Canon PowerShot S90 Review

Canon have recently announced the PowerShot S90. It’s a small point & shoot (“P&S”) with a 10 megapixel sensor and full control modes i.e. aperture priority, shutter priority etc.

Canon S90
Canon S90

It looks like a very promising camera – a direct competitor to the excellent Panasonic Lumix LX-3, released a year ago, which I own and enjoy.

Here’s one of the first full reviews of the S90, from Luminous Landscapes.

Read the full review here.

Amazon UK link

Nintendo DSi – update

Nintendo DSi
Nintendo DSi
I promised some more details on the DSi.

I’ve now had it for three or four days and had a chance to play with it for a while. The new features that I like are:

  • DSiWare – downloadable software
  • SD card slot – for music, photos and downloaded games
  • Better user interface
  • Dual cameras

I can’t say I really notice the larger screens and I don’t notice the removed GBA slot – in my DS Lite I used it for a rumble pack.

So far I’ve downloaded the Web Browser – works fine but just as slow as ever, Pyoro aka Birds & beans – a simple but fun shooting game and Paper Aeroplane – fly a paper aeroplane down an increasingly difficult vertical channel. I’d like to download Movable Memo as well but I can’t find it – I’m not sure it’s been enabled yet in the UK store.

I’ve tried loading some AAC music files onto an SD card and they play very nicely in the DSi. If the headphones are connected when the music is playing, it continues to play if the case is closed. Useful if you’re on the move.

The user interface is much simpler. The screen shows a horizontal list of installed software – lots of room to grow. The applications can be rearranged to your preferences.

The dual cameras are great fun. Although the images are only 640×480 the software allows you to manipulate and distort them to achieve lots of weird effects. Probably more fun for the younger audience but good to see Nintendo use these low-resolution cameras to good effect.

Overall, this is a very nice little games machine. When new “DSi only”games are released that take advantage of the faster processor I’m sure we’ll see some great new games. Until then, unless you’ve got a game that relies on the DS Lite GBA slot, your current games will work on the new DSi.

Not a must-have upgrade, but probably worth it especially if you can trade in your DS Lite as some high street stores are offering.

La Grande Ourse, Mont Chéry

La Grande Ourse
La Grande Ourse

There’s not much competition for the best restaurant on the slopes of Morzine and Les Gets. The pistes are littered with places that offer overpriced food and surly service. Having skied in the area since 1979 and this year since mid-February, we’ve had a chance to explore more places than usual and made it our daily mission to track down the best food!

Chez Nannon (Nyon) and La Paika (Les Gets) are very good, but ahead by a clear margin is La Grande Ourse (no, “The Big Bear”, not what you’re thinking).

La Grande Ourse is at the top of Mont Chéry, the ski area opposite Les Gets. Run by the Venning family, from Cornwall in South-West England, La Grande Ourse has been completely renovated in the last three years to a very high standard. The staff are attentive and knowledgable (and speak excellent English!) and the menu is a delight. On the menu when we visited was chicken, seafood tartiflette, lamb, salmon, Cornish sausages, duck and the inevitable hamburger. The menu of the day (15 Euro) was belly pork served with leek mash followed by sticky toffee pudding. My other half had the Cornish sausages. It was all delicious.

Although Mont Chéry isn’t the biggest ski area in the Portes du Soleil, La Grande Ourse is certainly good enough to justify a special trip to these slopes. We’ll be back soon!

To book go to the La Grande Ourse website or call 06 79 42 58 86

Sony PRS-505 Reader – A Short Review

I’m really enjoying my Sony Reader PRS-505. I got hold of it before Christmas with the aim of lightening my travel load, and it works a treat.

The screen is very clear – when I saw it on display in Waterstones I thought it was a mock-up with a piece of paper slapped over it. There’s no backlighting on the screen but you can always clip one of those little reading lights on the cover when you want to read in the dark.

Sony Reader PRS-505
Sony Reader PRS-505

The battery life is excellent because it only uses power when you turn the page. I ran it recently for seven days, using it everyday, and the battery indicator was still showing full when I got around to plugging it in. I’ve never seen it showing less than half charge.

Sony’s partner in the UK is Waterstones. Last time I looked they only had about 7,500 ebooks available and their prices aren’t low either. The good news is many ebooks can be downloaded free of charge, in fact the Reader includes a CD with 100 out-of-copyright classics to get you started. And the Gutenberg Project has thousands of free titles to download.

For purchased books I’ve been using mainly and Powells. Ebooks are available in a variety of formats, DRM’ed and DRM-free, and tools are available online to convert to and from various formats.

Sony Reader PRS-505
Sony Reader PRS-505

As a Mac user there is one ripple on the pond. Sony uses Adobe Digital Editions to authorise the Reader to display DRM-protected files and the Mac version of ADE doesn’t recognise the Reader. The solution is to authorise the Reader from the Windows version of ADE, either with a real PC or something like Parallels. Once the Reader has been authorised you can use the Mac version of ADE to put files on the Reader, or simply drag them to the Reader which shows up as a USB drive in the Finder.

An even better solution is Calibre by Kovid Goyal. Calibre (freeware) converts ebook formats, sends the files to the Reader, allows you to read the ebooks on your Mac as well, if you wish, and generally manages your ebook library.

Sony has recently released the PRS-700 with built-in backlighting, a touchscreen and a higher price, but it’s getting mixed reviews. The 700 isn’t designed to replace the 505 apparently, and both are likely to be on sale for the foreseeable future, but the PRS-505, at US$300/UK£200, is significantly cheaper and does the job well. Recommended.