Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to play the PS3, as well as [finally] pick up an Xbox 360.

First things first... The Playstation 3... Yeah... well... it's black, and big, and elusive, not to mention pricey. I've played Resistance: Fall of Man, Call of Duty 3, and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and I wish I could say that they impressed me, but unfortunately I can't. Same goes for the Blu-Ray movies.

Call of Duty 3, looked good and felt fairly intuitive, but the lame way you turn the controller to melee seems to be nothing more than a last minute addition forced in by Sony in order to have another game that makes use of the motion sensing capability of the 'SIXAXIS' controller. The game looks pretty, but I really didn't feel that it's all that much different than the other WWII shooters out there, especially Call of Duty 2.

Resistance: Fall of Man is supposed to be the direct response to Gears of War on the Xbox 360, but again it seems like a game that is ALMOST ready for prime time. It is a fun game to play, and has a good premise, but for a game that has been hyped as being able to show off the PS3's capabilities, it misses the mark. The real saving grace of Resistance is oddly enough, the online play, which seems to be better done than the single player mode. Playing online with 39 other people really keeps the action frenetic, but to it's detriment there is no room for strategy, it's all just running around shooting anything that moves. Sure you can limit the number of players, but who has a USB heaset, or even a bluetooth one that they are going to use strictly for the PS3.

Marvel: Ultimate Alliance... Sucks; unless you liked the Marvel arcade games from 1997. The only thing that I really liked was that there is so much of the Marvel universe tossed in for the fans, while not being too "inside" for those who [like me] don't know Peter Parker's birthday. If you have multiple controllers, and multiple friends to play with it will make the game more fun.

The SIXAXIS controller is essentially a rehashed Dual-Shock controller minus the dual-shock. OK, and the cable, plus adds an extra button. The controller is lighter than the old dual-shock, but has a cheap feel to it. The R2/L2 buttons turned triggers don't have as precise a feel as the 360's triggers, though this may be a limitation of the titles that I've played so far. The other big annoyance that I've come across is the charging cable which is about 5 feet long, not nearly long enough for playing while charging, which is important since the controller MUST be charged before you are able to use it for the first time, [and the extra controllers that you buy don't come with a cable at all], luckily it's just a standard mini-USB cable.

Oh, and the initial setup requires a firmware update, and takes about an hour to complete; and hour and a half if you setup the online service as well.

Now the 360:

I decided to get the 360 specifically for 'Gears of War' which has ended up consuming nearly every free moment since. I'd like to say that I could have had a flawless experience, but I can't; though all of the glitches have been minor they were all pretty much fixed with the dashboard update available when I first signed into Xbox Live. The only things that are still minor issues are that the backwards compatibility is still not complete for all of my games, which is not a major issue; and that like some others, GoW had a "Disc Unreadable" error which has happened a couple of times. By the way, the power "brick" is HUGE!

The controller is comfortable, and a vast improvement over the original Xbox, and comes with a pair of user replaceable AA batteries, and cover. This is a bit of a point of contention for me in comparison to the PS3 which comes with a rechargeable wireless controller. But the rechargeable pack, and cable are only $20 CAD, which i can excuse since the cable is more than long enough to sit back far enough from a big HDTV so as to not burn though your retinas, a la the PS3 cable.

Gears of War, is simply the most fun that I've had playing a game. Period.

I was able to pick up Gears and start playing within the first few minutes, and the tutorial walks you through without much effort to learn. A big reason for why this game is so fun is that the controls are intuitive and mapped in such a way that it just works. Being able to take cover, and blind-fire/throw your weapon is just fantastic [even though I don't use it much, I like precision firing]. Above all my favorite combat in the game is the short game, so to speak, you can "tag" an enemy/opponent with a grenade, which goes off in a few seconds, but the most satisfying is using the "Lancer" [the main gun in the game] to engage the enemy with the chainsaw bayonet. There's nothing like sawing through a "bad-guy" who thinks that they are being smart by rushing you.

The multiplayer is incredibly fun with having 4 on 4 skirmishes allowing you to form a strategy with your team mates over the headset included with the 360, [which attaches to the wireless controller... Sony...]. The maps are considerably smaller than those in Resistance on the PS3, but then again it's just 8 players, not 40 it is just as fun to play, and you get the same game play as in the single player version, but you get to stomp on the heads of your opponents. The other big thing that is not limited to Gears, but rather across many 360 games, is that while you are waiting to play you can watch the current round being played, in a spectator mode.

Well that's all for today, I have to get back to stomping mouthy little 14 year-olds.

Until then,


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Shure's e2c headphones and friends

I'm a bit of an "Audiophile" [a.k.a. music snob]. I LOVE music, and I absolutely MUST have the best headphones available for listening to said music. Over the last year alone I've probably spent nearly $2000 on headphones trying to get the best experience possible from a couple of tiny speakers jammed against my head.

