This is what Shawn Morton would look like if he had been made of LEGO sMoRTy71.com -- the personal website of Shawn Morton
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
PayPal pulls a fast one
My wife just got the shaft from PayPal. Yesterday, she won an auction and paid with her PayPal account. For some reason, PayPal deducted money from both her debit card *and* her credit card. Both deductions were tied to the same auction and were for the full amount of the auction.

No problem, we thought. Just call PayPal and show them their mistake (after all, you can't pay for an auction twice). They'll take care of it, right? Wrong. PayPal told my wife that there was nothing that they could do for her. She would need to take the matter up with the seller of the item she purchased. Huh? They double deduct for an item and we have to work it out? That doesn't make sense...

Oh wait, yeah it does. PayPal collected fees for both transactions *and* for the refund! So PayPal collected around $20 for their own mistake. Nice work if you can get it, I guess.

While I like the convenience of PayPal (and even though a friend just moved to CA to work for them), I have had just enough issues with PayPal and eBay lately to make me question whether or not to continue using them. I guess Skype will be the tie breaker in my love-hate relationship with eBay. If it ends up sucking, I'll do all of my online auctions at... uh... crap!!!
Transitioning to Skype
When we moved into our new house back in September, I made the switch from DSL to cable modem. The big reason was that I didn't need a phone line for cable (and I was required to pay for one with DSL). That resulted in a $40 charge for something we really didn't want (considering we use cellphones for 95% of our calls).

Of course, the switch to cable modem and away from DSL and landline wasn't as simple as planned. Being a DirecTV customer, I needed a phone line to activate my equipment. Since Insight (our cable broadband provider) also offered phone service (for a very low price), we decided to do our landline through them. Overall, we would still be coming out $20-$30 ahead each month.

Well, recently, I noticed that the super low rate that we had been paying had disappeared from our bill. Now, we're paying close to $40 per month for the landline we get through Insight.

So now I've decided to pocket that $40, cancel our local phone service and try Skype. I have already paid our landline bill through the end of June, so we should have a sense of whether we can use Skype reliably for the small portion of non-cellphone calls we make. Throw in the fact that Skype is offering free Skype Out calls through the end of the year, there really isn't a better time to try it.

During the trial period, I have installed a couple of mVox USB speakerphones on two computers in the house. I've also signed Amy and I up for separate Skype accounts. This way, we can each experiment with making Skype calls before shelling out the $50-$60 for a Skype phone adapter and another $38 for a Skype In number.

Once we get that all up and running, I will pick up some new webcams so that we can do video calls with family and friends who live out of town.

I'll post more on my impressions of Skype as I start using it more.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
There goes the neighborhood
We live in one of the safest areas in Louisville. The worst thing that generally happens in this part of town is that you get real milk in your soy latte or J. Crew doesn't have that skirt in a size 2.

In the past week or so, our neighborhood has been under seige from burglars. Over a dozen houses right around ours have been broken into. Most have gone the same way -- someone leaves their car unlocked, then the burglar swipes their garage door opener and returns later to help themself to the contents of their garage. Not exactly a home invasion; however, still pretty troubling.

Well, this afternoon, a couple of detectives stopped by to let us know that our next door neighbor's house was burglarized over the weekend. And in their case, the burglars actually entered their home through the garage.

So now, we've removed all valuables (and the garage door openers) from our cars and made sure that we lock our interior garage door at night. Between Faith (our dog) and my pistol-grip Mossberg shotgun (hey, this is Kentucky), I think we should be OK if they show up while we're home (3-4 AM seems to be a popular time).
Friday, May 26, 2006
SlingPlayer Mobile is awesome
A couple of weeks ago, I posted that I was in the market for a smartphone so that I could play around with my Slingbox (and get rid of my lame-o, 2-year old Nokia phone). Well, thanks to the generosity of one of my co-workers who read my post, I am currently evaluating (and may buy) a slightly-used Siemens SX-66.

Installing SlingPlayer Mobile was a snap. I was watching video about 5 minutes after I initiated the download of the software.

Here is a screenshot of it running on the SX-66:
Slingplayer Mobile running on Siemens SX-66

And here is a clip of me accessing a recorded show on my DirecTiVo


The coolest thing about the SX-66 is that it has built-in wifi, so I don't have to signup for a data plan with my current service provider (Cingular). I can use it at both home and work (and any other hotspot) to access my Slingbox. Sweet!
Web 2.0 v. Business 2.0
The team over at 37 Signals has a great response to Business 2.0's article about building a "bulletproof" startup. They call it "How to shoot a bullet through your startup."
IGN has some XBOX 360 scoop
IGN has the scoop on both the upcoming XBOX 360 Dashboard update as well as the HD-DVD drive.

