Archive for December, 2008

VHS Tapes… So Long Old Friend.

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Town Crier IconAfter 3 decades of servicing all those looking to record their favorite TV show, family memories or dirty bits… We’ve finally reached the end of the line for those formerly ubiquitous pop culture objects… the VHS tape. Back in the early days, much was written about the competition between the battling VHS and Betamax formats… very similar to the Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD battle that was recently won by Blu-Ray… Many a videophile thought Betamax was the superior format, but VHS won the battle anyway… Why? Well check this out to get the gist…

Stack 'o TapesI can tell you that I was hopelessly addicted to the VHS tape back in the day for sure. The picture to the right pretty much sums up what the top of my television looked like for many years… I was the undisputed king, the go-to guy amongst my set for knowing how to program a VTR… my machines were definitely never found with a blinking 12:00… I even had three TV’s all with their own VTR’s for a while so that I could record multiple stations simultaneously (an early version of TIVO). The only thing I failed to accomplish was to train cats to swap out full tapes for blanks when I wasn’t home… but I learned ways around it… I was determined back then…

Anyway, on a crisp Friday morning in October, the final truckload of VHS tapes rolled out of a warehouse in Palm Harbor, Florida… a warehouse run by a guy named Ryan Kugler, the last major supplier of VHS tapes.

“It’s dead, this is it, this is the last Christmas, without a doubt,” said Kugler, 34, a Southern California businessman. “I was the last one buying VHS and the last one selling it, and I’m done. Anything left in warehouse we’ll just give away or throw away.”

Kugler has sold more than 4 million VHS tapes over the last couple of years. In the end, mostly to discount outlets and dollar stores… he estimates that there are still a couple million tapes sitting on shelves around the world… but they’re the last analog soldiers in the lost battle against the digital invasion. “I’m not sure a lot of people are going to miss VHS,” he said, “but it’s been good to us.”

Well… I can’t say that I’ll miss ’em… at least not as much as I’d mourn the loss of the two dual-channel TIVO’s that I have now… but I’ll certainly maintain a bit of nostalgia, considering the massive amount of archival footage I have, I’ll have a VTR wired up in my studio for years to come…

So, my sweet VHS tape, with 2008 you will be retired to the great trash heap of technological progress… We all know you’re not going to biodegrade gracefully, but rest in peace anyway… you’ve served us well old friend…

(Ed.note; portions of this post were blatantly plagiarized from a story by Geoff Boucher in the Saturday online edition of the Chicago Tribune)

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Mac OS X Updates to 10.5.6.

Monday, December 15th, 2008

Town Crier IconApple released Mac OS X 10.5.6 today, a recommended update for all who are using any version of Mac OS X Leopard 10.5.x. The update includes general operating system fixes that enhance the stability, compatibility and security of Macs. The easiest way to grab the update is to choose Software Update… from your Apple Menu and let the update run automated…

Otherwise, if you’re currently running version 10.5.5, download the 373MB update here… or choose the 668MB download here for those running older versions.

Mac OS X 10.5.6Here’s the laundry list of enhancements with this latest OS update…

Address Book

  • Improves reliability of Address Book syncing with iPhone and other devices and applications.

AirPort

  • Improves the reliability of AirPort connections, including improvements when roaming in large wireless networks with an Intel-based Mac.

Client Management

  • Improves reliability of synchronizing files on a portable home directory.
  • Fixes an issue in Mac OS X 10.5.4 and 10.5.5 in which managed users may not see printers that use the Generic PPD.
  • Client computers that use UUID-based ByHost preferences now respect managed Screen Saver settings.

iChat

iChat logo

  • Addresses an issue that could cause an encryption alert to appear in the chat window.
  • Setting your iChat status to “invisible” via AppleScript no longer logs you out of iChat.
  • Resolves an issue in which pasting text from a Microsoft Office document could insert an image rather than text.

Graphics

  • Includes general improvements to gaming performance.
  • Includes graphics improvements for iChat, Cover Flow, Aperture, and iTunes.
  • Includes fixes for possible graphics distortion issues with certain ATI graphics cards.

Mail

Mac Mail logo

  • Includes overall performance and reliability fixes.
  • Improves Connection Doctor accuracy.
  • Fixes an issue that could cause messages identified as junk to remain in the inbox.
  • Fixes an issue that could cause Mail to append a character to the file extension of an attachment.
  • Addresses an issue that could prevent Mail from quitting.
  • Improves reliability when printing PDF attachments.

MobileMe

  • Contacts, calendars, and bookmarks on a Mac automatically sync within a minute of the change being made on the computer, another device, or the web at me.com.

