The High-Tech Texan Blog

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Media Helping Ike Survivors

I don't want to toot the horn for all of the local media who have been working non-stop since last week covering Ike. It is our job to work, cover and report on things especially during times of crisis.

The KTRH newsroom has been in constant motion all week as have TV and print newsrooms, news trucks, satellites, printing presses, delivery drivers and more. I've seen and heard some great coverage from all media outlets that disect the power outage, PODs, insurance tips and on and on. Expect round-the-clock coverage through the weekend.

Here is one of the more interesting instances of the media helping people one-by-one. Channel 2 had its chief meterologist Frank Billingsley fly over the Galveston in a chopper as he took calls from residents wanting to see their homes (or what is left of their homes). Nice job, Frank.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Local Residents Tempering Ike's Aftermath

I remember sitting in the KTRH and KPRC anchor chairs in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina and Rita. It was my job to talk with people on air and disperse information. I also got an earful of hate from listeners who were not happy with local and federal government response.

Fast forward three years later and my stint in the KTRH anchor chair last night was vastly different. The lines were full of callers but this time the attitudes seemed to be much better for the most part. Instead of spewing bile towards the mayor, president, FEMA, God and anyone else who could be blamed, the listeners I spoke with seemed to be thankful and realized that things would soon return to normal.

We reported that 69% of local residents were without power last night and still the callers let me know that they understood the mighty task that Centerpoint is going through. Many offered tips on boiling water, washing dishes and sharing generators and refrigerators with neighbors.

Maybe we can all get along.

I will be hosting NewsRadio 740 KTRH in-depth team coverage of Hurricane Ike tonight again from 10p-Midnight. Give me a call to share your stories or tips - (713)212-KTRH.

I will also appear and take calls on Great Day Houston tomorrow during their special live afternoon show from 3p-4p. KHOU-TV, Channel 11.

I should be in studio for my regular Saturday "High-Tech Texan Show" on The 9-5-0 from 11a-2p and then back in the KTRH anchor chair that evening from 7p-9p. Hang in there H-Town and stay classy (and cool).

Labels: , , ,

Monday, September 15, 2008

Anchoring KTRH Monday and Tuesday Night

Been monitoring the electricity situation (or lack thereof) and slowly but surely Houston is coming back online. We have been hosting family members at the Garfield Hilton since our power has been on since Sunday afternoon. Air conditioning, cold beer and Cowboys on MNF - doesn't get much better.

Sadly I have to leave home around halftime and head up to the Galleria area. Our program director at KTRH asked to me fill in from 10p-midnight tonight and Tuesday to help anchor more post-Ike coverage. Taking one for the team I made sure the TV was working in the studio so I can keep an eye on Tony Romo and company.

Log on and listen live and give me a call in studio to alk about your Ike experience, local and national government response or even to vent.

I'm hoping to dodge all the cops on the Southwest Freeway since I'll be breaking curfew.

Labels: ,

Saturday, September 13, 2008

I'm Still Standing

As the morning light rises outside most all of Houston homes remain dark. The center of Ike is now near Huntsville but the outer bands are swirling across the southeast and central part of the state.

Our power in Ft. Bend went down at 1:50am and remains off. I have a a few small power converters and inverters that I can run small appliances on like laptops and a portable computer. Its times like these that will serve lessons to people to think about battery backup, wireless data cards and more in case of emergencies.

While the wind and rained howled for several straight hours all night we surprisingly came out well. No trees came down, no windows broken or water leakage but we still have a few hours to go before Ike totally leaves the area. If the worse thing that happens is a power outtage then we all can take a big, deep breath.

It's interesting to watch my kids figure out what to do with no electricity. No TV, computer, video games. I'm going to start calling them Gilligan, Skipper and Professor. I haven't yet told them I charged the portable DVD players - I'll wait until they are almost stir crazy.

One key concern that such emergencies will cause in the future...many people are now watching local TV on small, handheld TVs like I am. Come next February when the FCC shuts down over the air analog signals none of these TVs will work.

