HDTV “great success in this country”, says Free TV Australia
By Adam TURNER
As if the Freeview campaign wasn’t insulting enough, Free TV Australia is now trying to tell us the country’s pathetic HD broadcast efforts are doubleplusgood.
Orwell would be proud of the Freeview campaign, which is really designed to thwart TV growth and trick Australians into forgoing ad-skipping. Instead the free-to-air broadcasters continue to drive viewers into the hands of Foxtel and BitTorrent.
In yesterday’s Green Guide, Free TV Australia head Julie Flynn had the audacity to describe HD as a "great success in this country" - despite the networks reneging on their early promises of glorious high-def broadcasting. Her remarks came as Network Ten played out the next chapter of the great Aussie high-def swindle by deciding not to broadcast the AFL next year, leaving high-def footy fans at the mercy of Seven or in the clutches of Foxtel.
Between pay TV and the internet, an entertainment revolution is upon us. It’s pretty clear who’ll be first against the wall.
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No 'Australia tax' on latest Time Capsules
By Stephen WITHERS
The biggest Mac news of the week is probably the arrival of Final Cut Pro X, but as that's really Create territory I'll go with a non-announcement instead.
With nary a mention beyond updated web pages, Apple quietly slipped out updated versions of Time Capsule, which is now available in 2TB and 3TB models.
We shouldn't hear the usual complaints about Australian vs US pricing. The 2TB model is $A319/$US299 and the 3TB is $A529/$US499. Given that our prices include GST, there's practically no premium.
And treading briefly on Play territory, it is interesting to see renewed rumours that Apple is planning to get into the TV business. Well, sort of - the latest version of the story has Apple teaming with a consumer electronics company that would make Apple-branded TVs with built-in iTunes and Apple TV capabilities.
It makes some sense - there's definitely growing interest in 'smart' TVs, as not everyone wants multiple boxes hanging off their set. But I reckon support for off-air recording plus access to catch-up services such as iView would be considered more important than the ability to buy digital copies of shows you've missed, or to rent movies.
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Can an iPhone user switch to Android for a month? Part 4: Game On
By Alex KIDMAN
There’s really only one suitable theme song for this week’s column.
Yesterday, I attended a preview of Nokia’s upcoming-but-possibly-already-stillborn N9 smartphone. (Plug alert; my video of the phone can be seen here). It’ll only take you 30 Seconds to take it all in, but you may want sunglasses for the pink model). At the launch, it was mentioned that the N9 will have, and I quote almost directly, “all the important applications. Such as Fruit Ninja.”
I think that speaks volumes about one of the primary things that actual users do with smartphones. They play games. This is fine with me. I am, quite unashamedly, a gamer. It’s these days only a minor part of what I do for a living, but it’s a significant part of my leisure activities on an ongoing basis, so any smartphone platform I adopt has to offer me some form of gaming on the go.
A quick check of my iTunes library reveals that I have 298 games downloaded for iOS.
No, I don’t have a problem. Sure, that means in the slightly less (at the time of writing) than three years since the iPhone 3G launched, I’ve downloaded a game every three days or so. But I can quit any time I want to. Any time now. For sure.
To be honest, not all of those applications sit on my iPhone or iPad. There’s a number that are just there because I haven’t been organised enough to delete them, and the data cost of updating them is relatively meagre. There’s also a lot of free applications there, mainly due to keeping an eye on which applications have taken the free-for-a-single-day approach over time.
Anyway, I think I’ve shown my smartphone gaming credentials… at least on iOS. iOS covers a variety of gaming genres with some incredibly polished games at a variety of price points. Over on the Android side of the fence, things aren’t as polished. There are free games, it’s true, but again I’m struck by the fact that many (not all, but a significant percentage, and certainly a large quantity of those that sit at the top of the charts) are less polished than their iOS counterparts. Then again, what can one expect for free?
There is a minor exception on the free front in terms of games and (technically) game quality on Android via console emulators, but I’ve got two problems with that. Firstly, there’s the whole illegal ROMs problem, but even over and above that, those games weren’t designed for touchscreen control. Not so bad for a turn based RPG perhaps, but any action game will suffer compared to the original joypad controls.
