The High-Tech Texan Blog

Thursday, January 31, 2008

I Left My Heart (and wallet) in...

Great trip to San Francisco this past weekend. As you heard from our live broadcast we hit many places and had a wonderful, non-sober time in Napa Valley.

The last day of our trip was just as nice with a limousine tour of Marin County. The super folks at Beau Wine Tours Luxury Transportation & Destination Management sent a wonderful driver for us who knew everything about the city.

We were picked up at our downtown hotel and driven to sites I personally have never seen, including Twin Peaks. Wow - what a view!

We then crossed the Golden Gate Bridge to beautiful spots such as Tiburon, Sausalito and Muir Woods. Had an incredible lunch near Mt. Tamalpais at The Mountain Home Inn (another great recommendation by Beau Wine Tours).

I plan to have Rose Kapsner from Beau Wine Tours on my show to share her knowledge about the San Fran area and enlighten us with her tour services. In the meantime if you plan to hit that part of the country soon, call them to take your around and plan your sightseeing.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another new communication innovation

Here's a little secret (or sneak preview) of something pretty unique that will be happening very soon at some of our local radio stations.

Talk radio hosts pride ourselves on talking to and with our listeners. It's been easy...dial 713-212-5950 (for my particular station) and you can get on the air. For several years we have been reading emails at computers in front us (for some of us who know how to use email) and last year we implemented an IM feature (again, for some of us who know what IM is).

I have hosted my own videoconference silmulcast since 2006 and soon we will put the power of communicating with us in the hands of a device that most everyone has - a cell phone!

Our AM stations (The 9-5-0, 790 The Sports Animal and NewsRadio 740 KTRH) will soon launch a texting service to contact the hosts and receive breaking news, sports, weather, traffic, contests and of course, the all-important technology news and updates.

I volunteered to jump start this effort which will begin on-air in a few weeks. HOWEVER, for my blog readers, go ahead and join now. Ssshhhh...

From your cell phone, text TECH to 777111. Welcome to to my club. You'll never know what you'll get.

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Is Qtrax legit?

I know something is hot when my cell phone wakes me up early in the morning. Usually its either bad family news or someone wants to ask me a question about a tech story.

Qtrax has been topic du jour. KTRH and ABC 13 called this morning wanting to know if this new, free music downloading service is legit. It has been around for a while - back from the Napster days - but they just announced a service for free music downloads, apparently doing a deal with several music labels.

A quote from a press release I just received:

After a decade fighting to stop illegal file-sharing, the music industry will give fans today what they have always wanted: an unlimited supply of free and legal songs.

With CD sales in free fall and legal downloads yet to fill gap, the music industry has reluctantly embraced the file-sharing technology that threatened to destroy it. Qtrax, a digital service announced today, promises a catalogue of more than 25 million songs that users can download to, free and with no limit on the number of tracks.

The service has been endorsed by the very same record companies - including EMI, Universal Music and Warner Music – that have chased file-sharers through the courts in a doomed attempt to prevent piracy. The gamble is that fans will put up with a limited amount of advertising around the Qtrax website’s jukebox in return for authorised use of almost every song available.

The service will use the “peer-to-peer” network, which contains not just hit songs but rarities and live tracks from the world’s leading artists.
Apparently there was an issue with the release which was supposed to happen last night. Three of the four major labels (Universal, EMI, Warner Bros.) denied signing a deal with Qtrax. However, the site is still offering up albums by EMI artists Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd.

How is free? Qtrax uses a program where the labels are paid in ad revenues on a per-download basis, allowing Windows users to download DRM-encoded WMA files, making them playable on some portable music devices—but supposedly not iPods. While there are conflicting reports about the adaptability of the files, an Apple version of Qtrax is expected to launch in March.

I'm going to hold off for a while before using the service but will continue to monitor the situation.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Say It Ain't So. SeeqPod Sued

I've been a huge fan of SeeqPod since it launched last year. Even named it my favorite website of 2007.

The site's tagline is "playable search." Type in a song or artist and up pops audio and video results that can be played on the spot. Oh and it's free. Plus it works great on an iPhone.

Local blogger Mike McGuff ("the WebDog") alerted me to the fact that my most cherished site is being sued by Warner Music. To paraphrase the infamous Chris Crocker, "LEAVE SEEQPOD ALONE!"

