Friday, January 28, 2011

Panasonic VIERA TC-P50GT25 50-inch 1080p 3D Plasma HDTV, Black

This is our second Panasonic plasma. The first is still running strong after 4 years of outstanding performance. Before buying the GT25 we decided to try a top of the line Samsung LED LCD that was an utter disappointment, more on that later.
First I will begin by saying that before I understood 3D technology I had no desire whatsoever to buy a 3D set. It was only after researching the merits of 3D circuitry when viewing in 2D mode that I pulled the trigger on this wonderful TV. Panasonic's 3D circuitry is probably the closest to cinematic 3D of any set on the market. In order to qualify for "True HD 3D" the set must generate 2, 1080P images back to back. Without getting technical, this takes powerful 600Hz circuitry. However, I bought the TV for its superior 2D performance.
At the time I bought the set there was an excellent package deal on the glasses and a Panasonic 3D Bluray player so I ended up with "free" 3D capability. I will say that 3D is fun but not my cup of tea, however my wife loves it. I enjoy it also but don't care much for the required glasses.
A fringe benefit with the new Panasonic Plasma TV's is their low power consumption. In 2D this set consumes less than 150W which is less than half what my older plasma used. Plasmas of this type now easily compete with LCD and LED LCD on power consumption.
On to the TV itself. The GT25 is very handsome with the "piano black" bezel and base, even when turned off. Unpacking, setup and programming were simple and fast. My cable box, upconverting DVD player, and Bluray player all connect to a Yamaha RX-V567 receiver (purchased at the same time - also highly recommended) which connects to the TV via a high speed 3D certified HDMI cable. Over the air TV audio gets routed to the audio receiver via an Toslink optical cable. We are using Bose Lifestyle 5.1 speakers which are now amazing with the Yamaha and the Panasonic.
The GT25 is THX certified which is definitely an asset. We watch our movies in a customized THX setting which gives the films a very cinema-like patina. This is much nicer than what we have seen with the top of the line Samsung LED LCD TV which we returned after a couple days of unhappy viewing, playing with controls, and finally giving up. Plasma is vastly superior in my opinion.
Bluray performance on this set is astonishing - be prepared for goose bumps. The Infinite Black engine is awesome. After watching a couple of "space" movies it becomes apparent that they really mean "infinite!" The blacks are stunningly deep. Colors are very natural and the contrast is superb. Fine tuning the picture is easy on this set.
Overall this TV is a great value and will not disappoint. One can spend more on a higher-end TV but the picture quality will be only marginally superior. There are diminishing returns as you increase the price. This set seems like it hits a sweet spot for price/performance.

They were going for less than half the list price last night, click here to see if they are still on sale.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

New JBuds J3 Micro Atomic In-Ear Earphones with Travel Case (Jet Black)

I have been around high end Micro Atomic In-Ear Earphones my whole adult life. I consider myself an audiophile, albeit with 53 year old ears that have lost some high end. I am really impressed with these earphones, the build quality is outstanding and they are very comfortable to wear. For this week only, Amazon is selling then at -$60.00 the list price

Comfort was something that I was definitely concerned with since I can't stand to wear cheap ear buds, they just don't fit very well. These fit right in the canal and perform a great seal. I can wear for hours with no discomfort. Now to the sound quality, initially I was disappointed , there was definitely something amiss in the frequency response, a blooming in the mid bass area I would guess. But they say there is a break in period and so yes after some hours it definitely sounded better. For my older ears the sound seems to fit me very well, which probably means they have a high end bump.

For younger ears I would venture to say they will be bright. I am not into bass for bass's sake, so again I thought they were perfect for my ears, especially if they are pressed in tight to get the best seal. If you like heavy overemphasized bass (which seems to be for some unknown reason what younger people like these days) these are probably not for you.

Two small downsides. One is the noise from the cable rubbing on something gets acoustically amplified and gets annoying. I would not consider these for joggers, as the cord will be bouncing around. Second is the cord gets twisted very easily.

