Today we have a variety of sources for digital home entertainment (in New Zealand)... We can just walk to the local video rental store and get a DVD (a few weeks after the movie's been to the silver screens). Or you can get free-to-air high definition TV over Freeview|HD (including the option of using some interesting recorders like the Magic TV and TiVO). You can subscribe to Sky and get your TV programs over satellite. Or even wait for the TelstraClear HD PVR coming soon (after months of delay).
Or you can get an Apple TV and use the iTunes service to rent movies (albeit from a limited selection when compared to the list of titles available overseas). You can also use iTunes on your PC if you don't have an Apple TV.
You can also source your digital home entertainment from dubious sources, such as torrenting those TV programs that have not been released in the country yet - not even through the iTunes service.
Here at home we use a Windows Media Center. It's a very flexible setup, basically a Windows PC with an appropriate video graphics card and a TV source (in our case a HDHomeRun). It brings together HD TV (we have very good Freeview|HD signal here), music, DVD, photos, even some web content (including YouTube), at the point of a single remote control. All this in a very small Dell Zino HD PC that hides inside the cabinet.
There are other media centre software, both for Windows and Mac PCs, but after trying a few, I still like the Windows Media Center big screen interface.
However this very flexible setup is, it still won't allow me to rent movies directly from the Internet. If we want to buy or rent an iTunes movie then we need to grab the keyboard, close Media Center and use the keyboard to navigate the iTunes software to complete the action, download the movie and watch it.
An alternative, you'd have thought, would be for Microsoft to have a Zune Marketplace add-in for Windows Media Center. Because they already have Zune Marketplace for Xbox 360, and it's even available in New Zealand (with less titles than the iTunes service I am told). But no. Microsoft didn't put much effort into that, and although a new Zune application for PC is coming, nothing seems to be planned for Media Center.
Of course one could hope Apple would tap into this market - and seeing they already have an Windows version of iTunes, then it could be just a hop to have a native add-in that would allow access to your iTunes account from inside Media Center. Alas this is not out there either. And no, I don't think the new generation Apple TV beats the Media Center - it doesn't even accommodate a real TV receiver.
So these are the features I want to see most in Windows Media Center: either a Zune Marketplace or an Apple iTunes add-in.
What would you want to see in your digital entertainment hub?
When the Apple iPad was launched, users were thrilled to find out their iPhone apps would run on the iPad, no changes required. In the odd case an application would not scale and would appear on the screen inside a frame, in its original size. And people were fine with that.
Enters the failed marketing at Samsung. Their Android-base Galaxy Tab have the same thing happening:
"If you download Android Market apps to the Galaxy Tab, you will find that many of those applications are fully scalable," a Samsung spokeswoman said via e-mail in response to an inquiry from Computerworld. "Those applications that are not scalable are framed in the display at 800-by-400 [pixel] resolution." The full 7-in. screen offers a larger 1024-by-600 pixel resolution.
Samsung obviously don't have the same magical powers and reality distortion field controls, so Computerworld declares it a problem, and Samsung can't get out of it:
"The problem appears to be limited to apps downloaded from the Android Market. The spokeswoman said that Samsung did work with Google on the Galaxy Tab to make certain that Google's "entire suite of mobile services, including Google Maps, are fully scalable to fit the Galaxy Tab's 7-in. screen at 1024-by-600 resolution."
Read the article and you will see that nowhere Samsung says it's a fault or problem, only the way it works. Computerworld makes it a problem, and a big one at that.
So, let's make it clear: if it's on an Apple product, it's a feature. On anything else, it's a problem.
And no, I am not blaming Apple. I am blaming the person writing that article.
A few technology providers and individuals are offering to help companies affected by the Christchurch earthquake (September 2010). If you need any help with IT (infrastructure, servers, email, etc) here is a list of companies willing to help you:
Amanzi (HP hardware at cost and managed monitoring service)
Catalyst IT (office and server space in Wellington)
Chris Claridge (office space in Christchurch)
Gorilla Technology (IT in general, infrastructure)
Esri (GIS assistance to government agencies and private organisations in response to disasters)
Memia (Google Apps and email setup)
Responsive IT (Microsoft Server, Small Business Server)
Snap (Internet connectivity)
Unleash Data Centre (server colocation)
VendHQ (free web-based Point of Sale for three months)
Wave Adept (Google Apps and email setup)
Where's My Server (server virtualisation)
A more complex situation is for those using Microsoft software and services. The Microsoft New Zealand issued a statement today clarifying:
. For consumers (typically with 1 or 2 standalone PCs) experiencing software issues related to Microsoft products, as they restart their PCs, or have to reload software on new PCs, please call our support line for free Telephone based support on 0800 800 004.
