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CANOE — Technology: Microsoft rolls out first new logo in 25 years

August 24th, 2012 master No comments

The redesigned Microsoft logo is shown in this publicity image released to Reuters August 23, 2012. REUTERS/Microsoft/Handout

SEATTLE – Microsoft Corp unveiled its first new logo in 25 years on Thursday as it looks to unify its branding ahead of a clutch of new product releases this year.

The world’s largest software company is introducing a dash of color in its first logo redesign since 1987, using a new multi-colored square next to a plain rendering of its name, replacing its well-worn italic style logo.

Microsoft is rolling out its new Windows 8 operating system along with new Office and phone software this autumn, and is hoping the new logo unifies customers’ experience of the company, much like rival Apple Inc’s distinctive logo has for its consumers.

“It’s been 25 years since we’ve updated the Microsoft logo and now is the perfect time for a change,” said Jeff Hansen, general manager of Microsoft’s brand strategy, in a blog on Microsoft’s website. “This wave of new releases is not only a reimagining of our most popular products, but also represents a new era for Microsoft, so our logo should evolve to visually accentuate this new beginning.”

The new design, which resembles the existing logo for Windows, its most important product, is already in use on Microsoft’s website and is being unveiled at its latest store opening in Boston on Thursday.

CANOE — Technology: Microsoft rolls out first new logo in 25 years

Ford’s land radio show at Newstalk 1010

February 28th, 2012 master No comments

Mayor Rob Ford, left, and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford will host a show every Sunday on Newstalk 1010, the station confirmed Thursday. (Toronto Sun files)

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TORONTO - 

Get ready radio listeners for two of Toronto’s most outspoken politicians, two microphones and two hours of live radio.

That’s the recipe for radio gold Mayor Rob Ford and Councillor Doug Ford are cooking up with their new gig on Newstalk 1010.

As the Toronto Sun revealed Thursday, Ford along with his brother Councillor Doug Ford are the new hosts of the station’s Sunday afternoon show, The City. The brothers bump out current host, centrist Councillor Josh Matlow.

The Fords were in the Newstalk 1010 studios for the official announcement on Thursday morning, setting the stage for the first show of The City with Mayor Rob Ford this Sunday at 1 p.m.

“It’s going to be good,” Mayor Ford said at City Hall on Thursday.

Councillor Doug Ford said the live show will have “a mixture of everything” and will include a call-in portion.

“sometimes it will be controversial, other times it will just be fun,” Ford said. “People will get to really know Rob and myself, we’ll get personal on the station too – what we did on the weekend, what we did with our kids, what are the events happening throughout the city, how can we improve the city.”

Councillor Ford joked he won’t be a long-term host.

“I probably won’t last a show,” he said. “I’ll say something I’ll be gone.”

His brother was a little more confident.

“He’s alright … Nah, we’ll keep him on a short leash,” Mayor Ford said.

The Fords said they will have councillors from across the political spectrum on the show.

Councillor Adam Vaughan, a vocal Ford foe, said if the brothers invite him on, he’ll “consider the topic.”

“I think they’ll enjoy talking to each other,” Vaughan said.

Ford allies were ready to tune in to the show.

“I want to be the first guest,” speaker Frances Nunziata said Thursday. “It will be very entertaining, I’m looking forward to it.”

Budget Chief Mike Del Grande said he’ll be tuning in Sunday.

“I think it will be very, very lively, given it is the Ford brothers and they seem to strike the most discussion in the city,” Del Grande said.

Ford’s land radio show at Newstalk 1010

Cal Poly

December 18th, 2011 master No comments

Contact: Harvey Levenson 805-756-1108; levenso@calpoly.edu

Cal Poly Journalism students are instructed by Journalism technician Michael Pershall on the use of a TriCaster, robotic cameras, and related video equipment acquired through a grant from PG&E.

SAN LUIS OBISPO – Cal Poly’s Journalism Department has received a $38,189 grant from Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) to support journalism education.

“The grant was used to purchase some of the most modern audio and video technology available in the journalism profession,” said Harvey Levenson, interim chair of Journalism Department. “this is the essence of putting into practice Cal Poly’s well-known Learn by Doing educational philosophy.

The Journalism Department acquired four Sony robotic cameras, a remote control and cables; camera stands from McClaflin Mobile Media; a dozen Shure desktop microphones, and two wireless microphones; a TriCaster Studio system plus monitor and backup hard drive; a Mackie Audio Mixer; an Anchor Liberty public address system; a Mac-mini server, monitor and backup hard drive; and an Epson 1400 printer.

“We’re proud to partner with Cal Poly in giving students the opportunity to learn on technology relevant to today’s communication needs,” said Kory Raftery, public information officer at PG&E’s Diablo Canyon Power Plant. “Community involvement in education continues to be something that PG&E values, and our company is pleased to be able to make this investment to support that commitment.”

PG&E’s support elevates the Journalism Department’s ability to offer state-of-the-art education in audio and video recording, Levenson said. The equipment is being used in laboratories and in fieldwork, during which students participate in real projects for organizations and the community, as well as for events featured on Cal Poly’s CPTV television channel and on the university’s KCPR radio station.

The equipment has already facilitated collaborative projects among students, faculty and staff, including:

  • Live streaming video of the university’s colloquium “Homecoming for the Mind,” which showcased research and projects by students and faculty in the College of Liberal Arts.
  • A promotional video for California Women for Agriculture titled, “Agriculture is …” and presented as part of an annual event. The video was posted online to be used as a promotional device as a way to involve and acknowledge stakeholders who appeared in the video. 
  • Class assignments in which students are required to go out in the field interviewing and recording subjects involved in stories about the university.

The project leader for equipment selection is Michael Pershall, Journalism Department technician and an expert in electronic audio and video technology. “with the PG&E grant allowing us to acquire up-to-date recording equipment, we can document real events more efficiently, with higher quality, and eventually provide audio and video recording for local events in the community,” Pershall said.

About Cal Poly’s Journalism Department Cal Poly’s Journalism Department (http://cla.calpoly.edu/jour.html) offers a professional program leading to a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism with emphases in broadcasting, multimedia, news-editorial and public relations. Journalism majors serve as staff members of departmental communications media, including the Mustang Daily, the student newspaper; CCPR, the student-run public relations firm; KCPR, the FM-stereo radio station; or the news and programming operations of CPTV, Cal Poly’s TV station. The department also sponsors student chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, Radio-Television News Directors Association, and the Public Relations Student Society of America. Founded in the 1920s, the department has thousands of alumni, many of whom hold important positions in print, broadcast, and public relations journalism for state and national organizations.

