Sunday, July 30, 2006

Film Review: Wolf Creek

Let me begin by saying that Wolf Creek is by far the most 'authentic' and terrifying film to have come out from the horror genre for the past many many years.

this review may contain spoilers

Thanks to FilmFour who decided to broadcast a genuinely original film last night. A film that has been both praised and derided by the press due to its rather horrific nature. This is a road trip film, a film genre which I don't usually care for as far as the horror genre is concerned. You know, a bunch of kids on a road trip and suddenly they start dying.

But this is where the filmmakers really hit it off when they immediately threw out the horror rule book. The film started slowly and almost romantically. No introductory murders were shown (I can hear the collective gasps of many so called horror fans who defined their horror experience based on Scream). It was just two British backpackers (who I thought were Aussies due to their accent - although one of them is rather cute and looks awfully like Keira Knightley) and an Aussie bloke planning a visit to Wolfe Creek, a meteorite crater. Three victims. That is all.

For the next 40 minutes nothing much happened except for the filmmakers and cast to allow for character building, something other filmmakers of other horror films (and generally most non-horror films too) don't usually pay much attention too. They arrived at Wolfe Creek and when they wanted to leave they found their car busted. And then a 'samaritan' by the name of Mick arrived.

The violence wasn't gory and grisly. It was sophisticated and 'realistic' which was what I like in any decent horror flick. Any torture scene weren't overdone and weren't truly in your face. It had psychological value. There were no extreme close up to trick the audiences. Everything was done subtly (even the humour) and felt genuine. And unlike American slasher flicks, the victims here were likeable. Plus I enjoy the fact that the filmmakers has decided to leave the ending hanging loose, a truly opposite to American slasher films whose main audiences prefer 'closure' (only usually for the killer to return in the next installment).

For once I was glad to have stayed up late and watch an old school psychological horror flick that isn't some generic American slasher (Friday the 13th, Halloween, Saw) or containing psychotic Japanese spirits.

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Saturday, July 29, 2006

Bike Ride: Brighton to Newhaven

With the heatwave fast approacing its demise, we took one last advantage today to bike to Newhaven Harbour. It was hell. I have never ever bike that far in my entire life. From The Level just off Elm Grove, Brighton, including excursions we cycled roughly 24-25 miles (38-40km), a fair improvement over last week's 16 miles. My legs feels like jelly right now and I expect it would get worse tomorrow. Well here are some pictures I took whenever we had time for break:

On the way towards Saltdean via the undercliff passage. These forts are sea defences aimed at protecting the chalk cliffs from erosions.

You can just make out the nightmare of the hill we had to bike up in order to reach the dizzy heights of Saltdean. An equally dounting climb awaited us on the other end when we cycled back towards Brighton. (view from the top, from last week's ride)

On top of the hill, taking a well deserved break.

That's Peacehaven town. The ferry is from Newhaven.

A farm somewhere between Peacehaven and Newhaven.

On the way back, the rock pools as seen from above the cliffs in Saltdean.

More rock pools, this time somewhere between Rottingdean and Ovingdean.

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Friday, July 28, 2006

"Overtired" or "Oh... they're tired"?

The biggest debate in Britain these days isn't about whether Tony Blair is a poodle (he is), but this. Watch it and tell me what you guys think those three kids said because we have been debating (ever since the ad debuted many months ago), both with my mate's in London and Jenni's mates in Brighton, on whether it is "oh... they're tired", or "overtired". I forgot about this until last week (Vauxhall seems to be pushing the ad more and more this past couple of weeks, so the debate seems to have restarted) when I pointed it out to Jenni who wondered what the hell those kids said. Then Jenni's mates started wondering about it too.

