Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

September, 2005

  • When is 1080p not 1080p?

    Xbox360 smallI’ve been shopping for a high definition television.  I’ve ignored the HDTV industry simply because I thought the prices were too high, even for my pocketbook.  When the Xbox360 details were announced, I said to myself, “Keith, go get yerself one of them dern fancy HDTVs.”

    During my shopping adventure, I started to notice a number of new sets were sporting something called 1080p.  Upon examination, the 1080p sets have a screen resolution that is much higher than their siblings.  As you might guess, the manufacturers and retailers are asking a premium for this technology.  The premium amounts to about $1000 over the 720p version of the set.

    So if I’m going to pay a premium for the kewl screen, I figured I might as well investigate what percentage of the broadcast content is 1080p.  Not being a high def expert, I just assumed if they were selling this 1080p thing, then there must be some amazing content to go with it.  Much to my shock, there is absolutely no content broadcast in native 1080p format.  Ok, so I figured the over the air content was one thing, but surely my local cable provider has the goodies.  Nope, nada.  This is where it gets really good.

    Today, only two television sets have HDMI ports that will accept a 1080p signal.  One of the sets is a 71” monster that has a MSRP of over $50,000.  You got that right, over 50k.  Oh, you can get it for about the cost of a G35 Coupe if you shop.  The other set is a 37” tube which is of course much too small for my “needs”.

    That means that all of the sets being marketed and sold with the 1080p label can’t actually use one of the coming Blu-Ray players to watch a high def DVD at 1080p.  At least not across the current HDMI ports.

    The only way I know of to watch 1080p content today is to use a Media Center 2005 PC and specific Windows Media High Definition Video formatted content, or a Apple G5 with Quicktime7.  Since I won’t be driving my future high def TV with MCE, I won’t be taking advantage of a VGA port connection to the set.  That’s a big hint folks.  Don’t even think about buying a HDTV without a VGA port.  The Xbox360 has a VGA cable allowing this type of connection.  I assume the competing console will sport a similar connection.

    Anyway, back on the fence I go… Sigh…

     

  • 6.8 Ghz, 1 TB RAM, 2 TB Disk Laptop

    I have got to get me one of these
  • Backing up Windows Media Audio Files

    WmpTHE PROBLEM

    I received the following message from one of my customers:

    “I am relatively new to digital media activities.  I have copied appx. 5 GB of CD's onto my Dell hard drive using WMP, and enjoy listening to all of the music via a playlist I created, great! By the time I am done, I will probably have copied 20 GB of CD's.

    My problem is this:  I want to back up all of these copied WMP files to CD-ROMs so that they will be easy to reload if I have a system crash.  I do not want to have to copy all of these CDs again from scratch, know what i mean?

    Also, I am not always online.  I often travel to remote locations without Internet access.  I cannot get CD info without Internet access, and I sure wouldn't want to have to recopy every CD that I have already copied, AND have to manually enter every track and CD name manually, aaauuuuggghhhh!

    Every time I try to copy my individual CD folders that contain each CD's songs from my hard drive to a CD-R, my machine hangs, and locks up my CD player.  I have to reboot my system to cancel the copy effort and remove the CD-R.

    How do I backup these CDs I have copied to the hard drive, and how do I keep their track and CD title information when I do it?”

    So I figured it’s time to lend a helping hand and offer some advice.  As you can see from the message (with a few minor edits on my part), there are a couple of issues here.  Lets kick things off by talking about backup, backup media, things to look out for, etc.

    BACKING UP SONGS

    I make regular backups of my machines.  I don’t use the Windows Backup utility because I purchased the Ghost product for my machines.  However, the message above got me thinking about those backups and some of the songs I have.  You see, some of my songs weren’t ripped using the original CD.  I know what you’re thinking… No I didn’t steal a song.  I actually paid for them at the http://music.msn.com store.  Well, in reality I didn’t pay for them.  I got a gift card.  We’ll come back to digital rights management in a minute.

    In the message above, Myra wants to use CD media as the backup storage medium.  That’s ok if it’s all you have, but I no longer use CD media for backup purposes.  I use either DVD media or external hard drives.  DVD’s obviously store a lot more, especially if you are using dual layer media.  However, dual layer media is still for the rich and famous.  A regular DVD will store about six times the amount of a CD and unless you are using a laptop or car stereo without the ability to read a DVD and the .WMA files, it would seem to make more sense.  You can store a lot of .WMA files on a 4.7gig DVD disk.

    If your .WMA player is a laptop or desktop machine, then you should also consider an external hard drive.  Since Myra indicates a heavy travel schedule, it might make sense to buy a 2.5” hard drive and put it in an external USB 2.0 enclosure.  I use Hitachi 60gig 7200 RPM drives almost exclusively now.  They are fast, quiet, and run cooler than other drives I’ve used.  A 7200 RPM drive is probably overkill for audio data so if cost is a factor, look for a deal on a 4200 or 5400 RPM drive.  The cases I use are Vantec NexStar 2.5” USB 2.0 enclosures.  The are slim and light but because of the aluminium box construction, your hard drive will have some extra protection. 

    SCRIPTING AUTOMATION

    When you start moving files around, you might consider automating some of the process.  Dr. Scripto wrote a really kewl article on Using Scripts to Manage Your Music Files and Playlists.  This article is primarily for the dev geeks among us that are comfortable using a programming language.

