Sunday, December 30, 2007

Still here

Just a quick note that I'm still around and haven't abandoned this blog. There will be less posts though as I currently have a blogging "gig" on BlogBytes under my real name (which starts with M..)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Candybar Cell

On my recent trip back to South Africa, I couldn't help noticing that candybar style cellphones were much more popular there than here in the USA. This can probably be attributed to Nokia having a large market share there.

I had an up close look at one of the South African cellphones. It looked like a brick - but when I got it in hand I realized it was a Nokia E90 Communicator, with built-in WiFi (I was actually trying to check the wireless settings so I could apply them to my Pocket PC). It was definitely a smartphone, probably Symbian-OS based , and from the depth of the phone probably had a slide out QWERTY keyboard. Apart from the size I was impressed. Even though the Nokia was more responsive I still prefer my T-Mobile Dash as it is smaller and lighter.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A break and a warning label

First of all I'll be going away on an overseas trip and most likely won't be able to blog from there.

Secondly the warning label. I'm not sure if Sony is going to put this anywhere on the box of their lower priced 40GB Playstation 3 ($399 in the USA), but one of the things they have dropped from this version is backwards compatibility with PS2 games (according to Sony rolls out cheaper 40GB PS3 in InfoSyncWorld). Considering that there are very few compelling games for the Sony Playstation 3 this is a possible deal breaker. This especially so since there are a lot of Playstation 2 games still available (and still getting released). From what I understand, to get backwards compatibility you have to buy the 80GB Playstation 3, which is apparently due for a price drop - probably down to $499 - before Christmas. Hopefully Sony won't decide to remove backwards compatibility from the 80GB version when they drop the price.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Deal of the Day

Deal of the Day, or Sale of the Day, websites are springing up all over the net, with some variations on the theme.

The first one I came across was woot!.com which is regarded as the best and most popular.Basically woot! sells one item a day, anything from computers to flashlights. Sometimes the items are new, other times they are refurbished. There is also a quirky funny story about the item on sale. Some people wait up until midnight (which is when the next day's item is put on sale) just to see what it is going to be. Some items sell out quickly (the woot website has stats), and others don't, but a lot are sold, like the refurbished 30GB Microsoft Zune MP3 Players on October 15 - over 10,000 units were sold in one day. From what I've seen woot's prices are good and I haven't had any problems with items purchased from them.

And the other sites? Squidoo has short descriptions and links to many sites (but for some reason maybe blocked by overzealous corporate website blocking software).

There are also several Roundup sites, like Deal of the Day Tracker and Bargain Jack. I would advise shopping around before buying anything on these bargain websites.

Since I have not had any dealings with any of these websites other than woot!, I would recommend checking out reviews and approaching any purchases with the normal caution you would use for other internet purchases.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Really Secure

This week I signed up on one of the Sandisk user forums. The password format they wanted was ridiculous - I'm used to providing one with alpha characters and a number, but they also wanted at least one uppercase letter and one lowercase one. I can understand requiring a tough password if Credit Card or other sensitive information was being stored, but this was a user forum, and the most sensitive information was my email address.

Anyway, I complied, then had to laugh, because they sent me the confirmation email with my userid and password in plain text. Really Secure!

Monday, October 15, 2007

iPods Hidden Feature

There is a feature on iPods which I haven't found on any other MP3 Player. It is auto-bookmarking, something very handy for Podcasts or Audio books. (Actually it is only hidden because it is not advertised or shown on any menu).

Basically if you play anything and then pause and exit through the menu, when you next play that particular track it will start off where you left off, even if you have turned off the iPod in between. This is handy for me since I listen to multiple Podcasts, and often don't finish listening in iPod one session (quite often I get home before an episode of "Buzz Out Loud" finishes). I can then finish listening to it later. It also works for videos.

Before I get howls of protest from fans of other MP3 Players - apparently if you are listening to a track on most non-iPods and just turn the MP3 Player off without pausing first, it will resume when you turn the player on again - I got this tip from CNET's "MP3 Insider" Podcast, and have tested it on a Creative Zen V Plus. I also know that the Creative Zen Vision:M allows you to set bookmarks in audio tracks and videos. It is possible that the whole Creative line has this feature.

Now my disclaimer - although I own a couple of iPods, I also own or have owned 3 iRivers, 2 Creative Zens and even a Sandisk Sansa. So I would suggest that anyone in the market for an MP3 Player shouldn't just buy an iPod without checking what is available out there, and buy based on what their requirements are. The Portable Video/MP3 Player Reviews at CNET are a good starting point. Then there is and anythingbutipod.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

My new toy - the iPod Touch

No, not me (unfortunately), but Dominic, a Site Administrator of dapreview - a website which reviews MP3 Players (aka DAP - Digital Audio Players). He mentions it in his post My new toy - iPod Touch. also reviews iPods, but are more focused on the wide variety of other Digital Audio Players.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Two weeks with the Dash

Well, after two weeks what is my opinion of the T-Mobile Dash?
It's not perfect but I like it. The screen is bright and the phone feels good in the hand with a rubberized exterior.

I wasn't a fan of previous Windows Mobile/smartphone interfaces but this one is pretty good. It didn't take much to get into it, although I have used earlier versions of Windows Mobile Pocket PCs fairly extensively. With no touchscreen, the Windows Mobile Interface on the Dash relies on Menus and icons, which are selected using soft keys and a Navigation Control. The icons with captions of the most recently used applications right at the top of the Home screen are really handy, and reduce the amount of time spent looking for applications in the Start Menu.

The Dash is easy to use as a cellphone - typing is anything while on the Home Screen starts a search of contacts. From there making a call is simple. The speakerphone works well and pairing with a Bluetooth headset was easy enough.

Treo and Dash

The Dash compared to my previous phone, the Treo 650 - keep in mind that the Treo is 2 years older than the Dash, has a totally different OS, and weighs 2 oz more than the Dash.

As for email, setting up email accounts was a snap. All I needed was my email address and password for Yahoo, GMail, AOL and Hotmail (now called Windows Live). I didn't set up Instant Messaging as I don't really use it that much anymore. I liked that I could select weblinks within email messages and they would open in the web browser. Word or Excel attachments can be saved and edited as well. Browsing the internet is not too bad on T-Mobile's EDGE network, I wasn't expecting a high speed connection. Once Wi-Fi is set up and a connection is made the browser uses the Wi-Fi connection, which is obviously faster.