At first I thought it was "oh... they're tired", although most of my southern friends can't seem to settle (those who talk in cockney seems to think it's "overtired". A quick search on the ad (any combination of Vauxhall, Zafira, Overtired, New Neighbours) reveals that this debate has really gone nationwide. Vauxhall themselves seems to have settled on "overtired". Even the monkeys at Autotrader went ahead and got a confirmation from Vauxhall (it's "overtired"). From what I can tell judging by debates I read, northerners seems to think it's "oh... they're tired" while southeners are mainly going for "overtired".

I don't know about you but I have never ever heard anyone said "overtired" in real life, except when describing an "overtired" kids. However because the ad is about the role reversal that the kids are talking like adults, maybe it is true that they (the kids in their adult roles) are simply describing the Asian kid's parents (in their roles as kids) as "overtired" (apparently it is a northern thing). So now I think it's "overtired" but that's purely due to the role reversal situation. I like it when I thought it was "oh... they're tired" since that made more sense.

Oh well, anyone want to chip in their opinion (and sorry for wasting your time)?

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Thursday, July 27, 2006

"All Southern Lebanese are terrorists"

Our governments* might be cowards not to stand up to the US controlled UN, but that doesn't mean the world backs your tyrannical and illegal invasion. And to blatantly support the massacre of South Lebanon (see his comments on how they are now considering everyone in South Lebanon as terrorists worth murdering) just proofs how... Nazi like the Israeli's have become. I hate to use that word because of Godwin's Law but really I can't think of anything else that is similar. And please don't accuse me of anti-semitism (or similar P.C. crap), if you don't want to be labelled a Nazi, then don't act like one.

Okay, maybe a comparison with the Song My and Dresden would be more apt. But it is about time the rest of the world create a new definition to the term 'Axis of Evil'. We know it won't happen. This is just another Suez Canal, but with the backing of the US this time.

* I can only think of a couple of governments who support the illegal invasion: US, UK, Australia and Germany. And three of those doesn't even have the backing of its people.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Bike Ride: Brighton to Telscombe Cliffs

During the weekend we pushed further and biked to Telscombe Cliffs. We found an undercliff path just after Brighton Marina. It is an excellent place to cycle especially since it is quite a sight, being able to bike below a chalk cliff and also the view of the rock pools just below the path.

Riding east towards the chalk cliffs. Roedean School, a posh girls only school, is on the left while Brighton Marian is to the right.

Our bike were soaked in chalk due to the amount of rain water left over from Saturday's afternoon rain. We also cycled on the pathway next to the A259 coastal road just above the cliffs, an excellent place to put in some time on some terribly tough hills.

The view west of Saltean

From Jenni's place the ride totalled 16 miles in distance (including the excursion we had in Brighton Marina). We plan to bike again this weekend. Hopefully we are able to push a little further to Newhaven. Training is good. Maybe one day we can tackle the South Downs Way and London to Brighton bike ride.

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FilmFour is free. Yay! Thanks to Channel 4, they decided to destroy the occasion by screening the TV premiere of the awfully dreadful Lost in Translation. And a bunch of Renault ads during the first break (without the sound thankfully).

I never watched Lost in Translation because I wasn't stupid enough to be bought be the hype of Scarlett Johansson. I am not a fan of Bill Murray anyway. I thought he in Ghostbuster was horrible. They both played two horrible and downright miserable idiots who couldn't even enjoy the fact that they have the luxury to enjoy a foreign country. The Daily Mail would have been so proud of their will to NOT integrate if they were British.

Now, I am not really into political correctness despite by lefty leanings, but Lost in Translation begs to be labelled as a racist film (it isn't racist, but you can understand why many people would label it as) even if it wasn't intentional by the film makers with its many negative stereotyped views on the Japanese. What an utterly overrated film.

The great news though is there are a couple of good films to look forward this week. Australian horror Wolf Creek is being broadcasted Saturday at 11pm. Ultra cool Hong Kong flick Infernal Affairs get a second billing this Thursday also at 11pm. If you have time tonight (9pm), do enjoy Milla Jovovich in Luc Besson's The Fifth Element.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

One world, two laws

Another tyrannical nation exposed obtaining weapons of mass destruction, weapons that are needed to destroy completely a whole country. Will another group of coalition of the willing stand up and pressure some form of UN resolution to disarm said country (which has nuclear weapons)? Don't count on it. All they can do is yapp. No, I mean spin.

