Archive for the 'Geek Interests' Category
Hot damn! Apple is dropping the price of their iTunes Plus tracks from $1.29 to $.99, probably in direct response to Amazon’s MP3 store, which also offers DRM-free tracks at $.89 to $.99. I know I first check Amazon before getting something from iTunes - with no DRM and a cheaper price, it’s a no-brainer.
At least now the playing field is leveled slightly.
Last night I finally got 3rd party apps running on the phone again after the disastrous 1.1.1 update. I used Niacin’s TIFF exploit to get write access to the filesystem, and then followed the directions from the iPhone Dev Team (detailed here) to get SSH and AppTapp installed.
It’s still a very manual process, but way easier than the downgrade to 1.0.2 then update to 1.1.1 nonsense. But now I have my eBook reader and IM client running again. Summerboard doesn’t work, and neither does Sketch or Customize(apparently Customize does work, thanks Brian), but for the most part, everything runs just fine. A list of common applications and their compatibility can be found on this iPhone Dev Wiki page.
If you’re going to try this, remember that this doesn’t get you the carrier unlock, just 3rd party apps. Unlocks are still coming, though there have been reports that the IPSF stuff still works. Apparently it was the only software unlock that didn’t brick the iPhone with the 1.1.1 update. Naturally, it costs $60.
Now to wait for the inevitable breakage from Apple’s next update. Sigh. Can’t we all just get along?
Update: Looks like they decrypted the ramdisks now.
Finally - the addictive building game gets an upgrade to a universal binary. The old PPC version ran ok on my Intel box, but some of the more complex bridges got REALLLY SLOW during simulations.
You owe it to yourself to get a copy of this game. Also check out Bridgebuilder-game.com to find tons of pre-built bridges and some nice solutions to the more tricky levels.
The 28 hour day/week. Courtesy of xkcd.com
The funniest thing about all the leaks from Media Defender is that their own technology can’t stop them. The very service they’re selling to large corporations to help keep their materials out of the hands of pirates can’t restrict their own “private” information from
leaking all over the place.
In fact, they’ve fallen back to the old media standby - issuing legal threats.
Man, I really wanted to like Joost. They have a very pretty interface and the idea to watch mainstream TV right off the ‘net is a winner. That is, unless you screw it up like Joost did.
First, let’s get what they did right out of the way:
1. Nice Peer-to-Peer network for content, reducing bandwidth bills for the servers, and potentially increasing reliability.
2. Beautiful interface appearance.
OK, now that that is done, here’s what’s wrong.
1. Damn P2P network sucks huge donkey balls.
I sit on a huge pipe at work (and a relatively large one at home.) I can regularly pull 1.5 MB/s from just about anywhere from home. With all this bandwidth, I can’t get a reliable stream from Joost to save my life. It works just as well as most other P2P networks - sometimes huge downloads, sometimes nothing. This is OK for file transfers, but sucks for real-time content.
And I never get tired of the sudden “This program is unavailable right now,” right in the middle of a program.
2. Video quality at least as good as YouTube!
Seriously, most of the video you get looks like complete crap. Literally, it IS as bad as a YouTube video, but blown up full screen. Oh, and combined with the network issues, it stutters every few minutes. So somehow, it’s even less watch-able than YouTube.
3. Fucking annoying commercials.
You know, I can stand watching commercials to an extent. But who was the poor idiot who thought that replaying the same damn unskippable commercial every 4-5 minutes needs a beat-down. The real kicker is that the commercials invariably play flawlessly and have the best video quality of anything you may be watching.
4. Beautiful but broken user interface.
I like the look of the interface, but overall it’s almost universally bad when you actually go to use it. How do you bring up the playback controls? Clicking does nothing, moving the mouse sometimes does it, sometimes not. How do you get them to go away? Apparently, you just have to wait for them to disappear.
And what’s up with that channel/program selector? It keeps loading content dynamically, and you can never figure out where you are in the list because it wraps endlessly. Lots of time there is no text or images loaded and you scroll around with a pile of blank entries and one that’s filled in. Just suck all around.
