One constant in life

The IRS will be receiving some of my saving tomorrow as the annual ‘raid the citizen piggy bank’ day approaches. With that out of the way, I can now think about getting the Xbox 360. People at work have been trying to get me to buy one since they have no one to play with. We’ll see how the finance situation is after the missing ring is replaced…

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Another boring gadgets roundup

As Leah said, I haven’t been blogging much lately. No particular reasons but may be that is it. I didn’t find anything particularly interesting to blog about.

But today I received the new external hard drive I ordered earlier this week. As I discussed before this is part of my backup requirement. So now I have two drives, one 160GB and one 80GB. Plenty enough storage for all three laptops in the apartment. Now I just need to get myself a copy of Norton Ghost to mirror my PC laptop drive.

Inside the Amazon package I’ve also ordered a newer version of the D-Link USB Bluetooth adapter that I already own. This one allow me to use the bluetooth headset for Skype which the old one doesn’t.

And finally, I’ve decided that I won’t get a XBox 360 until Halo 3 is out. So I bought the latest XBox Toca Race Driver 3 so I have a good driving game to hold me out until Halo 3.

Unfortunately I’ll have to work weekends until the end of the month to push out a software release at work. That means less time for TV, games, and more importantly, development work on ecto. Talk of the devil, ecto 2 is close to be beta ready. I just need to finish up with the new installer and I can put it out there for testing! Very exciting.

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No more fat people

The new DVD player was waiting for us in the lobby when Leah and I got home this evening. Hurray! It only took me about an hour to unhook the old Zenith, hooked up the OPPO, and re-programmed the Harmony remote to control the OPPO.

The first DVD I put in was Digital Video Essentials (of course!) so I can calibrate the video settings on the TV. And after I’ve changed the player to accept all DVD regions, I declared to Leah that the new DVD player was open for business and we watched an episode of Drop The Dead Donkey (an old British political comedy series) then followed up with an episode of Hustle.

The OPPO keeps up with its promises and the 4:3 material from Drop The Dead Donkey is squeezed back into proper aspect ratio so all the actors are now in correct girth! No more fat people! Hustle is already 16:9 so no problem there. Both Drop The Dead Donkey and Hustle shows there are no de-interlacing problem at all so the 2:2 cadence flags are being picked up by the player correctly. No more jagged edges!

One problem about the Zenith player that I didn’t mention in my last post is that a noticeable video delay exists on most DVDs. So the dialogues will be slightly ahead of the actors’ lips most of the time. This is caused by the extra video processing required for de-interlacing and upscaling so I can understand why but still very annoying.

With the OPPO, there is an audio delay options to compensate for exactly this problem and after playing with it a few times I found that a 10ms delay seems to work best. 20ms is too much and 0ms is not enough. I think 15ms will be perfect but unfortunately there is no such option 😦

And the most gratifying one is the response speed of the menu system! It actually responses to my button click in less time than a roundtrip to Starbuck to buy a Mocha! How novel is that?

All in all, very happy with the purchase. Well worth the money and hassle!

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New DVD player on the way

Thanks to the President’s Day weekend, Leah and I have to wait until Tuesday for the delivery of our new DVD player. I sounded pretty happy with the Zenith DVD player so why am I getting a new one? Here are the reasons why:

  • Menu system is slow as molasses. Every button press takes up to a second to affect the screen menu. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t but you have to wait a second to see. And I regularly choose the wrong menu option because I pressed the button one too many time.
  • Even though the Zenith uses the impressive Faroudja upscaling/deinterlacing chip and produces great results on region 1 NTSC DVD, it doesn’t have the 2:2 pulldown capability for region 2 PAL DVD turn on. What it means is that the player doesn’t de-interlace the PAL video properly and produces jagged edges on screen. (De-interlacing explanation here)
  • The player has no concept of 4:3 material so playing old British TV DVD which are made before 16:9 widescreen format means the image is stretched to fill the TV screen.

Initially I thought these issues won’t bother me, and since it was donated to me free I couldn’t complain anyway. But eventually the slow menu response and the jagged edges really got to me.

The new DVD player that I bought is the OPPO OPDV917H which does not have any of the above problems, plus better colour rendition as well as more frequent firmware updates. Not to mention it tops the Home Theater Secrets DVD Benchmark Review, beating even the Denon 5910!

So Leah and I are refraining from watching any DVDs this long weekend so we’ll enjoy them using the new player next week.

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Game for Golf

My spending plan this year is pretty simple. Save up for Xbox 360, a new Apple laptop (preferably 2nd generation MacBook Pro), and the Rome vacation in the summer. The rest stays in the bank. But since Xbox 360 is in such short supply and I don’t really have time to play the new games on Xbox 360 even if I have one, I haven’t been getting out of my way to get one. My strategy thus far was to wait till either there are stocks on the shelf or online for me to buy, but if the rumours be right I’ll be waiting till spring if not summer.

So when my friend, and golfing buddy, TJ found a good deal on a set of golf clubs I was very interested. They are last year TaylorMade model and were being sold almost 40% off the original price. All the reviews on the net suggest that they are great clubs, plus I already have the sand wedge so I know I like their feel.

With the prospect of the clubs being sold out soon, and Xbox 360 being available eventually, I used the money I earmarked for the Xbox on the clubs! They have already been shipped and will be arriving next Monday. I can’t wait for the weather to get warmer so I can start hitting them on the range!

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