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Vaio Z 2011 (VPC-Z2) review roundup

Posted On: Mon, 01/08/2011 - 12:42 by Alex

The new Vaio Z, in terms of specifications, is a pretty amazing ultraportable. It incorporates the fastest available dual core 2nd generation Intel® Core™ i7 processor and a matte 13.1" 1080p screen, in a carbon fibre and aluminium chassis which weighs just 1.165kg (with standard 6.5h+ battery) and is only 16.65mm thick. USB 3.0, a VGA port and ethernet are all available, without dongles. There's nothing else which comes close - unless price is a factor.

The fastest available 13" MacBook Air (recently refreshed) has a lower resolution glossy (urgh) screen, a processor which is rated for 0.9Ghz less performance and is heavier (200 g). It also has far fewer ports. To be fair, it's probably thinner overall and I suspect many more will opt for this because of price.

The closest Windows alternative is the Samsung Series 9 (which is like the MBA, but worse - even lower resolution screen and even slower processor). This is also the cheapest of the models mentioned. Even cheaper Windows alternatives are supposed to launch in September, the Intel "Ultrabooks".

Should buy a Vaio Z? Yes - if you want to run Windows, need to carry a laptop around (for work or otherwise) and can afford it (i.e. without selling a body part). I've pre-ordered.

To help you decide, reviews have arrived early this time, even before actual production units are available to those who pre-ordered. Unfortunately, the Z is said to be "noisy" (under load) although the other aspects pan out - the screen is reportedly gorgeous (execept at more extreme angles) and it boots quickly - within 28-38 seconds at default settings; and the reviews all fail to enable "fast boot" in the BIOS, which ignores peripherals until after login and can apparently cold boot in 14 seconds. On noise - I own a 2008 Vaio Z which was also said to be noisy, but for that system it was rarely a problem.

Read the reviews yourself - and once mine arrives I'll probably post impressions ;)

PC Pro
Laptop Magazine
IT Pro
This is my next

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Army of Darkness on Endless (iPad/iPhone app)

Posted On: Sun, 26/06/2011 - 05:50 by Alex

Army of Darkness was a 1992 movie, part of the Evil Dead franchise created and directed by Sam Raimi.

The franchise is back, in a iPhone/iPad app, "Army of Darkness Defense". If you liked the movie, you should get the app - the app is free (for now at least) and has great production quality, making this a remarkably easy decision. If you start it up and enjoy it, excellent.

You shouldn't have any trouble getting through the main game. "Gameplay is a little too simple". "Endless" mode though, which is unlocked after you finish 50 levels, is a mite tougher.

Soo - how do you get through that?

The recipe/strategy for the 69 million (so far) clusterf**k above, is:

(1)Get: Max level Armored Guards, Spearmen, Henry, "Magic Words", "Deathcoaster", Smithy. At least level 8 Archers, Level 6 Arthur, Level 4 Wiseman.

(2) don't pin the dead down to the castle entrance immediately, instead - use delay tactics until your blacksmith gets to max level and max iron. During this time Magic Words may be used, but only after running all the way to the left of the screen (to the Book). Don't use Deathcoaster unless your units are far to the left.

(3) When you're ready, summon Arthur together together with a Armoured Guard and Spearmen and use "Magic Words". You should aim to have this mass of humans meet the dead somewhere within the castle. When they're about to meet, summon henry and thereafter summon Armoured Guards and Spearmen continuously. Armoured Guards and Spearmen need to work together, although you should bias slightly towards Armoured Guards (if all of these die, uh. bye!). Summon the Wiseman.

(4) Deathcoaster should be used when you have approx. 5-6 Armoured Guards, 10-12 Spearmen and Arthur, Henry and Wisemen at the head of your army. Deathcoaster should also be used to clear out clusters of dead archers, but delay as long as possible - you're aiming to kill them to keep them from wiping out your Armoured Guards/heroes, but you need to have a sufficient number of Spearmen in place before you pin the dead against the castle door - because once that happens:

(5) Evil Ash (bad) and/or Possessed Sheila (preferred) will appear. Continuously. At this point you've either already amassed sufficient Armoured Guards and Spearmen to defeat them easily each time they appear, or you're going to die.

