Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Dell DH421 Bluetooth Mouse

- Bought a refurbished unit from ebay (just search dh421 on ebay) for $19 shipped. It's in great condition and looks hardly used.
- Setup was a breeze. It works perfectly with the built in bluetooth on my Dell Inspiron 8600 (yeah dongle free!). Just add new bluetooth device, hit the bluetooth button on the bottom of the mouse, it finds it, add it without a pass phrase and you are set.
- There is a dedicated on/off power switch on the underside.
- Some google research shows this as a re-branded Logitech mx510 bluetooth except I don't see this specific model anywhere on the logitech site. I own a few mx510 wired mice and they are quite different. Either way it is suppose to be a logitech optical engine.
- Full sized bluetooth mouse with 5 buttons (that are placed in the normal position I might add) and tilt scroll wheel. Everything works great without drives except the tilt so I didn't test that.
- Takes 2XAA batteries.
- Tracking is as good as you can expect but can't hold up to the latest laser mice like the Logitech VX Nano.

This would be the perfect mouse if it had an updated laser engine. Either way it's a great mouse at $19.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Logitech VX Nano Cordless Laser Mouse for Notebook

left: mx610; Right: vx Nano

Receiver is TINY!

Receiver also stores inside the mouse for travel:

- $50 from best buy.
- Smallest receiver of any wireless mouse. It's definitely small enough to leave plugged in all the time with no fear of breaking it off. The only thing better would be built in bluetooth.
- Notebook sized mouse but still pretty comfortable for the most part.
- 5 button mouse. The back/forward buttons are actually on the top of the mouse and not on the side where your thumb is. So you are expected to use your index finger for the back/forward buttons. It's easy to reach due to the size of the mouse but it does take a bit getting use to. Also, the middle mouse button is NOT the scroll wheel itself. Instead it's a button directly below the scroll whee. Clicking the scroll wheel toggles between frictionless and clicky. It's nice that all 5 buttons are on a notebook sized mouse but these changes do take some time to adjust to.
- This is the first frictionless wheel mouse I've owned, and I have to say it's very hand scrolling through a LOT of text quickly while browsing or coding.
- Laser tracking works great on almost any surface.
- No drivers needed. Everything works without drivers except tilting the wheel left/right.
- Uses 2XAAA batteries. It's suppose to last 6 months. Has auto off. There is also a power button on the underside.
- Impressive packaging; also includes a carrying case and usb extension cable/stand.

It's a pretty good mouse for use with a laptop. A perfect mouse would be laser, full sized with normal 5 button placement, and this tiny nano receiver (or bluetooth). Also, it's a tad pricey.

Monday, January 14, 2008

HP Color LaserJet 2600n

Official site

- Got it through employee discount for $200. Even without the employee discount you can regularly find it for under $290 shipped.
- Setup was pretty quick and simple. Just a few items had to be snapped in place and tape removed (from printer and each of the 4 toner cartridges).
- You can connect either by usb or the built in 10/100 ethernet print server. Of course I went with ethernet.
- There is a very nice embedded web server to manage all the settings of the printer (and there are a ton. Check out the user guide on the support site for details). Just point your browser to the IP of the printer. It uses DHCP to pick up an IP just fine (which I then reserved a static IP by MAC address on my router).
- First I grabbed the latest drivers from the support page.
I tested this printer under winxp only though I do see vista and vista 64bit drivers are available.
specifically I first downloaded this driver:
HP Color LaserJet 2600n Driver
firmware update:
HP Color LaserJet 2600n Printer Firmware Update Utility
network printer wizard:
Install Network Printer Wizard
1) install the driver. this just uncompresses the files. It doesn't actually install anything at this point.
2) run the install network printer wizard. When you get to the driver installation part just choose your location and pick where the driver files were uncompressed in step #1.
3) After I confirmed everything was working I ran the firmware update.
Just repeat steps 1 and 2 for every pc on your network.
- Overall performance is pretty good. It's a single pass printer even for color (about 8ppm). Time to first page is about 20 seconds or so. Quality is pretty good. This replaced an ancient dying HP PhotoSmart 1100. Even on plain paper photographs looked better on this printer than my old 1100. Having said that I'm sure any modern photo inkjet would beat it. Still, not having to mess with expensive maintenance heavy ink anymore is a big advantage.
- To give you a rough idea of quality here is the sample test page which I printed out and then scanned back in at 300 dpi.

