Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A little optional extra: iPod Touch 64Gb Review

NOTES: Before you get stuck in I'll point out two minor facts:

1. my iPod has a blue plastic backing plate on it to stop the rear getting scratched, which is visible in most of the photos - this is not included with the iPod and was bought seperately (though it only cost £3 with free postage so it may as well not be considered an extra cost. I recommend it, it's quite good...

2. Not all iPod Touch models have the same capabilities. While a lot of these features are present on all/most iPod Touches, I am reviewing the 3rd Generation 64Gb model - currently the top of the range of iPods.

Anyway...


As I mentioned in my last entry, for various reasons (not the least of which are that the hard drive is full, and the internal battery needs replacing), my beloved but venerable 30gb iPod Video has been "retired",or held in reserve for use in times/places when I wouldn't want to risk carrying its replacement. This replacement being a shiny (for now) iPod Touch 64gb.

I figured I'd do a little review of it. I'm going to try to avoid going into the more technical discussions about video formats and encoding bitrates and display refresh times for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that that's the first thing that most other reviewers got their teeth into as soon as the thing hit the market.
Instead, I'm going to try to look at the thing from the point of view of a user/owner, instead of the point of view of someone who's comparing it against its competitors/predecessors etc.

So let's see how it goes.

HISTORY AND BACKGROUNDY BIT: Big chunky plastic iPods from days of yore:

It seems that when Apple released the original iPhone, enough people went off and had orgasms about the interface to convince Apple that they really were onto a good thing. Whether this was their motivation behind the development of the iPod Touch - itself essentially an iPhone with the "Phone" bit ripped out - or simply a favourable public attitude to a project already in progress, I'm not sure and haven't bothered to find out.
Regardless of how apple felt at the time, eventually in late 2007, the iPod touch, hit the market.

Then, as now, flash memory storage compared to a hard drive of equivalent capacity, was prohibitively expensive (At current prices, 64gb of flash memory sells for anything up to £150, making up a huge chunk of the iPod Touch 64's £250-£300 price tag. So the first generation of iPod Touch devices had small capacities of only eight or 16 gb. Not a huge leap from, or in the case of the 8gb model, not even an improvement on, the then already available iPod Nano.

Despite this, because the iPod Touch offered the functionality of a "decent" mp3 player, and the incredibly popular and widely praised iPhone touchscreen interface, the sales hysteria from the original iPhone seemed to have rubbed off a little onto the new iPod Touch, and even though it was much (and later models still are) more expensive than other iPods in Apple's lineup, so many people were having orgasms about it that it didn't matter, and for the second time in the space of three short months, Apple were once again onto a major winner.

Time marches on, of course, and though despite upgrades in storage memory, the iPod Touch could never feasibly hope to match the capacity of its much more spacious (and much cheaper) hard drive based cousins, this was accepted as an acceptable tradeoff for what you actually get for your money. Later iterations of the iPod Touch came with more storage capacity and a longer features list, and while storage-wise they never really (to date) closed the gap with their more conventional siblings, they still had the same (if not more, thanks to the burgeoning market for downloadable software, referred to in an infuriatingly annoying way by almost everyone as "apps" (pronounced "ayapps", more often than not, apparently) appeal as they did when they were first released.

A LITTLE NOTE ABOUT BUILD QUALITY: How easy is it to break?:

Yeah, like I'd know that considering I've carried the thing around in at least one case since I bought it, sometimes even two (a sturdy one to protect it, and a softer one to prevent the sturdy one from scratching it (Look, it's damned expensive and looks easy to break (I'm doing that nested sentences thing again, see? (oh no not again))).

The device itself is beautifully crafted with only love and care and fairy dust, and as such isn't too shabby at all. The glass (not plastic, not tempered, and - if similar to the iPhone's - not unsmashable!) front of the device covers the screen, which itself appears further recessed slightly into the unit. I spose if you're lucky (though not lucky enough to have avoided dropping it, obviously) and you drop it, you might smash the front while avoiding damaging the screen itself, but frankly I don't ever want to put that to the test.

