Digital Life: The future is retro for Fuji's flash little number
As Hannibal in the A-Team used to say, here's an idea that's so crazy it just might work. While all other manufacturers race to produce digital cameras that are ever smaller or futuristically sleek, Fuji has taken a step back.
Maybe the whole design team dropped some acid because the new Finepix X100 is nothing if not a flashback to the 1970s when cameras from Leica ruled the roost. Yet even though the X100 resembles those chunky rangefinder classics, inside it's a thoroughly modern Millie.
But you wouldn't know to pick it up -- the exterior is finished in rugged metal and textured plastic while the top and rear bristle with manual controls.
The X100, then, is not for casual photographers but rather those who know their aperture from their elbow. They're the ones who'll revel in its cleverly retro duds but also appreciate the pro-quality lens, large image sensor and smart electronics that together help capture some breath-taking photos, especially in low light.
The average person may be nonplussed by the Fuji's lack of user-friendly scene modes or zoom and will definitely flee in terror at the whopping €1,000 price tag.
For those who do appreciate the finer points of photography, the X100 will easily earn itself a place in their hearts.
To boost its 21st-Century credentials, it even has tricks such as panoramic mode, high-def video and emulation of old film stock.
Sure, to the average punter, you'll look a bit of a Luddite toting the slightly eccentric X100 but in the right hands the pictures make it all worthwhile.
Now for something a little more down to earth . . . and affordable. The Canon SX220 HS packs a big zoom into a small camera aimed at everyone from novices to keen amateurs.
Its tastefully designed slim casing conceals a 14x zoom to get you much closer to the action than a typical compact camera.
Just as usefully, Canon has opted out of the mega pixel race to focus instead on image quality -- the HS in the name stands for high sensitivity, meaning the SX220 copes much more skilfully with challenging lighting conditions.
Big zooms often pose handling problems for small cameras but though the lens pokes out comically far at full tilt, the SX220 still feels balanced and its image stabilisation minimises the jitters.
Quite why the flash has to pop up every time you power on is a mystery and you'll get similar-quality cameras without a huge zoom for considerably less than the SX220's asking price of €330.
But this neat package is a winning combination.
In previous Rockstar games such as Grand Theft Auto, the only time you stared into somebody's eyes was right before you put a bullet between them.
But this pulp-fiction homage to the hard-boiled likes of Dashiell Hammet or James Ellroy is different. Pitting the player as a detective solving crimes in 1940s LA, Rockstar asks you to gaze into a suspect's soul to establish their guilt. Often your only clue is a slight shiftiness, a tightening of the lips or a blink -- all rendered uncannily by the exhaustive motion-capture system developed for the game.
LA Noire consists of far more than this central motif of questioning suspects. The usual GTA staples of driving, shooting and fighting are present, albeit in diluted form. But they pale beside the clue-gathering and cross-examining showpieces.
With outstanding performances from the actors (including a gritty turn by our own Andrew Connolly) and a razor-sharp script, LA Noire casts a beguiling spell on the player.
For all the subtlety of the facial animation, many gamers will find it hard to decipher and some cases feel like a re-run of earlier mysteries.
But purely for brave ambition alone, LA Noire deserves to be played.
The Japanese have a name for the fiendish style of shoot-em-up where all enemies fire simultaneously at your tiny little ship. They call it "bullet hell".
Though Gatling Gears looks initially like a simple but pretty top-down game of robot wars, the screen soon fills with projectiles heading relentlessly your way.
Yet its steampunk art style and twin-stick controls give it a freshness that will appeal to a Western audience.
Ultimately, what counts against this download-only title is the sheer repetitiveness of the action.
Dragon Quest VI: Realms of Revelation
Evolution has passed Dragon Quest by. This turn-based RPG is even older than its rival Final Fantasy and adheres rigidly to the smothering conventions of random battles and self-consciously kooky characters.
But Realms of Revelation has an excuse because it's merely a remake for the DS of a 1995 Japanese-only release, albeit one that puts the dual screens to good use.
Nonetheless, unless you're already a huge DQ fan, it's hard to forgive the same old grinding slog.
Bits and bytes
Grab a bargain online
A new website brings the power of group buying to Ireland, offering daily deals that could save you up to 90%.
GrabOne, from the publishers of the Irish Independent, promises one special offer every day, which could be anything from a discounted holiday to a cut-price nosh-up in a top restaurant.
When enough people sign up each day, the deal is activated for a limited time. Give it a try but be aware the offers are mostly Dublin-based so far.
Can my kids play this?
Many parents are understandably unable to keep pace with which videogames their children are buying. But if you want to make an informed decision try the Family Friendly Videogames website.
It's very US-centric and probably too conservative but at the very least it will give you a good idea of whether it's OK to let little Billy play Call of Duty: Black Ops (left). Clue: No, it isn't.
Better still, it recommends several games that he could be playing instead.
Macs under threat
Mac users have always been justifiably smug about the relative security of their computers versus the horrors of viruses and malware on Windows.
But a sinister new program shows Apple machines Macs can be vulnerable too -- Mac Defender tricks your computer into downloading and installing itself without your intervention.
Read Apple's online advice on how you can avoid falling victim to the scam.