(6) If you've got enough, congratulations! Just keep reincarnating Arthur and Henry, use Magic Words and Deathcoaster whenever available, and summon streams of Armoured Guards and Spearmen.

Finish all the achievements!

By the way - if you're planning on earning money from Endless before this, you'll want to do things differently - basically just set up deathcoaster runs (i.e. let the dead approach, then kill them all with the deathcoaster and run with the deathcoaster to pick up money).

Edit: I went back and played a little more. My iPad 2 hung at about 80 million. BOO. On the bright side I didn't lose the money I'd earned - Hello there 324,000 gold! :)

Check out this application on the App Store:

Cover Art

Army of Darkness Defense HD

Backflip Studios

Category: Games

Updated: 07 Jun 2011

280 Ratings

Game Center

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Time to buy NOK?

Posted On: Mon, 16/08/2010 - 12:54 by Alex

I've been wrapped in the embrace of Apple since the iPhone became available globally.

No Symbian (note: Symplification) phone released since then has been compelling (to date none has a competitive mobile browser and a quick look at shipping Nokia Symbian phones suggests that all such phones are not in the same "smartphone" league as RIM/Apple/Android - indeed, they are plagued with the same basic problem the Nokia 7610 had in 2004 - a non-Nokia guide + time is needed to use a Symbian phone to potential). Nokia's fortunes have fallen, as a result. In spite of this, as of Q2 2010, Nokia is still the world's leading smartphone (Symbian) vendor. This is a position that Nokia has held for at least the last 6 years. I suggest that this is not a fluke - Nokia has endured in spite of the mediocrity of Symbian as a smartphone OS because Nokia executes well (i.e. makes good devices and phones which are usable as phones).

By this logic, assuming Nokia continues to execute, they are poised to reverse marketshare losses - not because of Symbian (although presumably Symbian will eventually improve) but because of Maemo - now MeeGo. In particular, i think it is clear that Nokia is poised to take back marketshare once Nokia starts to ship a "current-gen" mobile OS.

While the question of whether MeeGo is a "current-gen" mobile OS is somewhat debatable until the first consumer devices ship, it is helpful to note: (i) MeeGo's precedessors have been reasonably acceptable (e.g. Nokia N900, although note that the Nokia N800, with a MeeGo-precedessor OS, never achieved the widespread popularity of the similarly positioned iPad); and (ii) MeeGo's adoption in July as the next reference platform by an automotive industry group which essentially comprises every car manufacturer of note, impressive because Android was the obvious alternative and perhaps choice, being also "open source".

All the above is not really news and was probably insufficient to save Nokia's current CEO from being axed, but what Oracle has started by suing Google is potentially even better for MeeGo - it might be the tipping point for manufacturer-led adoption of MeeGo.

This is because:
(i) MeeGo, Android, Symbian and Microsoft are the only available options apart from self-developing;
(ii) while Symbian was not used extensively when it was Nokia-controlled, Android has now been adopted extensively, providing a precedent;
(iii) Symbian is a non-starter (see above, ^3 etc. may help but OSes need devices, and Nokia has pledged that it's high end is MeeGo); and
(iv) Microsoft costs money (and is equally unproven).

Android was the obvious choice for as a manufacturer response to iOS because of track record (i.e. (ii)) and being free (iv), but with the patent litigation risk (see ArsTechnica for a legal analysis of Oracle's claim which seems to be credible) it is hard to see any manufacturer willing to continue to take the risk without serious mitigation -phones on current roadmaps are likely to continue to be released, but the obvious alternative is to spend more device R&D dollars on WM7 and MeeGo. This is especially true because that it is not clear that Google is actively assisting HTC in HTC's defence against's Apple's patent infringement suit, apart from issuing some PR-friendly statements .

