Current gadgets/daily companions [13/08/2011]

15-16" Notebook Backpack BG-4500p (600B-15 Notebook Backpack Urban)

Trust backpackEverything fits in this backpack from Trust: My netbook/laptop + power cable, notepad, A4 pages with info, food container (taken daily to office) & snacks, mp3 player, cables &  chargers, mobile phone, pens/markers/keys/business cards, everything well-organized in the inner slots/pockets etc. It even fits my small bag which contains my wallet, ID/Driving license etc, ready to be used individually when the whole backpack is not needed. It’s really comfortable even when cycling!

It has been widely used for my daily trips to office, in business meetings (well, it’s not really formal but it’s really convenient!), even during my summer holidays for carrying beach towels, shorts etc. One of my best buys!

Sweex MP3 player – MP303 Gold 2GB

It’s not anything fancy but it’s durable, with good sound quality and really Sweex mp3-303cheap. I went out to buy a pair of headphones and I ended up with this mp3 player at the same price (including a great set of white headphones, long lost now…). Ok, it misses some features (e.g. no shuffle mode!) and has some bugs (e.g. starting the playlist from the beginning after each charging…) but I have learned to live with those. The battery life is pretty cool, considering its minimal size and it is really portable. As for the capacity, I have never managed to put more that 1GB of mp3s in there!

It has been used intensively during trips and summer vacations and it is still going!


Sweex mp3-303-specs

HTC Touch HD (Blackstone)

HTC_Touch_HDBought second hand (well, third hand to be more precise) last August, after my HTC Touch Cruise was stolen. I have wanted this mobile since I first saw it and I managed to get my hands on it. Great, large screen, sturdy construction, now powered by a custom WM6.5.3 ROM (kwbr 5.7), it has proven to me much more than a phone: Used many times for GPS navigation, watching movies with subtitles, taking photos and videos, reading ebooks, working on excel lists (ok, basic stuff), taking notes and mostly web surfing (we are talking about whole weeks of internet browsing!). I consider it to be a small netbook. A problem with the touch screen appeared out of nowhere last year but it was serviced by Ace Hellas (the official HTC distributor in Greece) as it was still under warranty. Now it doesn’t even have a scratch and looks brand-new.

With a desktop battery charger and a second battery (both holding charge for about a day of working), it is always docked on my office ready to be synced (emails, weather forecast, tweets, photos etc.). Even though I have bought a ZTE Blade in the meantime as a back-up phone, I cannot take the decision to sell one of these two… especially the Blackstone!

Acer Aspire One 751h

AAO751hMy previous laptop (HP Pavillion tx-1110us) was rather heavy to carry around daily, despite its small dimensions (been proven really sturdy though!). I had to go for a lighter computer and I went for a netbook with the largest screen available back then (11,6 inches). It came with Windows XP home and a version of Ubuntu Linux, both of them replaced by Windows 7 Pro and Jolicloud after the first weeks. I have to admit that sometimes it is so laggy that brings me a headache; however I shouldn’t expect much from a weak machine with an Atom 1,3GHz CPU and 1GB RAM (in addition I suspect that the hard disk is also a source of lag). Most of the times it is working fine for light tasks (web browsing, emails, word processing, watching small clips – not HD, listening to music etc.). When a number of applications are open, or when working with large Word and PDF files, the netbook starts slowing down and warning you…

I had some issues with freezing the machine in random cases, but it seems that it is now solved after some updates. This little machine has travelled all over Europe and has been used during many project meetings, summer vacations even as a replacement for the office laptop. It is a great tool, as long as you know what to expect from it…

Dahon Boardwalk D7

Dahon_boardwalkd7I decided to start cycling after 15 years and I went for a folding bike, which I could also transfer in the Metro, for my daily commuting to office. Boardwalk was not the cheapest model around, but I think it had the best value for money when it was purchased. Initially used for commuting to the office, it was soon used for even longer rides (Freeday, Halbike etc.) around Attica. I have made hundreds of kilometers with this bike, and I didn’t have any problems with that, apart from some minor ones (e.g. replacing some spikes and a crank arm). I found the folding style to be convenient when going for shopping (as I usually fold it and take it with me inside the stores) and for office (as it can fit next to my desk). Minimum, cheap service, really fun to ride in the country (just outside the town I live in).