Cal Poly

Hackel: ‘It’s time to tell the rest of the world about Macomb County’ VIDEO

December 9th, 2011 master No comments

When Hackel took the stage, he spoke without a podium or a traditional fixed microphone. instead, he paced the stage, relying upon a wireless microphone attached to his tie. Other than a basic outline, he had no speech text to rely upon.The front row of the audience included Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and most of the county’s judges, dressed in black robes. The first several rows of seats behind them were mostly occupied by dozens of elected officials.Before introducing Bing to the crowd, Hackel pledged his support for a healthy Detroit: “Regional cooperation is not just a buzzword or a sound bite. We are competing as a region for economic opportunities.”At the same time, much of the executive’s speech was a pep talk for county residents, reminding them of the Macomb assets that can pay off with economic growth and more jobs.The former sheriff emphasized the county’s population growth of 52,000 people over the past decade — a sharp contrast with the rest of Michigan. he referred to Macomb as a community with quality schools, safe neighborhoods, and affordable housing that can continue to attract new residents and businesses.he noted that the county attracted $2.6 billion in new corporate investments since he took office on Jan. 1, led by the big three automakers. Chrysler, which was planning to close its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, instead reversed course, plowed $1 billion into the facility, and proceeded with plans to add 3,000 jobs at the factory.As he has expressed repeatedly over the past 11 months, Hackel said that Macomb, with the help of the Snyder administration, could substantially expand its Warren-Sterling Heights defense corridor.“The governor and Mike Finney, (CEO of Michigan Economic Development Corp.), have committed to assigning the director of the MEDC Defense Center to Macomb County to help us with our vision to become the defense capital of the world,” said the Macomb Township Democrat.but the executive expressed the most vim when discussing his “new Blue Economy Initiative,” asserting that Lake St. Clair, the Clinton River and its tributaries present “untapped resources” and numerous opportunities for recreational activities and economic development. Liveries, parks and hike/bike trails along the waterways would provide a unique atmosphere, he said.Labeling the Clinton River “our mainstream Main Street,” Hackel said he envisions campers, fishermen, kayakers, and groups of Boy and Girl Scouts spending time on the river rather than traveling 100 miles or more to northern Michigan waterways. Continued…

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Hackel: ‘It’s time to tell the rest of the world about Macomb County’ VIDEO

10 new or repaired escalators open at Metro’s Union Station, Foggy Bottom

December 6th, 2011 master No comments

Those weren’t the only ones working in the system — a status report said that 530 of a total of 588 were in service — but Metro was showing off seven escalators that had been rehabilitated at Union Station and three new ones that were finally in place at Foggy bottom.

The new equipment is part of the agency’s effort to replace or overhaul 153 escalators at 25 stations in the next few years.

The new escalators at Foggy Bottom, along with a new staircase that will be installed early next year, are part of a $5.9 million project that began in January. A new canopy is scheduled to be installed over the escalator and staircase entrance next year.

Metro spent $2.2 million on repairs to the units at Union Station. on Wednesday morning, Metro General Manager Richard Sarles stood at the top of a bank of rehabilitated escalators and gamely worked his way through a statement, saying that it was a “milestone in the rebuilding effort,” although his microphone was malfunctioning and few of the people passing by could hear him.

A moment later, he and other officials cut a ceremonial red ribbon with what appeared to be a dull set of scissors.

“at least the escalators work,” he said.

Riders are accustomed to Metro’s escalators experiencing chronic breakdowns. many of them have not been properly maintained. Finding parts also can be difficult because many of the manufacturers have gone out of business.

In February, Metro plans to shut down the south entrance escalators at Dupont Circle because all three escalators there will be replaced with new ones.

Metro also plans to replace the often-broken escalators at the Bethesda station, but that work will not start until 2014.

Riders at Foggy bottom said they enjoyed seeing three working escalators at the busy station.

“it was an excellent ride,” said Helen Hamilton of Alexandria, as she headed to a doctor’s appointment. “it feels much more sustainable, not as cranky as the others.”

The big question many riders had: how long will the escalators stay operational?

Metro said it “anticipates” that the “like-new” escalators at Union Station will last 15 to 20 years. The ones at Foggy bottom are expected to last 20 to 30 years.

10 new or repaired escalators open at Metro’s Union Station, Foggy Bottom

Categories: ribbon microphone Tags: ,

Q&A: Shure Distribution

December 3rd, 2011 master No comments

Field sales manager Anthony Short explains how the company has benefited from its brands investing heavily in R&D when others have been forced to cut back.

Year Established: 1964 (As HW International)Number of Employees: 29How is business compared to this time last year? Business is very good with clear growth in sales across all our brands and in each of our key markets. of course, radio microphone sales are particularly strong, but this should be measured against several years of slow sales while the industry waited for OfCom’s announcement on future radio microphone legislation.

We have a portfolio of strong, independently owned brands that have heavily invested in new technology and product development during a period when many others were forced to cut back. We’re already experiencing the benefit of this, but there is much more to come – it’s very exciting right now. What are your best-selling lines and why do you think they perform so well?It would be easy to say the Shure SM58 and just stop there, but the truth is that we are lucky to have a number of ‘industry standard’ products within the portfolio. Shure, QSC, Radial, SKB, Monster and Primacoustic all produce products that professionals choose to take on stage or into the studio and this heritage is something that resonates with our resellers and their customers.What do you believe gives you the edge over your competitors?I think that as a team we just try and provide the best service we can at all levels of the business; we aim to provide our customers with good product, with the minimum of fuss and with the reassurance of excellent after-sales care.  How do you maintain a good relationship with retailers? the best relationships develop through communication and empathy; only by understanding the needs of our customers can we deliver the service they require.   How does the UK compare to other global MI markets?I am not sure it is right to compare the UK to any other market; we are a highly innovative and accomplished nation of music producers and performers and we have been for some time. As long as we can continue to nurture the raw talent with the desire to push the musical boundaries then the UK should remain in pretty good shape.What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the MI industry today? Understanding the true worth of ‘brand’ and the true meaning of ‘value’.Contact Details:Address: Unit 2, the IO Centre, Lea Road, Waltham Abbey, EN9 1ASPhone: 01992 703058Web: shuredistribution.co.uk Email: info@shuredistribution.co.uk

Q&A: Shure Distribution

Moyers calls for a convention to remake system

December 2nd, 2011 master No comments

"The core problem is that we still don’t have an expansive national vision of what we’re about, where we want to go and what we want to become." A reconstitutional convention?

Published in Current, Nov. 21, 2011

Bill Moyers, in a speech to public TV program execs in Memphis Nov. 10 [2011], compared today’s public broadcasting system to the half-baked union of the nation’s Articles of Confederation before the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

"Forty years after the founding, our ‘Articles of Confederation’ aren’t working all that well, either," he said and suggested that public broadcasters call the equivalent of a weeklong constitutional convention to begin a creative "rebirth" and start developing "a structure and scheme for the 2lst century."

"until we are able to say clearly and comprehensively what it is we really want to do, how much it will cost," funders won’t wholeheartedly pitch in, he said.

since the second Carnegie Commission in the late 1970s, he said, "we haven’t engaged in a full and frank examination of the system — the full nature of the process — top to bottom and with all the interested internal and external public and private parties participating."

a long excerpt from the speech at the American Public Television Fall Marketplace begins on page 8 of the Nov. 21 issue. The full speech is posted below. Moyers gets down to business at this point. Your comments are welcome.

