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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Hands on - PSPgo Bluetooth remote PSP-N270

Finally my PSPgo Bluetooth remote-- the PSP-N270-- came in the mail from Play-Asia! I charged it up and have been trying it out today.

It doesn't come with any headphones, which surprised me because I thought they might at least include those white earbuds that are included with the previous PSP remotes. Not that I need any; I'm using my fave earbuds, Creative EP-630, which I find have great sound.

One thing I was not really prepared for was registering or "pairing" it with my PSPgo (and my Toshiba NB205 netbook which also has bluetooth)... I knew that this is a Japanese product and the instructions would be in Japanese, but I honestly thought that there'd be more pictures in the instructions! Preferably using cute anime-style characters, hehe. But there's very little by way of diagrams, so I was left guessing as to how to pair the device to my PSPgo.

It comes with a 2-sided foldout:

page 1

page 2

If anyone can translate these and give me some tips on pairing multiple devices, please let me know.

I don't have a cellphone and have never really used/set up a bluetooth device before. But it seems that you hold down the POWER button when you start it up, and the flashing blue light turns into a flashing orange light & I believe it's ready to be paired. So then you go into the PSPgo SETTINGS menu and register it under the BLUETOOTH® DEVICE SETTINGS. It was not too difficult.... I was online looking for info about the bluetooth remote when I read that it could be paired with up to 8 devices. So after I paired it with my PSPgo, I then registered it with my NB205. And it worked well enough... but then it lost "pairing" with my PSPgo, so I'm not sure if I'm not doing things right or what. I re-paired it with my PSPgo... it's a shame I can't yet figure out how to use it for both because I have to say, for some reason it sounds really good with my NB205 netbook! The bass comes out much stronger than with the PSPgo. Maybe the NB205 bluetooth transmitter is stronger?

During normal use the PSPgo Bluetooth light stays on steady, while the remote light flashes about every 3 seconds.

As you can see, it's a bit larger than the PSP-1000 & PSP-2000/3000 remotes, but it has a better clip. And it's really light weight.... it's hard to believe there's a battery in this, it's so light.

The (non-removable) clip is good for clipping it to my shirt or a pocket.

Controls are basic, similar to the previous remotes: PLAY/PAUSE, FF, REW, and VOLUME.

There appears to be a microphone on the remote for Skype and maybe cellphone calls if you have a cellphone paired with it?

On the right side there's the POWER and MODE buttons, as well as the mini B USB charging port.

On the left side there's "telephone" button, which I assume is for answering incoming cellphone calls. And also a pinhole RESET button.

The remote comes with a small standard to mini B USB cable, and notice that the standard side has the notches specific to the PSPgo power adapter, meaning that you can charge the remote using the adapter or a PC.

Since this effectively turns the PSPgo adapter into a mini B USB charger, can we charge a PSP-2000/3000 with it using the USB port? Probably... but the PSPgo battery is lower capacity than those PSP models so I'm not sure how effective it would be.

Once it's paired with the PSPgo, as long as you have the BLUETOOTH® CONNECTION set to ON in your SETTINGS menu and the wi-fi switch on, it will usually connect to the remote if the remote is powered on. When it's connected you see the Bluetooth® "B" symbol in the volume bars:

When the PSPgo is connected to the bluetooth remote, the standard audio jack is disabled; plug in headphones to your PSPgo and there's no sound. And if you have BLUETOOTH® CONNECTION set to ON when you connect the PSPgo to your PC or TV using the USB, a warning message pops up that the Bluetooth will be temporarily disabled-- even if you don't have the wi-fi switch on.

So ultimately, how do things sound listening through the PSPgo bluetooth remote? Pretty good, actually. There is some background hiss-- but the earbuds I'm using are very sensitive to sound quality. You can't hear it using the stock PSP earbuds from previous remotes, for example. Even though you control the volume, you're not actually adjusting the volume on the PSPgo-- it's on the remote only. For those who complain that the PSPgo's volume isn't loud enough (a common PSP problem) this remote can boost the volume A *LOT*. You can turn up the PSPgo volume, then turn up the remote volume some more.

