Archive for the 'Reviews' Category

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Introducing Blue Microphones’ Snowflake

Flickr has a 90 second video limit, so I cut my video short. Snowflake’s specs are in the photos.

From Blue Microphones’ popular Snowball, comes this portable professional USB mic called Snowflake. It’s cute, well-constructed with aluminium and plastic, and works on Mac as well as Windows without drivers.

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Since I do plenty of Skype interviews and video reviews like these, I’ve always wanted a professional microphone to get better quality sound. The Snowball was easy enough since all it needed was USB, no analogue to digital audio converter box required, but I didn’t get it because it was too big to carry around. Snowflake solved that problem for me, since it collapses into a neat little box, with cables tucked in. I love how I could have it positioned on the desk in front of me, or on my MacBook Pro’s lid next to the iSight camera.

As you can hear from the video, the sound seems rather soft to me. That’s even when I max out line input levels. Any advice would be appreciated.

GRID: How I drove like an a$$ and still got third…

Truth be told I drive a P.O.S. Dodge Neon that’s good enough to take me from home to campus, and back in one piece. That’s why like most poor souls, my idea of an expensive tuned ride exists only in the virtual world.

As seen above, I’m driving a Concept Mustang GT in the streets of San Francisco.

It’s the first time I’m trying out Race Driver: GRID, a glorious new visceral racing game for the Xbox 360. Check out the heart-thumping replay video, where the soundtrack and composition almost gives you the vibes equal to that of the Fast and the Furious (2001). This game also features realistic collision damage which persists through your race.

A truly unique feature gives you the ability to reverse time from a deadly crash (like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), allowing you to admire the crash in extreme slow-motion, so you can revert to a point where you could safely take off again.

I’m usually not a fan of racing games (other than the Burnout series), but this is one adrenaline-filled racer I might get after all!

If you can’t get enough, there are more GRID racing videos on Youtube, and a ton of review media on TeamXbox.

Comparing screencasting apps for Mac…

TUAW's screencasting comparison chart

The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) has an awesome overview and comparison chart of the current Mac applications for screencasting, which refers to the recording the computer screen, typically for educational use.

Among the tools reviewed, we have Copernicus, Jing, Screenium, iShowU, ScreenFlick, Screen Mimic, Snapz Pro X and Screenflow. I’ve personally bought Screenflow and iShowU, while using the free Jing for remote assists, so you know where my preferences are.

Definitely take a look at TUAW’s Screencasting Faceoff here…

Hubdub: Predicting tomorrow’s news is fun!

Photo by Brian Solis

According to their about page, “Hubdub is all about letting you actively participate in the day’s news, following today’s events, predicting their outcomes and competing with other users to find out who the real news junkies are!”

Hubdub harnesses the cognitive potential of collective intelligence, which truly sets it apart from the other social news sites such as Digg, Reddit, or Mixx. I was pretty excited when I started playing with it last month. Still I wonder, how accurate are the predictions? Will it still be useful if the forecasts end up different from real outcomes?

Continue reading ‘Hubdub: Predicting tomorrow’s news is fun!’

Apple Remote + Mighty Mouse = Kensington’s Slimblade Presenter Media Mouse?

Review: Kensington Slimblade Presenter Media Mouse

Spending much of my time online, it’s quite important for someone like me to have a good set of input devices for the physical navigation of digital spaces (e.g. Internet). So it comes with no surprise that I’m always on the look out for a good mouse that does it all, and the latest hit on my wallet is Kensington’s Slimblade Presenter Media Mouse.

Could this all-in-one device replace both the Apple Remote and Mighty Mouse?

Continue reading ‘Apple Remote + Mighty Mouse = Kensington’s Slimblade Presenter Media Mouse?’

Unboxing: Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac (and macros fell out)

Office 2008 for Mac arrives!

Just in case you’re still waiting for your copy of Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac (see 10 things), I can show you what to expect. Just two discs and two quick guides. I received the package today courtesy of Ian and Evelyn of Microsoft Singapore (thanks!).

My friends seem impressed with the Office 2008 packaging, which has a nice emboss over prismatic pearl card stock. I personally like how it’s smaller and thus more environmentally friendly than the Office 2004 packaging as compared here.

As you’ll see, the Special Media Edition basically comes with Microsoft Expression Media (formerly iView MediaPro). You can think of it as an alternative to media cataloguers like iPhoto, with its ability to import and search more than 100 different formats of photos, videos, music, and artwork.

Installation was simple enough, but I’m keeping Office 2004 just in case, especially for macro support which Microsoft stripped out in the 2008 edition. I have certain Excel spreadsheets which use macros to guide in form-filling (e.g. employee timesheets) which will no longer function in Excel 2008. I heard that Microsoft MacBU took user feedback about bloatware seriously and as a result, scaled the office suite down to make it speedier.

Michael Miller of PC Magazine seemed hear a different story…

When I pressed the Microsoft representatives as to why they took macro support out, I was told it would have taken two more years to rewrite VBA for the Intel environment. Given that Apple announced its plans to move to Intel two and a half years ago, and that Microsoft has a fair amount of experience with Visual Basic on Intel with Windows, I have to say I’m skeptical. Perhaps Microsoft just wants business users to run Windows.

