Competition Winners: Creative Labs ZiiSound D5 Bluetooth Speakers and More

My oh my, you’ve submitted some great gaming stories from the 80’s and 90’s for my competition last week!

Clearly, we all remember the uncertainty of whether a game would load successfully or not. Blowing into the NES cartridge hoping that we could get the dust out. Patiently waiting for games to load from a tape. As Simon points out, while the games and 3D demos were the best thing out there back then and are still brilliant in our child-like memories, it’s probably best not to revisit them now – it just isn’t the same. That still doesn’t stop a few of us from threatening to get our old console from the loft or find one on eBay.

After reading through all of your entries, I picked winners using a cat and a Random Number Generator (Disclaimer: no cats were harmed in the winner selection), ensuring that those who’d contributed great entries (like photos!) got an additional chance at winning.

So with no further ado, here are the winners! *drum roll*

ZiiSound D5 Bluetooth Speakers

Tom Music wins for his many awesome comments, but in particular for the late night sneaking to play Super Mario 3 without getting caught – and feeling like a stealthy ninja for it.

More info about the ZiiSound D5 Bluetooth speakers.

Creative Zen 16GB in special edition red with EP-3NC earphones

Max, at comment #17, was brave enough to post a picture of life in the 80’s. For that alone, a prize was deserved! A patient sibling, Max seemed to even let the other kids have a go – as the eldest, I was rarely that nice to my sisters. (see comment #18 for my little sister’s views of games back then) 😉
More info about the Zen 16GB and the EP-3NC earphones.

Thanks to Evelynne and Sherlyn at Creative Labs who made this competition possible! Also, a big thank you to everyone who participated and don’t go too far – there will be more stuff to give away in the coming weeks/months if you all behave yourselves.

LiveScribe Pulse pen: Where were you all my life!?

As an early birthday present to myself, I bought a Livescribe Pulse Smartpen earlier this week. It arrived yesterday and I’ve just been blown away by it so far.

The pen improves on regular pens in two key ways:

  1. It registers anything that is written on paper, effectively scanning my handwriting as I go, which means that as soon as I get back to the computer, the pen transfers it to the LiveScribe software for future reference.
  2. It records all audio in the room, which means I can take a few headline notes without writing down every single piece of information.

Back in university, I had some form of RSI in my right wrist, so I made it a habit to record lessons on tape so that I didn’t need to write everything. In reality, I could never find the time or energy to dig through the 3-hour lecture recording to find the 5-minute segment that interested me, so it was pretty much a pointless exercise.

With the LiveScribe, it all becomes much easier: Tap the pen on the headline note relating to the audio clip you need, whether it’s a title or a graph, the recording will automatically go back to that point and start playing.

Normally, I’d shrug and say that this is a gadget for geeks and will never reach into the real world. Past similar gadgets have existed and gone nowhere fast. The biggest difference? This one prices its accessories reasonably.

The pen itself is £120-£150 so it’s a small initial investment, but Moleskine-style notebooks cost about £1 more per unit than their traditional Moleskine counterparts, and the A4-sized school notebooks are £16.99 for a pack of 4. The paper is thicker than with the Moleskine, which makes me happy as I’m a heavy-handed writer. Next time I need to get some notebooks, I think I’ll get a 4-pack of the pink flip notepad which is far cheaper than Moleskine journalist flip notepads. (Plus it’s pink, wayhey!) The ink isn’t overpriced either, and in a pinch, since it writes like a normal pen, it’s possible to use the pen without the fancy paper (unlike stylus-based systems).

The pen does raise some interesting ethical and legal questions: What if I forgot to mention to someone that I’m recording our conversation? Or maliciously chose to record a private conversation? Of course, I have no intention of doing that, but the technology is now becoming available and affordable to people who aren’t MI5 or hired spies (albeit in a pen the size of a large cigar!) so we’ll undoubtedly be seeing these issues show up on the Information Commissioner’s agenda in the future.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a great new addition to my arsenal of tools to support my sieve-like memory and no one needs to worry about me using it stealthily. I’ll be too busy showing off the piano party trick it can do!

Now you can watch my first pencast below…

My cats’ routine
brought to you by Livescribe

[Note: Before you ask, this isn’t a sponsored post and LiveScribe didn’t give me a free pen. I just am that much of a geek that I get excited over pens.]

