Shiny, stompy

Janet is now the proud owner of a black 16GB iPod nano 4G. It’s shiny. It’s curvy. It’s tiny. It even has a motion sensor so you can play little marble-rolling games — for some reason. Considering that this is an upgrade from an old mp3 player that only had space for three albums, she’s very pleased.

We saw the Watchmen trailer at the cinema for the first time today, and it looks great. I also [via percyprune] really like this viral marketing for Watchmen in the form of a faux-historical news article on Dr Manhattan. Really nicely done.

And finally for snowking on the occasion of Hoggmas, hot on the heels of the Steampunk Cyberman comes a competition to design a Steampunk Cylon. STOMPY.

Fangs and Shiny Thangs

Disturbingly, LiveJournal has apparently morphed into UndeadJournal. My Halloween-loving wife approves of this “tremendously”. She’s already bought some sweets in preparation for the trick-or-treaters this Friday. She’s also bought a Witch’s hat because the team on her enquiries desk at work are dressing up for the occasion. And, yes, she’s now pretending to be a zombie and saying “Grr, Argh”, which segue-ways me nicely into…

Joss Whedon has posted about Dollhouse in his inimitable (i.e. insane and free-associative) way. He talks about the show and its behind-the-scenes trials and tribulations. It seems like a fairly honest post given how much detail he goes into about the difficulties with the network, but he also sounds enthused. Right now I really have no idea what to expect from this show or its premise, or if I’ll even like it, but I’m definitely intrigued to find out.

Today I succeeded in viewing the BBC iPlayer on our Wii, using the internet channel (for which I had to pay a trivial but somehow annoying £3.50). The Wii is an incredibly clunky way to browse the internet, with all sorts of zooming in, zooming out, scrolling around pages and trying to hit tiny buttons with the blunt instrument that is the Wii remote. It’s a bit like doing watch repair while wearing oven gloves. However I did succeed in streaming part of Simon Schama’s series about the U.S. using this method. Of all the ways to get TV on demand this is probably not going to win anyone over, but it does actually work. After a fashion.

I also now have a new mobile phone. I went with the Samsung G600 in the end, because although I don’t think it’s the best phone out there, it’s the best one whose shininess I fell in love with. My verdict: shiny! Seems good so far. Okay, I had to do a stupid menu hack to get it to synch with the PC, and if I want mp3 text-message tones I have to upgrade the firmware with a special cable I don’t own, but these niggles aside it’s a nice phone to use. I now have the Firefly End Theme as my ringtone. Did I mention the shiny?

Dear (ebook) reader

My wife asks me to put the following issue to the enlightened denizens of LiveJournal. Since I don’t know any, I’m asking you lot.

For some time now (and specifically after seeing them on The Gadget Show) Janet has been considering getting an ebook reader.

You must understand that my wife reads a lot of books. She owns a lot of books. She owns a lot of books she hasn’t even read. She and books share an understanding. She even makes books. It’s not that she wants to replace books.

However she does think that it would be cool to download books: it would save on shelf space, and it would be handy when going on holiday. Now that ebook readers use ‘e-paper’ that doesn’t flicker or tire the eyes but looks just like printed text on a page, she’s getting really tempted. It’s this Sony model which has caught her eye.

On the plus side it looks decent, is small and light, gets good reviews and supports a variety of formats including the new standard “epub” file, audio and image files. Waterstones are promoting it and if she orders it by 3rd September you get 500 bonus points. They’ll have more than 25,000 ebooks to buy from September. She could download new books instantly, and cart them around. Plus she’d be living in Teh Futur.

On the down side it’s still pretty costly (circa £200), and the technology is still in its infancy so it could quickly become out of date (e.g. although it can display images the screen is currently only black and white). Also the files seem to generally come with DRM restricting how you can use them — i.e. a max of six devices — which seems like it goes against the spirit of a book. Most worrying of all, there are proprietary formats it can’t play (including Amazon Kindle) so you can’t necessarily just download ebooks from the US where they are plentiful. This last one is really what’s made her stop and think.

