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February 25, 2011
by admin
Comments Off on How to Build A 3D Entertainment Center

How to Build A 3D Entertainment Center

Have you been reading about 3D television and 3D games, but don’t know where to start? This guide is my recommendation for setting up your new 3D Entertainment Center!

3D Glasses in the theatre

Step 1: The 3D Television

If you can find one and have the money, the new Panasonic LED Viera 3D Television with “3D Full HD” is the way to go. There are also Plasma displays available, though I do not have any experience with that technology.

Why Panasonic? They are the only manufacturer to support 1080p resolutions at 60fps. 24fps (standard) is useless for 3D games. This means you must drop down to 720p resolutions on other televisions, like the Sony 55HX800 I bought last month!

That said, I am quite happy to keep the $1,000 price difference in my pocket. 720p still looks amazing.

Step 2: The Computer

Unless you are already a gaming fanatic, you probably need a new computer. I recommend that your system have at least:

  • Intel i7 CPU
  • 6+ GB RAM
  • nVidia Geforce 480 or 580.
  • 700+ Watt Power Supply
  • Windows 7 64-bit
  • Internal 3D Blu Ray Player

It is possible to do 3D on older video cards, but you need every ounce of performance now that you are rendering for two eyes. If you are buying the Panasonic, consider buying a matched set of cards if it fits in your budget. Also, remember, dual video card configurations will require bigger power supplies (1000+ Watts).

The 64-bit operating system is essential to make the most of the i7 and all of the RAM.

You really can do with less RAM, but these days, you can get 12GB for $100, so stop complaining.

Step 3: Software

nVidia 3DTV Play

nVidia 3DTV Play Logo

Unless you are buying the nVidia 3D Vision kit (glasses, sensor, software), you need to buy the 3DTV Play software from nVidia’s website for another $40. This really ticked me off. I tried for over an hour to find a workaround before I finally gave in and shelled out the cash. It’s obviously nothing more than a tool to flip a switch in the driver software, too. If you don’t get this, you can watch movies, but not play games.

nVidia Store for 3DTV Play Software

Cyberlink PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D

nVidia’s hardware H.264 decoding is a complicated beast. PowerDVD solves this problem and the decoder stays installed for use in other programs, like VLC, if you remove PowerDVD. That said, I have used Cyberlink PowerDVD for years and find it a solid product.

Cyberlink Store for PowerDVD 10 Ultra 3D Software

4. Digital Surround Sound – Audio in 3D

You have a 3D visual experience waiting to happen, but what about the sound?

I recommend the following method for setting up audio and avoiding sync issues that are common to HDMI:

  • connect the HDMI cable from the PC directly to your 3D Television’s HDMI input
  • connect an optical cable from the PC directly to your amplifier
  • In Windows 7, set the SPDIF (or non-HDMI digital output) to be your primary sound device

The most important part of setting up your surround sound system is to ensure that all of the speakers are properly setup with your amplifier. Some amps come with a microphone for tuning, otherwise, grab a dB meter from a place like The Source to ensure that you are getting the most out of the experience.

Also, make sure that your black/red wires are not mixed up anywhere. If they are, you will probably never realize that you are missing out on some of the sounds.

5. Enjoy your new 3D Entertainment Center

Congratulations on setting up your 3D environment! It may not have been easy, but it is worth the effort.

If you have little or no experience with 3D content, turn down the 3D “effect” in the nVidia drivers. The more you watch, the more your eyes will become used to the experience and you will be able to increase the effect. Be patient, and take regular breaks.

Place a 3D movie into your computer’s Blu Ray player, sit back at least 1.5m, and enjoy!

After the movie is over, load up Call of Duty: Black Ops for the full 3D experience.

Enjoy!

February 21, 2011
by admin
Comments Off on The Realism of Stereocopic Television

The Realism of Stereocopic Television

This weekend, my 3D movie selection was Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole. It is a computer animated film that follows a convoluted storyline with, you guessed it: Owls, as most of the characters.

Guardians succeeds by painting a rich and deep stereoscopic experience, with extreme detail in all areas, from the brush of wind against owl feathers to saturated orange sunsets with beams of sunlight cutting through the cloud. This is a great example of how real that we are able to make the unreal appear. Almost every shot is an advertisement for the 3D experience.

