All Content by Matt Serrano

ASUS VW266H 25.5″ LCD Monitor

Published on February 23, 2009 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

It’s been quite a while since we have last taken a look at an ASUS monitor, much less one that we’ve been ultimately impressed by, so when we received their latest model, the VW266H, we couldn’t wait to tear it out of the box to see if things have improved with their line-up. Read on as we find out whether this TN-based monitor is a winner.

Audio Archiving Guide: Part 2 – CD Ripping

Published on January 6, 2009 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

In the first part to this series, we took a deep look at the various music formats available, while here, we’ll tackle the actual ripping process. Believe it or not, some methods are better than others, and we’ll explain why. We’ll also discuss specific rippers for Windows, Mac and Linux, so no matter your OS choice, we have you covered.

Audio Archiving Guide: Part 1 – Music Formats

Published on September 10, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

Have a large music collection just waiting to be archived? We’re here to help! In this three-part series, we’ll be tackling all there is to know about properly building your collection, from choosing the right codec, to ripping, to archiving. In this first article, we’ll take the frustration out of finding the perfect codec – one that fits your style, and needs.

New Internet Explorer Beta Gets Rave Reviews

Published on August 28, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

Initially, it didn’t take me long to dismiss Internet Explorer 8 when the first beta version was released, but after seeing other users’ experiences with it, it’s safe to safe Redmond finally has my attention. Unlike the earlier beta, which was meant only for testing, the new release should be stable and polished enough to be used full time.

New features in IE8 include:

  • Suggested sites, an option that is turned off by default, which provides links to other websites based on other users’ surfing habits.
  • Accelerators, context-sensitive commands that will complete certain tasks faster, such as mapping directions, translating text, or sending email.
  • Colored tab organization
  • A new address bar akin to Firefox’s “Awesome Bar,” which will search history and saved RSS feeds.
  • The InPrivate mode, which will prevent information like history and cookies from being recorded in browser sessions.
  • Additional standards compliance, with the option to default back to IE7’s rendering mode in different ways.

With the progress made thus far, at least we can see that Microsoft is finally getting serious about their browser. If the new version can shape up in time, it’s not a stretch to say that it will provide some competition with other browsers.

As promised back in June, Internet Explorer 8 beta 2 has been released. Beta 1 showed promise, but true to its billing as a developer-only release, had a lot of rough edges and was painful to use for any prolonged period. This new beta is meant for everyone, and should be usable day-to-day. As well as a host of security,stability, and privacy features, the new IE has a raft of new features and user interface improvements that should make using the browser much more enjoyable.

TiVo Continues to Lose Subscribers

Published on August 27, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

Today, TiVo reported that they lost thousands of subscribers, bringing their total customer base down to 3.6 million, compared to the 4.2 million customers they had just last year. However, amidst the dwindling subscriber base, the company did manage to achieve a 4% revenue gain, and an 88% increase in hardware sales, making their report a mixed bag.

TiVo remains certain that they can continue to stay profitable with changing business model, shifting the focus off hardware, and onto both licensing their own software, and getting other partners, such as YouTube and Entertainment Weekly into the fray. It has seemed as if TiVo was on its last legs for quite some time now, and the move to licensing the TiVo operating system was the one thing many spectators championed when they were dropped from Direct TV.

I can personally attribute the decline in customers to a few key issues. Naturally, the pressure from increased competition with cable providers has impeded the company’s ability to retain their customers, and the advent of affordable, multi-room DVRs already integrated with customers’ cable service hasn’t exactly helped their efforts. But, above all, I believe loyal customers are annoyed with the creeping introduction of ads, the buggy and non-existent timely software updates, and the lack of software support (especially for OS X) has left many with a bad taste in their mouth.

Lots of people are leaving TiVo. We’ll find out roughly how many when the company reports second-quarter results this afternoon. By a couple estimates, TiVo lost anywhere from 100,000 to 142,000 subscribers last quarter alone, which leaves the company with a subscriber base of around 3.[6] million. 

Nikon D90 is World’s First Video Recording DSLR

Published on August 27, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

Nikon’s famous D90 digital SLR has been speculated on and outed again and again for weeks now, but Nikon sent out an official announcement today. Though the camera still has the usual fanfare of specifications, namely the 12.3 megapixel lens, Live View LCD, and ISO speeds from ISO 200 to ISO 6400, it also offers something DSLRs have lacked: the ability to record video.

