This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO sMoRTy71.com -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
Thursday, March 30, 2006
UMD near death -- really?
It only took a year; however, it looks like Sony is finally willing to admit that *another* proprietary format they came up with is dead.

Unfortunately, Sony still appears to be in denial about the cause of death. They cite the PSP's inability to be connected to a TV. Really? That's the reason? I thought it was the fact that no one wants to adopt yet another proprietary Sony format. I'm sure the higher price, lower resolution (so you wouldn't want to connect it to a big screen), no extra features and the inability to write your own files to blank media didn't help either.

According to this article, retailers and studios are ready to drop the format altogether. So even if Sony allows you to hook the PSP to a TV, you won't have much to watch.

I am waiting for someone to build an open portable platform that allows you to connect it to your existing devices and existing media formats. The rumored Microsoft portable would be perfect (for me, anyway). I could use my XBOX 360 and my Media Center PC to share media with the device. Maybe then, Sony would realize that we don't need any more Memory Sticks or Mini Discs or UMDs.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Update your XBOX Live Friends
XBOX Friends on the web
XBOX.com is now allowing you to update your XBOX Live Friends list via the web site.

In the photo above, the three marked "Pending" are players that I just added via the website. Once (or if) they accept my request, they will be moved into my list (and I will be moved into their list).

You can also manage your Friend requests via the website, too. If you want to try it out, add me (Gamertag: sMoRTy71). I'd like to see how it works.
Monday, March 27, 2006
Deleting my unused profiles
I have signed up for and tried just about every "Web 2.0" service that has popped up over the past few years -- Flickr, Yahoo! 360, Slide, Rollyo, 43 Things, del.icio.us, Digg, MySpace, etc. Unfortunately, I only consistently use a handful of them -- Flickr, Digg, del.icio.us.

Today, I decided to clean up some of the unused, but Google-indexed, profile pages for these long-forgotten services. I just don't want these stray bits of data associated with my online persona (yeah, I know how stupid saying "my online persona" sounded) in Google.

So far, I am having limited success in removing my profiles from these services. Slide and 43 Things made it really easy with a "delete account" option.

Most other sites, though, don't let you delete your account. I understand the business reason behind this (i.e. they can claim to have more users), but it is a pain in the butt for anyone who has tried a service and wants out. I've e-mailed Rollyo and Yahoo! Rollyo responded and said they would delete it for me (although, they thought I was a weirdo for wanting to, I think).

For those sites (that I don't use anymore) that don't offer a delete option, I am going in and removing any data that I have created to test their service. If they provide a URL field, I am simply pointing people back to my blog.
WIRED & Reuters "out" a source
OK, I was reading a WIRED article about how some grassroots developers have written apps to allow Sirius and XM service to be streamed to a cellphone (using the web-based players that both companies offer). BTW, to get off track for a second, I think it is great to see people band together to improve or extend a product when the companies themselves can't or won't.

The problem I have is that the article totally exposes one of their sources who requested to not use his full name. Check out this nugget to see what I mean:

"We don't want to get into any trouble," said Wayne, the developer of PocketXM Radio, who declined to give his full name for fear of retribution. He said his software, subsequently renamed Pocket Satellite Radio, is no longer for sale.

It had been sold at a website registered to W**** J****, based in Texas.
"

NOTE: I hid the source's name in the quote above to keep this guy's name from showing up all over Google once this post gets indexed. Of course, WIRED and Reuters weren't so kind.

Unbelievable! Sure, readers could potentially connect the dots and do the same thing; however, revealing a source like that is as slimy as it gets in my opinion. To be fair to WIRED, the article is a reprint from Reuters. However, it is still no excuse to using it. Lame.
NES emulator for XBOX 360!
Someone (username "Xexter" on xbox-scene.com forums) has figured out how to use Windows MCE 2005 to run an NES emulator on the XBOX 360. Games run fine; however, there is currently a problem getting the sound to come through.



I can't wait to get home and try this.
Friday, March 24, 2006
Got first PayPal Mobile payment
My friend Scott just sent me a PayPal Mobile payment. Below is the e-mail I received alerting me of the payment.

