Thank you for reading the DVD Catalyst Newsletter 65.
As always, this week has kept me quite busy. Along with my usual development and support work, since the Nexus 7 release, I have been getting quite a few questions regarding recommendations for video playback, keeping my quite busy with emails, in addition, I started with my own forum-section on 2 new forums this week, which required some basic setup with articles, and on top of it all, yesterday, someone decided it was funny to tip over my greenhouse in the backyard.
Quite a bit of tech news this week. Of course the web was still loaded with Nexus 7 posts, reviews, gripes etc, and supposedly the first batch of the Nexus Q was sold out, with the next batch shipping in 2-3 weeks (which is probably how long it takes for people to "refuse the delivery" and have it shipped back to Google), but a few other things stood out to me.
This week, Apple released OS X Mountain Lion, the latest incarnation of its OS X operating system. Unlike in the past, where an OS would last for a couple of years, Apple switched to a "yearly" update cycle. Its predecessor, OS X Lion was released last year. With my own (2008) Macbook not being "sufficient" enough for Mountain Lion, I am a bit worried that Apple is using this strategy to force people to upgrade their hardware more often. To this point, I haven't had any reason to actually upgrade my Macbook, mainly because the available software for it (unless you are talking about pro-apps like Final Cut Pro and the likes) just doesn't justify the hardware upgrade. The same goes for the original iPad 1, which is still perfectly fine for what it was made for, but is of course skipped with the upcoming iOS6 update. With that, Apple effectively (but unjust imho) places a life-span of aqbout 2 years on a device that is similarly priced as a mid-range (non-Apple) laptop. Are they trying to do the same with their computer-market as well?
I guess we will find out next year, to see if more previous-generation models are being dropped.
Also this week, Google started pushing out the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean (4.1.1 to be exact) update to Xoom Wifi's. After last week's failed attempt to cancel a pre-order, and their ignorance of the Xoom 3G, I am getting more and more disappointed with Google. When released last year, the Xoom 3G was supposed to be the "Nexus" tablet, but again, the Xoom WiFi is getting the latest updates first. The Xoom WiFi was blessed with the ICS update first, and the Xoom 3G/4G only got it about 3 months later. Now with the Xoom WiFi getting Jelly Bean, it will be another 3 months before it will come to the Xoom 3G/4G.
It's not that Ice Cream Sandwich runs bad on the Xoom, on the contrary, I'm quite pleased with it, but the continuous side-stepping is just something I'm not too pleased with. If you look at other device brands, such as Asus, it seems that they have their ... together, and do more to support their products (although some argue that they don't support their customers in a similar way though), considering they come out with updates a bit more often.
For my own personal use, it doesn't really matter what my devices are running, I could care less, however, as a developer, I have to make sure that my apps do function properly on all systems, which is one of the main reasons why I have such a large variety of different tablets and devices. Of course there are ways to update some of them using unofficial sources, such as custom roms and such, but while it does provide me with a way to run something newer, these roms often include customizations that can affect application behavior, making it a less than ideal platform for testing and development.
RIM (Blackberry) continues to face hard times. Along with last year's Playbook fiasco, it is now losing interest from content providers such as the New York Times, and it's long awaited Blackberry 10 operating system being a bit too much of a wait, I don't see Blackberry holding on much longer.
If you have been reading the DVD Catalyst newsletter for a while, you know that the Playbook, is still one of my favorite devices. I love the size, the screen is amazing, the off-screen swiping is simply genius and the build-quality (aside from a near useless power button) is worthy of its original price, but it just lags behind with everything else. For someone like me, who mainly uses it with their own content, videos mainly, along with content accessible through the browser, it doesn't really matter what apps are available for it. If I really want to use a particular app, I have a variety of Android and iOS devices within reach, but as a stand-alone device, it just doesn't offer much beyond the basics. It really needs apps like the New York Times to provide additional functionality to make it stand out.
With all the problems RIM is facing, I can see them stopping with hardware and OS development all together, and continue as a software company providing their more popular apps on the other platforms, such as iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
Amazon is preparing for release of their new Kindle line of products. Aside from new models, such as a backlight-Kindle, I'm sure we can see a few new Kindle Fire models. Last year there were already rumors regarding a larger (10") Kindle Fire, which might come to fruit this year. Of course, with the Nexus 7 and a (possible) iPad Mini looming around the corner, I'm sure there will be a higher-specced Kindle Fire 2, quad-core, more memory (hopefully a memorycard slot this time) with a higher resolution.
