By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine, June 2010
The printed book is an amazing thing. Between those two covers, are thoughts, facts, knowledge and imagination. Books have represented the power of ideas and wisdom of humans for thousands of years.
Knowledge was once passed along through writings on stone, papyrus and even animal skins.
When Gutenberg invented the printing press around the year 1440, mass printings of books were finally possible, and authors could share their writings with more and more people.
For me, books represent many things. Fantasy, mystery, adventure, experience, and knowledge. And to me knowledge is power. I have quite a few books – over 800 in fact, enough to form a small library. Some people might think that is a little excessive…but to me books have always been a source of inspiration, imagination, and wisdom.
I may not have read all of the books that I own – not even close, in fact. But I know they are on the shelf, should I need to look something up, or if I am in the mood to read up on the history of tech companies like Intel, Microsoft or Google (ok I did read that one), then they are at my disposal. I’d like to read a lot more of my books – but honestly, I just don’t have the time. Oh and did I mention I am trying to write a novel of my own? Well that’s another story…
So why would I ask if books as we know them are dead? By this I mean traditional books…books printed on paper, and available at your favorite bookstore.
With the increasing popularity of digital ebooks, and the vast amount of information available on the Internet, will the printed book soon be relegated to libraries and private collections? Ebooks are cheaper and more portable than paper books. Today’s eReaders can hold thousands of books – and these books are always at your fingertips.
Amazon’s Kindle is perhaps the most popular device, having sold several million units over the last couple of years, and Amazon has a digital library of over 500,000 books available for download – most at lower prices than the paper copies. In fact, most best sellers are just $9.99, a definite selling point!
Numerous other eReaders are on the market as well, including those from Sony, Barne’s & Noble’s Nook, Chapters/Borders’ new Kobo eReader, and even Apple’s iPad or iPhone.
And now Google itself is getting into the business. With the upcoming Google Editions, according to PCWorld, “E-books will be universal in that users can access them from anyWeb-connected device, and roughly 500,000 titles will be available at launch. Online books are cached once you’ve loaded them, so they can also be viewed offline.”
I have my own opinions, but I thought that I would ask someone who actually works in the field, and would have some insights on the subject. Ken Hernden, the Library Director at Algoma University was kind enough to share his thoughts:
Q. As the Internet has developed and become a daily tool for many people, have you noticed any impact on library use or traffic? If so, what age groups?
A. As more resources have migrated to electronic, networked formats, we’ve noticed an increase in traffic and use virtually and physically in the library. Despite the fact that most resources are available from home or anywhere through the library’s proxy server, the library still seems to serve as a space for people to focus their efforts.
Q. What are your thoughts on digital books?
A. I like them; they have enormous potential…the main challenge (for librarians) will be preventing information overload, letting people know about these resources, and teaching them how to be informed users of so much information.
Q. Do you think that books retain their “essence” if they are not on printed paper?
A. In some ways, the ebooks offer more “essence”: you can rapidly keyword search the content and they often offer features like chapter annotations not in the hard copy version and linking to related or cited articles, books, images and audio files that enhance the core content. The danger again is that the reader is led away from the book’s content and becomes overwhelmed by the enhancements. I liken learning ebook literacy to showing a non comic book reader a graphic novel or comic book – it takes time for them to learn to be literate in that format and consider the words, images, layout and spaces in between the elements.
Q. What do books mean to you?
A. I think books are critical to maintaining the health of a society. They transmit wisdom knowledge across time and are available to anyone with the inclination to open them up.
Q. Do you see digital books replacing written books some day? If so, when?
A. Possibly, but I think it would take at least a couple of generations of readers and it depends on the ubiquity of readers and networked content. There are many parts of the world where this is not true yet. Much will also depend on reader tastes and the marketplace as well.
Q. With the digitizing of so much information, growing popularity of ebooks, and convenience of e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, do you think that traditional printed books will decline in importance?
A. Hard-copy editions might eventually fill a role that vinyl does for high-end audiophiles. Also, preservation of information remains a conundrum and PH neutral paper lasts hundreds of years, whereas digital formats and hardware do not. At the very least the printed codex may remain our permanent archival format.
So what do you think? Will you continue to buy traditional books, or are you planning to buy more and more digital ebooks for your mobile phone, eReader or even your computer? How long do you think it will be before digital overtakes the printed word?
By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine, January 2010
Wow. 2010…it’s hard to believe! If you would have asked someone 50 years ago, what it would be like in the 21st century, they might have said we would all be driving around in flying cars or communicating with our wristwatch picture phones.
We have come along way, and this last decade is no exception. So when reflecting back on the last ten years of technology, I wasn’t surprised at all that there was so much that I could talk about.
The year 2000 brought with it a new millennium, the Y2K bug – which never fully materialized, and the end of the Dot-com boom. Amazon.com was already the most successful online retailer, and Google was still a fledgling start-up company – not a verb!