The back of the unit is made of beautifully curved and beautifully shiny and polished stainless steel. Something it shares with many of the other iPod models. (The square thing is a holographic sticker - I can only assume the previous owner stuck it on for some bizarre reason).
Unsurprisingly though, something else it shares as a result of this, is that the back will attract tiny scratches and fingerprints until it's practically matte in appearance. I strongly recommend at least a plastic case (like the one in most of the images) that clips onto the back of the unit to protect it from scratches and dints, as other metal-backed iPods I've owned have been susceptible to both.

As far as the glass front of the iPod is concerned, a smooth glass surface that doubles as a touchscreen, VERY quickly becomes quite disgustingly messy, covered in fingerprints, smudges, even food (if you eat with your hands/are a careless eater). It's a bugger to get polished and shiny again, and unless it is perfectly shiny it eventually becomes a tiny bit of a sod to use, as dragging your fingers across layers of fingerprints isn't the most pleasant way to use a music player or any other device for that matter.

For this reason, you can buy screen protectors that resist fingerprints. Apple sell two different types both designed to protect the display; one that is great at resisting fingerprints and reducing glare, while reducing the clarity of the display slightly, and one that preserves the colour and the clarity of the screen while being slightly less good at resisting fingerprints, and no good whatsoever at resisting glare.

Whichever of these you plump for, Apple will want to charge you the "expensive but it's worth it (apparently)" price of £9.99 for two. I bought a pack of six generic (very very slightly matte) screen protectors for £1.30, that are much less scratch resistant, but are resistant to glare, and make fingerprints a very minor problem, generally making the device much more pleasant to use.
Fact is, that if a screen protector isn't included with the iPod, it bloody well should be, and for Apple to charge people anything up to £300 (for a 64gb model) and NOT include a screen protector, is taking bloody liberties a bit. They may as well not include earphones, while they're at it.

Ah yes. The Earphones.
It seems to be a running joke within the Apple company, that the company invests loads of money into designing and developing new players, and next to nothing, it seems, on designing the headphones that these new players play music through.
Every set of apple headphones I've ever had have been uncomfortable, and more or less gutless, with little bass (and few high frequencies, actually) to speak of.
They're not the worst headphones I've ever used, not by any means, but what they're also not is good enough to be something you'd expect to be included with a player that cost you this amount of money.
Apple also seem to have reasoned that if the earphones can double as a thief magnet, attracting muggers robbers, and pickpockets of all hues, by virtue of being a very distinctive off-white, then they will gain extra sales from people returning to the stores to replace iPods that have been stolen from them.
If it wasn't for the microphone built into the earphones (which so far seem to be available in only the cheapest rip-off copies and NO decent aftermarket earphones), I'd have put them in my "crappy electronics" box in the loft. We'll come back to the microphone later.

THE INTERFACE: What is it like to use?:

Where "normal" iPods started with a combination of rotating wheels and buttons, and later migrated to simple centralised and minimalist touch-sensitive clickwheels, the iPod touch was a relative latecomer to the iPod family, and is not so much evolved from other iPods - that themselves each have a clearly visible and traceable design lineage - as distilled downwards from the iPhone, itself a completely different product designed for a different market.
For this reason, it might be better to consider the iPod Touch as less of a member of the iPod family, and more as the odd cousin that doesn't visit that often. A spiritual successor to the early iPods, the Touch might be. But an evolution of an existing iPod it was not. Controls wise, (until later upgrades that gave it a hold switch and an physical volume switch), the only button that the Touch featured was the "Home" button, itself taken from the iPhone rather than from any iPod.

As both devices use a touchscreen, the iPod uses an interpretation of the software originally designed for its iPhone counterpart, with the necessary tweaks made, some features added or changed, others removed. What this means in real terms is that instead of pressing buttons and seeing the results on screen, the buttons are on the screen. Objects on the screen could be physically "manipulated" using finger gestures, swiping from window to window with a side-to-side motion, scrolling up or down by flicking your finger up or down the screen, and of course the staple of any touchscreen device, tapping on a "button" to press it.

