Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 73.
With many people getting the hands on their iPhone 5 today, a lot of companies decided to use this week for their own announcements. A lot of new phones, and of course with Windows 8 being released next month, some tablets peaked up as well.
* Sony Press Event:
Sony did their fall press event this week. They announced a few new things, such as 2 new colors for the PS Vita and a smaller PS3 model, but for me, it just seemed more of a disappointment than anything else.
I'll go into this a bit more in the "Thoughts" section below.
* Windows 8:
With Windows 8, Microsoft's new desktop and tablet Operating System, coming out next month, different devices and some basic pricing information are slowly starting to float to the surface.
Earlier this week, some pricing details came up from Asus upcoming Windows 8 line, and I sincerely hope that this information is not accurate.
More below as well.
* HTC Press Event:
The HTC 8S and the 8X, both running Windows Phone 8. The 8S uses the standard Windows Phone screen-size, 800x480, along with a dual-core processor, and aside from the 4GB memory, it seems a bit underwhelming. The 8X is featuring a HD 720p screen.
* Motorola RAZR I:
Motorola, together with Intel, showcased the Motorola RAZR I, the first mainstream Intel-based phone. 2Ghz Atom processor, 960x540, 4.3" screen running Android (ICS). The big thing with this phone is the Intel processor. This also means that we will likely see some cool improvements regarding Android ports for non tablet/phone devices, such as netbooks and laptops.
* LG Optimus:
LG announced a few new phones in its Optimus series. The Optimus G, true HD, 4.7" seems to be a nice competitor for the Galaxy Note 2, with its quad-core processor and 13Mpixel camera.
* Kindle Fire HD root:
Earlier this week, there were some scares, with the new Kindle Fire featuring some fancy anti-hack technology, but the guys over at XDA did manage to get it rooted within a week.
This week, I spent my free time with the Kindle Fire HD. It came in last Friday, and over the weekend, I did some testing and comparing with it, and of course used it for my own nightly movies and TV shows.
My Initial thoughts can be found here:
for its price, and if you are not used to other tablets, the Kindle Fire HD is a nice "entry-level" device, and combined with Amazon Prime, it will provide you with hours of enjoyment, but if you are thinking about upgrading from a different tablet to the Kindle Fire HD, have a look further down in the "Thoughts" section.
Aside from Kindle Fire stuff, I have been putting in a lot of hours in the upcoming MovieGallery update. As mentioned last week, I have been working on some new stuff for it, and it is coming along nicely.
Q: DVD Region Codes:
A: The question was in regards of a DVD conversion that resulted in scrambled video, which ended up being related to the DVD region code.
The DVD region code-system is something the movie studio's came up with in order to prevent people from purchasing DVDs from different countries. While many box-office movies these days are released globally, especially during the early years of DVDs, movies were often released in one area first, and if that went well, it was released in other areas, and by the time it hit the theaters, it was often already available on DVD somewhere else. To prevent people from just ordering the DVD with some international shipping costs, they came up with the region system. DVD players (and DVD drives) needed to be locked to a specific region, so only DVDs that had a matching region code would work with it. A US-purchased DVD (Region 1) would only work in a US purchased DVD player, and will not work in a Europe (Region 2) purchased DVD player.
Similar techniques were used for video game systems. A game released in Japan would find its way to the US many months later. While not used by all movie studios, Bluray also has region codes.
When you try and play (or convert) a DVD on a drive that does not have the same region code as the actual DVD, the DVD drive will not process the DVD correctly, and you end up with an unusuable video file.
It is possible, if you use something like Windows Media Player or PowerDVD to play the DVD on your computer, to change the region-code of your drive, which will make the DVD work fine, however, you can only do this 4-5 times, so switching from one region to another region is limited. After the last change, it will be permanently set to that region.
Q: I copied 20 episodes of a TV show to my memorycard, and only half of them play.
A: You likely have a fake memorycard.
Unfortunately, there are some people who purchase cheap 1-2GB memorycards and format and label them as larger 16GB and 32GB cards. Even with prices of the larger cards going down, I continue to receive a lot of questions similar to this one. It seems that there is a large stock of these fakes, and they are continuing to sell them wherever they can. Many people pick up memorycards to just add stuff on it as they go, and often don't run into problems until later-on. Adding a few songs, eBooks and the likes, which doesn't take much, but when you are working with video files, which are considerably larger, you will run into problems with these cards quickly.
