DigitalOutbox Episode 78

DigitalOutbox Episode 78
In this episode the team discuss Apple and Googles Subscription battle, the HTC Flyer and Plex for Windows.

Playback
Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

Shownotes
1:00 – Android Market Share
– So last time we said Android was popular
– According to a chart making the rounds from UK-based research firm IHS, Android Market revenues in 2010 came in at an estimated $102 million, up from $11 million the year before.
– And how did that compare to revenues from Apple’s App Store? Apple App Store revenues came in at an estimated $1.7 billion in 2010, almost 20 times bigger than Android. And Apple App Store revenue grew at a not-too-shabby 131.9 percent rate.
– More importantly, Apple accounts for 83 percent of the total estimated app store revenues.
– iOS also dominates Euro smartphone usage
– http://www.reghardware.com/2011/02/21/uk_europe_smartphone_usage/
– In the UK, Apple and Research in Motion are the two key smartphone players, each battling the other, with one’s rise accompanies by the other’s fall, oscillating about a line at 42 per cent.
– These numbers broadly mirror over-the-counter sales.
– Android usage is growing here too, but it’s still below 15 per cent and has only just begun to get clear space ahead of its nearest rivals. But it is rising, and that will push down the line over which iOS and BlackBerry are fighting.
5:39 – Microsoft Update Goes Awry
– MS started to roll out their first update for Win MO FO 7 – then had to stop
– It was at best causing problems, at worst, bricking samsung handsets with slightly older firmware….
– oooooppppssss.
8:59 – Apple Launches Subscriptions for Content Publishers on the App Store
– When Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing. We’ve pasted the release below.
– Apple also says that if publishers are selling a digital subscription outside of the app, that same subscription offer must be made available, at the same price or less, to App Store customers (which we had previously reported). In addition, publishers may no longer provide links within their apps that would allow the customer to purchase content or subscriptions outside of the app.
– So in app subscriptions now offered from within Apps and managed easily from within iTunes. Easy for consumers, easy for publishers to offer
– Apple betting that publishers will be willing to pay the 30% in return for Apple dealing with customers and payments and the customer base/ease of use that iOS brings
– So this impact Amazon, Book, Magazine and Newspaper publishers. So Guardian will be affected as will The Times etc. Also impacts on streaming music services – Rhapsody, Last.fm, Spotify. What about Netflix and Hulu Plus – affects them too.
– What about Dropbox, Evernote, Remember the Milk which offer paid for premium options on top of the free client deals?
– What about iPlayer – I need a TV licence to legally watch iPlayer content. To stay within rules will the iPlayer app need to offer an option to buy licence fee from within the app?
– Great post from MG Siegler – http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/15/apple-in-app-subscriptions/
– This new subscription system is great for Apple as they’ll make a lot of money and create a new, better experience for their customers (and maybe publishers too). But if it backfires, they could lose a significant part of their ecosystem support. And if some companies pull their apps, consumers may start to leave.
– The new system is awesome for customers as Apple has enabled a way for them to easily get new content on their devices at a fair price. But if companies back out of the App Store as a result, they will be shafted.
– This new system sucks for companies that provider subscription services, as they’ll now be forced into Apple’s way of doing things and must pay them 30 percent for it. But if it leads to a massive amount of new customers, it could actually be a very good thing.
– Magazines show up supporting in app subs – Elle, Popular Science, T3
– Later Tuesday, Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller confirmed that those rules apply not only to newspaper and magazine publishers, but also to content sellers like Amazon.com, which offers a Kindle app for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.
– To meet Apple’s guidelines, Amazon must remove its “Shop in Kindle Store” link from its Kindle application. That link, which opens the iOS browser and displays Amazon’s Web-based e-bookstore, is currently the easiest way for Kindle app users to purchase new books.
– Rhapsody – new iOS subs are economically entenable – http://musically.com/blog/2011/02/16/apples-new-ios-subscriptions-is-economically-untenable-says-rhapsody/
– An Apple-imposed arrangement that requires us to pay 30 percent of our revenue to Apple, in addition to content fees that we pay to the music labels, publishers and artists, is economically untenable,” says the statement.
– “The bottom line is we would not be able to offer our service through the iTunes store if subjected to Apple’s 30 percent monthly fee vs. a typical 2.5 percent credit card fee.”
– The statement also makes menacing legal noises. “We will be collaborating with our market peers in determining an appropriate legal and business response to this latest development.”
– As the fury dies, news that Readability app has been rejected – http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/21/readability-app-rejection/
– http://blog.readability.com/2011/02/an-open-letter-to-apple/
