Digital Life: Meet the new Canon -- not as good as the old Canon. . .
You know those statistical reports that show we are smarter, healthier and better-looking than our forefathers? Or is it stupider, sicker or uglier? I can never remember.
In theory anyway our technology should definitely follow the former path. Every update should make the previous model obsolete. Digital Life has been around long enough to laugh in the face of that canard. Newer doesn't always mean better.
Which brings us to the Canon PowerShot S100 camera, successor to the much-loved S95. This little cracker set a new benchmark for brilliant pictures in a compact body. The S95 was one of my favourite cameras of 2011.
Along comes the S100 and in many ways Canon has upped its game. The slim design is almost identical except for the welcome addition of a rubber strip on the front to help grip the smooth body more easily.
The lens now extends a little further (to a 5x zoom) and wider (to 24mm), startup speed has improved and video quality has increased to 1080P.
The S100 incorporates GPS to locate where every photo is taken and a high-quality burst mode takes eight shots at full resolution in under a second -- great for capturing rapid action.
Yet there's a niggling sense that the pictures just aren't in the same league as those of the ageing S95. Make no mistake, the S100 is a terrific camera capable of lovely snapshots, particularly in low light. But, where it counts in image quality, it's bested by its older, cheaper brother.
Canon also failed to improve the unimpressive battery life and, perhaps more worryingly, the price. The S100 costs €510, a good deal more than the S95, which now fetches a much more modest €300 in some online stores.
Perhaps Canon's error was to make the S95 so damn good in the first place.
THERE'S no sound more hated in the world than the shrill clang of the morning alarm clock. Just when you were deep in sleep or getting to the good bit of your dream (Clooney/Jolie -- delete where appropriate), it goes off.
Your nightly sleep pattern is more complicated than you think, though, involving 90-minute cycles of deep and light sleep. The Sleep Cycle iPhone app taught me all of this as part of a quest to wake up refreshed after a good night's kip.
Put your iPhone beside you in the bed and its accelerometer monitors your movements and waits for a window close to your chosen alarm time when you are least asleep. That way, you don't wake up befuddled and woozy.
It costs 79c in the App Store and similar apps are available for Android.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
The universe of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) consists of World of Warcraft and the also-rans. Many have tried and all have failed to replicate WoW's success (10 million subscribers and more than $1bn in revenue a year).
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then SW: The Old Republic definitely has the hots for WoW. Though dressed in the skin of the Star Wars universe, SWTOR plays for all intents and purposes like a sci-fi-based WoW.
Note that this not necessarily A Bad Thing. But it demonstrates how risk-averse the mega-backers (including EA, Lucasarts and Bioware) were with its new baby, which reportedly cost up to $200m to develop, making it the most expensive game ever.
Propelled by compelling cut-scenes (at least in the beginning), the gameplay soon settles into familiar WoW territory (rescue this guy, kill 10 of these critters, etc). But if you're a Star Wars fan, this just might be enough to keep you paying €13 a month as you take the fight to the Dark Side with your Jedi knight (or indeed vice-versa).
The venerable puzzle game returns for one more bite of the cherry, albeit not a particularly fresh one. Still, the underlying premise (tilt the landscape to move a blob of mercury to the exit) has served many games well, back to its original inspiration, Marble Madness.
And as a cheap download from the Xbox/PSN store, Mercury Hg has enough nostalgic charm and varied levels to make it worth investigation.
RAVING RABBIDS: ALIVE
The term "mini-games" has become a byword for "low-quality, uninspired ideas that won't cut it as full concepts". But Alive and Kicking combines the anarchic humour of the Rabbids (crazy bunnies with a death wish) with the motion-sensing power of the Kinect camera.
When it works, it makes for a hilarious party game (eg, everyone dance like a loon until the Rabbids notice you, then hide behind furniture until they lose interest). When it doesn't, you end up in a frustrating battle with Kinect's limitations.
Happily, there are more of the former than the latter.
Born of the same well that gave us the Michael Jackson Experience and Just Dance, if you love the Peas, you'll enjoy the BEP Experience as an excuse to shake a leg to their choons.
But for the uncommitted the Peas just don't have the back catalogue to justify shelling out full price for this pack of upbeat dance numbers. Try Dance Central 2 instead.
Bits and Bytes
- Streaming video service Netflix finally launched in Ireland yesterday, with the best news being the price of just €7 a month for unlimited viewing.
However, before you go cancelling your Sky subscription or throwing away your Xtra-Vision card, be aware that the on-demand catalogue of movies and TV shows is relatively limited so far.
The overall figure may total a few thousand but it pales beside the US offering.
You can sign up for one month's free trial too but must hand over your credit card details in the process.
Don't forget to cancel before your month is up or you'll be charged.
- If you didn't think Facebook was creepy enough already, the wonderfully funny Take This Lollipop website will undoubtedly give you reason to think twice.
Hand over your Facebook login (don't worry, it's safe -- honest!) and Take This Lollipop spins a macabre live-action stalker video around your photos, friends and bio.
But the killer is the punchline, which I won't spoil but is guaranteed to make you laugh and/or gasp.