This decade has seen the creation of the iPod, iPhone, Blackberry and other smartphones, HDTVs, and next-gen video game systems like Xbox 360, PS3 and the Nintendo Wii. Blu-ray beat HD-DVD, ebooks finally began to catch on, and Netbooks became one of the most popular computers in years.
As an “early adopter” I tend to jump in to new technologies as they come out. I picked up the iPhone when it hit Canada – and can’t live without it. I own all three video-game consoles, which I use not only for gaming and movie/music streaming, but with my new Wii I can also get fit!
I was rooting for HD-DVD during the high definition video war (it was cheaper and more advanced) because I already had the add-on unit for my Xbox 360, but I am ok with Blu-ray winning the war. It still appears that DVD is king, however. When you are an early adopter, you sometimes get burned because it is inevitable that technology will become cheaper, faster and better. But even though my $2,500 HDTV now costs $700 to buy, I have enjoyed every minute of it over the last 4 years.
Getting back to innovative tech, digital music was revolutionized when Apple launched the iPod in 2001, and then iTunes in 2003 – now the most successful digital music marketplace in the world, with almost 10 billion songs downloaded.
Apple did it again with the iPhone – a smartphone that puts email, Internet, music, video/movies, games and over 130,000 apps in your pocket. It is now the number two smartphone in the world, behind RIM’s Blackberry, which had a significant headstart. Over three billion apps have been downloaded since the App Store was launched in 2008.
Apple is expected to announce a new “tablet” computer in January 2010 – could tablet computing (which has been around for at least 10 years) finally be the next big thing?
From its early beginnings in the first half of the 1990’s, theWeb really came into its own in the last decade. Websites went from being cheesy-looking experiments, to truly attractive, engaging, and interactive mediums. The concept of Web 2.0 has taken this even further with web-based communities and social networking sites, video-sharing sites like YouTube, blogs, wikis and other online technologies.
Social networking exploded in the last five years, first with the popularity of MySpace — perhaps the first successful mainstream social networking site, followed by the current king, Facebook. I personally use Facebook to keep up with my friends and share a little bit of my life.
Blogging became a hit as millions of people took to the web to express themselves, provide professional advice and information, or just voice their opinions about everyday stuff. There are now hundreds of millions of blogs on the Internet. I too have a blog – mostly for posting articles I write such as the one you are reading, but I hope to do more with it in the future. You can check it out at www.digitaladventures.ca.
Twitter is another popular service (referred to as micro-blogging) that allows you to express yourself in 140 characters or less, and share it instantly with all of your followers. Personally this is one online innovation I just don’t get…but if you want to know what Ashton Kutcher is up to every moment, be my guest.
YouTube has become so popular that the site hosts over 100 million videos and over 13 hours of video is uploaded every minute. Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion. The site costs over $1 million a day to operate, but Google says it will soon be profitable because the number of people viewing videos supported by advertising is increasing.
The web continues to grow as technology evolves and more and more users log on. It is estimated that the number of Internet users has increased from 361 million in 2000, to over 1.7 billion in 2009. This is over 25% of the world’s population.
The technologies and products I have discussed are only a fraction of the innovations we have seen in the last decade. And if that is any indication of what is to come, then we have even more to look forward to in the coming years! If you are like me, then I know you can hardly wait to see what is ahead.
By Nevin Buconjic
February 8, 2010
This weekend, on a whim, I decided to see if I could find a deal on HD-DVDs on eBay. Boy was I pleasantly surprised! For those of you who aren’t familiar with HD-DVD – I recommend you read my previous article entitled (March 2007). But as a quick synopsis, HD-DVD was another format of high definition that lost to Blu-ray and is now for all intents and purposes, dead.
As you might recall, I was a fan of HD-DVD for a lot of reasons, not the least being cost – they were simply the same quality to Blu-ray but significantly cheaper. HD-DVDs out of the box had internet interactivity, something Blu-ray would not have for a while. Because it was very similar technology to DVD, you could even buy movies with HD on one side and a regular DVD on the other – something impossible for Blu-ray. But I digress. Blu-ray won the war in March 2008 and HD-DVD was relegated to the junk heap. Or was it?
I still have my HD-DVD player for my Xbox 360 and have about 10 or so movies. So I decided to take a look on eBay to see what kind of deals there were for any HD-DVDs still kicking around. They are HD movies after all –the same quality as Blu-ray or HD movies you download from various online services like Netflix.
I was surprised to find not only individual movies selling for $1, but different bundles as well – in lots of 10, 20, 35, 52 and even 77! These are brand new, sealed movies being cleared out at incredible prices! So I decided to bid on a package of 77 – including movies such as 40-Year Virgin, 300, Season 1 of Heroes, and Battle Star Galactica, The Skeleton Key, Transformers and 71 other titles! I will admit, about half of the movies I would never even consider buying on their own, but what the hell – for a buck or two a movie, wouldn’t it be worth it?
