Friday, December 31, 2010

The Importance of DSLR (“Idiot with a Tripod”)

“Idiot with a Tripod” by Jamie Stuart shows us the importance of DSLR video.  With so many people screaming about how “film” (video) shot with digital SLR’s is becoming the downfall of motion pictures, this simple 3 and a half minute montage shows us that 7D’s and the lot are giving us tools that make beauty more accessible… that DSLR’s are bringing us a revolution in the world of motion pictures.

“Idiot with a Tripod” by Jamie Stuart

 

Roger Ebert calls the clip “Oscar worthy,” stating:

This film deserves to win the Academy Award for best live-action short subject. (1) Because of its wonderful quality. (2) Because of its role as homage. It is directly inspired by Dziga Vertov's 1929 silent classic "Man With a Movie Camera." (3) Because it represents an almost unbelievable technical proficiency. It was filmed during the New York blizzard of Dec. 26, and Jamie Stuart e-mailed it to me with this time stamp: December 27, 2010 4:18:18 PM CST.

So many cinematography and film message boards and forums are filled with veterans whining about the fact that now "any schmuck can grab a camera and shoot a 'film.'" While I agree that the field will be littered with more garbage, the accessibility of motion picture equipment puts tools into the hands of people who previously were not able to share their skills and talent.

For a while I lamented the same thing in the music field: now any fool with a computer can record their awful ballads to their girlfriend, and we have to sift through all the schlock trying to find decent tunes.  However… it also means there is more good music out there (because it’s not only the elite with access to major recording studios who can put out quality recordings).  The same is becoming true with film.

Just because the tools are becoming accessible to everyone, doesn’t mean everybody has talent.  Ebert reflects this sentiment as he goes on: 

You can tell from the cinematography he knew exactly what he was doing and how to do it. He held the Vertov film in memory. Stuart must already been thinking of how he would do the edit and sound. Any professional will tell you the talent exhibited here is extraordinary.

In no way am I saying big-budget productions are dead.  I of course still want to see my Lord of the Rings and Broke Back Mountain shot on glorious film.  I NEED my giant sci-fi movies to have an $80 million-plus budget.  But DSLR is an important part of an equation that can keep cinema in the theater from going the way of the dodo.  There is a time and place for everything, and DSLR is definitely coming into its own.

While studios continue to spend ridiculous amounts of money on overblown situation comedies (Little Fockers, $100 million :: Sex and the City 2, $100 Million :: How Do You Know, $120 Million), tools like DSLR are making it possible for creative leaders and revolutionaries to create wonderful motion pictures at a fraction (and I mean super-fraction) of the cost of these hilariously budgeted films.

While Hollywood scrambles to make sense of the VOD and motion picture iPod revolution, thankfully there are talented individuals leading the way, making beautiful, enjoyable films without being shackled to the bloated and tired old ways of studios trying to adhere to the “rules” that died quite a while ago.

There is still a long way to go before the dust clears, but I am certain that the benefits that DSLR lend to “filmmaking” (cost, portability, size, etc.) are going to be a very important part of how films are made in the coming years.

Ebert quotes from:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/movies-1/man-in-a-blizzard-by-jamie-stu.html

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sync Folders Across Multiple Computers

In their continuing brilliant renaming schemes, Microsoft has replaced and/or renamed Live Mesh (beta) with Windows Live Mesh 2011.  What happens in 2012?  Why use “Windows” in the title?  Of course it’s Windows, you dumbasses.

Anyway… I had been using Live Mesh (beta) to keep just a few folders synced (both between computers and to the cloud).  I’ve started using WLM2011 to keep folders synced from my home (main) machine to my laptop (skipping the cloud part, as I’m syncing huge folders that would quickly decimate the 5GB’s allotted for my SkyDrive).

Until today, I used SyncBack for keeping folders synced.  Every time I left for a trip, I would select the folders I wanted to sync and click run.  This was a huge pain in the butt every time I was going somewhere.  Yeah, I could have mitigated some of the annoyance by setting up a “container” folder within SyncBack to run multiple syncs, but I still would have to run the sync manually.  I could have set up scheduled syncs, but what I’m really after is “live” syncing.

SyncBack also always made me nervous that I was overwriting or copying something that I didn’t want to.  Furthermore, if you make changes to folder structures on one machine, then run a sync, the files that you moved will be recreated in their old location.  This sucks big time when you’re an OCD freak and reorganize your files/folders all the time.

I think Windows Live Mesh 2011 (what a STUPID and ridiculously long name) is going to work well for my needs.

My biggest gripe is not being able to sync two pre-existing folders.  To set up a folder sync with a folder that already exists on the remote machine you have to first sync an entire folder to the remote machine, then deselect it from your synced files on that remote machine (it will automatically be placed in your “user” folder –nothing you can  do about that), then move the folder to where you want it (and let the folder write over everything in the folder that already exists there if you’ve already been syncing the folder), and click sync again.

This is a pretty big pain in the ass.  I would MUCH prefer to be able to simply enter a folder path manually, or better yet be able to “explore” to it from the machine you are using to set up the sync.

From the WLM2011 help site:

If you want to select where the contents of the folder sync on a computer, don’t select the computer in the list. Instead, click OK and go to the [remote (this is important)] computer, click Sync this folder, and then select where you want the folder contents to sync [select the already existing folder that should sync to the other]. Note that if you select a folder that has files in it, these files will be included in the synced folder.

Nifty.

The biggest thing I really, really, really wish you could do with WLM2011 is set it to sync over your local network instead of having to send everything over your internet connection.  This seems like a no brainer.  Why in the hell would I need to send all that data “out into space” when the two computers are sitting right next to each other and are connected with a Gigabit ethernet connection?  I understand syncing over the internet is necessary if you are syncing to your SkyDrive (the cloud), but if you’re not… it just seems like Microsoft wants to sift through your data. Boo.

One more wish: I’d like to be able to rename the root (synced) folder and have it also change on the other machine.  Currently, if you change the name of a synced folder, it will be recreated from the other synced machine, and then you’ll have two of the same folder on the same machine.

Finally, I’m hoping I can find an Android app that will allow me to bring my phone into the mix.  I don’t have my hopes set too high though.  Worst case scenario: I’ll set up a “mobile” folder to sync between all my machines, and then just set up a separate sync (using Double Twist or some other Android program) between that folder and my phone.

One more thing… I wish you could organize your folders in the WLM2011 interface.  Currently, all of your synced folders are just listed alphabetically.  I’d like to be able to organize synced folders into categories (photos, artwork, video, documents, etc.)

[update]  The ability to organize the folders you are syncing is ABYSMAL.  In other words, there is NO WAY to organize your synced folders.  This is a massive over site on the part of Microsoft.  Your synced folders are simply listed in alphabetical order in your Windows Live Mesh window.  You cannot organize them in any other way.  If you have hundreds of synced folders, you simply have an alphabetical list of hundreds of folders (you can’t group them in any way).  Very, very, very stupid.

Also, I really miss the visual differentiation of synced folders that the old Live Mesh had.  It used to be that synced folders turned blue when you synced them.  Now there is NO VISUAL INDICATOR that a folder is synced.  You could manually change the folder icon, but that’s not realistic for hundreds of folders.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Best Way to Stream Audio Via WiFi

