Category Archives: mobile

Review: Grand Theft Auto IV – Liberty Call

Sailors understand the phrase, “liberty call.” It means you are finally touching land and you have a few hours, a few days to spend all your money on souvenirs, salads and antiquing … at least that’s what it says on the official Navy website.

The Grand Theft Auto IV game is completely different. You get to be the you you want to be if you had no inhibitions or deal with that stupid law & order thing they keeping talking about … Unfortunately, I am stuck in Club Penguin and wonder if the grass is indeed …um, the kind of greener grass you mow …

So, JackDaddy spent just a few hours/days playing the game to let us know. Fortunately, he doesn’t have to worry about alloting time to find CARS in any retail stores (inside joke) so he can devote all his time to properly being a gangsta gangster in Liberty City … take it away JackDaddy … (a perfect character name by the way).
LIBERTY CITY – HAVE YOU BEEN THERE YET?

For those who don’t know and for those who think they don’t/shouldn’t care, April 29th was a big, big day for home entertainment.

At 1 minute past zero in the morning, retailers and onlinepurchasing systems around the planet went into overdrive.

After 2 years of hype, advertising and some text bookmarketing stops and starts, Rockstar North realised a life time ambition.

(MET: I realized the UK still hates the letter Z … “realized.” :-) )

I am of course referring to Grand Theft Auto 4 – Liberty City.

So what’s the big deal?

Grand Theft Auto 4 – Liberty City (GTA4) is estimated to have cost $100 million to produce, market and release, a fact alone worth taking notice of! Incredibly it is now officially the fastest and biggest selling home entertainment retail item of all time!

GTA4 sold approximately 3.6 million units on its opening day with a retail value of approximately $310 million globally.

It sold 6 million units globally with an estimated retail value of more than $500 million in the first week.

No VINYL, AUDIO CASSETTE, VIDEO CASSETTE, DVD, CD or GAME has ever sold anything like that before!

That’s the Beatles, Star Wars, Super Mario, and others, smashed off the charts!

The figures are still rising, with most retailers reporting that strong sales are continuing and some even running out of product!

Sony refuse to admit it, but retailers are also saying thatthey have sold more Playstation 3’s in this quarter than they did in the PS3 launch month quarter and if sales continue, possibly more than they did for Christmas! This would more than confirm the belief that most gamers have delayed their PS3purchase until the release of GTA4! Only Nintendo and Mario have sold a console like this before, but the figures were peanuts compared to this.

But that surely could just be a result of hype and clever advertising?

Is it really that special?

The simple answer is – ABSO ’BLOODY’ LUTELY!

I have essentially spent a whole week in Liberty City, so before I tell you all why, let me tell you what is wrong with it. I assure you all I will not give too much away.

Despite the release of Vice City stories on XBOX & PS2 afew years ago, GTA4 has essentially had to follow up what many describe as the greatest video game of all time, Grand Theft Auto – San Andreas. This was a revolutionary game and arguably was the main player game wise that helped to bridge the gap between geeks/teenagers and the adult market with free time at home. For those who played it, you will know what made it great. I have caned the life out of both GTA San Andreas and GTA4 in my spare time, but am somehow left fonder of GTA San Andreas in many ways.

(MET: I have no idea what the last sentence meant in American English but I believe he likes virtual macking, jacking and hoin’ … :-) of course, hey, who doesn’t?)

It is hard to say why, but I suppose it is probably has to be a combination of factors. GTA San Andreas was so innovative and groundbreaking at the time, every turn had a new never before in a video game surprise. The sheer exploratory side of the game was incredible. The humour was at times genius and missions (overall) were a joy. Playing it was like eating a slice of deprived 90s urban America, and getting the runs as a result, with references to all our favourite black gangsta movies, rappers and personalities from recent times. It was naughty, nostalgic and a massive virtual playing field where you could just do whatever you wanted without consequence. Customisation of your character and Car also made your copy of the game unique.

(MET: In Club Penguin, I planted a tulip on my ice floe).

GTA San Andreas was warm, a friend even!

So GTA4 isn’t then?

It’s an entirely different game, part of a new era!

The down side of this? In GTA4, you can’t………………

1 – Fly a plane.

2 – Gang fight like in San Andreas

(You could literally fill up a van with your homeys and go round to you enemies and take them out.)

3 – Parachute jump

4 – Jet pack around

5 – Play as many in game games like the casino/with characters/danceoffs

6 – Make money as easily

7 – Get a hair cut/tattoo

8 – Buy as many clothes

9 – Customise your Car

10 – Buy property

11 – Go into a nightclub

(even though one of the radio DJs is house music legend François K)

Due to the above, its ground breaking innovation and the fact that GTA San Andreas has such a brilliant story and setting, I will always be very fond of it, maybe more so than GTA4. GTA San Andreas had many, many flaws/glitches and bad points, having me throwing my controller across the room! Remember the ‘learn to fly Carl’ missions anyone? Oh my god!

Fondness is fondness, I am fond of ex girlfriends, but they are not better than others!

GTA4 is a darker, grittier experience. You can tell that the franchise has grown up a lot, and is taking its self much more seriously as mainstream medium. The silliness is gone, the next gen engines have been explored and it reeks of real life. It’s a virtual realm, but a believable one!

Rockstar are clearly saying – “hello adults, don’t watch that DVD, play this!”

So is GTA4 over rated then? NO!

If anything, recent reviews and exposure leave it looking somewhat under rated. This is probably deliberate; maybe because Rockstar know what they have got and are letting their consumers do the talking for them (look what I am doing?)

I have now completed it twice as a story and have nearly went through all the mini missions within the game. For those who do not know, that’s a hell of a lot of game play, basically everyday for long periods of time during the last two weeks

In total, the games main story mode contains 87 missions, some very brief, a few very long with most others around the 5 – 10 minutemark. In addition, the game also contains –

9 x Assassin missions

10 x drug run missions

40 x car steal missions

9 x races

50 x police car missions

36 x other random missions involving characters

200 pigeons to shoot (replacing the ridiculous clams from San Andreas)*

50 stunt jumps to perform.

(MET: *Yes, clams is correct – not a typo).

Its retail price? £44.99 or $29.99!

(MET: If you were paid in £’s and then flew to the US but here in the US, it’s $59.99 … and of course, ours is the NTSC version).

This is undoubtedly the bargain of gaming history. GTA4 contains the equivalent of at least 4 – 6 games if you consider the length andcontent of games already released and available for PS3 and XBOX360.

IT’S MASSIVE!

In fact, in my opinion, you would be getting value for money if you bought a PS3 and a copy of GTA4, just to be able to play GTA4. You would get a blue ray DVD player for free and an online compatible gaming console too?!

The game is just wild!

Rockstar have made the playing field more condensed, but San Andreas did have huge waste lands of space with nothing to do.

Liberty City doesn’t.

For those who don’t know, it’s based on New York.

You play an illegal immigrant and experience his struggles as he arrives off the boat from Eastern Europe and moves in with his cousin in Brooker.

(MET: Location: Liberty City, broken up into five areas: Brooklyn is Broker; Manhattan is Algonquin; Queens is Dukes; The Bronx is Bohan & New Jersey is Alderney)


The story mode prompts you from there and 87 missions later reaches conclusion.

