Catch Up

Been pretty busy so not had much posting time, so without further ado…some stuff.

  • PS3 update. Firstly the reviews of the update have garnered some great reviews. Upscaled DVD’s look great, noticeably better than the 360. I guess most surprising for me is that they looked better/on a par with the Denon I have. Looks like I can eBay another piece of kit. Of course me writing eBay really means it will retire to the ‘gadget graveyard’ – the attic. I have an embarrassing amount of old gadgets and tech that I won’t part with or can’t be bothered selling on eBay and dealing with Nigerians (sorry all legit Nigerians), kids wrecking bids and fraud. 720p playback of Blu-Ray is also welcomed. Network playback of media…nice try but not quite there yet. Nero and Media Player 10 work well on Windows for sharing media. For the Mac, options are a little more limited. TwonkyMedia Beta 4.4 and EyeConnect are the best bet’s for the moment. Hopefully a version of Connect360 will support the PS3 (news that Connect360 tries to talk to the PS3). Joystiq have a list of 20 clients that may work. Final option is to use a NAS device that supports DLNA. Unfortunately my current NAS doesn’t. Synology forums admin have said they have purchased a PS3 to look at connectivity – supporting DLNA would have been my preferred option although it’s probably easier for me to rely on a Connect360 derivative.
  • Since switching to Mac I’ve only used Windows to update my remote and a couple of other small’ish tasks. However the last 3-4 weeks have seen me use Windows every day for a couple of hours and during that time Parallels has been a life saver. Rock solid and to be honest, you are hard pushed to notice your running a virtual OS. The coherence feature alone is worth the money. The good news is version 3 has been announced with increased USB support, 3D graphics support (pretty vague but a good list of Windows games) and future Vista Aero support. Sounding good and like a good little fanboy I’ve already paid for the upgrade.
  • Halo 3. It’s soooo much fun. It’s a shame it will finish this Sunday but I’ve really enjoyed the last couple of weeks. Robert – hope to see you before Sunday!
  • Forza out this week. Has had great reviews, the user screenshots from USA & Japanese gamers have looked awesome and a received a 9 in Edge this month. Roll on this weekend.
  • I’m starting to become a GTD geek. Been using iGTD for a few weeks, Omnifocus is picking up some good early press and the process has really help me keep on top of tasks recently. If you’ve got a lot on (even a little but some of it’s long term) or need something to help manage those inspiration moments that need noted down somewhere then give GTD a try.
  • WWDC next week which means a lot of Mac rumours. New laptops and iMacs could make my hardware feel out of date which is always the problem with Macs. However, the hardware has been good since I switched, the software excellent and I have absolutely no regrets. Should have done it years ago. Tips for next week – new Leopard features (I still think there will be some virtualisation/boot camp news) and new Macbook pro’s. One more thing – new iPhone features?
  • I think I’ve finally settled on a work/laptop bag. I’ve always admired Tom Bihn bags and I think the soon to be released Zephyr will fit my needs. Why does it take 30 mins to choose a laptop and 6 months to find a bag?
  • Try and catch the Jobs/Gates interview from last weeks D|All Things Digital. Gates comes across really well and it was nice to see the respect they both had for each other. Video’s here and now on iTunes.

Mmm – that went on a bit.

Packaging and other rambles

I’ve always had a thing for nice packaging. The Apple packaging is hard to beat and gives you a great impression of the product you’ve bought before you’ve even switched it on. Likewise a great CD case (Thom Yorke, Lemon Jelly) has always given the CD a greater worth. All in the head as it doesn’t change the music, but there you go. My first Blu-Ray movies have now arrived and again the packaging is interesting. The cases are smaller than DVD, nicely rounded, slightly transparent and just feel better quality than a DVD. Which ties in with the fact it should be of better quality. All in the head but I like it.

Thats why I’ve always liked Japanese game packaging. Far smaller than western equivalents and to be honest far better. I look at my DVD collection – it could take up a quarter of the room that it currently does. Nevermind.

Speaking of room, I’m still tempted to ditch all my cd’s as I have them all digitally available. I would probably re-encode some of the disks at a higher rate but apart from that I have no need for the physical disks. Apart from the nice packaging that in my head adds value. Doh. So do I dump the disks and save room or not?

