Monday 19 December 2011

Caro Emerald, Shepherds Bush, 13th December 2011

I saw a CD in an HMV one day and the bright red cover caught my eye.

It was "Deleted Scenes from the Cutting Room Floor" by Caro Emerald.

I didn't know if Caro was a person or a band and none of the track listing meant anything to me.

A while later, I stumbled across it again on Amazon and listened to some of her stuff on YouTube.

Caro Emerald is a Dutch singer and her first album is a mix of 50s glamour, latin rhythms and 21st century pop.

Loving the album, I ordered up two tickets to see her at Shepherds Bush in December and took along my 19 year old daughter (who also rather likes her stuff).

I'd forgotten how tiny the floor is at Shepherds Bush Empire (O2 Empire now I believe), but it's the only place to be in my view and it guaranteed an intimate experience, with both those on stage and around you in the audience as the show was a total sell out.

There was no support act, but that turned out to be just fine.

About 8:15 the band appeared and then Caro to tumultuous applause.

The first song was "That Man" which set the mood nicely, but it was clearly an audience in the mood to enjoy themselves.

Caro and her excellent band rattled through the upbeat "Just One Dance" and "Rivera Life" before things slowed a little with "Two Hearts" (one of the few songs not on her album) and then into the song that launched her career, "Back It Up", which is probably the least representative song of the rest of her material, being less 50s influenced than the rest of her material (the story is she was 'discovered' when providing a sample vocal for this song when the writers wanted to sell it to a more established artist - You wonder who it might have ended up with if fate hadn't intervened?).

After a quick change, whilst the band kept us on the boil, Caro returned for a couple of ballads, "The Lipstick On His Collar" and "The Other Woman", both full of bitterness and lament, which is something she does very well.

The next song was a new single, "You're All I Want For Christmas" (Not the Maria Carey song with a similar name!), which is actually released as a duet with Brook Benton (posthumously), but which she performed solo, showing off the sweeter side of her voice well.

Next it was back to upbeat with "Dr. Wanna Do" and then another ballad, "I Know That He's Mine". The juxtaposition of styles showing off Caro's range well, varying between frothiness and moodiness both visually and vocally without ever looking or sounding phoney.

The main set came to an end with the pounding trio of "Absolutely Me", "You Don't Love Me" and the wonderful "A Night Like This", but we all knew there was more to come.

The first encore was "Close To Me", another track which, she told us, she only performs live. Being less familiar it was perhaps hard to judge against the other songs, but (dare I say it?) didn't seem that remarkable to me.

Fortunately, she saved the rattling good "Stuck" ("Baby take me anywhere, but not here again!") for last and had everyone on the floor (and most of those in the tiers of chairs above) singing and dancing along.

For a final encore, she returned and performed a heartfelt rendition of "Love Is A Losing Game" in honour of Amy Winehouse and did a good job of it too, delivering it with pathos and feeling.

A quick glance at my watch revealed the Caro and her band had been on stage for over an hour and a half, but the time had flown by.

Caro Emerald strikes me as woman who wants you to enjoy her music as much as she seems to enjoy performing it and that was exactly how I felt.

The show was fun and enjoyable and she came across as a very friendly person who was, perhaps, a little surprised that she had attracted a full house so easily, but her performance was fine reward (as was that of her band who all had their moment centre stage and played their part in making the show such a success).

Heading back to Westfield's car parks, people were dancing along the street in the cold - The best recommendation I can think of!

In years to come, people who weren't there will tell you they saw Caro Emerald at Shepherds Bush!

For another review see

Saturday 19 November 2011

Milton Jones - Lion Whisperer

I don't get to see enough live performances.

This is the same thought I have every time I go to see someone perform, even a bunch of lads doing covers in a pub.

This, though, was something different for me. Aside from a few trips to the Comedy Store, a Warren Mitchell one-man show (actually very good) and a club-comedian at Lakeside once, I have never seen a live stand up comedy performance, but I decided it would be fun to go and see Milton Jones.

Most people will probably know Milton Jones from his appearances on Mock the Week, where he makes comic observations, often puns or a play on words.

The Anvil in Basingstoke is a fairly compact modern theatre and we had excellent seats near the front in the centre. Some people were far behind us and high up and I wonder how good their view was.

The act started with Milton's disembodied voice telling us "It's Friday Night, it's Basingstoke - There's nowhere else I'd rather be. I think I'll come on in the second half, before that we have another act James Ancaster, but first Milton Jones' Grandfather!"