There is an alternative ending scenario, but is not much different.

The graphics, architecture and physics are exciting, dazzling and true media innovation.

Detail has obviously figured to be paramount in planning and it is staggering just how much there is.

Simply driving around is breath taking, with every Car having different handling, acceleration, braking and cornering features. All the vehicles are beautiful, with well over 400 to drive/ride/fly/steer.

When Rockstar released the less popular but mildly superior videogame version of the 1970s classic gangland movie ‘The Warriors’ not long after GTA San Andreas a few years ago, it left players begging the question, “why can’t GTA be like this?” Rockstar seemed to have learnt from that and have almost injected the GTA franchise with the Warriors strengths, most noticeable when your character is running, jumping, fighting and climbing.

One of the focal points of GTA4 is its new cover and targeting system, this is essentially up there with the best of games now, where as San Andreas had terrible targeting and weapons accuracy, it was a poor part of the game and looked as though they had to do it rather than wanted to. GTA4 pulls this off perfectly, with all objects in game becoming usable ascover which you can duck up and down from or blind fire from while avoiding incoming bullets. The weapons are slightly limited, but are all awesome. Enemies are much more intelligent, they too will duck and cover and try to kill you more assertively, whereas in previous GTA instalments, they stood still and were easily avoided.

There is just so much you can do in this game, with shootouts, chases, races, and missions to make your eyes pop out in astonishment.

(MET: Penguins?)

My favourite level in story mode was the Bank Robbery. Without giving too much away, this is very much like the bank robbery scene from the film Heat with De Niro and Pacino. It took me 40 minutes to get through this level.

The Assassin missions were another joy. Merely answering the phone and then going to take people out was almost like a game all to itself.** There are hundreds of similar things to do like this, like vigilante mode or most wanted mode in a cop car. You can also just go for a drive and cause mayhem with whomever you choose. My Brother particularly finds joy in causing endless road blocks which he then explodes. I had fun while on top of abuilding merely phoning the cops and shooting them.

**(MET: remind me never to call JackDaddy ;-) )

YES, YOU CAN PHONE PEOPLE!

The biggest change from San Andreas is the Multimedia capability in GTA4.

You can use the in-game internet and your mobile phone, which becomes part of your progress success. You can also access the Police computers from any police vehicle and use their information to your gain.

While online, you can read blogs, email certain people, arrange dates and even send a job application! Virtual reality with a sick sense of humour!

Your phone is equipped with a camera; you can send/receive text messages and can phone certain characters. You can also phone random numbers dotted around the game, some of which are very amusing!

You can go out with friends/dates an do a variety of activities, like bowling, pool, darts, food etc.

The Music is excellent, with loads of different radio stations to listen to, some hosted by very some very famous people indeed.

The humour is there but it’s not as slapstick as San Andreas, which is a little sad, and there are lots of liberal agenda antiestablishment skits and references. GTA4 gives you a panoramic look at the not so different world of our own in your living room. It’s ironic, sarcastic, brutally honest and always down right vicious!

(MET: Welcome to Brooklyn!)



All in all it is an incredible gaming experience, and is the ultimate time killer.

There isn’t a two player option which is a little disappointing, but there is a 16 player online mode you can play via the network. My Brother and I happily exchanged the controller throughout missions and mini games though.

In closing, I would say that the franchise is gearing up for Expansion packs, maybe like the Sims, where every 6 – 12 months they release something new to accompany the game. This would be welcomed in Liberty City, where many of the buildings look empty and dormant, almost demanding to become involved. More clothing and activity outlets/venues would have been better; you can’t really customise your character that well or do a lot with in game characters. My Brother and I are salivating at the prospect of playing GTA San Andreas revisited!

Who knows?

One thing we all know or will know is that Rockstar Games have changed history as we know it with Grand Theft Auto 4 Liberty City.

If you haven’t already – BUY IT!

(PS3 & Xbox360)

Need a PS3 or XBox360?

BTW, there are five non-violent things you can do in GTA4 ;-)

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Filed under Advertising, Computing, Design, Film, Financial, Internet, Marketing, Media, mobile, Retail, TV, video, Video Games

Mattel Disney Pixar CARS: eBay, the Conundrum

eBay is easy to hate but eBay really serves many purposes – some not so obvious.

On the surface, ebay is merely a virtual auction clearinghouse where buyers and sellers come together to sell and buy goods.

eBay has managed to trump most of the other online auction houses in the United States and in many countries because most people trust it through its processes and its longevity (of course, that’s not to say 100% of all transaction goes smooth or honestly but clearly enough do).

(Yahoo auctions leads in some Asian countries and others in other countries but they serve the same principle).

Part of the success of eBay and to a lesser extent of others is that you have a sufficient number of buyers and sellers. Just as why they do not hold ‘Old Masters’ auctions in Jasper, Wyoming or on a barge in the Amazon – as a seller, you not only want as many interested buyers but also the right potential buyers.

eBay is in many ways the perfect forum for supply & demand. Anyone in the world with internet access (and can read English for eBay US obviously) can see and bid on an item. You can literally buy items for one US penny or over a million dollars depending on supply & demand.

And of course, that fluctuates – as we clearly saw with CARS – the situation with Crusin’ McQueen in the last two months of 2006 was a textbook example of rationality taking a holiday.

For those that missed it, it went something like this.

This Movie Moment appeared towards the later part of the summer, the Crusin’ McQueen was all new and while most of us had a Sally already, since “new” CARS were so rare, most people were willing to bite the bullet (You can read the full story in our book) and buy this MM set … while it was not a pegwarmer as they are now, after the first few weeks, they were relatively available though selling briskly – since it was close to the holidays and at that point, no one was sure how much longer the line would last so might as well buy it to be safe.

But then a mysterious single carded version appeared that was not featured on the back of any Supercharged cards (showing which CARS were out) and in particularly, it was NOT featured on the back of his OWN card!

There were three different Supercharged card backs which featured either 21 or 23 different CARS but none featured Crusin’ McQueen. At this point, Mattel had just switched from the 30-CARS case to 18-CARS case but no one (not even 1StopDiecast) had any idea what was in each case – old Hot Wheels “treasure hunt’ and variant collectors wondered if this was a ‘treasure hunt?’ Or was it a short-pack? (For Hot Wheels, Mattel packs some ‘treasure hunts’ ONE to a box of 72-Hot Wheels – hence the jargon – short pack) Was this the CARS equivalent?

While Batman would shout “Let’s go to the batcave!”

We shout, “Let’s go to eBay!”

eBay serves as our bat beacon. If we see 1,000 listings …, we can pretty much breathe a sign of relief that it’s everywhere – but if there are only 5 listings?

Then the question is – what do you do? Do you succumb or do you resist?

The bottom line is its your money and you can choose to spend it as you see fit.

In this case, based on incomplete information, general craziness and whatever you want to call it, prices actually hit the $180 range for Crusin’ McQueen auctions. Yes, 1 car – @$3.29 retail (about average at that time) eagerly was sold for $150-$175 dollars.

