March 2010 Archives

TomTom boosts entry level Start range

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TomTom is adding advanced features to its entry-level satnav models. Users of the TomTom Start2 (£119) will now be told which lanes to be in at complex junctions. Additionally, street names will be announced to allow the driver to keep their eyes on the road.

TomTom Start2.bmpThe heart of the device is the new XL IQ Routes mapping system which has a simplified touch interface with just two options available: 'Plan Route' and 'Browse Map'.

The software is compatible with TomTom's RDS-TMC Traffic service which transmits current traffic information to the device. The driver is notified what the problem is, the area affected and estimated delays. The device will also calculate an alternative route if one is available,

Fashion-conscious owners can co-ordinate their TomTom by buying an alternative cover in a different colour to the standard black. These StartSkins Drivers can also add a bit of spice to their device with StartSkins: fun changeable covers available in a variety of bright colours for £14.99.

Continental travellers can buy a Start2, finished in black or white, with a European map for £139.

Nintendo 3DS announced - Didn't I predict this? Yes I did.

Faisal Alani | 1 Comment
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rexfeatures_1117744r.jpgI'm looking quite smug at the moment. I told everyone to expect a Nintendo 3DS and... just a week later Nintendo confirmed it will be released in June!

The new Nintendo 3DS will offer 3D gaming without the need for glasses. As Borat would say "Wa wa wee waaa!".

How will it work?

Supposedly it will use the camera on the front to track the viewer eyes. By doing so it will change the perspective in the game to make it look as if the image is looking into a far deeper three dimensional image.

Other good news:

  • Backwards compatibility will be incorporated for DS and DSi games support.

  • It should have an accelerometer for tilt-controls with motion-led gaming, just like the iPhone/iPod Touch.

  • Nice crisp hi-res screen with great graphics. Possibly HD.

  • It'll have two screens that will be so close to each other they'll work as one.

  • I'm guessing it will have wifi and 3G on board for downloading stuff from the current DS library inc ebooks etc.

  • It will have two cameras (front and back) like teh DSi.

  • It should have a vibration feature for gaming and message alerts.


Microsoft unveil phones for Windows Phone 7 OS

Faisal Alani | No Comments
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winphone2-322x593-custom.jpgMicrosoft have unveiled three handsets that will work on the new Windows Phone 7 OS.

The Samsung slate, an unbranded Asus unit (right) and the LG slider will be the first phones to showcase the new operating system.

I'm not too excited about Windows Phone 7, not only because the name is terrible and too long but also because yes it looks nice but I don't think it delivers anything new.

I am excited about the Xbox Live synching but that's it. Microsoft continuously get mobile wrong and it'll need something truly amazing for me to convert.

Nintedno DS... DS Lite... DSi... DSi XL and now the 3DS?!?!?

Faisal Alani | 2 Comments | 1 TrackBack
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Nintendo are well known for being innovative and reinventing themselves but to reinvent the Nintendo DS for the four times is going way too far... So thankfully we'll see a new handheld console before the year is out.

I bought the original DS on the day it came out. The Gameboy, Gameboy Advance and the Gameboy Advance SP were all great but once I started playing the DS, I started to realise that this wasn't a good experience.

Nintendo DSi.jpg
It was huge, clunky and the buttons weren't comfortable at all. I sold it.

Along came the DS Lite, correcting all the original's problems I gave it another shot. I loved it.

With the DS Lite, Nintendo dominated the handheld gaming market not only catching up with Sony but overtaking them completely.

Sony are playing catch up and have since released the pointless PSP 3000 and bizarrely the PSP Go that can't run UMDs.

Nintendo's competition came from the mobile phone gaming market, mainly the iPhone, but otherwise has been enjoying success sipping wine and being fed grapes.

The evolution of the console came in the DSi that included new features such as:
  • 3mp camera
  • SD card slot - useful for music playback and downloads
  • Slightly larger screens (3.25 inches)
  • Downloadable games
All good additions and can give the DS a boost even though I thought it wasn't worth the upgrade. Nevertheless, it added enough value for someone to plump for it over the other versions if they had not previously invested.

