Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year to one and all! 2011 is going to be one helluva year :)

In typical style, Google's logo has changed today to celebrate the coming of 2011...
FYI - MMXL = 2011 in Roman numerals... :)
So to all my readers and to everybody out there, Happy New Year and may 2011 be the most incredible year yet!
Thanks for reading my ramblings everybody, and if you are going to go big tonight, do it responsibly!

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Time for a dilemma of note... Nokia N8 / Nokia E7 / iPhone 4 / Android... what to choose?

Time sure as hell is moving at a rapid pace...
It seems like just yesterday that the courier arrived with my brand spanking new Nokia N97, much to my disbelief (and joy!) at the time...!

I can hardly believe that I am due for another handset upgrade in about 3 months - 108 days to be precise.
So the question on my mind now, is what phone do I go for next?
I must say that my N97 experience has been a mixed bag, although the pros far outweigh the cons.
The N97 (when it was launched) easily out-specced most other smartphones out there, iPhone included (relax Apple fans :).
For example, only now has the iPhone 4 managed to include a 5MP camera, which the N97 had years back (with Carl Zeiss optics no less).

So on the plus side, this is what worked for the N97 big time:

- 5MP Camera.
- FM Transmitter (I still use this in my car daily).
- Flip out QWERTY keyboard (awesome for typing long emails).
- 32GB onboard storage (class-leading at the time, and still unsurpassed in the market) + microSD slot (up to 16GB).
- TFT resistive touchscreen, 16M colours.

...and the not-so-great stuff:

- Laggy performance (much improved after several firmware upgrades, but still weak due to the 434Mhz CPU and small amount of system RAM).
- Occasional tendency to randomly restart (mainly in earlier versions of the phone firmware).
- Camera lens cover scratching the camera lens on opening and closing.

Overall though, the N97 has earned its place in my book of awesome devices, and it is with that in mind that I now trundle through the various options on offer when I next upgrade my handset.
...and the contestants are, in no particular order:

Nokia N8

Wow - a 12MP Camera with Carl Zeiss optics and a Xenon flash?
No frikkin' way...!
At launch, the Nokia N8 sported the most powerful camera on any smartphone at the time, and one of the best ever, according to many online review resources.

Coupled to an all new Symbian platform (apparently worlds apart from the laggy N97 version), an ARM 11 680 MHz processor, 3D Graphics HW accelerator, 16 GB storage, 256MB RAM, 512 MB ROM, AMOLED capacitive touchscreen (16M colors), FM Transmitter and much more, the N8 promises to be all that the N97 was and a whole lot more, just quicker!

There is just one little con that bugs me... no flip out QWERTY keyboard. That one feature just comes in so darn handy on the N97!

Nokia E7

Although this stunner is only going to market early 2011, it has already made waves in the smartphone world due to its sleek anodised aluminium case, impressive side-slider form factor (a la N97) and awesome hardware specs.
Basically the E7 is the business-targeted version of the N8, as I understand it.

Core hardware is much the same as the N8 (CPU, RAM, onboard storage, but with 1GB ROM instead of 512MB as on the N8).
The obvious difference though is the full QWERTY keyboard, which according to many reviews is simply incredible to use... and trust me they come in handy when you need to do a lot of typing on the go!

The E7, however lacks a few of the best features of the N8, namely:

- No 12MP camera. Instead an 8MP camera (not the Carl Zeiss variety) is included, with a dual LED flash (not xenon as on the N8).
- No FM Transmitter (sounds petty, but I use this feature all the time).
- No card slot for microSD cards to increase device storage.

Even so, initial reviews online are raving about this device big time...

iPhone 4

People either love or hate Apple products.

In my opinion Apple do not sell products. They sell a name - a lifestyle if you like.
Apple people see an Apple logo and they reach for their wallets. Even if that logo is on a brick somewhere, supplemented by the name "iBrick".

They will then proceed to randomly whip said iBrick out, at social events, with an air of smugness that you simply cannot emulate if you own any other brand of device... :)

That being said, the iPhone 4 is one spectacular device.

I have had the pleasure of playing with one of these babies and I must say that I was very tempted to switch to the Apple side of life...

Although the camera is not particularly headline-inducing (5MP), and there is no QWERTY keyboard, the UI experience more than makes up for those absent features.
If you have ever used an iPhone, you will know what I am talking about. The iOS 4 interface is about as slick as you can find on any smartphone, and plenty responsive to boot.
Powered by the 1GHz Apple A4 CPU and packing 512MB RAM, this phone is no slouch.

Perhaps one of the biggest drawcards of the iPhone 4 is the App Store - the selection of applications (paid and free) that you can get for your device is really amazing - something which Nokia could learn a lot from (their OVI Store 'aint quite as good...:)

Seriously worth considering...

Android-based phones...

