Tag Archives | digital media

Favorite Photos From Dooce

Dooce Logo

[NOTE FROM HARRY: Digital Media Central guest posts continue with a contribution from blogging superstar Heather Armstrong, better known as Dooce. This post–republished from Heather’s site–shows off a few photos she took on a 2006 trip to Amsterdam.]

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Home Storage: Important. Also a Challenge.

HotHardware[A note from Harry: Our Digital Media Central guest posts continue with a few thoughts about storaget from Dave Altavilla of PC enthusiast site HotHardware. It’s not as simple as it used to be.]

These days, the ever-growing library of files, documents and multimedia content for the average home user, family or small office, is not just bulk media that needs to be backed up.  Beyond ensuring redundancy and resiliency for the data itself, file access, file management and file distribution need to have higher levels of sophistication.  Gone are the days where you just mount a NAS (Network Attached Storage) volume as a mapped drive on your client machines and workstations.  Oh no, dear ol’ Dad needs to play around with pics of the kid’s football team and needs to look at them “Flickr style” or he gets confused.  Little Johnny wants to stream his iTunes up to his bedroom.  And Mom, she just wants that QuickBooks data backed up nightly because if she loses it again, Dad is going to be in the dog house for a very long time.  Finally, and actually of primary importance, all of this precious family data needs to be secured and have varying levels of user access rights.

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Playstation 3 Movies Surprisingly Successful

playstation3While there’s much fawning over the Xbox 360’s streaming Netflix service, it appears that Sony is doing quite well distributing movies on its own over the Playstation Network.

The story in Variety notes that Sony has made $180 million on “pieces of digital content” — more than 380 million downloads in all — since the company brought TV and movies the Playstation 3’s online service last summer. Praise for both Microsoft and Sony follows, saying that they “may have achieved something of a breakthrough as studios try to figure out the digital age.”

It seems obvious that the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 are prime candidates for digital distribution onto televisions. With total worldwide sales easily topping 20 million for both consoles, the install base is already there. Plus, a lot of it is that golden 18-35 demograhic, particularly with the PS3. They’re downloading “The Dark Knight,” “Iron Man” and “The Pineapple Express” in mass quantities, Variety says. Of Sony’s digital offerings, the company says 65 percent are purchased, and the rest are rented.

I never expected video on demand to do as well on consoles as this report suggests. My money was always on free streaming video sites like Hulu to swoop in and offer content gratis. With the exception of YouTube, that hasn’t happened, and Hulu is having it’s own distribution issues right now.

Meanwhile, it doesn’t seem like the studios need those other services. If people are willing to pay for on demand video over their consoles, why offer it for free?


T-Poll: When It Comes to Entertainment, How Digital Are You?

Technologizer's Digital Media CentralI did something this week that I haven’t done in months: I went to a big store full of shiny discs, and bought me some.  Three DVDs and two CDs, to be precise. I used to go on shopping sprees like that a lot more often, but little by little–almost without me noticing it–my collecting of entertainment in physical form has dwindled, and my downloading and streaming from services like iTunes, Netflix Watch Instantly, Hulu, and Amazon Video on Demand has has shot up.

Which is not to say that I’m trying to wean myself off good old-fashioned physical media entirely. For one thing, my tastes are exotic enough that much of what I buy still isn’t available in legal form online, as far as I know–such as two of the three DVDs I picked up. (I was also startled to find one of the CDs selling for three bucks less than Apple wanted for it as an iTunes download.)

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Then and Now: A Fast-Forward Tour of Gadget History

Then and NowAstonishing breakthrough. Household object. Funny anachronism. Such is the journey that nearly every great gadget travels. (Sometimes it takes several generations; sometimes it takes just a few years.) And then it happens all over again with whatever hot new gizmo rendered the old one obsolete.