Radio continues to be king. ;)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Still Waiting For Rain In Ft. Bend County

How cool would it be for a false alarm? I'll take it along with all of the jokes of media hype and no realization of a hurricane. But I know it is coming.

Power is still here so I've got Internet access at home. Powered down my computers and unplugged them along with all but one TV. Working on my laptop and WiFi now. Trying to find one of my 8 HBO channels that is showing "Entourage" so I can keep my mind off this Ike coverage.

Had a few rain drops around 3pm but nothing but wind in Sugar Land/Missouri City. The kids are surprisingly not stir carzy yet despite me unplugging the Xbox, Wii and PS3. Trying to teach them what a board game is. Helloooo?? Monopoly? Sorry? Life? Welcome to the 70's.

Getting a lot of updates and weather maps online right now. I can't tell you how impressed I am with FaceBook - I am such a fanboy now. I am updating that more frequently than blogs. Social networking is officially here and FACEBOOK is its name. Forget MySpace, Twitter and everything else. This is the here and now.

Labels: ,

Late Afternoon Update

I'd like to say we are bunkered down in Ft. Bend but it is more like liquored down. A small contingent of Garfield friends came over this afternoon to watch Ike coverage, play Rockband, Madden '09 and toast the day off.

Not much going out here weatherwise. Saw a few rain drops around 3pm but nothing big. I'd like to ask if something - ANYTHING - is coming but I know we are a few hours away from hell leashing its ugly face on us.

Tired of watching the local non-stop TV coverage I have to once again give a big shout out to Slingbox. This is the only way to keep sane if you are a TV fan. It's actually a device to allow you to tap in to your home TV set. You can view and control your local cable/sat box but if you have a friend who lives in another market who has a Slingbox....BAM! You can watch other TV shows in another market.

Thanks for my friend and former KPRC-TC weatherman Wes Hohenstein for letting me tap into his Slingbox in Raleigh, NC. I now am watching the national network newscasts (Ann Curry sitting in for Brian Willams on NBC). Even better news...if we have power and an Internet connection Saturday night I will be able to watch the USC-Ohio State game via Slingbox instead of ABC 13's local non-stop news coverage.

BTW, Charlie Gibson's interview with Sarah Polin was strong (sorry Houston viewers who could not see the ABC World News Tonight feed).

Back to the bar...


T-Minus 10 Hours Or So

Ike continues to wreak havoc on Galveston Island. Woke up this morning to see streets already underwater. My home in Ft. Bend County is looking good for gulf coast property after this storm.

Media coverage continues everywhere you turn including the Web. As long as you have power and an Internet connection keep your eye on several websites. StormPulse seems to have the best graphics and no hype. But this site blew me away. Perfect for ADHD people but you literally have your eyes on TV coverage from KTRK, KHOU, KPRC, FOX 26 and two radar/satellite images.

Now that you have hopefully secured your home, pets, kids and stocked up on supplies you have a few hours to shore up a few more things including your technology equipment. I've been on NewsRadio 740 KTRH several times today making sure people and businesses heed these tips:
  • CHARGE, CHARGE, CHARGE your cell phones and laptop computers. If you have spare batteries for these gadgets charge them too. I am also charging our portable DVD players so the kids have something to watch in case the power is out for a while.
  • BACK UP your important computer files including photos, music, financial information, and passwords. If you don't have an external hard drive then burn the info onto CDs or DVDs or quickly transfer them onto a thumb drive.
  • If you do have a hard drive, power it down and unplug it from your machine. Keep the drive in a safe place with you. CPUs and monitors can always be replaced but that data is vital. You will be able to connect that drive to any computer and be able to use it.
  • If computers, servers, TVs or other heavy equipment are laying on floors or near windows, move them away. Wrap them up in plastic or blankets and put them on a higher floor or atleast on a raised table or bed.
  • Unplug every electronic appliance. Just because a device is not turned on does not mean it is safe from a power surge. If lighting strikes or the power jumps, many appliances can get fried. Surge protectors are good but be safer by unplugging them and moving the power cord away from the outlet.
  • If water does damage your gear make sure it dried out completely before plugging it back in. It could take several days for some things to dry out. If water rises above your electricity outlets make sure to have an electrician check out the system before plugging anything back in.

