For anyone who is interested how I added Youtube to my blog, you can find a link to the plugin here.
This is a test to see if I can get YouTube videos to work in my blog....
Update: It works! It doesn't show up in RSS readers (not surprising), but it works perfectly in the web browser.
On a side note, I chose this video because it's one of the most amazing examples of guitar playing I've ever seen...
Today, Apple finally released the new 8 Core MacPro that everyone has been waiting for. They did this a full 11 days earlier than everyone expected them to. Everyone was expecting them on April 15th at the NAB show. I have to say I'm a bit disappointed in how they did this.
All they did was add one new configuration to the MacPro - that being an 8 Core option... At a price of $4,000 to start! The didn't redesign the casing at all. It's still the large monster with the really expensive memory that it was. I was hoping they'd switch to a cheaper, more conventional memory on the MacPro. That expensive memory has always been one of my biggest gripes about the MacPro. I was also hoping that they would lower the prices on the quad-core MacPros to something under $2,000. Either that or release a smaller, 2 core MacPro at a lower price. As much as I want a quad-core MacPro, it's a good $2,500 to get one, and quad-core is really overkill for most people. I'd be perfectly happy with a dual-core MacPro.
Of course, now that they did release the MacPros early, this leaves the question of what's left to be shown at the NAB event? Are we going to see Leopard, or at least a demo of the 'Top Secret' features of Leopard? Are we going to see HD content on iTunes? We'll soon see.
Outstanding!I hadn't planned on writing another blog entry so soon, but this is just too good to resist.
Today, Apple and EMI announced that they will be selling DRM-Free versions of all of EMI's music catalog on iTunes, starting in May at a price of $1.29 per song. These new DRM-Free songs will also be encoded at 256kbps. This is twice the quality of the current iTunes recordings. What is interesting is that they will continue to sell DRM versions of all their songs at the current 99 cents price and at the current 128kbps encoding. This is a very interesting and quite clever move. If you want the cheapo version, you get DRM. If you pay a little more you get a MUCH higher quality version that will play anywhere! It will be very interesting to see what happens with this. I wouldn't be surprised if they start selling much more music and much more DRM-Free music! This looks like the first step in getting rid of DRM on iTunes. This will be a wonderful thing!
Another very interesting line in the Apple press release is that they say "we expect to offer more than half of the songs on iTunes in DRM-free versions by the end of this year." OVER HALF! That likely means that other music publishers besides EMI will be doing the same thing too! This is fantastic news. Due to the lack of DRM and the much higher quality, I expect a certain friend of mine, may start shopping at iTunes more (as will I). Once they go DRM-Free in May, I'm going to have to start seeing what kind of music EMI offers.
When you get up at 7AM, you get a lot done...
Saturday morning started at 7AM for me. I normally don't get up until around 830-900AM on weekends, but I had to get up earlier than usual on Saturday. I had an appointment at the Honda dealership to get something fixed under warranty on my car. This is the first time in 2 years that I've had to take that Honda in for anything. It's been a great car. I've never had any problems with it, up until now. Even the problem I had was a fairly minor, but weird problem.
Last weekend I was opening the driver's side door of my car, when I heard a snap and then saw some things falling to the ground from the hinge of the door. My first thought was 'Uh oh! What's that?'. I looked on the floor to find several thin pieces of plastic lying there. I'd actually found similar pieces of plastic like this before in my car, but never knew what they were. Since it happened right in front of me this time, I was able to figure it out. Turns out that there is a piece of metal inbetween the door and the car that is used to hold the door open and keep it from swinging out too far. The guy at the dealership called it the door striker. Basically, it's a metal bar that slides in and out of the door as the door opens and closes. Wrapped around this metal bar is a sheath of plastic. It was this plastic sheath that had somehow broken off. As a result, it looked like the metal inside was starting to wear badly and it was making a horrible screech as I opened the door. I called the dealership this past Monday and made an appointment for 830 Saturday morning to get it fixed.
I show up at the dealership promptly at 830 and drop my car off, no problem. The service guy was very friendly and helpful. I had no complaints there. Despite that it was a minor repair, I knew my car was going to be sitting there all day. I had arranged for my brother to come pick me up from the dealership. He came and picked me up. We left, had some breakfast, ran various errands over the next few hours and then by around 3pm I called the dealership to find out my car was done. So we headed back.
We got there around 330pm. I showed up and got them to bring my finished car around. I checked out the repair and it looked fine. I was all happy and ready to go. I then noticed an odd problem. The stereo on the car had 'locked' itself and the time was wrong on the stereo. Oddly enough the radio station settings were still there. After some help from the service guy, we got the radio unlocked. I then noticed that my iPod adapter, that was plugged into the stereo was screwed up... It was just sitting there showing an error code, even with no iPod connected and the car completely shut off!