– Reason – 11.2 Apps utilizing a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected.
– Wow – so they really are chasing after everything?
– Allegedly subscriptions apply to ‘publishing apps’ only – e-mail attributed to one Steve Jobs
– Ian’s thoughts – Wed 16th – Step too far from Apple. This is evil. Android is now compelling enough to replace iOS for me. I won’t be moving from Mac anytime soon but if I see magazines, books, music only available on everything but iOS then I’ll move. Yet again it’s Apple changing the goalposts. I can’t believe people are saying this is what Apple have been saying all along. If so, why the change in dev guidelines. Again. Whats next? What if Apple say it’s not 30% but 40%. 50%? Then again, is this to force people OFF the platform so that everyone buys via iTunes, iBooks? Are they wanting to remove streaming music options so a future offer from Apple is more desirable? Long game at play and things will change – Amazon did use to charge 70/30 in there favour for Kindle originally. What I’m not sure is how much of the cover price of a magazine goes to the publisher and how much go to the newsagent? Thats why they can offer sub’s at lower price i.e. wired is half price to subscribe to. Looking online it’s 70-75% of the cover price goes to the publisher.
Chris – As consumers, there’s a lot to like about Apple’s stance. Everything wrapped up in the one ecosystem and the knowledge that they may as well buy in-app because they can’t get their subscription cheaper elsewhere. But this is a MASSIVE deal for companies with subscription models (a business model that is essential to companies today). 30% is a massive cut – and impossible to cater for in highly competitive and/or restrictive markets (like the music industry for eg).
Apple’s rolling the dice here a bit and, perhaps rightly, have come to the conclusion that their phone/tablet ecosystem is strong enough to force developers through it. But is Amazon really going to give away 30% of it’s book sales…???!!! Not without a fight I wouldn’t imagine.
It’s also worth noting that if this move is successful, it is consumers who will end up paying for the Apple tax… so it’s certainly an issue that should be paid close attention to.
24:18 – Google One Pass
– a service that lets publishers set their own prices and terms for their digital content. With Google One Pass, publishers can maintain direct relationships with their customers and give readers access to digital content across websites and mobile apps.
– Readers who purchase from a One Pass publisher can access their content on tablets, smartphones and websites using a single sign-on with an email and password. Importantly, the service helps publishers authenticate existing subscribers so that readers don’t have to re-subscribe in order to access their content on new devices.
– With Google One Pass, publishers can customize how and when they charge for content while experimenting with different models to see what works best for them—offering subscriptions, metered access, “freemium” content or even single articles for sale from their websites or mobile apps. The service also lets publishers give existing print subscribers free (or discounted) access to digital content. We take care of the rest, including payments technology handled via Google Checkout.
– No mention on cut but The Wall Street Journal said Google will take 10 percent of the revenue. That makes sense because One Pass rides atop existing websites and web apps. But it’s also smart in that it gives publishers more of the margins they expect for their content. Google said it expects periodicals will be the first customers of this, but it could extend to other properties that want to use micro-transactions. Google One Pass is currently available in France, Germany, Spain, the UK, the US and Canada.
– Provides alternative to Apple’s model and far less of a cut – interesting
– Also, by default Google will share your information with publishers which can be switched off. With the Apple deal, Apple will only share this info if you allow it – it’s off by default. Google One Pass is far more publisher friendly – could see a real shift from iOS to Android
29:56 – Kindle Publishing Costs
– Amazon charges 10p per MB for delivery of newspapers and magazines in the UK. By Amazon’s own estimates, a “typical newspaper” with 100 articles and 15 to 20 images would have a file size of between 0.5MB and 1MB – or around 10% of the overall revenue, considering most newspapers sell for 99p per day. It would be an even greater share of the publisher’s profits if users signed up for a cheaper subscription.
– Applies to delivery over 3G
32:07 – New Chrome Beta
– The latest beta release of chrome now has settings and options appear in browser tabs rather than popup windows. Makes sense and feels natural.
– Also reports that they could do away with an address bar!
– Well, they are looking at the possibility of rescuing yet more vertical space by having the address bar as a tab. Clearly those 30px are important!
35:16 – HTC Flyer
– Best specc’d 7” Android tablet?
– Not running Honeycomb – Gingerbread with HTC Sense on top
– Comes with OnLive service built in
– Stylus (pressure sensitive) with Scribe technology for recognizing hand writing
– Standard screen res, fast processor and good camera – aluminium unibody style design
– $730 so not bad
38:59 – Plex for Windows
– Plex Media Server launched for Windows
– Plex for Android also launched
– Watch content from your Plex library on Android devices
– Cheap media pc with blu-ray player and Plex is best solution for under the TV

