DVD Catalyst Newsletter 92 - 02-08-13
Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 92.
A couple of months ago, I picked up a new tower to replace my development laptop, but never did get to get it all setup. With my development laptop getting worse, I have been moving stuff around a bit to get it all working.
I have also been working on a redesign for the website, and rather than simply copying everything, I am working through the guides and other stuff on it with a fine comb, re-writing some, merging others etc. A lot of work, but hopefully worth it when it is all done.
I did write a guide on the Tools4Movies website this week. Someone had some questions about the subtitle export feature in DVD Catalyst 4, and I figured that, while I was going through steps to answer the question, I might as well turn it into a guide. The process of converting DVD VOBSUB subtitles to text-based SRT ones is something that is useful for a lot of people, even if you don't actually need subtitles for your movies.
But, more about all that later. As usual, let me start with this week's
XBOX 720 Rumors.
With E3 only a few months away, more and more information about the next generation of consoles is flowing onto the web. A lot of people, including myself, are looking forward to what both Microsoft and Sony are coming up with to provide us with living room entertainment.
While with previous generations, the focus was more about delivering more in terms of power, visual quality, capabilities, with the current leaks and rumors on both the XBOX 720 and the PS4, my interest is getting less and less.
Of course the visual quality will go up a bit, bringing the consoles to a quality level similar to that of current-generation high-end gaming PC's, but with it comes major restrictions.
* Both the XBOX720 and the PS4 seem to have a big focus on preventing/restricting used games.
* Both seem to require a permanent internet connection.
With what I have read so far, it would be pretty darn painful to do something with a next-gen system. First spend an hour setting things up, setting up an account, activating the system and tying it to your account, then of course install of the latest system update, and when you are finally ready to play a game, insert the disc, "activate" the game so it is tied to your account, check for game updates/security stuff, and then start loading the game.
Then, not being able to sell/purchase used games is a big issue for me. Not so much lately anymore due to a lack of time, but I used to go to pawn shops and look for either old consoles or old games. A few years ago, I picked up a Sega Dreamcast, and got some of the best games for it, without paying an arm and a leg for it all. Even an old PS1 can be picked up for $25 and $2-$5 for some of the coolest games.
But with the restrictions and requirements of the XBOX720 and the PS4, you can forget picking up one up like that, and of course games as well.
But, if these companies are going to be eliminating the used games market like this, will they actually lower the prices of their games? Instead of the $60-$70, will they drop to below the $40 again? On the PC, there is Steam, which offers specials on games on a regular basis. With my Windows tablet, I have been using Steam more and more, and ended up getting a bunch of games I already have for my XBOX, just because it is more convenient for me on the tablet.
Ouya wants to release a new console every year.
Ouya, the upcoming Android console,set to compete with the XBOX 720 and the PS4, hinted towards releasing a new console every year.
One of the problems with current game console systems is that while upon release they might be top of the line, usually within a matter of weeks, their capabilities have been exceeded by more powerful PC systems. Consoles like the XBOX and the Playstation have about an 8 year life-span, and while near the end, developers are far more experienced in getting the most out of the hardware, by then even more mainstream PC's are capable of better visuals.
So, Ouya's idea of releasing a new console every year, taking into account price-drops, new developments etc, while still holding on to the low price for the device is quite interesting. Of course, in 4-5 years of Ouya, you spent the same amount on consoles as you would with a new XBOX or Playstation, but, by then, the internals of those systems are so outdated that a $99 console might be able to do better.
25 billion songs sold in iTunes.
This week, Apple reached the 25th billion song sold in iTunes.
25.000.000.000 songs sold. Very impressive. It took some struggles to get there though. Digital Music has had its battles. Back when Diamond released it's first MP3 player, the Diamond Rio, the RIAA had some issues:
but it paved the way for the iPod,
and the iTunes Music Store a few years later,
but, if you remember those early days, who can forget Napster,
Those were the days :)
Surface Pro Reviews:
Tomorrow, the Surface Pro will be on the shelves in many places. This week, in order to build up hype and interest, the bigger tech-websites were allowed to review and post their experiences with the Surface Pro on the web.
Quite a mixed bag of opinions. Some writers are more biased than others, which of course is reflected in the reviews, so if you are interested in the Surface Pro, I would recommend skimming through at least a couple of ones to get a better idea about it.
As for me, I am actually excited about it. One of my biggest gripes of tablets in general is that the companies who build them are treating them as something different than what the customer wants from a tablet. An operating system with limited functionality and developers trying to fill the gap between what it is and what customers want.
More about my thoughts about that and the Surface Pro down below.
Last week, Blackberry announced the new Blackberries, and this week resulted in the availability of the new Blackberry Z10 in a few countries.
It seems a lot of people where waiting for this, and as a result, Blackberry reported that the sales were better than ever.
I am really looking forward to the new Blackberry models, but the waiting is torture. With a smartphone market dominated by Apple iOS and Google Android, both of which, in my opinion, aside from performance, haven't really seen much in terms of visual and functional updates, having something "different" like Windows Phone 8 or Blackberry 10 is quite appealing to me.
