Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Zune Gets New Years' Hangover Early (UPDATE / FIX)

UPDATE 15:00 -- Microsoft says they've identified the problem and "fix"... wait until tomorrow and the issue will go away. More below.

An apparent "Z2K" (2K9? Y2K+9?) bug seems to have rendered all 30GB Microsoft Zune players useless. Microsoft officials acknowledged this afternoon what has been reported all morning from thousands of users:
Customers using the Zune 30 might experience problems starting their players. We’re aware of the problem and are working to correct it.

That's of little comfort for users of the iPod-rival hoping to use the player to entertain friends at New Years' Eve parties tonight. The incident comes at poor timing for Microsoft who, in a few days, is expected to map out future Zune strategy at a CES keynote with Steve Balmer.

If you are affected, I urge you to act responsibly:
  • First, remain calm. As frustrating as this situation is, you will only make matters worse if you try to fix things yourself. The best bet is to wait for a fix from Microsoft. Yes, it's annoying being without your portable entertainment device, but all gadgets have hiccups, and this one will be resolved.
  • Do not panic. The "Zunepocalypse" only seems to affect 30GB Zune players at this time. There's no reason to believe your toaster, iPod, or garage door opener will suddenly stop working tonight. We survived "Y2K", we'll make it through this.
  • Stay tuned. I'll post updated information here, and Microsoft's support site is also a great place to check for a fix.

In the meantime, might I suggest tuning in your radio? I'll be talking about this on KOMO 1000 Newsradio in Seattle and Newsradio 750 KXL in Portland. Your Zune will be back tomorrow, in the meantime -- read a book, rediscover your car's radio, watch TV, check out some fun Youtube videos, or if you're really desperate: Visit your local Apple store for a new iPod? :)

UPDATE 15:00: Microsoft tells me the bug is specific to the 30GB Zune and should self-resolve within the next 24 hours. There is, "A bug in the internal clock driver causing the 30GB device to improperly handle the last day of a leap year."

Users experiencing problems are advised to sit tight, and try again tomorrow, on January 1, 2009. For details please visit

Official response for Zune 30 Freezing Issue (Zune 30gb stuck at reboot screen)

Early this morning we were alerted by our customers that there was a widespread issue affecting our 2006 model Zune 30GB devices (a large number of which are still actively being used). The technical team jumped on the problem immediately and isolated the issue: a bug in the internal clock driver related to the way the device handles a leap year. The issue should be resolved over the next 24 hours as the time change moves to January 1, 2009. We expect the internal clock on the Zune 30GB devices will automatically reset tomorrow (noon, GMT). By tomorrow you should allow the battery to fully run out of power before the unit can restart successfully then simply ensure that your device is recharged, then turn it back on. If you’re a Zune Pass subscriber, you may need to sync your device with your PC to refresh the rights to the subscription content you have downloaded to your device.

Customers can continue to stay informed via the support page on (

We know this has been a big inconvenience to our customers and we are sorry for that, and want to thank them for their patience.

Q: Why is this issue isolated to the Zune 30 device?

It is a bug in a driver for a part that is only used in the Zune 30 device.

Q: What fixes or patches are you putting in place to resolve this situation?

This situation should remedy itself over the next 24 hours as the time flips to January 1st.

Q: What’s the timeline on a fix?

The issue Zune 30GB customers are experiencing today will self resolve as time changes to January 1.

Q: Why did this occur at precisely 12:01 a.m. on December 31, 2008?

There is a bug in the internal clock driver causing the 30GB device to improperly handle the last day of a leap year.

Q: What is Zune doing to fix this issue?

The issue should resolve itself.

Q: Are you sure that this won’t happen to all 80, 120 or other flash devices?

This issue is related to a part that is only used in Zune 30 devices.

Q: How many 30GB Zune devices are affected?

All 30GB devices are potentially affected.

Q: Will you update the firmware before the next leap year (2012)?

Matt Akers
Zune Product Team

And finally... Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

DISH vs. Fisher: Will Portland & Seattle's DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES drag out the LOST rabbit ears to VIEW the upcoming premiere of THE BACHELOR?? graphic
KATU parent Fisher Communications in contract dispute with satellite provider, signal interrupted for DISH customers

The contract for DISH Network to carry Portland's KATU-TV (and other Fisher Communications stations in respective markets) ended at 11:00pm yesterday (17 December 2008). As of a few hours ago, customers of DISH Network tuning in to the local ABC affiliate are seeing a message from DISH Network's SVP of Programming explaining the situation and suggesting alternative stations to view local programming. Read a DISH Networks statement. has a message from station management explaining Channel 2's position on the dispute. The statement reads, in part:
"We believe DISH should be willing to pay a small portion of the fees you pay to DISH for the program content we provide to you."
KATU-TV statement.

Other stations have had similar contract disputes with the Echostar-owned satellite provider. One dispute, involving Young Broadcasting (i.e. KRON-TV, San Francisco) was recently resolved. No word on the terms of this settlement.

This got me thinking...
A) Do you receive programming via. DISH Networks?
B) Do you care that you are currently without your Fisher-owned stations?
C) Who, in your take, is at fault here?

Will Portland's DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES drag out the LOST rabbit ears to VIEW the upcoming premiere of THE BACHELOR?? [...rimshot!]

Of course, being your always-helpful tech expert... I've got some handy tips to keep watching your favorite ABC network and local affiliate programs:

  1. For those without ABC-affiliates KOMO-TV (SEA) or KATU-TV (PDX), many local newscasts (incl. the Portland talk show "AM Northwest" on which I am a frequent guest talking technology) are available at the stations' respective website.

  2. Rabbit ear antennas will provide a temporary workaround for those who can receive an over-the-air signal in their area. This solution may not work without a converter box after Feb. 17 (I'd guess/hope this issue will be resolved prior to the DTV conversion date), but could get you by for now.

  3. Comcast customers and DirecTV subscribers are not affected. (I'm NOT advocating a switch, but some upset DISH Network customers are considering the move -- and it is, in fact, an option.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Sprint Launches First 3G / 4G WiMAX Device: Coming To Portland Soon?

You’ve heard it before: Wireless broadband will blanket Portland like the City's recent snow.

While nobody expects a new network set to roll into Portland “early 2009” to bring arctic temperatures, if early indications in Baltimore are any indication, what is to come is wireless Internet access that rivals most home broadband connections.

A welcome relief to those disappointed by failed attempts by MetroFi to cover the city with wireless hotspots.

Today Sprint announced specifics of an anticipated new dual-mode broadband access card – available next week – bridging the gap between existing 3G wireless data networks and a new Sprint 4G network . The faster network has been available since September in Baltimore and, if deductive reasoning prevails, comes to Portland in the coming months.

The new card, in the form of a small USB modem, is the Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300, and is similar in form factor to devices now available for 3G networks (only). The device will be $149 after rebate and – to add 4G speeds – an additional $20 on top of current wireless broadband (3G) service plans.

Mac users should note: unlike existing modems on the Sprint 3G network, the U300 does not yet work with OS X. I’m told support for Mac portables is coming sometime next year.

Program Note: I’ll be receiving a 3G/4G modem soon and will test it out either in Baltimore or (certainly) Portland when the service is launched. Check back for a review of the device and my take on the new Sprint 4G network. I’ve been quite pleased with my Sprint 3G service, so hopefully the 4G is even more mobile broadband goodness!

Sprint Press Release:
Sprint Extends 4G leadership with nation’s first

3G/4G dual-mode mobile broadband service

The ultimate wireless broadband device delivers both 3G and 4G,

revolutionizing mobile broadband and giving customers the best of both worlds

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Dec. 17, 2008 – Sprint (NYSE: S) is about to make wireless history again by bringing the mobile broadband future to its customers now. The 4G leader announced it will make the first 3G/4G dual-mode device, which operates on both Sprint 3G and 4G networks, available in retail stores Dec. 21.

The Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300 delivers the power of the Now Network™, the nation’s largest and most dependable mobile broadband 3G network*, while also harnessing the turbocharged speeds of WiMAX on the new Sprint 4G network. Sprint launched 4G in Baltimore in September and plans to launch in other markets across the country throughout 2009. This versatile device will enable customers to experience blazing fast Internet access, greater productivity and enhanced multimedia quality throughout 4G markets, and offer access to the dependable Sprint 3G network virtually everywhere else. The 3G/4G USB modem represents another major development in truly un-tethered broadband access.

