Monthly Archives: April 2007

Mac Movie DVD Cataloging: Bring iSight

Well, maybe there’s not enough forest logging apps for the Mac but when it comes to movie DVD cataloging, there are a slew of major shareware & commercial choices.

What’s nice is that everyone allows you a download and a chance to test out loading 10-25 DVD’s before it stops – except for one app, all of the features seem to work in the demo mode.

Finally though, when all is said and done, no surprise, you only have about 4 real choices.

You also need to keep in mind that everyone’s needs are different but I think there are basically three types of people when it comes to DVD cataloging:

The “Don’t Care” about it group.

The “It Might Be Nice to Know” group.

And finally, “I have thousands and thousands of pieces of media – I Gotta make a List” group.

I fall into the third as I’m discovering I’m getting Netflix movies that I own – stupid, stupid, stupid …

Let’s start with the easiest group – if you have a couple dozen DVD’s and you don’t really care – hey, you’re done 🙂 You can use TEXTEDIT or EXCEL and you’re ready to go.

For the next group, the mildly interested but not critical group – maybe you have a couple hundred DVD’s and you’d like to catalog them but you don’t want to spend too much time on it – when you’re watching the playoff game, you can grab a bunch of stacks and be done with. If you’re in this group, there are two to choose from:

DVD CACHE

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A very straightforward and easy to use DVD cataloger. As you can see, adding a new movie is easy to understand – click on ADD and a window will appear – type in your movie name and click on AMAZON or IMDB and it will search their database. You are presented with some choices – click the one that you want and it will load info from their database (as you can see in the screenshot).

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If you double click on the movie, you will get a detailed window that’s nicely done (as you can see) with lots of detailed popups, check-marks and fill-in areas. It’s a nice balance of details hidden in the background with more info right upfront. It’s fast, nice looking and apparently the database can also support music, books and video games. So, for $20, you can catalog the house.

The one major problem? The iSight video screen would appear and I could see the barcode and it would scan the barcode – changing from RED to GREEN as an indicator the barcode was accepted. As the iSight window disappeared, it would seem to mean info should pop up in the fill in box but nothing happened – tested several movies – all major releases – no transfer of data so maybe it’s just the demo but difficult to gauge if it’s just an anomaly with me (all other DVD catalogers that accept iSight worked fine) or a major problem. Typing in the info manually and searching AMAZON worked fine & fast. So, if you only have a couple dozen DVD’s – whether the iSight works or not, it’s not a major hinderance but clearly if you intend to catalog a couple hundred movies, books and/or video games, you’ll need to test out if your iSight or scanner works for you on this app but otherwise, no complaints, looks great and is fast.

DELICIOUS LIBRARY

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Damn, it’s a good looking app. It also does books, music & video games so if you’re looking for all all-in-one, this is a great way to go for $39. Adding titles could not be easier. Click on the category and then select ADD. You will get a choice on the right for SEARCH, BARCODE or MANUAL. Just wave your iSight or any other barcode scanner and it searches the Amazon DB for your title – you select the one you want and it fills in as seen on the right above. Clicking on MY INFO brings up some personal user info you might want to add – if you loaned it out, etc … If you click on SIMILAR, it offers a few dozen recommendations along with DVD artwork. It’s fast and it’s without a doubt, one of the best looking Mac apps ever. It’s one of the few DVD catalogers smart enough to keep all artwork from Amazon the same size – though it’s not able to resize to fill, if the artwork is smaller, it will add white space on the sides.

Downside? It only searches AMAZON so if you’re like me who has movies from overseas or lots of obscure titles, you have to spend all your time manually inputting in a lot of info that Amazon doesn’t sell. For us true film geeks, there are also not enough boxes of film details to complete – you cannot change their categories that are visible – for instance, I don’t really care what I paid for a DVD but to them, it’s MORE important as the director – there is NO director line and you cannot modify their choices. They also have a line for the selling price on Amazon right now so I suppose if you want a really pretty app to file insurance claims, here ya go. Plus, it seems a lot of clutter and storage space to store all of the recommendations.

