Review: Sony DSC-TX5 Cyber-shot digital camera

, posted: 21-Jun-2010 01:07

After the Sony Carnival some months back, Sony lent me two products they featured - the Sony DSC-TX5 Cyber-shot digital camera, and the Sony HDR-CX550 Handycam.  The review for the Handycam will be published next week - this week I'm focusing on the Cyber-shot.

I am, by no stretch of the imagination, a photography expert.  My requirements for a camera are pretty simple: must be easy to operate, take good photos in daylight and low light, and not be too bulky.  If I can't take it along to a Geekzone Pizza evening and still use it after a beer (or two or three or four), it's not going to be suitable.

I'll start my review the same way as I demonstrated the camera to mates: by dropping it in a jug of water.

A pretty impressive party trick (and a good way to freak out unsuspecting bystanders), the DSC-TX5 can be used in water up to 3 metres.  The whole camera is sealed up tight, with the battery and memory card stored safely behind a compartment at the base of the camera (this also has the HDMI plug).  Not only does this mean you can take photos in your swimming pool if you so wish, but you don't need to worry about this camera being ruined after an accidental beer spill - the offender can shout another round, and you can wash the camera off easily.

The massive 7.5cm touch screen on the back of this camera makes using it a charm. The menus are well laid out, and the different functions can be reordered as you please.  You can move between photos with an iPhone style finger flick, setup an automatic sideshow, or view photos on a calendar, grouped by the date they were shot. You really appreciate how good the interface is on a full touch screen after using an older camera with a small screen and clunky buttons. 

Other DSC-TX5 features:

  • A smile sensor so when people smile at your camera, it takes a photo automatically.  You can set it by triggered with a full cheesy grin, or an uncomfortable smirk (my terms, not official Sony).
  • Intelligent Sweep Panorama allows you to take 180 degree photos by simply moving the camera from right to left (or left to right, or up then down, or down then up).
  • For the technologically challenged, basic mode hides all the complex menus and only shows the core functions -  change image size, flash on or off, self-timer on or off - plus it displays exactly how many photos are left.
  • Video can be recorded in HD (1080i) or SD.

This camera is compact, and the front cover slides down to show the lens and turn the camera on.  It is so light it's like carrying another mobile phone (compared below with my Nokia E71):

The real deal clincher for me is this camera makes it easy to take photos.  There is nothing more frustrating than blurry photos with red eye after a night out. I don't have the expertise to operate a full digital SLR camera (nor do I want to) - I want a camera that allows me to take good photos with a simple push of the button, regardless of the lighting. With the DSC-TX5 automatically determining the best settings, plus taking photos at 10.2 megapixels, you can't go wrong (for those of you in the know, you can also set it to manual mode).

I've been using this camera for about a month and I'm disappointed to give it back.  It really is a great piece of technology, and if you're looking for a camera for everyday use, you can't beat this little beauty. 

Available in silver, black, pink, green and red, Pricespy has the DSC-TX5 from $532. Sample photos and video from the camera on my Flickr account.

My thanks to Bernadette Barrett at Sony NZ for the loan of this camera for my review.

Guest post: Do bloggers need to worry about defamation?

, posted: 7-Jun-2010 06:00

OPINION One of the benefits of blogging is the ability to swap information about good and bad products and services.  If your new HTPC setup works fantastically well, you can pass on that information to those who read your blog.  If something breaks down and the retailer or manufacturer provides hopeless repair service, you can quickly pass on that information too.

However, the more influential your blog becomes, the greater the risk that someone will be upset by your negative comments about their goods or services.  If your comments are damaging enough, they may look to legal action to require you to remove negative comments and to require you to compensate them for lost profits caused by your negative comments.  One legal action they might choose is defamation.

What is defamation?
In New Zealand, the basic rule is that you can't communicate defamatory statements about a person or company to any other person.  A statement may be defamatory if it (explicitly or implicitly):
  • may tend to lower the person in the estimation of right-thinking members of society generally.
  • is false and discredits the person.
  • it is made without justification and is calculated to injure the person's reputation.
Examples include calling someone a criminal, dishonest, a liar, a hypocrite, a coward, a cheat.  More relevantly it might be defamatory if you call someone incompetent, unskilled, unqualified or unprofessional at what they do.

To be defamation, the statement must be communicated to a third person.  Publication can be in spoken or written form.

Who is liable for defamatory statements?
Every time the statement is republished a separate act of defamation occurs.   In addition, every person involved in the publication is liable for the defamation.  If you have ever blogged negatively about someone else's goods or services, there is a good chance that what you said was defamatory.  If their sales suffer because of your statements, they may be able to sue you for defamation.  If you have quoted someone else's blog that commented negatively on someone else's goods or services, there is a good chance that what you did was defamatory.  If you allow comments, and someone comments on your blog post and that comment is defamatory you are probably also liable for any loss caused by that comment.

When can you make defamatory statements?
There are a number of defences you might be able to raise if someone accuses you of defamation.  The two most likely to be relevant to a blog post are truth and honest opinion.

If you can prove that the substance of what you said (including any innuendoes or possible inferences of what you said) is true then the defamation claim will fail.   The plaintiff is not required to prove that what you said is false.  You must prove that what you said is true.  Sometimes you may not have evidence to prove what you said even though it was true.  In that case, you could not use the defence of truth.

