23 January 2008

Does/Will the Honda RA108 Suck?

Today, Rubens Barrichello took Honda Racing's new Formula One challenger out for a shakedown ahead of tomorrow's test with number one Jenson Button. Rubens completed 36 laps total compared to numbers in or near the hundreds from the likes of BMW and Ferrari. Reports indicate that at least for some of the day, the RA108 was inside the garage, the door closed, having its engine revved.

It certainly sounds like a simple setup day. Further reports, relayed via the forum of Real Honda F1, suggest that new parts are arriving as soon as tomorrow. The car is not set to officially launch until next week, when it will be bathed in it's revised Honda Earth livery (The concept is staying, but Honda is set to unveil a new design).

As such, it's entirely possible that times today, and even tomorrow's, are completely irrelevant. Honda could easily be using these days to evaluate things other than pace - the new ECU, cooling (Which is revised) and the engine/transmission combo.

The car, currently running in plain white - which makes detail spotting difficult though not impossible - sports a higher nose, resculpted sidepods with tighter air intake holes, a massive engine cover fin, somewhat simplified air fins in front of the rear wheels, a newer and slightly angular take on the thin nose and significantly fewer winglets.

The RA107's nose, to the right, is clearly different to the RA108's
(Below). The new nose is visibly hooked and comes to more of a point. Meanwhile, the entire length of the snout is significantly thinner and it has more sever angles than the 107, which is fairly rounded.

Also noticeable are new, and big, barge boards. RA107 had no barge boards, relying instead on big - and I mean huge - winglets at the top outer edges of the sidepods. RA108's eq
uivalent elements are significantly smaller.

Now, aside from the fact that this continues a trend many F1 fans have noticed - 2008 F1 cars sure are ugly - it's difficult to see where Honda is trying to make up speed.

The car's new, yes. But it seems like the same people designed with the same ideas. We can hope, I suppose, that the newly sorted out wind tunnel has simply allowed Honda to follow their design ideas though to their true conclusions.

Nevertheless, fans (Myself included) are worried by a distinct impression that the car looks like something of a step back, even from the still laughably poor end of year RA107. Oh, how it was bad...Better than godawful is still bad my friends.

The news that new parts are due tomorrow, and the fact that the real launch of the car is next week (This test serves mainly as the last component of the development testing. That said, only Honda seem to drive the car publicly before the launch.) provides the possibility that Honda is running without some final pieces.

Notably, fans are worried by the highly conventional front wing. It has been likened to a 2003-era car. This is one place Honda may be ch
oosing to run an interim part ahead of some final revisions to a more radical design.

There is some good news. There is evidence that the Honda is on a similar design mentality to the McLaren (Though with noticeably fewer irregular and ugly kinks and corners), which is extremely quick.

If Honda is set to replace certain elements, we can hopefully breathe a sigh of relief. If not, we have some concerns. Rubens was the last of the 2008 runners, 2.5s off the slowest pace of the big 4 teams. We
can hope this was more related to the development work than lack of pace, but it's not exactly morale-lifting.

After all, last season's dismal performance was preceded by equally disappointing times.

Jenson will be on track tomorrow and we'll see what times he does. If he's slow too, we can only hope that there's a better reason than "it's another piece of crap from Honda". The car doesn't look quick,
nor is it as pretty as the Ferrari or last year's Honda.

I'm worried that the RA108's a dud, built on the platform of a dud as the platform for another dud (The RA109). And how much longer can we endure crap to get back to good stuff. 2007 was a terrible time to follow Honda
Racing F1. We endured it for the promise of 2008.

Now if 2008 sucks, there's only so much will to follow through to 2009. And Honda needs to worry that Jenson Button might be thinking along similar lines. He wants to be fighting for the championship in 2009. Can Ross Brawn really do it? He's great, but if Honda continue to show no sign of technical ability, what can he do?

Incidentally, what made Honda move away from the solid platform of the classic 006-RA106 series (Right, in it's final incarnation)?

Here's hoping for a change.