If you've heard Milton on the radio you'll know he has an unfeasible number of Grandfathers and the audience mostly got that joke.

"Milton's Grandfather" doddered onto the stage lookig remarkably like his grandson in a flat cap and long rain coat and you can see where Milton gets his style from as his act was very similar. He opened with "I had a cousin in Popley - Is that a nice place" and then went on to explain how he enjoys working in the Post Office for the "crumpet" ("Widow number 4 please")and many other very funny observations. His readings from his "Little Book of Time" were very funny ("Wolfgang Mozart", "What?" being 2/3rds of a very good one, which took a little while to hit the audience and which he worked back in later on).

After about 15-20 minutes, he doddered off and James Ancaster came on. James' style is very different to Milton's but I think he went down well with the audience. My wife commented that she didn't think he was very funny until the finale, but she said that was very good (I won't spoil it, but it's about skydiving) and I thought some of his observations about hiding behind doors and pretending to be dead in the bath (I know, but it WAS funny!) were very good. I thought he was a worthy support act and being different wasn't just a Milton-lite.

There was an interval and when we returned it was to the 'Real' Milton Jones.

With his trademark wild hair and bright shirts, he looked very much as you'd expect if you've seen him on TV.

His first line was "I had a cousin in Popley" which caused a ripple of laughter and was responded to with "Oh, he's done that one has he?".

The set lasted over an hour, no mean feat given the rate at which Milton delivers one liners. No long drawn out stories of his life here, if you've heard a Milton Jones joke before or don't like this one, don't worry there's another one just seconds away!

Some of the material was familiar from Mock the Week or his radio shows, but most was unfamiliar to me and the vast majority was very funny and original.

Milton Jones responded well to the crowd (it wasn't really heckling, but people shouted things out) and had a clever knack of referring back to things earlier in the set, even off the cuff responses from the audience.

Especially funny, because they were new to me, were his "slide show" set, where he showed us some of the slides he'd taken on tour (again I won't spoil the twist) and the use of modern technology (one of those old fashioned overhead projectors!) to display numerous hand drawn images ("This is Uncle Joe - He's getting on, his eyes have gone").

Everyone in the audience around me was having a thoroughly good time. The audience ranged from pre-teens to people well beyond retirement age and this highlights another unusual aspect of Milton Jones' Stand-up. He doesn't swear. At all!

The closest thing he got to risque was a joke that started "If I had a crystal ball...", but it would be a very odd person who could have taken offence at it.

Milton's quick wittedness and cleverness with wordplay doesn't need a string of expletives and manic performance (An arched eyebrow or shrug says so much when delivered expertly), which means that you can take your kids and grandparents along and chances are you'll all enjoy it!

He finished with asking us to help with a crossword clue "Grassy Upland - 4 letters M-something-something-R?"

"Moor, Moor, Moor" people answered - "I didn't want to leave it to chance", Milton replied, "Although someone in Leeds shouted 'Muddy'".

He did a short encore and then the lights came up, surprising us all with just how long his set had been.

Having seen a few "Big Names" at the comedy store and on TV, I was a little worried that I'd seen or heard most of Milton Jones' act already on various programmes, but although the style was unmistakably the Milton Jones from the TV or radio, it wasn't the same jokes and we all came away having had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Top marks from me!

Wednesday 10 August 2011

IRIS - Look into my eyes

About a year ago (maybe more) I signed up for the Border and Immigration Agency's IRIS scheme as I departed the UK on business.

It only took about 5 minutes and the idea was that I wouldn't have to have my passport checked when I came back into the UK, simply look into a camera and it would compare my Iris pattern (as unique as a fingerprint) with that recorded when I signed up.

On the return leg, the IRIS machines were out of action and since then I'd not had an opportunity to fly through a terminal with the system.

Yesterday, however I did. I came in through Terminal 5 at Heathrow and, passport in hand, faced the long queue at passport control.

Then I spotted the channel for the IRIS machine with just 5 people in it. Of course, I joined it, partly to see if it would actually work.

The device is a camera with a couple of mirrors (for people of differing height, I guess) inside a cubicle with two pairs of sliding perspex doors. The idea being that you go in, the entry gate closes (to stop others coming in), you get your eyes scanned and then the second doors open letting you through.

My hopes weren't raised too high as a bloke 3 in front of me repeatedly tried and failed to get the system to recognise him, Finally, he was ejected from the entry gate and had to return to the Passport queue (Oddly, there seemed no way to get back out until the machine decides you can, which is a bit embarrasing for the person in it!).

