Archive for September, 2011

At Last! A Blue Ray Player for the Mac!

During my daily rounds of Mac websites, I noticed at the “Accelerate Your Macintosh” website a mention of an “OWC Blog on Mac Blu Ray Player” software.  Since one of the things I’ve been deeply disappointed with Apple about has been their lack of Blu Ray support, I paddled on over to take a look.  In turn, that blog referred me to the Macgo website where they were hosting a Blue Ray player for the Mac.  I immediately downloaded it to give it a try.  It works, and very well so, I might add!

My test rig was a pretty powerful one, a 2008 Mac Pro with dual 2.8 quad-core GHz Xeon processors running with 16GB of RAM and an ATI Radeon 5770 video card.  The machine is connected to one of Apple’s 27 inch Cinema Displays.  For the blue ray part, I had mounted an LG BH12LS35 blue ray burner connected via one of the Mac Pro’s aux SATA ports and alongside a Pioneer DVR-112D DVD burner running on PATA.  Thinking that my new Cinema Display must be fully Blue Ray compliant (since it ran iTunes HD stuff), I had set up Windows 7 Ultimate 64 bit to access the blue ray drive only to find out that the display wasn’t.   This is one area where Apple consistently gets a “fail”.  There is no reason a one thousand dollar display should not match the current video standards of the day.

To test out the software, I used the Blue Ray version of “Star Trek: Generations” and played the movie at fullscreen.  It played the blue ray masterfully with no skips and with the resolution you would expect out of blue ray and did it on my 27 inch Apple display!  It was a beautiful set-up.  Finally, I feel I am getting my money’s worth out of my system.  A word to you, Apple: Handcuffing your users to try to force them to use iTunes exclusively works against you in the long run.  Just because I have this capability now does not mean I’m going to shy away from iTunes purchases.  I still like the portability that media provides.  But it is great to have this “new” capability in addition, and doing so makes me more likely to buy your computers and software, not less.

System requirements says that the software needs at least a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo to work, so I decided to see if my 2010 2.13 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo powered MacBook Air could run it.  I loaded the software on my MacBook Air and used Remote Disc to mount the blue ray disk on the MBA’s desktop.  The MBA was hooked into an “older” 24 inch Apple Cinema Display and it also ran the movie flawlessly, i.e., fullscreen on the 24 inch with no delays, stuttering, or pixilation.  Sometime soon, I plan on buying a small external blue ray burner and seeing if it will work with my MacBook Air as well.  I’ll let you know how it goes when that happens.

Until October 1, the company is selling licenses for $39.99.  After that date, the website says the price is going up to $59.99.  That’s kind of pricey for just a Blue Ray player, but considering that nothing has been available for the Mac until now it’s a bargain.  The application works with a Mac or a PC.  (I intend to try the Windows version to see if it will work with the Apple Cinema Display.  I’ll let you know when I do.)

One thing that can be showstopper for some people is that the software requires an Internet connection to work.  I have only used our home internet connection for any testing and today that is running at 25.12 Mbps download and 3.15 Mbps upload speeds. I’ll try it later using my iPhone 4’s Personal Hotspot and let you know how it works there.  But if you can get past that, then I think this is a great product…as long as they can keep the Feds or Apple from shutting them down.  The Internet connection allows Macgo’s servers to bypass the Blue Ray encryption.  Whether that’s a legal loophole (since I doubt if the servers are in the U.S.) that can be successfully exploited remains to be seen and is the only long term threat I see to the viability of the software. It’s too bad that both the US government and Apple has put us in that boat in the first place.

By the way, Macworld did a review of this software back a few months ago.  It looks like the software has improved considerably since then, so be sure to do your own downloads and trials rather than take my word for it or theirs.  Your mileage will surely vary depending on your machines and your Internet connection.

Are We Really in the Post-PC Era? The Post-Post PC Era? Not So Fast!

This week IDC predicted that more Internet users will access the Internet through mobile devices than by the PC and by 2015.  Apple’s Lion is that company’s first steps toward integration of iOS and OS X, and Windows 8 has now been released to “unify” mobile and desktop computing.  This has lead some to speculate that the PC will be obsolete by 2015.  I’m here to say: “Not So Fast!”

First, you can do some content creation on today’s tablet devices, but their capability is still seriously limited.  For serious or high-output content creation, a PC or Mac is the only way to go.  That’s not only because of the very limited computing power of today’s tablets but also because of their limited ability to accept various forms of input devices.  Touchscreens are somewhat useful performing graphics creation, but mice and drawing tablets still have their place and often greater utility.  While touchscreens, swipes, and those other intuitive input forms have achieved wide utility in the public domain, the business domain is still adapting to their use and it will take them longer to do so than 2015.  My guess it will be more like 2020 before we see the actual convergence of today’s modern tablets and the desktop PC and perhaps as late as 2025.  I do believe it will come, but not as fast as some in the industry will predict.

Secondly, there is still an open question as to whether it is really best to merge the two mediums.  Apple’s Lion is a case in point.  While many iOS features may adapt themselves well to a desktop environment, some do not.  Launchpad is one of those.  While the Launchpad approach of filling your screens full of application icons makes a lot of sense on a tablet, it works horribly on a desktop with a large screen (say 27 inch) and a machine running tens of applications.    Using Lion’s Dock or opening the Applications Folder in one large grid makes more sense and saves time over wading through screen after screen of applications to find the one you want.  That problem could be addressed by allowing icon sizing that might allow you to collapse everything onto one screen, but what have you gained over the standard desktop way of doing things?  This is only one example of how the tablet environment does not always translate, and computer companies need to carefully examine the concepts involved when performing these types of transfers and not succumb to them simply for love of the technology.  In the end, people are looking for the easiest ways to achieve desired results.  If that is forgotten, the product will fail, no matter how “intuitive” it may first seem.

Frankly, I haven’t looked at Windows 8, and while I will look at it, I probably will not move to it. I don’t run any Windows tablets; what can it offer me?  Even as a Mac aficionado, I moved back to Snow Leopard, though some of the things that engendered the backwards move I have since learned of workarounds for.  That said, I have to ask myself: “If I have to use workarounds, why move at all?”  Until I have a compelling answer to that one, I’m going to stay where I am.  I need to be able to work and not spend any time reconfiguring machines.  After all, I own a computer to allow me to create things I otherwise could not.  If it doesn’t do that, tablet or PC or Mac, what good is it at all?

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