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Review Of The Nintendo 3DS After Owning For 24hrs

April 3, 2011

I bought the 3DS yesterday as a bit of an impulse purchase as I haven’t played on the DSi that I already had for quite some time and every hardware update since the original DS has been very minor and IMO not really worth upgrading for (even thought I did). For that reason I was going to give it a miss, but I’m so glad I changed my mind…. the 3DS is frickin amazing and by far the biggest update they have ever done since the GBA was replaced by the DS. Initially I wasn’t all that bothered about the 3D effect as I expected it to be a bit of a gimmick, what I did like about the new hardware was the analogue stick and a higher resolution widescreen display, two things that I think should have been there all along when the original DS was first released.

 
The Hardware

It’s pretty much the same size as the DSi, just slightly thicker. Build quality is on par with all other versions, nothing spectacular but it does appear to be well made with no creaking sounds, gaps in the joints or sharp edges. The newly introduced analogue stick it really nice, rather than tilting when you move it it glides remaining perfectly flat. It’s far nicer than the one on the PSP as I always found my thumb slipping around on that one and it’s positioning is pretty bad.

 
The Display

What can I say other than this is a HUGE improvement over all other DS systems, it’s crystal clear, graphics look beautiful and the 3D effect (once you’ve found the sweet spot) is truly amazing. My initial thoughts of it being a gimmick have been well and truly put to rest. It is true that it does hurt your eyes after a while and start to give you a headache, the first time I used it this happened after about 30 minutes. I turned the 3D off, played a bit more then took a break for an hour. Second time round I managed about 40 minutes before eye strain started. Over the course of the day that period did get greater, so it does appear that once your eyes start to get used to the new experience you can play for longer.I’ve seen quite a lot of comments by people bitching about the display when it comes to playing DS/DSi games, saying that they look awful. Because the 3DS has higher resolution screens than its predecessors, older titles can either be played upscaled to fill the screen (keeping their original aspect ratio, don’t expect them to be widescreen), or their original size, just filling a portion of the 3DS’s screens. It’s the upscaling that people seem to be complaining about but I can hardly tell the difference. Maybe if you had a 3DS and a DSi side by side playing the same game you may be able to tell, but does that matter, if it looks good enough on its own when you’re playing then thats what matters, and to me it looks fine.

 
Built In Software

I don’t even know where to begin with this as there’s so much, Nintendo really went all out with their software. A lot of this info can be found on other reviews so I’ll just mention the bits that I found enjoyable and interesting. The AR (augmented reality) cards and games that come bundled with it are a lot of fun, there’s some shooting games and one that turns your table top into a crazy golf course. In fact I’ve probably spent more time playing with the built in games than I have with the two titles I purchased (Street Fighter and Rayman). It will be interesting to see how other games utilise the Augmented Reality system, you just know that Pokemon games are going to take advantage of this. I can just imagine two players, each with their own card watching Pokemon battle on the table top, this could be HUGE is so many ways. Just for the record I’m not a Pokemon fan but I’m excited to see that they do with this new hardware.
There’s a pedometer built into the 3DS that tracks how many steps you take when it’s in standby mode in your pocket, this ISN’T accurate but it’s good enough for what it does. Now this next bit is interesting and typical of Nintendo to think of something like this. For each 100 steps you take you earn 1 gold coin, up to a maximum of 10 per day. These gold coins can then be used as in-game currency to unlock different section in Wii Plaza, buy extra sections in the AR games etc. It’s an brilliant idea.
There’s so many interesting and fun things to do with the 3DS straight out of the box, it’s fully playable without having to buy a collection of games as soon as you get it, how many other game systems have been like this with so many games built in? none as far as I can remember.

 
The Cameras

They’re crap, need I say more. They’re fine for the AR games and messing about taking 3D photos to view on the system, but don’t expect to be taking proper photos with this thing.

 
Conclusion

There’s lots more to the 3DS that I haven’t mentioned such as the ‘street pass system’ but these are features that I haven’t used yet. If like me you were on the fence wondering if you should upgrade from an older system, is it just another minor incremental upgrade? Hell no this takes the DS to a whole new level of enjoyability with huge potential. It’s at least another 6 months until Sony is due to release their next handheld, the NGP and they can’t afford to make the same mistakes that they did with the original PSP and pice it too hight. Technically the PSP was lightyears ahead of the DS, yet the DS still far outsold it. Sony need to get it right this time because the 3DS is one hell of a handheld to go up against , it doesn’t matter what specs the NGP has when it ships, if it isn’t priced right with a good line up of games history will repeat itself.