Posted on Current.org, Nov. 14, 2011 Remarks by Bill Moyers

I can’t tell you how glad I am to be here.  or maybe I can.  last Friday, after filming in Washington for our new series, I was waiting at Union Station for the train back to new York when a woman about my age approached me with a quizzical look on her face. She asked:   

“Weren’t you Bill Moyers?”

“once upon a time,” I answered.

She said, “I’ll be darned . . . I didn’t think you were still with us.”

“well, I think I am,” I answered.  I guessed that she was a news junkie, so I said:

“maybe you have me confused with other on-air journalists, old-timers like David Brinkley. or Bob Pierpoint. or Howard K. Smith . . . Paul Duke . . . Charles Kuralt. All of them have passed on.”

She was still unsure, and said: “well, I always watched you when you were alive.”

She’ll have another chance come January. I trust she doesn’t get Moyers & Company mixed up with [AMC’s zombie show] The Walking Dead.

So considering the alternatives, I’m glad to be here. very glad. like crime boss Michael Corleone trying to go legitimate in Godfather III: “just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

I signed off the final edition of the Journal 18 months ago. Judith and I were ready for a break — to catch up with our grandkids, see old friends, put together the book based on the series . . . and figure out what’s next.      

A weekly television program takes its toll — and not only the time and effort required for reporting, writing, and producing.  as all of you know far too well, the other half of the job can test your stamina and patience just as sorely — raising the money to get a series up and running and keep it going. Earlier this summer, when Current carried the story of our new series for APT, one anonymous programmer was quoted saying “all those Moyers stops and restarts” are “frustrating to stations . . . and continually raise concerns that political pressures are influencing program decisions.” He (or she) went on:  “I have nothing but respect for (Bill), but dealing with viewer phone calls when he ‘retires’ is a pain to stations in terms of volume, but more importantly because it’s once again seen as some kind of political pressure or bias…"

Understood. and apologies for the fits and starts, as unpredictable as the hiccups, I know. but it’s been the pattern for 40 years — not from whim on my part, or even from a Gemini nature or the periodic desire to take a deep breath. Fiscal necessity is the mother of starts and stops, and it’s a chronic condition of our under-funded public television system. 

At our company, Public Affairs Television, as with most other independent national producers, we raise every penny for every production we mount, and over the years, when we’re low on cash, we must, out of necessity, go off the air and head out on the road to raise more, never knowing for sure when we will gather together enough for the return ticket home. The old joke in public television still obtains: the good news is, you have partial funding. The bad news is, you have partial funding.

That’s been the case for all the series and specials we’ve put on over the past quarter century: Bill Moyers Journal,  Healing and the Mind, On our Own Terms  (about  death and dying in America), Close to Home (about addiction and recovery), America’s first River (the story of the Hudson) Becoming American: The Chinese Experience, Faith and Reason, The Wisdom of Faith, Genesis, World of Ideas, Trade Secrets, Buying the War, Capitol Crimes, Is God Green? Free Speech for Sale — you name it, we had to raise the budget for it, one funder at a time. During my first years in public television, beginning in 1971, there were several consecutive seasons when our entire team went three months without pay because our resources wouldn’t stretch any further. 

No sympathy, please. to a certain extent, I’ve preferred it this way. The imperative to raise funds produced the freedom to choose my subjects, to do only what really mattered to me, and to avoid that awkward and often painful posture of moving ahead while constantly looking over your shoulder.  but that process also has its drawbacks, as the station programmer pointed out in that Current story, and in a bit I want to say something about remedies.

I’m back because I love this work. and I love it because it’s teamwork.  I wish there were time for me to name all the producers with whom I’ve been privileged to work and who brought order out of my chaos; researchers who hunted down the dots and connected them; editors who worked miracles against deadlines; camera and sound crews as cool as surgeons, tough as marines and brave as astronauts.  Executive producers, writers, comptrollers, unit managers, and administrative assistants — kindred spirits all down the line — off camera, unseen and unsung but indispensable.

I can name three steadfast soulmates who have been with me over the long life of our company: Judith Moyers, Judy Doctoroff and Diana Warner. The body of our work is a testament to their talents and to a shared conviction that public broadcasting is a calling and not just a career. After all, in the words of the great concert impresario Sol Hurok, “if I would be in this business for business, I wouldn’t be in this business.” so, thanks, too, to those funders who are part of Moyers & Company: the Carnegie Corp., John and Polly Guth and the Partridge Foundation, the Park Foundation, the Kohlberg Foundation, the Clements Foundation, the Lani and Herb Alpert Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation, the HKH Foundation, Barbara Fleischman, and our sole corporate funder, Mutual of America. can you believe it? The same corporate funder year after year, through all the ups and downs, starts and stops, slings and arrows — with nary a complaint, raised eyebrow, or even an OMG!  Public television has never had a more faithful corporate ally than Mutual of America. nor democracy a stronger corporate friend.   All of the above, I hope, help to explain the stops and restarts. as Walt Whitman famously said, “Do I contradict myself? very well, then I contradict myself.” but I keep returning because as Whitman also proclaimed, “I hear America singing.”

I also hear it shouting. and cheering.  and cursing. and wailing and weeping and gnashing our teeth. even praying — although to different gods, for different things.

The cacophony of a fractious, insatiable, and rambunctious people is no less rowdy today. Pity the journalist trying to make sense of it.  I wouldn’t even want to try without you. From Day one — 40 years ago this very fall, when my first series premiered — I’ve known our local stations to be the structural bones of public broadcasting.  and as the old English saying goes: It is the bones that bring the meat to town. 

You are the indisputable link to the public in public broadcasting. and for that reason, I’ve visited probably more local stations over these four decades than just about any other on-air journalist. I’ve met with your staffs, boards, and members; held fundraisers; cut station promos; produced pledge shows with your needs in mind (as we’re doing next spring for the 25th anniversary of the premiere of Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth, which has raised a lot of money for  local stations). I’ve listened to your grievances, solicited your counsel, and come to know many of you not just as colleagues but as good friends.

Now, I know the bind you’re in. as Eleanor Roosevelt said in the days leading up to World War II, we live in “no ordinary time.” things are tough. The financial and emotional distress created by the economic meltdown makes it all the more difficult for people to hear each other — and makes your job harder. not only to raise operating funds, but to figure out how to offer programming that doesn’t ignore the reality of America today: of men and women out of work; of parents wondering how they are going to pay the mortgage, rent, electricity or heating bill, let alone the car payment, gas, and phone bill; of college graduates who can’t find jobs but have massive student loans to repay; of senior citizens with shrunken pensions. just the other day, the government published a new report confirming that the poverty rate is the highest in 52 years — 49 million of our fellow Americans, including 16 million children. one in seven American households is “food insecure,” living with the specter of too little to eat. and the inequality gap is greater than it’s been since 1929.

