By Cocoa Efficient
Music is to the gay community what pasta is to Italians: to think of one without the other borders on heresy. And since we take our music everywhere, it explains why the newest technology in car and home audio holds such promise. If you haven’t heard of HD Digital Radio, you’re still living in the 8-track age. With HD technology (the same that generates the crystal clear picture on your 52-inch flat screen TV) AM now sounds like FM, and FM improves to CD quality. HD does for music what good lighting does for the over-40 set. But higher highs, richer bass and a more dynamic range tell only half the story: a broader spectrum of formats and content tells the rest.
What Is HD Radio and Why Should We Care?
CBS, Clear Channel and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting all offer HD radio, which is currently available in the top 100 markets across the U.S. The unprecedented growth of HD assures that this new technology will soon be available in almost every market, and unlike that aging Betamax gathering dust in your closet, HD has no competing technology to threaten its ability to thrive. HD listeners can enjoy the same wide ranging diversity offered by satellite radio without having to pay a monthly subscription fee. Of course, HD’s terrestrial nature means the ever-meddling hand of Big Brother (otherwise known as the FCC) still regulates what goes out over the air. For now adult language and content remains the domain of the satellite broadcasters. The real beauty of HD is that it encourages local stations to experiment with a wider range of formats. HD stations can be configured to cover the local music scene, cater to specific age ranges or tailor programming to specific audiences. Clear Channel’s Pride Channel, a station dedicated to the GLBT communities in Miami, West Palm Beach, Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Francisco, Hartford and Chicago, is a perfect example. HD stations broadcast country, comedy, house, DJ, and the list goes on.
How Do I Get HD Digital Radio?
Unlike satellite radio, free HD Digital Radio requires only an HD receiver to listen. The HD signal piggy-backs on the standard AM and FM carrier waves, filling the gap that exists between stations (99.7 and 99.9, for example). It’s really quite similar to getting hair extensions, where four or five lustrous vibrant strands are attached to a single scraggly hair. Because the signal is digital rather than analog, the sound quality is drastically improved, as are the number of listening options available. To date, only three car manufacturers—BMW, Jaguar and Hyundai—offer factory ready HD radios, but more are on the way. You can expect to see the HD option on a number of new cars and trucks by this time next year.
If you’re not in the market for a new car, simply purchase an aftermarket radio equipped to receive HD signals. If you’re happy with the sound of your stock stereo and don’t want to mess up the dash with an aftermarket unit, the HD converter is the obvious choice. This small device captures the HD signal and routes it through your stock radio using an open frequency. This is exactly how the satellite radio converters work, meaning if you already have satellite you don’t have to give it up to receive HD. You can find a number of HD converters at your local Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart and Radio Shack. Or, you can log onto Crutchfield.com (Ms. Cocoa’s personal favorite location to shop for electronics) and browse a variety of models. Crutchfield also provides useful advice on installing and operating your new toy.
For now, HD is limited to your car or home. But Samsung is working on a microchip that will allow small portable devices to receive and broadcast the HD signal, which means that unlike satellite receivers, you’ll be able to take your HD portable into any building and not lose the signal. To learn more about HD Digital Radio, log onto www.HDradio.com. This user-friendly site provides a plethora of information, including a listing of all HD stations currently in operation.
OnStar Turn-by-Turn Navigation
by Cocoa Efficient
God knows if there’s one thing American men hate more than frilly lace table cloths and touchy-feely therapy sessions, it’s taking directions from the female of the species. Never mind that she’s correct 99 percent of the time, or that she has the both the patience and dexterity to return a folding map to its original configuration, men just hate asking for help. Gay men don’t fare much better, often descending into a squabbling fracas that ends in a volley of exaggerated eye rolls followed by a series of unending heavy sighs. But now, thanks to the miracle of satellite communications, a solution awaits know-it-all males and tenaciously stubborn lesbians everywhere. It’s called Turn-by-Turn Navigation and it’s available exclusively on GM cars and trucks outfitted with OnStar.
Turn-by-Turn Navigation affords all the benefits of a well-informed co-pilot without an extra body taking up valuable CD and snack space on the adjacent seat. The surprisingly simple system operates with no annoying touch screen menus to navigate and no worries about proper spelling or exact names, just the pleasing voice of the OnStar navigatress. (Yes, boys, you still have to take directions from a woman, but at least this one can’t argue with you.) Here’s how it works. Once seated, the driver pushes the little blue OnStar button. A friendly voice trickles from the speaker asking “How can I help you?” You tell the advisor where you want to go and the directions are downloaded into the car’s computer system. Voice commands are then played through the vehicles stereo speakers, telling you when and where to turn. The system is smart enough to make course corrections should you miss your turn, and it has nearly 10 million Points of Interest located across the continental United States and Canada.
Turn-by Turn Navigation is standard on all 2007 Buicks and some Cadillac models. For all other GM products, the system runs about $100 at purchase and after the first year is bundled into a safety and security package that runs $299 per year. That’s a pretty good deal when you consider most GPS navigation system cost between $1,200 and $2,500 and lock you into having to pay for updates as the static information on the DVD becomes outdated.
Get more information at OnStar.com
As our first installment to Tech Talk, we wanted to extol the virtues of Satellite radio. If you spent any time in your vehicle on a regular basis, you will love the selection and uninterrupted service of satellite radio service. Our editor travels between Atlanta and Nashville on a regular basis and loves to listen to CNN, E! Entertainment as well as the music channels. While people will argue which is better, XM or Sirius, XM wins the the top spot in our minds. They get our vote primarily because of wider availabiltiy and now with XM2go on a device called Inno, you can take your favorite channels with you wherever you go.
To quote their press release: “The Pioneer Inno XM2go is the world’s first portable, handheld device that combines the two most popular forms of audio entertainment of the past 20 years: satellite radio and MP3 music. This wearable device combines live satellite radio “on the go,” and stored XM content with MP3 music and WMA files. The user can even “bookmark” songs heard on XM, connect the device to the PC, and instantly purchase the songs from the XM + Napster online service. The Pioneer Inno has flash memory storage for MP3/WMA files and XM content. The device can store up to 50 hours of XM programming and at only 4.5 ounces and 3.7 H” x 2.2 W” x 0.6 D” and is extremely light and easy to take along anywhere. The Pioneer Inno has built-in, wireless FM transmitters that beam XM to any FM radio. It offers a personal stock quotes ticker and sport score ticker, a category list for saving and playing favorite channels, and the popular TuneSelect feature, which tells the listener a favorite artist or song whenever it is played on any XM channel. “
At an MSRP of $399.99, it is an attractive gift for the sattelite radio lover in your life.