Geek central

Things that make you go “woohoo, I want it”. And no, that’s not a euphemism. It’s all about toys, gadgets, games and software

Looking for flights? Grab this

If you’re planning a holiday any time soon, you might like to take a look at Air New Zealand’s Grabaseat offers.

The available flights change daily and there are some huge bargains to be had.

Did I mention that I’m going on holiday soon? Thirteen sleeps to go, not that I’m counting or anything.


Xbox 360 arrives; PS3 delayed

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

Where were you at 12.01 this morning?

That’s when the Xbox 360 finally made its New Zealand appearance, after a hugely successful Xbox 360 Roadtrip, where more than 8000 gaming fans had a shot at hands-on fun with Microsoft’s latest gaming console aboard the Xbox bus. Unfortunately, the deep south was missed off the itinerary, with the bus only making it as far south as Dunedin.

The 360, with 21 game titles ready for launch day, features wireless controllers as standard and is compatible with other entertainment devices, such as the iPod and digital cameras, setting it up to be much more than just a games console.

Meanwhile, Sony has announced the 6-month delay of the world debut of its next generation games console, the PlayStation 3. Technology problems mean the console is expected to be out in early November.

Microsoft has also put the brakes on one of its projects, with its Windows Vista operating system not expected to be available until January instead of later this year. Vista is the first major overhaul of Windows since Windows XP hit the scene nearly five years ago.

Microsoft says the delay is to allow time for overall quality, particularly in security.


Intel logging on to more personal technology

The internet is set to become more mobile and more personal with upcoming developments from technology company Intel.

The innovations were announced at the annual Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco this week.

Launched in 1997, the forum is a growing gathering of developers and technology experts that aims to help key players stay on the cutting-edge of technology.

Intel executive vice-president Sean Maloney outlined the company’s mobile plans, announcing innovations in mobile devices and broadband wireless.

With growing demand for mobile internet applications, Mr Maloney told the forum about the next-generation Intel Centrino mobile technology-based platform as well as the next-generation dual-core mobile processor and the applications processor for hand-held devices.

They aimed to make the internet a more personal and mobile experience for people worldwide.

“The internet is increasingly the central medium in people’s lives, the place where we go for news, entertainment and education, and to extend our social lives,” Mr Maloney said.

“Emerging applications such as mashups, Blogs, podcasts and RSS make the internet an even more personal and interactive experience and people want to carry those experiences with them. The next stage of internet growth is to make this ‘real internet’ mobile.” Codenamed Santa Rosa, the Intel Centrino mobile technology was detailed for the first time in Mr Maloney’s keynote speech.

It is designed to give users better overall performance and graphics, and improved wireless connectivity and security.

Intel also showed off two concept PCs with multiple ergonomic configurations, integrated WiMax and wireless WAN technology, hard-drive backup capability and broadcast digital TV reception capability.

The company’s family of next-generation application processors for hand-held devices will offer a wide range of performance, power and integration levels to meet the needs of handsets, hand-helds and consumer electronic devices.

It will include Wireless Intel SpeedStep with MusicMax technology, Wireless MMX2 and VideoMax technology, allowing dramatic energy-efficiency and enhanced performance in hand-held devices playing audio and video.

Intel is also developing Ultra Mobile PCs, a new category of small mobile devices, with the first machines running on Intel silicon expected from major OEMs within the next two to three months.

Forum participants were the first to see a public demonstration of the Kedron wireless LAN adapter and of Intel’s 802.16e integrated mobile WiMax technology.

Mr Maloney also showcased the first single-chip multi-band Wi-Fi/WiMax radio, which will let laptops users connect to Wi-Fi or WiM networks worldwide.


Music to our ears

Microsoft and Motorola have joined forces to make a music handset to compete against a similar phone, also made by Motorola, that supports Apple’s iTunes music platform.

The phone will support Microsoft’s copyright protection software, as well as its Windows media platform.

Motorola’s Apple-supported ROKR and SLVR phones are available in the United States and the Apple and Microsoft phones do not support each other’s technologies.

Music-lovers in Europe and the United Kingdom, where high-speed wireless networks are more advanced, have had music phone technology for a while now. It’s slowly filtering through so things are looking up.


