eXeem Beta Available For Public Download

January 22nd, 2005

eXeem
The successor to Suprnova.org is finally available for download… and no trackers are necessary. Thus decentralized P2P. Check it out. There’s some 600 things shared right now, and yes, it does work. 🙂

http://www.exeem.com/download.htm

Apple iPod Shuffle & Price Per GB

January 12th, 2005

iPod Shuffle
It’s quite interesting the way Apple works. Generally, in pretty much every category in computers and consumer electronic devices with storage space, the bigger the capacity, the cheaper it generally is per gigabyte or megabyte. A quick search on Newegg shows a 40GB hard drive for $46 ($1.15/GB), while a 200GB drive is only $105 ($.52/GB). However, with Apple, the more music players they release, the more expensive it is per GB. And it’s quite dramatic, too. The original 5GB iPod was introduced in October 2001 for $399, which would be $80 per GB. Through time and increased production, a 40GB iPod (4th generation) is available for that same price now, which makes it a reasonable $10 per GB of space.

When the iPod mini was introduced, the 4GB version retails for $249, which makes the unit $62.25 per GB of storage space you get. While the mini sold like hotcakes and continues to be popular, Apple goes and introduces the iPod Shuffle, at $99 for 512MB and $149 for a 1GB version. It’s incredible that the 512MB version is an astounding $198/GB and the 1GB is $149/GB. While the mini has a LCD screen and a few things that would drive up the price per GB, the shuffle just looks like a cheap USB drive with some extra buttons on top (not that I have held one quite yet). A 1GB USB 2.0 drive can be had for $72 on Newegg. Is the Apple music interface worth the extra $79? Probably, and the market will accept the price points and the iPod Shuffle will sell like hotcakes, as does every other iPod product (save the U2 version, perhaps?).

Just goes to show that Apple can sell anything with their user interface and slick design, no? It’d be nice if the price of the new iPod products correlated with the cost per GB, like most other electronic devices. But, hey, I was right about the $149 and $99 price points, wasn’t I? It’d have been nice to get a one-line screen or whatnot, but leave it to Apple to tout the shuffle and no LCD screen as one of the biggest hit points of the iPod Shuffle. Yes, I’m available to do pricing analysis consulting for consumer electronics.

iPod Shuffle

The Apprentice Cruise

January 12th, 2005

The Apprentice
Yes, when you are a bigtime fan, and want to rub elbows with the Donald (for a bon voyage party) and some of the elite Apprentice cast (yeah, right), and you got some money to blow, why, you can book yourself for sail on the Trump World Legend ship on Carnival Cruise Lines for a trip September 26 to October 4, 2005. Hey, it only starts at $1199 per person, and I know you want to meet Raj (Mr. Bowtie) and Stacie J. (loony Subway restauranteur). Don’t miss out!

Expedia Link

How To Put Videos and DVDs Onto Your Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) For Free

December 21st, 2004

psp video
When you format a Memory Stick Duo or Pro Duo stick in your Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP), you will get a new PSP folder, with sub-folders for game, music, photos, and savedata. But nothing for videos? What’s up with that? Well, it turns out that you need to put MPEG-4 video files in their own special folder, that’s not in the PSP directory, but in the main root directory of the Memory Stick.

Just create a new folder in the root directory named MP_ROOT, and then make a folder called 100MNV01 in there. So your .MP4 files should go into P:MP_ROOT100MNV01, where P: is the drive letter of your Memory Stick. You also need a PC, as the converter software does not work with Macs. This MP_ROOT directory structure is directly cribbed from Sony’s UX/VZ Clie PDA series, which also plays MPEG-4 videos. Sony does offer up Image Converter 2.1, but they charge 1000 yen (around $10) for it. We’re going to show you how to do it for free.

First, we need to download 3GP Converter, currently in version 0.22 (2.7MB).

http://www.nurs.or.jp/~calcium/3gpp/

PSP video
Unzip the 3GPC .ZIP file into a directory of your choice, and run setup.exe. You may see a bunch of weird characters, but don’t worry, it’s set to Japanese by default. Scroll down to the bottom of the 3GP Converter Setup window and select the English radio button, select Customized: MP4, for PSP (Direct, renamed) the then press Apply. This is the setting for conversion of video files to MPEG-4 format that can be played by the PSP, and renamed so your PSP recognizes it (such as M4V31337.MP4). Unfortunately, the PSP currently won’t recognize file names such as TheUsualSuspects.MP4 or TheOCSeason2Episode4.MP4.

psp video
Now, the 3GP Converter program window is open (if not, you can double-click the 3GP_Converter.exe program to run it). Click the Select button to choose where you want your converted PSP MP4 video files to reside. We just chose C:3GP_Converter.

psp video
The program may ask you to install QuickTime Authoring before being able to convert your video files. A simple click of the Do It Now button will suffice.

psp video
The drop down box is what level quality setting you want your MP4 video to have. All outputted videos will have QVGA (320×240) resolution. You can choose from 15 or 29.97 frames per second, with 29.97 fps being a lot smoother. The third item listed in the quality settings is the video bitrate, the higher the bitrate, the better quality your video will turn out, with the highest quality being 1500kbps. The QB# settings appear to be variable bit rate (VBR) settings, where the converter will use a higher bitrate when necessary. The QB4 setting is the lowest quality VBR option, and QB10 the highest quality VBR. Next is the options for audio, choose between Mono or Stereo. The last bitrate is for your audio quality, you can choose from 32kbps (lower quality) to 128kbps (highest quality). The higher quality setting you choose, the slower it will be to convert.

psp video
Now drag whatever file you want to convert into MPEG-4 format into the blank area of the program window. Here we chose a Shark Tale trailer, originally in DivX Pro HD format, to convert with the ‘QVGA/29.97fps/1500kbps Stereo/128kbps’ setting, the highest quality setting that 3GP supports. When the program is finished converting the video into MP4 format, the program will rename the file to something like M4V04895.MP4.

psp video

psp video

psp video
Now setup the USB connection (or take out your Memory Stick Pro Duo and stick in a reader) on your PSP to copy the video files over. The correct folder name for videos is P:MP_ROOT100MNV01 (where P: is the drive letter of your PSP). Copy your .MP4 video(s) over (the .THM files that 3GP Converter creates are not necessary for playback), and then disconnect the PSP USB connection by pressing the X button.

psp video
Scroll over to Video in your PSP menu and select it by pressing the O button. It should list your converted MP4, with title, date, and length of video. Press O again and it will start playing.

