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Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

V for Venetian

Monday, January 14th, 2013

VAt the Venetian Hotel CES 2013 held forth in two widely separated venues.  The more cohesive of the two used repurposed guest rooms in upper floors of the Tower for high performance audio exhibits.  The other exhibits were about as far away from the Tower as they could be and still remain part of the the Venetian.  That area houses five levels of ballrooms and banquet/conference/event rooms: Marco Polo, San Polo, Bellini, Lido, Delfino, Galileo, Zeno, Casanova, Marcello, and more.   And the variety of exhibit categories overwhelmed the variety of names.

This was most apparent in the Eureka Park exhibits which occupied all of the Lido and Murano and half of the San Polo halls.  Eureka Park is a new TechZone (others include MommyTech, Robotics, HDMI, Silvers Summit, and Kids@Play).  Eureka Park welcomes first time exhibitors–start-ups–and offers them entry to the world of CES for low cost.  My understanding is that this is a one-time deal.  You’re only a start-up once, but for many of the Eureka Park folks, that may be enough.  There were about 150 of them this year.  Some caught my eye (and ear).  Come back later for a rundown.

Koss StereophonesOther Venetian halls in this vicinity held big names: Intel, IBM, Logitech, Verizon, and the like.  That’s not my beat.  But Koss is and that venerable company, the originator of stereo headphones and still one to reckon with, had a listening lounge tucked away between T-Mobile and IBM.  Go figure. Actually, I didn’t worry about figuring, I made the trek.

The Koss range of products is amazing.  The company still offers the classic PRO4AA full-sized stereo headphones that rocked the world in 1970, got retired in the ’80s, and restored to the line shortly after in response to continuing demand.  There are two things to take away from that statement.  First off, Koss has designed and produced quality products for decades.  Second, Koss products are designed to last, not only on the owners’ heads, but also in the marketplace.  Koss most emphatically does NOT produce a PRO5, 6, or 7 annually to stimulate demand and an image of progressing.  Koss certainly progresses, but it’s not image-based.  It’s reality based and the company doesn’t feel the need to make you believe that the Koss product you bought last year is made obsolete by a newer version that came out this year.  I have my own set of PRO4AA phones.  I listen to them off and on, mainly when I feel a need for a strong personal dose of wonderful music fed as directly to my cerebral cortex as I can manage.  It’s always an elevating experience and I cannot foresee a day when I would be okay with not having that experience immediately available.  And with the Koss lifetime warranty policy, I figure I have nothing to worry about.

Koss Striva ProOf course Koss continues active product development and introduction.  A case in point are the recent Striva PRO.  It’s a Wi-Fi enabled stereo headphone setup that includes, in addition to the phones themselves, the Wi-Fi transmitter (Striva CAP) for wireless listening and an audio cable for traditional wired listening.  This is an upper end Koss product with a suggested retail of $450.  Oddly enough, this is one of the few Koss products that does NOT enjoy the Koss Limited Lifetime Warranty.  You get 90 days of coverage.

There will be more from the Venetian in future posts.


CES 2013: a few numbers

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

CES LogoThe actual audited attendance figures for the International CES will be announced a month or more after the show’s over.  (The 2012 show came in at 156,153.)

The two figures that are available at this point are 1.9-million and 3250.  The first is the number of net square feet of exhibit space being occupied.  Note the word “net.”  That number excludes aisle space, space taken up by concessionaires, and other non-rented spaces.  To put it in perspective, that’s almost 400 basketball courts or slightly over 42 football fields.

The other figure is the number of exhibitors and it’s usually preceded by “more than” in official statements.

Me and my Dish

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Dish Network LogoLet me be very clear.  A few years ago when I bought a house in the rural area southwest of Tucson, I had a choice of Dish Network or DirecTV.  There were antennas for both on the roof.  No cable company has yet seen fit to run a line to my neighborhood and the phone company offers dialup only, pretty bad dialup at that.

I opted for Dish, mainly because their music streaming channels had much more appeal to me than what DirecTV offered.

Aside from that, the two services seemed very similar.  From what I’ve seen, Dish has moved ahead faster and surer than DirecTV.  Of course, that’s based on hearsay about DirecTV but actual experience with Dish.

Still, last night when I heard Dish CEO Joe Clayton pointing out Dish’s pro-consumer stance and its commitment to providing what Dish has found that consumers appreciate, I felt I knew where he was coming from.  I also knew that, as with all service-oriented firms, Dish hadn’t totally achieved that goal.

So this is going to be a sort of “warts and all” picture of Dish from the perspective of a generally satisfied user.

I don’t like the commitments or agreements that Dish uses to promote and support their services.  I spend part of the year in Tucson and part in Buffalo, NY.  (You can figure out which part where pretty easily, I expect.)  I don’t use Dish in Buffalo.  I’m urban rather than rural and let’s just say that the cable service (from Time-Warner) is acceptable and available.

So Dish goes into a pause mode when I’m in Buffalo: $5.00 a month.  Not bad,  but paused service does not count toward satisfying sign-up commitments.  It would take me four years on the calendar to wipe out a 24 month commitment.  I was hoping that maybe Comcast, which serves nearby areas in Tucson, might feel moved to install a line in my neighborhood in four years and it’s nice to have options.

So rather than letting Dish “give” me a receiver and lock me in for a four year stretch, I bought one on the secondary market.  It worked fine.  I’ve upgraded since then to a DVR receiver.  That one Dish gave me.  Not the absence of scare quotes.  It was a definite pro-consumer move.  It benefited Dish, too, of course.  There’s now a $5 monthly DVR fee on my bill that wasn’t there before.  But I’m the owner of the DVR, not Dish.  I had to send back the non-DVR receiver that I bought, but that’s fair enough.  Especially since Dish paid the postage.

Now I’m swapping in an HD DVR receiver.  I bought it through eBay for about a third of the price Dish quoted me for buying one from them.  An issue with buying on the secondary market is that the receiver might be one that a previous owner had received under one of Dish’s deals and had not fulfilled his or her  side of the bargain.  That’s a long-winded way of saying that one can easily buy a receiver that was for all intents and purposes stolen from Dish.  Dish won’t activate such a receiver until receiving the payment that’s properly due to them.

But the one I bought was posted on eBay with a clear photo of the Dish Network identifying sticker on the back.  All I had to do was phone Dish, read them the number, and they were happy to tell me that the receiver account was clear and the device could be readily activated.

They told me some other stuff that was not correct according to one of the Dish service coordinators who was on the CES show floor today.   The person on the phone said that the Dish 500 antenna on my roof was just fine for receiving signals to feed the HD receiver.  It surprised me and indeed that’s not the case.  It’s not the first time I’ve received erroneous or conflicting information over the phone from Dish people.  (I’m talking actual reps at the 800-333-DISH number, not local contract vendors.)

So the antenna situation is bad.  What is good is that I’ve been paying a monthly amount for Dish’s protection plan.  So far, it’s provided me with nothing more than two replacement remotes, but now I’m going to get a new antenna installed and the new receiver hooked up and checked out for a $15 service fee rather that paying Dish a LOT more.

The guy on the floor says that Dish likes it when people opt for the plan not only because it brings in money, but it also saves Dish money and the customer aggravation because it makes discussions about fixing things short and sweet:  “I see you have our protection plan so that makes things easy.”

My only regret is that I opted for a non-Hopper DVR.  But you know what?  I still have eBay.  Hoppers are out there to buy and buyers are out there for my DVR.  I probably won’t get the Hopper with Sling, but who knows?

Stay tuned.