Archive for the ‘Gadgets’ Category


Amazon MP3s

In Gadgets on December 4, 2008 by Miche Tagged: , , ,

Once in a while I wake up with a slighty fuzzy head, set the coffee brewing and check my email – only to find a message from Amazon thanking me for my purchase. Seems I bought a boxed set of Peter Sellers DVDs at 2 a.m. So it goes.

Add instant gratification to the mix, and my impulse buying could escalate:


Screenshot from Amazon UK

Screenshot from Amazon UK


You download a small app (about 1MB for the Mac OS X version; Windows and Linux versions are also offered) which downloads your purchases and adds them to iTunes (or Windows Media Player). First time I tried it, nothing seemed to be happening, but that was because I have turned off the “open ‘safe’ files after download” option in Safari. No big deal: just go to the Downloads folder/stack and open the .amz file. Not quite as seamless as the iTunes experience, but close enough for jazz.

Files are encoded at 256 kbps in MP3 format, which is (I believe) not as good as the 256 kbps AAC offered by iTunes Plus, but my aging ears can’t tell the difference. Prices are variable: the first album I bought was Keynsham by the Bonzo Dog Band, which cost £4.89 – the same price as the CD. On iTunes it’s the standard £7.99. Looks like most albums cost the same as, or slightly less than, the CD versions. You can buy single tracks, of course. So far there doesn’t seem to be an equivalent of iTunes’ “complete my album” feature. The one drawback to my Bonzo purchase is that I don’t have the liner notes; I’ve bought several Bonzo CDs lately, and they come with extensive and interesting notes by Neil Innes.

Since I am not particularly interested in what’s new and cool, a lot of the music I buy is back-catalogue stuff and often cheaper on CD from Amazon than from iTunes. It could be that Amazon UK’s new offerings will mean that I never buy a CD again.



Damn you, currency fluctuations! Damn you to hell!

In Gadgets on April 10, 2008 by Miche

Back in January, after the European Commission had investigated Apple’s (and the record labels’) higher iTunes music prices in the UK, compared with the iTunes stores in Eurozone countries, Apple said they would reduce prices “within six months” to bring the UK in line with other European iTunes stores.

UK tracks cost 79p, albums £7.99; Euro prices are 99c and €9.99 respectively.

Today, the Euro is worth 80p (compared with about 74p in January and 68p a year ago). Without any reduction, the prices now pretty much match. If this trend continues, it might be the other European countries who start complaining to the EC.

Tags: , ,


Procrastinator’s Toolbox: Image Tricks

In Gadgets on March 27, 2008 by Miche

Cranes Albert Miche I’ve been playing around with Image Tricks, a nice free app that’s been about for a while without my noticing. It lets you apply filters and transformations (using the Core Image technology built in to Mac OS X Tiger or Leopard) to pictures. In the hands of someone with talent it could be quite useful, but for the likes of me it’s a great time-waster.


Literally mind-numbing

In Gadgets,Words on March 4, 2008 by Miche


I’m not sure why Amazon UK thought I’d be interested in a Powerball, but I clicked on the link to see what exactly it was. I wasn’t reassured:

Powerball is a dynamic and completely revolutionary new gyroscope that literally explodes with mind-numbing torque and inertia once you activate its internal rotor.

(Emphasis added.)

Nothing new, of course, about “literally” being misused. One of my all-time favourite Colemanballs was the snooker commentator who said:

And the audience, here at the Crucible Theatre, are literally electrified and glued to their seats.

And I remember reading that Edward Windsor, as he then styled himself, said in a documentary on the abdication crisis that George VI was “literally catapulted onto the throne.” What a pity that coronation wasn’t televised.