Sunday, December 30, 2007

Friday, December 28, 2007

Fujitsu to Cease Selling Plasma TVs in 2008

Some of you may remember when Fujitsu was once the best (and only) plasma around...

Draw another chalk outline around a video company who couldn’t compete in the commodity driven world of video displays. Today, Japan’s Fujitsu announced they would cease selling their high-end plasma HDTVs effective March 2008. The company, in a written statement says it will return to their core businesses, which include heating and ventilation, and would still make displays for the medical industry but would no longer make or market plasma HDTVs for consumer consumption. Fujitsu’s move comes as prices for flat HDTVs are dropping faster than home values in many American neighborhoods this holiday season. Consumers struggle to understand how an added value brand like Fujistu can demand as much as 20 to 40 percent more per HDTV set than a comparable, lower priced brand like Vizio.

Fujitsu's distribution model and marketing plan was never as strong as added value companies like Runco/Vidikron or Meridian-Faroudja, who offer larger margins and more complete support, which earns the “push” from the specialty dealers. One thing is for sure; Fujitsu's move out of the HDTV market will not be the last in 2008. As HDTVs increasingly become a low profit margin commodity and mid-level retailers like Tweeter struggle to find a way to add value to consumers versus the generic big-box players, expect other companies to follow suit with Fujitsu before the dust settles.

by: Jerry Del Colliano

Mayberry's First Live Sound International Article

Acoustically Incompetent

It’s been 108 years now, and you’d think it’s been long enough. Yet some of the brightest guys in America keep making the same dumb mistakes over and over again.

And ignoring the issue hasn’t made it go away either- it just keeps popping up like Baby Boomers and their anticipated Social Security payments…

Still, you’d think someone given the responsibility of designing our great facilities would want people to be able to converse and enjoy listening to music in them. Sadly, that is far less often the case than necessary.

At the most basic level, sound bounces around unless it’s absorbed or diffused. Too many bounces and our brains get confused and we can’t enjoy the space. Too much intrusive noise and we get confused too, and the issue only gets worse as we age.

The cure is simple and well known. Go buy absorption and diffusion and sprinkle it liberally around a room, starting with the ceiling, floors, and walls. Absorption is cheap; diffusion more expensive. Yet neither is a rare or exotic item; they are both widely available and allow both performers and listeners to enjoy the space. Carpet works well.

We should all agree that a good sound system cannot fix a bad acoustical space. Neither can a great one. No amount of amplifiers and speakers can “fix” a large room with insufficient acoustical absorption, no matter how loud it plays or well its pattern is controlled. Even with the most exotic line arrays, the room will sound far better if properly treated to optimize the reverberation time relative to performance expectations.

Yet for years American architects have wrongly believed that noise and reverberation problems can be cured with exotic sound reproduction systems. They can’t. There is no $300,000 sound system that sounds good in a tiled restroom. Nor is there a three dollar sound system that does.

Isn’t it funny how modern restaurants using the exact same materials as our restrooms and get the same “aural flush” result? Did you know any acoustician can calculate and predict the results accurately long before the building is built?

One needn’t look very far to understand why it’s difficult to communicate in most modern buildings in the United States- it’s the fault of our architects. Their training is lousy.

How lousy?

Apparently architects are no longer required to take Latin. Had they done so, they would realize that the root word in auditorium is not seismic retrofit; nor design/build; nor cost/plus; nor value engineering, nor even LEED. Here’s a hint:

1727, from L. auditorium "lecture room," lit. "place where something is heard," neuter of auditorius (adj.) "of or for hearing," from auditor "a listener," from audire "to hear" (see audience).

One might assume that a space dedicated to where something is heard would have a primary emphasis on noise reduction, reverberation control, and maximizing speech intelligibility.

Not so in American architecture. Even with seats costing $200 per evening for prime events now, our architects continue to treat acoustics as an inconvenient afterthought.

Why so? I’ve concluded there are a number of answers behind this debacle.

Many American architects live exclusively in a visual world. It’s often all about the pretty picture in a magazine and on the web. Many European architects live in a visual and aural world and realize that the design of a facility affects the quality of sound reproduction.

Our architectural schools do not teach the subject properly. One of our more prestigious architectural schools offers a total of 123 total classes in its curriculum. Only one of them, “Design for the Luminous and Sonic Environment” appears to have an emphasis on the aural environment. Even in that one we take a back seat to lighting. Typical.

Ever look an architect straight in the eye and asked them what they budgeted for interior acoustical treatments up front? Nine times out of ten the answer is nothing.

Architects routinely ignore their acoustical consultants input, and put in them in the unenviable position of having to justify their recommendations ad nauseum. Ever see a lighting designer having to justify their lamp selections in a similar manner? Nor have I.

Our architects need to better understand which materials have the best acoustical absorption. Wood is good, but not great for absorption. Fiberglass is two to three times better.

There is no building code compliance enforcement for intelligible speech, thus it is not a priority for many architects. There is for fire sprinklers. If the sprinkler system doesn’t work, the building doesn’t get a Certificate of Occupancy. True, there are some emergency evacuation standards that are just beginning to address the issue, but the lack of an acoustic code means a lack of enforcement. We regulate everything from tire tread wear to pajama flammability, but not basic audio quality in our society.

More expensive project labor means less expensive materials are used. Seen much granite used in buildings recently? Less expensive materials imply lower weight materials, resulting in less capability to attenuate sound transmission between rooms.

Perhaps some of that is our fault as sound system suppliers. My suspicion is that few in our profession are aware of how to calculate speech intelligibility. We have no control on the amount of fiberglass or diffusion installed in a building. Many have never bought any absorption or diffusion in their entire career.

Providing a quality aural experience requires a quality acoustical space first and then a quality sound system to perform well. Go straight to Audio Jail, do not pass Go, and do not collect $200 if you think you can get away with a all hard surfaced interior, no matter how tightly you control your speaker directivity.

In the meantime American architects need to step up to the plate. The issue is well understood, and the knowledge to solve the challenge already exists. No more research needs to be done. Get yourselves properly trained.

The first quantitative acoustically engineered building opened to the public in 1900. Boston Symphony Hall has been making money for a century now, and it’s well past time our architects use technology properly to improve acoustical performance throughout North America in every single building.

Remember Zappa’s Law: There are two things that are universal: Hydrogen and Stupidity. The inability to communicate successfully in our facilities falls in the latter.

France Eliminates Email

Well, sort of...

Neilsen Cable TV Rating In

Disney, USA, TNT top list...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Plasma vs LCD

Great summary article...

Sony to Exit Rear Projection TVs

85% of the market was in the US. Down from 1.1 million to 400k sets in two years.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Chinese Trojan on Seagate/Maxtor 3200 Hard Disks

The mainstream media seems to have missed this one...

Chinese Trojan on Maxtor HDDs spooks Taiwan
By John Leyden
12 Nov 2007 20:17
Ghost in the machine

Confirmation that a Maxtor hard disk drive was infected with a Trojan by a manufacturing sub-contractor in China is spooking Taiwanese authorities, one of the countries where examples of the infected kit have begun to appear.

As first reported by El Reg in September a pre-installed Trojan named AutoRun-AH was discovered by Kaspersky Labs on Maxtor 3200 external hard drives sold in the Netherlands. Maxtor is owned Seagate. Initially, Seagate expressed skepticism about the reports.

But following a subsequent investigation the firm confirmed that an unspecified number of Maxtor Basics Personal Storage 3200 drives sold after August 2007 were indeed contaminated by malware during the manufacturing process. It traced the problem to an unnamed sub-contractor in China.

AutoRun-AH is a Trojan that searches for passwords to online games and sends them to a server located in China. It also disables anti-virus software.

Seagate is on the case, it says. It "quickly put a stop ship to units leaving the facility as soon as the company learned of the probable infection. All units now leaving the facility in question have been cleared of the virus and units in inventory are being reworked before being released for sale. However, some affected units may have been sold to the public before the problem was detected".