War crimes & WMDs. Illegal in Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran, (insert random axis of evil country) etc. Legal in Israel.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Getting monkeys to move into your village

Anyone with Animal Crossing: Wild World should seek out the nearest Nintendo DS download station. You will then be able to receive up to six exclusive Nintendo themed items. Plus a new monkey neighbour will move in!

Unfortunately some of the DS download stations does now work. I went to a GAME and Gamestation store and both their DS download stations were turned off. The staffs had zero idea on how to get them working and some of them does not even know the that customers could download demos of these pods. Lucky for my village, I managed to track down another GAME store with a working download station.

To download, turn the game on as usual and purchase a bottle from Nook and then toss it into the river/sea. Save and activate the tag mode (or contact mode for UK carts). Hover around the station until the download is complete (less than a second). Switch on the game and you will find you have a new simian villager, who will announce that they have moved from 'Nintendo'. Also head down the beach and you will find a note in a bottle with a message from Katrina, containing a Nintendo item.

Visit several times a week and soon you will have a village populated by raving simians!

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Jenni's new bike: Scott Contessa 50

Looks good, no? I am jealous. It's a ladies MTB but it does feature a traditional diamond shaped frame (Aluminium 6061) with ladies geometry. Why can't mine come in a similar light blue colour, and not boring black?

The fork is a Top Gun (by Scott?) thingy. I suspect that it will go in about a year's time to be replaced by something better, maybe a RockShox. Rear derailleur is a Shimano Acera while the front is a Shimano FDC-051. Gear shifters are from the Shimano EZ-Fire Plus series.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Irresponsible commuters

Utter disbelief was what I felt when I read this BBC magazine feature (The new commuter belt). That people would even consider commuting weekly or almost daily to work by plane and that the article seems to be treating such a practice as acceptable just boggles the mind. I can understand if you plan to live in Lille and travel daily to London on the Eurostar, but to do so by plane from Barcelona?

Sure London may be a expensive but you can easily move to a town just outside Greater London. If you are desperate for more disposable income then walk or cycle to work. I just could not imagine people would even consider commuting by plane to work. My only hope is that oil prices continue upwards and that the Treasury considers implementing a huge aviation tax.

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Mercury Music Prize 2006 nominations

Pretty good list, filled mainly with indie and britpop albums. Similar to last year's nominations, a couple of songwriters are also included and that hip hop is largely ignored (inserts unfunny evil laughter). Disappointed to see Editors (okay, but not great), Muse (average) and Arctic Monkeys (overhyped monkeys) making the list though. I never 'got' Radiohead so I am a little bit sceptical about Thom York's The Eraser.

I would have preferred if they would have nominated Dirty Pretty Things and Belle & Sebastian to satisfy the mainstream indie crowd. I do hope that Isobel Campbell (former Belle & Sebastian vocalist/cellist) and Mark Lanegan (okay, he isn't British but so what?) wins with their debut Ballad of the Broken Seas album If not there are many who I think deserves to win, including Hot Chip and Guillemots.

However knowing that this is the Mercury Music Prize, I believe the judges will cock it up once again. I predict an easy win by the Arctic Monkeys, followed by a chorus of "what the fuck" follow up blog posts by people like me. We will see.

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Monday, July 17, 2006

Product Review: FranceMed Pharma's Magicool

Ah, another mini head-wave threatens Briton. Here is something that you may find useful. The Magicool.

We bought a couple of these about three weeks ago and used one during the first summer 'super heat-wave'. Now the manufacturers claims that this is the world's first and only safe instant cooling spray. It works as a personal air-conditioner and is apparently CFC free.

