What's next when your PVR gives up the ghost?
By Adam TURNER
When the smoke comes out of my Aussie TiVo, I'll need a shortlist of replacements.
Not all Personal Video Recorders are created equal. In Australia, many PVRs are hampered by the fact that they rely on the Electronic Program Guide embedded in the broadcast signal. The networks have proven time and again that they can't be trusted to provide accurate EPG data. If you want something more reliable you need to look to a PVR with access to a custom TV guide downloaded from the internet.
A flashback to happier times for TiVo owners.
In Australia that leaves you with a handful of options such as a TiVo, Fetch TV, Telstra T-Box or Foxtel iQ2. Alternatively you might consider a media centre PC or one of the off-the-shelf recorders which are compatible with IceTV – such as a Humax, Topfield, Beyonwiz or Strong.
Of course TiVo is dead and buried in Australia, even though its backers refuse to admit that they've closed up shop. The fact is that you won't find TiVos in the stores anymore and the head office refuses to answer the phone. When your TiVo gives up the ghost, they're not going to sell you another one.
While it got a rough time from some tech journos, the TiVo is actually a pretty slick PVR. If you've become accustomed to your TiVo, finding a replacement which satisfies your household won't be easy. In terms of advanced recording features and tight EPG access I'd say Fetch TV and Foxtel's iQ2 are your best options (with the iQ3 scheduled for this year).
Unfortunately both of these PVRs require a monthly subscription, but that seems to be the price you have to pay in Australia if you want a PVR you can trust to record your favourite shows every week from start to end. I'm not convinced a Foxtel subscription is worth the money in my home, so I'm leaning towards Fetch TV.
If neither of these options grab your fancy the IceTV-compatible Humax 7510T is the one to watch, although I'm also holding out to see IceTV's own PVR which is hopefully coming in the next few months. There's always a schism between onboard and remote scheduling features on IceTV devices, but their own PVR should deal with this.
Which PVR holds pride of place in your lounge room? What else have you got your eye on?
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C30, C60, C90, Go
By Stephen WITHERS
While writing last week's post about iTunes Radio it occurred to me how easy it would be to record the tracks, so I wasn't surprised to see the arrival of a commercial product - doubleTwist AirPlay Recorder - to do just that.
While that $US9.99 utility is specific to iTunes Radio, a lot of people don't realise there's a general method of capturing the Mac's audio output using two pieces of free software. Soundflower lets you route audio between programs, and Audacity lets you record and edit audio.
So whether you want to relive your (or perhaps your parents' or even grandparents'!) youthful habit of recording music from the radio or TV onto a cassette player as documented by Bow Wow Wow - assuming that's permissible in your jurisdiction - or to record a Skype call, there's a free and reasonably easy way of doing it. (The Skype tutorial I've linked to uses QuickTime Player as the recording program, but the principles are the same - I prefer to use Audacity as there's almost always some editing to do).
In a nutshell, what you need to do is this:
After installing Soundflower, hold down the Option key, click what's usually the volume control at the right side of the menu bar, and set the output device to "Soundflower (2ch).
Run Audacity and set its input device to "Soundflower (2ch)".
Then all the sound that would normally emerge from the speakers goes to Audacity where it can be recorded, edited and then exported to various formats depending on what other software is installed (hint: Audacity cannot save MP3 files by itself - it needs help).
There are a few other wrinkles such as avoiding alert sounds and so on from other applications, but you'll get some useful info from web resources such as Tutorial - Recording Computer Playback on Mac, which is part of the Audacity documentation.
There are other programs for diverting Mac audio and for making sound recordings, but the Soundflower/Audacity combo has the advantages of being free, flexible and fairly well supported by the user community - so if you do run into difficulties, there will probably be someone around that can help if you ask nicely and in the appropriate part of the forums.
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Technology is wonderful. But ... there is no substitute for common sense.
By David HAGUE
Technology is wonderful. I have been writing about it and saying that since around 1979. From computers to cameras to video and all manner of gadgets in between, I think I have reviewed them all at some point in time.
One of the biggest benefits of technology has been the humble motor car. I remember fondly my Torana SS LX with a 4 speed manual and 253 V8 engine; it went like a stabbed rat and I had many enjoyable moments ripping up the bitumen at Wanneroo Park Raceway (now Barbagello) in WA.
But if I put it and my current drive, a 5.7 litre, 6 speed V8 Holden Monaro, side by side, they are chalk and cheese. Look under the bonnet and there is even more difference.
But under the externals, the biggest changes are in the ‘brains’ of the car – the computers that control every facet of its performance, handling and safety.