Maxtor 3200 external hard drives come in a range of sizes. Some infected 500 GB versions of the product have reached Taiwan sparking a major security flap undoubtedly exacerbated by the tense political relationship between Beijing and Taipei. Many of the large capacity drives subject to the alert are used by government departments, fueling espionage fears.

Around 1,800 portable drives, produced in Thailand, were contaminated with Trojan horse malware, the Taipei Times reports. Local distie Xander International has being instructed by the Ministry of Justice to pull the products from its shelves.

Seagate has yet to respond to our requests for comment on the number of hard disks it thinks may have been infected, or where they are.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Wireless Spectrum Bidding Update

Many Bidders For Spectrum To Be Atypical

December 19, 2007; Page A8

Google Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and other nontraditional players are poised to square off against traditional U.S. wireless entities in the federal government's spectrum auction in January.

Qualcomm Inc., MetroPCS Wireless Inc. and US Cellular Corp. were others among 266 applicants potentially seeking to bid in a list released last night by the Federal Communications Commission. It isn't certain that the applicants will actually bid and some, such as AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., have paperwork issues to mend before they are allowed to do so. Those companies' applications were marked by the FCC as "incomplete."

The auction is scheduled to take place Jan. 24 and could raise as much as $15 billion for the government.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Airbus A300 and A310 Warnings...

Airbus Steps Up Inspections on Older Planes

December 18, 2007 7:08 p.m.

LOS ANGELES -- About 420 older Airbus jetliners are being subjected to repetitive ultrasonic and other enhanced inspections of their rudders, the first time airlines and safety regulators have resorted to such recurring, high-tech procedures to determine the integrity of composite parts on airlines already in service.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Internet Radio Review

How about 8,500 radio stations you can tune in on a single box?
From England...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

What to Do with a Dead iPod

Getting a new iPod for Christmas? Don't throw out your old one, there are plenty of ways to keep it going for longer.

Tom Whitwell

What happens when an iPod gets old? Apple boss Steve Jobs has said, “If you always want the latest and greatest, then you have to buy a new iPod at least once a year,” so you might already have a few littering your sock drawer.

Sell it: Brett Mosley buys any iPod in any condition. His website (previously offers prices on any iPod – from $2.40 for a first-generation iPod which has been run over, to $350 for a new, working iPhone. If they’re not fixable, he strips them for components and spare parts. He makes money, but also has an environmental mission. He says “We’re building a sanctuary for electronics from around the globe.” Beyond The Pod offer a similar service for more recent iPods. You might get a better price from eBay, but these one-stop services are less hassle.

Fix it: Most dead iPods have faulty batteries or hard drives. Sites like iFixit have detailed visual instructions about how to open (and hopefully close) the case and replace various components. You can buy batteries on eBay for less than £5 (just search for 'iPod battery', and find out which generation iPod you have). Hard drives are more expensive (£20-£50) and slightly fiddlier to fit, but it's still a relatively simple DIY job - there's no soldering involved. And if your iPod is dead already, you've nothing to lose, right?

Hack it: If your old iPod works, but you’ve replaced it with a shiny new one, don’t throw it out. Using Encyclopodia, you can turn it into a portable version of Wikipedia. Rockbox is a free alternative operating system for the iPod and various other Mp3 players. It adds lots of new functions, including the ability to play arcade games such as Doom. iDoom is another version of the same game, which uses iPodLinux - a completely new desktop-style operating system for the iPod.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Flat Panel Displays Devour Power

That Giant Sucking SoundMay Be Your New TV

Flat-Panel Displays DevourPower, Even Before Add-Ons;Energy Star Blurs the Picture

By REBECCA SMITH (Wall Street Journal)

December 13, 2007; Page D1
Prices for big-screen television sets are dropping, but the cost of home entertainment may still be headed up. That is because the fancy screens shoppers are lugging home this holiday season consume far more electricity than their old-school predecessors.

Consider that a 42-inch plasma set can consume more electricity than a full-size refrigerator -- even when that TV is used only a few hours a day. Powering a fancy TV and full-on entertainment system -- with set-top boxes, game consoles, speakers, DVDs and digital video recorders -- can add nearly $200 to a family's annual energy bill.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CBS Research Chief Touts New SanDisk PC to TV Video Transfer System

Produced by Hoag Levins Published: December 12, 2007

CBS research chief David Poltrack discusses the near-term future of online video content.

NEW YORK ( -- CBS market research chief David Poltrack, the man charged with keeping the network ahead of the curve in the video content and distribution business, appeared at a breakfast yesterday to discuss the future of online TV content. Speaking before the New York Media Information Exchange Group, he contradicted the nay sayers who doubt mobile phone systems will ever draw significant audiences for long-form video content and touted a new PC-to-TV video transfer system created by SanDisk Corp. And he detailed CBS' latest strategies for thwarting BitTorrent and other systems that facilitate the online theft of network video content.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Birds Migrate Using Sound

Migratory bird calls, which are very different from bird's normal songs, are used to track avian flight paths and numbers, according to a story in the 18 Spetember issue of The New York Times. They are high0pitched and clipped, each burst just a fraction of a second, and it took years for ornithologists at Cornell University to come up with what has been called "the Rosetta Stone of night calls", a link between the vocalizations and particular syrinxes behind them.

One can only hope the monkeys down below aren't listening to their music again...

Monkeys Prefer Silence

According to the Acoustical Society of America, monkeys prefer silence to music. Tamarins and marmosets were placed in an apparatus with two chambers, each rigged to play music whenever an anmal entered. In one experiment the musical choices were a flute lullaby (65 beats per minute) and Allec Empire's "Nobody Gets Out Alive" (370 beats per minute). The monkeys spend about 2/3 of their time on the lullaby side, showing that they prefer slower tempos, but given the choice of silence, lullabies, or a Mozart concerto, they spent most of their time avoiding music altogether. A similar experiment with humans showed a distinct preference for music, especially lullibies. The study suggests that some of the acoustic preferences that underlie music are unique to humans.

Obviously they used FOH Mixers for the human trials...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Friday, December 7, 2007

Slumping U.S. Economy Puts Sting on AV Industry


A friend of mine, Craig Pease, who used to own a high-end speaker company called Evett and Shaw, spoke (with his stand-up comedian style of delivery) about his Orange County, California neighbors and their spending habits during the recent housing boom.

“You live on Newport Coast, in a fancy tract house that you bought a year or two ago for $1,300,000, and your neighbor sells a similar house down the street for $1,600,000 – what do you do? Of course you take out an equity loan and buy a Bentley Continental GT because you just made $300,000 right?” OK, so Craig was being sarcastic, but way too many people around the country actually think the equity in their home will never shrink, especially here in California where 25 percent yearly increases to property values become yet another entitlement of living in the Golden State.

These are the same kind of people who thought that $525 per share was the right time to buy into Yahoo back in the day.

In recent months real estate values have declined, and now people all over the nation are feeling the sting. It has also had a definite, short-term impact on the home theater business. With large flat panel HDTVs priced well below $2,000, they are no longer just high-end goodies designed exclusively for the “A Paper” or the 800-credit score crowd who didn’t need to borrow money to pop for a $20,000 50-inch plasma a few years back.

At today’s prices the much maligned, “sub-prime” audience can enjoy a big, bright HDTV, even if their financial future isn’t quite as bright as their new television set. With many middle class Americans now feeling the sting of shrinking equity in their homes and growing consumer debt on credit cards, many industry experts suggest that sales for AV gear have to suffer along with the rest of the economy. Optimists point to electronics, video games and anything HD to be among the hottest holiday sales items. Final sales number from the fourth quarter will tell the final story.

One area of the economy dealers quietly say is booming is in the international export business. While dealers aren’t really supposed to sell U.S. designated gear to other nations, it's hard to really stop them from taking an order. Factor in today’s weak dollar and those Euros start to spend a lot better when someone from overseas is waltzing down Fifth Avenue as opposed to the Champs-Elysees. It is somewhat easier for foreigners to buy US speakers and cables than it is to purchase US audiophile electronics with sophisticated chipsets that require specific AC voltages and can render a $10,000 amp useless overseas. Another issue is that the importer of American-made audio and home theater gear didn’t sell the products imported into a foreign country, thus the warranty is void. Even with a weak dollar, it costs a pretty penny to fly over a repair guy to replace the tweeter on your new Revel Salon2s that you installed in your London flat.

