iphone saves the day
It was FA Cup final day. My chum Reg and I had seen Sol lift the cup. We had celebrated. We had survived a Tube journey as the only Pompey fans in a carriage full of Cardiff supporters. We had celebrated some more. We had escaped without injury even after several pints and a curry.
We had managed to get the last train home. We were happy.
Then it all started to fall apart.
You see while Reg is wise in his choice of friends and football teams, he was particularly foolish in his choice of home location. He lives in the sticks in a part of West Sussex that claims to be near Brighton but might as well be in Transylvania.
And while thanks to the rail network we safely made it back to the nearest train station to his house, we found ourselves stranded when it came to getting from there to his home some distance away.
We tried the taxi numbers Reg knew, and they laughed in our faces and told us there would be a two-hour wait. Others simply refused to answer.
For a man from the metropolis, this was unbelievable. It was only midnight, for Christ's sake.
Reg was resigned to his fate. He started to trudge home. It would only take two hours, he said.
Well, I wasn't walking in the middle of nowhere in the drizzle for two hours when there were probably murderers and strange beasts around. I became grumpy.
So as he began walking, I began surfing on my iPhone.iPhone: Handy.
Searching the internet on its glorious touch screen, I found scores of taxi numbers. And I just tried them all until, eventually, I got an answer.
Ten minutes later a driver in possibly the world's most unsafe taxi arrived, the vehicle clanking and honking like some kind of clown car.
I asked the driver to set the trip mileage so we could see how far it was. He clocked nine bleeding miles.
Had it not been for the iPhone, I'd probably still be walking there now. Thanks, Apple.
how the mighty fall
I found myself stuck in Debenhams in Southsea over the bank holiday weekend, wandering aimlessly while the missus looked for clothes.
Such occasions always provoke the same reaction in me - while she tries on a million tops, I wander first to the shiny watches counter and then to the GAME shop section at the back of the store.
It's a haven for other similarly miserable males and a good place to pick up the odd bargain. I picked up a copy of Stranglehold, the XBox360 conversion of the John Woo martial arts films, for a tenner. Good work.
And then something familiar caught my eye, hanging in a plastic bag. It was a Game Boy Advance.
Back in 2001, when I was stuck with a bleepy Game Boy Color, I hankered after the GBA and its 32,000 colours.
Before it was released, I remember banging on about it for ages to the missus. I devoured every clue in the games magazines about what it would be able to do.
And when it came out, I was there on launch day to snap one up - same as I did later with the Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.Entirely bargainous
The GBA cost £80 at the time, which as old people never hesitate to tell you was a lot of money in those days.
In the GAME shop on Saturday, the same handheld beauty was on sale... for 98p.
Yes, 98p. And it came with two AA batteries.
There was even an identical one on sale for 48p - the 50p discount applied because the battery cover was missing.
Well, I'd traded in my original GBA long ago for a GBA SP, the revamped model with a better, backlit display.
That in turn had gone in for a Nintendo DS (which later was traded up for a DS Lite).
I didn't need a GBA because the DS Lite plays them, as does the Game Boy Micro. But I wanted one, as a piece of gaming history, so I handed over a quid and pocketed the 2p change.
It got me thinking about how quickly technology evolves, and how the excitement over the lusted-after GBA was soon overshadowed by gadgets with more power, more graphical grunt and the ability to play music files and show video.
It also reminded me what a great system the GBA was. Compared to the PSP its loading times were minimal. Games like Sonic Advance 2 and Advance Wars still cut the mustard. And it stood up to all manner of abuse, like being chucked in the bottom of a bag.
Well worth 98p of anyone's money.
iplayer saves the day
Having raved about iPlayer, I've now find that it's come into its own by saving me from telly starvation.
The house next door to us is empty, run-down and a bit of a mess and for a while I've been putting the squeeze on its owners to do something about it.
Good news - at the weekend the scaffolding went up and the builders moved in.
