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How to make silence sound great

I’ve always been a huge fan of headphones. No wimpy earbuds for me, I’ll have some of those hefty ear-warmer looking things, thank you very much. They just feel much sturdier and, in most cases, sound so much better. Bluetooth headphones however, up to now, have been the headphones that wanted to sound good, but couldn’t. You see despite the fact that they had larger speakers with more potential, they have always been crippled by the fact that Bluetooth didn’t have enough bandwidth to stream high quality audio, therefore making them sound like the pair of crappy black, red’n’blue earbuds you get for free on “selected” flights. It looks, or rather sounds, that all of that is changing. The people at Nokia were kind enough to send me a review unit of their latest BH905 bluetooth noise-canceling headphones and, boy, did I like the sound of that.

When you open the, rather large, sort of kidney-shaped carrying bag the headphones come in you’ll find a collection of adapters, extension cables and, of course, a power adapter. The headphones obviously need juice to power the bluetooth connection and noise-canceling, but one thing I found rather annoying is that when the battery’s dead, you can’t even use it  plugged in without noise cancellation. It sounds like your music is coming from the end of a very long hallway. However battery life is pretty darn good so you won’t run out of juice that often. As you expect from Nokia, it also has an excellent built-in microphone to take any calls you might get while rockin’ out to your favourite tunes.

So why would you be in the market for these headphones? Well, if you want quality audio without the hassle of wires, up to 600 hours of stand-by time and the added functionality of being able to answer phone calls with active cancellation and two microphones, this are the headphones for you. They’re comfy, easy to use and setting them up with your phone, iPod Touch or even iPad is a matter of seconds. At €279, it’s more for those passionate about their audio than the occasional user. But then again, this product sounds AND feels just as good as let’s say a Bose set of headphones, which is in the same price class, only they still haven’t come out with a wireless headset you can use with your mobile phone.

More info over @ Nokia’s website.

Some more pictures:

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Stalken met stijl

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Afgelopen woensdag kon ik dankzij @whocares0 van Partyreporters.be mee naar een Blackberry-event in het poepchique Lux in Antwerpen voor de voorstelling van de nieuwe Urban Tours applicatie. Deze software toont je de favoriete plekjes van een hele hoop nationale en internationale sterren die nooit zonder hun Blackberry de deur uit gaan. Urban Tours heeft alle capaciteiten van je crackberry mee: zo kan je meteen bellen voor een reservatie, de route uitstippelen in Google of Blackberry maps en kan je je ter plaatse met een op je GPS gebaseerd kompas naar de ingang navigeren.

Allemaal heel leuk, maar waar ik vooral naar benieuwd was, was wanneer App World bij ons beschikbaar zal zijn. Meer dan een sneak preview, welke er zeer indrukwekkend uit zag, en een geruststellende “Het komt … binnenkort.” kwam ik echter niet te weten. Als RIM uiteindelijk toch beslist om het in ons land te lanceren zal het met applicaties als Urban Tours en nog vele anderen zich naast haar trouwe aanhang van suits en geeks nog meer op gewone consumenten kunnen gaan richten.

Om de applicatie te downloaden surf je met je Blackberry Browser naar www.urban-tours.com

Another N by Nokia

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The misses got a Nokia N85 in the mail this week asking to share her view on it. I managed to snag it from her and take it for a little spin. Here are my impressions:

  • The design of the phone looks really great. However, coming from a full qwerty keyboard it took a little while getting used to a T9 phone again. Also, the 1, 2, and 3 button were really hard to push for me as I had to cram my thumb under the sliding mechanism.
  • I like the double slider design. One side gives the numeric pad in portrait view, while the other gives you audio and photo controls.
  • The display is bright, clear and great for watching video’s both off and on line.
  • Sadly enough not much mac support for syncing (plug-ins for iCal are available though). You have to sync your media by mounting the memory as a disk and performing some good old drag-and-drop action.
  • It has about every connection you can think of: EDGE, 3G, HSDPA, Wifi and even GPS with voice guided directions (be it that this is a 30 dollar a year subscription service).
  • A hot-swappable micro SD card allows for vast ammounts of interchangeable storage, without having to reboot the deivce.
  • The OS is very expendable when it comes to apps but sometimes it’s a bit laggy and not very intuitive. Setting up an APN for my data connection took quite some digging in various menus.
  • The music player is very intuitive and has a clean interface. I personally liked the podcast support, enabling the user to subscribe to and download podcast from his or her phone.
  • The N85 also has a buit-in FM transmitter so you can play your tunes over your home our car stereo without any wires with very decent sound quality. I wasn’t able to check it, but I’m pretty sure you can use this connection for the voice-guided GPS as well.
  • Besides the FM transmitter, you can also use an composite cable that comes with the phone to play your music and video’s on your tv or stereo.
  • This phone packs a 5 megapixel camera with video support and a flash on the back while housing a second VGA cam on the front for video-conferencing.

Overall, the N85 is a feature-packed phone and another great addition to the Nokia N-series in which we, over the years, have seen some very cool and innovative phones. My only hope is that nokia puts just a little more time in every single phone to perfect it instead of releasing a new ultra-cool yet not perfect N phone every few months or so.

Do you poken ?

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Yesterday I got my very own Poken (special thanks to Clopin for ordering). A Poken is a sort of virtual business card that comes in various designs (bee, alien, skull, panda) and can be wirelessly exchanged with another Poken over RFID.

