Digital Concepts 89379 3.1MP Digital Camera Review

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This review was originally written on May 5, 2005
Takes Very Poor Picture Indoors, Consumes Lots Of Batteries

I bought the Digital Concepts 89379 3.1MP Digital Camera because I needed one solely for taking photos of the items I sell on the internet. I didn't want to spend a lot of money (read: over $100) on a digital camera, so when I saw this at Wal-Mart for $60, and saw that it had a built-in flash, I figured that this would do the trick. Even though it's a cheap camera, I figured that it should be able to handle such a simple and undemanding task as taking photos indoors of various little and big items. Boy was I wrong.

This camera takes VERY POOR picture indoors, even though it has a built-in flash. In fact, the flash makes the pictures worse. Pictures taken with the flash appear all washed out.

Unless you hold the camera incredibly steady, you risk having shaky pictures. Half the photos I took were shaky, even though I held the camera as still and steady as possible. The camera has a hole on the bottom where a tripod can be inserted. I highly suggest you use one, if at all possible.

It consumes battery power at a fast rate. I put new batteries in it and within a few hours it started complaining that the battery was low. When it prompts "Low Battery," it doesn't let you use the flash (how annoying!). It uses 3 AAA batteries, but has no adapter for house current, so you're forced to feed it more batteries. It even uses up battery power when you're not using it at all. I had a set of 3 brand new AAA batteries sitting in it for two weeks, while the camera was just sitting in it's opened packaging. When I went to use it again, first I saw defects in the preview screen, then eventually the camera would keep shutting off as soon as I would turn it on. Thus I was required to put another set of three brand new AAA batteries in it.

It has a 16MB built-in flash memory which requires a constant electric current to store your photos. Should the camera lose power (for instance if the batteries die or are removed), all stored pictures will be lost. Sakar recommends always downloading your photos to your computer as soon as possible to prevent unintentional data loss. I recommend not buying this camera unless you have a SD card or buy one along with the camera (luckily I did). The SD card supercedes the built-in memory, so all photos are saved onto the card instead, where they will not be lost because of the power supply.

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The package comes with the camera, instruction manual (which is easy to understand, if somewhat poorly written), drivers disc (with PhoTags software), USB wire (to connect the camera to your computer), and a hand strap. Although the manual tells you first that the PhoTags software is needed to transfer the photos to your computer, if you continue reading you'll learn that it isn't. In fact, you can use the camera without installing PhoTags at all. The driver installation is located on the CD at: \drivers\setup.exe. Once installed, when you connect your camera to your PC, it will appear as another drive on your computer (two drives if you have a SD card in it). Then you can just copy, move, and delete the photos on it from Windows Explorer or whatever way you normally work with your computer files. I don't know if it's just me, but I found that Windows kept reinstalling the drivers every time I connected the camera to it. That got very annoying real quick, especially when once it made me get out my Windows 2000 CD.

You *might* need PhoTags to use the camera as a webcam, but then again, you can probably find some other software on the internet (maybe for free) that will let you do that as well (and maybe even better).

In case you're wondering, PhoTags is a rather useless program to organize photos (to a certain degree), add text and captions to them (which can be turned on and off using "Active Captions" technology - software required on the computers of anyone you send your photos to), make minor corrections (such as red eye removal), and do simple photo print projects (calendars, greetings cards, postcards, etc.). Two of the photo projects are non-existant: Album Creator and Video CD Creator. When you click on either of them, you are taken to the PhoTags website where you are prompted to buy the full version for $10 to add these two features.

Although I didn't expect to get a top-of-the-line digital camera for $60, I did expect to get something that would take decent photos indoors. I guess I'll have to keep looking.

