Category Archives: Apple Mac

Mattel Disney Pixar CARS: Mac iCar (The Apple Car)

© Disney/Pixar & Mattel Red Line Club

No, it is not scheduled to come out in the next two months.

Beyond that, who really knows?

My opinion is that it will be out at some future time.

The time doesn’t matter because whenever it comes out, Mattel will sell it by the bushels.

(A bushel of course, being 4 pecks … er, okay, how about 48 apples to a bushel as an Apple to apple comparison?  :-)  )

It is literally an ace up the sleeve … anytime they’ll need revenue for the CARS line, they can whip it out … er, roll it out.

There has always been some concerns that Mattel doesn’t have the right to issue the car or now that it’s been released, those theorists have now modified their fears that it was a limited one-shot deal.

First, that makes no sense logically. Unless there’s some huge falling out between Apple & Pixar, that fear makes very little sense. Is Apple very protective of its imagery and logo, of course – so is any corporation these days because dilution of trademark is well, dilution of trademark …

But in this case, Pixar & Apple could not be more closely tied together and in some senses, even more so than 99% of corporations. In fact, in most corporations, you find it easier to deal with an outside 3rd partner than another department because at least with a outside partner, everyone understands their motive is profit and branding while with two internal departments, the fear is you might make the other guy look good and he takes your job someday (or becomes your boss) … in the case of Apple & Pixar, John Lassetter can pick up the phone to Steve Jobs and vice versa to resolve any issues with one phone call – not many companies have two heads who actually work together as well. So, Apple & Steve Jobs knows that John Lassetter & Pixar is not going to place the Apple logo on a garbage barge … of course, Apple will want to review the design but if John Lassetter & Pixar signs off to Mattel, they will accept it as if their brother vouched for it.

Apple certainly isn’t going to need the licensing money from selling a Piston Cup racer but again, because of the close relationship – they trust Pixar much more than any two corporations can.

So, where does this lead us. Now, I have not look at this particular contract so I cannot say 100% anything but generally, when you agree to license your logo for a film property and for ancillary merchandise, you agree to license for a certain amount of time and with certain provisions for approval. In the case where the “film role” is a car, it’s natural that the merchandising include a facsimile diecast car … anything outside of this “role,” will require new approvals – for instance, if they decided they wanted to make an Apple Car playset (which does not appear in the film), they would need additional approval but the car will be included in the general merchandising rights. With that said, there are obvious sign-offs for approval for each appearance. For instance, Apple probably wouldn’t approve a “wrecked” version of the Apple car.

Conversely, Mattel realizes this car is not only wanted by the CARS collector but also by  Mac fans so there’s no real point in selling it as a single carded car when Mattel can make so much more selling it separately … (maybe not $250 as its going for on eBay) but certainly more than $3.59 … bottom line, Mattel could bundle a sealed box of 18 of just Dale Jr.’s & the Apple car and the store shelves would be stripped bare … so my prediction is that we won’t see the Apple CAR in another form until at least 2009 and it’ll be in some special format – why not, it’s clear people will pay anywhere from $40 to $75 for this car without a moment’s hesitation (at $250, the hesitation is a bit longer :-)  ).

But when will it be out is another question. We still have 4 long years before the next movie comes out – this car is worth its weight in gold to Mattel. They can release on tax day in a recession and make serious money with it. Imagine it bundled with a Pit Crew and a trailer? $99? $149?  AND it will sell out. So, there are hundred of CARS we’re still willing to buy so my prediction is it will be out but not just yet …

(With that said, look for an update to this chart in the next day or so :-)  ).

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Filed under Advertising, Apple, Apple Mac, Computing, Film, Internet, Marketing, Mattel Disney Pixar CARS, Media, Retail, TV

Mac’s: 66% Market Share – Facts Not Spin

It would be hilarious if it weren’t so sad. NPD’s report that Apple Mac’s market share of $1,000+ personal computer is 66% is not really subject to interpretation – except apparently for the last dying gasp of PC fans.

Here’s how this works.

Of the people who had and were willing to spend $1,000 on a personal computer, 66% looked, shopped and choose a Mac. It’s as simply as that.

You can dig further down but extrapolate that generally, the more well-heed your customers are, the better off you are (as a seller) – whether you’re selling cars, refrigerators or computers. For the company selling products, it generally means you have higher margins or better yet, have created a brand of higher value.

In other words, the market share of Windows OS personal computers in the $1,000+ group has slipped from 98% to 34% in 7 years. That is not a good trend.

