Thursday, April 30, 2009

Is the internet running out of space?

A reader sent me this post from London's Sunday Times that reports some experts are warning that internet usage is about to hit overload.

That will mean users facing regular "brownouts" that will stop users in their tracks and more frequent slowdowns.

Experts predict that consumer demand, growing at 60 percent per year, will only increase, and will exceed available bandwidth supply in 2010.

“With more people working or looking for work from home, or using their PCs more for cheap entertainment, demand could double in 2009,” net specialist Ted Ritter told the Sunday Times. “At best, we see the [economic] slowdown delaying the fractures for maybe a year.”

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

iPhone-type products may be coming to Verizon

As we reported several weeks ago, Verizon Wireless and Apple appear to at least be discussing going into business together.

Business Week reported that there's a real possibility that Apple may release two iPhone-like devices for Verizon later this year. One would be an iPhone-lite, a smaller and skinnier version of the current device. Another would be a media pad that is bigger and wider than the current iPhone and would allow for HD video and for phone calls when connected to a WiFi device.

Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam told BusinessWeek that his company has spoken with Apple executives and he had conversations with Apple's Steve Jobs.

Ultimately, this could be good for the consumer. You would have the choice of two providers for your Apple devices and maybe AT&T would see fit to trim its prices for iPhone service, which are notoriously high.

Also today the Wall Street Journal reported that Microsoft is working with a third party to develop an iPhone rival, code named Pink, that would debut on Verizon's network early next year.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Are your kids addicted to video games?

A new national study claims one in 10 youngsters, ages 8 to 18, may be addicted to their PlayStation.

Iowa State and the National Institute on Media and Family compared gaming habits to the symptoms of pathological gambling established in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

The study -- which analyzed data from more than 1,100 U.S. out in January 2007 -- found that nearly 8.5 percent of young gamers were addicted, showing six of 11 classic signs.

They included:
1. Lying to family and friends about video game usage.
2. Using video games to escape from problems or bad feelings.
3. Becoming restless or irritable when attempting to stop playing video games.
4. Skipping homework in order to play video games.
5. Doing poorly on a school assignment or test because they spent too much time on games.

“Many parents have been worried about their children being ‘addicted’ to video games,” said Dr. Douglas Gentile, assistant professor of psychology at ISU and lead author. “While the medical community currently does not recognize video game addiction as a mental disorder, hopefully this study will be one of many that allow us to have an educated conversation on the positive and negative effects of video games.”

Gentile, who also serves as the director of research for the National Institute on Media and the Family, was especially surprised by the gap between casual and “addicted” gamers.

In the study, “addicted” gamers played video games 24 hours per week or twice as much as casual gamers. Those "addicted" gamers were more likely to report having trouble paying attention in school, with and some even stealing to support their habit.

“This study is a wake-up call for families,” said Dr. Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and Family. “While video games can be fun and entertaining, some kids are getting into trouble. I continue to hear from families who are concerned about their child’s gaming habits. Not only do we need to focus on identifying the problem, but we need to find ways to help families prevent and treat it.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009

iPhone on the Verizon network?

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal at the CTIA Wireless 2009 tradeshow, Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg said his company's new 4G network could bring wireless internet to the entire country.

He also said it could bring Apple's iPhone, currently only available from AT&T, to that new network.

He said Apple never seriously considered making a version of the phone for his company's current network because of limitations. Verizon currently uses something called CDMA and would've required Apple to make a modified iPhone. He said it was more likely Verizon and Apple might work together once the new network launches in 2010, about the same time that Apple's current exclusive contract with AT&T would end.

Verizon's new 4G network could bring broadband services to rural areas that previously couldn't get it. Less than 40 percent of rural American homes can get high speed currently versus nearly 60 percent of city and suburban homes.

Verizon senior VP Tony Melone gave Cnet a preview of what could be coming.

"I can't pre-announce any products or services," Melone told Cnet. "But I can envision offering devices that are geared toward putting wireless broadband in the home. And then people could use Wi-Fi to share the connection with multiple devices like they do today with router connected to their DSL or cable modem service."

The Beatles are coming.....To Rock Band

The Beatles are coming -- to "Rock Band."

Harmonix, which develops the popular video-game series, will release a version featuring Beatles music.

The game -- available for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii -- will allow fans to pick up the guitar, bass, mic or drums and use the Beatles’ music through gameplay that replicates the Fab Four's rise to music royalty. It will be compatible with all "Rock Band" instrument controllers, as well as most "Guitar Hero" and other third-party peripherals and microphones.

The $249.99 limited-edition bundle, called "The Beatles: Rock Band," will include the game and:

A special Bass controller: a large-scale replica of the bass famously used by Sir Paul McCartney;

Beatles-inspired and Ludwig-branded "Rock Band 2" drums with classic pearl finish and vintage replica Beatles kick drum head;
Microphone and mic stand;

Additional "special content."