A decent sized chunk of the 2G's that I blew, was on my beloved Shure e3c's. But wait, isn't this article titled Sure e2c headphones? Why yes it is. The reason that this is not on the 3's is because I was having just a "peachy" day, and nothing was going well. Topping it all off, while listening to a little Rammstein, I didn't quite find my jacket pocket with my ipod in it's nice protective case.... the heavy tug on my ears told me that something had gone terribly wrong, specifically that I was no longer listening to 'Ich Will', but rather to a crackling buzz. What this meant was that my 3's had met a fate that fell well outside of the realm of "normal wear and tear", sending me on a crusade to find a cheaper, but no worse sounding pair of buds.

I am now the proud owner of a drawer full of various quality headphones, mostly earbuds. The best 3 that I still use on
a regular basis are my Griffin [imagine that] EarThumps: $30; JVC HA-FX55W: $80; Philips SHN060: $80.

The EarThumps are fantastic for cheap headphones which kick the crap out of the included ipod buds, but a bit muddy in the low end.

The JVC's are all around good, with great sound quality, but the rubber that houses the extraneously long cord, [it's a feature, not a bug], gets REALLY dirty, and my friend Josh found out, also breaks apart over time.

The Philips are not only noise isolating just like the other two, but also have active noise canceling, this is not only good for killing that annoying white-noise pumped into my office, but also drastically improves the sound when turned on.

Even after getting all of these, and tweaking all of my custom eq presets for them, I was still not entirely satisfied. Which is when all of the listening to Josh hum and haw about whether it would be worth the hundred bucks to pick up the Shure e2c's, got me to missing my good ol' 3's, but not enough to hit up the Long and McQuade for a new pair, So I got the "entry-level" e2c's.

The Shure e2c headphones are, for those unfamiliar with Shure's products, very funky looking, and odd to put on. When you hold the packaging it feels like it was worth the money, something that is surprisingly important when you think about the fact that you are dropping a decent chunk of change on a little pair of earbuds. When opening the packaging with a very sharp knife [since it has that really heavy plastic] you behold a veritable onion of red and white plastic. The contents of the package are the e2c's, the hard case, the dozen or so interchangeable ear cups, and of course the all important instructions.

It took about an hour of trying all of the different ear cups to eventually just settle on the same ones that I used for my 3's. The sound reproduction is nearly as faithful as the 3's, but slightly less bass. The audio is clear across the entire spectrum is overall spectacular, the highs are crisp without being hissy, the mids are clear and do an excellent job with speech, and the lows thump along without distortion. Shure is a company that is known as a pro-audio company, and the build quality of these headphones definitely show that they belong to that pedigree. Unlike some other headphones the cable is thick, but still flexible, generally two things that are generally not found together in the same product.

The over-the-ear upside down fit of the cables take some initial fumbling with, and will continue to be frustrating for the first week or so, until you figure out the best way of putting them in. For me it's the cable over the ear first, followed by the [awkward looking] tugging on the ear for the best fit, inserting the buds into the ear canal, and a final adjustment of the cable. It's important to get the fit just right as it makes all the difference in the sound quality that you will get out of the e2c's, especially the bass, the better the fit [seal] - the better the sound. To ensure that you get the best fit possible there are 3 types of cups in the package, each with 3 sizes, and include the disposable foam earplug style. With such great ability to get a perfect fit, resulting in excellent sound isolation, these would be fantastic earbud monitors for stage performers. That all this is found in a 1 oz package is pretty impressive.

The only real problem with these headphones is not exclusive to this particular pair but symptomatic of all headphones, in-ear buds in particular, and that is that you can SERIOUSLY damage your hearing if you crank the volume. Thankfully since you get so much better sound isolation than standard buds, and such an increase in audio quality, you really won't need to turn things up as much; saving your ears, and still enjoying your audio.

If you are new to the in-ear style of headphones you may be fighting the urge to gag when you first put them in, since you aren't going to be used to having something that deep in your ever-so-sensitive ear canal, but once you get to know how you fit them to your ears, that feeling will go away, and you will very much enjoy the listening experience.

The Shure e2c headphones are overall an amazing pair of headphones for around $100-$130. The sound reproduction is faithful across the board, though not as full as much more expensive headphones [My e3c's were just under $300 when I bought them]. The "custom" fit will have a near-perfect fit for 99% of the people who will try them.

I highly recommend the Shure e2c Headphones for anyone who takes their listening experience seriously, but either can't [or won't] afford the more expensive professional/prosumer pairs. These may be the entry level model from Shure, but they sure don't sound like they are.

