Celebrate the 80s

Posted by Chris Green on Friday June 20 @ 10:59 pm

Celebrate the 80s front cover

It’s the perfect gift for birthdays, christenings, grduation, or just a good read if you are stoned or just miss the greatest decade since we all realised the world isn’t flat.

Written by members of the greatest generation (those of us who grew up in the 80s), and edited by my friend and colleague Simon Brew, this book is the definitive guide to all things 80s – TV shows, music, films and proper computer games (the ones that came on tapes).

You can buy Celebrate the 80s now from Amazon.co.uk.

And yes, I did write some of it.

Seriously, its a brilliant book and it will bring back some fantastic memories, and a few that will make you cringe as well. Find out what all your 80s big and small screen favourites are doing now (not all of them are flipping burgers for a living) and read some exclusive interviews with the people who pioneered 80s entertainment.

WARNING: This book does contain a picture of me, with a mullet!

Simpsons Movie review

Posted by Chris Green on Friday July 27 @ 10:23 pm

Den of Geek

Having taken the day off work to go and see it, I’ve written a review of the new Simpsons Movie, which is now online over at Den of Geek.

Simpsons Chris

Please head on over and have a look at the review (warning, contains spoilers), as well as the multitide of other articles on cult TV, movies, comics, games and books.

And the TV goes boom, crackle, fizz!

Posted by Chris Green on Tuesday March 27 @ 10:42 pm

Well we had a bit of fun this past weekend.

On Friday the new sofa for my study arrived, and I was finally able to dump the futon that, while cheap and study and comfy to sleep on, was awful to sit on.

Much of the weekend was spent testing the new sofa, and catching up on the mounds of TV on the Sky + box that I simply have not had time to watch over the last 11 months since I started work at Dennis on IT PRO.

This was rudely interrupted on Sunday afternoon when, half way through watching the movie Thank You For Smoking, the TV in my study blew up!

The screen went blank, followed by a bit of a bang, then a shockingly loud short-circuiting sound, then the smell of burning plastic, shortly followed by some smoke. This in turn was followed by me diving across the room to clear a path through the shelving so I could pull the TV’s plug from the mains.

Obviously its not the only TV in the house, but it caught all of us by surprise, as it was the oldest, most reliable and generally considered to be the best of our TVs (even though it was a CRT, badged as Wharfedale and came from Tesco).

Still deciding what to actually buy to replace it long term, but for now I’ve gone for a cheap short-term replacement. A quick look on eBay produced a refurbished 28inch CRT widescreen TV of equal spec for 65 quid delivered, and it’s in transit now and due to arrive before Friday. This one was originally sold by Asda (badged as Pacific). I’m not expecting it to be great, but it will fill the gap left by the Wharfedale until I get round to buying a proper replacement, probably a LCD or a plasma (really would like a rear-projection TV, but haven’t got the space in the study for it, plus I doubt we would ever get it up the stairs).

I’m all Joost up!

Posted by Chris Green on Saturday January 27 @ 9:44 am

I’m pleased to announce that my search for a Joost beta invite has been successful. I now have it installed on the Gateway lappy and I have been very impressed with it thus far. However, as it is still in reasonably early beta there is a lot of performance optimisation to be done, which shows when the app is running as it is very resource hungry.

Many thanks to Jim Hughes for the invite and to Ewan “iPod Shuffle Shuffle” Spence for brokering the deal.

Retinal projection – the coolest thing in the world!

Posted by Chris Green on Tuesday January 16 @ 10:31 am

I’m in Spain at the moment with Brother for a conference. I’ve just seen a demo of their prototype retinal imaging technology. The technology, fitted into an ordinary pair of glasses, projects high-resolution and 3D images straight onto the retina using low-light, targeted projection. It is very very loosely based on inkjet print head technology.

Sounds very Star Trek I know but it is real and it works. Nowhere near ready for commercialisation as all the backend technologies still need to be scaled down, and there are massive power issues to address (think Tesco trolley full of batteries at the moment), but nonetheless – Cool!