So I put in a bid, and even stayed up until 2AM to see the results. I won, and for about a $1 each! There are still plenty of bundles for sale on eBay.
But what about those of you who can’t even watch HD-DVDs because you never bought a player way back when? There are still some options. By far the cheapest is still the Xbox 360 add-on player, if you own the Xbox already. I found these on eBay for $40-60 (although the bids start much lower). There are also dedicated HD-DVD players from Toshiba which at the time were getting great reviews – not only as HD players, but upscaling DVD players as well. These players, I was very surprised to see, were selling for much higher! Probably averaging $60-90, and I saw one go for over $150! I guess there is still some demand out there. But if you are patient you can still find a better deal.
So do I recommend you go out and purchase a dead technology? Well, not exactly…but if you can get a great deal on a player, I know you can get a steal on the HD-DVDs. So I’ll leave it up to you. But I know that I will enjoy watching HD versions of many of the 77 movies I have won, for a long time to come!
What do you think?
By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
October 19, 2009
Online etiquette or “Netiquette” is defined by Wikipedia as a set of social conventions that facilitate interaction over networks, ranging from Usenet and mailing lists to blogs and forums.
Some of these rules have been in use since 1983, and a lot of it is common sense so why don’t the rules of real life interaction apply online? Is it because we are for the most part anonymous or hidden behind an online nickname that we feel we can slam somebody, their ideas or worse?
How about replying to email or online messages in a timely manner? This article was not meant to be a commentary on our lack of online etiquette per say, but rather I wanted to focus on a couple of observations I’ve made while using Facebook.
For the one or two of you out there who doesn’t know what facebook is, it’s a social networking website that allows you to communicate with and keep in touch with friends, by posting pictures, writing on walls, and essentially sharing information. The site has over 300 million users, and continues to grow rapidly.
Facebook is a great platform to stay in touch – by adding friends and sharing information. But I think most would agree that the vast majority of our Facebook “friends” are merely acquaintances or old friends you used to know – not good friends that we actually still hang out with, or even speak to for that matter.
I’m sure most of us are guilty of adding friends of friends we don’t really know (perhaps to chat up later?) and for some it even seems to have become a contest for who has the most friends. I know I’ve received friend requests from people I don’t know and I’ve even dated a few girls I met on Facebook, who added me because I was a friend of friend.
But do I really want to see daily updates from someone I knew in high school and haven’t seen since, or share information with people I don’t really know? Which poses a question – is it ok to delete Facebook friends? Should this be considered rude, or a slap in the face?
Personally I haven’t bothered to spend my time going through my list of 400 or so to figure out who I really want to be friends with and who needs to go. But sometimes I find that I get a little miffed when my number of “friends” goes down — I can’t help but think to myself, “who the hell deleted me?”
And then the odd time I’ve been scrolling through someone’s pictures and click on the link of another “friend” in the picture and suddenly realize they aren’t my Facebook friend anymore, or some other scenario. Is it ok to feel insulted when you get dumped by a Facebook friend? Or is this what we do all the time in real life – just without the proof? I suppose we shouldn’t take it too seriously.
Another online pet peeve of mine is when you invite people to an event on Facebook — a party for example, and they don’t seem to have the time or courtesy to respond with a simple “yes, no or maybe”! I liken this to receiving a wedding invitation in the mail…we request your response by a certain date. Common courtesy dictates that whether you plan to attend or not – you will check off a box and drop it in the mail. Certainly this takes more effort than simply replying to a check box in your online invitation. But invariably there are several people who just don’t respond at all online.
I suppose we perceive online activity as somewhat less formal, and maybe I am expecting too much. If most people on Facebook are like me, then they receive lots of invites to see live bands, and other events – and don’t bother responding because it is similar to an email blast. But a personal invite to a party – I think that is different.
As Facebook continues to grow, we have learned to live with the fact that we see advertisements on the right side of our screen, and businesses are definitely jumping on the band wagon by setting up their own groups and allowing people to join. But another trend I am starting to see, which probably goes against proper netiquette, is individuals using Facebook to market products or services they personally sell.
Where else can you blast information to hundreds or thousands of “friends” for free? I’ve also seen people use their “status” update to push products on their friends. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a business or other group inviting their followers to events such as a bar or club sending information about upcoming concerts – because you have joined that group specifically to get information, but I find it rather annoying to see advertisements via status updates every other day.
So as our online world continues to evolve I don’t think our online etiquette is quite keeping up. For today’s youth, online social networks, chatting and texting are just a part of life. Facebooking too might be a big part of their social life. I sometimes wonder if this lack of etiquette – either real or perceived, which seems to be the norm online will eventually transfer over into real life or has it already begun?
