When will personal tech kill in-flight entertainment?
By Adam TURNER
QANTAS' A380 fleet supposedly has an impressive in-flight entertainment system, but give me a power socket and I'll do the rest.
I'm looking forward to my upcoming trip to New York, but I'm not looking forward to the 13 hour flight from Sydney to LAX. Thankfully as a gadget-lover I'll have no shortage of entertainment devices on the plane including a notebook, two smartphones, an iPod shuffle and a Kindle.
I've got them loaded up with enough movies, music and reading material to get me around the world several times. I've had plenty of practice keeping my family entertained on long flights to far north Queensland and back. Thankfully on the A380 I've got access to a power socket at my seat, but I'll still have everything charged up and a portable gadget charger on hand just in case.
I was explaining all this to a friend who asked "but don't they have a great in-flight entertainment system on the A380"? To be honest I hadn't even thought about it. When I can take the movies and music that I'm interested in, why would I want to bother with the in-flight system. Now that I've checked the QANTAS website I can see a list of the movies that will be screening and to be honest I'm not all that impressed.
Once you've got a power point at your disposal, I'm starting to wonder why anyone would bother with the in-flight entertainment system. I guess it's a selling point for airlines in a competitive market, but as tablets and small notebooks become more popular I expect there will be less demand for airlines to provide in-flight entertainment options. With the personal tech revolution ushering in the age of Bring Your Own Entertainment, I think I'd rather watch what I want to watch, when I want to watch it.
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Power cables in New York - there can be only one?
By Adam TURNER
Is it easier to buy a US mains lead for your gadgets when travelling to America, or to carry around a US travel adaptor?
I'm off to New York in a few weeks and I'm thinking about the best way to power my tech. Well, I'm thinking about that and possibly battling my arch nemesis underneath Madison Square Garden. I'd hate to miss our appointment with destiny because my phone ran flat.
I'll be taking my iPhone 4 (perhaps with an AT&T SIM) and my new 11.6-inch HP notebook on the trip. As luck would have it, my first iPhone was shipped over from the US so I have a shiny US two-pronged NEMA-1 iPhone adaptor tucked away in the cupboard. When I bought the HP notebook on the weekend I was please to see that the power supply and the C5/C6 "cloverleaf" AC mains lead are separate, so in theory I could buy a separate two-pronged NEMA-1 cloverleaf AC cable without buying another power supply. I'm concerned a chunky travel adaptor might cover two sockets in my hotel room. A US mains lead would be much more elegant.
Great plan, except for the fact they just don't seem to sell these US cables in Australia. I thought I'd have no trouble finding something like this in Radio Parts or Jaycar, but no luck. I guess there's not enough demand to make it worth stocking them when you can just buy a travel adaptor. You can obviously buy such a cable online from the US, but it might not arrive before I leave.
It seemed like such as elegant solution, but it looks like I'll end up lugging around a travel adaptor after all. I'd hate to miss my date with the Kurgan.
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How attached are you to Apple's 30-pin connector?
By Adam TURNER
Do you care if the iPhone 5 abandons Apple's long-standing connector?
Whether you like Apple or not, you have to admit that it's good at building an ecosystem. Interoperability is certainly one advantage that iGadgets have over the fragmented Android platform, spawning an entire industry around accessories such as iPhone cases, car kits, charge cradles and speaker docks. Many Apple gadget lovers have probably invested as much in accessories as they have in their actual gadgets, but that could all go to waste if Apple opts for a smaller connector on the iPhone 5.
There's strong talk of Apple switching to a connector similar in size to micro-USB, although it's unlikely to actually be micro-USB because that's not Apple's style. If the iPhone does switch to a smaller connector then Apple might release an adaptor or we might see them from third parties, but that won't be a fix-all solution. An adaptor won't help fit the iPhone 5 into the tight-fitting TomTom car kit (pictured above). It also probably won't help the iPhone 5 stand up in an old speaker dock either. I've seen Apple fanboys retort with "but everything is wireless these days via the likes of Bluetooth ". That's of little consolation to someone who bought an iPhone accessory without wireless connectivity because they thought they could trust Apple to stick with the 30-pin connector. Personally if I'm buying audio equipment which features an iPhone dock I also look for an auxiliary input as an insurance policy, but not all gear offers this luxury.
To be fair to Apple, iGadget owners have had a pretty good run when it comes to compatibility. When you buy a new Android device you're often faced with the prospect of all new accessories. But the long-term stability of the iGadget ecosystem means owners have probably invested a lot more in accessories over the years, which means they've actually got a lot more to lose. It's going to come as quite a shock to people who have lived within the Apple ecosystem for the last five to ten years.
