Monday, June 30, 2008

Giant twist-tie beats the bungee

KwikTwist is an industrial size twist-tie able to hold up to 100 lbs. of weight. It has at least 1,746,324 uses in home, car, garage, office, warehouse, factory, etc. It's great for camping, boating, fishing and sports. You can use it to attach almost anything to anything -- and un-attach it quickly.

KwitTwist is made of a flexible heavy gauge steel alloy wire covered with soft foam plastic shielding to protect whatever you have to tie or wrap. KwikTwist will float in water and will withstand UV sunlight, but not gasoline or harsh chemicals.

Wrap it around any object, make three tight twists and the object is held securely in place. KwikTwist has male and female connecting brass ends. You can attach two pieces together by simply removing the end caps, to create a longer length. Unlike rope and bungee cords, KwikTwist is easy to use with no hooks or knots required.

I used them to secure suitcases and shopping bags to the headrest hardware in the rear of my van, on a recent 3,600-mile trip, to keep them from tumbling out when the tailgate was opened.

It's available at Lowes and other stores. Suggested retail price is $6.95 for two KwikTwists, each 32 inches long. I paid eight bucks at L. L. Bean, but I'm not complaining. CLICK for more.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Why does Sony make it so hard
for me to spend money with them?

Over the years, Sony's awesome brainpower has been behind the development of some amazing technology including the transistor radio, Walkman, HandyCam, Trinitron color TVs, 3.5" floppy disc, Betamax, Digital Audio Tape, CD, DVD, MiniDisc, Aibo robot dog, Playstation, VAIO computers, Blu-ray discs, Bravia hi-def TVs, and Rolly robot music player.

Unfortunately, the company's brains sometimes fail in more mundane efforts, like designing their website, supplying their distributors and answering their phone.

My day job involves selling phone systems, including music-on-hold equipment and recordings. Despite the general shift to iPods and other MP3 players, our company still sells a lot of basic Sony Walkman portable CD players.

For the last few weeks, the distributor that we buy them from has been out of stock, and they don't know when they'll get more.

I thought the logical move was to call Sony and ask them to recommend another distributor.

I went to the Sony website, and after 45 excruciatingly frustrating minutes I could not find the name of a person in the sales department for portable audio products. After another painful 15 minutes, I could not even find a phone number other than for tech support or public relations.

Finally, I went to, and found two listings for "Sony Electronics" in San Diego, and selected the listing with the more sophisticated double-zero phone number. When it was answered, I rejected the automated attendant and reached a sympathetic but frustrated lady who was powerless to help me.

She had no listing by divisions, departments, products or areas of responsibility. She said she got lots of calls from unhappy people like me, but had no way to help us.

Why do they make it so hard to spend money?

If didn't matter if I wanted to spend $500 or $5 billion. Unless I knew a person's name, Sony could not take my money.

How much business does Sony lose because of this stupidity?

How many other companies are similarly screwed up?

Desperate to get 20 CD players for my waiting customers, I went back to the Sony website and began placing the order just like a retail customer. But when I found that there was no way to avoid paying the sales tax despite our company's resale certificate, and that shipping would cost A HUNDRED BUCKS, I bailed out.

I ended up getting them at They cost 56 cents less each, and I avoided the sales tax, and two-day shipping was FREE.

I still love my Sony XBR5 Bravias and my Sony STR-DA4300ES home theater receiver, but I don't like Sony Corp. as much as I used to. How do such smart products come from such a stupid company?

Why don't webpages titled "Corporate Fact Sheet" and "Corporate Information" have corporate phone numbers?

A "Contact Us" link for consumer electronics products on a FAQ page goes to a page that deals only with tech support.

The "Contact Us" section on that FAQ page has an address for sending paper mail, but has no phone number or email address.

Yesterday Sony said it will invest nearly 17 billion bucks over the next three years in its flat-screen TV and video game operations, as well as to promote business in Brazil, Russia, India and China.

CEO Howard Stringer: it's also time to make some much simpler and much cheaper changes. Your customers should not have to work so hard to spend money!

