Dale Dietrich
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Category — interactive media

Solving the: ‘Windows Media Player Won’t Start in Vista’ Problem

Categories: interactive mediavista
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image

Sometimes Windows Media Player (“WMP”) refuses to start. I’ve had this problem since I first installed Vista in January 2007.

Through most of this period I had thought there was a conflict of some sort with iTunes. Why? Because iTunes is almost always running and, well, it just seemed to make sense since iTunes and Vista were not very friendly for most of Vista’s first year. I had hoped/thought various Vista and/or iTunes updates had solved the problem. But, no, this problem has persisted to this day. Sometimes Windows Media player starts, other times it won’t and I never understood why.

The solution

I have Googled this problem probably a dozen times with no resolution until today. My heart-felt thanks go out to Rob for this post in the Vista x64 forums. Since his answer to the problem was exactly correct and succinct, I reproduce it here:

CONTINUE READING →

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iPhone’s iPod Touch Features NOT Bricked with SIM Removed

Categories: canadagadgetsinteractive mediaiPhone
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removing sim from iphone Back when I was doing my Rogers iPhone research, see here, I asked numerous representatives from Rogers (both on the phone and at the Rogers store) whether I would be able to use my iPhone as an iPod Touch-like device if/when I cancelled my iPhone service. The uniform answer was no! – that the iPhone would be bricked (wouldn’t even turn on beyond a warning screen) if I removed the SIM card.

Two months after purchasing my iPhone I set out to finally transfer all of my remaining contacts from my old Nokia phone to the iPhone. This required me to remove the SIM from my iPhone and put it back into my Nokia phone (the Nokia would not turn on without the SIM). In doing so, I tested Rogers’ theory that the iPhone would be completely bricked with the SIM removed. I discovered this was untrue.

CONTINUE READING →

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Best Demos at Techcrunch50

Categories: cloud computinggadgetsgeekinteractive mediaiPhone
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TechCrunch50 logo

I just listened to the TWiT podcast 161 were Jason Calicanis described two of the most interesting demos shown at the recent TechCrunch50 conference – tonchidot and swype.  I also briefly mention the contest winner – yammer.

Tochidot:

tonchidot logo This demo, by Japanese “tonchidot”, got the best audience response at the recent Techcrunch50 show. Watch the demo here.

It starts off slow. It’s hard to understand the Japanese presenter. About 4 minutes in an English presenter takes over and describes the technology. The idea is really cool.

tochidot demo 
It’s an iPhone app that interacts with the world around it. As you are walking around the real world, and looking at the iPhone screen, tags (text/audio) about your surroundings, that others posted earlier, appear on the screen in real-time. It uses the iPhone’s built in GPS to know where you are and the iPhones accelerometer to know which angle and which way you are looking. Anyone can add tags about anything they are looking at that anyone later can read/listen too. Ultimately, if this catches on, the world around us could be tagged full of information left by users that went before.

Suggested uses include, restaurant/store reviews, site-seeing guides, museum/painting guides, tourist destination information. Restaurants could post their menus that users could read just by pointing their iPhone at the restaurant. Theatre goers can get reviews of the current show by pointing their iPhone at the theatre.

The question and answer period was hilarious because the presenters clearly could not speak English. “We have a puppet” was an answer to one tech question.

The obvious answer to the unanswered question-and-answer question (what happens when surroundings change over time?) is that the tags would/could be organized by date. The most recent tags would be presented first (to reflect the world as it is now – or most recently was) with the possibility to dig down to older tags to read/hear about how the thing/place you are looking at was in the past.

CONTINUE READING →

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Gary Vaynerchuk’s Wine Library Reserve Podcast

Categories: beveragesinteractive mediawine
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gary vaynerchuk reviews a wine on the wine library tv reserve podcast

4.5rating(4.5/5)

From Revision3′s stable of podcasts comes Gary Vaynerchuk’s (Wikipedia) entertaining and informative Wine Library Reserve podcast (available in HD).  Gary begins most every podcast with: "This my friends is the Thundershow, a.k.a the Internet’s most passionate wine program". He isn’t exaggerating.

Note: He also has hosts the longer form companion "wine library tv" podcast that’s only available in SD.

gary vaynerchuk uses colorful tasting metaphors on the wine library tv reserve podcast In each 5 minute episode he first ‘sniffy sniffs", then tastes, spits out and ultimately reviews three to four different wines with exuberance reminiscent of Roberto Benigni’s acceptance of his Best Actor Oscar. His descriptions are funny, provocative, entertaining and informative. Graphics are generated on the fly depicting each of the the smells and tastes he encounters along the way from the initial sniffs, to the entry, the midpalet, the finish and the length. His  descriptions range from the conventional (black current with a gary vaynerchuk - comparing wine to asphalt dusttouch of spice) to the hilarious (this tastes like pooh mixed with tar). During the review pictured on the left he likened the wine’s taste to concrete dust. :) He somehow manages to get up to a dozen or so smells or tastes out of every bottle.