Until next time,


[Notes] The right ear is the clear and grey bud, and the left ear is all clear. Shure also has come out with the e2g "Gaming edition", which are the same as the e2c's but in all black, and have R & L stamped on them and have an MSRP that is $10 cheaper.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

TuneCenter update

Update: First things first... It turns out that the TuneCenter cost me the full $129.99 USD ($148 CDN, plus the 14 bucks FedEx crap)... Not happy... Where the hell is the benefit to preordering something and having to wait 9 friggin' months to get it. Especially since I was so frustrated with waiting for it that, as I said before, I was in the process of figuring out how to cancel my order when it showed up in Calgary, and it was just too late to cancel.

Secondly: After playing with this for a few days, I find that the internet radio is what I use almost exclusvely. I also find this a bit odd, not to mention that my iPod sits in it's nice little Apple dock, while the TuneCenter pretty much sits on some Moscow music station as a little background music. Why would I do this, you may ask? Well it's because I can sync my iPod when it's in my dock, and it has audio out, and has S-video out as well. Sure it doesn't have the fancy interface for the audio tracks, but when hooking it up to my projector, or LCD, I want it for the video, and not simply the audio. Since there is no on-screen video browsing/launching capability what's the point.

When I placed my preorder the TuneCenter had RCA outputs on the back, where now there is the iPod video/audio mini-jack output cable, nice if I wanted to take the cable with me and hook my iPod directly into a TV, but then why do I need the TuneCenter? Plus every device that even remotely has anything to do with video has come with one of these cables, my portable DVD player came with 2, my camcorder had 1, and I bought a good high quality one on my own for hooking up my 5G iPod. With my camcorder mini-jack cable, the Apple dock, and the remote (which all come in a pack from Apple for less than the seperate parts) I essentially have the TuneCenter for much less, with the only bit missing being the internet audio, and the really slow-ass interface; but I do get the ability to sync my iPod, which is a HUGE bonus. And by the way Griffin... Apple included the bloody battery for the remote (just like your AirClick remote).

If I sound a bit bitter about this, it's because I am. The remote battery was a big issue since the TuneCenter is useless without the remote, then when hooking it up it is painfully slow when clicking around the interface, not to mention the aspect ratio issues, and the EQ settings that still don't work, (and there is no mention of this on the support page @ Griffin), and the fact that you have to get up, and look at the tiny little iPod screen to navigate your pictures, and videos (although you can still use the remote to navigate the menus, big whoop!).

There are no display settings, which for a display device is more than a bit odd. No colour customization, no background options, not even brightness or contrast, and the S-video doesn't offer any discernable quality difference on any of the 5 sets that I tried it on.

After looking at my existing iPod dock which is already setup, with remote; I felt pretty OK that I spent a little extra for a fancy interface, but once I saw that I paid full price after waiting 9 months for this BARELY better dock-that's-not-a-dock, the aforementioned "wow factor" has worn off. All I can think of when I look at the thing is, "I blew a hundred and seventy buck on that... What the hell was I thinking?"

While the Griffin TuneCenter is a reasonable device if you really want internet audio with a TV display, but otherwise save your cash, and get the iPod AV Connection Kit for $99 USD, the trade off is that you don't get the on-screen interface and the internet audio, but you do get to save money and can sync your iPod. If I could use the on-screen interface (as slow as it is) to browse my videos, and pictures, then it would have been worth it.

Bottom line is the TuneCenter is an acceptable solution to get your iPod on your TV, it however is not the best or most reasonable priced. It is one of the nicest looking, and sturdiest feeling around. Just remember: Try before you buy, and never preorder without a clear launch window.

Never again... Never again....


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Griffin TuneCenter First Impressions

Upon first opening the box, I was impressed that everything seemed to be included and plug and play ready, and for the most part it was, especially since I opted to order the non-wifi enabled version, sticking to the straight forward (and slightly cheaper) wired connection. Having pre-ordered I got a break on the price, and in total (after price, shipping, taxes, brokerage fees) it worked out to be about $125 CDN, which now is @ $129.99 USD but so far it is well worth the current price.

Having unpacked all of the wires, and hooked everything up I found that the remote didn't work, fortunately, although annoying, it was simply that there was no included CR2032 battery. The only other thing not included was an S-video cable, but that's really a triviality, in comparison to the lack of a battery for the remote. I usually would have no problem with this, as "batteries not included" is not a new thing, but since there was no indication of this before (or after) ordering, and is not mentioned anywhere on the box, or in the documentation. This means that since I didn't open the box until I got up for my "day job" at 9 pm, I had to wait until the stores opened the next morning before being able to get past the opening screen.

Fast forward to this morning, where I pick up a 2-pack of batteries, and a fancy new iPod case... oddly enough an iClear from Griffin... I get home, and head straight to my desk where I've got the TuneCenter waiting for input from a juiced up remote. Once that was done the fun could begin.