Again, it’s your money. (just to note, I had a SC Crusin’ McQueen but I did not sell it – I bought it just a few weeks before the craziness when it was just seemed like another release – at that time, no one thought it was a rarity … or perceived rarity). Personally, I have spent that on a dinner and can’t remember if it was that great, I have spent that much on stupidity – getting a traffic ticket. We each have happy, sad and stupid stories about spending $200 or not spending $200 … there are people who wouldn’t spend $200 on an engagement ring :-) but would on buying a hunting vest … to each their own.

I bring that up because eBay is merely an efficient distribution system.

Part of the problem is that the distribution system (in particular for toys) is wildly uneven and solely dependent on the stores in your area buying and shelving the proper amount of CARS (in this case) for your population and interest.

I’ll cite my area, in NorthernCal. Most of the people here hate WM and refuse to let them build a giant 200,000 square feet store WM prefers so in NorCal and most of CA, we have probably a WM for every 750,000 to 1-million people … while in parts of the midwest or Southeast, in town/geo-areas of 1-million people, you might have 10 WM’s … not to mention Target’s and TRU’s … while we have more Target’s – we only have maybe 6-7 TRU’s to serve 10-million people … so unless each store decided to order 20-cases of everything, we simply don’t have enough.

So, eBay serves to re-distribute what WM-Target-TRU & Mattel was not able to do correctly.

And that extends out to Europe or other parts of the world. I am not the person who cares that much about exclusivity. I am lazy and would like nothing better than to buy everything while I’m buying Coke at the grocery store (one reason I don’t care if WM wants to build a 200,000 square foot store) and I frankly don’t care that much about jumping through hurdles to buy something (like Blu Ray DVD McQueen) … I’ll do it but it being limited or exclusive holds no great interest to me beyond having it (not as something to sell) but I understand it from a marketing point of view – you create hype and an artificial shortage that serves a couple masters.

Because strangely, if it’s easy to obtain, that thing loses the “extra” luster. How many people fight to collect detergent bottles or gum packaging or even closer to home, CARS bedspreads … not many because there’s no fight to find it.

So, that’s the fine line – what’s too much and what’s not enough? You sometimes have to be careful of what you ask for. What’s the right amount of Chuki’s per store? – 4? 10? 100? 1,000? Because at some number point, you might actually stop buying it because you figure, “I’ll just next time.” Because if you stop perceiving its scarcity (real or imagined), you might put off buying until the holidays or worst of all, stop buying because it’s common. Of course, that’s impossible to predict or gauge as it will vary from day to day and region to region.

That’s the irony – you don’t want too much trouble to find it but if it’s too easy everytime … then maybe you stop caring or yearning because the hunt is too easy.

AND eBay can add to that, giving you reason to be early to track it down, knowing that your only recourse is to pay more – having that “easy” outlet to sell and re-sell actually adds value to that you hunt for.

Before eBay, unless you were well connected, you had no idea what was going on unless you read one of the enthusiast magazine and I meant really read it – sometimes MONTHS later – hardly anyone was ever complete (and thus why older toys are so much more valuable) was that you had no idea if they released a red version to FRED MEYER (the chain) if you lived in a state with no Fred Meyer and because mail order was so iffy, you had to drive out of state to a toy show in hopes to see it and buy it … or that in Fred Meyer territory, it’s a pegwarmer and they’re trying to give it away – meanwhile, the rest of the country was willing to pay 3 times that amount … but eBay changes all that as a secondary distributor … now, if they release a gold version only in Hawaii, first of all, we scream to the company that it’s crazy to make such a limited item and then we jump on eBay to bid on it … and remember, if no one else is interested, you get it at the starting price, it’s only if two people value it – that’s when it gets interesting … and if 50 or 100 people are interested? Then you have name calling and the emptying of bank accounts.

But again, you have free will sitting in front of your computer and you in theory should ONLY pay what you are willing to pay … okay, I know it’s easy to get carried away … like being in Las Vegas … just do everything up to the point before you sleep and marry the stripper. :-)

Bottom line is eBay sellers post items as a test and those that have interest encourage others … how many Green Ramones sold last week? And if they did, how many went past about $5 including shipping?

So, while eBay can encouraging hoarding or immediate transfer from stores to eBay listings – ultimately, demand meets supply or vice versa. Of course, in an odd way, you can blame the liberal return policy from stores on encouraging over-buying … and not really eBay’s fault. With a receipt, you can return un-opened toys within 90 days for a full refund so the eBay seller has a 90-days to try and attempt to make a profit

However, there are short term fluctuations in distribution and interest causing prices spikes and later price drops … now the situation in Europe or Asia is different than in the US. In the US, everything that is limited is announced (Blu Ray McQueen, Speedway of the South, Factory Set) – otherwise, it’s not really limited unless you a packaging variant collector … (for instance, there are much fewer Supercharged (red) Mia & Tia’s than there are WOC carded red Mia & Tia’s – the value you place on that is your call). So it is understandable international buyers are eager to have it in hand because a) they don’t know when or if it will make it over there and b) if it becomes common in the US, ironically, sellers stop listing them so if you’re looking for Bug Mouth McQ, good luck finding a listing …

Ultimately, eBay serves several purposes – helping to hype the hype … helping to re-distribute product where there are shortages … for a collector, it can be a curse, and a hinderance but it can also serve to even out distribution as long as you have enough sellers … and of course, how do you encourage more selling? More buyers … it’s a cycle … but if the profit for an item starts to fall too much, you lose seller’s interest and so, be careful of what you wish for & or wish against. It’s a fine balance equilibrium in regards to pricing and of course, different for everyone.

eBay is a fair system. Unlike a real marketplace where other factors might come into play in the seller setting a price (based on ethnicity, gender, you’re not local, etc …) directed towards a seller standing right there … eBay is only based on the price you’re willing to pay. Sometimes that’s a great thing, sometimes a good thing and sometimes – you have buyer’s remorse … but hey, thanks for participating in the ultimate worldwide test of supply & demand.

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Filed under Advertising, collecting, Computing, Film, Internet, Marketing, Mattel Disney Pixar CARS, Media, mobile, Retail, Toys, TV

Review: Neuros OSD MP4 Video Recorder + the Mac

The Neuros OSD is a deceptively simple looking device.

osd-3lsideanglejpg.jpg

It is a recorder that will record ANYTHING as a QUICKTIME Mp4 video file …

That’s right, ANYTHING that has RCA outputs and or S-Video, the Neuros OSD can record.

Cable TV
Satellite TV
DVD
VCR
TiVo
DVR
Video Game Screens

Anything … and unlike some current solutions, your storage is only limited by the USB hard drive you’re willing to buy … and unlike most solutions that require a proprietary hard drive, any USB drive will do … if you’re not much of a TV saver or you want ultra portability, you can record also onto:

Memory Stick: Duo and Pro Duo
Compact Flash: Type I and Type II
Microdrives with CF type II interface
Secure Digital (SD)
Multi Media Card (MMC)
USB thumbdrives

The Neuros OSD can pretty handle ANY format you can throw at it.

It is in many aspects a dream device.