UPDATE: The information for "best streaming audio wifi setup" has been updated at my new post here.
I’ve been searching for the perfect wireless home audio set up for years.  I’ve got a beautiful Clairtone G2 in my swank 50’s living room that I use for my audio listening pleasure.  It’s not the most practical thing for setting up all your audio/video needs, but it’s so damn pretty, and goes so well with the rest of my midcentury modern furnishings that there is no getting around the fact that I have to make it work with my audio setup.
I started out years ago using a Creative Labs WiFi system.  I think it was actually called “Creative Sound Blaster Wireless Music.”  Sound Blaster of course went on to become a more generic term for Creative Labs computer audio cards (actually, I think this was the case even then, and it made the name of the unit incredibly confusing).  This was early wifi audio streaming.  When it worked, it was pretty cool.  The fact that the system had a remote that actually showed the name of the song playing, and songs in your library, and even playlists made the device years ahead of any other similar system, but it was S-L-O-W.  If you had any sort of decent music library (more than 200 songs), it was painful to scroll through your tunes.  Playlists were difficult to compile, and the server software crashed all the time.  Other than that it was grand!
For some reason, no one has created a similar unit at a decent price since this unit was made available around 2004.  The closest thing seems to be the SqueezeBox Duet, but it’s around $400 —which is WAY too pricey when you’re just trying to get audio to your old stereo.
There are some decent units under $150, but almost all of them have speakers incorporated into the unit.  I just wanted a good wifi box to plug into my stereo via RCA plugs.  Why does no one make this?!
I’ve finally found something that works for me, and it just goes to show: if you wait long enough, technology catches up and people make enough things that are “almost right,” so you can cobble together exactly what you need at the price you want.
I finally ended up just buying an old Airport Express off of eBay for $45 (they list for $99) and using it only to stream audio.  Because it’s only for audio, you can use G or even B wifi, so don’t waste your money on a faster N unit.
When I received my Airport Express, I plugged it into the power strip and ran a 1/8” to RCA cable from the unit to my stereo.  I downloaded the Airport Utility from Apple.com and followed easy steps that connected the Airport Express to my existing home network (selecting the options to use the Airport Express only for audio streaming). It was super easy, and I had music streaming to my G2 literally minutes after opening the Airport Express box.
I was happy to see that I can switch speakers from the iTunes interface (I am able to select one or more), and thus the music playing in my office is in perfect sync with the music playing in my living room.  You can even control the volume of each independently, so I can make the music louder in the living room, and quieter in the office.  Currently I have the audio in my office turned off so I can watch Hulu, but iTunes is still streaming to the living room.  I will likely add another Airport Express in the future so that I can stream music to my patio as well.
I use Jeff Sharkey’s TunesRemote for a remote control, which allows me to access my entire library and all my playlists from my phone.  HOW TO: Install the app on your phone (download from Android market), let it scan for your iTunes, click on the correct computer/network on your phone, the app will pop-up a four digit code, your device should appear in your iTunes window (same window in which your Playlists, etc. are displayed), click on your device in iTunes and enter the four digit code.  I’m listing all that, because I had trouble setting this up at first.
If you don’t like using iTunes, Rogue Amoeba makes a program called Airfoil that allows you to stream any audio to your Airport Express.  Basically Airfoil hijacks the audio from any program on your computer and then sends it to your Airport Express.  You can even send to multiple Airport Express devices (like you would with iTunes).  Don’t get all excited thinking that this will work with audio for your internet video though.  It will be out of sync, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it (see this post).
So… I’ve got audio streaming to my G2, I’ve got a remote to control it, and I’m a happy, happy boy!


[UPDATE] I updated iTunes (always a big mistake) to 10.1 and can no longer connect to the Airport Express from iTunes.  Airfoil connects to the Airport without issue.  Don’t you just love it when a third party does a better job than the manufacturer? :eye roll:
[UPDATE] The issue above was completely firewall related.  Make sure you have an exception for Airport (not just iTunes).  I found that setting “protocol” to TCP (not UDP) made things work best. I should probably figure out what the hell that means.
best / cheapest / most inexpensive way to stream audio
wifi with vintage audio

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rogue Amoeba Airfoil: a Big FAIL for Playing Video

Be aware: Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil WILL NOT work with video on your PC (and it only works with video FILES on a Mac).  If you’re on a PC and you’ve tried Airfoil to get audio from your computer to an external audio source (like your stereo), you’ll notice it doesn’t work very well; there is a two second delay between the video and your external audio.

Rogue Amoeba has a proprietary player that will compensate for the two-second audio buffer delay when using it to play Video file audio to an external source, but in tiny, tiny print on their website they write:

"Airfoil Video Player [which corrects for the 2 second delay] is only available for Mac OSX. We have no plans for Airfoil Video Player on the Windows side.  Sorry!"

Furthermore, the video player only helps when you are playing video files.  It does nothing for Hulu, Netflix, iTunes Store video, Blockbuster Online, Amazon Video, YouTube, etc.  So if you thought you were going to use Airfoil to watch internet TV… you were wrong.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hulu Chaos

Evidently I’m Teresa Lynn.  No wait!  I’m Sam somebody.

Last night, my Hulu account kept bringing up other people’s avatars and names.  I’m wondering what the hell was going on.

Was someone else seeing my profile information?

Hmmm…

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Watch Porn

I tend to get “precious” with cool things I find on the web… like if I tell people about it, there will be less for me (as if I can actually afford to “buy things”).  I’m trying to overcome this irrational psychosis by sharing things here… with you… right now.

Here is one of my most favoritest things.  A couple of years ago I had a bit of an E-bay addiction (my wife has since beaten coaxed it out of me)  --mostly chairs and sundry mid-century modern coolness, but the disease did net me a few wicked cool watches.  The time pieces I purchased were from a guy calling himself Watchismo.  Watchismo has since become an online store.  It is my porn.

Here are some examples (click to go to their pages):

 

 

The ones I bought way back when? From the Watchismo online museum:

1970’s Zeno Green Jump Hour (wind)My Zeno actually seems to be in better condition than the one pictured above… it was new old stock… and I don’t think I paid anywhere near what it’s listed for on the Watchismo site.

CIMG4145

 

1970’s Seiko Square Face (automatic/kinetic)

CIMG4141

Watchismo doesn’t have this one in their “museum.”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

AVG Massive Fail is a GO!

Thousands of people woke up this morning to a beautiful BSOD.  Anyone who ran the AVG update last night on their Windows XP or Vista computer woke up to a non functioning computer.

BSOD_c0000135_MSVCR80_DLL

The important parts of the message I got (what you need to Google) were:

stop: c0000135 msvcr80.dll

The problem I found (after hours of my day wasted) was that an AVG update is hosing people’s computers.  Here’s the fix:

    1. Get thee to a command prompt (easiest way is using your Windows Install CD).
    2. c: (or whatever your boot drive is)
    3. cd program files (x86)
    4. cd avg
    5. cd avg10
    6. ren avgrsa.exe x_avgrsa.exe
    7. ren avgchsva.exe x_avgchsva.exe

Yes, I know you can get all the way to the final “avg10” directory by typing in the full, direct file path, but I like going this route to be sure I’m not overlooking another directory.  Your location of AVG could vary, depending upon where it’s installed (for instance, not “AVG10”).  You just need to be sure you’re finding your active install of AVG, and then finding the avgrsa and avgchsva files.

Alternatively to renaming the above files, you can also just delete avgrsa.exe and avgchsva.exe, but I like to leave things intact to make restoration easier.  Many of the “solutions” I found suggested renaming the whole AVG directory (or even simply removing it), but just renaming the two files above will allow you to continue to download AVG updates in the off chance that they fix this mess (they haven’t as of 1pm today) .

Once my machine was back up and running (booted without issue once the above steps were completed), I was still able to run an AVG update using the tray icon.  The update found definition updates, etc., so we’ll see if AVG is on it enough to correct the problem with this morning’s update.  If not, I’m finding a new anti-virus software.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The World of Streaming Radio

I just drove across the United States listening to internet radio the whole way.  Not broadcast radio, streaming media.  In fact, I actually changed my route from a rural highway (it was pretty early in the day, but it didn’t really matter in the pitch black of night) to a major interstate loaded with cell towers just so I could pull 3G.

Slacker became my friend.  Pandora was there too.  I tried out doubleTwist’s radio, but you can only utilize their stations (not build your own), so I quickly abandoned them for my radio purposes (still love their sync!!!).

I like how Pandora’s thumb up and thumb down rating systems works WAY better than Slacker.  It’s also pretty lame that there’s a limit on banned songs/artists with Slacker’s free version.  I understand not being able to FF past a certain number of songs in a free version, but not being able to eliminate things you don’t want to hear next time?  That’s ridiculous.

I found myself listening to music with Pandora, and comedy with Slacker (“Mitch Hedberg Radio” wound up playing a lot of Hedberg, Jim Gaffigan, Patton Oswold, Jerry Seinfeld, Lewis Black, George Carlin, and Brian Regan, so I was pretty happy with that station).

I quickly ran out of podcasts as I haven’t ever really been very religious with any source.  I had a couple I’d downloaded previously (Coverville and Fresh Air), but only a couple.

