MMNTech's 2010 Holiday Guide

By Mike on 7:44 am

comments (0)

Filed Under:

It's that time of year again. The snow starts to fall. The days get shorter, the weather gets cooler, and the malls go berserk. Yes, Christmastime is hectic. Don't go blowing your brains out from shopping overload. MMNTech is here to help you find the perfect gift for your techie loved ones, no matter what their geek genre of choice. Well, you've got one week left. What are you waiting for?!

For the Musician:

Whether they like to play or listen, there's tons of gifts out there for music fanboys. The iPod Classic is a good choice for your favourite casual audiophile. Its massive 120gb hard drive can hold a whopping 6,720min worth of raw, CD quality audio. Sells for $249.

For the musician, buying gifts can be difficult. Everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to type and brand of instrument. Gift cards to Long & McQuade, Canada's largest musical instrument retailer, are a great idea. They come in denominations from $10 to $100.

For the Car Guy:

Even if they're just a casual car guy, you can't go wrong with an OBD-II scanner. It plugs into their car's computer to give information and diagnose problems. The Innova OBD-II Code Reader at Canadian Tire retails for $199.99.

For the Gadget Geek:

Gadgets are expensive, but Apple's iPod Touch 4th generation is reasonable at $229. It plays games, shows movies, takes photos, surfs the web, shoots HD video, and has built in webcam chat. It's Swiss Army knife of gadgets that will make any geek drool.

For the Movie Buff:

Does your movie buff love old movies? Why not take them way back to the beginning of the celluloid age. The Metropolitan Museum of Art's fantastic feature, Edison: The Invention of the Movies (1891 to 1918) will surely inspire every filmmaker on your list. The DVD set isn't cheap at $91.99 at Amazon, but it's well worth it.

For the Gamer:

Tons of ideas here. Why not start them off to a one year gold subscription to Xbox Live or Playstation Network Plus. If they're on a PC, Valve's Steam service allows you to gift games, allowing them to download them right to their computer.

If you're looking for something new, check out Microsoft Kinect ($149.99) and the Playstation Move ($99.99) for the Xbox 360 and PS3 respectively.

For the Computer Nerd:

PC builders are a fickle crowed. Like musicians, they have their own preferences. Gift cards to Canada Computers, NCIX, or Newegg are a great start. A Microsoft Technet subscription will please almost any programmer.

For the Videophile:

You obviously don't want to blow a grand on gifts, and the videophile is going to want the best of the best. For something a little more reasonable, consider the Slingbox. For $199.99, they can watch all their video content including live TV anywhere over the internet or local network.

If they're more into making their own videos, why not pick them up a good editing program. If they're on a Mac and still using iMovie, grab them a copy of Final Cut Express to give their videos that true professional edge. It's also $199. For PC filmmakers, Sony Vegas Platinum HD is a good alternative for just $95.

For the Photographer:

Like all picky hobbiests, Photographers are hard to buy for. They have their own preferences and won't want cheap gear. Gift cards to Vistek or Henry's Camera should start you off. More camera memory is also a good choice. Bags, coffee table photo books and photographer vests are more ideas to considered. Prices vary.

For the Book Worm:

Digital eBook readers like The Amazon Kindle, are very popular right now. Access to thousands of books, newspapers, and magazines for purchase. All available digitally and wirelessly without additional costs. The Kindle is also cheaper than ever too, starting at just $139 for the Wifi version.

For the News Junkie:

If they've got one of Apple's iOS devices, a subscription to PressDisplay combined with the PressReader app is a great choice. Unlimited access to thousands of newspapers around the globe for $30/month.

iPad USB neutering story is utterly stupid bull

By Mike on 10:08 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Apple loves to mess with their products after launch. Usually for the worse. Hey, it's not a bug, it's a feature! That's what makes the recent story about iPad USB woes so believable. 9 to 5 Mac is reporting that iOS 4.2 blocks certain USB devices from being used with the iPad's camera kit. They claim this includes everything from certain cameras, keyboards, and microphones. The story has started making the rounds, with even Engadget reporting it as true.

Here at MMNTech, we never take tech rumours at face value. I tried two things on the list. Both my wireless RF keyboard and headset worked as before. The beef of the story seems to be a drop in power output from the dock connector. 9 to 5 Mac claims it was reduced from 100mA to just 20mA. The RF receiver for my keyboard is rated at 55mA, so that dispels this myth. The claim seem to stem from people who are trying to use plugging ridiculously power hungry USB devices. I wouldn't expect my Blue Snowball microphone to work with my iPad, though apparently one commenter did.

Well, someone is...

The keyboard hack has always been a little temperamental. Still, the dock connector uses a basic USB standard packaged in a proprietary plug. If they killed third party keyboard support with the camera kit, it's unlikely their own keyboard would work. That along with a whole host of other official devices that use the dock connector. Basically, any device that worked before should work now as long as it's rated below 100mA.

Source: 9 to 5 Mac
Image courtesy of Gotronics

Delightfully impractical tech: Steam powered turntable

By Mike on 10:37 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

When Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, it ran on clockwork. I guess no Victorians thought to put a steam engine on it. There's probably a good reason for that, as this streampunk turntable demonstrates. Aside from the kettle whistle of its engine, it does play a delightfully out-of-pitch rendition of the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen".





Despite being totally pointless and irreverent, it still looks cool. The turntable does have a battery operated electronic pickup inside. Now all it needs is a governor to get it to a stable and ear friendly 33 1/3.

Source: Asciimation via Gizmodo

Review: Playstation 3 Slim Move Bundle

By Mike on 7:18 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

It happens to everyone. You go to turn on your aging PS3, and nothing happens. So you can't get your game on. There's no need to be ashamed. Like the Xbox 360 and your neighbour's kids, the original PS3s start to misbehave after two years. Sony introduced the PS3 Slim to solve the problem. The system has certainly lost weight, but does it still have it where it where it counts?

The Slim is about half the size of the "fat" PS3s. Sony overhauled the interior to use smaller and more energy efficient parts. It runs a lot cooler and uses half the electricity of the launch models. It sips just 85W while gaming, which is the same as most high end laptops. This is thanks to Sony's use of smaller transistors for the Cell processor and RSX graphics chip.

The Slim looks more like a pizza box than a George Foreman Grill

It's significantly quieter too. The older consoles ran like a hair dryer. The Slim's new fan can barely be heard. The system runs cool to the touch. The silent operation will make film buffs happy. The rest of us will appreciate a longer lasting console. Heat is the number one enemy of electronics. The less the better. Overheating is what causes most PS3s to die an early death.

Feature wise, the Slim is identical to the old 40GB. Sony has moved away form the holistic media approach of the original PS3. Yes, PS2 support is still gone, along with SACD playback and the card reader. They have thrown us a bone. The Slim can bitstream high definition audio over HDMI. Perfect if you have a good AV receiver. Like all PS3s, the Slim also now supports Netflix streaming and 3DTV.

The Slim's motherboard (right) is significantly less complex than the old Fats
Image courtesy of Thesixthaxis.com


The Slim comes in several bundles. The base model sells for $299.99 and comes with a 160GB hard drive. It comes with just the system and a single controller. For $100 more, you get a 320GB hard drive and the Playstation Move.