Battery life on the Dash hasn't been bad - when I first got it and was playing with it a lot I recharged once a day - but keep in mind that I usually do not let the battery level of any device go below 60% before recharging it. Since then I have gone for six days without recharging, although I do not keep the Dash on all the time, especially on work days. One thing I have noticed is that it takes quite a while to boot up, but that doesn't really bug me. I've disabled the volume touch strip, and the other con of the phone, is the camera interface - CNET's review of the Dash says "The camera interface is also confusing" and I have to agree.

Typing anything on the Dash is quite easy. There is an intelligent auto-complete feature which remembers any words you have typed in. I'm actually considering doing some blogging from the Dash.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Touch not really phone-less iPhone

The iPod Touch - not really an iPhone without the phone.
I was quite excited when the iPod Touch was announced. Now it is being released this week and the big tech sites have had time to play with pre-release models and write their reviews (see the CNET review here)

As well as being slightly smaller and lighter than the iPhone, the iPod Touch is also missing features like Google Maps, the email client and the Notes application, along with built-in speakers, microphone, camera and other mini applications. It is kind of understandable not to include Google Maps - if you really need to use it you may not be near a wireless hotspot. To leave out email and Notes just sucks. Sure you can use web-based email, as the Safari browser is included, but the email client would have been useful. Even more so, leaving out the Notes application on the first iPod (excluding the iPhone) to have a virtual keyboard is just reducing functionality.

Somehow I suspect these omissions are not accidental, but carefully selected. An iPod Touch which had all the functionality of an iPhone except the phone could very well hurt iPhone sales, something Apple wouldn't want.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dash vs Blackjack

Here's some of the background research which lead to the choice I made in the "What, No Hunt?" Blog Entry.

The total contract price was not the only reason I went with the T-Mobile Dash instead of AT&T's Samsung Blackjack. If the Samsung Blackjack had really appealed to me I may have bit the bullet and gone with it, even with the two year contract. I had come across a review of the Dash and made a mental note of it before the hunt had even begun.

Interestingly enough, CNET reviews give both cellphones the same rating (7.3), but on the Dash has a slightly higher user rating.

Elsewhere referred to as not photogenic, the Dash looks far better in real life than it does in photos (see this article "Editor's Corner: T-Mobile Dash (HTC Excalibur)") on

The Dash has built-in Wi-Fi, a real nice-to-have feature. The only AT&T smartphone which I looked at which had Wi-Fi was the AT&T 8525, a Windows Mobile Professional phone. This would have previously been known as a Pocket PC phone before Microsoft renamed them in an attempt to resolve the "Windows Mobile Smartphone edition" and "Pocket PC Phone Edition" confusion (see "Windows Mobile Editions Get Less Confusing Names..." on Gizmodo). I really didn't want a more powerful "Windows Mobile Professional Phone" which also happened to weigh more than the Treo 650, and cost more.

Just looking at specifications, the Samsung Blackjack appears to be a winner. It is smaller and lighter than the Dash (and the Motorola Q). However this comes at the cost of screen size (2 inches versus 2.4 inches) and a more cramped keyboard. After mentioning that some of the buttons on the Blackjack are a bit slippery, the CNET review gives the warning "...some design and performance issues trip up this otherwise sexy device."

The worst feature of the Dash is the volume touch strip. Fortunately, being forewarned, it does not bug me although it really does suck. The good thing is that it can be disabled entirely.

Monday, September 17, 2007

What, No Hunt?

Instead of boring my reader(s) with continual updates of weeks of hunting for (yet another) cellphone I'll cut directly to the trophy.

I have bought a T-Mobile Dash smartphone with a one-year contract.

My hunt was spurred by the desire to get a lighter and less bulky cellphone than the Treo 650. I also wanted to be able to check my email on the cellphone without paying outrageous data plan rates. The ability to store some information was a nice to have. Of course I could get various data plans with the Treo 650 on Verizon, but the prices were ridiculous. Even though their coverage is good, and their customer service very good, any new phone from them would be locked into their ridiculous pricing structure. Also I was looking at a GSM carrier because of an upcoming overseas trip , and the ease of switching to a backup phone if necessary. A smartphone appealed to me, not just because of my "techie" nature but because I already carry a regular cellphone for work and wanted some of the additional features available on a smartphone.

With this in mind my top choice was an AT&T 3125 smartphone - the only clamshell style Windows Mobile smartphone I could find. One of its advantages - apart from small size and weight - was that it came with a $5 per month email data plan. When it came down to placing the order though, the person at corporate sales told me it had been discontinued - just her disinterested manner put me off arguing that it was still available on the AT&T website. Unfortunately, to get the sizable corporate discount I would have to buy from her or not at all.

The only other AT&T smartphone available which was on my short list was the Samsung Blackjack. It was currently free "on special", but the data plan was $39.99 on top of a $39.99 voice plan for a two year contract. Even after the corporate discount this was more than I had anticipated paying. I decided to think about it.

One of the other phones on my shortlist was the T-Mobile Dash. Also a Windows smartphone, the T-Mobile Dash was not free, but when I initially priced it the data plan was $29.99 on top of a $29.99 voice plan for a one year contract. The only corporate discount was a waiver of the activation fee. That made the total cost of the two phones over two years pretty close. Although I had initially wanted to go with AT&T because they have better coverage, the slightly better reviews of the Dash, as well as T-Mobile's good customer service - from previous experience, as well as dealing with their Corporate Sales people and the flexibility of just a one year contract helped me make my decision.

There was a pleasant surprise when I actually placed the order for the cellphone. The data plan had dropped to $19.99 per month when purchased with a voice plan!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Early Adopter Blues and iPod Touch!

Last night I was having a look at The Unofficial Mac Weblog and reading the comments on "Apple lowers price of 8 gig iPhone to $399". These comments were posted before Steve Jobs decided to give early iPhone buyers a $100 credit. There seemed to be two distinct responses - the positive "That's the price you pay for being an early adopter" and the "Apple did me wrong" (in rather angry and sometimes unrepeatable language).

This must be one of the highest profile examples of the fact that all technology drops in price over time. Unfortunately Apple had to do damage control because it happened so soon.

To think of it, the second generation 8GB iPod Nano I bought late last year for almost $250 has been replaced by a a third generation iPod Nano with more features at a lower price (the new 8GB Nano goes for $199). However, this was only a $50 price drop after a year as well as a new generation.