Wildlife Photography With An iPhone

March 27, 2011

I only bought my iPhone 4 recently (yes I was a late up-grader) and have hardly used the camera on it until now. One draw back of the iphone for wildlife photography is that with the lack of an optical zoom it makes taking close up photos near impossible, as being close to your subject will likely scare them away.

This week I bought the Glif Tripod Mount and set about looking for a way of taking photos of birds on the feeder in the garden. It didn’t take long and I soon came across an app called Camera Mic which cost 59p. This app enables the camera shutter to be noise activated, but more importantly, it can be activated via a bluetooth headset.

So yesterday morning I went out into the garden, set up my iphone on a tripod with the Glif approximately 12-18 inches away from the bird feeder and opened the Camera Mic app, then retreated back to the kitchen where I could keep an eye on it from the window. It didn’t take long for birds to start arriving and I began snapping photos by blowing into or tapping the mic on my bluetooth headset. Some of the photos were a little blurred due to the slow shutter speed on the iPhone, but most turned out well, and I soon got used to the right moment to take the photos when the birds were most static.

I did this with birds but I suppose it would work equally as well where any animal that could be tempted in front of the camera. These are two of the photos I’m most pleased with.

Blackbird eating dried fruit

Blackbird eating dried fruit

Goldfinch on a feeder

Goldfinch on a feeder

Handpresso – The Best Non Electical Gadget I’ve Ever Bought

January 23, 2011

I first saw these a few years ago and have wanted one ever since, then last year I bought the Handpresso Domepod (the one that uses fresh ground coffee), but it was a disaster. It was either the coffee grinds I was using or my incompetence  at making an espresso, but I just couldn’t make a decent drink. Instead of the coffee slowly flowing into the cup, it squirted through like water from a shower head and I was left with a cup of dirty looking water, so I returned it.

Last week I bought the Handpresso Wild, this one takes 44mm ESE coffee pods and the results have been MUCH better.

It’s so simple to use, you can make an espresso anywhere, at home, at work, on a picnic or up a mountain if you so desire.  For anyone that hasn’t seen one of these before or know how they work it basically consists of three section, the pump, the water reservoir and the portafilter.
  • Firstly you pump the handle (which works like a bicycle pump) until the pressure reaches 16 bar.
  • Warm the water reservoir using boiling water for a few seconds. Throw that away and refill with fresh boiling water.
  • Place 1 ESE coffee pod above the reservoir and screw on the Portafilter.
  • Place the portafilter over your cup and press the button. Water is forced at pressure through the coffee pod and into your cup, leaving you with 1 shot of freshly made espresso.
Espresso/coffee connoisseurs will probably hate it because the water temp and pressure are incorrect and not consistent. But for anyone else that just wants the ability to make a nice tasting hot espresso or espresso based drink ANYWHERE then I don’t think you will find a better alternative to this.

Quick Review After Two Weeks With A Sonos S5

January 9, 2011

Not written a blog post for months and recently got a Sonos S5, so thought I’d share my opinion of it.

I had been thinking of getting a Sonos system for quite a while, but I’m not a big listener or music so thought it might just end up in a corner collecting dust, How wrong was I. Not only am I now listening to and enjoying a lot more music but I’m listening in a completely different way.

I received the Sonos S5 and Zone Bridge as a present for Christmas. From opening the box to having it set up and streaming music from the Internet took a total of 15 minutes, it’s more or less plug and play. There are a choice of different streaming services that Sonos work with, these vary depending on country but the ones I’ve tried in the UK are Spotify (requires a premium account at £10 p/m), last.fm, Napster and Internet radio. Well that’s not entirely true, I tried to use Napster but their service has been so shocking over Christmas and the New Year that it has been unusable. These are in addition to being able to stream your own music stored on a computer, within iTunes or on a NAS.

For the size of the unit, sound quality is amazing, it’s up there with the Bose Soundocks. I actually prefer it to the Bose, it’s not as bassy, but bass can be in increased from the controller if you so desire. I haven’t bought the hardware controller, I’m using the controller apps for iPhone and iPad. Both work great, particularly the iPad one, with the larger screen it makes creating and managing playlists a lot easier. The iOS apps do have one disadvantage over the dedicated controller though and that is that they do take a second or two to open and establish a connection, which makes quickly muting or changing volume impossible. But if you already own an iOS device that is a small price to pay as it’s a free app compared to £270 for the proper Sonos hardware controller.

So how has it changed the way I listen to music? Well I used to listen to full albums from start to finish, now I tend to be listening more to randomly generated playlists either via iTunes Genius, last.fm recommendations or user generated Spotify playlists. I like that it can scrobble every track played from any service (other than radio) to last.fm, this has greatly increased the accuracy of their recommendations and I’ve discovered some great groups I had never heard of before.