The GUI of the Touch (I'm calling it a Touch now, because iPod Touch is annoying after you type it 50 times in ten minutes) as with the phone, Apple's computer OSes and even Microsoft Windows, features antialiased icons, which when pressed open applications, lists of music, option menus etc etc. Icons can be moved around the screen, moved off the screen to a "second home screen" (reachable by swiping sideways from left to right), and some can be deleted altogether.

As with the iPhone, there's a "home button" below the screen that when pressed takes you back to the Touch's customisable equivalent of a main menu. Swiping from here in from right to left takes you from one screen of icons to (provided you have moved some of your icons around from screen to screen) to a second screen of icons. Swiping in the opposite direction brings you back to the first screen, and swipe from left to right a second time, to get to to the Touch's incredibly useful search window. Search videos, artists, songs, albums etc with ease and speed, using the on screen keyboard. Accessible and useful, I think you'll find.

MUSIC: Is it as good as they say it is?

The iPod's stated function of course, is to store and play music, and a quick tap of the "Music" icon brings you to the music selection screen. Scroll through the music by artist, individual song title, by album, or by other criteria like Genre and Composer. All in alphabetical order.
The cool thing about searching specifically by album is that provided you can find the album cover art (more on this later, too), a little icon representing the album cover is displayed next to the name of each album. It's helpful if you've memorised what the covers of your albums look like, and is still pretty cool if you haven't.

Playback? It plays music, it plays it pretty well.
I'm sorry to disappoint if you were looking forward to this bit, but I'm not going to bang on about technical audio quality, compression - lossless or otherwise - or bitrates. Audiophiles have the wonderful ability to enjoy every nuance of a good quality recording of good music, played on a good system.
Unfortunately for them, many also have the grumpy ability to disapprove of every technology, format or sound system that falls short of their high standards. I suppose this just goes hand in hand with the ability to really tell between "good" and "bad".

Fortunately for me, I am not an audiophile, I am just a music lover. I couldn't care less about bitrates or compression, as long as the music sounds good. And you know, the iPod Touch does sound good, even through my cheap (they turned out to be counterfeit in the end!) £15 "sennheiser" CX300s canalphones. Sound quality is generally pretty good, the bass is good and deep without swamping everything (I use the Rock EQ preset for a couple of tunes, and the R&B (even though I hate R&B) preset for everything else). The fact is that I think the iPod touch has very good sound quality, so I'm certainly not going to criticise it on that front.

The music interface is pretty damn good as well. Select an album from the list and it gives you the list of songs, allowing you to choose to play a specific song, or to "shuffle" (play in random order) the entire album. Let's say we choose a song.

What you've got now is the music playback screen (You can see how far the iPod Touch has come from the "old" iPods, in terms of the information displayed and the sheer ease of use that the new iPod gives you.

In the background you've got the album art, at the bottom you've got the usual play/pause/next/prev and volume controls. At the top you've got the tracker bar (with adjustable tracking speed, so you can track through the song at normal speed, or at much slower speed for greater precision for selecting a very specific point in the song, say), as well as the replay and shuffle icons.
Tap the replay icon once to replay the entire album once it reaches its end. Tap it again to replay only the song that is playing, once it has reached its end, tap it a third time to turn replay off.

The buttons in the top left and top right, return you to the music menu or give you the album song list, respectively. From the latter, you can also "rate" the song, telling the computer how much you like the song (this comes in useful for creating playlists in iTunes - we'll come to THAT later as well)...

Coverflow is an amazing feature new to the ipod range, and has been phased in over the past couple of models. It sure sets the newer ipods apart from the older ones.
Instead of scrolling down the list of albums in portrait orientation (holding the ipod vertically), flip it onto its side, and the list is replaced with representations of the covers of the albums themselves. These, you can flick through as if searching a shelf full of CDs. Tap on an album cover, and the artwork is replaced with a list of songs on the album. From there, either tap it again to return to the artwork, or tap a song name to play the album from that point.