The range seems quite good. I think it's listed at about 30 feet, but I found it works even farther. I tested it at about 60 feet between PSPgo and remote... there were some dropouts past that range. At short range it seems fairly solid. I never keep my PSPgo too far away from me, but there are times when I walk into another room leaving it behind while listening through the remote with no problems.

I've always considered the PSP headphones remotes to be an essential accessory for me... I bought my first PSP (PSP-1001) in 2006 as an MP3 player, and the remote lets me put the PSP in my pocket and control basic functions with it clipped to my pocket. Because of the ease of control, it's actually a bit more handy than my dedicated, smaller mp3 player. But the PSP K-series are relatively big & bulky, the PSPgo is nice & small and I hoped that the bluetooth remote would return that convenience & functionality that has been missing from this model of PSP so far.

It comes close, but it's not quite as good as the previous remotes. Yes it controls the same basics, but with the previous remotes I could pause the music, and the PSP would eventually go into SLEEP MODE. Then when I was free to start listening to music again I would press PLAY on the remote and it would wake the PSP up, press PLAY again and it resumes playing where it left off.

The problem with the bluetooth remote is that it can't wake the PSPgo up from SLEEP MODE. So yeah, you use the remote to pause the music and if it's left alone for 10 minutes the PSPgo goes into SLEEP. But if you want to resume, you have to pull the PSPgo out, turn off the HOLD switch, slide it up, make sure that the remote is powered on... it's a lot more unwieldy. The big gain is that there's no cable connected to the PSPgo itself.

But the biggest problem with the Bluetooth remote is that there is a slight delay in sound; noticible when watching video. It's not so bad that it's unwatchable, but there is a very small delay. With music of course there's no problem since there's nothing to compare it to.

Then there's the additional power consumption of having the wi-fi/bluetooth switch on. It does shorten the play time of the PSPgo. The remote's power consumption seems not bad. I turn it off when my PSPgo is off (the remote will also shut off by itself if there's no signal for a period of time) I'd estimate the battery time of the remote to be about 5-6 hours.

And when you use the play/pause or track buttons, there's a BEEP through the remote, I guess to let you know it registered the button press, but it would be nice if I could disable that. There doesn't seem to be a beep when adjusting volume until you reach the maximum volume on the remote.

So this is the evolution of the PSP headphone remote. There are definite drawbacks: not being able to wake the PSPgo from SLEEP MODE is a big one. Shorter battery life for the PSPgo and having to recharge the remote is another.... it's nice that the USB cable fits into the PSPgo adapter, but that means both your PSPgo and the remote are competing for the adapter. It would've been nice if they made it a splitter so both devices could be recharged simultaneously. It's just lucky that a few days before I happened upon an open-box PSPgo adapter at Future Shop for like $4.83 or something.... I thought, "do I really need another adapter?" but at that price, what the heck, y'know? Good thing I got it so now I can charge both devices.

And like I said, there is a bit of a delay in sound, most noticible when scrolling through the XMB or watching video, though it is a very SLIGHT delay.

The big advantages to this new remote is of course not having the PSPgo physically tethered to your ears. And the remote gives you the choice of using your own headphones. Plus it adds volume on top of the PSPgo's regular volume, so that's a boost.

I don't think that bluetooth, or at least this implementation of bluetooth remote, is quite "there" yet as a proper replacement of the previous inline PSP remotes. But it's about the only choice we have for the PSPgo.


