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

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

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...

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