Archives for: July 2004

Sat, 31 July 2004

Permalink 07:34:11 pm

Scotland Photo Gallery

I've just added a new gallery to the site - Fort William, Oban & the Scottish Highlands, taken last week. I've also redesigned the existing Canada galleries so that they're integrated in to the site. In case you're wondering, I used Jalbum to generate the galleries. Links posted here open in a new window, so to view the galleries click the links on the left.

Sun, 25 July 2004

Permalink 12:48:42 am

iAudio M3 Dilemma

After the iRiver problems I wrote about earlier, I have been on the look out for a portable mp3/audio player that supports OGG, has an FM radio and has decent battery life. After my brief flirtation with a flash-based player I've decided to go for a hard drive one. I've completely ruled out iRiver - I emailed them to get clarification on whether the white noise problem has been fixed, and they couldn't even be bothered to reply; I'm not willing to buy from a company with that level of customer service.

Well, I think I've found what I'm looking for, one of these chaps, an iAudio M3:

iAudio M3

It has everything that I'm looking for, has great reviews, is smaller than an iPod and judging from comments on the iAudio forum, they listen and respond to their customers.

So where's the dilemma? There are now three versions, the standard 20GB & 40GB models with 12 hours battery life, and now also a long play 20GB model, the M3L, with 35 hours. And the 20GB M3L is exactly the same price as the standard 40GB!! Why do they have to make these decisions so difficult!? ;) So do I go with the smaller hard drive, but longer battery life, or vice versa? If anyone has a hard drive MP3 player I'd appreciate it if you could let me know which you'd go for and why, bearing in mind that neither will hold my entire music collection (around 60GB, and almost all of it legal!).

Wed, 21 July 2004

Permalink 12:29:27 am

Are You Sure You're Pro-Choice?

It's not often I write about really serious subjects on here, but sometimes you read something that so knocks you sideways that you start to question your own opinions.

This story in the New York Times, via Washington Monthly, tells the story of a mother who, after finding out she was pregnant with triplets, had an abortion. Except she only aborted two of them and kept the other one.
'I'll never leave my house because I'll have to care for these children. I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise. Even in my moments of thinking about having three, I don't think that deep down I was ever considering it.'

The immediate reaction to this is one of revulsion - aborting two and keeping one just because it would change your life too much seems just wrong. But how is this different to aborting a single fetus just because it was unplanned? I have always considered myself to be pro-choice, but I can't see any moral argument why this is worse.

Should we only allow the termination of all fetus in cases like these? But then you're forcing the mother to deny one of them life, and that doesn't seem right. If it's for medical reasons or after rape then decision is a completely different on, so perhaps the motive should be examined? But again, how is this different to aborting a single fetus because it will get in the way of your career? I think I'm going to need some time on this one.

Fri, 16 July 2004

Permalink 02:47:40 pm

Picasa Photo Album Available Free From Google

Following their purchase earlier this week, Google are now offering Picasa, a digital photo album for free from their UK site. It was previously for sale at £30.The main features are:

- Slideshow. Automatic or manual full screen slideshow of an album.
- Editing. Red-eye removal, cropping, black & white, rotation and auto-enhance.
- Timeline. Full-screen graphical view.
- Email photos with automatic resize.
- Keyword searching. Add keywords to each image for easier searching.

I've already downloaded and installed it; my inital thoughts? Good stuff:

- Very nice clean, minimalist interface.
- Quick import: it imported my 1393 photos, 1.69GB, in about a minute.
- The slideshow is well implemented.

Whilst it's free, and I shouldn't really complain: the not-so-good stuff:

- There doesn't seem to be a way of displaying a single image full-screen without starting a slideshow.
- The keyword searching is very basic. For example, you can't use 'and' or 'or'.
- The timeline feature doesn't seem to work on my PC - it displays in a very low resolution, making the pictures fuzzy.
- I can't find any reference to whether the rotation is lossless; until I can be sure it is, I'm going to avoid it.

Is it worth downloading? If you already use another album package, such as Adobe Album or PS Photo Album there is nothing ground-breaking in Picasa that warrants changing. This may be different in the future - I wouldn't be at all surprised it the next version contains built-in Blogger functions. If, though, your photos are spread all over your hard drives at the moment with nothing to help organise them, then follow the link and download it now - for free, it is a very good product.

