Sunday, 14 December 2008

Playing With PlayTV

I have had a PlayTV attached to my PS3 to turn my games console into a Freeview PVR for a few months now and after wanting to write about it for months I thought I would finally get around to it.

Play TV - 1

I bought the PlayTV to replace my existing Sagem Freeview box, which was getting a bit old and using my PS3's existing hard drive the PlayTV would allow me to record TV.

Setting up the PlayTV is very simple all I needed to do was plug in my existing coaxial cable into the PlayTV and then plug that into the PS3 via one of the spare USB ports on the front, however the USB cable sticking out the front is a bit noticeable. The kit also came with a sticker to stick on my existing PS3 remote so it would label what the buttons on the remote would do with PlayTV. Once I turned my PS3 on I just popped in the supplied DVD and the software installed within a few minutes.

Once the software has installed the PlayTV shows up in the Playstation 3's XMB in between the Video and Game options. When you go into the PlayTV the menu system is easy enough to navigate and reminds me of Apple's old Front Row interface with options appearing in a circular shape.

You get a weeks worth of TV listings in the guide and as far as recording features there's nothing amazing but you record and pause live TV as well as setting up scheduled recordings.

Navigating through you recordings isn't too difficult as they are just in a list format and you can change the sort order to help you find what your looking for.

The picture quality is good and on a par with some stand alone PVRs. However the picture does freeze for a second every now and again, but this is somewhat rare.

When I first got the PlayTV I did notice a few issues such as the guide taking a few minutes to load however this seems to have been fixed in a software update.

My PS3 came with a 60GB hard drive which due to the amount of programs I recorded filled up very quickly and instead of just deleting some of the programs I had watched I choose to replace my PS3's hard drive with a larger 500GB hard drive. Replacing the hard drive wasn't too difficult after watching a few clips on YouTube on how to replace my PS3's hard drive and only took a few minutes to swap out the drives (however it took over an hour to back up my data and over another hour to restore my data on my new hard drive).

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Another Holiday Over and I’ve Achieved Nothing.

I am coming to the end of my one week holiday I took and like last time I have pretty much done nothing interesting.

I did however manage to get a few achievements on Rock Band and Scene IT? Lights, Camera, Action.

Next time I go on holiday I think I need to plan ahead and go somewhere interesting.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

iReady for iPhone but iPhone not ready for me

After months of waiting I managed to get a iPhone 3G on launch day.

I have had an iPhone for a while now so I though I would give my impressions on it. First of it's a pretty good device and I really like the fact that my contacts, email, photos, music and podcasts are all on one device. I have however had a few problems with GPS which resulted in a few big problems.

I went for the iPhone as 3G coverage in my area is pretty good and had pretty much all the features I wanted in a phone and my old phone (Nokia N73) was starting to get very buggy as it kept taking a minute or so to move from the text message screen to the home screen.

I had no real problem using my finger to navigate the screens, menus or applications. Even my stubby hands were able to use the on screen keypad after a little while I got use to it and I now almost always select the right key.

The web browsing on the device is great and probably the best thing about it. I can be anywhere and surf the net. There are a lot of good iPhone enabled websites which make reading pages and navigation very easy but for the majority of websites navigating and read them is not a problem as the zoom/pinch function allows me to zoom into a block of text and read it at whatever size I want. I am also glad that O2's tariff allow for unlimited data access (although it does have a fair use policy) which means I don't need to worry too much about data charges when surfing the net on 3G or EDGE and O2 didn't increase their tariff's to include 3G, so well done O2 and keep it up.

I use exchange for my personal email but all my contacts and calendars are stored in Address Book and iCal on my Mac. The iPhone was handle this odd arrangement without any problem so I can now send and receive emails from anywhere and I can quickly check.

The phone audio quality is decent. I would say my old Nokia N73 was slightly clearer but the iPhone's phone audio quality is fine.

Photo's look very nice and the pinch action makes zooming in and out of photo's a breeze.

I haven't watched too many YouTube videos yet but clips look really good on the iPhone.

I had a quick look around the app store and too be honest I can't really see many applications that I may want. I don't really want to use the iPhone as a gaming device so and I spent a lot on technology stuff recently so I don't have much spare cash left to pay for applications so that left me small selection of free applications. I do really like the application as it a great way to find and listen to music and the Remote app is also useful as it lets me use my iPhone as a remote control for my iTunes library and my Apple TV.

The iPod feature on the iPhone is fantastic. The audio quality (from the headphone connection) is not as good when compared to my 160GB iPod classic but it's still good. The audio quality from the iPhone's inbuilt speaker isn't too loud but this is a feature I would hard ever use. Video playback is vastly better when compared to my iPod and picture quality is very clear for a mobile device. The iPhone's accelerometer means you can watch videos in a widescreen..ish (it's not 16:9) format. The only problem I have with the iPod feature in the iPhone is that there isn't enough room on the 16GB Solid state drive to fit all my stuff. As all my music is ripped to Apple Lossless it takes up a large amount of space to store a few tracks on the iPhone. I have synced all my podcasts and several playlists to the iPhone but I still take my iPod Classic with me to work so I can listen to whatever track I want to while at my desk.

The iPhone is very prone to finger print marks all over the device and the supplied cloth is used a lot and pretty much goes where the phone goes. I was also very worried about scratching the front so I stuck on a protective cover to the front called invisibleSHIELD which after drying out isn't too noticeable and stops me from worrying about scratching the screen.