Why is that? Part of the reason is that Microsoft has poisoned its own name. They traded short term profits (1992 to 2002) for long term branding. By neglecting Windows and placing their NAME large & square in FRONT of every virus report, every global trojan and the poor customer choice of blaming the hardware manufacturer who then blamed Microsoft for the user woes – what are they left with?

A brand that is perceived as a commodity that’s just built in – it’s the OS assigned to you at work much like the OS on the fax machine or the copier. It’s just there. Now, in the beginning of the desktop technology age (1985 to 1995), Microsoft’s brand held esteem as the leading edge of technology and why not buy the brand I’m using at work, right? Why not get my opportunity to own the leading edge also? But Microsoft frittered that away through arrogance, later neglect and now apparently cluelessness – what does the name Microsoft now mean to the average personal computing consumer?

It is the OS you get when you buy a $499 computer. It’s useable, it’s passable but that’s all it’s worth. How can we tell? What percentage of PC users paid for the full Vista upgrade? Versus what percentage of Mac users paid for the full retail upgrade?

And of course, now this stat. Which basically can be summed up as such: If I have or am willing to spend more than $1,000 on a personal computer, I’m 66% more likely to buy a Mac. That’s what the numbers say in black & white. Not many ways to spin it.

Whether you think Macs are over-priced does not matter in this equation because there are literally thousands of PC’s choices that are readily available – it’s not as though there is limited competition in the $1,000+ PC category – the bottom line is those can afford or are willing to spend more than $1,000 on a computer will 2 to 1 buy a Mac now after considering a PC.

That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with selling to the masses at the low end – there is certainly money to be made, the audience is large – the margins are much lower but it’s a living.

But PC fans & MS still think it’s 1995 – it’s not for Microsoft’s real reality. Face the facts, they are simply the low priced OS of “choice” for those who don’t wish to spend $1,000 on a personal computer. Microsoft should stop having pretensions otherwise, that is the problem. Somehow, because Bill Gates is worth $50 BILLION dollars, that means his company brand should carry high esteem and brand worth but it’s exactly like Wal-Mart. There are dozens of Wal-Mart billionaires also and like WM, the store – they are profitable but everytime WM tries to go upscale or even slightly upmarket, they get pushed back to their new natural order (with WM, it’s the George apparel line).

It is exactly the same with Microsoft now. They occupy the low tier of brand value for consumers now – hence why MSN, the ISP could not defeat AOL (after MS spent $4 BILLION dollars!), why WIN mobile phones sell so poorly after 8 years in the marketplace, nor could they “revolutionalize” the watch industry … not the home networking industry and why after 18 months, they have “shipped/sold” as many Zunes that Apple sells in 1 WEEK.

When given a CHOICE, consumers do not choose Microsoft unless price is the sole factor.

This is also why MSN Search is such a colossal failure – even when FREE and a switch is 2-seconds away, MSN or LIVE Search is still such a failure and LOSING market share after plowing $6 bilion in R&D & marketing.

Consumers didn’t randomly arrive at their mistrust and assignment of MS products and technology to the low tier/price as the sole factor in decision making – this is a hard fought battle of amazing neglect on Microsoft’s part. From blithely ignoring and blaming users for viruses and trojans, their solution after 6 YEARS and hundreds of millions of infections? – send us $100 for virus patches … to the case of the Xbox 360, instead of building consumer goodwill by actively acknowledging build & over-heating issues, again, their solution is to try and ignore the problem – again, poisoning their own well for a short term gain … triumphing 10-million console sales but not accounting for the 10-30% returned and non functional units … and after a year, they have lost 30% of the market to the Wii and slipping behind sales of the PS3 – the pattern repeats itself. They still have a fan base but beyond that?

This is a company that has literally and figuratively failed in EVERY consumer venture since 1995. The company has been propped up by enterprise sales so unlike most companies that can spend some $50 BILLION over the past ten years on divisions that has accounted for ZERO profit, they just keep plugging along as if showing up and saying we’re #1 is enough for everyone to fold up and go home. It doesn’t work that way in the consumer market. Microsoft should do two things – a) either just concentrate on the enterprise market or b) acknowledge that they are a lowly consumer brand and accept that fact and just sell on pricing. They have spent too long on poisoning their own name for anything loftier and even if you want to go upscale and upmarket – their recent attempts are just as feeble and ill-conceived such as the Zune or Vista – both positioned as if they’re cool and better than anyone else. They simply aren’t because it’s from Microsoft – a brand that consumers mistrust and associated with poor working technology. It can be fixed but first they have to get off their arrogant horse and realize they are riding an ass and not a horse – no one is fooled.