Bad news - they put a scaffolding pole right in front of my satellite dish. No Sky+ for me, and the Freeview reception where I live is so poor that the telly won't pick it up.Xbox360: Saving me from telly cold turkey
No telly for me then. It was a headscratcher, but I always like to think my way around my gadgets to see if there is a solution.
Happily, there is, and salvation came in the form of iPlayer. I downloaded some choice BBC programmes to my PC. Then - here comes the clever bit - I streamed the files to my big telly through the XBox360's Media Centre facility.
The quality of the picture even on a 37-inch LCD is quite impressive - not as good as Sky digital but it compares well to an analogue signal.
And at least we wont be a QI
-deprived household for the next few days. Sadly, Holby City
is on there too, so I'll still have to sit through that.
My cup runneth over. Not only is BBC's iPlayer one of the best things ever, giving me a chance to catch up on missed programmes like the brilliant Never Mind the Buzzcocks
, but news reaches my ears of a development that could have been thought of just for me.
As well as it being available on computers, the BBC are also going to release a version of iPlayer that will work on the iPod Touch (and the iPhone, but I don't care about that).
Free TV progammes in glorious handheld widescreen? Yes please.
It works over wi-fi, so I'll be able to sit on the sofa catching up on humorous panel shows on my Touch while the missus watches Holby City
Result. Thanks, Beeb.
A bit of Fry
As you well know, one of my very favourite things is technology. You may not know that another is Stephen Fry. He's brilliant on QI, the thinking person's TV panel show, and he somehow manages to be funny and all-knowing and quick-witted all at the same time without being even slightly irritating.
When I was a young reporter in London, I had a fairly embarassing Fry-related incident. I was standing outside Tufnell Park Tube station doing a vox pop, asking members of the general public the burning question of the day, when I saw a well-known television face jogging towards me
I wondered whether he'd stop, being a celebrity, but to his credit he did. So I asked him the question, and he gave me an answer, and although he wouldn't have his photo taken because he was in his jogging gear he was very nice and polite and a bit apologetic about it.
I thanked him, and as he went off I called out: 'Thanks, Mr Fry'. It was only when he turned and looked at me strangely that I realised my mistake.
It was Hugh Laurie.
Ah well, they were a double act so I suppose it's not unreasonable to mentally connect one's name with the other's face.Stephen Fry: A fan of technology. Definitely not Hugh Laurie.
Anyway, back to Mr Fry. Turns out he is gadget crazy and has his own blog in which he talks - in some technical detail - about whatever catches his eye.
Don't go off and read his stuff instead of mine, but if you think there's room for two technology blogs in your life then by all means check out Stephenfry.com by clicking here
Perhaps he'll link to me in return. And Stephen, if you see Hugh, tell him I'm sorry.
Some things drive me mad, and none more so than TV's once-brilliant consumer programme Watchdog.
Once, the formidable Anne Robinson - in the days before she became a kind of cartoon dominatrix - used to strike fear into the bosses of big industry.
She'd never let them off the hook and keep going until she got an answer on behalf of the hard-done by consumer. How we cheered.
Now the presenters treat the giants of industry with kid gloves, accepting their pre-prepared statements and their promises of enquiries and reviews without pushing them on the issues that count.
The difference was that Robinson was a bona-fide hard-bitten journalist, whereas her equivalent today - the effortlessly annoying Nicky Campbell - used to present Wheel of Fortune
.Does the Nintendo DS hate the north?
Anyway, last night saw Mr Campbell take on the Nintendo DS game Brain Training
, referring to a part of the game which involves you reading words off the screen and speaking into the device's microphone to say what colour they are.
According to Mr Campbell it was a scandal that the voice-recognition software didn't recognise some strong regional accents.
Never mind that the manual for the game specifically warns about this and gives very handy hints at how to get the best out of the software.
And never mind that Campbell tested his theory by questioning members of the public outside in the street, when the manual clearly states that the voice functions work best in quiet areas. That's why it gives you the option to turn the voice game off if you're in public.