For those of you who may wonder why we simply didn't switch to another brand, here's the story: We sold Panasonic CD players for many years before switching to Sony, but Panasonic is even more dysfunctional than Sony is. They don't even show their CD players on their website and we've been unable to determine their current distributors for over a month. Samsung doesn't make portable CD players. We want to stay with a recognizable first-class brand name.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Save big bucks on refurbs & returns

If you're shopping for a PC, or TV or receiver, or power tool or wristwatch or almost anything that uses electrons, you can save 30% or more by getting a "refurbished" or "reconditioned" unit.

In many cases, they are current models, or just one season older than the latest model, but may be perfectly adequate for you.

In some cases, you can find a good deal on products that were simply used for a few days and returned by another customer but can't be sold as "new."

There are also money saving opportunities on "open box" specials, display models, or products with missing manuals, cables or remote controls that you can easily replace for a few bucks.

Many stores run "scratch and dent" sales a few times a year. Sometimes they deliberately put scratches on the backs of products that manufacturers don't want them to sell off-price.

You'll find the deals in outlet malls, on manufacturers' websites, at "big box" stores and at independent dealers' stores and websites. They've generally been checked out very carefully, and have good guarantees -- but do your homework before you buy. Read the product reviews. It's no good to save 50% on a lemon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Stupid pool float costs more to run
than a real boat

Hammacher-Schlemmer, Home Shopping Network, Amazon and others are offering the Excalibur Motorized Pool Lounge, for $60 to $150 or so. It looks like your basic big ugly pool float; but in addition to the usual cup holder, it has two joysticks that control underwater propellers.

It may seem cool to be able to silently swoop and spiral around your backyard pool, but you better own an oil well -- or at least a battery factory -- if you're going to get one.

You can spend more money running it for an hour, than you spend to buy it.

The float uses 12 D cells (with no built-in charger); and a set of batteries will provide just a 15 minute cruise.

Alkaline D cells cost about a buck-fifty each. A full boatload will cost $18. That works out to $72 for an hour, plus sales tax.

If you want to emulate Gilligan's planned "three hour cruise," figure on spending close to $230 -- and you'll have to put Excalibur in dry dock every 15 minutes to change batteries.

Also, when you're onboard Excalibur, you're dry. You never touch the water, so why be in the pool? You may as well buy a boat, or stay in bed and save the money.

For comparison, a 80 horsepower outboard motor -- big enough for a 16-foot boat carrying six people -- will use about eight gallons of fuel per hour, costing about 32 bucks, less than half of the cost of propelling the inflated motorized pillow with one aboard.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Not sure what phone cord color you need?
You can get free color samples to choose from.

Despite the increasing use of wireless and cordless phones, most phones still have two cords.

There are plenty of places to buy phone cords at all prices and qualities, but probably only one website that specializes in phone cords. has line cords in five colors ranging in length from 8 inches to 100 feet, and handset cords in over 20 colors in three sizes. They even have seven varieties of gray; and if you're not sure what color you need, they'll send you free cord color samples so you can choose what's best for you. The cords are reasonably priced, UL-approved, and guaranteed for three years, or longer.

The website has hard-to-find special cords for H-P fax machines and Merlin phones, plus a wide range of phone accessories, and advice on phone troubleshooting, and even how to make cords last longer.

Their flat-rate shipping program can get up to six cords of any length to any address in the USA in two or three days for just $9, even to Alaska and Hawaii. If you need more than six cords, they can ship 20 cords for just $12. There are quantity discounts and free shipping for bigger orders.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Moto and Kodak cooperate on cam-phone

Motorola and Kodak have developed a co-branded 5-megapixel cameraphone that they contend will encourage some consumers to quit using a separate digital still camera. The bar-type ZN5, due in the US by the end of the year, “is a fully functional high-quality Kodak camera,” a Kodak spokeswoman said. “This will more than satisfy many consumers who currently carry two devices.”

The quad-band GSM/EDGE phone delivers picture quality that “surpasses the quality of some digital cameras,” added Roger Jellicoe, Motorola’s VP of multimedia products. Compared to other-brand cameraphones, including SonyEricsson’s Cyber-shot series of cameraphones, “We really believe this is a very superior imaging experience from the standpoints of quality of image, user interface, and ease of sharing,” he contended.

