The High-Tech Texan Blog

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Wes Goes East

It is official now. Call off the petitions and the nasty emails to Channel 2, Wes Hohenstein has left the building...and the city soon. I've been the unofficial "Where in the world is Wes" spokesman since he left the morning weathercast last January.

Wes is a good friend of mine and golfing buddy so I have been privy to what he has been up to (or hasn't been up to) for the past several months. Despite all of the hub-bub going at at KPRC-TV with morning weather personnel Wes is not going back to his old stomping grounds. He has accepted a position at WNCN in Raleigh-Durham, NC, that will actually let him sleep in.

Ladies and gentlemen, in his own words, let's hear from the new Chief Meteorologist at NBC17:
Since leaving KPRC, I was able to do some traveling, visit family, catch up
on my golf game and even had a freelance stint in Tucson, Arizona.

I explored every option possible here in Houston; came to know the town,
its residents and the weather very well, but it just wasn't in the cards
to stay. In the mean time, I didn't want to take just any old job that popped up; I
wanted it to be the right job and the right city. Enter into the picture Raleigh, North Carolina, a great city with an NBC station in need of a chief meteorologist. WNCN had a chief meteorologist position open up, which sounded very promising. North Carolina is pretty country with great people....and great golf and college basketball...which didn't hurt in helping to make this an easy decision to take this job.
While I'm sad about leaving Houston and all the friends I’ve made, I'm very excited about my new opportunity in North Carolina.

The TV business can often be like a bolt of has a lot of positives and negatives.....sure it was unfortunate that I had to leave KPRC, but the positives are that I learned a lot as a person, I learned a lot about this business and by being
patient and waiting for the right job and not just the next job, I get the chance to be a chief in a very important weather driven city, like Raleigh.

Leave it Wes to sneak in a weather analogy (I don't mean to rain on his parade, but I like this pun better!).

Good luck, Westicle. Tell Ernesto we said Hi and thanks for turning north. We'll miss you at my upcoming charity golf tournament next month but I'm looking forward to an invite to play Pinehurst No. 3.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

As reported in this blog several months ago, Austin is now home to another high-tech landmark.

The University of Texas has just installed the world's largest high-definition video display board.

The $8 million scoreboard and sound system is nearly as wide as the field itself. It stands over the south end zone at a whopping 55 feet tall and 134 feet wide.

Now THAT'S Texas sized and only fit for a national championship team!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Now It's Apple's Turn - RECALL

This just came into my Inbox. Thankfully I don't use an Apple or it might have exploded...

Apple Computer Inc. will recall 1.8 million lithium-ion notebook batteries
after nine devices overheated, causing minor burns in two users, U.S. safety
regulators said Thursday.

The recall is the second-biggest in U.S. history involving electronics
or computers, after No. 1 PC maker Dell Inc. recalled 4.1 million lithium-ion
batteries last week, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said. In both
cases the batteries had power cells made by Sony Corp..

The recall affects users of its iBook G4 and PowerBook G4 laptop models sold between October 2003 and August 2006. Additional information can be found by calling 1-800-275-2273 or Apple's web page.

Much more coming. Stay logged on...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Fakes On A Plane

I'm sorry, but this story is just too funny to pass up...

Cook County prosecutors say a 29-year-old man traveling with his mother
desperately didn't want her to know he'd packed a sexual aid for their trip to
Turkey. So he told security it was a bomb, officials said.

Madin Azad Amin was stopped by officials on Aug. 16 after guards found an
object in his baggage that resembled a grenade, prosecutors said.

When officers asked him to identify it, Amin said it was a bomb, said
Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Lorraine Scaduto.

You can read the rest here.

Burger Bytes

In a promotion only Ken Hoffman could love...

Burger chain Krystal has launched its World Hamburger Eating Championship contest, the prelims of which will be viewable via webcasts from the Krystal Suare Off site.

The finals will be televised on ESPN on October 28 with the grand prize winner receiving $30,000. Hungry? Like to eat? This is your thing.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Another Killah

So there's a new portable music player hitting the market soon. SanDisk claims to have a doozy - an 8GB model that holds twice the amount of the iPod nano for nearly the same price.

PLEASE don't call this an iPod killah. Every new digital music player that comes out is supposedly the next gadget that will overtake Apple's market position. Microsoft's Zune was the most recent gadget to carry that tag (at least by industry prognosticators, not necessarily by Microsoft).

