Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween 1992: BBC Ghostwatch

Some of the older readers to this blog from the UK will have very vivid memories of a particular BBC television programme broadcast at 9.25pm on October 31st 1992.

Ghostwatch was billed as a live investigation into poltergeist activity in a suburban street in Southern England. In reality it was a prerecorded drama featuring TV presenters previously associated with factual programming. The plot was simple, the programme would start normal enough but would build to a terrifying conclusion. Of course by that time, everyone knew it was indeed drama but not before some people in true Orson Welles style, had run for the hills.

So many people complained to the BBC that the recording was banned, never to be repeated and the producers guidelines now advise against newsreaders, factual presenters taking direct, long roles in TV drama's. The content which started tame enough became edgy with mystery ghost sightings and some clever editing for its day. Personally speaking, it was the best evenings entertainment that I remember from childhood, it scared the whits out of me until the plot obviously gave itself away.

As Halloween 2008 draws to a close, I thought I'd trawl the internet for a bit more info about Ghostwatch and struck gold. You can now watch the show again via youtube and in fact, contribute your own GW memories for a new documentary that is being made. Simply head over to the special GWbtc Youtube page or visit the official blog to find out more information.

As I mentioned, never could such a show be made again on the BBC, they even advertised a call centre number on screen as part of the drama. At one point, over 20,000 callers were trying to get through to speak with the programmes presenter Michael Parkinson.

For anyone out there who remembers the poltergeist/ghost called 'pipes', heres a clip with all the 8 sightings from the show, enjoy!

Google's new G1 handset is a real mixed bag

Firstly, lets point out that this is Google's first mobile handset (in conjunction with HTC) but that didn't stop the iPhone being an instant hit. So what about its newest rival?

The Gphone has come a long way in a short time. It carries many features that are hard not to like such as a built in keyboard, touchscreen and navball and the screen display is bright and easy to use. However I have noticed one or two niggles which I will outline in a little more detail.

Good, but no cigar!

1. Battery life = pants!
If you make the mistake of trying to use all the features on this handset, the battery will be hard pushed to last a single day. I've resigned myself to no GPS, WiFi or 3G in order to stop the handset drying out on me whilst on the road.

2. HSDPA 3.5G Yes, Tethered modem mode for your laptop? No
Theoretically, this handset can support transfers up to 7.2megs per second but you are limited to using whatever you get on your handset. Just like Apple's iPhone, you cannot 'share' your 3G connection with your laptop on the road and in my opinion, that is simply inexcusable.

3. Video Recording (lack of)
Again, following suit from Apple, there's no video recorder on the handset and I can't help feeling that this is another opportunity that Google/HTC have missed out on.

4. No gmail/googlemail account? No point!
Not surprisingly, the handset has very tight integration with the Google apps like mail, calendar and contacts. The phone will even sync OTA (over the air) so that your data is backed up on your desktop via the Google website however it does feel slightly restrictive in that you must have a Google account in order to even use the phone!

5. What! No Google Earth?
This should have been one of the devices 'killer apps' especially given the fact that t was launched on iphone/touch last week however you won't find it on your shiny new Gphone handset. I admit, it's not a devastating blow and its likely to be rectified soon but it should have been on there, out of the box.

6. Addicted to Facebook? Poke Google for an app then!
If you're like millions of others and spending far too much time on Facebook then this may not be the phone for you. In short, Google and Facebook don't get on so there's no facebook app on your phone and there isn't likely to be one any time soon!

7. Handset 'creak'
A personal bugbear of mine, although the unit is fairly well constructed, there is the odd plastic 'creak' here and there, largely due to the sliding keyboard and thin(ish) plastic back. Don't get me wrong, this is far from poor but still irritating nonetheless.

So what have Google got right?

Lets flip the coin and look at the good points on offer with the Gphone.

1. It's opensource!
No red tape to navigate for the developers. There will soon be an abundance of apps to download to your handset. Google have even released the operating software itself meaning that features and functions can be easily tweaked by the community.

2. The core O/S can be updated OTA (over the air).
This is a biggie that has been missing from the mobile industry for years. If improvements are made to your device's software, you can simply update via your data connection so no need to plug it in to your computer at home.

3. Google is almost as good as Apple.
We all know no one like meany Micro$oft, but Google are the good guys! This may be down to marketing but the real-world consequence has created a very positive platform onto which this product has been launched. Its seen as a very much 'moddable' and open device.

hose are a few of my early observations. Overall, I'm very imressed with the device, even more impressed with its potential.