Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Energizer Energi To Go iPod/iPhone Battery Charger

- Picked this up from for $15 + $5 shipping for two.
- Comes with 2XAA lithium ion batteries which are worth quite a bit right there.
- Basically, this device lets you use any 2XAA batteries (including NiMH rechargeables) to recharge your ipod or iphone on the go.
- The specs say to expect around 2 full charges for an ipod using lithium ion. On a recent camping trip I got maybe 1 good full charge for my iPhone 3G (2.2.1) from a set of NiMH. It comes in really handy when you need to charge your iPhone while in the field when there isn't an electrical outlet near by.
- It has a little blue led that flashes while in use.
- The dial on the bottom only adjusts the distance the connector is from the base to accommodate different size ipods/iphones. It has nothing to do with voltage, etc. I find one dot below 80gb fits the iphone about perfectly.
- The iPhone just kind of sits on the connector so you really have to leave it alone while it is charging. If you move it around too much it can lose connection. So while you can continue using your iphone while it is charging, it isn't ideal for that.

Highly recommended. It really saved me on my recent camping trip and let me recharge my iPhone overnight which I then promptly drained the next day while geocaching :-)

UPDATE: 11/4/09
- I find the connection a bit too touchy on my iPhone 3GS. You have to set it just right. If you move it just a bit, it could stop charging. Overall, this annoyance grew on me, and I ended up not using it a whole lot. Instead I recommend the Gum Pro instead.

iPhone 3G Composite AV Cable

- Only $7.40 shipped from dealextreme.
- Works fine with iPhone 3G 2.2.1.
- Quality is pretty good for composite. The above video was converted with handbrake at a pretty low bitrate (about 500MB for the entire movie). It still didn't look too bad blown up to 52". Make sure you go into settings, ipod to adjust some tv out settings. After that I got it to fill the screen perfectly and still maintain the proper aspect ratio.
- Charges while using the cable through the usb connector. I did NOT try syncing but the charging part seems to work fine. Use it with this great USB power adapter.
- Who knows if it will continue working once 3.0 comes out. But for $7.40 it's not that big of a deal to me.

Highly recommended. It's dirt cheap and works fine (at least for now). It turns your iPhone into the ultimate portable video player. Hook it up to a TV while you are at a hotel as long as the tv has composite inputs. The only drawback is stuff you order from dealextreme usually takes about 3 weeks.

UPDATE: 6/29/09
- They do NOT work with iphone 3gs. I think a friend tried it with the iphone 3g with the 3.0 os update and it still worked. On 3gs it works for like 3 seconds and then a message comes up about accessory not being compatible and then cuts the output which we all know is BS b/c I just saw it working just fine. Screwed by apple again. Well, I guess I can always get the offical apple composite cables for $50 ($42 apple tax!).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Nintendo DSi

