lotech: Technology. Dissected, discredited.https://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotechTechnology. Dissected, discredited.enVodamoan - new connection painshttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7449BlogMon, 01 Nov 2010 01:38:00 PDTI've recently moved house and with a new house comes a new connection. Once again I found Vodafone offering the best value with its new naked broadband ($55 p.month for 30gb).<br /> <br />Of course it wouldn't be a Vodafone experience without a lot of pain, time wasted and weeks without service, so once again here is my publicly posted experiences and inevitable epic failings from the 2nd (?) largest ISP in New Zealand.<br /> <br /> The first thing to go wrong was trying to sign up via their online form. No matter how I did it at the end of the 5 page signup process I would always get a 500 error from their server. 15 minutes on the line to the call centre later I was told, by someone who I think is a web tech, they he too was having issues with Firefox also. I switched to Safari and the form finally submitted.<br /> <br /> Although the form finally worked it did manage to lose my street number and use my apartment number instead - so although the internet was connected 2 days later - it was at the wrong address.<br /> <br /> Thankfully as we hadn't moved yet this was only a small issue, I called to have this fixed. I foolishly thought it would be a speedy fix. 2+ weeks later we still have no internet, despite being given 2 different dates for a Chorus tech from Vodafone. The most recent date was yesterday, which has now passed and I'm now waiting for the mysterious callback. <br /> <br /> For those who haven't read my previous posts, I'm well versed in being offered the mysterious service named "a callback". Don't let the name fool you. Like the mighty Sasquatch, some say no such thing exists and indeed from my experiences it rarely does occur. Only those lucky enough to be escalated have truly experienced it. <br /> I will be interested to see if today is my lucky day.<br /> <br /> With all the problems Vodafone seem to have with sign ups and the fact I keep continuing to use them I'm starting to think I might be suffering from <a title="Stockholm Syndrome" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome">Stockholm syndrome</a>.Fine Tuning Mac Mini, Logitech Harmony, Plex Nine &#0038; EyeTVhttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7434BlogSun, 17 Oct 2010 11:56:00 PDT<img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/header.jpg" alt="EyeTV, Plex &amp; Harmony Remote" width="800" height="350" /><br /><br /><a href="http://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7433">In my first post</a> I covered how to get your Logitech Harmony remote to work via a standard Mac IR port and map the buttons accordingly. In this post I show how to take those steps and use them to seamlessly let you control 2 programs from the couch.<br />If you're setting up something similar you might be interested in the follow steps as it took me weeks of reading and joining the dots across many forum and blog posts.<br /><br /><strong>Remote Buddy</strong><br />First, I don't want Remote Buddy to do too much, as currently the RB OSD menu isn't as customisable as I'd hope particularly the default menu. One thing it is good for though is as an App switcher and just show things like 'Run Plex' or 'Watch TV'.<br /><br />To disable hierarchical menus go to Menu in RemoteBuddy preferences and untick 'Descend into the respective context menu when choosing a behaviour in the menu'. Also untick 'Display a button mapping chart for each behaviour' if its selected, this shows a picture of an Apple remote on the menus and is irrelevant if you're using a Harmony as its sending lots of remotes' codes.<br /><br />Now to create a custom RemoteBuddy Menu that shows only what I want.<br />Still in the Menu section of the RB preferences, click the + drop down in the bottom left to add a new menu, in my case I setup 'MacMini'<br /><br /><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/rb02.png" alt="" width="558" height="301" /><br /><br />Now click on the new Menu Profile you made and a bunch of options should popup (or click on the forth icon on the bottom left menu bar). Go to Behaviours and drag which ever apps you want to be able to open via RB's OSD. In this case I've added Plex, EyeTV and DVD Player along with some basic system commands. You can rename them to more human titles as you need.<br /><br />Now when you press the menu button on your harmony remote, the menu you have just designed will appear and open/switch to the app you want along with setting up RB to pass through you mappings.<br /><br /><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/endmenu.jpg" alt="Custom Menu in Remote Buddy" width="445" height="266" /><br /><br /><a href="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/EyeTVList.png"><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/PlexList.png" alt="Plex Remote Layout" width="121" height="643" /><img style="float: right; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/EyeTVList.png" alt="EyeTV &amp; Remote Buddy Remote Layout" width="124" height="645" /></a><strong>PLEX</strong><br />In Plex, go to Preferences, System, Input Devices and select 'Harmony' as the remote option and enable 'all ways on'<br />You can now customise a harmony.xml keymap as you need, mainly to set you F1-F14 keys to open specific menus. In my case I setup keys to Enable Subtitles, Change Aspect ratio, show New Movies, Show New TV and quick access to both TV &amp; Movie sections&nbsp; via the softkeys on my remote.<br /><br />There is a default harmony.xml located in /Applications/Plex.app/Contents/Resources/Plex/keymaps which if copied into /~/Library/Application\ Support/Plex/userdata/keymaps will override the default. Theres more info on how to get to specific menus in the Plex forums.<br /><br /><strong>EyeTV</strong><br />EyeTV has functional setup for your default Apple Remote but now you have the ability to use all the buttons of your harmonies buttons is obvious. The main buttons can be set but some just don't have calls, the most notable is the ability to popup the OSD Guide. I think this will come in time but for now I've setup my EyeTV as it is below.<br /><br />The most complex part of this setup is making the setup fool proof and cover any chance something happening and needing a keyboard to fix it. So far these are the two situations I need something unique mapped.<br /><br />EyeTV uses almost no resources when there is now Video window displayed, so if I'm in Plex watching a movie I don't want EyeTV to be decoding TV in the background, but still want it open if theres a scheduled show or if someone is streaming TV to the household iPad.<br />To solve this I set a 'Close All Video windows' button on the remote. <br />The other issue would be if I switch to EyeTV and theres no video windows open. I'll also need a button to open a TV window and full screen it. This unfortunately needs two commands - CMD-O to open a new window and then CMD-0 to full screen it. <br />To set this up find the remote ID &amp; specific key you want to map via the Mapping Button and choose Custom Actions from the list. Name the action something like 'New Fullscreen TV Window' set the 2 commands to run in the correct order and you're done.<br /><br />Using a MacMini with a Logitech Harmony remote controlhttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7433BlogSun, 17 Oct 2010 11:45:00 PDT<img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/header.jpg" alt="EyeTV, Plex & Harmony Remote" width="800" height="350" /> Retiring my <a title="XBMC perfect Xbox 1 Setup" href="lotech/5672">XBOX1 and XBMC setup</a> was inevitable. It had long since shown its 733mhz CPU was able to output HD but just didn't have the muscle to actually decode anything over SD resolution. So when Apple announced the new Unibody Mac Mini just days before my birthday I saw it as a perfect own-gift. The Core2Duo CPU was more than adequate to decode all codecs and resolutions and its new super thin and sexy casing was just the sugar on top. As far as I can tell its the best HTPC chassis out there - if only it had BluRay (stay tuned). The Mini could finally give me a media centre, Freeview PVR and a rock solid *nix based NAS with the ability to run various background servers (UPnP, AirVideo, iTunes etc). Unfortunately controlling all this from the couch was always going to require some work. OS-X's default HTPC app, Frontrow, is extremely basic to say the least. Thankfully there are two great applications that do almost everything, the XBMC fork, <a title="Plex - Awesomeness" href="http://plexapp.com/">Plex</a> and <a title="EyeTV 3" href="http://www.elgato.com/elgato/int/mainmenu/products/software/EyeTV-3/product1.en.html">Elgatos EyeTV</a>. Both have support for the standard Apple remote, but with only 6 buttons a lot of things were inaccessible or required weird combos to get to. As I already owned the fantastic Logitech Harmony 725 remote I was pretty keen to get it working on my new HTPC but unfortunately Apples infrared remote implementation is very limited and only supports Apple remote controls few commands via 6 buttons. The following steps are from my fair share of reading blogs, wikis and forums on this subject and what I've finally managed to figure out to get this working as I want. <strong>The Solution</strong> By default your Mac listens for any Apple remotes telling it do do something, by default it will listen to any remote and do as it commands. I'm sure you could have no end of fun with a single remote in a busy room with a bunch of macs. Thankfully OS-X does support the ability disable the sensor but also allows you to 'pair' a specific remote to a specific machine. Technically, the way Apple allows pairing is that each remote has a randomly ID assigned between 000-255 on manufacturing. This ID is then broadcast before each button press. If your computer gets an ID different to the remote its paired with it will just ignore the command. Its thanks to this feature we can actually differentiate between many Apple remotes despite them seemingly sending the same command. Now we know this we can then set every key on your harmony to send unique IR codes to you computer. Sweetness. I first discovered <a title="Manually Teaching your Harmony on a Mac" href="http://funwithcomputers.wordpress.com/2008/03/01/using-the-harmony-880-remote-with-your-macs-built-in-ir-port/">this process here</a>, but it was a quite lengthy process and involved learning each remote individually. I've now discovered a much simpler process which gives teaches your Harmony multiple preset remotes instantly. <strong>Setting Up Your Harmony</strong> First thing you'll need to do is setup your Harmony remote to send Apple remote codes. Thankfully thanks to the crowdsourcing nature of the Harmony Remote system people have already submitted a remote setup with all the necessary codes saved. <a href="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/harmony01.jpg"><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/harmony01.jpg" alt="EyeTV, Plex & Harmony Remote" width="259" height="76" /></a>To set this up open Harmony Remote Software on your mac. Add a new device and choose Computer, Media Centre PC, Plex and use the name Plex Player. This sets up your remote to send the commands of 10 Apple remotes with differend ID's from the various buttons on your harmony. Now you've done this, you could setup an activity on remote, for now though I would say just use the Device button to access the Plex layout and to test the setup. <strong>Running Plex Only?</strong> <a href="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/PlexRemotes.jpg"><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/PlexRemotes.jpg" alt="Enable in Plex" width="269" height="151" /></a>If you want to use your Harmony with ONLY Plex 8 / 9 you don't need to go through any more steps - just go to Plex's Preferences and then under System \ Control turn on Harmony as the remote setup and enable 'always running'. This will give you access to all the buttons on the remote including starting up Plex via the Menu button when its not open. All the labeled buttons will do just as you would expect them to. Unfortunately what I found was when I ran other apps along with Plex, they would start competing for the remote commands and I found Frontrow or iTunes popping up when I don't want them. The setup below shows how to get them all playing nicely together. <strong>Mapping</strong> You'll need an application called <a title="RemoteBuddy" href="http://www.iospirit.com/products/remotebuddy/">RemoteBuddy</a>. It lets you assign remote commands to specific actions, whether they be system wide or application specific. They offer a 30 day trial to get you started start and registration is relatively cheap (€19.99/$NZ35). 1. Install, and if necessary Open RemoteBuddy. You will get a new taskbar icon by your clock. 2. Access the RemoteBuddy icon select preferences from there. <a href="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/RB00.png"><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/RB00.png" alt="Remote Buddy Pic 1" width="260" height="169" /></a>3. Click Hardware. Tick 'Enable support for multiple remote controls' and then 'Automatically authorise newly found remotes….' Leave this window open. 4. Now on your Harmony Remote, choose Devices and Plex Player. 