The ZN5 is the first product in what the companies expect to be a series of co-branded cameraphones resulting from a 10-year alliance announced a couple of years ago. US pricing wasn’t revealed, nor would Motorola divulge whether the phone would be marketed through carrier channels or sold direct to retailers as an unsubsidized unlocked phone. The device will launch first in China, followed by a global launch.

The cameraphone, Jellicoe contended, overcomes the three major sources of consumer dissatisfaction with cameraphones: picture quality, ease of use, and photo sharing.

To overcome quality challenges, Motorola and Kodak incorporated multiple technologies, including proprietary Kodak Processing Smart algorithms that adjust white balance, reduce noise, etc. Kodak Perfect Touch software embedded in the camera pulls detail out of the shadows to deliver a brighter picture without overexposing the picture. Motorola reduced the size of phone components enough to make room for a Xenon-type flash used in traditional digital still cameras. “Most other cameraphones use super-bright LEDs for flashes, but they are not as bright as Xenon flashes, so the picture is blurry if your hand shakes because a long exposure time is needed,” Jellicoe explained.

The ZN5 has a digital zoom but not optical zoom.

To overcome ease-of-use challenges, the companies developed a fast autofocus feature that operates in less than a second to reduce shutter lag. When the phone is held horizontally, the shutter button appears on the top right of the device in the same location as a traditional digital camera, with the zoom button appearing on the left. When the lens cover is opened, the LCD screen on the other side of the phone turns into a viewfinder, phone-related keys go dark, and camera-dedicated keys light up.

In another ease-of-use development, the companies will bundle Kodak Easy Share software, which automatically launches on a PC when it detects that the phone has been connected to the PC via USB. The software then automatically pulls pictures off the camera and organizes them.

Also to simplify use, the cameraphone sports a dedicated Kodak Gallery button, enabling one-touch uploading of photos via cellular EDGE technology or embedded Wi-Fi to the Kodak Gallery on-line photo sharing site. Users can also post pictures to other photo-sharing sites.

Also to enable photo sharing, the ZN5 uses Bluetooth to transmit photos to Kodak printers and to Kodak’s 90,000 photo kiosk worldwide, more than half of which are in US retail stores. The phone also connects via USB to Kodak digital picture frames, which automatically detect the cameraphone and begins displaying the phone’s photos automatically. A 3.5mm stereo headphone jack doubles as a TV output to display pictures on a TV to the accompaniment of stored music. That feature, if available on other cameraphones, is not widely available in the US, Jellicoe said. An included adapter cable connects the phone to a TV’s AV inputs.

The ZN5 is Motorola’s first 5-megapixel camera, and other-brand cameraphones with equivalent or higher resolution are not widely available in the US, Jellicoe added. Other features include extensive on-device photo-editing tools, music player software, 350MB of embedded memory, and microSD slot that accepts cards up to 4GB. (info from TWICE)
This is a preview, not a review.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Heading to L.L. Bean? Stop at Cindy's for great fried clams, lobster rolls & onion rings.

Freeport, Maine is best known as the home of L. L. Bean, and a growing number of outlet stores.

On a shopping trip in the summer of 2003, we decided to take a slightly slower drive back to our hotel in Portland, and instead of getting right on Interstate 295, we went south on Route 1, and made a wonderful discovery - Cindy's seafood stand.

The sign said CLOSED and we drove past, but one of the kids said she saw a light on, so I made a quick U-turn and pulled into the driveway.

I didn't know if business had been slow that day, or if owner Bob Pottle and his crew were just taking pity on famished clam fanatics; but they were extremely gracious, staying late to make us some magnificent munchies. The food was so good, we drove back for lunch the following day.

Cooking whole-belly clams is a delicate process. If they are undercooked, they can be really disgusting, with soggy dough falling off. If they are cooked too long, they become rocks or ashes.

Bob has perfected the art. His clams are crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside, with the best batter I've ever tasted (also used on mushrooms and onion rings).

Clam chowder is heavenly. Lobster rolls were fresh and flavorful.

