Friday, January 30, 2009

Spotify

Spotify is music streaming platform that I've been using (and loving) recently. It uses a combination of server based streaming and P2P, where files are cached into the user's harddrive and then made available to other user's computer, to deliver music to the end user. Streaming starts the moment you click on a particular track and there has never been stuttering or disconnection on my part. You will also hear an advert every couple or so tracks in the free version.


The Windows client is very fast and functional. Best of all the latest build has last.fm integration built-in, so any of tracks you listen to is automatically scrobbed. There are a couple of caveats though. First, there is still no client for Series 60, yet (for now the best radio application on S60 IMO is Mobbler, a third party last.fm client). Second, the Windows client has a pseudo Mac OS X look which I personally find to be ugly and also not too creative...

Anyway Spotify is an excellent piece of online streaming kit which I recommend to anyone who loves music. If you require an invite just leave your e-mail here or e-mail me (my address is on the right column). I've got about 8 invites remaining.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: A Disquiet Follows My Soul

The 14th episode (or 12th not counting Razor) of the final season of Battlestar Galactica is actually the directorial d├ębut of series creator Ronald D. Moore. Like the previous episode, A Disquiet Follows My Soul is a bottle episode, meaning it is relatively action-free episode with very few special effects. In this episode we see the crew of Galactica and the fleet increasingly frustrated by the discovery of Earth as well as Adama's decision to alliance with the rebel Cylons. The need to upgrade the Colonial fleet's FTL technology, that would mean the boarding of the ships by Cylons, also causes a political fallout with Tom Zarek leading a revolt.

Re-cap (with spoilers)
  • Galen Tyrol isn't the biological father of Cally's child. Hera thus remains the first and only Human-Cylon child.
  • Nicky's real biological father is Hot Dog.
  • Roslin seems to have given up. She is also bald.
  • Zarek leads a revolt in the quarom and a vote bars Cylons from entering the fleet without prior permission.
  • Felix accuses Kara as a Cylon colloborator. I wished she socked him then and there.
  • The Trylium ship jumps away under orders by Zarek, though it was quickly recaptured.
  • Felix proposes a mutiny with Zarek.
  • Adama and Roslin gets it on.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sennheiser HD650 for £179.99

Amazon UK has the Sennheiser HD650, their high-end audiophile reference headphones, for a rather low cost of £179.99. Not bad considering it is being sold for US$500 across the pond. The relatively low price is likely due to the pending arrival of the new top of the line HD800 headphones.

The HD650 is an open, dynamic headphone and is based on the award winning HD600 headphones with improved materials for "better sound reproduction". It comes with a standard two year warranty.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Resistance: Retribution impressions

Sony Bend Studio's last PSP game wasn't that great. In fact it was awful. But by the simple fact of giving people the option to use auto-target, their latest game Resistance: Retribution plays a bit like a proper console shooter game as it does make use of the face buttons (which emulate the functions of the right analogue pad rather shoddily) less important. Still even though Resistance: Retribution looks like a third person shooter, it is actually more similar to a first person game.



Toggling the up button allows you to switch between auto and manual aim. Most of the time you will likely just ignore them as manual mode is simply too difficult to use (it zooms in a bit). The left button reloads your weapons and pressing the right will cycle through the available weapons. Firing is via the right shoulder button whilst the left shoulder button offers an alternate fire (if available). Sony Bend has also coded in options that will allows you to customise the speed and acceleration somewhat though I think the default setting was perfect. You can also turn off aim assist and auto recentre if you feeling a bit superior. Weapons includes an automatic, rifle, grenades and rocker launcher. No doubt more will be uncovered in the full game.

Auto aiming works well. As enemies enter the area covered by your weapons reticule you can merely press the right shoulder button down to lock on the enemy and let it do the work. At most you will need to run around for cover, kill a bunch of close enemies, switch to the rocker launcher and aim at ranged enemies like giant robots. I was fairly surprised by how intuitive the controls were considering how much I hated the PSP version of Syphon Filter. Here I found the gameplay to be of second nature, so well done to Sony Bend in getting at least the controls right.



The visuals are rather impressive. The frame rate is very smooth and never stuttered despite the number of enemies and special effects. While the grotto is fairly limiting (there is no sense of epic scale in the demo), the graphical details are still incredible. The load time seems to be very quick, not surprising considering I was running the demo from a Memory Stick. Perhaps the only issues of contention I can think of is the lack of anti-aliasing filter, and it doesn't look nearly as pretty as God of War: Chains of Olympus (which I doubt any developer can surpass except maybe Ready at Dawn themselves).

Resistance: Retribution certainly looks good and the gameplay seems to be working fine. In a year where one isn't expecting plenty of quality games, it is one of the few PSP titles (including Dissidia, Disgaea 2 and Patapon 2) I am actually looking forward to.

This impression is based on the demo. Resistance: Retribution is due out this March.