No wonder that in one recent survey, only 15 percent of Americans said our country is heading in the right direction.  Washington is polarized and paralyzed, and our gross national psychology seems as bearish as our gross national product.  On my desk I’ve kept a headline from the Wall Street Journal: “The end of American Optimism.” and I think often of the story Mark Twain wrote called “The terrible Catastrophe.”  In it, he got his characters into such an impasse that no matter what anyone of them did, they would all be destroyed. Twain decided the situation was hopeless, and he ended the story by writing: “I have these characters in such a fix that I cannot get them out of it.  Anyone who thinks he can, is welcome to try.”

He doesn’t tell us if anyone did.

In times like these, what do we do as public broadcasters?

During this new election season, for example, what’s our role?  Some admirable journalists in the media will do their best to follow the money, trace the patterns of influence and power, analyze the veracity or relevance of partisan claims, and place them in context. but as usual, the “horse race” will dominate the coverage.  We’ve seen it already:  Trump’s in, Trump’s out; Palin will, Palin won’t; Bachman’s up, Bachman’s down; Christie will, Christie won’t; Perry is Sir Galahad, no, Gomer Pyle; Cain’s able, oops, Cain ain’t; Obama’s Jimmy Carter, no, he’s  Harry Truman — take your pick. 

But many Americans want a place where they can go for something different.  and that’s our opening — yours and mine. our two major parties may be further apart ideologically than at any point since the late 19th century, and their most loyal voters seem “better sorted” than they used to be, with liberals more likely to be Democrats and conservatives more likely to be Republicans. Certainly the most passionate in both parties have moved further apart. but as the political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson write in their book, Winner take All Politics [Simon & Schuster, September 2010] most Americans are just not that far apart in their views.  Polarization reflects not the growing polarization of voters, they conclude, but the growing failure of politicians to respond to the real-life concerns of the broad majority of the country, people who have little time for politics because they’re too consumed by the challenges of just getting by.

Yet these are people who also long to understand the relevance of policy to their lives — the connections between government decision-making and their own needs and duties. They rely on reason more than rant, and appreciate a place where conventional wisdom and misleading rhetoric are challenged, and where the true conversation of democracy continues — a conversation crucial to the quality of our lives and the character of our country.

Let me share with you a letter I received some weeks ago from a retired scholar of religion and society at one of our leading universities. I don’t know him personally, but I found what he had to say compelling. It actually was intended for you, too — for all of us.  Because he implored me to urge public broadcasters to address the crisis in American politics. Confidence in government keeps falling, he wrote, as more and more people come to see that the downward slide in their quality of life has been brought on by “engineered economic inequality.” You and I, he said, have a special obligation to measure political speech against relevant data, to gauge political promises against deeds. 

Democracy, he said, lives or dies on the process of political representation.  and representation cannot happen unless citizens see that their personal situations and the condition of the nation are inextricably linked — unless they understand how their difficulties in providing for their children, sustaining their marriages, getting further education or training, are caused directly and indirectly by tax, fiscal and monetary policies at the national level. 

So make it clear, he urged us, that no one can afford to be confused about politics; their livelihoods, and any hope for their children and generations beyond depend on what politicians do with their votes.  so please, he asked, help us redress the imbalance between policy and partisanship. clearly explain the distribution of tax burdens. Expose the special interest tax loopholes and how money and influence corrupt government.  show how increases in productivity connect to declining take-home wages, and unemployment rates to alcoholism, depression, divorce and suicide.  In other words — and I could feel his sense of urgency — enable us to grasp the relationship between declining optimism about the future of the country and the social indicators of personal despair.

That’s a tall order, and it comes at a time when, as the old song goes, we ain’t got a barrel of money. sometimes it feels like we don’t even have the barrel.  and yet, while reeling from the same hard slap of austerity as the rest of the 99 percent, there are ways we in public television can help Americans address the crisis of hope that has enveloped our nation. 

We start with assets — three things that that no other network or alliance of television stations possesses. 

We have our independence.  yes, we still rely on government funding and the largesse of foundations and corporations, but our core constituency is the public in public television. That’s why we’re here. and when we allow political or other outside pressures to misdirect our agenda, we’re letting the public down.  We’ve sometimes censored ourselves even before the threat has been whispered. but we are not owned by a multinational syndicate with a not-so-hidden agenda, like the one where the promise of “fair and balanced” has been twisted on its head into a perversion worthy of George Orwell. as the group 170 Million Americans for Public Broadcasting notes, “In an era of increased media consolidation, public broadcasters are among the last remaining locally owned and controlled sources of news, information and cultural programming.” What an asset.

The second thing we have is trust. You may have seen the recent new York Times/CBS News poll in which 89 percent of the American people say they don’t trust government to do the right thing — the highest level ever. but for the past several years, as measured by the Roper Public Opinion Poll, Americans in every age, ethnicity, income and education group have ranked public television as America’s most trusted institution. That’s all of us: the stations, APT, PBS, NETA and others.  At the beginning of this year, a survey of trust in television news, conducted by the group Public Policy Polling, found public television “at the top of the heap.”  to keep that trust we must never flinch from reality, no matter the loud and malicious attacks from partisans who come down on us for reporting what contradicts their propaganda.

When [Republican former House Speaker] Newt Gingrich maliciously described public television as a “sandbox for rich people,” we should have kicked the sand right back in his face. Bullies don’t respect 97-lb weaklings until they fight back.

Ideology, remember, is a worldview people swear is true despite all the evidence to the contrary. And it’s one reason the attack against reason and reality has reached the proportions of an unholy crusade. The anthropologist Marvin Harris wrote that Americans “desperately need to reaffirm the principle that it is possible to carry out an analysis of social life which rational human beings will recognize as being true, regardless of whether they happen to be women or men, whites or blacks, straights or gays, employers or employees, Jews, Muslims, or born-again Christians.” or skeptics and secularists. “The alternative is to stand by helplessly as special interest groups tear the United States apart in the name of their ‘separate realities’ or to wait until one of them grows strong enough to force its irrational and subjective brand of reality on all the rest.” We’ve seen what happens then. We have to stand against that happening.

The third and perhaps most important asset we have is community. those people who remain our most loyal supporters, and who give, and give again, to support us, know that for all the flaws of public television, our fundamental assumptions come down on their side, and on the side of democracy. Working harder to live up to their expectations — especially now, in such difficult times — would do more than anything to dispel the general malaise about the state of our industry and free us from the constant defensive  strategy that drains our energy and imagination.