The recording function does seem to be a bit limited at best. For example, 720p video is limited to five minutes because of the FAT32 2GB filesystem limitation, the camera lacks auto-focus while shooting video, audio is only captured in mono sound, and the motion JPEG compression the D90 utilizes results in a much larger file size when compared to more efficient codecs such as Divx or H.264.

But even with the D90’s somewhat noticeable gimmick-factor, the impressive lens and ISO capabilities will give many camcorders a run for their money. I can see many photography enthusiasts willing to pick this camera up to shoot gorgeous photos with the recording option as icing on the cake.

Incase you were curious to see what the video’s shot with the DSLR look like, Nikon has uploaded a video gallery to their website.

Now is the time for new creativity, and to rethink what a digital SLR camera can achieve. It’s time for the D90, a camera with everything you would expect from Nikon’s next-generation D-SLRs, and some unexpected surprises, as well. The stunning image quality is inherited from the D300, Nikon’s DX-format flagship. The D90 also has Nikon’s unmatched ergonomics and high performance, and now takes high-quality movies with beautifully cinematic results. The world of photography has changed, and with the D90 in your hands, it’s time to make your own rules.

Misleading iPhone UK Ad Pulled

Published on August 27, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

The Advertising Standards Authority has pulled an iPhone advertisement in the UK, but it’s not one of the questionable ads about the phone being “twice as fast” or “half the price” that aired in the U.S. Instead, this particular ad stated that “all parts of the internet are on the iPhone,” without noting the lack of proper Flash or Java support, which many web surfers would consider part of the internet.

Apple responded with the claim that the context of the ad was specific. The company “aimed at highlighting Internet site availability, not to every aspect of functionality available on every website.” Unfortunately, even with this excuse, the interpretation was far too lose for many viewers who complained about the ad, and there are many Flash-only websites, which would counter their argument.

The ASA has banned the commercial from future broadcast, but as you might expect, the video can still be viewed on YouTube and other online video websites.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said it received complaints from two local viewers who took issue with a claim in the 30-second spot which stated that “all the parts of the internet are on the iPhone.”

More Evidence Mounting for Xbox 360 Price Cut

Published on August 26, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

It wasn’t so long ago that we last heard rumors of an Xbox 360 price cut, but unfortunately, we only received a glorified clearance sale to make way for the new 60GB Premium model. Now, we’re hearing grumblings of a further discount, for $399, $299, and $199, which will bring the cheapest model below the price of a Wii.

Not that there’s a good reason why Microsoft shouldn’t drop the price, the new model was released pretty recently, and you have to feel for the buyers who would lose money in the process. Still, life moves on, and the console continues to look that much more appealing for the rest of us.

While it seems to be all but a sure thing that all three Xbox 360 SKUs will be getting a price cut on September 7th, if you need a bit more reassurance, you can now take comfort in this apparently authentic Best Buy ad provided by a helpful tipster, which should be making an appearance in paper form just in time for the big day. Just like Radio Shack’s, this one lists the Arcade, Pro and Elite for $199, $299, and $399, respectively, and, unsurprisingly, there’s no mention of a motion controller with any of ’em.

Wired iPhone 3G Survey Reveals Varying Network Performance

Published on August 25, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

Many vocal iPhone 3G adopters have been unsatisfied with the device’s performance in 3G coverage areas, sighting the phone’s technical limitations as the achilles’ heal of the famous cellphone, with some even saying that the connectivity issues were unfixable due to the phone’s immature 3G chip.

However, Wired.com’s tests indicate that cellular performance varied from area to area, a fact that was somewhat expected, but difficult to determine. By country, Australian users reported the slowest speeds which averaged to 759 kbps, while Germany and the Netherlands tied for the fastest speeds with an average of 2000 kbps. In more congested areas that were 3G-rich, users reported slower speeds and more dropped connections, which is a common issue with the infrastructure.

The iPhone’s connectivity issues have prompted much debate over the exact cause. In fact, Swedish researchers conducted a test and came to the conclusion that the iPhone reception is “normal,” and comparable to other phones. Despite this, Apple released a new firmware upgrade 2.0.2, to help solve some of the related issues, while being served with a class action lawsuit from unhappy customers.

