Sony PlayStation Retro Console…Thoughts

So, Sony decided to enter the retro ‘mini’ console craze that has seen the likes of Atari, Intellivision, Colecovision, Commodore, Sega and Nintendo become fun again.  They released a mini console replica of the original Playstation console from the nineties.  Now, I am not going to go into detail over what games came bundled or how much fun they are (a LOT) but, instead, I want to comment on the design, ease of use and a few nits over what is, otherwise, a decent product. Purists will bitch about it and the gaming press has villified Sony over the console, but, I am not (!) going to do that.


First, let me get my complaints about the console out of the way. 

Number 1: No power supply. Yes, this thing ships with ONLY a USB cable for power. Sony assumes you will plug it into your modern television’s USB port.  However, that did not work for me. I am not sure why, the set I use it on has a powered USB port, but, the console refused to get its power from there.  A normal USB wall wort worked fine.

Number 2: The unit took forever (OK, a few added seconds) to power up. When I plugged it into the wall wort, nothing appeared to happen. But, after a few seconds, the LED lit up an amber color. Pressing the power button turned the LED green and the console came to life.  It works fine.  So, I tried the USB port on the set again…nada, zero, zilch.  Didn’t get power from there.  The old Roku, though, did.  Odd.

Number 3: The interface is terrible.  The circular carousel isn’t the issue, its the quality of the presentation.  Yes, I get that it emulates something from the 90s, but, on a larger screen, it’s difficult to read.  The HDMI output is greatly appreciated, but, the presentation should match. The games, don’t necessarily have to, but everything else should. And, this leads to Number 4 and 5…

Number 4:  Why HDMI only?  The set I was going to put it on has bad HDMI inputs (yes, all three ports are dead) so, I wanted to use COMPOSITE, but, no, no composite output.

Number 5: Sony should release more games (as some other company has) for the console.  The 20 games included are fun, but, it would be nice to have more.

Number 6:  Last, the size of the console is a problem for me.  While it is cute, its a bit small (the controllers are, however, full size) and very light…which is the issue.  The attached controllers (both are USB and I am grateful for that) and if you move excitedly, you end up pulling the console with you.  A minor thing, but, annoying nonetheless.


There is a lot to like about the console.  It is unobtrusive (to a fault) and easy to set up. The controllers are familiar, so there is zero learning curve if you have played Playstation at all.  The selection of games is nice and, Tekken 3, is the bomb. The games, to me, are faithful enough and seeing the Sony logo is really cool (even though I am not much of a Sony guy) as it reminds me of the fun I had on my PS ONE.

Even with the paltry 20 games that are included, they are good games…but…if you want more from Sony, that is a no go, HOWEVER…if you search on Amazon, you can find a few products that add more games.  I ordered one

such device (a USB stick and a four port USB hub) that added 51 fighting gams (most of the Street Fight type) and an additional product that adds another 101 games.  So, for under 80 dollars, you can relive the early to mid nineties PlayStation experience. 

Even with my six ‘nits’ against the device, it was well worth the forty bucks I paid on Prime Day (it doesn’t cost much more if you shop around) and it even excited my two younger kids, both of which grew up on XBox 360 and Nintendo Wii and Switch.  Their initial thoughts…”wow, those are OLD” But, they loved the games. And, really, that’s all that should matter.

The Mini PlayStation is great deal.  Contrary to what has been written about it, it comes packed with nostalgia, good games and a nifty little case that is a tad on the small side.  You and your kids will love it.

Amazon’s Kindle: eReader, internet device and cheese slicer

WP_20150113_22_49_26_ProFunny thing happens when you buy a piece of technology that, at the time, seems to be cutting edge. Yet, in just a few short years, it will become obsolete, regardless if it is still useful or not. Such a wonder is the original Amazon Kindle.

Introduced in 2007, the innovative Kindle eReader was an ugly and expensive device.  It languished a bit until Oprah Winfrey devoted an entire show to the device. Jeff Bezos came on and explained the device, Ms. Winfrey had a family explain how much they loved it and, best of all, the device was made available at a substantial discount if you used the magic code from the Oprah show. Each studio audience member also got one for free.  The device took off after that and so did the eReader category. Within a year or two, there dozens of devices available at a wide range of cost, from $99 to $500. 

The original Kindle was all white, used e-ink display technology and had a cell radio and something called Whispersync, which allowed for over the cell-air purchase and downloading of content. It would also keep your device in synch with other Kindle devices, be it a computer or another Kindle.  The cell radio was on the Sprint network and worked reasonably well. You could turn the radio off to conserve power.  Speaking of power, the device sipped the juice very conservatively. One could go weeks on a charge, as long as the radio was off.

