The maker of the world's coolest LCD TVs is now offering high-def-capable versions in screen sizes up to 42 inches. My favorite of the eight new design series is the 32-inch HANNSvibe ($1299), pictured here with its detachable speakers. HANNspree is also moving into plasma with the 50-inch HANNSskate ($4199). All big-screen models have ATSC and QAM tuners for reception of over-the-air and unencrypted cable channels. Also new from HANNspree are the G IT line of computer monitors from 15 to 23 inches, the seven-inch car-mount HANNSMobi with built-in DVD player, and the HANNSvidilink, a wireless 802.11a video transmitter and receiver that works at distances up to 300 feet. And the company is adding four Warner Bros. cartoon designs (including Bugs) to its Disney, NBA, and MLB series. The only thing the company isn't marketing is a TV based on my image and I expect to see that any day now.
What major U.S. retailer is offering free streaming music videos recorded in its own studios? Nope, I'm not going to make it easy for you by running the company logo as artwork of the day. Hint: It's the same company that's forced the music industry to market censored versions of hit CDs. Still in the dark? It's also the same retailer that accounts for two percent of the U.S. economy, according to NPR Marketplace. I'm talking about Wal-Mart, of course. Check out Soundcheck on the company's homepage. The young and photogenic artist currently featured is Yellowcard (yup, that's them in the pic). Switchfoot has already been featured and Miranda Lambert is coming up. It's all a come-on for Wal-Mart's download service which offers WMA files at 128kbps (with DRM, of course) at a competitive 88 cents per track. iPod owners should note that while iTunes will convert WMA files to AAC, it will not convert WMA-DRM. Oh, and you Firefox and Safari users will have to swallow your pride for a few minutes and use Internet Explorer. That's what you get for making deals with the devil.
I love Leo Kottke's virtuoso guitar playing. Still, I hesitated to buy his album Sixty Six Steps, with bassist Mike Gordon, when Amazon specifically warned: "This Sony CD includes SunnComm MediaMax Version 5 content protection software that may expose security vulnerability when played on PCs." I don't love anyone quite enough to put a MediaMax-tainted CD into my PC. And when I rip a new CD for use in my iPod, I prefer a nice clean MP3 to the WMA-DRM format dictated by MediaMax. The iPod doesn't accept WMA files with DRM.
Worried about taking your iPod out in the rain? You needn't if you're wearing the BlackCoat Work from Ohio-based Koyono. The "Made for iPod" jacket's five pockets include one for your iPod. You can manipulate the player through the Elektex five-button fabric interface, sourced from Eleksen, a five-layer laminate of conductive materials. It's light, flexible, durable, washable, and (the company says) superior to the hard touchpads, flexi-circuits, and polymer switches used in other products. The BlackCoat Work will be available in March or April and can be ordered direct for $179.
Are your fingers itching to store and manage 7500 CDs by dragging and dropping on a touchscreen? The Q100 Digital Music Entertainment (DME) System is the first music management system to include a drag-and-drop user interface, according to the manufacturer Qsonix. You can D&D tracks or albums, fool with playlists, and so it all without navigating multi-step menus. The product comes with capacity of 160-400GB and a 15-inch TFT LCD touchscreen controller. Says Mike Weaver, president of Qsonix: "Qsonix re-unites users with their music by incorporating an intuitive, engaging and visual presentation that allows music to be accessed with the simple touch of the finger." Re-unites—I like that part. He continues: "Designed for even the most technology-phobic users, our system can be mastered in minutes and enjoyed for years by the whole family." If he does say so himself. Qsonix also sells industrial level gear to bars, pubs, clubs, restaurants, eateries, coffeehouses, hotels, department stores, retail outlets, and offices. Price: $5495.
With so many new brandnames entering the flat-panel TV business, it's hard to keep track of them all. Would you know a Proton from a Protron? That's what seems to be worrying the Proton Electrical Industrial Co. of Taiwan, which has just filed a trademark-infringement suit against the Prosonic Consumer Group for marketing sets under the similar-sounding Protron brand. Proton has a 23-year pedigree as a high-end TV maker, is just re-entering the North American market with a line of LCD DTVs, and wants to avoid "confusion in the marketplace," says a press release. The name Proton is also used by numerous other companies, though not to sell TVs. The name Protron is also used by a computer-software company.
The Federal Communications Commission has a new member. Deborah Tate was quietly sworn in by chairperson Kevin Martin on January 3. A native of Tennessee, Tate is a lawyer with Republican credentials, but not necessarily a cookie-cutter political operative. Her varied public service background includes telecommunications, public utilities, senior mental health, and juvenile justice. That breadth of experience may prove valuable over the next few years as the FCC grapples with controversial issues involving obscenity, censorship, media concentration, digital rights management, and its traditional mission of regulating the broadcast spectrum.
"Image Constraint Token." A piquant phrase, yes? Roll it around on your tongue a few times before I tell you what it is. OK, ready? It's the name of the flag that will down-res HDTV in the soon-to-debut Blu-ray and HD DVD formats under the rights management scheme known as AACS (Advanced Access Content System). The restriction will apply only to the player's component video outputs, because they're analog, and therefore give the studios security nightmares. If your HDTV has HDMI, you needn't worry. HDMI is digital, easier to protect, and will work at full resolution. But if you're an early HDTV adopter and component is the only HD input on your set—ouch. The Image Constraint Token will halve resolution from 1920 by 1080 pixels to 960 by 540. It is an option, not a requirement. Studios likely to use it reportedly include Disney, NBC Universal, Paramount, and Warner. Fox has argued against it and Sony hasn't taken a position. The logic behind the ICT is staggeringly faulty: Does anyone really believe that cutting resolution in half will stop pirates in their tracks?