Thank you for reading the 40th DVD Catalyst Newsletter.
This week was MovieGallery week. Finally v1.4 of MovieGallery released. It has been uploaded, but not activated in the NOOKapp Store yet, and of course Amazon is being a bit picky, but at least the new MovieGallery is available in the Android Market. More on that later.
Aside from MovieGallery, this week was actually a bit boring. Nothing really major being announced, except price rumors on the Acer A700 and the release of the Droid Razr Maxx. I’m not sure what is causing the tech-drought, but it is likely going to pick up late next month, with the Apple keynote on the 24th, which will likely mean the introduction of the iPad3 (or possibly the *real* iPad2 in my opinion), which, just like last year spurred a collection of new announcements to counter the new iPad release and of course the actual availability of the Motorola Xoom.
So, not much, but I did manage to find some tech news:
The Acer A700, briefly shown during CES, is an Android ICS tablet, of course similar to many of the other upcoming Android Tablets, includes the quad-core Tegra3 chip, but unlike the rest of them, the A700 has a fancy 1080p HD screen, so instead of the 1280×800, it uses 1920×1080.
Supposedly, the 16GB version will be around $700, and the 64GB about $1000. Let’s hope that that will come down a bit
The Droid Razr Maxx was released this week. Not too much different from the Droid Razr, except a bigger battery. Currently no profiles for it in DVD Catalyst 4, but the Android > Droid Razr profiles will work just fine.
Ice Cream Sandwich for the Xoom Wi-Fi (US) was released, and it supposedly runs a lot better. Unfortunately, I have the Xoom 3G, so I’m still waiting for the update. At least I have my Galaxy Nexus for some ICS fiddling.
DVD Catalyst News:
This week has been all about MovieGallery (and MP4 Streaming Server) so no I did not do any development on DVD Catalyst 4. I wanted to write an article on the CRF feature I added in the latest update, but the work on MovieGallery to a little longer than I had planned.
MovieGallery 1.4 is available in the Android Market, and has been uploaded and submitted to the B&N NOOKapp Store earlier this week, so it should be available next week somewhere. Of course I also submitted it to Amazon, but unfortunately, their submission is not just for the Kindle Fire, and their app-testing-guys seem to dig out the oldest devices they can find, load them with the latest updates available, and then complain about issues they run into. The main reason for the Amazon submission is for the Kindle Fire, and MovieGallery runs great on that (it runs faster on the Kindle Fire than it does on my dual-core Xoom!), but if they deny it again, I’ll likely provide it as a manual-install through PayPal.
Here are the release notes for MovieGallery 1.4:
Some of the main differences with the 1.4 update are these:
* MP4 Streaming Server integration. If you mainly watch movies on your Android tablet/phone at home, you no longer need to invest in getting a big memory card for your movies. Just convert your movies with DVD Catalyst, and leave them on your computer (or move them to a removable drive) and setup MP4 Streaming Server to organize and stream your movies. Then just setup MovieGallery to connect your computer, and it will load the playlists from it enabling you to just browse and watch what you want without the need to copy them over. In addition, the streaming part eliminates the file-size limitation of 2GB for many devices, including the NOOKcolor, NOOKtablet and the Kindle Fire.
* Quite a few people wrote me regarding the previous update of MovieGallery where I tried to eliminate as many buttons as possible. Rather than using long-press or tap-on-image to access settings or browse folders, it seems that tap-to-play and (small) buttons for accessing the settings/folder selection is more liked, so that is what I did.
* I also made a change that unfortunately resulted in quite a few emails. In order to make it a bit easier to use, I made the “external video player” option automatic. Rather than having to enable it, and use it for all videos, I made MovieGallery look to see if any external video players are installed, and if so, it would also look for avi and mkv files. Then when you actually want to watch one of those files, it offers the selection, but for the supported files (mp4/m4v) it starts playing the video using the MovieGallery player. Unfortunately, it seems that quite a few people prefer to use an external player rather than the MovieGallery player, so somewhere next week, I’ll update MovieGallery again with the setting added back in.
* In addition to the above, I spent most of my time eliminating the crashes and fc’s people were experiencing. Especially on older devices, the images displayed can take up quite a bit of internal memory, and with older devices running an Android version newer than the one they originally came with, the amount of memory is basically halved. Devices that shipped with Android Eclair (2.1) mostly shipped with 256MB of memory, and now they are running Gingerbread, which likes at least double that.
As usual, along with answering questions, most of my time was spent on development, but to accompany the MovieGallery update I did write an article on how to use MP4 Streaming Server with MovieGallery:
It is not as complicated as it looks, but there are a couple of steps involved. But, once you have it setup, it is absolutely worth it. I don’t always charge my devices when I am watching a movie or some episodes, and every now and then, I end up running out of power. While it is no DirecTV DVR yet in that it remembers where you left off across devices, it is nice to just pickup another device (tablet/phone) and continue watching your movie or episode without having to switch the memory card or load it up on your other device.
Actually they are not problem DVDs, but on Killer Elite I had someone email me a question, so I converted it. Rather than just doing the standard test (reset settings of DVD Catalyst 4 and then start a conversion with the profile needed) I opted for using the new CRF feature, which, since I added it, has become one of the first things I enable for my own conversions.
