5 of the Now

  • Underworld - Beautiful Burnout Underworld - Oblivion With Bells - Beautiful Burnout [I'm loving life. A new Underworld album is in hand and it's far better than I expected. This album is quality. Underworld has wound the clock back a bit. I'm guessing it is no accident that the Oblivion With Bells coverart resembles dubnobasswithmyheadman. They have a similar feel and that is a very good thing. Beautiful Burnout has taken up residence in my head. This track has patience and a deep energy. I want this track to come on at mile 35 of a 50 mile bike race when I realize I haven't trained enough. I think I'd cry with pain and joy.]

  • The Mighty Underdogs - Bring Me Back [Just a great, fun track. Big thanks to Jason for digging up the direct order EP. The Mighty Underdogs are The Gift of Gab, Lateef The Truth Speaker, and Headnodic. Act like you know. Hear more at their MySpace.]

  • The Postal Service - We Will Become Silhouettes The Postal Service - Give Up - We Will Become Silhouettes [I picked up this video from iTunes and just really dig the whole thing. Odd subject, even weirder video. The video makes the song. Bah bah bah bahhhhh. Do doo do doo do doo.]

  • Wahoo - Make 'Em Shake It (Stanton Warriors Remix) Wahoo - Make Em Shake It - Single - Make Em Shake It[I hope your system can hit the low stuff. "Are you here to stand around or do a little dancin'?" ]

  • Placebo - Running Up That Hill Placebo - Meds - Running Up That Hill (2007 Digital Remaster) [It's a Kate Bush cover and a great one at that. You may have heard this on a recent CSI episode.]


Inconsistent Time Sliders

One of my favorite features for the new DVD player in Leopard is the time slider that hides in the bottom frame of the window. I like that it gets out of my way when I don't need it, but it is still right there when I do.
If you read yesterday's post, you'd know that I'd notice that this time slider is different than other time sliders that Apple uses in a default install. I wanted to explore this further, so I grabbed some screen shots from time sliders in various apps.

Wow, that's a lot of differences for such a simple user interface component.

  • Diamonds vs. triangles vs. dots for time line indicators

  • Time text at the end of bars vs. under the bar vs. none at all

  • Play indicators vs. none

  • Hours placeholder vs. none

  • Controls with the same icon, but different treatments (volume, full screen, play, pause, skip)

  • Different colors, different transparencies

  • Even silly things like rounded vs. squared

Of course not all of these differences are bad. It makes sense for the transparencies in some apps vs. not in others. QuickTime is also showing its age. The thing I want to know, is what's the optimal placement of these controls? Should Quick Look and QuickTime share the iTunes time slider? Should DVD and Front Row be more similar? I didn't even show the iTunes Cover Flow controls which, while not a time slider, still has many of these same controls and presents them differently yet again.

There has to be a better way to do these sliders, if for no other reason than to make them familiar to users across applications. Do you agree? Please discuss.


New, Different, Better?

I ran across a nice article about Sam Lucente, HP's vice president of design. Most interesting to me was this visual gathering of navigation controls in use on HP's products.

Most people couldn't care less about this sort of thing. Me, I can't help but notice. It amazes me to see product attributes that appear over and over, especially within the same company, end up being different. Is it because the engineering teams don't talk to each other? Is it because the teams suffer a bad case of not-invented-here syndrome? Is it because it gets designed by someone that isn't thinking about this sort of thing? Uhhh, yes.

The article also details how common design can save a company money. It makes sense to me. You can have a dozen engineers spend time designing a navigation control, supporting circuitry and software, or you can do it once and reuse. I'm not saying things shouldn't ever change, but I'd prefer the change be because the new iteration is better, not because someone felt like doing it their same and different way.

I'm with you HP and Mr. Lucente. I like your Q Control and hope to see it everywhere (because it isn't showing up on the iPaqs yet :)


Leopard Loves Content Only

Web clips weren't even a feature I was excited about in Leopard. I gave it a try and it is now a must have feature. Too many web sites, especially sports websites, drown the content in ads and other junk on their pages. One example of this is the nba.com TV schedule.