Jens with a J, signing off.

18 January 2008

iPod touch January Software Update Petition

Hey guys,

Further to my previous coverage of the iPod touch January Software Update (AKA App Pack) debacle, I have signed the petition to get the iPod touch January Software Update to be made free.

Charging for add-ons is fine. I have no problem with that. But new users are getting this stuff free because they waited a month longer than me to give Apple their money. That's not right.

Those of us who got iPod touches as soon as we could deserve some love. And Apple has bitch-slapped us.

All this shenanigans has prevented me from updating iTunes. Let me explain how weird that is: I always have the latest iTunes release. Always. Every time it comes out I get the first second I can.

But I have been made aware that iPod touch owners who have not yet bought the January Software Update will be bugged to do so every time they try to sync their iPod touch. Every. Damn. Time.

And since, as we've discussed, I have no intention of giving Apple money for the JSU, that splash screen (Reportedly the entire iTunes content area - everything but the sidebar and the controls) is going to be bugging me for a long time.

So sign the petition. We have to let Apple know:

This will not stand.

And I thought they'd learn their lesson from iPhone's price cut. What's next? Are they going to offer the 64GB Flash Drive in the MacBook Air for just a £100 on MacBook Airs bought in March and onwards?

Thanks to TUAW

15 January 2008

iPod touch Users: Boycott the App Pack

Attention all iPod touch users:


That's right, the guy buying a MacBook Air is telling you not to give Apple money. But why you ask? Well, iPod touch's version of OS X Mobile 1.1.3 lacks 3 things included in iPhone's version (I must point out, by the way, they run the same binaries). To get these features which are free for iPhone users and new iPod touch buyers, we must buy the £12.99 App Pack when we may not even want any or all of the Apps.

Those 3 Features are:

1) Home Screen rearranging. iPod touch needs this far more than iPhone. We have that ghastly missing icon. We should be able to move the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store into that gap at the very least.

2) Web Clips. Again, we should be allowed to use these to fill up our barren Home Screen and also to make browsing to WebApps easier and faster.

3) Lyrics. My iPod nano 2 supports lyrics for pete's sake.

Until at least these 3 things are free, buying the App Pack is telling Apple they can screw ipod touch's existing users for whatever money they want.

If you own an iPod touch, join the boycott. Spread the word. The more users refuse to pay the more likely it is Apple will stop pulling this kinda stunt.

I will repeat as I can't stress it enough:

Spread the word. Boycott the App Pack.

Update: And if you're so inclined, sign the petition to get Apple to Make the App Pack Free

There's Something in the Air: A Tale of Two Apples

It was the best of times it was the worst of times.

January 15th. The Moscone Centre in San Francisco. Steve Jobs delivers the
MacWorld keynote address 200 days after iPhone went on sale.

And commits one of the most horrendously offensive two-fingered salutes to early adopters in history. Second only to the infamous iPhone price cut. But this act was not against iPhone users.

No, it was against uses of iPhone's little brother. iPod Touch. Apple unveiled OS X Mobile 1.1.3, announcing it as a free upgrade for iPhone users. For them it adds Web Clips, customisable home screens, Lyrics and more. For iPod Touch it adds these things as well as Notes, Weather, Stocks, Mail and Maps. Apps
included on iPhone, but dropped for iPod Touch.

What's the problem? They want existing users to pay $20 or £12.99 for the privilege. New buyers get the new software free.

That's not cool Apple. Not fucking cool. I'd just about let you away with charging for the apps, but charging for the 1.1.3? That's low. Very fucking low.

Don't expect a penny out of me for it.

And at that same conference, Steve Jobs look the wraps off the (Unfortunately named) MacBook Air.

Despite it's craptastic name, MacBook Air is quite simply amazing. It's thin and light. It has a MultiTouch trackpad. It looks gorgeous.

It's a little pricey. It must be said. But it's awesome. More details are here, but don't think the MacBook Ar excuses the iPod Touch 1.1.3 bullshit Apple. It doesn't.