The created MP4 file ended up slightly over 1GB in size (CR 22), and looks amazing on just about every device I have.
This week, Real Steel was released on DVD and Bluray, and just in case someone would have questions, I wanted to make sure it would convert, which it did. Again, I used CRF for this movie, but set to 20, which pretty much produces a mint MP4 file from the DVD.
With CRF at 20, the created video file of course looked perfect, but with 1.9GB in size, it was pretty close to reaching the file-size limit for some devices (NOOKcolor/tablet, Kindle Fire). With the file-size being a bit unpredictable when you enable CRF, I would recommend sticking to 22 if you use one of those devices.
App Store User Reviews:
When I was updating MovieGallery on the Android Market and the B&N NOOKapp Store, I skimmed through the reviews. When I first started with MovieGallery in the Android Market, I took the user reviews to heart. The main reason why I started developing apps over 9 years ago is because I could not find any application that did what I needed it to do. With this in mind, I extended that to the people who use my work as well. Unlike many developers that just sit in an Ivory Tower, I listen to my customers, and when they request a feature, I usually end up implementing it. I believe that if there is one person who would need a feature, there are likely others, which makes it worth the effort for me.
This same reason is also responsible for me creating MovieGallery (and ImageGallery as well). Of course there were plenty of video players for Android available, but none that would actually let you use cover images for skimming through your videos. Because the idea itself was simple, just look for images and when someone taps on an image it plays the associated video file, I was surprised that no-one else implemented it, so I figured I’d do it myself.
Since then, I’ve added quite a few features based on user-requests to it, quite a bit more than what I needed, and I believe that MovieGallery has turned into something great.
Then there is the review system.
While there have been app stores for quite some years, dating back to when sites like Handango, PalmGear and ClickApps were running the show, it seems that many people don’t understand what a review system is for. The B&N NOOKapp Store for example. While there are some detailed (both good and bad) reviews on there, one of the problems it has is that people can post reviews without actually purchasing the app. As a result, the review system is completely worthless. People use it as a question/forum, and are expecting an answer, while there is no way for a developer to respond. The answers to the questions these people are asking are displayed in the product description along with a website link which leads to more detailed information and of course an email address listed so they can contact me directly.
A few examples from the NOOKapp Store reviews:
* 1-star “review” by Anonymous, January 17, 2012
Does this app com with movies on it? If it does are they free to watch?
* 1-star “review” by Anonymous, December 28, 2011
Waste of money
It is coming off as if you can get movies from it but all it is something that you can watch movies you can watch on your nook without it!!!!!!!!! Don’t by this!!!
* 1-star “review” by Anonymous, December 26, 2011
Waist of 2$
This app does not play movies all it does is show trailers it is terrible. Please donot buy
and in the product description:
MovieGallery itself does not include movies. In order for it to display movies, you will need movies on your phone/tablet. If you would like to know how to put movies on your Android device, please visit our website for more information.
With “reviews” like the ones above, of course the actual product rating is completely skewed, even though all the information is right there.
The review system issues lead me to:
Testimonials on Company Websites:
A lot of people ask me if there is a spot where they can post a testimonial for DVD Catalyst and/or for the support they received. Of course I greatly appreciate it that people are willing to take the time to write something about their experiences, but I do not have a spot on the Tools4Movies website for it.
While it is not too hard to implement some form of testimonial-system, there are a few things that keep me from it.
The few times I forgot to turn off commenting on a few pages on the website, as remote a page as it was, people seem to find it and use it for asking questions. While answering questions is something I really don’t mind, these questions are best asked either by email or on one of the many website forums I frequent. Right now, I spent a fair amount of time looking for questions in various locations, and to add yet another one will stretch my time out even further.
But, this is not the main reason why I do not have a testimonial section on the tools4movies website.
I do not believe testimonials on product websites myself. A company website is managed, obviously, by the company whom it represents, so of course, bad reviews will not be displayed. In addition, because the control all the content on their company website, they can alter reviews sent in by people, or simply create their own.
A couple of days ago, after I skimmed through the AppStore/Market reviews, I visited a few competitor websites, and many of them of course have a nice testimonial section, but when you look at the actual “user reviews” posted, they are keyword-loaded (written specifically for Google to like them) and even sections in bold font. The actual writing style for these reviews is basically the same for all of them, making it look even more fake.
Because of these likely skewed testimonials, whenever I am shopping for something online, I always ignore the “testimonials” on product websites. Because the companies themselves can just pick and choose and alter (and usually do) whatever they want to display, you do not get an honest representation about the company/product. I usually just use a search engine like Google to search for the product, and try and find what other people are writing about the product. I always skip websites that have the word “review” in their website link (bestipadconverterreviews.com (example link, not a real website, yet) for example) because those are skewed as well, but things like facebook, google+ or website forums for example. Places where people actually communicate and express their opinions, rather than something that is controlled by people who only have an interest in benefitting from the reviews.
And that is it for this week’s (40th !) newsletter.
Thank you for reading the newsletter, and enjoy your weekend.