This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO sMoRTy71.com -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Upgraded my DirecTV HD box
DirecTV is offering a $200 rebate on their H10 and H20 HD boxes (which retail for $199), so I figured it was a great time to upgrade my 2 year old Hughes HIRD-E86 receiver.

I was able to get a DirecTV H20 which will decode both MPEG-2 (DirecTV's current standard) and MPEG-4 (DirecTV's future standard). It also has an HDMI output which I will connect to my TV's DVI port.

The Hughes I have now is not a great HD box. It has problems with overheating. Plus, it only supports component out, so I'm not getting the best possible HD picture. I purchased it before I got a TV that supports DVI, so it's overdue for the upgrade. I haven't decided if I will hook it up to the HDTV in my bedroom or just retire it altogether.

Both the H20 box, which I ordered from Circuit City, and the HDMI-to-DVI cable are scheduled to arrive on Friday. I should have a review of the new box by early next week.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
JC Penney scalping 360s
JC Penney has decided to try and cash in on the XBOX 360 shortage. They are offering platinum systems on their website for a $799. If you want to spend $400 over retail, get one here.
Friday, November 25, 2005
I survived Black Friday
This morning, I got up at 4AM to go wait in line for a Christmas gift. An XBOX 360? No, not quite. While most over men my age were waiting in line at Best Buy and Circuit City, I was arriving at Kohl's in Memphis at 5AM to get my wife a diamond ring.

Amy's (blurry) new ringWe ended up getting a ridiculous deal on the ring that Amy had been wanting. It is a 1ct. 3 stone diamond ring that usually sells for $3,500. However, today, Kohl's had jewelry 60% off and then an additional 20% off and then an extra 15% off if you opened a Kohl's card. So we ended up paying $1,040 for the ring PLUS Kohl's gave us $190 is Kohl's bucks (which is like a gift card you can use in the store). I generally hate to get credit cards; however, I plan to pay it off this weekend, so I guess it was worth it (especially since we got $190 extra to buy Christmas presents with).

So now, Amy is happy and I am totally in the clear to buy an XBO 360... whenever I am able to find one.

We tried to go to Target after we hit Kohl's. After fighting the crowd in the parking lot and then fighting the crowd in the store, we ended up ditching our cart once we saw the line which had wrapped to the back of the store.

Our last stop was a Home Depot back in Midtown Memphis. No line. No crowd. We got the 4 or 5 items that we wanted and walked directly to the checkout.

Now I think I'll take a nap and try to forget about the whole thing.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Got to play around with a 360
One of my co-workers got his name pulled from a XBOX 360 lottery drawing at Meijer this morning. He brought the console back to the office because his intention wasn't to play the 360. It was to take it apart and take pictures of it (for a story on TechRepublic).

So I was able to play around with the console for about an hour. Here are some random thoughts:

* The new "blades" interface is very nice. It makes it very easy to move between the "games," "media," "system" and "XBOX Live" screens.

* The controller is really cool. It's the perfect size and is well balanced. Most of the weight seems to be in the handgrips, so the controller sits nicely in your hands. The wireless worked great, too.

* The console gets really hot. It has two large fans on the back of the case; however, after playing half of a game of Madden, the game disc was hot to the touch.

* The media connectivity options are awesome. We installed Windows Media Connect on my PC at work and then let the XBOX try to connect to it. The XBOX and my PC were able to sync up and we were able to view photos from my PC on the 360.

* The hard drive comes preloaded with some music and video content. Interestingly, Tsar's "Band-Girls-Money" single was included. The song was also featured in Burnout Revenge.

* Madden 06 for the 360 is pretty disappointing. The XBOX version was a really well-produced game. The 360 version seems like a rush job. It feels like they just crammed in what they could for launch instead of getting the game right.
No XBOX 360 for me today
Well, I thought that getting up at 5am would be good enough; however, I never anticipated how many people were willing to camp overnight to get an XBOX 360 on launch day.

