Amazing Photo Album on eBay

eBay Item 7331865939: 19th c. Japanese Lacquered Album w Albumen Photos

Wow…I just saw this auction on BoingBoing and it’s amazing. It’s an album of fifty photos from Japan in the 19th century, just of landscapes and people going about their lives.

Hafuya Hotel

It’s an amazing snapshot of daily life in a time and place completely detached from ours. As if modern Japanese culture wasn’t different enough, these are from over one hundred years ago. Admittedly the time is when Western influences had started to permeate the culture (look at the houses in Kobe and the sign in the above photo), but it’s still impressive. The pictures of landscapes and things like temples are one thing, but seeing the people of this culture immortalised is a wonderful thing to look at.

$1,500, though? It’s just beyond my funds and I’d be bidding on it without a second thought if it was cheaper.

Camino 0.9 is Blazing Fast

I just downloaded the alpha version of Camino 0.9 and, holy crap, it’s a fast browser. It’s a Mozilla browser (like Firefox) but designed as a native OS X application (unlike Firefox) so it takes advantage of some of the functions and interface features of Apple’s operating system. It’s seriously the fastest browser I’ve used and although the built-in adblocking isn’t quite as good as Adblock under Firefox I can deal when it’s this good. Give it a try if you’re running an Apple.

iTunes 4.9 and Podcasting


I’ve become something of an RSS addict since I started using NetNewsWire to save the hassle of visiting countless news sites daily, but the growing phenomenon of Podcasting has escaped me thus far. Just as the Internet itself opened journalism (used loosely in some cases) to the masses, podcasting seems to be doing the same to radio for anyone with a microphone and a web connection.

I’ve been listening to the excellent Inside The Magic Disney World podcast since it started but even getting that was annoying without running a seperate program to retrieve it, so for me and the millions of iPod owners who don’t know what a podcast is, this iTunes update has the potential to blow it wide open. Pretty much unlimited free content to listen to is always good, whether you want to read content from the community or stuff from the “real” broadcasters, as the number syndicating their content with RSS continues to grow. I’m hoping for the BBC to start putting some of their full radio shows online through a podcast, but there’s plenty of stuff available now.

Anyway, through digging around I’ve found that I enjoy the aforementioned Inside The Magic as well as Xbox team member Major Nelson‘s podcast, but I’m on the lookout for more. If anyone knows of any good ones that they think I’d like (technology and gaming are both fair game, but I’ll take anything interesting), let me know.

PS3 is Doomed

Joystiq and Team Xbox are reporting the admittedly tenuous story that Microsoft are courting a developer made up of several members of the Shenmue development team and, whether it’s putting two and two together to make five or not, speculated that it could mean that Shenmue III is on the way for the Xbox 360.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m nuts about Shenmue and the thought of it with the graphical acuity of the 360 just has me salivating. It’s probably my favourite series which makes the stunted ending of the series so far all the more tragic, but MS are probably thinking the same thing about the amount of money they blew securing Shenmue II as an Xbox title. It’s all speculation but it certainly could add up to a continuation or conclusion of the series. As a graphical showcase for what will certainly be a popular machine, and coupled with the cult following that the series has amassed it must be worth it.

Xbox Media Center Impressions

Xbox Media Center

I’ve been using Xbox Media Center for a long time now, since I got my first Xbox chipped back in March 2004, and never really used it much. That Xbox became an emulator more than anything. I don’t know why, but I just decided yesterday to try out the latest version of XBMC to see how far things have moved on.

First, some background for those who don’t know: XBMC is a homebrew application that runs on modded Xboxes either as a basic application or a complete replacement for the standard Microsoft Dashboard. From within it you can run your Xbox games as normal, but also do almost everything that you’d expect from a full HTPC system.

It can play any format you can throw at it from the hard drive, disc, or streamed over a network – DVD, DivX, XviD, Quicktime, MPEG, WMV, MP3, AAC, etc, so that you can watch or listen to them on your TV. Even online streams and iTunes network shares can be played through it. The only features it lacks are the ability to burn DVDs and record television, and you can bet that if the Xbox hardware supported it those would be implemented in a heartbeat.

In did a complete reinstall of XBMC with the latest version, which was worlds ahead of the one I used to have. To test it out I sent a couple of gigs of assorted media over (mostly Quicktime and XviD videos, with a smattering of JPGs, WMVs, and MP3 and Ogg Vorbis music) and played around for a few hours. Everything, including HD videos with much higher resolutions than my TV, played flawlessly. Prerendered or not, seeing Killzone 2 running on a TV looked great.

One of the coolest features, and one that I didn’t even know existed until I stumbled onto it by accident, is the ability to stream from web pages. Included are scripts to let you view movie trailers direct from the Quicktime site, with the navigation implemented into the XBMC theme very nearly perfectly. You can also view any of GameSpot‘s video content in a GS-themed browser. It wasn’t quite as seamless as the Apple one, but seeing on-demand video reviews of new games is just too cool.

You honestly couldn’t tell that this was free software by looking at it. It’s more polished, feature filled, and works so well that I could easily justify spending the price of any other piece of Xbox software on it. You can’t help but feel that Microsoft missed the ball a little (or a lot) by barely including even the most basic of XBMC’s features in the standard Xbox, and the potential shown must have influenced the media functionality of the 360.

This is one amazing piece of open source software that I’m definitely going to be following the future progress of and, if I can’t afford a full HTPC by that time, I might use the 360 to play all my games and simply turn that Xbox into a media center. It’s really a great achievement.