I got some neat stuff at L.L. Bean; but the next time I went to Freeport, it was for clams, mushrooms and onion rings, not fishing rods, moccasins and back packs; and I go back twice each summer.

Hours are 11 AM to 7 PM Sunday through Friday (closed on Saturday). The address is 174 Yarmouth Road (Route 1), just north of Exit 17 from Interstate 295. You can call 207-865-1635. When summer ends, the food stops flowing, and host Bob Pottle and family switch gears to sell Halloween and Christmas items.

The food stand has been open since 1980 and is named in honor of Bob's daughter. The signs don't mention the SUPERB fried clams and steamers, but it's not a secret anymore. Bob has very high standards. If he can't get perfect clams, he doesn't buy any. Bob is justifiably proud of his cooking and baking, and if he senses that you're a serious eater, he'll probably offer you samples of some of the items you haven't ordered.

Cindy's is more than a restaurant. It's also kind of a museum and amusement park. There's lots to keep you busy while your food is being prepared. You can get souvenir T-shirts, mugs and more, and pose for phunny you can leave with more than a smile and a full belly.

CLICK for more.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Sprint undercuts Apple with $129.99
touch-screen smart phone

Sprint Nextel will be taking on the iPhone with a lower price for its own touch-screen smart phone, the Samsung Instinct. The Instinct will cost $129.99 when released on Friday. That compares with $199 for the least expensive model of the new iPhone, which goes on sale July 11 from AT&T.

The Instinct shares many features with the new iPhone, including access to a fast wireless data network and a GPS receiver. Sprint was unusually involved in the phone's development, and plans to promote it heavily.

The new iPhone costs half as much as the old one, since AT&T is now subsidizing the phone, like carriers do for other phones. Previously, Apple had a unique arrangement with AT&T under which the phone was sold at full price, but Apple got a share of revenue from the carrier.

Before the announcement of the iPhone price cut, Sprint had indicated that the Instinct would cost more than $200. Afterward, it said it would match the price. Wednesday's announcement lowers the price further, and shows the intense competition in the smart-phone market, which has been very strong.

The Instinct's price is with a two-year contract and after a $100 rebate.

The purchase price of a smart phone is only a fraction of the total cost of ownership, since the phones require a data plan. The lowest monthly plan for the Instinct costs $69.99, which ends up closer to $80 with taxes and fees. The cost for two years of service totals about $1,900. (info from the Associated Press)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Sony cellphone will have 8.1 MP camera

New cellphones announced by Sony-Ericsson for release in the last quarter of the year include the company’s most advanced camera phone, with 8.1-megapixel resolution, which was better than you could get in a non-phone camera not too long ago.

The camera phone, called the Cyber-shot C905, is the company’s first slider in the Cyber-shot line and will be available in two worldphone versions. It’s equipped with Wi-Fi and DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) certification for wireless home networking. The C905c version is a quadband GSM/EDGE model operating in the 850/1900MHz US bands and foreign 900/1900MHz bands. The C905a adds W-CDMA HSDPA operation in the US 850/1900MHz bands and foreign 2100MHz bands.

The C905 looks like a camera when closed and includes a Xenon strobe light. It will be available in three colors. Pricing was not announced.

Features include face-detection auto-focus, GPS, 2.4-inch scratch-resistant glass display and included 2GB Memory Stick Micro memory card. Using DLNA-certified Wi-Fi, users can send photos wirelessly to DLNA-certified PCs, TVs and other devices. Other features include stereo Bluetooth and Sony’s BestPic to quickly select the best of multiple pictures taken in rapid succession. (info from TWICE)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Hydrogen-powered Honda

If four-buck gasoline pisses you off and you live in southern California, you may be able to get a Honda that runs on zero-emissions hydrogen. Yesterday Honda announced its first FCX Clarity customers and the world's first fuel cell vehicle dealership network.

The announcements were made during a ceremony for the start of FCX Clarity production at the world's first dedicated fuel cell vehicle manufacturing facility in Japan.

