Category Archives: sony

New Sony Readers

I started writing my previous blog post on the price of Sony Readers last week, but only published it this morning.  Andy Kemp on Twitter told me that today Sony have announced their new range of ebook readers and linked to the story on Engadget.

Sony’s tweaked its entire Reader line up — the Pocket, Touch, and Daily editions — by adding improved optical touchscreens, speeding up page turns with E Ink Pearl displays and slimming down the brushed aluminum hardware. Beyond that, it’s also updated its Daily Edition with WiFi — there’s still no connectivity options for the other two.

Engdget have reviewed all three new models with the cheapest reader now $179 which here in the UK would translate to roughly £136 so the cheap models in Waterstones are still pretty good value for money as is the new Kindle from Amazon at £109.

Listening to TWiT on the way into work this morning a lot of discussion by the panel on the pricing of the Kindle and an expectation that the price would drop again. Remember when the Kindle first came out it was $399 and now is just $139. In a year or two it might be $40 and after that free when you buy four or five books from Amazon!

It is an interesting time for ebook readers.

A BIG e-Book Reader

We often don’t get gadgets here in the UK that they have in the US, for example anyone want a Zune? Well even if you did, not available officially in the UK.

I remarked very early on when Amazon released the Kindle back in January 2008 that

Of course they aren’t available in the UK at all, I wonder if we will ever see a UK version of the Kindle?

Well the Kindle eventually made it to the UK in October 2009, however without the full on connectivity that made it an attractive device and one that stood out from the other e-Book devices out there. Without the connectivity I couldn’t see how the device was that much different to the Sony eBook Reader which I was using for eBooks. I was also pretty sure that we would see a new tablet/slate device from Apple soon (well probably in next couple of weeks) and that sounded a much better deal.

Having said that, released this week is the Kindle DX, the BIG Kindle. This is again an eBook Reader from Amazon but with a much bigger screen, 9.7” over the 6” of the Kindle. This makes reading complex pages and PDFs much easier than other eBook Readers. This makes it a much more suitable reading device for some curriculum areas which depend on diagrams and pictures.

The other big advantage of the Kindle is the backing of Amazon, making it very easy to buy and download eBooks to the device. This is something that other companies like Apple know, make it easy to buy content and people buy content.

With my Sony eBook Reader, I need to make sure I am on the right computer and then download the eBook to that computer before syncing with the Reader and then I can read my book. With the Kindle, I can browse and download the book via the device. In the US this is pretty seamless, however in the UK it gets a little more complicated and adds an extra charge to the book (as you have to pay roaming 3G charges).

I do like eBook Readers, however I won’t be buying a Kindle DX as I am going to wait and see what Apple bring to the market before the end of the month.

Top Ten Technologies of 2009

Here are my top ten technologies of 2009. Last year I posted my top ten technologies of 2008, this year I am doing it again.

The technologies that were in last year’s list which didn’t make the grade this year were: The PSP, which though is still a fantastic technology, the original format offered nothing new, the new upgraded version did not cut the mustard as far as I was concerned. Also without the long promised keyboard it is still in the main a content consumption device and therefore dropped out of the top ten. The Asus EeePC which dramtically changed the market for computers is now as a format effectively dead. As I write companies such as Samsung and Lenovo are releasing cheap laptops that they are branding as netbooks, however these are for all intents and purposes just cheap laptops with 10.1′ screens and big keyboards. The small linux based micro-laptop format is no longer wanted by consumers and I didn’t really use mine in 2009, so it also dropped out of the top ten. iMovie ’08 was in my top ten in 2008, iMovie ’09 isn’t in my top ten of 2009. It’s not that I didn’t use it, I did, but like the PSP it didn’t offer anything new. Will be interesting to see what iMovie ’10 has to offer. The Edirol RH-09 was in my top ten last year, I still use it, but newer technologies have replaced it in the top ten. Likewise the iPod touch which was fantastic in 2009 has been replaced this year for me by my iPhone. Similarly the 3G USB Stick/Dongle has been replaced by newer technologies such as the MiFi, built in 3G and JoikuSpot.

Anyway onto the top ten technologies of 2009.

10. Nintendo DSi

Released at the end of March, the Nintendo DSi took the best selling Nintendo DS and added extra functionality. From an e-learning perspective the addition of not one but two cameras made the DSi a tool that learners and practitioners could use to capture evidence; or to review a vocational activity. As the DSi can use standard SD cards, this means it is very simple to move files to and from the DSi to the network, VLE or the internet. It’s not perfect, it’s not that easy to put content on the DSi, the lack of a browser coming as standard and the fact that it is a gaming device first and foremost. However it is in my top ten as it had a real impact in Gloucestershire College on teaching and learning.

