Alas, those waiting for Blu-ray to hit the market can truly begin planning their next-generation optical drive honeymoon: today Pioneer announced that it will be releasing Blu-ray products starting *gasp* at CES next month (starting January 5th!). On top of that, regions for next-generation DVD formats were just announced! (Say it ain’t so, Batman!) Anime freaks, your time has come; the U.S. and Japan will be joined in a sacred electronic union as two of the nations crowned with Blu-ray region 1 status. Joining the behemoths will be powerhouses South America and east Asia (sans China).
Author Archives: iksib
"Podcast" the word of the year
The fine folks at the Oxford English Dictionary have made their annual decision about a word of the year, and this time around the nod goes to “podcast.” From the press release:
Only a year ago, podcasting was an arcane activity, the domain of a few techies and self-admitted “geeks.” Now you can hear everything from NASCAR coverage to NPR’s All Things Considered in downloadable audio files called “podcasts.”
I’m not so proud of the fact that there might actually be people out there listening to NASCAR on their portable audio player, but different, strokes, right? I suppose it’s not all that visually arresting (turn left! turn left! keep turning left!) and might actually lend itself to the audio alone…except for all that engine noise. Kudos to OED for some great runners-up:
• ICE (stands for “in case of emergency;” put such an entry in your cell phone)
• Lifehack (more efficient way of completing an everyday task, like finding a cheap hotel room)
• Bird flu (*groan*)
Dell steps it up
It looks like Apple’s not the only game in town anymore if you’re interested in monstrous flat-panel monitors. Engadget reports that Dell’s adding a 30-inch beast to its stable, set to be released on the streets around December 21. If the pricing scheme is similar to that of its 24-inch models, look for something a few hundred smacks less than the Apple cinema display. I must confess, however, that I love me some brushed metal exterior. Drool-worthy, either way.
Mmmmm. Huge display.
Xbox 360 highs, shortcomings
So there’s no shortage of Xbox 360 content out there since the console’s launch on November 22, but I wanted to give a shout out to the fellas at ArsTechnica; they put together a superb review of Microsoft’s latest gaming console, addressing many of the questions mulling around in the heads of us who weren’t part of mob scene out last week.
Aside from the spate of media coverage surrounding unit problems (crashing, not connecting to Xbox Live, etc.), the piece hits a number of important points any prospective buyer should consider. I know I’m on the fence for several reasons; you should definitely check it out. Some points:
• The role of the HD display – if you don’t have a fancy screen you won’t come close to experiencing the console’s potential.
• Xbox Live is a great, intuitive, stable (eventually!) service. Offering cheap online games is a major plus. There are negatives, however, like being kicked out of games when live disconnects (even if you’re not playing a network game).
• Overheating is a serious concern. Just look at the power brick. Give the thing plenty of ventilation.
• Launch library – decent but not groundbreaking. Project Gotham Racing & Call of Duty 2 are two of the best.
• Backwards compatibility – this is something of a toss-up as the console gets more time in the wild. Currently MS lists 200 games as backward compatible.
Conclusions? Check ’em right here.
N'awlins out of the gate first: free WiFi!
The Washington Post (and others) report today on New Orleans’ launch of the first-ever city-owned WiFi network available for free.
Apparently Louisiana law prohibits localities from offering connection speeds above 144 Kbps (telco lobbyists getting their way in the name of “preventing competition”), but the 512 Kbps speed predicted by city officials currently gets the green light because the city remains in a state of emergency, temporarily removing the teeth of said telco-friendly laws.
Intel and Tropos Networks were among those who donated the equipment required for the WiFi infrastructure, currently up and running in the city’s central business district as well as the French Quarter. Outside of the public, city officials believe the network will see regular use by law enforcement and likely emergency personnel, as well as other city government functions. Might not be enough to get your game on, but it’s perfect for e-mailing and other light web work. Anyone reading this from said network should give us a shout.
Falling HDTV prices quantified
The January issue of PC World magazine has an article with some real data on the downward trend seen in HDTV prices; a well-known phenomenon in the electronics industry, it’s still interesting to look at some real numbers about how much prices can change over just 12 months. Based solely on the graph at the left:
• 42-inch HD plasma in Q4 2004: ~$4,000
• 42-inch HD plasma in Q4 2005: ~$2,600
• 32-inch LCD TV in Q4 2004: ~$3,000
• 32-inch LCD TV in Q5 2005: ~$1,600
The take-home message here? Prices fall. Forget timing the market, but know that any shiny new plasma/LCD/DLP today will cost less in the future. If you braved the Black Friday scrum and came away with a smokin’ deal (and sans an ear or a finger), props to you. If you want a big screen and can get a fair price for it, do it.
iPod #2, what's your idea of a perfect date?
Yep, so the proliferation of iPod-based businesses continue, and with the video ‘pod, the portable video player content creation market will likely start getting interesting (I know, Creative and Archos got there first, but when Apple arrived the market got a big time playa).
Enter PodDater.com, which, currently in beta, does exactly what the name implies. The site lets visitors search for interesting profiles, download the vids to their ‘pod and play away. Don’t leech, either; reciprocate with a vid of your own, damnit!
