I'm watching items on Close Up and on Campbell Live right now on the opening of conservation land for mining.
Gerry Brownlee is being interviewed live on both channels simultaneously.
Which network is deceiving us, and how can they get away with saying something is live when it obviously isn't?
I'm on holiday this week in Christchurch staying on after Saturday's Geekzone pizza evening. My partner hasn't been to the South Island before, and since redjungle hasn't either, we dragged him and his better half along with us. The four of us are really enjoying the sights here in Christchurch.
To make transport easier for the week, we opted for a hire car. I researched a dozen different options, and picked a hire company with a good web special. After a couple of friendly emails regarding pickup times and multiple drivers, I was satisfied that we were going to have a trouble-free hire.
I was wrong.
My first red flag was the early phone call on Friday morning. Even though I had entered my credit card online when booking the car, they would not charge me - I was advised they couldn't as it was illegal to without the card and the card holder present. Why take my credit card number at booking if you won't bill me? What is the point?
My suspicions are they can't accept Card Not Present (CNP) transactions for whatever reason. If you can't bill my credit card, don't require it at booking as it serves no purpose. The reason I enter my credit card with other companies is to speed up the pickup process - I can sign the paperwork, grab the keys and be on my merry way.
The second and more major issue came with the optional insurance.
I regularly hire cars for business trips, and am well familiar with how the insurance works. The excess for a rental car is high, and you can select to reduce the excess; this does increases the overall hire charge but if you are concerned about the high excess it's a good option to go for.
Since we weren't going for the reduced excess, Euro Car wanted to put a hold on a credit card for the total excess amount - $2,813.50! - to be released when we returned the car. When we declined this, the only other option was to pay an extra $220 to reduce the excess to $500, and they would only hold $500. This increased the cost of the car to a level where we would've been better to talk to one of the hire car companies actually based at Christchurch airport. I could understand if all the drivers were under 25 with driving convictions but we are all over 25 with clean driving records.
I have never had this issue with Thrifty (my normal car hire company). The rental agreement stipulates that if an accident occurs you are liable for the excess, plus they have your credit card number and drivers license details on file - this is sufficient. I'm not sure how many people have $2,800 on their credit card spare, that's not already allocated as actual holiday spending money.
Thanks Euro Car Rental, it's the first and last time we'll be using you. Buck up your ideas and get with the standard practices that the other major industry players have. Holding the complete excess on a credit card is unfair when you already have the contracts you require in place. Also bill the credit card at the time of booking - it's ridiculous to not be able to, plus you get your money straight away - you seem to be trigger happy with credit card holds, so you should be able to do this.
I've learnt my lesson - stick with companies who actually want your business (should've gone with Thrifty.)
P.s. If you're in Christchurch and want to catch-up over a beer with redjungle and I this week, flick me a PM. Your shout of course :)
Every manufacturer boasts their product as being superior to all others. When I received an invite to see what Panasonic was bringing to 3D I was a little sceptical at all the hype, having just seen Sony's offerings. One line in the invitation email however did catch my attention:
Impressive. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about, so last Monday I visited Panasonic HQ to see what made this TV so special.
Brand new and freshly delivered from the States, we were about to start watching the Panasonic TC-P50VT25 - a 50" plasma (note it's not a LCD) screen that was marketed to give us an experience superior to that of watching Avatar at the cinemas. So, with a handful of other tech enthusiasts, the lights were dimmed in the board room, we donned our futuristic glasses and the demonstration began.
Powered by a Panasonic BluRay player (using HDMI standard v1.4) we were able to see a variety of 3D demo videos, one of which was the Beach Volleyball Tour held at Mt Maunganui. The colours were crisp and bright, and 3D made watching the volleyball a new experience; some of the shots made it seem as though the ball was passing very close as it bounced out of shot. I am looking forward to broadcasters adoption of 3D channels, as live sport in 3D is as close as you can get without actually being there.
Gaming is another application that looks much better in 3D. We watched the new Avatar game played on X-Box. It does take some getting used to, but overall it is much easier to become fully immersed in the game when there is depth to the image. Any military games looks amazing as bullets and other projectiles seem to leave the screen and head towards your.. head.
If you do get tired of 3D, you don't have to watch 3D all the time; a quick and easy change in the menu puts the TV into 2D mode.
The 3D active shutter glasses are half of the clever technology. When first turned on (yes they are battery powered) they synchronise with the TV. As you watch, each lense turns on and off rapidly, which gives you the 3D experience. Light and able to fit easily over prescription glasses, you get full 1080p to both your left and right eyes.
One way to convince your partner/better half of indulging in this plasma is it uses a lot less power than a standard plasma or LCD screen - it meets Energy Star 4.0 requirements so you will save on your power bill.
A 3D plasma is useless without 3D content, so Panasonic are also releasing this year the world's first integrated HD 3D camcorder, the Panasonic AG-3DA1. Expect to see more of these at major sporting events soon.
Overall, a very impressive offering from Panasonic, and not hard to see why it took out CES. After seeing such high definition, clear picture, it's really hard to go back to watching anything else without criticising.
To finish up, some answers to the queries I sent Panasonic following my visit, thanks to Andrew Reid, the Panasonic guru:
How does Panasonic's 3D differ from that seen in the theatres?
With the home experience the glasses are synchronised to the screen. When you turn on the glasses on they control how you see the image.
What are so special about the Panasonic 3D glasses?
To remove the possibility of crosstalk or unwanted after images, Panasonic's 3D glasses close off both eyes at the instant that the images change for the left and right eyes. They have been designed to suit many different face sizes, can be adjusted to fit and also fit over glasses.