The new Sansa e280 will come with 8GB of flash, a small color screen and a microSD expansion slot to add as much as 2GB of additional storage. I kind of like that feature as it is sometimes quicker to add songs by dragging them onto the storage card rather than synchronizing the player with the computer.

The new player will retail at just under $250, SanDisk said. By comparison, a new 4-gigabyte Nano is priced at about $249. One of the more expensive parts of a player is flash memory. Since SanDisk is the world's top supplier of flash memory data storage cards they can apparently pass some savings to the customer.

It seems like a good deal but I'll hold my official ruling until I see if its features are as easy to use as an iPod. If so, I just might proclaim this to be a killah product.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Go To Hell, Mel

Video making the Internet rounds....

Denis Leary was in the broadcast booth during the Red Sox Tigers game last week so he could promote his charity. In the 5th inning, Leary finds out that Red Sox 1st baseman, Kevin Youkilis, is Jewish. Hilarity ensues.

After making a nice play at first, Leary shouts: "Where's Mel Gibson now?! Where's Mel Gibson now?! He's in rehab and Youkilis is at first base."

Watch the whole thing for final rant.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

We Want Wes

That was fast. It was just last February when Channel 2 let go morning weather forecaster Wes Hohenstein for no apparent reason. So they bring in Byron Miranda who had an impressive resume with stints in Chicago, LA and CNN. Always though it was fishy that someone with a nice track record like that would make his way DOWN to Houston. I think Channel 2 now realizes it themselves...

As of this morning, Byron was allegedly read his miranda rights (not really but I had to get that pun in there) and told to leave. Though I'm sure Channel 2 wishes him well with his future endeavors they are back at sqaure one.

Solution: Wes is still here in Houston. Still available (though that window is fading very, very quickly), ready to tell morning viewers about the humidity and dew points. Oh wait, they don't report dew points any longer.

Step on it, Skip. Go Wes, young man!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Goin' Through The Big D

In Dallas for a few days before the kids go back to school...Hangin' with my parents and relatives back in my old stomping grounds.

A few things I miss about this city up north on I-45...
  • 7-11. Still can't figure out why in the world this convenience store is not in the Houston market? They used to be headquartered in Dallas so the entire Texas market should have been a no-brainer. Instead I only get to treat my kids (and myself) to a Slurpee a few times a year.
  • Taco Bueno. Fast-food; real good. Don't ever mention Taco Bell in my presence as this chain blows it away. I actually used to work here during high school (only one week - long story). 89 cent burritos. Case closed.
  • The Media. Don't wanna knock my friends on Houston TV and in the newspaper biz but the overall news delivery outlets in Dallas have always outshined anything in H-Town. WFAA-TV (ABC affiliate) was THE TV station to watch growing up in the 70s and 80s. No other local station came close to its ratings and perception as being the classiest news outlet in the biz. Still recognize several on-air faces today. And the Dallas Morning News is such a treat to read. Seriously. Many years ago they began referring to people in every news story with a "Mr." and "Mrs." The first section I grab is Sports which could probably be sold for the 75 cent daily list price alone. They figured out how blend stories, commentary and digital content to make sense. Lots of reference to online blogs, SMS alerts, chats and more. Somebody get Jeff Cohen a subscription. Can't tell you much about radio as I don't listen to local stuff in either place. But the billboards...!

Having grown up in Dallas but now living in Houston I have experienced the best and worst of both worlds. One thing I try not to do is compare the two cities nor get in a pissing match about which one is better. I leave that to others. And one caught my eye today in the DMN Sports section. Columnist Gerry Fraley writes:

Identity theft: When it comes to college football bowls, the
city of Houston cannot get it right. The latest incarnation of a postseason game will be the Texas Bowl, to be played on Dec. 28 at Reliant Stadium. Just how many focus groups and brainstorming sessions did it take for the bowl group,
a subsidiary of the NFL's Texans, to hit on the name the University Interscholastic League has long used for its football title games? It would be as if the Cotton Bowl stole "Oak Cliff Super Bowl" from Carter and Kimball.

Who needs this Israel-Hezbollah stuff? God bless the I-45 corridor.

Monday, August 14, 2006

What the Dell? Biggest Consumer Recall Ever

If you or a loved one sports a Dell Inspiron, Latitude or Precision, heads up! Dell and the U.S. Products and Safety Commission plan are recalling 4.1 million notebook batteries.

The recall affects certain mobile workstation units shipped between April 2004 and July 18, 2006. Interestingly enough Sony manufactured the batteries that are being recalled. Though Sony makes batteries for other computer manufacturers this recall only affects Dell as of now.