“Sprint intends to be the leader in 4G and bring the wireless Internet to life,” said Dan Hesse, Sprint CEO. “This first-of-its-kind device allows our customers to take the Internet with them essentially wherever they go by gaining enhanced speed and capability in 4G markets and the nationwide coverage of our 3G network across the rest of the country.”

Sprint 4G represents a shift in the way people will use mobile broadband. Businesses, consumers and governments will be able to extend their Internet experience beyond home or office use. For the business customer, a typical user experience might be the ability to participate in a video conference from anywhere within the coverage area in a Sprint 4G city while sharing and retrieving large data files in just seconds. For consumers, it might be the ability to download a song in several seconds or a movie in significantly less than an hour while in the park or moving through the city, three to five times faster than 3G networks. The Sprint 3G/4G USB modem will access mobile multimedia applications at average downlink speeds of 2-4 Mbps within Baltimore Sprint 4G service areas. Where Sprint 4G service has yet to launch, the dual-mode device will operate on the Nationwide Sprint Mobile Broadband 3G Network at average downlink speeds of 600 Kbps – 1.4 Mbps.

The Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300, manufactured by Franklin Wireless, is a sleek, easy-to-use data card which connects to a standard USB port. The device is priced at $149.99 with a two-year subscriber agreement, after a $50 mail-in-rebate. Beginning Dec. 21, customers can purchase the USB data card via the Sprint direct business sales force, at most Baltimore-area Sprint stores and at select Baltimore-area retailers. Starting in January, the device will also be available in Baltimore-area Best Buy stores. With the Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem, customers living in and traveling to Baltimore will be able to work even faster while on-the-go. For $79.99 - just a $20 premium on a standard mobile broadband connection plan - customers will have simple-to-use access to the best possible mobile broadband connection: 3G or 4G. The Sprint Connection Manager recognizes and connects to the fastest connection available. For more information, visit

“The availability of this first dual-mode mobile broadband device further demonstrates Sprint’s leadership in 3G and 4G services,” said Todd Rowley, vice president of Sprint 4G. “Our future device portfolio of single-mode 4G devices, embedded 4G laptops and dual- mode 3G/4G devices will continue to demonstrate our commitment to WiMAX.”

Sprint is the first and only national wireless carrier to offer customers its 4G network and 3G network on one device. As 4G service continues to roll out in other cities, Sprint customers with dual-mode devices will be ready to take advantage of its super-fast speeds and will ultimately experience new forms of interactive communications, high- speed mobile Internet browsing, social-networking tools, local and location-centric products and services and city-wide broadband access to multimedia services including music, video, mobile TV and on-demand products.

About Sprint Nextel

Sprint Nextel offers a comprehensive range of wireless and wireline communications services bringing the freedom of mobility to consumers, businesses and government users. Sprint Nextel is widely recognized for developing, engineering and deploying innovative technologies, including two wireless networks serving nearly 51 million customers at the end of the third quarter 2008; industry-leading mobile data services; instant national and international push-to-talk capabilities; and a global Tier 1 Internet backbone. For more information, visit

About Franklin Wireless

Franklin Wireless Corp. (OTC BB:FKWL.OB - News) designs and markets wireless broadband high speed data communication products such as 3rd generation ("3G") and 4th generation ("4G") wireless broadband modules and modems to end users and wireless companies in North and South American countries. It markets its products through original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and distributors, as well as directly to operators and end users in North and South America. The company was founded in 1982 and is headquartered in San Diego, California. For more information about Franklin Wireless, please visit

For more information about the Sprint 3G/4G USB Modem U300, visit

* Largest based on square miles (including roaming). Dependable based on independent, third-party drive tests on 3G data connection success, session reliability, and signal strength for the 50 most populous markets from March through September 2008.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wacky Winter Weather Gadgets

Feeling a bit unprepared for this year's round of winter weather? I thought I'd bring you a special round-up of wacky winter weather gadgets, perfect for preparing for inclimate weather.

We'll kick things off with an umbrella that clearly was *not* created in a region where diehard residents would rather get soaked than be seen walking down the waterfront with a handheld canopy. The Ambient Umbrella glows blue when rain or snow is in the local forecast. No setup or cables required: the golf-sized umbrella picks up weather information from an wireless broadcast. Pick one up for just over a hundred bucks at or learn more at

How do you keep your beer cold when the power goes out? Try a USB-powered Bevearage Chiller from CoolIT. Of course, you'll need to plug this into a laptop with a charged battery, but hey... it's the price to pay for a cold brew, right?

Not so much wacky as practical, but a great weather gadget nonetheless, the Olympus 1050SW is a waterproof-camera with tap-controls. As I demonstrated on KATU-TV's AM Northwest, the camera is perfect for capturing photos of ice-covered landscapes and snow-covered trees. Want to review a photo? Tap the screen. Changing flash settings? Tap on the side. And don't worry about dropping it in a puddle... the camera is waterproof up to 10 foot. [Side note: dropping the camera in a glass of water is a fun party trick!]

Their website reads: "Etre Touchy gloves are a stylish, fun and practical way to keep your hands warm while using your touchscreen phone, portable games system, media player and other electronic gadgets." Ya, so they look silly - but there's a useful aspect to the Touchy gloves. Have you tried to operate your iPhone with knit hand-warmers installed? Of course, I'm still not sure why strategic application of a pair of scissors wouldn't accomplish the same objective.

What winter weather gadgets would you put in the "wacky" category? Add them to the comments and we'll have an update for you soon! In the meantime, stay warm, safe and Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Surviving Layoffs: How-To Guide

The economy has claimed countless jobs and the tech sector is certainly not immune. With a recession on our hands, companies are slashing workforce and tightening their belts. Local employers are also trimming their payrolls.

First, the (grim) news:

The news locally isn't much better:

For those recently unemployed -- my condolences... I've been there. After your week of decompression and relaxation, I'd like to offer some tips for finding that next job (even if you're not subject to a layoff):

A) Network. A tough economy and record-setting jobless rate is no time for being an introvert. Meet as many people as you can and get your name out there. (Why wait for the pink slip? Start networking NOW!) Join a group, attend a meeting, get to know your neighbours (physical or virtual). These are great times for tools such as Twitter (follow me!), social networking sites such as LinkedIn (add me!), Facebook (ditto), and countless professional social networking communities.
B) Attend local events. Important enough to warrant it's own bullet, but extremely related to the above tip -- get out there and meet your local community at area events, many free. Portland is fortunate to have many great meet-ups (I'm a huge fan of Beer & Blog linked to the right) and even more fortunate to have them aggregated in one spot thanks to Calagator: Portland's Tech Calendar.
C) Refresh your skills. Portland is a great place to learn., a Northwest startup in Seattle, Portland, SF Bay Area (and soon more), is one of my favorites: You can literally learn *anything* on this uber-directory-of-all-classes. While the site has lots of yoga and karate instructors, there are also valuable career-oriented classes available.

If you've got more advice, or resources, for jobless listeners... pass them along, I'll post them here.

And if you're hiring, like local techie OpenSourcery (as posted on Silicon Florist), let's spread that news as well...

To hear this story, as broadcast on Newsradio 750 KXL on 11 Dec 2008, click here (MP3)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Portable Phone Price-checkers: Pricing Power to the People

You know the drill... you're browsing the aisles of your favorite big-box store looking for bargains, holiday gifts, or that impulse item you can't imagine life without. But are you getting the best deal? What if there's a better price at the store next door or online outpost?

New tools for your mobile phone make price-checking as simple as taking a photo -- and they're available for smartphones now.

Launched earlier this week, the Mobile iPhone app (free from the iTunes App Store) helps shoppers identify anything they can take a photo of, and it's backed by a team of human reviewers. Here's out it works: Load the app, select the "Amazon Remembers" function and take a photo -- of anything. Whether it's a product you're researching at the store or that gizmo at a friend's house, your photo will be identified by a team of Amazon helpers and added to your Amazon shopping list. Compare prices and look up Amazon pricing in the easy-to-use iPhone (and iPod Touch) application.

If you're familiar with the popular music-finder application, Shazam -- think of this new iPhone gem as a sort of "Shazamazon".

