Archive for May, 2007

YouTube player gets new look and feel

new YouTube playerYouTube’s embeddable flash video player is being given a makeover that adds improvements to its user interface, along with some additional functionality. The unofficial Google blog, Google Operating System, discovered some instances of the new player, and has published screen shots and further details.

New functionality includes the ability to skip forward to any point in the video, even before it’s finished loading (something inherited from Google Video). The new version of the player also improves the way it handles recommendations; hover your mouse over the video and a Mac OSX-like dock pops up, offering thumbnails of related videos.

Accessing the embed code has also become easier. Click on the menu button and you’re given two options: grab the embed code for the video or the URL of the YouTube page that displays the video.

Will ISPs spoil the online video party?

Joost logoWith an ever greater amount of video being consumed online, many Internet users are in for a shock. There’s a dirty little secret in the broadband industry: Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don’t have the capacity to deliver the bandwidth that they claim to offer. One way ISPs attempt to conceal this problem is to place a cap of say 1GB per-month per user, something which is common in the UK for many of the lower-cost broadband packages on the market. Considering that a mere three hours viewing of Joost (the new online video service from the founders of Skype — see our review) would all but use up this monthly allowance, it’s clear that lots of Internet users aren’t invited to the party.

But what about those who (like me) pay more for ‘unlimited’ broadband access? There shouldn’t be a problem, right? Wrong.

Continue reading »

Weekly wrapup, 21-25 May 2007

It’s been a busy first week here on last100, starting with our launch — which included a generous welcome from TechCrunch! (Thanks Mike). To keep with the party mood, we also gave away over 100 invites to try out Joost (see below).

Here’s a summary of the week’s digital lifestyle action on last100. Note that you can subscribe to the weekly wrapups, either via the special weekly wrapup RSS feed or by email.

Enter your email address:

Continue reading »

Google Calendar goes mobile

Google Calendar mobileAlthough most modern cell phones have a built-in calendar application, trying to sync your appointments (or remembering to do so) between different devices, such as a smart phone and desktop computer, can be a hassle. An increasingly viable alternative — as mobile web access becomes ubiquitous and more affordable — is to store your data ‘in the clouds’ by using web applications such as those provided by Google and Yahoo. But for this to work requires those companies to create a mobile-friendly version of their web app — which for email, both companies have done, but until now, only Yahoo (out of the two) offered a mobile-friendly version of their calendar app.

In typical Google-like fashion, its mobile version of Calendar is a simple affair — perhaps a little bit too minimalistic. You can browse appointments, and add new ones, but curiously, you don’t seem to be able to edit an existing one.

To check out the mobile-friendly version of Calendar, point your phone’s browser to (or if your device doesn’t redirect automatically, or you want to check out the mobile version from a desktop browser, visit

Poll: does the AppleTV spell the end for the Mac mini?

Mac miniAppleInsider caused a few ripples in the Mac blogosphere when they recently claimed that Cupertino will soon discontinue the Mac mini (Apple’s sub-$800 entry level Macintosh.). The reasoning is that Apple was never 100% behind the device, which, AppleInsider suggests, was only released to appease shareholder wishes.

Since then, the Mac mini has been treated to a rather mundane life-cycle. It has seen just four updates since inception, one of which was so insignificant in Apple’s own eyes that the company didn’t even bother to draft a press release.

However, one of those updates was a switch to an Intel processor, and perhaps more importantly, the addition of Apple’s Front Row software. For many Mac fans (including myself), this confirmed the device’s potential as a media center. When I bought my Intel-based Mac mini, I plugged it straight into my television, where it’s remained ever since.

Then along came the AppleTV

Continue reading »

PS3 update adds Vista media streaming and more

Sony PS3Sony’s PS3 has joined the ranks of the AppleTV, XBox 360, and numerous media extenders from companies such as Linksys and Netgear, in trying to solve the “last 100 feet” problem. A new firmware update to Sony’s next generation game console adds media extender capabilities, so that content stored on a Vista compatible PC (or any DLNA-supported device, including Macs) can be streamed to the PS3.

According to the release, the update also enables:

  • Upscaling of PlayStation / PlayStation 2 games and DVD movies up to a full 1080p when viewed on a compatible HDTV set.
  • Access to PS3 stored media from a PSP via the Internet (not just a local WiFi network).
  • Printing of digital photos stored on a PS3s hard drive or inserted storage media. Currently, select Epson printers connected via USB are compatible. In addition, users will find a new type of slideshow for displaying photos, zoom functionality and the option to crop images.

