Xoom and Play

North America is in the foul clutches of Superbowl Sunday: an orgy or consumerist messages interspersed with football. A visiting USAnian was regaling me with tales of a sideline man with giant orange gloves, whose sole job is to get the attention of the referee when it is time for more commercials.

First up we have the XPeria Play, Sony’s Android 2.3 powered gamephone. I find this thing very interesting: Sony is normally fastidious about copy protection, locking their systems down hard. Of course this never stops their systems from being hacked, but they try. Android is arguably (actually: demonstrably) the least secure mobile operating system on the market today. Obvious conclusion: Sony will be baking their own game DRM into Android 2.3, perpetuating their “no upgrades for you” philosophy.

Then we’ve got the Motorola Xoom: “The world’s first Android 3.0 tablet”. The ad is a blindingly obvious dig at the iFanboys. Huge call given that no one has really played with one, and Apple appears to be on the cusp of launching the iPad 2. Still, early reports have the Xoom looking and performing “pretty awesome“.

Tablets though? It it only me that has this nagging feeling that we’re heading down the same path as netbooks: a huge, short hypecycle that quickly ends up satisfying niche purchasers and no one else?

Android: Everywhere and Nowhere

Both of these appear to be excellent Android™ devices, but they are worlds apart. There’s no way you’ll ever play Sony’s games on the Motorola Xoom, and I’ll bet a considerable sum that you’ll never see Android 3.0 on Sony’s Xperia Play. This is my conflict: I want OEMs to adopt a good operating system — and Android is really getting there much faster than previous efforts — but it’s just so damn confusing.

I get questions all the time from friends and visitors. It’s easy when they ask “should I buy an iPhone?”. I can say: sure, if you don’t mind Apple’s ecosystem and don’t have a philisophical position on open software. When they ask “should I buy an Android?”, I have to say: It depends on which Android you are talking about, then explain about versions, hardware and upgrades.

Video: Gadgets for Grandparents

Grandparents and gadgets don’t really go together, but this week on TVNZ Breakfast I took a look at few gadgets that might just fit the bill. Helpful or historical, these devices will come in handy for the age-challenged individuals in your life.

Click below to watch the video.

Item: St John Lifelink Medical Alarm
Price: $39 per fortnight
Rating: 5 / 5
Info: I expected a medical alarm to be as difficult to install and set up as a regular house alarm, but not so! The Liflelink system just plugs into the power and phone socket and it’s ready to go. It has a standard “pendant” activation button that can be worn around the house and garden, and pressed to raise a call for help. Additionally, the Lifelink has a built-in motion sensor (no extra sensors required), which can be programmed to ask for help if no movement is detected, and no response is given, after a certain time.The Lifelink is simple to use, easy to set up, and provides fantastic peace of mind. Depending on circumstances, the cost may be covered by Work and Income under a disability allowance.
Item: Vintage Calculator
Price: Depends on age and condition
Rating: 2 / 5
Info: If your grandparents reminisce for the “good old days”, perhaps they’d like some good old technology? We forget how far we’ve come, but a nice vintage calculator is a great reminder. The Casio I demonstrated today even has 6 digits!
Item: LogMeIn Ignition
Price: Free for web use, $39 for iPhone application
Rating: 5 / 5
Info: I’ve use a few different “remote desktop” applications, but none has been as simple to set up and easy to use as LogMeIn. Install a basic application on your grandparent’s computer (PC or Mac), then you can access their computer from any web browser, or even your iPhone using the Ignition application. The system even works perfectly over 3G. Security is good, and you get an email if someone attempts to log in without your permission. You can also configure multiple PCs under one account – one for each set of grandparents perhaps!

Video: Craft Gadgets

I’m not a crafter. In fact, if there is a direct opposite to a crafter, then mark me down for that category. Yet I can appreciate the gadgetry involved. I’ve made my love for sewing machines well known, and today I got the chance to check out some of the smaller trinkets involved in the pastime. A huge thanks to The Ribbon Rose, a craft shop in Ellerslie that I’m told is the bomb. Or whatever term craft-types use to say “really good”.

Click the image below for the video:

Item: Clover Felting Needle Tool and Mat
Price: Needle Tool $43.90 and Mat $27.90
Rating: 5 / 5
Info: This tool is amazingly addictive and therapeutic. By just stabbing the felt, the felting tool’s five barbed needles that catch the wool roving fibers and push them into the bottom of the fabric. The wool roving fibers stay permanently without using glue or sewing it. The tool comes with a clear lock cover for safety and storage.
Item: Bias Tape Maker
Price: Variety of sizes for bias tape makers and fusible bias tape makers, priced from $14.40 to $26.00
Rating: 4 / 5
Info: It’s hard to find the right tape for every edge. With this bias tape maker, you can make your own bias tape and never worry about searching for a perfect match. Just pass the fabric through the tape maker and iron.
Item: Clover Slash Cutter
Price: $38.90
Rating: 4 / 5
Info: The perfect tool for creating curves and very narrow slash quilting. Make clean cuts between curved seams and narrow seams. Cutting between stitching lines becomes a breeze without any threat of cutting through the base fabric!
Item: Clover Pom-pom Maker
Price: $17.50 for pack of two sizes
Rating: 3 / 5
Info: Great for kids and adults – making pompoms is a breeze with these tools. Just wind the yarn around the device, cut along the join, and tie the centre. Yes you could do the same thing with a couple of bits of cardboard, but the cheap price makes this re-usable pompom maker a steal.

Video: Talking 2010 Gadgets and Media

I spent an enjoyable 10 minutes with Russell Brown nattering about CES, the 2010 gadget landscape, Apple’s impending flat computer, and what it all means for media. Apparently it was recorded for an episode of Media7, but I’d have been happy to have the chat regardless.

Click the image to watch the episode, and keep watching after my bit for an interesting panel discussion on social media.

Video: Camping/Tramping Gadgets

Here’s a run-down of the camping gadgets we covered on TVNZ Breakfast this morning. Feel free to ask any questions or post comments, and click below for the video:

Camping Gadgets Video

Item: Handpresso portable espresso maker
Price: $239
Rating: 4 / 5
Info: If you can’t stand the thought of a few nights in the wild without a good coffee, the Handpresso portable espresso maker is for you. Completely human-powered, all you need are some boiling water and a couple of pre-filled coffee pods. Fill it with boiling water, and pump it up like a bike pump to your preferred pressure. I couldn’t get it to produce a decent crema, but the taste was perfectly acceptable for coffee in the wilds.
Item: MSR Reactor Windproof Stove
Price: $399
Rating: 5 / 5
Info: The MSR Reactor comes in a compact package fitting everything inside a single pot. The stove burns incredibly hot, but the radiant burner design means most of that heat goes into your pot, where other stoves will be blowing in the wind. The result is blisteringly fast boiling water, which also means you need to carry a whole lot less fuel. The Reactor can boil 22 litres of water where other stoves will burn through their fuel boiling 10.
Item: Joby Gorillatorch
Price: $69
Rating: 4 / 5
Info: Joby have been making their Gorillapod camera tripod for a few years, and now they’ve turned to torches. The super-flexible legs allow you to stand it up anywhere, or wrap it around a branch or tent pole for area illumination. The Gorillatorch is equally at home in your camping kit or under the bonnet of your car: the magnetic feet are perfect for mounting it anywhere on the car while you work.
Item: iPood
Price: $39.90
Rating: 5 / 5
Info: This incredibly compact collapsible camp trowel is super-light. You’ll hardly feel it weighing down your backpack, and when you need to “shed some more weight” it comes in very handy.