The Move bundle comes with the motion controller, the Playstation Eye camera, and Sports Champions game, and a demo disc.

The Move uses both the controller wand and camera to track not only motion but depth. It's more accurate than the Wii and should appeal more t hardcore gamers than the Kinect does.

Right now, not too many games support it. Sports Champions is a Wii Sports knockoff but its a shallow experience. The eight events get boring quickly. Future games such as LittleBigPlanet 2 and Killzone 3 will broaden its appeal. The controller can be a bit too sensitive at times, and it takes some getting used to. Look for a full review on the Move soon.

Overall, the Slim and the Move bundle are a nice addition to the Playstation family. Hopefully gamers can finally say goodbye to the hardware failures that have plagued this generation.

Score: 9 out of 10

What Works:
-Smaller size
-Less energy consumption
-Cooler running = less likely to YLOD
-Bitstreaming for HD audio over HDMI
-Attractive price
-Available Move kit bundle

What doesn't work:
-Still a significant downgrade from the old 60gb

Editorial: App store monopolies could kill open computing

By Mike on 11:19 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: , ,

Installing new software on your PC is about to get a whole lot easier. Apple says they're bringing an "App Store" to desktop Macintoshes. It's a move that will change computing as we know it. But sales monopolies could threaten to turn back software innovation and limit consumer choice.

In the last couple of years, the United States Air Force has been buying up several hundred Playstation 3s. They can run Linux, an open operating system. They are easy to network, allowing its powerful Cell processors to work together to run simulations. Then Sony decided Linux was a security risk. All PS3s were have been of this feature. The military can keep running the cheap super computers they already have, but had no way to replace broken units.

This is the problem with closed systems. You're completely at the whim of the companies that own them. If they decide they don't want you doing something, you have no choice but to comply.

Apple has done this with the App Store. They are the gatekeepers who decide what is and isn't allowed on your iPhone. The rules for the store are arbitrary. If your program does something similar to one Apple themselves is selling, it's not allowed. Same goes for developers they simply don't like, such as Adobe.

Could the Mac App Store lead to closed desktop computing?

On the up side, closing devices does enhance security. It's difficult to infect them with viruses and other malware. They also limit what users can do this makes the devices easier to use for people who aren't tech savvy.

The downsides are the risks of censorship, monopolies, and limited innovation created by putting blocks on developers.

Desktop PCs have remained open for so long because they allowed flexibility and innovation. They can be customized for any task under the sun. There are no gatekeepers to determine what is acceptable. Something like Napster would never be allowed on the iPhone. But it did launch the download revolution. Something that provides Apple its bread and butter.

Beyond that, the customizability of legal software like Linux has changed computing for the better. This is because it is open. Open software allows you to create the user environment you want. Not what Apple, Google, or Microsoft want.

Desktop based app stores, if done wrong, threaten to take that away. They could make your home computer into another iDevice. It may work for some but businesses and power users will not benefit. It will strangle them.

The PC gaming world is doing app stores right. Software like Steam is multi-platform and innovative. It allows convenience with limited restrictions. Plus its not the only game in town. Users choose where to shop, instead of a single store hardwired into the device. Companies like Amazon could do well pushing for a system like this.

When Apple launches the Mac App Store in next couple of months, they promise it will work alongside other sources. You can still use discs or download software elsewhere. This could soon change. Don't let the likes of Apple monopolize your software buying. In end, it stifles all of us.

Apple sued over iOS 4 slowdowns on the iPhone 3G

By Mike on 5:41 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Apple is being sued over performance issues iOS 4.0 caused on the iPhone 3G.

The suit alleges Apple intentionally crippled performance of older iPhones to boost sales of newer models.

The complaint states, "the true fact of the matter, as verifiable by information technology experts, is that the iOS 4 is a substantial 'downgrade' for earlier iPhone devices and renders many of them virtually useless 'iBricks'. Nonetheless, in reasonable and detrimental reliance upon Apple's false representations, false statements and false claims of full compatibility, thousands upon thousands of iPhone 3 users were intentionally misled into installing iOS 4 on their devices."

Lawyers for
Bianca Wofford filed the suit in San Diego's superior court. She hoped it would obtain class action status. She was seeking the replacement costs for the phone and $5000 in additional damages. In a statement, Ms. Wofford said, "While not completely disabled, the operability of the device was significantly degraded and the device was no longer reliable."

MMNTech warned iPhone 3G users against upgrading to iOS 4.0 back in June.

Apple released iOS 4.1 in September to correct performance issues, though some remained.

Apple has refused to comment on the lawsuit.

Source: DailyTech

MMNTech is now on Twitter

By Mike on 5:21 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Want to know what's going on behind the scenes at MMNTech? I've created a brand spanking new Twitter feed for the site. Check to see when new articles are out, what we're working on, and what friends are talking about. Head on over and click Follow.

http://www.twitter.com/mmntech

Review: Fallout: New Vegas

By Mike on 1:03 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

Life is a craps shoot. Sometimes you hit it big. Other times, you wind up half dead and buried in a shallow grave. Bonus points if you can do it all in the same evening. Fallout: New Vegas certainly isn't a craps shoot for Bethesda. It exploits Fallout 3's reputation for better and for worse. More classic Fallout is never a bad thing. How Obsidian and Bethesda executed it, that's another story.

The gameplay in Fallout: New Vegas is essentially unchanged from Fallout 3. You play as a courier who has been shot and left for dead. Your package, a platinum poker chip, has been stolen. The main quest has you tracking the thief to get the chip back. Maybe you'll extract a little revenge in the process. You wander the Mojave looking for clues to his whereabouts, eventually leading you to fabulous New Vegas. One of the few cities spared by the atomic bombs, Vegas is attempting to regain its former glory. However, rival and militant factions are all vying for a slice of this desert oasis.

Vegas Baby


The game differs from Fallout 3 in five key areas. The karma system has been replaced by a reputation system. Doing good or bad will either enhance or reduce your reputation among the Mojave's different factions.

The companion system is greatly enhanced as well. You can now issue orders to party members using the companion wheel. There, you can tell them to wait, attack, talk to them, give them items, or medicine. It's far more fluid than the clumsy companion system in Fallout 3. Your team mates are far more effective this time around as a result. No having to pickpocket them just to transfer new weapons and armour.

Issue orders to your teammates with the companion wheel

The third edition is a hardcore mode. Obsidian was trying to go with ultra-realism, and recapture some of the unforgiving difficulty of the original two Fallout games. In this mode, you have to eat and sleep. Medicine works slowly over time and stimpacks won't heal crippled limbs. I suspect most players will steer away from this setting. It's an interesting touch but most people game to escape reality.

Your favourite weapons are back, plus a ton of new ones

New Vegas offers a much enhanced workbench system. You can now collect raw materials; plants, bullet casings, etc, to create and modify items. You can also upgrade existing weapons with scopes and suppressors. It's very similar to what they did with KOTOR 2 and works well. A new skill category, survival, determines what you can and can't build.