PayPal Mobile email

The process to accept the payment was painless. I clicked the link in the e-mail, logged into my account and clicked the "Accept payment" button.

The bummer of the whole thing was when I realized that $.33 of the $1 payment went to PayPal. For some reason, my acount is labeled "Premier," so I don't qualify for receiving money for free. Not sure how I got that account level, but I would sure love to get rid of it.

BTW, here is what PayPal charges Premier/Business accounts to receive money: 1.9% to 2.9% + $0.30 USD.
Lollapalooza 2006 lineup
Lollapalooza 2006

A pretty strong lineup for Lollapalooza 2006. Queens of the Stone Age and The Raconteurs are a couple of bands I would really like to see. I am also interested in checking out Kanye West.

It is being held in Chicago again this year, so we are considering making a road trip out of it.

More info on the lollapalooza.com site
Listen to new YYYs on MySpace
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs' new album "Show Your Bones," which will be released on Tuesday, is available now on their MySpace page.

The album is already getting great reviews. Rolling Stone has given it 4 stars and NME, which features the band on the cover of their latest issue, claims they have made "the album of the year!"

Check it out here.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Activated PayPal Mobile
I'm sure everyone will be blogging about this today; however, PayPal Mobile is such an awesome idea that I just have to comment.

Now, you can use your phone to send money to anyone else with a phone. Someone owe you $5? They can send a payment to your phone with their phone. You will also be able to buy things you see in stores as well. Read more about it here.

I just completed the phone activation process which was really easy (and pretty cool). Here are some screens of the steps:

1. Add your mobile phone number to your PayPal account
PayPal Mobile

2. Create a PIN
PayPal Mobile

3. Set up a confirmation call
PayPal Mobile

4. Make the confirmation call
PayPal Mobile

5. Success!
PayPal Mobile

If only PayPal Mobile could use your phone to call people who owe you money. Now THAT would be cool.

UPDATE [3/24/2006]: I received my first PayPal Mobile payment. Read more about it here.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Volkswagen's Gypsy
VW GypsyNews.com has a demo video for VW's Gypsy in-dash interface. In a nutshell, Gypsy creates an underlying technology infrastructure for a variety of devices and communication methods.

For example, you can plug in your iPod (or some other device that uses USB) and control it via the Gypsy in-dash screen.

You can also use Gypsy as the interface between you and your Treo or smartphone. Using Bluetooth, Gypsy pulls in your Contacts list so that you can send short messages (using Gypsy's pre-installed phrases "Can't type right now" or "Driving right now" or "Call me") from the Treo without actually touching the Treo.

The last thing in the demo deals with home automation. Using Zigbee, Gypsy can communicate with devices in your home. In the demo, they show how to turn off the iron that has been left on inside.

This is very, very cool. Check out the video here.

You can also check out some pretty small screens from the Gypsy UI here. The GUI was designed by Paul Chang Design in San Francisco.
Punkasses on XBOX Live
Last night, I decided to play a little Team Slayer on Halo 2. I chose ranked matches so that I could assess my skills against other players of the same rank. Unfortunately, most of the games I played were filled with punkasses who were either "de-leveling" or helping the other team (or both).

Twice, I had every other member of my team inform me that they were de-leveling so I should just quit. In both cases, I chose to play out the match and trash-talk my teammates.

Once, I was actually able to get all of them to team kill me so that I could boot them from the game.

And in another game, this jackass named xLHxGrunkalunka was actually spotting for the other team. I kept hearing, in that annoying high-pitched voice, "hey, he's over here... no over here... NO! over here." Fortunately for me, the kid was too stupid to ever use landmarks to pinpoint my location, so it wasn't much help.

Eventually, I just decided to betray him with the energy sword until he booted me from the game.

So, here are the gamertags of the punkasses that I played with last night who were either de-leveling or helping the other team:

Team Slayer on Lockout:
- BigButtBratzel
- DingyNine
- AbzorB
- BxR ACDC (was on the other team)

Here are the stats from that match

Team Slayer on Colossus:
- ROADH3AD
- FrAySeRBoY187
- BoughtVirg

Here are the stats from that match


And finally, here is the king of all jackasses who spotted for the other team:
xLHxGrunkalunka
Extreme Makeover: Prince Edition
After purchasing Prince's new album, 3121, yesterday, I was flipping through the booklet in the CD. I noticed a mansion, with a big Prince symbol on it, overlooking what appeared to be L.A. I was a little confused since Prince lives in Minneapolis.