So, it’s great for casual users, if you have a couple hundred movies, same in books, CD’s and videogames. You’d like to know what you have but you’re not a big film buff (No Director listing??!!), this app does let you DB all your entertainment media but for anyone who wants to build more than just a listing DB, Delicious LIbrary is pretty but ultimately empty headed.

And now for the serious DVD collector who wants ease of use, mass customization, fast and an interface that makes sense so your two candidates of choice are:

MOVIE COLLECTOR

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From Collectorz, Movie Collector is nearly perfect – it’s fast, it looks great – second only to Delicious Library but more importantly, it’s built for power users. When you double click on each movie title, as you can see below, it brings up an incredibly well thought out subset of tabs with literally hundreds of entries options. While it might be overwhelming for some, for some of us, 1.85 anamorphic is different than 1.85 letterboxed and we welcome attention to detail. What’s also great is the search, it is set up to search about 10 DVD stores WORLDWIDE so it will most likely pick up international DVD’s (though not most Asian). You can turn on or off the stores you want to search and another nice touch, you can enter many titles and then have it do a massive search in order. It’s a bit costlier than most at $39 and only for DVD’s (Collectorz also sells a separate book and CD cataloger app) but it is nearly everything you’d want.

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It’s really only missing is the “main” folder format is not very eloquent. Instead of one massive library, if you decide you want to view by folder, for instance, if you decide to split movies by genre, then you only have one viewing option – it’s still one of the best looking panels but you lose some options. A minor quibble. A larger decision is that it does not accept iSight but they have a special barcode scanner they sell. It’s not cheap at over $130 so it’s a big decision. If you plan on also cataloging hundreds of thousands of books and CD’s – it would definitely be worth your while – one impressive feature is it can store 500 barcodes before plugging it back into your Mac (via USB) and then upload those 500 – so instead of having to schlep thousands of CD’s/DVD’s and books to your Mac, you can simply carry the scanner to the shelves. That is pretty nice for people with massive collections.

So, if it accepted iSight, I would say this is the best choice without hesitation but in having to buy their barcode scanner, even a very useful scanner, you have to decide if it’s worthwhile to you. I would say if you’re going to want to scan your books and CD’s and buy their other apps – then definitely go with MOVIE COLLECTOR/BOOK COLLECTOR/CD COLLECTOR.

DVDpedia

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While not as nice looking as some of the others, it is an excellent deal at $18. You get all the features you’d want – sensible controls, export formats, nice viewing area, good and detailed controls (not as many as MOVIE COLLECTOR) but enough to satisfy even most fanatic collectors. What’s nice are that you can actually download additional templates or even create your own all for no additional cost. In fact, there are add-ons for even changing the look of the icons and export to a large variety of other apps. Of course, you can toggle on or off about 100 categories as your viewing window. Entering data from iSight works great – if fact, often times, I’m still trying to get the barcode straight when it has already scanned it so if you have an iSight, it’s a great price with lots of features.

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It’s not nearly as nice looking as MOVIE COLLECTOR or DELICIOUS LIBRARY and there is one annoying thing with the scanning – if it can’t find it at Amazon, you have to manually select another choice and then remember to switch back – so while it can access 10 DVD stores online plus IMDB to check for info, it will only look for info in one place at a time. The other minor quibble are the panels and design are not nearly as nice looking as MOVIE COLLECTOR though the folders view work just like iTunes so that’s nice – even the choices you can download are adequate to nice but nothing as nice looking as MOVIE COLLECTOR’s basic choice – however, only DVDpedia offers you a chance to download dozens of different plug-in’s.

SUMMARY

So, if your needs are not great, DVD Cache or Delicious Library are fine choices, Delicious also catalogs books, CD’s and videogames and iSight definitely works with Delicious. It does cost twice as much as DVD Cache which also does books & CD’s but make sure iSight works for you before committing.

If you have thousands of DVD’s, thousand’s of CD’s and thousands of books, the Movie/Book/CD Collector apps (each sold separately) are all great though to get real full value, you must buy their $130 barcode scanner – though with a fine selling point of portability of holding data until you plug it back into Mac saving you hauling a bunch of stuff around – it’s a great way to go.

DVDpedia is a good choice if you have iSight already. For $18, you get the second most complete set of tools (to Movie Collector) and along with the built-in choices, you have an option to either create your own templates or choose additional ones to download … along with plug-in’s.