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LG W1943TB-PF Black 18.5" 16:9 Widescreen LCD Monitor Review

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This review was originally written on October 10, 2009 (completely rewritten on January 16, 2010, updated on March 13, 2010)
Dead Pixel On 2nd Use, Defects In 2 Replacements, Refurbs Sent As Replacements For New,BBB Helped Me Get Value Difference Refund

Since July 2007 I've owned an Acer AL1917WAbd 19" LCD Monitor. It works great and I've never had a problem with it. However, with the recent purchase of a Blu-ray drive, it no longer meets my needs as it's not in a 16:9 aspect ratio (it's 16:10) and it's not HDCP-compliant (a requirement for Blu-ray playback). So I went online and looked for an affordable monitor that met those two new requirements, and also has a DVI-D input and is physically no wider than 18 inches (the maximum amount of space I have available on my desk for a monitor). I found a monitor that met all four of my requirements, but I sure had a heap of trouble with it since practically day one. Here's a nice detailed timeline of the ordeal I went through.

09/30/2009 - Purchased the LG W1943TB-PF Black 18.5" 16:9 Widescreen LCD Monitor brand-new for 119.95 from Newegg, in spite of their horrendous Monitor Replacement Only Return Policy which states that "there must be a minimum of 8 dead pixels to declare an LCD display defective and eligible for return" within 30 days of purchase. Since the Acer LCD monitor never gave me a single problem in 2 1/2 years of use, I figured that I wouldn't have any with the LG monitor, and so that horrendous return policy didn't scare me away.

10/01/1009 - Received the monitor via UPS. On it's SECOND USE, in less than a week of ownership, I noticed a big ugly black spot in the screen! It was on the left side, where it got in the way of my work. I work frequently in word processing applications, which have a white background, so it very easy to see. Since I never experienced this phenomena with the Acer monitor, I went online to see what it was. I've learned that it's known as a "dead pixel", and apparently there's nothing that can fix it - as opposed to a "stuck pixel", which apparently CAN be fixed.

Newegg specifically mentioned that a minimum of eight dead pixels has to be present before they would take it back, so I didn't bother wasting my time trying to return it to them - though in retrospect maybe I should have lied about how many dead pixels there were and tried doing an exchange with them, because the alternative was much worse. Instead, I contacted LG customer service to see if they would honor the three year warranty. I originally made the mistake of using the newly-learned phrase "dead pixel" in my transmission to them, which resulted in an e-mail that read, "Unfortunately that is a standard that they [Newegg] use based off of all LCD monitor manufactures. We would have the same policy to have the repaired/replaced only if the unit had that many pixels out." I waited a week or two and tried contacting them again, this time only referring to the defect as a "black spot" (which is what I was calling it until I learned the proper terminology online). This time I had better luck, as they allowed me to exchange it for another monitor in a process that they call a "Standard Swap".

10/29/2009 - First Swap claim was initiated via e-mail, but would not get processed until I had the chance to call customer service two weeks later. I couldn't even file the claim through their online form as the monitor isn't even listed on their website!

11/16/2009 - First Swap claim was processed, monitor was shipped to LG on 11/19/2009.

Now before I go any further, I want to provide the complete parts list for the brand-new monitor:

-- W1943TB-PF Monitor.
-- W1943TB-PF Monitor Stand.
-- DVI-D Signal Cable.
-- 15-Pin D-Sub Signal Cable (standard VGA cable).
-- Power Cord.
-- W1943TB-PF Drivers/Users Guide disc (an actual factory-pressed disc, not a CD-R).
-- W1943TB-PF Easy Setup Guide paper.
-- Standard LG Monitor Warranty Information Sheet.

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(image courtesy of NewEgg)

In the Swap instructions letter that I was e-mailed (along with a pre-paid FedEx label to print out), I was told in bold capital underlined letters, "PLEASE SEND ACCESSORIES (CABLES. CORDS, REMOTES. MANUALS ETC.)" So I included every single one of those items listed above in the package that I sent to LG. To this day I still have not received the last three items back. Granted, they're not required for the normal operation of the monitor (even though the Quick Start Guide says to use the drivers on the disc instead of the standard Windows plug & play driver), but they ARE something that I paid for - and I feel insulted that I was told in bold capital underlined letters to send everything back, only for LG to decide not to send it all back to me in return.

11/24/2009 - First replacement monitor was shipped from the LG warehouse to me.

