Archaeologists discover world’s oldest wine press in Armenia

Archaeologists in Armenia have discovered what they believe to be the world’s oldest wine press. The press is inside a cave, where they found the remains of grape seeds, pressed grapes, and vines of Vitis vinifera vinifera , the same type of grape still used in winemaking today. The site is dated at 4,000 BC, about 900 years older than the previous record holder–wine from the tomb of King Scorpion I, a ruler of Upper Egypt before that country became unified.

This isn’t the first time Armenia has broken an archaeological record. Last summer archaeologists found the world’s oldest leather shoe in the same region. These discoveries are hardly surprising. Armenia is an ancient land with a rich history. It had a complex prehistoric culture that culminated in the Kingdom of Urartu in the 9th century BC. Urartu was one of the greatest ancient civilizations of the Near East.

Armenia suffered from its position between several empires, and while it was often independent it also changed hands between the Romans, Persians, Byzantines, and other powers all the way down to the Soviet Union. Now it’s an independent nation again. It also has the distinction of being the world’s oldest Christian nation, having converted in the early 4th century AD.

During all this time they never stopped making wine. They were one of the main wine producers in the Soviet Union and have since started exporting their wine worldwide. Armenian wine even spread to Africa. During the Armenian genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire during World War One, some Armenians fled to Ethiopia, where they cultivated vineyards. Many Armenian reds are very sweet and rich, and Ethiopian wine has a similar quality.

All of these past cultures and the Armenians’ own rich heritage has created an interesting destination for adventure travelers. Sadly I’ve never been there, but it’s been on my shortlist for years. Poring over maps and books, it’s easy to see that I’d need to spend a lot of time. The mountains offer remote trekking, there are medieval buildings to explore such as the Saghmosavank monastery pictured below, and there are even wine-tasting tours. People who have been there tell me it’s still pretty cheap, making it an attractive budget travel destination.

Maybe 2011 will be the year for me to finally get there?

[Wine photo courtesy Arthur Chapman. Saghmosavank photo courtesy Olivier Jaulent]

Windows Phone 7 Black Friday BOGO offers

If you have been thinking about getting yourself a shiny new Windows Phone, then Black Friday may be your lucky day.

Starting Friday November 26, the following promotions kick off the Windows Phone holiday season:

All Windows Phones will be buy-one-get-one free at AT&T Wireless. This includes the LG Quantum, the HTC Surround and the Samsung Focus.

The HTC HD7 is being offered as a 2-for-1 offer at T-Mobile stores.

Both promotions are only valid in their respective retail stores, and of course are only available when you sign up for a new 2 year agreement on a family plan.

Next week we’ll be posting our own hands-on review of Windows Phone 7 on the HTC HD7- but we can already reveal that this is one mobile operating system you won’t want to miss out on. The platform may be brand new, but it already has a great assortment of apps, including Netflix, Slacker and the recently reviewed HISTORY HERE app from the History Channel.

Gadling gear review – HTC Touch Diamond2 Windows Mobile smartphone

It has been several months since we last reviewed a Windows Mobile smartphone, and in this review, I’m going to give you a close look at what could very well be the best Windows powered phone ever made.

The HTC Touch Diamond2, is as the name implies, the second version of the HTC Touch Diamond.

The Diamond series phones are thin devices, with no hardware keyboard. The Diamond2 hardware specifications are spectacular – 528MHz processor, 512MB rom, 288MB ram, quadband GSM, triband 3G, a 5 Megapixel auto-focus camera, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, MicroSD expansion slot, FM Radio and best of all – an 800×480 display.
The outside of the phone is stunning – and in my opinion the best looking HTC phone ever made. The phone combines a smooth plastic cover on the back, with sleek stainless steel trim on the front.

On the left side is the volume control, on the right is a slot for the stylus. The front only has 4 buttons, and no “D-Pad” like found on most other Windows devices. Removing the D-Pad also means the entire front of the phone can be used for the screen, and oh boy what a joy that screen is

The Touch Diamond2 runs Windows Mobile 6.1 but it runs it with a twist – HTC included the latest version of their TouchFlo interface on the device , and I have to say – this is the best thing to ever happen to Windows Mobile. The reason? Windows Mobile is 90% hidden from view when TouchFLO 3D is running.

Every single annoying part of Windows Mobile is hidden. Everything from the program manager to the settings screen has been replaced by the TouchFLO 3D interface. This also means all the components are extremely finger friendly, and I rarely needed the stylus.

Until Windows Mobile 7 arrives on mobile devices, I’d say HTC TouchFLO 3D has finally put Windows Mobile on par with the iPhone and Google’s Android operating system. I am not exaggerating when I say that the OS is an absolute dream to use. Even parts of Windows that used to be a pain in the backside to use (like the Windows WiFi setup screen) have been completely replaced with TouchFLO and its finger friendly interface.

The TouchFLO 3D home screen displays a large clock, and allows you to scroll between the various features included on the main page; weather, stocks, programs, people, messages, email, music and settings. Being able to access all these things on the front page, means you’ll waste less time digging in the programs list, and that everything is finger friendly.

If you showed someone the TouchFLO 3D home screen, program manager and browser, you’d probably be able to convince them that your phone was running some kind of new operating system – Windows is that well hidden.