The design of the device was unique.  Wedge shaped, it feature this funky ‘elevator’ controlWP_20150113_22_49_01_Pro that you would use to select lines or options. One would ‘click’ the wheel to make a selection.  There were lots of buttons, including a full but split qwerty keyboard and very large next and previous page buttons.

The on device software was fairly complete and featured a very crude web browser (something later Kindles would eschew) and a basic mp3 player that would play music while you read.  The browser, believe it or not, came in very handy during several storms and hurricanes. In fact, at one point during a hurricane in 2012, it was the only way we could get news while we were home. All of the cell phones had run out of battery power, and there was no internet so the iPad was kind of useless. I broke out the Kindle, which was about half charged, and not only caught up on the news, but was able to check the power company web site to see if restoration was near.

Amazon realized, by the time the Kindle 2 came out, that giving away life time service from Sprint was a costly thing to do and made the browser only work via Wi-Fi in later devices.  However, I’ve had my original Kindle since its introduction and STILL have the Whispersync service, even though another company services Amazon along with the grandfathered Sprint devices.

Overall, the original Kindle, while ugly, was a great device. It has since been made obsolete by newer and better devices from Amazon, Sony, Barnes and Noble, Samsung and others but this first device will always have a soft spot in my heart. 

CES 2015: webOS, tablets and funky tv’s

The 2015 International CES is over.  Among the products and product lines shown off were curved Televisions, 4K TV, ‘quantum dot’ TV, TV dongles, tablets, smartphones and accessories, self driving cars and more computers-of all shapes and sizes. Oh, and smart watches and fitness bands. Lots of them.

So, where do we start?  Well, lets start with one of my favorite operating systems. This OS is now in televisions, phones and … soon, smart watches.  Yep, webOS is making a splash with LG spearheading the way.  They purchased the OS from HP in 2013 and began adapting it for use in smart televisions.  The first effort, while it sold five million televisions, was less than stallear. webOS 2.0, however, is said to be fast and easier to code for than the previous release.  It has also been shrunk down to watch size.  LG has, seemingly, teamed with Audi to produce a watch that can open the car doors, place calls and a plethora of things.  LG denies it and Audi was just trying to show off the car.  The Verge reports seeing an ‘about’ screen that shows the webOS version.  For a dead OS, it sure is making a splash.  The interesting thing is that, at the current rate, LG will have more webOS devices in the wild than Palm/HP Palm ever could.

Intel showed off its Compute Stick, an HDMI dongle for your Television that is a complete Windows computer on a stick.  Selling for $149, the Compute Stick features an Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage and features a micro-SD slot for future expansion. So, it is a rather spartan PC, but, it is very portable and Wifi enabled,so you could just throw it in a bag, your pocket, whatever and take it with you instead of a laptop. The drawbacks, of course, are that you do need a keyboard and mouse AND an HDMI enabled display. But, if you don’t mind these limitations, the Stick might just be your travelling companion.  A cheaper, $89 version running Linux will also be available.  Though, the Linux version sports half the RAM and only 8GB of storage.

I’m no Sony fan, but, I would definitely purchase their newest 65 inch set. This thing is 4.9 mm thick. The 4K set is thinner than most current smartphones.  It is edge to edge awesomness.

In a big nod to Microsoft’s Surface tablets, a group of former Google engineers introduced the Remix. To be offered up next month via a Kickstarter campaign, the device has many of the same features of Surface, looks like the Surface and its software, another Android fork, even resembles Windows 8 applications and its mail client is a rip off of Windows 8 mail.  Still, It says much about Surface that these gentlemen would decide to ‘me too’ the tablet.

Speaking of tablets, there were plenty to choose from. From a six inch Windows tablet all the way up to a 65 inch, 4k enabled tablet from FUHU.  Perhaps the most interesting ones, however, are the under $150 Windows tablets which are going to be available in the next month or so.  There were no new Kindles, but there were a bunch of Android tablets as well. No one tablet really stood out (well, maybe that 65 incher) but they were all well represented.  Have a look on CNet’s News.Com for more.

For a complete wrap up of the events at CES, the Verge has a good summary.

New iPhone or Android phone? So, what to do with that old one?

