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Archive: April, 2012

POSTED: Tuesday, April 17, 2012, 11:50 AM

What a week for Dead-heads! More than 38 hours of  Grateful  Dead concerts are newly gathered and available today on a DVD box set. There's a just opened GD exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And this Thursday the tribes will be gathering at theaters here and nationwide for a "Meet Up at the Movies" concert special.

Out today from Shout! Factory, the 14 DVD, 38 hour+  Grateful Dead box set "All the Years Combine: The DVD Collection"  gathers everything the band has ever officially issued on VHS, Laserdisc and  DVD, packed into a compact box and (relatively) bargain priced at $99. Special come-ons include the  DVD premiere of the hour-long conceptual video "So Far,"  a program book with  informative notes by Blair Jackson and a bonus video disc, The latter boasts five previously unreleased performances plus Justin Kreutzmann's 1992 documentary about dad's band "Backstage Pass" and a brand new interview with Grateful Dead archivist David Lemieux.  The latter hints, as does Jackson. that there's still "thousands" of hours of performance audio and video footage hiding in the vaults.

 Wanna try before you buy? Shout! Factory has kindly posted a bunch of videos from the box set.  "Uncle John's Band" is a personal fave and leads to the others.

POSTED: Monday, April 16, 2012, 12:24 PM

While a replacement console won't be introduced at this Spring's E3 show, a Microsoft exec hints that the Xbox 360 is "sort of in the twilight" of its existence. Also today - Walmart and Hollywood launch a new video business.

Game Point: Microsoft Games Studio Art Director Brian Moore made the revealing comment at the Washington Technology Industry Association meet up last week, when asked about the future of the game console as an integral part of the gaming experience. Moore quickly added that Xbox's sight, sound and motion activated Kinect peripheral is just in its "very first version." Future interations will exploit Microsoft research into "finger articulation" and  facial feature tracking and offer a more "in-depth" animation system. "Science fiction becomes science fact at some point," Moore added.

Clearly, the game biz is looking for a new buzz. NPD Group reports U.S. video game retail sales were off 25 percent in March from a year earlier, when the Nintendo 3DS system was introduced. Nintendo will be using this June's E3 to launch its next generation Wii-U system deploying  a super fancy, screen-based controller and faster processor.

POSTED: Thursday, April 12, 2012, 12:30 PM

For summer music concert-goers who find seated "shed" shows confining or acoustically unsatisfying, AEG Live will pose a new alternative this season at Fairmount Park's Mann Center for the Performing Arts.

Called the Skyline Stage, this new general admission, second show space will be set up at the very top of the Mann campus, in a large open field behind the concessions area, Crescendo restaurant  and restroom facilities.

Our favorite ambient/prog-rock group, Sigur Ros, is the first announced  headliner for the Skyline Stage, to land there July 30. Seats go on sale Friday, April 20 at 10 a.m.  Sigur Ros prides itself on the bell-like clarity and haunting atmospherics of its alt-Icelandic sound, as do fans. So all should find this wide-open, reverberant free,  back-to-nature  concert space much to their liking.

POSTED: Thursday, April 12, 2012, 10:32 AM
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Remember bookmobiles - the libraries on wheels that brought good reading material to your doorstep? Today, the Free Library of Philadelphia is introducing a digital learning meal-on-wheels called the Techmobile, to bring computers, internet access and trained assistance to the city's underserved neighborhoods.

Just the latest in a series of Library initiatives  providing digital literacy and web connectivity, the Techmobile "Hot Spot on Wheels" is being unveiled this morning at 11:30 a.m. at Rowan House in West Philadelphia, with endorsements from Mayor Michael Nutter and the city's chief innovation officer Adel Ebeid.

Our Techmobile is a 25-foot van outfitted with mobile broadband service, six PC laptops and six iPads and, equally important, a trained staffer to provide computer training classes and one-on-one assistance to visitors who climb on-board.

POSTED: Wednesday, April 11, 2012, 1:15 PM

Three major talents with local connections - Thom Bell, Larry Fine and Bob Marley (!) - are getting "props" in new CD, DVD and screen projects.

