Category Archives: Local DC area

IT Conference for Intelligence Community

The Washington Post writes Even Spies Go to Trade Conferences about yesterday’s Open Source Conference 2008 organized by the DNI (Director of National Intelligence) at Washington D.C.’s Ronald Reagan Building. The “open source” here does not refer to open source code for developers, but to open sourcing of intelligence by using the Internet and other publicly available sources to gather information.

Unlike Cold War-era spies, intelligence analysts and government policymakers can no longer rely primarily on cloak-and-dagger operations to keep track of global threats. Now, like businesses and other organizations, they’re increasingly turning to the torrents of information available on the Internet and through other non-classified sources.

Booz Allen Hamilton offered a service called InTrack to help collect, monitor and process data collected from the Internet and other sources. LexisNexis promoted a system for sending automated warnings of trouble abroad. There were companies selling translation systems, Web search tools and data-mining supercomputers. One of the more popular booths was Google’s.

The Google booth displayed a high-definition video of a virtual car driving through an exact digital representation of San Francisco — streets, buildings and all. But Google exhibitors said they were not allowed to tell a reporter why the company was there or what it did for intelligence or anything else.

HD Radio in Washington D.C.

What is HD Radio?

Unfortunately, HD Radio has a misleading name. The letters “HD” stand for nothing. They only mean that it is digital instead of to analog. Digital does not mean that it is higher definition or higher quality than analog. It does mean that radio stations can fit more channels on the same spectrum.

What does HD Radio give you?

The Washington D.C. metro area has some great HD Radio stations. HD Radio gives you free extra channels to listen to outside of what is available on a normal AM/FM radio. Every channel listed below with a -2 or -3 is an extra channel that is not offered in analog AM or FM.

Washington D.C. HD Radio Listing

WAMU-HD 88.5 FM Nws/Tlk/Inf, American University
WAMU-HD2 88.5-2 FM Bluegrass, American University
WAMU-HD3 88.5-3 FM BBC / NPR / WTMD, American University
WPFW Soon in HD 89.3 FM Jazz, Pacifica Foundation
WCSP-HD 90.1 FM Nws/Tlk/Inf, National Cable Satellite Corporation
WCSP-HD2 90.1-2 FM C-Span, National Cable Satellite Corporation
WCSP-HD3 90.1-3 FM C-Span 2, National Cable Satellite Corporation
WETA-HD 90.9 FM Clscl/NPR, Greater Washington Educational Telecomm Association
WKYS Soon in HD 93.9 FM Urban AC, Radio One Inc.
WTGB-HD 94.7 FM Alternative, CBS Radio
WTGB-HD2 94.7-2 FM Adult Alternative – The Jam, CBS Radio
WPGC-HD 95.5 FM CHR/Rhymc, CBS Radio
WPGC-HD2 95.5-2 FM Gospel, CBS Radio
WHUR-HD 96.3 FM Urban AC, Howard University
WHUR-HD2 96.3-2 FM WHUR World, Howard University
WASH-HD 97.1 FM AC, Clear Channel
WASH-HD2 97.1-2 FM Smooth Jazz, Clear Channel
WMZQ-HD 98.7 FM Country, Clear Channel
WMZQ-HD2 98.7-2 FM Classic Country, Clear Channel
WLZL Soon in HD 99.1 FM Tropical, CBS Radio
WLZL-HD2 Soon in HDon 99.1-2 FM Hispanic AC, CBS Radio
WIHT-HD 99.5 FM CHR, Clear Channel
WIHT-HD2 99.5-2 FM New CHR, Clear Channel
WBIG-HD 100.3 FM Oldies, Clear Channel
WBIG-HD2 100.3-2 FM Oldies 50’s & 60’s, Clear Channel
WWDC-HD 101.1 FM Rock, Clear Channel
WWDC-HD2 101.1-2 FM eRockster, Clear Channel
WMMJ Soon in HD 102.3 FM Urban AC, Radio One Inc.
WTOP-HD 103.5 FM News, Bonneville International Corp.
WTOP-HD2 103.5-2 FM iChannel -Global Unsigned Bands, Bonneville International Corp.
WTOP-HD3 103.5-3 FM Traffic and Weather, Bonneville International Corp.
WPRS-HD 104.1 FM Black Gospl, Radio One Inc.
WJZW-HD 105.9 FM Oldies, Citadel
WJZW-HD2 105.9-2 FM Smooth Jazz, Citadel
WJFK-HD 106.7 FM Talk/Sprts, CBS Radio
WRQX-HD 107.3 FM Hot AC, Citadel
WWWT-HD 107.7 FM Talk, Bonneville International Corp.
WTNT-HD 570 AM Talk/News, Red Zebra Broadcasting
WMAL-HD 630 AM News/Talk, Citadel
WXTR Soon in HD 730 AM Sports, Red Zebra Broadcasting
WTEM-HD 980 AM Sprts/Talk, Red Zebra Broadcasting
WYCB-HD 1340 AM Gospel, Radio One Inc.
WOL-HD 1450 AM News/Talk, Radio One Inc.
WWWT Soon in HD 1500 AM Talk, Bonneville International Corp.

How to get HD Radio?

HD Radio’s Wikipedia page lists several HD Radio receivers for your car and home.