But despite all these wondrous gizmos that stop the car losing traction, airbags that inflate in microseconds, self-tensioning seat belts and lots more, there is no substitute for plain old common sense and that hackneyed phrase, ‘driving to the conditions’.
What has brought this on, you ask?
Over the past weekend, I had occasion to drive from here in northern central Victoria to Sydney. As a bit of a holiday, I diverted via Batemans Bay and Sussex Inlet, to both go fishing and see some old friends. (In truth these were the prime reasons, and the Sydney part to see companies such as Panasonic, Canon and Sony ‘justified’ the trip business wise).
The weather when I left on Saturday morning was diabolical. After weeks of temperatures over 35 degrees, the lower temperatures and rain were welcome on the surface. By the time I had hit the Hume Highway just south of Albury-Wondonga, though, it was atrocious with lashing rain, fog and road conditions, that after so long without rain, were treacherous due to leached oil and other fluids.
Indeed, just south of Gundagai, after many times of the anti skid and anti lock devices kicking in due to surface water and slippery roads, my car aqua-planed for I reckon 30 metres plus, which was downright scary. This was despite four brand new performance tyres and driving at 15 Kms / hour below the limit of the freeway. Many times I thanked the folk at Ian Luff’s Advanced Driving School for the many courses I have done to train for these very circumstances.
Despite the conditions however, I can’t count the number of cars and trucks that zipped past me at over the speed limit in times of driving rain and extremely low visibility.
The stupidity of this later manifested itself in the ugliest of forms, when on the road from Quenbeyan to Braidwood and on to Batemans Bay, I came across two fatal crashes – I refuse to the word ‘accident’ - within minutes of each other, both obviously caused by losing control and probably excessive speed for the conditions.
On arriving at Batemans Bay, I found out there had been a third fatal just out of town as well.
Yes I know this blog is designed to primarily talk about ‘production’ of video and audio, but I feel strongly enough about this subject to digress on occasion and I hope you’ll forgive me.
After all, I want you to be around to read my norm al missives, and I want to be able to see the video magic you may weave in the future.
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Long live the sysadmin!
By Ian GRAYSON
While there's been a lot of recent focus on job losses in the Australian car industry, it's not the only sector experiencing rapid and fundamental change.
Everywhere you look the combination of market forces and new technology is causing jobs once thought to be safe for life to disappear.
A classic example is in the data centre. In a place where large teams of system administrators once roamed, now the server isles are strangely deserted.
The change is automation. Where once a typical sysadmin might have been responsible for managing a fleet of, say, 30 servers, this number is now climbing into the thousands.
The result is fewer people doing much more work.
But it's not necessarily all bad. Freed from the day-to-day tedium of keeping the lights flashing, skilled sysadmins can be redeployed to other more 'value-add' activities.
These could include anything from deploying new mobile apps to exploring how an organisation can harness the evolving area of big data.
So, while the doors of some jobs swing shut, many others are only just starting to open.
Far from looking bleak, the future for sysadmins is exciting.
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iTunes Radio - can you surrender control of your playlists?
By Adam TURNER
Can you let go of the reins and let someone else choose the music?
As a freelancer who works from home, I listen to music all day and I've got complete control over the playlist. I don't listen to the radio, not because I hate variety but just because the hourly slab of ads is annoying and distracting. Instead I tend to listen to albums, from my own library or streamed from Rdio.
iTunes Radio is a great way to revisit the classics, but you have to take the good with the bad.
I'm a creature of habit and I know it would probably be good to broaden my listening habits, but every time I hand over control of my playlist I give up in frustration. iTunes Radio is no exception. I've spent the last few days tweaking several stations, as I explained to Alex in this week's Vertical Hold, but I still can't find a happy balance.
Whether it's a station based on an artist, song or genre, iTunes Radio just keeps throwing in too many odd choices – like Pearl Jam in a mix focused on BB King and The Rolling Stones. It's not that I don't like Pearl Jam, it's just that the band clearly doesn't belong on this station. I've been fine-tuning my stations, but it's still hit and miss.
iTunes Radio can still pull out great artists which I haven't heard for ages, such as George Thorogood & The Destroyers, but when it does find a great track the first thing I think is "I really should add this album to my Rdio collection and listen to it now". At least this will broaden my listening habits when I go back to listening to albums from start to end.
The whole idea of content on demand is that I can enjoy exactly what I want, when I want, rather than let someone else dictate the content. I'm having trouble letting go of that, although it would be easier if iTunes Radio's choices were less hit and miss. I find I can listen to a custom Pandora station much longer than I can tolerate a custom iTunes Radio station.
Who dictates your playlists? Can you hand over control?
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