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Laowaichris
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Member since: 02.06.2010

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    • BBC iPlayer / Multimedia / 44 Readings / 38 Ratings
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      12.06.2010 19:36
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      The best internet televison experience available, and it's only going to get better.

      BBC iPlayer was one of the first internet television services to be offered in the UK back in 2007. The idea of the service is that you no longer have to worry about missing an episode of your favourite programme as it will be stored on the website for you to watch at your convenience. In all truthfulness the BBC delivers on this, although you can't wait around too long because the majority of programmes are stored for only 7 days (some programmes such as Doctor Who are kept for considerably longer).

      *****FORMATS*****

      The BBC realised that not everybody is so keen to catch up with yesterday's Eastenders on their 15" laptop screens. "We want to watch telly on our telly!!" they heard us cry. The BBC listened and complied. As of 2010 iPlayer is freely available on the Nintendo Wii, Sony Playstation 3, comes with any Virgin Media television package, and hopefully will be coming to Freeview soon.

      *****INTERFACE*****

      The design of iPlayer is much more appealing than the current competition (ITV Player, 4oD, Demand 5), using primarily shades of black and pink. Very simple, but very effective -- I'd almost go so far as to say it looks quite sleek. It is also easy to navigate around on a computer, anybody with the most basic of computer skills could use this site. The video size is quite large on the default setting, but can be maximized to full-screen by clicking the relevant button.

      If you are using a Wii to use the iPlayer then you will notice the design has been changed to suit the Wii Remote. Everything is much bigger and even simpler to get around. Large buttons help a lot! There is also no option to play a programme within the window, once you press play you are watching it full screen whether you want to or not.

      *****CONTENT*****

      iPlayer supports 7 days and more of most content played on every BBC channel. The only programmes that don't seem to make it are primarily local news and some, but not all, non-BBC produced shows.

      As well as television you can also listen to the past 7 days of BBC radio from every station.

      For both television and radio, you also have the option of watching/listening live. With the current law you need a TV licence to watch live TV, but interestingly you are not obliged to have one when watching a programme at a later date (I am sure this will be changed soon).

      *****PLAYING A PROGRAMME*****

      There are two options available for watching a show: streaming and downloading. If you stream it then you are required to have at least a 1 Mb broadband connection. Anything lower than that will not suffice. I use a 2 Mb broadband connection but often find that halfway through a show my computer or Wii will suddenly stop while I have to wait for it to resume again. Most annoying is on the Wii where it will randomly tell me that my internet speed is not fast enough, meaning I have to go back and resume the programme (and on the Wii this is slow). For streaming I would say the faster your broadband connection you have the better you iPlayer experience will be.

      Speed is another major factor on the Wii also. It can be very slow loading pages and starting programmes sometimes. If your computer is taking some time to load an iPlayer show, then expect your Wii to be ten times slower.

      If you don't want to stream, or your internet is not fast enough to support streaming, you can always download programmes. To do this you will have to download the BBC iPlayer Desktop application. Once set up all you need to do is open the iPlayer website and rather than clicking play on a video, click the download icon. Downloading can be a very slow process, but once you've got it you can watch the show whenever you like, regardless of whether you're connected to the internet or not. However, once you press play on that programme you will have to finish watching it within a certain amount of time.

      With the speeds of broadband constantly increasing, the need for downloading is becoming less necessary. If you are not happy with the quality of streaming videos on your iPlayer then it is most likely to be down to your internet speed.

      An area the BBC have failed to utilize are keyboard short-cuts. I, for one, have become accustomed to using the space bar to stop/play music and video on iTunes, Quicktime and other applications. However, iPlayer does not seem to have this very simple shortcut added.

      *****NEW BETA RELEASE*****

      Recently (as of June 2010) the iPlayer has undergone a minor facelift adding a more social element to the site. Now you have the option to register a username and password, select favourite shows, add friends, and recommend programmes to other friends by connecting your Twitter and Facebook accounts. The favourite option is probably the most effective upgrade, because the more you favourite shows, the more personalized the homepage will be for you. This is noted on a section of the homepage called 'For You', where your favourites and similar shows to your favourites will be shown. For example, I watched and favourited 'Have I Got News For You', and now on my 'For You' page I am being shown 'QI' within my list. Not bad eh?

