Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 78.
What a week. iPad Mini, iPad 4, Windows 8, Microsoft Surface, Halloween decorations, MovieGallery work and of course the usual support questions. It is clear, the holiday season is upon us
Unless you are living under a rock, it was hard to miss Apple this week. Hyped for months, earlier this week, on Tuesday, Apple held a public keynote announcement, introducing a nice collection of new products.
By far, the most anticipated new product in Apple's line-up is the iPad Mini. Rumored for months, with pictures showing up here and there, insider leaks, specs etc. As expected, the iPad Mini is basically a shrunk-down iPad2. Same processor, same resolution, just a smaller package. By holding onto the same specifications as the iPad2, all the apps created for the iPad2 will work on the iPad Mini, making it easy for developers.
One thing that does make the iPad Mini a bit different from the iPad2, aside from the size, is the border around the screen. The side-borders are not as wide as the top and bottom borders, which gives the Mini shape a look similar to a wide-screen tablet. However, the screen aspect ratio for the Mini is still the same.
Strangely, especially after the mediocre update the iPad 2 was, rather than waiting a full year for the iPad 4, Apple decided to release it now. Having picked up an iPad 3 at launch, seeing it replaced so soon is a bit of a disappointment. Granted, its main reason for release now is of course Apple's move away from the 30pin connector in favor of the Lightning connector, but the added bonus of an upgraded processor (to justify it as an actual new iPad) is something that will anger many iPad 3 owners as well as developers.
Is this a sign for what is to come?
With 100 million iPads sold so far, it's not like Apple will need a refresh every 6 months in order to gain more momentum over the competition. Apple users are some of the most brand-loyal consumers on the planet, but with these kinds of tactics, their high customer satisfaction rate might be a bit exaggerated.
The Mac Mini received an update as well. More power, and now in a (for Apple reasonably) priced server-type model and 2TB of harddrive space. I always liked the Mac Mini's but never actually used one, but with my MacBook being left behind a bit when it comes to updates and performance, with the new models, I am tempted.
13" MacBook Pro
Skipped out earlier this year with the Apple laptop refresh, this time, the 13" MacBook Pro received an update. Of course a Retina display, and upgraded processors. Smaller, lighter, nicer, but, starting at $1700, cool as it is, it does put itself into more of an "elite" group of users.
Also refreshed, the popular iMac computers. New processors, better screen, skinnier design etc.
One of the main things about the new Apple systems is the lack of an optical drive. Of course for design purposes, this enables Apple to make things nicer and smaller, but it also means that playing a DVD on your Mac computer is only an option if you hook up an external drive.
Is this a strategy to force people to obtain all their media content from iTunes?
I can understand this approach on tablets such as the iPad, and of course phones and media players such as the iPhone/iPod Touch, but for a computer to not have an optical drive, and rely completely on online access?
Do they ship with a USB stick containing the installation files for the operating system, or are they so sure about their component choice and lack of virusses that they expect the computer to never crash?
Earlier this week, a class-action lawsuit against Sony in regards of the major security breach of its PSN network of last year was thrown out of court.
Personal information of over 75 million users of PSN were affected, which led to a class-action lawsuit against Sony in regards of bad security.
The main reason as to why the case has been dismissed is because "there is no such thing as perfect security", which is something many people don't think about. With everything moving towards the cloud for storage, security is something that just can't be ignored. People are still using easy to guess passwords, upload/share files without knowing what or who can actually access them, and then when something does happen, they are surprised.
Unfortunately, it doesn't help when companies require you to provide quite a bit of personal information when you sign up to use their services either. You never know how your information is used, or, if needed, how it is disposed. On a regular basis you see articles on the web of old computers or harddrives from government agencies that are filled with private information, people who "lose" their company laptop, loaded with full client databases and what not.
We live in the information age, but unfortunately, many keepers of information need some education as to how to treat the information.
Windows 8 Release:
Today, the successor of Windows 7 was released. By the time you are reading this, I am likely installing the retail version of Windows 8 on one of my systems. While I do think the new interface will work well on a tablet, I will continue to use Windows 7 as my main development system. Later this week, I'll share my experiences.
Windows Surface Release:
Also today, Microsoft released its first tablet, the Surface RT. I'm hoping my pre-order arrives today, but at the time of writing this, Thursday, I have not received a notification on shipment yet, so I'm not sure if it will actually arrive today. Similar as with Windows 8, if the Surface does arrive, I will post some of my experiences later this week.
Earlier this week, Atari announced that one of the all-time-classic "sim" games, RollerCoaster Tycoon, is coming to Android and iOS.
