The High-Tech Texan Blog

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Golf Tourney and more

I hate apologizing for "light blogging" as I it's technically not my job to keep up my blog and God knows if anyone even reads this thing. But I have been pre-occupied for a while...

This coming October 15 is my 4th annual golf tournament. The Land Tejas Company and I coordinate a large event each year to raise funds for MDA. I recently presented a check on the Channel 2 Jerry Lewis Telethon for $85,500 from last year's tourney. We have been hard at work these past few weeks as we are shooting for $100,000 or more this year.

While we were away:

Halo 3 was released. Oops, some disks were scratched but it netted $170 million in U.S. sales on Day 1.
Americans are giving up friends and sex for web surfing.
A new phone service offers free calls in exchange for ads.
Amazon launched a DRM-free music site with songs as low as 89 cents.
Vonage lost its appeal in the Verizon case. It's stock is sinking quickly.
Ford will install HD Radio in most of its cars in 2008. A much needed boost for the service.

These topics and much more will be served up this Saturday on my show. BTW, this will be the final show in the 1p-4p slot. Beginning the following Saturday I recapture my long-time original time slot of 11a-2p. Got things to give away like Wings Over Houston tickets and ErgoWrap units so tune in.

And finally I would like to invite anyone reading this (anyone out there?) to consider joining me and 250 friends in a fun-filled day of golf, food, drink, prizes and local celebs. The Land Tejas/Michael Garfield Celebrity Golf Tournament will be held Monday, October 15, at Houston National Golf Club (Hwy 290 near Barker Cypress). Lunch and registration begin at 10am with a 12 noon tee time. Cocktails and dinner follow around 5pm and our goodie bags are worth the price of the donation (Nike golf shoes, embroidered jacket, hat, golf balls, gift certificates). Email me for a registration form. See you out there.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Houston Continues To Get Richer

I lunched with former Earthlink Muni WiFi Houston GM Steve Powell last week trying to comprehend the business decisions and meltdown of the cityside WiFi deal. Steve was recently let go from Earthlink along with about 100 other EL Muni WiFi employees.

Earthlink is technically still in the game of providing WiFi for Houston but it is a long shot that will come to light. They hold the contract to work with the city but would have to lean on other partners to get 'er done since EL has scaled back its plans to build out more cities.

In related news and fallout of this deal, the city's IT office led by Richard Lewis has let some of its staff go including Communications Director Mike Moore. Several contractors hired for the WiFi project have also been cut including former City Councilman Mark Goldberg.

We know the city is $5 million richer since EL cut a check for the penalty of not completing the project on schedule (or at all, for that matter). But until last week I hadn't heard about another recent payment of $1 million to the city for Earthlink's contractual commitment to the Digital Inclusion effort. The city's contract with EL called for them to pay the city $1 million the first AND second year when the project was completed. I have an unconfirmed report that EL will not be held responsible for the second $1 million.

And speaking of weird things happening at City Hall, check out this photo of Deputy Chief of Staff Terence Fontaine during a bike ride with Mayor White this past weekend. Is that a Dallas Cowboys t-shirt?? At the same time YOUR Houston Texans were playing the "biggest home game" in their history? Shame on you, Terence. That's about as stupid as me wearing my Troy Aikman jersey to the Texans-Cowboys first game at Reliant Stadium. I still have scars and bruises.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Saturday Show Info

Saturday's line-up will be a bit out of whack due to an afternoon Texas Tech football game broadcast. My show will air from 11a - 1:30pm. Kind of near my old (and orginal) start time, huh?

No need to tune in to the videoconference this weekend as we will run a repeat show. You'll still learn and laugh as usual but I need a day to spend repenting all of my "sins" this past year.

We're back next week at the regular 1pm show time but not for long...On October 6 the Saturday lineup changes and I move to 11a-2p permanently. Set your clocks.


Friday, September 14, 2007

iPhone Rebate Info...Finally

Just posted to the Apple web site; instructions on how to get your $100 credit. But here's a pisser - the credit can't be used on iTunes! That is exactly what I was going to get with my credit.