Picks
Chris
HulloMail
– One of the gotcha’s with T-Mobile is that they (criminally) don’t include calls to their voicemail system inside your monthly allowance. However, a quick search around pointed me to the free HulloMail service. Essentially, this takes over from your carrier default voicemail service and the numbers you access the messages through ARE included in your monthly allowance.
– Signing up on Nexus S was as simple as downloading the app, creating an account and clicking “Apply Settings”. I’ve been running with it since Fri evening and it’s been great.
– The default application is free, but add supported. You can buy a year add free version for around £3.
Ian
Google Personal Blocklist
– Chrome extension that allows you to block a domain from being returned in your search results
– If installed, the extension also sends blocked site information to Google, and we will study the resulting feedback and explore using it as a potential ranking signal for our search results.
– Can edit your blocked sites to unblock them
– Early test but a must have extension

DigitalOutbox Episode 61

DigitalOutbox Episode 61
In this episode the team discuss Google Instant, Apple U Turn, iOS 4.1, Boxee Box and Halo. Woot.

Playback
Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

Shownotes
2:16 – Google Instant
– In past few months have passed over 1 billion users on Google each week
– It takes a user on average around nine seconds to enter a search query into Google. Serving results takes around 300 ms from Google, plus 800 ms total in Network time. Takes around 15 seconds to select a result. A search takes 25 seconds.
– At Google we think we have a faster way. Google Instant Search. And that’s what we’re launching today. Gets search results as you type so search is interactive the whole time you’re typing. Google Instant looks like normal Google search. But as you start typing, you see results — you don’t have to hit enter. You can hit ‘tab’ to complete a word.
– Type w – Glasgow 5 day weather forecast appears, first link is mountain weather forecast, second bbc, third met office – impressive
– We estimate this will help Google users save two to five seconds per query. That adds up across all users. “11 hours saved. Each second.”
– Instant results, Scroll to Search, Predictions.
– Only on google.com web page – browsers, mobile – next few months
– Instead of making first page, now about making first letter!
– End of SEO? Does being on page 2 or lower half of page kill your brand?
– Here’s what this means: no two people will see the same web. Once a single search would do the trick – and everyone saw the same results. That’s what made search engine optimisation work. Now, with this, everyone is going to start tweaking their searches in real-time. The reason this is a game changer is feedback. When you get feedback, you change your behaviours.
9:07 – Apple U Turn
– https://developer.apple.com/appstore/resources/approval/guidelines.html
– http://stadium.weblogsinc.com/engadget/files/app-store-guidelines.pdf
– Short statement from Apple – we are relaxing all restrictions on the development tools used to create iOS apps, as long as the resulting apps do not download any code. This should give developers the flexibility they want, while preserving the security we need.
– In addition, for the first time we are publishing the App Store Review Guidelines to help developers understand how we review submitted apps. We hope it will make us more transparent and help our developers create even more successful apps for the App Store.
– Now, was that so hard? Dev’s crying out for this for a couple of years now
– So Flash could be used to create app’s.
– Why now? Android? Realising they were wrong? Pressure from dev’s and large dev studios? FTC probe?
– Most interesting – the guidelines
– Written by a human, almost common sense text – Steve?
– We have lots of kids downloading lots of apps, and parental controls don’t work unless the parents set them up (many don’t). So know that we’re keeping an eye out for the kids.
– We have over 250,000 apps in the App Store. We don’t need any more Fart apps. If your app doesn’t do something useful or provide some form of lasting entertainment, it may not be accepted.
– If your App looks like it was cobbled together in a few days, or you’re trying to get your first practice App into the store to impress your friends, please brace yourself for rejection. We have lots of serious developers who don’t want their quality Apps to be surrounded by amateur hour.
– We will reject Apps for any content or behavior that we believe is over the line. What line, you ask? Well, as a Supreme Court Justice once said, “I’ll know it when I see it”. And we think that you will also know it when you cross it.
– If your app is rejected, we have a Review Board that you can appeal to. If you run to the press and trash us, it never helps.
– This is a living document, and new apps presenting new questions may result in new rules at any time. Perhaps your app will trigger this.
– Lastly, we love this stuff too, and honor what you do. We’re really trying our best to create the best platform in the world for you to express your talents and make a living too. If it sounds like we’re control freaks, well, maybe it’s because we’re so committed to our users and making sure they have a quality experience with our products. Just like almost all of you are too.
– Adobe – great news for developers – http://blogs.adobe.com/conversations/2010/09/great-news-for-developers.html
– Adobe’s Packager for iPhone – The feature is available for developers to use today in Flash Professional CS5, and we will now resume development work on this feature for future releases.
– This is great news for developers and we’re hearing from our developer community that Packager apps are already being approved for the App Store. We do want to point out that Apple’s restriction on Flash content running in the browser on iOS devices remains in place.
– Another developer that has been affected by the rule change is Google. The search giant’s advertising arm, AdMob, was another part of development that was banned back in the original April rule set, but has now seen those rules relaxed. Writing on the AdMob blog, vice president of product management Omar Hamoui says “We’re pleased that Apple has clarified its terms,” adding: “Users will benefit from more free, or low cost, apps that can now more readily be supported by advertising.”
