Sony VAIO-P The Rolls Royce of Netbooks

I took the sexy svelte Sony VAIO-P out for a spin over the last few days.

This is a very slick, amazing piece of work from Sony. A luscious high resolution screen combined with a really great keyboard. Did I say it was compact? This thing is really compact. It fitted comfortably into the inside pocket of my short jacket.

Compare the sizes…

This thing is neat.

It comes with all the usual WIFI, Bluetooth technology and this model had the 60GB disk (which of course is actual a 55GB disk after formatting). It has got two USB ports and a little dongle to add an external screen and an ethernet connection. The press release also promised 3G connectivity but it wasn’t a feature on my model (which I’m guess was pre-release given its VGN-XXXX model number). 3G would really put the icing on the connectivity cake.

It comes with Vista by default which means performance is pretty awful for all the usual Vista reasons. It would be much more usable with Windows-XP or Linux. I expect Windows 7 would be pretty snappy as well.

And now the bad news. These babies will set up back between 1100 and 1600 euros depending on configuration. No wonder they don’t want us calling it a Netbook ‘cos those sure ain’t netbook prices.

A great little machine, but that price will need a 50% discount to take a bite of the new hot Netbook market that is all the rage in 2009.

The Greenaer.ie Electric Car

Greenaer.ie is an Irish company distributing the Reva electric car in Ireland. They lent us one to take out for a spin today. The goal of these cars is to provide a single driver with a greener alternative when commuting and this car certainly does that. But can you stomach it for everyday use at the 10,000 euro price tag?

Its a small car, it has two fake seats in the back but to fit two kids in the back you’d need two kids in the front driving.

The car itself is has a very basic set of facilities and I was almost shocked when Olivier mentioned that it had a remote zapper to lock the car. There is only one instrument on the dashboard, the speedometer which goes up to 80 km/h, in a fit of optimism that can only bring a smile to your lips.

So first hiccup was the crazy handbrake which comes out of the floor like a spear. This had obviously been mistreated by previous owners (borrowers?) and was in need of therapy. What it got was more brutal mistreatment, which seemed to do the trick, with much pulling and wrenching we were free. The car drives like an automatic and has two pedals, a brake and a (very light) accelerator pedal. There is a dial above the steering while on the right has a selector for reverse, neutral, forward and Boost. These are as standard on automatic drive cars but Boost is special. Boost gives you extra juice and acts like a turbo-charger,for going up hill or just for going faster. You can use the boost anytime during driving, but is does impact your mileage.

A light in the middle of the dash that warns you when you are draining the battery too much based on driving style (generally stamping on the accelerator) but it can also go green when braking. This is the regenerative braking in action. The green indicates braking activity that is being user to generate electricity to recharge the batteries. This is a key contributor to the drive time you will experience. However it does tend to make braking uneven and very lumpy and bumpy.

The ride in general is firm and you feel all the bumps on the road. This is not a car for country driving. The advertised range on our model with lead acid batteries was 60-80km before  a recharge. This will rise to 120km with the Li-ion batteries. I think realistically you should be planning to do no more than 40km before a recharge. This factors in the use of heaters, lights, indicators etc. that I think may not be included in the range figures given by the company. Remember unlike a petrol driven car, the indicators and lights drain the main power source directly (a petrol car generates electricity for all the internal electrics using an alternator) so they all directly drain the battery.

The main problem with the drive is the tendency to roll during turns. Even a gentle turn at 20km/h and the whole chassis heaves out over the outside wheels in a very distributing way. I can’t help feeling a few anti-roll bars would fix this.

Once the car is out of juice it needs a recharge from a normal domestic plug. They car comes with a short extension flex, which even for an economy car seems unnecessarily cheap, what would another 10 meters of cable cost?

This is the real challenge of the electric car away from home, how do I get charge? For the lead acid batteries the charging time of 12 hours means this has to been done at a location where the car can remain safely plugged.  With the new Li-ion batteries this will be down to 1 hour with the booster pack.

In summary a car for the dedicated green commuter. Its unlikely to convert legions of existing car drivers due to drive quality and price.

Will The Real George Hook Stand Up On Twitter

George is now on twitter, there was an imposter (now gone) but the real George is on,

http://twitter.com/ghook

Go follow.

Firebox Arcade Game is a Bust but MAME Player Rules

I mentioned a site to listeners last week called Firebox.com that use to sell full sized arcade consoles (the old school upright consoles you used to find in those sleazy arcades up and down O’Connell St in Dublin).

Well that sites a bust, but with a little bit of Googling I came across this site,  Games Cabinet Inc. however don’t expect to see much change out of 3000 euro for most of the kit here.

On the other hand you can download a MAME ( Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) from mamedev.org. Now type “mame defender” into google to get the MAME version of the classic William’s game of Defender for your emulation. Drop that zip file into the rom directory of the mame emulator and your are ready to inflict massive alien casualties. Similar searches will find you other game classics like Donkey Kong, Battlezone and of course Space Invaders.

