Monthly Archives: January 2009

gaming news

After rolling my eyes one more time, I finally removed yet another gaming website’s RSS feed from my reader, leaving me now only with two total to check regularly: the official Playstation blog being one, and from the always awesome Ars, Opposable Thumbs.

When I first got my PS3 a while back, I just googled for “PS3 news” or something like that, grabbed the first ten sites that popped up, put the domains in my feed reader, and went from there. I immediately killed off the ones that had trimmed feeds, and as time went on, I just deleted the ones that were getting stupid. Opposable Thumbs, however, never showed up in my original list, and while they do have partial feeds, the content is usually excellent so it’s worth overlooking (still annoying, though).

I could go into a big sphiel about the details of why I got rid of all my feeds … but I think I’ll just sum it up into two lists of what I do want to read, and what I’m not interested in.

Would like to see:

  • What new games are coming out for the PS3
  • When they are coming out
  • Game trailers
  • Interviews with studios, developers

This is the stuff that I really don’t care about:

  • Why X console is better than Y console: the CEO press release smackdown, lulz
  • Market takes a dip on Japanese-only title in Japan
  • Some Nameless Studio lays off 13 people
  • Console sales for this week in Europe, Asia and the Upper Congo

That pretty much sums it up. I’m willing to admit that my search skills suck, as I’ve known this for a long time, but the thing that bothers me the most is I really have no idea what games are coming out or when, which is primarily what I’m interested in. I guess I just need a “new releases” feed. Honestly, the only time I would hear it from the feeds about a game being released was when they started talking about the patches.

Can I be the only one who wants stuff this simple?

Leave a comment

Filed under Computers

the empire strikes back poster

You know who has made the best movies posters evar?  Star Wars.  There are seriously like 12 styles for each movie (well, the originals) that just freaking rawk.

I’ve been thinking about decorating my office at work, since the most exciting thing I have right now is a drawing on my whiteboard from my little brother (really), and this place needs some spicing up.  So I started poking around last night, and I saw this awesome UK quad for Superman 3, which I thought about getting, for the sheer awesomeness of how awesome it is, but I couldn’t find one for sale that wasn’t folded.  Meh.

Then I found some really cool Batman Begins ones, and I wondered why I haven’t ever bought any of those.  There are four that look all pretty cool, and I had a hard time deciding which to get, so I just kept moving on.

Next I started looking around for Star Wars ones, which they are all awesome, but it’s the same thing — it’s hard to pick which one.  Then I found one I had *never* seen before, and instantly snatched it up.  Here’s an image of the poster from art.com:

That thing is just gorgeous.

I’ve never bought any movie posters from art.com before, so I’m especially wary to see how it will turn out.  In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever bought a reprint for a movie poster since I prefer the originals, but in this case, original Star Wars posters go for a *lot* of money so I’m content to settle with a reprint that is at least the same size.  I just hope the quality is good.  Sometimes these reprints will look like a copy of a copy.

Oh, and for good measure, here’s the whiteboard drawing:

My little bro is really into Star Wars too. :)

Leave a comment

Filed under Entertainment

the motherboard of my dreams … hopefully

After much waiting and wrangling over which one to get, I have finally bought a new Mini ITX motherboard to use for my mythfrontend. I’ve been planning to get a second one for a long time, ever since I pretty much realized it wasn’t just a possible goal, it was a completely awesome solution as an embedded frontend.

Here’s the board I got: an MSI IM-945GC.

Just looking at it, it doesn’t look like a good board for multimedia playback at all. It doesn’t have SPDIF, S-Video, Composite, Component or HDMI ports. Just VGA, stereo jacks, PS2 ports and three COM ports. Woots. But, it is stocked with lots of cool stuff.

The processor is a dual-core Intel Atom. Dual-core! That’s just amazing, and the first I’ve seen. I would normally be hesitant to go from a VIA C7 chip (which is what I already have) to something else, but my netbook also has an Intel Atom CPU, and it runs surprisingly fast. This thing also runs at 1.6 GHz, which is the fastest that I’ve seen, and still fanless. The next thing that even comes close to this is a VIA C7 1.2 GHz single core that is also fanless. So, this thing is gonna rock.