Music is generally able to play in the background while you run other "ayapps". The same is not true of videos, which we come to now.

VIDEO: What about videos?

So you're on the train or whatever, you've got a long journey ahead. Is it as simple as just taking out the iPod and putting a movie on?
Well, actually, yes it is. Go to the "Videos" screen and you're given a little icon preview of each movie, as well as the length and the name of the movie (Stopping playback of a movie before reaching the end results in a helpful little "24m Left"/"48m Left"/however long/Left note by the side of the details, also).
The controls are pretty simple enough, pick a movie and it starts playing straight away. Play/pause, previous video, next video on the bottom along with the volume. At the top is the tracker or whatever it's called that you can use to select a specific time in the movie.

Another cool thing is that movies are generally played in their native aspect ratio (widescreen movies are wider than non-widescreen movies, as you'd expect), but if you want to use a little more of the screen, double-tap the movie while it's playing, and the iPod will expand the movie until it stretches to all four sides of the screen.

Video quality is great. Videos are nice and crisp, non-blurry, and very colourful. All in all, the Touch does a very good job.

PHOTOS: Images of various sorts of things...

With its lovely large screen, the Touch is also good for carrying around your photos to show your mates. While the iPod itself doesn't actually have a camera (I'm not going into that, there's enough moaning about it elsewhere on the interwebs, personally I don't care, I own a camera, I don't need to hope I get one thrown in for free on some other device) it does a good job of displaying photos divided neatly into seperate albums (which are apparently a bit fiddly to create).
Again, the usual finger gestures apply - slide from photo to photo, pinch the thumb and forefinger together on the screen to zoom out, move them apart on the screen to zoom in. The iPod can determine its orientation, so if you're viewing a landscape format image on the screen, turn the Touch onto its side, and the image expands to fill the screen. Turn it upright to view portrait format images.
The iPod also lets you play little slideshows of images, transitioning from one to the next.

In no particular order, we now come to another cool feature of the iPod.

VOICE CONTROL: Tell the thing what to do:

The earphones, as I mentioned earlier include a microphone and a few remote controls (volume, pause, play, next tune etc etc). Hold down the main switch on the remote, and the iPod goes into voice control mode. Like an answerphone, wait for the beep, then speak.

Remember, the iPod is just that, a music player. So commands like "make me a sandwich" probably won't accomplish anything. However, a helpful list of ideal commands scrolls by on the screen. "Play next song", "play previous song" etc are there, you can turn shuffle on or off, and there are a couple of other cool commands.

"What song is this?"/"Who sings this song" etc will result in a computerised female voice telling you the name of the song/artist. You can also select particular artists to listen to, i.e. "Play songs by Bonjovi".

The text to speech parser on "her" end isn't flawless, and neither is the speech recognition software, but I was surprised to find out just how accurate the voice recognition software actually is. By and large, it interprets my commands easily, the only tricky moments it's had so far is distinguishing between music from "Queen" and music from "Creed". In general, I ask it to play one of these two, and it plays the other. More than once, it responded to "play songs by Queen" with "Now playing songs by Wideboys" which made me giggle a bit, but as I say, these are really the only three artists that seem to trip the voice command thing up, and as I say, apart from these, the software is surprisingly accurate.

CHILDISH VOICE CONTROL GAME: Me sodding about and being juvenile with it:

In the interests of being childish though, I did fire up the iPod and select songs/artists with "unusually" spelled names/songs, and asked the iPod to identify them for me. Here are a few of the more amusing ones:

"Now playing 'Gym all your loving' by 'Zed Zed Top'" - Gimme All Your Lovin' by ZZ (pronounced Zee Zee) Top

"Now playing 'Cafe Del March, Dead-more-five rimmicks'" - Cafe Del Mar (Deadmau5) remix.
In retrospect this one might have been a little unfair on the iPod.

"Now playing 'Satch Buggy' by 'Joe Satch-ri-inny'" - Satch Boogie by Joe Satriani

"Eisbrecher" (pronounced "Ice-bresher" (It's German for "Icebreaker")) became "Eees-brit-cher"...