Lastly, this being a Las Vegas themed game, you can gamble. There aren't too many casino games. Black jack, slots, and roulette are the only ones available. You can also play a card game called Caravan among wastelanders. Its similar to Black Jack but its not played with a full deck. It's a great way to earn, or loose, those hard earned caps. More often the latter, which makes gambling...er... a gamble.

The overall difficulty of the game is less than Fallout 3. Raiding parties, mutated animals, and traps are far less common in the Mojave than they were in the Capital Wasteland. New Vegas lacks that feeling of desperation players felt when first leaving the vault in Fallout 3. It makes gameplay faster, but less of a challenge. On the plus side, it makes exploring, and finding beds, less tedious.

Obsidian's story for the game is fairly solid. It's certainly not any better or worse than the original. Voice acting has been greatly improved though wooden facial animations steal from that a bit. They've done a really good job recreating the Vegas desert and its landmarks. New Vegas is far more colourful than Fallout 3. The grey of the Capital Wasteland is gone, replaced by vibrant earth tones and the bright neon lights of The Strip. Otherwise, graphics are the same as Fallout 3.

Audio wise, a lot of the music and sound effects have been recycled from Fallout 3. On the plus side, New Vegas has a much improved soundtrack of licensed music. These range from Dean Martin classics to Old West folk songs.

This is where the hedonistic bliss of New Vegas ends. What we have here is a solid game brought down by a complete lack of quality control.

Fallout: New Vegas is the buggiest game I've played in some time. You'll see dogs with missing eyeballs, only to see them floating next to their head. You can fall through the ground. Some even report seeing NPC heads rotate a la the Exorcist. Groups of NPCs will occasionally turn hostile and attack you for no apparent reason. Frame rates on the PC version are also spotty at best.

Gamebryo can create some stunning vistas. Frame rates are a different story.

I can live with all this, except for the crashing. Bethesda has been using the Gamebryo engine since Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion came out four years ago. The engine itself has been essentially unchanged since then. It's capable of some stunning graphics, but it's also unstable. Version 2.6 of the engine contains a multi-core bug. This causes the game to crash on any system with more than two physical CPUs. The PC version requires an easy hack to fix it. Console gamers will have to wait for a patch. The same bug is present in Fallout 3 and Oblivion. Bethesda and the Gambryo coders have failed to fix it after all these years. It's unfortunate that such a good game is plagued by so many bugs. Issues that should have been fixed long before now.

While more Fallout is always a good thing, Bethesda needs to get their act together when it comes to bugs. It's unacceptable to release a game so broken to retail. Gamers should not have to wait for patches ad infinitum to fix problems. They should have been caught while the game was still in development. This is the only reason why it's not getting a higher score. But if you can live with the bugs, Fallout: New Vegas will offer hours of fun post-apocalyptic RPG gaming.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

What Works:
-Better party controls
-Gambling
-More colourful landscapes
-Long game, 30hr+, lots of replayability
-Weapons modifications
-Better voice acting
-Reputation system

What Doesn't Work:
-Game too buggy, needs major repairs
-Hardcore mode more tedious than innovative
-Frame rate issues on the PC
-Can feel too easy at times

Review: PressReader for iPad

By Mike on 6:09 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

The iPad was supposed to revolutionize the way we consume media. It was the death of the newspaper. Of course papers have been dying for decades. Tablets are in fact breathing new life into the ancient medium.

Enter PressReader for iPad. The app provides access to thousands of papers around the globe. Each organized by country and language. It's not just links to online sites either. It gives you full print editions, laid out exactly as they are on paper.

The free app sorts your news in a virtual book shelf. You can download papers directly from the in-app store and read them at any time. If you subscribe to a paper, the app will download news issues automatically, as soon as they hit newsstands.


It's a wall of papers... wallpaper?

Reading a newspaper on the iPad is the same as reading an e-book. Tap the cover to load, then flip through pages to see the articles you want. A quick find bar at the bottom of the screen makes it easy to jump to specific sections.

The papers themselves are high resolution digital scans of the print copies. Same font and all. Want a bigger font? Tap the headline and a text box pops up. From there you can copy and adjust font sizes. That's just for starters. Click the headphone symbol in the text box and PressReader will read the article aloud for you.

The scans are very clean looking, complete with high resolution photos not found on paper. They look exactly as they would on the editor's computer before going to the presses. Reading is easy whether you choose the text box feature or view it directly.

Of course these papers are not free. PressReader offers a free trial that gives you seven free issues. After that, each issue of any paper costs $0.99 US. For a monthly fee of $29.99, you get access to unlimited issues. With this plan, you can read as many different papers as you want. It also allows you to download back issues up to 14 days old.


Tons of international papers available. There's actually more Canadian ones than US ones.

This price is a bit steep. It's definitely a good deal for news junkies. But if you just read one paper, it's expensive. Digital subscriptions for single papers usually run around $15. The service used to offer a plan to subscribe to a single paper for that price. Unfortunately, they seem to have discontinued it.

The app also has some technical flaws. It can experience slowdowns and will crash occasionally. Not enough to ruin the experience but just enough to be annoying.

Despite the minor flaws, news junkies should definitely check out this app. It's available for free on the iTunes App Store.

Score: 8 out of 10

What works:
-Access to over 1000 newspapers
-High resolution scans of full print issues
-Text box for articles allows you to change fonts
-Direct downloads right in the app
-Monthly fee great deal for news junkies
-Audio feature reads articles aloud

What doesn't
-Occasional crashes and slowdowns
-Monthly free may be steep for light readers

Fix a Yellow Lighted PS3 with the Gilksy Method

By Mike on 10:51 am

comments (2)

Filed Under:

I love to rant about the poor quality of modern consumer electronics. They have horrendous failure rates. Especially today's modern game consoles. Up to a third of original Xbox 360s fail in their first year, while 10% of fat PS3s will bite the dust. I just had my second "Yellow Light of Death" on my 60gb PS3 in less than a year. Since it's out of warranty, I decided to repair it myself this time.

Here's an easy way you can correct the Yellow Light of Death, using the Gilksy method.

Skill level: Intermediate to Advanced
Time to Complete: 1hr - 1.5hrs

Tools You'll Need:
-T10 Torx screwdriver
-Phillips #0 and #1 screwdrivers
-Heat gun capable of at least 350 degrees Celsius
-Flat-head screwdriver or plastic spudger
-Several plastic containers for keeping track of screws, large pill boxes work best.
-70% or higher isopropyl "rubbing" alcohol
-Cotton balls and a lint-free cloth
-Sheet of scrap drywall or other heat resistant surface
-Good quality silver-based thermal paste such as Arctic Silver

Before you begin, keep in mind that this repair will void any warranties. Sony will also refuse to repair and out-of-warranty consoles with seals broken. MMNTech is not responsible for any damage. If you have no experience in electronics repair, let Sony fix it for you. Be extra cautious with your heat gun as it can get hot enough to ignite paper.

Step 1: Disassembly

Follow Gilksy's guide to taking your console apart. Take your time, making sure to keep track of all parts and screws so they don't get lost later. This is a complete tear down. Need to get the motherboard out of its metal case for this task. Make sure to also remove the rubber heat pads from all chips as they will melt when heated. Take special care not to loose these.