Networking

  • Improves Apple File Service performance, especially when using a home directory hosted on an AFP server. Important: If you are using Mac OS X 10.5.6 (client) to connect to a Mac OS X Server 10.4-based server, it is strongly recommended that you update the server to Mac OS X Server version 10.4.11.
  • Improves the performance and reliability of TCP connections.
  • Improves reliability and performance for AT&T 3G cards.
  • Updates the ssh Terminal command for compatibility with more ssh servers.

Printing

  • Improves printing for the Adobe CS3 application suite.
  • Improves printing for USB-based Brother and Canon printers.

Parental Controls

  • Addresses an issue in which a parentally-controlled account could be unable to access the iTunes Store.
  • Includes general fixes for time limits.
  • Resolves an issue that prevented adding allowed websites from Safari via drag and drop.

Time Machine

Time Machine Logo

  • Fixes issues that could cause Time Machine to state the backup volume could not be found.
  • Improves Time Machine reliability with Time Capsule.

Safari

  • Improves compatibility with web proxy servers.

General

  • Includes Mac OS X security improvements. See this website for more information.
  • Addresses inaccuracies with Calculator when the Mac OS X language is set to German or Swiss German.
  • Improves the performance and reliability of Chess.
  • Improves DVD Player performance and reliability.
  • Performance improvements for iCal are included.
  • Fixes an issue when running the New iCal Events Automator action as an applet.
  • Adds a Trackpad System Preference pane for portable Macs.
  • Improves compatibility with smart cards such as the U.S. Department of Defense Common Access Card.
  • Updates time zone data and Daylight Saving Time rules for several countries.

For those of you running Mac OS X Server… all the info you need to update can be found here.

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How To Stream WGN on Your iPhone for $6.

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Do It YourselfOne major recurring theme on the show is how to stream WGN on various devices. While on the air last show we were trying to figure it out for the iPhone when we got emails from Gary K. and Ben H. suggesting a couple iPhone Apps that could do the job. I’ve checked some of these out and am happy to be able to recommend an App from Nullriver called Tuner Internet Radio. Clicking this link should bring you to this App’s page (assuming you have iTunes running on your computer). From there you’ll need to purchase the App (for $6) which will automatically download it. Once the download is complete, sync your iPhone in iTunes (which will transfer the App to the phone).

Tuner IconFrom here we need to configure the Tuner App to stream WGN… Unfortunately it’s not one of the stations offered among the presets… WGN isn’t found by using the search function either… instead I employed my keen investigative skills, akin to killing an ant with an anvil, which led me to the following info which should work for you…

  1. From the Main Menu on your iPhone, find the icon (of an old-fashioned radio) that says Tuner and tap it.
  2. From the Genres screen (should be the default), the Top 500 screen or the Search screen… click “Open” in the upper left.
  3. Into the Title field type WGN AM or whatever suits you for bookmarking purposes.
  4. Into the URL field type the following address : http://provisioning.streamtheworld.com/pls/WGNAM.pls (this has to be entered in exactly, down to the finest detail).
  5. Click “Done” and you should be on the air… If so, click the bookmark icon in the upper right to save it as a preset (you’ll never have to enter in that pesky URL again).

A little convoluted… but if listening to WGN on your iPhone is what you want to do… you probably won’t consider this that big of a deal… and for any of you that might want to know how I sleuthed out that URL, drop me a line and I’ll let you know… I decided it was too tedious to include here.

Happy streaming.

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Time Consuming Video Alternative.

Wednesday, December 10th, 2008

Links to Info IconThis post is about a very interesting experiment perpetrated by Cesar Kuriyama, a New York animator and lighting director. Mr. Kuriyama created a music video for the Philadelphia band Fat City Reprise without using a video camera… instead, he took over 45,000 photographs with a Nikon D200 DSLR Camera and stitched them together using Apple’s Final Cut Studio.

The talent in the video was directed to move in as close to slow motion as possible while director of photography Tommy Agriodimas shot JPEG bursts with the Nikon. They were able to capture 60 images per burst and in real-time, it came out to about 4 shots per second. The images were adjusted on the Final Cut timeline to more closely approximate the 24 frames per second present in traditional film.

Now I’m not saying you’ll like the song the video is done to, nor am I saying you’ll even particularly like the video itself… but when you watch the following closely, it’s hard not to appreciate the creativity, attention to detail, experimentalism and the utter commitment to making it happen that would have killed lesser mortals (Kuriyama worked on this every night for 14 months after working hours).

Make sure the volume on your computer isn’t blasting and then click Play to check it out…

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Christmas Gifts for the Poor, Middle-Class & Rich.