      There is also a rectangular box in the top right of the page where all of your favourites are kept, the number of new episodes available to you, and the number of episodes that are expiring (meaning they will no longer be viewable on the site).

      Of course, you are not obliged to create an account for the iPlayer. You can freely watch anything you like when you like, but none of the new benefits mentioned will be stored on your computer if you don't sign up.

      There are a few minor niggles as the site is still in Beta, I have found that on more than one occasion I have had a programme pause and fail to resume just because I changed from full-screen mode to normal mode. Hopefully minor quibbles such as this should be ironed out before too long.

      ****CONCLUSION*****

      iPlayer is an important application that has set the highest standard for internet television. It is only when you try the alternatives on offer that you realise how they pale in comparison to the iPlayer. The service is useful, simple, and current. Also the fact that the application has been supported on so many different platforms is quite a big deal, and probably one of the bigger reasons the iPlayer is so successful. I am hoping the competition will get the message and follow suit!

      The biggest problem for me is that the programmes on offer are just limited to BBC. A lot of my favourite shows come from the BBC, but it would be brilliant if iPlayer could also play content from other channels and even other countries. If the price could be cheaper than iTunes for non-BBC content, then I would happily hand over my cash. This is just a hope and a dream, the actuality of this ever happening is most definitely nil.

      Apart from a few minor niggles such as speed issues on the Wii, occasional streaming troubles, and a lack of shortcut support, iPlayer is ahead of the game in every way, and it's bringing TV into the 21st century at last.

      4/5

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      • Emirates / Airline / 22 Readings / 22 Ratings
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        12.06.2010 14:55
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        Emirates have always take the pain and boredom out of flying for me, highly recommended.

        I have travelled with a variety of airlines over the past few years, but Emirates is the only one I WANT to keep coming back to. If I had to sum up the airline in one word, I would say: consistent.

        I occasionally have to fly from Shanghai, China to Manchester, UK, and Emirates often has the greatest deals for this route. On the other hand it is also one of the longer travel times compared to other airlines because of the connection in Dubai. This comes as a positive and a negative as Dubai's airport is one of the best I've had the pleasure of spending time in. Now that Emirates has its own dedicated terminal it makes connecting flights very simple indeed, I haven't experienced such easy and enjoyable connections before. The design of the terminal is also quite stylish, with floor to ceiling glass windows that allows natural sun-light to flood into the building. Compared to the usual sterile, almost prison-like feeling of most airports, these basic designs come as quite a refreshing change. Just to feel and see the sunlight makes me instantly feel much calmer and relaxed. Finally, if you like shopping you will probably want to miss your connection altogether -- I literally had to tear my girlfriend away from the cosmetics shop to catch our flight!

        Enough with the airport, what about the flights? As I said before, consistency is the key here. I've not experienced anything other than a punctual, helpful, and reliable service. In fact the only time I was delayed was a few years ago as George Bush was waiting to take off in Air Force One and the runway was temporarily shut down because of it.

        Emirates uses standard planes for the long haul flights, usually a Boeing 777 or an Airbus A340. Although they have more recently purchased a number of the new Airbus A380's which I read will be added to the Dubai - Manchester route at some point in the future. As somebody who travels in economy class, I can tell you that Emirates has by far one of the best entertainment systems on offer. It is called ICE (which stands for Information, Communication, Entertainment), and if you're unlucky to be flying on a plane with an older entertainment system then you have every right to be disappointed (I have found some of the Airbus' don't have ICE). There are so many films, TV shows and games to occupy your time that boredom shouldn't even cross your mind. Everything on the system is also on demand, so if you want to watch a film then you can watch it from the beginning and pause/stop/rewind/fastforward whenever you want.