Sure, a TiVo or DVR has good capacity but there is a limit unless you hack it and of course if you want to transfer a file to a computer or a portable device like an iPhone/iPod or PSP, that requires getting around a proprietary format like .tivo and/or DRM and/or having to convert from one format to another … or of course you can output to a DVD-R but then you have all these DVD-R’s after which you still have to convert from VOB to MPEG-4 … and it’s hard to edit out commercials or simply to edit. You have to convert from VOB to MPEG-4, edit and then re-output …

Doable but more work than necessary.

The Neuros OSD saves you time. It’s MPEG-4, if you want to watch on your Mac, iPhone, iPod or PSP, just save it in the scale size it prefers (480 x 320, etc, etc …) or if you prefer just a QT MPEG-4 ready for editing from iMovie to FCP, it’s already done. Of course, you can also just watch it on your TV.

The Neuros OSD does not have a lot of video plugs/ports though.

(1) S-Video IN
(1) “Mini” to RCA IN
(1) “Mini” to RCA OUT

(Most people might know them as camcorder out cables (pre firewire/USB days) – one end is the “mini” connector and the other end are the three headed RCA plugs of yellow for video and red/white for audio).

218x206_442cables.jpg

(there are some other plugs/ports I’ll cover later that do not have to do with video)

The simplest setup would be your cable/satellite box out via s-video and RCA’s to the Neuros OSD and then the Mini from your Neuros to your TV input (RCA’s).

There is no s-video out, no composite and no HDMI (in or out).

So, yes, no HD.

There is another Mini plug for the IR Blaster (which actually works-hurray!).

There is also a mini to serial port but unfortunately, it’s only for developer debugging.

There is an ethernet port for the network and on the other side, there are memory/flash card ports and a USB port.

So again, the basic setup is pretty straightforward.

For the price of a Neuros OSD (@$180), and a USB hard drive (in my case – 1TB for @$250), you have a 1 TB MPEG-4 DVR for about $430. A price that is not possible to beat. You can find, cobble, hack or buy a hacked TiVo, PC-based DVR or a retail 1TB DVR’s but other than DIY kits, you’re not going to find one for $430 – especially one that can putput a MPEG-4 file literally within seconds of setup.

BUT, it’s not for everyone.

If you can identity a USB plug from a firewire plug or know where the black nub is on a S-Video connector receptor, then the Neuros OSD & setup will work fine for you but if you cannot, then you might reconsider as the software and setup portion as it’s not really ready for the average person.

osd-10remotejpg.jpg

If you understand the setup choices outlined above, then the Neuros MIGHT be for you. Again, if you can identify your composite in and outs, which are component in and outs and all the other ports by sight, you’re fine and/or if you don’t mind experimenting – then you’ve passed the first test and you may proceed to the next level.

THE SOFTWARE/UI

There are two parts. First, the on-screen “OS” is functional – though it could stand much improvement but it’s not the worst on-screen menu design.

And of course, the UI & OS are still very much a work in progress with apparently a major OS upgrade coming in a few weeks though it’s impossible to say what will be improved and what will not.

Like most Linux based OSes, there are some aspects of this OS with a thousand choices (well, okay not 1,000 :-) but taking up a huge chunk of real estate) while other seemingly important choices are grouped with much lesser functions.

I’m not going to go into great detail as some might be fixed in the upcoming major firmware revision but suffice to say, you are warned that it’s not exactly like plugging a VCR – think more like a programmable remote. All the features are there, you just have to wade through its reasoning.

And yes, I uttered the phrase ‘firmware revision.’

The “Hidden” OS portion …

Which of course is good and bad. Good that it’s being upgraded all the time and not so good that you have to update the OS (but of course, only if you want). If you have it hooked up to the internet, it will ask you if you want to update if there’s an update.

For people who know Linux or commands, you are set, go out and buy the Neuros already. For those who are not, the TV functions are nice looking and for the most part function fine and you can’t really wander off the reservation into command line territory so don’t be scared by that but for those who know/love Linux, it’s an extra bonus … for instance, you can telnet and remotely set or change the record function. For those that do not understand the last sentence, the good thing is somebody might be kind enough to write a web browser accessible page in the future – so that everyone can remotely access their Neuros graphically … but no promises.

The Remote

The next part of the problem is that the setup is done entirely with the remote and frankly, the Neuros IR eye is not very sensitive to this and while this remote is seemingly designed for the Neuros OSD, it’s not very well designed for it. The important HOME button should be larger and well, it’s just not very well thought out from a user point of view – clearly they just took an average remote and crammed in the Neuros functions on it.

It’s not horrible, it’s just not as good as it can be.

Other User Notes

One huge major flaw is the inability to type titles with a keyboard. And there’s no qwerty keys on the remote … so you get random sequential file names – now, if you intend to port everything over to your Mac to edit or load onto an iPhone/iPod, it’s not a huge deal since you’re probably going to open the files anyway to trim the beginning and end but unlike TiVo or most DVR’s, there’s no thumbnail, preview or any indication what you recorded when you get to your text list of things you recorded. You have to hit play before you can see what it is. So, if you just want a massive DVR for TV viewing and you’re the type who hates to have to remember to type in a name while you’re setting the record function or go back and have to add it later – this is probably not the way to go as you’ll get frustrated both by trying to edit its name on screen and not knowing what your dozens to hundreds of shows actually are.

PICTURE QUALITY

Beyond its user functionality. Of course, the critical consideration is picture/video quality. It’s not HD but you can select 2500 kpbs which is the encoding rate for AppleTV and/or directly select a setting for your iPhone/iPod or PSP. The final image is a little soft but acceptable. Honestly, my opinion is its fine for viewing on a smaller TV or monitor and it’s fine for the iPod/iPhone/PSP but beyond that, that will be your call. Personally, I found it too soft for archival purposes unless you’re only interested in watching it on a portable device or on a laptop … it works fine for me as that’s all I’m interested in. If you want a back up of a DVD at its best resolution, I’d still advise using Handbrake as it creates a much crisper file. (Our HT and subsequent Handbrake, MPEG Streamclip & El Gato Turbo Stick tips & reviews). But if you find the quality acceptable, it is generally a quicker backup to hit PLAY on your DVD into the Neuros OSD than if ripped it via Handbrake unless you have a quad-core Mac Pro, then it might be close … and if you can spare the bandwidth, I would advice ripping it in Handbrake.

Here’s your checklist:

If you’re interested in a expandable PVR where you can literally record some 600 movies (on a 1 TB drive) and you don’t mind it a little softer than your typical cable reception … plus the advantage of no DRM to transfer to a portable device or to a desktop computer for editing, it’s a great way to go.

If you want to convert VCR files to MPEG-4, you pretty get what you see – so if you have a nicer VCR with s-video outs, it’s about a 98% video quality “preservation” transfer. Good enough for VHS.

If your goal is to back up your DVD collection, depending on picky you are, the resolution might be a tad too soft. It still looks very, very nice – it’s just not “virtually” a DVD picture resolution – again, if your intention is to watch it on an iPod/iPhone/PSP for your morning commute or on a plane, it’s fine. If you want to watch your DVD’s on your laptop without carrying discs or the dreaded 10-pre roll ads plus FBI warning, it’s pretty good. It’s probably not for watching Blade Runner for the first time on your laptop but if you’re watching it on a re-sized window, it should be fine.

