Archive for the 'technology' Category


Stan Winston R.I.P.

It was with great sadness that I learned of the untimely death of Stan Winston, who’s work in fantasy films enthraulled a generation. So I was insipred to write something about his work on Geek, here.

He\'s behing you Stan!


DVD Rot killed the Dinosaur

DVD RotLast weekend I was working on a group test of DVD writers, for my sins. As part of this I decided to test how fast each of the six drives could read commercial DVD releases of single and dual layer types. So I went to my DVD collection and found two ‘pristine’ examples and set about testing them. To my utter horror I discovered that the dual layer test disc, the Disney CGI animated movie ‘Dinosaur’ wouldn’t read at all. A closer inspection reveals what looks like condensation, the dreaded DVD rot!
I’ve now set up an exclusion zone around that case, with a matt moistened with disinfectant – if this spreads it could be expensive!
But seriously, what slightly annoys me is that I bought this from in 2002, it was the ‘special edition’ so it wasn’t cheap, and it’s been played maybe twice. Play has a 30 day returns policy, so I’ll not get a replacement or my money back. But this disc was a faulty batch, where the aluminium layer as separated from the plastic above it allowing for oxidisation to occur. It was made wrong! But as it’s take five years for this process to reach this point, I’ve got no means of redress! And that’s pants.
I’m tempted to check all my discs now, but it might be better to just not know.


UK iPhone launch in November!

iPhoneyMr Jobs came to this green and pleasant place to tell us today that he’d be anointing us with his highly desirable iPhone profit generator on November 9th. The UK price will be £269 (inc VAT) for the 8GB model, but you’ll need to take out an O2 contract for 18 months, at a minimum of £35 a month. So that’s a total outlay of £999 for the joy of having a phone that doesn’t even have 3G.

Myself I’ll be sticking with my ancient Nokia and a pay-as-you-go spend of £30 a year, approximately.




HD War not going well for either side

A while back I commented that neither side was winning the HD format war, because as yet they’ve not sold anything like the number of players or discs that would worry anyone with a DVD duplication business. I also recall a few people, on another blog remonstrated with me for this view. But now Sony’s let the cat out of the HD bag, so to speak.
This image, from coverage of CEDIA 2007  on AnandTech entirely gives the game away.

HD in decline

Yes Blu-ray fans, your format is marginally ahead. But what’s really scary about these numbers is that the trend of the graph, left to right, is down. Since their launch both formats have declined, with Blu-ray suffering the bigger drop of the two. Surely after initial blips the trend of this graph should be up, not down?
What concerns me most about this slide is that to demonstrate their superiority Sony didn’t mind showing they’re both drowning from a sales perspective. Is that the new criteria of business success, not growth, but who goes out of business last?


Customer Service – some get it, others don’t

I’ve had one of those experiences this morning that entirely lifts your day, which is curious because it started with a very expensive piece of my kit going wrong.
Back in November I bought a 42 inch Toshiba Regza TFT TV, which is amazing. Yes Sky looks like the best of Enid Blyton sent through a wood chipper, but that’s Sky’s fault not the Tosh. But shortly after Christmas is developed a minor fault where a thin black line appeared down the centre of the screen. At first we tried to ignore it, but eventually I decided to get it sorted out, as the TV came from John Lewis is a five year warranty.
This is doing Customer Services Right:

Rang with the problem, told that the TV engineering company would ring me tomorrow.
Engineers rang as promised and said they’d be here on Thursday.
8.30am Thursday they rang to give me a two hour windows (9-11) that the engineer would call
9.20am Engineer arrived, assessed problem
9.30am Engineer called John Lewis arranged replacement screen for Friday and collection of broken screen, with same early call and two hour window promised.
9.35am He left, leaving me with complete confidence that I’m going to get my screen fixed, and that I’m not going to be without a TV in the meanwhile. Result!

And now to bring balance to the universe, how to do Customer Services wrong!