Or as Dion & The Belmonts sang, keep away...


Thursday, January 24, 2008

LIve blogging from Tech Expo

At Sam Houston Race Park emceeing a day-long technology expo focusing on IP solutions. Total Technologies and ShoreTel are hosting. About 300 IT folks are here learning about VoIP and other products.

Saw that Walt Mossberg reviewed the MacBook Air. His conclusions:
If you value thinness, and a large screen and keyboard in a subnotebook, and
don’t watch DVDs on planes or require spare batteries, the MacBook Air might be
just the ticket. But if you rely on spare batteries, expect the usual array of
ports, or like to play DVDs on planes, this isn’t the computer to buy.

I haven't even seen the device yet and that's roughly how I summed it up last week on my show.

Good news for AT&T customers and the broadband industry in general. The San Antonio-based company announced it is boosting speeds - up to 10 Mbps downstream and up to 1.5 Mbps upstream. It will be available in February for $55 a month when bundled with U-verse. And you know I am a big fan of U-verse.

Customers also gain access to its WiFi network with free unlimited connectivity at more than 10,000 AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots. Wish they had a WiFi spot up here at the race track. I'm logged on via AT&T's accelerated data card. Pretty fast but a WiFi would be sweeter.

I'm here until 3:30pm. Drop on by if you'd like or update the comments sections with any breaking news.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

No Joke, He Gone

28 year-old actor Heath Ledger was found dead in his NYC apartment this afternoon. Wonder how this is going to effect the marketing of the upcoming Batman movie, The Dark Knight, in which he plays the Joker?

No one in our Dead Pool had him on his list. That could have been a potential game winner.

I posted this YouTube clip on my 9-5-0 page but here it is again in case you didn't find it there. Very prophetic. I should have taken Prince Akeem's advice on the NFC Championship game 19 years ago. That would have paid well.

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Eastern Syndicate

Great, another Boston-New York championship game. Just what we need.

I'm not a fan of the Least Coast, especially the northeastern section of our country. Hate the time zone. The Bawston accents. The NY cockiness. Now we have to go through the annual two-week hyperbole of "the greatest game ever played."

I'm still pissed the Cowboys blew it in the Divisional Round but the fact that their division rival Giants are going all the way only fuels the fire. I guess I'll root for the Pats only to wach them run the table at 19-0. But I'll definitely take the 14 points that Vegas is giving the Giants.

I'm more interested in learning about the TV spots airing during the Super Bowl. $2.7 million per 30 seconds is again a record amount but most all of the advertisers will realize most of that money in the exposure leading up to the game.

We'll soon see snippets of the ads on YouTube, sponsor websites and entertainment shows. USA Today will have a daily watch of celebrities, athletes and pets starring in them. We already know that Justin Timberlake will dance in a Pepsi ad with an Amazon tie-in. Note: free music downloads!

Oh well, we'll still celebrate February 3 around here. I turn XLIII.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Into Thin Air

Take a guess what we'll be yapping about on Saturday's show? Tune in to hear the thinnest radio program on the airwaves. It's thin. It's fast. It's sleek. Did I mention thin?

Macworld gives us some interesting fodder - iTunes rentals, does anyone care about Apple TV (version 1 or 2) and are the latest updates for the iPhone enough for you?

If you are a new Time Warner Internet subscriber in Beaumont and plan to download a fair share of things, get ready to pay. I don't like this new pay-as-you-go pricing tier so we'll see if this experiment catches on.

We've got interviews with Toyota peeps about their new green initiatives, the CEO of ShoreTel calling in from London (wonder if he's gonna use VoIP???) and of course we'll recap the marathon and Aramco Houston Half Marathon. If I can run 8:17 per mile then you can hang with us for 3 hours on Saturday (11a-2p CST) on The 9-5-0.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A Small Slice of Apple

Thinnovation is how Apple describes its latest product and biggest announcement at this year's Macworld. The MacBook Air is, according to Apple, the world's thinnest notebook.

