My miniOne beat up your iPhone

By Rob Dunn
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

The electronic cloning market in China is undoubtedly very real and lucrative, but Popular Science recently featured an article about how Chinese Electronic companies are actually one-upping the originals.

Case in point: The Meizu M8, aka the “miniOne.”

It looks almost identical to the iPhone, and does have many of the same features. Specifically, the miniOne sports the following niceties: miniOne

  • 0.3Mp camera on front for videoconferencing (640×480), 3Mp camera on back.
  • WiFi support
  • 720×480 resolution
  • Touchscreen
  • DMB TV Tuner(!)
  • AVI/MPEG/WMV support
  • 4/8/16Gb versions available
  • Support for GSM + SCDMA Networks (3G & 3.5G to come later)
  • Other typical smartphone features- i.e. Bluetooth, GPS, etc.
  • Windows CE 6.0 OS

In the past, concerns of hardware quality have been the main reason why most people cringe at the idea of purchasing a low-cost electronic item from China, and still should be, if the company has no or little prior history. However, Meizu is a reputable company which already manufactures an attractive and well regarded line of high-quality media players.

The miniOne is set to be released in Q4 2007 (Wikipedia states “December 7th, 2007”), and will be priced at ~$230 for the 4Gb model and ~$460 for the 16Gb phone (I assume this places the 8Gb model at around $340). Additionally, there will first be an M8/miniOne available without phone capability, then later a cellular model will be released, pending carrier licensing issues which are being addressed at this time by Meizu. Oh, the bad news? It will only be released in China at first.

miniOne - Side, Front, Back

I don’t know about you, but I think I might actually want one of these, mostly because I couldn’t stand the iHype awhile back, and partially because I like underdog manufacturers that actually put out quality hardware. I’d still be a bit apprehensive at the lack of haptics, but I think I could look past it. The only questions are, when will it come to the US, and will it work with my cellular carrier?

Maybe if Meizu would send us a phone (or two) to review…*hint*


Computers are tools, not metaphors.

by Brian Boyko
[GAS] Contributor

This is just a quick note from my own experiences.

People often throw around brand names in the computer market as if they were status symbols. While there’s nothing wrong with trusting a particular brand based on previous experience, there are instances where “brand loyalty” may lead people to make poor decisions in choosing computer equipment.

The reason why is that people often forget that ultimately, a computer is a tool, which is used to solve a particular problem or set of problems.

For example, a few months ago, I wrote a series of articles on three major operating systems – Windows Vista, Ubuntu Linux (6.10) and Mac OS X 10.4 as a freelance project for HardOCP. HardOCP is a Web site designed for hardware enthusiasts – people unafraid to upgrade, tweak, and overclock hardware. Their concerns are utility, upgradability, and gaming.

It is by these criteria that I wrote all three reviews.

By far, I got the most criticism for my article on Mac OS X – mostly because people didn’t understand that I wasn’t writing the OS review for the typical Apple user.

Apple’s computers have a number of strengths – aesthetics in hardware, aethetics in software, good multimedia performance, and ease of use.

But these really didn’t matter to the HardOCP audience. Ease of use wasn’t really an issue for them – they were already technically savvy. They weren’t multimedia professionals and so they would probably have not been wowed by the multimedia capabilities of the Mac. And while the Mac’s aesthetics were better than the Windows equivalent, they weren’t better than Linux’s Compiz-Fuzion interface… since the audience was tech savvy, I didn’t think Linux’s steeper learning curve was as much of an issue there.

So, in short, I wrote that Mac OS X was mediocre – not bad – just mediocre in the areas that I thought were most important to the readership and that there wasn’t a compelling reason to switch. It didn’t solve the problems it was designed to solve.

For this, I was savaged by legions of Mac fans who questioned my methodology (often without reading the article) and the conclusions. They accused me of being a Microsoft shill – which was hilarious considering the fact that my review of Vista was completely negative.

Look, I have no grudge against Apple, but at the time, it just wasn’t the right tool for the job.

In the past week, however, I’ve purchased, and started using a MacBook Pro – paying nearly $3,000 for the privilege. You can bet that I absolutely did my homework before making the purchase, which is quite literally the most expensive object I now, or have ever, owned (including my car.)

The difference between then and now? My needs changed. Since then I’ve become an amateur documentary filmmaker, and through strokes of blind luck ended up in a position to make a potentially awesome feature-length film overseas on my vacation. But rendering times on my PC were extremely slow.

So, after a test at the Apple Store, importing video from my camera into Final Cut Pro, I was able to scientifically show that the Apple/FCP rendering time was much quicker – quick enough, in fact, for me to make the expensive investment.

As my needs changed, the Apple computer became the right tool for the job.

Computers are tools. If one tool helps you do what you need faster, cheaper, or better, then go with it.

Computers are not fashion statements, a declaration of counter-cultural values, a replacement for companionship or social acceptance – a computer is a tool, no matter how slick the marketing campaign.

Whatever computer equipment you buy, make sure it’s the best tool to solve your problems.

HD DVD or Blu-ray: Which Should You Choose?

By David Peralty
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

HD DVD or Blu-ray?As we approach on the Christmas season, some people are wondering what they are going to pair their high definition televisions with. Will you buy a Blu-ray or HD DVD player? The format war is still on, and its as confusing and as fierce as ever. Some people have already given up and purchased one of the two formats, while others are going to skip the format war, and promote online distribution through iTunes and other services.

I am here to give you a rundown on what is going on with HD DVD and Blu-ray so you can make an informed choice on what to save up for over the next two months.