Suddenly I'm told that Nintendo have released a DSi XL... If you hadn't guessed, it's bigger. What's the point? Seriously, why would you bother? Bigger screen but the same graphics... meh.

But now the rumour mill has been cranked up to HEAVY with a handheld gaming console looking for an XMas 2010 release. The new DS will have an accelerometer and will also have a rumble-pack feature that sends vibrations of varying intensity through the screen corresponding to on-screen action.

The screens will also be much closer together to look like one massive screen and I'm guessing it'll probably have an analogue stick too. It should be able to run Gamecube standard games if not better.

It all sounds fantastic, all that with better graphics, sound and a bigger screen and I'm SOLD.

Little tip from me: 3D handheld gaming... the Nintendo 3DS (you heard it here first ;)

Video: PlayStation Move - Not Natal, like the Wii but a bit ooooooh

Faisal Alani | 1 Comment
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Sony have finally given some real strength to their motion controller and called it PlayStation Move.

This move will spark a mad fight for your attention as Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo will go head-to-head-to-head trying to get you to stay in-doors and look like a fool in front of your TV.

The Move remote thingy looks like a candy apple, a microphone and I don't think I need to tell you that it has a weirdness about it. Personally I really don't like the big glowing ball and a colleague said that there's something strangely sexual about it... I'm not gonna go there.

Sony have massive plans for Move liking the launch to that of a console. Problem is that the Move doesn't look like it takes the Wii idea any further and Natal does and then some.

What will save Sony and make this a hit is the games, so far they look really impressive and HD graphics is something teh Wii can't offer.

Here's a list of games that will be available at launch:

  • Move Party (working title) - Mini game
  • Sports Champions (working title) - Like Wii Sports
  • SOCOM 4 - First person
  • TV SuperStars - Minigame with face mapping
  • Slider - Office worker and a rolling deskchair (Hmmm)
  • The Shoot - Shoot-em up
  • Motion Fighter (working title) - Underground fighting game
  • EyePet
  • Brunswick Pro Bowling - Obviously bowling

Tron Legacy - Official Trailer!

Karl Hodge | No Comments
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I'm every bit a psyched about Iron Man 2 as Faisal is. The first movie was one of the best superhero adaptations of the century. And there are quite a few.

But that shaky footage has nothing on this: the first official full-length trailer for Tron Legacy; the sequel to Disney's groundbreaking 1982 epic Tron - and the first movie to cash in on the then nascent gaming scene.  Can it live up to the reputation of the cult original? After seeing this trailer, signs point to yes.

The first Tron's plot can be easily summarised. A genius computer game developer stumbles across corporate shenanigans. Caught in the act, he is digitised and trapped in a game world of his own creation. Think "The Matrix" without the tiresome slow-mo or (hopefully) crappy sequels.

I'll be honest here. I recently revisited Tron for another blog and found that my memory of the movie was better than the movie itself. Not the special effects, curiously. Primitive though they are, there's a charm to them that's still evocative of early game and computer culture.  The vector graphics of the early 80s - seen in titles like Asteroids and Tank Command - are lovingly recalled.

Hopefully, Tron Legacy will trade on the warm feelings and fond memories the original Tron evokes rather than stick to the exact blueprint. The trailer certainly suggests there's a hefty dose of the things that made the original great; light cycle chases, the sparse foreboding game world and, of course, Jeff Bridges. The Dude himself.  Alongside that, there appears to be an acknowledgement that we've all moved on.  Flynn's arcade is closed up and derelict in this trailer - fitting given that gaming has moved from such sleazy locales to the comfort of the living room, to powerful consoles and PCs. And, as befits any 21st Century reboot, it's looking a lot darker.

