Monday, March 31, 2008


The New York Times reports: [edited]

It's the Flip: a tiny, stripped-down video recorder the size of a digital camera. The latest model, called the Flip Ultra, had its debut six months ago. It's been the best-selling camcorder on since the day of its debut.

The Flip has been reduced to the purest essence of video capture. You turn it on, and it's ready to start filming in two seconds. You press the red button once to record and once to stop. You press Play to review the video, and the Trash button to delete a clip. There it is: the entire user's manual.

The video and audio quality is surprisingly good - not as sharp as a tape camcorder or even digital still cameras, but far superior to cellphone video. It has TV resolution (640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second), with softer images than you'd get with a real camcorder.

The shocker is the Flip's low-light abilities, which trump even $1,000 camcorders. Not only is the video grain-free, but recorded dim scenes actually look brighter than they looked to your naked eye.

- - - - -

Brett's 2p'orth: This has been condensed from a much longer, interesting and well-worth-reading article.

The demise of artefacts

I recently blogged about trying out an InFocus IN81 projector. Once I had seen how good conventional DVDs and PS3 games looked on it, I decided to purchase a Blu-ray movie. After browsing the net, Beowulf got good reviews for image quality, and the kidz all wanted to see it. And so for the first time in ages (I rent the majority of my DVDs, and purchases are usually made online) I visited a non-virtual retail outlet.

The first shock I received was the price of Blu-ray movies. Beowulf set me back £23 ('reduced' from £25). I pay less than that for a 6-DVD box-set!

The second shock was just how little you got for your money. If you're paying £5 for a DVD, you can understand getting little more than a disc in a box. For £23 I was expecting (at the very least) a glossy booklet with details about the film and cast. Instead you get a poorly printed slip of paper warning you that your Blu-ray player might need upgrading before being able to use this disc.

If this is typical of the way Blu-ray discs are packaged, then the future really is downloading, there is no 'added value' between what I bought and a zipped file with a jpeg of the cover artwork.

Incidentally, the film itself was a good example of how far CGI has come, and how far it has to go. The high resolution of the images was impressive, but made the limitations of the animation even more apparent. The cognitive dissonance that results from not being sure whether to treat what you are watching as 'real' or 'cartoon' eventually becomes disconcerting and uncomfortable.

Even ignoring the technological side of things, the film was disappointing. Think 'Shrek with a higher body-count and a lot less wit'.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Organic molecules outside our solar system

Wired reports: [edited]

Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope have for the first time found the telltale signature of methane, an organic molecule, in the atmosphere of a planet outside our solar system.

Methane is one of the chemicals of life, an organic compound in the class of molecules containing carbon. However, no life is likely to exist on the large, gaseous planet known as HD 189733b [Catchy, Ed]. Its daily temperatures can reach 1,340 degrees Fahrenheit.

"These measurements are a dress rehearsal for future searches for life," said Mark Swain, a scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the lead author of a new study that appears in Nature tomorrow. "If we were able to detect [methane] on a more hospitable planet in the future, it would really be something exciting."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Space Pig

Bakno Games reports: [edited]

[Space Pig is a] fun, entertaining and relaxing cartoon-style game. Control the animated pig character around the moon, picking as many coins and diamonds as you can, but beware of the falling meteorites and spikes. Post your score in our Top 100 list and check how you are playing against others around the globe.

- - - - -

Brett's 2p'orth: If you're looking for an inoffensive, fun game for younger children this could be worth a try. Free demos for Windows and Mac OSX are available.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Wii 2:1 speaker system

Reg Hardware reports: [edited]

The system is designed to complement the Wii console, even down to the the rectangular design of the sub-woofer, with controls situated on the left and the long, vertical power LED perfectly positioned symmetrically with the disc slot on the console itself.

As soon as the system was connected, it seemed to breathe new life into both the TV and the console. The bass hummed beautifully without any sign whatsoever of overload. Just to confirm this wasn't just some sort of fluke, we fired up The Legend of Zelda and the quality was the same.

