SiriusXM is best know for their in-car satellite receiver head units but the latest Lynx unit combines satellite with Internet radio and an mp3 player. John finds out more with Sirius sales manager, Paul Truman.
The Lynx SiriusXM receiver combines the traditional head unit with features more usually found on a personal media player. Large touchscreen – check, mp3 playback – check, Internet radio – check, wifi and Bluetooth – check, rechargeable battery – check.
But one really clever feature most media players don’t have is the ability to go back in time. Not literally, but your favourite stations are constantly being recorded so that if you tune in and discover you missed the start of the programme, you can simply rewind the stream to the start of the show.
To cap it off, the unit is about the size of a paperback. Sweet.
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So now that I’ve cut the cord with Dish Network, I’ve started digging deeper into the instant streaming material available on Netflix. It seems that most of the programs I would have watched on Discovery, TLC or History – the three channels I watched 99% of the time — are available as season DVD sets streaming via Netflix.
There are also plenty of season DVD’s of television programs available for streaming that I don’t have any interest in. Now that I’ve cut my Dish Network subscription, I realize that I was paying dearly for their presence even though I had no interest in watching them.
The bottom line is that I can only watch one show at a time. Having 200 plus channels available simultaneously seemed exciting, but the reality is that at least 97% of whatever was on at any given point didn’t appeal to me in any way. It’s crap looking to influence whoever it can reach out and grab.
With audio podcast listening, it allows me to choose my own influences. The IPTV revolution brings that powerful ability to choose my influences to television.
This revelation shouldn’t surprise me, because I’ve been here before. Back in late 2004 when I discovered podcasting, it was exactly what I’d been looking for. I was suddenly able to pick and choose audio content and consume it on my own terms. I could listen to exactly what I wanted, when I wanted to listen to it. Suddenly, instead of being at the mercy of having to listen to what was mostly crap programming on radio stations I happened to be driving by, I was able to turn that huge amount of listening time I had while driving into a tremendous benefit.
Broadcast television has been traditionally viewed as mindless entertainment. Like audio programming, television programming can easily be used in the same beneficial ways. Now that I’m forced to choose what to watch, I realize that what I choose to spend time watching will be much more personally beneficial.
Broadcast television is potentially detrimental and there’s no question in my mind that much of it is hypnotic. If a TV screen is present and turned on most people can’t help but periodically stare at it, even if the sound is turned down.
It has only been a bit over 24 hours since I cancelled my Dish Network subscription, and I’m already over the emotional separation. Who needs all of those less-than-useless channels?
This last week has been a pretty good one for me, for I got to review more than just a computer, printer or network. I got to review a car. Well, mostly the computer in the car, but still a very tricked out Ford Taurus SHO. A $37,000 vehicle with the Microsoft SYNC system inside.
Ford delivered the Taurus last week to my home. Blue-Grey in color, it didn’t look like the Taurus of years past. I used to drive one for work from time-to-time. That is when the car pool had one available.
However, this one was fully loaded. It had everything from the aluminum wheels to the SHO branded floor mats. It really made me feel like I was on top of my game when driving it. Not that I don’t like the current car I have – But when the time comes, I wouldn’t mind swapping for that one. As long as I can put a full drum set into it.
So let’s take a look at the car, the geeky stuff and other items inside:
We’ll start out with the car itself. This is the 2010 Ford Taurus SHO with 3.5 Liter EcoBoost V6 engine. EcoBoost Technology combines turbocharging and direct injection. It basically works like a V8, but with fewer emissions. The 365 horsepower engine can get 17 city/25 highway using All-Wheel Drive (AWD).
The wheel stock was 19″ premium painted luster nickel-aluminum. The SHO uses the intelligent Access technology with Push-Button Start. All you need is the FAB close by and you will not only be able to get in your car, but also start it without taking anything out of your pocket.
The Geeky Stuff:
Inside the car was where I was focused on. It contained the Microsoft SYNC system – A navigation software package, personal media player and full Satellite / AM /FM radio. The voice recognition was from Nuance – makers of the Dragon Naturally Speaking software. Connection was through audio jack, USB or Blutooth.
The voice navigation system was fairly straightforward to understand. If you have used a Tom-Tom or Garmin system, then the SYNC navigation will be second-hand. I entered in a couple destinations and the voice guided me to where I needed to go. There were a couple times it was unsure, so it said “Incomplete data, proceed with caution”. That way, I didn’t trust the system to the point where I would drive it off a cliff.
The voice navigation was also very competent on what it was saying. “Turn left onto Ambercrombe – Turn right onto McKenna..” and so forth. I think there was only one time I noticed the voice sound digital in my travels.
