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

Sony Bloggie Cameras Go HD and 3D

Posted by Andrew at 6:49 AM on January 6, 2011

Sony have announced three new Bloggie HD cameras at CES, Les Vegas, including the world’s first HD 3D pocket video camera, the Bloggie 3D.  All three cameras will record in full high definition with 1920 x 1080 MP4 video and take 5 megapixel still photos.

The Bloggie 3D (MHS-FS3) is equipped with twin lenses, twin sensors and stereo microphone to properly capture the 3D perspective.  Able to record both 3D or 2D video (as well as still photos), the content can be shown in 3D on the camera’s 2.4″ screen without glasses or else shown on any 3D capable HD TV with 3D glasses. I’d be interested in seeing the 3D playback on the Bloggie’s screen – sounds like a neat trick in pocket video cam.  Expect it on the shelves in April

“As the popularity of pocket cameras grows, Sony can provide simple, compact video and photo solutions that are fun and easy to use,” said Melody Charlesworth, Category Marketing Manager for Bloggie. “With Sony paving the way in 3D entertainment, it’s the perfect addition to the Bloggie family and offers an easy yet high quality 3D solution.”

The Bloggie Duo (MHS-FS2) is the narcissist’s favourite coming with a 2″ front mounted LCD display in addition to the 2.7″ one on the back, making it really easy to get in on the fun while still taking video.  I can see this model also becoming a favourite with video bloggers operating on their own.  Available from March.

Finally, a new entry level Bloggie (MHS-FS1) will offer great performance at a great price, with HD MP4 video, 5.1 MP stills and 2.7″ screen.  Also available from March.

All the models come with SteadyShot image stablilisation, face detection technology, auto-focus and auto-macro, HDMI output, USB arm and Bloggie software with Share-It-Later functionality.  This will automatically upload video and photos to the most popular photo sharing and social networking websites as soon as the Bloggie is connected to a PC. Sony also offers its own Personal Space to keep friends and family updated with the latest photos and videos.

Sony Reader Pocket Edition (PRS-350) Review

Posted by Andrew at 8:36 AM on November 30, 2010

There’s no doubt that ebook readers are very much du jour, and Sony are keen to be part of that trend with the recent additions of the Touch and Pocket Editions to the Sony Reader line-up.

Reviewed here is the Pocket Edition (PRS-350), which is the smaller of the two models, with a 5″ touch screen.  Overall, it’s about 14.5 cm tall, 10.5 cm wide and only 9 mm deep.  At this size it can go in a (big) coat pocket and fits easily into most handbags.  As you can see from the pictures, it comes in silver, but pink and black are also available.  It’s also very light at only 155 g.

The e Ink Pearl screen is common in ebook readers but if you’ve not seen or used one, there are a couple of defining features.  First is that the letters on the screen appear to be on the surface of the screen.  It’s not like a laptop or tablet where you know that you are looking through glass.  Second the screen doesn’t flicker at all.  Not a bit.  Thirdly, text is very smooth – you have to look incredibly closely to see any pixellation or “jaggies”.  Fourthly, there’s no backlight so you need external light to read. Finally, when you do turn a page, the screen briefly flickers into a negative image as it morphs from one page to the next.  It’s a bit odd but you get used to it very quickly.

In terms of the screen, I didn’t think that the Reader screen was any better or worse than any of the others that I’d seen.  Admittedly I didn’t have a Kindle or Nook to hand to compare but all seemed normal and perfectly acceptable.

Beneath the screen, there’s a small legend and a row of five buttons along the bottom for page back, forwards, home, zoom and options.  Buttons were ok but there could have been a bit more feedback from them.

Connectivity is limited to a micro-USB connection and the Reader appears as a removable drive.  Consequently, all books have to be downloaded to a PC or laptop and then dropped into the folder.  This is sometimes termed  “sideloading” and while it’s not as convenient as wi-fi connectivity, it’s pretty idiot-proof and you’ve a backup copy of your books on your own computer. 

In use, the Pocket Reader is straightforward.  Pressing the home button takes you to a screen which shows your current reading material.  Having a touch screen means that most navigation can be done with by tapping on the screen, either with your finger or the included stylus, which slides into a silo on the righthand side.  The device never responds quite as fast, as say, a PDA or mobile phone, but I think it’s just the nature of ebooks readers at the moment.