It is simple to use really. Just spray it all over your body (a couple of seconds per surface) from a foot away, like you would normally do with a deodorant or hairspray. It does work, for a while (about a minute), before you start heating up again. It provide light relief from when you are truly experiencing heat exhaustion like we did during Wimbledon. We also used it when we went cycling and when the cheap fan stopped working.

The downside is these products, while easily obtainable in health stores (we got ours at Boots), may frighten easily paranoid people, especially if you start spraying yourself while traveling on the Tube. Also, the scent while smells like cheap fragrance. Fortunately unlike deodorants, it isn't permanent. It is musky, almost like bad vanilla. The 'unscented' version, weirdly enough, seems to smell almost as strongly as the scented version.

I do find it better if you just splash some water but recognise that not anyone can do that and in certain situations - it would probably be frowned upon. Like when you are trying to sleep. So despite it's rather overhyped marketing content, Magicool does produce, albeit briefly, cooling elements for that emergency situations when you just need a temporary relief from the hot summer days.

At a fiver a pop, it is pretty pricey. Best to get them during one of those '3 for 2' offers or by trading in your loyalty points at Boots. It isn't the best cooling product out there (paddling in Trafalgar Square fountains is easily the best cooling method in London), but it beats having to visit the hospital due to heat exhaustion.

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Friday, July 14, 2006

More monkey business from the Middle East

In retaliation to kidnapping one guy (wrong), you kill 100 people (very wrong). Nice one. There is no right in this conflict and yet sometimes the media overplays the defence of a country.

The ego that is being displayed by a military that has 1000 times the budget of another country is just mindblowing. And yet we are seeing the same thing happening in Iraq. Start a mess by creating a war, claimed to have won the war, backtracked by claiming that the war isn't over and now, a total civil war. Way to go destroying a whole country.

I do not 'support' any spoilt brats in this conflict of egos. I wish governments on both sides of the pond to just go away and let the people decide without a single fucking bullet in sight. The people suffering most are the innocent civilians who are being bombarded using precision missles and such, just as in Iraq.

The fact is by calling the kidnapping of two soliders an 'act of war' is mindblowingly ironic as the state itself has kidnapped thousands of innocent people, locked them up in self-imposed villages of prisons, blew up buildings used by civilians and murdered journalists and peace activisits.

Last I checked, if other governments would to align their policy of agression to Israel's, then many countries in the world would do just well to declare war on Israel themselves, including the British government. Unfortunately as it was with Saddam Hussien's Iraq (similarly sponsored by the west in the 1980s), they just won't do a damn thing to stop innocent people from being killed until it's too late.

It is no wonder there are people who view Israel as a pariah state. Give up the guns, start the negotiating process again and for once try not to be a cowboy. To the muslim 'freedom fighters', stop fighting for a change and stop giving the Israel government an excuse to kill innocent people.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Film Review: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

When I visited Disneyland (Anaheim) many years ago, I rode the Pirates of the Carribean theme ride. It was a pretty good experience. It was also the time when I started playing Lucas Art's Monkey Island series of video games, which contains references to Pirates of the Carribean theme ride. We all loved immersing ourselves in pirates lores when we were growing up and I wouldn't expect nothing less from you.

We went to the theater to watch Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest during the weekend, armed with a not too high expectation. I am aware that Hollywood loves to butcher good franchise. Lucky for us, apart from being too long, a rather dodgy opening and long sequences, it was a pretty entertaining film. The first Pirates of the Carribean film was one of my favourite action/comedy films that I watched numerous of times. This was one of the Jerry Bruckheimer films that was respectable (he hasn't got many you have to admit).

Dead Man's Chest is an excellent sequel. Quite a number of people has dubbed it the equivalent to Empire Strikes Back - a sentiment I agree with. The original comedic and carefree attitude of the first film is retained while the action, intensity and 'darkness' level has been notched up several times up. They even brought back Pintel and Ragetti, probably to boost the comic level of the film, to such a great success. Mackenzie Crook was brilliant.