I am really excited to see a download manager that allows you to queue up downloads and then go do other things. Sitting there waiting for a 700MB demo to download is painful. Plus, the download manager will be smart enough to pause when you are playing an online game to avoid lag.

As for the HD-DVD drive, I am glad to see MSFT give consumers a choice as to whether they want a next-gen optical drive; however, I hate the thought of another peripheral cluttering up my already-crowded equipment cabinet. Depending on the price of the drive, I may not have to worry about it. Anything over $100 (it *is* just an optical drive in an enclosure after all) is a total rip-off IMO. All of the horsepower needed to play the HD content from the discs is already in the 360.

Check out screenshots of the dashboard update here and the HD-DVD drive here.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Picked up Gnarls Barkley today
Gnarls BarkelyI had been meaning to pick "St. Elsewhere" up for a week or so; however, I never got around to it. After seeing the band's terrific performance on Conan O'Brien last night, though, I decided to grab it on the way to the office (Target for $8.98).

I was a fan of Danger Mouse's Grey Album and I love Cee-Lo's work with Goodie Mob, Outkast and Dungeon Family. In fact, Cee-Lo has one of my favorite voices in hip-hop.

Overall, the album is really, really good. So many great sounds. I've listened to it all the way through about 5 or 6 times and it grows on me with each subsequent listen. "Crazy," the first single (which became the first download-only single to hit #1 in the UK), is the highlight. Great melody and an awesome (yet subtle) bridge. In fact, I drove all of my co-workers nuts today from playing it over and over today.

Critics, for the most part, seem to like the album as well. It has an aggregate score around 80 (out of 100) from Metacritic. The New York Times who calls it "a manic, twisted soul album that's part nostalgia and part dementia." And NME says, "You certainly won't hear much else at the moment as inventive as this."
MPAA hires a hacker to steal info
First, let me start by adding a big "allegedly" to this post. However, if true, the story shows just what the MPAA is really made of.

According to News.com, the MPAA paid a hacker $15,000 to steal data and files from TorrentSpy.com. Coincidentally, TorrentSpy, which facilitates file sharing, is the target of a current MPAA lawsuit.

Of course, TorrentSpy.com is now suing the MPAA after the hacker came forward with his story. According to TS' suit, the hacker stole "a spreadsheet containing Torrentspy income and expenses from January to June 2005, copies of private e-mails between Torrentspy employees, detailed information on the company's servers, and billing information."

The MPAA is already removing/challenging our rights to fair use and crippling technical innovation. Now, it looks like they'll resort to breaking the law in order to get what they want while holding everyone else to a higher standard.

It makes me feel pretty good that I've only been to the movies twice ("Munich" and "Curious George") and have only purchased 2 DVDs in the past year ("Waiting..." and "Revenge of the Sith"). Of course, I think that speaks more to the quality of their products than it does to me "boycotting" the MPAA.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
TiVo tries people-driven recommendations
Over at the TiVo Blog, there is a post about an upcoming feature called Guru Guides. GG will be a new way for your TiVo to recommend shows. Instead of using an algorithm in their software, they are letting so-called experts recommend shows for you in their areas of expertise.

According the press release, the first group of Gurus includes Sports Illustrated, CNET (hey, I've heard of them), Billboard and Star.

I think this is an interesting approach to recommendations. I've had the TiVo Suggestions feature turned off since 2001 (about 2 months after I started using it). It was never very good and I didn't feel like investing the time to rate shows to tell it what I liked.

I think Digg has shown us that a group of like-minded individuals can provide results that are more interesting than the best recommendation algorithm. Plus, users are generally more forgiving of user-based systems.

For example, if Amazon recommends you items and you can see a flaw in their algorithm (you bought a toy for your nephew 3 years ago, so they *still* recommend toys), the entire system is called into question.

With things like Digg, you have no expectation of perfection. Plus, you will often find things that you are interested in that don't fall into a category that you would have assigned to yourself. For example, I would never put "astronomy" as an interest of mine; however, I always find myself checking out any hi-res photos of supernovas or black holes that are recommended on Digg.

Let's hope Guru Guides can offer a similar experience.
Monday, May 22, 2006
Wii60.com's Sony E3 video
Wii60.com, a site that is advocating that consumers buy an XBOX 360 and a Wii rather than the PS3, has posted a video that shows all of the "lowlights" from Sony's E3 press conference. Part of it actually made me laugh out loud (every time they showed the rhino or Gran Turismo footage, actually).

Spout makes tagging fun
Last week, I started working on a post about what I consider the tagging bubble that needs to burst. IMO, tagging has overstepped its utility in many situations and sites are incorporating tags for tags sake.

