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EARS ON

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Feb 01, 2006 0 comments
Are your fingers itching to store and manage 7500 CDs by dragging and dropping on a touchscreen? The Q100 Digital Music Entertainment (DME) System is the first music management system to include a drag-and-drop user interface, according to the manufacturer Qsonix. You can D&D tracks or albums, fool with playlists, and so it all without navigating multi-step menus. The product comes with capacity of 160-400GB and a 15-inch TFT LCD touchscreen controller. Says Mike Weaver, president of Qsonix: "Qsonix re-unites users with their music by incorporating an intuitive, engaging and visual presentation that allows music to be accessed with the simple touch of the finger." Re-unites—I like that part. He continues: "Designed for even the most technology-phobic users, our system can be mastered in minutes and enjoyed for years by the whole family." If he does say so himself. Qsonix also sells industrial level gear to bars, pubs, clubs, restaurants, eateries, coffeehouses, hotels, department stores, retail outlets, and offices. Price: $5495.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 31, 2006 0 comments
With so many new brandnames entering the flat-panel TV business, it's hard to keep track of them all. Would you know a Proton from a Protron? That's what seems to be worrying the Proton Electrical Industrial Co. of Taiwan, which has just filed a trademark-infringement suit against the Prosonic Consumer Group for marketing sets under the similar-sounding Protron brand. Proton has a 23-year pedigree as a high-end TV maker, is just re-entering the North American market with a line of LCD DTVs, and wants to avoid "confusion in the marketplace," says a press release. The name Proton is also used by numerous other companies, though not to sell TVs. The name Protron is also used by a computer-software company.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 30, 2006 2 comments
The Federal Communications Commission has a new member. Deborah Tate was quietly sworn in by chairperson Kevin Martin on January 3. A native of Tennessee, Tate is a lawyer with Republican credentials, but not necessarily a cookie-cutter political operative. Her varied public service background includes telecommunications, public utilities, senior mental health, and juvenile justice. That breadth of experience may prove valuable over the next few years as the FCC grapples with controversial issues involving obscenity, censorship, media concentration, digital rights management, and its traditional mission of regulating the broadcast spectrum.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 27, 2006 3 comments
"Image Constraint Token." A piquant phrase, yes? Roll it around on your tongue a few times before I tell you what it is. OK, ready? It's the name of the flag that will down-res HDTV in the soon-to-debut Blu-ray and HD DVD formats under the rights management scheme known as AACS (Advanced Access Content System). The restriction will apply only to the player's component video outputs, because they're analog, and therefore give the studios security nightmares. If your HDTV has HDMI, you needn't worry. HDMI is digital, easier to protect, and will work at full resolution. But if you're an early HDTV adopter and component is the only HD input on your set—ouch. The Image Constraint Token will halve resolution from 1920 by 1080 pixels to 960 by 540. It is an option, not a requirement. Studios likely to use it reportedly include Disney, NBC Universal, Paramount, and Warner. Fox has argued against it and Sony hasn't taken a position. The logic behind the ICT is staggeringly faulty: Does anyone really believe that cutting resolution in half will stop pirates in their tracks?
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 26, 2006 12 comments
Possibly the hottest story in home theater is the rollout of video-delivery services from the telcos. AT&T is just getting started while Verizon is going strong. Verizon has just announced that its bleeding-edge FiOS TV service will make its debut in Massapequa, New York and Woburn, Massachusetts. It's already available in parts of Texas, Florida, and Virginia. Eventually it will reach half the states in Verizon's service area with the addition of California, Connecticut, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Washington. FiOS TV is 100 percent fiber, piped right into your home, and it's just one facet of Verizon's longterm plan to upgrade all its copper lines (someday) to fiber optics. The cost is $34.95 per month for 180 channels. If you want to receive 20 HD channels, add $9.95 for the HD set-top box, bringing the total to $44.90. The triple-play package with TV, net access, and phone service comes to $104.85 (again, add $9.95 for HD). Keep a vigil at the external link below for availability in your area.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 25, 2006 2 comments
This is the final season for WB and UPN. In the fall their owners, Warner and CBS, will launch a new network as a joint venture. The name is CW and the programming blocks will resemble the current WB. Nighttime programming will run Monday-Friday 8-10 p.m., Saturday 7-10 p.m., and Sunday 5-7 p.m. Daytime programming will run Monday-Friday 3-5 p.m. and five hours on Saturday morning. Pooling current UPN and WB affiliate stations will reach 95 percent of the U.S. TV audience, while cutting costs, making this a logical move for CBS (close to breaking even with UPN) and especially for Warner (struggling with the WB). The fates of many current series remain in doubt but UPN's wrestling programs and WB's Smallville will probably be ported to the CW.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 24, 2006 4 comments