Cost: £69

The blue screen cometh

Zak's 2.6GHz MacBook Pro has arrived, and the Easter weekend saw us migrating the data from his battle-scarred 1 GHz 17" PowerBook, and (gulp...) installing Windows XP Pro SP2c via Boot Camp (to run Bioshock and Crysis, natch!).

I used an OEM version of Windows (£200 less than the 'full' version) and despite dire warnings that it would not work, I'm glad to report that it all went very smoothly. The Apple instruction page has a clearly written PDF that takes you step-by-step through the process. There were a few times when it seemed like the process had 'hung', but this was probably because I'm not used to Windows' 'optimistic' progress bars.

And Zak is glad to report that (with a bit of fine tuning to the graphics settings) Bioshock and Crysis run just fine.

Oh, one word of warning, if you install Windows under Boot Camp, don't delete that weird 'untitled' hard drive icon that appears on the Apple desktop. It's the Windows 'C' drive partition. You'll need to boot into Windows to rename it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Monster plushies

Monster Factory produce a range of unusual plushies.

Photoshop Express

Photoshop Express, Adobe's online tool for organising, editing, and sharing images has launched in beta form.

It includes:

- image editing tools, including spot healing, sharpening/softening

- 2GB of free online storage space

- Links to Facebook, MySpace, and Picasa

- Runs in any browser that supports Flash Player (v9)

For more info visit Terry White's blog.

The future of personal computers

I'm rarely sure whether John C. Dvorak is deliberately controversial, or whether he really does believe the things he says.

His latest post is titled 'The iPhone Is No Desktop'.

I don't usually rise to people like him, but the article is so wrong on so many levels that I'm going to answer it as a cathartic exercise.

His main argument is that 'People are willing to make a device that you can drop in the toilet or leave in a taxi cab the next desktop computing platform. Ridiculous.'

Firstly, devices like the iPhone are not 'the next desktop computing platform', they are a convergent evolution of technology that many people find extremely convenient. Most people don't do a lot of photo-editing, word-processing, presentations or spreadsheets. But they do like communicating with their friends, taking pictures and movies, watching movie trailers, listening to music and keeping track of their social schedules and email.

And, yes, these devices can be damaged and/or lost. Which can be temporarily inconvenient, but only becomes a major problem if passwords aren't used and data isn't regularly backed up.

Dvorak then goes on to criticise the 'smaller-is-better' trend.

'I've always subscribed to the notion that smaller is superior - until recently, when I saw that smaller is actually becoming a problem...

'people sit at their office desks with the laptop in front of them and squint at the relatively small screen and go blind. They drag the machine everywhere, and if it gets lost or broken, they're toast, since they never perform any kind of backup... Even if people do back up, though, they're likely still SOL since the restore function typically doesn't work well when a new machine is involved.'

Once again, this makes so many assumptions that the argument is laughable. It's not a criticism of the technology, it is a criticism of the people operating the technology. If you use technology, you have to learn how to look after it. And, as with cars, the technology will also become more and more idiot-proof as the manufacturers fight for market share. Apple's Time Machine is an excellent example of this.

Dvorak then goes on to list why a desktop computer is best...

1) Easier to upgrade
2) More versatile displays
3) More powerful, with multiple drive bays
4) Cheaper
5) Harder to steal
6) Wealth of input devices (keyboards and mice)
7) Easier to type on
8) Easier to fix
9) Unlimited storage
10) Harder to steal

and then gives one reason why a laptop is better... Portability. To give him his due he does say...

'I'm not denying that the trend in computing is moving away from the desktop machine.'

but then he continues with...

'I use laptops when I travel, and that's that. I'm not dragging a laptop to work and home and back again, with the thing bouncing around in the car. That's crazy. If I want my data to be that portable, I'll load it on my Corsair 32GB thumb drive, and that will be that.'

Once again, Dvorak misses the point of convergence. Most people don't want their data on two, three or four different machines. People know from bitter experience that this leads to confusion. Has anyone tried maintaining an iTunes collection across two computers? All my experiences of it have ended in tears. And although I'm very pleased with the way my .Mac account keeps my laptop, desktop, iPod and mobile phone's calendar and contacts synchronised, it's not perfect.

