Manual winding watches v Leica M10-D

Joshua Munchow, writing for the wonderful Quill & Pad Watch site, relates how purists of fine horology eschew the undoubted benefits of automatics in favour of manual winding.

The great British plug meets its Waterloo

WE HAVE LONG been admirers of Apple's diminutive iPod/iPhone power US power adaptor with its minimal volume and folding prongs. Michael even bought a couple on his recent visit to Washington and has equipped them with euro-plug adaptors. Even with this add-on, they are smaller than the normal adaptor.

So we were pleased to see  the UK version of this minimalist approach appearing in the Apple Store this week. This is slim and makes the best of the bad job of the massive triangle of pins we have to put up with. The whole is slimmer than the normal 13-amp plug.

Britain has the world's largest industrial-strength plugs, complete with internal fuses and every safety precaution known to man. You could power all the lights of the Titanic from just one of these gems of over-engineering. Time was, we had neat two-pin plugs and even mini three-pin plugs especially for low-power devices, but they have all been banished by our 'Elf 'n Safety gauleiters. It is encouraging, therefore, to find Apple doing its bit for us mortals owning devices that consume less than 5 Kilowatts.

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Our over-size and over-kill domestic electrical arrangements have so far withstood the conformist pressure from the European Union. While a changeover would be a costly nightmare, I am a great admirer of the standard European two-pin plug system. Sockets take either a round, heavy duty plug with side earth contacts or a simple slim two-pin unit which satisfies the majority of computers and peripherals. 

Meanwhile we British struggle on with our muli-sockets the size of a London bus with a cable of a diameter normally reserved for 20 KW electric cookers. 

The back of your 40-in TV or the underneath of your computer desk normally houses several of these hippopotomi basking in complete safety and capable of dealing with anything that lightning, kids or the downright foolhardy can throw at them. At least we're safe, even if we were to plug in the Titanic by mistake.

Pay to View: A wall of death for Times Online

TechCrunch has waded into the controversy over News International’s decision to stop free viewing of The Times and The Sunday Times news sites. My article (King Cnut: £1 a day to see his news site) offered the right advice on March 26 when the announcement was made: Goodbye, Rupert. Now TechCrunch says that “moving its content behind a pay-wall be the death of The Times; one of the world’s most respected newspapers and a British national treasure. Even with a relatively modest subscription cost of £1 a day or £2 for the whole week, it has been shown time and time again that the hassle factor of making even a small payment to access a website will result in a haemorrhaging of readers.”

Read Paul Carr’s story in full here.

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Printers: Do we really need them?

350px-TheFaulknerPortableAuthor: Michael Evans

Ruminating on the absence of a print connection on the iPad, I got to wondering why we really need printers at all. They take up a lot of space - which is my main objection - and need constant attention and fettling. We're so accustomed to electronic devices that need absolutely no fiddling that it comes as a shock to have to mollycoddle a piece of equipment that demands replenishing with paper and has an appetite for ever-greater numbers of minute ink cartridges: "Your puce cartridge is nearly empty, do you wish to proceed?"

Furthermore, any device that handles paper is prone to misfeeds and frequent constipation. That is, with the honourable exception of the brilliant Fujitsu ScanSnap range of scanners; they do seem to have got it right. But the majority of domestic ink-jet printers are a pain. They churn and clunk and click through a prolonged start-up routine every time you wish to print a page. And invariably one of the multitude of cartridges is near expiry and dire warnings are posted before you press OK to continue. 

So why do we need printers? The answer, as far as I am concerned, is not for much. I print the occasional boarding pass or letter to a financial institution that insists on snail-mail confirmation. I certainly don't feel the need to print out drafts for correction and, as the proud inhabitant of an paper-almost-less office, I most certainly never print stuff to file.

My all-singing-dancing printer never sings, seldom dances. It sits there, occupying a useful chunk of my office, and I would dearly love to be able to wave it goodbye. Unfortunately, for those occasional essential documents, I don't know of a better solution. At the moment, however, I am seriously thinking of consigning it to a cupboard or, even, the loft, where it can churn out the odd print without inconveniencing me for the rest of the month.

Back to the iPad and its lack of printing. I acknowledge it is a problem for anyone who is planning to make Apple's new pad their only computing device. In fact, there are two problems to face: the iPad cannot be connected directly to a printer and, of course, it needs a mother ship for registration and synchronisation. But anyone who has access to that mother-ship computer, whether belonging family, friend or neighbour, could also beg the occasional sheet of printed paper from the same source. The iPad, with its intuitive ease of use and no-computer-knowledge-necessary interface, is ideally placed to serve people who aren't interested in computers and who want to explore the net and deal with emails without hassle. 

PS: Colleague Ralf Meier points out that he prints from his iPad using PrintCentral and WePrint. He says that for the very limited printing he needs this solution works well. 

Dangerous plastic packaging

THE DIMINUTIVE Belkin Media Reader-Writer, reviewed earlier today, came in the usual enormous tough-plastic display packaging. This colossus measures 29 x 16 x 7cm. The bulky bit containing the card, manual and lots of cardboard, has an internal volume of 1,000 cubic centimeters (same as the cylinders of a small car or a superbike). The card itself has a volume of approximately 10 cc. So the packaging is 100 times larger than it ought to be. This monstrous confection was difficult to carry home and took up far too much space in my bag. And, of course, it is ridiculously wasteful and difficult to recycle. We are being charged for supermarket bags, so why do we get such packaging foisted on us for free?

My biggest gripe isn't with the size, volume or waste. It concerns the near impossibility of freeing the product from the clutches of this unfriendly, sharp, unyielding lump of plastic. I keep an enormous pair of scissors especially for this type of recalcitrant packaging. Even so, it takes great effort and trying to rip open the resulting clean cut is fraught with dangers. It can only be a matter of time before someone chops off a finger on such a sheet of razor-sharp plastic and sues Belkin or whoever for several million. Roll on that day because it will mean an overnight change to more sensible, cheaper and more customer-friendly packaging. 

Although this latest monstrosity from the House of Belkin was in the Apple Store, it is significant that most Apple packaging is a model of what ought to be: small, neat cardboard boxes which are no bigger than they need be. Even the latest 13-in MacBook Pro comes in a box that looks as though it contains nothing bigger than an iPhone. So it is possible, Belkin. Next time I shall consult Messrs. Sue Grabbit & Run, so be warned.

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Leica’s model numbering system returns to logic with the D-Lux 7

The next D-Lux will the called the D-Lux 7, the current model is just D-Lux, its predecessor was the D-Lux 6. So is the current D-Lux the D-Lux 6.5? Die Modellnummerabfolgeerfindungskontrollabteilung is back on the right track…..