All that irreverent and juvenile stuff aside, I do actually feel slightly guilty for deliberately tripping the software up and then poking fun at it. In general, if the tune/artist is "in English" i.e. not given a foreign name like "Eisbrecher", "Rammstein", or "Tyskarna från Lund" (interestingly, the iPod did pronounce this correctly), then the text to speech parser is more or less guarunteed to get it right. It's certainly a cool feature.
Unfortunately, I don't use it for two reasons:

The first is that I'd need to use the headphones that come with the iPod, which as I've said, aren't bad, but they're not good enough for me to want to ditch my "Sennheisers". Aftermarket headphones featuring built in microphones seem to be more or less non-existent.
The second and more prosaic reason is that I simply don't want to be seen walking around, asking "myself" questions about who sings what, or sitting on public transport coming out with random utterances like "Next song". Enough people mutter crap to themselves on public transport as it is, that's why I bought noice cancelling headphones in the first place (see point one).

If you're in the gym or something, I'd imagine it's a cool feature and one you can get away with using, but as I say, the headphones would need to be a whole lot better for me to actually use them.

APPS: Pronounced "Ayapps"? AND ONLINE USE (what, the internets?):

The iPod Touch, being equipped with Wi-Fi, is able to use the Apple Apps store (formerly the exclusive domain of the iPhone) to browse and download new little bits of software to itself. Stuff like new games or other clever little bits of software can be browsed by the hundreds, and bought online.

So far, I've only downloaded a few games and things, and then, only free ones (I've just paid £220 for an ipod, I'm damned if I'm going to pay extra to use the fecking thing), but the premise is very simple. Search a category, read a review, if it sounds cool, pay for it (if there's a price), download it, and off you go, all over wi-fi.

I've downloaded as I say, a few games, as well as three incredibly good (and free!) bits of software:

eBuddy - allows you to chat with AIM friends, MSN contacts, people on Facebook and other communications networks, all from the same bit of software.

Facebook - Self explanatory - Browse facebook from your iPod

Sky News - Read the latest news on your iPod.

"Apps" as Apple have annoyingly (and proprietarily (is that a word?)) dubbed what everyone else would call "applications", "programs" or even "software", are the iPod's way of expanding and adding to itself, and since there are many hundreds (many thousands?) of apps out there, everyone's iPod is more than likely to be slightly different.

As default though, the iPod is given a few cool bits of software, not the least of which are Safari (Apple's web browser), a link to Google Maps (apparently the iPod has the ability to determine your location - I don't know how this works and I haven't tried it), and a link to Youtube.

Safari seems to run pretty well, and far from the dark days of "internet" phones that claimed to let you roam the "entire internet" (provided like most AOL users, you believe the entire internet describes the handful of sites suggested to you by the software already installed on the phone), the iPod truly is internet capable. If your PC/Mac can open an internet site, so can the iPod.
Two notable exceptions are that the OS of the iPod doesn't support Flash or Java - the former may be supported via a third-party application (ayapp). Not sure about the latter.
As I say though, fantastically cool feature. Who needs SMS on a cellphone when if you can find a wi-fi hotspot, you can just go online and have full conversations for free!

ITUNES AND ALBUM ART (the iPod is not a standalone device!)...

iTunes, iTunes, ahh lovely iTunes.
Well, lovely is debatable but as I'm on my fifth iPod (two first gen nanos, one second gen shuffle, one fifth gen video and one third gen touch) I'd be kinda screwed without it.

iTunes is the (free) supporting software designed to not only form a bridge between your computer and your iPod, but also a central command system for your iPod . iTunes is what sits on your computer and lets you organise your tunes into playlists (lists of songs you can play, surprisingly. For example, group all your christmas songs into one playlist called "Christmas playlist", turn Shuffle on, and you can while away the happy hours listening to christmas tunes).

iTunes lets you organise your videos, change your iPods preferences etc, and helps you sort your music into albums etc etc. Through it you can visit the iTunes store (a huge online market for albums and legal MP3 downloads, as well as videos, podcasts (like radio broadcasts, yet not) and the ever present "ayapps".