I'll get a MacBook Air, and I'm sure I'll love it. I will not pay money for an update to add features others get free because they waited and which should have been there from day one.

It was a shit announcement, it was a great announcement.

It was Apple before releasing a product, it was Apple after releasing a product.

It was consumer electronics Apple, it was Apple Computer Inc.

Jens Out

14 January 2008

"Something in the air. A storm is coming."

Apple has unveiled their traditional Keynote tagline, along the lines of "The Beat goes on" or "The first thirty years were just the beginning". This time, "There's something in the air". I can only assume they're not referring to Apple's sky-high sales and share price (Those those will, no doubt, get a mention), but what do they refer to then?

It's a matter of some debate. Join me for a second look at what may be just around the corner at Apple.

So, there's something in the air. You know, words like those foretold the splitting of Ten and Rose...Anyway, Doctor Who geekdo
m aside, what - if anything - is Apple getting at?

A surprisingly popular theory is a featherweight slim Apple notebook with no wires - with induction charging dock even. Hmm, would the dock have to plug in though? Wouldn't that be plug-less guys? Not wireless?

Well anyway, it's a nice idea. I would suggest that induction charging is possible as a magnetically attached pad of some sort. MagSafe 2 basically...Hey! I called that! If that's on the MacBook they unveil, I called it. I claim full credit as the one who broke that.

That said, ditching USB for Wireless USB? Not cool. What about all those iPods? It's nonsense to be honest. Ditching the power p
lug in favour of MagSafe 2 may be cool, but USB and FireWire ports are kind of needed. Apple could hide them on the back behind a cover if it really wanted clean lines though.

The only problem I have with any of this, is the name. People keep calling it MacBook Air.Aside from the obvious complaint that one could levy at that (That it lacks Apple's trademark subtlety to use the suffix as the basis for a tagline), it's also a really awful name. I can't stress enough how utterly and completely shitty it is.

I mean, it's just terrible. What could possess Apple, who brought us the names iPod, Mac, AirPort, iMac, iBook, MacBook and Mighty Mouse (Yes, I do like that name. Call me crazy, but associations with ridiculous cartoons are cool) to call something "MacBook Air".

Come on guys. It's gotta be MacBook Nano. If Apple release a slim notebook called MacBook Air, I swear I will bang my head against the wall.

Awful, awful, name.

As for the more traditional MacBook Nano rumour, I've come across what is either a very unlikely leaked image or an extremely good fake.

If that is what Apple unveil on Tuesday, I will punch the air. I'll even let them away with the MacBook Air naming sin if it looks like that - making the excuse that it made me punch the air (See, there was a reason I used that turn of phrase).

I will pay up to and including £900 for that. Even £1000 if it's features are cool enough. Considering my current plans call for a £699 notebook at a discount of 10%, you can see I really like that design.

But the "something in the air" tagline hasn't just opened speculation on the new MacBook. Some people have offered other more literal interpretations, most of which seem more likely.

For example, there are suggestions that since Apple uses Airport to refer to Wi-Fi devices, Air in Apple-speak might be translated to as radio communication and/or specifically Wi-Fi.

That doesn't tell us what it has to do with Wi-Fi, but it's a start. Some suggest the likely (Wireless synchronisation of data like music ala AppleTV), others the huge and improbable (Apple are co-financing Google's 700MHz spectrum bid or are set to help roll out WiMAX coverage ahead of a WiMAX iPhone).

Nice ideas...Another slightly more worrying idea is that Apple is going to spend half the keynote talking about .Mac - life "up on the cloud", floating in the air. Microsoft Corporate Vision Babble 2006 Consumer Electronics Edition.

Please...Just, no. Make it free if you want Apple, but don't treat net services like some kind of unholy god only you understand - the way Microsoft does basically (Except, in their case, they don't understand them at all).

It's also possible that it refers to all those movies that are going to be sold/rented from iTunes flying through the air to AppleTV.

Or, it could just be a really cool tagline.

Ever think about that?

