Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Another Generation of Media Center Adopters left out in the rain

I write about the Media Center experience quite a bit on this blog, and I do for the most part appreciate the elegance of the overall experience. The box that MS paints around what you can and cannot do does make me pine for alternatives from time to time but, for the most part I am satisfied with what I get. Being the owner of several first Generation Media Center accessories, the discontinuation of the new generation pains me not for their overall quality or covetablility[sic], but for the disconnect between the Microsoft death by a thousand OEM's and Apple's "own everything" approach to digital media devices. The Media Center Extender is one area where Microsoft wants others to pickup the ball and run with, but simultaneously competes (original xbox for Generation 1 and xbox360 for the current). Given that the device that they makes is multipurpose (games and media) it is the logical winner in the race for dollars and space in the home, but Microsoft seems unable to take the mantle as sole producers of extenders. I am all for the OEM opportunity, but it feels like the partners get drug along so that the products in question are really repackaged Microsoft reference designs.

The partners do not get any positive out of these products that I can tell, and given the closed loop nature of these things it seems unlikely that Microsoft will change their stance anytime soon and release the Software Sled and let us figure out the integration bits. As long as the extenders are based on Windows CE, the experience will be lacking and the rise of the Intel Atom should be enough to convince them that an device like the Apple TV with a stripped down OS customized to the task, offers some very interesting price performance opportunities. I think that the computer as appliance is starting to take root in Microsoft, just look at the Windows Home Server. This is the type of product that HP can get their arms around, design software that extends it, and offers them and the customer competitive advantage. I hope that this round of failure opens Microsoft's eyes. Release the Soft Sled, we know it either has been conceptualized or is in use internally and recognize the opportunity for the Microsoft Media Center Integrated Consumer Experience.

Learning about making decisions

If you have never heard of Ted Talks I question whether you live under a rock or not, but here is one about decision making, and how we trick ourselves or allow ourselves to be tricked into making decisions because of extraneous information.

Acer easystore, do want

Acer has been up to some good here, I think this product looks nice and is pretty price competative with everyone else. I doubt that it will have the software integration stack that the HP's have, but looks like it fills the Windows Home Server gap quite nicely.

Grilling season is upon us

With a few very nice days in a row here in the Pacific Northwest I thought a summer style post was in order. BBQ Sauce, know it love it and learn how to make it. I pulled this recipe from this site, but it is pretty much how I have been making mine whenever I get around to making it.

Basic Tomato BBQ Sauce

1 regular can of tomato sauce
1 can of tomato paste
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 cloves garlic, crushed
4 tablespoons onion, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon cayenne
fresh ground pepper to taste

I also add liquid smoke, and the vinegar that I use is Aceto Balsamico from Sotto Voce. The spice of the vinegar really livens up the BBQ and I think it tastes fantastic on Chicken. Also a note on chopping the onion, you don't want to be able to distinguish that this is onion when you are done so get a sharper damn knife.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

HP X5400 Media Center Extender

Product Features

  • Use it in any room with a TV and network connection (approved 802.11a/g wireless access point or router
  • Stream digital media/PC right to your television
  • Pause, replay, and record live TV
  • Wirelessly connect your digital media/PC to your home stereo
  • requires HP Media Center PC with HP Digital Entertainment Center and 2.8 GHz or faster CPU

Recorded for posterity, all information came from this Amazon.com page

Creative Labs Zen Portable Media Center

Product Features

* Watch up to 85 hours of movies, recorded TV or home videos
* Store and listen to over 9,000 songs
* Carry and enjoy tens of thousands of photos; Up to 7 hours of video and up to 22 hours of music
* Large, high resolution 3.8" TFT LCD Screen
* Removable rechargeable battery for up to 7 hours of video or 22 hours of music

Post is for posterity reasons, all information was pulled from this Amazon.com page.

