GO!VIEW

I have been playing about with video on my iPod and have downloaded video from the iTunes Store including television shows and movies. It has been relatively simple and painfree (for me). So I was intrigued when I got an e-mail from Sony (or was it Sky) about the new GO!VIEW service for the PSP.

PSP

I was interested less so in the free month’s trial, but more in the fact that season one of both Hustle and Spooks were available, as was some classic Doctor Who. They aren’t available (yet) on the iTunes store.

Now yes I could go out and buy the DVD box sets, but GO!VIEW looked really interesting as (yes a free month) and the Entertainment package was only £5 ($10) per month.

Now that struck me as much better value than the £1.89 ($4) per episode I have to pay at iTunes… and I know I get to “keep” the episodes at iTunes, but sometimes you don’t want to pay a huge amount to see an old series.

So was the process going to be as easy as iTunes was?

Well no it wasn’t.

Firstly you have to be running Windows, so there was no way I was going to do this on my Mac except through Parallels.

To be honest I should have kind of expected that especially as they were probably going to use some form of Windows Media DRM.

So went through Parallels and ensured that I could connect to my PSP through the USB port as the process did require you to do this.

GO!View

So according to the website GO!VIEW is “so simple to use”, well let’s put that to the test!

I then tried to sign up and found I was required to download a GO!VIEW application, well I can’t complain about that if I download iTunes can I?

Once I downloaded I tried to get the free trial, but it would seem you have to subscribe first and then that gets you the free trial. You do need to give a credit or debit card however this is quite normal with any subscription service that I have seen.

Everytime though I filled in the registration data, it found an error and then “wiped” out a fair few of the fields, so after three attempts at pressing the submit button I was getting annoyed.

Eventually I was registered, so you can guess that I got even more annoyed when I clicked the download button for the episode I wanted to watch and I got an error message. Nothing about it in the FAQ or even in a Google search.

Hmm. One of the FAQs did mention Firewall issues, so I checked my Firewall settings in Windows and actually made it more restrictive, but this seemed to do the trick!

So now I could download.

Yay!

Well it’s slow so I haven’t yet managed to download an episode without impacting on my internet connection as GO!VIEW uses a peer-to-peer download manager based on the same Kontiki software that powers Channel 4’s 4oD and the BBC’s  iPlayer download service.

Unlike those two services though, GO!VIEW programmes can only actually be watched once transferred to a PSP.

I’ll let you know how I get on.

XP SP3 on the A197XP VAIO

I have been having a few issues installing software on my (old) Sony A197XP VAIO, notably Firefox 3 and iTunes 7.7 (which I wanted to install for MobileMe).

So before I re-install Windows (and all the headaches that will cause me) I decided to try and install XP SP3.

This did install.

I was then able to install Firefox 3.01 and was pleased with that.

However iTunes 7.7 still failed to install.

Not sure where to go now, but looks like I may need to reinstall Windows.

Big Screen with a PSP

One of the new features of the 2000 series of the PSP is that you can now purchase an AV cable which allows you to watch video or view photographs through your TV (or through a projector if it has composite video inputs).

I recently got hold of a cable, it is available through Amazon, but initially I tried at my local Sony centre (well the PSP is a Sony product and it’s an AV cable and the store has lots of big tellies) well no luck there. Nor at Dixons (well dot Curry Digital’ish aren’t they called) in the end I tried Game and found one on the bottom shelf nearly hidden away.

At £12.99 it’s not expensive, but it’s not cheap either, but it does work very well. You can get cheaper ones at Amazon.

Initially I tried the cable with one of those small portable Toshiba LED projectors and though I couldn’t get any audio it worked much better than I thought it was going to.

The I tried a normal projector and that worked fine.

I used it to view video and image as well as play audio.

One concern I did have was that there was a warning on the packaging that the PSP could only output in NTSC format only and of course here in the UK we use PAL, so when I got home I connected it to my TV, which is an older Sony CRT model and it worked really really well.

I couldn’t get it to display any games though.

PSP

Overall I was impressed with the cable and the quality of the output.

Full Resolution Video on your PSP

If you have a PSP with firmware 3.30 or later you can now (much more easily) play full screen h.264 video.

Prior to firmware 3.30 adding video to a PSP was a bit hit and miss.

When I first got a PSP I was very disappointed with the quality of the video I encoded for it using either EyeTV or Toast, more so when I compared it to the demo video I had on the demo UMD disk which came with it.

It wasn’t for some time that I didn’t realise that the PSP did not support full resolution video from a Memory Stick.

You also had to convert the video to a specific MP4 format and importantly change the name to something unfamiliar like M4V01011 and then find the obscure \MP_ROOT\100MNV01\ folder. You were restricted to a 368 x 208 resolution. If you wanted a thumbnail you had to create a jpg file and then rename it as .thm all quite complicated though there were quite a few tools that allowed you to do this quickly and easily (I used Toast quite a bit). One problem was working out what video files were what (easy on the PSP, more complex on a computer).

