The High-Tech Texan Blog

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Ball Is In His Court

Rog is back. 3 weeks in the minors and then a June 22nd return.

Didya catch his press conference on Wednesday morning. He stated "the ball is in my court" FIVE (5) times. What's up that? Is he contemplating a Wimbledon run? He hit the ball out of the park. He gets $$ no matter if he wins or loses. He just better start putting Icy Hot on his balls to get him pumped up to win some games.

Tuesday 4:35pm
Newsday is reporting that the Rocket is returning to the Astros. Good thing he made his decision now; a few more losses by the 'Stros and Roger may have high-tailed to New York.

Reportedly $3.5 million per month. But how are the health benefits?

Of course Purpura and the boys deny that a deal has been done.

And how did Newsday scoop Mark Berman? I look forward to reading Houston-related sports stories that being with "KRIV is reporting..."

More to come...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Skype Says Let It Be Free

I haven't talked much about Skype lately but lately I've been talking a lot via Skype. PC-to-PC calling has been around quite a while and it's been hit-and-miss. Skype, that wholly owned subsidiary of eBay, made voice calls easy and even allows for PC-to-landline and mobile phones for a fee.

Make that FREE. At least through the end of 2006. Skype recently announced it's SkypeOut service will be free within the US and Canada. So if your cell phone is running out of minutes just use a microphone headset or a USB phone to make all the calls you want.

Speaking of (and into) a USB phone, I have been testing out the SkyTone RST101 from Radian Technologies. It's the size of a small cell phone with a USB cord. It installed without a hitch and so far works flawessly with Skype. For users who can't get into wearing a headset to use a PC phone this mode goes back to the "old days" of holding up a phone to your ear.

I'm always trying to push the limit on portability so here's my latest trick: I plugged the USB phone into my laptop. Now when I'm connected to a WiFi network or Verizon Broadband Access I can use the phone and Skype anywhere! Looks a bit weird walking around holding a laptop with a corded phone handset attached to it but I can talk anywhere I go for free.

Don't Bend Over For The Soap, Boys

Guilty. Not surprised. Coming back with any other verdict would have been more shocking than if Taylor lost American Idol last night.

There doesn't seem to be much sympathy across Houston for the LaySkill boys. The national media is hitting it hard - as they should. Good thing the TV cams can't show the humidity.

One thing was missing from the circus outside the courtroom, though. Can't quite put my finger on it...ah, yes. Where was Sheila Jackson-Lee? Figured she would be rollerblading up-and down Smith St. in front of the satellite trucks.

The Internet almost melted this afternoon from the traffic, video streaming and blogging. Dwight S. did a nice job of keeping up with Enron blogs. Since the verdict came down on a workday most people watched, chatted and received the news via electronic means. Back up the servers on Sept.11 when the sentencing happens.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Cue Up For The Q

I got word of Motorola's new Q smartphone a few months ago but the giftwrap came off today. The company is touting it as a "Blackberry killer" but I'll be the judge of that when I get my hands on one shortly.

It seems to be more of a business/corporate tool rather than consumerish. It will have mobile messaging support for MS Exchange Server 2003 and will sync with corporate email, calendars and contact lists.

Modeled after Motorola's popular Razr phone, here are some facts:
  • Windows Mobile 5.0 OS
  • QWERTY keyboard
  • Bluetooth
  • Access to desktop docs like Word, Powerpoint and Excel
  • Music and video playback, web browsing, IM

Service will initially be offered by Verizon Wireless and will run on its high-speed EVDO netowork. Available online May 31 and in VZW stores on June 5. Should be priced around $200 after a $100 rebate with a two-year contract.

On the everyday user side of Motorola, I'm waiting on the the RAZR V3m which should be out any day now. This updated model should bring all the usual RAZR bells-and-whistles but also allow for over the air music downloading, specifically VZW's cool VCAST Music service.

Monday, May 22, 2006

24 No More

"The following took place between January - May 2006." I wasted the past five months of my life (or Monday nights) for that?

This was the first season I got into 24 and had been captivated every week for the past two dozen episodes. The plot twists and situations were beyond believable but I kept saying to myself, "this is FOX."

The season finale Monday night was pretty intense but the writers still left out many unanswered plot lines. Who was that supersecret team of people President Logan kept talking to? How many times did Curtis get shot that day and where is he now? Can Chloe come co-host my show and answer those tough computer questions from listeners?