Saturday, January 30, 2010

Retro Game Challenge

I've really been loving my DS lately. It's just been such a fun little gaming machine (part of that may be due to *cough*)

I just started playing Retro Game Challenge. It's a collection of old pseudo-classic games from the mid-80's. What sets it apart is how they present the collection: you (the player) are "trapped" by some insane gamer guy, who makes you play all these old "retro-style"games. But what's weird is that you are transported to this guy's past, and you're in his living room sitting beside a version of him as a child. He talks to you, and shares his game collection, magazines, etc. But then there are screens with the grown-up version of him where he's like this Matrix-style guy crossed with the professor-head-guy from Brain Age, and he sort of mildly taunts you... it's all very weird, but actually quite a cool way to package this collection.

There are about 8 retro games that are knockoffs of actual '80's videogame genres; like there's a total Galaga clone, an platforming game series, another shmup (space shoot-em-up) like Galaga, a racing game much like Rally-X, there's even an old-style RPG game.... and you'd think these knockoffs would be throwaway versions without much thought to them. But they are actually quite good games in their own right. To progress in the overall game you need to complete challenges in the retro games, like do some obscure action in a game or score a certain number of points. The challenges can be challenging, but they haven't felt cheap so far. That's what makes Retro Game Challenge a step above other compilations-- the games are pretty solid. And there's the overall story arc of being transformed back into a kid playing these games in front of an old TV with a "frienemy" (on the lower screen) who not only talks to you about things like "shovelware", but also shares new issues of a video game magazine you can read in game... and you want to read them because they contain cheat codes and hints about the games you play. Not to mention the funny little digs at '80's gaming. It's terrific stuff.

My complaints are minor ones, the biggest being the lack of variety for this collection.... only 8 games I think, and some are sequels of earlier games in the collection-- so technically there's only 6 or so different games. Doesn't sound like much but at least they're good. And the overall story arc of the 2 kids (one of them being you, the player) talking about video games in the '80's can sometimes be corny and tedious, though it's worth it because it really reminds us of the fun & wonder of the early video game era.

It's clear that the developers of Retro Game Challenge love video games, and their nostalgia of the 8-bit era really shows through in this collection. If you like those old classic compilations, this is one to check out. It's got a lot of primitive charm that keeps me hooked.


Friday, January 22, 2010

Nintendo Game & Watch series - Donkey Kong II

The other day I had to do some cleaning out of a storage room, and I came across one of my old handheld system from waaaaay back. Presenting from Nintendo's Game & Watch series-- Donkey Kong II! (click on pics to view larger)

I like how on the bottom right corner it says "MULTI SCREEN".... hmm, is that something like.... Dual Screen???

We all know that Sony recycled the basic design of the PSPgo from the Sony Mylo.... but it's clear here that Nintendo is no stranger to recycling designs themselves. When I first saw the DS Lite I was immediately reminded of my old Donkey Kong II game, but I couldn't remember where it was.... so today I decided to compare the two.

The game premise of Donkey Kong II is that Donkey Kong Jr. must rescue his dad, who's chained on the top screen by Mario! I know Donkey Kong kinda deserved it after kidnapping Mario's (then) girlfriend Pauline and throwing all those barrels down on him in the original Donkey Kong game, but who knew Mario was so vindictive??

DK Jr throws a key from the bottom to the top screen, then jumps over snappers, electric sparks and once at the top screen he throws the key again (randomly) to one of the 4 chain's locks. He dodges ravens as he climbs up the vine (can't go from vine to vine, only straight up/down) and unlocks each chain one at a time until all 4 are done. Then Donkey Kong falls off the side of the platform he's on and DK Jr catches him! The cycle repeats.

There are 2 difficulty settings: "Game A" and "Game B". The graphics are LCD cutouts, and there's no backlight, so you need really good lighting to see things properly. And that's about all there is to it. Oh yeah-- when not playing the game, it shows the time, and there's an alarm setting as well. What more do you need from a handheld in the mid-'80's?

My DK II handheld has a broken clasp; it was originally a thin plastic clasp on the top panel that snapped the 2 panels locked. I remember it having a white discoloration from the plastic being stressed. I'm not sure how it broke off completely... must've happened in storage.