psp video

psp video

psp video

psp video
There are four screen display modes, which you can choose from by pressing the triangle button. Scroll up to Screen Mode (2nd from left on the top row) and use the O button to scroll between Normal, Zoom, Full Screen, and Original modes. Normal is fine for regular 4:3 show viewing, Zoom gives you a closer view of the center of the video, Full Screen is perfect for 16:9 widescreen videos, and Original look like it displays the video in a 320×240 pixel format.

psp video

With the codec and video expertise of our favorite geek friend, Craig, we tried to get a convert a video into an MPEG-4 format with a 480×272 resolution, which is the native resolution of the PSP LCD. A 480×272 video file should be of higher quality than a stretched 320×240 pixel picture, but unfortunately, all of our attempts failed, no matter what we tried. We would always end up with Incompatible Data or Corrupted Data displayed on our PSP, though it played perfectly on a Windows box. We came up with the theory that as the PSP uses the same video format as their Clies and since it plays videos just fine, Sony didn’t want to put in the extra work involved to get native 480×272 resolution MPEG-4 support. We also guessed that any potential UMD movie titles would be shown in the full 480×272 resolution (just as games are in shown in the native screen resolution), but that Sony didn’t want to have videos from Memory Sticks (potentially copyright infringing) to be competing with the UMD discs which they would be making money from. In effect, they crippled the video playback capability from Memory Sticks. This is of course, just speculation, but this is Sony that we’re talking about here.

Using a Dell Inspiron 8600 laptop with a 2 GHz Intel Pentium M processor with 2GB of RAM, we processed a few video files for fun. It took 3GP Converter 1:40 for a 18.5MB .WMV (of the Pistons/Pacers fight) to be converted into .MP4 format, with an output file size of 19.8MB for QVGA/29.97fps/1500kbps Stereo/128kbps, the highest quality available. It took just 48 seconds when we dropped down the quality level to QVGA/15fps/216kbps Mono/32kbps, with a resulting filesize of 3.2MB. There is a noticabe difference in quality, with the lower video bitrate resulting in annoying pixilation (which we hate). If you can spare the space, definitely go for the higher quality.

We still think the holy grail of a portable video player is drag and drop support for all major video formats without any transcoding necessary. Converting video (just like converting MP3s to ATRAC in previous Sony music offerings) is just a pain and should be avoided if at all possible. This current way to put videos on the PSP is also a somewhat of a burden, as the process is more for the hacker type (and we mean hacker as in tinkerer).

Sony has released Image Converter 2.1 (available for 1000yen), which has an iTunes-like drag and drop functionality, converting videos, renaming it, and putting it in the correct directory. We have heard a few reports of the software bloating a video file on conversion (turning a 20MB file into 30MB or bigger for no reason). We have no first-hand experience yet with the Sony software, but the 3GP Converter is quite adequate in its own right, with a host of encoding quality options.

The converted videos using the QVGA/29.97fps/QB10 Stereo/64kbps mode (we assume QB10 is the highest quality variable bitrate mode, as QB4 video was loads worse) looks good in terms of video, but since the audio bitrate is half of the highest quality video’s 128kbps, you do notice the difference in audio quality, with the 64kbps audio being more hollow sounding and tinny. The filesize of the QB10 setting was 14.2MB, offering a bit of filesize saving over the 19.8MB of the 1500kbps video quality setting.

We successfully converted Windows Media Player (WMV), MPEG-1/2, DivX, and XviD formats into PSP-capable MP4. Of the various formats we tried, only a Quicktime MOV file failed to be converted by 3GP Converter.

Here’s a quick guide to convert parts of a DVD into MPEG-4. You can convert movies into MP4 format, but unfortunately, you will not be able to get a full movie to fit onto a 512MB Memory Stick unless you are willing to take a serious hit on video quality. What can work well is converting TV or anime episodes (30 minute or hour shows) from DVD, but any converting of clips 30 minutes or more will take quite a bit of time.. First, decide what part of the DVD you want converted by previewing it in a standalone player or in a Windows DVD player. Write down the corresponding chapters which contain the episode or section you want.

You will need DVD Decrypter. After installing the program and running it, we will need to set the program to IFO Mode, select Mode, then IFO Mode.

http://www.dvddecrypter.com

You will now see the Input window with VTS and PGC sections. Below that is a checklist of Chapters on the DVD. Check off the chapters you wrote down earlier and then click on Stream Processing. For simplicity, we checked the video stream, one audio stream, and one subtitle stream. Now that we have selected all that we want to rip from the DVD, click on the DVD disc to Hard Drive icon. The time for the ripping process will depend on the speed of your DVD-ROM, but in the meantime, grab Auto Gordian Knot.

http://www.free-codecs.com/download/AutoGK.htm

We will need Auto Gordian Knot (AG Knot) to convert DVD Decrypter’s VOB file into AVI format. After installing the program and some associated programs, we can load it up. In Step 1, select file input, for Input File, put in the VOB file from DVD Decrypter. For output file, choose a filename and location to place it. Select the audio track from the drop down box, and choose subtitle if need. For the output size, choose Custom Size. We got a 166MB VOB file in our 4.5 minute clip from Ali G’s Indahouse from DVD Decrypter. So to be safe, we put in a 83MB output filesize, half the size of the original VOB, just to be safe. Then we clicked Advanced Settings and changed the Fixed Width to 320, as the PSP MPEG-4 video format is 320 pixels wide. Now click the Add Job button and the Start button (below Step 4). After conversion, use the above 3GP Converter guide to convert the AVI file from AG Knot into MP4.

psp video

psp video
Auto Gordian Knot turned the 4.5 minute clip into an 43.8MB AVI file. Using 3GP Converter, we converted the AVI file into a MPEG-4 file with a filesize of 54.7MB using the highest quality setting (QVGA/29.97fps/1500kbps Stereo/128kbps). Thus, if you had a 90 minute movie, and used the the same settings we did to convert to to AVI then to MP4, you would have the whole movie in 1100MB, which, unfortunately, is larger than the largest Memory Stick Duo currently available.

Using the lowest quality video setting (QVGA/15fps/216kbps Stereo/64kbps) produced a MP4 file of just 9.6MB, meaning 90 minutes of it would fit in around 192MB. Unfortunately, we can’t stand the choppiness nor graininess. So we need to find a middle ground, the 29.97fps/768kbps mode produces a 30.2MB video (around 600MB for a 90 min movie). It’s pretty good and the lowest quality that we would accept with our discerning eyes, but still too big to fit in a whole movie onto a 512MB stick, though it would fit fine for an hour long TV episode.
So we stepped it down a notch and tried 15fps and 384kbps, the highest video bitrate for 15fps. The converted MP4 was just 15MB, which would make a 90 minute movie 300MB, and thus fit on our 512MB Sandisk Duo card. The video is expectedly a bit choppy, but it’s okay if you’re not as nitpicky about video as we are. The audio quality (64kbps) is acceptable as well.