Because it’s using an Intel chipset, that means that the onboard video is also Intel’s. It’s got a GMA 950 onboard, which means I’m not gonna have to worry a lick about the graphics or OpenGL. My only complaint in that area is that, like all onboard video cards, it uses shared memory which I’m not a big fan of. But, the picture will look really gorgeous.

Despite the lack of media ports, there’s still other reasons why I got this thing. It has a PCI Express Mini slot on it, which means I can get a wireless card and stick it in there and it’ll rest on top of the motherboard. It also has a PCI slot so if I really want to, I can get a different video card in there. I doubt there are any PCI ones with HDMI, but I do know you can snag one with S-Video.

Perhaps most importantly, though, this thing supports 2 GB of RAM. I had a really hard time deciding on which features I wanted the mobo to have, and when I finally listed features by priority, this one came out on top. My current Mini only supports 1 GB, and while that’s sufficient, I’m more in the market of making sure I can future proof this thing as much as possible. The harddrive will be a SSD flash module that plugs into the IDE port, and I’ll run it in readonly mode using ext2 with no swap. I’ll have a small partition for /var so that I can write temporary files, but that’s it. Everything is going to use RAM, and that’s it, so I want to make sure my option is maxed out.

Another great feature is that this thing also has two gigabit NICs on the back. Plus, there are four USB ports, all 2.0. I’m really excited for this board. I think it’s gonna be pretty fast. The CPU also supports hyperthreading, so it’ll look like I have four cores in there.

I decided to go ahead and forego some of the other media ports because I don’t see me wanting to use them anytime soon. Or, by the time I want to, I’ll probably want either a better motherboard or a completely different delivery option by then. Both of my mythfrontends are used primarily to playback TV shows and casual movies that I just feel like watching. They are not intended to deliver an amazing presentation, such as duplicating a great picture like or surround sound. When I want the best quality, I’ll just pull out the DVD and turn on my receiver. But that doesn’t happen very often. My HDTV that I’ll be hooking this up to has a VGA port on the back, and so that’s all I needed. It also has a stereo input jack, so I can just run an audio cable straight in without any fuss. The low quality playback solution works perfectly since 90% of my content is old and in stereo to start with.

This thing doesn’t come even close to being able to handle an HD stream, and I’m totally cool with that. As strange as it may seem, I am an incredibly slow adopter when it comes to new technologies, and in cases like this I get extremely stubborn and stick with what works for a long time. That does have one advantage to it — by the time I do get around to working with something, it’s not in alpha or beta stages anymore, and I can usually do what I want without much of a hitch.

I’m just now barely starting to warm up to BluRay just a little bit (another post that I need to write about) ever since seeing some actual quality films. I only have three films at home — the first three Harry Potters — only because I got them at a great deal at Amazon ($40 for all three) and I bought them just so I could have *some* source material on hand to see what its like whenever I get the urge. Movies is pretty much the only thing I would care about when it comes to HD anyway, and since almost all of my time accessing the mythfrontend is watching TV shows from the 60s to the 90s, HD isn’t even a variable, and it won’t be for a long time.

So, I’m really excited to get this thing. My old setup was working perfectly well, and I just barely took it down last night. Right before I did, I looked at the uptime to see what it was at — 141 days. Freak, that’s over 4 months that this thing has been working without a hitch. I’m pretty proud of that.

This time around I bought a bigger flash drive. My old one was 256 MBs. Yes, megabytes. I had a job a few cycles ago developing an embedded multimedia operating system (based on Gentoo, of course) which is where I learned everything. The job or the company didn’t quite work out so well, but the experience was a great learning one. The OS that is running on my current Mini is completely crafted from an extreme amount of TLC. Every single program that is on there has both been modified to cut out cruft and save space, and optimized where possible to run faster. I did not have any space to play with, and when you need X, MythTV, Qt3 and glibc you gotta really learn to squeeze. It is quite possible though. In fact, I think my image is closer to 180 megs in space total, after using SquashFS.