Buying Yahoo and/or causing further complications (such as requiring users to have a LIVE name to access anything) is only going to further sink their cause.

They are rapidly losing the highest margin customers to Apple. Those with more than $1,000 to spend on a computer are buying Macs 2 to 1.

We know in all computer sales, while PC sales have slowed to a few % points growth, Apple is galloping at 35% – of course, Apple is starting from a smaller base but growth is growth and apparently with each sale, Apple is obviously adding in revenue at $1k per machine while MS only adds $50 per machine in OEM Vista sales.

So, Microsoft is losing market share in the below $1,000 personal computer category – even to Linux in the below $500 category – and what is their response to forces pushing them in from all sides?

To buy Yahoo?

What happens if Google builds an internet desktop that doesn’t require Windows – knowing Google, it will be bundled for FREE with a $300 personal computer … leaving Microsoft with no high end margin sales (or very much diminished if Apple continues to add 35% growth every year) and Google gives away a free OS?

Windows 7 available in 3 years selling for $169 will resolve this?

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Filed under Advertising, Apple, Apple Mac, Computing, Design, Financial, Gadgets, Internet, Marketing, Media, Retail

Microsoft to Open Retail Stores: Bullet Proof Glass Industry Rejoices!

Appropriately, a web site called Fudzilla is reporting that Microsoft is going to open retail stores.

It’s time for shareholders to weep a little more.

Everytime, Microsoft has a brainstormin’ meeting, it’s more money down the drain:

Let’s buy Yahoo! ($45 BILLION)

Let’s launch a DAP/MP3 Player! (3% marketshare) ($1 BILLION)

XBox – The Xbox division is @$16 BILLION in the hole after 8 years.

MSN – $1.1 BILLION in R&D & a marketing blitz is all we need to get MSN going ($700 million – 2002), 2005 & 2007).

MSN is down to 8.4% (Google at 70%). Nice use of $2 BILLION dollars. Most people lose 50% of their market share in 2 years by not spending any money on a product, only MS can spend $2 BILLION for the same result.

Let’s spend 6 years and $6 BILLION on creating Vista … and of course …
“Microsoft is planning to promote the launch with a $500 million marketing campaign”

The list goes on and on – why? The simple fact is that when consumers have a choice, they do not choose Microsoft. This isn’t some whim. Microsoft worked hard to destroy their credibility as the leading edge of technology from 1995. After that, they simply thought they had everyone else locked down and out and could just rest so they offered products such as OSes riddled with hundreds of thousands of different infections … or me-too products such as PDA’s, watches, Talking Barney’s, video consoles, MP3 player, home networking or MSN and both an ISP & as search … all failures in the sense that they offered nothing new and they are ALL are losing money or losing market share.

In fact, they have become the “dollar-store” of technology. They are only worth buying if it’s rock bottom $399 pricing – why PC makers margins are all falling because of association with MS OS … why bother paying for even a $999 machine when it’s just going to run as well/poorly as a $399 machine?

Hey, if the shareholders don’t care, why should we?

Now, another meeting and another “brilliant” idea without mentioning you-know-who in the meeting.

It is almost laughable how clueless they are.

It would be like the IRS opening retail stores. Come. Mingle. Hang out.

Though this is a good plan for the bullet proof glass industry. You know Microsoft, they’re not just going to open 1 store at a time, that’s no way to spend money fast, if the budget isn’t a $1 BILLION, why bother so I’m sure they’ll sign 20-year leases at 100 locations.

Photo Courtesy of Pacific Bulletproof.com (where I go for my bullet proofing ;-) )

“Sir, I can’t help you, it’s a hardware issue – reformat the drive and then come back … yes, this is bulletproof glass, why do you ask? Have a nice MSN/Live Day!”

So, how exactly are you going to find employees to staff this place?

Who here would like to stand at a desk and answer questions about why ME, 2000, NT, XP or Vista is not functioning correctly?

Who thinks there might just be a few slightly annoyed to raging Windows customers?

Will they be taking red-button-of-death XBox returns and softly announce they’ll get another in 4-6 weeks?

Will they answer why Microsft Plays4Sure WMA is not the same as Zune WMA?

Can they point us to where the Apple store is in the mall?

Microsoft doesn’t really get that consumers don’t really like them. They don’t seem to notice that when consumers have a choice, they don’t buy MS. The OS issue is a heated one but let’s look at some more neutral markets. Look at the home networking gear they tried to sell. While there are some known brands, there are plenty of detractors for #1 & #2 but MS couldn’t even crack that market – why? Because MS poisoned the brand name. The average consumer took a look and decided – NO MORE IN MY HOUSE, DO NOT WANT.