5. Click most/all the buttons on your harmony. You should start seeing the right panel of the RemoteBuddy screen start populating with remote controls. You should end up with 10 controls (ID's 150-160). Note that there is no remote for ID 156 so don't worry when it doesn't appear. Now we need to assign these remotes to 'Logical Remotes' so that RemoteBuddy can assign commands to the buttons. <a href="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/RB01.png"><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/RB01.png" alt="Remote Buddy Pic 1" width="256" height="167" /></a>6. Press the + on the left panel to add a Logical Remote, for ease I would recommend a name like Remote 150 so you can keep track of whats what through this process. Note you can't rename the first, default remote (ID150) but can all others you make. 7. Now on the right side, assign each remote ID to a logical remotes name - if you followed the last step this should mean Remote 152 is set to Logical remote with the ID 152 etc… It should look like the picture below once you've done that. 8. Now for the most boring part, working out which key on your Harmony is sending which remote ID and key to RemoteBuddy. it would be near impossible to work this out but thanks to <a href="http://www.iospirit.com/support/forums/remotebuddy/singlethread/13590/">ShavenYak on the RemoteBuddy forums</a> here are the remote ID's and buttons. Harmony button - Remote ID Button OK - 150 Select Up - 150 Up Down - 150 Down Left - 150 Left Right - 150 Right VolUp - 152 Up VolDn - 152 Down Mute - 152 Select ChUp - 158 Up ChDown - 158 Down Prev - 153 Down Menu - 150 Menu Exit - 155 Up Guide - 157 Play Info - 153 Up Stop - 151 Play Replay - 160 Up Skip - 160 Down Play - 151 Menu Rec - 155 Down Rew - 154 Up Fwd -154 Down Pause - 152 Menu 1 - 151 Up 2 - 151 Down 3 - 151 Left 4 - 151 Right 5 - 152 Left 6 - 152 Right 7 - 153 Left 8 - 153 Right 9 - 154 Left 0 - 154 Right Clear - 154 Play Enter - 153 Menu Blue - 159 Menu Red - 159 Left Green - 159 Right Yellow - 159 Play Aspect - 157 Up LargeUp - 159 Up LargeDown - 159 Down PwrToggle - 157 Menu Queue - 157 Down Sleep - 154 Menu F1 - 155 Left F2 - 155 Right F3 - 155 Play F4 - 155 Menu F5 - 160 Left F6 - 160 Right F7 - 160 Play F8 - 160 Menu F9 - 158 Left F10 - 158 Right F11 - 158 Play F12 - 158 Menu F13 - 157 Left F14 - 157 Right There you have it, 62 mappable remote buttons to any application in OS-X. You can go through the depths of RemoteBuddy mapping section and assign commands globally or application specific setups. FYI in my setup I have a both EyeTV & Plex mapped separately and only use Global settings for the RB default OSD via the menu button. As this post is long enough, I've written <a href="http://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7434">another post showing</a> how to turn this into a working setup based around Plex Nine and EyeTV 3.4.Always look on the bright side.....https://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7329BlogSun, 18 Jul 2010 13:14:00 PDTI finally got 5 minutes of <a href="http://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7328">consistent internet connectivity on Vodafone</a> and just watched the funniest thing I've seen in a long time.<br />If only NZ could have such high end CG animations of stories on the news.<br /> <br /><br /><br /> <object width="640" height="385" data="http://www.youtube.com/v/Tn-YesqzvNk&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1?rel=0" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"> <param name="data" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Tn-YesqzvNk&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1?rel=0" /> <param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /> <param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /> <param name="src" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/Tn-YesqzvNk&amp;hl=en_US&amp;fs=1?rel=0" /> <param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" /> </object> <br /><br /><br /><br /><br />For those wondering - I think the whole iPhone4 antenna thing is being blown way out of proportion.Vodamoan - Fault Relodged - UPDATEDhttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7328BlogFri, 16 Jul 2010 09:40:00 PDTSome of you may have seen <a href="http://www.geekzone.co.nz/blogentry.asp?postid=7259">the post on my experiences switching from Orcon to Vodafone</a>.<br /><br /><img style="float: right;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/vodafone_karta_1lt.jpg" alt="Vodamoan - Over It." width="285" height="378" />A brief summary - A couple of months ago I switched from Orcon to Vodafone to save money. It should have been a simple process, yet Vodafone managed to screw up almost every part. First was a week with no ADSL, then it went from working, then slow, then not at all. A quick blog post later and find myself 'escalated' and receiving daily telephone updates. I did feel there was finally a person genuinely making sure things were being actioned. These calls were always pleasant and generally ending with a big apology from the other end. <br />Of course I still had to wait over 4 weeks to finally have my line setup as I originally signed up for - or so I thought.<br /><br />Last week, my mother started claiming that she tried to call me at home but could get through - I just accused her of being crazy and proved her wrong by calling the line via my mobile while I skyped her - no problem.<br /><br />Now fast forward&nbsp; to last week, I get a call from my flatmate - <br />"Is there any reason the home phone would be disconnected?" he asked. <br />Nope. Bill was good. Conveniently I was at my parents at the time so I tried the line. Weird tones. <br />We did indeed have no incoming line as my mother thought but also no outgoing either. Super.<br />By the time I got back our ADSL connection started constantly going up and down. Sometimes it would stay up for hours but more often it would just reconnected every 15mins or so. <br /><br />A quick call to Vodafone Monday morning and thanks to it being a fault in the landline along with the ADSL, I wasn't forced to jump through the usual morons check list. <br />Fault Lodged. <br />Chorus would be in touch within 24hrs - and Indeed they were. <br />By 4pm Chorus had been in touch, the man asked a few questions and then said he'd call me right back, which he did.<br />"It seems theres no problem with your line. The problem is caused by something wrong at Vodafones end. Although calls from their network will go through, people calling from Telecoms network can't connect properly. Your line has some porting issues."<br /><br />I have now leant that from the day Vodafone started supplying my phone services chances are no one with a Telecom based service, and I suspect any provider using their wholesale network, have never been able to call my land line.<br /><br />It makes it all the more annoying that when Chorus were proactive and called me back, Vodafone couldn't muster up a similar level of customer service. The Chorus person worked on it on the Monday - yet by Friday I still hadn't heard anything back from Vodafone.<br />This was last night - as usual they stuck me on hold for 5 minutes and came back claiming they would need to re-lodge the fault again.<br />"Why?" I ask "It hasn't been fixed the first time."<br />For some reason my last fault, although and being actioned, went nowhere.<br /><br />This whole process makes me wonder once again if there is some big issues with the processes inside Vodafone. I understand they are a big corporation and you will always get anomalies and get weird customer setups but I've found that almost every step of this switch looks to have been done incorrectly or done in a half arsed or short-cut way.<br /><br />I find it quite impressive that a telecommunications company don't use it's own services and actively call someone back. It's quite infuriating to have the Chorus guy call me back and then pass it to Vodafone to fix but then never have them call me. Why is there not a process to instigate a callback to tell the client what's going on? It doesn't have to be the specific person techie but at least someone from customer support.<br /><br /><img style="display: block; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/vodatxt.jpg" alt="" width="320" height="197" /><br /><br /><strong>UPDATE</strong> (Saturday 17)<br />I just received the following txt from Vodafone - apparently there's nothing wrong. <br />Yet my ADSL connection just reset, only minutes after I received the txt. <br />Of course this is Vodafone we're talking about&nbsp; - I'll have to call them.<br /><br /><strong>UPDATE 2</strong> (Monday 19)<br />Heres a few screen caps of my modems ADSL connection speeds for random points over the weekend and this morning..... No fault was found...... crap.<br /><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/vodamoan-2.gif" alt="" width="559" height="408" /><br /><br /><strong>UPDATE 3</strong> (Monday 19)<br />So I just called the help line to find out where we were at and am told that 'Only July 16 a technician looked into it and there is no fault." Strange that I only was sent the txt on the 17th. Why didn't they txt straight away? Did they even check?<br />The next logical step for Vodafones phone person was to just start the hoop jumping game fresh - "Can I ask you to disconnect any phones in the house...."<br />I'm over it. I finished that call and then call straight back.<br />"Put me through to Escalations." <br /><br /><strong>UPDATE 4</strong> (Monday 19)<br />Conveniently the out of country call centre just couldn't handle my request to be connected with escalations and instead put me through to the person who looked at my fault - against the guidelines. <br />The funny thing was it was exactly the person I needed to talk to, and a after a civil and actually productive conversation he saw that although things looked fine - there was a much bigger problem. 140 disconnects in a 24 hour period is apparently not normal.... no shit. He did everything he could and has organised another Chorus tech (again) to come look at the line today (Tuesday)<br /><br />It's so incredibly frustrating that the internet has been broken for 2 weeks, the landline for 2+ months and that I've had to lodge 3+ faults until I finally talk to someone who can actually fix it.Seagate 500GB XT Hybrid Laptop Drive - Quick testhttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7306BlogWed, 30 Jun 2010 11:34:00 PDTWith Seagate announced their new 'Hybrid' 500gb 2.5inch Drives they claimed it could offer SSD speeds but with only a small premium on top of a normal magnetic hard drive. The drives use inline 4GB flash memory and use what Seagate calls Adaptive Memory. The firmware automatically relocates frequently accessed data and stores it on the flash memory while keeping most stuff on the the drive.<br />Their marketing pitches substantial improvements to most general usage situations. <br /><br /> <object width="486" height="412" data="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/1635268014" type="application/x-shockwave-flash"> <param name="data" value="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/1635268014" /> <param name="name" value="flashObj" /> <param name="bgcolor" value="#FFFFFF" /> <param name="flashvars" value="videoId=81336903001&amp;playerId=1635268014&amp;viewerSecureGatewayURL=https://console.brightcove.com/services/amfgateway&amp;servicesURL=http://services.brightcove.com/services&amp;cdnURL=http://admin.brightcove.com&amp;domain=embed&amp;autoStart=false&amp;" /> <param name="src" value="http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/1635268014" /> </object> <br /><br /><br /><br /><br />I was certainly intrigued. I have wanted a solid state drive for some time but its so hard to justify the cost of a decent model and the bite in storage space does make them a far off dream.<br />What I find interesting with this technology is that Seagate may have now found a middle ground that could become the bridging technology we all use before SSDs reach a price per gb we can accept.<br /> <br />Suffice to say I splashed out and ordered a couple of XT's for the 2 MacBook Pros in our office and although I've only had one of them installed for mere minutes I thought people might be interested in a benchmark.<br /> <br />I ran AJA's free drive speed test program on my original 320GB Seagate 7200.3 and then 500gb XT immediately after the first boot. To be clear - I have about 250gb of data on both drives which works out to be 78% of the 320gb 7200.3 and only 50% of the 500gb XT. This alone should make some speed differences.<br /><br /> <img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/XTspeed.jpg" alt="Seagate XT Hybrid HDD vs 7200.3 HDD" width="700" height="405" /><br /> <br />I will update this with a few more impressions once I've given it a good going through.<br /><br />The drives are available in NZ now, I got mine via <a title="Aquilatech" href="http://www.aquilatech.co.nz/" target="_blank">Aquilatech</a> for $232 inc GST.Youtube - it's broke, but I don't expect them to fix it.https://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7288BlogSun, 20 Jun 2010 13:58:00 PDTYoutube is hard to avoid. Since its inception (and subsequent absorption Google) it's very much become the default online video site. Even with competitors that offer a much better experience it seems to be nigh impossible to to get any sort of traction against Youtubes dominance.<br /><br />I've edited and published more than my fair share of video to both Youtube and it's next biggest rival - Vimeo. There have been some good features added to Youtube, something like automatic closed captioning is one, but in my mind most of the new features Google add seem to be more focused at monetising Youtube and keeping it out of legal troubles and rarely improve it for us - the users. Of course anyone who has used Vimeo knows it offers a more complete experience and more tailored to the end user be them uploader or viewer.<br /><br />But even with posting a clip on Vimeo its pretty much impossible not to have to stick the same one on youtube to guarantee complete exposure.<br /><br />And to that end (and the motivation for this post) why does Youtube still not offer the ability to replace a clip without deleting the old one and reposting it fresh. If you do 'reupload' its considered a whole new clip - which of course resets views, deletes comments and forces a new link to be made - and making for a huge pain in the ass if you spot an issue in the clip after posting it.<br /><br />There are of course other issues, such as Youtubes constant desire to re-compress even perfectly encoded MP4 files and the time limit of 10 mins for any single clip but that can wait until I get annoyed by them (again) in the future.