Wednesday, May 26, 2010

ESPN: Michael Jordan to be videogame spokesman

Getting the cover of sports videogame is a pretty big deal among athletes these days, and rumors have had LeBron James and Derrick Rose as the most likely cover boys for 2KSports' NBA 2K11 which is due next fall.

But ESPN is reporting that the company has signed Michael Jordan to be the coverboy and spokesperson for the new game.

The Bobcats owner is also expected to be digitized as a character in the game. Remember when Mike used to block that from happening?

Having Jordan on the game could bring the Bobcats some additional publicity.

In addition, ESPN reports that 2KSports is talking to some of Jordan's 90-era teammates and opponents about potentially digitizing them into the game as well, allowing gamers to play with current and past stars as well as relive some of the '90s rivalries like Bulls-Knicks.

2K is expecting to show off the game at the annual E3 convention in June.

Wired Magazine releasing iPad version...and it looks cool

Wired magazine officially released its iPad version. The June issue is available for download for $4.99.

Wired editor in chief Chris Anderson writes that the digital version of the magazine will be available soon on nearly all other tablets.

"We have always made our stories accessible online at," he writes, "but as successful as the site is, it is not a magazine. The tablet is our opportunity to make the Wired we always dreamed of. It has all the visual impact of paper, enhanced by interactive elements like video and animated infographics. We can offer you a history of Mars landings that lets you explore the red planet yourself. We can take you inside Trent Reznor’s recording studio and let you listen to snippets of his work in progress. And we can show you exactly how Pixar crafted each frame of its new movie, Toy Story 3."

Wired developers will use new digital publishing technology from Adobe to create the print and enhanced digi-vesions simultaneously using the same design tools.

At first glance, the magazine looks terrific in the video shown on the website. There are more pictures, videos, objects to enhance and explore. I would hope an annual subscription would appear at a cheaper price point, but it looks like Wired has nailed a first-gen product. I hope more magazines and newspapers follow. It would be neat to not have to walk out in the morning to get the newspaper, but to be able to see it in this type of version on a tablet device, and best of all, when your newspaper or magazine is done publishing, it could immediately be available on your iPad.

Imagine, guys, not having to look out the window waiting for the mailman to bring your Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue (and now the magazine would come with videos, too). And can you imagine how many new App store customers there would be when Oprah's "O" goes iPad digital?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dell hopes to "Streak" past iPad with new tablet device

Dell announced its new "Streak" tablet computer today. It'll launch in the UK next month and in the U.S. later this summer. Pricing was not announced.

It has a five-inch screen and a 1 gigahertz processor. It's got a 5 MP autofocus camera with a dual LED flash and a front facing camera for eventual video chat capability. You can also make calls on it.

Users can remove the battery. It's got integrated 3G and Wi-Fi plus bluetooth.

The Streak runs Google's Android operating system and will have access to more than 38,000 Apps.

According to most reports it'll have a monthly subscription plan via AT&T. But due to the small screen size, this is more of a phone competitor than iPad tablet competitor. The iPad is nearly twice the size.

Larger Streaks are apparently coming, however, and choice is always good.

PulseWave 2 PC Gaming Headset debuts

TekNmotion has released a second version of its PulseWave gaming headset. The $60 PulseWave 2 has upgraded audio quality, the company claims, plus large speaker drivers and a more comfortable ear design.

The new headphones support 7.1 channel virtual surround (I'd actually like to hear how it does that) using a USB connector, and it also supports 2.1 channel stereo through a standard audio plug. If it could really do a "virtual" 7.1 that would neat for users who don't have an eight speaker setup connected to their computer.

The unit also has a detachable noise-canceling microphone and a Sonic Force Feedback vibration feature, which allows you to "feel" the action much the way the rumble-enabled controllers for videogames allow you a little "feel" while playing.

You can find it at, or at

Capcom's "attorney" game for iPhone/iPod Touch releases

Capcom has released "Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney" for iPhone and iPod Touch, via Apple's App Store.

The game puts you in the character of Phoenix Wright, a rookie defense lawyer, and you must get your client out of trouble by collecting evidence, surveying crime scenes and trying to figure out which witnesses are lying. Using your finger, you can manipulate or organize evidence.

