Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Toshiba Stor.e TV Review

Short and sweet: Sucks.

Long and boring, supports "basic" video, audio and photo content including Divx/Xvid (720x576 max resolution), MPEG2 (VOB etc.) and some other useless formats. MP3, WMA etc. without DRM (no complaints there) and JPG, PNG etc. on the image side.

Interface is the bare minimum, you have the standard "Videos", "Music" and "Photos" sections as well as USB for external devices you may connect to it, you cannot search for ANYTHING and all are listed in alphabetical order. If this was 1998 and this was a 40GB Hard Disk I would say "Brilliant" but a TB worth of flicks, tunes and pics and it's simply a mess... Advice is come up with a good filing structure and stick to it.

Format support for video is pretty terrible, yeah it plays Divx and Xvid, but that is just soooo 90s! How about some h/x264 support? And even container support, no MKV? AVI really? I am not expecting HD format support on a $100 device but no support for h264 means that I have to re-encode all of my Handbrake DVD rips to Xvid as opposed to just copying them from my media center and that is crap.

Ok well I could almost forgive the support limitations if I could change the damn aspect ratio! See the problem is that the thing expects all video to be formatted in 4:3 (or 1:33 or something close to it) with zero support for anything else. Considering the thing supports 720p/1080i upscale over HDMI I can't be the only person in the world who expects their 16:9 content to not stretch vertically! Total Shite.

Last point is support. Toshiba has yet to release a single firmware update or answer the paltry 2-3 comments on the support site regarding this product (forget searching the web for support, as no one is stupid enough to have purchased this product... well almost).


Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Note to LG, please update your website. The BE08UL20 DOES NOT SUPPORT HD-DVD!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


When working in any business environment, religion or politics it becomes apparent rather quickly that the higher one's opinion of themselves, the lower their opinion of others.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Africa on the "cusp"

Just before I got married my now-wife asked me to get a job "somewhere exotic", she had no idea what she was getting into.

One day I got a call from a former customer (I am an IT consultant by trade) asking me to come back to the organization to lead a large technical deployment. Having worked for this customer on/off for several years and seeing my life changing with a pending wedding I said "Yes, on one condition. After I have completed the project I would like a real-job".

They came through and for the last year and a half we have been living in Johannesburg, South Africa. We have since seen the birth of our first child and have another on the way and as my wife now puts it "South Africa is just not exotic enough to forgive it's shortcomings".

I grew up on the continent mostly in West and Central Africa and some time in southern as well so before we made the move I had a good idea of the journey we were embarking on, but times have changed and although South Africa is truly a shining star in many ways, there are times the tarnish shows through. I won't delve too deeply into the political and social challenges this country faces, when one looks past the crime and the sometimes very obvious divide between the "haves and the have-nots" South Africa is a fantastic example of the best and worst that humanity has to offer, but I digress as this is not the point of this rant.

So what is the point? Technology.

I am responsible for IT and Telecommunications for Southern Africa, I also spend a good deal of time working in West and Central Africa as well, I can say this much, when it comes to technology I would take South Africa any day and that is just not saying much.

We still have a concept in this country for home Internet access that for folks in Europe, most of Asia and North/South America would be completely alien: Bandwith Caps.

That's correct, the majority of the providers sell you a "cap" (normally in increments of 1GB/Month), use it up and you have to call the provider and "top up". Insane in 2010? You bet ya! The argument is that by selling caps the providers are able to lower the per-month cost and provide Internet accessibility to lower income communities. I call bullshit.

Well as stated earlier I am in the "biz" and spend the great majority of my time connected. I need access to VPNs and Servers World wide and I simply cannot be in the middle of some upgrade or downloading a giant patch and have my provider say "time to top-up!". So when we moved I went on a quest to find a provider who could give me an unlimited Internet option without requiring a mortgage for the monthly payment.

While there are now a few additional options for unlimited bandwidth in SA, there were far fewer when we arrived and even then they all depend on copper (ADSL) and no matter how you slice it or who you write a check to every month, when it comes down to it these solutions all go through one big Monopoly who shall remain nameless, a company who's reputation is well, not stellar.

So I went with the new kid on-the-block, one who is laying fiber like they own the place (if you live in SA you know who I am talking about). These folks are taking over a bit at a time in the business space (SA has been toying with deregulation of sorts) and where you hear the name come up a good deal in this space as a fiber provider you rarely hear of them for last-mile and almost never when it comes to home solutions, but indeed they offer home access both capped and uncapped and the solution I went with originally is simply bizarre.