It takes 2 LR-44 watch/calculator batteries in it, which I picked up from London Drugs. Since there's not real "graphics" to speak of, I imagine the power consumption requirements are pretty low and it should have a fairly long battery life.

A fun little memory burn and a reminder that I've been a handheld addict for a lot longer than getting my first PSP in 2006.....

UPDATE: there's actually a flash version of the game! That's pretty cool, that's pretty much what it is like, though the colours aren't as vivid.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

The PSP in China

For the first few weeks I didn't see any PSP stuff when I was in China. At first I was in the outskirts of Shenzhen, then toured around Shanghai a little, and spent a bit of time in Fujian province. Now I wasn't exactly in electronics areas... but even in the department stores there seemed to be not much PSP stuff, I saw a lot of cellphones, and a variety of cheap mp3/mp4 players. I even saw "mp5"(?) players... I'm not sure what that means.

But near the end of my trip, I did manage to see a bit of PSP stuff. Well, the consoles mainly. But it was in Huaqaing Bei and in Hong Kong where I really saw PSPs & UMD games.

I mentioned in Huaqaing Bei that there was a little shack where the owner was trying to activate a TIFF exploit of some sort on a PSP-3000. I'm not up on the latest exploits or custom firmwares, but I believe that there's currently only limited (custom) firmware ability on a PSP-3000.

In Guangzhou, not only did I see some PSPs (not many UMD games though) I also saw PSP magazines.... man I wish I'd bought one as a souvenir.... at least one of these magazines appeared to be weekly(!)-- can you imagine a weekly PSP magazine? Wow. But what was more shocking was that I saw magazines dedicated to hacking the PSP. And these weren't just shady printed-out-of-someone's-basement type of underground magazines, these were glossy professionally printed mags. I don't read Chinese, but when they have M-33 printed in big bold english on the cover, you get the picture. Flipping through them, I saw "Chick-HEN" and I'm sure other references to modding PSPs.

So finally I'm in Hong Kong.... this is THE place to find electronics, right? And of course, I saw PSP stuff, even PSP UMD games. All through my trip I was searching for a PSP game: Macross. I kept coming up empty, no one knew what I was talking about. In Hong Kong, I came across one store, a great little toy shop at the airport that I *wished* I had more time to explore-- they had mecha toys, Godzilla toys ( just hitting all my buttons!) and PSP UMD games (as well as DS games)-- and the worker there at least knew of it. He said it was a "very old" game, and they don't carry it. Oh well.

Anyway, I'm in Hong Kong and I wanted to see if I could acquire a modded PSP. I know that it's probably fairly easy to DIY, just buy a Pandora's Battery & a cheap memory stick I suppose. But I did see some sweet looking PSPs. There were quite a few of the Carnival Colours, and I saw my fave, the pearl white PSP-3000. Oooooo. Do I need a 5th PSP? Sure don't-- but I can't help but be dazzled by it's beauty. The prices for PSPs overall in China and in Hong Kong were about the same as here, maybe a bit less. But I didn't have time to hit Hong Kong's electronics area, "Computer City", so no new PSP for me.

I was surprised to come across an HMV store in Hong Kong. And they sold PSP stuff, I bought Pixel Junk Monsters, a limited edition UMD version that comes with a little cellphone charm. I dunno, I bought it for the novelty value, and it was cheap. I also bought a Gundam game, which I haven't even played yet, again just to fill the mech-game hole left by not finding that Macross game, and it was fairly cheap, again novelty factor.

But one interesting thing about PSP sales in the big stores in Hong Kong is that if you want to buy a console, you must buy AT LEAST one game along with it. You can't go into the HMV (or other legitimate big store like Fortress) and just buy a PSP system alone. Why is that? I'm not sure, but I guess it's their way of combating buying a console just to hack it? That doesn't exactly make sense, but I can't think of any other reason....