It's XBOX 360 time!My original plan, which was going to Sam's Club (they were getting 20 premium), fell through. Because I don't have a business membership, I wouldn't be allowed in at 7am. I would have to wait until 10am.

My plan B was Target. So at 5:20, I pull up to my local Target to find well over 50 people in line. Several people had set up tents which leads me to believe they were there overnight.

I decided to try another Target and found a similar result. 16 people in line. 2 tents set up. The 16th guy in line said that this Target only had 16 consoles (and only 4 were premium). He had been there since midnight. According to this group, the Target near my house had gotten around 50 consoles. I guess that explains the big line there.

So I decided to cut my losses and head home. On the way, I passed a Circuit City, which had about 35 people in line at 6am, a Toys R Us, which had about 12 people even though they weren't selling any (only filling pre-orders) and a Best Buy, which was totally nuts.

After arriving home, I called several other places. Kmart said that no store in our district got any consoles. Sears said the same thing. CompUSA was sold out, too, and with no idea on when they would get any more. Coconuts said the same thing, too.

Oh well, I guess I can go on Thanksgiving vacation without worrying about my XBOX 360 sitting alone at home.
Monday, November 21, 2005
iWipe to be featured in Mac Creative
I got an e-mail from Ben at Mac Creative magazine, the UK's first advanced Mac tutorial magazine. He wants to feature my iWipe project in their Mad Macs section. The issue should hit newsstands on December 22.
Lines already forming at Wal-Marts
According to this thread at AVS Forum, gamers in Georgia, West Virginia and Washington are already lined up at Wal-Mart awaiting the 12:01 AM launch of the XBOX 360.

Some posters claim that lines formed before 9AM. Considering that Wal-Marts are only getting around 10 consoles per store, this isn't too surprising.

While I am one of the goofballs that will be waiting in line tomorrow morning, I am betting that there will be plenty of consoles to be had within the next week (and I wouldn't be surprised if a bunch show up for Black Friday).
Tips for waiting in line
With less than 12 hours until the XBOX 360 hits the streets, I found some tips for waiting in line over at XBOX360fanboy.com (yes, there is really a site with that URL). Here they are:

"1. Consorting with store employees.
The quickest way to turn the line against you, Benedict, is to laugh it up with employees. From the line's perspective, they've already hoarded two-thirds of the available consoles and are guilting the weak minded into purchasing outrageous bundles and/or warranty plans.

2. Pulling your car up to the curb and blasting the radio.
You may think that everyone loves country music as much as you do, but they don't. Just wear headphones and keep the humming to a minimum.

3. Wearing "I Love Morgan Webb" T-shirts.
It's just obnoxious. Besides, just because we didn't think to wear ours, doesn't mean we don't feel the same way!

4. Playing football.
You're not fooling anyone. We know you've never played a sport in your life. Don't start at the launch line where one bad pass could end with several cracked PSP screens.

5. Saving spots.
Don't expect it to be all candy and roses if your pals try to sneak into line with you 5 minutes before the doors open. Countries have gone to war over less and you will not survive it."

Instead of doing the midnight thing, I am getting up at 5AM to camp out in front of my retailer of choice. They open at 7AM and are only getting 20 consoles.
Saturday, November 19, 2005
iWipe featured on Make blog
Looks like setting up my first Instructables project paid off. This morning, my Instructables project is featured on the Make magazine blog. Very cool!
Friday, November 18, 2005
Instructables.com is pretty cool
While I was reading a story on how to make a megaphone helmet over on the Make magazine blog, I stumbled upon a cool site called Instructables.com. It lets you create step-by-step tutorials on how to make things.

instructables

I did a sample project and used my iWipe as a test. The whole process took about 5 minutes and was very easy to use.

See my iWipe project on Instructables.com

See my member profile
Thursday, November 17, 2005
XBOX 360 Zero Hour photos
John Porcaro, the MSFT employee who posted photos of his daughter playing the XBOX 360 a couple of weeks ago, has started a Flickr photo set of construction of the top-secret (OK, it's in Palmdale, California) XBOX 360 Zero Hour event that starts on November 20th.


