Thank you for reading the 39th DVD Catalyst Newsletter.
This week was a busy week for me (which week isn't), but that was mainly due to development on MovieGallery. I know, over the last couple of weeks I have mentioned that an update was not far off, but due to some unforeseen circumstances such as the flu, I have fallen behind a bit.
Last week I updated DVD Catalyst 4, and I had a MovieGallery update planned to be ready before this newsletter, however, it is not done yet. More on MovieGallery a bit later.
First, Tech News:
Of course the big news this week was SOPA and PIPA related. On Wednesday, a lot of websites, including Google and Wikipedia "blacked-out" in protest. And yesterday, in a response to a take-down of a popular file-sharing website, a few pro-SOPA websites were offline but that was caused by something else.
Earlier today, a few websites reported that thanks to the black-outs and a massive flood of people contacting their state reps in one way or another, the voting on the bills have been delayed.
Aside from that, a lot of websites were going into more details regarding some products that were announced/displayed at last week's Consumer Electronics Show, CES.
Then there is a lot of news regarding Apple's education-oriented iTunes U. An iBooks update that includes support for textbooks, a free iBooks Author app that can be used to create interactive books. I've played with iTunes U in the past a couple of times, and this is actually quite exciting.
DVD Catalyst News:
Since I updated DVD Catalyst 4 to v184.108.40.206 last week, I have not worked on any new stuff for DVD Catalyst. Instead I have been working on MovieGallery and been working on a few changes in MP4 Streaming Server.
This is where things get interesting.
The reason why the MovieGallery update is taking longer than expected is because of a new feature I have added, and I am sure that a lot of MovieGallery users will be quite happy with it.
The main new feature in MovieGallery is that it is able to connect to MP4 Streaming Server.
If you setup the free MP4 Streaming Server app on your computer, you can sort your movies and tv shows into different playlists, and with MovieGallery you will be able to browse through your playlists, and watch your videos. If you have cover images for your videos, it will even load those to display them in MovieGallery.
Aside from that, of course quite a few enhancements have been made to make the user experience of MovieGallery more enjoyable.
MP4 Streaming Server News:
I have quite a list of feature requests for MP4 Streaming Server, but at the moment, the only changes it will receive for the next update are the ones needed for the MovieGallery connection.
Of course all over the web sites were participating in some form of protest against these proposed bills. I just can't believe that these bills were even proposed. I can understand that due to 9-11, the Patriot Act was allowed to pass, but these bills, seemingly written by people whom would benefit the most from them, rather than thinking about the "greater good" should never even been proposed to begin with.
Digital Copies - DRM:
Another attempt of the entertainment industry to maximize their profits over the backs of their loyal customers. In short, I have movies that I purchased when the DVD format first came out, my wife has a large VHS collection with purchased movies that date back more than 25 years, many of them not available on DVD, and we can still watch those movies. With Digital Copy movies, I really doubt that I would be able to re-activate a movie I purchased 25 years ago from iTunes/Amazon.
With the MovieGallery+MP4 Streaming Server development I have been working on long hours this week, of course I needed a few sample videos. Rather than just using ones I had laying around, I created a bunch using the new CRF option I added in DVD Catalyst 4 v220.127.116.11.
Using the Xoom HQXT profile with CRF (Global Settings > Tweaks) set to 24, the created video files (from DVDs) look great, and the files are very reasonable in size:
Faster, 753MB, GI Joe, 1139MB, Harry Potter 2, 1203MB, Pirates 4, 1201MB, The Departed, 1030MB, The Postman, 1744MB, The Rundown, 1223MB, X-Men First Class, 956MB
Without CRF, the video files created from these movies, using the Xoom HQXT profile ends up a bit larger:
Faster, 1329MB, GI Joe, 1601MB, Harry Potter 2, 2192MB, Pirates 4, 1851MB, The Departed,2058 MB, The Postman, 2419MB, The Rundown, 1414MB, X-Men First Class, 1788MB
So with pretty much the same visual quality, the videos on average got about 30% smaller in file-size, and one of them, The Departed, ended up half the size (1030 vs 2058). Very impressive
Earlier this week, on DVD Release Tuesday, just like every other week, my wife and I went to Wal-Mart for groceries and to pick up the some of the latest big-release DVDs for testing. This time, I also went through the $7 Bluray bin, and picked up some classics from there.
When we got to the cash-register, there were payment issues with debit cards due to bad weather at the main office or something like that. I don't carry checks, I always use plastic (I don't have credit cards though, just debit cards with credit card functionality), so I had to pull out some cash from the ATM (which surprisingly had no issues), and my ATM day-limit was $26 short to pay for the groceries, so they ran my debit card through as credit card, which didn't need an authorization.
Because I keep the DVDs/Blurays on separate receipts, we then rang up the movies. Of course I was unable to pull out more from the ATM, but because the $26 was done through my card, I didn't see no reason why they wouldn't do the same again.
Well, the amount was, thanks to the amount of cheap Bluray movies I picked up, over $100, so the swipe needed a customer service manager (CSM) approval, and he choose to deny it.
This part by itself is completely understandable, but, and then I am not even thinking about the amount I spent on new releases and older movies there last year, they did accept checks during the outage.
And that is the part I have issues with. I can understand that by using a credit card they would not have any verification of the amount actually being available, but they have the same issue with checks. On top of that, I still remember the days of when credit cards first came out, and people who accepted them were using the manual swipe-device, with carbon-copy sheets for receipts, so why they would take checks and not the credit-cards is a bit strange.
The only reason I can think of is the fee credit card companies charge. Something unknown to many people, but if you use a credit card for a purchase a small percentage of the purchase amount is actually taken as a fee. This same fee is what is used to pay you your "Bonus" or Cash-Back. If you get a credit card from a particular gas station, you get more cash-back if you use it at their gas station, because there are deals in place between the credit-card company and the gas station brand, and they make up for it if you use the card somewhere else.
So my only guess for Wal-Mart to deny my purchase using the credit-card portion of my debit card was to avoid having to pay the fee the credit card company charges them.
Unfortunately for Wal-Mart, and now I am taking into account the amount I have spent last year on DVDs and Bluray movies there, I am now switching to Amazon.
And another newsletter. Next week #40, and I am hoping to have MovieGallery released way before the newsletter, so check back on my website in a couple of days.
Thanks for reading the newsletter, and enjoy the weekend,
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(DVDs and Bluray's that require some settings changes in order for them to convert. Not all of them are tricky though)
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