Experts suggest the sub-prime loan market will take a year or two to sort itself out, but the weak dollar might not get much stronger as Wall Street seems to be looking for The Fed to drop the lending rate even more, thus making the dollar even more weak. This results in import gear being more and more expensive for American buyers, but also makes American-made gear more attractive to foreign markets, which can be larger than the domestic market. High-end audio and video companies will need to keep their eyes on the ball as the market corrects as there are tens of millions of Generation Xers still buying homes and Boomers cashing in their retirement funds looking for luxury items - assuming the value is there.

by: Jerry Del Colliano

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Relamp Your Projector Lamps

Here's the elusive address for the folks in NY that fix your projection lamps at a substantial savings. They do excellent work.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Crown DC 300 Enters Hall of Fame


Publication date: December 5, 2007

The DC 300 amplifier, introduced in 1967 by Crown International, was inducted into the TECnology Hall of Fame at the 123rd AES Convention in New York. Gerald Stanley, Crown International's senior vice president of research and development and original designer of the DC 300, accepted the award.

Emcee George Petersen applauded the amplifier for coming at the right time, "when rock concerts were high SPL and needed great amplification. ... And even 40 years after its introduction, there are so many of these DC 300s still in service, it's an amazing testament to Crown reliability." When released, the DC 300 offered 150 watts per channel at 8 ohms and AB+B circuitry.

MPAA Pulls Piracy Monitoring Software


The Motion Picture Association of America has removed from its Web site free software meant to help track campus pirates, after a software developer complained that the group’s use of the software might itself be a copyright violation.

Seth Oster, executive vice president and chief communication officer for the MPAA, said in an interview today officials do not believe they have done anything wrong, but have taken the software down while they review the complaint. He said the removal was a precaution and signals how seriously the group considers copyright issues.

“We have temporarily removed the download from our site,” he said. “It is our hope that we can make this available again in very short order.”

Until a few days ago, the MPAA was making the software, called University Toolkit, available for free download online. In October, the group sent a letter to college presidents at 25 institutions it identified as hotbeds of piracy, asking them to use the software.

University Toolkit includes customized versions of previously released open-source software. Matthew Garrett, an open-source-software developer, says he contacted the MPAA last month asking for proof that the group had met the terms of the open-source-software license, which requires those who make modifications to release their source code. In a blog post, he says he never got a reply, and so he sent a notice to the MPAA’s Internet Service Provider demanding the software be removed.

A previous report had raised privacy concerns about the University Toolkit software, which the MPAA now says it has addressed. —Jeffrey R. Young

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

iPhone Pricing Around the World

With a two year plan...

California (AT&T): $432
Germany (T-Mobile): 399 Euros ($585)
Britain (O2): $556

Germany (T-Mobile): 999 Euros ($1,500)
France (France Telecom Orange): ($950)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mayberry to Write for LiveSound International Magazine

John Mayberry will be writing his columns for a new magazine come January- Live Sound International.

"I'm exciting looking and looking forward to the opportunity. Column lengths will be longer and perhaps a wee bit more controversial, by intent", in the new format said Mayberry.

He continued, "I've loved writing for SCN for the last fourteen years, and hopefully some of the audience will follow. I enjoyed every minute of it."

The new column, "Omnivore", encompasses all aspects of the audio world.

AT&T getting out of the pay phone business

From the Associated Press 10:36 AM PST, December 3, 2007

SAN ANTONIO -- AT&T Inc. will exit the rapidly shrinking pay phone business by the end of next year, before it becomes unprofitable, the company said today.

AT&T will sell 65,000 pay phones, in prisons and in public places, within its original 13-state area before the end of 2008, said spokesman Michael Coe.AT&T decided to leave pay phones, a tiny portion of the telecommunications company that has 67.3 million wireless subscribers, before they reached the point of being unprofitable, he said.

AT&T officials said they expect the pay phones to be purchased by independent operators.

"This business has been shrinking rapidly," said Coe, who said the company has been phasing out of the business by not renewing contracts as they've expired. "We've known for a while that we would exit."

The pool of pay phones nationwide has shrunk from 2.6 million to 1 million in the last decade.

BellSouth Corp., which AT&T acquired at the end of 2006, already exited the business, as has Qwest Communications International Inc.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Pixel, Compression, Transmission & the Lot

Excellent introductory article on dealing the digital video transmission.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

International Cyber Crime Report

Worth downloading... who's behind all the cyber attacks...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Doppler Weather Scans on TV

Be the first on your block to see how it's done in multiple dimensions...

Man Arrested for Shooting Traffic Camera

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Police have lost red-light cameras to traffic accidents but never to gun play. "This is the first one that's been shot," Capt. Gordon Catlett said of the wounded camera at the intersection of Broadway Avenue and Interstate 640 — one of 15 camera-equipped intersections in the city.

Clifford E. Clark, 47, was charged with felony vandalism and reckless endangerment for allegedly firing at least three rounds from a .30-06 hunting rifle at the camera, knocking it out of action.

He was arrested after patrol officers heard shots around 2 a.m. Sunday, spotted a minivan leaving the parking lot of a closed business and pulled it over. Inside they found Clark and the high-powered rifle.

Clark, now facing a $50 fine if convicted and loss of his rifle, refused to say anything about the incident to police, leaving the motive unclear.

Catlett, who oversees the red-light camera program, said 6,798 drivers have been photographed running the red light at Broadway and I-640 and ticketed since the camera was installed in 2006. Clark was not one of them, he said.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Verizon Wireless to Offer Open Access to Network

Verizon Wireless said Tuesday that it will allow any compatible device or software to run on its wireless network as it heeds the industry call for more openness.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Interesting HD-DVD Blog...

This past weekend showed us quite an interesting turn of events in this format war. First on Friday, Wal-Mart "announced" a secret Friday sale of the Toshiba HD-A2 for $98.97. Stores across the nation had between 12 and 40 units (of an older stock of the HD-A2) and sold out within 30 to 60 minutes of store opening at 90% of all store locations.

Next, other retailers like Crutchfield, Circuit City, and Best Buy followed suit by announcing their $99 deals on the HD-A2. Like Wal-mart, these stores sold out the HD-A2 by mid-day Friday.Taking it even further, Best Buy shocked many consumers by offering the Toshiba HD-A3 for $199 with 2 HD titles in the box, 2 free in-store at checkout, and 5 titles via the mail-in rebate.

About 2 hours after the posting of this news, the Best buy online warehouse was in backorder status and half the locations nearest a consumer were sold out of the HD-A3. By nightfall, Best Buys all over the nation were sold out online and in-store. While the sale should have lasted 2 days, the shortage of the units in supply made the sale last less than 12 hours. (Although, if you were lucky enough to find a stray unit you could still purchase the HD-A3 from Best Buy on Saturday for $199).

Not to be out done, Circuit City dropped the price on the HD-A3 on Friday to $199 as well. However, they did not offer the 2-free instore HD DVD titles (just the 2 in the box and the 5 via mail). Of course, news spread quickly and the A3 was sold out at Circuit City in about the same amount of time as it was at Best Buy.

It seems that the magic price point was found...$199! Consumers snatched these players up in 1 business day - disproving the notion that most people hardly know about this technology or let alone even care.This past weekend provided a HUGE blow to Blu-ray in the eyes of this consumer. Blu-ray did nothing to offer any competition to the $199 HD DVD players. Their players remain around $450 (even with the new 40GB PS3 for $399). Having gone into several Best Buys, I saw a total of 2 HD-A30s and 1 HD-A3 - everything else sold out. However, there was plenty of Blu-ray to go around - Samsung, Sony, and Pioneer players up the ying yang at the stores. They were on the floor, in the back, and filling up the stock shelves way at the top of all those HDTVs.While hard to get your hands on one, it seems many consumers have made the choice to get HD DVD. Seemingly 1080p does not matter to the average consumer. They are just stoked that a high-definition player can be had for $199! Perhaps we might see those Blu-ray players come down in price now.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Dynamo and the Computer- A Historical Perspective

Thought provoking article on the difficulties of getting public acceptance of a national power grid and the implications for some internet applications...