The problem is that while these cards look and act like a larger one (they even show more space available), the actual storage space available on it is only as much as what the original card has. If you go over this, it will still copy the files over, but they will not work.
There are quite a few sales that can be found on the web for memorycards, but make sure you purchase from a respectable seller, and even then, there is still the possibility of getting a fake one, because many of these just buy in bulk for resale purposes, and have no idea they are getting fake ones.
Q: I want to do something with development, but where do I start?
A: A friend of mine asked me this earlier this week. He's great at what he does, but he is interested in going a step further, and wants to start development.
* The first thing you need when you start software development is an idea for what you want to develop.
It could be anything, but start simple. It really helps if you find something that actually has a personal interest for you, rather than focusing on making something to make money.
If you have a personal use for what you are creating, it makes it a lot more interesting to work on.
* The second thing you need is a development tool.
The development tool to use depends greatly on what you want your development project to work with. It is also important to look at other systems you might want to work with in the future, and see if you can find something that will work with both. For example, you might want to develop a desktop application now, but if this is successful, you might want to do something with Android or iPhone later-on, and it takes a lot of time to learn how to use a development tool, so picking something that would offer use for future projects is worth it.
* The third thing is the programming language.
This basically connects directly to the development tool you use, however, many development applications such as Eclipse and Visual Studio include support for multiple programming languages.
There are a lot of different languages to choose from. You might have heard of HTML, PHP, JAVA, C++, C#, but there are a lot more, and each has their own advantages and disadvantages. Some are similar, and just include some variations to make things easier to work with, but the majority of them all work different. To know which one to use greatly depends on what you are developing for. For Windows computers, the majority of them will work, but if you want to develop something for Android or iOS devices, there is not that much choice.
Because the programming language is the hardest part of development (aside from getting an idea), do your research. Search the web for tutorials, guides and documentation, and go from there.
When you figured out the above, start with dissecting your idea into blocks. Similar as if you would with a box of Lego's, or making a drawing of a car, you would draw the individual parts. the wheels, the body. Try to make these blocks as small as possible.
For wheels, you would have the tire, the rim, the spokes, the bolts. The body would have doors, windows, door handles etc.
With the individual parts of your project figured out, you can start working on building your blocks.
If you are building an egg-timer app for your phone, you would start with having it display numbers on screen.
Then, you want it to count down the seconds, so you would need to have it start at 300 seconds, and go down to 0. All development languages have some sort of timer block you can use, and you set that to do something every second. You would use a "variable" that has a start value of 300, and what the timer block needs to do is remove 1 every second. It also needs to display the change on screen as well of course.
But, since the timer will continue to take 1 off, it will continue forever. You have to do something to make it stop subtracting when it reaches 0, and then make some noise or vibrate the phone or something like that.
While it might be handy if it starts counting when you start the app, you probably want it to start with a tap of a button, so you add a button, and when you click on it, it should start the timer.
A reset or a pause button would be handy too, so you can add those. A pause would just switch the timer from running or not running, and a reset would stop the timer and it would reset the seconds back to 300 and update the number display on-screen.
You can go further by changing the way the seconds look by having it display them in minutes and seconds, include a selection for music files to play or maybe even ringtones, have an option to set your own second-count and much more. The possibilities are endless.
When I started with my own conversion tools back in 2003, I needed something to convert my existing movie collection. Back then I was already backing up my DVDs to DIVX AVI format, and I wanted to play them on my iPaq PocketPC.
Back then, there were some DVD to PocketPC tools, but for video files, the only thing that worked was converting the files manually through Windows Media Encoder. It was quite slow, and because I only had an 128MB memorycard and had to account for screen limitations, I had to perform a lot of calculations in order to get my movies to work properly on it.
There were some video calculators on the web, but they just gave you the resulting file-size after you entered some stuff, and I needed it reverse. I had a fixed file-size limit due to the small memorycard, so to make things easier for me, I figured I'd build a small app that would do the calculations for me. I just entered the playlength of the movie, and the program would tell me what settings to use so it would fit.
I still had to get the playlength of the movie, so I implemented something i the app that would let me point it to the file and get the playlength, so I didn't need to do it by hand.
