Comcast spreading the love with iPad, Android apps

If you picked up today’s Appeal-Democrat, you might have noticed our CES coverage has begun in earnest. Well, actually it began Tuesday-ish, but the actual expo begins today.

One of the stories we highlighted was the fight between pay-TV companies and tech companies providing competition such as Boxee and Roku. Comcast is part of that fight and they’re bringing out apps for the iPad and for Android. The apps are boasted as ways to take your Comcast content anywhere.

The iPad version is expected in a few weeks and the Android version will be sometime this year.

Handbrake releases first update since 2009

Handbrake, my beloved choice for DVD ripping, has released its first update in more than a year. This update pushes the software to version 0.9.5. Highlights include updated presets for video encoding and a variety of things that would probably mean more to videophiles than to me. Those changes I’ll include at the bottom with a link to the official post.

The one big difference for Mac owners is this version ends support for PowerPC processors. Basically, if your computer is more than five years old, you’re probably not going to be able to use this update.

Release Highlights:

Core Library

  • * BluRay disc structure support. (No decryption support)
  • * Updated Libraries (x264, ffmpeg)
  • * SSA Subtitle support. (Including burn-in)
  • * MP3 audio now supported in MP4 files (Note: Limited Player compatibility)
  • * VOBSUB subtitle now supported in MP4 files (Note: Limited Player compatibility)
  • * Updated Presets for newer devices and better quality
  • * AC3 encoding support.
  • * Many Bug Fixes and other small improvements
  • * Improved DVD Main Feature detection (when using dvdnav)
  • * Universal audio downmix support (all audio types can be downmixed)
  • * Point*to*Point encoding (second or frame start and end times)
  • * Peak framerate option (Capped VFR)

All GUIs

  • * Updated x264 Advanced Panel
  • * Video Quality Slider drops % value and only shows RF for x264
  • * Batch Scan (Scan Multiple files at once. N.B: Does not include multiple VIDEO_TS folders / Image files)
  • * Many Bug fixes
  • * Many Tweaks to improve usability.
  • * Ability to edit queue jobs

Mac GUI

  • * New Audio Panel supporting >4 Audio Tracks
  • * VLC detection in /Applications and ~/Applications
  • * Multiple instance support

Windows GUI

  • * Encode Status in GUI. (CLI window is now always hidden)
  • * Improved Auto-Naming for Destination file name.
  • * Drag / Drop Video onto Main Window to scan.

Linux GUI

  • * Multiple instance support (run multiple copies of ghb at once)
  • * Many Bug fixes and UI improvements.

Notices

  • * Power PC (PPC) is no longer officially supported. Given limited resources and time, it simply isn’t feasible for this project to support minority platforms. For those of you still using older hardware, we recommend you stick with 0.9.4.

Goodbye Hulu Plus. Sorry your creators killed you

Hulu Plus isn’t going away. Yet. But I know I’ve decided to toss my subscription. Part of it is because of redundancy with Netflix, which now has its own iPhone app.

But mostly it’s the same thing that’s plagued Hulu since its inception – a lack of consistent content that’s consistently available.

Rather than rehash what I went through last night, here’s the rant I sent to Hulu last night with my cancelation. Unlike Netflix, they at least refunded the balance of the month I haven’t used, which was a plus on the way out the door.

Without further ado, here’s my goodbye letter.

Hulu Plus is a joke. My girlfriend and I have been watching all of Buffy The Vampire Slayer over the course of the last few weeks on my iPhone. There was an occasional ad during the episodes. The occasional 15 second blurb wasn’t that bad.

Then we decided to watch on my laptop and Hulu Plus showed what a massive pile of crap it is. First off, each ad break is suddenly two 30-second commercials. I felt weird having ads shown to me for 15 seconds when I was already paying almost $10 a month for a service, but showing a full minute of ads at each act break? It’s like you’re pissing on my head and selling me a towel to dry off with.

On top of that, I checked my queue and saw episode 4 of season 4 “Fear, Itself” has expired. No other episodes. No other seasons. Just one episode smack in the middle of the series is gone.

That last move prompted me to visit Netflix where I found my streaming service not only offers all seasons and episodes of Buffy for streaming, but there are no ads. What a concept! I pay for a service, I’m not lambasted with ads AND I actually get to watch the shows I thought I paid to access!

Another amazing concept on top of that is I can play Netflix on my Wii just fine. And guess what? That’s also included in my subscription fee.

Hulu started out as a great idea as competition to YouTube. Then the networks that created it started picking it apart. Then the ads got longer. Hulu Plus looked like a light at the end of the tunnel, but instead it’s another baseball bat to consumers’ kneecaps.

January 2011 Appeal-Democrat pages

A collection of pages designed for the Appeal-Democrat in January 2011.

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December 2010 Appeal-Democrat pages

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November 2010 Appeal-Democrat pages

A collection of pages designed for the Appeal-Democrat in November 2010.

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October 2010 Appeal-Democrat pages

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September 2010 Appeal-Democrat pages

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George Lucas gives OK to not care about Star Wars on Blu-Ray

With vacation season finally coming to a close, I’m able to get back to writing more. Hooray.

In my searches through the tech news I’ve missed out on, I’ve decided I’m going to skip out on Star Wars on Blu-Ray. Granted I don’t own either trilogy (sexology?) on DVD, but George Lucas has deemed converting the originals as too expensive to move to Blu-Ray. Or in other words, George Lucas is only moving the version he likes to the next incarnation.

Why is audio of one Yuba City Unified meeting a 1.06 GB file?

Do you want to listen to the latest Yuba City Unified School District meeting? I hope you have a good internet connection.

The Aug. 24 meeting audio, linked to in the left column of the page, weighs in at a whopping 1.06 gigabytes. In other words, over 1,000 megabytes.

By the way, because I know most people hate thinking about numbers, I’ve bolded each one to make it easier to understand.

Still need more perspective as to how huge that file is? According to this download calculator that file should take nearly two days on a dial-up 56K connection. On a DSL connection, that total drops to just under a day.

This megalith of a file was the audio of a 2-hour meeting that was saved in WAV format, or Waveform Audio File Format. It’s considered a lossless format, which means little to no compression of the audio is done. It’s like putting out the trash without using a compactor – it could take up a lot less space.

Without going into too much jargon and detail, I took that same file and compressed it to an MP3. That same file went from 1.06 gigabytes to 34.4 megabytes. That’s a 97 percent drop in size.

I downloaded the rest of the files, which were encoded in variations of MP3 and WAV, and re-encoded them. The 4.11 gigabytes of audio from six months of meetings turned into 661 megabytes — an 85 percent drop.

This situation irks me two ways. First off, nobody wants to download a gigabyte of audio. Our education reporter Ryan McCarthy was trying to listen to that meeting for a story and nearly gave up since the download would have swallowed half of his workday. Public records, like audio of meetings, shouldn’t be this difficult to access. This area is starved enough for quality Internet access as is without the burden of trying to download something roughly the size of a full-length movie from iTunes.

Secondly, I hate to see the district’s bill at the end of the month trying to service these downloads. While school meeting audio isn’t exactly something topping the Hot 100 charts, it’s not going to take much to rack up a huge bill. A site that’s used to serving maybe a few hundred megabits of data a day will see a 10-fold spike in bandwidth usage with a mere 10 downloads of one meeting.

I’ve already contacted the webmaster for YCUSD, but I have yet to get a response.