House Journal – New TV

I have been MIA lately, the move, unpacking, and some insane deadlines at work have meant that I had no time to write, but I will begin to rectify that.

With the move, the trusty Pioneer Plasma screen was showing its age. When we bought it in 2006, the LCD panels at the time sucked big tool. Side by side, there was no comparison, the plasma kicked their ass all over the playground.

It was a 42″ unit, and a solid performer, but it was input constrained, and while the picture quality was superb, it was a bit of a power hog.

With our new house, we knew we wanted something a bit larger (but not too large, as our viewing room was modest) with smart TV capability, and more HDMI inputs.

I looked long and hard at the 4K screens, but at the size we were interested in, 55″ it just wasn’t compelling. No real content (some netflix, and some DirecTV) and to get something with a good refresh rate, you need to drop about $2K.

Much browsing at Bestbuy, looking at the Samsung, LG and Sony panels in our range, and they were all good, and apart from the Sony, comparably priced. However, the Bestbuy sales droid pointed me at the Panasonc Bravia 55″. On clearance, and a size exclusive to Bestbuy, the screen was sweet. 240hz refresh rate, excellent colors, and a compelling price, I was sold.

Hanging it on the wall was a breeze, and our electricians made passthroughs for the cables, so it is almost clutter free.

Quality of the display is impressive. Bluray movies “pop”. I tossed in The Matrix, and Casino Royale, and the quality is superb.

I haven’t explored much of the apps yet, but the Netflix app, built in (and a netflix button on the remote to boot) makes it super easy to watch streaming videos. Way better than the old way, firing up the Xbox, and using the app there. That takes about a minute and a half until you can begin watching. Now, about 20 seconds, and you are streaming.

Our Tivo hooked right up, and covers our DVR/live TV needs.

HD resolution, on the 55″, at the viewing distances we have is plenty good. I am not regretting the choice of not going to the 4K resolution. This thing is awesome.

And being a LED backlit display, this unit uses less than 1/4 the juice that the Plasma screen did.

We did donate the plasma screen, and it has a new home at one of our movers, I am sure it will continue to be a great screen, but we aren’t pining for it.

Initial Thoughts – Mac OS X 10 – Yosemite

I have been using the latest OS on my MacBook Air for about a week now, and in general I really like it. Not Earth shaking, but solid, and the improvements really add up to a better experience all around.

The UI – briefly

The first thing that you notice is the flat visuals. Bowing to the contemporary design trends, the windows, the visuals, and all the other decorations are devoid of shading, gradients, or any other visual eye candy. Naturally all the skeuomorphic bits are long gone. Neither good nor bad.

Of course, with it comes a new typeface for the UI, Helvetica Neue replacing the long time OS-X typeface Lucida Grande. Unlike a lot of geeks on Slashdot who wailed like they were having their hands lopped off, I don’t really mind. In fact, with such a large change of the UI, it would seem de rigueur to go all the way.

Of course, these changes alter the look and feel to better mimic the experience on iOS 8. So it is not a surprise that many of the changes are to applications that will help unify the experience.

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The curse of being a “Techie” – Making things too complicated

I have always been adept at technology. I am sure that some of it is natural aptitude, and some is single bloody-minded-ness that I learned from working with many different computers and other “smart” devices for years (decades now). I am the person that all my family calls when they have problems with tech.

But sometimes, it is a curse.  Case in point:

My bluray disc player
My bluray disc player

In 2007 or 2008, we took the plunge and went BluRay. We bought a good mid range player at the time, the Panasonic DMP BD30. It has been a faithful player, working great.  Every disk we tossed into it, regardless of the warning that a firmware upgrade may be required played without trouble.  Until May 10 2013 (My birthday).  I got a BD copy of Skyfall, and while the damn trailers on it played, it just wouldn’t play the main movie.  F*ck. I didn’t get a copy of Skyfall on Bluray to watch the damn, tossed in DVD copy.

So, I investigated the firmware upgrade. I have to say that the Panasonic website for support completely blows.  Yes, I was able to find it, but it took too damn long. Of course, it comes as a self extracting archive that is a Windows program.  Poopies.  I am a Mac person. But it was a self extracting RAR archive, so I was able to get the firmware file out.

But the instructions were complicated. It said to burn the image to a CD-R (not a CD-RW) and that it had to be ISO9660 format.  Easiest to do on windows, so I tried it with my work laptop.  No joy.

For some reason, I thought the PANA_DVD.FRM file was a disk image, so I tried all my tools and utilities to burn that image to a CD-R. I now have 4 coasters.

Finally, I thought to myself, perhaps it isn’t an image file (like an iso) but just the firmware file. I opened a toast session, selected “data CD” and ISO format, and burned that file to a disk. Joy, it took about 10 minutes, but the firmware is now updated to 3.1 (from 1.3) and I am watching the end of Skyfall on BD now.

My error was in my natural inclination to try to treat it as a disk image, and to burn it as such. That is because I am accustomed to that workflow. But in this case, the simple solution was to just burn the firmware file on a disk. Of course, the instructions say nothing like this, but are filled with warnings about Windows Vista or Windows 7. Being the geek that I am, I avoided the easy solution, and spent a few weeks messing around creating coasters.

For the record, the player works beautifully, and I am astounded that I was able to go 5 or 6 years before I was forced to do a firmware upgrade. I have friends who are constantly updating their player to handle new discs.