There are so many new Android-based handsets on the market right now, that it is just ridiculous to try and pin down any one handset.
HTC, Acer, Samsung, Sony, LG, Motorola... tons of brands are jumping onto the Android bandwagon, and for good reason.

Android gives you choices - choice of brand, choice of thousands of free apps for your device, even choice of different UI's for your device.
Having played with several Android devices, I can also say that the Android platform is very slick and responsive.
Being Google developed and backed also adds a great deal of strength to the platform - I tend to rank Google products pretty high up there!

I have however looked at a variety of Android phones, and I cannot find one with hardware specs that quite match up to the Nokia N8 or Nokia E7...

So all in all, it's gonna be a tough choice when it comes to the crunch.
Which phone would you choose?
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Friday, December 17, 2010

Stuck for Christmas gift ideas? Check out this 8Gb Waterproof MP3 Player for only R600.00

I came across a nifty 8GB Waterproof MP3 Player at the Namhost online store, and I did a bit of delving to find out more about the product - click on the photos to view them full size.

Now I am not a very sporty type person, and when in the sea I am a total wuss - more than knee deep and my eyes are peeled for any sign of fins breaking the water surface around me... you get the idea!
Even so, South African beaches are a surfers paradise, and our awesome weather lends itself to water sports in a huge way.
So with that in mind, this little gadget really deserves a spot on the must-have list of any surfer, swimmer, wake-boarder, body-boarder, kayaker, kite-surfer or any other sporty (or not :)) person.

The rubberised earpieces are designed to fit exceptionally well, audio is pristine, and the entire player is easy to use. 
With a dive depth of ten metres you can listen to your favourite tunes while you snorkel or even scuba dive!

Order yours today for only R 600, at the Namhost Shop:

There is limited stock and once sold, you will have to wait until next year before getting your hands on one of these nifty devices!
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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I wonder when some random newbie pseudo-musician will wreck "Come on Eileen"...

I would guess that "Come on Eileen", by Dexys Midnight Runners, must be one of the most instantly recognizable and popular dancefloor songs pretty much all over the world.
The track is a great example of a "one-hit wonder", although the band did achieve a number one spot on the UK charts 2 years earlier with their song "Geno".

Nowadays, however (as I moaned about in one of my posts last year), anybody who wants to be cool, just picks a popular track that someone else wrote, and records their own dumb lyrics over the tune.
This is called "sampling", and it allows pretty much anybody to become a musician overnight.
They rely on the fact that the new generation of teeny boppers were not even born yet when the original track was actually aired, so their new abomination is now seen as "original" and they become instant stars off the original artists' hard work.

So I wonder... how long will it be until someone decides to create a train-smash out of one of the greatest number 1 singles of all time...?
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New Pick 'n Pay store now open in Orchards...

If you work or live in Orange Grove, Orchards or Norwood, there is now a conveniently situated Pick 'n Pay store open on the corner of Louis Botha Avenue and Louis Road, Orchards.
Situated right next door to the 24 Carrots Event Design building, the store opened at the end of November, and it is great if you don't want to visit Norwood Mall but still need to stock up on some basic groceries.

Pop in sometime!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Brendan Venter's embarrassing interview after a defeat to Racing Metro 92...

I don't really follow rugby at all, but this clip is just classic.

It shows Brendan Venter's rather strange interview to Sky Sports, after Saracens lose 21-24 to Racing Metro 92 in the Heineken Cup on December 11th 2010.

Watch and be amazed... and amused :)

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Who makes the best pizza in JHB?

Now that's a blog post title to get people talking - after all, when it comes to pizza, EVERYONE has an opinion :)
So first off, for all the Italian readers out there, "my Nonna" is not a valid answer in this case :)
It's restaurants that I am talking about here...

When I was but a wee lad, I did not know a whole lot about pizza, but I sure loved the stuff.
Back then, in my opinion at least, the Apple Bite Roadhouse in Edenvale was the king of pizza making :)
Admittedly, I have not eaten anything from the Apple Bite in years, so I cannot speak for their quality now.

Enough with the reminiscing.
As all pizza-loving humans know, when the pizza-hunger-bug strikes, it does so with a vengeance.
The pizza-hunger-bug takes no prisoners, and it demands immediate and complete satisfaction.

Not wanting to upset the pizza-hunger-bug then, I have in my time sampled these savoury circular Italian treats from many different spots in JHB - and here in the commercial capital of South Africa, we are most definitely spoilt for choice on that front...!

Off the top of my noggin then (in my humble, non-chef kind of way) the following places come to mind...:

- Nonna Mia (Bedfordview, Senderwood, Illovo) - a great pizza experience - although the non-traditional rectangular shape may catch you off guard :)

- Mimmo's (all over JHB) - generally tasty and good quality, although this can be branch-dependent.