I tried to find a decent Podcast App from the road.  Evidently people only download Podcasts from their computers.  This seemed incredibly odd to me (that there weren’t any good programs to find and download podcasts from your phone).  The best I could find was Google Listen (still beta in Google Labs), and it was pretty abysmal.  It was easy to find the podcasts I wanted, but Listen uses a proprietary player which was evidently coded by a third grader with no thumbs.  The player randomly skips back to the beginning at any given moment, and there is no way to easily get back to where you were, as once that happens, the position of the slider corresponds to absolutely nothing.  There are FF and REW buttons that skip forward/back at 10 second increments, but using the buttons almost always results in the podcast going all the way back to the beginning (again, regardless of where the position shows on the timeline).

Luckily, if you wait for the podcast to fully download, you can find the files in a folder marked “com.google.android.apps.listen.”  They are without a file extension, and named as a random group of numbers (like songs on an iPod) to prevent you from finding and playing them I suppose.  I simply clicked on the files with Astro or AndroFile and selected open as music and was able to listen to the podcasts.

So while Google Listen does a good job of finding podcasts and downloading them, it’s pretty useless in playing them.  I have NO IDEA why they feel they need to add a player to the app.  Just download the damn file and let me play them with my player of choice!  Perhaps it’s Google’s way of trying out a music player they’ll be launching, but right now it’s just super annoying.

So I drove across the United States listening to the interweb.  Pretty cool.  There were a few times when I lost 3G in the bowels of Kansas, but for the most part I was able to keep listening.  Only a very few times did I lose my stream, and it was usually only for 20 or 30 seconds.

Viva la revolucion!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

CGI has Come a Long Way

Make sure to watch this full screen.  Be careful.  It will blow your mind.  All CGI, but you won’t believe it.

The Third & The Seventh from Alex Roman on Vimeo.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

BluRay Disc Capacity (the real story)

I just burned 4 BluRay coasters (and am now out of BluRays since you can’t purchase inkjet printable BR disks at ANY store on the planet).  Image Burn was telling me “Cannot Write Medium - Incompatible Format,” but I wasn’t really sure what that meant.  What it should have said was “that file’s too big, dummy.”

Even though Adobe Encore shows the capacity of a disc as 25GB (which is also what’s printed on a BluRay disc), a BluRay disc can ACTUALLY only hold a little over 23GB (sometimes even less).  If your Encore project says anything over 23 GB is being used (the big blue progress/capacity  bar under “Disc Info”), you’re write is going to fail.  Believe me.  Anything near that 25GB capacity isn’t going to work.

Heed this advice.  It will save you a lot of time, money, and wasted discs.

I usually burn a BluRay .iso rather than burning straight to disc.  I then use ImgBurn to burn my BluRay later.  It makes it easier to burn multiple copies, and often circumvents problems with Encore.   Encore will let you burn an .ISO image up to 25GB, even though that image will not REALLY fit on a (single layer) disc.

Now you know.

Why in the Hell Don’t STORES Sell BluRay Media?!

I need to send out some BluRay media tomorrow.  I’m out of blank BluRays.  I drove to four stores.  NONE of them sell inkjet printable discs, two of them didn’t sell media AT ALL (Costco and Staples), Office Depot has only ONE (a shitty single-pack for $10), and Best Buy sells a 10-pack for almost $50.

WTF?!

I’m ordering more from Amazon right now, but I won’t get them for two days, and that’s two days too late.

Argh.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Unfair Language on Election Ballots

I am APPALLED by the wording on my Colorado mail-in ballot.

All of the amendments to our constitution make things sound like a cut-and-dried "no brainer." Listen to Amendment 60:

"Shall there be an amendment to the Colorado constitution concerning government charges on property, and, in connection therewith, allowing petitions in all districts for elections to lower property taxes; specifying requirements for property tax elections; requiring enterprises and authorities to pay property taxes but offsetting the revenues with lower tax rates; prohibiting enterprises and unelected boards from levying fees or taxes on property; setting expiration dates for certain tax rates and revenue increases; requiring school districts to reduce property tax rates and replacing the revenue with state aid; and eliminating property taxes that exceed the dollar amount included in an approved ballot question, that exceed state property tax laws, policies and limits existing in 1992 that have been violated, changed, or weakened without state voter approval, or that were not approved by voters without certain ballot language?"

"Well hell yes! Why wouldn’t I lower my taxes, especially when things 'aren't fair?!'" one would think after reading the above. However, what is failed to mention is that these MASSIVE tax cuts (when the state government can already *barely function* on their existing budget) will cripple not only our state, but most importantly our school systems. Colorado has already been slashing school budgets like nobody's business, and this amendment would cause 92% of the state's general fund to go to schools. Not only does this leave only 8% for EVERYTHING ELSE, but it will hurt schools by drastically cutting their funding.

How about "fairer language" on election ballots? I realize you can't explain everything in that little tiny space, but writing things out as if they are one-sided no-brainers is irresponsible and unacceptable.

Monday, October 25, 2010

AVG Free 2011 DEFINITELY Slows Down Gmail

I haven’t seen problems with most sites I’ve been visiting, but the new AVG Free 2011 upgrade definitely makes Gmail nearly unusable.  I couldn’t figure out what was going on until I realized the slowdown was mostly isolated to Gmail and then remembered I upgraded my AVG security this morning.

Just thought you might like to know why your Gmail feels like running through molasses today.

Windows Live Essentials 2011 listed as “important update”

It’s extremely annoying to me that Microsoft is listing the Windows Live Essentials 2011 update (basically a bunch of bloatware) as an “important update.”  In no way do I want to install 160MB of garbage (Messenger, Photo Gallery, Mail, Movie Maker, Writer, Family Safety, and Windows Live Mesh, Bing Bar, Messenger Companion, Microsoft Outlook Hotmail Connector, Microsoft Outlook Social Connector Provider for Windows Live Messenger, and Microsoft Silverlight).

So you know: you can right-click the update in the update installer list and select “hide update” to discontinue receiving notifications about the update.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sorting and Organizing the Netflix Queue

I am baffled by the fact that Netflix can’t get their sh*t together and make it easier to organize your queue.  Currently, every single freaking movie you drop into your instant watch simply goes on a numbered list, and there is NO WAY to organize them other than by numbers on the list.  It SUCKS having to scroll through 300+ movies to find the one you want to watch.

I understand why I have to deal with this on my Panasonic BluRay player (Panasonic needs to pull their heads from their collective asses and make the VieraCast Netflix interface more user-friendly –scrolling across one horizontal line of titles is a massive joke), but the fact that Netflix, the company in charge of everything, can’t get it right… well that’s just unacceptable.

Seriously?!  You figured out how to license and stream video/film media to the entire U.S. via the internet, but you can’t figure out how to let your users organize a g*dd*mn list?!

Here are some VERY EASY solutions that I can think of right off the top of my head.

  • FOLDERS!
  • Sort by genre, actor, director, etc.
  • At LEAST give us sort by star rating
  • Display the covers in a grid instead of a list (like when you are suggesting things to me… you’re already DOING THIS ELSEWHERE! Why not do it on my queue page so I can see more titles at once?)

Right now the best bet for sorting your queue is creating multiple profiles, but if you’re using a device this requires logging in to a different profile (read: pain in the a**) when you want to look at a different list.  You also can’t transfer selections across profiles, so you would need to log into the appropriate profile to add a movie to that profile.

Some people are using a GreaseMonkey script to be able to sort by title, genre, length, star rating, etc.  It’s so easy (for someone who knows code, not necessarily the average Netflix user), so why wouldn’t Netflix implement something like this?!

It also seems crazy that there are other websites organizing titles better than Netflix itself.  Try InstantWatcher.com for an example of what I’m talking about (no organizing your queue, but a great way to find things you’re looking for as well as suggestions and various groupings for instant watch titles).

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Logitech Revue: First “Full Internet” TV Box (not really)

People have been anticipating the release of the first major-brand box to use Google TV.  The “big thing” that Google is touting, the reason why they are “better than the rest” is access to the entire web (not just access to a few streaming or VOD sites).  The actual quote from the Google TV website is: "TV, apps, search, and the entire web ... together at last."

However, Google just confirmed today in a press release that Hulu will be blocked from their service, so “the entire web” really means “not the entire web.”

Google does claim to be in negotiation for use of Hulu with their service for Hulu Plus customers.  We’ll see how that goes.