. For small businesses affected by the earthquake (typically with 1 or more PCs and Servers, and not actively managed by a Microsoft Customer or Partner Account Manager), Microsoft is making available Telephone based service incident support calls free of charge by calling 0800 800 004.
. In addition to the above, Microsoft Managed Partners and Enterprise Managed Customers (defined as the Customers and Partners that have Microsoft Account Manager) also have the ability to receive free priority telephone based technical support subject to availability.
Microsoft is also making available to affected Microsoft Managed Partners and Enterprise Managed Customers, on a case-by-case basis, access to assistance and advice from our Consulting and Premier Support personnel, and access to Microsoft Online Services (Microsoft Cloud based Exchange Online, SharePoint Online, Office Communications Online and Office Live Meeting) for situations where their infrastructure is damaged to the point where they require an alternative messaging & collaboration suite on a temporary basis until such times as they can rebuild.
If your company relies on its IT infrastructure being in place to continue to operate, and you are having problems, contact one of these companies.
For the last seven years we have been hosting Geekzone with Auckland-based ISP and hosting provider ICONZ, but since our two year contract was coming to an end it would be only good business practice to investigate alternatives in terms of cost, bandwidth, location.
And with that in mind, a few weeks ago we started talking to some colocation providers. We had very few requirements - we are not the largest online publisher in New Zealand, but Geekzone does sit regularly on the top 50 New Zealand-based websites in unique visitors, according to Nielsen.
According to our analytics data, 75% of our New Zealand visitors come from Auckland, with the majority of these using Telecom New Zealand, followed by (in order) Callplus/Slingshot, Orcon, WorldxChange, Vodafone and TelstraClear.
Since site speed is something that I consider one of the most important things for a good user experience, it made sense to us to consider Auckland-based service providers, with good Internet access and peering.
Also, when deciding location we had to consider that while New Zealand readers make up 70% of our page views, in absolute number of users it's only 40% - so we still needed to be located somewhere with good international connectivity, close to the submarine cables leaving the country.
Of course we also considered physical security access, power source, etc.
We managed to get into a great conversation with Datacom, through an introduction from Ben Gracewood. After considering services, infrastructure and prices I think we managed to agree on a deal that will allow us to continue running Geekzone with more "space" to grow, thanks to the savings we will be making.
You will see this new box at the bottom of all our pages in the main site:
These logos represent the companies or services that help Geekzone run as fast as possible, serving more than 600,000 unique visits every month. Huge thanks to Datacom, RedJungle, Aptimize, HP ProLiant DL servers and Microsoft SQL Server. Also thanks to ICONZ, whose skilled technical people helped us grow to where we are today.
With this app you can:
• Check the best prices for a product.
• Check PriceSpy user reviews for a product.
• See stores selling a certain product laid out on Google maps.
• Get directions to stores selling a product.
It should complement the PriceSpy website nicely...
Incredible how Microsoft is still struggling to get product names right. After buying FolderShare and turning it into Windows Live Mesh the company changed its name to Windows Live Sync, just to rename it again today to Windows Live Mesh.
Ok, you get an increase from 2GB to 5GB storage for synced files, but come on... Enough of "Windows Live..." products. Foldershare worked fine as a name, thanks.
Drop Windows Live and go back to the roots. Hotmail, Foldershare will work just as well, without the "Windows Live..." bits.
While at it why not "BlogWriter" instead of "Windows Live Writer", and just "MovieMaker" instead of "Windows Live MovieMaker". And perhaps get out of "Windows Phone 7" and use something like "myPhone". Microsoft already have the MyPhone service anyway.
(Note I didn't check for any trademarks, so these might be taken anyway).
Although I use Microsoft BPOS myself (after realising the fail in Google mobile sync technologies last year), my relatives' small business have their email hosted with Google Apps Premiere.
The reason we used Google apps Premiere for their email is that we could use the Google Apps Outlook Sync for Microsoft Outlook. After all we don't want to impact their small organsation, and keep things running as before, right? For them that meant keep using Microsoft Outlook and Google Apps Outlook Sync for Microsoft Outlook indeed provided for that.
