Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Vassiliki Bay, second day

Having an excellent time. Pleasantly surprised at how quickly I'm remembering how to handle a sailing dinghy.

For more pictures click here.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


Ascender Corp reports: [edited]

Ascender Corporation designed and engineered a new set of system User Interface (UI) fonts named "Droid" for the Android platform built by the Open Handset Alliance. The Android platform is a complete mobile phone software stack that will be made available under the Apache open source license. The fonts provided by Ascender ensure that users of handsets developed from the Android platform will enjoy highly legible text resulting in easy to use interfaces.

- - - - -

Brett's 2p'orth: The typefaces are clean and well-formed, if a little bland. The serif is the most interesting, looking like a hybrid of Georgia and Melior.

For more info, and a zipped file of the fonts visit damieng.com.

Vassiliki Bay, here I come!

As a teenager, I was a keen dinghy sailer, starting by crewing for my father in a Heron dinghy, graduating to, erm, Graduates, and then to International Moths. It all ground to a halt when I had to sell my dinghy to buy a moped, and I haven't sailed since.

So, 30-years later, I've booked a week with Wildwind, who run a sailing centre at Vassiliki, Greece. My intention is to see if I've remembered any of my old skills, and to find out if I still enjoy sailing as much as I did when I was a young'un.

Oh, and to spend a few leisurely evenings sipping red wine in a local taverna.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fujifilm announces Super CCD EXR

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

Designed as a 'three in one' sensor combining the benefits of high resolution, high sensitivity and wide dynamic range, Super CCD EXR uses a totally new color filter array and has the ability to process half the pixels separately.

This should get Fujifilm closer to the holy grail of compact camera design; small sensors that don't sacrifice noise and dynamic range for resolution.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

32" Digital picture frame

Register Hardware reports: [edited]

The Smartparts SP3200WF screen sports a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution and is surrounded by a “natural wood” frame.

It is Wi-Fi enabled and compatible with Windows Live Photo Gallery. Images can also be loaded onto the screen through SD and Compact Flash memory cards. It’ll even play videos.

A remote control allows you to alter the frame’s settings from up to 100ft away and the frame can display PowerPoint and PDF files.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

North Korea in pictures

The Big Picture reports: [edited]

Celebrating 60 years of existence this year, North Korea holds out as the last Stalinist state in the world. In such a restrictive society, it is difficult - if not impossible - for residents to get news of the outside world, and for the outside world to see in.

What photography comes out of North Korea is either state-produced, state-approved, or at the very least state-managed. Still, if you look over the following images with those restrictions in mind, one can still get some idea of life in North Korea in 2008.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Samples Gallery

Digital Photograpy Review has published a number of images taken with Canon's latest 'full frame' DLSR. The image above is an un-retouched full size crop of an image taken at ISO 25600.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Up close and impersonal

Wired reports: [edited]

The macro photo contest was our fiercest competition, with almost every entry making our eyes boggle. After two weeks of steady battle, these 10 photos have emerged victorious.

Alan M won the contest with his photo 'Eye of a Tokay Gecko'.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Philips LivingColors

Geek Alerts reports: [edited]

The LivingColors lamp from Philips uses 4 LEDs to create a wide spectrum of colors (2 red, 1 blue, and 1 green). Use the remote control to increase, reduce, bright up or dim each LED, using over 16 million different colors.

The options on the remote are:

Colour Spectrum - By turning the colour wheel you can choose from an almost infinite variety of colours.

Colour Saturation - The ‘white balance’ button enables you to adjust the amount of white to create a deeper or softer tone of the same colour.

Light Intensity - You can increase or decrease the amount of light by using the dimmer button.

You can connect up to six LivingColors at any one time and synchronize them so that they all show the same colour. The transparent shell is flat on the bottom, ensuring the lamp is stable when placed on any flat surface.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Digitised 78s back online

I blogged on this a while back. After a period of downtime, the site is functioning again. There is even a bittorrent link if you want to download 'em all at once.

Promoting picking productivity

Slate has published an excellent article on how a farmer teamed up with economists to maximise output from his strawberry picking labour force.

