Sunday, September 27, 2009

XB360 Max Memory 2GB (XBOX 360)

left to right: standard microsdhc card reader, pc software, max memory, official xbox 360 512MB MU

PC software:

CodeJunkies (they also have a 4gb version for $50)
- I picked up the 2gb version from best buy for $40
- Your typical official xbox 360 memory unit only has 512MB of space and goes for $30. The max memory actually has no internal memory. It's basically a special adapter that takes standard micro sdhc cards and makes them look like a regular xbox 360 MU. This is great if you have multiple xbox 360's or if you like the convenience of saving all your save games and profile data on a MU so it is easy to move around. So it's not just for you hard driveless xbox 360 arcade owners.
- I promptly removed the included 2gb microsdhc and replaced it with a 16gb one I had.
- With 16GB of storage space I'll never have to worry about running out of space or moving older saves to the hard drive (if you have a lot of oblivion, fallout 3, gta 4 saves you know what I mean. Those can add up really fast). With this much space you could also just have a copy of all your xbox live arcade games on the MU so you can carry them around with you.
- The microsdhc slot on the max memory is NOT spring loaded. It is just friction based but I found the micro sd card easy to remove and still held firmly in place.
- If you stuck in a new micro sd card in like I did you will need to format it first on the 360 (system, memory, highlight max memory, hit Y) since MU uses FATX file system vs the usual PC fat32. After that it works just like any other MU except it shows 14.8 GB Free!!!!
- Next, I copied over all my save files, gamer pics, themes, etc from my old 512MB MU to the max memory.
- Certain games like all the rock band games have their save files protected so you can only MOVE them. Also, you may only copy the save files for the currently signed in profile. So if you have multiple profiles and associated saves on the MU, you'll need to log into each profile and move their associated saves.
- Profiles of course you can only be moved. After that all my data was on the new max memory MU.
- Installing the PC software lets you do several things like backup/restore an image of the entire MU and backup/restore individual save games. I grabbed the latest version here and after that it had one more update it found when I ran it. You must run their software in administrator mode.
- As a side note if you have purchased their older Xbox 360 Transfer Kit which basically contains a usb adapter that lets you read the standard MU on your pc, it also works with the above software. Granted you need to install the latest XPORT 360 mainly for the drivers for the dongle but after that the Max Memory Manager will see it just fine.
- Max Memory is a lot better when it comes to PC access. Since it's just a standard microsdhc, you can use any microsdhc card reader or if you have an adapter, any sdhc reader. Once you insert the micro sd card into the PC it will ask if you want to format it (since it doesn't know what the heck FATX is). You must hit cancel! It's a bit annoying this happens every time but not too big of a deal.
- Xplorer360 will also see the micro sd card just fine though I find little need for it. The official code junkies software is quite polished now. Everything runs fine under windows 7 x64.
- So with the max memory manager you can backup your entire MU for peace of mind. It also has built in compression for these image files to save a little disk space.

Highly Recommended! If you every find you need an xbox 360 memory unit then this is the one to get. For just $10 more you get 4X the memory of a 512mb unit (or 32X if you opt for a 16gb micro sdhc card), it's the exact same size as the original MU, performance seems about the same, and you get to use any standard microsdhc which makes transfers and backing up to the PC a snap without the need of special drivers. Honestly, I can't find a single negative thing to say about this product.

UPDATE: 10/17/09
- Looks like after the next xbox 360 update this MU might no longer work anymore. If this is true it will truly suck! I mean this isn't some shady counterfeit MU from China that I bought off of ebay. This was purchased off the shelf in a freakin Best Buy!!! Microsoft, you are becoming as bad as apple!

UPDATE: 4/5/2010
- So I finally payed a couple of bucks in postage to send my unit back for replacement with the new version that works with the latest dashboard. Just follow the instructions here.
- I got the replacement unit in about a week along with some new instructions. It's basically a rename hack. Instead of one contiguous block of space you have 4X512mb "cards" on a 2gb sd card. You "switch cards" by renaming the card to "card 1" or "card 2", etc.