First thing's first, I have to head straight to the settings, just to see how much I can customize my experience. All pretty standard fare here, with the exception of the Network Setup Assistant. This allows you to setup you're connection if you don't use DHCP, or if you need to use a proxy to connect to the internet.

There was however a glitch when selecting the EQ Setting from the setup menu, which no matter which of my iPods I connected it kept telling me to attach an iPod. I hope this can be corrected via some kind of web-update, seeing as it is an internet enabled device.

This leads to the internet radio portion, which was nice to see that the listing updated as soon as I selected it for the first time, and I hope it will continue to do so on a regular basis, the 10 seconds to update is worth not having to ever get an error when trying to listen to an unavailable station. Having this capability may seem a little extraneous to some, but if I want to listen to something other than my library it's nice to have, and the iPod doesn't need to be connected for the internet radio to work.

The number and variety of stations available are enough to suit just about everyone, and any mood, and is just as easy to select as just about anything else in the menus.

The iPod interface is pretty much the same hierarchical structure that you would find on the iPod and works in the same intuitive manner, especially since the remote works in virtually the same manner as the click wheel, with a few extra buttons to provide direct access to certain functions, like settings, and an on/off button.

The "Now Playing" screen is much like that of the iPod, with a fancy background, and display of various bits of information, and although I'd prefer to turn off the Griffiin TuneCenter branding in the lower left (since I know what I bought) but it's something that I can live with, at least for now.

The only complaints that I have so far, are:
- The lack of an included remote battery.
- The interface is a little slow in responding to commands.
- The EQ Setting seems to simply not work.
- To watch video (if you have a video capable iPod) you can't use the TuneCenter interface to select them, but rather the screen turns off and you need to use the iPod's own screen to navigate, which kind of negates the point of having a remote. Heck it doesn't even put you into the video portion of the iPod menu.
- The interface has no aspect ratio selector, and is a sort of an in between of 4:3 and 16:9 resulting in a slightly stretched widescreen mode that doesn't quite fill the screen, and slightly squished 4:3 mode which still doesn't quite fill the width of the screen.
- I can't leave my iPod in it's new iClear case, or any other case for that matter, without removing the dock adapter, thereby removing support for the iPod, and it's dock connector.
- No Album Art!!! But that's an Apple limitation with the iPod dock connection, rather than the TuneCenter.
- No Syncing capability

All in all it's a very good solution for getting your iPod on your TV, and essentially it's a media center PC without the PC. All this in a cheap, compact little unit. It also allows you to view your DRM "protected" content from the iTunes store, as well as your own (legally) ripped content, directly on your TV.

That's all for now, I'll do another follow up after a living with the TuneCenter for a while, to see if it maintains it's usefulness rather then just having that new "wow" factor.

Until next time,


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Griffin TuneCenter

I just recieved my Griffin TuneCenter, that was announced way back when the first Intel Mac's were introduced. And let me say I REALLY hope that it's worth the wait.

I was in the process of looking up how to cancel my order when lo and behold, I get a call from fedex telling me that I needed to provide a credit card for taxes, and brokerage fees. Since I always love getting new stuff that I can't remember ordering, I checked my email to find that my shipping confirmation from Griffin was waiting since friday... I was sure that I checked my email the same insane ammount of times that I always do, but whatever. It was almost here.

Let me just say that it took fedex 17 hours to get this package 5000 km's, and 3.5 days to move it the last 50. Nice fedex... REAL nice...

Well I'll have pictures and first impressions up soon, and a full review in a few days...

Until then, check out:


Monday, July 10, 2006

FM Transmitter comparison

Quite some time ago I did a review of the iRiver FM AFT-100, stating how much I liked this transmitter. Being the kind of person that I am, I wanted to know if it was the best one out there, plus the cord on my iRiver broke.

Over the last couple of months I've tried several of the locally available FM transmitters, including the Griffin iTrip Auto, and 2 from Myron & Davis, as well as a new copy of the same old iRiver.

I'll start with the iRiver, it's exactly the same as my old one. The only difference between my previous review and this one, is that I now own an iPod. For the iPod-less this may seem like a silly thing, same goes for shuffle owners but when you can charge and play through the same cord it gets to be a pretty nice thing to have. The iRiver doesn't have a dock connector and uses the headphone jack, which really is just something to keep in mind. [acceptable deck level: Music = 20; Podcast = 20-25 (iPod set @ 75% max. Vol)]