0320063princehouse1
Photo credit: The Smoking Gun

Well, this morning, The Smoking Gun solved this little riddle. Turns out that the mansion in the photo belongs to NBA "star" Carlos Boozer. Prince is currently renting the house for $70,000... per month! During his stay, Prince made a bunch of unauthorized changes to the property including:

- Painting his purple symbol on the outside of the house
- Installing black carpet
- Installing purple monogrammed carpet
- Installing plumbing for beauty salon chairs

Boozer's attorneys initially got involved and demanded the improvements be undone; however, the suit was eventually dropped in February. Prince's lease runs through May 31st; but, "the tenant may cancel the lease with 45 days notice "should the weather conditions of the Los Angeles rainy season...prohibit enjoyment of the property."

I would say NOT having purple monogrammed carpet and beauty salon chairs would also prohibit enjoyment of the property, but that's just me.

As for Prince's new album, I definitely recommend picking it up.

BTW, I actually titled this blog post "Extreme Makeover: Prince Edition" before I noticed that TSG's story had the same title. Weird.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
TiVo has lost its mind
First of all, let me say that I have been a happy TiVo user since 2001. Love the software. However, if I wasn't using a DirecTiVo (which only charges $5.99 for the TiVo service), I wouldn't use it. I just feel that $13 per month is too much to pay for something that offers no content of its own. By comparison, Sirius is $13 and I see a clear value in what I am paying for. With TiVo, it is just convenience. And since TiVo isn't the only DVR app available, it just doesn't make sense for me.

tivo-crazy

Now, TiVo sends me an e-mail for a new promotion where they give you the TiVo box and you just pay the monthly service fee. Of course, the fee has increased and they have added a service contract.

To get a free TiVo box (which could be had for less than $150 now), you have to sign up for a 3-year commitment at $16.95. That's over $600! I don't know why anyone would take them up on this offer.
VW & Sirius get cozy
Last week, Volkswagen announced that they have signed an exclusive deal to add Sirius satellite radio to 80% of their vehicles between the 2007 and 2012 model years.

This is great news because I currently own both a VW and a Sirius radio. My current implementation uses the somewhat jacked-up FM modulator. It would be nice to have an integrated stereo / Sirius receiver.

I plan on buying a VW or an Audi when I am in the market for another car (probably in 4 or 5 years). My current VW is paid off in July, so I plan to live for a few years without a car payment.
GameSpot integrates GameFly
I just noticed a cool new feature on GameSpot. They have integrated GameFly into their game listing pages. So, if you have a GameFly account, you can add games to your GameQ directly from GameSpot. You can also review your GameQ within the GameSpot site.

gamespot_gamefly

I find this very handy since I often check GameSpot's review of a game prior to adding it to GameFly.
Jason Calacanis is a hypocrite
Last year, Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc. called out CNET sites News.com and GameSpot for to failure to credit Engadget in one of their stories. He made a really big deal about it and acted like it was a big conspiracy to keep readers from viewing blogs. He went so far as to say:

"That's really what CNET is up to: they don't want to introduce their readers to new AND BETTER news sources like Engadget, Gizmodo, GigaOm, Battelle Search Blog, and Rafat Ali's PaidContent.org."


He stopped short of calling for a boycott of CNET sites by saying:

"Some folks have suggested to me a blogger boycott of CNET. I'm tempted, but I'd rather see everyone just call them out every time they steal a story If CNET will not do the right thing perhaps bloggers can shame them into treating bloggers with the same respect CNET shows to other writers."

Well, you can imagine my delight when I saw this story on Digg yesterday. It shows how Engadget posted a story giving credit to a site called DAPreview.net. However, later, Engadget cropped the DAPreview logo out of the photo and removed all credit and links to DAPreview.