Palm_Pre_SmartphoneIf you are like me, you probably have two, three or more old smartphones lying around, collecting dust. If they are still functional, they are still useful.  I will pull out the old Palm Pre, charge it and use it to play a few games or even surf the web. It has a good browser and I downloaded a fair number of decent games, a couple will even work with the iPhone/iPad counterparts for multi player action (Shrek Racing, for one.)  So, what can you do with those old phones? Well, read on for a few suggestions…


  • If you have an old iPhone, Android or Windows Phone 7, there is the Kindle app.  There was also a Nook reader app for Android.  There are also a few e-reader apps from other companies that are available on these and other devices like the Palm Pre. There a thousands of free ebooks as well.

WiFi Phone

  • Older iPhones, Android and Windows Phones have Skype clients that will allow you to use that old smartphone, over WiFi, as a phone. Imagine that. You can use it at home and save those minutes on your cell. Carry one for use when near a hotspot in case your phone has poor service or, again, to save those minutes.  (Granted, it could be cumbersome carrying around multiple devices.)

Web Browsing

  • Most older smartphones come with some kind of browser. iPhones, even the first gen, have the sufficient Safari and Android has it’s native browser. Firefox and/or Chrome may also be available. The Palm Pre has an excellent browser and Windows Phone 7’s Internet Explorer, well, it works. 


  • Here’s where devices like iPhone and Android really shine. There are a ton of games out there for both of these platforms. If your phone is powerful enough, this can be a great alternative to the Nintendo or Sony handhelds. Or, like me, why not have them in addition to the Nintendo or Sony offerings? Lots of the games for the smartphones simply are not available for either Nintendo or Sony handhelds.  I still pull out the Palm Pre and play some of those games. Even my old Motorola Q has a few games I like. It had a nice Sim City game. Hmm…where did I put that? Even older, non-WiFi phones like the Palm Centro had some decent games. If you still have it, why not use it?

285389-htc-evo-shift-4g-sprintSecondary Info Screen for your PC

  • Ok, I’m stretching here, but I use my HTC Shift for weather and email as a secondary screen for my PC. I have it connected via USB so it continuously gets power. Right now, I am using the built in apps, so it isn’t a true secondary display, HOWEVER…there is an app called iDisplay which turns your Android device into a true secondary display.  For more, read here and here. There are also other apps like AirDisplay.

Portable Media Playeriphone4

  • iPhones, especially, make decent portable players. An iPhone is, essentially, an iPod Touch with the cell capability. Android, Palm Pre and Windows Phones are all good media players as well.  My Pre came pre loaded with the Amazon player and Androids have the Google Play store. There are tons of apps, for all major platforms, like Pandora and YouTube. This is, next to games, perhaps the best use of these devices.

Digital Camera

  • Nearly all smartphones have cameras. Some are poor, but most of them are fairly decent. The iPhone and Nokia smartphones have excellent cameras. You can keep one in the car or your bag and when the shutterbug strikes, you’ll have at least one camera around.  I know, your shiny new phone has one too. And it probably is better, but on your older device, you’ll have storage that you may not want to use on your new device. They can make good video cameras as well.

Emergency Calling

  • ALL cell phones, smart or otherwise, can still place a 911 call, no matter if you have service on them or not. As long as they are in a cell network, they can place a 911 call. This is an FCC mandate, so if, for no other reason, you could keep one (charges, of course) in a car or your home for an emergency.  The key, however, is to keep it charged up and readily available.

There are, of course, other uses for the phones, these are just a few suggestions. Others include remote control of televisions, cable boxes, Roku devices and more. Calculators, portable databases, USB storage, etc.  My point is that just because you got something shinier and newer, doesn’t mean these older ones are useless.  They even make great mini-tablets for young children. Since they are no longer in cell service, they cannot make calls so why not let them have one for games or Netflix?

Sony’s PS4 scam at E3 and new Nintendo titles

ps4So, apparently, Sony pulled a fast one over the public in its E3 keynote address introducing the PS4. During the keynote, they stated that there would be no DRM and no restrictions on used games. What they FAILED to mention, however, was, like Microsoft, that third party publishers were free to place restrictions upto and including the prevention of resale of used games.

What appeared to be a slam dunk for Sony’s PS4 is now a ‘oh really? Huh.’ This bait and switch tactic is old, tired and Sony should be ashamed.

During an interview, Jack Tretton, President of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, stated that they (Sony) would provide the platform and publishers were free to impose any business model they wish. Meaning, Electronic Arts could, theoretically, only allow certain games to be resold or otherwise transferred from one person to another, all or none.  Strike 1. (And, for the record, EA has publicly stated that they have no immediate plans to do so on either the XBox ONE or the PS4.)

