THE GIZMO: Hot happenings in consumer electronics. We're loaded with high-tech news and need to unload on somebody.
INTERNET RADIO GETS A REPRIEVE: Yesterday's planned "day of silence" - shutting down Internet radio streams to protest a steep new music royalty structure - was put on hold, last minute, by SaveNetRadio, a coalition of webcasters and artists.
Given a reprieve until July 15 before the new rates go into effect, the group is hoping to work a miracle in Congress, where Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Washington) has introduced legislation to roll back the performance fees newly imposed by the Copyright Royalty Board, a division of the Library of Congress.
Indie webcasters doing it for the love of music would be hardest hit by the new payment rates, which start at a minimum $500 a month and escalate into a per-song, per-listener rate if the stream has a big following.
But even established operations are stressing out. "It's the killing of Internet radio," said Joe Kennedy, CEO of the popular music discovery site Pandora.com.
"We're thinking about putting caps on the listenership to our three streams," added Roger LeMay, general manager of nonprofit WXPN (88.5-FM) here. "Otherwise, we could soon be looking at about $200,000 in annual payments.
"We'd be happy to work out a percentage fee commensurate with the money we take in.
SoundExchange, the organization that collects the royalties for artists and record labels, has expressed some willingness to negotiate, but that's as far as its gotten."
HIGH-RES WARS: Who serves up the highest-quality high-definition TV pictures? According to a recent viewer study and current ad campaign from Comcast, the cabler's picture quality is preferred (surprise) by about two-thirds of the pay-TV viewers who could see a difference (20 percent of the test subjects could not).
They were looking at identical TV sets showing the same channels fed by Comcast, DirecTV and Dish Network at a test site in Colorado.
My antenna went up, though when Comcast wouldn't share "for competitive and other reasons" some aspects of how the test was conducted. I especially wanted to know how the cable and satellite receivers were connected to the TVs (HDMI versus component cables?), and what percentage of testing was done with local versus national HD channels.
Component connections and an emphasis on local feeds could unduly stack the deck in Comcast's favor.
CHILLING WITH THE TV: What are the coolest new HDTVs coming down the pike this season?
Unveiled this week at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show, the LG HDTV Refrigerator is a "side-by-side" model that sports a 15-inch, remote-controlled, high-def TV set plus an FM radio on the right door.
Oh, and atop the ice/water dispenser on the other door is a 4-inch LCD screen that delivers personalized weather forecasts, serves up pre-loaded recipes from the Culinary Institute of America and can also display your favorite digital photos.
The LG model (LSC27990TT) hits stores shortly, priced at $3,999.
Also sure to put a chill on is the first true 3-D-ready TV set, Samsung's 56-inch HL-T5689S, priced at $2,799. The high-definition, thin-line display uses a DLP engine that can alternate left and right eye views 120 times a second, (that's 60 per side) in synchronization with shutter-type LCD glasses (estimated cost, $50-$100).
The viewer's brain puts these rapidly alternating, slightly shifting images together and sees three-dimensionally.
At the outset, jump into the picture content will be limited to 3-D versions of games like "Doom" and "Myst," played through a connected PC.
But Samsung is in discussion with video-game-console suppliers and high-def-video-disc developers to get into 3-D. And with a special interface box, conventional two-dimensional videos can be tweaked to look somewhat three-dimensional on the TV.
SMILE FOR THE CAMERA: Fans of Sony video game systems will have new reasons to smile as accessory cameras are introduced for both the PSP (PlayStation Portable) and PlayStation 3 in the coming months.
Europe will be first to get the Go! Cam video camera for PSP, on sale later this month for 50 Euros (about $60). The device captures and stores up to 2.5 hours of video recording or 40,000 digital photos on a 4 GB Memory Stick Pro Duo inserted in the handheld system. No U.S. release date has been announced.
On sale in Europe this summer and here in the fall (price TBA), PlayStation Eye for PS3 will likewise let users record pictures and sound to the game system's hard drive - then tweak the results with (included) EyeCreate editing/special effects software. More likely, though, gamers will use this low-light camera (with built-in noise-canceling microphone) to connect with others while playing online.
Oh, and the Eye cam also will see use as a novel form of game controller. First application, to be bundled with the device, is "Eye of Judgement," a cross between a video game and a board game jointly developed by Sony and toy maker Hasbro.
SHORT SHOTS: Come May 25, by FCC edict, retailers must label all remaining analog-only TVs, VCRs and DVD recorders with a warning that the product won't receive a broadcast signal after February 2009.
_ Would you buy an HD-DVD player or HDTV (hot off the truck?) from new pitch man Michael Imperioli, better known as trigger-happy gangster Christopher Moltisanti on "The Sopranos"? Toshiba wants to know.
_ HD radios coming to market at year's end will add a "conditional access" feature so users can buy into reading services, a "pledge-free" channel and "pay-per-listen" services, said NPR Labs executive director Michael Starling. *