Story before
Story after

And, according to DAPreview, this wasn't the only time this happened. Repeated attempts to add the proper credit via Engadget's comment system lead to nasty-grams from Engadget staff.

The best part is Jason Calacanis' response to the problem. He said:

"Jason (www.calacanis.com) from Weblogs, Inc. here. It was a mistake and we fixed it. When you do thousands a post a month based on hundreds of thousands of tips you can make mistakes--it can happen on the best blogs including Engadget. It was certainly not done maliciously. ... We're sorry for the mistake."

Hmm. Looks like "they don't want to introduce their readers to new AND BETTER news sources like" DAPreview.net. And how is cropping someone's logo out of a photo not done maliciously? Funny, he didn't make nearly as big deal about his company costing someone else "hundreds of thousands of pageviews."

BTW, for those who think I am being a little tough on jdawg, I am only following Jason's own advice which was to call sites "out every time they steal a story."
Friday, March 17, 2006
Flawed tests on battery life
Several sites, including Engadget and CD Freaks, and bloggers have picked up on MP3 Insider: The truth about your battery life that was pushed on MP3.com.

The article claims that DRM is killing the battery life of portable media players. As much as I hate DRM, this test isn't valid because it isn't an apples-to-apples comparison.

The tests look at battery life when playing MP3s versus battery life when playing WMA with DRM. The codecs used for each are already recognized as requiring different amounts of power from the device. A real test would be comparing WMA against WMA with DRM.

So, again, while I am not a fan of DRM, invalid tests don't really help.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
GameSpot takes a beating
Final tally for the last game

Well, after much intranet trash-talking and executive wagering, the much-anticipated Halo 2 match between CNET B2B and GameSpot is over. In my best Johnny Drama voice, I can proudly shout "VICTORY!!!"

Without sounding like a jackass, I have to say that it wasn't really that close. Here is how the match played out:

Scrimmage (Colossus) -- We had 3 of the top 4 scorers (I lead with 14 kills)
Game 1 (Ivory Tower) -- 50 to 35 win (I had a pitiful 4 kills)
Game 2 (Lockout) -- 50 to 47 loss (I had 10 kills)
Game 3 (Battle Creek) -- 50 to 40 win (I had 11 kills)

GS suggested the scrimmage and everyone on our team (except me 'cause I never lead in kills) sandbagged just to see how they played. I think they were doing the same thing.

Overall, the matches were pretty tame from a trash-talking standpoint. Of course, I did occasionally drop the ol' TB on a couple of people, but that's OK, right?

We had a nice crowd of about 10 people cheering us on. Considering that the match started at 8:30PM our time, I was surprised to see that many people there. Of course, it could have been the pizza and beer that lured them there.

It should be interesting to see how the GS guys respond tomorrow. After the smack talk before the game, I don't expect graceful losers.
Playing Halo 2 w/GameSpot
TRvGS
We are having a little business unit showdown tonight with members of our B2B division squaring off against members of our Games & Entertainment division in a Halo 2 deathmatch.

We built a small gameroom in our Louisville office (42" Samsung HDTV and an XBOX 360) a few months ago and we've been trying to get someone to play us. After some trash-talking on our corporate intranet, we finally got the GameSpot team to accept.

We chose Halo 2 because it is compatible with both the XBOX and the 360. Plus, it has been around long enough that everyone knows the game and how to play.

We are doing a best-out-of-three team slayer tournament tonight at 8:30 PM Eastern. Photos and results later tonight.
The winning Engadget cake...
is absolutely amazing. Kirk Sutherland made a 1:6 scale working version of a Treo 650 called the Treo 6-Tasty.



In addition to a real screen, the cake also plays "Happy Birthday To You" via the Treo's Contacts feature. Unbelievable.

Watch the video here.
CozmoTV overview
Thomas Hawk has a really nice overview of Cosmo TV's service offerings (I won't try to recap everything here, so read his post for all the details). Basically, Cosmo is combining remote scheduling of DVRs/Media Centers with tools for social networking like tagging and friends lists. Not the best summary, but that's the general idea.

The current site features, which basically just allow you to schedule recordings for your TiVo and tag shows, aren't that exciting. However, some of the upcoming stuff is very cool.