Madfinger Games, developer of popular shooter games for Android, decided to change the pricing of their most recent game, Dead Trigger, to free due to a claim regarding piracy of the app.
Personally, I think there is a bit more behind it than just that. Of course piracy sucks. For a developer to see the application you have been working on for years being made available for free on a variety of different websites is just depressing, however, many games these days focus too much on in-app purchases, which skews things a bit. For a trial-version to charge for additional levels is one thing, but charging for a game that basically requires you to spend additional cash to be able to finish the game is something else.
Of course, looking at the large amount of complaints in the review section of Dead Trigger on Google Play regarding people purchasing the game for $1 when it came out a few weeks ago, and now the game is available for free also provides an interesting look on things as well.
I can understand that people are not too pleased with the decision of making the game free now, but some of the comments make it sound like these people spent their full monthly allowance on the game, rather than the $1 they actually paid for it.
I remember the days of when the Apple Appstore launched, and games were still closer to the $10 mark, but now, it seems hell breaks loose if a $1 app becomes free.
Unfortunately, it is quite sad when people see the need to pirate a $1 app, but anything with a price gets pirated. I see it with my own apps, plenty of "DVD Catalyst Retail TE" versions on torrent sites, MovieGallery on "free app download" sites etc, it sucks, but there isn't anything that can be done about it. Of course there are protection systems in place that are intended to eliminate piracy, but all they do is make it a little more trickier for the "release groups" to "crack" the app. None are safe, and no matter what a developer tries to do against it, if people want it hard enough, it will always end up being pirated.
Unfortunately, because of this, it is actually the paying customer that ends up having to deal with these protection systems. License keys are getting longer and longer, not realizing not everyone is familiar with copy & paste and are manually typing these in. Online activation systems that require an internet connection, sending information about your computer over without your knowledge, and with games such as Diablo 3, a permanent internet connection requirement to servers that are overloaded, resulting in people paying good money for a game and not being able to play it.
The people who pirate don't deal with all that. The "cracks" and "key generators" take care of those issues, so only the paying customers, and the support department of the company releasing the app/game are the ones that are dealing with those issues.
DVDs force you to watch a bunch of "you should not pirate this movie" warnings, but, considering you are watching the actual DVD, you already bought it. New Blurays that use an updated protection system, force you to update your Bluray player (or, if it is an older model, force you to buy a new Bluray Player) in order to be able to watch the movie and its special features. But, the pirated copies don't have all that crap. No 10 minute warnings and other crud before the actual movie, no need to wait for an update for your bluray player, nothing but what you actually want.
If you purchase your content, be it games, apps, movies, you should not have to deal with these systems. They can be there, but they should not affect your experience in any way. If you insert a DVD, you should be able to watch the movie instantly. If you purchase a game, you should not get popups of any kind about buy this, buy that, or please check your internet connection.
With my own apps, I don't use these systems. It's sad that it still gets "cracked" because there is nothing to "crack", but still, I don't want my paying customers to go through some horrific activation system in order to be able to use what they paid for.
As mentioned earlier, this week, I got new "forum sections" on 2 new forums, ClubNook.com and NexusTablets.net.
ClubNook is a friendly community for everything NOOK, including the NOOK color and the NOOK tablet, and I actually created a "ClubNOOK" branded version of DVD Catalyst for it. The application is the same, however, it includes a different theme and the documentation resides on the ClubNook forums. If you have a NOOK (any) and would like to communicate with fellow NOOK users, I'm sure you will find ClubNook a very friendly and helpful community. You can find ClubNook here:
NexusTablets.net is a community for people who are using (or intend to purchase) a Nexus 7 tablet. If you have a Nexus 7, be sure to check it out. You can find the NexusTablet forums here:
While I have been working hard on development and of course been answering questions both by email and on the various forums, I did write an article for the website:
Seagate GoFlex Satellite WiFi Samba Modification
Quite an advanced step by step guide on how to add extra functionality to the Seagate GoFlex Satellite Wifi drive.
The drive itself, a small, battery-operated box (about the size of a pack of cigarettes) offers wireless access to 500GB of your own movies and other content, and while extremely popular among the Kindle Fire users, it has its limitations. Standard, it only provides access to your content by means of a web-interface or through custom Seagate apps.
By implementing this "samba" modification, you basically open up the drive to be used in a more conventional way by means of network shares. With the help of common apps like Astro, ES File explorer, you can browse the drive like you would with a memory card, and use your own favorite players to access the content on it.
