Monthly Archives: October 2008

VisualHub

VisualHub iPod video softwareDownloading and installing VisualHub is officially a web scavenger hunt now that it’s “abandonware” – “computer software that is no longer sold or supported, or whose copyright ownership may be unclear for various reasons” – Wikipedia

Techspansion Closed - R.I.P

Many are claiming that VisualHub is now open source, (freely downloadable programming code hosted at SourceForge.net that can be used to build a working program), but, this is not true.

What has been released as open source code is not VisualHub, but a mish mash of code that compiles into a transcoder that… doesn’t actually work.  None of the blame lies at Techspansion for this sensationalism, it’s the various “tech sites” that are hyping this.

In theory it’s great that Techspansion has opened up some random AppleScript code that others can pick up to start building a transcoder to try and replace VisualHub.  In practice, TranscoderRedux, the name of this open source project, is 100% useless for about 99% of the population that simply wants to put videos on their iPods with ease. And with little doubt, the timeline of the project producing anything close to VisualHub is at least a year away.  Many cooks in a unorganized kitchen rarely produces spectacular software on short notice.

I’m not sure why VisualHub wasn’t turned into donationware or freeware like NewsFire did a while back.  At least that way people could still benefit from all the effort that was put into VisualHub, cram ungodly amounts of video onto mobile devices like iPods and iPhones, which puts development pressure on hardware producers (like Apple) to increase the capabilities of their hardware to serve the growing market.  Letting people flounder around with poor substitutes to VisualHub (iSquint excluded) just slows the eventual progress of the mobile video market, letting the weaker offerings survive to see another online day.

Perhaps the true programming code behind VisualHub is up for sale?  If that were true, those putting time into TranscoderRedux would be mighty disappointed…

VisualHub Alternative – iSquint

With VisualHub video converter gone, iSquint is an alternative for iPod video converting on Mac OS X.

Overview

Step 1: Install Conversion Software (VisualHub, iSquint, etc.)

Step 2: Resize & Convert video

Step 3: Sync iPod to iTunes

VisualHub & iSquint (Conversion Software)

VisualHub is the best & easiest program to convert videos and movies to iPod or iPhone, hands down. Here’s the catch: VisualHub is now in abandonware limbo, as its parent company has closed up shop.

iSquint iPod video transfer program is a good VisualHub alternative that’s free, also made by Techspansion (same author as VisualHub), just with less output formats and presets, thus requiring more user input to produce good results.

Download iSquint. Double click the iSquint1.5.2.dmg file to open it. Install iSquint by clicking and dragging it to your Applications folder. Ignore the Debreaker program.

Installing iSquint iPod transfer program

Start iSquint.

iSquint iPod video transfer program

To convert video files on your Mac to play on your iPod, within iSquint, under Settings, select “Optimize for iPod“,

Check the “Add to iTunes” checkbox to have iSquint automatically import your videos into iTunes. You’ll still need to transfer or “sync” the videos to your iPod later.

Check the “H.264 Encoding” checkbox. This takes longer to process files, but the quality and size of the resulting video are both better. Smaller file size = More videos on your iPod or iPhone.

To convert video files like .avi, .mpg, .mov, .flv to iPod video format, drag and drop these files into the main central box below “Drag files below“. You can also add files by clicking on the “+” button.

By default, video files will be converted to .mp4 files, and placed in the same directory as the original video files. Change this by clicking on the “Change” button at the bottom right.

Key to making good looking video files for your iPod in iSquint is using the Advanced settings panel. Click on the “Advanced” button. The following window will open:

iSquint Advanced iPod video conversion settings

Video Size

Here you change the size of the converted video file to be used on your iPod, which depends on two things: The original video format/size (see Finding Original Video Format below) and which iPod you’re playing it on.

iPod Touch / iPhone Users

The iPod and iPhone use a 480×320 pixel screen (when viewed on its side) which is 1.33:1 format, the same visual width-height format as regular television. Most movies and HDTV programming is produced in 1.78:1 format, also known as 16:9. This means you’ll have to edit the size of most videos to be played on the iPod/iPhone.

iPod iPhone Video
Widescreen Format 2.35:1

If your original video is in cinema widescreen format (2.35:1 or 2.35 wide x 1 tall) like this screenshot of Narnia, use a width and height setting of 480 x 192.

Anamorphic Widescreen Format 1.78:1

1.78:1 or 16:9 is the most common widescreen format for DVD’s and HDTV programming. Use a width of 480 x Height 272 in iSquint.