Why does Nokia benefit from this? Again, execution. It's probably reasonable to expect that Nokia's phones will always be ahead (just!) of the pack. If the pack comprises all phone manufacturers of note, the bar becomes higher. I do like Nokia. While I expected that my next phone would be Android driven, perhaps not!

N.B.: The iPhone 4 is fine and dandy, it has a gorgeous screen, is faster and gets some data network connectivity in previously "dead" zones, but I've been suffering from dropped calls and bad voice connections (and I don't even use it terribly often as a phone). Coupled with the failure to implement some really basic interface features (e.g. the ability to quickly switch bluetooth/tethering on/off), as alternatives mature the temptation to jump increases. Maybe it's just because I'm a PC (*koffkoff*). As a brief aside, notice also that arguably the best hardware available as a non-iPhone smartphone is STILL the HTC HD2. Pity about the OS it runs and I wonder why even the newest Android HTC devices don't obviously surpass it.

Note: As of the date of this post, the author has no shares or other interest in any named company, except that in his capacity as a solicitor he may have acted for one or more such companies on matters unrelated to this post; the author has not acted for any company in relation to Oracle's claim.

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Computer Buying - a simple guide

Posted On: Tue, 10/08/2010 - 10:55 by Michael

In today’s world computers are more prevalent and more accessible than they have ever been before. The prices of computers all across the spectrum of manufacturers are beginning to decline and the feature lists keep getting longer. In this sea of computers a consumer can get overwhelmed, especially considering the varying choices available. The first rule of thumb is to decide which segment of the market suits you. Excluding those who prefer Apple computers(OS X)/iPads, Windows 7 is the obvious option, and the typical categories of computer hardware to choose from are: "on-the-go", "gaming" and "everyday".

The general populous, using their computers for the average tasks (checking email, surfing the web, basic document formatting etc.) are considered the everyday users and the best choice is to buy a name-brand (Dell, HP, Acer, etc.) desktop computer with a long warranty . Even the most affordable desktop computer is now more than capable of providing an excellent experience while checking mail, surfing the web, online shopping and more. Features and specifications are almost irrelevant if this is all you need to do - but buy something with at least 2 GB of RAM, allowing your computer to run smoother and faster when multitasking. Some really great products on the market include the Dell Inspiron 570 MT and the HP Pavilion p6500z series, both of which offer a black finish, 2 GB of RAM, 320 GB of hard drive and a standard Windows 7 OS to tie the components together for $299 excluding the monitor. Another option available are products from Acer, one of which priced at a little over $400 is an attractive deal coming with features such as 4 GB of RAM and 500 GB of hard drive, more than enough for your everyday user but for a reasonable price. If these options are right for you, then no problem due to how easy it is to add additional hardware and software components to your PC making it a user friendly option.

For on-the-go, portable computing, the first decision to be made is what your size and performance preferences are. If it is expected that the laptop will be carried around once a day or more, avoid computers which weigh more than 2kg. Such a user should also consider netbook options for on the go use, but needs to recognize the differences between a laptop and netbook. Major differences include the obvious such as screen size, keyboard size and trackpad size. There are however hardware and software differences including less RAM and less hard drive meaning you may not be able to accomplish everything you need to on a netbook. Before making the decision, go out and try one for yourself! Apart from going and trying one out for yourself utilize the internet, read articles and reviews and to ask questions at forums such as What Notebook Should I Buy" is a good idea. [et]

Besides the everyday users and the on the go users, there is a third category which is more demanding than the other two combined, the gamers. Don’t worry though, there are more than enough options for even the most hard core gamer out there due to the incredible number of computer parts on the market, allowing you to customize your setup to just how you want it. If a dual core processor isn’t cutting it, they make quad core processors and Mac is even coming out with a 12-core processor! Graphics cards are being made more powerful than ever allowing your gaming experience to be even clearer and more realistic and there are thousands of power and cooling options as well to make sure your set up doesn’t over heat and that you have enough good clean power to get the job done.

