Archive for March 24, 2009

News Brief: Dell to deliver a smartphone?

The computer-maker may be ready to take the plunge in the cell phone arena. According to ComputerWorld, CEO Michael Dell recently said in Tokyo that the company is "exploring smaller screen devices." What the devices will look like or when they will be available weren't disclosed. Still, InformationWeek reports that wireless carriers were unimpressed with an early prototype of the Dell smartphone.

The takeaway: Dell's interest in smartphones isn't surprising, given sagging sales of computers (except for netbooks) and the wild success of Apple's iPhone. (As previously noted, Acer is also ready to jump into the cell phone market.) Dell had previously offered handhelds that used Microsoft Windows Mobile software. And as ComputerWorld reported, Dell already has agreements with "many mobile carriers" for its 3G radios in notebooks and laptops. But what do you think? Will Dell be able to deliver a capable iPhone competitor? Feel free to weigh in below. In the meantime, we'll keep an eye out for any further announcements from Dell.

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Direct TV or Dish Network Programmers?

dish network direct tv
kim asked:

For dish network andor direct tv cant seem to find them on the internet where can you buy or get these.

The internet where can you buy or get these.


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DTV converter boxes: More rated, some scarce—at least for now

We’ve updated our exclusive Ratings of DTV converter boxes (free to all visitors), which now include 43 models, covering a good chunk of the market.

While the original deadline for all-digital over-the-air broadcasts was recently pushed back from Feb. 17 to June 12, more than 600 broadcasters nationwide have already discontinued analog transmissions. In those areas, you now require a converter box to receive free TV on an analog TV connected to an antenna. Even in areas where analog broadcasts will continue until June, digital signals are already available, so you can use a box right away. (Click on the embedded player at right to see our video, Free High-definition TV.)

As in our previous tests, all the boxes converted broadcast digital signals from our rooftop antenna into analog signals that an older TV can accept, offering picture and sound quality that was decent if not better. They also performed comparably in their ability to pull in digital stations, though the number you can receive with any box depends on a number of variables.

DTV converter box features vary, so find one that has the capabilities you want. The Dish models and Zinwell, for instance, have VCR timers, a feature that gives you more recording flexibility.

Models range in price from about $45 to $80 and differ mainly in features. Shipping from an online retailer typically adds $10 or so to the tab.

Most brick-and-mortar stores carry only one or two models; some online retailers have a more extensive line-up. We were unable to find a number of tested models in stock anywhere as we posted the Ratings. Some manufacturers had stopped making the boxes as the original February deadline approached but a representative of the Consumer Electronics Association told Congress recently that manufacturers would resume production and should deliver new inventory to retailers by April.

The best way to find a model is to do an online search to see where it may be available at the time you’re shopping. The NTIA Web site lists national, local, and online retailers that sell coupon-eligible converter boxes. Prices in the Ratings reflect what we found at press time but may change over time or vary at different retailers. Keep in mind that if you shop online, you generally have to pay shipping; fees of about $10 are common.

If you need a box but haven’t yet requested a $40 government coupon to defray the cost of an approved DTV converter box, we suggest you do so as soon as possible. Though the coupon program has recently received additional funding, it’s expected to take several weeks to clear a backlog that developed after it ran out of money in January.

If you want to request one or two government coupons, call 888-DTV-2009 or go to There, you’ll also find a list of online retailers, and you can enter your zip code to find local merchants as well. Visit our free online guide to the digital TV transition for more complete information on the digital TV switchover and DTV converter boxes.

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Mar 23, Craig CVD506 DTV Converter Box

Features of the Craig CVD506 DTV Converter Box with Analog Pass Through and Smart Antenna. NTIA Approved CECB

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Consumer Electronics and Computer News Briefs

A stack of newspapers Here are a few interesting consumer electronics and computer technology news that caught our attention today:

Will Amazon join the race to stream HD content?
Several web sites, including Gizmodo and NewTeeVee, are reporting alleged screen shots of Amazon offering high-def TV shows for $3 per episode. The rumors come on the heals of Friday’s Apple announcement that its iTunes online store will offer HD movie downloads for $20.
The takeaway: HD TV shows have been available through Apple iTunes and other Web sites, such as Hulu, for some time. And we’ve highlighted the pluses and minuses of such streaming HD content services previously. Still, we’ll be anxious to see what Amazon’s HD Video on Demand service will bring to the mix. What do you think? Could Amazon offer anything unique to compete? Will Amazon’s jump into HD content mean yet more competition for TV networks?

Cadillac rolls out in-car WiFi
Cadillac will offer a wireless Internet option in its luxury CTS sports sedans in April. The Cadillac WiFi by Autonet will have a sticker price of $500 with a $30 monthly wireless subscription charge.
The takeaway: We’ve reported on the growing trend of Internet-enabled devices in the car during January’s CES trade show. And while we wonder if yet more electronic gadgets won’t distract drivers, we’ll leave it for our colleagues in the Cars Blog to assess Cadillac’s WiFi option. (You can see CR's video review of the Cadillac CTS by clicking on the embedded player at right.) What’s your take? Considering the prevalence of Net-capable phones like the iPhone, does a pricey in-car WiFi system make sense?

Researchers warn ‘smart power grids’ are vulnerable to hackers
The energy industry has been trying to make the nation’s electrical infrastructure with Internet-based technology to make the U.S.’s power distribution system a “smart grid.” But several sites—such as BusinessWeek, CNN, and PCWorld—are reporting that security researchers believe that such smartgrids will be tempting targets.
The takeaway: As our annual cyber-security reports show, hackers and other high-tech criminals are always looking for the next big thing. Perhaps, it’s a good thing that there have been proposals to shift cybersecurity responsibility directly to the White House. What do you think? Will a national smart grid help us better manage our electricity and prevent the California brown-out or power outages like the Northeast blackout of 2003? Or are we just opening yet another avenue of potential chaos by hackers?

And finally…
Speaking of cybersecurity, we’re looking for your input for the up-coming “State of the net” report. See our weekend post, “Hit by cybercrime? Tell us your story” for all the details.

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