Finally, a quick bit on the Blu-Ray disks. I imported them from the states using DVDWorldUSA. They delivered within 7 days and there was no import duties to pay. They also guarantee to pay import duties if you do have the misfortune to get caught. It’s a long time since I imported and I was a bit worried about region playback issues. However this site lists the region free or restricted titles released so far. Very handy. Just need the player now.

Blu-Ray

Macworld Predictions

The first Macworld where I’m actually a Mac owner takes place on Tuesday. So like other geeks here are my predictions for the two hour keynote.

  • iPhone – maybe. But is it a phone with iPod type functionality or is the emphasis on the iPod which has additional phone capabilities.
  • iTV. With flash disk, support of external drives via USB2, HD playback, HD downloading from iTunes, playback of media from home pc’s Macs and NAS devices, a mini OSX – the community at large could then add so much functionality over time – some of the dashboard widgets would look great on the big screen, controlled from bluetooth keyboard or Macbook/Macbook pro. We’ll also get the proper name which if it has to include ‘Mac’ will make it the MacMedia or something corny like that.
  • Updated Airport to take advantage of the pre N hardware in Macbooks. Macbook Pro’s and iMacs. Maybe driver support won’t be available until leopard though.
  • Leopard – a new look. Maybe the reason why the Apple logo was black- a new dark look to Mac OSX? Will also get release date and some previews of new’ish functionality. Built in virtualisation or is Parallels to good to compete with?
  • iLife – updates but I don’t think there will be that much of a change
  • .Mac – never thought this was much value with so much web competition doing it better and for free. Maybe this is where some Google integration will come in.

A couple of days from now we’ll know how close the list is. if I was to pick one thing off the list it’s iTV – I really want something new that works with all my media to replace XBMC which is getting a bit long in the tooth.

I've Moved

It took a long time to deliver but I’m finally there – I’ve moved to Mac. They say a picture is worth a thousand words…

iMac up and running

I’ve posted a full Flickr set of the unboxing of the iMac and iPod – not too many pics as it’s been done already. It’s too early to feel settled with OS X although I’ve so far managed to do everything I’ve wanted to, including an almighty struggle to get my iTunes library over to the mac from the pc. I ended up hacking the library xml file to get it to work. However the iMac hardware is stunning. Quiet, fast and bright – in fact too bright much like when you view a TV in a store and it’s set to 100%. I ended up reducing the brightness to just over half to make it easy on the eyes. Even then it was brighter than my last LCD. Still can’t get used to using the Apple key for cut, copy, paste and there are obviously lots of oddities that will take time to understand. Expose is stunning though and makes managing multiple windows a painless task – windows could learn a lot and that still hasn’t been addressed in Vista which is an issue as more people move to larger and larger desktops.

The iPod is as impressive as ever. Screen is bright, video’s look sharp although I still think it’s too small to watch TV episodes and movies on. Most noticeable are the new earbuds – comfy and sound good. Gapless playback is also welcome…at last.

Downsides. Only one at the moment – the Mighty Mouse. It is OK but not a patch on my old Logitech which will be pressed back into service. The virtual right mouse button is awkward and the side buttons require a lot of pressure to activate. Not for me and it defies logic as to why Apple couldn’t design something better.

Seeing as I’ve spent only a day with the iMac I’m surprised how easy it is to perform basic tasks although I do feel vulnerable due to my lack of knowledge. If something went wrong I would probably struggle badly. With Windows I felt comfortable that no matter what I did I could rectify the situation – it will take a while to get that feeling with the Mac. Hardware has also worked like a dream, both new and old. Joy of joys – I don’t have any dead pixels (well none that are obvious and although I’ve scanned a few times and can’t see any I ain’t going hunting). Thoroughly delighted that I finally made the move. It will be interesting to see how the next few weeks go as I scratch beneath the surface. To be honest I can’t wait.

Apple Special Event

September 12th could be an expensive day. Apple are doing another of their ‘special events’ which has everyone speculating on new products. Hot tips are a new iMac and an iTunes movie store and maybe a new iPod or replacement for the Nano.

