DVD Catalyst Newsletter 142 – 02-07-14

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    Hello,
    Thank you for reading the 142nd DVD Catalyst Newsletter.

    Another quiet week in terms of tech news. With the holiday season behind us, we are now enduring a bit of a tech-drought, but still there were a few interesting things that popped up.

    Lets get started.

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    Tech News:


    Galaxy S5 + Galaxy Gear 2:

    Samsung Galaxy Gear 2 update tipped alongside Galaxy S5 this month - SlashGear

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/06/technology/samsung-reins-in-the-theatrics-for-galaxy-s5.html?_r=0


    http://www.sammobile.com/2014/02/05/exclusive-a-look-at-samsungs-updated-s-voice-app/


    Rumors have gone crazy these last weeks in regards of Samsung's 2014 lineup. Cheaper Galaxy Note variants, and of course the Galaxy S5 (yes, DVD Catalyst 4 supports the Galaxy S5) which is supposedly being introduced in the next couple of weeks. What was a bit unexpected is something that popped up this week in that the Galaxy Gear smartwatch is also being "refreshed".


    While details are still unknown at this point, considering that the majority of "smartwatches" shown earlier this year at CES were "merely" health-oriented devices, it is possible that the Galaxy Gear 2 will have more of a health focus rather than a micro Android tablet with a wristband.



    Galaxy Note Pro + Galaxy Tab Pro:


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    Samsung Galaxy Note Pro and Tab Pro tablets land Feb 13 - SlashGear

    Coming late next week, Samsung's "Pro" line of Android Galaxy Tab and Galaxy Note tablets (also already supported in DVD Catalyst 4) is being made available to the public. Available in 8.4, 10.1 and a whopping 12.2 inch sizes, these tablets are intended for "professional" users.


    Personally, I don't know what to think about these tablets. 8 and 10 inches I can understand, but 12 is pushing it in my opinion. As a presentation device maybe, but then I would rather use a smart-dongle (chromecast) with a large screen and just beam presentations from a phone or a laptop. On top of that, while the actual hardware used in Samsung's devices is top-notch, the casing, even for its flagship devices such as the S4 and Note 3, is "cheapish".



    Chromecast SDK:

    Chromecast opens for streaming as Google Cast SDK released - SlashGear

    I have been wanting to build Chromecast support into MovieGallery (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.tools4movies.moviegallery) for quite some time, but Google held off with public availability since release. Finally they decided to let developers work with it for use in their own apps.


    Unfortunately, while the news is all out there, the actual "support" for Chromecast in Android apps is still a waiting game. I spent hours making the required changes to my Android development environment, registered (and paid Google) for the SDK access, only to find out that it isn't "active" yet. Fun fun fun :(



    Kindle Worlds:

    Welcome New Worlds! | Kindle Worlds

    I had no idea this existed, but Amazon has some licensing deals in place that enables writers to publish "fan fiction". Writers can publish Kindle books that with familiar characters and worlds.


    Earlier this week, they announced the addition of a few additional worlds that can be used, which should result in some interesting new content.



    Dungeon Keeper Mobile:


    The original game that sets the example for Tower-Defense games, Dungeon Keeper, has been re-released on Apple (link) and Android (link) devices this week. The game places you as the "Dungeon Keeper" tasked with keeping the Zelda-type good guys out from stealing your money and offers you a variety of different traps to place in your dungeon to do so. With the help of your little imps, you dig rooms and dig for gold and other resources to make your dungeon "heist-proof".


    Since it was originally released in 1997, it has been an all-time favorite for many (including myself), and while the developers of the mobile version have done a great job on updating the game while keeping ittrue to the original, unfortunately their efforts have been massacred into a free-to-p(l)ay game.


    Rather than asking a fixed price for the game (even at $6, which is what the original goes for on Good Old Games) it would be worth it, but unfortunately, free with almost mandatory payment requirements for even the basics of things (or a hell of a lot of patience) such as digging out rooms, it just isn't worth the effort. Grinding for hours just to dig out a room or gain required resources just isn't worth it.