        The food is also very good, especially the desserts which are sublime. As for the main meals and side dishes, they are not the best out there, but certainly good enough for 'plane food'. There is a list of dietary requirements that you should specify after you buy your tickets. Everything from kosher, to lacto-ovo vegetarian, to low fat options are all available. Choosing a special meal also is quite a perk as you receive your food before everybody else. As a vegetarian I enjoy being handed my meals only to hear whispers of jealousy in the background!!

        The air stewards are very efficient, precise and professional. They have done a fantastic job on every flight I have taken and I can't criticise them at all. It's not an easy job they do, but they do it very well.

        Overall, a great airline that has consistently delivered. Of course there are going to be horror stories with every company, but you can fly with piece of mind knowing you're not taking much of a gamble with Emirates.

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        • Lowepro Apex 100 AW / Camera Case / 20 Readings / 20 Ratings
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          09.06.2010 12:48
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          If you care for your camera then you should certainly be protecting it with a Lowerpro.

          (My bag is slightly different from the one pictures as it is black all over with a little green around the sides.)

          Lowerpro is known for its high quality bags, and it maintains its reputation with the Apex 100 AW bag.

          This bag is the perfect companion for most bridge cameras. I own a Panasonic Lumix FZ28 (I have a review of the camera on this site too) and it fits as if it was designed solely for this camera. I especially like how economic it is with regards to size, making it ideal for travelling. Taking pictures can lose its fun if you are having to traipse around with a large heavy camera bag filled with accessories. This bag allows a photographer to wander and explore, and take a picture whenever the moment arises.

          The shoulder strap can be adjusted to whatever size suits you, and once out and about, you can almost forget you're wearing it, that's how light and comfortable it is.

          On the down side there is no room for anything but the camera and one pouch for an extra memory card. Nothing else can possibly fit in. But if you own a bridge camera there shouldn't be anything else you really need to put inside.

          The quality and build of the bag is also excellent, light but sturdy. I have travelled around the world with this bag and it's still in almost brand new condition (and so is my camera thanks to the bag). Another brilliant addition is that it is suitable for all weather conditions. If it starts to rain simply pull out the in-built rain cover!

          Lowerpro certainly have you and your camera's best interests at heart. Fantastic design and quality build.

          5/5

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          09.06.2010 12:21
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          For those that don't want to be overwhelmed by a DSLR but want more than a compact can offer.

          Although a reviewer should generally wait until the conclusion of a review to give their beliefs on a product, I just have to say what I think of this camera from the outset: I love it!

          The Panasonic FZ28 is known as a bridge camera, due the fact it is the bridge between the easy to use compact cameras and the professional DSLR cameras. At first glance the Panasonic looks like a mini DSLR, and some may think it would be a difficult to use because of this, but actually it's as easy to use as any good compact. This is why I love it, it's so simple to use and because of the large quality lens it can also take very sharp and clear pictures. It's still not going to beat the professional gleam of a DSLR photograph, but it really can get very close sometimes.

          There is an 18x optical zoom which means shots can be taken from some distance, and with the anti-shake feature a fair amount of hand-shake can be applied and you can still be left with a still picture. Add to that 10 mega-pixels and you've got yourself quite a tool.

          The FZ28 is loaded with features within the classic design of the camera. A lot of these are very effective such as macro mode which can take exquisite close-up shots with the camera's wide-angle lens. Macro photography is becoming my favourite kind after using this camera. Other in-built pre-sets are sports, portrait, night portrait, scenery, and scene (which in itself contains 17 useful pre-sets). And of course there is also the option to do everything manually if you so desire.

          The features are excellent, I cannot praise them enough, but you can actually get away with shooting most pictures on the automatic mode. This is good enough for general use, and depending on the lighting, objects, or faces present, it will choose any specific settings for you. Because of its simplicity it is just so much fun to use.

          The fun won't stop either because the battery is the best I've ever used on a camera. While on holiday I managed to use it 5 days in a row without charging it up. While not being used intensively I can often leave the camera for a month or more without charging it. Even while the battery display is on one bar it still has a lot of power left. No need to go around lugging spare batteries with this camera, you'll never need them.