- Toner cartridges are expensive. Retail price is $75 for black and $83 for each color (yield is 2000 pages). Total price would be $324. Since this printer comes with full toner cartridges (none of that starter crap) it pretty much makes this a disposable printer since it's actually cheaper to just buy a new printer. Either way it's not that big of a deal since we won't be using it that often. I still have my samsung laser pinter for black and white jobs only. You can always go the ebay route to get toner too. I've refilled my samsung twice now and it's working great. Toner for the samsung was dirt cheap (around $10 or so). Of course you have to remember that the drum is part of the toner cartridge and after the second refill you will probably need to replace it. Looking around on ebay it seems a 4 color toner set with chips cost around $94 (black only around $45) if you want to go that route. You can also get a tool that will melt a 3/4" hole into the toner cartridge for easy refill. I have NOT tried any of this so I have no idea if this is a good idea or not. On the samsung it was really simple to refill (just a few screws).
- The chip/counter isn't too big of a deal since you can override it and print until you are dry.
- It's not too terribly bulky. It's pretty tall but the base isn't bad. It's about 40lbs.

Overall I like the printer so far but I haven't used it nearly enough yet to pass any sort of judgment. But so far I like the quality, speed, and value. Either way I'm glad to be rid of inkjet forever!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (PS3)

- Finished in around 12 hrs on normal. I found only 35/60 treasures. Length was just about perfect.
- Graphics are amazing for any system. This is hands down one of the best looking games I've seen. I love the texture work, wet/water effects, foliage that moves, incredible draw distances, lighting and fire, all with a rock steady smooth framerate.
- Overall I liked the art direction for the most part except for the character designs. They did grow on me over time though.
- Animations are nice and smooth with some really great work in the facial animations during cut scenes.
- Game play is basically gears of war combat with a very good cover system + prince of Persia/tomb raider platforming/environmental puzzles. Toss in some rail shooter parts, some drivable vehicles, a few short quick time battle segments, and you've got probably every action adventure/3rd person shooter innovation in the last half decade all combined into something truly great. It's incredibly polished. The controls are pretty spot on. Everything just feels responsive and right. You never get stuck too long since after a while they will usually throw you a hint telling you to hit L2, and the camera will focus on where/what you should do next.
- Pacing is excellent. This is all high quality dense content. There is no fluff. Checkpoints were plentiful and were mostly fine. I think I only had some difficulties maybe 3 times. The game does quite a bit to reduce frustration. It's like the designers actually want you to finish this game. Nice ending too.
- I loved the story and the characters. They did a great job developing them where you really cared what happened to them. I thought this was some of the best writing in any game (and better than a lot of movies). The main character personality reminds me a lot of Malcom (Nathan Fillion) from Firefly. If you like that sarcastic wit kind of humor then you'll love this game. The other two principal characters are great too. All the voice acting is top notch. There are a lot of cut scenes to help further the story which I always looked forward to watching.
- All the level design/architecture is top notch too.
- AI is pretty impressive. You'll often see squads work together advancing on you trying to flank. They take cover all the time. When they do pop out to take a shot at you, it's not always in the same place. Sometimes they roll out or peak around a corner or stand up.
- Music fits the game perfectly. I think it was in fact composed by the same guy who did Firefly's music.
- When you spin around quickly the game adds this motion blur effect. I found it really annoying.
- Pretty good weapon selection but I wish I could hold more than 2 weapons. If you could always have a pistol as backup + 2 primary weapons would have been much better. Greater max ammo would have been nice too.
- Motions controls are used a bit: shaking, balance, grenade toss distance. I just wish they made the grenade distance motion thing optional. It would have worked much better if you could just use the right analog stick.
- Wireless controller cut out a few times especially after doing a manual save.
- I've read this game supports rumble if you have one of the new Dual Shock 3 controllers. Importing one runs around $60.
- There's some nice bonus content. You can re-watch any of the cut scenes. Also, there are several making of videos that I'm working my way through.