<br /><br />I suppose in some ways it confirms what I think most monopolies general rule - "If it's broke, and the users still come, then why fix anything. We win either way."Does anyone at Vodafone actually call anyone back?https://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7259BlogTue, 25 May 2010 02:05:00 PDTFoolishly in an attempt to save some money, I decided to switch from my perfectly good iSP (Orcon) to the slightly cheaper one, Vodafone. Big Mistake. Below is a quick run through the month and a half long process of switching to Vodafone - so far.<br /><br />This is the second time in 12 months I've signed up to a service at Vodafone and the second time the processes the company uses have had major failings and caused me to waste hours of my own time, just trying to get the services I signed up for.<br /><br />For some background - my partner does a 2nd job hosting a couple of TV shows and relies on the internet in the evenings to do the necessary research. Having no internet is a big issue any time but on top of this we had a couple of friends visiting before permanently moving to Austria - both needed internet access to sort the last bits and pieces before flying out.<br /><br />----<br /><br />The signup actually felt pretty good, a quick online form and the process was started. Within hours later I received an automated email saying that my account number was wrong but not to worry, all I needed to do was reply with the correct information. Done. <br /><br />Then 3 weeks of nothing. No install date. No call back to say there's a problem.<br /><br />I call Vodafone. <br />Why is my internet not switched to them yet?<br />"Sorry sir, it would seem someone had set the account number with Orcon as my home phone number."<br />Fixed. Over the next week a flurry of automated emails welcomed me to the wonders of Vodafone. My switch date was set. No services would be disrupted.<br /><br />Then on the day of switching, a Friday and in the late morning, the phone rang a couple of times and stopped. My inner nerd told me it was them probably switch the lines in the cabinet. Great, just as I had been told.<br /><br />Then the internet went off. No DSL link my modem reported. I gave it an hour or so and then called Vodafone to see how long it would take before we'd be back online. <br />"Yes we have indeed taken over your phone line, but your internet won't switch til next week. It will still be on and if you are having any issues call Orcon as they are still your provider." <br />Are you sure I asked. <br />"Absolutely" <br />I commented I hope like hell Vodafone hadn't just cut my internet for a week as there had been zero warning that might happen.<br />"No Sir, please call Orcon for help."<br /><br />The call with Orcon took another 40mins as I was forced to run through the dreaded idiot proof checklist before a fault could be lodged. <br />"I've lodged the fault sir, our provisioning team will look into it in the next 24-72 hours."<br />Keep in mind this is Friday afternoon - so that meant Monday. No Internet all weekend.<br /><br />Monday comes and you know what - Orcon called me back (take note here Vodafone).<br />"Unfortunately sir we don't have control of that line any more, Vodafone does."<br />Just as I thought when I first called Vodafone on Friday but was promised the opposite. <br /><br />Back on the line to Vodafone I was told there was an unexplained hold on the install. They lifted the hold but said that I was now on the list and the internet would be on 'soon'. <br />I had thought this was meant to be a seamless process and to all happen almost instantly -<br />"I usually does sir"<br />Another 2 days without the internet.<br /><br />Wednesday finally came and our DSL was activated and the internet back. Problems solved - now the easy bit for Vodafone - sit back and profit from my passive income that is my monthly bill. <br /><br />The next day I did receive a random email saying my cap had been blown but as I signed up for 40gb of data I assumed it was just a hiccup in the system. Our internet was working normally and I was well and truly over Vodafones hold music.<br /><br />Of course, I should have known better - just after 9pm Friday night comes and midway through some tragic MTV reality show - the internet stops. What better way to spend ones Friday night than a 40 minute tech support call. <br />So it seemed my account had two issues - the plan was set to the EasyPack plan (1GB, Full down, 128k up) but far more importantly - it had been canceled.<br />"Why?"<br />"I don't know, there seems to be two accounts, I'll stop the current cancelation and get that account working again"<br />I asked that if I had blown the 1gb cap in their system, will I get a 64k speed limited internet when the account works again?<br />"No Sir, it should all be running at normal speed, you will need to call back tomorrow (Saturday) though and talk to sales to get you moved back to the unlimited upload speed though."<br />After the phone call and a modem restart, the internet was not running at normal speeds and clearly the limit was still in place but by now it was late and I was well over Vodafone.<br /><br />Saturday morning and another call to Vodafone (also funnily enough just as I get a physical letter confirming apparently I had requested canceling my account).<br />"I'm very sorry about this sir, it would seem you have been put on the EasyPack plan, and you clearly signed up for the 'Ultimate Pack' - unfortunately I can't physically change the plan here as provisioning need to make a change."<br />"I will upgrade you to the ideal pack (5gb, Unlimited down, 128k up) and add another 5gb so you can use your internet without issues until I can sort it out on Monday morning."<br />"I will call you back on Monday once we've sorted it out."<br /><br />Suffice to say its now Wednesday, I've blown my temporary 10gb cap and am yet to hear back from Vodafone.<br /><br /><strong>UPDATE</strong><br />Well posting experiences on bad service does seem to get things fixed. And Vodafone eventually made everything right although it still took 3 weeks of atrocious service and support. And now, a few months on from my experience our service has worked flawlessly since - it's a shame the signup and setup process at Vodafone is so terrible.<br />New Tablets - Slate &#0038; JooJoo thoughtshttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7186BlogTue, 06 Apr 2010 06:03:00 PDT<img style="margin-left: 30px; margin-right: 30px;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/slate-sml.jpg" alt="HP Slate" width="303" height="238" /><img style="float: right; margin-left: 30px; margin-right: 30px;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/joojoo.png" alt="" width="298" height="228" /><br /><br />Having managed to survive the apocalyptic release of the 'magical' iPad, there have been a few other tablet related products coming into the fray I've been thinking about. One being the <a title="HP Slate Computer" href="http://www.engadget.com/2010/01/06/the-hp-slate/">HP Slate</a> and the other <a title="The JooJoo" href="https://thejoojoo.com/">the JooJoo</a>. I think both are both good to see launching but both are lesser tablets than Apples first release.<br /> <br /> First the JooJoo, which if you're not familiar, is a 16x9 720P Tablet appliance with basically a netbooks internals - 1.6 Atom, ION Chipset, 1gb Ram, 4gb SSD, running a custom Linux install. It looks <a title="Engadget JooJoo Review" href="http://www.engadget.com/2010/04/05/fusion-garage-joojoo-review/">good in build the department</a> but from the very get go it did seem to be like vapourware was written all over it. Low and behold though - 90 Pre-orders shipped to their unsuspecting buyers.<br /><br /> Early reviews don't rate it too favourably, the hardware is all theree but the software is buggy and proving to be a major let down. Also it's 16x9 screen offer netback grade screen quality despite just screaming widescreen video. <br /> A big problem is the JooJoo is basically only a portable web browser unit - no file support, no media playback, no email - basically theres short cuts for websites on your front page and thats it. It supports flash (badly) and if you do play a flash video - expect your battery life to be halved.<br /> Add to that the fact with a 16x9 aspect ratio websites actually look worse - large white edges on sites in landscape and the sides of sites cut off in portrait. Keep in mind this is a device designed only to view websites, you have to wonder why they didn't plan the screen shape accordingly.<br /><br /> I will give it to them that this is a first release product and for a brand new company getting to even this point is quite the accomplishment. I do think this will fail to be be an option in 6 months time when theres another 20 netback internal'ed tablets on the market - of which we're starting too see with the HP Slate.<br /> <br /> Shown off in January at CES by non other than Steve Balmer, only a week before Apple announced the iPad, it reeked of 'quick, announce it before Apple gets ALL the press and makes everyone forget there are other companies thinking similar things' (which for the record is exactly what happened). Of course the announcement came with no information other than coming soon.<br /> Well, as of yesterday, we have some specs and a price.<br /> My first thought are this - why is it taking so long to get to market - its basically the same as HP's current Mini line of Netbooks - minus keyboard and the addition of multitouch. I imagine it might be the software, which is said to be developed from the HP Touch-smart desktop machines.<br /> <br /> <a title="Comparison of 3 tablet screen resolutions using a comparison of the NYTtimes site." href="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/tablet-comparison.jpg"><img style="float: right; margin-left: 20px; margin-right: 20px;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/screenres-sml.jpg" alt="2010 Tablet Screen Resolution comparison" width="303" height="298" /></a>There are two issues I think the Slate and alll similar tablets will have - screen resolution and OS. <br /><br />On the right is a little image I made up showing the three tablets I'm talking abouts screen resolutions in respect to the nytimes site - click on the pic for a <a title="Comparison of 3 tablet screen resolutions using a comparison of the NYTtimes site." href="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/tablet-comparison.jpg">1:1 pixel version</a>. With a native resolution of 1024x600 it still has the same issues of every other netback on the market - hiding as much as possible so to fit as much content on the screen - and generally failing. Either viewed vertically or horizontally, sites just won't have enough room to display their content and in the end will mean users will be scroll every page you view no matter the amount of content. <br /><br />The resolution also limits other applications being used bad as you're running a desktop operating system, you'll be running desktop applications which from my experiences will have been designed to run on higher res screens. A good example would be MS Office - half your screen real-estate will be taken up by the 'Ribbon' where as the Pages for the iPad is a complete original interface. Don't think for a second Microsoft are going to re-engineer Word for a notebooks screen? <a title="Damaged Windows" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/04/opinion/04brass.html">Office was already one of the main reasons Microsofts previous tablet attempts came off so half assed</a>.<br /> Another example is IE's horribly large Address, links and tool bars, I've jumped on numerous computer newbies IE installs to find HALF of their IE window to have Google, Yahoo, Digg bars - despite the user never using any of them, This is will of course lead to more scrolling and people just wishing they had more pixels. <br /> <br />The Slate will be the Tablet of scrolling - everything you do on it will need more scrolling down or scrolling to the side.<br /> <br /> <img style="float: right; border: 0; margin-left: 20px; margin-right: 20px;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/HD2.png" alt="HTC HD2 - Windows Mobile skinning at its best" width="166" height="251" />This issue comes from basing a portable product on the foundations of a desktop OS - whereas Apple has upscaled a portable, albeit more simple, OS, the Slate (and all other Win7 based tablets) will be forcing something much bigger on to a smaller screen.<br /> <br /> It's not like HP has much choice, they are one of Microsofts big customers (if not the biggest), and MS just can't offer a reasonable mobile alternative - Windows mobile 6.5 is on its way out to pasture and Windows Mobile Phone 7 Series is not yet available for mobile devices - let alone other device concepts. A funny/depressing way to look at this whole thing is how Microsoft's slowness on creating a major mobile platform is that they're going to be following in the step of history - namely Windows Mobile and OEMs, such as HTC, having to do the actually end UI themselves.<br /> I wonder how long will it take after starting to use a Slate until you're thrown a dialogue box that will be just asking for a mouse interaction or for a complex keyboard shortcut - welcome back to desktop computing hell.<br /> <br /> Apple may seem, and in ways are, offering an upsized iPhone or touch but I think its one of the iPads best features. The iPhoneOS will have only ever been designed to be held in your hand and it only expects a user interface via fingers.<br /><br />Now - what will the iPhone OS 4.0 release entail? It should be interesting.Apple Refurb Pricing Weirdnesshttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7167BlogTue, 23 Mar 2010 03:09:00 PDTThose of you who read my blogs may have seen I'm a big advocate of Apple refurbs as a good way of getting a cheap Mac.<br />I check the <a title="Apple NZ Refurb Store" href="http://store.apple.com/nz/browse/home/specialdeals/mac?mco=OTY2ODY3Nw">refurb page of the Apple NZ Store</a> most weeks, always looking for a good deal for myself or for others who are trying to get an Apple as cheaply as they can. I would love to see some other Apple products turn up - check the <a title="Apple USA Refurb Page" href="http://store.apple.com/us/browse/home/specialdeals/mac?mco=OTY2ODY3Nw">US Refurb page</a> - almost every product is available with a solid discount.