- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 22, 2006

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

A Sirius Web presence

With Internet market researcher Nielsen/NetRatings reporting an astronomical 188 percent increase in surfer traffic to the Web site of the satellite radio company Sirius (www.sirius.com) over the past year, it sounded like a good idea to see — and hear — what was creating all the fuss.

Obviously, being the new home of Howard Stern accounted for most of the increase, as subscribers loyal to the shock jock jumped to Sirius and its cyber-equivalent, where they can listen to streaming versions of his show and more than 125 channels via its online player.

Those unfamiliar with the content of Sirius can register via the site and enjoy three free days of Web access to more than 100 channels from all genres of music and talk radio.

For 72 hours straight, visitors armed with a password might decide to hear commercial-free Rolling Stones Radio and cuts such as “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” “Fingerprint File” and “Start Me Up,” or plenty of blabbering from the likes of Martha Stewart, Jay Thomas and Vincent Pastore of “The Sopranos.” (Mr. Stern is not available on the trial period.)

Even my favorite radio program, Little Steven’s Underground Garage (www.littlestevensundergroundgarage.com), ports over to Sirius (it can be heard on free, syndicated radio or at its Web site) offering rare rock tracks, including Tina Turner with “River Deep Mountain High” or the Who with “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.”

Sirius’ main competitor, XM Satellite Radio (http://xmro.xmradio.com ) gives its site visitors a similar offer of three free days of online listening (with a much more advanced player) and offers a $7.99 a month package to hear its content only through the Web.

Trek Convergence

To help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original television series while hoping to grab the techie Trekkie, Comcast’s G4 cable network has been airing a multimedia-rich version of the 1960s science-fiction show now referred to as “Star Trek 2.0.”

Each episode, which airs Monday through Friday at 11 p.m., is embedded in a screen that looks much like a typical Web page, highlighting streaming media. In addition to the TV show, viewers see an accumulating tally of Trek Stats on one side of the screen that offers information such as how many times Captain Kirk yells for a “red alert” or how many times someone is beamed up or down.

Also, Trek Facts scroll at the top of the screen, giving the viewer a chance to learn a variety of tidbits. For example, actor Paul Fix, who played the chief medical officer in the episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” would later star with “Trek’s” more popular doctor, DeForest “Bones” Kelley, in the giant mutant rabbit movie “Night of the Lepus.”

An integral part of the program requires that viewers beam over to the official site (www.g4tv.com/startrek20) to register and take part in a couple of interactive components that appear during the broadcast.

First, a live chat has a moderator ask philosophical questions such as, “What would you do if you had the power of God?” while answers from dazed Web visitors crawl at the bottom of the television screen during the show.

And, the bizarre Spock Market runs a ticker during the show and has viewers, through the Web site, buy and sell fake stock tied to characters and “Trek” technology. Trading volume and what happens in each episode help to set the prices.

Traders initially receive 15,000 Federation credits to begin the dealing, along with an area where they can check their portfolios as each tries to become one of the top five traders.

The “Star Trek 2.0” Web site section devoted to the Spock Market is painfully detailed and loaded with tongue-in-cheek news and resources, with an area to research the stock of such stalwarts as Scotty (whose price is reported to be as volatile as dilithium crystals), Nurse Chapel (a stock that will take care of the investor) and Sulu (a stock that spreads confidence in every sector of the market) being the most amusing.

By the way, James T. Kirk stock originally sold for 30 Federation Credits and commands nearly 7,000 at the time of this review (although he had been up to 12,000 before some aggressive action on his part).

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washingtontimes.com/familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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