The High-Tech Texan Blog

Saturday, July 29, 2006

VACATION! All I Ever Wanted...

Off to Southern Cal for our annual summer getaway. I tried to set up a remote broadcast in Continental's President Club at IAH but the timing and logistics just didn't work out. The folks with Continental's Communication dept. certainly tried to help out though.

Since I'll be heading up to the airport during my normal show time we will be running a very rare "Best Of" show this Saturday. I'll return the following week, Aug. 5, live from Cali.

Have a safe week and try to stay cool. I will.

(and yes that was me at the Astros game Friday night. Nice seats...thanks Drayton)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Traffic To Go

I'd normally recommend tuning in NewsRadio 740 KTRH for local traffic reports but gridlock info is now coming from many places. Satellite radio even has channels dedicated to local traffic - though they pretty much suck. They are mostly delivered an hour or so late plus read from someone thousands of miles away. (I've heard 'San Felipe' pronounced at least six different ways)

Several automobile makers with built-in nav systems can deliver real-time traffic through satellite radio links. Smartphones and PDAs can be upgraded with a GPS for directions and traffic conditions. Now its time to whip out your cell phone.

Google Maps has just rolled out a version for mobile phones with live traffic data for 30 cities. Download the app on your Java-enabled (J2ME) phone and you'll be set to go. Remember, no driving and downloading at the same time.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Party People In The House

Cotton mouth and dry eyes got you down today? Then thanks for coming to Downing Street Pub last night for my Sip n' Surf event.

The crowd started to arrive right at 5pm so congrats to them for getting a close parking space. We never had to call the fire marshall but elbow room was at a premiuim. Close to 400 guests streamed in and out. Saw a few people banging keys on their laptops but this was more of a social/cocktail gathering. The Woodford Reserve bourbon mixed with lemonade was a big hit.

Brought along some new gadgets like the Nike + iPod running shoes and Motorola Q. I saw lots of oooohs and aaaahs over the Sony wireless TV and the new HP Tablet PC. Can't tell you some of things people were writing and drawing on the tablet screen but lets just say they were very creative.

Saw a lot of familiar faces in the crowd like Oliver Luck, Wes Hohenstein, Robert Dale Morgan and the Hot On Houston TV crew. A shout out to Fox 26 intrepid reporter/blogger Isiah Carey for snapping pics and "covering" the party.

I'll probably do another event in the fall so keep the A/C on until then.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Travel Blogging

It's not like I take a vacation every other week but lately it kind of seems that way. Of course, my official work week is a whopping two hours so I guess my life is a vacation. ;)

Been in San Antonio since Monday morning though it's technically a business trip. Had some meetings with AT&T execs here at their world HQ. Of course I also hit the Riverwalk (margarita tastings), Hemisfair Tower (checkin' up on Tilman's new digs) and Sonterra golf course (um...).

Back in H-Town Wednesday afternoon just in time for my shindig at Downing Street Pub. The RSVPs have been off-the-chart so try to get there on time before it gets packed - 5pm.

Can't get too schnoggered as I have to be on the HP campus early Thursday. Have some meetings with product managers so I can get a peek at their new back-to-school products and maybe a preview of their holiday "toys." I'll bring my camera if they let me take pics. Check back later for more...

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Summer HTT Party! Wednesday, July 19

Game is on. Back by popular demand I am hosting another Sip 'N Surf event this coming Wednesday, July 19, 2006. Still trying to figure out what to celebrate - 5th year of broadcasting my everything-but-computers tech show; mid-summer; Wednesday? Whatever the occasion I'd like for you all to join me at Downing Street Pub (Kirby @ Westheimer, next to Taco Milagro).

My favorite drink with alcohol content, Woodford Reserve Small Batch Kentucky Bourbon, will be iced down and sampled at your leisure (and their cost!). A special selection of cigars will be discounted plus I'll bring some of the latest gadgets on the market. Yes, they have WiFi so feel free to sip and blog.

We had well over 300 people last time packing the house so be sure to get there on time starting at 5pm. The soiree goes until 8pm. Must be 21 or over and please drink responsibly.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Live Broadcast From The Dream Home

I talk a lot about homes and all the high-tech things that go in them. So I'll be in one Saturday during my radio show.