Here’s how it works:

  1. You go to www.doyoupoken.com and buy one or, even better, gather 11 friends and order a batch of 12 like the belgian twittosphere has been doing. The damage: 10 euros.
  2. Your Poken is being shipped. In the meanwhile, find something else to do. Like, for example, reading your feeds or taking a very long walk.
  3. Your Poken arrives. Unpack it, plug into the nearest USB port you can find and start up the file “start_poken.html. You’ll be redirected to the www.doyoupoken.com website to create an account. This is where you add you’re picture, contact information and link your Poken account to your various social network accounts.
  4. Start up that html file one more time to log in and link your Poken device to your account.
  5. And that’s it … you’re done ! Congrats ! What are you waiting for ? Get out there and start Poken …

PS: And another thing: the Poken has 1 gig of memory built in, so you can also use it as a memory stick if you’d like.

Palm: from pre-historic to cutting edge

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Palm, the creator of the legendary PalmPilot PDA, hasn’t been doing so good the past year or two, I think we can all admit that. However, last week at CES, the company presented it’s latest smartphone: the Pre and unlike Palm’s previous (short-lived) experiment, the Foleo, it was warmly welcomed by the tech-crowd in Vegas.

So what does it do ?

  • Touch-screen: the Pre continues the touch-screen trend as set by the iPhone. What’s innovative though is that swiping the screen allows the user to rapidly switch between applications by going left or right and quitting the app by swiping up, something other touch-phones and even the iPhone don’t offer.
  • Multi-tasking: the Pre brings true multi-tasking to the mobile platform. Switching between apps is as easy as swiping your finger and gives it all an exposé-like look and feel.
  • Connections: the Pre has only been announced yet for Sprint’s EVDO (3G) network, besides that the device offers Wifi, GPS and bluetooth.
  • Multimeda: the Pre comes with a 3 megapixel camera and 8 gigabytes of, sadly enough, built-in memory to use it as a media player.

That’s about all that’s known about the device for now. I’m really glad to see Palm got it’s act together and will possibly return to the smartphone-market as a big player. The release date should be somewhere in the first half of this year, US pricing (with a plan) is estimated at around 200 dollars.

The next best berry

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Just a few months after the launch of the Blackberry Bold RIM is rolling out it’s latest version of the Curve (codenamed Javelin). Like the last model in the Curve-series, it will be a more affordable Blackberry with lots of multimedia-functionality that, unlike the Pearl, offers a full keyboard but is cheaper than the high-end 8800 (now Bold and Storm).

What’s inside

  • GPS: hopefully we’ll see a 3rd party application by TomTom or Garmin soon.
  • 3.2 megapixel camera with autofocus: great for moblogging.
  • Full tacktile keyboard: I still prefer it over touchscreen solutions.
  • Trackball: my current model still had the jogwheel on the side, but the trackball has been a Blackberry standard for over a year now.
  • Gorgeous display: the Curve has a just a bit smaller version of the crisp clear display that comes on the Bold.
  • 4.6 OS: like the Bold, the latest version of the Curve comes with the latest version of the Blakcberry OS.
  • Hot-swappable MicroSD: great for use an mp3-player.
  • EDGE: jup, no 3G, but for larger files you can use the built-in WiFi.

That’s about all I know about it for now. Since the Canadian launch, the Curve has been popping up on both the US and UK sites. Hopefully, it won’t take long before it comes to Belgium so I can get my hands on one. I am really considering this one as an upgrade to my 8707v if pricing will be around that of the current Curve (at around 350 euros).

Playing records … 21st century style

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It might suprise some of you but, despite my fascination for modern technology, I own quite the record collection. Records as in those big round black things with a hole in the middle.

Coming from a rather large setup back at my mom’s house but lacking space at our place, I spent the last few months looking for a viable solution. After adding three Ikea Expedits (square shelving) to our living room last week, that glorious moment finally came around: I got to move my records ! My search for the ultimate small and geeky record-player recommenced and I finally found what I was looking for: the Ion IPT USB portable record player. Like it’s name, the functions are a mouthful. Besides USB there’s a composite output and a port for both big and small pin headphones. On top of that there’s a built-in speaker that, in combination with room for 6 D-cell batteries, allows you to play your tunes -virtually- wherever you want (like a record store that doesn’t have any preview stations). You can play 33, 45 and even 78 RPM records. Simple controls on the top let you adjust the volume, pitch and tone. Overall, the design looks great and the form-factor (12″ x 12″), the included dust-cover and the built-in handle make it perfect for putting it next to your records on your shelving.

The device ships with simpflified mixmeister software called EZ Audio Convert that works on both mac and PC. It records the song, lets you edit the metadata and then sends it directly to iTunes. The only downside is that it doesn’t seem to be compatible with the latest version of iTunes. Still, you can use other apps like Audacity or even Garageband to convert your records into mp3’s.

But this is where it gets geeky: I took it just a step further by hooking the player up to the iMac, running it through airfoil and that way enabling myself to listen to the record that’s playing on any audio source I want (our bedroom speakers that are hooked up to an airport express or even my macbook’s internal speakers when I’m at my desk).

I got mine of off pixmania.com for around 120 euros (not including shipping). Make sure you also check out this great video-review by CNET’s Donald Bell.