Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Did Starbucks read my mind or my blog?

Yesterday I complained that Starbucks' hot chocolate -- the only warm beverage they offer for people who don't drink coffee -- is "too-sweet, too-thin crap."

This morning's Wall Street Journal reveals that Starbucks plans to unveil two new drink lines later today as it tries to combat the decline in customers visiting its US stores.

This summer, the company will introduce smoothie-like drinks made with fresh fruit and whey powder at all US locations. Starbucks says they're the first stage of a broader push into healthier drink and food offerings.

The company also will begin selling a more-indulgent sweet, icy beverage developed with an Italian company. That drink will only be sold in select markets, including Southern California.

Unfortunately, neither effort will improve the crappy hot chocolate.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pizza you can eat while you drive,
from Dunkin' Donuts

I'm probably the only regular customer of Dunkin' Donuts who has never tasted their coffee. Actually I've never tasted anybody's coffee. I was once accidentally served coffee ice cream and I hated it, and that was close enough. My mother has never tasted coffee either. Her mother drank about 14 gallons each day, so maybe mom was rebelling against grandma. My wife tasted coffee once and hated it and never tasted it again. Maybe she married me because she knew she knew she'd never have to make coffee for me.

I've heard that Dunk makes great coffee and there's a Dunk conveniently next door to my office. The coffee smells good, but I've never been tempted to try it. On the other hand, Dunk does make the world's best hot chocolate, which I drink every morning in cold weather.

It's infinitely better than the too-sweet, too-thin crap they serve at Starbucks. I was in an airport yesterday at breakfast time and Starbucks hot chocolate was my only warm beverage option. I hated having to to say grande instead of medium. If English was good enough for Moses and Jesus, it's good enough for me. Grande is Starbucks-Italian for medium. In Italian-Italian, however, grande means large and medio means medium. Dunk lets you order in good old American English.

Anyway, back in February, Dunkin' Donuts, which calls itself "the world's largest coffee and baked goods chain," officially launched its all-day Oven-Toasted menu. The new program is an effort to get people to spend money at the chain after breakfast, and includes easy-to-hold-and-eat Flatbread Sandwiches, Hash Browns, and Personal Pizzas.

Having grown up in New Haven, the spiritual heartland (or maybe the bellyland) of American pizza culture, I have very high standards for pizza. I regard white pizza as heresy, and what most Americans consider to be good pizza -- whether it comes from neighborhood independents or national chains like Domino's or Sbarro -- I think is barely above the level of cardboard with ketchup and American cheese.

Pizza Hut is in a special category. Fellow pizza maven Cynical Cousin Dave and I are willing to eat it and simply don't compare it to the genuine article. We've put PH in it's own classification. As we say, "It's not pizza, it's pizza Hut."

The new Dunkin' Donuts Personal Pizzas are five inches in diameter, a tad bugger than a CD or a DVD. They're basically clones of the Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pizza. You can select three varieties: Supreme (sausage, pepperoni plus green and red peppers); Pepperoni (with mozzarella); and Cheese (four varieties blended.)

The first time I got one, I was surprised at its DVD size and assumed I would want a second; but found it both filling and satisfying. Although I hate green peppers, I ordered the Supreme, and didn't bother picking out the peppers. They didn't kill me. I've had about six more since then. That's a good sign.

Yesterday, after my plane landed, I drove to a Dunk near the airport and picked up a pizza to eat as I drove. When I got near my office, I got in line at the Dunk drive-up window, put the empty pizza box in their trash can, and bought a hot chocolate. Maybe I should buy some stock as well as food.

As with PH pizza, a Dunk pizza is not "real" pizza. But it's cooked much faster, available much closer, costs much less, is tasty, and can be carried, opened and eaten with one hand, and it's NEAT.

There's no way I could drive a car while eating a slice from Sally's, Pepe's or Papa's. The sauce, mootz, oil and clams would be all over the upholstery, dashboard and carpet.

Just as Mickey Dee's Egg McMuffin turned out to be the perfect one-handed mobile breakfast, Dunkin' Donuts has devised the perfect one-handed mobile pizza. It might even provide some McMuffin competition, because you can get it in the morning, or any time.

Bravo! Dunkin' Donuts. Bravo! When can I get a pizza grande?

Monday, April 28, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

62-inch screen for your face
works for games and TV

The Vuzix video iWear AV920-C is described as the first personal video display that allows multiplayer gaming off a single video game console. The AV920-C connects to Xbox360, PlayStation3, Nintendo Wii and other consoles, then allows users to select their half or quadrant of the TV video screen and view it on their personal 62-inch virtual screen. With the ability to daisy-chain the devices together, up to four players can game without distraction or fear than an opponent can view their screen, the company says.

The iWear AV920-C is designed to connect to almost all audio/video devices with video-out capabilities. It is 3-D-enabled for automatic 2-D/3-D control, and includes removable, integrated speakers and AccuTilt viewer that pivots up to 15 degrees for a comfortable viewing angle. The iWear can be worn with or without eyeglasses, and includes an integrated rechargeable lithium-ion battery as well as mini USB AC charger. It is available with the AV920-C Console Kit bundled or sold separately.

