Sony have announced the DSC-F828 digital camera. The details to drool over:
Carl Zeiss T* coated Vario-Sonnar lens. It’s f/2 to f/2.8 / 7.1, with a zoom range equivalent to 28-200mm (7x). The T* coating cuts lens flare and reflections.
CompactFlash slot. Yes, finally Sony give in and support CF.
8 megapixel. 3,264 x 2,448. That’s better than ISO 400 35mm film.
Four color CCD. Sony have added blue/green sensors to the CCD grid, for better resolution at the frequencies where the human eye is most sensitive—which means more accurate and natural-looking colors.
Macro focus down to 20mm.
Fully adjustable double lens rings. Adjust zoom and focus manually like on a conventional SLR.
High resolution digital viewfinder.
RAW image support so you can get the full 14 bit resolution of the CCD.
Takes 58mm filters.
Selectable focus point. Use a joystick to indicate exactly which part of the scene to focus on.
True TTL flash.
Plus it has all the DSC-F717 features such as laser focus, night shot, spot/multipoint/center weighted metering, exposure lock, proper flash hotshoe, custom white balance, 100-800 ISO, shutter speeds from 30 seconds to 1/2000, 3+ hour battery life, and live histogram in the viewfinder.
It also records MPEG1 video with sound at 640×480 30fps. And it’s black.
Sony plans to introduce Blu-Ray discs this year. They’re 12cm, the same size as DVDs, but start with a capacity of 27GB. Plans are to increase that by 2x fairly quickly.
Looks like I’ll be able to move my photographs to a single disc more quickly than I thought…
Also announced was the PEG-NZ90. Feature list:
- 2MP digital camera with flash
- 16MB RAM
- Palm OS 5 on 200MHz XScale processor
- Removable rechargeable battery pack
- Built-in Bluetooth
- Slot for 802.11b card
- 320×480 screen with 16 bit color
- MP3 player
- High power IR
- Movie and sound recording and playback
- Memory Stick slot
- Tiny standard-layout QWERTY keyboard
- USB printer port
- TV output for slideshows/presentations
There’s a big picture to drool over too. Now that’s a handheld for the 21st Century, at last…
It has been alleged that I’m unthinkingly rude and negative about the rich, famous and successful. To disprove that assertion, here’s the first of a series of articles.
Five Admirable CEOs
Aaron Feuerstein, CEO of Malden Mills.
In 1995, a fire burned the Malden Mills factory to the ground. Everyone thought they were out of work, but no. The company CEO kept all the employees on the payroll until the factory could be rebuilt. Wear your Polarfleece with pride!
Paul Fireman, CEO of Reebok.
The contrast between Paul Fireman of Reebok, and the weaselly Phil Knight of Nike, couldn’t be stronger. Knight publically welched out on a deal he made with Michael Moore on camera, continues to use sweatshop labor without apology, and hijacks events like the Boston Marathon for publicity without paying anything in sponsorship fees.
Fireman, on the other hand, is an active member of Amnesty International. He has written articles for business publications stressing the importance of human rights, and supporting the right of workers to unionize. Reebok sponsors many AI events, and Reebok board members have stood for election to serve on the board of Amnesty, with the company’s approval.
Sure, the company’s not perfect. It still makes its shoes in third world countries, and has plenty of critics. But in an industry where margins are wafer thin and competition is extreme, little gestures like paying your laborers 24% above minimum wage mean a lot.
Akio Morita, founder of Sony.
No grand humanitarian gestures here. Just a company that, after Apple, is the most consistently brilliant at creating beautifully designed high-tech devices of reasonable quality. Morita was an engineer, responsible for inventing the Walkman, a device that I think has changed everyone’s environment in surprising ways. His company also gave the world the transistor radio, the VCR, and many other devices we now take for granted. In the process, it changed the perception of the words “MADE IN JAPAN”. Morita built Sony from the ground up, and maintained a punishing schedule right up to his death in 1995.
Sergey Brin, founder of Google.
I’m sure everyone reading this knows how wonderful Google is. Sergey Brin is the “moral compass” of the company, trying to do the right thing in a world where the search engine’s visibility has made it a magnet for lawsuits and commercial temptations. I think, by and large, he’s succeeded.
The Kashio brothers, founders of Casio
Tadao Kashio founded Casio with his three younger brothers; Kazuo is now the CEO. It’s still a family business.