          The movie mode is surprisingly good, in fact it's better than my DVD camcorder. Crisp picture and good audio. Again, it's not HD quality, but for an added bonus it's brilliant.

          If I had to pick one problem with the FZ28, I would say indoor portraits are the weakest. The facial recognition is good, but sometimes the faces will be blurred even thought the background is crystal clear. It seems a lot of light is needed with this mode -- although night portrait mode helps with this sometimes. This is only a minor qualm, but when you have got used to taking crystal clear close-up shots for example, you can only be disappointed when other shots don't match that level.

          Another thing to note is that the camera does not come with a case or bag. You will have to buy your own (I can recommend the Lowerpro Apex 100 camera bag for this camera, it's a perfect fit and very high quality).

          I've owned the FZ28 for a year and a half now, it's travelled a fair distance around the world with me, and is still as exciting to take shots on as it was when I bought it. This is primarily because it's such a joy to use. You can just rely on your eye to find good pictures now, there's no need to spend 5 minutes setting it up, just see it and shoot it.

          Once you've seen how good it is to take quality pictures with this camera, it may lead you to wanting to step up to a DSLR in the future, I know it has for me (but that will have to wait). Therefore, this camera really is the perfect bridge.

          5/5

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            04.06.2010 14:09
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            The Nano is designed to please, just remember to buy a new pair of headphones.

            I bought the iPod Nano 8GB model for the sole purpose of pairing it with my Nike+ sports kit (I have a review of this too if you're interested!). 8GB of memory is enough to hold more than 1,000 songs, which is perfect for the person who listens to their music/podcasts/audiobooks while commuting, taking a walk, or having a run.

            Once you open the packaging of the iPod Nano the first thing that hits you is how small and thin the product is, it almost feels quite delicate, but in fact it is actually quite sturdy. Like most Apple products it is a beautiful design, although I'm not convinced by the camera. It is obvious that due to the popularity of mini camcorders and mobile phone cameras, that Apple felt it necessary to include one on the Nano too. It is a novelty, and that is all really. The quality of the recorded movie leaves a lot to be desired, and most mobile phones on the market can do the same thing but much better. And did I mention it can't even take still pictures? A wasted opportunity. I imagine more people would have been much happier to see Apple place a camera in the iPod Touch instead.

            As with every digital music player, the quality of the audio primarily comes from the headphones being used and the file-type being listened to. On this front Apple fails slightly by providing the same old white headphones, even though they are actually good enough for most. But for those who want to boost their audio experience, a decent pair of headphones is a must-have purchase.

            The audio quality from the iTunes store is very good, and a great improvement from mp3. You would need an expensive pair of speakers to really hear the difference between a high bit-rate aac file compared to an uncompressed wav file. Only the pickiest of audiophiles will claim that the audio quality is not as good as good as it should be.

            The interface on the new Nano has had a minor facelift from the previous version. The album artwork scrolls along the bottom of the screen corresponding to which playlist or artist you're currently selecting. Once playing a song the full album artwork fills all of the screen and looks brilliant. A new feature to the Nano is the ability to have the iPod speak to you. By pressing a button you can now hear the name of the artist and the track being played by a computerized voice.

            With the added accelerometer a quick shake of the Nano will shuffle the songs for you -- a nice touch. It is this accelerometer which makes it an ideal fitness tool too. The Nano is also a very capable pedometer, and when coupled with Nike+ can become a fully functional fitness coach.

            4/5 (Looses a star for the terrible camera and the same old just-good-enough earphones)

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              04.06.2010 12:44
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              One of the most luxurious garlic breads on the shelves at the moment. Highly recommended.

              There was a time when one couldn't imagine a shop bought pre-packed bread would begin to compare with the delights of fresh food served in a restaurant. It looks like the times are changing as Pizza Express unveils its Garlic Bread with Mozzarella.