<br /><br />Now for the randomness. Today I spotted thisa refurbished MacPro for <em>only</em> $6199, which is only $400 <strong>above</strong> list price of $5799. I'm not sure how this price is worked out, you have to wonder sometimes......<br /><br /><strong>Apple Refurb Page</strong><br /><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/macpro-refurb.jpg" alt="Apple MacPro Refurb pricing weirdness" width="485" height="227" /><br /><br /><strong>Apple Store Page</strong><br /><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/macpro-new.jpg" alt="Apple MacPro Refurb pricing weirdness" width="485" height="175" /><br /><br /><strong>UPDATE</strong> And then the listing magically dissappears after only a few hours.<br /><br /><strong>UPDATE2</strong> Spotted this one - the best deal ever? I think not.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/appletv-refurb.jpg" alt="" width="260" height="172" />iPad thoughtshttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/7060BlogWed, 27 Jan 2010 00:30:00 PST<img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/hero_20100127.jpg" alt="iPad" width="669" height="94" /><br /><br />So after following the live blogs and now reading the tech specs I thought I'd add my thoughts on this new gadget. A few things I've spotted on the Apple site not mentioned in the keynote - <br /> <br /> <strong>Screen Res</strong> is 1024x768, 132ppi (the iphone is 163ppi). Reasonable but not stellar - I would have preferred a 16:9 1280x720 panel myself but I can imagine the raw LCD costs would have made it that much more expensive. Its good so see a good screen in it though - <a title="IPS on Wikipedia" href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TFT_LCD#In-plane_switching_.28IPS.29">IPS</a> &amp; LED Backlighting should make this look amazing in person.<br /><br /><strong>VGA connector coming soon.</strong> Supports 1024x768 - making Keynote actually usable. I imagine it will work like the current iphone TVout cables - click on a video (or now a keynote presentation) and you'll see controls on the unit and the presentation/video will come out the cable - with no OSD. No HD output (just progressive scan SD or XGA).<br /><strong><br /> 1GHz Apple A4 Chip</strong>. So it would seem Apple has indeed made use of them buying PA Semi a few years back. Its an ARM based processor just like the iPhone. It's a "system on chip" - <a title="AppleInsider article on the Apple A4" href="http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/10/01/28/ipads_custom_apple_a4_processor_includes_arm_based_cpu_gpu.html">so this one chip does it all the work</a>. This is apparently very similar to a Tegra &amp; Snapdragon chips - can you say ZuneHD and Nexus One.<br /><br /><strong>802.11n</strong>. Good.<br /> <strong><br />ePub support.</strong> Along with PDF support we already have on the current iPhone OS this should mean we can convert text, website to a format that we can then use. I think Kindle is the only eBook reader that doesn't support it. Go standards.<br /><br /><strong>A-GPS on 3G model.</strong> The biggest Sat Nav ever?<br /> <strong><br /> No Phone option, new SIM standard, Data only</strong>. I know you wouldn't hold this to your face but a secondary speaker phone using its 3G capabilities maybe?<br /><br /><strong>No Flash </strong>- Gruber @ daringfireball <a title="Flash on the iPhone/iPad" href="http://daringfireball.net/2010/01/apple_adobe_flash">sums it all up well here</a>. I don't think we'll ever see it on either the iPhone or iPad.<br /> <br /> <strong>No Camera</strong> - So that means voice only skype. I think this could have become the killer app and at a low component cost - but hell they need to have something to add to the iPad 2G.<br /> <strong><br /> <img style="float: right;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/multi_touch_20100127.png" alt="iPad" width="282" height="327" />No built in USB host port, or SD card port.</strong> Apple have announced the iPad Camera Connectivity Kit though and it does give you both of these. I had hoped the iPad would remove the need to have another computer completely making it that much closer to a netbook than an iphone. The good news is though if this puppy get jailbroken (jailbreaked?) the USB port could allow for some very interesting mods and unplanned uses.<br /><br /><strong>Market</strong> - When I watched the demo video, of all the people I could think of it was my mum who I think is the most likely to get one sooner than later. My parents have been making noises about a second laptop for a while now - dad was well over having to share his computer. <br />My mother has never been a savy computer user and has never had to learn how to use any more than the basics of a standard OS. More and more though she wants to do the basics the iPad offers - look at pics, surf the net, email people and generally stalk her children via Facebook. I think the learning curve on the iPad is about as much tech as she can handle.<br /> <br /> <strong>Pricing seems reasonable</strong> I'm sure someone will say "I can buy a netbook for $600" but at what I assume will be $NZ799 for the low end model, its close to the same price of a similarly spec'd netbook but with a better OS (for portable internet use), screen type and case/body.<br /><br /> <strong>Will I get one?</strong> Maybe. My iPhone 3GS is awesome, and I'm surprised I surf the net on it nearly as much as I do on my laptop. When I replace my laptop in the next year or so - will I get an iPad and a more powerful desktop machine? It's something I've been thinking about well before the hype of this started.<br /><br /><strong>No other announcments.</strong> No i5/i7 MacBookPro's, no 12 Core MacPro's, no new iLife. All iPad. I imagine there will be some spec bumps in the next week or so though.<br /> <br /> One things for sure, I'm sure we'll all pick one up and go - I want.<br /> <br />On another note - <a title="iPad" href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eF0y0IfpPU">the iPad comes in ladies preferred options.</a><br />Some must have Mac appshttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/6945BlogTue, 17 Nov 2009 08:32:00 PST<img style="float: right;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/applicationupdate.jpg" alt="App Update" width="193" height="190" />I've been using a Mac for the last 4 years and I've over time built a little list of apps that must be installed. I thought I should share them here. They are all free to download or open source so go give them a try. Feel free to share some more in the comments.<br /><br /><br /> <strong>App Update</strong> - A simple application update widget, in my opinion, besides currency converter, the only good widget in dashboard. It reads you Application folder against 3 update notifications sites - Apple's official software directory, MacUpdate and Version Tracker. Best thing - it just works - and well. <br /> <a title="App Update Widget" href="http://gkaindl.com/software/app-update" target="_blank">http://gkaindl.com/software/app-update</a><br /><br /><strong><img style="float: left;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/unarchiver_icon.png" alt="The Archiver" width="64" height="64" />The Unarchiver</strong> - an open source decompressor app. For years stuffit was either preinstalled or a must download on the Mac. Over time the the program gained the usual bloat of over developed applications. Apple has included a built in zip tool for a while but it's file support was limited really only dealing with zip's. The Unarchiver, which is open source will extract RAR, ZIP, 7-Zip, LHA, SIT, HQX and TAR files to name just a few. The app has enough options to do everything you could need. To install, just drag it into your Applications folder, run once to set associations and you're done.<br /><a title="The Unarchiver" href="http://wakaba.c3.cx/s/apps/unarchiver.html" target="_blank">http://wakaba.c3.cx/s/apps/unarchiver.html</a><br /><br /><strong><img style="float: left;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/perian.png" alt="Perian" width="64" height="64" />Perian</strong> - Chances are you've already got this - if not - get it. Perian is a free, open source QuickTime component that adds native support for many popular video formats. XVID, Divx, AC3, MKV, FLV and even adds subtitle support. The only thing missing is extensive WMV support - for that check the free <a title="Flip4Mac" href="http://www.google.co.nz/url?sa=t&amp;source=web&amp;ct=res&amp;cd=3&amp;ved=0CB0QFjAC&amp;url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.microsoft.com%2Fwindows%2Fwindowsmedia%2Fplayer%2Fwmcomponents.mspx&amp;ei=wocDS_v-JoT-sgPBy9y4BA&amp;usg=AFQjCNGIiRLR_CPGCyv6ZGFL3WfXiFS5qA&amp;sig2=Yc-2Rv0VB8TJyjytRD9mKQ" target="_blank">Flip4Mac</a>.<br /><a title="Perian - Codecs for Quicktime." href="http://perian.org/" target="_blank">http://perian.org/</a><br /><br /><strong><img style="float: left;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/vlc.png" alt="VLC" width="64" height="64" />VLC</strong> - if you do find a video that won't play via Perian then VLC should have it covered. If you have these 2 apps installed there are few files you can't play. Personally I find VLC's interface clunky to use but as I say - it will play everything.<br /><a title="VLC - Video Lan Client" href="http://www.videolan.org/" target="_blank">http://www.videolan.org/</a><br /><br /><strong><img style="float: left;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/streamclip.png" alt="MPEG Streamclip" width="64" height="64" />MPEG Streamclip</strong> - Where Perian is 'the swiss army knife of video playback', Streamclip is surely the swiss army knife of video conversion. It allows for setting in and out points and will read almost every format - from malformed mpeg2 streams to xvids to quicktimes to avi's. I haven't met a clip I can't convert with this app.<br /><a title="MPEG Streamclip" href="http://www.squared5.com/" target="_blank">http://www.squared5.com/</a><br /><br /><strong><img style="float: left;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/textwrangler.png" alt="TextWrangler" width="64" height="64" />TextWrangler</strong> - an extremely versital text editor. Made by the company that makes BBEdit, this is a cut down yet surprisingly feature complete version. TextWrangler supports source formatting and is the one stop tool for editing HTML, PHP, plists or just about anything else. <br /><a title="TextWrangler" href="http://www.barebones.com/products/TextWrangler/">http://www.barebones.com/products/TextWrangler/</a><br /><br /><strong><img style="float: left;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/max.png" alt="MAX" width="64" height="64" />MAX</strong> - One stop open source audio converter - it will change anything to anything else. MAX can convert over 20 compressed and uncompressed formats including MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, AAC, Apple Lossless, Monkey's Audio, WavPack, Speex, AIFF, and WAVE.<br /><a title="MAX" href="http://sbooth.org/Max/" target="_blank">http://sbooth.org/Max/</a><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;<br>Nice - Star Trek BluRay comes with free Digital Copy that is actually usefulhttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/6936BlogFri, 13 Nov 2009 07:35:00 PST<img style="float: left;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/startrek-cover-sml.jpg" alt="Star Trek BluRay - with digital copy." width="156" height="198" />I, along with the many people, found JJ Abhrams reinventing of Star Trek a great time. So much so I felt it more than worthy to be added to my small physical media collection. To my surprise, the pictures studio, Paramount Pictures, has started including a digital copy of the their films free. Each BluRay copy comes with a third DVD and note with a unique key printed on it. <br /><br />I thought it would no doubt involve some horrible DRM and playback system, no doubt dropped or outdated a year from now. You can no doubt believe my surprise that the code really is really just a redeem code for iTunes Store. If you brought the movie in iTunes separately you'd be looking at <a title="iTunes - Star Trek (2009)" href="http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewMovie?id=317909453&amp;s=143461" target="_blank">$24.99</a>.<br /> <br />The DVD contains an autoplay menu which offers links to either to copy the film in Windows Media or iTunes, by choosing iTunes you are taken straight into the Store and where you enter your code. You'll need to download for that copy but the disc does include necessary WMV files - strangely there are 2. I can't tell you much more with Windows being Windows just before copying the file I am told that I require security component update and it was required before installing. I clicked the link and sent to a page on the domain drmlicense.one.microsoft.com which offered little information and a single button that couldn't be pressed. Shortly after Internet Explorer crashed. Good one. I spent a few minutes trying to find the update I'm looking for but its never stated and MS don't really promote the DRM side of things too loudly.<br /><br /><br /><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/startrek-0-sml.jpg" alt="Star Trek BluRay - Menu" width="354" height="260" />...<img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/startrek-1-sml.jpg" alt="Star Trek BluRay - DRM Windows Media Errors" width="354" height="260" /><br /><br />As far as the iTunes side goes, iTunes downloads as a 1.96GB M4V file, and uses FairPlay3 DRM which allows for syncing to up to 5 iPhones, iPods, AppleTV's and the other computers linked to your iTunes account. Video wise, the file has a frame size of 640x352, 2052kbps H264 and audio comes in 5.1 AC3 (strangely QuicktimeX lists only 2 channels though). The file also includes chapter marks with thumbnails and can be played in Quicktime or iTunes. <br /><br />It's disappointing to not be a more standard 720 frame width, and of course no one likes DRM - but lets be honest, offering the movie in the first place is a good sign. Instantly I can use the film in a usable way outside of my PS3 and couch. I doubt I will ever watch it on my phone, but offering it in more than one format, shows the studio trying to be far more inclusive in the end usage process.