Looking for a decent voice recorder

I’m after a decent voice recorder for this year’s uni lectures. We recorded them for a podcast last year, and this generally worked ok, but we could do with an extra recorder to cover illness / breakdown. 

I like the look of the Olympus WS-110, which comes in at ~£40. That’s the most the most I’m willing to pay, really, but I’m happy to as long as the audio quality is up to scratch. Its features seem pretty good: it saves directly to WMA and works as a generic usb-drive (with a whole 256mb!), so doesn’t need proprietary software. BoingBoing likes it, but (as ever) the Amazon reviewers flitter between omgitrocks and this-is-a-piece-of-junk. It’s “only” 28-bit – do you think that’s a problem? It’s only voice, after all.

Anybody have any particular thoughts / recommendations?

(I’ve just seen that Amazon’s Mechanical Turk apparently works as a decent low-cost transcription service, which could be handy.)

Gadgetlust

There is no obvious solution to my iPod and mobile phone simultaneously indicating they’re on the way out1. None.

Actually, one look at the O2 tariffs suggests there really isn’t. £269 for the iPhone, then £35/month for 200mins/200texts/unlimited data? I think not. Given that my phone and iPod have together cost me £10/month all year, I can’t even consider something like that. I’ll wait for the gPhone.

  1. whacking the former on the table, as per Ed’s suggestion, has actually done the trick for now []

Apple iPhone (alternative title: geek porn)

Apple iPhone Front Right side of Apple iPhone

I’ve never been much of an Apple junkie, but I have to admit that’s really quite the thing: a combined phone, widescreen iPod and web browser, with wifi, a 2MP camera and all controlled by a touch-screen interface (many more details here). It looks like they’ve gone all-out with the GUI, judging by the demonstrations – the texting one is particularly interesting. It doesn’t come out in the UK until the 4th quarter of this year. By which time, I can’t help but realise, my 4th generation iPod will be 2.5 years old. I can just get a second mortgage or something.

Mobile Phone Unlocking

Dad’s mobile phone was an experiment in keypad design that didn’t really work. The Nokia 3650 had the numbers in a circle around the navigation buttons, but he (and I) never got used to it. The phone got wet a few weeks back and hasn’t been working properly, so I figured I’d swap it for my now defunct Nokia 6600. The problem is that the 6600 is locked to the Orange network, and Dad’s on Vodafone. It’s perfectly legal to unlock your phone using non-official methods (unblocking – changing the IMEI number so that stolen phones can be used after being disabled – is very illegal) so I figured it was worth a go. I could take it to the local market, where anybody with a data cable would do it for a fee, or use an online generator.

There are various websites that provide the information, but it’s important to read up on the process as you’re only allowed five attempts to enter the correct code before the phone won’t let you try ever again – it must then be done via data cable or from the host network. To generate an unlock code you need to enter your IMEI number, phone model and host network. There’s also a ‘boxserial’ code that the software will take a best guess at. I didn’t need to change the default on this latter option, but it may be important for much older phones.

I removed the sim card, and first tried the software from unlockme.co.uk. I entered the details and it produced seven codes. Numbers one and seven, their recommended results, didn’t work, and I figured I’d try a different site just to see whether they produced the same codes. Trycktill.com was next, and their phone list also contained the 6600e, which is the Orange specific version of my phone. I chose this and again seven codes were generated. Number seven did nothing. I entered number one nervously, as if this failed I’d only have the one attempt left. Then the ‘phone unlocked’ message appeared! Woohoo! I put Dad’s sim card in and…it still didn’t work. Damn! A bit of googling revealed that the 6600 is a little finicky, and sometimes needs another code entering. So I entered code number five, the recommendation, and again the unlocked message appeared. This time, however, the phone started up fine and immediately connected to Vodafone. Great!

I’ve since unlocked the 3650 to allow easy transfer of information, and again the codes from trycktill.com worked fine – number one was successful immediately. So Dad has a new phone with a reasonable keypad layout, and we’ve a 3650 that’ll work with any sim card which could be useful as a backup. The last time I tried getting a network to unlock a phone it cost >

iTunes Connectivity Problem – Solved

A few weeks back I was helping somebody sort out an iTunes problem. It kept conking out whenever they tried to import any mp3s, and was understandably annoying. We found a workaround (change the music folder location, don’t click OK, then change it back) but that only worked per session – once iTunes was restarted the problem came back. Anyway, next time I saw him he’d sorted it out by unplugging his compactflash card reader. We weren’t really sure why this would fix it, something to do with iTunes looking for music in all connected drives maybe, but it did. So, great.

Back to me. I’ve been getting more and more annoyed with the iPod recently. Not the gadget itself, but the synchronizing with iTunes. Sometimes I’d plug it in and nothing would happen – restarting iTunes / the whole computer / the iPod sometimes kicked it into gear, but not always. Sometimes iTunes recognised it and started copying songs, but conked out halfway through. Copying photos was a waste of time, as it’d never make it to the end. I’d get error -36, the iPod would be stuck in ‘do not disconnect’ mode, and I’d get pissed off. Often Windows would give me a ‘delayed write failed’ message. I synchronize for the latest podcasts just before walking the dog, and it’s incredibly frustrating to have to try connecting three of four times before I managed to get everything I want. I’d tried wiping and reinstalling iTunes as well as re-formatting the iPod, but nothing seemed to work. I’m coming up on a full Windows reinstall, so figured if that didn’t do the trick then it must be a hardware problem.

Last night I wanted to show my parents my Live 8 photos, and thought it’d be cool to do a slideshow on the TV via the iPod’s tv-out. Except I knew that copying the photos would be a huge pain in the ass. Nevertheless, it was one of the reasons I’d bought the iPod Photo in the first place, so I gave it a go anyway. Sitting at the computer I looked around for the USB cable (I’m too cheap to buy a dock) and my eyes suddenly rested on my multi-format USB card reader. Why not, I figured. I unplugged it, and…

Everything. Works. Perfectly.