Pretty impressive stuff, especially accessing PS3 content from a PSP connected to the net. Welcome to the last100 Sony!

BT and Sony to bring VoIP to PSP

Sony PSPBT and Sony have inked a four year deal that will see the two companies bring voice calls, video conferencing, and IM functionality to PlayStationPortable (PSP) users across Europe. The partnership intends to integrate the PSP with BT’s existing broadband video and voice ‘softphone’ products, and in the following months, additional features will be launched to enable calls and messages to PCs, fixed lines and mobiles. The service will initially roll-out in the UK, with other parts of European to follow.

In a joint press release, Steve Andrews, BT chief, Mobility and Convergence, is quoted as saying:

“The PSP is an excellent device for both gaming and communications, because of its high quality screen and audio capabilities. With over 8 million PSPs shipped across Europe, we are very excited by the opportunity to give customers a whole new communications experience, connecting and seeing friends across the world through BT’s technology”.

It’s certainly true that Sony’s hand held game console has a very nice screen and good audio, but I can see a couple of issues holding it back from being a really useful communications device. Instant Messaging will be a pain, as there is no touch screen or physical keyboard. Additionally, the machine will have to connect over WiFi, and in the UK at least, we are far from free or low cost ubiquitous WiFi access, and I don’t think the PSP’s younger users are going to have the spending power to hang out at Starbucks all day long — making it OK for use around the home, but not really viable as a mobile communications device.

Update: The BBC has more details, including a video demonstrating the snap-on video camera for video calls. Also of note, the new PSP functionality will only work on home or BT wireless hotspots because it utilises BT’s 21 Century Network (21CN), which is specifically designed for Internet Protocol (IP) technology such as VoIP.

ChatPad: XBox 360's soon-to-be released thumboard

Xbox 360 ChatPadThe recent dashboard update to the XBox 360 delivered Windows Live Messenger functionality to Microsoft’s next-generation console, which the company claimed, makes Xbox Live “the largest social network on television.” However, right now Xbox users are limited to inputing text using a virtual on-screen keyboard or can choose to plug in a USB one — which is hardly ideal. To solve this problem, Microsoft will soon be releasing a new input device called the ChatPad, which adds a snap-on QWERTY thumb-board to the traditional XBox controller.

Charles Husemann, over at GamingNexus, got his hands on a prototype of the device, and was impressed:

It’s a pretty tight fit so you don’t have to worry about accidentally knocking it off during gameplay. The unit isn’t really that heavy and doesn’t really impact the weight or balance of the Xbox 360 controller. I think this is something that a lot of people will snap on and leave on.

Using the buttons will take a little getting used to but like any small QWERTY keyboard once you get used to it you’ll be ripping off long diatribes in no time.

Husemann also reveals that the ChatPad has a backlight, which automatically turns on and off as you start and stop typing, rather like a mobile phone. Microsoft claims that this means the backlighting won’t impact too much on battery life.

Husemann concludes:

[the ChatPad] feels great, and I think a lot of people are going to snap this sucker up (especially now that Live is hooked into Live Messenger). Pricing and availability haven’t been announced yet but I think this is going to be another great Xbox accessory that a lot of people are going to want to pick up.

From what I know of the product, I think Husemann is spot on.

What’s also clear is that Windows Live Messenger integration, along with the XBox’s media extender (and forthcoming IPTV) functionality, further positions the game console as Microsoft’s trojan horse, designed to deliver Internet services into the living room.

Pandora on your mobile and in your living room

Pandora anywherePandora has launched its new ‘anywhere’ platform, which will see the music discovery service being available to devices beyond the PC — both mobile and around the home. If you’re not familiar with the service, Pandora is based on the Music Genome Project where a group of experts have analyzed the component parts or ‘genes’ of the musical works of over 10,000 artists. The result of which is that you can tell Pandora to create a radio station based on songs that have similar ‘genes’ to a chosen artist or track. However, until now, aside from a partnership with Slim Devices (makers of the excellent Squeezebox), Pandora was only available through a flash-compatible web browser.

Continue reading »

When will Steve Jobs open up the AppleTV?

AppleTVJust weeks before Apple launched it’s AppleTV (then known as the iTV), I wrote a post for ZDNet titled: Could YouTube be the killer-app for Apple’s iTV?. My proposition was that if Apple were to open up its set-top-box it wouldn’t be long before the device became capable of much more than streaming content from a Mac or PC.

Continue reading »