17:24 – iTunes 10
– Faster
– Cleaner
– Ping
– horrible
– feels old
– invite by e-mail
– no Facebook/twitter integration
– drive sales for Apple?
– Where’s my wireless syncing? iOS 5?
– If I search for artists I want links to listen to their music not their muesli. Should be like Spotify/Lsst.fm
20:44 – iOS 4.1 is Out
– Gamecentre
– HDR photo’s
– bug fixes
– anything else?
– MDM – enterprise feature to manage various aspects of the left to 3rd parties to implement. As consumers we might not care, but as more and more enterprises are not just allowing employees to use their own smartphones, but actively encouraging it as a cost cutting exercise, managing those devices is an IT managers nightmare and this is a welcome addition.
26:43 – Amazon hit back
– Not just apple except
– This is for download, not streaming – same content, same price, one you own, one you stream for a limited time
– Cable/sat providers…your time is up
– available in the uk?
30:47 – Plex comes to LG
– Plex – needs a mac to run
– Potentially expensive
– working with LG Electronics (the second largest TV manufacturer in the world) to integrate the Plex platform into their 2011 lineup of Netcast™ connected TVs and Blu-ray devices. So early next year, when you buy an LG Netcast™ TV or Blu-ray player, you will have Plex functionality built-in. Specifically, it will connect to a cloud version of the Plex platform for online content, and, if you happen to have a Plex Media Server running anywhere in your house (after all, who doesn’t have a computer in their house?), you can access your local and online content, in a rich interface, with full metadata
– This is a BIG deal
– My new Sony comes with iPlayer, 4OD, Youtube, podcasts etc
– But a tv with plex built in is a seriously powerful device
35:27 – Boxee Box
– Pre-order in America
– Out in November (UK too)
– Now with Intel inside, not Nvidia
– $229, not $199 although Amazon selling for $199
– UK Price £199
– http://www.pcpro.co.uk/news/361132/boxee-arrives-in-europe-at-twice-the-price-of-apple-tv
– The UK version of the Boxee Box will include
– free and paid-for TV content from a number of local broadcasters, including the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV.
– V-friendly access to services such as Facebook, Flickr and YouTube.
– Intel Atom CE4100 processor]
– 802.11n wireless and Ethernet connections
– HDMI port to deliver Full HD video
– 2 USB ports
– SD card slot
– offers support for Flash, MP3 and Divx formats
– Full Qwerty remote control
43:52 – Twitter for iPad
– Twitter for iPad takes advantage of the iPad’s fluid touch interface, letting you move lots of information around smoothly and quickly – without needing to open and close windows or click buttons.
– Panes: Tapping on a Tweet opens a pane to the right. Depending on the content in that Tweet, you’ll see a video or photo, or maybe a news story, or perhaps another Tweet. You can continue tapping on Tweets, opening new panes, and getting new content as long as you’d like to.
– Media: When you tap a video link or open a web page with an embedded video, you can play that video inline. And, let’s be honest, video is great but sometimes it can take some time to load. The panes in Twitter for iPad let you look through your timeline while a video is loading, and then you can just swipe back to the video when it’s ready to play. You can also pinch on a video to watch it fullscreen.
– Gestures: You can pinch on a Tweet to quickly view details about the author and to take actions on a Tweet, such as reply or retweet. Put two fingers together and pull down on a Tweet to peek at the replies, showing the entire conversation leading to that Tweet.
– Bold and unexpected – eats the other twitter clients
– Wheres Tweetie 2 for the Mac! Hibari is nice, but tweetie still feels better but missing new functionality of twitter – http://hibariapp.com/
44:54 – Samsung Galaxy Tablet
– First true iPad competitor
– the GT-P1000 model has a 7-inch TFT-LCD WSVGA screen (with 1024 x 600 pixels), and is powered by a Cortex A8 1.0GHz processor and a PowerVR SGX540 GPU—the same one used in their Galaxy S phone-and runs with 512MB of RAM.
– As expected, the back-facing camera is a 3MP affair with auto-focus and an LED flash, and the forward-facing one (for video conferencing) has a 1.3MP sensor.
– Two storage capacities are on offer, either 16GB or 32GB, with both models allowing for a further 32GB memory expansion via the card slot.
– Wi-Fi 802.11n and Bluetooth 3.0, and 3G support (Vodafone has been signed up from the get-go, Three from October but unsure if right away)
– As we saw in the leaked video last week, there’s a 30-pin connector port, similar to what Apple uses for its gadgets.
– It’ll run Android 2.2 (Froyo)
– Rumour – Samsung Galaxy Tab reported to retail at €699 and €799 in Europe – iPads offer double the storage for same price
48:29 – Everything Everywhere
– Orange and T-Mobile to offer customers access to both networks at no extra cost as first benefit of newly merged company Everything Everywhere
– Orange and T-Mobile customers invited to sign-up to get access to both networks to make calls and send texts in more places at no extra cost
– As well as continuing to benefit from their existing network, Orange customers will be able to make calls and send texts on the T-Mobile network and T-Mobile customers will be able to do the same using the Orange network
– Customers who sign up for access to both networks will benefit free of charge, with no changes to their existing tariffs or call or text charges. Once registered, should a customer lose signal on their existing network, they will then automatically pick up the signal from the other network where it’s available, meaning that they can make and receive calls and texts in more places than ever before.
50:24 – Bloglines to Close
– Will finally close Oct 1st
– Killed by Google Reader and switch to twitter/facebook – realtime streams
– Sad in some ways but it quickly fell behind Google
– and it was a bit broken
– Off course, many say that RSS is dead etc
– Really – http://googlereader.blogspot.com/2010/09/welcome-and-look-back.html