Next is the Griffin iTrip Audio, one of those with a dock connector. Small, sleek, black, very "new" iPod like. As mentioned before having the dock connector is good for the Pod set, but unfortunately this is a downside for anyone else. The other downside of having the dock connector is that there is no volume control on the iPod itself, you can (as always) control the volume on the car deck itself, but if this just isn't enough amplification then you, like me, will probably be wondering how something that plugs into the power port (lighter socket) can be putting out such a weak signal. In an effort to make up for this a bit, you can select "DX" mode as opposed to the standard "LX". LX is stereo, and DX is mono; what this means is that in mono mode, all the power is broadcasting over a single channel rather than left and right. Most decks can do this on their end, but if both are in DX mono mode the benefit is that much bigger.
[acceptable deck level: Music = 25; Podcast = 30-35 (in DX mode, LX is even higher)]

Myron & Davis has 2 models that I looked at: The first one has a USB connector as well as a line in jack which works in the same manner as the iRiver. The USB port is kind of cool, in that it lets you play mp3 files off of just about any USB thumbdrive. I was more than a bit disappointed that the iPod shuffle doesn't work properly at all thanks to the file structure used (the headphone jack still works). That being said the fact that you can pick up a 2 gig USB drive for as little as $70 CDN these days, it's not that big of an issue. The only trouble is that you can't just pick up where you left off in a play list since it always plays the songs in the same order, and from song 1 every time.
[acceptable deck level: Music = 25; Podcast = 25-30 (via USB, line in varies)]

The second one from M&D is another dock-connector transmitter, which is virtually the same as the griffin offering, in that transmission via the dock port seems to be a bit under powered, but this one puts out a stronger stereo signal. This is good as there is no "DX" mode to output in mono. The thing that really separates this is that it also has a line in port; this means that you can have a good transmitter AND a line in for the extra volume boost too. All in all it is a good product that I would definitely recommend. The only issue with this is that I have only ever seen them at Canadian Tire stores, while in Canada it's not really an issue, but anywhere else it would be pretty tough I'd imagine.
[acceptable deck level: Music = 22-25; Podcast = 23-27]

In the end I gave the USB TX to my stepfather, the M&D dock TX to my friend Josh, and have both iTrip Audio for listening and charging at the same time, and the iRiver as my primary TX, since it has the best transmitter in both volume, and quality.

Until next time,


Living with Wires
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The NSA is sooo cool....

The NSA is cool. Why? Cause, it's got balls!

I know of no other agency that so blatantly steps beyond the boundaries of it's own mandate, (not to mention the U.S. constitution), and makes no apologies for it. They simply hold up a piece of paper and say... See, we got a note from our dad so it's ok. And the white house supported them by saying, as usual, that it all a part of "The War on Terror".

Doesn't "The War on Terror" sound like a Jack Ryan based, soon to be movie, book? It sure does to me. Not that this surprizes me at all, since this whole administration has been built around buzzwords, and markteing hype. Take a look at the backdrops for all of "W's" speeches, they look like a big corporate product launch. Sony could have used those guys for the PS3 $600 US introduction.

The NSA is supposed to be monitoring any international threats to the US' national security, but have instead been also monitoring domestic calls. Now these, may have been limited to the scope of which numbers are calling which numbers, but that is still a huge violation of the US constitution, and several privacy laws.

Since the 70's there has been a mechanism for obtaining expidited wiretap/intel gathering warrants, available to all US intelligence agencies, FISA, which was set up after mutliple instances of just such abuses of state powers. This president seems to be acting as if he believes that his office is above the law, and if caught simply maintains that his actions constitue a new law being written to get him out of trouble.

Take the whole Valerie Plame debacle, where after the fact, George W., and his PR people said that if the president authorizes anyone to leak classified information, even if it may endanger an "intelligence asset" a.k.a a covert field agent, that it simply becomes de-classified, despite there being no signed order of declassification until days later when the story broke.

First the NSA gets caught with it's proverbial pants down, with the whole illegal (I mean subsequently presidentially legalized) wire-tap scandal, and now with the phone record scandal. Now it looks like the only friends that they have are the Prez and Veep, and the DoJ which is trying to kill a lawsuit against AT&T for handing over it's phone records to the NSA without a warrant from FISA or even a judge. The DoJ says that it's for "national security reasons", but just come off as a group that is dedicated to further oppressing the american people's rights, and freedoms. On one hand the DoJ is more than willing to assist the RIAA/MPAA go after music/movie sharing websites, but on the other hand want to quash any attempt to uphold the right to protection against illegal search and seziure.

This type of behavior is only becoming more and more prevalent in the modern political world, who ultimately write policy for these agencies. As long as the so-called "christian conservatives" insist on acting in a not so christian manner, with all of the political lobbying, pandering to the egos (and wallets) of politicians, and fear mongering under the guise of "patriotism", then I fear that the Unites States will continue down this fundamentalist path. For a group that is so bent on taking out all theocratic states, they sure are pushing to create one for themselves... I guess being a religious state is only bad when it's not your religion.