Halo 2 release for Vista machines

Microsoft has also announced plans to release the Halo 2 video game for personal computers running its new Vista version of Windows.

Halo 2 will run only on Vista machines and not on older versions of the Windows operating system.

Microsoft did not release a delivery date for the new game.

An earlier version of Halo runs on older versions of Windows and Halo 2 is available for Xbox console.

There’s no word yet on a delivery date for the successor to Halo 2, which is under development for the new Xbox 360.


Picture this

Telecom and Vodafone customers are now able to send photo and video messages and sound to each other over their mobiles between networks.

Vodafone PXTT or Telecom Photo Messaging lets customers create, send and receive messages containing colour video messages, or photos with sounds and voice recordings from mobile to mobile.

Vodafone expects PXT volumes to get a significant boost with the new deal, mirroring the explosion in txt messaging that occurred when txting between Telecom and Vodafone was introduced in 2001.


Xbox for Xmas but PS3 will come later

Microsoft says its next-generation Xbox 360 console will go on sale in the United States on November 22, in time for the Christmas shopping season.

Its European and Japanese debuts will take place a few weeks later.

The software giant hopes to take the lead in the $35.72 billion video game market from Sony.

The PlayStation 3 will hit the US market early next year.

The current Xbox is level pegging in the popularity stakes with Sony’s PlayStation in the US but is lagging behind both the PlayStation 2 and GameCube in Japan, with fewer than 500,000 consoles sold compared to 18 million PlayStation 2 sales and 3.8 million for the GameCube.

Gamers got to experience the Xbox 360 at the Tokyo show and will have another crack at the new console at the Xbox 360 Lounge, opening in Tokyo in November.


Look! One hand, no wires and built-in rumble

Video game-maker Nintendo has broken with more than 20 years of tradition by abandoning the two-handed controller option in favour of a funky, one-handed unit.

The slimline controller will be central to the company’s upcoming console system, code-named Revolution.

While most controllers require two hands and have an array of buttons, the new Nintendo controller looks almost barren but doesn’t lack punch with all the normal gaming movement options and the ability to be swung like a sword or golf club.

The controller was the star of last week’s three-day Tokyo Game Show, where Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft were trying to drum up interest in their new consoles.

The three are competing for dominance as they scramble to roll out a new generation of consoles.

Nintendo has long been recognised as a pioneer in the gaming industry with earlier innovations — such as controller shoulder buttons and triggers — quickly copied by its competitors.

The new Nintendo controller has 3D pointing with sensors that understand up, down, left, right, forward and backward, is tilt-sensitive, has an expansion port that can be used with different types of controller peripherals, is totally wire-free and has built-in rumble.

The Revolution console is the successor to GameCube, which will compete directly with Microsoft’s Xbox 360 and Sony’s PlayStation 3.


The perfect companion: rechargeable, quiet and intelligent

If you’re looking for a meaningful relationship without the hassle of human emotions, internet-linked household robot Wakamaru was unveiled by Mitsubishi in Tokyo last week.

Mitsubishi will take orders until the end of next month for 100 of the 1m-high, bright yellow robots that are powered by rechargeable batteries and move about on wheels.

Mitsubishi sees Wakamaru as a pleasant companion, offering a range of electronic valet services.

It can work as a secretary, keeping track of appointments, and can also operate as a watchdog, raising the alarm if a burglar is about.

Mitsubishi says it has tried to create a robot that can sustain meaningful relationships with humans, initiating conversations and offering services such as news, weather, and e-mail dictation.

Wakamaru is also capable of looking after the house, providing streaming video over cellular networks, and seeking out useful information on the net.

At a cost of only 1,575,000 yen ($NZ14,260) plus a monthly service fee Wakamaru certainly looks to have cheaper running costs than the average spouse.


Hi-tech sunnies on the way

Oakley is jumping into the electronic age with sunglasses that play music and work with cellphones.

Following the success of its digital music-playing Thump sunglasses, Oakley plans to introduce its phone-ready Razrwire range this month.



Jillian "George" Allison-Aitken

I live in the deep south of New Zealand, where smelly dairy cows are taking over from sheep in the livestock stakes. My hometown is the small but perfectly formed city of Invercargill, which is also the hometown of the original boy racer, Burt Munro. Find out more about me here.


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