The AV920, with its 62-inch virtual screen and twin 640 x 480 high resolution LCD displays, brings video content to life for all electronic devices with video-out connections. Compatible devices include iPods, cell phones, portable DVD players,
and gaming consoles. With a starting price of $349, the AV920’s are good for the business traveler, commuter, college student or the techno-geek that wants it all.

Weighing just 2.9 ounces, the AV920 is fully adjustable for maximum comfort, includes an AccuTilt™ viewer that pivots up to 15 degrees up and down. The design allows for use with or without glasses. The speakers on the AV920 can even be moved out of the way or removed completely for users that want to plug in their own
high-end audiophile or noise-canceling headphones. The AV920 also supports iWear 3-D® with a growing list of 3D DVD titles available at

Features include:
• Virtual 62” screen viewed from 9-feet
• iWear 3D Enabled for automatic 2D/3D control
• Twin high-resolution 640x480 (920,000 pixels) LCD displays
• 32-degree field of view
• 24-bit true color (16 million colors)
• 60 Hz progressive scan update rate
• Rechargeable lithium ion battery with approximately 4-5 hours of continuous
• Removable, integrated speakers
• AccuTilt™ viewer with 15 degrees of angle

This is a preview, not a review.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Samsung intros HDTVS with 3D and networking

At a press preview Wednesday, Samsung demonstrated some of the industry’s first Hi-def plasma sets capable of supporting 3-D content in the form of PC software, video games and digital movie file sources, as well as InfoLink Internet connectivity and networking .

Samsung’s “Touch of Color” (ToC) models started arriving in stores about a month ago, and additional models will arrive through May. The new style features gloss-black cabinets, floating glass frames in some SKUs and narrow accent borders in red around the edges of the bezel frames. The accents are added using a special dual-injection fabrication process that places the color into the plastic of the frame.

Depending on the model line the red accent stripe is designed to stand out when backlit, or in other models, when lighted head on. Depending on the viewing angle, the accent takes on a crystalline appearance.

“ToC is just the latest step in our company's commitment to constantly introduce innovative designs along with innovative technologies,” a Sammy spokesman said. “Developed from years of research and design, specifically in the design-conscious automotive and fashion industries, we hope our Touch of Color design can redefine the role HDTVs play in the home by holding both entertainment and artistic value.”

The Series 6 and 7 LCD TVs are being distributed to Samsung’s big-box and A/V specialty dealers, but will not be offered through mass merchants or discount chains. Samsung's InfoLink RSS service delivers news, weather, stock reports, sports and other content from USA Today directly to the TV screen using a networked broadband connection to the set. Users will also have access to digital media from their PCs via USB 2.0 with WiseLink.

Series 6 650, which began shipping in March, and Series 7 750 LCD HDTVs feature 1080p picture resolution, up to a 50,000:1 dynamic contrast ratios, Samsung's Auto Motion Plus 120Hz frame rate and Ultra Clear Panel technologies. The sets are also EPA as EnergyStar rated. Models include an InfoLink RSS function to access USA Today news content from the Web.

Models in the Series 7 750 LCD line will all ship in May and include the 39.9-, 45.9- and 52-inch screen sizes. They will add enhanced networking and multimedia management with WiseLink Pro, which plays MPEG4 and DiVX video files as well as MP3 music and JPEG photos through a bridge to user’s PC, and an illuminated Wheel-Key remote. The sets also Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA) compliant, allowing consumers to share content with other DLNA certified products.

Series 5 550 LCD TVs ship in May and include the 31.5-, ($1,099), 37.1- ($1,399), 40- ($1,699) 46- ($1,999) and 52.2-inch ($2,799) screen sizes. Forty-inch models and larger all offer 1080p resolution and 1,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratios. Smaller models have 720p resolution.

Series 4 450 series LCD TVs began shipping in March and feature the 18.9- ($429), 21.9- ($549) 26- ($749), 31.5- ($899), 37- ($1,199) and 39.9-inch ($1,299) screen sizes. All feature 720p resolution.

In plasma, the company is offering Series 6 650 models in the 50- ($2,599), 58- ($3,999) and 63-inch ($4,999) screen sizes. All will include TOC design styling with invisible speaker placement, 1080p resolution, a 1,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio Digital Natural Image Engine (DNIe) Pro 18-bit Natural True Color video processing. Features include Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC) interoperability, WiseLink (USB 2.0) JPEG and MP3 support and four HDMI 1.3 inputs.

Series 5 550 plasma models, which began shipping in March, are offered in the 50- ($2,299) and 58-inch ($3,599) screen sizes. Models will offer three HDMI 1.3 inputs, DNIe+ and Natural True Color 18-bit processing, 1080p resolution, and a 1,000,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio.

Samsung said its Series 4 720p plasma displays will have the ability to present 3D content, when viewed with a special emitter and glasses. Samsung will begin distributing the glasses under its own brand as an accessory item this year. Series 4 models, which began shipping in March, include the 42- ($1,199) and 50-inch ($1,699) screen sizes.