Picks
Chris
TechSmith Camtasia Studio
– The ultimate screen recording, editing and distribution product.
– Millions of options. Easy to use and control. Plenty of output options. Record your mic, webcam, screen, specific application, video, pictures, title-screens. Stitch them all together on the timeline. £220

Ian
Withings Scale
– Wifi scale
– Expensive
– Can set up to tweet your weight
– Supports up to 5 users
– Love it – very geeky but awesome

Henry
Monkey Island 2
– Awesome game originally on PC now for iOS
– Only £0.69

DigitalOutbox Episode 60

DigitalOutbox Episode 60
In this episode the team discuss iPods, iTunes, Apple TV and Google goodies.

Playback
Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

Shownotes
1:05 – Apple Keynote
– Apple selling lots of stuff
– Lots of people going into store to buy their first mac
– iPods
– Brand new range
– iPod shuffle – tiny with buttons again
– nano – tiny with touch screen
– iPod touch – mega thin – has cameras. Facetime. Gamecentre. Retina display.
– Gamecentre
– XBOX Live for iOS
– Achievements
– Invites
– Co-op
– 4.1 out in 1 weeks or so.
– HDR Photos – Creating high dynamic range photos has been a popular photographic technique that combines three exposures to create a single image with a greater amount of detail in the highlights and shadows. Apple’s added HDR photography to the iPhone’s camera in 4.1, letting you create HDR images automatically without any of the hard work in post.
– HD Video Upload Over Wi-Fi – Previously, apps were required to upload HD video from the iPhone. Apple’s made the change in iOS 4.1 to allow HD video uploading over Wi-Fi, removing the annoying cap that required sending your HD video in standard definition.
– TV Show Rentals – TV shows have always been available for purchase in iOS devices, but now you can rent them to save a little money and storage space on your device.
– Game Center – Like the XBOX Live of iOS, Game Center provides APIs for developers but is also a new app on the iPhone (available soon via the App Store). You can play with friends, inviting them with a push notification, or be randomly assigned to other players when your friends aren’t available.
– iOS 4.2 out in Nov
– All iOS stuff but for iPad as well.
– Wireless printer mother fucker
– AirPlay – Formerly AirTunes, AirPlay is taking over wireless streaming on iDevices and will let you stream audio, video, and photos over Wi-Fi. Along with the new Apple TV, you’ll also be able to shift streams between your devices so you can, for example, finish watching a TV show or movie on the go.
– iTunes 10
– New icon
– Ping – social for music.
– 150m users ready to go…
– Artists / Users. Follow. Think Facebook stream but for music purchases / gigs.
– Apple TV
– Not iTV!
– No storage – all streaming.
– Netflix integration if you’re American…
– No purchases – only rentals.
– Movies on DVD release date = $4.99 rental (Reducing over time)
– TV shows streamed – 99c a pop. Only 2 studios on board (FOX and… Ummm can’t remember)
– No announcements for UK.
– Coldplay’s Chris Martin sang… quite badly.
– End
22:53 – Plex 9
– http://www.automatedhome.co.uk/Reviews/Plex-9-Media-Center-Rocks-Our-World.html
– http://www.crunchgear.com/2010/08/30/exclusive-hands-on-with-plex-nine-for-mac-os-x-and-plex-app-for-ios-devices/
– New version launched that splits library from front end – decentralises – playback and resume from any device, only need to manage one library – awesome
– It’s a .0 release so expect bugs but can run alongside Plex 8
– Scanners much improved, some of the new front end skins look great
– Data on removable drives handled much better – now marked as offline rather than deleted
– Menu’s and storage much more sensible – can create your own libraries – Kids Movies for example rather than just everything in movies
– Also brings hardware acceleration for video playback
– Plex for iOS also announced
– £2.99
– Acts as a remote for Plex
– Allows you to browse content on your Mac as well – movies, TV shows, music, and plugins fully supported
– Stop watching a movie in your living room, and continue right where you left off on your iPhone or iPad. All of your ratings, viewed status and more is kept perfectly in sync.
28:48 – Digg Update
– Updated Digg launched
– you’ll see a stream of recent stories filling up most of the page, with ten top stories in a sidebar on the right. But there’s one key difference: each of these stories has been Dugg by one of your friends (or sponsored by an advertiser). Likewise, the stories on the right hand side of the screen represent the stories that have been dugg most by your friends over the last day or so.
– More relevant, based on your social group
– Is Digg still relevant though?
– Hardcore users hate the changes – http://mashable.com/2010/08/30/users-revolt-against-new-digg
33:36 – GMail gets Google Voice and Priority Inbox
– If you are a Gmail user in the U.S., you can now make free Web-based phone calls to any phone in the U.S. and Canada right from the Gmail interface. You can also make International calls for fees starting at $0.02 per minute.
– To use this new feature, you will have to install the Google Talk plugin, which is available here for Windows, Mac and Linux
– If you are a Google voice user, your Google Voice number will appear as the outbound called ID number on calls made from Gmail. You can also opt to receive inbound Google Voice calls from inside the GMail interface.
– (Don’t know if this is still relevant, but if you update your google account location to US, you can try out the features. There wasn’t IP address blocking in place.)
37:07 – Youtube Free Movie Channel and Google Realtime
– selection of Bollywood, action, horror, comedy and animated films for unlimited free streaming over the web and mobile phones.
– launch comes in the wake of deals struck with US film studios, including Sony Pictures, and UK movie and television streamer Blinkbox.
– While the catalogue isn’t exactly sparkling, there are a few hidden gems in among the muck. There are plenty of Jackie Chan movies, Google’s own Life In A Day project, Fritz Lang’s 1927 Sci-Fi masterpiece Metropolis and the original Heidi. Robe Lowe and Jodie Foster’s bizarre Hotel New Hampshire is in there too.
– http://www.google.com/realtime?esrch=RealtimeLaunch::Experiment
– Appears in left menu of normal search.
– Twitter / Social conversations
41:32 – Games Channel coming to the UK
– http://www.ginx.tv/
– The team behind Bravo TV show GameFace plan to launch their new UK channel dedicated entirely to games reviews this November.
– On Sat and Cable
– In a presentation this morning Ginx CEO Michiel Bakker said that his firm was aiming at ‘light’ gamers.
– Early programming will cover and rate new releases – but in time will expand to include documentaries looking at celebrities and gaming.
– Fail?
– Games market is so unrepresented on UK TV
44:17 – Xbox Live Prices Increase
– UK increase only affects 1m signup. 12months unaffected at moment. – however, US increase across the board – we’re going to see more in the future i’m sure.