<br /><br />New Apple Products + NZ Exchange Rate = 15-40% Lower Priceshttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/6882BlogTue, 20 Oct 2009 04:26:00 PDTJust a quick tip - When Apple launch new products it works the new RRP based on current exchange rate of when the product is released. Sometimes this means price increases but sometimes, like now and with the NZ$ being retardedly good - a solid price drop. And the good news - no matter where the currency goes from now the prices will stay low.<br /><br />Case in point - the newly refreshed Mac Mini was previously $1398 but is now $1049 (or even cheaper if you click on the educational discount link - $950). Thats a brand new Mac with half decent specs for sub $1k. The Plastic lowend Macbook was $RRP1999 - now is only $NZ1699.<br /><br />But for those of us thinking now is the time to be running out and buying that 8 core MacPro at a new lower price - these lower prices are only worked out on new products - not old ones. But what this should mean that that these prices stick around until the next product refresh - no matter where the NZ$ goes.<br /><br />Of course the downside of this is if you're a NZ retailer with old stock - which you brought at the previous higher price. For the rest of us enjoy probably the most reasonably priced Macs we've ever had.<br /><br /><strong>UPDATE</strong> - As <em>wellygary</em> says - the new top end 27" iMac is even better value - 40% cheaper than the previous 24" high end model.<em><br /></em>Telecom iPhone bait - is it worth it?https://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/6634BlogTue, 14 Jul 2009 02:34:00 PDTYesterdays announcement from <a href="http://store.telecom.co.nz/mobile/special-offers/iphone-sim-only-offer">Telecom offering a very nice sounding reason</a> to owners of iPhone 3G/3GS's (or is that 3jesuses)&nbsp; sure does <em>sound</em> good but is it as great of an offering as they say? At $1149 for an unsubsidized iPhone, I can't imagine there being more than a few hundred people this whole thing is applicable to. I am part of those handful of people.<br /><br />I have been a customer of Vodafone as long as I've had a cell phone. Suffice to say for most of that I've felt shafted but know as well as anyone that switching got you fundamentally the same plan at the same price with a different number.<br /><br />I currently spend $90+ on my Talk 120 plan - far from good value but not really worth me jumping on a specific iPhone plan. Below I've tried to make a comparison of the similar plans on Vodafone and Telecom. This isn't too scientific and feel free to point out any errors.<br /><br /><br /> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/vodatelecomcapaison.jpg" alt="New Telecom Plans Compared to Vodafone" width="450" height="319" /></p> <br />So there you have it - tie yourself to Telecom and get 25% off your plan over the course of the 2 year contract. Of course will the pricing on plans change much over the next 24 months? I would hope so but we all know how it works in NZ.<br /><br />One thing we should all demanding - carry over minutes. They market these plans as having 'free/included minutes' but in reality when you pay $60 for 120mins (as I do now) you're really paying $0.50c a minute for calls with a gaurantee of paying for at least 120 of them - which makes one wonder - if one pays for these minutes at that rate you should be allowed you to carry over the minutes for the next month - but not in NZ, if you don't use your minutes they disappear into the either and you still pay for them.<br /><br />Will I switch? It depends. The question will Vodafone try and keep me?iPhone as a traveling companionhttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/6631BlogMon, 13 Jul 2009 00:02:00 PDT(FYI - I retook the screen shots so ignore the VodaNZ tag and dates on the iphone screen shots).<br /><br />I think swine flu has gotten a bad rap. <br />I for one would like to thank it for scaring the hell out of the Japanese and leaving Air New Zealand with a bunch of empty planes with a schedule to keep. So when the $700rtn flights to Tokyo ex Auckland turned up on grabaseat I couldn't help but take advantage of them (recession be damned). With less than a week from booking to flying out I had little to no prep time to learn some more language or figure the lay of the land. I did find on my travels that my iPhone 3G was a great thing to take on the road so here are my thoughts on the apps I found either useful or useless. Enjoy. <br /><br /> <p style="text-align: center;"><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/4691_109920771139_713851139_3241397_3164945_n.jpg" alt="Shibuya Japan bia the iPhone" width="452" height="202" /></p> <br />To start I wasn't sure if Japan would even accept GSM based phones, it has always been known as a land of futuristic but very much proprietary phones. The good news is as long as its a 3G (2100mhz) mobile you should be good to go. There are 2 provider options for roaming, either DoCoMo or Softbank, my phone defaulted to Softbank on arrival but a bit of researched showed DoCoMo's prices to be (marginally) better. For a full idea on costs on roaming Vodafone has every <a title="Vodafone sucks" href="http://www.vodafone.co.nz/roaming/countries/">countries rates listed here</a>.<br /><br />Surprisingly Tokyo seemed to have little wifi, free or otherwise. I would randomly check my phone for any networks and find no AP's near me. Starbucks yes, but even in the middle of Shinjuku besides one of the busiest train stations in the world - nothing.<br />This is quite surprising for the country with the <a title="Washington Post - Japan Fastest Internet Speeds" href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/28/AR2007082801990.html">fastest internet connections</a> around you would assume that it would be saturated with wifi but it just wasn't the case. I assume as everyone has cabled internet or data on their phones so wifi just hasn't become as ubiquitous as it is in other countries.<br />Most hotels (including ours) offer free internet in all rooms and with an addition of the underrated but incredibly useful Airport Express we had a full 802.11n network 'in room'.<br /><br /><img style="float: left;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/IMG_0138.PNG" alt="Currency for the iPhone" width="155" height="232" />By far the most useful program when traveling was Apples own in built app, Mail. Sounds strange but by emailing yourself import info, pdfs &amp; jpg maps one could have on hand a good amount of the internet offline. Each morning before leaving the hotel I would email anything that maybe useful to have on the day - whether it be the '<a title="DisneySea Page @ Themepark Insider" href="http://www.themeparkinsider.com/reviews/tokyo_disneysea/">How to plan your day at Disney Sea</a>' from <a href="themeparkinsider.com">themeparkinsider.com</a> or where the <a title="Bets shops in Akihabara" href="http://akiba-ch.com/map/">best tech shops in Akihabara are</a>. Find a web page, save as pdf, email to self. It was truly a useful thing to have.<br /><br />Outside of Mail, the single most useful application I found was the free <a title="Currency" href="http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=284220417&amp;mt=8">Currency</a> (itunes link) currency converter app. Japanese Yen is one of the more confusing currencies to work out in your head (I think it was something like remove 2 zero's and times by 0.6) and having this on hand, even as a rough guide really helped either not spending a fortune on a bottle of water. Each morning I would open the app, which in turn would update to current exchange rates. <br /> <br /> I also installed <a title="OffMaps" href="http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=313854422&amp;mt=8">OffMaps</a>, a Google Maps replacement that allows caching of maps from the open mapping database and store them locally on the phone. It sounds good, with an active internet connection all you need to do it go to the city you want to save and then select an area to download. <img style="float: right;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/195234_medium.jpg" alt="Lonely Planet Japanese Phrase Book" width="145" height="209" />That all worked as planned but once untethered from the internerd everytime I would open the program and use the GPS button it would ping me back to Auckland and make it a mission to get back to Tokyo and even harder to find out where the hell I actually was. Add to that the fact the maps were almost information-less, no landmarks or street names. I imagine as the mapping is open this should improve and the applications current user interface bugs get fixed this app could be a real god send.<br /><br />Other programs I installed and had varying amounts of success with were&nbsp; <a title="Tokyo Subway iPhone App" href="http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=294288550&amp;mt=8">Tokyo Subway 2009</a> and the <a title="Lonely Planet Japanese Phrase Book iPhone App" href="http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=284945374&amp;mt=8">Lonely Planets Japanese Phrasebook</a>. I think the subway app explains itself and was always useful to find which line runs where and where a suburb was in relation to where we were. <br /><br /><img style="border: 0pt none ; float: left;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/PointJP.jpg" alt="" width="156" height="216" />The $13.99 Lonely Planet app contains 600 common Japanese phrases. Each phrase displays the English pronunciation, Kanji characters and when clicked pronounce the sentence out the speaker or headphones.<br /> I did find the few times I did try and use the app the sentences I needed was slightly different to what I really required or missing completely. Lonely Planet also do a <a title="Lonely Planet Tokyo Guide iPhone App" href="http://itunes.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewSoftware?id=317165512&amp;mt=8">Tokyo specific guide</a> which looks useful but it did get to a point where I didn't want to spend more on apps for than the holiday itself.<br />In the end I found my Girlfriends copy of <a title="The Original Point and Speak Japanese Phrase Book" href="http://www.jbox.com/PRODUCT/SS295">The Original "Point and Speak" Phrasebook</a> prooved to be extremely useful as it contained images, pronunciation and Kanji lettering of pretty much every thing you could ever need to ask someone or solve any problem you may run into. This book will hopefully be 'ported' to the iPhone but for now the analogue option wins out. <strong>If you are going to Japan - you need this book.</strong><br /><br />On trips to other locales I imagine a GPS navigation app would prove to be quite useful. Recently I've been playing with the first app to be available to the NZ market - I plan on posting on this soon.<br />Kicking Outlook and switching to Mail, iCal &#0038; Address Bookhttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/6614BlogMon, 06 Jul 2009 06:32:00 PDTI used to be a big Outlook user, finding it the only PIM client that kept my life even slightly sorted. I was so tied to Outlook that when I first brought my Intel based Mac, I quickly installed the beta release of Boot Camp, XP and got Outlook going. For the first couple of months of owning a Mac, I ran Windows almost exclusively.<br />Outlooks IMAP support has always been my single biggest peev. That, and its continued use of a single PST file for all data storage. There a lot of good reasons to not use a single file db, mainly if it corrupts you could loose ALL your previous history from emails to contacts. I have seen more than one person just about cry when they loose all their digital lives thanks to a Windows reinstall and not seeing their well hidden PST file deep in the documents &amp; settings folders.<br /><br />Of course Outlook being a Microsoft program, export options are nonexistent, unless you wanted to move to, say, Outlook. If so then no worries.<br />There are <a title="Outlook PST to Mac Converter" href="http://www.littlemachines.com/">commercial applications</a> that can take care of this whole process but I like to do things the free, slightly harder way - so for you all here is a compilation of various steps to take a large PST file to a complete export to iCal, Address Book and Mail.app (or other standard supporting applications on other platforms).<br />These steps are for Windows XP and Outlook 2007, but should be the same or very similar on Vista.<br /><br /><strong>Getting your email to Mail.app.</strong><br />This is originally from <a title="Export Outlook Express to mbox" href="http://www.schwie.com/brad/?p=22">Schwie&rsquo;s Pad's blog post</a>, refined by myself.<br /> <ul> <li>First you'll need a copy of Outlook Express installed on your XP machine. In our case we're going to use it as a conversion tool and not the just the shittiest email client ever. I would recommend a virgin setup of Outlook Express.</li> <li>Open Outlook Express, it should detect your other Outlook profile and ask if you want to import the profile. If it doesn't detect Outlook, you can import your mail manually. Under the <strong>File</strong> menu, choose <strong>Import</strong>, <strong>Messages</strong>. Choose <strong>Microsoft Outlook</strong>.</li> <li>Choose the default profile and then choose selected folders and choose any folders that have email in them. You can use CTRL to select multiple folders. You do not need to choose contacts or calendars, that is done via other workarounds below.<br /> <img style="border: 0;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/01.jpg" alt="Import Outlook Profile to Express" width="450" height="349" /><br /> </li> <li>It should spend sometime slurping through your emails and bringing them into Outlook Express.