Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 15, 2006 1 comments
Looking for a way to get free music without being attacked by the Recording Industry Antichrist of America? Napster will keep you out of court with its "Free Download of the Day," which began last week. Each day will feature a different track, with initial sponsorship from Intel, which will push its Viiv technology for the next three months. Today's featured artists: Airpushers, with MoZella. The codec is good old DRM-free MP3 and tracks posted to the Napster Free Downloads page—gosh, how I love the sound of that—will remain up for a week. So plan at least one day a week to visit Napster and check out the free goodies. Oh, there's one catch: You'll have to register to get your free downloads and provide an email addresss. But you can opt out of emailings and needn't supply a credit-card number. Napster, for those who were literally born yesterday, was once the nexus of P2P file sharing on the net but has been reborn as a music-industry-sanctioned paid download service.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 14, 2006 0 comments
No one writes iPod reviews like ArsTechnica's questing Jacqui Cheng. Already notorious for putting two generations of iPod nanos through a washing machine, she upped the ante by dipping the second-generation iPod shuffle in beer, then running over it with a car. Did it survive? I won't deprive you of the pleasure of finding out for yourself. She also literally took the unit apart, as you can see from the pic. One of many things I learned from her review is that Apple has eliminated the "universal" 30-pin docking connector. Instead, the new shuffle's mini-jack handles power and transfer as well as audio output.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 04, 2006 Published: Nov 13, 2006 0 comments
THX certification in a box.

A recent story on Salon.com discussed the chocolate craze. Apparently, there's a new category of high-end chocolate, writes Oliver Broudy in "The Sweet Smell of Snobbery." It comes complete with its own specs—the higher the percentage of cocoa solids, the better. There's jargon, of course, including terroir, which refers to the cocoa-growing region. And there are postprandial rituals in which celebrants are encouraged to taste 400 different flavors in one little bite. While I may ridicule this phenomenon, I would never condemn it, as long as people have a good time. Also, I happen to love dark chocolate.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 13, 2006 0 comments
Microsoft's Zune goes on sale tomorrow. It may already be getting the attention of consumers, according a survey by ABI Research. Of 1725 teens and adults queried, most of those planning to buy a new music player in the next year would consider Zune. That includes 59 percent of non-iPod player owners and--shock!--58 percent of iPod owners. Only 15 percent of iPod owners said they were "not very likely" or "not at all likely" to choose Zune. "Our conclusion is that iPod users don't display the same passionate loyalty to iPods that Macintosh users have historically shown for their Apple products," says analyst Steve Wilson. The press release does not mention Microsoft sponsorship though it admits that respondents were shown a photo and description of Zune before answering. In other Zune news, Microsoft is discontinuing its MSN Music Store in favor of the new Zune Marketplace (full-sized screen shot here. And in a surprise announcement, Microsoft announced it would pay a hardware royalty of more than a buck per player to the Universal Music Group—home of U2 and Jay-Z—in addition to a software royalty for every download. Zune has attracted mixed reviews in The New York Times (a free read if you register), The Wall Street Journal and a brief hands-on assessment in Wired News.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 10, 2006 1 comments
There you are, hunched over the keyboard, doing something that looks spectacularly painful. What are you up to, editing filenames?
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 09, 2006 0 comments
Sales of CDs will drop to half of current levels within three years, according to a grim forecast from a British record executive. (The very phrase "record executive" seems woefully out of date.) Here's what Jed Doherty, head of Sony BMG in the U.K., had to say: "We figure the value of CD sales will be 50% less in three years than it is now. We predict digital growth of 25% per year, but it is not enough to replace the loss from falling CD sales. By 2010 we will be 30% behind in terms of revenues. We have to reinvent. We are running our businesses like it is 1982." The industry conference Doherty was addressing in Manchester also saw calls for the end of DRM that prevents iPods from playing non-iTunes downloads and iTunes purchases from being played on non-iPod players, according to The Guardian: "Mr. Doherty said the current situation was 'stupid' while Mike Smith, managing director of Columbia Records UK, predicted that the rights management regime would be gone within a year."
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 08, 2006 0 comments
Commuters in New York's Grand Central Terminal got an eyeful of huge TVs and the people who love them last week—see full-sized shot in the Galleries. It was the first stop in a Panasonic plasma tour that will also reach Chicago, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, and possible additional places. Says here: "The Panasonic Plasma Tour will be staffed by Panasonic Plasma Concierge experts who will be able to answer consumers' questions and give advice... Featured in the display will be Panasonic's full line of industry-leading Plasma TVs including the 37-inch, 42-inch, 50-inch, 58-inch, the recently debuted 1080p 65-inch, and the 103-inch model, the world's largest Plasma TV.... We know that consumers are looking for bigger screens and, when it comes to large screens, there is no better option than high definition plasma." All righty then. Did you know all Panasonic plasmas are covered by the Concierge program? And that you can call a toll-free number (888-972-6276) so a trained specialist can help you "get on with the experience of enjoying HDTV's benefits"? Well, I should hope so, since Darryl told you last June. Check out the Plasma Concierge website too.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 07, 2006 1 comments
You may not realize it, but space on your rack is valuable, and having gotten a slot, certain parties are determined to multi-task as much as possible. One of them is Microsoft. Starting on November 22 the behemoth of Redmond will start bringing TV and movies—including high-def material—to the Xbox 360 gaming console with content from CBS, MTV, Paramount, Turner, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), and Warner. Some content will be download-to-own, some download-to-rent. Prices were not announced. TV stuff will include condensed NASCAR races, UFC's "most intense fights," and from CBS: episodes of CSI, Jericho, Numb3rs, and remastered Star Trek. Not many movie titles were announced except for Warner's The Matrix, Superman Returns, and Batman Forever. More content listed here, press release here.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 06, 2006 0 comments
Windows Vista launches November 30 to corporate customers and January 30 to consumers. Will the next version of Windows become the next big thing in high-end audio circles? There certainly are some interesting features listed in this tutorial from the Windows Vista Team Blog. For instance, bass management applies in both forward (LFE sent from main to sub channels) and reverse ("mapped back into the main channels"). There's "loudness equalization" to maintain even volume levels among different sources. "Speaker fill" seems to be the Microsofting of Dolby Pro Logic II though whether it will work equally as well remains to be seen (in my experience, nothing works as well as DPLII). Perhaps most ambitious, Vista will have its own "room correction" circuit, using microphone input to tweak delay, frequency response, and gain. "This technology works differently than similar features in high-end receivers since it better accounts for the way the human ear processes sound," says product manager Nick White. We'll see about that! While we're puckering up for Microsoft, check out Gizmodo's Happy Birthday, Windows XP. Five years old and still faithfully serving 400 million users.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 04, 2006 Published: Nov 04, 2006 0 comments
Start your engines.

The increasing iPod-centricity of the audio industry has not prevented one brave manufacturer from releasing a product without the omnipresent iPod dock. Why would Audioengine do such a thing? Their Website explains: "There are so many iPod-dock products on the market right now, so we made a decision early on to spend our development budget and time on audio quality and other features (like USB charging). We feel that Apple docks are the best, so why waste resources trying to redesign a nearly perfect dock? We were also able to keep Audioengine pricing much lower without integrating a 30-pin dock system."

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