iPod Docks – Free your tunes?

April 8, 2008 - Leave a Response

Recently a couple of my close friends got themselves a brand new iPod each, a 160gb Video and an 8gb Valentines Day pink Nano. Two new iPod speaker docks emerged a couple of weeks later, a JBL top of the range model and a cheap and cheerful model from HMV.

The majority of the time I use my iPod is through my Amplifier and speakers making the usability of the iPod the same as on the move, speaker docks weren’t as widely available when I got my 3rd generation. Anyway I brought my iPod together with the JBL dock and was faced with the task of finding the right dock inset to fit my ‘old’ iPod into the dock. The dock came with 7-10 different pieces of plastic for each iPod to fit into it – accept 3rd generation and older iPods. I thought, no matter, i’ll plug it in via the aux-in socket and cable provided, but the cable head didn’t fit in the gap in the casing before the socket itself. Eventually I discovered the 5th generation piece of plastic fitted my iPod and everything worked fine, but I find myself asking why this dock made specifically for iPod doesn’t fit all iPod’s, whats the point?

I recently have been in the Lake District and the log cabin we hired up there had a small stereo with ‘USB integration’ When we plugged an iPod in the standard I’ve-been-plugged-in screen appeared on the iPod ‘Do not disconnect’ rendering the controls for the iPod useless. The stereo recognized a device and decided to completely ignore ID3 tags and play all the 01 tracks on the iPod, then all the 02 tracks etc. This meant it was impossible to listen to an album in order, not to mention see what artist/album/track you were playing.

So my question is what was wrong with the standard we had pre-iPod? Aux-in and RCA cables never fail, you have full control over what your playing and all you need is a cheap cable. But going back to speaker docks, I can sort of see the point of them for rooms like the kitchen where your hi-fi can’t be heard, but a cheap stereo with an aux-in socket, a radio and a CD player gives you much more musical options than an expensive iPod speaker dock.

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2gb Asus EeePC Review

February 27, 2008 - One Response

Just before Christmas my Dad and I popped into PC World in Salisbury for him to show me the Asus EeePC. It took us a while to locate it as they were hidden away out of sight and employees didn’t even seem to realize the device in the box was a laptop! Anyway my dad bought the 4gb model for my mum for Christmas, I had a brief go on it on Christmas day and was very impressed.

For those who haven’t seen the EeePC it is basically a tiny laptop with a solid state hard drive, currently Asus produce a 2gb and 4gb model but there is soon to be an 8gb model. The 2gb model retails for around £200, and it comes with Xandros OS which is a Linux platform. Basically I saw it as a must have item when my flatmate purchased the 2gb model, so I bought the same model soon after. When you first turn the machine on it boots to an easy mode OS screen which basically contains all the software and settings in full screen tabs and over sized icons. I unlocked the full desktop mode by downloading new repositories which I found through Eeeuser.com

Above is a screenshot of the easy mode desktop, as you can see its very basic and quickly becomes tiresome. The full desktop mode gives you an MS Windows style desktop with a few nice little additions. Included as standard with Xandros is the OpenOffice suite, Mozilla Firefox, Pidgin (MSN Messenger Client), Skype VOIP, A few basic games, multimedia players and various other basic graphics viewers. The full install takes up 1.5gb which is pretty amazing considering all the software that it includes, I’ve installed GIMP which is an Open-Source version of Photoshop. It was a mere 30mb install, it really is impressive how much can run in Linux on such a small hard drive. I purchased a 2gb SD card which there is a port for on the laptop, I use that to save all my files to but alot of people have installed other operating systems on their larger SD cards.

The EeePC has in built wireless and Xandros handles networking really nicely, you can view multiple workgroups on a network unlike in Windows where you can only be apart of one at a time. I have been taking it into University most days, its so much more portable than my main laptop and even has better battery life than my decaying Dell.

I really look forward to the future of Micro Laptops, I think my 2gb EeePC will quickly become outdated as larger solid state options will become readily available. Currently 16-32gb solid state memory is the height of the technology. Apple use this in their iPod Touch and new MacBook Air. I think Asus will have to offer the EeePC with Windows as standard to become market leader in Micro Laptops. There have been some cool mods to the EeePC all over the internet, I have seen modified models for sale on eBay with 16gb internal memory, RAM upgrade and Bluetooth, but the best mod I have seen is one fitted with a touchscreen.

One wheeled wonderment

February 10, 2008 - Leave a Response

Just been having a look on hackaday.com and came across this rather interesting scooter/skateboard. It’s basically a skateboard style piece of transport with one central mounted wheel. The device works in a similar way to the Segway, basically through gyroscopic balancing.

There is a video on the website of the device in action.

Questionnaire participants needed…

February 1, 2008 - Leave a Response

I’m conducting a quick online questionnaire for use within my Final Project at University. If you have a few minutes to fill it in I would much appreciate it.

http://www.questionpro.com/akira/TakeSurvey?id=882198

Thanks very much!

Ubuntu

January 21, 2008 - Leave a Response

I recently was given an old Laptop which had greatly suffered from spyware, viruses and all sorts of junk. I’ve been trying to sort it out with XP on it for a few months now, but when my copy of Ubuntu Linux came through the post I thought I’d try it out.

I painfully began installing it through the Ubuntu Live CD and about an hour later was ready to have a little play. At first it seems to look very similar to OSX, but it really is quite a good medium between XP and OSX. Basically you have a taskbar at the top of the screen and a window bar at the bottom. When installed it went straight onto the network, all the hardware worked with proper drivers and it came full of applications to rival Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop along with others I’m yet to use.