According to terms listed on the site, the credit can be redeemed only inside the United States, and cannot be used inside the iTunes store or for Apple store gift cards. So now what am I gonna do? I don't need anything from that store and if I did it would surely cost a lot more than $100.

Touche', Mr. Jobs. Another chapter to add in the "Changing The Game: How Apple Reverse Marketed The iPhone" book.

I can only assume that Apple ruled iTunes ineligible as there is relatively little profit margin in selling 99 cent songs. Typical retail stores can make around a 35% profit margin which means Apple is really giving away about 65 bucks in credit. 100 song downloads would not bring a windfall to the bottom line and since the majority of consumers would probably download songs with the credit very few would walk into a store (and thus buy something more expensive).

So here's the deal:
  1. Go to their site
  2. Fill in your cell phone number and the iPhone's serial number
  3. Stand by to receive an SMS message from Apple with an access code number
  4. Fill in the code you received
  5. Print or jot down the credit and PIN numbers

The site said that the SMS may take up to 5 minutes. It took about 30 minutes before I received mine. In a bit of irony I completed the process on my iPhone (not a computer) and thus couldn't print out the credit and PIN numbers nor cut-and-paste them to put them in an email to myself. Perfect.

I will say the credit process is extremely easer than typical rebates. I was prepared to bring my receipt into an AT&T store where I bought mine for $600. Leave it to the Cupertino Crew to simplify this, too.

So what would you buy with a $100 Apple store credit?

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Thursday, September 13, 2007

5768, NFL and Early Evening Radio

As pointed out in the previous post's comments, I wonder how I will be writing the year 5767 on my checks? (Thanks, Mr. Crap Man).

Hung around the house today planning on how to conquer the world this new year. Got in an extra helping of ESPN and saw lots of news...

Roger Goodell is STRONG. I think he's doing a helluva job as NFL Commish and really making his power felt. He slapped Bill Beli-Cheat with a $500,000 fine and the Patriots' first or 2nd and 3rd round draft picks next year for taping the Jets' signals. You go, Rog. And don't evah let Michael Vick back you in your league.

Our Dallas Cowboys (or maybe just MY Dallas Cowboys) were just named the world's most valuable sports franchise by Forbes Magazine. Jerry Jones' "little" investment in 1989 is now worth $1.5 billion. And who says the AFC is the better league? 3 of the top 5 most valuable teams are in the NFC EAST. And who says #2...Who says winning is a measure of a good team? Our Houston Texans (Ok, maybe YOUR Houston Texans) are #4 on the most valuable list. Sell now while the gettin's good, Bob.

Typing of football, The 9-5-0 is airing a Texas Tech game this Saturday for some reason. That will push my show back to a late start. Tune in around 6pm for my show this weekend.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Happy New Year

5768. I'm gettin' old.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Emirates Starting A Suite Service To Dubai

Dubai is hot. Literally and figuratively. It's been on my radar to visit one day and that's even before Matt Lauer popped by last May on his "Where in the World" tour.

Beginning in December Houstonians wanting to go to this paradise in the Persian Gulf will be able to fly non-stop from Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) on Emirates.
Emirates has announced it will begin the new passenger service in December of 2007, with flights three times a week from Bush to Dubai and plans to follow up with daily service by February 2008. This makes Houston the second U.S. city in the country, after New York, to receive direct passenger service to Dubai.

I attended a press conference at the Hobby Center where Emirates' Senior Vice President of Commercial Operations Nigel Page touted the new service and potential boon to the Houston economy. The highlight of the event - at least to me and most likely those planning to fly to Dubai - was learning about the innovations found in the plane to keep passengers entertained and fed on the 15 - 17 hour flight (depending which way).

Travellers on Emirates’ Airbus A340-500, B777-300ERs and B777-200s can choose from 600+ channels of in-flight entertainment (take that Comcast!). Its $8 million ice (information, communication and entertainment) system has over 140 movies and over 70 TV channels on demand, 350+ audio channels and 40 in-flight games.

Emirates is apparently so proud of its in-cabin features they brought along a working display of a first-class suite. Each pod-like suite has a sliding door for privacy. The seats lay back a full 180 degrees. The polished wood and leather reminded me of riding in a new BMW.

