Tuesday, December 16, 2008

AFL Cancels 2009 Season: Wanna Buy a Ticket?

The Arena Football League announced Monday (Dec. 15) that it would cancel its 2009 season and reorganize the league. As of Tuesday morning, however, it seems that word hasn't even reached the right side of the league's own Web site.

Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features

Friday, December 12, 2008

Google Chrome: Color it gold

When Google first announced it was introducing a new Web browser called Chrome, I thought the same thing you might have: Why bother?

After using it for three months, however, I can say this: It's now my default Web browser.

Why? Because it basically delivered on its promises. For example, a crash in one tabbed window doesn't bring down the whole browser -- just the misbehaving tab -- just as Google promised. 

On Thursday Google took Chrome out of "beta" status and declared it golden -- a finished product. 

To be sure, the early public beta product had its share of holes where bugs and gremlins could find safe refuge. For example, the earlier versions had problems with parts of Facebook.

I like the smooth way in which tabs can be grabbed and reordered in Chrome and I like the way you can drag a tab away and create a new window and then grab that new window and bring it back into your tab lineup. It seems fast enough, and, yes, stable enough for everyday use.

Of course it's not perfect. Other browsers do certain things better. For example, Firefox has a handy, one-step "Undo Close Tab" command which quickly brings back Web pages you may have closed by mistake. Yes, you can recover closed tabs in Chrome via the the "Recently Closed Tabs" listing that pops up when you open a new tab, but it takes a few extra clicks.

And of course there are those Web pages that absolutely, positively demand Microsoft Internet Explorer, so you'll always need to keep that handy on your computer.

One thing you may have a problem with is making Chrome your default browser through Chrome's options settings. When you open up the options in Chrome, you may find that the "Default Browser" setting is grayed out and can't be changed.

In that case, assuming that you're running Windows Vista, try this: Close Chrome. Instead of double-clicking on the Chrome icon on your desktop or elsewhere, click the right mouse button. In the dialog window that pops up, select "Run as Administrator."

Once Chrome reopens, go back to the options page and the "Default Browser" setting should be unlocked and clickable. 

No Chrome isn't perfect, but it's mighty good for a one-day-old browser.

What do you think?

Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

PC Magazine to end print edition

According to an exclusive story posted on PaidContent.Org, Ziff-Davis Media is closing the print version of PC Magazine. The last print run of the magazine, which dates back to 1982, will be the January 2009 edition, according to the story. The magazine, and its staff, will continue online, however, according to PaidContent.Org.

I was the senior writer at PC Magazine from 1993 to 1998 and remember the days when the magazine actually turned away advertising because the printer couldn't physically fit any more pages into the magazine. The dull thud of a 500-plus-page edition of PC Magazine hitting the bottom of a mailbox has been a distant memory as more recent editions have struggled to stay above 100 pages.

While PC Magazine will apparently continue on the Web, it's indeed the end of an era.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

T-Mobile G1: A promising disappointment

Apple's iPhone has nothing to worry about from T-Mobile's new G1. At least not at the moment.

After a week with the T-Mobile G1, the first with Google's new Android operating system, I find myself both elated and disappointed. The G1 offers some nifty features and some of the first Android applications are impressive, but the unit has enough glitches and bugs to make me think twice about using it as my primary phone -- for the moment.

A major irritation was the POP3 e-mail client, the one which allows you to add e-mail services other than Google's own Gmail, which is handled separately -- and smoothly. The e-mail software couldn't open common attachments like Microsoft Word files (the Gmail client can) and it also pulled an irritating disappearing act. 

Three times I carefully entered the details of my Prodigy/Yahoo, AOL and AT&T e-mail accounts and three times the phone ate them all, leaving me with nothing but a friendly invitation to start the e-mail setup wizard again.

Fortunately the phone defaults to a setting in which mail is never actually deleted from the server, thus allowing you to download it again later. Word to the wise: Don't change this setting. At the moment I've entered only two e-mail accounts and the G1's memory seem to be holding for the moment.

