DVD Catalyst Newsletter 62
Thank you for reading the 62nd DVD Catalyst Newsletter.
A busy week this week (when isn't?). I did not do much in regards of website articles, however, that does not mean that I haven't been working on something new and exciting. More about that further down, first let me start with this week's tech news:
The big summer announcements are pretty much over, but rumors for fall-releases are starting to flood the web. With last week's announcement from Google regarding the Nexus 7 tablet, now things flared up around Amazon's Kindle Fire 2 and, of course, an iPad Mini. Aside from that, a few new phones (Galaxy S3, HTC One V etc) hit different providers and of course a variety of different lawsuits involving Samsung and Apple are causing some havoc, but that happens pretty much every week.
With the success of the Kindle Fire, of course it was to be expected that Amazon would be releasing a new model this year. Not much is known about the new Kindle Fire yet, aside from some vague information about possibly release near the end of the month or early August. With the Nexus 7 being a direct competitor for the Kindle Fire, with also a major focus on content, it would be a wise move of Amazon to release it around the same time. I hope it shares some of the specs of the Nexus 7 as well.
As mentioned, there are also rumors a plenty regarding a smaller iPad. A lot of people have been asking for one, and ended up with a smaller Android tablet or Playbook instead in order to have similar functionality in a more portable form. Hopes for a smaller iPad diminished after Steve Jobs expressed his opinions regarding the smaller form factor, but if rumors are true, Apple seems to have a different mindset on this. An iPad Mini would be able to compete nicely with eReaders and tablets like the Kindle Fire and the NOOK tablet, but with the regular iPad pricing, I don't think it stands much of a chance. Of course its Apple, so it will sell, but being late to the game with a market flooded with more affordable devices is a bit rough to get a foot on the ground in. There are rumors about a $200 price point, but this would put it in direct competition with the iPod Touch, which in turn should get reduced in price as well, along with the iPod Nano. The iPad Mini should be around the $200-300 mark in order to be able to compete, but my guess is that it would be more around the $300. Either way, I hope that the iPad Mini will have a wide-screen this time.
The PS Vita will be able to play, hold on, Playstation 1 games. Back in Newsletter 60, I was complaining about Sony missing the idea of a Portable Playstation, and it seems they listened. With the next update the PS Vita will be able to play some true classic console games like Tombraider 1 and Final Fantasy 7, just like the original PSP was capable of about 6 years ago. So with about 8 years of difference between the original PSP release and the PS Vita release, it seems that the PS Vita finally caught up to its predecessor. Come on Sony, you can do better than that. The PS-One games are great and all, but unless you make the Vita work with PS2 games, I don't see much of a reason for people to pick up a PS Vita instead of a PSP.
DVD Catalyst News:
As of this moment, a new "Public Beta" version, DVD Catalyst 4 v4.3 Beta 1, is available!
For quite some time I have been working on an updated engine-set for DVD Catalyst, and finally it is ready for public beta-testing. The new engine addresses some issues with certain Bluray (note: to convert Bluray you still need something like MakeMKV/AnyDVD HD/DVDfab Passkey for Bluray conversions) movies like Fast Five and Sherlock Holmes 1 and 2. Using the previous engine, these titles didn't process correctly, but now they do.
In addition to the Bluray enhancements, conversion performance has of course improved, especially on multi-core systems, and the new engine now also supports so-called fansubs, styled subtitles, in MKV files.
Also additional tweaks and settings have been applied to the beta to make conversion of 3GP/3G2 video files easier, DVD subtitles made more readable, and a separate option for Closed Caption font selection.
With a new engine-set such as this one, there is no way of telling how many things have changed (and got broken), except by letting people use it. The Beta is fully functional, and at the moment, I am unaware of any complications. I've only pushed through about 30 DVDs or so, Sherlock Holmes 1 and 2, along with Captain America on Bluray, and a variety of different test-files in MKV format using different subtitle options, and while those tests worked as they should, something else might no longer work.
To download the Beta, open up DVD Catalyst 4, enable the Power User checkmark. Then go into Global Settings and look for the "Version Info" tab. In there, tap on the "Beta" button.
The Beta installs itself next to the retail version, and it uses its own settings, meaning you can use both (not at the same time though), and settings you change in one will not affect the other (device profiles are shared between the 2 though). The beta does use files from your existing DVD Catalyst 4 installation, so you will need to have that installed in order to use the beta.
If you decide to play around with the Beta, just use it as you use DVD Catalyst 4. If you do run into complications, please let me know by email (email@example.com) and provide as much information as possible, such as what DVD/Bluray, a problem description (what works, what doesn't), and also information about your computer is useful, such as AMD/Intel processor, Windows version etc.
Especially for the people who use DVD Catalyst 4 with Bluray, the beta will be quite useful, but for everyone else, the other changes and fixes, as well as the additional performance boost will be nice as well.
No new articles on the tools4movies website this week. For months, on and off, I've been working on an updated engine-set for the beta, and this week, I kicked it into overdrive, and pushed through to get it done, which of course resulted in website-stuff being on a lower priority. I am excited about the new engine, and so far, the tests I've done have proven it was worth the effort, so I'm looking forward to what other people think of it.