1. Support for Media Center PCs and iPods
Cosmo claims that they will support more devices than just TiVos. This is great for me considering my two DirecTiVos are always left out when it comes to remote scheduling.

2. Ability to share your viewing habits with friends
I have wanted something like this for quite a while. I would love to be able to see what friends are watching, especially if I turn on the TV and there is nothing on my TiVo to watch. Knowing that a friend is watching could be very helpful (and potentially embarrassing for them -- bonus!).

3. Support for different types of content
Cosmo is going to support web video in addition to broadcast, cable and satellite. So the ability to find and record great content isn't limited to what you could already get through your TiVo. Considering the growth of sites like YouTube, it would be very cool to get that type of content alongside more mainstream video.

Check out Cosmo TV's site for more.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Too many "random musings"
I was reading some blogs this morning and I began to realize that lots (LOTS!) of people refer to their blog as "random musings." A Google search for "random musings" has 2,000,000 results.

"Duffbert's Random Musings"
"The Random Musings of David Weller"
"Sam's random musings"

I wonder where that term came from. I mean, I never hear anyone use the word "musings" in everyday conversation. Or maybe I just don't hang around enough coffee shops or literary clubs. I imagine that word flies around pretty freely there.

Wait, a second... is this post a random mu--- NO!!!!
Monday, March 13, 2006
Engadget cake entries
I've decided to compile links to some of the entries to the Engadget Birthday Cake Contest here. I tried to keep up with all of them, but they are coming in too fast here at the end (plus, I have no chance of winning, so...).

XBOX 360 (mine)
PSP
iPod
Alienware PC
iBook
Chocolate with M&Ms
Cupcake
Engadget logo (Photoshop fake cake)
Apple pie
WTF? cake
Multiple cake sequence
Mario (?) cake
Samsung Q1
Engadget logo cake
Origami
Bad speller
Another Alienware PC
Mac Mini
Ericsson W600
Another Engadget logo cake
Atari 2600 cake
NES controller
Laptop cake
Miniature cake
Inspector Engadget
Another PSP cake
Another Mac Mini
Sidekick
Professionally-made Alienware cake
Betamax
Another WTF? cake
Black Alienware cake
iPod mini
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Heavy metal memories
I was listening to Hair Nation on Sirius as I was making dinner for the kids tonight when "Tears are Falling" by KISS came on. It instantly took me back to 1985.

My friends (Mark Rickicki, Timmy O'Connor and Jason Young) and I had gone to see RATT and Bon Jovi at the Huntington Civic Center in Huntington, WV. RATT was supporting "Invasion of Your Privacy" and the lesser-known Bon Jovi was supporting "7800 Degrees Fahrenheit."

Huntington was about a hour drive from our homes in Charleston. Jason's dad drove us there and back since we were all only 14. On the way back, we started talking about the new KISS song "Tears Are Falling" and how cool it was. Well, just a few minutes later, the song came on the radio. Of course, air guitar and bad singing ensued.

Now every time I hear that song, I think of that heavy metal moment.
"That man just yawned"


The Arctic Monkeys did two great performances last night on Saturday Night Live. They did "I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor" and "A Certain Romance."

Towards the end of "A Certain Romance," the lead singer called out someone in the audience for yawning.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Engadget's Birthday Cake Contest
Happy Birthday, Engadget!
To celebrate their 2nd birthday, Engadget is running a contest for the best gadget-related birthday cake. The grand prize is a really nice Alienware PC which is valued around $2,000.

After watching a few entries roll in over the first couple of days, I decided to give it a shot. I decided to do an XBOX 360 cake. It seemed like an appropriate choice considering it was the Engadget Gadget of the Year.

As you can see in the photo above, I created a faux blade interface that includes "Happy Birthday Engadget" and a photo of the grand prize.

So what my cake lacks in technique, I tried to make up for in overall presentation (I knew watching "Top Chef" would pay off somehow). I was also able to find a bow and some wrapping paper that is very, very close to the color of the Engadget logo. And I even colored the cake green to match the XBOX 360 logo color.

I spent about $20 in supplies and a couple of hours in the kitchen -- all while recovering from the flu (that last part was for the judges).