9. Sanyo CA9

Though there are cheaper video cameras out there, and there are cameras which have better lenses, the Sanyo CA9 is in my top ten technologies due to the fact that a) it uses SD Cards and b) it is waterproof. Cameras with built in Flash memory are great (as you don’t need an SD Card) however SD Cards allow learners to use the camera and the pass it to another learner, whilst holding onto their content (video and images). The fact that the CA9 is waterproof means as well as taking it out in the rain (or swimming) if it gets dirty in a workshop, salon, kitchen, it can be rinsed under a tap. However the waterproofness gives one main disadvantage in that you have to remove the battery to charge it, making it awkward to charge a class set. Despite that one reservation, the Sanyo CA9 is in my top ten of 2009. Video cameras in general can have a real impact on teaching and learning, and we found by putting over a hundred and fifty of them into the college has had a real positive impact and improved retention and achievement.

8. MiFi

So what’s the MiFi? A battery powered 3G wireless router. Using a 3G SIM it would connect to the internet and then allow  up to five wireless clients to connect and share that 3G connection. With a four hour battery life, could be charged via USB and about the size of a credit card. Using a SIM from a Vodafone 3G USB dongle it was  very simple to set up and configure and I would recommend that you use the details from Ross Barkman’s excellent website on connection settings for GPRS/3G to save having to work out where the information is on your providers’ website. You can configure it wirelessly, and the first things I did was rename the wireless network and add WPA2 security. Once configured it is simply a matter of turning it on, waiting for it to connect and then connect your laptop (or other device) to the wireless network. It works very well and felt faster than using the USB dongle! It’s not perfect, it doesn’t really work on the train, but in a fixed location without wifi it does make life easier. You can now get the MiFi from 3 on a contract or as PAYG. This is much “cheaper” than buying the unlocked MiFi, but of course you get less flexibility as a result

7.  Sony HDR-SR10E HDD Camcorder

Last year in my top ten for 2008 I had in two cameras, the Sony HDR-SR8 and the Panasonic HDC-SD5. This year I have as a result of using the Sony HDR-SR8 camera, bought some more cameras for use by staff and in the main used the new Sony HDR-SR10E HDD Camcorder. This is at the high end of the consumer market, though you do get a lot of features. Key ones for me are, a decent lens, full 1080i resolution, a 250GB on board hard drive, and I also had a selection of microphones as well. I used it a lot for taking video this year and very pleased with the end results. Easy to import the video into iMovie ‘09, edit and export.

6. Tricaster

So you need to shoot video? You need to stream video? You need to record video? You need more then one camera? You want graphics, you want presentation slides, you want to screenshare? Though there are a plethora of tools out there for shooting and recording video, screen captures, presentations; most then require you to edit the footage before sharing. One of the things I wanted to do in 2009 was to do all that, but do it live! You can do that using a TV Studio, but it’s not very portable; the Tricaster is!

The process of creating live, network-style television can be very costly and require massive amounts of expensive equipment and a large crew of people. TriCaster™ changes all of that. In one lightweight, portable system (small enough to fit in a backpack), you have all of the tools, including live virtual sets on select models, required to produce, live stream, broadcast, and project your show.

5. JokiuSpot

A simple idea which just works. Basically it turns my Nokia N95 into a wireless hotspot, allowing me to connect multiple wireless devices to my phone’s 3G internet connection. I start JoikuSpot and once started I can then join the wireless and surf the internet. Usually I am using my iPod touch or my MacBook Pro. The Light version only really does internet, it doesn’t allow e-mail or https for example, whereas the Premium version does; this is the reason I upgraded to the Premium version and very pleased I am with it. The main downside is the impact it has on the battery life on the Nokia N95, down to less than four hours, often less!

4. Elgato Turbo.264 HD

Having shot the video, encoding for the iPod or the web can seen to take an age. I have been using and impressed with the Elgato Turbo.264 HD which is a hardware encoder for encoding MP4 files (with the H.264 Codec). It speeds up the process dramtically, encoding is now faster than real time, often twice as fast; and doesn’t tie up the processor allowing you to continue to do other things on your computer. Elgato make some fantastic hardware, the EyeTV is a great device, the Turbo.264 HD allows you to take those recordings and other movie files and convert them easily and fast.