Be sure to check it out today as they are always changing the price to clear their stock.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Low Country Blues - Gregg Allman

I love all the old blues musicians and I am a big fan of the Allman Brothers , but mostly of the Duane Allman era albums. Not that I dislike the current incarnation, its just that I tend to lean towards the early albums when listening. I must also say that I was never a huge fan of Greggs solo albums. But Low Country Blues is hands down a great album. There is not one song that I would consider to be filler. The production on the entire album is outstanding.

Each instrument adds as much to the song as Greggs voice. The entire album is laid back with a steady infectious groove. The songs are fairly short and concise, none overstaying their welcome in a too long jam session. Gregs voice fits these songs like he was born to sing them (which, with his voice, he certainly was born to sing the blues). I've seen another review of someone complaining that this was a T bone album with Gregg simply singing on it. The fact of the matter is I don't care who did what or why. This is probably my favorite blues album to be released in the past ten years and these traditional songs have only been elevated by the work of everyone involved on this project.

on a side note, Best Buy is selling this album including a t shirt of Gregg Allmans 1974 tour. It is more expensive than buying just the regular album, but I thought it was a cool addition.

If you love Greggs, you will definitely love this whole album.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

All New Kindle Wireless Reading Device, Wi-Fi, Graphite, 6" Display with New E Ink Pearl Technology

This is a review written roughly 2 hours after opening the delivered All New Kindle Wireless Reading Device.

There are other reviews out there that will give you an ample supply of pros and cons about this product, but my review will touch on none of that.

In my brief time with the Kindle 3G, I have found that it has taken the hassle out of reading. Pre-Kindle reading, for me, was always cumbersome. Not only would I worry about putting a crease in the spine of the book, but I would sit and lay at odd angles to keep the book open and align the text with my head. Since I have started reading on the Kindle, I've been able to lay it propped up against the wall and read on my stomach, hold it one handed while I lay on my back and side as well as the use the standard two handed method while sitting in an armchair. All of these positions have let me get totally swept away by the story instead of worrying about how I'm holding the book to easily turn the page or to even keep the darned thing open.

I did have one hesitation when playing with a friend's Kindle. I was worried that when I turned the page, that the split second negative image would bother me. I assume this was done to keep the micro-spheres from getting stuck and only displaying black or white. But I've found that while I'm reading, I hardly even notice this transition at all. In fact, most of the time I've found myself blinking during this process.

I'm looking forward to spending hours upon hours with my Kindle in hand and I'm wondering why I didn't get one years ago.

See the latest version here >>

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Social Network (Two-Disc Collector's Edition)

There are some movies that sound like they would be impossible to make or at least make entertaining. ALL THE PRESIDENT'S MEN, APOLLO 13, DOUBT, THE QUEEN, SEABISCUIT, FROST/NIXON are just a few that spring to mind mainly because we know how they will end or that the plot seems one-note yet they turn out to be immensely enjoyable. THE SOCIAL NETWORK definitely falls into this catagory.

It sounds like it couldn't possibly be all that interesting yet not only is it but it is uncommonly entertaining! Thanks to a terrific script,a fascinating musical score and a director who envisioned this story in a unique, almost mystical way THE SOCIAL NETWORK is quite a ride in an intellectual, nerd-filled amusement park. The film quality is first-rate and the acting is outstanding. If these roles were not handled by these particular actors, I'm not sure the film would have been as good as it is.

I found myself thinking and talking about this film days after I'd seen it so while I know everyone's taste is, well, their own, and while I hesitate to recommend movies (the last time I recommended a movie so highly was SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE and my friends and family threatened to disown me), I just can't help myself with this one. I found it to be the best movie of the year.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering, Anniversary Edition (2nd Edition)

Note: Original first edition dates from 1975 (!!!). I've readed the 20th anniversary edition.

The book talks about managing software development, in form of essays. Some of this essays talk about differences of developing a program and a commercial product, why people like/enjoy programming (and what the problems of it are), the problems of estimating projects (the incorrect assumption that gives name to the book of "one man equals one month" and thus to shorten schedules more manpower has to be added), optimism vs reality, slipping schedules because of not enough testing, the problem of "small sharp teams" on large scale projects (no matter how good they are, they are too slow for really big projects) and the surgical team solution (one person does the heavy tasks, some others support), Conceptual integrity, ...