And it still amazes me how characters can move about the city. Jack's episode-ending capture took him from an abandoned building at a Los Angeles airfield to the torture chamber of a Chinese freighter in the time span it takes most people in L.A. to drive five blocks. Looks like Jack will be fighting the Chinese mafia again next season (er, I mean, day). But is that smart? Making the new "enemy" a country with the fastest-growing economic market in the world isn't the best way to boost those DVD sales.

Scale of 1-10: Season suspense - 8, Season finale - 3, Chance of me watching Day 6 next January 2007 - small.

Countdown to the big season finale of TV's best show this Wednesday...LOST. At least they sleep.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Calling All Bloggers - Call Me!


Several events here in town over the past week have shown that blogs are a force to be reckoned with in the media. You know it's on the radar when the mayor holds a conference call specifically for these opinionated typists.

I have received dozens of emails within the past week about blogging - how do you start a blog, what topics should I blog about, what tools or services do I need, etc...

So how about I open the phone lines on my radio show this Saturday to bloggers? I want to hear from Laurence. From Greg. Kuff, JK, Kevin, Anne, Jay, Tom, Perry and everyone else who blogs regularly from H-Town. Dwight said he is traveling this week but hopefully he will make an appearance one day soon.

Share your tricks of the trade with others who are trying to grasp this technology and create their own soapbox. At any rate you'll get a nice opportunity to pimp your blog! Bring it on, please.

The High-Tech Texan Show airs on TalkRadio 950 KPRC each Saturday from 12p-2p. You can listen live online and even tap into our videoconference (it WILL work, guaranteed). You got the number. See ya on the radio Saturday.

UPDATE: Careful all you guys who "borrow" software programs. Jenny Blank, Director of Enforcement for the Business Software Alliance, will be a guest on my show Saturday to talk about software piracy. The BSA's principal activity is trying to stop copyright infringement of software produced by its members - an activity it claims to cost the software industry over 11 billion dollars each year.

UPDATE 2: Guess who came to dinnner? Laurence Simon popped into the studio (not sure how he found the address or made it past the sleeping guard). He delivered a fresh baked loaf of jalapeno cheese bread and, since we were on the topic of bloggers, I asked him to sit down and give the 411 on blogging. We now know it all...

Thursday, May 18, 2006

We Now Return You To Our Regular Programming

No more WiFi war blogging. Old news. Back to my usual schtick, rants and whatever (that's what blogs are for).

Saw the preview of The Davinci Code Thursday night. Did not read the book so here's my quick-tique:

Long. Chatty. Dark. Cryptic. Religious. Long. Wow, that is one loooong movie.

Clocked in at almost 2 1/2 hours but it seemed longer. Maybe because I took my 11 year old son with me but I was squirming more than he was (a bit A.D.D., I'm sure).

I took a small random sampling of our fellow movie goers on the way out. Pretty tepid response. It was "OK," "pretty good," "not as exciting as I expected" and "that was it?".

I'm a big Tom Hanks fan (Bosom Buddies - classic!) but note to Hollywood producers...if you plan to turn a blockbuster book into a movie, think twice before casting Hanks as the star (see Bonfire of the Vanities, The Davinci Code).

This just in...Mayor White now asked me to help him create a MySpace account. We'll slam a few Red Bulls and pimp it out soon. ;)

And the most asked question in our chat forum...Who did he think was going to make it to the American Idol final. He (correctly) predicted Elliot would get the boot before the final showdown dwindles to Taylor and Kat.

The man is hip!

UPDATE: I guess that wink icon didn't have enough eyelash for other "so called" bloggers to realize that the comments above were in jest. Apparently my sense of humor comes through in my VOICE rather than my fonts (maybe I should redo that opening animation on my site so everyone can HEAR it). And besides, the mayor favors MSN Spaces over MySpace! (joke again).

And for those emails I'm getting from reporters (you know who you are), please stop asking for the mayor's MySpace URL. Doesn't exist.

Good news, though...People are actually reading this stuff. And I do thank you.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Mayoral Musings

Behind-the-keyboard secrets of Wednesday evening's online chat with Mayor White...

The original plan was for Mayor White to dictate his answers to me as I typed them. That lasted about 30 seconds as he pushed my hands out of the way and did it himself. The man bangs out letters faster than I can.

The city's CIO, Richard Lewis, was also in attendance to help answer any specific questions about the WiFi initiative and bids. We had two laptops set-up (one for me, one for Mayor White) yet while we were trying to log on one machine Richard was trying to log on the other. The CIO couldn't figure out how to enter the chat room so Mayor White quickly leaned over and showed him how to do it. Is that micromanaging or do we have the highest-tech mayor in the land?!