Body counts do rise up early on and the gory effect were pretty decent for a 12A film. Character development, already pretty good in the first film, retains the same pace in Dead Man's Chest. The 'love triangle' setup for the third film will only pave for further character development - something we should thank the scriptwriters for. I am also glad that key (main) characters from the first film has returned, and judging by the ending, more will be in the next sequal.

CGI effects were well done. I would even class it close to the effects of Lord of the Rings series of films. It is years and leaps ahead of that other dreadful CGI crapfest that graced my unfortunate eyes (Harry Potter 4). I read that Bill Nighly's character (Davy Jones) was 100% CGI, which was quite a shock to me. Maybe photorealism effects has finally arrived. Davy Jones does seem more 'real' than even Peter Jackson's snarling little ex-hobbit.

The other special effect - to boost the cup size of Keira Knightley wasn't as impressive though. The apparent clevage that she boasted during a scene was pretty in your face, but when she turned her body suddenly her chest seems flat. Still kudos to the airbrushing team for creating what seemed at first to be quite an impressive set of bosoms. Unfortunately the costume department failed to provide proper padding later in the film to reflect her early hourglass figure. But then again, the costume department did a great job for most part of the film.

The plot can get lost during the numerous side quests of the protagonists and plot holes. I am also disappointed that the film auteurs has decided to create a rather long and pointless sword fighting sequence towards the end, which can get a little bit boring after a while. That and the fact that the film was just too long.

We truly enjoyed the film. In an age where we hardly go to the movies after cancelling our annual cinema membership, I am glad that we chose something that was enjoyable. We eagerly await the finale, out next year.

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Monday, July 10, 2006

Brilliant headbutt

Everyone seems to be talking about it, so I think I will just chip in my opinion.

I believe that most people isn't giving Zidane a whole lot of positive spin over the incident. Come on, he single handedly improved the coverage of football. Italy may have won, but hardly anybody is talking about them. Without his awesome headbutt, today's papers would just be full of default articles by pundits about how deserving (or not) the Italians were (and the occasional England crisis opinion).

I actually fell asleep during the dull match. Most overpaid and spoilt players (from all countries) feign injuries even when they are tickled, but the way that Italian player fell down was just awesome. The quality of the headbutting was either brilliant or the Italian was diving, again, which wouldn't surprise me.

No idea what the guy said, but maybe Zizou should have kept his cool. I would try too if I were in his position. But people have limit and people do crack. I may have if someone were to wind me up with a serious comment.

From that sort of reaction I can only imagine something racist was said, but who knows, eh? Nobody is saying that what he did was right, but jolly it has been one boring World Cup final, and a headbutt was something Fifa needed.

We had moments of brilliance in this whole World Cup of course - comedy refs, melees and of course England getting kicked out again. While the media is having a jolly time slating Zizou we should remember that most people here also worship football thugs, including Becks, Shrek and Keano among others.

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Saturday, July 8, 2006

My new bike: Giant Boulder 2005

It isn't exactly new (it's used), but as this is my first bike for quite some time, I would consider it a new bike regardless. Got it for £110 from a used bike store in Brighton, a steal considering that it costed £220 new (plus being a Giant is a huge bonus). Frame is aluminium 6061 (17" frame size). Front fork contains a SR Suntour SF-XC60 suspension. Gear shifters are Shimano EZ-Fire (3 front, 7 back).

Gave it a test by riding it to Portslade and back. Works fine. Frame is steady. I would need to reset the breaks though and the gears are a little bit sick too, so I would probably send it in for servicing soon. I am pretty happy with the purchase. Some things I would get rid off in the future like the crappy pedals and getting new handles, but right now it works fine as a casual "entry level" MTB.

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Some tennis stuff

Bloody fuck. Tooch-ache arrives. Now more money needed to spend on rip-off NHS dentists. What I really need now is one of those Cannabis ice-tea.

