Monday, December 31, 2007

A Year Old And Still Going Strong

It's been reported by Amazon.com that they sold about 17 Wiis a second when they had them in stock this season. That means that one minute after they listed Wiis in stock, they had already sold over a thousand. They also reported that this holiday season was their busiest ever, with sales climbing to 62.5 items a second. This link here humorously describes the news, reinventing the cliché "Selling like hotcakes" to "Selling like Wiis". I saw a funny editorial cartoon in the newspaper the other day along those same lines, with the owner of a pancake shack commenting "Wow, our hotcakes are selling like iPhones!" Sadly, an Internet search for the image yielded no results. The Wii and the iPhone and the iPod Touch are the hot commodities this year, and that suggests some interesting things.

This news, I think, is a good omen for Nintendo. It means that they're still doing quite well with their little underdog machine. I'm a Nintendo fanboy through and through, and I think it's excellent that Microsoft and Sony are finally being trounced. Sure, Microsoft still has sold more 360's than Nintendo has sold Wiis, but that's because the 360 has a year's head start. The selling right now is about a four-to-one margin for the Wii. They're flying off the shelves faster than Nintendo can produce them, and even though Nintendo has doubled its monthly production rates (two million Wiis created every month, now), they still cannot meet demand for this excellent, "Revolution"-ary machine (they should have stuck with the old Nintendo Revolution name, I liked it better, and I'm sure many others did too). Nintendo's stock has more than doubled in the last year, and it keeps going up and up. I think there are great things to be expected of Nintendo in the coming years.

Of course, Nintendo could tank once again, as is their wont over the years. They do well off one thing, then they try too hard to be different and revolutionary with other things, and it turns out they're just making poor choices. They hit a home run with the Wii, but other "innovative" Nintendo items haven't done so hot. Does anyone remember the Nintendo Power Glove? No? How about the "Virtual Boy"? Of course not! There have been some pretty hard falls for Nintendo in the past, but I think they can go far with the creative talent they have nowadays. Here's hoping.

Good luck trying to find a Wii anytime soon. Oh, and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Latecomer's Review

Well, it's been quite a while since last time anyone posted an entry here. It was kind of fun, so I figured I'd try to start up again. I don't know if Jman--8 will or not, but I at least am going to make an attempt at posting regularly. I didn't just come here to apologize to our (possibly nonexistent) readers, however. I do have something to add to the blog.

I recently bought a new 8GB iPod Nano (sadly, no, it wasn't a Christmas gift. I paid for it with my own money). I know every big site has already posted reviews about the new line of iPods, but here's a simple, average American teenager's review of it, with focus on what really matters in a portable music player.

Here are some of the most important features for the Nano:

  • 4 GB and 8 GB models, at $149 and $199, respectively
  • QVGA screen (320 x 240) capable of playing MPEG video files
  • Battery rated for 24 hours of continuous music playback (with the backlight off) and 5 hours of slideshow or video playback (with backlight on)
  • Updated operating system, emphasis on album artwork and video viewing
  • 2" wide by 2 ¾" tall by ¼" deep
  • The hold switch, the charge port, and the headphones jack are all on the bottom of the unit
  • The hold switch is very minimalist in design, a tiny dot on the left side of the bottom panel.
  • The scroll wheel is smaller to accommodate a larger screen
  • Variable screen brightness
  • Still no manual EQ controls...
  • Runs on Flash memory, so there are no moving parts and it is impossible for your music to skip due to heavy physical shock. Running solely on Flash memory means that things load faster and transitions and movements are smoother and more natural.
Here's a picture of it in the palm of my hand. It looks pretty big, but it really is quite tiny. It fits perfectly in your hand (my hand, at least), and isn't too big or too small. It fits quite nicely in a jeans pocket, and is no trouble pulling out or putting into a pocket.

iPod of poojalooba_cow

This is the back of the iPod. Apple reverted to a brushed aluminum backing instead of the same-color metal backing in the second generation Nanos. It looks quite nice, actually. The little blurry spots at the top of the iPod are actually letters that spell out "poojalooba_cow". I had it laser engraved, seeing as how it was free, one more way I stuck it to Steve Jobs. Another way I ensured that Apple made less profit off of me than they otherwise would have is my choice of color. I chose the Product(Red) iPod, forcing Apple to contribute money to AIDS relief in Africa. That wasn't just to help fight AIDS, mind. Red is a cool color.