Excerpts follow:

"...getting the most out of staff is a perennial problem. Workers show up for the summer harvest only... the owner, who must offer a pay scheme that both satisfies minimum-wage laws and motivates workers in an industry in which slacking is an understandable temptation."

"...an unlikely alliance was formed between Farmer Smith and economists Oriana Bandiera, Iwan Barankay, and Imran Rasul. The economists would design and administer pay schemes, and in exchange Farmer Smith would let them treat his business as a gigantic laboratory for researching the nexus between pay, workplace friendships and workers' productivity."

"The researchers found that managers tended to do their friends favours by assigning them the easiest rows. This made life comfortable for insiders but was unproductive since the most efficient assignment for fruit picking is for the best workers to get the best rows. The researchers responded by linking managers' pay to the daily harvest. The result was that managers started favoring the best workers rather than their own friends, and productivity rose by another 20 percent."

"They proposed a "tournament" scheme in which workers were allowed to sort themselves into teams... Again, workers prioritized money over social ties, abandoning groups of friends to ally themselves with the most productive co-workers who would accept them. In practice, that meant that the fastest workers clustered together, and again, productivity soared—by yet another 20 percent."

via kottke

Friday, September 19, 2008

Leica debuts world's fastest lens

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

Breaking the optical “sound barrier” of lens speed 1.1 has been the Holy Grail of lens design for many years. Leica is to launch the world’s first aspherical f/0.95 prime lens the NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH.

At the new 0.95 full aperture, depth of field is shallow enough to allow the most aesthetic portraits or detailed studies. Low light becomes less of a barrier, with the LEICA NOCTILUX surpassing the speed of the human eye.

Available from February 2009, the LEICA NOCTILUX-M 50 mm f/0.95 ASPH will cost £6290 (inc VAT).

Kodak launch 'non-budget' digital photo frame

Gizmodo reports: [edited]

While OLEDs are still too small to be used as full fledged television sets, there's one job where the high-resolution, vividly colored screens function incomparably — as high-end digital picture frames.

Kodak's new ultra-thin 7.6-inch OLED Wireless panel boasts a 16:9 aspect ratio, 800x480 resolution, and a white to black contrast ratio of 30,000:1.

The panel comes with 2GB of built-in internal memory, but includes an additional built-in memory card reader and a USB port. The panel can also link up to internet content from Kodak Gallery, Flickr and FrameChannel.

Price: $999

Vintage car badges

Adam Polselli has produced a small but perfectly formed Flickr gallery of car badges he spotted at a car auction. All the more impressive is the fact he used an iPhone to capture the images.

via John Nack

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Terabyte 2.5" hard drives by 2010

Register Hardware reports: [edited]

Our sources say WD and Fujitsu will have 750GB 2.5in drives by mid-2009 and 1TB units by early 2010, if not the end of 2009.

WD is building quite a track-record of pipping Seagate by introducing notebook drives at progressively higher capacity points first, doing this with 250GB, 320GB and now 500GB models.

You gotta see these...

Awesome pictures from the 2008 Summer Paralympic Games. If you don't already have an RSS feed to Big Picture, why not?

3M releases pocket projector

PopSci.com reports: [edited]

The pocket-size projector has been the Holy Grail of gadgets for many years, and now we’ve got it. Images were discernable up to about 11 inches across, even under our bright fluorescent office lights. But they were definitely faded. And some movie scenes were downright indecipherable. The same went for photos.

In a dark room, it could project a big enough image to be the ultimate cheap-o home theater. The projector will sell for $359. It doesn’t have a speaker, so you’ll have to get that separately.

A VGA input lets you plug in a laptop; and the composite video jack will take output from a digital camera, PSP, iPod, iPhone, or most any handheld device (though video-out is still pretty rare on cellphones). A thumbwheel on the front allows you to focus.

