Hulu – Internet Television

I happen to like some television shows. I also love my DVR. This makes for a wonderfully easy way for me to enjoy the shows I like at a time that is convenient to me. However my current Comcast DVR is less than reliable. I’ve had to delete and recreate my season recordings (that’s a Season Pass for you Tivo users) because they randomly just stop working. Which I of course do not discover until the latest episode of Chuck has already come and gone.

Living where I do, I also don’t have the luxury of OnDemand. Which would supplant my DVR fetish when it comes to watching TV. I mean think about it. With OnDemand you wouldn’t have to configure all those pesky recording options and worry about what to do if you want to watch a live show while two others are being recorded. That is, if your DVR comes with dual tuners. If it doesn’t…then you should retire the device and spare the poor hamster that powers the archaic thing.

It was a situation just like I described when I happened to hear about Hulu. This is a site(still in beta) where you can watch both old and new television shows with surprisingly little commercial interruption. The interface is clean and the show selection is getting better every day. They already have my current new show selection up and running (Chuck, Heroes, Bionic Woman). They also have a lot of old favorites like Airwolf, The A-Team, and the original Twilight Zone. It’s as simple as logging in, clicking the episode you want, and watching the show.

I spent the last day and a half watching Tin Man, Chuck, and Airwolf. I have literally been at my laptop for many many hours watching TV. For a 15.4 inch widescreen monitor and my wireless network connection, the strain was very light. I was able to watch the shows with no discernable stutter or degradation in video quality. The commercial breaks number about the same as they do on the air, but the breaks are only a single commercial between 15 and 30 seconds. How’s that for nice? No, you cannot fast forward or pause during a commercial…but for the mildness of the marketing incursions, I’ll gladly replace my DVR with my laptop for my TV fix….assuming I can get everything happily showing over my 50″ plasma and running through my home theater sound system.

If I manage to get all of that working, I’ll let you know how it sounds and looks over equipment a little more tuned to video playback than my Dell Inspiron. But everything I’ve seen up until now is how I think Internet Television should be done. Now if I can just find out where they hid episode 3 of Chuck….

Windows Vista SP1 RC part 2

After a couple of days with SP1, I have to say I am really disappointed. I haven’t noticed any difference in the speed of unzipping files nor in copying large files across a network. These were my two biggest gripes with Microsoft’s flagship OS. I have not noticed any real difference in boot speeds nor in general responsiveness of the OS. On top of that, it appears that memory usage is a bit higher. Way to go Redmond!

Under Windows XP, I routinely advised people that they should just use the Compressed Folder feature for zip/unzip operations because it was pretty snappy and didn’t involve installing/updating 3rd party software. After all, how many everyday home users have a need to do more than unzip a random file or zip up a couple of files to email to a friend? My guess would be very few. Unless you have a couple of extra hours on hand each day, however, I wouldn’t suggest using Vista’s built in Compressed Folder functions. Go get 7-Zip or something equivalent if you want to get your work done before the end of the century.

Large file copies over the network seem to be just as slow. Perhaps Microsoft’s goal was to allow everyone more time to make phone calls and do manual paperwork while using Vista. I can’t think of anything else they could mean when they talk about how efficient Vista is when compared to XP. That said, I do have to admit that many of the changes made in Vista from XP are great. I love the redesigned Start Menu. I like the breadcrumb style address bar in Explorer windows. I really like the changes made to the wizards for network connections. And yes, annoying though it may be, I like UAC. But then I’m also a long-time Linux user…so I’ve got a little experience with having to use elevated privileges on a per process basis. It’s about time that the MS boys stuck it in there. (It could be better implemented, but I’m happy it is implemented at all.)

There are still a great many things I need to dig into on the SP1 RC. It looks like the Remote Desktop application is replaced and I’m not sure I care for what they’ve done. It reverted to the old style of not asking for credentials before attempting the connection and it appears that the /console switch no longer works. I’m not happy about that at all. I manage all my servers using RDP and I always connect to Console0…

So anyway, this seems to be a very lackluster Vista update on the surface. Perhaps when I dig a bit deeper into the changes I will find something worthwhile…but I’m not holding my breath. C’mon Microsoft…give us the fixes we want already…it isn’t like you can’t afford the investment.

Windows Vista SP1 RC

Well it looks like the boys at Redmond have finally gotten the Vista Service Pack into a publicly available Release Candidate (Thanks to Slashdot for the heads up). As with most of their OS releases from the past decade, version 1.0 has issues. Most notably from my perspective is the agonizing plodding of the system when trying to unzip files. I have noticed that the unzip problem seems to be directly related to whether there are folders inside the zip. “Are there folders inside the file?” and “Will this take about 5 minutes shy of FOREVER to extract?” have the same answer. With any luck, SP1 will do what they claim…fix the speed issue.