    But, if you look at the reviews on Google Play, you might be in for a surprise. According to PocketGamer (link), the Android version of Dungeon Keeper has a build-in filter for lower than 5 star ratings.

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    Using the rating message in the app, you are presented with 2 options. 5 star or 1-4 star. Tapping the 5star button will take you to Google Play to place your rating, but tapping on 1-4 will give you an option to "email us" and "not now".


    You can of course do a manual rating by visiting Google Play directly, or by simply tapping the 5star button and then on Google Play place your actual rating, but not many people will realize this.


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    Tips:

    Account Security:

    Ars Technica had an interesting story on someone who was dealing with an account hack that could have had major consequences for their business.
    How I almost lost my $500,000 Twitter user name @jb? and my startup | Ars Technica

    The article is a followup on last weeks widely publicized twitter account hack scenario:

    How I lost my $50,000 Twitter username | Ars Technica

    where someone lost their 1-digit twitter account name after someone used other companies' support systems to obtain personal data needed to reset the account.


    The biggest thing to keep in mind with user accounts is that the security of some of the biggest companies in the world is only as good as a minimum-wage phone support worker who has the power to reset your account.


    Of course there are plenty of policy's in place to ensure that your account information is secure, but these workers are human, so they can be influenced.


    The article explains how someone was able to get the password changed on one account with the hopes of using the information stored with other companies to do the same, and how, with many services tied to a single username+password combination, the hacker had full access to a lot more than what he needed.


    What many people don't realize is that with social stuff like Facebook and Google+ it is extremely easy for people to get information needed to take over someones account.


    Many sites use common "secret questions" as an additional method for resetting a password, and with a bit of digging, the answers can often be found in a users time-line, or by contacting people from a friends list, pretending to have found a phone or wallet of someone.



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    Thoughts:

    Rant: Winter and Cable TV:

    If you have been reading the newsletter for a while, you already know my thoughts on Cable TV, but in case you missed it, I hate it. The whole ideology behind it is just completely wrong, but unfortunately, my wife can not live without it. I don't watch much on TV (maybe 6 TV series or so throughout the year), and never watch anything "live". My shows are always "tivo'd" because of my biggest gripe with cable. Darn advertising.

    I pay for cable, and it is not cheap either, yet there are always advertising blocks. With average shows, each hour consists out of about 60% of actual show and 40% of advertising, yet I am forced to pay the full price.


    I can go on about this for quite some time, but lets get to the main reason why I am bringing this up again.


    The last 2 months we have been getting a lot of snow, and my cable company decided to. on top of the 60/40 crap they are doing with advertising, to include a nice advertising banner at the bottom.

    Cleverly disguised as a "school information" banner, with delay-times scrolling past, but clearly visible, advertising for some product.


    What makes things even worse is that this banner is only shown during the actual show, but as soon as the advertising blocks hit, it magically disappears, only to return when the advertising returns.


    So my fancy HD Cable TV service is sending me a signal that doesn't match their advertised service.


    And there is absolutely no need for that banner to even be there. If you look outside and there is snow on the roads, there is a big chance that there is a delay for a school in your area. In addition, the schools in the area have an automated "emergency call system" in place that calls the phones of the parents to let them know about the delay, and will continue to do so unless a number has been pressed to acknowledge the message.


    And most schools have websites, and most even have a mandatory requirement of internet access for the children, making it quite easy to figure out if there is a delay. And then there is the news and weather channel which can be used for that.


    So there is absolutely no need for that stupid banner to be there.


    It is all about the advertising. Even during summer with the "severe weather" warnings, movies and TV shows get interrupted for a thunderstorm/tornado warning. OK, that I can understand, but the 2 minutes of "extra" advertising added to the actual weather interruption is just wrong. A 1 minute weather warning, 2 minutes of extra advertising, and that every 10 minutes.Its worse than the 30 minutes of actual show during a 2-hour episode of American Idol.

