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November 30, 2003

Invoking the Sale of Goods Act

Over at BoingBoing, Cory accuses FACT of intellectual dishonesty. A rare thing in the anti-piracy industry, after all. And for sure most of us are bright enough to realise that if we buy a DVD of a just-released movie from the suitcase of a lad in well-used running shoes, we might not be getting an entirely pukka product.

But, as it happens, as I was walking back from Walthamstow market today, I passed a consumer in the process of trying to get a refund from a pirate DVD seller because the picture quality was crap. So clearly some people are surprised when their £6.99 copy of Master and Commander turns out to be a hand-filmed copy with Chinese subtitles. I didn't stop to listen, but I did hear the poor bargain-hunter threaten to report the DVD sellers to Trading Standards.

Posted by Alison at 12:00 AM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2003

Is there a 12-step program for technophiles?

We've just returned from Mac Expo, which is now over. So this will be the 'completely useless' sort of review. You would probably have enjoyed it. We took Tibs, and also our children, who we sat playing Finding Nemo at the kiddie end of the large bank of G5 games.

It turned out expensive. We purchased several iPod toys; an iTrip, interestingly marketed without any mention of the fact that it's illegal to use in the UK; a SendStation Pocket Dock, designed to reduce the irritation level of having two different iPod form factors; cables to attach the iPod to the household stereo, and a thin firewire cable to keep in the car.

But then we visited the aptly named www.ihavetohave.it, who are currently selling two very hot properties. They're the UK importer for the Slim Squeezebox, a Wifi device that manages your networked mp3s and streaming mp3. The idea is that you put it in, eg, your bedroom or your stereo stack, and have access to the 58GB of mp3s on your network. You could use an old PC or a laptop for this purpose, of course, but this is quieter, and cheaper, and designed for this purpose. It's released next month, and selling like the proverbial.

We were even more impressed by the iPod car installation kits, which take the whole iPod in car thing a stage further, allowing you to adjust volume and skip tracks using your in-car music controls. We'd erroneously assumed that references to CD-changers on the website meant that these would only work with, well, a CD-changer. We were wrong, and we'll probably be buying one of these.

Our other major hardware purchase, which sadly is being delivered, is the Harmony Remote SST-659. This uses a web interface to manage the plethora of remotes in your living room and tame them, so you end up with one-click macros for 'watch a DVD' (ie, turn on your TV, mute the sound, change the video input, turn on the DVD, play the disc, turn on the amplifier, set amp to DVD 6-channel, and, if you have X10 controls, dim your room lights). Cleverly, it then remembers the state of your system, so if you then click the one-click for 'play a video', it leaves your TV on, turns off the DVD and turns on the video, and so on. As our current setup is monumentally confusing to both our guests and our children, we're hoping this will improve matters. We've been thinking about this for some time, but the previous 'most likely' remote (the Phillips Pronto) required dedication and enthusiasm to program. This is both cheaper and has a web interface.

I also looked at low-end colour laser printers; we're hoping to replace our creaky HP Laserjet 4 Plus with a colour printer. The Minolta representative was infectiously enthusiastic about the Minolta 2350; it's tiny for a colour laser, with a minimal set of consumables (4 toners, toner waste, drum), gorgeous photo output, and a string of awards. Neither HP nor Epson were at all enthusiastic about their laser printers -- I guess they'd sent the poster proof inkjet salesmen? And OKI didn't have a stall, though I did see the OKI 5300N on one stand; it's a much faster printer than the others due to its one-pass LED printing. If I'd been prepared to spring for the Minolta on the spot, it would have come with a free iPod... our third...

Otherwise, I picked up a batch of Mac magazines with CDs & DVDs (Mac Format, Your iLife, iCreate, Computer Digital Arts, and so on) for nearly nothing on special show offers, and finally bought a copy of Toast.

Back at home, on eBay, I've been looking at clamshell iBooks, with a view to possibly getting Marianne one for Christmas. They're known for sturdiness, and the very last clamshell had a 10Gb hard drive, a DVD, Firewire, and enough RAM to run Panther. Advice welcome.

Posted by Alison at 09:07 PM | Comments (9)

November 21, 2003

More on eMusic

In the end, I didn't cancel my eMusic subscription. I did, along with everyone else, try to suck as much music as possible out of the system before the unlimited period ended, but then I decided that there was still plenty of music on Emusic that was worth downloading in glorious, DRM-free .mp3 at 25 cents a track.

And they don't appear to have gone bust yet, which I suppose is a good sign. They've put up a letter from their general manager, explaining that they believe their business model can work, that they're not part of a huge record company any more, that they'll encourage you to listen to new music by giving you promos for free, that the unlimited model couldn't work in a world where we all have broadband and 30Gb iPods, that they're going to provide alternatives to the (hated) download manager, and that they'll find a way to surcharge for people who want to buy more songs in a given month than their plan includes.

All of which sounds good to me. And when I went to their list of 'recommended new arrivals' for me, I found Jerusalem by Steve Earle (which I bought at the Cambridge Folk Festival this summer), and Life'll Kill Ya, My Ride's Here and The Wind, all by Warren Zevon, and none of which I own (though I do have some of them on iTunes cos I'm a bad girl). $10 worth? You betcha. (Apparently I spoke too soon; although they're listed, they don't appear to be available.) Chance that I won't find 40 tracks I want to download in any given month for the forseeable? Nil. Chance I might forget to visit the site and spend $10 for nothing? Rather higher.

Posted by Alison at 05:55 PM | Comments (1)

November 15, 2003

More Wiggly 3D

I did threaten to have a go at turning some of my stereo pairs into wiggly pictures. Here (in the extended entry) is a photo of Jonathan and Marianne; they're sitting on the swing seat in the porch of Geri Sullivan's Minneapolis home, Toad Hall.

Jonathan and Marianne in glorious viewer-free stereo

I am particularly amused because they weren't swinging at all when the photo was taken

Posted by Alison at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

November 04, 2003

Wiggly 3D

Xeni writes in BoingBoing about these wiggly stereo pictures of Burning Man (NSFW if your work is really uptight). I think this is the best no-viewer-required any-monitor-will-do stereo that I've yet seen; they're animated gifs of the stereo pair. I may blog stereo photos of mine in the same way in the future.

Posted by Alison at 10:20 AM | Comments (1)