Depending on your video tastes and Memory Stick Duo capacity, you can squeeze an excellent hour of video (at 29.97fps) into a size under 512MB, or up to two hours using 15fps. Even though the conversion program converts files to 320×240 (a 4:3 screen size format), the PSP’s screen modes can stretch that size out to a full widescreen while still looking good. We would have preferred a native 480×272 resolution support (which would have meant bigger MPEG-4 filesizes), the PSP still performs video brilliantly.

[Thanks, foomfoom for the link to the software]

Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) Review

December 20th, 2004

Sony PSP
Introduction
Ever since the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) was announced at E3 in May 2004, we have been eagerly anticipating the hottest console launch (sorry Nintendo DS) this year, even if it is only for the Japanese market right now. We were fortunate enough to get a unit to test a mere five days after the Japanese release date and have been playing with it all weekend. The Sony PSP features a large 4.3-inch 16:9 widescreen LCD TFT screen with a 480×272 resolution, button layout similar to the PlayStation with a digital control pad, an analog stick, circle, square, triangle, x, and 2 shoulder buttons, USB 2.0 connectivity (via mini-USB), a Memory Stick Pro Duo media slot, and 802.11b WiFi support. It uses Sony’s proprietary Universal Media Disc, which stores up to 1.8GB in a format reminiscent of MiniDiscs. The Japanese launch release date was December 12th and the first shipment of PSPs quickly sold out.

Sony PSP
Box
We got the Standard edition PSP, which comes with the PSP itself, a battery, an AC adapter, and a manual, along with Ridge Racers and Minna No Golf Portable. (The Value Pack adds a 32MB Memory Stick Duo, a soft carrying case, and headphones with an in-line remote.) The box does not come with a sticker seal of any sort, which we weren’t quite used to considering anything and everything comes with some sort of factory seal here in the US.

When we shook the product box, we could hear some rattling around. We weren’t too thrilled about that, since the unit did come a long ways from Japan. Luckily, when we opened the package, the PSP fits snugly into the surrounding cardboard, the rattling we heard was mostly likely the power adapter cables. We noticed a lack of any type of demo disc included with the unit. Some PSP Value Packs apparently do come with a UMD Demo Disc, but we’ve also heard from a few people that got Value Packs without any demo discs inside as well.

Sony PSP
Unit
When you first lay your hands on the PSP, you immediately notice the screen. The 4.3-inch display dominates the device, it looks like it takes up two-thirds of the real estate on the front fascia. In other words, massive. The unit feels expensive, and exudes sexiness, much like Apple’s iPods (and you know how big of a fan we are of iPods). The unit feels perfectly balanced when held with both hands. It does not feel like a $200 console (Japan MSRP for console only) at all. We’re sure Sony is losing a few hundred bucks off each unit sold as the PSP easily feels like it’s worth $400 of gadgetry (when compared to portable video and audio players and the DS). We feel Sony could have gotten away with a $300 sticker price, but in an effort to destroy Nintendo’s firm grasp of the handheld gaming market, they’ve set the price just $50 more than the Nintendo DS (which was released in both Japan and US markets just last month). It feels like an extreme bargain for two bills. The screen is immersive, drawing you in when playing videos or games and so big that you may not need your glasses to play. The black color fits well and matches the Playstation 2’s color. The dimples across the top row of the screen reminded us of carbon fiber, currently the rage in import tuner cars.

When you pay for a new console, you expect it to be perfect. Alas, ours was not. We noticed two lit pixels (always on pixels), one in the middle of the screen, about one-fourth of the way down, and one near the very right edge of the screen. So out of 130,560 pixels on the LCD screen, we got two defective ones. It’s actually not too noticeable unless you look for it and we didn’t notice until we played with the PSP in pitch black darkness.

While we could cry wolf about it and make a big fuss, we’ll just deal with it and accept it. But we can always hope that Sony will be as honorable as Nintendo when fixing units with dead pixels for their customers.

Another complaint of the PSP so far has been the ejecting UMD problem in which the user in the video appears to flex the PSP quite a bit to get it to eject spontaneously. We’re happy to report that we didn’t have such problems with any self-ejecting discs and that our PSP is built rather solidly, though we didn’t dare to twist the unit as hard as we could. We initially had some light squeaking noises when we pressed right on the directional pad, but after a weekend of use, the annoying sound has disappeared.

The PSP, with battery, Memory Stick Pro Duo, and UMD inserted, weighs 10.3 ounces, making it fine to put in a jacket pocket (with case or cover of course), but not exactly friendly in a pants pocket with its long form factor. We’ve heard of some Japanese folks wearing the PSP like a necklace (there is a strap handle at the bottom left section of the PSP), but as cool as that may make them look, we didn’t think our necks could take the strain.

Sony PSP
Unfortunately, with the fine glossy screen comes the problem of fingerprints and smudges. While we didn’t use latex gloves while handling the unit, we were very careful to try and handle it with the utmost of care. That said, there were smudges around the control buttons within seconds. It’s pretty much unavoidable to smudge the smooth front cover, so we recommend a very soft cloth to wipe off smudges and smears, but make sure the cloth doesn’t scratch up the LCD. The back of the unit is textured plastic and does not smudge. Within an hour of playing some games on the PSP and constantly wiping off smudges, there were some light scratches on the screen. We’re hoping that Sony will sell replacement PSP faceplates at a reasonable price.

The front of the PSP unit has the directional pad on the left side, and the analog thumb stick (looks like speaker mesh) below that. The analog thumb stick is quite a burden to use since it’s so far down, as there is no thumb support from the unit when you use it. It was fine to play Ridge Racers with it, but after 15 minutes, we felt as if we were getting thumbitis with a sore thumb joint. To the right of the LCD is the standard circle, square, triangle, and x buttons any Playstation junkie has become accustomed to. The left and right trigger buttons are at the top of the unit and are clear, looking a bit like jewelry. All buttons on our review unit were easy to press and click fast if necessary.

Sony PSP
The bottom edge of the PSP is raised ever so slightly, with buttons for Home, lowering and raising the volume, brightness, sound settings for various music genres, and Select and Start buttons. While Home, Select, and Start are quite easy to press since the size of the buttons are a good size, the volume and brightness and music buttons take quite a bit of effort to depress as the buttons are half the size of the other ones and further away if you use your thumbs to depress. Since you may use the volume buttons quite a bit, it’s a bit of a pain and there seems to be enough room on the left bottom side to put in larger buttons for volume. But at least the volume buttons are not essential for quick pressing during gaming. For brightness, there are three settings, from Dim to Bright to Brightest (our wording), we found Bright to be the adequate enough. When plugged into the AC outlet, there is an additional level of brightness. Since there’s still not much sun in Seattle this time of year, we were unable to test the PSP in direct sunlight.