Public broadcasting has been around long enough to qualify as an American institution. Quite a remarkable achievement. but that’s also far enough away from the original vision to forget what inspired our creation. as some of you know, the original Carnegie Commission report landed on my desk when I was a young White House assistant to President Lyndon Johnson.  The Commission envisioned that public television “ . . . should seek out able people whose talents might otherwise not be known and shared . . . provide a voice for groups that may otherwise be unheard . . . be a forum for debate and controversy . . . [and] have the means to be daring, to break away from narrow convention, to be human and earthy.” I had helped organize the Peace Corps in the early ’60s, and not since those heady days had I read anything as exciting.  The statement President Johnson made when he signed the Public Broadcasting Act into law in 1967 remains a classic endorsement of what was really meant by the term “the public interest” in the Communication Act of 1934.

Ten years later I had the privilege of serving on the second Carnegie Commission, convened to assess how public broadcasting had fared after its initial decade. that our report was largely ignored is not nearly as important as the verdict we rendered.  We were candid about what was missing — enough funding, fearless independence and a clear grasp of what public media could mean to the public interest. 

It was an honest assessment, and for all the marvelous programming over the years, most of its concerns still hold true. It’s just that today our situation is even more serious. 

The core problem is that we still don’t have an expansive national vision of what we’re about, where we want to go and what we want to become. until we are able to say clearly and comprehensively what it is we really want to do, how much it will cost, and how we intend to get there, we can’t blame Congress, the White House or even the foundations for not supporting us more fully.

In our candid moments, usually while bending elbows at the bar, we admit to each other that we’re mired in a sclerotic system that binds us to a politically cautious set of national entities that are both underfunded and themselves incapable of leading anyone towards a more vigorous notion of our future.

I know from talking to station managers that there’s been more discussion of what’s needed, at least internally, than producers like me may realize. but I also know that discussion has been halting in its resolve and implementation.

There’s much talk about this going on among all your affinity groups and their coalition in the AGC, but it’s been difficult in such forums to frame the vision and the plan.  Further, stations can only carry it so far on their own. Everyone involved in the system has a vested interest in the status quo, no matter how fragile and perilous. In truth, we all know that the better solutions demand a major overhaul of the national system. Yet there’s a huge vacuum between the system, nationally and locally, and the big foundations and no one has yet been inspired or capable enough to link the two at the level of a consensus national plan.

There are always people who remain afraid of change or an unknown process, fearful of where it might lead.  but by contrast, the British and Canadians go through periodic charter reviews that invoke a national conversation; there’s a culture of discussion and planning for public media in those nations that help them survive even the worst assaults from detractors or vested interests. this could be a reason that public support for public media in nations like the U.K. exceeds $80 per capita, while we’re still limping along on $1.49 per capita.

Perhaps it explains why, despite this multiplatform universe, we still have no serious, morning, national public television service other than programming for kids. as I’ve said before, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! is there for the asking — and Amy would bring with it a charismatic talent for raising funds for local stations that would build your membership. and there are other serious possibilities for such a day-starting service.

In the meantime, I’m here to tell you that even within the fiscal crisis public television currently faces, we have an opportunity to serve the public — to renew our bond to our communities.

You may not have money for in-depth documentaries or other high-end productions but you have cameras, microphones, studios and the trust of the community. You can be the ombudsman for the public within your reach, provide the venue for forums, teach-ins, town meetings, and debates over the issues that matter to people where they live, telecast in an atmosphere of openness and clarity without the mean and mindless rhetoric or cant that are so triumphant today. Civic engagement is the lifeblood of democracy and the bedrock of its legitimacy. No media can nurture, foster, and empower it the way we can.

And there are other ways to tell your communities what’s going on that they need to know.  Everyone knows there’s a crisis in journalism; commercial broadcasters and newspapers have cut more than 15,000 local journalism jobs in recent years. Watchdog reporting — covering city councils, school boards, state governments, public utilities, public services — is imperiled. The FCC commissioned a study on the information needs of communities and is now holding hearings around the country on how to improve local news.  several foundations are getting into the act.  and some journalism schools — maybe even one near you, a potential partner in reviving local journalism.  before you say this is a pipe dream, given our hard times: I am old enough to remember when public television stations created low-budget nightly broadcasts while local newspapers were on strike, bringing reporters into the studio to discuss the stories that no longer had a venue in print. It’s still a fact that the most powerful production value can be the human voice and the human face. The talent is out there — you’d be surprised how willing they are to work.  You have the airtime; offer them the chairs and table and let them go at it. I’ll wager there are local institutions, foundations, organizations, and individuals who can be enlisted to put up the money for you to signify in this way. KPBS in San Diego has pioneered on this front. Check it out.

Just two nights ago, as I was cleaning off my desk to get ready for the trip to Memphis, I had a call from Chris Daggett, the dynamic president of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation in new Jersey. He was excited to tell me about the collaboration taking shape to push back the news blackout that has been spreading in new Jersey since the Newark [N.J.] Star-Ledger cut loose 45 percent of its newsroom staff in 2008, and the new York Times closed its bureau in the state capital of Trenton. Now, new Jersey Public Radio (owned and operated by new York Public Radio) is creating the new Jersey News Service and Montclair State University is establishing the NJ Digital Media Initiative, and they’ll work together to deliver public interest journalism for the 21 counties, 566 municipalities, 604 school districts, and all the independent authorities — almost too many to count — that operate in the state. These are the political and governmental entities that affect the daily lives of citizens, from taxes to law enforcement to our children’s’ minds.  

Their impact reminds me of how the journalist and historian Richard Reeves responded when a student asked him for his definition of real news.  Richard answered: “Real news is the news we need to keep our freedoms.”  Keep your eye on this new development in public media — it could turn out to be a model for the future. meanwhile, let me offer just a few other ideas for you to consider:  take a whole evening of primetime and give it to a forum for the fight in your neighborhoods over charter schools. Do the same for other distressed public institutions — your libraries, for example.  or your parks; the governor of new Jersey announced this week he’s going to privatize our state parks — turn them over to corporations to run for a profit.  why not a teach-in on whether that’s a good idea — and who wins and who loses if it happens?  

Or how about one week inviting as many social workers as you can get into your studio and asking them to share what they see every day — how people are coping each day with these worst hard times?  Do a series of workshops on Occupy Wall Street, pro and con.  Out there in Iowa, find the lady carrying the placard I saw last weekend on television that read: “I couldn’t afford to buy a politician so I bought this sign.” Bring her into the studio with her local member of Congress — have them talk frankly to each other about their different perceptions of money in politics. Do an evening of primetime on the fight going on right now in your state over redistricting — gerrymandering — the outcome will influence your state’s position and power for the next 10 years. get folks aware and involved. if you don’t, who will? Certainly not the commercial stations in your market, that’s for sure.

If you’re worried about the size of your audience for such programs, think again. Despite the thousands of cable, satellite and Internet options, the doom-and-gloom reports of declining audiences, you don’t have to play by the numbers, to compare your stations with those earning the highest ratings by groveling to the lowest common denominator. We’ve proven it with our programs time and again.  It’s not the number of people who watch but the imprint on those who do, and the cumulative impact of your programming over time.

