Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 80.
Like last week, a bit of a shorter newsletter this week, thanks to me spending the majority of my time on MovieGallery development. It's hard to stop when you are on a roll, running in a small bug when you think you got your wish list for the day done, and then spend another 4 hours working on other stuff along with it. It is easy to get lost in coding.
Anyways, more about that later, let me start with this week's tech news:
Barnes & Noble has released the NOOK HD and NOOK HD+. The original NOOK color is still of my favorite devices, and while I wasn't too impressed with the NOOK tablet, thanks to its weird memory split and the use of everything, including the picky touch screen, of the original NOOK color, aside from an upgraded processor, these new models pack a hefty punch for the price.
Of course you end up with a locked-down Android device, with only the limited NOOK appstore, but it still has the advantage of memory expansion by means of MicroSD, something it's direct competitors, including the Kindle Fire HD, Nexus 7 and even the iPad 3/4/mini lack.
My pre-order did arrive this week as well, but unfortunately I haven't had much time with them just yet, aside from test-playing a few videos. This weekend, I'll be posting up some of my experiences.
Angry Birds Star Wars was released this week. Similar as the Space edition, but with the Star Wars tie-in. I'm excited to play the game, but I am afraid it will affect my current development time-schedule, so I'm holding off for a little while yet.
Last week, I did pick up Need for Speed Most Wanted for the Playstation Vita, and I am pleased to say that finally there is a game that makes the Vita worthy. While in most cases, game developers for consoles like the 360 and PS3 hand the portable stuff over to other companies, Criterion was passionate enough about the game to take the Vita version in their own hands. As a result, the game is of a true console caliber, rather than a watered down money-milk version. If you have a PS Vita, and like cars, this is a no brainer.
A new BattleStar Galactica movie is out as of today, well part 1.
Using an approach similar as Halo 4 's Forward Unto Dawn,
the movie is split in multiple parts, and can be watched on Youtube in weekly episodes. After the final episode "airs" somewhere in February, a showing on SciFi as well as a DVD/Bluray release will be coming out as well.
With Forward Unto Dawn, I watched the 5 episodes back to back earlier this week, after waiting for the last episode to be released, but with BSG, I might watch the 12 minute part after the newsletter is posted to see what it is all about. If this is keeping up, and becomes a common choice for TV studio's to release their content, I'm up for it. I'd love to be able to drop my cable bill.
This week, I walked past a Wii U kiosk in the store. It wasn't playing games, just some trailers, but I did pick up the new controller to get a feel for it. I'm not sure, but Nintendo usually creates the most child-friendly of technology, but with the Wii U, they are doing the complete opposite. The screen inside the controller looks cool, but turning your TV into a Nintendo DS XXXXL with a controller that size, I seriously doubt that any child below the age of 10 will be having as much enjoyment with it as they would with the original Wii. If you do decide to pick one up for X-Mas, I'd recommend looking for an additional, more portable controller. Initially the "second-screen" will be cool, but with burning wrists from holding it during an hour-long gaming session will make it disappear into the closet pretty quickly.
If you have been reading the newsletter for a while, you are likely aware that I've been spending the majority of my time on MovieGallery. I haven't mentioned much about what I am doing, but since I am nearing completion, I figured I'd share some of the new features.
* One of the big things in MovieGallery 2 is the addition of 2 new view modes. Of course the original 3D and the Flat Gallery viewmodes remain (and have been tweaked), but in addition to those 2, I added a new slide-view that lets you flip through your videos a lot quicker. I also added, and this is one I like the most, a new list-style, which also displays cover images.
* All 4 view modes now have the ability to display additional file information. Of course the video name and its location, but I also added the position of where you left off in the video as well as its total duration, which comes in quite handy if you forgot which episode you watched last.
*Cover browser. The current MovieGallery version requires you to manually download cover images and then rename them similar as the video file you want to use it for. It works, but it's a bit of work.
One of the first things I wanted to do with this update is to have some form of cover-image selection in MovieGallery. I tried a few different approaches, and considering DVD Catalyst 4 does all the cool stuff automatically, I wanted to implement something that requires minimal effort.
First I tried a fully automatic approach, but unfortunately, with millions of different file-name scenarios, this was a bit unreliable. The images are obviously obtained from the internet, and the only thing usable for searching is the filename of the video, so the resulting images were not always those of the actual video.