Guardian fails in a way that I find typical of most of the current 3D movie lineup: losing parallax during transition. In other words, when a new scene appears, the left and right images do not look to be lined up correctly, resulting in ghosting of dark edges.

That said, as stereoscopic cinematography becomes more common place, camera operators (both real and virtual) and editors will become more skilled at overcoming the technical hurdles associated with making them. It’s quite obvious, when comparing Guardians to the work of the experienced team behind Under The Deep 3D.

Where Guardians struck me the most was in the final battle scene, which is a drawn out slaughterfest between two armies of owls. This is where 3D shows its real legs: REALISM. The fighting is so vicious and violent that I felt the need to stop the movie.

I’ve played a couple of first person shooter (FPS) games, such as Battlefield 2 and the new Call of Duty Black Ops. They are far more immersive than any 3D movie I have watched so far, but they also carry on the growing trend of more and more realistic violence depictions. Are we getting “too real?”

I’ll steer clear of Saw 3D, thank you!

February 18, 2011
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Comments Off on IMAX Deep Sea 3D On A Shutter LCD Display

IMAX Deep Sea 3D On A Shutter LCD Display

For me, there is only one problem with 3D television:

No content!!

3D LCD displays have been selling for over a year now and there are only a handful of movies available. If you are one of the huddled masses whose only content source for 3D is via Blu Ray, the problem is even worse. (hint: hook a good computer up to it)

Of everything that I have tried so far, the most impressive use of 3D goes, hands down, to the IMAX movie Deep Sea 3D.

Made in 2006, before consumer 3D televisions even arrived on store shelves, Deep Sea 3D really pops out of the screen. I had to drag my son back to the sofa on more than one occasion as he reached out, in awe.

There are very few parallax issues and convergence is masterful. The high resolution source material must have been much easier to work with.

Director Howard Hall released a follow up, Under The Sea in 3D, in 2009. Once I find it, I will let you know how it looks. When comparing Deep Sea 3D to Galapagos 3D (also IMAX, a bit older), I noticed improvement from the older to the newer. Hopefully, Under The Sea will carry the technology even further ahead.

If you have a 3D LCD shutter television and find Deep Sea 3D, GET IT!

February 15, 2011
by admin
Comments Off on Panasonic Takes On Stereovision With The HDC-SDT750 Camcorder

Panasonic Takes On Stereovision With The HDC-SDT750 Camcorder

The hardest part of being on the bleeding edge is wading through the garbage early adopter products. The 3D TV market has a few successes under its belt, but the severe lack of content is disheartening.

Enter the first wave of consumer 3D recording devices, to solve the content problem.

The Panasonic HDC-SDT750 is the only camcorder on the market as of February 15th, 2011 that supports 3D. I won’t bore you with the specifications (check Panasonic’s site for that), but the key element of this camera is the company’s VW-CLT1 3D lens adapter. This adapter, which comes with the camera, screws over the primary lens. The face of the adapter is two tiny lenses.. and I do mean tiny. Manual setup is required for proper convergence, but it’s fast and easy to do.

What do I like about the camera? It takes 3D video moderately well. That’s about it.

What do I not like? (mainly applies to 3D mode)

  • No still photographs
  • No zoom
  • No manual focus
  • No camera controls
  • AVCHD video modes only
  • No storage included

So, you are an aspiring 3D videographer or photographer, what are you to do? Is it worth buying one now to be first to support these contracts? The answer, sadly, is a resounding..

NO.

If you NEED 3D today, buy the Fuji Finepix Real3D W3 camera. It’s “only” a point and shoot, but you get still photos, zoom and manual camera control. Fuji released a firmware patch that will solve the W3’s achilles heel – short video times. At roughly 1/3 the price of the Panasonic HDC-SDT750, you get a much better camera. Don’t forget to use some of the money you just saved to buy an extra battery!

December 30, 2010
by admin
Comments Off on Lego Universe Sucks.

Lego Universe Sucks.

I have been wrestling with this question since the day I opened the package: What is it that I don’t like about it?

No, the missing parts of the user interface (try customizing your keyboard) don’t bother me THAT MUCH.

No, it’s not the $100+ year subscription after the first “free” month, included in the $50 price of a Lego man and a plastic disc (in a box, of course).

