Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


I Feel Stupid

Posted by Andrew at 7:25 AM on December 28, 2011

Windows Phone 7Over the break, there’s been a bit of discussion by some of the big names regarding the reasons why Windows Phone 7 handsets haven’t been flying off the shelves this holiday season. Charlie Kindel started the debate with “Windows Phone is Superior; Why Hasn’t It Taken Off?” and largely faults the relationship between the OEMs, Microsoft and the carriers.

MG Siegler responded with a fairly weak response largely citing the mantra of “too late and not enough apps” but as can be seen from today’s news of 50,000 apps in the Windows Phone Marketplace, the latter argument really isn’t that valid.

As usual, Robert Scoble hits the nail on the head. People buy Android or iOS because it’s a safe bet and they don’t want to look stupid or uncool by buying something else. Microsoft Windows Phone 7 and RIM’s Blackberries simply don’t have the gold-plated appeal of a sure-thing.

And he’s right. I was a big Palm fan and look how that turned out. I do feel stupid. After spending years waiting for Palm to move from PalmOS to WebOS and then HP promising to do big things. I bought in with a succession of Pre phones and pre-ordered a TouchPad. Maybe I shouldn’t be so shallow and have a less of an ego, because WebOS is a great operating system and even with the smaller app selection, it does 99% of what I need a phone to do. But when everyone else is, “Have you got this app and that app” on their Galaxy S IIs and iPhone 4Ss, you do feel a bit of a chump.

So thanks, HP. I feel stupid.

Angry Birds Christmas Goodies

Posted by Andrew at 1:38 AM on December 2, 2011

If you can’t get enough of Rovio‘s Angry Birds (or Angly Birds as my daughter says), then you can satisfy your avian needs over at the Angry Birds on-line store. I’ve seen Angry Birds toys gradually appearing in shops, but I’d no idea there was such a wide range of things, from the expected soft toys to children’s costumes.

Angry Birds Fancy Dress Costume

Anyway, as we’re now officially in the run-up to Christmas, the Angry Birds store has a festive selection from Christmas stockings to tree decorations.

Blue Bird Christmas StockingChristmas Tree Decorations

The Bad Piggies Egg Recipes looks like an eggscellent (sorry) stocking-filler with around 40 egg-based recipes from the classics to the more interesting – the table of contents is shown on the website.

Bad Piggies Egg Recipes

There’s plenty of other merchandise to choose from too, including iPhone cases and flip-flops! Prices feel a little high at times for what are novelty items but the shop does appear to ship worldwide.

Pantone The 20th Century in Color

Posted by Andrew at 5:39 AM on November 29, 2011

Pantone The 20th Century in ColorPANTONE The 20th Century in Color looks to me like a great Christmas gift for anyone interested in colour and history: graphic designers, interior decorators, costume designers, website builders, Renaissance geeks. Authored by Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker and published last month, it’s a view of the last century with a focus on colour. Of course, it inserts the relevant Pantone colours allowing you to recreate colour schemes from the past to great effect.

The blurb says, “Pantone, the worldwide color authority, invites you on a rich visual tour of 100 transformative years. From the Pale Gold (15-0927 TPX) and Almost Mauve (12-2103 TPX) of the 1900 Universal Exposition in Paris to the Rust (18-1248 TPX) and Midnight Navy (19-4110 TPX) of the countdown to the Millennium, the 20th century brimmed with color. Longtime Pantone collaborators and color gurus Leatrice Eiseman and Keith Recker identify more than 200 touchstone works of art, products, decor, and fashion, and carefully match them with 80 different official Pantone Color palettes to reveal the trends, radical shifts, and resurgences of various hues. This vibrant volume takes the social temperature of our recent history with the panache that is uniquely Pantone.

Hyperbole aside, I think this will be fascinating look back through the past century and will be more than just a coffee table book: it’ll be a source of inspiration for when you want to get that “period feel”. It’s on my Amazon wish list so with luck, I’ll be able to bring you a review in the New Year.