Sony PSP
The left side of the unit has the WiFi switch, a quick flip up and the WiFi mode is set to on.

Sony PSP
At the top edge is an infrared trasmitter, a mini-USB connector and the Eject button for loading UMDs. Sony is planning an infrared remote controller for the PSP, and it looks like any future PSP add-ons will be plugged in up top, as there’s two locking holes on each side of the mini-USB port.

Sony PSP
The combined power and hold switch is on the lower right side, you can push the switch down for hold, and pushing the slider up turns it on. The button always returns to the middle after pushing it up, which we found a bit annoying. A simple On/Off/Hold switch would have been easier to handle. When you power it on, the PSP returns you to where you left off (like returning from a hibernation state in Windows XP, but without any delays at all). When you toggle hold during a game, the PSP buttons become disabled, and the game just continues. Hold is probably most useful when playing a video or a music album and you don’t want any accidental button presses to interfere.

Sony PSP
The bottom right is where the AC adapter plug goes in, which we find is quite an odd placement for it. When gaming with the power line plugged in, your right hand will feel the cord and plug. While it doesn’t interfere per se, it would have been much neater if the power port was placed on the top edge of the unit. Not a huge knock, just a slight inconvenience. The left side is where the headphones plug in. When used, the headphone plug doesn’t interfere with our movement as much as the AC adapter one because the headphones plug is on the bottom half of the PSP. Also at the bottom edge a sticker in a recessed area, with the product number and serial number in the middle. We don’t we see it lasting after a few years of months of hardcore use nor do we see the point of this sticker, as there is actually an etched serial number in the battery compartment.

USB Connectivity
In USB Mode, if you have a Memory Stick Pro Duo inserted, you can connect a mini-USB cable to the top of the PSP, and it acts like a USB drive, allowing you to access any folders or content on the Memory Stick. Windows XP immediately recognized the device as a Removable Disk after we plugged in the cable. File transfers both ways were incredibly fast thanks to the USB 2.0 support.

Sony PSP
Universal Media Discs
The Sony PSP uses a proprietary 1.8GB Universal Media Disc (UMD) format, in part an effort to thwart piracy and so they can control what gets released for their system. They are much like MiniDiscs (the actual disc just slightly smaller), but with one serious drawback, a gaping hole in the back of the plastic case (no doubt for the PSP to read in data). While we know some of you are very meticulous and careful when handling your disc-based media, we also know quite a few people that have scratched up DVDs and games. We just don’t get why Sony didn’t put a metal faceplate over the hole like they do for MiniDiscs.

UMD games are packaged in a plastic section which the UMD fits snugly into. But there is no small plastic case for UMDs (ala Gameboy carts) and one can not reasonably be expected to carry around the full game box when transporting extra games with the system. We’re sure third party UMD plastic cases will be out soon enough, but for now, you’ll have to resort to carrying the whole game box, as we don’t recommend just putting a UMD in your pocket to carry around.

The UMD drive makes a whirring noise at times when loading games or levels (but not while actually playing). It’s not too obnoxious and sort of sounds like a hard drive spinning up, but you do hear it. After living with solid state handheld games (cartridges), we had to get used to load times again. The original Playstation 1 had horrid load times for some games, but it did improve over time as programmers got to know the system. We hope the same will be true for the PSP as it took 19 seconds after selecting UMD to get to the Namco logo on Ridge Racers. During the game, it took 10 seconds to load the course after selecting all the options. For Minna No Golf, it took 25 seconds to get to the intro screen and 16 seconds to start playing from the menu. It’s tolerable but an aspect that could use some improvement.

Adult target
While kids will surely want the Sony PSP (my 4 year-old nephew asked his Daddy for one immediately after seeing it), Sony is targeting the more mature audience. We don’t see younger kids handling the UMDs with the open area well and we can just picture screen scratches within a day after little Jimmy has their hands on one. As a friend pointed out, this system is perfect for the Japanese audience, a country where they are known for cleanliness, neatness, and taking care of their electronics well. That, sadly, can not be said for the American audience (in general), we are just more rough with our gear. It will be interesting to see if Sony changes the PSP at all for the American audience and we’re thinking the USA warranty should be at least a year. This may be an item where you will actually want to purchase the extended warranty program from a store.

Sony PSP
First bootup
At first bootup, we were greeted with a language option, between Japanese and English. Next you can give your PSP a nickname (for network play) via cellphone type text entry (press 2 three times for the letter C, etc). Seeing how the PSP has plenty of room for a keyboard layout on the screen, we would have much preferred that. The Japanese are used to the phone keypad text entry system, so I’m sure it’s not a big deal to them, but for the US release, we hope they change it. Another annoying interface aspect was when we entered our IP address for the PSP. We had to scroll up and down through 256 numbers (0 to 255), rather than manually entering numerals. It’s not very fun to scroll for 16 sets of numbers.

After setting it to English, the menus are pretty self-explanatory, the main options are Settings, Photo, Music, Video, and Game. Some of the options may not be available if you don’t have a Memory Stick Pro Duo inserted.

Japanese differences
As was the case with Japanese version Playstation 1 and 2’s, the button you choose to select what you want is the Circle button, and not the X button (like in the US versions). The X button thus becomes the back or cancel option. When you’re used to using X to select everything, there will be times you forget and accidentally hit the wrong button. The manual is in Japanese, not that we needed it at all for anything. Other than those two things, the PSP itself is very English-speaker friendly.

Battery Life
The PSP is powered by a 100-240V (5A) universal power adapter, which means you can use it anywhere in the world practically. Your PSP is ready to travel the world with you. There have been reports of a weak two hours of battery life when playing complex 3D games. We fully charged up our PSP battery and popped in Ridge Racers for nonstop gaming. We set the brightness to the middle level and set the volume to 15 button presses from 0 (the max volume is 30). That level of brightness and volume we feel is adequate for the average gamer during gameplay. With no breaks in between, we played non-stop for 3 hours and 35 minutes. We also tried another Ridge Racers test, playing one game, then letting the system run through the replay in an infinite loop. That test also resulted in a playtime of 3 hours and 31 minutes.

While not superb, we feel 3.5 hours is acceptable and you can always buy a spare battery (~$45) if you need it. Cheaper third party batteries will show up sooner or later as well. We had really hoped the PSP could be charged via mini-USB (just like the DS can be charged by USB), but unfortunately Sony did not include that support. But to be fair, our mini-USB cable was not able to charge our Motorola RAZR V3 cell phone either, though the phone is supposedly capable of doing so. So it may be that we have a bunk USB cable. If anyone has gotten their PSP to charge via USB, let us know. We’d also like to see a cigarette lighter power adapter for long road trips.

