Egypt and other tech news: a roundup

Crowds are cheering online for Al Jazeera in English and for the heroic Wael Ghonim, and they're waving goodbye to Clearwire retail stores and 'Guitar Hero.'

Crosscut archive image.

Al Jazeera has carried continuous special coverage of the uprising in Cairo.

Crowds are cheering online for Al Jazeera in English and for the heroic Wael Ghonim, and they're waving goodbye to Clearwire retail stores and 'Guitar Hero.'

The English-language service of Al Jazeera,, the Qatar-based 24-hour news service, has won many new U.S. adherents since the beginning of the Egyptian uprising. The biggest problem has been trying to find a TV channel or Internet site to watch it, or even worse, finding it online and not being able to tune in — probably because its servers are overloaded.

If you’ve not watched its coverage, do so.  It’s reminiscent of the early years of CNN: the fire and passion that goes with being on-site to report the news live. 

To American ears, its often critical voice about U.S. policies, and its news coverage of Israel from a Middle East rather than an American perspective, can be jarring. A Middle East MSNBC or Fox News? Perhaps. Its hard news, however, is excellent and covers far more than Middle East topics, although its excellent coverage of the current Egyptian turmoil has been lauded by fellow journalists in print and electronic media.

It is very much a worldwide channel, with more news and documentaries about the Far East, South America, and other global spots than any other news channel except, perhaps, the BBC World Service. Its U.S. fans include the New York Times among others.

If you want to sample Al Jazeera, try visiting its website and hitting the “watch live” menu. Or go to, which is both a website and a free iPhone app. Livestation also offers English-language news channels from Russia, France, Iran, the BBC’s radio world service, and others.

For Android smartphones, there is a free Al Jazeera app in the Android Market store. Warnng: It’s unreliable and quits often.

If you have a Roku set-top player, a live Al Jazeera feed is included in the free Roku Newscaster channel app; that app also includes other news sources including news clips from CNN, NBC, and other sources.

There’s another interesting twist to the Al Jazeera story. No U.S. cable or satellite network currently carries the channel, so Al Jazeera is appealing directly to U.S. viewers. A “Demand Al Jazeera in the USA” box on its website encourages people to petition their cable company to include the channel. In addition, now has its own Al Jazeera page. As of Thursday (Feb. 10), “meetups” were planned locally by residents of Seattle, Everett, and San Juan County.

McCaw-backed Clearwire pulls out of retail

 Bellevue-based Clearwire, the Craig McCaw-founded wireless broadband provider, is pulling back from its retail operations to concentrate on wholesaling its services to other networks, according to reports in the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News.

The move is intended to open the door for additional investment by Sprint Nextel, which owns a majority of Clearwire stock. In an interview with Bloomberg News, Sprint CEO Dan Hesse was quoted as saying, “Sprint's preference is that Clearwire's cash or financial resources be used primarily for building out the network, versus other purposes . . . That's really where we want to see the money spent, building out the best coverage in the most markets."

A eulogy to "Guitar Hero"

 Goodbye, wannabe Metallica, Aerosmith and Kiss stars. Toodle-oo, Megadeath, My Chemical Romance, and Silversun Pickups. “Guitar Hero” has performed its last licks.

Activision recently reported it was shuttering the "Guitar Hero" game franchise it introduced in 2005. According to the Associated Press, declining sales made further investment in new versions unjustified. As of 2010, according to market research group NPD, "Guitar Hero" sales reached $2.47 billion in the U.S.  In contrast, however, Activision's "Call of Duty: Black Ops" war game, which debuted last November, made $1 billion worldwide in just six weeks.

“Guitar Hero” was also a victim of changing tastes. Once the leader in the “You are a rock star” video-game concept, which allowed players to tap color-coded buttons on fake plastic guitars in time with chords that appeared on a TV or computer screen, other similar games appeared including the “Tap Tap Revenge:” series on iPhones, which has been downloaded 15 million times and has multiple premium tracks with music ranging from Seattle’s classic Nirvana to today’s Justin Bieber.

The genre isn’t disappearing entirely, however. Microsoft’s Kinect, the new hands-free motion controller for the XBox, is now the home for "Dance Central," which allows players to follow body-twisting choreography matching music from Lady Gaga, Salt-N-Pepa, and others.

Google downplays its connection to Egypt activist

The world press has lionized Wael Ghonim, the 30-year-old Google executive in Cairo credited with being an organizer of the ongoing Egyptian rebellion. Ghonim's anonymous blog both galvanized Egyptians to protest and caused him to be abducted and held incommunicado for 12 days.

While news media has been busy making him a living symbol of the people’s revolution, his employer seems to be tip-toeing around his relationship with them. According to a Wall Street Journal story Friday (Feb. 11), the company won’t speak on the record but is making it clear that Ghonim is acting on his own, not as an agent of the company.

The article notes that Google thinks the public is making “far too much of his connection to Google."


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors