Best tech of the year 2005

Am I arrogant enough to think people want to read my ‘best of’ list for 2005? Of course I am. I’ll try to be a bit different by choosing some off-the-wall categories and winners.
‘Best-kept secret’ website:
A UK-based forum-stroke-website where bargain spotters post details of any offers or discounts they see on their travels. Thanks to them, I scored my purchase of the year – a 28″ widescreen LCD TV/monitor from Dell – at a price so good that Dell probably regrets it now. If you sign up for email alerts, you’ll get a lot of minor discounts for sites you’ve never heard of… but it’s all worthwhile when a cracker like that comes along.
Regretted purchase of the year: iPod Shuffle (ooh, controversial!)
I used to respect Apple, and the devotion of their fans: no longer. Buoyed by the hype, and the 512MB capacity, I shelled out for an iPod Shuffle – only to discover that: a) it didn’t fit my PC’s USB ports without an adapter; b) iTunes was mandatory but rubbish; c) it started playing up within a couple of months; d) to upgrade the firmware, I had to download a whopping 48MB file containing upgrades for every iPod out there. The iPod Shuffle is now relegated to ‘memory stick’ usage; my new running companion is the TwinMOS Sushi, which I picked up for under £30 in the summer. Lesson: treat (flash memory) MP3 players as disposable, and buy cheap every time.
RSS Reader of the year: Bloglines
Yes, the daddy of them all is still The Daddy. Like Simon Waldman, I’ve really played the field when it comes to RSS client software. Bloglines won me over when I started working half the week at home, and half the week in central London – its PDA-friendly mobile version is a godsend. Over the last few months, I’ve really come round to the idea of web-based applications like Bloglines,, et al – although I don’t yet feel reliant on them. I suspect it’s only a matter of time though.
Mobile phone package of the year: T-Mobile’s Web n Walk
By offering a whopping 40MB of ‘internet browsing’, T-Mobile’s PDA and smartphone-friendly contracts point the way to the mobile future we were promised. With promo periods and online discounts, their Web n Walk 100 and 200 packages are more than comparable with similar talk-only tariffs. Great range of handsets at decent prices, too.
Mould-breaking moment of the year: Google Maps
How did we cope before this? Why do people persist with Multimap? How can they make the API so simple, even for someone like me who isn’t entirely certain what API stands for? 🙂 And the ‘mashups’ – wow. The Gmap Pedometer was an invaluable part in my setting a personal best for 10k in the autumn; I just wish OnOneMap had been around when I last moved house.
Damascene conversion of the year: Microsoft (TBC)
Awarded provisionally, in recognition of its open-minded blogging policy, its embracing of RSS, its recognition that looks are important (cf Windows Vista), and its return to products like Hotmail and Internet Explorer. Windows Live Custom Domains is a stroke of particular genius, letting you set up your own ‘’ email addresses within Hotmail. (I’m sticking with Google’s Gmail for now, but I’m secretly hoping they copy the idea.) Mind you, the whole ‘Windows Live’ branding – including the cringy ‘Windows Live Local’ – does not augur well. I know too many people who refer to the concept of instant messaging as ‘MSN’… dropping the name doesn’t seem smart.
Revelation of the year: online video
Having worked in a TV company’s online unit, I was more than happy to write off online video. Traffic numbers were terrible, and it couldn’t justify itself on any kind of cost-benefit analysis. But I’m now on a 2MB broadband line, with a huge monitor… and it actually works. For example: I’m an ice hockey fan, but there’s little or no ice hockey on mainstream UK TV: but the NHL helpfully provides highlights of every single game, free, in more-than-decent 700k quality; and indulges every fan’s guilty pleasure. Videoconferencing via Skype or MSN Messenger is a (qualified) success too.
And finally – the ‘how did I cope before?’ award goes to: Sky+
We invested in a Sky+ box (US readers: think Tivo) in the summer, ahead of the birth of our first daughter. We decided that, if we were to be kept up half the night, at least we could guarantee some quality TV to watch. I watch virtually nothing ‘live’ any more; I just have to make sure I record everything I’m likely to want to see. The Custard’s tipsheet is a useful back-up to Sky’s excellent EPG.

One thought on “Best tech of the year 2005”

  1. About your experience with the iPod Shuffle, imagine how much worse it is for all the people who went a notch higher and purchased the real deal, the iPod 20 Gb to 60 Gb.
    The main problem with these things has to do with the battery – and little people actually take notice – since once it dies out (and it will), it can’t be replaced.
    You’re therefore have to trash your otherwise valuable iPod… ouch!
    Oh well, you can still pry it open and take out the hard drive. The are adapters to connect it to you PC for a few bucks and it can be used for backups.
    Still, it’s a far cry from Apple’s usual “top quality first” standard.

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