Once you've got the motherboard exposed, you'll need to clean the old thermal paste off the cooler, Cell, and RSX (graphics) chips. Put a little rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball and gently wipe all the white paste off each component. Let everything dry completely before moving on. If the cotton balls left any lint behind, use your cloth to gently remove it.


Step 2: Heating

Locate the RSX, Cell, and the four memory chips located above them. You'll need to heat each of these components individually.

Place the motherboard upside-down on your sheet of drywall. Make sure it's level. Since drywall is heat resistant, it will prevent damage to your work surface.

Now locate the backs of the Cell, RSX, and RAM. Turn your heat gun on and set it between 350C and 450C. Let it warm up. Now you're ready to start repairing the console. Heat the backs of each component individually for 30 seconds, keeping the gun a few inches away from the board. This is enough to melt the solder without damaging anything else.

Start with the RAM, them move to the chip below it, RAM again, chip below it. If you hear a cracking sound, this is just the silicon expanding due to the heat. It's no cause for alarm.

Once that's done, leave the board alone for at least 15 minutes. This gives the solder time to cool and solidify. Make sure it's not disturbed or else the components will shift and your PS3 will be unrepairable.

Once that's done, flip the board over, once again making sure it's level. Heat the same components from the top side in the same order. Then leave the board again for another 15 minutes.

Step 3: Reassembly

Once everything is cooled, you can start putting your PS3 back together.

Take your silver-based thermal paste. Put a little zig-zag over the Cell and RSX chips. Use an old credit card to spread a thin, even layer across the top of both components. Make sure the entire top is covered. Don't leave any bare spots. Also make sure not to get any on the board itself as silver conducts electricity, and could shot things out.

Reinstall the metal shields over the board first, then take the cooler and fasten it back on.
Reassemble your PS3 by working backwards from what you did before.

Now you can fire it up. If the repair worked, the PS3 should start right back up with the yellow light gone. Let it run idling for a few hours to allow the thermal paste to set. The silver paste will conduct heat better than the cheap ceramic stuff Sony uses. This "burn-in" will fill every nook and cranny, preventing hot spots.

That's it. All components for this repair should set you back less than $100. That's half of what Sony wants to fix them. Plus, if it yellow lights again, you know what to do. Your PS3 should now be back to only doing everything.

An iPad USB hack anybody can do

By Mike on 7:56 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Apple charges a lot for official iPad accessories.

If you plan to do any serious typing on the device, you'll probably want to invest in one of Apple's official iPad keyboards. The dock version isn't exactly portable. It's $69 price tag is also steep.

Here's an easy way to save $40. Buy Apple's official camera kit for the iPad. It contains two dongles. One for SD slots and one for connecting USB cameras. The USB dongle has a hidden function. It supports both USB keyboards and USB headsets.

Simply plug a keyboard you already have into your iPad. It will complain about the device not being supported. Ignore the warning, and type away. I've tried it myself and it works very well. It even supports basic "command - " functions like a normal Mac.

Unfortunately, this trick only works with the iPad and not the iPhone and iPod Touch. Also, it only supports more basic bus powered wired and wireless keyboards. Forget using your LED backlit gaming keyboard.

Vintage electronics month: video killed the radio star

By Mike on 3:29 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Radio was the first major electronic device to win the hearts of consumers. But like every other gadget, people weren't satisfied. Sure, you could listen to a concert at Carnegie Hall. That was revolutionary. Still, you couldn't watch the performance as if you were actually there. What if you could?

Developing a system that could transmit both sound and pictures was the holy grail for radio engineers, even before radio was invented.

The roots of such a system can be traced back to 1840, to the 1840s when Scottish inventor Alexander Bain proved it was possible to send images electrically. His complex device used a clockwork system to scan a message and transfer it to a series of electrical pins on a drum. The electrical signals sent by the machine could be reproduced on the other end. In 1861, Italian physicist Giovanni Caselli made a practical version of this device. We know it today as the fax machine.

The next evolution came in 1873, from an English inventor named Willoughby Smith. He was trying to develop a system to test underwater cables as they were being laid. Smith tried using selenium electrodes. Quite by accident, he found the electrical conductivity of the selenium rods dropped when exposed to a bright light. This property of selenium could be used to turn light into electrical signals. The discovery would eventually give birth to electrical cameras.

In 1883, German technician Paul Gottlieb Nipkow developed a perforated disk after reportedly being inspired from beams of light coming from a lamp. The holes were positioned in a spiral pattern and could, in theory, reproduce an image via mosaic of points and lines.

The basis for reproducing images had been laid by the early 1900s. Georges Rignoux and A. Fournier had managed to reproduce images using selenium cells in Paris in 1909. In 1911, Russian scientist Boris Rosing and his student Vladimir Zworykin invented a system to display crude images over wires using a cathode ray tube.

It wasn't until 1925 when the first practical device for showing video first appeared. Scottish engineer John Logie Baird took a Nipkow's disk and worked it into a mechanical device for showing moving pictures. A modulated light source was used in conjunction with the perforated aluminum disc, which was spun with a motor. As each hole passed by, it created a single line in the image. It used AM radio waves to receive the image transmitted from a similar device that acted as the camera. He called his invention the Televisor. The first image it received was "Stooky Bill", a ventriloquist dummy. The Televisor could reproduce images in 30 vertical lines, at five frames per second. The picture was extremely small by today's standards. Maybe about an inch across.


Baird's Televisor. Early Television Museum

The Televisor revolutionized radio. However, it came about at the worst possible time. When the Great depression hit In 1929, people weren't concerned about moving pictures in the home. Baird only began regular broadcasts through the BBC in that year. The technology was also rapidly improving. By the time the Televisor was being mass marketed, it was already obsolete.



The Televisor produced crude yet recognizable images

In 1927, American inventor Philo Farnsworth demonstrated the first all-electronic television. The 21-year-old's device used a cathode ray tube instead of a Nipkow disk. It has no moving parts, had a larger screen, and produced better quality pictures.




German electronic television

By the 1930s, the us Federal Communications Commission settled on the Farnsworth design as the future of television. By 1941, the familiar 525 line NTSC format was adopted in the US. The format is still widely used 70 years later. After the end of WWII, televisions became a staple of North American households. It hailed the end of radio's golden era as programming moved to TV.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia & The Early Television Museum

Vintage Electronics Month: Crosley Rogers Batteryless

By Mike on 10:13 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

When Ted Rogers Sr. invented the batteryless radio, it sparked a revolution in electronics. It was a simple idea. Create an electronic device that could simply plug into any wall socket. Back when it took three different batteries to power a radio, this was a major blessing.

Today, we have an authentic Rogers batteryless radio on the workbench. This particular model was made in 1936 for by Rogers for DeForest-Crosley. Despite being 74 years old, it still works. This model features all original parts, except for the antenna. It stands as a testament to the durability of tubes when they're taken care off.




Image courtesy of the Canadian Vintage Radio Society.