The game is $4.99

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rumor: iPhone to Sprint

With all the rumors swirling around a potential Verizon iPhone, a new report claims that 16.8 percent of all Verizon customers are waiting feverishly for their chance to pocket Steve Jobs' favorite device.

But the most interesting rumor is that Sprint may be getting iPhone, too.

Most people will tell you that Verizon has better call quality and reliability than AT&T. I don't doubt that. Having used iPhone for 18 months now, I have had dropped calls with AT&T, but haven't experienced the issues that I read about online from some AT&T customers or former customers. I had the original GSM phone from AT&T several years back and never had an issue except in a few known dead spots (and what is it about that area around Highway 51 and Sardis Road that is like a cell phone purgatory?). So maybe it is iPhone load that is causing AT&T network issues, and maybe if iPhone users spread to more networks, it might relieve the strain on AT&T.

Although AT&T wouldn't want to lose all those customers paying higher iPhone monthly bills.

What I do know is that AT&T and Verizon offer virtually the same prices. Sprint is several steps below them, and Sprint offers plans that have unlimited calling to any mobile phone, and Sprint has launched its new high speed 4G network in several markets, including Charlotte.

Sprint's service locally has improved, I'm told, as has their customer service, which used to be a major problem.

Last week, AT&T announced it was increasing its early termination fees to $325 from $175 for all new contracts after June 1. This led to wild speculation that iPhone is indeed going to more carriers. The thinking goes that if Verizon or Sprint or T-Mobile got the iPhone in the fall, consumers who signed up for the new iPhone next month would be loathe to leave AT&T a few months later and pay the new bigger fee.

But if I'm one of the new carriers, assuming there are some, I would be mad if Apple didn't announce our availability at launch of the new phone next month. That hurts potential sales and gives AT&T a huge advantage.

I think Apple would be smart to move iPhone to multiple carriers as it does in other countries. The Android phones are quite good and are available across brands. From a competition standpoint, that hurts Apple.

So all eyes will be on Steve Jobs' keynote address June 7 at 1 p.m. at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. We know he's going to debut a new iPhone with the new operating system. But will he also say the magic words that many potential customers have been waiting to hear?

"And one more thing. Starting today, you can get iPhone from more carriers."

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pac Man turns 30 and gets on Google's home page, too

Quick, go hit google. You can play Pac-Man, for free, with your arrow keys. You can also play on your mobile phone.

Today is the 30th anniversary of one of the most simple -- and addictive -- video games of all time. Google says the Pac-Man demo, which is fully functional, will stay up for 48 hours.

If you tap the insert coin button twice, you can play Ms. Pac-Man at the same time by using the W-A-S-D keys for directional control.

Google says the game includes all 256 levels.

Have fun.

Note: To play on your mobile device, be sure to switch from "mobile" to "classic" view by toggling the control at the bottom of the Google page.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

And now you can make Skype calls on your flat screen 50 inch

Ever wanted to make Skype video phone calls in HD?

Panasonic and Skype have activated something called SkypeTM on certain 2010 Panasonic-brand flat screens (VIERA CAST enabled models). Customers need a $170 special camera to allow video conferencing. The camera has four built-in unidirectional microphones, so you don't need to hold anything in your hand during conversation. Just get within viewing range of your TV and talk

The new setup will allow consumers to make free Skype-to-Skype voice and video calls directly from the boob tube. You can also make calls to landline or mobile phones for a fee. You get voicemail and the ability to conference with 24 other people.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A super-blending, smoothie-making, peanut smashing gadget for your kitchen

I love smoothies.

My kids love smoothies.

I just don’t like spending the better part of a 20 dollar bill every time the three of us want to have some.

That’s why I was so glad to try the Vitamix 5200 series blender. Only, I’m not sure I’d call it a blender. This thing will turn peanuts into peanut butter. It’ll spin so fast that it’ll turn out hot soup. As my wife will attest, I’m not much of a cook (a lot of Daddy-has-to-cook nights turn into Chick-Fil-A nights at my house), but I was game for anything with this machine.

There’s nothing I didn’t like about it. OK, there was one thing. It’s kind of shake-the-furniture loud when you turn it on high.

I’d also been testing that Jack LaLanne juicer ($99.99) you see on the infomericals every five minutes. I really like the Jack Juicer, too. It works well and will turn a carrot or two and an apple into a frothy speciality even my 6-year-old will devour. But the Jack Juicer is a little messy. It leaves large amount of pulp – the parts of the fruits and vegetables it can’t juice – in a little plastic container on the back of the machine.

