Posted in Apple, iPad, Tech by Tony C on June 1, 2010

apple_ipad_3gI got to use an iPad yesterday for the first time and I’m now more confused about what it’s for.  OK let me clarify.  I now want one less than I thought I did.  No amount of hyperbole can disguise the fact that it is in fact an oversized iPhone and whereas many journalists and pundits see this as a slight I don’t, it’s the iPad greatest strength but also ironically it’s key flaw. 

The form factor is better than I expected and shows Apple’s slavish and justified obsession with design, if everyone else was as fanatical about aesthetics we’d certainly live in a far better looking world but also one where fewer people are prevented rather than enabled by technology.  With the OS being a scaled up version of the one millions are familiar with on the iPhone and Touch again Apple seem to have got it about as right as we can justifiably expect.  And who can argue with the apparent two million units already shipped, although I wonder how many of these are already existing iPhone, iMac or Macbook owners.  Based on the limited and statistically unsupportable  straw poll I’ve carried out it’s 100%.

The problem as I see it isn’t the device at all but Cupertino’s approach to what goes on it and how you’re forced into an Apple playground where like Number Six you know something isn’t quite right but not sure what it is.  Let’s take the promising Apple iPad Dock Connector to VGA Adapter as an example.  Now you could justifiably have concluded as I did that if I was going to do a presentation why not take take an iPad instead.  Ah but wait.  It doesn’t work like a normal VGA adaptor which simply duplicates the screen onto a larger monitor, it only displays applications or particular content Apple allows to travel down the short £25 white cable.  And let’s not get into the vice like grip on the developer community and the control over any content Apple deem unsuitable.

Oh well the £500 I don’t have will now not be spend on the Canon 550D I hadn’t intended of purchasing instead.


Podcast kit upgrade or how to get another gadget fix

Posted in podcast, Tech by Tony C on February 1, 2009

One of the reasons I originally started to podcast apart from trying to mimic Radio 4 was, and I’m not sure I should confess to this, the opportunity to get hold of some new ‘tech’.  A childhood obsession with a reel to reel tape recorder made digital if you will. 

My current podcasting ‘rig’ is the same one I used when I first started and follows the time honoured tradition of not splashing too much cash just in case we didn’t get along.  In retrospect it hasn’t been the easiest to live with, whilst all three major hardware  components, Tapco Mix 100, Griffin iMic, and Behringer B1 mic are all individually great they don’t always play well together, the iMic and Mix 100 being the main culprits.  I always spend an inordinate amount of time getting the levels right, monitoring via headphones never seems to work predictably and for some reason there is always some line noise to deal with in the edit. 

Tapco MIX 100 Ultra-Compact Mixer        Griffin iMic  Behringer B-1 Condenser Mic Package

I’ve been pondering for sometime about swapping the mixer and iMic for a dedicated USB audio interface, something along the lines of the M-Box 2.  My hope is that it will eliminate the need for endlessly playing around

until the levels are right plus it’ll plumb directly into the PC without the need for extra cables.  It also means my current DAW Magix Music Maker might end up in retirement as most USB interfaces come with some kind of bundled software, in the case of the M-Box it’s Pro Tools LE.  The question though is do I go through this process whilst in the middle if the current BTHP series on the Royal Navy or wait until it’s finished?

Mobile Bluetooth headset perfection?

Posted in Tech by Tony C on October 2, 2008

Maybe it’s because I have an odd concha or more accurately the combined shape of my cymba conchæ and cavum conchæ aren’t the same as everyone elses I have a collection of used Mobile Bluetooth headsets; no matter how hard I try I just don’t seem to able to get any of them to fit properly.  My friends at Plantronics however have recently given me a Discovery 925 and I think the quest maybe at an end and like all great solutions it’s simple, not to say rather neat.  Rather than have a loop over the Auricula or Pinna, or try to create some kind of shaped insert for the External Acoustic/Auditory Meatus, the earpiece as a small handle which holds the device in place in the concha and it works a treat.  Pick the right sized one and you’d hardly know what’s sat in your ear.  The small carry case also doubles as a portable charging unit as it contains a rechargeable battery for when mains or USB power is unavailable; there is even a gold version for the more ‘bling’ orientated.