Unlike Handbrake which will rip you a MPEG-4 file of your DVD that is virtually identical to the DVD – Neuros is not quite there. So, if your preference to watching video on a 17″ laptop monitor is full screen or death, you should still back up your DVD’s using Handbrake.

But it is subjective and you might think I’m being too picky.

INPUTS & OUT

The main problem is you only have one s-video in and no s-video or composite out which would improve the picture quality greatly.

Here are some screen shots that give you a decent idea of the resolution loss:

Here is a scene from the film CARS when it focuses on #86 Chick Hicks who has a lot of sponsors and detailed text on screen

I also selected CARS because in addition to my DVD rip, it is playing as an HD video-on-demand choice this month and of course, I still have my DVD.

The screensnaps below were opened in Photoshop only to resize to fit WordPress. No color adjustments were made. Also note, a screensnap of a paused QT video screen is not necessarily a 100% accurate representation of the true image but it’s a relatively accurate apples to apples comparison.

#1 is from a DVD – converted by Handbrake using the Apple TV setting.

(2500 kbps bit rate plus other settings automatically included when selecting ‘AppleTV’ in Handbrake)

You can not find much fault with the MPEG-4 file converted from a DVD VOB file.

#2 is from a DVD – as played by a Pioneer DVD player and into the Neuros OSD.

(2500 kbps bit rate plus other settings automatically included when selecting 2500 kpbs in Neuros OSD)

You can clearly see that it’s “pretty good” but not nearly as sharp as a DVD rip.

#3 is from Cable TV – Comcast HD VOD into the Neuros OSD.

(2500 kbps bit rate plus other settings automatically included when selecting 2500 kpbs in Neuros OSD). Though note, since the Neuros OSD only has S-video in’s, of course, it’s not TRUE HD being recorded but it is still much higher resolution and less compression than regular cable.

You can clearly see that it’s slightly different from DVD to Neuros OSD but about the same resolution – again, “pretty good” but not nearly as sharp as a straight DVD rip.

Again, how many films are going to require you to read text throughout?, this scene is about 2 seconds long. And keep in mind, that you can pretty much read all the logos you can can in scenario #1 so again, it’s a matter of your standards and your final viewing hardware choice.

Is the Neuros OSD the best solution for archiving DVD’s? No.

Is the Neuros OSD good enough for using as a TiVo/PVR to record and erase after watching? Yes.

Is the Neuros OSD good enough to transfer over to a portable device? Yes.

Is the Neuros OSD good enough to transfer over to a laptop or desktop? Yes.

For the three yes’ above, are you compromising – yes but it’s hard to beat for a $170 PVR that can record anywhere from 60 to 600 movies by adding a HDD ($100 – $300) for an out-the-door price of $270 to $500.

And you get a file to edit.

If you want the easiest way to get a video file for editing, again, hard to beat something that can record in MPEG-4 – ANYTHING you can output via RCA’s.

You can simply unplug your hard drive and connect it to your Mac.

You can set up the networking feature, mount it as a remote drive and copy files over.

Then just drag or import into iMovie, Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro.

Then you can ‘sharpen’ the resolution before outputting.

It’s not “broadcast” quality but it’s fine for the iPhone/iPod and watching on a laptop as long as full screen 17″ HD is not your minimum requirement.

The alternative is a DVD-R recorder. The Panasonic one I have is great but if you want one with a 250GB HDD, it’s over $700 dollars and you have DVD-R’s ($.30 each) to contend with – you can only fit about 4 hours and 20 minutes (at standard resolution) on one and then you have to convert from VOB to MPEG-4 before editing and of course, DVD-R’s and DVD-R recorders are flakey, you have to ‘finalize’ each disc and that’s just one more possibility of a file error … so are the hassles, convenience, time savings and cost of the hardware setup worth a 5-10% tradeoff in resolution from a DVD recorder?

That’s your call to make.

Other Relevant

AND hopefully, the next firmware upgrade will improve the picture quality even more. I’ll let you know if it does.

Other things to note – the file size is about the same as a Handbrake rip – about 1.5 GB for a 90 minute movie or about 1GB per hour.

Each file is limited to 4GB or about 4 hours – it will continue to record but only after FINALIZING this file at around the 4-hour mark before continuing so if your interest is to tape sports only, this might not be for you as during the finalizing phase, it will STOP RECORDING to finalize the file before starting a new file for the next 4-hours period. This will take @15-seconds.

So, you will have a 15-second gap. Of course, if you’re watching. You can stop during a commercial break and you can start a new recording session and then edit them together or hope that stop/finalize/restart new file takes place during a break in the action.

Also note, it only has one tuner and/or software that can only do one function at a time so unlike my DVD-recorder where I can enter the next recording schedule while it’s already recording, the Neuros OSD will ask you if you want to stop recording. But the IR Blaster works great in changing channels so just remember to set all your programming in advance before it actually starts recording.

The remote control works best when the side of the Neuros with the compact flash card is facing towards you.

The initial setup & understanding of what’s going one will take you a couple hours including testing so it’s not exactly like swapping out a VCR where you are ready to go in 5-minutes. This will take some time and some tweaking.

AND remember, only ONE input so you will need a solid intermediary machine to handle more than one input before feeding into the Neuros – and a NON OR POWERED SWITCHER does NOT WORK … at least not for me. It degenerated the video quality even more. You will need a high quality receiver/switcher that is an actual video component if you’re interested in feeding a VCR/DVD-R/DVD/Video game console or anything else into the Neuros OSD (of course, you can just switch cables since it can only record one input at a time anyway).

Other Nice Points

The Neuros Forum/help/support is amazing. I have never had a question that was not answered correctly or promptly within 12 hours

Summary

A fun DIY video recorder that works as promised. It could stand with some improvement in many areas including more inputs, better OS/UI and slightly better video quality (but that might be solved with higher end inputs such as composite in’s).

It does a lot for an inexpensive price with a lot of flexibility – particularly for those who are tired of wonky DRM transfer technology and or time-consuming conversions for editing.

Not perfect but still pretty cool.

Can’t wait for Neuros OSD v2.0

I also can’t help but recommend Amazon, the first one I got had a flawed IR Blaster port (no connector) – Amazon shipped me out another one overnight without waiting for me to mail back the other one – great customer service!

Mac Users Hard Drive Additional Notes

The drive needs to be formatted in FAT32 mode so the Linux OS can recognize. Most drives are formatted for the PC but to be absolutely sure, launch DISK UTILITY (in the UTILITIES folder) and format it for MS-DOS. This will take 30-minutes or so.

There are also some great deals at Amazon on 1TB drives.

I bought the Western Digital My Book 1 TB drive (USB) for only about $220 (for 1 TB!!). Looks nice, fairly compact and quiet. Only real non-feature is it has no on/off switch but not a huge biggie – just make sure it’s sleeping when you unplug it. If you want Firewire & SATA, you can step up for more connectors for about $30 more. (the Neuros OSD only has a USB connector port but if you manually will switch your drive for editing or transfer to your Mac, then the Firewire version might be your prefered choice).

Have fun!

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A Million Unlocked iPhones Being Shown Off All Around the World – That’s a Tragedy?

