Archive for March, 2007

Cyrus hooked me up on PC world

Saturday, March 31st, 2007

‘Been reading PC world for some time, and thanks to a fellow Engadgeter I get mentioned in online article about hacking the Apple TV. While this won’t be printed, it’s still exciting for me and I’m glad Cyrus decided to invite me to participate. Not only did I get recognized for being the first to write an Apple TV drive upgrade How-To, but he used a quote, “Hacks don’t have to be practical, they have to be enjoyable,”.

Thanks Cyrus!

Sync iPhoto trick

Monday, March 26th, 2007

One of my problems with the Apple TV is you can only sync with one Mac and I keep my iPhoto collection on a different Mac than iTunes. This on top of the fact that you can’t stream Photos means I have to move my iPhoto library to my Mini. I don’t want to do this, so I figured an easy way around it. I am going to do a one-way manual sync from my MacBookPro to my Mac Mini using rsync.

No doubt I could schedule this, but my MacBook isn’t always on and I don’t update my iPhoto library every day so I am going to do it manually.

For now I will run it from the terminal, but I may write an AppleScript that prompts me for the credentials. Here is the command.

rsync -e ssh -az –delete /Users/bdrawbaugh/Pictures/iPhoto\ Library macmini.local:/Users/bdrawbaugh/Pictures

Then I get prompted for my password on my mini and it syncs.

Apple TV hickups

Saturday, March 24th, 2007

So far I really like this thing, the HD video lived up to my expectations and I spent my first two days upgrading the drive. The partitions were a little tricky, but nothing dd can’t handle. Still looking for a free way to expand a HFS+ partition, but the $35 iPartition will have to do for now.

I am having a few other issues; as I feared you can’t sync iPhoto from one computer and iTunes form another. This causes me problems, I guess I will have to manually sync my iPhoto Library between Macs. Not a big deal, maybe they will fix it.

The biggest problem I am having is with the IR remote. I use an Xantech IR distribution system and the Apple TV just won’t work. Just to check my remote, I moved my MacBook Pro to my equipment closet and attached the IR emitter to it, used the same remote and it works fine. Not sure what I can do, but this is a real show stopper if I can’t control it.

I am a little dishearten at Apple for not getting the Apple TV I ordered on day one to me before having them in stock at the Apple store. Then on top of this, the Apple TV came signature required. Not sure who stays home all day waiting for packages, but I don’t and since I didn’t know this in advanced so I didn’t have it shipped to my work. Ahh well, i think I will just let Fedex return this one for me.

It’s a good thing I didn’t buy this thing for HD

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Bought mine from the Apple Store this morning, will return the one I ordered when it arrives tomorrow. (No I couldn’t wait)

Played a few clips I encoded with VisualHub and Quicktime, and they played fine.
I streamed them via 102.11G which no problems.

They were over-compressed and I don’t think they were watchable, at least not compared to my Blu-ray Player or even my Xbox360. Of course there was no surround sound. This doesn’t bother me, since I really don’t plan to use it for HD Video.

The problems seem to be caused the max bit-rate, it is just too low. The VisualHug clips looked about the same as the Quicktime clips I also encoded.

I think the trick might be to force 960x540p at the max bit-rate to eliminate the compression artifacts. The 480p content I watched, looked fine, with almost no noticeable artifacts. At this point I prefer the 480p content, without the compression artifacts to the HD with.

I will be interested to see the results after the really encoding geniuses get a chance to do their magic.

Either way I am thrilled, look for my full review soon.

10 reasons why the Apple TV will be a success

Wednesday, March 21st, 2007

With all the Apple TV posts today thanks to Walt, I figured I would throw in my 2 cents. So here are 10 reasons why the Apple TV will be a success.

  1. There is no better way to enjoy your iTunes music collection on your home theater system. Sure there are plenty of ways, like Windows Media Center, burning CDs, Xbox 360 and simply plugging the iPod in, but are these the best? Will they always be there, ready for you or will you have to run out to your car to grab your iPod or use some syncing software to keep your ratings and play count in sync.  Do you really think the Xbox360 media interface looks as good as the Apple TV?
  2. There is no better way to view your iPhotos on your HDTV in HD. You could use your Series3 Tivo at 3 time the price or the clunky Xbox360 interface, but that is assuming you are running a PC or know how to share your pictures directory on your Mac and still don’t have access to your iPhoto albums.
  3. Movie Trailers. Apple has had the best online trailers for some time and there won’t be a more enjoyable way to watch them then via the Apple TV.
  4. It has a 40GB hard drive. Sure it could be bigger, but it will be nice to find new media available even when your laptop isn’t turn on.
  5. Video Podcasts. There is no easier way to watch Video podcasts on your big screen TV. With iTunes you can easily find them and always have the latest episode synced to your Apple TV.
  6. Easy to use, easy to configure. Unlike a Mac Mini or other computer, the Apple TV has a HDMI port as well as component. Toslink and everything else you will need to connect it to your HDTV. A small easy to use remote and we hope a  wiz to plug in.
  7. No power brick. Unlike the Xbox360 and a Mac Mini there is no big power brick to clutter up  your wiring. Wow just like a real consumer electronic device.
  8. Because YouTube content looks bad and doesn’t have any business on my HDTV.
  9. Because Philip “The Swanni” Swann said it would fail and so usually the opposite comes true.
  10. Because it is made by Apple. Seriously, once you drink the Apple kool-aid it’s hard to not buy everything they make.