Just thought you’d like to know.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Authoring BluRay in Adobe Encore CS4

For nearly a month I couldn’t create a BluRay in Adobe Encore CS4.  I tried all kinds of different export options for my media (H.264 vs. MPEG-2, different audio formats, different file sizes, different bit rates, VBR 2 pass vs. VBR single pass, etc.).  I tried changing the location of the files used in the project and the location to where the .iso was being written.  I tried shortening the name and removing spaces from all files involved.  I even sacrificed a live rooster under the full moon while chanting preset options.

None of it worked.

The answer to the problem is so simple it’s embarrassing… for Adobe.  If the thing that ABSOLUTELY prevents Encore from creating a disc/image is this simple to fix, why wouldn’t Adobe release a patch to fix it?

Here it is: the name of the disc, in other words, the name you give the disc in your project (not the .iso file, or the name of the project file, or the name of any of the other files involved), cannot be more than 15 letters, or the disc cannot be created.  You will get this error:

Blu-Ray error: “fatal error”, code: “6”, Note:”

I did come across this solution in my previous searches, but I didn’t understand that when people were referring to “disc name,” they didn’t mean the name of the file you were creating (the .iso image) or the name of the project.  Because it seemed like something as simple as the actual “name” couldn’t possibly have anything to do with an entire BluRay authoring session failing, I didn’t realize they meant the name you type in in this field:

DiscName

If you make sure that the name in the “name” field above (where it says “Disc Name”) is short, your BluRay will burn.

Really?  FIX THIS (or at least document it), Adobe.

 

For what it’s worth, these are the settings I use when exporting my media from Premiere via Adobe Media Encoder:

MPEG-2 BluRay, 1920x1080, 23.976, VBR 2 pass, bit rate min: 25 – target: 30 – max: 35, Dolby AC3 audio at 320Kbps, “maximum render quality” ticked.

When creating a new Adobe Encore project, I select NTSC, 1920x1080, 23.976 (but oddly the Encore timeline still always shows 30 frames… can’t figure this out).

If you alter the length of the audio or video on the timeline, you are apt to receive other error messages that will prevent the project from rendering.  I advise making sure the audio/video are exactly as you want them in your Encore project before exporting them from Premiere.  I also am a fan of setting the Encore Chapter markers in Premiere.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Encore CS4 Will Not Burn BluRay

[update at end of post or simply go to my solution post here]
Blu-Ray error: “fatal error”, code: “6”, Note:”
This statement is the current bane of my existence.  It pops up just as an Encore BluRay project enters the “initializing burn” phase.

I just want to burn a BluRay so we can submit our film to smaller festivals and project in HD (BluRay) instead of SD (DVD).  I made a couple of really expensive coasters before at least realizing I could change the settings to render a BluRay .iso (rather than burning directly to media) so I’m not trashing an expensive BluRay disc every time I attempt to create a disc.
Adobe, in typical fashion, simply states that Encore does not fully support Vista and Windows 7 (Really? --in the year 2010 you don’t support the most commonly used OS on the planet?).  To further the issue, I am running 64-bit, so Adobe supports that “even less” if that’s possible.

I have found little to no information on this subject, and what little I did find did not work to solve my problem.  Still, I will list the “solutions” I found in my searches.  Perhaps they will work for you.

And if you have more information or know of a solution, by all means post your suggestions in the comments!

Via Creative Cow:
Download and install msxml 6.0
It should fix the error.
People report this as a fix, but it didn’t work for me.
From the same Creative Cow thread:
What finally worked was changing the disc name and the filename/location. I changed the name of the disc from "Smith-Jones Wedding Unedited HD Footage" to "disc" and the filename from "unedited_footage.iso" to "disc.iso" set to build to the root c: and I was able to build a Blu-ray ISO image.
I can see how removing spaces or shortening names could possibly help the issue (though, pretty lame that software in this day and age can’t accommodate spaces and long file names), but it didn’t work for me.

There is some information in this thread stating that bit rate spikes will prevent a project from burning correctly, but the solution seems to be a bunch of other software (and adhering to some extremely specific settings) to create the video and audio files before importing into Encore for burning.

For a little humor on the issue, this was one of my favorite threads during the search for a solution.  It’s just a bunch of people bitching about how ABYSMAL Encore is, most concurring that Adobe should be taken out behind the barn and shot in the head.
Some people have suggested that the “code 6” error is related to oversized menus (menus being too large), but I tried different menus and even removed my menus altogether (so that the BluRay was just the movie file), but still I got the exact same error.

UPDATE: I have since been able to burn a BluRay.  I’m not sure which of the many things I tried finally got me there, but I will tell you that I used Adobe Media Encoder to create MPEG2 BluRay (which Encore prefers) built upon the MPEG2 BluRay preset.  My audio is .ac3 (Dolby), and I used VBR 2 pass (not 1).  For some reason, these settings actually burn infinitely faster (2 hours vs. up to 43 hours previously), so I’m not really sure what’s going on.  All I know is that I can author BluRays with Encore now, so I’m happy.
The runtime for our film is 102 minutes, and the film alone is taking around 24.6 GB of space (my VBR is set to minimum 25, target 30, maximum 35).  A single layer BluRay will only accommodate 25GB, so I can only author a disc for projection purposes (adding menus and extras would exceed the disc capacity).
UPDATE: I know understand the secrets to the Universe, or at least authoring a BluRay in Adobe Encroe CS4.  Check the post here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What You Get With Froyo

I was happy when my Droid Incredible updated to Android 2.2, but I didn’t realize how happy I was until today when Verizon sent an e-mail listing all the new features.

  • Improved Web browsing with pre-installed Adobe® Flash® Player 10.1 for Android.
  • Support for 720p video recording.
  • Transfer data faster with 801.11n Wi-Fi capabilities.
  • Easily switch between the eight most recent applications.
  • Enhanced browser performance for faster loading of
    JavaScript heavy pages.
  • With Android 2.2, you can rotate your screen 270 degrees --either to the left or to the right when moving from portrait to landscape mode to work with apps in more directions.
  • A new Mail Stream widget increases ease of use.
  • Text Message Widget.
    The new text message widget offers fast access to your messages from the home screen with a quick swipe. Scroll up and down through the list of all your text conversations in one screen. Keep the conversation going, faster.
  • Automatic app updates.
    Always have the latest versions of the applications you’ve
    downloaded with automatically updated Android Market™ apps.
    And you can choose to store applications in your device’s memory or on a storage card for more capacity.
  • Play Visual Voicemail messages through speakers when connected to Bluetooth® car kit.
  • Keep track of music with organized Music Player application.
  • Updated People application to accommodate contacts with
    Facebook accounts.
  • Access Corporate Directory information on Microsoft® Exchange.
  • Save new contacts with “Save to People” option for Visual Voicemail.
  • Call a number back immediately from text messages.
  • Improved CityID application.
  • Updated software changes provide improved security.
  • Improved battery life.
  • Manage Contacts more efficiently with updated contact details.
  • Instantly know the strength of your signal with improved
    signal display.
  • Connect to Visual Voicemail when Wi-Fi is enabled.
  • Easily move between Today view and Agenda view in the
    Calendar application.
  • Additional support for Backup Assistant PIN retrieval for
    new accounts.

So far I’ve been very happy.  The only negative I’ve experienced is that the number pad that pops up in-call (when trying to input passwords or interface with on-line menu systems) will not accept input.  This is a fairly substantial problem that I hope to remedy soon.  I can’t find anyone else experiencing this, so I’m wondering what the hell is up.

Best Free Android Power Management Widget - Toggle

The power management widget that comes as part of the HTC interface is great, but I’ve always been disappointed that it didn’t include the “airplane mode” toggle and even more importantly a ringer/vibrate/silence toggle.  It wasn’t enough of a nuisance that I was going to buy a different power management/toggle app, but it bugged me.

Today I went looking for a free app to improve this, and BK Mobility’s Power Widget is exactly what I’m looking for.  It’s the same size as the default system toggle app, but you can set it to include 7 (vs. 5) toggles.  You can also change the opacity and the active indicator color.  The application will be listed as “Free Power Widget” under your widgets menu, and allows you to change the various settings when you’re dropping it onto your home screen.

The brightness settings also allow for “auto” and then has a slider (vs. the lame “three levels” with the system power manager).