11/27/2009 - Received first replacement REFURBISHED monitor. I was expecting a brand-new monitor like the one I purchased brand-new less than 60 days earlier. This monitor had a small defect in it, though not as noticeable as the one in the other monitor. There was a small thin black line in the lower right area of the screen, about an inch above the clock in the tray area of Windows.

Also, I didn't get back half of the items that I sent back with the original monitor. This replacement unit was missing the DVI-D Signal Cable, Drivers/Users Guide disc, Easy Setup Guide paper, and Standard LG Monitor Warranty Information Sheet. I've had to temporarily borrow the DVI-D cable from the Acer monitor in order to connect the replacement LG monitor to my computer. Instead of getting a real drivers disc, LG had sent me a CD-R which has no drivers on them at all (only user guides). Because (as I would later learn) the drivers I installed from the original monitor did NOT get fully uninstalled when I used the "uninstall driver" button in Windows, Windows kept looking for them at every boot, prompting me with this message: "Please insert the Compact Disc labeled 'LG Monitor Profiles Installation Disk' into your CD-ROM drive and then click OK." As the monitor is not listed on the LG support site, I couldn't even download drivers for it. So for a few weeks I was annoyed at every Windows boot-up by this message. (I eventually learned that pressing the "rollback driver" button would fix the problem by reverting back to the standard Windows plug & play driver. You know, the one that the Quick Start Guide said not to use.)

Anyway, I was willing to live with the small defect, though I e-mailed and phoned Jennie Ramey (SWAP Coordinator, RA Department) and customer service to get the missing accessories. Jennie told me that I shouldn't have to live with the defect and that I should send it back for another monitor. Jennie also told me over the phone (on 12/7/2009) that "customer service generally sends a reconditioned unit for units over 60 days old". That's all fine and dandy, except that the claim was initiated LESS THAN 30 DAYS after the original purchase, and the replacement was sent out LESS THAN 60 DAYS after the original purchase. She didn't know why I wasn't sent a brand new unit, but she was willing to send me one. The only problem is that she didn't have any brand new W1943TB-PF units in stock at the warehouse in Alabama (where she's located), and she wouldn't be able to order any for me. I don't know why she couldn't order any as she works for the company that makes the product, but so be it. However, none of the alternate models we discussed met my few qualifications: 16:9 aspect ratio, DVI input, HDCP compliant, and 19" in screen size (20" would be a stretch for the space I have, anything bigger definitely wouldn't fit). So I was in store for yet another refurbished unit.

12/08/2009 - Second Swap claim was processed, monitor was shipped to LG on 12/15/2009.

12/29/2009 - Second replacement monitor was shipped from the LG warehouse to me.

12/31/2009 - Received second replacement REFURBISHED monitor. Again the package was missing the Drivers/Users Guide disc, Easy Setup Guide paper, and Standard LG Monitor Warranty Information Sheet. At least this time it came with the DVI-D Signal Cable. At this point I've realized that I'm never getting those three items back, even though they are technically something I paid for when I bought the original monitor.

This second replacement monitor is, sadly, not 100% defect-free, though it contains the least annoying defect of the three monitors to date. About 2 1/4 inches from the right side of the screen, about half an inch from the bottom (a little above the tray area, in the status bar of most applications) is a very faint dark spot (probably a dead subpixel or half-pixel or whatever it's called). It's only noticeable if you know that it's there and you know where to look, which is a BIG improvement over the defects in the other two monitors. Still, this just proves to me that LG is incapable of manufacturing a 100% perfect defect-free monitor. Considering the poorly-designed LG Chocolate cell phone that left my mother with hundreds of dollars in unwanted charges a few years ago because it kept doing things other than what she was trying to do, I've come to the conclusion that LG stands for "like garbage".

I'll live with this most minor of defects, but a bigger injustice is present that LG would not correct on their own.