You might have noticed that I completely ignored the HDTV content. That is because it isn’t a reason it will succeed. In fact I don’t think it is very useful as a HD content streamer. But compared to the Series3 and a Blu-ray player everything else is just not up to snuff. The best places to get HD from is your cable provider (or Sat) or on a Blu-ray disc. Call me when you can download a 50GB HD movie on your broadband connection.

Why I changed my tune on the format war

Friday, March 16th, 2007

When this format war first got started, I wasn’t sure which side to choose, but after attending CES 06 I was sold on Blu-ray. I was overwhelmed with the amount of Blu-ray support at the show and this prompted me to talk about and write predictions about the fast demise of HD DVD. This earned me the nickname Ben “Blu-ray” Drawbaugh by some commenter’s on EHD. Most haven’t noticed that a few months ago I changed my tune. The reason for this is an interview I did for EHD that I wasn’t supposed to talk about. Well I could talk about it, but not specifics and although I am not going to go back on my word now, I am going to share more info. You see I had a nice talk with a Studio exec and while I won’t say which one, I will say that it is a neutral studio that produces titles for both sides. What he told me that changed my mind was that they are making money on both formats. Like any other business, the decisions are based on return, not costs and as long as they make money on both sides, they will continue to support both. This really forced to step back and realize that this thing isn’t ending anytime soon. Who knows how long it will go on, but for now I am enjoying Blu-ray movies and you should be too.

Finally the laptop hard drive I have been waiting for?

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

Seagate 7200.2Where do I place my order? It wasn’t too long ago I was complaining about the fact that there were no big and fast hard drives for laptops. I guess I wasn’t the only one as two manufacturers are starting to ship 160GB 7200rpm SATA drives. First it was Fujitsu and now my fav HDD brand Seagate. Now all I have to do is wait and hope they don’t cost me too much, however much that is.

Where I’ve been

Friday, March 9th, 2007


If anyone has been wondering, where I have been the past week, because I haven’t posted on Engadget HD or here, it’s because I’ve been engulfed in a new project. You see I have always wanted to be a programmer, well not always, but awhile. The problem is, where to start for fun? I finally found a project that I can work on, while I love my HDHomeRun the lack of OS X GUI has made using it a chore and recently a new friend wrote a GUI for it in Applescript studio and ever since he sent me the source code I have been spending every waking hour working on it. I haven’t been this motivated to work on a project in a long time and hopefully I will slow down before my wife leaves me. At least now that the newness is worn off, I can get back to blogging and spending time with my family, hopefully.

Amazon Unbox + TiVo = disapointment

Friday, March 9th, 2007

I knew I wasn’t going to be super excited about the Amazon Unbox, I mean it isn’t HD after all and there isn’t multi-channel audio, but man could they have messed it up any worse? Did a quick search by price for the shows tagged TiVo to find the least expensive show was the Animatrix episodes for .99, I downloaded one with my $15 credit for signing up. If you haven’t seen the series, it is great for Matrix fans, but it is presented in a 2.35 aspect ratio. So you know what that means right, yeah bars on the top and bottom of my TV. No problem, but it is a problem with the Series3 adds gray bars to the sides. I just can’t believe that Amazon/TiVo would encode a 2.35 movie in a 4:3 frame. DVD’s haven’t even done this for like 8 years. If they would have encoded it like a DVD, then maybe the TiVo could distribute it in a 16×9 frame.
How much you want to bet that the AppleTV doesn’t do stuff like this?

Ok I feel better now.

Blogging has improved my writing skills

Thursday, March 1st, 2007

I know it seems pretty obvious, but still I am excited. You see I have never been a very good writer, people who I grew up with never believe me when I tell them that AOL actually pays me to blog. I have never had trouble getting good at anything I put my mind too and although I usually am not the best ever, I do alright. But there is something about writing that has always escaped me, I would like to think that it is because I never really committed myself to it. I never intended to start blogging in fact when I approached Kevin Tofel about doing a HD podcast and he asked me if I would be willing to blog for HD Beat, he actually had to explain to me what a blog was. I attribute any blogging skill I have to him as he was a great coach and helped me find my voice. It looks like all this work might have paid off and I mean other than the payment advices I get from AOL. You see I still take college courses — you could say I am on the 15 year plan and I just received earned the highest grade on any written assignment in my life. Part of this is because I convinced my instructor to let me write a essay on the current format war, no he doesn’t read my work, but part of it is because my wife proof reads my essays and the last part, the 10% part that makes a B and A is my improved writing skill, or maybe it is his lax grading technique. Either way I did better than the class average and I have the Internet to thank, so thanks.

Download Blu-ray Vs. HD DVD: Can either win?