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RIP: the death of the MP3 player

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ipod shuffle loja online leilao (Photo credit: sucelloleiloes)

Apple's iPod, the portable media player which launched way back in 2001, created a new generation of compact and colourful ways to consume your media. While not forgetting the software, iTunes, which revolutionised the way we bought and organised our music.

Research by Mintel, claims that sales of MP3 players have fallen by nearly a fifth to £381 million this year compared to 2011.

Why have two gadgets when you can have one? The smartphone acts as a perfectly good MP3 player, which you can call, text, surf the web, watch videos, play games, oh and that's right, listen to music. Smartphones can now also practically cook your dinner for you with a little help from celebrity chefs like Jamie and Nigella.

The iPhone which was the first smartphone to successfully market the combination of music and phone calls six years after the release of the iPod, could be blamed for killing off its own parent product.

You could say that the iPod may have spawned the monster that has killed off the MP3 player.

The company Mintel predicts sales to halve over the next five years, while a "worst case" scenario forecasts that sales of the devices could drop to £25 million.

But don't forget that iTunes killed off CDs, and the iPod killed off the Walkman, so if smartphones are really murdering the iPod, surely Apple has only itself to blame?

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Testing out 4G speeds on the EE network

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EE, the new brand for mobile operator Everything Everywhere, offered a sneak preview of 4G speeds yesterday.

I was given the Huawei Ascend P1, HTC One XL and the Apple iPhone 5 to test out the speedy mobile broadband, which the company is soon to make available in the UK. 

Additionally I was given an iPhone 5 locked to 3G to compare speeds. So for the purpose of this test, the white iPhone 5 is on the 4G EE network, while the iPhone 5 in black is on the 3G EE network.

And generally the 4G speeds did impress, check out my video tests below:

4G vs 3G on Apple devices 

Testing 4G on Android devices 

Streaming YouTube on 4G vs 3G 

Downloading Angry Birds over 4G on a HTC One XL 

Downloading the Amazon app over 4G on a Huwaei P1 Ascend 

However, during my experiments I discovered that downloading anything through the iTunes store was taking an unusual amount of time on 4G. I found that it was taking up to three minutes for a single song and the seconds seemed to increase rather than decrease on the download bar.

This is quite likely that the handful of Apple devices EE was using to demonstrate 4G speeds were all connected to the same account which was being used by five different people at the same time. It could also be an Apple/4G compatibility problem - Apple failed to provide comment by the time of publication. 

So while there are claims that upgrading to 4G will be seamless, I don't think we can expect not to have a few bumps in the road.


EE has announced that from today, 4G ready handsets including the Samsung Galaxy SIII LTE, HTC One XL and Huawei Ascend P1 LTE will be available to buy on Orange and T-Mobile 3G price plans. Once the superfast EE network launches in the coming weeks, Orange and T-Mobile customers with 4G ready handsets can then choose to move across to the new 4G EE network or remain on the existing 3G network.  

Four years in the making: The best of the best.

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karate-kid2.jpgHaving created this blog and nurtured it for the past four years, I've decided to put the best blog posts/videos from the best on one page.

Diary of an outcast: Apple's Special iPad 2 Event
I will start with my favourite post, the infamous Apple event. I had been invited to Apple events before but somehow started getting missed off the list. I hate Apple so it was no surprise that they didn't want me there. Safe to say that after this post not only was I missed off the list but Computer Weekly never received an invite from Apple ever again.

iPhone Vs N97
This was the first big video project that me and David (video editor) put together. At the time I was so happy that I'd got the N97 I decided to make a video pitting it against the iPhone while mocking Apple's advertising campaign. Little did I know that the N97 would prove to be the worst purchase I've ever made in my life.




HTC Desire HD Review
David (who stars in this video) and I wanted to do something different and create a cool video review. This is what we came up with.

Sadly once we started recording David (and the department he worked for) were made redundant. It didn't effect the video but it wasn't a happy time for us. Having cleared out his desk he set up at home the next day to finish it. This was our last hurrah and the last video I made. Very proud of it.




