Archive for April 2006

 
 

New hybrid car

Chrysler, GM, BMW announce new [tag]hybrid[/tag] system

[tag]DaimlerChrysler[/tag], [tag]BMW[/tag], and [tag]GM[/tag] today announced a new full hybrid system that “represents a major automotive industry milestone due to the unprecedented fully integrated combination of electric motors with a fixed-gear transmission.? The technology is said to be ready for production beginning next year. As a result of its low- and high-speed electric continuously variable transmission (ECVT) modes, the system is commonly referred to as the 2-mode hybrid. However, the sophisticated fuel-saving system also incorporates four fixed gear ratios for high efficiency and power-handling capabilities in a broad variety of vehicle applications. During the two ECVT modes and four fixed gear operations, the hybrid system can use the electric motors for boosting and regenerative braking.

The Shat Sings!

Credit to Mark Evanier for finding this one. Watch a little bit of it, then fast forward to around the 2:45 mark. That’s the highlight of the clip, I think. Classic singing [tag]Shatner[/tag]!

Nintendo Hype Hits Lunacy Levels

The rumors are really starting to fly about the Last Big Secret behind the [tag]Nintendo[/tag] [tag]Wii[/tag] system. (And, yes, it’s getting easier and easier to say that name. I prefer [tag]Revolution[/tag], but this one will work.)

Is the “W” in the name representing a 3-D stereoscopic projector?

Is this system all about virtual reality? (At least, I think that’s what that site is hinting towards. It’s so vague that it’s impossible to decipher.)

[tag]E3[/tag] can’t get here soon enough. In the meantime, let’s be as entertained by these theories as we have been in the past by the fake Video iPod Photoshop jobs.

More on those loud booms

Interesting update on that story earlier in the week about loud [tag]boom[/tag] sounds in San Diego.

SignOnSanDiego.com > News > Metro — Mystery disturbance traced to sound wave

The scientists, based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, say the disturbance was caused by a sound wave that started over the ocean and petered out over the Imperial County desert. Using data from more than two dozen seismometers, they traced its likely origin to a spot roughly 120 miles off the San Diego coast.

Why radio is dying

The real reason radio is dying isn’t because the programming on it stinks, though it does.

The real reason is that nobody listens to it in the car anymore. They’re all constantly on their cell phones. Really, people, what’s so important that you can’t be in direct touch with someone in your address book for however long it takes you to get somewhere?

I was stuck in traffic the other day and looked at the cars around me. I counted 1 in every 4 drivers (a sample of about 20 cars) with a phone to their ear. Not only is that insane, but it’s also illegal in this state to drive like that. You need a hands free phone. No, that doesn’t mean you turn the speakerphone on and then hold the phone up with your hand about six inches from your mouth while serving in and out of lanes with the one free hand. That defeats the purpose.

If I could tell who was using the proper hands-free tech and not just singing along with the radio, I’m sure that 1 in 4 number would increase.

Am I the only one who enjoys the “Me Time” to listen to music or a podcast?

TV Link Dump

Hybrid Cabs and Hyper Hybrids

Hybrid Cabs Take A Licking…But Their Meters Keep On Ticking

The mean streets of San Francisco and New York City are the supreme torture test for any vehicle, let alone a new addition to those cities’ [tag]taxi[/tag] fleets in February 2005 and last November, respectively. So there was good reason for concern among drivers, cab owners and taxi commissions when the first mini-fleets of Escape [tag]Hybrid[/tag] taxis hit the road. [....] So far, so good, say cab company owners, drivers and the taxi commissioners in both cities.

In other Hybrid news, C|Net takes a look at those who juice up their hybrid to get even more mileage out of a gallon:

A few small companies will start to offer services and products for converting hybrid cars like the Toyota [tag]Prius[/tag] that currently get around 50 miles per gallon into plug-in hybrids that rely more heavily on electrical power and can get about 100 miles per gallon. “I get about 99 miles to the gallon,” said Felix Kramer, founder of The California Cars Initiative (CalCars), who owns the eighth Prius converted into a plug-in hybrid. “When gasoline costs $3 a gallon, driving most gasoline cars costs 8 to 20 cents a mile. With a plug-in hybrid, your local travel and commuting can go down to 2 to 4 cents a mile.” In general, plug-in hybrids have much larger battery packs than standard hybrids–in prototypes, the extra batteries fill up the space where spare tires now reside–and much smaller gas motors. The batteries can be recharged by plugging the car into any wall socket.

More Nintendo Linkage

Welcome back to Nintendo Thursday.

  • The Revolution’s real name is the Nintendo [tag]Wii[/tag]. I’m not making that up. It’s the first insanely stupid move Nintendo has made with this new system thus far. They should have stuck with “Revolution.” I don’t plan on changing from calling it “Revolution” for a long time yet. (Thanks for the link, Rob.)