CONTINUE READING →

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I Purchased the 16 Gig Rogers 3G iPhone

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Dale Dietrich Poses With his New 3G Rogers iPhone On Wednesday August 13, I purchased a 16 Gig 3G Rogers iPhone.

Please see my “Rogers Canadian iPhone Plans – The Fine Print” post for the details on: (i) the actual (vs. advertised) hardware pricing; (ii) Rogers’ 30 day Buyers Remorse option; (iii) the applicable $125 to $500 Early Cancellation Fees (ECF); (iv) bricking on cancellation; (v) the jailbreak option/issue; (vi) the option to transfer the iPhone to a third party (and avoid the ECF); (vii) Canadian iPhone shortages; (viii) upgrading to future models; (ix) data roaming in Canada; (x) the 365 day warranty; and (xi) moving your SIM between phones.

Below I describe: (i) how I resolved my purchase impediments; (ii) the Rogers Buyer’s Remorse Option; (iii) my first impressions (I’m loving it); and (iv) the all-in Rogers iPhone and data plan cost.

Overcoming Obstacles to Purchase

In light of my strong aversion to cell phone contracts (let alone Rogers’ infamous 3 year iPhone contract) and early cancellation fees, there were several major obstacles I had to resolve before I felt comfortable enough to ‘purchase’ the subsidized 3G iPhone.

  • 16 Gig iPhone is Too Small – Upgrade Dilemma: I carry around about 25 GB of music, 50 or so podcasts at any given time, workout and a few other videos/movies on my current video iPod (most of the storage is used for music). I’ll need storage space for the App Store applications I download. Plus, I’ll need space for email, contacts, pictures and visual voicemail. To manage with a 16 Gig iPhone, I’ll have to give up carrying most of my music around. So, I will inevitably want to upgrade to a 32 GB iPhone when it comes out. Resolution: As you can read in my ‘fine print’ post, the Rogers rep assured me that future models will be released for purchase at retail (as opposed to subsidized under contracts as is the case now). So, if he is right,  at that time I’d be able to purchase and use the newer (larger capacity) unit under my current contract (and sell my 16 Gig iPhone). I rarely listen to music on my iPod anyway. Instead I use it mostly to listen to and watch podcasts. For now, I’ll use my current iPod for the rare times I want music while travelling.
  • Rogers Dataplan Issue: The initially announced Rogers data plans were ridiculous (see here). Resolution: I took advantage of the $30/month 6 GB limited time offer. Home WiFi data usage is not counted against 3G dataplan limits. The free Rogers/Fido WiFi hotspot usage is also not counted against 3G dataplan limits. I expect most of my data usage will be through WiFi so I’m hoping/expecting that the 6 GB limit should be enough for my needs – but I’ll only know for sure after a few months of use.

CONTINUE READING →

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Rogers Canadian iPhone Plans – The Fine Print [Rewritten & Updated]

Categories: canadacloud computinggadgetsinteractive mediaiPhone
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Rogers iPhone

[This post is a rewritten version of an earlier July 28, 2008 post. I 'purchased' a 3G iPhone on August 13. In the mean time I spoke at length with two Rogers representatives on the telephone and spent a couple hours of quality time with "Jay" at the Rogers Store at Bay & King in Toronto. Click here for my prior summary of the Rogers 3G iPhone Rate Plan Offerings]

$199 and $299 Price ONLY on New Activations

I was  unpleasantly surprised when I ‘purchased’ my 16 GB 3G iPhone, that they charged me $324.99 instead of the $299 advertised price. The Rogers rep (Jay) told me that the $199 and $299 prices are available only to new Rogers customers. I had been a month to month Rogers subscriber since November 2001. The representative explained that I was getting a special deal given that I’m a high-value customer. I was told that ‘lesser value Rogers customers’ face up-to a $50 premium over the advertised $199/$299 prices.  I didn’t feel special!

30 Day Buyer’s Remorse Returns

Summary: iPhone purchasers can return an iPhone for a full refund and without having to pay the Early Cancellation Fees discussed below provided all of the following conditions are met:

  1. the iPhone is returned within 30 days of activation to the store where it was purchased;
  2. you have used less than 30 minutes of airtime (no more than 29 minutes);
  3. you provide your proof of purchase (receipt – contract); and
  4. the iPhone is undamaged and returned ‘like new’ with all pieces and original packaging.

