David Artiss

Author: David (page 63 of 235)

Sony PlayStation 3 Wireless Stereo Headset

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After the disaster that was my 4Gamers headset, I decided to put a bit more money into what is becoming an essential piece of kit for my PS3 gaming.

To this end, the best value for money, I believe is the official Sony wireless headset. The main selling feature, apart from its wireless connectivity,  is the virtual 7.1 surround. You’d need to be spending twice the money for an equivalent Turtle Beach headset.

There are some areas where you can see costs have been cut – most notably the lack of any kind of dock or even charging cable (although the same that you use to charge your controllers will be fine). In fact, other than a paper manual nothing is included other than the headphones.

Packaging wise, I’m impressed – a cardboard carton inside holds the headphones, sitting inside the thin, printed box. Unfortunately, the headphones and instruction manual are inside a plastic bag, the use of which I’m unsure – it would work equally well without them and reduce the whole packaging down to easily recyclable materials.

The headphones look really good – matt black plastic with a thin, metal band over the top. The microphone is telescopic, so it can be tucked away when not in use.

The left hand panel, when pressed, acts as the power button and an LED on the tip indicates its status. A quick tap of the power button will act as a mute (and the LED will change from blue to purple) and a double click will get the LED light to indicate the current battery level. On the top is a button to toggle the surround sound and slider controls on the front and back allow to to adjust the volume and control how much emphasis is given to game sound and chat. On the back is a Mini-USB connector for charging, the same type used for the controllers.

You can also use the wireless transmitter in a PC and connect the headphones, although the virtual surround sound won’t work. The transmitter itself looks like a pretty standard USB memory stick, also cased in matt black plastic, and a blue strip lights up on the front when it’s in use.

Getting it going is as basic as it gets – plug the wireless receiver into the front of the PS3 and press the power button on the side of the headphones for a second. That’s it. A status bar will appear briefly in the top right hand corner of the screen (whichever PS3 screen you’re in) and will re-appear whenever you change a setting,

When it comes to headphones I’m always worried as I have a large head (no jokes, please) and I often struggle to get the band to expand enough. This isn’t a problem here – they expand more than enough and the cushioning on the ears and under the band makes it very comfortable in use.

Weight wise, they feel extremely light considering their bulk and the amount of padding. At 275 grams they weigh the same as a Nintendo DS (or a tin of custard powder, if you need another comparison ;)). They’re not, what I would consider, solid and rattle in places, but don’t feel as if they’re going to fall apart any time soon.

Sound wise, they are excellent – plenty of bass and the surround sound, although artificially created, makes game sounds that bit more realistic. I tried it on Battlefield 3 and it really enhanced the feeling of “being there”. There is some background hiss when the surround is switched on but I suspect this is just amplified noise, created by the wireless connection and amplified by the surround effect (it’s there when the surround is switched off, but not as obvious). The microphone picks up well and the resulting speech transmission is clear.

The wireless transmitter works for a good distance too – my PS3 is in one corner of my house and I can very nearly reach the completely opposite corner (with 3 walls separating me) before I get a drop off of signal. Battery life is quoted at 7.5 hours.

Right now you can buy these headphones at Amazon for under £64 (inc. P&P).

[review]The price may seem steep for a pair of headphones until you look at the competition for wireless sets – you can easily pay double the amount. As it’s made by Sony it’s specific to the PS3 and the ease of use shows as a result.

The sound, although a simulated surround rather than actual, is still excellent. It’s built well and looks good. I love the retractable microphone with LED on the end.

If you’re after a gaming headset for your PS3 and don’t want to pay hundreds for the most professional sets, you really can’t go wrong wit these – I love them![/review]

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Kingston Technology celebrates 25 years

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Kingston Technology, well known for producing computer memory, is celebrating the fact that they’re 25 years old.

Founded on October 17, 1987 by CEO and co-founder John Tu, and COO and co-founder David Sun, they are celebrating this anniversary with a contest. There’s a grand prize of $2,500 and the opportunity to design a USB Flash drive. Other prizes include $250, solid-state drives and Kingston’s 25th anniversary USB drive.

The contest involves designing your very own flash drive – full contest details can be found here.

Cognizant and their Wikipedia entry

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I love it when I come across entries on Wikipedia that have obviously been added by disgruntled workers or customers.

I’m not sure how long this sentence will remain on Cognizant’s Wikipedia entry, but here’s a screengrab while it’s still around. It’s the opening sentence that you need to read 😉

 

BT Infinity, EA and the missing packets

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As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a massive fan of Battlefield 3 on my PS3. One of the reasons for my recent upgrade to BT Infinity was improved bandwidth for playing this game.

So, days after installation, on Friday 5th October, I was hit by a problem. I was constantly finding myself disconnected from the EA servers part way into a game (particularly annoying because when this happens it counts it as a “lose” in your game statistics). I assumed it was an issue that evening and went to bed.

On Saturday afternoon I had a game without any problems.

But then, Sunday evening and Monday evening I had the same disconnection problems – now worse, often I was unable to even start a game. And I wasn’t the only one. Message flooded into the Twitter account for EA who would only state that they were “investigating”. The assumption amongst people, most of whom appeared to have PS3s, was that this was caused by EA’s recent launch of FIFA 13 and Medal of Honor : Warfighter Beta.

However, on Tuesday the penny dropped after performing a search and finding a discussion on the BT forum – this was only affecting BT Infinity users. This in turn lead me to another forum thread where other gamers, not just BF3, were reporting problems, even with non-gaming websites such as Twitter. Those with far more knowledge on networking had performed some investigation and had found the problem.

