Reviews of other stuff

reviews of anything not with its own review category

keyboard1

Review – Logitech iPad keyboard (PS: It rocks!)

21

Let’s cut to the chase here: The new Logitech ultrathin keyboard for the iPad (2 or new) rocks.  It ticks all my boxes (and I use my iPad HEAPS when travelling): It’s totally ‘Apple-esque’ (aka it’s sexy and slim and even shiny in the right places), it took me 15 seconds to set up without a manual, and it adds a bunch of functionality to my iPad while also being a protective cover. It even fixes the big gripe many people have with iPad keyboards (read below for more on that).  

The acid test: I now have it on my iPad permanently, need I say more?

(more…)

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Siri

iPhone 4s review for use in New Zealand

1

Despite my earlier thoughts, I did buy an iPhone 4s in Sydney last Friday.  (My iPhone 4s pre-review is here)

So, after almost a solid week using it, here are my cut to the chase, black and white, observations:

What’s it like? FAST (and awesome).
What’s Siri like to use? Entertaining (see Siri quotes here), and super useful even with the limitations of no location search outside the US. Speech recognition is AMAZING!  Very intelligent.  This is no standard dictate only app, it’s very smart.  Things like What’s the weather like and What’s the weather forecast in Wellington tomorrow all work seamlessly.  Oh, and yes, you can dictate to it too (which is handy when driving).
Other stuff? Well iOS5 rocks – love iMessage integration of text and data messaging. iCloud will take smartphone convenience to the next level for many users (especially the ones that don’t back up!)
Camera This is a point and shoot camera killer.I am not that interested in 8 vs 5MP, but the speed of focus, and between shot time (under a second) and the fast lens (this means it lets more light in, so brighter pics) is SUCH a pleasant surprise.  Add in iCloud integration, and I take a pic, and 10 seconds later it’s on my home PC and also my iPad (as soon as I am in Wifi range that is).If I was CEO of Canon et al, I’d be worried. (Just like Hallmark cards should be)
Should I get one if I have an iPhone 4? Well, probably you don’t NEED one.  But do you WANT one?
Actually, upgrade to iOS5 1st, then decide if Siri+camera+speed is what you are after.
Should I get one if I have a 3Gs or earlier? Or don’t have an iPhone? If you want a smart phone, IMHO, the iPhone 4s is the best on the planet as of today’s date.
 NZ issues
  • We can’t buy them yet (even from Apple).
  • Siri will work, but not with location based stuff (yet).
  • It’s BLOODY expensive (relative to other countries that offer large carrier subsidies).
iOS5 Just like lots of the cool stuff about the iPhone 4 was iOS4, iOS5 rocks.   In my view it’s the most significant upgrade since they added multi-tasking.    Ironically the issue for many when upgrade the iOS is things like oh, I lost my music coz my PC crashed last year or My app settings got lost coz I forgot to back them up, and the ONE thing that will stop that from happening again is the very OS they are upgrading it to.  iOS5 + iCloud allows for truly PC-less backups/OS upgrades etc.
More on back ups etc To show you how cool iCloud/iOS5 is, my friend in Sydney had already migrated to iCloud on his iPhone 4, and upgraded that to iOS5.  On Saturday he goes into a store, gets an iPhone 4s, tethers to my iPhone (ie on WiFi) and withing 60 minutes has ALL his apps (in folders), settings, contacts, the WORKS on his phone.  No PC, no iTunes, nothing, just a WiFi connection and a “yes, please download my stuff” clicked once.  Apple are onto a winner here.   My acid test is could I give it to my mum to use, and the answer is yes, it’s that simple.
What don’t I like? Minor gripe is despite same basic form factor (shape and size) as the iPhone 4, the side controls (mute switch and volume controls) are are few mm lower than on the iPhone 4.  This means buying a new case OR putting up with every so slightly mis-aligned holes.  Not a major, but annoying.  FYI, all others line up (camera, dock,headphones etc)

Some observations on buying one:

  • It was SUPER easy.  Apple know how to make stuff work, including retail sales.
  • It was SUPER quick – 15 minutes queue @ 1.30pm on Friday 14th October (the 1st day of sale) for the Sydney main store on George St
  • Staff very helpful
  • Apple staff rock!

Black and White Version: The 4s is an awesome phone.  Like the iPad 1>2 upgrade it is more incremental, but Siri and the camera are super nice additions, and the speed is REALLY amazing.  iOS5 + iCloud ROCKS!

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iphone 5

iPhone 4S – Black and White Pre-Review

12

Just like I did with the iPad 2, here is my black and white review of the iPhone 4S.

Note: It’s a pre-review since I don’t have one yet (nor does anyone else, except maybe this guy).