What I love about Casio is that they’re the poor man’s Sony. They have consistently produced quality, reliable products at low prices. It’s hard to imagine now, but a reliable wristwatch or calculator used to cost hundreds of dollars. I think the company’s biggest gift to the world, however, was putting cheap-but-good synths and samplers into the hands of thousands of musicians in the 80s and 90s.
To price products way lower than the market required, build them better than necessary, and yet survive and thrive on razor-thin margins, is an amazing accomplishment. To keep the company in the family while doing so is astonishing, even for Japan.
Sony have launched a DVD Walkman that will play MP3s burned on DVD-R. By my calculations, that’d let me carry roughly my entire music collection around in one of those 12-disc carrying pouches…
The scary thing is, it’s only $150, and works as a DVD player if you hook it up to a TV.
I bet the battery life sucks, though.
Sony finally gave in and started making MP3-capable Walkman CD players. I finally gave in and bought one.
Key features: Great sound (better than the ThinkPad at work), plenty of volume range (goes up to 11), runs for 24 hours on two ordinary AA cells, understands ISO9660 CDs with long filenames, supports any MP3 bit rate MP3 from 8 to 320 including VBR, G-Protection anti-skip, reads CD-R and CD-RW, supports ID3 tags, navigates by track or folder, repeats or shuffles any folder or the entire disc, recharges NiCD batteries in the player if you get an AC adaptor, also plays regular audio CDs, it’s the smallest and lightest MP3 CD player, understands CD TEXT, has no copy protection or DRM (plays regular PC-burnt CD-Rs), and it’s $99. (Whew.) Works great with iTunes and/or LAME—r3mix.
Model number is D-CJ500. They’re selling fast.
It isn’t as cool as an iPod, and it doesn’t have any fancy DSP or remote control features, but it’s cheap and practical.
Some years ago, Sony Japan had a web site where they were collecting requests for which obscure albums they’d like to see on CD. I requested Warp by New Musik. At the end of last year, Sony Japan finally released Warp, so I bought a copy (for the third time—I also own cassette and vinyl releases).
I’ve been a fan of New Musik since their few chart hits in the early to mid 80s. They only released three albums; “From A To B“ was the first, and was followed by “Anywhere“. Unfortunately, their record company went bust just after “Anywhere” was released, so the album was tough to find. I still remember my joy and amazement when I saw a copy in the £2.99 bin of a tiny record shop in Beaconsfield… New Musik’s contract was part of the deceased record company’s assets bought out by Sony. The huge Sony Epic label wasn’t really very interested in a quirky pop-electronica band with “art house” lyrics, and after “Warp“ the band broke up.
The band’s songwriter and lead singer, Tony Mansfield, moved into production work. He worked on A-Ha’s “Take On Me”, albums by Naked Eyes, Camouflage and Captain Sensible, and other more obscure projects. Like Trevor Horn, he has a very recognizable style, which often leaks into the albums he produces. There are a few Tony Mansfield fan pages on the web, and a mailing list where fans swap information about his projects. (The latest being production work for a Latvian band called Brainstorm.)
Like DEVO, New Musik took serious themes and wrapped them in quirky, happy-sounding pop music; a kind of sugar coating for the bitterness. Whereas DEVO used humor, New Musik were more somber, yet without venturing into Cure or Morrissey territory.
Musically, New Musik sounded like nothing else. Burbling synth sequences were completely discordant, yet somehow they sounded right. Songs didn’t so much end as fall apart, individual multi-track pieces stopping at different times, cutting straight into the next track, or dissolving into strange instrumental noises or pieces of other songs.
For me, “Warp” was New Musik’s finest work. The album has a cohesive feel—it’s not a concept album, but the tracks sound as if they belong together. The sound has a simplicity approaching that of Kraftwerk, mostly using only four tracks. There’s no filler material either, nothing I skip when I listen. And finally, the ending is unforgettable…
I ordered the CD from Japan. It’s now available from Amazon, albeit at a hefty markup. (Why is it that Japanese import CDs double in price when they’re sold by US companies?)
Sara’s Palm III is dead. I decided I could probably upgrade and pass her my Palm V.
However, after careful consideration I’ve come to the conclusion that all currently available Palm devices suck. That is, every model from every manufacturer has some fairly basic flaw that makes it unappealing to me.
Hard to believe? Let’s see…
- Handspring Visor: 2MB RAM.
- Handspring Visor Deluxe: Needs alkaline batteries, no rechargeables. Bulky plastic case. Slow.