After 3.5 hours of nonstop gaming, the unit is just barely warm to the touch. I ejected the UMD and the disc felt just the tiniest bit warm too. So hopefully that’s a sign of no overheating problems (which plagued the first-generation Sony Playstations, anyone remember turning it upside down to alleviate the problem?).

Sony PSP
Memory Stick Pro Duo
The Sony PSP alone will make the Memory Stick Duo (Pro Duo) a viable format, as the PSP does not take any of the older Memory Stick formats nor the Memory Stick Pro. It only takes the tiny Duo flash memory card, which is about 85% of the size of a Secure Digital (SD) card. We believe the highest current available size is 512MB, retailing for $130 at stores (or about $85 shipped on eBay) as we have not seen the 1GB version in stock anywhere. You will need a Memory Stick to save your game states and if you want to play MP3s or videos on it. The Ridge Racers save game takes about 700kb and Minna No Golf Portable needs about 769kb.

After formatting your Memory Stick Pro Duo in the PSP, you get a PSP directory, and GAME, MUSIC, PHOTO, SAVEDATA folders within that. The game folder will eventually house downloadable games or demos from the Internet, music is for your MP3s, photo for your JPGs, and savedata for your saved games. Video files need to go in a different folder which we will get into later this week.

Sony PSP
Photos
For photo viewing, GIF, BMP, and PNG files aren’t supported by the PSP, but standard JPG ones are. When you have a full-sized 4 or 5 megapixel JPG file, the PSP takes a bit of time for it to load, about 3 seconds for a 1.8MB JPG file. It automatically crops the photo (most photos are in the 4:3 format), leaving white space on the sides of the picture when it is displayed (see above).

Sony PSP

Sony PSP
For photos that you have cropped or Photoshopped to the PSP’s native 480×272 resolution (say hi to my Yorkshire terrier, Yoda), the picture loads immediately and looks sharp with excellent detail. You can get file information (filename and file date), do a slideshow, or zoom in to certain parts of the picture. The photo gallery works much like Windows Explorer, showing a thumbnail of the picture, the filename, and date. You can also create folders within the PSPPhoto directory in Windows Explorer to organize your photos. In the Photo section, when you press the Triangle button, you can delete folders or pictures, or get more information about a picture, including its full resolution and which camera took the shot by accessing the EXIF information within the JPG file itself.

Music playing
The biggest knock on Sony in the past has been their insistence of using the ATRAC format, forcing you to convert your beloved MP3s to their proprietary format before their players could play it. They have finally listened to their users and done away with ATRAC only with native MP3 support in the PSP. Just drop files into your PSP/Music folder and your PSP can play them directly. The speakers are at the bottom of the unit, and the two little holes on the bottom produce good sound. We played a variety of MP3s just fine including variable bit rate ones, but we’re sorry to report that we didn’t have any ATRAC files to test out.

Video playing
Videos look amazing on the widescreen. The picture is sharp and detailed and colors are vibrant. While it’s fine to hold when playing games or watching short clips, it gets a bit tiresome if you are watching an hour long or longer show to just hold in your hands (rest assured however, as Sony will be putting out a stand for the PSP).

Sony PSP

Sony PSP
WiFi setup
The 802.11b WiFi support in the PSP is easy to setup. Just name your connection (Home, Work, etc), put in the SSID access point name, a WEP key if any, and then setup IP and DNS addresses (or choose automatic if using DHCP). There’s a network test when you are done, telling you your current signal strength and whether your Internet connection succeeded or not. Taking a page from Microsoft, you can also update the PSP OS via a Network Update, but as our PSP is less than a week old, there were no updates available. Our tech geekiness led us to try to update the system (it’s less than a week old) before even playing games. Our system already had the latest version, as there were no updates from Sony.

PSP in public
No one noticed, not that we expected anyone to, when we whipped out the PSP to wait in line at the post office (for a lousy 30 minutes!) to mail a package they screwed up on. But we were surprised when we started playing while standing in line at Best Buy (to get a Sandisk 512MB Memory Stick Pro Duo for a whopping $130) and got no attention, though we were only in line for about 10 minutes. The checkout droids didn’t say anything either.

But when we took the PSP to the mall for a little tour (just outside a game shop), it was a different story. Within a few minutes, kids (looked to be 10 to 12) were asking about it, namely where we got ours from and how much. Kids these days must be on a different allowance scale than what we got as kids, because when we said it would be just $200 come March or so, they were all over it and were sure that they’d get one. Within 10 minutes, we had gathered a small crowd of ten, all drooling over the gorgeous screen. The PSP is also a watch-while-I-play kind of system. Whereas with the Nintendo DS, anyone looking over your shoulder may have a hard time to see what’s going on, the people that were looking over our shoulders at the mall didn’t have any problem seeing what was going on. We didn’t stay too long, fearing a mob scene as people were soon calling their friends over.

Sony PSP
Versus Nintendo DS
The bulky Nintendo DS feels and looks like a child’s toy from the 1980s, but the PSP feels like a well-designed slick handheld. The PSP feels just a slight bit heavier, but it’s easy to hold with one hand, where we feel the DS isn’t. Currently, the DS easily has more games, since it has that backwards support for Gameboy Advance and Gameboy titles. The DS weighs exactly 10 ounces with the thumb strap, battery, and DS game inserted (10.4 ounces if you add in a GBA cart), just slightly less than the PSP’s 10.3 ounces. But two 3-inch screens does not beat one 4.3-inch one, at least in this case.

Ridge Racer DS

The DS also has a touchscreen on the lower LCD for more interactivity than the PSP. The PSP would make for a great PDA if it had touchscreen functionality. While Nintendo is planning to add music and video to the DS for $50, the PSP has both features already, and video just won’t be the same on a 3-inch DS screen, compared to the PSP’s 4.3-inch one. When we consider that the primary purpose of the PSP is to play games, the graphics of the PSP just blow away the Nintendo offering. The two powerful 32-bit MIPS R4000 CPUs overwhelms the Nintendo DS ARM7 and ARM9 processors. One direct comparison would be Ridge Racer DS vs Ridge Racers for the PSP, both created by Namco. The DS version has some chunky pixellated graphics and the lower touchscreen looks rather useless in terms of gameplay usage. The PSP’s Ridge Racers is Playstation 2-like, with smoother graphics and more detail in the cars. The one redeeming factor of Ridge Racer DS is that only one copy of the game is needed for up to 6-player wireless multiplayer action.