So I'm in the HMV in Hong Kong, which looks like most other big HMVs I've been in like in Vancouver or something, and there's this kid, maybe a teen, who's talking english but he looks & sounds like he's from Dubai. He's talking with his dad & mom about buying a PSP, and he's looking at the models. The PSPgo is also displayed alongside the PSP-3000's, and he points & says, "that one isn't hackable, is it?" So this Dubai family is talking about which PSPs are hackable, and the kid gets on his cellphone to phone a friend to confirm which models are hackable "to put games on"! This seems like just an "average" family, yet they are aware of the hackable rep of the PSP.

All this makes me wonder whether all the panic from third-party game pubs & devs about PSP piracy is maybe justified. I know there's a considerable hacker scene here, but I still think that in North America the average PSP buyer is not aware of custom firmware. But just from my casual experiences in China they seem a lot more aware.

It's really interesting though, that the PSP is a little more higher-profile in China, I saw more people with PSPs than I usually see here in Canada. There was a bored street vendor playing a PSP-3000, I look over and say, "Monster Hunter 2!" and he nods. I saw a few guys playing some multiplayer game in AD-HOC, one had a PSP-1000, the other had a PSP-2000 I believe. Nobody's using the PSPgo, I did show it off to a guy in Guangzhou, and he was freaking out about how cool it was, but then he asked, "can you hack it?" and I had to let him down about that. Then his girlfriend came up, he showed it to her, and guess what her question was.

Her followup statement was, "buying the [digital download] games is too expensive"... Sony should really be paying attention to the overall motivations for custom firmware. Yes we all like free, but maybe the prices of games is also a factor, right?

I was really glad to have found a 16GB M2 (memory stick micro) for my PSPgo at the Sony Store in Hong Kong. As I'm buying it, my dad asks the cashier in Cantonese, "This isn't a fake, right?" to which she replied, (basically) "Umm, we're the Sony Store, we don't deal in fakes!".... so that was funny.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

PSPgo Traveler case mod review

I bought the PSPgo Traveler case shortly after buying the PSPgo itself; so I've owned & used it for about 3 months.

There are quite a few good reviews for this case out there. My biggest concern was the tightness of the case over the PSPgo's top panel. As shown in this pic (found on the web) the case "flaps" hug the PSPgo top panel VERY tightly:

It makes it really tough to actually slide the panel into the up position. And I was worried that all that pressure on the top panel could contribute to it loosening even more (as I described before)

So I modded my Traveler case by cutting down the flaps that grip the PSPgo's top panel... now it only grips onto the bottom panel:

One side is a bit messily cut; at first I tried to cut it down using a boxcutter razor. I was attempting to cut the inside plastic, leaving enough of the outside faux leather skin to re-glue & cover the cut area. It didn't work, it's too tightly glued to the core plastic of the case, making it impossible to separate cleanly.

So then I used small garden shears to cut the other flap off with a clean cut. It was really tough but it worked very well; I wish I'd done it for the first side.

Overall the PSPgo Traveler case is a really nice case. It reminds me of my favourite case for the PSP-1000: The CapDase Luxury case.

The PSPgo Traveler case has a faux leather surface that feels really good to grip. I'd almost want the back of the PSPgo itself to be coated with it! And it adds very little bulk to the PSPgo.

A couple of complaints: One, when the top panel is slid up, it's very difficult to access the volume, screen & sound buttons. I have to slide the PSPgo's top panel down just to change the volume.

Two, the clasp attaches to the back by velcro.

It's not bad, but it would be better if it was magnetic like some other PSP cases, because the velcro-hooks part is on the bottom of the case. That's why all my review pics show the case on top of an Xbox magazine-- if I laid it down on the carpet, the velcro would stick to it. I think they didn't use a magnetic clasp because the PSPgo seems to be prone to magnetic interference. I was looking at the insides of one (from pics on the net) and there are thin metal plates to protect the circuits from electrical interference... I think they're only partly effective because sometimes the PSPgo gives off a faint high-pitched hum. So magnetic clasps near the console, especially the back, might adversely affect it.

