Tag Archives: review

Saal Digital Professional Line Photobook

So, I designed and created a 30×30 photobook using Saal Digital’s downloadable creation tool and a bunch of my own pictures. In truth i was wary of quite how this might turn out, having been forced to use some older pictures from the ancient Canon 350d and equally archaic Medion X44088 MD 86888 as my Olympus camera is still nowhere to be seen several weeks after ordering (thank you Currys, and especially UPS for losing it!) a new one.

Designing was reasonably simple, as there were offers to build the thing intuitively by just importing your pictures to the interface and allowing it to do it for you, as well as fully customisable options so as to add and create to suit your own needs. There were a few glitches along the way, and I found that often when editing myself the interface would switch images so that the layouts were not as I wanted them, and required adjustment.

The images themselves are well produced, apart from one, the only portrait which I’d included, which was far too dark and was pretty much useless. The plates feel premium, rather than cheap, which in truth for a photobook costing £100 they absolutely should do! The editor for the design seemed to be trying to push me to use gatefold images (crossing the two pages) and so trusting this I took a couple of chances with somewhat mixed results.

Because of the glossy pages, unless you’re in constant light it’s actually quite hard to display a picture in gatefold without the light interfering with the viewing, which as you can see on the hooded crow picture, renders it almost 3D but with huge loss of colouration on the left side. This is not due to the image quality at all, purely the nature of the face of the page.

Colour representation though on the starling was fantastic, looking exactly as desired. Contrastingly though San Francisco’s famous bridge seems to just not look right at all. Perhaps the vibrancy of the first picture makes the latter struggle. Either way it was a little disappointing.

There was quite a lot to like about the process though. The ability to change the background from white to black meant that photographs transitioned nicely from one to another, hiding the fold n the centre nicely. I’m still not sure I’d recommend gatefold pictures though, but as you can see, the robin worked well.

Is it worth £100? I guess that’s subjective. You can produce something similar from Google’s photos own designer at a fraction of the price, but I’d not expect it to be at this level of quality. The same too in most print shops in town if you go in armed with your SD card. However, the plethora of options and the binding (my invoice claims the binding constituted 50% of the retail value!) again will not be of this standard. As someone who’s photographed many things I’d have no problem using Saal to produce something I’d then be good with giving to a customer. However, I’m not sure I’d make much of a profit from it! I’m not comfortable with the pricetag, and would suggest its true value being something closer to 20%-30% off, however… this is a German company, and after having seen how expensive things are while living in Holland for several years I would have no problem imagining that the price there would be of the same ilk.

Sadly, this whole experience was ruined by Saal’s inability to actually get this product to me. Having incorrectly addressed the product the first time, and subsequently having to reproduce it back in Germany while the original resides who knows where, they subsequently incorrectly addressed it again. Does this detract from the quality of the product? Of course not, but if like me, you took time off your day job to collect a parcel which didn’t arrive, while also promising to exhibit this as a precursor to a wedding photography job booking.. I think you can see where an issue might occur. Add onto that two emails asking me quite why I’d not written this review yet for a product which I literally hadn’t had in my hands to view myself, let alone write about, and it’s safe to say that the customer experience is not something I would like to go through again.

The photobook IS a decent thing. Made well, looks like it will stand the test of time, and will display your work well. The portrait glitch was annoying, the gatefold pics were a little hit and miss, and the customer experience… is obviously something that is not likely to be happening to everyone. Saal regularly have discount vouchers on their products, and with those applied I do think that the products are viable, for a gift, or for someone like myself producing things to then use as part of a portfolio or to sell on as part of a service, used to aid the production of photographs to the consumer. Assuming your experience will not be the same as mine, they come with my recommendation.

LG G2 Review inc How to change Message Tones

It’s been a while since I slung a tech review on here, but the introduction of a new phone to the home seemed to merit at least a few lines.