After the iPhone price drop I was eventually convinced by my wife that I really don't want an iPhone. It took me a while to agree after I realized that a newer generation of the iPhone is very likely to be released while I would be still tied to a two year contract to AT&T.

The iPod Touch is another matter entirely. Basically an iPhone without the phone (and without the contract) I've long thought that it would be pretty cool if it was ever released. Of course an MP3 player with built-in Wi-Fi is nothing new. CNET's Crave blog's First Look at the iPod Touch mentions the Archos 605 WiFi. However, even the smallest capacity Archos 605 weighs 9.2 oz, in comparison to the iPod Touch's 4.2 oz. Admittedly, the Archos 605 series features a 4.3 inch screen instead of a 3.5 inch screen, and the capacity starts at 4GB and goes all the way up to 160GB. For less than the price of an 8GB iPod Touch (why do I struggle not to call it the iTouch?) you can get a 30GB Archos 605.

A quick comparison:
iPod Touch dimensions: 4.3 x 2.4 x 0.3 inches.
Archos 605 dimensions: 4.8 x 3.2 x 0.8 inches.
The Archos 605 has a whole slew of accessories which can turn it into a DVR.
The iPod Touch is almost as revolutionary as the iPhone, and just as cool...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

So long, Foleo

Palm announced today that they were canceling the Foleo Mobile companion - see this entry in the Official Palm Blog and "Palm Cancels the Foleo" in Palm InfoCenter.

The Foleo - a small notebook device running Linux - was intended to be a companion product for the Treo line of smartphones. The idea just did not make much sense. Why carry a Treo and a Foleo when you carry a Treo and a laptop anyway?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Switching or migrating

Right now I'm in the process of switching from one Palm handheld to another. Migrating is probably a better word though, since this is taking weeks. Normally I would simply archive the previous Palm's data, uninstall the Palm Desktop, remove a few registry entries and install the Palm Desktop for the new Palm. Then I'd import the information from my previous Palm, reinstall some third party application and be "good to go".

This time however, I'm more cautious, probably because the Tungsten C I'm moving to doesn't have the same enhanced PIM applications as my current PDA, the Tungsten T3. Although I lose these enhancements I gain a QWERTY keyboard and Wi-Fi with the Tungsten C.

Of course if my Treo 650 had more memory (a lot more!), I would switch to it instead. The Tungsten T3 has 52MB of RAM available, and the Tungsten C has 51MB, but the Treo 650 has a measly 22MB of RAM. A new Treo 680 or 700p would have more memory, but would require a two year contract.

Oh well, on with the migration...

Saturday, August 18, 2007

That old feeling

In news that makes you feel old, the Compact Disc format celebrated its 25th Anniversary on Friday. (see this MyWay News article).

This makes me feel especially old since I can remember buying vinyl records in the days before CDs. Since I'm not an audiophile, I can't say I miss the Vinyl records which had to be treated so carefully.

Now the CD is slowly being replaced by digital formats. Thinking about it, I don't often listen to CDs anymore, and the last two albums I bought were through iTunes, although I burned them to CD for backup. CDs bought before that have been mostly ripped into MP3 format - just a quick look on my main PC and I have somewhere over 100 full albums on my hard drive for selective syncing with my iPod Nano. On my main MP3 Player - a 30GB Creative Zen Vision:M - there are 188 Albums, and around 1800 tracks, although it is probably counting Podcasts as well.

As for data storage I've mostly stopped using the CD, and I mainly backup to an external hard drive or DVD. For files I want to carry around with me I use a 4GB USB flash drive.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Zunes and iPods

The price of the Zune is beginning to drop below $200 at some online stores. I'm slightly tempted by this because of the 3 inch color screen and that the Zune is supposed to work well together with the Xbox 360 (see "Use Zune with Xbox 360" on Then I remembered that this Microsoft player does not support Microsoft’s PlaysForSure, or Podcasts, and has half-baked Wi-Fi. So even at this price it is not worth it. This is especially so since new Zunes are due out soon which may fix one or more of these problems - see "Microsoft comments support reports of new Zunes" at InfoWorld

Zune in original colors (light black, chocolate brown, and pearl white)

The real interesting thing to watch out for is the next generation of iPods. The iPhone gives hope for a fullscreen touchscreen iPod (see "6th Generation iPod - What We Know" at , now that would be really cool.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Price drops and format wars

Apparently an Xbox 360 price drop (according to this article from PC World) is almost certain. Oh well it had to come, I knew it was just a matter of time when I bought an Xbox 360 six weeks ago.

The price drop on the HD DVD player add-on for Xbox 360 really doesn't affect me. What I wonder though is whether the consortium backing this HD format is getting concerned because they are falling behind (see "Target to only sell Blu-ray players in stores" on Engadget HD). It is amusing that sales of the Sony PlayStation 3 with its integrated Blu-ray player are bolstering Blu-ray players so much. Lets hope the consumer wins this High Definition format war.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Apple buttons and fake Steve

(Or: Apple, buttons and Fake Steve Jobs)
Now I think I know why there are so few buttons on iPods and the iPhone. According to a number of sources (Slashdot and Free Mac Blog to name a few), Steve Jobs hates buttons. Even fake Steve Jobs ranted about a Washington Post Article about Steve and buttons.

Ah, that explains why iPods don't have FM radios, voice recording or line-in recording. Adding these features would require more buttons, as the click wheel is totally maxed out for the functions it performs. And more buttons would be a no-no.

Yet in some ways this minimalist design works. Sure I like the additional functionality of the Creative Zen V Plus - the ability to delete tracks on the devices as well as create and name playlists. But I can operate my iPod Nano with acupuncture needles protruding from my my hands and arms without causing myself a major injury.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Treo versus iPhone

I know the iPhone has been out for a while now, but I have hesitated mentioning the following article since there was a huge reaction to it - almost 400 comments, mainly from iPhone fans telling the writer he was crazy (among other things).

Editorial: 10 Rounds with the iPhone

Anyway if you feel you must comment, do it at the Palm Infocenter editorial here

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Digitizer Drift

This is a dreaded phrase for some Palm owners particularly of the Tungsten T3. When a PDA has handwriting recognition it becomes rather aggravating when it no longer wants to recognize your "Graffiti input". This has been happening to me with my Palm Tungsten T3. Writing slower and occasionally resetting it seemed to help.