Monday, November 12, 2007

Top Ten Off Switches

forwarded by Tim Smith, this one's entertaining...,39029477,49293357,00.htm

Intel to Unveil Chips for Improving Video Quality on the Web

Published: November 12, 2007

SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 11 — Intel plans to announce a family of microprocessor chips on Monday that it says will speed the availability of high-definition video via the Internet.
Sean Maloney, Intel’s chief sales and marketing officer, said last week that the chips’ increased computing power would begin the transformation of today’s stuttering and blurry videos, the staple of YouTube and other video streaming sites, into high-resolution, full-screen quality that will begin to compete with the living room HDTV.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Roy Wallace: A Meticulous bon vivant

Roy Wallace, who has died aged 80, developed stereophonic sound recording for the Decca company and designed the famous “Decca tree” microphone array which became the standard way across the industry of recording orchestral and operatic sound.

A meticulous man with a mathematical mind, Wallace — Jolly Wally to his friends — was also a bon vivant with an abiding passion for music.

Beginning his career in the days of mono recordings, Wallace’s reputation in the classical music industry enjoyed a late resurgence as 21st-century listeners rediscovered the “hiss” and the “natural” nature of the original recordings, absent in the digital world of CDs.

In the mid-1950s it was Wallace who — in the words of Gramophone magazine — succeeded in convincing the 70-year-old Swiss conductor Ernest Ansermet of the benefits of his experimental recording equipment. Ansermet, whose opinion carried enormous weight, was hugely impressed: “Like standing on the rostrum,” he declared.

For Wallace and for Decca, the maestro’s words marked the moment that the stereo era was born.

Roy Victor George Wallace was born on July 7 1927 in London and was drawn to music from the age of eight, although he never received any formal training.

His first job in 1942 was at Radio and Television Engineering, a firm in Clapham that had started making radar equipment and early electrocardiogram machines on premises shared with the local undertaker. The owner, Lawrence Savage, had been involved, with CJ Francis, in BBC experiments with stereo sound just before the Second World War.

In 1947 Savage explained to Wallace the principle of binaural sound (as he called it) and the pre-war experiments he had made.

The early primitive equipment was overhauled so that twin-track discs could be played using a parallel-tracking pickup arm with two crystal stylus heads which were positioned on a gantry. It had been necessary to use 16-inch discs rotating at 33 1/3 rpm in order to get any reasonable playing time.

Wallace then constructed an experimental artificial head into which were placed three crystal microphones – one central and two angled at 70 degrees left and right.

He next designed and built a three-channel sound mixer (which he called ST1) to get the three inputs into two outputs.

By November 1952 Wallace and Savage were able to demonstrate all their gear to Decca.
The chairman of the Decca record company, Edward Lewis, was impressed by what he heard and gave the go-ahead to continue.

He realised that stereo sound was the future and Wallace was asked to join Decca and take over the stereo business. Wallace, by now working at West Hampstead, scrapped all the Francis/Savage workings and began again.

Wallace devised a frequency transposition system, with one channel 50H to 9 KHz, another of 12 KHz to 21 KHz with a carrier/pilot frequency right in the middle from 9-10 ½ KHz.
By November 1953 the new system was working so that it was possible to play Beethoven on one channel and to have pianist Winifred Attwell on the other coming through just one pair of lines into the decoder.

An experimental session took place on December 23 1953 with the conductor Mantovani and his orchestra.

Three Telefunken M49 microphones (left, right and centre) were bolted to a couple of Dexion uprights in the shape of the capital letter T.

The recordings were cut direct to disc as there was no twin-track stereo tape recorder.

The wax acetates were sent to Decca’s factory at New Malden for processing and eventually Wallace was able to demonstrate what had been achieved. The results were thought remarkable and the stereo image fine.

With no stereo mixing desk available Wallace stripped down a standard Decca six-channel mono machine, redesigning and making a stereo mixer with two banks of three inputs. He then built two new power amplifiers in a matter of weeks.

An Ampex 350 series 1 twin-track tape machine arrived late in April and a further experimental session was undertaken to make sure everything worked.

The equipment was taken to Geneva and on May 13 1954 Ansermet recorded Rimsky-Korsakov’s oriental suite Antar with L’Orchestre de la Suisse Romande.

When the recording of the first movement was complete the conductor remarked how thrilled he was with the sound.

Two months later Wallace flew to Basle with James Brown, collected the ST2 mixer and other equipment and set up the stereo gear in Rome.

Three operas, Manon Lescaut, Otello and La traviata, all with Renata Tebaldi, were recorded experimentally.

After sessions in Paris, Geneva and Belgrade, Wallace returned to London to work on two new mixers.

In July and August 1955 Decca recorded Wagner’s Ring plus Der fliegende Holländer under Josef Keilberth at the Bayreuth Festival.

By using six microphones – three for the orchestra and three for the singers, suspended from the lighting bridge about 20 feet above the stage – the sound was fed into the six-channel ST2 mixer.

However, no artists’ contracts were issued and the tapes languished in Decca’s library for more than half a century until Testament began releasing them on CD last year.

Wallace received his 25 years’ service award in 1978 but retired from Decca at the time of the PolyGram takeover in 1980. Roy Wallace married, in 1957, Joyce Irene Pearce, who predeceased him . He is survived by their two daughters.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Joint WiMax Network Dropped

Sprint Nextel, Clearwire DropPlans for Joint WiMax Network

November 9, 2007 7:12 a.m.

NEW YORK -- Sprint Nextel Corp. and Clearwire Corp. announced Friday they are scrapping their agreement to jointly build a nationwide high-speed wireless network based on WiMax technology.

he two companies had signed a letter of intent in July to pursue the partnership, which they had hoped to finalize within 60 days. But Sprint said the two companies couldn't resolve the complexities of the transaction and couldn't reach agreement on the terms of the deal.

People familiar with the matter also cited the departure last month of Gary Forsee as Sprint's chief executive officer as another complication.

The unraveling of their preliminary agreement is a blow to Clearwire. The company, founded by cellphone pioneer Craig McCaw, has staked its future on WiMax, a longer-range cousin of Wi-Fi that can theoretically provide wireless broadband access from laptops and cellphones at speeds comparable to what cable operators provide.

The agreement had called for the companies to share costs on a network that would reach 100 million people by the end of next year, with each side providing roaming rights to the other's customers. Sprint earlier had said it planned to spend about $5 billion on the network through 2010.

Sprint now says it will review its WiMax business plans and expects to comment further on the topic early next year. However, it added that it remains "fully committed to developing WiMax services" and will continue to work together with Clearwire on future wireless opportunities.

Any slowdown in the rollout of WiMax by either Clearwire or Sprint would negatively impact companies that are backing the technology, including chip maker Intel Corp., and equipment makers Motorola Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Some of those companies may try to inject financing into Clearwire to help keep its WiMax project on track, people familiar with the matter said.

In many ways, the companies are natural partners, because they control complementary swaths of radio spectrum around the country and are the only two U.S. carriers pursuing WiMax.

In recent weeks, Sprint's board considered a variety of options with respect to the Clearwire partnership, including the idea of spinning off Sprint's WiMax unit and merging it with Clearwire or bringing in a consortium of strategic investors to help finance the project. Any significant transaction would likely have to wait for Sprint to hire a new CEO, people familiar with the matter say.

The new CEO will have even bigger issues to deal with, including Sprint's hemorrhaging of customers in its core cellphone business. Sprint, which has 54 million customers, is losing market share to larger rivals AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, because of customer-service problems and other issues stemming from its 2005 acquisition of Nextel Communications Inc.