Fans who preorder the game will be eligible to join a special club to get breaking news and behind-the-scenes footage starting in May and leading up to the game's launch on Sept. 9.

Get more details at

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Men choose videogames over sex....really

A new British survey has found that one in three men would rather play video games than have sex.

The study of 1,130 British men was conducted by The results of the poll may surprise you, but they didn't surprise Genie James, executive director of the Natural Hormone Institute. She said hormonal imbalance and stress are as much to blame as anything for choosing Wii boxing over going to bed early with your wife.

“It is very likely," James said, "that these men are suffering from a hormone imbalance at a cellular level that causes them to lose interest in sex."

James has ideas on how to fix it in a book due out in January. It's called, appropriately, "In the Mood Again," and explains how natural hormone balancing, diet and lifestyle changes can help adults of both sexes regain lost libido.

She also explores the causes of low libido. She believes that when testosterone levels begin to decline in a man’s 30s and 40s, libido – or sex drive – is compromised. Other symptoms of declining testosterone levels are fatigue, lethargy and weight gain.

“That is why many men come home, plop down on the sofa and pick up the remote or engage in video games," James said. "They just don’t feel up to doing much else.”

James is seeing this lack of interest in sex even in men in their 20s.

So, what’s a Madden-loving guy to do?

“Exercise naturally boosts lagging testosterone levels,” says James. “Also, clean up your diet. Go organic when possible. Give up the nachos and beer while sitting on the sofa. Remember that all those pounds packed around your middle are literally decreasing your ‘manliness.'"
“To get ‘in the mood again,’ all you need is a pair of sneakers and a trip to the health food aisle of your grocery store,” says James. “The results will be less time in front of the TV and more time enjoying another form of entertainment.”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Could Charlotte be getting ready for higher high-speed internet?

Time-Warner cable subscribers, your internet bill could be going up soon.

The company is doing research that could soon lead to the company charging Internet customers based on usage. Under such a plan, customers would see tiered pricing based on usage. Media reports have prices from $29.95 to $54.90 monthly. If you go over your plans usage cap, you would get charged $1 per gigabyte.

Time Warner said it was making these moves to continue to upgrade and maintain its network, saying consumption among high-speed subscribers is increasing by 40 percent per year.

The company also announced it would offer a 100 GB Road Runner Turbo package for $75 per month with faster speeds. It also said overage charges would be capped at $75 per month. "That means that," said Time Warner cable COO Landel Hobbs, "for $150 per month customers could have virtually unlimited usage at Turbo speeds."

TWC, which has more than eight million broadband customers, will begin collecting information on internet usage in Austin, Texas, San Antonio, Texas and Rochester, N.Y., sometime later this year. Introduction of tiered billing could follow quickly. Greensboro will also likely see the tiered plan. Other companies are making similar moves.

Greensboro mayor Yvonne Johnson told the Greensboro News & Record that she thought the move was a bad idea.

“I think that having the best, cheapest Internet options we can is what’s best for the city, and I think the majority of the council will agree and want to get involved,” she told the Greensboro paper.

AT&T is doing a price tier trial in Beaumont, Texas, and Comcast, the nation's biggest cable comapny, caps bandwidth at 250 GB per month. If you go past that, you get a warning call. If you continue to exceed the limit, your subscription can get canceled.

Considering a download of a high-definition movie can be up to 10 GB, it wouldn't be hard to go way over most plans' caps -- and that's not even getting to your kids playing PlayStation online until the wee hours on the weekends or using your Internet phone service. Locally, some broadband cable bills could easily hit triple digits if Time Warner makes the change to tiered billing here.

I understand the company's need to try to recoup some costs. Cell phone companies have different pricing plans and not everyone is a heavy user. But if we have to have tiers, I'd like to see a reasonably pricing unlimited usage option. In this economy, I don't think charging more makes sense -- unless you want to drive customerss to other alternatives, like DSL.

The Boston Bruins will win the Stanley Cup

If you believe sports videogames, which do a pretty good job mimicking real-life, the Boston Bruins will win the Stanley Cup for the first time in 37 years, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks in a six game series. That's what happened when EA Sports set up a simulation of the 2009 NHL playoffs using its NHL 09 videogame.

Boston, led by shutdown defenseman Zdeno Chara and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Phil Kessel grabbed its sixth Stanley Cup and its first since 1972.

The EA SPORTS simulation predicts Boston and Chicago will appear in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 17 and 15 years, respectively. Boston last appeared in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1990, losing 4 games to 1 to the Edmonton Oilers. Chicago lost in four straight games to Pittsburgh in the 1992 Stanley Cup Finals.

