Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 97.
Again, this entire week I spent the majority of my time on the new website. As I mentioned in the last few newsletters, I'm redoing the website, and I am trying to make it as easy as possible for people to find the information they are looking for. More on that later.
Aside from the website, I've been working on an update for DVD Catalyst to go with it, which, aside from updated website links in the actual application will also include a large amount of additional device profiles, both high-profile as well as some of the more obscure, lesser-known brands and models.
Lets start with this weeks tech news:
Last night, Samsung announced its new flagship smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S4. The last couple of weeks (months even) speculation and rumors about it have been building up all over the internet, but finally the cat is out of the bag.
Looking at the photo's of it on various tech-sites, the S4 looks nice, but it resembles the S3 in many ways, making it, especially considering that many companies are finally getting their Galaxy S3 look-a-likes out, just another phone in the mix, which might be a let-down for some people. I'm not much flashy myself, but I'm sure that there are quite a few people who, when using a top-of-the-line phone want it to stand out a bit.
The specs are solid, with a 1080p HD screen, 8-core processor, plenty of ram, storage and a memory expansion slot. Of course expected, so nothing really new here either, and it seems that Samsung simply pulled an "Apple" by just upgrading what they have, rather than starting from scratch.
But this time, Samsung didn't put all the focus on matching/beating specs of the competition, but instead invested in the added functionality. Camera, GPS, NFC, HD, etc, all that can be had now and next week someone else will come out with something better, but the actual user experience, the way people use and interact with these services, that is where they can make the difference.
With the S4, the Smartphone turn into a mobile companion (or moving towards Tricorder territory). Special camera features, with the ability to record from the front and back camera at the same time, health-functionality by means of tracking your walks/steps, scale/heart monitor accessories, translator functionality and much more. These features by themselves have been around for a while in the form of apps, however, Samsung is the first to integrate them all into a single device. It makes sense though. While the iPad had a big hand in it, cell phones played their part in killing off the walkman and Discman music devices, with the inclusion of camera's, cell phones took over the popularity of digital cameras, and when GPS was added, they reduced sales of stand-alone GPS devices considerably. All these added features pushed the cell phone into a dominant role in our lives, and to have these devices tie offer more to compliment our lives is a natural progression of technology.
With Samsung's big day behind us, the next big thing will be up to Apple. Rumors of an iPad Mini 2, with Retina display, and the iPad 5 are already floating around. With the Samsung vs Apple ordeal still going strong, Apple might be looking at Intel to build the processors for the new iPad (and iPhone) line-up (Atom-based processor?, GMA-based graphics?) which might be an interesting combination. One thing that will be likely is that the iPad Mini 2 and iPad 5 will be mainly a spec upgrade (faster cpu, higher resolution screen, more memory maybe), considering Apple has been playing it quite safe the last couple of years.
Google started to remove ad blocker apps from Google Play.
Of course a lot of growling among Android users, but many developers have been waiting for this for quite some time. Of course there is a lot of talk about this on the web, but this might entice developers to cut down a bit on crazy "freemium" systems for their games.
A few people hacked a digital billboard in Belgrade, and played Space Invaders on it, and instead of jail-time, they got rewarded with an iPad.
Hackers play Space Invaders on Belgrade billboard, get rewarded with iPads | Ars Technica
As mentioned above (and a few recent newsletter, I've been working around the clock on a website update. It's been a few years since I last when through a redesign for Tools4Movies.com, and while I put up the design on DVDCatalyst.com only last year, it has some restrictions. In addition, both sites while both mine, have some inconsistencies in regards of content and information, so it's time for a do-over.
While I didn't just do a copy paste on the articles and documentation from the current sites to the new one, the new site actually has (a lot) more content on it at this point than the other sites. More guides, and the troubleshooting section is also a lot more stacked.