However, the next couple in front of me passed through fairly easily (the woman, seemingly, at the first attempt) and then it was my go.

I walked in and looked into the mirror it said to use. Looking back at me was my face with two small green circles superimposed on it. I tried to get them aligned with my eyes and then a calm woman's voice came from the machine, saying "Move back slightly". I did so and as I tried to align my eyes the exit gate opened and a green arrow appeared on the machine.

All this took 5-10 seconds maximum and I was through! Total time from touchdown to home (30 miles away) took 1h 15m! If only flying was always so easy!

So, IRIS seems a great system to me. I'm not sure the poor bloke a little ahead of me would agree though...

Details of IRIS can be found here.

Saturday 2 July 2011

Medal of Honor 2010

The Medal Of Honor series of WW2 First Person Shooter (FPS) games was always a favourite of mine, but increasingly it became overshadowed by the superior Call of Duty Games.

Call of Duty Modern Warfare was the "Star Wars" of PC FPS games, changing expectations so much that even they struggled to match it with follow ups (Modern Warfare 2 and Black Ops).

Electronic Arts, the makers of the Medal Of Honor series, decided that if they couldn't beat COD they'd join them, updating the 2010 release (simply named Medal Of Honor) to the Afghan conflict of the early 21st century.

So, how does it compare?

It's a more 'realistic' game, at least in the plotting, where you get to play US Navy SEALs and Infantrymen fighting the Taliban (including elite 'Chechen' fighters) in the familiar mountains of Afghanistan (familiar from TV news and documentaries).
There are no chirpy Brits in this game, which is something I (as one) like about the COD games.

To be honest, it's an OK, but not particularly special game.

The action is remarkably repetitive and, dare I say it, rather easy (On the regular setting - I was probably 'killed' a dozen times in the whole game - I would imagine you could sail through totally unscathed on 'Easy').

The graphics are pretty good, owing much to the COD:MW series, although I don't believe they're quite a match in quality terms. On my quad core AMD/Raden 5750 graphics carded PC, there's no stuttering and game play is impressively smooth throughout.

The main thrust of the game, involves you as a member of a SEAL team operating up in the mountains where you go in search of the Taliban. At one point you get separated from two of your team and the rest of the game involves you battling increasingly numerous Taliban fighters in the mountains.

As I say, whilst this is done in a fairly realistic way with good graphics, it gets increasingly repetitive as you fight up slopes to clear camps, bunkers and cave complexes and the end is both anti-climactic and sudden and seems to come far too quickly.

There is an interlude where you act as a helicopter gunship pilot engaging some ground forces, but as with some other FPS games, this just seems a rather forced diversion, at odds with much of the rest of the game.

As you might expect of a 'modern' warfare game, you get to bring down air support and artillery fire with the aid of laser guidance weapons too and as you move through the game you can pick up enemy weapons or, a rather neat touch, ask your
comrades for ammunition for US weapons.

I got this for under a tenner and, at that price, it was good value, but if you're paying more you might feel a bit short changed.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

More Music - The Eagles

The Eagles - One of the American supergroups from the seventies, they should be crap right?

So how come I love listening to them?

I suppose part of it is a nostalgia for my my youth - The little remembered "New Kid in Town" was a favourite when it was out and reminds me of freezing mornings delivering newspapers as a 13 year old saving up for a new racing bike.

But there's a lot more to that and listening to the very cheap and widely available 'Best of' double CD, I'm struck by how many good tracks there are (far from always true even of some of my favourite 'artists').

One of these Nights, Lyin' Eyes, the iconic Hotel California are all great, but so are Desperado, Life in the fast Lane and Best of My Love and loads of others.

Great guitar work without being pompous 5 minute solos, gut wrenching (or plain obtuse, but memorable) lyrics and tunes which despite coming from a black hole of music (on the whole) don't seem to have aged horribly.

So, there you are, a recommendation (of sorts) for you to go out (or just cruise to Amazon) and buy an Eagles CD (Greatest Hits is just £4.49 as I write this!)

Friday 6 May 2011

The National Gallery, London

I'm not an art expert or especially an art lover, but for a few years now (since my young son returned full of enthusiasm for a school trip to the place) I've felt I should perhaps stop in and see the collection at the National Gallery in London.

Dominating the backdrop to Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square the Gallery is easy enough to find and a grand building with an impressive columned entrance.

Entrance, thanks to the enlightened policy of some governments over the years (It's not always the case) is free, which probably explained the number of people on a Thursday lunchtime in April.