HTC S620

Posted in HTC, Mobile Phones, Tech, Windows Mobile by Tony C on February 20, 2007

Is it a Smartphone or a PDA?The number of handsets running Windows Mobile is now over the ton and with the announcement at 3GSM that companies like LG will offer WM handsets running Mobile 6, it’s really tough for a someone with a gadget habit to not be tempted by the latest device.  So with the Palm Treo 750v lend to someone else the HTC S620 has stepped into the breach and fills it quite nicely. 

Thinner than a size zero model but infinitely more useful the S620 looks like a PDA but runs Smartphone OS so doesn’t have a touchscreen, navigation is via the multifunction switch on the front or via the neat ‘Joggr’ bar on the right hand side.  As with all WM5 devices it supports Direct Push email, viewing of Office documents, Instant Messaging and browsing the web.  I was worried the small QWERTY keypad would be too small for my stubby digits and whilst not at spaced as those on the Treo they work really well and because they have a positive ‘click’ to them even dialing telephone numbers isn’t as fiddly as it appears at first glance.

Like the Samsung i600 the HTC S620 is a cross over device that sits between what would have been considered a PDA and a ‘smart’ phone, this segment for Windows Mobile has become more blurred of late so with Mobile 6 the distinction will be simplified between those devices with a touch screen and those without.

Windows Mobile 6

Posted in Microsoft, Mobile Phones, Tech, Uncategorized, Windows Mobile by Tony C on February 13, 2007

Mobile 6A few of you might know that I work in the part of MS Towers that looks after Windows Mobile and on Monday the latest version of the OS for handhelds was announced at 3GSM in Barcelona.  For the past few months I’ve been asked a handful of times a day “What’s new in Mobile 6?”, “When will the new devices with WM6 be available?” and of course “Whats new for developers?” and at last I can answer all of these and some others too.

My fellow Windows Mobile aficionado Jason Langridge covers the new features, with pictures, in some detail on his blog but some of the highlights include Message Smartfiltering, HTML support, Storage Card Encryption, Enforcement and Wipe, lots of Calendering enhancements making it feel as Outlook as possible, lots of cool Windows Live support, improvements to Mobile Office to take advantage of smaller screens and a ton of great UI enhancements.   For developers there’s an updated SDK which you can install straight into Visual Studio, a new emulator and a lengthy list changes to make application development, testing and deployment even easier.  There is a great doc on MSDN which covers all of this.

As for devices you can expect to see them begin to find their way in retail stores or from operators when the weather begins to get better.  That’s the early summer if you missed it!

Could the future be DRMless?

Posted in DRM, Music, Tech by Tony C on February 7, 2007

Music downloading on first appearance seems cracking idea, no more shelves full of CDs and your collection instantly portable but there has always been one almighty problem with it…Digital Rights Management.  It sucks, it truely does because anyway you cut it the user experience is shocking, you can’t move contect from device to device and why bother when you can buy the same stuff on a shiny disk and use it unhindered by DRM.  And the figures speak for themselves, take iPod users for example, it’s estimated that 97% of all music played on them is ‘side loaded’ not purchased from iTunes and this doesn’t seem like changing anytime soon despite the price premium you pay per track for CD.

So it comes as no real surprise that certain corners of the tech industry are now talking about a future without DRM, after all consumers will avoid it when possible and technically you can’t make DRM friendly enough for them to see it as anything but an annoyance.  The most noteworthy of these voices is none other than Steve Jobs who I guess would like to see iTunes sell DRM free music to iPod users rather than have then spend their hardearned at HWV, Virgin or Amazon because Apple isn’t making a bundle from selling DRM based music.

However don’t expect the music industry to pay attention anytime soon because as soon as you mention the internet to a music executive they instantly see thousands of teenagers pirating music and giving it to their mates or worse still loading it on to some file sharing site instantly copying it to the world.  But the reality is this nightmare scenario has never happened despite the fact CDs have no DRM even when Napster was at it’s most prolific, infact CD sales went up as people used it as a try before you buy system.  CD sales are now slowly falling and the predictions are for this to continue but you have to wonder if the music publishers has noticed the reasons why.

Why Charlie Brooker hates Macs

Posted in Apple, Microsoft, Tech by Tony C on February 6, 2007

I quote this verbatim as it’s funny as well as being insightful.