- Preordered one from Amazon for $170 just to save on shipping.
- The screens do feel a bit larger but of course the resolution is still the same so the pixel density is even lower. It's quite noticeable especially if you've just been playing on an iPhone.
- I like the new volume and power buttons. It's nice that you can't accidentally change the volume like with the slider on the ds lite.
- There are 5 brightness levels and the maximum volume seems louder than the ds lite.
- The matte finish is also nice and feels good in your hands.
- No slot 2 means no GBA games and no guitar hero. There are still some good classic GBA games like super sf II and doom which never got ported over to the ds.
- The SDHC slot support is pretty weak. I stuck a 32gb class 4 in there which worked fine. But what you can do with it is pretty darn limited. You pretty much can only copy dsiware games from the internal memory to the sd card but you cannot PLAY from the sd card. You can only play dsiware games from internal memory. Man this feels like launch wii conditions. They need to get that fixed quickly in a future firmware update. You can also take those whopping .3 mega pixel pictures and save directly to sd. Finally, if you convert some mp3's to aac format, it has a pretty average music player. The biggest drawbacks are you can't lock the buttons and you can't even close the lid without the whole system going into sleep mode and stopping music playback. Pretty lame that it doesn't support mp3. So basically don't bother getting a large sdhc card because most of it will probably go to waste unless you plan to use your dsi as an aac player. I have my iphone for that.
- For mp3 -> aac conversion I like dbpoweramp.
- The overall form factor doesn't seem much different from the ds lite. It really didn't seem any thinner.
- I haven't played it long enough to judge how battery life is yet. Battery is still user replaceable which is nice.
- What is up with changing the power plug yet again!!!! At least I found a pretty good 4 in 1 usb charging cable that works with ds phat, ds lite, dsi, and psp. Pricing is dirt cheap from dealextreme but expect shipping to take around 3 weeks.
Couple that with this very nice usb power adapter (works great with iphone 3g too with the iphone usb cable):
- The two cameras are pretty low resolution. I guess it's ok for the smallish screens on the dsi. You can do all kinds of real time manipulation of the image like stretching it out, etc. My kids got a kick out of it. It also has a pretty nice slide show mode. What is pretty lame is you can only view pictures taken with the dsi. You can't just put a bunch of jpeg's on a sd card and view a slide show. WEAK!!!
- No video support at all (playback or capture).
- The audio recording application is pretty limited. You can only take very short clips and only save to internal memory. It also lets you apply all sorts of funny filters.
- The camera, sound, and music application all feel very fisher price to me.
- Finally, they added WPA support which btw works just fine with dd-wrt. Too bad it's not backwards compatible with older ds games that only support wep.
- You can link your dsiware account with your wiiware account so you only have one login to worry about but what is silly are the points are tracked separately. That means your wii points and dsi points are separate buckets. At least they give you $10 (1000 points) free when you first login. There really isn't much dsiware to pick from. I Bought birds and beans for $2, and I guess I got my money's worth but it isn't anything that you couldn't play on a GBA. Hopefully we'll see more cool indie stuff like the wii has been getting.
- I also grabbed the free opera browser which works kind of ok. You'll tend to run out of memory on more complex pages and of course there is no flash support. Eh, I've got my iPhone which is probably the best hand held browser out right now.
- I upgraded the firmware to 1.3u.
- Comes packed with an extra stylus which is a good thing. The stylus slot is a bit loose for my taste. Still no wrist strap though there is a notch to attach one. Yup, I'm still using my original wrist strap that was included with my ds phat.
- I picked up this case which is pretty nice and compact.