</li> <li>Once they are all imported, we now need to access the Outlook Express .dbx email files, these are stored in your Documents &amp; Setting folder on your system drive (probably C:\). Best plan is to enable hidden files (via Tools menu, properties) and then go through the folders from C:\ - in my case it was - C:\Documents and Settings\<em>Administrator</em>\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\<em>{D54D6AEB-503D-49E3-BD59-11545746A4D2}</em>\Microsoft\Outlook Express<br />The two italicized names can be different but you should be able to get there.</li> <li>Now you'll need a little command line app by Ulrich Krebs called DbxConv.exe. It's freeware and available <a title="DbxConv - dbx to mbox conversion." href="http://freenet-homepage.de/ukrebs/english/dbxconv.html">here</a>. Extract the zip into you Outlook Express folder you just found. This program will convert your email folders from MS's dbx format to the standard mbox format.</li> <li>Open command line via the <strong>Start</strong> Menu and <strong>Run</strong> command - from here type <strong>CMD</strong>.</li> <li>Now for the tricky bit, as command line was designed from the days of 8.3 file names theres no real easy way to get your way to a folder buried deep in windows file system - I have discovered though if you type "<strong>cd </strong>" and then drag the folder icon in the address bar of explorer to the line in command line, it will insert the full folder address in to the&nbsp; command. Press enter and you should be in the same folder as the files you need to convert.<br /> <br /> <img style="border: 0;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/02.jpg" alt="Insert address in to dos command prompt" width="485" height="250" /><br /> <br /> <img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/02a.jpg" alt="Resulting command" width="680" height="60" /> </li> </ul> <ul> <li>Now in command prompt type this command - <strong>dbxconv -mbx *.dbx</strong></li> <li>Depending on the size of your original pst file it could take a while (up to 20mins). You will see few failed items that don't convert (such as Contacts, calendars, Folders and Offline), you will not need these. <br />Congratulations - your email is now in a format all reasonable email clients should use - mbox. From here you aren't just limited to Mail.app, other clients support mbox including (ironically) Microsofts own version of Outlook for the Mac, Entourage and the opensource Thunderbird. </li> </ul> <strong>Getting your mail into Mail.app</strong><br /> <ul> <li>From here you'll want to get your newly created mbx files from windows to your OS-X install. I would recommend taking only the mbox files of previous email folders you want - Inbox.mbx and Sent.mbx being the obvious choices.</li> <li>Now with them on your Mac, open Mail.app. If this is your first time opening Mail.app, setup your email accounts as you need. Once you're all done there open <strong>Import Mailboxes</strong> from the <strong>File</strong> menu.</li> <li>Choose mbox files and navigate to the folder with your converted mbox emails in them. You can select miltiple mbox files which will be imported as separate folders into Mail.app.</li> <li>A progress bar later and you should find an IMPORTED folder, and you can now move them as you need to.</li> </ul> <strong>Exporting your contacts from Outlook to Address Book</strong><br />Originally from <a title="Max OS-X Hints" href="http://www.macosxhints.com/article.php?story=20040217024237684">macosxhints</a>.<br />As you may have figured out by now, Microsoft makes it as difficult as possible to escape their Office/Exchange ecosystem, either by not including export options or making it as much a convoluted process as they can. For this we will make the files we need by faking an email with all your contacts as attachments - smart.<br />You can export <em>individual</em> contacts to a vcf file by selecting the contact and choosing Save As under the file menu. This is great for a couple of contacts but not those of us with 1000 odd contacts -&nbsp; <ul> <li>Switch to contacts view in Outlook, Select All contacts (or just the contacts you want to take with you) and the under the <strong>Actions</strong> menu, <strong>Send Full Contacts</strong> and then <strong>In Internet Format (*.vcf)</strong>.<br /> <img style="border: 0;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/04.jpg" alt="Send Outlook Contacts as vcf files." width="497" height="281" /><br /> </li> <li>Outlook should then make a new email with attachments of all you contacts as usable VCF files. You could email that to yourself but if you have quite a few contacts, it's best to copy the files out the unsent email and into a folder to move manually. Click on one of the vcf file icons in the attachment panes and select all. Drag its icon to an folder in an explorer window.</li> <li>From here you need to get the folder of vcf files to you mac, open Address Book and drag all the vcf's on to the Address Book window.</li> </ul> <strong>Getting your calendar</strong><br />This is actually the easiest part of the process. <ul> <li>Switch to calendar view in Outlook and select the calendar you want to export.</li> <li>Under the <strong>File</strong> menu, choose <strong>Save As</strong>. ical format should be the default.</li> <li>Choose more options and set the date range as <strong>Whole Calendar</strong>, detail on <strong>Full</strong>, leave the advanced options unticked.<br /> <br /> <img style="border: 0;" src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/blog/03.jpg" alt="Save as ical format in Outlook dialogue" width="348" height="264" /> </li> <li>Save.</li> <li>Again, get the resulting files on to your mac, and then open iCal.</li> <li>Choose <strong>File</strong>, <strong>Import</strong> and choose <strong>Import and iCal file</strong></li> <li>You'll be asked if you want to merge with a previous calendar or make a new one.</li> <li>Rinse &amp; repeat if you have more calendars.</li> </ul> <strong>Things that don't export/import.</strong><br /><strong>Tasks!</strong> although these can be imported as an email folder via the Outlook Express method although tasks will be turned into emails as far as Mail.app is concerned.GTA IV DLC - Where to get the cheapest Live Points.https://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/6240BlogThu, 12 Feb 2009 02:30:00 PST<img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/GTALANDD.jpg" border="0" alt="GTA IV DLC &lt;br /&gt; The Lost &amp; Damned" width="156" height="220" align="right" />I'm eagerly awaiting the release of GTAIV's first DLC content <em>The Lost &amp; Damned</em>, as I'm sure many are. Microsoft paid a pretty penny for the exclusive rights to the first DLC release. So next Monday, 14 Feb, we could possibly see the biggest DLC release too date for any platform and I, along with millions of others will be rushing online to get their fill of new stuff in a tired Nico Ballic world. <br />I'm not sure why you would release an addon on a Monday, as a Thrusday / Friday release would have proved to be good days but hey its Microsoft. The obvious sometimes eludes them.<br /><br />Originally this post was going to be a moan about the stupidity of a <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Points" title="MS Points WIKI">globally standard pricing structure</a>. 1 world, 1 price system but in reality is 1 world, yet many differenct costs for said pricing system.<br /><br />Microsoft has gone on record as saying they think the user wants a standard pricing structure the world over, as its easier to deal with and for them easier to promote. Um, yeah. Thats what <a href="http://ptech.allthingsd.com/20061109/zune%3Cbr%3E%3C/a%3Echallenges%3Cbr%20/%3Eipod/" title="WSJ Zune Article">Walt Mossberg thought too</a> (FYI The Zune uses the same points as the 360) <br /><blockquote>&quot;To buy even a single 99 cent song from the Zune store, you have to purchase blocks of &ldquo;points&rdquo; from Microsoft, in increments of at least $5. You can&rsquo;t just click and have the 99 cents deducted from a credit card, as you can with iTunes. [..] So, even if you are buying only one song, you have to allow Microsoft, one of the world&rsquo;s richest companies, to hold on to at least $4.01 of your money until you buy another.&quot;<br /></blockquote>You would think with the NZ dollar tanking, that if anything we would be paying more than America, but somehow it isn't the case. So as I hunted around trying to get the cheapest live points I could, I discovered inconsistancies in per point worth depending on where you get them from, and strangely found the cheapest place to get MS Points is from MS themselves! Not only that, but you have more point options as you can buy packs of points from XBOX.COM in 500, 1000, 2000, 5000 lots.<br /><br />The cost of <em>The Lost &amp; Damned</em> is <strong>1600 Live Points</strong>. I did some hunting around and found <br /><br /><strong>1500</strong> Points @ <a href="http://www.dse.co.nz/dse.shop/en/product/YG1148" title="Dick Smith &lt;br&gt;&lt;/a&gt; 1500 Points">Dick Smith</a> $29.95 = 2c p. 1 MS Point<br /><strong>2000 Points on <a href="http://marketplace.xbox.com/en%3Cbr%3E%3C/a%3ENZ" title="XBOX Live MarketPlace">XBOX.COM</a> $NZ33 = 1.6c p. 1 MS Point</strong><br />1600 Points @ <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Xbox%3Cbr%3E%3C/a%3E360%3Cbr%20/%3ELive%3Cbr%20/%3E1600%3Cbr%20/%3EPoints/dp/B000B9RI14/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&amp;s=videogames&amp;qid=1234478701&amp;sr=8%3Cbr%20/%3E1" title="Amazon 1600 Points">Amazon.com</a>&nbsp; $US19.49 = $NZ37.72 = 2.3c p. 1 MS Point<br />Lost &amp; Damned Retail Box @ <a href="http://www.gamestop.com/Catalog/ProductDetails.aspx?product_id=73068" title="Gamestop">Gamestop USA</a> $US19.99 = $NZ38.68<br />The Lost &amp; Damned can be picked up for 25% less than American gamers. <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&amp;hl=en%3Cbr%3E%3C/a%3EGB&amp;v=y39vdTFQLos" title="In Your Face America">In Your Face</a>.<br /><br />I suppose the biggest jib of all this though, is that in NZ you can't even buy 1600 point cards (as you can in America) so you will need to buy 2x 1500 points cards to have enough to buy a 1600 points addon. There are no lower point cards in NZ anymore so basically if you follow the most obvious process to get the addon (Buy addon card, load code, use points to buy addon) you get screwed. Thanks Microsoft, for taking something simple, then making it overly complex and at the same time, ripping off your users a little.<br /><br />Of course I should also mention how last week I purchased WipeoutHD for my PS3 which uses real money and charges your credit card in a real currency $NZ33.90. Not too hard to understand, and possibly a little easier than the &quot;Need 1600 points, can only buy 1500 points&quot; deal Microsoft offers.A link for all nerds - Failing HD sounds &#0038; causeshttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/5964BlogSun, 16 Nov 2008 01:14:00 PST<img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/hdnoise.jpg" alt="" width="220" height="158" align="right" /><br />This link should come as quite the resource for any nerd who has wonder WTF that noise is coming from their harddrive and why it might not be working anymore.<br />Canadian data recovery company, <a href="http://datacent.com/">Data Cent</a> have <a href="http://datacent.com/hard_drive_sounds.php" title="Failing Drive Noises">a list of nemerous failing harddrives</a>, a sound bite and what is causing the failure.<br />I for one have heard far too many of those noises in my time and can now finally know if its me or if the drive is actually failing.... YAY!360 NXE, a Pretty Piggyhttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/5943BlogMon, 10 Nov 2008 03:15:00 PSTI received an unexpected email welcoming me to the 2nd batch of NXE (New Xbox Experience) testers on the weekend, and thought I would share my thoughts, from a NZ perspective.<br />I fit snugly in the average game console owner. I'm not a hardcore gamer. I don't have a Gold Live! account, I don't feel I have enough spare time to play online regularly. So with that in mind, how is it?<br /><br />The first impression I get with the NXE is a reorganization, a redesign and more than anything a re-emphasis to the 360 interface.<br />There&rsquo;s not really anything ground breaking, the re-emphasis all being towards Microsoft's Live! platform and the services around it. <br /><br /><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/360nxe2.jpg" alt="" width="620" height="352" /><br /> <strong>You'd think when you log in to your machine this would be the first menu.......<br /> </strong> <br /><strong>Interface</strong><br />Suffice to sat it works. It's a nicer, pettier version of much of what we've all used.<br />Sadly there's very little customization - your previous themes have been turned into mere backgrounds. There's no way of making a menu based on what you use often over what Microsoft wants me to see.<br />I'm yet to discover a way of making the first menu opened on boot as the MyXbox menu, it instead defaults to the Spotlight menu - which is basically a section of advertisements (see a pic below).<br />The amount of XBOX Live! ads now present is now over the top. In the old Blade system ads were displayed on a panel ad on the right and that's all you would mostly see - now, thanks to its new found 3D menu, Live ads can go off into infinity and almost every 'section' has some sort of ad for either a game add-on or LiveArcade game.<br />Also some old interface annoyances turn up in dark corners, one personal peev is that in my house there are 4 profiles on my machine, my girlfriend has one, along with housemates past and present - yet I am near the bottom of the profile list, I don't want to autologin but do login in a lot more than anyone else.<br /><br />Another interesting thing, last week some news popped up that half of the features originally planned for NXE were dropped (*cough* <em>Longhorn</em> *cough*). Infact some demo'd already have been dropped - PrimeTime, an Xbox Live based online game show program co-developed with <a href="http://www.ndemol.com/" title="Endemol">Endemol</a> creators of shows such as <em>Big Brother</em> and <em>Fear Factor</em>. It's meant to be a more social gaming section, with less one player and more emphasis on multiplayer.