The High-Tech Texan Blog

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Shakin' in CA

Whilst on vacation in SoCal I had promised not to check in too often with blogs. But at 11:42am this morning the Earth kind of changed my mind.

EARTHQUAKE! My family and I are in the Newport Beach area. Orange County (The OC, as they say). About 35 miles south of the epicenter from today's 5.4 magnitude earthquake that rocked the Southern California area.

We've been coming out here almost every summer for the past 14 years and I've often wondered if we would ever get lucky (is that the word I'm looking for?) of getting rattled in a quake. At some point, I figured, the numbers would catch up and this morning they did.

I had been awake for several hours already, did my morning run of about 7 miles, had a bagel and was getting ready to hit the beach. Wanting to grab all the sun I could I decided to shave. As I was slowly dragging the razor across my face - and with all the luck and hilarity of an Airplane! II: The Sequel movie - the house started to sway to and fro.

At first I thought it was the young lady in the garage apartment above us moving some furniture but I quickly remembered she had gone to work earlier in the morning. I quickly realized it must be an earthquake. The floor started to move in the same direction and at that point I turned around and quickly walked out to the living room to check on the kids.

They were still watching Nickelodeon and didn't realize what was happening. I told them to come outside with me quickly as I noticed the lamp hanging over the dining room table swaying.

As quickly as we realized the earth was moving it had stopped. Several of the homeowners across the street peeked out their doors and windows to ask the same question we all wanted to know. Was that an earthquake?

It had only lasted about 10-15 seconds and contrary to what you normally hear it did not seem to last longer. It was quick and it was relatively calm. The motion did not seem to roll the ground in several different directions, just a smooth motion forward and backward. Nothing fell from the shelves in the house nor was there panic in the streets or dogs and cats living together. Only in the movies.

We went back in the house and I changed the channel from SpongeBob Squarepants to the local news. If you think we go crazy covering a hurricane in Houston then this was teh equivalent of a typhoon and tsunami hitting Galveston. There are many more local TV stations in the LA area and every one of them had choppers in the air, seismopgraphs popping up on screen and earthquake experts monitoring aftershocks.

The last tally I heard was 24 aftershocks within a few hours of the quake with two registering at least 3.0 in magnitude.

Within 25 minutes I received a cell phone text alert from KTRH about the earthquake. I called our newsroom and gave a quick report that aired shortly after. I plan to talk live with JP and Lana Wednesday morning at 8am CST.

Realizing this wasn't the Fred Sanford quake (the BIG ONE, Elizabeth!) I gathered up the fam and hit the beach. The lifeguards in Laguna said they felt their beach stand shake for a few seconds but saw no injuries.

It's kind of funny watching the news reports as the day progressed. While we in the Houston media seemingly enjoy warning (dire I say scaring) viewers and listeners with pre-Hurricane reports, it is the exact opposite with quakes in California. Reporters are busy telling us that while most everything was OK, California "dodged a bullet" but this was just an inkling of things to come over the next decade.

Maybe we'll be here again when Sanford goes to that big junkyard in the sky.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Week Off

Not much news other than the iPhone having hiccups, Steve Jobs looking deathly ill, Gateway ending direct PC sales and the FCC approving the Sirius-XM merger. So I'm taking a little time off to hit the left coast.

Saturday's show will be what we call a "Best Of" show (an oxymoron if you've ever heard one) but I will be back live from SoCal on August 2.

I may try to blog but I don't want to get suntan oil on the keyboard.


Friday, July 18, 2008

When Will iPhones Arrive At A Store Near You?

We've got a doozie of a show lined up on Saturday with a handful of guests to entertain and inform you. That's actually a little radio trick when you don't feel like preppin' and answering live questions.

I spent almost an entire week with hypermiling expert Dan Bryant so it is appropriate we begin with a recap of our Hybrid Tour of Texas. Dan was able to average 68.5 MPG during our 5-city jaunt between Houston, Corpus, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. He's got lots of tips for you.

We took a lot of photos on the trip and an executive with RocketLife will join me to discuss ways of creating photo albums by uploading pictures and designing the look of a printable book. Perfect timing for your summer vacation memories.

