Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2012 - 03:34 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: walmart, vudu, ultraviolet, ripping, movies, hd, dvd, digital
Walmart Offering DVD Disc to Vudu Digital Copy conversion for cheap, but there is a caveat.
(Preface) Despite the iron fist fighting innovation and locking down media that is the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act), many tech savvy people have employed certain programs and disc drives to rip their physical DVD and Blu-ray collections to digital files that can act as backups and can be easily streamed around the house or over the Internet when you are out and about. The movie studios definitely do not like this practice; however, there is little that they can do about it (and as far as opinions go, they shouldn't). Slowly but surely the world is prodding them with a giant stick of common sense and they are starting to wake up, however. Many DVDs and Blu-rays now come with digital copies that can be unlocked and played via Itunes or Windows Media Player. (Sure, they are DRM'ed but it is a step in the right direction.)
And even more recently, several movie studios have started experimenting with the idea of stream-able copies of physical discs using their Ultra Violet DRM. The official description of Ultra Violet is as follows.
"UltraViolet (UVVU or UV for short) is an an ecosystem for interoperable electronic content. It's a branded set of specifications and agreements along with a centralized rights clearinghouse that allows retailers to sell movies that play on UltraViolet-compatible players and services."
Needless to say, the official word isn't too helpful for those not studying law or marketing (heh). Basically it is a set of standards (including DRM) that other services and retailers can follow and sell access to a library of digital movies from participating movie studios. The standards specify that Ultraviolet movies should be download-able to UV compliant devices; however, at time of writing only streaming devices are commonplace. The way Ultra Violet works is that certain physical disc purchases will have a code that can then be used to redeem a digital copy that can then be streamed to PCs, TVs, and other supported devices (which they estimate at around 300+ devices).
Walmart's approach is a bit different than that but follows the same Ultraviolet DRM and standards. The new Walmart Entertainment conversion service will allow customers to bring in their DVD or Blu-ray collection and for a $2 a disc will be given access to a digital version of that film through their subsidiary company VUDU's movie service. Because Walmart has a deal with the appropriate studios, they are able to convert the movies for a small fee and without needing to rip the discs. Instead, at the Photo Center, employees will examine the discs, then find the matching movie (if there is one, of course) on the VUDU service and add it to the customers VUDU account (or create a new account if they do not already have an existing VUDU account). According to Walmart, the movies will be available for streaming within a few minutes of activation, and customers will be allowed to keep their physical discs.
Further, customers will be able to upgrade their DVD's to an HD (not Blu-ray quality but better than DVD) VUDU copy for $5 (or $3 more than a standard conversion). The wording of the press release is a bit ambiguous but seems to suggest that DVD to SD VUDU and Blu-ray to HD VUDU count as "standard conversions" due to their "equal conversions" description. Only DVDs to HD will be at the higher priced conversion (we'll get clarification on this, so stay tuned for an update).
As mentioned above, there are a couple caveats to this new conversion service. Mainly, the digital copies are (currently) only stream-able, meaning a constant internet connection is required. This point may be moot in a few months when downloads are allegedly going to be supported by Ultraviolet DRM, but at the time of writing still exists. Also, there is the fact that the files are DRM'ed, meaning that customers are out of luck if VUDU shuts down their service or they do not have Ultraviolet approved devices. The major negative that tech savvy people are likely to bring up is that the service costs money for DRM protected files when they are able to rip their DVDs and Blu-rays on their own for free and do whatever they want with the non-DRM'ed files. Finally, the service is further limited by studio support and VUDUs catalog, meaning that they may not be able to convert all of your collection for DVDs or Blu-rays that are not available on VUDU.
It is a valid point; however, it should be noted that while it is rarely enforced, the DMCA makes ripping DVDs and Blu-ray discs illegal (because the programs need to break the encryption to copy the video to the computer). Also, the Walmart service does have the benefit of cheap HD upgrades for your DVD collection at $5 a pop versus $20+ for Blu-ray versions, and it is a heck of a lot faster than waiting for the Handbrake transcoding queues to finish!
In the end, the new DVD and Blu-ray disc to digital conversion service is not perfect; however, it is a step in the right direction and a decent option for anyone that does not have the time or knowledge to rip their own DVD or Blu-ray collection. For example, this is something I could see my family members using as a good way to backup their collection and prevent the situation where their kids favorite movie will no longer play because they stepped on it and threw it like a Frisbee (and the ensuing tantrum hehe). And if they get to the point where the files are no longer DRM'ed I would definitely consider it because of the time saved in converting and cheap HD upgrade (there have been very few movies I've spent the extra money on to get the Blu-ray version whereas I'm less selective about cheaper DVD purchases).