So, my Sony Xperia S has run its course. First up I have to acknowledge how decent a phone that was, but, it has started to go on a little wobble in the last couple of months, slowing down and crashing reasonably regularly, and not able to handle Real Racing 3 for more than a couple of rounds without a full reboot. The G2, basically minces the Sony in every department, so I was expecting no issues no matter what I threw at it, and so far, it has impressed. But, it does have its quirks.

For example, I have running on the phone, as far as I’m aware, all the same apps as I had on the Sony, which had 1gb of ram. The G2 has 2 gigs, and yet, when using the Clean Master app, it lists the RAM usage as being 1.46gb, roughtly 79% of the RAM available, and yet, my 1gb Sony ran all these reasonably easily. So, something is eating at the RAM in such a way that, there really isn’t that much to play with. Also, it appears for some reason that Skype simply won’t work on the G2, and even a test call fails to connect. Fortunately I use Skype so rarely this isn’t an issue for me, but for others this could well be a deal breaker.

However, asides from the above, as a device, it works seriously well. There is a DLNA function and it can push music/video/pictures to other enabled devices nicely, while swiftly being able to access my various scattered hard drive files if I fancy a film in the bed. Speaking of video capabilities, this thing’s impressive. The screen, full HD is brilliant, murdering the Sony Bravia display on the Xperia, and of course being much bigger. In fact, I’ve only ever seen one screen that comes close to the G2’s screen and that’s the Samsung Wave screen on the original Wave. It’s simply glorious. I browse the news, and show off some of my photos way too often and now… with this, it’s only going to get worse. There’s a reason to be welded to my phone.

As an actual talking to people device, well, I can’t really comment. It’s a phone but these days, who actually calls anyone? Social media integration with SMSs from either Facebook or Google+ renders calling people superfluous. I think I used the Sony to call people maybe 20 times in 2 years and thusly I picked a tariff in sunny Leiden which had no minutes, but a Gig of data incorporated because, as mentioned, this is a device which people could gulp down lashings and lashings of media on, just so they can see it displayed so favourably.

A shout out to the camera should also be mentioned. It’s decent, front and back, and does what it should, but the lack of a purpose shutter button is a serious pain in the neck when sat in a crowded bar trying to take pictures of a group using the front facing camera so the operator can see what they’re capturing. It’s a premium device and this I think is probably the biggest oversight in the design.

There was much consternation about the OS kitkat (4.4) not being In Box on the G2, but when I bought mine last month, it was preinstalled, so I can’t complain. Another quirk I found though was with changing the tones. I’ll reiterate this for search engines so, excuse the repetition. Changing and Customising the tones on the LG G2, can be something of a pain. Regularly it will not acknowledge new media as being available to use, and it almost seems purposefully obstinate about this, as if perhaps it’s designed so you use the pre-installed tones, possibly as a way to be advertising the brand of phone which is ringing, much like the old Nokia tones where you heard it and thought “Nokia” instantly. However, there is a trick to making the device acknowledge and then list a new tune/sound in your choices. Open the location your desired tone is, and then select it, and press your menu button, and you’ll be offered the opportunity to use selected file as your default tone for ringtone/message. Once you do so, you force the interface to acknowledge its existence, as the default tones are listed in the Select Sound menu which you’d usually use. Annoyingly you’ll have to do this with all the tones you wish to use, if you want different sounds for Gmail/Facebook/Yahoo/SMS/Email client notifications, so that you know what you’ve received just from the notification sound if perhaps the phone is not in your pocket or is out of the room you’re in. I have “Someone’s sitting there mate”, as a hotmail notification, which i know will not be important, and “Scorchio” as a text message, which tells me that, someone requires an interaction immediately. People with inordinate amounts of Email addresses and Social networks will know how useful it is to know your twitter notification from your Words with Friends one.

So do I like it? Yes. Yes I do. The Sony was great at what it did, but it was uninspiring in terms of … of… well everything really, whereas the screen on the LG makes everything feel just… better, and the power, although being sapped by mysterious sources, still handles everything running together. It could… have a dedicated camera button to make it better, but I suppose there is an argument for it encouraging interaction with others, so you get a: a better picture from the main camera, and b: have dialogue with people around you. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but the Skype issue might be. As that’s not a relevant thing for me, I don’t have an issue with it. Would I recommend it. Yep! Absolutely.

