Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse–First Impressions

After borrowing a colleagues Microsoft Arc Mouse last year I ended up buying several of them and have been using them   exclusively since, so when the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse came out a few weeks ago I had to get my hands on one and take it for a spin. First impressions of the mouse is how flat it folds. The Arc Mouse when folded goes into a bit of a ball, but the Arc Touch folds complete flat and is only a couple of millimetres thick. Its super slim design is what really makes you sit up and notice, folding completely flat it has been built with portability in mind easily fitting into a pocket or the sleeve on the front of my laptop bag. When you first start taking it for a run, then next thing you notice is how lightweight it is. This is one of the reasons I loved the Arc Mouse and this does not disappoint. The USB receiver for the mouse is tiny and the underside of the mouse itself has a magnetic strip which allows you to simply stick the received to the bottom when packing it away. The one thing I don’t like about the Arc Mouse is that I run through the batteries pretty quickly. Unfortunately this is partly my fault as I keep forgetting to close the mouse which turns it off, but the new Arc Touch turns off when you fold it flat which I seem to be doing more often which I put down to the design. So far I’ve only had the mouse a couple of weeks so time will tell how the battery life compares.

So after a couple of week of usage, I have found that the mouse is not as comfortable to use as the Arc Mouse. Part of this I suspect is due to its lightweight design. Instead of having a middle button or a scroll wheel, as the name suggests the Arc Touch has a touch scroll area. This provides a vibration feedback as you swipe your finger up and down to scroll. Initially I thought this would be just a novelty, but as you start to use if, I’ve found it to be quite useful. The touch area not only works as a scroll wheel, but also as a middle click operation and also allows you page up and page down by clicking the top or bottom of the touch area. Scrolling works really well, but unfortunately I’ve struggled to master the middle click or the page up and page down functionality of the touch area. This feature has been very hit and miss for me.Arc Touch Mouse from Microsoft

When the Touch Mouse was first released, it was selling for around $80 which made it about double the price of the Arc Mouse, but a quick search today has them selling for about $50 making it only $10 more now. All in all I still think my day to day mouse will remain the Arc Mouse, but for a more portable solution the design and size of the Arc Touch make it a very close second.


Telco’s Holding Us To Ransom–An Update

In my previous article Telco’s Holding Us To Ransom I discussed my dissatisfaction at the way in which Windows Phone 7 updates are blocked by the Mobile Carriers. This doesn’t just affect the Windows Phone 7 platform, but also the iPhone and Android devices. It was interesting to read an article today discussing Microsoft’s strategy to break the hold that the mobile carriers have over them:

Microsoft has a good mobile OS, they just bought a soft carrier in Skype, and whether the rumors of a potential acquisition of Nokia pan out or not, Microsoft’s recent deal with Nokia seems to go beyond a simple OS licensing agreement. If Microsoft is trying to turn the cellular industry on end, it’ll start out with Nokia hardware built to Microsoft specifications…

And of course Microsoft isn’t alone in this ambition. Apple and Google each appear to have been moving to the same destination by different paths. Apple’s integration of FaceTime, first into the iPhone, then the iPod Touch, iPad 2, and Mac OS, is a clear move toward carrier independence.

Read the full article at Is Microsoft trying to end the reign of mobile carriers?

“Down Under” Tax Strikes Again

You may recall from a previous post I talked about the "down under" tax that Harvey Norman had applied to the Samsung Series 9 laptops, well today Lenovo has had to defend its aussie pricing of its new X1 laptop.

Over the weekend Harvey Norman had a 30% sale on all laptops, so it just goes to show the kind of mark-up they have on these to be able to simply chop nearly a third off the price tag. This brought the laptop within my budget, plus I’m heading overseas next week so I’ll be able to get the GST back. All up this brings the price down to $1570 – a much more reasonable price I think.

Samsung Series 9 Laptops and the "Down Under" Tax

Yesterday ZDNet released an article Why Do Aussies pay more for software, and I’ve come to expect that many things cost more in Australia and especially electrical goods as we simply don’t have the size market to get the economies of scale that they can achieve in markets such as the US or Europe but this story really hit home with me.