Take a look. Prepare to be hooked, and see it in 3D when it comes out:

Steam on the Mac

Karl Hodge | No Comments
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I'm more than slightly psyched to hear that Valve, makers of Half Life, Left 4 Dead and Portal, are bringing their game download service Steam to the Mac

Thumbnail image for b9.jpg
I'm a non-affiliated computer user, with machines running (various versions of) Windows, Linux and OS X in my office. It just so happens that the most powerful desktop kit in that morass is a home-built PC running Mac OS X. That's another story... 

Steam on the Mac wouldn't be any good without games to go with it - and Valve have also promised a port of the Source engine: the 3D powerhouse behind their aforementioned FPS successes. 

The long awaited Portal 2 will be the company's first simultaneous release fro Mac and PC. See that? Simultaneous. That's a great leap forward for Mac gaming. Usually, Mac-lovers have to wait months for the biggest games, if they get them at all.

 Portal on a Mac? That seems like having your cake and eating it.

Google TV search - Coming to a screen near you

Faisal Alani | No Comments
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Google is slowly taking over your life, so much so that now I refer to everything as 'Google'. I Google in the morning, get a quick Google done before lunch and always make sure I have at least one Google before bed. Sounds terrible, I know.

TV copy.jpg

But now the search giant wants to cross over from your computer and phone to your TV with a programming search service it's been testing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google has been testing its "television programming search service" for the past twelve months.

The idea is that viewers will be able to search by typing on a keyboard, instead of using a remote control. Google hopes to link the service up with its nascent TV ad-brokering business, allowing it to target ads to individual households based on viewing and TV search data.

It sounds crazy but Google are really serious about search. If this happens I can't wait to go over to friends houses and have its search history come up embaressingly or even better to have 'did you mean Swedish prawn?' appear on your TV.

Play games on PC, Phone and Xbox without stopping

Faisal Alani | No Comments
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4360919590_38140484d0_m.jpgDuring TechEd in the Midle East, Microsoft's Eric Rudder demoed how a game can be played acroos three platforms: A Windows PC, Xbox 360 and a Windows phone 7 series. See the video below.

The game itself wasn't that impressive being a very simple platform game but what was most impressive was the fact that your session was maintained as you switched devices meaning you didn't lose you place.

Just imagine, you're playing a game on your Xbox 360, you then run to the loo, run back then go to work, hide your screen from your boss get the train home etc. All the while making progress on your game and losing out on life.


The game was developed in Visual Studio as a single project with 90% shared code.

You play the game on a PC with a keyboard, the phone uses an accelerometer and touch controls, and the Xbox 360 uses the controller.

Iron Man 2 trailer is getting me excited - see it here

Faisal Alani | No Comments
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IRON-MAN-2.jpgForget Alice in Wonderwhatever, Iron Man 2 is for those that like their films to have robots smashing the crap out of eachother! Not some little girl on a mushroom trip.

Oh yes people, below is the new trailer for Iron Man 2 and I haven't been this excited about a film since Star Wars: A New Hope... ok slight exaggeration but the real question is why are you reading this text when you chould be watching the video!!


iPad Coming in April

Karl Hodge | No Comments
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It's officially official. The Apple iPad is now coming to Blighty in April. Probably.

The US release date has been announced as April 3rd, with pre-ordering switched on from the 12th of March. At first, only the WiFi versions will be released into the wild. Our American cousins will have to wait a bit longer for the 3G versions.

However, the fruity computer maker says that folks in the UK (and a bunch of other territories we don't really care about) will get both versions some time in late April.

Will you be first in the queue when the iPad launches? 


The Sony PSP phone (or PSPhone) on the way...

Faisal Alani | No Comments
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The Wall Street Journal has claimed Sony will fight Apple this year in the tablet and mobile gaming markets through the PSPhone (not the real name, probably).

Sony's online service, to be launched later this year, will provide content like videos and music but will also include downloadable PSP games. I guess it'll have mostly older games for the phone.

I haven't heard anything about pricing etc. but they'll have to be competitive with Apple. Sony are far behind in the smartphone stakes and the PSP has fallen way behind Nintendo so putting them together, and quickly before the Nintendo phone and the next iPhone, could put them back in with a shout.