Guitarist Robert Fripp recently visited Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Washington to record sounds for Vista, formerly Longhorn, the next-generation PC operating system. The occasion is commemorated by a 25-minute video on a Microsoft website. Fripp was told to generate sounds for a "clean, connected, confident" operating system with emphasis on the colors blue and green (which he translated as the keys of D and E). The musician’s recent switch from an IBM ThinkPad to a Mac goes unmentioned during the session.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 23, 2006 1 comments
The beta version of the Google Video Store is now online. The surprise is that it offers an abundant amount of free material in the form of short, amusing, amateur video clips. (Pick hit: a video editor ranting on "Why Mac's Suck.") The pay-for-play material includes a motley assortment of movies, NBA games, music videos, and TV shows like The Brady Bunch, The Twilight Zone, and Star Trek in two flavors—Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Pricing varies according to the nature and length of the material. Movies cost from $12.99-24.99 while TV shows are $1.99 per episode. In some cases you can also pay $2.99 for a Day Pass that will allow you to download the video and view it within 24 hours on the Google Video Player. Google's software is required for paid material but the free stuff will work on any player that handles AVI files. Picture quality is standard-definition with heavy video compression artifacts, but this being Google, the user interface and search features are user-friendly. Even if you have no intention of paying for anything, the Google Video Store is a great way to while away idle hours. Click on the external link below. Or, from the Google homepage, click on More, Video.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 20, 2006 3 comments
Flying is brutal. And the cramped seat and substandard food aren't the only things that do you in. Noise is the unseen enemy. You may think you can merely adjust to it and ignore it—but that is physically impossible. Jet-turbine noise gives your eardrums and the other delicate parts of your inner ear a beating, and that messes up both your hearing and your sense of balance. That's why you often feel disoriented after a long flight. The wise traveler is therefore one who carries a good set of noise-canceling headphones or earbuds.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 19, 2006 0 comments
Steven Soderbergh's Bubble will soon become the first major movie to be simultaneously premiered in theaters and on satellite television. On January 27 the movie will be shown on HDNet while rolling out in theaters nationwide. The DVD release will follow on January 31. However the actual opening night was January 12, in Parkersville, West Virginia, where the tale of murder in a doll factory was shot with real-life people on high-definition video. Theater chains are crying foul, so it's uncertain if or when the movie will make it to your local cineplex.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 18, 2006 7 comments
AT&T has snuck into the television-delivery market on silent cat feet. Without fanfare, the company formerly known as SBC has begun providing TV-over-IP service to a lucky handful in its hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Ironically, that's the same state where arch-rival Verizon has premiered its own television service. Unlike Verizon's capital-intensive all-fiber-optic approach, which extends fiber directly into the home, AT&T is building fiber only as far as "nodes" in the neighborhood, then compressing the signal into copper lines for the final leg of the journey. AT&T's initial offerings include 200 channels, including all the major networks, and some on-demand programming. This is a huge story and I'll get back to it as soon as I know more.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 17, 2006 0 comments
Levi Strauss has redesigned its iconic jeans for the iPod. The Redwire DLX Jeans have a "docking cradle" to hold the music player—while concealing the telltale bump—plus a red ribbon to allow easy removal of the iPod, a joystick track-navigation control built into the watch pocket, a wire retractor to manage the earbud cable, a distinctive white leather patch, and bluffed back pockets with hidden stitching. Pricing and pictures were not available at presstime but the new product probably won't look much like this picture of my 550s with a nano stuck in the watch pocket.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 16, 2006 5 comments
This blog has a new name. What was formerly the Diablog has become From the Edge. The new name fits in more neatly with Maureen Jenson’s From the Top and Geoffrey Morrison’s From the Lab. It also signals a change in content. Starting this week, short news items will start appearing in this space several times a week. Now you’ll have an excuse to stop by more often. The news briefs will join the short reviews that have been appearing every third week. The longer, quirkier, dual-voiced Diablog commentaries, my labors of love, will continue at the rate of about one a month. So there you have the new format: news, reviews, and commentaries. Or as it says in the subhead, dispatches, demos, and diablogs. Please visit and comment often.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 11, 2006 1 comments
Following are a few postcards from the now-concluded 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. This is not a weighty wrapup or even a best-of-show story, just a few things that caught our fancy.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jan 03, 2006 2 comments
We're in Vegas! We're in Vegas!

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