3. Nokia N95

The N95 was my top technology from 2008, it is still here in the top ten for 2009 as it is a device which I still use on a regular basis. The Nokia N95 for me is much more than a phone, it is a device which allows me to create upload and connect. Like the iPod touch I use it on a daily basis, though to be honest rarely as a phone or for SMS. The 5MP camera has an excellent lens and can be used to take some nice photographs. I use Shozu to automatically upload my photographs to Flickr or Facebook over the phone’s 3G connection or if in the right place over wifi. The phone also takes some nice video as well and I can use Shozu to upload that as well automatically. The Nokia N95 does come with a web browser, which is usable, but nowhere near as nice as Safari on the iPod touch. However all is not lost, using JokiuSpot (see above) I can turn the N95 into a wifi hotspot and use the N95’s 3G connection and the iPod touch for browsing, job done. Video works well on the N95 and simple MP4 files work well, though the screen is small, the phone comes with a composite video cable which allows you to show what is on the phone on a video screen or through a projector. I also use the phone to read QR codes which it does quite well. The N95 also has built in GPS and though routing software is extra, for checking where you are using Nokia Maps the phone works great. I also like how Shozu geo-tags the photographs I upload to Flickr too. It’s not all perfect, the device is very chunky and very thick, if you like thin phones, then you won’t like the N95. I am not a great fan of the keypad, but it’s better than some I have used, and to be honest I don’t like phone keypads anyhow!

2. 27″ i7 iMac

Though I have had this computer for just over a month, it is a fantastic piece of kit and as a result is not only in my top ten for 2009, but also my number two technology. This is one mean fast computer. For the first time I can be recording video, encoding video, using the web, CS4 and other stuff without it impacting on my workflow. It replaced a three year old Intel iMac which was (and still is) fantastically fast, but was starting to feel its age when handling multiple processor intensive tasks. With four cores and 8GB of RAM, this new iMac is the business and has made my life a lot less frustrating.

1. iPhone 3GS

Last year my top technology was a phone, the Nokia N95, this year it is also a phone, the iPhone 3GS. Though the iPhone came to the UK in 2007, I did not buy one, as when it came out it did not meet my needs, no tethering, no 3G, no applications. Even the 3G model has some limitations, in the main the poor quality camera, at the time no videe and lack of tethering. The iPod touch did make my top ten last year as that was certainly the device to use if you wanted to use applications. With its Wifi connection and JoikuSpot and the MiFi  I didn’t need the 3G connection that the iPhone provided. However… in March of this year I got an iPhone 3G through work, partly to support my MoLeNET work and partly as everyone was recommending the iPhone to me (and my work Nokia N73 was getting a little long in the tooth). I have to admit that the iPhone 3G was a great device and changed the way I communicated, collaborated and used the web. I started to use SMS as I did like the iPhone keyboard though I know others don’t like it. With the release of the iPhone 3GS and my home phone contract ended, I decided to switch to O2 and get the iPhone 3GS. I got the 32GB model (you can never have enough storage) and was blown away. This was almost the perfect device. With a great camera that shot good (enough) images and video, a great internet experience, the best on any mobile device I have used. However the biggest impact was the applications, the iPhone was starting to become the computer I travel with, communicate with, collaborate with, share with; and that is the main reason why I have put the iPhone 3GS as my top technology of 2009.

The Top Ten Blog Posts of 2009

These are the top ten posts from this blog (according to the stats) in terms of views. In reverse order…

10. Sony eBook Reader – First Impressions

Back in March I got my hands on a Sony eBook Reader and posted my first impressions. Since then I have found the eBook Reader to be a very useful device. So much so that in October I wrote e-Book Readers, are they the future? and in November I wrote So do you like books, or do you like reading? I also gave the Keynote at the JISC Collections AGM in which I discussed the future of e-Books.

9. It’s all about the coffee…

Twitter has been the service of 2009 and this was the blog posting of my presentation on Twitter that I delivered at the Handheld Learning Conference 2009 in October.

Of course really Twitter is all about the coffee. It’s the coffee you drink with colleagues during a break, where you discuss work, but also your commute, TV, films, the weather. It’s the coffee you drink whilst browsing the web and posting links of interesting web site to your blog or in an e-mail. It’s the coffee you drink in a coffee shop, reading the paper or a book. It’s the coffee you drink with fellow delegates during a break or at lunch at a conference. Where you discuss the keynotes, the presentations, the workshops, where you are going next, your hotel, the food, the coffee, what you do, where you’re going, what gadgets you have in your bag.

8. Sanyo CA9 Video Camera

This post from April was a repost of a blog entry that  first appeared on the Shiny Project Blog. The Sanyo CA9 Video Camera was one of the devices we had purchased as part of our MoLeNET project and these were my initial thoughts about this small handheld video camera. The camera proved to be a huge success in the college causing major cultural shifts in the way that practitioners and learners used video. Nice thing about the camera was that it was waterproof.