While rummaging through the endlessly fascinating Google Patents recently, I was moved to compare some significant devices of the past with their modern-day counterparts. In some cases, old and new are connected by seamless evolution (the cell phone, for instance). And in some cases, they’re separated by seismic technological shifts (like the one that replaced silver-halide film with tiny slivers of silicon).

After the jump, a dozen comparisons of past (in the form of patent drawings) and new.

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Three Ways to Protect and Share Your Stuff

[An introductory note from Harry: Our visits from guest Digital Media Central bloggers continue. This week we’re happy to host David Ponce, owner and managing editor of popular gadget blog OhGizmo. Welcome, David!]

OhGizmoIt’s not that I want to sound like I’m repeating things that have been said endlessly over the last decade or so, but sometimes there’s no avoiding it. It’s pretty amazing to me just how radically the production, storage, and sharing of documents has changed since, say, grandma’s time. I mean, really, think about it. My own mom, only one generation back, still has these heavy stacks of cardboard albums with sticky pages, cellulose acetate covers, and fading Polaroids. My dad has trunkloads of Super 8 films in condition I can’t even imagine. I still own a pretty impressive collection of cassette tapes. Yet none of these materials is getting any sort of attention any longer simply because they haven’t crossed the digital divide.

We just live in a completely different world now, with different rules. I think it’s important to learn a new way of storing and protecting the new digital documents. While it might have been perfectly fine for my mom to keep her photo albums on a shelf above her racks of mothballed clothes, that won’t fly these days. It’s no longer necessary for grandma and grandpa to fly over from Miami to watch a grainy video of their grandchild splatter around in a pool. Or watch slides of their children’s Grand Canyon vacation projected on a white wall. They can stay at home and look at everything on their computer, easy as pie.

So, if we’re ditching the cardboard albums and dusty boxes, what are good ways of sharing and (maybe more importantly) protecting all the digital content we produce these days? First thing you need to realize is that hard drives fail. Really, they do. And often. So it’s really not safe for you to keep all your files on your PC drive, and expect them to be around forever. You need to back up. You can do this several ways: get an external hard drive and transfer everything there. Upload pictures to a picture sharing site, like Flickr. Transfer data to an online storage service, like Carbonite. Basically, don’t keep all your eggs in one basket.

While you’re doing this you’re clearly increasing the safety of your data. But you’re not making it particularly easy to share your files with family and friends. You’re even potentially fragmenting your collection, with files here and there. Another obstacle to sharing is large video files. You can put them on YouTube, but the quality will suffer. Of course there are sites that allow you to send large files, some of which rely on Peer-to-Peer technology (like YouSendIt), and they’re quite effective. But they do have their problems: you have to initiate the transmission, a notification email is sent to your intended recipients and they have to download the files. It works, but it’s not easy to use.

Then you have other more elegant solutions, like home servers and other forms of networked storge. They can become a central hub where all your media is stored, and can be accessed from anywhere in the world. There are no limits on the amount you can transfer. They can also back up your files periodically, and since it’s just the one device, you solve the fragmentation issue. But they’re not perfect on they’re own.

If you ask me, I think the best solution is one that tries to get the best of all worlds.

– Use a PC as you normally would, offloading pics and videos and any other documents as usual.

– Use centralized storage to automatically back up your files and make them accessible worldwide.

– Send your files to one trusted offsite storage solution. A home server device is nice, but what happens in a fire?

And that’s it. All your data is redundant and accessible. With a little bit of effort and some discipline, your documents will stand the test of time and look a heck of a lot better than my mom’s 1972 Polaroids.


The Pleasures and Perils of Going Digital

Ed Bott[An introductory note from Harry: I’m pleased to say that Technologizer’s Digital Media Central will be publishing some posts from guest bloggers over the next few weeks. The first to drop in is Ed Bott, whose work I’ve long admired at Ed Bott’s Windows Expertise and Ed Bott’s Microsoft Report, the latter of which lives on ZDnet. Ed and I are also almost-colleagues: He was managing editor of PC World a few years before I showed up there. Welcome, Ed–it’s good to see your byline on Technologizer.]