Btw, if you don’t like Apple (or secretly do, but like complaining about features it doesn’t have – go here)

UPDATE 20/10/11: I ended up buying one.  My iPhone 4s review is here.

Item Comment
Killer Feature Battery life (read that several times – got it yet?)
Anything else? Yes, iOS 5 (but you can get that on the 4, or 3GS)
What else is new/improved Camera, faster processor, it’s thinner, blah blah (sounds like iPad > iPad 2 eh?).  Full iPhone comparison here
What’s everyone talking about Siri - it’s where you can speak commands to your phone
What’s everyone bitching about? It’s not called and iPhone 5, and its shape is the same
Should I get one? If you want to.   Your call.  If you say “There are no new features” then you missed the killer feature of battery life.
Will I get one? For now I will say maybe. And like the iPad 2, the more I look at it, the more it will probably be a yes :)
There is a TINY WINY problem in that it won’t be avail in NZ for ages – so I guess I will have to order online and get it delivered to a mate overseas like I did with my iPad.  Or maybe a(nother) wee trip overseas?

Anyone with a smart phone (and who actually uses it as one) knows the frustration of battery life.  While it’s fine when you use it for calls and text, once internet use comes in to the picture, a FULL days work is hard to get on a phone.  Apple nailed that with battery life on the iPad, and now, have MAJORLY improved it on the iPhone.  To me that’s the true revolution of the iPhone 4S.

Black and White Version: iPhone 4S’s killer feature if battery life.  iOS rocks, and Siri is a “oh .. nice”. 

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CCC plan

Christchurch City Council’s Draft Development Plan

3

Yesterday the Christchurch City Council released its draft plan for the development of Christchurch post the recent earthquakes.

If you click on the link above you will get an online flip page style book, or if you prefer something you can download, here’s the pdf version of the CCC plan.

Let’s cut to the chase here:

This document ROCKS! (and not in a bad, earthquake way, excuse the unintended pun).  I strongly recommend any Christchurch resident reads it and gives feedback.

IMHO, it’s the right balance of vision (it gives us all something to think/look forward to) with some practical now stuff.

To balance off my praise for the CCC, I give a HUGE brick bat to Gerry Brownlee, who has been the ONLY poor performer out of ALL the agencies and people involved in the earthquake recovery:

  • CCC have done a good job (and a great job on this plan)
  • EQC an average job (too slow, but OK)
  • The Government have done a good job (with a very fair compensation package to red zoners who can’t rebuild).  Key, in particular, has come across as very reasonable and level headed.
  • CERA have done a good job – getting the right CE was probably half of that!

But Browlee has performed poorly.  Why?  Because less than one week prior to announce the compensation packages for homeowners that were not able to rebuild their homes, he arrogantly refused to give ANY idea of when info would come out on it.  Instead of saying I can not confirm an exact date, but we hope to have information out to those effected in a matter of weeks, not months. But no, he just said I know, but I am not telling you, it’s complex. (Note: I have paraphrased here, he didn’t say these exact words)  Can you say Arrogant Prick any louder, Gerry?

But it gets worse; Brownlee was reported as commenting on the CCC plan (link includes a video of Mayor Parker’s presentation)

However, Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee called the plan “a pretty big wish list”.

Gee, thanks Gerry, that was constructive! (in case you missed it, that was me being sarcastic).

Contrast this with how Key responded:

Prime Minister John Key is a fan of light rail for earthquake-hit Christchurch but he’s less clear on who should pay for the city’s $2 billion rebuild plan.

To to a degree, both are right, coz they say the same message, but in totally different ways.  There’s a lot not costed in the plan.  The CCC says about half will be paid for by the Council (ie ratepayers) and half by a mix of Government and private investment. So yes, the issue of where the money comes from needs to be answered at some stage.  But notice how Key’s message is  Yes, but … and Gerry says No, unless … even though they have a similar message of who’s gonna pay?.  Gerry you could learn so much from your leader!

Anyway, back to the plan, it rocks, read it and give feedback.

Black and White Version: The CCC have the right mix of vision and practicality in their latest plan.  The challenge will be funding it, but now is the best time to try for things like this.

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iChic 3

iChic iPad Cover Review

3

As many of you will know, I like my tech.  I particularly like Apple’s stuff.

I have, amongst other things, an iPad 2, which I think rocks (my iPad 2 pre-review of this is found here).

Anyway, one of the best things about the iPad 2 is the Apple Smart cover. I actually purchased the smart cover several days b4 I ordered my iPad online (yeah that’s commitment eh?).  The magnetic on/off just rocks (I don’t think I have used the power button on it more than a few times).

So when I was asked to review the new iChic cover I thought: Sure (but knew deep down it couldn’t be as good as the smart cover).  Well I was wrong!

Let me explain.

