Monthly Archives: September 2009

netflix new stuff

I found this article on Wired about Netflix, and their plans for global domination, which is stuff I always love reading about.  There’s two things about the future of television and movies I would totally love to see:  First, for cable to completely fall on its face, and everything to become on-demand.  Second, for video rental stores to go out of business so that on-demand will be the most efficient way to get stuff.  Fortunately, it seems that the markets are heading that way naturally.

However, while Netflix is certainly the best contender right now, I think it’s worth pointing out that the content is still in its infant stages.  Netflix can stream some movies, sure, but it’s selection is not anything compared to say, iTunes, in regards to music availability.  One thing Apple did quite well was it got *all* the major studios to sign on to sell their music.  That means that you can expect to find everything mainstream right there without much difficulty.  Compare that to Netflix, who has *zero* major studios signed on right now.  Hopefully that will change, but everytime I see articles like the Wired one, that tout Netflix’s library, I feel the need to clarify to people so they don’t get suckered in.

For example, here’s a quote from the article, “And the devices won’t just be streaming remaindered basic-cable or art-house fare: Already, Netflix customers can call up just about any episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, The IT Crowd, or Lost whenever they like. They can watch recent releases like WALL-E and Pineapple Express. In other words, they can get unlimited access to the kinds of programming that previously required a cable subscription.” (emphasis mine).

Just reading that, it *sounds* like Netflix is a drop-in replacement for cable access, which is not the case at all.  Rather than trying to read between the lines and saying something like, “Oh, they have everything between Wall-E and Pineapple Express”, it’s far more accurate to say “Oh, I can watch Wall-E *or* Pineapple Express.”  The selection simply isn’t there.

A few weeks ago, I bought my brother a Roku Netflix Player for his birthday (I’m such a nice guy, I know).  He has two small kids, and one of the main reasons I got it was because Netflix *does* serve up a lot of children’s programming — quite a lot, actually — and I figured he would find that useful.  It’s all available on demand, simple bookmarking, easy pause and resume, easy interface, etc.  I talked to him about a week later and one of the first things he mentioned about it was that there weren’t hardly any new movies on there.

Right now, their only real provider for new movies is Starz Play.  If you have an account for Watch It Now, and want to find the new stuff, that’s really the only place to look.  Plus, it’s really hard to find stuff as well.  The website for browsing DVD releases on the Netflix site is amazing.  It’s intuitive, it’s quick and easy to search and find stuff, it’s great at recommendations and it gives you lots of info in lots of ways.  Now, compare that to the Watch It Now navigation menus which are *completely* different.  My take on it is that there is so little content there, that they forcibly dumb down the interface to obfuscate the fact that there’s really nothing there.  It’s just taking the small amount they have, and spreading it around really thin so it looks like it’s more than it is.

So, anyway, while I really hope that Netflix does the right thing, and business-wise, they are poised to take over the market — Hollywood is holding them back.  I wouldn’t blame Netflix in the least.  It’s impossible to download *all* the new releases from any service anyway (from what I’ve seen).  For instance, X-Men Origins: Wolverine came out on DVD the other week, and I wanted to check it out.  I didn’t really feel like going down to Blockbuster to get it, so I checked to see if any of my online pals were serving it up.  The Playstation Store had it, but you had to buy the movie, in standard definition, for $14.  No thanks.  Amazon’s Video on Demand didn’t have it, and neither did Netflix.  I realize that’s a small sample to choose from, but there’s really not many more services out there — I think iTunes sells / rents new movies now, but I don’t have a way to watch them on my TV anyway, so I didn’t bother checking.

Once Hollywood gets on board, then things will really take off.  I read in the news how Blockbuster isn’t doing well, and they are the last legacy distribution market.  I kind of can’t wait for them to stumble, because if they are gone, the studios will have no other medium to even sell / rent new movies through, except through newer, leaner retailers like RedBox, Netflix, and on demand services.  The future can’t get here fast enough for me.

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jump on it

Hee, hee, hee, this was fun. :)  On Saturday I got to take my little brother out, and I had a great idea this time around.  There’s this place in Lindon, Utah (about 20 minutes or so south of Salt Lake) called Jump On It, which is basically an empty warehouse full of all these trampolines joined together.  It’s awesome.