I hate Macs

Charlie Brooker
Monday February 5, 2007
The Guardian

Unless you have been walking around with your eyes closed, and your head encased in a block of concrete, with a blindfold tied round it, in the dark – unless you have been doing that, you surely can’t have failed to notice the current Apple Macintosh campaign starring David Mitchell and Robert Webb, which has taken over magazines, newspapers and the internet in a series of brutal coordinated attacks aimed at causing massive loss of resistance. While I don’t have anything against shameless promotion per se (after all, within these very brackets I’m promoting my own BBC4 show, which starts tonight at 10pm), there is something infuriating about this particular blitz. In the ads, Webb plays a Mac while Mitchell adopts the mantle of a PC. We know this because they say so right at the start of the ad.“Hello, I’m a Mac,” says Webb. “And I’m a PC,” adds Mitchell. They then perform a small comic vignette aimed at highlighting the differences between the two computers. So in one, the PC has a “nasty virus” that makes him sneeze like a plague victim; in another, he keeps freezing up and having to reboot. This is a subtle way of saying PCs are unreliable. Mitchell, incidentally, is wearing a nerdy, conservative suit throughout, while Webb is dressed in laid-back contemporary casual wear. This is a subtle way of saying Macs are cool. The ads are adapted from a near-identical American campaign – the only difference is the use of Mitchell and Webb. They are a logical choice in one sense (everyone likes them), but a curious choice in another, since they are best known for the television series Peep Show – probably the best sitcom of the past five years – in which Mitchell plays a repressed, neurotic underdog, and Webb plays a selfish, self-regarding poseur. So when you see the ads, you think, “PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately lovable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers.” In other words, it is a devastatingly accurate campaign. I hate Macs. I have always hated Macs. I hate people who use Macs. I even hate people who don’t use Macs but sometimes wish they did. Macs are glorified Fisher-Price activity centres for adults; computers for scaredy cats too nervous to learn how proper computers work; computers for people who earnestly believe in feng shui. PCs are the ramshackle computers of the people. You can build your own from scratch, then customise it into oblivion. Sometimes you have to slap it to make it work properly, just like the Tardis (Doctor Who, incidentally, would definitely use a PC). PCs have charm; Macs ooze pretension. When I sit down to use a Mac, the first thing I think is, “I hate Macs”, and then I think, “Why has this rubbish aspirational ornament only got one mouse button?” Losing that second mouse button feels like losing a limb. If the ads were really honest, Webb would be standing there with one arm, struggling to open a packet of peanuts while Mitchell effortlessly tore his apart with both hands. But then, if the ads were really honest, Webb would be dressed in unbelievably po-faced avant-garde clothing with a gigantic glowing apple on his back. And instead of conducting a proper conversation, he would be repeatedly congratulating himself for looking so cool, and banging on about how he was going to use his new laptop to write a novel, without ever getting round to doing it, like a mediocre idiot.

Cue 10 years of nasal bleating from Mac-likers who profess to like Macs not because they are fashionable, but because “they are just better”. Mac owners often sneer that kind of defence back at you when you mock their silly, posturing contraptions, because in doing so, you have inadvertently put your finger on the dark fear haunting their feeble, quivering soul – that in some sense, they are a superficial semi-person assembled from packaging; an infinitely sad, second-rate replicant who doesn’t really know what they are doing here, but feels vaguely significant and creative each time they gaze at their sleek designer machine. And the more deftly constructed and wittily argued their defence, the more terrified and wounded they secretly are. Aside from crowing about sartorial differences, the adverts also make a big deal about PCs being associated with “work stuff” (Boo! Offices! Boo!), as opposed to Macs, which are apparently better at “fun stuff”. How insecure is that? And how inaccurate? Better at “fun stuff”, my arse. The only way to have fun with a Mac is to poke its insufferable owner in the eye. For proof, stroll into any decent games shop and cast your eye over the exhaustive range of cutting-edge computer games available exclusively for the PC, then compare that with the sort of rubbish you get on the Mac. Myst, the most pompous and boring videogame of all time, a plodding, dismal “adventure” in which you wandered around solving tedious puzzles in a rubbish magic kingdom apparently modelled on pretentious album covers, originated on the Mac in 1993. That same year, the first shoot-’em-up game, Doom, was released on the PC. This tells you all you will ever need to know about the Mac’s relationship with “fun”. Ultimately the campaign’s biggest flaw is that it perpetuates the notion that consumers somehow “define themselves” with the technology they choose. If you truly believe you need to pick a mobile phone that “says something” about your personality, don’t bother. You don’t have a personality. A mental illness, maybe – but not a personality. Of course, that hasn’t stopped me slagging off Mac owners, with a series of sweeping generalisations, for the past 900 words, but that is what the ads do to PCs. Besides, that’s what we PC owners are like – unreliable, idiosyncratic and gleefully unfair. And if you’ll excuse me now, I feel an unexpected crash coming.