Five Years of Blogging: Celebrating with some giveaways

In April, That Canadian Girl celebrated 5 years of bloggy goodness and, yet again, I nearly missed its birthday. Oops!

In reality I’ve been blogging for nearly 10 years – a friend kindly hosted my first diary-style site back in 1999 or 2000. The Wayback Machine can see a site on thatcanadiangirl.co.uk from 2002, which is when the previous iteration of this blog was born.

This makes me feel really old. In Internet terms, that’s an eternity. I mean… ten years ago, Geocities was still popular, Google was moving into its first office, the Melissa worm was working its magic on mail servers across the world, and everyone was still starry-eyed about the Information Superhighway.

Oooff… sorry about that flashback, it was like being the old drunk guy from the Fast Show for a minute.

As my memory is absolutely hopeless, I usually consider my blog’s current archive – which goes back to April 2004 – to be the beginning of Time As We Know It.

Now for the giveaways: To celebrate this milestone birthday, I’m giving away goodies to my readership which match the topics I’ve written about over the years; geeky, funky, practical, food-related and artsy goodies.

To take part, all you need to do is leave a comment and tell me which ones interest you: On Sunday, 10th May, Jack & Rose will pick out winners for each of the prizes!

geeky

A ticket to FUEL conference FOWA Tour, an excellent Carsonified event about online marketing and social media, held in London on June 23rd. Ryan kindly offered me a ticket for one of my readers, so entrepreneurs, marketers, this one is for you.

Anyone can win this ticket, as long as you’re able to make your way to London for the event.

[Update: As there have been some changes to the Carsonified calendar and FUEL has been cancelled, you will win a ticket to the FOWA Tour in a city of your choice: Cambridge, Leeds, Bristol or Edinburgh.]

funky

I love unusual art and beautifully decorate home offices. Stuart from Spin Collective is giving away three sets (up to a value of £30 each) of the superb wall stickers. They’re jaw-droppingly cool and I’m having to resist very hard the urge to keep them all for myself!

Spin Collective will ship anywhere, so everyone is welcome to take part. If you win, you’ll get to choose from the website and they’ll be shipped to you directly.

practical

To satisfy the productivity nerd in me, I had to include a tool I’ve been using for a couple of years that changed the way I use my phone. James from SpinVox is giving away two SpinVox voicemail-to-text accounts.

SV is available in the UK, US, Canada, France, Germany & Spain, so if you live in any of those countries and uhh have a mobile phone, go for it!

foodie

I’m a total foodie, so I thought it was only fair to include something food-related to the list. Of course, I’m not going to ship you a bowl of my awesome homemade chilli as it’d get messy and Royal Mail would give me funny looks (…yet again)

Niall Harbison from Look & Taste (previously ifoods.tv, and yes he’s the guy who braved Dragons’ Den) is offering a few things:

First, if you’re an iPhone user, there are 10 licenses for Twecipe (£2.39) and another 10 for Look & Taste’s own video recipes app.

Secondly, Niall has agreed to create a pro video of a recipe of my readers’ choosing. Want to immortalise your nan’s best pudding or that wild recipe you made up the other day? You’ll get a mention, and Niall will let his viewers know where the recipe comes from.

The apps are (obviously) for iPhone & iPod Touch owners, and the recipe video is open to everyone.

artsy

I love beautiful things, making cards & handmade gifts. I’m pretty much rubbish at it and my projects look like something out of a preschool classroom, but I still love it.

Blurb.com have offered a £35 voucher for a Blurb book, so it’s a chance to create your own full-colour, beautifully professional-looking bound book. Whether it’s to remember your kids’ summer holiday or a special event, it’ll be unique!

Blurb ships to lots of countries, have a look at the list if in doubt. Promise you’ll show me your finished product 🙂

So what are you waiting for? All these awesome goodies are just one comment away!

Gadget lurve: Coffee and little friendly robots

Recently, I’ve been falling in love with inanimate objects. I self-diagnosed I had a problem when I found myself talking to said objects while home alone. Either it’s cabin-fever from having spent the past few days in the house or I’m just losing my marbles. (Generous reward if marbles are returned)

First gadget I’m in love with is my new Senseo coffee machine. I bought it from Amazon about a month ago, and literally picked the cheapest single-serve coffee machine I could find.

