DVD Catalyst Newsletter 42
Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 42,
And another full week of MovieGallery development this week. While there were no major issues with the previous version, I wanted to improve on a few things, and ended up rewriting most of the actual program in order to make it do what I wanted it to do, and then of course ended up with compatibility issues on certain Samsung devices (Galaxy S, Galaxy S2), which took up even more time.
More on MovieGallery later.
Let me start with this week’s tech news.
Aside from answering questions by email and through the various web forums, I had my head in MovieGallery code for the full week, so I haven’t spent much time on visiting the tech-websites.
Of course a lot of tech websites are writing about the iPad3 (or iPad2S). Supposedly it will feature a Retina display (it should, otherwise they might as well call it the iPad 1S) but there is still speculation on the processor. Either a quad-core, or a faster dual-core.
Regardless of what happens with the iPad, I do hope they are going to do something with the pricing. A few days ago, I watched a Kindle commercial, and Amazon nicely pointed out that you can get 3 different Kindle devices for the price of “that”
Then there is some speculation on a smaller iPad as well. The iPad Nano (made-up name) should be cheaper of course, and would open up an entirely new market for Apple. If it does come out, I just hope that it would have a wide-screen aspect ratio, rather than the square one it has now. For a “media consumption” device, a 4:3 ratio just doesn’t cut it.
Then there are some rumors regarding Google. Supposedly they are working on some form of home-entertainment system that would do streaming of music and such, controllable by a smart phone. Along with that, also pictures of a prototype clamshell device from Google have surfaced, but not much is clear on its purpose yet. It reminds me of my old HP Jornada 720 Handheld PC.
DVD Catalyst News:
Not much news this week on DVD Catalyst 4.
Just like last week, most of my time was spent on MovieGallery, however, I have added a few new device profiles, and am planning to release an update somewhere next week.
And another MovieGallery week. With the 1.4 update, I had a few people contact me regarding a change I made for external video player support, and the main reason people use that feature with MovieGallery is because MovieGallery does not dim the Honeycomb menu bar during video playback. With a small update I changed the external player feature back to the way it was, but I figured why not try and make it dim, so I did. And did it for ICS as well, while I was at it.
Available later today in the Android Market, MovieGallery 1.5 will dim the Honeycomb menu bar, and it will also hide the menu buttons on Ice Cream Sandwich.
Unfortunately it only does this for ICS when you start the video. If you pause/touch the screen, they will appear again due to the way ICS works, and not hide unless you go back to the gallery view and start the video again. Thankfully MovieGallery remembers the playback position for each movie, so it will continue where you left off.
The menu hiding stuff, while it doesn’t seem much, required a LOT of changes internally in MovieGallery. In order to be able to do that, the app needs to connect to certain Android features that are not available in previous (Froyo, Gingerbread) versions, so I had to do some magic in order to make it work. While there is a “compatibility package” that developers can include in their apps to make things work, this adds extra size to the app, which I wanted to avoid. In addition to that, by making the app fully compatible with Ice Cream Sandwich and Honeycomb, other parts of code were no longer functioning properly, so I had to rewrite those, which led to issues with custom shells offered on devices from the likes of Samsung (the Touchwiz GUI). I guess this is why there are so many developers working on apps for Apple, and one of the reasons why I have a large collection of different Android-devices.
As a result of the GUI issues, I ended up picking up a Samsung Galaxy Player 5.0, which enabled me to troubleshoot and fix the Touchwiz issues. I also had a few people with Google TV’s contact me, so I made some changes to make MovieGallery work better on that as well.
In addition to the menu controls, and the new-OS support, I also changed the way images are loaded, which should result in a faster, friendlier user experience of MovieGallery on almost all devices (and less FC’s).
Lastly, I spent a few minutes by adding a “Quicklist” button to MovieGallery. This button brings up a list of all the video files that MovieGallery found, and tapping one of them will start playing it. Rather than having to flip through all your cover images, you can access the movie you want to watch a bit quicker this way.