But even if they put the velcro hooks on the clasp part, and put the fabric on the back (instead of the other way around) it would be more convenient to put the case down on fabric surfaces like bed sheets or carpeting.

The makers claim that it can be used as a stand, but I've never gotten it to stand up, plus I have headphones plugged in most of the time so I can't really stand it up in any way.

I wish the case makers hadn't tried to grip both panels of the PSPgo, I think they were overly concerned about it holding. And it doesn't hold the PSPgo as tightly with the flaps cut down.... but I never hold the case by the cover alone, so I've never had any problem with the PSPgo falling out of it-- even used it on my trip to China. Held up great. It's a great case. Very comfortable to play the PSPgo with it on.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PSPgo Bluetooth remote on the way

Alright... finally Play-Asia has shipped my order for the PSPgo Bluetooth remote!

It came out on December 24, 2009... what a bizarre release date. One of the first things I did after I came home from China was order it.... Play-Asia is based in Hong Kong; it's ironic that I was in Hong Kong until Dec. 23..... grrrr. Not that Play-Asia has a storefront; I suspect they are purely mail-order only. I doubt I could've found them but maybe I will try if I ever return to Hong Kong (hope so)

So it took about 2 weeks just for the order to ship, and probably another 3 weeks from today for it to arrive.... oh well.

In Hong Kong, I passed by a few Bluetooth headphones.... they were so tempting, but I knew I was gonna buy the official Bluetooth remote so I passed them up. There was a somewhat nice Sony Bluetooth headphone dongle that could have the same functions as this one, but it isn't made for the PSPgo, so I didn't bite on that one. My biggest regret is that I also passed on a Jabra Bluetooth headphone, I think it was this one. I should've gotten it because I think it was only about $85.00 CAD, and the listing on Future Shop/Best Buy has it listed at about twice that price. And I could've used it for my netbook too....

What totally pisses me off about Canada is that there's no end of Bluetooth headSETS. As in, mono speakers for cellphones. But try and find Bluetooth headPHONES as in, listening to music, video, etc. Sheesh. There are very few choices & they're expensive.

It says it's compatible with PSPgo Japan, but I (hope) that it's compatible across all PSPgo models. I'm sure they all use the same Bluetooth standard. In any event, I will do a review once I've had some hands-on time with it. Hope it's not laggy with audio for video playback.

UPDATE: I was looking around the net, and came across this Sony Press Statement that says:

Tokyo, September 24, 2009 - Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCE) announced today that it will release Bluetooth® Stereo Head-set Receiver and Converter Cable Adaptor for PSP® (PlayStation®Portable)go (PSP-N1000) on December 24, 2009, in Japan, at a recommended retail price of 4,980 yen and 1,980 yen (both including tax), respectively. These peripherals will also become available in North America, Europe/PAL territories and Asian countries and regions beginning January 2010*1.
[bold added by me]

Hmmm. This is the only mention I've come across saying that the Bluetooth remote would be available in North America at all. But it's mid-January 2010 now, and where is it? Still haven't heard any mention of it in this part of the world.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Ace Combat PSP for 2010?

Oh man... I just reluctantly logged onto Joystiq's PSP fanboy, reluctant because it's really been sucking for the last while. hardly updated, missing PSP news, it's just sad since there's so few places to get PSP news and they clearly have no interest in the platform anymore.

Oh well, this isn't about how much Joystiq sucks for news (a lot) but rather the AWESOME news of a new Ace Combat PSP game in the works! Yes!!! This is honestly the PSP announcement of 2010 for me. This is suddenly my most anticipated game of the year, following 2009's SW Battlefront Elite Squadron.... which I was playing again last night, and felt a bit tired of it, it can just be so clunky-- but I still play it a lot.