Or using MSN search. It’s 100% FREE and takes 2 seconds to type and bookmark but now down to 8% market share? What does that tell you? That either their search results are poor or that consumers don’t believe their ‘technology’ is any good – either way, bad, bad news for MS.

That is why their retail stores will be a miserable failure as branding because they rank somewhere near the IRS. How often will you step into an IRS store to hang out?

AND at the IRS store, you know if you complain too much, they’ll audit you but aren’t you just going to go into the MS to vent and unload?

Yea, good luck finding employees.

(on the corporate side, they’re doing fine, IT guys made a choice and now are stuck with MS so whatever but when you’re spending your own cash, MS – DO NOT WANT).

Yet again, it proves that they are clueless about their place in the consumer’s mindset.

MS will build a 100 retail palaces because they think they are the king … but MS is really like those local cable ads where the guy wears a crown selling the very ordinary at a huge markup.

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Filed under Advertising, Apple, Apple Mac, Computing, Design, Financial, Internet, Marketing, Media, Retail, TV

Review: Neuros OSD MP4 Video Recorder + the Mac

The Neuros OSD is a deceptively simple looking device.

osd-3lsideanglejpg.jpg

It is a recorder that will record ANYTHING as a QUICKTIME Mp4 video file …

That’s right, ANYTHING that has RCA outputs and or S-Video, the Neuros OSD can record.

Cable TV
Satellite TV
DVD
VCR
TiVo
DVR
Video Game Screens

Anything … and unlike some current solutions, your storage is only limited by the USB hard drive you’re willing to buy … and unlike most solutions that require a proprietary hard drive, any USB drive will do … if you’re not much of a TV saver or you want ultra portability, you can record also onto:

Memory Stick: Duo and Pro Duo
Compact Flash: Type I and Type II
Microdrives with CF type II interface
Secure Digital (SD)
Multi Media Card (MMC)
USB thumbdrives

The Neuros OSD can pretty handle ANY format you can throw at it.

It is in many aspects a dream device.

Sure, a TiVo or DVR has good capacity but there is a limit unless you hack it and of course if you want to transfer a file to a computer or a portable device like an iPhone/iPod or PSP, that requires getting around a proprietary format like .tivo and/or DRM and/or having to convert from one format to another … or of course you can output to a DVD-R but then you have all these DVD-R’s after which you still have to convert from VOB to MPEG-4 … and it’s hard to edit out commercials or simply to edit. You have to convert from VOB to MPEG-4, edit and then re-output …

Doable but more work than necessary.

The Neuros OSD saves you time. It’s MPEG-4, if you want to watch on your Mac, iPhone, iPod or PSP, just save it in the scale size it prefers (480 x 320, etc, etc …) or if you prefer just a QT MPEG-4 ready for editing from iMovie to FCP, it’s already done. Of course, you can also just watch it on your TV.

The Neuros OSD does not have a lot of video plugs/ports though.

(1) S-Video IN
(1) “Mini” to RCA IN
(1) “Mini” to RCA OUT

(Most people might know them as camcorder out cables (pre firewire/USB days) – one end is the “mini” connector and the other end are the three headed RCA plugs of yellow for video and red/white for audio).

218x206_442cables.jpg

(there are some other plugs/ports I’ll cover later that do not have to do with video)

The simplest setup would be your cable/satellite box out via s-video and RCA’s to the Neuros OSD and then the Mini from your Neuros to your TV input (RCA’s).

There is no s-video out, no composite and no HDMI (in or out).

So, yes, no HD.

There is another Mini plug for the IR Blaster (which actually works-hurray!).

There is also a mini to serial port but unfortunately, it’s only for developer debugging.

There is an ethernet port for the network and on the other side, there are memory/flash card ports and a USB port.

So again, the basic setup is pretty straightforward.

For the price of a Neuros OSD (@$180), and a USB hard drive (in my case – 1TB for @$250), you have a 1 TB MPEG-4 DVR for about $430. A price that is not possible to beat. You can find, cobble, hack or buy a hacked TiVo, PC-based DVR or a retail 1TB DVR’s but other than DIY kits, you’re not going to find one for $430 – especially one that can putput a MPEG-4 file literally within seconds of setup.

BUT, it’s not for everyone.