Customers can go to a Dell Web site to determine if they need a new battery. Dell also plans to launch a toll-free number, 1-866-342-0011, for people affected by the situation.

In the meantime, if customers have one of the affected units they are advised to eject the battery from the notebook after powering down and continue using the notebook with its AC power adapter.

Dell has faced several issues this year related to exploding or flaming notebooks. Back in July some photos were published purportedly showing a Dell notebook exploding at a conference in Japan.

The 4.1 million units is a subset of the 22 million units shipped during that time frame.

UPDATE: While visiting Dallas this week I stopped in at one of the country's two Dell retail stores. It's kind of like a larger mall kiosk you have probable seen. They don't carry inventory but you can look and feel around. The manager said a few people have brought their laptop batteries in for replacement but they were told to follow the rules on the Dell battery replacement web site.

Time for my Segway Upgrade

I had one of the very first Segway HT units since they hit the market; actually took delivery Segway #1 from Segway of Houston when they set up shot. I use it primarily to tool around my neighborhood - going to the mailbox, gliding to the park. Best use yet: hauling the kids door-to-door on Halloween night. You can't imagine how much time you can save trick-or-treating when rolling right up to front doors.

Just saw version 2 has come out but not sure I want to fork over $5,000. Model I2, as they are calling it, lets you drive the machine as you lean your body rather than using a handlebar.

I was always impressed with the keys. Instead of inserting a key into a keyhole to start the Segway, a small magnet turned it on when touched to a keypad. The new model has what's called an Infokey and acts as speedometer, odometer, trip computer and battery gauge. It can go in your pocket or fit on a keychain.

Apparently there is more to come - six other versions called Commuter, Police, Commercial Cargo, X2 Golf, X2 Police and X2 Adventure.

Friday, August 11, 2006

BREAKING NEWS...City One Step Closer To WiFi


Word out of City Hall is that the WiFi project is getting closer to reality. Five companies submitted bids last June to build-out the 600+ square miles of wireless connectivity.

According to an August 9 memo sent from Mayor White to City Council, two of the companies did not meet certain minimum requirements. A third company will need to be more specific about its financing capabilities and commitments to remain in competition, although it may be able to satisfy the City's concerns.

That leaves two companies currently in the running - Earthlink Municipal Networks and Convergent Broadband.

Earthlink continues to expand its municpal WiFi services with current efforts in Anaheim (just launched), Philadelphia, San Francisco and New Orleans. The Houston deal would be, by far, its largest WiFi project to date.

Convergent is a Houston group led by former Reliant Energy Chairman Don Jordan.

Both firms have put together bids with other partners for the expansive and expensive venture. Earthlink would work with Tropos Networks to provide its mesh network system and Motorola for hardware. Convergent has announced it would coordinate efforts with Tropos, IBM and Houston-based Criner-Daniels & Assoc., Inc.

The infrastructure for creating a seamless wireless network across Houston has been projected as high as $15 million. Direct negotations between the city and both companies will begin next week. According to the memo, the City is looking to "obtain the best possible terms for the public for the rapid deployment of the system; performance of the network; and a reasonable and competitive wholesale rate offered to Internet service providers."


Just received an email from an Earthlink spokesman...

"EarthLink is pleased to have been selected as a finalist to unwire Houston,"
said Cole Reinwand, VP of product strategy and marketing for EarthLink Municipal
Networks. "We look forward to sharing more with the City about EarthLink's
unique municipal Wi-Fi solution and how it can deliver affordable and portable
broadband service to the City's residents, visitors, workers and businesses."

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

When All Else Fails, Blame Technology

How far has the Internet come? It's pretty darn mainstream now when politicians are blaming the Web on their losses.

Sen. Joe Lieberman lost the Democratic nomination for a fourth term Tuesday in Connecticut. While voters probably elected his opponent due to Lieberman's support of the Iraq war, the Senator accused his challenger's supporters of hacking his campaign's web site.

According to the Associated Press, campaign manager Sean Smith accused Ned Lamont's supporters of breaking into the web site,

"They have totally attacked our website and e-mail system," he said.
"Voters cannot go to our website. They cannot access information," Smith said.
"It is a deliberate attempt to disenfranchise voters."

Lieberman's campaign said its web site began having problems Monday night and crashed for good at 7 a.m. Tuesday. Campaign officials have asked for a criminal investigation by state and federal authorities and has contacted the Connecticut attorney general's office.

Whatever happened to good old fashioned Chicago-style accusations and vote-rigging?