Remember the trouble attaching meaning to "The beat goes on" got us into?


Here's another idea out of left field. Many Apple fans are also Nintendo fans and vice versa (Especially since Nintendo graduated from The iPod School of design with DS Lite). This idea is a modification of the pre-existing iPod House/Mario Factory theories.

Nintendo will make games for iPod with Video, OS X For iPod and OS X Mobile (Incidentally, that middle one is what I will from this point forward refer to the Split Pane iPod Classic/Nano 3 OS as), and possibly Mac and AppleTV.

In exchange, Apple will ship a piece of software for Nintendo's Wii via the WiiWare (Wii Software in Europe) system. This will be FrontRow 2. Possibly branded as iTunes or AppleTWii or something cute like that.

I'll call it AppleTV for Wii here.

AppleTV for Wii will mirror AppleTV in features. However, instead of downloading your content, it will rely solely on streaming. So all the content on your Mac or PC can be watched, listened to our whatevered on your TV via Wii.

This is a big win for Apple as well as The Big N. Nintendo gets to monetise Mario and co on Apple's various platforms and, in exchange, gets software which essentially leapfrogs its Wii ahead of Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Sony's PS3 as a media entertainment hub. Which sucks for Microsoft and Sony since that's really their main defense against Nintendo's unstoppable onslaught with Wii.

Apple, meanwhile, gets to sell a slightly cut down version of Apple TV to less HD-oriented customers without having to build any hardware. All they do is charge a one-off software fee, say, 1200 Wii Points (If they even decide to charge) and the iTunes/AppleTV ecosystem becomes backwards compatible with non-HD TVs and draws in new customers to iTunes from those who have Wiis and want to watch movies on their TVs.

In fact, I think Apple should do that anyway. It's such an obvious idea. AppleTV adds a hard drive and support for the HD movies I expect Apple to put on iTunes, whilst AppleTV for Wii provides a cheaper way into the system
(And something of a backdoor for Apple to get customers in, ala Sony and the Blu-Ray toting PS3).

Jens Out

10 January 2008

In the Future

Well guys, since no-one seems to be reading this any more I figure it's not wasting anyone's time if I do a post about stuff I'm gonna buy and indeed stuff I have bought.

Since my PC and desk now function as my entertainment system, and I have a widescreen 1050p monitor, I decided to make use of those pixels and seriously upgrade my media centre.

Firstly, I bought a LiteOn DH 4O1S Blu-Ray Disc Reader to allow playback of the dominant consumer HD video format. It's in the system now, though I can't yet watch any Blu-Rays (More on that later).

Next, I decided to upgrade the control system. Now, I do have a wireless presenter mouse built into my desktop mouse. That method of control does work of course, but it can be tedious to mouse ball over controls from my bed.

So I got CyberLink's IR USB remote control. It works great - controls DVD(/Blu-Ray) playback, TV Centre Pro (Helpful, since the mouse and keyboards for that are jacked) and iTunes. Basically, I'm set.

Incidentally, Need for Speed Carbon (Yes, I did buy it) is great on Wii and works really well with my steering wheel shell.

For those of you wondering, my first Blu-Ray movie is The Simpsons Movie - easily one of my favourite films of all time. 2007 was a great year for movies. Bear in mind, Spider-Man 3 (Another of my all-time favourites) and other truly great films came out this year as well. Even made for TV Movies were better than expected (Yes, I do love HSM 2. So sue me.). It was also a great year for games between Mario Galaxy, Halo 3, CoD 4 and of course Portal. This year shall go down in entertainment history.

So what am I buying in the coming future? Well, first I'm going to get a Sapphire HD 2600 XT graphics card with 256MB of GDDR4 memory. Besides bumping games performance (Like making Halo 2 at least seem playable) and providing access to recent games like Unreal Tournament 3, it has HDCP. With that, I will be able to watch my Blu-Rays (My monitor is also HDCP-compliant).

