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Mark Fleischmann

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 21, 2006 0 comments
Meet AVCHD, the latest disc format from Sony and Panasonic. No, they're not throwing another body into the moshpit that currently includes Blu-ray, HD DVD, and a few others. AVCHD will be a camcorder format that records 1080i or 720p images using existing DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD-RAM media. Panasonic will also use it to record onto SD memory cards. The AVC in AVCHD is the MPEG-4 AVC video compression standard, also known as H.264. This highly efficient codec is the presumed heir to MPEG-2. It's already being used by DirecTV to transmit high-def signals and will also be supported in Blu-ray and HD DVD. No word yet on availability of AVCHD products.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 20, 2006 1 comments
A product as wildly successful as the iPod inevitably produces a few bad Apples. Anecdotal evidence of consumer unhappiness like this British newspaper report are common. Then again, so is evidence of consumer happiness, as in my torture test of an iPod case—the nano inside it survived repeated abuse. The only reports that should be taken seriously are those involving enough people to be statistically meaningful. That's why this survey from MacInTouch is compelling, if not exactly conclusive. It covers more than 4000 users and nearly 9000 iPods in the field. Please note that the methodology is loose. Among other things, it doesn't factor in time, and you know everything fails eventually. The good news for nano owners is that flash-based players, not surprisingly, are more reliable. In fact I'm rather pleased to discover my 2GB nano is twice as reliable as the 4GB (now I can stop feeling inferior). The bad news is that hard-drive players are more failure-prone, though the newer video models do quite well. The good news about the bad news is that the hard drive may be not dead but merely disconnected. For safety reasons, our lawyers would probably have me add, have a qualified service person do the work.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 19, 2006 3 comments
Do you want your home fed with the highest bandwidth for HDTV, Internet service, and telephone? Then you want this. It's an optical network terminal, it goes with Verizon's fiber-optic FiOS service, and the company has begun installing them in 14 states (seven with video delivery service) as part of a nationwide rollout that will take many years. Not that I'm their publicist or anything—as a matter of fact, I'm a former Verizon customer—but no other company has set itself such an ambitious task. AT&T is Verizon's leading competitor, but that system is a hybrid of copper and fiber, while Verizon brings fiber right up to the wall of your house. Of all the digital pipes that might feed your home, a pure fiber-optic system is the most capacious. This particular wall belongs to a demo house at Verizon's R&D and network facility in Waltham Massachusetts. For more details and plenty of pictures see the Gallery.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 16, 2006 0 comments
Oh so carefully selected reporters swarmed the Samsung Experience store at New York's Time Warner Center to get a first hands-on experience with the BD-P100. The player took one minute to warm up by my pocket watch (vs. a reported three for Toshiba's HD DVD player). Picture quality on a Samsung 61-inch DLP projector was stunning, showing every hair and pore on Guy Pearce's stubbly face in Memento, and maintaining that degree of detail when accompanied by moderate subject or camera motion. Resolution softened when I turned off the projector's DNIe video processing though rapid motion also became smoother. On the whole I found it jolly convincing. Once you've seen 1080p at a high data rate, you'll never want to go back, at least on those releases that are true 1080p (as opposed to line-doubled fakes). Incidentally, there is no truth to the widely blogged (though not here!) rumor that the Samsung player will be delayed to late summer in the U.S.—the delay will be in the U.K. Delays have been confirmed for Sony and Pioneer players but Samsung expects to hit the scheduled June 25 release date.
Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 15, 2006 0 comments
Go with the intergalactic flow.

Crime in New York gets more and more bizarre. The other day, someone broke into my apartment and redesigned my speakers. I'm not sure if our local burglars are capable of this. No, the KEF KHT 3005 is clearly the product of an extraterrestrial mind. Who else would reimagine a loudspeaker as a glossy-black egg? Indeed, who else would reimagine a subwoofer as a giant, staring eye?

Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 15, 2006 0 comments
Your DVD collection flies first class.

Why pay $1,300 for a DVD player when you can get one for $100? You might as well ask, why fly first class when you can fly coach? Membership in the club of videophiles has its privileges. There will always be people who can afford to pay extra for tangible benefits, like top picture and sound quality, and intangible ones, like pride of ownership.

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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 15, 2006 2 comments
Bose product demos always come with a dash of entertainment. At last week's New York press demo for the QuietComfort 3 headphones, hapless reporters entered the room to find a mannequin wearing a pair of large Bose headphones, only to see the earpieces whipped off to reveal the newer, smaller model. The QuietComfort 3 is the third generation of Bose noise-canceling headphones. They cover the ear without enclosing it. They're the first noise-canceling headphones to use a rechargable battery, a 20-hour lithium ion type, and the charger is a cute earcup-shaped object with flip-down prongs that plug into the wall without a cable. A $39 accessory cable allows users to switch between cell phone and music. Check bose.com to see if your phone is compatible. The demo in New York actually used a Nokia cell phone with MP3 files at 192kbps. The headphones were accurate enough to reveal smeary compression artifacts—no surprise to me, since I already use the original QuietComfort 1, as well as the non-NC TriPort, and thought highly enough of the former to have the earpads renovated when they wore out. If you want full-sized cans, the QuietComfort 2 remains in the line for $299, but the new QuietComfort 3 sells for $349 and is available from the Bose site as of today.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 14, 2006 2 comments
Today MusicGremlin started selling the first player to download without a PC and The Wall Street Journal has got hold of it. (We all can't be Walter Mossberg and Katherine Boehret.) The Gremlin downloads via wi-fi for 99 cents per song. You can also use a PC but it must be a Windows PC. For music sharing, it can even beam music from player to player, as long as both parties subscribe to MusicGremlin Direct for $14.99/month. The WSJ does describe a few DRM limitations: "you can't share certain kinds of songs, including legally obtained MP3 files that you transfer to the Gremlin from your computer." Also, while the player downloads from T-Mobile hotpots, it can't do some forms of PC-enabled wi-fi-ing. The player has a two-inch LCD, 8GB capacity, and sells for $299 from musicgremlin.com.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 13, 2006 1 comments
The Pioneer Blu-ray player won't be arriving in June after all. In fact, it won't be out till autumn, according to a vague report in Reuters. Blu-ray's official software launch had already been delayed from May 23 to June 20 to coordinate with a delay in the launch of Samsung's player. If Samsung comes up with the goods on time, that probably won't change again. Pioneer's Blu-ray internal hard drive made its debut more or less on time last month, so presumably the player hitch is software—DRM?—as opposed to hardware related.
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Mark Fleischmann Posted: Jun 12, 2006 2 comments
Red! Red! Red! Apple no longer sees the world in black & white. Aside from the newly reddened click wheel, the new iPod U2 Special Edition is business as usual. It is based on the 30GB iPod, fifth generation, and is the first iPod not to be offered in white. Clearly U2 will remain part of the iPod marketing program for some time to come and Bono can feed even more starving millions. Battery life is still 14 hours and the price is $329. In other news, 73 percent of college students surveyed by research firm Student Monitor said the iPod is "in," up from 59 percent last year, and surpassing beer at a mere 71 percent. Yes, the iPod is more popular than beer. Meanwhile, Apple has not only countersued Creative Labs but filed a second countersuit for good measure. Both companies allege patent infringements. And three more nations have taken up the aborted French proposal to make iTunes downloads interoperable with non-Apple devices: Norway, Sweden, and via the British Phonographic Institute, the United Kingdom. Apple is also feeling the heat from an anti-DRM group, Defective by Design.

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