Personally I think Apple will also change the dimensions of the iPhone 5, breaking backwards compatibility with most accessories anyway and thus rendering the connector change a moot point. But if we're slugged with a smaller connector, yet not rewarded with a bigger screen, I think you can expect a lot of unhappy iCampers.
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DLNA, AirPlay, WiDi, Miracast - do we need a wireless streaming format war?
By Adam TURNER
Hardware makers are jostling for control over the way we stream video from the couch to the television.
Handheld gadgets are obviously a convenient way to watch video, but when you're sitting on the couch sometimes you want to go old-school and watch videos on your big television. Bridging the gap between your gadgets and your television is getting easier but, as usual, there's a looming format war to contend with.
In theory DLNA should meet all of our home media streaming needs, but if you've ever spent time setting up DLNA servers and clients you'll know that the results can be hit and miss. It can take some tweaking to get your DLNA server to play nicely with your various DLNA clients, especially if some of them have limited video format support. In my experience DLNA often doesn't match the picture quality of playing video straight from a Samba share (assuming your playback device supports this).
If you live an iCentric lifestyle then Apple's AirPlay might be the best streaming format for you. You'll also find Android apps which can tap into the AirPlay ecosystem for streaming music, but streaming video to an Apple TV from non-Apple gadgets is more of a challenge (unless you want to hack the Apple TV to support DLNA (see wiki.awkwardtv.org).
Of course anything Apple can do everyone else thinks they can do better. Intel developed the WiDi standard for streaming video from Intel-powered notebooks, built on the WirelessHD standard, but so far we've only seen a handful of compatible set-top boxes and televisions. Belkin and Netgear also offer gear based on WirelessHD. Meanwhile competing chipmakers such as NVIDIA, Marvell and Texas Instruments are throwing their weight behind Miracast, which is backed by the Wi-Fi Alliance.
The chipmakers have a lot riding on this war if they want to stay relevant in the post-PC era, especially Intel. So it looks like we're in for another lounge room format war, whether we want it or not.
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Foxtel's Olympics tablet app - a taste of things to come?
By Adam TURNER
Foxtel's iPad and Android apps put London 2012 at your fingertips, but only if you're prepared to pay for a full Foxtel subscription.
If you're lucky enough to have access to Foxtel's eight-channel coverage from London you'll appreciate just how painful Nine's eclectic free-to-air coverage really is. But as if Foxtel subscribers weren't spoilt enough, they also get free access to Foxtel's impressive London 2012 Olympic Games app for the iPad and for Android.
Foxtel's London 20120 Olympic app gives full Foxtel subscribers free access to all eight of Foxtel's live Olympic channels, streamed over the internet on roughly a 30-second delay with fairly good picture quality. Unfortunately the iPad app won't let you stream the video to your television via an Apple TV, you can only stream the audio.
The Foxtel app is free for Foxtel subscribers. If you're not a Foxtel subscriber you've the option to pay $50 to access these eight live Foxtel channels on the Xbox 360 or Samsung Smart TV (but unfortunately not the T-Box). This will obviously suit people who don't want to pay for an ongoing Foxtel service (although they lose the ability to timeshift). But the extra bonus for full Foxtel subscribers is that the tablet app also makes it easy to browse through the highlights to catch up on the events you've missed. You can even skip through the sessions to jump to specific events, making it easy to find what you're looking for rather than letting a program director make decisions for you.
Australians can also watch some Olympic clips for free via NineMSN's London 2012 Catch Up service and surprisingly the video will play on the iPad as well as Android, although the picture isn't nearly as crisp as the Foxtel app. The real disappointment with NineMSN's Catch Up service is that you seem to be limited to whatever was screened by Nine. So you generally get snippets, often restricted to the Australians and just the final winning moments, whereas the Foxtel app will show you entire sessions.
Considering the limitations of Nine's disappointing coverage and Catch Up service, I'm sure there are plenty of Australians who would happily hand over their cash to access the Foxtel Olympics app -- if it weren't for the need to sign up for a full Foxtel service. Obviously Foxtel needs to sign up as many full subscribers as possible to cover the cost of the hosting rights, but it will be under extra pressure to be more flexible once the Rio 2016 Olympics roll around.
With the boom in mobile devices, major content providers will start to bypass old world gatekeepers like Foxtel and go directly to end viewers. We've already seen the AFL bypass Foxtel to offer live pay-per-view football matches directly to Telstra mobile customers. The IOC could get similar ideas if Foxtel doesn't become a little more flexible. By 2016 a third of Australian homes will have access to the NBN and practically all of them will have a tablet. If Foxtel doesn't give the people what they want, someone else will.
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