Do we want younger viewers, the famous 18 to 49 metric? Of course. but listen up. One of the smartest number guys in the business is David Poltrack, the longtime chief research officer of CBS, the grand poobah of ratings and statistics. He recently confessed to a professional audience that “reliance on the 18 to 49 demographic is hazardous to all media and marketers. . . . There is no link, none, between the age of the specified demographic delivery of the campaign and the sales generated by that campaign.”

This throws everything we have always believed about television audiences out the window. Marty Kaplan at the University of Southern California says, “The metrics are wearing no clothes.” so let’s not sell our birthright for fickle, fugitive numbers. Throw out mandates to get a 1, 2, or 3. It actually turns out that the audience more and more coveted is the audience public television has always had and which will continue to grow right into our hands. There are 80 million baby boomers out there. another one turns 50 every 7.6 seconds. Graying boomers are the big catch — waiting to be hooked on what matters, ready for the serious side of public television. The ones most likely to become sustaining, dues-paying members.

These are people who have entered what educator Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot calls “The Third Chapter” of their lives. When I spoke with her on the Journal a couple of years ago she told me that boomers “were talking about new learning in their lives, new adventures that they were taking, new risks . . . this is the most, perhaps, transformative time of our lives,” she said. “Most exciting, in terms of new learning. Limitless in its opportunities . . . continuing to do work that’s meaningful. Continuing to figure out a way to be productive. to be purposeful. to be creative. to be innovative.”

And then Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot mentioned something completely relevant to the problem I’ve been discussing with you today. She said, “There’s a way in which this reduction in our resources forces us to think more dynamically, more creatively, about how we can do more with less. In fact, how we can shape a new legacy in this time of sacrifice.”

“a new legacy in this time of sacrifice.” Now there’s a challenge to public TV.  Hard times give us perhaps our last and best chance to make ourselves indispensable to America — a chance to resurrect ideals long deferred by the unhappy combination of financial constraints and political pressure. The key to our future in the digital revolution may well rest on our analog past. We  can build on our ability to give time and breathing room to the on-going conversation that America must have if its ideals of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” — grounded in political action — are to survive, and if “We, The People” are to save our social compact.

One friend in the system brought me up short the other day when, harking back to the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, he asked, “if you had to do it over again, what changes would you make?” I can’t get his question out of my mind, although I don’t yet have a full answer.  I’d certainly call for a universal, systemwide, public media news service in every U.S. community, modeled along the lines of NPR and more of its stations. Some PTV stations have struggled to do this, but with two few resources. I’d ask CPB to put much more of its funds into this and at the same time to get serious in convening foundations large and small all over the country to make it happen: give our influential friends and supporters something  big to back.  (I’d also inform certain foundations that keep telling us what to do but then refuse to follow through with real money to put up or shut up.) 

And since David H. Koch of Koch Industries is on the board of both WGBH and WNET, I’d ask him to round up his billionaire buddies — and in a nonpartisan spirit reach out to civic-minded progressive billionaires like George Soros — and together create an independent, fully endowed, self-governing production center (free of any partisan strings or influence) for American drama that would bring our epic history and culture to the screen just like we’ve brought over the Brits’ Downton Abbey, make room for Jefferson’s Monticello! Now, there’s an Upstairs Downstairs story the public would make a pledge to see.

Come to think of it: if we had it to do over, I’d reach into American history for a really big idea. Remember the Articles of Confederation?  that was the agreement that legally established the USA as a confederation of sovereign states — “a firm league of friendship,” they called it. The Articles held those 13 states together in the beginning, but were too weak for the long run; the new government couldn’t even raise the money for its modest needs — its paper money was useless, hence the saying, “not worth a continental.”

The idea grew for a “Grand Convention” in Philadelphia to amend the Articles of Confederation and strengthen them.  but once the delegates met and began talking, thrashing out their differences and making their compromises, they wound up writing a new, spare and powerful constitution that saved the fledgling  republic and survives today.  

Why can’t public television learn from that experience?  Forty years after the founding, our “Articles of Confederation” aren’t working all that well, either.  sure, over these four decades we’ve provided America with extraordinary fare that has touched and enriched the hearts, minds, and lives of millions.  but we are in denial if we don’t read the signs. Time’s running out. We’re just hanging on, leaking away, fraying at the margins; scrambling year by year to survive, hoping all the while for what in an era of trillion-dollar deficits and austerity will never be — more and more funding from Congress.

What we need is a makeover of our own — a rebirth, yes, of vision, imagination, and creativity, but above all a structure and scheme for the 2lst century, one that uses the resources that the digital platform provides to realize the goals of our founders: diversity, public access, civic discourse, experimentation, a welcoming place for independent spirits. 

One of my good friends in the field, a station manager, was scratching his head the other day as he wondered aloud why there has never been a comprehensive systemwide discussion about fundamental change in our Rube Goldberg system.  From the second Carnegie Commission on, through the latest Aspen meetings, we haven’t engaged in a full and frank examination of the system — the full nature of the process — top to bottom and with all the interested internal and external public and private parties participating. 

So why not have our own “Grand Convention,” a weeklong gathering of the public television community?  Delegates from the stations large and small; board members, managers, and programmers; a cadre from Crystal City; representative producers and some “viewers like you” (chosen by straw, if that’s the way to do it) would convene for a conversation about where we are, what’s not working, where we want to go, and what the journey’s going to cost.  We could even stream it live on every public station website in the country. What would come of it? Nobody knows.  but at least we’d be alive again — to each other, to ideas, to new possibilities, and to the American people — the public, I say again, in public broadcasting.

Impractical? maybe.  but Albert Einstein did say: “if at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.”

Of one thing I am sure. Such a constitutional convention will not occur if the stations just sit by and wait for others to convene it. 

Your own national agencies have been unable to do it; Congress, successive White Houses, foundations, think tanks and other institutions have failed to act in concerted fashion.  No one is informed enough, or willful enough, and no one leads.  You, the stations, have more recently been trying to take on that role.  but may I say you’re still hesitant, unsure of yourselves, setting only modest planning goals.  I may be being too presumptive and sounding like the proverbial Dutch Uncle, but I think you are the ones who are going to have to lead this process with the vision, the in-depth research, thoughtful analysis and multiple scenarios planning it will require.

Now’s the time to be bold and broadly thinking.  Don’t settle for simple short-term fixes.  think bigger, more aggressively about whole new multicast and online local and national program service plans and through them a much richer embrace with all the citizens of this nation.

Many years ago when we were just out of college, Judith and I spent a year in the UK, studying and working. On a trip down from Scotland one weekend we came across the ruins of an old English church. There was a plaque on it with words so worn by time and the elements that we could hardly make them out. But we did, and we’ve never forgotten them:

In the year 1653 / when all things in the kingdom were either demolished or profaned / this church was built by Sir Richard Shirley, whose singular praise it was to do the best of things in the worst of times.

And so must we. 

Remember, there are still millions and millions of people who need us. and millions more who will find us if we but give them the real news, the cultural experiences, and the opportunity to learn that are otherwise missing in their lives.  