Tagging things like photos or videos make perfect sense. There is no metadata to start with, so tags provide some needed context and organization. And tagging bookmarks is almost as useful. The biggest problem I have with del.icio.us is remembering what tags I've used in the past. If I used "videogame" in the past and then I use "video games" now, you use all of the benefit of the tags.

Beyond that, I think tags are all hype. I've seen sites that want people to tag their news stories. WTF? Why would I want to add a tag to a story you wrote unless I am saving it? And if I see another tag cloud, I might lose my sh!t.

So, just as I was about to type up the rant that I just paraphrased above, I read Davis Freeberg's article about Spout.com which is a community site for movies.

Because I am involved in building community apps, I generally sign up for everything and have not seen a lot of innovation lately. So, with more than a dash of skepticism, I gave Spout a try.

The first thing I noticed is that tagging movies is a lot of fun. When you think about the amount of possible metadata that can be applied to a movie, it becomes a challenge to think of all of the things you want to say about it.

For example, when I saw the page for "Living in Oblivion," I tagged it "Chad Palomino," "El Lobo" and "Eyepatch." Anyone who has seen the movie will instantly know what I am talking about. For "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," I added "Rebel" ("Loaner" was already used) and "Deep in the heart of Texas."

I found myself doing this over and over (and even chuckling to myself when I thought of some).

In my first session, I ended up adding 61 tags, placing 24 films on my favorites list and adding two contacts.
Using my DNS server again
For several years, I ran my own DNS caching server to speed up look ups. After we moved into the new house last September, I never bothered to fire it back up.

Recently, though, our broadband provider, Insight, totally botched their move off of the AT&T network and some customers were without access for over a week. For the 4 days our service was out, I noticed that the DNS lookups were what kept failing.

Since getting service back, I have noticed that DNS lookups (even for sites I visit frequently) still take longer than they used to. So, I dug out my old Windows 2000 Advanced Server box (featuring a blazing 200mhz Pentium and 96MB of RAM!) and hooked it up this weekend. Now lookups for sites I frequent are lightning fast.

No word yet on if Insight will issue credits for the lost service. I'm glad, for now, that my service is back and that, thanks to my DNS server, the lookup issues are improving.
Super Group could be good
OK, I am a sucker for a good reality show (yes, there are actually some good ones). So I was excited, yet a little skeptical, when I saw a commercial for "Super Group" on VH1. The premise is that they put 5 "rock stars" in a house for 12 days to form a band. At the end of the 12 days, they are expected to perform a concert with their new material.

The band consists of Sebastian Bach (Skid Row), Ted Nugent, Evan Seinfeld (Biohazard), Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Jason Bonham (son of John). I think the producers of the show picked this line-up as much for their personalities (and the potential conflicts) as they did for their talent. Legendary rock manager Doc McGhee is charged with keeping them in line and on schedule.

The first episode was pretty good (they arrived in their gaudy Vegas mansion and found out who their bandmates are), so I've set up a Season Pass in the ol' TiVo.
Friday, May 19, 2006
Going to Getting Real Workshop in June
I signed up for the upcoming Getting Real Workshop from 37 Signals today. It is being held June 26th in Chicago. I've read through "Getting Real," so I am looking forward to hearing about their approach in person.

Because I hate to fly, I am going to make the 300-mile trip by car. Having my own car there also means that I *could* swing by IKEA on the way home. I need to get another speaker stand for my rear center channel speaker (although I'm sure I'll return with a carload of other stuff, too).
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Trying FeedRinse
feed_rinse
A view of my RSS filters

I signed up for a free FeedRinse account this morning. FeedRinse allows you to filter your RSS feeds so that you can get rid of the stuff you don't want.

The free version of the service allows 5 filters. I was worried at first because I have dozens and dozens of feeds in my OPML file. I figured I would run out too quickly. However, after doing it, I only ended up using 3 filters:

1. I filtered "NBA" out of the Blog Maverick feed
2. I filtered "cellphone" out of the Engadget feed (I wonder if there is anything left!)
3. I filtered "HDTV listings" from the HD Beat feed

While it is cool to be able to do this, I wonder how useful this service will ultimately be to most people considering I only came up with 3 filters for over 50 feeds. I guess I'll give it a little more time to before I decide.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Another reason to love Gamefly
I've been a Gamefly member for almost a year. One of my favorite things about the service is the "Keep it" option which lets you buy a game that you have checked out for a reduced price. Combine the reduced price with the Gamefly rewards dollars they give you ever 3 months of membership and it almost feels like stealing.

Today, I was able to choose the "Keep it" option for the New Super Mario Bros. game for Nintendo DS. The "Keep it" price was $28.00 (Retail is $35). They have a 5% off promotion AND a free shipping promotion. Plus, I was able to apply my $10 in rewards. My final price for the game, which just came out yesterday, is $18.27! Sweet.