Separately, Clearwire also reported that its third-quarter net loss widened to $329 million, or $2.01 a share, from $60 million, or 61 cents a share, a year earlier, because of a one-time charge of $159 million. Revenue jumped to $41 million from $27 million.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Atlas Sound and IED Announce Merger

New York (November 7, 2007)- Atlas Sound and Innovative Electronic Designs (IED) have merged as of November 1. IED, based in Louisville, KY, creates audio and visual communications management systems and components, while Atlas Sound deals in audio for commercial applications.

"No two companies are closer in culture than IED and Atlas Sound," said Loyd Ivey, founder and CEO of Mitek, parent company of Atlas Sound. "We are merging two dynamic companies, with similar core competencies and similar value systems. The merger will allow us to become a global leader in communications systems.

I am happy to join forces with the crew at IED to become modern day 'Davids' against the global Goliaths of today's communications industry. " Hardy Martin, President of IED stated, "We are very excited to merge IED with Atlas Sound to combine the best practices of both our companies. The manufacturing proficiency of Mitek combined with the integrated audio and visual communications expertise of IED will be an incredible combination. As partners, IED and Atlas Sound can move to the next level of communications systems design."

The two companies will continue to operate independently, with no changes in management, staffing, or daily operations. "It's business as usual," said Martin. "The operation of Mitek matches very well with our philosophies at IED, and we are confident that the merger will be smooth and seamless for our customers." Pat Brown of Syn-Aud-Con commented, "The combined strengths of these two fine companies will enable them to provide sophisticated solutions to the most challenging sound reinforcement applications. This is a win-win for both IED and Atlas Sound."

NSCA Executive Director Chuck Wilson added, "We work in a people-based industry. The quality people that make up Atlas Sound and IED really make this a great venture. Atlas Sound and IED are well situated to help grow the mass notification section of our industry." Andy Musci of Altel Systems said, "I am so thrilled for IED, to combine their innovative and technical expertise with the resources of Atlas Sound.

IED and Atlas Sound are two great American companies." Loyd Ivey added, "We are like minds, joining together for a common goal. IED and Mitek go together like peanut butter and chocolate, a real sweet combination."IED and Atlas Sound will be part of the newly formed Mitek High Performance Communications Group. Mitek Corporation also owns the consumer audio brands MTX, DCM, Coustic, StreetWires, Re-Q and Xtant.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

PCs Being Pushed Aside in Japan

By HIROKO TABUCHI 11.04.07, 4:30 AM ET


Masaya Igarashi wants $200 headphones for his new iPod Touch, and he's torn between Nintendo Co.'s Wii and Sony's PlayStation 3 game consoles. When he has saved up again, he plans to splurge on a digital camera or flat-screen TV. There's one conspicuous omission from the college student's shopping list: a new computer.

The PC's role in Japanese homes is diminishing, as its once-awesome monopoly on processing power is encroached by gadgets such as smart phones that act like pocket-size computers, advanced Internet-connected game consoles, digital video recorders with terabytes of memory.

"A new PC just isn't high on my priority list right now," said Igarashi, shopping at a Bic Camera electronics shop in central Tokyo, who said his three-year-old desktop was "good for now."
"For the cost, I'd rather buy something else," he said.

Japan's PC market is already shrinking, leading analysts to wonder whether Japan will become the first major market to see a decline in personal computer use some 25 years after it revolutionized household electronics - and whether this could be the picture of things to come in other countries.

"The household PC market is losing momentum to other electronics like flat-panel TVs and mobile phones," said Masahiro Katayama, research group head at market survey firm IDC.
Overall PC shipments in Japan have fallen for five consecutive quarters, the first ever drawn-out decline in PC sales in a key market, according to IDC. The trend shows no signs of letting up: In the second quarter of 2007, desktops fell 4.8 percent and laptops 3.1 percent.

NEC (nasdaq: NIPNY - news - people )'s and Sony (nyse: SNE - news - people )'s sales have been falling since 2006 in Japan. Hitachi Ltd. (nyse: HIT - news - people ) said Oct. 22 it will pull out of the household computer business entirely in an effort to refocus its sprawling operations.

"Consumers aren't impressed anymore with bigger hard drives or faster processors. That's not as exciting as a bigger TV," Katayama said. "And in Japan, kids now grow up using mobile phones, not PCs. The future of PCs isn't bright."

PC makers beg to differ, and they're aggressively marketing their products in the countries where they're seeing the most sales growth - places where residents have never had a PC. The industry is responding in two other ways: reminding detractors that computers are still essential in linking the digital universe and releasing several laptops priced below $300 this holiday shopping season.

And, though sales in the U.S. are slowing too, booming demand in the developing world is expected to buoy worldwide PC shipments 11 percent to an all-time high of 286 million in 2007. And, outside Japan, Asia is a key growth area, with second-quarter sales jumping 21.9 percent this year.

Hitachi had already stopped making PCs for individual consumers since releasing this year's summer models, although the Tokyo-based manufacturer will keep making some computers for corporate clients. Personal computers already accounted for less than 1 percent of Hitachi's annual sales.

It's clear why consumers are shunning PCs.
Millions download music directly to their mobile devices, and many more use their handsets for online shopping and to play games. Digital cameras connect directly to printers and high-definition TVs for viewing photos, bypassing PCs altogether. Movies now download straight to TVs.

More than 50 percent of Japanese send e-mail and browse the Internet from their mobile phones, according to a 2006 survey by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The same survey found that 30 percent of people with e-mail on their phones used PC-based e-mail less, including 4 percent who said they had stopped sending e-mails from PCs completely.

The fastest growing social networking site here, Mobagay Town, is designed exclusively for cell phones. Other networking sites like mixi, Facebook and MySpace can all be accessed and updated from handsets, as can the video-sharing site YouTube.

And while a lot of the decline is in household PCs, businesses are also waiting longer to replace their computers partly because recent advances in PC technology are only incremental, analysts say.

At a consumer electronics event in Tokyo in October, the mostly unpopular stalls showcasing new PCs contrasted sharply with the crowded displays of flat-panel TVs.

"There's no denying PCs are losing their spunk in Japanese consumers' eyes," said Hiroyuki Ishii, a sales official at Japan's top PC maker, NEC Corp. "There seems to be less and less things only a PC can do," Ishii said. "The PC's value will fade unless the PC can offer some breakthrough functions."

The slide has made PC manufacturers desperate to maintain their presence in Japanese homes. Recent desktop PCs look more like audiovisual equipment - or even colorful art objects - than computers.

Sony Corp.'s desktop computers have folded up to become clocks, and its latest version even hangs on the wall. Laptops in a new Sony line are adorned with illustrations from hip designers like ZAnPon. NEC is trying to make its PCs' cooling fans quieter - to address a common complaint from customers, it says.

Still, sluggish sales weigh on manufacturers.

NEC's annual PC shipments in Japan shrank 6.2 percent to 2.72 million units in 2006, though overall earnings have been buoyed by mobile phone and networking solutions operations. The trend continued in the first quarter of fiscal 2007 when there was a 14 percent decline from a year earlier.

Sony's PC shipments for Japan shrank 10 percent in 2006 from a year earlier. But it isn't about to throw in the towel - yet.

"We feel we've reached a new stage in PC development, where consumers are looking for user-friendly machines to complement other electronics," said Hiroko Nakamura, a Sony official in Tokyo.

Sony's latest PCs, for example, come with a powerful program that can take photos and video clips and automatically edit them into a slideshow set to music.

Even Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Inc. (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ), whose computer sales and market share are surging in the U.S., has seen Macintosh unit sales in Japan slip 5 percent year-on-year in the first nine months of 2007.

There are other reasons Japan is the first market to see PCs shrink, some analysts say.
"We think of Japanese as workaholics, but many don't take work home," said Damian Thong, a technology analyst at Macquarie Bank in Japan. "Once they leave the office, they're often content with tapping e-mails or downloading music on their phones," he said.

As Hitachi's shuttering of its household PC business demonstrates, making PCs has become less attractive. IBM Corp. (nyse: IBM - news - people ) also left the PC business in 2005, selling its computer unit to China's Lenovo Group Ltd.

