Posts for Tag: dvd

Hello New Mac Mini - Bye-bye Optical Drives

Along with today's Mac OS X Lion release, Apple refreshed the MacBook Air and Mac Mini with new chipsets and beefier configs while keeping prices the same or lowering them in some cases. While no major structural changes were made to the MacBook Air (Thunderbolt added and backlit keyboard brought back!) the Mac Mini lost its internal Superdrive completely. Last year's server version removed the optical drive and now the desktop version is DVD free, as well. Yet another sign of Apple's march towards zero internal optical drives for all its machines.

The move is hardly a surprise. Forget about Apple's desire to be cutting edge. CDs and DVDs as a technology are just outdated. People don't carry around CDs for listening to music any more. Virtually all movies released to date are on Blu-ray or are being streamed via Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, etc. CDs and DVDs to deliver software is dying a slow death (hastened by App Stores of all types) and optical discs never really caught on for on the go data storage. USB thumb drives are more practical and the combination of continuously falling prices and ever increasing sizes make it a no brainer. Would I want to carry around 4-8 DVDs or one 32GB USB flash drive (currently priced at about $40 and falling). Also, Apple just killed another reason for you to use an optical drive by letting all new Macs reinstall the operating system over the internet (very cool).

I'm not against optical drives in general. I do see the need for them when watching Blu-ray movies (though not available on a Mac) or when needing to store huge files cheaply (about $1 per 25GB blank disc or $7 for 50GB blank disc). I just don't need to use them ALL THE TIME. That's why a laptop (or Mac Mini) coupled with an external USB Blu-ray drive is a great solution. You shouldn't have to devote 25%-35% of your machine's internal real estate to a peripheral you only use 1% of the time, if that much.

I really want to need the iPad

So the announcement came a couple of days ago and everyone is deciding (or has already) whether to get the new Apple iPad in March/April. Let me start by saying I really like the device. Looks slick, great screen, great UI, and the few apps that were demo'd look really good. Let's not forget the price of $499 which blew me away - very affordable given what the device does. Imagine all the eBook readers, portable DVD players, digital picture frames, etc. that already cost between $100-$300. Those devices are pretty much screwed.

As part of Steve Jobs' demo, he talked about a third class of product between the iPhone and a laptop. He said this new class needed to do a few things much better than either of the other two. To some extent, I agree with him that the iPad does do certain things better - photos and eBooks in particular. But I guess they don't do them better enough for me to buy yet another device. I split my time between two indispensable devices - my laptop (Macbook 13") and my phone (iPhone 3GS). If I were to lose either one of these, my productivity is pretty much shot. However, a tablet computer just hasn't made itself indispensable to me just yet.

So if not adding a new device, what about replacing one? Well, the iPad can't replace my phone because it's too big and can't make phone calls (VOIP, maybe?). As far as my laptop goes, I don't really do much on it besides email, web browsing, word processing, spreadsheets, occasional presentations, image manipulation, and some light HTML. I guess the iPad can handle all of those save for the image manipulation (is there an app for that? basically Photoshop light) and HTML (also, an app for that? Dreamweaver light?). But the biggest thing that I need is to be able to access a file system where I can create folders, move files around, etc. Without that it's impossible for me to replicate my day to day job on the pad. I toyed with the idea of getting this for my mom or wife because they don't do much besides email and web browsing but both like to watch videos online and without Flash support, they'd still be using their desktops half of the time.

All in all, I'd love to buy this. If I had all the money in the world I'd buy two. I'd also buy a 60" Kuro Elite, Tesla Sedan, and NetJets fractional. All of which fall into the "nice to have but not needed" category.

Netflix on TiVo ... Took 4 years but worth it!

Netflix and TiVo had announced they were launching their streaming service over 4 years ago but it finally hit mainstream today. Check it out here. As a long time customer of both services, I was hoping for something like this to happen years ago. TiVo's CEO, Mike Ramsay, sat on Netflix's board for a long time (he no longer does) and both companies have been close even before their announcement in 2006. I'm not sure if it was a technology issue or a studio permissions that prevented them from moving forward but it was well worth the wait.
Overall, I'm very impressed with the service. First, as a Netflix and TiVo subscriber, there's no additional costs. We pay $12.95 for TiVo service and $9.78 for Netflix service each month. I always felt the Netflix fee was well justified but never was happy paying $12.95 for channel listings from TiVo. But now for about $23 a month, I get access to unlimited DVD rentals, unlimited movie streaming, AND TiVo service - a much better value than before. Second, the quality is a lot better than I expected. Most of the movies stream in standard definition. Not great since I've been spoiled by HD video but far from the choppy fair you'd expect from online video. As for the HD streams, those come through remarkably clear. I'm actually quite amazed at the quality of the video coming from a streaming service. It's about the same quality as movies on any of my HD channels. Unfortunately, there are only about 400 HD movies available versus the thousands available in standard definition. Neil Hunt, Chief Product Officer of Netflix, provides a great breakdown of the quality and limitations of the current service. Hopefully, bandwidth speeds in the next few years will increase enough for full 1080p streams.