Some of the additional stuff I bought for my Dahon is the Arclite Rack, front/back lights (a number of them, mostly from eBay), a Bell City helmet and service sprays and stuff.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG20

I bought this camcorder after a survey I made on similar products. I think I SANYO_CG20_black_back_Mood_LRhave made the best choice: compact & lightweight (really portable), high quality of image and video and recording in HD. It has already been used for shooting hours of video (especially during the CerOrganic training school in Chania this May) with really good performance. The battery lasts for about 45 minutes, so I had to buy an additional one from, which lasts at least as much as the original one. The 4GB SDHC card I use lasts for more or less the same time, so it is a nice combination! The image of photos (10MP) is not great, but when we are talking about video, I am really pleased. It also features a lot of settings which I have never used.


Gadgets of the past

During the last years I have bought a number of gadgets, not all of them successful cases, for various reasons. Here are a few words about each one of them:

1. Digital Cameras

Agfa CL-18: This was my first digital camera. I was really anxious to get it in my hands and I was willing to pay the 40,000 Greek drachmas (about 135 euros) back in 2000 (if I can recall correctly) to buy it second hand. Its specs look really poor today (0.3 MP = 640×480, 2MB internal memory/no expansion slot for memory cards, no LCD display, fixed lens=no zoom). It could be used as a webcam with a workaround and it had a USB cable included. The photos were pretty awful, no matter if they were taken indoors or outdoors, and they looked more like pastel paintings! I managed to get rid of it at a lower price after some months, packing it with a charger and a set of AA rechargeable batteries.

Kodak DC-3200: My second digital camera. It was priced 82,000 Greek drachmas (about 240 euros) and it seemed to worth it back then. 1 MP resolution (1152×864), 1.6’’ color LCD screen, 2MB internal storage, CompactFlash expansion slot, 4x digital zoom (pretty useless), serial (!!) connection with PC and a number of image settings. I used it for quite a while and it was a nice update of its ancestor (Agfa CL-18). The photos were a little bit grainy but they could surely be considered as photos. Its main drawback was its power consumption (it used 4 AA batteries which they didn’t last long…).

Olympus Camedia C-720UZ: A really impressive camera, successor to the Kodak DC-3200 in my series of cameras. Boasting a 8x optical zoom (even though without a stabilizer of any kind (really useful for that big zoom!), 3MP CCD sensor and all-manual functions, it still produces excellent photos. I never decided to sell it, as I wanted it for a back-up camera. However, it seems that my sister was really excited to use it, so it was a nice present for her. I am really glad to know that this camera is still useful and functioning!


2. MP3 players


Aiptek MP3 –310: My first MP3 player, purchased in 2002 for 110,000 Greek drachmas (more than 330 euros) to keep me company during my army service. It had 128MB internal storage, LCD backlit display, some basic settings and voice recording. It used an AAA battery which lasted for some hours. Due to its memory limit, I had to re-encode my mp3 files to a lower bitrate. Radio was only available using the earphones included in the package. It is still functional after ten years in rain, dust and many falls!

3. Mobile phones

Ericsson GF-768: My first mobile phone. Small, elegant and really tough. Once it fell into a pool of rain water for 20 minutes and it survived! I t was really easy to use, having only the basic features as well as a screen of one line! It never stopped working but I sold it as soon as the battery started dying. Apart from that, I was really pleased with that phone!


4. PDAs

Palm IIIxe: My first attempt to buy a PDA. I cannot recall the exact cost or the date of the purchase (second hand) but I was never satisfied with it. It was really portable, I had downloaded a wealth of free programs (most of which I never even installed) and I kept it with me as a calculator, dictionary, expense diary, downloaded news to read on the road, car fuel consumption tracking etc. Its major drawback was its lack of flash memory, which I learned the hard way: After using it as a diary/expense tracking log during my summer holidays, it ran out of batteries and I lost everything (!!) on my way back home… I was so disappointed after that, that I never used it again.

Psion 5mx: Much better than my Palm in terms of usability and appearance, featured a nice sliding keyboard, CompactFlash expansion slot, 8MB RAM (more than enough for its applications. It was fully-featured, including an office suite and a wide variety of free programs. Bought second hand as well, it served me for some months before I decided to sell it because I was afraid that the ribbon connecting the screen with the rest of the unit would wear off and warranty/service/spare parts were not easy to do/find at that time… Despite that fact, it was really fun to use it and it was the first device (apart from a desktop) that I used to write my homework (it was really useful during some blackouts).