Taking it to the next-level, users of the T-Mobile G1 sporting the snazzy new Google operating system "Android" can use their phones as a barcode reader. Snap a photo of a product's UPC barcode and the mobile software looks up area pricing, and where you might find the item at a local retailer. The software only works, for now, on the Android platform, and, as I understand, technical limitations (the 'fixed focus' camera to blame) prevent porting this application to the iPhone -- for now.

Now for those that don't have an iPhone or G1, there are still plenty of ways to look up pricing online. Many online retailers (including have mobile-friendly versions of their website for any phone with a browser.

For lower-tech phones, give Google SMS service (text "help" to 466453) a try... text "product" followed by a description or UPC number to the Google short code and you'll get pricing information from online retailers. (The results aren't nearly as pretty or accurate as the smartphone apps above, but with some practice you can get basic information.)

Finally, you could always do what my own mother does: Call someone in front of a computer to confirm the must-have bargain you're considering.

Want to listen to this story? Hear report originally aired on KOMO 1000 News Radio 4 December 2008. Click here (MP3) to listen now.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Cyber Monday: 'Site Maintenence' Day?!

An unfortunate reality that in a 24x7 world of web, occasionally sites simply must go offline for maintenance tasks such as upgrades, security patches, and migrating data centers. While often this can be avoided (redundant systems, etc.), frequently the lost revenue shadows the cost of mitigating such downtime.

Any system administrator (err, anyone with a couple minutes of logic) will tell you the best windows for shunting a site is when traffic is at a site's lowest (for example, after midnight on a weekend). While grumbling about life-disrupting hours, rollouts, launches, upgrades and critical maintenance almost always has engineers working the swing shift.

Which then begs the question: Why on EARTH would be "temporarily closed for scheduled site improvements" on today, of all days. This, according to a message greeting potential customers at the online retailer, is in an effort to, "bring you a better shopping experience".

My guess? The downtime wasn't scheduled at all. At least, I'd hope not... surely not on "Cyber Monday".

09:45 Update: According to a quick search of, the Banana Republic website (along with sister sites and has been offline for about an hour. Patrick Byers over at The Responsible Marketing Blog asks the question on all of our minds regarding the clearly erroneous splash page: "It’ll only take a few minutes, so why not just tell the truth?"

10:00 Update: Just hit refresh and it appears the Gap, Inc. sites are back online. Any guesses on the cost of this outage? Will the Cyber Monday offers be extended an extra hour to compensate?

Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday Gift Idea: VholdR Wearable Camera

As a gadget geek, I have the pleasure of reviewing numerous fun and exciting gizmos, gadgets, and thing-a-majigs throughout the year. One that really caught my eye this year is the VholdR Wearable Camera made by the Seattle, WA start-up I told you about during CES in January.

Well great news, they're now available on and make a great gift for the adventurous types on your list. A super-simple camera for even the most non-techie (slide to record, slide to stop) adventurer, the true beauty is in the easy-to-use software (which now, you'll be thrilled to know), is available for Mac users!

For a video demo, check out this blog posting and pick one up at

And when you do... I'd love to see the videos!

Online Holiday Shopping How-To: Essential Money-Saving Tips

It's no secret the hot holiday gadgets this year will be very similar to last year's list: Wii, Wii Fit, many of the Rock Band 2 / Guitar Hero / related accessory packs, automobile GPS navigation units, digital cameras and -- especially this year -- flat screen televisions. To get these must-have items, you're going to need to do a bit of cyber-sleuthing... try these tips:

First tip: Patience. Often persistence, patience and some good-'ole fashioned hard work will land that essential gift. Befriend a local store manager, call the local big box each morning, and shop online - often. There's no telling when a sold-out item will be in stock and as they say: "the early bird..." (you get the idea).

Don't be afraid to use technology to find technology. There are sites that scour the web for you - many will even notify you if an item becomes available at the price you're willing to pay. I used one, last year to find Wii consoles for friends and family. (Note: the website appears to have turned off mobile notifications (via. Twitter) given improved stock in online retailers... this may, of course, change as the gift-giving season heats up.) Other e-tailers, such as, will have built-in notifiers. Sign up to be alerted and prepare to drop everything and BUY NOW! (Experts recommend having an account created and login information handy to minimize the purchase time.)

Finally, there are four tips EVERYONE should ALWAYS do before hitting the virtual check-out:

A) Shop around. might be convenient, but they don't always have the best price. Use price comparison sites such as or even Google itself to check average prices. Be sure to check total price, including shipping and any taxes / fees.

B) Use a rebate site (my favorite, and I've mentioned it on the show before, or referral bonuses (check your airline website for air mile opportunities for example) for maximum return on your holiday dollar. Seriously, folks, don't buy before you first visit -- you're leaving money on the table.

C) Look for coupons & free-shipping offers. This one's easy: search for the name of the retailer + . For example, if I see the word "Bargain Saver Code" in an online checkout site, that's a clue to search the web for + "bargain saver code". Different retailers use different names for their discounts -- but the logic here is this: Instructions on how to use the code are frequently re-posted by others, or even the retailer itself. The key phrase is often something like this: "Go to and enter Monkey-Saver Code: XYZ123." By searching for "Monkey-Saver Code", you're looking for those deals. Try it. Thank me later. ;-)

D) Check the return policy and save your receipt. Especially in this economy, prices are subject to change. Learn your retailers return policy and price adjustment practices. And check back. Another retailers may offer a lower price (repurchase/return) while some may drastically reduce their own prices. Online retailers with physical stores near you may allow in-store returns (or price adjustments), but check policies carefully before you buy. I spent over $100 at Banana Republic this past weekend only to return the next day to find out they were offering an additional %10 and other savings -- I got a bonus tie with the extra savings!

Happy Holiday bargain hunting!

12/1 Update: Hear this story as broadcast on Newsradio 750 KXL ( during our Cyber Monday coverage. Listen to the MP3 now.

Black Friday: Buying a TV? Comparison Chart

The folks over at have put together a great comparison grid of all Black Friday TV deals... check it out! (Also a great baseline for spotting good deals with retailers in the weeks to come...)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Gift Guide: Capturing Holiday Memories (KATU-TV)

Looking for the latest gadgets to capture holiday memories? Perhaps a gift idea for the memory master in your life? Check out these great digital photo and video gifts:

Nikon D90 Digital SLR – Digital SLR with live-view and HD video. The latest and greatest in the prosumer digital SLR line – those cameras with detachable lenses perfect for high-quality family photos – the D90 sports a live-action viewfinder so you can watch the action and a high-definition video recording mode. Three reasons you might opt for a DSLR over a simple point-and-shoot? 1) Flexibility / Lens options, 2) Lower-light photos, 3) Higher-quality photos. (Of course there are thousands more differences between Digital SLRs and point-and-shoots, but we’ll keep it simple for now.)
Grab yours on for $1150 including lens (I recommend the 18-200 lens upgrade for a few hundred bucks more).

Flip Mino HD – Flip video cameras revolutionized the video capture world. They made taking, editing, and sharing video clips of family and friends simple. Now the same folks took it to the next level by introducing a high-defintion camera: the Flip Mino HD. Capable of 60 minutes of high definition video before downloading, the Flip’s a perfect on-the-go high-quality pocket camera. More information here and you can order yours from here.

Intouch IT7150 Multimedia touchscreen – Far more than “last year’s” digital photo frame, the IT7150 is a complete multimedia entertainment viewer. It plays photo and video slideshows, music, browses the web, even plays your favorite internet-streaming radio stations (you can listen to me weekly on Newsradio 750 KXL!)… And if that’s not enough – it’s RSS technology let’s you stream content directly to the photo frame via. WiFi. Give this gift to the grandparents and update the photos they see automatically! (No word at press time on if this versatile device also “slices, dices, and makes pizza… “, though it wouldn’t surprise me!) Starting price: $349 at or other retailers.