Boss Micro BR: It’s rather good

Posted in Boss, Guitar, Guitar Effects, Micro BR, Tech by Tony C on February 1, 2007

It's small and packed with goodnessRecently I sold both my Boss GT-8 and DB-90 as both were overkill for my humble needs, don’t get me wrong they were stomping bits of kit but the £ per feature used they were at the wrong end of scale.  The Micro BR caught my eye at the end of last year and seemed to have everything I need as a fledgling guitar player with a gadget habit; effects, rhythms, tuner, metronome, phase trainer and an MP3 player all in a box a little bigger than an iPod and the same size as a Zune.  Oh and it also happens to be a 4 Track studio as well. 

It is quite brilliant and, hurrah, Boss have managed to include a manual that’s useful.  Anyone who has ever purchased Boss kit before will know have awful the manuals are, the one for the GT-8 is a particular stinker and you’re better off using it as a backup for Andrex.  The one for the Micro BR has a handy tutorial and actually seems to be written by someone who’s used one.

I’d have liked WMA support and when recording to the BR somekind of common format used like MP3 or WMA but hopefully this can be remeded in a firmware upgrade as the on board USB socket allows PC connectivity.  The only other downside is the thirst for batteries and I’d go for a mains adaptor which will pay for itself in AAs pretty quickly.

Highly recommended.

Hi Def Porn?

Posted in Blu-Ray, HD DVD, Porn, Tech, Uncategorized by Tony C on January 20, 2007

Where would the internet be without porn?  Well probably still the reserve of academics and the US military as it happens…maybe, but it is true to say that all significant technology steps on the internet have been pioneered by the porn industry.  They were the first users of  secure credit card transactions over the web, so no porn no Amazon or eBay for example, they were the first with streaming video so hey no…you get the idea. 

Any hoo the tech consumer industry is waiting to see which way the pornsters will go regards hi definition DVD and it seems early indications favour HD DVD over Blu-Ray.  Up to a point.  HD DVD so far is cheaper to burn and not as fragile as Blu-Ray but the question remains if consumers believe breasts in HD are better or breasts are breasts no matter how highly defined they are.  Sony also seem to be resisting porn publishers moving to Blu-Ray as manufacturers are refusing calls from publishers to burn disks, although the Blu-Ray Association claim there is no anti-porn stance.  It is ironic that Sonys reticence to get in to bed (sorry couldn’t resist) could be the undoing of Blu-Ray and they have short memories if they don’t remember a similar situation occured with Betamax.

And how do you tell people in a few years time that the reason they’re chosen a particular hi def DVD player is because porn industry decided that’s what they should have.

iPhone? Just ask Cisco

Posted in Apple, iPhone, Tech by Tony C on January 11, 2007

Don't scratch it fer gawds sake!As almost everyone else will mention it I might as well too, the Apple iPhone is on its way and boy are the Apple Acolytes tumescent with joy.  It still might not be called the iPhone as Mr Jobs forgot to tell everyone he’d not actually got permission from Cisco to use the name.  But let’s be crystal clear here…the device is still a while away so it may change and also there is nothing particularly new here, it has all been done before.  Apple seem however to have done a cracking job of bringing it all together though.

So what can we conclude, speculate or ask so far?It looks good as only Apple seem to be able to do.
I’m intrigued by the UI.
That screen better be scratch resistant.
Don’t forget to carry around wipes to keep crap off the screen as it will attract dirt like a magnet.
No UK release for the time being.
It’s not a business device so everyone claiming the demise of Blackberry, Windows Mobile or Nokia/Symbian can calm down.
Will anyone create 3rd party add-ons to allow integration with Outlook or Notes?
An IM client to attach to MSN, AOL and Yahoo would be nice too.
2Meg camera only.  Why?
Is 4Gb enough for music, photos, video etc etc?
Will it eat into iPod sales?  Nano especially.
As its GSM only it’ll upset the CDMA crowd in the US but in Europe this is not a problem.
No GPS.  Missed a trick here…Sat Nav on this device should have been a no brainer although someone would have had to written the application from scratch.
Price is critical but any notion of what it might be is pure speculation.It’ll also be interesting to see how the operators in the UK approach this device, SIM free is one thing, but will Apple be willing to give the operators the cut they’ll ask for if it’s sold as part of a contract?