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Even if the numbers of a million iPhones being unlocked are correct, that’s a MILLION iPhones walking around all over the world as FREE marketing and advertising for Apple – the most effective advertising of all – because it gives those users the cachet of doing something “not quite legal.” That they are “above the law,” and of course, eager to show off they know how to break the rules of normal society … (in reality, they just bought a phone but shhh, don’t tell them that ;-) )

Has Apple sold them a phone subsidized like nearly every phone on Earth at a 75-100% discount? No. Apple got full list price – even if someone marked it up, Apple made at least $399 or £299.

As for the revenue they are giving up that is recorded as future revenue in monthly chunks? Sure, but when you have to service cash, there are costs associated with servicing that cash …

Conversely, they also give up a lot of costs associated with it and saves them a lot of money. They don’t have to offer any tech support or service for these 1-million phones. How much accounting reserve is set aside normally for phone tech support that are locked to a service?

But it’s all just a gray number because how many tech-gadget companies would turn down an opportunity to seed a product in dozens of countries to build awareness & word of mouth? How much money would they have to spend to demo this product in dozens of countries – and less efficient than a “worldly” fan using word-of-mouth and a live demo to his/her friends? What could be better chachet than spending full price to own an “illegal” phone? AND then when the phone is available legally in that country? Won’t they be likely the first to convert anyway to get all the feature sets?

Isn’t all this worth the $10 dollars in revenue per month Apple “loses” (per person) if the phone were locked to its native carrier? Might this not be the CHEAPEST advertising possible AND Apple gets all the revenue upfront without having to share with anyone?

And of course, an “unlocked” phone is still entitled to the full range of services that the iTunes store sells. Of course, that varies from country to country but the most convenient choice is still the iTunes store. So it really a tragedy if Apple trades $10 from AT&T or Orange and instead sells a few iTunes movies, music tracks or videos?

It’s like anything else. When you sell something, you hope to garner a revenue stream down the line – as a car dealer hopes you always bring it back to them for service but at the end of the day, if you sold it at full price, then the rest is gravy.

Sure, you can view the future revenue stream as a 100% loss in accounting terms but if you look at the broader implications, it’s simply a tradeoff in overhead, advertising, marketing and a shift in revenues and expenses.

NY Times readers chime in on doing their part in advertising the iPhone everywhere around the world.

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Amazon Mp3 Will Affect Amazon Revenue More Than Apple’s iPod or iTunes

It’s pretty amazing the number of journalists who don’t look at a situation before just plowing ahead and writing words and “a conclusion.” They either choose to ignore the real world or they simply don’t understand it. Either way, it’s appalling.

Yes, Amazon’s entry into the “unlocked” DRM free Mp3 market will affect Apple & the iPod but its *affect* is DIFFERENT than you think.

If the iPod did NOT play the mp3 format, it would clearly have a major affect – just as when Sony’s players did not play Mp3′s directly (it would convert to ATRA mp3), when the iPod entered the market, people quickly choose the iPod over the Sony for the simple reason it played mp3′s very easily and transparently. Yes, the iPod looked nice and it was easy to use but if it did not play Mp3′s – there might be a few million out there versus 150 million.

There is no discussion. Mp3 is the preferred format for LEGAL and ILLEGAL downloads. Yes, there are others that hold some interest: mp4, FLAC, APE and even WMA but I don’t think anyone is going to argue that the preferred format OVERWHELMINGLY is not mp3 … sure, audiophiles can argue there are better formats but that’s not the issue.

It’s mp3.

You can do the math. 150 million iPods sold, 5 billion music tracks. That works out to about 34 tracks per iPod. Of course, it’s not 100% accurate as the bulk of iTunes sales are only in a few countries but even presuming double the number in the US per iPod user … and if iTunes music sales drops to ZERO for some reason?

How much is Apple losing in iTunes music store purchases per every iPod if that were true?

@$13.60

Apple is presumed to make $.20 per iTunes music track – not counting the cost of running the iTunes store and credit card fees … so actual profit is maybe $.07 a track but that’s presuming iTunes stores sales drops to zero which is unlikely … if Apple were to lose $7 per iPod in lost sales, I think there are dozens of ways Apple could make up that revenue including shaving $7 in costs from the iPod itself … but the bottom line is that the iTunes music sales are NOT the main reason people buy iPods.

Clearly, even people with iPod Shuffles have more than 34 or 68 tracks on their iPod. Whether it’s 100% legal converted from their own CD collection or LEGAL tracks downloaded from musician sites or other sites like iLike.com or ILLEGAL tracks, people know how to load tracks (1,000+ tracks) on a Nano (or up to 20,000+ tracks) on the Classic iPods. The iTunes store is a small part of the reason they buy an iPod.

So, what does that mean for Apple?

How about this ad from Amazon.com?

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That’s right. It might even help Apple sell MORE iPods, NOT less.

Because for all the people who hated the iTunes store for its DRM, now they have a reason to buy an iPod. Sure, it might help sell a few more SanDisks and Zunes but it’s clear that 7 out of every 10 mp3/DAP buyers are iPod buyers AND now that mp3 player sales overall are slowing, it’s rapidly becoming inefficient to stay in the marketplace if you’re 10th or even 5th in marketshare … leaving consumers with fewer choices down the line and we know what’s still the first choice with or without iTunes store purchases.

AMAZON?

If anything, this territory might be scary for Amazon than Apple.

Why?

Amazon sells about 6% of the 500 million CD’s sold in the U.S. or about 30 million CD’s. If we presume the average selling price is around $13 – that’s about $400 million in revenue for Amazon. Now, if you have the choice to buy 4 tracks of a CD for $.99 a piece (some tracks are less on Amazon, some more but let’s say an average of $.99) as an mp3 download or the full CD for $13, what’s your choice? That’s hard to say, of course but that’s precisely what Amazon has to deal with. Is that previous $13 purchase staying the same in revenue? Are you going to buy 13 tracks from 3 artists or are you going to stop at 4? In other words, is Amazon trading a $13 CD for $13 in downloads or are they trading $13 in revenue for $4 in revenue?

It’s impossible to say but the bottom line is that is the choice consumers have to make – sure, maybe instead of buying a $13 CD, that consumer can buy $25 in downloads … but what was holding back consumers before?

DRM?

If we know the average iPod user was spending @$34 at the iTunes music store, what held them back from spending more?

DRM? Really?

Are you that convinced it’s all about the DRM – that without DRM, sales would be up 50%, 100? 1000 percent?

Digital sales are increasing 50% a year anyway but for people WILLING to buy LEGAL tracks online were not doing so because they said DRM was the major hinderance?

I’m not saying the Amazon store won’t sell a lot of tracks but is Amazon trading CD sales for fewer downloads? What is the age breakdown of CD buyers? Is the music industry losing the bottom end of 12-24′s who are downloading free LEGAL tracks from their favorite bands from the musician’s MySpace page/iLike page and of course, clearly, they know how to download illegal tracks to fill their iPods?

Are these the same people who know how to convert tracks to a CD-R?

Sure, there’s a lot of blog talk about hatin’ DRM (and I certainly am NOT for it) but it’s sort like arguing against burning down the Amazon rain forrest, right? Who outside of 300 Brazilians arsonists are for it? But what are people really doing about it?