Super Mario Bros for $18

So depending on how many games I buy, the Gamefly service is paid for with the discounts.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Think console prices are high now?
The Curmudgeon Gamer has a great set of charts showing the price of game consoles in both absolute dollars and adjusted for inflation.

It turns out that the Atari 2600 ($659), Intellivision ($825), Atari 5200 ($683 ), Odyssey ($612), Neo Geo ($993) and 3DO ($967) would all be more expensive, when adjusted for inflation (the numbers noted in parantheses above), than the Playstation 3 which will retail for $499 and $599.

Check out the full charts here.
Goofin' around with Google Notebook
Google Notebook is now live, so I've spent a few minutes this morning playing around with it.

Firefox extension for Google Notebook
View of the Firefox extension in action

Here is a public notebook that I made featuring reviews about Windows Media Player 11. With Google Notebook, which has a handy Firefox extension so you can add notes while browsing, you can highlight text and images (I chose text from Thomas Hawk, CNET, Jupiter Research and sMoRTy71) and save it to a Notebook.

Once in the Notebook, you can rearrange the order of elements by dragging and dropping them. You can add section heads and titles to your Notebook. You can also add Notes manually from the Notebook interface. And if you think you have a really good Notebook that others might enjoy, you can make it public.

I think Google Notebook could be really handy for bloggers or reporters who are gathering information from multiple sources. I think I might use it when researching a product or service. Or, as you've seen with my previous "reviews," I could get tired of it in 15 minutes and declare it "lame" in a later post.

Check out my Notebook on Windows Media Player 11.
New releases: Raconteurs & Mario Bros.
A couple of new releases worth mentioning today. First is The Raconteurs new CD "Broken Soldier Blues." The Raconteurs feature Jack White, Brendan Benson, Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler (the last two are from the Greenhornes who opened for the White Stripes when we saw them last year).

Also available today is the New Super Mario Bros. for Nintendo DS. The official website was launched yesterday and features tons of flash-based Mario goodness.

I picked up The Raconteurs CD for $9.99 at Target (so I could get it before I went to work) and Circuit City will be offering Super Mario Bros. at 5PM today for $27.99.
Monday, May 15, 2006
URGE would be cool if...
I downloaded one of the leaked copies of Windows Media Player 11 so that I could take a peek at URGE, the new music download service from Microsoft and MTV (and VH1 and CMT).

After spending a few minutes with it, it is definitely slicker than I expected. The search results, for example, change as you type. So as I typed "possum dixon" into the search box, WMP11 kept refining my results. That's kind of cool.

It also features several purchase options from buying songs for $.99 up to an all-you-can-eat download plan for $14.95. Plus, because it is MTV, you can watch music videos for songs for free (at least, I think they're free. I watched "Dancing Shoes" from Arctic Monkeys and wasn't prompted for payment). In a nutshell, if you've used iTunes, you know what to expect from WMP11 and URGE.

Compatible MP3 players

The big problem, though, is that URGE doesn't support iPods (not a surprise considering who built it). So unless you own one of the three compatible players (or unless you want to ditch your iPod and buy one so you can try URGE... OK, stop laughing.), you can't use it.

It makes me wonder why MSFT and MTV would waste... er, spend so much money building something that a relatively small number of people can use. It's not like they're adding some killer app that people will be willing to switch for.
Calacanis is still a hypocrite
A few weeks ago, I mentioned Weblogs Inc. CEO Jason Calacanis' hypocritical campaign against CNET for failing to properly credit some of his bloggers when Engadget, one of his biggest blogs, was exposed for doing the same thing.

Now, Jason has set his sights on YouTube. In a couple of recent blog posts, he blasts YouTube for being a haven for piracy and basically building their business on other peoples' content. He calls YouTube "the biggest hit and run in the history of the Internet."

He goes on to claim that "the real reason why YouTube won is because they matched great SEO with stolen content that was not available anywhere else."

While I won't go into the flaws in his logic or his lack of data to back up his claim, I would like to, again, call him out for being a hypocrite.

First, let's look at a Weblogs Inc. site like Engadget. What is it really? It is a blog based mostly on other peoples' content. It's gadget porn. And, for the most part, they are simply summarizing someone else's content and then linking over to it. So how does Engadget make money? They sell lots of advertising to run on the pages where they summarize other peoples' content. YouTube doesn't even do *that.*

So how can a guy who makes his living off of other peoples' content call out YouTube for showing *some* copyrighted material on their site (especially when YouTube isn't making any ad revenue off of those videos)?

And, as if on cue, people are starting to point out where Jason's own blogs are linking to copyrighted material on... YouTube! Check out this post where TV Squad links to a Lewis Black video from HBO.

