Loudest Media Player Ever

2 cool points to the marketing team at Microsoft. A banner that is clever, relevant, and informative.

I can't say that I have any use for WMP11, but it does look like they've cleaned things up a bit. Have a look and a download.


Podcasting Roll Call

Here are some DJ mix podcasts that I'm enjoying. Maybe you will to.

__SpinCast - Fantastic stuff every time. Both __SpinCast and SoundBytes are products of the superb Progressive-Sounds.

SoundBytes - Chloe Harris has been cranking out SoundBytes long before podcasts were even invented. I was really glad to see them get released as Podcasts so I don't miss any.

Tongcast Pete Tong - The Pete Tong Tongcast - The Pete Tong Tongcast - You've heard of Pete Tong, right? Right? If you haven't, get on it. Pete Tong is the nostradamus of the dance music world. If you want to know what's hot, just check what Mr. Tong is playing. In addition to his web site, you can find the Tongcast in the music section within the iTMS.

Marine Parade Podcast Marine Parade - Marine Parade Podcast - Marine Parade Podcast - From the label that brought you Evil Nine, and Adam Freeland. It's great to see labels getting it and embracing the sharing of their music, rather than beating it down and calling it stealing. The first podcast from Marine Parade is a tight selection of tracks mixed by the Stone Lions. There are tracks from my all time favorite, DJ Shadow, along with some Evil Nine, and even Busta Rhymes. If you like what you hear, don't forget to check out the Stone Lions release Snow Over Arizona Stone Lions - Snow Over Arizona - EP - Snow Over Arizona. I haven't found a full tracklist yet. If you happen to know where one is, please let me know.

Progcast - I recently picked this one up. I enjoy the mixes, but for whatever reason, they don't seem to have the energy of a lot of other mixes I listen to. I'm still listening though.


Automator Avoids Apps

My Mac mini let out a sigh of relief when I found this tip. Using a 1 step Automator action, you can build a simple photo viewer for your iPhoto library. This allows you to get at your photos, visually, and in the proper albums, without firing up iPhoto. It literally takes 1 minute to go build this app for yourself. TUAW has a picture of the resulting app if you'd like to see it.

Even with the speed-up in iPhoto 6, this "PhotoPanel" is much, much, faster and perfect if you just want to grab a photo or three for a quick task. I saved the Automator action as an application and dropped it in my dock between iPhoto and Photoshop Elements. Now I can drag a photo right out of the panel on to Elements for editing. That's how drag and drop is supposed to work! Sure, you can access the photos via the finder, but you don't get the context of the iPhoto albums so I see myself using this mini-app a lot.


Good Deal for Switchers

Ok, this deal isn't just for switchers (Windows -> Mac), but it is one I made use of when I switched and the deal is even better now. Upon arrival in Macland, I found myself missing my trusty friend, Paint Shop Pro. I like Photoshop just fine, but I bought Paint Shop Pro 5 way back in the day and it continues to be all I need when it comes to graphics editing, under Windows at least. My Mac mini wouldn't run PSP 5, so I decided to get Photoshop Elements. Elements has everything I need out of Photoshop and it is available at a fraction of the price of its big brother.

My brother figured out that you can buy a Wacom Graphire tablet for about the same cost as Photoshop Elements and it comes with a free copy of Photoshop Elements 3.0, along with other software!

The deal is even sweeter this week as Best Buy has the Graphire tablet on sale for $69.99. That's the same price that Photoshop Elements costs at Amazon (ok, 4.0 is out now, but still), so the drawing tablet and mouse could be considered free.

The tablet is nice too. I've used it for graphics editing a little, but even when not being used for that, you get the convenience of a wireless mouse (no cord to tug), combined with the simplicity of a wired mouse. The tablet plugs in to USB, so you never have to worry about batteries. My only complaint is that the 4x5 tablet is a little small for heavy mousing. I think the 6x8 would be much nicer, but it costs quite a bit more.


Netflix and the Bucket of Formats

DVD is old and busted. HD DVD and Blu-ray are the new hotness. I don't really believe that, but none the less, the new formats are here and they bring some interesting problems with them.

In January, Netflix announced that it will support both HD DVD and Blu-ray when the formats are released. HD DVD players are on the market and a small selection of movies are now available. Netflix is making good on their promise and offering HD DVD titles at no additional costs.

If you have a Netflix account, you can enable it for HD with a wizard in your account settings.

I think it is nice that Netflix confirms that yes, you really want to receive HD DVDs, and have the necessary equipment to watch them. I don't have the necessary equipment and really don't care to buy it at the moment, but I went through the process because I was curious :)

Finally, we get to the most interesting part. How will you choose what format your movies arrive in? Netflix is currently offering two options. You can either always add the HD version when available, or you can always add the standard format.

Netflix is even nice enough to switch the desired format on movies in your queue to HD if that's what you want. It is nice that Netflix offers the option to always add the HD version when available, but I think these preferences will need to evolve. What happens when Blu-ray movies start shipping? Will you have to choose your HD format of choice? I guess that makes sense, but do people care more about the format or do they care more about the movie?

If the MP3 age has taught us anything, it should be that convenience trumps quality. For many people, there is a point of good enough and they really don't care about better quality. Since MP3, WMA, and AAC at medium bitrates are good enough for most people, I'd say that DVD is good enough for movies too. Because of this, I think Netflix needs to add a "First Available" option in their format preference. This would be just like when you go to a resturant. Smoking, non, or first available. Sometimes you are hungry enough to put up with the smoke (not me), and sometimes you want to see the movie as soon as you can and you don't really care if it is just in DVD quality.

First available will create some logistics challenges for Netflix. I'd imagine there will be pockets of the country that adopt HD DVD and Blu-ray sooner than others. I'm guessing folks in San Jose will buy more HD DVD players than folks in Springfield (you pick the state). I'd also imagine that Netflix won't be stocking as many HD copies as the SD copies for years to come. So what's a movie lover in the midwest supposed to do? Wait forever for discs shipped from the west coast, or will they want to just see it on whatever format is available? Sure, you can manually go in to your queue and select the format you want to receive, but that doesn't sound like fun and will the disc availability change based on the format you choose? I'd like to think it would, but who knows if Netflix enables that sort of detail to the users. The point is, they don't have to, they can just let us choose first available and keep the secret sauce recipe in the vault.

First available Netflix, make it happen!