Toggles available are:

  • WiFi On/Off
  • Bluetooth On/Off (only Android 2.x)
  • Ringer Mode (Normal, Silent, Vibration)
  • Airplane Mode On/Off
  • USB Mount/Unmount
  • Lock Pattern Enable/Disable (only Android 1.x)
  • Brightness Slider
  • Brightness Toggle
  • Auto Sync On/Off (only Android 2.x)
  • Orientation
  • GPS
  • 2G/3G Link
  • Timeout
  • Stay Awake
  • Always On
  • Wifi Lock

Some people on the Android Market comments are bitching up a storm about the ad support, but it amounts to the app flashing “get the full version of Power Widget” for about two seconds in the tiny little icon bar at the very top of your screen (where the battery and network indicators are) when you click one of the toggles.

Who in the hell cares about that tiny little message if the app is free?!

Great widget.  Thanks BK Mobility.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Google Finally Makes Multiple-Account Sign-In a Reality

Today I was finally able to use Google’s “official” multiple accounts sign-in.

I have quite a few Google accounts, because I administer and use quite a few online entities (for music, for film, for personal, for business, etc.).

It’s extremely frustrating when Google tries to streamline my online user experience by associating everything, especially now that they’ve been snatching up various other online accounts (like YouTube) that have even more log-in identities.

For instance, when, I’m Dan Beahm, producer of the film Leading Ladies, I don’t want all my “Dan Beahm the musician” stuff getting sucked into that wormhole.  If I’m working with online YouTube content for the film, but checking my personal e-mail, I run into all kinds of problems (one account taking over the other, one account kicking me out, etc.) because I have separate log-ins for my Film-centric YouTube account and my totally personal e-mail account (which is associated with my personal YouTube account, not my musician YouTube account or my film YouTube account).  See how this can get very annoying and confusing very quickly?

Previously the best way to avoid this was to use multiple browsers (a pain in the ass) or a plug in called Cookie Pie (which always made me nervous and didn’t always work).

Supposedly Google has now stopped cock-blocking multiple-account functionality by allowing for multiple-account sign-in.  If this works, it’ll be a dream come true.  Hopefully it will allow me to be logged into one account without letting the world know that I’m also logged into another account (or accidently posting something under the wrong identity), because anonymity in certain situations (preserving the identity of the man behind the curtain) is an absolute necessity for using the service (it’s the whole point).

Simply go here and make the appropriate choices to use this functionality.

https://www.google.com/accounts/

I’ll keep you posted as to how it goes.

Friday, September 10, 2010

How to Sync Music, Video, Podcasts, and Playlists to Your Android Device (doubleTwist)

Last time I did a post on this topic, doubleTwist wasn’t available for the Droid Incredible.  Not only that, things were in beta, and the program was lacking in many, many ways.

Well, like a pack of Virginia Slims, these guys have come a loooooong way, baby (eesh --did I just write that?!).

The guys over at MarkSpace sent me a copy of Missing Sync for Android, and at first I thought they had the solution to things, but then I realized they were falling short by ignoring the fact that Android playlists HAVE TO be .m3u –which Missing Sync doesn’t convert or correct (not to mention the program was laggy and I couldn’t get the photo sync didn’t work at all).  Not to mention that The MissingSync does its thing over BlueTooth or WiFi, and while that may sound convenient… it takes FOREVER.

So after a couple of months I returned to the issue, and all online information seemed to be pointing to doubleTwist.

The doubleTwist player itself isn’t good enough to get me to stop using iTunes (I’ll still use iTunes, and then open up doubleTwist when I want to sync my device), but they seem pretty damn close to having things where they should be.  I can’t imagine that in the next couple of revisions they won’t have me abandoning iTunes altogether.

Everything else seems to be spot-on.  Things are so intuitive and self-explanatory, that I don’t think I really need to explain how to use the software.  Just plug in your device and go! 

NOTE: “Refresh playlists from iTunes” is not ticked by default, so don’t forget to open your doubleTwist preferences and mark the box so that the program refreshes your playlists.

VIDEO: I am actually astounded by how well this works.  It’s not that the concept is mind-blowing, it’s just that it actually works!  So many products have claimed the ability to do this, but none I have used have worked this well

I have a bunch of .avi files from recorded TV shows that won’t play on my Droid.  Rather than convert them all manually, I can simply add them to a playlist in doubleTwist and select that playlist to sync with my phone.  doubleTwist does all the work, and the files are converted during the sync!  The quality is great and the size is appropriate (an hour long television show sans commercials, so approximately 44 minutes, is around 320-330MB).

Positives:

  • Great handling of Music (which is astoundingly absent from the suite of tools available for Android)
  • Great handling of Podcasts (allows settings for number of episode to keep/sync)
  • Great handling of Video (auto-converts to device appropriate format!)
  • Great handling of Playlists (auto-converts playlists to Android-friendly .m3u’s!)
  • Great handling of Photos (bring photos in from device, or sync photos from computer to device)

Gripes:

  • It’s pretty slo-o-o-ow.  Even clicking on column headers to reorganize how your songs are displayed, there is some serious lag.

    Each time you open the program, doubleTwist re-imports your playlists content.  It takes forever.  I guess there’s no getting around this, as it needs to check your iTunes library and playlists each time (and I’ve got quite a bit of media), but perhaps there is some code to be written that will allow the software to look for changes instead of repopulating everything each time you open the program –actually, after checking things out I think this is what’s happening, but there’s got to be some more efficient code?
  • The only application linked to the photo section is Flickr.  Seriously?!  Does anyone REALLY use Flickr anymore?  Please update this with Picasa, guys.

Plugging in Android Device Launches Verizon Ad… EVERY TIME (fix)

I don’t know why more fuss hasn’t been made about the fact that Verizon has loaded up devices updated to Froyo with adware.  I was excited when my Droid Incredible updated to Froyo, but now every time I plug my device into my laptop, I’m asked if I want to install Verizon’s crappy media software, AND I’m taken to the Verizon VCast website, where a lengthy advertisement plays.

EVERY TIME I PLUG IN THE DEVICE.

The fix is also surprisingly hidden, but here is how you turn off the Verizon ad pop-up when you plug in your Android device (disable VCast launch):

  • Dial ##7764726
  • Hit Call
  • Type Password is 000000
  • Hit Feature Settings
  • Choose CD ROM
  • Click Disable
  • Hit menu, commit modifications (it will say no item changed)
  • Back out to home

For some reason, when I try the above, my keyboard won’t work and thus I cannot enter the password.  So, I tried the following method that another kind soul suggested:

What I found with this is that when the dialog to install the software is up if you check windows device manager you will see another cd drive.  if you right click that drive for the properties you can disable it so on future usb connections the software will not try to load.  This way you do not have to disable auto start for everything on the PC. –MrElk, Verizon Wireless Droid Community Forums

The above method definitely worked, but realize that you need to enter your Windows Device Manager WHILE the pop-up dialogue is open (once you dismiss the dialogue, the drive disappears from the Device Manager).  After restarting my computer, the phone still opens the windows “auto play” dialogue (which I want), but does NOT activate the VCast pop up or spawn a browser window with the VCast ad.

I also found this extremely interesting:

BTW: I contacted VZW through this site, about the pop-up and they said there was no way to disable it; that it would cease if I downloaded the software.  I gave that a shot even though I wasn't going to use it. Of course, after its downloaded, it starts up when you plug the phone in!!! –Jeff1953, Verizon Wireless Droid Community Forums

Isn’t it awesome that Verizon is LYING to their customers (as if the adware wasn’t heinous enough).

Thursday, September 9, 2010

This is the GOVERNOR of Arizona, Jan Brewer

Seriously?  Yes, seriously.

Why do we worry about these people who call themselves the “majority?”  Better yet, why do people vote for them?  Oh, yeah… money.

 

DIRECT QUOTE (after loooooong moment of silence):  “We have did what was right for Arizona.  I will tell you that I have really did the best that anyone could do.  We have pushed back hard against the Federal Government.  We have filed suit against Obama healthcare, th.. and, and we have passed Senate bill 1070 and we will continue to do what’s right for Arizona.  I ask for your vote.  Thank you.”

Excellent, you fought the only means a lot of Americans have to receive healthcare and you took the first steps toward full-fledged hate laws.  Boffo, Jan.  Just boffo.

