Week in Geek: Will the HDMI mess ever be sorted out?

By Jonathan Blum and Seth Elkin

If you think you have problems wiring your production facilities for high definition, take a look at where things are for the average consumer. The high-definition media interface (HDMI) standard is turning into a real mess. HDMI was originally touted as the go-to solution for moving HD content between different devices in the home. But we have been hearing from several fronts that the standard is plagued by incompatibility issues, digital content management problems, lack of support across the different industry players and poor sales support at the retail level.

The first problem is that there seem to be different standards, and we’re hearing stories about standards problems between cable companies and equipment vendors. It also looks like HDMI is still using copper wire rather than optical fiber, which limits how much and how far the data can be carried and also makes the connectors more difficult to manufacture.

Meanwhile, it would be a good time for HDMI to get its act together. Flat-screen prices are great and everyone is going HD these days. Liquid crystal displays are dominating the category, but as we look ahead a bit, we think so-called “Super HD” displays may start having an impact in the consumer market. These are screens that have more resolution than the 1,080 lines found in most high-definition sets. Traditionally these super-def TVs were strictly for stuff like medical imaging and high-end animation. But with prices falling and more video games running on advanced gaming platforms, higher resolution displays are now legitimate products. There’s a 30-inch screen from Apple and another from Polywell that caught our
eye.

In our cruising around the Internet recently we found a user-created tech support site that we found worthwhile. Check out Fixya.com. Similar attempts by sits like Bizrate and Buy.com are of little use. And while Fixya isn’t perfect, it is far from awful. Fixya claims it provides a compilation of all the public technical information for most every available bit of electronics in the world. We couldn’t possibly say whether that’s really true, but in our testing, the thing is not bad. It had a nice way of pulling available manuals and drivers into an easy-to-find space.

We mention this not just to give you another resource the next time your gear breaks down. It’s another example of the user-created content wave. One way or another, this is a trend that will come to sports. Already the blogosphere is full of sports, led by sites like Deadspin, which offers up daily links to other lesser-known blogs. And Sports Illustrated recently jumped into the game with its acquisition of Fan Nation. How long will it be before someone figures out a way to create a sports video blog?

In other tech news, eBay is going to start selling radio ad time…Sony knocks $100 off the price of its second-generation Blu-ray players…A possible competitor for iTunes . The sub-$200 laptop…The Palm Foleo smartphone companion.

And finally, play some shuffle.

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