Sony PSP

Sony PSP
Versus Creative Portable Media Center
The Creative Zen Portable Media Center (PMC) is a portable media player with a 3.8-inch 4:3 screen and a 20GB hard drive, but beyond the hard drive (and perhaps 7 hour video battery life and TV output), it does not compare too favorably with the PSP. Since we do not yet have the Sony Image Converter software, it is easier to transcode video files to the PMC. But the PMC is a lot thicker and uses the 4:3 screen format, which in the current age of HDTV is going the way of the dodo bird. Interestingly enough the Sony PSP AC adapter can actually charge the PMC as well since the plug fits and both units use the same voltage power. Watching standard 4:3 size videos is okay on the PMC, but when you go to 16:9 format shows or movies, you definitely notice the annoying black bars on the PMC. In direct video comparisons, the PMC picture looks washed out (as you can tell in the pictures) and much grainier. I’m not sure why the 4:3 video on the PSP wasn’t bigger, but it’s still more clear and detailed. In the 16:9 Shark Tale trailer, I have no idea why the PMC didn’t set the video to 16:9 format, as the original source was widescreen, but again, the PSP handily wins that comparo as well.

The PMC has only one speaker (at the bottom right corner of the screen) for mono sound, whereas the PSP has two little speakers for stereo sound. The PMC has slightly better sound (even with only one speaker) and has a higher maximum volume, but when using a pair of Shure E3C earbuds to listen to some MP3s, we found audio fidelity to be great in both devices, with no noticeable quality difference.

Versus Apple iPod Photo
Apple’s iPod Photo handily beats the PSP in terms of the MP3 interface, ease of use, playlist creation, and storage space. We didn’t have an standard iPod or iPod Photo to do direct comparisons with, but we did do a listening test with an iPod mini. Again using Shure E3C earbuds, we found no discernable difference in audio quality between the PSP and the iPod mini, as both were equally superb with a variable bit rate MP3. When viewing JPGs, the 2-inch iPod Photo screen size just doesn’t bode well for viewing pictures, plus you need to use iTunes to convert any JPGs into a format the iPod Photo can read. The PSP can directly read any JPG file (and fits the JPG onto the screen) and the pictures look gorgeous on the 4.3-inch screen, but the only downside of the PSP is that you can not listen to an MP3 file while browsing photos and it doesn’t output the picture to a TV.

Is the PSP an iPod (or iPod Photo) killer? No, but iPod video killer (when and if that finally comes out)? Perhaps, but only if Memory Stick prices go down in price and storage sizes go way up. Or if Sony makes the UMD format open (we can hope, can’t we?) and more prone to piracy by letting users write to their own 1.8GB UMD discs. We’re not sure what Apple has in store in terms of a video iPod player, but they must make the screen somewhat comparable to the PSP and loads better than the iPod Photo’s 2-inch screen.

Games
Sony PSP

Sony PSP
Ridge Racers is a definitely hit, and we’ve yet to hear anyone buy the PSP without buying RR too. Just like the original Ridge Racer was a success when the Sony Playstation came out, Ridge Racers is a system seller. The intro CG looks amazing, and when you play the game, you get a sense of speed, which you need in a racing title. There were no graphic popups, but you can notice jagged edges (jaggies) if you look close enough, namely the edge of the course (the bottom of the side walls) as you are driving. It may be a little distracting to some, but we aren’t that critical to count it as a major flaw. The game itself has some intentional motion blur (we hope intentional at least) when you see the computer controlled cars turning in corners, their brake lights will blur a bit on the screen. There is some Japanese language in Ridge Racers, but overall, there’s plenty of English and one can navigate through it reasonably well without knowledge of Japanese. We had to tear the PSP unit away from our test group of gamers to even try our other game.

Sony PSP
Minna No Golf Portable (Everybody’s Golf, or Hot Shots Golf in the US) is a good golf title. The graphics are solid, but it is golf, and we didn’t find anything spectacular from the title. We do find it weird that our character runs at hyperspeed immediately after striking the ball, and waits at the spot for the next swing, even as the ball is rolling to that point. You can put topspin or underspin on the ball, and you can also hook and slice the ball around trees. It uses the familiar old three click method for the golf swing, click once to start your swing, once to set the power, and once for accuracy. It’s the same method that’s been used since Links for PC has been around. The menus are heavily in Japanese, and while we were able to start a game by pressing the Circle button a few times, we had no idea what we chose. There may be guides or FAQs at GameFAQs by the time you read this.

Sony PSP
Conclusion
The Sony PSP is a great handheld gaming console, one that is as revolutionary as the original Nintendo Gameboy was, not only because it’s basically a handheld Playstation 2 with powerful graphics, but because of all the other value-added features it comes with, namely the photo viewer, the audio player, and video player. It’s an excellent value for $200 retail. There is no handheld gaming competitor that comes close to it right now, and it delves into other specialized market segments (portable audio and music players) and holds its own, save for its low storage space. The most amazing thing about the PSP is the large 4.3-inch screen, which is simply amazing to see in person. Sony didn’t half-ass the extra features and the PSP does each very well. The photo viewer is superb and sharp and the audio player can play MP3s very well, on par with an iPod mini at least from our testing. The videos when played back from Memory Sticks are superb, there’s no doubt that movies on UMD will look just as great on the wide screen.

Now may be the time to put in your pre-orders for the February or March 2005 US PSP launch, that is if you can resist importing a system (around $500+ right now, check our PSP price watch). We really hope Sony holds to their word of no region coding on PSP games (we don’t mind so much if UMD movies are region encoded), because we’d rather not have to rip apart our PSP to install a region-free modchip (which will surely come if there is region coding for games). You will pay a bit of a premium for a PSP now unless you know someone in Japan that can get you one. The question of worth is of course dependant on what your income level is and how much you value having the latest system. We think it’s easily worth at least $300, and an instant buy at $200 retail. But, the current prices of $500-600 are a bit extreme for all but the hardcore gamer with cash to burn.

Dead or lit pixels will continue to be an issue for any PSP buyer (as it is for LCD monitors) and it’s the only main gripe of our system. We’re more forgiving than most and tolerating the slow load times as it is the first generation software, but we do want to see that get better. We advise getting another battery if you plan on playing more than four hours a day away from an AC outlet. We do wish that it could be charged via USB and that text input in the Sony operating system menus were easier. It’d be nice to see a demo disc included and an Internet browser within the OS, seeing how easy the WiFi was to setup and get working. Greater Memory Stick Pro Duo storage sizes at more affordable rates should come as the system matures, as the PSP would an amazing powerhouse with 4GB of storage. Sony has raised the bar for not only a handheld gaming device, but for all handheld gadget devices.

