Archives for: "January 2005"

Battlestar Galactica

I knew we were in store for a treat when I saw the 2 part miniseries back in early 2004. But now having watched the whole of the first season - I can say it's the one of the best sci-fi series ever made. Those of you in the US and other places where it's just started screening - watch it!!!

Battlestar Galactica 2004

There are just so many cool things about it, it's silly to try and list all of them so I'll just go over the few that I think really bring it above the level.

Characters spot on, a great mix of lots of different characters and widely spread out over the season so you don't feel overwhelmed by the same old ones in episode after episode. Story and scripting spot on, I won't go into this to avoid spoilers, but we all know the story from the original - take the core from that, burn away the rubbish, throw in a deeper background to it all add several advanced plot lines, mix them around a bit and you've got the new one, the episodes individually are put together brilliantly. The way it's filmed is quite unique and adds a more immersive factor to it all. The space scenes are spot on, no stupid OTT physics going on all the craft handle and look quite believable - a big plus in my opinion since I love to nit-pick with things like this.

Overall rating - kick ass, go watch! It's also got no silly robot daggit thing in it, +3 points!

Best of all two weeks or so ago Ronald D. Moore, creator and executive producer of Battlestar Galactica, announced he was doing up the scripts for the second series. God job too the first ended with, shall we say, unresolved things... So let's get this new one on show pronto!

Poor quality digital radio

I've come across another of theses adverts for DAB radio, claiming that it's "crystal clear CD quality sound", more like muddy shite MPEG-2 garbage. How the hell can they get away with advertising it as CD quality?

Most stations in the UK are broadcast @ 128kbps in MPEG-2 (hardly a decent codec). The truth of the matter is that old FM sounds better, I actually did some tests today. Digital Radio in the UK sounds worse then FM. FACT.

Everyone was so keen to roll this out so they could brag about it being digital and also squeeze down the bandwidth used and then make up some rubbish about it being better quality, just so they could try and make a little bit more cash.

The UK, as per usual is lagging way too far behind.

World digital radio bit rates

WHAT THE F*CK!!!! It's bad enough many are hovering around the 200kbps mark - which still sounds pretty awful compared to modern codecs like WMA9 at 128kbps. What are people playing at? If you want to go the cheap route and use that old awful codec like MPEG-2 you need to give it bucket loads of bandwidth - you can't starve it of bandwidth and expect people to support it.

Roll on Digital radio that is AT LEAST encoded with WMA9 @ 256kbps.

We seriously need to drop that MPEG-2 rubbish and move up to MPEG-4 or better yet Windows Media. That goes for digital TV too, which is just plain awful for anything where's there is a lot of movement on screen like sports etc.

Wake up broadcasters, people are going to go abroad, hear and see the difference between their digital broadcasts and ours, and they will feel ripped off.

Airbus A380

Airbus A380

Woo!

Huygens touches down!

The Huygens space probe has landed safely on Titan, one of Saturn's satellites, pictured below in the bottom-left corner.

Saturn and Titan

ESA's Huygens space probe had been carried by the Cassini probe for seven years on it's journey to Saturn. The probe was designed to measure the moon's weather and chemistry, it appears to of landed on a solid surface and not plunged into an ocean of hydro-carbons as many people expected. Nobody seems to of mentioned this but it's the furthest from Earth we've ever landed a probe.

More iPod woes

My mate Chapstick had a bit of a run in with an iPod Mini lately, he did a pretty decent entry in his blog about it. I certainly enjoyed reading it.

Two points I've got to make, I'll skip the obvious ones about iTunes trying to take over your computer, installing god knows what and having it all running in the background - I went into more detail about them in my why the iPod sucks entry from a few months back.

Anyway coming with incompatible versions of the iPod firmware and the iTunes software out of the box? What are Apple thinking? What if they didn't have internet access? They'd be screwed. Of course Apple is constantly updating the iPod's firmware and iTunes, not to add new features (aside from patching the security flaws) but to break applications that people are trying to put together to get around Apple's silly iTunes monopoly over the iPod. One of the latest updates for example broke compatibility with Real's online store. If Microsoft was doing this kind of thing can you imagine the uproar about it? The headlines: Microsoft add code to prevent Firefox being used with Windows, that's EXACTLY the same thing that Apple is doing. Yet only the geeks cry foul (and the ones that aren't so up their asses with anti-Microsoftness), the goons in the media just carry on raving about how "cool" Apple are.

My second point. Drop the iPod take it back, say it doesn't work (it clearly doesn't work out of the box) and get a player that has PlaysForSure compatibility, so you just have to plug it into your Windows XP/WMP10 machine and install no software!

In reply to some of the comments:

From Jon: "the difference of course is that Apple's market is not a monopoly, it is selling a product " iTunes" which has 80% of a portion of a market, but only 10% of the whole market of consuming music. so no monopoly."

