22 September 2005

Link exchange—why it works and why I don’t do it

One of the secrets to getting more visitors to your blog is having more people link to you. That seems pretty obvious: more links = more traffic through those links. What isn’t quite so obvious is that more links also means more hits through search engines. If Google sees plenty of references to your website when it is spidering, I am led to believe that it will receive a greater weighting, meaning that it will rank higher in searches, and perhaps even be spidered more regularly.

If that’s the case, then exchanging links, either ‘manually’ or using a link exchange tool such as Reciprocal Manager or SolvoLink, would be a great way of boosting your traffic.

But although I would love more visitors, I just can’t bring myself to exchange links. My philosophy is that I should only refer people to sites that I really like or are relevant to the topic in question. Equally, I only expect other people to link to me if they see merit in something I write or in my blog as whole, or if they know I know where they live (just kidding!). So if I link to you, I’d be flattered if you reciprocated, but I neither request nor, indeed, expect it.

Okay, that’s all very altruistic, but how does it sit with my occasional use of BlogExplosion, which is, in a sense, a reciprocal linkage system? Well, I guess I’ll just have to admit to being inconsistent there. I do like to browse blogs, and if I’m going to be doing it anyway, I may as well get some hits from it. And I’ve found quite a few BlogExchangers do actually read, digest and comment, rather than just click mechanically. I see that as something a little different from actively recommending a blog by linking to or blogrolling it. But perhaps that’s just my inner ‘hit junkie’ speaking :-)Go to eebahgum!

18 September 2005

Silly idea of the week: Samsung E760 cellphone

samsung E760Samsung’s latest mobile, the E760, is certainly a stylish piece of ear candy, but its ‘unique selling proposition’ is the silliest idea I’ve heard this week. To quote from the latest Link catalogue, in order to start the phone’s camera or mp3 player:

“…no need for keys, just shake the phone while holding the hotkey.”

No matter that you’ll look a complete dork standing there shaking your mobile, but you still have to hold down a key! Oh, sorry, it’s not a key, it’s a hotkey. I see the difference.Go to eebahgum!

14 September 2005

Another great idea for your portable music player

Sumajon SmartwrapIn case you haven’t been able to tell from my recent postings, I’ve got headphones on the brain at the moment (though I suppose that’s the usual place for them, in a sense). My last post reviewed a set of retractable ‘phones, but for those who already have a set of favourite ear companions, you can get some of the advantages of retractable ‘phones with this clever little piece of plastic from Sumajin, called the Smartwrap. It’s a stylish cable management device, available in a range of colours to match your entire wardrobe. You could conceivably make something very similar yourself, but for the ultimate style statement, pick up one of these from Sumajin’s website, and while you’re there, get some of their coloured earpads to match.Go to eebahgum!

Review: Boxwave Minibuds 2.5 mm headphones

Boxwave’s Minibuds are retractable earphones designed for use with portable music players. They’re available in black or silver-white, with either a 3.5 mm or 2.5 mm plug. My previous post bemoaned the problems I’ve had in finding headphones for my smartphone, and the Boxwave is one of very few options available with a 2.5 mm plug.

I weighed up the Proporta and Boxwave options before choosing the latter, swayed by the marketing blurb on Boxwave’s website, user comments on the web and the fact that they have a little clip on the back for attaching to your clothing, which the Proporta ‘phones do not. A dangling cord may be inconvenient, which is the whole point of retracting phones, but a dangling retracting thingy would be downright annoying, I decided.

I ordered the Minibuds from Boxwave’s decent website at a cost of US$23 plus postage, and they arrived from the US to sunny Surrey in about 5 working days, a week before Boxwave’s ETA. Very impressed so far!

As you can see in the picture, they’re quite attractive, although a little fragile looking. The retractor mechanism works well but is not immensely powerful, and a little care is needed to make sure the cables don’t bunch up when retracting. The clothing clip, whilst a great idea, is quite small and a little fiddly to attach in practice. I daresay I will get use to that. Certainly the freedom from trailing cables is wonderful, although best of you can attach the spool midway between your ears and media player. As I usually have my phone on my belt, that’s a problem when, as today, I am wearing a polo shirt, as the only place you can attach the spool is a little too high, so you’re still left with excess cable. Even then, it’s way better than normal earphones in this regard. The earpieces are a little on the large side, and very snug fit in my smallish earholes. I’d rather they were a tad smaller, but I have used larger still and got used to them in the end.

But what about sound? Well, it’s really quite good. There’s plenty of volume compared to the Orange supplied headset, and much better bass response. Earbud-type ‘phones often feel very bass light, but these have quite a flat frequency response. Bass is a little wooden sounding, and naturally not all that extended, but rock music comes across with a fair degree of ‘oomph’ and some real dynamic range. Midrange presence is good and voices, spoken or sung, sound quite realistic. Extreme treble is a little subdued and lacking in the clear sparkling quality of better phones, but very few earbuds ever manage that sort of transparency anyway. All in all, music is presented with energy and enthusiasm, if not the ultimate level of detail.