And, that $399 price? Well, it does not include the Sony Eye, which is the motion tracking piece of the pie. So, for the PS4 to be feature complete with the XBox One, you have to purchase the Eye for $69 US, which brings the PS4 right in line with Microsoft’s offering. Strike 2.

Lastly, Sony last big advantage over Microsoft, the free online multiplayer component, is now going to be a paid service. You must buy Sony’s equivalent of XBox Live Gold in order to play multiplayer games online.  Strike 3, your out!

So, why would I want either of these consoles?

Nintendo announced a bevy of games for both Wii U and 3DS.  Included in those titles are a new Mario Kart for the Wii U, Super Mario Brothers for the Wii U, two new Zelda games and a new Smash Brothers title.  The Wii U online play is free, it is now an HD console and it is cheaper than the other consoles. It’s looking better and better…

Tech Nerdvana: Xbox One, PS 4 and iOS 7

It’s been a big few days in the world of tech and for geeks like us.  Microsoft showed off more of the follow up to both Windows 8 and the XBOX 360, Apple unveiled iOS 7 and Sony shows off its me-too prowess with an unveiling of the PS4. Me too seems to be the prevailing train of thought for all three companies: elements of each other’s tech and that of other companies have made it into each of these products.  There’s even a nostalgic flare to some of them.

I have already talked about some of the changes to Windows 8, so I’ll talk about. No, I will talk about the XBOX One, iOS 7 and a little PS4.

First, however, lets get iOS out of the way. 

iOS7webOSMultitaskAs it is from Apple, it has already been ably covered here and here. However, I want to through my two and half cents in as well.  So…here goes…

First, from what I’ve seen, it looks fantastic. They have taken the better parts of the current flavor of iOS, mixed in some Windows Phone/Windows 8 and even a bit of webOS.  The operating system appears to be a little more customizable, though not much more. It has a flatter, cleaner appearance and, best of all, it is backward compatible all the way back to the iPhone 4, iPad 2 and iPod Touch gen 4.

One of the more frustrating aspects of iOS is its poor multitasking. Well, it looks like that has finally been rectified by borrowing a page from the webOS playbook. Multitasking is handled more like the ‘cards’ feature of Palm’s webOS. You get a horizontal scrolling view of the open apps and you can then flick through them from side to side and flick up to dismiss an app. This is pretty much how webOS handled it.iTunesRadio

One of the more vaunted services that Apple fankids have wanted (though they poo-poo the notion from others) is some kind of Zune like subscription service. Well, Apple unveiled its iTunes Radio, an ad supported free Pandora like service. It will be available on all iOS 7 devices. An ad free version is available to iTunes Match customers.

There are other interesting aspects of iOS 7, like some of the photography related features (filters, better panoramics and more. Hit up one of the links above to find out more. 

I have to admit, I am actually looking forward to upgrading my iPhone 4 to this version of iOS.

Apple also showed a bit of its ridiculously named OS X Mavericks.  Not much to say, other than the AirPlay capability of adding a large screen TV as a second or THIRD display via Apple TV looks pretty nice.  APPLE.COM has more on the new OS and the complete keynote by Tim Cook and company.

Now, onto the video games.

E3 started and, with it, the two big keynotes from Microsoft and Sony.  I’m going to be brief with both, especially Sony, but want to hit what I think are the highlights.

First, lets just get Sony out of the way.

They ‘revealed’  PS4 waaaaay back in FEBRUARY. However, they really didn’t say too terribly much and did not even show off the hardware. They talked games and showed the controller. This time, they were more revealing. The console was on display and…it’s very similar to the XBOX ONE. Yep. SO, it seems both companies have taken a page from the 1970’s consumer electronics design playbook (which lived well into the 1980’s) and came up with retro designs, sans the faux wood. Hey, that might make the PS 4 look a little better.

Ok, Ok, enough ragging on Sony (it’s so much fun.)  This time, however, PS 4 looks a little interesting. The style and the guts are, dare I say, pretty cool…

Inside, you will find a beast of a machine:

  • An eight-core X86 AMD Jaguar CPU ps4
  • 1.84-teraflop AMD Radeon graphics engine
  • 8GB of GDDR5 memory
  • Hard-drive storage (not SSD)
  • Blu-Ray drive
  • Three USB 3.0 ports
  • 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Ethernet
  • HDMI
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • optical audio and analog AV out

Sony says there will be no restrictions on used games and you will not be required to ‘phone home’ like you will on XBOX at least once a day to play your games…the games that you bought either on disk or download.