I got angry because the iPod adapter was working when I arrived. They had apparently disconnected the battery and it had somehow screwed up the iPod adapter. I talked to the guy who actually fixed my car. He claimed he never disconnected the battery, and yet it appeared the battery had been disconnected. We called the service manager over who investigated and couldn't find any sign the battery had been disconnected or how to fix the iPod adapter. Finally, the service manager suggested we disconnect and then reconnect the battery, to reset the stereo. We did that and the stereo and iPod adapter both reset and started working perfectly. I just kind of shrugged it off and thought, "OK. Everything is fine now." So the service manager left, my brother left, and I got in the car to leave. I turned the key and nothing happened! The car wouldn't start! So now my stereo works, but the car doesn't (and it was driving a few moments ago). What the hell?
So I go *back* and get the service manager again and tell him that now the stereo works, but my car won't start! He checks it and determines that my car's battery was dead! It was the original battery that I got with the car 2 years ago... I guess if your battery is going to die, having it die at the dealership is the best possible place for it to happen. So the service manager just suggests we swap out the battery under warranty and send me on my way. He goes over and gets one of the service guys to grab a battery and swap it out right away. So within minutes of my complaining to the manager, I've now got a brand new battery too! To my surprise, they replaced the battery completely under warranty and didn't charge me anything. Usually when you get a battery replaced under warranty they charge you a price prorated based on the warranty life of the battery, versus how long it actually lasted. They didn't do it this time. They replaced it for free.
So now I've got a fixed door 'striker' and a brand new battery out of the deal and I didn't pay anything! I'm quite a happy camper now, even if I ended up leaving the dealership a good hour later than I got there. By now it's 430 in the afternoon. I leave the dealership and drive off to get some gas. I was planning on going to the Dade County Fair that evening and that's a long drive (about 35 miles) so I had to fill up first. I filled up the car and headed south.
By the time I got to the Dade County Fair, it was 6pm. There was a line of cars a good mile or two long waiting to get into the fair! I ended up waiting in that line of cars for over a hour and a half to get into the fair! That's the last time I go to the fair that late in the evening! By the time I found a parking place and got into the fair, it's 745pm. I walked in, looked around a bit and then watched a show there called 'Visions'. It was an interesting half hour show, full of acrobats and wild costumes.
I spent the next several hours at the Fair. It was a beautiful night. No rain, a nice breeze, not too hot. I walked around, ate some grilled corn on the cob (yum!) and a few other things. I looked at the exhibits. It was a nice evening. The damn rides were expensive though! $1.00 per ticket and most rides required at least 2 tickets. So I have to pay $2 to go on even the lame rides? That's not worth it! Plus they had practically NO healthy food. It was fried everything! Fried vegetables? WTF? It's truly sad how bad and unhealthy the food is there. (but that's a story for another blog). Anyway, I left there about 1030pm. By ll15pm or so I was home. I did some stuff around the house for a while and by 100AM I was in bed. That's a long day!
I have officially started my first open source project. It is a program called Par Explorer. What is Par Explorer? The purpose of it is to allow you to open a PAR or PAR2 file and view all the packets stored in it and the contents of each one. All it does is let you view the data. You can't change it or create it.
I wrote this program more as a testbed for learning how to read PAR/PAR2 files. I'm working on a separate application (not open sourced yet), that will do some more processing of PAR files. The purpose of this application is mostly to develop and test the code to read and process PAR files. It also gives me a chance to learn how to write document based Cocoa apps. PAR files make use of some interesting concepts such as MD5 hashes, CRC32 checksums and Reed-Solomon codes. I'd never done any work with these concepts, so this is something else I'm learning during the development of this program. You can freely view the source for the app over in the Subversion repository on the SourceForge project page, so if you are interested in any of these concepts, take a look. MD5, CRC32 and a large amount of PAR2 code is already there, if you need that. Have fun!
I've been learning Cocoa on OS X lately. One of the things I've been experimenting with is document based applications. I've been working on an application that processes Par and Par2 files. So, in the process of developing this application, I needed to write a document based application to view the contents of the files. The problem is, XCode doesn't prompt you for the name of the document class when you tell it to generate a new Document based application. Instead, it generates a document class called 'MyDocument'. This is obviously not a very useful class name. When XCode generates this MyDocument class, it also generates the MyDocument.nib file and connects everything together for you. The problem is, if you try to rename the document, all those connections break and the document and NIB stop working together. Plus, if you want to generate a second document/NIB, you are on your own. I wanted to document how to manually rename a Document class/NIB so that the connections between them continue to work. For this example, I'll use the example of renaming 'MyDocument' to 'ParDocument' (which is what I did in my application). If you want to use a different class name, just substitute your class name for everywhere that I mention 'ParDocument'.