For some reason, this week saw the announcement of 2 dedicated XBMC devices.
For the ones that don't know, XBMC is a "media center" app. It works sort of like a DVR/TiVo, but for your own video file collection. For people who are interested in digitizing and boxing up their DVD collection to make room on the shelves, XBMC is something you would use to watch your movies.
Usually you would run XBMC on a computer, and use harddrives, either internal, external or network, for video storage, but these basically are computers. Dedicated to run XBMC and room for harddrives to store your videos on. Another advantage is that these devices are a bit easier to handle in the living room.
No updates to DVD Catalyst 4 and MovieGallery this week. All my time (aside from answering support inquiries) this week was spent on a website-update I am working on. I'm always trying to make it as easy as possible for people to find the answers they are looking for on the website, but for some reason, it always gets more complicated than it should.
So, rather than just changing the theme a bit, I am writing just about everything new. It is a lot of work though.
Q: Convert VobSub to SRT.
A: As mentioned above, I did post up an article on how you can convert DVD subtitles from one format to another.
A couple of months ago, someone asked me to implement a feature to export subtitles.
Because the main reason why I do what I do is because I had feature requests and developers didn't want to implement them, and since I am always looking for new ideas and features to implement. I didn't have a need for it back then myself, but I implemented it anyway.
During that time I was working on MovieGallery 2, and was hoping I could do something with it, but the DVD subtitle format is a bit tricky to work with.
I did implement subtitle support in MovieGallery 2, but only in SRT format.
The article I posted explains how you can use the subtitles that DVD Catalyst 4 pulls from DVDs for you, and convert them into SRT subtitle format for use with video players like MovieGallery 2, XBMC and Plex .
While it is a bit of work, especially your first few, the big advantage is that these subtitles are not permanently burned into the movie. You can turn them on and off at will.
Even for people who don't need subtitles, if you do have the option to turn them on, you can watch something while in a waiting area to pass time, even if you don't have a headset or can not turn up the volume loud enough.
This could actually be part of the Surface Pro thoughts below, but I figured it would be easier to write it in its own segment instead.
Tablets are all the rage these days. While not entirely new, since Apple introduced the iPad, it seems that now everyone and their cat (or dog) has or wants a tablet.
The tablets we have now basically replaced the Netbooks from a few years ago. Small, cheap laptops, capable of running full apps that we have been using for years, but now replaced with devices that cost more than twice as much and don't even come close in terms of capabilities of the Netbook.
Netbooks like some of the Asus eeePC series were able to run 6-8 hours on a single battery charge, and ran a full version of Windows XP or Windows 7 on it. While not that great in performance, it still ran a full version of office without any complications or compatibility issues, and to this day, these little things still beat most of the functionality of what an iPad or Android tablet has to offer.
What if a company such as Asus would release something similar to the Nexus 7 tablet, but with the internals of an eeePC.
It doesn't have to be much, a simple Atom or Celeron processor would do (of course a quad-core i7 would be awesome), with an SSD (32GB for cheap) and running a full desktop operating system (Windows XP or Windows 7 ), and sell it for $300, wouldn't you rather have one of those as a tablet instead of an current generation, $500-$800 tablet?
When the iPad first came out, a lot of people wrote it off as a big iPod Touch. That by itself doesn't mean its a bad thing, but it basically explains the whole idea companies like Apple have about tablets.
The majority of tablets on the market run an Operating System designed and optimized for phones.
It didn't start out that way though. Google used Linux as a basis for Android, and Apple hyped the original iOS up as being based on their desktop OS, which is also based on a form of Linux.
But, to make it work for the first generation of smartphones, they modified, removed and replaced a lot of of the core functionality of the operating system. In particular, things like putting apps in a sleep-mode when switching between them, to make batteries last a bit longer, and, of course, adjustments to make things work on a smaller screen.
With the move towards tablets, these optimizations are holding things back. Of course it is a lot of work to start from the source again, so now these companies are trying to put features and capabilities back that where removed years ago.
For me, the big advantage of using a tablet over a smartphone is to be able to use the larger screen size for additional stuff.
Just like using a larger screen on a computer, the ability to run multiple apps on-screen at the same time. Having a video playing on one side, and browsing the web on another side, but to this day, this is still not a possibility on an iPad.
A couple of Samsung's Galaxy devices now have this capability, and it is getting more and more mainstream, but hyped as some ground-breaking new feature, this technology was available over 20 years ago, with the first versions of Microsoft Windows and Mac OS.
The sad thing is, even the desktop market is moving more and more towards mobile.
Both Microsoft and Apple are trying to move their desktop OS versions to work more like a mobile OS.
Features and restrictions found in their smartphone OS versions are used on the desktop now. Moving away from optical drives, which, thanks to the success from market-systems like iTunes, results in a focus on "App Stores" on the desktop.
Both sides are basically forcing users to use company-approved software only. Developers are forced to join up with them and hand over a nice percentage of their sales in order to have their app listed in the App Store. If not, either the software is not available, or when users try to install it, a big fat warning message comes up, scaring potential customers away.