Compaq For Your Trip

What's the first thing I pack before a trip? Technologically speaking I charge my laptop and place it neatly in the padded compartment of my backpack.

So before I took off for a California vacation last week I stopped by the HP campus at the request of my HP marketing peeps to check out their new laptops. They wanted to show me some new gear for back-to-school and the upcoming holiday season. With my camera in tow (not an HP) I gassed up the car, packed a lunch and headed out Hwy. 249.

Deep inside Building 11 I was led into a conference room that looked like Christmas morning under the tree. Laptops, desktops and monitors, oh my! And these weren't your father's gadgets either.

HP recently launched a marketing campaign called "Personal Again." It focuses on the personal relationship people have with their computers. HP’s goal is to make the personal computer a more powerful personal tool and from the looks of the designs and features things are indeed getting personal.

I first gravitated to the Pavilion dv2000 Entertainment Notebook PC. It was closed but that showed off its signature feature - a piano black high-gloss finish combined with a pattern that is inspired by a Japanese Zen garden. Specs: 14.1" screen, 5.3 lbs, Intel Core Solo or Duo processor (an AMD chip will save you a few bucks). It can be configured many ways including a 128 MB NVIDIA GeForce card, up to 2GB DDR2 SDRAM, 100 GB hard drive, LightScribe DVD+/-RW with Double Layer support and more.

Parents should like the entry-level price of $729 (after rebate) but will probably soup it up with more specs. It tops out around $1600 which is a hefty price but this also becomes a home entertainment center.

I was offered to take this baby for a test spin on my trip and figured it would come in handy with my kids during the flight and week-long stay. A cool feature we had fun with was the built-in webcam. It's almost hidden on the inside top rim just above the monitor. Not only is it easy to videoconference but it also snaps pictures. We must have killed a gig during our flight out there snapping pics of everything on the plane. The boys then opened up the photos in the Paint program and drew beards on themselves for three hours.

HP's QuickPlay came in quite handy, too. A touch-sensitive interface lets you watch DVD movies and listen to music without booting up Windows. If you opt for the remote, which tucks away for storage in the ExpressCard slot, be sure not to lose it as its small. It lets you control the entertainment from up to 10 feet away.

Back at the HP campus...All of the notebooks in the room featured displays with the HP BrightView technology. The dv6000 has a 15.4-inch widescreen display with the same specs. Then there was the Compaq Presario series. The v3000 and v6000 also sport a glossy, patterned black finish. These don't offer as much entertainment features as the Pavilion series but still pack a powerful punch at a lower price point - starting around $679 after rebate.

I could go on and on with other things I saw like the Pavilion Slimline s7500 Series PC. Talk about the perfect size for a dorm room. It is a fully loaded PC about 1/3 the size of a traditional tower PC. You can easilty pick it up with one hand which leaves the other hand for reaching into your wallet for about a $450 starting price. And keeping with the Personal theme HP sells PC Skins to personalize your machine. Take a look at that link as its easier to see than explain.

And not missing the back-to-school beat, HP offers an Academic Purchase Program where qualified students and educators can take up to 15 percent off gear.

So you have two choices to use these laptops and PCs. Either go on a vacation with me or suck it up and buy one.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Security Week

Watch out for "Microsoft Tuesday" this week when the Redmond, WA, giant releases twelve new patches - 10 for Windows and 2 for MS Office. No worries, they're just practicing for Vista when it will be all gooood. If you can't wait for that you can download Internet Explorer 7 Beta 3 which will be included in the new OS. I've been using it for several months and have had no major issues. I'm finally getting used to the tabbed browsing.

Computers are flying off shelves now and will continue to sell at a rapid pace over the next few weeks as kids go off to school. As always, make sure every system is running an antivirus program, spyware snuffer, firewall and more. Hey, this is your lucky week! The good folks at Zone Labs sent me several dozen copies of their Zone Alarm Internet Security Suite.

I'll be anti-creative and just give away a copy to every caller on my show this Saturday, August 12 (while supplies last). Tune in and ask for one.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Coming Back To Reality...Slowly

The weekend approaches and thus my time on the Left Coast is coming to an end. Trying to grab the last bit of sun today so I can shine back home next week.

Got to love this part of the country, especially LaLa Land. We're in Orange County - about an hour south of LA - but we get the local LA TV stations. With all the wacky stuff going on the in world including Israel-Lebanon, massive heat waves, gas prices and more, the top story on every station this past week here has been the Mel Gibson incident. I now know what really drives this town. Gibson has been getting dissed and pissed on from this end. Though I usually just laugh off these celebrity meltdowns I am with the majority on this one. Boycott everything he does from now on. Loser.