That's my rant for this week, so until next time,


Monday, April 24, 2006

Boot camp

Over the last few weeks there has been a great deal of hype over the whole discovery that Mac owners can now run Windows XP on the new intel based Mac's. Last night one of my friends pointed me to a particular blog post that really exemplifies this @ called "take-the-no-windows-booting-pledge"

This has been something that I must say is something that I personally have been looking forwards to, but in a bit of a different way. This is almost what I've been looking for from Apple, where I can run whatever OS I want on whatever box I want. The ideal scenario for me would be that I could buy a copy of OSX on ANY machine that I want. I love the industrial design of Apple computers, but I can (for less) build a more powerful machine than the ones from Apple, infact I have one sitting under my desk now that would blow the drive bay doors off of even the fastest dual-core macs so far, yet I'm still using my mac to write this post.

I know why Apple doesn't sell them seperately, because they would have the same issues that good ol' Microsoft has, and that is one of compatibility. As long as Apple has exclusive OS-Hardware control the user experience is very consistent. The only problem is the same one that I have had with PC manufacturers in the past like Compaq, HP, and IBM; where they made computers that were filled with proprietary parts.

For instance there was the dreated IBM Aptiva... The first computer that I had with more than a GB of HD space, interestingly enough it was sold with 5GB, but after reformatting I found that it was "double-spaced" from 2.5 gigs, and there there was the motherboard, which was offset from the card slots, so no other motherboards would fit. Even still all of the software (from IBM) worked fine with their hardware... until I upgraded to win 98.

Mac OS too has these type of program issues out there where they update the OS or a major shift in the hardware that is used, and at the rate computers are advancing this is occuring ever more frequently. This is still the big issue that MS has; backwards compatibility, where Apple just says that the new version of the OS is not compatible with the new hardware and that's that. That's something that MS just can't do with so much of the world's computers relying on compatibility, something that Apple just doesn't have to do.

It may seem that I'm complaining about Apple, and I am, but not hating them. After all I did start out in computing with the venerable Apple IIe, and still have a Mac Plus sitting on the workbench in my garage. For all of the zealotry that mac "enthusiasts" display for their beloved OS, they conveniently forget the Fat-Binary debaucle when the powerpc chips were introduced, and that OS9 apps don't work in OSX, and 10.4.2 apps don't neccessarily work in 10.4.3/4. Continual forward advancement, and never looking back, means that those left in the wake of "progress" are left far behind.

Getting back on topic here, I don't think that the computer, or even the OS should be a defining factor for a user. Sure there are some things that you can only run on a mac, and there are things that you can only run on windows, but why should you have a machine that can do only one, when there is the ability to do both.

I want both, and have both, but I want a dual/triple boot system that does it all. And if Apple became the first manufacturer to offer the ability to do this, and eventually a parallelization environment where XP apps can run natively in OSX (as long as XP in pre-installed on the same machine), then who wouldn't want to have a great looking maching, that has the ability to run ANY app that you need OS-independant, all in OSX.

Until next time,


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Unfolding, or just born to fold?

Origami, the word floating around the tech, and news communities for the past few weeks has finally been revealed; and what a disappointing unveiling it has been indeed.

The viral marketing campaign that MS had tossed out there, quite successfully I might add, was leaking out images, and video of a product that looked quite promising. Unfortunately for MS or any company that hypes it's products in such a way, they have to deliver on the expected promises, or the backlash is unbelievable, (see the "Fun" product launch by Apple at the end of last month). 

I had very high hopes that this would be a fantastic product, and I wanted to see:

-Bluetooth (for A2DP, BT headsets, mice, and keyboards)
-7" 16:9 screen @ 1280x720 (for 720p HD content like WMVHD)
-CDMA/GSM (EV-DO/GPRS), for data connections off of wifi networks, as well as phone calls
-GPS for the cell phone (911) and for navigation
-5 hrs (minimum) battery live, USER REPLACEABLE, and "hot-swappable" akin to my powerbook. I  put it in sleep mode, and have about 5 or so seconds to insert a charged battery. In this way I never have to shut down what I'm working on.
-control buttons on the grills of the "wing-like" flat panel speakers, rather than a stupid bezel
-built-in VPN tunneling (even through a point-to-point connection program) to WinXP (not just MCE) machines, or a media base station for RDC/media streaming, including TV (a la my slingbox!!!, or locationfreeTV)
-3-5 Mpxl camera
-SD/CF card slots
-PCIe card slot
-<2 lbs in weight
-under 3/4" thick
-Digital broadcast tuner
-100GB HD
-biometrics: ideally a thumbprint scanner that only turns on when you press with your thumb (to conserve battery life)
-$500-$600 CAD ($300-$400USD)

What I found lacking (just for now hopefully):
-Decent resolution screens: 800x480 really just doesn't cut it for surfing the web anymore
-Cellular capabilities (without an additional card, or BT connection to a cellphone)*Connected everywhere my ass*
-Battery life (2.5-3hrs, my portable DVD player gets better than that just watching DVDs, it cost less than 180 bucks, and I can swap the battery
-2-3lbs or so
-no built in biometrics
-no PCIe slot (PCMCIA will do for now PCIe is pretty new)
-only 40GB HD
-digital tuner will likely be europe/asia only
-a webcam on the ASUS is a good start, but why aren't these OEMs not learning from cellphone manufacturers.

