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Radio 2.0 Under Assault

March 7, 2007 7:16 PM

pandora.jpg I just received a troubling message, sent by Pandora CEO Tim Westergren to the Pandora user community, about the fact that the Copyright Royalty Board has just dramatically increased the fees Internet radio sites must pay to the record labels. 

If this is left unchanged, the resulting financial burden would effectively stymie -- and potentially kill off -- all Internet radio sites, including Pandora.

According to Tim, "The RIAA has convinced the Copyright Royalty Board federal committee to pass rates that will kill internet radio. For now, we are continuing to operate Pandora in the belief that rationality will return."

"Online radio has brought millions of music-lovers back into music radio, and has opened up a world of opportunity and promotion for thousands of musicians - both obscure and well known. Continue Reading...

Second Life Trials Voice Chat

February 28, 2007 8:06 PM | 1 Comment

second_life_logo.jpg The popular, virtual reality site "Second Life", run by Linden Labs, will shortly unveil a new limited service beta trial in which they will give users the option of chatting up other avatars with voice instead of text.

Prior to this announcement, Second Life users wanting to communicate with one another have had two basic choices: text chat (either personal or in a group setting) or the use of third-party voice applications like Skype.

Linden Labs  has teamed up with VoIP technology partners Vivox and DiamondWare to engineer the service, which goes live on March 6 for a limited group of users. By the end of the month, Linden Labs hopes to extend the feature to all Second Life inhabitants.

Second Life's new integrated voice chat feature will offer a group mode that lets users hear voice conversations in their immediate proximity, and personal and regular group voice chat, where users don't need to be near each other to have a conversation.

After added voice chat to its site in late 2003, many Second Life users have been clamoring for the same feature.  And after seeing users add Skype and other applications like TeamSpeak or Ventrilo into the site, Linden Labs apparently got serious about development.

The plan is to initially provide voice free of charge during the beta. Down the road, Linden Labs is considering limiting the offering to mainland property owners and island owners who pay a $295 monthly maintenance fee, and charging users living on the wrong side of the virtual train tracks an additional fee or making them upgrade to the current plan.

It's clear the site is at the very early stages of incorporating real-time voice chat, and it will be interesting to see what emerges from the user community and how people incorporate it into their virtual business and personal lives. Continue Reading...

Costco Amends TV Return Policy

February 27, 2007 2:12 PM

Costco.jpg I was sorry to hear that Costco recently ended their amazing 2-year, no-questions-asked return policy for a bunch of electronics products, including TVs, computers, cameras, camcorders, cell phones, MP3 players and iPods, It was a wildly popular, if occasionally abused, policy -- and helped make Costco the go-to place to snag a great deal on a new flat screen HDTV.

Now, customers have 90 days to return these products for a full refund (although Costco will extend manufacturers warranties up to two years and offer free phone-based tech support).

Apparently, the company was experiencing a noticeable financial hit from its largesse, and the bean counters couldn't allow it to continue.

xbox%20and%20drive.jpg For those of you who are frustrated by the sky high prices of new HD-DVD or Blue Ray players (running @$600 to $900, respectively,) there's a novel solution to getting your HD-DVD on your PC or TV on the cheap.

Apparently there's a way to "hack" the Xbox 360 HD DVD player -- officially designed to be exclusively connected to the Xbox 360 console -- that lets you watch high def movies on your PC or TV, without the need for the 360 console.


At about $200 , this currently qualifies as the cheapest  HD DVD drive around.

According to the folks at HDDVDFreak: "The hack seems to be as simple as finding a generic HD-DVD drive driver, then getting PowerDVD or WinDVD with the HD-DVD upgrade on, then plugging in the drive over USB and sticking a disc in. Presumably, you could even remove the drive from the casing and plug it directly into your PC over SATA, mounting it in a spare drive bay and earning some serious kudos."

For a full description of the procedure, the guys at uneasysilence also provide links to drivers and other related information, and provide snapshots of the surgery to free the drive for PC Continue Reading...