Now, back to that screen – seriously, this is the best screen I have ever seen in a smartphone. It is crisp, bright and extremely easy to read. In sunshine, it is less effective, but still usable. The screen has an auto brightness feature, using the front facing camera. Just below the screen is the new HTC Zoom-bar, which is a touch sensitive scroll control, perfect for scrolling up/down in the RSS reader, or for controlling the zoom in the browser.

As I mentioned earlier – there is no hardware keyboard on the Touch Diamond2, which would normally be a major inconvenience for me. As it turns out, it actually made me rethink devices without a keyboard, as text entry on the Diamond2 works surprisingly well.

The screen is extremely responsive, and one of (if not – THE) best touch screens on any Windows device. It lacks the multitouch features found on the iPhone and the G1, but the upside is that you can still use the stylus if you want to. The photo on the right shows the Diamond2 next to an HTC Touch Pro and the T-Mobile G1 (also an HTC device).

The 5 Megapixel camera finally looks and feels like a real camera – the interface is snappy, and shots are made immediately when you press the button, something many other phones are not capable of. The resulting photos look awesome.

Since there is no flash (or LED flash light), photos made in the dark don’t look very good, but anything made outside or indoors with enough light looks like it was made on a normal 5MP camera. Videos are equally impressive, and are shot in MPEG4 at 640×480.

Performance of the phone itself is great for a Windows Mobile device – there is seldom any lag, and even memory hungry apps like Opera Mobile open virtually instantly. Surprisingly, even the EDGE transfer speed is quite snappy (I tested the phone on T-Mobile). During my 2 weeks playing with the Touch Diamond2, I did not have to press the reset button once.

The version of the Touch Diamond2 I tested included a fairly basic lineup of applications. The most common Windows Mobile apps are of course on the device (Media Player, Pocket Word/Excel/Powerpoint) as well as a couple of Games. Additional apps made by HTC are the addictive Teeter game, which uses the accelerometer, their FM radio program and a version of the Opera Browser optimized for HTC phones.

The browser is a treat to use, and makes the Microsoft Pocket Internet Explorer look even worse than it is. Opera renders pages very fast, and they actually look like they were intended.

The Opera Browser looks amazing on the high resolution screen of the Touch Diamond2 – this is an actual screenshot.

The browser may not be completely on par with the excellent abilities of the iPhone or the G1, but it comes very close, and finally makes browsing the web on a Windows Device very pleasing. One extra feature of the browser is the ability to save “push pages”. These pages are bookmarks you can add to TouchFLO 3D on the main screen, offering quick access to a page that is always updated in the background. This is ideal for news, traffic or other dynamic pages.

There are one or two things that bugged me on the Touch Diamond2 – there is still no normal 3.5mm headphone jack, something HTC seem to do to all their phones (even their Android powered G1 lacks a normal headphone port). Headphones are included (and are required to use the FM radio) and normal headphones can only be used with an optional adapter. My only other minor annoyance is that the power button sticks up a tiny bit, which means the phone tends to turn itself on if the top is pressed.

You’ll notice that these 2 “annoyances” really are very minor – there simply isn’t anything on this phone that I “hated”. Seriously – everything on the phone, from its camera to its GPS is perfect. For the first time, I think it is safe to say that we finally have a Windows Mobile powered alternative to
the iPhone. Anyone who wants to stay away from Android, the Palm Pre or the iPhone, or who has a specific need for a Windows Mobile device should take a long hard look at this phone, and try to justify its purchase price.

Yeah – the purchase price brings me to the only real downside to the Touch Diamond2 at the moment. Currently, no US operator is selling the phone. The only way to purchase one, is through an unlocked phone reseller. The downside to this is of course the price – it currently sells for about $600. The other downside? Those phones lack the 3G frequency support required to use in the USA.

Still, I found the device to work surprisingly well on EDGE, and you can always switch over to WiFi when required.


  • Fantastic design
  • Amazing screen
  • Speedy processor
  • Windows Mobile mostly hidden underneath the brilliant TouchFlo 3D interface
  • Very impressive camera


  • No regular headphone jack
  • No 3G availability in the US (until the phone launches on a US operator)
  • Price is steep

Bottom line – this is the best Windows Powered phone I have ever used, and as a Windows fan, I’d even say that the hardware is better than the current iPhone (yes, even the 3GS). No US mobile carrier is confirmed to be on board with their own version, but rumors all point to a Q3/Q4 launch on several operators.

Daily deal – HP iPaq 111 Classic PDA for $189.99

My daily deal for today is a rarity – it’s a good old PDA. I’m calling it rare, because it’s actually quite hard nowadays to find a personal organizer that is not a phone, GPS unit and camera at the same time.

From my personal experience, I know a lot of people just want something small and easy to use, that does not involve signing up for a 2 year contract or subscribing to an expensive data plan.

The HP iPaq 111 Classic runs Windows Mobile, which means it comes delivered with an email client and pocket versions of Internet Explorer, Word and even Excel.

Inside the device you’ll find Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which means you’ll be able to get online at the airport or your hotel when you are in range of a hotspot.

This Classic PDA normally retails for over $300, but currently has it on sale for just $189.99. And while this may be more than many smartphones (the iPhone is just $10 more), it does not involve any monthly fees or contracts.

The iPaq can be expanded using cheap SD cards, and with a 4GB card currently costing under $15, you’ll even be able to turn the device into a music and video playing machine thanks to the built in Windows Media Player.

All in all, the iPaq 111 Classic is true to its name; a rock solid little PDA without trying to be too many things at once.