It isn't easy to do, but for what I use it for (videos), it is absolutely worth the effort.
DVD Catalyst News:
As mentioned above, I have gotten quite a few emails regarding DVD Catalyst 4 settings for the Google Nexus 7. Of course the latest (v4.2.1) version of DVD Catalyst has profiles for the Nexus 7, but because of the limited storage, and because quite a few people actually picked it up as a second (or third) tablet, alongside a Transformer/Xoom/iPad, quite a few people were wondering what would be the best choice for their conversions.
Even though I have a 16GB version myself, and have actually been using a Playbook with 16GB and a Kindle Fire with only 8GB for a while, I keep running into storage issues with the Nexus 7 myself. With the Google Play credit, I did pick up a few games, but I keep finding me being forced to uninstall them in order to be able to check emails using the GMail app.
In my case, it's mainly because I got back into Battlestar Galactica, and have been converting the show from Bluray to Nexus 7 (to convert Bluray with DVD Catalyst, additional software is needed, please read the guide here) with a "mint" CRF setting of 20 for each episode (resulting in 2-3GB a pop), but I recall doing similar things with the other non-expandable devices and not running into storage issues as much. In anticipation, I did pick up the Seagate 500GB Wifi drive to counter this, but it really drains the battery when you stream your episodes all the time,
so I prefer to keep the files local.
Because I wanted my episodes to be perfect, I used the following settings for my own Nexus 7:
Profile: Google > Nexus 7 HQXT
*Global Settings > Borders, set to "completely remove from device" (full-screen)
* Global Settings > Tweaks, "enhance" enabled. I actually added this setting specifically for Battlestar Galactica because of the grainyness (black dots) all over the video. The enhance setting reduces the grainy look a bit.
* Modify > CRF set to 20.
Using these settings, my BSG episodes (43minutes each) are between 2GB and 3GB in size. The miniseries (1 1/2 hrs long each) are 6.3GB and 6.7GB respectively. The "completely remove" setting in Global > Borders will make the videos completely full-screen on the Nexus 7, but I would not recommend using this setting if you are planning to watch the videos on an iPad or on a TV, since it does cut off a little from the sides of the video.
Profile: Google > Nexus 7 HQXT
*Global Settings > Tweaks, "enhance".
The HQXT profile automatically enables CRF and sets it to 24, which results in a good quality video at a reasonable file-size. Of course it doesn't look as good as the "perfect settings" above, but it will still look very good and is perfectly watchable.
Using these settings, the individual episodes are about 1GB in size, and the miniseries about 2.5GB, both of which comes down to almost 1/3rd of that of CRF20, and they still look great.
Profile: Google > Nexus 7 HQXT
*Global Settings > Tweaks, "enhance".
*Modify > screensize set to 854x480.
As explained in the "make videos smaller" article I posted a few weeks ago,
by lowering the screen resolution a bit (in this case to DVD-like resolution), you can reduce the filesize (quite) a bit while still keeping a decently watchable video quality.
Using these settings, the individual episodes end up around 350MB, and the miniseries around 800MB, which is another 66% reduction in size, and are still perfectly watchable on a tablet such as the Nexus 7.
*episodes: 2.5GB average (5 episodes on the Nexus 7)
*episodes: 1GB average (13 episodes on the Nexus 7)
*episodes: 0.35GB (350MB) average (35 episodes on the Nexus 7)
*miniseries: 0.8GB (800MB)
The HQXT profiles in DVD Catalyst, along with the CRF setting are what I call "set and forget" profiles. Due to the way they work, it doesn't matter if you are converting DVD, Bluray, AVI, MKV, ISO or whatever else, the profile will automatically adjust itself to whatever it needs in order to achieve the quality you want. SD video or HD video, it doesn't make a difference, it ensures that no "bits" are wasted, leaving you with video files that have the same visual quality regardless of scene-activity and have the same visual quality as other videos created using the same settings.
This week, I've started to do some basic workouts again.
Many years ago, I was quite into working out, spending most of my free time in the gym, 7 days a week, doing weights and cardio (steps), but after a knee injury in the Army, things changed. The injury resulted in a mental block, preventing me from doing the workouts that I was used to, and my strength was basically cut by 90%. For a few years, I struggled with empty bars, trying to push myself through it, but due to a complete lack of progress, I ended up letting go.
Unfortunately, the last couple of years, I've been building up some weight, and while I had room to grow, it is now at a point (200lbs) that my bad knee is having a hard time carrying me around. My wife is in a similar position, so we decided to get something that would assist us in losing some of the weight.