Samsung Yepp YH-999 20 GB Portable Media Center

Product Features and Technical Details

Product Features

  • Stores up to 20 GB of audio and/or video, in MPEG4, MP3, JPEG, and Windows Media formats
  • 3.5 TFT LCD display
  • Connects to a TV through composite output port
  • USB 2.0 compliant
  • Rechargeable li-ion batter

Post is for posterity reasons, I pulled all information from this Amazon.com page

Monday, May 18, 2009

California Rep to software devs:work somewhere else

According to Electronista a California Representative wants for all software that could potentially share files with anyone (FTP programs qualify) to have a notification that requires the user to consent that they understand their files may be shared by using this file. The idea is that by forcing the users to accept that they may be sharing every time they open the application.

Aside from the insane probability that this is remotely enforceable on anyone but in state developers, nobody reads modal dialogues. Not even nerds like me.

I believe that this will die horribly, but the problem here is that people just want a way to fast track suing customers (or potential customers) for downloading rather than trying to figure out how to monetize those transactions. Music, Movie and many more industries lost track of opportunities, and someone stepped forward with solutions to consumer desires. The trouble is though the solutions where easy and free, they where illegal. If they content creators/owners had offered something better for a reasonable price (the drm ladened versions with heavy handed enforcement did not meet this criterion) then they would not have to sue potential customers.

California wants developers to develop in a different state apparantly. Hey San Fransisco/Silicon Valley, Washington will take you!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The rise of Good enough products

As an avid technology geek, I love new toys. I like the way that companies constantly push the boundaries on computing, newer, faster, smaller etc. One thing I notice is that the leading edge the price seems to stay the same, or in some cases (high-end home storage solutions) go up incrementally as the power of the solution goes up Qnap's new iSCSI is an excellent example. There is an interesting additional feature of the new, shiny plastic age, the trailing edge's constantly cheapening low cost, sort of like the good products. These good for the price products are the spam of the physical world and while sometimes they offer some joy for the hackers to tear apart and remix into everyday life, more often it is just functional enough for the price to pass for a product that you actually would want. The Kirf phones are an excellent example of the close but not quite products that I am talking about. Many PMP's out of our friendly Asian neighbors that mimic, mime and sometimes even manage to upstage the large electronics brands also fall into this category. None of the linked ones are as versatile as the product that they mimic (or as available in the case of some Korea or China only ones) but for the money $73usd for the 7in Media Player (usd/cny rate may vary) that is probably better than the Media Center Portables I bought, it certainly supports more formats than MC portables ever did. In some ways I applaude Apple's limited product line in so far as it limits product spam. They only offer a few models of each item at a given time, which gives them pretty nice flexablity on inventory and manufacture. I am not sure that every company could sustain with their own OS and be viable, software mono-culture has more perks than detractions (virus's be damned).

I suppose the "me too", almost the same spec with virtually no product differentiation products are getting under my skin because they are not driving invention just copying. They are the reason that I ran a 700mhz PIII until the HD died just recently, as the main day to day use computer. It was good enough. It ran xp fine, I could play youtube on it and do most of my day to day usage needs on it. Hell I ran a JEOS ubuntu django server on it for a while, I used it to stream music with ORB, and ripped dvd's. It was the primary storage for the majority of my Raw vob's when I started to convert all of our movies for my wife's iPod. It wasn't fast, and I had 4 other machines working on it at the same time, but it did the work well enough. I as able to decrypt 1 movie for every 1.5 I did on a P4 3.2ghz with a sata drive. 700mhz vs 3.2ghz and the faster was only able to complete a real world task 1.5x's faster. Sometimes good enough is good enough, I just wish that the Japanese product churn strategy had not become the modous operandi for the electronics industry. We see new models so fast that corporate IT's standardization model falls apart in the 3-5 year ownership cycle, and consumers are unable to decide what is the best product becuase every model is turned over in less than a year. There isn't time to find the flaws before you have a new model out that replaces the old model.

In example of this I have a Dlink DGL-4500 router that is very nice. It has a firmware bug that makes it so after you disable the wireless you cannot save any more settings without a factory reset. This is a 1 year old router with a 5+ month old bug, that I doubt is going to be fixed. Dlink sees the customers that may be lost as a casulty, and has moved on to newer DIR model routers. Early adopters be damned. I am mostly happy with the product, but frustrated that the way I intended to use this router adversely affects its ability to function.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Government works for industry, not the people... Again.

Damn it Biden you are the emperor Palpatine of the Obama administration and I think we all know it.