If you can identity a USB plug from a firewire plug or know where the black nub is on a S-Video connector receptor, then the Neuros OSD & setup will work fine for you but if you cannot, then you might reconsider as the software and setup portion as it’s not really ready for the average person.

osd-10remotejpg.jpg

If you understand the setup choices outlined above, then the Neuros MIGHT be for you. Again, if you can identify your composite in and outs, which are component in and outs and all the other ports by sight, you’re fine and/or if you don’t mind experimenting – then you’ve passed the first test and you may proceed to the next level.

THE SOFTWARE/UI

There are two parts. First, the on-screen “OS” is functional – though it could stand much improvement but it’s not the worst on-screen menu design.

And of course, the UI & OS are still very much a work in progress with apparently a major OS upgrade coming in a few weeks though it’s impossible to say what will be improved and what will not.

Like most Linux based OSes, there are some aspects of this OS with a thousand choices (well, okay not 1,000 :-) but taking up a huge chunk of real estate) while other seemingly important choices are grouped with much lesser functions.

I’m not going to go into great detail as some might be fixed in the upcoming major firmware revision but suffice to say, you are warned that it’s not exactly like plugging a VCR – think more like a programmable remote. All the features are there, you just have to wade through its reasoning.

And yes, I uttered the phrase ‘firmware revision.’

The “Hidden” OS portion …

Which of course is good and bad. Good that it’s being upgraded all the time and not so good that you have to update the OS (but of course, only if you want). If you have it hooked up to the internet, it will ask you if you want to update if there’s an update.

For people who know Linux or commands, you are set, go out and buy the Neuros already. For those who are not, the TV functions are nice looking and for the most part function fine and you can’t really wander off the reservation into command line territory so don’t be scared by that but for those who know/love Linux, it’s an extra bonus … for instance, you can telnet and remotely set or change the record function. For those that do not understand the last sentence, the good thing is somebody might be kind enough to write a web browser accessible page in the future – so that everyone can remotely access their Neuros graphically … but no promises.

The Remote

The next part of the problem is that the setup is done entirely with the remote and frankly, the Neuros IR eye is not very sensitive to this and while this remote is seemingly designed for the Neuros OSD, it’s not very well designed for it. The important HOME button should be larger and well, it’s just not very well thought out from a user point of view – clearly they just took an average remote and crammed in the Neuros functions on it.

It’s not horrible, it’s just not as good as it can be.

Other User Notes

One huge major flaw is the inability to type titles with a keyboard. And there’s no qwerty keys on the remote … so you get random sequential file names – now, if you intend to port everything over to your Mac to edit or load onto an iPhone/iPod, it’s not a huge deal since you’re probably going to open the files anyway to trim the beginning and end but unlike TiVo or most DVR’s, there’s no thumbnail, preview or any indication what you recorded when you get to your text list of things you recorded. You have to hit play before you can see what it is. So, if you just want a massive DVR for TV viewing and you’re the type who hates to have to remember to type in a name while you’re setting the record function or go back and have to add it later – this is probably not the way to go as you’ll get frustrated both by trying to edit its name on screen and not knowing what your dozens to hundreds of shows actually are.

PICTURE QUALITY

Beyond its user functionality. Of course, the critical consideration is picture/video quality. It’s not HD but you can select 2500 kpbs which is the encoding rate for AppleTV and/or directly select a setting for your iPhone/iPod or PSP. The final image is a little soft but acceptable. Honestly, my opinion is its fine for viewing on a smaller TV or monitor and it’s fine for the iPod/iPhone/PSP but beyond that, that will be your call. Personally, I found it too soft for archival purposes unless you’re only interested in watching it on a portable device or on a laptop … it works fine for me as that’s all I’m interested in. If you want a back up of a DVD at its best resolution, I’d still advise using Handbrake as it creates a much crisper file. (Our HT and subsequent Handbrake, MPEG Streamclip & El Gato Turbo Stick tips & reviews). But if you find the quality acceptable, it is generally a quicker backup to hit PLAY on your DVD into the Neuros OSD than if ripped it via Handbrake unless you have a quad-core Mac Pro, then it might be close … and if you can spare the bandwidth, I would advice ripping it in Handbrake.

Here’s your checklist:

If you’re interested in a expandable PVR where you can literally record some 600 movies (on a 1 TB drive) and you don’t mind it a little softer than your typical cable reception … plus the advantage of no DRM to transfer to a portable device or to a desktop computer for editing, it’s a great way to go.

If you want to convert VCR files to MPEG-4, you pretty get what you see – so if you have a nicer VCR with s-video outs, it’s about a 98% video quality “preservation” transfer. Good enough for VHS.

