Archive for August, 2007

NBC: all aboard the sinking ship

August 31st, 2007

In a bold (read:stupid) move, NBC announced it would not re-sign it’s contract with Apple to sell their shows on iTunes. The idea that one would pay $2 for a show you can see for free over-the-air (or by other means) seems like a good one, but alas, NBC didn’t think so. They wanted more money. You see, getting people to pay money for something that’s free wasn’t good enough, they wanted more. When Apple wouldn’t agree, they backed out.

With viewership declining year over year, and experts predicting TV’s demise; it would seem odd that NBC would cut off this source of revenue and potential avenue for new viewers. This move simply seems like an old flailing giant failing to embrace new forms of distribution because of the almighty dollar.

The ironic thing is, NBC shows were the only shows I bought on the ITMS. Sigh.

Update: Apparently NBC was worried about piracy and wanted the ability to vary pricing. However, this comment on Gizmodo sums it up perfectly, “You know what happens when you take a digital product like this and make it unreasonably expensive? Drive more people to piracy.”

cheers, will

1 Comment »

# posted at 6:08 pm by Will

Bioshock and the PC way

August 28th, 2007

Hi All,
As my last post detailed, I’m now an owner of a new iMac. One of the perks of this iMac is it can run Windows. While I wouldn’t condone installing Windows, I did. The guys around the office were talking about Bioshock coming out on the Xbox and the PC so I thought, hey, why not pull down the demo and put Windows to good use. 🙂 It’s common knowledge around the inter-web that Vista isn’t exactly a gamers delight, suffering from performance and other issues. But that wasn’t going to stop me from trying. The following trial is the abridged version of what happened. It actually took me 2 days before I could even try the demo because of the ‘high quality software’ produced by FilePlanet…but I digress.

First up, I installed the newest version of ATI’s drivers to up my chances of having things work. Then, I pulled down the demo from Steam. So far so good. I launched the demo and presto…nothing. A black screen and then the Vista crash reporter. Great. A Google search suggested I update to the latest DirectX 10 drivers, so I downloaded and installed them. Launched Bioshock and to my surprise it ran! I played about 30 minutes but it quickly became apparent things weren’t right. Numerous textures weren’t loading and sometimes reflections were taking over an entire texture area. Another Google search suggested I try using DirectX 9 by forcing the demo to load using it. I added the ‘advanced’ setting to the launch arguments in Steam and held my breath. This time, true success. Bioshock looked and played great. Albeit in DirectX 9.

I have to wonder who is at fault for the poor DirectX 10 support – Microsoft, ATI or 2KGames. DirectX 10 is supposed to be this great selling point for Vista but in reality, like most Vista features, it fails spectacularly. I have no doubt one day it will work well, but Vista has been out how long now and only 8% of Steam users are using it. It seems like it’s still the odd man out. To be fair, I couldn’t imagine the amount of testing that’s required for your average Windows game. But even with all kinds of testing it could still end up being a poor user experience.

cheers, will


# posted at 5:38 pm by Will

New iMac buyers beware

August 20th, 2007

My sorted story begins last weekend buying a new 20″ iMac to replace my aging iMac G5. I didn’t need the extra 4″ of screen real estate so the 20″ was my ticket. I was a little worried about the initial reports online about the 20″ display having color issues, so I went to the Apple Store and looked at both the 20″ and 24″ side by side. It was hard to get a good feel for them in the store, but it was clear the 24″ was by far the nicer display, but I thought the 20″ would be adequate so I happily walked out with one.

I got it home and right way I had concerns. I use a 23″ Cinema Display at work so I know what a good display is supposed to look like. I noticed immediately the iMac display was very washed out at the bottom, so much so the gray Finder window almost appeared white. I calibrated the display which increased the contrast and darkened it a bit but the bottom of the display was still washing out. To make matters worse, the top of the display was too dark. So the top was too dark and the bottom was too light. It basically looked like everything on the screen had a gradient fill. I created a sample solid color image and opened it full screen and it was obvious the display was not constant top to bottom.

The long and short of it is I returned it to the Apple Store and the Genius agreed the display had issues. He took my test file to the other 20″ iMacs around the store and they too had the color consistency problems. He thought I wouldn’t be happy with another 20″ so I ended up bumping up to the 24″ iMac just for the decent display.

Apple has apparently switched to the cheap TN LCD panel type for the 20″ iMacs (which are also used in virtually all cheap PC displays) but are still using the better IPS panel type in the 24″. The TN panel has very fast refresh rates, but the color and consistency lack compared to all other LCD types. Historically Apple has used IPS and PVA/MVA panels in all their displays from the iMac to the Cinema Displays (excluding the old 17″ iMac which also uses a TN display and looks bad). However, someone decided to go cheap on the new 20″ iMacs and it shows. On the one hand, Apple wants to position the iMac as a high end consumer machine, but then turns around and puts cheaper parts in it. I don’t get it.

This ultimately brings me back to wanting a Mac Mini tower so I can use any display I want with it. If Apple is going to use cheap components in their computers, I want the choice of not using it. With the iMac, it’s all or nothing. The Mac Mini is still too limited and overpriced (a 2.5″ drive with both RAM slots filled and a Max of 2 Ghz CPU). Which leaves the tower starting at a whopping $2499 which is simply unaffordable for a home machine.

The 24″ iMac is a relatively good deal for what you get and I’ll be happy with it. But I’d really like some more choice when it comes to Apple’s current consumer/prosumer offerings; especially if this decline in quality is what we can look forward to from Apple.

cheers, will

1 Comment »

# posted at 8:34 pm by Will