Olympus 1050 SW – Northwest outdoor adventurers know operating a delicate digital camera in the snow is next to impossible. How about a waterproof digital camera that can be controlled by tapping the side? Tap once to replay photos, again to adjust flash settings, and then twice to confirm. It’s perfect for the slopes while wearing gloves. My favorite feature? (And a great party trick!) the Olympus 1050SW is completely waterproof! Sure, drop it in water… it’ll keep on shooting. Even takes photos in up to 10 feet of water. The ultimate beach camera. Amazon’s got ‘em for $240 (Silver, other colors available)

HP A636 portable photo printer – HP, a pioneer in printing, updates their portable photo printers with a take-it-with-you model capable of 5x7 prints. Bring it to your next holiday party and pass out prints as guests depart or save off photo-store prices. Toss in an optional HP battery and you’re printing photo memories anywhere! ($139,

Epson Artisan 800 – The ultimate home printer: not only does this deluxe model serve up photo prints quickly, it scans, faxes, and prints on media such as DVDs and CDs. A great household printer and just as useful in the home office, the Artisan 800 serves as a great replacement for the separate devices cluttering the den (and the cables, power adapters, and accessories that go with them!). Buy now!

HP TouchSmart PC – Owners of the iPhone will agree that Touch is ONLY way to interface with electronics. Swipe, pinch, swoosh… the HP Touchsmart line of PCs makes this a bigscreen reality. Models available with BluRay high-definition video, HP’s touch-interface software and full multimedia capabilities. This machine is the perfect family computer for videos, music, photos and all your family memories. Upgrade your family computer here starting at $1200.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Haunted Homepages for Halloween

Looking for some scary sites for Halloween fun? Today on Newsradio 750 KXL we took to the web in search of haunted homepages. Check these out: general overview with great links and information. -- find local haunts, area events, activities and more on a map! great party games, fun ideas for halloween parties and entertaining. -- relive the legends and scary ghost stories. -- e-greeting cards to send to friends and family with Halloween themes.

And keeping kids safe is definitely priority #1 this Halloween, visit the following sites for tips: / / -- all great sites for allergy-free alternative treats. -- enter an address, get a list of predators in your area -- great places to avoid trick-or-treating. -- good site with general-purpose Halloween safety tips. (including tips for pets)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Printer Problems? Try these tips!

They cause a lot of problems for corporate IT departments and home users alike... We're talking PRINTERS. Fortunately for anyone who's ever walked down the hall only to crumble up their hard copy in frustration -- I've got some tips to make the most of your printer.

Update your printer driver -- software (we're talking operating systems, browsers, accounting software, even your favourite word processing program) is regularly updating itself with new and fresh updates -- especially with internet-connected machines these days. Your printer needs software check-ups as well. A great first step to reducing problems is to download the latest driver suitable for your operating system. Find the driver you need at your printer makers' website.

Don't get frustrated Know that printers cause headaches for even the most skilled technicians -- you're not alone. Patience, logical troubleshooting techniques (think of the basics first: is it properly connected, did you recently update your software, can another computer print okay, is the toner/ink properly inserted and fresh?) can often identify and solve problems quickly.

Proper care and feeding is important. Follow manufacturer's directions for everything from what supplies to use to how to regularly clean your printer. Think of a printer as a car -- it needs oil changes, cleaning and occasional repairs to run properly. Neglecting any of these maintenance tasks will shorten the life of your printer (and, like your car -- you'll be stranded when you need it most!).

While we're talking printers... recycled cartridges can be a good way to save some cash -- but be cautious, they're not all created equal -- look for cartridges sold by a vendor you trust (the big box office supply stores, for instance) that are designed specifically for your printer. If your printer is under maintenance contract or extended warranty -- be sure you are not violating these agreements to save a few bucks.

Be an eco-friendly printer: Print only what's necessary (do you really need to print that email?), use the "print preview" function to check pagination, reduce font size and margins when possible, and try double-sided or N-up (multiple images on one side) printing, especially with large documents. Give online reviewing options a try when editing documents, and use electronic PDF receipts for web transactions and bill payment verifications.

Perhaps you've got a tip on how to extend the life of your printer? Want to share an eco-friendly way to save paper and reduce trips to the office printer? Drop me a line (techexpert (AT) brianwestbrook (DOT) com) or leave a comment below.

Please, think twice before printing this blog! :)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Want Improved Cellular Coverage? Run For US President!

Seems the McCain ranch in Sedona, AZ has great cellular coverage in what was once a dead spot.

How'd that happen?

As a nominee for the Commander In Chief post, McCain has an expected entourage of press and security (including Secret Service presence) -- all obvious cell phone users. Verizon and AT&T both clarify the temporary towers were installed based on a "business decision".

[So... What did we learn? If you had bad cellular coverage where you live, try winning your party's nomination for US President!]

Thursday, October 16, 2008

FCC Commissioner Answers DTV Questions in Pacific Northwest

Residents of the Northwest will have the opportunity to ask questions about the DTV conversion of FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein next week. The meetings, October 20th to 23rd, will take place in four cities in Washington and Oregon.

Complete details in the FCC press release below.

Four-City Tour is Part of Extensive Nationwide Outreach Focusing on Markets with High Levels of Over-the-Air Television Viewers

Washington, DC – FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein announced he will visit Portland, OR, on October 20, Yakima, WA, on October 21, Spokane, WA, on October 22, and Seattle, WA, on October 23 to hold public town hall meetings on the digital television (DTV) transition.

WHO: FCC Commissioner Jonathan S. Adelstein
WHAT: Public Town Halls on the DTV Transition


WHEN: October 20, 12:15-1 PM
WHERE: Urban League Multi-Cultural Senior Center
5325 NE MLK Blvd.
Portland, OR 97211

WHEN: October 20, 2-3:30 PM
WHERE: Native American Cultural Center
Portland State University
710 SW Jackson Street
Portland, OR 97201


WHEN: October 21, 2-4 PM
WHERE: Clarion Hotel and Conference Center
1507 N. First Street
Yakima, WA 98901


WHEN: October 22, 1-2 PM
WHERE: C’oeur d’Alene Reservation
Rose Creek Longhouse
Worley, ID


WHEN: October 23, 3-4:30 PM
WHERE: Seattle Public Library
Central Library
1000 Fourth Ave.
Seattle, WA 98104

WHEN: October 23, 6-7:30 PM
WHERE: Asian Counseling & Referral Service
3639 Martin Luther King Jr. Way S
Seattle, WA 98144

The FCC identified target television markets for specific DTV outreach, including all those markets in which more than 100,000 households or at least 15% of the households rely solely on over-the-air signals for television reception. The five FCC Commissioners and senior Commission staff will visit these and other markets to raise awareness and educate consumers in the days leading up to the DTV transition on February 17, 2009.

Reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request. Include a description of the accommodation you will need with as much detail as possible. Also include a way we can contact you if we need more information. Please provide as much advance notice as possible; last minute requests will be accepted, but may be impossible to fill. Send an e-mail to or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (TTY).


News about the Federal Communications Commission can also be found on the Commission’s web site

Monday, October 13, 2008

Donate Old Cell Phones -- Save the Earth! ... Save A Life?

Seems each week we're talking about the latest and greatest new mobile gadget to save you time, increase your producticitiy and keep you in contact with friends and family. With the constant incentive to upgrade, what about your unused phone?

Cellular carriers are providing an easy option to donate your unused phone to benefit organizations that help victims and survivors of domestic violence. You can participate by taking your phone to any Verizon Wireless store (other carriers offer similar programs, be sure to ask when you buy your new phone for details!).

From a Verizon Wireless Press Release:
In 2008, Verizon Wireless donated wireless phones with prepaid service to several Oregon based non-profit agencies including:
  • Eugene— Domestic Violence Clinic - Lane County Legal Aid
  • Milwaukie— Clackamas Women's Services
  • Portland— Bradley-Angle House
  • Portland— IRCO’s Refugee and Immigrant Family Strengthening Program
  • Portland— Raphael House of Portland
  • Portland— Volunteers of America
  • Portland— YWCA of Greater Portland/Yolanda House
For more information, visit Verizon Wireless' HopeLine website here.

Donated phones are not tax deductible.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Apple Macbook Buyers: Wait Until Oct. 14

One question I hear often is: Should I wait to buy... ?

While my advice is generally consistent (if you need it now, buy it now) there are great resources for tracking whether or not you should hold off -- especially when it comes to Apple products. Certainly keeping up with sites such as will give you a pulse on what the rumor mill is saying (with varying degrees of inaccuracy). A section of the same website -- the Buyer's Guide -- tracks time between previous updates and contains helpful recommendations such as: "Don't Buy - Updates soon" (current the advice for Macboook and Macbook Pro systems).