Recently Wired.com asked iPhone 3G users all around the world to participate in a study, which involved testing their 3G speeds and entering their data on an interactive map. The purpose? To gain a general idea of how 3G was performing — where it’s best and where it’s worst — in light of widespread complaints about the handset’s network performance. More than 2,600 people participated (wow!) and we’ve diligently cleaned up the data to present it to you here.

NBC and Yahoo Benefit from Online Olympics Coverage

Published on August 25, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

NBC’s online Olympic video service, NBCOlympics.com, reached a modest amount of success as the company streamed a whopping 2,200 hours of video of Olympic events over the last two weeks. As a result, NBC was able to reel in 4.3 million viewers and $5.75 million in ad revenue from the “$1 billion research lab.”

However, the real winner was Yahoo!, which topped NBC in overall traffic with 4.7 million unique visitors a day. Although Yahoo wasn’t able to compete with the live streaming, they did offer articles, photos, and a blog, which evidently linked to a BBC video of Usain Bolt’s record-breaking 200-meter-race before NBC aired it on its network or put the video online.

Viewers and researchers seem to agree that many viewers were dissuaded from using the service because of the mandatory Silverlight install and DRM issues that plagued the site. Users were also restricted from watching the streams if they selected a cable or satellite provider that wasn’t partnered with NBC. Some viewers complained about the lack of information and updates, which could have potentially contributed to the overall returning viewership.

The ratings for NBC’s television coverage of the Games were record-breaking this month. But the extent to which the Internet served as a supplement to television was unprecedented, and there were two clear winners: NBC’s own Web site and Yahoo’s Olympics section.

Google Street View Ignores “No Trespassing” Signs

Published on August 25, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

Google has received flack for quite some time now for their Street View cameras snapping pictures of private property without the owners’ approval. In a suit between Google and a Pittsburgh couple in April of this year, Google claimed the right to enter and photograph private roads with their camera-equipped Street View vans, largely due to the availability of satellite images.

The company has a policy of staying off private roads, and using local drives who know the surrounding area whenever possible. However, despite the fact that a Humboldt County resident says she had two “no trespassing” and 1,200 feet of private road separating her home from the nearest public road, Google photographed her property.

Though Google offers a link to submit questionable material to a queue for censoring or deletion, the process is totally up to the company’s inclination and free from any governing body. And even though they have a public policy of avoiding private roads, an unnamed Google van driver confessed that he was told simply to “drive around,” which supports the reason why so many other instances were captured on camera.

Don’t expect privacy in your front yard, even if your house is located one mile down a private, dirt road. In a sweeping legal claim, Google recently stated it has the right to enter private roads and driveways to take photographs of people and their property, and then publish the images online.

Jerry Seinfeld Said to Feature in Vista Vista Ad Campaign

Published on August 21, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

According to the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft’s ad campaign will feature a number of key celebrities that will pitch Vista, including the popular comedian, Jerry Seinfeld, and Bill Gates. Microsoft has yet to compete with the negative ad campaign that Apple has use, with the notorious exception of “The Wow Starts Now” campaign that was launched around the time of Vista’s release.

Other personalities, including Will Ferrell and Chris Rock, have been considered, but nothing has been confirmed officially. However, the advertising agency, Porter + Bogusky, is known for their successful Burger King ads.

As we have mentioned earlier, the campaign is apart of a $300 million budget Microsoft has injected that will hopefully dispel the negative presumptions customers have against Vista. Brad Brooks, Microsoft’s vice President of consumer marketing, mentioned Apple by name as a “noisy competitor” in the market.

“If a book about failures doesn’t sell, is it a success?” Perhaps not, but Microsoft hopes that a new $300 million ad campaign about the flailing Windows Vista will somehow turn it into a success with the help of comedian Jerry Seinfeld. The campaign will be one of the largest in Microsoft’s history, and is expected to begin on September 4.

Judge Rules Fair Use Be Considered Before Takedown Notice

Published on August 21, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

On Wednesday, a federal judge ruled that copyright owners must consider fair use before sending take down notices to online video sites, such as YouTube. Fair use, which is determined by how much of the copyright owner’s work is used in the video, whether the video is used for commercial purposes, and whether the video is a parody.

In Stephanie Lenz v. Universal Music Corp. and Universal Music Publishing Group, Univeral argued that ascertaining whether or not fair use has not been violated would take too much too much time and prevent copyright holders from “respond[ing] rapidly to potential infringements.” They also stated that the question of fair use is too much to consider in a case, and the question of fair use is too unpredictable to conclude.