People like those construction workers out west who many years ago happened on our series of six great Ideas — spirited debates among educators, business executives, lawyers, poets and jurists on liberty, justice, equality, truth, beauty, and goodness. They wrote to say:

“(We) are sure that it’s just due to our well-known ignorance as tradesmen that not a single one of us had ever heard of you until one Sunday afternoon we were watching public television and [you] came on with six great Ideas. . . . We listened intensely and soon became addicted and have been ever since.  We never knew a world of ideas existed. . . . We thank you and we applaud you. . . . We may be plumbers during the day, but at lunch time and at night and on the weekends, we are [now] philosophers at large. God bless you.”

Or like the housewife in Utah, who discovered our series on the Constitution and wrote to say:

“I have never written a letter like this before. I am a full-time mother of four children under 7 years and I am entirely busy with the ordinary things of family life.  However, I want to thank you very much for [your series]. I am moved by the experience of listening at the feet of thoughtful citizens, justices and philosophers of substance. All these are people with whom I will never converse on my own, and I am grateful to you for having brought these conversations within my sphere.  I am aware that I lack eloquence to express the measure of my heart’s gratitude. I can say, however, that these programs are a landmark among my life’s experiences.  among all the things I must teach my children, a healthy interest in understanding the Constitution now ranks very prominently.  thank you.”

Sandbox for the rich? Yeah, sure.

And like the fellow in Colorado who followed our series that sought to cover the election with respect for the whole motion of the race and not just the impassioned moments of conflict, controversy, and sound bites. He wrote: 

“Your series accomplished the impossible. as a sixties college graduate, disillusioned Vietnam combat veteran, embittered anti-war author, and indifferent citizen, I never thought I’d see the day when I’d register to vote. . . . but yesterday I registered and November 4 I’ll vote. [The series] spurred me to again participate in our democracy. Thanks. It’s good to be back.”

So it is. I’m glad to be back, too. Mighty glad, and thanks for your welcome. Eighteen months ago, we took leave from the conversation. and we’ve missed it.

Let’s keep talking.

Moyers calls for a convention to remake system

That other film festival?

November 8th, 2011 master No comments

It was my moment on the red carpet and I was trying to play it cool.

You know how these film festival events are, all flash and buzz and glitter. Everyone’s dressed to the nines and sizing you up and down, trying to figure out if you’re someone important, then looking through you like a cheap shower curtain when they realize you’re just a shmo with a press pass.

It was all activating some kind of a social anxiety migraine acid flashback, so I just kept my head down and minced along the velvet ropes, hoping I didn’t roll an ankle.

I’d almost made it inside without embarrassing my family when a man shoved a microphone in my face.

“welcome! who are you wearing?”

I looked down at my no-name jeans and undersized hoodie.

“Um, TJ Maxx?”

“excellent!” he crowed. “Don’t trip on the sand!”

Whew, I almost forgot — this was the Savannah Beach Film Festival on Tybee last weekend. no Hollywood pressure here, just Huc–A–Poo’s owner/head pizzamaker Eric Thomas camping it up in front of a camera.

In true Tybee spirit, most guests arrived an hour late and by bicycle.Not a limousine in sight, unless you count a six–person golf cart. The paparazzi consisted of some loud ladies snapping photos of each other with their phones. The only stars were in the sky above, and the biggest spotlight was the moon.

Part showcase, part fundraiser, the SBFF screens almost anything any filmmaker sends in, as long as it’s under ten minutes. There were several satirical shorts from L.a. comedy troupe Ten13, a re–cap of the summer’s Tybee Idol contest and a historical bit on the Tybee lighthouse produced by a 9-year–old. Think of it as the fun–loving, boozy little sister to that other famous film festival.

Entries were minimal this year, which made my job as a festival judge that much easier. I was honored to serve along with Tybee Artworks co–owner Beth Martin and AASU film professor Mallory Pearce.

The latter did not see the irony in the remedial animation work of Paxton Willis’ South Park–esque Word Bird, but the film’s hilarious dialogue made it the audience favorite.

Sometimes, crayons and popsicle sticks are charmingly ironic. especially when served with beer.

Speaking of, the family–friendly evening raised funds for the local Make–A–wish chapter with a raffle sponsored by not–so–family–friendly Pabst Blue Ribbon. My kids convinced their father to buy oodles of tickets on the odds they could win a blue bike emblazoned with a PBR logo, or maybe the hammock. The bike went to another lucky winner, but we ended up with armfuls of T–shirts, hats, coozies and pins.

Really, who doesn’t want to see their 7-year–old decked out in PBR swag on the red carpet?

For more info on next year’s festival, go to thumbprintlive.com.

Film fun continued on the beach the next day with the shooting of Hellyfish, a project nightmared up by VFX wonk Pat Longstreth (who admins NewYorkIsBoring.com) and SCAD cronies Rob McLean & Kate Schuck.

With a script influenced by Jaws, Godzilla and other old–school gems, the high–tech horror flick features—you got it—a murderous jellyfish that has evolved to ginormous proportions after being exposed to radiation from the long–lost Tybee Bomb.

Director of photography Bob Jones and crew scuttled around the pier capturing terrified faces running from imaginary tentacles (effects to be added in the safety of Longstreth’s home.)

For the crowd scene, McLean and Longstreth put out a Facebook call to lure friends to the beach in exchange for—oh, good God—more PBR.

Hipsters, may I have a word? PBR is undrinkable crap. Yes, Blue Velvet is a really cool movie — ahem, film.

But now that Dennis Hopper has passed, I dare say the time is nigh to find another charmingly ironic cheap beverage to canonize.

Attention, Forsyth Farmers Market shoppers: to avoid tramplage from Saturday’s Rock ’N Roll Marathon, the market will move this week to Sunday, Nov. 6, 2–6pm. It’s back to regular day and time the following week. Produce lovers will be ecstatic to know the market has extended its 2011 season through Dec. 17. It’ll reopen Feb. 11.

Apologies to Becky Smith, who wasn’t credited for the images in last week’s article on the Jewish Food Fest. if you thought her food shots were fabulous, you should see what she does with pets: photosbybecky.net.

That other film festival?

Acer Aspire 5755-6482

November 6th, 2011 master No comments

If all you have to spend on a laptop is $600, you might think there’s not too much you can get for your money. but the Acer Aspire 5755-6482 ($599.99 list at Staples) is proof that you may be wrong, with components that outstrip those you can find on other machines in this class, and even some useful software thrown in among the typical bloatware flotsam. you can get better performance by spending just a little more, and better battery life without shelling out any extra dough at all, but the 5755-6482 is overall a good value proposition for budget-conscious shoppers.

