Friday, February 27, 2009

Heroes "Fugitive"

The first four episodes of Heroes: Volume Four are a welcome return to the series roots, despite recycling some plots. The overall plot has been simplified and characters writen/killed off which is only a good thing. A new villain in the form of "The Hunter", a government assassin whose conflict with Nathan will definitely spice things up.

Still there are a couple of annoyance. We have more Claire/Daddy(ies) issues to content with. On the upside Claire has already proven thus that she can finally stand up to her adopted dad by finally coming clean with her mum - thus having her pap getting kicked out of the family home. Personally I think it is finally time the writers kill off either Claire or HRG.

Anybody remember that incredibly annoying character called West? Well he hasn't been writen back in (thank you). However another equally annoying character has been introduced. Luke, whose known power is the ability to emit microwave beams, is Sylar's new 'best buddy'. Forcing himself into Sylar's 'road trip', Luke has consistently annoyed me (and judging by forums online, many others as well). He may be written in as a plot device, but that does not make me like him any more. Like West, I think the character will ultimately prove to be a pointless waste of time but I hope the writers will prove me wrong.

Finally I do not like how the writers are so reliant on Matt's precog painting ability as a Deux ex Machine device. In the first series, the whole paint the future plot was ambiguous. Instead now the heroes just use it as a reference to decide what to do next. Back in season one, Isaac Mendez's paintings were used as plot devices that allows the writers to fit everything in as the series progress - allowing for very clever storylines, but here... Ugh. Matt would occasional paint what would happen a minute or two later - which is a complete waste of screen time.

Despite all of these complaints, I am actually enjoying Heroes more than ever (anything is better than the previous two volumes). Looking forward to seeing how the heroes would deal with Nathan. And that Irish chick.


I know it is pointless writing about Ryanair here as their management has made it pretty clear that they hate us lunatic bloggers. Still I thought I should. Having never flew on Ryanair before, I can honestly say I am glad I never did. More hassle (and hidden costs) than its worth.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


It is still early days for Joss Whedon's new series. But so far I do not have much hope for it. Like Firefly I expect its days are already numbered, but whilst I loved Firefly almost immediately; I can't say the same about Dollhouse, which first two aired episodes haven't exactly courted much positive opinions.

The primary reason for my dislike so far is the lack of genuine characters. I have trouble caring for Echo (Elisha Dushku), the main character whose memory is wiped clean at the end of every episode; nor do I feel any sort of connection between her and her handler - the only person who is supposed to have that connection. The script is also too serious for its own sake - there are no witty dialogue apart from forced conversations filled with cliché. I also dislike the formulaic and episodic standalone nature of the series so far. Editing could also be better as scenes seems to be put together rather haphazardly.

I do believe it has potential and for now I will continue watching because I still have some faith in Whedon delivering the goods. Regardless, this shows needs more Romo, Helo and good writers; and less Elisha Dushku. Oh, and cast Summer Glau stat!

LittleBigPlanet, MotorStorm: Arctic Edge coming to PSP

My PSP has been gathering dust for some time (although much less than my DS Lite and Wii). Anyway news that versions of LittleBigPlanet and MotorSotorm will finally make its way to Sony's first portable console is a huge positive development. I love LittleBigPlanet and arcade racing games in general, and as I am the type of guy who actually prefer to play games in bed, I am really looking forward to these two titles. Assassin's Creed will also be making its way to the console. Judging by their DS effort, I can't honestly say I am looking forward to this.

Finally and more importantly, Atlus has also confirmed that the first Persona game will be ported to the PSP. The port will feature an updated interface, new music, cutscenes and a new localisation effort (hopefully with the original Japanese character art intact).

With these new announcements, Patapon 2, Disgaea 2, Prinny and Dissidia, perhaps it is time to get excited about the PSP again.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock

As expected the final five Cylons finally reunites, and just as we were starting to warm up to Ellen, she goes all sluttish on us again. Still at least we have Boomer back! Oh, I can't wait for a Boomer/Athena showdown, though I do not mind her getting back with Galen. Speaking of Galen, I found him to be out of character in Deadlock when he voted with Tory that the Cylons should abandon the fleet.

Overall a pretty weak episode, in my opinion. For example Adama arming Baltar's cult seems to be a rather foolish act by the Admiral. Hopefully this is merely a set up for a grand final episodes.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Canon G9 impressions

I am still getting to grips with the Canon G9. Coming from the Casio, I am not really impressed by the Canon UI, but I am getting there. It isn't easy to unlearn four years of UI bias. There are a tons of options available at my disposal and so far I guess I've only took advantage of 10% of them. It will be some time before I come close to taking full advantage of the G9.