All was going well for the first year, I say. Quick and easy. But then they decided to go on a travel and instead of taking their large laptop, they decided on a HP Mini. Installed Outlook and Google Apps Outlook Sync for Microsoft Outlook on that and off they went.
Last weekend we all went to Napier for a sad family event. They took the HP Mini with them. On Saturday evening we started the laptop, opened Microsoft Outlook, to be told by Google Apps Outlook Sync for Microsoft Outlook that it needed to re-sync.
Now, the options were re-sync, or overwrite the contents on the laptop. And over mobile data "overwrite the contents on the laptop" seemed overkill. We are talking about a gigabyte or so over mobile, which is not exactly cheap.
So we opted for re-sync. And it worked for about an hour on that...
On Monday, she found out all emails from May through July were gone from the main laptop. They were also gone from the Google Apps Mail web-based application.
May was the last time the HP Mini was used, and since then only their large laptop. Last weekend "re-sync" seems to have assumed any missing emails were not actually "missing" but "deleted" and proceeded to remove from the server. They are not even in the Deleted folder. They are gone. Three full months of emails gone. Like that...
It seems Google doesn't quite work well when synchronising two devices and the same account in the cloud.
Someone is not happy, which makes me unhappy. And someone is being advised to move to a hosted Exchange solution, possibly the same Microsoft BPOS I use now.
Google, this was the second strike.
Vodafone New Zealand has announced a new set of mobile plans called "SIMple"... These are basically a no long term on account plan. The company is trying to get to those users who don't care for a handset subsidy and care even less for a long term "partnership", but don't want prepay (for many reasons, perhaps even the need of invoices, complete activity lists, etc):
Coincidence? According to Digital Island's Blair Stewart "Digital Island's design agency created the SIMple concept in early May and we added it to our website later the same month. Vodafone launched SIMple on their website in August."
Thanks to regs for the tip in our forums.
I was asked to put the word out there for the CreativeTech conference, happening in Auckland this September 2010... So here it goes, the full release:
CreativeTech - the byte-sized technology event September 2010
CreativeTech is a new technology forum about all things Apple being held on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 September 2010 in Auckland.
The first of its kind in Australasia, the event is sponsored by AUT and Vodafone for Apple users of all levels.
It offers a broad mix of 'byte-sized' talks or presentations, from practical 'how to' showcases of the latest Apple, Adobe, FileMaker and Microsoft software, to advanced developing for the iPhone and iPad, with expert insights into tomorrow's technologies.
Attendees can check out the very latest in software, applications and mobile technology.
CreativeTech's Mark Webster, perhaps New Zealand's best-known Apple commentator, says the event will cover developing, design, music, filmmaking, education, business administration and more.
"From mum and dad home users wanting Mac tips, to the musicians and filmmakers of tomorrow, there's something for everyone, from practical to creative to visionary. CreativeTech will inform, entertain, showcase and engage."
Discussing tomorrow's technologies is keynote speaker, futurist Mark Pesce. From the US but now based in Australia, Pesce is a former Apple employee and early pioneer of virtual reality who regularly travels the globe presenting on the future of technology.
From Australia, MacTheMag editor (and former editor of Macworld Australia) Matthew JC Powell will give his take on the future for Apple and what new technologies we can expect in the years to come.
Other speakers include: twenty-two-year-old Australians and successful Mac and iPhone developers (Soulver and Picturesque) Zac Cohan and Nik Youdale; KIWA Media VP and QBook developer Roger Shakes; triathlete and iPhone developer Rob Beck, head of interactive technologies at AUT James Charlton; Leon Dahl from Rockshop; and educationalist Dorothy Burt.
With multiple streams and small-to-medium lecture sizes (150-200 seats), participants in the two-day event can pick and choose which sessions are right for them.
Attendees can also check out and purchase the latest gadgets in the Trade Stand Area, chill out in the CT Lounge between sessions and even get free help and advice at the Wired Dog Help Desk.
And watch out for a special screening at the neighbouring Academy Cinema of never before screened in New Zealand movie Welcome to Macintosh.
Tickets are $120 for one day, $200 for both and are available now. Seating is strictly limited so be in quick to secure your spot.
For more information or to purchase your ticket, go to www.creativetech.net.nz.