Jack will tell you that you can use this pulp to make breads and other desserts, but me, I kind of wanted to get all those great nutrients that Jack talks about in the infomercial into my gremlin’s stomachs. After all, I am sneaking broccoli and spinach into my smoothies now, along with bananas and strawberries (the kids can’t tell).

The Vitamix leaves no pulp. Everything you put in, stays in. And you can blend to different textures: smoothie-like or totally smooth.

With pricing from $449 to $649, the Vitamix isn’t cheap but there are three-year payment plans available and it comes with a seven-year warranty that can be extended to 10 years. Surfing around the internet, trying to guage response to the product, I ran into a lot of raves from people who believe this is the last blender they’ll use for awhile.

I believe that. The Vitamix is tough. If you go to Smoothie King, you’ll notice it’s the brand used there. The 5200 delivers smoothies that are of the exact same consistency as those we buy at the store.

The machine comes with a huge cookbook, including smoothie recipes, soup recipes and directions for how to create things like oatmeal cranberry package pancake batter, curried lentil dip (it surprised me it was so good) and margaritas and daiquiris. Our drinks were virgin, of course.

And after a little trial and error, I was able to produce frosty smoothies that the kids said tasted just like the ones I was paying so much for. Only I could make them for about $1 per glass.

So in my house, over time, the Vitamix would pay for itself in smoothies alone.

Friday, May 14, 2010

NBA2K10 one of the best sports video games ever made

The NBA playoffs are going on, and that gave me a reminder to dust off a game that I had not reviewed when it came out several months ago, 2K Sports' "NBA 2K10."

This is the best basketball video game ever made.

Graphically, this looks as nice as any game I've ever tried (I have the Xbox 360 version). The players look and move like you're watching them on TNT or ESPN. I love how the crowd is more interactive, too.

Some of my favorite features:

The game keeps up-to-date with trades and injuries and player ratings. So if the real-life Kobe Bryant hurts his finger, your digital Kobe will, too.

There's now an energy guide below your players, which shows you how well they can sprint to the ball or to play defense. You will have to rest guys more, and depending on how you use them, they will or will not have enough stamina to finish the game strong.

2K Sports has tripled the play-calling options. You now have 24 plays to use and have multiple ways to get a three-point shot or to push the ball into the paint.

If you're connected to the internet, the game streams real-life matchups, news and stats. You can create a player and take him to summer camp, training camps or the NBA's developmental league.

This is a basketball game you'll enjoy for a long, long time. Grade: A.

U.S. video game sales down 26 percent

According to market researcher the NPD Group, the Great Recession -- or something -- is killing video game sales.

NPD reports that U.S. retail sales of videogames fell 26 percent in April, compared to April 2009. Videogames accounted for $766.2 million in sales last month, partially due to a lack of new games launching.

Hardware sales dropped 37 percent to $249.3 million. The best selling system, the Nintendo DS dropped by more than half to 440,800. Nintendo is expected to release a new handheld this summer, the 3DS.

I think sales of Apple's iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch, which allow consumers to download games, at much cheaper costs, is also affecting sales. But experts say April is always a slow month because most videogame companies fiscal years end in March, leaving April as a dry month for new product releases.

Man wins $1 million playing baseball videogame

Wade McGilberry, a 23-year-old game lover from Mobile, Ala, just won $1 million by playing Major League Baseball 2K10.

He and his wife, Katy, who is also 23, plan to pay off their mortgage and start a family with the cash.

He won in about 90 minutes, becoming the first player to pitch a perfect game in Take-Two Interactive's baseball simulation game. The game maker offered the prize to the first person to pitch a perfect game and send proof. That means no hits, no walks and no hitters getting on base for any reason.

In real baseball, only 19 players have done it in history. Most recently, Oakland's Dallas Braden had one against Tampa Bay on May 9.

McGilberry bought the game after hearing about the million dollar promotion, and he started playing one day after work, with the video recorder running. He had his perfect game after "five or six attempts," he said

And now he's got a boat load of cash.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Verizon working on an iPhone launch ad?