September is vintage electronics month

By Mike on 10:19 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Electronics affect so much of our daily lives. Right now, you're reading this on your computer, an advanced electronic device.

We're surrounded by electronics but few stop to think how it all began. This month, we're taking you back to the past, way back. To the roots of everything you see on this site and in your daily life.

This September, we'll look at how electronics have evolved since their invention, to their domination in our daily lives. I've also got a couple of surprises in store. Today, we'll be turning back the clock all the way to the birth of the modern world.

The Invention of Electrical Communications
The invention of electronics can't be traced back to one individual or time. Individual components came about from a slew of inventors over a span of 100 years. The first electrical communication devices were telegraphs, dating as far back as 1806. Samuel Morse perfected the design in 1844. The devices used a battery and key to send varied electrical signals through a cable. While primitive, they were the first electrical communication devices.

In 1876, Elisha Grey and Alexandre Graham Bell simultaneously invented an electrical device for two way voice telegraphy. Bell called his invention the "telephone".

By 1890, Nikola Tesla began working on a concept for wireless transmission of messages. In 1894, Indian physicist Jagadish Chandra Bose began experimenting with UHF signals for communication.

Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi began sending signals a distance of 1.5km in 1895. Other inventors such as Russian Alexander Stepanovich Popov began working on similar devices independent of each other.

Marconi's first radio transmitter used a simple oscillator or spark gap to send signals. The system could send Morse Code using a telegraph key to vary radio pulses. His simple receiver used a coherer, a glass tube with metal filings inside that could detect radio waves. The filings were connected with electrodes.

Early radios couldn't amplify signals to send or receive communication over long distances. This made transatlantic and ship-to-shore communications difficult. In 1906, eccentric inventor Lee De Forest began working on the problem.

The Rise of True Electronics
Diodes had existed for some time prior. The principals of a thermionic diode were discovered in 1876 by British physicist Frederick Guthrie. Thomas Edison expanded on his research. The devices consisted of a cathode and anode inside an airless glass envelope. The device could limit the flow of electricity to one direction. Some of the first applications of diodes were radio detectors, such as the coherer. However, they couldn't amplify the signal and make them usable over long distances. The earliest radio transmitters used powerful generators and very high voltages to send signals across the oceans.

Lee De Forest took the basic diode and added a third electrode between the anode and cathode. He discovered that this amplified the electrical signal. De Forest stumbled upon the principle simply by tinkering, and in fact didn't know why this happened. He called his device the "audion". The rest of the world called it the "triode".

Lee De Forest's audion, the granddaddy of modern electronics

De Forest completed the first successful ship-to-shore radio transmission in 1907. By 1912, radio became a fixture on-board ocean going ships. The Titanic famously used a Marconi system to send distress signals after striking an ice berg in April of that year.

With the audion, radio engineers had a way of controlling and amplifying electrical signals. These early signals still used spark gap transmission, which spammed the entire radio spectrum. In 1906, Canadian inventor Reginald Fessenden began working on a radio system that used amplitude modulation. It worked by sending signal at a specific frequency. Communication was achieved by varying the voltage of the radio wave rather than electrical pulses. American radio pioneer Charles "Doc" Herrold began sending weekly AM broadcasts out of San Jose, California in 1909.

By the 1920s, De Fortest's vacuum tube triode was becoming a household staple. The first commercial radio station launched in Montreal, Quebec on May 20th, 1920. Interest in home electronics exploded.

Work continued on improving the radio. Originally, AM radio receivers required three different batteries to run them. Each of the vacuum tubes required their own specific direct current voltages. Many of them were kit builds, involving a hodgepodge of parts. This made the systems bulky and complicated.

Canadian inventor Edward S. Rogers Sr. began exploring ways to run radios off mains electricity. After examining US designs, Rogers invented a new type of vacuum tube that could run off alternating current. In 1924, he introduced the Rogers Batteryless Radio. The device was the first to use a standard wall socket. Top of the line models began selling in 1925 for $370, worth about $4,800 in today's money. The system was the first to make radio simple and easy to use for the average homeowner.

Rogers went on to found the Standard Radio Company, later named the Rogers Vacuum Tube Company, to make the radios. He founded Toronto radio station CFRB to sell these radios.

How does a Rogers Batteryless radio work? In our next article, we'll be taking a closer look at this revolutionary device.

Smart Car not a smart choice for Americans

By Mike on 9:30 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: ,

The Smart Fortwo has polarized the auto and tech worlds. It's either loved or hated.
Mercedes' stubby little "microcar" hit Europe back in 1998. The company thought it would create a revolution in North America by marketing it an ultra-fuel efficient city car. At the time, gas prices were hovering well over $1.20 a litre in Canada. As the green trend dropped off, so has Smart. Sales of of the cars have dropped 70 percent since the beginning of 2010. It's not hard to see why people are steering clear of this high mileage revolution.

I had the pleasure of taking a Fortwo out for a test drive last summer. It was the 2009 three door with a 1.0 litre gasoline engine. Similar to a full size sport motorcycle. The Smart comes in four models: coupe, cabriolet, and the same two with the Brabus tuner package. The Brabus adds better wheels, suspension, and a sportier interior. The Smart Fortwo Coupe starts at $14,990 while the Brabus cabriolet goes up to $24,900. By comparison, the Toyota Yaris three door hatchback starts at $13,620.

German tuner company Brabus has tried, and failed to make the Fortwo look sporty.

One of the first things you notice is how cramped it is. There is no storage space in its tiny trunk. While it's not uncomfortable, it's certainly not something you want to go any distance in.

The control layout is also odd for North American car. It has two shifters: paddle on the steering wheel and stick in the centre console. The ignition switch is also in the centre console, rather than the dash or wheel column.

The dash is quite sparse. Not many features here.

Driving the Smart Fortwo is like driving a go-kart. Acceleration is very sluggish. It seems to take forever to get up to 60km/h, typical city driving speed. You can forget about taking it on the highway. It will struggle to do 100km/h and can't overtake. The engine is rated at 70hp but it definitely lacks torque. Steering handles as you would expect for a car its size. It turns quick but you're not going anywhere fast. For such a small, light car, it doesn't handle like you'd expect it to.

My biggest beef with the Fortwo is the transmission. It's automatic, but lacks a torque converter. The part of an automatic transmission that allows it to always stay in gear. Instead, it opts for an automated clutch system. It has the option of a fully or semi-automatic mode. There is no fully manual option, even though that would be ideal.

The Smart's shifts are abrupt, causing it to jerk with each gear change. It's a bit like driving a standard car with someone who can't drive standard. Overall, it's just not a nice car to drive.

You might be wondering about safety. One would logically think the Fortwo would be unsafe due to its weight and compact design. I must tip my hat to Mercedes. It's a safe car for the most part, due to its built in roll cage. The car performed well, receiving a top rating of "good" in everything but offset crashes. In offset crashes, the Fortwo performed poorly due to it's cramped interior. There was too much intrusion into the foot-well and a high risk of impact with the steering wheel. Its light weight caused the car to spin easily.

You said you wanted a safer Fortwo? I'll admit this mod is epic.