Sat, 10 July 2004

Permalink 07:28:30 am

Kramer 350G Aluminium Neck Guitar For Sale

Sorry, shameless plug here. If by some stroke of luck you're in the market for a late 70s Kramer 350G aluminium (or aluminum for those across the pond) neck guitar, then have I got just the thing for you - I've just put mine up up for auction on Ebay. I was expecting about £200 for it, but with 7 days left it's already up to £220, with a fair bit of interest. The auction ends Saturday 17th July at 2334.

When it's sold I'd like to get one of these, an Ibanez AR3000, but I haven't found anyone in the UK who sells them yet. If you happen to know of somewhere that's got them, let me know.

**UPDATE 14/07/2004**
Come on, get those bids in. Up to £255 with just 3 days left. Pictures of it here.

Sat, 03 July 2004

Permalink 06:35:51 pm

iRiver iFP-790 Review

I took the plunge a couple of weeks ago and bought one of the iRiver 700 Series, the iFP-790 from Ebuyer, total price £120.

Based on reviews and user comments it seemed to offer the most features for the price and have good sound quality. After using it for a fortnight I beg to differ:

Problem 1 - USB Device Not Recognized By PC
After installing the software that comes with the iFP-790, I followed the instructions and connected it via a USB port. After a couple of seconds my PC displayed a message 'The installation failed because a function driver was not specified for this device instance'. I tried following the instructions on the iRiver website, which involved trying to install the drivers via Device Manager, but could not get it to work. I emailed iRiver support and received the exact same instructions that are on the website - very useful! Eventually I found this post on the iRiver forum about problems with USB1.1 ports. I tried connecting the player to my PC at the office and it worked first time. I upgraded the firmware to version 1.14 which specifically mentioned a fix for USB connection problems - this time it worked on my home PC. How bad must their testing be for this kind of bug to go out on a product? I was lucky that I had access to another PC. It seems from comments on the forum that the problem isn't only limited to USB1.1 ports - people are also having difficulties connecting to USB2.0 ports. You pays your money, you takes your chance.

Problem 2 - Limited Ogg Support
I particularly wanted Ogg support due to it's superior sound quality at higher compression rates. Despite having Ogg support advertised on the packaging, there is no mention that it only supports Ogg tracks with an average bitrate above 96Kbps. As this player only has 256MB of memory this immediately reduced the number of tracks I'm able to store.

Problem 3 - Loud Background Hiss
When I first listened to the player in an almost silent environment, I could here a very noticeable background hiss. This is not background noise on the tracks themselves, as the hiss is audible as soon as the player is switched on, with nothing playing. So I did some digging. Today I found these posts on Mistic River, and the iRiver community forum. To summarise, they are recalling all iFP-700 series and iFP-800 series in Korea because of this exact problem. However, they are not doing the same elsewhere. If there is a known problem they should be recalling them all to be fixed, replaced, repaired or refunded. Anything less and they are knowingly selling a faulty product.

As far as I can gather from the forum posts, these problems exist on all IFP-700 series players, the IFP-780, IFP-790, IFP-795 & IFP-799, as well as the iFP-800 series, the iFP-880, iFP-890, iFP-895 & iFP-899 which differ only cosmetically.

Perhaps 'review' was the wrong word to choose for this, maybe rant would have been better. There are postitives, battery life and the ability to set a timer to record FM, for example. But when it's primary function is to play uploaded tracks, and you have problems connecting and a persistent background hiss, then no amount of positives out-weigh this. If you're willing to risk it not connecting to your USB port, won't be using Ogg files and can tolerate a loud background hiss, then I recommend this player. Otherwise avoid.

**UPDATE 13/07/2004**
Ebuyer accepted it as a return, and after testing they agreed that it was faulty and refunded the price. At least it wasn't just me being over sensitive. Knowing what I know now about the Ogg limitations, if I could be sure that there wouldn't be the background hiss I would still buy the 512MB model. The trouble is, I wouldn't trust buying one by mail order now, and haven't seen any in high street shops.

**UPDATE 22/10/2004**
As the most recent comments from other people on this post have been mostly positive, I took the plunge and bought an IFP-895 yesterday. And the verdict is.... thumbs up. There is still a very, very slight background hiss, but far less than the IFP-790 I had and it's really not noticeable. For those who are interested, I bought it from Overclockers for the bargain price of £129 including VAT and delivery (the lowest Advanced MP3 Players would go was £149), it's the European model rather than the US one that came from Ebuyer (different packaging and loaded with the EU firmware) and the firmware version is 1.21.
iRiver iFP-790

Thu, 01 July 2004

Permalink 08:24:28 pm

Move Along, Nothing To See

Just creating a spam trap to improve my filtering

stevem@ivorysky.com

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