Generate the new Document class
- In the File menu, select 'New File'.
- In the Assistant dialog, choose the 'Objective-C NSDocument subclass' item under 'Cocoa'.
- Give the new class the filename 'ParDocument.m'. Make sure that the 'Also create "ParDocument.h" is checked.
- If you view the contents of the ParDocument.m file and look at the 'windowNibName' function, you will see that it returns @"ParDocument". This string returned MUST match the filename of the NIB file that goes with this document. In other words, it will try to load 'ParDocument.nib', since you listed 'ParDocument' as the Nib file name. If you rename the class in the future, you also need to change this string to point to the new Nib file. Since we generated the class, this string is already set correctly.
Generate the new NIB file
- Open Interface Builder by double clicking on the MyDocument.nib file.
- In Interface Builder's File menu, choose 'New'.
- In the 'Starting Point' Dialog, choose 'Window' under the 'Cocoa' item.
- In Interface Builder's File menu, choose Save As.
- Make sure that you choose the right directory here! Save it to the 'English.lproj' directory underneath your main application directory.
- If you save it to this directory, it will then prompt you to add the new NIB file to your project. Tell it to add it to your project.
- From Interface Builder's Classes menu, choose 'Read Files'
- Select the 'ParDocument.h' file. This is necessary to tell IB about your Document class.
- In IB, click on the 'File Owner' icon.
- In the Tools menu, pick Show Inspector.
- Choose 'Custom Class' from the Inspector's top drop down list. Select ParDocument as the class.
- In IB, Control-Drag from the 'Files Owner' icon to the 'Window' icon. Set the 'window' connection to this Window.
- In IB, Control-Drag from the 'Window' icon to the 'File's Owner' icon. Set the 'delegate' connection to ParDocument.
- Save and exit IB
Set the Document Class for the Document
- In XCode, right click on the Target and select Get Info
- Set the 'Class' column of the list on the bottom to 'ParDocument'
hat's it! Now that everything is connected for your new ParDocument class, you can go ahead and delete MyDocument.h, MyDocument.m and MyDocument.nib from the project.
It's a long, involved, and very confusing process to do this. Hopefully this has helped you.
I wrote in my previous blog about how the Apple TV was good, but that the video quality wasn't very good playing videos downloaded from iTunes. This was due to the fact that video content on iTunes is only 640 x 480, but the AppleTV runs at considerably higher resolutions. This leads to a 'blockiness' effect on the video.
It has been announced previously, that Apple will be holding a Special Event at the NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) show on April 15th. The event is titled 'Lights, Camera, Apple'. This would seem like the perfect time to announce higher, possibly full HD content on iTunes! Since the Apple TV was just released, it would only make sense for them to hold off distributing HD content until they had a product capable of playing it. Now they do - the Apple TV! I would certainly like to see downloadable HD versions of TV shows and movies coming from iTunes. Granted, I don't have a HD television, but it would still no doubt contribute to a much nicer picture even on my standard definition TV. I would also expect that if they do this, they'll also upgrade the iPod to play this HD content. I wonder if perhaps an HD capable iPod with a larger screen, similar to the iPhone will show up as well?
Suddenly, April 15th is starting to sound like it's going to be an interesting day.
Today, I took a trip down to the local Apple Store to check out the Apple TV in person.
I walked into the Apple Store and right there they had two Apple TVs setup, connected to a large Sony HDTV (probably about 32 inches). The TV was widescreen, naturally. The small Apple remote was sitting right next to it on a long security leash.
First impression - not bad. Screen display is attractive. I expected a bit of a smoother scroll between the icons on the left. They kind of snap into place, more than rotate slowly, like they do on Front Row.
The menu interface is nearly identical to the typical iPod display, with a few interesting differences. First, if you go into the Music menu, you'll find the Music Videos listed there. This is different from the current iPod menus. On the iPod, the Music Videos menu is listed under the Video menu. While I suppose it makes sense in both places, I guess it makes more sense under Music, since it is music related. The Video menu seems to have disappeared entirely. I never did particularly like the arrangement of the video menu on the iPod. It never quite seemed to be in the right place. By moving the various video menus into the submenus along with everything else, it seems to almost be saying that video is not a big deal anymore. It's just another feature of the product. This is not a bad thing. TV Shows and Movies have also been moved out of the Video menu and now sit on the main menu itself. The Podcasts menu has also been moved out of the Music menu and onto the main menu. The Podcast menu also appears to be all podcasts - music and video. I like this move because podcasts didn't quite fit under Music on the iPod either. It always felt like something completely different and so it deserves its own menu. Now it has one.
