10 Must-Dos in London

10 Must-Dos in London
10 Must-Dos in London

Venice Trip Report

Venice Trip Report
Venice Trip Report

Disneyland California Trip

Disneyland California Trip
Disneyland California Trip

Banned Xbox 360 consoles for sale - beware

Microsoft recently revealed that it will now ban users of modified xbox consoles from their online XBox Live service. The only way to regain service is to buy a new console. This has created a new problem. After some of my own research it became appparent to me that the listings of "used" consoles on auction websites such as eBay had more than doubled.

This clearly means that buyers must be aware of this and be very careful when buying consoles marked as "used". There is actually no way for a consumer to tell if the XBox they are buying has been kicked off the online gaming service. This can only be found out once the console is in their own hands.

Luckily, buyers in the UK do have a case for a refund under the Sales of Goods Act and Distance Selling Regulations. They can also use PayPal buyer protection and dispute the item as "not as described." This can also be done in all the other countries covered by PayPal. Yard sales and car boot sales are also a likely place where many "bricked" consoles will be sold and the buyer misled.

Finally, it is important to note that offline games will run perfectly fine on these consoles. Online play however will be disabled by Microsoft.

What will be in iLife 2010 and iWork 2010?

UPDATE: Looking for a guide to iWork for the iPad? Click here.
If you are thinking of buying a Mac for Christmas you might want to wait out for another month as January is the typical release month of the updates to the iLife and iWork suite 2010 and you don't get a free upgrade even if you've just bought a Mac the day before the release.

This is Apple's in-house equivalent to Microsoft Office with apps that, frankly, still aren't up to scratch when compared to Office.
Pages 2010 - Increased compatibility, maybe to work with Office 2010.
Keynote 2010 - More templates are likely to be added and maybe new transitions
Numbers 2010 - Sample templates are also likely to be added here and more chart types.

What is really needed is a Publisher replacement on a MaC. This could be done really well by Apple and could actually be a better product than Publisher itself. In 2008 Numbers was added to iWork, so a new program may be added to the suite later - and 2010 would be a good year considering last year's updates were rather, well, boring.

iPhoto 2010 - Major updates last year - unlikely to have any major features.
iMovie 2010 - Multiple soundtracks, new stock audio and new transitions. Get video from iPhone 3GS straight into the program.
iDVD 2010 - New themes as there were no major updates last time. Blu-ray support?
Garageband 2010 - So jam-packed already, possibly new instruments?
iWeb - New templates and possibly support for HTML 5

The suite already went through major upgrades last year and it may not even get an update this year - if it does and Blu-ray support is added then this is a very strong sign that Blu-ray will be coming to the Mac.


Everyone uses DRM-free MP3s right? Not 7Digital.com

Today I encountered a song which I wanted to purchase, I clicked through to 7digital.com and saw that that it was available at the reasonable price of 79p. I went through checkout and paid the price of 79p as agreed. Only to then be told that the file was not an MP3 file but in fact WMA 192kbps file - making it 100% unplayable in iTunes and un-sync-able to my iPod. How can a major MP3 store have a file that is not in MP3 format and not warn me that it will not play on an iPod or Mac?

This is absolutely unacceptable in a time where music is meant to be compatible cross-platform and I have contacted 7digital's customer service requesting a refund or an account credit. If this does not happen 7digital will have lost 1 more customer who will now be buying the same song on Amazon MP3 at 69p and in the MP3 format. This post will be updated with their reply.

Update (7/12/2009 - 2 weeks later): Refund of £0.79 received

Heathrow gets driverless cars

Heathrow, the world's busiest airport in terms of international traffic, is getting ready to test what may potentially be the innovation of the century - driverless cars or Personal Rapid Transport (PRT). Users of Heathrow's business car park at Terminal 5, who leave their car at the car park at a cost of £21 per day or £294 per month will be able to use the PRT system free of charge.

