Digital Life: Need rapid shutter speed? It's the 10-frames-a-second camera
Technology never sleeps. Or, more accurately, the boffins never stop trying to make things smaller, faster or cooler. But it's taken them 50 years to come up with a better system than the single-lens reflex (SLR) action that originated in film cameras in the 1960s.
It's called single-lens translucent, or SLT, but you don't need the techy explanation as to why the Sony Alpha A55 is so special as a semi-pro camera.
Just watch what happens when you press the shutter. It takes a picture. And then another and another and another -- not stopping until it hits 10 frames per second, all at top quality.
This burst mode proves invaluable for capturing fast-moving sports, scampering children or any sudden movement.
The A55 performs like a speed demon compared to its peers in the semi-pro market and puts it up among the ultra-pro models costing five times as much as the Sony.
Rapid shooting ain't worth a damn if the autofocus doesn't keep pace, but Sony's SLT smarts ensure everything stays sharp.
Video also benefits from the nippy focus, with the A55 more comparable to a camcorder than its rivals.
The usual Sony goodies -- low-light and panorama pictures -- plus GPS and the inevitable 3D option round out a powerful package.
On the downside, the A55's slight shutter lag and average battery life show that Sony's technicians have a little more work to do before the A55 becomes a world-beater.
The base model costs about €850 and comes with an 18-55mm lens. But it works interchangeably with up to 30 other Sony Alpha lenses.
Wireless charging is an idea that's been hanging around for ages without ever making a big breakthrough.
The leader in the field is Powermat, which makes a range of products to juice up your iPhone, BlackBerry, DS, etc, simply by dropping your device on to a magnetic mat that resembles a tiny skateboard without wheels.
The mat requires an electrical socket, obviously, but can charge up to three devices at once without further wires.
Each device needs either a special case or replacement battery door.
For 2011, Powermat has made its iPhone case much less chubby and broadened the range of products supported to include Nokia and Samsung.
The company has big ambitions to fit out public areas such as coffee shops and bars with free charging stations.
As a start, it has only signed a deal with 130 airports worldwide to roll out the service.
The Powermat range costs €60 for the mat and €30 for the case or replacement door.
For people with many devices to power up, it's extremely useful but those of us with just one may find a conventional charger just as handy.
De blob 2
The sequel to a criminally overlooked original revisits the notion of a drab, downtrodden city revived by splashes of paint from a bouncing blob. Echoes of Orwell's 1984 are juxtaposed with the jaunty tunes and dayglo colours unleashed by De Blob as he bops the baddies and paints the town.
However, an unpredictable camera strips away some of the fun and the 3D effect is ill-judged but, thankfully, optional. But even the sparsely spaced checkpoints and occasionally repetitive level design can't stop De Blob 2 from being a diamond in the rough.
Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem
Mario sends in the clones in this latest instalment of Nintendo's take on the classic Lemmings format. The DS touchscreen is ideally suited to guiding the clockwork characters around the obstacle courses, and removing and repositioning objects to form paths.
Though stuffed with levels it's hard to avoid the feeling it's too similar to the last M vs DK.
As tie-ins go, this companion to the enjoyable animated kids' flick doesn't disgrace itself. Predictably, it's mostly a simple platformer but padded out with plenty of variety and a cheeky line in humour.
Rango is the new sheriff in town and his tall tales of derring-do form the basis for the bandit-bashing, roadrunner-riding action. The pace rarely lets up and the wise-cracking banter regularly raises a smile.
However, no one over 10 will revisit the game after its short story has run its course.
Bits and Bytes
Be a twit for Charlie Sheen
- At a bit of a loose end and know your way round Twitter? Charlie Sheen (below) is hiring -- but don't worry, your job wouldn't be to keep his drinks cabinet stocked or clean up trashed hotel rooms.
The wayward star simply wants someone to manage his social networking profile, more specifically to tweet messages to the two million followers he has acquired since joining Twitter late last month.
He's not the only celeb who can't be bothered to type out 140 characters to the masses -- many other stars employ others to interact with their fans -- but he'd surely be the most interesting to work for. Check out the job ad below.
St Patrick's Day app-eal
- You don't need a leprechaun hat or green beer to enjoy St Patrick's Day on Thursday -- just get the official app, on Android and iPhone.
With listings of all the major events over the five-day festival and a live stream of the Dublin parade, you're all set for a weekend of carousing.
Find it on your phone's app store.
Bloggers of Ireland unite
- The Irish Blog Awards take place on Saturday night and there's a fine list of nominees on the IBA website for your consideration.
If you've never dipped into the Irish blog scene, you're missing out, from veterans such as Slugger O'Toole to newcomers such as Chronic Reload.