Series 6 650 models are offered in the 50- ($1,299), 56- ($1,499), 61- ($1,799) and 72-inch ($2,999) screen sizes. All offer 1080p resolution, 10,000:1 dynamic contrast and feature Cinema Smooth 120Hz frame rate light engines, 3D capability via a separate kit, DNIe image processing, WiseLink (USB 2.0) with MP3 and JPEG playback, and compatibility with Digital Media Adapter technology.

Series 7 750 models are offered in the 61- ($2,099) and 67-inch ($2,499) screen sizes and add Cinema Pure LED 120Hz backlighting. (info from TWICE)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

New Nikon can use Wifi for photo sharing

Next month you should be able to get two new compact Nikon COOLPIX digital cameras with with 9.0 effective megapixels, a 3x, 38-114mm Zoom-NIKKOR lens, Optical Vibration Reduction (VR) Image Stabilization and manual sensitivity settings as high as 3200.

The COOLPIX S52 and S52c feature Optical VR Image Stabilization technology, which compensates for camera shake as well as ISO capabilities up to 3200, which provide more opportunities to capture fast moving subjects and greater flexibility and clarity when shooting in low-light settings. These cameras also have an AUTO ISO control, which automatically selects the optimal sensitivity across a range between ISO 100 and ISO 800, and up to ISO 2000 in High-Sensitivity mode.

Providing even more control and freedom in photo taking, the S52 and S52c come with a 3x Zoom-NIKKOR lens designed to capture brilliant detail and vivid colors in every photo and a huge 3.0-inch high-resolution LCD screen allowing easy sharing and viewing of images. Also, these new cameras are built on Nikon's innovative EXPEED™ digital image processing system designed to enhance noise reduction and improve the signal-to-noise (S/N) ratio.

Like all cameras in the COOLPIX line, the S52 and S52c include Nikon's unique image innovations including enhanced Face-Priority AF, which automatically finds and focuses on up to five faces within the frame; In-Camera Red-Eye Fix, which can automatically detect and correct red eye in a photo; and D-Lighting, which compensates for excessive backlight or insufficient flash in images.

The Wi-Fi enabled S52c can send images directly via email through its Wi-Fi connection, as well as support my Picturetown, Nikon’s photo sharing and storage service. Through my Picturetown, users can email pictures directly to friends and family, publish pictures to the photo community sharing Website Flickr®, and link their photos to blogs and social networking sites. Pictures can also be sent to the email addresses of a BlackBerry® device for viewing.

The S52 and S52c both feature the Pictmotion function which will allow users to combine their favorite movies and photos and create in-camera slide shows with music including songs uploaded from iTunes®.

The COOLPIX S52 and S52c come packaged with Nikon's exclusive COOLPIX Software Suite for organizing, editing and sharing photos. The S52 and S52c are SDHC compatible and utilize Nikon's ultra-compact EN-EL8 rechargeable Li-ion battery. The S52 will be available in Crimson Red and Midnight Black. The S52c will be available in Vibrant Black.

The COOLPIX S52 and S52c will be available nationwide in May. The S52 has an MSRP of $249.95, and the S52c has an MSRP** of $299.95. For more information about these and other COOLPIX cameras, see

Ritz Camera and Nikon have teamed up for a “green” promotion with a special-edition Coolpix and the promise of reducing consumer’s “carbon footprint.”

When a consumer purchases a special-edition green Coolpix S52, Ritz will make a donation to

When a consumer purchases a special-edition green Coolpix S52, Ritz will make a donation. The effect of the donation, Ritz said, would make the consumer “carbon neutral” for one month by off-setting 1.91 tons of carbon dioxide.

According to the company, the goal is to remove 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the environment through’s tree planting efforts.

The “eco-green” color S52 is the first camera Nikon has offered for an environmental promotion and will be available while supplies last. It will be sold exclusively through Ritz.
This is a preview, not a review.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Two new music phones from Nokia

On Tuesday, Nokia introduced two new music-enabled cellphones as additions to its XpressMusic series. The Nokia 5320 and 5220 are expected to begin shipping in the third quarter of the year.

Featuring 3G social entertainment capabilities, the Nokia 5320 XpressMusic delivers music and web 2.0 access. With new voice-controlled Say and Play feature, users can merely say the name of a favorite artist or song to automatically play it. Additional features include dedicated XpressMusic keys, a 3.5mm audio jack, up to 24 hours of playback time, an audio chip for hi-fi sound quality, extendable memory up to 8GB, HS-USB for fast music transfer and HSDPA for fast access to data.

The full featured Internet browser, access to Ovi and Nokia Search 4.1 allow users to find and share media content and information "with ease," according to Nokia. In addition, dedicated N-Gage gaming keys and landscape view deliver a true gaming experience, Nokia says, while HSDPA provides fast access to N-Gage, which will be available for download. The Nokia 5320 XpressMusic has an estimated retail price of $350 before carrier subsidies.