Speaking of disappearing acts: While the keyboard on the brown version (white and black are also available) of the G1 is very easy to read in bright light or in low light (thanks to backlighting), in moderate light the letters actually disappear into the silver keys as the backlighting kicks in, forcing you to tilt the phone until you can read the characters.

The contacts list is very clear and readable, but sorts entries on a person's first name. If you have a contact entry with a company name and a phone number, but no person, the entry shows up as a phone number. If your entry just has a company and an e-mail address, it shows up as "unknown." 

To be fair, the phone handles the basics well. Sound quality is good, the touch screen is responsive, the Web browser is nice, and most menus are clear and easy to activate. With Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth wireless adapters built in, the phone could be a very productive tool for a busy traveler. 

For example, the GPS, when combined with the preinstalled Google Maps Web link, makes for a handy companion for walkers. On a recent trip to a New York suburb that I was not familiar with, I was able to map my location and find a local public library -- where I wrote this blog post.

The G1's link to Amazon's digital music site was smooth and the link to YouTube worked well, except that the videos appear blocky and murky at times. The connection to T-Mobile's new 3G high-speed data network worked well when it was available, but the phone frequently reported back with "connection error" when trying to download e-mail.

The good news is that many of the phone's glitches could be resolved with software upgrades; which I hope are forthcoming. History will note that the iPhone endured a number of software updates before all of its functions stabilized.

With both a touch screen and a keyboard, the T-Mobile G1 is an impressive phone with the potential to be a true iPhone competitor. The potential is in the Android software, so keep an eye on new Android-compatible applications and tools and on how swiftly the phone's software issues are addressed with updates.

The G1 will arrive at T-Mobile stores Oct. 22. The phone will be $179 with a two-year T-Mobile contract, and of course the phone is locked to the T-Mobile service for now.

So what do you think? Let me know.

Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features
Photo courtesy of T-Mobile

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Accoona: Business search engine goes out of business

It started with quite a bit of fanfare in 2006, but the business-centric Accoona search engine turned off its lights this week, blaming too much competition in the search engine market.

When it launched in March 2006 with a big media event at the United Nations in New York, former President Bill Clinton made a video sales pitch and chess champion Garry Kasparov made an appearance. Also present was the new chairman of Accoona Corp., none other than Eckhard Pfeiffer, former CEO of Compaq Computer.

Accoona's home page (see above) was clean and uncluttered and the search engine offered some nifty features, like the ability to quickly filter a long list of data by a person's name or the name of a company. Unfortunately, Accoona apparently couldn't market itself loud enough to be heard above the roar of Google, Yahoo and the other major search engines. 

Accoona's going-away message was short and to the point:

"Dear Accoona search users,

Due to an overwhelmingly competitive search market, Accoona.com and Accoona.cn will no longer be active.

We thank you for your previous support.


Accoona Management"

Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

T-Mobile G1: Android Alert!

So what's the big deal about the new T-Mobile G1 cell phone with the touch screen and flip-open keyboard? Yes it supports 3G and GPS and has a nifty flip-open, five-row keyboard, a usable trackball and a responsive touch screen, but we've seen all of this before, right?

Right. But that's OK. It wasn't the phone that was the star of Tuesday morning's well-attended T-Mobile/Google press conference in New York, it was Google's new Android phone operating system, a software platform destined to make major ripples in the smartphone market.

The difference between Android and other platforms like Microsoft's Windows Mobile, is that Android's code and software development kits (SDKs) are available free to software developers, thus allowing them to create innovative applications at a lower cost.

As the first phone to use Android, the T-Mobile G1 is temporarily in a class by itself, the only phone able to use the dozens of applications already written for Android.

Tuesday's press event was held under the Queensborough Bridge at Gustavino's, a high-ceilinged restaurant located about as far east as one can go in Manhattan without getting wet, but that didn't stop dozens of journalists from piling in for a first look at the new phone and operating system.