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/360nxe1.jpg" alt="" width="620" height="352" /><br /><strong>This is the default menu to the new NXE. Advertisment city.<br /></strong><br /><strong>Game Installs</strong><br />Awesome - we can all finally hear our games and not the DVD drive (easily the 360's biggest flaw beside RROD's). This is a mildly ingenious way around a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place. Interestingly this shows that some parts of the old XBOX has been used in 360 games XBE's from day one - ie Playfrommedia switch. From what I imagine, the 360 rips the entire game, patches the XBE to allow execution off HD and then uses a quick NXE based check for original media before executing.<br />Sadly game start times haven't shown a huge improvement in early tests which makes the main motivation for installing games only really a noise improvement.<br /><br /><strong>Avatars</strong><br />This is like the Wii's Mii's but in HD, and as with your Mii's you can have a great laugh trying to create yourself on the new system. Face and body shapes and features are adequate and clothing options are good, but not fantastic. My fear is that we'll be paying for many new outfits, jewelery and hair do's. I wonder will Game dev's offer items of clothing via games - will I be able to get Master Chiefs armor? or favourite bands Tee via Rock Band? who knows.<br /><br />What does seem sad though is that in someways this doesn't quite go far enough - with Playstation Home being only a few months away Microsoft would have been well placed to include a few Avatar friendly mini games in NXE. It would have caught up with some of the Wii's instant 'I wanna play as me!' aspect that you get with Mii's and Wii Sport. Along with the fact Home will be offering bowling alleys and other basic social games - yet on the NXE (for now) what you get is a 3D customizable profile picture and little more. Games are in development that support Avatars - so far only a couple have been announced Scene It? Box Office Smash will add support (via an update) and cutesy SimCity clone <a href="http://au.xbox360.ign.com/objects/142/14258119.html">A Kingdom for Keflings</a>.<br /><br /><strong>Media</strong><br /> If anything, the 360's media capabilities have been downgraded in importance. Which is surprising as it is a terribly import part of any console beingbe the centre of your lounge (something even more the case now we have drums and guitars lying around).<br />Of course this shows if anything a huge ideological difference between Microsoft and Sony. <br />Sure, the two systems interfaces look completely different, but they both fundamentally offer almost identical features and end uses. Sadly I think this is still done best on the PS3's XMB, with it's Music/Pictures/Games/Online/Friends system. It keeps it simple, yet offers a wider section of uses. <br /><br />The Music playback interface still blows, no new visualizations, no cover views, it seems to take 4 (Music Source-&gt;Albums-&gt;Album Name-&gt;Play All) clicks to get things playing when two should do.<br />There's also some things missing, the ability to actually get your non Microsoft media on to the console - in a time of DRM there should be an easy way of moving/backing up your iPod/Zune/Harddrive to the 360's music library - nope. Importing is still CD only.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/360nxe4.jpg" alt="" width="640" height="374" /><br /><strong>The same as the old one but different colours......<br /></strong><br />Another big disappointment is the 360's video playback has seen no improvements, AAC/MPEG-4 files still require a separate download and force you login to Live to playback files in those formats. The codecs package aren't installed by default, even though it has been over a year since the update was released. Also, when I tried to see if clips I knew used to play, often wouldn't, despite flawless playback previously - see pic.<br /><br /><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/360nxe3.jpg" alt="" width="640" height="196" /><br /><strong>NXE ERROR<br /></strong><br />Finally, media serving via uPnP from other sources over a network is still borked, with <a href="http://gxben.wordpress.com/2008/08/24/why-do-i-hate-dlna-protocol-so-much/">Microsoft still sticking to it's nonstandard version of uPnP</a> - meaning devices that are detectable on the PS3 and numerous other supporting devices - still fail to appear on the 360.<br /><br /> Add to this that one of the killer new features, Netflix, is of course tied and limited to North America. I can't imagine Microsoft working with other companies to offer other markets to offer alternatives. Of course if Apple can offer movies via iTunes NZ then I'm sure Microsoft will planning to offer something similar sooner or later.<br /><br /><strong>Over it</strong><br />It's in this end the new interface actually goes slightly backwards, all too much of the update push you to Live! and recommends and hypes Live! content - often even when you may have turned on your 360 to watch a movie or to just listen to an album.<br />This update hasn't addressed the other and possibly far more serious threat - the PlayStation 3.<br /><br />While not perfect, the PlayStation 3 still offers a much better package for someone who might buy just one console. <br />Add Sony's short term plans of releasing a NZ compatible FreeviewHD PVR, Sony Home, and it's more compatible media offerings, I can only see them continuing to strengthen their base.<br /><br />If someone asked me which console to buy, and they said they wanted play a few games possibly online, watch movies, play music, I just can't see any reasons to choose a 360 over it's slightly more expensive competitor.&nbsp; And I think that's where Microsoft have an issue. <br /><br />Microsoft have possibly the best games console out there - but don't have any of the cherries that sweeten the deal.<br /><br /><strong>Ups</strong><br />Avatars<br />Installing Games = less noise.<br />Nicer interface design (not much better though, just nicer).<br />New OS = New bugs, Exploits?<br /><br /><strong>Downs</strong><br />XBOX LIVE Ads everywhere.<br />No web browser.<br />Media playback still lacking. no MKV, no MOV, no AC3, very hit and miss on what will actually play, even when it looks like it should. Still no true DLNA uPnP support.<br />No favourites menu or ability to turn off any live ads.<br />If you don't play online or live in the USA there's not as much new shit as you'd have hoped.<br />DRM implementation still looking as bad as ever.Orcon Homehub Updatehttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/5817BlogMon, 29 Sep 2008 04:57:00 PDTSo after a relatively pain-free experience with an Orcon Homehub at work I decided to get one for home. <br />My main motivation was my wondering if my DLink DSL-502T &amp; a WRT54G modded to run DD-WRT were causing double NAT issues and resulting in slow connections/torrents. You would imagine an all in one solution would at least half the possible causes for slow speeds. And since upgrading so far so good - more green lights than amber in Azureus/Vuze.<br /><br />But as I've come to get used to the Homehub, I was hoping to get a feature of Leopard/MobileMe working - Back to My Mac.<br /> The general use is to setup a zero configuration VPN between your various Macs that aren't all in the same location. If this thing<br /> actually worked it would be an awesome. Remote Desktop/VNC, File Sharing - even Bonjour support all with no complex setup. The problem is it only works in ideal configurations - and most of those are centred around America's cable connections - and not an ADSL setup in NZ.<br /> <br /><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/b2mm.jpg" alt="Back To My Mac - no fun" width="501" height="413" /> Back to the Homehub - although offering uPnP, it would seem to be lacking true NAT-PMP support. Via this <a title="Apple Discussion on B2MM" href="http://discussions.apple.com/thread.jspa?threadID=1667032&amp;tstart=60">Apple Discussion</a>, I've found that looks like the same issues but on a BT Homehub (which is in no way the same box as Orcons).<br /> <blockquote>OK, so the problem is that the BT Voyager 2100 only supports the WANPPPConnection service of UPnP, while Apple currently only supports the WANIPConnection service. There's a chance Apple could add WANPPPConnection support in a future release, but until then you're out of luck.<br /></blockquote> When I used <a title="Lighthouse" href="http://codelaide.com/blog/products/lighthouse">Lighthouse</a>, a dynamic port forwarding utility for OS-X, to give me some in depth info, it reports - <br /> <em>Lighthouse could not associate with the router '192.168.1.1' because of invalid protocol implementations</em><br /> <em>The router '192.168.1.1' sent invalid responses to Lighthouse's requests to associate with it. This may happen if your router doesn't support NAT/PMP or UPnP (please check its manual) or because their implementation is incomplete. It may help to upgrade your router to its latest firmware version (information on how to do this should also be present in the router's manual).</em><br /> <br /> So my options would be to loose the Homehub, replacing it with a NAT-PMP supporting ADSL2+ Modem, ideally that supports Bridge mode - this turns it into a dumb modem that forwards everything through to your routers WAN port - including login and authentication - and hopefully NAT/uPnP. The I can use my Airport Extreme to get proper NAT-PMP.<br /> I did some reading and it would seem that the newest revision of the DLink DSL-502T does this - look out for Revision C.<br /> <br /> Has anyone out there managed to get a bridged modem connection working into their router and if so what gear are you using?<br /> <br /> Also - Orcon seem to be shipping a 2nd revision of the Homehub, its still based on a Siemens SX763, the new model has a WPS button on the back to allow for easy Wireless pairing (if you're other gear supports it). The new Homehub also has a Orcon Logo screened on the top and theres no standard Siemens packaging - just a Orcon branded slip around a white box. &nbsp;<br />WMV - the little format killed by neglect.https://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/5792BlogMon, 22 Sep 2008 01:37:00 PDTOver the last 2 or so years I have witnessed the slow demise of yet another format that saw Microsoft no doubt spend millions on developing. Windows Media Video (WMV) has been a relatively safe format to deliver video content to users as it offered good compression along with pretty much guaranteed compatibilty. Doing post production myself I often have to email a quick proof and would generally use WMV. It worked. It Played - as long as the person recieving it had a PC.<br />Yet Redmond, with it's infinite wisdom, decided to kill Mac support in early 2006 and then leave it to a 3rd party to continue offering playback support, via Flip4Mac. No DRM support but 99% of WMV content plays. It does the job. Of course the irony is it now plays in Quicktime, and not the ugly Windows Media Player for Mac.<br /><br />Here's a post from a <a href="http://news.zdnet.com/2100-1040_22-146342.html" title="ZDNet on WMV Support">zdnet blog post</a> on the discontiunueing of WMPlayer for OS-X:<br /><blockquote><p><br />....the decision to halt work on Windows Media Player for the Mac was a matter of prioritizing for Microsoft's Windows Media unit.</p><p>&quot;It's basically a business decision for Microsoft,&quot; Anderson said. &quot;Like any other company, we have business priorities. Our focus really is in delivering the best experience to Windows customers.&quot;</p></blockquote><p>Sure. You want to keep it real. Microsoft has an operating system and want it to be a feature to support playback of your awesome video format. Everyone else can go screw themselves.</p><p>But seriously, do they really think a format they hope would displace the original AVI container format (and possibly Quicktime), can really win if it doesn't work everywhere. I'd argue making sure it's as ubiquitous as it can be is one of the main selling points. That means it must be platform agnostic. It's worked for PDF, MP3 - it could have worked for WMV.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/WMV1.jpg" alt="Windows Media Page @ Microsoft - Circa 2002" width="620" height="560" /><br /><strong>A clipping of Microsofts Windows Media page in 2002</strong><br /><p>&nbsp;</p><p align="left">Via iTunes on Windows, Apple has managed to slip Quicktime on nearly every windows computer - and via that promoted (for better or for worse) it's other Windows applicaitions. Microsoft could have had this same 'in' on Mac's and Linux machines but for sake of &quot;delivering the best experience for Windows Customers&quot; it doesn't.</p><p align="left">Of course hindsight is a great thing, and even in 2006 I don't think we could gaurantee that DiVX/XViD/MPEG4 would become the default format of video distribution on the internet and the widespread adoption of Bittorent for media sharing. Heck - we <em>could</em> be downloading files with the RV/RMVB extension now instead - or even *gasp* WMV - but we don't - it's all AVI. Fine AVI a orginally a Microsoft format but I don't think you could say its in anyway controlled or even promoted by Redmond.