Each suite is controlled by a wireless panel similar to a large PDA. Instead of staring at a seatback these pampered passengers will be awed by a 19 inch flat-screen monitor. Need a cocktail or want to freshen up a bit? Not a prob as a minibar and makeup lighting vanity mirror are at your fingertips.

Luxury doesn't come cheap as we know. A first-class round-tripper will cost upwards of $12,000 and I would hope I got to empty the minibar and then some.
Of course all this looks and feels good in a press release and a mocked-up cabin but the real test comes when actually sitting (and laying) on the plane for the trip halfway 'round the world. I'm trying to figure out how I can broadcast my show from the cabin so I can write it off as a business expense. Stay tuned for a few months...

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Sunday, September 09, 2007

Hop To It. Kangaroo TV Is For Ultimate NFL Fans

I used to hate leaving my home as I missed too many of my favorite TV programs. Of course this was before VCRs and then DVRs but I was a homebody growing up. As a sports fan I really hated missing games of my teams.

The folks at Kangaroo TV must love TV and sports as much as I do. Their handheld devices allow spectators at sporting events to tune in the action they are watching, including camera angles and interviews not possible through your plain old binoculars.

The company has rented these small wireless units at Formula 1 and NASCAR races for the past few years. But Kangaroo has hopped down to Houston via a deal with the Texans and DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket.

The Texans are one of four NFL teams to offer Kangaroo TV service this year. Here's how it works:
  • Visit a kiosk on game day at Reliant Stadium and bring your credit card. Fill out a quick information sheet and pay $24.95 to rent the device during that game. You can also rent it for the entire season at $129.95. There is a web site to rent it online and pick it at the stadium.
  • The unit comes in a bag with headphones, neck strap, battery charger and an extra battery. Turn it on, plug the headphones in and you are in business.
The units only work inside the stadium on game day as the content is delivered through the NFL Sunday Ticket via DirecTV. It's wireless so you can tote it to the snack stand, mezzanine and bathroom so as not to miss one play.

I tried Kangaroo at the Texans season opener thinking I would solely watch other early games instead of watching our home team stink it up. To everyone's surprise the Texans played like champs which kept my eyes going back and forth between live action on the field and the seven other games being played around the NFL.

There were no instructions other than the 20-second explanation from the nice girl who rented me the unit. It took me about the first quarter of the game to figure out everything to view but then it was easy to maneuver.

Kangaroo shows live video for up to 10 games including the Texans' feed. The device has a color screen about 3 1/2 diagonal inches. It is certainly not HD and the picture was a bit jumpy at times probably because I was walking around parts of the stadium with less than stellar wireless coverage.

But the ability to watch the action from all those games is great. Other content features include real-time fantasy stats from, game stats from across the league, DIRECTV Red Zone channel and even CBS and FOX pre-game shows

Kangaroo TV is not for everyone especially the die-hard home team fan who wants to concentrate on nothing other than the game on the field and who is bringing him his next beer. It is a perfect way for fans of other teams who want to monitor those games while cheering for the Texans.

The Texans are 1-0 since Kangaroo came to town. Let's hope they continue to offer the service through the Super Bowl.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Clear Channel Actually Does Something Good (I Think)

Maybe one day you'll be able to push a button a get a HD podcast of your favorite Clear Channel radio show.
Clear Channel Radio will soon offer high-definition digital radio
on Apple iPods as part of the computer company's Apple iTunes

Through Polk Audio's I-Sonic Entertainment System 2, Apple iPod users
will be able to listen to as well as push a button to purchase songs broadcast
in HD digital radio.

Clear Channel Radio has been working to make HD2 multicasts available
through its terrestrial radio stations. By purchasing a high-definition
receiver, radio listeners can access multiple channels through a single

The company has been making digital channels available to listeners
through the sale of multicast devices at retailers.

Clear Channel Radio currently broadcasts more than 400 stations in HD
digital radio and more than 300 additional HD2 multicast channels.

"Apple has been a strong supporter of radio, previously making an FM
tuner available for the iPod, and we view their support of HD digital radio as
an enormous opportunity," Clear Channel Radio President and CEO John Hogan says.