Picks
Chris
Risk Factions
– Great presentation on top of a classic game
– Can play classic version or tweaked version.
– Not being game aficionado – don’t know what’s changed.

Mac Mini Media Centre – Plex

Welcome to the fourth in a series of posts on creating a Mac Mini Media Centre. In this article we’ll look at a great media server application called Plex. By default you can use Front Row as a 10 foot interface to access media stored on your Mac and managed via iTunes. Front Row isn’t a bad application but compares poorly to Plex.

Plex is a fork of the legendary XBMC and is currently Mac only. Once installed your presented with a beautiful front end and…not much else. Using a keyboard or Apple remote you move through an animated menu to select Movies, TV, Music and App’s but by default the only media Plex will pick up is that managed locally by iTunes and some default app’s, so the first step is to add your local media content.

Straight away though you hit the first quirk of Plex. How do you add your media? If you visit Preferences there are no options to add media. Visit Movies or TV and there is nothing there either. However, goto View Your Video’s and there you will find options to add your different media sources. Not obvious and hopefully something they address in future versions to help the beginner. The first key step is to separate your Movies and TV video’s into separate content. To add your media browse to it’s location and set a local name for it in Plex.

The important step is to Set Content i.e. TV or Movies. By selecting the content you also select the scraper which will be used to download extra information about your media. By extra information I mean movie ratings, fan art, music, trailers, actor information etc. You’ll see why this is important later in the review when we look at media playback. With content selected, Plex will scan your media folder and download information on your media via the selected scraper. Depending on the amount of media this can take some time.

The first time I scanned my movies folder only 5 out of 50 or so movies were added. This is where I probably had the biggest pain with Plex. The key to getting content added successfully is to name your files properly. Again, the size of the job depends on the size of your library. For movies, the following convention should see your content added correctly with information downloaded from IMDB.

IMDB Movie Title (Year of film).video extension

For example:

Batman Begins (2005).avi
District 9 (2009).mkv
Slumdog Millionaire (2008).mpg

The excellent Plex wiki contains a lot more detail on naming your video files and support for folders including VIDEO_TS folders. I’ve chosen a flat structure with all movie files in the same folder and named as above. Once I’d fixed the file names I rescanned the source folder and all my content was added successfully. Well, almost all. Kill Bill 2 was added as The Killbillies. Close, but not quite right. Plex allows you to select individual files, rename then and also then rescan the file ensuring the correct library information is added. Took less than a minute and my full library was now available. TV is added in much the same fashion. Again, pay attention to file naming to ensure content is added successfully. If you have multiple TV episodes in one VIDEO_TS file then Plex won’t be able to split into episodes. I split up my TV files/rips as follows:

TV Series Name
– Season 1
– TV Series Name – S01E01.video extension

were S01 is Season 1, E01 is episode 1. You can also add episode title in there but I find less is more. Keep the naming simple with the season and episode number and the scraper is far more reliable.

