Strange New World: Tech Picks of the Week

We are out in Vegas this week at the tech Wonderland that is Consumer Electronics Show. There are hundreds of tech announcements coming out of this place every hour but we managed to sift out a few cool ones for you guys this week. Microsoft is giving people a sneak peek at its new OS, Portland is getting WiMAX and it looks like the CD club at BMG Music is done. Here now are our picks of the week.

Windows 7 Is Here? Well, Kinda

At CES this week, Microsoft announced the release of a Beta version of the Windows 7 operating system. The rumor is that the full version will be available in January 2010, but if you want to get your hands on it right now, you can.

The company promises that there will be a free download available today. We've had a quick look at the new OS and think it will actually be a big hit. It is a lot less cumbersome than Vista was, first of all, and won't clog up and slow down your system as much.

They have also paid a lot of attention to the problems that everybody had with Vista and fixed a lot of the big issues. Check it out and get used to it because it will be everywhere soon.

Want WiMAX? Try Portland

The WiMAX wireless broadband service that was originally dubbed "Xhom" -- since renamed "Clear" -- has found a new home. Three months ago, Clearwire debuted its 4G wireless solution in Baltimore. This gave wireless Internet access to massive swaths of the city, for a small price. It actually worked pretty well and we had been waiting to see where it would go next.

Well, this week, the company announced that it would be rolling out the service in Portland, Ore. The first mobile wireless network will cover about 700 square miles of municipal Portland and will expand in the coming months.

Service plans start at $20 per month for home service and $30 per month for mobile use. To use the service, you will need a WiMAX-enabled device or modem. Manufactures like Motorola are selling the cards and the service worked well for us the last time we were in Baltimore.

BMG Music Service Is Done

One of the oldest music clubs appears to be winding down its business. BMG Music Service is no longer accepting new members and all prospective members are being sent to Yourmusic.com.

That's not such a bad deal because all CDs at the new Web site are $6.99, including shipping. Existing members can still buy CDs from the BMG Web site but the writing appears to be on the wall and all expect a shutdown by summertime.

The selection of CDs has diminished significantly in the past year, even from major acts. For example, those who joined to pick up the back catalog of older more established acts like Van Halen are out of luck. The site stopped selling the band's albums during the summer.

The question on our minds is whether Yourmusic will fare any better than BMG music? iTunes is selling songs for as cheap as 69 cents now, so you can, technically, get a 10-song album for 9 cents cheaper there.

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