What I ended up doing was an implementation of a cover-button/long-tap option, which performs a search for images for the movie title, and displays a collection of them. A single tap will set it as the cover image, which works pretty easy. A search option is also there, in case the filename doesn't bring up any proper results.
*Another often-requested feature is to use 1 image for all the videos in a folder. Now, if you don't have cover images for your videos, but a cover image in that folder, that image will be used for all the videos in that folder. If you do have a few videos with images, those will keep their original images, and the others will use the cover image.
*Folders. Some people love the way the folders currently work, others hate it. With the new MovieGallery, the folders will be a lot easier to use. A nice list, containing the name, amount of files in a folder, total playlength for all videos in that folder etc. And, if you have a folder image inside the folder, MovieGallery will use that to display as well.
If you use sub-folders to store your images, the folder-selection will make things even easier. You can select a folder that has sub-folders with videos in it, for example a "Friends" folder with subfolders for the seasons, and by selecting the main show folder, it will display all the episodes you have. Of course you can also select the "season" folder so you just see the episodes from that season.
* Backgrounds. Something missing in MovieGallery was the ability to display background images, other than the ones included. I recently added a few new ones, however, for an app such as MovieGallery, a cool background image to compliment your videos makes all the difference.
In this update of MovieGallery, you can use a custom background for your videos, but, and this is even cooler, you can use it for each folder as well. So when you organize your movies in folders, you can set a background image for that folder. If you have a certain TV show folder, you can set a background for that TV show.
* There are too many settings in MovieGallery, so with this version, I have reduced it a bit. External video player support is now enabled by default, when needed. MovieGallery will detect if you have video players on your device that support other video file-types, and if there are apps installed for formats like avi, mkv, it will automatically display them. MovieGallery itself will only play MP4 and M4V files, but for the other files, it will automatically open the player you have set for the file-type.
* A lot of people use MovieGallery to keep their kids entertained. Big images of the actual movie make it a lot easier for kids to find the movie they want to watch, but if you have your own movies on your phone/tablet as well, you might not want your child to get into those.
With the new MovieGallery, you can remove the folder button, so by selecting the folder with kid-friendly movies and then hiding the button, you can lock MovieGallery in that folder.
You can block the cover-search functionality, so no random images are downloaded, and of course, you can now put a password on the settings button.
Enough words, especially since I've been mentioning this for over a month now, here are some actual screenshots:
This is a view that is similar to that of the current MovieGallery:
4 movies along with 4 matching cover images.
But with the addition of the background image, you can make it look like this:
Which makes things a lot more interesting. The background image is located in the folder where the videos are located, and by selecting the folder, the background image is loaded as well.
This is the new folder selection. You can use your own folder images (which can be different from cover images) to give it a more personalized look.
This is the folder structure I used for the screenshots:
For each folder, I added cover images, folder images and background images.
The new folder selection, with the "Star Wars" folder in the back. The "Friends" folder at the top doesn't have videos itself, but the episodes are stored in 2 subfolders, S1 and S2, but I did add its own folder image. For the season folders, I added a cover-image from the DVD box of that season.
When you select the folder, it shows the cover image for each episode, but of course the one for the folder they are located in, so you can easily see which season it is.
This is the new list view, with the Star Wars folder selected. Again, its own background image, along with matching covers for the videos.
Indiana Jones folder in the original 3D view-mode.
The cover selection. The left shows the image used, the right side shows a collection of images pulled from the web. Just tap on the one you want to use, and MovieGallery will use that one instead.
If you are using some of the more advanced stuff with HD Media Players such as the WDTV, or Media Center replacements like XBMC, you should feel right at home with the new stuff in MovieGallery.
As you can tell, the new MovieGallery will be quite different from the current version. There are a lot of new features in it, as well as a LOT of improvements, and while working on it, I catch myself a few times a day just playing with the different view modes and flipping through folders. Since I am the developer, I can call that testing, but who says you can't have fun doing it?
MovieGallery is currently tested by a couple of people on a variety of different devices, so it shouldn't be long before release. For existing MovieGallery users, MovieGallery2 will be a free upgrade.
This weekend, I'll be doing some tests with the NOOK HD and the NOOK HD+. As I mentioned before, the original NOOK color is among my top devices (above the NOOK tablet), and when it first came out, it kept impressing me with the capabilities, and even to this day, it still holds up quite well.
The new NOOK's offer some amazing specs for their pricing, so I'm eager to find out what they can handle in regards of video, and of course with the upcoming MovieGallery.