Tapping on the option to see all the loaded books gives a list sorted by author, title and filename.  Selecting the book will open up the title and let you start reading.  The zoom button allows adjustment of the font size to five different sizes (XS through XL).  I found that the “S” setting was about the best.  To move through the book, you can either use the backwards and forwards buttons or else slide your finger on the screen to the turn the page.

One cool feature was that double-tapping on a word brings up a dictionary and show the possible meanings of the word.  Great for when you come across a word that you aren’t familiar with.

In terms of formats, the Reader can handle epub, pdf and rtf natively.  I found that epub and rtf formats worked best and that pdfs suffered when being resized to fit on the smaller screen.  Even with epub files, there were huge variations in the quality of the books.  Of course, this isn’t the fault of the Reader but rather a reflection on the ebook industry.  EPUB-based ebooks are widely available from the likes of WHSmith and Waterstones but as Amazon uses a proprietary format, you can’t get ebooks from there.

I had the Reader for just over a week and during that time I read a couple of novels and I never had to charge the battery after the initial charge.  It charges through the USB connector so there’s no power brick included.  I’d be confident that I could take this on holiday for two weeks and not have to worry.

However, my biggest issue is….how do you hold the device?  Being used to years of paperback reading with one hand I’m having to re-learn how to hold a book.

Overall, I liked the Pocket Edition Reader.  The Reader is small but the screen is clear.  Battery life is excellent and there are plenty of ebooks available.

Sony currently have the Pocket Edition on sale in the UK for £159 with the Touch Edition at £199.

Thanks to Sony for providing the review unit.

[Apologies if some of the photos are a little out-of-focus.  My camera had a hard time focussing on the screen]

Sony Bloggie Touch

Posted by Andrew at 4:50 PM on November 11, 2010

Sony make.believeSony launched the new Bloggie Touch today here in the UK and it looks like quite a slick little gadget that will find its way under the Christmas tree this year.  Combining a full HD video camera and a 12 MP still camera, it actually looks more like mobile phone than a video camera, with a 3″ touchscreen on one side and a camera lens on the other.  It’s quite different from the previous generation of Bloggies, now with a brushed aluminium finish in three colours; black, silver and pink.

Bloggie Touch, front and backIn addition to filming in full HD, 1920 x1080, the Bloggie can also record 360 degree video with a special clip on lens.  I’ve no idea how this works but it’s quite intriguing.  GNC is on the list for a review unit, so when I actually get my hands on one, I’ll let you know.  The press release also mentions “freestyle shooting” which apparently allows you to capture video in both landscape and portrait mode.  Again, no idea but will let you know.

Details that I do know are that the Bloggie has 8GB storage built-in and should record about 4hrs of video in 1280 x 720, though the battery will run out after about 2.5 hours.  There’s a flip-out USB connector plus an HDMI connector for instant playback on a TV.  Obviously the LCD screen can be used to review the video and stills but it also sounds like you can use the touch screen to select the photos and movies you want to upload to, say, Flickr, on the Bloggie and then when you actually connect the Bloggie to you PC or laptop, the material is automatically uploaded. That sounds pretty cool and a good compromise on a device that doesn’t have wireless.

You can peruse the full specs on Sony’s website.

It’s for pre-order on Sony’s website for £219 but should be available any day now.

Sony Launches HDMI Ethernet Channel Cables

Posted by Andrew at 1:00 AM on November 5, 2010

Sony LogoSony have launched a series of high performance HDMI cables to meet the needs of the latest developments in audio and video entertainment, including 3D and Ethernet.

All the cables in the DLC-HE series offer:
- HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC), allowing the cable to not only carry audio and video, but also data.
- Audio Return Channel (ARC),  permitting audio to be transmitted in both directions.
- 3D support, for the latest movies.
- Quad Full HD, for resolutions up to 3840 x 2160.
- 48 bits per pixel colour depth, giving richer colour reproduction.

Obviously, the TV and the connected device, e.g. an AV amp, have to support these features to take advantage of the cable.

Although the press release doesn’t make it 100% clear, I believe that these features mean these new cables conform to the HDMI 1.4 standard.