Anyway, am looking forward to today's Wimbledon ladies' finals between Amelie Mauresmo and Justine Henin-Hardenne. I will be supporting Mauresmo of course but common sense meant that I think that Henin-Hardenne will win. We will see. Similar with the gentlemens' finals, I will be rooting for Rafael Nadal because we need a new Wimbledon champion. But I still think Roger Federer will emerge with his fourth title this Sunday.

Continuing with tennis, the day before queuing for Wimbledon we brought our DS Lite consoles to hack away time. We weren't going to be drinking lots and lots of alcohol like our front neighbuor did (I counted about 30 500mm cans of beers). So what did I get? Top Spin 2.

There has been a lot of criticism of Top Spin 2 for DS. The main thing that seems to irk reviewers was the frame rate issue. Having now given it a go I agree that the frame rate was a negative, but I don't think it really matters much. The framerate isn't that bad and the loading time, while slow, was comparable to fixed console loading times. The graphics on the other hand are impressive with full 3D graphics during play. Player animations are fluid and realistic.

There are sixteen licensed real world players, including Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova, each having their own unique facial built, clothings and statistics. Some even had built-in grunts in them. Playing as Sharapova for example would have her grunting anytime you hit the ball at a certain pace. Some of the locations are licensed as well and Wimbledon even had its official name there. Having been to Centre Court I can honestly say that the developers has recreated the arena pretty well. Occasionally people will shout encouragement too. This is the kind of details that I loved.

Top Spin 2 is quite simple an underrated game that should have been given a chance. I do hope they resolve the framerate issue for the next version (as well as implementing WiFi multiplayer like the Xbox 1.5 version). but I am quite content with this version. If this were a review I would have given the game a 6.5/10.

Now something about the World Cup. Who here is fed-up with the ongoing hate campaign with some Portugal winger? Sure that guy is a diver but seriously if a player in the team you are supporting dives you wouldn't be complaining now would you? Michael Owen does. Thierry Henry does. And Shrek does. So get over it.

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Thursday, July 6, 2006

One year ago...

London United

We all remembered it, when the jubilation of London winning the Olympics turned into horror. Because of this I will not blog tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 5, 2006

My Wimbledon Centre Court Ladies' Quarter Finals pictures

Maria Sharapova (4) Vs Elena Dementieva (7)

The match was a pretty disappointement. It was too short. We wanted an exciting match but Elena Dementieva kept making too many simple mistakes.

Granted Sharapova's grunts were quite annoying until Elena tried to mimic her's by creating an almost amusing grunt. It was pretty funny. But still we pushed her on. We wanted her to fight back. And while most of the crowds were supporting Sharapova, they are also keen on seeing a quality match that doesn't end in two sets.

Probably the only real highlight was the emergence of the streaker. He was sitting about a couple of seats from us. Below is a censored version of the shot I took.

Look at the number of ladies with their eyes wide open and smiling (some laughing too):

Update: Due to request, the uncensored picture can be found here. Please note that this is not suitable for work.

The streaker sat here, I must remember not to sit there...!

Victory, and one of the rare moments when Sharapova smiled:

Didn't I mention we had great seats?

Kim Clijsters (2) Vs Na Li (27)

In this match I was clearly rooting for Kim Clijsters. I read some articles about China's Na Li and frankly I do not like her one bit. At least not her attitude. The second reason why I am rooting for Kim is I want to see her face off again with her fellow Belgium rival Justine Henin-Hardenne. She didn't disappoint although she did have trouble despacting Na Li during the second set. But great and wonderful show court match though.

Yesterday's Centre Court ended with mens doubles, which not many people cared for, so we left early to enjoy the rest of the ground. I hope to be able to visit Centre Court again next year.

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Product Review: Samsung YP-U1Q 2GB Digital Audio Player

I received the Samsung YP-U1Q 2GB DAP last week and been using it as my portable player for some time. It has since replaced my Creative MuVo Micro 1GB as my daily player, both for sports and casual use. I won this from somewhere (can't remember what it was that I entered, must be from a mag or website - I enter in loads of competitions, trying to get freebies). In this review I will occasionally compare the YP-U1 to the Creative MuVo Micro/Zen Nano Plus.