No, it’s not that jumping between regions requires walking from launch pad to launch pad, with no (obvious) way to teleport between zones like Guild Wars.

Wait, that’s it.. it’s like Guild Wars. Well, that’s not too bad… or is it?

Tonight, I figured it out.

Why did Lego feel compelled to make its massive multiplayer environment violent by default. Sure, things get “smashed” instead of killed, but my four year old doesn’t see it that way. Do you expect the game to eat into a teenager’s xbox/ipad/iphone/whatever time?

Sure, you can build, but I have a living space full of Lego that we can do that with, while getting the full tactile experience. The interface is clunky and doesn’t look like it would translate well to a touch screen or Kinect.. but perhaps with a little tuning I will let you know.

The short of this rant is that I feel there were so many better places to take the whole concept. We were marketed that the Lego mini figures ran around building anything one may imagine, almost instantaneously, in Lego. This is WAY slower than the real thing, and adding the, as my son calls it, “killing the aliens” factor does not make for an enjoyable game.

LEGO: Did you ever raise the question of what the point of all the content moderation is if the who game is based around smashing? Even if it’s just smashing, it’s still violent.

Want to see Lego Universe? I’m sure there is a YouTube video or two around. Definitely, don’t buy it. So many better massive multiplayer games are available at a much lower price.

November 2, 2010
by admin
Comments Off on Macbook Air, finally in person.

Macbook Air, finally in person.

Today, I finally saw the new Macbook Airs in person.

The 13.3″ model has some happy improvements, such as the dual USB and SD slot. I miss the button at the bottom of the trackpad. Overall, no big deal.

The 11″ model is the way to go. It is about 2 inches “taller” than the iPad and has a full Apple keyboard. The screen looks really big because of its wide aspect ratio.

It is bigger than a netbook, but much thinner.

I didn’t hammer the CPU, so I cannot comment on performance, but the form factor is very appealing.

I shall covet my iPad until they meet in the form of a dual platform touch screen mini laptop format!

August 18, 2010
by admin
Comments Off on iPad and Skype to Replace Your iPhone?

iPad and Skype to Replace Your iPhone?

My favourite thing about the iPad is that I can take it anywhere. My least favourite thing about the iPad is that I have to carry around my iPhone, too.

Since I bought an iPad, my dream has been to rid myself of the small brick in my pocket. Now, I feel like I am getting closer to living that dream.


The Software: Skype

Skype is a standard tool for me. I use it for:

  • Group calls during online gaming sessions
  • Long calls between friends who have Skype
  • Video conferencing so the grandparents can see my son
  • Text chat when audio interferes with my surroundings

I also tried out the pay-per-month unlimited calling to voice lines, but found that anyone I talked to on it also had Skype available.

Informal testing of the Microsoft LiveCAM HD on a Windows 7 PC vs. the iPad as-is resulted in equal audio quality results. The listener did not know that I had switched from one device to another. Yes, the iPad has a built in mic.

Skype sells phone numbers, too. With this, someone is able to call my Skype account from a standard phone. This is great! However, as of August 18th, 2010, I cannot get a Canadian number.


The Service: Ring2Skype.com

Ring2Skype is a free service, which allows you to assign phone numbers to your Skype account.

They offer the same thing as Skype, but the caveat is that I get an extension number, tacked on the end. That is 604-222-1234 ext 123. Many people are used to businesses having extensions, but it does not fly too well with calling from a contact list or forwarding from your real mobile number.

The big win is that Ring2Skype solves the problem in Step 1. Canadian numbers are available.

Even better, I can add multiple phone numbers! For example: My parents live in Winnipeg, so I added a 204 area code number. Now, they can call with no long distance concerns.

Note: In my minimal testing, audio quality is not as good as a regular mobile phone. I am not sure if this is because of the routing of Ring2Skype, or inherit in the Skype service. Skype is usually good though, so I think the former is at fault.


The Wall: Multitasking

Everything goes great until I go back to the home screen or use another app, on the iPad. When I do either of these things, Skype freezes in the background and I lose the call. It also means that I cannot receive calls!

This is why multitasking has value on a mobile device.

Unfortunately, the iOS 4 does not run on the iPad yet (I smell a conspiracy!)