Over the weekend I was looking at some reviews of the new Samsung Series 9 laptop and liking what I saw. Check out a full review at, but some of key features are:

  • Weighs 1.3Kg
  • 1.7cm thick
  • Intel Core i5
  • Sandy Bridge
  • 128GB Solid State Hard Drive
  • Wakes from hibernate in under 3 seconds, and boots from cold in under 20 seconds.

Seriously, with specs like these what’s not to love, however, if you want to buy one in Australia, Harvey Norman has them exclusively and the mark-up they have put on it can only be described as a “down under” tax. At the time of writing, Harvey Norman is selling the laptop for $2498, but if you bought the same laptop from the US you’d be paying $1599. Given the current exchange rate (at the time of writing 1.07) the totally cost would come to AU$1495 giving us a difference of just over $1000 or a mark up of 67%.

An alternative option that I think is going to become more and more popular given the huge mark up is to purchase the goods from overseas and ship them out, however most places such as Amazon won’t ship electrical goods to an international address. To get around this you can use a service such as My US Address ( which effectively allows you to register an address with Amazon for your goods to be delivered to within the US and they will then forward the goods to you in Australia. Now even taking into consideration freight of about $100 and GST, you are still going to be around $700 – $800 better off. A couple of things you will need to think is firstly power supply. Fortunately with laptops all the manufacturers are creating standard power bricks which you can replace the connection to the power point with a localised power cord. The second is warranty. Samsung is offering an international warranty on the laptop, so if you need to make a claim you would need to post it to their customer site in Sydney to have it taken care of, but otherwise you are covered.

Alternatively, the exclusive deal with Harvey Norman runs out at the end of June, so hopefully this will allow for some more competitive prices. Here’s hoping.

Telco’s Holding Us To Ransom

imageI was stoked last year when Microsoft decided to launch the new Windows Phone 7 devices in Australia and New Zealand. Now I know this is mostly due to it being a softer market to launch into where they can iron out any last minute show stoppers before the big launches into markets such as the US and Europe, but it was still very exciting to be one of the first in the world to be on the new platform.

During a press conference prior to the launch that Microsoft and Telstra hosted, one of the questions from the media asked about how software updates were going to be handled and the answer was that everyone would receive the updates at the same time, regardless of the carrier they were on which brought much joy to the wider audience. Fast forward 4 months when Microsoft started to release the first software updates in February (firstly a prep update known as pre-NoDo which was simply a patch to ensure the actual update went smoothly, then the real update – NoDo) and what do we find – the updates though they are coming from Microsoft via the Zune software, looks up your phone to see which carrier and does a verification to check if they have allowed the update.

Now at the time of writing (almost 3 months after the updates were released), all of the carriers in the world except two have release the update – Telefonica in Spain and Telstra in Australia ( ), yet the frustrating thing is that Telstra were the launch partner! The big question on everyone’s mind is simply why? What could they possibly be still testing? If they find any bugs, its unlikely that Microsoft will stop the release seeing as all providers in the world except these two have released it. You would think this was a big enough testing bed to find any issues, plus any issues they did find, unless they were major bugs, would most likely be going into the next release (Mango). Its also very unlikely that there are compatibility issues between NoDo and the Telstra network, seeing as they already released the HTC HD7 pre-installed with the update over a month ago. So this bring me back to the initial question, why are they holding up the release, and the only conclusion I can come to is simply because they can. In a market where class actions are taking place against their competitors, it puts them in a position that those on the network are unlikely to up and change carriers (not mentioning the fact that I am locked into a 2 year contract) – even though the other carriers here in Australia have already released the NoDo update.

So. the biggest thing that I find most annoying is the fact that we were led to believe at launch that we would not be left in this situation where the carriers hold us to ransom, for what gain I really don’t know.

Update: Telstra has released the update as of this morning. The update includes NoDo as well as the SSL critical update.image

2010 – The Year Of The Gadget

For any technologist out there, 2010 has to be declared the year of the gadget. Let me run you through the new technology which has shaped my year.