The amazing part is how responsive the thing is. Since everything was nicely tweaked, it seriously feels like I’m using my dual-core amd64 desktop because it is so snappy. In some cases, it is more responsive, the latency is just so low. There are a lot of shortcuts you can take, though, mostly in the kernel … such as not dumping anything and turning off a bunch of other stuff you wouldn’t dare do anywhere else, but building for embedded is so amazingly fun. Plus there’s just nothing cooler than knowing it runs with such an small footprint. I highly recommend Building Embedded Linux Systems, Second Edition from O’Reilly if you are interested in doing some of the same. It’s a lifesaver. And, of course, I recommend using a source-based distribution like Gentoo because it will help you to very easily trim down the fat and get only the bare essentials on there.

I bought a new flash IDE drive along with the new motherboard, and this one is 4GB in size, so I’m not going to have to ever worry about size. I’m not sure if I’ll create a new custom build for this one as well or not. It was a lot of work getting the first one done, but a great learning experience. It reminded me a lot of when I first started installing Gentoo years ago, because up until that point, I thought I knew a lot about how things work together. There’s nothing quite like getting into every single program you install in your OS and digging to see if you really need it or not, just trying to save an extra 59kb to 4MB of space. Good times.

Anyway, I’ll be sure to take some pics of the new one once it gets here. I already started taking some of my old one, as I’ll have to dismember it a bit and move it to a new case. I might end up replacing that one as well, since it’s starting to fall apart a bit. I’m not sure I could go through the decision making process again, though. :)

Edit: leio-dl was asking me in #gentoo-dev why my image was so large, so I dug up a list of all the packages that is installed on the image, and here it is. 180 megs for an embedded image is actually really huge, but mine has a lot of stuff.

Edit #2: Er, just looked a bit closer. Main image is 97M, and then I have /lib in a SquashFS image which I think is about 40M, so it’d be closer to 130 total than 180.

5 Comments

Filed under Computers, Hardware, Multimedia

gentoo + planet venus = one happy beandog

Oh, yah, I completely forgot about this one. Last week or so, Planet Gentoo and Gentoo Universe finally switched over from using Planet to Venus for producing the lovely RSS feeds and webpages you see now. I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time.

If you find any bugs, just sit back, close your eyes and think about something else, and they’ll all magically go away. :)

Leave a comment

Filed under Gentoo

if it ain't broke …

I have an old saying I like to use now and then, which has always seemed particularly relevant to Gentoo. “If it ain’t broke, tweak it.” Of course, now, I’m starting to develop a new motto: “I get really cranky when things don’t work right.” :)

It turns out that the issue with the DVDs from Universal Studios weren’t completely related to disc quality after all. I sat down today determined to figure out why everything was out of sync so much, and the answer was that it has been happening in recent versions of mkvmerge. So, it was the Matroska muxer all along. Although, I’d gather, I imagine it’s probably the MPEG demuxer when it comes to TV DVDs. Everything with v2.4.x of mkvtoolnix would throw off the sync by -.400 to -.500 ms. I honestly wouldn’t mind if everything else wasn’t already “standard” at a smaller drift, only -.100.

It turns out, after much poking around, that I haven’t even done any ripping since September of last year. And that was the real key. I kept asking myself “what’s changed in the past few weeks that suddenly everything is out of sync.” Well, I forgot one big item: I added a second mythfrontend. And when I did that, I started watching shows from the ripped library more, and once I started watching things more, I wanted to rip some more shows to keep the recent titles stocked.

Believe it or not, after all this work I’ve gone through to setup this whole thing, I don’t actually *watch* stuff on there very often at all. In fact, it wasn’t until I got my second one that I even started using it regularly. About the only times I’d normally watch stuff on my original frontend was I usually watch a cartoon in the morning right before going to work, and I’ll sometimes watch an episode while I’m doing something else, or just get tired of watching movies that I’ll poke around the episodes. It’s not very common, though, which is what explains why I haven’t been ripping very often. In fact, one episode I just watched the other day, I originally ripped over a year ago. If it hadn’t been for the fact that mkvinfo prints out the exact versions of the Matroska libraries and binaries that it was created with, I probably never would have nailed down that it was a problem with mkvmerge.

It wasn’t just the Universal discs that were having problems, it was everything that I’d ripped recently. I did have one show that for some reason was a real anomaly (Perfect Strangers) and it would have the same drift regardless of the version of mkmerge … and the only other new stuff I had ripped was from Universal, so considering my past issues with them, I figured it was the cause.

