Lafayette, La., finally gets its fiber network

After nearly five years of planning and fighting with local cable and phone companies, the Lafayette Utilities System opened its fiber-optic broadband network for business.

The utility began offering service this week, according to the Lafayette, La. local newspaper, The Daily Advertiser. A small number of customers already have phone, TV, and Internet service. And beginning Friday, LUS will begin marketing the service to customers in the first phase of the roll out. LUS plans to roll out service gradually in three phases and expects to offer a triple play service to all residents throughout the city by 2011.

The … Read more

Watch TV on your iPhone with TubeStick

If you're like my colleague Eric Franklin, who'd rather watch Speed Racer on his iPhone than on a big screen, you're in for some good news.

Equinux, the company that provides the TV-watching solution The Tube for Mac, announced Wednesday its all new hardware TV tuner called TubeStick. The device, when coupled with free iPhone apps Live TV and TubeTogo, allows you to watch TV right on the screens of your iPhones and iPod Touches.

With Live TV, you can stream live television programs directly via Wi-Fi to your iPhone from your Mac that runs The Tube. … Read more

YouMail gets real with a BlackBerry app

Since its inception, YouMail, a visual voicemail service for mobile phones, has had one big problem. You could view and play your mobile phone's voicemail messages online, or--beginning lat June--by pointing the mobile browser to, but messages weren't stored on the device itself.

Starting Wednesday, YouMail has begun to change that with a native YouMail in-box for BlackBerry phones. Visual Voicemail Plus is a free downloadable app that stores your incoming voice messages along with the caller's name, number, and time of call.

In addition to viewing and playing messages in any order you'd … Read more

How to get the best sound from in-ear headphones

I love in-ear headphones--the ones that fit inside your ear canals, as opposed to ear buds that rest on the outer ear. I'm a big fan because in-ear headphones' ultraclose proximity to eardrums offers the potential for the highest-resolution sound quality.

The better in-ear headphones also do a great job of sealing out external environmental noise so you can listen at a lower (safer) volume and still hear all of that amazing detail. The problem is, unless both earpieces are sealed tight, you're not going to get the sound you paid for.

Everybody's ears are different, so achieving a perfect fit can be a tricky exercise. Most in-ear headphones come with a selection of differently sized and shaped eartips. Try them all; the goal is to produce a the best possible "seal," which reduces the amount of outside noise you hear and delivers the headphone's fullest-possible bass response.

The difference in sound quality between a good seal and an iffy one isn't subtle. It's definitely worth a little extra effort to maximize each tip's seal. Remember, too, that poor sealing makes for a less secure fit, so the earpiece is more likely to fall out of your ear.

Tip: Your left and right ear canals may not be exactly the same size; you might need, for example, the smallest eartip for your right ear and a medium tip for the left ear.

I've included a gallery of images to help perfect your in-ear insertion techniques. First, try rotating/twisting the tip slightly as you push the headphone inside the canal. … Read more

Sprint changes Direct Connect plans

Sprint Nextel's Direct Connect service may not be sexy, but the push-to-talk network has a staunchly loyal following. And if Sprint knows what it's doing, it will leave the basics of Direct Connect alone.

Yet, the carrier did announce Thursday that it was tweaking the Direct Connect plans for its customers. The basic plan, which goes by the mouthful name of Unlimited Workgroup Communications, offers unlimited Direct Connect and Group Connect calls, plus unlimited text messaging, for $29.99 per month per line. For regular voice calls, you'll also get unlimited mobile-to-mobile minutes and free nights and … Read more

Motorola Motonav TN30 review: Likeable, with limits

Motorola takes its first step into the portable navigation device market with its Motonav TN30 GPS navigation system. The TN30 is a handsome device, with slick graphics and a cleverly organized menu structure. I really liked the Bluetooth hands-free calling and text-to-speech directions, as keeping hands on the wheel while driving is top priority.

I had an opportunity to test the TN30 on a cross-country road trip from Atlanta to San Francisco and learned that all that glitters ain't gold, especially with first-generation gadgets. One day into the trip, I noticed that the device was noticeably less responsive than … Read more

PC knows best: Tools to nag, remind, and track productivity

Trying to get work done is tough if you have an Internet connection. The constant urge to take a peek at a video on YouTube or check your personal e-mail is a siren song that for many simply cannot be ignored. Luckily, there are several sites and browser add-ons that can help keep us in line, be it with basic productivity or making sure we do not stumble in moments of weakness.

Gmail "e-mail goggles" and "take a break" labs add-ons

Want to send that e-mail at 4 a.m.? Unless you're up early, and … Read more

The adoption-based music economy

Digitization has a disruptive effect on a wide range of industries, from music to software to publishing name it. If it can be digitized, it can be disrupted.

It's therefore encouraging to see the music seemingly converging on a cool new-old model: an ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, & Publishers)-like tax from one's Internet service provider that allows unlimited downloading of music.

Gerd Leonhard's recent presentation on the subject is the best I've seen yet, one that I'd recommend you review, even if you never stray from the software world to … Read more

Samsung still adding 'Touch of Color' to monitors

Samsung has been doing the whole "Touch of Color" (ToC) thing for a few years now. Samsung injects a bit subtle color in monitor bezels, enhancing (depending on your tastes) the aesthetics of the monitor and brands it "Touch of Color."

I don't mind ToC, but I still prefer jet black. My own tastes not withstanding, Samsung is still pushing ToC and it had three monitors at CES 2009 to show it off: the P2070, P2270, and P2370.

Each of the three displays has a transparent bezel with gray shading that gives the edges a … Read more

The music industry looks to ISPs instead of lawsuits

As reported in Friday's Wall Street Journal, the music industry has apparently given up on suing 13-year olds and dead people in its quest to stem music piracy. Instead, it plans to work with ISPs to identify and notify copyright infringers of the need to come clean:

[T]he Recording Industry Association of America said it plans to try an approach that relies on the cooperation of Internet-service providers. The trade group said it has hashed out preliminary agreements with major ISPs under which it will send an email to the provider when it finds a provider's customers … Read more