By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Originally published October 2009)
Cell phones, iPods, laptops, digital cameras…we are living in the digital age. The age of instant gratification. Hear a song on the radio and like it? Just download it from iTunes or other services right to your cell phone. Don’t feel like driving to Blockbuster to rent a movie? Just order it on-demand from your cable company, or download it to your Xbox, or PC from Amazon.com, iTunes or Netflix. Some even get it for free through peer-to-peer torrents (but this is the illegal way to get it).
Living with such convenience and easy access to digital content has changed our behaviour, created new business models (and crushed old ones), and opened up new ways to communicate with anyone around the world.
So with this in mind, the idea for this article came to me the other day when visiting the family cottage up north. No cell phone coverage meant no texting, email or Internet access on my iPhone. In other words, no access to this endless supply of content and definitely no contact with the civilized world (there is no electricity or telephone service at the cottage).
Suddenly I was faced with the prospect of not being able to check Facebook, upload photos, or see what my friends were up to. But is this really a bad thing? It made me think about what it was like before the Internet and other technology so common today.
As a 30-something “young” professional, I still remember when the web and email were shiny and new – still at University (for my first degree) I remember being provided an email address, and logging into the Internet (world wide web to be exact – the Internet is just the network behind it) in the computer lab to see what this was all about. Not very impressive stuff in the mid-90’s and I don’t think anyone realized how far we would come in such a short time.
But kids and teens today take the Internet, email, texting, digital music and YouTube videos for granted. They have grown up in the digital age, and it is truly a part of their being.
If the thought of having no cell phone or Internet access for a few days unnerved me, I could just imagine what it would mean to today’s youth.
My niece is part of “Generation Z” or the “iGeneration” (born mid-90s – 2000s), and just starting high school this fall. I know that she has embraced technology. She’s had a digital camera since she was seven or eight, is attached to her iPod, got a laptop this year, and I think she has already had more cell phones than me! When she’s over for dinner, it’s hard to say a few words without her phone buzzing away with a new text message. It annoys my parents to no end, but the thing is I get it.
I get that kids today are growing up with instant access to information, and instant communication through texting, instant messaging and Facebooking. I envy them in a way, but I sometimes wonder if all this technology makes things too easy, makes us too connected and makes our relationships too impersonal.
Why call someone when we can just text? Why ask someone on a date in person when you can send them a message on Facebook? Why research a topic at the library for a school essay when we can just Google it?
I remember writing papers in high school using books and encyclopedias. Now today most kids will just look it up on the Internet. With all that information at their fingertips is it any wonder that plagiarism is on the rise in high schools, colleges and universities?Probably not all of it is intentional – they just don’t know any better. According to a New York Times study, most students don’t consider “copy and pasting” from Internet sources, without proper citation, as cheating.
Our world is changing and the older generations are just trying to keep up. If I wasn’t such a tech junkie I might be in the same boat. We’ve come a long way since my first Atari computer, Sony Walkman, and camera with actual film!
Today we can shop, communicate, download movies and songs, share photos and learn about almost any topic on the Internet. We can hold tens of thousands of songs in our pocket. We can watch TV on our cell phones, and download movies right to our smartphones.
Technology is both fascinating, and life altering. Good and bad. Today’s kids are the first generation where technology is widely used and accepted by both the parents and kids. Nothing will stop the stampede of technological progress, our evolving way of life. Let’s just hope we don’t get too caught up in it, and lose sight of the important things in life – our relationships with family, friends and loved ones. Because technology still can’t replace that.
So looking back now at my weekend at the cottage. Being disconnected from the outside world, and spending quality time with the family wasn’t such a bad thing after all. Sometimes it’s a good thing to drop the techno gadgets and get back to basics for a while – if anything just to clear your head and relax.
I’ll try to remember that next time.
By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Originally published – January 2009)
In January of each year the world gets a glimpse at the next generation of great technology at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It is this year’s show that serves as part inspiration for this article, as well as other observations I have made in tech. Below are only a few of the products that I feel will be hot in 2009:
Last year a new genre of laptop computer was introduced – dubbed the “netbook”. These small (7 – 10 inch screens) devices are essentially miniaturized notebook computers which are useful for surfing the Internet, email, listening to music and other casual computing activities. Because the devices are relatively underpowered they cannot fully replace a “real” laptop but have proven to be immensely popular, with price points of between $299 – $499. Beginning with 7 and 8 inch screens, more recent models have expanded to 10 inch screens, making them much more user friendly.
Netbooks have quickly proven themselves as popular and now most of the top PC companies have released models. The only major holdout remains to be Apple, which said it would continue to watch the space develop. There was speculatation that Apple would announce a netbook at the recent MacWorld event, but alas this did not happen. 2009 should prove another successful year for the netbook category as these tiny devices continue to improve in both style and capability.
