My Favourite Social Network
By Anthony CARUANA
While I'm not the most prolific Twitterer or Facebook user I know, I do use those tools most days. However, in reflecting on my own online networking I've made a discovery of the bleeding obvious. My primary social networking tool is email.
I'm a member of several email-based communities. One is iMug, a local Mac user group. Another is a group of Australian IT journalists (all my Hydrapinion comrades are in that one) and there are couple of others that quite narrow in their focus.
What makes these different from Facebook, Twitter and most of the others is that they have closed membership, they are focussed and they are siloed from each other. That means the conversations are manageable for my attention span and I don't need to visit a website or use some sort of extra software as email is the one thing that's practically never switched off.
As I've said before, while some of the tools we have are new, the idea of social networks isn't. Most sociologists will point to how social networks have been around pretty much for as long as people have shared information.
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Hard disk, tape or SDD?
By David HAGUE
As many may know, via my publication AusCam (Australasian Camcorder magazine), I, along with others, write about video cameras, associated technologies, disciplines, techniques and ideas. But just as the reviewers of cars get their steeds for a few days or so, it is hard to write about real life usage, as generally we just don't get the time to have a decent long term play with our toys.
So just as a car reviewer may say the latest from Holden is “well appointed”, when you get a flat tyre 200Kms from anywhere on the Nullarbor and find the spare is only good for 100Km at 50kph (or whatever), then your value may vary.
Similarly, the idea of certain technologies in camcorders may seem good on the surface, but in real world use are, as I have found, a right, royal PITA.
I have had a hard disk based video camera hanging around for over a year or so now, and I use it when candid shots of family moments worth keeping occur. Consequently, lots of stuff is on the hard disk in 30 second or so clips. Dozens of them. Probably hundreds.
The other day, I decided to go through these clips, pull off to storage (a 1TB external drive) what I wanted to keep and trash the rest. I could have used the tools built into the camera to weed out the unneeded, but decided that pulling off all the clips in Sony Vegas might be more effective.
How wrong could I be.
The reality is this from my experience; hard drive camcorders are fabulous for recording on-the-fly. Fast to start up, easy to record but unless you are disciplined at editing immediately what you do and don't want, that build-up of clips over a longer period of time can be a nightmare.
I had 80+ clips totalling just over an hour, and as they are AVCHD based, need either a) lots of computer grunt to look at in one lump – that is, import them all in one go to an editing program such as Vegas and dice, chop and delete as you wish – or b) load one by one, trashing and cutting as you go.
This is why I stick to tape for serious stuff. At least I can load a tape in an hour, it is there and I can deal with it in my own time on a reasonably powered ‘pooter. 84 * 30 second odd clips off hard drive actually took more than 4 hours to deal with before I decided that it was actually easier to deal with them in-camera.
I think that ‘pooter hard drive is still thrashing away two days later.
I always knew it, but real life experience, as against test bench stuff, means that AVCHD is HIGHLY disk intensive. Not saying don't do it, just be aware.
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Swine flu hysteria meets Web 2.0
By Ian GRAYSON
As the focus of world fear moves from finances to flu, it’s interesting to observe the important role being carried out by Web 2.0.
Office water cooler chat around the globe is presently occupied by Swine Flu: what caused it, how to avoid it, and what happens if you get it. But unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation being distributed along with the known facts.
How are you supposed to get an accurate handle on how this nasty virus might affect your workplace and your life? Just how likely you are to contract it?
Enter Web 2.0. This often overhyped but extremely powerful global tool is coming into its own as the virus spreads around the world. Thanks to techniques such as mash-ups and wikis, it’s possible to get a clear picture of exactly what’s going on.
A great example is a site that plots each reported case of infection on a Google map. Created as a joint effort by data analysis and presentation company Rhiza Labs and disease tracking service Flutracker, the site gives an almost real time view of just how bad things are getting.
Meanwhile, over at Wikipedia, there is a regularly updated page which gives accurate and considered information about the problem. It’s well worth a look.
Of couse, not everything in the Web 2.0 world is as useful as everything else. The popular Twitter micro-blogging service is also being used to spread views and information about Swine Flu.
So if you want the mostly inane but occasionally interesting views of Twitterers, you can search the service for posts on the topic.
Before engaging in that next water cooler discussion, spend a while on the web and get the full picture. Your colleagues will thank you.
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TiVo and Blockbuster - first movie download is a dud
By Adam TURNER
The TiVo's new Blockbuster Video on Demand service looks quite impressive, right up until the point where it won't play the movie.
I sat down on the couch last night and foolishly asked the Lady of the House if she wanted to watch a movie on TiVo's new video download service. After many years of reviewing new products and services, I should have known better than to make such a bold promise. Predictably, disaster ensued.