Users simply summon a PRT vehicle, which can carry up to five passengers, and select their destination; they will then be taken from the car park to the terminal (or vice-versa) in just three to four minutes. The system does not use any rails and uses laser guidance to reach its destination quickly and safely. A central computer ensures that the pods travel at sustained speeds and manages the traffic on the network. The pods are able to travel at a top speed of 25mph (40kmph) which is just as fast a bus but with the luxury of a taxi.

Professor Martin Lowson, invenntor of the PRT system, said that the system could be capable of being able to "transform cities" and that it was a form of "environmentally friendly urban transport, relieving congestion and reducing emissions." In fact it runs on electricity and is calculated to use only half of the power of a bus to transport the same number of passengers.

New Scientist claims that if the system is successful it may be expanded "to the entire airport." There are currently three stations with 21 cars running at a time but if expanded it could potentially include 50 stations with 400 cars.

The system debuts in 2010 at Heathrow airport but it could be potentially used in the future as a replacement for cars - imagine if you could get a vehicle to safely and quickly take you where and when you want to go. You wouldn't need to refuel it and it would be the end of congestion - and your CO2 emissions would be cut down by at least 50%. The real question is whether people would want to abandon the freedom of driving their own cars for the efficiency of one of these new pods.

The Coolest Tech Christmas Gifts of 2009

Here we are with this year's coolest tech xmas gifts for 2009, making it easier than ever for you to decide what to buy this christmas and what is really worth your hard earned cash.

1. Self Stirring Mug - this handy mug has a small propeller at the bottom which mixes your teas, coffees, drinks perfectly with no effort required by you. It also comes with a lid to keep your drink warm when going out. The Self Stirring Mug is available at Amazon  RRP - £14.99

2. The Sound Asleep Pillow - ever wanted to listen to your music while going to sleep without disturbing others - now you can. This is a pillow with a built in speaker meaning only you will hear what's going on! There are two versions of this pillow. The standard Sound Asleep Pillow with the speaker built in costs £12.78 delivered, and at £29.99 the pillow will also be made of memory foam making your sleep even more comfortable.

3. i iPhone Battery Charger - this a essentially a backup battery pack which claims to give you up to 250 hours of extra standby time, 5 hours of talk time or 20 hours of extra music. This is a fantastic emergency battery but it is rather big and can become loose if you don't leave it alone. The TeckNet 1900mAH Mobile External Battery for ALL Ipod Touch, Classic, Nano & Iphone 3G, 3G S - Black is available for £10.99 delivered.

4. Cyber Clean - As one reviewer put it on Reevo: "tactile de-stressing brightly coloured putty, great fun and it works to clean out grimy keyboards, mobile phones, calculators etc, Makes dusting and cleaning fun!! Kills germs!! Comes in a screw top plastic tub to stop it drying out. Colour guide on tub label to let you know when you need to replace your Cyber Clean." The Cyber Clean Home & Office 75g Sachet
 costs just £4.36 delivered.

5. Mini Mixer for iPod - Connect two iPods, MP3 Players, anything with any audio out port. Then slide from left to right, remixing as you go. Great cheap DJ kit for the amateur but it does make a slight hissing noise when switched on and there is no music playing. It does include a built-in speaker and an audio-out port if you want to use that too. The Mini Mixer for iPod costs £22.38

Earphones: Sennheiser CX 300-II Review

After having used the standard iPod earphones that come with all of Apple's iPods I quickly realised that they needed to be upgraded for the sake of my ears and for the RRP of £39.99 the rather long-named "Sennheiser CX 300-II Precision Noise-Isolation Ear-Canal Phones" these buds are a steal!

First of all, let me state that the street price of these buds has declined sharply making them our best buy for Christmas 2009 in terms of earphones. The Sennheiser CX 300-II Precision Noise-Isolating Ear-Canal Phones are actually available on Amazon for a bargain price of £33.90 (or less, check the link out now) which is a much more reasonable figure for people who aren't necessarily audiophiles.

The packaging of this product has to be among the worst I have ever experienced as the sides of the package are glued together extremely strongly making it incredibly difficult to pry open, but once you have doing this the earphones really make it worth the effort. Inside you'll find the earbuds themselves along with 2 other sized ear adaptors for those with smaller or larger ears. You'll also find a carry pouch, which likes rather like a purse, to keep your earphones in safely when not in use.