There are five different cables in the range, from general purpose to premium, with variants using horizontal and vertical swivel connections.  There’s also a special cable for connecting from HandyCam or Bloggie cameras that have the HDMI type C connector.

CablesThe cables come in a range of lengths from 1m to 10m.  Additionally the HDMI connector body has been redesigned so that it’s easier to see which way round the cable is before trying to plug it in.

Available now from all good stockists with prices starting from around £40.

Twonky Mobile Server

Posted by tomwiles at 9:50 AM on October 16, 2010

It’s always fun when technology intersects, and it becomes possible to do something cool that was previously not possible and/or was never thought of.

Such is the case with my Sprint HTC Evo smartphone. Sure, it’s a pocket computer. Sure, it has WiFi. As such, sure, it’s a network device with a potential node on my home network.

Rewind. What was that last bit again? My phone is a network device with a potential node on my home network. Let’s see – what can I do with network devices – share resources, share drives and therefore share files.

Enter the free Twonky Server Mobile for Android. Twonky Server Mobile is a free piece of software available in the Android Marketplace that shares audio, video and photos from the phone to UPnP and DLNA certified receiving devices on a home network. This includes software such as Boxee and UBMC among others.

I had a copied a number of videos to my Evo’s 8 media card so I’d have them available to watch if and when I had time. Hummm – with the Evo’s WiFi turned on and connected to my home network, if I ran the Twonky Server Mobile software, would I be able to see Twonky Mobile Server as an available network share with my Western Digital TV Live Plus boxes? If so, how would it work?

I’m happy to report that the free Twonky Mobile Server for Android works flawlessly. Simply start the app and there’s nothing else to do on the phone. Twonky Mobile Server shows up as an available server on the network, and the audio, videos and photos show up and play with UPnP and DLNA certified receiving devices such as WD TV Live Plus boxes.

Twonky also offers a small array of inexpensive server software products that make it possible to easily share audio, video and photo media from your Windows or Mac computer via UPnP and DLNA to certified devices such as Playstation 3, many digital photo frames, many Blu-ray players, and other devices and softwares.

Sony EVI D-100 / D-70 Comparison

Posted by geeknews at 12:24 PM on August 15, 2009

evid-d100I recently ordered two Sony cameras the EVI D-100 and the EVI D-70  largely because the documentation and online reviews where all very generic and I was having a hard time deciding which one of these PTZ (Point/Tilt/Zoom) cameras would be best. Customer reviews I found did not help either, so I hope to shed some basic comparisons on both of these cameras.

evid-d70The EVI D-100 is very quiet as compared to the EVI D-70 it has to do with the fact that the D-70 is made so you can hang it from the ceiling upside down. My utilization of is from a high vantage point in the corner of my small studio and the difference is huge!

The D-70 has a significantly greater azimuth coverage, I find the D-100 Azimuth coverage is fine for the application I am using it for but should be a consideration factor. The advantage the D-100 has though is that you can more precisely point the camera with the included remote control. If the D-70 had finer azimuth control it would be a huge improvement especially when you are trying to frame a shot.

I use these two cameras for webcast while the video quality is pretty good they would be perfect if they had just a little better white balance when the D-70 / D-100 is not zoomed into anything the picture can get washed out a bit. The picture greatly improves even on minimally zoomed objects. Using the cameras in a low light situation is not the best. The D-70 is supposed to have a higher LUX factor but as I was testing I did not see much of a difference.

Overall I think the D-100 is slightly a better camera but it’s so close your decision is likely going to come down to mounting as the D-70 can be mounted upside down and comes with a kit to do that.

Why Blu-Ray is still doomed!

Posted by Matthew Greensmith at 12:09 AM on June 11, 2009

bluraylogoI know there are some good things about Blu-Ray, and have been impressed by the quality I have seen on Blu-Ray movies on a friends PS3.  Those of us skilled at pattern recognition will continue to avoid this doomed platform though.

With the recent announcement that Sony has dropped the UMD standard on the new release of the Playstation Portable (the PSP Go) we get to see yet another example of my oft repeated advice.

Never invest in a Sony controlled data storage medium!