Will there ever be 3D without needing the glasses and why?
Unsure. There are several forms of auto stereoscopic screens. Unfortunately the current technology has several major issues e.g. eye strain, severely limited viewing angle and poor resolution to name a few. If they manage to overcome these then perhaps but it doesn't seem likely any time soon.
When will broadcasters start to show 3D content?
Unsure. Overseas 3d broadcasts could be as soon as this year. Locally you would need to talk to the broadcasters.
What advantages does Panasonic have over competitors such as Sony?
Panasonic use plasma as a technology for 3D, more specifically Panasonic uses a new generation of our NEO PDP panel that has been specifically designed to handle the increased demands of 3D meaning our panel doesn't suffer from cross talk. It also offers significant improvements in terms of Contrast, colour and power consumption when in 2D mode.
Rough RRP on the glasses and TV?
Glasses will be approximately US$100, each 3D panel will come with one set of these.
On Wednesday last week I was lucky enough to be invited to the Sony Carnival on behalf of Geekzone. With around 50 other journalists and bloggers from a variety of different newspapers, magazines and TV shows, I was able to preview some of the new product offerings from Sony which included LCD TVs, cameras, camcorders and laptops - basically, I got to go to a gadget geek's heaven!
It was held on the stage in The Civic theatre in central Auckland - massive runs of coloured fabric and multi-coloured lights hung high above centre stage, draped out to the half dozen odd displays they had setup. Each display focused on a different range of products, with the staff dressed up as carnival workers. Popcorn was handed out to add to the authenticity of being at the carnival - my thoughts were Sony really must have the marketing budget to go to such lengths! I have to admit though that it was a refreshing change from the very plain (and now boring) product showcases I've seen in the past.
I could write a very length post on all of the products I saw, instead I'll briefly outline some of the highlights for me from that morning:
- Sony Bravia HD 3D TVs - one word: WOW! I saw a very impressive demonstration of watching 3D in your own home played off Blu-ray discs. You are still required to wear special glasses (different from those used in the theatre) which I don't feel is ideal; nevertheless, watching live Rugby or playing PS3 all in 3D is very exciting - whether this will be adopted into mainstream or purely remain as a gimmick, time will tell.
- Sony BDP-S570 Blu-ray player - not only a nice and tidy Blu-ray player, this device can be plugged into your home network and you can browse the BRAVIA internet video channels, show your favourite YouTube video in full screen, or watch movies shared from your computer. It has USB ports for plugging in a keyboard (much quicker typing searches in than using the remote) plus an optional wireless network dongle. Having seen the RRP, it sits at a very affordable price point, and I'm hoping to get a unit to do a full review soon.
- Sony TX5 - this digital camera looks just like a standard camera, it's very slim at 16.7mm and is an respectable 10.2 megapixels. Its impressive feature is that it works underwater (up to 3m) without the need for bulky waterproof housing. The touch screen on the back of the camera also works while fully submerged.
- SD card support! - Sony has (finally) realised that not everyone wants to purchase their proprietary bubblegum-stick shaped memory sticks, so now the cameras and camcorders support standard SD cards as well as the Sony memory stick.
- Sony bloggie - marketed as a "snap camera", this device is a small and compact HD camera designed for quick and easy uploading of video files to social media sites (such as YouTube). It comes with a built-in USB arm, and can do up to 5 hours and 20 minutes of HD recording on a 32GB memory stick. A nifty 360? lense can also be attached to it - placed in the centre of a table at a function, it allows you to record everything going on around (would've been very handy at Saturday's Geekzone Pizza!). Sample video here.
Thanks to Melanie Pohl, from Sony PR for inviting me to this event and providing the included photos (in my rush to get to the event I forgot my camera).
Another review of the carnival, specifically the HD 3D TV is available at the NBR - Chris Keall has an article available here (subscriber only) - disclaimer: I don't have access to view this, I've sourced it from Chris' Twitter account.
I'm always after a good deal. When I'm buying a new tech toy I will extensively search Google for pricing from both local and overseas (taking into account the exchange rate and freight), create a spreadsheet, and figure out the best price from there. Reputation and after-sales support do affect my decision, but I'm primarily price driven. There is also the understanding that a cheap supplier won't have the profit margins to support a 24/7 comprehensive support help desk, so all these are factored into my decision. Once I've picked a supplier, my purchase is put on my VISA, to which the elves at the ASB finance department rejoice at having my slavery to them guaranteed, at least, for a few more months.
During the Christmas break, my partner and I were visiting friends out in Waiuku, a small town south-west of Auckland. After the hour's drive to get out there, we stopped at a Caltex station to fill up. It was here that I received excellent service, which triggered my ideas for this post.
As a school kid, I remember the service my folks used to get from their local petrol station. There was always an attendant to pump your petrol for you, your oil and water were checked, windows washed, and a friendly wave given as you pulled away. It was only after grazing on far too many unhealthy snacks in store while waiting for the pump to finish, did I remember that thorough service used to be standard. We have accepted pumping our own petrol in exchange for the illusion of sustained lower petrol prices.
I'm not always after the cheapest deal: in hospitality the opposite is true - I frequent places that give me good service.
I always buy my morning coffee from the same cafe since we are now on a first-name basis, and because of this, they look after me. I'm sure they are not the cheapest, but they give me consistently good service. The same goes for the restaurants - the ones that have given me the best service, get my continued business.
What dictates where you spend your dollars - price or service? I'm interested to hear what you think, in the comments below.