For example:

Battlestar Galactica
– Season 1
– Battlestar Galactica S01E01.mkv
– …
– Season 2
– Battlestar Galactica S02E01.mkv
– …

Despite my careful naming Plex failed to add all my TV series. In fact, out of 10 series only 2 were added. No matter what I did to the name it wouldn’t index my files. I deleted the source and added it again and this time all content was added successfully. Did I mention that Plex could be quirky? If the renaming looks daunting or you want to rename content you download automatically then visit this forum post on Episode Linker – a great tool for renaming files. It takes badly named files and renames and moves them into a structure that Ples understands i.e:

Terminator.The.Sarah.Connor.Chronicles.S02E13.HDTV.XviD-XOR.avi
The Colbert Report 12-01-2008.avi
The Colbert Report 2008-12-02.avi
The.Big.Bang.Theory.2×01.The.Bad.Fish.Paradigm.HDTV.XviD-FoV.avi
The.Big.Bang.Theory.S02E02.HDTV.XViD-DOT.avi

becomes

Terminator The Sarah Connor Chronicles/Season 2/Terminator The Sarah Connor Chronicles – S02E13.avi
The Colbert Report/Season 2008/The Colbert Report – S2008E1201.avi
The Colbert Report/Season 2008/The Colbert Report – S2008E1202.avi
The Big Bang Theory/Season 2/The Big Bang Theory – S02E01.avi
The Big Bang Theory/Season 2/The Big Bang Theory – S02E02.avi

You can also follow these steps for music video’s but I’ve left that for now. With the sources added it was time to actually watch some movies. Moving to ‘Watch Your Movies’ took me to a page with all my movies, and here’s where the scraped content comes in. As you select a movie, fan art backgrounds are viewed and the movie poster is displayed. Not essential but a beautiful way of displaying your content. Using a keyboard or Apple Remote you can easily move through the content and when you want to watch a movie, press play and the movie will launch.

Easy to pause and resume movies, go back and select another movie or bring up more info while movie is playing back. You can change the default movie view so from coverflow to a tiled effect – some really slick options. You can also search and sort which helps when your library starts to get large. Another nice feature is that you can resume any movie from where you left off or start again at the beginning. I’ve found that Plex is far more successful than Quicktime and Perian in playing back HD movies. Almost all my files have played back without issue. I say almost as I’ve had issue with DTS sound. Looking at the Plex forums, some people have converted their DTS audio to wav to get around the issue, some have had joy by tweaking their audio playback settings and there are also posts saying it’s a bug/issue with Plex that will need to be fixed.

TV works in a similar way to Movies with one nice addition. Select a program and the theme music plays, the background changes to fan art of your choosing and seasons and episodes are displayed. Fluff but really nice fluff. Music is picked up via iTunes and you can select by artist, genre, playlist or by searching to find and play music of your choice. iTunes is easier to use than Plex but once you get the hang of it it’s not too bad. You can also access photo’s via your iPhoto library.

One of the more recent addition to Plex is the App Store – everyone’s got an app store these days. The App Store has a wide range of plugins that allow you to access the ever growing library of video and music content online. You add App’s by visiting the app Store and selecting/installing as many app’s as you like. App’s are then accessed by visiting Watch Your Video’s. Again, this could do with some clean up as it get’s confused alongside media folders and adding new sources.

Some obvious plugins that I’ve enjoyed are iPlayer, iTunes trailers, Revision 3, TED Talks, MTV Uk videos and Youtube. A few surprises – 4OD, Channel 4’s On Demand service is pretty good. Access to all episodes of Peep Show? Guardian TV is also an excellent plugin with a wide variety of content from panels discussions to interviews and trailers. Unfortunately there’s also a glimpse at some of the content that we can’t access in the UK – Hulu and Netflix. Maybe this year? The nice thing about the app’s is that by visiting the App Store they auto update which is great. I was worried that I’d be constantly having to manage the app’s to make sure they are working.

One final bit of setup – you can add up to three locations for the weather page. Is there any media server app that doesn’t check for weather? While in preferences you can also change the appearance of Plex. You can enable RSS feeds and alter the feeds that stream on the home page. You can change font sizes as well and also the default start page for the app. Plex also supports skins and there are a couple of great options to the default skin. PlexAeon is a Plex port of Aeon, which is a skin designed for XBMC. The skin looks amazing and is fully customisable.

Showing the flexibility available, here’s a shot from Plex Alaska. Not as user friendly as some of the other skins but a clean fresh look.