I’ve driven past the place plenty of times and thought, “eh, I should probably go there.”  Then I remember my friend Jason wrote about going there one time, and that made a trip even more necessary.  I don’t know how I got the idea to go this weekend, it just popped in my head, but I’m glad I did.  I looked it up online, and it’s only $8 an hour to go jump around and do whatever you want.

The concept is so incredibly simple, but it is so well done and so much fun.  There are probably at least twenty trampolines just all next to each other, which make this huge, very fun square that you can just jump around in non-stop.  And you can get going fast, really fast, with a lot of momentum.  And you can flip around and hit the sides and just bail and not hurt yourself.  It’s awesome.

There are two areas for trampolines, too, there’s a smaller one for kids four feet and under, where the tramps are a lot less springy, so you won’t go nearly as high.  The other ones are for any size / age group, and the springs there are really tight.  I grew up with a trampoline, so I know all the tricks and how to get really, really high, and I managed to nearly touch the ceiling I was bouncing so high on those things.  Holy crap, that was a feeling.

Here’s a pic of the kid’s one.  I really, really wish I had taken my camera with me to get some decent shots.  This one is from my cell phone, which is craptacular when it comes to taking action shots, so I had to tell my bro to stop for a second so I could take his pic.  He does not look too thrilled to pause for me.  I can’t really blame him.

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The other thing that really amazed me is how fast I got worn out.  I didn’t think it’d take that much energy, but man, after the first 10 minutes I was about ready to pass out, I was working my body so much.  I had to constantly take a break so I wouldn’t throw up / pass out.  The hour sure went by fast, and I’d say I got more than my money’s worth.  I gotta get into better shape, and go back.  It’s a total blast, and this post hasn’t done a great job in the least documenting how much fun it is.

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star trek on blu-ray: the motion picture

I have still been, for the most part, extremely hesitant to purchase anything on Blu-Ray just yet.  My modus operandi so far has been to rent a lot of them to see how the quality is compared to the DVD to see if a repurchase is justified.  So far, this approach has been serving me rather well, and I’ve discovered very early on that it’s nowhere the same across the board.  Some movies look awesome, some look okay, and some look like they just dumped the DVD transfer onto the new medium without a thought (which is really noticable, too).

Switching from VHS to DVD was an obvious decision, an upgrade that would have been hard not to argue for.  I imagine I’m getting old if I can even reminisce about such times.  I remember right when DVDs first started coming out, and I would keep a watchful eye on how things were progressing (anyone remember DivX?  What a nightmare).  It’s really interesting to see how much the tables have turned in some regards.  Disney was a huge holdout on DVD, and eventually came along with feet dragging, but now, they make the best Blu-Ray editions, bar none.  Universal sucks across the board — their Blu-Rays have been less than impressive (I just watched the Bourne Trilogy the other week, and the first two were nothing to write home about).  And then, there’s Paramount … who distributes Star Trek.

All the movies except Insurrection and Nemesis got released on Blu-Ray last week, and I have been really excited to check them out (edit: okay, actually I can’t find the first one on it’s own release … I must have rented the one from the trilogy set, oh well.  I know the other ones are out though).  I’ve thought about buying them out-right, but I’m a bit cautious considering the studio’s past foray into the market.  What they tend to do is create a money grab by releasing the films a few times in different editions.  First, they’ll put one edition out, just to have something people can buy, and then later on clean it up, add more special features, and tout that one as a better upgrade.  It can be a bit maddening, and expensive.  So, I added the first few films to my Netflix queue, to see how well these new transfers held up, and I got to watch the first one this weekend: Star Trek: The Motion Picture.

All I can say is, wow, they did a nice job.  The picture is gorgeous.  For a movie that is so old, I was extremely skeptical that they would even be able to do anything with it at all.  But on my HDTV, the picture was just … more clear and vibrant.  That’s the best way I could describe it.  Some films don’t hold up to the test of time when being presented in a larger format, but this one looks like it just came out.

I wish I had a Blu-Ray drive so I could rip the disc and get some snapshots, but that’ll have to wait.  I keep thinking of a few scenes that showed off the detail so well that they would do a much better job explaining what I’m trying to get across.