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

Links to Info Icon

Christmas time is here again and maybe you’re looking for some Apple related gifts for family or friends that are on your list… I’ll make some suggestions below that start cheap and move to expensive… I’m going to add to that at the end with some stocking stuffers that aren’t necessarily computer related, but recommended and within a reasonable price range…

How Much Are You Thinking of Spending?

jBuds

1-Year MobileMe Subscription ($99) • If someone on your list has a relatively current Mac and they don’t yet have MobileMe (formerly Mac.com)… trust me when I say that for $99, you want to be the one to turn them on to it. The service really starts to seem like the steal of the century if the user has at least (2) devices… an iPhone and an iMac for example. MobileMe is in essence a remote server space termed ‘the cloud’. The most current versions of your Contacts, Calendars, Email, etc. are continuously synced to MobileMe and then beamed back down to your other devices. MobileMe also allows you 20gb of remote storage space in the cloud… very cool for backing up those important files… and you’re able to check any of your information stored in the cloud from any computer with a web browser at me.com… Also, easily create public slideshows of your pictures within your space

1TB Lacie

LaCie 1TB d2 Quadra Hard Drive ($280) • Now if this little buddy is within your price range, this is a great gift if you ask me. It’s like giving a painter a blank canvas. If your recipient is into video, this reliable drive represents room for 55 hours of digital video (720/480)… how about audio? Forget mp3’s… with this platter you’ve got room for over 170 hours of lossless audio. ProTools anyone? But perhaps the best use for a drive like this would be for configuring Time Machine on a Mac running Leopard. Many people have it but don’t use it… how much easier would they sleep with a complete incremental back-up? This sturdy little drive from LaCie (I own the 500gb model) connects via FireWire 800/400 as well as USB 2.0… 32mb cache, plug and play and driverless on Mac OSX, daisy-chainable. Stackable, rackmountable or stand it upright… compatible with Mac OS X v10.2.8 or later; or Windows Vista/2000/XP or later. PowerPC G3, G4, or G5 or Intel Core processor; Intel Pentium II 512MHz-compatible.

The Tower of 8-Core Power ($12,700 – as configured) • This one here is more like a gift that you would buy for yourself… driving this machine is like driving the world’s finest automobile, so it might also fill the role of a mid-life crisis pacifier… and seeing as we’re going for broke, might as well configure this leopard to fly like the wind…

Mac Pro

(2) 3.2GHz Quad-Core chips, 16GB of RAM, (2) 500GB & (1) 1TB hard drive in 3 of the 4 available hard drive bays. An NVIDIA GeForce 8880 GT video card driving (2) 30″ Apple Cinema Displays. (2) 16x Super Drives (they’ll burn anything). And just to make sure it’s all protected, we’ll throw in an AppleCare Protection Plan for good measure.

Grand total comes to a staggering $12,696… but shipping is FREE, so get your order in now to beat the holiday rush… Seriously though, this is the fastest personal computer on Earth… Perhaps you were just the beneficiary of a “bailout” windfall that’s burning a hole in your pocket… or your eccentric Uncle Fester willed you a meager sum, in roughly this amount, for a life-long commitment to tending his prized rose bushes… one way or another we (I) need to figure out how to get one of these speed merchants yesterday!

Stocking Stuffers Under $25

jBuds

JBuds J2 Earbuds ($25) > The big question here is whether or not the recipient will like how these feel in their ears… the JBuds come with (3) different silicone cushions that go a long way in making the fit… Personally, I don’t like the headphones that come with Apple iPods, but I do like these JBuds… For their $25 price tag, these little guys sound good… I’m guessing not as good as the $250 set from Bose (for the audiophile), but who wants to drop that much coin on a pair of disposable earphones? I abuse mine so badly, this under $30 price point is the only way I go… and they come in your choice of 12 different colors. Also featured is a cord that’s four and a half feet long and so far I’m finding the mini-jack connector always holds tight with no drop-outs (definitely a problem over time with every other brand I’ve tried). JBuds are compatible with just about every device you could think of from iPhone and iPods to portable gaming units (PSP, Nintendo DS) to other mp3 players (Sansa, Zune, Sony)… pretty much any device with a minijack headphone connection.

Heart On

Eagles of Death Metal – Heart On ($14) > This platter was my Halloween present to myself this year and I’ve had to have listened to it a couple dozen times over the last month… the only bummer is that it didn’t come out at the start of the Summer… this is a great Summer album… Anyway, don’t be confused… This fusion of Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) and Jesse Hughes isn’t death metal and they sound nothing like the Eagles… I saw it described well in its iTunes review; “they sound like an 80’s punk band dipped in 70’s Rolling Stones raunch (which isn’t a bad thing…)” I love this record… Standout tracks WannaBe in L.A. and High Voltage is Iggy Pop jammin’ in the Ramones garage and Devo stops by…

So that’s what I’ve got for this holiday season… if you’d like to leave some suggestions of your own… please click the Comments link just below and tap ’em in…

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