(c) Microsoft Corp. and ZEDInk Credits: ZEDInk

The event will allow 3,000 people to play the 360 for 2 days leading up to the official launch.

Check out John's photos
Check out the Zero Hour Flickr group
Gamefly ships XBOX 360 games
Just checked my Q at Gamefly and found that Madden 06 for the XBOX 360 is getting shipped today. Cool! Now I will have at least one game to play on the 22nd.

xbox360_games_shipping

I will probably ship Star Wars Battlefront 2 back this week, so I might also have Tiger Woods 06 by next Tuesday.

UPDATE: Gamefly has some of the XBOX 360 games available to buy for $47.99 (Madden 06, Tiger Woods 06, Tony Hawk Wasteland). That's $11 less than retail. Considering that none of these games is actually pre-played, that's a pretty good deal.
Ticketmaster still the devil
As I mentioned last week, Coldplay and Fiona Apple are coming to Louisville in February. Well, this morning, Ticketmaster was supposed to open up the presale for members of Coldplay.com. Unlike other artists who require you to pay for some sort of membership, Coldplay's membership is free, so I signed up to get a presale password.

So, this morning, I had my presale password and was patiently waiting for 10AM to roll around.

Well, promptly at 10AM, the Ticketmaster site opened up the presale; however, every time I submitted my ticket request, I got a "request can't be processed" error. Thinking it was my password, I tried something different. In that case, I got an "incorrect password" error. So, knowing that I did have the right password, I continued to request ticket info. Every time, same "request can't be processed error."

ticketmaster_satan

The same thing happened when I tried to use Ticketmaster.com for Prince's show at the Palace Theater a couple of years ago. After 20 minutes of errors, I finally got tickets in row YY of the balcony (the balcony only goes to row ZZ).

Ever since, I go directly to the box office so that:

1. I don't have to deal with Ticketmaster's site
2. I don't have to pay Ticketmaster's fees

I think I am officially done with Ticketmaster now. Now I can spend the $160 for tickets on something else.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
XBOX 360 incompatibility list
Someone over at Gamers Daily has posted a list of games that won't be compatible with the XBOX 360. Turns out that this list is longer than MSFT's compatibility list. Some of the MSFT's own games are on the list as well as some other big titles.

Of the 35 or so XBOX games that I own, 21 (21!!!) aren't compatible:

Amped 2 - Microsoft
Blinx: The Time Sweeper - Microsoft
Burnout 3: Takedown - EA
Cel Damage - Electronic Arts
Counter-Strike - Microsoft
Crash Nitro Kart - Black Label
ESPN NFL 2K5 - Sega
ESPN NHL 2K5 - Sega
Links 2004 - Microsoft
Mad Dash Racing - Eidos
NCAA College Football 2K3 - Sega
NFL 2K3 - Sega
NFL Fever 2002 - Microsoft
NFL Fever 2004 - Microsoft
NHL Hitz 2002 - Midway
Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee - Microsoft
Shrek - TDK
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 - LucasArts
Tetris Worlds - THQ
Top Spin - Microsoft
Voodoo Vince - Microsoft

See the full list
"Homewrecker" is hilarious
Last night, I was watching the Real World (yeah, yeah, laugh it up) when I saw a commercial for "Homewrecker." It is a new reality show starring Ryan Dunn from "Jackass" and "Viva La Bam!"

The premise is simple. Get revenge on someone who has done you wrong. Of course, Ryan's motto is that the revenge should be 100 times worse than the original deed. Otherwise, the offender doesn't learn anything.

And when it comes to revenge, "Homewrecker" goes all the way (and then it goes a little bit farther). One guy's room was turned into the most disgusting public restroom you've ever seen (complete with real, used urinal cakes). One girl's room was turned into an impound lot complete with a garage door and half of a real car (that spewed smoke everywhere).