And the REST? Here are some notables and some advice on programming for the Mac audience. I know your heart is in the right place as most are reasonably priced but to be honest Macs users are like art mavens. We cannot exactly articulate what we want but we want it to be nice. We want it buttery smooth, damn fine looking and everything to just snap. What’s the difference between a Ferrari and a $300k kit-car? Yea, that’s the difference … so with these, here’s what’s wrong:

DVDAttache

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No barcode scanner/iSight feature but it does offer one interesting feature, it contains a list of the thousands (?) of the most popular movies so you can just check them off. Pixar’s CARS is not on the list so it’s at least a year old and I suppose if everything was alphabetized on your shelf, this would be one way to go but without a barcode scanner option, it’s a lot of work if you own more than a couple dozen films after 2006. It also does not seem to import Amazon graphics so you have to manually drag in graphics. There’s not much to recommend though it is free so if you have time and not so much money or unwilling to spend money – this is the best of the free.

DVDTHEQUE

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In English but clearly intended for a European/French audience. It seems to be free so it has that going for it – while it looks solid, it’s incomplete without a barcode scanner interface and only 5-6 Europe DVD stores in their DB searches and not Amazon France so unless you have a lot of French DVD’s – this site will be of limited use. Yes, the design is fine on the surface but it’s really wonky – for instance, while you can change the font easily of your info, they forgot to design the output to match the input so anything above 12 point gets cut off at the bottom – not so smart. You do get a lot of input boxes but everything seems set at 7 point – did the programmer have a 12″ monitor? If you’re going to give up a lot of functionality and you want free, you might as well go with DVDAttache – at least that delivers everything it promises.

READERWARE

A DVD catalog app should be pretty easy to design an interface for – ADD or NEW should be one of your main choices and a DVD disc icon with words or a + sign seem like a no brainer but clearly that escapes Readerware – it does seem to accept barcode scanning but I couldn’t get it to work. Manual Add? Eventually I found the menu choice to ADD a DVD, it launches a webpage with a search engine – you then TYPE in your title and it brings up yet another page with your search results – then get this, we’re supposed to drag and drop to the Readerware bullet point – is that all? maybe you should just give us the raw code and we should assemble it ourselves? And this for $40? And what bullet point?

Just when you think it can’t get any worse – you slowly realize that by launching these Readerware browser pages to open an Amazon page, it sets your cookie in Amazon to READERWARE so if you “accidentially” buy anything, they get an affiliate credit so after they sell us an ugly piece of software that barely works for $40, they plant a secret cookie to make more money? If this app were free, okay, I could see where it’s turnabout fairplay but to purposely create an app that sends us to a webpage to plant a cookie is just … trojanware? Well, maybe that’s too strong – how about greedyware? I’m not even going to link to Readerware – it’s shabby on all counts.

DVD_SPHERE

When designing for a Mac audience, NEVER put in an underscore – anywhere – ever. If you were a spy in 1962, you might as well say DA when you mean YES, wear a Ushanka and hand out nesting dolls – you’d last like 3 minutes. That’s about the amount of time this app is worth for you to spend time on. When you launch it, this is GIANT warning box you get – nothing else.

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Even if you mean well to tell us not to mess with the DB file itself – DO NOT WARN us upfront because we don’t want to know, we want to know you have built in safeguards and if need be – we might stumble upon this in help but never as the first screen. maybe fine for geothermal software but not a DVD cataloging software for consumers.

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Or the box above – when you click SEARCH, it tells us to go to Amazon to get an account. Clearly, they seem confused that software is supposed to make my life easier, NOT YOURS. AVOID DVD-SPHERE. Avoid underscores. Only PC will come of it.

MOVIES DATABASE

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It’s hard to begin a checklist of all that is wrong with it. Just genuflect upon something that was state of art on a PC in 1994 and how it lives on in Macland – wondering why we give it no love. These should teach this app in graphics, web design and UI design school. Sorry to pile on – I’m sure the guy worked long hours on his “masterpiece.” I’m sure his 386 caught fire after this was completed. Other than the trash can, I don’t really understand why some is text and some are icons. What is the difference between a magnifying glass and binoculars? Why three light bulbs? Is that a dot matrix printer icon? And my ancient reading of hieroglyphs is rusty – what is a half circle on a square with a pointy arrow next to it? Is it the international symbol for black & white Czech movie? And of course, we all want a giant freakin’ bar with instructions on how it works because the first support call was “What do I do?” …”Well, mom, just click on NEW.”