Games-wise, Medal of Honor Hereos 2 is next on my list (I'm moving to renting games unless I really want them from now on, thanks to my £10.99 per month LoveFilm account which is also supplying me with additional HD content in the form of Blu-Rays). February 8th can't come soon enough.

I'm also buying an Xbox Live Vision Camera £50 set, the one which comes with a headset, 12 months of Gold and 2 Arcade games. It's outstanding value. I more interested in the Gold subscription, games and the headset to be honest, but the camera will be nice to have.

Then, a month later, I'll be grabbing Game's £209.99 Xbox 360 Arcade Bundle and putting the hard drive from my brother's Premium in it. He's buying an Elite. The Premium will go in the living room, mine will go in the upstairs TV room (My dad won a 20" HDTV at work).

So once I have that and I can play 360 just about whenever I want, you can expect my GamerScore to go up a fair bit. Possibly I could take it to above 5,000 before we leave Cambridgeshire.

I'll also grab a GameWare Play and Charge kit as I continue my ongoing fight against Double-As.

Then, in mid-June, I will make the biggest purchase I ever have. At long last, I will be buying my MacBook. So hooray for that.

Anyway, that gives you an idea of where I'm headed in the coming months. You can probably expect me to gush at length about most of those products and, indeed, I advise you to be prepared for more Blu-Ray love than anywhere else on the internet which doesn't swear allegiance to PS3.

Jens Out

07 January 2008

Bill Gates at CES

Bill put in a surprisingly good performance, lifted by an amusing video about him leaving which led to a meme for the entire keynote about new things to do with his time, to announce absolutely nothing.

Microsoft demoed new and upcoming technologies, but did not announce any new products. The only announcement made was that BT are to launch an IPTV-enabled Xbox 360 soon.

The rumours were wrong. Bill didn't care about going out with a bang.

04 January 2008

iPod Touch Kicks Ass: Scientific Proof

Apple advertises iPod Touch as having a battery which is good for 5 hours of video or 22 hours of audio only from a full charge. When I was reading reviews in the run up to Christmas, I noted that most of them ran without full battery life tests.

So I've tested Apple's 22 hour battery life claim, one which caused at least one observer to complain the iPod Touch was inadequate compared to other iPods (Nano for example) and iPhone.

I conducted the test using my 8GB iPod Touch. I disconnected it from my computer after a complete charge and starting it playing. The WiFi had been turned off in advance. It played a 73 track, 4 and 1/4 hour long playlist of mixed genres on shuffle.

The iPod was feeding the supplied earbuds at my normal listening volume. The screen was switched on and then off again a total of 13 times to check the battery indicator and to perform 3 skips.

Music stopped playing at 27 hours and 40 minutes, then the iPod shut down.

Soon, I will conduct a similar test with the WiFi antenna turned on. Either way, I have demonstrated that iPod Touch is fully capable of playing audio for almost a 1/4 of a day longer than Apple guarantees.

Good job iPod Touch!

Jens Out

CES Las Vegas 2008 Bill Gates Keynote Predictions

Next week, Bill Gates is set to give his final CES keynote. Although Bill's keynotes are generally considered to be nowhere near as entertaining as Steve's (Jobs) - notably due to how awkward a person Bill is - he usually has some pretty significant things to discuss at these things.

Furthermore, rumours have been flying around the Internets relating to games that the keynote will carry at least one major announcement relating to Xbox. Bill wants to go out with a bang and apparently that bang is going to come courtesy of the good half of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division.

If it's still called that. I haven't checked recently.

Anyway, the smart money seems to be on the Xbox 360 Ultimate. The Ultimate will offer a built-in HD-DVD drive, WiFi, a 320GB Hard Drive and Microsoft's much touted Mediaroom software for IPTV functionality. It'll offer users a dominating home media solution for a huge cost, but one which will probably compete well with Sony's comparably tepid 80GB PS3 (Which does have one slight advantage: Blu-Ray pwns HD-DVD, but more on that once my 2 still-due packages arrive).

Now that's quite impressive. Bill could retire on that. But I said he wanted to go out with a bang.