</p><p align="left">But this isn't the only format that Microsoft is killing by it's pigheadedness - lets not forget MODI - <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_Document_Imaging_Format" title="Wiki On MODI">Microsoft Office Document Imaging</a> - MODI was introduced and installed by default in Office 2003 but was dropped by Office 2007 - it was a format that <em>could</em> have competed with the functionality of PDF but because Microsoft kept the format proprietry and only offered supported for it within that install it never went anywhere. The legacy of MODI is still around - anyone upgrading to 2007 or still just using Office 2003 will find an extra printer installed - a printer they neither really chose to install, explained to what it did and I gaurantee will ever use. The technology did eventually end up becaming part of Metro and then finally <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/XML_Paper_Specification" title="XPS Wikipedia Article">XPS</a>, which on top of being a file distribution format is the foundation of Vista's printing subsystem. </p><p align="left">This is of course a direct copy of OS-X's Postscript based printing subsystem - which is also the basis of PDF. Postscript &amp; PDF are the industry standard for printing - on all platforms. Because of this ubiqutousness, one things for sure - XPS will never truely offset PDFs domince. Everyone can open files in the PDF format. The same can't be said for XPS - as of writing, and 2 years since it's launch, I could only spot 1 application that lets you view/edit XPS on a Mac and is a bargin at $US99 (not) and no support at all for Linux. Not a good way to get people onboard you're awesome new format MS.</p><p align="left">Microsoft is the king of failed formats.</p><p align="left">&nbsp;</p><p align="left">P.S. One last bitch - <br />Of course with the eventual failure of MODI/XPS, it would be good to see implementing system wide PDF support in Vista. I doubt that will ever happen though. Instead every man and his dog will continue to have to go off to Adobe.com and download Acrobat reader - giving another company an 'in' to the Microsoft system. I'm not condoning anti competitive behaviour, more that if Microsoft had much interest in improving the end user experience and if <strong>everyone</strong> has to install PDF support - then shouldn't it be on the list of needed features in Windows 7?Vodafone Music Store goes DRM Free &#0038; adds Subscription music.https://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/5760BlogSun, 14 Sep 2008 04:17:00 PDT<div style="text-align: center"><img src="http://www.satellitemobile.co.nz/music/assets/img/sm/3198/5/vmusic_banner.jpg" alt="Vodafone Music Store is Down" width="555" height="240" /></div><br /><br />So <a href="http://www.stuff.co.nz/4689283a28.html" title="Vodafone Store News">Stuff.co.nz is reporting</a> that as of today/tomorrow Vodafones Music store is about to loose it's DRM laden WMA's for 256k MP3's and not only that but off NZ's first true subscription service (still heavly DRM'd).<br /><br />Apparently the costs will be the same at $1.99 a track and they don't say wether previous purchases will be able to redownloaded DRM free. I do like the fact they are quoted as saying &quot;...at 256 kilobits per second, which makes them &quot;significantly higher quality'' than those sold by many music download services, including Apples' iTunes&quot; although if you buy an iTunes Plus (AAC DRM free) track you get a 256k Unprotected AAC which is better compression at the same bitrate. Also from what I can tell iTunes is actually cheaper still - <a href="http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?i=284000580&amp;id=284000561&amp;s=143461" title="iTunes Link to fat Freddies Drop">$1.79 for a DRM Free track</a>.<br /><br />For subscription you're looking at $10p.month which certainly offers a sweet spot on pricing but sucks big time by only being available on VMUSIC compatible phones. If it is indeed only available to your phone and only your phone the advantage of subscription seems to go out the window and kids (VMUSICs main market) will just steal music as usual.<br />Of course theres no mention of iPhone compatibilty for the subscription side of things, but its safe to say it won't work.<br /><br /><div style="text-align: center"><div align="left">No matter what, actually having an option other than iTunes and Amplifier for DRM free music in NZ can only be a good thing.<br /></div></div>Three hundred &#0038; Sixty Funtimehttps://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/5729BlogSat, 06 Sep 2008 05:20:00 PDT<div style="text-align: center"><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/aaba5c94b460.jpg" border="0" alt="XBOX 360 Fun" width="426" height="318" /><br />Pic from <a href="http://www.splitreason.com/productdetail.php?id=468" title="Split Reason">Splitreason.com</a><br /></div><br /><br />I just read this <a href="http://venturebeat.com/2008/09/05/xbox-360-defects-an-inside-history-of-microsofts-video-game-console-woes/" title="Venture Beat">article over at Venture Beat</a>, and I must say it paints a pretty bleak picture of the XBOX 360 design process. To sum it up, Microsoft cut too many corners, rushed the thing to market and at launch had a failure rate of 68%!!! Yes more 360's were made that just didn't work than actually did - and they just kept on shippin' them.<br /><br />Fast forward 2 years and after enjoying over a year of flawless play on my flatmates beige model, I finally brought a 360 Elite - I was willing to spend a little more on the Elite as I wanted HDMI, a&nbsp; black case and theoretically a newer design that would be quieter/more reliable. Fat Chance on that last one. My Elite last 2 weeks until its first crash and then only 2 weeks later it died completely. So for my $800 I got to enjoy 2 weeks of play, 2 weeks of on and off play and then 3 weeks of waiting. Add&nbsp; the cost of me shipping it to an AKL Airport based address, not a big cost but seriously - I had to pay for something that was not my doing. Interestingly I found it was shipped to Sydney for 'repair'. For that I got a free month of Live Gold - whoppee.<br /><br />Since the repair I've had no issues thankfully but the more I think about it the more I've gone off Microsoft's console. I'm not rushing out to buy games and theres no way I'm spending $80 a year for Live Gold. Infact I was ever slightly pissed that I couldn't download the Force Unleashed demo when it came out and instead have to wait a week to get it - which is a Gold 'feature'.<br /><br /><strong>Things that are good about my 360 - </strong><br />It's Black (is this even a feature??)<br />The controllers are the best weight/layout.<br /><br /><strong>Things that REALLY suck - </strong><br />Noise from DVD drive<br />Reliability<br />Lack of support of true DLNA uPnP - which makes DIVX support more of a gimmick than a usable feature.<br />Noise from DVD Drive (seriously it's that noisy).Best case XBMC setup?https://www.geekzone.co.nz/lotech/5672BlogSun, 24 Aug 2008 06:59:00 PDTI&nbsp; thought I might do a post on my current media playback setup, but more than anything, highlight how far a modded XBOX1 can and can't go using one and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xbox_Media_Center" title="XBMC Wikipedia Page">XBOX Media Center</a> (XBMC). Via modding the XBOX has turned into the ugly little console that can. I've had more fun on it in the years since it was discontinued than I ever did when I got it.<br /><br /><div style="text-align: center"><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/aeon-images1.jpg" border="0" alt="AEON - Skin for XBMC" width="650" height="369" /></div><br /><br />Despite what you may have thought, the XBOX can output HD. With the right bits you can have your setup looking beautiful in&nbsp; HD and outputting true 5.1 sound. You can have you favourite movies/shows processed and upscaled to HD. <br />It can decode up to 960x540 videos, and <em>upscale</em> them. XBMC can also render the whole interface in HD and numerous skins have become HD specific - No more SD for you. Some of the awesome skins that are popping up check out <a href="http://www.aeonproject.com/" title="AEON XBMC Skin">AEON</a> (below) or <a href="http://teamrazorfish.co.uk/" title="Mediastream Home">MediaStream</a>.<br />And this is where I should mention the downsides - no true HD content. It has got enough CPU/GPU power unfortunately the 64mb of RAM the XBOX sports just isn't enough to store all the decompressed frames to keep fluid playback. Solutions are numerous but all pretty much involve throwing away the XBOX1 and running XBMC on a more powerful machine.<br /><br /><br /><br /><div style="text-align: center"><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/aeon-images2.jpg" alt="Aeon for XBMC" width="650" height="369" /></div><br /><br /><strong>History</strong><br />So how did this happen, you ask? In a slightly advanced move, Microsoft added the then new buzzword 'HD' support. Some games actually were released that support them. They enabled the ability to output resolutions of 576i, 576p, 720p &amp; 1080i - keep in mind they only added this to the XBOX360 last year! <br />For a full list of games supporting HD resolutions theres a&nbsp; <a href="http://www.hdtvarcade.com/hdtvforum/index.php?autocom=custom&amp;page=xboxc" title="HD Compatible Games">good list here</a>. Only a few games truely supported 1080I though but a solid handful featured 720 support - for me the best being Amped 2 which supported up to 720P with 5.1. The only downside is that once they had announced the XBOX360, there was no real need to develop the XBOX's support for HD in other Territories.<br />NTSC only folks. Pooo to you PAL regions.<br />Or not if you have a modded XBOX and can run a simple app (<a href="http://www.google.co.nz/search?hl=mi&amp;safe=off&amp;client=firefox-a&amp;rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-GB%3Aofficial&amp;hs=7d3&amp;q=Enigmah-x+v2&amp;btnG=Rapu&amp;meta=" title="Enigmah Switcher for XBOX">Enigmah-x v2</a>) to switch your XBOX from PAL to NTSC, and thus enabling the HD resolutions in the original green dashboard. Once you've enabled them, you can also enable it in XBMC.<br /><br /><br /><br /><strong>My Setup</strong><br /><img src="http://www.lotech.co.nz/images/XBOX_HDAV_PACK_001.jpg" border="0" alt="XBOX HD AV Pack" width="170" height="183" align="right" />I'm running a soft modded XBOX V1.1, with 80gb drive installed and a <a href="http://www.theplaycom.com/xbox-hdtv-pack-p-54.html" title="Component / HD Breakout Box Xbox1">no name 3rd party component/optical breakout box</a> ($NZ35 Delivered from USA). There are other no-names, but not all boxes are created equal. I've brought a couple of others from elsewhere and found them to have fuzzy images and slight colour sync issues.<br /> The XBOX is running into my 37&quot; Samsung Series 5 1080P 60hz LCD and a Pioneer VSX-915 Receiver. Media wise I have a D-Link DNS-323 NAS with 1tb storage, it's running via a 10/100 connection under the house to the lounge. I'm running XBOX and XBMC in 720P.<br />I've noticed some slowdown at 1080i in transitions.<br />My XBOX is softmodded with Auto Installer V4 for <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xbox_softmods" title="Softmods">007:AUF</a>. I use a Mega-X Key 32mb USB key to copy hacked saves around. You can <a href="http://www.llamma.com/xbox/Mods/creating_a_dual_usb_adapter.htm" title="XBOX USB Adaptor">make your own</a> controller port -&gt; USB adaptor quite easily. With this system I can have a modded XBOX running XBMC in HD in about 20 minutes.<br /><br /><br /><strong>Problems</strong><br />Obviously the biggest ones (for me at least) is the inabilty to play and HD content. But as I cover below, there are ports of XBMC popping up all over the show. Rule of thumb for downloads is look for the HR in releases eg - ***.<strong>HR</strong>.HDTV.AC3.5.1.XvID.avi. The HR stands for <strong>H</strong>igh <strong>R</strong>esolution (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High-Resolution_High-Definition" title="HR Definition">wiki</a>) and is encoded at the max dimensions of 960x540 - which is the limit to the XBOX to decode easily. <br /><br />I also don't really recommend upgrading the harddrive in your XBOX as it involves a PC with 2 IDE ports and a bunch of faffing around, and the chance you mess<br /><br />up and the XBOX becomes a parts machine. If you must, maybe try this <a href="http://aaron.bronow.net/blog/2006/05/xbox-harddrive-upgrade.html" title="XBOX Harddrive Upgrade">tutorial</a>. It's a annoying as the default drive is usually only 8gb, although some shipped with 20gb drives inside. You can access the extra space but it requires <a href="http://www.xbox-scene.com/articles/hdd-ftp.php" title="Format HD - XBOX">formating the F drive in EVOX</a> via RAW ftp commands (or a script).<br /><br />Finally, the FAT-X Partition system only supports 8.3 DOS file names which is one of the reasons I don't really think the internal drive is really the way to store media. It's great for ROMs and other Apps but not large collections of media.<br /><br />Also the depending on which XBOX revision you get, the DVD drive can change brands/models - some were really picky as far as playback of burnt media goes.<br /><br /><br /><strong>Next Step</strong><br /><a href="http://plexapp.com/" title="Plex - XBMC for OS-X"><strong>PLEX</strong></a> - This my dream. Either a AppleTV or MacMini running OS-X and with Plex, the OS-X Port of XBMC. Unfortunately neither the ATV or Mini have the power to deal with HD - the ATV doesn't have the CPU/RAM for OS-X and the Mini is still stuck back in the world of Intels GMA-950 graphics chipset. Of course if Apple release an updated Mini on the X1300 chipset or better - we'd have the best XBMC machine around - and with support for the iTunes movie store.<br /><br />Of course theres other options - specifically <strong>MythTV</strong> or <strong>Vista MC</strong>. I just don't need a PC in my lounge. I need a basic (yet complete) end playback unit.<br /><br />Theres also the <strong>Playstation3</strong> which I must say looks quite promising, add the forthcoming PlayTV Freeview tuner and that it can serve via uPnP to my NAS. Also support for HD file playback, albiet picky on formats. No MKV files, no FLV. I like the openness of XBMC. Oh and the Bluetooth remote - not good for anyone who tries to stick to a Universal remote.<br /><br />And of course the <strong>XBOX360</strong>, which I already own, but as anyone who has one knows, it's horribly noisy. It also doesn't support the uPnP DLNA standard. Instead it has some 'not quite standard' implementation of uPnP. Good job Microsoft - its IE all over again. I also have no faith that Microsoft will ever improve beyond the basic support its added for formats now.<br /><br />phew.... I'm tired. Time to go watch some media and not type about it.