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Crunched HD signals, dull images

Brent Swanson sits in front of a screen projection in his basement home theater in Minneapolis. He questions whether he is getting the quality he paid for as cable providers pack more high-definition channels into a limited bandwidth.

Associated Press

Brent Swanson sits in front of a screen projection in his basement home theater in Minneapolis. He questions whether he is getting the quality he paid for as cable providers pack more high-definition channels into a limited bandwidth.

In Brent Swanson's basement home theater, there should be nothing drab about Battlestar Galactica. He's got a high-end projector that beams the picture onto a wall painted like a silver screen, and speakers loom in the corners, flanking two big subwoofers. • Yet when he tuned in Sci Fi HD for a recent episode filmed in high definition, the image was soft and the darkest parts broke up into large blocks with no definition. Explosions, he said, were just dull. • "It kind of looked like they took the standard definition and just blew it up," said Swanson, a 33-year-old graphic designer and videographer who subscribes to Comcast Corp.'s TV service. "I couldn't really tell if what I was seeing was really better than what I saw on regular television." • As cable TV companies pack ever more HD channels into limited bandwidth, some owners of pricey plasma, projector and LCD TVs are complaining that they're not getting the high-def quality they paid for. They blame the increased signal compression being used to squeeze three digital HD signals into the bandwidth of one analog station. • The problem is viewers want more HD channels at a time when many cable and satellite providers are at the limits of their capacity, said Jim Willcox, a technology editor for Consumer Reports magazine (consumerreports.org).

Lolcat Web site hiring; spelling skillz optional

"I can haz dream Job? My rezumez! let me showz u thm." That's the subject line of a cover letter sent by a job applicant to I Can Has Cheezburger (www.icanhascheezburger.com), one of the premier sites for so-called Lolcat pictures. Bad spelling may even be an asset in the Lolcat world. A typical example shows a picture of a fat and hopeful cat accompanied by a caption in a dialect known as Lolspeak: "I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?" Ben Huh, founder of the site and chief executive of Pet Holdings Inc., has received 250 applications since the job was posted last week.

Coding flaw in Obama site allowed hack

A simple flaw in the coding of Sen. Barack Obama's Web site led to a hacking switcheroo of presidential proportions just days before the important Pennsylvania primary. Some supporters who tried to visit the community blogs section of Obama's site started noticing late last week they were being redirected to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's official campaign site. Security researchers said a hacker exploited a so-called "cross-site scripting" vulnerability in Obama's Web site to engineer the ruse. The hack appears to have been a prank, and the vulnerability has since been fixed.

Robot players learn soccer in Germany

They're not quite the automatons and androids of popular culture, but the small sporting robots on the field in Germany last week were no less entertaining. Some moved about on three wheels; others plodded slowly and deliberately on two or four legs. They ranged from thumb-sized midgets to 2- or 3-foot-tall giants. Their common aim? To win the annual RoboCup German Open at the Hanover Trade Fair by getting the ball into their opponents' goal. Some 850 in 49 teams were signed up alongside 350 university students and computer engineers from 14 countries.

Microsoft tests software subscription

Microsoft Corp. is experimenting with selling its Office suite of programs to consumers on a subscription basis. Instead of installing each program separately, a limited number of "beta" testers can download a bundle of Microsoft Word, Excel and other Office programs, the Windows Live OneCare antivirus program, Windows Live Mail and other free Windows Live programs. The softwaremaker said the software subscription bundle will be more widely available later this year, but did not say how much it will cost. Subscribers pay in installments for as long as they wish to use the programs.

Crunched HD signals, dull images 04/27/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 11:54am]
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