The standalone projector goes on sale September 30. In a year or so, 3M hopes to squeeze it into cellphones.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ethanol-unleashing USB stick

TrekStor reports: [edited]

The USB stick CO is a mobile data storage device in a solid, brushed aluminium housing... it incorporates a bottle opener function combining practical data storage with a thirst-quenching aid that is always to hand.

Available with 1-16 GB of memory for between EUR 6.99 and EUR 49.99.

UK school to trial interactive desks

Register Hardware reports: [edited]

Durham University researchers have received £1.5m in funding for a project that aims to replace classroom desks with interactive tables.

The group’s already tested the system in one unnamed UK school, where children performed tasks - either individually or as a group – while in front of an interactive table.

For example, teachers could ask the kids to split a restaurant bill by using their fingertips to divide up the coins they see on interactive table. Teachers could also display one child’s work on all the interactive tables in the classroom.

Although little’s been revealed about technology used, it's known that SynergyNet is based on a commercial-grade games engine and features both video support and a full physics engine.

According to a report by website Science Daily, the hardware and software combo also uses vision systems that can see infrared light, allowing it to recognise both single and multiple touches.

Further SynergyNet trials will be rolled out to primary and secondary schools over the next few years.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

After a week or so of teaser ads Canon has unveiled the successor to the EOS 5D, the world's first 'compact' full frame digital SLR.

The EOS 5D Mark II boasts a new 21MP CMOS sensor, an expanded ISO range of 50-25,600 and a wealth of improvements and new features including full 1080p HD movie recording, live view, 3.0" 920k dot LCD, DIGIC IV processor, increased battery capacity and sensor dust reduction.

Body-only prices: £2,299

Click here for DPR's hand's-on preview.

Creative Labs EP-630/A Earphones

If you're looking for 'cheap as chips', these budget 'phones are available from Amazon.co.uk for under a fiver, they look OK, the customer reviews indicate they sound fine, and you won't be crying in your beer/smoothy if you lose/break 'em.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DRM waves the white flag, seeks exile...

7digital reports:[edited]

Folks, the day has come: 7digital is officially 100% MP3. This means that all of our 4 million strong catalogue is now available in this fine, fuss-free format - making ours the largest collection in the UK. MP3 is compatible with almost anything, including your iPods. It’s how things should be. We’ve worked long and hard for this but you should fight for what you believe in, right? Enjoy your freedom...

[The site is worth visiting, there is a huge range of music available, including a 'free' section. Ed.]

Envirosight SuperVision 250

Wired reports: [edited]

You go, you flush: out of sight, out of mind. Not for city maintenance crews. With 850 billion gallons of sewer and storm water leaking into watersheds around the U.S.A. every year, the Environmental Protection Agency is cracking down on cracked pipes. And the SuperVision 250 is riding that great, stinky wave of demand.

Placed in pipes 10 to 72 inches in diameter, this little guy will track down splits, debris, corrosion, and breaks. Operators can watch the video feed from the 10X optical-zoom autofocus camera and use a joystick to pan and tilt. A ring of high-intensity, shadowless LEDs illuminates the scene; dual lasers help size up defects.

A sapphire window shields the camera lens, while hardened stainless steel parts protect the crawler from the harsh sewer environment. And thanks to an ultrathin, Kevlar-reinforced tether, the bot can crawl up to 1,640 feet through even heavily obstructed pipes.

Ralph McQuarrie Star Wars illustrations

Michael Heilemann has published a Flickr gallery displaying a selection of Ralph McQuarrie's concept paintings and drawings for the original Star Wars trilogy.

Lovely stuff.

Metro.fi 100 Noise Isolating Earphones

My favourite earphones are Westone UM1s. Based on professional 'monitor' earphones, they isolate noise, fit well, and deliver a natural and involving sound. On the downside, they aren't cheap, have the visual aesthetics of a 1930s hearing aid, and the wires are thin and scratchy on the skin.

My good friend Conrad (you know, the one who doesn't make much sense) got bought a pair of UM1s, and he loved them as well. Until one of the earphones stopped working. I told him that most of the stuff he listens to probably sounds better in just one ear, but he went out and got some new 'phones anyway.