So, the simple solution was to go back to the same versions that I was using 5 months ago to rip stuff. For the record, that’d be mkvtoolnix 2.1.0 and libebml 0.7.7. And, everything’s back to normal. I’m glad. :)

And I’m pretty sure about the bug being in mkvmerge, since if I re-encode the video with ffmpeg just by copying it (ffmpeg -i movie.vob -acodec copy -vcodec copy movie.vob) and then mux it, the sync will be just fine, regardless of the version. So, it looks like that ffmpeg does a bit better job than mkvmerge when it comes to poorly authored MPEG streams, which really isn’t quite a surprise. Honestly, I’m more impressed actually that ffmpeg can even handle and correct them so well.

The eventual, inevitable future though is that I’ll be encoding all my video someday. I’m just not up for it right now, for a couple of reasons. For one, my disk space is too small, so I have to rotate content on a regular basis. Since things come and go so often (relatively speaking), I don’t want to spend time encoding stuff if I’m not going to be keeping it long term. The second issue is that I just don’t want to wait for it to encode. Both issues will go away, with time, as I get a better computer that can encode much faster, and as I expand my harddrive space.

Speaking of encoding, one thing I finally did this morning was to take a systematic approach at what encoding options work well for me for ripping my DVDs. Since those files, unlike the TV shows, will not get removed anytime soon, they are a prime candidate for encoding to save some space. I know I keep saying that there’s no magic bullet for every media source out there, but at least for DVDs, I think I found something that’d work for me. It’s not as advanced as most people would use … in fact, one solution to my many problems was to use old codecs and formats so as to avoid any bugs that may still be present in newer codecs. I settled on using LAVC MPEG4, with no extra options, 2400k for the video, MP2 at 192k for the audio, and AVI. I know, not exciting at all. But, it works great so far, and I’ve tested it on DVDs from four studios (Fox, Disney, Warner, Paramount) and they all turned out perfect. The MPEG4s only get down to about 42% on average of the original size, which again isn’t all that impressive, but for a light set of options, it works great, and most importantly … the video quality is nice, and I have no complaints. That’s a first.

For the record, here’s the current command I’m using: ffmpeg -y -i movie.vob -r 30000/1001 -vcodec mpeg4 -ab 192k -b 2400k -acodec mp2 -map 0:0 -map 0.1:0.1 -ac 2 movie.avi

You gotta watch out for those audio streams when using ffmpeg — the ordering is sometimes flipped, so it would be (for example) starting at 0x83 and ending at 0x80, which means you’d probably get the wrong audio track by default. So I just throw in the default -map commands anyway, so it’s easy and quick to edit. I’ll eventually just throw in a way to check for the right one in my scripts (pretty simple really — check for your language and the highest number of channels from the VOB) and that’ll be that.

Anyway, I’m pooped, I’ve been hacking on this all day, but made some real progress. I’m glad I got my old setup back up and working. I tell you what. It was a pain to figure out, but I’m glad I managed to pinpoint the source. :)

Leave a comment

Filed under Matroska, Multimedia

universal

For some reason, I have, by far, the worst issues with any DVDs from Universal Studios when it comes to playback. I have no idea how they author their DVDs, but they obviously do it different from everyone else, since it’s always just a little bit off. Even different episodes on the same disc will have different issues, so it’s always a moving target.

I just got Buck Rogers: The Complete Series in the mail today, and at the same time I was playing around with ripping other stuff, notably Murder, She Wrote and The Incredible Hulk … all from Universal. For some reason though, the audio delay was way off on these all of a sudden. Now, I already have mplayer set a default delay of -.1 ms for my Matroska videos. I have no idea why I always have to do that — they play perfectly in sync when they are in the original VOB format, so I’m guessing that something in mkvmerge is throwing it off. It doesn’t really bother me, because it’s consistent so I can account for it. Oh, and for the record, it’s not just TV shows, it’s everything, including movies.

So I normally have a short delay, but suddenly I was getting wildly varied A/V sync issues. On an Incredible Hulk episode, it was actually off by +.300 ms, and on a Murder, She Wrote, it was off by -.400, and then on the first Buck Rogers episode / movie, it was -.500.

