Posts in category 'toys'

  • On the Apple Bandwagon

    Well, I finally did it. A couple weeks ago, I finally bit the bullet and replaced my aging Palm TX with a brand spanking new fourth generation iPod Touch.

    And so far? Fabulous.

    I’d been reluctant to buy a device to replace my old Palm, as none of the new hardware seemed all that compelling. The Palm, with its 480x360 screen, has been comparable to anything on the market for a long long time. And from a software standpoint, it already handled what I did most with it: read.

    But with the new Touch, with it’s gorgeous 960x640 screen, I finally had a reason to migrate. And in doing so, I realized just how much the limitations of the TX were preventing me from truly using the device.

    In particular, with the Touch, I suddenly find myself using it to:

    • Read and write emails.
    • Check and post to facebook.
    • Chat online with people on Facebook and Google chat.
    • Browse the web.
    • Follow my RSS feeds.
    • Track my TODO items.
    • Keep notes in my personal wiki.
    • Look things up in Wikipedia and IMDB.

    All in addition to the usual tasks of reading and listening to music. Most of this wasn’t possible on my Palm because either the browser sucked, or the applications simply weren’t available or comfortable to use due to the rather craptacular stylus-based input system. Plus, the increased resolution of the 4g Touch makes reading small text a lot easier, and so reading and browsing the web is far more comfortable than on the TX.

    As for apps, so far, my absolute favorite discoveries are:

    Trunk Notes. This has has replaced Wikidpad as my personal wiki, and allows me to create a web of interconnected text that can be browsed and edited from both my computer (through a web interface) or on the device itself. Suddenly my entire recipe collection, my set of guitar tabs, and loads of other stuff, is available wherever I am!

    Appigo Todo. I’m actually getting things done. It’s bizarre.

    MobileRSS. It is what it says, and it works well. Syncs with Google Reader. Easy-to-use swipe gestures for moving between items. Embedded browser. Good stuff.

    Stanza. An e-book reader that integrates beautifully with Calibre, which runs on my laptop and acts as my e-book library.

    Of course, there’s tons of little tools and utilities I’ve bought along the way (GoodReader for PDF reading and annotating, Tunemark for streaming music, Dropbox, Google Earth, Skype, iSSH…), but these are the ones I use on a consistent, day-to-day basis.

    And yes, before you ask, I’ve also jailbroken. I’m not sure why, yet (although SBSettings is awfully nice), but it’s fun to get a shell on the thing, even if it’s just to say I can.

  • The Goban Has Arrived!

    Well, as usual, it’s been a while. This time I’m writing about another one of my many hobbies, in this case, Go. It’s a very old game from the far east (at least a couple thousand years old), with millions and millions of players in the East Asian region, and growing popularity in Europe and North America.

    Anyway, I finally decided to spoil myself and sink some money into a decent Goban (board) and a nice set of stones. Up to this point, I had an el cheapo board with some glass stones, and even then, rarely had an opportunity to use it, thanks to a dearth of opponents (which is unfortunate, as Go really is a very enjoyable game, particularly for those who are interested in Chess or similar games of strategy).

    However, recently a friend (the one who introduced me to Go) and I, along with a number of his buddies, have started a Go night on thursdays, so I figure I can finally justify getting a decent set, since it will actually get used. Below are a bunch of pictures of the set, which I purchased from Go-gamestore (a company conveniently located in Ontario!). I was lucky to get in on a sale which included a 1” Spruce standard Japanese board and a set of bi-convex Yunzi stones and bamboo bowls, all for $110, and that includes shipping!

    First we have a shot of the set itself. Here you see the goban and the stones inside their bamboo baskets (eventually, I’d like to get some nice wooden bowls, but the baskets are not that bad, in actuality).

    Next we have the board by itself. It’s got a slightly shiny finish, and the lines are crisp and clear, with only a couple flaws (the far side of the board in the picture is a little banged up… but, for the price, I’m not complaining).

    Here is a shot of the board with a pro game in progress.

    Next, a close up of the stones (admittedly not the greatest picture).

    The back of the board, as it was originally shipped, had a nice, smooth finish, but was otherwise blank. I decided to take advantage of this and drew a 9x9 board on the back, which will come in very handy for Go night, since the other players are beginners, and thus haven’t graduated to a full 19x19 board, yet.

    It turned out pretty decent, in my opinion. The lines were drawn with a fine Sharpie (though they’re still a bit thicker than I’d like), and I used an edge guide to keep the lines nice and parallel. The board itself is almost centered on the goban… apparently I neglected to measure twice, and so the whole thing is shifted 0.5 centimeters to one side. :)

    The stones themselves are quite interesting. Traditionally, Go stones are made from slate, for black, and, believe it or not, shell for white. The white stones are made by boring out circular portions of clam shell and then rounding them off. This means that, for a 10mm-thick stone, you need a 10mm-thick shell! Thus, these stones tend to be out of the price range for your average Go player.

    For normal people, typical stones are made from either glass (like my other set), or plastic, possibly with a weight inside (these are known as Ing stones). However, another variety of stone, invented by the Chinese, is the Yunzi. This stone is made from sintered (powered and melted down) jade for black, and quartz for white (in other words, they’re actually stones :). The result is that the white stones are very slightly translucent, and the black stones are, in fact, very dark green, though this can only really be seen when they are held up to the light, as you can see in the following image:

    Like slate stones, black Yunzi should be oiled, which gives them a nice sheen. The stones are quite heavy (certainly heavier than my glass stones), with a slightly rough finish, and have a fairly high specific heat capacity, making them feel cool to the touch. They’re quite enjoyable to play with, and given their modest price, make an excellent higher-end stone for amateurs like myself (although they’re also the preferred stone for professional tournaments in China).