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Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 18, 2006 0 comments
A music store dating from the age of the wax cylinder is threatened with closure in Cardiff, the capitol of Wales. Spillers was founded in 1894 and has survived the 78, the LP, the 45, and the CD (and still sells all but one of those formats). In fact, even in the new era of downloads, the beloved shop has been holding its own. What's threatening to engulf it is not technological, but economic, change. Efforts to attract investment to the city have succeeded a little too well, with two giant shopping developments opening up near Spillers. If the landlord follows through on his threat to raise the rent, owner Nick Todd--who left his secure bank job 31 years ago for a job at the shop--will have to close. Petitions are flying around. One has attracted signatures from half of the Welsh National Assembly (would that our own Congress were so hip) and another has garnered 2000 other signers. Says Todd: "If it all goes belly-up we've had a great time. I'd still rather own Spillers than Virgin." (Click here and scroll halfway down for Wes Phillips' tribute to Tower Records. I had no idea that the hundreds of $2 classical LPs I'd bought at the Tower Annex were stocked by "Analog George" Stanwick.)
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 15, 2006 0 comments
Can mediocre audio gear hinder your relationship with music? The guys in 3 Doors Down say yes. Not that they aren't doing well--their CDs sell in the multi-platinum range. But they agree with the audiophile community that lack of exposure to good audio equipment hurts listeners and musicians alike. Three members of 3 Doors Down were kind enough to take questions from Home Theater, including lead singer Brad Arnold, guitarist Matt Roberts, and guitarist Chris Henderson.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 14, 2006 0 comments
Does your loved one own a Creative Labs Zen music player and look longingly at shop windows full of "Made for iPod" docking systems? Well, just in time for the holiday season, Cambridge SoundWorks comes to the rescue with the PlayDock Zen. It recharges the player and runs on AC or, gulp, eight C batteries (note to CSW: think rechargable next time). It's also got a line-input to accommodate any other kind of music player, 480 by 640 video output, telescoping antenna for radio-equipped players, and--miraculous!--a handle. If you're looking for an alternative, Creative Labs offers its own TravelDock Zen Micro and many other Zen accessories. Think differently! Oh, and the PlayDock will also support iPods starting in January with the PlayDock i. In either case, the price is $199.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 13, 2006 1 comments
If you live in Germany, blowing away virtual baddies may soon do more than stress your thumb joints. Pending legislation in Bavaria and Lower Saxony would give creators, distributors, and--yes--players of violent video games up to a year in the slammer. To be specific, it would penalize "cruel violence on humans or human-looking characters." The move in the world's third-largest gaming market follows a horrific school shooting in a town on the Dutch border, where an 18-year-old gamer wounded 37 people before killing himself. Officials blame the rampage on the teen's fondness for the game "Counter Strike," although his video suicide note cites school, anarchist politics, bullying, a desire for revenge, social isolation, and the joy of gun possession--everything but video games. Even so, insists Bavarian interior minister Günther Beckstein: "It is absolutely beyond any doubt that such killer games desensitize unstable characters and can have a stimulating effect." Digg readers retorted: "Computer games don't kill people. It's the nutters with guns that kill people." And: "I propose a ban on bad parenting." But the outlawing of virtual crimes literally crosses the line between fantasy and reality. Maybe the best solution for virtual violence is a virtual prison sentence.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 12, 2006 0 comments
The transition to digital television is finally complete. Yes, it's true. Analog signals have been banished from the airwaves. If you don't believe me, hop a plane to the Netherlands and see for yourself. The cutoff came between midnight and two a.m. Monday morning, affecting 74,000 of the country's 16 million viewers--most of the remainder get cable, with only token numbers of satellite and IPTV addicts. Broadcast-dependent Dutch viewers will have to pay $66.50 for a set-top box to adapt their analog sets to the new digital signals. However, the government will save $200 per year for each of them, making subsidies at least theoretically possible. Broadcaster Royal KPN NV paid to construct the DTV transmitters. It is obligated to keep broadcasting the three state channels but can charge $18.50 a month for a package of extra channels similar to cable. Belgium and Scandinavia will jump into the DTV pool in 2007, though the United States won't follow till 2009 (or never, if broadcasters get their way).