First I changed the screen protector, which didn't really help, then I tried calibrating the screen. This just seemed to mess everything up. Palm in their wisdom just calibrates the top 320 by 320 pixel area of the screen, and not the bottom 320 by 160 pixel Virtual Graffiti area. There is a program that does the full screen, called PowerDigi, but the website was down for a few days and appears to be up again. If that doesn't work I may be hunting through my collection of Palm handhelds for a replacement. The Treo 650 is out of the question, it just doesn't have enough memory for even half of my programs. Unfortunately this time I don't have a backup Tungsten T3, so the move won't be so easy.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sony PS3 price cut, or not?

This week I was watching the news from the E3 conference in Santa Monica, California, keeping my ears open for an Xbox 360 price drop which analysts expected. It did not come.
Instead, after announcing a price drop of $100 (down to $499) for the 60GB PlayStation 3 on the day before the conference, Sony confirmed that the company is no longer producing these 60GB PS3s and that "all new PS3s will be 80GB models to be sold at $599" according to the Crave Blog, "PS3 price cut isn't going to last?"

Also announced at E3 was the redesigned Sony PSP (PlayStation Portable). It has the same form factor as the first Sony PSP, except it is "33 percent lighter, 19 percent slimmer, offers better battery life, faster game load times, and video output to TVs" (also from the Crave Blog)
It is not quite the Sony PSP 2, but the video output sounds promising.

Of course a whole bunch of new games were announced at E3. I must admit I didn't pay too much attention these, having more than enough PSP games, and trying to keep my Xbox 360 game collection small (the ability to download playable game demos from Xbox Live is really cool).

Saturday, July 07, 2007

General Hardware Failure

This Microsoft-ism is almost as meaningless as "General Protection Fault".
Something in the Xbox 360 fails, it is not software - Microsoft says, wailing about a Billion US Dollar plus cost to fix the mess.

When I was researching gaming consoles I kept on coming across stories of Xbox 360 hardware failure - not from rabid complainers either, but from people who really like the console. I only read one posting by someone, who after about their third or fourth replacement console failed said "That’s it, I’m getting a PlayStation 3".

The Xbox 360 also has a bad reputation for chewing up game discs. A sticker on the Disc drive of the Xbox 360 warns "Do not move console with disc in tray" in English, French and Spanish. The Xbox 360 can supposedly be placed either upright or laying on its side. Of course most pictures show it upright - it actually looks better that way. But that is not the position recommended by those in the know. They say it is best positioned on its side. The reason - the game discs are more likely to be damaged when inserted with the disc tray in a vertical position. There is even an "Xbox Disc Replacement Program"
With the price of newly released Xbox 360 games at $60, and the much-hyped Halo 3 going for at $70 on pre-order, I’d be pretty upset to have the console chew up a new game disc. Unfortunately, this plan only appears to cover some of Microsoft's own games.

So far, I'm quite happy with my Xbox 360.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Music to my ears

No, I'm not listening to my iPod, or (gasp) an iPhone - but have just read this:
"Microsoft Extends Xbox 360 Warranty to three years" on News

After just having got an Xbox 360 recently that is really music to my ears.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

iPhone Overhyped?

Of course it is.

Well, here's some facts and more hype.

Engadget's iPhone facts from the first reviews

Should You Buy an IPhone? from the Houston Chronicle.

Smart Money Daily: 6 Major Flaws in iPhone That Could Cost You a Bundle

And the iPhone guided tour from Apple.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Thought I wanted a Wii

(I could not resist the title, the alternate one is "Wii or Xbox 360 or PS3")

Last year the Nintendo Wii was on my Christmas wish list, but I choose the 8GB iPod Nano instead. I'd more or less intended to buy a Nintendo Wii sometime during this year either as a present or an entertainment appliance.
But after thinking about it, once the novelty of the motion sensitive play wears off, the selection of games do not really appeal to me. Nintendo-lovers relax – I’m not saying the games for the Nintendo Wii are not good, I’m just saying that they don’t appeal to me personally.

The most costly competitor is the Sony PlayStation 3, which seems a natural choice since I have the PlayStation 2 and the Sony PSP. The PS3 would even allow me to play PS One games on my PlayStation Portable. Almost 600 US Dollars for a gaming console is well out of price range though. Okay, it plays high Definition Blu-ray movies too, but I don’t have a HDTV. It also plays most PlayStation 2 games, but I have one of those. As for showing media, I have a Media Edition PC. I was almost tempted by a "trade in your working Sony PlayStation 2 and get $100 off the PS3", but then the rumors of a price drop began to surface. Now it appears that there will possibly be a price drop by Christmas. Since it is unlikely to be more than $150, I don't think I'd want to wait that long.

Then there is the Xbox 360, somewhere in the middle ground between the Wii and the Sony PlayStation 3 (although many may differ). It has been out for over a year and has a large selection of games. Generally the games appeal to me more than the Wii selection of games. There are also a large number of accessories, including third-party accessories, which are cheaper than official Xbox 360 accessories. Of course if you add enough extras to the Xbox 360 it is going to cost as much, if not more, than the PS3, but it also boils down to the games. The Xbox 360 is a year ahead of the PS3, and it shows in the wide selection of games. The latest games are so expensive I would be likely to rent to make sure I like a game before shelling out $60 for it. Another thing which intrigued me is that I could use the XBox 360 as a media extender for my Media Center PC . My main concern about the Xbox 360 was its reputation for failure. I researched this and figured that it should be an acceptable risk if I got a decent warranty.

One requirement I had was that I wanted to be able to play games in my study, where I don't have a television, but two PC monitors. That way I would have more chance of actually using the gaming console – the PlayStation 2 is in a spare room hooked up to a nice LCD TV, but I very rarely play it. That is no real problem since it is mainly used to watch DVDs. A PS3 or Xbox 360 are too expensive for use as mere (standard definition) DVD players. The decision was swayed by the availability of a VGA cable for the Xbox 360. So, after talking it over with my wife, I got the okay to get an Xbox 360 as a birthday present.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007



Sunday, June 17, 2007

Travel Tech

While I was waiting at the departure gate at Los Angeles airport(LAX), a young woman nearby had been looking at pictures on her Sony VAIO notebook. Then she started taking snapshots of them with her RAZR Cellphone. Surely there must be a better way to transfer photos from the notebook to the cellphone I thought, but possibly she didn't have a memory card in the cellphone and the Sony Notebook didn't support SecureDigital Cards.
If it did then it would simply be a matter of copying the pictures to the microSD card, which would have to be inserted into a SecureDigital card adapter (most microSD card come with an SD Card adapter). Then she could insert the microSD card into the RAZR. That way, assuming the pictures on the Notebook were in the right format, or could be converted to the right format, they would be transferred to the cellphone.