I plan to do my show from out here on Saturday. Have to remember it starts at 10am PST so I need to be sure to wake up earlier. Lots of news to cover regarding the Time Warner pull out. I've been working the phones and email out here trying to line-up a rep from TW or Comcast. No luck yet but I do have comments from interested parties and competitors plus a checklist of what may happen and what current TW/Roadrunner customers need to do to prepare for a switchover. And if you have an AOL account, I can help you try to kill your account since many features are now free.

Tune and log on to the webcam. I'll try to zoom in on the waves.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Road Runs Out

More on the Time Warner exodus from H-Town:

Comcast already owns the Houston system jointly with TW, but TW has operated and managed it. There will apparently not be any immediate changes from the customer's point of view, aside from the name on the bill. Price, equipment and service will stay the same at least for the time being.

The biggest question I have which no one at TW or Comcast can answer yet...WILL TW CARRY THE NFL NETWORK IN TIME FOR FOOTBALL SEASON?!? I've been calling out TW on this issue for the past several months. Beginning this year some games will be shown on the NFL Network. Since TW Houston does not currently carry this channel a lot of Houstonians are out of luck. This really dosn't effect Texans fans as they don't play a game carried by this network this season. But for us Cowboys fans we may be SOL on Saturday, Dec. 16.

DISH time...

The Coyote Won


It looks pretty official...According to my boy Mike McGuff, here is the ABC 13 story.

Just heard from Ray Fohr on behalf of AT&T:
"It's a good time for customers caught in this cable-company property trading to think about where they're getting their broadband, entertainment and voice services. Our customers don't have to wonder who their provider will be next month. AT&T has been serving the Houston market for more than 100 years, and offers its customers great bundle prices on broadband, with DISH entertainment and reliable voice services."
As I stated below, GAME IS ON!!!

Wondering why my cell phone and Blackberry started going crazy early this morning (6am California time)...

AOL and it's parent Time Warner Inc. made some big announcements today. AOL seems to be changing its business model and giving away the farm. Free email and software for everyone! I talked about this on my show a few weeks ago regarding a rumor but now its official. The bean counters realize that more free services should translate into more traffic which in turn should mean more ad revenue. Make sense to you? We'll see if it makes sense to them soon.

And bigger news - at least locally - Time Warner appears to be moving out of the market in a subscriber swap with Comcast Cable. I have a call into TW Division President Ron McMillan and will update you if and when I hear back from him.

That's pretty big news, certainly for me, as I was a part of the initial rollout of TW's Roadrunner service about 6 years ago. It was indeed the "fastest, smartest, easiest way to the Internet" and I enjoyed people chasing me through parks, golf courses and coffee shops asking me about the service.

But the broadband land has changed since then and more options abound. While RR had a large share of the Houston-area market their prices continued to escalate. At the same time DSL prices have dropped and I'm guessing this news may escalate into a broadband marketing war. RR customers aren't going to be happy when they have to change their email addresses (not immediately, however).

Look for AT&T (the new AT&T) to capitalize on this opportunity. They already offer DSL around $15 per month and with new products like HomeZone and U-verse, they are poised to deliver TV and video with more options than a cable company. I also have a call into my contacts there and awaiting an official response.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Today In History

Blogging from the Left Coast...

I noticed today is August 1st. It's always been a fun trivia question of mine. It was back in 1981 when MTV launched itself today. It no doubt changed the media industry in terms of pop culture, advertising and more. The question: What was the first video aired on MTV? "Video Killed The Radio Star," by The Buggles (a classic one-hit wonder).

Before MTV, August 1st was famous, or actually infamous, for another event. That whackjob Charles Whitman climbed to the top of the University of Texas tower and shot 16 people. I always felt a bit connected to that story for several reasons. My mother is from Austin and her family recounted that day to us many times. My uncle was in high school not too far away from campus and wanted to drive down to check out the scene. His parents (my grandparents) wouldn't let him.

Whitman was also an Eagle Scout and apparently one of the youngest persons ever to achieve that rank. I, too, am an Eagle Scout reaching that level at the young age of 13; also one of the younger scouts ever to hit that. My first merit badge was Rifle & Shotgun. I think I have have shot a gun twice since then - all at clay pigeons. Too bad that weirdo didn't put his marksman skills to the same test.