OH.  I forgot to mention… this is the same GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL who claimed that illegal aliens were leaving decapitated bodies in the AZ desert.  No basis for these claims whatsoever.  MAKING UP SHIT TO SUPPORT HER DRACONIAN LAWS.

Yeesh.

Unfortunately her Democratic opponent is still being CRUSHED by her in the poles.  What does that say?

I wonder if there are any old, rich, white people in Arizona?

Jed Clampett Decides to Burn Quran

I really hate to give ANY time or attention to this fucking asshole, but I think it’s important to point out just HOW MUCH this guy looks like Jed Clampett from the Beverly Hillbillies.

Keep it up, Extreme “Right.”  Your feet already look like Swiss cheese; pretty soon you just won’t have any feet at all. (Yay!)

jed Pastor-Terry-Jones

 

I also think it’s funny that people are responding with spreading rumors that this guy is a pedophile (Terry Jones, not Jed Clampett).

Monday, August 30, 2010

Getting Rid of the “beep” in Viera Cast

The other day I was at Costco and saw that they had the Panasonic DMP-BD655 on sale for $130 ($30 off).  I normally buy my electronics online, but that was a decent price, and it meant I could have it now.

I don’t know that I’ll be watching BluRays anytime soon, but having Netflix on a dedicated box so I don’t have to hook my laptop up to my TV every night?  AWESOME.

I debated on getting a more expensive model with wireless built in, but I want the speed of a dedicated CAT6 cable anyway, so saving the extra hundred bucks or so to forego the wireless was the right choice for me.

First of all, let me say that the difference in quality between the browser version of Netflix and the Viera Cast (Panasonic’s interface for the online content) version of Netflix are night and day.  I’m watching shows in full HD (the indicator bars almost always go all the way to the right and light up the “HD” like that carnival game where you use the giant hammer to smash the lever that rings the bell way up in the air), and the content looks amazing.  Not to mention I can scan forward and reverse, even if it’s a choppy excuse for the feature, which you can’t do at all in the browser version.  The online community seems to be up-in-arms about not being able to edit their Netflix queue content in Viera Cast, but I don’t mind so much that I can’t add and remove titles.  However, it’s a MAJOR pain in the butt that the only way you can view and select from your instant queue titles is one-by-one (in a horizontal line).  Why in the hell can’t they at least put the titles in a grid so you can view multiple titles at once?  That’s just STUPID.  I’ve got like 70 movies in my instant queue.  Scrolling to number 55 one-by-one is not a viable solution.  You’d think Panasonic could figure out something this obvious.

Which brings me to the “ding” that happens every time you move the cursor in Viera Cast.  I searched for hours trying to figure out how to disable it (both online and in the BluRay player’s settings) before giving up and just using “mute” when navigating the content.  However, last night I stumbled upon the solution!

The settings specifically for Viera Cast (not the BluRay player itself) are hidden on the last page of the Viera Cast content grid; why there isn’t simply a dedicated “settings” button on every page I cannot fathom.  However, in the center of the Viera Cast interface are arrows that allow you to navigate to “deeper” screens (a total of three screens).  On the third screen, all by its lonesome, is the Holy Grail.  You can turn off the navigation audio chime, and as an added bonus you can rearrange the order of the content panels (so you can move Pandora to the first screen, and Twitter to the last –who in the hell Twitters on their TV?).

Excellent.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Facebook Functionality Complaint and Wishlist

There are SO MANY things that drive me crazy about Facebook, so many ways it falls short.  Some of the things I realize are very personal, but quite a few of them are no-brainers that should be FIXED.  This is my list.

  • It’s ASININE that you can’t CC someone on a Facebook message that’s been sent to you.  I.E.: I receive a message.  I respond, but I want to CC a friend.  Not possible.

    Are you freaking kidding me?!
  • It’s incredibly stupid that when you “like” a movie (or band, book, etc.), it’s added to your profile favorites.  SERIOUSLY?  Just because you like a movie, it’s automatically your FAVORITE movie?!

    As someone with a Facebook Movie Page, I point out that this is SERIOUSLY DETRIMENTAL to our “like” numbers, as people will “unlike” your movie because they don’t want it showing up in their profile “favorites.”  And I totally agree… just because you like my movie doesn’t mean it has to be your favorite.
  • You can’t convert a page.  A lot of people have created musician pages and other things of that ilk (movie pages, book pages, etc.), only to find out later that there was a better category (Facebook’s page creation page SUCKS).  If you’ve made a bunch of fans (now “likers”), you don’t want to simply start a new page and lose all those fans, so you’d need to convert your page to a new category.  Tough sh*t.  You can’t.
  • You can’t get help.  I realize FB is a free service with millions (probably billions) of users, but if you need something legitimate addressed… tough sh*t!  I had to file a copyright infringement form to get a human from FB to contact me, and even then the help was extremely limited.

There are a million more.  I’ll keep adding them over time.  Facebook has finally added a suggestion link, but I’m betting nobody really reads the suggestions.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Candiru Asu: a TERRIFYING Fish

candiru asu
This cat fish swam up a guy’s urine stream and lived inside him until it was surgically removed!  Animal Planet reports this infamous urban legend as confirmed.

Are you freaking kidding me?!

http://animal.discovery.com/fish/river-monsters/candiru-catfish/

I am definitely wearing a condom if I ever go swimming in the Amazon.

Windows “Restart Computer” Pop-Up Dialogue Sneak Attack

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING, frustrates me more with the Windows experience than the “take focus” aspect of a Windows Update “restart now” dialogue box.  I realize there are more than a few frustrating things about Windows, but this is the one that has consistently been the biggest pain in my ass for the past decade plus.

The scenario: you’re typing away at an e-mail or other document, you see a momentary flash on your screen (what the eff was that?!), and suddenly your entire system is shutting down because you hit “enter” while typing just as Windows popped up a “restart your computer now?” dialogue without your knowledge.

WHAT THE FUCK MICROSOFT?!  This is a HUGE problem with the way the Windows system dialogue works and has always worked (or NOT worked, as it were).  Do people not complain about this ALL THE FUCKING TIME?!

This would be such a simple fix… SO FIX IT.

There are a few “solutions” posted on the web that purport to fix this problem, but in my experience none of them work… at all.  If you know of something that actually does work, please post it in the comments!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Green Geeks are My Homies (best hosting service)

For a while I was on Bluehost.com until I realized how “set up for crazy mass production” they are… to a horrible detriment.  As a web designer with many accounts, many e-mail addresses, yadda, yadda, yadda, I seem to raise all kinds of automated red flags within the Bluehost system.  So much so that they actually gave me the boot, even though I NEVER DID ANYTHING WRONG!!!

None of my clients are shady or suspect, and I’ve always paid all my bills, etc., on time.

C’est la vie.  I’ve found greener pastures… literally.

Say hello to GreenGeeks.com.  I LOVE THESE GUYS.

ggs-logo[1]Click for Hosting
(full disclosure: I get a referral credit when you sign up, but I’m also telling you, “THIS IS WHO I USE FOR MY PERSONAL HOSTING SERVICES”)

Green Geeks is a smallish outfit based out of the Los Angeles area.  There prices and services are EVERY BIT as good as the “top tier” providers.  And best of all, when you call or e-mail support >get this< you talk to a person sitting in GLENDALE!  How crazy is that in this day and age?!  They also make a concerted effort to make “green” decisions, and have been stellar letting me (the client) know any time any adjustments or services are being performed on their servers.  It cracks me up when they let me know that they’ll be doing some sort of maintenance on a server that will take it out of service for 10 minutes at 3:45 in the morning on a Tuesday.  But I love the thoroughness of their communication!

ggs-logo[1]

So if you’re looking for the best hosting for your website, I highly recommend GreenGeeks.com!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Time Zones with Google Calendar and Synced Devices

I take a call in Denver from someone in LA who wants to set up an appointment (in LA) with me at 3pm.  I put it on my Google Calendar which syncs to my Android phone.  When I get to LA, Android/Google thinks they’re doing me a favor by “updating” all my appointments with my phone’s new time setting, so now my calendar is telling me the appointment is at 2pm (since I placed it on my calendar in Denver, where the time is off by an hour).