The judge granted Lenz the opportunity to counter-sue for attorneys’ fees after Universal submitted a motion to dismiss the case. While the judge remains skeptical that Universal acted in “bad faith” when they submitted the takedown request, EFF attorney Corynne McSherry promises to “overcome his doubts.”

In the nation’s first such ruling, a federal judge on Wednesday said copyright owners must consider “fair use” of their works before sending takedown notices to online video-sharing sites.

eBay Downplays Auctions, Opts for Fixed Priced Sales

Published on August 20, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

In an attempt to increase the number of Buy-it-Now auctions on the popular bidding site, eBay has taken new measures to encourage sellers to put their items up for sale at a fixed price, rather than hold auctions. The company has lowered the price to put Buy-it-Now items up for sale, which has left many smaller auctioneers in an unfair position.

The price to post a Buy-it-Now item will decrease to a flat fee of $.35, and sellers can offer quantities of the same item for that same amount, instead of having to pay for each one. Items can now be listed for 30 days, instead of the more modest 7. This will add to the recently changed feedback system that was introduced in February, which prevents sellers from giving negative feedback.

Although eBays says they “love” auctions, but as Ars Technica points out, “eBay has made a name for itself as the place to go for online auctions, and now the site’s focus will be more about giving resellers another online storefront than engaging in bidding wars.” In many respects, we all knew this change was eventually coming based on the company’s purchase of Half.com and the recent changes made, so the changes shouldn’t be too surprising for many longtime eBayers.

eBay is making some changes that will further shift its focus from online auctions to fixed price resellers. The company announced Wednesday that it plans to drop the cost of listing an item under “Buy It Now” by 70 percent, extend allowable listing periods for these items, and lift a number of other restrictions in order to attract even more sellers. Although auctions are about to disappear, the move is an example of eBay’s shifting priorities, and not everyone is happy about it.

Sony Announces 160GB PS3 & Wireless Keypad

Published on August 20, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

Sony can never seem to settle on one specific SKU of the PS3. Shortly after releasing a new 80GB model that dropped the PS3’s backwards compatibility, the company has decided to let loose a new 160GB model in the form of an Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune bundle, which will also include a PlayStation network voucher for PAIN and a DualShock 3 wireless controller.

Sony also announced the growing availability of the aforementioned 80GB model in retailers, and a new rechargeable wireless keypad accessory that will attach to Sixaxis and DualShock 3. The pad will work with PlayStation Home and offers a trackpad-like functionality that will provide cursor control with the PS3’s web browser.

I’m not a huge fan of Sony’s practice of dropping features and and increasing the hard drive space to make up for missing features like the lack of backwards compatibility, but if the PS3’s market share is increasing, more power to them. I do think that more people are buying PS3s for its media capabilities and downloadable PSN games, so the extra space isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

In an effort to increase sales, Sony has tried several tactics with its PS3 console from slashing prices to offering limited edition PS3 bundles. In July, Sony announced that it would be pricing the 80GB PS3 bundle at $399 and discontinuing the 40GB PS3 that had previously occupied $399 price point.

Valve Updates Team Fortress 2 Heavy Class

Published on August 19, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

T

oday, Valve released the Heavy update for the company’s popular Team Fortress 2 first-person shooter. The update includes a new map (and one community created one), a new gametype, called Arena, 35 new achievements for the Heavy, and three new weapons: Natascha, the Killing Gloves of Boxing, and… wait for it.. the Sandvich! As always, the update is free to existing Team Fortress 2 owners on the PC.

A new “Meet The..” video was also published, taking a humerous look at the new Sandvich.

 

Automatically downloaded upon logging into Steam, the update packs the new Arena mode, the Badwater Basin Payload map, community member Jamie Mason’s CP_Steel along an assortment of achievements for the Heavy class and three unlockable item: Natscha, the Killing Gloves of Boxing and the healing Sandvich.

Apple Offers Additional 60-day Extension to MobileMe Subscribers

Published on August 19, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

Apple’s cloud-based MobileMe service has had a hard time from its conception. First, it experienced downtime at launch, then the company offered a 30-day extension for users who experienced problems. If that wasn’t enough, Steve Jobs sent out an internal email essentially admitting that they had “a lot to learn” about their online services. Most recently, Apple experienced problems with email on Monday mirroring the Gmail outage that occurred (though the two were unrelated), which came and went with barely any admittance from the company.