One of the big things with what I am working on is the ease of finding answers. Guides are organized, and for questions, the search feature should be able to bring up answers to most of the questions I receive. It's been 10 years that I have been doing this, and looking through the questions I have gotten during that time, it should be a lot easier.
And overall, things are a lot cleaner as well. I can't wait for this to be done and active, but there are still a couple of things I need to include.
DVD Catalyst News:
With the new website, DVD Catalyst will also be updated. With a new website, links in DVD Catalyst itself will no longer point to the correct location, so that will be updated. In addition, while working on the guides on the new website, I have added some new device profiles as well. In particular some of the lesser-known brand phones and tablets.
Ad blocker Apps:
With the introduction of Apple's App Store in 2008, the way applications and games are presented and sold to users has changed dramatically. Previously, software was offered in both free, function-limited trial and pay full-function versions, but now basic functionality, and pricing are the common differences.
Developers spend time on apps and games, and of course they wouldn't be doing this if there was not some form of return behind it. And it doesn't just stop after a product is released. No software product is bug-free, so after release things that pop-up need to be fixed, updates to keep things interesting and support for new devices and technologies, and lets not forget customer support as well.
Rather than relying on a normal amount of sales, many apps are now offered for very low (and free) prices and rely on a large amount of users. There are some exceptions of course, with some big-name products being offered for premium prices, but the majority is all in the $0-$3 price range.
Developers of blockbuster products such as Angry Birds and Temple Run offer their products for free with a collection of ads, and while this doesn't generate much income per install itself, the amount of time people spend with the game (along with the amount of people who play it), income builds up quickly.
However, with the introduction of ad-blocker apps, this income stream reduced significantly. With a free game relying on ads to pay for development and support, and ads being blocked by another app, the company will not have much interest in continuing to support the app.
As a result, the "freemium" system is now more commonly used. Still free, but in order to get further into the game you need to pay for additional stuff such as extra levels and weapons. Some developers use this on a decent basis, making the game more of a trial version providing access to a decent part of the game or, with "grinding" (long hours of play to get a bit of in-game stuff) enable you to finish the game completely, but others abuse the system, and offer a really limited trial version with a forced requirement to pay in order to get further.
While I hate ads as much as the next (and as a result don't use any in my own apps), as a developer, I do understand the need for them. With ad blockers gone from Google Play, I'm hoping that the freemium model will become less intrusive.
The product market is changing. It wasn't too long ago that we only heard about products when they were actually available, now we are offered the opportunity to pay for a product before it is even build.
It was not even 2 years ago, that I felt like I paid premium prices for being a being a beta-tester. With devices such as the Motorola Xoom, the Nintendo 3DS and the Playbook being released with functionality less than advertised, mainly to "make the date".
The Xoom released with a MicroSD card slot, which at the time didn't do anything else than to make sure you wouldn't lose it. The 3DS was promised video functionality, but aside from in-game videos, it didn't have video playback. The Playbook was missing core-apps and did not have the promised ability to run Android apps until it received it's 2.0 update almost a year later.
Product reservation has been around for ages, and even pre-ordering video games has been around for a while, but now stores like Wal-Mart are flooding their shelves with pre-order DVD and Bluray boxes.
And lets not forget Kickstarter, the host for the ultimate marketing tool for a company.
Rather than paying a fortune to a marketing company, putting up a project on Kickstarter is the perfect way to gauge interest in a product, while at the same time ensuring a guaranteed customer base. Success stories like Pebble and Ouya are paving the way for other projects, old-school game developers wanting to start on their own, inventors trying to get funding to build their ideas. It's like the "Shark Tank" TV show, but without the sharks.
But, I am afraid that one of these times a big company is going to be using a site like Kickstarter for marketing purposes. Imagine a company like HTC or Blackberry, both overshadowed by Apple and Samsung in terms of marketing power, using Kickstarter to provide a false sense of input to users over the build of a new super Smartphone or tablet. The exposure on the web, especially with some possible outragous features, a grainy video of some guy with a stone forge in a basement hammering out a shell for it out of steel, would be astronomical. Release updates of some sort (Ouya-style) on a bi-weekly basis to keep things going. Spending will be a lot less than Samsung's 400 Million (US) for last year, and the exposure on the web will be a lot more, all before the product would actually be released or even in a physical shape.