Why won’t Google fix this massive problem?!  Why did they set it up WRONG in the first place?  Everyone is complaining about it.  Who doesn’t travel these days?  Why would you ever enter an appointment time into your calendar for the WRONG time (to adjust for time zone shifts)?!  This issue is a result of Google “helping” us, when in fact it ONLY causes problems.

I can’t think of a time when this “shift all my appointments” could POSSIBLY be helpful.  If I place an appointment on my calendar, it’s for the time zone of where I’ll be for that appointment.  I’m not ever going to “accidentally” be in a different time zone.  I guess MAYBE this could be helpful for a phone appointment, but not so helpful that it’s worth screwing up the rest of my appointments as soon as I land in a different time zone (you SHOULD just be able to tick a box to select a time zone for an event if you want it to shift according to whatever time zone you’re in).  I also shouldn’t have to set up an appointment and think, “Hmmm.  Now what time zone will I be in compared to the one I’m currently in?  Now, adjust for the time zone, and I should actually enter the appointment into GCalendar at XX:XX time.”  Stupid.

There is a new “world clock” plug in that will display multiple time zones, but it does nothing to fix the issue of Google adjusting all your appointments when you enter a new time zone.

This seems like an INCREDIBLY easy issue to fix, so why the eff isn’t Google fixing it?!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Missing Sync for Android (a software review)

[see updates at the end of this post]

The nice people over at Markspace.com sent me a copy of The Missing Sync for evaluation.  I have to admit I wouldn’t have tried out the software at the fairly steep MSR of $39.95, and I think that sentiment is loudly reflected by the people on various message boards and the Android Market comment space.  However, after just a few moments using the program, I think it’s probably worth the cash… even if you’re only after it’s music syncing functionality.  The Missing Sync also has me constantly asking myself: “How have Google and HTC so thoroughly ignored the need for music syncing and a back up program for their devices?!”.

One of the first steps in the super-simple install process of setting up The Missing Sync states: “On your phone, follow the steps on the ‘Get Ready To Pair’ screen.”  However, they don’t tell you how to get to this screen.  It’s pretty simple (click your device’s “menu” button and select “pairing”), but it still might cause some people to stall, so I thought I’d make mention of the omission.

Music Sync: [kudos] [update: meh] For this to be a great function, the Missing Sync would need to convert your .xml or .asx playlists to .m3u (which is the only playlist Droid can use).  Currently, Missing Sync simply transfers your iTunes or WMP playlists to your device, where they are completely unreadable as they are in the wrong format.  So while Missing Sync does transfer your files, you won’t be able to see/read your playlists, only the songs.

Here is where The Missing Sync for Android shines.  Note that if you’ve got a big library it’ll take a couple of seconds for The Missing Sync to find and interpret all the information (this is of course to be expected).  Once The Missing Sync found all my files… I was in heaven.  It was a simple matter of selecting the playlists I wanted synced and that was it!  One of the creators of The Missing Sync let me know that he creates a smart list called “top 25 songs” so whenever he syncs his device it automatically updates his phone with whatever he’s been listening to the most.

Another cool thing is that in The Missing Sync, your playlists from all your media programs come up.  So my WMP lists appear with a WMP icon, and my iTunes lists are shown with an iTunes icon.  It’s very nice that I can sync playlists from both programs to my device (I no longer have to sync my WMP and iTunes libraries to each other).

At first I thought music could only be synced via USB, but you can also sync wirelessly.  Another nice feature.

Proximity Sync: [kudos] You can set up The Missing Sync to sync wirelessly at whatever intervals you might like (from never, 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours, every day).  Kind of nice to not have to plug in or even remember to sync.

Contact Sync: [fail]  Evidently you must have Outlook installed for this to work.  There is no mention of this in the “Syncing Contacts” section of their website (I don’t know if they just expect you to have Outlook, or if they’re glossing over the fact that their software won’t work without this awful Microsoft program).  This is especially weird because in the “Syncing Notes” section they make it perfectly clear that you need “Fliq Notes” (free) installed before the sync will work.  So obviously the need for Outlook is a major shortcoming.  I don’t want to install Outlook.  More importantly, I don’t want to PAY FOR a subpar e-mail/contact program.  Microsoft has enough of my money, and there are PLENTY of (superior) programs out there for e-mail and managing contacts.  Why in the hell would I want Outlook?  It seems odd that The Missing Sync couldn’t just sync to a .cvs file or something so you could back up your contacts without having to pay for Microsoft Outlook.  This isn’t really that big a deal, as my contacts are all synced to my Gmail account, but it is a giant “fail” for The Missing Sync.

Notes: [meh] You have to have Fliq Notes installed for this to work.  I probably won’t install another program just for notes.  Some people might use notes enough to warrant installing another third party app.  I don’t.

Folder Sync: [kudos] A very nice feature for syncing any selected file or folder to/from your PC/Device.  Simply select the folder and you’re golden.

Photos: [kudos/pending] [update: fail] At the time of writing this post, I cannot yet get photos to sync.  I assume I have something set up wrong, as my SMS and Call Logs won’t sync either (see “Gold Service” section below).  I’m going to go ahead and post about the features I can see in the Photo Sync panel anyway, assuming I’ll be able to get things working once I figure out why my device isn’t showing up with a couple of the services.

So…  I like that I can not only import from the device, but export to the device as well (so I can take pics from my computer with me to share with people).  There’s even a “resize to device’s longest edge” option to save on size.  And like with music, it’s as simple as selecting (ticking the box of) the album or photo I want to transfer.  There are options for “import all items, including previously imported items” and “remove items from device after importing.”  It is however incredibly annoying that the window where you can select which photos to sync is only four folders high and there is NO WAY to resize the window.  Sorting through THOUSANDS of photos when you can only see four is way beyond ridiculous.

Videos: [pending] I haven’t checked out this feature yet, but evidently you can set this up to simply sync a file to your device, or use the program to actually convert files to device friendly format.

Install: [kudos] This is a feature that allows you to set up associations between file extensions and directories.  For example, you can set “doc” files to always be installed in your My Documents directory. I’m not sure how this will affect installs of programs with ReadMe files, etc.

Ringtones: [kudos] There’s a nice little Ringtone Creator incorporated into The Missing Sync that allows you to chop up songs for ringtones.  I wish this extended to device notification sounds (not just ringtones), but I think this may be a shortcoming of the device/OS, not The Missing Sync, as I can’t seem to easily change the device notification sounds even from within my Droid.

Gold Service Option: [pending] MarkSpace’s “gold” customer service came with my install of The Missing Sync.  Since I couldn’t figure out how to get my Phone Log, SMS Messages, and Photos to sync (The Missing Sync kept telling me a device had not yet been synced with the program even though I was successfully syncing music?), I used the opportunity to contact the peeps at customer service.  Supposedly they’ll respond in four hours or less.  It is currently 1:21pm Mountain Time on a Wednesday.  This “gold” service also comes with a pin number for instant online chat.  I’m gonna wait a bit to check that out though.

The one thing that every backup/sync program should do, and The Missing Sync doesn’t, is provide a button that will back up my entire device (for simple restoration in the event of complete device failure).  On this front, The Missing Sync fails (no “one click back up all” option).

[update 5/27/10] No response yesterday.  I did receive a response this morning requesting that I send in my error log.  I did so at 10:53am and have not heard anything back.  It’s 6:29pm.

[update 5/28/10] I got a response this morning that was basically “try again with your virus protection off.”  I did so, and SMS and Call Logs are now being backed up.  However, only numbers are listed, not names.  A long list of 10 digit numbers is pretty useless to me.  Unless the back up can figure out someway to pull in my contact name/number associations, SMS and Call Log back up is going to be a “fail.”  Also, Photo backup and/or sync is not functioning, so unless I get a fix from tech support, photo sync will also be a “fail.”

[update 5/29/10] Still no response regarding the fact that photos won’t back up or sync, and that SMS and Call Logs won’t display names (only numbers).  To be fair, it is Saturday, but I expected a response to the issue yesterday and did not receive one.

[update 8/10/10] After the holiday weekend the folks at MissingSync got back to me and were actually quite excellent with their communication.  However, in the end I’m still pretty disappointed with the Missing Sync.  There is no “total device backup,” you can’t sync via USB (only WiFi or Bluetooth, which is much too slow when syncing your entire music library), the photo sync does not work (in either direction), and the music sync would need to convert playlists to the correct Android playlist format (.m3u) for the software to be truly useful.  The people at Missing Sync turned out to be great, but the software falls short, especially for the price.