Mio P350: I wanted to buy a GPS device for along time before I decided to go for the Mio P350, suggested by by friend Nikant. It was rather cheap for its features (also bought second-hand), including one of the best and nicely fine-tuned GPS receivers, a very good screen, SD-card expansion slot and enough free space to install WM5 (and later WM6) applications. It lacked the really useful for me WiFi card but I purchased one SD-WiFi card so it worked miracles. For several months it was used intensively for internet purposes (e-mail, surfing, chatting), while it was also used for keeping track of expenses, watching videos and various other applications, apart from the GPS function. I always carried it with me, until my car was robbed and P350 was in it… even though my bag and other stuff were found by the police, the GPS was gone. I was really sad to lose this partner.


5. Smartphones

Eten Glofiish X600: After my P350 was stolen, I decided to carry only one device with me, so I had to find a cheap smartphone with GPS receiver. I couldn’t find a cheap one in the Greek market and the used ones were also either “crummy” or expensive… I was lucky enough to find Eten X600 on sale in Expansys. A true all-in-one device, with nice phone reception, good GPS and a WiFi adapter, nice 2,8-inch screen, SD card expansion slot, nice grip but with limited RAM (64MB). I decided to sell it almost brand-new, a couple of months later as in the meantime I read about problems with the speaker among others, and there was no Greek service support for Eten. In addition, Eten was acquired by Asus back then so its future and support for its devices would be problematic…

HTC Touch Cruise: The second-hand replacement of Eten and one of my favourite gadgets. A tough device, with a lovely 2,8-inch screen, GPS receiver and WiFi adapter, WM6.1 and a lot of software. I loved its looks and grip and it almost replaced my laptop in a number of cases. Email, calendar, expenses, browsing, watching episodes of my favorite series, anything I could imagine. I thought it was going to die in my hands due to excessive usage; however, it was stolen one morning from inside my backpack while commuting by bus to work… not much more to say, but I still miss it sometimes, a great tool!

Gadget series – Sweex MP303 mp3 player

Πριν αρκετό καιρό έψαχνα να βρω ένα ζευγάρι ακουστικά για χρήση μέ ένα εξαιρετικά ανθεκτικό Aiptek MP3-310. Το συγκεκριμένο το είχα αγοράσει από το RadioShack για περίπου €110 το 2002, αν θυμάμαι καλά.

Με χωρητικότητα 128ΜΒ, ήμουν αναγκασμένος να μειώνω το sample rate των mp3s που περνούσα στη συσκευή, προκειμένου να στριμώξω περισσότερα αρχεία στη λιγοστή μνήμη της συσκευής. Παρόλα αυτά, παραμένει μια ανθεκτική κατασκευή που πέρασε πολλά όλα αυτά τα χρόνια στα χέρια μου (ειδικά κατά τη διάρκεια της θητείας μου!). Η συσκευή τροφοδοτείται από μία μπαταρία AAA, η οποία της έδινε αρκετή αυτονομία και ήταν πολύ εύκολο να επαναφορτιστεί (πάντα είχα 2-3 επαναφορτιζόμενες στο σακίδιό μου) ή να λειτουργήσει και με αλκαλική μπαταρία, όταν δεν ήταν διαθέσιμες οι επαναφορτιζόμενες (π.χ. κατά τη διάρκεια διακοπών σε camping). Ραδιόφωνο δεν είχε ενσωματωμένο αλλά μόνο στα παρεχόμενα ακουστικά, και λειτουργούσε με μια μπαταρία ρολογιού.

Ψάχνοντας λοιπόν για ακουστικά, το μάτι μου έπεσε σε μια προσφορά της Forthnet, η οποία έδινε ένα mp3 player Sweex MP-303 2GB στην τιμή των €9,90, πιο φθηνά δηλαδή κι από τα ακουστικά που είχα βρει σε ορισμένα καταστήματα! Αποφάσισα λοιπόν να αγοράσω ένα και να κρατήσω τουλάχιστον τα ακουστικά.