At first, I thought it was because I had been playing around with my video filters. For deinterlacing in mplayer, I normally use the softskip, pullup combination, but I recently started looking at different ones. I settled on yadif (yet another deinterlacing filter), since it works on the very few exclusions that the other one doesn’t. So I tinkered with my settings back and forth, and nothing was really changing. At the same time, I was testing a DVD rip from an independent film as well, as it’s delay was oddly at -.400, and I’d *never* had issues with movies before … or at least that I can recall.

It dawned on me after a bit of poking around with different versions and filters that all my sources were pretty questionable to start with. Anything from Universal Studios always seems cheap, to put it simply. Anytime I’ve had a disc that I couldn’t rip, it’s usually been from them. I know there are some episodes of Knight Rider that will freeze up my older DVD drives if I try to rip them. And I’ll take a look at the disc and the disc quality just seems questionable. Plus, I know that they have had in the past replacement offers for people who bought some of their DVDs. That’s not entirely uncommon though, as it has happened with other studios as well.

Once I realized that testing a movie from an independent filmmaker probably wasn’t the best idea for a control group, I went back to all my original, new settings, and tried something that had consistenly just had the normal delay (7th Heaven, in this case), and it worked fine. So, it was just their disc, again.

I have no idea what the problem is, or why the sync is off so badly in some cases. It’s really not a big deal to work around, since I just have keys mapped on my universal remote to adjust for audio delay, so once you start something up it just takes right off.

Right now I’m playing around with ffmpeg, just for fun, re-encoding it from the source VOB to another VOB file with the same codec settings, just to see what happens when I remux it into a Matroska video. One thing I love about ffmpeg, is that it seems to just correct a lot of crappy encoding issues from the source, even if I just use no options at all. It’s great. I probably won’t resort to re-encoding anything just to account for a small delay, but I am curious to see if I can figure out where the source of the error really lies. Interesting stuff.

Well, the ffmpeg finished while I was writing this, and the results are pretty nice. I just re-encoded it back to the same source settings, wrapped it in MKV, and the audio sync is dead on, without my configured delays. Pretty nice.

Here’s what I did:

ffmpeg -i 801._The_List_of_Yuri_Lermentov.vob -ab 192kb -acodec ac3 -sameq ffmpeg.vob

mkvmerge ffmpeg.vob -o ffmpeg.mkv

You can use ffmpeg to mux to MKV directly, but I’ve had issues with it, especially with AC3 for some reason.

Leave a comment

Filed under Multimedia

mplayer patch: -use-dir-conf option

I just made a really small patch to MPlayer for something I’ve been wanting to do for a while. MPlayer has long supported a playback option -use-filedir-conf that will include a config file if you have it named <filename>.conf. I’ve taken that and just created an option for the current directory instead.

The issue I run into with my TV shows is that sometimes I need to use different deinterlacing filters or different audio delays for different series. It would be a pain to create a config file for each individual file, so this patch fits the bill. If you just use -use-dir-conf, it will look for an mplayer.conf file in the existing directory, and include that.

Pretty simple, really. I hope I wrote the patch right, since I’m no master of C. I just copied the old functionality, dropped what it didn’t look like was relevant and removed unused variables. And hey, works for me.

Patches cleanly against latest SVN (28348).

Edit: Well, crap, I just realized that it only works if you have mplayer.conf in the same directory as you are running mplayer from …. so doing mplayer -use-dir-conf /foo/movie.mp4 wouldn’t work if you’re not in /foo. Unlike -use-filedir-conf, you can’t call it from some other directory. Someone wanna help me out? :)

2 Comments

Filed under MPlayer

roku netflix player

I got a Roku Netflix player a few weeks ago, and I’ve been meaning to write a review about this thing ever since. However, the idea keeps getting pushed back, and since I don’t think I’m ever going to get around to doing the in-depth take on it, a short overview will have to suffice for now. Plus, posting this now is partly inspired and prodded by Engadget’s review of Netflix streaming devices, which was great, but managed to miss, in my opinion, one really major flaw with the service.

Here’s the short summary, before I go into any detail:

Ruko: Almost Perfect (A+)

Netflix: Needs Work (C+)

It’s hard to really write an accurate take on the Roku box because it is, for now, only tied directly to Netflix’s service. The Roku box and it’s firmware, UI, and options are simply amazing, awesome and wonderful. The best way I could describe it is it’s as simple and easy to use as the Tivo’s PVR menus are.