Ringing the Bell: A prime architect of the Philly Sound  gets his due on the just-out Peak Records/eOne album "Bob Baldwin Presents 'Betcha By Golly Wow': The Music of Thom Bell." Too bad Bell's songwriting collaborator Linda Creed couldn't also have made the title. Keyboardist/arranger Baldwin prefers the term "New Urban Jazz' to "Smooth Jazz" to describe his treatments, though they're often  close.  Guitarist Russ Freeman chimes in on  the Delfonics' hit "Didn't I Blow Your Mind This Time," the Spinners  "Rubberband Man" is rewarded with  an intriguing ambient soul/jazz rendering while saxman  Marion Meadows sails smoothly through  "People Make the World Go Round."   I'm especially loving the vocal cuts  - including singer Will Downing's dynamic take on "Break Up to Make Up" and Philly-based Vivian Green's haunting remake of the Delfonics "La-La Means I Love You."

Philly's Stooge: He's immortalized in mural form on South Street, and starting Friday in a new but faithful to the original "The Three Stooges"  comedy flick. Still, the best tribute to  home-grown comic genius Larry Fine and his fellow Stooges - Moe Howard, Curly Howard, Shemp Howard, Joe Besser and Curly Joe Derita" - has to be "The Three Stooges Ultimate Collection" a $100 (list) 20 disc box set from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, coming out June 5. Putting all their Nyuks in a row, the splendiferous set of slapstick collects all 190 short films we loved watching/aping as kids, plus three discs of rare and unreleased content - including the new to DVD full length Columbia films "Have Rocket, Will Travel" and "Rockin ' In the Rockies."

POSTED: Tuesday, April 10, 2012, 2:04 PM

Bloomberg took its beef with Comcast back to the Federal Communications Commission today, saying the  BTV news channel is being unfairly excluded from the "news neighborhood" on Comcast cable systems.

Fair and equal viewer access to all news channels was a specific condition imposed on Comcast by the FCC, in allowing the cable giant's takeover of NBC/Universal, noted Bloomberg attorney Stephen Gavin in his FCC filing. The order was to prevent  undo advantage for NBC News, MSNBC and CNBC. The Commission held that "if Comcast now or in the future carries news and/or business news channels in a neighborhood, defined as placing a significant number or percentage of news and/or business channels substantially adjacent to one another in a system's channel lineup, Comcast must carry all independent news and business news channels in that neighborhood."

Bloomberg had to dig deep into the Comcast world, but  has come up with a few locales that contradict Comcast's first Annual  Report of Compliance, filed with the FCC  by senior vp David L. Cohen on February 28. The report affirms Comcast "has not re-arranged any news channel into a neighborhood since the close of Transaction and, as a result, has not incurred any obligation to neighborhood news channels." 

POSTED: Tuesday, April 10, 2012, 11:15 AM

What's buzzing in the tech world today?  A trend setter in low cost home computing has passed. And Apple's feeling some competitive heat in the mobile phone space. 

Bargain Computing Started Here: Unless you built your own PC in the garage, there was once no cheaper (serious) computer to be had than the Commodore 64, the brainchild of Jack Tramiel and reportedly the most successful model ever sold (17 million.) "We sell to the masses and not the classes," said the Commodore king, who died Sunday at age 83. 

 The Polish-born Tramiel was a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp, had the equivalent of a 5th grade education. After coming to the U.S., he started fooling with gizmos as a typewriter repairman in the U.S. Army, later founded Commodore to import typewriters, then got into bargain electronic calculators and digital watches. That set off his first price battles with Texas Instruments. "Business is not a sport. It's a war," he said.

POSTED: Monday, April 9, 2012, 2:58 PM

We've been hearing buzz about the second annual Philly Tech Week for a while. Today it's all firmed up and yours to start planning for, as the official program and magazine  for the 80 event,  April 20-28 happening becomes available to pick up (at more than 100 locations) or download instantly here.

While much of the week-long celebration of local technology and innovation is geared to the community of makers, shakers and instigators, there's a fair number of events with broad appeal. 

 Monday, April 23  is looking particularly  ripe with fun stuff in the evening,  including an inside look (at the center city Apple store) of how the Philadelphia Eagles web team is planning coverage for the NFL Draft, a presentation by the digitally minded theater company New Paradise about "future delivery" of drama, a demo of mobile technologies  being nurtured in the region and a Digital Art Gallery hosted by Artican.com.

About this blog
Jonathan Takiff covers all manner of high tech gadgets – and the entertaining stuff you play on them – for the Philadelphia Daily News, philly.com and the McClatchy Tribune News Service. Reach Jonathan at takiffj@phillynews.com.

Jonathan Takiff Daily News Columnist
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