Turns out he made a pretty good choice. They come in a tough plastic carry case, fit well, have a very warm, listenable tone-response and do a good job of noise-isolation. They also look good, and the cords have a comfortable 'shoe-lace'-style sheathing.

Available from amazon.co.uk for under £20, including delivery.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Nuforce Icon Desktop Amplifier

Wired reports: [edited]

Need to juice up your desktop music scene? Nuforce has just the thing. Its new Icon is a miniature, multi-threat amplifier that can be used to pump music from a computer or audio player to your speakers and headphones. Nuforce builds high-performance Class D digital amps that put pricey competitors to shame, and the Icon is a hi-fi bargain at $250 [it's available for £175 in the UK, Ed.].

The Icon itself has a slick brushed aluminum enclosure, and given its size you could almost mistake it for a router, if not for the oversized volume and input knobs on the front.

Around back there's inputs for 3.5-mm and RCA cables, a USB connection, a line out to power a subwoofer, and RJ-45 (Ethernet) speaker cable ports.

Although it's only 12 watts per channel, the Icon is powerful enough to act as a pre-amp to full-fledged stereos, and on its own can drive most bookshelf speakers, producing a wide, spacious soundstage. I drag-raced it against beefier amps (at 50-60 watts), and the Icon's sound quality in the mid and high ranges — vocals, cymbals and keys, for instance — was every bit as smooth and detailed. The bigger amps could produce slightly deeper bass and cranked higher without distortion, but the Icon's overall dynamics were every bit as impressive.

I don't bother listening to music on my laptop because the sound quality from the headphone jack is thin and distorted, not to mention the occasional pops and crackles. But when I hooked up the Icon via the USB port and patched in my Grado SR80 cans, it was a revelation. The Icon uses a high-quality digital-to-analog converter (DAC) to convert the computer's digital signal to sweet-sounding analog, and alla sudden the music was crystal clear, the bass cleaner and deeper, and the overall sound infinitely better. The only downside here may be that you'll realize how crummy some of those downloaded MP3s actually sound.

The Icon is also a solid headphone amp, and will improve the sound from an iPod or any other audio player's output. If you've never tried out a headphone amp before, the difference can be striking, assuming you have a decent set of cans. In the end, the beauty of the Icon is that it can be used in so many different ways – I've got it powering some outdoor speakers on my patio – and it excels wherever you rig it.

Panasonic Lumix G1

Digital Photography Review have published a preview of Panasonic's debut of the 'mini-DSLR'. It looks like things are moving in the right direction for my dream of a pocketable image-capture tool that takes beautiful, noise-free pictures.

Here are a few snippets...

"When you consider the incredible flexibility offered by digital capture (unencumbered by the physical need to put the film behind the lens and to advance it frame by frame) it's perhaps surprising that the digital interchangeable lens camera has remained so firmly rooted in a basic design that hasn't changed since the 1950s..."

"...we have a new system with a new lens mount and this, the G1; the world's first electronic viewfinder interchangeable lens camera. From the outside it looks for all the world like a conventional SLR (albeit a very small one)..."

"...the Panasonic G1 - represents the first complete break with legacy SLR technology going back well over half a century, and as such represents an important moment in digital photography's short history."

"It may seem like a relatively low-key product to herald a minor revolution in the digital SLR market, but have no doubt, the G1 is one of the most exciting products we've had under this roof for quite some years."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

5-minute breakfast

Boil half-a-pint of water in electric kettle.

Pour boiling water into a small saucepan to 3cm depth.

Bring to simmer heat (tiny bubbles rising from bottom of pan).

Put medium slice of bread in toaster.

Break large egg into small cup.

Gently pour egg into simmering water and time for 3 minutes.

Butter toast.

Remove egg with slotted spoon, drain and plonk (technical term) on toast.


