Quickbitz – Wireless and O2 UK

O2 UK are now offering the iPhone 3GS and no I won’t be upgrading the iPhone 3G I got in August 2008. Partly because I don’t feel the need to upgrade yet, and partly because of the quite frankly eye watering prices O2 is demanding. And what’s with this tethering charge? It’s free in Oz and yet UK customers have to pay the equivalent of another mobile broadband contract. If you’re interested there’s a Twitter petition here – one of those signatures is mine!

Talking of wireless, I read recently that Symantec have been touting the dangers of wireless keyboards. Some mean cyber-crim will sniff your wireless keyboard signals and promptly steal all your passwords and bank account details, so you have been warned. Better have your tin foil hat at the ready in case they steal your thoughts while they’re about it. I use a Bluetooth keyboard with my Mac and the signal seems to drop off at about 10-12 feet. So if someone wants to pinch my details then they’ll either need to be standing in my garden outside the study window, or they’ll have to break in next door and drill a hole through the wall to poke an aerial through. Hmmm… I think I might notice.

Netgear DGN200

Netgear DGN200

Oh and still talking of wireless, I recently replaced my ageing D-Link G624M wireless router with a Netgear DGN200 and have to say I’m really pleased with it. The D-Link would crash all too easily if stressed, but no such problems with the Netgear. What’s more, it is working fine with my Airport Extreme daisy-chained off it, plus the XBox 360 and my (quite frankly horrible) ThinkPad T60 work laptop both talk to it without a problem. Even my recalcitrant Mac Mini in the bedroom happily connects to it. I may put up a more detailed post about it, but work is so hectic at the moment finding the time is tricky. Still, if you’re a Mac user then I’d heartily recommend this router for your wireless needs.

Gadgets – Great and grrrrr….

Like most Mac users, I’ve accumulated my fair share of gadgets over the years – some good and some, errrr… not so good. So as a little departure from all things Mac, and because your head is probably still full of WWDC 2009 stuff, here for your entertainment are a few of my favourite and not so favourite things.

apple-iphone-3giPhone 3G (great) – Needs no introduction. It’s been great not because it’s a cool phone, but because of the apps that extend it. It can find out where I am and how to get somewhere, find the nearest cash machine or petrol station, check live train times, see what’s on at the cinema or on TV, take notes (and sync them to my Mac), check mail and my calendar, remote control my Mac, track blood sugar readings, watch Twitter on the go, translate phrases into another language, surf the web, identify music and of course play a variety of great games… to name just a few things. It’s a real ‘enabler’.

tomtom-oneTomTom One (great – mostly) – Satnav is an absolute blessing. I can drive places and not worry about getting lost, I even navigated across France with it. There have been a few occasions over the years when it’s refused to switch on without being reset first, thus losing all my settings, favourites, etc., but for the most part it’s been an excellent purchase. Added bonus is that I can update it easily using the Mac version of the TomTom Home software.

Canon-A720ISCanon A720IS (grrr) – Got this camera to replace my Canon PowerShot S50 which had become faulty. The A720IS sometimes takes great pictures, but all too often they come out blurred or over exposed – even on automatic and with image stabilization turned on. The flash is over-enthusiastic and the delay between shots can be irksome.

ScanSnap-S300MFujitsu ScanSnap S300M (great) – the best way to de-clutter your life and get rid of years of paperwork. Seems to handle whatever I throw at it, plus it’s quick, scans in colour and does duplex scanning. Brilliant!

Canon ip4000 (great) – Had this printer since my Window days. Document print quality is fine, it does duplex, photos look superb and it even prints on CDs/DVDs. The Mac software could be slightly better and the ink is expensive, but it’s got to be a few years old now and still going strong.

Thinkpad-T60IBM ThinkPad T60 (grrr) – My work issue laptop, running Windows XP SP3. A solid performer, but marred by flaky wireless performance, hopeless battery life and generally sluggish. (I have the Core Solo version).

Samsung 2493HM (great) – The 24″ monitor I use daily. Great colour. Great clarity. Great price. ‘nuf said.

Samsung 226BW (great) – The 22″ monitor I also use daily (in my dual monitor setup). Another rock solid performer.

Pure-Sonus-1XTPure Sonus 1-XT (great, but…) – My bedside DAB radio and alarm clock. On the plus side the sound quality is lovely, reception is good, and you can’t beat the (very realistic) dulcet tones of the lady telling you the time or what you’re listening to. My only criticism is that setting the alarm can be a little fiddly.

Topfield-TF5800Topfield TF5800 PVR (great – mostly) – Dual tuner Freeview hard disk recorder. For the first two years, this has been a terrific purchase. Good pictures, dead easy to use and you can extend it with 3rd party apps. Everything was sweetness and light – until the last firmware upgrade. Now it’s a recalcitrant dog of a machine. It takes 60 seconds to come online, freezes every so often, forgets the time of day generally misbehaves. I either need to revert to a previous firmware or think about moving on. Maybe FreeSat is the next thing?

Logitech MX Revolution Mouse (great) – Ok it’s starting to show its age and the finish is getting a little flaky, but for comfort and control it’s hard to beat.