So hold on tight, here's my purely speculative idea for the real big news.

Xbox Live Silver is dead. Long live Gold.

And by that I mean that I expect Bill to announce some way of playing online free. It might be that Gold gets cheaper and moves to dedicated servers with Silver using the old user-hosted system.

Or Gold will stay the same price and offer a subsidy against IPTV services, or even bundle IPTV into the cost.

At the very least, I think Bill will say Xbox 360 Ultimate owners get free Gold. That would allow them to charge a slightly higher premium over the PS3/80GB and drive even existing 360 customers to the top model. Which would itself drive sales of Microsoft's inferior - and lousy - HD-DVD standard, rather than Sony's Blu-Ray.

And now for some less exciting predictions. Bill likes Windows, but we already decided this will be a fairly gaming-oriented keynote. So I suspect Games for Windows Live is about to go to Version 2. Obviously, it would fall under the same pricing changes listed above. But I also think Windows itself will now access live.

Windows Live will probably get an update with a Games for Windows Live Manager/Guide. This would function as a combined version of the Xbox 360 Dashboard and Xbox Guide and would likely function by putting your GamerCard in the Sidebar (As well as an obligatory Notification Area icon), the clicking of which would bring up the Guide window.

Also, I expect the Xbox 360, Windows Gallery and Zune Marketplaces are to be merged. I doubt that means you'll be able to do much more than cue downloads, but you might get to buy music on your 360.

But hey, maybe you'll finally be able to buy that Games for Windows Live version of Uno they promised.

By you, I mean me.

I want my Uno.

Jens Out

02 January 2008

Macworld 2008 Steve Jobs Keynote Predictions

On January 15th, Steve Jobs will be delivering the Macworld San Francisco keynote address. Last year, this address was used to unveil iPhone and to finish off the unleashing of Apple TV. Previously it has been used to announce iMac Core and MacBook Pro.

This year, I expect a return to Mac. Specifically, I expect Steve to make 2 major hardware announcements, 1 hardware replacement and at least one major software update. Further, I imagine there will be some less important accessories announced or upgraded.

Firstly, I expect Steve to reveal an ultra-thin notebook with a 13.3" screen using Solid State rive (SSD) technology in 32GB and 64GB versions. Expect Steve to show us how amazingly fast it boots. "I just press the power button and boom, it loads up. Press the power button again, it turns off. Press it again, boom. Back on. Isn't this incredible?". Possibly aluminum, colors unclear. Possibly iPod Nano colours, possibly iPod Classic colours.

And the other vital details:

MacBook Nano. Available that day or soon after. Expensive as hell. Cool as ice.

So next, Steve will want to eliminate the Mac Mini - needs to be the Mac Nano. So it'll probably borrow the MacBook Nano hardware and integrate it into a revised take on the Mac Mini form factor. Almost certainly thinner and using iPod design cues (Excluding chrome).

Mac Nano. Shipping February*. Same prices as Mac Mini for bumped RAM but reduced storage. Better than Mini at the very least.

Some accessory expectations: new Mighty Mouse to match latest Mac designs. Apple Cinema displays bumped to 1080p minimum with integrated iSights. And a curve ball purely off the top of my head...Updated Magsafe for all MacBook models, probably announced during the MacBook Nano bit.

Next, the Pros will get the new Intel processors and the Mac Pro will receive a facelift to bring it in line with the other Macs and a Blu-Ray drive.

And my last prediction, iTunes 8. Yes, I know I predicted it last time and was wrong. But come on, it has to come ou
t now. It's overdue!

Well, to be totally accurate, I expect it will be called iTunes '08. But whatever. Movie rentals, movie store in international iTunes Stores (E.g., UK) and TV Store in more countries. OS X Mobile apps for sale (iPhone/iPod Touch SDK stuff) Integrates Front Row 2 across Mac and Windows. Available for download that day.

Anyway, there's a few things I expect to see at Macworld this year.

*Or that's what they'll say anyway