I also had to do screen-size calculations, so since I was reading the file for its playlength anyway, I had the app read the width and height as well, and it spit out all the numbers I needed.
Entering all those numbers in Windows Media Encoder was a bit painful as well. The interface is slow, so it took a few minutes working through it before it would start the conversion, so I made app do it for me instead, enabling me to just select a video file and then start a conversion with Windows Media Encoder.
Because computers were not as fast as they are now, I ran the conversion process overnight. But with one file at a time, it was going to take me a long time to convert my movies. I could start multiple conversion sessions before I went to bed, but by converting 2-3 files at the same time, with the processor switching between them, it actually took a lot longer doing it this way than to just do one and then the other, so I added "batch" functionality, enabling me to setup a bunch of conversions, and automatically continue onto the next.
One of my favorite sites on the web, The Internet Archive, just expanded its contents. Earlier this week, the site operators activated TV-recorded news clips dating back to 2009. Mainly intended to provide access to news and stories related to the US Elections, years of TV news has been recorded and thanks to closed captioning made searchable.
Of course, aside from the TV News, The Internet Archive is a great resource for free out-of-copyright movies, TV shows and eBooks, so it's worth checking out. You can find it on
Kindle Fire HD:
As mentioned earlier, I've been playing with the Kindle Fire HD this week. My initial experiences are mostly good, but as I started using it more, I started noticing some quirks.
While the Kindle Fire HD is a great entry-level tablet, and offers great functionality and features, especially if you are using Amazon Prime, as a "standard" Android tablet, it falls a little short compared to its competitors.
A few things I ran into myself:
* Starting apps, especially something like the Netflix app, feels sluggish. You tap on an app icon, and it takes a second or 2 before it seems to react. If you switch between apps, it feels like it gets slower.
* Video playback works great, but I had it a few times, with different apps, that the video continued to play eventhough I closed out of the app. Going back in does not restore the video, and leaves it playing in the background, and when you start playback it will do both.
* The Netflix app, after a few episodes (I was watching Southpark) boggs down, and it seems that the Yes confirmation when you want to exit out, doesn't seem to do anything after a while. Pausing and returning after a run to the fridge had me having to force-close the app a couple of times because I couldn't continue or do anything.
Overall, these issues didn't bother me too much, but even with the original Kindle Fire (last year's model), I never encountered anything similar.
If you are new to tablets, I'd still recommend it, but if you are upgrading from an older one, the Nexus 7 seems to offer a bit more.
With the time before the Kindle Fire HD 8.9 is released, I hope Amazon can work out some of these quirks, because with a higher resolution, performance issues are something that will be quite noticeable.
If you have been reading my newsletters for a while, you probably know that Sony isn't really high on my love list. I used to love their products, but for the last decade, their focus has been more about profit than customer care.
I wrote about their antics so many times, so I will not bring up the large amount of ways on how NOT to treat your customers, but this week's stuff just adds on to that.
The original PSP is almost 7 years old now, and still going strong. Sony announced that, in Japan at least, it will receive a price drop. That by itself is nice, however, with its successor, the PS Vita being out for a while now, it seems that the PSP is getting more attention than it did before the Vita. More games, more features, and while the Vita is getting some of this as well, it is ported from the PSP. It might be commendable that they are putting so much time and energy in the old PSP after so long, but since they did release a new one, I do think it is time for them to start focusing on that instead.
Because Sony always does things a bit different than the rest, I picked up a Vita on release day, and while Sony believes that the big majority of Vita owners also own a PS3, I do not. Originally when it came out, I had no interest in the original PSP, but after a few months of trying different things with a PSP owner to get video to work on it properly. Emailing settings and test files back and forth for so long wasn't working too well, so I saw myself forced to pick one up. Because of this, I figured they would pull similar antics with the Vita (they did), so I better get one of those to make sure as well.
As a gaming device the Vita is well designed, but unfortunately games itself is its weak point. While it is somewhat early in its life-cycle, there are some good games for it (ports from other systems mainly) but aside from a few interesting ones, t looks like development started after release, rather than, as what is common, a while before release.
While the PS1 was fairly easy to develop for, with the PS2 and the PS3, Sony made it more complicated for developers to release games for multiple-systems. For developers, due to the time involved, being able to build games that without much effort can be ported over to another system is important, but if big companies like Bethesda are able to release 2 great extra content (DLC) packages for their popular Skyrm game on XBOX, and are still trying to make the first one work on the PS3, and if developers have to use a Nintendo 3DS developed game as a source to port it over to the PS Vita, rather than using a PS2 or maybe even a Wii-version, then something is quite wrong.