AMD Gets the Direct CU Treatment
In the previous roundup I covered the DirectCU II models from Asus featuring NVIDIA based chips. These boards included the GTX 580, 570, and 560 products. All of these were DirectCU II based with all the updated features that are included as compared to the original DirectCU products. With the AMD parts Asus has split the top four products into two categories; DirectCU II and the original DirectCU. When we start looking at thermal properties and price points, we will see why Asus took this route.
AMD has had a strong couple of years with their graphics chips. While they were not able to take the single GPU performance crown in this previous generation, their products were very capable and competitive across the board and at every price point. In fact, there are some features that these cards have at particular price points that make them very desirable in quite a few applications. In particular are the 2 GB of memory on the HD 6900 series cards where the competition from NVIDIA at those price points features 1 GB and 1.25 GB. In titles such as Skyrim, with the HD texture DLC enabled, these cards start to limit performance at 1920x1080 and above due to the memory requirements needed for these higher resolution textures.
Subject: Mobile | February 24, 2012 - 07:35 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tegra 3, smartphone, quad core, LG, hd, 720p, 4x hd
Last year LG debuted a dual core smarphone at Mobile World Congress, and this year the company is upping the ante to a new Android smartphone powered by a 1.5GHz Tegra 3 quad core processor. Yes, this is still a smartphone, just with a processor that has usually been reserved for tablets like the Transformer Prime.
LG plans to reveal the new Android smartphone at this year's Mobile World Congress 2012 in Spain. The new phone is called the LG Optimus 4X HD and is a 8.9mm thick slab with "prism like" contours and edges. On the outside of the phone, it features a 4.7" True HD IPS display with a resolution of 1280 x 720, a LED flash, and two cameras. On the front is a 1.3 megapixel camera and the rear camera is 8 megapixel BSI (Backside Illumination Sensor) camera.
The inside of the phone houses some fairly impressive hardware as well. The phone is powered by a Tegra 3 quad core processor running at 1.5 GHz, 1 GB of LP DDR2 RAM, and 16 GB of internal storage. Backing all this hardware is a 2,150 mAh battery. LG Mobile CEO Dr. Jong-seok Park stated that:
"Speed in itself isn't what makes LG Optimus 4X HD unique. It's the benefit we're bringing to customers with the HD multimedia experience in a mobile form factor."
The LG 4X HD will be running the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system and will be available in Europe during the second quarter of this year. The company will further be showing the device off at Mobile World Congress 2012 at the LG stand in Hall 8 from February 27 to March 1.
Do you think the world needs a quad core smartphone yet?
Subject: General Tech, Systems | January 26, 2012 - 11:45 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Raspberry Pi, linux, htpc, hd, gpu, broadcom
As reported earlier, the Raspberry Pi is a small computer intended to run Linux and is made to be portable and able to be powered by USB. The small board is based on the Broadcom BCM2835 chipset, which includes an ARM 11 CPU and a dual core VideoCore IV graphics card co processor. The Raspberry Pi further includes connections for HDMI, component output, and USB ports. The higher tier $35 model will further feature an Ethernet jack and twice the RAM (512 MB).
The Raspberry Pi will soon be available for sale and if the company behind the device- The Raspberry Pi Foundation- is to be believed, the GPU in the little Linux computer will pack quite a punch for its size (and cost). In a recent Digital Foundry interview with Raspberry Pi Executive Director Eben Upton reported on by Eurogamer, Upton made several claims about the Raspberry Pi’s graphics capabilities. He explained that the Broadcom BCM2835’s VideoCore IV GPU is a tile mode architecture that has been configured with an emphasis on shader performance. Upton said “it does very well on compute-intensive benchmarks, and should double iPhone 4S performance across a range of content."
The comparison to the iPhone 4S relates to his further claims that the Raspberry Pi GPU is the best on the market and can best both the iPhone 4S’s PowerVR (Imagination Technologies) based graphics and even the mighty Tegra 2 in fill rate performance. Rather large claims for sure; however, we do have some independent indication that his claims may not be wholly inflated. The coders behind XBMC, open source media center software that allows users to play a variety of media formats, have demonstrated their XBMC software running on the Raspberry Pi. They showed the Raspberry Pi playing a 1080p blu ray movie at a smooth frame rate thanks to the Broadcom GPU being capable of 1080p 30 FPS H.264 hardware accelerated decoding. You can see the Raspberry Pi in action in the video below.
The little Raspberry Pi is starting to look quite promising for HTPC (and even light gaming) use, especially for the price! At $25 and $35 respectively, the Raspberry Pi should see quite the following in the modding, enthusiast, and education community.