              Once removed from the packaging you will notice two medium-sized oval shaped breads which are about the same size as the restaurant served ones. As a starter one bread is probably enough for one person, but if sharing with a main course four people could easily share both breads, or two people could share one. On top of the bread are small cubes of mozzarella. A handy tip here is to spread the cubes evenly around the surface of the bread (not too close to the sides) so that the cheese doesn't all melt into one spot in the centre.

              After a 8-10 minutes in the oven at about 200 degrees the breads are ready to eat, as simple as that -- and the smell around your house will be mouth-watering.

              As for the taste, it is sublime. Quite buttery with just the right balance of garlic, and the creaminess of the mozzarella just tops it off. The texture of the bread is soft and a little doughy inside. Not quite the same as fresh bread of course, but for a ready-made product, this is quite a feat.

              The garlic bread is a little more expensive than most, but in this instance you certainly get what you pay for.

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              • Heroes - Season 3 (DVD) / TV Series / 14 Readings / 13 Ratings
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                03.06.2010 23:13
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                Heroes ended with the finale of season 1: fact.

                I've tried my best to include no spoilers (apart from one which is marked) for those who have not yet endured this series of the hit show.

                To put it bluntly, Heores season 3 is probably one of the biggest disappointments in recent television history. Season 1 laid down the groundwork for a series that could have run for years to come. The premise was excellent, and there was so much more to explore. The writing was succinct, the story-arcs were intriguing, and most of the characters were extremely likeable. We genuinely wanted to see how the characters dealt with their ever evolving abilities while building up to an inevitable disastrous finale. It was great TV.

                And then season 2 completely threw all of these ideas down the pan. But avid fans that we were, forgave Tim Kring and his army of writers. After all they had struggled through the writer's strike and did their best to piece together something watchable for us. OK, so we waited for season 3. We knew everything would be back to the awesomeness that was season 1, they had learned from their mistakes and they'd already found a winning formula, what could go wrong?

                The answer to this question is: everything.

                Heroes Season 3 didn't learn from any mistakes previously made, it just continued the decent into TV oblivion. This time the story-arcs had non of the building tension of series 1, and each episode contained gigantic plot-holes. How the writers could forget or ignore so many details about characters and events is a mystery to me. The series was a mess, and the characters that were once loved, became annoying and contrived. Even the loveable Hiro lost all of his charm in this season.

                (Below is a minor spoiler for the character of Peter Petrelli)

                My biggest gripe of all with this season of Heroes is Peter Petrelli. By the end of season 1 he had accumulated so many powers he was almost invincible. This makes it hard for a writer to start producing story-arcs which could effectively be resolved every time with one character in the space of one episode, e.g. Peter. So, in season 2 they made him forget everything for a while. This worked to some success, but of course he was always going to gain his memories back. In season 3 they had to think of another way to get him out of the picture without killing him off. So they took all of his powers away. The reduced Peter to a character with no interest whatsoever. He wasn't a "Hero" any more. Thankfully they resolved this by giving him his powers back. But they didn't give him back his original powers -- and I wasn't very thankful about that. Instead they gave him a kind of crappier version of his old empathic ability to copy the abilities of others. This time he could only absorb a person's ability once he touched them. And if he touched another hero then this new ability would replace the old one.

                Quite frankly, this was a terrible idea that ruined the whole character for me. They might as well have just killed him off.

                (END OF SPOILERY RANT)

                I stuck with Heroes hoping for improvements, hoping that the writers had learned something from season 2, but I was proved wrong time and time again. I must say, all of the blame lies with the writers (and whichever production execs messed around with the concept), the actors, as always, did the best they could. They were the band playing on the Titanic as it sunk to the depths of the Atlantic....

                1/5

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                • Apple MacBook Pro MB991B/A / Laptop / 11 Readings / 10 Ratings
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                  03.06.2010 21:16
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                  For me, my Mac does everything I want a computer does, but it does it in the greatest possible way.

