The High-Tech Texan Blog

Friday, October 20, 2006

Come See Sneak Preview - AT&T U-Verse

It's here, kind of. AT&T has rolled out its U-Verse service in San Antonio and getting ready to turn it on in selected areas across Houston in mid-November.

U-Verse delivers high-speed Internet and television (yes, TV) through fiber optics. AT&T has been laying fiber in selected neighborhoods for the past several months and will first light up the Bridgeland community (Hwy 290 near Fry Rd) soon.

If you've never surfed or seen TV via fiber you will probably be impressed. The picture is crystal clear and there is no lag time when changing channels. It has a pretty intuitive interface and comes with a built-in DVR.

Come take the first local look at this service this weekend at the Bridgeland. I'll be out there from Saturday 2p-5p witht the AT&T mobile truck all pimped out with flat screens, stereo speakers and U-Verse service.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

IE 7 - Download and Go

Yes, download the thing. It's nice to know that many people (actually several dozen) took the time to think about and write me before downloading the new Internet Explorer 7. Just because something is new does not necessarily mean you need it or it will work better.

But in this case I have no issues recommending the new browser. I had been using the pre-release version for several months on my laptop. Soon after the link was posted on Microsoft's website last night I downloaded and installed it. 15 minutes start-to-finish. One reboot later and BOOM, I was surfing with tabs.

An avid listener of mine, Mike King, just pointed out that a vulnerability has already been discovered that could allow disclosure of private information and can be exploited by a remote system. Security notification firm Secunia reports that the same bug was discovered six months ago in IE6 but remains unresolved.

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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

You've Got Questions...

...Radio Shack has answers. But you'll have to sit in front of your computer for about a month to learn them.

The Ft. Worth-based retailer has launched online classes to help consumers learn more about high-def TVs, digital photography techniques, computer shopping tips and more. Several classes have already started and offered for free on Radio Shack's website.

Making this a true Texas-based venture, the technology powering the online classes is being run by Powered Inc., a private, Austin-based company that provides similar instruction for companies including HP and Sony.

You can register for classes now but why not just tune in to my radio programs and get the CliffsNotes version!

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Yahoo! IE 7 Is Here (Kinda)

We've been waiting for Microsoft to officially release the final version of Internet Explorer 7. As reported here and via commentary on my shows you could have been using the Release Candidates for a while. These versions are fully functional and just await the final tweaks to make them a GO for the world to use.

Microsoft plans to release IE 7 any day now through its Windows Update. But Yahoo beat them to punch. They just posted a version optimized for Yahoo. This includes Yahoo home pages, Yahoo as the default search engine and a Yahoo toolbar.

Unless you are a Yahoo yahoo my recommendation is to wait a few days until Gates & Co. pushes their version out. I'm a Google guy and swear by the Google toolbar. Though I could probably kill the Yahoo features on this version I am in no rush. I'm already using their final release candidate and it works just fine.
UPDATE: Yahoo only beat MS to the punch by a few hours. As of 8pm CT, Microsoft has posted the new version on its site. Go, Go, Go!!!


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Wanna See Something Cool?

I can't tell you much yet about Sony's new LCD TV dubbed Bravia, but there has been a huge buzz about its debut commercial. It was directed by Jonathan Glazer whose credits include videos for bands such as Jamiroquai, Massive Attack and Radiohead and some memorable ads for Guinness and Stella Artois.

The spot features massive paint explosions and, according to the press release, took 10 days and 250 people to film. Huge quantities of paint were delivered in trucks and mixed on site by 20 people. If that doesn't sound fun the cleaning took 5 days and 60 people.

70,000 liters of paint were used, 380 single bottle bombs and over 300 mortars. Though some of the mid-air paint explosions look a bit fake, I'm not complaining. Kind of makes you want to learn more about that new LCD they are pitching.


New Downtown Park Named "Discovery Green"

The rain delayed the "big" announcement yesterday but downtown H-Town has a new park coming with its new name...Discovery Green.

An unnamed source close to the project confirmed the name this morning. Guess the city didn't want to make it easier on tax payers by selling the naming rights. I don't think H-E-B Discovery Green would have been that bad. Hell, they already put a service mark on the name.

Then again, they have already named the Schiller Del Grande Restaurant Group as the preferred restaurateur so maybe Cafe Annie's Discovery Green may be on the horizon.

The name was apparently chosen from over 6,200 public submissions. In an ironic twist, the winning name ws submitted by a guy who works at the Pappas restaurant chain.

Nice tagline, though. "Discovery Green. See. Touch. Hear. Taste. Explore." They forgot "Pay For Parking."


Monday, October 16, 2006

Golf Tournament POSTPONED

Mother Nature isn't cooperating with us today as she is dumping a ton of rain all over the Houston area. A few things that don't go well together are rain and golf.

Thus we have POSTPONED my charity golf tournament today at Houston National Golf Club . For those of you planning to swing the sticks to raise money for MDA, please plan to join us for the rescheduled date of MONDAY, OCTOBER 30.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Pass On The Popcorn.Net

Here's a topic that took a life of its own on my show last Saturday. A caller asked me about something called Popcorn.Net (no hyperlink on purpose!). Apparently it is a service that alledges to download movies, music, TV shows and games for one monthly price.