I can’t say much about the sound, since my setup is 3.1 (no rear speakers).  Besides, my speakers are from an off-the-shelf surround sound setup, and not really good quality.  I’ve got it in my sights to eventually replace it with something decent, but that’s a major hop and a skip away.  I’ll just wait on that one.  For what I heard, it did sound really good though.  I really love how in this movie, it opens with the score for a few minutes and you just get to hear the long version of the Star Trek theme.  Great stuff.

There was only a few spots where there were any video issues at all.  Again, if I could take a screenshot, I would.  It’s not that they were bad, it’s that it was more like “uh, how did you miss *that* big black blotch right on the front of the Enterprise.”  It happened twice, briefly, and that was it.  Aside from that, the only parts where the film quality was lacking was a few scenes which were probably just notoriously hard to clean up, so they didn’t — the ones where the probe from V’ger is on the bridge of the Enterprise, and it’s zapping it’s way around.  The shot was really fuzzy to start with, and you could notice a huge drop in quality and cleanup for the few seconds that the shot took place.  Again, not a dealbreaker, and in fact you’ll see the same thing on the DVDs.

Overall, I’d say this one was well worth the price.  I started playing around with the special features, but didn’t really get far because I was tired.  It does have this cool on screen index you can access while the movie was playing, that I thought was really innovative.  It’d give you descriptions of certain Star Trek topics related to the film.  There was also an audio commentary track, though I didn’t bother listening to it.

I’m definitely gonna get a copy of this one though, given the chance.  I’ve got the other ones in my queue and I’ll write up a review as I watch them in the next couple of days.  Tell you what. :)

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psp go

So, apparently the new PSP Go is going to hit shelves soon.  I totally keep forgetting about it.  While it looks pretty freaking cool, there are a couple of things that are keeping me away completely, and I’d have to think long and hard about getting one.

First of all, this sucker is freaking expensive.  $250.  Eek!  That’s only $50 less than a PS3, although that’d be a little harder to lug around in your pocket.  I still have a PSP-2000 or whatever the number is, I know it’s not the first generation one, and it works really well.  Sure the UMD thing is slow and cumbersome and sucks power like uh … something, but it works fine.  And it’s about $100 less retail.

This is my *real* beef though with the system — it only has 16 GB onboard memory.  That could arguably be a reasonable amount, except that this PSP is entirely digital.  The only way to get games is to download them to the flash drive.  On top of that they are marketing it as a great portable movie player.  16 gigs is not a lot of space to play with.  If they had 40 in there then I might start thinking about it, but that still brings me to the next point.

It *still* only accepts Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo (man, what a mouthful) for the extended storage.  Normally, I wouldn’t care — Sony has their own format, yay, whatever, good for them.  But they are priced exhorbantly high.  A 16 GB flash card, that would double the system’s space, costs $72 right now on Amazon.  Not only that, but that’s the highest storage capacity available.  So, you’re going to cap out at 32 GB.  That’s a lot, I suppose, but if I wanted to tout around movies with me, I’d still want more space than that.  I dunno.  But at this point you’re talking $320 to carry around max storage.

The last thing that has me worried is that all the games are digital.  I’m a big believer in the second-hand market for used games, and the new PSP just guts that opportunity completely.  You want the game?  You buy it new, and you pay full retail price.  Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with that, but what happens with digital games is that when there is only one source to get them, I’ve noticed that the price does not go down.  Ever.  At all.  Games that are listed for sale at launch point that originally start at $40 or so, might eventually go down an extra $10 or so, but after time, it just stays there, and it’s always going to be prohibitively expensive.  That’s a problem.  What’s worse, is that you would think that after five years or so the price would come down, but by then the owner / manufacturer / retailer has completely forgotten about it, so nothing ever gets changed.  It’s really going to screw up the economics, I think, when there’s only one way to get a copy of the game (well, legally, of course).

So, while I’d love to get one, I think next time I have a spare $250, I’d probably be putting it towards getting something else.  I think the PSP Go is a great idea, in concept, but too expensive and not enough storage.  I could get past the all-digital downloads, eventually, I assume.  I’d still like to see some way to get a second hand market in there though — it would really drive things along.