The Nokia 5220 XpressMusic device offers instant access to music on-the-go with a unique, asymmetrical design. Featured for the first time on a Nokia XpressMusic device, a built-in lanyard makes the device easy to carry. Additional features of include up to 24 hours playback time, dedicated XpressMusic keys and a 3.5mm audio jack. The 5220 XpressMusic has an estimated retail price of $250 before carrier subsidies.

Both phones are compatible with the recently launched Nokia Music Store and offer easy music side-loading. With Nokia Music Store, consumers can choose from more than 2 million tracks from both major and independent labels; international and local artists and simply browse, download, stream and sync either to a PC or side-load directly to a mobile device.

Complementing the new Nokia XpressMusic devices, Nokia also announced today the MD-8 Mini Speakers. With a sleek, pocket-sized design, these ultra-portable mini speakers feature battery playtime of up to 40 hours, an FM antenna, and a tangle-free cable. It will begin shipping in the second quarter of 2008.
This is a preview, not a review.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Sony says its HDR-TG1 is world's smallest
hi-def camcorder

The new pocket-sized Sony HDR-TG1 Handycam® camcorder weighs only 10 ounces and masures just 1.3-inches wide by 4.7-inches tall by 2.5-inches deep.

It can record 1920 x 1080 High Definition video and 4-megapixel digital photos directly to Sony Memory Stick PRO Duo™ or PRO Duo Mark2 media cards. Its size and full recording capability makes it the world's smallest full Hi-Def camcorder, according to Sony.

Another bonus for any traveler is the camcorder's durable titanium body and premium hard coating that makes it highly resistant to scratches. It's supplied with a 4GB PRO Duo Mark2 media card so it's ready to go straight out of the box and you don't have to make space in your travel bag for extra discs or tapes.

The camcorder incorporates face detection technology for both video and still images, to identify up to eight faces in the camcorder's 2.7-inch touch panel LCD screen, and automatically adjust focus, exposure, color control for natural-looking skin tones, and when photos are taken, flash control. It also allocates more encoding bits to a detected face during the encoding process for the best possible picture when people are the subjects.

It features advanced video and audio technologies with simple, intuitive operation. It is equipped with a high-quality Carl Zeiss® Vario-Tessar® 10x optical zoom lens and 2-megapixel ClearVid™ CMOS sensor with Exmor™-derived technology, engineered to minimize picture noise.

The camera's BIONZ™ processing engine also features noise reduction capabilities in addition to fast processing speeds. This engine powers the model's dynamic range optimization feature, which automatically adjusts under- or over-exposed areas in a picture. These technologies together produce high-resolution video and photos with natural color reproduction and rich details.

Audio is recorded in Dolby® Digital 5.1-channel surround sound and features a built-in zoom microphone, delivering clear recordings of your subjects along with the video.

The HDR-TG1 camcorder will be available in May for about $900. There is also an optional travel kit (Sony ACC-TCH5) that includes a battery, travel charger and pouch, for about $100. A custom-fit case (Sony LCM-TGA) wil lsell for about $50.
This is a preview, not a review.

Friday, April 18, 2008

TiVo lets you download from web to TV

TiVo recently updated its Desktop Plus PC software so users can watch a broad range of Web video entertainment available directly from their TV. The application, which uses the TiVo Season Pass™ feature, allows users to subscribe to and watch a broad range of video content available through Real Simple Syndication (“RSS”) feeds, including everything from network nightly newscasts and The Sesame Street Podcast to Daily Headlines from MTV News and College Humor from CHTV. The application also gives consumers access to niche interest and hobbyist videos covering areas far more specialized than cable and satellite channels.

The availability of the web video follows an announcement that TiVo subscribers will be able to access YouTube™ videos directly on the TV via a TiVo DVR later this year. Upon launch of the TiVo-YouTube service, TiVo users will be able to search, browse and watch these videos directly on their television sets.

The new web video capability requires TiVo Desktop Plus 2.6, an update to the Windows application which also converts TV shows recorded on a TiVo DVR for viewing on portable devices including iPod and Sony PlayStation™ Portable. TiVo Desktop Plus 2.6 is available for a one-time fee of $24.95, and is a free upgrade to earlier versions. TiVo continues to work with Roxio on delivering equivalent functionality on the Mac platform.

With this new feature, users can choose web videos downloaded on the home PC using web browsers, RSS video clients such as iTunes podcasts, or other video download software to automatically copy to their TiVo DVR’s Now Playing List alongside recorded broadcast and cable TV shows. TiVo is also providing an on-screen guide of select web video sources for users to browse and select as individual episodes or get a Season Pass™. Subscribers can even use the TiVo service’s Season Pass functionality to get their own personal video folders on their PC, where they save their home movies and other video downloads. High Definition television enthusiasts will appreciate that TiVo preserves the original quality of high-resolution web videos, up to 720p, when delivered to TiVo Series3 or TiVo HD DVRs.

For more information on TiVo or to download TiVo Desktop Plus visit

Thursday, April 17, 2008

New Panasonic digicam uses Wi-Fi to upload, and can record Hi-def video

Yesterday Panasonic introduced the Lumix DMC-TZ50, with Wi-Fi capabilities, 802.11b/g wireless LAN connectivity and access to T-Mobile® HotSpot service. Users can upload digital photos directly to Picasa Web Albums, a free online photo-sharing service from Google. The 9.1 megapixel TZ50 has a 28mm wide-angle lens, 10x optical zoom and the ability to record High Definition video (720p).

