A to Play Offers Up An Alternative View

Whilst doing my weekend surfing, I stumbled across 'A to Play' a new website that offers up some no-nonsense writing on alternative media. I liked what I read, including this interesting review of a recent Top Gear Special. It is not often that I spend much time on one website, often flitting between numerous news, rumour and Mac orientated destinations, but 'A to Play' had me reading for quite a while. The Top Gear article and recent Bayonetta review have a nice writing style, so credit is definitely due. If you want an alternative read, then check them out.

Amazon UK Turning Away Custom in Recession?

 It is not often that I use the Geekanoids website as a sounding board to air my own frustration. However, I experienced such a shocking series of events over the past few months, that I felt obliged to share it with you.

Over the course of many years, I have personally shopped with Amazon UK. Ordering many personal items and gifts for friends and family. They always proved to have a great selection of products and very competitive pricing. This is still true to this day. During 2009 I experienced a few problems with orders. Without going into two much detail, one item did not perform as described, another came through with missing components and then later developed a fault and another was delivered damaged. At the time this did not bother me. Amazon UK have great customer service, so each time I contacted them with the confidence that they would sort the problem out. To their credit, they did. The customer service representatives were always polite, apologetic, and sorted out the return of said items.

What was not made clear to me was that the readily offered helpfulness and returns, meant that my account was flagged. Someone in their Executive Customer Relations Department was watching me! To my surprise I received an email saying that my account was under review. The email read... "there is a highly irregular amount of refunds created on your account. As a responsible business, we are unable to allow this situation to persist. If the situation does not improve we will have no option but to reconsider our business relationship. We will continue to monitor the orders on a regular basis." I chose to ignore this email, as I was never returning items if there was not a genuine problem with the item. Three months passed and I had continued to order from the company more gifts and items, which all came through as expected and stayed in my possession.

To my surprise I then received another email at the beginning of November. This email contained a shorter introduction, but the same harsh statement as the previous one. I did not deem the second email was at all justified, so responded asking why my account was still under review. The response that I received yesterday was not what I expected. Without running the email here quote for quote, it basically informed me that my account was now closed. I am no longer welcome as a Amazon UK customer. They also strongly advise me against trying to open another account.

Distance Selling Regulations... I am no expert, but the email also said that if I did order from them in the future, they would accept no returns and issue no future refunds. Take note Trading Standards and Watchdog... I am sure you would have something to say about the stance Amazon have taken in this statement, "If you were to open a new account, the same will result and it will also be closed. In the event that you attempt to do so, we will not accept the return of any additional orders, nor will we issue further refunds in connection with any future orders."
So, it seems that by exercising my legal rights to return damaged and faulty goods, Amazon no longer value me as a customer, despite me filling their coffers with many pounds over the years. I did contact them via telephone, but it seems that (according to their customer services) they do not have ANY telephone number for their UK head office. I also attempted to contact their press office, but the phone just rang and rang. Even after all this, I still contacted the Executive Custom Relations to ask if they would reconsider their decision, to which they said NO! It should also be noted that I gave them the opportunity to respond to this article, prior to publication, which they duly declined.
Disclaimer: This is my own personal experience. It in no way indicates how any company would treat their customers as a general rule.


Asus UL Series Laptop Preview - UL30 UL50AG & UL50VG

This is my preview of the Asus UL Series Laptops. This particular model has even been featured as one of many free laptops that are available if you purchase mobile broadband from the likes of Carphone Warehouse. Available from 22nd October 2009 at a range of high street and online retailers, the pricing will be £599 inc VAT (13.3 UL30), £699 inc VAT (15.6 UL50AG) and £799 (15.6 UL50VG with dedicated graphics).

Steve Jobs Windows 7 Party Box unboxing

Steve Jobs (well a look-a-like) gets an unexpected Windows 7 Party Box delivered to him. He is so excited with the thought of holding a party, so after this unboxing he will be busy putting together his guest list in time for his party next week.

My Mac is a Drug - new Book available for pre-order

Get your reading cap on guys and gals, a new book has been added to the Geekanoids Shop. "My Mac is a Drug" is Paul Camelovi's recollection of how technology, gadgets and mainly Mac computers have taken over his life. The title makes the content obvious with many comparisons to addiction to drugs, through to a look at Apple's design process. Even quality control is covered to some degree. It is also worth noting that if you get your order in early, you can save £2 off RRP. Orders are accepted worldwide. Click the link for a shortcut to the pre-order page.