Today, in an email to the service’s users, Apple announced that they would provide an additional 60-day extension for everyone who owns an account while they “continue to improve the service.” Although the extra time is a nice gesture, and 100% up time is not guaranteed by any web service provider, the extension may not satisfy users who experienced unrecoverable productivity, especially since they are paying for the subscription.

The transition from .Mac to MobileMe was rockier than we had hoped.  While we are making a lot of improvements, the MobileMe service is still not up to our standards. We are extending subscriptions 60-days free of charge to express appreciation for our members’ patience as we continue to improve the service.

New Android SDK Released, T-Mobile First to Release Android-powered Phone

Published on August 18, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

The Android Alliance released the .9 version of the SDK to developers, featuring an overhauled interface and home screen, new applications, and more development tools. This version marks the last version with major changes before the final build ships. Although many bugs were fixed and some features were added, the GTalkService and Bluetooth API were removed. 

T-Mobile also confirmed that they would be the first carrier to ship an Android phone, the HTC Dream. Although no release date was given, the New York Times speculates that the phone will be released before Christmas, “perhaps as early as October.”

There was some worry that the project wasn’t ready for prime time until the latest beta shipped earlier today. Back in July, news broke of a secret SDK released only to select developers, which left the rest of the community with buggy, out of date software. Now that the operating system has had time to mature, we can finally get a better idea of how it will compete with the more mature iPhone and Windows Mobile handsets.

I’m pretty happy today, for two reasons. First, I’m happy because I get to let everyone know that we’re releasing a beta SDK. You can read about the new Android 0.9 SDK beta at the Android Developers’ Site, or if you want to get straight to the bits, you can visit the download page. Once you’ve got it, be sure to visit our Developer Forum if you have any questions.

T-Mobile said Monday it plans to launch a mobile phone powered by Google‘s Android software, making it the first operator to do so and posing a direct threat to Apple‘s popular iPhone.

Source: Android , Source: Yahoo! News

Logitech Buys Ultimate Ears

Published on August 18, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

Last Thursday, Logitech purchased Ultimate Ears, famous for their high end in-ear-monitor products, for a reported $34 million. Logitech, a company known for releasing popular audio components for PCs and game consoles, has yet to offer a line of headphones that compete with other makers, with the exception of their FreePulse wireless set, and Ultimate Ears is one venue with a lot of promise.

Loyal fans of the Ultimate Ears brand hold some concern that Logitech will merge the companies and kill off the UE name, but previous purchases have done well, including Harmony and, more recently, Slim Devices, witch have remained largely unchanged. However, in my opinion, I wouldn’t be surprised if Logitech begins to offer more consumer oriented headphones with Ultimate Ears technology under the Logitech brand, which would help both devisions.

Logitech is getting into the earbuds game, announcing today that it’s buying privately-held Ultimate Ears. Historically focusing on spendy in-ear monitors for live musicians, Ultimate Ears has recently hit the earbud game with full force, and Logitech seems to want a piece of that action. Plus the acquisition price of $34 million is like, what, profits from your last seven minutes of iPod dock sales, Logitech? Logitech and Ultimate Ears expect the deal to close in August.

Spore Goes Gold

Published on August 14, 2008 by Matt Serrano | Comment (0)

The fanciful sim game from Electronic Arts, Spore, has finally gone gold today. The PC game, which was originally planned to be released on Fall, 2006, will debut on September 5 and September 7, 2008, for the European and American markets respectively.

The game will feature eight levels from different stages in a creature’s evolution, going from the cell stage to exploring space. EA will also offer a limited Galactic Edition boxed copy of the game, which will include a “Making of Spore” and “How to Build a Better Being” DVD, two books, and a poster.

EA also reminds its fans that ports of the game for the Nintendo DS and mobile phone, including the iPhone, will be released along side the PC version.

The wait is almost over! Electronic Arts Inc. and Maxis today announced that Spore(TM), the most anticipated video game of the year from the creator of The Sims(TM), has gone gold and will be available for the Mac and PC at retailers September 5 in Europe and September 7 in North America and Asia Pacific. Spore(TM) Creatures for Nintendo DS(TM) and Spore(TM) Origins for mobile phones will also be available globally September 7.

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