Okay, maybe just taking photos of the pictures on the notebook's screen seems simpler, but using the card would definitely result in better quality.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Apple iPhone?

After Apple advertised on TV that the iPhone is coming out on June 29, I got asked whether I intended to get an iPhone. I guess a lot of technophiles got asked the same question.

I won't be getting an Apple iPhone.

The reasons:
1. Price - $499 for a phone with a two year contract is ridiculous. Accessories will also increase that price - you can't just buy the iPhone, you'll need a holster or case of some sort, plus a screen protector and of course a cool Bluetooth headset to go with the cool phone.
2. A cellphone with an MP3 Player, already got one (the Treo 650). I don't use
the MP3 Player part of it since I have an iPod Nano.
3. Switching carriers. I’m not overly found of Cingular, er, AT & T
4. The "unknown" factor. This is an unknown, untried cellphone – what bugs lurk there?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Retro Gaming

Retro Gaming (or Retrogaming as wikipedia prefers to call it) is to quote wikipedia: "the hobby of playing and collecting older computer, video, and arcade games. These games are played either on the original hardware, on modern hardware via emulation, or on modern hardware via ports on compilations".

It makes me feel old to see Tetris and Duke Nukem 3D referred to as Retro or "Classic Games", but it is still a pleasure to be able to play duke Nukem 3D on a handheld, specifically a Tapwave Zodiac (which is almost on its way to becoming a classic handheld). There are two versions of Duke Nukem 3D available for the Tapwave Zodiac, one which is a stripped down version re-written specifically for the Zodiac (and not very good either), and the other a free one which uses the original DOS data files.

Aaah, the retro Tapwave Zodiac for retro gaming... (the one shown above is the silver 28MB Zodiac 1, not the black 128MB Zodiac 2)

Friday, June 01, 2007


Yes, yet another cellphone. Good or bad, my work has given me a cellphone. Of course this would be while I'm still carrying my boss's cellphone and Blackberry. Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't get an entry level LG, instead I got the LG VX8300 which as I have mentioned before is a pretty decent phone - I bought one for my wife a year or so ago, and quite like the handset myself.

The main thing this phone lacks is a decent assortment of ringtones, because of course Verizon wants you to buy some ringtones from them. The pleasant surprise is that it actually supports Bluetooth.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Put my Treo aside

Today I left my Treo 650 at home. It is still working, and I haven't replaced it. It is just that I'm swamped with too many cellphones. My boss went on vacation, and left his Blackberry 7130e and LG VX-5200 with me (Tag, you're it!). I used to want a Blackberry, but I much prefer the Treo, even though the Blackberry is almost 2 oz (about 50g) lighter than the Treo.
Anyway, I figured carrying 3 cellphones, including a BlackBerry and a Treo was just too much. Since I couldn't leave the Blackberry at home (as much as I wanted to), I had to leave the Treo...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Motorola Q2? Nein

Well, first some feedback about the Treo 650.

On my favorite podcast, Buzz Out Loud, it was mentioned in passing a week or so back that Treos are no longer the cool phones which everybody carries. I must agree that the latest sleek smartphones are much better looking. Correct me if I'm wrong, but most of the sleek smartphones run the lighter version of Windows Mobile, which is also lighter on features. They also do not have touch screens - not in itself a problem, as most things can be done on the Treo 650 without using the touch-screen and stylus. It is just the occasional third party app which relies on touchscreen input.

Third party apps and the Palm OS are what makes me not mind the extra bulk of the Treo 650. After going from a plain PDA to a Treo and back to a (not so plain) PDA, this time I decided not to try to use the Treo as my main handheld computer. Instead, the Tungsten T3 remains my primary handheld for now, with its superior screen, and I transfer the information I want to have at my fingertips to the Treo, which I mainly use as a cellphone, and to look up information copied from the T3 with a simple restore from a SecureDigital Card. Okay, the first draft of this blog entry was written on the Treo, but it was pretty easy to get it from the Treo onto the Tungsten T3 and up to the PC and onto the Internet.
Admittedly that is a multi-step process and I could post this Blog Entry directly to the Internet from the Treo 650 - if I was willing to pay Verizon's exorbitant data plan rates. Frankly it would be cheaper to write the blog on my Palm TX and post it via Wi-Fi on my home broadband connection. It would take the equivalent of 3 months or so of Verizon's "unlimited" data plan to pay for a bluetooth keyboard to use with the Palm TX - a keyboard being a lot faster for me than Graffiti handwriting recognition.

Oh, and Motorola's follow up to the Motorola Q, inexplicably called the Q9? The specs sound good, but it is only likely to get to Verizon at the end of this year or the beginning of next year. Maybe by then I may have tired of the Treo...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Running on Automatic

No, I'm not referring to the Roomba (I still have some video to edit for that blog entry). This is something more serious.

I was researching scripting languages and started looking at Basic compilers and interpreters. The main reason I was looking at Basic is because the Basic programming language is the one I know best. Among many other trial and demo versions I downloaded was one called IBasic Professional. I ruled it out as it wasn't what I was looking for at that stage - a professional Basic compiler costing $75.

During my research I was surprised just how many Basic compilers and interpreters are available. See this List of Basic-like language compilers for Windows at mindteq. Some are free (thinBasic and XBLite), while others cost up to $400 or more (the multi-platform RealBasic)
For the difference between compilers and interpreters see compilers at Wikipedia). There is also an article on the Indiana University Knowledge Base.

Among the Basic compilers and interpreters, some products are actively supported and others are either abandoned or just no longer supported.

This brings me back to IBasic Professional. One way of checking if a development tool (or in fact, a wide range of software) is any good is to have a look at the User Forums. The IBasic Pro User Forum was not available but had the following cryptic message "Closed until further Notice. Read the message on to see why":

Read the message on to see why

My curiosity piqued, I just had to look at, which turns out to be a user forum for an assortment of programming languages from Java to Delphi. I could not find out much information without first registering for the CodingMonkeys forums - something I would not normally bother with (you want me to register on your forums just to be able to read them without restrictions?), but I was curious.

After a few searches on the CodingMonkeys forums I found out two things:
1. The IBasic Pro forums had been hacked over six months ago
2. "IBasic is a dead product. The site is automated and will probably continue to run, as a ghost, for a long time come" (from the developer of IBasic Pro)

Whether IBasic Pro could still be purchased on the website I don't know - but I had been able to download the 15 day trial version.