At 370g, this is one heavy camera which built quality rivals that of a digital SLR body. It is very well built and feels solid. The screen is lovely and despite using the second lowest brightness setting, it was viewable outdoors in the sun. Buttons are appropriately placed. The shutter release is placed on the top of a zoom rocker (similar to the one my P600) and gives good tactile feedback. The G9 features a 35-210mm (35mm equivalent) lens (6x optical zoom).

The battery life seems to be pretty good. I took 379 pictures at the highest resolution/quality before the camera shuts down, and that includes some flash photography and fiddling around with the settings, deleting pictures and stuff.

Some pictures:

Wide angle (35mm equivalent):

Telephoto (120mm equivalent):

Macro shots:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Canon G9

The Canon G9 may be old news, but it is still an impressive digital compact camera. So impressive that I've decided to replace my trusty but ageing Casio P600 (which I have been using since 2005), with it, even despite the new Canon G10. Still, with £200 separating the two models I can't justify myself to get the latest and greatest compact when I can easily get a new well regarded entry level digital SLR for less.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: No Exit

So it has finally come to this. For four years we have waited and finally today the history of Cylon skinjobs was revealed in this episode. The revelation that the final five, who originally hailed from Earth, were creators of the Cylon skinjobs is pretty plausible even if it is pretty obvious that the writers are sort of making them up as they go along...

The relationship between Ellen, the brain behind the technology, and Brother Cavil (whom she refers as John) is particularly intriguing. The episode features some memorable scenes such as when Cavil in his best Agent Smith of The Matrix persona attempts to justify his hatred and vengence against the human race, hating his organic and limited humanoid ability in contrast to his other Cylon ancestors (the Centurions).

It would be interesting to see where Battlestar Galactica heads next. The fact that the ship itself will be repaired using Cylon basestar biological material itself will no doubt be used as a plot device within the final five episodes. I also can't wait to see Adama's reaction when he finally comes face to face with Boomer.

Then there is the revelation that there is yet another boxed 13th Cylon model (number seven) dubbed as 'Daniel', whom many has speculated to be either Starbuck or Baltar. I have my theories which you can read on my Twitter feed.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Epic God of War III trailer

The new God of War III trailer has been released today. Apparently the video was rendered in-game, meaning in real time. The whole scene took place on a Titan's back (probably Gaia) while it scales upwards towards Olympus! It's like Shadow of the Colossus on steroids. You can download the 1080p trailer here.

Cowon D2 20% off weekend offer

Boy are you guys lucky. Just got an e-mail from Advanced MP3 Player. If you use the code 586bbc you can obtain Cowon's popular D2 DAP for 20% less. That makes the 16GB D2 with next day Fedex shipping only £124.50.

Persona 4 PAL version out 13th March

The last great PS2 game, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 4, will finally arrive at this shores next month. The PAL release, courtesy of publisher Square Enix, is due here on 13th March and will apparently include a 24 track soundtrack CD. I have already listened to the OST and it is well worth owning it. You can pre-order it now for £17.99.

In the mean time do play Persona 3: FES if you want to know what the fuss is all about.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sennheiser IE 8 in-ear headphone review

The IE 8 is Sennheiser's flagship high-end in-ear headphones. With a suggested retail price of £263/US$450 (the street and online price is significantly cheaper) the IE 8 forms part of the upper end of universal fit in-ear headphones and is designed to compete with established products like the Shure SE530, Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 Pro, Westone 3 and Klipsch Custom 3. Thie Sennheiser model is unique as it is one of the very few high end IEMs that uses dynamic transducers instead of balanced armatures. Also, among the IE series, the IE 8 is the only model to be fitted with a modular cable allowing the user to replace the cable with different lengths and stuff as well as a tune-able bass system.

Specifications and stuff:

Frequency response: 10 Hz – 20 kHz
Sensitivity: 125 dB SPL/mW (1mW)
Nominal impedance: 16 ohms
Attenuation: up to 26 dB (95%)
Transducer: Dynamic
Headphone weight: 5 grams

For your money Sennheiser ships the IE 8 in a nice tin metal case. Whether or not these are useful is debatable, but maybe Sennheiser thought a nice tin metal case would appeal to users who likes to feel 'premium' and pampered. Inside the box contains a a massive amount of accessories, some useful, some not so much. Various tips (single flange silicons, double flange silicons, Shure black olives-like foamies and bizarre ridge silicon thingies) are included, a tool with ear wax cleaner and screw driver (for the bass knob), shirt cable clip and memory wire holder (similar in function to the one on the Klipsch Customs but removable).