The home solution, provided by the company with more fiber per km2 is get this: EVDO/CDMA! Yep, they sent me a phone. It is a Du Pont CDMA2000 phone with a USB cable, you plug it in and use your PPP to connect to the network, costs almost $120 a month and depending on your area is supposed to provide 1Mbps down and "who knows" up.

I have been using that service for over a year, the 1Mbps is more like 300Kbps and the up speed makes me swear I hear a modem tone when in use but we have been able to Skype with the folks back home and the grandparents have been able to watch their grand-child grow up (albeit looking a bit like an impressionist painting) and my wife can chat with family and friends. All-in-all it works 90% of the time and I have never felt the need to experiment with the copper providers and their awesome jimmy-hats.

I miss FIOS.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Stuff you can't "Un-see"

Was reading about Budd Dwyer today and remembering when I was a teenager outside of Philadelphia back in the 80s. I remember coming home from school early due to a teacher conference and catching up on some cartoons at my Grandmother's house. Now my memory is a bit foggy on the details but I remember a "Breaking News" story with a press conference for the then-embattled Treasurer of Pennsylvania, the details are not relevant but he was up on charges of taking bribes and was due to be sentenced when he called the press conference to "discuss recent developments". Well if you don't know the story (i.e. you are not from Pennsylvania) he talked for a few minutes, handed out some envelopes then promptly shot himself on live television.

Reading the article I saw a link to the press conference and clicked it. Huge mistake, coverage was in full color and a different angle from what I saw that day in 1987 and suffice it to say will stick with me far longer than what I saw the first time.

Sometimes I long for the days before the Internet, before I could either intentionally or accidentally click on stuff that I cannot "un-see".

World of Stupid

Are people becoming stupid?

Nope, people have always been stupid.

I guarantee that the majority population of any great civilization is history were dumb as nails, only difference now is visibility. Take the Darwin awards, granted 90% of the stories are bogus or "urban legend" but to earn that status they have been around a while.

The press makes a huge deal about the lack of education in maths and science and how we are all doomed to future dystopia but lets be honest we live in an amazing time! Shit, we have iPads and Pods and Hybrid cars and the WWW and I am pretty sure these were invented by modern people with modern education.

So what is the issue? Visibility.

If the Internet had existed in AD 400 I promise you the viral video of the day would have been Claudius getting shit on by a horse or Octavius "ghost riding" his chariot into a tree in all their glory on "YovTvbe".

Have a look at this link to Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_inventors_killed_by_their_own_inventions need I say more?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Oh my.

My parents asked me if I heard the news that Obama wanted to shut down Fox News. My wife's response: "Did you hear that on Fox News?" Hilarious.

Windows update ate my life...

You may not remember (some may be too young) but there was a time when you did not have to update Windows.

This was a glorious time when people used PCs to work on documents, spreadsheets and yes even play a game or two. We used MBASIC, CBASIC and Apple BASIC to write small programs and now and then we would listen to the glorious tones of our 1200 Baud modems as we connected to CompuServe, Prodigy or our favorite BBS to catch up on the news or chat with friends. When we were done we would park our Hard Disk (lucky sods) or eject our floppy and shut down to go pop that new movie from BlockBuster into the VCR and grab a pint while we fast forwarded through the previews…

That time is gone.

I boot my computer (or wake it up) in the morning and click “yes” to the Windows Update message (that is if your computer did not reboot automatically after updating, of course killing that super-cool game demo download I had going during the night), then I click “yes” to updating the Anti-virus update, oh yes please the engine and the DAT files… Oh wait looks like my CD Burning software needs an update as well? But of course “yes”. Wait what’s that? I should update my media player as well, um if you must, “yes”. My browser? Are you absolutely sure? Ok fine go ahead, “yes”…

Several reboots later I get down to work.

Long day, I am going to go relax and play a little Xbox (or PS3 or Wii, oh you get it) fire that puppy up and get ready to do some “fragging”! Oh come now, you want me to update my system BEFORE I can play? Fine! “YES”. What! You want me to update the GAME as well! “yes”, “Yes”, YES” (button mashing sound)…

Well at least I got my frustration out on that game, time to watch that new Blu-Ray I got from Netflix. Yeah some Sci-fi! Oh OK honey sure we can watch the romantic comedy I know you have been waiting to see it. Pop in that disk and hit play… YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS! I need to update my Blu-Ray player to support the new features on this disk?

I give up, I am afraid to start my car in the morning.

Sorry, I have to go… My PC needs to reboot for an update.