Touch Screen Computing
Millions of iPhone owners have proven that consumers like touch screen technology. Competing smartphone models have been introduced by numerous competitors such as Samsung, LG, HTC and more recently Blackberry.
Another technology that never fully caught on (tablet computing) touch screen computing has begun a resurgence in popularity. Microsoft has had a Windows Tablet version for several years now, but recent devices have fully embraced “touch” and consumers finally seem ready for it.
HP recently introduced several sleek “All-in-one” touch screen computers (up to 25” screens) that allow users to move objects, open windows, edit photos and much more using their fingers instead of a mouse. Microsoft itself has developed a Surface computing device which resembles a table – but the entire surface is a computer screen that responds to touch!
Net Connected TV’s
Fresh off the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, almost all of the major TV manufacturers (Samsung, LG, Sony, Panasonic) have announced net-enabled TV with direct access to streaming movie or video services such as NetFlix, Hulu, YouTube, as well as streaming news, weather and more. These TV’s have built in Ethernet (some also have wireless capability) allowing for direct connection to the Internet. Direct access to streaming movie services could mean a world of hurt in the future for video rental chains such as Blockbuster, Rogers Video and others.
Once thought to be the next big thing — Ebooks have been kicking around for at least a decade. An interesting idea – a digital copy of books you can read on a handheld device — they have just never fully caught on. But 2009 might be the breakout year for the ebook.
Amazon.com’s Kindle ebook reader was introduced in November 2007 and sold out in 5 hours. With more inventory, sales resumed in 2008 and the company has had difficulty keeping the unit in stock ever since. An endorsement from Oprah in October – as one of her favorite products – created another four month waiting list for the device. Oprah’s endorsement may have finally opened the market to mainstream consumers – which represents a huge market opportunity compared to traditional buyers of these devices.
Amazon may have achieved what no other manufacturer in this space has done before – not only making a device that is easy to use but one that has easy access to a large inventory of new digital books. With over 200,000 titles currently available for download using the device’s free wireless service, consumers can purchase ebooks for typically much cheaper than printed versions (New York Times best sellers are only $9.99). Unfortunately, the Kindle is so far only available in the US, where it offers the free wireless service. Hopefully in 2009 they will expand to other markets, including Canada!
Although unconfirmed, some analysts estimate that Amazon may have sold up to 1 million devices to date. Sony’s latest readers have also been selling well, and smartphones such as the iPhone are also proving to be capable and popular devices for downloading and reading ebooks. In 2009 it is expected that Amazon will release the next version of their Kindle device and a number of other companies are set to release readers as well, to capitalize on the ebooks growing popularity. Even with increasing sales, ebooks still represent less than 1% of book sales, but this may be the year that things begin to change.
Blu-Ray High Definition
Last year at this time, Blu-ray finally defeated its rival, HD-DVD, in the high definition (HD) war. Now that consumers were not forced to choose sides in the war of competing technologies, Analysts predicted that Blu-ray would explode in popularity.
Blu-ray HD video was finally poised to take the reins from DVD in the consumer video market. But so far consumers continue to overwhelmingly support DVD. The trouble with HD is that consumers faced a double whammy – requiring both an HDTV and a Blu-ray player – both being costly investments.
I stated in a previous article that I believed the price for Blu-ray players would need to come down to $200 (from $600-$1,000) before sales would pick up. This has happened just recently and along with the dramatic reductions in the cost for HDTV’s, I believe that Blu-ray has finally reached a price point that will register with consumers. Unless the economy continues to take the wind out consumer spending, Blu-ray should experience greater success in 2009,
I have briefly discussed only a few products that I think will be hot in 2009. As technology has proven throughout the years, it just keeps getting cheaper, better and faster. By this time next year, we are bound to see even more exciting developments in computing, gaming, home audio/video, GPS, smartphones and more. Here’s to another exciting year in tech!
By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Originally published – July 2008)
I’m a PC, as the Windows Vista-bashing commercials go, but I have always admired Macs and other Apple products for their style and quality. I do own an iPod Shuffle, but never switched to Mac computers due to the lack of games and gaming capabilities. But when the iPhone was first released last year, that changed everything.
I just had to have one, but alas they were not released in Canada. No, we Canadians would have to wait until version 2.0.
On June 9, 2008 Steve Jobs, the infamous CEO of Apple launched the next version of iPhone, at an even lower price than the first, stating that “Just one year after launching the iPhone, we’re launching the new iPhone 3G that is twice as fast at half the price.” The great news was, that the pricing would be the same in most countries – just $199 for an 8GB or $299 for the 16GB version.
Immediately after the launch, Rogers formally announced that the iPhone 3G would be available for sale in Canada on July 11, 2008. Needless to say, I was pretty excited.