I was referring to the iPod and iTunes being locked together. So iTunes has a monopoly over iPod users.

On Windows you can use any browser, Microsoft don't lock you into using Internet Explorer for example.

That's the difference I was getting at, not the overall markets.

From Yowza: "Ahem, didn't you have to install WMP10? Isn't that a software install? Please show me one machine on sale today that comes with WMP10 (not 9) installed out of the box? [...] Oh, can you say MSFT does not lock out users with new versions of their stuff, forcing you to upgrade your WMP etc, to continue using your product, while at the same time blocking out Real or QT [...] There are no iPods and iTunes that come together that have incompatibilities out of the box - please point to one... [...] The day that Microsoft releases their DRM and their WMP 10 for the Mac is the day Windows users can start crying foul at what Apple does. Until that day, it is Apple and not Microsoft that is allowing you to play your purchased songs on the Mac and the PC both. [...] because DRMd WMA is Windows only. And the day Apple allows other players to play Fairplay AAC is again the day that Windows becomes THE PLATFORM for these units - because they need not add support they do not have to the Mac."

The latest SKU of Windows XP comes with Windows Media Player, yes version 10. If you want an example of a machine Sony's Vaio RB for example. Either way 9 is still compatible with most online stores and you can still sync your PlaysForSure devices with version 9. 10 is just better, 90 million odd downloads in the last couple of months proves that.

As for incompatibilities, try reading the blog I was actually talking about in this post. Clearly something isn't right. You seemed to of totally missed the point of this entry.

Microsoft didn't force me to upgrade Windows Media Player, all my content works perfectly fine with version 9 for example. All my stuff works in Windows Media Player 6 - from god knows how many years ago. Obviously as new features come through - you need the newer players to support those features if you want to make use of them. They don't "force" upgrade people like Apple do.

When did Microsoft ever prevent QuickTime or Real Player from being used on Windows? I've had both since the early Windows 95 days, and have never had a problem with them failing to work etc. Windows users prefer Windows Media Player because it's far faster has a smaller memory footprint and isn't so buggy. If Real don't like that fact may be they should try writing a better player rather then complaining about it.

You don't need Windows Media Player 10 to support the new rights management on the Mac, you just need the core DRM technology aka Janus, see this is a cool thing, I can use any Janus compatible player to play back tracks from stores that use the new Janus technology - Microsoft don't force me to use Windows Media Player. Like I said before, something Apple sue people over trying to do with their player.

Microsoft have publicly said to quote Product Manager Marcus Matthias "it is operating-system-independent", from mobile phones to Linux STBs, it's for anybody. If there's no product on the Mac that makes use of this technology, may be you should ask Apple or somebody else to licence the new Janus technology. That's the cool thing about Microsoft - they licence their technology out, unlike Apple. Microsoft have said they'd licence their technology to Apple "in a heartbeat". So no the new rights management isn't Windows only at all.

Enough Longhorn SKUs for you?

Longhorn Starter Edition
Analogous to Windows XP Starter Edition.

Longhorn Home Edition
Analogous to Windows XP Home Edition.

Longhorn Premium/Media Center Edition
A premium superset of Home Edition that includes the Media Center functionality. Similar to XP Media Center Edition.

Longhorn Professional Edition
Analogous to Windows XP Professional Edition.

Longhorn Small Business Edition
A new product edition aimed at the small business market. Currently very similar to Professional Edition.

Longhorn Mobility/Tablet PC Edition
Analogous to Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.

Longhorn "Uber" Edition
A new product edition that bridges the consumer and business versions and includes all of the features from the Home, Premium, Pro, Small Business, and Tablet PC Editions (but not Starter Edition).

Uber Edition!!! Now we're talking!

Apple BS alert

As per usual the Mac community is lying through it's back teeth, claiming that Windows crashed on Gates three times at the CES, when it actually didn't crash at all, unlike Steve Jobs' demonstration of Spotlight, which made Mac OS X make it's nice "bong" error noise which typically requires a hard reset. This from the Mac Observer:

Bill Gates experiences three Windows crashes during CES keynote.

Mr. Gates first ran intro trouble when trying to connect a new Nikon digital SLR camera to a Windows Media Center Edition PC through a WiFi connection. The result, however, was a frozen computer that wouldn't respond. Two attempts later, however, the demonstration went off without a hitch.

The next one came during a demonstration of a new game called Forza Motor Sport, when the PC the game was being run on actually went directly to the famed Blue Screen of Death.

The third problem occurred when Mr. Gates was unable to get a Tablet PC to connect to the Internet.

Where to start with this one?