If you go through the purchase process, it says:

Free updates (from who?), free priority technical support (from who?)

Free updates (from who?), free priority technical support (from who?) and maybe they mean CodingMonkeys as their "active programming community"

I wouldn't recommend buying IBasic Pro from their website, since no-one is home. I have also seen some online software vendors selling IBasic Pro for around $45, but who wants an unsupported, abandoned compiler?

Friday, May 04, 2007


i bought a Robot. Not quite a tech "gadget", but an iRobot Roomba Vacuuming Robot 2.1. I'll give some feedback once I've actually used it.

Domestic Technology=Domestech?

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rip to Ogg?

I was going to call this blog posting "Ogg", but then I may have continued with:
"Ogg! Your village called and they want their idiot back".

Okay, so no offense intended to Ogg Vorbis - not a person (at least I don't think so), but an audio format (actually an "open, patent-free, professional audio encoding ... technology" according to the Ogg Vorbis website).

Why would anyone rip an Audio CD to Ogg format instead of MP3?
Well for one, Ogg is a completely free format, whereas MP3 isn't. Wait a minute, I hear my one reader say, I thought the MP3 format was free. Well, so did I, but I've heard on the "Buzz Out Loud" podcast that the MP3 format is actually owned by several companies, who license it out. That explains why you have to pay extra for an MP3 encoder in some audio software. I assume that Apple pays for the licensing for you somehow so that in iTunes you can rip to MP3s for no extra charge.

So do I rip to Ogg? No, I rip all my Audio CDs to MP3s, as MP3s can be played on all of my "MP3 Players" or DAPs. My only MP3 Player which plays Ogg files is an iRiver H320. This wiki has a list of players supporting the Ogg format, so if you want to make use of this free codec, buy a new DAP...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Vista - Just Say No

For now anyway.

According to ZDNet, "Dell brings back XP on home systems" - no surprise considering the problems customers have been having with software incompatibilities and "a lack of hardware drivers for Vista" as mentioned in this article "Dell Brings Back Windows XP as Option" in

From my point of view, if I bought a new Desktop which had Windows Vista installed, I would reformat it and install Windows XP Professional. Why? So my Palm handhelds could synchronize with it.

Even Pocket PCs and Smartphones running Microsoft's Windows Mobile Operating System cannot synchronize with Windows Vista. You can only hope they work with "Windows Mobile Manager", which replaces Microsoft ActiveSync.

This is just the tip of the incompatibility iceberg.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The hunt is over...for now

I haven't mentioned my hunt for a replacement cellphone for a while.
This is because it ended prematurely (before my contract was even up). As I mentioned in "Cellphone Research Resumed" , I had seen a Verizon Treo 650 on sale. Anyway, after comparing the Treo 650 with the Motorola Q, and finding to my surprise that the Treo is actually slightly smaller than the Q in height and width (but obviously not depth) and reading numerous bad user reviews of the Q; namely about the poor battery life and slow data entry, I decided to give the Treo 650 a try. Since I would not be signing up for a new contract and could "simply" switch from my existing phone to the Treo 650, for not much more than I would pay for the Q with a one year contract, I figured it would be worthwhile. It may seem risky to buy online from someone advertising on a user forum, but after reading their posts on the forum, as well as a number of email exchanges I felt I could trust him, and bought the Treo. After paying for it on the Saturday I received it the following Wednesday, in its original box with the original accessories and a Vaja (expensive leather) holster.

The now defunct "Mobile" magazine referred to the Treo 650 as being so much better than the Treo 600 that it was "like comparing a sports car to a melon cart". There are a number of reviews comparing the two phones here and here, but since I still have my old Treo 600, I'll mention a few points.
First, two standard phone buttons (Send and End) have been added to the keypad, which also has been rearranged slightly so some of the buttons are more logically placed.

The 650 was the first Treo with a "user replaceable" battery - the back opens like a normal cellphone and the battery can be swapped out.
As a result of having this "user replaceable" battery it meant the 650 could not have volatile flash memory like the Treo 600 but used Palms new NVFS (Non-Volatile File System), a major hardware change - the battery could run down (or be removed) and the data wouldn't be lost. The touchscreen had been upgraded to 16-bit (65K colors) 320x320 pixels, a major improvement over (less than 4096 colors) 160x160 pixel screen. The processor was upgraded to 312MHz (from 144-MHz), making the performance quite zippy. The only downside was that the new NVFS (Non-Volatile File System) required more space to store the same amount of files, so although the available memory was appeared the same it was actually less than the 650.

The 650 also has bluetooth, so I can finally use the bluetooth headset I got with my RAZR.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Patching the Patches

Yesterday I re-installed the Microsoft patch which gave me so many problems. No, I'm not crazy - I had already tried it on another machine, along with Microsoft's patch "935448" to their "security update" patch "928843" - according to Microsoft after applying their first patch (on top of a previous patch!) "...certain third-party applications may not start." This was due to two files from the two separate patches conflicting.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Up and Running

I'm up and running again on my main PC. It turned out not to be Partition Magic, as I got similar errors trying to resize the partition with BootItNG. So it must be the PCs configuration. I've had enough restores to last me for a while, so I won't be trying this again in a hurry.

Recovery Mode Again

Today I was hoping to finally blog about the end of my hunt for a cellphone. However, since I had backed up my primary PC to a working external hard drive (why "working"? - that's another story), I decided to try to resize the partitions again. This time I booted from the Partition Magic 8 CD, but it made no difference. After resizing the C partition, Partition Magic gave an error and Windows was unbootable. This time I restored from the original PC restore disks, and am now running "Restore my PC" from Norton Ghost, which will hopefully put it in the working state it was this morning.

These Partition Magic failures are really puzzling me. I have used the software successfully numerous times before. Since Symantec bought Powerquest - the developers of Partition Magic - in September 2003 they have not updated the software other than to rename it. So it could be their fault since I'm working on Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 which was released since then. But I have also had problems with running Partition Magic on my three year old Compaq Presario notebook, so it could be the Compaq.

Oh well, it is recovery mode again.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Grrr! Microsoft Windows updates

My iPod is now syncing, and I no longer get an error about HHCTRL.OCX when I start up my PC.

Why? Because I uninstalled the latest Microsoft patch KB925902.

Nano not recognized?