The collection(s) is (are) set out by period, with some as early as the 1200s, through the early 20th century (anything newer is in the Tate Modern - Also worth a visit).

To be honest, the early stuff was only of interest to me for its age and impressive condition. Most of it is religious in nature and naive in its composition and simplistic in colour. It doesn't really stack up to the later works, but it's interesting.

Interestingly though an odd painting here and there will startle with its naturalism (for example, the 16th century Portrait of Andreas Boulengier) in contrast to the icon-styled religious art.

There are a lot of Dutch and Italian works in the museum, including some incredibly detailed works by Canaletto of historic Venice, which caught my eye for their detailed draughtsmanship, incredible number of figures and for how unchanged Venice is.

There are Turners, Constables, Stubbs, Van Goghs, Monets, Manets (including one frankly dreadful painting of a woman that looked like it was painted by an amateur!) and dozens of other famous paintings.

Standing inches from "The Hay Wain", Turner's "The Fighting Temeraire", Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" or Renoir's "The Umbrellas" was slightly surreal. These are such incredibly well known images as to almost feel unreal and yet there they were.

Personal favourites were "The Umbrellas", Akseli Gallen-Kallela's "Lake Keitele" (An artist and painting I'd never heard of!), Van Gogh's "A Wheatfield, with Cypresses", Gainsborough's "Mr and Mrs William Hallett ('The Morning Walk')" (If there's an artist I DO like it's Gainsborough oddly, having been made aware of the skill of his technique on a visit to Petworth House some years ago) and Francisco de Goya's famous portrait of the Duke of Wellington (With awards added over the years).

Above : Lake Keitele

Above : Cornfield with Cypresses

I only had an hour (my lunch break) to spend in the Gallery and I wanted to spend longer, but it was a great place to visit and somewhere I recommend anyone with even half an hour (or a whole day) to visit.

Monday 2 May 2011

Eken M009S (MID) Android Tablet

OK, let's start by saying the Eken is no match for an iPad or a Samsung Galaxy Tab.

I paid £80 for mine, when Galaxys are £250-300 and iPads another £100 more, so my expectations weren't of comparability, I'm smart enough to know you don't get Ferrari performance for Nissan Micra money, but I had certain requirements for my Android tablet.

I picked the M009S for 3 reasons.

1. It was cheap for an Android 2.2 Tablet.
2. It had a 7" screen, which is a format I like, about the size of a paperback book.
3. I wanted it to read Zinio Publications and Kindle eBooks on, whilst allowing me to check emails, facebook updates and surf the net when the mood took me.

As I said, I only paid £80 for this and my initial impressions weren't bad on receiving it.

It's fairly flimsy and plastic feeling compared to an iPad or a Galaxy and the buttons have a cheap 'click' to them, rather an nicely cushioned feel, but it doesn't look or feel likely to break. Good value, at first sight, for £80.

I powered it up and found another cost-cutting point. The screen requires a solid push on it to react, unlike that on my HTC Desire phone or costlier tablets.

There's none of the swishing through through lists with a gentle brush of the finger, but it works ok.

The screen is a little muted in vividness too and only has 800x480 resolution. Stand alone, it doesn't look bad at all, but it doesn't compare side by side with the HTC Desire's lovely screen.

There are a couple of small speaker on the lower edge (when held in portrait mode), along with a power in socket, audio out socket, a slot for a Micro SD card and a longer slot which is allows fitting of a provided adaptor with two USB ports and an ethernet socket.

At the other end, there's a power on/off button and a "Menu" button and volume control on the right hand edge.

There's a button on the bottom front face, which works as a 'Back' button.

My first big disappointment came when trying to find my favourite Apps (as used on my HTC Desire) on the 'Android Marketplace'.

The included Marketplace was most definitely NOT Google and the vast majority of Apps I wanted were not included. Worse still, most of the Apps on the marketplace were in Chinese, rather less than useful to me...

Worse still, even installing many apps that work fine on my phone manually, they refused to work with the Eken's firmware out of the box.

Most importantly, neither Kindle or Zinio would connect to my accounts, even though I got them installed.

As a basic e-reader/media player/web browser it worked OK, but that's not what I'd bought it for and I was beginning to feel I'd bought a dud and was on the verge of sticking it on eBay for £50.

That I have persevered and have writen this review is testament to the efforts of Roger Calver on the forum.

Through searches I found his excellent Vestinious M009s Firmware which provides a whole new OS setup for the M009S.

There are risks in 'Flashing ROM', but I found the Vestinious 1.1.5 ROM worked flawlessly and I was able to restart my tablet with this OS installed in about 15 minutes of downloading it.

