Zune. I finally got to play with a Zune media player. I am very impressed, I own all the generations of iPod, but this device is clearly a step up in terms of innovation. I can confirm that the enthusiasm in some of the earlier reports have good grounds. I have had many gadgets, but in the past two years except for the PSP nothing could really excite me, the Zune however is different at so many levels. Even the physical feel is different. The UI is different; the zooming effect gives a new dimension to the device. Most importantly the device “integrates” seamlessly with other players, with services, with your computers, with your xbox. I have immediately preordered one, ETA November 15
Foxit. I have started to replace acrobat with the Foxit PDF reader 2.0. I am sick and tired of Acrobat’s long load time and the ever annoying download/upgrade pop-under window that locks up your UI. Foxit is small and fast and simple to use.
Oppo DVD player. I have a beautiful Panasonic 42” HDTV. I bought the best dvd player from Panasonic to go with it, with all the up-conversion features and it is excellent. Annoyingly it appears to be almost the only modern dvd player that does not have some secret code to turn it into a region free player. You can mail-order a one-time remote from the UK to accomplish this, but after paying $40 nothing appear in my mailbox. I replaced the player with an Oppo OPDV971H, which is nothing short of amazing. In all the customer reviews it consistently rank as the best DVD player among the up-conversion players, which is miraculous given the high-end competition. It is very, very good and it plays any kind of disc you feed it. And it was easy to convert to region free…
GPlay. I have had my G-Play media player for a year now and it functions well as the HDTV hard disk for my TV. It is slightly bigger than the 2.5” disk inside and plays most common formats as component video HDTV and digital audio through optical. The navigation software is mediocre and the remote sucks. But I continue to use it as it is the most convenient way to get Divx and Xvid to play in HDTV. You take the disk to your computer, load it up with the various mpeg4 formats (or even dvd-iso) and the display is excellent. I’ll continue to use it until Microsoft gets their act together and allows the media center connected to the Xbox 360 to play other formats than WM.
Thermaltake Silent Boost. Two years ago I built my home server and added two massive coolers which took me a lot of effort to get installed. In the end they cooled well but were very noisy. Recently the motherboard started to give me some problems and I decided to do a little bit of an upgrade. The new board is a Tyan Thunder K8DS pro which has fewer features than the K8W it replaces, but I don’t really need audio and fancy AGP 8x Pro slots for this machine. The processors are the cheapest dual core Opterons (265) and for the rest (memory, disks, everything stayed the same). Now of course I had to decide whether to put the massive cooling towers back on; instead I decided to go with the Thermaltake Silent Boost RX K8, they are not the super coolers but are indeed very silent. They work well: SuperPi hardly raises they termperature without the idea that an airplane is taking off. The box runs 64bit Vista so I get the new fancy Vista Mediacenter through the Xbox.
Jaguar XK Series. No I did not buy a Jaguar XK8 (would like to though). In the wikicars article on this wonderful machine is a story on some unexpected innovation. It appears that most accidents where humans hit the bonnet, it causes severe injury because the person actually connects with the engine block through the soft bonnet metal. From the article:
Jaguar's innovation is to have sensors in the front bumper that determine if a pedestrian has indeed been struck and this then triggers two pyrotechnical charges that instantaneously lift the bonnet, providing extra distance between engine and head. In effect, the bonnet becomes the exterior equivalent of an airbag: The hood's sheet metal may not be as soft, but it's much more accommodating than a big lump of V8