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 11, 2006 0 comments
How often does The New York Times print something clueless about home theater technology? About as often as you go to the bathroom. The latest outrage comes in a story debunking various tech underachievers with the headline The Hat Trick That Didn't Happen. Reporter Richard Siklos cites a Frank N. Magid Associates survey saying that the number of HDTV buyers who are looking forward to watching high-def has declined from 63 percent two years ago to 47 percent now. He goes on to say: "The reason for this lack of enthusiasm is pretty clear in my own home. For one thing, plenty of shows on the high-definition channels I receive with my digital cable package appear with big black borders--because of the aspect ratio or somesuch--and I can't figure out whether this is my doing or the cable company's or the broadcaster's." Actually, aspect ratio is the program producer's decision, and those black borders are usually a superior alternative to stretching. Note to Siklos' editor: Tell your reporter to find his remote and learn to use the aspect ratio control or somesuch. He can learn more about aspect ratio in any number of places, including the Wiki. And while he's at it, RTFM. If fewer HDTV buyers are interested than HDTV today versus two years ago, the most likely explanation is that plummeting flat-panel prices have lured less knowledgable viewers into the market. And the solution is to assign knowledgable writers to cover the subject.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 08, 2006 8 comments
Affectionately known as the "Moo," the NHT M-00 has been around since the late nineties. Originally it was a pro product that also appealed to savvy consumers seeking higher quality in desktop audio. Nowadays that secondary mission is more explicit, as the M-00 struts its double zeroes on two different parts of the NHT website: Pro Audio and PC Hi-Fi. And now that everyone and her sister is plugged into an iPod, a third mission beckons. What will this thing do for nearly everyone's favorite portable signal source?
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 07, 2006 1 comments
"Police blame iPod explosion for 5% rise in robberies," says a headline in The Guardian. Crime actually fell by two percent from April to June, according to figures from the Home Office, but the same period saw a five percent hike in robberies. One top cop attributed the bump to "the products that are available to be stolen these days. The mobile phone explosion is continuing. The iPod explosion is continuing. All of these gadgets that people carry around with them are very attractive to robbers, so that puts the opportunities up." To New York subway riders, this is old news—about a year and a half old, to be precise. It's hard to resist whipping out your 'Pod and putting it in harm's way when you're accessing MTA info the fun way.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 06, 2006 0 comments
Will the pink Zune become the next collector's item? Apparently Microsoft gave 100 of them as gifts to the development team and sent another 100 into the holiday shopping mêlée to titillate consumers. Inevitably, one of the latter has ended up on Ebay. The pink Zune has inspired curiously heated commentary from folks who seem to have, um, issues with the color. Then again, Apple didn't catch hell for the pink iPod nano so maybe the real bias is merely garden-variety anti-Microsoftianism. I think the worst Microsoft can be accused of is me-too-ing. After all, in addition to the pink nano, there are many pink cell phones from LG, Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung. Pink just might be the new black.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 05, 2006 0 comments
Sony's long-awaited BDP-S1 Blu-ray player has finally hit the shelves. It does 1080 lines at 24 frame per second for the ultimate in filmlikeness. And it's not just a product--it's a punctuation mark, adding "an exclamation point to Sony’s full HD 1080 line of products, which ranges from BRAVIA™ flat-panel LCD and Grand WEGA SXRD® rear-projection televisions to the new PlayStation® 3 game console, Blu-ray Disc enabled VAIO computers, PC drives and recordable BD media," says the press release. Speaking of Sony HDTVs, did you catch the secret sale from November 24-27? Too bad, so sad. The BDP-S1 sells for $1000, not bad by early-adopter standards, but if you can wait till 2008, the cost of a Blu-ray drive will drop 50 percent, according to DigiTimes. Of course, just because a major component drops in price, that doesn't necessarily mean that a product will do the same--but given the fact that a BD drive is the major component of a BD player, we might entertain hopes.

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