The phone features a 3.2-inch display, a 3.2-megapixel camera, a microSD card slot (a one-gigabyte card is included) and Bluetooth 2.0 wireless networking support.

One nifty Android application is ShopSavvy, a utility that allows you to scan product barcodes with the G1's camera, send the data over the Internet, and get a list of stores that sell that product. Thus you could walk into Store A, check the price of a product on the shelf, scan the bar code and have the phone report back with prices for the same product at other stores.

Of course Google applications and services such as Gmail, Google Calendar, YouTube and Google Maps are fully supported by the T-Mobile G1.

The phone, while offering a partially iPhone-like experience, does not aim to be a direct competitor in all aspects. It has no headphone jack and can't handle protected iTunes files, although it can play MP3s and other music formats.

As the last big cell phone carrier in the U.S. to build out a third-generation (3G) data network, T-Mobile now has a trendy phone that makes good use of it. It supports T-Mobile's HSDPA and EDGE data networks and has Wi-Fi support as well. It can even switch between Wi-Fi and the data networks depending on where the better throughput is.

The T-Mobile G1 costs $179 with a two-year service agreement. An unlimited data plan with 400 free messages is $25 per month. For $35 per month, both Web access and messaging are unlimited. The G1 will be available Oct. 22, but can be preordered now.

For more information, see the T-Mobile G1 Web site.

Text and last photo Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features
Other graphics courtesy of T-Mobile and Google.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Tyke Tech for Trendy Parents

Becoming a new parent doesn't mean you have to leave your love for gadgets behind. My piece in today's New York Daily News reviews four products for parents who often balance baby with BlackBerry. As always, let me know what you think.
Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Google Chrome: So far, so ... whoops!

The birth of a new Web browser sponsored by an Internet power as muscular as Google Inc. is no minor footnote in the history of the Web. The debut of Google Chrome on Sept. 2 sent almost audible shock waves through cyberspace. 

Remember, it was only in March that America Online ended support for Netscape, the legendary browser early Web surfers cut their teeth on. As it leaves the maternity ward, Google Chrome enters a space already crowded by Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer, the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox, Opera Software's Opera browser and Apple Inc.'s Safari.

Will it make room for itself? Things look promising. 

The good news, at first blush, is that Google Chrome is, as advertised, a snappy, fast and clean-looking browser.

The bad news is that it's still a beta (unfinished) product. There are some irritations you'll run into with the new browser, but chances are good that the problems will be cleared up soon given the size of the Google Chrome development team.

For example, while using the "new" Facebook, I was unable to trigger some links like "Go Online" and "Back to the old Facebook." I couldn't even leave a comment to a fellow user who was also testing Google Chrome. 

To be fair, bugs are to be expected on opening day for a software project this complicated. But on the up side, the software installed quickly and seems very stable.

Early verdict: Worth trying. 

The Windows version is ready now. Mac and Linux versions are on deck, according to Google.

What do you think so far?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

It's official: DigitalLife postponed

As reported here first on Tuesday, the 2008 DigitalLife consumer electronics, technology and gaming expo scheduled for Sept. 25 to 28 in New York is off the calendar.

An official notice is now on the Web site and the ticket sales engine, which had been accepting orders as late as this morning, has been taken off line. The show was to be held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

"After careful deliberations, we have decided to postpone the DigitalLife show scheduled for September 25-28," wrote Paul O'Reilly, vice president of the DigitalLife event, in a statement.

"The poor economic conditions have created a very different and difficult dynamic for us this year and we weren't confident that we could present a show experience that was consistent with the successes of prior years. Hopefully a bigger and stronger DigitalLife will return in 2009. We will make additional announcements about the future of the show when details are available."

Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features
All rights reserved

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

DigitalLife Postponed?

The DigitalLife consumer technology event scheduled for the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York has been postponed, according to sources, including exhibitors.

The event was to run Sept. 25-28, but has now been taken off the calendar, according to sources.

According to its Web site, the DigitalLife show was expected to draw 60,000 "tech enthusiasts" and 1,500 members of the press.