RollerCoaster Tycoon (iOS and Android, Q1 2013)
Based on the original best-selling management simulation classic which has sold more than 13 million units, RollerCoaster Tycoon is headed to iOS for the first time. As an up-and-coming tycoon, players create their own custom theme park, designing coasters and building attractions to gain new visitors and increase revenue. Players can choose from pre-designed rollercoaster templates, or design their own wild creations from scratch with the Roller Coaster Editor. With modern features like sharing coaster designs with friends, the newest version of RollerCoaster Tycoon offers an experience both long-time fans and newcomers will enjoy.
I remember playing this game for hours and hours when it first came out, and I think the game lends itself perfectly to be played on a tablet.
DVD Catalyst News:
I released a small update of DVD Catalyst 4 this week to include profiles for the Microsoft Surface RT and the Nabi tablet. Aside from that, there are no other changes.
Last week I asked for the file-naming structure people use in order to make it possible for me to have MovieGallery look for cover-images. I got quite a few responses, and have been working on getting this implemented. Aside from that, I've gotten a bit too ambitious in other areas of code, so I've been changing things around a bit in order to make it easier to maintain (read: update/add new stuff after release).
Unfortunately, with the holiday season starting, there are quite a few other things that need my attention as well.
The DVD Catalyst update this week included profiles for the Nabi 2 tablet, and to make it easier for people to get the best experience from their Nabi 2, I posted a how to guide on my website:
Ultimate Nabi 2 Video How To Guide | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
What to expect when you are expecting:
Earlier this week, someone asked about converting this particular movie to Nexus 7 format, so I wrote a small guide for it:
DVD to Nexus 7 Tutorial | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Also this week, I posted up a collection of new trailers, converted in 720p MP4 format.
Sample Movie Trailers | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Q: Why are the sample trailers watermarked with "converted with DVD Catalyst 4"?
A: Last year I stumbled upon a couple of sample video links someone posted on a forum, claiming to be converted using their own conversion tool. After looking at the videos in a bit more detail, it turned out that the videos were actually converted with DVD Catalyst, and were just uploaded somewhere else.
While I don't have any objection to people sharing the videos (I just converted the samples from publicly available trailers), I do mind when someone use those files claiming that they were created by something else.
I prefer to not watermark the videos at all, especially since I tend to forget to turn it off after I run the trailers through and have a few movies with the watermark in them, but unfortunately the only way to prevent people claiming the files as being created by something else is to watermark them. If they want to use the sample videos, at least they can put in the effort of downloading the trailer and converting them themselves.
Q: I'm looking into getting my child something for Christmas. I'm debating between a Nintendo DS, 3DS or a PSP, PS Vita.
A: This was a question from my brother earlier this week. He is looking for ideas on what to get his 10 year old son for Christmas. The little guy is into soccer, and loves playing Fifa on the Wii.
Aside from the Wii, technology in my brother's household doesn't extend much beyond a computer, an Android phone and a lower-end Android tablet.
My suggestion was to look into a Nexus 7 tablet instead. Handheld gaming systems such as Nintendo and Sony are great for playing games, but that is where it ends. While the 3DS and the Vita do offer a bit more in terms of additional features, with a tablet such as the Nexus 7, you can do so much more, and the games, well thanks to the powerful Tegra 3 processor in it, look stunning on a screen more than double the size.
On top of that, paying $30-$40 for a game on a portable console, or getting similar-quality (or better) games for only a fraction of that (or even free, ad supported) makes things a lot more interesting.
At $200 for a Nexus 7, the Nintendo handhelds and the older PSP are a bit more affordable, but add 1 or 2 games to it, and you are already there.
Aside from your budget, the main thing to look at is what you intend to use it for (or, what do you expect from a tablet).
Many people think, because of the price being similar to that of a laptop, that a tablet can work as a desktop replacement. Of course in many cases, "there is an app for that" which will add some desktop-like functionality to your tablet, but that is no guarantee on how well it functions.
Every now and then I try to do some of my evening-work (answering support emails mainly) while I am watching a video on one of my tablets, and every time, I end up giving up after a couple of minutes and walk up to my laptop and answer the email from there. For some basic quick emails, it works, but as soon as you have to do something like copy & paste, a link from a browser or a piece from a web article or a previous email, things become more of a struggle than a convenience, and if you are watching a show on a streaming service such as Netflix, switching between video and email basically means you have to close the video app in order to be able to continue where you left off (I'm not too pleased with the latest Netflix app versions).
Of course everyone uses their computers in different ways, so a tablet might be capable of handling everything you do on your computer, but if your computer usage goes a bit further than Facebook and organizing pictures, chances of using a tablet as a full replacement re quite slim.
But, as a companion device, a tablet will work just fine.
So with all these tablets on the market, how do you make a choice.
While specifications are important to many people, I don't think they matter too much anymore. Of course they affect the speed of opening apps and other common tasks, but there is more to it than that. When you are looking for a tablet, its best to look on multiple websites for reviews to get a true idea on how well a device performs.
For me, the big differentiator between tablets, and keep in mind that I see a tablet as a companion device, not as a replacement, is the rest of the package.