First I went through the relatively painless process of creating a Blockbuster online account and linking it to my TiVo online account. Well it would have been painless if I didn't have to spend 40 minutes looking for my TiVo login and password. I'll take the blame for that one, filing away paperwork was never my strong point. My only concern was that the Blockbuster credit card page claims it uses "a secure server using the latest 128-bit SSL", but the page uses HTTP rather than HTTPS. This doesn't fill me with confidence.
Browsing the download service on the TiVo is easy enough, with the movies split into helpful categories and genres. The service charges $5.95 for new releases (there are 21 to choose from at the moment), $3.95 for older movies (there are about 100 of these) and a few free ones thrown in. There are also free movie trailers. Movies are 1 to 2 GB MPEG-4 files, which TiVo claims are "DVD quality with 5.1 surround sound". You get to set a 5 digit PIN to punch in before you can hire a movie, which is handy for keeping the kids under control.
A nice touch is that you can start the download immediately or set it to begin at 2am (handy if your ISP offers extra off-peak data). If you're an Internode customer (like me), all TiVo downloads are unmetered. Internode even started selling TiVos and the 1TB external drives this week. They want $699 plus $10 delivery, but you can get TiVos in stores for $649 these days.
It's a worry that the TiVo website and player offer conflicting advice as to how long you can keep a recording. According to the website; "Movies, once downloaded, will remain on your TiVo for up to 30 days, but once you've started watching one, it will expire in 48 hours. When you purchase a movie from the Blockbuster Movies on Demand service, no charges will be made until the movie is fully downloaded to your TiVo". The player's interface told me I had 7 to 14 days, depending on the space on my hard drive.
I'm always up for a laugh so I decided to watch Tropic Thunder. When I started the download, it said I could start watching within 5 to 60 minutes, depending on my download speeds. I'm getting 3 to 4 Mbps these days (I'm a long way from the exchange), but after a ten minutes it said I'd downloaded ten minutes worth so I hit play. The picture quality on my 46 inch Bravia was surprisingly good, perhaps a shade under DVD quality but still very watchable. At least it was for two minutes, when the picture froze.
The green progress bar said I had more to watch, but it didn't want to play. I restarted playback a few times, but it always stopped in the same place. I managed to fast forward, but it was another three minutes before there was any more video and then it froze again. After half an hour I had 34 minutes downloaded but the same problems, so I fired off an email to the support service and then went to bed. This morning I've got the rest of the movie, however the first 10 minutes are still unwatchable. Of course the download is complete so they've charged me $5.95. TiVo's FAQ tells you what to do if Blockbuster screws up your billing, but there's no mention of what to do if a download is borked.
There was no response to my email by 11am this morning so I rang the support number, which is open 10am to 10pm (at least acknowledging that people are most likely to experience problems outside business hours). The guy who answered the phone was very helpful, but he said they'd had "a whole lot of emails - they're all pretty much the same thing". He said most of the problems have been with previews, much is understandable because I guess most people would test out the service with a free preview before attempting to hire a movie. The support people are looking into it and wil call me back. I'm sure I'll get my $5.95 refunded, but I wouldn't be happy if I was on a low monthly download cap and had just blown 1.5GB.
[UPDATE: Just got a call back, I'm told the that Tropic Thunder is the only faulty movie, but that there's still a lot of trouble with the trailers. I am getting my money back and they'll email me when the movie is fixed. I've tried a few trailers this morning and not had much luck getting them to play right through.]
It's a less than auspicious start for TiVo and Blockbuster. Many services get the opening night jitters, although TiVo has been offering a limited Blockbuster service for months so you think they'd have it right by now. Apple's Australian movie download service was worse when it started. I had one movie get stuck on a download loop and chew through 10GB overnight, plus another movie which came down with no sound. Apple seems to have ironed out these problems since and I'm sure TiVo and Blockbuster will do the same. Still, it's not a great first impression.
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Mac OS X 10.5.7 nearing release
By Stephen WITHERS
Remember when you were a little kid and couldn't wait for Santa or the Easter Bunny to arrive? "Is it tomorrow, Mum, is it tomorrow?"
It seems that a portion of the Mac community is feeling that way about Mac OS X 10.5.7. Most of those afflicted with cantwaititis are presumably also affected by some of the 100+ bugs in 10.5.6 that the update will apparently cure. After all, it's only an update so there won't be any exciting new features.
AppleInsider has been tipping an imminent release for several weeks, but now seems convinced that the development work has been completed and 10.5.7 should finally make it into the public gaze this week.
I'm writing this about 12 hours before publication, so there's a possibility that Apple has already released the update.
As usual, it'll be possible to divide the Mac community into three groups: those who rush in as soon as the update appears; those who hold off to let others act as guinea pigs just in case there's a problem that hasn't shown up in testing; and those that don't realise they need to do anything.
I'm planning to be in the middle group this time round. I won't put it off for weeks (especially if there are any security fixes in the update), but I will wait a day or two in order to give the brave pathfinders time to report back. I presently don't have time to fiddle around with an uncooperative computer if there is a systematic problem.
What's your plan?
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