I wonder if I could hook a video iPod up to it? It would make watching movies at work a lot less obvious!

Things I have learned this week…

Posted by Chris Green on Monday January 1 @ 11:32 pm

1) My car seems to like high-octane petrol a lot more than it does normal unleaded petrol. Looks like my petrol bills will be going up a bit in future.

2) Currently watching Beyond Re-Animator on Zone Horror – it is not a great movie but is better than I remember it to be.

3) Never rely on a certain UK-based web hosting provider to actually do its job properly over the Christmas/New Year period.

4) Telewest’s fault reporting department is a joke. Suffice to say, I’m not impressed by Telewest at the moment.

5) The landline telephone in my house has not worked all day, see above.

6) No matter how much you tidy, the room you are cleaning still looks a mess at the end of it.

7) I’m actually missing work – how sad is that!

8) BSkyB offers over 480 channels of content, most of it of questionable quality, but a Sky Digital dish still can’t overcome the effects of a heavy rain downpour on the incoming satellite signal.

9) The new series of Desperate Housewives starts this Wednesday :)

10) So does the new series of Celebrity Big Brother :(

Channel 4 and Teleport: A damaging combination

Posted by Chris Green on Saturday December 16 @ 12:23 pm

Teleport

I’ve been playing with one of Telewest’s brand new cable boxes for about a month now. The reason for having had it installed was that 1) it was free and 2) I wanted to have access to and play with Telewest’s video-on-demand service, called Teleport.

Teleport has impressed me a great deal over the last month, offering a large quantity of pay-per-view movies and TV shows in a true on-demand environment, and with pause, fast forward and rewind capabilities, all controlled in software and with no local hard drive storage.

My only beef is with the Teleport Replay part of the service, which gives you access to a small selection of programmes from the BBC, Channel 4, Bravo, UK Living and Challenge for the current day and the week preceding. The BBC and the Telewest-owned Bravo, UK Living and Challenge offer a great deal of content from the week just past, and make the stuff available within minutes of the show’s original transmission ending. Channel 4 on the other hand offer a very small amount of content, and can often take days to put a show up after transmission, if at all.

Take for example Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. This show airs at 9pm on a Tuesday evening. This week, it did not arrive on Teleport until Thursday. The previous week it didn’t appear until the Friday. The week before that, it didn’t even make it on to Teleport at all.

Come on Channel 4, if you are going to feature a multi-part series on an on-demand playback service such as Teleport, you need to be consistent, either make all the shows available, and soon after original transmission, or don’t make any of them available. Doing some episodes and not others, and having such a hit-and-miss approach to when you do put stuff onto the service will not help viewing figures, and will damage the credibility of services such as your own 4oD and Telewest’s Teleport.

Disney swallows Pixar at last – good news for iPod owners?

Posted by Chris Green on Wednesday January 25 @ 3:13 pm

Pixar Web Site 

Last night’s confirmation that Disney has made an agreed bid for animation studio Pixar was no surprise. Disney needs Pixar – Pixar does not need Disney – hence the hefty premium ($7.4bn) being paid for the company. Many analysts have already expressed surprise at how high a sum Pixar is being bought for, with many expecting a deal around the $5-5.5bn mark.

By taking control of Pixar, Disney not only takes full control of all the media rights relating to the previous computer-animated movies that Pixar has made for Disney, but also lucerative merchandising and spin-off rights and full rights to produces sequels based on those past franchises such as Toy Story and Monsters Inc (prior to the takeover, Pixar retained an option to co-produce any future sequels based on past work, even if they had not renewed their distribution deal).

But this deal is not about Pixar rights alone. For its money, Disney is buying creative talent and intellectrual property locked up in the minds of Pixar’s loyal and successful team, people Disney didn’t have a hope in hell of poaching away from Pixar without buying the whole thing. These people are the new Walt Disney, and will bring the same creative flair and sense of child-like wonder and imagination to animation that has been missing from Disney since the old man himself pased away.

So Disney finally gets what it needs to survive and to underpin the Disney side of the empire. But what does Pixar, or more to the point, Steve Jobs get from the deal?