The network setup is nicely organized too. If you view the About menu, it not only lists the usual information, it also lists the Apple TV's current IP address, current Mac Address and the wireless signal strength. This is a great place to put these items because they are all within 'easy reach'. I know that if I owned one of these, I'd definitely want to know the IP Address and Mac Address, so I could properly set it up on my router. The wireless network detection is very simple and easy to do as well.
As for the rumors that it runs a version of OS X, it's hard to tell for sure, but it does certainly show a few signs that that is true. Whenever you tell it to view a movie preview streamed from the Internet, you get a 'Connecting' screen, complete with a large version of the standard OS X spinning progress bar. Granted they could have easily faked this, it is at least one sign that OS X is in there somewhere. The fact that it appears to be running some form of Pentium tells me that it could very well be OS X.
Now for the all important question. How is the video quality? Honestly, I gotta say that they should have been demoing this thing on a non-HDTV television instead of an HDTV. I watched a movie preview from the Internet. It seemed very blocky. I watched a bit of The Incredibles from the Apple TVs hard drive and it too was blocky. I watched a couple of video podcasts and they too were blocky. Granted the videos played fine and had great sound, it still struck me as very blocky. I suspect this is simply a matter of the fact that movies sold on iTunes are of a relatively low 640x480 resolution. This resolution would look fantastic on a standard definition television, but looks blocky on the much higher HDTV resolution. This device has a very much 'aimed at the future' feel for it. Yeah, it does output HD content, but most of the content that you can feed it right now is NOT HD. This isn't the Apple TV's fault though. It's just that there isn't a lot of HD content out there yet. I fully expect Apple to upgrade the resolution on it's movies and TV shows to HD levels sometime soon in order to better 'feed' the Apple TV. As more HD content becomes available, I can see the apparent quality of the video improving. It seems to me, that the Apple TV would actually look better on a standard definition TV these days, due to the relatively low resolution content available for it.
Will I buy one? Probably at some point, but not right now. I'm still a bit hesitant about it's compatibility with standard definition TVs. When I asked one of the Apple guys if it would work on a standard definition TV, he told me that no it would not. He said it would need a widescreen TV. But, when I pressed him, saying that I had read online that it did support standard definition TVs, he said it would as long as i had the right plugs on the back of my TV (which I do). The Apple TV requires component output cables. It doesn't use a standard video RCA jack or an S-Video jack. I think that Apple states that it doesn't support non-widescreen TVs because they don't want people that have TVs without those component output cables to buy one only to discover that it doesn't work. I can understand this, but I would think they would at least mention that it works on 'some' standard definition TVs. I'm also a bit hesitant about the small 40GB capacity of it. Yes, there are already complete instructions on the Internet on how to manually upgrade the HD to larger capacities, but I don't like the idea of spending $300 on something just so I can manually hack it to put a larger HD in. I'm sure I could do it, but I'd be afraid to damage the thing and have a $300 doorstop. The current 40GB capacity is way too small, especially for a device centered around HD video! That 40GB HD will dissapear fast if you start throwing real HD video on there. It's going to need a MUCH bigger HD. I fully expect Apple to start shipping multiple versions of this with different, larger HD capacities - just like they do on the iPod.
All in all, a very interesting gadget that I will be keeping an eye on to see how it develops.
This is cool!
I mentioned a while back that my 20th high school reunion is coming up this year. Well plans have progressed and now a date has been set - August 3rd through August 5th at the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. This is only a few miles from where I live.
The best part about all this, is that I was finally able to locate my best friend from high school that I lost track of for the last 20 years! (Hi Mike!) I'd been trying to locate him online for years without any luck. He posted a message on the Yahoo Groups group for our reunion and it had his email address. I emailed him back and sent along my instant messenger contact info, and we are chatting online right now! We are even swapping 'baby photos' (pictures of our pets).
It was actually a post of his on Classmates.com that reminded me that our 20 year reunion was coming up a few months back. The problem is that I really hate Classmates.com. They let you sign up for free, but if you want to do anything on there they make you pay! I'm not about to pay for this site. Finally, I was able to get at least enough information through the site for free that I was contacted directly about the reunion. This eventually led to getting back in touch with Mike. Hopefully we can keep in touch from now on.