CONTINUE READING →

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How to Set Podcasts to Auto Delete From Your iPod – Updated March 18 2009

Categories: gadgetshow-tointeractive media
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ipod I’m writing this in the event there are avid iPod/iTunes podcast users that, like me, didn’t know they can set iTunes to auto-delete podcasts after they have finished with them.

I listen to/watch anywhere from 2 to 10 podcasts every day. For years it has been a pet peeve of mine that I had to use iTunes to manually delete podcasts that I have listened to/watched in order to delete them from the iPod. I couldn’t understand why Apple didn’t provide an option on the iPod to delete podcasts I was finished with.

Turns out that unbeknownst to me, auto-podcast-delete functionality has been there for quite some time – just not how I expected. iTunes has had a function to do exactly what I wanted it to do – auto delete podcasts when finished – since version 4.9.

 Homer - doh!

Note: These instructions are for Windows users. The process may be different on Apple PCs.

[March 17, 2009 Update: The iTunes software has changed since I originally wrote this post. Previously, podcast settings were set ‘across the board’ in the Podcasts tab from the the Edit/Preferences menu. Since the fall of 2008, iTunes allows/requires you to set such preferences for each individual podcast. Hence, I have two “Here’s How” sections below to reflect the changes.]

[March 22, 2009 Update: Josh Baltzell pointed out in the comments section below that there is a delete option on the iPod Touch and the iPhone. When viewing the episodes list on the device, you can swipe from right to left to bring up a red delete button. While it works (ie: deletes the podcast from the list), unfortunately it does not permanently delete the podcast or result in it being deleted in iTunes after the next sync. Indeed, unless you ‘finish’ the podcast (or fast forward to the end after listen) as instructed below, it will return to the list after the next sync.]

Here’s How- in iTunes 8 (post-Fall 2008)

With iTunes 8, there are no longer universal podcast settings. Rather you set your auto-delete and other preferences for each individual podcast as follows.

  • Allow Auto Delete for Each Podcast: First, right click on the podcast that you want to auto-delete and click on the “Allow Auto Delete” item (shown in picture below) from the menu. If the ‘Allow Auto Delete’ option is not available (you will instead see a ‘Do Not Auto Delete’ option) that means auto delete is already permitted for that podcast.

itunes - podcast - allow auto delete

  • Change Podcast Settings: With the podcast in question still highlighted, click the “Settings” button at the bottom of the podcast list.

iTunes 8 - podcast settings button

  • Keep All Unplayed Episodes: On the resulting Podcast Settings screen, make sure ‘Use Default Settings’ is unchecked. Then  select “All unplayed episodes” from the ‘Episodes to keep:” pull-down menu:

iTunes 8 - podcast settings - episodes to keep - all unplayed episodes

That’s pretty much it. Do this again and again for each podcast.

Now, when you have "finished" listening to/watching podcasts, the next time you sync, if you forced the finish (as discussed below) the play count for that podcast will increment to 1 (indicating it has been played) and the podcast will auto deleted from your iPod and iTunes. Note: Don’t forget to read the ‘Two Minor Gotchas” section below.

Here’s How – Pre Fall 2008 iTunes Versions

For those of you still using older iTunes software, on the "podcasts" tab in the the iTunes Edit/Preferences screen select the Keep: "All unplayed Episodes" (circled in red below).

iTunes - keep all unplayed episodes option

That’s pretty much it.

Now, when you have "finished" listening to/watching podcasts, the next time you sync, if you forced the finish (as discussed below), the play count for that podcast will increment to 1 and the podcast will be deleted from your iPod and iTunes.

Two Minor Gotchas

1. Need to Force a "Finish":

You’ll notice I put "finished" in quotes above. The reason is because, your being "finished" with it may not be exactly what iTunes needs for this to work. Read on.

In order to make sure that partially listened-to podcasts aren’t deleted before their time, the iPod will only delete the podcast from your iPod when it has been fully listened to/watched. So, if you are 3/4 the way through a podcast (or stop even a few seconds from the end) iTunes considers that podcast not fully listened-to. So it is left in your iPod list for you to continue listening/watching where you left off.

The problem: I usually stop listening to podcasts a couple minutes before the end. I don’t, for example, usually listen to closing outro music or to the podcaster’s goodbyes. So, when I stop and move on to the next podcast iTunes doesn’t consider this to be a fully listened-to podcast, does not increment the play count to ’1′ and therefore doesn’t automatically delete it.

Solution: When you are done with a podcast, before moving on to the next podcast, use the iPod’s/iPhone’s fast forward/scrubbing function, to zoom to the end of the finished podcast, thereby forcing the play count to increment to 1. This will result in an auto deletion during your next iPod sync.