In between, Ryan, who turns out to be the funniest of the "Jackass" crew (IMHO), demonstrates pranks that you can play on your friends. These include replacing someone's deodorant with cream cheese and filling someone's umbrella with flour.

I'm not sure what night the show airs (because I set up a Season Pass); however, if it is like most MTV shows, it is probably on two or three times a day.

Check out some video clips from the show here.
iWipe featured on TechRepublic
TechRepublic has made a photo gallery of my iWipe project.
Gamespot's Xbox 360 Hands-On
Gamespot has a hands-on preview of the XBOX 360. It's a nice overview of the hardware and the basic interface. The sections covered are:

- The Controller, HDD, and Backward Compatibility
- Xbox 360 AV Cables and HD Resolutions
- The Dashboard and Xbox Live
- Building a Rep and Choosing a Zone
- The Xbox 360 Digital Media Experience

Check it out.
Inside the Xbox 360
AnandTech has taken apart an XBOX 360 and it has the pictures to prove it. Of course, Engadget (and, I'm sure, a ton of blogs like this one) linked to it and their servers are slammed.

Check it out when you have some time to kill (you may want to take along something to read while you wait).
Google Analytics is working
The first bits of data are showing up in my Google Analytics account. Although it is still early, the tools and data views look really nice, especially for a free product.

I have used some high-end (i.e. expensive) data analytics tools and GA looks like it could be a nice alternative.

google_analytics3

A side benefit of Google Analytics is that it looks kind of funny in your Firefox tabs when you have a bunch of sites open.

google_analytics4
CNET providing video to TiVo
PVRBlog is reporting that CNET is going to be providing video product reviews to TiVo Series 2 owners over the next 6 weeks.

Although I am glad to see more companies (especially ones I work for) providing content to TiVo, I wish DirecTiVo customers weren't left out (Wow, I'm starting to sound like those forum trolls who always whine about sites not working on Safari -- Sorry!).

Check out screenshots here.
Still have a shot in FFL
This Fantasy Football season hasn't been my best. Coming off of a 12-1-1 season last year, I now find myself 6-4 and in last place in my division. In any other division, I would be in first or second place, btw.

FFL standings after week 10
I'm 3 games out with 4 to play (and the last 3 are divisional matchups).

In order to make the playoffs as the Wild Card, I will need to move into second place in my division and have a better record than any other second place team. As we get ready to head into divisional play again, getting a win over either of the current second place teams (Chicago Madmen or Big Blue Bombers) could put me in the playoffs, so there is still something to play for.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Googleuranus.com?
That sounds pretty personal, doesn't it?

I stumbled upon an article over at SearchEngineWatch.com about some of the domain names registered to Google.

While some hint at upcoming products, others are just funny. In addition to Googleuranus.com, they also have all variations of Googlesucks and the less-likely Googlem*therf*cker.com.
Monday, November 14, 2005
Getting heat over the iWipe
Turns out that there is already a product named "iWipe." It is a little software app from Freshly Squeezed Software that deletes files from OS X. Maybe everyone else already knew that; however, since I don't use a Mac, that was news to me.

Well, I got an e-mail from the guy who wrote iWipe and he wants me to change the name.

What I find a little funny is the fact that Freshly Squeezed also makes a product called PulpFiction. Hmmm. PulpFiction? That sounds familiar. Where do I know that name from? Let... me... think... Oh, yeah, it's exactly the same as one of my favorite movies! I guess removing the space makes that OK? Hmm.

Maybe I will ask Don to suggest a name that is better than iWipe. Oh, I know! We could just call it "JackieBrown!"
Google Analytics is live
Google's new web analytics tools are live. I just went through the sign up process and am added the tracking tags to my pages. Although page loads were very slow, the process was very simple.

Here is a screenshot that shows some of the different views available: Executive, Marketer and Webmaster. Apparently, Google Analytics will tailor the data presented based on your role within a site.