If your goal is to back up your DVD collection, depending on picky you are, the resolution might be a tad too soft. It still looks very, very nice – it’s just not “virtually” a DVD picture resolution – again, if your intention is to watch it on an iPod/iPhone/PSP for your morning commute or on a plane, it’s fine. If you want to watch your DVD’s on your laptop without carrying discs or the dreaded 10-pre roll ads plus FBI warning, it’s pretty good. It’s probably not for watching Blade Runner for the first time on your laptop but if you’re watching it on a re-sized window, it should be fine.

Unlike Handbrake which will rip you a MPEG-4 file of your DVD that is virtually identical to the DVD – Neuros is not quite there. So, if your preference to watching video on a 17″ laptop monitor is full screen or death, you should still back up your DVD’s using Handbrake.

But it is subjective and you might think I’m being too picky.

INPUTS & OUT

The main problem is you only have one s-video in and no s-video or composite out which would improve the picture quality greatly.

Here are some screen shots that give you a decent idea of the resolution loss:

Here is a scene from the film CARS when it focuses on #86 Chick Hicks who has a lot of sponsors and detailed text on screen

I also selected CARS because in addition to my DVD rip, it is playing as an HD video-on-demand choice this month and of course, I still have my DVD.

The screensnaps below were opened in Photoshop only to resize to fit WordPress. No color adjustments were made. Also note, a screensnap of a paused QT video screen is not necessarily a 100% accurate representation of the true image but it’s a relatively accurate apples to apples comparison.

#1 is from a DVD – converted by Handbrake using the Apple TV setting.

(2500 kbps bit rate plus other settings automatically included when selecting ‘AppleTV’ in Handbrake)

You can not find much fault with the MPEG-4 file converted from a DVD VOB file.

#2 is from a DVD – as played by a Pioneer DVD player and into the Neuros OSD.

(2500 kbps bit rate plus other settings automatically included when selecting 2500 kpbs in Neuros OSD)

You can clearly see that it’s “pretty good” but not nearly as sharp as a DVD rip.

#3 is from Cable TV – Comcast HD VOD into the Neuros OSD.

(2500 kbps bit rate plus other settings automatically included when selecting 2500 kpbs in Neuros OSD). Though note, since the Neuros OSD only has S-video in’s, of course, it’s not TRUE HD being recorded but it is still much higher resolution and less compression than regular cable.

You can clearly see that it’s slightly different from DVD to Neuros OSD but about the same resolution – again, “pretty good” but not nearly as sharp as a straight DVD rip.

Again, how many films are going to require you to read text throughout?, this scene is about 2 seconds long. And keep in mind, that you can pretty much read all the logos you can can in scenario #1 so again, it’s a matter of your standards and your final viewing hardware choice.

Is the Neuros OSD the best solution for archiving DVD’s? No.

Is the Neuros OSD good enough for using as a TiVo/PVR to record and erase after watching? Yes.

Is the Neuros OSD good enough to transfer over to a portable device? Yes.

Is the Neuros OSD good enough to transfer over to a laptop or desktop? Yes.

For the three yes’ above, are you compromising – yes but it’s hard to beat for a $170 PVR that can record anywhere from 60 to 600 movies by adding a HDD ($100 – $300) for an out-the-door price of $270 to $500.

And you get a file to edit.

If you want the easiest way to get a video file for editing, again, hard to beat something that can record in MPEG-4 – ANYTHING you can output via RCA’s.

You can simply unplug your hard drive and connect it to your Mac.

You can set up the networking feature, mount it as a remote drive and copy files over.

Then just drag or import into iMovie, Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro.

Then you can ‘sharpen’ the resolution before outputting.

It’s not “broadcast” quality but it’s fine for the iPhone/iPod and watching on a laptop as long as full screen 17″ HD is not your minimum requirement.

The alternative is a DVD-R recorder. The Panasonic one I have is great but if you want one with a 250GB HDD, it’s over $700 dollars and you have DVD-R’s ($.30 each) to contend with – you can only fit about 4 hours and 20 minutes (at standard resolution) on one and then you have to convert from VOB to MPEG-4 before editing and of course, DVD-R’s and DVD-R recorders are flakey, you have to ‘finalize’ each disc and that’s just one more possibility of a file error … so are the hassles, convenience, time savings and cost of the hardware setup worth a 5-10% tradeoff in resolution from a DVD recorder?

That’s your call to make.

Other Relevant

AND hopefully, the next firmware upgrade will improve the picture quality even more. I’ll let you know if it does.