I have been using the smart cover from Apple for several months now.  And I love it.  The magnetic on/off together with it’s light weight just works for me.  BUT, the one time I wouldn’t mind a more substantial cover is when I travel (which I do a fair bit).  In fact I use the iPad more when I travel that I do at home (since when I travel it’s my mobile computer, and when I am at home, its just a cool device to play with most of the time).

So yeah, the Apple Smart Cover is awesome, but a bit light weight.  There is no back on the Smart Cover, and the front is just held on by a magnet at the side.   But all the covers I have seen are too heavy, or the wrong type (i.e. slide in), so I stuck with it.   Oh, and the smart cover also it only really holds up the iPad in landscape mode, and wouldn’t hold up the iPad handsfree (well) in portrait layout.  But that is less of an issue for me.

So back to the iChic cover – I did have to wonder about the wee bit on the back (a leather tab).  I mean .. it wasn’t a closure, so what was it?  Anyway, I snapped the iPad into the hard back plastic back, and then started playing.  I soon whet DUH when I figured out what that tab was!  It meant that I could now use the iPad in portrait without holding it!  It was a catch to hold the back in place (see image below to the right).  Not only will it allow to hold itself up in portrait mode, but also allows a higher standing up in landscape mode (as shown in the pic below).

And yes, it’s a magnetic lock – so still means I don’t need to turn it on (or off) again.  And the inside front cover is silk – so MUCH nicer on the glass.

So from a starting point where I thought nothing will beat the smart cover I now have to say I have demoted that cover to my back up around the home cover, and will use the iChic whenever I travel (which as already said is heaps).  So if you are after a lightish cover offering a mix of protection (a hard back) and magnetic lock (how could you not?) plus multiple display modes, look now further.  $49 US from the iChic web site (plus $15 shipping to NZ).    It comes in a range of colours (or colors for my north American readers).

Black and White Version: The new iChic slim shell folio cover is now my first choice cover – high praise from me!

Disclosure: No I wasn’t paid to say this.  My going rate to say nice things about stuff I don’t like is FAR more than any company would pay :-)

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graph

Tech companies – the round up

2

Another straight to the point, black and white post here.

My views on the current, and future prospects, of various tech companies.

Short Term Medium/Long Term (3-5 years)
Apple Excellent Excellent
Google Excellent Excellent
Microsoft Good Poor.
Nokia Average Poor
Rim (aka Blackberry) Good Poor Average
IBM Good Excellent Very Good
FaceBoook Good Good – Very Good
Twitter Average ??

I’ll give just brief further comments on the mobile device space:

  • I think Google’s OS (Android) will be the biggest by far in 5 years (sooner), with over 50% market share,
  • Apple will be the most profitable by far, and maintain the position as the biggest selling single phone of any supplier.
  • Microsoft and Nokia combined will have less market share in this space than Apple or Linux presently do in the PC space (less than 10% combined) – they are dead long term in this market.
  • Rim (blackberry) will maintain their market share for now (give or take a few %), but long term they will be a niche player.

I also think Microsoft will go after (ie battle) Google more than it will Apple.  It’s lost the war with Apple (or more to the point, they aren’t on the same battle field).  Microsoft have two main resources – CASH, and their huge user base.  Let’s see if they can do anything with that.  There is hope for Microsoft, because unlike Rim and Nokia, they have FAR wider base of products than just the mobile device space.  But that would involve a whole change for the company – and actually get innovative again.

Black and White Version: Many current market leaders (aka Google and Apple) will continue to be strong.  Others, like Microsoft are long term dead-ducks.

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SAA_Logo

South Africian Airways – Review

0

In line with my Black and White philosophy of this site, here is my Black and White review of South African Airways (based on 4 flights – two long haul (Perth – Jo’Burg) , 2 short haul (Jo’Burg to Capetown).

A reminder SAA is a members of the Star Alliance network (which AirNZ is also a part of).

Long Haul: Entertainment on their A340′s is CRAP.  One screen in economy class, and only playing one movie on take off and one on landing on a 9 hour flight is what I got in the 90s!  I didn’t think any airlines did this anymore, but apparently I was wrong.  At the VERY least these days I expect an individual entertainment system with on demand movies and TV on any flights over 5 hours.  It’s just not good enough to have such an antiquated (and sub standard) system on such long flights.   If I had known this I would have loaded up my iPad with movies (like I did in the old days by bringing on a portable DVD player) Food and service was fine.   Lounge was nice and clean, and plenty of food/drink etc.

Short Haul: Overall fine, except that the row in front of the exit row had seats that didn’t recline.  Most airlines just give extra room in the exit row to ensure there is enough room in an emergency to get out, but SAA do the cheaper version and just disable reclining in the row in front of it so they can fit more rows in.  Annoying especially when you have just come off a long haul flight and want to try to rest.