I would love to see Macbook Pro updated with at least the new Intel chips – that would be enough for me to purchase. I also want, well, need a new iPod as my current one is full and I can’t be doing with picking and choosing what music I want on the player. I’m still not sold on a video iPod though especially if it’s larger than the current models. Would be nice to see a video and a music iPod developed.

One thing on the movie store – rumours are $14.99 for new titles and $9.99 for older movies – sounds a bit steep considering the movies will come with DRM restrictions. Surely that wouldn’t be the price for a movie sized only for a new iPod? That got me thinking – would we see hi-def movies sold for that price through iTunes? The movie’s would be large but would users be willing to download hi def movies and play then from their laptop or pc rather than buying an HD-DVD or Blu-ray player. Will probably never happen but the option would be nice.

This is Living?

Thats the official PS3 slogan for Europe but I’m sure there’s something missing. This is living on the breadline? This is living in a world where the 360 does not exist? This is living in a world of crap fonts and 3d renders? (check out the launch video for Spiderman and clothes label fonts – quality). Firstly the price of the PS3 looks expensive at £425 and the launch games are looking average with no exclusive OS3 title standing out as a must have. Launch titles are never the best judge of a platform but with the 360 titles coming along over the next 6 months the PS3 looks weak in comparison.

Now there’s news that there will be no HDMI cable included in the box and also confirmation that the lower end PS3 will not play copy protected Blu-ray discs at 1080p due to lack of HDMI port. Add in the lack of 1080p screens, the dismal launch of Blu-ray and HD-DVD outperforming the Blu-Ray movies so far and thats a far from appetising console. Add in a non-rumbling pad that isn’t a patch on the 360 design and an internet service that in my experience hasn’t been a patch on Xbox Live and I’m struggling to find reason to part with the cash. Where is the next gen Wipeout? That game alone sold me on the PS1 and truly differentiated the PS1 from other consoles of that period. There seems to be nothing of that ilk on the PS3. Maybe the Tokyo Game Show will tell a different story later this month.

In fact the only reason I can see me buying one is that there will be a shortage at launch which usually means a profit on Ebay. Oh, there is another. My ‘habit’ of needing the latest and greatest which after all these years I’ve not managed to break. Yet. Maybe the PS3 will be my cold turkey.

Sony Ericsson K800i

Another year, another phone. This is the 3G follow up to the k750i, my current phone. Although it’s been out for a couple of months I wanted to get the phone on T-Mobile’s Web ‘n’ Walk deal and take advantage of all that 3G speed online. So after a few days how has it faired?

k800i.jpg

What do you get?
In the box you get the phone plus USB cables and also headphones that double as an aerial for the radio. The k800i uses a new memory stick format, the M2. This really grinds with me – just how many different formats do manufacturers think we need? Also it means my previous cards wouldn’t work with the phone – more expense. However the T-Mobile deal included a 256Meg card which is more than adequate.

The Phone
The phone itself is heavier, taller and slightly more bulky than the k750i although it’s a great size for a 3G phone and the build quality is excellent. The back of the phone is rubberized and the only issue I have is with the lens cover – I’m sure that will break off over time. The back of the phone is also difficult to open which I guess is good in the long term – wouldn’t want it to easily slip off. The screen is excellent – more readable than the k750i, photo’s and in particular small text is clear and sharp. The software built into the phone is almost identical to the k750i except additions for RSS and Video calling. Voice quality has been excellent and on a par with the k750i which was one of the best phones I had used. Signal strength has also been excellent over the last few days.

Height Comparison.jpg

The software on the phone also supports apps working in the background. You can be on a call or listening to music and at same time surf or get/receive e-mail. You can swap to apps running in the background via one of the keys on the front of the phone – very swish.

I was disappointed though with the software for synchronizing with Outlook. It is buggy and will only sometimes detect that the phone is connected. When this happens the launcher for file transfers also doesn’t work. Although it’s easy to connect in file mode so that transfers from the memory card can be made I recommend you download MyPhoneExplorer which has worked 100% for me. You can transfer files, sync calendars and get some other info like firmware version, battery life and temperatures. Another disappointment’s is lack of Mac support from Sony.

The big new feature of this phone though is the 3 Megapixel camera. Continue reading “Sony Ericsson K800i”