Sony have tried to play in various storage markets before with completely Sony owned technology, and I cannot think of a single one where they eventually triumphed even when they started out technically superior.  To be fair to Sony I do not think they have specifically been bad at maintaining their technology it is simply harder for proprietary technology to keep up with open standards.  This is exagerated when you are working in an OEM environment where your customers are highly motivated to break your monopoly.

Sony used to be able to artificially extend their technologies by having really good equipment and bundling the technology in.  Now with Sony no longer having a quality edge on most of their conpetition it is harder to do.

Beta tape was much better than VHS but eventually was overtaken and disappeared.

DAT (Digital Audio Tape) was an alternative to CD’s which hung around for a long time in professional music circles but never took off in the consumer market.

AIT was a successor to DAT designed for the low end data backup market.  Despite being late to market it was making inroads on the similarly closed source DLT.  Then DLT was open sourced and wiped AIT out.

Minidisc never really made it outside of the Sony umbrella, and very little music was actually released on the format.  Once the other MP3 players moved from CD to hard drive or solid state minidisc died a quick death.

MemoryStick only survives by being the only option on many Sony products.  No other manufacturer uses the product and it is behind in capacity and more expensive.

The dark plastic “CDs” that PS1 games used to come on that even the PS2 struggled to read and ended life before the platform it was designed for.

Now UMD joins the pile of Sony data platforms defunct much quicker than any comparable open standard.  If you have bought content on a specific medium, I think it is reasonable to expect that you will be able to buy a new player for that content for at least the next decade, and that the cost of those players would go down over time.  This has generally be possible with any other standard in the past, but almost never with a Sony platform.

Sony Says “Oops”. We Say “Duh”.

Posted by GNC at 2:35 PM on May 11, 2009

Quote of the day. “If we had gone with open technology from the start, I think we probably would have beaten Apple” – Sir Howard Stringer – Sony CEO.  Thanks to Engadget!

Uh, ok, well, maybe, probably not, but it is good to hear you admit a mistake and embrace the idea of open standards. Is this the “come clean” by the new CEO, or the obvious, obligatory speech admitting failure and pledging future success?  Either way Sony is in trouble. It is a high profile, sinking profit tech player in a tough economy. It was wrong about audio formats, it was wrong on whether gamers wanted HD or motion sensitivity in a game station, it was wrong about the ability of it’s brand name to simply sell products, it was wrong about. . . shall I go on?

tapeI so long for the days of Sony being innovative. My first tape Walkman back in 1988 was so incredibly cool. They were the iPod of the day. If any company should be able to compete with Apple in the PMP market it could be Sony. Why doesn’t Sony produce a PMP based off of the Android Open Source platform? Embrace open source like you should have embraced the open standards. Take your time and reinvest in your R&D department.  Hire people who think differently.  My ears are waiting.

Sony Opening eBook Reader

Posted by Matthew Greensmith at 7:43 AM on July 24, 2008

Sony is pushing a software upgrade to its Sony Reader that will allow it to download books from other sources besides Sony.

Now we’re talking.

One of the reasons I’ve not even looked hard at eBook readers is because of the proprietary nature of their content and delivery. If I buy Amazon’s Kindle, then I can only download from Amazon. But with Sony’s newest change, I can now potentially download eBooks from libraries, booksellers, publishers, and even Amazon. The open Sony Reader will allow access to a host of free downloads, as well.

Opening up the Sony Reader could potentially energize the market, where sales of eBooks has been lackluster at best. If you don’t have to limit yourself by the player’s proprietary downloads, then there is a much better reason to buy and use an eBook reader. I may just be looking at one myself.

I wonder when Amazon will join Sony in the open eBook market?

Sony Hawaii says no HVR-DR60 Demo Units

Posted by todd at 5:48 PM on December 13, 2006

Well it appears my Blog post looking for a Sony HVR-DR60 got some attention someplace at Sony, as I received a e-mail from the Sony Hawaii division saying that they did not have any demo units and had me contact a local retailer.

I knew it was a long shot, my only hope is that someone in Sony’s Pro division will help me get hooked up with one of these units so that we can use one during the Consumer Electronics Show next month.

The key is finding someone that has the juice to make it happen. If all else fails several of you have sent me links to some third party companies that we can go with.