What is the best mobile OS around?
At this point, no one wanted to be in any of my videos. The company was starting to cut back on them and so I tried to play four roles with four outfits and a moustache before I got told that what I was doing wasn't a productive use of my time. Honestly, how could they say that?

This video used to have a voting element that has since been removed because we couldn't afford to pay for the server the flash sat on.

The most ambitious video we ever tried.





Video: The future of business cards, I'm not taking the Poken
There was a girl I was desperate to go out with at my work. I needed to do a video to have a reason to talk to her but the only thing I'd been sent was a Poken. No phones or cool gadgets. Somehow I persuaded her to help me make this video. We're still together :)




Video review of the wiimote like Gyration Air Mouse
This video is pretty much when I realised that I can be funny. What people don't realise is that filming didn't take long but discussions between David and I on what was funny took forever.

He would stand there saying "That's not funny" every time I cracked a joke or did something stupid. Or one of my favourite lines of his was "You might think that's funny, but it isn't".




Video: Palm Pre vs the iPhone - The big debate
I had 2 weeks before Christmas to do a video armed with my wit and a white wig that was left over from a very bad 'Back to the future' spoof I'd made where I played the Doc. That video was so bad that the company we producd it for sent us a letter saying that if the video ever saw the light of day, they'd sue my a** off. 

David went on holiday with a week left of editing/filming to do so I didn't have anyone to tell me that what I was saying wasn't funny and some of the editing is a bit off. It's still a good video but we felt it was rushed.




Video: I heart iPad - Dating website matches man to iPad
What do you do when you get your hands on an iPad before the UK release? Write a review. Then what? Make a video about having a special relationship with it. Yep, not sure why.



The HTC and Google story: A love affair and a tragedy
Lord knows what compelled me to write this. Had I taken more time to craft it, I think it could've been great but when I read it now I feel it's rushed. Still good, where the idea came from I'll never know.

Video: Flip Mino HD review
This video took 84 takes. For no reason at all I couldn't stop laughing during recording. We got in trouble because it was meant to take a couple of hours but took almost two weeks.

Video: Zeemote review - Is this the future of mobile gaming?
I did this video because Zeemote said that they'd give me a free phone if I reviewed it. So...

GeeklyWeekly Sexy Halloween Special
Wow, how bad is this video? It doesn't even have anything to do with gadgets!!

Top 10: Smartphone do's and don'ts of the office

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In 2011 there was as a distinct rise in bring your own device (BYOD) schemes and this is set to continue in 2012. Many companies are wary of the potential security risks that using a variety of different devices and platforms pose, however, employees also have risks they need to consider too. 

Here, to help you avoid awkward faux pas, is my guide on office do's and don'ts when it comes to using your own smartphone for work. 

Smartphone-Overtime-584.jpg
Don't have any adult content on your phone. Three Indian BJP ministers had to learn this lesson the hard way, no pun intended. The risk of a potential sexual harassment case coming your way after "Wendy", the bubbly receptionist, accidentally stumbles across an x-rated image on your phone while she browses your holiday snaps, doesn't bear thinking about. 

Don't download too many addictive apps. Your stock will fall faster than Cristiano Ronaldo in the penalty area if your boss catches you sneaking off to play Angry Birds. I imagine they would also be equally unimpressed if they were to find you by the water cooler playing Temple Run 15 minutes after you went to wet your whistle. 

Don't have an offensive ringtone. In this era of uber political correctness people can quite easily get upset at something you find hilarious. Want my advice? Play it safe with a meowing cat, people love cats, well at least I assume they do judging by the inane amount of videos of them on YouTube. 

Don't have your push notifications turned on. No one needs to know (or cares) when your latest crop of corn is ready to be harvested in FarmVille. Not only will your colleagues think you're trying to get cheap thrills by having your phone vibrate every two minutes, it will quickly get on their nerves.

