Sunday, June 26, 2005

Creative I-Trigue 2200

Let's start this off with the specs on this pair of desktop speakers:
Power: 13 Watts total (6.5W each), with a max of 30W (brief peak only)
Freq. Response: 120Hz-20kHz
SNR: 80dB
Size: 7.7x5x21.5 (in cm)
Price: ~$80 CAD
Now for the subjective bits.

The Look:
I liked the style of these speakers, they're sleek black and silver units, (a resounding theme in my electronic collection), slightly reminiscent of floor standing tower speakers... Only they are little. As usual the right speaker is where it's all going on in this pair, in the back we have the I/O ports including the Speaker In, Sub out (thankfully, more on that later), left speaker RCA jack, and Power In, and finally the BassXPort. On the front again standard fare, the headphone jack, power LED (blue), tone control knob, volume/power knob, and finally the 2 drivers, also mirrored on the forgotten twin, a.k.a. left speaker.

The look is great; I'm glad Creative likes to keep it simple. The silver NeoTitanium drivers are exposed, and are used to enhance the look. The blue LED is simply genius, I know that this may seem pretty trivial, but nearly everything uses a green LED for power, except for my mac mini, and my HP laptop, and my Starbuck coffee maker. It was a bit serendipitous that the look matches my laptop nearly perfectly, but that's beside the point. The faces of the cabinets are black, with silver back and sides.

The Sound:
Here's the real important part of any speakers, What-U-Hear as Creative likes to call it. This is where a bit of tarnish shows up. These speakers are admittedly entry level, especially since they are only a 2.0 setup, meaning no sub included. And there lies the rub, the sound is better than most laptops, and an amazing improvement over the little internal speaker in my mini. But, and there's always a “but”; the sound quality is not what I've come to expect from a company known for sound quality. The volume is decent, but the tone just isn't there. The tone control knob, will take the tone from flat lifeless cotton on the left, to harsh tinny brass on the right. Pretty much the only way to fine tune the audio is in whatever program that you choose to use. Although this is sort of like asking a Ford Focus to be a Mustang, having the BassXPort as a selling point, with the promise of enhancing low bass, ensuring a richer sound should be a must.

The good thing is that the set has two drivers to make better use of the tall cabinets. These do make for a nice sound in nearly any application where bass is not a major factor, and when it is there is always the subwoofer out on the back, you still need to buy one, but it's still there. In my trial with a sub, I was happier, not completely satisfied, but happier. The drivers are quick and responsive, without the sound getting garbled by complex music. The mid and high end sound reproduction was quite good, with the tone knob set to just left of center.

These speakers are truly only to be a replacement to the tiny speakers in laptops, of to hook into an mp3/cd player. And that brings up the issue of power. The power adapter is big, about a third of the size of a speaker, nearly as heavy as both of them combined; not to mention one of the horrid hanging-off-the-wall, takes-up-three-spaces-in-a-power-bar blocks. I know why it's done, (money), but it's an inconvenience. Especially when taking them along with the laptop, plus the extra plug required at the wall.

I like these speakers for what they are... Basic. For the price, I just can't say that they are worth it. I've purchased better speakers for less, and they came with a sub. If you can find them on sale, or as a free gift with purchase, get them. Otherwise look around for a better deal. They're good, just not 80 bucks good.

Until next time,


Monday, June 20, 2005

Pay as You Go - Follow up

Well here I am again. No Cell for another day, and not any closer to getting my trouble resolved. After my shift is done. I will be calling again, and requesting to speak to a manager/supervisor, since I have not been able to get anywhere up until now, with the front-line staff.

Here's hopin'



I finally got my money that was promised put back on my account, and topped up just to be sure. I'm back to liking TM again. the woman that I had dealt with was fantastic, and showed great customer service.

I think I'll send her a Kudos, or at least an e.Card, that is if I can find her in the PDL.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Microsoft Streets and Trips 2005 with GPS

I was first introduced to this great program in 2000 when I was working in Seattle, for AT&T|Broadband. I was a cable internet installer at the time, and after about a week or so driving around with a coil map book,I realized that being the geek that I am, there must be a better way. And there was MS Streets and Trips.

I tossed this new fangled map thingy on my trusty laptop. To my surprise, it worked great. I'm sure that having Bill Gates in his office just across Lake Washington helped with the accuracy of the maps in Seattle. But for whatever reason it was just what I had been looking for, and saved me about an hour every day in my hunting for homes. My only problem was that I had no way of knowing just where I was at any given time. At that time even GPS wasn't all that fantastic, with the US military only allowing us civilians to have a few meters accuracy.

Things have changed.

With the opening up of accurate GPS, and affordable receivers, Microsoft has answered my only problem with a fantastic update to a great program. For me the biggest improvement is most certainly the GPS. I had no trouble setting it up at the initial installation MSaT, a definite plus, as I've had trouble with GPS device installs in the past. The actual unit is a Pharos iGPS-350 receiver, and can be interchanged to hookup with several other device adapters such as those for PocketPC.