Panasonic uses the T-Mobile HotSpot service and Picasa Web Albums’ APIs to create an online environment and community for sharing digital photos. After taking photos , users will be able to wirelessly send one or multiple photos, directly to Google’s Picasa Web Albums. Users can connect to standard wireless home networks, but the TZ50 can also connect to the T-Mobile HotSpot Service, which provides fast and reliable Wi-Fi Internet acess at more than 8,800 public locations throughout the United States, including Borders® Books & Music stores, Hyatt Hotels and many major airports. The LUMIX TZ50 comes with an offer for 12-months of complimentary T-Mobile HotSpot Wi-FI service.

Users can register one email account with their TZ50, so after uploading their photos to Picasa Web Albums, they can have the URL to that album sent to the registered account. Since many cellphones and smartphones receive emails, users can register their own email address and then forward that Picasa Web Albums URL to friends and family, all while away from home and without using a computer. In addition, users can browse their albums to confirm that photos have been successfully uploaded, and choose to delete uploaded photos directly on the digital camera.

The TZ50 is the latest member of the LUMIX TZ-Series, with a 28mm wide-angle 10x optical zoom Leica DC lens (equivalent to 28-280mm on a 35mm film camera) in a compact body. The 28mm wide-angle lens captures subjects and scenes wider at the same standpoint than a normal 35mm camera. The new TZ50 integrates the capability of recording 720p Hi-def movies together with its direct output function allowing users to watch both still photos and movies on an HDTV via an optional component cable or by inserting the SD Memory Card into the SD slot, which is some HDTVs.

The TZ50 also incorporates Panasonic’s advanced Intelligent Auto (iA) mode consisting of seven technologies designed to help make photo-taking easier.

· Intelligent Exposure – Photos will no longer be under- or over-exposed. Instead, the TZ50 instantly analyze the framed image and adjusts the brightness in areas that are too dark because of dim lighting, backlighting or the use of the flash. The camera will automatically adjust the brightness accordingly.

· Digital Red-eye Correction– Helps eliminate the red-eye problem that sometimes results when taking flash shots at the night. Incorporated into the built-in flash, the camera emits a small preliminary flash before the main flash, detects red-eye and will digitally correct it.

· MEGA O.I.S. – Gyrosensors detect hand-shake and the lens system shifts to compensate, helping to prevent hand-shake from creating a blurry image.

· Intelligent ISO – Determines if the photo subject is moving and change the ISO setting and shutter speed accordingly.

· Intelligent Scene Selector – Senses the ambient conditions, recognizes the shooting environment and will automatically select the appropriate scene mode from: Scenery, Portrait, Macro, Night Portrait or Night Scenery mode. This intuitive technology, helps the consumer use the most common scene modes that are built into the camera, but often go unused, without making any manual adjustments.

· Face Detection – Detects faces anywhere in the frame and automatically chooses the optimal focus and exposure settings so portraits come out clear and crisp. Detecting up to 15 faces, Panasonic’s Face Detection can even track a face if the subject is moving.

· Continuous AF – The Continuous AF (auto focus) system maintains focus on the subject even without pressing a shutter button halfway, thus minimizing the AF time.

Once a user is in iA mode, these multi-capable functions happen automatically no adjustments or settings changes need to be made. Furthermore, the DMC-TZ50 has Intelligent LCD function, which detects the lighting condition and controls the brightness level of the LCD in 11 fine steps, to offer a display with excellent clarity in any situation with the newly developed 460,000-dot high resolution in 3.0-inch LCD screen.

The TZ50 incorporates the Venus Engine IV, image processing LSI chip. It is said to improve noise reduction, elevate the detection accuracy and corrective effects in both MEGA O.I.S. and Intelligent ISO and reduce the shutter release time lag.

The Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TZ50 will be available in May 2008 with a suggested retail price of $449.95.
This is a preview, not a review.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Super deal on Brother fax at
(NOT at Costco stores)

Through April 20 you can get a Brother FX2820 Laser fax for just $89.99 DELIVERED from Their regular price is $169.99.

Our office fax is a seven-year old Brother that is doing just fine, but at this ridiculously low price, I ordered the 2820 just to keep on the shelf to have ready for when the old one finally craps out.

The Brother IntelliFAX-2820 laser plain paper fax is a good choice for your small business or home office. This 8 MB laser fax stores up to 500 pages for out-of-paper reception and fax broadcasting. Dual Access capability lets you QuickScan faxes into memory while sending or receiving.