May the force be with you.

The INQ Social Phone and iTunes Duplicate Removal

I’ve been using Three’s new Social Networking INQ mobile phone for the past week or so. Pretty funky, in a walled garden kind of way . So out of the box (for 79 euro pay as you go) you get a mobile phone with full integration into Bebo, Facebook, Skype and Windows Messenger.

None of these services impose a data fee for Internet access so these services are essentially free, once you stump up for the price of the phone and any calls you make on it.

Facebook social network integration (I presume bebo is the same, but I don’t have  bebo account) means you get real-time status updates and messages and are able to respond online. Similarily with Skype. Facebook integration allows very simple publishing of photos to the Facebook photo site.

Both the Skype and Facebook contact lists are integrated into a single contacts list so you can choose to contact people using a free service as opposed to a paid text or phone call.

The device itself was commission for Three specifically so doesn’t come with any branding other than the Three logo and you won’t find it on any other network.

Whats missing? Well twitter integration would be nice and the camera is a low res 3.2MP and the optics are average to poor. Getting you existing contacts onto will also be a trial if like me your address won’t all fit onto an existing SIM.

Apart from those minor hiccups this is a great way to keep your favourite social network updated in real time.

Remove Your Duplicate Songs from iTunes

This article talks about a manual method that doesn’t require software. It first removes the duplicate links and then gives some advice on remove the actual duplicate files. Its a bit brute force for my liking (all that copying libraries seems a bit risky).

These are more detailed instructions that warn about accidentally deleting duplicates that aren’t actually duplicates.

If you are on a Mac you should also try out this Dupin script, which does a lot of the heavy lifting.

Here is the official line from Apple, but beware you make eliminate duplicates that aren’t duplicates following these instructions (find duplicates finds by track name, so may find the same track on different albums).

Clone Remover (for Windows) looks like a more generic solution to duplicate files, but has a specific iTunes mode. This is trial ware and will cost you $32 eventually.

Finally Tune Up is free for 30 days and does the same thing.

Reviews Galore

Review – Sony EBook Reader

A flawed masterpiece. The idea of carrying a hundred books with me is appealing and the reader is certainly the right size, but at first blush it suffers from the tinkerers dilemma, too many buttons. What do I press next. Also the click feedback on the buttons is very poor and requires quite a finger to activate. screen contrast is okay, but some kind of backlight is required and didn’t seem to be present on the 505 model.
Finally the screen flashes in a really annoying way during page transitions.
Verdict : THis is a 1.0 product and unless you have a compelling need to carry electronic books, wait until the next version.

Review – Samsung Omnia

We really like Samsung’s new phones. The Omnia is the big brother of the Tocco (which we gave away last week). Comes with a similar 5MP camera but this model has WIFI, GPS, 5MP camera, touch screen. Windows Mobile can compete with the iPhone just about. Keyboard typing is impossible without the “so easy to loose” stylus.

Review – Sony Wireless Walkman

A lovely device, very light, Nice clear screen. Lots of buttons. Needed to get the manual out to pair the headphones (this is always the case with bluetooth, a very user unfriendly protocol).
Key highlights,

  • 4GB capacity (around 2400 songs or 15 hours of video)
  • 36 hour battery life (right, lets say 24!)
  • Doesn’t display AVI files or .WMV files so bugger all use for video (boo!)
  • Speakers are very good
  • Music gets on via drag and drop the music management software that comes with the software is pretty dire

The bluetooth is a winner and if you demand a wireless life then this device is a winner. but its got a long way to go to compete with the simplicity of the iPod.

Review – Philips Wireless Digital PhotoFrame

Loved the idea a photoframe that circulates through your photos displaying them. Falls down in a few critical areas though.

  • Setup: Required the manual, always a FAIL. It uses Windows Media Player to access your photographs and the setup is counter-intuitive.
  • It doesn’t support the simplest way to bung photos into a photo frame, which is to plug in a USB key with a bunch of photos on it
  • It doesn’t have battery support so you need to be near a plug
  • You can plug in the SD card straight from your camera which gives a nice instant satisfaction thing

It needs good quality pictures to look its best (e.g. 4 MP and up) older camera phone images will look grainy when upscaled.

Three.ie – Competition Winner Week 3

Winner of a set of Klipsch headphones and a Sony Ericsson C902 phone is, Sarah McCloskey from Waterford.

Sarah did great review of ScanSound Unilateral headphones.