Monday, January 19, 2009

EU bureaucrats

As much as I hate Internet Explorer I do not buy EU's argument against Microsoft for bundling IE in their Windows OS. Jesus, Apple bundles their crappy Safari web browser with Mac OSX and until recently would not allow people to install third party web browsers on the iPhone despite calling it a 'smartphone'. What about iTunes? Nokia bundles a webkit browser on their Series 60 phones. Hell, even Nintendo is going to bundle a crappy web browser on the next DS revision. For fuck's sake how the fuck am I going to download Firefox and Opera if my system does not come with a web browser.

Fucking hypocrites.

Stop wasting our money and work on improving our lives instead. Jeez.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: Sometimes A Great Notion re-cap

Holy frak.

The 13th episode (or 11th not counting Razor) of the final season of Battlestar Galactica did not disappoint. I know that some has been lamenting the lack of cohesive direction the series has been heading, but boy am I happy that finally some questions are finally being answered even as new ones are being created. The revelation of the last Cylon may prove significant just yet (and I have a theory on that - see below). But with just nine full-lenght episodes to go I question whether or not the series can afford to play around with new plots and story arcs. We will see.



Some spoiler-free re-cap:
  • Earth was nuked, that much we have always known - but how long ago was revealed.
  • Starbuck and Leoben finds something that freaks Starbuck.
  • For the first time ever Leoben looks genuinely puzzled and frightened.
  • Tyrol remembers something.
  • Anders remembers something.
  • Tigh remembers something.
Proper re-cap (the one with the spoilers)
  • Earth was nuked 2000 years ago.
  • All bones so far has been found to have once belonged to Cylons.
  • Basically the 13th Colony were Cylons. Earth's humans were Cylons. Just a different form of Cylons to the one the Colonies created.
  • Starbuck and Leoben finds the wreckage of Starbuck's Viper, and her charred remains.
  • Dee gets back together with Lee for one final date, then kills herself.
  • Tyrol, Anders, Tigh, Tory lived on Earth 2000 years ago.
  • William Adama, griefed stricken, did not succed in killig himself via a Cylon. Great scene.
  • Ellen is the fifth Cylon.
Some theories:
  • Earth's Cylons can reborn, or at least the so-called final fives.
  • In fact Ellen is being reborn. She is the baby inside Caprica Six.
  • Kara isn't a Cylon, but she isn't human either. My guess is she is the first Cylon/Human hybrid.
  • The ones who nuked Earth were humans, possibly Colonists. If not a schism has developed between the Earth's Cylons (who by then has forgotten they were Cylons).
  • There is no 'Final Five', everyone is a Cylons. In fact we will see Dee, Cally, Billy, pretty much everyone whom we thought was frakked - back. Lame but Cally kicking Tory's ass would be wonderful.

Sennheiser MX 300 headphone review



So what can you expect from £5 these days? Well you could get a 'burger' or two at McDonalds. Or you could get a Sennheiser MX 300 from Richer Sound.

I wasn't expecting much when the Richer Sound guy chuck a pair into my palm. After all the MX 300 is Sennheiser's lowest common denominator in a range that spans from it to the £200 high-end IEM IE 8. The case housing the driver is made of plastic and felt cheap and light. The cable was thick and sturdy, an actual improvement over the cables used on some of their more expensive headphones like the CX 300. Overall the design is pretty generic. In fact the MX 300 is quite possibly the ugliest earphones I have ever seen. Still what matters is whether it sounds good...



Not expecting much I tore the poly bag, unplugged my Klipsch, plugged in the MX 300 and pressed 'Play'. Whoa. This little thing sounds amazing (for its price). Sure they sound like crap when compared to the Custom-3 (or any of the Customs actually...) and is uncomfortable like hell, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. The bass was almost none-existent until I used the EQ to increase the low-end. The highs were shrilled a little bit and vocals recessed. But they do sound way better than the stock buds that came with my old Creative MuVo and Samsung DAP, though no where near the clarity of my Walkman's stock headphones. They also don't leak as much sound as the Sonys though.

I wouldn't exactly recommend the MX 300 at least unless you really really need something cheap. It is probably wise to get the best that your budget would permit and unless you are only planning on spending a mere £5 (versus the hundred or two you plonked down for your DAP), I would recommend something like the Sennheiser CX 300 or Denon AH-C351 instead for those on a tight budget.

But for people who hates canalphones and finds them uncomfortable or just do not care that much about sound quality (shame on you), and more importantly for the idiots who pay £25 to replace their bundled iPod headphones with the same, you really can't go wrong with Sennheiser's MX series.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Nokia E71 first impressions



I've been playing with my loaner E71 for a couple of hours now and I am finding myself loving the experience. The E71 is the QWERTY version of the E66 which I've reviewed previously. Apart from some minor changes inside (lack of accelerometer, much larger battery) and the form factor, it is practically the same device. As with the E51 and E66, the built quality is excellent with its lovely and tough stainless steel body.

The keypad is stunningly usable, much more than those virtual keyboards I've tried on those touch screen-only devices. Almost immediately I found myself accustomed to the keypad, typing out messages with far less mistakes and far quicker than I did when playing around with the Blackberry Storm and Apple iPhone. The only QWERTY devices I've reasonable experience with were the XDA IIs (HTC Blue Angel), XDA mini S (HTC Wizard) and XDA Exec (HTC Universal). All were excellent devices with excellent keypads, but I personally am finding the E71's keypad to be offer better response, tactile feedback and accuracy.