Film producer Ron Yerxa will take delivery of the first FCX Clarity in July. The remaining four early adopters for Honda's next-generation fuel cell vehicle are author/actress Jamie Lee Curtis and her filmmaker husband Christopher Guest; business owner and car enthusiast Jim Salomon; actress Laura Harris; and Jon Spallino, already the world's first retail fuel cell vehicle customer, who has been leasing the current generation FCX since 2005. Yerxa, Harris and Spallino attended the event in Japan.

To provide its customers with service support and as a critical step in advancing fuel cell vehicles in the real world, Honda announced the establishment of the first network of dealers to facilitate the sales and service of fuel cell vehicles. The three Southern California Honda dealers are Power Honda Costa Mesa (Costa Mesa), Honda of Santa Monica (Santa Monica) and Scott Robinson Honda (Torrance).

"This is an important day in the history of fuel cell vehicle technology and a monumental step closer to the day when fuel cell cars will be part of the mainstream," said John Mendel, executive vice president of American Honda. "Our customers and dealers share in our vision for a cleaner and more sustainable transportation future, and share in our challenge to embrace a new generation of automotive technology that we think will carry the auto industry and its customers into the future."

The five customers announced were among the very first people to share with Honda their passion for the environment and interest in the FCX Clarity, dating back to its debut as a concept model at the 2005 Tokyo Motor Show. The initial criteria for fuel cell vehicle ownership, including proximity to hydrogen refueling stations, driving patterns and vehicle needs, all played a part in Honda's customer selection process.

"Auto companies can't explore the potential for fuel cell technology as the ultimate solution to our world's energy and environmental challenges by ourselves. Our customers are true pioneers and leaders in the effort to bring fuel cell technology to the marketplace," said Mendel.

Honda previously announced plans to deliver about 200 FCX Clarity hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicles in the US and Japan to customers in the first three years of production, with leases beginning in July. The lease program marks the world's first large-scale retail initiative for fuel cell vehicle technology.

Reinforcing its commitment to further advance Honda fuel cell technology, American Honda announced that three Southern California dealerships will comprise the world's first fuel cell automobile dealership network. Power Honda Costa Mesa, Honda of Santa Monica and Scott Robinson Honda are each located in close proximity to hydrogen refueling stations and will be well-positioned to support Honda's growing base of FCX Clarity customers.

American Honda is working with its dealer partners to implement processes for fuel cell vehicle lease, delivery and service support for the duration of their leases. Establishing a dedicated sales network and service infrastructure provides customers with the best balance of convenience and the highest quality of service. When the FCX Clarity requires periodic maintenance, customers will simply schedule a visit with their local FCX Clarity dealer.

American Honda will perform all required work at its specialized fuel cell service facility, in the Los Angeles area. Upon completion of the work, the dealer will return the vehicle to the customer.

The FCX Clarity is a next-generation, hydrogen powered fuel cell-powered vehicle. Propelled by an electric motor that runs on electricity generated in the fuel cell, the vehicle's only emission is water, and its fuel efficiency is three times that of a modern gasoline-powered automobile. Based on the entirely-new Honda V Flow fuel cell platform, and powered by a highly compact, efficient and powerful new Honda V Flow fuel cell stack, the FCX Clarity marks the significant progress Honda continues to make in advancing the real-world performance and appeal of the fuel cell car.

Advances over Honda's previous generation FCX include:

an advanced new four passenger sedan design
a greater than 30 percent increase in driving range up to 280 miles
a 25 percent increase in combined fuel economy to 72 miles/kg-H2
(74 mpg GGE )
a 50 percent improvement in fuel stack power output density by volume
a 40 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter new lithium ion battery pack
Honda is responsible for the development of the world's first fuel cell car (Honda FCX) to be certified for regular commercial use by the U.S. EPA and California Air Resources Board; the first deployment of a fuel cell car with a fleet customer; and the first individual retail customer for a fuel cell vehicle.

The cars cost several hundred thousand dollars each to produce, and should drop below $100,000 in less than a decade as production volumes increase. In the meantime, Honda will be subsidizing its customers, who will lease the cars for $600 a month.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Wireless BatPhone available from Verizon

Hoping to cash in on the hype surrounding the July 18 release of “The Dark Knight” Batman movie, Verizon Wireless and Nokia have teamed up to distribute the Nokia 6205 Dark Knight edition, available exclusively online at

Clad in a "mysterious" black color and embellished with a Dark Knight emblem, the themed-edition flip phone comes pre-loaded with wallpapers, voice tones, animated screensavers, and a movie trailer.