The Media Center was clearly still responding as Sean Alexander when he came out on stage with another remote went through the same demonstration, with all the new pictures that had just been taken five minutes earlier. Crashed OS? I think not, dodgy remote control? I think so.

It's Forza Motorsport, not Forza Motor Sport. Oh and one more thing, it's not even for the PC you idiots, it's for the Xbox! During part of the demonstration an out of memory error popped up on the debug kit it was probably being demonstrated on, please note that Forza is not a finished product as is still in development, hence the debug kit being used to run it, the debug kits job is obviously to inform you of problems with the application.

Mr Gates wasn't even using a Tablet PC, it was Sean Alexander showing remote record, which allows you to set your Media Center to record a TV program over the internet. The internet was clearly working as you could see, however it was very slow. Unlike MacWorld, CES actually has tens of thousands of people using the internet connection in the center, which obviously puts even the fastest internet connections to the test.

The Apple iProduct

iProduct

LOL!

To further back up the claims made in this entry here are some comments from Apple supporters:

"Just go fxxk yourself, just go fxxk yourself, just go fxxk yourself..."

"Go fxxk yourself, dumbass! Apple will forever own Microshit. Don't be jealous. I have time to post it again, and again, and again, and again... keep prooving that Apple owns Microshit."

Congratulations you have just perfectly proven the point of this entry - A large number of Apple supporters are senseless fanboys who worship Jobs as some kind of deity, you've been taken in by a very clever salesman and your stupidity has been noted.

Two days with the Zen Micro

My sister got her Zen Micro on Monday, after Creative released the new firmware for the device to add MTP/PlaysForSure support that was it, I had to get it - technically speaking it's mine as I paid for it - she's not paying me back until January 2006.

Quick to charge up in about 3 hours, I installed the software, installed the latest firmware to update it for MTP support so I didn't need Creative's software, which was promptly removed, I'll let Microsoft handle the software thank you. Obviously this firmware is included in all of them leaving the factory today, so you won't need to install Creative's software initially to update the firmware. Once I'd updated the firmware using my machine, she went off and just plugged it into her laptop and away it went, easy as that.

Using it is a breeze, my sister has been ripping her CDs and syncing them over with WMP10 with no problems. You can also use it as a removable hard drive, just using Windows Explorer. Well it obviously has all the benefits of being a PlaysForSure device so I won't bother going into how needed this kind of stuff is (wake up Apple), not having to install any software to use the device, you just plug it into your Windows XP machine and away it goes, that's how things should be done.

Creative's Zen Micro

Yes she wanted a purple one. I have no idea why.

The device itself feels very nice in your hand it's all curved at the back, so it doesn't feel like it's going to cut into you like an iPod Mini. The touch interface works very well and the screen is nice and easy to read. Sound quality on the device is absolutely mint, couldn't tell the difference between what was being outputted from that and my computer (I was switching between the two sources on my amp). Included headphones are pretty good for in-ear headphones, it also comes with a AC charger (charging over USB will probably be preferred by many) a belt clip and lots of other stuff, the packaging is also very posh which adds to the overall quality feel of the device. Battery life not sure yet, we're still on it's initial charge we've probably used it for 4 may be 5 hours and it's still showing 2 out of 3 bars on it's LCD.

My overall rating... I won't say it's perfect as there's always something that could be improved (battery life 100 hour battery? That'll be the day, WMA lossless support, digital radio etc) but it's the best player on the market today, Creative totally nailed it with this one. Strongly recommended to people who need music on the go.

Xbox 2 media capabilities

Bill Gates speaking about the goals for the Xbox 2:

Broadening the market, having media capabilities that when there's a PC, we connect up to that. This whole story of the Windows Media Connect and how all the formats and rights management and that simple Media Center menu that's just got TV, photos, music right there--those are common elements we're bringing to all the home devices.

We didn't do Xbox just to do a video game; we did it to be part of our vision of the digital lifestyle, and with the next generation, we really get to go there. In the first generation, we had one simple goal, which was to establish credibility as a great video game platform. We've done that. Actually, the last few months in the United States, we outsold Sony with the PlayStation. So even though they have the biggest installed base, we are a very strong, credible No. 2 in that. As we go into this next generation, it's much broader.

Yes, great video gaming but videogaming for a broader set of people, more communications, more media, more connectivity. And at the same time, we move up to things like high-definition graphics and wireless that the chip breakthroughs allow us to get to.

So just for the games alone you'd go, wow, but the concept now of bringing in your music, your media, connecting to the PC, connecting Xbox Live to Messenger--that just makes it a very big deal.

Yes Windows Media Connect support on Xbox 2. Can you say killer feature? Have to wait and see how and to what extend it's going to be implemented but it's largely cleared up my problems with Xbox and lack of connectivity some of which I mentioned on my entry about Extender for Xbox post.

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