Another possible defence is that what you said expressed your honest opinion.  To rely on this defence you must show that what you said was presented as your opinion rather than a statement of fact.  The opinion must be your genuine opinion.  You must also show that the opinion you gave was based on facts that were stated in your blog post, and that those facts were true.  You cannot invent facts and then comment on them.  This means that in writing a negative blog post, as well as stating your negative opinion, you should be careful to accurately state the facts that you relied on to reach your negative opinion.

Blogs are an expression of freedom of speech in New Zealand, but increasingly they are also a source of income for the blogger.  The more commercialised blogging becomes, the more you need to consider writing in a way that avoids the risk of being sued.

Note:  This post gives only general information, and should only be used as a guide.  It should not be used or relied upon as a substitute for detailed advice. Special considerations apply to individual fact situations.

test Bio: Kris Morrison is an associate with Christchurch law firm Parry Field, whose work focuses on commercial/business law, property, trusts and intellectual property.

Putting the BP Oil spill in perspective

, posted: 31-May-2010 06:00

It's been all over the news.  A blown out oil well is causing the largest oil spill in U.S. history, in the Gulf of Mexico.  The map below shows the size of the oil spill:

On Saturday I saw a tweet for a website that allows you to overlay the oil spill with something more local.  It certainly helps you put this massive ecological disaster into perspective, when shown in front of Godzone:

Quite amazing.

Samsung’s 3D LED TVs

, posted: 27-May-2010 01:10

Q: Would you be interested in a Geekzone evening where you can see, in person, the 3D offerings from the three manufacturers featured in my blog? I may be able to organise such an event, please show your interest here (poll).

Continuing on my adventures in 3D land, last Thursday I was invited to Newton, Auckland to the launch of Samsung's 3D offerings.  Having already seen what Sony and Panasonic are bringing to the market, I have a good grasp on what the possibilities are in this space.

Most of the media in attendance were impressed with the 3D LED TV, however I wasn't as excited about this one.  To Samsung's credit, this TV is already available in retailers - to compare, at their demonstrations Sony were yet to have stock, and Panasonic only had one unit in the whole country!  Being an LED, the TV is very bright, and ridiculously thin, capable of easily hanging on a wall like a picture frame; the glasses are also small and light, though I'm not sure they would fit easily over prescription glasses.

This is where my praise of Samsung ends.  The viewing angle to see the 3D is not very wide or high, and picture is not that clear, and you can see a slight ghosting of the image as action in the movie speeds up.  It's not that it's bad 3D, it's just that there are better offerings out there.

A good effort from Samsung, however if I was to buy a 3D TV, I would go for a Panasonic.

Photos from the night are on my Flickr account.

Review: Where’s My Server

, posted: 14-May-2010 06:00

Quick update: Where's My Server are now offering free virtual servers, it hasn't yet been announced, scroll to the bottom of this post to find out more.

Where's My Server (WMS) are a new addition to the cloud server/IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) market, offering both Linux and Windows servers.  Based in Wellington, I recently met with Greg Churcher, their Managing Director, to talk about what makes them so different.

WMS first went live in September 2009, and they have spent the lion's share of their R&D and a good part of two years on their completely custom control panel.  Greg describes why being focused on IaaS is a good thing:
We started with the aim to provide top notch data centre services in the form of 'IaaS' and that's what we do.  We don't do shared websites, domains or managed OS's even. We stick to our knitting. We have less distractions.

We suit IT integrators and developers that need control and visibility.
WMS provided me with a test account so we could try out their servers for ourselves.  The most important things for us is uptime and performance (especially under heavy load) so with the server brute-forcing a password-protected PDF we created (this put the CPU at 95%) , we setup Pingdom to monitor IIS7's uptime (checked once every minute) over two months:

The pre-configured servers shown at signup make it easy to build what you are after.  The advanced config looks a little daunting at first, but it is really simple to use once you get your head around it.  What is most helpful is being able to configure multiple servers, and seeing exactly what each server will cost you, and the total for the lot.  If you're a big spender, $5,000 in credit will get you 25% more credit free ($1,250) which makes their pricing even more attractive.

The control panel is really where WMS comes into its own:

It's very easy to modify the resources your server has: click the particular item, select a value and it changes in an instant - the console uses AJAX, and the browser keeps you up to date with exactly the status of the upgrade/downgrade.

Other helpful features include:
  • At a glance you can see what is currently on the server console, how much disk-space is free, and how much CPU is current in use.
  • You can reboot the server from an ISO - Windows or Linux
  • Every setting change can be done immediately, or scheduled to happen at a later time - helpful for doing unattended upgrades outside of business hours
  • Snapshot backups - WMS have to work hard to keep you on as a customer as they make it very easy to pull down an image of your server, which you could then move to an alternative provider.
The firewall has also been well thought out:

The rules are read from top to bottom, each rule can be annotated so you know what it does, and can be either one or a range of IPs.  Another nice implementation of AJAX here - rules can be easily reordered by drag-and-drop.

I've been impressed with the offerings from WMS; it is still early days for them so hopefully their availability of resources stays up to pace with their growth.  I'm keen to hear from anyone already using their services, as to what your thoughts are.

Free VPS server - WMS are offering free virtual servers ($20 credit is required), it will be announced on their official Twitter account this afternoon, get in early here.

Disclaimer: WMS gave me free credit to test their servers, there was no obligation to blog about my experience and I am not being paid for this post.

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New Zealand

I'm Nate Dunn, and I work for 3Bit, and am a moderator here at Geekzone.

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The views and opinions represented on this blog are personal and belong solely to the blogger and do not represent in anyway those of 3Bit Solutions Limited or any other company.

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