Also, we learn/are reminded that there will be no CD tray. They’re looking at multiple colors for the box. It will play all GameCube games. It will be DVD-capable with an attachment. Wi Fi access is built in. And expandable memory.

(All links after the first found on Digg.)

AI5 – Round of 6 – Results

Well, that was certainly surprising all around. I’m also slowly realizing that I don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. I mean, I can theorize all I’d like about why things happened the way they did after they’ve happened, but predicting these things is a fool’s errand.

First: Simon apologized to Katharine for his initial judgment of her performance on Tuesday night. It’s not the first time he’s gone back and corrected an earlier opinion after hearing a performance on tape, but I think it’s the biggest dish of crow he’s eaten. He was outright apologetic for it.

Second: Randy and Paula quickly fell in line behind Simon. Cowards.

Third: Holy crap on a stick, Kellie Pickler is gone! I really didn’t think her fanbase would desert her so quickly. I was worried that I was able to get through to vote for Katharine as often as I did. Usually, that means people aren’t voting for her. I should have tried voting for Kellie — I bet it would have been smooth sailing to log votes for her.

Fourth: They didn’t have Kellie sing her horrible song after getting voted out. They gave her time to thank her fans. She might have requested that — she told Ryan that she thought she deserved to leave this week during the show. Give Kellie this: She never put on false airs of superiority or ability.

Fifth: They have a new version of that horrible Daniel Powter song they used under the “Journey” video at the end of the show.

Sixth: We learned a lot last night about voting order. The six contestants were separated into groups of two with the highest, lowest, and, er, middlest numbers of votes. Katharine and Chris got top votes. I’ll stand by my earlier assessment that the judges’ incorrectly negative comments inspired her fanbase to vote like never before. It worked on me. Chris was just spectacular and deserved all the votes he could get.

Taylor and Elliott were in the middle. Taylor got the third or fourth most votes despite another dreadful performance, while Elliot’s highly praised performance still couldn’t crack him into the top 2. Elliott might want to worry about that. Taylor needs to raise the bar to get anywhere near the category that Chris and Katharine are in.

Paris and Kellie were the bottom two. If I were Paris, I’d be worried. She’s been in the bottom three now a few times, hasn’t she? Unless she has a blockbuster performance next week, she has to be considered the next most likely to leave.

Seventh: I don’t know why I’m numbering this thoughts anymore.

Eighth: OK, time for your comments. Go!

CSS Contest

Do you want to practice your mad CSS skills? Looking for the ultimate testbed? Would you like to win a new laptop computer?

Do you have a better idea for Slashdot’s design?

They’re running a contest now to scratch all those itches. Good luck, code jockeys!

Nintendo Link Dump

(All links first spotted on Digg.)

Potentially the story of the year

Here’s the set up: David Copperfield is walking on the street with two of his assistants after a show in town.

Magician David Copperfield robbed after show at Kravis Center

According to the police report, this is what happened next: The Malibu pulled up behind the group, and two of the four young men in the car came out holding handguns. One ordered Daly to “give me what you have.” Daly handed over $400 from her pockets. Riley, meanwhile, allegedly stuck a gun in Volmut’s face and asked for her purse, and she, too, gave it up. In it were 200 euros, $100, her passport, plane tickets and a Razr cellphone.

And here’s what makes it the story of the year:

When Copperfield’s turn came, Riley was bamboozled. [tag]Copperfield[/tag] told Page Two he pulled out all of his pockets for Riley to see he had nothing, even though he had a cellphone, passport and wallet stuffed in them.

That’s pretty dang brilliant. And hilarious. I don’t want to know if this is a lie. It’s too good a story to blow.

The thieves were caught minutes later. They used Copperfield’s cell phone to call 911.

(Spotted first on Kottke.)

New TiVo announced

TiVo.com | TiVo Press Releases

TiVo, the creator of and a leader in television services for digital video recorders (DVRs), announced today the launch of the TiVo® Series2™ DT [tag]DVR[/tag]. Available at retail beginning May 1, the TiVo Series2 DT is the first standalone dual tuner DVR with the award-winning TiVo® service and features. The TiVo Series2 DT DVR is optimized for cable households, allowing you to record two shows at once, so now you never have to miss any of your favorite shows — even if they’re on at the same time. The TiVo Series2 DT DVR also incorporates built-in Ethernet and USB ports, making it easier than ever to add the [tag]TiVo[/tag] box to the home network. [...] The TiVo Series2 DT DVR will join the existing TiVo product line, and is available in an 80-hour model priced at just $99.99, after rebate and service activation. It will also be available at tivo.com bundled with the TiVo service.