- Handspring Visor Platinum: It’s a Visor Deluxe but faster.
- Handspring Visor Edge: Great design, great functionality. Unfortunately, the screen’s 160×160 and only really as good as the old Palm V screen, and the OS isn’t upgradeable to 4.0.
- Palm Vx: Serial only, still OS 3.5, really no better than what I have except for the 8MB. And that’s not worth paying $300 for.
- Palm m500: Great case, great size, good screen, latest OS… Price sucks. I mean, we’re talking about something with less expandability and less functionality than a Visor Platinum ($250), but it costs $400. Sure, I like the aluminium case, but not that much. And it’s still only 160×160 screen resolution.
- Palm m505: It’s an m500 with a color screen for only $50 more. Which seems acceptable, until you see the screen. It’s reflective color, which is the right approach; but unfortunately, you’ll find a better screen on a $150 Nintendo Game Boy Advance. The m505’s screen is murky indoors, and the backlight hardly makes any difference. Plus it’s still only 160×160.
- TRGPro: Yes! A decent screen resolution and a reasonable price. Unfortunately it’s butt ugly and still has no USB connectivity. (And I thought Palm were slow joining the 21st Century.)
- Sony color CLIÉ: The color model with the current Palm OS is only on sale in Japan. The one with OS 3.5 is $400, but there’s no Mac support.
So the best option is $400 for either an m500 or an Edge. I’d probably get the Edge. In fact, I was going to—Handspring were running a promo where you got a free aluminium hardcase with the machine, and that was just enough to make me decide to go for it. So I went into two of the stores where the promo was allegedly happening—and neither of them had heard anything about it. So I went home again.
Of course, what I really want is my Newton back. But with USB connectivity and desktop software that doesn’t suck.
Got a digital camera last weekend. The SLR is great, but I wanted something small to carry around places where I wouldn’t be bothered to drag an SLR. I also wanted to be able to take one or two pictures a week and send them to the family by e-mail. Resolution wasn’t a big concern, as long as I could get 4×6 prints for any shots the family really liked.
I settled on the Canon PowerShot S100. It’s the smallest 2.1 megapixel digital camera. Nice metal case, with an iris that protects the lens when the camera’s off, so you don’t need to screw around with lens caps. It shuts down into a flat rectangular slab about the size of a packet of cigarettes. Picture quality is excellent—there are a couple of Olympus and Sony cameras that do better, but largely because they have bigger and better lenses.
We’re off to Minnesota on vacation soon, and I’ll take the SLR for that trip.
When I was young I was always in awe of my grandmother’s stereo radiogram. Not a record player, a radio, or even a tape recorder—a radiogram. It lived in its own elegant wooden cabinet, carved and varnished and polished so that it would fit in with even the most majestic surroundings.
Behind a glass front panel was the radio dial, itself constructed from glass with markings painstakingly painted on. Lit from behind, it glowed like the control panel of one of the spaceships in the TV shows I was always watching, and was marked with both a scale in kHz and with the names of more radio stations than my young mind could concieve of.
Luxembourg… Hilversum… Caroline…
My gran also had a smaller radio for the kitchen; a portable model. A wireless. It measured about 30 x 20 x 10 cm (not that they would have measured it in cm those days) in its carefully crafted wooden case. Inside was a big rectangular Ever Ready battery with two metal tags on the top which attached to a pair of wires. Other wires went to the speaker and to the actual radio circuitry, hidden out of my sight behind an internal wooden baffle.
A while ago I spent the weekend in Exmouth, Devon. Walking down the high street I noticed an electrical store. Looking in the window I saw a number of radios just like my gran’s.
At first I thought the shop must be one which sells second-hand equipment as a sideline. Then I noticed that the radios were in fact brand new, with shiny new buttons along the top. A small notice nearby announced that these radios were made by Roberts. The one like my Gran’s was just under fifty pounds.
It looked somewhat incongruous next to a tiny, sleek, black Sony world receiver. (The Sony was cheaper, too.) Yet there it sat, stubbornly refusing to admit its dinosaur-like obsolescence.
Fascinated, I peered more closely at the old-fashioned yet carefully-fashioned Roberts radio. I saw a small crest on the top. “By appointment to H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II”.
I suppose it makes sense. I can’t really imagine the Queen grooving to a Sony Walkman. Somehow I find it comforting that in spite of the onslaught of Japanese technology, there is still a company manufacturing uniquely English radios.