TV Format 1.33:1

1.33:1 or 4:3 is the standard format for television shows

Use a width of 480 x Height 320 in iSquint.

iPod Classic or iPod Nano

Your iPod screen size or iPod video format is 320 x 240 pixels.

For 2.35:1 widescreen, use 320 width x 144 height.

For 1.78:1 (16:9) widescreen, use 320 width x 176 height.

For 1.33:1 (4:3) television format, use 320 x 240 height.

Finding Original Video Format

To find your original video file format or size, use QuickTime.

In QuickTime, load the video or film and press Cmd + I or go to the Menu => Window => Show Movie Inspector.

The Movie Inspector window that pops up will give the dimensions of the video in pixels.

QuickTime Movie Inspector

At the bottom we see Normal Size: 1280 x 544 pixels. To find the format or aspect ratio, divide the two size numbers: 1280 / 544 = 2.35. The closest format to 2.35 is 2.35:1, cinema widescreen.

Video Conversion

With your iPod video file format ready, click the Start button (bottom right hand corner) to begin the conversion to iPod video format (MP4).

Processing time depends on the size of the original video and the quality settings you’ve chosen for the iPod video.

A television show in 1.78:1 format of roughly 44 minutes, with a file size around 350MB, with iSquint using Standard Quality, will take about 15 minutes to process on a MacBook Pro Core2Duo 2.2Ghz. The output MP4 video file size will be around 90MB.

If you checked the “Add to iTunes” checkbox earlier, the MP4 video file will be automatically imported into iTunes.

Transfer Videos from iTunes to iPod

Connect your iPod to your Mac.

Start iTunes.

Click on your iPod on the left hand column.

On the right you’ll see multiple tabs, one of which is Movies.  Click that.

The top half of the Movies tab is for rented films.  Ignore that.

On the bottom half you’ll have a checkbox for Sync Movies. Check that to ungrey the rest of the options below.  Now you’ll be able to pick and choose individual MP4 videos to transfer (Sync) to your iPod, or simply transfer all movies.  After making your choice, click Sync at the bottom right hand corner.

Note: Strangely, the first time I sync’d movies to my iPod Nano 5th Generation, iTunes asked me if I wanted to sync the movies to this iPod, which would erase all of the current songs, movies, files, etc.  Basically, iTunes was asking to erase my iPod completely and start synchronizing from scratch.  Not sure why this happened, but I simply created a playlist with all of my current songs and let iTunes wipe the iPod.  I then just resync’d my current songs playlist and I had both songs and videos on my iPod.

Sample Screenshots

2.35:1 Cinema Widescreen on iPod Nano 5G at 320x144 resolution by Visualhub

2.35:1 Cinema Widescreen on iPod Nano 5G at 320×144 resolution by Visualhub

1.78:1 (16:9 DVD) format on iPod Nano 5G at 320x176 resolution by VisualHub

1.78:1 Widescreen (16:9 DVD) format on iPod Nano 5G at 320×176 resolution by VisualHub

1.33:1 TV format on iPod Nano 5G at 320x240 resolution by iSquint

1.33:1 TV format on iPod Nano 5G at 320×240 resolution by iSquint

Problems / Issues with iSquint

.mkv format (Matroska) high definition video is “choppy” or skips multiple frames when converted by iSquint. VisualHub does not have this issue with transfering .mkv files.

iSquint iPod conversion quality is slightly worse than that of VisualHub.  In most cases it would be difficult to tell the difference, especially when viewing videos on iPod screens.  I’ve noticed that the crispness of VisualHub conversions is not matched by iSquint. If you start with a higher quality movie/video, there is virtually no noticeable difference in the output at iPod Nano/Touch video sizes.

Macbook Pro 9600M GT Gaming Performance Benchmarks

There is some serious debate as to the speed boost in gaming performance of the new aluminum bodied Macbook Pro’s (dual graphics 9600M GT) versus the current “Penryn” or 8600M GT equipped MB Pro’s.

Decidedly Deceiving Apple Graphs

If you visit the Apple page regarding graphics performance you can find several graphs touting the noticeable boost in performance of the GeForce 9600M GT dedicated graphics chip over the 9400M power saving chip.

Here’s the problem: The 9400M is far slower than the current Macbook Pro’s 8600M GT (“Penryn” core).  So, sure, the 9600M GT will be much faster than a crappy low power graphics chip aimed at painting spreadsheets (9400M).

Some folks claim the difference in performance between the current 8600M GT and the new 9600M GT chip, would be virtually unnoticeable.  And hence the benchmarks from Apple showing the difference between the “spreadsheet chip”, the 9400M, and the 9600M GT rather than the 9600M GT vs. the current 8600M GT equipped MacBook Pro’s.  A small difference between the old and new MBP’s graphics performance would surely lower the amount of people upgrading to the new alu-book.  Less upgrades = Less Income = Lower AAPL Earnings per share.

