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Darren Waters

My tech highlights - 2007

  • Darren Waters
  • 29 Dec 07, 15:28 GMT

Looking back on a year in technology and choosing the most interesting/impactful/surprising announcements or moments is always a tough challenge – it’s like picking a favourite child when you have an entire brood.
But I wanted to share the 10 moments that stood out for me personally in the last 12 months as a way of kickstarting the blog.

And so, in no particular order…

1. Remote play – PlayStation 3

Sony’s “unloved” console has taken a battering in the media and the number of exclusive titles that are also high quality can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
But the steady flow of software updates for the machine are beginning to bear fruit. The ability to access your connected PS3 anywhere in the world via a PlayStation Portable could one day be a killer application. Right now in ranks in the “very cool” territory.
It may not be that practical to play original PlayStation titles via your PS3 over an internet connection and on to your PSP, but it points to a very exciting future for Sony fans.
The ability to stream media – especially video – coupled with the release of a digital terrestrial TV tuner for the PS3 in the new year, could make the device a Slingbox killer.

2. Twitter

Twitter is one of a number of micro-blogging tools, which are pioneering a new form of online conversation. You can send messages, links – and thanks to tools like Twittergram and Qik, even audio and video.
It still feels like conversation at a pretty exclusive dinner party of geeks, but Twitter’s ease of use and ability to inform people and converse from almost any connected platform makes it a highly functional tool.
For sharp opinion and the latest news I tend to use my Twitter feed as my first point of call.

3. Call of Duty 4

Halo 3’s multiplayer elements may have been the best use of online in gaming in 2007 but Call of Duty’s single player campaign was the most intense and brilliantly realised piece of action.
The gulf between Hollywood immersion and gaming interactivity has always seemed unbridgeable, but anyone who has dropped into the long grass on Call of Duty 4 and tensed up as the enemy soldiers and armoured vehicles rolled pass knows that the distance is narrowing.
From skulking through the deserted remains of apartment buildings in a post-disaster Chernobyl to the impact of a nuclear explosion, Call of Duty 4 was the game to take your breath away in 2007.

4. Visiting Industrial Light and Magic

From the moment that giant starship elegantly passed overhead in the opening sequence of Star Wars I have dreamed of one day visiting Industrial Light and Magic, the visual effects geniuses.
I had the chance this year – and it was a delight to wander the corridors, filled with movie memorabilia such as the disc section of the Starship Enterprise to the model of Harrison Ford in carbonite, from The Empire Strikes Back.
I also had the opportunity to visit the nerve centre of ILM, the data center.
But most exciting of all was the chance to meet the people of ILM, including Oscar winners, who were gracious indeed to spare me their time.

5. My hybrid PC-Mac life

I use Macs at home and on the road, but a PC at work, so I often run into problems sharing data and information across two operating systems – from my e-mail to calendar and contacts information.
There are enterprise solutions – none of which are embraced by the BBC – so I’ve had to find my own systems.
This year I stumbled across two programmes which have made my life so much easier – Plaxo for sharing contact information across devices, and Spanning Sync, which syncs my Google Calendar information with iCal, on the Mac.
It’s still not a perfect solution, so if you have a better suggestion, let me know.

6. Breaking the terabyte limit

My first-ever hard drive was for a Commodore Amiga and it had 20MB of storage - and I never believed for a moment that I would fill it.
But a recent purchase of a 500GB external hard drive for my desktop – in order to back up photos and music – prompted me to add up all the storage at my disposal at home.
Including games consoles – PS3 and Xbox 360 Elite – plus various pocket drives, I realised I had more than a terabyte in personal storage in the house.
At the moment they exists as islands of storage- for example I can’t move content from my Mac to my Xbox, or from the Xbox to the PS3, but in the coming years I imagine that networked storage across devices will become more and more common.
Combined with the rise in online storage, soon there will come a time when any file you have ever downloaded, created, or altered will be available to you at any time, anywhere in the world, and on any device.

7. DivX support for Xbox 360/PS3

Games consoles like the Xbox and PS3 want to be at the heart of your digital world – and both machines took a step forward in that regard when they belatedly embraced the DivX video codec.
DivX is a highly popular codec – an efficient format for compressing and playing back digital video – used by many people who swap TV programmes and other video content over the net.
You could argue this move actually facilitates copyright infringement because now it becomes easier to watch pirated content back on your shiny HDTV, rather than on a monitor. But I see it as a step towards embracing video content without DRM restrictions.
We’ll see….