Up to 15 cpm multi-copying
8 MB dual access memory
250-sheet front-loading paper cassette
20-page automatic document feeder
Built-in USB 2.0 interface for future laser printing (up to 15 ppm)
220 station auto dialing
Fax broadcasting up to 270 locations
Fax forwarding, paging and remote retrieval
Automatically receives fax and voice calls on the same phone line
Call Waiting/Caller ID and distinctive ring ready
Built-in telephone handset
Electronic cover page
Password controlled transmission lock
Answering machine interface
Polling and delayed transmission (up to 50 timers)
Error correction mode (ECM)
64-shade gray scale

Copy Features:
Multi-copying (up to 99 copies)
Reduction and Enlargement (50%-200%)
2 in 1 or 4 in 1 layout

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Book previews online

I'm nearly finished writing two books that should be published later this spring, and free previews are online at

Phone Systems & Phones for Small Business & Home provides the information people need to select phone equipment and services for professional offices, small businesses and homes. It will also help people use the equipment properly, to get the most out of it, and to keep it working. It will help phone people understand computer people, and help the people who sell phone equipment.

Here are a few advance reviews:

"For the technologically impaired and the electronically disillusioned, help is here. If you read this book, you’ll save time, save money and look smart. Marcus uses his wit and years-upon-years of experience unraveling techno-garble to give us a clear roadmap to a cost-effective, thoroughly functional phone system, and more. To all who would enter here, have no fear. This is the first practical guide to having the best phone system, at the least cost."

"Outstanding! An entertaining (and sometimes humorous) thorough education on phones and telecommunications. It’s a must read for shoppers as well as salespeople."

"After spending just three minutes flipping through the pages, I learned that my telephone problem could be cured for 99 cents, instead of nearly $400. I expect that this book will save my company a lot of money. It belongs in every office, and in many homes."


I Only Flunk My Brightest Students: stories from school and real life is a collection of more than 70 stories -- mostly short and funny, one long and serious and funny and shocking. They deal with my early childhood, my time in public school and college, and while working in advertising, telecommunications, journalism, and as an amateur attorney. Culture clash is a frequent theme. So is food. And phoniness. There is a bit of sex, drugs and rock & roll. There are four murders. The main title is a quote from one of my teachers. She was nuts.

Here are a few advance reviews:

“I loved the 3-way sex scene. It seemed familiar. Was I there?”

“You’re a great story teller. I laughed my ass off.”

“I think I knew the lesbian painter. When does the movie come out?”

“I'm glad you didn't see me doing anything bad.”

“Obviously your typing class accomplished something useful. You almost made me pee in my pants. Very, very funny.”

“I didn’t realize what an a-hole I was back then. If this book wasn’t so funny, I’d probably sue you for libel. I'll settle for an autographed copy.”

Monday, April 14, 2008

Save on two-fer at Panasonic photo school

Panasonic's Digital Photo Academy, a series of nationwide digital photography workshops, is offering a Mother’s Day special that allows someone to go to school with Mom at no additional cost. While the promo is aimed at mothers, I doubt that fathers, or even non-parents, will be rejected from the classroom. Gift certificates can be purchased by calling 1-877-DP-ACAD-1. The Digital Photo Academy offers courses at three levels, making it accessible for people with any level of photography skills.

Courses are scheduled for Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa and Washington, D.C. Each level of Digital Photo Academy courses is offered monthly in each city and you can bring whatever brand of digital camera you use. Gift certificates can be purchased for any of these three levels of courses:

Beginner Course: Three Hours, $50. The “Discovering Digital” beginner course is designed for all types of users, whether it is the family record keeper, a passionate scrapbooker, the casual point-and-shoot user or the person looking to choose the right camera. Instructors address how to reduce red-eye, better use a flash, include special effects and create better composition. Beyond photographic techniques, the course also teaches valuable “post-capture” skills, such as how to use Adobe® Photoshop® elements to create a greeting card or calendar, and send prints to friends and family via e-mail.

Intermediate Course: Four Hours, $65. The “Digital Endeavours” intermediate-level course is designed for users who are quite familiar with the settings on their point-and-shoot and are looking to take digital photography to the next level. Either a recent purchaser of a digital single-lens reflex (SLR) camera, or someone considering buying one, benefits from this course. The class compares point-and-shoot cameras to SLRs and discusses the differences between the two categories, helping to ensure a smooth transition. For those who have some experience in post-capture and Photoshop, this class offers more advanced techniques, such as burning and dodging and an introduction to color management. Attendees also will learn about printed layouts, and how to make newsletters and brochures.

Advanced Course: Eight hours, $150. At the advanced level, the “Digital Vision” course is divided into two parts: in-field shooting and learning post-capture computer application skills. The four-hour in-field shooting session will be held in local parks, streets, during seasonal events to capture newsworthy current affairs. The second component, involves four hours of classroom time learning techniques from Adobe® Photoshop® Creative Suite 2, such as converting and processing RAW files, using layers and masks, working with black and white files, and more.

Photo Academy courses are held in photogenic and inspirational locations, according to Panasonic, such as professional studios and museums. They are taught by professional photographers who serve as ongoing resources to students after the course has ended. Classes are limited to 15 students each.

The Digital Photo Academy Mother’s Day gift certificate special is available for purchase until Monday, May 12, 2008. A gift certificate must be purchased for a specified level, and can be redeemed for that level only, in any city before December 31, 2008. To sign-up and purchase a personalized Panasonic LUMIX Digital Photo Academy Mother’s Day gift certificate, call 1.877.DP.ACAD.1 or visit for more information and to view course schedules and locations.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Get to know Tom Lehrer

Tom Lehrer claims he "went from adolescence to senility, trying to bypass maturity."