BOTTOM LINE

My prediction is that sure, Amazon will grab some market share from iTunes music store but as Amazon’s ads say – BUY an IPOD to add Amazon tracks … Apple merely shifts revenue from iTunes to iPods – not exactly a tragedy and if Apple convinces you to buy a few tracks, rent some movies, buy a music video – there are pretty much back to $34 in iTunes revenue AND they’ve sold you another iPod.

The people who really hate Apple and think they should hate the iPod are not going to swayed by this anyway. They are buying SanDisks and Creatives as it is now – this won’t change anything.

The 75% who own iPods might switch and buy some tracks from Amazon but for less savvy users who like being able to preview, buy and sync with one click don’t care about DRM – nothing will change.

And in 6 months or a year, the record labels will be forced to sell DRM free on iTunes … a) because they can’t ignore the place where 70% of the digital music online market is and b) they’ll be sued for restraint of trade by not selling the same thing to everyone – will the iPod marketshare drop to some small percentage? No. Will there as good of a user tie-in as iTunes to the iPod as SanDisk’s, Creative’s or even MS for their software to their hardware? Unlikely.

Now that Apple has added movie rentals and more movie choices, the only real scenario is that the iPod will maintain its market share or more likely, grow slightly. Apple is still the leader in every aspect except the bottom end. There is no small player with the screen, movie rentals & audiobooks to match the Nano, for those who want 160GB, there is no competitor at the same price and of course, the iPod Touch trumps them all and has the highest margins/pricetag – so another 6 months of clear sailing for Apple and the iPod.

Sure, the iTunes store might drop a few percentage in market share to the Amazon mp3 store but the Amazon store has no movie rentals or TV shows (the Unbox has both but no portable player).

The Amazon mp3 store affects Apple just as if you were to open a Best Buy across the street from an Apple store. The revenues would shift around a little but at the end of the day, Apple actually comes out ahead because all you’ve done is given the consumer another reason to buy an iPod.

ipod2.jpg

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Hello From MacWorld 2008

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Not actually blogging from here since we’re only #72,000 on Technorati :-) … there are only about 15 seats … maybe next year.

Other than the keynote, there’s not much to see that’s new – I don’t think Adobe is even here. The nicest booth by far is Belkin’s

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If this were in Venice, it’d be about $900,000.

The coolest booth is Crumpler (they make messenger and brief bags). It’s a castle made up of interlocking cardboard or some sort of polymer board.

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Only thing I bought From XtremeMac:

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I took a photo of the MacBook Air but not only were there way too many people crowded around it, there is no way a photo can do it justice in how thin it is. If you have a pad of yellow legal pads … yea, that’s your MacBook Air. It’s pretty amaazing and of course, me wantee. Apple website. Ad for Air. Guided Tour – multiple resolutions + downloads.

The updated AppleTV looks very nice – also with a Guided Tour. In case you missed it, the big news is Movie Rentals from all the movie studios and even in HD!

And linked with Leopard’s “Time Machine” backup feature, Time Capsule with allows you to back up wirelessly.

So, nothing as startling as last year’s iPhone but honestly, how many iPhone-like cottage industries can you pull out year afer year :-)

Not sure why some people were so sure about a 3G iPhone … the 3G iPhone is ready to go when AT&T is ready and when Apple needs the sales boost.

The Tablet Mac? Pleezeee … Outside of 5,000 people and apparently 900 squeaky-wheel bloggers and analysts, hardly anyone cares or actually wants one – how are those WIN tablet sales? EGGXACTLY!

Everything released was nice, interesting and useful – it’s nothing revolutionary but that’s fine. Not every keynote can be revolutionary. Making food into pellets is revolutionary but sometimes you just want a juicy burger, eh?

Speaking of food, of course, just one block away – a dozen Beard Papa’s fresh giant cream puffs …

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The best food surrounding a convention center in America … unless of course, you enjoy $8 pizza made in 2005 and reheated … oh, and it’s sunny and 65 degrees here in SF so come on by!

(PS – Of course for those that keep track of such things – Best Booth Babes – Skull Candy and best DJ!)

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Microvision Pico Movie Projector for Your iPod

You’re on a plane, the movie they are offering is NORBIT or the edited 9-minute version of DEADWOOD … fortunately the rotund dude in front of you who had to buy two tickets is sound asleep and he’s wearing a white shirt – just attach the Pico Movie Projector to your iPod and you use his shirt as your projection screen … your own drive-in movie … Now all you have to do is convince the marshall sitting next to you to switch with the drunken cheerleader …

In the CES demo, it’s a snippet of CARS …

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Microvision Website.

Via GIZMODO with video.

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iPhone Caller ID: Glitch Fix

This might not apply to everyone but if you added additional information to the phone number in ADDRESS BOOK and after transferring/syncing – the iPhone cannot interpret the additional text and the iPhone CALLER ID feature won’t work correctly.

As a result, it will only display the incoming numbers only when the person is in your phone book – so you stare at it thinking, this phone number looks vaguely familiar but you can’t quite place it … (some people just hate when you don’t immediately recognize or hestitantly answer the phone … your wife, for example :-) )

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As in this case, because I added ASPEN after her number, when Leslie calls, only her number will display – the iPhone attempts to match the incoming caller ID info with your address book but since ASPEN is not part of the incoming caller ID information – the iPhone blanches as a call NOT from someone in your phone book – so no caller ID info.

This also applies to people with landline phone extension numbers you might’ve added to their regular phone.

The solution is there but not necessarily apparent.

In the ADDRESS BOOK>PHONE, select CUSTOM

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In ADDRESS BOOK, “custom” is smart (as is a lot of Apple apps), it’s ONLY custom to this person so in this case, I enter in ASPEN H but you can essentially enter any info you want – you get about 10 letters before it gets truncated.

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Voila!

(then of course, sync …)

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iPhone Review: Aliph Jawbone Bluetooth Headset

Now that California passed a law that drivers must use a hands free headset, I was forced to go out and get a one … and since a bunch of you were so kind to complain loudly that Apple credited us early iPhone buyers with $100, the headset was essentially a Chistmas present from Apple & the crabby people – so thanks!

If you’re going to get a (mostly) free headset, why not get the best one?

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Of course, I did not test out every possible choice, for some reason, no one really like you to jam an earpiece headset into your ear and then hand it back to them … so I read a lot of reviews and while the praise was not unanimous, the best reviews seem to be for the Jawbone. I had used a few before and rejected them as dorky looking or poor sounding – neither of which applies to the Jawbone.

Of course, people might wonder why you have a square satellite TV dish in your ear but that’s more puzzling or scary than dorky.

SOUND QUALITY

Yes, it’s not the smallest thing but the sound is quite nice. I have horrible AT&T reception at my house (what a shock, I know) so it’s the perfect test as I have to walk around on the street to get reception so I could hear people fine and people could hear me fine. In fact, the quality is way better than the really dorky Apple wired set … for some reason, listening on white buds and wires on an iPod is fine but talking on one is just dorky.

Okay, I’ll stop using the word dorky now.

Some people seem to have overly high expectations of the sound quality – is it going to match two people in adjoining rooms on landline phones? No … but can you hear them easily and they can hear you easily? Then yes, it’s fine. Thay’s all you can reasonably expect. There’s no white noise, there’s no hum or feedback – it just sounds like a normal conversation.