Due to the work on MovieGallery this week, I did not have the time to write any articles for the website. I still have a CRF article on my list, which I should be able to get written this upcoming week.
CRF Quick Tip:
Ever since I implemented the CRF feature in the latest DVD Catalyst update, I have been using it for all my personal movie and TV conversions. It makes things look so much better, and it keeps the file-sizes down as well.
While a full article on CRF will be on my site somewhere soon, I do have to point out that I ran into some complications with CRF.
With MovieGallery now capable of connecting to MP4 Streaming Server, I don’t copy my video files over to my devices as much anymore. In the evening, I tend to grab whatever tablet has a good batter charge on it, and use it to watch my videos. One time it might be the Kindle Fire, others the Xoom or even the NOOKtablet. However, this week I have been watching Band of Brothers, and I converted a few of the episodes from Bluray ( Guide: DVD Catalyst 4.1 Bluray Guide | Tools4Movies) using CRF 20 to get a mint video file. But, with CRF adjusting the video bit rate depending on the activity of the scene, I ran into stuttering video during fast-moving parts of the shows. Copying the files directly to the device worked fine, but when you use a high CRF setting (well, a low one, since lower is better) the bit rate can exceed the speed of your Wi-Fi, resulting in major buffering during active scenes. So in order to be able to watch my episodes, I ended up converting them again the next day using a different (24) CRF value to make sure my Wi-Fi was able to handle it.
Of course the usage scenario is somewhat unique, but if you do use your video files in a streaming form, keep this in mind. These issues only occurred with streaming, not with files copied directly to the device.
Android uniformity, or lack-there-of.
During the last 2 weeks of development on MovieGallery, most of my time was spent on dealing with compatibility issues regarding different Android versions and customizations done by manufacturers (Samsung). With MovieGallery 1.4 and before, I used a fixed build-setting of Froyo, and let Android itself do the translation of code, and this seems to work better than if you target the version of the operating system itself. By making the adjustments to use the underlying features of the OS itself, a lot of things no longer work as they did before.
On top of that, the biggest issue is that while the device builders add new features to their devices such as additional memory slots, USB ports etc, they use their own internal locations for them, which in many cases even change after an OS update. Quite often I get emails from people who have a certain tablet or phone, and when they install MovieGallery on it, it doesn’t scan the SDcard. The reason for this is because I have to hard-code the location for it in the program. On some devices, it is located on /Removable, others have it set to /sdcard-ext, others use /extsd, and so on. Currently there are about 20 different locations hard-coded into MovieGallery just to find a memorycard on Honeycomb and ICS devices, and this number is growing with every new company that decides to join in on the Android craze.
Well, it’s the time of the year again. The cable bill went up, and of course nothing extra is being delivered. If you have been reading the newsletter since the beginning, you are likely aware of how much I dislike the way TV works, but unfortunately because my wife does love her TV so much, I’m stuck with it. My biggest annoyance is that while I pay (now) about 100/mo for cable TV, and another 15 for TiVo, I am still stuck with commercials. For some shows, commercials seem to last longer than 5 minutes and it seems to alternate like 50/50; Watch 5 minutes, get 5 minutes of commercials. And then of course the fake stuff of showing a small clip of your show in the middle of the commercials to at least get you to get a glimpse of a few commercials when you fast-forward. The sad thing is, if you watch your shows online you get less than half the commercials, and you watch it for free.
Anyway, since I am stuck with a major cable bill already, I am going to run a trial with Dish Network to see if that is a feasible alternative. My wife is scared about the signal-loss, but everyone I know that has it tells me it is fine, so I’m going to run double for a month or 2 and see how it goes. I really hope it works out, because 118/mo for cable+Tivo is just crap. I don’t even have the premium channels.
Well, that is it for this week’s newsletter.
I have to figure out what I want from Dish, and still have to write some documentation and release notes for MovieGallery. MovieGallery 1.5 is already uploaded to B&N and Amazon, since those take a few days to activate, but once the documentation for MovieGallery is finished later today, I’ll be updating the Android Market versions as well.
Enjoy your weekend, and in advance, happy Valentine’s Day,