Yeah, we all know that text ads are sooooo 19th century and online dating sites with mere photos are über prosaic (that’s right, Match.com). Besides an opportunity to really show your personality and dynamically describe yourself, blah blah blah, video gives us the opportunity to do what everyone else does when looking at images on dating sites: be superficial (give us a pic, for crying out loud!).
I do feel sorry for Adrian, the bleach-blond Chicago real estate professional whose short vid plays from the main PodDater page. Not only does she enjoy revolutionary activities like shopping, eating out and walking along lake Michigan, but she also happens to be one of only 16 females on the site at the time of this post. After clicking through some 20 or so profiles, ones with actual videos seemed to be a bit rare [Note: this does include guys]. Mmmmm…beta.
Get busy seducing that 4.6 percent, guys. Positive thing: if you’re searching for a lady and find one with a video, she theoretically either knows how to shoot and edit it herself, or is savvy enough to find someone to help her do it. Props in my book.
Just how hard is your drive?
Ahh, the age-old profession of man-whoring. It’s pleasantly surprising to find out that it’s made its way into IT, thanks to “Ray Digerati,” who had the cohones to place an ad on Craigslist that included the words “Will Fix Computers for Sexual Favors.” Sync Magazine has a very brief Q&A with this the IT playa (it seems like an oxymoron, I know), where we find out about his quickest, erm, “payment,” as well as some revealing details about his pay scale.
See people? Today’s news moves seamlessly from Google Base to Craigslist to man whoring. Am I good or what? I think it’s time to find out how I’m connected to Kevin Bacon…
Google Base goes live
Man, sometimes it seems like Google is releasing a new beta service each week – late last night they unveiled Google Base, a service allowing users to upload/post material from job listings and volunteer opportunities to recipes, items for sale and school course descriptions (Yes, I know…Craigslist). The material is then searchable via Google Base and potentially Google.com, Froogle and Google Local. The site does require a Google login and then presents users with the option to either post an item in one of the preset categories (at right), add one in a category you create, or search for an item using a field at the top.
CNET reports that Google execs deny that the service is a direct assault on Craigslist, but the similarities are too many to let such claims be swept under the rug. My initial reaction is that the single search field at the top of Google Base does a poor job of allowing you to narrow your search right out of the chute. In contrast to Craigslist’s preliminary filtering, Google Base makes you type in your search string and then subsequently click links on following pages to narrow the search. There are advantages, however – job searches lead to listings displayed next to their location on a Google map, and like meta job search site Indeed.com, includes listings from other sites (right now I see postings from CareerBuilder and Idealist.org).
Obviously the Google Base team believes that their interface is a great way to navigate through the site. Access to Google’s ginormous search index is a great feature, but I’m frustrated by the fact that, in the case of jobs, a lot of spam listings are showing up. Those interested in earning $6k/month by shopping and eating in their home cities should head on over.
Audible.com to quantify podcast popularity, help podcasters sell their souls
People! Let’s find a way to measure exactly how many people are listening to podcasts so that we can set up ways to mine this nascent market! Nobody puts out content and misses out on an opportunity to make money!
Audible.com, purveyor of fine audio content (listen to an NPR program and you’ll likely hear their ads at the end, in case you want a copy of the show) announced on Friday that they have developed a system for cashing in on all of those still-ad-free potential revenue streams. Dubbed Wordcast, the software can be installed on iPods and other digital audio players (or DAPs, for the geeks), in Audible’s .AA file format. Still in beta, it appears to be able to provide podcast producers with the ability to more accurately determine the size of their listening audience, as the embedded software will monitor the number of times files are e-mailed and how far into each podcast listeners progress.
As soon as we can get our act together we’ll get all y’all a podcast. I’m a fool for ignoring the market until now, I tell you!
[Via Red Herring]
XM satellite parking
It looks like the guys at XM are interested in helping you do more than hear news from ex-NPR icon Bob Edwards; earlier this week they announced their intention to provide drivers with real-time information about parking spot availability. Now, you might find yourself asking, “How could XM do this?”
Well, that’s the kicker – while this may be cool, it obviously requires the deployment of spot-detecting technology wherever parking spots might be available. Translation: if this gets off the ground we’ll likely see it at large parking structures first. XM is working with Nu-Metrics and InfoGation to develop a system that uses color-coding to notify drivers about the percentage of available spots (methinks this is done via a simple mechanism that counts the number of cars coming in and subtracts the number going out). Let the satellite radio wars continue.
Intel Macs as early as January?
Some news from earlier this week: according to the rumor mongers at loyal Apple fansite AppleInsider, the first batch of the much-awaited Intel-based Macs may arrive well before late 2006/early 2007, as originally forecast, possibly at the Macworld show in January. The article is based on comments made by Ben Reitzes of UBS Investment Research, who believes there is a fair likelihood of an Intel Mac introduction in early ’06, quite possibly the Mac mini (even the analysts think Power Macs and PowerBooks will be stuck in the labs until later in the year).
Given Apple’s penchant/desire/obsession with creating a media frenzy, we need to take this with a fairly hefty level of skepticism, at the same time realizing that the likelihood for such an announcement is relatively unquantifiable.