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Solid State Disks - SSDs

Here's something I have recommended for those who want maximum performance from their PC or Mac. An SSD. An SSD has no moving parts, therefore everything, no matter where it is, is accessed nearly instantaneously. The read and write speeds are usually higher then most 7200 RPM 1TB disks as well, in the over 200MB/s range. One that is reasonably priced is the:



OCZ Agility 2. I purchased one of these recently, and installed it in my Mac clone. My machine now boots in 9 seconds. Everything opens super fast, and frankly I couldn't be happier.

Gran Turismo 5 & Driving Force GT Wheel

I recently got both of these from GameStop, as I was in a hurry...but Amazon does have a better deal on them this time...



I paid $59 for the game, and $130 for the wheel, so you're saving $45 right away off average price - Best Buy has the wheel for $150!

About the items - Gran Turismo 5 (GT5 from now on), is one of the most anticipated driving simulators for the PS3. It's been delayed forever. But I think it was worth it. It can be challenging to start off, but it's definitely fun. You have to complete a few "license tests" - like accelerating to as fast as you can get to, and then brake within a desired area, in as little as time possible. There are ones on cornering, braking, etc, to help you understand the controls more. You can then start racing, where you buy a car, win races, get trophies, vehicles, money (game money, not real money)...For someone who's a car geek, it's a lot of fun.

As for the wheel, it definitely helps with the experience. However, you'll need a decent table to mount it on, as the force-feedback can move light tables (like the portable tables you can eat off of) around. The pedals work pretty well, and do respond differently to light force vs hard for acceleration and braking. The different vehicles handle differently, without a doubt. The build quality of it is decent, and it re calibrates itself each time the PS3 is turned on. Frankly, unless the quality is significantly higher, which I have not heard is the case...the higher end wheels are for the truly hardcore only.

It's definitely a fun game, and a good combo.

Leica M9 - The M8, only much better.

I recommend the Leica M9...IF:

  • You like rangefinders
  • You don't mind a heavy camera
  • You can afford the insane price


If you don't meet these three pieces of criteria, then this is probably
not the ideal camera for you. If it is, then this is definitely the camera for you.
Leica has taken the M8, and put in a full-frame sensor, which delivers stunning photos.

Leica has addressed some of the handling issues with the M8, adding a
ISO button to make switching easier.


They added in a soft-release shutter mode which changes the way the shutter release operates, to make it easier to take longer-exposure pictures. They have 16-bit uncompressed RAW files now, which allows you to see the full Dynamic Range potential of the CCD sensor (Kodak made, I think). Higher ISO settings work much better then the M8.2. For more info the M8.2, take a look down on this blog for my Japan trip, which tells all about it. :-)

American Express - Matt does NOT Recommend

I've been using American Express for 10 years. It was the first card I got as a student - the Blue for Students card. I think it was actually something else when I got it. In any case, I've always been a fan, because of the rewards program. Well, they killed one of the rewards I wanted - the Skip Barber High Performance Driving School, but made up for that in I was able to use the points for ANA Airlines, and fly business class to Japan for dirt cheap (relatively, lol). But that's the positives. The negative is that they are wholly unsupportive of me, as a long time card member. I have to pay fees to have the Gold card as well. They took away my pay-over-time feature as soon as the market started to go sour. This month, they were not willing to extend my payment deadline an additional 10 days, as there's been a lot of stuff going on this month - property taxes, my grandmother has had eye surgery which wasn't covered, and some computer trouble. I called customer service, and ended up asking 'what did this call do for me?' after telling them I was having some trouble with paying, and being told they could do nothing for me. They said 'not much at all - it just lets us know why you're not paying.' I will say they mentioned as long as you get it in before the end of the billing cycle, which is 15 days after the due day, you'll be fine. This unfortunately was 5-7 days too little for me ( I needed 2 pay checks). They sent me a link for a survey, where I told them they were being unrealistic in this economic climate, and I was appalled at their lack of help. I was able to make the payment, on time, but using money I had hoped not to use.

It's clear that American Express is just like any other bank, and I will not be using them much in the coming months, and will close my card within 3 months when I get on top of my others more.