It also talks about separating architecture from implementation (separate the what from the how), the "second system effect" (over-design: as a first version of something goes well, second version gets so much "ideas" that becomes impossible to acomplish), what and how should be documented, communication and meetings handling, programmers productivity, documentation (what, when, how much, where and who), prototyping and refactoring (throwing away "the first system built"), bug fixing and testing, ...

Other topics include tools for development, debugging, testing... One chapter mentions a way of "branching" source code and using sharedrepositories back when Subversion was not even a idea... Good people take as much as possible advantage given the possibilities, even if the tools are quite limited.

Teaches how to think about real facts and not illusions; An example sentence: "Find real solutions to real problems on actual schedules with available resources" (Development is sequential, and so restricted and constrained).

Other topics that the book fantastically covers and defines are debugging (multiple categories, types and situations), testing (he recommends using "dummy objects" and faking input data, our actual "mock object" definition), incremental iterative development (based on small individual changes, maintaining changelogs), estimation problems and misconceptions (doing "problems-actions" negative meetings instead of "status-reviews" ones) or the importance of documentation in any software project (self-documenting code and both good and bad practices).

Also, there are plenty of examples, studies and even calculations/formulae, but one problem here is that samples are a bit outdated sometimes (or too oriented to system design).

Finally, this author is also famous for the essay "There is no silver bullet", which appears in here too. The essay talks about the fake idea of thinking that there will be a "something" that will be valid for everything and ease a lot our development process. Explaining then that each project, each system, each situation is unique and thus, there is no single solution to all of them.

It is amazing how more than 25 years later the same text is valid and still true. It should be mandatory for project managers of IT companies.

Why so few companies follow this book advices then? I wish I knew...

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Beginning iPhone and iPad Web Apps: Scripting with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript

It seems that everyone and her sister has developed an iPhone App—everyone except you, the hard-working web professional. And now with the introduction of the iPad, you may even feel farther behind. But the time has come where you don’t need to struggle through Objective-C or master Apple’s Cocoa touch APIs. WebKit’s support for HTML5 means any ambitious web developer can join Apple’s second mobile App wave and create compelling apps that address the unique features of both the iPhone and the larger iPad.

Beginning iPhone and iPad Web Apps: Scripting with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript takes you through every aspect of the latest Mobile Web Standards as well as the specific features of the iPhone and iPad. You’ll go beyond Web 2.0 and Ajax to learn about WebKit and Mobile Safari, HTML5 and CSS3, Vector Graphics and Multimedia support. You’ll discover what built-in hardware features of the iPhone and iPad you can use and how to take advantage of these device-specific capabilities.

The market for Web apps is expanding and the combination of iPhone and iPad makes this a very hot area—as well as a competitive one. You’ll want to know about all the advantages available to get ahead and stay ahead, and Beginning iPhone and iPad Web Apps is the perfect starting point.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Wii Play with Wii Remote - $27 Only

Must have.

Great party game. Great for young kids and Moms and Dads. Great for the occasional friendly competition.

Genius in its simplicity and in its introduction to Nintendo's wiiremote. No option and modes and extraneous bs. Basically one screen with ~8 game choices.

Still remains some of the best examples of controls done right on the Wii. And has that distinctive crisp Nintendo look and fluid animation that I personally just love.

Not sure how anyone could give this less than five stars. Many of the naysayers played these games for hours when they first got it and probably have popped it back in the Wii numerous times over the course of the nearly 4 years it has been out.

Ok at this point just buy the game by itself used because the included remote is the old version of the remote. The new remote with motion plus built-in (not inside the dongle) is the remote you should purchase at this point in time. So look on a used game site or store of your choice for the game only. Buy a new remote separate.

But by all means buy this game. Unless you hate giddy simple competitive fun.

Luckily, it's on sale this week for only $27. Hurry, buy one now before they are all gone.
Click here to buy
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