                  Like so many people, I'd spent the majority of my computing life using Windows-based computers. I'd also spent a fair share of this time doing these things:

                  - Sitting through random crashes and restarts.
                  - Saring at the 'blue screen of death'.
                  - Being shown inexplicable error messages (also see blue screen of death).
                  - Suffering from performance issues because so many uninstalled programs left residue files and folders lying around within the over-complicated filing system that is Windows Explorer.
                  - Having countless driver issues.
                  - Daily updating of anti-virus software for the countless threats of spyware/malware/viruses.

                  I could write a thesis about the difficulties I have faced over the years with Microsoft Windows. There had been happy times, but frustration won out in the end; and after the abomination that was Windows Vista, it was time to say goodbye once and for all. I was tired of making do, the time had come to take a stand and make computing enjoyable again. The computer was sold and the Vista disc was burned and shot out into space -- then I got a Mac.

                  A lot of people comment on Apple Macintosh computers as being style over substance. This is not true. They look great, there's no denying it, but the performance is even better. It was genuinely the operating system alone that drew me to Mac.

                  There is one caveat: you HAVE to obey its filing system. If you are the kind of person who enjoys having your files and folders where you want them, then forget it. With a Mac you load up an application and let the computer organise everything for you. This was difficult for me at first, but now I simply let iPhoto and iTunes do their thing. It is the only way -- resistance is futile.

                  I could go on and on in this review about how great the built in applications are; how simple and easy the operating system is to use; how most applications are simply dragged and dropped to install them; how intuitive and useful the touch pad is; how I've never had to restart it because of a crash (applications can crash, but very rarely); how I don't even have or need a firewall or anti-virus program; how lovely the keyboard looks when it's lit up at night; and what a complete joy it is to use.

                  To put it very briefly, the thing that makes a Mac great is that it just works. It works! What more do you want? (Well, a cheaper price tag would be nice!)

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                  03.06.2010 18:48
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                  Great pair of sports earphones that do exactly what they say on the tin.

                  Although I am relatively new to the world of running, I knew before I started that my iPod headphones would not be sufficient for the rigours of sport -- they would just fall out. I needed sport headphones, and after a recommendation I took a gamble on the Sennheiser PMX80 Sport II.

                  First and foremost, I went for the environmentally-friendly packaged ones, and the cardboard box it was supplied in was quite a feat of design. I was very impressed with Sennheiser for doing this, I hate throwing away those horrible to get into plastic-sealed boxes. I hope more companies follow suit with this idea.

                  Anyway, to the headphones. They only come in one size and are not adjustable, so I'm not sure how they fit on everybody, but for me they are a perfect fit. They comfortably latch on around your ears for support and bend around the back of your head. The ear-buds sit close into your ear, but don't make their way too deep like some other inner-ear models (a feature which I really don't like, and also think could be dangerous). These earphones are not going to filter out all external sound, which is a good thing if you're running outside, but it's enough to hear all of your tracks while on the road or in the gym without needing the volume cranked up to 11.

                  Here's the good part: they never fall off. I've done more than 50 runs in these now, and not once have they even moved out of place. Writing this review has made me realise how much I now take them for granted. Fantastic design! If I could describe the PMX80's in one word, I would say: solid.

                  I don't think many people would expect crystal clear audio from a pair of sports headphones, and I certainly wasn't, but I was very nicely surprised by the quality coming out of these. They are certainly superior to the default earphones supplied with iPods/iPhones.

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                  03.06.2010 11:57
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                  Nike have developed a fun, interesting, and motivational way for people to start excersising.

                  Nike+ is a system of planning, tracking, and measuring runs while listening to your favourite -- or most motivational -- music. To do this you need to buy a few things first:

                  * An iPod Nano and The Nike+ Sports Kit (which consists of an oval-shaped sensor and a rectangular receiver that connects to the iPod)

                  Alternatively, if you have an iPhone or iPod touch you only need to buy the sensor -- which is half the price on its own.

                  Also, to make full use of Nike+ you should sign up to the Nike running website where you have the option to choose training programs, make a calorie/distance/speed goal, or take part in friendly competitions with others on the site. I am currently trying a program that will train me to run a 5 km marathon within 3 months.