On fuel efficiency, the Smart Fortwo Coupe doesn't get high marks. The United States EPA estimated 36 miles per gallon of combined city and highway driving. It's good but it's not a major improvement over other small cars in its class such as the Kia Rio, Toyota Yaris, and Suzuki SX4, which get 30mpg combined and have engines twice the size. The Smart also requires premium gasoline while other sub-compacts use cheaper regular. The diesel option, while ideal, disappeared form North American models.

Obviously the Smart is designed for narrow European city streets, not long, high speed North American roads. Americans love their big cars. The promise of a cheap, 40mpg car isn't going to shake that. Due to it's cramped size and rough handling, the Smart is little more practical than the giant SUVs it seeks to replace. Aside from that, and I have to be frank here, you'd also look like a total wanker driving it.

Images courtesy of Wikipedia, Google Picasa

Revolutionary, retro, relegated: thought's on Apple's iPod event

By Mike on 8:46 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under: , ,

It it's usual rock star fashion, Apple lifted the lid on its new iPod lines. Pundits seem to agree that there was a little less excitement at this event than past ones. Apple seems to be loosing its edge when it comes to producing something completely unexpected from behind the curtain. That's partially due to a slew of Internet leaks. But, the declining favour in the company towards the venerable iPod has just as much to do with it.

iPod Touch
The new touch is exactly what we expected it to be. It's basically the iPhone 4 without the cell chip. Interestingly, Apple has chosen not to use the new minimalist chassis. Instead, they opted to use the same rounded case style used in past Touches. There's not much to complain about. It features improved battery life, the new retina display, Apple's A4 processor, three-axis gyroscope, front and back cameras, and 256mb of RAM.

UPDATE: I originally reported the new Touch had 512mb of ram, but teardowns show it only has 256mb.


The new Touch: looks like the old but new guts and new cameras


The fourth gen Touch runs iOS 4.1 and, supports FaceTime, and can record 720p video. Apple fans have been calling for a Touch with a built in camera for a long time. But, this camera is limited to just 0.6 megapixels. About equal to a camera phone six years ago. Very unimpressive given the iPhone's 5 megapixel camera.

Aside from that, Apple has also introduced a slightly cheaper 8gb model along side the 32 and 64gb. They start at $229.

iPod Suffle
The third generation Shuffle was a mistake. Apple knows that. The tiny player had no buttons, just a rocker on the earbud wire which used complicated commands. Plus, you couldn't use third party headphones with it..

The new fourth generation Shuffle is a blast from the past. Apple has gone back and resurrected the design of the of the 2007 model. The click wheel has made a return. It's a little smaller. The wheel now takes up the entire front. Button controls are a welcome return for fans of Apple's smallest and cheapest player. It starts at $49.

iPod Nano
This is the one redesign that has everyone talking, and not for the good. It's the most radical change the mid-sized iPod line has ever seen. The fifth generation gave people what they wanted with their Nano. A bigger screen and a standard definition video camera. All was good. The sixth generation took that away.

The new Nano looks like a Shuffle on steroids. The device is only slightly larger than it's little brother. While it has a small touch screen, it's actually a lower resolution than the older model.


The new Nano: touch screen, not much else

Apple has really taken the knife to the Nano. Gone are video recording, video playback, and even the photo album. The FM radio tuner and Voice Over are still there. Apple hasn't added anything at all to the device. They've only made it smaller. Heath nuts are already complaining about the lack of physical buttons.

The new Nano is a glorified iPod Shuffle. Despite slashing back its features, Apple still wants $149 for it. That price is much too high for what it is. Apple's competitors have it matched or beat, at a lower prices.

iPod Classic
The Classic is a dying breed. The last ancestor of the original iPod didn't even get a mention. It's looking more and more like Apple will eventually phase out this model. It's sad for fans who enjoy it's beefy hard drive space. As it stands right now, it's the only non-touch iPod that can play photos and video. But at $249, it's not exactly the best value anymore. If you want one, get one while you can. Apple will dump it sooner or later to focus on the Touch as its flagship line.

iPad
The iPad can print now. That is all. Well, it will once iOS 4.2 is released in November of this year. Aside from Flash, this was probably the biggest feature Apple omitted from the original OS. Despite having a word processor and photography apps, I guess Steve Jobs figured nobody would ever want to print something from it. Unfortunately, printing is wireless only. So if you don't have a wifi enabled printer, you'll need to set up a print server.

The iPad will also get AirPlay, which allows it to stream photos, videos, and music from iTunes. It will also get all the other features of iOS4.

iOS
Apple unveiled iOS 4.1. It's biggest new feature is the Game Centre. Game Centre will allow players to connect with their friends and others to play multiplayer games online. It's Apple's answer to the Playstation Network and Xbox Live. The iPhone and Touch have needed a unified online gaming system for a long time.

Apple also claimed to have 50% market share in portable gaming. I find that a little hard to believe. Not everyone who owns an iPod Touch uses it to play games. Though, there is a shred of truth if you factor in highly casual titles.

Microsoft launches new 360 controller better D-Pad

By Mike on 1:01 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

The Xbox 360's controller is very nice. It's D-Pad is not. Microsoft opted for a rocker style pad in the original design. Many gamers didn't like it since the buttons were too low. It wasn't exactly meant for man sized fingers.

The new design is more like the D-Pad on Sony's venerable Dual Shock. Microsoft has raised it, which should improve its feel and ease of use. No more accidentally going to the wrong menu, or having a 2D character go where you don't want them to. Twisting it goes from the original to the new raised plus, depending on which you prefer.
This new controller only comes in a monochrome style. The coloured buttons have been replaced by grey ones. The border along the bottom of the controller is also now piano black rather than a matte grey. Otherwise, the basic design is still the same.

It will launch November 9th exclusively with the Play & Charge kit. The entire package will cost a hefty $64.99.



Major Nelson via Kotaku. Image courtesy of Kotaku.

Pokemon's creepy Lavender Town urban legends

By Mike on 11:44 pm

comments (2)

Filed Under: ,

Pokemon is a game where adorable monsters battle it out. When they loose the fight, they feint. All they need is a little rest at the Pokemon Centre to bring them back to fighting strength. But do Pokemon die? Even though it's just a kids game, the original Pokemon Red & Blue says they do. It's even implied that the games villains kill the lovable creatures. That's heavy stuff Doc.

People seem obsessed with Lavender Town because of that. It's the only location in the series where there's a Pokemon cemetery. Even though it's a fairly minor location, it has spawned plenty of urban legends. Many of these are downright disturbing. Here are some of the more bizarre Pokemon ghost stories.

The Existential Pokemon Silver
This legend appeared on 4Chan, posted by an anonymous user. It reappeared linked to an article on Kotaku, posted by commenter Travakh.

A gamer bought a used copy of Pokemon Silver from a Gamestop. Upon loading the save file, he found the last owner had all 251 Pokemon, had played for 999 hours, and had all gym badges.

The game started up in Bellsprout Tower, inside an inescapable room. The trainer, simply named "..." had five Unown in his party with a sixth Cyndaquil named "HURRY". Unown were a species of Pokemon that looked like letters of the Latin Alphabet. The gamer discovered the Unown spelled out "LEAVE".