- O'Crumbs (formerly in Sunnyrock, JHB) - no longer in operation, but they deserve a mention for what was once their consistently good quality, 24 hours a day. Boy oh boy - pizza at 3am in the morning on the way home after a night out... 'aint nuttin better than that!

Please understand that this has to be the most brief list ever compiled - as you read this I am sure that a million pizza places are popping up in your head, but I just wanted to put a few out there.
The title of this post, however, asks who in fact makes the best pizza in JHB...

Again, this is only my opinion, and I am no chef, nor am I a pizza connoisseur of any kind.
To answer this burning, and indeed critical question, I must cast my mind back a while, to when I first saw the words "Primi Piatti" tattooed onto the side of a building somewhere...
My first impression of Primi Piatti (Italian for "first dish") was that of a trendy hangout, designed for and geared towards a young, upwardly mobile generation of go-getters who enjoy getting tanked after a day of corporate ping pong at the office.
For that reason, I never really took an interest to the franchise, and so I continued on my merry, blissfully naive journey in the world of pizza eating.

It was only recently, that for some or other reason I decided to pop into the Stoneridge branch of Primi (known as Primi Fusion), for a good old Regina pizza.
Not expecting terribly much, you can imagine my most pleasant surprise and amazement, when I discovered what I would call the best pizza I have eaten in years, inside what is a rather average-looking pizza box :)

I am not sure what their secret is, but in terms of flavour, base thickness and crispiness, consistency between branches and generally excellent quality, Primi Piatti are certainly doing something right.
So much so, in fact, that I do not even think twice anymore, when that little pizza-hunger-bug dude shows up on my doorstep... Primi Primi Primi!
The mark of good pizza!

Not wanting to upset anybody though, I would love for you all to comment here if you know of any incredible pizza places / restaurants etc. in JHB (or anywhere else for that matter...!:).
Hey, who knows - you may find yourself stranded sometime, somewhere on the far East Rand near Nigel, far away from the nearest Primi Piatti, but urgently in need of a pizza fix... 

Let's help those needy people and get a list of great pizza spots going here :)
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Christmas tree spotting in JHB malls...

Spotted these funky Christmas trees recently, at Village View Shopping Centre (Bedfordview) and Stoneridge Shopping Centre (Greenstone) respectively.

More to come as they get spotted!

Seen any awesome Christmas trees or spectacular decorations in your hood lately?
Send them my way and I will put them up here for all to behold :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Lateral thinking - a real world example...

Having been fortunate enough to travel locally recently, I found myself in a situation where lateral thinking was demonstrated in a good way, in an everyday situation.

Slowing down as I approached the MariaanHill tollgate just outside Pinetown, I spied an empty looking gate to the right and made a bee line for it - it is always amusing to watch how all the cars scurry in the final dash to get the emptiest tollgate :)

Feeling rather smug as I waited in the (short) queue of 3 cars, I noticed how the driver in front repeatedly (and fruitlessly) swiped his card through the automatic card machine, each time slightly more urgently than the last...

After about 10 unsuccessful swipes and with cars piling up behind us, the driver in front eventually got out of his car and made his way over to one of the manual booths, where he could interact with a human being, rather than a card-refusing machine.
A short discussion then followed, after which the 2 of them then headed over to the stubborn machine.
They then took turns trying to make the questionable card work, unsuccessfully.

Eventually, they gave up and the tollgate operator waved his hands at the now decidedly long queue, in what was a rather enthusiastic gesture for us all to reverse back (into oncoming traffic), and use another tollgate.

Not an easy task.
As the reverse lights all started coming on, and with trucks and a variety of other vehicles now bearing down on the stagnant queue of stranded vehicles, the task seemed just about impossible.

There we all were - a stationary queue of cars lined up one behind another, all behind one bottleneck, all trying desperately to escape.

Trouble is, we weren't going anywhere because it's a bit tough trying to reverse into oncoming traffic, in the hope that said traffic will just understand why several vehicles are reversing towards them... :)

It is also truly amazing how transfixed and overly focussed one can become, when faced with what appears to be an insurmountable situation - one such as this for example.
So when the (fairly large) passenger in the car behind me suddenly got out and made his way to the car responsible for the blockage, my first thought was "Oh hell... Here comes a fistfight..."...

Surprisingly, there were no fists, and indeed, no fight.
Instead, the fairly large passenger and the blockage-causer exchanged a few words, at which point the fairly large passenger produced his own petrol card, proceeded to swipe that, and lo and behold - the boom lifted and the day was saved.

I was speechless for a few seconds before the thought hit me... "Now why didn't I think of doing that?".
Who knows what mechanism makes us lose sight of the most obvious solution to a problem when we are involved in it - all I can say is that the idea of moving an entire queue of cars at a toll gate, seemed such a massive task, that all the other people in the queue simply failed to think of paying for the toll themselves, in order to get the whole queue moving again.

The funny thing is that the toll for that specific plaza is something like R7.50... Not really an account breaker...!

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