Amazon Kindle

Today I'm writing to recommend the Amazon Kindle. There are two versions, one with WiFi only:



and the Wifi + 3G (Sprint) version:



There are a few devices out there to read books on. However, none are quite as good as the Kindle.
The nook is very similar, but the screen does not refresh as quickly as the Kindle. The iPad has a very large disadvantage (as does other Tablets) in that the screen is LCD based - in other words, light is coming out of the device to you - and is stressful on the eyes. The Kindle, on the other hand, is reflective, like paper, and therefore is easier on the eyes, and allows you to read longer.

Another cool invention that the Kindle has is WhisperNet...With the 3G version that's how you download the books to the device, or get newspaper content on the device. It also keeps the page you are on in sync across devices - multiple Kindle devices, a PC reader, Android, Blackberry, iPhone, or even the iPad.

Whether or not to get a e-Reader in the first place is a question you'll have to answer on your own. It's much lighter then carrying multiple books. The electronic versions of the books are not perfect - they sometimes have spelling errors for example.

For more information about the screen of the Kindle vs the iPad - see this article:
Kindle vs iPad under Microscope

More coming

More coming soon, and I do apologize for the formatting of the article not being the best; I've never exercised this blog software well enough before, so please bear with me :-)

Windows Phone 7 - The Samsung Focus

If you've not moved to a smartphone yet, this may be the chance for Microsoft to earn their place to be in your pocket - if you're on AT&T or T-Mobile. Or not in the US. The CDMA based providers Verizon and Sprint will not be getting phones running Windows Phone 7 for a while.

For those in that situation, I recommend Android. These are your best bets for that:


SprintVerizon
No KeyboardWith KeyboardNo KeyboardWith Keyboard


Updated: While I like the HTC EVO (I own it) and the Samsung Epic (which has an iPhone-like skinning on it), on Verizon the Samsung Fascinate, which is a Galaxy S phone (this is good), gets my vote. I originally had the Droid X, but I think the Fascinate would appeal to more people. It's also a bit more open then the Motorola devices, which is more in line with the idea behind Android - a customizable, open platform. With a keyboard, you have The Droid II, which I don't feel is as good as the original Droid, but I don't think they sell that any more online. Used is your best bet for that.



Windows Phone 7, on the other hand, is brand new. I've used it, and I like the ideas very much. The whole paradigm of information at the top is very powerful, and pretty easy to use. It has a few quirks though, mostly in the web browser. I expect them to be ironed out fairly quickly. The Samsung Focus, which is what I used, is extremely responsive to your inputs. It scrolls super smoothly, and looks great with the Super AMOLED screen. The colors are rich and vibrant, and it's definitely bright enough.










This is the main screen. As you can see, the interface is very simple. You put your most important items here, and you can easily get information about what's going on. The icons will update with the latest information - so the calendar (not shown) will show the next appointment, the people icons shows content updated from your friends, missed phone calls on the phone icon, etc. As the commercial shows - turn on, get info quickly, turn off. It works fairly well I think. Note you need a Windows Live account for all the integration stuff to work, though it's not necessary for using the phone or email and messaging functions. Windows Phone 7 has a lot of potential, and I think it's a good 1.0 for a totally new OS from Microsoft. I'm looking forward to seeing the CDMA offerings....

PogoPlug - Funny Name, Good Product

Today I am writing and recommending the Pogoplug Multimedia Sharing Device. What this does, is allow you to fairly easily get content you have onto the Internet for yourself, friends, and family.

You need an external hard drive. Two good options are:

Western Digital 1 TB External Hard Drive

Or, if you don't have as much content to store:

Western Digital 500GB External Hard Drive


After getting a hard drive, you can simply copy files like you normally would. Then you'd put it aside, and take your pogoplug out of it's box. You plug in the power cord, and plug in the network cable into your router (same spot your computer plugs into for the Internet). You go to www.pogoplug.com/activate, and follow the instructions. It takes 90 seconds. Then you plug in the hard drive to the Pogoplug, and you will be sharing files within minutes. What's really nice is when ever you update the content, the persons you are sharing it with are notified, so you can easily keep family up to date with the latest photos of your children, for instance.

It also streams your music to your BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, or webOS (Palm Pre, Pixi) device. I am using it on Android, and it works pretty well.

Amazon has good prices, please use the links above should you wish to purchase anything, as they help support this site.

An Additional Direction

I've thought about a way to make this blog more useful, and I'm going to start writing here my recommendations for items that people ask me for often, or devices I use myself.

Watch this space, as it will be very interesting I think!