Apple's It's only Rock & Roll Event - Expectations

Today at 10am Pacific Time, 6pm GMT, Apple will be holding an event to launch a slew of new products. The 'It's only rock and roll' event takes place at the Yerba Buena Centre for the Arts in San Francisco, where they have adorned the front with a striking music banner.

Every September we see new iPods. So, it is a forgone conclusion that we will see a new iPod Nano and touch. There have been many pictures doing the rounds of new cases. The most likely being the Hama cases that featured on Engadget. It seems an obvious step for Apple to introduce a camera to the iPod touch, bringing video capabilities and simple editing akin to the iPhone 3GS. The Nano will more than likely only be able to take photos. There has also been rumours that Apple experienced problems with the initial batch of camera units. If this is true, we might see a slight shipping delay after launch.

We might also hear two bits of sad news too. The iPod classic is likely to be retired. When it was announced as the 120GB version available today, the company said it would be the last version of this model. The second wipeout news, is that of the AppleTV. The 40GB version has been showing as 1-2 weeks shipping for a while in the Apple online store. This may well indicate that stock is being run down on this model. It would be nice to think that Apple does keep on developing the AppleTV, maybe even showing us a new version later today.

A new iTunes (version 9) is also likely. With social networking additions for Facebook and Twitter. It seems as though the application is getting a little cluttered now and is certainly trying to do too much. Keep it simple Apple, or people will lose interest! Also rumoured is The Beatles coming to the iTunes Store. This is not a big deal for me, plus I don't think it'll happen today anyway.

The most anticipated product that people want to see is the Apple Tablet. If Steve Jobs takes to the stage, he may well surprise us. I personally don't think it is that likely, but I really would love to see it. A 10-inch touch screen device, with HDMI output would be superb. Surely acting as the coolest media type server on the planet. Of course, it would do a lot more besides just serving up content. Apple will do the touch interface just right and you will see a lot of people opting for these over a laptop. Keep checking back on Geekanoids later today and tomorrow for full coverage of what Apple has up its sleeve(s).

New Mobile Phones for Christmas

Throughout the first half of 2009 we have been given some really nice choices when it comes to mobile phones. The iPhone was updated to the new speedy 3GS. We have the HTC Magic and Hero, if you want to give Google some loving. Then for the masses, we have the likes of the Samsung Jet, aiming for that mass consumer appeal. As we near the holiday season, the moby manufacturers are not letting up. There are some gems coming that may well make it into your stocking.

First up we have the Palm Pre. This is a funny one this. For those in the know, Palm has gone through some really rough times. The PDA was no more and many say that the Pre is their last chance to survive as a company. When they released the handset in the USA, things were not that great, with potential customers experiencing less than awesome customer service. That aside, it is a nice looking handset. Like a smooth pebble, with a slide-out keyboard. You get a nice user interface too, with multi-tasking. Music, photos, videos, GPS, wifi, bluetooth, universal search and a nice calendar to boot. It seems very slick, but will the performance be acceptable. More than that, here in the UK, O2 have got an exclusive on the Pre. This is bad news for many, as their 3G network is not exactly the greatest.
For a more mainstream phone, but with a twist, we have the Samsung i7500. Also known as the Galaxy, this handset will not be that cheap. It does stand a good chance of opening up the Google Android platform to the masses. Android is a really nice mobile platform. It has multi-tasking, some really good applications available in 'Market' and excellent mail and texting apps. Where the Galaxy scores is in the specification that Samsung have given us. a 3.2-inch glorious AMOLED screen. Speed freaks will love the 7.2Mbps HSDPA support. Whilst multimedia junkies will revel in the 8GB of internal memory and ability to add a futher 32GB with a MicroSD card. Add to this, Google Maps, Gmail, YouTube, GPS, wifi, 5 megapixel camera and you can see that it offers up a lot. If it isn't on the Galaxy out of the box, then the Android Market will cater for your Twitter and other social networking needs. This is definitely a mobile phone to watch.
The wildcard for me in this seasons line-up is from INQ. They are releasing their INQ Chat 3G is the company's first qwerty-style phone. There is also the more compact INQ Mini 3G which provides an entry-level social mobile ideal for the price-sensitive prepay market. The INQ Chat 3G was developed in response to consumer and operator demand for a qwerty-style keypad device from INQ. It has a new email client developed by INQ that incorporates free push Gmail - removing a cost for push mail typically borne by operators or passed on to consumers.
Both of these handsets will appeal to a mass market. The current trend is social networking and both of the INQ handsets will not disappoint on that front. Twitter, Facebook, IM, Skype and web-based email services like Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and GMail are all catered for. If you want a cost effective solution, then watch out for these two.
It is going to be an exciting run up to Christmas for sure. With all this choice, where will your money go?