Only two problems with the box: No HD tuner, and no DVD burner. Otherwise, it sounds like a nice box.

Hating the Microsoft

Few people can top outgoing [tag]Sun[/tag] CEO Scott McNealy for his vitriole against Microsoft.,

C|Net has some choice zingers . They’re tough to disagree with. I can’t help but include a few here:

  • “Microsoft is now talking about the digital nervous system. I guess I would be nervous if my system was built on their technology, too.”

  • “I’ve always argued the best way to keep your teenager off drugs is buy him a Pentium Pro, give him NT and Microsoft Office and a printer, and tell him you get $500 if you can print something out of PowerPoint on that printer. That will take him six months of drug-free activity. I think that’s probably the best thing you could possibly do for your teenager.”

  • “Having [tag]Microsoft[/tag] give us advice on open standards is like W.C. Fields giving moral advice to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.”

AI5 – Round of 6 – Love Songs

David Foster is a bastiche. And I love him for it. They should bring him back every season to play the “cranky contestant coach.” He reminded me a bit of Barry Manilow, in that he has a deep musical knowledge. Barry was nice about it, though. Foster growled and grimaced and shot the kids down. It was fun to watch.

It also helps answer the question, “How do you make a full hour out of six songs?” Easily: You extend the video introductions to each song, and you let the judges ramble on until time runs out and you can’t say boo about Chris. As a bonus, give more air time to [tag]Coca-Cola[/tag].

Oh, yeah, Andrea [tag]Bocelli[/tag] was there, too, but more as a figurehead promoting an album than an actual musical coach. He seems like a nice enough guy, but all they needed was David Foster. The problem would have been that Foster wouldn’t pull in the middle-aged woman audience as much as Bocelli does with his legion of [tag]PBS[/tag] fans.

[tag]Katharine McPhee[/tag] began the night with a really strong rendition of [tag]Whitney Houston[/tag]‘s “I Have Nothing.” It was a little breathy in spots and perhaps she smiled a bit too much, but it was a strong vocal with some personal flair added to it. That’s why I think the judges are absolutely off-their-rocker nuts with the comments they gave her. It’s the trap of being the first contestant — everyone else is left, so the judges don’t want to peak too soon. What if the next contestant is better and you just told the first one she’d be hard to beat tonight? So the first contestant almost always gets the worst of it, in an attempt to set a baseline. The judges were all over the place trying to put her down for no good reason. The comments that they think she’s trying to say she’s better than Whitney in her pre-crack prime by singing that song are ridiculous. Randy thought the song was too big for her, which it clearly wasn’t.

Katharine wore a yellow dress that didn’t exactly make her look pregnant. Her breasts were on full display, held as tightly down to her chest as they could be.

If McPhee goes home, it’ll be a damn damn shame. I find it funny how just a couple of weeks ago, people commented about how obvious it was that the judges wanted McPhee to win and so they shaded all their comments in that direction. I’m wondering what those people think after her unwarranted brutal slamming this week?

On the other hand, the judges’ comments worried me enough that I spent a lot of time on the phone dialing in votes for McPhee. I must have gotten through a couple dozen times. Chris’ lines were jammed during the same time frame. It’s never a good sign on Idol when your favorite’s phone lines are so easy to get through on.

I’d like to think I exemplified an IDOL voting pattern — if the judges blast you, your fans will get their revenge by dialing even harder. Maybe that’s exactly what the judges had in mind with their nasty comments?

Oh, and Sasha Cohen is in the audience! I actually don’t know how you get into a taping of AI, anymore, unless you’re a star. That place was packed more than the ED SULLIVAN SHOW in its grand old days. Not all the stars had FOX sit-coms this time, either.

[tag]Elliott Yamin[/tag] went with Donnie Hathaway’s “A Song For You,” after explaining why he chose it at great length in the first of several Coca-Cola moments in the show. (That’s another good way to pad out the hour.) The prepackaged video showed him working with Foster on the singing of the word “remember.” Foster went over it a dozen times before Elliott did it right. Then, Elliott did it differently in the performance. Go fig.

It was an impressive vocal, although the song bored me. Randy didn’t like the arrangement, so maybe that’s what threw me. Elliott was more understated than usual. He stood mostly behind the mic stand, dressed in a suit and tie (that matched Ryan’s), and didn’t go bendy at the knees with his hands shaking out like a hip hop superstar. That was nice.

Paula then went into the first of several displays of her insanity, as she wept openly during her comments. If you don’t believe she’s on drugs, then you’re only fooling yourself. Why AI renewed her contract is beyond me. She’s an embarrassment. They might as well have Whitney Houston up there on the judging platform. Your odds of seeing a sober judge are the same.