I would recommend the Sonos systems to anyone that likes music, particularly if you use any of the online services that they have deals with, unlimited listening to Spotify’s library at 320kbps on a Sonos is as good as streaming gets.

iOS 4’s Save State and Quick App Switching Has Started To Annoy Me

July 15, 2010

When I first heard about these two features in the iPhone latest OS (before it was released) I was looking forward to being able to close an app, do something else and be as the same place that I left on when returning to it. But in practice I have found that it is one of the worse new features that Apple have introduced with iOS 4 .

Firstly the app switcher is a mess, one row of 4 icons, no indication if they are just recently used, save state, of actually doing anything in the background, and if you keep swiping to the right there are pages after pages of them, it looks like they will never end. So unless the recently used app you want happens to be within the first 8, it’s quicker to just launch it from it’s regular icon location or use spotlight.

Now onto my main gripe, they way “save state” works. EVERY SINGLE app that has been compiled for iOS4 and save state has it enabled, no option to just enable it for apps that I want it enabled for. Some apps I only use once a day, do I really want that app taking up memory app day just to save 1 or 2 seconds when I next launch it. My iPhone is jail broken so I can see what apps are using memory and how much I have free. Yesterday when I looked, apps that were running included, mail, messages, calendar, ToDo, gallery, camera, Hipstamatic, Twitter, Reeder, Podcaster and iPod, and my iPhones available memory was down to 28MB free. When the iPhone needs more memory it is supposed to close some open apps to free up memory for the one currently needing it, the problem is that it doesn’t seem to “close” them, they appear to crash. If Twitter for iPhone gets closed by the OS, the next time it is launched the timeline isn’t where it was when you last left it, it seems to jump back to where it was last time the app was opened from a closed state, this can be several hours earlier to where it should be. Even the built in apps suffer by this crashing too. If the calendar app is closed to free up memory the next time it is launched it goes through a “Loading” process, I’ve noticed this can take anything from between 5 to 15 seconds, FAR longer than it used to take with any of the 3.x versions.

When iOS 4 was released many people wondered if jailbreaking would still be necessary because the ability to run apps in the background was one of the main reasons for jailbreak. Well yes it is still necessary as far as I’m concerned because the backgrounder app enables me to globally disable save state and and native backgrounding, and just enable it for the apps that I actually require it for….. rant over.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

A week with the iPad. Is it everything I hoped it would be?

June 3, 2010
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I pre ordered the ipad early on the 10th May and was one of the lucky ones that received it a day early. I’ve had it for a week now and there has hardly been an hour gone by where I haven’t used it. When I first took it out of the box the first thing that struck me was the weight, it isn’t heavy by any means but it is slightly heavier than I had imagined, this also seems to be most peoples first reaction. Next up was to jailbreak it, I’ve used an iPhone for nearly two years now and have always had them jailbroken, I don’t think I could use an iDevice in it’s native form any more, not after getting used to the tweaks and apps created by the jailbreak developers. Synced with iTunes to transfer all my apps across and it was now time to get down to actually using it.

I’m not going to go into too much detail as to what the iPad can do, it’s already been covered by thousands of others over the past two months since it went on sale in the U.S. so this post is going to be more about my uses, and impression of the iPad based on those scenarios.

The one thing I was most looking forward to with the iPad was getting back into comic book reading, and I wasn’t disappointed. Comics look greet on the iPads screen and there are several decent apps already available for viewing the different formats that comics come in. Comics by Comixology (which I have mentioned in a previous post) allows you to purchase and download comic books at a reasonable price directly from the device. There are also a few CBR/CBZ/PDF etc. comic book readers, the best two being Comic Zeal and Cloud Reader.


The iPad has been praised (by Steve Jobs) as being a great ebook reader and the iBooks app was a big part of the keynote speech back in January. The iBooks app though is a little disappointing. Sure it looks nice, very nice in fact, polished UI, built in bookstore, translucent pages that curl when you turn them and show a mirror image of the previous page showing through from the other side just like real paper. But no amount of polish and shine can make up for it’s lack of content, and more importantly for me, the lack of a companion iPhone app which won’t be released until the 4.0 software upgrade. For this reason I’ve been using the Kindle app, which doesn’t look as nice but does have the content and whisper sync.

I expected to play a lot of games with the iPad but so far I’ve only played for a few hours. This is probably down to the fact that it’s still new and so many other things to try out. But of the games I have played (Real Racing HD, Command and Conquer, Resident Evil 4) I was pleasantly surprised by the graphical detail and playability of the titles.