Saw a wardrobe in Homebase that I wanted, tried to buy it, couldn’t…it was the last one.
Homebase sales staff said I could buy it online and get it delivered, so went home.
Went online and found item, £25 more…but thought what the hell and ordered it.
After the order was taken the web page told me that I would be rung and a delivery date arranged.
A month later no phone call received, so I sent an email asking the situation.
Automated response, no reply
Two weeks later I sent an email to customer services at Homebase asking why they didn’t reply to emails.
I got another automated response it read…
Thank you for your enquiry. Your email has been given a reference …
We aim to answer all emails within 2 days.

That was 27 days ago. No reply.
Rang Homebase two weeks ago and asked where the item was.
Promised on the phone that the item would be with me on the 1st of September, at the very latest.
On the 1st of September received a letter explaining the item was out of stock and that it would take longer, no delivery date provided.

If anyone from Homebase is reading this, YOU ARE CRAP! (and no, I’m not expecting a reply)

But they’re not alone.

I noticed that the pieces I wrote on the BBC Series Jekyll, so I thought it might be of interest to my readers to review the DVD boxset.
So I contacted the BBC on that basis.
The BBC press office replied,’If you are a journalist, we are considering your inquiry and will respond as soon as we can.’
Well I am a journalist, and they haven’t after 3 weeks.
I think what galls me more here is that I’m indirectly paying for them to be rubbish!

And last but not least, Pipex

I’ve posted a number of times about my fun with their ADSL service, which after years of being excellent went pair shaped about two months ago.
I’m not going to repeat the entire sordid tale here again, but I’ve now had at least two Pipex representatives promise to ring me back but never did. My ADSL still doesn’t function like it once did, and they’ve ignored at least two emails I’ve sent.
When I get cable in, and then tell them I’m terminating my contract I’m sure they’ll have plenty to say, but when I’ve got a problem they’re less interested it seems. Customer service is something that they’re heard about, but not really understood it seems.


Hitachi 1TB…big boys toys

It’s not often that I’m in awe of computer kit these days, but today Hitachi very kindly sent me once of the their new 7K1000 drives. This baby has 1TB!!!
It’s easy to dismiss stuff like this and just say it’s a bit bigger than the 750GB Western Digital I reviews a while back. True it’s entirely arbitary amount of data, like any other size, but an entire terabyte on a single drive, numbs the mind a little.
Let me put that in a little perspective. The first hard drive I owned was the 30Mb MegaStore for the Atari ST. This drive is a thousand gigabytes or a million megabytes, which is a mere 33,000 times bigger! I’m not sure how many MegaStore’s Atari sold in the UK, but I think I could hold more capacity in one hand in these drives than they pushed in all the MegaStores. Assuming the rate of growth is proportional, which it isn’t, in 2027 we’ll have 20,000 or 40,000TB drives. Or, more HD movies than it’s possible to watch in lifetime. Bring it on!

Hitachi 1TB


AMD 690G build crazyness

Cheng Build
I’ve spent the day trying to complete a PC build for a friend, which I’ll document more completely at a later point. But this morning the PC had XP on it and was pretty ready to go (or going as in the picture). So why have I just finished mucking about with it???? In a word ‘sound’. For a reason that still defies logic I noticed that no sound device had been installed, and then more strangely that the sound device was missing! I assumed, wrongly, that it was an XP driver muck-up, and reinstalled XP using repare mode. That didn’t fix it. So in desperation I threw Vista on it, mainly to find out if it was something wrong with the hardware. It was, because I got no sound in Vista either!
In the end I wondered if the BIOS settings weren’t being shown correctly, and considered pulling the battery out to reset everything. Before doing that I reset to factory defaults and kerrr-pow!…We have sound. Now all I’ve got to do is scrap off Vista and start again with the OS my friend actually wants…
Perhaps I should write an article on how to waste about five hours on something stupid.