The iPhone (and its competitors) will not kill the desktop computer, or the laptop. But the marketshare of the ultra-portable devices will grow. And the sooner someone provides a quick, easy and reasonably-priced way to makes sure that these devices are automatically and intelligently backed up to secure/remote servers, the faster this will happen.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Paparazzo to go

Methodizaz offers:

A unique photography experience. Subjects are unaware of the exact moment they will be photographed and of the photographer's identity... the subject is photographed completely naturally, living life as normal.

MethodIzaz will provide you with a portfolio of pictures representing the fleeting moments of an authentic lifestyle. The photographs will allow you to remember these moments later in life. They will also give you a new perspective on the everyday, letting you see yourself and your surroundings through the eyes of an artist.

Using information provided earlier about their weekly routine, the photographer will arrive on the scene, and unseen, take shots of the subject. The subject will be photographed walking through the streets, going about their daily business. Without posing and artifice, the camera captures only the natural beauty of the person.


Stylo Design produced an interesting logo using letters that reflect the word they are creating. They even created a complete (although not completely successful) typeface using the '8' shape.

Oh, and I'd have reversed the 'i'...


Projector vs Plasma

A few months ago, my SIM2 HT300HD projector stopped working. My first instinct was to get it fixed, but when the quote arrived, I realised that I could buy a new projector for a similar price. When I purchased it (over 6 years ago) it was a state-of-the-art unit, producing a beautiful 1280 x 720 pixel image, but things have moved on since then, and prices have also plummeted.

I was offered a 1920 x 1080 InFocus IN81 projector to try out. I hooked it up to a Playstation 3 via an HDMI cable (and a digital optical cable to my AV receiver) and within minutes I had a crisp, bright image projected onto my screen, and even though I only had conventional DVDs to play on it, there was a huge improvement in brightness and definition.

I'd have to spend a few hours with a profiling DVD before I passed final judgement on the colour quality, but even 'out of the box' it is perfectly acceptable. Oh, and it is much, much quieter than the SIM2.

Two games came 'bundled' with the PS3, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and Resistance: Fall of Man. According to reviews (and my kidz) the former is a good game, the latter is not. Brook began Uncharted on the 50" plasma screen before switching to the projector. The consensus was that the game was more involving and fun using the projector than on the plasma (so much so that he played the game throughout the night, completing it around 4.30am).

I think the difference is not simply that the image is larger, but that it is more relaxing to watch. Plasma/LCD screens have a glossy layer of glass between you and the image, the projected image does not. And the mild 'mushing' effect of the projector screen softens the harshness of the digital image without removing too much detail.

Of course a projector and screen set-up is more costly than a comparable 50" plasma/LCD screen, siting of the projector can be an issue, and bulbs are costly when they die.

However, if projector prices continue to fall, there may come a time when they become a more realistic option, especially as the screen can be rolled out of the way when not in use, leaving the room uncluttered by a large slab of glass and metal.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fujitsu announce 7200 RPM notebook drive

Fujitsu has announced its forthcoming range of 2.5", 7200RPM disk drives. [And they're 9.5mm high, so they will fit the current MacBook Pros. Ed] Available July 2008.

Move over Aibo, BigDog's arrived!

Boston Dynamics reports: [edited]

BigDog is being developed with the goal of creating robots that have rough-terrain mobility that can take them anywhere on Earth that people and animals can go. The program is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA).

BigDog is powered by a gasoline engine that drives a hydraulic actuation system. BigDog's legs are articulated like an animals, and have compliant elements that absorb shock and recycle energy from one step to the next.

BigDog’s control system manages the dynamics of its behaviour to keep it balanced, steer and navigate. Sensors for locomotion include joint position, joint force, ground contact, ground load, a laser gyroscope, and a stereo vision system.

Other sensors focus on the internal state of BigDog, monitoring the hydraulic pressure, oil temperature, engine temperature, rpm, battery charge and others.

BigDog can 'run' at up to 4 mph, climb slopes up to 35 degrees and carry up to 340lb.

- - - - -

Brett's 2p'orth:
Visit YouTube to see just how advanced this thing is. Assuming it isn't just two guys in black tights with a box over their heads. And be prepared for an anthropomorphic 'Awww...' moment as they test its (his/her?) balancing abilities.