- The whole point of the device is now moot since USB Memory support is coming on April 6, 2010.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Navigon - Mobile Navigator North America

One way to run more than one iPhone app at the same time:

- I picked this up because we were planning to do some driving over a week long vacation. Both our cars have built in nav so I needed something portable. I really didn't want to carry another device than the iPhone I would already have on me. I've rented a garmin nav system in the past so I'm familiar with these stand alone portable units too.
- Refuse to pay a subscription fee for nav which sounds like highway robbery to me. So no at&t app.
- At the time TomTom was still not out so based on a few qt3 recommendations I picked this up at the sale price of $70.
- I drove over 700 miles using navigon (v 1.0) and then later a bit more on the latest release which has the text to speech.
- On my iphone 3gs it takes about 10 sec to get to the main menu, another 10 sec to load the map, and finally another 10 sec to get a gps lock. So about 30 sec for the entire startup process which isn't bad at all.
- It helps if you hold the iphone near the front window over the dash during this initial lock. Once you get a good gps lock you can pretty much freely move/place the iphone, and it does a pretty good job maintaining the lock.
- It will definitely lose lock when in a tunnel or if you have a freeway overhead. It does regain lock pretty quickly in these cases.
- It does a pretty good job in rainy cloudy weather and tall sky scrapper filled urban areas. I pretty much maintained lock all the time in these cases.
- The graphics are good. For some reason I hated the 3d view on the garmin but found the 3d view really useful on the navigon. Voice quality was about as good as can be expected on the iphone speakers. Of course you can always use a 1/8" stereo cable if your car stereo has a line input.
- Performance for searching POI, addresses, switching between 2d-3d view, panning, zooming, viewing entire route, etc all performed quite snappy. I have no complaints.
- I do wish there was a way to toggle off POI icons in the 2d view. It can get quite cluttered looking in urban areas.
- The speed limit data was also quite helpful and accurate for the most part. You can set different thresholds before the nav lady will bark at you or you can just turn it off.
- Automatic day/night modes.
- The text 2 speech in the latest free upgrade works and works quite well.
- I reality view, lane assistance works great. It does a great job showing lanes, which lane you need to be in and turn off on, and signs. It's all very accurate.
- The nav lady could speak up a littler earlier sometimes when turns comes up. Most of the time it was fine.
- Navigon did a good job with route calculations. Again, no complaints.
- Real time traffic is coming but for an additional one time charge ($20).
- For the $70 I loaded it up on my iPhone and my wife's. So basically I got two nav systems for the price of one.
- Contact integration worked fine for the one time I used it. POI database seemed pretty complete to me. Saving favorites and history all worked nicely.
- Integrated ipod controls are nice. It automatically quiets your music when the nav lady speaks.
- It resumes gracefully after phone calls.
- It sucks down the battery like crazy. You'll definitely want your iPhone on a car charger while using navigon.
- You need quite a bit of space (double at the time of install) to store all the maps locally but that also means you don't need an at&t signal to use it. Keep at least 4GB free and you should be fine. Since it is so big it sure takes a long time to download and sync the updates.

Highly recommended. It pretty much did everything I expect out of a nav system and did it accurately, reliably, and quickly. The price might be a bit high but I think it is worth it for the convenience.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stereo Bluetooth Receiver Jabra BT3030 Clone

