Firefox Mods

Google’s Browser Sync has made me switch to Firefox. Having cross-platform bookmarks has proven to be very useful. That said, I still miss the Cocoalicious goodness of an application written in Cocoa for Mac OS X and have been considering going back to Safari for OS X.

However, I found two extensions over the weekend that are keeping me interested in Firefox: Fission, which re-creates Safari’s progress bar inside the address bar (I don’t use the Staus Bar in Firefox. The Status Bar is disabled by default in Safari and I’ve gotten used to the extra 1/4″ of screen real estate). The other is Stop-or-Reload button. Again, this mimics the two-in-one simplicity that Apple brings you.

If you’re using Firefox and are a previous Safari junkie, I would recommend you grab these two extensions.

Digital Media- Value Added Content

In my last post, I argued movie downloads need a bit of improvement and that the price point should be better.

Rather than drop the price, another way to look at it is value for money. I’ve said before that iTunes is pushing things in the right direction. I downloaded Beck’s new album over the weekend. The tipping factor was the inclusion of 15 videos along with the album. Coldplay’s video album similarly convinced me to buy concert footage I would otherwise never buy.

This is the same direction that DVD downloads need to take- giving customers something extra or different to what the physical product has always offered.

I also picked up that many people feel movie downloads are too slow- my suggestion would be to get a faster pipe. I saw an ad on a black cab today offering 24MB connection for £24 a month. At those speeds, video playback is basically instantaneous- even at much higher definition.

Digital vs Physical

With Apple’s introduction of a movie download service, retailing heavy-weights Walmart, Target and Blockbuster are crying foul and have warned that they might “re-think their DVD retail strategy”. Walmart represents 40% of retail DVD sales and Target represents 15%.

Retailers like Target and Wal-Mart typically pay $17 or $18 wholesale for new-release DVDs. They typically sell them to the public at $16 to $19, often pricing them below cost to attract consumers into their stores. Retailers worry that consumers will quickly lose interest in DVDs if cheaper online versions of movies become widely available.

Four things come to mind to challenge their claims:
1. The retailers knowingly lose $1-2 on every DVD but make it up in volume? 🙂
2. Online movies via Bit torrent offering FREE movies has made customers quickly lose all interest in DVDs?
3. The quality of a downloaded movie from Apple is far superior in viewing quality (resolution) to a physical DVD? Especially for HD TV (Blueray)
4. Online music downloads have similarly significantly impacted CD sales?

I am not a big purchaser of DVDs. I own approximately 10-15 in total. I bought “O Brother, where art thou?” from Apple’s store to support the format. (I bought one of their games as well for the same reason). I would have NEVER purchased these as boxed DVDs, so I could argue that digital distribution is expanding the market for content, not cannibalizing DVD sales.

The WSJ states that downloads of “Lost” (I’m a season ticket owner) have not impacted DVDs sales at all, and they they remain top selling items, which takes a bit of the wind out of the retailers sails.

No one likes change. Change is good.

iPod Hi Fi Review

  iPod Hi Fi in situ 
  Originally uploaded by Jason Ball.

Well, I’m one year older today, and my wife bought me an iPod Hi-Fi for my birthday. I’m not an audiophile, but I am pretty picky about what I listen to music on. I threw out my iPod headphones on day one and bought some Sony’s, which I then replaced with my Shure’s.

I have to admit, the iPod Hi-Fi sounds great. In our bedroom, I keep it on the "Treble" setting. That provides the right amount of highs and plenty of Bass. The normal setting adds further bass- followed by the "Bass" setting, which really just thumps. YMMV, but I’m really pleased with the sound. If you keep the box at close to ear level, it sounds spectacular.

Perfect integration with the iPod makes it a winner as well. The only issue I’ve found is the "Menu" button doesn’t control the iPod in the same way as on Front Row. I’m sure this will be addressed in a future software update. If you’re in the market for speakers for your iPod, I would seriously consider the iPod Hi-Fi.

De facto standards and DRM

Red Herring reports

…”This text affirms a new principle—interoperability—which makes France a pioneer country in Europe,” Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, the French minister of culture, said in widely reported remarks to France’s National Assembly as it adopted the law on Friday. “Interoperability is fundamental for consumers and creators because it allows for a greater circulation of works while respecting copyrights.

Apple’s iTunes has been so successful to date because they control the entire value chain. By controlling the hardware as well, Apple can use DRM that is invisible to the end user (at least I’ve never had any issues) and provides comfort to the record labels. If Apple is forced to open it’s DRM to support other hardware, they lose that control mechanism, which will result in a loss of confidence from the music (and video) industry.

I’ve got issues with DRM like many others, but I can’t see this helping bring more content onto digital devices. Steve Jobs has single handedly opened this market and is bringing video to market as well.

However, in a report released Friday on digital content strategies, the OECD said the rise of proprietary and incompatible standards is slowing the development of digital content. The report states “there are considerable lock-in effects due to the development of de facto standards.”

Lock-in and de facto standards are music to a VCs ears, plus de facto standards = interoperability. Seems like both the OECD and France should support DRM.

Secure external hard drive from RadTech


RadTech has released a new and unique hard drive enclosure: the Impact Hard Disk Drive Enclosure w/64-bit Encryption.

The Impact enclosure looks like any other HDD until you notice a funny looking FireWire 400 port on the backplane. That’s where you connect the Impact’s unique 64-bit hardware key. When it’s plugged in, you can access that hard drive as expected. When the key isn’t present, the drive simply won’t mount.

The Enova X-Wall engine provides real-time, hardware-based encryption and decryption. X-Wall shuttles encrypted data as fast as a standard enclosure. Unlike easily circumvented and platform dependent software-based encryption, Impact enclosures strong encrypt (DES) every bit and byte on the hard drive. The included Secure Token is a physical key which must be present to read from, or write to the drive. Without the secure key, the drive and its data are rendered useless and unreadable – 2 keys are included with each enclosure.

5G vs 1G iPod

1gvs5g_1 I’ve uploaded a few pictures to Flickr comparing my old iPod with the new 5G video iPod. Amazing what a few years can do for a product.

It’s great that Apple has returned to the same look as the original iPods. I can’t say that I miss the mechanical scroll wheel – the reason I bought a mini iPod orginally was the form factor- I think the click wheel is a really elegant implementation. Plus, I really hated the 3G iPods with the buttons above the wheel.

iTunes Music Store Sells One Million Videos

“Selling one million videos in less than 20 days strongly suggests there is a market for legal video downloads,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “Our next challenge is to broaden our content offerings, so that customers can enjoy watching more videos on their computers and new iPods.”

This is exactly why I downloaded the entire first season of Lost immediately: to support the format and promote its expansion. Anyone for old Seinfeld episodes?

Video on iTunes

I’ve just downloaded the first season of "Lost" from the iTunes Video store. I agree completely with C.K’s comments over at tuaw. Even if the format might be considered "small" by some people, I think the format and distribution channel should be supported.

Since it’s introduction, I’ve become a real fan of the iTunes Music Store- I very rarely buy physical CDs anymore- usually only if there is a DVD included- and this is something that is going the way of the dinosaur with Videos being included along with the music.

I don’t have the new iPod with video (yet), but this will make my evening commute much more fun. Also, since American shows tend to run 1 season behind, I can download the entire season in one fell swoop- at an attractive savings per show.