iPhone Schmi-phone

Did a new phone get released last month ? I can’t say I saw any of the publicity what with all the fanfare and hype that surrounded the emergence of the Apple iPhone.

This caused near-hysteria and stories of lines outside various Apple and Cingular (now the new AT&T) stores.

I admit that I watched the How-To video that Apple released on what the iPhone was capable of and thought for a moment as to whether I was going to have to go to the finance committe (Mrs Ravelox) with a plea for cash.

There’s a number of things that attract me to it. In particular the style-over-substance approach that has been Apple’s trademark for quite a while. It’s a cool accessory to have. For the moment. Until the next thing comes out.

Apple claims to have revolutionised the phone. If there’s one thing that Apple does well, it’s UIs. Using the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle, they win hands down every time but what does the iPhone offer me that I don’t already have ?

For as long as I can remember, I am a hard and fast supporter of “One device, one function”. To this day, I don’t like an MP3 player in my phone. I don’t want to take pictures with my phone ( unless it’s for an insurance claim ). The only concession to this is that I purchased a Treo 680. I had a Dell Axim x50v which I used for contacts and calendaring and came to the realisation that it made little sense to carry a phone and a PDA at the same time.

I already have a 30Gb iPod. It works really well ( aside from the DRM issues ) and is smart and compact. This was an “upgrade” from a 40Gb Creative Zen Xtra that just didn’t have the accessory support any Apple product seems to have.

So the points that stop me from buying this product are:

  1. No current unlocking strategy. I’m European. I’d like to be able to use the phone if I travel back there without the hideous roaming charges. I can’t change the SIM in the iPhone like I can in the Treo.
  2. 8Gb is not enough for an MP3 collection especially if you’re going to be storing photos as well.
  3. No ability to load other applications. There is a burgeoning Palm software market based on the fact that you can do just that on Palm devices.
  4. High price point. The stories at the moment is that it costs $200+ for the hardware components. So, that’s $299 or $399 in software cost recovery ( plus any standard Apple mark-up ). Time will tell, as people use the devices, whether that investment is warranted.

As much as I’d like to have this as the fashion accessory it so obviously is, I don’t see that it trumps anything I have today.


Computer frustration

I’ve just wasted 20 minutes of my life taking my mail/DNS/CVS/DHCP server apart to work out why it wouldn’t reboot after I accidentally knocked out the power cable only to find that the reason there was no display was that I’d also knocked out the monitor cable ( must remember to screw it in properly this time ) and the motherboard will not boot until it detects a monitor.


Just thought you should know…


A minor geek moment

My multimedia lifestyle has reached another pinnacle.

I’m one of the developers on a project to provide a Linux server for the Hauppauge Media MVP and since I moved over here, I haven’t really done much on it apart from a few bug fixes. The main reason is that the MVP I bought has a SCART socket and that’s a European standard. If you want to use SCART here, you have to get adaptors that go from SCART to RGB/Composite/S-Video/Audio.

Last year, I bought a SCART to S-Video adaptor from a US supplier but I never got around to playing with it because I always forgot to buy the S-Video cable.

So, this weekend, I bit the bullet and bought a couple of S-Video cables from CompUSA. One was for the TiVo so that we didn’t have cables sticking into the front of the TV in our bedroom and the other was for the MVP.

As usual, I leapt out of the car whilst ripping the packaging off the cables before I’d even got into the house. I plugged everything in and flipped the power switch. I was expecting a blaze of light and sound the likes you’ve never seen but was greeted with a black screen.

After some minor jiggery-pokery on the PC to reinstall some stuff I’d forgotten was required, I made sure that the MVP was talking to the PC but still no picture.

With all my technical projects, I start them at around 10pm and never get to bed until about 3am after admitting defeat. This one was an exception as I decided to say “Bollocks!” and sleep on it instead.

This morning, I prised open the SCART cable to find that the US supplier had given me the cable I’d asked for but I’d asked for the wrong one. I’d got one that only had S-Video input and I needed output.

As luck would have it, I hadn’t destroyed my soldering iron from the amplifier project so, after a dash of solder, the wiring was corrected and I had picture.

Having experienced PAL vs NTSC issues with the LCD TV in the front room, I thought I’d be in for some minor reconfiguration on the MVP to output a NTSC signal ( which it can do via a menu ) but there was no need. I don’t begin to understand why but I can keep the MVP with PAL output. Result !

This afternoon, I have been mostly watching Doctor Who.

Financial Technology

Random stuff

It’s been quite a while since I last posted.