Seagate GoFlex Satellite WiFi Drive Mini-Review:
For a long time I had this drive on my "want" list, but never gotten to order one until a few weeks ago. The idea is simple, and it should have been made available a long, long time ago, but for some reason, it has only become a reality recently.
In short, this device is a 500GB battery-operated harddrive with a wifi connection. Of course, network drives have been around for ages, and while previously, these NAS systems were used mainly for business purposes, with many people moving towards media PC's and HD Media Players to access their movie collection, they have been moving their way into people's homes.
The GoFlex WiFi drive takes this a step further. For about $180 you can now have a NAS in your pocket. 500GB of storage, accessible on your iPad, Xoom, Transformer. No more swapping out memory cards, you just connect wirelessly to the GoFlex drive, and you have access to months of music, videos etc, its like having your own cloud in your pocket.
For my own use, I just have it loaded with a fair amount of music files, and of course filled it to the brim with (DVD Catalyst-)converted movies and TV shows, and I can access everything from just about any tablet/device I have.
The battery doesn't last for more than 5 hours or so, but I just have it plugged in in the bedroom where I usually watch my shows. I just grab a tablet, connect to the wifi on the drive, and I'm off watching my shows. It even comes with a car-charger, so it will work as a great addition for a car-PC, or to use it like your own "Pandora" without having to worry about your bandwidth use on your phone.
Unfortunately, by default the drive uses a web-interface and Android/iPhone apps to access the content. While this by itself isn't such a big deal, and will be sufficient for most people, I did some hacking on mine to make it into an actual NAS. Using some information I found on the web, I installed a so-called Samba server on it, and now it is a lot more usable. I want to fiddle with it a bit more to make it more lean (it has some media scanning stuff on it that can bog things down a bit) but overall, I am very pleased with it.
One of the main reasons why I held off from picking one up was because it did not "redirect" the internet. When you connect to it over wifi, your tablet would lose internet connectivity. With a recent update this got addressed, and now it is possible to connect to the drive and the internet at the same time.
I've only been using the GoFlex for a few weeks, so who knows how it will hold up after some time, but overall, I am very pleased with it. It does what it is supposed to do, and it does it well.
Tablet as computer replacement?
After a few of years of a growing hype regarding tablets, for most people it is still a device that hasn't really found its place in society yet.
Previously, we had the "netbook", made popular by Asus' eeePC, and due to its low price, it spiked in popularity. With the introduction of the iPad and Android tablets, the popularity for the netbook plummeted, and people wanted tablets instead. The netbook was a "baby laptop", smaller screen, smaller keyboard, but, it was still a laptop.
Tablets, in essence, are not much more than a laptop without a keyboard, but aside from that, they also run a mobile-oriented operating system, originally designed for phones such as the Droid and the iPhone. Of course, with the growing popularity for tablets and iPads, developers have been working on apps that fade the line between laptops and tablets, but are we there yet?
Personally I don't think so. Due to my work, I have a large collection of different tablets. Because I use them mainly for checking emails, some browsing and watching videos, it doesn't really matter which one I use, and as of such I have no single favorite. I have a few I don't like too much, but that is related to them being either scratch-magnets or low battery life, but for what I use them for, they are pretty much equal in functionality.
In the evenings, when I am using one of my tablets, I check my work-emails on a regular basis to make sure no customer is waiting for an answer to their questions. Every now and then, I do try and reply directly from my tablet, but when it involves linking to an article on my website, or typing in some instructions, I walk to my office and answer the email from there.
Aside from that, even web-browsing on tablets is cumbersome. For Android, there are a variety of different web browsers available, and while some work better than others, in the end, if you visit a site with some special tricks, you are likely running into complications.
Microsoft is nearing the completion of Windows 8, and when released, they will introduce their own tablets, Surface, as well. While there is a lot of talk about shared-core, a technology that makes porting apps from full Windows to its more mobile-optimized counterpart, Windows RT easier, it does not take away that using a touch-screen alone for basic text-entry work is a pain.
Companies like Asus (the Transformer dock) and Motorola (the Atrix laptop dock) are turning their tablets into laptops again, but it just seems like a compromise, and by making it look like a laptop, it still doesn't make up for some of the software issues that exist.
For my Xoom, I even tried a BT keyboard, in order to enable me to use it to answer emails, and while it does make things easier, it is something extra that takes up space. Typing is easier with it, but for selecting a portion of text or a website link, it is still a battle.
I've mentioned it before, but I think that Amazon has the right idea about tablets. Rather than competing with specs, it competes with content. It is not the most powerful tablet, it is not the biggest, but because of that, it is very affordable. Amazon has been providing the Kindle eBook app for quite some time now for both Android and Apple devices, and the Amazon Appstore, available on allmost all Android devices, has been out for a year before they released the Kindle Fire, and as a result, when they finally did release it, they already had a lot of content available. Not the limited amount of apps that was the biggest issue with the first iPad and the Motorola Xoom, but a collection of thousands, all ready to be installed.