There are differences in computer users out there, but luckily there are enough options for everyone - just look into what is right for you and you will walk away with the right computer for you.

This is an guest post by Michael Blumreich, who is also a contributor to Laptop Reviews.com. He's currently a university student and lover of all things tech.

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Joojoo - $499 web tablet, born of controversy.

Posted On: Sat, 12/12/2009 - 11:49 by Alex

The joojoo looks hot. Look at the side/back view here.

There's some controversy, including a complaint prepared by a law firm. Engadget has more details.

I'm not sure I would actually buy it (yes yes, I know the Nokia 8800 is expensive), but if I wanted a web tablet and/or had $499 lying around... mm. Well. It's pretty.

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The most exciting Nokia phone for some time - the Nokia 8XXX Erdos

Posted On: Sun, 13/09/2009 - 21:59 by Alex

One area in which Nokia has always been at it's best is in the production of 'luxe phones - which are just a little pricey... not massively pricey: e.g. Vertu.

Assuming this promotional video is correct, we'd say Nokia has a 'luxe phone hit on their hands. Looks positively scrumptious. If I get one, I promise to review it.

I was going to post about the Leica M9 (USD 7k, in black and steel grey, order now if you want one), which is another aesthetically pleasing 'luxe object - but The Online Photographer has linked most of the reviews I wanted to link... and has other relevant content for an aspiring purchaser. Get one as THE "status symbol" camera to go with your erdos - particularly when paired with the new a (USD 10k) Noctilux - 0.95 please. Although if you have that purely as a status symbol the phone you might need to have IS a Vertu...

[via Boy Genius Report]

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The coming end of Symbian as the dominant "smartphone" platform

Posted On: Thu, 20/08/2009 - 08:05 by Alex

The Symbian platform has been the cornerstone of the smartphone market, with a declining but still dominant marketshare - but for how much longer?

Mobile-review.com claims in a recent article that Nokia will no longer use Symbian in it's highest-end phones - instead Nokia will only use it where competing on price.

This claim, if true, together with the fact that Symbian ^4 is going to break application compatibility (devices from 2010) seem to indicate that Symbian is moving decidedly downmarket - while it's likely to still be a "smartphone" platform, in the technical sense that it will be able to run applications written for the phone (and not just in Java), I predict that Symbian's new target might be (or should be) to seriously unify the mid-range phone market. This is actually a good thing, and I hope it happens - there's simply no need (for example) to have the Nokia/Sony Ericsson "reversed" key approach, which are fossils from internally developed device OSes. This is also a good thing, because the lowest common denominator might become Symbian rather than Java.

Of course, perhaps this was all Symbian really ever was (sorry about the formatting *cough*). Mobile-review.com also suggests that Maemo is Nokia's new "high-end" OS, the true response to Apple/RIM/etc. One wonders how many platforms there can be before platform fatigue/irrelevancy sets in. Nokia should pray that Windows Mobile 7 is not as delcious as Windows 7 in its arena.

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iPhone 3GS as an audio source

Posted On: Mon, 27/07/2009 - 08:32 by Alex

This is going to be terribly short.

1. The iPhone 3GS sounds better, through the UE11 Pro, than the iPhone 3G (3.0 - not tested with other firmware). It's noticeably better - a sufficient improvement that it's probably worth an upgrade if you listen lots.

2. I marginally prefer the sound of the iPhone 3GS, through the UE11 Pro, to that of a Sansa Clip 4GB (Revision 1 with firmware 01.01.32). For reference, I preferred the Sansa to the 3G, but stuck to the 3G for most uses for convenience.

3. The iPhone is, as previously mentioned, noticeably faster. This improvement means that reading an RSS feed or surfing, while listening to music, is almost entirely lag free. This is very nice.

To be clear, the audio comparisons are of the headphone out, without external amplification, of EAC-ripped, LAME encoded 320kbps CBR mp3s. Sorry that I'm not using a lossless format :p

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