2. Auto Delete in iTunes Occurs Only After Next Refresh

While the podcast will be deleted from the iPod on the next sync, it will not be removed from the iTunes podcast list until after the next iTunes podcast refresh.

Solution: If you really care, press the "refresh" button in iTunes after syncing. This will force the refresh which will then delete the fully listened-to podcasts. Otherwise, the solution is patience. Assuming your iTunes is set to refresh the podcast list at least once a day, it shouldn’t take more than a day for fully listened–to podcasts to disappear from the iTunes podcast list.

Bottom Line: If you follow the advice above, you’ll never have to manually delete a podcast again.

A Note About Podcasts on AppleTV

I inadvertently discovered the iPod/iTunes auto-delete functionality when I was looking into whether there is an auto-delete function for video podcasts watched on the AppleTV. Having to manually delete them with my current TiVo video podcast solution was starting to annoy me.

The same rules apply to podcasts watched on Apple TV. If you want synced podcast to delete from your AppleTV, fast forward to the end when finished.

Apple Please Give Us a Delete Button

For years now I have wanted a podcast delete button on my iPod/iPhone/AppleTV.  While there is a delete button option on the iPod Touch and iPhone, as of March 23, 2009 there is no permanent way to delete a podcast from these devices (and ultimately from iTunes) and no such function is planned for the iPhone 3.0 software release due out in summer 2009 that I am aware of. Now that we have ‘copy and paste’ its high-time we get a permanent podcast delete function. Don’t you agree?

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E3 2008 Sony: Movie-TV Service Launch – Not Much More

Categories: consolesindustryinteractive mediavideo games
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 E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - Jack

Sony Movie and TV Service: The biggest ‘news’ of the Sony press event was the U.S. launch, today, of the previously announced (see here) video service. Sony, Fox, MGM, Lion’s Gate, Warner, Disney, Paramount and Turner Entertainment have partnered with Sony to provide movie and TV content for the on-demand download service. The system uses progressive downloads so users can watch as a movie/TV show as it downloads. Sony says, content is playable a minute or so after ordering. Purchased content only plays on PS3 and PSP. No PC, iPod, iPhone or other device support was announced. No official word yet on how long rentals will be available for viewing – one site mentioned that it will be the usual 24 hours and 14 days to start.

E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - New Movie-TV Service

Note: While the previous announcement stated that a service like this would be made available ‘world-wide’, I checked my PS3 in Canada and there was no such content available. Note the "video" button circled in red in the picture above (click for larger view). If it isn’t there, no movies for you!

E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - Resistance 2 Resistance 2: They showed a little of Resistance 2. It’s looking good and includes 8 player online co-op support (probably only for certain missions). I quite enjoyed Resistance 1 so I’m looking forward to this one. What is it with the ‘brown’ colour in all the PS3 and 360 games this year?

E3 2008 Sony Press Briefing - Massive Action Game (MAG)Massive Action Game ("MAG"): This massively multiplayer shooter looked interesting. MAG supports up to 256 simultaneous players with 8 player squads, ongoing faction campaigns and character growth. The trailer looked great. It’s hard to imagine that 255 players will follow a command hierarchy that goes up to one or two generals. In my experience 8 players will rarely ever co-operate in an online shooter battle. I’ll have to see this one to believe it. See the blatantly pre-rendered trailer below.

CONTINUE READING →

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E3 2008 Microsoft: New Dashboard, Netflix, Final Fantasy XIII

Categories: consolesindustryinteractive mediavideo games
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E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing

(Click image to watch abridged version of Microsoft’s 2008 E3 press briefing)

[Full Microsoft E3 2008 coverage is here]

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - New Dashboard Interface A new Dashboard Interface for the 360: It’s coming this fall. [ Watch demo here]It’s nicer than, but seems influenced by, the PS3 ribbon. It looks like it will be easier to use than the current blade system. I question whether people will want to learn a whole new interface.

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - New Avatar System Avatars coming on 360: Looks like Microsoft is trying to bring a bit of the Wii and Playstation Home to the 360. I’m not sure if my adult friends will take the time to create their own avatars.

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - Netflix Coming to 360 Integrated Netflix coming to the 360: Netflix users will be able to queue up their Internet ordered videos to be played on the 360. This probably won’t be available outside of the U.S. for years (if ever). Regrettably, it appears that movies will only be streamed through the Netflix service and not downloaded. This means (i) fastforwarding and rewinding will janky; and (ii) the quality of the picture will vary depending on your Internet connection speed.