While this information fits squarely in the "individual results may vary" category and you may not be able to wait for the elusive and unconfirmed updates 'soon' -- there are occasionally times when waiting just makes sense.

Like now.

Apple has invited press to an event on October 14th. According to Engadget, this one's all about notebooks. So, ya... it'd be a bad idea to pick up a new Macbook this weekend.

Unless of course, you must.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Microsoft PDC 2008 Commercial: "Leave the coffee, Brian..."

Okay, so I'm sorta rolling my eyes... but you hafta admit, it's a break from the traditional promos for Microsoft's upcoming Professional Developers' Conference in Los Angeles later this month.

My favorite line? "Leave the coffee, Brian..." (I hear that often!)


Friday, September 19, 2008

Driving While Texting: A Dangerous Mix

The engineer of last week's deadly rail crash in California was text messaging while operating the commuter train that crashed and killed 25 people. Even if you manage to escape a tragic incident, the truth is -- text messaging while driving is dangerous.

I've talked about this service before, but it seemed an appropriate reminder to mention the now vital speech-to-text service that will read and transcribe messages: While talking on the phone while driving is dangerous, some would argue even with a hands-free device, the website sets out to make communicating behind the wheel just a bit safer.

The best advice? Hang up and drive.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Friday, September 5, 2008

Help Save ORBlogs!

It began, as many such projects do, as a hobby by one blogger. Now, after five years as a defacto resource on Oregon's blogging community, a guide, directory and inspiration ORBlogs is closing its doors. Site founder Paul Bausch writes:
I'm shutting ORblogs down now because the site continues to grow and the job of maintaining the site at the level I feel is necessary to keep it valuable has grown with it, putting it out of the bounds of a hobby. I wasn't able to make ORblogs self-sustaining financially (let alone turn it into a job), and I can no longer devote the time to the site that it needs to grow.

This, obviously, doesn't sit well with bloggers such as Rick Turozcy over at Silicon Florist. He writes, "I mean, I was always taught the whole 'if you love something, let it go' thing. But, quite frankly, I’m not willing to let this one go."

I strongly encourage you to hop on over and read this comprehensive post by Rick describing what's at stake here.

The conversation continues this morning on Twitter and in this FriendFeed room created by J-P Voilleque.

Earlier this morning my friends at gave the fight to save ORBlogs some extra visibility.

I, for my small part, join Rick and the dozens of others rallying in support of ORBlogs (I've also put a bug in the ear of some key execs who may be able to pitch in)... won't you join us?

Rick has even created a web banner to help spread the word... feel free to post on your own site:

UPDATE 1 (10:30): Mettadore weighed in lengthy analysis of what is needed to save the site (and how you can help), and proposed next steps. Great work! The Oregonian has a write-up on their site as well.

UPDATE 2 (11:30): We ran a story today on KXL-AM about the campaign to save ORBlogs -- take a listen to the story from KXL's Lacey Evans and myself (MP3)

If you'd like to join the campaign, drop me an email (tech AT brianwestbrook DOT com), or leave a comment and I'll pass your details on to the appropriate contacts... This includes, especially, potential future sponsors from across the great State of Oregon!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Upgrading for DTV? Recycle your old TV!

On February 17th 2009, as my regular listeners know, television stations across the country will convert their analog broadcast signals to a new higher-capacity digital spectrum. What this means to television viewers varies depending on how you receive programming, but for many, the conversion could leave you with a live view of what resembles a 24/7 snowstorm.

For many who watch over-the-air television, this means a new television. (Most, like one KXL staffer I spoke with yesterday, see it as a good excuse to upgrade even while a converter box might suffice.)

What do you do with your old set?

Most people don’t need to get rid of their existing television due to the switch to digital-only broadcasting, says Kathy Kiwala, manager of DEQ’s “Oregon E-Cycles” electronics waste program. For persons who choose to purchase a new digital TV and have an existing TV in working condition, there are several options:
  • Keep the old TV as a second TV for games, videos or DVDs
  • Give the old TV to a friend or donate it to a second-hand store.

According to the Department of Enviornmental Quality's press release, consumers who do choose to buy a new television set should visit the DEQ E-waste Web page at

For more ways to recycle electronics -- including unwanted computers -- check out my Earth Day Gadget Special that aired on KATU's AM Northwest:

Friday, August 22, 2008

Back-to-School Technology Guide

Smaller, faster and less expensive are the trends in portable computers this year. Apple announced this past year the super-slim Macbook Air, and computer makers on the other side of the aisle were quick to match. Look for ultra-portable options from all the key players, including the HP 2133 Mini-Note...

HP 2133 Mini-Note PC -- "Honey?? I shrunk the laptop!" Once you get this (large) paperback-book sized notebook in your hand, you likely won't be able to set it down. Sporting an impressive 8.9" screen, I was especially drawn to the durability of this sub-notebook -- the thing just feels like it can be tossed in a backpack among the school books and gadgets. I will say, use caution when buying -- there are a few different models, the basic configuration comes with an Open Source Linux installation, if you're hoping for a Windows Vista-based machine, it's $100 more. Take a look for yourself here.

On the Apple side, there are two products worth mentioning. The first, my favoritate, is the super-slim Macbook Air. You've probably seen the launch commercials where it slides, no kidding, out of an envelope. It's eco-friendly and made from recycled parts. The keyboard is perfect for long hours of note-taking, and the brilliant display perfect for unwinding with a movie.

Both of these options are best as a second machine. While both are completely capable and run full versions of their respective Microsoft Office software (check with your school for academic pricing), you may consider taking a full-sized computer with large music-storing hard drive and standard keyboard for those all-nighter typing sessions.

Other must-haves?
Top-of-the-list: An external USB hard drive. Western Digital makes my favorites for around a hundred bucks. Cheap insurance against lost, stolen, or malfunctioning computers. Plug it into the campus computer lab and you're back up and running.

Finally, textbooks are an expensive part of any back-to-school budget. There's a great website that lets you rent the essentials, and it works a lot like Netflix. For more information on check 'em out online. They'll even let you keep the books if you decide you can't give it up at the end of the quarter!

Listen to this report, originally broadcast on KXL-AM Friday Aug 22: kxl_techexpert-backtoschool_20080822.mp3 (MP3)

Got questions? Feel free to drop me a line (techexpert (AT) brianwestbrook (DOT) com) and I'll do my best to steer you in the right direction! Happy studying! :-p

Monday, August 11, 2008

Gmail Outage: How to cope WHEN technology fails?

Outages happen.

Earlier this afternoon, the Twitter community was abuzz of cries that Google's popular email service, Gmail, was down. While this outage appeared system-wide and affected millions of users, some downtime can affect certain elements of a system with as few as a single user.

I thought I'd take this opportunity to pass along some basic troubleshooting tips. These, while certainly not exhaustive, may help you deal with future outages:
  • Plan -- The best thing you can do to prepare for any outage (power, email, computer malfunction) is to plan ahead. While this might seem incredibly obvious, think of the number of times you've fumbled around a dark, powerless, house looking for flashlight batteries? You probably promised yourself you'd put fresh batteries in an easy-to-find spot "just as soon as the lights come back on". (Did you?) In the case of technology we rely upon daily, planning ahead is just as critical. While some outages (this latest Gmail as an example) lasted just a few minutes, other outages may be days, weeks, longer. Think about each system you use daily and how you would live without it for minutes, hours, or days.
  • Backup -- While most free email systems are robust and unlikely to break (and if they do, will likely be back quickly), remember you "get what you pay for". Just like your hard drive, it's crucial to have some degree of redundancy. Now might be a great time to set up a backup email account (with a completely separate provider) in case your primary account goes down. Depending on how much you rely on your mobile provider, internet connection, or other online services -- a backup might be a good idea for these as well.
  • Diversify -- With many users switching to less-expensive telephone lines from Voice-over-IP providers like Vonage or services from internet providers like Comcast or Verizon, you may be putting all your eggs in one basket: If your connection to the Internet goes down, so too does your home phone service. Following the logic of backup, you'll probably be able to use your mobile phone should you lose internet connectivity at home. Some businesses may find having a few backup circuits from the telephone company worth the cost -- or even a backup internet connection for those accidental "fiber cuts" we dread. (Don't forget: telephone lines that run on internet connections will go out during a power outage if your cable/DSL modem and home networking gear do not have backup power from a UPS or standby generator!)
  • Diagnose -- I like to advise users to take a step back, thinking about a current problem or outage from an objective standpoint. Ask questions like: Does this work on another computer? Are my neighbours (or coworkers) having similar trouble? Did something change (new software installed, different internet connection, etc.) on my end? Did it work before? Think outside the box, you may be able to fix your own problem!
  • Report -- Tell someone about your experience. Report the facts, objectively as much as possible, and provide details. Helpful information: time, symptoms, duration, specific observations, troubleshooting you've tried. Less helpful information: frustration, anxiety, vague recollections, exaggerations, generalizations (Are you sure the ENTIRE Internet is down.... or perhaps just YOUR connection TO the Internet? ;-)).
  • Patience -- Now I understand there are mission-critical systems that absolutely cannot fail. I've supported these systems and understand that getting them back up and running is rarely an exercise in patience for management, users, and the pager-carrying IT guys tasked with fixing them... but for the rest of the world: email, blogs, web browsing, and certainly social networking sites -- can likely wait a few minutes. Take a break, catch up on your filing or offline projects, have an impromptu brainstorming session or just bang your head against the desk repeatedly. In many cases the system or service you "can't live without" will be back before you know it.
(I'm also a fan of bringing the IT Guys that get you back up and running home-baked treats... but that's entirely optional (and perhaps somewhat biased?) advice.)