The graphics from this monster look impressive and the game line up looks equally impressive. Oh, and the most impressive part? The retail price is going to be…$399.  Ummm…Microsoft…

Speaking of Microsoft

xboxoneMicrosoft unveiled the XBOX One several weeks prior to E3. The hardware looks great, the entertainment features look great, it is based on Windows and is, essentially, a beast Windows computer. Don’t let that fool you, this thing does not work like your standard desktop. Boasting three operating systems (XBOX OS for the games, Windows 8 kernel for the entertainment and apps and a controller to keep the two working together. It wants to be your internet appliance, your video game console and your entertainment and set top cable box. A bit ambitious, yes.

The games, like PS 4, look stunning.  Fluid motion, realistic water and fire (something that is difficult to do) and consistently high frame rates. But, with all of the goodness, come the badness…

The console requires that it be online at least once a day (in and of itself, not much of an issue since you will likely have it connected to your home network anyway) and the there are a ton of restrictions on games once you acquire them: can only be given away once, publishers get to decide if the games can be resold, etc. Rather draconian. And, then there is the price: equally monstrous at $499. And, with these two downsides (price, game restrictions) I think it likely that Microsoft just handy Sony the ‘win’ for the next gen consoles.

As much as it may pain me to say it, I’m thinking I might be inclined to get a PS 4 long before an XBOX ONE…if at all.

the blunders of Silicon valley: biggest mistakes made in the tech world

zune-topI was watching the movie ‘Pirates of Silicon Valley’, which chronicles the early years of Apple and Microsoft (and, by extension, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs) and noted several big blunders that were made during that time (and, indeed, since then, as well.)

Perhaps the biggest blunder of all: The Xerox brass not ‘getting’ what Xerox Parc had created.  Xerox Parc, for those who do not know, created the graphical user interface and perfected the mouse (which was invented by Douglas Englebart at the Augmentation Research Center at Stanford in 1967.) The Parc group presented the GUI based Alto computer, the brass had no idea what it was or what to do with it. It was, eventually, marketed as the Xerox Star, it was a failure for the company as it sold about 25,000 units.

While Xerox failed to capitalize on the GUI, a small company named Digital Research failed to capitalize on IBM and their new personal computer. The story goes something like this: Gary Kildall, the CEO of the company, was out flying when the IBM’ers stopped by. Kildall’s wife greeted tham and told them that Kildall was out but would be back shortly.  She spoke with Kildall who instructed her to proceed with negotiations. When the IBM’ers demanded that she sign a non-disclosure agreement, she refused and they left.  This story has been disputed over the years, but, the bottom line is the DR’s reluctance opened the door for Microsoft to lock up the operating system business on the IBM and its clones.  Even better, Microsoft had sold IBM non-exclusive rights to an operating system that they did not own.

Which, leads to another HUGE blunder…Tim Paterson of Seattle Computer wrote the initial version of MS-DOS. He bought a manual for CP\M and patterned his DOS after that.  When Microsoft promised an operating system to IBM, Paul Allen went to Paterson and offered fifty thousand dollars to buy his DOS.  Paterson accepted. Now, to be fair to him, Seattle Computer was a tiny company and fifty thousand dollars probably seemed like a lot for his unpolished little operating system, so you cannot fault him but so much. Still, in hindsight, this was a pretty big mistake.

Next, we have Apple.  They made mistake after mistake in the early years and a few very recently. Perhaps the biggest mistake that Apple made was not bringing Steve Jobs back sooner than they did. This was a company on the verge of imploding (which, oddly enough, is why they fired Jobs in the first place) when they finally brought him back. However, along the way, they: continued manufacturing the Apple II for far too long; failed to keep up with advancing technology; failed to modernize Mac OS; went through too many CEO’s; had a product line that was too big and too broad. When Jobs returned, he did turn the company around, but made some blunders on his own. Perhaps his biggest mistake was canning the Newton.  By the time Jobs took over, the Newton was beginning to make a mark in the PDA world. It was facing huge competition by the cheaper, smaller and easier to use Palm Pilot and was not part of the Mac product line so, after waffling a bit, Jobs shut it down. He also killed the Mac clone business. Now, some would argue that this was not a blunder, but, I contend it was.  Had the clone market been allowed to continue, Mac OS COULD have become a much more entrenched operating system and Mac hardware might have given the PC world a real run for the money.

