Saturday, February 23, 2008

So Tired.

Disney World takes its toll.

On your WALLET. Heh.

Buzz lightyear

251500 was my score. I think the top score is impossiible to get.

Hey chris!

The metal fist and devil horns are for you!

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Splash Mountain

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Disney World

Live from Disney World!

Kimberly said to put this on.

The roblog is live from Disney World for the next 3 days! Posting directly from pics taken on my PDA and emailed directly to the blog.

No waiting!

Unlike the lines here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Vantec LapCool 3 and Macbook Review

Update 18 Feb 2010: I still have this, and the fans are still silent. I lost a rubber foot or two, but I used the stick on kind you can buy at Home Depot. They raise the laptop a little higher, but I haven't lost one of those yet in over a year, including shoving it in and out of a laptop bag.

Here's a brief history of how this works to cool my Macbook while playing an MP4. Fan RPM, temp, time into the video, and cpu usage.

With cooler running:
3200 rpm
13 mins in
35-45 cpu

With cooler not running and laptop sitting on my shirt covered tummy (while I watch the show of course. In theory the heat should get distributed by my body a little. This is definitely a real world test.)
4450 rpm
23 mins in
40-45 cpu

Back on the cooler and running:
3100 rpm
40 mins in
55-60 cpu

Machine is a Macbook Core 2 Duo 1.83 ghz. Definitely this makes a difference. Tip: slide the Macbook as far to the right as you can, so the fans are closer to the left side of the Macbook where the heat is generated.

I got mine for $7.99 at a Fry's sale. Definitely worth $8 and change.

I need to try it with my wife's ZE4100 HP Laptop. 1.7Ghz Pentium 4 and the fan runs a LOT. I bet the thermal compound in it has gotten old. WLYK if and when I try that, but for $8 you can't really go wrong.

This is probably more effective on a Macbook than perhaps some other laptops that draw air through the bottom. This cooler sucks air from the bottom and sides and exhausts out the back. So, if that's contrary to the airflow on your unit, you would be working against your laptop's fans. Whether it would be a net gain would be a big '?'. Something to consider, so you might buy it locally to try.

You can use this on your lap of course. It is slim enough to do so and the rubber feet grip the laptop so it doesn't slide around. I also use it when I'm using my Macbook at a desk. Great for World of Warcraft which pushes the CPU and graphics in busy areas. Burning a DVD or anything that uses the CPU heavily will see a similar benefit.

The fans are pretty quiet. The inverter on my Macbook makes more noise. Kitty says so.

The only problem I had is if I plugged it into a USB hub and the hub wasn't plugged into the Macbook, the fans wouldn't run. I suppose this is to automatically power the fans down if the laptop isn't on.

It's a buy, especially if it's cheap.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Well, fine, but since Blu-ray (sounds like a crunk act) is synonymous with Sony, I'm not pleased. Don't own either, but I don't trust Sony unlike this bonehead they found in Best Buy.

"Blu-ray won. It's fantastic and I trust Sony," said one customer who was browsing the DVD player aisles at the Best Buy Co Inc store on New York's Fifth Avenue.

Sony. Trust. Let me recount some Sony antics...

  • Betamax vs VHS
  • ATRAC vs MP3
  • Blu-ray vs HD-DVD
  • Memory Sticks vs Compact Flash, SD, etc etc.
  • Mini-disc vs CD/MP3 (or the small diameter CD's but I don't recall the time frame on those)
  • the UMD vs DVD again or whatever other format. Would have worked if they had started a DVD/UMD twinpack IMHO at first.
  • Trinitron. Looked great. Do try to ignore those wires.
  • And the biggy for 'trust' issues: The infamous Sony rootkit
What Sony does is try to introduce proprietary stuff so they can make royalties. Fine, company makes money.

You might love Sony but they'll never love you. I'd trust Apple more. At least they realized that standards are the way to go. They even finally embraced Intel/PC hardware. (Sure some stuff is Apple proprietary but not NEARLY to the degree Sony is.)

Sony products I've owned that didn't live up:

  • the original PSP: easy to crack the screen, easy to scratch, fragile is the sum word. Now, it was a cool piece or hardware and I liked it. See 'UMD' above. Sold it.
  • DRX-800UL Firewire external drive. Burnt a lot of coasters through the Finder until I bought Toast 8. Might be Apple's fault but I don't trust the drive since it's the first one I've had any sort of trouble with burning coasters. Got it cheap and it works with Toast which I got cheap for other reasons. It's a draw.
  • SVR-2000 TiVo. Damn hard to find a 3rd party remote for due to the Sony differences. Guess what, a Sony universal worked. $70. Selling or giving it away. Finally found a cheap $10 one. Think it was a Sony too.
Sony makes some good stuff, but *I* find the lower end stuff to be not living up to the high end build quality. It's like it's two separate companies sometimes.


