Thursday, July 31, 2008

Manny Goes To Hollywood!

And what better place for him?

Here's the details. Personally, I liked the deal the Nashua Pride were offering better. I'd love to see "El Guapo" back! (Thanks go out to my buddy Joe for that link.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A new iPod Nano and iPod Touch on the way?

An article on AppleInsider would indicate so. Seems that Apple has advised resellers to stock up on the Nano and Touch so that they will have enough stock to last them through August, as they plan on ramping down production.

September is usually the time Apple rolls out the latest holiday must have, and there were references to a new iPod 2,1 in the iPhone 2.1 beta firmware. iLounge is also reporting a return to the "skinny nano", this one with an elongated screen that has a widescreen aspect ratio.

No word on the rumored touch screen nano yet, but at the rate they revamp devices, I figure we'll see one by January...

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Free Public Wi-Fi?

Every so often when I refresh my available wireless networks list, “Free Public Wi-Fi” pops up as an available ad-hoc network. I usually don’t troll for signal unless I’m on the road, so seeing it pop up in numerous locations really piqued my curiosity.

Had I stumbled onto some great and noble geek humanitarian effort; a plan to give free Wi-Fi to the masses? Or, more likely, was it a diabolical plot by unscrupulous villains to steal my identity and trash my computer? I was intrigued, but as so often happens, I got busy, lost the thread, and never looked into it.

It popped up on my available networks list again last week while I was on vacation, then on my first day back someone asked me if I had ever seen a “Free Public Wi-Fi” offering and if I knew what it was. They even voiced my own fears that it was someone up to no good. Well, that was it. I started Googling and found a plethora of information.

It seems the phenomenon has been around for a while. The first reference I found to it was in 2006 on the Houston Chronicle’s TechBlog. It appears to be a Microsoft “feature”. When your laptop can’t find a wireless network to connect to, it will offer itself up as an ad-hoc node for others to connect to, advertising itself with the name of the last ad-hoc network it tried to join. I guess Windows is sending out an electronic mating call, in search of other offline geeks.

The Chronicle writer’s theory on the actual spread of the SSID name “Free Public Wi-Fi” is very good and is worth the read. After you finish this, of course.

The Fix:

To be done with it once and for all, open up your “Available wireless connections” screen, click on “Change advanced settings” and check the box “Access point (infrastructure) networks only” under “Networks to access”. That’s it. No more Free Public Wi-Fi. No more ad-hoc networks period.

It would have been much cooler if it really had been a great and noble geek humanitarian effort. I’m so disappointed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Take On The New iPhone

As you probably already know, the must have gadget of the summer of ‘08 is the iPhone. Whether it’s the original model or the new 3G version, everywhere I look I see people glued to the little screens. Of course, I’m at the Vineyard, one of the world capitals of conspicuous consumption, so it’s a slightly skewed demographic, but none the less, I’ve seen a lot of them lately.

Being the gadget guy that I am, I can’t help feeling a little bit of electronic envy. It is a pretty sweet little device and I’d love to get my hands on one for more than just a test drive.

Apple has really outdone itself on both the iPhone and the Touch. In both form and function they have laid down the blueprint for the future of personal devices. They still have a ways to go as far as things like on board memory and device pricing, but that will come along with time and competition. It’s the basics that they’ve gotten right, as evidenced by all the copy cat devices popping up.

All that being said, the iPhone isn’t the device for me.

Here’s the deal. The first problem is the single carrier. I’m not with AT+T, and I don’t plan to be anytime soon. For a personal phone, I have a really great family plan through another carrier. I also have a Nextel provided by my employer. I don’t want or need a third phone, especially one that needs an additional $30/month data plan to be effective.

Second thing is that I don’t want or need email and internet access on my phone.

Would it be a cool thing? Yes, but I have a hard enough time stepping away from the keyboard as it is. I don’t need a phone that will blur the line I’ve drawn in the sand to try and keep technology from preventing me from participating in life.

I see too many people in the head down, phone up position, ignoring their families and everything else around them, texting or surfing as if in a trance. Nuh-uh, not for me.

It would also be a huge problem if I got an important call and the phone cut out because I’d squandered my charge surfing or responding to email.