- - - - -

Nutritional information:
1 large egg (93 cal, 7.8g protein, 6.8g fat)
1 medium slice of bread (85 cal, 3.6g protein, 16.2 g carb, .7g fat)
10g butter (74 cal, 8.2g fat)

Total: 252 cal, 11.4g protein, 16.2g carb, 15.7g fat

Tip: 10g butter isn't much, so spread it around the edges of the toast, leaving the middle bare. Once the egg is on the toast, you won't notice the lack of butter on the middle section, but you will miss its presence on the crust.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

iTunes 8 - Genius

iTunes 8 has been released, with a tranch of new features, including 'Grid View' (displaying your library using cover art, using a variety of parameters) and a brand new 'visualizer' (if you ever downloaded the Magnetosphere iTunes plugin, you've seen it already).

The Genius playlists and sidebar are the most innovative features. First of all you give Apple permission to access your iTunes library, after which the information is anonymously sent to a database on Apple's servers, where it is combined, processed and alogrithmizerated™ with data from a gazillion other iTunes users.

The Genius results are then sent back to your iTunes library allowing you to create Genius playlists on your iTunes and iPod by selecting a track from your iTunes collection, and clicking on the Genius button. There is also an optional sidebar that lists recommended songs available from the iTunes store that you don't own already.

First thing to remember is that if you have a large song collection, the data processing can take a while. It took 12 hours to process my 34,000 songs. Second thing is that it doesn't recognise songs that don't exist in the iTunes store database.

Apart from that, the feature works fast and intelligently. I spent a very enjoyable Saturday afternoon clicking on some of my 'most played' tracks, and smiling at how well the 'Genius' algorithms chose apposite songs.

An email from my good friend Conrad illustrates its usefulness...

"Took the time to install Genius today. As you will have guessed, 98% of the time it's useless to me because of my pathological preference for the obscure. Worse, the Genius Shopping Assistant keeps recommending to me songs that will "complete my collection," sometimes refusing to notice that I already have some of the things either as downloads from the artists' sites or as a download from eMusic."

"BUT... when it can construct a playlist, it makes a very pleasant collocation of songs indeed, and somehow manages to notice and include some of my lunatic choices."

"AND... better yet, occasionally it will point me toward a previous incarnation of the band or a band in which a person played before I knew of their work. Here is the most amazing of the lot. An obscure Christian jazz guitarist who I love, James Vincent, must have been in this rock band [The Exceptions, Ed.] in the 60s. Apparently the band also features Peter Cetera who later became the lead vocalist for Chicago Transit Authority."

Yeah, I don't understand 80% of what Conrad writes either...

Evoke Flow

Register Hardware have published a review of Evoke's FM/DAB/Internet radio. Excerpts follow:

"Our first reaction was that this is a really attractive little radio. The company has kept the familiar Evoke casing, but coated the device in a gloss piano-black finish with stylish and solid-feeling metal controls and speaker grille."

"Evoke has created a dedicated portal called the Lounge, bringing the listener many ways to tailor the internet radio to suite personal tastes. There's no need to trawl through hundreds of options to find something worth listening to - the search power of the Lounge can be applied to sort, arrange and create a bespoke listening experience. The site isn't available to the public as yet, but Register Hardware was given special access to try the service out."

"Another useful feature is that whether an option is set up or favourites changed using either the radio or the portal, the two automatically sync with each other. The Lounge and the Flow both enable you to search by station name, genre, location, language and audio quality."

"The quality of the sound is particularly pleasing - it's one if the best performing single-driver units we've heard in this kind of price range. Precise, powerful and with good depth, the Flow handles all types of audio from Gardener’s Question Time to Norwegian Death Metal with aplomb. 30 pre-set stations are available."

"FM mode is as strong as DAB with the same easy access to stations and great sound quality."

"The interface on the radio itself is as well designed as the portal. The OLED display is one of the clearest and largest we've seen on a radio. The size of the screen means that often there's no scrolling needed to see all the information available, but when it is necessary, the moving characters remain pin sharp."

"There is a good set of connection options, including headphone, auxiliary speaker option (Pure’s S1 speaker), audio in and a stereo out socket in case you want to plug the unit into something more serious."