Nehalem, son of Penryn

Apple Insider reports: [edited]

Intel has offered its first official overview of Nehalem, the highly scalable micro-architecture positioned to succeed Penryn in delivering a new generation of processors for notebooks, desktops, and servers, that offer 'dramatic' energy efficiency and performance improvements.

High performance server chips are expected to be first out of the gates, with variants for mainstream notebook and desktop systems making their way to market sometime next year.

The leap in performance and energy efficiency offered by Nehalem will be similar to the jump made by Intel's Core microarchitecture over the first 90-nanometer (nm) Pentium M processors, according to company vice president Pat Gelsinger.

Nehalem will also offer the option for an integrated graphics controller for highly efficient mobile designs, and add an inclusive shared L3 (last-level) cache that can be up to 8MB in size.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Leopard's Time Machine explained

Sven-S. Porst has published an exhaustive (and exhausting) critique of Apple's backup application. (Warning: Lots of letters and numbers, not much about little men.)

via Daring Fireball

Sunday, March 23, 2008

London-Somerset-London, 22-23 March

Does Your Mother Know - ABBA
Pin - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Jack and Diane - John Cougar Mellencamp
Bohemian Like You - The Dandy Warhols
Werewolves of London - Warren Zevon
Living On A Prayer - Bon Jovi
Sky - Sonique
Heaven - DJ Sammy
Mercy (single) - Duffy
The Village Green Preservation Society - The Kinks
Instant Replay - Dan Hartman
Time to Pretend (single version) - MGMT
(Take A Little) Piece Of My Heart - Erma Franklin
Feel It (feat. Maya) - The Tamperer (feat. Maya)
Groovejet (If This Ain't Love) - Spiller (with Sophie Ellis-Bextor)
Breathe In - Lucie Silvas
Everyone's Got'em - White Ghost Shivers
Under Pressure (spanish) - Fobia
Jeremiah was a Bullfrog (joy to the world) - Creedence Clearwater Revival
I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance With You - Black Kids
Directory enquiries - Dr Who - John Culshaw - Dead Ringers
26 Miles (Santa Catalina) - The Four Preps
Kites - Simon Dupree & The Big Sound
Popcorn - Mad Caddies
Krafty (Single Edit) - New Order
A Boy Named Sue (Original Uncensored Version) 1 - Johnny Cash
Run (Radio Edit) - Gnarls Barkley
Stella - Ida Maria
If It Don't Fit - B*Witched
Tell Me When - Human League
Radio Radio - Elvis Costello
Walk Like An Egyptian - Bangles
Something For The Girl With Everything - Sparks
Sandstorm - Darude
Casino Royale Theme - Herb Alpert
La Dolce Vita - Ryan Paris
Like a Virgin - Madonna
Girls Lie Too - Terri Clark
Doin' The Do - Betty Boo
Leftovers (Radio Edit) - Johnny Flynn
Bed and Breakfast Man - Madness
Some Kinda Rush (Edit) - Booty Luv
Mono - Courtney Love
Cease and Desist - Brakes
Shout - Lulu
Call Me - Blondie
Tequilla - Herb Alpert