2009 Stanley Cup Finals
Game 1 – Boston 4 Chicago 2
Game 2 – Boston 3 Chicago 2 OT
Game 3 – Chicago 3 Boston 1
Game 4 – Boston 4 Chicago 3 OT
Game 5 – Chicago 4 Boston 3
Game 6 – Boston 5 Chicago 3

Boston reached the Stanley Cup Finals with 4-2 series wins over Montreal, and Carolina, and a thrilling seven games series victory over the Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Finals, according to NHL 09.

Chicago, making its first playoff appearance since 2001-02, upset President’s Trophy winner and top seed San Jose in seven games in the Western Conference Finals after series wins over Calgary (4-2) and Vancouver (4-2).

The NHL 09 computerized simulation is conducted using artificial intelligence that uses real-life data from each team, such as player ratings and line combinations, and includes variances such as injuries and hot streaks to predict a realistic outcome of each game and series.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Nintendo's new DSI handheld a surefire hit

The world-gripping recession apparently hasn’t caught up to Nintendo. The worldwide videogame maker has sold more than 10 million copies of one game, Wii Play.

In February, sales of the Wii console system were up 74 percent over February 2008. Also in February, Nintendo sold 753,000 Wiis, reaching 19 million lifetime sales and it sold nearly 588,000 portable DS units, reaching nearly 29 million lifetime unit sales.

On Sunday, Nintendo will launch the latest edition of the dual-screen DS system, the $169.99 Nintendo DSi. It’s 5.4 inches wide, 2.9 inches long and weighs about 7.5 ounces. Looking at it, it’s not much different than its two predecessors. Only this time, the Nintendo portable comes with two built-in cameras (one facing you holding the game and one facing away), new audio recording and playback functions plus downloadable games and applications (hello iPod and iPhone!).

Players can manipulate photos with 10 different “lenses” that are built into th cameras. They can share their creations using a WiFi connection. And of course, it plays the DS games. A new DSi shop launches Sunday and is a new online storefront wehere users can redeem DSi points to download games and applications. DSi owners get 1,000 points to use so long as they visit the shop by Oct. 5.

While at the shop, users can download the DSi internet browser, powered by Opera, to provide what I found to be pretty fast web browsers via that WiFi connection. Software in the shop will “cost” 200, 500 and 800 or more points. You can buy additional points online at the shop or at retail locations ($19.99 for 2,000 point card).

Gaming-wise, there’s no much new. But the games are already various and pretty good. Now, you can adjust brightness at five different levels. You can use a built-in microphone for voice recognition and to manipulate, but not save, AAC sound files accessed via the SD card slot. The battery can provide up to 14 hours of play. And there are parental controls to help manage content for little ones.

I don’t have to tell you this will be a hit. Old DS users, particularly younger ones, will want the latest thing. The interactive features clearly separate next-gen from current-gen and being able to download games and apps is going to appeal to gamers who are seeing these features become available on other devices.

A 50-inch plasma or an Xbox 360 for 99 cents?

Want to win a 50-inch plasma TV or an Xbox 360 for 99 cents?

Wendy's, the fast food restaurant, has a Web site where participants bid for prices by answering trivia questions. After each correct answer, the bid price drops. The person whose "bid" reaches 99 cents first wins the item.

Friday's auction items include the TV, the video game system and a fancy game chair to sit on.

Auctions kick off at 11 a.m. Friday. Good luck.

Here’s what will be available:

11 - 11:29 a.m.: Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite Console

11:30 - 11:59 a.m.: Ultimate Game Chair V3

Noon - 12:29 p.m.: Panasonic 50-inch 720p Flat-Panel Plasma HDTV

12:30 p.m. - 12:59 p.m.: Ultimate Game Room (Microsoft Xbox 360 Elite Console, Ultimate Game Chair V3, Panasonic 50-inch 720p Flat-Panel Plasma HDTV)

Tough home courts: UNC and Clemson

In a national poll conducted by video game maker EA Sports, college basketball fans have chosen North Carolina's Dean Smith Center as the toughest place to play.

The Smith Center finished ahead of home courts at Clemson (second), Xavier and Pittsburgh. Duke's infamous Cameron Indoor Stadium, was fifth.

EA Sports took the poll to help with production of "NCAA Basketball 10," a new video game it will deliver next fall. The idea is to make playing at certain home courts tougher than others.

More than 200,000 people voted.

“College basketball fans have spoken and they have determined once and for all the most difficult places to play in college basketball,” said NCAA Basketball 10 producer Connor Dougan. “Now we are going to design a feature that authentically reflects how difficult it is for opposing teams to play and win at these venues.”

Here are the top 15:

1. North Carolina
2. Clemson
3. Xavier
4. Pittsburgh
5. Duke
6. Kansas
7. Louisville
8. Syracuse
9. Tennessee
10. Arkansas
11. Maryland
12. Illinois
13. UCLA
14. Florida
15. Texas