Other things to note – the file size is about the same as a Handbrake rip – about 1.5 GB for a 90 minute movie or about 1GB per hour.

Each file is limited to 4GB or about 4 hours – it will continue to record but only after FINALIZING this file at around the 4-hour mark before continuing so if your interest is to tape sports only, this might not be for you as during the finalizing phase, it will STOP RECORDING to finalize the file before starting a new file for the next 4-hours period. This will take @15-seconds.

So, you will have a 15-second gap. Of course, if you’re watching. You can stop during a commercial break and you can start a new recording session and then edit them together or hope that stop/finalize/restart new file takes place during a break in the action.

Also note, it only has one tuner and/or software that can only do one function at a time so unlike my DVD-recorder where I can enter the next recording schedule while it’s already recording, the Neuros OSD will ask you if you want to stop recording. But the IR Blaster works great in changing channels so just remember to set all your programming in advance before it actually starts recording.

The remote control works best when the side of the Neuros with the compact flash card is facing towards you.

The initial setup & understanding of what’s going one will take you a couple hours including testing so it’s not exactly like swapping out a VCR where you are ready to go in 5-minutes. This will take some time and some tweaking.

AND remember, only ONE input so you will need a solid intermediary machine to handle more than one input before feeding into the Neuros – and a NON OR POWERED SWITCHER does NOT WORK … at least not for me. It degenerated the video quality even more. You will need a high quality receiver/switcher that is an actual video component if you’re interested in feeding a VCR/DVD-R/DVD/Video game console or anything else into the Neuros OSD (of course, you can just switch cables since it can only record one input at a time anyway).

Other Nice Points

The Neuros Forum/help/support is amazing. I have never had a question that was not answered correctly or promptly within 12 hours

Summary

A fun DIY video recorder that works as promised. It could stand with some improvement in many areas including more inputs, better OS/UI and slightly better video quality (but that might be solved with higher end inputs such as composite in’s).

It does a lot for an inexpensive price with a lot of flexibility – particularly for those who are tired of wonky DRM transfer technology and or time-consuming conversions for editing.

Not perfect but still pretty cool.

Can’t wait for Neuros OSD v2.0

I also can’t help but recommend Amazon, the first one I got had a flawed IR Blaster port (no connector) – Amazon shipped me out another one overnight without waiting for me to mail back the other one – great customer service!

Mac Users Hard Drive Additional Notes

The drive needs to be formatted in FAT32 mode so the Linux OS can recognize. Most drives are formatted for the PC but to be absolutely sure, launch DISK UTILITY (in the UTILITIES folder) and format it for MS-DOS. This will take 30-minutes or so.

There are also some great deals at Amazon on 1TB drives.

I bought the Western Digital My Book 1 TB drive (USB) for only about $220 (for 1 TB!!). Looks nice, fairly compact and quiet. Only real non-feature is it has no on/off switch but not a huge biggie – just make sure it’s sleeping when you unplug it. If you want Firewire & SATA, you can step up for more connectors for about $30 more. (the Neuros OSD only has a USB connector port but if you manually will switch your drive for editing or transfer to your Mac, then the Firewire version might be your prefered choice).

Have fun!

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MacBook Air: Not For You So Don’t Panic

Quick, name the perfect product for everyone?

Air, the other one? The thing we breathe? Yea, how is that air in Houston in August or in Beijing?

Um, not so perfect.

Water? Who here only drinks tap? Don’t we like it flavored, carbonated, with taurine, mint or almost anyone other than tap?

So, not water … but apparently if it’s announced from Apple, it must be 100% perfect for everyone at all times.

Yea, not too high of a benchmark so that anything that falls slightly short of that is a “failure” or “disaster.”

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The MacBook Air is what it is. It’s a lightweight fairly speedy laptop with emphasis on lightweight.

Is it for everyone? No.

It’s for road warriors and those who are tired of carrying a heavy laptop around. For those that have NEVER traveled for an extended period with a laptop – you just don’t know. Holding it in a store for a minute is NOT the same thing. At the store holding it for a minute, you can’t justify spending a few hundred dollars extra but try running down a mile-long airport terminal or carrying a bag full of printed collateral and then ask yourself if 2 lbs, 4 lbs, etc. extra is worth the difference? Until you’re at that point you simply don’t know or don’t need an Air or any other ultraportable.