In my opinion, the best option right now for syncing music and other media is called doubleTwistSee my review here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Syncing Music and Playlists with Android 2.1

9-9-10 update: doubleTwist is the current king.  See end of this post for more info.

The bad news is that my new Droid Incredible doesn’t read .xml or .asx playlists, only .m3u.  So while it’s relatively easily to sync music to the device (Windows Media Player does it natively, iTunes requires a little program called iTunes Agent), getting playlists to sync is a bit trickier.

You can get Windows Media Player to save playlists as .m3u, but it really wants to save as .asx or .wpl, so it’s a pretty serious pain in the butt (you have to actually “save as” the playlist, and then you have the original .wpl AND the new .m3u in your library, and making sure you then delete the right one is a pain, blah, blah, blah…). [update: Unfortunately when Windows Media Player syncs with your device, it saves the playlist on your device as an .asx, so it’s no good for Android devices.  I found this out after a LOT of messing around with exporting my iTunes playlists to WMP via MusicBridge and then saving each .wpl list as an .m3u and then deleting the previous .wpl… only to have the files converted to (unusable) .asx files once WMP synced with my Droid.  There doesn’t seem to be any way around this.  Even changing the .asx playlist to an .m3u playlist on your device doesn’t matter –it will be re-created as an .asx file on your next WMP sync (the .m3u list on the device won’t be updated –a new .asx is created).  Annoying to say the least.]

There is a program called The Missing Sync that is just what it says, the missing sync software that SHOULD come with your Android device (what the hell Android/HTC?).  It supposedly syncs texts, contacts, photos, video, music, playlists, ringtones, call history, etc.  However, I’m not willing to drop $39.95 to try it out, especially when the Incredible isn’t specifically listed as a supported device on their website (the Moto Droid is the newest device listed). [update: The Incredible is supported, and my review of The Missing Sync is here.]

I used iTunes Agent for a couple of minutes, but then realized it will only sync music (not playlists).  iTunes Agent is a little program that sits in your tray constantly monitoring for iTunes.  It places a folder for your device in the iTunes playlists, and when you hook up your device it syncs all songs in that folder to your device.  However, like I said, there is NO support for playlists.  The author has been promising playlist support in version 2.0 for some years now, but considering how long he’s been promising this, I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

THIS IS THE ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION:  There is another program called iTunes Export by Eric Daugherty that does the trick for me.  Simply install the program and use the GUI version (unless you’re really into command lines) and then select your library location, select the playlist(s) you want to sync, set your output directory to the music directory on your device (SD card or phone memory), select “include UTF-8 BOM” (or it won’t work), select “copy iTunes Structure” (so files sync into folders that are identical to your music library, the “author – album” structure), and you’re golden!  Just remember to run iTunes Export after you’ve made any changes to your iTunes playlists.  It’s a bit of a pain having to run a separate program to get your playlists to sync after any changes you make in iTunes, but this is the best workaround I’ve found.

doubleTwist is another program getting some attention, but it’s Moto Droid support is only in Beta, and there doesn’t seem to be Incredible support yet (they do support the Palm Pre though, for those of you looking for the elusive link between iTunes and the Pre).

9-9-10 update: doubleTwist is the current king.  With recent updates, you simply install the desktop app, click “iTunes” to import playlists, and off you go!!!  It will also convert an video to the proper format for your phone.  Just drag any video file into the app and it’ll convert for you.   I’ll likely do a review soon.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Why You Should Buy Your Phone from Best Buy and Not the Verizon Store (wow that was hard to type)

Yes.  I said it.  Not only am I suggesting that you go inside a Best Buy (shivers up my spine), but I’m suggesting you should buy something there too.  If you’d have told me a month ago that I’d be suggesting anyone shop at Best Buy, I’d have slapped you squarely in the face.

But last week I got the itch to purchase the new Droid Incredible, and so my story begins…

Last Sunday I decided I was going to go to the local Verizon store and compare the Moto Droid and the Droid Incredible.  I wasn’t going to buy, mind you, I just wanted to compare.  I was sure I wanted a dedicated keyboard, but the 1GHz Snapdragon processor and 8MP camera had me questioning myself, so I thought I’d do a hands on.  After about 15 minutes of playing with both phones, the HTC won, no questions asked, and I had to have it RIGHT NOW.  While I did like the keyboard on the Moto Droid, the virtual keyboard on the Incredible worked so well that my fears of no dedicated keyboard were dissuaded, and the superior processor and camera (among quite a few other things including size, form-factor, screen, responsiveness, superior multi-touch functionality, etc.) made the Incredible a no brainer.

So I went to the “sign in” kiosk in order to be put on the wait list so that eventually someone would let me buy the phone.  After about 20 minutes, my name finally came up, and someone asked if they could help me.  “I literally just want to hand you my credit card and have you hand me a box with a phone in it,” (for this I waited twenty minutes?!).  “Alright, let’s get you rung up!”

I went to the counter where they asked for my phone number.  The cost for the phone was listed as $199 after a $100 rebate, which meant I would need to pay $299 and then wait 6-8 weeks for them to send me $100 back.  Stupid, but OK, whatever.

When they pulled up my information, they told me that I was not eligible for the two year price, because my previous two years was not up until September.  “That’s fine, just go ahead and renew my plan for two years; it’s all good,” I said.  “No,” said the customer service person, “that’s not how it works.  The two year contract is for the phone, not the plan.  The price of the phone for you is $569.”

Kwaaaaaaa?  First of all, I could buy a full-size computer and peripherals for less than $569.  Second of all, the contract is for the phone (not the plan)?!  This was news to me.  I was always under the impression that the contract was for the plan.  I mean, if I ended the plan, I would still own the phone, but they would charge me an early termination fee?  How in the world does that make sense? Surely a lawyer could make quick work of such a situation.  Ending your relationship with the provider does not make the phone disappear.  You still own it!  So if the two year contract is on the phone, unless I make the phone disappear, I can’t be violating my two-year contract to own the phone.  Stupid.

I asked why they kept sending me e-mails letting me know I was eligible for an early upgrade if this was not the case.

They let me know I could pay an extra $20 to upgrade now (ummm, why didn’t they just say that in the first place?).

“Fine.”

“OK, just give us your credit card and the phone should arrive in about a week.”

“What?  I’m not walking out of here with a phone?!”

“Sorry.  No.  None of the Verizon stores in Colorado have any Incredibles in stock.”

“Are you freaking kidding me?  If I’d have known that I would have just purchased online in the first place to avoid tax.  Unbelievable.”

I walked out.  After falling in love with the phone, I was really looking forward to getting the phone that day, as I was about to get on a plane and really wanted to switch up before my trip.

The ugly yellow sign beckoned from across the parking lot.

I had $100 in Best Buy gift certificates that my uncle had given me for Xmas.  “Fine,” I shuddered to myself.  “I’ll just see if they have it in stock.”

“Let me check,” said the Best Buy employee. “We have one left.”

My heart skipped a beat.  “Sweet!  I’ll take it!”

I’ll paraphrase the next twenty minutes: the employee was actually incredibly knowledgeable about plans and prices.  When facing the “two year” issue, he said, “Oh, it looks like the other phone on your plan is ready for upgrade, so we can just use that upgrade credit to get you your phone; then in September you can use your two year credit to upgrade that phone if you want.”  Why in the HELL didn’t the Verizon people suggest this?  On top of that, the Best Buy price was $199.  Period.  No waiting 6-8 weeks for some stupid rebate to arrive in the mail.  On top of that, Best Buy offers insurance that you can either pay $9.99 a month for (like you would through Verizon), or you can simply pay $170 up front (a considerable savings that Verizon does not offer).  If anything goes wrong with the phone in two years, you get a new one.  Period.  They even give you a loaner while you wait for them to sort it out with repairing your phone or getting you a new phone (if your model isn’t available any more or isn’t in stock).

So to recap: Verizon store, horrible.  Best Buy mobile phone center, kick ass!

I still wouldn’t suggest you buy ANYTHING ELSE at Best Buy, but if you’re looking for a new mobile, it seems to be the best way to go!