See more photos of the cake and the baking process here.
Wednesday, March 8, 2006
The "Tower" has fallen
I've never been one to get sick easily. In college, my roommate, Pat, started referring to this quality as the "Tower of Immunity." On the rare occasions that I did get sick, Pat seemed to take great pleasure in announcing that the tower had fallen.

After well over a year (maybe 2) without getting sick, the "Tower" has fallen once again. By 6PM last night, I had a 101 degree fever and generally felt lousy. The fever has continued today and has been joined by a nagging cough and a runny nose. Woo hoo!

I was able to get my doctor to prescribe Tamiflu. If taken in the first 48 hours of symptoms, it is supposed to lessen their severity and shorten the overall illness. We'll see.
Tuesday, March 7, 2006
Why *I* like YouTube
Everyone has been talking about YouTube lately. Newsweek had an article recently about how YT's traffic now equals that of traditional media sites like the NY Times.

I also just read this blog post, from Church of the Customer, that lists 10 reasons why YouTube is better than Google Video.

While I agree with some of those points, the reason I like YouTube is simple -- the content. People have uploaded clips of just about everything. Roller Derby videos are one of my favorites.


A close second? Girl fight videos. Is that wrong?
Sunday, March 5, 2006
Weekend from hell
Well, this is a weekend that I won't miss once its over. Everyone in the house, except me, has been sick over the past week. Mahlon was the first one to get well. Everyone else is completely miserable.

Basically, it starts out with chest congestion, then comes a high fever (101-104).

Mira and Amy spent most of today at the ER due to dehydration from the fever (Mira hasn't wanted to eat or drink anything over the past couple of days). I stayed home and tried to battle Miles' fever with alternating doses of ibuprofen and Tylenol.

The fever associated with this virus doesn't respond well to either. So even with medication, Miles and Mira's fevers are over 101 (and higher as each dose wears off). Amy and I actually have to set the alarm clock throughout the night to give more meds, otherwise, their fevers get too high.

We're hoping that Mira will start to feel better now that she's gotten some IV fluids. Miles is acting OK, however, with his history of seizures, every fever is a risk.

I'm hoping to sleep more than 4 hours tonight, but I'm not counting on it.
Friday, March 3, 2006
Rockstar's first XBOX 360 game
Rockstar Table Tennis

IGN posted a little teaser in their forums this week that they would be announcing a super secret XBOX 360 game today. Of course, sites like Digg picked up on it and people speculated wildly about what it might be.

My favorite guess was "Super Mario Evolved Projected Gotham Racing Theft Auto Pro Skater Turismo Gear Solid Kong Country Reloaded XII."

Unfortunately, that was wrong; however, the game that was revealed sounds like it could be pretty awesome. Rockstar, the makers of the Grand Theft Auto series, is making a table tennis game for the 360... yes, I said table tennis.

According to Sam Houser at Rockstar:
"We wanted to create a sports game with the intensity of a fighting game and the sense of speed and control that would make playing it a more intense and more visceral experience than has previously been possible with sports games. It's not just about looking better, feeling better or animating better but about using the power of the hardware to make a game that engages with you on a different physical and emotional level."

I'm actually excited about checking this game out. I like tennis games; however, my one complaint about them is speed. Table tennis is a much faster game, Rockstar should be able to make a pretty exciting game out of it.

Check out more in this interview on IGN.
Parents Television Council & KidZone
Yesterday, I posted about my disappointment in TiVo's "big announcement" of the KidZone feature. I argued that it just wasn't compelling and didn't warrant advanced PR before the announcement.

Well, after reading Thomas Hawk's thoughts on it (he thinks it's a cool feature), I realized that KidZone is worse than I originally thought.

Why? One of the two groups that will be providing guidance to the programming in KidZone is the Parents Television Council. The PTC is a moral watchdog groups that files thousands of complaints (According to the FCC, 20% of all indecency complaints filed with them are from the PTC) to the FCC about what you should be able to watch on television. Of course, they do it in the name of the kids, so they must be OK, right?