They would not give me a refund of the difference between the full retail price I paid for the brand-new monitor and the value of the refurbished monitor I received as the replacement so soon thereafter. Jennie Ramey told me via e-mail that she "can not refund [me] the difference in price", but she did not say why. She did say that "replacements that are sent out for units over 90 days old are reconditioned", which is a change from the "60 days" she mentioned over the phone on 12/7/2009 (I guess she can't keep her story straight). However, whether 60 or 90 days, I should have received a brand new unit. The first claim was initiated LESS THAN 30 DAYS after the original purchase, the first replacement was sent out LESS THAN 60 DAYS after the original purchase, and the second replacement was sent out LESS THAN 90 DAYS after the original purchase. So there's no reason that I should not be granted a refund for the difference.

On February 1st I sent a letter to the President and CEO of LG Electronics USA at the U.S. Corporate Headquarters (1000 Sylvan Ave., Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632). I figured as the head honcho, he'd be the single best person to contact about the matter. After waiting three weeks for a reply and not getting one, I contacted the Better Business Bureau on February 22nd for help.

Four days later on 2/26 I received an e-mail from Jennifer Adams-McKee, Asst. Manager of the Customer Resolution Team. She told me that "the warranty statements on our monitors do state that parts or units may be replaced with reconditioned units at LG's discretion. It does not specify any age of the unit at all. However, we at LG do try to make it a "good" practice to use new stock for any units less than 60 days old whenever stock is available." Okay, that explains the situation better than what I've been told over the past few months.

Jennifer was very willing to grant me a refund of the difference in cost between what I paid for the new monitor and the value of the refurbished monitor I received as the replacement. She told me that refurbished units sell online for 89.95 to 99.95, and that she would be able to offer me a refund of 30 dollars. I replied back to let her know that this would be quite acceptable to me. The check was cut on 3/5, and received by me on 3/8/2010.

Although I'm happy with the end result, after this experience, I certainly won't buy another LG product ever again, and certainly won't recommend LG to others.

OCZ StealthXStream 600 Watt Power Supply Review

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This review was originally written on March 10, 2011
Lasts Just Long Enough For The Warranty To Expire

I bought the OCZ StealthXStream 600 Watt Power Supply (PSU) on July 19, 2007 for $94.99 from Micro Center in Westbury, New York four days after I bought all of the other parts I used to assemble my own computer. It came with a 36 months (3 years) manufacturer's warranty. So, of course, it chose to die on February 24, 2011, which is 43 months (3 years 7 months) later. It's like OCZ manufactured it to last just long enough for the warranty to expire :-)

Some reviewers on Amazon had their PSUs die in 10 months, 8 months, 2-3 months, or even 2 weeks! So it looks like I was actually lucky that mine lasted as long as it did. Still, I've owned computers since 1992/1993, and none of the PSUs in them have ever died. This OCZ unit was the first to die. So, that alone, doesn't rate it very high in my book, in spite of it lasting longer than others have reported.

The new PSU I just bought from NewEgg is a Sigma Focus SP700B 700W (800W Peak) ATX12V power supply, which set me back $69.94 ($59.99 + $9.65 shipping). NewEgg claims that it has a 3 years manufacturer's warranty, though I can find no proof of that on the packaging or on the Sigma website. Of course, I'm hoping that it lasts MANY years - a lot longer than three - so I shouldn't have to even worry about the warranty.

Sony PlayStation 3 320GB Uncharted 3 Bundle Review

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This review was originally written on November 14, 2011
Excellent System, Great For Blu-Ray & DVD Playback / Needs A Front Panel Display, Disc Tray, Longer USB Cable, Printed Manual

Most people who review the PlayStation 3 (320GB Uncharted 3 Bundle) will probably focus on the games. I'm going to focus on everything else, especially some of the little details that most reviewers won't mention. Hopefully I'll mention a specific detail that is important to you so my ramblings and notes won't be in vain :-)

The PlayStation 3 (PS3) system that comes in the Uncharted 3 bundle is 320GB, model CECH-3001B. It comes pre-installed with v3.66 of the system software/firmware. You will be required to update it in order to play the Uncharted 3 game that is bundled with the system. I updated it to v3.73 on November 10, 2011 and the game played without a problem so far. Due to the required update, it can be said that the Uncharted 3 game doesn't truly work "out of the box" :-) Although I will be specifically reviewing model CECH-3001B, some of my information will be applicable to other models.