Do you have any more outage-related advice? Horror stories? Feel free to post in the comments.

And hey, look at that... Gmail's back up and running (for me, anyway)! Yay!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tech for Tots - Kid-Friendly Gadgets

Today on the show I shared about a number of devices made specifically for the young set...

Smart Kid’s Party Fun Pack / UFO Interactive Games for Nintendo DS

Tired of chasing Mario aimlessly around the racetrack? Bored of the never-ending quest to save humanity from evil-doers everywhere? Looking for a game suitable for boys, girls and their siblings? UFO Interactive Games offers a simple, kid-friendly and rewarding game pack featuring 36 casual and skill-based mini-games for Nintendo’s portable game system. Pre-order now on

flyPhone and glowPhone / Firefly
“Pay-as-you-go wireless for kids”
With fun and easy-to-use phones perfect for the youngster, the pair of options from Firefly starts with the basic glowPhone (pink or black) for $50 that makes and receives phone calls (go figure, right?) using a pre-programmed (and PIN-protected) address book – and sports built-in games and wallpapers. For twice the price parents can equip their grade-schoolers with text messaging and MP3 playback in the flyPhone.

Firefly Mobile flyPhone | Firefly Mobile glowPhone

Friday, August 1, 2008

Learn-Anything Site Adds Portland!

Ever wish you could learn something new?

(I'm a difficult person to teach -- I blame the ADD.)

With a simple premise, a new website hits Portland this weekend. After a successful launch in Seattle earlier this year, startup looks forward to revolutionizing how you learn about, connect with, and ultimately review area teachers.

Future students visiting the site are presented two search boxes. One for the subject matter you’d like to learn and another the city where you’d like to find instruction.

CEO Dave Schapell tells me they’ve combed the Internet, course offerings catalogs, and directories to catalog every available class they could find – putting it all online for the Portland, OR and Vancouver, WA communities – some 30,000 classes in all.

And teachers can get in on the action too. If you’ve got something to teach, or are good at – well, anything – you can list your services, prices, and class offerings online. (The site welcomes anything from 1:1 instruction services to more traditional classroom offerings.) Right now it’s free for teachers to list and students to search.

Now while I doubt anyone will have time to attend all 30,000 classes – it’s good to know the next time I need a Rumba refresher or a splash of Spanish – there are folks in my area ready to teach... even me.

Listen to this report, originally broadcast on KXL-AM Friday Aug 1: kxl_techexpert-teachstreetcom_20080801.mp3 (MP3)

Remember, the site launches this weekend, so if doesn’t find a class you’re looking for try searching in Seattle to get an idea of how the site works and check back... Dave promises it will be up-and-running by Monday.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

iPhone: Pricing Details Announced

AT&T today announced detailed iPhone 3G pricing causing more confusion than clarification.

You recall Steve Jobs' announcing the iPhone 3G at "twice the data, half the price". Well, we quickly learned given higher-priced data plans, the true cost (over the "life" of your contract) was actually slightly higher. Many, including myself, rationalized this as faster data speeds at an increased fee.

Today's announcement sought to clarify just exactly who would receive the touted $199/$299 iPhone 3G device pricing. There are three prices based on your status:

    $199 (8GB) / $299 (16GB):
  • Original iPhone customer before July 11, 2008

  • New customer to AT&T (i.e. move from another carrier)

  • Adding a line of service (say, a second phone)

  • AT&T Customer qualified for an upgrade (you've done the time)

    $399 (8GB) / $499 (16GB):
  • AT&T (non-iPhone) Customer not eligible for upgrade

    $599 (8GB) / $699 (16GB) - not immediately available:
  • Any customer without contract requirement

This is how I understand the pricing scheme. If you read AT&T's information differently, let me know.

I suspect most users will fall in to the first camp. For instance, I'm a T-Mobile customer planning to switch to AT&T. If I were under contract with T-Mobile I'd pay a standard $200 early termination fee. AT&T's own customers under contract will pay a similar higher price to "get out of" their existing commitment to switch to the new iPhone.

The real advantage here goes to the current iPhone users. They are upgrading at the same price meant to attract new customers while only renewing (not adding to) their previous contract commitment. I can only imagine the uproar we'd hear if AT&T didn't recognize current iPhone users' commitment with the $199/$299 pricing.

Footnote: Don Reisinger gives his take on the iPhone 3G pricing in his IT World column. He and I spoke on his Digital Home Podcast about iPhone pricing a few weeks ago. In his column Don writes:
"According to the company, only those people that purchased an iPhone before July 11, want to activate a new line, and are eligible for an upgrade discount, will be allowed to purchase the iPhone 3G for $199 or $299. For the rest of you suckers, you’ll be doling out a whopping $399 for the 8GB model and $499 for the 16GB model.
As I mentioned to Don via. chat a few minutes ago, the "and" (bold added above) should actually be an "or". Hopefully this will be corrected soon. (Kinda changes things, don'tcha think?)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Podcast: Talking iPhone News w/CNET's Don Reisinger

Take a listen to Episode 19 of Don Reisinger's C|NET Digital Home Podcast where I appeared as a guest talking iPhone news and our impressions of last week's WWDC keynote by Steve Jobs.

If you like what you hear, give me a shout-out... and if you'd like me to be a guest on your podcast, TV show, or radio segment -- happy to lend my tech banter to your show! Drop me a line.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

PRSA **Technology** Award Submissions: Audio Tapes... ehh?

Every once in awhile I receive an email that thoroughly perplexes me... Today's cranium-scratcher is from an organization I probably should have heard of: The Public Relations Society of America. According to their website, they are "Advancing the Profession and the Professional."

The invitation (and humor) begins:
If you or one of your editorial colleagues wrote and published something in the past year that seems worthy of reward and recognition, you should read this letter and consider entering your work. The Technology Professional Interest Section of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) has extended its Call for Entries for its 2007 Excellence in Technology Journalism Awards competition, and the final deadline for submission is now June 27, 2008.
Reading further, I stumbled across the following quiz: Why, in a call for submissions for the "2007 Excellence in Journalism Awards" would they require radio and TV submissions to be made using audio cassette and VHS tape (we'll assume respectively). Rule #8 states:
8. Radio and TV segments must be submitted in audio cassette tape or VHS version (five (5) copies) tape form, along with hard copies of a written script or transcript.
I'm looking forward to learning how this organization is advancing a profession by using two-generation-old technology for their technology awards submissions. [For the sake of discussion: I'm defining "generations" as: cassette/VHS -> CD/DVD -> MP3/Digital video (i.e. online).]

I don't even own a casette player or VHS deck anymore. Sad. I guess I'm not qualified? (Not that my work would stand up to the great tech reporting that won prior years anyway.)

Perhaps, folks, this might explain why it was necessary to extend the deadline??

Your responses welcome -- in any format! ;-)

Monday, June 9, 2008

iPhone 3G: Half-price (sorta), 2X Speed, adds GPS

It's official!