No, I don't think it is. There are already federally-mandated tools, like V-chip, that give parents the power to monitor/limit the types of programming that their kids see. And the great thing about V-Chip is that it keeps moral or religious judgments out of it. You, as a parent, have the ability to choose what is appropriate. There are also parental controls built into my DirecTiVo that allow me to layer on more rules/limits on top of the V-chip.

The argument that the PTC likes to make is that V-chip and other technologies aren't used by parents or that they're too complicated, so they need to step in on our behalf. They'll figure out what we should watch and listen to, then they'll lobby the FCC and write complaint letters to advertisers. We don't need to do anything, not even think for ourselves.

And now, with KidZone, it appears that TiVo is trying to cash in on that kind of thinking. As Thomas Hawk points out, being able to tell consumers that they have these great offerings for parents, gives TiVo an advantage in the marketplace. However, aligning yourself with groups like the PTC is not going to win over parents who just want the tools (and not the moral judgments of fundamentalists).

Fortunately, DirecTiVos aren't able to get this new feature. This is one of the few times that the DirecTV-TiVo divorce has worked out in my favor.
Thursday, March 2, 2006
$25 to watch an HD movie at home
I think media companies have a new approach to fight piracy -- pretend to be so incredibly stupid that people will feel guilty about stealing from them. That is the only thing that can explain Peter Chernin's, News Corp's COO, comments about their upcoming service offering.

"News Corp. is betting that people will pay $25-$30 to watch Fox films at home in high-definition quality via cable and satellite TV 60 days after their theatrical release."

I hope they're not betting a lot, because they are going to lose. This is right up there with Circuit City's Divx DVD player idea. It even makes the upcoming $30-40 price point for Blu-Ray and HD DVD seem reasonable.

According to Chernin, consumers who have spent a lot of money on a home theater will be "desperate consumers" for this type of offering.

Well, speaking as someone who has spent a lot of money on home theater equipment, I will never pay $25 to rent any movie. I don't care if it is HD.

I might pay $25 per month to stream movies from a service provider like Netflix; however, I am not going to pay for rentals ala carte.
TiVo disappoints w/ KidZone
KidZoneI'm no PR expert, but I think TiVo kind of blew it today with their announcement of KidZone. Several factors came together to make this a pretty big disappointment:

1. Apple's much-hyped announcement of new products earlier this week
2. TiVo's lack of product innovation over the past several years
3. TiVo hyping today's announcement in advance

Of course, let's not overlook the fact that the product announced is just lame. Even without the other contributing factors, KidZone is a dog. As a parent, I already have the V-chips on all of our TVs and the parental controls on all of our DirecTiVos set up. KidZone gives me nothing, not to mention all of the eager-for-innovation TiVo users who don't have kids.

This comment on Engadget really summed up what most TiVo users are feeling:

"Hey! I can't believe it - TiVo announced TivoToGo for the Mac. Universal, transfers easily to your ipod and PSP and allows Apple's iTunes downloads to be played on you TV.

Oh wait, no they didn't."
I want a Gefen component extender
I just saw the new Gefen component extender over at HD Beat and it is very cool. It allows you to run an HD or other component video signals over Cat 5 wiring.

So you could have an HD receiver in a central location (closet, basement) and distribute it to a display in another location via Cat 5. Of course, there is a converter box on each end of the Cat 5 that converts back to VGA.

I would love to get something like this setup at the house. I currently have a ton of equipment in a rack in the manroom next to my TV. It would nice to be able to place some of the equipment in the basement where my structured wiring box is located. Then I could distribute a signal video source to all of the rooms in the house with Cat 5.

The bad news is the Gefen component extender is $300 (and that just covers one display)and I would need 4 of them to make this happen.
Is *this* the mark of the beast?
Just about every technological advance is criticized by some extremists as a sign of the apocalypse. The printing press (yes, the printing press), the bar code, Social Security cards and Y2K have all been targets.

Now, consumer advocate Katherine Albrecht is claiming that RFID is *really* the mark of the beast (no word on why the ones I mentioned previously failed to spark the end of the world). In Albrecht's world, everyone will be implanted with RFID chips and be tracked by "the man." Here is a passage from the WIRED article:

Another passage in Revelation describes a vision in which "a foul and loathsome sore came upon the men who had the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image." Albrecht and McIntyre write, ""Interestingly, an implanted RFID device like the VeriChip could potentially cause such a tormenting sore if it is subjected to a strong source of electromagnetic radiation," such as a directed energy weapon.