Also if you are having trouble connecting calls via cell phone, try texting. Texting uses less data to go through the network and you will know if a message was sent or had trouble going through.

Hunker down and stay dry!


Thursday, September 11, 2008

BREAKING...Texans Now Play TWO Monday Night Games This Season

The Texans were scheduled to play their first Monday night football game in their history on Dec. 1 vs. the Jaguars. That game will now be their SECOND Monday night game.

Due to Hurricane Ike the Texans just announced that this Sunday's game vs. the Baltimore Ravens has been moved to Monday at 7:30pm.


Y(IKE)S!!! The Sky Is Falling

I must say my brethren in the local electronic media have been doing a bit better with Hurricane Ike coverage than with past storms. I didn't sense as much hype and hysteria - at least earlier this week - as they, er WE, have done in the past.

But as of yesterday afternoon, GAME IS ON! KPRC, KTRK and KHOU all scrapped the national morning show feeds today and I just noticed they shook off the nightly national news from their affiliate HQs. It's all local all the time now. Let's just hope this thing blows over (and we still have power) by Sunday so they don't pre-empt any NFL games.

If you've ever wondered what it's like for reporters to cover a major storm, take a look at some of these iPhone-snapped photos from this afternoon. I was at our Clear Channel radio offices on the West Loop as our folks prepped for round-the-clock coverage, at least on NewsRadio 740 KTRH. Though our studios are on the 5th floor there are no chances being taken.

Plywood was laying in the hallway ready to board up the double-paned windows in case of breakage. Mattresses, blankets and cots were folded up waiting for reporters, anchors and producers to use them for catnaps over the weekend.

And let's not forget food and drink. Charlie Pena, the longtime office manager, made a Sam's run early Thursday and came back with a truckload of supplies to satisfy even J.P. Pritchard. Chips, salsa, cookies, water, soda and almost every other carbohydrate you can imagine is piled high in the several kitchens throughout the office. And if you can't find any batteries in the city, that's because they are all here.

Programming changes have already come down from the Big Wigs. All regular Saturday programming on KPRC is cancelled for continuing weather coverage. That means my show will not be heard this weekend. Ironically, Mayor White was scheduled to be my first guest to talk about Monday's NSTA State of the City Technology Forum which I had planned to emcee. That event was just now rescheduled for Monday, Oct. 6. I got a call from the mayor's office this afternoon with an apology for him being a bit preoccupied this weekend. No prob, Bill. You go guy!

I am on standby to go in to the studio to help anchor coverage and listener response on KPRC and KTRH but we should return to our regular show next Saturday, September, 20.

Buckle up people and be safe.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

New iPods, iTunes and Jobs...Thin Is In

Steve Jobs unveiled "the thinnest nano we've ever made" while looking as thin as he's ever been. The Apple Chairman (shall we call him the Core?) recently battled pancreatic cancer and was rumored to have died recently.

Borrowing a line from Mark Twain, Jobs appeared on stage in San Francisco today with a message screen behind him reading "The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated."

Jobs may be alive but Wall Street threw some dirt on Apple's stock price - down $6.13, or 3.9 percent, to $151.79 in afternoon trading.

The announcements (which many Internet sites correctly predicted):
  • Two new nanos - longer, sleeker, thinner than previous models with a bigger screen and almost oval-shaped. Like the iPhone and iPod Touch these come with an accelerometer allowing for portrait or landscape viewing with a twist of the wrist. An 8GB model (which holds approximately 2,000 songs) will retail for $149 and a 16GB (approximately 4,000 songs) will be priced at $199.

  • Three new models of the iPod Touch which is much like an iPhone except that it doesn't make calls. An 8GB version of the new model will sell for $229; a 16GB Touch will be $299 and a 32GB model will be $399. Interesting to note that the biggest capacity a current iPhone has is 16GB.