"The radio is mains powered, but Pure also offers its ChargePAK accessory, which can deliver around 15 hours of listening time."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Boring old-people's music now available DRM-free

Passionato's aim is:

"to become the world's most comprehensive online classical resource and offer classical music lovers the largest available collection of high-quality DRM-free classical music downloads. Passionato provides access to catalogues from the two largest major labels (Universal Music and EMI Classics) as well as the key independent classical labels including Naxos (the biggest independent), Chandos (one of the premier British independent labels), Avie and Arts."

"Designed for classical music lovers, Passionato's main features are: DRM-free recordings, transferable to any portable device and burnable to CD; high audio quality downloads (320kbps DRM-free MP3 and lossless FLAC); access to free software the Passionato Player specifically developed to help organise users' existing Classical CDs alongside tracks purchased through the Passionato Store; an unprecedented level of recording information which users benefit from when they download a track, work or album, and when they import their own CD libraries to their computers; the ability to search Passionato's recordings using over 20 fields, including by work, composer, conductor, venue and recording engineer."

There is a '10-free track' offer running at the moment, so if you like music that is devoid of a decent back-beat, it might be worth checking out.

Sony Alpha DSLR-A900

Digital Photography Review has a hands-on preview (along with some sample images) of Sony's entry into the full-frame DSLR market.

Features include:

- 24.6 MP 35mm format full-frame CMOS sensor (highest res in class)

- SteadyShot body-sited image sensor stabilization (world first)

- Advanced Dynamic Range Optimizer (5 step selectable)

- 3.0" 921K pixel Photo Quality (270 dpi) LCD display, 100% coverage

- Direct HDMI output

- ISO 200-3200 (ISO 100-6400 expanded range)

- $2999.99 body price; available late October 2008

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

An open letter to Steve Jobs

Dear Steve,

I know you’re a busy man, so I’ll make this short.

Bluetooth Stereo.

Yours Truly,

Brett Jordan

Toshiba 240GB 1.8" HDD

Register Hardware reports: [edited]

The 240GB 1.8in MK2431GAH drive will go into mass production by the end of the month. Toshiba claimed the platters deliver the industry's highest data density in a 1.8in drive: 344Gb per square inch.

Red One Digital Movie Camera

Wired has published a long and fascinating article on Jim Jannard's latest project. For the time-challenged, here are some text-bites:

"Jim Jannard, 59, is the billionaire founder of Red. In 1975 he spent $300 to make a batch of custom motocross handlebar grips, which he sold from the back of a van. He named his company Oakley, after his English setter, and eventually expanded into sci-fi-style sunglasses, bags, and shoes. In November of last year he sold the business to Luxottica, the owner of Ray-Ban, for a reported $2.1 billion."

"Two years ago, Jannard brought a spec sheet and a mock-up of a camera — not much more than an aluminum box about the size of a loaf of bread — to NAB [National Association of Broadcasters, Ed.] 2006. Even though it wasn't a working product, more than 500 people plunked down a $1,000 deposit to get their names on a waiting list."

"For months, industry watchers wondered if the company was for real. Today, there's no question. The Red One is being used on at least 40 features. Steven Soderbergh, the Oscar-winning director, borrowed two prototypes to shoot his Che Guevara biopics, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and later purchased three for his film The Informant. Peter Jackson, the Lord of the Rings himself, bought four. Director Doug Liman used a Red on Jumper. Peter Hyams used one on his upcoming Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Digital cinema that's all but indistinguishable from film is finally coming to a theater near you."

"His team of engineers and scientists have created the first digital movie camera that matches the detail and richness of analog film. The Red One records motion in a whopping 4,096 lines of horizontal resolution — "4K" in filmmaker lingo—and 2,304 of vertical. For comparison, hi-def digital movies like Sin City and the Star Wars prequels top out at 1,920 by 1,080, just like your HDTV. And that's what makes the Red so exciting: It delivers all the dazzle of analog, but it's easier to use and cheaper—by orders of magnitude—than a film camera."

"Typical 2K and HD digital movie cameras keep everything in focus. The 4K Red One is more like an analog camera, allowing depth of field control, which blurs the foreground or background."

