Gadgets Summary - February 2008

Here we are again - I'm still a techie kind of guy. I still live in Tokyo. Nothing changed there.

If you stick those two things together it really does amount to a person who used to live in fear when he gets his salary paid into his bank over whether the next weekend poring over disturbing amounts of readily available technology in the bowels of denki-ya, or the fearsome Akihabara. Though the latter seems to be swinging over to it’s alter-ego of otaku fetishist zone quite a lot of late.

Still, I’m not as bad as I used to be - having a child curtails that quite nicely! Still we are a fairly tech heavy family, though I'm not a gadget fan for the sake of having something, and I still have very stringent requirements for what a tool has to do for me before I'll buy it <cough>. Also, over the last couple of years I’ve trying to scale back on things because frankly, I don’t have a lot of space at home.

Portable Game Systems

This is Japan, and as such by law you have to have a portable game system. I think.

My wife has a pink, original design Nintendo DS which are great little portables, whilst I have an enamel blue DS Lite. We use them sporadically, again, because our little arrival means that we can’t just sit on trains and play, or while away Sunday afternoons. Unless the offspring is asleep, that time has gone!

Anyway, favourite games on those systems would be the (New) Super Mario World and Zelda:Phantom Hourglass for the wife, Phoenix Wright (any of them), Mario Kart and Puzzle Quest for me.

They're great little systems, and despite the lack of real internet play, they’re ideal for for small games like Mario Kart and Bomberman on the peer-to-peer wireless. Despite my own best attempts, I haven’t managed to get a game going in a public space, on the bus, or in a coffee shop, despite seeing a lot of people with DSs. Come on, if I’m smiling and waving at you and flashing a piece of cardboard saying ‘Play Tetris DS with me!’, I’m not a complete nutter, I’m just a gamer, and a parent who has twenty minutes of game time available to him. Do the civilised thing.

We also have a PSP we received as a wedding gift. So far 'Minna no Gorufu', 'Katamari' and 'Lumines' are still the mainstays on there. Updates to the firmware which gave the PSP the ability to wirelessly browse the web and RSS which are very cool, but I don't think it's a killer app given the poor text entry system and slow page loading. I’ve took it to my local MOS burger whilst waiting , but I still can’t get enthused about it. Oddly, it’s the same feeling I get when I browse the web on the Wii. I must be an old stick in the mud.

Overall I think the PSP is nice though, but I just can't get the enthusiasm to buy any new games as sadly many are PS2 ports, which isn’t a bad thing, just that maybe they don’t fit the portable format - GTA was an example of that - a lot of loading, burning the battery, compared to game time, which was a shame as the game wasn’t bad at all. One thing I haven’t tried yet though is remote play with the Playstation 3. I've seen it on a friend’s PSP/PS3, watching movies over the net and such and it seems great. I’m somewhat tempted to buy Demolition Derby and play that on the PSP via a PS3 link.

TV Based Consoles

We have too many consoles. Seriously. How did this happen? (Looks around and whistles innocently). Blame my wife. It seems that my PC gaming is all but dead, and I spend more time gaming on consoles. I think this is since we had our little girl, gaming time is limited, so I can’t afford several hours to while away on City of Heroes, which I’m in the process of unsubscribing from after over three years. Any games which aren’t easy to pick up and put down, with little grind, are pretty much off the playing field now. That doesn’t mean I’m not doing deep games, just no grinding.

OK. Plugged into the TV right now are: a Nintendo Wii, a Playstation 3 and a Microsoft XBox 360.

To delve into history, I have a Playstation 2 plugged into the old 20” CRT in the back room, buried under baby stuff which I keep handy for emergency SSX 3 games, as my PS3 is the model without PS2 compatibility (no big loss). I also have a Nintendo 64 in a box somewhere in the back room, which gets wheeled out for the odd Perfect Striker game and to muse on what the hell went wrong with that console.

So back to the now, yes, we have all three current gen consoles, and we like them all but for different reasons. As background, I have a lot of friends with 360s so I play a lot of co-op and online games with them, as it was Gears of War which finally tipped me to buy the noisy beast in February 2007. So far no red ring of death, but I’m most certainly in the minority. I think it’s a great games platform though - Gears of War was good, Prey was OK, though right now, at time of writing, I’m playing Assassin’s Creed which is very decent too. I just wish the hardware wasn’t so damned noisy! Going full tilt between the DVD and the fans it’s far noisier than my old PC.