A special thanks goes out to Siu-Wai Ho of Kicks Hobby in Seattle, WA for providing the Sony Playstation Portable unit to us a mere 5 days after it’s Japanese release. Thanks bud!

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

Sony PSP

FCC Lays Off Satellite Radio

December 15th, 2004

Howard Stern

Man, what will Howard Stern talk about all day on his show on Sirius satellite radio, now that the FCC has said they won’t muck up the satellite airwaves since it is a pay service and thus, not under their control. Who’s his next target going to be? More Bush bashing? It’s either going to be real interesting or real dull come January 2006.

Howard Stern will be free to be indecent on satellite radio, the Federal Communications Commission effectively said Wednesday — a decision that should also make cable- and satellite-TV providers breathe easier, at least for now.

The FCC declined to open a proceeding on whether satellite radio is indecent, saying that it is a subscription service and that the agency has already ruled that such services “do not call into play the issue of indecency.”

http://www.broadcastingcable.com/CA488198.html

Dodgeball Bonus

December 5th, 2004

Dodgeball DVD Cover

Make sure you watch all the way through to the end of Dodgeball for a rather hilarious treat. Yes, all the way pass the credits. 😛

http://www.dodgeballmovie.com

Free Annual Credit Report

December 2nd, 2004

They apparently are legit, but their website doesn’t look all that great. So the law is you get one free credit report per year, I believe, thus here’s the place to do it. A great way to check your credit before getting a mortgage or other loan. Nothing worse than not knowing you have bad credit and then trying to get money from an institution.

AnnualCreditReport.com

Motorola RAZR V3 for Cingular Review

December 1st, 2004

Motorola RAZR V3

While Cingular may offer the MOTO RAZR V3 for $500 (with two-year contract), they do skimp a bit, as they do not include the nice aluminum case, a Motorola PhoneTools CD nor a USB sync cable, and it only comes with one Bejeweled Demo as the lone game, where retail versions of the RAZR V3 include the missing items, and come with 3 Java games. What they do offer, though, is the cheapest price on the slickest-looking phone available in the US this holiday season. They do lock the quad-band (GSM/GRPS 850/900/1800/1900 MHz) to Cingular service only, but there are stores that provide unlocking service or if you are so inclined, you can probably hack it yourself. Unlocked RAZR V3’s are going for around $650 on eBay.

Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola RAZR V3

The packaging is very weak, especially for a phone of this caliber, Motorola’s current flagship model. The phone is boxed like any other Cingular phone, there’s no wow factor at all to give the user of what they are getting. There’s not even a side shot of the phone on the box showing the RAZR slimness. I usually keep product boxes and I’ll probably keep this one, but the box is just flatout plain and boring.

Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola RAZR V3

Look Ma! No antenna!
Without question, the biggest draw of the RAZR V3 is the looks. In the incessant Cingular ads, the RAZR slices and dices away, implying razor sharpness when open. What you don’t see in the ads is that the phone is a bit wide. Yes, wide. Not obnoxiously wide, thankfully, but wider than phones that I’ve been used to, namely the Motorola T720 and a Nokia 8290, my last two cellphones. However, I found that it’s still easy to hold even while talking for 30 minutes. The lack of the antenna helps keep the RAZR V3 shapely without any annoying half inch antenna bulges sticking out.

Utilizing magnesium and aluminum has allowed Motorola to keep the RAZR a scant 3.3 ounces. The phone has a solid feel, with no creaking or cheap plastic feeling during normal use. It is easy to flip open or close with one hand, I prefer to open it up with my middle finger of my left hand as it is less stress than bending my thumb in an odd way to open the phone. One handed operation is important to me, as I am often doing several things at once and I try to be as efficient as possible.

I left the phone out in the living room, and it gets quite cold rather fast, no doubt due to the aluminum housing. There have been reports of the phone getting pretty hot sitting out in the sun as well, but as this isn’t sunny season right now in Seattle, I have yet to test this out.

The mini-USB port also jets out just a bit on the back of the phone, ruining the smooth design in the back. I’m surprised they didn’t position the port just up a bit and further down, as that would have made the design on the back more symmetrical.

Motorola RAZR V3

Screens
The main screen is absolutely gorgeous, a 176×220 pixel TFT LCD screen with 262k colors. It’s a beauty and there’s three skins included to choose from (Moto, Scarlet, and Silver) of which I’m partial to Silver. It’s the most ‘business’ like color and isn’t overly colorful like the others. The front cover LCD looks good and also doubles as the self-portrait LCD (no look at the silver reflection here) after you turn on the camera and close the lid. Look, there’s Yoda, my Yorkshire Terrier, posing for my wallpaper.

The startup time is quite lengthy, I timed 32 seconds from when I pressed On to when I got to my default page with my custom wallpaper. That seems unnecessarily long, so I’ll just turn the ringer off where cellphones aren’t welcome rather than turn it off.

Motorola RAZR V3

Buttons
The keypad buttons have a tactile feel to them, I’ve found them to have a slight sticky feel to them even after cleaning. While the buttons are flat and do not stick up from the keypad, you can push them in and get a good responsive feel. I found the buttons on the top lid (on the side of the phone) to be a bit of a reach, as you have to move your thumb quite a bit to press those buttons on the left. The top left button on the lid is for Voice Records, the button below that is for Volume (up and down). The button on the right of the LCD is for Voice Name dialing, which is in an easy position to press. Since the keypad lights up blue, it’s easy to dial and use the phone at night or in the dark.

Menus
When you flip open the phone, the Camera and AOL Instant Messenger are default options which are prominently displayed and selectable by two of the three top buttons. The usual navigational icons (up, down, left, right functions) are hidden by default, but if you press any of them, the selected option will appear. All of the default menu options can be changed in the Personalize section of the phone.

Motorola RAZR V3

Cingular Branding
I find the Cingular branding to be obnoxious. There’s the cingular logo (at least it’s in white and not over the top) on the back of the phone, and when the phone is in use, the bright orange Cingular logo shows up on the top cover LCD until you close the phone. It’s one thing to have the LCD display the cellular network you are on, but the orange logo turns you into an easily seen walking billboard for them. I’d definitely be interested in learning how to hack the phone to remove or change this picture.