First of all, I'm thankful to the NBA for even having such a page. I haven't found a page that makes it easy to see what NFL games are on TV. I still don't like all of the junk on that page. I just want a quick look to see who's playing in the next few days and on what network.

I now have a clipped version of this schedule in my dashboard. It auto-updates and gives me just the content I want. Thanks Apple.

*BTW, I'm aware that I didn't need leopard to do this, but I rather like not having to seek out the functionality and remember to install it on all of my computers.


My New Hybrid

No, I didn't buy a new car. This hybrid is an analog/digital TV receiver for my Mac.

I've had my eye on Elgato forever. They always seemed to have great products, but I never really had a need for any of them. For many years, I relied on my trusty ReplayTV. My ReplayTV is in my top 3 of best purchases of all time, so Elgato had their work cut out for them. I had to put the ReplayTV in early retirement when I got rid of cable. The ReplayTV can't record HD and I can't get an analog OTA signal worth recording, so it is temporarily useless.

I do get decent signal quality on a handful of ATSC HD stations. I really missed having a DVR, so I decided to give the eyetv hybrid a try. I especially like that the hardware is a dongle that I can use on the go with my MacBook if I like. It's a nice small size and has a coax connector built-in. You can hook up other analog sources with the included break-out cable.

Bottom line is that I'm loving the product so far, but it isn't perfect.

The Good
* It records the full HD stream! Hope you have lots of disk. A 1 hour show will gobble more than 6 GB.

* It can automatically encode for iPod, and more importantly for me, Apple TV. When you setup a recording, you can choose to have it export in h.264 for Apple TV. This is great. eyetv will even throw it in iTunes for you with the correct show type (TV) and descriptions that it copied from the TitanTV guide data.

The only problem with this functionality is not Elgato's fault. Even a 2.8GHz Core 2 Duo with 4 GB of RAM is taking nearly double the length of the show to encode. If you want to use the hybrid like a DVR and pick up a show while it is recording, you'll have to do that at the computer. Perhaps you are lucky enough to have a Mac hooked to your TV rather than an Apple TV. If you record a night's worth of primetime television, the last show won't get done encoding until after midnight.

* The TitanTV guide is nice. I find it to be just as good as the ReplayTV guide and there's even a full screen mode that the software can run in which is very ReplayTV like.
* You can configure the keyboard to skip how ever many seconds you like forward and backward. The default 7 seconds back and 30 seconds forward is just how I like it. 7 is enough for the "what did they say?" moments and 30 forward let's you jump commercials with ease.

The Bad
* At first, I had my antenna positioned poorly. Hiccuping HD is one thing, but the software would actually get stuck if I fed it poor signal quality. It would tell me there was no signal, but if I changed the channel to something else and then back, it would start working again. This is annoying when watching live TV. It is death when you setup a record. I came home to find the Bears game didn't record a lick. I wasn't a happy person. I think I shouted something like "The Replay would never do this s**t."
* I'm still trying to pin this down, but when watching live TV and changing channels, the viewing window was creeping on me. The window will auto-size between widescreen and 4:3 content. When you stay on one channel, it will shrink and grow in a fixed location. When I was surfing, it would shrink from one channel, and then grow when I changed the channel, but to a different location than before. I need to watch this closer to figure out exactly what's happening.

I bought my eyetv hybrid from Amazon. They've since dropped the price.


Leopard Loves A2DP

It took a week, but Amazon finally got me my preordered copy of OS X 10.5 Leopard. It's running on my MacBook at the moment and I'm loving it so far.

Almost immediately, I had to go check out the new Bluetooth items. More than anything I wanted to see if A2DP was included because my Moto S805s could really use the work. I'd seen mention that it was in the beta versions, but it seems like a feature as big as stereo Bluetooth support would be listed in the 300 features, right? Nope.

I'm delighted to report that A2DP is included and working great. A2DP's buddy, AVRCP is included as well so you can control your music from the controls on your headphones or stereo.

A2DP really opens up the audio from your Mac. Many new stereo receivers are supporting A2DP, both as a source and as a sink. That means that if your Mac is within range of your stereo, you get free AirTunes-like functionality.

This is a great first step, but I won't be truly happy until the iPod/iPhone can do A2DP natively as well.