I hung out Friday at the new AT&T Store in Town & Country Mall. No less than a dozen people stopped in to see if they had the new iPhone in stock. Nope. In fact every AT&T Store in southeast Texas is completely sold out of the new gadget. But here is a secret page on Apple's
website to learn when Apple stores will receive their next shipments.

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

890 Miles and Back; See You at AT&T Store on Friday - iPhones?

Just got back from a 5 day, 5 city drive across this great state of ours. If you were not following along take a look back at how I and a hypermiler cruised almost 900 miles all to prove the point that driving a hybrid car and using hypermiling tips can save a ton of gas.

And, yes, Dan Bryant made it the entire way on ONE TANK of gas. Stay tuned for war stories we encountered on the road this Saturday on my radio show (11a-2p, The 9-5-0).

We'll be at Discovery Green on Friday at 11am to take some photos and officially finish the Hybrid Tour of Texas. Come on out if you want to see the Toyota Prius'.

After that I will get over to the new AT&T Store at Town & Country Mall - 790 West Sam Houston Pkwy North, #106. It's the grand opening and I'll be hosting a text contest from 12p-2p to see who has the fastest fingers in Houston. Bring the kids, they are eligible to win prizes like free Rollover minutes.

I tried to convince the nice people to hold back a few iPhones and sell them when I get there at 12p. They couldn't promise anything but I know they like surprising people. We shall see....

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Hybrid Tour of Texas In Full Swing

If you haven't been following our experiment on fuel economy, check out my daily blog as I drive around the state in a Toyota Prius.

We left Houston yesterday and drove 200 miles to Corpus. Final tally: 40.3 MPG. Not bad but my hypermiling buddy Dan Bryant got 61.8 MPG by using his unique driving skills.

You can follow our plight as we hit San Antonio, Austin and Dallas. Make sure to watch the video. It's going to be a long week but it's all in the name of technology, science, economy and efficiency.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

What Did You Do With Your Old iPhone?

Give it to your spouse? Let your kids have it? Use it as a paperweight? Here's my suggestion - find a Hollywood celebrity and sell it to him.

For the past few days I have been thinking of what to do with my iPhone version 1 when I got a new iPhone on Friday. I heard a few friends say they were going to sell their original iPhones to other friends for $100 or so. I checked eBay and saw several such devices for sale that sold for up to $350.

So not more than 2 hours after I bought a new iPhone 3G I went by my office at the Clear Channel Radio studios. I popped into the KTRH newsroom to show off my shiny new gadget and I glanced at this guy who looked very similar to actor/comedian Christopher Titus. I didn't think much of it as I poked my head into the 790 The Sports Animal control room.

Turns out that Christopher Titus was waiting to go on air with the morning guys to promote his weekend shows at Laff Stop. As I was showing the new iPhone to the producer, Titus and his entourage ran in to the room to see the device I was holding. While they were ooohing and aaahing, Titus said that his original iPhone was recently stolen out of the gym. He then jokingly asked how much I wanted for my old iPhone.

I told him what they were being sold for on eBay and said I will probably list it on there. Next thing I know he's whipping out his wallet and counting cash.
Congrats, Titus. You now own The HTT's iPhone. Use it well, my friend.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Deja 2.0

It was just one year and 12 days ago when I hung out at the AT&T Experience Store on the Southwest Freeway with a few hundred people waiting in line for iPhone 1. Things were a bit more calm this morning as about 150 people lined up by 8am to get their hands on Part Deux.

One noticeable difference from last year...a lot less media and newspeople were in attendance. A Chronicle reporter and videographer, a photographer from Metro News, a Fox 26 live truck and me and my producer from KTRH got the "exclusive" stories of consumers plopping down $200+ for the new gadget.

The local sales director, Leah Bird, was on hand to provide the requisite sound bites. According to her, most all 50 local AT&T stores had lines outside the door before 8am. Some as large as 200 people.

The doors slid open just before 8am and unlike the mass throng of people filing in to grab iPhones, pay, run home and activate, AT&T only let a handful in the store at a time. There was approximately 14 sales reps taking care of customers which means the other hundred or so people had to stand outside in the morning heat (and it was very toasty) to wait to get in the store.

Juan Velasquez, a 20 year-old Rice student, was the first in line at 11pm Thursday night. He and his buddy took turns sleeping in his car but both were giddy as the doors opened. His transaction of a white 16GB model took just over 15 minutes and as the sales process and day progressed, he seemed to be the lucky one with that relatively speedy check out.