TV Squad links to YouTube

Thanks, Jason. Keep up the rants. These blog posts almost write themselves.
NBC hates viral marketing
This week, Saturday Night Live had one of its best skits since the "Lazy Sunday" digital short became one of the most popular videos on the web a few months ago. This time, it was the opening of show which featured Al Gore (the real Al Gore) addressing America from the Oval Office (he was in a parallel universe where he was elected in 2000). The skit was very funny and, by Sunday morning, dozens of copies were floating around on YouTube. By this morning, one of those videos had taken over the #1 spot on the Most-Viewed Videos list.

So what does NBC do? Do they ride the wave of viral marketing and try to change the overall perception that SNL hasn't been funny in years? Of course not. As with other SNL clips, they have them pulled. All of the Al Gore videos from Saturday are gone. So are all of the Chapelle clips from last week's Conan O'Brien appearance.

Instead of putting their videos where the eyeballs are, NBC is going to launch its own video service called DotComedy.com which will feature clips from SNL, Conan, The Office, etc. Why not take the same approach as MTV and use YouTube as free advertising for their programming?
Why do I need desktop search?
There are a lot of reviews floating around about the latest release of Google Desktop. While I've installed (and uninstalled) all of the previous versions, I decided to download and install version 4 this morning. I was especially interested in the ability to index multiple computers (which was on my Google Desktop wishlist in a previous post).

As with other versions, I remembered that I have no real use for desktop search. Sure, I loved the idea of Google Desktop at first; however, I found that my usage trailed off rather quickly. Then, I was left with the uneasy feeling that all of my data was being constantly indexed by Google (and I wasn't really getting any benefit for it).

When I really stopped to think about it, I realized that I've never had a problem retrieving files using folders in Windows. I put music in a "Music" folder, videos in a "Video" folder, etc. If I really need to find something, I just search within those folders.

Another negative (for me) is the use of gadgets. I really, really dislike anything floating around on my desktop (despite my previous blog posts calling those things cool). They are just novelty items and they get old really quickly. Yeah, it is neat to have an analog clock on your desktop... for about 15 minutes. Same for the weather and stock quotes and Google maps.

I have the handful of sites that I visit every day (Flickr, Digg, Gmail, work e-mail) as my default tabs in Firefox. Everything else I consume is in my RSS reader that I have bolted on to FF. Because I spend about 90% of my computer time in a browser, this is the most efficient way for me to get to the info I need. Desktop gadgets require me to return to my desktop which I rarely ever do.

Am I the exception? Are people really finding Google Desktop and all of those gadgets useful?
Sunday, May 14, 2006
MySpace trashed on SNL
Wow, it sucks to be MySpace right now. Just a few months ago, they were being celebrated for their $500+ million sale to News Corp and their impressive 60+ million members. Since then, they've been slammed for being a haven for perverts and pedophiles.

Last night, Saturday Night Live decided to take their shot at MySpace. In the first half of the show, there was a skit where Andy Samberg is teaching a continuing education class on setting up a MySpace page. Host Julia Louis-Dreyfuss is a concerned mom who wants to know more about what her teenagers are doing. The rest of the class was made up of older men looking to learn more about picking up teenage girls (and, in one case, boys).

One of the things that was repeated throughout the skit was that MySpace didn't police certain things (like verifying age or verifying photos). I wonder how long it is going to be until they are forced (by pressure from parents, lawmakers, etc.) to do just that.

As someone who builds community and social networking features for a living, I don't necessarily welcome the idea of Congress legislating online community standards. I would rather see companies step up and make sure their tools aren't being abused by perverts. However, when you're dealing with children, it is hard to take a wait-and-see approach.

MySpace claims it is dedicating 1/3 of its workforce (100 employees) to protect its younger members; however, I wonder if Congress will wait long enough to see if those measures help before they step in.
Adding pictures to Gmail contacts
I noticed today that the Gmail pictures option has been enabled for my account. After going through their FAQs on the process, I thought it might be helpful to do one with screenshots.

So, here is how you associate a photo with your Gmail contacts:

1. Highlight one of your contacts then select "Change picture"
Select a contact

2. Choose to upload a picture or use one your contact has chosen
Choose

3. Select the file to upload
Upload

4. Crop the picture as needed
Crop

5. Click "Save" at the bottom of the page.

That's it. You've added a picture to associate with your Gmail contact. Now when you receive an e-mail (note that I am mousing over the word "me" in the list of e-mails)

step5

or access your contacts list
step3

you will see the picture you selected.

BTW, adding a picture to your own Gmail account is even easier. Simply click the "Settings" link at the top right of the page. The "My Picture" section is just below the "Keyboard Shortcuts" section on the General tab.
Friday, May 12, 2006
Got my Google Co-op feed working
After reading through the developer guide, I was able to quickly crank out a test XML file to create Subscription Links in Google Co-op. Here is my Google Co-op profile page where you can preview and/or sign up for a sMoRTy71 subscription.