Windows 8 Tablets:
Marketed directly against the iPad I guess, Asus offers the Vivo Tab RT at $599, featuring a Tegra3 processor.
The next model up from that, the Vivo Tab runs for a $799, with its biggest advantage being that it runs the full Desktop OS instead of the more limited RT version, thanks to an Intel Atom processor.
Then there is the top of the line model, the Taichi, a dual-screen tablet with up to an Intel Core i7 processor.
The Asus Nexus 7, while a bit smaller, but similar specs as the Vivo Tab RT runs for less than half the price. Ok, Google sells the Nexus 7 (supposedly) at a loss, and if you would turn that into a Vivo Tab, you'd have to count about $80 for Windows 8 on top of it, but it is still running a tablet OS.
The non-RT version, $799, and if you get the dock with it, $998. For that, I can get a nice 17" laptop with a fast Quad-Core i7 in it.
For years, companies have tried to make computers more portable, but the one reason why it never really took off, with the exception of the netbook, was pricing.
The OQO model 1 and the Sony Vaio UX, the ultimate geek-toys of 2006, debuted at about $1800. When I first seen them, I always wanted one, but the price is just way too much. Last year I finally got myself a UX, for about $250, but I hardly ever use it.
After that, we had "Project Origami" and the UMPC, also running around the $800-$1400 price mark, back in 2007.
Then the netbook, mini laptops, starting with the Asus eeePC took over the world by storm, thanks to its very low price point. Initially running Linux to offset the price of a Windows-license, but later-on, models with Windows XP became available for about $250.
Since then, a few companies have released tablet-style laptops running a full desktop OS, but the majority sell for almost double of that of their laptop counterparts.
Now Microsoft is gunning for the tablet market for the second time (first with Windows XP Tablet Edition), and pricing remains the same.
With netbooks containing an Atom processor and Windows still selling for $250-$300, I don't see the point in purchasing a similar-specced tablet for more than double the price.
But, this time Microsoft is entering the hardware market, and with them being the developers of the operating system, they are of course able to take off a bit of the pricing of Windows, and undercut some of the other brands. With them mentioning that the sweet spot for these devices is considerably less than what has surfaced so far, who knows what will happen.
I mentioned this in previous newsletters, but I see Windows 8 as a nightmare. With tablets being shipped with 2 different operating system versions and underlying hardware, I can see it happening already. They pick up a cool $500 Windows 8 tablet, and didn't notice the RT on the box. They come home, and the average internet stuff will work just fine, but then they decide to do a bit more and run into compatibility issues. The Tegra3, while powerful, will not run full Windows apps, so their collection of older software, or even newer ones, will not install or work properly.
DVD Catalyst 4 Conversion Settings:
Last week, in the Q&A section of the newsletter, as well as in a large number of articles, I mentioned that when I convert movies for my own devices, I prefer to use the HQXT profiles.
I will not go into too much detail again about these profiles, however, there are some other things that I figured worth mentioning along with them, so here goes.
Because I am the developer of my own conversion software, the default settings are based on my own needs. Because I do a lot of testing, I don't want to have to go through numerous settings in order to get things up to my liking, and worry about settings I might have changed affecting test and troubleshooting results, so I mainly run DVD Catalyst 4 at its default. I don't mention much about these settings because they are ones that I find "natural" when it comes to video conversion. Below some of the more important ones, but please understand that they do not require any configuration or settings adjustments at all. This is "default behavior" in DVD Catalyst 4.
* Volume adjustment. Also something I mentioned last week, but this is done automatically using something I call "Volume Maximizer". If you are familiar with video conversion using other software, you usually ended up adjusting the volume for your conversions in order to make your movies loud enough to hear. With DVD Catalyst this is all done automatically.
* Frame rate adjustment. Most conversion tools use whatever settings you tell it to use, without thinking what it would do to the video. The frame rate, the amount of images per second that is displayed when you watch a movie, is very important, and is not something that can easily be messed with. If you use a frame rate during conversion that is higher than that of what the original movie actually has, the conversion will simply duplicate a few to make up for it. It will affect the way the movie looks, and can also cause other complications such as lips not matching up properly with spoken words (sync issues).