Also included is an over engineered protective case that is lined with 'dry salt pads'. These pads are said to 'control the humidity' of the case whilst also absorbing any sweats. May be useful for people who excercise with $300 headphones. The case itself, while nice and pretty, is overtly complicated for everyday use. I wonder how much time and R&D is wasted on this? They even designed a compartment so that the user can keep a silicon gel bag! Dear Sennheiser, a zipped semi-hardcase, like the one Klipsch bundles, is more than sufficient.

Now on to the IE 8 itself. My first impression is I thought it was a fake because of how light the overall package was. The IE 8 is like the Kate Moss of the IEM world especially when compared to the CX 95 and Klipsch Custom 3 which felt awfully heavy afterwards. Built quality seems to be good and the industrial design is a nice change from the streamlined design favoured by other manufacturers. The IE 8 uses a modular cable meaning that if you ever lose your cable or fancy a different length cable you can always order one from Sennheiser and just plug in the new one. It also means you do not have to purchase a whole new IEM just because the cable breaks. Not that you should feel worried as the bundled cable is thick, flexible and seems well constructed.

The IE 8 are pretty comfortable on my ears. I've read that due to the IE 8's design many has been experiencing problems getting a good fit/seal. The problem stems from the short nozzle/large driver body design which prevents users from pushing the tip all the way in. Klipsch cleverly avoided the same problem despite sharing a similar design by extending the nozzle where as with the CX 95, the problem is none-existent due to the slim driver body. On a personal note I am happy to report I've not experienced such a problem despite only using the medium single flange tips. IE 8 has always held securely onto my ears and does not dislodge despite doing silly faces and whatnots. However they do don't isolate as well as the Klipsch Customs with the silicon tips, though they are far less microphonics (in fact almost none-existent).

Like Sleek Audio's SA6, the IE 8 allows the user to customise the sound somewhat. But rather than using modular treble tips and bass ports which are easily misplaced, Sennheiser's boffins decided to engineer in a small knob that allows the user to control the bass response to something that is more to their liking. A small sound adjuster screwdriver-like tool is included for this. Personally I find the bass response to be more than adequate with the minimal setting but bass heads will no doubt love this feature and will take advantage of the knob the moment they can. I do turn it up a notch or two when listening to electronica music and find the bass beats are phenomenal. It feels like there are tiny subwoofers in your head.

The IE 8 has to be one of the most average sounding high-end IEM I've listened to out of the box. Like many IE 8 owners I found the initial bass response to be bloated and harsh. This is because unlike the Klipsch Custom series I reviewed in December, the IE 8 uses a single dynamic moving-coil driver which tends to require burn-in period before they shine. Leaving aside the fact that I personally think that Sennheiser should be the one doing the burn-in dirty work at the factory, I left the IE 8 to burn while listening to it at intervals. The upside of using dynamics is the wide frequency response and better bass response.

After just a couple of hours burn-in, the bass tames a little and the clarity improves. With further burn-ins, the IE 8 turned from an average sounding headphone to something that was well capable of delivering great midrange definition. The once recessed highs were blooming and the initial dark sound is all but gone, though they were still a little bit muddy. At this point I notice how vocals is one of the strength of the IE 8. They were clear and smooth. There were no issues with sibilance during my period with the IE 8, except perhaps with badly recorded music.

50 hours of listening later (I've stopped burning-in by then) IE 8's soundstage is simply astonishing - with depths unheard of in any IEMs I've ever owned/listened to. It makes for a pleasant change from the sound signature of more "inside-head" IEMs, like the Klipsch Custom 3, as this increases instrumental seperation. The clarity is amazing and while the resolution isn't nearly as detailed as the Custom 3, it is still pretty good. Even the highs improved, though still not nearly as forward as the Custom 3 or as extended as a Etymotic headphone. Mind you, both are very different IEMs. While the Klipsch has a very clinical sound, the IE 8 seems to be have a softer grainier texture with a wider dynamic range at its disposal.

If you do not require the bass knob or modular cable, then you should also consider the IE 7, the IE 8's slightly more svelte and cheaper Darth Vader-like cousin. Apparently they sound just as good as the IE 8 with the bass knob set to low. Even if the cable isn't replaceable, they ought to last long. Still the IE 8 is, at least for the moment, the pinnacle of dynamic transducer based in-ear headphones. They sound wonderfully like open headphones with amazing sound quality to match.