Features include touch-sensitive external music keys for V CAST Music service; two-inch display that supports up to 262,000 colors; 1.3 megapixel camera with flash and 4x digital zoom; 58 MB internal memory (expandable up to an additional 4 GB with an optional microSD™ memory card); support for text, picture and video messaging; Get It Now®-capable for downloading games, ringtones, wallpapers and other mobile content; VZ Navigator(SM)-compatible for audible turn-by-turn directions and location information; Mobile Web for access to the latest news, sports, weather and more; Voice dialing and voice commands for touch-free phone operation; speakerphone; Bluetooth®.

The packaging features images from Gotham City. Customers will also find a Joker playing card with a code and a link to the website. On the website, customers can find out if they have won The Joker’s “bag of cash” containing $10,000, play games to win more Dark Knight-themed prizes, and download exclusive Dark Knight content from Verizon Wireless’ V CAST service.

The phone is available online for $69.99 after a $50 online instant rebate with a new two-year customer agreement. Following the premiere release of The Dark Knight edition, the standard edition of the Nokia 6205 phone –- containing all of the same features and a metallic blue and silver color scheme -– will be available both online and at Verizon Wireless next month.

If you prefer a traditional red BatPhone with a flashing light, go to

This is a preview, not a review.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Magnetic Multi-Mount holds lots of things

If you ever lost a light, or wanted to hang WD-40 on your tool cart, or put a salami on the tailfin of your 1960 Cadillac, the magnetic Multi-Mount® is the solution. It provides storage, security, availability, organization and portability for the things you need to keep handy.

It has hundreds of uses. It can hold flashlights, trouble lights, spray cans, small power tools, brooms, tape guns and more. It firmly grips metal beams, walls, storage racks, file cabinets or tool cabinets for easy access.

Powerful magnets and adjustable straps allow it to attach objects weighing up to 3 pounds to smooth, ferrous metal surfaces that are at least .06” thick. CLICK to order from

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Jumbo scanner from Plustek

If you need to scan images bigger than the traditional 8-1/2 by 11, this could be perfect for you.

The new OpticPro A360 scanner from Plustek can handle documents up to 12 by 17 inches. It has hardware resolution of 600 by 1,200 dpi and scans in 48-bit color

The $1,199 unit can scan an 8-1/2 by 11 inch document in 2.4 seconds at 300-dpi resolution. More at
This is a preview, not a review.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

VTech DECT cordless has QWERTY keyboard
for instant messaging

VTech has introduced what it says is the world's first cordless phone system with a full-QWERTY keyboard along with instant messaging and instant voice (peer-to-peer calls) features. The IS6110 gives users the option to make and receive landline calls or instant messages or instant voice calls.

The cordless phone gets connected to a standard phone jack and to a PC with the included USB cord. Support for AIM, MSN and Windows Live Messenger gives users access to these services anywhere in their home, while freeing up the family PC for other activities.

Other features inlude DECT operation, large, color LCD for easy viewing, integrated speakerphone, multiple ring tone options and a built-in 50 name and number phonebook directory. Suggested retail price is $99.95.
This is a preview, not a review.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New iPhone: Twice as fast and half the price

There's undeniable status to being one of the first to own a cool new toy, but leading edge and bleeding edge technology had its price, both in tech glitches and prices.

I've generally made it a rule to wait for gen-two and save some money and avoid some headaches (but I found Blu-ray too compelling to delay).

Yesterday Apple boss Steve Jobs revealed the second generation iPhone. As with most things in electronics, it's smaller, better and less expensive. It will probably piss-off a lot of the early adopters who were on line at midnight to buy the original iPhones at twice the price when then they first became available.