Every time I’ve synchronized since, it’s all gone totally smoothly on the first attempt. Why the hell I didn’t think of this before I have no idea. It’s like the two things just never linked up in my head. I transferred 14gb of photos last night without any problems at all. Woohoo!

So, for anyone googling with this particular problem, here are a load of keywords to help you find me. itunes error -36 delayed write failed ipod usb synchronzing stop not recognised do not disconnect.

Solution: first try unplugging any usb devices that show up as hard drives in My Computer. I don’t know about firewire or ‘proper’ external hard drives, but they may need to go too. I’d guess that virtual cd-drives may also be worth checking out. As a matter of interest I’m running Gmail Drive with no problems.

Only thing I have to worry about now is the 1.4gb remaining on a 30gb iPod…May have to cull my photo collection at some point!

The Perils of Happiness

Here’s what I did today.

I woke up, convinced it was Saturday, and got up about fifteen minutes later, at 9:15ish. It was at this point that I started thinking. Had I simply carried on with my usual morning routine of acting grumpy until I’ve had breakfast and then being cross with myself for getting up so late, I’d have saved myself a lot of money. But with the two-pronged attack of my life coaching making me happier, and another technique making me more organised (I’ll blog about that soon), I have much more time to think and I’m learning not to use it to find more things to worry about. So what was I contemplating?

Well, Megan‘s getting increasingly manic during the day. It used to be that a run around the garden would tire her out, but no longer. As I posted earlier, she fell into the pond and lay against wet paint just this morning. She’s just becoming a little difficult to deal with. Also I need more exercise than I’m getting, and given that summer’s just around the corner anyway it’d be pleasant to get into the open air. So a solution presented itself to me: I shall take Megan for a daily walk down to the park.

I know myself, and know that such projects often dwindle and die within a few weeks. So, I thought, how can I ensure that I get into a regular routine? What is it that would stop me taking Megan for a walk? Aside from awful weather (which Megan would likely balk at anyway), I decided that I’d probably get bored. There are only so many routes around here, after all. What could I do to stop this happening? Well, when I used to drive to York every fortnight I got into the habit of listening to audiobooks, which I really enjoyed. I listened to a good few Michael Connelly novels in this way and it was great. So audiobooks seemed like a good solution. They’re pricey, however. Then I thought: “ooh, lots of radio shows are in downloadable formats now, aren’t they. What’s that called again?”

Can you see where this is leading?

Podcasting. It’s a great thing. All over the internet (and, increasingly, the media) people are putting their own audio shows up for download. There are a wide variety of topics and subject areas to choose from. From science to education to literature to pop culture to the audio equivalent of blogs, there’s enough out there to keep me busy for a long time. Great! That sounds like exactly what I need.

There’s a problem, though. Sure, it’ll be interesting making the audio CD the first couple of times, but that’ll get old real quick. I could maybe use a CD-RW to save on media, if I could find a decent enough portable CD player. And they do stutter. And they’re bulky.

No. No, what I need is an MP3 player.

Easy enough, I thought. I shall have a look around and find something small and with a fair bit of space. Once the eBay iPod challenge comes to fruition, I’ll use that. So I had a look at MP3 players and it quickly became apparent that to have enough space would cost a fair bit. To have a decent number of songs and podcasts available on hardware that isn’t going to fall over in six months isn’t all that easy. So I found myself hanging around the Apple website, looking at the iPod feature list.

And what a feature list it is. It’s just so damned easy. You plug in the iPod and it synchronizes all of your music. If your music is all rated and categorised in iTunes already, as mine is, then it’s a piece of rather lovingly decorated cake. I’ve played around with iPodder before, and it can check for new Podcasts automatically, download them and then interface with iTunes to add a playlist. So, podcast-wise, all I’d need to do is find shows I like and iPodder + iTunes + iPod synchronization would do everything else for me. What else can the iPod do, I asked? Well. It has a built-in calendar and contacts, but big deal, I always have my phone with me (although that’s a damn site harder to synchronize than the iPod). It also has a few games, but again, I’m not all that bothered. But what’s this? You can use the iPod as a portable hard drive? Swanky. And I can record voice notes, admittedly with an adapter? Hmmm, that could come in handy. It can charge itself from the USB 2.0 port, you say? Well, that really would be convenient.

So the iPod seemed to have a lot going for it. I started to consider getting an iPod mini. But a quick check on Amazon showed that the iPod 20gb was only

Expensive Data

Just looking at replacing my phone. I don’t need 500 texts per month any more, and, as ever, it’s cheaper to get a whole new package than attempt to change price plan. Orange and Vodafone have some decent plans (if anybody even thinks about suggesting O2 I will force them to read through my many many posts from last year detailing the reasons behind my dislike of said company), but I’m hoping that this page is wrong, or the deal isn’t so great after all:

Expensive Data...

I’m not sure whether I want to sign up for an 18 month contract…Given that I don’t even know what I’ll be doing this time in July, it may not be wise to change now.

Me: Live

Nipped into Solihull this morning and, entirely on a whim, grabbed myself a webcam. I used to have a tiny little digital camera that doubled as a webcam (in fact it singled as a webcam given that it failed to save pictures half the time) but the quality wasn’t exactly terribly good and it kept falling off the monitor. This should do the job much more effectively, and it can link into Messenger etc. I’m not particularly into video-chatting, but I’m mulling over a cunning plan for it atm…

I’d recommend Cowboy Frank for webcam reviews (surprisingly difficult to find elsewhere).