I did however have a few problems with the iPhone. The main issue I had was that the GPS was not working. It could not find my location no matter where I was. I could not get GPS to work on my iPhone and I went over a load of stuff with Apple support including turning thing off and on, resetting network settings and restoring the firmware but I still can't get it to work.

When on WiFi or Edge it did pinpoint my location but it thought I was in the sea near Canada which is strange as I was in Milton Keynes (England) at the time.

Firstly I tried several different locations near where I live. Including vast open areas such as fields and lakes (no trees or buildings blocking any view to the sky), built up city centres, outside my home in my garden and in a car on an A road.

I also tried these locations with a TomTom 520 and the TomTom spotted my location within a few seconds.

I also tried several different setting like having 3G on and off and WiFi on and off.

I tested with different firmware (if you do a restore in iTunes the version number goes up from 2.0 (5A345) to 2.0 (5A347)).

I tried resetting the network and carrier settings.

I made sure that the date/time and international settings were correct for the UK (according to Apple these need to be correct otherwise when it tries to compare times with the sats/servers and they are vastly off it won't work).

I have turned off all radios and tried and then just turned on location services.

After several calls to Apple Support and having my phone replaced, I found a strange trick on the AVForums (big thanks to AVForums and coops233) website that made it work, turning the Auto-Lock to never. I am not sure how Auto-Lock is related to GPS but turning it off testing GPS and then turning it back on worked!

Now that GPS works the Google Maps application is great. You don't get turn by turn directions but it does pinpoint where you are.

The other problem I currently have is that when I play a podcast from start to finish on the iPhone it does not register as played on iTunes and I still have not found a solution to this.

Other than the problems I had with GPS and marking podcasts as played the iPhone is a great phone.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

My Bad Luck

A few weeks after buying my USB only Drobo a newer version is released with FireWire connections.

My original plan was to hold off getting a Drobo until Data Robotics (makers of the Drobo) released a Drobo with a FireWire port but sadly I ran out of external hard drive space and went and bought one with only a USB connection.

Oh well can't complain too much as the Drobo has served me well so far.

I will... I will... Rock You

Rock Band is one of the most fun games I have ever played and tonight was the first time I managed to get 100% on a song.

I was so pleased with myself that I had to blog it so it could be marked in history as the moment I flawlessly played a pretend guitar and thought I was a rock legend!

It maybe one of the easier songs on the set list and I was only playing on medium but it won't stop me bragging about it.

Sunday, 6 July 2008


Recently I noticed my 500GB external hard drive used to store my iTunes library was filling up fast and about to run out of space soon. I looked around for a replacement external hard drive but I didn't like the idea of having to replace the new external hard drive in a few months. So instead of buying a new external hard drive I bought a Drobo and two 1TB external hard drives.

I went for the Drobo mainly because if I need to increase the disc space all I have to do is swap out a hard drive and add a new one in. It also sort of backs up my data and protects it from hard drive crashes (as long as I have more than one hard drive in there) without requiring me to do anything.

Setting the device up was a breeze. I just plugged in the hard drives I bought and then plugged the Drobo into my Mac via USB. I then just moved my iTunes library over from my external hard drive to my Drobo via iTunes and the task was complete. The transfer was so simple I decided to open up all my external hard drives and pull the drives out and put it into my Drobo to increase the space of my Drobo. I now have 4 hard drives sitting in my Drobo.

As I had so much free space i decided that I would do something I had never properly done before.... back up my computer. I setup Time Machine to back up my Mac to the Drobo and now I have my machine backed up on a regular basis without requiring much interaction by me.

As good as the Drobo is there are a few downsides. Although I have a total of 3TB worth of hard drive space plugged into the Drobo only 1.81TB of space to use as the other space is used to back up the hard drives (although this is also somewhat a positive). I previously plugged in all my external hard drives via firewire as I am a little short on space USB sockets but the Drobo can only be connected via USB, however I guess I might be able to get around this if I could be bothered to use an external USB hub. For the most part I can't really hear to much from the Drobo but there are occasions when the fan kicks in for a short period of time and it starts to make a really loud whirling noise. Also the Drobo is very expensive when you factor in the cost of a few hard drives you are easily into the few hundreds of pounds, but personally I see this as a long term purchase so over a long term it should be better value for money.

All in all I am rather happy with the Drobo as it's been running away happily for a few weeks now and the shinney black finish and green and blue lights make it look cooler than the average external hard drive.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Fantastic MacBook Repair Service

At the beginning of April I noticed that I could not remove my battery from my MacBook. I called Apple and got an appointment at the new Apple Store in Milton Keynes to have a look at my MacBook. The guys at the Genius Bar looked over my MacBook and managed to remove the battery but they said the latch to hold the battery in place was stuck and needed repair and they quoted a 5-7 day repair time.

After 5-7 days went by I got a call from the Apple Store saying the part had been replaced but the part they replaced it with also had an issue so they had to reorder the part and it would take another 5-7 days. Again 5-7 days went by and they called and said the part had not come in and it hopefully would be another day.

About 2 days went by got a call saying the part was taking too long and instead of waiting they would give me a new MacBook!

Anyway I now have a brand new MacBook (they took a new one out of the box and transferred my data across). I now have a newer MacBook with a better spec (I had the old 2.0 C2D now have a 2.4 C2D)

Top result! I have worked in electrical and PC retail and know that repairs can take some time and sometimes things go wrong so I was understanding about the delay but I was not expecting them to say it's taking too long so here's a new one. Thanks Apple Store MK.