Many reports have Blu-ray outselling HD DVD by a factor of two to one. This is most likely fueled in part by Sony’s PlayStation 3, but also by the line-up of studios that produce content on Blu-ray. With Fox and Disney on the Blu-ray side, many action and kids movies will require Blu-ray technology to play.

The technology is also considered “more advanced” by many due to its use of blue laser technology as well as its ability to store more data per disc than HD DVD. If you are going to buy a PlayStation 3, you are going to get a Blu-ray player. Otherwise I would say hold off for now as the time still isn’t right. Many of the players that include Blu-ray technology are still in their first or second generation. The market needs more time to mature before it makes sense to replace your regular DVD player for a Blu-ray one.


On the other side of the fence, we see much of the same. Microsoft released a HD DVD player add-on for their popular Xbox 360 game console. And really, that is at this point, the only HD DVD player I would recommend.

There is good news for shoppers this fall though, as Wal-Mart has been seen selling a HD DVD player for under $200. This blows away the competition’s price, as the cheapest Blu-ray player is priced at four hundred dollars or more.

The $200 player from Wal-Mart isn’t some knock off brand either, and is instead the Toshiba’s A2. Some say that this price drop has something to do with the HD DVD backers being worried about losing to the Blu-ray group, but I think it is another sign that Wal-Mart is supporting HD DVD over Blu-ray, and Wal-Mart is not a small company. This inexpensive player could quickly see HD DVD take the lead in the homes of the average consumer, which mean that studios will have to release their content on the device, or have it not be watched by a large segment of the population.

No Choice

Lastly, you might not need to chose between the two formats, either because web based delivery systems will become more commonplace or because of multi-format players like the new Samsung device that was just revealed.

The Samsung BD-UP5000 will include both HD DVD and Blu-ray support and will set you back around $1000 USD. Hopefully, it will go through a price drop or two by Christmas, allowing consumers to snag an amazing multi-format device for about the same as what the PlayStation 3 originally retailed for. Sure you can’t play games on it, but then you will be safe in knowing that you don’t need to worry about which format comes out on top of the whole struggle for media domination.

I think many people are smart in waiting for players that can play all the media that the studios want to throw at us. Despite all the craziness, we might be a long, long way from having one format come out on top.

[GAS] “How to” Contest – Only 5 days left!

Just a quick post to remind those of you who wanted to participate to our contest that there is only 5 days left before the closing date.

We’re giving away more than $1300 in prizes, most of it in cash, and there’s only about 25 entries so far. This means that right now, people have a 1 in 4 chances of winning something.

So what are you waiting for? Start writing!

17,000 Watt Car Audio System makes your eardrums go BOOM!

Yep, that’s 17,000 watts of audio power, delivered right into your eardrums. At this point, I think that the word “loud” is largely irrelevant because this is WAY BEYOND loud. Not only will the guy listening to this audio system will turn deaf after a few weeks of cranking up the tunes, but his car will probably be falling apart in a year or two because of the vibrations.

Gmail now supports IMAP

Yes folks, the team in charge of Google’s Gmail just announced their popular email service will now support the IMAP protocol.

This will allow Gmail users to send and receive mail directly through traditional mail applications, such as Outlook, Apple Mail and Mozilla Thunderbird.

Yes, I know, Gmail already supports POP, so why should you change your local mail application settings to use IMAP? The answer is simple: Unlike POP, IMAP offers bidirectional communications between the local and the remote mail clients, so if you delete a message in Thunderbird, then go on vacation and log in to your Gmail account via a Web browser, the action you accomplished at home will reflect inside the web interface.

Most users do not have access to this new feature yet, but it shouldn’t be very long until it becomes available for everybody.

Getting started with IMAP for Gmail

Blocking Network Packets – The Comcast Fiasco

Sometimes you just can’t be neutral. That, apparently, is the reasoning behind Comcast’s recently revealed actions regarding several peer-to-peer applications, including BitTorrent.

In case you haven’t been following the story, here’s a quick rundown.

It started five days ago when the Associated Press ran a story called “Comcast Blocks Some Internet Traffic.” In this story, the reporter, Peter Svensson, points out that Comcast was blocking P2P traffic by interfering with certain packet streams.

Each PC gets a message invisible to the user that looks like it comes from the other computer, telling it to stop communicating. But neither message originated from the other computer — it comes from Comcast. If it were a telephone conversation, it would be like the operator breaking into the conversation, telling each talker in the voice of the other: “Sorry, I have to hang up. Good bye.”

This may have never been major news except for two things: First, back in August, Comcast denied that it was doing this exact thing, Second, Ubuntu 7.10, Gutsy Gibbon, was released six days ago. And when the #1 Linux distribution in America is released, you can bet your sweet bippy that the FTP mirrors for it will get hammered, leading people to consider using BitTorrent to get it. Comcast users had problems getting Gutsy.

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SATA HD stage rack – Plug any 2.5 or 3.5-inch SATA drive into your PC in seconds

For me, this HDD USB dock is a dream come true. In the past, how many times did I have to open a computer just to install an old, unused drive, then recover just a handful of files?

Too many times.

Sure, external drive enclosures exist to facilitate the task, but there’s nothing out there that’s as quick and easy as this hard drive dock. Compatible with both Windows and Macs, this thing only costs $46.79 and you can plug in any 2.5 or 3.5-inch SATA drive,  just like you would do in good old days, not unlike those eight-track cartridges.

HD stage rack

2.5″ and 3.5″ SATA HDD Stage Rack (GeekStuff4U)