These are the things that I wanted to see, and figured that would make this new class of product even remotely viable, and this coming from a person who feels that bleeding-edge is barely new enough for me.

I've had a PDA since the venerable PalmPilot Pro, and have waffled back and forth between WinCE/PPC/Windows Mobile, and the Palm OS, but was kind of hoping that I could have had a device to transcend them both with a full blown OS without the REALLY tiny size of the OQO.

Even though the ASUS model that was shown @ CeBIT was the only one the looked like a product that I would want to carry around, it's still too bulky. These devices are another case of an "almost-there" product being released too early, just to launch at a major trade show. And with all the hype that MS created around this launch, only to have their thunder stolen by Intel just a few days before launch, it almost looks like this was thrown together last minute to counter the possible launch of a rumor-only video iPod.

At least SlingMedia had a player already for the new devices, (but still no Mac version yet), and the interface that has been built for UMPC is fairly slick. The DialKeys seems to be good, and would be great if it is resizable for those of us with large hands, or smaller ones. I also hope that MS has some kind of custom task-switcher that you can operate with just a touch, rather than keys.

Frankly what it comes down to is timing. I'm just not sure why MS decided now was the time to unveil this initiative; I mean why not launch this as a first-gen Vista device, which would have made them more attractive for those who would like to get a new mobile device, but already have a brand new, or at least a perfectly serviceable laptop/tablet that already runs XP. Especially when the price is the same as a new full size notebook/tablet.

As I said before, I want one of these, but can't justify getting one until a few... OK, more than a few... refinements are made to the available platforms. Oh well. I guess Apple could always give it a go, but no "MacNewton Pro"!!! I mean the industrial design of the device could certainly use a little slick Cupertino flair, or that of the XBOX360 design team for that matter, ASUS is close, but not quite there yet.

Bill if you're listening... I don't want something that looks good on a desk, or that I can comfortably rest in my lap. I want something that can be held for an entire movie on the train, put into my (slightly) oversized jacket pocket when I'm done the show to listen to my music with an A2DP BT headset, which also allows me to take a call when it comes in. [By the way saying that I could just use BT to connect to my cellphone and connect that way, is a cop-out, and means that I still need to carry around another device, and means that I'll stick with my Treo]

Then when I get home, it auto syncs with my PC via WiFi until I get to my desk, where I drop it into it's dock. While charging in the I/O dock, automatically the display switches to the monitor attached to the dock, or even better, the networked PC that I'm syncing with, so I don't have to change any configuration.

When it's time to head out for the night, slip it into the dashboard dock of the car for the GPS navigation, with dynamic downloads of local features over cellular, or eventually WiMax, hands-free calls, and music already on my UMPC. When filling up at the service station, my passenger could order the movie tickets ahead of time, and check the reservations, all before getting to the destination.

If you want to make a lifestyle device, then you have to build the device around the lifestyle. Not just a tiny Tablet-PC. As with cell phones, they didn't gain widespread usage, or even acceptance until they truly became "pocket-sized" handhelds.


P.S. Yes, I do get that it's still a first-gen device. But that's no excuse for half measures.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Technical Difficulties... Please Stand By

Over on we have been experiencing some technical difficulties as of late. Not entirely unexpected with a new site, but inconvenient to say the least.

To try and alleviate some of the issues, I have mirrored the entire site on my .Mac account. Just click on the ".Mac mirror" link at the top of the page, or any of the episode headers on the main page to take you there.

As always the iTunes feed is working fine, and you can always get the shows that way, of which I strongly suggest you do, if you haven't already.

Please email your questions/comments/etc... to

Thanks for your patience,


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

And the next step online has been taken. I've finally decided that the much deliberated upon podcast will become a reality.

Living with Wires is the project that my good friend Neil and I have been batting around for some time now, and we have taken the first steps towards making it a reality. The name has been settled upon, the domain purchased, and the intro episode recorded, and available via iTunes. and for the few people that have tried to get to the site already have noticed that it is up, but there is a DNS issue with the "www." being in front of the

We're looking for questions that you would like answered for the upcoming "User Questions" shows, that we'll be doing every few weeks, along with the weekly shows focusing on specific topics. The email address is

Our plan is to create a show that deals with the everyday issues with living with all of the wired, (and yes, wireless) devices in our lives. We'll be starting off with a show on what needs to be done upon booting up your windows PC for the first time, including some must have software, and some "best practices"... to use some corporate speak.