But NEC's Ishii is persisting.

"We have to get the message out there that PCs are on top in terms of computing power," he said. "They always will be."

Friday, November 2, 2007

Ultimate Backhanded Compliment?

Online Crooks Target Macs With Porn Ruse

By JORDAN ROBERTSON 11.02.07, 4:09 AM ET

In a backhanded compliment to Apple Inc., online criminals are apparently so impressed with its scorching sales they are sending Macintosh computers an attack typically aimed at machines running Microsoft Corp.'s dominant Windows operating system.

Symantec Corp. (nasdaq: SYMC - news - people ) researchers said the Web sites serving up the new attack also deploy a Windows version.

"For a while Mac users have enjoyed the benefits of being a small enough population that hackers didn't go after them directly - that's obviously now changing," said Ben Greenbaum, senior research manager at Symantec Security Response.

Lynn Fox, an Apple (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) spokeswoman, said the Cupertino-based company knows about the threat and urges Mac users to be careful about where they download things from.

"Apple has a great track record for keeping Mac OS X users secure, and as always, we encourage people to install software only from trusted sources," she said in a statement.
Online porn-hunters are the intended victim of the latest ploy, in which visitors to certain explicit Web sites are led to believe they're downloading a free video player when in fact they're installing malicious code onto their Macs.

Once the user authorizes the transaction, the fraudsters can redirect his future browsing to fraudulent Web sites and possibly to steal his information or passwords or simply send ads for other pornographic Web sites and rake in advertising dollars.

For example, a person using an infected computer may think he is going to online auctioneer eBay Inc. (nasdaq: EBAY - news - people ) or its PayPal electronic payment division but actually be directed to a site that looks legitimate but exists to purloin personal information.

The attack does not target a vulnerability in the Macintosh operating system.
Instead, it requires a user to approve the download, then enter his computer's administrator's password to continue, operations that raise red flags among sophisticated computer users.
Symantec researchers said the Trojan used in the attack is a rejiggered version of one that's been around for a couple years and requires that victims fall for a social engineering trick to work.

Security researchers at Intego, which makes Macintosh antivirus software and discovered the scheme this week, said it underscores the mounting threats to Mac users as the machines grow in popularity.

Windows machines still dominate the PC market, but Apple, which for years commanded just 2 to 3 percent of the U.S. market, has now grown to command an 8 percent chunk, according to market researcher Gartner Inc. (nyse: IT - news - people )

"This is the first really malicious criminal malware (for Macs)," said Intego spokesman Peter James. "We've seen some proof-of-concept malware, we've seen some worms, but this is different."

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Atlas Sound buying IED?

Stay tuned...

Peep Maker Moves Production to China

I'm guessing anyone that handed out candy last night just might not believe the nonsense behind this story. Snickers, Butterfingers, Skittles, Baby Ruths all seem to be individually wrapped...
America Can't Make Peeps Now?

Just Born is taking trick-or-treating to a whole new level. The Bethlehem, Pa., candy company makes marshmallow Peeps, the sugar-crusted baby chicks that are perennial staples of Easter baskets. Now, it's rolling out a Halloween version called "Spooky Friends," formed in the shape of bats, ghosts, spiders and pumpkins.
As an added bonus, they come individually wrapped.
That's the treat. So what's the trick, you ask?
Spooky Friends will be made in China, because Just Born doesn't have the necessary equipment to wrap the candy piece by piece.
Union officials grumbled about the outsourcing to Newhouse News Service. Chinese manufacturers have been the subject of a number of recent consumer recalls, noted Barry Fields, who runs Local 6 of the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International.
"They don't have the standards they have in the United States," Fields said. Just Born's response to the news service: "We're very confident in the quality standards."
That's coming from a company that makes green Peeps chicks for St. Patrick's Day. Now, that's spooky.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Using Cameras and Projectors to Hide a Tank

British Army tests James Bond style tank that is 'invisible'

Last updated at 11:56am on 30th October 2007

In secret trials last week, the Army said it had made a vehicle completely disappear and predicted that an invisible tank would be ready for service by 2012. The new technology uses cameras and projectors to beam images of the surrounding landscape onto a tank.

Now you see it: How the tank might look with background images beamed onto the side
The result is that anyone looking in the direction of the vehicle only sees what is beyond it and not the tank itself.

A soldier, who was at the trials, said: "This technology is incredible. If I hadn't been present I wouldn't have believed it. I looked across the fields and just saw grass and trees - but in reality I was staring down the barrel of a tank gun."
How the technology works in a combat situation is very sensitive, but the MoD is believed to be testing a military jacket that works on the same principles.

It is the type of innovation normally associated with James Bond, and the brains behind the latest technology is the MoD's very own "Q" - Professor Sir John Pendry, of Imperial College London.

He said the only drawback was the reliability of the cameras and projectors.

But he added: "The next stage is to make the tank invisible without them - which is intricate and complicated, but possible."

Great Article on Control Room Design

The Changing Face of Control Room Design
Ergonomic control room design focuses on achieving performance objectives for the control room while meeting established ergonomic standards for interactions between occupants, workstations, machines, and workplace environments. Every interaction must be considered, from raised flooring, acoustics, and lighting to the general well-being, health, safety, and performance of control room operators.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Happy Halloween- Strange White Space Story

White Space Testing Postponed

Washington, DC (October 29, 2007)

On Friday, October 5th, the FCC issued a public notice announcing that further testing of new proposed "White Spaces" devices will continue at an undisclosed date. The edict, which effectively rescinded a self-imposed deadline made by the Commission promising that new White Spaces regulations would be revealed later in the same month, gives a second chance to companies including Microsoft, Dell, Intel, and Philips to secure a place within TV bandwidths for a new generation of portable, spectrum-seeking communications devices.

This "do-over", if you will, comes on the heels of the FCC's first White Spaces interference studies, which demonstrated in July that prototype devices submitted for testing by Microsoft and Philips failed to detect both wireless microphone operations and DTV channels, and caused interference with the transmissions of both. Claiming that the testing was flawed, and that one of the devices was malfunctioning, Microsoft and Philips pressed for further testing.

Now, with more trials on the horizon, it still remains to be seen what exactly is in store for users of wireless microphones in days to come.

One individual with a vested interest in the debate is Shure's Edgar Reihl, a technology director in advanced development at the Niles, IL-based company. Reihl, who has been following the controversy closely for almost four years, making frequent trips to Washington D.C. to lobby on behalf of wireless microphone users and manufacturers in front of both members of Congress and the FCC, is currently in the process of developing a set of proposed testing procedures that will be submitted to the FCC Office of Engineering and Technology.

"At this point in time, the FCC hasn't set forth any specific goals, standards, or even expectations for the next round of testing," he explained in the closing days of October. "Like other interested parties, Shure has been invited to help in the process of formulating workable testing procedures. We've also been asked to assist in obtaining the equipment needed for the tests. It's our expectation that some of us from Shure will be allowed to go observe and participate in the testing itself to whatever extent the FCC will allow, and prior to that, we will submit our own test plan, which I'm working on right now."

Reihl relates that his test procedures will call for both laboratory and real world field studies in which wireless microphones will be tested both on their own and alongside the new White Spaces prototypes in combination with DTV signals. The tests will focus specifically on the ability of the proposed new devices to detect signals coming from a wireless mic, as well as what actions to avoid interference the spectrum-sensing devices will take when they meet up with a wireless signal."

This kind of testing places a lot of stress on the new White Spaces devices, in that it's requiring them to handle a pretty wide, dynamic range," he says. "On the one hand, you're asking them to detect and adjust for DTV signals, which are very strong, and on the other, we're asking that the same be done for wireless microphone signals, which are rather weak by comparison. In an ideal testing scenario, more than one wireless microphone signal will be present, as will more than one DTV signal. The prototypes have to be capable of accurately detecting how many wireless mics are operating in the bandwidths, and these tests need to be performed across a wide range of different situations."