* Of course Apple has the best numbers. With over 100 million iPad's sold, it has the widest spread of tablets out there, and of course with the iPad Mini just being released (pre-orders starting today), it will gain an even larger market share.
However, just about everything you put on your iPad goes through Apple. It provides you with the easiest way of obtaining content for your iPad, however, everything has its price.
* Amazon follows a similar approach with its Kindle Fire devices, but unlike Apple, Amazon is very clear with its intentions. It uses the devices as a portal to its other services, and as a result, sells its tablets for considerably less. But in turn, unless you actually use services such as Amazon Prime, its functionality is somewhat overshadowed by its competitors.
* Google, with its Nexus 7 is trying to follow Amazon's approach by offering its "media consumption" tablet for a very affordable price, but in turn expects you to compensate for that by using their Play Store for your content. So much even that for the first few months, they included $25 credit in order to have you use their Play Store.
* Barnes & Noble, with the NOOK HD and HD+ is trying to catch up. It's direct competition, Amazon, has a bit of a head start with the additional services they offer, so B&N's only option (aside from working hard on getting some similar services in the game) is to beat its competition with specifications. Its biggest advantage in my opinion is that the NOOK's include a memorycard slot for expansion, something that is a big sore on the rest of them.
* Microsoft's Surface is the big newcomer in the field. As a new device, it is experiencing a lack of apps at the moment, however, with many big companies releasing similar devices, I'm sure developers will start filling it up.
Over the last couple of years, Microsoft has been building up on additional services, and with the Surface providing a window to the majority of that, the Surface will provide a welcome diversity to a market ruled by iOS and Android devices.
For me, a dream tablet would be one that has the ability to run full desktop-style games. Not the Android/iOS style games (even though some are very impressive) but the bigger ones, such as Command & Conquerer, Medal of Honor, Diablo and more importantly for me, Fallout 3/Vegas, Oblivion/Skyrm. It doesn't need to be with maximum details, but just the ability to run it at 720p (or 1024x600), with some detail and a decent framerate.
At nights, I'd love to be able to play a great game, but don't want to have a gaming laptop in front of me or sit behind the TV, and having a decent-size tablet for it would be perfect.
Since I would be using it mainly in-home, battery life isn't that big of a deal, so if it would last, like a gaming laptop/desktop replacement, for 1-3 hours on a single charge, it doesn't matter. I'll be near an outlet anyway.
The specs can be similar to that of a 5 year old high-end laptop. If nVidia would use their current manufacturing technology to build low-power 7-series video cards, and Intel their current capabilities to create Core2Quad processors and companies like Asus and Acer throw it in a tablet priced around the $600/$700 mark, they will be perfectly capable of taking over something as popular as Apple's iPad in terms of market share.
Looking at the Windows 8 tablets, With the Surface RT running on an nVidia Tegra 3 chip, and the upcoming Surface Pro running with an integrated Intel video chip, just enough to handle the visuals of WIndows 8, I'm not sure what would be more powerful, but I don't see something like Skyrm running on either one of them.
I've tried the 2 different Sony mini PC's. The Vaio UX and the Vaip P series, and while cool and fully capable of running a desktop operating system, of course they fall short in the graphics department. Designed for low-power consumption, they lack the power of a decent GPU.
Their form factor loans itself to be a perfect portable gaming device, regardless on how it would affect the battery, just being able to run a decent shooter or RPG on it would make them so much more desirable.
Earlier this week, I did see something that would work as a second-choice for me.
In a review video, someone showed off Mass Effect 3 running on the Wii U, and with the tap of a button, the game was running on the screen in the controller. Not all games will support this unfortunately, however, the idea itself would work wonders. Now if I could do this with a laptop or an XBOX 360 sitting on a shelf next to me, redirect the screen to a tablet with an HDMI cable and maybe use a USB cable of some sort to enable controls, it would be a good option as well.
It is a bit uncertain as to what Microsoft is actually doing with its "Smart Glass" technology, aside from using a tablet screen as a minimap in Forza, and run the second-screen stuff of shows like Game of Thrones on it, but I'm hoping they would include a screen redirection feature as well.
And that is it for this week's newsletter.
This weekend, the wife has a few projects lined up that need finishing, such as fixing up the bathroom floor, fix some closet doors etc. I've been pushing it off for a while, but unfortunately, I ran out of excuses.
Earlier this week, I put up some Halloween decorations in the yard, but the electronic zombies will go in on Halloween afternoon (I don't want to haunt other people's yard with our zombies). When done, I'll post up some pictures.
Thank you for reading this week's newsletter and see you 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 (including iPhone 5 and iPad Mini), Amazon Kindle Fire (all models, including the HD and HD 8.9),the Barnes & Noble NOOK (NOOK color, tablet, HD, HD+), 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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