I clicked on NEW.

It created a giant black page which after a few minutes became active but it was still blank. I should also point out the app starts out with an animation that takes you back to 1991 & Quicktime 1.0. It’s pretty freakin’ amazing. Supposedly it has barcode scanner capability but when I click on an icon, it takes 20-30 seconds for anything to happen. The amazing thing is this is updated for Intel Macs so it’s not like some rotting app from 2001 – this thing is being worked on as we speak. I highly recommend every graphics downloads this and when a client gives you trouble, just send them this app.

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Star Wars turns 30 next month

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So Star Wars turns 30 this May…I want to get excited but it just means I have gotten really, really old.

I remember dragging my Dad down to the theater to see it the day it opened at the earliest show possible so we could get a seat. It was beyond awesome. I saw the film seven more times that opening week. Like many theaters, the one where I viewed this masterpiece of celluloid storytelling no longer exists. For the uninitiated, here are the differences in the formats:

35mm has much less surface area than 70mm.

65mm film negatives with no sound lines would be used in the camera to shoot the footage.

For the release they would transfer the image to 70mm film stock with 6 channels of sound.

Descriptions courtesy of this geocities site.

Does anyone else out there remember seeing what 70 mm Dolby looked and felt like? It was amazing. The best 70mm experiences were to be had where the theater actually had the proscribed curved screen and 6 channel sound system.

Cleveland had one 70mm movie house back in those days. I remember seeing Brainstorm on that huge puppy and the opening 360 sequence almost got me nauseous…and I loved it! I think that location holds a bank now which is sad considering the megaplex environments we are asked to suffer.  Hellloooo, large screen home HD with 65″ plasma and surround sound.

Naturally, this question ain’t in the same league when Kennedy got shot, the Dow sank on Black Monday (another anniversary this year as it was 20 years ago), or when 911 happened but at least the Star Wars anniversary conjures up good times and not bad and it is in that spirit that I ask that question.

So where did you see it? How many times? Did it excite you?

CNN is letting people get their geek out by uploading pics and commentary.

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Web Cartoon worthy of being read – Butternutsquash

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The link is down for some reason…but the comic is a very funny autobiographical look at an artist and his pals getting through life. The jokes are solid and the art direction and illustration are top notch. The url was http://www.butternutsquash.net but a place holder site appears there now.

The cartoon above is one of my favorites as it works on several levels. It gets funnier as you learn more about the characters that are portrayed as well.

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Legos vs. Playmobil: It’s On

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In the United States, LEGOS pretty much rule the roost when it comes to bricks and torso parts that attach to form people, places and things.

Wikipedia has a nice summary of the history of LEGO’s.

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Of course, instead of just a box of LEGO’s and some guidelines what you can build, nowadays, the best selling LEGO’s come with specific directions … and licensed choices – like Starwars, Batman, Spiderman and Spongebob.

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The Death Star comes with 3,400 pieces … apparently 3,299 of them grey …

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Though with this guy’s instructions, you can build the Starwars playsets with just a few pieces …

Or the TV ad – have fun with the cleanup in replicating the ad … or LEGO 21st century, the hugely successful Starwars videogame series.

There’s also Harry Potter, as well as the old non-licensed standbys like the City Life, and Summer Palace.

Or their very cool powered trains.

For younger kids who enjoy putting stuff in their mouths, there are the larger Duplo’sBob the Builder, Thomas the Train, and Princess Castles.

Or you can design it online and buy whatever parts you want.

Lose your instructions – recent ones, try here at LEGO or older ones.

Older kids might want to move onto Creator with more refined parts. And then Technic.

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After that, their robotic controlled Mindstorms – and for consumer marketers, a great feature story from WIRED on how LEGO decided to leverage the power of their biggest fans of Mindstorm instead of trying to wall them off from hacking it.