However, such figures might have been overly optimistic given the types of small vendors who were present at a DigitalLife press preview held earlier this summer at the Roosevelt Hotel. Many of the big names in consumer electronics and personal computing were not present at the press preview.

As of Tuesday evening, the DigitalLife Web site was still selling tickets and inviting exhibitors to participate.

Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features
All rights reserved

Monday, July 14, 2008

VAIO Up! Sony unveils all-star notebook lineup

With much of New York City's attention focused on Yankee Stadium and the Major League Baseball All-Star Game festivities, Sony took time out Monday to move a few players in its notebook lineup off of its virtual on-deck circle and into the marketplace.

At a special press event near Times Square, Sony showed off a mix of business, multimedia and lightweight notebooks aimed at capturing the attention of different types of users.

The heavy hitter of the group is the Sony VAIO FW (above), which aims to be both big and svelte at the same time. While its 16.4-inch widescreen display is bigger than that of most notebooks, the missing six-tenths of an inch allows it to fit into a package significantly smaller than that of notebooks with 17-inch screens. At 6.4 to 6.7 pounds, it's much lighter than Sony's own VAIO AR series 17-inch-screen notebooks, which can weigh as much as 8.4 pounds.

The premium version of the VAIO FW ($1,750) comes with a Blu-ray disk drive that can output 1080p high-definition video to an external HDTV. A standard version ($1,000) comes with a rewritable DVD drive.

Sony's new utility infielder is the VAIO BZ business notebook (right), which is built for hard and frequent use. The unit (starting at $1,000) weighs less than six pounds and is housed in a magnesium alloy shell. The hard disk is protected by Sony's G-Sensor shock-detection technology, which counteracts sudden movements.

In addition to 15.4-inch screens and spill-resistant keyboards, the VAIO BZ series notebooks have fingerprint sensors, memory card ports and built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking.

On the thin, light and colorful side, the VAIO SR series of ultraportables (left, starting at $1,400) weigh just over four pounds, have 13.3 inch screens and are packaged with entertainment and media-sharing software. The units, which can be ordered with a built-in webcam, come in five colors: black, sunset pink, glossy pink, classic silver and glossy silver.

The VAIO Z series of lightweight, performance business notebooks come in carbon-fiber shells and feature 13.3 inch displays. The units come in at just over 3 pounds, have HDMI ports, can be ordered with Blu-ray disk drives and come with data-migration software so you can import data from your old computer via an online service. Like the VAIO FW and VAIO SR, the VAIO Z offers flat, slightly raised keys (see below), which, according to Sony, provides a more user-friendly typing experience.

The VAIO Z can also be ordered with a solid state drive, a feature which greatly speeds up data retrieval shortens boot-up time. A version with a standard hard disk starts at $1,800 while a unit with a solid state drive will cost about $2,300.

All of the units above are now available only or in Sony Style stores, according to Mike Abary (above), senior vice president for IT product marketing at Sony Electronics Inc.

Top and bottom photos Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features.
Other photos courtesy of Sony Electronics Inc.
Text Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Stamping Out the Rising Cost of Postage

So the price of a First Class postage stamp goes from 41 to 42 cents on May 12. What can you do about it?

Go online! As of May 12, the U.S. Postal Service will offer discounts on certain types of mail if you print your own electronic postage and use printed address labels.

Read my piece from Monday's New York Daily News for more information.

And of course, let me know what you think.

Photo courtesy of Dymo
Text Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features

Sunday, April 20, 2008

High Tech for the High Road

So what kind of high-tech gizmo will you plunk into your car next? No idea?

Then take a look at my piece on auto gadgets from the recent New York International Auto Show in the New York Daily News.

And of course, let me know what you think.

Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features

Monday, March 31, 2008

MGM Grand at Foxwoods: High-Tech Gamble?

The new MGM Grand at Foxwoods doesn't open its doors until May 17, but there's already a buzz over its business-friendly features and high-tech amenities.