SIZE

Of course, that’s pretty much the only reason to get a headset is sound quality. And technically, it’s more of an earpiece but Aliph calls it a headset … As someone who does not normally walk around all day with an earpiece, while it seems sort of large, it’s lightweight and the earpiece evenly distributes the weight so it didn’t really bother me to leave it on for three hours as part of my test. I’ve never understood why people wear one in the supermarket – honestly, is so hard to hold a phone and reach for some Hamburger Helper?

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(BTW, the earpiece photo directly above is pretty much actual size so if you can print out and stick on your ear to test it out. Make sure to do it when solicitors come by the front door and you can pretend to talk on it :-) ).

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IPHONE SETUP

The iPhone setup could not be easier.

Charge up the headset (using USB or the AC adapter).

Nice RED glow band when it’s out of juice (as straight from the box) – turns white when charged.

Turn on the headset.

Turn on iPhone – go to GENERAL. Select Bluetooth and turn on.

Place JAWBONE next to iPHONE, it will show up as “discoverable” device – tap on it and type in the factory pin …

The JAWBONE will be listed and it reads “PAIRED.”

That’s pretty much it.

When the phone rings, you press the earpiece towards the back to answer. Press and hold for 1 second to hang up. To dial out, you do need the iPhone out of your pocket.

As another nice touch on the iPhone, the SPEAKER portion that is active during a call switches to read AUDIO SOURCE and if you tape it, it now reads JAWBONE, SPEAKER or IPHONE so you can switch quickly – another nice iPhone touch.

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EARPIECE

I think one of the reasons some reviews rank the Aliph as poor is because the ear piece hook is NOT intuitive. If you look at it, you presume, it hooks over your ear but it doesn’t really and once you get the hang of it, it actually works fine and by not hooking over your outer ear flap, it distributes the weight better so you can wear it longer without a giant device resting on your ear. But it’s not very intuitive and I’m sure some people never figured it out and gave up.

The Aliph manual can be a little more descriptive on how to wear the thing.

You angle it slightly so it hooks and is ANGLED over the gap BETWEEN your head and your outer ear (the cartilage area). Once you get used to that, it’s easy to wear, it distributes the weight and is pretty firm.

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IT AIN’T FROM APPLE

I definitely looked long and hard at the Apple bluetooth but the reviews were very middling and while Aliph has done a nice job on the earpiece technology wise and exterior looks, they do fall down in small areas that Apple would never.

It comes in a gorgeous rectangular plastic box and the Jawbone rests on a museum like stand but once you open it, the details are lacking.

Instead of a carrying bag or preferably – a mini hard plastic carrying case, you get a bubble wrap bag? Huh? They just presume people will put this one in the morning and wear it all day until they get home? There should be a hard plastic carrying case you can slip into your pocket … while the thing is not ultra delicate, you do have the pivoting ear hook and most people would prefer not to jam this in their pocket … even a small vinyl bag? Nada.

The recharging portion is so un-Apple like. The charger features EXPOSED prongs that dig deep into the back of the earpiece – but removing it is so un-iPod like. Again, Apple thinks and gives you the small details – on the iPod/iPhone – if you press on the charger connector head on the side, it “unlocks” & loosens the connector so a gentle tug will remove it from the iPod and the connector is a solid piece of metal so it’s much more difficult to damage – here – you get 4 metal exposed prongs that require you to use force to plug in and when done, to try and remove it straight and with force … not a very smart design.

The charging light portion is a cool and classy touch – a thin band of light on the exterior glows briefly – red while low and charcoal white when it’s ready to go – same color scheme in turning it on and off. That is nice.

You go get additional ear hooks (left ears and large & standard) though the difference is pretty subtle – you also get some additional ear canal plugs. You also get an AC adapter to plug in the charger – though again, no carrying case to protect the exposed prongs.

And the manual should spend way more time explaining how to wear the thing … we might be morons but we’re your paying customer morons … plus you’d probably get a lot fewer returns.

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SUMMARY

So, technology-wise, no problems. The noise reduction clearly works and you get nice sound quality in-coming and out-going. I presume the larger-than normal size is more a technology limitation and not just laziness on Aliph’s part … though clearly the acccessory portion of the packaging is laziness or cluelessness and needs to be revamped – especially for something that is probably the most expensive ear piece.

So, looks nice, sounds fine and easy to setup on the iPhone. You do have to supply your own carrying case for the earpiece & the charger. The earpiece hook is not super intuitive – either a better design or better instructions are called for.

So, room for improvement is definitely needed. If the Apple headset had noise reduction, the sale would have gone to Apple so Aliph better get on the horse and start going a little faster. So recommended as probably the best out there now but lots of room for improvement. It does look nice so a very classy looking holiday gift.

It comes in red, silver & black. At Amazon, the silver comes in a Cingular box and not the Aliph box and the pricing varies. The larger Apple stores and Apple online carry all three at the same price.

One other thing, if you’re like me, you’ll need to spend another $10 for these … Jabra ear gels … while they look superfluous, they go help “grip” your actual ear canal area which is not round or oval (as Aliph seems to think) …

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They also come in colors.

And like the ear loops, you’re buying a bunch when you really only need one … once these are mass – we should start up an exchange of some kind …

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Filed under Apple, Computing, Design, Gadgets, Internet, iPhone, Marketing, mobile, Retail, Toys

Apple iPhone Forced to Unlock in Europe – Crying to the Bank …

While Apple is being forced to unlock the iPhone in Europe, it is tragic … because Apple is going to pay so much more in taxes from the HUGE profit they will be making … yea, that’s quite a tragedy.

The deal will be much like T-Mobile’s just-announced revised deal in Germany. Get the iPhone for $590 (in USD) if you sign a 2-year contract (monthly rates are like the US – about $50 to $100 (converted to USD)). If you want to buy an unlocked phone, it’s @$1,500 (USD).

So the consequences for Apple will be either make $500 + $20 a month from T-Mobile for each iPhone customer … or make some $1,300 in one fell swoop now.

Oh, what a tragedy for Apple.

While $1,500 is a lot for a phone, people have a choice but the bottom line is it doesn’t hurt Apple’s bottom line.

Consumers can get the full experience with T-Mobile or get slightly less with another carrier but don’t have to worry about a contract. It’s a win-win for Apple.

That’s why Apple is on a roll. They win by winning and they win by “losing.”

They will not only INCREASE sales but make more money upfront as a “consequence” of the ruling.

So, yes, the tax department will have to work a little harder and Apple will probably have to come up with more upgrades to deter people from buying a US phone (where the dollar is much cheaper), unlocking it and using it in Europe but all the bricking fears will silence most buyers – most that want an unlocked phone would rather pay $1,500 for an official phone they can take into an Apple store versus saving some money upfront but maybe worrying that every 2 months, there will be some major upgrade and their phone might die … you can bet adding the ablity to run 3rd party apps next year wll be a major upgrade and brick many unlocked older phones.

Again, win by winning and win by “losing.”

That’s how you plan ahead and run a business – where your worst consequence is you make more money and have more tax hassles …

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Filed under Advertising, Apple, Financial, Internet, iPhone, Marketing, mobile, Retail