Perhaps the worst-kept secret in the history of product launches made its debut on the stage at Apple's World-Wide Developer Conference in San Francisco today. The phone that took the world by storm a year ago has finally met its match: iPhone 3G.

Sporting a built-in GPS receiver, extended battery life and a faster 3G data connection, the new phone is expected to win over new iPhone adopters and those looking for an upgrade. An iPhone 3G is half the price of the previous model at $199 for an 8GB version in black and $299 for double the memory available in black or white. The phone goes on sale Friday, July 11.

Update: With the iPhone 3G, the AT&T data plan goes from $20 to $30/month. So doing the math, $10 extra * 24 months = $240 over the two-year contract... the basic model is $199, add in the $240 and you're back where you started. That said I -- I suspect like many eager buyers -- will be happy to pay the $10 extra for faster data speeds, but it's definitely something to consider.

We'll keep an eye on additional details on the phone, and related accessories, including a complete wrap-up of today's announcements on this blog and on Newsradio 750 KXL.

Are you planning to upgrade? Have you been waiting for the new iPhone 3G? What feature are you most excited about? Send your comments to techexpert (AT) brianwestbrook (DOT) com.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Gadgets for Dads & Grads

With Father's Day coming up on June 15, and Graduations dominating the month of June, it seems appropriate to take a look at gifts for both late-Spring gifting occasions (feel free to repurpose these as wedding gifts as well!).

Passport Elite - Western Digital
"Pocket-sized USB hard drive great for backups"
I'm a big fan of these pocket-sized drive. I first discovered the 160GB version at my local Warehouse store and instantly found plenty of uses: backup, photo archival, and transfering large files. They're now up to twice the capacity, hover around the $100 mark -- and are now available in a dozen brilliant colors. They make a perfect gift for any photographer, digital videographer, or computer user looking for an easy backup solution (and who doesn't need a good backup solution!). ($130,

Exilim EX-S10 digital camera – Casio
"Slim camera takes YouTube videos"
I've been a fan of Casio's digital Exilim's card-sized digital cameras for some time, owning a handful of different models. The latest generation, the EX-S10, sports a handy YouTube video mode – and makes sharing video clips a breeze. With a super-slim design this digital camera will find its way into any pocket or purse, guaranteeing you'll always have it handy to capture those moments. ($250,

High Definition DVD Handycam (HDR-UX20) -- Sony
“HD camcorder recognizes faces”
Sony knocks one out of the park with a lineup of new high definition camcorders. Available with hard drives (look ma, no tape!) or small DVD discs, the newest Handycams are packed with high-tech features. A face detection mode spots up to eight faces while capturing video or taking photos and optimizes your skin tone. With high-power zoom and full high definition quality – your child’s home run never looked so good! ($990, SonyStyle stores or online)

Nike + iPod Sports Kit
"Track your summer run outdoors"
The two-part kit (a transmitter for your shoelaces, a receiver that plugs into your iPod Nano) monitors your pace, time, distance -- even calories burned -- and then uploads this information online to track your progress. It works with any iPod Nano and the online site allows you to challenge your workout buddies to a virtual race. ($29, Apple stores or

TravelSound i50 Portable Speakers -- Creative
“Small speaker with big sound”
Snap your iPod Shuffle on top and clip these portable speakers to your beach bag. Be prepared for a surprisingly big sound from tiny battery-powered speakers! It’ll charge your Shuffle with either the included power adapter or a USB cable, but sadly, doesn’t double as a dock. ($50,

Friday, May 30, 2008

Paid To Search, Peek At Windows 7 & Revisiting Vista

Tech Expert Segment for 30 May 2008

Focusing on Microsoft for my weekly radio segment on KXL, we took a look at Microsoft's new Live Search Cashback program, took a peek at early features of the next version of Windows, and a second look at Windows XP woes.

Live Search Cashback
The program is pretty simple. Use Microsoft's Live Search to find products you're looking to buy from hundres of merchants and get a rebate. Now of course, there are screens and screens of terms and conditions but as a marketing promotion to entice users into giving Live Search a try... it's about as rudimentary as you get.

Sites such as have similar offers, fueled by a vendor's affiliate program. Microsoft's offering takes this to the next level. Hit $5.00 and you can request a kickback from your purchases. Score!

Learn more about Live Search Cashback by visiting the website or read the comprehensive FAQs.

Windows 7: Early Peek
If I could put the word early in 4-foot letters on your screen for added emphasis, I would... this should not, by any means, be taken as a thorough look at the next version of Microsoft's flagship operating system -- rather a peek at what's going on at the Redmond, Washington headquarters. With that caveat...

The transitioning Bill Gates and his successor Steve Ballmer demonstrated a multitouch feature of the new Windows 7 operating system. Similar to the iPhone's touch interface and the Microsoft Surface (among others), it sports pinching, twisting and touching the screen. If this dream comes true, soon all computers will have touchscreens. (I can hear users everywhere saying... does this mean I need yet ANOTHER computer upgrade?) Don't worry -- it's not due out until late 2009 (and then if history repeats itself, likely delayed).

Check out a video of Windows 7 multitouch preview in a previous post on this blog.

Windows Vista: User complaints
Also on today's show we chatted about user feedback to XP. In chatting with users it seems some are starting to give the plagued operating system a second chance. What has your reaction to Windows Vista been? Did you load and rollback? Ready to give it a second try? Drop me a line.

Listen to this report, originally broadcast on KXL-AM Friday May 30: kxl_techexpert-microsoftcashback&news_20080530.mp3 (MP3)

Microsoft Demonstrates Future Windows: Multi-Touch Interface

At the "D: All Things Digital" conference in Carlsbad, Calif. Microsoft Executives demonstrated the new multi-touch interface being built in to the next verison of Windows (for now known simply as "Windows 7"). Watch the video for a demo of Windows 7's iPhone-like controls:

Video: Multi-Touch in Windows 7

Friday, May 23, 2008

Coming Soon: Tech Trip 2008

For more details on Tech Trip 2008 including the gadgets onboard the two month road trip, check back later today... (or to have updates emailed automatically, sign up in the right column!)

Friday, May 16, 2008

Stimulus Check Spending Tips: Do Your Part

Tech Expert Segment for 16 May 2008

Sure you could pay down your credit card debt. Perhaps a great plan to toss it into a savings account. Likely good idea to pay bills or even high gas prices with your federal bonus. But who wants to do any of these sensible things?

Go ahead, blow it! Throw caution to the wind, spend your bucks on a new gadget...

First, some sites to check out:
  • -- product reviews from folks that have bought the product they're talking about, all brought together by the folks that provide product review technology to some big-name websites.
  • -- a great site if you're looking for that gadget you didn't know you needed... The online retailer sells one gadget a day, when it's gone, it's gone!
  • -- This site will help you stretch your stimulus check as far as possible... coupon codes, discounts, and a guide to the best online savings.
And beware of the scammers...
The IRS has set up this website to check progress on your stimulus check, and tools to determine if you're even eligible. The FBI is warning about a new scam targeting those patiently waiting for the extra money. The key message? Don't fall prey to scammers purporting to be the IRS scamming your personal information!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

DVR Full? Add Drive and Keep Recording!

It's a problem I hear far too often... those households that have made the leap to digital video recorders (DVRs) such as TiVo, ReplayTV or those built-in to receviers from Comcast or satellite providers, all end up with the same quandry: What shows should I delete to make room for more favorites? (And those households that haven't lept really ought to discover all the commercial-skipping, show-recording glory we've all had for years.)

Enter hard drive maker Western Digital with a solution in a box: a 500GB external hard drive for DISH Network's ViP Series HD DVR. This low-power gizmo plugs into the DISH Network DVR receiver and adds 60 hours of High Definition recordings.

While the DISH Network DVR version is new today, a previous version works with many TiVo DVRs, including our Series 3. One caution: the TiVo version uses an eSATA interface and (as of Christmas 2007) did not come with the right interface cable. (Order online early, eSATA cables aren't, as I discovered recently, exactly corner store items.) Fortunately, WD's DISH Network DVR expander lists an external USB cable as an included accessory. Unfortunately for me, while a happy DISH subscriber, I don't have their DVR receiver -- though it seemed a less-expensive, yet quite acceptable, substitute for a separate TiVo device.

The new DISH DVR Expander (500GB) lists at $149.99. The Western Digital MY DVR Expander series for both DISH, TiVo and Scientific Atlanta DVRs can be found on their website at (and presumably all the usual outlets soon).