This transformed the device.

There's a Google Market (although, oddly, it seems to be missing some of the Apps I can find on the market on my phone, something I'm stumped about at the moment) with nearly all the apps you could want.

I quickly got most of my favourite apps installed, like Astro, Advanced Task Killer, Facebook, Better Keyboard 8, etc and set to work installing Zinio on it.

There is no Marketplace Zinio App yet, but some enterprising soul had pulled it off a Samsung (or other tablet it's bundled with) and posted it online. I'd had it working on phone for some weeks, with a few minor niggles.

It installed easily (even with the original Firmware), but with Vestinious I was able to connect to my Zinio account and download my magazines.

They read fine and a problem that I have on the HTC with the app crashing when switching orientation hasn't appeared on the Eken/Mid.

The 7" screen's a bit tight for reading on with my eyesight, but the neat TEXT option in Zinio lets me read the words in a text only form if the light is poor and I'll live with that for the convenience of the 7" format over the iPad's 10", which I'm sure would be easier to read.

I also put Kindle on, but initially couldn't get it to offer to register the device. I put this down to some problem with having a hard wired ethernet connection (using the adaptor) as once I disconnected that I was able to reinstall Kindle and was immediately offered a login.

Once this was done, the device appeared in "Manage Your Kindle" on the Amazon website and I was able to download all the books I'd got to the M009S.

The reader app works fine here and it even seems to remember where I am in a book between the HTC and the Eken which is rather a neat feature.

So, I now have a usable, valuable, functional Android Tablet for £80 and some time and effort.

I still have some minor issues with it, beyond those I mentioned previously.

At the moment it won't connect to the wi-fi hotspot on my HTC handset as that is an 'Ad-Hoc' network apparently (I believe this isn't too hard to put right) and the battery life is pretty poor (I reckon I get about 3 to 3 and a half hours from a charge reading magazines, considerably less with the wi-fi on) - EDIT : I did later get it work on the wi-fi on my HTC with no issues and it works well with my Mi-Fi from Orange.

I also can't get any barcode scanner software to work so far, but that's not too much of a problem.

If running BBC iPlayer is important to you, I wouldn't recommend this tablet. It runs, but it's like a series of stills rather than a flowing video. Odd, as it has no problem running AVIs at all, which look and sound pretty decent - So, it's pretty good if you want a stand alone media player.

I suspect the problem is the processor's a bit slow as it takes a few moments to switch orientation too.

Also, as you'd probably expect of a device this cheap, there's no GPS sensors, so no apps that uses that will work. More surprisingly, there's no Bluetooth connectivity, so you can't add a keyboard that way, if such is you want.

There's no multi-touch, pinch to zoom capability either, but I've read that there's a green LED version around (mine has a blue LED which illuminates when it's switched on) which does have this capability.

Would I buy another cheap M009S now, knowing what I do?

Absolutely, as it's doing what I bought it to do, but I can imagine there are a lot of rather frustrated people out there saying "Buy Cheap, Buy Twice".

The truth is, if you understand your requirements of an Android Tablet and this can satisfy them (hopefully I've cast some light on that), and can follow some fairly simple instructions you can get a pretty useful device for a cheap price.

Of course, if you can stretch to an iPad or a Galaxy Tab, you'd probably avoid all the complications I went through!

Sunday 13 February 2011

HTC Desire Smartphone

The company I work for (who shall remain nameless) provide us with Blackberry phones.

They're are pretty good for sending emails as the little keyboards are quite tactile and easy to use with some practice, but the models they give us have small screens and as I get older I'm finding it harder to read the screen than I did. They also are rubbish at sending and receiving images with text in (they compress them to a stupidly small size which is unreadable) and the mapping/GPS system is useless.

So, after waiting in vain for over a year for promised iPhones, I decided I needed a proper Smartphone, with a touch screen, zooming, etc, etc, etc.

Partly I envied my colleagues cool iPhones and partly I was fed up with the last decade functionality of the Blackberry.

So, I started looking. I fairly quickly discounted the iPhone. Firstly I'd heard lots of people complaining about faults with them, secondly I'm not keen on the way Apple tie you into iTunes software and thirdly (most importantly) I couldn't find one for under £35 a month.

Looking at the options, I quickly decided the HTC Desire (rather than the new and bigger HD or the smaller Wildfire) was the phone that fitted my budget and requirements (including portability and a decent sized screen) the best.