Η συσκευή ήρθε με ακουστικά λευκού χρώματος και καλώδιο USB στη συσκευασία της, μαζί με ένα πολύ λιτό εγχειρίδιο χρήσης. Η ίδια η συσκευή είναι πολύ απλή στη χρήση της, με ένα σταυρό με τις βασικές λειτουργίες (Vol+/Vol-, Next/Previous track, Play/Pause), ένα διακόπτη On/Off, δύο leds (ένδειξη φόρτισης/λειτουργίας), μια θύρα mini-USB για φόρτιση / μεταφορά μουσικών αρχείων και φυσικά μια υποδοχή stereo 3,5’’ για τα ακουστικά.

Σαν κατασκευή φαίνεται αρκετά στιβαρή, με περίβλημα από αλουμίνιο (σε εντυπωσιακό χρώμα του χρυσού!) και πλαστικά πλήκτρα. Το “μανταλάκι” στο πίσω μέρος είναι πολύ βολικό και γερό, ιδανικό για να πιάνει σε τσέπες, ιμάντα σακιδίου κλπ. Την έλλειψη οθόνης την είδα ως πλεονέκτημα, αφού σπάνια θα τη χρησιμοποιούσα και ποτέ δεν ψάχνω για ένα συγκεκριμένο τραγούδι από τη λίστα. Οι μικρές του διαστάσεις και το αμελητέο βάρος (μόλις 13g), το καθιστούν ιδανικό σύντροφο για τις καθημερινές μου μετακινήσεις με τις συγκοινωνίες.

Στην πράξη τα πάει αρκετά καλά, με ικανοποιητική αυτονομία (περίπου 2.5-3 ώρες, με ακατάστατες φορτίσεις) και πολύ δυνατό ήχο! Η ποιότητα του ήχου είναι πολύ καλή, ακόμη και με τα παρεχόμενα ακουστικά, τα οποία δεν περίμενα να είναι καλής ποιότητας. Το μανταλάκι είναι γερό και πιάνει ακόμη και σε λεπτές τσέπες.

Μειονεκτήματα? Έχω εντοπίσει 2 έως τώρα. Το κυριότερο είναι η έλλειψη λειτουργίας shuffle. Αυτό σημαίνει ότι κάθε φορά ακούω τα τραγούδια σχεδόν με την ίδια σειρά! Σχεδόν, επειδή θεωρητικά κάθε φορά που η συσκευή κλείνει soft (κρατώντας πατημένο το πλήκτρο play και όχι από το διακόπτη On/Off) θυμάται σε ποιό τραγούδι είχε μείνει την τελευταία φορά και συνεχίζει από εκεί. Δυστυχώς όμως, κάθε φορά που συνδέω τη συσκευή με το καλώδιο USB για να φορτίσει και χωρίς να την κλείνω από το On/Off (δεν θα φόρτιζε έτσι ούτως ή άλλως) χάνει τη σειρά και την επόμενη φορά αρχίζει πάλι από το ίδιο κομμάτι! 😦

Αυτά τα δύο μειονεκτήματα συνδυάζονται και μου δημιουργούν σημαντικό πρόβλημα, γιατί βαριέμαι να ακούω τα ίδια κομμάτια ξανά και ξανά, και μάλιστα με την ίδια ακριβώς σειρά! Το πρόβλημα θα μπορούσε να λυθεί με τη χρήση ενός προγράμματος, του ReOrganize! Το δωρεάν αυτό προγραμματάκι έχει γραφτεί για αυτόν ακριβώς το λόγο και αλλάζει τη σειρά των κομματιών σε ένα playlist. Στο Aiptek που είχα έκανε πολύ καλή δουλειά, αλλά στο Sweex δεν μπορώ να καταφέρω τίποτα… θα πρέπει να δοκιμάσω όλες τις διαφορετικές επιλογές (File Creation Time, FAT order, Filename κλπ) για να δω αν θα κάνω δουλειά.

UPDATE (19/05/10): Με τη χρήση της επιλογής FAT Order του ReOrganize! κατάφερα να αλλάξω τη σειρά αναπαραγωγής των κομματιών! Συνεπώς, κάθε φορά που φορ�
�ίζω τη συσκευή από το USB μπορώ να αλλάζω τη σειρά των κομματιών με τη χρήση του ReOrganize! Yoohoo!!

Συμπέρασμα: Εξαιρετική κατασκευή, πολύ καλά ακουστικά, καλή αυτονομία αλλά και εκνευριστικά bugs… τα οποία μένει να δω εάν θα μπορέσω να λύσω!