Posts in category hardware - page 6

Exploring the Nintendo DS Lite

I was very fortunate to receive a Nintendo DS Lite for my birthday and a voucher for a couple of games – I’d wanted one for a while but put it off being that I already a couple of hand-held gaming systems.

The DS Lite is tricky to compare to the PSP being that they take such different approaches. Sony has tried to make the PSP a portable multimedia station supporting UMD movies, video and music on memory sticks and it’s reasonably large wide-screen display as well as playing games.

As the saying goes “jack of all trades, master of none” sums up the PSP quite well. The UMD movies have been a bit of a flop – who wants to pay another £15 for a movie they already own to watch it on a smaller screen? Anyone wanting movies on the go would be better off with a portable DVD player or laptop.

Likewise it’s too big to be used as a portable MP3 player and the interface is years behind the likes of the iPod not to mention the fact there is no on-line music store to grab the tracks from anyway.

The PSP has impressive specifications for the games but basically it’s a PS2 in portable format with WiFi ability. Sure this is all well and good but with costs of games spiraling out of control the development houses want to stick to the same-old-formula of franchise titles and dull tie-ins something needs to be done. Sony cutting off PSP home-brew exploits with every release isn’t helping.

Which is what Nintendo are doing with the DS Lite. I brought a handful of the games which come on tiny cards resembling SD memory cards and while some of them are rather formulaic of the past – Sonic Rush for one – others take some innovative approaches.

Another Code is one such title and although the well-written story is a little too short and linear it features lovely artwork and includes those innovative controls methods I mentioned. Dragging, tapping, twisting and stroking the pen across the screen are the normal course while blowing into the microphone and shutting the lid all form part of the interface. It seems unfortunate that it only has two save game slots – I thought three was the course.

Brain Age is a far less ambitious title when it comes to control but one that is fun nevertheless and the way it continues to update and unlock elements each day as you progress through the tests and assessments keeps you coming back for more. The Soduku puzzles are also fun and can further unlock training and testing elements as well as hints and tips. The graphics and sound could have done with a bit more work however the ability to have four profiles and compare results between yourself and your friends/family keeps the competitive edge going.

Nintendogs…. well everyone raved over it but personally I really can’t get into it. There are dogs. You can teach them tricks… they remember their name. Okay, it has pretty graphics and cutesy appeal but it’s really not for me.

WarioWare: Touched! was one of the titles I got to try out when Steve brought his DS round a couple of months ago and the brief tapping fury needed a revisit. It’s good fun for a pick up and go but the lack of multiple profiles means the whole challenge element is a big missed opportunity. I guess you need two of them for that…

Animal Crossing is currently at the top of the various game charts. I’ve spent an hour or so with it and again haven’t found myself particularly gripped – much like Nintendogs.

Sonic Rush I brought of curiosity and while the graphics and sound are up to their part it doesn’t really seem much different from the Sonic games I played on my sisters GameGear so many many years ago apart from the face it spans two screens and the batteries last longer than an hour.

The hardware itself seems well built, solid and glossy reminding me of the iPod and the screens are bright and solid to the touch (well, the lower one is). Apparently the DS Lite supports some kind of WiFi network although I’ve not been able to get that to do anything just yet. Perhaps it’s because the WiFi here is encrypted – I guess I should RTFM…


Keeping an eye on the MacBook/Pro temperature

As most people know these things run quite warm but at last two applications are available for getting hold of those elusive CPU temperature figures.

When in Mac OS X grab a copy of the free CoreDuoTemp.

In Windows the excellent (but not free) Everest 3.0 will reveal each core’s temperature individually as well as more detail about your machine than you ever cared to know.


MacBook Pro the ultimate developer machine?

I’ve been using my MacBook Pro now for about a month and think it’s the ultimate developer machine. You really are spoiled for choice and everything you might want is at your fingertips.