Other:

  • What was surprising was that SAA gave a full meal and drinks service on a 2 hour flight (Jo’Burg to Capetown).  Not complaining, but this is very usual these days.
  • I was moved from my seat in row 45 to row 60 for no reason by Qantas staff on my 1st Long Haul journey.  As a result my FF points didn’t show up for this flight, and SAA is the only airlines on Star Alliance that doesn’t allow online adding of this – I need to send in my boarding pass with a cover letter explaining this- a pain in the ass!
  • SAA also doesn’t allow others on the Star Alliance network to use point to upgrade flights to Business Class (I never pay for BC, but like flying it)

It’s clear SAA do some things on the cheap (entertainment and exit rows) but overall they offer an acceptable service and nice clean lounges.

Black and White Version: South African Airways needs major improvements – especially in long haul entertainment systems.

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bill-english

2011 Budget – my black and white take

0

So Bill English of the National Govt has released his third budget.

Rather un-election year like since it isn’t the major spend up that we have seen in the last 20 years or so in election year.

Everyone has given their opinion so far:

Anyway .. here is my black and white take on it.

The Good The Bad
Financially prudent Lack of vision – how is the govt going to GROW the economy
About the right balance of “give” and “take” One could say some of the big issues are still not resolved – student debt, health care, superannuation etc.  Although in fairness this is only term one, and on some of these issue there is small movement in the right direction (eg student debt).
Good to see new TARGETED health and education spend.
Partial asset sales with a Govt majority (50%+) shareholding.  Good to see this happens AFTER the next election, so we get to vote on it

Overall I give it a sold B. Can’t give it an A since there is no long term vision.

I think the media got all the headlines wrong about the budget, but that’s not new is it?   Focusing on what was cut, or that “middle NZ hurt” isn’t the main story.  The main story is about returning to the black one year earlier than planned, all while investing 5billion extra cash for the rebuild of Christchurch.

While talking about taxes, here’s a very informative resource (hat-tip: Kiwiblog) on where taxes actually go in NZ can be found here. Written by Mark Hansen – who blog about it here.

Oh, and I can’t really comment on the budget without posting this.  Key caned Goff (are we surprised?).  I am waiting for Labour to be a real opposition and talk about alternatives (rather than just “no don’t cut that”).

Black and White Version: Solid B for Bill.  The right balance, and economically prudent.  Needs work on vision (see me after class Bill).

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a apple logo

iPad 2 Review

6

I have now been using the iPad 2 for a few weeks now, so time for a full review (well at least in the black and white sense).

In case you mised it, here is my iPad 2 Pre-Review (I had played with it then, but didn’t own one).   I’ve followed a similar format.

Oh, and as an aside, it arrived a week early – yay!

Whats good about it The same stuff as made the first gen IPad great – user interface, battery life, etc.  (Read this sentence again, it’s important).Smart Cover is WAY cool.
What’s improved Speed, low res camera x 2.  Oh, and it’s thinner.
What’s missing Everything that’s missing from the first gen iPad (assuming you thought it was missing in the first place that is), except for a camera
Should I upgrade from the 1st gen iPad? Probably not.  It’s better, just not THAT much better.
Is it better than the 1st gen iPad Yes.  For sure
Is it the best tablet on the market Yep (in my opinion).
How does it FEEL? VERY fast, and light (I know it’s not much lighter, but thin makes if feel light).
Any down side? Yep, coz the edges are curved, the charging port now does fit things as well.  It doesn’t have a good “click” IMHO..
Tell me more Ummm, no.  This is the black and white version.  Read some online iPad 2 review, like this one

If you don’t already have an iPad, and want a tablet, this is the best on the market.  However the iPad 1 is still 95% of the iPad 2 for around 70% of the price at the moment (there are good deals on them), or even better still buy a 2nd hand iPad one off someone like me who just upgraded.

Black and White Version: iPad 2 rocks (so does the iPad 1!)

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i love chch

I live in Christchurch and love it!

0

I have said this personally to people many time in the last month or two, but wanted to states it here really clearly:

I live in Christchurch, and while having two major earthquakes in six months sucks, I love the city, think it has a great future ahead of it, and I personally have no intention of moving.

Sure, having no running water for a few weeks was annoying, and having no power wasn’t much fun (although candles makes it kinda fun), and the roads from home to work are like driving a slalom course – but this is all short term stuff.  We now have water*, power, and sewage (at least 95% of the city does), and roads get better every day.

* The water is even drinkable now! Sure, it tastes like Auckland water (aka is sucks), but at least we don’t have to boil it anymore.  Give it six months and it will tastes like ChCh water used to (i.e. it wont taste at all).

The council, and civil defense and central government are doing an AWESOME job of getting things back to normal, and I see so much potential for Christchurch, so I am here for the long haul.

That is all.

Black and White Version: Christchurch ROCKS!

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