He earned earned his BA in math (Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa) from Harvard in 1947, when he was just 18. Tom later taught at MIT, Harvard, and Wellesley, but is best known for hilarious songwriting, much of it political satire in the 1950s and 60s. I first discovered Tom when Mad magazine bound-in a "flexi" record of his famous Hunting Song.

I always will remember,
'Twas a year ago November,
I went out to hunt some deer
On a morning bright and clear.
I went and shot the maximum the game laws would allow:
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow.

I was in no mood to trifle,
I took down my trusty rifle
And went out to stalk my prey.
What a haul I made that day!
I tied them to my fender, and I drove them home somehow:
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow.

The law was very firm, it
Took away my permit,
The worst punishment I ever endured.
It turned out there was a reason,
Cows were out of season,
And one of the hunters wasn't insured.

People ask me how I do it,
And I say "There's nothin' to it,
You just stand there lookin' cute,
And when something moves, you shoot!"
And there's ten stuffed heads in my trophy room right now:
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a pure-bred Guernsey cow.

Lehrer's musical career was brief: he said that he had performed just 109 shows and written 37 songs over 20 years. Tom developed a significant cult following in the US and abroad. Britain's Princess Margaret was a fan, and so am I. I can still sing lyrics I first heard in seventh grade.

This is the Vatican Rag.

First you get down on your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Do whatever steps you want if
You have cleared them with the Pontiff.
Everybody say his own
Kyrie eleison,
Doin' the Vatican Rag.

Get in line in that processional,
Step into that small confessional.
There the guy who's got religion'll
Tell you if your sin's original.
If it is, try playin' it safer,
Drink the wine and chew the wafer,
Two, four, six, eight,
Time to transubstantiate!

So get down upon your knees,
Fiddle with your rosaries,
Bow your head with great respect,
And genuflect, genuflect, genuflect!

Make a cross on your abdomen,
When in Rome do like a Roman;
Ave Maria,
Gee, it's good to see ya.
Gettin' ecstatic an' sorta dramatic an'
Doin' the Vatican

And here's Oedipus Rex

From the Bible to the popular song,
There's one theme that we find right along;
Of all ideals they hail as good,
The most sublime is motherhood.

There was a man though, who it seems,
Once carried this ideal to extremes.
He loved his mother and she loved him,
And yet his story is rather grim.

There once lived a man named Oedipus Rex,
You may have heard about his odd complex.
His name appears in Freud's index
'Cause he loved his mother.

His rivals used to say quite a bit
That as a monarch he was most unfit.
But still in all they had to admit
That he loved his mother.

Yes, he loved his mother like no other,
His daughter was his sister and his son was his brother.
One thing on which you can depend is,
He sure knew who a boy's best friend is.

When he found what he had done,
He tore his eyes out, one by one.
A tragic end to a loyal son
Who loved his mother.

So be sweet and kind to mother,
Now and then have a chat.
Buy her candy or some flowers,
Or a brand new hat.
But maybe you had better let it go at that.

Or you may find yourself with a quite complex complex
And you may end up like Oedipus.
I'd rather marry a duck-billed platypus
Than end up like old Oedipus Rex.

See: and for info and search for "Tom Lehrer" on Youtube for some great videos. There's one fantastic video that uses clips from Star Wars movies with Tom's We Will All Go Together When We Go (about nuclear anihilation). A lot of Tom's lyrics are online, too, including here. There's even musical accompanyment so you can sing along.

In an amazing coincidence, on Wednesday I turned my buddy Gary onto Tom Lehrer, and I later found out that Tuesday was Tom's 80th brithday. Very spooky. Happy birthday, Tom.

Tom Leher's work is an important part of Baby Boomer culture. If you somehow managed to miss it, or want to go back, click on the links above. We old farts have an important duty to make Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers aware of Tom. They may not understand all of the historical references, but most of his humor is timeless.

"So long Mom, I'm off to drop the bomb, so don't wait up for me."

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Get $400 in Blockbuster movies and games with Panasonic video projector

You can receive a free BLOCKBUSTER Rental Card (up to $400 value) for up to 52 free movie or game rentals, plus a 2-year limited warranty ($250 value) with a Panasonic PT-AE2000U or PT-AX200U home theater projector.

According the Panasonic, "Developed in collaboration with leading filmmakers, Panasonic’s Hollywood tuning process produces images that mirror the director’s artistic vision and intent. This process is refined in the new PT-AE2000U by maximizing the image quality of full-HD content in Blu-ray discs and HD broadcasts for large-screen viewing. A carefully tuned optical system teams up with a newly developed Detail Clarity Processor to dramatically boost image clarity. The PT-AE2000U offers the ultimate Home Cinema experience with crisp, full HD images in remarkable detail." Suggested retail price is $3499.