The Solution: Backgrounder

I have played with Jailbreak utilities before on my iPhone 3G. I add useful tools, but in return, the phone is almost unbearably slow. The reason I attribute to this is the lack of RAM (128MB) and a process manager called SBSettings.

As of this writing, in the US, Jailbreaking your phone is now legal. I am sure that Apple will fight it, but here we are today and I can tell you where the real value is.

I used Jailbreakme.com to do the dirty work for me. It is the easiest tool I have tried. You can do it: go to the website with your iPad and slide the unlock switch at the bottom of the page. Done. Wow.

Note: Currently, you need to do the Jailbreak with an OS version of 3.2.1. Cydia has a patch for the PDF flaw available, if that is still a concern.

Now, follow these steps to put everything together:

  1. Go to the new Cydia icon.
  2. pick the GUI+command line option.
  3. Update everything when it asks.
  4. Touch “Featured Packages”
  5. Slide down to “Free Extensions.”
  6. Select “Backgrounder” and install that.
  7. Press the home button and your iPad will reboot (don’t panic!)
  8. Find the Backgrounder icon and press it.
  9. Select “Overrides”
  10. Press the “Add” button in the upper right corner.
  11. Find Skype, Press that.
  12. You are taken back to the Overrides app list.
  13. Select Skype from this list.
  14. Set Backgrounding Method to “Backgrounder”
  15. Set all of the switches below to “ON”

You now have Skype running as a foreground app (true multitasking!), unless you specifically shut it down.

When Skype is running, you will see a small round “wheel” on the icon. Try to browse and call your Skype. Check!

Now, turn off the iPad. Wait… wait for it… okay, now call it. Voila!


Conclusion: Have I Met My Goal?

Yes, I have. I now have an iPad that I can use as a “real” phone.

Unfortunately, I did find one more problem. I paired a Bluetooth headset with the iPad, but did not find a way to use it as the primary audio device for Skype.

This means that you have to use it as a speakerphone or connect the standard wired iPhone audio cable. I do not find this an elegant solution.

If you find solutions to this problem and a non-extension based Canadian phone number system, I want to hear about it!

Until then, I continue my quest for a unified mobile device!

June 10, 2010
by admin
Comments Off on Misinformation at the Speed of Light

Misinformation at the Speed of Light

Two unconnected events happened today, which demonstrate how powerful the Internet is as an interactive medium.

The first event: The death of Russell Crowe.

Less than two minutes after I saw the initial posting (which was claimed a fake by an astute reader almost immediately), the news feeds clogged with proclamations of his untimely demise.

The person who cried foul in the initial post I read was correct. He pointed out that the source for this information was a site dedicated to auto generating fake news (it said so at the bottom of the same document that stated his death!)

It took about 5 minutes before people started to question the rumor. A representative of his made a statement that he was not dead and the time of death was not consistent with his latest tweet. Of most interest to me was that I did not see anyone else cite the original source of the material.

This event clearly supports the recent survey I read on student research, which discovered that students determined information credibility overwhelmingly by search ranking! So much for information integrity.

The second Event: The Google Background

My first click of the day was a shocker – Google had followed Bing’s lead by putting up a background image on the default search page. I shuddered and moved on with my day.

At work, I listened as each co-worker started his or her day with the discovery. Everyone’s first question was “How do I turn this off?”

I was not surprised to find out that “remove Google background” became the hottest trending search term, until the Russell Crowe news surfaced.

Google no longer has the background image.

This event is a great example of direct democracy in action.

The Lesson?

I introduce this idea to clients in our first meeting, so it makes me happy to have two new examples of support. Management of your company brand is vitally important to its success. You have three seconds to put your best foot forward with your website, or they are on to the next site. When you do stumble, you need to correct the problem immediately. Not in the next week, day or event hour, but the next minute.

The more astute business owners get this, but almost everyone forgets to take it one step further. Maintenance of your personal brand is also vital. When someone is considering you or your company, it is likely that he or she will Google your name.  What will they find? Does this reflect well on you?

Finally, I am mostly shocked that Russell Crowe’s Media Relations person did not wake him up and ask him to tweet an update to his 37,851 followers! In my opinion, someone needs to get fired.