Hands down the best PS3 game so far and easily one of the best games on any platform. If you own a PS3 you NEED to get this game.

Highly recommended!

Friday, January 04, 2008

GamingSteve.com and Playstation 3 (40GB)

- So I've been listening to the Gaming Steve Podcast for over 2 years now. He's in the industry and runs a casual games studio. He also is pretty well connected especially with Blizzard and Spore information. Anyways, I've always found his meaty podcasts (warning they are pretty long) informative and entertaining. I think we are in the same age bracket (mid 30's), is a family man like me, and seem to have similar tastes in games so I found him easy to relate to. I especially like his retro reviews since I've played many of those games in my youth. Well, a few months ago he kind of stopped the podcasts temporarily since real life got in the way as it often does. He recently started podcasting again and decided to have a contest where all you had to do was email him with your game of the year and explain why. I decided why not. This time the prizes were much bigger. Usually he gives away gaming swag. But this time to celebrate his podcast come back he was also giving away a free game of your choice and the first place prize of a game system of your choice. I've never won anything on a podcast before so you can imaging how excited I was when I heard him start reading the email from the winner in this podcast episode. FYI my GOTY is Crysis. I highly recommend you give his site a look and his podcast a listen. He also runs a pretty active forum.
Anyways a BIG THANKS goes out to Gaming Steve for the free Playstation 3 and for shipping it to me so quickly!

- Got it in last night. Shipped from amazon.
- It's very similar to the 60gb I got near launch. It's missing 2 usb ports, only has a 40gb hdd, no backwards compatibility at all with ps1/ps2, and no card reader. The 60/20gb models had both ps2 cpu and gpu for nearly perfect 100% backwards compatibility (and nice upscaling to make your ps2 games look better than ever). The 80gb dropped the cpu but still had the gpu so they did the cpu using software emulation. Emulation isn't perfect so compatibility wasn't as good. Now to further reduce cost the 40gb drops both the ps2 cpu and gpu and therefore no backwards compatibility of any sort. Interesting that the flap on the top left which usually conceals the card reader slots is locked down so you can't flip it open. The back IO ports doesn't seem to have changed at all. The face plate around the optical drive is now a flat silver vs the chrome finish on my 60gb. Also, this unit is practically silent (not that my 60gb was all that loud to begin with). It still has wifi which I didn't use since my house is fully cat5 wired.
- Since upgrading the downstairs home theater the original 60gb ps3 has pretty much permanently relocated there for blu-ray duties and some gaming. So this 40gb fits nicely upstairs in the game room where my 60gb use to sit. It's hooked up via hdmi to my 40" samsung 720p LCD HDTV and optical for the 5.1 sound. No backwards compatibility isn't as big of a deal upstairs since my ps2 is still hooked up to that tv.
- I have another Nyko Blu Wave remote control on order for integration with my harmony.
- After initial setup, upgrading to latest 2.10 firmware (it came with 2.0 installed) and a few quick tests I decided to swap out the hard drive. I had upgraded my original 60gb to a 160gb so I still had the original 60gb pretty much just sitting around. So I went ahead and took out the 40gb and stuck in the 60gb.
The original 40gb hard drive:

- Next, I decided to go ahead and install yellowdog linux on it. I reformatted the hard drive with 50gb to ps3 game os and 10gb for other os.
- There is a newer version of YDL since I installed on the 60gb. They are up to 5.02. Go DL the image from one of the mirrors.
The file you need is yellowdog-5.0.2-20070711.iso.
Follow this install guide.
It's even easier than before. All the files you need, even the boot loader, are in the dvd image. So you no longer need a usb key drive.
- I tested it briefly, fired up firefox, it seemed to work fine. OK back to the game os. I tested out the sample blu ray disc that was included that has a bunch of game and movie trailers.