Come on over and take a tour of the KTRH Dream Home. It's a show home open weekends at Hunter's Creek Village (near Woodway and Voss).

Valued at $1,925,000, it features some of today’s newest architectural design features, interior decorating, furniture, accessories, appliances, building products and more. Our radio set up will be in the air-conditioned garage!

Admission is $5 for adults and free for kids 12 and under. Tickets are available only at Randalls, Voss at San Felipe, where parking for the Dream Home shuttle is free. (Tickets will NOT be sold at the DreamHome to keep traffic flow in the neighborhood to a minimum) All proceeds help support the Arbor School.

Yes, I'll wear the new Nike+ shoes (see below) and I'll bring along some of my new gadgets like the Motorola Q smartphone, CoPilot Live GPS, HP Tablet PC, Supacam and whatever else I throw in my car. See ya between 12p-2p. If not, tune in and log in and watch our live videoconference (click videocam icon at the top of my home page).

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A Tech Fun Run

It's rare when people ask for my thoughts on a product BEFORE it is released. Last month when Nike announced they would be integrating a way for their shoes to talk to an iPod, I was peppered with emails and callers asking for a review and info.

As an avid runner I get a lot of demo shoes (built with the "latest technology"), sweatproof clothes, wickable sweatbands, GPS watches and many other things that sometime don't live up to their press releases.

But today the much anticipated product hit the streets and I got one of the first pair of Nike + iPod shoes and accompanying gear. I literally took them out for a test run and...

The real magic is not in the shoes but rather the wireless kit that allows the connection. The kit comes with a small sensor that fits inside the sole of the left shoe and a receiver unit that plugs into an iPod nano. An important point here - this kit ($29.95 retail) only works with the nano which does makes sense. According to Apple most nano owners use the device when working out plus the small and lightweight unit is the easiest of the many versions to run with.

Nano owners will need to upgrade to the newest version of the iPod software (v 1.2) which comes with the Nike + iPod interface. Plug the receiver into the nano and a new menu selection will appear which controls the running statistics.

Interestingly enough the wireless connection between the sensor and receiver is not Bluetooth or even 802.11. It is in the unregulated 2.4GHz range but is likely based on Dynastream's ANT platform. Through my first 8 mile run I had no problem keeping the connection (though I am wondering when I hit a puddle if I will be electrocuted!).

You'll still need those earphone wires to listen to music during your run. The program has instant audio feedback that tells you your time, distance, pace and calories burned while you run. For some reason I like the female voice rather than the male audible choice - she seemed to make me run faster. I found the calibration process a bit tedious..I don't know EXACTLY how far 400 meters is for the initial adjustment. I'll have to measure that out later.

Nike initially has released six pairs of shoes (3 men, 3 women) with the small cutout pocket within the insole. The shoes are rather plain-looking for Nike but many more versions will soon be released (duh!). I can't help but wonder if the kit will still work with any pair of shoes as long as the sensor is attached. If that's the case then it may not be necessary to dole out the $100 for a pair.

You can't really describe anything from Nike or Apple without using the term sexy. That's where the web site comes in. is designed for the worldwide running community to gather, upload data from their iPods, download pumped up running tunes and track individual runs.

The graphics are, um, pretty sexy as they let you sort and compare runs by date, time or distance. I taper my running during the hot summer months but am anxious to see my charts come marathon training season later this year. Alas, there is no way to cheat and upload a time that would rival Roger Bannister.

And what would a new product release from Nike be without an entire line of clothes? Shirts, shorts, jackets and and armband that hold the nano snug during runs. Lance Armstrong is the spokesrunner for all this gear and I still can't figure out why all this stuff looks better on him.

If you are an avid runner or someone into tracking your time and distance, this is indeed a unique innovation. The technology is still based on pedometer-like measurements and my wish list would have GPS-based data used. But that would mandate a sensor with constant exposure to the sky and probably a lot more battery power.

Something tells me that's planned for Version 2.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Q Is Your CoPilot

Get your freak on, gadget geeks. One of the many devices I was testing last week on my vacation helped get me from the Denver airport to a remote location high-up in the Rockies.

I previously wrote about the new Motorola Q smartphone. Not only was I receiving emails and yapping on the phone, I flipped on the Bluetooth and paired up with the CoPilot Live GPS.