If you had just two minutes to outrun a fire or tsunami and could take only what you were able to carry from your house, what would you grab first?

Assuming the family and pets were all safe, my first instinct would probably be to start stuffing hard drives into a sack. Especially the ones that contain precious family photos and videos.

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Report: Apple May Enter TV Business

Apple LogoVisions of the “digital living room” having been dancing in the heads of industry leaders for over a decade, but no one solution has broken into the mainstream. Now, Apple may be preparing for a significant push based on the success of iTunes and the iPod. Or so predicts analyst Gene Munster of investment bank Piper Jaffray, which thinks that Apple will give it a shot by introducing its own brand of networked television.

Piper Jaffray’s report says that indications from Apple’s management, coupled with Apple’s DVR and TV-related patent filings and partnership with LG, have led it to conclude that Apple will introduce a connected television to the market in 2011.

The Apple TV (not to be confused with Apple TV) could be an integrated all-in-one device that combines a Blu-ray/DVD player, music playback, cable box, and DVR to synchronize recorded programming with Macs, iPhones and iPods. It may include gaming features, according to the report.

Apple would be wise to capitalize on the ecosystem that it has created around iTunes, and its strong brand. Apple has already laid the groundwork to introduce an actual television with its Apple TV digital media receiver. Synchronization has been key to Apple’s success, and Apple has made Apple TV work well with iTunes.

Piper Jaffray noted that Apple TV sales were already growing substantially, and that Apple may sell as many as 6 million units this year.

Research analysts have a mediocre record at best when it comes to predicting what Apple will and won’t do. Still, an elegant, consolidated Apple media device would simplify the tangle of wires that many of us have in our living rooms with the added bonus of a wealth of content contained in its iTunes media library.

If the price is right, it sounds like it could be a winner to me. But the real question is whether it sounds that way to Apple.


Blockbuster to Offer Movie Downloads

The movie retailer has teamed up with Sonic Solutions to begin offering a sale and rental download program for consumers. Approximately 10,000 movies would be available through the service, and the company is mulling a subscription based plan in the future according to reports.

Blockbuster was locked in a tit-for-tat with Netflix over online movie rentals for quite awhile, before eventually acquiescing due to financial difficulties. However, it has shown life once again and has begun to play on Netflix’s turf.

This follows another announcement from Blockbuster called the MediaPoint player, which was essentially its response to Netflix’s Roku. Of course, its rival is still further ahead in digital distribution, having deals to place its movies on TiVos, Microsoft’s Xbox 360s, and select Blu-ray players.

Blockbuster isn’t planning to be behind for long, also aiming to get its content on consumer electronic devices real soon. No word on pricing or availability yet, though.


Digital Music Continues to Take Off

One has to wonder if RIAA’s decision to stop suing file sharers may have anything to do with the fact that digital music is quickly becoming the format of choice among consumers. A survey released by Nielsen indicates that digital music continues to become a larger portion of the overall music pie.

A record number of both digital albums and tracks were sold during 2008, sporting increases of 32 and 27 percent respectively. 1.07 billion digital tracks were purchased, while 65.8 million albums were downloaded.

Overall, albums seem to be falling out of favor, with a 8.5 percent decrease in sales to 535.4 million units. Interesting factoid? Vinyl is back in style apparently: 1.8 milion LPs were sold during the year, nearly double that from last year.

In the digital realm, Leona Lews “Bleeding Love” took top honors in the singles category, followed by Flo Rida’s “Low” and Rhianna’s “Disturbia.” In albums, Coldplay’s Viva La Vida was the best selling album, followed by Jack Johnson’s Sleep Through The Static and the soundtrack to the 2007 film Juno.

Universal Music Group continues to be the largest purveyor of digital albums and tracks, garnering market shares of 27.8 and 31.8 percent respectively.

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