Evidence for Campbell's prosecution case seemed to be some pretty radio DJ from Manchester who said: 'I'm going, "yeller" and everyone's saying to me you need to be a bit posher. You need to say, "yellow" and as soon as I did, it picked it up.'
Hmm. That's that is kind of the point, love. 'Yeller' is not really the right word, is it?
Added to that was a segment with the insufferable Jon Culshaw doing impressions of famous people - presumably to prove that the the Nintendo DS doesn't tolerate bad impressions.
And the fact that Nicky Campbell couldn't even get the name of the gagdet right - insisting on calling it a 'DS Nintendo' throughout - left me shouting at the telly. I can't tell you exactly what I was shouting, but you can be sure it wasn't 'yeller'.
I thought I'd do a little round-up, in case you're interested.
* I should be getting my hands on a new eee PC soon. This is a little tiny laptop that costs just £220 yet still manages to be ultra-desirable. I'll tell you more when I get it - can't wait.
I started playing Half-Life 2 (Xbox360) but ended up playing Portal, which is on the same disc. It's a weird puzzle game that messes with your head like mad. Hang on, I'll grab a screenshot and show you.
You wake up in a laboratory to find you're being tested in some hideous experiment. As the game progresses you're given a gun - but all it does is fire 'portals' - the blue and orange ones you can see on this screen shot - at spaces on the wall or floor. You go in one portal, you come out of the other. The object is to use the portals to get out of each room.
It's maddening but very addictive.
* I've started learning electric guitar off a brilliant tutor called Dan. He's only 19. This has made me feel old. It's also made my wrists ache. I'm of to buy an effects pedal at the weekend, probably from those nice chaps at Nevada Music in Portsmouth. Waaaaaaaaaaa!!!
* As well as Portal, I'm playing Silent Hill Origins for the PSP. It's spooooky.
* I'm extremely proud to report that my seven-month-old daughter is paying more attention to the TV and Sky+ remotes than she is her own toys. That's my girl.
* Jonathan Ross never got back to me. He's gone down in my estimation.
a bit Touchy
I'm very excited and a little bit annoyed all at the same time. At the long awaited MacWorld exhibition yesterday, Apple supremo Steve Jobs gave his regular keynote speech. These speeches have become such an event that all the top tech websites (like stuff, tech.co.uk and t3) blog live from show to keep readers updated what Jobsy is saying in real time.
Anyway, he announced a new thin laptop that costs over a grand and a lot of other stuff that didn't concern me. But as a faithful and early adopter of the iPod Touch, I was delighted to see that new applications previously only available to iPhone users were now available for use on the iPod Touch.
These applications are:
Google Maps - a very useful Google Earth kind of thing that you can zoom in out out of by making finger-pinching or expanding movements on the screen. Good
Stocks. Keeps you updated on all the, erm, stocks and shareds. Yawn.
Notes: Very handy
Email: Exceptionally handy
Weather: At least as good as looking out of the window.'Old' Touch on the right. Updated one on the left
Essentially, what the update means is that the iPod Touch is now just the same as the coveted iPhone, without the built-in speaker or the actual phone bit. Good news.
All new iPod Touches sent out from today will include the new applications. The price remains at a wallet-thumping £269, which is what I paid for mine without the new applications when it first came out.
Faithful early adopters who rushed to buy an iPod Touch when they first came out can also enjoy these features by updating their Touches through iTunes. So far, so good. So what's the problem?
It's this: People like me have to pay £12.99 for the software update. So essentially we're being penalised for being early adopters, and paying 13 quid more for the full-featured Touch than latecomers who pop out and buy one today.
This has resulted in a lot of bad karma for Apple if the message boards today are anything to go by. There are hundreds of angry Touchers out there demanding to know why Apple couldn't just have chucked the update out for free - it would have been perfectly possible.
Needless to say, I shelled out the dosh to get the extra features. But I couldn't help feeling it was all a bit of a swizz. Hopefully Apple will be forced into a bit of a climbdown and end up chucking us some free iTunes downloads or something to keep us all happy.