June 1, 2010
by admin
Comments Off on Some iPad Apps to Start With

Some iPad Apps to Start With

Files HD – $0.99

This App allows you to copy files between your workstation/laptop and the iPad. The iPad shows up as a shared folder on your computer, which you may access in the same manner as you do with the rest of your files.

Now, please tell me what App allows me to connect to a network drive from the iPad (ie: the opposite direction of this)

Best 99 cents you’ll ever spend.

Pages – $9.99

Too many 9’s in the price, but this is the word processor of choice. With the help of a wireless keyboard, you might prefer to use this over a desktop equivalent, simply because of the easy adjustment of elements with the touch interface.

You may use Files HD to transfer images to Pages. Use the button in the upper right corner of the Files HD page, when the image is selected ,and choose “Add to Photos.”

iMockups – $9.99

If are a web developer, this is a simple way to assemble your wireframes. There is definitely a lot that needs to be added to it, but it is still a very useful tool.

Wolfram Alpha – $1.99

This is a search engine for factual and calculable information. Bryan Adams is nowhere to be found, but it will tell me the nutritional information for 2 slices of swiss cheese, or the distance between the earth and sun.

Air Video – $4.99

If you have a media server, this allows you to access it from the iPad. “Videos” is the built in app, but it only allows you to get content from iTunes. I am a little surprised that this app actually got approved. Very worth it, though I had to exit and restart the server software the next day after I first installed it, so the iPad would sit it again.

I’ll stop there, with your iTunes bill for the day at $27.95. Do you have any suggestions for me?

May 31, 2010
by admin
1 Comment

Not Another iPad Blog

I waited, expectantly, for the release date of the iPad in Canada. When it became available for pre-order, I did not succumb. On the day of its release, I laughed at the lineup photos. As much as I felt compelled, as a technology lifer, to purchase an iPad for myself, I refused to make any commitment to it.

At 10:20am, I decided to walk over and see the madness. As timing would have it, there was only one person in the queue, being asked which one he was looking for. It felt like Steve Jobs had set me up. I took the bait and walked up to the staff members who were asking the new visitor questions.

“Which iPad are you looking for? The only one we are sold out of is the 16GB 3G model.”

That was the one I wanted. Seeing the disappointment in my eyes, the staffer followed it quickly with, “the 32GB is only $100 more and you’ll have much more storage!”

This was immediately followed by a handoff to an older (than me) gentleman in the blue shirt, ready to lead me through the sales process.

In that usual way that I confuse and confound retail salespeople, I asked for a clarification: “Does the 3G model have a proper GPS and the Wi-Fi not, as I have read online and is alluded to on the Apple website?”

The poor sales guy looked at me like I had spoken to him another language. “We haven’t been briefed on any of the details of these, ahead of the launch,” he replied.

“Okay, is there someone here who is able to answer this question? I need to know in order to make my decision on which one to buy.”

He grabbed a much younger staff member, who, when I repeated the question, staunchly claimed that both devices use only the identical “assisted GPS” and neither of them have satellite GPS capabilities.

From what I had read, his statement was false. I attempted to dig further, but he was adamant. I thanked him and turned back to my sales representative.

“Can I exchange it if I want a different one?”

“You have fourteen days.”

That made the decision for me. Instead of bucking up $779 CDN for a 32GB 3G, I chose the $549 CDN 16GB Wi-Fi model. I thought about how the lack of camera meant that it would probably not be long before iPad 2.0 came out, so this is more of an introduction.

After an excruciating long wait, while attempting to pay with a debit card in a lineup of one (a guy talking on the phone to his bank about his card being declined), I walked purposefully back to the office and opened up the package.

Fast Forward to Monday – After One Weekend.

In three days, I easily conclude that the iPad is indeed the game changer that I suspected. Using the iPhone OS as a full fledged computing platform works beautifully. The touch screen is divine. In fact, you will be blown away at how much faster you can do things without constantly moving a mouse pointer around.

The web browsing is fast and slick.

I found one app that I am compelled to say is essential. Air Video allows you to play movies from your media server (OSX or Windows) directly to the iPad, with an excellent interface and live conversion of videos with incompatible codecs. How smart is that? It was only $4.99, too. How simple is that?

What surprised me the most about my experience was that I asked myself the question, “does my Macbook Air have any future now?”

Now, hurry up with the new iPhone please, I am sick of my broken mute switch!