Of course there are lots of other additions and fixes included in the SP ranging from support for EFI to correcting some power consumption issues from hard disks not spinning down when they are supposed to. A detailed list of fixes is available from Microsoft right here. Simply scroll down and find the files “Notable_Changes_in_Windows_Vista_Service_Pack_1_Release_Candidate.doc” and “Overview_of_Windows_Vista_Service_Pack_1.doc”. These go into far greater detail than I want to in this post.

As I type this, I am downloading the RC to install on my system so I can test how well MS has addressed some glaring deficiencies in their flagship OS. Don’t get me wrong, I love a great many of the design changes in Vista. I just notice that there are things that XP handles a little better or at least with more polish. I don’t agree with the nay-sayers who claim that XP is superior, but I also disagree with MS that Vista is the ultimate OS achievement.

Besides, if you go back and look at reviews and online discussions back in 2001 when XP was released you would see a great many horrible things said about it when compared to Windows 2000. As a matter of fact, it sounds just like the reviews and discussions being heard about Vista vs. XP right now. Funny how history repeats itself. I figure that in a couple of years we will hear how Vista is the greatest Microsoft OS and they shouldn’t worry about releasing the next version because it’s pointless. And the world will go on a-spinning…

-more to come after I install and use Vista SP1 RC for a bit

The Noreve P4550/Tilt Case Dilemma (updated)

I spent a lot of time researching the various case designs for the Tilt. There is a reason for that. A phone where the top half slides out and then tilts up is not going to be the easiest product to design for. I had some specifics that I wanted in a case. So I began my search for something that met these criteria:

  • Covers the touch screen
  • Allows access to all slots/buttons/lenses/etc without removing the case
  • Allows screen to be opened and tilted without removing the case
  • Has pockets for MicroSD cards
  • Does not have a plastic sleeve covering the keyboard

I found all of this in the Noreve case for the P4550/Tilt. So I ordered it. Overall, I have been pleased with this case but I do have to share what I’ve gone through to get to this point with a case that is sitting on my desk with no phone in it.

I ordered the case on October 18, 2007. The case description on the site said that black cases were in stock. I receive an email confirming my order a few minutes later. After a couple of hours, I receive another email stating the black case was not in fact in stock and it would be shipped within 15 business days. Of course, the site states it would be in my hands within 15 business days should it be out of stock. Not a big deal…the Tilt is very popular. But I ask for clarification as to whether it will ship within 15 days or if it is to be delivered in 15 days. This makes a difference because I was going to be out of town the week of Thanksgiving and if it only shipped by then…I would probably not get it until I returned.

I got some very patient and understanding help on my questions. Kudos to NoreveUSA for that. Turns out the promise is to ship by the 15th business day. Still, not a huge deal, just a minor inconvenience. Fast-forward to November 13. The case finally ships. So now they’re already behind. It’s taken nearly a full month to ship my case which is beyond their 15 business day mark. But that’s okay. This is the only case that I have found that fits my criteria perfectly. I’ll wait for it. The case arrives on my desk that Friday, November 16, 2007.

The case is everything I had hoped it to be. Everything works wonderfully. The only thing I was even slightly disappointed in was the belt clip. I wear a thick leather belt and this clip really digs into and scars it. But such things are really not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. This is an old belt and it already has a few scars on it from the cats.

But…early last week I was pulling my phone off the clip to check a message I had received when I noticed the peg for the clip was sitting a little odd. Upon inspection I found that the metal plate they put under the leather for the belt clip peg to attach to had come loose. Now I have a peg/plate that slides around stretching and distorting the leather around the opening for the mount. This case isn’t even a month old. But that’s okay. Noreve came pretty highly recommended from the various sites I perused. I’ll just drop them a note about it and get an RMA for a replacement.

Well it has been more than a week. I’ve filled out the web form on three different days, sent a request to the info email address, and called three different times (leaving messages twice since I never got an answer). I have not gotten a single response from NoreveUSA. Thus I have tried another approach. I sent an enquiry from the corporate(European) site explaining the situation and asked if I could resolve the problem through them. At least I got a response saying they’d look into why I haven’t heard back from the USA branch. Which leads to me sitting here with my phone in my pocket and the case on my desk.

Now I won’t say that my experience is typical. Actually, from what I have seen and read about Noreve and NoreveUSA is that my situation is very atypical for both their products and their customer service. That still doesn’t change the fact that I have a $52 phone case that I cannot use. If I hear back from either the USA or European offices with further information about my request, I’ll update this post. Until then…here’s to the nice pockets on carpenter pants for protecting my phone.

**Update: I finally received a response from NoreveUSA. They claim an excess of communications due to holiday orders that is slowing their response time. I cannot doubt the truthfulness of that nor can I fault them for taking longer during the holiday season…though it would be nice if they had an automated system to reply with said information like many sites and businesses do. Anyway, the long and short of it is they will be sending me a new case when they get their shipment in next week at no charge and they don’t need me to send the old one back. They suggested just throwing it away (keeping the clip and small parts as spares). So if I get the case fairly quickly, kudos on an easy resolution but points off for really slow response.