The mayor was supposed to stay only for 15 minutes due to another event afterwards. He was gracious enough to stay for close to 30 since we had a few technical SNAFUs. This is the second time he delivered more than he promised me...he called in to my radio show last Saturday supposedly for only 5 minutes. He kept on talking for nearly 20 minutes and caused us to miss our first commercial break.

My HP Tablet PC tc4200 hummed right along for 4+ hours on its battery!

Mayor Chat Questions


Here are the answers posted by Mayor White (with a little help from CIO Richard Lewis). They are in no particular order as the mayor responded to them as he saw them on screen:

Mayor White>>The RFP was written by the city staff, with the best expert consultant who has no interest or availability to assist a bidder. Level playing field.

Mayor White>>Taxpayers won't pay for it. It will be paid for by the group which operates the system and sells wholesale access to ISPs on a non-discriminatory basis.

Mayor White>>IT should make the cost of all services more competitive

Mayor White>>There are a total of 31 firms in the five proposals.

Mayor White>>The vendor list will be made public tomorrow on the city’s website

Mayor White>>Visitors to Houston can go to one of the locations with free access. The RFP requires 5% of the city land area of 640 square miles, parks, libraries, convention center

Mayor White>>The RFP requires the proposers to propose digital inclusion programs particularly for students without access at home. We are working with six school districts to ensure the Digital Houston initiative supports education.

Mayor White>>A private financing will fund this multi-million investment.

Mayor White>>Since there were only five bidders, with the RFP selection process move more quickly. Process should move rather quickly.

Mayor White>>the first phase will likely be complete in early 2007

Mayor White>> Security is always an issue with computers, especially wireless. Firewalls and virus protection are the responsibility of personal PC users. The network operator(s) will be required to have stringent security precautions to protect against malicious attacks, viruses and more

Mayor White>> Not sure how the cable and wireless companies view this as of now. We could expect some backlash from them. However we will wait and see

Mayor White>> The signal should penetrate all buildings on the perimeter. Top to bottom

Here is a quick sampling of questions we received from Wednesday evening's online chat with Mayor White. Over 650 people logged on over a 40 minute period. That number exceeded our expectations yet pleased us. Seems a lot of residents are interested in the WiFi initiative.

1) Question for the Mayor. Who is funding the equipment and who is installing? City workers

1) Question for the Mayor. Why should the city allow a privae firm to have a monopoly? We should operate WY fi like a public water system or sewer system. It should be free to schools, Universities, hospitals as well as city services


1) Question for the Mayor. How does the City plan to address security issues such as content filtering? Will I have to worry about what other people might be viewing while I’m at the park with my children

1) Question for the Mayor. How much will this eventually cost residents

1) Question for the Mayor. AT&T and Time Warner Cable have said publicly they probably won’t bid on this project; do the current bidders really have the capability/infrastructure to accommodate a 600-square mile network

1) Question for the Mayor. What guidelines will be set in place to moderate this network, and who will decide upon those guidelines?

1) Question for the Mayor. Will it reach as far out as Katy ?

1) Question for the Mayor. First let me say thank you to you... and Michael for giving Houstonians this opportunity to interact with you. My question is... Where will the money for this Wi-Fi network come from? Government funding... tax dollars. If local tax dollars are being used, how will this impact me? Increase in property taxes, etc

-Dr Segura
1) Question for the Mayor. Thank you, Mayor: What private company helped write the RFP; and, in what capacity will that company be allowed to respond to the RFP?, Thank you, Mayor: What private company helped write the RFP; and, in what capacity will that company be allowed to respond to the RFP

-Angie Martinez
1) Question for the Mayor. How soon are we looking to go wireless and is this city wide like inside the beltway 8?

1) Question for the Mayor. Hello Mayor White. How deeply will WiFi signals penetrate buildings? Is it basically the same as a cell phone? Thanks for your time., Hi Mayor White. How much penetration into buildings can we expect with our wifi signal? Is it similiar to cell phone coverage? Thank you

1) Question for the Mayor. What will be the total cost to Houston residents

1) Question for the Mayor. How Will the city pay for the wi-fi service?

1) Question for the Mayor. Do you view citywide wi-fi as fair competition to current ISPs?

1) Question for the Mayor. Will the service proposed be equivalent to DSL from at&t(formerly SBC)?

1) Question for the Mayor. I think this Wireless network is good for houston it will help alot to people around town

1) Question for the Mayor. how do the cable and telephone companies feel about this initiative

-Patricia Sturdivant
1) Question for the Mayor. You and your staff probably studied applications for school age students n other cities that have already installed WI-FI systems. What educational implementation projects are you most hopeful we can implement here in Houston

1) Question for the Mayor. Who are the service providers? When will they be determined - what is the process?