Mac OS X + Cocoa

Every Mac ships with the Xcode developer tool set. This gives you the native preferred Mac development platform called Cocoa which uses Objective-C at it’s core. The actual tools are based around the GCC 4 compiler and GDB debugger with a rather nice Xcode IDE and Interface Builder GUI designer from it’s NextStep origins.

Out of the box these developer tools include compiling for both Intel and cross-compiling for PowerPC and support C, C++, Objective-C and Java.

Windows + Visual Studio / .NET

Windows is at your fingertips either via Apple’s Boot Camp dual-boot solution or the virtualization through Parallels Workstation 2.1 for OS X or VMware’s forthcoming MacIntel solution. Both virtualization products are helped by Intel’s Core chips having hardware virtualization features.

This gives you the ability to install whatever Windows developer tools you want such as the heavyweight Visual Studio 2005 or freebie Visual Studio 2005 Express C# Edition.

Linux + GCC

While I’m not a fan of Linux these individuals have a live boot Linux CD for the MacBook or you can run Linux under Windows or OS X using your favorite virtual machine.

Mono’s .NET

The Mono project support many platforms but their recommended IDE, MonoDevelop, is still quite far off being able to run on Windows. Either way you can test your app on Windows, Mac OS X or Linux.

Mac OS X + *nix command-line

It’s no secret that OS X is built on various BSD technologies and Apple include a bunch of the developer tools. For those tools that are missing grab Fink which will let you add everything important that’s missing as well as providing newer updated versions of the tools Apple include.

If what you’re looking for isn’t covered by Fink as default, try switching to the unstable packages. If that fails then try downloading the tarball then ./configure and make.

Mac OS X + X11

Apple provide an X11 implementation as an optional installation with appropriate library headers. Another base covered.

Web development with *AMP

OS X ships with Apache installed as default and you can add the MySQL and PHP elements if you so desire. Then you can choose between LAMP or MacAMP ;-)

Web testing

For testing web applications the Mac has you spoiled for choice.

On OS X you can test in Safari to exert your app against the KHTML+WebKit engine, Firefox or Camino to test compatibility with the Gecko engine, IE for Mac or Opera’s Macintosh offering to name but a few.

Switch to Windows and you’ll have your IE6/IE7 engines at your fingertips as well as checking with the Windows versions of Opera and Firefox.

For running stress or penetration testing Mac OS X means you can get your hands on Nessus, NMap, Snort, Hydra and other Linux based tools.


Apple MacBook released – cheaper than comparable Dell

Apple have released their MacBook to compete on the low-end with similar PC laptops. I thought I’d compare it to a very similar Dell offering by using the Apple and Dell web sites…

  Dell Inspiron 640m Apple MacBook
Processor Intel Core Duo Intel Core Duo
Processor speed GHz 1.83 1.83
Operating system Win XP Pro Mac OS X
Warranty 1 year 1 year
RAM size MB 512 512
RAM speed MHz 553 DDR2 667 DDR2
HD size GB 60 60
HD speed RPM 5400 5400
Optical 24xCD-RW
Screen size 14.1″ 13.3″
Screen res 1280×800 1280×800
Modem Yes No
Bluetooth No Yes
Wireless Mb 54 54
Battery Whr 53 55
Ethernet Mb 100 1,000
Height mm 38.6 27.5
Width mm 333 325
Depth mm 243 227
Weight kg 2.5 2.36
Audio-out Stereo jack Optical + stereo jack
Audio-in Mono jack Optical + mono jack
Video-out S-Video Mini DVI
Camera No Yes
Extras Works 7
iLife 06
Apple Remote
MagSafe power
Price – VAT £642.34 £637.45
Price + VAT £754.75 £749.00

That’s right, the Apple comes out at £5 cheaper.

In Dell’s favor is a .7″ bigger screen, modem and a card reader.

In Apple’s favor is Bluetooth, iLife 06, media center features, remote control, web camera, DVI and optical outputs, faster networking, bigger battery, faster RAM and a smaller and lighter package.

No doubt the anti-Apple brigade will find something to whine about but it certainly can’t be that it doesn’t run Windows.