Logitech-diNovo-EdgeLogitech diNovo Edge (great, but…) – The Windows version of Logitech’s superb keyboard, marred only by dubious Logitech driver software on the Mac.

DLink-G624MD-Link G624M (great, mostly) – Have had this wireless ADSL router for many years now and on the whole it’s been a good performer. A lot of its issues could lie with my ISP (British Telecom). Also, it does have an issue with Vuze (will disconnect if I don’t limit Vuze to <200 connections), but usually does what it does quite well.

Airport Extreme Base Station (great) – Does what it says on the can, plus it’s dual 2.4GHz and 5GHz and sports gigabit ports. Shame it only has 3 ports and not 4 and it does get a little warm, but great performance nonetheless. I have this hooked up to the D-Link G624M which just acts as a DSL modem for the most part.

Logitech-Z2300Logitech Z2300 (great) – Ok, this speaker setup is only 2.1 and is not exactly cheap, but sound quality is fantastic. Real floor shaking bass to scare the neighbours, and the top/mid range from the desk mounted units is… well just as fantastic.

Grado SR60 (great) – You cannot buy a better pair of headphones at the price. End of story.

Logitech-525Logitech Harmony 525 (grrr) – A universal remote that was supposed to help me do away with the other four or five remotes I have kicking around. Good points are that there is a Mac version of the software to update it with your devices. Bad points are that the buttons can be fiddly, you often have to scroll to get the function you want, the screen often lights up of its own accord and then drains the batteries, and you have to be very accurate with where you point it.

Logitech-QuickCamLogitech QuickCam Pro 9000 (great, but…) – Quality of this webcam is excellent and it works well enough with the Mac although you obviously lose the extra features that would be enabled via the Windows driver and software. Works beautifully with iChat and Skype. My main criticism is that the built-in mike doesn’t work with the Mac’s speech recognition.

Panasonic-SDRH280Panasonic SDR-H280 (great) – I am no video buff by any stretch of the imagination, but for the basics this ticks all my boxes. Great quality sound and pictures and works a treat with iMovie. Definitely the sort of gadget that will spur me on to bigger and better things (i.e. High Def – when I can afford it!).

Wacom Bamboo (great, but…) – Always wanted a pen/tablet and the quality is good enough. Trouble is the unit is just too small for my requirements and going any bigger will cost a king’s ransom! The new Intuos4 tablets look lovely, but the price – ouch!

Remote-plugProteam Remote Control Sockets (grrr) – These are these remote control plugs that let you switch off devices from a little hand held remote. Saves me crawling around behind furniture to do my ‘green’ bit every evening before turning in… well that was the theory. I bought the three pack pictured and two of them have stopped working within a few months. Good idea though and other makes may be fine.

Voyager Q (great) – Docking station for external 3.5″ and 2.5″ SATA drives with a quad interface. Works brilliantly with the Mac.

Dlink-DNS323D-Link DNS-323 (great) – My first NAS, a two-bay JBOD affair that I’ve popped two 500Gb drives into. Works really well although the little blue LED for one of the drives packed up a year or so in, although the drives still work fine. Interface is a little basic compared to the Synology unit, but the basics are there.

DS108jSynology DiskStation DS108j (great) – Really neat single bay NAS device, I just added my own 1Tb SATA drive. Lovely interface and hugely configurable. My only gripes are that it refuses to accept a firmware update so it’s running at quite an old level (Synology tech support have fixed the problem!), plus AFP performance is S… L… O… W…, although ordinary Windows shares work just fine for the Mac. Styling is a little, err… ‘retro’.

XBox 360 (great) – Ok I’m not a huge games player, in fact I only own two games (Halo 3 and PGR4, and I’m rubbish at the former). Great fun though and with Connect360 running on the Mac it doubles up as a wireless media extender. My first XBox 360 suffered the RRoD but (touch wood) the replacement has been fine.

DS-LiteNintendo DS Lite (great) – I must confess, another gift and all the software I’ve got is aimed at keeping my brain ‘fit’. A great distraction!

iPod Classic 80Gb (great, but…) – The iconic iPod, I got this when my 3rd Gen iPod died. This one has behaved oddly on more than one occasion, and battery life isn’t as good as I’d hoped – leave it in a drawer fully charged and 2 weeks later it’s flat!

These last couple ain’t exactly gadgets, but here goes anyway…

Audi A3 SE 2005 (grrr) – Well hardly a gadget but I thought I’d throw it into the mix. Got this as a company car and thought I was getting a posh VW Golf. Four years on and 55,000 noisy, rattling miles later it seems not all Audi’s have great build quality. Would I buy another? No! Talking of cars – best two I’ve owned were – Lexus IS300 (written off when a woman rear-ended me on a motorway) and a Lexus Soarer 2.5 VVTi (monstrous performance yet whisper quiet). The worst two? Well any of the four Renaults and Citroens I’ve owned.

Zanussi WDJ104 (great) – A washer/drier that’s worked flawlessly for 20 years? How many gadgets these days would do that?

That’s all for now. Any gadgets you swear by (or swear at?)