Look out for my review once I have installed a couple of favourite applications and have more time with the device.

Nintendo's new controller

Virgin Trains

Virgin Trains wants £5 admin fee to process a refund for tickets we never use. This despite the train service being completely cancelled due to their fucking incompetence in managing the West Coast line and having a line that breaks within the first sight of slow.

Fucking cunts.

Update: They refunded, minus a £10 admin fee. Daylight robbery. Fucktards.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Oh Britain...

These were the best selling video games in Britain last year... Oh dear.

1. Mario Kart Wii
2. Wii Fit
3. Wii Play
4. Dr Kawashima's Brain Training
5. Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii)
6. GTA IV (360)
7. GTA IV (PS3)
8. Call of Duty: World at War (360)
9. Carnival Funfair (Wii)
10. FIFA 09 (360)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Belated New Year's resolution

  1. Read more books (currently 2-3 a week - I would like to do 4-5 a week minimum)
  2. Get back to cycling (currently 0 miles a week for shame - I would love to do at least 20-30 miles on weekends, but I've to get back in shape first)
  3. Listen to more new music via the fantastic last.fm site
  4. Completing more video games (as in back catalogue)
  5. Getting more sleep (I average 5-6 hours a night currently)

Palm webOS and Pre smartphone


My first proper tablet PDA was a Palm m500. I've since owned various Palm OS devices since including the Sony Clie N760, T615 (sexier than an iPhone - look it up), NR70V and the famous Palm Tungsten T3. What I've never owned however was their Treo smartphone line. Instead I've always preferred Series 60 or Windows Mobile for my smartphone need. This may soon change...

Many has writen off Palm, Inc. as a dead horse (including me), but today has proven us wrong (well almost). Palm still has a lot to do if they ever want to claw their previous marketshare (highly unlikely IMO), and the new webOS and Palm Pre smartphone seems to be the right start. The OS look the part, and more importantly they seem to be designed with functionality first. The Pre on the other hand reminds me of the HTC Blue Angel (which I owned briefly) and seems to be very usable, albeit a bit on the ugly side. Hopefully the GSM version will be prettier.

Daily Mail's war on eco lightbulbs

Not content with hating Muslims, immigrants, Portuguese, gays, darkies, communists and everyone else, the Daily Mail has set its bigotry sight on energy saving lightbulbs, claiming that it can cause skin cancer or whatever. They are also moaning the pending death and unavailability of these 'traditional' and 'beloved' incandescent thingies. Remember this is from the same paper who enjoys complaining about rising cost of living and electricity costs. Go figure.

Anyway the good people at the Daily Mail is offering five "free" 100W (who uses 100W bulbs anyway?) tungsten lightbulbs. Whoopeedoo! Now you just need to buy 12 of their "newspapers" at 50p each and send them a cheque for £1.63.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Sony Walkman NWZ-X1000 DAP with OLED touchscreen



I am really digging the design. It reminds me of the classic Clie TH55 PDA. It has both touchscreen and dedicated buttons (volume, play, skip, back). Finally, a touchscreen DAP that makes sense and has usable blind controls. It also has a nice 3" OLED screen. Other features includes WiFi, acitve noise cancellation (headphone independent), Web browser, You Tube and a proper GUI. It will be available in 16GB and 32GB flavours. I don't really like the headphone jack's placement, but at least it makes sense in regards to the control layout.

If my relatively new S639 is sentient, it ought to be feeling worried.

Updated:

There will be two flavours to the X1000-series, the NWZ-X1050 (16GB) and X1060 (32GB). The X1060B is now available for pre-order at Amazon UK and Amazon.com

National Rail

Graeme Monteith, a chartered engineer from the Institution of Civil Engineers, says the freezing weather would have played a part in Network Rail's woes.

"You can't hang the blame on Network Rail for cracked rails," he said.

Such problems were difficult to anticipate, he said, and were brought on by the very cold temperatures. (via)
I am no engineer, but even I know this is bollocks. This is Great Britain, a country which has seen snows and arctic conditions since the creation of trains, and will continue to see it for a very long time. These weather conditions should have been anticipated. Instead while rail fares has increased every year, almost all the time above inflation, the service goes from bad to worse. There is absolute no excuse.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Friday, January 2, 2009

Klipsch UK's Image X10 offer


Klipsch's Image X10 is easily the sexiest and smallest high-end IEM I've ever laid my eyes on. Unfortunately they are pretty expensive. Klipsch UK, in conjunction with What Hi-Fi? Sound & Vision, is offering the Image X10 for a slightly better price of £129.99 down from £179.99, the same price as the mid-range X5. The offer ends on 6 January.

Unfortunately for me and my wallet, I am all spent out. :( You can read my opinion of Klipsch's Custom-3 here.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year

Wishing for a truly stable world, but somehow I doubt it will come true (way to be a true cynic).

Happy New Year you chums!