The maverick Jobs, who originally spent just $10m to buy the original assets that Pixar was founded on, will make his entire investment back 30+ times over. It also means that he has more-or-less made back all the money his missed out on by cashing in his original Apple stock after he was fired during his first tenure at the company he co-founded.

Jobs is motivated by money, but not by money alone – his remains motivated by successful creativity, and this is where the deal will really pay off for him, and by close association, for Apple Computer.

There are several things to consider once this takeover is complete:

  1. Steve Jobs will directly own just over 7% of Disney
  2. Disney owns numerous media assets including the ABC television network, the ESPN sports television channels (and with it the broadcast rights to numerous popular sporting events), Miramax Films, Buena Vista International, Touchstone Television, a record label, not to mention everything Disney from theme parks to a back catalogue of movies, cartoons and TV that is among the largest in the world.
  3. Disney was the first company to provide paid-for broadcast video content via iTunes in the form of new episodes of Desperate Housewives and Lost (no doubt done as a gesture to help build bridges with Jobs)
  4. Apple needs more of this kind of content to maintain the momentum of iPod sales and iTunes transactions.

It does not take a rocket scientist to work out the obvious synergies to be had.

Steve is not stupid, and will no doubt use his significant holding in Disney and subsequent board seat to encourage the company to work more closely with his first love Apple, and to ensure that more new and archive Disney content is released to the work through iTunes at a time and in a way that will underpin demand for new iPods and generally encourage users to remain locked into the Apple/iPod experience.

In the current climate, you can have the greatest hardware going, or the worst, but ultimately it is the content that will make or break you!

Playing with EyeTV and my DVDs

Posted by Chris Green on Friday December 30 @ 10:15 pm

EyeTV running on the Mac Mini

This evening, as I write this post, I have a PC humming away at one side of my desk, as Windows XP slowly reinstalls itself on the PC’s 300GB hard drive.

Above the desk, my trusty Mac Mini is almost silent, as usual, as it checks my mail and does my usual day-to-day computing. However, over the last 24 hours, I have found a new task for it to undertake.

Yesterday, my latest purchase from the Apple Store arrived – an Elgato EyeTV for DTT, or put simply, a Mac-compatible USB Freeview digital TV receiver.

It’s rather different to most of its PC counterparts. It has no MHEG support and makes next to no use of the Freeview broadcast 8-day electronic programme guide (EPG), instead using a web-based EPG service called TVTV (for which you receive a free 12-month subscription, £14.99 thereafter). From here you can browse what shows are on over a 7-day period (though the service is a little behind the times, with no listing for ITV4, E4+1 or More4+1). You flag on the site what you want to record, and the software on your Mac periodically syncs with the site to pick up new recording requests (you can of course force an update).

This is great as it means you can set recordings remotely (assuming your Mac is on). Also, if you set a recording that is subsequently downloaded to the Mac, and you then switch the machine off, either the software or the USB adapter (we haven’t worked out which yet) will power up your machine at the appropriate time and engage the recording (although it falls foul of the login screen if you have a password or multiple accounts set).

And it gets better – as well as being a pretty good receiver and recorder (although the complete lack of MHEG is a real loss – no red button interactive services, no BBC Parliament video, no Sky Text, no BBCi etc etc), the software also includes the ability to easily export your recordings in either of two iPod supported formats, MPEG4 or H.264.

The results are excellent, but the process is VERY slow on my Mac Mini (I link to the US page as both my Mac Mini’s were bought in the US, rather than here in the UK). I am sure it will work better on a G5, and hopefully much better on a multicore G5 or one of the forthcoming multicore Intel-based Macs coming in 2006/7.

In any case, I have so far exported two recordings (a movie I recorded from Channel 5 last night, and a 30-minute chunk of Sky News) and transferred them to my 60GB iPod Video. Both play perfectly and look really good!

New Sky Digibox installed

Posted by Chris Green on Friday December 30 @ 2:48 pm

Just a quick photo post to show the new Sky Digibox installed and running:

Sky Digibox installed on the rack

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