Plugged in my iPod Nano 2nd gen this evening and got this message:

After attempting to restore it multiple times it still shows the same message.

In cyberspace no one can hear you scream

Sunday, April 01, 2007

About the crash

So, about the crash, as I mentioned it was on my main PC. This is ironically the PC I'm moving everything to because of the random shutdowns on my other PC - by "everything" I mean the Palm desktop software which I use to get blog entries from my handheld (where the first draft of most of them are written), and iTunes and a ton of other software.
My PC's hard drive is partitioned into at least 2 partitions: the C drive which basically contains Windows and Program files and a D drive where most of my data and documents is stored. I'd initially partitioned the C and D partitions the same size, but was starting to run out of space on the D partition. So, I fired up Partition Magic, which I'd used to partition the drive on the first place, and shrunk the C drive and expanded the D drive. When I pressed the "Apply" button, Partition Magic rebooted Windows XP and went into batch mode to do its magic. When I checked on it later it had some error message - I didn't write it down although I probably should have. Anyway, next thing I see a Partition Magic error - which is never good. I rebooted the machine.
Windows seemed to boot up okay, although the Start Menu task bar looked a bit squeezed.
I ran a check on the D Drive with Partition Magic but no errors were found.
Then I ran a CHKDSK on C Drive and it displayed all weird errors and showed messages about invalid security for file number (starting at 1 and going through to around 2000) - security set to default.
After rebooting the machine Windows was a mess - no Start Menu or TaskBar and two programs DISCUpdate and DISCHub were using 100% of CPU. I killed them and tried to copy some files to an External Hard drive, but the copy and paste wasn't working (Neither was drag and drop).
After trying to research the problem online I figured my best option was to restore the C Drive. This took 3 tries, but now Windows XP is back minus whatever programs I installed since December last year. Of course my Documents and data on the D drive are still there.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yahoo to offer unlimited email storage

According to My Way News "Yahoo Promises Unlimited E-Mail Storage" and Yahoo themselves say "Yahoo Mail goes to Infinity and Beyond"

I'd rather have a Gmail account with only 2.8 GB of space and non-intrusive text adverts than infinite storage and adverts flashing in my face. Actually, I do have a Yahoo account, and the adblock extension in FireFox makes it bearable.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Still around

Yes, I'm still around, I don't have writer's block nor have I (gasp) abandoned this Blog.
I've just had some Critical crashing computer syndrome (my main PC this time) - more about that later...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Random shutdowns

That was what my eMachines Desktop is doing. It has being doing this since around September last year. The weird thing is that the power button would stay illuminated. It is not like a Windows shutdown, but an immediate power off. I would then just unplug the power cord, wait a few minutes and then plug it in and boot up the PC.

That was until a week or so ago when it just didn't come on after I plugged it again. Of course I thought the power supply had gone for good, and started hunting for a new power supply. The next day I tried it the PC again, and it started up fine. The only problem now is that it only seems to run for a few hours before it shuts down without warning. The strangest thing is that this always happens when I'm not using the computer.

Anyway, after much web research, this seems like a there may be a few possible solutions. Sometimes just blowing out dust from inside the computer case does the trick, or a new power supply solves the problem. Then there are other possibilities like problems with the motherboard, or the CPU fan - that's when troubleshooting is just too complicated (and expensive) for a budget PC.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Weird patch results

As mentioned yesterday, I applied Daylight Savings Patches to several handhelds.
Well, this morning I checked the results. First was my Tungsten T3, and I was initially dismayed - the screen was displaying the message "Please insert CD to continue with the installation". This was was fairly familiar to me as one of the screens displayed after the hard reset process (I've had more than my fair share of hard resets in the past month). Once I had verified that my programs and data were still there I relaxed a bit. How other Palm users would interpret this message I don't know (Apparently the Palm LifeDrive displays a similar message). Palm should have really tested this patch and advised users what to expect.
My wife's Palm Zire 72 only displayed the standard "Your clock has been adjusted for Daylight Savings Time" message. I had forgotten to turn my Treo 650 off, but it had not automatically updated its time from the wireless network. It only did so when I switched the phone off and on again.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

DST Patching Away

It has been called the "Mini Y2K" (Year 2000) by some, but to me the Daylight Savings Time changes have resulted in more applying of patches than changing software code. Even at home today I spent a fair amount of time applying patches to various handheld computers. I drew the line at patching my Dell Axim with its Windows Mobile Operating System though. Sure, Microsoft had a patch for it, but to apply the patch I would have to upgrade the ActiveSync to version 4.5 on my Desktop PC (ActiveSync being the utility which handles synchronizing data between the Desktop PC and the Pocket PC).

Typical for Microsoft, as the automatic Daylight Savings Patch for Windows PCs only works on Windows XP Service Pack 2 and above - it will patch run Windows XP Service Pack 1 if run manually. If you have Windows 98 or Windows 2000 then a manual patch is required, unless you downloaded one of the third-party patches.

Back to Palm, their patch didn't work on my old Treo 600 (which they said should be patched), giving an obscure "Cannot update CityTime database" message - guess they never tested it. I got two emails today, one from Palm, and another from Verizon Wireless, both about patching my Treo 650. I didn't, relying on the network to update my Treo's time.

Monday, February 26, 2007

iGo cruisin'

On a recent cruise I took along the iGo Power Everywhere15 charger with "iTips" for most of my tech toys. It was really handy in a compact case (which comes with the unit) I had almost everything I needed to recharge one cellphone, one handheld gaming console, an MP3 Player and two handhelds. Separately their chargers would be five separate power cords, three of them including a large power block or large plug.

The way it works is that once you have bought the iGo power charger (and there are a number of options here depending on whether you want to charge a computer notebook or not, and whether you want to charge two devices at once), you then buy "iTips" for each of your devices. These run at about $10 each, and with careful research (the iGo website has a iTip finder) you can find some tips which work with more than one of your devices - I found one which I can use with both my Sony PSP and Creative Zen Vision:M MP3 Player. Although a number of other manufacturers have come out with similar solutions, I figured that the iGo tips would be easier to find. It also helped that RadioShack had the iGo Power Everywhere15 for $20 less than the iGo website, and my local store had a large selection of iTips. I could not find an iTip for my Tapwave Zodiac, but that was to be expected since it wasn't on the market long enough to get many accessories made for it. After the initial small investment in the iGo, the iTips are not that expensive - for example a charger for my wife's LG VX8300 cellphone (incidentally one of the top ten cellphones of last year according to CNET) costs around $30, which makes the cost of the iTip seem cheap.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Cellphone Research Resumed

After I had suspended my hunt for a cellphone in November last year, the Motorola Q was near the top of my list for CDMA cellphones. Since then I've all but given up on GSM, even though most of the phones I really like are GSM phones. Apart from my experience with GSM carriers who either suck ("Least dropped calls" - yeah, right) or don't have wide enough coverage, I've come to the conclusion that - in my coverage area at least - Verizon's CDMA coverage is really clear. As I mentioned previously I ended my relationship with Sprint - the other CDMA carrier - on a sour note.