Despite the ample coolness of the original iPhone, there was considerable criticism of the slowpoke internet speed using AT&T's EDGE network, when WiFi was not available. With the "3G" (third generation network) iPhone, peak download speeds should reach up to 1.4 megabits per second, about 10 times faster than what iPhone users had been doing with EDGE, but still slower than a typical wired connection. AT&T said its 3G wireless network was working in 275 markets. They expect to have it operating in 350 areas by the end of the year.

Other improvements that may make you put your old phone on eBay include a thinner body (with a cheaper plastic back), built-in GPS, support for Microsoft Exchange software, a new Web-based service called "MobileMe," which Apple describes as "Exchange for the rest of us," a consumer-friendly way for people to link their iPhones to their home and work computers so updates entered into one device automatically appear in the others.

An 8-gigabyte version of the new iPhone will sell for $199 when it goes on sale July 11, and a 16 gigabyte model will sell for $299. Current iPhone owners who buy a new model and sign up for a new AT&T contract won't have to pay any penalties to get out of their current contract. Anyone who bought an iPhone in an AT&T store after May 26 can return it before Aug. 1 for full credit against a new one, less a 10 percent restocking fee. (some info from AP)

Friday, June 6, 2008

YouTube available on Sony Bravia TVs

Yesterday Sony announced that YouTube is the latest online video provider to join the company’s Bravia Internet Video Link service. The service provides Bravia Internet Video Link users access to millions of videos on YouTube at no additional charge.

Joining YouTube are and C-Spot, which offers original episodic short comedy.

The Bravia Internet Video Link is a small module that attaches to the back of a some Sony 2007 and 2008 Bravia LCD television. The service streams on-demand entertainment including movies, TV programs, your YouTube videos and other free content as well as news, weather and traffic informaiton via an existing Ethernet connection without the use of a personal computer. A broadband connection of at least 2.5 Mbps is recommended. Content is navigated with Sony’s Xross Media Bar user interface.

Once the TV and BRAVIA Internet Video Link module have been purchased, videos are available at no charge, bringing content to Sony televisions not found on network or cable/satellite TV stations.

The new content adds to existing channels including Yahoo!, AOL, Sports Illustrated,, CondéNet’s,, Epicurious and channels, Sony Pictures’ Crackle, The Minisode Network and Inside Sony Pictures channels, FEARnet, Ford Models, SingingFool, and VideoDetective.

Sony will continue to add new content partners and increase the growing list of on-demand video content.

The channel delivers exclusive, original reporting at the point where technology intersects with business, entertainment, politics, culture, science and art. Content will include Game|Life,’s weekly web video covering the world of gaming, and AltText, a satirical commentary on technology, business, entertainment, communications and culture.

Crackle’s C-spot offers original character and story-driven episodic series. The channel will offer series including “Hot Hot Los Angeles,” The Writer’s Room,” “Penn Says,” and The Roadents.”

Sony’s BRAVIA Internet Video Link module is currently available for about $300. It can be purchased online at, at Sony Style® retail stores and at Sony authorized dealers. The module used with a consumer’s existing broadband Internet connection is compatible with a majority of the latest 2007 BRAVIA television models, as well many new 2008 models.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Free classified ads on Wal-Mart website

Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, has launched an online classified advertising site, a move that opens a broader range of shopping to Wal-Mart's Internet customers.

The site is run through, a three-year-old company, and links to Oodle's online offerings.

"This free, community-based resource allows customers to buy and sell items locally, find local jobs and learn about events in their area," Walmart spokesman Ravi Jariwala said. The site expands goods and services that Wal-Mart customers can buy through the company.

"It also further connects our community of 130 million customers who shop the Wal-Mart brand each week," Jariwala said. Go to

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Wal-Mart adds more Hi-def TVs and Blu-ray, and has Dad's Day bargains

Wal-Mart has redesigned its consumer electronics departments, adding hundreds of new products and making changes intended to help customers better understand the uses and options of the products, including a “hi-def Blu-ray experience area” in 1,200 stores.

Wal-Mart has made about a 60% increase in 1080p HDTVs with the introduction of new models and brands, and an expansion in larger TV sizes. There's also been an increased assortment of Blu-ray, with new players such as Magnavox, Samsung and Panasonic to the Sony line, plus an increased selection of Blu-ray movies.