Microsoft has made more blunders than I can write about here, so I will only mention the big ones.  Like the Zune.  Here, Microsoft had everything going for it: great hardware, decent software, a really good marketplace and subscription plan. They were able to secure the necessary rights for music and video (and, eventually, a few apps) but what they failed to do-and failed spectacularly: advertise the thing.  The marketing of Zune was abysmal.  Add to that, the initial hardware looked as if it were designed by Soviet era designers of missile launchers.  Then, there was the XBOX 360.  Now, I know it is a best selling console now, but this thing was a turkey in the first few years of its life. Due to a design flaw, the console would over heat and die, giving its users the ‘red ring of death.’ Microsoft made good and replaced the consoles as well as redesign the product, but it never should have happened in the first place.

Perhaps the biggest blunder in recent years was that of Palm.  Palm, the once shining beacon of Silicon Valley, was sold so many times and, in the process, not only lost its way (and lead) it made a series of blunders that should have killed it off years before it finally did implode.  First, they failed to keep the founders of the company, who went and started Handspring and LICENSED the Palm OS from Palm. Then, Palm bought that company for far more than it was worth. Palm perfected the smartphone concept, but failed to capitalize on it, mainly because they did not update the Palm OS quickly enough. Worse, they split the company into two parts: hardware and software.  The software company, PalmOne, then sold itself to a company called Access. While the hardware company maintained rights to the operating system, they had to pay Access to use it.  The last device from Palm to use the operating system was the Centro, a cutesy little smartphone that was too small and too under powered. It initially sold well, but, in the end, just served to hasten the demise of the once great company. Finally, Palm hired a former Apple executive to run the company. They introduced the Palm Pre and webOS, an innovative mobile operating system based on Linux.  The problem was that only Sprint carried the phone at launch. Poor hardware served to help sink the Pre, along with the ultra popular iPhone.  As Palm floundered, it put itself up for sale. Hewlett Packard purchased the company and, after introducing three webOS devices, decided to can the whole thing. And, that was that. 

Which leads to HP’s big blunder…it was fantastic.  The aforementioned acquisition of Palm led HP to announce the TouchPad tablet. The device was nice and powered by webOS. Problem was the price: it was too damn high.  Not a month after it was released, HP dropped its nuclear weapon on the device: they announced that the Palm division was shutting down. No more hardware would be produced, but existing hardware would receive support.  HP had thousands of unsold devices. They blew them out at a hundred bucks each and, naturally, they sold well. For a time, the TouchPad was the number two tablet, behind the iPad.  So, not only did HP tick off TouchPad owners, they ticked off OEM’s and suppliers as well. Companies that made accessories were left with stock that was now worthless. 

There are so many more…IBM’s failure to keep up with the PC world, New Coke, Sony’s PS3 (too expensive, too difficult to code for, billions in losses, etc.) and more.  Perhaps, however, the BEST blunders, in the tech world, anyway, was not from a company, but from the government…the FCC, to be specific.

First up, color television. In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, color was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Over time, two formats became the clear contenders: RCA’s all electronic color and CBS’s electromechanical format. The RCA format was compatible with the now millions of sets in use.  The CBS format, however, was not.  The CBS format utilized a huge color wheel that was attached to a motor. The motor would synchronize itself with the video via a signal in the video. This meant that the colorcast (as they were called) would not be able to be interpreted by the black and white sets already in use. It also reduced the resolution to 405 lines.  Despite the problems, the FCC adopted the CBS system in 1950. Unfortunately for CBS, there NO sets capable of receiving the broadcasts. CBS went so far as to buy a television manufacturer to produce sets. With the goal of producing the sets in quantity, CBS failed. It became clear that the system would not gain acceptance and, to help them bow out gracefully, the government ordered that the production of the sets be halted. Only 200 sets actually shipped.  The FCC re-evaluated the RCA method and, after a few changes, it was adopted. The government lifted the production ban and, on January 1, 1954, NBC broadcast its first commercial color program, the Tournament of Roses parade.

The next big blunder, again from the FCC, was AM Stereo. In the 1980’s, the FCC approved stereo audio for television and, to help ailing AM radio, allowed AM stations to broadcast in stereo. The problem, however, was that they failed to adopt a standard. There were two competing formats and they were not compatible. Radios with one format could not receive stereo broadcast in the competing format.  The end result: consumer confusion, consumer ignorance (many did not even know about AM stereo) and the continued decline of AM radio. The sad thing was that both formats improved the quality of AM sound a great deal. An apathetic public just did not care enough.  AM Stereo is as alive today as the mechanical television.