The patent for the phone was filed back in 2006 and features a touchscreen with haptic feedback.

It's a phone on one side and a PSP on the other. I'm not sure if that's the best way to go to be honest but it'll be interesting to see in reality. If I designed it I would've gone for a large touch-screen and do away with any dial pads etc. The iPhone doesn't have a dial pad so I'm guessing this won't either.

Here's the patent image:


Gesture search on Android phones... Written gestures that is!!

Faisal Alani | 1 Comment | 1 TrackBack
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So now you can search by typing... speaking... and now writing! Oh yes because there aren't enough ways to google your name.

Devices running Android 2.0 can now use Google Gesture Search to find contacts, music, and web search. You have to use your finger like a pen and draw letters on the screen.

The almighty Google says:

Say you want to call your friend Anne. Just open Gesture Search and draw letter "A", and Gesture Search returns a list of items that have words starting with "A". If your handwriting isn't all that neat, that's okay. If the "A" you draw looks a bit like an "H", as seen in the bottom left corner of the screenshot, "H" results will be brought up as well. If needed, you can also erase a query by crossing it horizontally: left to right erases the entire query, and right to left removes the last letter or space in the query. Now you can either scroll down the list to find Anne or write more letters to refine the search.

Ermmm... I have an Adroid phone. While yes this could be really cool and useful, I just think that drawing things on my phone will make me look like an idiot/a child.

Google gestures.jpgI still find voice search stupid. The other day I was on a train and wanted to use it, problem is all my friends are under their nicknames.

One of my friends is under 'Dog face'. Literally, so I'm stood in the the train shouting 'Dog face!!!' at my phone.

Good thing is no one was sat next to me after that.

Apple sue HTC!!

Faisal Alani | No Comments
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htc-hero.jpgApple have decided they will sue HTC for stealing their ideas. Good one Apple, you never steal ideas or names or anything like that!

Steve Jobs said:

"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it. We've decided to do something about it," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO. "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."
Does this sound familiar? Yes of course it does because they're trying to sue Nokia too and will probably go for Palm too at some point.

[Source: Gizmodo]

Review: Belkin Laptop Cooling Stand

Karl Hodge | 5 Comments
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I think that when most of us think about gadgets, we imagine gee whizz things like phones and PDAs and PDAs that are phones. This is, of course, a curious hangover of the thirst for capitalistic acquisition fostered during Thatcher's 80s and continued in New Labour's validation of the post-societal libertarianism of the 90s. Or something.

So it's no wonder that we occasionally overlook some of the very best gadgets because they're not glossy, glitzy or sexy.

The trigger for this train of thought was a hot laptop. My girlfriend's hot laptop, in fact. And, by "hot" I mean that you can fry an egg on it - not that it's some brand new top of the range shiny thing.

I'll name and shame, for the sake of journalistic honesty. It's a Toshiba Satellite A120. And, blow me, if it doesn't run hotter than Kylie's bottom.  Of course, there are extant reasons for this. I maxed out the RAM a year ago, for example. It's getting on a bit now - about three years on the clock. The vents in the side will have sucked in a lot of dust during that time and dust is a very good and keeping heat in.

I looked for solutions that wouldn't involve buying a new computer and, having dismissed buying and fitting a new fan as too much faff, settled on an external laptop cooling system.

Here's where it gets interesting. The device we plumped for was a Belkin Laptop Cooling Stand. It's simply a plastic, contoured board big enough for your computer to sit on.  Your machine stays put thanks to two strips of rubber material, while air flows freely underneath. Finally, a small fan blows cold air onto the bottom of your notebook, powered by USB.


For such a simple device the results were astonishing. The dual core CPU had previously been running at a warm, but still safe top temperature of 46 degrees Celsius. With external cooling, that dropped to an average of 24 degrees C. Wow.

Total outlay for this striking improvement? £11.99.

So - take heed from this story. Sometimes the best gadgets aren't the ones that empty your wallet.


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