(You’ll just have to forgive the twin spellings of colour and color in this article.)

Britain’s Greatest Codebreaker – Alan Turing

Posted by Andrew at 12:00 AM on November 21, 2011

German Enigma MachineGeeks in the UK may be interested in “Britain’s Greatest Codebreaker” on Channel 4 tonight (21 Nov) at 9pm. Described as a drama documentary, the programme follows the life of Alan Turing, the mathematical genius who was instrumental in breaking the German Naval Enigma code during World War II. His achievements were overshadowed by his homosexuality and two years after being convicted for gross indecency he committed suicide in 1954 aged 41.

According to the notes, the programme will feature “contemporary experts from the world of technology and high science, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

Set your PVR now.

(The notes also say that the programme will be available on 4oD shortly after transmission, but this is usually only available if you are in the UK or Ireland. 4oD is Channel 4′s on-demand Internet streaming service.)

Twitter – A School Playground

Posted by Andrew at 7:00 AM on October 30, 2011

Twitter LogoTwitter has always come in for criticism over the inanity of some messages; people describing what they’re having for breakfast or other mundane activities that are of no interest except to their own ego. However, the Internet and Twitter will always reflect the composition of the real world so it’s irrational to expect every tweet to be worthy of the Poet Laureate.

Despite this, the level of tweet erudition at times fails to rise above the level of the school playground. Take the traditional childhood mantra of last resort – “My dad is bigger than your dad.” Transferring this to Twitter, Piers Morgan and Sir Alan Sugar frequently go back and forth regarding the viewing figures for their respective television shows. It’s as if neither of them have quite grown up. Not only is it childish, it does them a disservice for both have considerable achievements.

At times I wonder if it really is the personalities tweeting or whether it is an extension of their entertainment persona into the on-line world. Regrettably, I have to conclude that they are who they purport to be and there is no redeeming reason for their behaviour. Lest it be taken that I’m singling these two out, I’m not. Any seasoned Twitterer will recognise these behaviours in celebrities and it seems that their carefully managed stage act is left behind once the real person gets hold of a Twitter account.

Perhaps I’m just not a big enough celebrity-watcher. I don’t read Hello or any of these weekly fame-orientated magazines. I follow people, whether famous or otherwise, because we have a shared interest. Whether it’s entrepreneurship, technology, motorsport, music or literature, doesn’t matter; I’m not following you because you are simply a celebrity.

So it is with regret…@Lord_Sugar – unfollow….@piersmorgan – unfollow.

And if anyone wants to follow me, I’m @andrewhpalmer. I guarantee the egocentric tweets will be few and far between.

Thanks Steve

Posted by Andrew at 12:49 PM on October 6, 2011

Most people in the UK were tucked up in bed when the sad news of Steve Jobs’ death was released, but I was still up, getting a few chores done while the house was quiet. It was kind of strange as I wanted to pass on the news and talk about Steve and Apple but everyone I knew was asleep. For a moment, for all the social networks, for all the tweets, it was just me and my thoughts, sitting at my desk, alone.

The Steve Jobs and Apple I will always remember is not the consumerism of the iWorld but the part they played in the 80s and in particular, the Apple ][. My father had an engineering business and I remember him buying the Apple from a dealer about 50 miles away - you couldn't just pop into PC World in those days. The beige unit, the twin 5.25" floppies, the green screen monitor.

Photography courtesy of Rama & Musée Bolo

On weekends and on holidays he would bring the computer home for me and my brother to play games on. I remember playing a breakout game for hours on the computer – I think there were only three levels and the last was blindly fast. Later, I started programming the Apple ][ and from that point a career in technology beckoned.

I even had a black Apple-branded sports bag that I used as a school bag. It had Apple patches at each end and for some reason, when the bag was worn out, I took them off the bag and kept them. I really was a geek even then.

I'm not good with famous people so it's probably for the best that we never met. The last celebrity I met was a Pop Idol / X Factor winner and I totally dissed him by not knowing who he was (sorry).

