Archive for November, 2005

Dell lost?

This article really shows why buyers should be considering suppliers that are not Intel only providers such as Dell.

http://www.gamepc.com/labs/view_content.asp?id=paxville&page=1&cookie%5Ftest=1

The review puts Intels latest offering against AMDs, and the results are quite amazing. Rather than Intel pulling ahead in some benchmarks, AMD blows away the competition, providing much more efficient, higher performing servers for lower prices.

If I was Dell, I would really be thinking about my choices at the moment… corporate IT will look at reviews like this and see the savings.

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Microsoft Mappoint Extranet Browser unfriendly

You just have to love it when a big corporation (Microsoft) that wants to sell services (Mappoint), just has no concept of what the world wants.

I just tried to sign up for a developer account for access to the Mappoint Web Services, but on visiting their website I just get a raw aspx error page! Contacting their support staff and they say”

“It is only compatible with IE 6.0 and once IE 7.0 is released it will be compatible with that as well.

MPNET”

Wonderful. I told you that myself. No care or thought about fixing it? Or perhaps changing the error message to an error page listing compatibility etc.

They don’t deserve an application being written that uses their services if that’s their attitude. Doesn’t look good when a product that claims to provide ‘web services’ can’t even provide a W3C compliant signup web site.

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utorrent – the new best Bittorrent Client?

Having been an Azureus user for a long time, probably back before most people had even heard of it, I have enjoyed using Azureus with the comfort that it is the best Bittorrent client out there. Featurewise it has always been way ahead of the pack, and while some people complain about performance, on my PC it used to take virtually no CPU time, although I’ll admit the Java runtime does enjoy using memory.

Last week I discovered a new client that has changed my views on what is the best for me. utorrent. utorrent is tiny. My first download was 96k. 96k! For that, you get something that looks just like Azureus, works like Azureus, but is about 100th of the size. In use, it uses just 6MB of RAM. Total. And CPU-wise it uses basically nothing too. Most impressive.

When I first used it, while I was really impressed, it was still missing a key feature essential for me – DHT. DHT is a distributed database which means that if a torrent tracker is down, your client can still find other people with the file to share with. Version 1.2 added that feature, and that was the catalyst for my change.

I think that for some, Azureus will still have a permanent home. Azureus is highly extendable, with many plug-ins available to enhance it. utorrent doesn’t do that, so if you love your peer blocker, or rss feed checker, then stick with Azureus for now, however if you have a slow PC that struggles to run Azureus, or if you just want a good, small client that covers the core functionality, then you may want to check out utorrent now.

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Blockbuster Online Review

I’ve been using Blockbuster online now for a few months, and it’s now time to put down my experiences.

I signed up to the free trial period and was happy with the delivery time of 2 days to get my DVDs. The DVDs arrived in little protective envelopes which I thought were really neat. You open them, tear off the flap with your address on it and then have the ability to close and re-post them back to Blockbuster. Very painless. Whoever came up with that envelope design was thinking clearly that day.

The DVDs are, well, the same DVDs that you’d get at your local store. You don’t get the cases; instead the DVDs are in a protective sleeve like you get with PC CDs sometimes. Functional.

You manage your DVD selection through an online account, and DVDs are queued up by you in order of delivery preference. More on that later. When you pop your DVD back in the post and Blockbuster receives it, then they should send the next item from the list.

Then the circle continues, and the customer is always happy. Right? Well not quite. I’ve had several issues with the service which I’ll list here:

DVD Quality

Unfortunately I’ve had several DVDs that arrived with scratches on them and of course it’s only halfway through a good movie that you get interrupted and your viewing pleasure is broken. Blockbuster does have a facility in your online account to report the DVD as broken, but I can’t believe they don’t do a visual check before sending them out in the first place. Some have had serious gouges in them.

Turnaround time

The time it takes the DVD to get back from you to Blockbuster and then back again is very important. Say it takes 1 day to travel in the mail both ways. Then it will take 4 days before it returns to you: the day mailed, day received at Blockbuster (who then appears to process it overnight), day mailed, and the day received back by you.

Rarely does it take 4 days though. This week I mailed my DVDs at 5am Monday. On Thursday they finally were ‘received’ by Blockbuster (you get an email telling you that). They may send out the new DVDs today, but more often they go tomorrow and so it will be around a week’s turnaround before I get them back, enabling 4 watches under their ‘unlimited’ plan each month. Now under their ‘limited’ plans you only get 4 rentals… not sure on the gain here. I guess it depends on where you live as to how long the mail takes, but I’d expect same day dispatch of new DVDs when the old are received.

Pricing

A couple of months back Blockbuster raised their prices. My plan went from 14.99 to 17.99, with the ‘benefit’ of receiving a free ex-rental movie to own every month. Sadly though the selection of ‘free’ DVDs is listed on the coupons provided, and they are (a) generally rubbish you’d never want anyway, and (b) never available to have. So basically it was just a price hike. I still think it’s reasonable a good price for this general service, if it just worked a little better.

Coupons

Each month you receive 2 or 3 free coupons through your online account to enable you to rent DVDs for free from your local store. This actually works well. It allows you to fill gaps when they’ve not returned DVDs, or if you suddenly get the urge to rent something else. You do have to be a member of your local store though for some reason.

Queue

The DVD distribution is managed via your Q. This is a system that lets you select which DVDs you want delivered and to prioritize them in order of delivery preference. Neat idea. However I’ve had one DVD sat at the top of my Q for the last 3 deliveries. It shows available but for some reason they’re not sending it which is annoying because it’s the last DVD of a multi-DVD series of Alias, and I need to see the last few episodes!

Summary

I quite like Blockbuster online. It is value for money. For the price of a couple of movie tickets you can get ‘unlimited’ rentals. However you have to be prepared to be patient with delivery times, accept that it’s not really ‘unlimited’, and have some reserve plans in place for when the DVDs don’t play.

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