Still alive

I'm still around in case anybody is wondering. Sorry for the lack of updates, but things have just been so crazy busy since I got back from the UK in September.

I can't believe it's less than a week till Christmas, and how quickly it's crept up. Didn't seem so long ago I was scoffing and how ridiculous the department stores started putting up Christmas decorations in October!

  • Some of the things I've been up to in the last couple of months:
    Got a new phone - Nokia N70
  • Been to the UK (all over) , Netherlands (Amsterdam) and Germany (Berlin)
  • Been to Dubai
  • Took lots of pics but haven't sorted through them yet.. have put up a few on Flickr but there's LOADS more
  • Got a 5-week contract job with HugeObject, which was interesting and a fun office to work at.
  • Attended my first Web Standards Group meetingParticipated in my first protest rally - Walk Against Warming
  • Paid off my credit card bill racked up from my holiday
  • Bought a Macbook - white, 2.0 Ghz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM
  • Done my taxes (got a bill, not a refund this year) * Learnt how to use Subversion for version control
  • Trying to learn Ruby on Rails
  • Wanting to learn AJAX
  • Moved this site and a few others to Media Temple's (gs) Grid Server
  • Launched a few new web sites - Gemstone Brokers, DJRW, Friday Club Central
  • Been to several Christmas parties (already) So there you go. I'll be around Melbourne for the next few days, then going to the Grampians on Christmas Day for 3 days, then Warnambool overnight then back in Melbourne for New Years. Really looking forward to a break and chill out a bit. Merry Christmas everybody and to a great year ahead!

Nintendo DS Lite

I've done the video game geek thing and went out this morning to the city to be one of the first in Australia to get my grubby hands on the pristine Polar White Nintendo DS Lite.There were no block-long queues like in Japan, or the opening of an Apple Store, though. The first place I went to was EB Games in Melbourne Central, where I noticed some boys milling about in the store and I overheard them saying something about '..another hour to go', and figured they must be waiting for the DS Lites to be delivered. EB was selling for the RRP of $199, with some free plastic game cases. They did however have a 'deal' where you can get the DS Lite for $99, if you trade in your old DS, along with 2 DS games. Not that a good deal to me, considering my old DS sold on eBay for $96, and i still get to keep all my games! David Jones is having mid-year sales starting today, so next stop, DJ. $199 too, but all DS games 20% off. They have a poor selection though. I had read on some forums last night that Myer was going to sell the DS Lites at an introductory price of $188, so that was where I headed to get mine. To my surprise, it was actually cheaper than that, because they are having a 1-day sale. I ended up paying only $179.10. According to the register chick, they've been flying off the shelves, and it was only 10:30am. If you're in Australia and wanting to get one, quick, head over to Myer while they still have stock! So $179.10 - $96 = $83.10 Not too bad at all. Pat on my own back for netting such a good deal! (oops, is my kiasuism showing? :) ) As I got on the tram to head back home, I saw the same group of boys at EB Games, and some of them had bought DS Lites after all, as I suspected. My new toy is now charging up, and I'll need to pack up my old DS and ship if off to the guy who bought it.

For Sale

I've decided I'm going to get a Nintendo DS Lite which would be available in Australia tomorrow, 1st June 2006. I've listed my Nintendo DS on eBay, so if anybody is interested in getting a pre-loved NDS, go take a look. It's in good condition, with only a few scuffs and scratches.I'm also thinking of selling my GameCube, which I've not touched for a long time now. It's the black-coloured console, with a single matching black controller. I have four games, Pikmin, Animal Crossing, Super Smash Bros Melee and Super Mario Sunshine (all good games!). I'd rather sell them all together with the machine than separately. I've got 2 memory cards, one 251 and one 59 (came with Animal Crossing). Comes with power and A/V leads. The other thing is my Palm Tungsten T3. I've just been using it so little, it's spending most of the time in the cradle on my desk. I guess this is due to other gadgets meeting my needs better. My iPod plays music and videos well, and has the storage for it. The DS has better games, and makes great use of the touchscreen and mic as gaming interfaces, which not a single Palm game ever came remotely close. As for contacts and appointments, I've realised I don't really need my entire address book with me, all the time, and the subset which fits on my mobile phone is enough. Besides, the iPod also syncs both so I can still look them up obscure numbers if I need to. The T3 comes with standard accessories, a 128MB SD card, a good quality screen protector. It does however suffer from the well-reported digitiser drift flaw, which could be rectified with 3rd party apps. It's a hardware issue which even people who've sent their Palms back under warranty, repeatedly, still say it's there. It only affects the lowest part of the screen, under the area where the slider is when it's closed. I've just gotten used to it and mentally adjusted to where the taps go. I've not listed these two things on eBay yet. Make me an offer if you're interested. Otherwise I'll put them up on auction in about a week or so.