The Sisters of Mercy Melkweg Amsterdam review

Well, I’d waited an awful long time to hear The Sisters of Mercy play, and having just got back from the concert in Amsterdam I’m pretty much still waiting to hear them play. Ok, maybe that’s not fair, as the band themselves were good. The music was fine, it was just the audio. Oh gods the audio. The mic appeared to work perhaps 40-50% of the time but there was an underlying noise which at times rendered Eldritch completely incomprehensible. 

Songs like Temple of Love… if you didn’t know the words, you’d’ve never in a million years have made out a single lyric. I paid 50euro for a ticket where the singer was basically pointless, but should have been the main focus. I can watch anyone play the music, I wanted the audio, Eldritch, but the sound was so intermittent that, had I not been with my wife (thus bringing the cost up to 100euros) I would’ve left after maybe song 6.

The thing is, the band who opened for Sisters, had a decent enough sound. All lyrics were understandable, and we go to the venue often enough to know it’s not the venue’s issue. A swift look at concert reviews for the last couple of Sisters gigs all say the same thing.. the sound… the sound… it’s soooo bad. So… i have to assume it’s the sound crew issue, and I wonder if no-one has had the courage to say “Hey guys.. this is shite!”. 

I wanted to enjoy this concert, I really did, but when you have only one song (and we had to wait until the encore for it to pop up) which had a vocal quality which I deem acceptable, it was simply impossible to do it. 

If you’re planning on seeing the Sisters, and you’re the type of person who would rather have not gone than go and be so disappointed at the quality of the sound that you regret being there…. I have to say… don’t go. You’ll ruin the idea that they’ll be amazing, and it’s something which I can’t un-hear. 

And Eldritch himself…? When you could hear/understand him, he sounded fair enough but you simply couldn’t hear/understand him most of the time. Looked energetic too. I bought a shirt to support the band, but I can only hope that, if my dotage comes early, my memory of this concert is one of the first to go missing. 

A pretty view of Paris and the Louvre

Paris, Reunion, and a general update

I seem to be perpetually starting my blogs apologising for the lack of posts. I really need to work on that!

So, what’s new with Wiseman? On the surface, nothing much. I have resisted the urge to slice and dice my hair, Leiden has gone from what was supposed to be summer, into an autumn that, if it were to be converted into a musical medium, would sound like a dirge played on an old, slightly out of tune, violin. Sure it has moments when “pretty” could be applied, but for the most, you just want it done and dusted. I kicked a few leaves up in homage to Julia on the way into town the other day, but other than that, Leiden and life remain unremarkable.

However, it has not all been like that since my last soliloquy. “Really?” I hear you cry, wild with anticipation of stories which positively dance within your unbridled enthusiasm for a good yarn to be gifted to you by these words i sculpt so lovingly. And, it is just so, for as the title implies, I have been out, and indeed about.

So, lets begin with Paris. Now, I have never really been one to believe all the stories extolled by people I’ve encountered, or indeed the various travel reviews hurled at me from my TV! I think from an early age, the line “I’ll be buggered if I’ll go to gay Paris” from the immortal Rowan and Angus cassette, has tapered my expectation into something not especially pleasant. However, the wifey had been promised Paris before, and never actually made it, and it was her birthday, so, off we trotted, on the bus! Silence your cries of derision good people, for this was no ordinary bus. This was a coach, with WiFi, which cost… €10! That’s right! Less than 2 pints of Speckled Hen, to get from Amsterdam to Paris… and back! You just can’t knock that, and so, it meant, we could throw in a little extra on the hotel. Groovy! Everyone’s a winner baby! (Etc etc.. insert joyous anecdotal phrase until appeased)  

