One of the few to get an Xbox 360 in time for Thanksgiving gaming was Goldman Sachs analyst Rick Sherlund. After getting his pre-ordered...

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One of the few to get an Xbox 360 in time for Thanksgiving gaming was Goldman Sachs analyst Rick Sherlund. After getting his pre-ordered console from GameStop, Sherlund and teenage boys in his neighborhood spent 20 hours over two days doing in-depth research on the console. Sherlund even took the system to his grandmother’s turkey dinner and set it up in her basement.

“We had to keep testing the box for bugs; I hope she understood this was work-related,” he wrote in a memorable research note published Nov. 25.

Sherlund, ranked the top software analyst by Institutional Investor magazine for 17 years running, was able to re-create one of the reported bugs in a game but said his 360 holiday gaming “has been a very positive experience.”

“The experience on HD was pretty cool, everyone walking by the family room TV first noticed the realistic graphics resolution and stopped for a moment to study if it was a real picture or animation,” he wrote.

While playing “Call of Duty 2” with three other players, Sherlund was able to freeze the game by having the fourth player press the right trigger at the beginning of the Stalingrad level.

Another minor frustration was that Sherlund couldn’t get the Xbox Live gamer tag that he was counting on.

“The screen name rickydude was already taken, and I thought that was rather obscure, so I finally settled for ricksher123,” he wrote.

Buying laptops

The number of laptops sold during Thanksgiving week this year rose 48.6 percent over the units sold in the same week last year.

Source: Current Analysis

Ricksher123 has attended Skip Barber Racing School in the real world, but the experience didn’t translate well to playing “Project Gotham Racing 3” against an online opponent.

“When online, I found myself left in the dust by some guy speaking French from Montreal, and the language coming out of the TV speakers from others was at times colorful,” he wrote. “I wished I had put the headset on for the benefit of younger nieces and nephews who stopped by in Grandma’s basement to watch me skid into the walls.”

Sherlund left his “outperform/attractive” rating on Microsoft stock unchanged.

Free publicity

Microsoft‘s new high-performance software received an unexpected dose of free publicity last week. An ad for the product was painted on the side of the Seattle monorail for the recent supercomputing conference in town.

Unfortunately for Microsoft, the ad was still there when the two monorail cars collided and ground to a halt Nov. 26.

TV cameras filming the cars frozen between Westlake Center and Times Square in downtown Seattle had a perfect view of the signage on the red car: “HPC Goes Mainstream — Windows Compute Cluster Server 2003.”

Intel inside out?

The reason AMD is gaining ground on Intel may have nothing to do with chip prices or performance. Could it be the names that Intel keeps giving to its new products?

Now that everyone is finally starting to figure out what Centrino means, Intel is preparing to unleash the Viiv brand on consumers. Viiv will apply to entertainment PC chip sets coming early next year.

The company says it rhymes with “five,” but we’re not so sure about that.

Roger, roger

Cingular Wireless plans to roll out walkie-talkielike service today, bringing its customers a service that has been popular with Nextel subscribers.

The service, powered by Kodiak Networks, will cost $9.99 a month, or $19.99 a month for family plans.

ABIresearch predicts that push-to-talk will grow in the U.S. as it becomes less of a business tool and more of a consumer product. The trend may first start with families who will find it a cheap way to communicate.

We can hear it now: “Mikey, get down here for dinner. Over and out.”

Download, a column of news bits, observations and miscellany, is gathered by The Seattle Times technology staff. We can be reached at 206-464-2265 or