The only problem is with the Netflix service itself. I’ve run into apparently the same issue that others have, and that is that there is audio/video sync issues all over the place. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s happening in about 35% of the movies I’ve watched so far … and I think I’m being generous with even that number. It feels like its closer to 50%. I haven’t done any hard data gathering, but it happens enough that I’ve almost completely resigned myself to sticking to DVDs because its so common.

Before I bash Netflix, though, lemme go on with the glories of the Roku player because it really is awesome. When I first got mine, I took one look at the remote and thought to myself, “you have got to be kidding me.” It’s really small and the buttons look like crap. It looked like it was going to be an instant disaster, but after about 30 seconds of using it, I knew I was dead wrong. The feel is actually really comfortable, and the UI is smartly done, and makes the need for more buttons absolutely unnecessary, by combining multiple functions into each one.

I could go on and on about the UI, because it is is nice, but I’ll do that later. I’ll just say that it’s intuitive and well-done. One thing I was really worried about was that the interface would suck because the one on my HD Tivo leaves a bit to be desired. The Tivo’s Netflix interface by comparison is total crap.

The Roku has some features that I really like. Some of them are that if you are browsing your queue, and you are at the first or last entry, going to the left or right will wrap around and continue at the other end.

Choosing your rating for the movie is simple, too. It displays it as a selectable option in the menu, and when your pointer moves over it, then you have the option of selecting the star rating. Kind of a cool, nice touch.

Fast forwarding and rewinding is really cool. Instead of actually moving you through the stream, once you hit one of the buttons it will show snapshots of the scenes. You just select the scene where you want to pick up, it will rebuffer the stream and away it goes.

Finally, the feature I am most happy about, being the freak that never finishes watching anything in one setting, it makes it easy to resume playback of where I was. Not only that, but it remembers the last movie / show I had selected of my queue whenever I wake up the device again. That is just awesome, and one thing that really annoys me about the Tivo interface — any changes you make and it will bump you back to the first entry in the queue. That probably wouldn’t be an issue with most, but since I have 150+ in mine, it’s a bit of a pain going back and forth.

Speaking of updating the queue, the second you change something on the Netflix website, it will get changed on your box as well the second you start navigating around your selections again. It’s great.

The Roku even has a cool feature for resuming playback of TV series. I started watching Star Trek, the original series, and once I finished with the first episode, the first entry in the menu for that selection was to start watching the second one. The Tivo’s interface, on the other hand, will just dump me into the same menu regardless of where I left off.

One interesting thing about the resume point for shows / movies, though, is that the location is stored remotely on their servers. That’s actually a nice thing. So if I stop watching the show on my Roku, I can go over to my Tivo and resume playback from the exact same position (and now that I think about it, it actually does that on the website, too). That’s another nice touch.

Anyway, I have no complaints with the Roku box itself. There’s a lot of little things it has that just impress me, and I haven’t even gone over all of them. It’s one of those things that just works. As far as the hardware goes, I’m impressed with that as well. It has every video output available, from Composite to HDMI and everything in between (Component, S-Video). For networking, it comes with both an onboard NIC and an onboard wireless card. Not even the Tivos have that yet, which is another minor annoyance for me. And it still is only $100. Very nice.

Now, then, the only problem is with the actual Netflix service. I don’t know what they are using to encode their movies, but something along the line absolutely sucks, because the A/V sync issues are pretty annoying. And I’m not talking about me being the videophile noob that notices 10 milliseconds of delay, but I’m talking about 3 to 5 seconds delay. Sometimes it’s present in the movie no matter what you do, and sometimes it happens if you stop the movie and restart playback. I haven’t watched a *lot* of stuff on there yet, so I haven’t noticed any patterns … if it’s with certain studios, or whatever. It is pretty lame, though.

I’m not too worried, overall, I’m sure the issue, along with the small selection, will get worked out sooner or later. I’m just surprised how common it is so far, especially as the service is getting pushed out to a lot of devices.

