Archive for June 1, 2009

Jun 1, Converter Box Retailers

Converter Box Retailers who are Certified Dealers. Online Retailers. Where can I buy a converter box? Converter Box Sellers. NTIA Coupon-Eligible Converter Box Retailers.

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Concert videos: A growing, cost-saving alternative to seeing shows live

Leonard Cohen live at Royal Albert Hall, London [Photo: Wonker]

Though I’m an ardent music fan, I expect to buy fewer tickets than usual during the imminent summer concert season. It’s not just the recession, middle-aged ennui, and the hassle of getting seats for some shows. I’m also driven by a boom in concert videos, including recent recordings by some artists I might otherwise have seen live this summer.

Watching performers at home is of course less exciting than seeing them in the flesh—though it also avoids the possibility of, say, the guy behind you singing along loudly with every song, as I once had to endure at a solo acoustic performance by Neil Young. And music-performance discs certainly vary in how well they approximate the concert experience. But the savings over buying a ticket can be substantial, and you can see a lot more  than you do from your seat at a large venue (especially if you’re a cheapskate like me who buys the least pricey seats).

I recently passed on seeing Leonard Cohen at Radio City Music Hall in New York, a stop on the folk legend’s comeback tour. The cost of seats even in the back rows topped $100, including hefty handling charges, and the view of the Canadian chansonnier from there was distant indeed. (You can see what I mean by clicking on “Third Mezzanine” on the Radio City seating plan, mousing over the back rows, and viewing the photos of the view from each section.)

Compare that to the intimate camera work on Cohen’s new Live in London DVD. (See the photo above or view a video of one song here.)  Recorded a few months before Cohen’s current North American tour, and featuring the same musicians and an almost-identical setlist, the video is currently selling for $14.99 on Amazon. A seat with even a shot at a comparable view for the Radio City show would have cost $254.50, plus service charges.

Other artists on tour this summer with recently-recorded concert videos out or coming soon include Wilco, the Jonas Brothers, a reunited Bad Company, and Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood. (I found about a video by the latter while browsing for a ticket to see them on their upcoming tour; Ticketmaster tried to upsell me on a new 2-DVD set of the two performing last year at Madison Square Garden after I selected—and subsequently declined—a seat to a June New-York area show.)

Don’t care if you own the disc? You can rent concert videos from stores or Netflix, which has a large selection. (Netflix scored well in our Ratings of video-rental stores and services, available to subscribers.) Or you can borrow them free from the library.

Alternatively, many concert videos released on disc are now also being broadcast in high-definition— including that Clapton/Winwood recording, which is on PBS’s Great Performance series, beginning this week (check local listings). Cable and satellite channels, such as Palladia, even specialize in concert recordings. You can also rent online from iTunes and other sites.

A few artists are even upping the immediacy by offering concerts live on TV (a Dave Matthews Band show airs tonight on the Fuse network, for example) and online (a $125 subscription allowed you to view 15 Allman Brothers shows live from New York this spring; shows are now being re-streamed for $15 apiece.)

Weigh in, fellow music fans. Tell us why you do or don’t watch concert videos, and share any other tips. —Paul Reynolds

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Microsoft Bing a mixed bag

Microsoft Bing, set to debut on June 3, is drawing mixed reviews from folks who got an early look at the new search engine, previously called Kumo.

Computerworld reports that analysts consider Bing “a good start, but no game changer.”

Wired found some things to like, but not enough “to dump Google.”

Readers weighing in at SearchEngineWatch.com voiced some doubts as well.

You can't try it for yourself until Wednesday, but Bing's promotional video will give you a taste.

What would it take for you to switch from your current, preferred search engine? For that matter, what is your preferred search engine—Google, Yahoo, or something else entirely?

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Digital Culture Shock

Today I went to see mom for the day in Bertie County, NC, and catch up on the latest regional news. Like my cousin’s son who just got married and he and his bride are living with his parents. Neither one has a job, you know. She’s really educated, and can’t seem to stick with menial jobs in the area for more than a week at a time.

My cousin from Greenville also stopped by to see how everyone is doing. She’s been in med school off and on for 20 years or so, and is qualified to do several jobs, but still attends school at ECU as her main career. After spending a week home with her dad she’s ready to get back to Greenville and away from his pity party.

For sanity’s sake, I went next door to my cousin’s house who is building a ramp on his deck for his father-in-law to be able to visit. Uncle Bill came over, and we all talked about digital TV for a little while. I explained why the new TV receivers and boxes need to scan for TV signals. He didn’t understand why when he selected a stations’ analog channel number on his digital set, nothing shows up. That’s because we all aren’t on our final channel assignments until June 12th. The box has to search for channels, and you can’t punch it in unless you know, for example, my station is on channel 55 right now. They asked about antennas, which they are already set with the best there is, since they are not close to any stations at all. They all have a problem getting the ABC affiliate in New Bern at that distance. They asked about power efficiencies and how they get more channels per stations, and I explained bit rates, etc. They actually had some great questions.

Somehow we got on the subject of Star Trek and evolved to Gunsmoke. None of us could remember if James Arness, who played Marshall Dillon, was still alive or not. I pulled out my Blackberry and opened up Google, and searched for James Arness. Yep, he’s still around, has his own website, and is very much alive. His brother Peter Graves however, passed away in 1994.

We kept talking, and they both admitted they hated their cellphones, and needed to upgrade. Not to a smart phone, to one they can use to actually talk on. You remember, actually calling someone and talking instead of sending text messages? It hit me that I use my phone for data and texting a whole lot more than using it for conversations.

I went back to mom’s and sat in the swing for a few minutes, before my cell phone got a text message one of my analog transmitter cabinets went down. I went to the car, pulled out the laptop and connected to the Verizon Wireless EVDO data network, and logged into the station’s VPN. I opened a program and typed in the address of my transmitter, and reset the transmitter from the yard. Know Ye that mom does not have internet, and if she did, it would be dial-up.

We went inside to eat dinner, and watch my sister station’s 6PM news on WNCT in Greenville. I realized on the way home, I had covered the full range of how people get news and information in one day. Gossip, face to face conversations, internet, and TV. Uncle Bill did make one comment I found funny in a way, when he said “(he) could certainly live without some of this technology” He admitted his cell phone usage is mainly calling a neighbor about going fishing.

Technology makes my job easier when it behaves. When it crashes, I can’t function! My uncle would be happy sitting in the boat all day without his phone, but I on the other hand, would feel more secure knowing I could call for help if I needed it. I guess we all have to find how digital technology can enhance our lives, without taking it over.

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