Perhaps the worse thing about the IE 8 is how they expose some badly ripped and low bitrate tracks, thus forcing me to re-rip some of my music collection - something that I should have done a long time ago if I weren't being such a lazy arse. With very strong and tight bass impact and extension, amazingly wide soundstage, strong lush mids and treble extension; combined in a thoughtfully light package, the IE 8 is without a doubt one of the best portable headphones you can buy today. Happy listening.

The good stuff
Open headphone-like soundstage
Good thumping bass
Lush mids
Very light
Modular cable
Good selection of tips
Standard two years warranty

The bad stuff
Fit may be an issue, this is one IEM you should try before you buy
Noise attenuation is less compared to other brands
Lousy case

The Sennheiser IE8 is available at Amazon UK or Advanced MP3 Player (use the voucher code head10 to obtain 10% off). US residents can also order them

Monday, February 9, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: Blood on the Scales

This episode concludes the Zarek/Gaeta mutiny two-parter arc that began in The Oath. Personally I found it to be a less than satisfying episode due to the speed in which the mutiny was defeated. Do not get me wrong, I do not want to see the coup arc stretched seeing that there are only six episodes left. But I do want to see some resolution - like what will happen to Seelix, Racetrack and all the other mutineers. Hopefully such deleted scenes will make it to the DVD/Blu-Ray box-set.

Despite my issues this episode still have some great memorable scenes. Everybody will remember the performance of Mary McDonnell as a now battle hardened Laura Roslin, whose speech from the Basestar frightens Gaeta and even gains the respect from the rebel Cylons. The final conversation between Gaius Baltar and Felix Gaeta was also an effective way of saying goodbye to the traitor.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Sennheiser IE 8 first impressions

The IE 8 is Sennheiser's flagship high-end in-ear monitor headphones. Costing around £200, the IE 8 is designed to compete with established high-end universal fit IEMs like the Shure SE530, Ultimate Ears Triple.Fi 10 Pro and Westone 3. The IE 8 is unique as it is one of the very few high end IEMs that uses a dynamic transducer instead of the more popular approach of using multiple balanced armature drivers. It is also Sennheiser's first IEM that allows the user to fine-tune the bass response and also the only in-ear headphone by the company that is fitted with a modular cable.

I've only had it for less than two days, so please bear with me. After all this is merely an impression. I've read that many had problems getting the correct fit with the IE8 (and to a certain extent, the IE 7). Maybe I am lucky but I have not experience such a problem. They do not go as deep as my Klipsch Custom 3 or CX 95, but they do seal well. On the other hand the isolation isn't as good as the Klipsch Custom 3 with the stock single flange tips, but proved adequate for Tube journeys. Sennheiser has also provided a vast selection of tips, including bi-flange silicon tips as well as foamies that resembles Shure's black olives. I've not tried them yet.

The initial sound (out of box, new) was harsh. The bass was muddy and the soundstage practically none-existent. I do not believe in the requirement of burn-in period (manufacturers should do it in the factory level), but I did burn it in for an hour before my second listen to avoid some form of mental burn in. Upon listening the IE 8's initial muddy bass is gone, but the treble were still recessed. The initial sharp sound that gave me fatigue when listening to female vocals were also gone. Today after roughly 20 hours of burn in, the bass response has improved dramatically and while the highs were still recessed, I found that the soundstage to finally open up.

I will continue listening to them, but if the burn-in are of any indication I believe this would be one of the best in-ear headphones I've ever have the pleasure of listening to. The clarity is already as good as my Klipsch Custom 3 but with more bass impact. Look out for a review sometime next week.

The Sennheiser IE 8 is available at Amazon UK for £199.99 or Advanced MP3 Player for £220.02 inc. worldwide delivery (use the voucher code head10 to obtain 10% off). US residents can also order them from

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

UK snow

Pictures of Monday's snow:

Nokia N810 for £179.99

Screw netbooks - what you really want and need is a MID. Unfortunately most of them cost more than netbooks! Not any more it seems (yay for credit crunch). Expansys is selling the Nokia N810 for £179.99. Yep that's built-in GPS, screen with 800x480 resolution, 45 hours of music, slide out QWERTY keypad and Linux OS goodness all for £179.99!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Battlestar Galactica: The Oath

Adama and Tigh looks pretty bad ass. That's all I will say about this episode.