AT&T and Apple had previously announced that all new iPhones would be activated at the stores, a departure from last year's simple process where owners activated their iPhones at home via a computer connection. When I paid for my 8GB model about 8:20am the sales rep started to activate my phone by downloading a rudimentary version of iTunes. After 15 minutes he decided to pull the plug (literally) and told me to activate at home. Reports across the Internet have said the same thing and most all stores are telling customers to activate it online at home. So much for the upgraded process.

Though most people are having issues getting through to the Apple servers for activation I was able to connect after about five minutes. I just now fully synchronized my new iPhone and it appears to be up and running. Several of my friends just emailed me to say they gave up on activation today and will try again tomorrow.

I will post some reviews of the new smartphone on here soon and Leah Bird will join me as my guest Saturday at 12 noon on my radio program (The 9-5-0). Let me know of your iPhone thoughts, stories and issues.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

High-Tech Sportsman

July is usually a dead month for sports so that's why so many sports anchors, reporters and talk hosts take time off during the month. Their loss is your gain...

I am sitting in for Brad Davies on 790 The Sports Animal this Monday and Thursday morning. If you've absolutely got nothing else to do you need to tune to hear me and Craig Roberts debate why NASCAR wives and girlfriends are so hot and why race walking needs to be added as an Olympic sport.

6am - 11am. Whew. I am TRIPLING my work week by sitting in. Don't let it go to waste.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

It's The Month of The New iPhone

July is here so the world is less than 11 days away from another media blitz, more long queus and pontifications about the new iPhone (dubbed iPhone 3G). Details were released today and I spoke with Leah Bird, head of Houston area AT&T Wireless. Leah will apepar on my radio show this Saturday at 11am with other inside info about the new phone.

She first quelled the rumor that the phone will initially be sold unlocked with no contract. The company did announce that the new iPhone will indeed be sold without the standard two-year service agreement at a later date. Get prepped to shell out $599 (8GB) or $699 (16GB) when that time comes.

Unlike the customer and media frenzy on the original iPhone launch date last year, the phone will go on sale when the AT&T Wireless store doors open at 8am on July 11. Last year the stores temporarily closed the doors late in the afternoon and reopened at 6pm.

Activating the iPhone 3G will be done in stores this time around. I particularly liked the self-activation process we had to go through last year but this way AT&T can control the upgrades, contracts and upsell opportunities.

Leah pointed out that the company wants to make sure new and current customers go over a checklist so they can be more prepared at the point of purchase. There are detailed lists for new AT&T customers porting their numbers, current AT&T users and current iPhone users. Oh, and there is an $18 upgrade fee on top of the hardware price of $199 (8GB black) or $299 (16GB black or white).

It's interesting to see Apple and AT&T opening up a bit more this time around by providing details, photos and even videos of the new phone. Everything was so hush-hush last year but that only added to the publicity and sales frenzy. It was one of the biggest product launches in history partly due to the lack of information beforehand.

Leah expects customers to line-up the night before the launch and ground zero, at least locally, will be at the flagship Experience store on the Southwest Freeway.

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Hancock - Don't Waste Your Money

A little tip from me to you...don't waste your time or money on the new Will Smith flick opening tonight, Hancock. Saw the media premier last week and it was pretty darn baaaaaaad.

I like Will Smith, seen many of this movies, have most of his albums, can sing the opening theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But this movie seemed thrown together and should have been released in the dead cinema months of February or March. Not the key Fourth of July slot that several of Smith's flicks have opened on.

You've probably seen the trailers or Best Buy TV commercial tie-ins. Smith plays a strung out superhero who tosses whales back into the ocean and kids high up in the air. After sitting through the 90 minute screening (yes, it's only 90 minutes) I am still wondering HOW he became the superhero. Probably something the screenwriters should have included.

Too many instances were "too convenient" though there is one big twist to carry past plot point 3. Nothing funny. Special effects were whatever.

This Fourth of July opening should be listed next to Smith's Wild Wild West bomb of 1999. It shouldn't be on the same page as the sci-fi Independence Day (1996) and the funny Men in Black (1997).

Just my thoughts...

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