The Wii is great, it just is, and despite reports there are good games outside of Sports and Zelda, but outside of first party it gets a little thin, though I really liked Elebits and Biohazard 4. The wife has loved it for the Fit, Sports, Zelda, Super Paper Mario and a few others. Well worth the cash when you put the prices side by side.

The PS I got on points at Bic in December and so far have only really played Ratchet and Clank, though I’ve sampled quite a few demos. The hardware is very, very nice though, and as an xvid player it’s great, supplanting the old Avel player, which I gave away in January, and easily passing the 360 on that concept too as it is so quiet (and no external PSU either!). Overall I think it’s better than the PS3 as a package, but it’s all about the games, and they’re finally trickling through.

Mobile Phone

I still have a black Toshiba W43T Au WIN phone which is quite impressive as it’s coming up to two years old which has made it something of a survivor for me and a keitai. Like most modern phones, you name a feature this thing probably has it - 3 megapixel camera with auto-focus, macro and flash, video, BREW, 2.4Mb internet access, GPS with '3D navi', a full E-J/J-E dictionary, stereo speakers, infrared for beaming to and from PDA and miniSD slot. It's got really good bilingual e-mail control, folder filtering, a full service system for call waiting. There's also a rumour you can also call people from it.

Headphones

When it comes to Headphones, for years now, I've had Sennheiser’s. I don't know why, but whenever I test and compare headphones, I seem to always like their's against the competition. Right now I have 2 pairs: a pair of old, dusty PX-100 for my gaming, and some PX-200 for my iPod.

Portable Music

I’ve had an iPod since a I succumbed to a third generation 15GB model I bought in April 2003, and thoroughly enjoyed it so much that when in September 2007 and the battery was lasting an hour when having not using it for a couple of days mean’t whatever charge I’d left it with had gone, I decided to go and get another of Apple’s mind control devices. I plumped for an 80GB classic, and have really enjoyed it - in the fact the strange thing is that I’ve watched far more video on it than I ever thought I would. I’ve watched the whole Long Way Round, Down, Race to Dakar and a few other documentaries on it, as well as hundred of hours of music, podcasts and audio books.

It should be said that in March 2005 I did buy a 512Mb iPod shuffle for using whilst jogging and at the gym. I'm a huge fan of the iPods though I too would like a bit more battery life, but you can't argue with the design or the interface which are simple and to the point. The shuffle though was a bit of a misfire though due to me not getting on with the crappy LED ‘interface’. In the future I’ll stick to things with screens.

Digital Cameras

Having only ever owned two small digital cameras and both had been from Canon - the IXY 500 I take on snowboard and biking tours, and the original IXY 2.1 MP camera from several years back. When the new family member arrived I decided to get a low end dSLR for family picks, and plumped for the Nikon D40 which has been an great purchase, a bit of an education, and has given us some memorable pictures of our daughter.

Miscellaneous items

Despite the introduction, I don’t really amass gadgets per se. There aren’t many curios in our apartment, no forgotten formats, old discs or anything, unless you count the Zip disks (what was I thinking??). I don’t possess a pile of non-functioning equipment either. I dumped my mini-disks after I imported them and I imported all my old CD backups to HDD and DVD when I needed. I like to keep these things clean. I do have some other bits which I somehow consider selections as much as the games machines; things like the Solio solar panel charger and battery which I’m a big fan of, or even the Tubtrug - a large plastic tub which stores many of our daughter’s bits. It’s a bit of plastic, essentially, just well designed.

Gone but not forgotten.

Palm. I loved you.

I still have a silver Palm Zire 72 - check out my old page for it here. Sadly, over the past couple of years I used it less and less, using online services for somethings, encrypted files on USB sticks for others, and for the mainstay - addresses and contact details - my iPod and the company Blackberry for company data. The real quicksand was the complete lack of any new Mac software for Palm, and what I considered erratic replacement for that software, like MissingSync.

My Sennheiser HD-495 headphones died in January 2008 after about seven years loyal service. I’ll likely replace them with a pair of HD-555’s when I get the cash, for the same role as headphones for music at home, and console gaming / night DVD watching.