Posts for Tag: triumph of the nerds

Part 2 of the Mac Mini home theatre - Video playback

I've been tweaking the home theatre settings the past week or so (see hardware specs in my previous post on this topic). Through a bit of trial and error I think I've perfected my configuration. Here's my journey to that ultimate destination...
Quicktime is an excellent overall media player. That coupled with Front Row was my initial choice for navigating the media center. However, out of the box, it doesn't handle all types of video files well, especially 1080P. I had to download Perian (awesome product) to get the right components for Quicktime to play the video smoothly. Even still, Front Row seemed to stutter and choke on large video files. I could play the files in Quicktime from the desktop but the experience just wasn't ideal. I didn't want to have to initiate video playback from my desktop as it wasn't a clean media center experience.
Upon a little more research, I found a great alternative - Plex. A free and open system based on the XBMC code base, Plex has a nice user interface and was able to play all the video files I threw at it flawlessly. No stuttering, dropped frames, or hiccups. Another bonus was that Plex reads the video files in your library and then pulls content like movie posters, background images, and cast info from sources like IMDB to enhance the media center experience. Below are some sample screens of some popular movies in my library. The third picture in the below gallery is a DVD rip of Triumph of the Nerds (one of the best tech documentaries ever). It even handles DVD menus (Picture 4) though the navigation of said menus is a little clunky with the Apple remote.

Below is a quick video of me navigating through the Plex menu and playing back a 1080P video file. Pardon the poor lighting of the video, which does not do justice to how beautifully Plex plays HD video. Wife gets credit for her camera work on this video.

For my next task, ripping Blu-ray discs so I can avoid having a disc player completely. Stay tuned...

Stronger ... Faster ... Smaller? An OS upgrade that's smaller than its predecessor

It's a big Apple news day...

Having been a Windows user for the majority of my computing life, I've been trained to expect every subsequent new version of Windows to be larger than the version it succeeds. I made the switch to Mac a little over a year ago and kinda had the same expectation of the new OS 10.6 release. Stronger, faster, but maybe a little more bloated which I don't have an issue with given that hard drive prices continually get pushed down. However, I come to find that when upgrading to the new Mac OS build, you actually free up 6GB of space. That's definitely a refreshing revelation.
It made me think of a tech documentary (one of the best, in my opinion) called Triumph of the Nerds on PBS. One particular line was from Steve Ballmer who was describing how in the early days of Microsoft, they were bucking the trend of building big bloated software. Here's the quote:

"In IBM there's a religion in software that says you have to count K-LOCs, and a K-LOC is a thousand line of code. How big a project is it? Oh, it's sort of a 10K-LOC project. This is a 20K-LOCer. And this is 50K-LOCs. And IBM wanted to sort of make it the religion about how we got paid. How much money we made off OS 2, how much they did. How many K-LOCs did you do? And we kept trying to convince them - hey, if we have - a developer's got a good idea and he can get something done in 4K-LOCs instead of 20K-LOCs, should we make less money? Because he's made something smaller and faster, less KLOC. K-LOCs, K-LOCs, that's the methodology. Ugh anyway, that always makes my back just crinkle up at the thought of the whole thing."

The really ironic part is that Microsoft doesn't seem to invest money in actually making its OS more streamlined. Windows just seems to get bigger and bigger. Given all the advances in coding and technology, why can't someone make an OS more powerful yet slimmer? The short answer is that they never had to. CPUs got more powerful and memory (hard drives, RAM) got bigger/cheaper. Still, it's nice to see that someone actually decided to take a step back and say, "Hey, I can make this software perform better AND reduce its overall size."