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Why I love the 'net

'Escape from New York' is one of the best bad films ever made. A celluloid pulp novel, 2-dimensional, ultra-violent and exploitational. So, when I saw it had been released in Blu-ray format, I was tempted to put it on my Amazon wish list. That is, until I read the Amazon customer reviews:

"...people on the net are now saying this Blu-ray is just and upscaled SD master. Now I don't find that hard to believe, because none of the quality in this film looked genuine. It's horribly edge enhanced and artificial looking... shame on Optimum for releasing this shoddy *fake* High Def Blu-ray. Avoid."

"As a huge Carpenter fan I was looking forward to this disc. Sadly when I inserted it into my PS3 what I saw was deeply disappointing. The picture quality is absolutely dreadful, completely lacking in detail and riddled with masses of so called 'edge enhancement'. It looks like a bad DVD, and nothing like high-def."

"This Blu-ray looks terrible. Edge enhancement (meaning halos around every person and object) is so strong that the film has a completely artificial, almost disconnected look (like printed from a collage made out of paper snippets). I feel double-crossed by Optimum and will be very careful with their future releases."

I hope these reviews don't get deleted.

Monday, September 08, 2008

SATA Hard Disk Drive Cradle

A long time ago (in a galaxy far, far away), when removable storage topped out at a massive 1.2Mb, a new storage medium emerged called 'Syquest'. Each Syquest cartridge held a gargantuan 44Mb, and was plugged into a 'docking station' that attached to your Mac by its SCSI (Small Computer System Interface, pronounced 'skuh-zee') connection.

In a pre-internet world graphic design companies developed a love-hate relationship with these clanky, unreliable devices as they used them to transport digital images and documents to and from clients and printers. SCSI acquired a new meaning: 'System Can't See It'. I remember endlessly starting and re-starting my Macintosh Plus in a desperate attempt to get the *&?#! things to mount. Ah, happy times!

When I saw the SATA Hard Disk Drive Cradle, it reminded me of the Syquest drive concept. Except this unit takes 'naked' 2.5" or 3.5" SATA drives. It's no Drobo, but with 1TB SATA drives now available for under £100, and this unit available from Storage Depot for under £30, it provides a thrifty and expandable way of making sure all your data is secure. Shame there's no Firewire 800 option.

- - - - -

STOP PRESS: Thanks to Liam for pointing out that Engadget have an article announcing:

"Just like fine wine, the HDD Stage Rack keeps getting better with age. On its third iteration now, the latest version of the external HDD cradle not only includes the obligatory USB and eSATA ports, but it also boasts a 6-pin FireWire 400 connector and two FireWire 800 sockets. 'Course, this thing isn't slated to be available for US hands until the end of this month, but that'll give you a few weeks to swallow the lofty $165.33 price tag, at least."

Sunday, September 07, 2008


Register Hardware reports: [edited]

LG has taken the wraps off its superlative-laden eight-megapixel cameraphone, which it'll bring to Blighty next month.

The LG-KC910 is not only the slimmest 8Mp cameraphone on the market, LG claimed, but it's also the first to sport a touchscreen interface. It's also the first with Dolby Mobile sound tech.

But it's the handset's photography credentials that LG was most keen to pitch: the Schneider-Kreuznach certified optics; the xenon flash; the auto and manual focus mechanisms; the face-, smile- and even blink-detection.

The KC910 will shoot slo-mo and speeded video thanks to the ability to record at anywhere from 5f/s to 120f/s.

Not to fall behind the trend, the new phone has GPS and will assist that with network-transmitted triangulation data. A workout app uses the GPS to track your jogging sessions and tell you how many calories you've burned.

Oh, and it's a 3G phone with 7.2Mb/s HSDPA, and will play DivX and Xvid video, as well as all the popular music formats.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Vodafone will market Dell's 3G netbook

Pocket Lint reports: [edited]

Following the news of the launch of the device, Vodafone and Dell have announced that Dell’s Inspiron Mini 9 netbook will be sold with built-in mobile broadband, exclusively through Vodafone stores and online, and directly from Dell, in key European markets.