Basically, the test XML file looks for the query "sMoRTy71" and then serves up a link and description to my site in the results. Not rocket science, but still cool to see working.

Here is a screenshot of the results:
My Google Co-op Results
The green area is where subscription link results are displayed

Now that I've got it working, I've gotten to figure out what the hell I can do with it.

BTW, if you want to see my super simple XML test file, check it out here.
Learning to use Google Co-op
Google Co-op is one of those things that looks like it could be pretty cool; however, it is difficult to describe/understand exactly what you're supposed to do with it.

So, in order to get my head around the concept of Subscribed Links, I am running through the developer's tutorial. I hope to have a working test up later today.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Pre-ordered a DS Lite today
Given that the DS Lite has been selling out in Japan, I figured a pre-order was in order if I wanted one at launch. Of course, given the XBOX 360 pre-order debacles, I am still a little hesitant to declare that I will definitely have a new white DS Lite on June 11th. However, I think this gives me the best shot. Plus, since I only had to put $25 down, I'm not risking a lot.
Mr. T on Conan
Conan O'Brien has been taping his show from Chicago all week and it has been awesome. Last night, he did a great interview with Dave Chapelle (Part One, Part Two). However, the finest segment of the week (perhaps of all-time) was this bit that Conan did with Mr. T.
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
Nintendo just stole the show!
Super Mario Galaxy
Holy crap! Nintendo just stole E3 with their press conference. They took the exact opposite approach to Sony and focused on the games and the gameplay first.

The first few minutes of the conference showed people playing games (both live and in a video montage) like Super Mario Galaxy, Tennis, Baseball, Golf, Red Steel, Zelda, Fishing, etc. Seeing it in action was amazing. Everyone who was watching in the office (even non-gamers) immediately wanted one.

Every demo they did was fun to watch because you got to see new and interesting applications for the controller and nunchuk - drawing back a bow and arrow in Zelda, Sword fighting in Red Steel, moving Mario in Super Mario Galaxy and hitting a tennis ball in Wii Sports.

And to demonstrate just how accessible the new controller is, they pulled a contest winner out of the audience and he immediately started playing tennis. No instructions needed. He just started playing.

Although they failed to give a launch date and exact price, they did confirm 4th quarter 2006. They also hinted at the number of launch titles. 27 games will be playable tomorrow at the Nintendo booth (27!). And that doesn't include the Virtual Console games available for download.

Gamespot will have the entire show available for download. If you missed it live, you need to check it out.
Why the Wii will beat PS3
OK, the more I think about the Sony announcement yesterday, the more I think they are in real trouble, especially when compared to the Nintendo Wii. The one thing that I can't get past is how most consumers will experience each console for the first time.

Scenario:
You walk into Wal-Mart (or Target or Best Buy) during the holiday shopping season. You go to the video game section and see the new console kiosks.

In one kiosk, there is a Nintendo Wii with its remote-like controller. It is priced around $250. In another kiosk, there is a PS3 with the same controller design as the PS2. It is priced at $500-$600. The kiosks themselves will probably be pretty similar from a construction/presentation point of view.

From the experience point of view, though, playing the PS3 in the store will be very similar to playing a PS2. There is no cool factor in the actual mechanics of the gameplay. All of the differences are hidden under the hood of the console. You have to figure out why you should pay $500-$600 for something that is just like playing the PS2. Blu-Ray or 1080p? Most people won't know what those are, so why would they pay a premium for them.

The Nintendo Wii doesn't have those problems. It has a new style of gameplay that the consumer can actually experience in the store. They don't have to read a spec sheet to see why they should want to buy it. They also won't have to understand any new terms like Blu-Ray or 1080p. The Wii will work on the TV they have now. Then, throw in the $250-$350 price difference and it just isn't a fair fight.
Monday, May 8, 2006
Sony chokes at E3
Wow, what a letdown. I'm not even a Sony fanboy, but I felt bad for how lame that press conference just was. PS3 will have all of the bells and whistles promised: ability to play 1080p games, built-in hard drive, free online play, etc.

However, at $499 and $599 (yeah, that's right!), they had better come out with some better games than what they showed in the press conference if they expect anyone to buy one.

I just don't understand why you:

1) allow Blu-Ray to delay your ship date AND raise the price per console
2) don't come out with stronger titles to justify the wait and the price

Now that Sony has flopped, it is Nintendo's show. Their press conference is tomorrow at noon Eastern. BTW, GameSpot Complete members can stream it live.
TIME's review of the Wii
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A scan from the TIME article from Infendo

TIME magazine reporter Lev Grossman got to play the new Nintendo Wii and has written a 5-page article detailing the experience.