Ace Combat X: Skies of Deception is one of my top PSP games, I never knew anything about the franchise before playing it, but it's a great fighter combat game. So hopefully Ace Combat Joint Assault will keep all the good things about the previous game.

It does mention that this new game will take place over real world countries, which is a bit odd for Ace Combat. They usually weave a tale of war between fictional countries Leasath & Aureillia, I believe? There's a bit of freedom and fun when you go with the "Metropolis" or "Gotham City" option rather than New York & Los Angeles, you know? Like you can build up a new mythology about these fictional places rather than being tied to what we all know about the real locales.

But the gameplay will be the real star of it. Supposed to come out summer 2010 in Japan, and "sometime in 2010" for U.S.


Monday, January 11, 2010

CES 2010

So I've spent the last few days fixated on whatever news out of CES 2010 I could glean from websites like engadget..... I have to admit I was checking that one as much as I could.

As much as the hype over tablets and 3D TVs captured most of the attention, I'm kinda disappointed in the overall showing at CES. Not a lot of news about mp3/digital media players... sure, I'm always looking for a PSP replacement on that front, but since 2006 when I first got a PSP(-1001), I still haven't found one. And not much to challenge this year either. I guess the focus is more on cellphones (which I don't use) that pack in that kind of media functionality perhaps diminishing the variety of mp3/video players the last few years.

I was also interested in what the next gen of netbooks was going to bring us. Answer in short: Not much. Netbooks by their nature are "meant" to be underpowered and limited so as not to "compete" with laptops. But really, the only big reveal was the new Intel N450 processor which replaces the old standard N270/N280 Atom processors. I get the feeling that the N450 is not going to be all that much faster, but it should be less power hungry, extending the battery time of netbooks by a bit. We'll have to see how it works out in real-world situations. It's kinda perverse of me to be hoping that companies would reveal new tech that would make my barely-3-month-old Toshiba NB205 obsolete. But other than the N450, there's not a lot of difference between the immediate next-gen & the current/old-gen. If I had to buy a netbook today, I'd probably hold out for a N450, but honestly, there are probably some deals to be had from N280 netbook clearance sales, and I kinda doubt there'd be much of a practical performance difference between them.


Tuesday, January 5, 2010


So I *THEORETICALLY* could have bought an R4i in Shenzhen, China. Shenzhen has a high-tech district, Huaqiang Bei, that sells computers, parts, all sorts of electronics and I got a couple chances to explore it. I could have spent days there... there is so much to see! Computers of all types, but my targets were more of the handheld variety; namely PSP, DS & MP3 players/ PMP (personal media players)

I came across a bit of PSP stuff. There was one small alcove that sold PSP stuff, I asked, "how much" and the owner says, "which model: 1000, 2000, 3000..." the prices were a bit better than they are here, though these are Asian PSPs; 1/2/3003 I believe..... in this cramped little alcove the owner's attention was focused on a customer's PSP-3000, he kept trying to load a TIFF image, and would take the battery out & restart the PSP when it wouldn't crash. Obviously trying to activate some sort of exploit. But I'll talk more about the PSP in another post.

This is about the R4i for DS/DS Lite/DSi. It's entirely possible that I *COULD HAVE* bought one in Huaqiang Bei, at a little nook, where I *THEORETICALLY* haggled (with a lot of help from a Mandarin-speaking friend) a price of Y230 RMB for both the R4 & a 8GB Kingston Micro SD card. That's a bit over $30.00 CAD.

It's really more for novelty that I *HYPOTHETICALLY COULD HAVE* purchased this thing... one of my techy goals in China-- after all, this is where this stuff comes from, right? I don't know a lot about the Homebrew scene, but it does seem interesting.

The R4i is a way to play media like mp3 files or video (needs to be a specific codec) but its most common use is probably to play back up DS games stored on microSD card. *IF* I were to have bought one, I *might* say that it does this very well. It is interesting how small DS game files are, many seem to be only about 32MB!