    And of course, something that cable companies advertise with to set themselves apart from satellite is the signal. Well, cable companies also use dishes to get their signal from the sky so when the weather is crappy, your signal will be crappy as well. Their dishes are just a bit bigger and have fewer trees in the area.




    Rant: TiVo:

    My above experience with Cable TV leads me to something closely related, TiVo.

    My first TiVo was a TiVo Series 2. Actually 2 of them. Both of them were given to me by a friend I help out with IT work for his business. He wanted to get me something nice for Christmas, so I suggested a TiVo, and then hinted that, if I would get one, my wife would probably take it over, so he ended up giving us 2 TiVo's instead.


    These 2 TiVo's were the most convenient and most reliable technology devices I have ever had. One did end up with a bad harddrive after 4 years of perfect service, but with some love and a screwdriver, I replaced the harddrive with a faster and bigger (80GB > 320GB) one, and it was the best DVR ever.


    But then our cable company, while claiming the year before it would never do it, decided to drop the analog TV channels completely in favor for a bunch of pay per view channels no-one watches, and our trusty TiVo's needed to be replaced for ones that work with Digital TV.


    Being spoiled with the 320GB harddrive, we opted to go from 2 to just 1 tivo, but the one with the biggest harddrive, so we picked the TiVo Premiere XL.


    Badly designed, and TiVo tried too hard with it. The thing runs like a Dell PC that was released when Windows Vista came out. Bare minimum specs on paper, and not enough power to even run the main functionality. Even browsing the interface without any recordings running ran slow, and when one channel was recording, it felt like Norton Internet Security was installed on the Dell Vista PC.


    After some painful months with TiVo updates and switching it back to a "classic" interface, it became more usable, but it still isn't up to par with how the old Series 2 worked.


    Last year, after a disappointing trial run with Dish Network (with me hoping to be able to drop cable, but ended up dropping Dish instead), we ended up getting another TiVo, the Romio. For some reason, the shows my wife watches are always on at the same time, so a dual-tuner Tivo just didn't cut it. During our trial run with Dish, she got used to being able to record a total of 6 channels.


    The Romio is basically the same as the Premiere XL, with the exception of having faster hardware. Things run considerably smoother on it, but everything else works mostly the same.


    Still, the whole interface is cluttered, and the ease of access of the Series 2 is nowhere to be found. I guess it is nice to have Netflix, Youtube and whatever other streaming service build-in to the Tivo, but my $80 Samsung Bluray player has all that (and more) as well, so it doesn't get used.


    So, if anyone from TiVo is reading this, please go back to the Series 2. Do what you did best, make the perfect DVR. All this extra crud doesn't help, and it just takes away from the actual purpose of the box.


    The TiVo Series 2 was the master at recording, the best DVR ever. The Tivo Premiere and Tivo Romio are a jack-of-all-trades, but masters at nothing!


    People who buy a TiVo buy it for the DVR part, not for extra "features" that can be offered by a cheap Bluray player as well, and really, the people who do buy TiVo probably already have that part taken care of already anyway.



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    Closings:


    Considering what I had to work with, I think this one turned out better than last week's newsletter.


    Anyway, thanks for reading, and have a great (and hopefully warm) weekend.


    Sincerely,

    Mitch


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    About DVD Catalyst:

    DVD Catalyst 4 is the easiest and most affordable software available for converting and optimizing 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.



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    With the click of a button, convert DVDs or video files, remove black bars, include subtitles or closed captions.



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    With 1000's of tablet and smartphone profiles, you can easily select your device, and get the best quality videos for it. Of course DVD Catalyst 4 supports the latest devices, such as Apple iPad Air, iPad Mini, Retina iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S4,Galaxy S5, Galaxy Note 3, Barnes & Noble NOOK HD, NOOK HD+, Amazon Kindle Fire HD, Kindle Fire HDX, Google Nexus 5, Nexus 7, Nexus 10 and much more.

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