I've had my Desire, through Virgin Mobile, for a few months now and it's changed my perceptions of handheld devices quite a lot.

It looks very smart and professional, if not quite so jewellery like as the iPhone, which I rather like.

The screen is big (3.7 inches) and bright and the few buttons easy to use. The navigation, using these buttons and the touchscreen (which seems to work unerringly well) is logical and easy to get to grips with even without detailed instructions. I have printed out the user manual and found a couple of more obscure setup options using it, but it's very flexible and all the basic stuff is very easy to configure.

It was a doddle to get it pick up my work email, calendar and phone calls (although the latter was an option on the Blackberry to forward all my calls to my new number) and my Gmails come through to the Android Gmail app.

I installed a few free apps, including an App Manager and File Manager and was impressed with toys like the Compass, Barcode app (which lets you scan a barcode and then lookup a product online for price comparison or more details), various G-Meters (fun if not especially accurate) and the like.

After a couple of days familiarisation, I installed Amazon's Kindle e-reader software and downloaded a few, free classics. It's surprisingly easy to read books on the HTC Desire's screen, although you get a paragraph, rather than a page, of text at a time. Whilst I wouldn't use it to read books full time, it's quite handy to kill 5 or 10 minutes sometimes reading Dracula or the Legend of King Arthur.

The eBay app is good too, reminding me of when auctions I'm watching are coming to an end, something I'm pretty poor at without reminders!

On the way to a meeting, I opened the invite to the meeting from my calendar to find the address as I came out of Regent's Park Tube. If you're like me, you can find the nearest tube to somewhere easily, but don't know London well enough to know which exit is best or where to go once out on a first visit.

In this case, the tap to see the full address instead showed me the location on a map and a symbol (using the GPS) to show where I was. It was simplicity itself then to follow the map to the meeting (at a brisk 4.6 MPH according to the Speedo app!). An excellent solution that worked superbly.

Some of my iPhone loving colleagues wonder why I have a separate MP3 player (my excellent Cowon iAudio 7 reviewed earlier and still going strong even though it's now out of production, sadly), but I've always found the sound quality of the Cowon so much better than the Blackberry or any iProducts that I've preferred to keep my music on there.

However, I thought I'd try some music on the Desire, just for those odd times I've forgotten the Cowon or it's out of battery (not that it ever has been...).

The sound is not a match for the Cowon, with a thinner sound and no way to adjust the Bass, but it's pretty decent for a phone and listening to a couple of albums wasn't the chore it would've been on my old Palm or even the Blackberry.

The inbuilt 5 MPx camera, too, is pretty decent. In good light it delivers crisp, sharpish photos with decent colour tone, although it suffers a bit in lower light and the flash only works well close in. However, for a spur of the moment, fun night out camera it's pretty acceptable, certainly much better than the Blackberry's 2MPx camera, which took lousy photos even allowing for its lesser resolution, and as good (if not better) than iPhone photos I've seen.

I played the included Teeter app which is a game where you try to guide a ball through a maze without it falling into holes (like those old fashioned wooden games), which was frustratingly addictive. I then downloaded Need for Speed Shift (which I love on the PC) and found it a worthy contender in terms of game play and graphics quality to Gran Turismo on the PSP. Given the difference in price (A factor of 5x more for the PSP game!), it's hard to see why you'd want to spend so much on the PSP...

So, I'm wondering if the HTC Desire is pretty close to the perfect device.

It works as a phone and handles my calendar and emails (from multiple accounts) with aplomb. It's great for surfing the internet (via the web browser or specific apps) whether over 3G or wi-fi connections and can even act as a wi-fi hotspot for my laptop! In fact, I often don't turn on my home PC when I get in and just browse and read e-mails on the Desire connected to my home wifi network.

The camera is perfectly good for those spur of the moment snaps and it plays MP3s well enough for most people. It even acts as a pretty decent handheld games console.

I've only experimented briefly with the video camcorder and not watched any long videos on it yet, but it seems pretty usable in both respects, if not bleeding edge.

Whilst I'm not yet ready to throw away my MP3 player or Digital SLR, it's hard to see why many people would bother buying separate devices when a smartphone like the HTC Desire can do so many things so well.

So, is there any negative about the Desire? Well, typing is a bit of a pain with no tactile feedback and a small 'keyboard' especially in portrait mode. The battery life can be quite limited too if you use a lot of the features, in my first few days I had to charge it every day, but that's down to every other now.

Other than those issues, though, the HTC Desire seems a great smart phone which does pretty much everything you would want a mobile device to do!