You can even customise the fan art, backgrounds and theme tunes played in Plex. There are more details in the forums and wiki but it’s as simple as creating a graphic or sound file and naming it to match the move or TV show. Plex will then pick up your own graphics instead of the scraped ones. Take a look at the Aeon Project website for backdrops that you can download and use instead of the defaults. Installing skins and keeping them up to date is also now trivial thanks to a script that once installed will download the latest skin files from git repositories. Even better, the script comes with an actionscript so that updating can be done from within Plex.

Delve into settings and you can set visualisations for audio, screen savers, energy savings options, cache sizes, calibrate video and set up scrobbling to Last.fm. There’s a lot more in options that I can cover here but for a free open source package it sure delivers a hefty punch. There’s an active community pushing forward Plex development and the community at the forums are helpful and friendly which is always a good sign for an open source package. What’s also nice is that the Apple Remote is all you need to control Plex as there’s a great deal of thought applied to the UI. You can use a keyboard if you like but I find that overkill. There are other control methods available but that’s for a separate post.

For anyone with a Mac and a reasonable media library it’s hard not to recommend Plex as a wonderful tool for managing and viewing your library. App’s have taken Plex to a new level and made it even easier to find and watch streaming content thats now freely available on the internet. Hopefully the review and the screenshots have given you a taste of what a great looking application Plex is. Next in the series is another XMBC fork, Boxee which promises to do the same as Plex but tap into the social aspect of media playback.

DigitalOutbox Episode 6

DigitalOutbox Episode 6
In this episode the team discuss Google Chrome OS, O2 and Twitter sitting in a tree, Prowl and push notifications and a special look at Plex, a media centre for the Mac.

Playback
Listen via iTunes
Listen via M4A
Listen via MP3

Shownotes
– Google Chrome OS
– Very little announced – http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/introducing-google-chrome-os.html
– FAQ – http://chrome.blogspot.com/2009/07/google-chrome-os-faq.html
– If it is really cloud based computing, where is the onine infrastructure to cope with photo libraries, music, graphics, itunes library etc
– Rumours of Microsoft announcement on Monday forcing Googles hand – Office in the cloud? It is – Office 2010 with Excel, Word, Powerpoint in the cloud. App’s are free, more feature rich than Google. http://www.microsoft.com/office/2010/
– Targetting netbooks first, lightweight computing, targeting people who spend most time on the web. Only beginning
– Open source and free
– Will current Windows app’s run on it? Or is it a brand new platform to be developed against
– The software architecture is simple — Google Chrome running within a new windowing system on top of a Linux kernel. For application developers, the web is the platform.
– No details
– Lots of competition from MS, Apple, Linux + things like Jolicloud – http://www.jolicloud.com/
– Hardware partners – Acer, Adobe, Asus, Freescale, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, Qualcomm, and Texas Instruments
– Downloadable version by year end, first netbooks late 2010

– Google out of beta
– http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/07/google-apps-is-out-of-beta-yes-really.html
– Finally
– Enterprise push? – http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2009/07/paving-road-to-apps-adoption-in-large.html – guess so.

– O2 Free replies and DM’s to your mobile
– From 1st August
– Some fair usage applied – try to keep under 600 a month
– Tests to twitter will be as part of your normal bundle

– Games
– 1 vs 100 – July 10th on Xbox Live – http://www.xbox.com/en-GB/live/1vs100
– Battlefield 1943 – woes…

– Apple
– Touchscreen Netbook Rumour
– http://www.tuaw.com/2009/07/13/rumor-watch-apple-touchscreen-netbook-on-tap-for-october/
– October, $800, 10 inch screen
– Camera’s on iPods?
– Natural progression
– Video assumed – game changer for devices like Flip?
– Apple in talks with T-Mobile and Orange -explains the O2 – Palm Pre decision
– Appstore is 1!
– Prowl
– http://theappleblog.com/2009/07/06/prowl-get-any-growl-notifications-via-push-on-your-iphone/
– http://prowl.weks.net/
– Growl notifications form your Mac pushed to your iphone.
– Limitless applications of this – file transfer complete, chat requests, e-mails, system activity, backups complete etc etc etc
– Register on prowl site, client on the Mac
– Useful but potentially spammy
– Can set to send only when mac is idle
– TwitVid
– Free
– Add video to twitter – posts link to your uploaded video
– BoxCar
– £1.19
– Push notifications for mentions and DM
– System for push notifications doesn’t scale – nothing to differentiate between notifications

– PLEX
– Mac media player
– based on XBMC
– Setup – clumsy, awkward
– http://www.screencastsonline.com/index_files/SCO0201-plex.php
– Careful with file naming
– movies
– tv

Picks
– mkv2vob – http://www.mkv2vob.com/ current version 2.4.6
– mkv2vob will remux MKV files with H.264 video and AC3 audio to a VOB file which is playable on the Sony PS3
– http://wechoosethemoon.org/ – 40 years since apollo 11