Here is what he had to say about using the new controller:

"It's a remarkable experience. Instead of passively playing the games, with the new controller you physically perform them. You act them out. It's almost like theater: the fourth wall between game and player dissolves. The sense of immersion--the illusion that you, personally, are projected into the game world--is powerful. And there's an instant party atmosphere in the room. One advantage of the new controller is that it not only is fun, it looks fun. When you play with an old-style controller, you look like a loser, a blank-eyed joystick fondler. But when you're jumping around and shaking your hulamaker, everybody's having a good time."

And check out what EA's John Schappert said about the new Madden game for the Wii:

"To snap the ball, you 'snap' the remote back toward your body, which hikes the ball," Schappert says. "No buttons to press, just gesture a hiking motion, and the ball's in the hands of the QB. To pass the ball, you gesture a throwing motion. Hard, fast gestures result in bullet passes. Slower, less forceful, gestures result in loftier, slower lob passes. It truly plays like nothing you've ever experienced."

Holy crap! I'm sold on the Wii (although I was sold before, but still...)!
Screwing with my blog template
I am aware that my site looks kinda like doo doo right now. I'm trying to do a redesign on the fly. Not the best idea. Should have things put back together in a couple of days.
Saturday, May 6, 2006
My XBOX 360 is upset
I haven't been playing my 360 as much as usual (that's what happens when Halo 2 is still the best 360 title). Now that my XBOX 360 is blogging, it is telling the world. Here are the first 3 posts:

"smorty71's Xbox - 05/06/06
smorty71 would tell you I am a patient Xbox 360... little does he know... I have a bit of a temper if I am neglected.

smorty71's Xbox - 05/05/06
It has been far too long since I felt the sweet spin of a game in my drive. smorty71 is the only one that can give me what I need!

smorty71's Xbox - 05/04/06
These three chips in my head are getting hungry for gaming... feed me smorty71, feed me!
"
Friday, May 5, 2006
USA Today gives Louisville some love
Around this time of year (Derby season), Louisville tends to get a lot of national attention. However, that attention generally plays up stereotypes of horse country and Southern traditions. Not exactly the reality that most people experience here.

So it is nice to read this USA Today article which highlights the transformation taking place downtown.

As part of a San Francisco-based company, we're always trying to assure most of our West Coast co-workers that Louisville isn't like "The Beverly Hillbillies."

And despite what the article, there is no disagreement locally on how to pronounce it. It is "lou-uh-vul."

BTW, my photos from yesterday's Pegasus Parade are on Flickr. Lots of bands, clowns and the greatest of all-time, Muhammad Ali. Looks like a few other people posted photos to Flickr as well.
Thursday, May 4, 2006
innertube - at least the name is cool
On the heels of ABC's cool, new video streaming service, CBS has launched their own service called innertube. After looking at what they are offering, I have to wonder why they bothered.

Unlike the ABC version, which lets you watch their big prime-time shows, CBS has chosen to launch with 3 clips (2 from "Survivor," 1 from "Greek to Chic"). And, while ABC has decided to support Firefox and IE, CBS has decided to create a site that actually crashes Firefox.

innertube

So, if you want to watch 3 short video clips in IE, then innertube is for you.

Seriously, though, I'm not sure why CBS bothered launching with such a weak product offering. Sure ABC beat them to the punch; however, coming back with this just makes ABC look that much better.
Wolfmother on Conan tonight
Wolfmother, whose debut CD was released Tuesday, will be performing live on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" tonight. I just picked up the CD this morning and it is awesome. The funny thing is that I really don't care much for Led Zepplin (I know, I'm a heretic) or Black Sabbath; however, I love Wolfmother's sound.

Here is their video for "Woman"


Is it just me or does lead singer Andrew Stockdale look like Supergrass lead singer Gaz Coombes wearing an afro wig in that video?
Wednesday, May 3, 2006
Nintendo DS Lite news tomorrow
Nintendo is supposed to announce price and availability details for the new DS Lite tomorrow. I am really eager to hear what they say. While I am betting it will cost $149, the date is a real unknown. Some rumors have it launching with the new Super Mario Bros. around the 15th. I've also heard June 11th.

My hope is that they want to drop a pre-E3 bombshell and launch on Monday.

In the meantime, I will be able to keep myself busy with an N64 that I am buying. Someone my wife knows has an N64, 3 controllers, a memory card and 6 really good N64 games on sale for $20. I am planning on picking it up tonight and getting my 64-bit freak on.
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
I got negative feedback!
As I mentioned earlier this week, I was in a dispute with an eBay buyer about the DirecTV receiver that I sold them. I claim it worked when I shipped it, she claimed it didn't work when she got it.