A few days ago I saw a Verizon Treo 650 on sale, and did some research on it. When I had the (unlocked GSM) Treo 600, the Treo 650 was the next phone I was considering upgrading to, until my previously trusty Treo 600 crashed and was out of commission for a number of days. The interesting thing about Treo 650 reviews and Motorola Q reviews is that on both and on, user ratings for the Treo were higher than for the Motorola Q. The main problem mentioned with the Treo was resets (reboots), usually due to incompatible software, and with Motorola Q it was battery life, with the extended battery being highly recommended. Of course the Motorola Q is a lot newer technology-wise than the Treo 650, which has been superseded by the 700p and now the 750, but both the 700p and 750 are well out of my price range.

Now I've been trying to recall the reasons for my falling out with the Treo 600. I'd forgotten about the crash (probably a hard reset), but do remember being frustrated at the screen resolution after playing with a Tapwave Zodiac and a Tungsten T3.

Ah, December 26, 2005 I ranted about "Treo things that bug me"

The continues...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Safe Browsing

How can you make sure the websites you visit are safe, or that you can download a file from a website without worrying about being infected with some kind of malware?

One way is to stick to well known sites like and the related But even these trustworthy sites may have links to other sites with dubious content.

One of the tools which I find useful is McAfee's SiteAdvisor (the free version, I haven't tried the paid version as it doesn't work with Firefox). Basically SiteAdvisor puts an indicator in your browser's toolbar (IE) or status bar (Firefox) which indicates a websites' safety rating: Green for no problems, yellow for caution, and a red/pink for warning. When you click on the SiteAdvisor button it gives details of the site, including suspect files and other websites linked to.

It is not often that I use or recommend a McAfee product, especially one that flags my main Techno Files Blog with a yellow caution - this due to a freeware download I linked to over a year ago which changes your Internet Explorer home page. I have since removed this link but haven't been able to get SiteAdvisor to realize this. I still use SiteAdvisor though...

Monday, January 22, 2007

What's in a name?

Almost 2 million hits in the case of Googling for Techno Files. Okay, it is only fourteen thousand hits when searching for the phrase "Techno Files", but there definitely were not that many hits when I first started this blog in 2003.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

iPhone will fail?

This week the Apple iPhone was announced. Some may be sick of hearing about it already, but others want to know what the hype is about. The videos on the site showing the functionality of the iPhone are really impressive. Just a pity about the cellular provider Apple has chosen...(Cingular sucks).

Late last year, while the Apple phone was still a rumor, an article on CNET said that the iPhone would fail (Apple phone flop), basically because of stiff competition in the cellphone market. I disagree, as the iPhone blows away the competition.

A more recent article on, "Thirteen reasons to doubt the iPhone hype" poses some legitimate questions, like the question whether the iPhone will have a user-replaceable battery. It would be a first for Apple if this iPod-like product has a removable battery, and a potential deal-breaker if it does not.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Frozen Nano

My iPod Nano froze today when I was trying to connect it up in the car. I tried to reset it but could not remember the button combination. When I got home, I managed to reset it, and it worked again, whew!

The iPod Nano can be reset by turning on the hold button then turning it off, then pressing the Menu and the Center button at the same time until the Apple logo appears (paraphrased from iPod leaflet)...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Useful software

Just a week or so back I discovered the VLC Media Player. This free software plays video in almost any format. I had a non-copy protected DVD video copied to a directory on the hard drive of my Pentium 4 HT machine, and was unable to play it with Windows Media Player because of some missing codecs. VLC Media Player played the video without a problem. It is well worth the download.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Top 5+ List of 2006

Okay, I know it is already 2007, and I should be looking forward, but:

At the end of 2005 and 2004 I wrote a list of the Top 10 tech products and have been thinking hard about whether to do one for 2006 or to do something different. The problem is that I've previously limited this list to products I've actually used or own, and had to limit (or pad) my list to ten items.

So here is my slightly different top 5+ list for 2006 (I still may repeat tech gadgets from previous years if they - or their updated versions - still are worthy of mention):

iPod Nano second generation - the 2nd generation improves on the original with a less scratch-prone anodized aluminum finish, brighter screen and double the capacity.

Creative Zen Vision:M - this MP3 Player with video capability outclasses the iPod Video with a 262,144 color screen and support for multiple video formats.

Sony PSP (PlayStation Portable) - there are even more games available now and some of the more recent ones have incredible graphics. Sony also continues to release firmware updates which add more and more features. Also, worldwide sales of the Sony PSP are more than Microsoft's Xbox 360.

Ubuntu Linux - Maybe I'm biased towards a product from a fellow (ex-)South African, but this free Linux distribution from Mark Shuttleworth's company is competing right up there with commercial Linux distributions. Although my main Operating System is Windows XP, I like to have a Linux distribution installed and handy. Right now Ubuntu Linux 6.06 LTS is it.

Mozilla Firefox browser - still my browser of choice. I'm slowly upgrading to version 2.0 (one machine at a time), while Mozilla still releases updates to version 1.5.x. Even with tabbed browsing, Internet Explorer 7 doesn't come close.

Honorable Mentions

Nintendo Wii - the gaming console Sony hoped the Sony Playstation 3 would be. The Wii makes gaming accessible to non-gamers, and is attractive as a second gaming console to gamers.

Giveaway of the Day website - I don't know how long this will still be around for, but it is a great idea. Mainly shareware software, the programs are available for download and free registration for one day. I've found some useful programs there. The catch - the software can only be registered in the 24 hour period, cannot be upgraded and doesn't have technical support.

VMWare Player and Server Even though Microsoft Virtual PC 2004 is now free, VMware still outclasses it with more powerful features

Dishonourable Mention
Motorola RAZR V3 cellphone - popular but flawed - the screen is impossible to read in daylight. If that and a slippery keypad is acceptable this isn't a bad phone.