Google Analytics

I'll post more info as I start to get data back (which Google claims will take about 12 hours).
iWipe featured on WIRED
My iWipe entry has started to get picked up by other sites. WIRED has featured it in their "Cult of Mac" blog. Cool!
Sunday, November 13, 2005
BestBuy XBOX 360 allocations
According to some internal BB documents that have been posted over at gamersreports.com, Louisville BestBuys are only getting 100 XBOX 360 systems (only 76 if you exclude the useless core systems). Here is the breakdown by store:

Store #333 (St. Matthews)= 58 systems (44 pro / 14 core)
Store #335 (Outer Loop) = 42 (32 pro / 10 core)

That number seems really low. 100 consoles for a market the size of Louisville? Maybe this shortage is real (and not just MSFT marketing hype).

Look up your store at BestBuy.com and then check the list here.
Ordered my first pizza online
My wife was working tonight, so I decided to order a pizza for me and the kids. Because we just moved to a new neighborhood (and because my wife always orders the pizza), I had no idea which location of which franchise to call.

I remembered seeing a commercial for Papa John's where they said you can order pizzas online. I also remember thinking what a stupid idea that was. Well, tonight, I took advantage of that stupid idea and it turned out to be pretty cool.

After completing the sign up process (name, address, etc.), the site chose the correct location for my neighborhood. Next, I was shown a list of specials that I could click on to get started. The coolest part was the ability to pick toppings (even half toppings) and know that they would be right. I never feel very confident, when I phone in my order, that it will be correct.

I got an e-mail confirmation of my order within a couple of minutes and my pizza arrived in about 35 minutes.

Maybe I'm a big dork; however, I much preferred ordering online than calling the store directly.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
Which games play on 360?
XBOX.com has started compiling the list of XBOX games that will be playable on the XBOX 360. The list is much longer than I thought it would be. However, with that said, there are some pretty big omissions. None of the Madden games are listed. Neither are any of the ESPN sports titles like NFL 2K5 and NHL 2K5. The most recent EA hockey game listed is NHL 2004. The good news is that your Barbie game WILL be compatible! Sweet!

UPDATE: Holy crap! Neither Burnout 3: Takedown nor Burnout Revenge are listed! If they don't support those, I'll be really upset.
My Apple iWipe
My Apple iWipe:
The new Apple iWipe in action

One of my co-workers was giving away and old Atari 800XL and Macintosh SE case. He had been planning to do a mini-ITX project, but had never gotten around to it. Always wanting an excuse to tinker with something, I decided to take them off of his hands.

Well, as soon as I saw the Mac SE case, I realized that this one had the most potential. So this weekend, I bought a few things at Home Depot and got started making my Apple-powered, wireless, portable toilet paper dispenser -- the iWipe.

The whole project took a couple of hours and cost about $15.

Step 1: Remove the metal brackets in the SE
There were still some metal brackets inside the case, so I had to get those out first. Using a T15 and a Philips head screwdriver, I removed the 7 or 8 screws holding the brackets in place.

Step 2: Clean the case
The case still pretty grimy, so I soaked it in some warm soapy water for about 10 minutes. This loosened up all of the dirt and I was able to rinse it clean

Step 3: Paint the case

Because Apple has gotten all glossy white on us lately, I figured the SE needed a new paint job. So I painted the inside a metallic silver (to match the toilet paper holder) and the outside a gloss white.

Step 4: Mount the toilet paper holder
Once the paint had dried, I used a heavy-duty Super Glue gel to mount the toilet paper holder to the case.

Step 5: Create a faux screen
I used a transluscent binder that I picked up at Target ($1.39) to create a screen for the SE. After I cut it to size, I super glued it into place.

Step 6: Installing the first roll

I inserted a roll of toilet paper into the iWipe and slid the front of the case closed.

Voila! The new Apple iWipe!

Check out more photos

UPDATE: Check out a clip of the iWipe in action over at Vimeo.

UPDATE #2: Check out the photo gallery on TechRepublic.
May have secured an XBOX 360
OK, I know that just a week or so ago I was claiming that I wasn't going to buy a 360 at launch. Well, a week is a mighty long time and now I am in a panic trying to figure out where to buy a non-bundled console.