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mother's Day: Tech & Tips

Tech Expert Segment for 9 May 2008

With Mother's Day coming up on Sunday, there are a few things you might be wondering... what to get, where to go, how to honor the mother in your life. Today on Newsradio 750 KXL we talked Moms, here are some ideas:

Mother's Day Gifts
A great opportunity to get Mom that digital camera or photo printer to capture and print the family memories, think also of photo books and digital photo frames. Two items you might not have considered:
  • The Amazon Kindle eBook reader came out last Holiday season, but is now readily available. Perfect for the reading Mom on-the-go, new bookes and magazines can be downloaded right to the device.

  • For the power-shopper Mom, check out the SmartShopper grocery list organizer. Speak the item you need to add to the list into the magnetic-mount organizer and it will sort and categorize your shopping list. When you're heading to the store click "Print" and the device dispenses a list, sorted by aisle, to save time at the store.
  • There are, however, some devices to avoid according to a clever list on DVICE. (We do disagree on the SmartShopper, though their observations are valid.) Nothing says "I Love you Mom" quite like a ... surge protector?! *sigh*

Mother's Day Tips
Opting for a non-tech holiday? Use the web to make brunch reservations at, they've got lots of restaurants in the Northwest with space-available on Sunday. Or perhaps you'd like to spend time with Mom showing her how to make the most of her computer, camera, or that gadget that seemed like a good idea last December.

With the holiday comes a reminder of the dangers of e-greeting cards. Clicking a link that looks like a friendly note could in fact be looking or your personal information -- be cautious. Especially troubling, emails circulating to high-level executives purporting to be subpoenas from the FBI. Law enforcement will not send a subpoena via. email. Toss 'em in the trash.

Happy Mother's Day to all the Moms and thanks again for listening!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

KATU-TV: Earth Friendly Gadgets (AM Northwest)

For Earth Day on KATU's AM Northwest I took to the streets of Portland to show eco-friendly gadgets... and how to responsibly recycle your old, unwanted, technology.

Click on the image above to watch the piece on, or browse the list of featured products below.

eMotion Solar Portable Media Player -- MediaStreet
"Solar-powered media player"
For the times you're "off the grid", flip open the solar-power panels and charge up this universal portable entertainment device. It plays MP3s, shows digital movies, reads eBooks aloud and best of all? The eMotion Solar charges off the sun – an environmentally friendly alternative to those energy-consuming gadgets. Added bonus? Every unit comes pre-loaded with tunes from Beyond.FM. ($170,

Hybrid 1000 Charger – Solio
"Portable electronics charger"
How many times have you run out of juice and wished for a quick top-up or a battery-less charger? Leave it out in the sun for a charge, then use it to charge any number of portable devices- iPods, cellular phones, or many USB devices. It holds juice in its internal battery for cloudy days and can also be charged the old-fashioned way. ($70,

Eco Friendly iPhone Shield -- Agent 18
"iPhone Protection from Recycled Plastic"
Buying recycled goods are a great way to send a message to gadget and accessory makers that you care about the environment. Agent 18 -- makers of cases and protective gear for music players, phones and more – created an effective protective shield for the popular iPhone from recycled plastic. Even the case's packaging is eco-friendly – it, too, is recyclable. Pick one up at the Apple Store, Target or online. ($30,

Crank-Powered Radio, Flashlight, Charger – LifeGear
"Emergency broadcasts, flashlight, phone charger"
Great for emergencies or taking out to the beach, this gadget requires no batteries… wind the hand-crank and listen to your favorite local radio station, NOAA and weather alerts – it even has a half-watt flashlight to find your way around. Need a top-off for your mobile phone? The unit plugs into many phones to double as a mobile charger! ($30,

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Cheap Gas Prices: TomTom's 930 on KOMO 4 News

Today at 6pm KOMO 4 News took a look at a high-tech solution to finding the cheapest fill-up. The TomTom 930 helps users find the lowest gas prices -- join me for a demo. Click the video below to watch.

Product Details:

GO 930 GPS navigation system -- TomTom
“Portable navigation with gas prices”
TomTom’s latest portable GPS receiver simplifies making your way through an unfamiliar town – there’s only one thing easier. New features include intelligent routing based on time-of-day and historical data and an advanced lane guidance system showing what specific lane for those tricky highway merges. Make the most of your trip with a updated fuel price locator. Ask TomTom for the lowest price gas and the 930 will take you there. With new features and TomTom’s proven easy-to-use interface the only thing easier than getting around with the GO 930 is, well… a chauffeur. ($500, available here )

Friday, April 18, 2008

Earth Day: Free Electronics Recycling Event Sat. 19 April (Vancouver, WA)

IMS Electronics Recycling Press Release

Dell Inc. is offering residents of the Washington’s Clark County area and the Portland, Oregon area a free computer recycling event, Sat., April 19, 2008, at IMS Electronics Facility in the Port of Vancouver. The event is being hosted in celebration of Earth Day and will provide area residents an opportunity to recycle electronics for free.

The collection event will accept any make or model of computers and related equipment, including monitors, printers, scanners, keyboards, mice, and laptops. Televisions, stereo equipment, cell phones, gaming consoles and mobile entertainment devices are also accepted. Electronic items NOT accepted include: appliances, lamps, batteries etc.

All materials collected at this event will be recycled at IMS Electronics under Washington State’s new Preferred Processor Standards. Participants should remove all data from their computer's hard drive and any removable media such as disks, PC cards, flash drives, CD-ROMs.

Free Drop off At:

IMS Electronics Recycling
2401 Saint Francis Lane
Vancouver, WA 98660
(360) 750-8883

If you know of other Recycling events, please email: techexpert (AT) brianwestbrook (DOT) com -- or post a comment in this blog. Look for future "Go Green" specials on this blog all week...

Friday, April 11, 2008

Essential Sites for Travel Trouble

Tech Expert Topic Notes for 11 April 2008

If there's one thing I can't travel without its my Macbook Air.

More than an inflight entertainment system or essential communications tool -- when travel plans require flexibility, the sleek ultraportable becomes an airline rebooking engine.

With flight cancellations dominating the news in recent weeks, and a record-breaking summer travel season to follow -- there are a few websites you should keep handy to deal with inevitable disruption:

Airline websites: In the event of a flight cancellation, you may not be able to rebook online, but you will be able to find alternate flights, check availability, or -- if necessary -- buy another ticket altogether (on a different carrier if necessary). Don't forget many carriers also have sites designed for work on mobile phones like the iPhone or Blackberry. Check flight delays, routes and schedules, aircraft types and get the latest operational status. If there's a community of travel experts -- this is it. Many members of this online community fly every week, some more often, and they know the tricks of the trade. It won't necessarily help you find an alternate flight, but it will get you a comfortable seat. A must-visit resource when planning any travel. The travel portal for community reviews and information to the tune of nearly 18 million! Whether you're looking for a good quiet hotel to get a decent night's sleep before trying to get home the next day, or want to know where to plan your next vacation -- this site, by the same people that run the online travel kings and their discount brother, has it all!

Tech Tips for Travelers:
  • Always carry your chargers with you. Gadget batteries don't last forever and if your luggage is lost, or stuck in the bowels of the airport -- you'll want a recharge.
  • Go online! While many are lining up for the few rebooking agents at an airport, jump on the web and rebook yourself. (In some cases you may not be able to rebook a specific ticket, or reuse credits -- but buying a new ticket may get you home and not be an option hours later when you reach the front of the line!)
  • Find a hotspot. Most airports have gone wireless - some, like PDX, are free. And if you don't have a laptop, airport lounges, internet kiosks and business centers are a great place to get online.
  • Download airline flight schedules before you head to the airport. A copy (usually a PDF but a printout works too) of a carrier's schedule will help you find alternative flights and routings (think outside the box -- maybe Portland to Los Angeles to get to Denver?)

All the gadgets in the world can not replace the most essential carry-on: Patience.

As the motto goes, "Be Prepared". Flight cancellations, delays and other travel disruptions are a reality... those prepared and armed with the information and tips to get their travel plans back on track -- will find themselves home with the loved ones first.

Listen to this report, originally broadcast on KXL-AM Friday April 11: kxl_techexpert-travelwebsites_20080411.mp3 (MP3)