It also came with Spiderman 3 on blu-ray though I had already bought the trilogy on blu-ray. I guess I'll give it away to somebody as a gift.
- Multiple console experience: On the 360 I ended up getting a 512MB MU and putting my profile on there and all my save games. This works pretty well except to login to live I had to always go grab my MU and move it from system to system. The PS3 makes it really easy to enter login credentials for PSN on multiple consoles and have yit automatically login (none of this profile file crap that can only exist in one place like on the 360). Save games are always saved to the hard drive so you have to copy them to a usb key drive to move them between ps3's.
- Re-downloading my PSN games was a snap. In the top right corner of the playstation store is a download list. After downloading my payed for content again and installing I was up and running the full version of the games.
- Setup the media streaming from windows media player 11. It worked fine. I tested an xvid file which played fine.

Overall it's a great system. The lack of usb and card reader is no big deal since you can grab a usb hub and a usb card reader for next to nothing. As long as you don't need ps1/ps2 backwards compatibility this is still the best blu-ray player (and upscaling dvd player) out there (now even better with profile 1.1 support), and it is starting to get better as a game machine (Uncharted is really great).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Time Crisis 4 with Guncon 3 (PS3)

A LOT of screen real estate is wasted in two player mode:

Actually, It's better if you put the weight right behind the sensor. That way you can tilt the sensor to angle downward.

- I bought two copies at $50 each on amazon that way I could have two guns. I then flipped one of the copies of the game to gamestop for $28 back.
- Sensors mount by the use of a rubber strip and a weight on the end. It just kind of sits on your tv. Nothing actually attaches the sensor to the TV. The usb cord is plenty long.
- The Guncon 3 is ok. It's a little bulky with the handle/control pod that sticks out the left side. It also throws the balance off a bit when playing with one hand. Overall it's ok and still pretty light. The usb cable on the gun itself is a tad short. I ended up using some 6ft usb extensions.
- Accuracy is pretty good with the five point calibration system (which you have to do for each gun every time you start the game). It's not quite as good as guncon 2 but acceptable. You can still aim pretty well using the actual gun sights.
- I finished the arcade mode in less than 2 hrs. This was after repeated plays by my son who unlocked free play for me. It's classic Time Crisis, and I really enjoyed it (especially those helicopter levels).
- Two player is ok but that split screen is horrible and puts big black borders around everything. It basically turned my 52" LCD into two tiny 20" screens. Still I guess it's better than nothing.
- It's not backwards compatible with the earlier ps2 Time Crisis games (2 & 3) which sucks.
- The new complete "fps" mode is another story. It's weird that you control it like a standard dual analog stick fps yet you can still aim separately with the light gun. This means you control the camera view (right analog stick) independently of where you shoot. It's a bit awkward to say the least. You end up moving, adjust camera, stop, then aim and shoot. The player walks really slowly. Your health recharges if you sit there not moving for a few seconds. It really is slow placed and kind of boring. Oh and yeah your hands will hurt after while. Still it's quite a bit of additional content.
- There's also some target shooting mini games.
- Graphics are 720p and pretty sharp though not all that impressive or next gen looking.

It's expensive but performs about as expected. If you like light gun games this is about the only next gen option available (Ghost Squad on the Wii isn't really the same with the lack of sights on the zapper). I guess you can always try a G1 or TopGun in back compatibility mode on the ps3 with Time Crisis 2 or 3 if you really want. I've read it works on the ps3 I haven't had time to personally test the G1 yet.

Recommended only to die hard light gun fans.