Fortunately, I think I have found one. It turns out that I know someone who works for a retailer that will be carrying the 360 (but that most people wouldn't think of). So there will be no lining up for the midnight madness nonsense involved. I should be able to get up early on the morning of the 22nd and pick one up (hopefully). They are only going to have 20 units, so I can't really share the location (sorry).

Of course, we are leaving for a Thanksgiving vacation on the 23rd, so I will have to get all of my gaming done before we leave. Bummer.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Coldplay + Fiona Apple = Feb 23rd
Just got an e-mail from Fiona Apple's website and it looks like she will be playing Freedom Hall in Louisville on February 23. No word on when tickets will go on sale; however, I will definitely post more info when I find out.

Here are the dates with Coldplay:

"FIONA SET TO PLAY DATES WITH COLDPLAY IN 2006!
1/25 Seattle WA Key Arena
1/26 Vancouver BC GM Place
1/30 Sacramento CA ARCO Arena
1/31 Oakland CA Oakland Arena
2/01 San Jose CA HP Pavilion @ San Jose
2/03 Las Vegas NV MGM Grand Garden Arena
2/19 Denver CO Pepsi Center
2/20 Omaha NE Qwest Center
2/22 Detroit MI Palace of Auburn Hills
2/23 Louisville KY Freedom Hall
2/25 Houston TX Toyota Center
2/26 Dallas TX American Airlines Center
2/27 Oklahoma City OK Ford Center
3/02 Washington DC MCI Center
3/04 Orlando FL T.D. Waterhouse Centre
3/05 Tampa FL Ford Pavilion"
Great review of the DirecTV R15 DVR
ebonovic over at TiVo Community Forum has posted a really great review of the just-released R15 DVR from DirecTV. The R15 is the first DirecTV DVR to use software from NDS instead of TiVo.

The review features a ton of great information and photos of both the interface and the inside/outside of the box.

One of the new features that I am most excited about is that you can activate the R15 without a landline. With more and more people switching to cellphones, it is nice to see DirecTV give users this option.

We just picked up 2 of the R10 DVRs (to replace my Series 1 DirecTiVo), so I won't be adding an R15 any time soon (unless they offer another free-after-rebate deal).

Check out the full review.
Arrested Development canceled!
First "Chappelle's Show" and now this! OK, so I'm not surprised by the announcement; however, it still sucks to hear that FOX is cancelling "Arrested Development." IMO, it is one of the best shows on TV.

After putting the show on hiatus for the World Series, it returned last week and, apparently, didn't do well in the ratings (Wonder if being on hiatus could have contributed to the problem). And, worse for FOX, it seemed to drag down the numbers for "Prison Break."

So AD will be put back on hiatus again until after the finale of "Prison Break." Look for the final episodes to begin airing on December 5th.

BTW, thanks to Rex for the tip.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
XBOX 360 Zero Hour & Gamer Card
A couple more XBOX 360 related things:

1. XBOX 360 Zero Hour
MSFT is hosting a huge, private party at an undisclosed location in the Mojave Desert from sundown on November 20th until 12:01 AM November 22nd. Tickets will be given out to around 3,000 people who will have the opportunity to player the XBOX 360 and all of the launch titles before the console is released. Also, attendees will have the opportunity to purchase the console at the event (something that might be important with the rumored shortages of consoles). Get your tickets here.

The big downside is that you must provide your own travel to and from the event.

2. XBOX Live Gamer Card
You can get a new XBOX Live Gamer Card at XBOX.com. Your Gamer Card is an extension of the Gamertag idea introduced with the original XBOX Live. Your GC is a public profile that shows what games you play, your ranking and other stats.