You can put in new destinations, or pre-program common ones. Just in case you forget where the store is, or if this is a company car – you can pre-program the destinations so new drivers can find the route without asking for directions.
The Climate Control:
What can I say about this? April is a Hot – then Cold kinda month. One minute you have all the windows rolled down, then the next the heat is blasted at 90 degrees. To be able to have all that at your fingertips is pretty important. I do have to say, though – The actual button configuration toward the bottom was more confusing than on the SYNC system. Especially when I wanted to turn the blower up and down.
The Sound System:
This is by far the best sound experience I have had in a car. The 12 speakers by Sony pushing out 390 Watts brought clarity to anything I played. Podcasts and music was both enjoyable to listen to, and easy. With the Bluetooth built in, I didn’t need to connect my iPhone to a cable – although I had an option through the USB port. The 10 GB of Hard Drive storage could allow me to put my CD’s into memory.
I was a little flustered that it wouldn’t let me upload MP3 CD’s into the car. I could play the MP3 CD through the system, though. Once I had the jukebox running, I could go through the songs as easily as if they were on my computer.
Since the system has Hands-Free options, I was able to answer phone calls with my cell in the pocket. It stored all my contact info so I could just push the button and go. The Stereo would duck under the phone voice, the backup sensors or the Navigation voice if needed. It made for a comforting experience where I didn’t have to juggle for phones or cables.
I was playing with the interior lighting all week. There were 2 buttons on the dash – One that dimmed a series of LED lights inside the car (by the door handles, in the compartments) and another that changed the color of the LED lights. I could choose the light based on my mood, but I mostly stuck with my favorite color: Green.
What is missing?
When we talked with Ford at CES, I thought there was going to be a special uplink option for music and podcasts. I was expecting to let the car talk with a wireless system to download media. That wasn’t the case. Sure, I could have used a Bluetooth connection from the house, but it would have been nice to be able to connect to the media server and get the music and podcasts that way. This was the only thing I wished it would have.
The car specs said I had a Rear View Camera. Either I missed it or this model didn’t have one. If it did, then I am surprised it wasn’t an intuitive system.
I enjoyed the ride for the week. I got to take a couple longer trips and felt comfortable the whole time. I had a few friends ride along and they really enjoyed the handling. The only thing they mentioned on the car was the design of the dashboard felt a little enclosing. It was an akward looking dashboard, but there was one big Sony speaker in the middle.
I was really happy to drive this car around for the week. I would like to thank Ford for their generosity in letting me review the system. The SYNC system is absolutely a fabulous idea and with some extras can be a very useful and very fun addition to your drive.
I’m a long time XM Radio customer, starting over five years ago with a $9.95/month plan. Since the merger with Sirius, I’ve seen my plan increase to $12.95/month. A few days ago I received an “Important Information About Your XM” email from XM Radio saying that my monthly rate will increase by $1.98/month for a “U.S. Music Royalty Fee.” (I guess they didn’t make it $2.00 because they thought I would notice the increase.) So, now it will cost almost $15/month for a service that has increased 50% over the past five years. This is after the merger with Sirius that was going to make the service more affordable for everyone.
After the iPhone 3.0 launch, I found a free Sirius/XM application for the iPhone that allows you to stream Sirius/XM channels. I though this would be a great thing until I found out that this free application requires you to be a Sirius/XM subscriber and to play an additional $2.99 for a “Premium” upgrade. This would push up my monthly cost to $18!
So where does the Zune come into all this? I purchased a Zune when they first came out and used it for a while but it was replaced by an iPod Nano and iPod Touch. The Zune desktop software (Windows only) is now up to version 3 and Zune software has much improved. The Zune Pass is a monthly subscription service that gives you unlimited access to music in the Zune Marketplace for $14.99/month. In addition, you can download 10 DRM-free songs each month.
I mainly use my XM Radio to listen to music in car and I’m thinking I can save some money and get 10 free songs a month by switching out my XM service for a Zune Pass. By bringing back my Zune and signing up for a monthly Zune Pass, I can download lots of music on my Zune for trips in my car and build up my DRM-free music collection (for use on my iPod). As an added bonus I can download and play songs on multiple (Windows) computers. I generally use my Mac for day-to-day use, but I also have a couple of Window machines nearby, so this is not a problem.
I think Satellite Radio is a great thing and would love to keep the service but I feel it’s pricing itself out of business. Before you had a choice between two satellite radio services but now we are down to one, and a costly one at that.
Now, if I can just figure out where I put my old Zune player and hope that it still works.