Angry Birds


Don't save sensitive data. Your boss won't shed too many tears if you lose your phone and your Doodle Jump highscore with it. They will however make you cry, most likely by firing you, if you had confidential work-related documents on your handset when it was lost/misplaced/stolen/smashed. Delete as appropriate. 

Don't be a flash harry, constantly showing off your latest handset and "must-have" apps. This will win you no friends. In fact, I guarantee you it will almost certainly make you one of the most hated people in the office. If you want attention find it another way, start a fashion trend or something. 

It's not all bad news though, there are still some are positives for the employee.

Do take advantage of collaborative apps. Office suite, Quickoffice, syncing your Outlook and accessing a mobile VPN, these are now all things you can fit in your pocket. Meaning, if you do forget something, no need to panic, the likelihood is that you can restore normality using your smartphone. 

Do make use of the flexible working that the portable communication allows. Once upon a time, being out of the office really did mean you were cut off. Now you can take your BlackBerry or other device to lunch meetings and fire back important responses (i.e 'OK', 'Yes', 'No', 'How', 'Why', 'OMG' and 'That's disgusting'). Just remember not to "forget" it on your way out. We all know a few people who seem to have a mind like a sieve when it comes to remembering to carry your phone at all times. 

Do maintain your improved posture. Now that you no longer have to constantly lug around your 3 tonne laptop just to pick up emails, your back should begin to return to normal. No more looking like Quasimodo.
 
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Do use your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot. If your office is stuck in the 90's with dial-up-esque wired broadband speeds then this is a saviour. More people should use this feature as it's very easy to set-up and extremely useful. 

And, as a bonus: Do use the maps and location services on your phone to make sure you never get lost on your way to a meeting. No more looking like a tourist with a huge map but, even better, no more stopping people, who often seem unproportionally angry that you have disturbed their stride to ask for directions (how dare you!). Everyone is a winner. 

If you think I've missed any blindingly obvious ones please do leave a comment and let me know. 

Angry Bird Developers Stop Short Of Wanting World Domination

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Angry_Birds.pngFinnish app developers Rovio have stated they want 1 billion Angry Birds fans before they will even consider moving on to a new project. Sounds a bit like were being held to ransom. 

To me, this sounds like a very risky strategy. How many times have sequels been appalling? We've all lost count. By holding out for 1 billion fans they will be setting the bar and expectations very high for any future projects.

CEO Peter Vesterbacka, speaking at the Casual Connect game show in Seattle, put it rather bluntly when he said, "Game makers buy into their own bulls**t, you think you can make hit after hit. We know how hard it is to do that, so we are betting everything on Angry Birds."

Rovio want Angry Birds to become recognised alongside other gaming icons, such as Mario and Sonic. I think it's fair to say they are on their way because I agree with the view that they are one of, if not, the most successful mobile gaming app of the 21st Century.

I, along with the majority of other iPhone owners, have Angry Birds and Angry Birds Seasons (I have also tried Angry Birds Rio but I wasn't a fan, it just wasn't the same) and they are the sort of game I can just keep going back to, unlike some of the other tat in the app store. 

Vesterbacka also spoke about the success of the adaptation to Android and the popularity of merchandise, namely the plush toys, which are popping up everywhere selling fast. 

Another area that Angry Birds has become popular in is YouTube parodies and I've picked one of the best for you to view:


If you don't already own Angry Birds I can't see this video convincing you but I do hope Rovio reach 1 billion fans, purely because I can't wait to see what they come up with next. 

Video: Hands on with the Nintendo 3DS - Does it deliver?

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Portable gaming has never really been my thing, phones, iPods and the odd Zune have managed to keep me entertained whilst travelling. However, like a lot of kids in the late 1990's I had a Gameboy, which was later replaced by a Gameboy Colour, mainly just to play Pokemon.

Times have changed a lot since then so I felt it was time to re-embrace Nintendo and their latest offering.