Palm taking the micky with iTunes syncing

iTunes might be free for the Mac & PC, but it is not free for anyone to financially benefit from as a feature of their product. So when Palm released the Pre, everyone was surprised that it synchronised with users iTune libraries. Yes, Palm had taken a somewhat risky move in my opinion. They had done nothing less than hacking into Apple's software, to find out how to make the Pre appear as an iPod (or iPhone). Instead of Apple setting the lawyers loose, they simply released iTunes 8.2.1 to fix the so-called problem.

Well, Palm are either stupid or ummm stupid, as they have now released webOS 1.1.0 for the Pre. Their release notes cite in black and white that the new version "Resolves an issue preventing media sync from working with latest version of iTunes (8.2.1)."

They may well be spelling this out to gain publicity from writers like myself. So, to a certain extent, they are getting some free publicity. However, let me put you right, if you are reading this as a Pre owner (or someone who is considering this product). For a company to release a mobile phone, capable of playing back music and video files, to hack into another company's software is very underhand... and that stupid word comes up again. How lazy, they have the manpower to do their own software. From a buyers point of view, how annoyed will the dozen or so Pre owners be, when they have relied on iTunes from day one, only to find that it no longer works (and believe me, Apple will make sure that it stops working).

Apple is being very kind about the situation. They are well within their rights to slap Palm for this and if it went to court, the conclusion is pretty obvious. Maybe Palm are already admitting defeat, clocking up as many Pre sales to pay the big legal bill that they will likely face. In my opinion Apple deserves recompense for every version of iTunes that has been used to sync a Pre... that would be sweet justice for Apple, but if it is on a per-Pre-sale basis it might not equate to much.

HTC Hero to hit the UK 21st July

If you are fed up with all things iPhone, then you should be aware, very aware, that there is a rather sexy looking Android offering hitting the UK mobile phones scene. HTC are giving us oodles of quality in their new Hero phone, which runs the Google Android operating system.
This little darling has a 3.2-inch TFT-LCD touch-sensitive screen, which is ripe for playing back the supported MPEG-4, H.263, H.264 and Windows Media Video 9 movie files. You also get MP3 playback, a 5.0 megapixel color camera with auto focus, plus Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. I almost forgot to mention the internal GPS and Compass.

As if that wasn't enough, you can also download a whole host of applications from the Android Market, which is accessed right on the handset. This gives you access to superb games and utilities to further enhance the handset.

It takes a different standpoint from the iPhone. If you are familiar with the Apple device, you will know that applications are presented as a single screen (or multiple screens) of icons, you tap one and launch the application. To post something to Twitter, you tap the icon, type your tweet, then close the application and get on with something else. HTC have added an overlay to the Android OS called 'Sense'. This gives you up to seven home screens, which you can personalise with different apps, widgets and feeds. So, Twitter can occupy a whole screen, constantly updating and informing you of new tweets. No need to launch the application, it is just always on and looking for those important updates.

There is a whole lot more to the handset than I have mentioned here. It is due any day, either in a graphite grey colour on contract from Orange, or in white Sim Free from various resellers for around £400.

The video reviews are online, you can find them on the links below. A full review of this handset will appear later this week. Many thanks to Clove Technology for supplying the Hero.

Video coverage;
Part One - Unboxing & Goody Bag
Part Two - Performance & User Opinion
Part Three - Teflon coating, camera & gallery app
Part Four - Widgets, widgets & more widgets

Come back Steve... with a NetBook

I am sure you will all agree with me that we want Steve Jobs to come back to Apple, in good (and continued good) health. It was expected that Steve might have returned for the WWDC, but it did not happen. Just prior to WWDC there were rumours that he was due to come back at the end of June, with a special event for his return. This would be great and lead me to thinking about what Apple could do for the big Steve Event.

With the repositioning of the 13-inch MacBook into the Pro line, this has got to have left the space open for a smaller device. Could it be that Steve will return to launch the Apple NetBook. A device with no physical keyboard. Instead an 11.6-inch touch screen, with some sort of dock or wireless connection for accessories... mice, keyboards, headsets etc. Whilst this would be great, if Apple could come up with something based on a slightly smaller 10-inch screen, the extra portability would certainly meet with a standing ovation. It could run on the iPhone version of software, or OS X Snow Leopard in it optimised form. This sort of device would negate the need for users to carry a laptop at all.

I am 100% certain that Apple IS working on a NetBook device. I just hope that they do not make us all wait too long. They will add their successful design skills to the device for sure and it will be a very sexy product. So, come on Steve, come back, we need you to give us that 'One More Thing...'