Regardless, I'd like to say thank you, Steve, especially for the Apple ][ and the journey it started for me. Requiescat in pace.

Erasure’s Tomorrow’s World

Posted by Andrew at 10:50 AM on September 9, 2011

To preview their forthcoming album, Tomorrow’s World, pop duo Erasure have produced a tribute to the future-gazing BBC TV show of the same name. British geeks of a certain age will fondly remember this TV programme for introducing us to gadgets such as Walkmans, CDs and camcorders. It was also notorious for showing off products that promptly disappeared and never made it to market. The programme ran from 1965 to 2003 and drew over 10 million viewers at its peak.

Erasure’s tribute is a reworking of the programme’s soundtrack and has an accompanying video that includes many famous gadgets from the past. Here it is.

The Names Now Forgotten

Posted by Andrew at 11:50 AM on September 4, 2011

Picture by David Gerard

I’m packing up an old laptop to give away to a friend and checking through the bag to ensure that all the parts are there. As I do, a handful of PCMCIA cards fall out, all with names, products and technical details that are now part of history. A Xircom 10/100  Base TX Fast Ethernet adaptor. A US Robotics Sportster V32/V34 bis modem card. A 256 MB CompactFlash Card in CF-to-PCMCIA Type 1 adaper. A generic 11b wireless card.

Even the term PCMCIA has been relegated to history, first by being renamed as PC Card and then by being superseded by ExpressCard. But what happened to Xircom and US Robotics? The former was bought by Intel in 2001 though products were sold under the Xircom brand until 2005. USRobotics merged with 3Com in 1997 before being spun out again in 2000. It was later acquired by a private equity firm in 2005 and it’s still in existence, focusing entirely on modems.

So many companies and products have fallen by the wayside; Ad Lib sound cards; 3dfx graphics card; Hayes modems; Conner hard drives; Handspring PDAs. The list is long and illustrious. Some merged, some were bought out, some failed to compete and died. Others are still with us and it’s market forces and competition in action. Technology changes too and hot products become obsolete. Internal modems are no longer needed as we’ve all got ADSL and cable broadband wireless routers.

As I look round my office, I wonder how many of the names and products I currently see will still be here in 10 years’ time? Samsung…Dell…HP…Yamaha…Sony…Plantronics…Toshiba…Sun (already part of Oracle)…Logitech…Microsoft…AMD…Maxtor (now Seagate as well). I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Legends are Reborn: HP-12C and HP-15C Calculators

Posted by Andrew at 5:40 PM on September 1, 2011

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the HP-12C financial calculator, HP are producing a limited edition of this classic calculator along with a reproduction of the 15C scientific calculator. Launched in 1981, the 12C became the de facto “badge of honour” for any self respecting businessman. Still a cult classic with fans the world over, it’s the longest selling HP product.

There’s some great reminiscing going on over at HP’s The Next Bench, including interviews with 12C’s creator, Dennis, who demoed the calculator to Bill Hewlett thirty years ago.

Pictures from the HP Museum by David Hicks.

Young’uns raised on Casio and Sharp calculators will be surprised that these use Reverse Polish Notation (RPN) for the entry of formulae, rather than the more usual “1 + 1 =” approach. RPN would say this is “1 ENTER 1 +”, if I recall right.

I remember my father having HP calculators – they had little red LED displays before LCDs appeared – and him showing me how RPN worked. And the way the buttons kind of rocked back rather than simply pressing down. Glorious and I want one. I shall have to keep my eyes on the HP’s UK site – the standard 12c is available but I’d be more interested in the 15C which hasn’t been around for years.

It’s good to see that HP can produce something that lasts longer that the TouchPad.

Geek Joke of the Day

Posted by Andrew at 1:14 PM on August 25, 2011

Technology has invaded our every day lives so much that a password joke won the award for the Edinburgh Fringe‘s funniest gag. Here it is, courtesy of comedian Nick Helm.

“I needed a password eight characters long so I picked Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.”

I’ll get my coat.