While mulifunctionality is a good thing to a point, I don’t want my music player to be a phone. We’ve already got 3 iPods. The most recent addition is the 3rd gen nano with video. In the here and now, I think its Apple’s (or anyone’s) best media player entry in terms of storage, price and functionality.

When it comes time to upgrade again, I’ll seriously consider replacing it with the Touch. I hope Apple doesn’t forsake this device amidst the current iPhone frenzy. I think it actually has more potential than the iPhone. In my opinion a Wi-Fi enabled media player is the ultimate. No plan costs, no worries about staying in contact if you fall asleep on the beach with it running, and no being tethered to a PC for content.

Before I close, I want to apologize for the lack of recent entries. We’re on vacation and I just haven’t had the right combination of time and internet access to do too much. I will have more later in the week though, as I’m seriously considering a new toy, an electric viola bass (think Paul McCartney). I just need to finish convincing my wife that I really need it. Her mission right now seems to be to keep me out of Island Music until my urge passes…

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Howdy Rex!

One of the best moments of a perfect July 4th was seeing Rex Trailer come riding around the corner on his trusty steed Goldrush. Of course, I rushed right up to the edge of the parade route and gave him my best "Howdy Rex!".

For me, he's the man. The last of the traditional cowboy heroes and a huge part of my childhood. I could see some blank looks on the younger faces in the crowd, and it got me me thinking. Who do the kids of today consider their role models?

Well, an informal poll (which has no validity outside of our family, as it was conducted entirely on family members) revealed that after their parents and grandparents, Marvel Comics heroes came next for all respondents.

Pretty good results. I was half expecting to hear Dog the bounty hunter or some gangster rapper. It gives me hope, but it's also a sign that there aren't many real life stars that actually live the life of the good guy both on and off the screen, or the playing field, anymore.

I think Kids lean to the animated characters for heroes because they know they won't be let down. You'll never see a mug shot of a disheveled Peter Parker on ET, or hear stories about The Hulk taking steroids and cheating on his wife.

Thankfully, Rex has been busy planting the seeds for a new generation of heroes through his teachings at Emerson College and at his own production company, and has released a Boomtown documentary and is working on a new one, "Voices From The Basement - Stories from the people who worked and shopped at Filenes Basement". Check out what Rex is up to on his website.

Strange but true postscript:

My Grandson had a gift for me today. A trophy cup that said "#1 Grandpa, You're My Hero".

Thanks Rex, you taught me well.

Rex Trailer's Boomtown @ Yahoo! Video
A Clip From The Boomtown Documentary. Enjoy!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Bobble Yourself!

Check it out, I've been bobbled. Wouldn't you like to be bobbled too?

Go to to create your own, or better yet, use a picture of a friend and send it to them.

Don't forget, game 2 of the Sox and Yankees series is on @ 1pm today. Beckett's on the mound.

We've got baseball, a parade, plus a concert and fireworks on the agenda today. Not to mention good grub. Could it get any better?

Not much. What a great country we live in.

Have a safe and happy 4th!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

The Switch to All Digital Broadcasting Is Coming, Will My TV Explode?

No, and it won't stop working either, although you might experience some slight discomfort.

I've been getting asked about the switchover a lot lately, and it really points out how little people understand about the change, and how poorly the message is being disseminated.

The whole thing is a bit convoluted, but in a nutshell, on February 17th, 2009 all full-power TV stations have to turn off their analog signal and begin broadcasting in digital only. In theory,this will only affect people who currently get their TV reception via antenna, and they will be able to add a digital converter box to tune in the new digital signals.

Kind of.

See, here's where it gets convoluted. Notice the wording "full-power TV stations". There are also low-power stations out there that will not be switching over to digital. These are community access and educational channels. Here's the FCC's description of Low-Power, Class A and TV Translator stations.

There's also Canadian TV that's received in some of the border states. That won't be changing over to digital just yet either.

So, people who depend on antenna service, and are planning on getting a digital converter box, should look for one that supports "Analog Pass-Through". This will allow you to use the converter to tune in digital broadcasts, or use the TV's tuner to continue receiving analog broadcasts.

The digital changeover may also affect cable subscribers, depending on the system you subscribe to, and here's why:

Right now most cable companies are sending out both digital and analog signals. If you don't have a cable box and plug your cable directly into an analog set, the TV's NTSC (analog) tuner searches out only the analog signals your cable provider is sending you, and displays them on the proper channel. You need a set top box to receive the digital channels.