Personally I suspect that I’d love to own one of these but I’d never actually use it. I’m also incredibly materialistic and like having shelves full of *things*. I still buy CDs, even though I immediately convert them to mp3. I’m also not keen on the inverted “negative” image you get for a moment whenever the page changes, which can be seen on this video.

Opinions and anecdotes gratefully received. She’ll probably ignore you and do what she was going to do anyway, but you never know…

Broadband woes

Anyone got any idea about this one?

Our broadband has been absolutely fine since we had a BT engineer come and update our master socket and lay a new extension cable a few months ago.

But suddenly, even though the router reports being connected at speeds of between 3Mb and 4MB, every broadband speed test reports 128 Kbps or very close to it. (In a reversal of the normal position we can upload on the speed tests at a little over twice that rate!) Web pages seem veeery slow.

I’ve swapped to a different router with the same result. I’m a bit perplexed.

EDIT: BT’s speedtester Best Effort Test:
Your DSL connection rate: 4480 kbps(DOWN-STREAM), 448 kbps(UP-STREAM)
IP profile for your line is – 135 kbps
Actual IP throughput achieved during the test was – 123 kbps

So I’m thinking something has caused BT to re-profile our line as REALLY SLOW. If so, I think I’m right in saying it’ll improve after 72 hours if our sync speed stays high. I think.

EDIT 2: Yay! All fixed and speeds back up to normal. Apparently if there is a large percentage improvement in ADSL sync speed BT will revise your speed upwards in 5-6 hours instead of 72 hours. I have to assume this is what happened today, since the connection was moving like a broke-legged donkey until lunchtime and has now sprung into normal speeds again.

In which I become an IT bore

What the– Steve Martin has apparently made The Pink Panther 2. Sometimes the world is far a more surreal place than I generally allow myself to believe.

Anyway, the actual point of this post was not to watch Steve Martin’s career circling the drain but to drool shamelessly over my shiny new PC.

I bought a gorgeous LCD monitor last week, replacing my 19″ Samsung with a 22″ widescreen Samsung. It’s the same height, but wider. Soooo much wider. I have no actual need for a widescreen monitor, but it does help with spreadsheets and 16:9 video looks significantly bigger. But really: pure self-indulgence of the highest order. Mmmmm….

Then, while browsing the interwebs looking for upgrades to my creaky victorian motherboard, I belatedly realised that the best chip it could possibly take is now only available second-hand on Ebay. This started me thinking a) OMG I’ve been in a coma for ten years and no-one told me, b) I have lots of money saved up because I am crap at shopping, and c) these days you can buy a whole PC pretty cost-effectively compared to the good old days when computer fairs were the way to go and everyone still thought The X Files was a pretty neat idea. So I ordered a nice new PC off Dell, and it’s a pleasure to use. No more 10 minute startup times. No more waiting five minutes after my desktop appears before I’m actually able to do anything. No more HD movie trailers that look like slideshows. Yes, I’ve been catapulted into what SF authors call “teh present”.

For record, it cost a mere £384 (excluding the £220 monitor *cough*) which frankly is only about twice what my crappy upgrades would have cost. The specs are excellent, though not out of this world:

AMD® Athlon™ 64 X2 Dual Core Processor 5000+ (2.6 GHz)
4GB 667MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM
256MB ATI® Radeon™ HD 2600 XT graphics card
500GB (7200rpm) SATA Hard Drive
19-in-1 Media Card Reader
Windows Vista Home Premium
DVD+- RW / CD RW Drive
Integrated 7.1 Audio

I’m not entirely sold on the bloatware that is Windows Vista but having switched off most of the annoying visual effects I’ve more or less got to grips with it. Thanks to the miracle of home networking I’ve also transferred all my old documents, emails, pictures, settings, videos and mp3s. It’s all feeling comfortingly familiar, and yet still cool and new.

This has been pointless gadget porn. We now return you to your scheduled programming.