Showing posts from September, 2011

New Amazon Kindle Line-up (Sep 2011)

Just over a year ago I posted about my experiences with the Kindle 2. I concluded that the Kindle was great for reading, but that too much space was wasted with the thick bezel and the unnecessary keyboard down the bottom. The Kindle 3 was then released with a smaller bezel and condensed keyboard, but still not the most functional design. I mocked up the following image, which I though would make for a mode ideal reader:

Amazon has now just announced the 2011 updates to the Kindle line-up, and they're all a step in the obvious direction. The base model, simply called Kindle, now looks like this:

They finally got rid of the keyboard, and replaced it with the navigational pad and a few buttons to bring up the home screen, search, etc. This means it's smaller and lighter and doesn't look as ugly. It's also now cheaper at $79, but does not have the option for 3G.

The next in the line-up is the Kindle Touch:
This is more or less identical to the new Kindle in size and weigh…

Playing Wii in HD at 1080p

Let's jump straight to the point - the Wii has terrible graphics. It outputs at 480p (640x480), which looks pretty horrible on today's 50"+ 1080p (1920x1080) flat panels. Sure,'s not graphics that makes a game fun, and art style is more important then pixel/polygon count, etc, etc... but really, Wii games just look bad.

There is one way around this though, and that's to use the Dolphin emulator on a PC to play Wii games and increase the resolution to 1080p (plus apply some AA and other filtering), which dramatically improves the image quality of some games. See the video below as an example (make sure to select the highest resolution to watch it at).

To do this, you need to download the Dolphin emulator, connect your Wii motes to your PC via Bluetooth (no special drivers needed in Windows 7), and connect the sensor bar to the Wii for power. The sensor bar is a purely passive device. It's just an array of infra-red LEDs which the Wiimotes see and use …

HTPC for all

I've been writing posts about my experience with HTPCs since 2009 (1,2,3,4). To anyone that doesn't have one yet, get one. A 50"+ fancy LED TV panel is a waste without one. A HTPC lets you watch/pause/record live TV, watch DVD/Bluray movies, watch streaming iTunes/Hulu/Netflix content, watch downloaded videos in any format, listen to streaming music, surf the net and even play the occasional game or two. Struggling to do all this with other devices is just a waste of time and effort. A HTPC these days will set you back about $400, plus maybe another $100 for a good remote. That's still less than an iPad, and infinitely more useful for the whole family.

Suppliers know the value of these, and are trying to find the best way to milk you for all you're worth. Hence all the specialized offerings like Apple TV, Google TV, Samsung/Sony smart TVs, Boxee, etc. Don't fall for these though. There's a reason why they've all failed to achieve respectable market pen…

Lian Li PC-Q08B HTPC ITX Case

I built my first specialized home-theatre PC in early 2009. Back then, ultra-small form-factor PCs were limited, or very crippled. Mini-ITX motherboards were starting to hit the mainstream custom-build markets though, so I decided to use a J&W 780G board with an integrated Radeon 3200 HD GPU. I paired this up with a 45w dual-core AMD 5050e and stuck these together in a relatively tiny Aywun case (seen below), which allowed for a standard 3.5" HDD and a standard 5.25" optical drive. These features were necessary as at the time slim-line Bluray drives were prohibitively expensive.

I also went to a bit of trouble to keep system noise down to a minimum. The biggest culprit was the cheap fan in the cheap 150W PSU that came with this cheap case. The PSU had a very unusual form-factor and the case was so cramped for space, that it was impossible to replace with anything else. I ended up using a picoPSU with an external 110W DC power brick.

This set-up served me well for over tw…