Acer recently announced two new additions to its Ethos notebook lineup, which specialize in HD media and gaming. The Acer Aspire Ethos AS59516 and Ethos AS89516 specifically, feature all black, brushed aluminum chassis with a magnesium alloy cover. A 1.3 megapixel webcam, back-lit keyboard, and a scratch resistant Gorilla Glass LCD display are features of both models. External Ports include HDMI, USB 3.0, a combination USB/eSATA port. Further, internal hardware includes Intel’s 2nd generation Core i5 or Core i7 processors, up to 16 GB of RAM, between 500GB and 1.5TB of hard drive storage, a NVIDIA GT550M, and a WiFi radio, and Blu-Ray (or DVD) optical drive are all available options.
The removable touchpad/remote.
With the general hardware out of the way, the most interesting feature that the two models share is a new touchpad that is able to detach from the laptop and act as a media remote control. Upon removal, the touchpad can be oriented horizontally or vertically and presents LED buttons to start, pause, and play music “from across the room.” While the idea of a removable remote has been done before, on HP notebooks especially, the integration into the touchpad will certainly encourage me to not misplace the remote lest I be forced to memorize keyboard shortcuts to use the computer. Further, the remote control does provide controls for easy music playback; therefore, this seems like a good evolution of the idea that Acer has on their hands.
The AS59516 is the smaller of the two new notebooks, and features a 15.6” display at 1366x768 resolution. On the audio side of things, it features 5.1 surround sound output in addition to two built-in speakers and “TubaBooster” technology which seeks to enhance the bass of the sound. The laptop has a starting MSRP of $1399.99 USD, and will be available this week at numerous retailers.
On the other hand, the AS89516 is a much larger affair, which sports a 18.4” display and HD 1920x1080 resolution. It further includes five dolby-tuned built-in speakers in addition to a subwoofer using Acer CineSurround and CineBass technology. The notebook carries a MSRP of $1599.99 USD and will also be available for purchase starting this week. You can check out more images of the new notebooks over at cnet.
Subject: Processors, Systems | June 12, 2011 - 08:57 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, Intel, htpc, hd, DIY, atom
Habley has recently shown off a new small, embedded computer dubbed the SOM-6670E6XX. The new computer is the size of a post-it note; however, it sports an Atom E600 processor running at 1.0Gh as well as an integrated GMA600 graphics core. To be more specific, the motherboard in question measures 70mm x 70mm.
The CPU and GPU blend is able to support two displays and pipe two HD video streams to each. Using Media Player Class Home Cinema 1.5, the computer is able to play both a 1080p MPEG4 trailer of the X-Men First Class film and a HD FLV version of SpiderWic simultaneously. While playing both films, the CPU saw around 93% usage and 210 MB of RAM from the Windows Embedded 2009 operating system. Further, while playing an HD FLV film trailer while also watching an HD YouTube clip, the processor was again pegged at 93% usage; however, in this test the RAM usage was much higher, at 422 MB. The test system used, in addition to the SOM-6670, it consisted of a SOMB-073 Carrier board (which provides the various IO including video and audio output, mouse and keyboard input, and SATA ports), 1GB of on-board RAM, and a 5400RPM laptop form factor (2.5”) 120GB hard drive.
Including the two monitors, at 1280x768 (over HDMI) and 1920x1080 (SDVO) respectively, the system drew 18 watts during usage. You can see the test system of the small HD-capable computer in action in the video below. What uses do you have in mind for a micro-sized computer such as this?
Subject: Displays | May 2, 2011 - 06:46 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: widi, wireless, hd, 1080p, stream
Wireless video streaming is nothing new to PC Perspective, in 2010 we saw Intel's WiDi technology and Ryan was streaming 1080p Iron Man using the Galaxy GeForce GTX 460 WHDI card (aka Little Cthulhu). A new way to achieve the same results is with the brite-View Air SyncHD which Missing Remote just reviewed. Read on to see if this is worth ~$230 of your hard earned money.
"If wirelessly transmitting a Blu-ray stream (which tops out around 50mbps) is questionable, transmitting uncompressed 1080p/60 video seems downright impossible. Yet, that is exactly what brite-View claims to do with their Air SyncHD transmission kit. In a nutshell, the brite-View Air SyncHD transmission kit promises to wirelessly bridge an HDMI source device and HDMI receiving device, freeing you to place the devices anywhere within the system’s wireless range. Further, the system manages to send 1080p/60 video, audio and infrared (IR) with less than one millisecond latency up to 66 feet. It sounds great on paper, but can it deliver?"
Here are some more Display articles from around the web:
- AOC e2343F2 LED Monitor Review @ t-break
- ASUS ML248H 24” Monitor Review @ Hardware Canucks
- Sony Bravia KDL-46EX720 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Samsung UN46D6400 Review @ TechReviewSource