A pretty view of Paris and the Louvre

To be fair, I have to say, Paris itself, was/is pretty. As cities go, it acquits itself admirably! It ticks all the boxes for monuments, views, museums and shopping, and was architecturally fun to browse, but alas, the people and the service and indeed the hotel, were all floating somewhere betwixt dire and poor. 4 evening meals I ordered, all of course without sauce, or cheese, or anything. Simple food for a simple kind of man. Hmm there’s a song in there somewhere!  And yet… each meal invariably came back wrong, and was sent back, and still came back wrong. I survived on cake and McDonalds, but it made mealtimes something to dread, rather than to look forward to. The only good that might have come out of it, is that maybe, just maybe, Esther gained some understanding as to why I hate eating out. “It’s like they’re doing it on purpose”, she stated. Now multiply 4 days by the last 30 odd years of my life Es, and you’ll get a rough idea what mealtimes are like for me. Thank you Mum and Dad for your legacy! But, enough of such digressions, the hotel… ah the hotel, my trip advisor review can be found HERE but suffice to say, tiny rooms, awful air conditioning, and generally no redeeming features. Hotel de la Porte Doree is the name of the establishment, and if you stumble across this blog, please, pick a different hotel! 

Heading up the arc de triomphe. Look from an angle and you can see the depth of the staircase

Still, overall, I actually enjoyed ambling around the city.  As mentioned there were some nice views, and I think for all of the issues with me, Esther enjoyed herself, which i guess was the point!

So, after returning, I had a school reunion to go to, along with a night in the Giffard in Wolves. I was not at all certain what to expect from a reunion. I was resigned to the fact that I would be the only guy there with  a pony tail, and my memories of school are not good. Bullies, band, and i’m told there were girls there too, though i don’t remember noticing many! Well.. maybe one or two. But i was young and naive back then. I’d’ve not known what to do with a woman when i was 16! “You still don’t”, I hear the skeptics among you shout, which I suppose I had coming. So, ensconced on a sofa in a pub I’m not that familiar with, I waited, having done a Sheldon and arrived at the exact time that the meet was supposed to happen. “At least I had a real pint of bitter”, I told myself, employing Rule 32: Enjoy the small things, and savouring the fact that I could get beer I actually like, at half the price of the rubbish back home! After a while a few faces appeared that I recognised, though it seemed sat where i was, no one had spotted me, so I bit the bullet and wandered over. 6 hours later I found myself stumbling out of a kareoke, suitably lubricated, having had one of the best nights I’d had in a long time, with a collection of people I’d’ve never imagined I’d survive an hour with! I guess we all grew up! I exorcised a couple of personal daemons that night, and I suppose, I got out of the night, exactly what I hoped for. Which, as they say, you can’t ask for any more from!

So then Wolves and the giff called. Caught up with an old friend beforehand who was, full of beans, I believe is the best expression, while trundling around the area in a double decker! Mr Silver, resident DJ, in his wisdom, had decided to bugger off to see the Beach Boys again, much like the last time I was floating around Wolves on the weekend, but, his stand in did us proud. Had a good waffle to Si, while sober and later when slightly more guninnessified! A good time was had by all and I headed back to Leiden on Su’s birthday, fully recharged.

So, that’s pretty much that. My search for a simple non-dress black shirt goes on, any everything else is as it probably should be. I will leave you, dear reader with a final picture!

Cor… i really was there!

Android Bada Xperia HTC DLNA Sony and divX joys!

Well… my contract was up, and I could not lay my hands on a Samsung Wave 3, so, what else was there to do. The windows phones from Nokia appear to do what they say on the tin, but, I don’t know, they just strike me as clunky. A swift scout of the forums and reviews also suggest avoiding is better than taking a chance, and as Esther has managed her HTC Desire without issue, Android seemed the obvious choice. Venturing over to the darkside (iphone) is unthinkable, so without further ado I spent a good chunk of the last couple of weeks eyeing up new phones, and have ended up with the Sony Xperia S.