Given high priority within Reihl's proposal to the FCC is a battery of outdoor tests conducted at a sporting event that will most likely be a football game. Challenging on a number of levels because of the imposing size of environment involved, these tests will also be exposed to a multitude of additional TV and other signals not present within the indoor confines of the laboratory.

As for what the next generation of new prototype White Spaces devices will look like, Reihl can only speculate. "This time, they are going to be careful to make sure things are operational, properly configured and fully functional," he believes. "I don't believe we are going to see the kind of high-level, intelligent devices that we'd like to see just yet. The first step is to get these new offerings to detect wireless microphone signals properly. Once that's accomplished, then the next step is to determine how they are going to respond in kind."

The public notice issued last month by the FCC calling for more White Spaces study makes no mention of when the new testing may occur, how long it will take or when a ruling can be expected on the issue, nor does it technically reveal what exactly will be tested, calling instead for interested parties to contact the Commission if they have a device they want evaluated.

Toshiba Paid Paramount for HD DVD Support, But How Much?

Paramount Was Paid for HD DVD Support, Toshiba Executive Says

BERLIN -- Toshiba promised Paramount and DreamWorksAnimation "some money" to cover costs "to jointly promote" their titles, in a deal for the studios to support HD DVD and not Blu-ray, Toshiba's top HD DVD executive told Consumer Electronics Daily at IFA Friday. But reports that Toshiba paid the studios $150 million for their support are "totally wrong," Yoshihide Fujii, CEO of Toshiba's Digital Network Co., said without elaborating.

A studio would be "stupid" to accept money to back "the wrong product," Fujii said. "Sooner or later," Paramount and DreamWorks Animation would realize HD DVD "is the wrong product," if that was so, and if the endorsements were based only on payments, he said. "Only because they feel this is the right product" did Paramount and DreamWorks Animation agree to back HD DVD exclusively, Fujii said. "This is a fact," he declared.

Leopard vs. Vista

Suprisingly close... 46 to 41.
Read the article to find out which one won.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Guitar Center Sold to Private Investment Firm

Guitar Center will no longer be publicly traded on the NASDAQ exchange following the firm’s acquisition by Bain Capital, a Boston-based private investment firm. California-based Guitar Center agreed to the sale in June. Stockholders approved the merger on Sept. 18 and consummated Oct. 10.

Under terms of the agreement, Guitar Center shareholders will be paid $63 in cash for each share of common stock held, putting the value of the purchase at approximately $2.1 billion. Guitar Center is one of the largest U.S. retailers of musical instruments, pro audio and recording equipment, with 157 stores in 83 markets, plus online and mail order sales. Bain Capital has approximately $50 billion in assets under management.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A Company You Never Heard of but Probably Hated Shuts Down

Friday, October 26, 2007 by Wendy Davis

Infamous adware purveyor Direct Revenue appears to have shuttered for good. Visitors to the Web page of its most recent brand,, are now being greeted with the message that Direct Revenue has ceased operations. The page also offers instructions for removing the company's software, which serves pop-up ads to people as they surf the Web.

The news comes several months after the company and its principals settled with the Federal Trade Commission for $1.5 million -- an amount deemed too small by FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz, who filed a written dissent from the agency's decision to accept the agreement.
Direct Revenue was long criticized by consumer advocates, who charged that the company got its software on people's hard drives via drive-by installations and other improper techniques.

Yet, while few companies admitted to using adware in their marketing efforts, Direct Revenue made millions upon millions of dollars while in business. Some of its big brand clients included Cingular Wireless, Travelocity and Priceline -- all named by the New York State Attorney General, who sued Direct Revenue last year. Those three also settled with the New York Attorney General, with Priceline and Cingular paying $35,000 each and Travelocity paying $30,000.

Depositions in the New York case against Direct Revenue also showed that the company's adware model, which relied on serving numerous pop-ups to consumers, troubled even some of the its business partners, including file-sharing service Kazaa. Company officer Daniel Kaufman complained in an August 2005 internal e-mail of having a "difficult call" with Kazaa. "Part of the trouble is that they have been living with our ad client for a while and feeling first-hand the user experience."

Even though Direct Revenue is seemingly out of business, some anti-spyware experts are skeptical that the adware company is gone for good. "With the history of the four principal figures behind Direct Revenue it may be too soon to completely write them off," Eric Howes, director of malware research at software security company Sunbelt, told Mediapost. "It would be wise to keep an eye out."

Monday, October 22, 2007


SanDisk to Debut USB Drive, Video Service

10.22.07, 7:36 AM ET

SAN JOSE, Calif. -

Flash memory maker SanDisk Corp. on Monday will debut an online video service and a USB flash drive that can carry television programs and videos from a computer for playback on TVs.

The Sansa TakeTV video player - an ensemble of an oversized USB drive, remote control and a small dock that connects to a TV - and its accompanying video service, Fanfare, marks the latest attempt by a company looking to bridge content between the PC and the television.

Similar to using a USB drive to store and move data files, users of TakeTV can drag-and-drop video files stored on their computer - Fanfare downloads, home videos or other unrestricted video content from the Web - onto the device. Users can then plug it into the cradle connected to a TV. A simple menu appears on the TV to scroll through the files for playback.

The TakeTV player is $99.99 for a 4 gigabyte model and $149.99 for an 8 GB one that can hold up to 10 hours of video. Fanfare, in a test stage, offers premium TV shows for $1.99 per download - roughly the same price as rival services, but SanDisk (nasdaq: SNDK - news - people ) says it hopes to ultimately provide a broad mixture of free and ad-supported content as well as pay-per-download videos.

Fanfare's catalog at launch is small, with about 85 titles. It features TV shows from CBS (nyse: CBS - news - people ), including "CSI" and "Survivor," Showtime, TV Guide, and Smithsonian Networks. Dozens of titles are being added each week, SanDisk said.

The online video service is a new venture for Milpitas-based SanDisk, which is the leading maker of flash memory cards and holds a distant but steady second-place position behind Apple Inc. (nasdaq: AAPL - news - people ) in the portable media player market with a 10 percent share in the U.S., according to market researcher IDC.

SanDisk saw an opportunity in the fledgling market it didn't want to pass up, said Kate Purmal, senior vice president and general manager of SanDisk's digital content unit.

The distribution of videos, movies and television shows over the Internet is expected to grow as companies ranging from Apple and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (nyse: WMT - news - people ) to the TV networks themselves compete for the audience. The various methods of getting the video from over the Internet onto the TV, however, has yet to become easy or cheap enough for the mainstream market.

CBS Corp., one of SanDisk's first major partners, found in its consumer research of the TakeTV product that people liked its simplicity, compact size, and price, said David Poltrack, president of CBS Vision.

SanDisk will need to build a larger video catalog to succeed, said Danielle Levitas, analyst at IDC.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Harman Takeover Canceled, Fight Avoided

October 22, 2007 6:36 a.m.

Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. terminated their $8 billion takeover for Harman International Industries Inc., with the two sides agreeing to a far more modest investment that will spare litigation.

Under the agreement, KKR and Goldman's private-equity arm will buy $400 million worth of Harman convertible debt securities. These securities will pay out 1.25% in interest annually, and will be convertible into Harman stock should its shares reach $104 each sometime over the next five years. Harman shares were at $86.40, down $1.18, in 4 p.m. New York Stock Exchange composite trading Friday.

KKR and Goldman won't have to pay the $225 million termination fee called for under the original deal. KKR partner Brian Carroll will also be added to Harman's board.

Harman is just one of many private-equity deals to have been caught in a financial netherworld, where buyers have soured on announced transactions, and are either unable or unwilling to fund their commitments.

The most prominent of these situations is the increasingly bitter feud over student lender SLM Corp. In that case, a $25 billion agreement by buyers J.C. Flowers & Co., J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., and Bank of America, has landed in the Delaware courts.

While the rhetoric of the SLM case has become increasingly hostile, the case of Harman suggests that corporate boards can be practical-minded. "There were no positive outcomes here," said one person involved in the recent Harman negotiations. "The bottom line is what do you want to do to make shareholders the most amount of money over time?"