"All of our FM stations broadcasting in HD digital radio will be
available on these important and unprecedented devices," he says. "With
substantial gains in online and on-demand programming already under our belt,
there should be no doubt of radio's ability to constantly evolve and embrace new
technology. The iPod is not a competitor to radio; it is a collaborator in
connecting with consumers on a continual basis."

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Comcast Cutting Back Service From Some Customers

Remember a few months back when Sprint told about 1,000 of its customers to hit the road because they were spending too much time complaining to customer service?

Some Sprint customers were tying up its customer service lines with as many as 50 complaint calls a month — often about the same complaint. One look at the cost and revenue equation for these customers, and it’s easy to see why Sprint told the worst offenders to look elsewhere for their cell service.

But is this worse?

Comcast has recently cut Internet service to bandwidth hogs. The cable company stated that customers who consistently download music and video are hogging capacity and slowing down the network for other customers.

Like Sprint did with its complaining customers last June, Comcast sent letters to its heavy Internet users warning them they were using too much bandwidth. Some customers reported that after cutting back usage they were still cut off from service.

So how much Internet usage is too much? Comcast declined to reveal specific bandwidth limits nor would they say how many customers have had the plug pulled.

This actually is an issue that could effect cable companies as a whole. Cable companies like Comcast, Time Warner and Cox have basically acted as monopolies in their respective markets. But now that telephone companies like AT&T and Verizon have entered the picture and installed lines that can carry more Internet traffic, cable companies are facing pressure - and bandwidth issues.

On cable networks, several hundred subscribers often share an Internet connection, so one high-traffic user could slow the rest of a neighborhood's connections. Phone lines are run directly to each home, so a single bandwidth hog will not slow other connections.

Comcast said it gives customers a month to fix problems or upgrade to business accounts before shutting off their Internet service. Its recent announcement of rate increases in Houston have already triggered outbursts from customers. The first report of a customer's cable service being shut off here should cause even more fireworks.

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Thursday, September 06, 2007

100 song downloads for iPhone owners

Even Steve Jobs can admit when he pisses of customers. Less than 24 hours after announcing a $200 price cut - or 1/3 of its price - on the iPone, Jobs & Co. read its emails, blogs and, most important, watched its stock price take a dive yesterday. So for us suckers who shelled out the full $600 price for an 8GB iPhone, Apple is giving us a little gift.

A $100 rebate to be used at an Apple store or their online store. 100 bones don't go a long way for anything Apple but you could get a Nano (but if you have an iPhone there may be no need for another music device). I got a sweet pair of Sennheiser earphones there last year for $79.

But me guesses that most of these rebates will be put towards a gift card to iTunes. That's about 100 song downloads before taxes or maybe 50 TV shows.

Details about the rebate will be available on the Apple website soon.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

UPDATE: New iPods Coming

I rarely visit the Apple web site but I happened to check their online store this morning to see if they carried an iPod accessory I was looking for. The online store appears to be down at the moment, perhaps in anticipation of a whole new line of products to be introduced this afternoon.

If rumors and blog speculation hold true, Apple will announce a touch-screen iPod with a 3.5-inch display at a San Fran media event. Other rumors suggest that iPods will have some sort of wireless capability (imagine that, a wireless way to download songs to a mobile device).

In related news from Microsoft that they say is unrelated (whatever), the Zune price is dropping $50 to $199. Microsoft says the cut is "part of the normal product lifecycle, something we've had on the books for months." Wonder why it took them so long to discount the popular Xbox???

Microsoft continues to chip away at Apple news today by stating that a mobile phone based on it's Zune digital media player 'is not an unreasonable move'. I'd like to go on the record now stating that I may turn my car into a spaceship. I think they are as many Zune players in the market as I have cars.

I did just provide NewsRadio 740 KTRH with comments on Google's rumored mobile phone. The "GPhone" could possibly offer free wireless service in exchange for listening or watching advertisements. If any company is in the position of bringing a deal like this to market it is Google. They have extensive relationships with the advertising and mobile communities plus have pockets so deep Bill Gates may ask to borrow lunch money. No confirmed plans or date of the GPhone.

UPDATE: Wi-Fi, Starbuck, Ringtones, iPod Touch, oh my.....