The noise-isolating feature of these earphones is incredible – especially for the current price. To see how good this feature really is, I took them through a series of tests – first I popped them in my ears and started vacuum cleaning and the hoover was very barely audible with the music on my iPod Touch turned up to around 45% volume. Next, I took them onto the extremely busy and noisy Central Line on the London Underground to be tested. With music and podcasts at around 55-60% there was only the faint screeching which is a massive improvement. Finally, while trying to have a conversation with these in it is simply impossible even with the music turned down to 40% - the noise isolating ability of these is amazing. To make a rough measure take what you hear on a train and cut that buy two-thirds that is what you'll hear with these earbuds in.

The asymmetrical cable in these is a cable which is much longer on the right side than on the left side, at first I found this highly impractical but when I finally figured out that these long wire on the right side was meant to go behind my head (doh!) these earphones felt extremely comfortable. The fit in the ear canal is amazing though I do find that sometimes they can become loose if doing vigorous work.
The bass on these earphones is actually very good and fantastic for earbuds this price. Vocals sound very good in these too. I do have to mention though that the sound of earbuds two or three times this price do some much better so it's not like these are near the top of the scale but they are very good for their price.

Sennheiser's warranty makes it worth buying from a licensed reseller (which I can only assume Amazon is). Email them explaining you want to have them repaired and they'll send you your buds back fixed or new ones for up to a year after purchase – no questions asked.
If you need a new set of earphones this Christmas, are under a budget and need to upgrade from the standard iPhone/iPod earbuds these are simply the best earphones you can get in this price range and I would even say that they are the best earbuds under £50 making these an absolute must buy – even if you don't think you need a new set of earphones just buy these and you'll be raving about them for years to come!

Update: Grab a bargain with the new JVC earphones which are now the BEST BUY - they're cheaper and even better quality in our opinion.


Premium content now live on YouTube from Channel 4, BBC and ITV.

Surfers in the UK are the first to see the development of YouTube into a premium content portal today. Broadcaster Channel 4 has joined forces with YouTube to make full length versions of its shows available on the popular video sharing website. By visiting YouTube.com/shows viewers can see many of their favourite shows.

However, it is not just Channel 4 that is in on the act, broadcaster ITV has also made available segments of it's popular shows such as X Factor online and it is now even possible to view these legally on YouTube. Not to be left out, BBC's international branch, BBC Worldwide has made many of its programs available too. Disappointingly Five seems to have yet again not come on board with the idea and is restricting its content to Demand Five online.

The YouTube shows page is very well organised and is now one of tabs at the top of the YouTube navigation as can be seen below:

Once on the shows page you can search by genre on the left, look at the shows in the spotlight, featured broadcasters or look at what is popular. However, not all the content on the "Shows" page is from major broadcasters, in fact YouTube sensation "Fred" appears under the Popular tab.

YouTube's design is much better than any other actual individual broadcaster's VOD webpages once on the shows page. You can subscribe to receive the latest episodes of shows, switch between Full Episodes and Clips, see the length and air date of the programme, select what season you want to watch and see more from that broadcaster. YouTube's implementation here is second-to-none.

Before a programme starts it also tells you the age rating of the programme and that "viewer discretion is advised" if necessary - a useful touch. This could be the start of one video website where all major broadcasters can come together to offer their videos on demand, similar to Hulu in the US (which still doesn't have videos from CBS), and YouTube does have experience in this field so it would make sense for this to happen eventually.

The content does have to be paid for and users are not willing to do this after already having to pay a license fee. Therefore, Channel 4's shows are currently monetised by a 30-second pre-roll, ITV's clips have no pre-rolls and full length episodes have a 15-second pre-roll and BBC Worlwide programmes have a 20-second pre-roll. These seem like reasonable times and the programmes do not appear to have ad breaks in the middle but this may change.