After finding a way out, he was confronted with a sign that read "Turn Back Now". HURRY suddenly fainted for no apparent reason. A new team of Unown replaced him, spelling out "HEDIED". The deceased is replaced by a Celebi.

Still trapped in the tower, the gamer engages in a battle with Red, the final boss of the game and protagonist from the first generation. The fight was between his Pikachu and the gamer's Celebi. Pikachu uses curse. Both Pokemon die at the end of the fight instead of feinting. His Celebi is now gone from his party. The gamer then notices his avatar's sprite is missing limbs and has turned transparent.

The game then cuts to the trainer's house at the very beginning. He has no items, his Pokegear doesn't work, and outside the house is nothing but a black abyss. After wondering aimlessly for awhile, the gamer eventually encountered himself, or rather his regular sprite. The sprite says "goodbye forever ..." He checks the Unown in his party, which now spell out "IMDEAD". He then finds himself in a room with blocked walls. A final text reads "R.I.P". The gamer figures out his trainer is dead and this is his grave.

The gamer believes the moral of this hack is about the futility of life. Despite his efforts to become the greatest Pokemon trainer, "...", who he refers to as Gold, was unable to cheat death. His adventures become forgotten in time. We've all had this go through out minds at some point. Usually lying in bed wide awake at 3am.

Since this was originally posted on 4Chan, we can assume it's fake. The site is famous for its viral pranks and hoaxes. However, it is plausible since hacked cartridges do exist. Like all great urban legends, stories like this are impossible either prove or disprove.

Lavender's Missing Frequencies
Lavender Town is known for it's sad, haunting theme music in the original game. This legend is based on reading between the lines, and finding missing sounds. Almost like a Pokemon DaVinci Code.

A young man and his best friend Anthony were obsessed with Pokemon as kids. They go their separate ways in college but Pokemon ties them together. They keep having wifi battles nearly every day. Anthony eventually asks him to replay Pokemon Red & Blue together. Despite not really wanting to, the young man goes through with it. When he asks Anthony why, he says he might find something nobody else has before.

Three weeks later he receives a call from the Anthony's parents. Anthony has died. He suffered what appeared to be an intense seizure, despite having no history of epilepsy.

The man finds his friend had been obsessed with the music in Lavender Town. Anthony bragged about finding a rare rip from the original Japanese release. This rip apparently contained audio frequencies later versions missed. It was supposedly due to sound limitations of the Gameboy. Anthony began experimenting to replace the missing frequencies.

The young man describes finding the audio.

Driven by my desire to know what caused his untimely death, I opened the properties dialog box for the audio file, without opening the file to listen to it. Within the comments section of the metadata, he had written, "binaural tones, i added the necessary frequencies, i know why lavender town sounds so sad, and i know the part that was missing". Even eerier, I looked in his default audio program (still without listening to the file) and found the playcount for this file. One. I chatted with a sound enthusiast online in hope to decipher these cryptic comments. He gave me some special software which would analyze the audio in real time and said that was the most that could be done. This video is a screen recording of me running the aforementioned software with the original audio file. To this day I have not listened to the actual audio, as I am too emotionally disturbed by my best friend, Anthony's, death.


The story implies the missing frequencies caused Anthony's seizure. You can listen to the remix here along with the full story. I seriously doubt it will cause your head to explode as Anthony's did.

This particular story is very implausible. No audio engineer could work on something without listening to it multiple times. It sounds all too similar to the "brown note" legend, where a specific audio frequency was said to cause loss of bowel control. It also has a dash of a real world Pokemon incident. In that case, flashing lights in one particular anime episode triggered seizures in Japan.

A similar legend claims the original Lavender Town music contained frequencies only children could hear. The tones apparently caused Japanese children to go insane and die. While it's true Lavender Town originally did have slightly different music in Japan, no deaths have been linked to it.


Pokemon Black
Pokemon Black, not to be confused with the real Black & White, is supposedly a hack of the original Red. The gamer claims it features a "Ghost" pokemon, with the same sprite as the mystery ghosts found in Lavender Town before obtaining the SilphScope. It acts as your starter and cannot be removed from the party. It also only comes with one move, "Curse". When used, the move apparently kills the target Pokemon, and their trainer. The trainer is replaced by a tombstone with their name on it in the overworld.

The story gets a bit more interesting after you beat the Elite Four.

After viewing the Hall of Fame, which consisted of Ghost and a couple of very under leveled Pokémon, the screen cut to black. A box appeared with the words “Many years later…” It then cut to Lavender Tower. An old man was standing, looking at tombstones. You then realized this man was your character.

The man moved at only half of your normal walking speed. You no longer had any Pokémon with you, not even Ghost, who up to this point had been impossible to remove from your party through depositing in the PC. The overworld was entirely empty — there were no people at all. There were still the tombstones of the trainers that you used Curse on, however.You could go pretty much anywhere in the overworld at this point, though your movement was limited by the fact that you had no Pokémon to use HMs. And regardless of where you went, the music of Lavender Town continued on an infinite loop.

After wandering for a while, I found that if you go through Diglett’s Cave, one of the cuttable bushes that normally blocks the path on the other side is no longer there, allowing you to advance and return to Pallet Town.

Upon entering your house and going to the exact tile where you start the game, the screen would cut to black.

Then a sprite of a Caterpie appeared. It was the replaced by a Weedle, and then a Pidgey. I soon realized, as the Pokémon progressed from Rattata to Blastoise, that these were all of the Pokémon that I had used Curse on.

After the end of my Rival’s team, a Youngster appeared, and then a Bug Catcher. These were the trainers I had Cursed.

Throughout the sequence, the Lavender Town music was playing, but it was slowly decreasing in pitch. By the time your Rival appeared on screen, it was little more than a demonic rumble.

Another cut to black. A few moments later, the battle screen suddenly appeared — your trainer sprite was now that of an old man, the same one as the one who teaches you how to catch Pokémon in Viridian City.

Ghost appeared on the other side, along with the words “GHOST wants to fight!”.

You couldn’t use items, and you had no Pokémon. If you tried to run, you couldn’t escape. The only option was “FIGHT”.

Using fight would immediately cause you to use Struggle, which didn’t affect Ghost but did chip off a bit of your own HP. When it was Ghost’s turn to attack, it would simply say “…” Eventually, when your HP reached a critical point, Ghost would finally use Curse.

The screen cut to black a final time.

Regardless of the buttons you pressed, you were permanently stuck in this black screen. At this point, the only thing you could do was turn the Game Boy off. When you played again, “NEW GAME” was the only option — the game had erased the file.

I played through this hacked game many, many times, and every time the game ended with this sequence. Several times I didn’t use Ghost at all, though he was impossible to remove from the party. In these cases, it did not show any Pokémon or trainers and simply cut to the climactic “battle with Ghost.

I’m not sure what the motives were behind the creator of this hack. It wasn’t widely distributed, so it was presumably not for monetary gain. It was very well done for a bootleg.