Available from late September, the Inspiron Mini 9, featuring built-in mobile broadband from Vodafone, will deliver instant internet connectivity anywhere with no need for an external modem.

Andrew Sangster, director of PC Connectivity, Vodafone, says: "Today’s announcement marks the next step in the evolution of mobile broadband services bringing mobile broadband into the hands of many more customers".

Details of country availability and pricing will be made available in coming weeks. The basic version of the Mini 9 costs £299 direct from Dell.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Olympus ยต 1060

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

Olympus has launched the mju 1060 digital compact camera. It sports a 10MP imaging sensor, 3.0” LCD and 7x (37-260mm equiv) zoom lens. The camera includes features such as Advanced Face Detection, Shadow Adjustment Technology, Perfect Shot Preview, Dual Image Stabilization, Noise Reduction and also an Intelligent Auto Mode for beginners.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Toshiba launch upscaling telly

Register Hardware reports: [edited]

Toshiba has launched the first TV that incorporates its own image upscaling system. Dubbed Resolution Plus, the technology features in the firm’s new Regza ZF series of screens and allows the 40in and 46in tellies to enhance the quality of standard definition content to “near HD quality”.

The technology’s designed to overcome the lack of free-to-air HD content [currently] available. The advantage is that whatever SD content you’re watching, be it Hollyoaks or Star Trek, the image will be automatically upscaled to produce something that verges on HD quality, in much the same way that upscaling DVD players currently work.

Aside from Resolution Plus, the Regz ZF series offers 100Hz motion display and, of course, provides 1920 x 1080p full HD resolution. The contrast ratio is 30,000:1. It incorporates four HDMI ports.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

In the Valley of Elah

Writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash) has crafted a wonderful and human film.

You enter expecting a well-acted murder mystery. Two hours later you emerge from an emotionally-charged, superbly-acted drama depicting the de-humanising effects of war.

Hank Deerfield (Tommy Lee Jones) is a retired military police officer searching for his AWOL son. When his son's dismembered body is found, the search moves to finding his murderer.

Tommy Lee Jones brilliantly portrays his character's world-weary dignity. Charlize Theron is superb as a single-mum detective and Susan Sarandon is perfect as Hanks' long-suffering wife.

Do yourself a favour and let this film restore your faith in well-written, convincingly-acted narrative.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Myst on the iPhone

Touch Arcadet reports: [edited]

Cyan has quietly announced that they are porting Myst to the iPhone.

For those not familiar with Myst, the game was first published for the Mac in 1993 and was both a critical and commercial success. While technologically rather simple from today’s standpoint, the game’s graphics and soundtrack were remarkably immersive. The game starts you on a strange island where you must explore your surroundings, solve puzzles and figure out the backstory.

Myst was recently ported to the Nintendo DS platform.

Monday, September 01, 2008

O2 announce UK Pay & Go prices

O2 reports: [edited]

The new iPhone 3G 8GB for Pay & Go will be available for £349.99 and the 16GB version for £399.99.

This also includes unlimited browsing and Wi-Fi for the first 12 months after you activate your iPhone 3G. At the end of the 12 months you can continue to receive unlimited browsing and WiFi for just £10 per month.

It will be available to buy from 16th September in O2 stores, The Carphone Warehouse and Apple stores.

Please note visual voicemail and call merging are not available with Pay & Go. You'll also need to change your data settings to use services such as Mobile Internet.

World's smallest published book

Selectism reports: [edited]

The leather bound book takes the art of printing and bookbinding to an entirely new dimension of precision. Renowned German typographer Joshua Reichert especially created a colourful alphabet for this tiny ABC-picture book, exclusively produced in the traditional book city of Leipzig where the idea was originally born.

Measuring 2.4 x 2.9 mm and presented in a wooden box including a magnifying glass, this is the world's smallest book in a published edition. “It was printed in the usual way, but the machinery and tools had to be created in miniature.”

The book is published by Die Gestalten. Printed in an edition of 300, Selfridges have the last available stock of the title at £70 per item.