Things have been *very* busy at work with the new release of our mail software. Go to for more information. End commercial.

Rachel’s birthday fast approaches and it’s hard to believe that it’s been 8 years since she soaked the changing area at Basingstoke maternity hospital during her first nappy change 🙂

She wants karaoke stuff but, for some reason, the karaoke machine we bought her a couple of years ago doesn’t want to work here. Yes, we’ve plugged it into the step-up transformer and, thanks to my father-in-law, we got some replacement fuses but it still won’t work.

To that end, never one to pass up the opportunity to buy a new gadget, I purchased a mod-chip for our Playstation 2. I’m not sure of the legality of these things but it allows the PS2 to display correctly on our NTSC TV even if the game is supposed to be PAL and it will also allow us to play US games. I did some research and found a solution that provides a couple of clip-on enhancements (steady 🙂 ) meaning there is no soldering required. The instructions are easy to follow but it appears that Sony built the PS2 as some sort of logic puzzle. You have to undo a series of screws, take a piece out and then turn the device over and repeat. This goes on for about 9 steps. It’s a shame my application to go on the Crystal Maze came to nought as I think I’d be walking home with the gold token prize by now. The good news is that the installation went smoothly and I’m left with only 3 screws that failed to make it back into the chassis which is a world record for me.

Having shied away from doing any soldering on the PS2, I found a neat little headphone amplifier at which provides a battery powered amp that fits into an Altoids tin. My manager has one but she decided it wasn’t worth the effort to make it herself and she bought hers ready assembled. This is my first major electronics project and, I’m surprised to say, has been quite successful, i.e. it works first time. I need to iron out some kinks in the circuit but it didn’t blow up when I turned it on so that has to be a bonus.

Today, I took a day off so that we could get some of Rachel’s presents and also so that we could go into San Francisco to apply for ITINs (Individual Tax Identification Number) for everyone. Driving in SF is like driving in London, you spend a lot of time driving around in circles looking for a parking space that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg but eventually you give up and park in the first parking lot you saw when you swore blind that you weren’t going to pay that sort of money just to park for an hour.

We went into the government building and had to go through metal detectors before we could get in only to find that we needed the building across the street.

Once we got into the tax office, it was fairly sedate. We went up to the front desk and explained what we needed. The man behind the counter gave us some forms to fill in and, once we’d done that, told us that we didn’t need to do anything else other than hand the forms to H&R Block.

This means that we have to go back to H&R Block and explain that the lady I spoke to last month was not telling us the precise details. I can forsee some disagreement there but we’ll bear with it. Apparently, I can apply for an automatic 6-month extension for filing the taxes. That may come in handy before we have to pay any dues.


New Gadget

Father Christmas brought me a $50 gift card for CompUSA.

Up until now, I didn’t have anything I really wanted to buy with it. Today, I was scanning through DVD Jon’s (the guy notorious for DeCSS) blog at and was following some comments for one of his posts.

I came across a word-of-mouth recommendation for the Philips DVP642 DVD player.

As I’ve mentioned, the LCD TV that I bought from Best Buy doesn’t handle a PAL signal so the DVD players we brought over from the UK are no use to us unless we use the UK TV. This Philips DVD player is capable of outputting a PAL DVD as NTSC. Not only that, but a quick handset hack (Open/Close – 7 – 8 – 9 – OK – 0) makes the player region free. Better still, CompUSA had them on offer for $49.99.

So, I’m now watching the region 2 DVD of Minority Report on the LCD TV with my new DVD player ( did I mention it was progressive scan as well ? ).

Better still, I’ve moved the LCD back into the front room so I get to watch HDTV.

There is a God and he loves me 🙂


Isn’t modern technology wonderful ?

Today I managed to achieve something that I didn’t think was possible through MSN.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been convinced that MSN will only allow you to have one webcam session running. That assumption turned out to be wrong as I had a 3-way Skype (for audio) conversation and two simultaneous 2-way webcam conversations with my brothers in Coventry.

It was fantastic. The audio quality was great (as you would expect from Skype). The video was a little stuttering but not unbearably so. We had a couple of rounds of charades until we found out that one of my brothers was experiencing a 10-second delay.

That would explain why he was always losing the game.


Doh !

Stupid cheap $999 LCD TV doesn’t even handle a PAL signal.

We now have our UK TV running off the step-up transformer with the cable box feeding into the composite input.

On the bright side, this means that we can still watch our region 2 DVDs and I have a 27″ LCD TV in the bedroom.

Every cloud…