You can even get a snippet of code that lets you post your Gamer Card on your website.
Wednesday, November 9, 2005
Can XBOX 360 replace an HTPC?
In the past couple of days, I decided to go ahead and get an XBOX 360 at launch. As I posted previously, I am still a bit disappointed in the launch titles; however, I am getting more and more excited about using the 360 as a front end for my HTPC. I really want to get my HTPC out of the manroom and it looks like the 360 will let me do that.

There is a great thread over at AVS Forum where a couple of Microsoft employees give details about what the 360 can and can't do in terms of media playback and decoding. Really great information if you're considering the XBOX 360 as an HTPC replacement.

While there is too much in that thread to recap here, I was surprised to see that Windows XP users *can* use some of the HTPC functions of the 360. You can download Windows Media Connect and use an XP box with your XBOX 360. Of course, some of the functionality is limited compared to using MCE 2005; however, its good to know that I can play around with the media options prior to getting MCE 2005.

Check out the thread for more info.
Tuesday, November 8, 2005
Two dumb media moves this week
I have seen a couple of really bad ideas brought to life by two of the biggest broadcasters that deserve ridicule here in my blog.

1. ESPN's simulated press conferences
I get up early each morning to work out, drink some coffee and ease into my day with a little Sportscenter in HD. Well, I was baffled the other morning when ESPN held a "simulated news conference" to discuss the Boston Red Sox. Some guy, pretending to be the GM of the Red Sox, sitting in front of bank of mics making statements and answering questions from reporters about what the Red Sox should do in the offseason.

No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get my head around this. Faux reporters all waving their arms in the air trying to get noticed by a faux baseball GM? Why should I be watching this?

Well, tonight, I saw this story on CNN which explains that the "simulated news conference" is something ESPN is trying to liven up its baseball news in the offseason.

According to the news director at ESPN, "it was done to enliven what is often a dull segment: analysts like Phillips sitting behind a desk and speculating about what teams will do." Dull? That is what Sportscenter is -- a bunch of analysts sitting around talking about sports!

I can tolerate (barely) the former NFL pros standing on a fake football field explaining how a screen pass is set up or how to protect against a blitz; however, a fake press conference is just dumb. And guess what? ESPN plans to do more of them! Can't wait.

2. NBC's video on demand announcement
Today, NBC announced that they were going to try a new approach to distribution - selling commercial-free versions of their big shows for $.99 the day after they air. At first, I thought they were going head-to-head with ABC and Disney and making their shows available for the iPod video (but at a lower price point).

Unfortunately, I gave them too much credit. Their idea is much, much simpler than that. They plan to sell commercial-free versions of shows to DirecTV subscribers who own a DirecTV DVR. That's right, they're going to sell you something (the day after it airs) that you can easily record for free when it airs (and zip through the commercials). Brilliant!

I would much rather see NBC and others trying to extend the medium to new devices (even if those devices are made by Apple) than see them reinventing the wheel and then trying to charge you for it.
Monday, November 7, 2005
CNET's new community features
First, I guess I must issue the disclaimer that I work for a division of CNET Networks (but not CNET.com). Anyway, CNET.com has launched some new community features and I took them for a spin tonight. Overall, I like where they are going with the feature set.

They allow you to setup a profile (with bio, interests, etc) and keep track of your ratings and discussion posts (as most other sites do). What I haven't seen anywhere else is the ability to build a "Want it" list and a "Got it" list from the thousands of consumer electronic products that CNET has reviewed.

In addition to ratings about your products, your "Got it" list has support information (manufacturer's website, firmware downloads, owner's manual, etc.) that might come in handy as you are living with the product.

I can also see the "Want it" list coming in handy around the holidays (just point gift givers to your profile page for gift ideas).

You can sign up for free and try it out or you can just check out my profile page.
Friday, November 4, 2005
DirecTV to add portability
According to this story from Reuters, DirecTV announced that they are going portable. DTV will work with "an array of partners" to provide devices that can store DTV's video content.

I've been hoping that DTV would make this move ever since Dish Network launched its Pocket Dish (a portable video player that can download content from a Dish box) product earlier this year.

