Category Archives: Technology

Apple TV, iTunes, Netflix and the end of DVDs

Our Apple TV gets a huge amount of use for both content-purchased-from-iTunes as well as Netflix.

We still buy DVDs, but less and less. The iTunes stuff is so much easier – no loading the disc, sitting through the FBI warning (or, in the worst case, needing to skip trailers for other shows). And then navigating the sometimes annoying menu structure while the theme sing plays in an endless loop.
And did I mention the occasionally spoiler-ish nature of some of the images they use in menus and such?

Just navigate to the show on iTunes and hit play. Ahhhh.

I have zero interest in anything that involves commercials at this point, so Hulu is right out. (Once you get used to a zero-commercial life, it’s jarring to go back!)

From iTunes, most stuff is $1.99 for SD and $2.99 for HD. If you buy season passes, this can be reduced a little, or for some shows in some cases by quite a bit.

I’ll admit I tend to trade off the concerns of DRM for the utter convenience of digital media. No swapping discs in the DVD player, no waiting through the FBI warnings etc.
If the price is even close I’ll go with iTunes over DVDs.

One other advantage of the digital versions is that I’m ready to go should I want to watch shows on an iPad while traveling.

The ability to lend DVDs was a big issue for me for a while, but I find that I lend them out less and less, so it’s become a smaller factor. And after moving to an apartment, having less physical stuff is attractive as well. Unbelievable how many boxes of DVDs we moved! And are having to find room for.

Watching the Final Space Shuttle Landing

Just got done watching the shuttle land for the final time.
Some random thoughts:
Double sonic boom was both louder and quieter than I expected. I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but keep in mind I’m running on about 4 hours sleep.

Rolled by fast!

Bigger than I expected.

Wow, lots of media there, and more people than I expected.

Took no pictures or videos of actual landing – happened fast and I’m glad I just experienced it.

Bittersweet that the USA has a period where we don’t have the ability to get men into space.

Can’t believe how much money we’ll gladly spend to blow shit up, and how little in comparison we spend for amazing things like the space program. Space is the future of our race, we are getting there way too slowly.

OSX Lion

Cannot believe that Apple releases OSX Lion on the day I’m headed to Florida! Guess I’ll just have to be satisfied reading John Siracusa’s review on Ars Technica.
It does tempt me to take my trusty old MacBook Air with me, but not sure I want to try downloading an OS over hotel WiFi.
And speaking of MacBook Airs, the upgraded models announced today look really sweet. I don’t need a new laptop, but I sure want one.

The Last Space Shuttle Flight

So a few weeks back, before the launch of the final space shuttle flight, I registered to “win” a chance to see the launch at NASA, as part of a “tweetup”. This was an opportunity given to anyone following NASA Tweetup on Twitter.
Out of thousands of registrations, they chose 150 to attend. I was not one of those 150. I did get placed on the 150-person wait list. So close!

It doesn’t end there though. Last week they announced that they were going to select 50 people from the 150-person wait list and invite them to watch the shuttle landing. My odds were 1 in 3! Friday, the day of the invitation emails, came and went. No invitation.

Cut to Sunday morning, when what do I find in my email inbox but an invitation to see the landing! My assumption is that although I missed the first 50, I was invited to fill the spot of someone who declined the invitation.

After much hesitation, and encouragement from friends and family, On Sunday afternoon I decided I was going!

This Thursday morning at 5:58 will find me, tired but excited, in Florida watching the final space shuttle land.

iPad Thoughts #3

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Have gotten Pages to crash when looking at inserting a shape, I think.  Document was ok.

The ability to use Pages in both landscape (better if you like a big keyboard) as well as portrait is nice.

I’m enjoying both GoodReader and InstaPaper Pro.

The on-screen keyboard should be prettier.  It’s clear and functional, but lacks the “ooh – pretty” factor that so much of the rest of the iPad has.
See an app like PCalc for an example of how nice keys can look.

After using the iPad on my flight to Italy, I have to say that it is excellent for that purpose.  No issues with trying to open a laptop screen in a crowded seat, or fears of the destruction that can be cause by the person in front of you leaning their seat back!

No cleaning cloth?  Apple seems to be cheaping out a bit here.

WiFi sensitivity does seem a bit less than other devices.

After several days in Italy with no Internet for my iPad I am thinking a bit harder about the whole wifi-only versus wifi-plus-3G question.  Not that that should have helped here – with the insane data rates I’d be paying in Europe, even my iPhone is not connected to the internet.
Now, this isn’t really a fair test since even without 3G, if I was a stateside I’d have regular Internet connections which would at least let me sort of “cache up” some data.  But still…  Thinking about it.

Seems like there is plenty of room to put more app icons on the screens.  Did Apple decide not to for aesthetic reasons?  Avoiding the too-crowded look?

iPad Thoughts #2

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The iBooks app is completely amazing.  Very good book reader, lots of eye candy.

It is weird that iTunes mixes both audio and print books in its “Books” section of the library.  With no way (from the grid view) to tell which are audiobooks and which are print e-books.

Zooming in and out (for example – in a web page) is so fast it amazes me.

Still trashing around looking for a good PDF reader app.  Tried ReaddleDocs (as in purchased it) due to the Dropbox integration, but that functionality goes through their servers, and I’m not certain I like that idea.
Trying GoodReader next.

GoodReader looks pretty good.  Unlike ReaddleDocs, it supports the new way of doc sync via iTues.