Vizio to Offer 60" Plasma HDTV

January 2, 2007 6:33 PM

Vizio_50_inch.jpg Word from Vizio headquarters is that the company is getting ready to announce a bunch of new HDTV flat panels at the upcoming CES show. One new model that I'm quite excited about is a new 60" Plasma, with full 1080p resolution, and even better --  a couple of new HDMI 1.3 inputs. (this is the 50" model to the left).

Vizio has rapidly become one the biggest sellers of LCD and Plasma HDTV sets in the market, due to its low pricing and decent build quality -- very much a "one-two punch" in today's HDTV marketplace.

Word is the unit will be available in late March-early April -- and although pricing hasn't been set, I expect the company to stay true to its low-cost ways and break new pricing ground with this set. Continue Reading...

Don't Buy That HDTV, Yet

December 20, 2006 6:54 PM

Pioneer Elite.gif
Here's a good cautionary tale for those looking to make the plunge into buying their first HDTV or getting a second or third set for the bedroom and study. With prices finally coming down to earth, many people have decided they've waited long enough and are snatching up the plasma or LCD thin screens of their dreams.

According to this great piece on by David Carnoy, a new HDMI standard -- specifically HDMI 1.3 -- is slated for incorporation into HDTV's starting around the second quarter of 2007. Based on this information, you just might want to hold off a little while longer before buying that snazzy new set.

What is HDMI 1.3? HDMI, which stands for High-Definition Multimedia Interface, is a successor to DVI, and is the highest quality A/V connection available today that can transmit both digital audio and video signals. Continue Reading...

iPods Infected with Virus

October 18, 2006 2:11 PM

As if worries about protecting our PCs, laptops, PDAs and mobile phones from pesky viruses wasn't enough, now we have to cast a gimlet eye on our iPods. According to a recent story that appeared on, the RavMonE.exe virus, which affects only computers running the Windows OS, has been reported on a number of video iPods shipped after September 12th.

Apple has reported about 25 cases of infection, and apparently this virus doesn't impact owners of the iPod nano, shuffle, or Mac-based iPods.

For more info and instructions on how to remove the virus, Apple has set up a special page on its support web site.

Hooked on

October 6, 2006 2:28 PM

A month ago, I decided to check out -- a new "analytic recommendation" site for music that functions like your very own personalized Internet radio console. Pandora lets you create personalized "stations" based on specific artists or songs, and then plays music related to your stations selected from a database called the Music Genome Project. Cover art is displayed as songs are played, and song/artist information is available. A nifty "thumbs up/thumbs down" Tivo-like feature lets you fine tune the station selections. Continue Reading...

Zune for $99?

September 25, 2006 2:53 PM

Tom Keating's been following the launch festivities for the Zune, and I thought I'd add my 1 cent with a recent blog posting by James Kim from, where he writes about speculation that Microsoft might significantly subsidize the Zune to generate music subscription services revenue (similar to the Msoft Xbox strategy re: console pricing and game sales). Interesting and potentially quite disrupting if true!

Here's a link to Msoft's Zune Virtual Pressroom, for what it's worth...

Is Dabble the Next Google of Video Search?

September 18, 2006 2:02 PM

If Mary Hodder, the brilliant mathematician CEO of Dabble, has anything to say about it, the answer is a resounding yes, and no...

Let me explain. Dabble -- currently in beta -- was founded with the singular mission to be the primary "search engine" of choice for videos from all over the Web. Dabble gathers video data from hundreds of hosting sites, as well as from tens of thousands of other websites, and then keeps a record of where Web-based videos are located, descriptions about the video, who made it, what it's about, how popular it is, and so on.

This record, called "metadata", makes it easy to search and find videos. But Dabble goes further than simply indexing this metadata -- and this is where similarities to Google end. The site also employs the power of social networking, where the community of Dabble members adds details and notes, corrects mistakes, and shares what's valuable to them about the media, enhancing the metadata in a massive team effort that goes far beyond what any one site can do alone.

Although you don't need to join Dabble to perform a video search, there are many benefits to becoming a Dabble member. Continue Reading...
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