It seems he was trying to convey a message; though it seems I am the sole receiver of this message. I’m not entirely sure what it was — the inevitability of death? The pointlessness of it? Perhaps he was simply trying to morbidly inject death and darkness into a children’s game. Regardless, this children’s game has made me think, and it has made me cry.

Pokemon Black was also posted on 4Chan so it's authenticity can't be verified. The unnamed author claims he lost the game cartridge years ago. Some versions claim he sold it out of fear. One variation on the story says a demonic image appeared on the screen after the character's death, with the words "you're next." It's still a great ghost story for any gamer out there.

Image courtesy of Bulbapedia, originally from the Pokemon anime.

A brief timeline of the digital audio revolution

By Mike on 12:34 pm

comments (0)

Filed Under:

Twenty-eight years ago today, August 17th, the first compact discs were released to the public. Digital audio enthusiasts consider this the big bang of the digital revolution. It changed the way we listened to music forever. Let's take a trip through history to see how digital music has evolved since the beginning.




1976:
-Sony demonstrates an analogue prototype optical audio disc.

1978:
-Soundstream becomes the first digital tape recording format. The format encoded audio at 50khz and 16-bit. For three years it reigned as the format of choice for producing audiophile grade vinyl records. No home players were released.
-Sony demonstrates a prototype digital optical audio disc offering 150min play time at 44.05khz with 16-bit sampling.

1981:
-The first test CD is printed in Germany. A public demonstration is performed on Britain's BBC.

1982:
-The first CD player is released in Japan as a joint venture between Sony and Phillips. The format was a 12cm disc encoded at 44.1khz / 16-bit sampling, with up to 80min playtime. This was double the playback time of vinyl records. It proved an instant hit with audiophiles.
-The first album released on CD was Billy Joel's 52nd Street.
-The tape format continued to evolve into the early 80s with versions produced by 3M and Sony. The latter introduced DASH in 1983, a digital reel-to-reel recorder. Mitsubishi released ProDigi in that same year, which was also reel-to-reel.

1983:
-The first CDs are released in the United States.

1984:
-Sony releases the DiscMan, the first portable CD player.

1985:
-Brothers in Arms by Dire Straits becomes the first CD album to sell 1 million copies.

1987:
-Sony introduces Digital Audio Tape. It offered the same audio quality as CDs, but in a compact cassette tape form factor. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) tries to lobby against its sale, claiming it enabled piracy by enabling perfect digital copies. Their bid was unsuccessful.

1990:
-CD recorders make their debut, allowing individuals to make their own audio CDs at home.

1991:
-Sony debuts MiniDisc. The first small digital audio player that became the basis for all modern MP3 players. It used Sony's proprietary ATRAC format and could hold 80min of music on a disc half the size of a CD. The format remains popular in the radio industry.

1992:
-Creative launches the Sound Blaster 16, an expansion card that brings true 16-bit audio to home PCs. It allows people to record and play back their own CD quality audio.

1994:
-The Fraunhofer Society, a group of German audio engineers, releases the first MP3 encoder.
-WXYC, a radio station in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, begins streaming their broadcasts online digitally.

1995:
-Fraunhofer releases WinPlay 3, the first MP3 playback software for home computers.

1996:
-DVD is launched in Japan with theatre quality surround sound audio tracks. It popularizes 5.1 home audio systems. Full concerts are released on DVD in surround sound.

1997:
-DTS begins experimenting with a 5.1 music format.
-WinAmp, a popular MP3 software player, is released. CDs could now be ripped to computers in the MP3 format, allowing discless playback.
-Audio Highway releases its Listen Up player, the world's first portable MP3 player.
-The MP4 Advanced Audio Codec (AAC) is introduces as a more efficient successor to MP3. Unlike MP3, it includes optional copy protection.

1999:
-Sony releases the Super-Audio CD, also known as SACD, as a high resolution audio format aimed at audiophiles. Strict copy protection, cost and lack of player support means the format fails to catch on.

2000:
-DVD-Audio is released as a competitor to SACD. It suffers from the same issues that held the former back.
-Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker launch Napster, a peer-to-peer service that allows people to easily share and pirate music over the Internet. It launches the digital download revolution. Legal alternatives wouldn't be available for another three years.

2001:
-Apple debuts the iPod. The device revolutionizes MP3 players due to its large storage capacity, small size, and simple interface. The iPod soon becomes a pop culture icon and catapults Apple from a struggling computer company to a consumer electronics giant.
-XM Satellite Radio becomes the first commercial digital radio provider in the United States. It offers commercial free music for a monthly fee.

2002:
-Napster ceases operations and its assets are liquidated. It is replaced by other illegal services such as Kazaa and LimeWire. CD sales begin to drop with the rising popularity of MP3.

2003:
-Apple opens the iTunes Store, a portal and web store that allows consumers to legally buy and download songs online. Songs are sold for 99 cents.

2005:
-Sony issues copy protection on CDs released through their BMG label to stop the tide of file sharing. The DRM violated Phillips' Red Book audio standard, the base format for audio CDs. The protected discs fail to play in computers and some stand-alone players. Sony is sued and the defective discs are recalled.

2006:
-Microsoft introduces the Zune and Zune Store to compete with iTunes. It rapidly becomes the second most popular portable digital audio player in the United States.

2007:
-Apple intros iTunes Store app on the iPhone and iPod Touch. Users can now purchase and download digital music directly from their player.
-Amazon.com launches Amazon MP3, one of the first major online stores to sell digital music without controversial copy protection.

2008:
-SlotMusic launches music on MicroSD flash cards. The format gains little traction against digital download.

2009:
-Apple strips controversial copy protection from its entire music library on the iTunes Store. Prices of new songs rise to $1.29 as a result.
-Vinyl albums stage a comeback, with sales doubling this year.
-CD sales worldwide, for all variations including data, total 200 billion.

2010:
-Digital Singles have eclipsed album sales by this time. In response, 70s rock band Pink Floyd pulls its catalogue from the iTunes Store in protest of its songs being sold "a la carte". They demand their songs only be sold as part of entire albums.
-Audio CD sales declined over the past 8 years.

Worst of Shovelware: Grizzly Murder Edition

By Mike on 12:28 am

comments (0)

Filed Under: , ,

Naughty Bear (PS3, Xbox 360)
505 games, you've been very naughty. You've released a game that just might be one of the worst major releases of the year. You see, Naughty Bear is a very naughty bear. He's not invited to a birthday party for all the other bears on Perfection Island. So, he takes out his revenge by... uh, scaring them to death.

What the trailers presented was far from what the game actually was.

This is why you should never trust trailers that don't show gameplay.

We expected it to be a stuffed animal orgy of gore. Killing the beloved Care Bear-esque enemies in increasingly creative and gruesome ways. Instead, Naughty Bear proved to be a rush job with clunky controls, ugly graphics, bad animation, technical glitches, poor AI, and limited gameplay.

Gameplay
focuses more on chasing and scaring the other bears for points. So much for Manhunt with teddy bears we were promised. IGN called it "an embarrassment and shouldn't be purchased by anyone anywhere." All this and more for just full retail price! This may be a candidate for shovelware of the year.