The Apple case is nice, and not only protects the screen (when closed), but makes the entire device much less slippery.  Only drawback so far is that you can’t place the iPad into the (optional) dock when it’s in the case.
Due to the slippery factor, I’d suggest that if you don’t plan to have it live in a case, buying a “skin” of some sort for the back might be a good idea.  Either the silicon type, or (my preference) a stick-on skin from GelaSkins.

Weatherbug is very cool.

Update on Charging: The 5W iPhone chargers will actually charge it, but more slowly.  And my MBA seems to charge it as well.  Also appears that even a computer that doesn’t provide enough charging current when the iPad is “awake” might charge it very slowly if the iPad is “asleep”.

I’m spending way more on apps for the iPad than I did for the iPhone.  Wonder if that’s due to it feeling like the apps are worth more since they run on a “bigger” platform?

iPad Thoughts #1

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Preliminary report – the iPad is fracking amazing!  Screen is beautiful, and some of the apps I’ve played with so far really use touch well.

The iBook app comes with one book apparently – Winnie-the-Pooh.  A great move on Apple’s part.  Why?  Because it has very nice watercolor illustration throughout.  They look wonderful on the iPad, and it’s a direct poke at all the monochrome e-book readers out there.

Saddest result so far of playing with iPad is I’m loving my iPhone just a little less.

One very obvious thing so far: all apps MUST be converted to run on iPad.

So, just had a bunch of movies denied for DL to iPad based on format.  Sort of a surprise, since they should all play on AppleTV, and I was expecting the iPad to support those same videos.  Need to investigate further…

I am a bit concerned that the iPad seems to need a 10W charger.  Hooking it directly to my Mac lets me sync, but not charge.
All the iPod and iPhone chargers seem to be 5W.

The “Picture Frame” mode changes images too quickly (as in, not shown for a long enough period).  Don’t see any way to adjust that.

Puzzlers:

  1. 1)MobilMe iDisk and MobileMe Gallery don’t appear to be iPad ready.

  2. 2)No “Clock” app

  3. 3)No “Stocks” app


Not Clear On The Concept:
ABC TV app, which looks cool otherwise is portrait orientation only.

Blu-Ray

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About a year ago I broke down, violated my pledge to stay out of the HD format wars, and bought an HD-DVD player (the competitor to Blu-Ray) at Costco.

A month or two later the HD-DVD consortium admitted defeat and bowed out.

So now I have a bunch of HD-DVD movies and a player.  Yet another obsolete media format to add to the shelf next to my Laserdisc collection.  🙂

At that point I pledged to ignore Blu-Ray, and do what I should have done from the start – just wait for network distribution.  I’m sticking to that so far.

Now – here comes the crazy – I pre-ordered Firefly on Blu-Ray from Amazon when it was announced months ago.  I’m planning to buy it even if I never own a Blu-Ray player.
Why you ask?  Because any chance I get to make the folks that cancelled Firefly look bad I will take.

Rise Of The Amiga

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My first “desktop” computer was an Amiga 1000. Prior to that I’d had an OSI Superboard, a Tandy Model 100 portable, and a Tandy 4P (luggable). The A1000 was the first computer that sat only on a desktop. It was also my first color computer.

I look back on those days as the golden era of personal computing, at least for me. It was all pure new fun. Multiple competing designs made it all a big game.

So my collection of Amiga gear was not only retained, but has grown quite a bit thanks to eBay. I’m setting up a small personal “museum”, and what follows are my musings on how to configure the A1000 and A2000.

A1000

The plan is to have my Amiga 1000 set up pretty much like it was during the days when it was my primary computer. Well, at least as close as I can make it. I don’t have an image of the ‘C’ development partition from those days, so that at least will only be as close as I can guess it.

(There was a “second age” when the A2000 became my primary computer and the A1000 was used by the wife and kids. In that age, the ‘C’ development partition became the “User” partition and the applications on the “App” partition were skewed towards the family)

This will consist of the C-Ltd 33M hard drive being the primary storage device. The original three partitions will be used – “Cstuff”, “Workbench”, and “App”.

The “Cstuff” partition will contain only Lattice ‘C’ development tools and source for the 1.3 OS.
(The Comeau C++ and OS 2.x development environment came later and was only used on the A2000 as I recall.)

The Syquest 135M external SCSI drive will be used on an “as-desired” basis. This will contain the contents of most/all of the 880K floppies that I used for data storage during that original era. These were copied onto the hard-drive in this modern incarnation just for convenience and (physical) space savings!

Most games will still be played off of floppies, with the exceptions being those that are HD installable. Those will be on the Syquest cartridge.

An additional Syquest cartridge will contain a workbench partition as well as the data off of the other C-Ltd HD partitions.
This will not normally be used, and is kept only to allow booting the system if the C-Ltd HD finally gives up. (essentially a mirror of the C-Ltd HD).

A2000

The A2000 will be set up in more of a “modern” configuration, if one can consider around 1990 to be modern!

This computer will contain all of the C++ development tools, as well as the OS 2.x development stuff.

OSX Tiger

Well, I loaded Mac OS Tiger this weekend.

All seems to have gone smoothly, other than iPhoto refusing to run afterwards.
(I expected to find some incompatibilities, but not with Apple software!)

Found a message from someone who had a similar issue, and they resolved it by reloading iPhoto, which is what I did. (deleted the old app and its preferences before re-installing).

That worked, but then of course I needed to update from 5.0.0 on the DVD to 5.0.2 the current release. Software update thought I still had 5.0.2. loaded, so I had to download the updater from Apple’s website and run it manually.

Now iPhoto seems pretty happy.

Dashboard is very slick, Spotlight seems good too – not much experience with it yet.