After I took everything out of the box and looked at the contents, I noticed that the system does NOT come with an owner's manual. There's a small fold-out Quick Start guide, a Safety and Support book, an ESRB Ratings sheet, and that's it. The PlayStation 2 that I bought 10 years ago came with a manual in the box, and I expected the same with the PS3. Looking over the PDF manuals Sony has online, it appears that they didn't even make one for the new CECH-3001B model. They only have manuals for some older models: CECH-2001A/B through CECH-2501B. I'm sure that the majority of the information in the 320GB CECH-2501B would be applicable for my system, so at least I have that for reference, but at 50+ pages long for the English section, it's too large to print out and keep as a hard copy. (There's a constantly-updated online manual, but it's useless for offline reference.) I do feel rather cheated that I paid $300 for the system, only for Sony to be too cheap to include a real manual in the box.

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Also amongst the scant printed documentation is a card with a code granting me a 30-day free PlayStation Plus membership. According to the site, PlayStation Plus gives you free games, huge discounts, exclusive features, early access to demos and priority beta invitations, and full game trials. The catch? In order to activate the free trial you must give them your credit card information. The reason? After your 30 days are up, they're going to automatically start billing you for a regular membership unless you call them to cancel beforehand. No thank you, Sony. I don't fall for this scam when other companies do it, so I'm not going to fall for it with you. Sony will NEVER have my credit card information as I never intend to buy anything online from them through the console. I only buy goods that I have unfettered ownership of.

Powering up the PS3 and going through the setup routine was quick and easy, though I had to press the small reset button on the back of my DualShock 3 controller because it somehow got misregistered to the system (I think I was supposed to plug it in after powering up the system for the first time). I got quite a scare from this, but thankfully it didn't take long to get everything working perfectly. I knew that the Ghostbusters Blu-ray included a Ghostbusters PS3 menu theme, so that was the first disc I put in the system. That theme is now installed on my system and I have no plans to ever change it :-)

The reason I just purchased a PS3 was, primarily, to replace an Insignia Blu-ray player. (Insignia is Best Buy's brand, in case you don't know.) My Insignia TV does all I would expect of it, but the Insignia Blu-ray player is, in a word, crap. Every firmware update might fix one thing, or nothing perceivable at all, but break several other things. I won't go into details, but in short, DON'T BUY AN INSIGNIA BLU-RAY PLAYER FROM BEST BUY.

The PS3 has perfectly played every Blu-ray and DVD that I've put in it. Everything displays in the proper aspect ratio, be it 4:3 or 16:9, and all discs play quietly. The few that were noisy or vibrated like crazy in the Insignia Blu-ray player might be a little noisy on boot-up or while on the menus, but are quiet when the actual video is playing. Picture quality is top-notch for Blu-ray discs and upscaled DVDs (source depending, of course). It even shows timecodes for DVD videos that don't have timecodes encoded on the disc, such as video encoded as menus (see trailers and bonus features on early Columbia/Tristar DVDs), and the "My Generation" bonus song on the Billy Joel: Live At Shea DVD (as one example). However, the videos encoded as menus can not be paused, rewound, or fast forwarded, like they could on the Insignia Blu-ray player. It plays the DVD-Rs I record without a problem, so far, but I'm not sure if it plays mini-DVD-Rs or any mini-discs due to the use of a disc slot instead of a disc tray. It can not play Video CDs, which was the 1990s CD-based video format that preceded DVDs, but I would have been surprised if it did. Only my old DVD player from 2001, and my computer software player, can play them. Also, putting a disc in the console while it's off will instantly turn it on, but the disc will not autoplay. The console must be on first, THEN the disc inserted, in order for it to autoplay.