5. Content is the lamest of the lame.
The onlything I could stand to watch for more than a minute there was the Top Gear seasons. Everything else was some serious B-roll crap that even the ‘torrenters wouldn’t touch. There hasn’t been any significant content added since I was in the closed beta months ago. Oh, yeah, they added WBTV and ten episodes of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Yeah.
As if we needed yet another desktop clutterer. How about fixing everything else above before the onslaught of ten thousand weather lookups and stock checkers. Yawn.
I really don’t understand how people can stand using the thing. As it is, I hadn’t fired the thing up in weeks until today. I then realized that nothing had changed.
Bye Bye Joost. Let me know if you ever become useful.
Update: Funny - last night I had a power failure, so no TV. I was using the last of the battery power running the network to get some stuff done, and decided to take one last look at Joost. It launched, did some sort of version check, then told me it was out of date, but couldn’t contact he upgrade server to download the latest version. Then quit. I drug the app into the trash. Buh Bye.
Well, I picked up the Elgato turbo.264 a week ago at the local Apple store. I was hoping to use my now aging G5 iMac to help encode some of the video I’ve been pulling from my old DVDs and use them on my Apple TV. To save you some pain (and another trip to the store to return it) let me tell you where this little device will help - and surprisingly, where it’s actually a detriment.
What’s a waste of time
To start with, running the thing on just about any Intel-based Mac is a complete waste of time. The ONLY situation where it will save you time is if you’re still stuck using Quicktime to encode. Using anything else, such as Visual Hub or Handbrake, encoding times with turbo.264 are almost identical. Of course, it sort of frees up your processor (though still running at 80% of 200% in most tests), so if this is important to you, you can still get somebenefit from it. However, see the What’s Craptastic section for situations where it Just Doesn’t Work.
On both the Intel and G5 platforms, I ran into some video where it just totally bogged down the hardware, getting three frames a second. I thought it was just a data transfer limit, but similar sized videos didn’t have the same problem. This happened pretty consistently with videos already in “higher”-def H.264 (960×540, 2900 kbits/s), and oddly enough, playable on the Apple TV. It was still faster than Quicktime (but slower than Visual Hub on either platform.) So don’t expect everything to be speedy.
Again, on both platforms, using the turbo.264 to select and encode unencrypted VIDEO_TS video resulted in some strange behavior. On both platforms it ran at near real-time (22fps on average, just a little slower on the Intel platform using Handbrake, much, much faster than the G5’s 3fps.) But on every damn video, it doubled the run time shown for encoding. For instance, a 1:24:30 video showed up as being 2:49:00 long. It appears that this is a problem with multiple audio tracks. With a single track, everything showed up correctly. This didn’t seem to affect the actual encoding time, nor the resultant movie.
In addition, on the G5 platform I did discover that on certain DVDs, the turbo.264 would have BAD audio drift. At the 60 minute mark, it was off by seven seconds. When I saw this occur, there was also a point in the movie where the video went to hell, being completely scrambled. What was weird about this was that when I re-ran the encoding on the same video, it worked, no audio synch issues or video problems. Nice. Using the same files run through Handbrake it worked every time.
The only place where I could find where I would potentially use this thing was as a speed-up for encoding stuff from EyeTV. Since EyeTV uses Quicktime for encoding, it’s unnecessarily slow, even on the Intel platform. This thing brought their encoding up to par with Visual Hub. However, at least for me, $99 isn’t worth it since I can easily just drag the raw .mpg files to VisualHub manually.
Really, very little works well enough to be relied upon. On the G5 platform, most video (see above caveats) encoded pretty freaking fast, at least compared to just using the main processor alone. On average, I’d say it was consistently five times faster. However, don’t expect to get any work done while it’s encoding - the main processor was pegged at 100% usage at all times, unlike the Intel platform.
But the random encoding problems with DVD video, the slow encode times with certain video types, and the general unreliability of the platform just made me wish I didn’t spend the $99 on this. It went back to the Apple store.
… this slight mod of the Zune’s logo. Found here.
The Sci-Fi channel just announced a six episode miniseries based on Neal Stephenson’s book, The Diamond Age.
Diamond Age, based on Neal Stephenson’s best-selling novel The Diamond Age: Or a Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, is a six-hour miniseries from Clooney and fellow executive producer Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Productions.
Hopefully they won’t screw this up.
Link to Sci-Fi’s announcement.