In a nutshell, from between 7pm and midnight, connections to certain US sites (including EA game servers, Twitter, etc) were having massive packet loses – that is data was being lost during transmission, causing the whole transmission to slow as data had to be re-transmitted repeatedly. It was further narrowed down to the sites that were maintained for BT by a third party.

Here is an example network trace (thanks to MilanoChris)

People had been emailing, calling and Tweeting to BT but had no response. Those who spoke with them on the phone was presented with an off-shore Help Desk who had no idea what they were talking about and appeared to have no interest either.

Indeed, the BT Service Status page didn’t show any issues and this had now been going on for 5 days. Were BT not aware of problems with their own system?

I Tweeted @BTCare twice and had no response. I emailed them but received a generic response asking them to check the settings on my Home Hub. In the end, those on the forum decided to simply bombard BT with fault requests. After a number of hours of doing this, and the issue being raised by The Register, BT decided to respond. The problem appeared on their Service Status and they started replying to Tweets to say they were investigating.

Later in the day, one of their network engineers posted on the forum to state that whilst their third party were looking into the cause they had re-routed a lot of  the traffic via another source…

We are aware of this issue and we have made some changes today, however the upstream has a significant congestion issue in their network (today we don’t even reach 60% of our available capacity to the LINX, which is the place where ISP’s in the UK exchange traffic).

We have changed our network to directly exchange traffic with rackspace (who host some EA sites) and we have re-routed a number of internet sites via other paths. We have raised this congestion issue with third party.

I explicitly asked the engineer to confirm that, because a temporary workaround has been put into place, the issue would not be closed until it was fully resolved – he confirmed this would be the case. That night I got into BF3 fine and had a great game.

Next day, more news – this time via ISPreview – but the Service Status has been removed. My assumption was that the issue had therefore been fixed and asked on the forum why we hadn’t been told this. An administrator said it hadn’t. Odd then that the open service status had therefore been removed (it wasn’t even listed under the resolved problems).

Over a week later and I’m not sure if the problem is resolved, but I’m guessing if it’s not then it’s on its way to being so. But a lot of people are left questioning the support provided by BT. We are all paying for a premium broadband service but we received anything but premium support. If BT were aware of this issue since the Friday (and you’d like to think they were) why did they not say anything? In fact they went out of their way to ignore queries via Twitter or to respond on the forum.

BT may have the best infrastructure and the best Broadband connection, but until they can match it with suitable level of support, they will never be best.

BT Infinity 2

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On Monday 1st October a BT engineer installed at my home BT Infinity 2. This is the double speed version of the original Infinity product, which provides fibre-optic “to the cabinet”. Infinity 2 also doesn’t have the capped downloads that the, still available, standard Infinity package does.

A week previous I received a BT Home Hub along with another package “for the engineer”. This was simply an installation disk, some manuals for me and a couple of of Ethernet cables.

Now, I don’t have your standard set-up. With a 3-storey house with a long ground floor, I have my existing router on the first floor to ensure all floors are reached. However, I also use Home Plugs to provide additional WiFi coverage to the full length of the ground floor. The master BT box is in the hallway, where I have a phone with answering machine, and I ran an extension cable upstairs myself to the router. This is all housed in my “office” where I need direct connection to the router for my switch. None of this is what I’d call a standard set-up.

I was told on the BT forum that the attending engineer would be there to ensure I get best speed and are pretty flexible so I decided to wait for him to decide the best method of set-up. Unfortunately, it turned out to not to be quite so simple.

For a start, they wouldn’t go near my extension (probably wise). The easiest solution was to move the master box upstairs but this would mean I wouldn’t have anything to connect my hallway phone to. In the end I told him to forget about that and I would, ahem, reverse my extension cable and use it to connect my phone downstairs. This I started doing whilst he was still busy.

The cable outside was very neatly moved and he drilled through to the office where he installed  a new style linebox and wall mounted the BT modem for me. It took a while but was neatly done – I only had to vacuum up afterwards.

Now my speed is stunningly quick – I try and not use the website speed checkers as they all seem to give different results. The engineer did a speed test via his equipment and, upon entering the premises, it was rated at 90 Mbps download and 20 Mbps upload – quicker than my original estimate (probably due to the cabinet being just up the road).

The HomeHub itself is, okay. It has some neat features (such as automatically changing WiFi channel to provide the best service) but also lacks others (you can’t change the DNS settings, for instance). The lights are clear and obvious and ports are well labelled. 4 Ethernet ports exist on the back, one of which is Gigabyte (not quite sure the point of having just one, though). One nice touch that I like is a removable plastic “plate” on the top which has your SSID and password printed on it – this means that when you need to set up a wireless device, you simply remove this to get access to the details.

Power consumption is low, but a power switch is easily accessible and, when not in use, it has a built-in standby mode.

BT Fon is switched on by default – this means that your Hub transmits a secondary wireless signal, which is security-less, allowing you to provide a free wireless hotspot to anybody nearby. Only excess bandwidth is provided to this hotspot so it shouldn’t effect your speeds. This can’t be switched off via the Home Hub – instead visit the BT Fon site and provide your BT details. You will then be able to opt out – this sends a signal to your Home Hub within 48 hours to switch off the facility.

Time will tell how much I’ll notice the speed increase – as is always pointed out any speed improvements are down to the entire network. Downloading files should be obviously quicker, but will browsing the internet?

Anyway, I was impressed with the engineer installation and the equipment is rather nice too.

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