This brings me to my next favorite feature. The PocketPC version of MSaT'05 is included so you can export maps to your PPC, and walk around with a little handheld device rather than a full out laptop. Not everyone will find this a really useful tool, as many people don't have PPC's and the program is not PalmOS compatible, but if you are lucky enough to have yourself a PPC, and need to get around new places, or just want to use it to track addresses of contacts, and maybe your favorite restaurants/coffee shops; then this is the program for you.

The interface has changed little in 4 revisions, and this is not a bad thing in any way. All of the different panes are set up logically; with the legend and overview to the left, and the main map on the right, much like you would see on a print map. With the exception that this map dynamically updates. The toolbars are pretty standard fare for a Microsoft program, making it feel much like an MS Office program. This is good if you like the toolbars in Word, but they are pretty plain, which for me is good, as I like minimalist interfaces that don't get in the way of the function. Really the only visible difference in the interface is the addition of the GPS button, which opens the GPS pane, otherwise I'd be hard pressed to tell the difference from my 4 year old version.

The GPS tracking matches up quite well with the street maps, although on a few off-ramps it looks like I took my sebring off-road. These little things were quite few and far between. I live outside of a major center, (although I work in one), and the streets in my little town are up to date, to a few months ago at least. This is better than I expected, as with most programs I've tried, their maps are about a year old. MSaT automatically updates construction information from the internet, this is probably my biggest problem with the program. Major highway construction was going on between where I live, and where I work and not once did MSaT find out about it from the internet. It was a disruption for about 25 miles, on the TransCanada Highway, not a minor affair.

The only real problem that I have is with my favorite feature, the GPS. The usefulness of this is lessened by the fact that if you are using it as a driving aid, it gets to be a bit distracting. Especially when you turn on the GPS pane, which displays your speed, (it shows a couple kph slow). But if you are using it as a tracking device it is great, or if you just need to know where you are in relation to your preplanned route. Just remember to pull over to flip open the screen to stare at it.

Overall I like it, and for the $149.99CAD that I paid it was not too expensive, considering the cost also includes the compatible GPS receiver. I hate buying things, and not being able to find compatible accessories.

Next time, I'll be reviewing the Creative I-TRIGUE 2200 speakers.


Friday, June 10, 2005

TELUS Mobility Pay as you Go

Yesterday I found myself on payday once again, and ready to "top-up" my Pay as you Go phone from TELUS Mobility. Seems pretty normal.

I am more than happy with the cell phone that I use, (LG's 5450), nice camera, solid feel, good sound quality, all around good phone. I have been happy with the service that TM provides; that is until yesterday.

I did the usual calling up the account management number like I always do, and got the whole, 'We're changing things on you to milk you for more cash' message that comes up every couple of months, then went into the IVR prompts. I chose the account balance option, and was told that I had $23 and change, and that my balance expired that day. Naturally not wanting to lose my good rate, and carry over money by letting it expire, I went back to add more. First I was told that it could not go through. I checked my bank account, and my credit card balance, as expected all good there, so I tried again. This time I was told that my transaction was being processed, and to check back later in the day to ensure it went through OK. All was good again... Or so I thought.

Later that morning, as I got off from work I went to get breakfast before running my payday errands, when I decided to do as instructed by the IVR, (the only female voice I truly hate), and check my balance. Much to my dismay, it told me I had $0. Now I hated that lifeless voice even more. I figure that it may just be an error, and went for breakfast at Smitty's, to give the system time to recover from the glitch. Well, as I'm sure you have surmised, it didn't.

At this point I was getting quite frustrated, and called up to speak to an actual person this time. I got a woman that seemed to be completely devoid of any ability to care for anything. Not a good start. I advised her of my situation, leaving gaps in the story, in order to allow her to pop into the conversation. Only after the whole spiel, did she advise me that they are having a problem with the billing system, (only for the low-profit-margin pay as you go people of course), and that troubles of this nature can take a long time, possibly 24-48 hours.

This wouldn't be a problem, IF I was able to use my phone during the billing outage, and just running off of my existing balance. But no, I have to be without my cell phone for two or more days, with the possibility of never getting the carried over balance back. I mean I work for TELUS, and know that we are not the most understanding of companies, but I do remain hopeful.

If it doesn't work out, I'm most certainly switching cellular companies. And to think I was going to upgrade to the LG-535 yesterday too. Oh well, that's $400 that they more than likely won't be getting from me.

P.S. I just got a bunch of new toys, like MS Streets and Trips GPS, a bunch of new internal PC, and laptop components, and more. I'll be reviewing them once I have a chance to play with them some more. I tried the GPS on the way into work tonight, and it works pretty darn well so far, but I'll get into more detail later.

Until next time,