  • A new version of iTunes. Lucky number 8 can be downloaded now with a new look and a new feature or two. The most notable being a Musical Genius. No, they didn't squueze Stevie Wonder or David Byrne in there. Play a song, click the Genius button, and iTunes creates a playlist of other songs from your library that sound similar. In a classic upsell move the Genius also suggests similar songs you can download from iTunes. HD videos can now be had for $2.99. Those can be viewed on iPods and also streamed to TV sets. Apple also buried the hatchet with NBC so its network shows can be downloaded.

  • More new iPhone software and it better be good. It's no secret that I am not nearly in love with my 3G as I was with my 1st gen iPhone. Slow, buggy, too many resets. An update to the new iPhone software is coming within a few days that supposedly fixes dropped calls, long sync times and other glitches. It's free to iPhone and Touch owners who currently are using version 2.o.

Bottom line from today's announcements...thin is in. Just look at Jobs.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Listeners Weigh-In On Comcast Internet Capping

I threw out a topic on my show that I figured would get some listener response but I didn't figure how hot it would be.

We're talking about the Comcast announcement to cap Internet downloads beginning on October 1. Though the 250GB monthly limit should not affect most users it is already causing unease and havoc with some current customers.

Local Comcast customers have not been officially notified of this new policy nor the penalties if they exceed the limit which had people calling in to my show to complain why one of the world's largest communication companies has yet to communicate this to them. (We now know the penalties including a one-year termination. See below.)

My big beef is not so much about the cap nor the lack of customer communication. I can only assume this announcement will be forthcoming in the next billing statement. My issue is that there is no metering tool to let customers know how much data they have downloaded and how far away they are from reaching the 250GB cap.

If Comcast wants to meter its customers then give them a tool to monitor where they stand. As I repeatedly said on my show, if cell phone providers can tell us how many minutes have been used each month and water and electric providers have meters to show usage, ISPs need to have real-time (or near real-time) meters to make users aware of their download data.

Tech blogger Om Malik rants on even more concerns:

If you’re going to meter, then please let us know how you are factoring in the overhead associated with TCP/IP. Will this be included or excluded in the cap? After all, overhead includes control messages (session control, packet headers) and this can be as high as 40 percent.

This is where FCC Chairman Kevin Martin has to step up and do something. If he is going to allow Comcast to put caps in place, then the FCC needs a firm bond from Comcast saying that they wouldn’t lower the caps to, say, 150 GB or 100 GB using the same lame excuse of 1 percent people degrading the network.
I received several emails after my show with suggestions like third-party download meters. I also got a call from a Time Warner Cable technician in Beaumont who knows about Internet capping first-hand. TWC began capping customer downloads a few months ago (with a max of "only" 40GB per month). He said he initially heard many customer complaints but things have quieted down a bit.

A local Comcast technician sent me an email complete with this internal memo circulating the company with Q&A on the subject:

This e-mail provides talking points to be used when addressing questions from customers regarding the recent decision by Comcast to establish a specific monthly data usage threshold of 250 GB per month per account. Please read the attachment for answers to FAQs or click this link,

Comcast Statement on Amended Acceptable Use Policy Source: Michael Bybee, Manager, Public Relations Thursday, September 04, 2008 "We have been considering establishing a monthly data usage threshold as part of our Acceptable Use Policy for quite some time. Last week, we announced that, beginning on October 1, 2008, we will amend our Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and establish a specific monthly data usage threshold of 250 GB/month per account for all residential customers.

The monthly data usage threshold will have absolutely no impact on 99% of our customers because their usage doesn't even come close to 250 GB in a month. The current median monthly data usage by our residential customers is approximately 2 - 3 GB." Comcast maintains an excessive use program to provide a high-quality online service for all of our customers because extremely high-data users can negatively impact the experience for our other customers.

Our inclusion of a 250 GB data usage threshold is something we have been considering for quite some time and it should not come as a surprise, as it had been widely covered by the press and on various blogs late last year and this past May. Comcast's overall policy on excessive use of our service remains the same-the only thing that will change is that we will provide a specific monthly threshold beginning in October of this year.

