Quickie Product Reviews #1
Quickie Product Reviews #1
by LF (4/13/01)
New job = new paychecks = new toys:
- Kodak's DC4800 3.1 MegaPixel digital camera. After spotting an ad from a local superstore for high-quality digital cameras, I remembered how shitty the photos on the LF site looked. Not too hard to figure out why -- they were mostly captured on 110 film and then scanned with an ancient SCSI-interface three-pass flatbed. No longer! Give it time, and most of the old trash will be retired, replaced by sharp and beautiful pics from my new Kodak. Check the shopping bots like NexTag.com and Pricegrabber.com, and you might be able to locate one of these for less than $400 delivered. With a maximum resolution of 2100x1440dpi, it'll be a while before these get obsoleted. A friendly interface with a bare minimum of buttons and doohickeys, the camera will capture great-looking images automatically, or if you're photo-savvy, you can turn off *almost* all of the helps and dial-in your own preferences (the only sticking point is macro focusing, which is hit-or-miss). ASA emulations, upgradeable firmware, total control from your desktop, small form factor, under 13 ounces -- this one has just about everything.
- An online version of The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon -- available at http://www.ccel.org/g/gibbon/decline.
I stored a copy of this great work on a CompactFlash card, and popped it into my lightweight HP Jornada 820 HPC. Okay, okay, it didn't go DIRECTLY onto the card -- I wasted about ninety minutes completely reformatting the huge honking bastard with Macro Express and FrameMaker 6 (an excellent DTP tool which allows you to create "books" out of anything). Here's a tip for you folks who wish to go into electronic publishing: DO NOT, DO NOT *EVER* use blank spaces for indents. Ugh. Then I ripped out the hard returns. And the monospace default font. And the . . .
But when I finished, the rewards were obvious and lasting. Years ago I picked up the Viking Portable Library rendition from 1952, which clipped the multiple original volumes down into 691 compact pages. But it left out a lot. Now I've got the whole schmear, with hypertext footnotes, in easily-manageable chunks.
Decline is astounding, both soaring prose and inspiring poetry. A pinnacle of Brit Lit. And it is very friendly for a serious work written over 200 years ago. (The only reason I bother to mention this is that I recently finished a collection of letters from the Civil War era, which was apparently the highwater mark for dense and unappealing American writing, when it was considered acceptable to shovel out sentences composed of 100+ words, unattributed lengthy quotes in Latin or Greek, and every single punctuation mark available. *That* book was like crawling through a machine translation of formal Japanese, which I became intimately familiar with during my days at Fujitsu Network Switching.) If you haven't read it, read it. How can you beat FREE?
- Samsung's ML-4500 laser printer. Are you sick to death of feeding your slow, infuriating inkjet printer expensive cartridges that last about a week? Well, take a long hard look at the ML-4500. I paid $212 with tax, minus a $25 CompUSA gift certificate, for a grand total of $187. It comes with a 3000-page toner cartridge and the required cable (a galling "oversight" for many competitors). Eight pages per minute, FAST warmup, true 600dpi images that don't run when you slop beer on them, small footprint, decent halftoning, drop-dead simple installation, PC/Mac/Linux compatible, and about a 3-cent per page consumable cost . . . unless you absolutely HAVE to print color, why the heck would you buy anything else?
- Day of the Dead. The weakest component of the trilogy begun so many long years ago with Night of the Living Dead, Day was the end result of the sad story of director George Romero's having to chuck most of his original script after failing to find adequate financing. That sucked . . . and the bland sets and static, overly talky scenes hurt the flick . . . but the zombies are fantastic. The final extended bloodbath saves the work from the circular file. Nasty stuff. The actor to watch is G. Howard Klar as Steele, the hardass soldier. I picked up the Anchor Bay uncut and widescreen VHS version out of a huge bin at a local WalMart for FIVE DOLLARS.
(But VHS will be going away for good once recordable DVDs become affordable, so take advantage of the firesale prices while you can!)
- Santa Julia Torrontes, 2000. Argentina has produced some of the best wine values I've run into in recent years. Malbec from several producers has been a favorite, due to the fact that the country's looooong growing season can permit the normally rough red grape to develop into something quite spectacular.
I grabbed a bottle of the white Torrontes for $5.40 a bottle (after the 10% mixed case discount) a week ago. Pretty dry, fairly round, with absolutely no drawbacks. None of that "Goes Well With Watercress" bullshit. This is a solid white for folks who generally don't like whites. If the company can maintain the quality for another season or two, expect the price to jump way up.
- Univision. Affectionately known as TBN (The Beaner Network), this is the old Second City Television concept brought into pulsing life, spinning the worst of American shit video into fresh piles. Univision is relentlessly driven by a singular philosophy -- that no woman can ever possibly look slutty enough. When you see nuns flashing their groceries in thong bikinis, you know that you've run across something very special indeed. If busty broads with matronly arms and muscular rumps slake your monkey, now you've got a home. My favorite hangover cure is to pop a beer, fry up a plate of bacon, toast some rye bread, and watch Japanese Giant Robot cartoons dubbed into Spanish.
Up the spout