Because I still had my Telus phone until October, I decided I was going to hold out for as long as I could…besides the monthly Rogers pricing was quite expensive. In fact there was a public outcry and rumour that Apple itself had contacted Rogers directly to communicate their “disgust” in Roger’s proposed monthly charges. By launch time, Roger’s did in fact change their plan pricing to include essentially unlimited data for $30 to go on top of any regular Roger’s voice plan – but the deal would end August 31st. This was enough incentive for me to make the purchase!
The staff at the Rogers store in the Station Mall were very helpful in answering my questions, and setting up the phone. I had read about bad experiences by customers in the US, but I was in and out in about 20 minutes!
The first thing I did after leaving the store was try out some of the built in applications. The new model comes with built in GPS – so I fired it up and next thing I knew I was looking at a satellite image (courtesy of Google Maps) with a blinking blue dot showing my location. Wow, this was awesome! But the coolest part was watching the blue dot move along the map as I drove down the street! As it turns out there are a plethora of applications that utilize the GPS functionality.
One program called “TimmyMe” determines your current location, and then finds the closest Tim Horton’s locations to you. When you click on the particular location you are interested in, the program provides directions overlaid on a Google Map for you! Other examples include applications that show you the closest movie theatres along with current movie times, as well as restaurants, clubs and other attractions. You really can see the power and convenience of such information the minute you step off a plane in a strange city.
Next I touched the web browser icon and the Safari browser loaded. I typed in a few websites and they loaded up fairly quickly. The device can display full web pages (as opposed to most cell phones) although this sometimes takes a bit of time. Some websites will automatically detect that you are using an iPhone and load their mobile site which is optimized for the iPhone’s screen size.
Since we don’t have 3G (3rd generation wireless) in Sault Ste. Marie (it is currently only in major centres) I was curious to see how fast the pages would load using EDGE. I have to admit some sites do take a while to load, but overall I found it to be acceptable.
3G is supposed to offer download speeds twice as fast as EDGE. On a recent trip to Toronto, I was able to switch on the 3G and did notice an appreciable difference in web surfing and download speed. But this came with a price – with 3G on I noticed my battery drained surprisingly fast.
The phone has a number of other built in applications such as push email (think Blackberry), contacts and calendar, stock prices, weather, world clock, calculator, and more. Let’s not forget the built in 2.0 megapixel camera, iPod music and video player, YouTube application and other innovative features!
The next step was to check out Apple’s new “App Store”, filled with thousands of games, and programs – many of which are free. The first thing I did was search for the Facebook application. Within minutes I had downloaded and installed it and was checking out my profile. I decided to update my status to “using my new iPhone!”
Apple has always been the champion of user interface and user experience, and the App Store was no exception. Applications were broken down by category, featured apps, top 25, and you can also search for anything specific you are looking for.
I proceeded to download a number of applications both useful and useless. One application called “Drinks” has a fully searchable database of over 4,000 drink recipes! Imagine, you have friends coming over for drinks, and all you find in your liquor cabinet is a bottle of Southern Comfort…what to do? Load iDrink, choose ingredients, type it in and you will discover over 40 different drinks are possible! Wow, not bad for $3.99! Click the Drinks page and you have the entire database listed alphabetically — it might just make you the ultimate bartender at your next party!
So I have now been using the phone for almost two months and I really have no serious complaints. I’ve found the battery life to be decent on a typical day, but I’ve noticed that heavy texting or GPS use can drain the battery quickly. Under normal circumstances you can get over a day of use before recharging.
The iPhone has built in Wi-Fi so you can connect to your wireless network at home or your neighbourhood café (and avoid data charges). The Wi-Fi is much faster than using the cell connection, plus you can only use the iTunes store over Wi-Fi, something that hopefully Apple will change some day. I have downloaded complete music albums right to my iPhone, and then synced them to my PC at home later. The Wi-Fi does tend to drain the battery as well, so I shut it off when not using it, but if you leave it on you will be notified the next time you walk within a wireless zone (a pop-up asks if you would like to connect).
Apple likes to lock down their devices and the iPhone is no exception. When syncing your PC or MAC with your iPhone, everything happens through iTunes, including transferring music, videos or removing any applications. As well, Apple engineers test and approve every program that is placed on their App Store, allowing the company to monitor and control just what kind of applications and content is allowed on the device.
My monthly bill is currently over $100 (including taxes) including the phone, data and additional upgrades, about double my old cell phone bill. But so far I am very satisfied with my purchase. As I continue to use the device, I will tailor my packages to my needs, hopefully lowering the price over time. For example, on my first full-month bill I saw that I used only about 1.4 GB of data download, while my current package allows up to 6 GB of data. Rumour has it that Roger’s will be announcing some new all-inclusive plans on October 1, 2008 and the 2GB plan may indeed be more than enough for my regular use, and could save me money each month.
In conclusion, I am extremely satisfied with the iPhone 3G. While there are definitely some improvements Apple can make over time, it is really a remarkable all-in-one device. Essentially you’ve got a phone, music player, game device and wireless computer all in the palm of your hand.