I wondered what effect the foam earpads were having on sound, so I took them off and was immediately rewarded by a slight improvement in both volume and upper midrange/lower treble. As I’d found the phones a little tight in my ears anyway, this also improved comfort. This makes me wonder if a fine mesh cover over the diaphragm (like some premium earphones) would sound better than the rather solid plastic cover that is there at the moment—something Boxwave might care to look at in future versions.

Pros: Compact and portable; stylish and pretty cool; practical retracting mechanism; solid sound quality.

Cons: A little fragile; treble could be more detailed; better sound may be available for the same money.

Overall: Reasonable sound with extreme practicality makes this a must-have for my Smartphone.

Rating: 4 blackpuddings (4 black puddings)
Go to eebahgum!

13 September 2005

The 2.5 mm headphone dilemma, and perhaps the best solution

Smartphones, like my Windows-based Orange C500 or the Palm-based Treo series, make lovely little mp3 players. The sound may not quite be in the iPod league, but they are, after all, telephones, PDAs, video players and a whole lot more besides, so it would be churlish to make too much of that. And to top it off, my Smartphone cost rather less than an iPod.

But one of the areas which holds the Smartphone back as a music player is the manufacturers’ decision to provide 2.5 mm headphone sockets. Like most ‘emerging standards’, this one is nigh on impossible to find at high street retailers, and trust me, you’ll want to upgrade from the standard headsets that come with your phone pretty quickly.

That leaves you with two obvious options. Either settle for a set of ‘phones with a 3.5 mm and use an adaptor, or begin the ‘holy grail’ quest for a 2.5 mm pair. The former path means you have a world of choice, but the size of the adaptors, the degradation in sound quality that they bring and the extra weight hanging off your phone’s fragile 2.5 mm socket may dissuade you.

As for purchasing options, you’ll find the odd combined headphone/microphone for use with phones at some mobile phone shops, but acoustically they’re probably no better than the unit which shipped with your phone. And although there’s no option that I know of from mainstream headphone manufacturers such as Sennheiser, Sony and so on, there are a few retracting cable designs available from specialist manufacturers of PDA and phone accessories such as Proporta and Boxwave. Boxwave’s offering is currently on my review bench and I will blog about it (quite favourably, I anticipate) within the next day.

But there’s one other option which doesn’t seem to get a mention elsewhere—cut off the 3.5 mm plug from a pair of normal headphones or earplugs and solder on a small 2.5 mm plug which you can pick up from your local electronic hobbyist store. It’s not rocket science, and may give you the best of all possible worlds.Go to eebahgum!

8 September 2005

An open letter to the Football Association (or my proposal for the England team)

Dear FA,

I gather from watching England’s performances over the last couple of years, and in particular the last 3 games, that the England coaching position is once again vacant. In last night’s embarrassing performance against Northern Ireland (which division do they play in anyway?), there was a man next to Steve McLaren in the coaching box, who looked like the incumbent coach, but seemed to have no emotional interest in the game at all, and why should he, not being English?

I have good news for the Football Association – I am willing to make myself available for the position, and for my proposed 6 month trial I am willing to accept a greatly reduced salary of only £500,000. I guarantee that under my coaching the team will play more attractive football, forge out better results and basically look more like they have a clue than is presently the case. I recognise that the team has only lost one qualifying game under the previous coach, but that much vaunted statistic is surely no more than you’d expect from such a talented team. More to the point, how many times have narrow victories or weak draws been snatched when a cricket score was expected.

But before I start, I’d like to dispense with one or two items in the current job description, namely the following:

  • Must be a better ball handler off the pitch than on it
  • Must be absolutely clueless about footballing tactics
  • Must encourage hopeful punting of the ball down the length of the field rather than playing to feet
  • Must use trial matches to experiment with players and formations which will never be seen again, and so use up valuable time the key players could have spent learning to play together
  • Must constantly play most players in the wrong positions to the benefit of the few
  • Must have assistant whose name sounds like a piece of hand-baggage
  • Must show absolutely no passion whatsoever, at least not for football

Instead, I shall concentrate on the basic elements of football, such as defending, passing to feet, teamwork, tackling, attitude, discipline and putting the ball in the back of the net. My teams have always played creatively, with attacking flair and close-marking, physical defence. I have cultivated team spirit, effectively harnessed talent, and dealt incisively with insubordination and poor sportsmanship. I see no reason why this approach, which has worked so well at schoolboy level, should not be perfectly applicable to the current England squad.

I look forward to working with you and my new team.

Grand Master EebahgumGo to eebahgum!