gordon.dewis.ca - Random musings from Gordon


Archive for the ‘Reviews’

Reality television shows

January 29, 2010 @ 18:13 By: gordon Category: General, Reviews

Reality television shows have been around for a few years. Usually (but not always) unscripted, they allow viewers to observe the lives of others as they go about their day to day routine. Some of them are completely artificial situations, such as Big Brother or Survivor, while others are based on a slightly more tangible version of reality, such as American Chopper. There are also some based on celebrity families (The Osbournes, Growing Up Gotti, Hogan Knows Best, Hammertime, and Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels) but in many cases these shows tend to show just how incredibly disfunctional these families are and consequently most are short-lived. (Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels is one of the rare exceptions to this rule.)

The latest batch of reality shows includes a number that are based on businesses, which I tend to find more interesting than the look-how-amazing-I-am-and-you’re-not reality shows that are out there.

Here’s my take on some of the reality shows that are on the air right now.


Book review: And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer

November 25, 2009 @ 23:37 By: gordon Category: General, Reviews

And Another Thing (cover)Douglas Adams was one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. Though probably best known for his five part trilogy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which exists as a radio series (produced over the span of a couple of decades), a television series, records, books and a movie, and a couple of books about Dirk Gently, he also wrote for Doctor Who and Monty Python. In addition to the fiction and comedy genres, he also wrote Last Chance to See, which looks at some of the most endangered species in the world. He also founded The Digital Village which morphed into h2g2, an online community modeled after the Guide in THHGTTG. Sadly, he died of a heart attack in 2001, while in the middle of his next book.

This is not that book.

(That book is The Salmon of Doubt, the first half of which is based on what he’d written so far and then several essays by his contemporaries.)

This book is And Another Thing… by Eoin Colfer.


Facebook 1.6 for the BlackBerry

June 08, 2009 @ 17:07 By: gordon Category: BlackBerry, Reviews

Kyle over at BlackBerry Cool posted a first impressions of Facebook 1.6 for the BlackBerry article, which was released over the weekend. Since this is an app that I use fairly regularly, I fired it up on my BlackBerry and clicked on the “check for updates” link in the options menu. It reported a new version was available and took me to the over-the-air install site.

The first thing I had to do was select the language for the install from a pulldown menu. Oddly enough, the default language was “Chinese (Simplified)”, which could be a bit of a gotcha for some people if they don’t notice it. I was surprised that the default language wasn’t the preferred language in my browser; or simply pre-selected based on the language of the existing install; or just English. The download and install was pretty straight forward, but did involve a device reset, presumably because Facebook weaves itself into the address book, messages thingy and other base applications.

Firing it up after the reset meant accepting a new EULA, which was similar to other RIM EULAs (or BBSLAs as they seem to be called). It didn’t appear to have any Facebook-specific terms in it. After accepting the EULA, I logged in with my Facebook details and it started updating my friends list, etc. Like the previous version, it’s much more integrated with the BlackBerry calendar and address book than versions in early days were.

The interface itself is “prettier” than previous versions and looks more like the web interface. There still isn’t a way to use the chat functionality of Facebook with the BlackBerry client, but that’s not a huge inconvenience as I don’t chat using Facebook that often. Still, you would think that would be fairly straightforward to implement and is a feature that is noticeably missing.

The status screen has become a bit cluttered, but that could be fixed if they removed your profile picture from the screen. (I have a BlackBerry Curve 8310, which has a lower-resolution screen than most of the BBs available today, like the BB Curve 8900, so this may not be as much of an issue on newer devices.)

One commenter on BBCool said it was slower, but I haven’t noticed that, yet. There are many factors that can affect how quickly something runs on a BB, so it could be an issue with the commenter’s BB than a general application issue. I’ll post an update if I notice that it’s slower.

My review of Aerize Card Loader 2008

March 06, 2009 @ 22:18 By: gordon Category: BlackBerry, Reviews

Though I’ve been blogging in one form or another for over ten years, I’ve just had my first article for another website published.