[tag]Kellie Pickler[/tag] crashed and burned again this week. She’s by far the weakest singer on the show and she knows it. There’s one every season, and she’s it this year. Her pain and agony in singing songs she knows she’s not capable of singing will, I fear, linger on for another couple of weeks. That’s the pattern we’ve seen on Idol before. She’ll go out either fifth or fourth, and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief. Some will just be angry that their favorite got ousted first.

Her first mistake was in picking a song we’ve known for years is Simon’s favorite, “Unchained Melody.” She might have saved herself by doing a country version of it, but she couldn’t even pull that off. The performance was flat, off-key, boring, routine, karaoke, monotonous, dull, disconnected, and garish. Other than that, her country twang was strong.

The makeup was too much again, and for the life of me I’ll never understand why people think they look good with their hair up like that over their foreheads. I’m convinced nobody wears it that way because they like it, but because they’ve seen other people do it and feel like they must conform to current fashion trends. It doesn’t work for anyone. Ick.

Paula remained sober enough long enough to point out that Kellie failed to raise the bar. That’s a good way of putting it. Kellie has a voice, but it’s untrained and unsure. There’s a lack of confidence behind it right now. The only thing keeping her in this competition is that whole “America’s Sweetheart,” and people are even turning on her for that now, too. We’ll see how long it is before enough people turn to push her out.

Oh, look, there’s Sela Ward!

[tag]Paris Bennett[/tag] did Babs’ “The Way We Were.” Did the Fran Drescher-wannabe last season ever sing this one? I think she missed it.

In any case, Paris had a strong vocal throughout, and impressed me with her emotion in the song. You could see in her facial contortions and in her voice that she can feel the song.

Unfortunately, it’s a boring song and I thought it had a weird arrangement. Foster taught her to play “the first eight bars” very soft to bring the audience in before going for the power. Once she got on stage, though, she forgot the whole “soft” thing and went straight for the power, anyway. Sure, it might have been soft for her usual voice, but it wasn’t soft enough.

I think she sounded fine, but she might get lost in the middle of the pack here this week.

[tag]Taylor Hicks[/tag] was a great big disappointment. He chose “Just Once,” which is the absolute perfect song for him. In the video before the performance, he sounded great. Once he got on stage, though, he was boring and repetitive. He “brought out the Taylor” too late in the performance and not strongly enough. I think he even had a few missed or flat notes in there. Simon called him “uptight,” which I think is about right. I’d like to see him do the song again, but with a little more wildness earlier on.

It’s a wasted opportunity. The song was made for his voice. The lighting was that perfect dramatic single spotlight bit with the black background. He could have really nailed this one and been the star of the night. Instead, he winds up only a step ahead of Pickler.

Oh, look, there’s Tori Spelling!

[tag]Chris Daughtry[/tag] ended the show with Bryan Adams’ “Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman.” It’s the perfect song choice for him, and he was spectacular. He sang softly when he needed to. He controlled his voice when it came down to go to the power. You could tell he understood the song and the lyrics and emotions in it. He sold the song.

I’m on the fence as to whether he just had an “Idol Moment.” Will this be the performance of the season? It’s a contender, but I’m not sure I’d rank it past “just really really really great.”

The judges ran out of time to give a proper critique, but they all quickly fawned over Chris with praise. I wonder if the lack of a full thirty seconds of strong judge comments will affect the voting at all? Probably not. Most people will likely remember Paula’s bizarre antics, though, standing up and shouting, “We all love you” or something over and over again. She should go on OPRAH and try that on her couch sometime. . .

Oh, look, there’s Chris’ band! That’s a first — a rock singer on Idol whose band actually traveled out to Hollywood to see him perform. That’s so not rock.

Then we cut to the recap of the night, and they forget to shut Ryan’s microphone off. If you listen carefully to the background in the first two song highlights, you can hear a few random voices muttering random things. Nothing bad. But Paris’ voice is easy to pick out. It sounded like Ryan is telling them to be quiet and huddle up or something. I couldn’t make out enough of it. Crap.

From best to least: I’d rank Chris and Katharine at the top. I could make arguments for either getting the #1 slot this week. Most people will likely give it to Chris. I won’t make a big argument over that, but I’d have to put Katharine a close second. Elliott is a close third in either case, followed by Paris. Not surprisingly, I’d put Taylor in fifth and Kellie in a distant sixth.

Who will be in the bottom three? While I don’t think she’ll be voted off yet, I think the support is starting to weaken enough that Kellie will be in the bottom three, with Taylor and Paris. In an IDOL shocked, Paris goes home tonight. She wasn’t great enough to bring out the vote, nor was she bad enough to rally her fans to “save” her. She was caught in the middle this week between two bad performances. I’m afraid she might be lumped in with them, unfairly.