we are money money - Money Money
Toxic - The BossHoss
Supernatural superserious - R.E.M
Ant Music - Adam & The Ants
Loco in Acapulco - The Four Tops
Have I Been A Fool - Jack Penate
Angel of the Morning - Juice Newton
Just What I Needed - The Cars
Bits And Pieces - Dave Clark Five
Give Me Just A Little More Time - Kylie Minogue
Up All Night - The Young Knives
Million Miles Away - The Offspring
Wake Up Boo! - Boo Radleys
Getting Better - The Beatles
Boten Anna - Basshunter
Girl All the Bad Guys Want - Bowling for Soup
Gone - Jack Johnson
I Found Out - The Pigeon Detectives
Wired For Sound - Cliff Richard
A Kind Of Magic - Queen
Neon Genesis Evangelion Theme Tune - Neon Genesis Evangelion
Rocking Robin - Jackson 5
Anything You Can Do - Bernadette Peters & Tom Wopat
All around my hat - Steeleye Span
Last Night - The Strokes
Good Looking Woman - Joe Dolan
This Town Ain't Big Enough For The Both Of Us (Fnm Remix) - Sparks
Martian Hop - The Ran-Dells
Cut The Midrange Drop The Bass - Cylob
Birdhouse in your soul - They Might Be Giants (TMBG)
Cinnamon - The Long Winters
Naive - Kooks
The Show Must Go On - Leo Sayer
Hippy With a Banjo - Those Darn Accordions
Bridget The Midget (The Queen Of The Blues) - Ray Stevens
Mrs Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter - Herman's Hermits
Electric - Leila K
Jessie's Girl - Rick Springfield
Bye Bye Baby - Bay City Rollers
Monster - The Automatic
Call Me - Spagna
Give Me Just A Little More Time - Chairmen Of The Board
Pink Squares - I Was a Cub Scout
YMCA (ska version) - Skunks
Love At First Sight - Kylie Minogue
Hello, This Is Joannie (The Answering Machine Song) - Paul Evans
That's Mathematics - Tom Lehrer
20th Century Boy - T.Rex
There, There, My Dear - Dexys Midnight Runners
You're History - Shakespear's Sister
Would You Love a Monsterman - Lordi
The Twist - Chubby Checker
I Can't Quit Cigarettes - Jimmy Martin
Brother Louie - Modern Talking
A-Punk - Vampire Weekend
Get Over It - Guillemots
Wouldn't It Be Good? - Cascada
It's My Party - The Chiffons
Rubber Ball - Bobby Vinton (Bobby Vee)
Where will the dimple be - Alma Cogan
I Need Some Fine Wine and You, You Need to Be Nicer - The Cardigans
The Riddle - Gigi D'Agostino
What's New Pussycat - Tom Jones
Indestructible - Alisha's Attic

Thanks to Sky for taking the photo.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The suffering servant

Who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by others,
a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

Surely he took up our pain
and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
stricken by him, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.

By oppression and judgement he was taken away.
Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was punished.

He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

After he has suffered,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53, c. 700BC

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Macro goodness

Martin Amm took this beautiful photo of this dew-drenched red veined darter. The rest of his portfolio is worth a browse as well.

via John Nack

Kuler v.2

I blogged about the original version of Kuler in late 2006.

The site has been updated, to include:

- Colour extraction - generate a colour theme from an uploaded image.

- Explore moods, such as bright or muted, to see different colours.

- Save themes and browse them in your Mykuler area.

- Browse by randomly selected themes.

A brief history of paper

Wired reports: [edited]

The first Chinese paper was probably made from a mash of sodden hemp waste, beaten to a pulp and stretched over a cloth sieve in a bamboo frame. The pulp was made from bamboo fibers and the inner bark of the mulberry tree.

Further Chinese advances in papermaking included a quick-release mould to improve the speed of production, the use of starch as sizing (filler or glaze) and a combination yellow dye and insect repellent.

Papermaking was a secret process until it spread to Korea in the sixth century, and then to Japan in the seventh. The technology spread to Tibet and Central Asia.

Arabs captured some Chinese papermakers in 751. Arab scholars preferred linen paper to the sheepskin or calfskin parchment that was then in use.

The first paper mill in Europe was built in 1150.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Sakura Adachi reports: [edited]

In urban life, there seems to be a common understanding that people tend to consciously or subconsciously become wary of strangers surrounding them. They are always balancing a certain level of privacy with others.

A bookcase CAVE provides a private reading space within its form. As a seat height is just above the floor, CAVE gives a feeling of hiding from others standing around it. Books can be stored on both sides. Therefore, CAVE can also functions as a partition of a room.

Size: 2430 x 1470 x 600mm (CAVE) and 1800 x 1109 x D 600mm (CAVE kid's)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FX500

DPReview reports: [edited]

The new 10.1-megapixel DMC-FX500 features a 25mm ultra-wide angle Leica DC lens with 5x optical zoom. The FX500 features a touch-screen operation on a large, 3.0-inch LCD.

Functions include Intelligent Auto mode, HD motion picture recording and HD component output, and slideshows complete with music.