7. The VLE is Dead

This was the PR post for the VLE is Dead Symposium at ALT-C 2009. Just a trailer…

6. No Flash player on the Google G1

There is no Flash player for the iPhone and at its release there was no Flash player for the Google G1 either.

5. It’s not dead… yet…

This was posted before the ALT-C VLE is Dead debate. This was my response to various posts made by others on the death of VLEs.

4. G2 Google Phone

This posting is this high due to a high Google search ranking I expect… Not a huge amount of content, just some thoughts and a link on the then new G2 Google phone.

3. Ten things people say about using Twitter, but really they shouldn’t

One of two Twitter “ten things” posts I made in 2009. One of the things that does annoy me about Twitter is the way in which people like to dictate to you how it should be used and how you should use it. This is the top ten things you should never say about using Twitter.

2. The VLE is Dead – The Movie

We filmed the VLE is Dead debate at ALT-C 2009 and this was uploaded within 12 hours… I served something like 40GB of video in the first week of this post going live.

1. Ten reasons why Twitter will eventually wither and die…

Though Twitter has been the service of 2009, one day it will die… These were my ten reasons why it will die… one day….

It is a fact known to all that use Web 2.0 tools and services that one day they will no longer be flavour of the month, or will be swamped by spam, cons and hustlers. We have just seen the death of Geocities and services such as Friendster and Friends Reunited are not once what they were. The same will, one day happen to Twitter!

So there are my top ten blog posts of 2009 according to the number of visitors.

The Netbook is Dead

Back in the autumn of 2007, Asus launched their Asus EeePC. I managed to get my hands on one in February; a small form factor PC running Xandros (Linux) with a 7″ screen.

There had been small laptops before, but they were usually around £2000, the Asus EeePC was less than £200!

What do you use your computer for?

Photo source.

Before long, lots of other companies had jumped on the bandwagon, Dell, HP, even Sony started offering a cheap netbook. Notably Apple didn’t!

In November 2008 we recorded a podcast on the impact of the Asus EeePC and other netbooks; this was at the height of their popularity.

However it wasn’t long before the honeymoon was over. Only in March I was writing about some of the issues I had had with the very small netbooks.

Though I liked the Asus EeePC the keyboard was rather too small for me and I know others found it difficult to type large amounts of text on it. The HP 2133 was well suited to those who found the smaller micro-laptops too much of a microscopic size.

It was also back then we started to see the feature creep and added functionality with newer netbooks, in the same blog post I wrote.

However no point in recommending the HP 2133 as HP have decided to withdraw that model. Their replacement, the HP 2140 has a similar form factor to the 2133, included the nice keyboard, but now has a10.1″ screen. You have to ask is it a micro-laptop or is really no longer that form factor and more a subnotebook now?

We also started to see rising prices too. But the devices were popular with learners and practitioners. At most e-learning events too they were awash with netbooks.

However here we are two years after the launch of the Asus EeePC and the netbook is effectively dead, or will be dead soon!

The BBC reports that:

Rising prices and better alternatives may mean curtains for netbooks.

The small portable computers were popular in 2009, but some industry watchers are convinced that their popularity is already waning.

“The days of the netbook are over,” said Stuart Miles, founder and editor of technology blog Pocket Lint.

There are now no netbooks with 7″ screens, very few with 8.9″ screens, most are now coming with bigger screens, at least 10.1″ and sometimes larger. The original netbooks came with small flash based drives, often 2, 4 or 8 GB. This was fine for browsing or word processing, but not sufficient for video or audio. So manufacturers started putting in large traditional hard drives. HP pulled Linux from their netbooks back in February, and that was down to consumer demand, consumers wanted Windows and couldn’t handle or like the Linux OS. In my experience, though I did like Xandros, I found the SUSE on the HP netbooks difficult to use and (bizarrely) unreliable. One of the big issues with the netbook was that it was underpowered which meant it was unsuitable for internet video; as a result manufacturers started putting in more memory and more powerful chips.

The netbook as envisgaed by Asus and imitated by others, is now effectively dead. Most netbooks you buy now are effectively normal laptops, maybe a little smaller…

So what does this mean for learners and learning?

A fair few learners did buy netbooks, but many more bought traditional laptops, as they preferred the “better” user experience over the netbook. Netbooks for most users were as a second computer; learners were more likely to have a single computer and needed something more powerful. Netbooks often did not have the power to deal with media-rich learning content. However the death of the netbook means that there is not the choice that learners did have.

Or is there?

Newer technologies can result in more choice. For a lot of people I know the iPhone has replaced their netbook, and with the introduction of a large iPhone-esque Tablet device by both Apple and Microsoft in 2010 we may have a new style of netbook, a tabletnetbook!