This article has been moved. Please click here to read it.
Archive for Home Theater
Notes on using HDHomeRun recorder under Ubuntu for lowest CPU usage when recording from HDHomeRun device
Today I just want to post a few quick thoughts on various topics, none of which are sufficient for a full article:
THE UPCOMING ELECTIONS: Before you vote, or if you are thinking of not voting, you should watch Keith Olbermann’s video (transcript here), which really exposes what the Tea Party candidates are all about. I realize that Mr. Olbermann does get a bit passionate at times and that he does not break up his talks with humor (like, say, Jon Stewart) but in this case what he has to say is really important. If you think that the Tea Party candidates are in any way standing up for America or espousing American ideals, you really need to watch the video. Suffice it to say that I firmly believe that if the Tea Party, every gets much of a foothold in American politics, they will destroy the Republican party and many of our cherished American principles. And people of my age and older should really be very afraid of these folks — again, watch the video if you want to know why.
HULU AND THE NETWORKS BLOCKING PLAYBACK ON BOXEE AND GOOGLE TV: This is doomed to fail. The same folks who have figured out how to “jailbreak” mobile phones will find it extremely easy to fool Hulu, et. al. into thinking it’s communicating with a plain old web browser on a standard PC. And the reason that Hulu and the networks should not be blocking their content on such devices is because when the “jailbreakers” do it, you can bet that they will also figure out a way to remove the commercials from the stream. Hulu in particular is very vulnerable here, because either they’re going to have to relent or they’re going to wind up blocking playback to users that really are using a standard browser on a desktop computer. If they don’t relent soon, then the hack that allows viewing Hulu on those devices without the commercials will begin to receive wide acceptance, and then they will be in the position of trying to put the genie back in the bottle — they will never be able to get people to accept watching the ads (which will, of course, mean that eventually they will go out of business).
THE MOST USELESS FEDERAL AGENCIES have to be the Federal Communications Commission and the federal Food and Drug Administration. I’ll leave the FDA alone for the moment, but the FCC is so obviously in the pocket of the huge corporations that you know something is definitely wrong there. Seems like about every other day we read story after story of how Internet users in countries like South Korea get broadband speeds about 100 times what most of us can get. The thing I don’t understand is why this seems to happen even in times when the Democrats have the majority in the legislature — it’s as if the Republicans still control the agenda even when the Democrats are in power — UNLESS the Democrats are also kowtowing to the huge corporations. If Democrats DO lose to the Tea Party loons, they have only themselves to blame, for not doing the right thing when they had every opportunity.
ZECHARIA SITCHIN PASSED AWAY ON THE MORNING OF OCTOBER 9, 2010: Many readers will not know who he was, but basically he was a researcher of ancient Sumerian texts, who offered some very interesting (and often controversial) insights into our ancient past. Even if he wasn’t 100% accurate — and who could be when you are talking about things that happened thousands of years ago, when you consider that our news media often can’t get details right on a story that happened two days ago — his biggest contribution to humanity was to expand the thinking of everyone who ever read his work. For example, you will never look at the evolution vs. creation debate in quite the same way after you find out what the ancient Sumerians had to say about our origins, as reported by Mr. Sitchen. I think he is one of those people whose genius has gone largely unrecognized by his own generation (even though most of his books sold very well), but who will be recognized and revered by future generations. Whether you agree with everything he wrote or not, he was one of the great thinkers of our time. By the way, the Wikipedia article about him is extremely biased, though that doesn’t surprise me considering that his writings were probably seen as a threat to both the existing religious institutions, and to conventional “scientific” thinking regarding our origins.
- R.I.P. Zecharia Sitchin, 1920-2010 (cosmiclog.msnbc.msn.com)
- Fired-Up Keith Olbermann Recites Laundry List Of Tea Party Offenses: “This Is The America You Want?” (mediaite.com)
- Keith Olbermann did an amazing Special Comment this evening… (underthelobsterscope.wordpress.com)
- Olbermann: If The Tea Party Wins, America Loses (VIDEO) (huffingtonpost.com)
- “Keith Olbermann Special Comment: “If the Tea Party Wins, America Loses”" and related posts (thejoshuablogs.blogspot.com)
- Olbermann Warns Voters Against ‘Cataclysm’ of Tea Party, ‘Would Destroy America from Within’ (newsbusters.org)
To me, the most infuriating thing about using a program like XBMC is that, at least in my preferred skin (Alaska Revisited) the authors of various add-ons (or maybe the skin author? I honestly don’t know who’s at fault here) seem to want to do everything possible to hide program information from you until you click a button. So, you are scrolling through a list of titles, and you can’t even see the full title if it’s more than a few words long, because these folks have apparently never heard of word-wrap – instead they go with a ssssslllllooooowwwww horizontal scroll (only on the selected item). And then to see the description — assuming there even is one — you have to click the “info” button on each individual title (and then click it again to close the info window, and I have no idea how you get to this if you’re not using a remote). So you can’t just scroll through titles and, as you hit each one, see a description on another part of the screen. They can show us a freaking thumbnail and/or artwork for each title, which often tells us very little about the show, but to get a description you have to do extra clicks. What is it with these guys, do they enjoy click-click-clicking needlessly? Do they think we can all intuit what a program is about from the artwork?
Now, perhaps there is some mode that will display the title information as you scroll past (much as is done with the thumbnail) but if there is, I haven’t discovered how to turn it on. Which is another problem unto itself – it’s very obvious to me that the XBMC folks (by which I mean, whoever’s responsible for this problem) have never done any serious usability testing with regular users. Settings tend to be hidden all over the place — there might be a way to fix this, but if there is (which I rather doubt), good luck finding it. Why all the skin-related settings are not in the settings menu I will never know (then again, as I say, I don’t know if the problem is with the skin or the add-on, or a combination of both). In any case, this is REALLY poor design, in my opinion.
But there is one other issue, and that is that there’s no such thing as a program guide that spans add-ons, in either XBMC or Boxee (they’re called apps in Boxee, but it’s basically the same thing). You have to tediously look through each add-on to see if something you want to watch might be in there. So if I want to view something in a particular genre, or actually search for a particular title, I have to look through each app. There is no way to discover programs I might like if they are in add-ons or apps I wouldn’t normally look through. If you already know where a particular title is, it’s not a problem, but if you want to see a list of (for example) all science fiction titles available in all apps, you are just out of luck.
Nor is there a way to flag a title and have it alert you when a new episode is available (that I can find) in either XBMC or Boxee. Granted that this might not be practical for some add-ons that are associated with very high traffic sites (like YouTube) but for others, particular those that offer episodes of TV shows, it would be great to get notifications when new shows are available, and an easy way to select them without searching through a bunch of apps.
One thing people like about cable or satellite services is there is a guide that scrolls along and lets you see what’s about to come on. I understand that the concept of time is much different in a program like XBMC or Boxee (although many titles are only available for a limited time) but still, I think most users would appreciate the convenience of a guide that shows titles available within various criteria, such as genre or age of title. The most important thing is that (at least short) descriptions be easily available, preferably without extra clicking. If vertical scrolling is used (please, NO horizontal scrolling!) it would also be great if the scroll speed were adjustable (I’m a fast reader, so slow scrolling irritates me no end).
C’mon, people, pretend that non-techies are using this stuff (because they will be) and that they don’t want to do a whole bunch of extra clicking to see descriptions. And beyond that, please give us some kind of guide that spans all add-ons, apps, plug-ins, or whatever you call them!