My only major issues with the PS3 are hardware related, not software related. I don't like the disc slot (I prefer a disc tray) and I would love for there to be a front panel on the PS3 showing elapsed time, chapter number, and title number. You know, what a regular Blu-ray and DVD player has. Other than these two issues, I love the PS3 for Blu-Ray and DVD playback. Every disc I put in it played perfectly, and Blu-ray discs loaded up a bit quicker than the Insignia Blu-ray player.

I have two Blu-ray discs that I know saves data to the hard drive: "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (Disc 1) and "Monsters Inc." (Disc 2). Snow White welcomes me back when I view the disc again after the first time, while Monsters Inc. lets me continue my progress on the Roz's 100 Door Challenge game. Neither disc would do that if it weren't saving data on the PS3 hard drive. Yet, when I go to the PS3 menu option Video - BD Data Utility, it says that "there is no data". Also, when I press Triangle on "BD Data Utility", there's a "Delete" option, but it doesn't actually delete the item. I e-mailed Sony about this and they told me that this behavior is a "perfectly normal function with the PlayStation 3 system. It is normal for movies to pick up where was left off on features, even though no BD Data is showing. Also it is perfectly normal to delete the BD Data Utility, as this would only delete information movies have stored on the system, not an actual system function. The next time the movie is played, the movie will reinstall any BD Data that is needed." I would have replied further to reiterate my point that both Snow White and Monsters Inc. *ARE* saving information to the system, but I doubt it'll do me any good to continue dealing with low-level customer service reps. I just hate knowing that data is on the hard drive that I can't see or even delete. I wish there was a way for the user to view a list of EVERYTHING saved on the hard drive. I don't mean individual items in the various menus (like game saves, trophies, etc.), but a full list of everything in one place. I'd like to see exactly what's being stored on my hard drive, how much space each file takes up, and delete items that I know are no longer needed.

The online and PDF manuals both say something that has me a little scared: "You may have to renew the AACS encryption key to play content such as movies on commercially available BD video software (BD-ROM). If a message indicating that the encryption key needs to be renewed is displayed, update the system software to the latest version. The encryption key will then be automatically renewed. AACS (Advanced Access Content System) is a copyright-protection technology that is used on Blu-ray movies. The copyrighted content is protected by setting an encryption key on both the disc and the device used to play the disc. An AACS encryption key expires in 12 to 18 months and must be renewed. There may also be other times when the key has to be renewed." (source)

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I don't keep my PS3 connected to the internet and may never even create a PlayStation Network (PSN) account as I really don't have time to play games online. PSN accounts are free (it only costs money and a credit card to buy things or to have the Plus service), but a PSN account is not necessary for offline use, system updates, or to browse the internet with the built-in web browser. If I don't buy any new games (some new games require system updates), and everything on the PS3 works perfectly with the firmware already installed, there's no reason for me to update it. I don't think the Insignia Blu-ray player required AACS encryption key renewals. It didn't mention anything in the owner's manual about such a thing. Let's think worst case scenario for a minute. What if I end up cancelling my home internet service and never get it again? Will all of the Blu-ray discs that I own, which currently play perfectly, no longer be playable at all in my PS3 at some point if I'm no longer able to update it? If I were to call Sony, what are the chances they'd send me free firmware upgrade discs every 12 to 18 months? That's the worst case scenario, of course, but the fact of the matter is that I shouldn't be forced to do upgrades so the system can continue to perform one of the functions it was designed to do, that it was already doing perfectly.

Speaking of system software updates... Some of you reading this might want to know a little more about them, so let me give you the quick rundown. You can update the system software by any of the following methods: (1) Via the console's System Update feature. (2) Download update data using a PC, save it on a USB storage device, and insert that USB device into the PS3. (3) Update using disc media, such as a game disc that includes update data on it. For method #2, download the PS3UPDAT.PUP file from Sony, and put it at \PS3\UPDATE on the USB drive.

That the PS3 can play PS3 games is the "bonus" for me, since I already purchased two games prior to actually owning the system! Those two games are "Ghostbusters: The Video Game" and "Grand Theft Auto IV & Episodes From Liberty City: The Complete Edition" (Target was selling it for $20 brand new, so at that price I had to get it in spite of not owning the system at the time).