From June 8-14, Wal-Mart is offering a $100 gift card with the purchase of any Blu-ray player in its stores.

In addition, the stores will have select Blu-ray movie titles for only $15 starting June 8, including 3:10 to Yuma, WAR, Shooter, 300, and The Fifth Element.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Really good, really cheap cordless from (GASP!) VTech

The VTech CS5111 cordless comes from a company I’ve had little respect for.

Despite the company's pioneering work in 900MHZ cordless phones, VTech’s quality control has been so erratic, that I doubted the company's ability to make two properly-functioning phones in the same week.

It was really frustrating, because VTech had the ability to make some really excellent phones -- but you might have to open up a dozen boxes and charge up a dozen phone batteries to find that one excellent phone.

In my other life as the owner of a company that sells phone equipment, I refused to sell anything with the VTech label, and in recent years I was wary of AT&T-branded phones that were really made by VTech (actually they're fine phones).

Vtech's quality was often so bad that some people in the business referred to the company as V-dreck. (“Dreck” is the Yiddish word for crap, or inferior merchandise.) At one time Vtech made multi-handset cordless phones for Panasonic and Sony. Panasonic quickly replaced it with their own Panasonic-made phone. Sony got out of the phone business. Should we blame VTech? Maybe a little bit.

In April, my parents needed a cordless phone with a particular combination of features and color, and the only phone that had what they needed was the Vtech CS5111. The price was so ridiculously low ($17.95) that I was afraid to try it. But, on the other hand, the price was so low that the risk was also low.

I am pleased to point out that after more than a month in the hands of my decidedly low-tech parents, the phone is still performing flawlessly, and it would have been a fine phone at two or three times the price.

Features: 5.8GHz radio transmission to avoid interference with wireless networks, Caller ID on call waiting, stores Caller ID information on 45 calls, 20 name-and-number directory, 9 number speed dial, any key answer, backlit keypad and display, handset volume control, last number redial, page/handset locator, selectable ring tones, trilingual prompts (English, Spanish, French), voicemail waiting indicator, wall mount bracket included.

The only bad thing about the phone is that the profit is so low (less than one dollar difference between wholesale and the suggested retail price), that you may have trouble finding a dealer who sells it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

For Father’s Day, Graduation Day, and any day: PizzaPhone automatically calls for America’s most popular delivered food.

An exciting alternatative to the traditional ties and wrench sets that often appear at this time of year, the PizzaPhone® is a unique gift for Father’s Day, Graduation Day or almost any day. It can be easily programmed to call a favorite pizzeria, and the number is dialed as soon as the handset is lifted.

If another restaurant becomes the new favorite, it takes just a few seconds to re-program the phone’s memory. A manually-dialed PizzaPhone is also available.
The PizzaPhone is the ultimate status symbol for a college dorm, fraternity or apartment, or an executive office; and it's a great "power tool" for garage or basement.

It's also good for a lodge or club, the kitchen or break room at work; and although women can use it, it will be particularly appreciated anywhere hungry guys hang out.

The PizzaPhone is a great gift for others, but people can also use it to reward themselves. If a husband puts it on the kitchen wall at home, it might even encourage his wife to cook more. Or he might get hit with the phone.

PizzaPhone easily mounts on a standard "RJ11W" wall phone jack. It works with an ordinary analog phone line, or VoIP, or cable TV phone service, or in a business or institution's phone system. It can also be installed in a hotel or motel lobby or on a military base. PizzaPhone is powered by the telephone line. No AC power or battery is required.

Two models are available. The automatic-dialing PizzaPhone, which can be easily pre-programmed by the user to call a favorite restaurant, sells for $177, with free shipping anywhere in the United States, and has a two-year warranty. The manual-dialing PizzaPhone, which can also be used as a conventional telephone, sells for $77, with free shipping anywhere in the 50 states, and has a five-year warranty. It can even be used to order Chinese or Mexican food. Both phones can answer incoming calls.

The PizzaPhone is a product of RedHotPhones, the developer of the BatPhone and the Presidential HotLine Phone. CLICK for more information and ordering.