The discovery of this useful technological accessory was key to finding a more complete listening experience for my two children who have unilateral hearing (i.e are deaf in one ear). Regular two channel stereo headphones were far from ideal for them and as much of our ‘entertainment’ type listening today involves a stereo or surround but my children have been missing out on typically 30-50% of the available sounds. Whether listening to a guitar solo or the canned laughter of a cartoon, I became aware that they were not hearing large chunks of the total sound experience due to their hearing impairment.
I recall my own mono listening days and reflecting on that painful memory was determined to source a headphone that would allow my children to have the same privilages in entertainment sound as those of us with bilateral (both sided) hearing. This process proved to be far from simple. Utilising search engines including google gaining information was largely inadequate. I eventually disvcovered only one non-specialist manufacturer that provided two channel stereo sound via a single earpiece.
Priced very reasonably from $10-$20 per unit, scansound, a company based in the USA, provide a wide range of this type of earphone. I purchased 5 units, given the tendency of children to lose or damage itmems so easily. The units were dispatched in a tmely fashion and were delivered within a week and although ‘bubble wrap’ was the extent of their packaging the goods arrived in good condition. The package included a variety of removable ear bud covers which included a very broad spectum of sizes from child to adult which meant individual fitting for both children was extremely simple and essentially they were very comfortale. They also came with the standard 3.5mm jack connection.
In my own test of the headphones; I found the quality of sound to be reasonable, but not fantastic. The sound level was only moderate also. However both these points have to be taken with a pinch of salt as in this case the only real judges had to be the children. Their opinions were confirmed to be highly positive. They both immediately noticed that they where hearing elements of songs that they had not heard previously on either their beloved mp3 players or nintendo DS lites. Additionally for people with hearing in one ear what is the point of headsets with two ear pieces, one just hangs lose, unused. They completely fell in love with them. Also I noted on reflection that there might well have been a cap on the sound levels in the one ear to ensure no damage was incurred in the good ear and therefore might well have been intentional although I can not confirm this.
To date my children have continued to used the scansound headphones and have managed to keep them safe and in one piece even when they have travelled or when they have changed them from between various electronic devises. I felt that I must highlight that such an option is available out there for children or adults with unilateral hearing and even if this just means that when some other parent searches google they will find this small review, at least it may help a little in their search.

Three.ie Competition winner – Week 2

The second winner in the Three competition on The Right Hook has been announced on George’s radio show. It is Castle Tunes from Dublin who wrote a very detailed review of the Squeezebox Boom.

One of the prize phones from Three and Custom-1 headphones from Klipsch will shortly be on their way to Dublin.

There are another two weeks left in the competition. So get writing gadget reviews on the site or via SMS. The winner will be announced each Monday on the show which you can also listen to on the Newstalk web-site.

competition winners and TV on your mobile

Competition Winner – SnowGirl from Thurles

SnowGirl from Thurles wins this weeks prize (a Sony Ericsson w880i and a set of Klipsch Headphones) for a review of the new Sony Ericsson C905 phone.
Next weeks prize is the Sony Ericsson C902 (The Bond Phone). Whip over to loudervoice.com and post your review and remember to tag it with “therighthook”.
Big shout out to Three.ie for the providing the phones as prizes and Klipsch for the headphones.

 
Getting TV on your Mobile Phone

A listener asked last week about getting TV on their mobile phone. Turns out there are two devices that can support this, the Slingmedia Sling Box and the Hauppauge WinTV HVR 1950. Both these devices will capture live TV signals and allow you you watch remotely on any Internet device (including a mobile phone). You will need to fiddle with your firewall and make sure that you are on a flat rate plan for mobile access (such as the iPhone plan).
We will try and get review copies and try this out in the coming weeks.

 
Peek Email wins Wired Best Device of 2008

Just email. No camera, no phone, a full keyboard and a portable device that does email. Wired liked it enough to award it the best gadget of 2008 award.

 
Nokia Stress Tests for their Phones

Rain, gels, bending, humdity drop tests are all what your Nokia phone gets exposed to in the Nokia test labs.

 
Google adds SearchWiki

Google now allow customisation of search results. You can choose with result to retain, which to ignore and reassign the order. look for the arrows and crosses beside the search results. You will need to be logged in for it to start working.

 
Finally Somebody comes to their Senses on Packaging

Amazon is leading the charge on eliminating blister packs (yeah, I got them blisters) and ties straps.  6000 people are injured every year in the US opening dopey impregnable vendor packaging. Smyths toys, are you listening?

 
Which Best Buy – Sony Portable DVD Player – Sony DVP-FX720

Which did a review of the best portable DVD player recently (a must have if you are travelling with Children).  The Winner was the Sony DVP-FX720. Key features include low disk noise, 4.5 hour battery life, and great sound if you use and external headset.

First Competition winner

The first winner in the Three competition on The Right Hook has been announced on George’s radio show. It is Snowgirl from Thurles who wrote a great review of the Sony Ericsson C905 phone. Our favourite line in the review was: “a camera that can call people”.

One of the prize phones from Three (the w880i)  and Custom-1 headphones from Klipsch will shortly be on their way to Tipperary.

There are another three weeks left in the competition. So get writing gadget reviews on the site or via SMS! The winner will be announced each Monday on the show.