The DualShock 3 wireless controller that comes with the system can be used as a wired controller, but the USB cord is woefully short. It's only 4.5 feet long, whereas the PlayStation 2 controller's cord is 8 feet long! The PS3 cord is just barely long enough to reach where I need it to. This is easily remedied by buying a 10-Foot USB 2.0 A/Male to Mini USB B/Male 5-pins cable or Sony's own PS3/PSP USB 2.0 10-Foot Cable 2-Pack. At least the wireless controller has a built-in rechargeable battery and doesn't use regular insertable batteries (like AA or AAA), which is the primary reason why I dislike wireless controllers.

The PS3 also allows you to copy PlayStation 1 & 3 game saves to/from the system and a USB storage device, which can then be transferred to a PC. This is a big improvement over the PlayStation 2, which needed a third-party device (such as CodeBreaker cheat device) to allow transferring saves to/from the console and a USB storage device. Copied PS3 game saves are stored on the USB drive in \PS3\SAVEDATA. Each game save is comprised of a few files in its own subfolder, not a single file. Copied PlayStation 1 (PS1) game saves are stored on the USB drive in \PS3\EXPORT\PSV. Each game save is a single .PSV file. You can submit your saves, or obtain other people's saves, from the popular video game information site GameFaqs. Usable PS3 saves are listed on the site as "PlayStation 3 Game Save Directory (ZIP) (North America)", and usable PS1 saves are listed on the site as "PlayStation PS3 Virtual Memory Card Save (ZIP) (North America)" (each zip contains one single .psv file). There is no way to easily convert the PS1 game save DexDrive .GME files at GameFaqs to .PSV so they can be transferred to a PS3.

I also bought the newly-released Sony PS3 Media/Blu-ray Disc Remote Control to handle Blu-Ray and DVD playback on my newly-purchased PS3. The remote handles this task perfectly, and that's all I really want it to do. I looked over pictures of both the new remote and the old version, and found that the new one included a few more buttons. Not only does it have the new TV and amplifier specific buttons - Volume, Channel, Input, and 3D - but it has two new buttons for PS3 Blu-Ray and DVD playback: Instant Back & Instant Forward. These two buttons take you back or forward 15 seconds in the video you are watching. Good for catching missed dialog in a movie, or instantly replaying a favorite moment. These buttons do not exist on the previous version of the PS3 remote.

You turn the PS3 on and off via the remote by pressing the "PS" button. To turn it off, hold the button for a second, select "Shut Down The System", then "Yes" from the on-screen prompts. The "Pause" button acts as Play/Pause, while the "Play" button only plays. Some buttons on the remote duplicate the same functions as other buttons because the remote also includes the controller-specific buttons. Square/View is Pop Up Menu, X is Enter, Select is Display, Start is Pause/Play, L1 is Prev, R1 is Next, L2 is Scan Back (Rewind), and R2 is Scan Forward (Fast Forward).

You must use the Options menu for Go To, Disc Volume Control, and AV Settings as these are the only options that don't have buttons on the remote. For time/chapter/title search, press Triangle/Options and select "Go To" from the on-screen menu. Move the highlight to Title, Chapter, or Time (default), press Enter. Enter the digits (you can use the number buttons or up and down buttons), use left and right to switch digit places. Press Enter twice to go to that spot. Then press Triangle/Options to take the menu off the screen.

I programmed the remote to control my Insignia TV (I have no amplifier, so that's a non-issue), and it handles the basic TV functions - power, volume, mute, channels - but that's about it. The Audio button switches between Stereo, Mono, and SAP (I always leave it on Stereo); and the Subtitle button switches between Closed Caption options (I always leave it on CC While Mute). Pressing the Top Menu button will open up the TV settings menus, and I can even navigate them using the 4-way directional circle, but I really don't need for the remote to access the settings menus (once they're set, I have no need to change them). My major complaint for TV operations is that for an Insignia TV, the Input button doesn't do anything. It should switch between inputs, but doesn't. I need to use my TV remote to switch from TV input to HDMI (PS3), but can easily use this remote to go back from HDMI to TV by pressing Channel Up or Down. Someone with a much more complex setup than mine will probably need to keep their TV remote handy at all times.