Auto focus tracking follows the subject even if it moves after the AF is set. In 3-megapixel resolution mode, the Extra Optical Zoom function extends the zoom power to 8.9x. High Sensitivity mode lets the DMC-FX500 record at a setting of up to ISO 6400.

Available in the US from May 2008, price $399.95.

Cordless charging

Wildcharge reports: [edited]

The WildCharger pad is flat and thin with a conductive surface. Once a cell phone or other electronic device that is enabled with WildCharge technology is placed on the pad – anywhere on the pad and at any orientation – it will receive power from the pad. And charging speed is the same as if the device is plugged to the wall.

Enabling a portable electronic device with WildCharge technology is also simple. A WildCharge adapter attaches to – or outright replaces – the device’s back cover. This adapter has external contact-points that come in physical contact with the pad.

In the case of a RAZR phone, for example, the phone’s battery-cover is replaced with one that already has the WildCharge technology built in. Once replaced, the connector at the end of the adapter’s “charging arm” is inserted into the phone’s power plug.

Thanks to Conrad for reminding me about this one.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bob Staake posters

Click here for a page-full of Bob Staake poster weirdness.

Gü and Baked Beans

Gü Chocolate Mousse containers make superb lids for standard 400g tins, forming a tight seal yet being easy to remove. Perfect for 'singletons' like me who regularly use only half a tin of something.

Physicists confirm home ground advantage

New Scientist reports: [edited]

Physicists Andreas Heuer and Oliver Rubner at the University of Münster in Germany analysed over 12,000 soccer matches in the German Bundesliga between 1965 and 2007. Goal difference was used to gauge team performance, rather than games won, because it arguably gives a more reliable picture.

Heuer and Rubner confirmed teams have a home advantage over away sides: on average, home sides scored 0.7 more goals per game than visitors.

Many pundits argue that vocal fans or daunting stadiums lend some teams a greater home advantage than other sides with quieter fans or smaller grounds. Though some teams may appear particularly strong at their own ground, this assumption is often based on wins from a limited number of games.

Any extra home advantage disappeared when the researchers extrapolated to an infinite number of games. This apparent bias can be seen when a coin lands on heads more than tails after a set number of flips.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Intel launching quad-core notebook CPU

DigiTimes reports: [edited]

Intel is planning to launch its first quad-core CPU for notebooks, the Core 2 Extreme QX9300, in the third quarter this year with pricing set at a new high of US$1,038 in thousand-unit tray quantities.

It will be manufactured at 45nm with a core frequency of 2.53GHz. The chip will include 12MB L2 cache and have a maximum TDP [Thermal Design Power, Ed] of 45W [current MacBook Pro duo-core processors have a TDP of 31W, Ed].

Being John Malkovich

I am probably the last person on earth to watch this movie. I bought the DVD a few years ago, and since then it has languished on my 'To Watch' shelf. I knew it was a well-reviewed film, but it somehow fell outside most of my 'Yeah, I'll watch that' categories.

However this Sunday I blew the dust off the casing and cued the DVD. Two hours later, I put it back, very grateful that movies like this get made.

In case you haven't seen it, 'Being John Malkovich' is a surreal comedy that examines celebrity, identity, sexuality and neurosis. It ambles along at a medium pace, drawing you in to its confusing but entertaining world.

You don't really need to know any more. None of the characters take themselves too seriously (Malkovich in particular), and everyone acts superbly. You won't learn a lot, but you will be stimulated and amused.

Best type of 2007

Typographica reports: [edited]

Typographica’s fourth annual review showcases the best in new typeface design. Twenty-five of the world’s brightest graphic and type designers selected their favorite font releases of the year, including David Berlow, Ellen Lupton, and Erik Spiekermann.

via kottke

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Nikon D3 low-light samples

Found the Ken Rockwell site while browsing for examples of high-ISO images. There are a number of examples that demonstrate how far the Nikon D3 has advanced the capture of usable images in very low light situations.

For the real geeks, Vilhelm Sjostrom has produced a Flickr page demonstrating the way image quality changes with ISOs varying from 200 - 25600.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Nikon D300 review

DPreview has published a detailed, extremely positive review of Nikon's 'semi-pro' DSLR.