*IN THEORY* The R4i makes playing a DS Lite very convenient-- having a significant part of your library accessible on one cart *COULD BE* really sweet. I have no idea how real it is though, there are a LOT of fakes in China.... but for $30.00, I guess it's worth the risk.

I really missed my DS Lite while I was away, I left it at home,and took the PSPgo because it does so much more. So I've been playing my DS Lite a lot the last few days.


Monday, January 4, 2010

My Toshiba NB200 netbook

One of my stalwart companions during my trip to China was my Toshiba NB200 -005 netbook. I bought it just before I left, and I have to say that after about only 2 months use, it has served me well.

Without it I wouldn't have been able to book a hotel in Hong Kong... and of course, it's been great for surfing the net & email. I loaded my photos onto it from my digital camera, and was able to send back live updates of my whereabouts.

The battery life has been as good as promised; I get about 8 hours of use from it on a charge. The adapter is able to accept North America's 120V up to 240V, so I didn't have much problem with China's 220V. Only the plug shape was much of a challenge, though I was lucky enough to have access to power strips that accepted our standard pronged devices. The PSPgo (and I'm sure the PSP K series too) adapter is also fine with 220V.

The 6 cell battery does stick out though. It makes finding a case that fits properly pretty difficult. I bought a thin 15" nylon laptop cover for it that's a bit too big, but it does the job. Plus it was only about $6.00 CAD-- got it in Shenzhen-- and I haven't seen netbook cases here in Canada for less than $24.00.....

I've only encountered minor issues with my NB200: Whenever I transferred photos from my camera to it, the next time I started it up again it would go into chkdisk & that was a bit annoying. I'm not sure why it does that each time I loaded it with pics (about a weeks worth) they were about maybe 80MB total. I've transferred about 6 GB of music onto it with no probs, so I don't know why it does that with the photos. It may be a BIOS setting I need to figure out. Not a big deal though.

Also, when I have USB devices connected, such as a flash drive or my PSPgo, I always disconnect them using the USB settings in Windows 7 Starter... and it gives me a "safe to remove device" message.... but they never seem to be truly stopped. I still see the light on the flash drive, and my PSP doesn't give me that disconnected message that I usually get when I do it in XP on my PC.

The touchpad is nice & big, but sometimes it is unresponsive for a second or 2. And the chiclet style keyboard is nice, but it takes getting used to.

It has a HDD protection feature where it parks the drive if it feels a sharp movement, like it's going to fall or whatever. It's a bit sensitive, but better safe than sorry. And you can set it so it doesn't show the warning message each time, so it doesn't interfere with your activity.

I upped the ram to 2GB, replacing the 1GB it came with. That made it run much smoother. Windows 7 Starter is not that great; you get the annoyingly different-just-for-the-sake-of-being-different style of Vista *without* the cool features of the full version of Windows 7. The worst of both worlds? Nice. And just before I left I saw a couple netbooks that had the full Windows 7 on it-- not Starter. Though they seemed like they would be bogged down once you loaded it with real-life necessary software like antivirus, firewall, etc. But this one is ok enough for my humble needs. It's fairly easy to replace the RAM, but I think you need a special screwdriver to access the hard drive.

At about 3lbs, it does add a considerable weight to my backpack.... maybe I'm being a wimp, but when you're running for a train outside of Shanghai, trust me, you notice these things. But it is nice and small, a bit less than the size of an 8.5" x 11" piece of paper. I have Photoshop 7 loaded on it, I use that to edit my photos, and it works fine. I use Firefox and have multiple tabs open and it seems to work ok, it's not as fast as a full PC, but it can handle the essentials.

That's the thing about netbooks, they are all pretty much the same-- they all have almost the exact same specs, so I guess it comes down to personal preference. My Toshiba NB200 is not a bad choice, it's basic but it works for me.