So, the next time you make a mistake and begin to beat yourself up, just think about one of these blunders…all of which were costly for those involved. I am sure you will feel better.

2011: Year in Review

This is about the time of year when most news organizations, bloggers and tech sites discuss the significant events of the past year. I’m no different, and that’s what I’m going to do.

Without a doubt, the most significant even in 2011 (at least in the tech world) was the death of Steve Jobs. The second most significant event was Steve Jobs resignation from Apple.  Now, had he not passed away, this would be the number one event. However, his death over shadows everything else. When he announced his resignation, people had already begun to speculate on his health and the health of Apple.  Indeed, death knells for both were foretold.  Much speculation over the future success of Apple was tied to Steve Jobs and nay sayers were writing that the iPad was Jobs’ last influential product for the company and all innovation would, somehow, dry up.  This just is not the case.  He was the guiding hand, no doubt, but the real talent-the designers, the thinkers, the engineers, you know, the people that made him look good-is still there. Apple is in good hands and they have a lot of very smart people working there.

The third significant event turned out to be rather a non-event, but could have ramifications for years.  The aborted merger between AT&T and T-Mobile resulted in the sidelining of T-Mobile for most of the year, a time during which they did little. They missed out on the iPhone and have done very little advertising.  AT&T, on the other hand, comes out smelling like a rose, no matter the outcome.  The three billion dollar (US) fee they will pay T-Mobile for the breakup is nothing to them, plus they will, likely, end up recouping that when Deutsche Telekom breaks up the company (which, they likely will do.)

Next is the killing of Palm.  HP purchased Palm in 2010 with the idea of incorporating webOS into everthing from printers to computers and tablet.  They brought out three cell phones and the wonderful webOS based TouchPad tablet.  During the time that HP was ramping up webOS, they went through three CEO’s.  The first one bought Palm. The second decided HP was not a consumer company and disbanded most of Palm and killed of the Palm hardware.  The TouchPad was a product for a mere seven weeks before it became the number two tablet when HP sold them for $99 a pop.  Then, CEO #2 was forced out and CEO #3 came in.  She decides that, for now, they will not make any webOS based tablets, but may in the future. They won’t be making phones, but they will continue webOS development. Oh, they are going to open source the operating system.  Huh.

The downward spiral of RIM is the next major event.  Well, not really one event, but a series of blunders, miscalculations and mismanagement.  RIM, to their credit, tried to catch up, but they failed.  The Playbook tablet, while the hardware is nice, was a huge blunder because: they sort of forced you to have a Blackberry phone to use the calendar and contacts; gave the impression that you needed a Blackberry in order to use the device; priced it to compete with a Lexus auto; made it nearly impossible for developers to develop apps for the thing.  I could go on, but you get the point.  The dual CEO debacle probably does not help them either.  Oh, the next gen Blackberry was, initially, not going to work with existing BLACKBERRY infrastructure, which is what  made RIM RIM.  Sad. Now they are desperately playing catchup.  They are in far worse shape than even Palm was…or is, for that matter.

Other notable things would include the fall of Nintendo, Netflix’s indecision’s, Blockbuster’s demise, Sony, Sony and Sony.  Let’s look at Nintendo for a moment.  The Wii has, effectively, ended its reign as the top selling console.  It seems everyone has one so Nintendo cannot give them away. Couple that with the dearth of good games and that adds up to lackluster sales and Nintendo’s loss financially.  Blockbuster was purchased by Dish Networks and was forced to shutter a significant number of stores as the rental market has tanked. Netflix could not seem to do anything right.  They announced several price hikes, the separation of DVD and online rentals, the creation of the DVD only company only to shutter that before it got going and the assinine ramblings of its CEO. They were a good study in what NOT to do in the PR department. Or in business.  Or anything.

And then there’s SONY.  This company tries so hard to make you think they are the Lexus/Cadillac/Infiniti/Maserati/Porsche of the consumer electronics world.  They fail on so many levels. It is sad, really.  Take the PS3.  This turd of a console was released at a high price and, eventually, Sony was forced to price it so that normal people could buy the thing.  Touting its online play, they build an online presence and backbone so we could play things like Motostorm and Call of Duty on line. For free.  Problem is, they didn’t quite know how to protect this online backbone and they were hacked. Multiple times. The worse was in April. They were offline for a month worldwide and six weeks in Japan. The Japanese government was not convinced that Sony had fixed the problem that they forced them to keep the plug pulled for two more weeks.  Since then, they’ve been hacked several more times. Sad. Oh, the replacement for the  PSP, the Vita, has already tanked-less than a month on sale, no less.  Sales fell nearly 78% from the first week.  This is one company that has its head up its collective ass.