Thanks to its "free app of the day" system, it already had a large collection of people who setup an account AND that were coming back on a regular basis (many at daily intervals) to pickup more free apps, all resulting in targeted, additional exposure to paid content, and since the Kindle Fire comes setup already with your account, its ready to buy as soon as you get it out of the box and turn it on.
On top of that, for existing Kindle users, their content (and bookmarks) automatically sync over, and for the people who signed up for Amazon's Prime subscription service for free 2-day shipping also gain access to a lot of streaming video content, for free.
With the Nexus 7 tablet, Google seems to get the idea, putting more focus on an affordable device which, similar as what is used with gaming consoles like the XBOX 360 and the PS3, pays for itself in after sales with apps, games, books, music and video content. But, unless these media companies are starting to offer some form of subscription service (the Zune music store was a great idea with $15/mo for unlimited music), it doesn't offer an advantage over the Kindle Fire, especially if the Kindle Fire 2 will be similar in specs.
Unfortunately, the Nexus 7 will be "just another 7" tablet" for non-US users though. At the time of release, only people in the USA will be able to access all the content for it. While being made available in the UK and other countries at the same time, for those countries, it will just be the device itself, along with the apps and games, and while Amazon is moving overseas as well, it does have some content in place already.
All in all, the thought of using a tablet as a desktop/laptop replacement scares me. For some basic stuff they work well enough, and with some accessories like a keyboard/dock, they come close to doing tasks you would do on a laptop/desktop, but there are always compromises to be made. Even if you use something like Spashtop or other remote desktop apps to provide access to computer-functionality, you basically are using a computer at that time, which of course defeats the purpose completely.
Unfortunately, due to the hype around tablets in general, and the fact that many sales-people don't have a full understanding of both a tablet's capabilities and a customer's expectations, a lot of people end up with something they paid a pretty penny for and have not much use for. On many website forums, questions about being able to run Windows/OSX apps on it, installing Windows/OSX apps and games and of course questions regarding connecting a USB DVD drive of some sorts, playing random video files obtained from web, camera's etc. These people are under the impression that since they paid a price that is similar to that of a laptop/desktop system that it should work as one as well, and after a few hours of playing with it, they run into the limitations of the tablet running a mobile OS.
With Microsoft's Surface, this will get worse, a lot worse. With different variations of the same-looking operating system, people expect that what works on their computer will run on their Surface tablet. While some of the basic stuff might, due to the differences internally, bigger applications such as high-caliber games will not run properly or not at all. With Android and iOS, and Blackberry tablets, there is a clear difference, but if there are 4 Windows 8 devices sitting next to each other, all with the same visual look, and the desktop and laptop run everything and the tablets do not, things start getting confusing.
I do believe that tablets are going to take over laptops, but in their current form, I just don't see it happening. The Atrix/Transformer idea of using a dock at home (and at work for example), so you just drag the "core-unit" along with you, containing all your work and data, similar as using a USB stick, is on the right track. With a tablet/phone that connects to a dock, you can continue to access your data when you are on the go, but, with everything moving towards cloud-computing, having automatic syncing capability between computers and phones, there is not much need for a powerful tablet. In order to be usable for work, you are looking at something the size of a laptop, so why not use a laptop at that point.
If I look at some of the people working with tablets at the coffee shop, they are basically using a full laptop setup. tablet stand, tablet keyboard, some even with a mouse, and when they leave they have to pack everything up. The person with a laptop just stands up, folds the laptop closed and walks off.
A few years ago, I got my wife an old (used) Tablet PC. It is one of those Gateway transformer types where you can rotate the screen. My wife enjoys using it. She just puts it on her lap while watching TV and play some games or browse the web a bit. In tablet mode, it works ok, and of course with a 14" screen, it is the biggest tablet I have, but trying to type on it with the touch-screen is a pain, so it gets used in both laptop and tablet mode. Lately she has been moving to using the iPad because it is easier to grab, and it types a bit easier on the touch screen than it does on the Gateway, but she continues to run into website issues.
I'm hoping that with the above, it might help some people who are on the fence of picking up a tablet in order to make a more informed decision, rather than coming home with one and then running into disappointment. For me, a tablet will remain a so-called media consumption device. great for videos, music, casual games, and to do some basic browsing and email, but aside from that, everything else is easier on a full desktop/laptop.
Well, a big piece on tablets as desktops this week. This was brought on after grocery day this week. Both at Walmart and in Best Buy, while digging through the bargain bins for movies, I overheard sales guys trying to sell a tablet for something more than what it is.
I know there are plenty who do use tablets as desktop-replacements, but these people also fought some interesting battles in order to get there, and still ended up having to compromise in one way or another. The people in the store did not seem to be of the type that would spent long evenings of searching and trying different things in order to get it to do what they need.
But that is it for this week's newsletter. Earlier this morning, I found a wet spot in the ceiling, so I guess I'll be fixing the roof this weekend.
Thank you for reading this week's newsletter, and have a great weekend.