The body, in classic lighter shape, is made of plastic with in two tone colour (black and silver) set against a chromed directional pad. The plastic is strong and doesn't 'feel' cheap. And for glossy haters like me, well it isn't glossy. This means less fingerprints to look at. Also my toy came in black. Black. Yes. Black. Not dull white.

On the back side there is a full size USB plug that folds away into the body hidden by a switch. The fold away design is quite annoying but on the whole I found it liberating to be able to find a PC and literally plug-in and play without any cumbersome cables. You won't be needing any special proprietary clutter ware softwares like Itunes to transfer files. The full size USB plus is also a necessary because that is the only way to charge the player.

Annoyingly Samsung did not provide a wall socket charger for people on the go. Fortunately there are third party USB slot wall chargers already on the market for around ten quid so it isn't that bad.

It takes about a mere 2 hours to fully charge the battery. Note that this may depend on the amount of power that your PC's USB slot is able to provide. For example I tested this on a six year old Dell Inspiron and the USB port would only supply enough juice to charge the player when in BIOS. The battery itself depletes in roughly 12 hours of usage the first time I used it. It isn't bad, but I wished it would be as good as Sony DAPs (which can exceed 30 hours on some models) or even Creative Zen Nanos.

The four line LCD screen contains a white backlit that is easy on the eye. I wish there was also an option to invert the backlit for nighttime usage (white text over black background) but as it is, the screen is easy to read.

A lanyard loop can be found on the top of the device close to the 3.5mm headphone socket. It is rather close and I could foresee problems with trying to fit bigger plugs into the socket. Bad Samsung for the idiotic lanyard loop placement.

The navigational d-pad also doubles as the next/forward/volume up/volume down button. Curiosly the centre d-pad isn't for play/pause, but for triggering the menu/playlist/ok/close functions. Weird. The play/pause/stop button is on the side of the body which isn't the best place to have one. I can live with that but I do wish Samsung took the common sense route and made the BIGGEST button the play/pause button.

There is also a dedicated Hold button on the bottom side of the player which is similar to those found on many models of Sony Walkmans. This is a huge improvement over Creative's implementation of the Hold function (you need to activate it through the menu, which was hardly intuitive).

The player supports MP3, WMA, WMA VBR, WMA DRM and most importantly the verenable OggVorbis file format. Support for OGG is said to include VBR but it seems to hate my custom Ogg VBR settings, which is a real shame.

Sound fidelity is comparable to the Creative. It has a dedicated bass boost option and a 9 band graphical equaliser (the Creative had 5-band) and I threw everything at it - Thrash, pop, classical, jazz etc. and all sound fine if you play around with the custom equaliser. The included earphones isn't that bad as far as freebie earphones are concerned but is pretty awful when compared to the Creative freebie.

The only major problems seems to be that on certain computers like my girlfriend's, the player seems to freeze the PC when plugged into a PC that is starting up or shutting down. Transfering large number of files is also slow for some reason. It is quick the first time around but since then it was a hassle. It may just be disagreeing with her PC because on mine it works just fine.

It costs roughly £80-£90 to purchase this from a high street shop which is a bargain me thinks. Well I got it for free so it's even better, but even at £90, that is roughly £50 cheaper than a 2GB iPod Nano and just £10 more than a screenless plasticy and ugly 1GB iPod Shuffle. Sony also has a 2GB lighter style model for £100 and appears to have a much better battery technology (50 hours on a single charge) but you may have to offset that against Samsung's ease of use. If you don't need 2GB, the newer Samsung YP-U2 1GB model comes in at £70 (high street price) and features an updated design (it has an exposed USB plug, better d-pad and INVERTED backlit).