If you plug that same cable directly into a new set with an NTSC/ATSC/QAM tuner, you'll get all sorts of channels you didn't know about.That's because the cable companies have already begun the switchover to digital.The NTSC/ATSC/QAM tuners in the new sets allow you to tune in both the analog and the digital channels, including some High Def programming, without a set top box. You won't get ESPN or any of the other high end channels in High Def, but you will get all your local affiliates.

QAM tuners are to cable what ATSC tuners are to antenna, they both allow you to receive digital signals. Here's a great explanation of QAM tuners.

Because the analog channels take up more bandwidth than digital, the cable companies need to dump them so that they will be able to send us more digital (both Standard and High Definition) channels. They're not under a mandate to switch, but they will. The only requirement the FCC has imposed on them is that they have to support customers with analog sets for 3 years. Here's the FCC's take on it.

The way they'll do this is to require analog users to purchase or rent a cable version of the digital converter. They've already begun ordering them from suppliers and are well on their way to turning off the analog channels. Check out the story here.

All right, here's the facts you need to know:

Analog TV sets that use an antenna for reception will continue to work after the changeover with a digital converter box. They run about $50 or $60 a piece and you can get two $40 coupons per household to be used towards the purchase at Be sure to get a converter box that supports analog pass-through.

Analog TV sets that are hooked up to a cable box will continue to work after the changeover with no issues.

Analog TV sets that are hooked up to cable without a box may continue to work for a while, but will all require some kind of box, sooner rather than later.

Digital TV sets with an antenna will continue to work . They should have an NTSC/ATSC (analog/digital) tuner so that you will be able to pick up any legacy analog stations as well as the new digital ones.

Digital TV sets with cable, with or without a box, will continue to work . To work without a box the set must have an NTSC/ATSC/QAM tuner.

If you're gonna make the jump to a new TV, always look for a set with an NTSC/ATSC/QAM tuner. It will give you the most flexibility. Beware of digital monitors, as they don't have any kind of tuner. Be sure to check out our HDTV buying guide on for more info before you make a purchase.

Bear in mind that not all digital broadcasts are high def. Digital comes in 2 flavors, Standard Definition and High definition. The term digital is only a reference to how the signal is broadcast, not the picture quality, although standard definition is a cleaner signal than analog and will look better.

Also bear in mind that digital signals do not "travel" as well as analog signals, so antenna reception may not be good in your area, even if you were getting great reception of analog signals in the past.

Told you it was convoluted.

The only real casualty of the digital conversion is going to be the small battery operated TV's with analog tuners. Most people buy these little cheapos for power failures or camping, and there are no plans for a battery operated converter box. The FCC suggests getting a generator, I swear. You can read it here.

Stupid advice. If I had a generator, I wouldn't use it to power a converter box and a 5" TV, I'd just switch on one of my LCD's hooked up to rabbit ears. Hopefully, someone will tap into this niche market and release an affordable battery operated LCD with a digital tuner. There's a few out there now, but they're all around $200. It would be nice if the portable DVD player manufacturers would begin incorporating tuners into their products. My Dad used to really depend on his during Florida's hurricane season. Sometimes he would be without power for days.

So, you're either going to need a box or a new TV pretty much any way you look at it.

Here's how I plan to approach it. I have cable, both with and without boxes. I've already replaced two analog TV's with LCD's that have NTSC/ATSC/QAM tuners, so they're all set. I won't replace the rest of my sets unless/until they die. For now they'll work fine on cable, and if that changes I plan on using a cable box. There needs to be better and cheaper models in the 20" and below range before I jettison the 20" and 14" flat tube analog TV's in our spare bedroom and workshop. Talk about missing out on a market.

I'm also going to purchase at least 1 digital converter through the coupon program. Sometimes the 14" comes outside with us. If the Sox are on Fox, an antenna will do the trick. It will also come in handy if the cable goes out.

Here's a decent review of whats available now for converters. So far I like the DTVPal the best. It has analog pass-through and a nice program guide, and it's a little sleeker in design than some of the others. I'm going to hold off for a while though, as more will be coming out and the coupons are a 1 shot deal and only good for 90 days.