I hope you'll enjoy listening to the show, and I eagerly await your comments and questions.
Also available via the iTunes music store, under "Podcasts"

Until next time...


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What a few weeks it has been...

So let me first say that I'm happy to finally have my PowerBook back. Nearly a month, and a hard drive later, (once again - the RAM was fine), but it seems to finally be over.

I must say that I am a little disappointed about the announcement of the new macbook pro during Jobs' keynote at macworld. Not just because I got my (already-serviced) 15" pb a little more than a month ago, but also because there are some key things missing in this release.

Everyone should know that I think it's a sexy looking thing because I already bought one that looks pretty much identical to the casual observer, but that's beside the point. The name MacBook Pro, everyone thinks it's silly, but in a few months we'll all be used to it.

First of all let's look at a few new things to the device; First off there is the new Intel "CoreDuo" processor, which is looking promising from the first few benchmarks thrown it's way, and that even includes the battery life seemingly not taking a hit, but I'll reserve judgment on it until I get my hands on one.

I'm glad to see that the screen resolution is still the same as the current "high-res" displays on the 15" pb's, although I hope that the little fine line problem is gone with the move to 15.4, from 15.2. The claims about the display's brightness have me a bit concerned. Hopefully they are achieving this new 67% increased brightness by using something like white LED's that draw far less power per lumen, than even the very efficient fluorescents that are currently used. But as long as they don't kill my battery while I'm just typing up a document, and the keyboard scratched up displays of past don't return, I think they will do just fine.

The Mag-Safe connector is a signature Apple "Nice touch", that most companies just don't think about, much like the color-changing leds in the power connectors of current models.

The fact that the MacBook ships with Front row is one of those "It's about time" kind of things, and is one reason that I think that despite this being called the MacBook PRO, I get the distinct impression that it's really being marketed to individuals, and actually meant to keep professionals away. The remote that ships in the box is the same as the one for the iMac, and therefore works the same, I just hope that when I close the lid to watch movies on my big display it won't go to sleep.

Now the ports, here is where I'm a little less than enthusiastic. For the ports there are the 2 USB 2.0, 1 GigE, 1 Dual-Link DVI, 1 Firewire 400, ExpressCard/34 slot, and 1 IR port for the front row remote, that I hope can be used to sync other devices. The reason that I'm not a fan of these port options is because of what isn't there, and is also the reason that I think this version of the new offering is meant to scare off professionals for the time being. There is the lack of another USB 2.0 port, which could be overlooked, if not for the complete lack of a Firewire 800 port, and with the number of content creators using macs for video/audio this is truly a deal breaker, since FW400 just isn't enough when working with the huge files that video editing uses. Also missing are the S-Video out, and the modem, two things that aren't huge for most, but a mobile professional, will find that not being able to hook up to whatever display rig they find at the destination will be frustrating; as will the inability to dial into the corporate VPN, or (God-forbid) the internet when broadband is not accessible.

I do however like that the scrolling trackpad is now widescreen to match the form factor of the display. I also like the integrated iSight camera into the impossibly small bezel around the screen. This is a far more attractive way to do video-conferencing, although I doubt that the quality will be nearly the same as the full sized iSight, if for no other reason than the constraints placed upon the mbp version by the space available in the lid.

Essentially my saying by this is not for the professional, comes from the fact that there is only the 15", too big for the road-warrior, and too small for the graphic pro. There is no FW800, and no modem (surely, so they can sell it as an option), and the ExpressCard only factor. I know Apple is probably trying to pressured manufacturers into making the superior cards available, but since there are so many who require PCMCIA cards, even if just to add separate bus FireWire ports, many will wait even if only because they need the G4's to do their jobs.

Now, a couple of my co-workers have asked me "Why would they push away those people, they are the ones that buy all of those", and my answer is simply that Apple just isn't ready just yet. Steve-O in his keynote said that the professional apps from apple will be ready in March, and that's when I expect the new versions to come out, in another One-More-Thing type announcement. That's just fine with me since I'm planning on waiting until around September to upgrade, since there are some things, like the FireWire8 that my pb has, and plus the screen is essentially the same, and there are only a few intel native app's available.

I only hope that Apple, and MS get together to have a dual-boot OSX/WinXP option available on new mac's. I mean MS is a software company, and really other than the classic rivalry between the two, it would only benefit both companies. MS gets an install base on apple machines, and Apple would win over the fence-sitters who want a cool looking new machine, but still need windows. MS=software company, Apple=hardware company... At least that's what Mr. Jobs still says.

That's all for now,