Gadgets galore at the Sony Carnival

, posted: 8-Mar-2010 10:00

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:

  • DSC01214 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-DSC-TX5 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.
  • 1001151815c95f7f700d83a284 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.

The price vs. service battle

, posted: 25-Jan-2010 10:00

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.

iStock_000011297153XSmall Price isn't always the deal breaker - when does receiving good service win over the cheapest price?

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.

Lazy singing

, posted: 18-Jan-2010 10:00

iStock_000008007232XSmall Outside of my work as a developer at 3Bit, I freelance as a professional (i.e. paid) piano player.  I've played at just about every event imaginable - weddings, funerals, Christmas carol singing, Santa parades, live gigs.  I began learning at a young age, and hated every moment - it wasn't until my late teens that I actually started to enjoy music, and am now grateful I stuck with it (or rather mum made me stick with it!).  I now often sit at a piano for an hour after work to unwind.

Through all my many years of accompanying good singers through to the tone-deaf (and everyone in-between), I've noticed an interesting trend - today, the average Joe Blogs can't sing as well as possibly their grandparents were able to.

The tell-tale sign for me is having to often lower the key of a song to make it easier to sing.

Music is made up of many parts, and one is the key (as dictated by the key signature at the start of the music). If a song is in the key of F, for example, and a wedding congregation is struggling as the music is too high, the key can be dropped down (to D, to C etc), and this brings the notes back into the vocal range of everyone trying to belt out the tune.

The same works in reverse.  If a song is too low, the key can be raised.  The fine art of all this is finding a key that isn't too high or too low.  It is also quite specific to the music. 

If a song features notes that are all quite close on a scale (think Do Re Mi from Sound of Music), the key can be easily adjusted.  If the song has notes all over the place, you have to be careful that the key is a good average over the whole piece, or you'll become unstuck half way through (the carol Silent Night is a good example of a song that features a very wide range of both high and low notes).

At Christmas time 2008, I played for a crowd of 1,500 at a community carols event.  I was amazed that every carol we played had its key dropped down, some quite significantly.  A music purist would shudder at this!

My theory is that most of us do very little regularly singing, and unlike the past generations, our vocal chords don't get the workout theirs did, hence we can't easily get to the higher notes they could.  50 years ago people could sing well, and composers set their music to the key that suited singers the best, which is now too high for us.  Of course, this is just my opinion.

My remedy for this - more singing in the shower, and if you can't hold a tune to save yourself, turn the stereo up louder.


Blatant self promotion: if you're looking for some piano accompaniment, fire me an email.

Compensation (n.) the act or state of profiting

, posted: 11-Jan-2010 10:00

iStock_000000215562XSmall The definition above is taken out of an online dictionary, and I've Kiwified it.  Why is it when we suffer an outage of a service we pay for, that most Kiwis come up with the most unreasonable levels of compensation?

Maybe it's because I'm often on the provider side of the equation, but I think I'm very realistic and forgiving when it comes to a third party failing to deliver a service I'm paying for.  My whole thinking revolves around one simple idea: sh*t happens (from now on, the acronym S.H.).  Am I saying that every outage shouldn't be questioned and just given an "oh well"? No, definitely not. Suppliers should be and need to be held accountable for any issues with their delivery of a service, however, you need to be realistic, and make sure your own bases are well covered.

The argument of "my business depends on this 100%" also doesn't sit well with me - if you have one provider that you depend on, and in the event of an outage you are up a certain creek without the wooden thing, it's your problem.  Running a business without redundancy of vital parts is just asking for trouble. Even the most well thought out and tested disaster recover plans can quickly come unstuck, and it's up to you as a business to be prepared for the worst.

At 3Bit we provide a variety of web-based services (eg web hosting, emails, dedicated servers) for a range of clients in different industries.  We've had the odd outage (few and far between, touch wood) and we work hard to get our clients back up and running as quickly as possible.  We keep them up-to-date with personal phone calls and emails, as a happy client means more word-of-mouth referrals, which we depend on.  An unhappy client will cancel their service, and not hold back in publishing negative feedback to the world. 

We will credit an outage period to a client's account for their monthly fee and that's it.  Lost sales and business are not covered.  When signing up a new client, if I feel an outage would have a high detrimental effect to their business, I will often suggest mirrored setups with different providers.  If they ask for an S.L.A. (Service Level Agreement), I will get one from our data centre provider and make sure everything is covered (including duplicating their setup in another physical data centre). Why? Because S.H.

Two events come to mind when thinking about outages and compensation. 

Back in June, Genesis Energy had an outage where its prepay customers were unable to top-up their accounts due to a computing error.  I remember an interview on TV1 where a consumer was asked how she felt about the compensation she was being offered, and I remember she commented that it wasn't good enough (unfortunately I can't find this interview on TVNZ On-Demand).  My query is, what else could Genesis have done? They've apologised, credited her account, and she still wants more? Would she have been satisfied if Genesis delivered their web programmers to her door step, and given her a paintball gun to exact her revenge?

In December, Telecom had a massive outage from Taupo south.  There was a mass wave of posts from Geekzone users, some of who seem to depend solely on Telecom mobile for life or death situations.  As always, the demands for compensation ranged from the ridiculous to the more realistic.  I think insane's post nicely sum up my feelings:

Personally I don't see why everyone is jumping up and down for compensation. Like DSL your mobile service is best effort. When your phone line has issues and your internet connectivity is cut you don't automatically get a credit from your ISP as you have no SLA.

Any Credit/offer Telecom give customers should be seen as a bonus. If you're relying on your best effort mobile service to support some mission critical application / service then perhaps you should invest in your own measures of redundancy instead of expecting Telecom to take care of this for you.

If it's important you'll have some sort of a backup. If your answer to 'did you have a backup?' is no, then it's obviously not that important to you.

Just recently, one of our virtual servers was down due to an outage with iServe.  What do I expect from them? I expect regular updates with an accurate E.T.A. as possible (being called on mobile from their operations manager was a good start), a credit on our account for the down-time, plus assurance it won't happen again.  I wasn't really too worried with the down-time as we had a Plan B.

Why? Because S.H.

Don't get caught with your pants down. Expect the worst case scenario, and plan for it accordingly.

Congratulations Mr & Mrs RedJungle!

, posted: 2-Jan-2010 15:50

Phil, aka RedJungle, is getting married today, and if I've timed this correctly, he should've just said I do to his fiancee Sarah right now (freitasm and I are both here at the ceremony).  If Mauricio and I have not yet to tucked into the bar tab early, there will be photos on my Twitter account (if I was really clever I'd figure out how to post directly here from my Nokia E71).
Phil is responsible for the very nice re-design of Geekzone, plus the Geekzone mobile site.  Phil also does some work for us here at 3Bit, and he is lucky enough to be based in the sunny Hawke's Bay.
Congratulations to you both, and thank-you Phil for all your hard-work here at Geekzone.

nate's profile

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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