- I bought this off of ebay from seller: andy_ou126 for $30 shipped
- These serve a very similar function to the bluetooth receiver from dealextreme. The difference besides costing over twice as much is the ability to charge through the standard mini usb jack while it is in use.
- Some possible application is hooking this up to say a home theater receiver or your car stereo 1/8" line input and then being able to play your music from your iphone or any other a2dp bluetooth device with the freedom of being wireless. Also, you never have to worry about charging the batteries since you can basically just leave it plugged in to the usb charger. Any car usb charger (not included) works fine too.
- My original idea was to use it in the car hooking it up to the 1/8" line input. It worked fine along with my iphone. There are a couple things that make it less practical. First, my car has a very nice handsfree feature built in. You can't pair the iphone with 2 devices at the same time (say headset on one device and a2dp on another). And trust me you really don't want to use this device as a handsfree set. Second, you have to turn on the device by holding down the function button for 3 seconds. It's not like you can get it to power on automatically when you turn on your car. Finally, it does auto power off once it is out of range of the iphone.
- The sound and build quality do seem a bit better than the dealextreme one but still kind of cheap feeling. Sound quality is fine and can get plenty loud. It's also a bit bigger.
- It's a pretty niche product but might come in handy if you have a situation like one I described above.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Virgin Mobile Broadband2Go

On the mac:

- $150 exclusive from Best Buy. (update: it's now $100)
- NO Contract. You just pay for the amount of traffic you need.
$10, 10 days, 100MB
$20, 30 days, 300MB
$40, 30 days, 1GB
$60, 30 days, 5GB
- You can use prepaid top up cards or you can use a credit card. If you use a credit card just be careful and not set it up to auto re-bill you every 30 days. The whole point is this is for infrequent use. You only buy in when you need the access.
- I used this on a recent vacation. So instead of paying $15 a night at each hotel I ended up using this. Plus, it's very convenient since you can use it pretty much anywhere. I plan to only use this maybe twice a year when I travel or on vacation. Maybe once in a while like say you are waiting at the car shop this could come in handy. That's the best part. There is no contract. So if I'm not using it for several months, I'm not paying anything.
- EVDO Rev A on Sprint's 3G network. Coverage is only ok since it is sprint but it worked in all the places I needed it to so far.
- Hardware: Novatel Ovation MC760
- More secure than public wifi.
- Speeds are a lot lower than at&t on my iphone. I was only getting around an average of 600-700kbps down and 130kbps up on Still fine for surfing.
- I played around 5 hrs of World of Warcraft on this thing at the airport due to delays. Latency can get pretty high say 300ms and sometimes spiking even higher. Don't even thinking about raiding or doing instances with this thing. But for just doing solo questing and auction house stuff it's just fine.
- Over a week of light surfing and several hours of Wow playing I only used maybe 200-250MB so I think the $20 price point is the sweet spot. The crappy thing is if you don't use all your bandwidth in 30 days you just lose it. It really shouldn't expire IMO. That part feels a bit rip-offish/scammy.
- Works under windows 7 x64 and osx leopard. The device acts like a standard usb drive. It even has a very slow micro sd slot which I didn't bother messing with. Anyways, all the drivers are located right on the device for both PC and MAC.
- You must install and activate it on the PC first (Virgin's activation web site is REALLY SLOW). Once you have it all setup and working on the PC you can move the device to any pc or mac at that point. The mac drivers are pretty bare minimum with no way to see signal strength.
- Kind of nice that you can let a friend borrow it. The problem with smart phone tethering it's not like you are going to let a friend borrow your phone since you kind of need that with you all of the time.
- When you first connect it brings you to virgin's site where it clearly displays bandwidth usage and amount you have left.
- It does get pretty hot while in use. There were two occasions where I had some issues holding on to a connection (this was in osx on my mbp). It would just drop the connection, and I would have to reconnect. Most of the time the connection would hold solid for hours. I'm thinking this is more with sprint coverage and my current location than anything hardware related.
- iPhone 3.1 kills off the easy tethering hack so here is a legit way to get broadband anywhere for your laptop. Granted you have to carry the additional usb evdo modem around but that isn't a big deal considering you are already carrying around a laptop to be able to use it.

Overall: Recommended if your needs fit this particular usage pattern. Great for occasional use, no contract, gets a bit hot, connection/coverage/signal strength/speed/latency is average for sprint evdo but adequate for my purposes and you can play WOW over it (for the most part).