E3 2008 Microsoft Press Briefing - Final Fantasy XIII Coming to 360 Final Fantasy XIII Coming to the 360! The hitherto PS3 exclusive franchise is coming to the 360 on the same day and date as the PS3. Final Fantasy XIII coming to the 360 is another Microsoft coup. Other than Sony Studios first party games and Metal Gear Solid, I can’t think of any major game franchise that is a PS3 exclusive any more. Interestingly there will be no Japanese 360 version.

CONTINUE READING →

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3G iPhone Reviews Rolling In

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Rogers Announces Expensive 3G iPhone Rate Plans – No Unlimited Access

Categories: canadacloud computinggadgetsinteractive mediaiPhone
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Rogers iPhone

Reference: Rogers iPhone Facts | RuinedPhone.com
[August 15, 2008 Update: Many of the questions and concerns discussed below are addressed in my newer post: Rogers Canadian iPhone Plans - The Fine Print]

[October 6, 2008 Update: As of October 3, 2008 Rogers has changed their iPhone plans again. Details are available here.]

Rogers has announced its (and its subsidiary Fido’s) long awaited Canadian 3G iPhone (details here) data plan pricing. The iPhone will become available in Canada, and around the world, on July 11.

Unlike AT&T and other international carriers, Rogers is not offering an unlimited data plan option. Rather it is bundling rather meagre data tiers to tiered voice plans at considerably higher prices than charged in Europe and the United States (see here). Here’s the details:

  • Minimum 3 Year Contract (AT&T offers U.S. customers the option: (i) of a 2 year contract; or (ii) to purchase of iPhone outright with no contract- see below)
  • $199 for 8GB 3G iPhone; $299 for 16GB (same as U.S. – announced by Steve Jobs but not yet officially confirmed by Rogers)
  • No Unlimited Data Plan. Rogers offers the following mixed monthly voice/data plans:
    • $60400 MB Data - 75 outgoing SMS - 150 minutes*;
    • $75750 MB Data - 100 outgoing SMS - 300 minutes;
    • $1001 GB Data - 200 outgoing SMS - 600 minutes;
    • $1152 GB Data - 300 outgoing SMS - 800 minutes;

*Minutes are weekday minutes. Rates do note include $15 or $20 a month for an options such as Caller ID, more text messages and call forwarding.

[July 9, 2008 Update: Rogers announced a limited time $30, 6GB iPhone data plan that can be added on to any Rogers voice plan. This offer expires on August 31, 2008]

By way of comparison the cheapest US AT&T data plan costs $30 for unlimited data and $39.99 for voice which includes 450 minutes, no SMS messages, and unlimited U.S. long distance (for a combined $69.99 total) (See U.S. Plan details)
[See also U.K./U.S./Cdn Price Plan Comparisons]

  • $6.95 monthly system access charge is charged by Rogers/Fido on top of data plans. (AT&T does not charge a monthly access plan but does charge a one time $36 activation fee for newbies, $18 for upgrades for existing iPhone customers)
  • 3G iPhoneAll Rogers plans include unlimited:
  • ‘Subsidized Only’ There is no option to purchase the phone at full price to avoid the 3 year minimum contract and cancellation fees (a practice prohibited in some European countries and under review by the U.S. FCC). U.S. users will be able to purchase their iPhone’s without a contract for  $599/$699.

CONTINUE READING →

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Wimbledon Live – Stream or Download Wimbledon 2008 Matches

Categories: interactive mediatennis
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Wimbledon Live Streaming Demo - Federer v Roddick 2005

Wimbledon 2008 starts this Monday June 23 and runs to July 6.  I just discovered (ironically through an adsense ad on The Daleisphere) that Wimbledon provides a two week ‘Wimbledon Live‘ service where, for a flat fee of $24.99 (approx.  £12.65) you can stream live matches to your PC or download up to 250 matches in .wmv format after the match is complete.

2008 matches will be available until May 1, 2009. Day passes are will be available but so far I have not found pricing details.

As usual, my TiVos are queued to record as many matches as TSN and NBC air. But, all too often,  matches that I want to watch are not broadcast. Or, too frequently, certain channels have exclusive rights to particular high profile matches with the result that they are not shown on the channels that my cable provider, Rogers, makes available to me!

Formats and Quality

All video is in 384 x 288 format with a 4:3 aspect ratio.  I took a quick look at the free streaming demo of the 2005 Federer vs. Roddick Wimbledon Final.  The quality wasn’t great (see pic above) but it wasn’t bad either. Because the service works with Windows Media Player only, the service is not available to Apple users and, presumably, not available through AppleTV.

Note: In addition to the free streaming demo, I tried downloading the free downloadable version but it would not play without my having to first sign up and give them my credit card. This kind-of defeats the “free” part of the ‘Download (FREE)’ offer :).

