Fighting with computers

Computers are not always friendly.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

To iPod or not to iPod

I have been thinking on buying a new iPod. I've got a 4GB mini iPod since 2004. It works nicely and as my iBook it has been locked into my wife's gravity field. I have to admit that both devices come with a high WAF value (you know WAF, don't you?).

The only problem with [her] iPod is that it cannot hold all the music we have. However it seems that Apple is not offering any education discount on iPod at the moment. Prices have not changed for quite a while and I find the thing a bit pricey. I've been a happy Creative customer and all our outher MP3 players at home are from them. They have a 30GB Zen Video player that seems to offer better image quality than iPod but it is 5mm thicker (though it has a mic for audio recording and an emdedded FM receiver too). Price is the same as 30GB Ipod ($249). And ... the Creative has host-mode USB (it means you can connect it to your digital camera to transfer the photos to the unit HD without using a computer).

We will need to wait to see what Santa thinks about the whole issue.

BTW, Apple seems to offer no support to Creative players (no surprise) but XNJB program seems to offer a solution for OS X users that own a Creative MP3 player.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Two in one

Both Sigmatek's dvbx200 and Woxter's xvid 675 dvbt seem to be the same: A DivX player plus a DVB-T receiver. As they look the same, they are likely made by the same chinese OEM manufacturer and just branded different. I've tested a Sigmatek unit and I've found it delivers what it promises:
  • It plays back DivX files from either a DVD or a USB memory stick.
  • It also plays back the photos of your camera (provided it uses SD format) using the built in slot.
  • It also seems a good quality DVB-T receiver.
  • It includes an ok remote control.
Don't get me wrong, this is not a top of the line product, but you hardly can beat it at that price range (around $80).

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Another Genius Tablet

I mentioned before one portable tablet from Genuis (the G-Note 5000) that can also be attached to the computer to be used as a regular tablet. I'm quite happy about it but unfortunately it does not have pressusure sensitivity (two is not enough for some applications).

Wacom is the brand name drawing tablets. The problem is that Wacom tablets are quite expensive too. The main advantage of Wacom is that they pointer they use requires no battery. Other brands, however, although they have cheaper units, require a battery inside the tablet stylus.

I think I can handle the extra weight so I have bought a Genius G-Pen 4500 for around $35. Besides I am also getting a small mouse I can use in the same tablet space.

The included software worked Ok in Windows XP with The Gimp but not with Inkscape. The OS X driver seems to work only so an so (it might be it requires a good amount of processing power and my iBook is not that fast, I am not sure).

Linux was a no go. Although the G-Note worked with the evdev driver, the G-Pen requires a new driver. Luckily there is WizardPen driver. And after fidling a bit with my xorg.conf file I got it working under Ubuntu 6.06.

On the cons side Ubuntu just shows nothing on the screen when X starts and the tablet is not connected. A script needs to be created so the tablet invocation on the "ServerLayout" section is removed then.

Monday, December 04, 2006

GPS navigation: Navigator 4000

The holiday season is approaching fast and so is my birthday. After having a couple of incidents of not finding my way driving the car recently, I decided it might be ok to get one of these GPS tiny toys. As I am not PDA kind of person I was thinking on a device that contains all what you need.

Some other people might want to get a Bluetooth-based GPS antenna to be (wirelessly) connected to their PDA that, equipped with the right software, will do the work of a stand-alone navigator.

As usual, there are just too many choices to make and many different brands and prices. To make things worse you learn that the unit could also include a Bluetooth hands-free adaptor or a TMC receiver. But wait, what's TMC? I'd never heard of that before. Then you learn that the business is somehow selling you extra maps too (or new versions of the ones you already have). After all, a GPS navigator is as good as the maps it is based on.

Can your GPS navigator play MP3 files or movies? Damn, this is going crazy.

What screen size do you want? Can you select many different voices for the directions? Can the unit react to avoid the traffic jams? Does your area has a TMC signal? Is it free? Is there a GPRS-based traffic information service? How much does it cost monthly?

I think you know what I mean: It seems to be much more complicated than to buy a PC. I guess this is because it is still a geek-oriented device (and market).

I've just settle with a cheap unit that looks like an OEM version I bought at a Lidl supermaket. The funny thing is that after searching carefully through the shop aisles I had to ask to one of the shop attendants: These units were not on display!

I'm not so sure I will keep the unit, but for the moment it seems ok (as far as you do not remove the SD flash card while the navigation software is loaded).