It has been a while since I had fun with development. Don't get me wrong, I love what I do, but with DVD Catalyst 4, everything I can think of is in there. There are a few ideas on my list, but it mainly involves making some changes, rather than doing something completely different.
With MovieGallery, my mind is overflowing. So many ideas, and they are actually coming all together, quickly. The background images and the folder images, the part that makes MovieGallery really stunning (if I may say so myself) wasn't even there or in my head until last week. I was getting close to finishing up for a release, but after doing a mock-up, I just couldn't let it go.
It required some major changes in code, so last weekend, I actually started with a clean/blank app, added the minimal stuff, 1 view-mode and the file-search stuff, and then kept adding the stuff I had back in there, one thing at a time while making the required changes. Moved things around, removed duplicate code, optimized stuff and what not.
Then, an issue from last year came back. I already switched the image loading stuff to something else in order to make things more responsive, but with background images now also being loaded, even the new image loading stuff ran out of memory. So, on Monday, I replaced the entire image-loading stuff, and considering that MovieGallery is all about images, the biggest part in code, with something else.
Long hours, very long hours, but you lose track really easy. You are about to stop for the night, then you run into a small bug at 11pm. They don't call those things bugs for nothing. As a developer, bugs bug me, so rather than letting it sit for the night and let it haunt my sleep, I fire the development tools back up, and pick at the code to fix the bug, and before you know it, its 4am and you are way beyond the bug into something else already.
I already posted something about this in Newsletter 75 a few weeks ago, but unfortunately, their so-called "Security Software" continues to cause havoc. Since I've been doing this for over 9 years now, having complications with certain security software applications is not unusual. Every couple of years, Symantec or McAfee try something new, and I end up getting flooded with emails. Recently, I had an issue with one that all of a sudden (falsely) detected a virus from 2006 being in DVD Catalyst 4, which, considering that it is 2012 now doesn't make the security company look too impressive to take 6 years to find it.
The Symantec and McAfee issues in the past detected the conversion process as something bad, and they simply blocked it from running altogether. With Bit Defender, it actually lets the conversion run, and after a while it thinks it shouldn't run, so it kills the conversion, leaving a partial conversion behind.
Of course there is nothing malicious in DVD Catalyst 4. I don't use spyware/adware, and before every release, I run all the files through a website called virustotal.com, which uses the top 40+ virus scanners to check for bad stuff, making sure nothing slipped through accidentally.
For Bit Defender, just think about it. If it thinks that the conversion is bad, and still let it run for a couple of minutes, Imagine if it wasn't DVD Catalyst but something that actually does cause harm to your computer. If some virus started to do its thing, would it do the same? Let the bad stuff run for a while, and after a few minutes realize, hey, it shouldn't do that, lets stop it from doing that.
Of course I don't appreciate it when security software companies mark my software as something malicious. I believe that they are a bit too harsh and don't care about the impact it has when they incorrectly mark something as bad, no thought about damaging a company name, damaging sales and the additional work-load involved to answer people's concerns.
One small mistake on their end, and they can nearly bankrupt a company.
But at least Symantec and McAfee stay consistent. They block things from running, which is quite a difference from letting something run and then stop it after the fact.
Thankfully, I'm not the only one who is experiencing some weird issues thanks to Bit Defender though. On their forum, I found this post: Several Issues With Bitdefender Client Security - Bitdefender Forum, which describes some weird behavior regarding blocked MS Service Pack installs, interference with other apps, including logging of Visual Studio, blocking apps even with certain things turned off.
If you do have Bit Defender installed on your computer, or recently updated your Bit Defender to the latest version, and are experiencing some random, weird complications you didn't have before, try getting rid of it, and see if the problems remain.
And that is it for this week's newsletter.
I'm sorry for this week's newsletter being a bit short. There wasn't much news. Of course there was the usual Apple vs Samsung stuff(getting old really fast), Halo 4 was released (want to play it, but no time), a lot of stuff on the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 10(I'm still a bit mixed on those 2, but I'll write something about those 2 next week), but it just wasn't enough for me to spike my interest, or, as the case with Halo 4, something I don't want to get into in fear of not being able to finish what I am working on.
So this weekend, NOOK HD and NOOK HD+ and of course a lot of time on testing MovieGallery (last night I put a collection of tablets on the chargers for testing) as well.
Thank you for reading, and have a great weekend,
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