With the release of firmware 3.30 this changed.

Encoding full resolution h.264 video for the PSP is now possible, this means that you can use the full 480 x 272 resolution and the excellent quality and compression of h.264.

However when I started to encode video for a PSP with firmware 3.30 I did initially have a few problems.

I tried to encode some full resolution video using VisualHub and the in-built settings and then some settings from a forum. However in both instances the video would not play on the PSP.

I initially thought it was maybe because at the time I was using the trial version of VisualHub (which has a two minute limit). However using the default low res settings it encoded and played fine.

I even formatted the Memory Stick wondering if that would solve it, it didn’t.

So I encoded the video in the original pre 3.30 firmware specificiations. As I copied over the video to the \MP_ROOT\100MNV01\ folder when I noticed a Video folder in the root of the Memory Stick.

So I copied the full resolution video over to this video folder, and guess what, yes full resolution h.264 video on my PSP.

PSP

Really impressed with the quality.

Really impressed with VisualHub.

So if you have firmware 3.30 or later ensure that you use the PSP to format the memory stick and then you will have a video folder into which you can copy the video files without having to worry about any naming conventions and be able to have full resolution high quality video.

Blu-ray “wins” the HD format war

Well if you read the BBC technology blog you will see that they are seeing the end of the HD format war and Blu-ray has won!

The HD DVD camp turned a crisis into a disaster when it cancelled its scheduled press conference at the show and then – perhaps unsurprisingly – cancelled all media interviews at the show. It’s left observers with the impression that the HD DVD group is in disarray and on the verge of collapse.

Where as Blu-ray

Blu-ray, on the other hand, is only to eager to parade spokespeople talking up its own format.

The BBC blog seems to indicate that the reason for the victory was the Sony PS3.

The PS3 comes with a Blu-ray player as standard unlike the xBox whose HD DVD drive was an additional extra and it was getting that Blu-ray player into people’s homes via the PS3 which has allowed Blu-ray to if not win the war certainly make that last march to victory.

I suspect if Apple release new Macs at MacWorld Expo with Blu-ray drives then this will be the final blow to HD DVD and Blu-ray will be declared the victor of the HD format war.

Then us consumers can go out and buy the Blu-ray player knowing we are not buying the HD Betamax or MiniDisc.

Photo source.

Digital Photography Reviews

Digital Photography Review has recently reviewed quite a few digital cameras these are well detailed and thorough reviews and well worth reading if you are interested in getting a new digital camera.

Olympus SP-560UZ

Canon PowerShot SX100 IS

Sony Alpha DSLR-A700

Panasonic Lumix DMC-L10

The Sony looks like the one I would buy if I was buying a new digital camera, but then I am very fond of my Sony Cybershot and would be interested to see how their SLRs perform compared to my Canon.

UX1XN Battery Life

The more I use my Sony VAIO UX1XN, the more I like it, however the more I use it the more the limitations of it really start to annoy me.

UX1XN

The main limitation is the battery life which is less than two hours, however that, though annoying in itself, is not the main annoyance. No the main annoyance is the trickle of power the UX1XN uses when it is in standby mode.

If you use hibernation mode then you’re generally okay, if you use standby mode, don’t leave it for a couple of hours, otherwise when you try and use it again, you will find the battery drained.

“it’s too flawed to be anything other than a novelty”

The Guardian has reviewed the Sony VAIO UX1XN and found that though a wonderment of design, it is somewhat fiddly to use.

But delightful though this notebook is to look at and hold, it’s too flawed to be anything other than a novelty.

UX1XN

The review also mentions issues with the keyboard and the tablet input, which I both agree with.

… there’s the first disappointment – the keyboard. You wouldn’t want to do much more than tap out an email on it, as the size of the keys make it no good for touch-typing. Double-thumb input is feasible, but the tiny keys make it hard to be accurate.

and

The touchscreen is a nightmare. Fiddly to calibrate, it failed to retain its settings and eventually refused even to acknowledge that it was in fact a touchscreen. So I resorted to the pointing device.

I still think it is useful and not as flawed as the review makes out, and the more I use it, the more uses I find for it.

How low can you go…

When the Sony VAIO UX1XN was released in the UK it commanded a £2,000 price tag. This is a lot of money for a device the size of a PDA (even if it can run Windows Vista).

In July I noticed my local Sony Centre had reduced the price to £1,600. Still expensive, but 20% off is quite a reduction. Such reductions usually imply that a new model is just around the corner.

On Amazon in August you could get the UX1XN for just £1,199 which considering the features of the UX1XN (the cameras, flash hdd) makes the UX1XN seem like a reasonable proposition.

Now it is just £999 at the Sony story and only £899 on Amazon.

UX1XN

It will be interesting to see when, what and how Sony update this model with, with the next revision.