One of my favorites is the Sony XDR-F1HD. This costs about $100 and needs to be connected to an amp/receiver. It can not be connected directly to speakers unless they are powered speakers that can be connected with RCA cables.

If you need a new amp/receiver, there are some that have HD Radio built-in. My favorite of these is the Yamaha RX-V863, which can be ordered for $619 currently with a little haggling.

Is HD Radio worth it?

HD Radio has been around since 2002 and has been somewhat slow to take off. But if you like the extra stations it gives you, it can be worth the cost of the new equipment. Unlike Sirius and XM, there is no subscription to get HD Radio.

Washington D.C. offers more HD stations than most markets. The extra stations cover many genres and niches such as News, Bluegrass, Alternative, Country, Oldies, Jazz, and Gospel. If any of those stations interest you, give HD Radio a try.

Problems for Pandora and other US Web Radio Stations

Pandora is a web site that provides streaming music to your computer, your iPhone, and other devices. It creates customized stations based on music you like and if you give a song a “thumbs up” or “thumbs down”. You can click on a song you like to go to Amazon or iTunes in order to purchase it. It’s great for finding new music and it used to be a good business.

But the record companies are afraid of streaming radio stations. They brought the issue to the Copyright Royalty Board, which decided last year to raise the cost to play a song over the Internet from 8/100 of a cent per song per listener in 2006 to 19/100 of a cent per song per listener in 2010. Pandora only makes revenue on ads on its website, so this will be quite a bite into profits.

The Washington Post recently talked with Pandora.

“We’re approaching a pull-the-plug kind of decision,” said Tim Westergren, who founded Pandora. “This is like a last stand for webcasting.”…

“We’re losing money as it is… The moment we think this problem in Washington is not going to get solved, we have to pull the plug because all we’re doing is wasting money.”

The problem is in Washington with the Copyright Royalty Board’s decision. First, if the music industry understood what was in their best interests, they would encourage the promotion of their music. Second, these rules only apply to the US. So I can still listen to streaming radio coming from Canada or anywhere else. Only US-based sites are punished. Third, no fees are charged to traditional over-the-air radio stations to play music.

Rep. Howard L. Berman of California is trying to negotiate a deal between web radio companies and SoundExchange, which represents the record companies. Hopefully he can encourage a more reasonable approach to music over the Internet.

Murky Coffee incident

Murky Coffee here in Arlington, Virginia, has great coffee and is a relaxing place to work on your laptop with free WiFi.

They were recently a small internet sensation when an angry cusomer was denied espresso over ice. The customer blogged about it.  Boing Boing and the Washington Post picked up on the funny story and Murky Coffee has responded on their site here and then here.  It seems that the customer considered espresso over ice to be a god-given right in a coffee shop. Whatever the case, they make good coffee and are worth visiting.

Where to buy electronics

While Best Buy may be popular for electronics, they are rarely the best buy. Their staff is known to make up answers. Their online prices are not as good as other Internet stores. And their in-store prices are often higher than their online prices, despite what their in-store website shows. Their Geek Squad is poorly trained and could try to take a video of you taking a shower. So instead of driving to Best Buy, first look around online.

Amazon has decent prices, but is also just a good place to shop around for what you want. Between Amazon and Amazon’s third party sellers, their selection is huge and their reviews can help you figure out what is best for you.

Newegg has long been a favorite electronics seller because of their great prices. They are usually one of the first places I visit. They sell lots of electronics, computers, computer parts, accessories, and software.

Cables, such as HDMI cables for HD TVs, are a huge rip-off in most retail stores. Best Buy and Circuit City will charge $40-$100 for a cable that is no better than a $5 cable from MonoPrice. MonoPrice’s cables are so cheap that you might suspect that they’re selling stolen goods. But MonoPrice has been around since 2002 selling quality cables and parts for their real price.

Although their site is not as attractive as MonoPrice’s, Blue Jeans Cable also offers a good deal on cables, especially if you need something special that is custom made.

While their prices aren’t the most competitive, Crutchfield offers a comprehensive site for home theater equipment. Their phone sales people are also knowledgeable.

There are times when you need a real physical store. For example, laptops have different “feels” and are good to play with before purchasing. Luckily, in the D.C. area, we have a great store for electronics.

Micro Center, with 21 stores nationwide, has a store here in Fairfax, Virginia. They have good prices and a wide selection of computer equipment and software. They have a television section for large LCDs and Plasmas. Unique today, they have a section just for selling Apple products. Micro Center is great for geeks too because they sell everything you need to build a computer from the ground up. MicroCenter also has a bookstore and a game section for PC and console gaming.

Micro Center‘s employees are generally quite knowledgeable, especially compared to those at Best Buy. They make money on sales commissions by putting a sticker on items that they help you to find. On checkout, those stickers are scanned for comissions.

If you’re shopping specifically for an Apple product or accessory, Apple’s retail stores are great and have an intelligent staff. Since Apple keeps prices the same everywhere, you won’t feel ripped off shopping there. There are only a few ways to get prices slightly better than the standard list price from Apple. You can get an Educational or Government discount from Apple. Or you can go to a third-party seller that might offer a small discount or combo package that Apple does not have. Amazon is the best of the third-party sellers now. They offer $100-$150 off of most current iMacs.

Although Best Buy is ubiquotus, there are many better alternatives. Give some of these other electronics stores a try.