I don't know how much game playing I'm going to be doing on the PS3. I have three games so far - the aforementioned Ghostbusters and Grand Theft Auto IV, along with Uncharted 3 that came with the system - but I might pick up a few more if I can find them cheap (I won't pay $60 for a new game). So far I have been enjoying the PS3 and don't regret the purchase at all.

PNY Attache 64MB USB 1.1 Flash Drive Review

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This review was originally written on December 4, 2004
The Perfect Companion For The CodeBreaker

The PNY Attaché 64MB USB 1.1 Flash Drive (Mfr#P-FD064U11-RF) is the only drive that I have successfully gotten to work with the CodeBreaker v8.0 cheat device for the PlayStation 2 (buy version 9.3 here). I plug it into my PC, download code and game save files from the internet onto the drive, remove it from my PC (after going through Window's "Unplug or Eject hardware" routine, of course), plug it into one of my PS2's USB slots, boot up the CodeBreaker CD, and transfer the files from the drive to my PS2 memory card. Of course it works the other way around too (so I can transfer my game saves from my PS2 memory card to my PC). As a bonus, I can also use it to transfer files from my PC to someone elses. A very reliable little device.

I can also personally confirm that the Memorex Thumb/Travel Drive (Mfr#32507712) (128 MB) does NOT work. Feel free to check out the official list of (supposedly) Compatible USB Pen Drives:
Compatible USB Pen Drives by Neo (last updated: 7/26/2005)

Here's a list of compatible USB drives:

* Lexar Jumpdrive - $20-$40 @ BestBuy.com
* PNY Attache - $20 for 128mb @ BestBuy.com
* Sandisk Cruzer Micro - No information yet
* Memorex - $20 for 128mb (unconfirmed price)
* The PSP - Compatible as a gamesave/code save storage device.
* iLo MP3 Player - $65 (average) for 256mb storage. Verified it myself.
* Dell USB Pen Drives - $30 for 128mb

Below is a list of incompatible storage devices:

* Sandisk Cruzer Mini
* MaxDrive (ARMax) - Supposedly it works, however completely unauthorized and unsupported by CMGSCCC. Do not use.

When purchasing a USB drive, remember that unless you plan on other uses for your pen drive, you won't need one larger than 64mb (that's the size of 8 PS2 memory cards). That kind of storage is more than you will ever need for your PS2.
2017 UPDATE - Okay, this is an item that no one reading this today will be interested in buying. USB 2.0 is commonplace, much less USB 3.0, so a USB 1.1 device isn't going to be of interest to anyone anymore. On top of that, 64 Megabytes is a drop in the bucket compared to the GIGABYTES of space afforded by today's USB devices. Remember, 1 GB = 1,024 MB, so all of my 4GB devices are each 63 times larger than this one drive, while occupying roughly the same physical space. I won't even bother to calculate the increase in capacity I get from my 8 GB and 128 GB devices. That said, I still have this 64 MB device, but only use it exclusively with the Codebreaker cheat device in my PlayStation 2 video game console, just as I suggested in this "mini review".

Codebreaker, which ceased development about 10 years ago, was always finicky with the USB devices it would read files from. It may not read from today's faster and larger capacity devices, so this old PNY Attache 64 MB drive may be something to seek out if you're a retro PS2 gamer who wants to cheat/have fun with your games. If you're tracking down an old copy of Codebreaker, you will also need to ask questions of Amazon and eBay sellers to find out which version they are selling. Version 10 was the last one produced, but you'll be good with versions 8 or 9, too. I have v8.0 and it works great to this day. Version 7 could be useable, but I heard that it has issues, and don't bother with any earlier versions. As a general rule, go with v8, v9, or v10.