From black & white to Blu-ray we have come a long way. So why aren't Microsoft tagging along?
By David HAGUE
Over the weekend, I had the joy of seeing video from both ends of the scale. A friend of mine has an elderly father who enjoys watching old war documentaries that he has on VHS and she had asked me to transfer a half dozen of them to DVD.
There are many solutions to this, but my option was to transfer to miniDV in my old but efficient Sony TRV 10E and then capturing those via Firewire into Sony Vegas. A bit of chop chop and all well and good. A render to DVD was around 2 hours per 1 hour of footage.
Next was taking some of my old footage of my European travels a few years back (shot on tape on my Canon XHA1) and transferring this to Blu-ray disc.
Finally was watching a Blu-ray video of “Paul” from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. It’s a great and funny homage to lots of science fiction and other fillums (“My name is Agent Zoyle, but you can call me Lorenzo. Lorenzo Zoyle!”)
Without question, on a big screen TV (a Sony Bravia 52”) being driven by a Sony Blu-ray player, the image and audio is fantastic.
I now consider that Blu-ray is indeed the future, as much as there is one in this nutty industry. The big question is why on earth Microsoft won’t join it? That would make Windows Media Center the complete package and obliterate any opposition.
Can anyone at Microsoft get back to us?
|| 1 feedback »||Permalink|
Google wants to look inside your business
By Ian GRAYSON
It sparked controversy when it first sent Streetview cars down city streets, but now Google wants to send its cameras inside where you work.
The company has launched a service called Business Photos which gives businesses the option of having the inside of their premises photographed. The photos will be added to the Google Maps service, allowing web searchers to see not only the outside of a business but also what it has to offer behind its doors.
The service is being offered in selected cities around the world. In Australia, businesses in Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Darwin can apply for the special treatment.
Google has established relationships with professional photographers in each of the cities. A business can apply for inclusion and, if selected by Google, be visited by the photographer who will take the necessary images.
While any business can apply, Google says it is most interested in capturing the types of businesses that people are likely to be searching for. These include things like restaurants, hotels, shops, and gyms. If you're an accounting practice or a conveyancing firm, you're probably a little further down the list.
The move is an interesting one and will add yet another layer of data to Google's impressive mapping service.
Will you be offering your business up for a Google photo shoot?
|| Send feedback »||Permalink|
Quickflix all-you-can eat movies - the final frontier?
By Adam TURNER
Will the Quickflix movie deal open the flood gates on Australian subscription services?
I’ve long felt that all-you-can-eat subscription services are the way of the future, ever since I got my first taste of Rhapsody's all-you-can-eat music via the amazing Sonos player. I’d say such deals are one of the industry’s best weapons against piracy. Make it easier to pay for content than steal it and most people will do the right thing.
All-you-can subscription services have been pretty thin on the ground in Australia, I’d say primarily due to the difficulty in negotiating such deals with the movie houses which don’t see Australia as a priority. Now Quickflix is paving the way - coming to Mac, Windows, the PlayStation 3 and Sony’s Bravia Internet Video platform built into its TVs and Blu-ray players. QuickFlix is offering unlimited movie streaming to Australian customers for $14.99 per month, according to the SMH.
Sony already had the best internet video offering of Australian Blu-ray players, and Quickflix is the icing on the cake. Buying up Telstra’s old DVD rental customers looks like a smart long-term strategy. Now Quickflix can smoothly migrate them to movie downloads when it suits them.
There’s talk of Quickflix coming to the X-Box next year, and Quickflix founder Stephen Langsford has previously told me he’s even got his eye on the iPad. This is great news because hopefully we’ll see it come to other devices as well. Quickflix would complete the otherwise brilliant WD TV Live Hub and Boxee Box, not to mention the great IceTV-capable PVRs on the market from the likes of Humax, Strong, Topfield and Beyonwiz. It could even come to the Apple TV, considering it offers Netflix access in the US.
Meanwhile Fetch TV has struck an interesting deal with Optus that will see it in a lot more Australian lounge rooms. All of these new services will get a major shot in the arm when the NBN breaks Telstra’s strangehold while delivering faster internet access and multi-casting to most Australian homes.
Quickflix’s move into online movie rentals is a significant milestone in Australia’s move to embrace online content delivery. It's also another nail in the coffin for arrogant free-to-air broadcasters who still think they can dictate our viewing habits.
|| 3 feedbacks »||Permalink|
Tsunami Trojan multiplies Mac malware misfortunes
By Stephen WITHERS
As if multiple versions of the Flashback Trojan (including one that disables the malware check built into Mac OS X's file quarantine system) weren't enough, security software companies ESET and Sophos say a new piece of Mac malware based on the Kaiten Trojan for Linux has been discovered.
Tsunami appears to be primarily a tool for mounting DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks, but it also has the ability to execute shell commands (effectively providing remote control of the computer) and to download additional files, which could include more malware or updates for Tsunami itself.