Is the Mac still not taken as a serious business platform?
We’ll have to see how the power users workaround with this.

Macworld 2008: Peeking at MacBook Air’s System Profiler

Peter runs through the MacBook Air’s system profile to assess what’s really in the thin machine… is it powerful enough for the rest of us?

Macworld 2008: Overview of MacBook Air (replaceable battery?)

This is a first-hand video overview of the MacBook Air with Peter and myself. While we run through the physical design, we focused on battery life and whether the battery could be replaced.

As an update to this video, Peter discovered an Apple FAQ relating to the MacBook Air Out-of-Warranty Battery Replacement Program which shows us that Apple can replace a diminished battery for you… all it takes is 5 days and US$129 (price differs with region).

A detailed video of the MacBook Air’s tech specs to follow next…

Top 10 Things you should know about Office 2008 for Mac

Office 2008 for Mac: A "Top Ten Things" Review

With something as ubiquitous as office software suites, you can’t blame me for being cynical about reviewing Office 2008 for Mac. After all, there’s a high chance you’d already get it anyway, unless you’re some kind of open-source fanboy who only uses alternatives like OpenOffice, or for that matter Google Docs or Zoho.

Still, it’s been a good four years since we had a new Office for Mac, so I thought it’d be important to highlight some of the significant changes Microsoft’s Macintosh Business Unit has managed to cook up.

Top Ten Things about Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac:
Continue reading ‘Top 10 Things you should know about Office 2008 for Mac’

Gadget Porn: My Top Five CES Picks

My Top Five CES Picks

No, I didn’t go to Las Vegas, but with all the CES 2008 coverage online (especially via Gizmodo), I feel right there. Since I got a chance to see photos and videos of almost everything on display, here are my top five picks from this year’s show…

1. The Pacemaker by Tonium Laboratories
It’s not an artificial heart, but it does come close if you’re an electronic music aficionado. This is perhaps the most sought after gadget in a production DJ’s arsenal. It’s a complete mobile DJ box which comes with a 120GB hard drive, support for MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG Vorbis, FLAC and WAV, with an 18 hour playback time. You have to watch their demo videos to truly appreciate how it simulates two decks and an effects mixer in such a small form factor. Here’s a great video in particular which highlights the visual touch gesturing system Tonium Laboratories developed. A last point to note is that the Pacemaker lets you record your mixes and upload them to the Pacemaker website, which Charlie Sorrel at WIRED believes will be a kind of YouTube for DJs. Pre-orders estimated to ship on February 2008, and after conversion, I estimate a serious price of US$750+

2. Rovio by WowWee Robots
The Rovio has a few innovations up its sleeve, but here’s what its about: It’s a telepresence wifi-enabled drone. Last year, I mentioned a similar consumer model available for trial called iRobot ConnectR. Both drones let you drive, watch (onboard camera) and communicate (via VOIP) with lifeforms remotely via the web. Still, I think the Rovio trumps the ConnectR for three reasons: 1. Rovio’s Northstar system creates a mini-GPS system for your home, allowing the Rovio to navigate your home with pinpoint accuracy (you can preset key locations). 2. The Rovio has a unique tri-wheel design which lets it go any direction easily, including sideways (as in strafing). 3. Apparently Rovio’s controls work from any modern web browser, where ConnectR’s controller works only on Windows XP. Here’s an Engadget video demonstrating the Rovio’s capabilities. Expect it in Fall 2008 for about a decent price of US$299.

3. Eton FR1000 Voicelink Survival Radio by Grundig
Sure, there are plenty of neat survival radios out there, but this one stomps them all in both capabilities and design. Okay ready? The Eton FR1000 uses 4 AA batteries but has a dynamo-powering hand-crank. It lets you listen in on AM, FM, and NOAA Weather, as well as communicate via 22 GMRS radio channels. Finishes off with a flashlight, siren and a cell phone charger. Gizmodo says it’ll be US$150 while Eton’s web site says it’ll be out on February 2008. I should get one just in case…

4. DiNovo Mini Bluetooth Keyboard by Logitech
While its intended for controlling your Windows Media Center PC connected to a TV, it’s said to work elsewhere too, including a Sony PS3. I think it’ll work for UMPCs (useful if I’m using a Head Mounted Display) and I’m hoping it’ll work with the Mac (think Mac mini and TV). It’s small, beautiful, has backlit keys (woah!), as well as a nifty ClickPad which can be used as a touchpad to point, scroll and click, or as a directional media center remote. It’ll be available in February for US$149.99.

Alienware's Ginormous Curved Monitor

5. That Super Widescreen Curved Monitor by Alienware
I’ve saved the best for last. I believe Gizmodo first broke news of this unofficially named “Alienware Curved Monitor”. As they put it, “… four sharp DLP screens lit by LEDs give you this 2880×900 monster is well over three feet wide and is said to have an other-worldly .02ms response time, great for gaming”. Hit up Gizmodo for a video and more photos. No price, no dates. Maybe… just maybe, we might start seeing kidneys sold on eBay. ;)

Well, these are my picks… what’s yours?