Highlights from Channel 4 include Drop The Dead Donkey, Whose Line Is It Anyway?, Father Ted, The Inbetweeners and The IT Crowd. The BBC has Walking with Cavemen, Wildlife Specials and Dr Who (Classic Series) to name but a few.

Mac OS X Chrome beta within 2 weeks + new updates

Several very important updates have been made to Google Chrome for Mac over the past few days - extensions are now available (meaning addons will be able to be used) and even more importantly Bookmark Syncing. This is a feature that no other major browser comes with "out of the box" and will be an exclusive feature to Chrome setting it apart from competitors.

This appears as a message on the "New Tab" page on Chrome but it is slightly misleading as the Bookmark Syncing function is actually only available to Windows users who are funning the beta (not stable) version of the browser. The message on Macs does seem slightly misleading.

At the same time rumours have been flying aorund the blogosphere that Chrome will be reaching the beta stage within the next two weeks meaning that Google thinks the browser is stable enough for some of the public to try out. This also means that in early to mid-2010 Mac users should have yet another fully supported browser to use.

Mac OS X 10.6.2 Released

    The 10.6.2 Update is recommended for all users running Mac OS X Snow Leopard and includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility, and security of your Mac, including fixes for:
  • an issue that might cause your system to logout unexpectedly
  • a graphics distortion in Safari Top Sites
  • Spotlight search results not showing Exchange contacts
  • a problem that prevented authenticating as an administrative user
  • issues when using NTFS and WebDAV file servers
  • the reliability of menu extras
  • an issue with the 4-finger swipe gesture
  • an issue that causes Mail to quit unexpectedly when setting up an Exchange server
  • Address Book becoming unresponsive when editing
  • a problem adding images to contacts in Address Book
  • an issue that prevented opening files downloaded from the Internet
  • Safari plug-in reliability
  • general reliability improvements for iWork, iLife, Aperture, Final Cut Studio, MobileMe, and iDisk
  • an issue that caused data to be deleted when using a guest account

For detailed information on this update, please visit this website: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3874.
For information on the security content of this update, please visit: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT1222.


TalkTalk offers Fibre Optic speeds

TalkTalk has introduced a new TalkTalk Pro package on it's website which costs £15 a month (+ TalkTalk line rental) and it gives you speeds of up to 24Mb. To make full use of all the bandwidth you will also get an unlimited download allowance (instead of 40GB or 80GB in it's usual packages). Also included is a free wireless N-router which is the fastest and widest spec of Wifi so far, as well as unlimited calls to 01, 02 and 03 landline numbers.

TalkTalk claims to be once again be "providing unbeatable value by offering a premium broadband product at a much lower price than its competitors' packages."

£26.24 is the total monthly price if you only make calls to landlines - whether you'll be getting that speed remains to be seen.

Orange UK iPhone calling plans announced!

It is now official Orange has confirmed that the iPhone will be coming to its network on November 10 and they are now also allowing pre-orders of the phone. Shops will be open from 7am to handle the high demand and they will even ship the phone to you, arriving November 11th or later, free of charge (unless you want deliver on a Saturday and have to pay a hefty £10.99 charge).

The calling plans are disappointing to say the least. The phone will cost the same on PAYG on Orange and on O2 but the plans you get a frankly rubbbish on Orange. Firstly there is a tiny limit of just 250MB per month (12MB per day) for PAYG users which is no where compared to 02's "unlimited" policy. So let's say you top up £20 on Orange you can get the following perks: 600 free texts and free music or 200 evening and weekend minutes or 15p per minute calls and texts or call abroad from 5p. With o2 for a £15 top up you can get unlimited texts and web, 1000 minutes to any UK landline or O2 mobile (from one postcode), 150 UK off-peak minutes, unlimited calls and texts to O2 mobiles, 100 free international minutes or 100 minutes and 100 texts to any UK landline or mobile. Plus of course the unlimited browsing. This is a much better deal.