8. The connected world

A truly connected world is still some way off but I got an incredible thrill when two colleagues sent me a link via text message to a video clip of their visit to a Nigerian school trialling the XO laptop, better known as a the $100 laptop.
The video was shot on a mobile phone, edited with free tools on an Apple Mac and then uploaded to YouTube.
I got my first glimpse of the impact these laptops were having on children’s lives thanks to a mobile phone, an internet connection and simple distribution tools, ie YouTube.
I also realised the true story-telling potential of simple consumer technologies for the first time.

9. Joining the PVR revolution, belatedly

This hardly counts as new technology, but the BT Vision box I was given by BT – after I threatened to move to a different ISP – has transformed TV viewing in our household.
The box is intriguing because it is part Freeview Personal Video Recorder and part IPTV device; I’ve yet to use the internet television facility because you have to pay to download programmes and I think they should offer at least some for free.
Yet given that the box is connected to my router, BT should be working on letting people move their content to laptops, PCs and other connected devices as soon as possible.
Come on BT – embrace the connected revolution.

10. Social gaming

Friends of mine will know that I am a long-standing admirer of the Halo series. I’ve always loved the SF schlock plot, the high production values and intense action.
I’ll admit, I was disappointed by the single player campaign in Halo 3 – the storyline was underwhelming, and took no risks - but the online elements were brilliantly realised.
The multiplayer aspects remain the gold standard for consoles – and probably for PCs too – while the ability to share saved films, screenshots, and modded maps, put Halo 3 at the forefront of the user generated content explosion.

That’s my top 10 – and I could easily have picked another 100.
I’d love to hear yours.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 07:48 PM on 01 Jan 2008,
  • Gareth Clark wrote:

Hi Darren -

Plaxo will also sync calendars, it's been my find of the year so far. I use it to sync Outlook on my PC at work (calendar, contacts, notes and tasks) with Address Book and iCal on my Mac at home, and also my iPhone. I've also got it set up to sync with Google Calendar and Gmail contacts.

I don't pick up my work email on my Mac (other than using Outlook Web Access) but I do pick up my Gmail on my Mac, PC and iPhone.

Regards
Gareth

My find of the year has been scheduleWorld, which I use to sync my phone calendar with my google calendar so that I can make and amend appointments on the move without having to pay mobile data rates!

  • 3.
  • At 05:28 PM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • Ben Eaton wrote:

Hi Darren,

First of all may I say that I am eexxttrreemmmmeeellllyyyyy jealous that you got to visit ILM!

2007 has become a bit of a tech year for me too - although unlike you I tend to exist almost entirely inside the MS eco-system. I got very into blogging via Live Spaces (though I did some on my personal website before that), plus I finally moved to an almost totally webmail based experience, thereby freeing me up if I decide to move my ISP. The recent Live Calendar works great for me, especially as my home Vista PC syncs with it and with my work calendar to ensure I always know what's coming up.

Facebook has been a bit of a major thing as well this year. I have got in touch with old school friends whom I haven't spoken to in years, and we all met up at Christmas for a truly great reunion. On top of that, as my uni friends and I start to drift around the country, we have stayed in touch much more heavily than in the last few years, keeping up with each other and organising events.

I haven't tried iPlayer yet, but Channel 4's 4OD service has been interesting to play with, and I've found myself taking advantage of their free downloads to get into programmes I wouldn't have otherwise seen.

On another note, this year I finally took the plunge and purchased an iPod mp3 player (the very well known one! ;)) with video. Catching up with podcasts on the train in the morning has become a regular occurence, and the ability to carry DVDs and TV shows and audiobooks for personal consumption on long journeys in one tiny device has been fantastic. Unless you want to watch with someone else! :P

I think I'm finally starting to see the promise of the internet and the tech that has emerged over the past few years, and bizarrely enough, it's not on a computer screen, it's the way it has improved aspects of my life without me really thinking about it.

I look forward to 2008 to see what happens next!

Regards and still much jealousy

Ben

  • 4.
  • At 06:39 PM on 05 Jan 2008,
  • Behn K wrote:

As much as I love the idea of IPTV there is increasingly going to be an issue with picture quality. Watching programs like Dr Who over Christmas (both on cable and freeview digital) I noticed how in high action segments there was clear degredation of the picture. Now imagine in a few years when we all have HD televisions that will amplify these errors (displaying them in full quality!). Give me a DVD any day!

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