You will need iTunes if you're going to buy an iPod. It's free to download though, easy to set up and automatically updates.
I'd look on Wikipedia or the apple site to find out about iTunes, since this is only a quick review...

One cool feature iTunes has is to download album art from the internet, so you can have the associated album art for all your albums/artists etc on your Coverflow. Unfortunately, this function isn't infallible, and I personally have had to spend two days downloading and exporting hundreds of images of CD covers, to my iPod to complete Coverflow without leaving huge blank gaps in it.

VERDICT: I like this gadget:

I'm not going to summarise each point in detail, as I did it up there ^^ (All those letters and punctuation and wordy things)...

All said and done though, I reckon you absolutely get your money's worth out of the new iPod Touch. You can do everything from play music to watch movies, view photos to chat on MSN. You could be surfing the internet, reading the news, watching youtube, or just playing games, and the battery life is pretty good (30 hours audio OR 6 hours internet surfing OR 6 hours video playback).

It's lightweight, slim, and pretty damn gorgeous. The earphones are a bit of a letdown, and the lack of an included screen protector is a downright crime given that the thing smudges fingerprints like a great big smudgy thing until you get one on.

The price is a bit on the high side (£300 for a 64gb model (I paid £230 for mine - ex return - long story)) but once you've paid it, you've got it, and with a few free "Ayapps", you've got all you need to surf the net to your heart's content.

Overall?

Well that's for you to decide - I've already bought mine ;-).

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Dominos, now sponsored by Pepsi Cola...

Prologue-y crappy bit

What's wrong with this picture?
Is it the calories? Thousands of calories in sweetened carbonated drinks, threatening to ruin your kid's health?
Is it the, ?? Well I dunno, commercialism of these mass-produced containers of soft drinks?
Maybe the way that they're so cynically stacked in rows and ranks, each customer satisfied by nothing more than a grid reference?
Maybe the drinks are politically offensive, suggestive of a western bias in marketing?

Bollocks. What's wrong with the picture is that all the cans are standing up nice and straight, which is not how I left them.

Well, today started out easy enough, a nice walk down to work, a nice easy shift delivering here, there and everywhere. I'd been in a fairly good mood. And so the shift progressed, nothing hard whatsoever.
I've got a delivery up to Nobby Nobbs, 45 nonesuch street, Ankh Morpork (not really) and he wants a bottle of fanta. Which is awkward cos we don't sell fanta. Ahem, he wants a bottle of Tango. So I grab a bottle, juggling the remainder of the pack with one hand.
One pack (that is, five 1.5L bottles) fall into the dividing rail seperating the bottles and the cans, and like dominos, over they go!

Like this but on a smaller scale - still in slow motion though.
My comment at the time, as the cans dropped 140cm onto my feet was "AAAAAAARG FFS!!!!!" What's one more screamed comment in a hectic restaurant? :-D. Pretty much every single can ended up on the floor, via my feet or otherwise. It was a mess.

Still, I spose you had to be there.

So what have I been up to since early february?
Well, we've had a couple of birthdays, valentines day, a couple of other things, and not much else. It's been one of those winter months that you could fill with events until every day was filled with excited exhaustion, and it'd still be considered "dead".

I got home after ADSC, drank maybe two or three of my cans of beer, enough to feel happy, not enough to get drunk. I decided to lay back to rest my eyes and gather my thoughts for a few seconds, mid conversation...

...and woke up about four PM the following day.

From there it seemed that life returned pretty much to normal. I celebrated passing, celebrated one week since passing, celebrated "the week before my birthday", same pissup, a different name.

I have to admit, as with my formerly sarcastic and vaguely cynical assessment above, despite the events of February, not much has happened.
February seems to have been a non-month. The sky never showed itself, the sun hid behind a grey veil, as if afraid that its presence would give life to a day that wouldn't ordinarily be entitled to call itself a "Day".

