Fixing an Original Xbox (Halo Edition!)

On one of my recent thrifting expeditions I happened upon this original Xbox that was the super-cool halo edition in transparent green. I looked around for a power cord that I could test it with at the store but couldn’t find one. They were only asking $10 for it anyways, so I took the chance and bought it.

Upon bringing it home and connecting it up, I soon discovered that it didn’t power on at all. After some googling around I found out that it is quite common for the capacitors to go bad on these, especially the ones that are near the power supply. So I opened it up and sure enough, the capacitors had asploded (look for the brown goop coming out the top in the picture):

ew!

$5 on Amazon and a week later I’ve got new capacitors! I removed the old capacitors using my desoldering pump, cleaned the area of the board and then soldered in the new ones:

Then, the moment of truth! It powered right up:

I’m not sure what I’ll do with this now, probably trade it at a retro expo for more Nintendo stuff 🙂

Thinking Android? Think Sony!

I’ve used a lot of Android phones over the years starting with the first one ever. The quality of Android phones can often let you down, even the high-end models (I’m looking at you, HTC). I was getting tired of the recent trend in Android devices, mainly that they were getting way too enormous in size to be able to comfortably fit in your hand and pocket. The new Nexus 6 is just ridiculously ginormous:

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Image from CNET’s Nexus 6 review: http://www.cnet.com/products/google-nexus-6

I set out to find an Android device that would meet my requirements:

  • Comfortable size with a nice display.
  • Good camera.
  • Fast CPU and storage.
  • Good battery life.

Lots of manufacturers struggle to meet even 3 of those requirements. Samsung has the Galaxy S5 mini but its camera is no good. HTC offers the One Mini 2 but it has a much slower CPU and also a lousy camera. Sony is the only one who has put all of these things into one package in the Sony Z3 Compact:

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Small in size, yet powerful under the hood.

This device has really impressed me. The UI isn’t stock Android, but Sony doesn’t mess it up too badly with their customizations. And besides, Google is offering so many apps in Google Play like Google Now Launcher and Messenger which make it easy to pretty much get back to an experience that is very much like stock Android.

The camera performs really well on the Z3 compact as well. It’s not as mind blowing as you get with something like the iPhone 6, but I typically get sharp photos with little noise and correct color reproduction. All of the recent photo posts on this blog were taken on the device. It struggles a bit in low light, but that’s the only area where I’ve noticed any problems. It can also shoot slow motion video which is really fun.

The battery life is also shockingly good. I can use this device for two full days before needing to connect it back up for more juice. The fact that the device is a 720p display probably helps it use less power when compared to its flagship counterparts.

One issue I’ve had is that Sony is slow to update the software on the device. It is still stuck on Android 4.4, although it appears that they are rolling out the Lollipop update soon.

Hopefully other Android manufacturers will pick up on what Sony has achieved with this device and apply it to their lineup. If Samsung came out with a Galaxy S6 mini with similar specs to the regular S6, that would be hard to resist!

Some of My New Favourite* Things

I’ve found myself using a lot of great new software and gadgets, especially since I started working from home. Here’s a list of what I’ve been using lately:

TextMate

TextMate is an extremely versatile text editor for OS X. I use it constantly for code editing (especially PHP), cutting/pasting text, text searching and for taking notes. It correctly colors all of the code I throw at it, and integrates really well with the command line. My favorite new command is “svn diff|mate” which opens a diff in TextMate in its easy-to-read diff formatting.

Chrome

I waved bye-bye to Firefox a few months ago and switched over to Chrome. It’s fast, can handle a bazillion open tabs, remembers your last tabs if you accidentally close one, and has a Firebug extension (and yes, there’s also built-in developer tools that work great as well)!

YoruFukurou

For a lightweight, reliable and free OS X Twitter client look no further than YoruFukurou. It has a nice tabbed layout, can auto-add your contacts to a tweet, and has built-in search for public tweets. I tried the official Twitter client, but it doesn’t play nice with multiple monitors and Spaces.

Rdio

The creators of Skype branched out into an online music service called Rdio. For $5 a month, you can listen to unlimited music online. It does a great job of importing your current iTunes library and provides recommendations based on what you listen to. I’ve been able to discover a lot of great new music through this service, especially really cool Scottish bands!

Sennheiser HD 595 Headphones

What good is the Rdio service if you don’t have decent way to hear the music? My birthday present last year was a pair of the Sennheiser HD 595 headphones, which I selected based on Matt’s recommendation. I wouldn’t categorize myself as an ‘audiophile’, but these have better sound than any other headphones I’ve ever heard. They are also extremely comfortable – no pinching or head squishing at all, quite remarkable.

Scotch Whiskey

Allright, so scotch isn’t really a ‘Gadget’ but this is my list and I can put what I want on it! It’s been fun to ask the locals about what scotch they drink, especially our taxi drivers who all have differing opinions on which is the best. So far I’ve purchased two really popular makes and I like Macallan the best so far. It’s an acquired taste for sure, but it becomes quite enjoyable once you know what flavors you are looking for. I will be exploring more of this in the future!

*or ‘Favorite’ depending on where you’re reading this post from 😀