DVD Catalyst Newsletter 68 - 08-17-2012
Thank you for reading DVD Catalyst Newsletter 68.
This week was a nightmare. For me, it will go into history as "bug-week", but not in the way you would expect from a software developer. More about that later.
Google announced "Delta Updates" for its Google Play store.
Currently, every app or game that you install on your phone/tablet is a full download. For small apps such as MovieGallery and for apps and games that download content after you actually install the main portion, this isn't that big of a deal, but there are quite a few companies, such as Rovio (Angry Birds) that release their application in one large package, and for every update, the entire application needs to be redownloaded.
The "Delta Update" feature changes this. In most cases, when an application gets updated, the media files, images, songs, videos etc, remain the same, and only the small core application is changed. With this feature, just the parts that actually changed will be downloaded.
From a user-perspective, this is a great innovation, but being an Android developer myself, it does bring up some concerns.
Android apps, when prepared for uploading to the Google Play store are packaged in an APK file, which is then signed with a developer ID. For the developers that use it, Google applies a form of DRM on it to ensure (attempt) that the downloaded app will only work on devices that are tied to the account used for purchase. In addition, some developers use their own piracy-prevention techniques, which often look at the actual apk to see if it has been modified in any way.
By doing Delta updates, it would mean that the actual package prepared and signed by the developer would be opened up by Google in order to just send the changed files for the update, and this is the part that will likely cause complications. On the device, the apk will need to be re-signed with the developer's ID after adding the updated file(s) to it, which, especially on rooted devices, will be fairly easy to intercept. It would enable people to re-sign their own modified versions (pirated or with malware included) with a real developer ID.
Yesterday, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet was released.
Finally after the majority of non-Apple tablet-releases being dominated by nVidia chipsets, this beast comes with something different, Samsung's own Exynos quad-core processor, and speed-wise, based on reviews, it seems to blow everything else out of the water.
For me, my original Xoom is still doing great for a tablet of that size. Of course the Samsung will outperform it in most ways, and if you do a lot with games, it might be worthy to upgrade, but the majority of apps and games out there still work well on other devices.
If you are looking for your first tablet, this might be a good option, but there is plenty of competition. Similar current-generation tablets, such as the Asus TF700 Infinity and the Acer A700 feature a true HD 1920x1200 resolution, the Asus Nexus 7 features a quad-core nVidia chip, same amount of memory and while smaller, a similar resolution screen for half the price, so there are alternatives, and best of all, almost all non-Samsung devices feature more "standard" connectors, rather than a custom one.
But, on the other hand, it does offer something extra.
The Galaxy Note 10.1 includes a pen, which makes it easier to take notes. Touch screen keyboards have advanced a lot the last couple of years, however for my own use, I'm still pecking around, so the pen might be a bit quicker for me to take notes. If you take my bad handwriting into account, the writing with a pen will offer a strong level of security as well.
Aside from that, the Galaxy Note 10.1 has a split-screen functionality, that while a bit limited in apps that support it is something I have been waiting for ever since my first tablet.
Microsoft Windows 8 RTM.
Microsoft has finished development on its new, upcoming Windows release, Windows 8. Intended as more of turning your computer more into a tablet, to me it just looks like a full-screen version of the Windows Side-Bar, first introduced in Windows Vista. Small apps, running like widgets on screen, I'm not too sure about using that on my development system on a daily basis. While it is easy to get quick access to information such as weather, news etc, it just feels cumbersome to actually do work on it, especially if you usually have multiple applications open at the same time.
This week, GamesCom brought out a lot of new games for various different devices. Unfortunately, I don't have much time for gaming, however, I am always eager to find a good use the the PS Vita I picked up last year. On one side, I am glad I did, because, as usual, Sony placed some limitations on video playback with it, but on the other hand, it just seems that after it was released, Sony no longer cared about it. Even with its successor being out, it seems that the old PSP is getting more attention.
Some of the biggest games that were released for the Vita were disappointing to say the least. Lego Batman2 was a mere Nintendo 3DS port, and despite the Vita's higher resolution, it looked like the developers actually started with the 3DS development first, and then just copied everything over to make the Vita version. Then there is Resistance, one of Sony's top franchises, which ended up being little more than a rail-shooter game.
So with all this, most Vita owners, including me, were actually looking forward to having one of the biggest names in game names , Call of Duty, being released for the Vita. While the game was known to be released for quite a few months already, the developer was (purposely?) kept secret. Now, with GamesCon, more has been revealed, and while this of course doesn't mean that the game would disappoint, the developer is the same as the one that made Resistance for the Vita.
With not much to look forward to when it comes to the Vita, it just seems that Sony has given up. They tried hard with the PSP, even with the large amount of piracy, and they continue to invest in the PSP, but with the Vita, not so much. In order to compete with casual gaming on smartphones, it really has to offer a lot more than what it currently has. With phones being able to play even heavy duty games like Dead Trigger or N.O.V.A.2, and Sony even releasing Playstation-branded smartphones with more exclusive games, it is just sad. For something that is claimed to be the most powerful handheld console, it continues to go downhill.