That's all well and good. I want to be thinner, too. But is being thinner gonna make things better? The market will tell soon. (Speaking of market, the market didn't seem too impressed with Steve Jobs' keynote speech this year as AAPL stock was down almost 5 1/2% as of late afternoon)

The MBA weighs a mere 3 lbs and is 0.76 inches at it widest, tapering down in a wedge to an incredibly small 0.16 inches. It has a full-size back-lit keyboard, a back-lit LED 13.3-inch monitor and a sizeable track-pad. The MacBook Air will retail for $1799, fitting it in between Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro lines.

It has some guts, too. A 1.8 inch 80 GB hard drive, which the company has "shipped in tens of millions of iPods and we know them well," Jobs said. A 64 GB SSD hard drive is also available. The motherboard, which has a 1.6 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, which can be upgraded to 1.8 GHz, is shorter than a No. 2 pencil with chips that are 60 percent the size of Intel's run-of-the-mill Core 2 Duo processors.

Kind of like they put a MacBook in a vice.

My first concern is battery life. I'm used to big batteries. Thicker and heavier should mean longer. But Apple says you'll get up to 5 hours of batt life.

As I pointed out from my CES reports, green seems to be the "in" thing in 2008 and Apple is hopping on the hybrid bandwagon. The casing is aluminum, which Jobs called "highly recyclable," and the display is Apple's first to use glass that is both mercury and arsenic free. It's small form also reduces packaging to 56 percent of that which encases a regular MacBook.

Jobs also unveiled the Time Capsule remote backup appliance. Time Capsule is designed to sync using Time Machine, the backup software contained in its Mac OS X Leopard operating system and can be set to create automatic hourly backups. Time Capsule connects to any Mac notebook or PC in a network using Wi-Fi and comes with either 500 GB or 1 TB of storage space for $299 and $499 respectively.

iTunes Movie Rentals

iTunes has sold 4 billion songs and 7 million movies so why not make it easier to download more, asks Jobs. And here's another revenue opp to make that AAPL stock go up...most all major movie studios have signed on to deliver movies that can be viewed on a Mac, iPhone or a TV, using a new version of Apple TV (wait for it...).

In February, Apple will launch this new library with 1,000 films. You can watch them instantly; they download as you start watching. You have 30 days to watch the movie after you download it, but only 24 hours to watch it after you start the movie. Library titles: $2.99. New release: $3.99.

Not bad but you could see movies earlier by renting the DVD. The company had to make a concession with the studios - Apple won't get them until 30 days after the DVD release.

Apple TV Take 2

Last year's "oh-by-the-way-we're-releasing-this-in-addition-to-the-iPhone" product was Apple TV. A $299 device that allowed iTunes movies to be delivered to a TV. Wasn't a huge hit. Back to the drawing board with upgraded features and a lower price ($229).

No computer is required to work with this new version so you can now rent movies directly on your widescreen TV in both DVD and HD quality with Dolby 5.1. I do like the fact that photos from Picasa and Flickr can also be shown on your TV via the new device.

[as Jobs tried to demo this feature in his presentation the inevitable glitch occured and nothing happened. If a SNAFU like this can happen to Bill Gates then Steve Jobs is fair game, too]

New iPhone Features

According to Jobs, Apple sold almost 20,000 iPhones a day since its release in June 2007. That's 4 million iPhones. He didn't talk about a new iPhone (that will probably be around holiday time this year) but he did show off some new features for the current models.

The smart phones are now capable of leveraging Google Maps to allow users to pinpoint their location on a map. While the iPhone contains no GPS device, using Google cellular capabilities and a Wi-Fi hotspot tracking company called Skyhook, the device can locate itself.

The new iPhone software also allows users to conduct multiple SMS conversations at once, create Web links and embed them in the home screen or doc, and to search videos by chapter and watch with subtitles or in foreign languages.

For the iPod Touch (which is pretty much an iPhone without the phone) these updates to the mail, maps, stocks, notes and weather apps can be had for $20 via iTunes. That is ludicrous to me. Just give updates away, we just shelled out $399 for a 16GB iTouch. C'mon bro!

One More Thing

That's it? After last year's iPhone announcement we expect so much from Apple during Macworld. Not that the world's thinnest notebook and customizable home screens on iPhones aren't impressive. But Jobs created a PR monster that must keep growing to maintain buzz, grow market share and keep his shareholders happy.