It runs very slowly on the laptop though, at least 128mb of RAM is recommended by Ubuntu but it does struggle. The most interesting thing happened when I rand the operating system live on my Dell Laptop, first off the graphics looked incredible on my better screen but best of all it flashed up telling me my battery seemed to be worn out/broken and had a link to the Dell website, which instantly told me my battery had been recalled and provided a form to apply for a new one! So that saved me £50 or so.

Ubuntu seems brilliant though for people requiring basic uses from their PC, it runs amazingly quick from the Live CD on my Dell, it comes loaded with OpenOffice, Mozilla Firefox and Gimp (equivalent of Photoshop) and possibly best of all its very unlikely to get infected with spyware and viruses.

Below is a video of some of the cool effects and transitions that can be achieved on Ubuntu.

University Final Project

November 20, 2007 - One Response

My final major project will be starting very soon and for sometime now I have been looking for a topic or design problem to tackle. Up until recently I have been thinking about looking into an inclusive media system; incorporating digital television on a live and download basis, browser access to the internet, use of media found on a hard drive (i.e. m-peg, mp3, wmv, etc), a games console platform in which users download games and a communication system (i.e. email, phone, skype etc) For my project I would take the idea through the design process and apply marketing research and strategy to see if it would become a viable and profitable product. My concerns with the project were that I could not go into enough technical depth in regards to the electronics and system involved and how viable the product was in regards to what media companies would take the system on and produce streaming TV or produce video games for it.

My current line of thought for a project came while I was trying to solve a problem with my computer overheating. Since I got my laptop, like many other laptops, it has constantly struggled with keeping cool. The laptop has been taken apart a few times to remove the dust inside the fan system, I have been blowing in the fan regularly to keep it clean and allow it to breathe and I always use it on a hard surface. But only recently have I downloaded fan control software, below is a screenshot of the software in action, note the CPU temperature section as well as Hard Drive temperature.

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Both My CPU and Hard Drive have peaked at 46 degrees, yesterday my hard drive reached 51 degrees. Thankfully the software is reducing the problem and everything is cooling down with increased fan speed sessions. But basically I was thinking about the problem more and found out “The more powerful and faster computers become, the “hotter” they get. The modern Pentium IV 3 GHz processor radiates more than 50W of heat!!! Other hardware is not far behind…According to manufactures, the normal recommended working temperature of a hard disk is 35-40°С. Once it rises by just 10°С – from 40°С to 50°С, the safety of its work becomes more than two times less!” Link

The majority of laptop owners I know, who often are unaware of the overheating problem, experience the problem. The heat generated could potentially melt components of the laptop and damage or corrupt data. Just recently I visited IOM3’s Materials Laboratory in London for a packaging project, the majority of the materials there are smart materials which basically means they have a specific or unusual property or characteristic. I’m thinking of looking for a smart material for application in a new cooling system for laptops and possibly desktops, games consoles, Hi-Fi equipment, etc.

Any thoughts, information or comments on the idea and problem in general would be greatly appreciated.

Upcoming iPhone

October 22, 2007 - Leave a Response

So finally Apple have put together all our pocket devices and come up with the music, video, phone call receiving iPhone. For the first time today I actually looked at the technical specifications and was confused to see they only offer an 8 gigabyte model. Now my 3rd Generation iPod is four years old now and that has a 20gb capacity which is no longer enough. After having a go on the stripped down iPhone, the iTouch, I fail to see how this is Apples next step, the wi-fi internet seemed like alot of effort to use and of course is restrictive to what content on the web you can view. The phone side of things I am yet to experience, but I assume the address book will be as functional and easy to use as Apple suggest. Last week Apple boss Steve Jobs announced outside developers will be encouraged to design add-on software for the iPhone.

End of summer update

September 29, 2007 - Leave a Response

Sorry for the long time no post. It was my birthday on the 15th of the month and I spent it with my flat mates at End of the Road Festival which is a completely non commercial music festival held at the Larmer Tree Gardens on the Wiltshire – North Dorset border. It was without doubt the best festival I have been to, there was such a friendly atomsphere, bands that weren’t full of themselves and we weren’t constantly bombarded with mobile phone adverts. The highlights for me of the festival were , Darren Hayman, Herman Dune, Misty’s Big Adventure & The Bees.

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This is a photo of the Main Stage or Garden stage with I’m From Barcelona playing, they were okay but basically a poor mans Flaming Lips.

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This was Herman Dune’s second set in The Local tent which wrapped the festival up. Check out my YouTube page to see some little snippets of video.

Simply a phone…

July 18, 2007 - One Response

Interesting to see a new mobile phone which is simply a phone and on top of that; easy to use. The Austrian company Emporia Life designed the phone for the older generation.empolife_slope-open-1web.jpg

“We are in discussion with a number of retailers, but particularly when it comes to the mobile networks, they find it hard to see where this kind of device fits within their brand,” said Mr Smith, managing director of the UK distributor Communic8. “Currently they’re very much driven by the youth market or the business sector because that’s where they make their revenue. It’s difficult to see where a product like this would fit within their portfolio,” he added.

It’s a shame the sale and design of mobile phones is all marketing pull, one would think this simple mobile phone would appeal to other market segments. I imagine the phone lasts longer than cutting edge technology phones which are built with the intention the user will replace it within 1-2 years. Hopefully though the much awaited iPhone will change the life span of mobile phones as Apple tend not to ditch previous technology and still offer support to older products.

Gloucester Cheese Rolling 2007

May 28, 2007 - One Response

I’ve just got back from the hospital, as my flatmate Karl needed taking after participating in the Gloucester Cheese rolling chase today. Having fractured his wrist and generally getting a bit battered we were back from the hospital quite quickly, we quickly got on YouTube only to discover Karl can be seen winning his race!! Check out the video below, Karl is in the black right at the front!