Edit: Whoops, apparently it uses a different format — Memory Stick Micro M2 (or whatever order that goes in).  The pricing is just as bad, though.  $80 for a 16 GB stick.

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dan in real life

I watched “Dan In Real Life” again this weekend (on Blu-Ray, wow it looks nice), and it is quickly becoming one of my favorite movies.

What’s interesting, that I have noted, is now that my DVD movie collection is pretty much rounded out — save the consistent three or four I always forget about and are on my wishlist to get someday — is that now I get to see which ones I watch regularly.  What surprises me is that it’s always the dramas.  There’s a few classics that I keep returning to, to watch over and over again, and the great thing is that I enjoy them the next time as much as I did the first one.  It’s awesome.  This movie is quickly becoming one of those, too … I think this is the third or fourth time I’ve seen it, and it’s not even close to becoming old.

If there’s one type of movie I can never watch again, it’s suspense / action movies.  Ones where they have you gripping / guessing what’s going to happen in the end.  I don’t like the sense of anxiety it creates, and besides, once I figure out what happens (by watching the movie) the feeling can never be recreated, and watching it again is really just torture for me.  So, there’s a lot of movies — really good ones, even — that I refuse to buy only because I can’t possibly sit through it again.  Movies like The Lion King, Finding Nemo and Toy Story come to mind (that’s odd, all animated Disney ones … go figure).

Anyway, dramas are for me.  And this is a great one.  I managed to score a copy on Blu-Ray for only $10 on Amazon which I could not pass up.  I don’t remember the actual timeline, but I think this was one of they very first movies on Blu-Ray I saw … well, I definitely remember that the colors were so gorgeous, and the transfer was so well done, that it convinced me to stop scoffing the format, and instead give it a chance.  It was probably then that I realized that *recent* movies on Blu-Ray look gorgeous.  And they do.  Wow.  Good times. :)

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new pear setup

I’ve just commited PEAR 1.8.1 to the tree (and will do 1.9.0 shortly to get us up to speed), but I wanted to let users know about a change in the way packages are installed.  Actually, it only affects the base packages.  Up until now, the PEAR-PEAR package in portage included all the necessary deps in one ebuild.  With this new version, I’ve split each package up into its own ebuild.

There’s a couple of reasons for this, but the most important is that it will give us flexibility to deal with changes from upstream.  For example, with 1.8.1 and above, PEAR changed it’s base XML dependency to XML_Util.  That one was already in the tree, and so the new pear base system relies on that.  If the other base ones change between versions, we can focus on that.

Another nice little change is that the base system ebuild now is just dev-php/pear.  So, “emerge pear” and you’re done.

The new versions are all currently marked as unstable across the arches.  I would appreciate any and all feedback on the change.  I’m still a bit skeptical that this is the best approach, and a bit nervous at any fallout that may occur, so please file bug reports and let me know if you have any issues.  Thanks, all. :)

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firefox "find as you type" steals window focus

I’m posting this one hoping that someone can help me out, because it’s one of the few remaining reasons I don’t use Firefox as my main browser. I still use Seamonkey as my default, but the Javascript parsing is soo much slower than everything else, it’d be nice to switch.

Firefox has this find as you type feature, where if you hit / and then type in some words, it’ll search and highlight it on the page. Great. Lots of browsers have that. Spanky. But, the problem with firefox begins with this little toolbar at the bottom of the browser that pops up as you are typing the text. It has a little dialog box titled Quick Find which fills in with whatever you were searching for. The main issue is that that toolbar will close itself automatically, and when it does, it steals focus from X back to Firefox.

That’s particularly annoying for me because, in many instances, what will happen is I will search for something in Firefox using quick find, get what I’m looking for, and then switch to another program or window before the default timer has expired. If I start typing in that other window, when Firefox’s bar closes, X focuses back on Firefox and part of my text goes in there instead. Kind of frustrating.

I’ve tinkered around with the about:config page and haven’t found anything, and every now and then I check Google to see if I can find anyone else who has discovered a workaround, but I haven’t found anything, so now I’m just trying to see if anyone else knows a solution.

I’d be happy with either disabling the toolbar completely or not having it go away, or whatever. The only part that bothers me is it stealing focus again.

For what it’s worth, I’m on XFCE 4.4. No idea if it’s an issue with other WMs.

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