                  So far so good, but Nike still wants you to purchase more of its gear before you can actually hit the concrete: a pair of Nike+ shoes please. The only reason you need a special pair of trainers is because Nike (or someone in a sweatshop in China) have carved out a small oval-shaped hole in the left shoe under the innersole where the sensor sits.

                  Of course, a quick look on Amazon will show you that if you already have a favourite pair of running shoes there are numerous pouches and holders that will adapt your shoes for the sensor.

                  Now you've got the gear, got the shoes, and signed up to the site. Ready to go? Not quite. I personally find that the earphones supplied with iPods can fall out quite easily (as tested when running for buses, trains, planes, etc). A good pair of speciality running earphones are probably in order. I went for a pair of Sennheiser PMX 80 Sport headphones. They loop around your ears and behind your head so they don't move at all when running. After my first run today I can tell you they work perfectly, completely solid, no jittering, and crisp clear audio.

                  Surely there's nothing else to buy? Well, maybe one more thing. You need somewhere to put the iPod as you're bounding around the streets. Placing it in a pocket could be OK, but the iPod is so small it could easily fall out if you don't have a zip. The solution is either to hold it or buy an arm strap.

                  And that's it -- well, apart from the actual running! I did find the option of a "power song" (where you press the centre button on the iPod and it plays your most motivational song) helped for a short time when I start to lose power, and the inner geek in me finds some motivation in uploading runs, mapping out routes, and keeping track of my progress. Overall I am very impressed with how it works, and once it's all running, how easy it is to use -- and it's cheaper than a gym membership!

                  5/5

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                • HTC Touch / Smartphone / 15 Readings / 14 Ratings
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                  03.06.2010 11:24
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                  On paper this is (or was) a great phone, but in practice it disappoints and frustrates.

                  On the outside the HTC Touch looks like a well designed mobile phone, nice shape, comfortable to hold, with a large clear screen. There are some nice features once powered up too: the speed-dial is very easy and quick to use; the weather display is handy, showing a 5-day forecast; 'Active Sync' is fantastic for syncing contacts with your computer (or GMail account); Windows Media player can actually be used to be a fairly effective mp3 player; the voice clarity is very good; and ringtones can be easily heard wherever you are -- this phone is loud! However, for this review, that's about as positive as I can get about it.

                  I find the Windows Mobile operating system to be overly complicated for a mobile phone. There are an assortment of menus and settings that can be quite baffling sometimes (especially when it comes to manually setting up an internet connection or pairing a bluetooth device). Sure, all of these settings are fully workable and usable once you know how, but I feel that for a phone it should, and could, have been made so much more simpler and user-friendly.

                  HTC was one of the first, if not the first, mobile manufacturer to rely solely on touch-screen technology. Unfortunately, within the past couple of years since the HTC Touch was released, touch-screen technology has improved tremendously. There's no tapping and sliding your fingers on this phone, instead it's back to using a stylus (or a very well placed finger nail). And using a stylus to open menus and write text messages can be tricky. Not only are you sometimes tapping at very small areas which can be easily missed but the reaction time of taps can either be very slow, or not picked up at all. Good luck writing a text-message on the move, I usually have to wait until a time I can sit or stand for a while before replying to any text messages.

                  The 2.0 mega-pixel camera is also a let down. I recall my older Sony Ericsson phone having a far more superior camera. Pictures are only effective in very bright lighting conditions, otherwise they will be very grainy and blurry. And did I mention how slow the reaction time of pressing the shutter-release and taking a picture is?

                  After owning this phone for almost two years, the battery life is now terrible. It needs charging on a daily basis, even if it has not been used much in one day.

                  As you can see, I'm not a big fan of this phone. My main gripe with it is the fact that it is too complicated for its own good. The iPhone is a great example of simplicity used to great effect. This phone has the potential to be great, but it's cluttered within a badly designed interface, and the same kind of annoyances that can be experienced with Windows XP or Vista on a computer, and that's not what you want on a phone. Also, if you've experienced touch-screen phones made within the past year, then you just wouldn't be able to go back to using such a slow responding stylus-based phone.

                  2/5

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