DVD Catalyst actually compares the frame-rates. It looks at the original and it looks at what is selected, and picks whatever is lower. It will not duplicate frames, so your video will look as it should.
* Screen size adjustment. Similar as above, if you tell a conversion tool to convert a low resolution movie to a HD screen size, it will do so. It will simply blow up each individual frame to make it as large as you tell it to be. There is a reason why Bluray disc can contain up to 50GB and a DVD only 4.5 or 9GB. There is a lot more detail in a high resolution movie such as one from Bluray than there is in a lower resolution DVD, and by converting a DVD to Bluray resolution, you will not get the same quality, because it just isn't there. so there is no purpose of doing so. The images will just be increased in size, and take up more space.
While DVD Catalyst 4 has the ability to "upscale" video from a lower resolution to a higher one, by default it actually looks at the resolution and only scales the video if the source resolution is higher than what is selected. When you play your video file on your screen/device/tablet/phone, the video player app will do the scaling anyway, so there is no need to create upscaled, larger-file-sized video files that will look the same.
* Border removal. Almost all conversion tools are capable of doing this, but the majority of them either uses fixed settings or you have to do it manually.
If you are converting a single movie, spending a few minutes on adjusting the settings for your conversion isn't that big of a deal, but if you have to do this for your entire DVD collection, or maybe your collection of video files, doing this for each movie can take a while.
When you start the conversion, DVD Catalyst actually looks at the movie. It takes 5 screenshots, and looks at those screenshots to determine what is movie and what is border. With fixed settings, you might run into a movie that has a different aspect ratio (Star Wars movies are wider than most), and more than what is needed will be cut-off. By looking at the actual video, this doesn't happen.
* Device profiles. While most conversion tools enable you to adjust settings for your own device, with DVD Catalyst, there is no need to spent time trying different settings until you have something that works. You just select the phone/tablet you have and all these settings are automatically set for you. The proper video and audio format, file-type, the proper quality settings, the correct screen size etc.
Because all these things are done "behind the scenes", DVD Catalyst 4 is so easy to use. You don't have to worry or even know about those things, since it takes care of it for you.
For years we have skipped Halloween, but this year, my wife wanted to do something with it. So throughout the year, we have been picking up a few things here and there, and I guess we are going with a Witch/Reaper theme of some sort.
(obviously I did get a few black cats as well)
We found a large hanging reaper that we (meaning me) are going to hang from the tree so it "flies" over the deck we build last year, my wife and a few neighbors are dressing up as witches around a big cauldron.
In the yard we will be placing a bunch of stones as well as 2 zombies coming out of the ground. She also got a low fog machine and I'm hoping to give that a creepy look by projecting some stuff with the pico projector on it. Basically just some changing light/dark scenes.
We have most of it figured out, but one of the big things that remains is me. I have no idea what to dress up as. I have been looking around the web for ideas, and either a reaper costume, or a butler costume of some sort, but nothing seems to match the stuff we are placing in the yard. The things we got look fairly realistic, but the costumes look a bit too fake for my taste.
I found a website, thehorrordome.com, that has some really nice ones, but I don't see myself paying $300 for a costume such as this one:
I'm sure it is worth the price, but who knows what we will be doing next year, so I just don't want to spend that kind of money on something that I wouldn't be using more than once.
I'm thinking I could do something with a decent quality hooded robe, a decent mask and some makeup for a lot less.
I'm sure there are some readers who are quite fond of doing something with Halloween, so if anyone has suggestions, tips, recommendations, I'm all ears.
Thank you for reading this week's DVD newsletter, I hope you have a great weekend. Until next week,
About DVD Catalyst:
DVD Catalyst 4 converts your movie and TV show collection (DVD, AVI, MKV, ISO etc) to great quality video files that are perfectly optimized to play on portable devices.
It includes pre-configured profiles profiles for 1000s of devices, including Apple's full iPad/iPod and iPhone product line, Amazon Kindle Fire (all models), Asus Transformer (original, Prime, Infinity etc), all Samsung's Galaxy models, including the Galaxy Note 2 and the Galaxy S3, Blackberry Playbook, Sony Xperia, Toshiba Thrive, Motorola Xoom and much more.
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