Monthly Archives: April 2006

Garmin Forerunner 205

One of my newest toys is this cool piece of running technology from Garmin. Basically it’s an oversized wrist watch, with builtin GPS, and lots of useful features for running and other sports.

For all its clever features, there’s really only one that I use – the Virtual Partner feature that lets me run against one of my previous runs. I just pick a previous run as my Virtual Partner, and the Forerunner shows me how far ahead or behind my ghostly other self I am. It’s definitely a weird feeling when you’re only 10 feet ahead or behind your Virtual Partner.

I pretty much exclusively run alone, and having a Virtual Partner is good motivation when I’m out on a run. And he doesn’t mind if I’m feeling fast or slow that day – I can just run at whatever pace I want and he doesn’t complain. When I am slow, at least it’s only myself on a better day that I can’t keep up with.

One important tip – if you own a Forerunner, resist the temptation to set a really fast run as your Virtual Partner. It’s only odd days that your body is up to running a personal best, and attempting to stay with a hard pace on a normal day will be unpleasant and possibly dangerous. A fast but comfortable run seems work for me.

If you’re a regular runner and enjoy your gadgets, it’s worthy of your consideration.

I gave in and bought an Intel Mac mini

At the start of March, I posted my thoughts on the new Intel Mac Minis. I finally gave into temptation, and purchased the Core Solo model with 1Gb of RAM a couple of weeks later.

Having used it for almost a month, I’m ready to give my considered opinion. Please bear in mind that it’s being used in my living room for media playback, rather than as a desktop system:


  • Price – it’s just a little bit too expensive, especially when you add a bluetooth keyboard and mouse, and more RAM. Either drop the base price, or the price of the upgrades
  • The WiFi isn’t brilliant. I’m getting better results using a Belkin bridge connected to the Ethernet Port on the Mac mini
  • The Front Row remote is a little bit too simple, and I’m not convinced that it’s particularly well made
  • For compressing video content, the Core Solo processor is a little on the slow side
  • The 40Gb disk is very easy to fill up. Unfortunately my wifi network doesn’t quite seem to cope with playing remote DivX files via VLC
  • Front Row seems like a bit of a hack at times. No way to randomly shuffle a specific music playlist is a grave ommission, and I’ve also managed to crash Front Row a couple of times by turning on Visualisation through Salling Clicker while Front Row is running
  • The DVD Player doesn’t have full aspect ratio control, and VLC (where you can control aspect ratios) currently has less than perfect DVD playback
  • The Apple Bluetooth Mouse that I bought doesn’t seem to track very well. Might have to find a replacement


  • It’s incredibly silent and the form factor is amazing
  • The DVI output into my Pioneer plasma TV looks fantastic
  • FrontRow is a joy to use, despite its occasional bugs
  • Much as I like my Squeezebox, having full iTunes on a plasma TV is great
  • iPhoto Slideshows on a plasma TV with the Ken Burns Effect are gorgeous
  • iTunes visualisations look great on a large screen
  • Salling Clicker turns my Dell X50v into a killer bluetooth remote. A total bargain for $23.95 (assuming you own a compatible PDA or phone)
  • 1Gb seems to be enough RAM for use as a media centre

In summary, although it has a few issues, and is far from cheap, I’m pretty happy with my Intel Mac mini. 1Gb of RAM and the Core Solo were the right choice to make, although I wish I’d bought a slightly larger hard disk. My Squeezebox will soon be on its way to a new home (to be fair to Slim Devices, I wasn’t really using all the advanced features that the Squeezebox offers).

Once Apple sort out PVR functionality and HD content via the iTunes store, they’ll have a great media product in the Mac mini. The current Core Duo system also makes a lot of sense as a premium desktop, assuming that you already own a monitor.

The Death of

After several months of deliberation, I’ve finally got round to closing down Thanks to everyone for their support, especially those of you who took the time to write reviews.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the idea was fundamentally flawed. It’s very hard for most people to write a review of a wine without actually drinking it at the same time. And most people don’t sit in front of their computer drinking wine. Unfortunately this problem didn’t become obvious to me until I personally tried to write a review. After 5 months and only 18 reviews, didn’t seem to going anywhere fast (or slow for that matter).

All the links to have been removed from my other site, and the DNS entry will revert back to a Network Solutions default page within 24 hours or so.

Rest assured that my other sites aren’t under any threat. If WineSurvey had performed like my Motorcycle and Mobile Phone sites, it would be around for the longterm.

New and improved

I’ve just made a series of small changes to, aimed at making things more clean and pleasant:

  • The main content of review and comments pages are no longer in the form of two column tables. This means the text uses up more of the screen real estate. Should be give a much better experience on smaller screens
  • Larger margins and more white space in general. Too much was being crammed into the available space
  • Various small changes to make things more consistent

If anyone wants to compare the new look to the old look, compare with, which won’t be updated to the new style for a few days.

As always, any feedback is welcome. I can easily revert back to the old appearance if that’s what people prefer. Performance Simulator

My latest new feature is a car performance simulator, which I’ve just made available as a Beta. It’s a Java Applet, which brings certain issues with it, but it’s a pretty computationally intensive simulation, so I doubt Flash or Ajax could have achieved the same results in realtime.

It’s early days, and there are a lot of issues to be worked out, but I’d appreciate any feedback. My eventual plan is to open up the data side of things to visitors, so people can add their own cars.

Some interesting comparisons you can make are:

  • Ferrari Enzo vs anything else – no contest
  • Ford Focus ST vs Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk V vs Honda Civic Type-R – the GTI and Type-R are almost neck and neck until about 100mph, but the Focus ST is a fair bit quicker
  • Ford Focus ST vs a Subaru Impreza WRX STi Type UK – the 4WD of the Impreza gives it a good initial lead, but then its weight and 4WD transmission losses mean it can’t continue to pull away at the same speed

Airline site update

I’ve just added support for displaying the number of words in each review, to the Airline Reviews Site. This feature has been present on the other review sites for ages, and I personally find it useful. I’ve also taken the opportunity to fix a few silly bugs and inconsitencies, which I noticed while I was implementing the number of words feature.