For now, though, if I had to recommend getting something for streaming Netflix, I’d say if you are into independent film, then don’t wait. I still think the Roku box is an amazing deal at just $100 for everything it does.  My wishlist of features that the UI had is extremely short — with a big queue it’s a bit tough to navigate through all of them quickly.  One thing has certainly settled on my mind, though, everytime I watch something — I definitely think I made the right decision in buying the shows I want to watch myself on DVD and controlling every aspect of the UI and playback myself.  There’s just enough kinks and tweaks that need to be worked out that I think owning or renting the DVD still wins for now, but only barely.  It’s getting to be a really close battle.

1 Comment

Filed under Entertainment, Hardware

circuit city

Looks like Circuit City is officially going away for good. Well, poo. I really liked that store, and have been shopping there for a long, long time.

Comparably, I can’t stand Best Buy. Sure it may be cleaner / nicer in some ways, but they also have really annoying pestering sales people who pressure you to buy magazines at checkout. It’s gotten to the point where I pay cash just so I know I won’t get signed up for an MSN subscription or something. The worst problem I ever had with Circuit City was that I couldn’t figure out where the cashiers were hiding.

One thing I really liked about Circuit City was that it was always a nice place to quietly just browse and look around without being bothered. That might contribute to their poor sales (no sales people bothering me, no customers making noise), but I’m still going to miss the ability to go through the aisles at my own pace and just look at stuff without being interrupted. At Best Buy, they always have *loud* music on overhead, and the displays for most stuff is badly lit. I guess I’m just old school.

There’s a *lot* of stuff I’ve bought at Circuit City. In fact, every major piece of entertainment hardware I’ve bought there at one time: game console, TV, HDTV, receiver, speakers, CDs, DVDs, remote, car stereo, etc. I even bought my netbook from there just last month (it’s a Lenovo IdeaPad, I still need to write a post about it).

I’m bummed.

Edit: I keep thinking about this — not Circuit City specifically, but shopping in general — and I figured I’d comment a bit more on things.

Brick and mortar stores have, for me, become nothing more than a convenience factor.  I buy just about everything except food, office supplies and clothes online, and it’s been that way for years.  One other exception is big-ticket items, like a game console or an HDTV, because that’s something I’d really like to see and inspect in person before I buy something like that.  But, for the most part, stores have just become the go-to place for when I don’t want to wait.

I’m sure that Internet sales played some part in how badly business has gone.  It’s obviously much simpler for Amazon to update a column in their database to say that a DVD is on sale, versus Circuit City who has to plan the thing ahead weeks ahead of time, prepare circulation and ads and still time it with the website as well.  There’s just so fewer steps for online stores, and it’s been my experience (as a shopper) that traditional stores are just pretending to ignore that the Internet exists completely, and not trying to compete at all.

There is one kind of a store that I would like to see, and that’s ones that have hard-to-find items to start with.  For instance, there’s nowhere in Utah that I could go to buy a Mini-ITX board today (well, not without a huge markup of 50% or more) or find a video store that has pretty much every title available.  Part of that problem, of course, is that I live in Utah.  I realize that, as far as populous states go, I’m in the boonies.  But I also realize that because of the economics, it’s not gonna happen … a long tail store just isn’t gonna spring up.  It makes more business sense to sell just the hits.  Of course, a part of me thinks there could be a compromise — just have a simple store frontend with one cashier at your warehouse.  I don’t wanna browse, I know what I want, and I could just go in and pick it up that day for the online price.  No glitter, no fuss, very little overhead, and I can still get what I want.

Anyway.  I’m not an economics major, and I’m not really interested in why some things work out or don’t all that much, but I’m pretty certain that the business model of ignoring the Internet as competition is what is really hurting these traditional chains.  I’ve summed up a lot of my thoughts in a previous post of how a video store chain could catch up and compete in this one: video stores are deprecated.  That pretty much says it all, I think.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

comcast fail

What’s wrong with this picture?

And, for the record:

  • I cleared out my phone number (it was the only populated fields)
  • I filled out the entire form, and nothing magically appeared
  • I originally was using Seamonkey on Linux, but I figured it was another stupid website that only works in IE on Windows, tried that, no workie
  • I’m willing to accept that it’s probably just something wrong with my setup :)

1 Comment

Filed under Computers