There are lots of wireless ways to get two channels of audio from point A to point B. But which is the right one for you? One of several possible answers is the Audioengine AW1 wireless audio adapter. It takes the form of two shiny black objects. Each one is the size and shape of a box of kitchen matches, with a stubby USB dongle at one end and a stereo mini-jack at the other end.
Are you about to bring your iPod to San Francisco, Oakland, or the Bay Area? Then don't forget to download Bay Area Rapid Transit information before you leave home. In addition to the BART system map, you'll also get schedules, station information, and email warnings whenever the system changes. The map will work only on iPods with color displays and iTunes 4.7 or later. For skeds and stations you'll need a display (color or B&W) plus the Notes feature. BART also offers a PDA QuickPlanner for the Palm OS and Pocket PC and a Wireless QuickPlanner for web-enabled mobile devices. For other cities, check out isubwaymaps.com (formerly ipodsubwaymaps.com before Apple's lawyers sent a nastygram). The enthusiast-fueled site has maps of Berlin, Bilbao, Boston, Chicago, Hong Kong, London, LA, Lyon, Melbourne, Milan, Montreal, NYC, Paris, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington DC. Paypal donations appreciated but not compulsory.
Digital camera pooping out on you? Duracell says its new PowerPix can power twice as many pictures as an ordinary alkaline battery. The PowerPix uses a new NiOx technology—that's nickel-oxy-hydroxide for those of you majoring in chemistry. Meanwhile, Panasonic makes the same claim for its new Oxyride batteries, compared to its own Alkaline Plus, adding that a new version will deliver three times as many pictures around the time the swallows return to Capistrano. Finally, Energizer says its e2 Lithium lasts seven times as long as competing alkalines and that e2s have replaced all the alkaline batteries aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery. Any of them should keep your remotes under control for years.
The British Broadcasting Corporation has been busy lately. Its iPlayer is about to relaunch following a beta test. It will enable viewers to download single episodes or entire series a month after airing. In other BBC news, an archival project will put a million hours of historic material online for free, according to the Guardian. In this case there's a catch. You'll have to pay the annual BBC license fee to access it. The archives include an interview with John Lennon and Yoko Ono, conducted two days before the shooting, in which they candidly discuss the impact of their relationship on the Beatles. There's also an interview with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., conducted the day before his death, in which he says: "The important thing isn't how long you live, but how well you live."
"Fortune has learned that iTunes is close to a deal to bring the Beatles catalog online," the magazine's Tim Arango reported last week. How ironic, given their 20 years of legal battles, including most recently a tug of war over the right to use the brandname Apple. Neither Apple Computer or Apple Corps has confirmed the rumor and the deal may still fall through. However, the president of EMI recently told a music industry conference that he expected to see Beatles downloads available "soon." Still to be determined: What window of exclusivity will iTunes win from the Fab Four and their survivors? Will the Beatles allow their tunes and images be used for televised or other cross-promotional advertising, as U2 has done so successfully? Frankly, I couldn't care less, since my iPod already contains Beatles content ripped from legally purchased CDs. What I want to know is: How much longer do I have to wait for the Beatles catalog to be remixed in surround and released on SACD, DVD-Audio, Blu-ray, or HD DVD?
Let's say you spot a bargain on the Best Buy website. You go to the local Best Buy to buy the product. Sorry, says the salesperson, that's not the correct price for that product. How can that be?, you ask. The salesperson boots up the site and shows you and then you feel like a ninny. But you're not a ninny--you've merely been robbed. Best Buy has confirmed to Connecticut state investigators that it maintains a second site, an intranet site, with different prices. I'll let "Consumer Watchdog" George Gombossy of the Hartford Courant tell the rest of the story: "State Attorney General Richard Blumenthal ordered the investigation into Best Buy's practices on Feb. 9 after my column disclosed the website and showed how employees at two Connecticut stores used it to deny customers a $150 discount on a computer advertised on BestBuy.com. Blumenthal said Wednesday that Best Buy has also confirmed to his office the existence of the intranet site, but has so far failed to give clear answers about its purpose and use. 'Their responses seem to raise as many questions as they answer,' Blumenthal said." Best Buy's serpentine response is to blame its employees: "We are reminding our employees how to access the external BestBuy.com web site to ensure customers are receiving the best possible product price."
I've been to CEDIA EXPOs in Dallas, New Orleans, a few in Indianapolis, and the last three in Denver. I'll never forget walking the mist-shrouded streets of the French Quarter, of course, and Indy is underrated. But by far the best venue has been Denver. The downtown area is set up with most major hotels within walking distance of both the convention center and amenities in and around the 16th Street Mall. For both work and play, Denver has been the ideal place to attend a convention, and I'm truly going to miss it. So...