All you see is what’s “missing” but when you’re schelping a 5 lb or 7 lb laptop from room to room and then around a giant Pentagon like building – that’s when you wonder – how much weight are those extra CAMERA memory slots or how many peripherals do I need to plug into this thing at once? This is NOT a desktop machine for everyone. Is Apple not manufacturing any of their other lines or computers? No. You want full power and have the room? Buy the desktop Mac Pro. You want an all-in-one? Buy an iMac. You want portability on a budget and are willing to trade a little speed and screen size? Buy a MacBook. Need the most features, speed and screen size? Buy a MacBook Pro. You choose what you want – everything in this world including Macs are a compromise in some way because there’s no perfect for everyone 100% of the time but for those who want thin, light, good enough speed, a nice screen, OSX, and a full keyboard?

The MacBook Air has a lot of nice touches …

The Apple Air has built in WiFi and the new Remote which lets you mount a CD or DVD on a nearby machine – what more do you need?

Want security or recovery utilities – a 16 GB USB stick weighs a few ounces or would you rather carry around a bulky optical drive internally or externally?

Still without WiFi at home or at the office? How about a $8 connector from Ethernet to USB that weighs a few ounces.

Can’t live without extra USB ports? Unpowered or Powered.

At home, you can add the Apple Time Capsule so you can print, share a hard drive and of course access the internet via WiFi:

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As for the “non-removable” battery, AppleInsider points out it’s a three minute job but more importantly, in a few weeks, I’m sure there will be a USB long life external battery which is even BETTER that it’s external. First, you’re going to have to carry a spare battery anyway whether it’s internal or external, they both weigh about the same – and with an external battery, you can charge it without having to insert it into your larop OR carry around its own charger AND even better, when your internal battery goes low, you can simply plug in the external battery (presumably through the USB) and best of all, without having to shut down and remove the other battery.

So for those worried to no end about a battery that is not removeable is simply over worrying the solution. Of course, the perfect solution would be a battery that would run for 19 hours but until we get to that point, saving a few lbs is much more important than whether the additional 1 lb battery I have to carry anyway is external or internal.

The MacBook Air is clearly NOT for everyone but finally a full sized laptop in screen, speed & keyboard but one that weighs much like a sub notebook. The thin-ness is an extra bonus. Just ask the ‘road warriors’ what’s at the top of their wish list? The MacBook Air delivers 98% of what’s most important – bulk, screen size, processor speed, battery life and keyboard size.

Along with the built-in WiFi and a USB stick, the remaining 2% is easily manageable.

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Hello From MacWorld 2008

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Not actually blogging from here since we’re only #72,000 on Technorati :-) … there are only about 15 seats … maybe next year.

Other than the keynote, there’s not much to see that’s new – I don’t think Adobe is even here. The nicest booth by far is Belkin’s

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If this were in Venice, it’d be about $900,000.

The coolest booth is Crumpler (they make messenger and brief bags). It’s a castle made up of interlocking cardboard or some sort of polymer board.

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Only thing I bought From XtremeMac:

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I took a photo of the MacBook Air but not only were there way too many people crowded around it, there is no way a photo can do it justice in how thin it is. If you have a pad of yellow legal pads … yea, that’s your MacBook Air. It’s pretty amaazing and of course, me wantee. Apple website. Ad for Air. Guided Tour – multiple resolutions + downloads.

The updated AppleTV looks very nice – also with a Guided Tour. In case you missed it, the big news is Movie Rentals from all the movie studios and even in HD!

And linked with Leopard’s “Time Machine” backup feature, Time Capsule with allows you to back up wirelessly.

So, nothing as startling as last year’s iPhone but honestly, how many iPhone-like cottage industries can you pull out year afer year :-)

Not sure why some people were so sure about a 3G iPhone … the 3G iPhone is ready to go when AT&T is ready and when Apple needs the sales boost.

The Tablet Mac? Pleezeee … Outside of 5,000 people and apparently 900 squeaky-wheel bloggers and analysts, hardly anyone cares or actually wants one – how are those WIN tablet sales? EGGXACTLY!

Everything released was nice, interesting and useful – it’s nothing revolutionary but that’s fine. Not every keynote can be revolutionary. Making food into pellets is revolutionary but sometimes you just want a juicy burger, eh?

Speaking of food, of course, just one block away – a dozen Beard Papa’s fresh giant cream puffs …

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The best food surrounding a convention center in America … unless of course, you enjoy $8 pizza made in 2005 and reheated … oh, and it’s sunny and 65 degrees here in SF so come on by!

(PS – Of course for those that keep track of such things – Best Booth Babes – Skull Candy and best DJ!)

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The Apple CGI I’m a Mac Santa Holiday Ad

In case you missed it – cute, funny, nicely done!

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(click on screen shot – Apple.com)

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