Tech blog spot Crunch Gear reports on rumors of an ad agency already developing an ad for the launch of Apple's iPhone on Verizon's network later this year.

Apple is expected to unveil a new iPhone next month at a conference.

Many iPhone customers complain that AT&T's network is not very good, leading to dropped calls, slow internet connections and calls going directly to voicemail even when the phone shows full coverage.

Verizon claims it has the nation's best 3G network and many customers who want iPhones are loathe to leave Verizon for AT&T.

Rumors of iPhone coming to Verizon have circulated all year after speculation popped up that AT&T's exclusive contract with Apple is up this year, though some analysts believe that AT&T's special pricing for the iPad, offering cheap monthly rates with no contracts, was done to extend the exclusivity arrangement into 2011.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Toyota commercial tries to give Sienna minivan some "swagger"

Toyota has been really struggling lately, with as much bad press as Tiger Woods.

During all the stories about recalls and brake problems, the (former) No. 1 automaker has released a dramatically updated version of its Sienna minivan, dubbing it the "Swagger-Wagon" in a series of uproariously funny commercials.

The latest, which features the sport model Sienna (bigger tires, aggressive rims, funkier styling) is the best one yet.

As for the car, I've not driven it, but it looks better than any other minivan on the market right now, though the new 2011 Honda Odyssey, which is totally redesigned, looks funky as well.

Call it Swagger-Wagon 2.

And now the new rap video/spot for the Sienna SE.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Netflix-like subscription service for audiobooks is neat idea

Simply Audiobooks ( claims it has enough listening material to take a 90-minute daily commuter through 47 years of daily driving (radio programmers might not want to hear that). But the Web storefront has a good idea: Create a Netflix-like subscription service for audiobooks.

You set up a queue online for books of interest. There are more than 22,000 books on disc in 33 categories. There are no due dates or shipping fees. Simply return a book when you're done. You can also download books. There are annual and monthly billing options.

Read more:

Iron Man 2, the game, lets you fly around as two superheroes

With any big blockbuster movie nowadays, you get the companion video game. Such is the case with "Iron Man 2" - which hits theaters today - and the video game of the same name, which also debuted this week for major videogame console systems.

To play, you choose between Tony Stark's alter ego or the War Machine, and you battle villains who can be as tall as skyscrapers. As with most hero games, your mission is - cue the dramatic music here - to save the world.

SEGA of America promises gamers will be able to customize their armored Iron Man suits in Tony Stark's secret lab and battle bad guys who are exclusive to the game, such as Crimson Dynamo and Ultimo.

Academy Award-winning actors Don Cheadle and Samuel L. Jackson voiced their characters from the film, War Machine and Nick Fury. Two-time Grammy-nominated heavy metal band Lamb of God created an exclusive song - "Hit The Wall" - for the game.

The game is rated T for teen.

Read more:

Thursday, May 06, 2010

And the most popular videogame series of all time is....

Halo, according to the Guinness World Book of records, which surveyed gamers online for nine months.

Call of Duty and Legend of Zelda were No. 2 and 3.

Here's the rest:

Guitar Hero (#4), Metal Gear (#5),Super Mario Bros. (#6), World of Warcraft (#7), Gears of War (#8), Super Smash Bros. (#9), Grand Theft Auto (#10), Pokémon (# 11), Resident Evil (#12). Fallout(#13), Half-Life (#14), Sonic the Hedgehog (#15), Counter-Strike (#16),Runescape (#17), FIFA (#18), Kingdom Hearts (#19), Final Fantasy (#20), Pac-Man (#21), Madden NFL (#22), The Sims (#23), Tomb Raider (#24), WWE Smackdown Vs. RAW (#25), Rock Band (#26), LIttleBigPlanet (#27), Saints Row(#28), The Elder Scrolls (#29), (#30), God of WarGoldenEye 007 (#31), Bioshock(#32), KillZone (#33), Skate (#34), Left 4 Dead (#35), Need for Speed (#36),Chrono Trigger (#37), Gran Turismo (#38), StarCraft (#39), Ratchet & Clank(#40), Pong (#41), Tom Clancy's (# 42), Star Wars: Battlefront (#43), Battlefield(#44), Diablo (#45), Lego Batman (#46), Mario Kart (#47), Burnout (#48), Crash Bandicoot (#49) and Pro Evolution Soccer (#50).