Digital Life: Did you miss the memo, boys? A bigger camera isn't always better
Sometimes stuff just lands on my desk and I'm struck by life's great imponderables -- what is THAT for? Why did they do THAT? What time is lunch? And so on.
That was certainly the feeling on opening the box for the new Canon PowerShot G1 X camera. Theoretically, Canon was thinking: everybody wants the astonishing picture quality of a professional camera but ordinary mortals don't want to be lugging SLRs -- those bulky black monsters -- around with them. So let's make a camera with all the quality (and much of the creative power) but in a smaller, compact package.
Canon's not the first with that brainwave -- the likes of Nikon, Olympus and Sony have all successfully taken a punt on the same notion.
But Canon went the whole hog, stuffing the G1 X with a pro-quality image sensor and a heap of manual controls sure to delight keen snappers.
Unfortunately, Canon's engineers missed the part of the memo about making the damn thing smaller. So what you get with the G1 X is a powerful camera that's only fractionally less bulky than the SLR monsters it's supposed to replace.
The G1 X's premium pricing of €800 means that for the same money you could buy an SLR that offers more flexibility and equal picture quality.
This peculiar hybrid doesn't even benefit from a versatile lens, with the zoom extending just to 4x and struggling with close-ups.
There's no denying the G1 X is capable of great things.
In the right hands, the pictures will look stunning, with highly impressive low-light performance and great detail overall thanks to that large image sensor.
A tilting rear screen, viewfinder and pop-up flash add weight to the Canon's value as
But it's difficult not to view the G1 X as a strange experiment, one that may find a small niche among shutterbugs but desperately in need of advances in technology to shrink it considerably.
Did you know the Hubble telescope completes a full orbit around the Earth every 97 minutes, travelling at five miles per second? Who needs planetariums when a very cool iPad/iPhone app (79 cent on special for a limited time, normally €3) can transport you into space and fill your mind with facts?
Solar Walk may be primarily educational but its tour of our Solar System is visually engaging. Zoom into any planet or satellite and you can roam its surface or read about its history.
But most impressive is when using an iPad 2/iPhone 4S coupled with an Apple TV and a 3D TV -- then the whole shebang appears wirelessly on your telly in full 3D. Some day, all learning will be this entertaining.
New consoles live or die by the quality of their games. It doesn't matter a fig how whizzbang and bleeding edge their features may be -- without original and high- quality titles, they're dead in the water.
Nintendo's 3DS struggled until a stream of hits (and, yes, a price cut) arrived. Sony's Vita has similarly been slow out of the blocks and though the launch line-up was strong, it had an awfully familiar whiff of the usual suspects.
Quirky originals such as Little Deviants and the free Frobisher Says pointed the way but Gravity Rush stands as the first must-have for Vita owners.
Kat is a leggy blonde in a fetching jumpsuit who's lost her memory and found herself in a pseudo-Victorian city -- yadda yadda. The twist here is that Kat can control gravity for short periods. Need to scale a tall building? Just fall 'up'. Faced with a glowing enemy? Zip through the air and deliver a boot to the head.
On the ground, Kat feels a tad clumsy but in the air she has 360 degrees of giddy freedom. Packaged in gorgeous cel-shaded visuals and featuring an architecturally beautiful city that's a pleasure to explore, Gravity Rush is charming and irresistible.
Ghost Recon Future Soldier
War games often take rather too much pleasure in ways to kill nondescript terrorists. A franchise once an advocate of war-is-hell, GRFS now tips the balance heavily in your favour with its arsenal of futuristic weaponry.
Invisibility camouflage and remote spy drones are just some of the tech that breaks the tradition of realism baked into Ghost Recon. What used to be a slow-paced, painstakingly tactical sim has morphed into pacy shooter that's clearly influenced by the popularity of Modern Warfare 2.
No longer do you direct your three squadmates as you work your way through landscapes as diverse as South America, Africa and the Arctic Circle. Instead, they intelligently assist you in firefights, though rarely taking the initiative.
When the mayhem breaks loose, the action can't match the ferocity of MW2. But in the rarer thoughtful moments when you're lining up a tactical kill, GRFS plays to its familiar strengths.
Who wouldn't want to drive a hearse in a destruction derby? DiRT Showdown gives you that and much, much more. Building on the formidable heritage of the DiRT series (itself an offshoot of the great Colin McRae brand), Showdown styles itself a pick-up-and-play arcade racer with a side order of stunts and smashes.
This huge variety of events mean there's never a dull moment except in the long, long loading times. With nuanced handling and a gleeful sense of fun in the vehicular carnage, Showdown will always put a smile on your face.
Bits and Bytes
• Fans of the hilariously brilliant Portal games (and if you aren't, you should be) will love this home-made real-life version. Created using special effects on a home computer, the video shows what happens what a bunch of friends get hold of a Portal gun and start messing around.
Honestly, if don't laugh at the ending, you're already dead.
• Today is the second day of the Dublin Conference on Internet Freedom, which is debating everything from piracy to consumers' digital rights to free speech.
If you couldn't make it to the event in Dublin Castle, all sessions are being streamed live online. Today's topics include freedom of speech on social media and government monitoring of the internet.
Speakers include high-level executives from Facebook, Google and NATO.