Digital TV

I've jumped onto the Digital TV bandwagon. Last week I ordered the DNTV Live! DVB-T Pro tuner card for my old (but still going strong) Shuttle SFF PC.It's said to be one of the better cards on the market, and works well with Windows XP Media Center Edition, as well as its own bundled DNTV Live! software. Installing and setting up the card was fairly painless, with all the software and drivers provided on a CD, which I promptly updated with the latest versions from their web site. Setting up the PC for a seamless media center experience, however, is a different matter. The DNTV Live! software, while comprehensive and provides access to all the features of the card, is still a bit rough around the edges, and the interface needs some work to be usable on a TV screen. The package comes with a remote control which controls DNTV Live! but that too has some strange quirks which just kills the experience and often requires going back to the keyboard and mouse to get certain things done. It's a good start but not quite robust enough for standalone media center use. The Media Center GUI in Windows XP MCE however is much better suited, and while the card works in it... some things like the EPG and remote don't work properly. I've spent the last few days reading up forums on how to get things going. The EPG in MCE doesn't have data for Aussie free-to-air digital TV channels, but there are some tools (Bladerunner Pro and OzTivo) which gets the program data from a XMLTV source and converts it to a MCE-compatible format, so I've managed to get that working. Now I can see all the program names of what's showing, and also schedule recording of programs just by choosing them in the guide listing or searching by name. The next thing is looking into re-programming the remote so that it sends the right commands to MCE instead of the default DNTV Live! key assignments. I also need to organize my media files which are distributed all over the network and get the media center PC to be able to access them and play them back through the TV and amplifier in the lounge. Obviously a DVB card would involve more to set up than a set-top box, and I already considered that before I bought it. Once I get this set-up working, it should be able to do more than just a standalone set-top box or PVR unit. My requirement would be that it just needs to be fully accessible by remote and stable enough that the Windows interface doesn't rear its ugly head.

My New iPod

Back of boxI finally bit the bullet and bought myself a new 5th generation iPod. Yes it's the 'video iPod' but I'll stick with Apple's terminology. I've had my 10GB 2nd gen iPod for just over 3 years now, having received it as a Christmas present from my dad. With each new iPod that was released since, I've been tempted but just couldn't justify getting a new one, as it has been (and still is) working fine. The well-known battery life problems had hit me, but I've opened it up and replaced it with a 3rd-party battery and it's good as new. So I held out and waited but the dang thing kept ticking along. My music library in iTunes had long exceeded the 10GB capacity and I've had to be selective about what to put on my iPod. When the new video-playing iPod late last year, I was impressed with its features. Reviews of its video playback were glowing, and it even had TV output capabilities. Instead of just carrying your music around, you could carry movies, TV shows and other video clips with you, to watch it on the iPod itself or on an external television! I was awed. No doubt there were other video-playing devices already by iRiver and Creative, but Apple gets it right with the size, form-factor and of course, the iPod's renowned GUI. One thing that is seldom mentioned elsewhere is that due to the iPod's vertical orientation, it can be effortlessly used one-handed, unlike the PSP and other landscape-oriented video players. I got my new iPod in the week before I went back to Malaysia, so I could take advantage of the Tax Refund Scheme at the airport, saving a few bucks in the process. Having read about how easily scratched this new iPod can be, I went out and bought an Agent18 VideoShield, which I think is the slickest case around. It is a completely clear hard plastic shell which still maintains the iPod's slim size while offering tough protection. Even the officer at the Tax Refund counter at the airport was asking about the case and where I got it from. The video playback is excellent, and very watchable on the iPod's screen itself, small as it may seem. I've converted some episodes of Lost and Battlestar Galactica and have been watching them while on the train or in bed. I've also taken to subscribing to a few video podcasts. Channel Frederator is excellent if you like animation and cartoons. Homestar Runner also now has a podstar.runner area with ipod-ready versions of Strong Bad Emails clips. Battery life when playing videos could have been better, but overall, I'm very happy with this new toy of mine.

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