CONTINUE READING →

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$35 Rogers iPhone Unlimited Rate Plan Leaked – Rumoured

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Rogers iPhone

[June 28, 2008 Update: Rogers announced its actual rate plans on June 27. Click here for the details. I'm leaving this rumour post as it was for posterity.]

This post on the ehMac.ca forum purports to have the details on Rogers/Fido rate plans for the 3G iPhone set for release on July 11. This was picked up by the Financial Post here, giving it enough credibility for me to blog about.

[July 20, 2008 Update: According to this article in the Toronto Star, the pricing plan set out below is wrong.  Here’s what the Star.com says:

Under the new model, smartphone users can choose between "flex" and "non-flex" plans with buckets of data that range in price from $60 for 1 gigabyte to $100 for 6 gigabytes. The plans are purchased in addition to a voice plan.]

[July 19, 5:28 pm Update: AppleInsider is questioning the veracity of this ‘leak’ here. They point out the purported leaked Rogers memo looks identical to an earlier AT&T memo. This could be a completely bogus cut and paste fake.]

Summary of the Salient Points

  • $35 Unlimited Data Plan: Rogers (and its subsidiary  Fido) will offer an unlimited data plan for $35 ($45 for enterprise customers), on top of your regular cell phone bill.
  • 3 Year Contract Commitment: Rogers will require you to commit to three years of service. No word on what the early termination penalties are.
  • “No ‘No Commitment’ Option: There will be no option to purchase a non-subsidized phone without a commitment.
  • $199 (8GB) and $299 (16GB) Device Costs: This is the same as in the U.S.
  • 30 Day Return Policy: If you don’t like the device you can return it within 30 days without breaking the long-term contract.
  • Mandatory In-Store Activation: Just like in the U.S.
  • No Word on SMS: Since SMS is nothing but data it should be included in an unlimited data plan. But, AT&T is charging extra for SMS messaging. Sadly, I’d expect Rogers to follow suit. This just means I won’t use SMS

This Would be Terrific

If this is true, it would be generally terrific news and a huge departure from the exorbitant data plan rates of the past. I concluded in this post that I would be willing to pay up to $50 a month for a decent data plan.

Long Term Contracts – Ugh

I do not like long-term contracts. I have always purchased my cell phones at full retail price to leave my exit options open.

There should be a law in Canada, as there is in France, mandating that carriers provide an option to purchase the device without a contract. This tried-and true carrier lock-in-by-contract technique is anti-competitive. It will keep Rogers/Fido users from switching to Bell/Telus when they start selling IPhones on their GSM overlay systems – due to be completed in a year or so.

But, if the penalty for breaking the contract is around $200 or less, I’ll take it. I’ll just consider it a cost of the phone.

Cross Border SIM Card Question

One big question I have is, can I take the SIM card out of the iPhone and use a U.S. AT&T SIM if/when I move back to the U.S. Yes, I know I’d have to pay the penalty to break my contract but I’d like to know if I purchase the 3G iPhone (especially if I pay the penalty) that I can take it with me if/when I move South. It angered me greatly when I returned from the U.S. years ago only to discover that I couldn’t use my the AT&T Motorola GSM phone that I payed full-retail price for on Rogers GSM network.

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3G iPhone, Yes But…

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3G iPhoneIn episode 147 of This Week in Tech, Leo highlights a few of the ‘yes, but… ‘ shortcomings of the latest 3G iPhone offering.

  • Limited 3G Availability: AT&T’s 3G HSDPA is only available in limited U.S. geographical areas (I don’t know how widespread Rogers 3G Network is)>
  • Higher Dataplan Rates: The unlimited data plan price for U.S. consumers has gone up from $25 a month to $30 a month (a price point Canadians still salivate over) .
  • 3G iPhone's New AppsSMS Not Included: AT&T will charge 10 cents per 140 bytes (characters). This is ‘odd’ because SMS is only data. But carrier’s excel at squeezing every last penny out of their users. This is clearly a cash cow they intend to milk as long as they can (Android, please come to our rescue).
  • Turn by Turn GPS Prohibited: Not only doesn’t the 3G iPhone not provide turn by turn GPS,  but Apple’s SDK prohibits developers from writing turn by turn GPS programs. My guess is Apple intends to launch a for-pay turn by turn service in the future. One wonders whether the SDK prohibition violates anti-trust laws.