UP-UP-DATE...I wish I could sell these things. My inbox is overloaded with questions about the new iPods; it would be simple to link to my online store and sell them. But since I haven't touched or heard them for myself yet all you get is conjecture...

iPod Touch - Looks like an iPhone. Feels like an iPhone. No phone. I hate to say I told you so but harken back to my first full review of the iPhone on July 1 (paragraph 10 to be specific).

"This is an iPod"

And now the Apple designers took the sleek touch-screen design of the iPhone and removed the phone. Since I'm not a fanboy of stuff like this I'll let you read the early thoughts from TechCrunch. It ain't "sliced bread."

iPod Nano - Squattier but it had to be to add a 2-inch display for video. Apple says its thinner than the current Nano and has a 65% brighter screen with higher resolution. 4GB and 8GB starting at $149.

iPod Classic - Roll out an older model with a few improvements, slap on the word "Classic" and you've got a must-have product. Maybe. Thinner, all-metal design and it can hold up to 160GB (as every model should).

Apple said it is cutting the price of the 8GB iPhone by $200. That's a hefty 33% off the initial price two months ago. Sorry for all you early adopters (including me) but at least we made a lot of friends and got a lot of looks in July, huh? The 4GB model won't exist as it shouldn't have even been made in the first place.

iPhoners wanting personalized ringtones finally get their wish. $1.98 gets you a song download and a 30-second snippet of that song to use a ringtone. You can have up to 30 different ringers.

A new Wi-Fi iTunes Music store will be released where users can download songs to the iPod Touch. Music will be synced to iTunes when connected to a computer. Better news - and a long time coming - this service will be coming to the iPhone in about a month.

Steve Jobs touted a new relationship with Starbucks. In the iTunes music store, when you get near a specially-equipped Starbucks a special feature will launch letting you see what song is playing at the shop and a one-touch button to buy it. Who the hell cares what song is playing at Starbucks?? And what about us who don't drink coffee? Big deal.

Your turn. Thoughts???

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Monday, September 03, 2007

Pass The Quechup

Just what the world needs...another social networking site. Keep your MySpace and Facebook, continue playing with Twitter and Pownce and a few others, but stay away from freaking Quechup.

This new site describes itself as "the social networking platform sweeping the globe." And many of us know why. Spam, baby, spam. I received an invite from a friend/blogger who shall remain nameless (but I will link to him!) asking me to join over the weekend. My first thought was not to do it as I hardly even use my MySpace and Facebook accounts. But I try to research most things on the Net and I registered.

I thought something was fishy when it asked me for my password to one of my email accounts including Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, AOL and even Outlook. Quechup was going to do me a favor and send a nice email to every single person in my address book asking them to join. For some strange reason - maybe I was in a hurry or maybe God was looking over my keyboard - I mistyped my Gmail password. Instead of re-entering it I just blew it off and moved to the next screen.

That little hiccup saved about 3,000 of my close friends, relatives and business contacts a massive piece of spam email. Many people received this invitation and by joining themselves it spread faster than Breck shampoo.

DON'T JOIN QUECHUP! Some quick research found that the site is operated by a company called iDate. Its run by two brothers with a contact address in Las Vegas, though the site has a European feel. No comment from the company even after I sent about 3,000 emails to them.


Labor Day Telethon

If you missed Saturday's radio show then feel free to listen to the podcast. While there you can listen ABOUT podcasts from the local master himself, Russell Holliman.

Laurence Simon provided his ever-present wit (and TWITter). McGuff the News Dog even showed up with his new toy of the week (iPhone, uPhone, we all scream for technology).

Hope everyone is enjoying this rainy Labor Day. I spent a few hours at the Marriott Westchase this morning at the local broadcast of the MDA Telethon. I was honored to present a check for $85,500 on behalf of my annual golf tournament. If you would like to play and a have a blast this year send me an email; I'll get you information about the Land Tejas/Michael Garfield Celebrity Golf Tournament on Oct. 15, at Houston National Golf Club.

See you this Saturday at The Woodlands Home & Garden Show. On-stage at 12 noon and then live broadcast from 1-4pm.