To kick off the year, I purchased an iPod Touch. I was forever losing my smart phone to the missus to play games on, so I thought the purchase of an iPod Touch would be a great investment mostly for the great number of simple and addictive games on the app store, plus it would allow me to get my phone back. A few months later my wife was given an iPhone from her work and we were simply able to transfer all the games across for her. Throughout the year, the iPod Touch has continued to prove a worthwhile investment not only for my wife and I, but we have also found a large array of kids learning and puzzle games. My 2 year old can now operate it better than I.

For mothers day, I purchased a Roomba for my wife. Many said buying your wife a vacuum cleaner is a terrible idea but it has been one of the best household buys for many years. The advantages we have found is we can simply isolate one section of the house and set the Roomba off while we play with the kids in another area of the house or simply go outside with the kids. This means the house gets cleaned while we can spend more time with the kids or doing other chores.

I have forever been struggling with home backup strategies and the growing volume of digital media led me to get a home server. Specifically I went with the HP Media Smart Server. Previous to this I had a collection of external hard drives including a Western Digital World Edition NAS drive. The problem with this solution was I had to manually juggle media across multiple drives. Further I had to manually manage backups of each of our home machines which unfortunately was growing. At this point in time, I currently have a home office desktop, 2 media centre pc’s, a netbook and a laptop. The automated backup features of the home server and the quick recovery options paid for itself when my desktop hard drive crashed and I needed to restore not only the operating system but all applications and data. Further, the ability to add 4 internal drives and more external drives and span them all as a single volume meant not more juggling media across drives.image

This year my role at work involved attending many more meetings than previously. I struggled to keep up with the material that was being discussed and the action items raised. I therefore purchased a smart pen – the Livescribe Echo. This thing has saved my bacon on several occasions as instead of feverishly trying to take notes during meetings, I can let it record the meeting and I can simply take some points. Later I can upload to my laptop and review what was discussed. The only downside I have found is some attendees don’t like being recorded – so I have to remember to check first.

I’ve always enjoyed reading and part of working in Information Technology is the need to continually keep up with new practices. The difficulty in this is that many of the reference books are huge. Take for example one of the books I was wanting to read this year: Steve McConnell’s Code Complete. This book is over 1000 pages long, so try carrying that and anything else (such as a laptop) in your backpack to and from the train each day and you’ll soon be a chiropractors best friend. So with the explosion of eBook readers this year (and the parity of the AU and US dollar) I figured it would be a good time to get one. After doing some research I settled on the Kindle DX from Amazon. This proved to have the best resolution and the amazon marketplace was second to none. Also the large screen size and support for PDF suited the technical reference guides I am reading.

imageI was getting very annoyed with the cheap (and crappy) mouse we were supplied with our work desktops so figured I’d spend a few bucks on something better seeing as I sit using it for 8+ hours a day. A colleague had a Microsoft Arc Mouse and gave it to me for a day to take for a spin. It was extremely light and very responsive so it didn’t take long to win me over. Another colleague also wanted a new mouse so we gave him a spin and he too was won over. All up when I went to the local computer part supplier I came home with 7 new Microsoft Arc mice.

Probably the most anticipated technology for the year for me was the Windows 7 Phone. I had been surviving (just) with my iMate JasJam which I worked out was nearly 4 years old which in phone technology terms is prehistoric. The release of the Windows 7 Phone was late in November and I like any good technologist I queued up on release day to upgrade. With the release came several models and I went with the HTC Mozart and it hasn’t disappointed.

For Christmas my wife and I decided to get a joint present rather than lots of little things we didn’t really need. For several years we have been using a simple fixed focus point and shoot digital camera but we haven’t been overly happy with the quality of the shots and therefore we haven’t been taking many shots with it lately. As such we decided to go with a new digital SLR and after some research we went with a Nikon D3100. This is an entry level digital SLR which is ideal for us, it has all the auto settings for when we want to do point and shoot, but also has all the manual settings for if we decide to get more serious about photography.

Finally there is one more gadget which is currently sitting under the Christmas tree which I can’t wait to get my hands on, an XBOX 360 + Kinect. While this is supposedly for the kids, I’m sure I’ll get a bit of mileage out of it as well.

So it has been a very good year for gadgets and technology. Here’s hoping we have another cracking year next year.