CONTINUE READING →

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3G iPhone Coming to Canada July 11 – $199 – $299

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3G iPhone 
June 9, 2008 WWDC 2008 Keynote Announcing 3G iPhone

  • New 3G iPhone: “Twice the speed, half the price” – Details on U.S. Apple Website here (Canadian details here)
  • Launching on July 11: in Canada (on Rogers and Fido networks) and 23 other new countries  
  • 3G Speeds Approaching wifi Speeds: U.S. details here (Canadian details here)
  • Lower Pricing  (U.S. pricing – hardware price identical in Canada)
    • $199 for 8MB iPhone (to put this in context the 8MB iPhone launched at $599 just last year and was $399 up to today )
    • $299 for 16GB
    • $30/ month for U.S. Consumers AT&T unlimited data plan (on top of voice contract).
    • $45/month for U.S. Business Users.
    • [June 28 Update: Disappointing Canadian tiered data plan announced – see details)
  • Built in GPS: Satellite GPS supplemented by data from cell towers. U.S. details here (Canadian details here)
  • Increased Battery Life:
    • 300 hours (6 weeks) standby
    • 24 hours audio (music/podcasts)
    • 7 hours video
    • 5-6 hours 3G surfing
    • 5 hours 3G talk (10 hours 2G talk)
    • no GPS battery details yet

CONTINUE READING →

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iTunes Movie Rentals Come to Canada

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iTunes CanadaStarting today (press release), Apple Canada is making movie (and some TV show) downloads available to Canadians through the Canadian iTunes store. Apple says 1200 titles are available at launch, including 200 ‘high-def’ titles.

Despite Canadian dollar parity, as usual Canadians will pay more per rental ($4.99 for new releases, $3.99 for older titles) than our American friends who pay $3.99 and $2.99 respectively. In both countries ‘high-def’* versions cost $1.00 more when available.

Canadians will have 48 hours to view iTunes movies after pressing play. This is surprising because Americans have only 24 hours to finish watching iTunes movies. I expect the U.S. service to follow suit shortly.  As in America, Canadians have 30 days after downloading to start watching their rented movie before it is deleted.

I took a quick look at the iTunes Canada movie offerings. There seems to be a good selection of new and older movies. Unlike in the U.S., there are no current prime-time T.V. shows available for download through the service. The available TV shows are either shows you never heard of or older TV shows. I expect that to change over time too. Participating studios include Disney, Paramount , Warner Bros, 20th Century Fox, Universal, MGM, Sony, Lionsgate and Maple Pictures.

Below I discuss your iTunes movie play-back options and compare the iTunes movie service to Bell’s recently announced video download store, the Xbox 360 movie download service, the Amazon Unbox-to-TiVo video download service and the pending PS3 movie download service.

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Video Podcasts From TiVo Desktop 2.6.1 Just Work – Still Room For Improvement

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commandN.tv Podcast on TiVo TiVo Desktop version 2.6.1 (download here) was launched on April 9, 2008 (See TiVoPony’s announcement and Megazone’s post including TiVo’s press release). For TiVo Desktop users that have upgraded to TiVo Plus (U.S. $24.99), the most important new feature of version 2.6.1 is its integrated support for video podcasts.

[November 8, 2008 Update: I have stopped using TiVo Desktop approach for video podcast access, viewing and maintenance ever since I purchased AppleTV in August 2008. The entire video podcast experience on AppleTV is far superior to, and much less kludgy than, the TiVo solution.]

Video podcasts of your choosing can now be served up from your PC to your TiVo Series 2, 3 or TiVoHD. Once setup (see below) the TiVo Desktop software monitors your video podcast directories and automatically copies newly arrived video podcasts to your TiVo (sorted in podcast-specific folders).

This is a marked improvement over the prior ‘walled garden’-only offering – TiVoCast. With TiVoCast, (which still exists), TiVo chooses which video podcasts you can subscribe too (see my prior critique here). With the new 2.6.1 functionality, you decide which video podcasts you want on your TiVo.

Also, for the first time, version 2.6.1 provides TiVo Series 3 and TiVoHD users with higher quality PC to TiVo transfers. HD video content residing on your PC (video podcasts, TV shows, movies etc.) transfer to high definition TiVo units at 720p compared to 480p previously (480p is still used for HD transfers to Series 2 units).

While not being promoted by TiVo, the TiVo Desktop software can monitor any folder on your computer – not just podcast folders. So, when new content appears in that folder, say, for example, a BitTorrent folder, the software will automatically copy that content to your TiVo as well.

I installed and tested version 2.6.1 on my Vista 64 PC, and I’m delighted to report that it just plain works! A bit of a happy surprise given the hair pulling I’ve gone through with prior TiVo Desktop installs.

Below I describe the installation process, demonstrate how to use TiVo Desktop to serve video podcasts to your TiVo and discuss areas where improvements are still needed.