In the past, my dilemma with making coffee at home was that, with Andrew not being a coffee drinker, it was difficult to find the right coffee maker. Normal filter coffee machines made too many cups at once, Bodum coffee makers were out of the question because of the amount of grinds at the bottom of my cup (some people disagree on this one, and it’s possible I’ve been doing it wrong all along, but I just don’t like the one-person Bodum), and we live in a small town with no Starbucks or coffee shop within any reasonable distance (thank god, or I’d be very broke).

So I thought for £45 (doh, it’s even cheaper now, it’s down to £35!), it wasn’t a great loss if it turned out to be rubbish. I only tend to have one cup of coffee a day, and only in the morning, so after settling myself down for a day working from home, I made my first cup. And I have to say, it makes great coffee, and takes no time at all.

Before seeing the pods, I was somewhat concerned of the waste I’d be causing, but it turns out that the pods are nothing more than a paper filter, wrapped around pre-ground coffee. While snooping around SingleServeCoffee, I heard about the Ecopad, which was presented as both a more environmentally-friendly solution and a way to use ANY coffee type you liked instead of the few that are offered in pod form. Promptly ordered two Ecopads, but have yet to use them, as I’m still using up the pre-made pods I ordered on CafeCo (Great site, but they forgot to include the little coffee bean stressball in my order!)

I haven’t tried very many coffee machines, but based on my experience, not only is this coffee very drinkable (and strong!), it’s also easy to make and the machine is easy to clean – Just press both cup size buttons at the same time and let it run a water cycle through. So highly recommended for the casual coffee drinkers who might like to cut down on the share of their salary they donate daily to Starbucks.

The second gadget I’m in lurve with these days is Asimo. I think I even had a dream where I was running in a field of flowers holding hands with my best friend Asimo… Ok maybe I should’ve kept that to myself. That’s ok, AWESOM-O-lovers will understand me. 😉

This one stretches beyond just Asimo, though. I’ve been talking to Keira, my little Nabaztag/tag bunny, and she’s been responding. She even sang me “Au pays de Candy” last weekend, and my family knows how much this means to me (put that video online and I’ll have to kill you!).

Mmmmkay, I’ve probably spent more time with non-sentient, robotic little beings this week than I have with real people, and it’s sending me loopy. So of course, I’ll communicate this via my blog, while listening to music via the Airport Express, then Twitter some work colleagues who are at SxSW and check the latest YouTube videos I’m subscribed to

Right, I think I need to get away from technology, go live in the woods, do some camping and hunt for my own food for a while.

Nabaztag does YouTube

Subliminal messages in this video:

  1. Bunnies are sentient beings (and they’re evil, just look at the Raving Rabidds for example!)
  2. Donate to Comic Relief, even Keira the bunny contributed by buying a big red nose… ear… thing…
  3. Giving the bunny’s email address to my nutty old housemate was a bad idea. (This one’s not so subliminal, it’s more like… abusive!)

Wario Ware: Smooth Moves

Since Christmas, we’ve had little time to play Wii, but one game we’ve had for about a week has definitely got Andrew excited again. Wario Ware: Smooth Moves is even nuttier and more unbelievably fast-paced than Rayman was.

Those who owns the game will understand this: THE best bit has to be the intro on how to make each move. The tone and pace of the voice is just such a classic!

Turn the Form Baton sideways and grasp the ends firmly in both hands. Like riding a bicyle, perfecting this stance requires grace, steadiness, and tight shorts.

For those who don’t own it yet, I strongly encourage you to get it. However, don’t expect slow-learners and mothers to get to grips with it without significant frustration. It hasn’t quite got the learning curve of Wii Sports.

[tags]Wii, Nintendo, Wario Ware, Smooth Moves, videogames, Rayman, fun stuff[/tags]

Three is company!

No, don’t worry, I’m not announcing we’re having a baby! We’re having a bunny!

Keira, my Nabaztag/tag bunnyThat’s right, Keira, my Nabaztag/tag has been with us since before Christmas, but only recently has it become usable. First there were all the server issues at Violet in Paris. Then there was the unavoidable busy times with the holidays, Pepsmedia and well, being sociable for a change?

But yesterday, I was working from home and gave a work colleague instructions on sending messages to my bunny. I later found myself in fits of laughter when Keira started humming Jingle Bells Rock for me.

I’ve yet to write any clever services for it (read: Get Andrew to write them) but it definitely has potential in that area. In the meantime, it’s just a nutty entertaining talking clock, who occasionally also does a bit of Tai Chi, and loves to sing Philippe Lafontaine – Coeur de Loup when given the opportunity!