    ORGANISATION AND SYNCHRONISATION

    Organising your music collection is pretty easy.  However, taking the goods on the road means you might want to sync all or part of your collection to the device you are taking with you.  Fortunately, syncing data and play lists is pretty easy.  See the Take Your Music and Video With You article for instructions on how to setup a sync device, sync methods and priorities.

    DIGITAL RIGHTS MANAGEMENT

    As I mentioned before, I have some songs I got from the http://music.msn.com store.  They are protected from illegal use using the Digital Rights Management (DRM) features of Media Player 10.  As you might suspect, there’s a section in the Windows Media Player FAQ on DRM.  In my case, I went to play one of those music files that is now on another computer and I was prompted to upgrade my security components.  It was as simple as installing the required ActiveX control and logging into Passport.  A few seconds later Alice In Chains was blaring and my dog was barking.  He apparently doesn’t like roosters.  His name is Elvis so maybe I should have picked Blue Suede Shoes.

    Your mileage on DRM will vary so be sure to check with the store you purchase from on their backup and recovery procedures.  Be sure to do that before you move files from one machine to another.  I’d hate to hear you painted yourself in a corner.

    MY COMPUTER HANGS

    Haven’t you ever wanted to throw your computer off a 10 story building like David Letterman?  We all get frustrated with the darn things.  Myra mentions above that the computer hangs on a folder copy from the hard drive to a target CD that is being burned.  There isn’t very much information to go on above, but Section 7 of the Windows Media Player 10 FAQ talks about Burning to CD.  I would also suggest consulting your media management products support site if you are using a non Migrosoft “drag to CD” style product.

    See http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;324129 for an article on troubleshooting issues that occur when you try to write data to a CD.

    OTHER USEFUL LINKS

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/mp10/usingplayer.aspx

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/player/faq.aspx

     

     

  • Xbox Live Wins An Emmy!!!

    In case you haven’t heard, the Xbox Live team won an Emmy.  The award is “Development of Multiplayer Console Technology - Microsoft (XBOX Live)”.  See the details of this award and others at http://www.emmyonline.org/emmy/advanced_media_winners_release_2005.html.

    Way to go Xbox Live!!!

  • Verizon Begins Taking Orders For FIOS TV

    MSTVVerizon began taking orders for their new video service in Keller, Texas this week.  The new video service uses their fiber optic network.  While this may seem unimpressive to some, please keep in mind this is a large company entering into a new market.  Southwestern Bell Communications (SBC) is next so it’ll be fascinating to watch what happens in Texas as the big boys duke it out.

    Both Verizon and SBC supposedly use a derivative of Microsoft TV.  I’ve heard Verizon is using a custom version of Foundation Edition and SBC is deploying our IPTV Edition product.  I don’t know if either is true but if they are, and are anything like the demos I’ve seen, sign me up!!!

  • Last Chance to Break It!!!

    SqlvslogoWe just released the last version of SQL Server 2005 you get to break before we go into manufacturing of the real product.  Get the releases at http://www.microsoft.com/sql/2005/productinfo/ctp.mspx.  There are a couple of changes occurring with the product that you might want to be aware of.

    SQL Server 2005 Express Edition – the management tool for this version is going to be changed.  For those of you that have been testing other versions of the product, you’re already familiar with Management Studio.  We are retrofitting Management Studio so that you can manage the Express Edition with it.  It’s actually called a “scaled down” version of Management Studio.  Regardless, this is good news.

    Mirroring – I have been asked several times are we going to ship on time.  What was my answer?  My answer has always been when it’s ready.  Well, SQL Server 2005 is ready but one important feature is going to stay on the test treadmill for a little bit longer.  Our Mirroring feature is going to ship sometime in 1HCY06.  This will allow us to fine tune that feature set and make sure it is rock solid. 

    You can read about these important changes from the man himself, Paul Flessner, in a letter we updated this morning.  Check it out!  We also posted the latest and greatest versions of the documentation set

  • Texas Statewide Video Franchise Law Signed by Gov. Perry

    Texas flagToday was a great day for Texas and the US.  Senate Bill 5 was signed by Texas Governor Rick Perry into law and offers to radically change the telecommunications landscape in Texas.  See the press release for more details.

    This bill allows for telecommunications companies to obtain a statewide cable and video franchise.  It also allows for telecommunications to take place across the power grid.  Can you imagine how long it must take, and how much money it must cost for a big telco to negotiate all of those city level agreements?  No mas!!!

    Now that there is precedent, I’m sure the telcos will go after legislation in other parts of the country.  I can’t wait for the new offerings that I’ve heard about.  Christmas is looking good!!!

    Proud to be a Texan! 

  • It's a Bird, It's a Plane, no it's Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 !!!

    Laser laptop mouse smallIn case you haven’t noticed, Microsoft launched a whole bunch of really kewl mice and keyboards today.  I am really looking forward to the Wireless Notebook Laser Mouse 6000 and the full size Wireless Laser Mouse 6000.  I already have them on order via our internal ordering process.  Laptop mouse 6000 bottom small

    After we get the channel fully stuffed for Christmas, I’ll order some 5 Packs and start giving a few away at my events.  Time to suck some cash out of the marketing budget.

    You might want to dig around on our hardware site.  We have new keyboards and if I manage to get the new Remote Keyboard for Windows XP Media Center Edition, I’ll never get off the couch.  Isn’t that like the longest product name ever?  Wow! 

    Anyway, lots of good stocking stuffers this year for sure.  See a bunch of good pictures at betanews.com.  Now If I can just get this in my stocking…