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Mark Fleischmann

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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.
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.

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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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Dec 04, 2006 0 comments
"Fortune has learned that iTunes is close to a deal to bring the Beatles catalog online," the magazine's Tim Arango reported last week. How ironic, given their 20 years of legal battles, including most recently a tug of war over the right to use the brandname Apple. Neither Apple Computer or Apple Corps has confirmed the rumor and the deal may still fall through. However, the president of EMI recently told a music industry conference that he expected to see Beatles downloads available "soon." Still to be determined: What window of exclusivity will iTunes win from the Fab Four and their survivors? Will the Beatles allow their tunes and images be used for televised or other cross-promotional advertising, as U2 has done so successfully? Frankly, I couldn't care less, since my iPod already contains Beatles content ripped from legally purchased CDs. What I want to know is: How much longer do I have to wait for the Beatles catalog to be remixed in surround and released on SACD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray, or HD DVD?
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 17, 2006 0 comments
"There are eight million stories in the naked city," says the voiceover from the 1958 film noir of that name, and there are also 3000 stories in the Made for iPod city. One of them is Logitech's AudioStation. It hasn't got a handle, so it isn't exactly a boombox, but it does have two speakers surrounding a central control unit. What makes it special are touch-sensitive controls and a jutting dock for the iPod's 30-pin receptacle.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Nov 16, 2006 0 comments
Jon Johansen strikes again. As a teen, the now 22-year-old Norwegian became notorious for hacking the CSS digital rights management associated with the DVD format. His latest project is to open up tightly guarded ecosystem of Apple's iPod and iTunes Store by hacking Apple's FairPlay DRM. To that end he's cofounded DoubleTwist Ventures with partner Monique Farantzos. They plan to license their technology to manufacturers and download services, as Farantzos explained to news.com, with two aims: "One is to enable other online stores to wrap their content with FairPlay so that it works on the iPod.... We also plan to allow competing devices play iTunes content." No doubt Apple will litigate fiercely to protect its highly profitable closed system. But the music industry, long uncomfortable with Apple's rigid pricing, has been praying for something like this to happen. And several European governments have been quietly or not so quietly demanding it.

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