Many people are concerned about their privacy and security, but my concern is more about big companies controlling what I can and can not install on my computer. For phones and tablets, a jailbreak or root is needed in order to be able to go beyond of what these companies want us to do with it. For consoles, a mod of some sort is needed to enable the same, are we going to need something similar now for our laptops, desktops, ultrabooks as well?
This week, a couple of people have asked me for my thoughts about the Surface Pro and similar tablets such as the ones from Acer, Asus and Lenovo.
When it comes to tablets, I'm not something I would consider a power user.
I spend the majority of my day behind my desk, using full desktop systems for development and testing. The only thing I use my devices for during the day is for answering support questions, writing guides or development or conversion settings testing.
Because I sit most of the day, at nights, I usually end up laying on my stomach, watching TV, or using a tablet of some sorts.
My general usage is fairly limited. I usually use them to watch videos, skim through some websites, and occasionally a game.
I tried using them for answering emails, but using a touch-screen keyboard is a bit annoying to type a full email with, and with the majority of my answers needing a link to an article on my website, switching between a browser to copy a link, and an email app to paste it is a bit cumbersome. I find it easier and faster to just get up, walk to my office, answer the email there, and walk back.
I tried various different approaches to try and make it easier. Remote desktop apps like Splashtop, which basically enables me to leave multiple windows open at the same time, making switching a bit easier and even tried a separate keyboard, but regardless of what I tried, it still ends up being faster to just do it on a full computer.
The games on tablets, and this even applies to the ones on portable game systems like the Nintendo 3DS and the PS Vita, are more designed for short gaming sessions.
I have yet to see something that would provide a similar experience as Fallout, Oblivion or Skyrim on a portable device. Smaller games are great for when you are on the go, but if you have a few hours at nights, having something a bit more lasting makes it more interesting.
And this is where a tablet such as the Surface Pro would fill the gap.
For development and testing purposes, I picked up a Surface RT on release day.
I love the design. The look, the feel and the way it all fits together. The screen size is great, and the fact that the keyboard can be either folded behind or just taken off is perfect.
Unfortunately, it runs a mobile operating system. While Microsoft did approach it differently in that it started with a desktop OS and scaled it down, rather than a phone-OS and build on that, it is still limited, and the requirement of apps only install-able through the App Store, and the developer submission requirement requiring a full-screen "Metro" capability is not helping.
So, about 2 months ago, I managed to get an Acer W700 tablet for a reasonable price.
This is a tablet that does run the full Windows desktop, and as a result is fully capable of handling whatever app I can throw at it. Photoshop, Premiere, VLC, Chrome, Firefox, Flash, even DVD Catalyst runs quite nicely on it.
It is even powerful enough to run my favorite games on it. No complications with Fallout 3, Fallout Vegas and Skyrim. Thhey all run great, at quality settings that go a bit further than just medium in most areas.
But, the W700 is bulky. It doesn't know what it wants to be. It comes with a dock, a keyboard, and even includes a cover.
As mentioned in some of the reviews on the Surface Pro, a full HD touch screen has some issues with touch. It is hard to hit the right spot, so I use a wireless trackbal. Unfortunately, no bluetooth, so it takes a USB port to run.
The games I play also don't work with touch, so I use an XBOX360 controller, which also uses a USB port.
The Acer W700 tablet only has 1 USB port, so I have to use the dock for gaming, which is annoying.
The Surface, both Pro and RT has it's own keyboard with integrated trackpad, making it a lot easier. The USB port is open, the keyboard/trackpad can be folded backwards or simply taken off when not needed, clicked back on when needed.
This week I spent most of my nights switching between the Surface RT and the W700. I spent a few hours with the W700 playing Fallout Vegas, and after an hour or 2, I switched to the Surface RT to watch a show.
When it comes to size and convenience, with the Surface RT, I don't have to drag out a keyboard, trackball, dock and a power cord to be able to use it, making it a lot easier.
With the Surface Pro being the best of both, a design nearly identical (it is a bit thicker) to the Surface RT, and the capabilities of the W700, I think it will be the true idea of a tablet. Desktop power and functionality in a tablet-form factor. The ability of folding the keyboard behind the screen, rather than having a separate dock you need to move or set aside makes it stand out from the other ones.
With the Surface Pro being available tomorrow, I'm eager to see how it will do over the next couple of months. I just wish it was cheaper, and that it was running Windows 7 instead.
And that is it for this week's newsletter.
Thank you for reading, and see you next week,
About DVD Catalyst 4
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.
Convert DVDs with a single click of the button, convert 1 or 100 video files in batch-mode by using Drag & Drop, remove black bars, include subtitles or closed captions.
It includes pre-configured device profiles for 1000s of devices, including the latest Apple devices (iPad 4, iPad Mini, iPhone 5) Barnes & Noble NOOK HD and NOOK HD+, Amazon Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HD 8.9, Google Nexus 4, Nexus 7, Nexus 10 and much much more.
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