I was too woozy after CEDIA 2008 to deliver my final show blog. Anyway, I like to take an annual stand on what was the best thing I heard at the show--after all, people at the show are always asking me. The answer, hands down, was Pioneer's EX Series Reference Class Architectural Speakers.
Any takers for the world's greatest music collection? Paul Mawhinney has been collecting for 60 years, amassing a three million items, but is selling due to age, health, and financial problems. An appraiser says the library is worth $50 million, though Paul is willing to settle for $3 million. That's just a dollar a record. The collection includes LPs, CDs, EPs, 45s, and 78s and right now they're sitting in a climate-controlled warehouse waiting for a buyer. Mawhinney would prefer to sell to a museum, library, university, or foundation which would keep the collection intact, though he adds, the new owner is "free to do as you please." If you'd like to check the contents, there's an online database.
In the latest act of a long-running drama, Dish Network PVRs will not be judicially disabled—at least, not yet. A federal appeals court has blocked an injunction from a Texas district court that would have shut down Dish video recorders. Dish's adversary is TiVo and the issue is patent infringement. TiVo has successfully argued that Dish PVRs violate TiVo's patents, winning $74.9 million in penalties. That matter was decided months ago, but what to do about it has not, so millions of Dish PVRs have the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. The Dish people say they expect to reverse the Texas district court decision and will "continue to work on modifications" to the allegedly infringing machines. Even if TiVo gets a short-term win in this situation, its real challenge is competition from not only satellite DVRs but those marketed by cable and emerging telco-video services. No judge or lawyer is going to make that problem go away.
A problem with Blu-ray security technology will delay the launch of both Blu-ray and HD DVD by at least a few weeks, insiders have told a German security portal. The stumbling block is BD+, which allows updates of encryption schemes when they're hacked. While the BD+ component of the Advanced Access Content System is used only in Blu-ray, the delay in finalizing AACS will delay both formats. AACS LA, the standard-setting body, tried to resolve the problem last week but failed. The group will meet again next week and take another crack. In the meantime, HD DVD's slight product-debut lead over Blu-ray is dissipating. The HD DVD people must be fit to kill.
Blu-ray's official launch will be delayed from May 23 to June 20, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Prerecorded discs will be lying in wait by the original launch date. But Sony Pictures is holding them back to coordinate with the launch of Samsung's BD-1000 player. Samsung reported in April that the player was hung up on "compatibility testing." Sony's own BDP-S1 is not scheduled to come out until July, according to the Blu-ray website, though sonystyle.com is taking pre-orders for it. HD DVD got a lot of bad publicity for its stuttering launch. Looks like the shoe is on the other foot now, eh? Being a format war correspondent is fun!
My first Blu-ray player--but not, I swear, my last--is a Pioneer Elite BDP-HD1. It's a first-generation model and therefore showing its age. Lately it has been having trouble loading new movie titles. I wondered if it were simply obsolete and muttered aggrievedly about planned obsolescence and standards that are really not standardized. Old CD players still play new CDs--why shouldn't an old Blu-ray player play new BDs? While I was screening movies for an audio review, the player surprised me by flashing a bright red onscreen message demanding a firmware update. This was the first time I'd seen such a message. The last time I did this, for 2007's Version 3.40.1, the process required me to download a zip file, copy it to DVD-R, and put the disc in the player. But for the up-to-the-minute Version 3.88, the process required only the player's ethernet connection, a download direct into the player, and a little remote button pressing. Ten minutes later I was done, and the Pioneer played the disc it had previously rejected, plunging me into the world of Mark Wahlberg action movies. It still downconverted DTS-HD Master Audio to DTS Core, but at least I wouldn't have to exchange unplayable discs at the local Blockbuster. I mention this for the benefit of Blu-ray early adopters who may be having trouble loading discs--the latest firmware upgrade may help.
Sales of Blu-ray titles have decisively pulled ahead of HD DVD sales. Nielsen VideoScan figures for the week ended February 18 gave Blu-ray a 65 percent share of the market. HD DVD had been faster out of the gate and had maintained its initial sales lead throughout most of 2006. But Blu-ray made its move shortly after Christmas, buoyed by sales of Sony PlayStation3 game consoles. Blu-ray also has more titles print, at 179 vs. 163, though that's a pittance compared to regular DVD and several video download services. The format war is still on and both formats are still struggling for survival. Progress has come in the form of combi players and lower hardware prices. Chin up, high-def disc lovers.