A couple of weeks ago a comment I made about an article on BlackBerryCool.com caught the eye of the chap who runs it. He emailed me asking if I would be interested in reviewing a BlackBerry application from their store. After a couple more exchanges I picked the Aerize Card Loader 2008 application and started to play with it.

I submitted my review this afternoon, which you can read at BlackBerryCool.com.

Google Sync for the Blackberry

June 16, 2008 @ 23:42 By: gordon Category: BlackBerry, Gadgets, Reviews

I’ve had a BlackBerry Curve since last November and like many BlackBerry users, I linked it to my Google Mail accounts.  But this didn’t give me a way to sync up my calendar with something online.

In fact, I did explore some third-party options that would let me sync a Google Calendar to an MS Office calendar and then sync the BlackBerry calendar to the MS Office calendar.  But, that was a very cumbersome way to be able to sync my BB calendar with my Google Calendar and required me to connect my BB to my computer at home, with via the USB cable or Bluetooth, not to mention I would have had to buy the thing that connected Google and MS Office.  I could have installed the BlackBerry Desktop Software to help keep to calendars synchronized from afar, but that was fraught with its own issues.

While poking around the various mobile services offered by Google a couple of days ago I came across something called Google Sync.  According to the website, Google Sync allows you to "[s]ynchronize your BlackBerry®’s built in calendar with your online Google Calendar".  Sweet!

Installation was a painless over-the-air download and configuration was fairly painless.  I had some duplicate events caused by the fact that I had the same events in both my Google Calendar and my BB calendar, but that wasn’t caused by Google Sync.  It allows you to sync multiple calendars with your BB and events created in one are synchronized with the other with minimal delay.  You can sync events up to 24 weeks in advance and specify who "wins" on a conflict (server or BB).  Synchronization can take place automatically or manually, and there’s even a counter to help you track the data volume used.

Thanks, Google! 🙂

Hands-on with the Eye-Fi

January 26, 2008 @ 12:08 By: gordon Category: Gadgets, Photography, Reviews

Eye-Fi Wireless 2GB Secure Digital Memory Card SD

Updated: I’ve added pictures.

A little while ago I wrote about coming across the Eye-Fi while surfing the ‘net.  An Eye-Fi is a nifty 2Gb SD card that has the ability to connect via WiFi to upload its pictures automatically to a variety of destinations.  Earlier this week I decided that it was time to pick one up for myself, so I visited the Eye-Fi website and perused the list of online retailers.  None of the retailers listed seemed to offer shipping to Canada, so I ordered one from Buy.com who were offering new Google Checkout users a $10 discount and had it shipped to the UPS Store just across the border in Ogdensburg.  It shipped promptly and arrived at the store yesterday.  I drove down after work on Friday and picked it up.

Upon returning home, I opened the courier bubble pack and was happy to see that it wasn’t sealed in one of those annoying plastic packages that you need a chainsaw to open, but rather simple plastic wrap.  Opening the clever sliding package, I found the orange Eye-Fi chip in a sleek USB SD card reader.  The instructions consisted of four basic steps:

  1. Plug it in and wait for Windows to identify it.  (There’s also a set of instructions for Macs.)
  2. Install the software from the chip in the reader.
  3. Configure the Eye-Fi card for your wireless network and also where you want it to send the pictures.
  4. Put the card in the camera and make sure it’s working.

The only thing I did that’s not on that list was reboot between steps 2 and 3.  I also updated both the Eye-Fi Manager software and the card’s firmware.

I configured it to send pictures to my Gallery2 site.  All it needed was my username, password and the URL to the gallery.  I took a couple of pictures and watched as they were retrieved from the camera.  The pictures ended up in an album with today’s date in the name.  Very cool!

So, basically, I can take pictures and when I get home, all I have to do is turn my camera on for a couple of minutes to allow it time to transfer the pictures.  Very very cool!

At just under $100, it’s about four-times as expensive as a conventional 2 Gb SD card, but then those cards can’t wirelessly transfer their pictures to wherever the owner wants.  Definitely worth checking out!

Read the rest of the article to see the pictures