The Harman agreement is something of a realpolitik solution to what could have been a nasty confrontation between buyer and seller. In April, KKR and Goldman were prepared to pay $120 per share for the well-known maker of audio equipment. But changes in Harman's business results spooked KKR and Goldman, whose damages for breaking the deal were capped at $225 million.

The agreement may not be enough to placate some shareholders. Where Harman was once valued at $8 billion by its suitors, it now carries a market capitalization of $5.6 billion.

Proceeds from the convertible offering will be used to buy back stock, and therefore placate some shareholders.

The agreement spares months of litigation for the Washington, D.C.-based company. A court case would have been unavoidable should Harman have hoped to collect the termination fee. KKR and Goldman were prepared to assert that Harman's business had changed so materially that they didn't need to pay it.

People close to both sides of the Harman transaction said they didn't want to spend tens of millions of dollars for attorneys' fees. Nor were Harman officials keen on dragging the minutiae of their business into public view, said two people familiar with company's thinking.

Write to Dennis K. Berman at

Friday, October 19, 2007

Comcast No Longer Net Neutral?

Ja Wohl, Herr Kommisar!

How dumb are these guys?

By Peter Svensson

NEW YORK - Comcast Corp. actively interferes with attempts by some of its high-speed Internet subscribers to share files online, a move that runs counter to the tradition of treating all types of Net traffic equally.

The interference, which The Associated Press confirmed through nationwide tests, is the most drastic example yet of data discrimination by a U.S. Internet service provider. It involves company computers masquerading as those of its users.

If widely applied by other ISPs, the technology Comcast is using would be a crippling blow to the BitTorrent, eDonkey and Gnutella file-sharing networks. While these are mainly known as sources of copyright music, software and movies, BitTorrent in particular is emerging as a legitimate tool for quickly disseminating legal content.

The principle of equal treatment of traffic, called "Net Neutrality" by proponents, is not enshrined in law but supported by some regulations. Most of the debate around the issue has centered on tentative plans, now postponed, by large Internet carriers to offer preferential treatment of traffic from certain content providers for a fee.

Comcast's interference, on the other hand, appears to be an aggressive way of managing its network to keep file-sharing traffic from swallowing too much bandwidth and affecting the Internet speeds of other subscribers.

Number two providerComcast, the nation's largest cable TV operator and No. 2 Internet provider, would not specifically address the practice, but spokesman Charlie Douglas confirmed that it uses sophisticated methods to keep Net connections running smoothly.

"Comcast does not block access to any applications, including BitTorrent," he said.

Douglas would not specify what the company means by "access" — Comcast subscribers can download BitTorrent files without hindrance. Only uploads of complete files are blocked or delayed by the company, as indicated by AP tests.

But with "peer-to-peer" technology, users exchange files with each other, and one person's upload is another's download. That means Comcast's blocking of certain uploads has repercussions in the global network of file sharers.

Comcast's technology kicks in, though not consistently, when one BitTorrent user attempts to share a complete file with another user.

Each PC gets a message invisible to the user that looks like it comes from the other computer, telling it to stop communicating. But neither message originated from the other computer — it comes from Comcast. If it were a telephone conversation, it would be like the operator breaking into the conversation, telling each talker in the voice of the other: "Sorry, I have to hang up. Good bye."

Matthew Elvey, a Comcast subscriber in the San Francisco area who has noticed BitTorrent uploads being stifled, acknowledged that the company has the right to manage its network, but disapproves of the method, saying it appears to be deceptive.

"There's the wrong way of going about that and the right way," said Elvey, who is a computer consultant.

All types of contentComcast's interference affects all types of content, meaning that, for instance, an independent movie producer who wanted to distribute his work using BitTorrent and his Comcast connection could find that difficult or impossible — as would someone pirating music.

Internet service providers have long complained about the vast amounts of traffic generated by a small number of subscribers who are avid users of file-sharing programs. Peer-to-peer applications account for between 50 percent and 90 percent of overall Internet traffic, according to a survey this year by ipoque GmbH, a German vendor of traffic-management equipment.

"We have a responsibility to manage our network to ensure all our customers have the best broadband experience possible," Douglas said. "This means we use the latest technologies to manage our network to provide a quality experience for all Comcast subscribers."

The practice of managing the flow of Internet data is known as "traffic shaping," and is already widespread among Internet service providers. It usually involves slowing down some forms of traffic, like file-sharing, while giving others priority. Other ISPs have attempted to block some file-sharing application by so-called "port filtering," but that method is easily circumvented and now largely ineffective.

Comcast's approach to traffic shaping is different because of the drastic effect it has on one type of traffic — in some cases blocking it rather than slowing it down — and the method used, which is difficult to circumvent and involves the company falsifying network traffic.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Blu-ray Doesn't Like Spidey 3?

Spider-man 3 on Blu-ray is one of the Holiday season’s most highly anticipated releases on the 1080p high definition Blu-ray format but early adopters may have problems playing the disc in many of today’s Blu-ray players.

Using a review copy of "Spider-man 3" on Blu-ray on local tests at, the disc struggled to play in the brand new Samsung BD-P1400.

After an excruciatingly long load-up time, the disc starts to freeze and skip from the very start. Audio dropping out, picture stuttering, you name it. Compared to the mainstream consumer’s expectation for DVD playback, most couldn’t make it to the actual film.

According to various reports, other players including units from Sony, Pioneer and other stand-alone Blu-ray players are reportedly having issues with the blockbuster and feature laden HD release.

Playstation 3 does come to the rescue. The game machine plays the disc like a champ. Although one of the first Blu-ray players on the market, the Sony Playstation 3 is without question the most reliable Blu-ray player on the market. While a game machine isn’t suited for many home theater applications, the lack of format incompatibilities paired with a low entry price makes the Playstation 3 the way many enthusiasts test the waters in a ferocious HD disc format war.

The release of Spider-man 3 on Blu-ray isn’t the first time that new blockbuster Blu-ray title has failed to play on existing machines. When "Pirates Of The Caribbean" 1 and 2 were released by Disney/Buena Vista, there was hardly a player out that could play the movies. All the first generation Blu-ray players required an immediate firmware update which requires a DVD-R disc being burnt on a PC and run on a machine or the units to be connected directly to the Internet.

Each and every one of the reviewers and editors who were using the Samsung BDP-1000 were unable to play new Pirates Blu-ray discs without the firmware update. The new BD-Java encoding of disc (which was necessary for the interactive Liar's Dice game) ironically prevented the movie from playing. So a consumer pays $30 for a disc to watch the movie, and the bonus features of the disc make it not play at all. How intuitive is that?"

Pirates Of The Caribbean" wasn’t the end of Blu-ray titles being released and failing in many of the early players. Most recently, FOX released "The Day After Tomorrow" and "Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer" on Blu-ray. Both of these titles played on less than a handful of the players out there. Again, now it was the BD+ encoding of these discs reportedly that affected successful playback. A firmware update was needed by Samsung for the BDP-1000, which reportedly loaded the movie in an agonizing five plus minutes and then played the movie with more than its fair share of jitter, skipping, and freezing.

The Samsung BD-P1200 reportedly did not play the movies at all. After inserting either of the discs, a screen appeared that stated the player could not play the discs and that a firmware upgrade was needed. Some of the newer players did better with the Fox and Disney titles. Playstation 3 still remains the most stable of the available players.

Consumers are struggling to understand why they need an HD disc player when DVDs work perfectly well in their systems. The difference between DVD and HD discs need to be seen and heard and then the upgrade is obvious. What is also obvious is the need for the Blu-ray camp to get their standards more stable so that studios can release top titles that work with relatively manageable number of Blu-ray players on the market. While the Playstation 3 is a tempting audience – it's not the only audience. A guy who drops $799 on a "top of the line" Blu-ray player, hooks it up via HDMI and is looking to the best video currently available doesn’t want to hear that his player won't play that latest disc or that he needs to spend hours burning and running firmware update discs before he can watch a new Blu-ray film.