What it actually is...EXTORTIONWARE. People have been signing up for a three day free trial but pop-ups and video messages tell them they have to pay for a subscription to the website for the messages to go away.

Stay away from this site and any links or emails from Popcorn.Net. It's a horrible virus that can not be removed using Microsoft's Windows Add/Remove Programs or by programs such as Symantec's Norton Anti-virus or AOL's Security Suite. Some anti-spyware programs have been able to remove it but not many.

If you did download this virus there are a few things to do to kill it. Try this first:
  • Step 1: press ctrl+alt+delete
  • Step 2: click the bar "processes"
  • Step 3: click on the process "licence_manager" and end the process
  • Step 4: go to the place "C:/program files/licence_manager"
  • Step 5: delete the file "licence manager"

If that does not work you can download a specific software removal program for this virus. One such program is from SpywareRemove. If you still have problems with the pop-up ads, call the company at 866-431-7720. And if you really are pissed, file a complaint with the FTC.

Feel free to send me your comments below if you experienced this problem.

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Big Day For Your Videos

Apparently Microsoft has a great sense of timing or they decided to roll the car out of the garage at an ironically good time. The MSN gang sent out a mass email to beta subscribers today to stand on their Soapbox...the same day that Google agreed to fork over $1.65 billion for YouTube.

My beta invite arrived late this afternoon and I heard from several people who got the same email today. One of the folks I used to work with at is on the Soapbox team up in Redmond. He said they burned the midnight oil for the past few weeks getting this product out the door.

As we have been talking about on the radio show for a while Soapbox is Microsoft's attempt at the video sharing craze. In typical MS form, it may be a little too little and a little too late. YouTube is the category killer here (see also iPod:Zune, AIM:MSN Messenger, Netscape:IE).

I just uploaded a few videos to my Soapbox account to test the process. I had a few issues with some formats - an .avi file did not seem to load on the site but this is why it is in beta mode. It supposedly will publish video from "any major digital video format (AVI, ASF, WMV, MOV, MPEG 1/2/4, 3GPP, DV, H.263, H.264)." Like YouTube it uploads relatively fast and there is a waiting period of at least several minutes while it is processed on their servers.

Interface seems pretty clean and some people are already using it as I received a comment on a video within a matter of minutes after uploading them. And like YouTube it is possible to embed the videos in any web page like this:

To see some of my other videos do a search on my name once you get in to the Soapbox website. I promise I will come up with more compelling video soon. If not I'm turning my video camera over to my kids.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Citywide WiFi Update

I've been tracking the City of Houston's efforts to build out a municipal WiFi for the past several months. The process began last April with several companies submitting bids for the very large-scale project. Back in May I hosted a live chat with Mayor White to take questions from the public about the initiative.

The city's Chief Technology Officer, Richard Lewis, has been keeping me updated with the status. He is in a "quiet period" in which he can not discuss many details however he was able to comment to me:
We have commenced definitive negotiations with the two highest rated proposers and are focusing on key deal terms (KDTs), i.e. viability of financial plan for $60 million network, amount of inclusion investments for low-income individuals, households and/or neighborhoods, which includes discounted subscription rates, free or cheap devices and skill development. Other KDTs include rates for government use and "anchor tenant" commitment, deployment plan, etc.

Keep tuned right here as I will post more news as it warrants.

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College Spirit/Storage To Go

USB Flash Drives have been a hot little product for the past several years. If you are on the go and need important documents, photos or even music, just load them on that little device and hang it on your keychain. I remember when they were pretty expensive - about $1 per 1 MB back in the day. Now they are very affordable and one of the easiest ways to carry and transfer data between computers.

PNY Technologies continues to innovate in the memory and drive industry. Their Attache USB Flash drives hold up to 4GB of data (more than my first computer!) and come in different models such as All-Terrain with a shock resistant rubberized housing.

With the college student and collegiate alumni in mind, PNY now has the Attache emblazoned with your favorite college team. And guess which one I have??

Each Collegiate Attache comes with a 3 ft USB cable and a lanyard for carrying it around your neck. Over 150 team logos are available - even Texas A&M (of course that one comes with a 200 page instruction booklet!). A 512 MB device sells for $14.99 and the 1 GB is $29.99.
Since UT leads all colleges in licensed gear I'm sure the great folks at the Austin campus thank you for your generous donation.

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Houston, We Are Impatient

But Austin has us beat. A study came out today listing the most impatient cities in America, according to research which examined where Americans are least likely to wait for the day-to-day conveniences of modern life.

I'll take this survey with a grain of salt just like I believe Houston was the fattest U.S. city (mainly because there are a ton of fast food joints in town). But it is interesting to see that 3 Texas cities are in the top 5.

Austin tops the list by a slim margin with the highest per capita "in and out" gyms, quick-copy centers and quick-change oil services. The city also ranks second in the number of WiFi hot spots and convenience stores, per capita. Indianapolis ranked second.

Houston wasn't far behind at #3. The city finished in the top half of every category but one, "in and out"gyms. Maybe our ranking will go up if and when we get citywide WiFi.

Dallas tied with Baltimore and Jacksonville for fifth place. It's interesting to see San Francisco come in fourth place as the west coast is supposed to be laid back. But they ranked high due to having more WiFi hot spots per capita than any U.S. city.