Several e-mails were exchanged where I explain my side of the story (i.e. I tested the unit prior to shipping). The seller says that if I give her $20 (to cover the shipping on the brand new HDTV receiver she is getting from DirecTV), then she won't give me negative feedback (she said, "Don't worry about a negative, that would not be fair.").

I decided to take the evening to think over what I was going to do. On one hand, I know that I am right. On the other hand, even one negative feedback is really bad, especially since I have open auctions right now.

Well, the buyer decided that I had waited too long and left the following feedback today:

"Negative: Received DOA.Direct TV verified.Tried to work out compromise to no avail."

I contacted the buyer again and we exchanged a couple of emails. It was clear that this isn't going to get resolved to anyone's satisfaction, so I have tried to do some damage control. First, I posted this in response:

"Reply: Tested unit before shipping - see photo; Buyer getting new receiver from DirecTV"

I also added a note to each of my open auctions that links to my blog post about the negative feedback. I'll just have to wait and see if the negative feedback affects my ability to sell my last 2 items.

UPDATE -- 5/2/2006 @ 11PM: The buyer has agreed to withdraw the feedback! Woo hoo!
My XBOX 360 is blogging
360voice.com is offering an autoblog service for your XBOX 360 console. Just tell it your gamertag and your gender and it will generate a blog based on your XBOX 360 usage.

Here is a sample:

"Major Nelson's Xbox - 04/28/06
I thought Major Nelson just wanted to listen to music or watch a DVD. Turns out he was there to game. With a gamer score of 3392, I should have known that was the case. He played Battlefield 2: MC, MLB 2K6, and did it while marvelling at the framerates and stellar particle effects.
"

Check out my XBOX 360's blog (it may take a day or two to generate content)
Had to buy from iTunes - argh!
This morning, I purchased "Who the F@ck are Arctic Monkeys?" from iTunes for $4.95. I hate having to buy music from iTunes because of their use of retrictive DRM; however, I didn't really have another option.

The Arctic Monkeys' new EP is sold out on their website and I have yet to find it at a local retailer (hmm, could it be the F-bomb they drop in the title?).

As a way of sticking it to the man, I also snatched the new singles from Wolfmother (last night) and The Raconteurs (this morning) as part of the Free Download of the Week.
Monday, May 1, 2006
"Pathetic" XBOX 360 setups
While I enjoy spending too much money on my home theater gear, I would never be a "hater" and trash talk anyone who isn't able to do the same. Joystiq's XBOX 360 Fanboy, however, is not above making fun of those less-fortunate gamers who don't have the best XBOX 360 setup.

Here are a couple of my favorites from their "Most Pathetic XBOX 360 Setup Contest":


Two months ago I underwent a huge down grade from a nice 32" television to a 9" in the laundry room after my sister moved back into the house and reclaimed her TV and the basement. The only other room my ethernet would stretch to was the laundry room. One of these days I'm going to buy a wireless setup for my room upstairs. I get lines through the picture when the washer or dryer is on and the AV input has to be duct-taped into just the right spot in order for the picture to apear. I'm used to it now and don't really mind it.


Right now I’ve got a 13” Orion TV, about 15 years old, hooked up to a Sony VCR through coax cable, and the 360 is connected to the VCR through the inputs in the front. See, the Orion doesn’t have any RCA jacks, so I gotta use the VCR as a poh man’s coax to RCA convertor ... Anyway, I would buy a nicer rig, but I moved down to New York City to live with my girlfriend a little while ago, and we don’t have much money (rent here is $1600 a month for a one bedroom apartment), so we can’t afford a big TV or a stand to put it on. Not yet anyway. I guess a moving box will have to do for now, keeps my neck from strainin’ too much. But I love that girl, and I love my 360, so whatever it takes, right?

See the whole gallery here. WARNING: These setups aren't pretty.
ABC launches free streaming
ABC kicked off their new streaming service today. Now, you can watch the latest episodes of "Lost," "Desperate Housewives," "Alias" and "Commander in Chief" for free. Unlike the $1.99 iTunes version, the free shows will have commercials.

What I find interesting is that each episode has a single sponsor (or at least only one per viewing) and that there are fewer commercials than the normal show. The runtime for "Lost" (I think) was 43 minutes.

The only real "penalty" comes when you try to fast forward the show. ABC makes you watch a 30-second full screen commercial from their sponsor. When I tried to fast forward through "Desperate Housewives," I got a commercial from the episode's sponsor Cingular.

Overall, I think the service looks promising. The interface makes it very easy to switch between shows, the video quality is really good and the price is just right. There is just no way I am going to shell out $2 to watch something on my iPod.

I think a nice next step would be to tie this into Windows Media Center through the Online Spotlight section.

abc_launcher
The screen that launches the video player

abc_show
Video player window

abc_ad
Ford ad (spawned by fast forward event)

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After Ford ad plays, user must click back to show

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.