Let's start with my birthday.
Hmm, I would list the accomplishments of the successive governments (Mostly Liarbore) of Britain since I was born, but to do so would be describing them as accomplishments, and frankly, I'm not in the mood to put my money where my mouth is.

From childhood memories, seen as if through a dream, as though they happened not to me but to someone else, the world was a different place back then.

After a quarter of century it has changed, not for the better, not ostensibly, at least. But for worse. The safer world my parents promised me never came, as the safer world my grandparents promised my parents failed to materialise. The names and the causes change, there are always enemies out there to hate and to fight.

Still.

For my birthday, we went to a local place, nothing special, but special enough that I was glad to be there - what that says about my relationship with my family, I'm not sure.

We had a good time, some beer, awesome nachos, a nice burger, and a nice get together. My grandad, parents and ickle nephew came, which was cool. A nice meal all in all, can't ask for more.

A few days later, they announced on Calendar (a local news show) that our local airport was due a visit from someone special - the mighty Antonov AN-225 - the biggest and heaviest plane in the world, was due to pay us a visit. Kindly, my mum offered to take me out to the local airport, to see if she could help me get a few shots.
I'm not sure what to say about that. I've always loved going out shooting with Nick, my mate, I didn't realise I'd let on how much I enjoyed it. I guess last time Nick and I missed the 225 at Manchester, I'd let the disappointment show.

Either way, my mum, my nephew and I were up early and drove off to the local airport, to see if we could find the beast. Six engines, way bigger than a 747, can't be that hard to find, surely?
We pulled up at a side road at the end of the runway, crammed with cars and people, struggling for places to park, and despite the incredibly bad severe tragic nasty and horrid fog, we waited. And waited.
Eventually a police car turned up.
Apparently everyone was being moved on, the aircraft would be taking off soon and its presence over the roads was deemed a presence to traffic. Politely, but firmly, the police asked us to move on.

And move on, we did. Driving into the car park of the airport, seeing if we could see the beast.
Optimistic, since thanks to the incredibly intense (I've never seen it that bad, ever) fog, we (from the car park) couldn't even see the terminal building.

We wandered along the perimeter fence, unti we found a couple of other photographers, and heard the distinct, loud but low-key humming of an aircraft's APU.
And there, behind the perimeter fence, close enough to see but almost too far away to shoot, was the Antonov. The only plane of its kind in the world. Sitting there calmly, its six engines not even powered up, its cabin doors open, waiting to be loaded.

We got a few photos before eventually deciding that enough was enough and we headed home. Not a good day, but as my mate Nick would say, rather tongue in cheek; "Bagged it".

Later on, came my ickle nephew's birthday. I'd worried about it for a while, but eventually set out to the local mall and went stalking for awesome presents to buy him.
After a while of skulking around, I wandered into a few toyshops and found a few cool things for him - an awesome remote control crane complete with stay cables, motors, flashing lights and everything. The thing was almost a meter tall.
I got him some of that astronaut ice cream too.

Shortly after came the ipod.
Yep, after its second rebuild, my faithful and awesome Ipod has not so much given up the ghost, as been retired - its battery now permits it a meager 1 hour of video playback from full charge to flat battery, and it's crashed once or twice citing unspecified errors.
So it's not broken, it's not dead, it's "held in reserve".

So I replaced it with my new baby, my beautiful awesome new gadget, the Ipod Touch 64gb.
Call me a fanboy or whatever, I don't care. Frankly I'd rather have this thing and everything it does than any £220 piece of shit you guys want to throw at me.

I love this thing, it's slim, it's sleek, it does tunes, video, hell it does internet, MSN, Facebook, IRC, for what, £220.

It's an absolutely beautiful piece of kit.
And after a few days of hard work, the thing is here playing Doom 2 OCRemix tunes. Which makes it even more awesome.

The thing next to it is my new cellphone, which I was excited about, until this beauty turned up in the post.

So that's february, and early march.

I'm Sorry I haven't updated for so long. I'll try to pay more attention in future :-).