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     iTunes minus DRM
    Filed under: — David @ 8:26 pm

    It seems that my iTunes Plus library is up-to-date, meaning none of my 561 tracks purchased from iTunes can be upgraded to the higher bit-rate, DRM-free version. Too bad. I was among the many looking to spend some money as a way of saying to Apple and the music companies “yes, this is a good idea.”

    I also looked through my “window shopping” playlist, where I keep a list of tracks from albums I’ve thought of buying (just drag the track from the store onto your playlist). Dordan’s The Best of Narada Christmas is currently the only plus-size album in my list. Curiously, several of the albums have been shuffled around in the iTunes store so that the links in my playlist no longer worked, but I was still able to find them all by searching. The House of Flying Daggers’ soundtrack even turned up two hits, with one giving the same “not currently available” error as my stored link.

    The one I really wanted to find was the Batman Begins soundtrack, until I realized, duh, that would be from the Warner music label, not EMI, and Warner hasn’t been real excited about the no-DRM idea.

     DLNA
    Filed under: — David @ 4:20 pm

    The latest PlayStation 3 update (1.80) adds support for DLNA, a standard for sharing media files over the network. I’ve been thinking for a while that it would be great to have some kind of iTunes for the PS3, and maybe this could be the next best thing. Even if DLNA is an awkward acronym to say.

    Of course, the built-in sharing features of iTunes and iPhoto are not compatible with DLNA. So additional software is necessary.

    The first thing I tried was Connect360, so named because the Xbox 360 already has this feature. But I’m guessing it only works with Xboxes, because I got nothing out of it.

    Next up was Elgato’s EyeConnect, which bears a striking resemblance to Connect360 - both are preference panes with three similar tabs. This one actually got my PS3’s attention, and I was able to browse my music and pictures… with limited success. I would get random messages that the connection was refused, even when a file had already loaded, in which case I got booted out to the browsing menu. A random selection of files were not recognized as viewable or playable. For the moment, it’s practically impossible to figure out the source of the problem.

    TwonkyMedia was a bit annoying in that it required a restart to get it going. Two restarts, in fact, because it didn’t install with the proper permission settings and OS X had to ask me if I wanted to fix it (awfully nice of it to ask).

    It’s obvious that these TwonkyVision people are not Mac guys. It seems that configuration is done through a web interface, but I couldn’t figure out how to access it. No documentation or GUI configuration software is included. Fortunately, it didn’t require any configuration for it to work. But it doesn’t work well enough. The PS3 does recognize it, but in spite of the claims on their web site, it doesn’t seem to work with iTunes (or iPhoto, but they don’t claim that). At least, it doesn’t give me the iTunes playlists, and everything else it does could be just from accessing my MP3s directly. It also has the sporadic disconnect problems, but without the error messages and apparently less often. And without iPhoto support, it’s too much of a pain to figure out which folders have the desired image files, as opposed to thumbnails and uncropped originals.

    All in all, especially with the connection issues, it’s still easier to just periodically copy stuff to the PS3’s hard drive.

    Any solution will have two limitations that aren’t likely to get fixed any time soon: nothing from the iTunes store will play, and neither will QuickTime movies. The first could be addressed if Apple released its own DLNA software that was compatible with FairPlay. The second would require some collaboration between Sony and Apple, which is very unlikely what with the AppleTV being a competing product. Me, I’m just a consumer, so I lose.

     Cavity search
    Filed under: — David @ 10:54 am

    A coworker sent a link to this story - Bear Kills Moose in Alaska Driveway as Residents Watch - and the thing that I found most curious about it was the links: certain words and phrases are clickable so you can search for other articles with those words.

    Now, “grizzly bear” and “moose” are pretty reasonable search terms, but why would I want to search the Fox News web site for articles that mention “chest cavity”? Yuck.

     Spider-Man 3
    Filed under: — David @ 11:17 pm

    The reviews were mixed… but overall, I liked it. Maybe even more than the first two, mainly because I could buy into the villains more.

    The main complaint from critics about Spider-Man 3 is that there is too much stuff jammed into one film. According to Entertainment Weekly, it was considered at one point to split the story into two films, but they couldn’t find a good ending for the first part. I suspected this might be a problem going in, just from the fact that there were three villains - Sandman, Venom, and the inventively named New Goblin. But I was surprised to find that, to me, it all held together pretty well. It did feel a bit crowded, but on the other hand some scenes took their time - especially the Sandman’s awakening, where we watch him slowly figure out how to pull himself together from a pile of sand.

    From what I had read before seeing the movie, the Sandman was my main concern because he didn’t seem entirely necessary to the main story. Mostly he would serve as someone for Spider-Man to beat up on while under the influence of the alien black thing. This played out pretty much like I expected, but both the character and the effects turned out to be worth it. He’s the most sympathetic villain yet, and the sand effects were great.

    For me, the villains were actually the weak point in the first two movies. It’s not clear what the Green Goblin’s goals were. First he wanted to get revenge on the board of directors for outing him, but he did that almost unceremoniously with a single pumpkin bomb. Then he wanted Spider-Man to join him… in what? Ruling the city? How? There wasn’t really any indication that he had any plan outside of antagonizing Spider-Man.

    Then there’s Doctor Octopus.

    Reporter: Gee, doctor, what if the artificial intelligence in the arms overwhelms your mind?

    Otto: Not to worry, I’ve got this glowing blue single point of failure here to protect me.

    Audience: Okay, that blue thing’s gonna be toast within about five minutes.

    And while it was nice for Peter to have another soon-to-be-tragic mentor to look up to, it was a significant departure from the comic book version of the character.

    Not to mention the hospital scene with the doctors getting terrorized by the arms, which was about five times longer than it needed to be. Alright already, it’s the Evil Dead director. I get it. Enough with the screaming.

    I used to think you couldn’t have a proper version of Venom in the movies because you can’t tell the original story, which involves Spider-Man finding the new black costume in the middle of a giant battle of all the superheroes against all the supervillains. Instead of all that, this movie delivers the black goo in a little meteorite. I actually thought they would do what they did in the cartoon in the 90s - it stowed away on a space shuttle. After all, we already were introduced to Jameson’s astronaut son in the previous film. But I guess there wasn’t room for a space shuttle to land in this movie, and it wasn’t really necessary. We still got an alien symbiote. Peter wore it for a while, and then it became Venom. Close enough.

    So what’s next? The Vulture keeps almost happening. We know the Lizard is coming. They’ve been teasing us with that one since they first dropped Dr. Connors’ name in the first film. Then there’s the Scorpion, Electro, and the Kingpin. Except they already had him in Daredevil. But I’d rather pretend that didn’t happen.

     “The Mormons”
    Filed under: — David @ 7:25 pm

    Last night’s PBS presentation, “The Mormons”, was a disappointment. I was expecting something more or less balanced, but this was much more negative and sensationalist than what I was hoping for. It featured relatively few statements by actual members of our church, and the ominous music and bizarre, eerie paintings made me rather suspicious. But worst of all, I thought, was that half of the 2-hour show was dedicated to the controversial topics of the Mountain Meadows massacre and polygamy. If that’s what you want to see, then you’re into controversy, not religion.

    One particular claim I’d like to dispute is that it was taught that plural marriage was necessary to attain the highest degree of heaven. It’s one of those almost-true things that really causes confusion. No, we believe that marriage is what is necessary. Just scratch out the word “plural” there. The time for that has passed. Get over it already.

    Oh, and go check out Lisa’s comments on the subject, which I also agree with.


    This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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