo. He is one very smart and rich man. Here's some good excerpts from an interview with him, where he gives some quality advice on internet entreprenuership.

Q: Regarding Bloglines, did that start out of a need for yourself or your friends/colleagues, or did you just see it as a solution that had to be out there?

A: Like ONElist, I started Bloglines by creating tools for myself. I was personally struggling with managing tons of online information, and keeping up to date on all of my interests. I was trying to monitor over 100 web sites and having to revisit them time and again to determine if any new information had been posted or updated. I was investing a lot of time and felt like it was starting to run my life.

At the same time, some interesting web technologies like RSS and ATOM started to pop up, making it possible to create an umbrella service that helps people collect and manage lots of information from different sources at a single place.

Q: Any words of advice for the Internet entrepreneur in all of us?

A: Having started companies before, there are 3 key things I can recommend:

First, pick a problem that you have passion around. Starting a company is a 24x7 commitment and if you aren’t fully dedicated to the idea, it’s not going to work.

Second, listen to your users—they’re the experts. The power of an online venture is access to direct, real-time feedback from users. It’s a gift to an entrepreneur, and an incredible tool for building a business. They will tell you loud and clear what is working and what is not.

And third, stick with it and be tenacious. Just like you can’t turn the oven on higher in the hopes of making the cake bake faster, entrepreneurs have to understand that while a product or service can be created somewhat quickly, it takes a long time to build an actual company that delights its customers and generates revenues for its employees and investors.

February 05, 2005

CinemaNow Signs Deal to Sell NBC TV Shows

CinemaNow has signed a deal this week with NBC Universal to sell movies and TV shows on their website. The startup that is one of the early leaders of legal commercial movie downloading and streaming now has 6 of 7 major Hollywood studios offering their content. Only Paramount which is owned by Viacom has not relented.

The CEO said they are growing revenue at 5-7% clip every month and will be well over 100% growth in 2005. The race to be the iTunes of movies is on. My bet is the iTunes of movies eventually will be iTunes, as a new iPod like device that can play video will drive traction just like the iPod did. Unfortunately for all these companies, awesome hardware and software with the best end-to-end experience drives success. CinemaNow and Movielink by showing movies primarily on consumers' PC is not there yet.

February 04, 2005

HP HW6500 iPaq Mobile Messenger Specs

Details of the HP HW6500 iPaq Mobile Messenger are leaking out. According to sources the features will include:

-1.3 megapixel camera with flash
-swappable battery
-240x240 display
-SD and miniSD slot
-Windows Mobile 2003 2nd Edition Operating System
-520mhz processor
-GSM/GPRS with EDGE ability at 100-130 kbps

It is slated to come out sometime in the second half of this year. HP is going to show off a prototype at the 3GSM World Congress conference on February 14-17.

February 03, 2005

Panasonic X800 Approved by FCC

The Panasonic X800 GSM smartphone was approved by the FCC. It runs Series 60 and is the follow-up to the X700. Features include a new slim form factor, mini-SD card slot, 2 color displays, tri-band GSM network compatibility, internal antenna, and speakerphone. [Via Phonescoop]

Overclocking Apple Mac Mini

Someone has figured out how to overclock the Mac Mini from 1.2ghz to up to 1.58ghz. This is not for the faint of heart as it requires scratching solder off. It seems though the 1.25ghz overclocks well to 1.42ghz. I'm not going to try it on mine however, it's not worth the risk to my beautiful Mini.

Link Roundup

No Enteprise - Trek is over. Go watch Sci-Fi's Battlestar Galactica
Symbian OS 9 Launched - Symbian's new OS
Firefighters Being Naughty - what's with firefighters these days
DC Trying to Ban Violent Videogames - blame GTA, blame GTA! Lol
Napster to Go Launched - all you can rent for $15/month
Gadgeteer Reviews Sony PSP - $249.99 in USA soon

Sony Announced PSP Release Date and Price

Sony announced a release date for their PSP handheld for March 24th. The SKU will only be in value package form at a price of $249.99 with a bunch of goodies like a case, 32 MB memory stick, headphone with remote control, battery pack, a Spiderman 2 UMD video, and cleaning cloth. The initial shipment will be 1 million units. No sign yet when you can buy the hardware only.

In addition to the revolutionary PSP hardware, the PSP Value Pack contains an unprecedented added-value package of accessories and entertainment content, including 32 MB Memory Stick Duo(TM), headphones with remote control, battery pack, AC adaptor, soft case and cleaning cloth, movie/music/game video sampler UMD disc including multiple non-interactive game demos, and for the first one million PSP Value Packs shipped, a special UMD video release of the feature film Spider-Man(TM) 2 from Sony Pictures Entertainment.

So how bout it FirstAdopters? You going to buy it? [Discuss]

Amazon.com Prime Shipping Program

In a strange move to get loyalty from customers who mostly buy on price, Amazon.com announced a new membership program called "Amazon Prime" that gives customers discounted shipping for annual fee of $79.

For a flat annual membership fee -- now at an introductory price of $79 per year -- customers can get unlimited two-day shipping. Members also get overnight shipping for $3.99. The online retailer currently charges about $10 for two-day shipping, and offers free ground shipping on purchases of $25 or more for select items.

I find this program rather bizarre, especially when competitors like Overstock.com have been known to ship products within 2 days for low cost shipping already. Like the eBay's crazy price increases earlier in January, this probably a sign of desperate times to come.

February 02, 2005

Cingular Launches Treo 650

Cingular's online store has started selling PalmOne's Treo 650 smartphone. Pricing is $349.99 after $100 mail-in rebate. Features include:

-4.4 x 2.4 x 0.9 inches
-5.9 ounces in weight
-6 hours of talk time, 12.5 days of standby time
-65k color screen, SD slot
-Quad band network compatible (GSM/GPRS/EDGE)

Too bad the memory footprint still has problems vs. the old Treo 600. Pricing at $350 isn't too bad, but early adopters have been shunning the 650 overall. PalmOne needs to start shipping a new device with double the memory pronto.

iPod Rules Microsoft Campus

According to a high-level Microsoft manager, 80% of Mp3 players used by Microsoft employees are Apple iPods. That roughly comes out to 16,000 iPod fanatics out of 25,000 Microsoft workers.

Instead of freaking out about losing mindshare from their own, maybe Microsoft should work on creating a more usable, easy to use product with a better end to end experience. A flashier shiek design from their hardware partners wouldn't hurt either.

The e-mail said: "FWIW, the gal at the Bellevue Square Apple Store said that they are getting in two shipments of 200 iPods every day to keep up with this week's demand, and are nearly constantly selling out." The note prompted a curt reply from Dave Fester, general manager of the Windows Digital Media division, who wrote the group: "I sure hope Microsoft employees are not buying iPods. We have great alternatives. Check out http://experiencemore."

Link Roundup

Healthcare Causes 1/2 of Bankruptices - this is a sad fact
What If Bush Was Right All Along - no matter what your position on the war
Yogi Sues Sex in the City - Yogi takes offense
Is the Bible Copyrighted? - interesting question
Rebate Gold Mine - why do companies do rebates? Because many don't send them in
Amazon Miss - Amazon.com not doing so hot