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Animoto – Professional Quality Videos From Your Pictures and Music for Just $3

Categories: how-tointeractive mediatravelweb apps
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animoto logo

In Episode 49 of the net@night podcast, Amber MacArthur and Leo Laporte interviewed the co-founder of animoto, Brad Jefferson. animoto is a web service that generates professional quality, customized videos from your images and music. FYI, here’s Leo’s video.

I decided to give it a whirl. I am impressed. So far I’ve ‘produced’ three videos including this one of my 2002 trip to Thailand (turn on your speakers for this).

The images in this video were taken from these Thai locations in this order: Bangkok (including the backpacker Mecca of Khao San Road), Ko Samui,Ko Tao, Phuket, Ko Phi Phi, Rai Leh, Ao Nang Krabi, Kanchanaburi (Bridge Over River Kwai), Phang-Nga then back to Ko Samui

Except for the uploading and processing time, assuming your pictures are generally ordered on your computer or hosted web service in the order you want them in your video, the process takes only about 10 minutes of your time.

Animoto ‘How To’ Summary

  • Select Images: Upload your pictures to animoto (one picture per second or two of music worked well for me). Alternatively, you can select pictures from your flickr, facebook, smugmug, picasa or photobucket account
  • Arrange Images: Arrange the photos in the order you wish. You can tell animoto which pictures to highlight in the video
  • Select Music: Select one of their canned tracks or upload an MP3 file from your computer
  • Payment: Pay either U.S. $3.00 per video, or $30 for a year long unlimited all-access pass, with Paypal or Google Checkout (unfortunately no credit cards yet). Note: See the referral program info below to get $5 off the all-access pass
  • Processing: animoto will churn away for an hour or two analyzing your pictures and chosen music and then create a customized video. animoto will email you a link to the finished product when done

Below I describe what you can do with the resulting video and provide a step by step guide, showing how I made the Thailand video.

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The Best Video Game Podcasts

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Below is, in my opinion, a list of the best video game podcasts ordered by preference. I have listened to, and abandoned, many video game-related podcasts. Those listed below have survived the culling and, with one exception, are recommended without hesitation.

1. The 1Up Yours Podcast:

1Up Yours Podcast LogoThis is my favourite video game podcast. It ‘airs’ Friday evenings. Despite 1Up Yours seemingly continuous personality turnover (Luke Smith – now with the Bungie podcast; Bryan Intihar -now with Insomniac Games; Dan ‘Shoe’ Hsu – now on permanent vacation), Host Garnett Lee, with Shane Bettenhausen, John Davison and a revolving set of guests consistently provide an entertaining and informative podcast week-in and week-out. My only criticism of the show is that it is often too long and the interesting content is usually held back to the the end. Otherwise, its the best video game podcast.

[January 22, 2009 Update: I’m saddened to report that with the demise of EGM and the purchase of 1Up by UGO, the January 22, 2009 episode of 1UP Yours was the last (read: The Last 1Up Yours). Another victim of the economic downturn. :( Shane Bettenhausen, a cornerstone of the show is joining game publisher Ignition Entertainment as Director of Business Development. Another show hosted by Garnet Lee is scheduled to replace it on the same feed starting January 30. ]

2. Game Theory Podcast :

game theory podcast logo The Game Theory podcast (formerly the Next-Gen.biz podcast) is also a terrific weekly video game podcast. While 1Up Yours is strong in  games coverage, the Game Theory podcast’s strength lies with its strong industry coverage. Gary Whitta & Colin Campbell are veteran video game industry reporters who put on an engaging and enlightening podcast. And, there’s something about their British accents that seems to elevate it. I highly recommend this podcast.

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Are the Days of Microsoft Points Numbered?

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Microsoft Points Card I recently listened to the March 31, 2008 EGM Live Podcast (download) where Garnett Lee interviewed Aaron Greenberg, Microsoft’s Director of Product Management for the Xbox 360 and Xbox Live. Among other topics, Aaron had the unenviable job of defending the concept of Microsoft Points (time index 17:40).

[Update: June 1, 2009: Today Microsoft announced ‘Games on Demand’. A feature to be launched in fall 2009 where full games can be purchased with credit cards. Finally, one small step away from Microsoft Points! See Gamasutra article.]

Reading several articles today on Sony’s pending PS3 on-demand service (see here, here and here) and Sony’s pending Playstation cards, to be denominated in local currency (here), it occurred to me that Microsoft’s use of points alone is going to become increasingly untenable as Microsoft’s key game/movie/TV show download competitors all offer competing products denominated and purchasable in local currencies.

Below I discuss Aaron’s arguments for Microsoft Points and what, to me, are overwhelming competitive arguments against them.

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