It's pretty much a "plug and drive" experience. The app and all street-level map data comes pre-loaded on a 1 GB memory card. Just pop the card into the Q and CoPilot Live loads automatically right out of the box. Updated, cleary labeled menus are easy to use and Q customers should love the detailed map presentation even in direct sunlight.

I have tried several other handheld GPS devices but none had the quick response time as CoPilot Live when I happened to take a wrong turn. It immediately chirped out a beeping sound and generated the best new route.

Another cool feature is the full motion 3D map. We've all seen GPS screens with the typical birds-eye view of the streets but a switch to the 3D gives a unique perspective to exit ramps and upcoming turns.

Like most GPS units no cell phone reception is needed nor a monthly fee. To grab the satellite feeds the Bluetooth receiver needs to have clear exposure to the sky. It weighs just a few ounces and rested comfortably on the car's dashboard. Though no wires are needed I did use the included cigarette lighter adapter to make sure the receiver and the Q had enough juice. Battery power for the receiver is listed at 6 hours with the rechargeable Lithium-Ion battery.

Driving through the mountains allowed me to use other bells-and-whistles like the altimeter. I excitedly was calling out our altitude to the kids as we approached 11,000 ft. Not that anyone would be checking that stat in Houston.

Though we only drove about 100 miles mostly down I-70 the software has 6 million miles of U.S. roads and over 100 million addresses and points of interest. (We were pinpointed exactly to the McDonald's in Golden, CO).

ALK Technologies also makes CoPilot Live GPS receivers and software for the Treo 700w, Pocket PC and laptops. Retail price is $299 for the software and Bluetooth or USB receiver.

We're off to California in a few weeks. I'm starting to plug in every In-N-Out Burger from San Diego to LA.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Back In The Saddle Again

Or actually out of the saddle and back in H-Town. Apparently I picked a great week to get away weather-wise. My swimming pool was topped off and the grass was 8 inches high. Can I assume it rained a bit?

Our live broadcast from the Colorado mountains turned out great. Amazing what technology can do. If I didn't say where I was I bet most listeners would have assumed I was in studio. The Blue Box was one of the better purchases I've made. All I need is a dedicated phone line and I'm good to go. When in doubt, find a fax machine and borrow the phone cord. Thanks again to the folks at C Lazy U Ranch for stringing the extra line so our videoconferencers got a great view of the mountains.

Had a lot of callers with some good topics. Apparently the weather here was so bad people stayed inside and listened to the radio. A lady wanted help choosing between a 720p and 1080i high-def TV. That gave me a good opportunity to delve into the differences between resolutions but also different options like plasma, LCD, DLP, and even LCOS. To further spice up my alphabet soup I gave a quick lecture on HDMI. Thanks to regular listener and HD expert Mel Rainer for IMing his suggestions (720p is just as good as 1080i with advantages such as handling motion better).

More fun topics this Saturday as we do the show from our sister station KTRH's Dream Home. My buddy (and host of KTRH's Home Improvement Hotline) David Yates helped put together this $1.9 million home in Hunters Creek Village. It features some of today’s newest architectural design features, interior decorating, furniture, accessories, appliances, building products and more. Come out and be a part of the show from 12p-2p this Saturday.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A Real Texan (in Colorado)

Even though I had to hit Colorado to find a horse I'm still doing our state proud up here. Having a blast with the kids at C Lazy U but a certain lower part of my body is very sore. Wonder if the leather seats in my car could be made in the shape a saddle?

So while I've been up in 8,200 ft of altitude all week, did I miss anything back in H-Town? Actually a lot of "local" news happened not too far away from me in Aspen earlier this week. I guess Kenny Boy finally got a pardon from the Big Guy in the sky. Or did he...? Hmmm... It's been interesting to read some of the conspiracy blogs about Ken Lay. "The Bush Buddy Relocation Program" was one of my faves. Something tells me this saga is not over yet.

Even though I'm out of town the radio show must go on. I'll be playing the part of Jay Leno to Johny Carson's way of taking a vacation. Just suck it up and do your own shows instead of finding a sub. Besides Joan Rivers and Garry Shandling were busy this Saturday. Tune in as usual at 12pm (11am Mountain Time!) as I figure out what's new in tech this week. But I do have some good stories about traveling with gadgets, finding Internet access on the road and how to survive saddle sores.