While it’s certainly more expensive to use than a typical cell phone, if you can afford the roughly $100 a month in charges, I would highly recommend getting the iPhone 3G when you are looking for your next cell phone purchase.
By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Original Print Date – June 2008)
In my previous article about the Blu-ray vs. HD-DVD war last year, I described the stunning quality of both formats and how either was an excellent successor to standard DVD.
At the time, both formats were battling for supremacy – essentially Sony (Blu-Ray) vs. Toshiba (HD-DVD). The key to winning was the support of the movie studios which provide the movie content. Blu-Ray had the majority of the studios, but their hardware was significantly more expensive than HD-DVD players, and HD-DVD had other significant advantages.
None of this mattered anymore of course, once Warner Brothers announced in January 2008 that they would stop supporting HD-DVD after May 2008 — this would mean Blu-Ray had the support of 75% of the movie studios while HD-DVD would be left with only 25% . The stunning announcement blind-sided Toshiba and resulted in the cancellation of the planned release of their latest HD-DVD models, in order to give the company time to regroup. But the writing was now on the wall – how long could HD-DVD survive? The result was an announcement within weeks that Toshiba would stop production of all HD-DVD products. Sony and Blu-Ray won the war. No one predicted it would be over so soon.
The Internet was a buzz with news sources and blogs touting that the future of High-def was now clear – and consumers were set to benefit. With only one format to choose from, consumers would now have nothing holding them back from upgrading to the next generation of video.
But the expected surge in Blu-Ray sales has not materialized. In fact, following the Warner Brothers announcement, even though Blu-Ray was declared the winner, sales of stand-alone Blu-Ray players actually decreased by 40% from January to February followed by a slight increase of 2% between February and March.
So what of the anticipated rush of new consumers? Well it turns out that most consumers think that standard DVD is still good enough, and see no compelling reason to upgrade to High-Def at this time. More and more consumers are buying up-converting DVD players, which play regular DVD’s and “upgrade” the resolution from standard 480i to a 1080i HD resolution. In my experience the improvement isn’t impressive, but it is noticeable.
Another factor in Blu-Ray’s slow uptake could be the price. Since its declared win, the price of stand alone Blu-Ray players have actually increased. With no competition, perhaps the Blu-Ray camp is no longer in any rush to lower prices. With players starting at about $399, I still think High-Def is a niche market for audiophiles and early adopters. But once we see prices down around $200, the masses are more likely to jump on board. As always, you still need an HDTV to notice the benefits – this means splurging for a nice big LCD or Plasma TV.
In my previous article I had suggested that for anyone wanting to upgrade to HD while minimizing their risk, they should stick to the Xbox 360 with HD-DVD attachment or the Sony PS3 with built in Blu-Ray. I had both and was happy with either. Although I had been rooting for HD-DVD to win, I am ok with how things ended – in fact I have been picking up my favorite movies in HD-DVD on clearance racks for about $10 compared to the same Blu-Ray versions which sell for $28-40 each.
In case you are wondering which models are the best, the PS3 is still the best Blu-Ray player on the market, as it is currently the only Blu-Ray player to support the new 2.0 standard – which brings picture-in-picture and online functionality to Blu-ray discs (two things HD-DVD had from the start). Therefore I still highly recommend the PS3 as your Blu-Ray player of choice – especially if you are looking for a next-gen console to boot!
So now that the future has been decided, do yourself a favour and take your video viewing to the next level. If you have or are planning to purchase a new HDTV, I highly recommend moving up to Blu-Ray – you won’t be disappointed!
By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Original Print Date – June 2007)
Video games, they are tremendously popular and hugely profitable. World-wide they represented a market of $25.4 billion in 2004 and according to a recent forecast by PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the industry will continue to grow at an average compound annual rate of 11.4% reaching $46.5 billion by 2010.
With games representing such big business, and average game development budgets growing from about $40,000 in the early 1990’s to over $10 million today, game design is hotter than ever, and lucrative too.
According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), there were 144,000 full-time employees working in video game development in the U.S. in 2005, up from 50,000 in 1998. The ESA estimates this number will grow to over a quarter of a million workers by 2009.
With entry-level game developers earning about $67,000 per year, I’ll bet you gamers out there must be thinking – a high-paying job making video games, what could be better!
So where can you get started? Well it just so happens that you have some options in Sault Ste. Marie. If you are between the ages of 11-16, Adventures in Computing Camps at Algoma University offer one week summer day camps in video game design, 3D/First-Person Shooter game design, and new this season, Role-Playing Game (RPG) design.
These one week camps take students through the game design process, learning the principles of game design, level design and 3D character design, while creating your own original 2D, 3D, FPS, and RPG games. Adventures in Computing Camps are in their 7th season in Sault Ste. Marie, and host about 100 students each summer. Visit www.computercamps.ca for more information.