The PT-AX200U has features optimized for video games, less resolution and contrast, but greater brightness. Its SRP is $1999.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Smellaphone being tested in Japan
(probably not April Fooling, but I can't guarantee it)

After satisfying the senses of sight and sound through video streams and music downloads, Japan's NTT Communications aims to tap into the sense of smell with a new system that allows users to send fragrances from their cellphones.

In a trial later this month, users will be able to select and send fragrance requests to an in-home unit that concocts and releases the various fragrances. The dispenser holds 16 cartridges of base fragrances that are mixed to produce the various scents like a printer mixes inks to produce other colors.

A caller chooses a scent from choices available on a Website from a cellphone. Instructions for making the scent are then transmitted to the fragrance device through infrared from the phone, and then the scent is quickly mixed and emitted.

Another option is to send the instructions via e-mail. The message is intercepted by a home gateway unit that sends the instructions to the fragrance device. With this method users can set the time and date of fragrance emission, so one can come home to the relaxing scent of lavender, for example.

There's even room for creating customized scents, which can be shared with other users through the online fragrance "playlist."

The technology is not only limited to creating a pleasant-smelling workplace or home. NTT also sees it as a way to enhance multimedia content. For example, instead of just sending an image of a bouquet of roses to a friend, one can boost the experience by sending the fragrance as well.

NTT hopes the fragrance emitter will cost about US$195 when eventually launched commercially. The company believes that fragrance is the next important medium for telecommunications, as more value is placed on high sensory information. A survey showed that 56 percent of people polled use aromatherapy or believe that it has positive benefits.

"Aromatherapy can reduce stress and help you relax, and to be able to control smell implies one has the power to manipulate feelings as well," said Akira Sakaino, from NTT Communications' Net Business Division. (info from The New York Times)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Cellphone for old farts

Clarity is a division of headset-maker Plantronics that markets amplified phones, big-button phones and gadgets for the hearing- and seeing-impaired. It's getting into the cellphone business with a new phone designed for the elderly.

The prepaid unlocked-GSM ClarityLife features large buttons, simplified user interface and a dedicated emergency dialing button like its competitors. It also has a large screen with magnified text display, amplifies incoming voices up to 20dB, and is said to make "conversation clearer and easier to understand for people with all degrees of hearing loss."

When closed, the slider format phone displays only four large buttons. When open, it reveals a dialing keypad with large numeric buttons.

Unlike the Jitterbug-branded phone for the elderly, the ClarityLife model doesn't use a large 911 button for emergency use but a red heart-shaped back-panel button that cycles through five phone numbers until someone picks up. It also lets users select their eight most-called contacts. Other features for the elderly include a strong vibrating ringer, flashing orange LED incoming call indicator, and a flashlight.

The phone will be available in the fall through special-needs distribution channels, including audiologists and specialized retailers. Pricing has not been announced yet. (Info from TWICE.)
This is a preview, not a review.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Platinum plated Nokia cellphone

If basic black is not glamorous enough for you, British luxo-enhancer Goldstriker will be pleased to purvey a platinum plated Nokia 8800 cellphone for a mere 1049.95 pounds (that's around $2100 dollars, and compares to about $650 for the standard phone).

If platinum doesn't light your fire, you can also get gold or silver, and choose other phone models, as well as blinged-up iPods and other hardware. There's also a $50 gold-plated cigar, a $2000 coffee maker, and a million-buck backgammon set.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

time out

I'm taking a few days off.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Paladin knife for electro-geeks

Paladin, the company that specializes in tools and testers for telephone and data network installation and testing, has partnered with SOG Specialty Knives to produce the PowerBlade multi-tool, the only premium knife custom made for working with wire and cable.

It can strip cable, cut wire, slice pizza, frighten away marauders and intimidate your coworkers. It's 12 tools in one. A classic folding blade knife, the PowerBlade has unexpected features and distinctive styling that will appeal to electronic and electrical geeks -- both pros and amateurs.

High quality materials and construction
Premium AUS 8 stainless steel
Long-lasting, cryogenically heat treated blade
Tough, military-grade Zytel plastic handles
Functional easy opening straight-edge blade with liner lock
Stripping notches for 24-12 gage wire
Spring-loaded stripper for UTP phone and data wire
Cable stripper
Comfortable contoured grips
Electrical-themed handle accents and belt-clip
Compact and lightweight

Price is $66. Available at

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Heavy-duty, hard-to-lose Moto cellphone

My wife dropped her silver Razr into a puddle. I lost my black Razr somewhere in North America. Forunately, the wizards at Motorola have come up with a great solution.

Moto's new DynaTAC is tough to lose and tough to break. Weighing in at a hefty 28 ounces, and measuring 10 inches long, it will be very obvious if it's not hanging from your belt.

There's no music, no camera, no Bluetooth, no live video, no distracting animated displays; but if you want something solid and dependable, this is a great choice. Convenient SND and END buttons make it easy to keep track of what you're doing. Built-in memory handles up to 30 speed dial numbers.

Talk time is more than half an hour, so there's plenty of time for important calls before the overnight recharge. You can't get red or silver, but the handsome tan and gray design is classic, and DynaTAC will be at home just about anywhere.

Price is $3,995.