Posts for Tag: panasonic

Apple entering the TV market? Eh....

Apple's HDTV will reportedly carry 16 speakers giving a "complete surround sound experience...

This rumor is not new. Robert X. Cringely has been making this prediction for a while now and it's never come to pass. Still, I am a little bit intrigued by the idea of an Apple television. Flat panel TVs nowadays have been somewhat ho-hum. 3D technology is pretty bunk and the only thing to compete on are whose got the better tech specs. To most people, there really isn't a difference between a Panasonic, Samsung, Sony, etc. You can bet Apple would make a TV that not only looked good on but also looked good off. Whether that's worth a premium or not remains to be seen.

Part 3 of the Mac Mini home theatre - Blu-ray Ripping

So the next step of my Mac Mini home theatre project had to do with ripping my Blu-ray library to computer files to play back on the Mac Mini. Since Plex, my media center software of choice, handles .mkv files very well and the playback quality is excellent, I chose to rip into that format. Since the Mac does not officially support Blu-ray (you can't watch Blu-ray discs and no official drives are supported), it was not going to be an easy off the shelf solution. The first problem was getting a drive. I heard some good things about the Panasonic UJ-120, a notebook drive that was fitted with a USB external enclosure. Below are pics of the drive and how it sizes up next to my Drobo and Mac Mini.

Next, I had to figure out the software side of the equation. Luckily, an early beta software exists to extract Blu-ray streams and encode them into a .mkv file. It's still not perfect but the only one-step solution for the Mac, I could find. So here are some screen shots of my process. First, I chose two movies, one foreign and one in English, to figure out the subtitling.

Below is a screenshot of the DVD on my desktop, the disc contents, and the file structure showing the .m2ts Blu-ray files.

Next, I fire up MakeMKV which is pretty sparse. Only one big button at the bottom to examine the contents of the Blu-ray disc. After scanning the disc, all the available video streams are presented. I chose the biggest file, which I assumed was the actual movie itself. Then I click the "Make MKV" button and the process begins. Average read speed is about 1.6x so a 2 hour movie should be done in about 90 minutes or so.

So a few hours later, voila! Both movies have been encoded and playback in Plex is perfect. As far as quality goes, I can't tell a real difference from the other movies I downloaded (for testing purposes only!). However, I haven't watched both movies in full yet to see if there was any pixelation or sound pops. What I did notice was the downloaded videos came in about 8gb-12gb whereas these movies are pretty hefty at 22gb+. Not sure if that means my direct rips are better quality but so far so good. MakeMKV is not without flaws though. There's a list of movies that it cannot rip properly. Plus subtitling is a problem. House of Flying Daggers, which is in Mandarin, has no accompanying subtitles. I'll have to figure something out for that. Otherwise, I'm pretty happy. Now, I've got a bunch of discs to back up...

The great Mac Mini home theatre experiment

Over the past couple of weeks, the components for my ultimate Mac Mini home theatre have slowly arrived. The main component - the Mac Mini - came first. It's the latest model (released March 2009) with the following specs:
2.0GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4GB of RAM
120GB Hard Drive
NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics processor
Got a great deal on eBay. About $600 for a barely used one plus the guy threw in a Western Digital 320GB external hard drive he used for Time Machine back ups. This exact same configuration through the Apple Store would have been $749 plus tax and that's without the external hard drive.
Since storage was going to be an issue, I also picked up a brand new Drobo for $335 (retails for $429). I had a spare 1TB hard drive lying around so I popped that in. I'll be adding more drives over the next few months - probably the eco-friendly Western Digital Caviar Green SATA drives. They come in 2TB, 1.5TB, and 1TB models and I'll pick whichever one I can get the best deal on. Great thing about the Drobo is that the drives don't have to all be the same size or model.
I first hooked up the Mac Mini to my 42" Panasonic Plasma (TH-C42FD18) via a Mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter. Then connected the audio via a 3.5mm to RCA cable (will do TOSLink when I have a better sound system). Flipped over to the second HDMI input on my TV and BAM! Got the Mac OS desktop. I'll do another post later on video quality, codecs, and the pros/cons of Front Row.

Ike's column in HuffPost

I wrote something about this earlier on my Twitter page but thought it deserved a little more space here.  My partner, Ike, will be writing a regular column in the Huffington Post regarding consumer credit.  Obviously, it's very timely given what's going on in the world.  Couldn't have gotten a more qualified person to write the column given Ike's background as one of the pioneers in online consumer credit.  Check it out here.

On a totally unrelated note, I've finally caught up to the world by getting a plasma TV.  Got a great deal on eBay for a used Panasonic (take advantage of that Microsoft 30% CashBack!).  Now that BlueRay is the rage, I'll wait another 5 years for the players to go sub-$100.  I'm all about the value!