A note of warning though, Samsung is notorious for poor customer service. Occasionally companies like Creative, Sony and Samsung would release new firmwares for their DAP products which is fine, as it tends to fix problems, introduce new features and improve battery life. However unlike Creative, Samsung's website only host the OLDER version of the firmware. The version on my player was 3.x where as the one on the website was 2.x, a full one product update BELOW, and that isn't including all the dot upgrades since then. Pitiful.

However don't let that distract you. Out of the box the player and new, the YP-U1Q is a handy and versatile player. It lost some of the functionality that came with my Creative MuVo/Zen, but it remembers that it is first and foremost a Digital Music Player and not pretends to be something else. It does what it does good and that is a blessing for people on the market for that. There are no gimmicks, no crappy games, no built-in calendar or address book or movie player.


Nice classic lighter style design
Non-glossy body
High impact plastic (I dropped this on the pavement and no scractes were found)
Rechargable battery (lasted about 15 hours on my first charge)
Intuitive menu
No multiple playlists
Support for WMA VBR, OggVorbis and MP3 file formats
Sound quality is pretty good (similar to the Creative) and abit louder too


Fewer functions compared to the equalvelent Creative DAPs (no handy line-in recordings or FM radio)
Non-removable battery
No charger included - you will have to charge via USB
Seems to be freezing the computer if not removed from USB slot before shutting down/starting up PC

Tuesday, July 4, 2006

Queuing for Wimbledon 2006

Some of you probably know that I was at Wimbledon today due to an over-enthusiastic text message I sent out.

I have always wanted to attend Wimbledon but due to freakish weather of sorts (and general laziness in obtaining the tickets) I have never. But this 'heatwave' (that apparently can kill you) started hitting London last weekend and that was it. Surely this 'nice' weather can't last forever, so it was now or never.

We started queuing at about 6pm on Monday. There were already 11 people in front of us. These are the queue cards that you will receive from the stewards on your arrival if you decide to queue for a next day ticket:

During queue time our address was 'Queue no xx, North side, Church Road' in case we wanted deliveries from the local takeaways.

Tuesday morning and we all have to pack our stuff by 6:45am to move the queue into the golf course...

...where we had to wait until 8:30am to go through an airport style security check. Some people caught up with sleep while some, like Jennifer, played with Nintendo DS (no actually there was just the two of us - no wonder kids were pointing at us to their mothers).

Another queue for the ticket gate which opened at 9:15am. A bunch of Americans eyeing for centre court tickets broke up and went into three separate ticket booths asking about the tickets while pissing the rest of us. They couldn't make up their mind that they had to let us go first. The ringleader (the mum) even had the cheek to ask me to climb over to the next ticket booth so it would be easier for us to go through.

We were in at 9:20am!

And here are our tickets. We weren't as fussy as the Americans. We just asked for closest to the court please and we got just that. Entrance A, row A, Seat 005/006 - that is as close as you can get to the court AND the player's entrance/exit.

Centre Court play begins at 1pm so we wasted time sampling overpriced canteen food and getting rehydrated due to the famous London heatwave.

We headed to the training ground when the rest of Wimbledon opened at 10:30am. Here we saw Russia's Elena Dementieva training for her (then) afternoon match with Maria Sharapova.

Last year's Wimbledon semi-finalist Amelie Mauresmo was also practicing for today's No 1 Court quarter final ladies match.

We saw Sharapova heading towards the training ground...

...where we followed her to see what she was up to. Unfortunately the access to the training ground is restricted so we had to just wait for her quarter final match later in the afternoon.

12:30pm Centre Court. This was our view. The royal box was to our right (out of shot) as was the player's entrance/exit.

That's it for now. I will try to post the pictures (different camera) I took during the Maria Sharapova/Elena Dementieva (pretty dull - and yes their on-site grunting match proved to be popular entertainment to us) and Kim Clijsters/Na Li (more exciting) quarter final matches. That includes the nude streaker that interrupted the Sharapova/Dementieva match.

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