DVD Catalyst News:
I've been working on an update for both the "official" and the "4.3 Beta" version. While mainly new device profiles, I implemented some tweaks here and there as well. Nothing really major, but just some internal adjustments to make things run a little better. Hopefully somewhere next week, I'll have the updates ready.
I've also continued working on the website (backup location) in order to make the more important articles easier to find. As many of you know, I enjoy writing articles and answering questions, which is one of the main reasons why the tools4movies website is build using a blog-style, however, this also resulted in a lot of the more useful articles being buried.
Q & A:
Something I started with in the previous newsletter, this section contains a few questions people asked me this week , along with answers.
Q:* DVD Catalyst settings for Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1:
A:* The upcoming update for DVD Catalyst 4 will have specific profiles for the Galaxy Note 10.1, but for now you can use one of the other Android tablet profiles, such as the ones for the Galaxy Tab 10.1
The process is basically the same, so the steps in this guide apply:
Ultimate Samsung Galaxy Tab Video How To Guide | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Q:* I have a Smart TV capable of playing video files. WHat settings would I use?
A:* Most "Smart" TV's support MP4 video files. For your purpose, I would actually suggest to try one of the HQXT profiles.
If you already have a device that plays them, it might be an option to use the HQXT profile for that if there is one for it, along with a few tweaks, but otherwise, just pick something like the Acer > A500 1080 HQXT profile.
After selecting your profile, enable the "Power User" checkmark, and tap on "Modify"
If needed, change the resolution to 1920x1080. DVD Catalyst uses the resolution set here as a limit. If you are converting a video (DVD for example) using a lower resolution, it will use the original resolution of your video. While it is possible to upscale the video during conversion, it is just like zooming in on a picture, and since the TV scales the video to fit anyway, it is just a waste of time to do it during conversion. This article provides some more detail on that:
DVD Catalyst 4.1 User Guide
Then, change the "CRF" setting in modify to 20. CRF automatically adjusts the video bitrate during conversion to achieve a certain quality. 20 is pretty much identical to the original video. CRF also isn't affected by the resolution, so if you convert DVDs now, and later Blurays, the visual quality will be great for all. This article explains a bit more about CRF:
What is CRF? | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
And that is basically it. Leave everything else at their defaults.
Q:* I'm trying to copy movies to a memorycard, but I keep getting a write-error of some kind.
A1:* If you are using an SD card or a MicroSD card with an SD card adapter, check the side and make sure that the little switch is not set to "Locked". If it is set to the lock-position, the card will be read-only.
A2:* If you ordered a memorycard from the internet for cheap, it is possible you purchased a fake memorycard. A lot of people are selling smaller memorycards that are modified to look like a big one. More often than not, these are 1-2GB cards sold as 16GB or 32GB cards. If you copy files over to it, it will work fine for the original size of the card (so one movie or a few pictures songs will work fine) but everything that goes over the actual amount will end up corrupted. This article provides some additional information on this:
Quick Tip: Fake Memorycards | Tools4Movies | DVD Catalyst 4
Just like the majority of pet-owners this year, we have been dealing with the occasional flee here and there. Even though our cat is an inside cat, we take the dogs (2 Yorkies) for walks outside, and it just seems they are little magnets for flees. We don't treat them as show-dogs, so during summer they go through a number of shave-sessions, so for the most part they walk around looking like little Bambi, but still, the flees this year have been murder.
With a number of carpet powders and even carpet shampoo, we managed to keep it under control, but unfortunately, there are some things that are beyond us.
The place behind us has been switching tenants pretty much on a yearly basis, and earlier this year it got, after a few months of standing empty, new people moved in. Of course the move-in included a major cleanup, but it appears that this wasn't done with enough detail, and with the heat wave we have been experiencing, they ended up with a major critter infestation.
The last 2 weeks, they have been working on getting it taken care of by means of tearing out walls and insulation, and of course with smoke-bombs and other store-bought items such as traps and bait.
But, rather than actually killing off the pests, they just managed to scare them off, and now, a nice circle of neighbors around them are starting to see the little critters and bugs taking over their places.
While we didn't find any, when it comes to these types of things, I've learned that just going the cheap way always ends up costing more, so we set up an appointment to get it done hard, maybe overkill, but better safe than sorry, along with a maintenance plan for the next year to ensure we will never end up seeing one of those little creatures in our home.
The exterminator had its visit set for Monday, so the remainder of Friday, and of course the full weekend, we spend on preparation. They suggested to vacuum the carpet a number of times, which would, if there were any, eliminate a large percentage of eggs and larvae, so I did. I also used a carpet shampooer (steamvac) to possibly take out even more. We moved all the furniture around in order to get every little piece of floor done, and of course went through a lot of stuff we collected over the years and ended up throwing a bunch and put other stuff in storage.
Unfortunately, the exterminator visit was a bit disappointing. The time-slot that was scheduled passed, and when we called, it turned out that the technician called in sick for the day, and "forgot" to inform us, or any of his colleagues about our visit, so I ended up waiting for a couple of hours for nothing.