Reading the daily newspaper was another thing that I was looking forward to doing, but currently there are only two national papers in the UK that have released an app that allows for offline reading in a newspaper style format, those are The Financial Times and The Times. I’ve tried both and not overly impressed with either. Firstly The Financial times, there isn’t anything wrong with the app, it does seem to work well, it’s just that the content isn’t to my liking. The Times on the other hand does have the type of content that I would read but is let down by a very buggy app that when crashes (and it does several times a week) looses all it’s offline content.



I have done a lot of web browsing on the iPad this last week, much more than I have done on a “proper” computer and it has been an absolute joy. It’s much easier/quicker to navigate some pages than on a desktop and the page rendering is lightening fast. Now the big downside for some people with the web browser is the lack of flash. This hasn’t bothered me in the slightest, probably due to using an iPhone for two years I have changed the regular sites that I visit to ones that are not flash heavy and I’m already accustomed to seeing the odd blue Lego brick, which usually just indicates that flash is not supported and sorry that they can’t show me that advert, big deal.

How is the iPad for blogging? Well we will soon find out. I’ve written this article, edited the screenshots, plan on arranging the layout and posting it using nothing but the iPad. If there are problems with any stage I’ll add an addition to this paragraph, if all goes well it will end here. So blogging didn’t go too well but got there in the end. The problems were mainly down to the WordPress app and site. I wrote all the text for this post in a notes app then planned on copying it into the word press app, attaching the images which would all appear at the end of the post, then arranging them through the website. First problem was that you can’t paste into the word press app? WTF!!! That’s one HUGE bug that should never have existed. The solution was to upload the images in a blank draft post using the wordpress app, just to get them into the media gallery, then delete the draft post. Go to the wordpress website, create a new post and insert the images from there. Once I’d worked this out it didn’t add much extra time to how long I’d imagined it would take. Also the visual editor does not work in Safari on the iPad so editing has to be done using the HTML editor.

So am I happy with my new purchase? HELL YEH, it really is a magical and revolutionary wonderful device, I’ve hardly used my iPhone or computer all week for 90% of tasks. Since it was announced back in late January I have changed my mind about getting one so many times but I’m glad I decided to get one in the end.

1password. How Did I Ever Manage Without It

April 20, 2010

I, like many people have over the years got into a routine of using the same or small selection of easy to remember password for all sites and services I sign up to on the Internet. Now the passwords I used aren’t as easily guessable as some, I don’t use ‘password’ or ‘12345’, but they aren’t ultra secure either. I’ve been meaning to change them for quite some time now but being lazy I never got round to it. Then last month I saw a list of the top 100 passwords that people often use and one of mine was on there, it wasn’t identical, mine had a couple of numbers in it but it was close enough to get me a little worried. So my task was to change all my passwords to something more secure and find a way to store them so I wouldn’t forget what they were… the solution I found was 1password.

I have had their iPhone app for some time now but never really used it other than for storing credit/debit card details. I downloaded their Mac app any was blown away by it’s features and ease of use. Firstly it has a very nice user interface that’s quick and easy to get used to, you can be up and running within minutes without reading any instructions or tutorials (but they are recommended to get the most out of it). Two of the features I like most about it are it’s integration with Safari and several other apps and it’s random password generator. Whenever you log into a site a 1password bar will drop down at the top of the browser window in Safari and ask you if you want to save the username and password for this site, similar to how save username/password works in FireFox. Your details are then stored in 1passwords encrypted database, next time you visit that particular site all you need to do is click the 1password icon on the task bar, enter your 1password password and it fills in your details and logs you in. This is much more secure than the “save username and password” feature of most web browsers. If your computer is lost or stolen no one can gain access to any of your online accounts. Combine this with it’s random password generator and you can use unique, unguessable, randomly generated up to 50 character passwords for each site. But what if you want to log on to a site using a different computer, well they have a perfect solution to that too. If you keep a copy of your keychain bundle stored on a flashdrive it can be opened from any computer mac, windows, Linux within a web browser with a very similar interface to their desktop app and this can only be opened with that same password. Now there isn’t the same integration as you get with the desktop installation, you need to copy the password and paste it into the field on the site that you want to log into, but that’s a small price to pay for the security it offers.

There are many more nice features like it’s ability to sync with multiple macs by keeping your keychain stored in a dropbox account, and it’s wireless sync with their iPhone app. While I’m on the subject of syncing with multiple Macs, the developers are very open about the licence agreement, a single user licence means just that, a single user not a single computer. I have 1password registered on my MacBook and Mac Mini with a single licence and the developers are totally fine with that.

Ive only scratched the surface of what it can do in this short review, there is much more.  If you haven’t already tried it I would highly recommend doing so. It’s one of those apps that you think you don’t need until you start to use it, then you wonder how you ever managed without it… well I do remember how I managed without it, by using the same simple password EVERYWHERE.