What nobody seems to be saying is how Tsunami presents itself - after all the nature of a Trojan is that it poses as one think while actually carrying out a completely different function.
So at the moment, we don't know what to look out for. Not a very satisfactory state of affairs, especially for those who don't use antivirus software on their Macs. At least Sophos offers its Mac software free of charge for home use.
Postscript: Intego describes Tsunami as a "hacker tool" that "requires installation" - something very different to a Trojan. Maybe that's why the other companies didn't describe Tsunami passing itself off as providing some other functionality, which is the defining characteristic of a Trojan.
|| Send feedback »||Permalink|
iPad rivals: Thrice bitten, still not shy
By David BRAUE
After the iPad appeared last year and defied critics’ initial scepticism by selling in the squillions, it was inevitable that Apple’s competitors would try to cash in on its success with tablets of their own. Yet I don’t think even Apple could have known how spectacularly its competitors would end up failing – even without its involvement.
HP’s TouchPad, anticipated both because it was a promising new product and the tablet incarnation of a mobile operating system that had by all reports been not bad at all, famously imploded within days of its Australian launch, forcing Harvey Norman to push its stock out the door at irresistible prices.
Recognising that large stocks of non-iPads represented a significant inventory risk, Harvey Norman later began a promotion in which it would give away a Toshiba tablet with the purchase of a Toshiba laptop. Not only does that kind of put a bullet in the head of that whole tablet-as-a-laptop-replacement thing, but it shows just how hard the iPad has made things for everyone else. Tablets have become the new fries, as in “would you like fries with that?”
It has proved extremely hard for rival tablets to get out of the iPad's shadow; turns out that if you offer a rival that's only almost as good as an iPad, people just buy an iPad.
More recently, Telstra has killed off its T-Touch Tab, just a year after its launch. Apparently, consumers are more sophisticated than Telstra believes – and haven’t really warmed to a stripped-down, underpowered tablet with terrible battery life and a touch screen so flaky it’s likely to make you throw it off a bridge. I've already opined at ZDNet that our carriers are missing the boat with their lowest-common-denominator, and Telstra's concession to Apple hardly changes that.
Sony, thankfully, has aimed a bit higher, this week pushing its Tablet S into the shops and showing that the company still isn’t afraid to toy with the prospect of unmitigated disaster.
The S tablet is like most other Android tablets out there, but with a slightly smaller screen. It runs Android 3.1 ‘Honeycomb’, which by all accounts provides a great user experience but has stuff-all applications optimised for it. It costs the same as the iPad, which some have warned is not really a strategy to take if you’re trying to compete with a powerful market incumbent.
So far, it sounds pretty much like a Motorola Xoom or Acer Iconia with a tier-1 badge on it. But, and this is the most important thing, this tablet is also basically a PlayStation you can carry around with you. Just like on a PSP, you can download PlayStation games and while away your time pretending the S tablet has real game controls rather than slapping pictures of controls on the clear glass screen.
...but if it can behave like something else altogether, could that make a difference?
Control issues aside, this is a great distinguishing feature and one that is exclusive to Sony, whose PlayStation franchise remains hugely popular. Sony is apparently also considering ways to bring its PlayStation environment to other devices, too, although if I were Sony – and, just for the record, I’m not – I wouldn’t be rushing to give my competitors the one thing that makes my tablet truly unique.
Whether or not this approach will fly, I cannot yet say; it seems to me most people who are interested in playing PlayStation games while on the go already have a PSP. That said, I can imagine the ability to play good games on the tablet will appeal to many buyers who need a tablet anyway, don’t want an iPad, would happily plug in their tablet to their TV for a good gaming experience, and will value the extra little things Sony has packed into its device. It’s like getting a double-yolked egg: you’re having eggs anyways but that nice little extra doesn’t hurt at all.
That doesn’t mean we won’t see the S tablet pushed through Harvey Norman’s clearance bins if it fails to take off in the season’s Christmas season. But in a world filled with cheap Chinese knockoffs that suffer from terrible battery life and other nuisances, it’s good to know at least one company is stuffing in extra goodness for consumers.
Research In Motion tried the opposite approach, taking features out and hobbling its otherwise respectable PlayBook with a BlackBerry umbilical and the inability to check normal email. Judging by RIM’s recent disastrous results and a dismal outlook for the future, it could be the death of the company.
So much for thinking different.
Even the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which apparently offers little extra value-add except its ability to do an extremely convincing impression of the iPad, is now looking iffy here. Turns out consumers actually like this device; maybe “slavishly” copying the iPad, if done correctly, is the only way to get leverage in this market after all. Apple’s attack on Samsung shows exactly who Apple considers its biggest problem at this point in time. If Apple gets stuck into Sony, that would be the best indication that it’s on the right track after all.
What killer extra features would convince you to buy a tablet other than the iPad? Has Sony nailed it?
|| 1 feedback »||Permalink|