Tips & Tricks:
With many current devices offering only a limited amount of memory and no expansion options, such as the Apple iPad, Google Nexus and Amazon Kindle Fire series of tablets, using these for your own movies and TV shows can be a bit tricky. With limited space available, you can only copy over so many videos and when you run out of shows, you will need to “refill” your Smartphone or tablet with new movies.
There are some Wi-Fi-enabled hard drives available, like the Seagate GoFlex, which enables you to access all the videos located on the drive, but the high price, limited wireless range and low battery-life can be a drawback as well.
You can upload your videos to a cloud-service, which works quite well for small files, but for full-length movies, it takes quite some time to upload them, and of course storage on these services is limited, so for these larger files, it can get costly.
However, there are ways to setup your own "cloud".
MP4 Streaming Server:
A few years ago (back in 2007) I developed my own MP4 Streaming Server application. I was using an iPod Touch at the time, and continuously ran into storage issues. It was only an 8GB one, and while movies didn't take up much more than 600MB, I always ended up wanting to watch something I didn't copy over, so I either had to settle for a different movie, or hook it up to my computer, fire up iTunes and transfer it over.
By accident, I found out that if an MP4 file was accessed through the build-in web browser on the iPod Touch, it would play the file while downloading.
But, because putting movies on a web server takes a long time, and because not everyone has access to a web-server, I figured it would be cool to run a web-server on a computer at home, and access the files that way.
After numerous tries with different web servers (Internet Information Server, Apache etc) the one thing we ran into was that they all require some configuration beyond the capabilities of many, and of course the security risk involved that comes with running a web server. So, we came up with the idea to create an application that would have a build-in web server that does not require ANY configuration at all, MP4 Streaming Server.
For more information on how MP4 Streaming Server works, and what you can do with it, have a look here:
Kindle Fire Video Streaming Guide Part 1 | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Plex is an advanced media streamer. Unlike MP4 Streaming Server, which enables any device with a web browser to access the video files, Plex consists of a server application and a client application of some sort.
After installing the server on the computer you use to store your videos on, you can install the Plex app on your device (almost any device) and have access to your video files instantly. The server is free, however, unless you have a device with DLNA(XBOX/PS3) support build-in, you will need to pay for the playback app.
Plex also offers a "myPlex" service which enables you to access your videos from outside of your home.
For more information, have a look here:
Plex - A Complete Media Solution
Similar in many ways to Plex, however, Tversity charges for the server-side streaming solution, and videos are accessible through the web browser or DLNA (XBOX/PS3).
For more information about Tversity, have a look here:
TVersity - Home
And that is it for this week's newsletter. While I'm not in the market for a new phone just yet (my Galaxy Nexus is just fine), I haven't been too eager to look at new phone developments for quite some time. Of course I keep track of what's out there, but as I mentioned in last week's newsletter, nothing really caught my eye as something new and interesting. Bigger screen, faster processor, better camera, and that pretty much covers it for the last few years.
While many tech-sites were underwhelmed by the new Samsung Galaxy S4, I am actually quite pleased. the specification-wars of AMD vs. Intel and ATi(AMD) vs. nVidia in the PC World has slowed down, the upcoming PS4 and XBOX 720 are similar in specs as well, all with a focus more on content rather than raw performance, so it is great to see that at least one company is trying to break away from the pack.
Thanks again for reading, and see you next week,
About DVD Catalyst
DVD Catalyst is the easiest and most affordable software available for archiving your movies and TV shows from DVD and for converting popular (AVI, MKV, ISO etc) video files into the right file format for PCs, smartphones and tablets.
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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