Monday, February 18, 2008

Roxio Toast 8.0.3 mini review tips and tricks

Toast 8.0.3 'Review' and notes, really centering on the Tivo Transfer app and DVD burning for now.

I bought an OEM copy for $23.98 from through their ebay store. I'd be really ticked if I'd paid $99 expecting the Tivo Transfer app to work 99% of the time.

On that note, restarting the TiVo helps the Transfer app see it for me. It's doing well for today.

Here's the trick I haven't seen mentioned much: to transfer programs to your Macbook, use the TiVo's built in web server.

(the S in https is important). Username is tivo and password is your MAK (media access key).

If you don't know how to find out your TiVo's network address, look on your TiVo under settings and I think network. It's probably 192.168.1.something. or 192.168.x.x

If you can't see your TiVo's built in web browser, you might have some sort of network setup issue. I can't help with that due to myriad variations.

Download the program you want to the directory you have shows set to come into with the Tivo Transfer application (Let's call it TTA).

These files with the .tivo extension will also work with the PC or whatever other program most likely so you could put them on a shared network drive for example.

Ok, so no automatic transfers etc but the Tivo's built in webserver appears reliable. At least more reliable than the TTA.

Now you can at least work with the shows to burn them to DVD, convert, etc.

Here's a little annoyance with the TTA:

When you delete a show, its GONE from the Tivo Recordings on the Tivo Transfer App. It doesn't go in the trash, it's deleted immediately.

On my network the tivo is bridged via a 54g wired to WiFi bridge to my cable modem router.

Like this: Tivo->ethernet port on bridge->wifi->cable modem router->wired or other wireless connections.

Transfers seem faster on my Macbook connected to the router via a wired connection. This makes sense because my Macbook isn't having to fight the Tivo for WiFi bandwidth. If you have a MIMO router this might not make a difference for you.

Turning off tivo desktop on the Mac seemingly gave a HUGE jump in transfer speed. 450KB / sec to 15-1600KB, 4 times as fast!

'Toast Video Player' works well, but it's made by Elgato. Says so on the remote. It's not Roxio so it works. Smooth playing and fast fast forwarding. Better than TiVo itself.

Fast encodes to DVD via toast 8.0.3. Core 2 Duo shows 180% CPU usage, so it's tuned for multi processors.

Enable other outputs trick for transcoding:

Paste the line below into a terminal window.

defaults write com.roxio.Toast "tivo export mode" -integer 1

Iinstead of exporting into 320x240 iPod format only, you can pick whatever codec and size you wanted. Super! DivX, DV, whatever!

To me, video encodes look better on burned dvd than toast video player (elgato).

When you're looking at Toast 8 and you have your media in the right pane, to select it for export, click in the text area. If you click the thumbnail, the 'Export' button at the bottom is greyed out. Kind stupid but if you click the thumbnail you can scrub around with the play head.

For DVD burning, I'd like to be able to select a 1x burn, but 'Best' or 6x is all I can select. Perhaps a limitation of the Sony drive but IIRC toast 5.2.3 had a 1x option. Seemed to burn ok, but my discs are 1x or 2x IIRC.

Speaking of faster burning:

I got the following off the roxio boards here.

By default, Toast will re-encode any TiVo shows when burned to DVD since the 480x480 native TiVo resolution does not comply with DVD standards.

I'd like to ask some of you to try disabling the option to re-encode. The potential benefit of this is that you'll be able to burn TiVo shows to a DVD-Video disc much faster.

Since the disc will not be 100% DVD compliant, we'd like to know your experience after burning a DVD-Video from TiVo files are using the steps below:

1) Launch Toast 8.
2) Go to Video --> DVD-Video.
3) Click the "More" button at the bottom of of the Options area.
4) Click the Encoding tab.
5) Select "Custom".
6) In the Re-encoding field, select "Never".
7) Click OK and add a TiVo recording to your project
8) Burn to DVD

Once the disc has been completed, try playing it back in your standalone DVD player.

My notes on that process:

(Might want to unlock that topic or at least not ask people to POST to it! Typical Roxio.)

This method works for me on

- a Macbook C2D running 10.4.11 with Apple's DVD player. Playing from a Sony DRX-800UL external Firewire drive or the Macbook internal drive.
- Xbox (1, don't have a Xbox 360 to try). Might have had a TINY bit of audio sync issue but I think it was me just being hypersensitive. Seemed pretty much the same on the Macbook.

Did not work on:
Emerson EWD 7003 (cheapie DVD player). Plays but jerky 2-3 times a sec. Might be my cheap DVD-R discs.

So if your DVD player is software, you got good odds.

528 x 480 is the size I pulled down from the TiVo according to Toast. (maybe there's an issue there Roxio!). Original Series 3 (not the cheaper HD) so I don't know where 480x480 is coming from. It burned VERY fast and it was not re-encoding.

That's all for now!

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