Nintendo DSi Skin

- Got it from for $8 + $2 shipping during a promo. Right now it goes for $11.
- These skins are made out of a very tough material that is highly resistant to scratching and punctures. It covers almost every inch of the DSi for complete protection. It's pretty much the same thing as invisible shield but a lot cheaper.
- Make sure you read the faq and installation instructions carefully.
- Installation is pretty tough. It took me about 2 hrs and even then I screwed up in one corner of the cover but overall it came out pretty good. Here are some tips:
- You want as little dust as possible because getting dust trapped under the skin not only looks bad but also causes air bubbles which makes things even worse.
- There are two methods to wet the skin before applying. You can either use a spray bottle or dip it in a shallow container and shake off as much water as possible. I used the dip method. The advantage of the dip method is it slides around pretty easily for positioning the skin. The disadvantage are the corners and edges are hard to stick because initially it is so wet. You really have to wait several minutes for it to dry out a bit and hold the corners for 30 sec several times before it sticks.
- Doing it in a steamed (from running say a hot shower) does help with keeping the dust out of the air. I've also read a fan helps but it didn't seem to do much for me.
- Keep a credit card handy to help smooth out the skin though keeping your fingers wet and just doing it by hand works quite well.
- Use a toothpick if you need to peal up a corner and retry. It's best though once you lay the skin down you don't ever lift it back up. Just slide it around until it is in position.
- The pieces are cut very precisely and only fit one way. There isn't much room for error so make sure you know where every piece goes and position them carefully.
- A lint free cloth with a bit of highly diluted vinegar and water solution works well to clean the surface before applying the skin.
- Make sure you let the the DSi dry for 24hrs before turning it on.
- You definitely want to wait 36 hrs for best results. The difference between the first 24hrs and 36 hrs was pretty dramatic. It really does smooth out, and most air bubbles will vanish in 36 hrs.
- The feel of the skin is something you'll have to get use to. It's a bit tacky with a slight grip to it. Here's my biggest complaint. For the touch screen it doesn't really reduce sensitivity much as far as using it like a pointer. You don't really need any more pressure to say click on a button. The problem is with gestures with games like Rhythm Heaven. I find it quite a bit harder to flick and drag the stylus across the skin. It really takes some getting use to or I might never get use to it. It looks fine though. The skin is pretty transparent.
- One thing I tried that helped a lot with the touch screen: I wiped the entire ds really well especially the touch screen with baby wipes. This seemed to remove some of the tacky feeling and makes the stylus glide much better over the touch screen. I gave elite beat agents a try, and it seemed to work much better after cleaning the skin.
- The other option is to go with some Hori clones (or the genuine ones) for at least the touch screen. I have some of the hori clones but I haven't decided if I want to put those on instead. I really did a pretty good job on installing the screen pieces so I'm a bit reluctant to remove it.
- The skin also makes the DSi look very shiny. I kind of liked the original matte look and feel. It's really just personal preference.
- Overall what you gain is really good and very complete protection. What you lose is some stylus control on the touch screen and a change in the look and feel of the device. Also, a lot depends on your skills at installation, and I can tell you right now I don't have the most steady hands. I think a lot of it depends on personal preference if you like these full body skins. At $11 + shipping it's not a whole lot to risk. If you don't like it you can always remove it.

Highly recommended if you don't already have a DS. Otherwise I would probably recommend you wait until some good exclusive DSi games come out that make good use of the cameras or maybe a killer dsiware game. Right now it's just a slightly nicer DS Lite for $40 more.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Halo Wars (XBOX 360)

- Finished the single player campaign. Length was pretty good: 15 missions. I did most the of the missions on normal. The last few missions I just switched it to easy because I was trying to get a few more achievements. Besides, there aren't any specific achievements for finishing all missions on normal. I got all skulls and black boxes.
- I tried a little bit of skirmish (farming more achievements) but haven't tried online yet.
- Cut scenes are very well done. The voice acting is quite good, and the story isn't half bad. It was also quite appropriate that I played this right after finishing Halo: Contact Harvest.
- Graphics are quite nice though you don't get much camera zoom control.
- Unit caps were much too low. I prefer either very high are no unit caps like in the c&c games.
- It's a very streamlined and simplified RTS but feels pretty at home on a console. It kind of reminds me a bit of battle for middle earth. You can only build bases and structures on preset spots on the map. Resources come in via supply drop ships that you really don't have to worry about defending. Base defense is pretty much taken care of with turrets. The tech tree is pretty shallow. Unit variety is pretty low.
- Controls work pretty well for the most part. I'm still unhappy about the limited ways you can group your enemies. They let you select all units or local units. You can also easily pick all the units of a particular type but I really wish there was a way to exclude multiple types for your current group or select more than one type from your current group. The circle selection method doesn't help much either. The ability to quickly jump between your different local groups and bases is nice though.
- Path finding is adequate most of the time but once in a while they will do some screwy things.
- Mission variety is pretty good with quite a few heavily scripted levels. Some win conditions seem overly strict. I hate timed missions, and there were a few too many of those. The difficulty ramp is pretty good until you hit around mission 10 where it gets quite a bit harder. Also, I don't particularly like non base building missions. At least heroes can't die and can be revived.
- I liked going heavy air power. I found it quite effective though it takes a while to build up a base to crank out the higher end/upgraded air units.
- What is up with the single mid mission save? Sure you can save at anytime but I would have liked a few slots for experimentation.

Highly recommended. Great RTS lite for the console especially if you are just getting introduced to the genre. There's quite a bit of replayablity. The missions can be quite difficult on the higher skill settings.