Archive for the ‘Home Media’ Category

An Evolution from Windows to Mac

mceThe above photo is the very first photo I ever uploaded to Flickr on January 2nd, 2005. At the time it was my home set up for my Microsoft Media Center PC. I’ve stuck with a Media Center PC in the home now for six years, upgrading with each successive version of Windows. Is now the time to switch the last remaining PC in my home to a Mac and try something new? Fortunately for me, my photography has come a long way since 2005. 🙂

Back in 2006 I wrote a blog post about making my first switch from Windows to Mac after using PCs for 15 years. At the time I was using a Dell laptop as my primary computer. I was tired of all of the stupid little problems I was having with it (I couldn’t disable tap to click on it for example) and I was tired of just all the general errors it seemed to have daily.

It was sort of a difficult move for me to make, as like most people I’d gotten stuck in my ways, and it meant thinking about my computing differently. But in the end I ended up making the switch and moved my primary day to day computing to a MacBook Pro.

I was really happy that I made this change and three years or so later when it came time to upgrade, I replaced my old MacBook Pro with a new 17 inch model. I couldn’t be happier with this decision. Despite a few hiccups here and there, my MacBook Pros have been far more reliable for me than my old Dell laptop (or any previous PC) had been.

And so last year when the PC in the kitchen came down with a virus (even though I try to train my kids not to install things, they were installing crap anyways), after spending about 3 hours trying to fix the PC (this virus was particularly mean and even disabled the DVD drive preventing me from reinstalling the software), I just said screw it and went out and replaced it with a Mac Mini. Again, I couldn’t be more happy with that decision. Only I know the password to the Mac Mini, which means that I get to review anything that’s installed. It’s remained virus free and has performed very well for a computer that is mostly just used to access internet on, email and other light use in the kitchen.

So two of the 3 PCs in my home have now been replaced by Macs.

Now my final PC in my home is going out and I have to make a decision what to do next. Yesterday, for some inexplicable reason, my Media Center PC just started going super, super slow and even freezing. After a while the screen would turn totally black and the only way to get it back was to reboot it. Then I’d reboot it and it would work for a few minutes — but eventually freeze up again. It will last longer when I reboot in safe mode, but I can’t get it to run normally in regular mode at all.

At present I use this PC for three things. I use it to manage my finished JPG photos that I upload to Flickr. I use it as a Media Center PC to stream media to 3 XBox 360 Extender units in the home. And my wife uses it to edit her photos on in Lightroom. My kids also use it from time to time to browse the web.

So I’m thinking of kicking out the final PC in my home and replacing it with an iMac. I’ve been reluctant to do this for a while because I haven’t wanted to spend money on a new iMac, plus I’ve felt like I’ve needed the PC around to read two drobos which are formatted NTFS. (I was able to install Google’s FUSE yesterday and can now access my NTFS Drobos on my Mac — but it’s slow, thanks Tim!)

I bought a new Drobo this morning and two new Western Digital 2TB drives. I think what I’m going to do is to format this new drobo FAT32 and then start my PC in safe mode with networking and transfer all of my files from my main photo archive Drobo over the network to this new Drobo. I should probably have done this anyways a while ago. The old Drobo is a first gen USB2 Drobo and as much as I use these files, it would probably be better to have my Mac Book Pro handle these images with a faster FireWire 800 connection. Once this transfer is complete I can reformat the NTFS first gen Drobo as FAT32 and use it for more archive storage, which I access much less frequently.

I’ve also used this PC as my Media Center and replacing it would involve revisting my home media strategy.

My Home Media strategy is a bit more complicated though. I do like being able to use Media Center on the three XBox 360s. But I think it might be time to replace Media Center with something else. I’ve been disappointed that Microsoft charges me a $60 per year tax to stream Netflix on the XBox 360s and I’ve never been happy with Media Center’s ability to handle my large mp3/photo collections. Having to wait 5 minutes for my music/photos to load at times has really been annoying to me.

But the question is then, what do I replace the Media Center PC / Xbox 360 extenders with? AppleTV? Will it stream my large digital photo / music library through iTunes reliably? Or will I get hit with the same performance problems I saw with Windows Media Center?

Do I wait for GoogleTV to come out? (it’s almost here right?) Will GoogleTV even stream photos and video? And what about watching live TV and using a PVR? At present I use an HD HomeRun HDTV tuner with my Media Center PC and have it record a lot of OTA HD content for me to stream. Can I use an HDTV OTA tuner with an iMac/AppleTV combo? Can I use my existing HomeRun dual tuner? What about GoogleTV? Or should I be looking at something else entirely? Is TiVo even in the game anymore for home streaming?

Or should I just replace the final PC in my home with another PC and *hope* that my next experience with a Media Center PC is a little better. I bought the very first Microsoft Media Center PC the very first day it came out back in July of 2004 and this current PC is my third box running Media Center. Maybe the fourth time’s the charm?

My thinking right now though is that it’s time to kick the final PC out of my home. I’m sick and tired of the unreliability of Windows. Macs can have problems too, I know that. But my experience over the last several years have been that my Macs are far more reliable than my PCs ever have been, and even when I have problems, it is nice to know that I can always set an appointment with a Mac Genius and have someone with a little more know how than me help me troubleshoot things in person locally. So maybe I just do this and then figure out my home media strategy from there.

We’ll see how things unfold in the next few days.

Sony PS3 Launches Photo Gallery Enhancement Firmware Upgrade

Picture 8Sony today announced a firmware update to their PS3 that adds significant photo functionality to the popular PS3 gaming console.

The system software update 2.60 becomes available tomorrow and now offers a new Photo Gallery application allowing users to better manage, sort and control the presentation of their photos on their PS3s. With the new upgrade users will now be able to sort their photos by color, age, and even facial expressions like smiling. In a video demo of the new technology Sony shows how parents might, for instance, pull together photos on their unit only of their children smiling and then run these photos as a slide show.

In addition to the Photo Gallery, firmware 2.60 provides guest access to PlayStation Store, enabling non-PlayStation Network members to browse the storefront’s downloadable content, including games, game trailers, and demos, along with more than 4,200 movies and TV shows. The firmware upgrade also upgrades the PS3 system’s video capability to support DivX 3.11 media files.

I wonder at what point in the future we might see Netflix Watch Now on the Sony PS3.

It is interesting to me to see gaming consoles more and more becoming home media boxes. Both Sony with their PS3 and Microsoft with their XBox360 seem to be increasingly going after both the gaming market as well as the home media market including things like music, photos and video.

One thing that both Microsoft and Sony still seem to be missing though is natural integration with the photo sharing site Flickr. Viewing your own photos on your XBox 360 or PS3 is a nice thing to be able to do, but being able to better display and share photos between friends and family through an online platform like Flickr would make an even more memorable experience. Imagine if, for instance, my parents could automatically subscribe on a PS3 or XBox360 to all of my photos tagged with my kids names on Flickr. Or imagine if you could pull up all of the most interesting photos of Barcelona Spain before going there on a trip. Integrating the photo experience with the vast archives of both personal and online photos ought to be what both Microsoft and Sony should be working on.