New User
1) Question for the Mayor. Good evening Mr. Mayor. Will there be a subscription to use the service. And if so, will there be added benefits to paying subscribers as oppose to free users?

1) Question for the Mayor. What is the backup plan for police and fire services if and when the network goes down?, What is the backup plan for police and fire services if and when the network goes down

1) Question for the Mayor. What about commercial use of the signal. Will that be restricted

1) Question for the Mayor. Due to the ubiquity and limited security of 802.11b devices, what measures will be taken to balance security and accessibility in Houston

-Angie Martinez
1) Question for the Mayor. How soon can we expect to go wireless

1) Question for the Mayor. Who are the vendors who submitted for this wireless RFP,

1) Question for the Mayor. When would you expect it to be available in North houston, near Spring

1) Question for the Mayor. Will this be installed in the upper areas such as Oak Ridge

Blogger Overload!

Got to love the Internet. Thanks to those who logged on for Wednesday night's mayoral chat. And thanks to a guy who spoofed his ID 40 + times and helped slow down the system to a crawl!

Things were cranking on all cylinders up until about 6:25pm. The web cams were looking strong and the mayor was getting his typing fingers warmed up. Lo and behold - here comes the public.

We had backup servers ready to go but the video feed jammed up the lines. We certainly appreciated everyone's patience and we actually got through about 12-15 questions.

I will post the questions here shortly. I'm at Downing Street Pub on their WiFi so if anyone wants to join me, let's roll!

Back shortly....

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Mayor Blogs (or speaks to bloggers)

The citywide WiFi machine is in full cycle (or at least the PR spin cycle). I moderated a conference call Monday evening with Mayor White and Richard Lewis, the city's CIO. The call was originally opened just to a handful of Houston's bloggers however some of our blogging brethren posted the phone number to make sure this had an open architecture feel.

As the person who simply tried to keep the flow going I will sacrifice my take on the outcome. You can find some play-by-play commentary on several sites including Dwight's TechBlog, BlogHouston, Houstonist, Brains and Eggs, Isolation Desolation and Matt Bramanti of the Lone Star Times.

Bottom line...Everyone was civil. They didn't speak over each other like the ladies of The View. No earth shattering information was dispensed though we were updated on Barry Bonds' first at-bat (walked). And one participant asked if the city will crack down on blogging while driving.

Log on here Wednesday evening at 6:30pm when we open up the chat to anyone and everyone. And get me more servers, quickly!

UPDATE: Larry Hendrick posts an mp3 of the conference on his Business Unusual blog.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Hangin' With The Mayor

UPDATE!! I will be hosting a live moderated chat with Mayor White this coming Wednesday, May 17, at 6:30pm. This will be the Mayor's first online chat open to the public. Log on to my site at that date/time to ask questions about the City's WiFi proposal or other tech-related questions.

We will be holding this online chat outside in front of City Hall. Imagine if we had a WiFi network everywhere - we could hold a chat like this anywhere in the city. Plus, I will bring my webcam to allow for a simultaneous videoconference. Hook up your cam so we can see you, too.
What do Mayor Bill White and I have in common? Not our hair. Not really our politics. Certainly not our net worths. Ah, our love of technology and the priority of moving it forward.

The City of Houston is getting ready to close its RFP process for wiring (or rather UNwiring) the 600+ square miles of H-Town. But do you think the city needs a WiFi bubble? Unsure of how much it will cost? When will it be built out?

Now is your chance to ask the Mayor. He will be joining me live this Saturday to talk about the city WiFi project. Want to join the Q&A? Tune in at High Noon on TalkRadio 950 KPRC or pop a comment here.

Monday, May 08, 2006

TV Tips

Want to catch up on some tech tips you can actually SEE (vs. listen to on my radio program)? Here are some recent segments I did for a syndicated TV show.

All you need to know about universal remote controls, Bluetooth, proper computer disposal and keeping kids safe on the Internet. Just click the play button.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Free Music on Napster (Again)

Shades of the dot-bomb era. Napster is once again offering free songs like it once did in the rogue days of the Web but it's legal this time.

The music site has been selling monthly subscriptions for the past few years and now will turn to an advertisement-based revenue model. Here's the dealio...

Listeners can have up to five plays of more than 2 million songs. After that, they can either buy the songs for 99 cents or subscribe to Napster's downloading service. Napster plans to use the free service to promote its subscription offerings which cost between $9.95 and $14.95.

One other catch - a 15-second video ads will be shown before listeners hear their selected tune.

Need your comments. Is this a service you will use instead of iTunes or your other fave music service?