You can pay homage to LEGO by visiting one of their 25 … er, brick & mortar stores or LEGOLAND. Of course, the official online store or links to hundreds of stores worldwide.

Or the best homage of all – festooning your house with their stuff …

The coolest ICE CUBE TRAY EVER?

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Salt & Pepper Shakers?

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If you are a LEGOer, you are set for life in reading and collecting, here’s a place to wander nostalgically down the path of all the sets you missed … or the LEGO Wiki … or if you need parts. Online checklist of LEGO’s past & present. There are also plenty of people to share and meet. Of course, there’s the official LEGO Club.

And when you bored of playing, fiddling and displaying your bricks – how about films starring little LEGO people? The amazing and massive collection at Brickfilms.com – including of course, the now classic Monty Python & the Holy Grail (Lego Style).

If you’re going to join in the LEGO movie fun, consider iStopMotion for making stop motion films with your Mac & iSight.

Or the Brick Films Lego Film Festival?

Speaking of Macs – here’s the Apple 1984 ad created in LEGOS. Little mini dude holding iPod sold out.

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So, Playmobil, how do you compete against that? Well, they started much later in making snap together environments and people but in many ways, the larger size allows for greater facial expressions and poses – and they have stepped it up. They create some amazingly detailed sets – definitely not appropriate for kids who’ll put anything in their mouths.

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Playmobil also creates some sets that might be considered controversial and not sold in the U.S. and perhaps not for kiddie kids but rather for us grownups who never bother to grow up 🙂

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I can hardly wait for the Gitmo one …

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Okay, you be Caesar, I’ll be Brutus, ohhh, who’s that?

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No wait, I’ll be Anthony …

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You call that a Phalanx? And wipe that plastic smirk off your face!

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Now that’s better (via FLICKR-Alvy) … The FLICKR Playmobil Pool.

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What’s great is their devotion to exactness – the only thing missing is crumpled paper that an office worker ripped out of a xerox machine …

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And it’s never too early for kids to learn what powered the Industrial Revolution … (yes, that is a heap of coal).

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Or if you work in construction, what your toilet might look like at work …

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unless you’re the foreman, of course … (or the mobbed-up union rep 🙂

Interesting how you can get St. nick sets but this Nativity is only available in the U.S. …

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Here’s your Playmobil checklist of old & new. Their Wikipedia page.

They too have a “funpark,” not quite a theme park.

There are also Playmobil movies though not as many.

Here’s one of the first catalogs.

You can shop at the official Playmobil website or this place, ONLY TOYS leaves no stone unturned/unsold. Another choice, PUFFIN. Or FAO Schwartz – only the big sets.

Going by Google: It’s 9,040,000 for PLAYMOBIL and 43,000,000 for LEGO.

But really, both are pretty cool. Enjoy!

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What to Buy For Your iPod – If You Have $300k …

This new 28-foot powerboat from Fearless Yachts has an iPod dock – a choice of 525 or 550 horsepower motors and body by Porsche Design … finally a boat to match my MacBook Pro.

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What to Buy: Whack A Mole – The Home Version

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Whac-A-Mole – the home version is actually pretty good fun and perfect for when you have a gaggle of kids around – it’s a board game yet requires no real time commitment.

What kid doesn’t love hitting something with a plastic mallet as hard as he can?

What grownup doesn’t love hitting a plastic mole with a mallet?

On the surface, it looks like it’s missing a lot from the arcade version but it’s actually pretty sophisticated even though there are only 4 moles.

You can play solo – when they light up and you hit them – the pattern is never obvious, it changes and the moles will taunt you electronically 🙂 There are two settings – hard & easy.

There is a 2-4 player mode where you just hit a specific color. You can liven it up by picking a mole away from you or making the rule you have to set your mallet down after eah hit … or picking it from the floor … or of course, drinking what’s leftover from the New Year’s party before you hit the mole.

And you get to work out your aggressions.

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How can you beat that for $15?

Oh and in case you’re wondering about its durability – two boys and many drunken adults have been mashing the moles for 5 months and the thing still works – not bad for something I expected would last 20 minutes.

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Producers-Option This!

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Film & movie Producers – here’s a great story to option …

“How the CIA used a fake science fiction film to sneak six Americans out of revolutionary Iran.”

From WIRED

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