I can almost hear the cries of…. The Galaxy 3 is out at the end of the month, or, the HTC One X is a better phone, radiating from discerning readers who in fairness, would be right on both points. However, for the money they’re asking on such devices, I cannot seriously see myself being able to justify that outlay. Add to that, my perfectly functional Wave 1 gt-s8500 complete with Bada 2.0 running nicely as the OS which renders Facebook nicely, and MSN Messenger, over wifi, and the need for a quad core processor is just not there.

So, I have the Xperia S. What do I think of it? Actually, I’ve gotten used to it reasonably quickly. Although still not using ICS the interface is simple enough, though it seems to lack an initial stand alone video player, which is odd. Sure you can play videos in it, but I want a shortcut button for the player its self, and not to have to go through menus. This is, of course, simple enough to find, but it’s an irritation initially. As is the screens penchant to pick up fingerprints. Sure… it’s a good screen, excellent if you add the back lighting too, but, in my opinion, it’s not as good as the Wave for browsing. However… when watching video, now that Bada 2.0 has messed with the local players ability to change contrast, it does manage to match the Wave, which, as it’s 2 years newer, it damn well should.

But these are not my only niggles. Me being me, i have a pc heaving with divX files from various programs, and I am partial to a bit of DLNA streaming from device to device. The Sony has a nice little app for DLNA, which worked great for streaming mp3s, but when it came to divx films, it was having none of it. “File format not supported”, it shouted at me, like a petulant child refusing to get up and walk. My Wave, happily plays divX on the resident player (as I am told does the Xperia) so I assumed it was just an issue with the player not supporting it through streaming. However, not to be outdone, I installed all the delights that come with the phone and thought I could just transfer a couple of divX files to the video folder via drag and drop. Nope… not happening. So, using media player, I tested the sync out with a couple of mp3 playlists, which flew from pc to the phones hard drive (32 gig constitutes a HD!) without a hitch. Fair enough, lets try a divX file. No! Cannot convert file to a usable format on your device. Grrr! 

Knowing something of the Android world even though never owning a phone of theirs before, I knew this was a solvable problem, but it wasn’t the point. My Wave, 2 years older, managed all this without a hitch! Pull your finger out Sony! However, as I said, everything is fixable. I installed BubbleUpnP and moboplayer, and DLNA streaming was up and running nicely.  As yet I’ve not managed to drag and drop things onto the phone but, for the moment, anything which i want from the PC I can stream anyway, which is better!

There is much to link about this phone. It sounds good, wideo is good, even battery life is good, better than the Wave, having hammered the phone all morning with installing apps, playlists, and DLNA streaming Inception, with multiple messaging / facebook and email running with the standard weather widgets and it’s behaved fine. You’ll get your days worth out as long as you don’t bother having the back light on the screen on all day!  With all the customisable things you can do on an Android phone, I soon had it behaving pretty much how I wanted it to, and I suppose I shouldn’t gripe, but it just seemed like a lot of grief compared to the Samsung Touchwiz and Bada experience. 

So will I keep the phone? I think so. It’s a great device once configured, does all I need from it, and it should be said that, the extra screen size compared to my old Wave makes a difference when web browsing, which I do a lot of. Once ICS is available for the Xperia I imagine it will again be like a new phone. I would’ve liked to see MSN / Windows Live messenger resident, but I with it being a ‘droid, it makes sense that only gmail messenger was there.

I fear this comes off as quite a negative missive, which I don’t mean it to be. It’s just that, even the build of the Wave feels better. For multitasking, and camera shots, the Sony makes mincemeat of the Wave, as it should, but, and again this sounds bad, I suppose the most defining thing is that, I will still carry my Wave around with me, as a purely Wifi enabled device, and probably will use that, rather than the Xperia when out, and keep the Xperia for home use mostly. It’s not a phone I feel like I can show off and be smug about, but it does what I want of it, and now it’s configured, it does do it better than the Wave. Fortunately I live in a world where now I have both! Time will tell if the Xperia enamors itself to me in the same way as the Wave did!