Apple got a ton of pub today but it remains to be seen about those other goals.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Romo Is No Mo'

A day of ups-and-downs. I finished the Aramco Houston Half Marathon with a personal best time of 1:48. For an aging guy I am satisfied with an 8:17 pace for the 13.1 miles. So I was pumped the rest of the day until...

...ugh. The Cowboys game. I knew the Giants + 7.5 points looked good early in the week. I could have made a mint had I taken the Giants on the money line. Alas, my plans to spend my birthday in Glendale, Arizona, watching the Cowboys in the Super Bowl are gone. Party at my house instead.

Hope everyone enjoyed our live broadcast on Saturday from the Roger Clemens Institute Marathon Expo. Yes, that was the title sponsor. Everyone received a syringe and a vial of Lidocaine. And wouldn't you know it, all 21,000 runners finished in world-record time.

Thanks to Aramco Services Company for letting us set up shop in their booth at the Expo. We will return to normal in-studio programming next Saturday.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Live from Houston Marathon Expo

Back from the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas so tune in today and catch all the updates and inside info of what we saw. And there's nothing better than running a marathon right after you spent 4 days in a crowded, smoky, alchohol-filled town.

I'm actually running the half marathon on Sunday and to get in the spirit we will be broadcasting today from the Houston Marathon Expo at the GRB. If you plan to come downtown to pick up your running bib or if you just want to see some health-related companies come down and join us for the show from 11a-2p. We will be in the Aramco booth towards the back of Hall D.

One of the trends that was prevalent at CES...touch controlled gadgets, not unlike the iPhone. Many new phones, PDAs and remote controls will have smooth glass screens with virtual keypads.

Toshiba was showing off a new way to control devices WITHOUT a device. Here's a shot of me working a DVD with simple gestures of my hand. A small camera at the top of the laptop captures movement of your hand and fingers. This is one of the many innovations that were on display that are not on the market yet and gets you to wonder if they ever will. Or are they a one-time mock up put together to garner PR for the company (congrats, Toshiba. It worked)

Oh yeah, don't forget...CHOCOLATE RAIN!!

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Monday, January 07, 2008

Send Money!

#1, I haven't done well at the craps tables in the 8 hours I've been here.
B) I saw me some cool new gadgets at CES and they ain't gonna be cheap.

The official convention does not begin until Monday but today was pretty full. Popped in to Bill Gates' keynote speech where he said Microsoft will continue to dominate the world once they figure out how to catch Google.

Watched Dr. Dre and the CEO of Monster Cable (on a Segway) debut a new line of Bluetooth stereo headphones.

Bumped into Carson Daly as he was headed to his booth to pimp some new website he is doing.

And look here, it's Paul Hochman of NBC's TODAY Show. Nice guy but he's got to lose those geeky glasses.

For much more frequent updates check out Twitter and my new Utterz account for instantaneous photos from the show.


Sunday, January 06, 2008

Now on Utterz

Off to CES in Vegas. You can follow my posts on Twitter and photos/audio on Utterz.

What happens in Vegas gets blogged, Twited and Uttered.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

1/1/08. Did ya get what you wanted for the holidays? Have you returned anything (or everything)? Cashed in those gift cards?

I've been hearing from a lot of people and, for the most part, everyone seems happy with their gifts. I'm still sending suggestions on what to buy with those gift cards. Slingbox anyone? Other options I like...

In other news, T-minus 413 days until the end of analog TV broadcasts. The Department of Congress finally launched a site with information about digital converter boxes. If you have any type of cable, satellite, U-verse or digital system, there is not much need to sweat the February 17, 2009, cut off date. Even if you have an older TV set that is hooked up to one of these content delivery systems, you are good to go.

But for those Luddites who pull down their local TV signals via rabbit ears, I might suggest logging online (if they have a PC) or calling 1-888-DTV-2009 to request a $20 coupon for converter box. Coupons will be mailed by this March and be valid for 90 days. If not, then I guess the only electronic medium for you will be radio. And feel free to tune in to The 9-5-0.

I'm off to the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this Sunday and will report back all the news that's fit to blog. Let me know if you are interested in a particular product or rumor and I will try to check it out.

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