On pay monthly, it's a different story - for £30 a month on O2 you'll get 75 mins and 125 texts, on Orange that'll be a more generous allowance of 150mins and 250 texts (double). The phone subsidy is the same for the 18month contract. For more heavy users at £35 a month both networks will offer you 600 texts and 500 minutes. There is one thing I haven't mentioned though - o2 gives you unlimited internet, Orange gives you a measly 750MB per month. £45 a month and £75 a month users will get the same number of minutes and texts on both networks but there is a final £125 a month option which gives you unlimited calls and texts, 100 roaming minutes and 20MB roaming data which may be fantastic for very, very heavy users.

All in all, Orange has made the iPhone continue to seem like a very expensive purchase, even more-so on it's "best" 3G network, there are some benefits for users on it's £30 a month plan but everyone else will be better off on O2 - that is of course if O2 has 3G and isn't congested in your area.

YouTube pre-rolls have arrived!

Today I was shocked to be greeted by a 15-second ad spot pre-roll before a YouTube video from college humor. The video I was looking at was http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xgls9IwWUyU&feature=fvw in case you wish to try this.

This was surprising for me as I expect to see text ads on YouTube but it does make absolute, perfect sense that this is happening. YouTube was spending $1million a day on bandwidth in March 2008 and now has more than 20 hours of content uploaded every 60 seconds. YouTube has to pay for it's colossal bandwidth bill and now is the right time to do this. The 15-second ad from Sony was actually not that bad as 15 second really is not that long though this may prove troublesome for users who already have limited bandwidth and download limits.

After some additional views on CollegeHumor's channel I managed to get some screenshots of a longer 20-second pre-roll for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Towards the bottom of the player there is a message which says "Advertisement" so it is very obvious that you are watching an advert which is important. It also has a countdown displaying how many seconds are remaining.

It also remains to be seen whether it is CollegeHumor that allows these videos or whether it is only being trialled with some videos or some channels. What is certain is that we will be seeing many more of these videos as more and more advertising changes to online video.

Unlimited iPhone usage on Orange UK? No. Limited data plans.

Orange has released details in it's terms and conditions stating that the iPhone on it's network will have a 750MB cap as part of it's 'unlimited' offering. Orange claims that it will not put in place any restrictions that would limit what applications you would use but acknoledges that 750MB may not be enough for data-heavy users. Those who like to access YouTube would be better on O2 as would those who wants to stream more than 13 hours a day of music from Spotify.

This will no-doubt come as a blow to Orange the iPhone especially as Orange claims to have the best data network in the UK and proudly boasts this fact on its own website. There may be one positive side-effect to this though, whereas many users are facing severe problems transferring data on the O2 network in big cities such as London this may be the way to keep users under control and make sure that they do not send the whole network crashing down.

Will this bold move work out for Orange? Only time will tell, with just a week until the leaked released date of the iPhone on the network we won't have very long to wait. Though of course Vodafone will be getting the iPhone early next year, so should O2 customers and new iphone users wait for that? Or will O2 still provide the best data deal despite all the new competitors.

Leave your opinions in the comment box below.

NiNite downloads all your programs, installs them automatically

Ninite is my new favourite program that will make your life much easier when upgrading from Windows XP or Vista to Windows 7, or when you just need to install a bunch of programs at once on multiple PCs. Essentially it is an auto-installer and auto-downloader for Windows!

Very simply, you visit www.ninite.com and pick the apps that you want to install. Theres everything from Microsoft Office 2007 (trial version - just enter your key), Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Skype, all the messaging clients, your favourite video players incl. VLC, Spotify, iTunes, image editing programs such as GIMP, OpenOffice, Foxit Reader, Adobe Reader, Flash, Silverlight, Java, AVG, Avast, uTorrent, Steam, Dropbox, CCleaner, 7Zip, Notepad++ and loads more!

After checking the boxes click "Get Installer" and a small custom installer will be downloaded (less than a megabyte). Now run the installer and all the apps will be installed, one after another and it will say 'no' to all the toolbars and crap that installers ask if you want. It runs in the background and is the quickest way possible to get multiple apps installed quickly. Go on try it now!