Thursday, December 30, 2004

Gadgets - to the power of X

I finally got my Christmas present yesterday - a Delphi MyFi XM radio receiver. I've considered satellite radio in the past, but I didn't want a receiver that tied me to the car or the house. I kept thinking that a Walkman-style receiver would one day be avaible.

That day came in December with the release of the MyFi. Once I heard that Major League Baseball had signed on with XM, I figured the time was right. The MyFi was in high demand, but my wife was able to grab one off of eBay.

My early reviews are positive. The price is steep - $350 - but that price includes lots of accessories that typically aren't included with satallite radios. The MyFi includes the radio itself, ear buds, a home cradle with antenna, an auto cradle with antenna, a cassette adapter, several connecting cables, a carry case, a belt clip, and a clip on personal antenna. Everything you need to use the radio wherever you are.

I powered on my MyFi in our kitchen and found that I could not get a signal. This is probably the one disadvantage of satellite radio - you have to have a clear view of the southern sky. The radio has a built in antenna, so when I held it by the window, it pulled in a signal and started playing the XM Preview channel.

I set up the home cradle and with the larger antenna in a southern window and access XM's web site to activate my radio. A couple of web pages later, my radio sprung to life with over 130 channels of music, news, sports, talk, and traffic and weather.

I also took the time to set up the auto cradle in my Mercury Mountaineer. The included auto antenna is magnetically attached to the roof of the vehicle. I ran the cable under the weather strips to the inside of the truck where I attached the cradle using the vent clip. The package includes several mounting options for the auto cradle. I'll use the vent clip until I decide where to permanently mount it.

I spent last night perusing the various channels. I found that I can listen to MSNBC and FOX news, over 60 music channels, several sports channels like ESPN Radio as well as access to Big 10, PAC 10, and ACC football and basketball games. There is a conservative talk channel (called America Right) and a liberal channel (called America Left). Lots of stuff to listen to!

So, the obvious question comes up. It's portable, designed to be carried along with you so you can listen at any time, any where. But you can't really listen to satellite radio anywhere, again since it requires a clear view of the southern sky. Since I work in the bowels of an office building, I couldn't listen to XM at work. That's where the MyFi's XM2Go feature comes in.

Last night, I set up my MyFi to record 2 1/2 hours of America Right as well as 2 1/2 hours of the MIX music channel. The MyFi can record up to 5 hours of programming in its internal flash memory. So today, here at work, I can listen to that recorded programming without needing a signal. This plan works great as long as what I want to hear is on at night. The downside here is if I wanted to listen to something that is on during the day, when I'd be at work listening to my recorded content without a signal.

I've had my MyFi less than 24 hours, so it's early to really judge, but so far I am impressed. The radio is easy to use, the firmware seems stable (no lock ups or other problems that I've experienced with some MP3 players). There is plenty of XM content ensuring that there is always something to listen to. My only wish is for more of the national talk shows to sign on to XM. I'd love to have access to Jim Rome, Tony Kornheiser, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly's the Radio Factor, Sean Hannity, etc.

I can see their reluctance to sign on, since many of them already offer on-line subscriptions to their shows and being available on XM may cut into that revenue. But I can definitely see a massive change for local radio stations. They will have to reinvent themselves to compete with satellite radio. Perhaps, satellite radio will go the way of satellite TV, where local stations become available via satellite.

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