Thursday, June 29, 2006

DirecTV offering Hi-Def locals in Charlotte

Attention DirecTV Hi-Def customers, you can now get your local networks in high-definition.

DirecTV fired up HD locals in nine new markets, including Charlotte, today. Raleigh also came online today. Hoping to shrink the HD advantage that many cable networks have, DirecTV now offers local HD channels in 36 cities, with plans for 13 more before year's end.

Customers who subscribe to a programming package that includes local channels receive both the standard and HD signals at no extra monthly charge.

To get the new programming, DirecTV customers will need to upgrade their satellite dish and receiver. But I'd wait a bit to make the switch. In most areas of Charlotte, you can receive local channels with an attenna connected to your current HD receiver. DirecTV will introduce an HD-DVR that will receive the local channels and other new programming, such as video-on-demand, later this summer.

But if any of you spring for the new programming, drop me a line and let me know how it all turned out.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Adam Morrison unplugged & in a Bobcat jersey

Adam Morrison turns 19 on July 22 and if he's chosen by Charlotte in tonight's NBA draft, he doesn't expect a big adjustment moving down south from out west.

"I think Charlotte's a nice city," Morrison told me recently during an interview to promote the upcoming NBA Live videogame. "It's laid back, with a little west coast style, so I'll be alright."

You've probably heard all about Morrison's diabetes by now (he's tired of talking about it) and about his apparent lack of athleticism or defensive ability (he says he'll prove people wrong next winter). I was curious what does a national college player of the year and new millioniare do with his first big check.

Morrison bought a black Range Rover with black leather interior and upgraded it with black 22-inch rims. When he puts in his iPod in the truck, you'll find a range of music there, a mix of rap and classic rock.

I asked Adam a few questions during our chat. Here's some samples of his answers:

Q. You're a big Larry Bird fan. You were born in '84 during his heyday. How did you get into No. 33?

"In high school, I started watching NBA TV which has classic games on and I studied his game and I started to try to pattern myself after him and I realized how good he was. I met him once at the Final Four, at a brief awards ceremony. It was pretty neat. But I was tongue-tied. I didn't know what to say to him."

Q. Billy Packer or Dick Vitale?

"Ah, man, that's tough. I'd have to go with Packer just for how he's so blunt and talks to you man-to-man on TV, but both are very good. It's almost a toss-up."

Q. What celebrity have you met that made your knees buckle?

"Other than Bird? None really. I'm not real big on that whole deal anyway. People are people."

Q. I figure since you're involved with Electronic Arts now you must be a big videogame nut, huh?

"Yeah, very much. It’s probably the second best thing I’m good at. I play a lot of Madden and all the sports games, like Fight Night. I throw Halo in there once in awhile. I play online a lot."

Q. Cool, what's your gamer tag so we can find you online and go head up?

"Can't do that, man. I've had problems with giving my username out. Once, my tag got out and I couldn't get people to leave me alone online. Most of it is people giving you crap."

Q. You went through the digial process to have your image put into the game. So how does the digital you compare to the real thing?

"They made a mock player when I did a deal for them. It’s funny how they had me looking on it. Almost like a (guy with a) mullet in short-shorts, but it fits my style I guess. I guess I'm a throwback player. A lot of people say that, but I don't imagine myself as that, but maybe so."

Q. First autograph you ever got and the last one you got?

"First one I got was (former Seattle SuperSonics center) Jack Sikma when i was little at basketball camp and that was probably the last one. I'm not big on autographs. I like to shake a person's hand and just say I met them."

Q. What's your take on sports talk radio?

"I listen sometimes. I think some guys have some good points and some are on there to bring other people down. It’s a little different hearing peopel have their opinion on you. Eveybody’s entitled to their own opinion and not everybody's going to like you. That’s why I don’t read internet sites and message boards. You get cuaght up in that and you’re not worried about most important thing -- playing well."

Q. Gotta bring up the diabetes thing.

"Yeah, I know, but I think I've shown people I can play at the next level. I played 38 minutes per game last year and led the nation in scoring. I've proven I can compete at a high level. I understand why people have all the questions and the best thing I can do is prove it to them, that I can play with this. I can keep saying it all I want."

Q. If you come here, what will you bring to the Bobcats?

"A positive attitude. I want to continue the building process of an organization on the rise. I think I'll be a good fit and I like the core group of guys. I could do well there."

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

"Ultimate" choice in TV plus a free DVR

On June 28, DirecTV will introduce the most expensive television package in history.

DirecTV Titanium unlocks every channel the sat service has -- for an annual $7,500 fee.

Now that's some serious choke, of course, but you get every channel on DirecTV: every pay-per-view (even boxing and wrestling), every movie channel, all the Spanish stations. You get 24-hour concierge customer service (no more waiting) and up to 10 standard or high definition DVRs.

I think DTV could sell a lot more of these packages if there were reduced options, say, Titanium Light that included everything except pay per views, for example, and had a more reasonable monthly price.

But if you have the cash and like to watch TV, it's pretty cool. You'd never visit Blockbuster again and you'd be a fan fave in your neighborhood whenever there was a big PPV event.

"DirecTV Titanium is the ultimate entertainment experience; there is simply nothing like it in the market today," said David Hill, president, DirecTV Entertainment. "The select few who get access to TITANIUM will experience an unlimited world of entertainment possibilities."


Ok, I've told you about something that is way too expensive with DirecTV, so here's something that's free. Customers across the nation are getting free HD-Tivo units by subscribing to DirecTV's "NFL Sunday Ticket" package or calling customer retention and threatening to leave the service unless they get the unit.