Nintendo 3DS

A good place to start is with the 3D; I've seen a handful of 3D films at the cinema and I've also watched the occasional 3D football match at the pub. Both of those required glasses, whereas, as Nintendo so subtly point out, the 3DS does not.

The level of 3D varies, depending on what your looking at, lighting and angle. This is where the 3D depth slider comes in handy.

If I'm being honest, I wasn't expecting the 3D to be as good as it is, it is actually 3D!

Don't get too carried away though, things don't fly out of the screen past your head or look like there going to hit you. But you do feel more involved and emerged, just that much closer to the gaming experience.

I was slightly on tenterhooks when I first played it after reading somewhere that the 3D can cause headaches, nausea and make you feel disorientated.


Being the a rather cautious chap that I am, I arranged some supervision just in case I either spontaneously lost consciousness or, began projectile vomiting all over the place. Thankfully, neither of those happened and I was able to happily sit there and play for a couple of hours.

The kind and thoughtful souls at Nintendo have even installed a prompt to remind you that there is an outside world and that you should maybe put the 3DS down for a little break.

Being the renegade that I am, I ignored it and was able to continue playing without feeling any after effects.

As of yet, I have been unable to get my hands on any 3DS games but this hasn't stopped the 3DS from entertaining me. It has a whole host of features and functions that have managed to successfully hold my attention, which is no easy feat.

Camera

The camera is (in the words of Cilla Black), 'surprise surprise', a camera that can also take 3D pictures.

Like with previous DS systems, images can have funny googly eyes, and oversized lips added on, after doing this once I moved on.

I had more fun using the voice command on the camera. I estimate that I took about 30 pictures, just to make sure that each time I said 'OK' , it worked.

You have to be thorough about these things. I then became a little over excited when I discovered facemerge and it only went and let me down. It just puts one person's eyes, nose and mouth onto the other person's head.


I don't agree with this advert and the people's reactions. This level of shock and amazement is more likely to be displayed by someone who has just seen the Water skiing Squirrel video for the first time, not their first 3D handheld gaming device. The 3DS deserves a 'WOW', quickly followed by deep levels of concentration in order to truly appreciate Nintendo's hard work.

AR (augmented reality)

I think the best thing about the 3DS, by a country mile, is the AR (augmented reality).
This works using a pack of cards that are supplied with the console. The pack contains the main '?' card along with five character cards, including Nintendo favourites, Mario and Zelda.

AR card

The '?' base card opens up the AR menu, which then in turn offers you a variety of options. Games, such as fishing, shooting and AR shoot are presented to you in the form of little yellow boxes that you then shoot to select. The 3DS can morph, stretch and shrink almost any solid surface that the AR cards are placed on.

The fishing game turns the playing surface into a pond, which ripples when you dip in your rod, I feel I should just clarify that the past few words you just read are in no way an innuendo.

The shooting game reveals, what looks like a bit of, an Aztec style forest. Targets are then placed in the forest whilst one cleverly looks like it's hidden in a deep pit.

All of these games culminate in battling against a dragon, which is a bit more sinister when the 3D is turned on, not that I'm a wuss or anything.

Graffiti

Graffiti is yet another feature that the AR cards offer, allowing you to draw above wherever you place the '?' card. This means you can vandalise surfaces without actually vandalising them. In true Blue Peter style, here's one I made early. I mean, I'm not claiming to be Banksy but it's not a bad attempt.

Graffiti

There are more widgets available in graffiti than there are for Paint on my PC. You can move your image around the surface, turn it into a sphere and even place Nintendo characters in the background.

This is where the stylus pen proves it's worth, but, disappointingly, there is still a rather fiddly problem. If you want to change the size of the pencil you use and the colour, you have to go into the mini-menu twice because it closes after each individual selection that you make.

Face Raiders

Another inbuilt feature is Face Raiders. This is a bit surreal as you are effectively shooting your own face as it flies around the screen trying to dodge you.

