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Articles: techwatch: 2009 November

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Gaming Like It's 2006
Friday, 2009 November 27 - 8:34 pm
I've never been the sort of guy who needs to have the hottest gaming computer to play the most recent, graphically intensive games. I find that playing three-year-old games on hardware that's less than state-of-the-art has a lot of advantages.

For one thing, I can wait for other people to figure out which games are any good. For another, I save a bunch of money on both hardware and software... I spent just $8 picking up a copy of Bioshock, which runs just fine on my Mac mini under Boot Camp. And I don't believe I'm having any less fun playing it now than I would have if I'd picked it up for $50 when it was new.

What should I pick up next? Perhaps Halo 2?
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Television Upgrade
Monday, 2009 November 23 - 4:37 pm
Well, I've bit the bullet, and decided not to wait for a Black Friday deal: I'm finally ditching my old behemoth rear-projection TV for an LCD flat panel model. (Amy will be enormously pleased to recover some square footage in our living room.) Sony has a promotion going on right now: discounted TVs along with a free Playstation 3. I'm not terribly interested in having another game console to suck down my time and money, but the PS3 is one of the best Blu-Ray players available, so it's worth it just for that.

Nice things about the new TV, as compared to my old one:
  • Won't suffer from color convergence drift (color fuzzing that results from the color beams being misaligned, requiring periodic refocusing)
  • Won't have odd red lines (Trinitron artifacts?) crossing the screen (this developed after a power surge; the lines makes Amy think of the stripes you see in salmon meat)
  • Better viewing angles (rear projection really had a problem with this)
  • HDMI inputs and digital audio output, for better integration with my home theater
  • Occupies ten times less floor space

The only bad thing I can think of is that it doesn't have the picture-by-picture mode that my old TV has, which is far superior to the picture-in-picture mode that the cable box provides.

The TV should arrive in less than a week. Whee, reckless consumerism! I mean... whee, doing my part to stimulate the economy!

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Posted by Ken in: techwatchtelevision

Not Good
Wednesday, 2009 November 18 - 12:44 pm
In local economic news, Sony Ericsson is closing its RTP facility. 425 jobs will be lost. I can't say I'm surprised, but all the same, it sucks for the people working there.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

We live in the future
Thursday, 2009 November 5 - 8:29 am
I'm sure others have said this before, but the iPhone really makes me feel like I live in the future. Here I am, blogging from my phone in an airport. All my travel info is stored on my phone. While in flight, I can bring up an app that gives me a virtual cockpit display. (Or can I? Are you allowed to use GPS on an airplane? Guess I'll find out shortly.)

By the way, I've never been a Blackberry-style thumb typer before, but I'm just now discovering that it seems to be more efficient for me when I'm in landscape mode.

Also discovered today: if you use frequent flyer miles on American, you get priority seating (exit row) and priority boarding. Sweet.

Gotta go, boarding now!
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

Motorola/Google/Verizon Droid Phone Friday
Wednesday, 2009 November 4 - 12:40 pm
The new "Droid" phone, built by Motorola with Google's Android software, will be available on the Verizon network this Friday. All the preliminary reports indicate that it's an impressive phone, with features and quality to rival the iPhone.

So of course, everyone's calling it an "iPhone killer". Of course, they said that about the Blackberry Storm and the Palm Pre, and the iPhone certainly isn't dead yet.

You know, I would love to see the iPhone get some real competition. I would love to see other companies get innovative and come up with something revolutionary. But unfortunately, it seems like the best anyone can do is to build a product that's almost as good as what Apple already developed two years ago. Sure, you can talk about Android's open development policies, or things like physical keyboards and removable batteries, but those aren't revolutionary. It's as if Motorola, Google, and Verizon started with the iPhone, wrote down every complaint anyone has ever had about it, and then blended everything together into the Droid phone. There just aren't any new ideas there. Apple's iPhone, when it came out, was truly new. There would be no Pre or Droid without the groundbreaking precedents established by the iPhone.

There are certainly inferior products and technologies that have achieved market dominance, by virtue of being first, being cheaper, or aided by a monopoly. But the iPhone competitors have none of those crutches. So listen up, makers of would-be iPhone "killers": this isn't one of those cases where you can just make something "good enough" and hope to succeed simply on anti-Apple sentiment. Make something better. Spend some brainpower and R&D money on making something truly new. I'm a long-time user and admirer of Apple products, but that doesn't mean I don't want Apple to face some competition. We all want to see innovation. And what we don't need is for another Microsoftian purveyor of copy-cat inferior technology to rise to market dominance.
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Posted by Ken in: techwatch

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