The best news is that DTV will show off some of these devices at CES 2006 in January. So hopefully, I will have one of these devices in my hands my the middle of next year.

And to think I was actually considering a video iPod! What was I thinking?
Thursday, November 3, 2005
GMA in HD
I'm Shawn Morton and I have an HD addiction. I was actually excited when I remembered that Good Morning America would start broadcasting in HD this morning. I even turned away from Sportscenter in HD to check it out (I know, I know, I need help).

The verdict? Well, the opening and studio stuff looks very good. Not as good as Sportscenter in HD IMHO, though. They do seem to be switching to SD when Robin Roberts reads the news headlines (it even gets pillarboxed with ABC News graphics) and when the weather maps are displayed.

Of course, like Sportscenter, any footage that is shown that didn't originate in the studio is pillarboxed SD. The worst part about this is that the GMA pillarbox graphics are bright red with yellow "GMA"s running down them. Pretty distracting. I would like to see them go to a more subtle graphic ala the gray and black ones ESPN uses.

Overall, I think it is great to see more shows in HD; however, based on the opening statements from Gibson and Sawyer, only a small portion of the GMA audience are watching on HD sets.

Back to Sportscenter...
Wednesday, November 2, 2005
Miles is in the newspaper
Miles holding his article
Miles was featured in an article in the Courier-Journal today. He had taken a Creative Movement class at Cardinal Hill (where he gets occupational therapy) and a reporter from the paper came by the class last week.

We had no idea he was going to be featured, so he was just surprised to see it.
More Halloween photos

This is the shot Eric took as we accepted our prize for 2nd place in the costume contest.

Eric has posted the photos from his Halloween Voodoo Hex Fest on Flickr.
Netflix keeps on sucking
Netflix is quickly climbing up the list of services that I have, but wish something better would come along.

For example, I have broadband from my local cable company. I like the broadband; however, the cable company (Insight) has terrible customer support, ridiculously long hold times when calling and clueless contractors who can't seem to install the equipment correctly (and cause those long phone calls to support). Unfortunately, there isn't a better option. DSL requires me to pay for a phone line in addition to buying their service.

Now, Netflix has joined the list. In addition to the throttling they do to my account based on my rental activity, they are now settling a case action lawsuit (which was filed because they are limiting their "unlimited" service) by giving away 1 free month of upgraded service. So if you have the 3-out-at-a-time plan, you will get the 4-out-at-a-time plan for 1 month for free. This "award" works out to $6 per person who accepts.

But guess what happens if you accept the "award?" You will continue to be billed for the 4-out-at-a-time plan UNLESS YOU CANCEL IT! Looks like Netflix will probably make back a big chunk of the class action costs from people who forget to cancel. Nice!

I am going to opt-out of this settlement (which allows you to retain the right to join a class action suit later).

In order to opt-out, you will need to send a letter to:

Netflix Opt-Out
5654 Geary Blvd. #210511
San Francisco, CA 94121


Here is the info you need to submit:

Name
Address (that you had NF service with)
E-mail Address (that you had NF service with)
Phone Number
A reference to Chavez V. Netflix, Inc. (Case # CGC-04-434884)
When you became a NF member
Your NF service level
A declaration that you want to opt-out

Deadline for submitting your letter is January 6, 2006. Get more info at http://www.netflixsettlement.com
Tuesday, November 1, 2005
Sling Media is doing it right
After reposting the rumor from Engadget that Sling Media would be debuting a new Slingbox at CES 2006, I got an e-mail from Jeremy Toeman the VP of Product Development at Sling Media.

He basically let me know that the rumor on Engadget was just that - a rumor. I won't post his entire e-mail; however, he did say:

"To be clear: we are not commercially launching a 'next-generation' Slingbox at CES 2006."

I think it is great to see Sling Media reaching out directly to bloggers and keeping them up-to-date on the official story.

About Shawn Morton

Married father of 6; VP of Social Media at JPMorgan Chase; gluten-free; gadget enthusiast; hair metal aficionado; #Movember man View more on LinkedIn.