Friday, March 14, 2008


Shopmodi reports: [edited]

This clever coat hook points out the obvious location for your outerwear. once you try it, you’ll be hooked.

Hardware included. Dimensions: 4” x 4” x 1”

Available in ivory, charcoal and red

$12.00 USD

Bottle cap collection

Browse them in all their miniature, metally, painty beauty at Maura's Flickr page.

Inngenio 6000

RegHardware reports: [edited]

The Inngenio 6000, has cropped up on a Spanish retailer’s website. The €90 gadget boasts a 2.8in touchscreen display with 2GB of internal storage. It has a memory card slot built-in capable of taking Micro SD cards of up to 4GB in capacity.

It also has an integrated speaker, plays MPEG 4, XvID and AVI videos. MP3, WMA, JPG and BMP files are also accepted. There's an FM radio, and transmissions from this can be recorded onto the player.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Free font

Suitcase Type have released Metalista,

"An expression of undying admiration at the persistency of the metal culture. Angular face of nearly monolinear proportions combines upper and lower case letterforms. The strengthened horizontal strokes are aimed at softening of the 'gothic' feel of the face, and add to its contemporary character.".

iTunes public service announcement

Apple Insider has reported that since upgrading to iTunes 7.6.1, CD imports sometimes result in the last 6 seconds of the final track getting cut short.

The glitch primarily affects newer, faster drives, because (and sorry for getting a bit technical here) the little men collecting the data are so exhausted that they fall over and drop some of the bits and bytes.

Now, I know that CDs are just SO 20th Century, but for those of you who still employ the format, it might be worth checking the last track of any you've ripped to iTunes recently.

If you have been affected, and can't wait for the update, some users have found that importing the final track to AIFF format sorts the problem.

Aspire Gemstone 8920G

Information Week reports: [edited]

The Aspire Gemstone 8920G is the first of what the company is calling its "Blue" series, which refers to the notebook's blue, black, and silver color scheme and interior/exterior lighting effects. Within the stylish design, Acer has added a variety of entertainment features that would appeal to people looking for more than a business notebook.

The new product has an 18.4" footprint (441 x 300 x 44mm) that includes a 1920 x 1080 pixel screen. It weighs 4.1kg with one hard drive. [For comparison, a 17" MacBook Pro measures 392 x 265 x 26mm and weighs 3kg, Ed].

Powering the machine is an Intel Centrino Core 2 Duo processor and PM965 Express Chipset.

The 8920G is available with up to two 320 GB hard disk drives, and a Blu-ray disc drive. Buyers can choose between an Nvidia GeForce 9650M GS or 9500M GS graphics card.

The notebook includes an integrated TV tuner, six integrated speakers and support for Dolby Home Theater sound technology. There's a touch-sensitive media console for navigating menus and adjusting volume without going through the standard Windows menu.

Price: $900 to $1,700.

SXSW 2008 Free Tracks Review

SXSW 2008 has posted 764 songs for free download. I'm gradually working my way through them. Highlights so far include:

American Hearts - A.A. Bondy: Dylan-inspired, thoughful folk.

One And Only - A.J. Croce: Jim Croce's son continues in the singer-songwriter tradition without his father's tendency toward cloying sentimentality.

Come On, Claire - Aberfeldy:
Quirky, stripped-back, melodic pop.

Sun Lips - Black Moth Super Rainbow: Distorted, wobbly synths and a vocoder, what's not to like?

I Guess I'll Forget the Sound, I Guess, I Guess - Bodies of Water: A proggy, choral melange. Delightful.

Bottom Dollar - Christopher Rees: A soulful duet with Becky from the Hot Puppies doing her best Macy Gray impression.

Sleep Is Impossble - Deluka: A pleasing chunk of angular, funky synth-pop.

Saturday Girl - The Feds: Loud, raw, shouty rock. Guaranteed to increase your driving speed by at least 10mph.

Julia, we don't live in the 60s - The Indelicates: Poppy melody and raspy laddish vocals.

Viviendo - Karina Nistal: Afro-cuban hippety-hoppety electro. Nice.