The HD-Tivo allows you to record Hi-Def programming and receives local Hi-Def channels via an antenna. DirecTV plans to introduce its own HD DVR without Tivo this summer. The new model will receive the HD local channels DirecTV has started beaming in select markets (Charlotte HD locals should launch later this month, a company rep tells me).

DirecTV, sources say, will swap out the old HD-Tivo unit for the new unit either free or for a $19.99 shipping and handling fee, which is better than shelling out whatever price the new receiver will cost.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Nintendo's fun game trains your brain

Here's a neat twist on the normal bang-and-shoot videogame world.

Nintendo's new Big Brain Academy challenges players with a series of wacky mental tests in areas such as thinking, memorization, computation, analysis and identification.

The questions come fast and furious, giving you 60 seconds to answer and the questions rapidly get harder in 15 different tests that you use the touch screen pad of your DS or DS Lite to answer.

You start out by doing things like counting the numbers in a stack, matching colors and figuring out what object weighs the most. You get letter grades on performance and if you have an ounce of competitiveness in you, you won't put this down.

News N Notes

-- Activision has kicked off a Call Of Duty 2 XBox 360 tournament. Click here to register and compete against others for a chance to win a 2006 Jeep Wranger, Best Buy gift cards and other prizes.

Call Of Duty 2 is the most popular XBox live multiplayer game and more than 500 four-person teams are expected to battle in single-elimination, bracket-style competitions.

-- SyNET Entertainment will release what it says is the world's first full 3D online multiplayer golf game, Shot-Online, in August.

The $29.99 game will combine true golf simulation with role playing, forcing players to deal with emotions, weather and geography as well as developing their player's personality.

-- AIT Solutions has launched a new website to help users protect their laptops from theft.

It provides tools including a "Police Trackable GPS" metal tag bonded to the laptop to deter theft; proprietary GPS software that locates a stolen laptop; and covert removal of important files at the direction of the rightful owner. Files can be silently removed without knowledge of the thief, and returned securely to the rightful owner.

-- PlayStation2 is outselling the new Xbox 360 in six of the seven months since the new Microsoft machine release.

Since the release of the Xbox 360, Microsoft has averaged 246,000 U.S. console sales monthly versus 473,000 monthly units for PS2. Looks like the videogame world is still awaiting PS3 for its next-gen fix.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Dish Network expands HD and deliver high speed internet

And the HD winner, for now, is DISH network.

The sat net announced four new HD channels today -- HGTV HD, NFL Network HD, National Geographic Channel HD and Starz HD. With the additions, DISH now has 29 HD channels, more than any pay-TV provider in the United States.

DISH also announced a price reduction on the MPEG-4 receivers needed to receive the new programming, dropping $100 to $199.

Getting the NFL Network in HD is a huge coup, because live games will be shown on the network next year and some HD fans might switch to DISH instead of waiting for cable or DirecTV to also add NFL HD. That's unless the competition doesn't add it sooner.

DirecTV, for one, says it will be the HD leader in 2007 once newly launched satellites begin to beam down new programming and customers are converted to MPEG-4 receivers from the MPEG-2 models they have now.

With those M-4 receivers, DirecTV will offer local HD channels. Charlotte is slated to get HD locals this summer.

In addition, DISH customers are getting access to a new form of high speed Internet service. Dish's parent company, EchoStar, signed a five-year distribution agreement with WildBlue Communications, a satellite-delivered broadband Internet service.

"DISH High-Speed Internet, powered by WildBlue," will be targeted toward DISH customers located in rural markets starting this fall. As part of the agreement, WildBlue is the only satellite-based Internet solution that EchoStar will offer to its customers for the next five years.

With DISH High-Speed Internet, customers will be able to have access speeds up to 30 times faster than dial-up. The two-way satellite service provides an always on, high-speed data connection. DISH Network customers will need to purchase a separate WildBlue satellite dish to receive the broadband service; however, they do not need an additional phone or cable line. Pricing will be announced later this year.

News n Notes
-- Here's a pretty interesting and original promotional push: Ubisoft, one of the world’s largest videogame publishers, is putting out an ongoing series of videos showcasing useful scientific facts about crazed, out-of-control Bunnies in its upcoming "Rayman Raving Rabbids." Of course, the information provided will be useful in beating the game, out for the holiday season. Click here to get the audio download.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Run To New X-Men Film, Run Away From New X-Men Game

The headline about says it all. The new X-Men film, by director Brett Ratner, is pulse-pounding, intense and despite the claims about a "Last Stand," it sets the stage for Sentinels and more Magneto in a future X-Men IV. Be sure to stick around after the credits for a pretty cool, if predictable surprise after the current film that sets it up.

As for "X-Men, The Official Game," well, it doesn't come close to the film. You can control three characters. Two of them, Wolverine and the Ice Man, have about three moves. It gets repetitive quickly, though, sliding around on an ice slide being created as you -- Silver Surfer style -- is kind of neat.

NightCrawler has better moves. He can teleport across rooms and through some objects. His plotline is better, too, but even his storyline grows stale too quickly, mainly because the game is too easy and the bad guys too dumb.

There are 28 missions for the heroes to complete against villians like Hydra and Magneto's Brotherhood. The final battles against the big villians, the bosses in videogame speak, are quite good, but there's just not enough fun getting there.

Activision could've had a superb game but took a misstep of sorts. It's a renter, but not a keeper (Rating: 2.5/5).