If it is subject to electromagnetic radiation such as a directed energy weapon? Where did that weapon thing come from? If you need to invent weapons and crazy scenarios just to make your doomsday scenario work, it's not a really solid doomsday scenario in my opinion (but hey, I'm no doomsday scenario expert). It's like saying that ice cream is a sign of the end of the world. Why? Because , in the future, giant, ice cream-craving aliens could swoop down and destroy the planet with their gigantic alien feet and acidic alien saliva (It *could* happen, you know!)

What I find more interesting is that Albrecht is promoting her new book on the topic (and, it turns out to be her second book on the topic) -- "The Spychips Threat: Why Christians Should Resist RFID and Electronic Surveillance." Wonder what she is doing will all of the money she is making from these humanitarian works? Surely the books are free, since money won't mean anything once we have the implants. And I wonder if the books will have bar codes and ISBN numbers?

As with all of the previous "threats," I'm going to go out on a limb and bet that this one will fail to bring an end to the world. I guess that idea doesn't sell too many books, though.
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
My review of "Full Auto"
As I previously mentioned, I received my copy of "Full Auto" for the XBOX 360 on Friday. I've pretty much been playing it non-stop ever since. However, I figured I should take a break and share my thoughts on the game now that I am about 50% through career mode and have played several matches online.

Graphics
Ever since seeing early trailer on GameSpot, I have been impressed with the graphics of "Full Auto"; however, watching trailers on the web and playing the game in HD on a 65" screen are totally different.

The game looks fantastic in HD. Some of my favorite details include how the sky reflects off of the car trunks (until you get your trunk blown off, of course), the smoke and glass shattering when buildings are shot and, of course, all of the huge explosions.

Some reviews I have read claim that there are serious frame rate problems with FA; however, I have only experienced a few brief frame rate hiccups. It only occurs when there are a ton of cars and explosions on the screen at the same time. Not enough to qualify as a serious problem IMO.

Gameplay
"Full Auto" was developed by Pseudo Interactive who also did "Cel Damage" which was one of my favorite early XBOX titles. Like "Cel Damage," "Full Auto" is all about driving fast and blowing things up. I generally hate driving games like "Project Gotham Racing" because they are just driving simulators. I want a game that adds something extra to the experience. Turns out the ability to blow everything up with weapons mounted to your car is the "something extra" that works for me. It's what I really enjoyed about "Cel Damage" and it is what I really enjoy about "Full Auto."

As you progress through career mode, you can unlock more cars and weapons, each with their own specialties. Cars include a limo, a police car (the lights and siren come on whenever you use your "boost" capability), a pickup truck, a giant tow truck and a tricked out hot rod. Weapons include machine guns, mines, grenades, shotguns, smoke screens and missles. Each has their own range, so you have to choose the right weapon for a given challenge. Some times it's missles (which are my favorite) and some times it's machine guns.

In addition to a variety of cars and weapons, there are several gameplay modes to choose from including head-to-head (where you and a friend can challenge each other), career mode and online. And within each mode, there are different game types like point-to-point, down and back and circuit.

Depth / Replayability
I've read a couple of reviews that claim "Full Auto" isn't deep enough or doesn't have enough modes. It's as if the reviewers are judging the game for what they think it should have instead of reviewing the game that has been built.

With that said, I think that depth and replayability would have never come up had I not read those reviews. I have found the career mode to be very deep (I'm only about 50% complete) and challenging. I've had to retry several of the missions in order to get the right combination of car and weapon to achieve "Full Auto" status (each mission uses a medal system with "Survivor" for bronze, "Semi Auto" for silver and "Full Auto" for gold).

When you throw in a head-to-head mode for quick pick-up games and an online mode, I think "Full Auto" is a well-rounded game that sticks to what it is good at -- blowing anything and everything up while driving really fast. If that sounds like fun to you, then I highly recommend "Full Auto."

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.