Check out the benchmarks provided by Matt Peckham of PC World:

MacBook Pro 9600M GT Benchmarks

Granted these are from different machines running different CPU’s, but I’m assuming these benchmarks are the result of a Boot Camped MacBook Pro with all other variables held constant (same Windows version same nVidia driver version, same game settings, etc.).

In direct contrast to the above performance review is a benchmark test from PC MAG showing a roughly 50% increase in true game performance between the current “Penryn core” 8600M GT MacBook Pro’s and the new “dual core” 9600M GT’s.

And finally there is much Apple forum debate on this subject that provides lively arguments on both sides of the graphics war.

No doubt the new Macbook Pro is sexy with its CNC water-cut aluminum mono-block case and all glass LED backlit screens. But, I’m not going to pull out my wallet until they put a next generation architecture graphics chip, like the 9800M GT, underneath that sexy skin.  A quad core Intel CPU wouldn’t hurt either <wink>.

For more information on the 9600M GT chip, see this Notebookcheck.net article.

Macbook Sleep LED – Apple Bling

MacBook Pro Sleep LED Light

Check out this quote:

“close the display and your MacBook Pro goes to sleep. Then an LED glow appears from inside the enclosure. How? During the CNC process, a machine first thins out the aluminum. Then a laser drill creates small perforations for the LED light to shine through. These holes are so tiny that the aluminum appears seamless when the light is off.”

My knee jerk reaction to this was: laughter, uttering “my god”, followed by: “When can I have one”?

Download Old Versions of Firefox

To download old or previous versions of Firefox, such as 3.0.2 or earlier, try this (official Mozilla) address: http://releases.mozilla.org/pub/mozilla.org/firefox/releases/

This site makes available for download Firefox 2(.0.0.6) up to the latest official release (3.0.3 as of Oct 2008) and nightly builds which contain fixes to bugs up until the previous night.

Firefox Old Versions at Mozilla.org

I’m currently having a problem with Firefox 3.0.3 not showing/processing stylesheets (CSS) from web pages upon first load, requiring multiple reloads pressing Cmd + R (Ctrl + R for you Windows folks) in order for the page to be displayed properly.  Otherwise, the page loads with text only, hyper-ugly, 1994 style web page

Steve Jobs’ (Untrue) Heart Attack – iReport.com Dead

UPDATE 2: as of 3pm EST the SEC is now investing the iReport.com article authored by “johntw”.  Have fun sweating bullets johntw!  I hear Mexico is a wonderful place to escape to this time of year…

UPDATE: as of 11am EST the story on iReport.com has been removed. Instead of offering a retraction of the story and leaving it available for people to review, iReport.com is covering up the fact that it carried a patently false story.  Way to go iReport.com… journalism at its finest. See the original article at the end of this post.

Citizen Journalism?  More like another tool for stock market manipulation.

When the unfounded report by user johntw on iReport.com, CNN’s citizen journalism site, Put options (makes money when a stock falls) on Apple’s stock rocketed up in price.

I received a news alert at 9:44 EDT that Steve Jobs had allegedly suffered a major heart attack.  I immediately started watching AAPL Put options, +QAAVR in particular.  Within a span of 10 minutes it moved from 2.85 per share, to 6.25, then back to 2.90.

Someone, say johntw for instance, the author of this heart attack “report”, bought some Apple put options just before publishing the report.

Options contracts are purchased (usually) in sets of 100, thus someone buying 1 option would pay 2.85 x 100 = $285.  5 minutes later, each one of these contracts would have been worth $625 each.  More than 2x your money.

Not a bad way to make some quick cash, kill the reputation of iReport.com, and generate a lot of negative publicity iReport.com and CNN.com (the parent company).

Here’s my prediction of the day: iReport.com will be dead due to zero credibility and constant manipulation for personal gains.


Original story removed by iReport.com:

Steve Jobs - Not dead, not even close

(thanks to Silicon Alley Insider for taking a screenshot of the disgraceful post at iReport.com)

A special note for johntw, the “author” of this iReport article: I hope you weren’t stupid enough to post this for purposes of profiting from market manipulation.  It wouldn’t be difficult for the SEC to subpoena iReport.com for server logs to determine your IP address, ISP, your physical location, your identity, and records from any trading accounts you own.  Or they could simply match up unusual equities/derivatives transactions made before and after the article was published and apply some heat.