It’s not necessarily all that much better in the paid sphere, either. I picked up Pac-Man Championship Edition for Android over the weekend. It’s a game I’ve got a lot of affection for, which would explain why I already own it (and its sequel) for Xbox Live and iOS. Being on sale over the weekend didn’t help my impulse purchasing habits either.
It’s not a bad version of the game, but it irks me, simply because Namco’s insisted on putting a verification check on it every time you launch it, which requires a data connection. So if I’m a train tunnel, or an area where my reception is poor, or I’m roaming on an expensive data connection overseas, I’ve got to verify myself. If I can’t -- and this happened to me yesterday -- the program simply crashes. Implicitly, Namco doesn't trust me, even though I've given them my hard-earned money.
Android clearly and demonstrably has a lot going for it. But in the gaming arena, it’s got a lot of work to do.
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The soulless hard disk
By David HAGUE
As content producers we all make an attempt to have our co-workers of all types included in the credits for our work. It could be writers, video machine operators, cameramen/women, sound recordists, arts people, grips, runners, editors, lighting experts and many, many more.
But in this digital world, I reckon this is getting harder. I am often chided after watching a movie in a theatre for sitting behind and watching the credits roll right to the end to see if there are any names I recognise. If there are, I’ll send them an email congratulating them (usually) on work well done for the contribution to the writing, CGI or camerawork.
That is not too hard. But when everything is distributed digitally via VIMEO or YouTube etc, this becomes more difficult as reading the credits becomes almost impossible in many cases.
But on a different tangent, I personally think that the ownership of music, movies, and photographs and even my thoughts and experiences should be a lot more than pixels and electrons as shown in a theatre or played on a radio station. Buying something like this should be an experience! And should contain memories - indeed, BE a memory.
There is nothing more immersive than thumbing through an old diary; this cannot be duplicated by reading a blog, nor can the words scribbled on the back of old photographs or to me, the memories invoked by re-reading the liner notes of an album purchased from a record store be replicated by a 'TAG'.
The same applies to books. Scribblings in the margin or fly leaf as you read simply cannot be emotionally duplicated on a Kindle or Kobo or even an iPad.
I hope this ability never goes away. I would hate for my children to have their life stored on a lifeless medium – that is a hard drive. That is soulless in my opinion. Passing on family history, a cherished much read book, photo album or a box full of records by simply giving a loved one something on a 500GB Seagate is just wrong.
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Hey Qantas? Get into the clouds!
By Ian GRAYSON
Having spent much of the past week as a victim of the volcanic ash plume, I've got one thing to say to Qantas about it: get into the clouds.
And by that I'm not talking about getting your planes into the air (although that's what rival Virgin Australia managed to do) No, I'm talking about making use of cloud computing to ensure your web site remains usable during times of unexpected demand - because it most certainly wasn't last week.
When ash clouds brought flights to and from Melbourne, Tasmania and New Zealand to an abrupt halt last Monday, the travel plans of tens of thousands of people were thrown into disarray. Naturally they were keen to find out what was happening and many went online to do it.
As a Qantas passenger, I headed to Qantas.com to try to figure out when I might be able to get home. Evidently I wasn't alone and the site's performance dropped through the floor.
Pages would not load or, if they did, displayed little of value. Re-booking or checking the status of flights became almost impossible as the extent of the delays increased and more people joined the online rush for information.
Now, I acknowledge that demands on the site were unexpected, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be able to cope. Major disruptions to airlines schedules are not a "never happens" kind of thing.
So why, like so many other companies, does Qantas not have the ability to rapidly scale its web site capacity at times of increased demand?
Such scaling is not as difficult as it used to be. Thanks to the rise of cloud computing, there are a number of providers that can provide on-demand capacity for customers during their hour of need.
Rather than having server racks installed but sitting idle just in case they might one day be needed, companies can rent extra capacity in the cloud and bring it online instantly.
So, as demands on the Qantas website spiked, capacity could have been scaled to ensure user access was maintained. The result? Much happier customers.
As well as getting its jets back into the clouds, it could be time for Qantas to take the same approach to the the data centre running its website.
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