The background is actually your room as the 3DS makes use of the rear-facing cameras. So you move the 3DS, like a small window into a wacky world, in order to see where the flying objects are in your actual room!

The image you take before you begin aligns your eyes and mouth so that when you play the 3DS can change the expressions on your face.

I ended up sulking after the 3DS, which identifies your sex and age from the image, decided to label me a young female. It has previously called me a male youth, a male young adult but by this point I think it may have got sick of me playing and, as such, decided to insult me.


I don't have the manliest jaw line but being called a young lady by a machine is never fun. I can try and blame the lighting, or something, maybe it was just a bad angle...

Conclusion

To summarise, Nintendo's new handheld offering lives up to the hype in my opinion. The 3D isn't over awing but it is impressive nonetheless. It hasn't, and won't revolutionise gaming, but it has brought with it a whole new realm of possibilities, just like the Kinect has for the Xbox 360.

Nintendo have stuck with their easy to navigate, sleek and shiny layout and improved it's functionality with the addition of the home button and swivelly thumbstick.

I think the success of the 3DS depends on the type of games that are released and, specifically, how they utilise the AR and 3D.

VIDEO: Sony Ericsson ZEUS Z1 PlayStation Phone

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We've seen pictures, we've heard about it and we've dreamt about it but finally here's a video of the Sony Ericsson ZEUS Z1 PlayStation Phone.

The phone runs on Gingerbread aka Android 2.3 which Google confirmed has new game playing capabilities. Now we know why.

It has the standard capacitive touch screen with a slide-out directional pad and the iconic four Playstation buttons with a small touch-sensitive pad sat in the middle and two 'L and R' shoulder buttons. The camera is 8 Megapixels and LED flash like the XPERIA X10.

It will also have a giroscope and compass fitted as is with most new smartphones. Sony is preparing its own App Store just for Games, similar to the current games store for the PSP Go.





>>See our CES 2011 coverage <<

Left 4 Dead 2 debuts on Mac, for five quid!

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Online PC game buying system Steam came out for the Mac back in May and, since then, Valve have steadily been porting their titles over to the platform, including lauded FPS fun fests Portal and Half Life 2.

Today, the latest in the list went live - Left 4 Dead 2 (a game we declared our love for in a previous entry). But that's not all... Oh no. In addition to all the existing L4D2  content, you also get the brand new add on campaign "The Sacrifice" - an expansion featuring characters from the original Left 4 Dead. Oh - and there's also "No Mercy", another add-on campaign Valve have just chucked in 'cos they felt like it.

If you buy the PC version, you can install it on a Mac as well - for free - using SteamPlay.

As if that wasn't all ace enough, the price has been slashed, SLASHED we tell you, to just £5.09 (from £14.99). Heck, you can even buy the four pack so you can frag zombies with your mates for £15.29. If you don't already own the original Left 4 Dead, the best deal is the Left 4 Dead bundle - games 1 and 2 for £7.81.

Billed as a "midweek madness" offer, we'd rush to take Steam and Valve up on it - it won't be around for long. And tell your colleagues you're in meetings all afternoon. Meetings with mutant, homicidal zombies.

Steam on the Mac

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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

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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.

Doom Everywhere...

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16 years ago, when I first downloaded the demo for 3D fragfest Doom to my Fujitsu 386 DX PC, I thought it was the canine's orbs.  This week I've been playing it in my web browser at newsgrounds.com, on an Android powered HTC Hero (on loan from Orange), on an iPhone and on a Mac.  Doom is the first person shooter that simply refuses to die.

And while I'm here getting all misty eyed about blasting cacodaemons, it's worth noting that the latest incarnation isn't the lovely looking but ludicrously unforgiving Doom 3 - but Doom Resurrection; a version of the revamped 3D shooter for the iPhone.



Sing along with me! "Ner ner, ner ner ner, ner ner ner, ner ner ner ner ner ner ner!"  Hmm.  Perhaps the original Doom theme doesn't translate all that well to text...

 

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