iPod of poojalooba_cow

Now, on to its functionality. The iPod headphones suck, as usual. I recommend going out and getting some decent headphones if you want to hear bass notes or good-quality music. However, normal people aren't tremendously concerned about hearing the full range of sound or hearing the best-quality sound available. We just want our music available whenever, wherever. For that, the iPod is great. The headphones are cheap junk, so wrap them around the iPod's body and jam it down in your pocket. Ta-dah! Two thousand songs available on demand.

The screen is nice and bright and big. Videos, while a pain (who wants to squint at a two-inch screen for two hours?), are very sharp and clear, due to the fact that this screen has the most pixel density in any Apple product to date. 320 x 240 in a 2" screen leads to some very crisp images, as demonstrated by the new line of games included with this iPod. Say goodbye to "Brick" and "Parachute". Gaming on a 3rd-Generation iPod Nano has been kicked up to a whole new level. I'm being completely sarcastic here, iPods will never replace the XBox 360 or the PS3 in setting the gaming standard, but the games included on this iPod are fun nonetheless. First up is "iQuiz" which is Music Quiz revamped (not only does it have you identify songs, but it has you identify artists, years, album art, and random trivia questions), but it also includes Music Trivia, Movie Trivia, and TV Show Trivia questions. And believe me, they are trivia. I didn't know the answer to a single question the first time around the trivia packs. Vortex is a 3D version of brick, and it's quite fun to play. Klondike is a smoother, more visually appealing Solitaire, but there's still not much point in playing it.

Watching videos on an iPod is cool, to be sure, but with only 8GB of storage, there's not much that you can put on this. A few video podcasts, the movie you made in 8th grade with some buddies, some home videos from last summer, and you're about full. If you're purchasing full-length videos from the iTunes store, you can fit about eight of them into an 8GB Nano, but if you use a DVD ripper to rip your DVD's to AVI on your hard drive, and then use an AVI to m4v converter, you can cut two-hour movies down to about 400 MB (with video at 256 kbps and audio at 128 kbps), so you can fit quite a bit on it. Currently, I have I, Robot, Monty Python And The Holy Grail, National Treasure, and one of the Horatio Hornblower series movies on my iPod, as well as 50 other 3-minute video podcasts and 924 songs and 154 pictures, with 200 MB left free. Not bad for something the size of a Saltine cracker.

The iPod's User Interface has experienced an update, as well as some of the ways you navigate the menus. Included on this iPod is the option to browse through your media library with Cover Flow, letting you see album art and artists for all of your music. Now, if you're like me and have close to 1,000 songs in your library, Cover Flow just isn't practical. It takes too stinking long to browse through all your album art just to find one song you want to listen to. You can easily flip through the Artists list and find things much faster. Now, if you have lots of albums that are compilations of artists and songs, then using Cover Flow is just a cool gimmick. The rest of the User Interface is designed with album art and graphic previews in mind. On the main screen, large views of album arts and frames of video show on the right side of the screen. When scrolling through the list of albums under an artist, a small thumbnail of the album shows to the left of the album name. When scrolling through a list of songs, you are told which artist the song belongs to. All in all, it's easier to find what you want without making mistakes or taking too long.

The battery really does last 24 hours with music playing continuously, but it only lasts through 5 hours of video if you don't have the backlight turned up too bright. Turning it up too bright, however, eliminates subtleties of color differences, so things look less detailed. About 40% is a good backlight setting for video viewing.

The unit is fairly durable. I've had mine a week and there are the typical spiderweb scratches and streaks on it (they're especially visible on the brushed aluminum backing), but those are standard in anything, and with proper care (obviously, it's a problem if I go around dropping it on the cement), I think my new toy will be long-obsolete before I have anything like a screen break or major scratching occur.

All told, I am very pleased with the new generation of iPod Nano. There have been a few weird problems, such as the music not playing and the album art being replaced with staticy green-and-black squares, but nothing has been so bad that holding Menu and the Center button for six seconds hasn't fixed it. Nine stars out of ten.