The tech figured he'd come on Thursday, since he would be in the area for a visit of my in-laws, but because the visit would include the use of chemicals that needed us and the pets out of the house for 4-6 hours, that was not an option. One of the reasons we split it in 2 days was so we would have a place to go on Monday, and my in-laws would be coming over here on Thursday. Doing both at the same time would make things very complicated, so that was not an option.
So a tech did come out on Monday to get things taken care of, late, but better late than never.
While the whole process was a bit of a nuisance, my biggest issue is that this needed to be done in the first place. Someone has a problem, and without thinking of the consequences, ends up making it a problem for a lot of people. Because of an issue that went out of control, we were forced to take care of an issue that wasn't even ours to begin with. They let it get out of hand, and I ended up with a bill and my in-laws ended up with one as well. We are acquainted with our neighbors, and it seems unlikely that they will change their ways, which is why we ended up getting a year-plan for both places for a total of $1200.
Writing about the experience with the exterminator, it leads me to another less pleasant experience this week.
Earlier this year I got myself a different car, and it needed some bodywork done (a side-skirt was coming loose). The actual purchase process at the dealer was excellent. Friendly, pleasant, and unlike some other car dealers I have visited over the years, honest.
However, the work that needed to be done was not something their own service department was able to do, but the dealer does own a body shop across the street that they use for all that their own service department doesn't do.
We have gotten 2 cars from that dealer, and the basic service work we had done, oil changes, tires etc were done by their own department, and the experience was amazing. True customer care.
A few weeks ago, after talking to the sales person, I ended up going over to the bodyshop to show what was happening, but the experience was unfortunately not even close to that of the dealer. The person I talked to seemed more offended than anything else, and basically sent me off with the suggestion that if it gets worse, to come back.
Last week, I had a checkup and an oil change done, which was performed by the dealers own in-house department, and without me mentioning anything about the side-skirt, they noticed it, and after asking me if it was OK for them to drive it across the street to show it and figure out what needed to be done, setup an appointment to get it fixed.
Well, the appointment was Tuesday. My wife and I had some errands to run, so I got the car in early. They scheduled a 2 hour slot for it, but we ended up coming back about 6 hours later. With the car still sitting in the same spot, untouched.
The person who was scheduled to work on it was in the middle of a big spraypainting job, so he wasn't able to just drop what he was doing and work on my car.
As someone who provides support for customers myself, I can understand the situation, but aside from having a scheduled appointment (so they knew when and what needed to be done), we had to drop a few things we wanted to do in order to drive over there to pick up the car, only to find out then it wasn't done. No call, nothing.
While I am quite forgiving in these types of scenarios, this time, after I got my car back, I went over to the main building across the street, explained what happened to my sales-person, and asked to talk about it with a manager.
My own experience was somewhat disappointing, but because of my experiences before, I will just set it aside, but I do believe that for a business to be successful, these scenarios need to be brought to their attention. Rather than getting a manager, I actually got to talk to the owner of the dealership (and the bodyshop). My sales-person provided him with a brief explanation about what happened, and he decided it was important enough for him to hear me out, rather than hearing about it afterwards.
For me, my biggest concern was that the dealership is working so hard to ensure customer satisfaction, but that all the effort gets lost if a customer has to go across the street. I requested that I would like it to be that if something similar happens again, that I would just deal directly with the service department of the dealership, and have them deal with the bodyshop. It makes it easier for me, the client, and because they are more customer-oriented, I'm sure that if something is affecting the process, they will provide a better way of contacting the client.
Unfortunately this is how many companies work these days. The main part of the company spends a lot of time and dedication towards ensuring a great customer experience, but then outsources some of its work to an outside company/department that is managed differently.
Phone support is often outsourced to foreign countries, and more often than not, the people who answer phones are called "Mike", but have a hard time even pronouncing their own name. Aside from trying to deal with a complication of some sort, you are also dealing with a language difference, making the whole process even more of a pain than it should be.
Customer support is of course always a cost. It doesn't bring in any income for the company, but while outsourcing support is of course cheaper than using a company located on the same continent, the aggravation clients experience by contacting outsourced support more often than not results in losing clients to other companies.
I just don't understand why these companies continue to do things in such a way. All it takes is for a higher-up manager/CEO to call with an issue to the support company that they are using. Of course these people have their own shortcuts in the organization, but they would just try it once, I'm sure things will change rapidly.
Phone/Tablet screen innovation.
With all the technological advanced over the years in regards of screens, TFT, IPS, PNS, OLED, AMOLED etc, resolution, refresh-rate and color display has been improved greatly, but in one area, things are still severely lacking. Of course it differs per device, but when there is a little sun out, I cannot see anything on the screen of my smart-phone. Opening up email, which is set to a white background and black lettering, I can read something, but barely, but in general, on a sunny day, it doesn't matter how smart the phone is, when I am outside, I miss my old grey dumb-phone for its ability to be readable in sunlight.
Well, that is it for today's newsletter. Its been a rough week with all the side-things going on, but next week looks empty at the moment, so hopefully I can get my planned updates out.
Thank you for reading, and have a great weekend.