Pictures
The RAZR V3 can take VGA resolution pictures, at 640×480 resolution. There is a 4x zoom, but it’s digital and as digital zooms go, pretty awful. The pictures it takes are of a okay quality, but the camera is definitely not this phone’s strong suit. It’s there and it works, but in the age of cheap multi-megapixel cameras, the RAZR’s onboard camera isn’t that impressive. When considering that Nokia has quality 1.3 megapixel cellphone cams, it’s yet another knock on this phone’s camera. Here’s some images (resized) taken by the RAZR:

Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola RAZR V3

Call quality
Call quality was superb, very clear, especially for not having an external antenna. It’s definitely the best call quality that I have personally experienced on any cellphone, and the friends I called commented I sounded fine. One in particular said that he couldn’t tell I was calling from a cellphone, whereas before he had always complained when I called on a cell that I sounded like I had just drank a fifth of vodka because of the raspiness in my voice from bad cellphone voice quality.

I do have to note, however, that while the earpiece is very clear while talking, if you move your ear a bit and cover up the small speaker hole, it becomes very muddled and hard to hear. So you don’t want to be jostling too much while talking, or you could miss some important details.

Ringer
I left the ringer to both ring and vibrate when I get a call, and in my pants pocket, the speaker is loud enough that I notice and the vibrate buzzed me enough, much better than my previous phones. I do like the fact that I can set any MP3 as my ringer, but I haven’t decided what I want yet, though, perhaps some Britney Spears will do.

Memory
Built-in storage is only 6MB, and to top it off, there’s no memory card slot at all. So while the RAZR can play MPEG-4 videos, MP3s, and view JPGs, you’re not going to be able to store many of the space hogging videos or MP3 files on the phone. This is a glaring omission, and with some Nokias having 96MB onboard, with even more possible with a memory card, 6MB is just flat-out pathetic.

Battery
The RAZR V3 battery is rated for 7 hours talk time and 10 days of standby, during my testing (talking quite a bit, taking many pictures, Bluetooth file transfers, and playing around with menus) I found that the battery lasted about a day and a half, which is quite a bit, as this would translate to three days with my usual phone usage. I’m satisfied with the battery life, you can’t expect too much out of 680mAh battery. The back cover is a bit awkward to take off and put on, I still can’t do it smoothly. Removing the battery cover will need a fingernail, it’s a tight fit to push in the cover release button.

WAP/Internet
The WAP and Internet experience on this phone is passable, I’m not one for much WAP use at all, I just can’t stand typing without a keyboard of some sort. Since my Cingular plan is not at all geared towards data usage, I did not try to pair it up and use it as a Bluetooth data modem, which I’m not sure is even possible with this phone.

Motorola RAZR V3

Bluetooth Connectivity
I was able to successfully connect via Bluetooth to my Dell Inspiron 8600 laptop, a Dell Axim X30 Pocket PC, and a Motorola HS810 Bluetooth headset after some initial difficulty. I still think it should be easier (I spent quite a while getting them all to talk to each other), and the Motorola manual was pretty lacking when it came to Bluetooth instructions. For the record, the default passkey for the RAZR V3 is 0000 (are all Bluetooth passkeys set to 0000 as default?), which I couldn’t find anywhere in the manual. That is, I set the passkeys to 0000 on every device and it worked in my case. Bluetooth connectivity definitely should be easier to use.

Using Pocket Informer 5 on my Axim X30, I am able to send a number from my contacts list to be automatically dialed on the RAZR. Pretty neat and useful, however, due to the phone’s limitation, I was not able to use my Motorola HS810 Bluetooth headset if I wanted to use the Axim X30 to dial. I believe it’s the phone can only have one Bluetooth connection at a time, since I successfully used Bluetooth with two devices simultaneously on my laptop, sending a file from the RAZR to my laptop while syncing my Axim X30 at the same time.

Gripes
Yes, even this chic phone isn’t flawless. The front cover does not sit flush with the bottom of the phone. I’m not sure if it’s just my phone, but when closed, the cover sticks up about 1 or 2mm and isn’t smooth when running your fingers up and down. When I push the cover down as much as I can, the cover will sit flush, so it may just be my particular phone (I have yet to see the phone in person at a Cingular store). There also seems like there are some imprints on the LCD screen of the keypad graphics. I don’t think the LCD has been scratched at all, but it is something to watch out for in the long run.

Ideally, I’d like the top cover LCD to always be on so that a thumbnail of my wallpaper and the time would always be bright, but I couldn’t find anything in the options menus to do so. It would also probably be a battery drain, but it’d be nice if I could choose to have that. As it is now, the
LCD backlight turns off 10 seconds after the lid is closed. After the cover is closed, the top LCD shows the current time and wallpaper. But without the backlight on, it’s rather hard to see the top LCD without some light shining on it. In a completely dark room, there’s no way to see the time without flipping the cover open. As I use my phone quite a bit to check the time (no watches for me), I would like to easily see the time without having to fumble with it.

Also, the center Select button, in the middle of the directional arrows, is a bit hard to use, as the circle button is quite small. Using a thumb to control the navigational buttons as most would do, I found myself to accidentally press down or left instead of the center Select button. Fortunately, in almost all menus, you can choose to use the bigger top right button which is also the Select button. You could use your thumbnail to use the circular Select button, but then you may scratch the keys, which I’ve read can happen. And that’ll be one sad day if you scratch up this beauty at all.

Conclusion
Overall, I like this phone a lot. Yes, I’m a sucker for good design, but the phone functions as it should and its features work as advertised. Did I mention the phone looks cool? Do I even have to mention that? Motorola has a winner here and I’m sure that more designer fashion phones are headed our way since this phone will be a success. The only real critical aspect missing in the RAZR V3 is the lack of a memory card slot, or perhaps more onboard memory. The average fashion phone buyer may not care about memory and only about looks, but the fact is there are power users that like nice-looking phones as well, and many will be put off by the lack of memory.

The phone is definitely pricy and it isn’t for everyone, so one should definitely try to scope it out in person before purchasing. I do think it’s a bit overpriced, maybe by $100 or so, but you often do have to pay a bit more to have the absolute latest gadget as you well know.

Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola RAZR V3

Motorola RAZR V3

Another mIRC System Info Script DE2

November 29th, 2004

DE2 mIRC Script (right click Save As)

darkenginex.dll file also needed

After loading the script into mIRC, type /sys to get your system info.

More fancy than moo.dll…

It’ll show this:
OS: WinXP Professional 5.1 Service Pack 2 (Build #2600) CPU: Intel Pentium M , 2.00 GHz Video: Default Monitor on ATi ATI MOBILITY Radeon 9600 PRO TURBO (1680x1050x32bpp 60Hz) Sound: SigmaTel Audio Memory: Used: 910/2048MB Uptime: 1d 23h 28m 42s HD: [C:P1MP] 7.43/74.53 GB Connection: Intel(R) PRO/Wireless 2200BG Network Connection – Packet Scheduler Miniport @ 11.0 Mbps (Rec: 1736.76MB Sent: 452.59MB)