Did you know that Algoma University will be offering a Masters Degree in Computer Games Technology beginning in September 2007? The program is the only one of its kind in North America, and is offered in cooperation with the University of Abertay Dundee in Scotland.
The program is 12 months long, and Students will study Game Design and Development, Programming for the Xbox and PC, Console Games Programming, The Games Marketplace, and Artificial Intelligence for Games, among other courses.
Potential applicants require a computer science degree and should be skilled C++ programmers to be accepted. The program is offered via video-conferencing with University of Abertay curriculum and instructors. Students will work on cutting-edge equipment and complete their own gaming projects during their one-year of study, and graduate with a Masters degree recognized for its excellence world-wide. For more information visit
The future of gaming is bright. Video games are pushing the envelope on technology, leading the development of faster PCs and consoles with ultra-realistic graphics capabilities. And this is only the beginning.
With all of these exciting opportunities to learn about video game design locally, perhaps in the next several years we may actually see a game development industry spring up right here in Sault Ste. Marie.
Wouldn’t that be cool…
By Nevin Buconjic
For Fresh Magazine
(Original Print Date – September 2007)
September 25, 2007 will go down in history…video game history that is. Halo 3, the much anticipated final chapter in the Halo trilogy was released at midnight on September 24th across the U.S, Canada and most of the rest of the world. Some 10,000 retailers in the U.S. opened their doors at 12:01 to allow thousands of fans to get their hands on the latest edition. Microsoft is banking on the fact that the Xbox 360 exclusive will not only be the biggest video game launch in history, but will also help catapult sales of the console itself, and solidify its position in the video game console market against rivals Sony (PS3) and Nintendo (Wii).
Halo 2 made history in 2004, when it brought in more than $125 million in its first 24 hours. And Halo 1 and 2 combined have sold more than 15 million copies since the series first launched for the original Xbox back in 2001. Two months ago, Halo 3 had already racked up over one million pre-orders, crushing all previous records, and would eventually hit almost 1.7 million pre-orders by launch time.
Microsoft has confirmed that Halo 3 grossed more than $170 million in sales in the first 24 hours after release. This is the largest single-day take in for any release in entertainment history, shattering the previous record held by the Spiderman 3 movie, which brought in $150 million in its opening weekend.
I remember when Halo first came out for the Xbox. Way back in 2001, critics were scoffing at Microsoft’s entry into the video game console market, but Halo was the killer app for Microsoft needed to turn the Xbox into a legitimate contender in the extremely competitive industry. This title was different than any games before it. It had beautiful graphics, an interesting story line, but most of all it was fun as hell to play. The multi-player campaigns were even more fun.
Halo 2 continued the story, and “the fight”, bringing with it a bigger focus on the multi-player game play, and was built from the ground up for play on Xbox live, Microsoft’s online membership service. Halo 2 is still the most played game on Xbox-live, even 3 years after its launch…something which is surely to change with the launch of Halo 3.
The third instalment opens with Master Chief hurtling towards earth in a Forerunner aircraft. After bailing out of the craft 2km above earth, Master Chief crashes into the dense forest of Africa where he is located, but though dead. After coming back online, Master Chief and his fellow humans begin the final fight.
After the first Halo is destroyed by humans, the second is activated and more are placed on standby, ready to fire. If the remaining Halos are activated by The Truth they will decimate all life in the galaxy, something that the human race along with their new found allies, the Elites, will do everything they can to prevent. You as Master Chief, along with your new ally, the Arbitor, must finish the fight against the alien Covenant and the Flood, destroying all remaining Halos in the process.
The first thing you notice when the game loads, is the gorgeous high-definition (HD) graphics. This is by far one of the best looking games to date. As you trudge through the different terrains, fighting the plethora of alien enemies, you can’t help being impressed by the incredible landscapes, and amazing realism that surrounds you. If you have played any of the Halo games before, then you are familiar with the game play. But Halo 3 continues the fun, by introducing a number of new vehicles, weapons and characters. The artificial intelligence (AI) of the characters is also impressive – providing more challenging game play.
Bungie, the game’s developer has introduced some really cool tools and features this time around. Like the addition of 4 player co-op over Xbox Live, and the ability to record your game play and send clips to all your buddies. The game also includes a new map building component called Forge. Forge allows players to “tweak, create, or even destroy the objects present on any multiplayer map.” In other words, players are able to customize maps, and then upload to Xbox Live for others to play.
If you already own an Xbox 360, then Halo 3 is an absolute must for your game collection…and if you don’t, what are you waiting for? It is an impressive game for a number of reasons, but I think the most important reason to pick it up, is the fun game play and ability to kick some alien butt with your buddy down the street or someone on the other side of the planet, over Xbox Live. So come on and join the fight to save the galaxy, and join the millions of fans who’ve already taken the pledge to “finish the fight”!