It was not easy to come up with something that would work for us though. I spent a couple of months looking through various different devices in order to find something that would work. One of my concerns was the "impact" from walking, and how that would affect my knee. At various stores I tried treadmills, bikes, ellipticals, rowers in all shapes and sizes, and ended up settling for a treadmill with angle adjustment.
Walking on a completely flat surface is hard on my knee, but at a slight angle, the pressure and impact shifts, and I am able to walk for quite some time on it. I am still building it up, considering I haven't worked out for quite a few years.
I haven't talked much about the green house in the back yard, but back in May, my wife wanted me to build a green house to grow some stuff. When I was at the store looking for lumber, I actually tripped over a "greenhouse in a box", which was about the size of what we wanted, and aside from being a lot less work to put together, it was also considerably cheaper than the one I would be building, so I went for that one instead.
The greenhouse itself is basically a tent-frame with transparent plastic over it, with a few windows and zipper-doors, but it works pretty good.
Since May, I've been watering the plants on a daily basis (the last month twice a day) and our peppers, eggplants and cucumbers were growing fruits nicely.
Until yesterday, when I found it knocked over.
Many of the plants were broken, and some of them even pulled out, which indicates that someone tipped it over, rather than the wind (there was no wind).
So yesterday afternoon, in the heat, I was stuck putting it back up and salvage that what could be saved. I taped some of the broken plants, and I guess in the next couple of days we'll see if they survive or not. When I watered them this morning, the majority of them seemed to be OK, but since it was cloudy, it is hard to tell for sure if they will make it.
I have my suspicions as to who did it, however, no proof, so I guess I'll never know. I do know that next year, the green house project will be a bit different though.
Netflix/Amazon Prime/HBO Go
Even though I have been a big advocate for streaming video methods such as Amazon Prime, Netflix Streaming and HBO Go, it seems that the "newness" has worn off for me. Lately I have used HBO Go for quite a few shows, and there are some other shows I'd like to watch, but both Amazon Prime and Netflix have dropped below my radar. Both provide access to great shows and movies, but it just seems that it is easier for me to put my own movies and shows on my devices (thanks to the Seagate Wifi drive) rather than putting up with some fluctuating bandwidth issues.
Earlier this week, I was watching HBO Go on my Xoom while on the treadmill, and I don't know if it was the machine causing interference, or just a weak wifi signal in that room, but it kept buffering and a few times running into an "audio only" stream while I was trying to watch a movie.
I haven't used Netflix for months, and the streaming videos from Amazon Prime also don't seem to interest me as much as they did a few months ago. Both services claim to add so many new content on a regular basis, but it seems it is not the stuff that I would actually enjoy watching. On Amazon, of course the pay-section gets some of that, but I refuse to pay for movies unless they are in a more usable format (meaning ones that don't have me worry if I can use them on an upcoming device regardless of what company makes it).
No luck as of yet regarding the newsletter-email part. A few weeks ago, something in the newsletter plugin I use on the tools4movies.com website stopped functioning, preventing newsletter emails from being sent out. Since then, I have tried a few different methods in order to fix the issue, and even tried a few different newsletter-plugins, but without any luck. I haven't given up on it yet though. I'm sorry for the inconvenience.
Nexus 7 Video Guide:
If you have, or are thinking about getting, a Google Nexus 7, and would, rather than using your $25 Play Credit to buy 1 1/2 movie, like to put your own movies on it from AVI, DVD, MKV, ISO etc, this is the guide for you.
What is CRF:
Mentioned in the Nexus 7 settings above, this article on the tools4movies.com website provides detailed information as to what CRF is, and how it works.
How to make your movies smaller:
Mentioned briefly above, this article shows a few tips on how you can make your video files take up a bit less space so you can put more movies and tv shows on storage-restricted devices such as the Nexus 7, Kindle Fire and iPad.
How to make all your movies full-screen:
Still one of the most asked questions on the web when it comes to video conversion, and on a daily basis I get numerous questions on this by email.
The 2012 Summer Olympics are starting today, so I'm sure the next couple of weeks, the internet will be buzzing about that, but of course as time progresses, more information (and rumors) will come up regarding new stuff. In particular with both Amazon and Apple getting ready for their announcements in the next 2 months, I'm sure we will be seeing more about the Kindle Fire 2 and new iPod Touch models (and/or the iPad Mini maybe).
Anyways, thank you for reading this week's newsletter, and see you next week. Have a great weekend,