All was not doom and gloom during 2011.  Bright spots include Microsoft. Yes, Microsoft. The release of the early developer preview of Windows 8 got rave reviews, Mango-the Windows Phone 7 update-was released to rave reviews as well. Windows 7 is selling very, very well as is the Office line. XBOX 360 sold nearly one million units over the black friday weekend and the fall update was released for the XBOX with nary a hitch.  And, they reported record profits. Again.

Ford proved its meddle in technology with it’s Sync.  Sync is, technically, a Microsoft product, but Ford has incorporated the product in most of its line and they are doing very well.  The latest version has a revamped interface (one of the big complaints was that it was confusing to use) and they seemed to listen to users.  This is how to run a company.

I would not venture a guess or make any prediction about 2012. I have tried for the last few years but will not do so this time.  Suffice it to say that the tech world is changing so quickly that what seemed like science fiction yesterday will be fact tomorrow.  I am, though, still waiting for that flying and folding car that George Jetson has as well as a VCR that’s easy to…oh, wait…

New Wii, Windows 8, Vita and a Lion from Apple

Apple, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony all recently announced new products or updates to existing products. Some, like the Nintendo announcements, were for new and innovative products while others, like Sony, simply announced updates – boring updates – to existing products. Apple and Microsoft managed both.


Apple laid out its plans for the next major update to the Mac OS X operating system.  Dubbed Lion, the new OS introduces several features that other operating systems have had for quite sometime, like FULL SCREEN applications.  Mac OS X Lion adds the Mac App Store, updates to features like expose and adds a lot of iOS features like desktop icons and folders that work the way they do on an iPad, for example. The operating system also features such Windows oldies like Resume and timed saves.  AirDrop is a ‘new’ feature that is, essentially, the same thing as Microsoft’s mesh file sharing and syncing software.  For more information, go here.

Apple also announced iOS 5 and iCloud, it’s online file and music storage system. iOS 5 includes an all new notification system, a blackberry like messaging system and PC Free sync and setup.  iOS 5 boasts over 200 new features.  Read about it and iCloud here.


Nintendo showed off the successor to the Wii: the Wii U.  Dumb name aside, the new console boasts high definition graphics in the 1080p arena and a totally new, innovative and different controller.  The controller features a 6 inch touch screen, the standard controls (d pad, analog and digital sticks, etc,) accelerometer and gyroscope and the ability to continue playing the game if the television is commandeered by your mother/father/son/daughter/other.  It does this by streaming the audio and video to the built in screen and speaker.  The new controller can be used in tandem with the current Wii controls.  The console is backward compatible with the Wii.  No pricing or release date was set.


Ah, Sony.  How you’ve lost your way.  After totally bungling the PS3, from its ‘everything AND the kitchen sink’ origins to its recent month long network outage, Sony has managed to thoroughly screw up what should have been a slam dunk. And it continues.  The Vita, the successor to the PSP, is an always connected device or an almost always connected device.  It comes in WiFi only or WiFi plus 3G versions.  The 3G version is on the AT&T network.  Now, for this device to be fully functional, it MUST be connected to the network.  Tell me, Sony, how well would this $300 3G device have worked from April 19 to May 18? Not very well, I think.  At any rate, the device-like Sony’s other products, looks great on paper. Tons of features.  Now, the real question is how many software developers will support this pricey piece of hardware.


Microsoft’s most interesting announcement came at the D9 conference. There, it showed of some tantalizing snippets of Windows 8.  Windows 8 sports parts of the Metro UI, the UI used in the Windows Phone 7 and originated with the Zune HD.  Microsoft says that the new operating systems native development should be done with HTML5 and Javascript.  While the OS’s new features look great, it will be interesting to see how many developers will jump on board and give up the rich tool set they currently employ.

Microsoft also announced a bevy of ‘core’ games for Kinect.  These games would include shoot them ups and other so-called ‘core’ games that are not family or puzzle type games.  The announcements were pretty lame as was most of Microsoft’s E3 showing.  The Windows 8 demos were far more impressive.

So, there you have it: the four major announcements from last week.  Don’t you feel complete now? I know I do.

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