Take a look at my piece from Sunday's New York Daily News.

And of course let me know what you think.

Photo and text Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Wi-Fi: Sometimes free, not always easy

A free wireless Internet connection can be pretty handy when you're out and about town or traveling. Finding it is sometimes the hard part. Why pay up to $30 a day for Wi-Fi when free--and legal--connections are easy to come by?

Take a look at my piece in the Your Money section of the March 3 issue of the New York Daily News.

If you have some tips of your own, let me know. Thanks.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Are Your Tech Tools Tough Enough?

How tough is your cell phone? Can your notebook survive a trip to the sidewalk? Whether you work outdoors or just have a permanent case of fumblefingers, there are plenty of ruggedized devices that can survived being knocked around.

Take a look at my piece in today's New York Daily News ... and let me know what you think.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

CES 2008: Simple Pleasures

The 2008 Consumer Electronics Show was jam-packed with sophisticated technology that could do everything except slice your bread every morning, but sometimes the best tech is the simple innovation which makes life easier without much fuss.

Luckily there were many examples of useful, but simple devices at CES and here are a handful that may be worth a glance:

Energizer Duo

The $14.99 Energizer Duo battery charger connects to either an AC outlet or to a computer's USB port and can charge two AAA or AA batteries in two to five hours, depending on size and power rating. Since many small devices, like some digital cameras, require only two batteries, the slim charger can help some mobile professionals travel a little lighter.

In addition to a set of LEDs on the outside that let you know the charging status of the batteries, you can also surf to the Duo's Web site and download a small utility which lets you see the charging status right on your computer screen. The utility is available in both Windows and Mac versions. The unit comes with two AAA batteries and an AC adapter.

Sonic Alert Portable Vibrating Alarm Clock

If you're a really deep sleeper, chances are good that you've met your match with the Sonic Alert Portable Vibrating Alarm Clock (Model SBP100ss) from Sonic Alert Inc. of Troy, Mich. When the alarm goes off, you get not only an audible alert but a surprisingly strong rattling mechanism kicks in and shakes the unit with enough force to send tremors throughout your mattress, thus bringing an abrupt end to your sleep cycle.

No the technology in the $29.95 unit is not particularly cutting edge, but anyone who has missed an important morning meeting because of a wimpy hotel alarm clock or a wake-up call that never came might appreciate the circular unit, which is just one in the company's line of Sonic Boom vibrating, flashing and/or extra-loud alarm clocks.

Friday, January 11, 2008

CES 2008: Sony's Silly Rockin' Robot: The Rolly

So what was the worst thing about the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas? The long lines? The thick crowds?

The answer: The press conferences. Many were very long on fluff and very short on substance. Minor technology advances and fair-to-middling products were trumpeted as if their introductions marked watershed moments in the history of high technology.

For example, Sony Electronics, in a glitzy press conference attended by hundreds of media representatives, literally rolled out a new digital music player which seems destined for some museum of tacky technology: The Rolly.

The best way to explain the Rolly, which will ship this spring at a price still to be determined, is to let you see the darn thing in action.

Yep, that's it: A small egg-shaped digital music player which rocks and rolls and spins with the music and has little clamshell caps at either end that pop open and snap close with the beat.

Somehow I don't foresee the day when many of these things will be scuttling across the floors of high school lunchrooms, college dorms or the platforms of commuter rail and bus stations. The target audience seem to be limited to computer geeks and audio nuts who love scaring their cats.

In Sony's press release, Steve Haber, the senior vice president of Sony Electronics' Digital Imaging and Audio Division, says that the spinning gizmo, "... isn’t just another gadget; the Rolly is a sophisticated piece of entertainment technology."

Yes, it's an interesting, er, spin on high tech, yes it has two gigabytes of flash memory, yes you can stream music to it via a Bluetooth wireless connection and, yes it can display about 700 colors as it spins around, but I still don't get it.

Do you?

Text and video Copyright 2008 Stadium Circle Features