Restless - Langhorne Slim: Because you can never have enough 'train songs'.

My Girl, Suicide - Mr. Lewis & The Funeral 5: Tex-Mex with a dash of burlesque.

Samba Pesada - Sexto Sol feat. Vernon 'Spot' Barnett: Pleasantly rhythmic in a Santana-esque manner.

Shake The Magic Eight Ball - The Sound of Urchin: Brash, confident American rock.

I Feel Weird - Steel Train: A pumping, obsessive love song.

Everyone's Got'em - White Ghost Shivers: A joyful jugband workout. Could have been written and performed 100 years ago, except for the (welcome) lack of needle crackle.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008 selling DRM-free MP3s is now offering music from EMI and a number of independent labels as downloadable DRM-free MP3 files.

Individual tracks start at 65p each, and albums from £4.99.

Belkin Rockstar

Belkin reports: [edited]

RockStar is a simple and fun way to share music, creating more interaction among everyone using it. Students can sit around a lunch table, plug their headphones into RockStar, and then together listen to the songs playing from one MP3 player.

Alternatively, they can connect two or three MP3 players to RockStar, and then mix the songs from the different players together.

- - - - -

Brett's 2p'orth: My first thought was, "Another pointless widget" - especially as, with 5 sets of headphones plugged in, the volume to each set of earphones would drop considerably. However I can see how the idea of sharing two or three players could have possibilities.

Now if we could just find something similar for people to 'share' their 'hilarious' mobile ringtones with one another.

Pantone redefines 'pretentious'

Pantone reports: [edited]

Pantone, Inc., the global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, selected PANTONE 18-3943 Blue Iris, a beautifully balanced blue-purple, as the color of the year for 2008.

Combining the stable and calming aspects of blue with the mystical and spiritual qualities of purple, Blue Iris satisfies the need for reassurance in a complex world, while adding a hint of mystery and excitement.

"From a color forecasting perspective, we have chosen PANTONE 18-3943 Blue Iris as the color of the year, as it best represents color direction in 2008 for fashion, cosmetics and home products," explains Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.

"As a reflection of the times, Blue Iris brings together the dependable aspect of blue, underscored by a strong, soul-searching purple cast. Emotionally, it is anchoring and meditative with a touch of magic. Look for it artfully combined with deeper plums, red-browns, yellow-greens, grapes and grays."

- - - - -

Brett's 2p'orth: It's OK, I checked to see whether the press release date was April 1 as well.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Firefox 3 Beta 4

If you use Firefox, it might be worth paying a visit to their beta download site.

I use Firefox as my secondary browser (Safari is my favourite). Firefox 3 Beta 4 (on Mac OSX 10.4.11) is subjectively much faster than Firefox 2 on many sites, especially those that are Javascript-heavy.

One minor bug/feature I have noticed is that if you download a jpeg via Firefox 3, it is renamed to the lesser-used .jfif ending, which Photoshop doesn't recognise. Simply changing the ending to .jpg sorts it out, but hopefully this will be sorted in the proper release.


Ikariamis a free MMOG [Massively Multiplayer Online Game, Ed] by Gameforge.

You start with your own area on a small island in the Mediterranean Sea that you can create your own civilization.

You then construct your own town. And your workers will continue their efforts (if you tell them to) even when you are logged out.

And (of course) you can cooperate or fight with other Ikariam participants.

Intel to enter solid state hard drive market

c|net reports: [edited]

At the moment, Intel offers small-capacity chip-level (what are called Thin Small Outline Packages or TSOPs) technology that provides end-product sizes ranging up to 16GB. But this modest line of products will get a big boost in the second quarter when Intel offers 1.8- and 2.5-inch SSDs ranging from 80GB to 160GB in capacity, said Troy Winslow, marketing manager for the NAND Products Group at Intel.

Intel's new SSDs will compete with Samsung which is slated to bring out a 128GB SSD in the third quarter.

Monday, March 10, 2008

iPod's ancestor

The first commercially released personal music player capable of handling MP3 files was the MPMan F10, launched in March 1998. It came with 32MB of storage, measured 91 x 70 x 16.5mm, weighed 60g and cost $250.