250 GB/month is a large amount of data, much more than a typical residential customer uses. Currently, the median monthly data usage by our residential customers is approximately 2 - 3 GB. For those that exceed the monthly data usage threshold, we may notify them that they have gone above 250 GB and ask that they modify their online behavior. If they hear from us that they have surpassed 250 GB-and they are among the heaviest of users for a second time within a six-month timeframe-their service will be subject to termination for one year.

We are taking a number of steps to notify our customers: We have posted a preview in PDF format of the amended AUP on our Network Management page as well as an overview and a link to updated FAQs( We are also running banners on our portal as well as on our Security Channel Web page directing customers to the Network Management Web page. In addition, we will be sending customers a bill stuffer notification that the amended AUP will officially go into effect on October 1st.

No doubt this topic will continue to boil up as we approach the October 1 date. Feel free to weigh-in your own opinion below.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Google Fires A Shot Across The Browsers

When Google launches a new product not only do computer users flock to the (generally) free and easy-to-use features, it keeps other companies on its toes to stay ahead or try to catch up. Google's latest release is a new foray into fierce competitive waters - the Internet browser.

If Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari weren't enough for you (apologies for not caring about Opera and a few other small ones), meet Google Chrome. It was introduced to the world today as a beta project but then again I think Google itself is still in beta.

The big claim from Google is that Chrome will be a faster browser than others. Why is fast important to the Big G? Faster surfing could equate to money, money and more money that Google seems to make so well. According to

Google benefits materially from fast performance. First, when it comes to search, Google discovered when its search page loads fractionally faster, users search more often, which of course leads to more opportunities for Google to place its highly lucrative text ads. Second, a faster Web application foundation means that Google's online applications for e-mail, word processing, spreadsheets, and calendars can become faster and fuller-featured.

As far as the product itself I had to wait a bit for the download most likely because half the world's population tried to download it simultaneously. Once installed I did notice a bit peppier website delivery but it still lacks several features I am used to with IE7. RSS would be nice but no doubt should be added in the next release. Give us a way to manage bookmarks and we'll find it more useful. While you're at it G, how about button for emailing links and pages directly from the browser and a progress bar to show how much of a Web page has loaded.

The fun stuff is definitely here, though. Chrome includes Gears, which means you can download desktop icons for several Google apps. Gmail, Reader, and Picasa were downloaded and launched from the desktop. As expected, if already signed in to Google with your account, they launched and started instantly.

One of the reasons Chrome is so speedy is inherent in the same way Google is the fastest and most widely used search engine..the sparsity of its interface (take a glance at Google and then at Yahoo!). There is not much clutter on the home page including the lack of a toolbar. The only toolbar button you can add is a Home button.

As I stated above, Google's new release means other companies are sweating a bit. The timing probably was not a coincidence as Microsoft just released the beta of its new browser, Internet Explorer 8. One thing they both have in common is that they don't work on Macs, at least yet for Chrome. Google is working on that version.

I'm still playing with all these browsers and my opinion will be different than yours. So tell us more about your fave and least liked browser.

Labels: , ,

Back from Belize

We didn't want to leave but we had to. Our live radio broadcast from Journey's End and Las Terrazas resorts in Belize was a blast and we hope you tuned in to learn about this fun country and all the amazing things to do.

I'll have a full recap soon but take a look at some of our pics and feel free to relive the experience by downloading the podcast. Thanks also to Continental Airlines for the quickest two hour flight I've ever been on. The Tropic Air island hopper from Belize City was an experience in and of itself but if not for them we would not have made it to Ambergris Caye.

And if you want to take advantage of their special offer for The 9-5-0 listeners, here are the details:

Enjoy Journey's End Resort now through Dec. 18, 2008, for $125 a night. Reservations and information: 800-460-5665

Las Terrazas condos and villas now through Dec. 18, 2008, for just $175 a night: 800-447-1553