DesignThe 5755-6482 has a glossy, lightweight plastic lid that’s colored dark gray and decorated by a series of wavy black lines and a silvery Acer logo in the center. It’s a low-key but eye-catching look that continues when you open the lid. The bezel around the 15.6-inch, 1,366-by-768-resolution display is black (and, as usual, there’s a webcam embedded in the top section), but everything else is rendered in shades of gray or slate. You’ll see two variations of the latter color, either shiny or matte, around the edges and in between the keys on the keyboard deck. This includes the touch pad, which features a single stiff button to use for both left- and right-clicking; we found this a bit inconvenient to use. The black speakers for the Dolby Advanced Audio system are located in a strip just below the lid hinges, and create a nice visual contrast with the shiny gray that surrounds them.

The keyboard’s keys are all the darker gray color, though they’re printed with white letters outlined in black, easy to read even in not-so-terrific lighting. there are no dedicated media keys here; you’ll need to hold down a function key and then press either the Home, Page up, Page down, or End buttons for Play/Pause, Stop, Rewind, or fast forward controls, or the arrow keys to increase or decrease volume and adjust display brightness. Oddly, the Mute function is assigned to the F8 key (among other options, for turning off the wireless or activating an external display), which has the potential to be confusing at first. two other notable elements about the keyboard: the backslash key is placed flush against the Enter key, and there’s a full-size number pad for quick calculations and data entry.

As it measures 1.3 by 15 by 9.9 inches (HWD) and weighs approximately 5.5 pounds, the 5755-6482 is essentially average in terms of its portability.

FeaturesAt the heart of the 5755-6482 is an Intel Core i3-2330M processor. This dual-core chip in Intel’s second-generation Core (aka “Sandy Bridge”) family runs at 2.2GHz and can activate four processing threads at once thanks to its application of Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology. The use of this chip also means the laptop supports the various other technologies Sandy Bridge hardware enables, such as quick Sync Video for accelerated video conversion, Wireless Display (WiDi 2.0) for streaming content to your HDTV if you have a Netgear Push2TV adapter, and the integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 video system. Though the CPU is entry-level by Intel’s standards, other crucial components are more robust: You’ll find a nice 6GB of DDR3 RAM in the 5755-6482, as well as an extra-roomy 750GB hard drive.

On the 5755-6482’s left edge you’ll find an Ethernet port, which provides a wired alternative to its 802.11b/g/n support; two ports for outputting video to external displays, VGA (for older, lower-resolution monitors) and HDMI (for newer monitors and HDTVs); a USB 2.0 port; and headphone and microphone jacks. A multiformat card reader is the only feature of note on the laptop’s front edge (it’s located just off the left side). The right side houses the DVD burner and two additional USB 2.0 ports; you’ll find no USB 3.0 ports on this machine for taking advantage of the faster data transfers that newer technology allows.

You’ll also find plenty preinstalled in the Windows 7 Home Premium operating system. A couple of these are potentially useful: the full version of Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 and a trial of McAfee Internet Security. but the desktop is cluttered with bloatware-symptomatic icons for things like Clear.fi, eBay, Netflix, Nook for PC, and Skype, as well as shortcuts to Acer Games and Acer Registration.

The 5755-6482 is covered by a one-year warranty, and a number of other services that Staples offers are available as well. These include setting the new system up, transferring data from your old PC to your new one, software installation, and tech support and protection plans that range in price from $14.99 to $169.99.

PerformanceAcer Aspire 5755-6482Compared with the full spectrum of budget laptops we’ve tested recently, the 5755-6482 finished near the center of the pack—but it’s tops in its price range. its score of 2,040 in our PCMark 7 full-system benchmark test was well below what we saw from our two Editors’ Choice systems, the 2,275 of the Lenovo IdeaPad V570-1066AJU (4 stars, $629.99 list) and the 2,255 of the Asus U56E-BBL6 (4 stars, $699.99 list), but solidly above the 1,926 from the Toshiba Satellite P755-S5215 (3 stars, $719.99) and the 1,866 from the Samsung NP300E5A-A01UB (4 stars, $599.99 list). We saw similar results in our Handbrake video conversion, CineBench R11.5 image rendering, and Adobe Photoshop CS5 filter application test, where the 5755-6482 routinely wound up at or near the top of bottom half of the contenders.

The one area in which this pattern was slightly upset was gaming. The 5755-6482’s frame rates in our 1,024-by-768 Crysis and Lost Planet 2 tests (both run with medium detail settings) were the highest of any of these laptops—but because they were functionally unplayable 16.9 frames per second (fps) and 20.7fps, respectively, that’s a hollow victory. The Gateway NV55S05u (4 stars, $579.99 list) did much better, with 36.7fps and 38fps in those two tests, though the 5755-6482 trounced it in all of our productivity trials.

With battery life the 5755-6482 did not make an impressive showing. its ability to last 5 hours 4 minutes unplugged during our MobileMark 2007 test puts it above the Gateway (4:54) and the Toshiba (5:01), but well below the Asus (7:42), the Lenovo (5:59), and the Samsung—the last costing just the same as the Acer.

Whether the Acer Aspire 5755-6482 is the right choice for you depends on your specific needs. If all you care about is a system’s facility handling raw productivity chores, either of our Editors’ Choice winners, the Asus U56E-BBL6 or the Lenovo IdeaPad V570-1066AJU will get you there for only a little more money. If you care less about that and just want gaming potential, the less-expensive Gateway NV55S05u is what you want. If battery life is your chief concern, the Asus U56E-BBL6 and Samsung NP300E5A-A01UB have it in spades. but for those seeking balance in as many areas as possible, the jack-of-many-trades 5755-6482 is a fine way to go.

BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS: Check out the test scores for the Acer Aspire 5755-6482

More laptop reviews:•   Toshiba Satellite P745-S4320•   Samsung NP700Z5B-W01UB•   Asus U56E-RBL8•   HP Pavilion dv7-6163cl•   Acer Aspire 5755-6482•  more

Acer Aspire 5755-6482

iMusic Station review – iPad/iPhone – Macworld UK

November 6th, 2011 master No comments

Karaoke fans may be tempted by this appealing-looking iPod/iPhone speaker dock from iMusicTech, which combines the entire karaoke setup in a small, portable unit. we have some reservations about the device, but it’s generally fun and a nice idea.

You download songs – or rather, MP4 videos, including rolling lyrics – of your choice from ikostore.com (a voucher for five tracks is included in the box – further songs cost a quite steep £1.49 a time), load them on to your iOS device, connect it to the dock and get singing. Two microphones can be connected, though only one is supplied. both this and the speaker set are on the weedy side – don’t expect blockbusting audio.

The size of the iPhone’s screen, as compared to the monitors usually used in karaoke booths, unsurprisingly makes it more difficult to read the words, and we had to stand close to the machine while singing. But the legibility wasn’t as bad as we expected.

If you would prefer a larger screen, there’s an output and cable to connect the device to a TV. on the whole, though, we didn’t like this arrangement – with the sound coming through the TV, it felt like there was a slight delay on the vocal output. and something was up with the amplification, meaning we had to turn the TV’s volume up to almost maximum to get a decent sound

iMusic Station review – iPad/iPhone – Macworld UK