Ultraviolet – “The Dark Knight Rises”

Having recently purchased the latest Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” on DVD I was made aware by the largely unsubtle information which adorned display stand that the DVD copy came with a digitally downloadable version of the film. As this was certainly a blockbuster in the traditional sense, I was curious as to how well this system may have been incorporated, and how likely this would be to stop people acquiring their own illegal digital copies anyway after purchasing the film. I thought I would post about my experience here…

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My iPad Experience

Although I had naturally formed opinions about iPads, I had until now kept quiet as any opinion would have been largely hypocritical, given that I had never used one. My main opinions resulted from drawing comparisons between what I had read about Android and the iPad (yes, contrary to common American grammatical butchery, the iPad is an entity not a concept and therefor the word “the” should undoubtably be used). This largely focused on price and ecosystem but no longer, as I am fortunate enough to be able to borrow one for a weekend to kick the tires!

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Swype – the perpetual beta

I recently went back to using Swype, the predictive keyboard for Android on which you join letters together in a single movement. I do like Swype, and but I’ve had to leave it again as I feel it is getting worse.

Despite being in beta, and it has no excuses as it has been in beta for at least two years (the entirety of my previous phone contract, and my time using Android). Although on a relatively new phone (Galaxy S3), the constant freezing got too much, much and the perpetual nature of the beta doesn’t fill me with confidence unfortunately.

Two Step Authentication [UPDATED]

With some recent security scares surfacing in the online bloggoshpere – dropbox being one of them (do a quick google) I read an article explaining the concept of two step authentication.

Two step authentication is essentially an attempt to improve the security of the widely accepted password system used online.
The trouble with a password is – as I’m sure you’re aware – if someone has your password, they can access your account, shopping list, email, social media or whatever service the password protects. The issue progresses further as the same password often protects all of these services, rather than just one.

Two step authentication works on the principle that the password and a second piece of information is required in order to access the account. Some banks have used this system for a long time with online banking. – A small card reader which generates a short code which protects certain transactions (not log ins).
To protect a service, the user enters their password as normal, and they are then prompted for a second code which changes on each log in attempt. This may initially seem like a giant PIA, however when associated with important services it is a small inconvenience – when implemented correctly.

I use a password management service (LastPass – which is excellent by the way), and this service by its nature, protects a lot of log in details. Two step authentication with LastPass works as such:

Log in with LastPass password, open Google Authenticator app on your phone (iOS + Android) and enter the code it generates.

It really doesn’t take long and there are numerous “oh my God, I’ve lost my phone” options to access / secure your account.

The same applies for Google logins too – both on Android and the web.

Google’s system goes one step further (as it covers numerous services) in that “application specific” passwords can be generated so for example, the password authenticating my Google account on my phone and be instantly revoked, thus disconnecting my handset from my google account. It also makes my Google services much more difficult to get into in the first place.

One caveat is that there is the option to ‘trust’ the computer when loggin in – disabling the two step authentication. This isn’t too much of an issue though as all Google services can be remotely logged out from, thus re-enabling the two step authentication.

Two step authentication is coming to more and more services, with Dropbox next on the list (when the next update is released) and I would strongly (and highly!) recommend enabling the option wherever possible.

[Update]

I just wanted to add a list of services which support this service that I’ve come across so far:

Google Accounts

LastPass

Dropbox

WordPress! (Via Google Authenticator plugin – read their website as it needs enabling before protection is active).

Google Play Movies

I’ve just rented a movie from Google Play Movies and thought I’d post a small review of my experiences.
Firstly, at 99p (in a sale) the rental was very good value, and with some movie rentals at £2.50, and therefore competitive with pay as you go LoveFilm there was some hope.

Or so I thought.

Rented films have to be watched within 30 days of renting – this is ok and is reasonable enough.

Once playback has been started, you have 48 hours before the rental expires. Considering they are competing with the likes of Netflix, LoveFilm and iTunes, most of which offer monthly recurring plans, this seems strange. I understand that some kind of limit has to be placed on the rental, but why not a 30 day rental (or even a 14 day rental), scrapping the expiry once playback has begun.

You can sync rented movies to your Android phone, to playback offline. This is simply a necessary feature. It does however disable the option to watch the rented film in a browser – you can’t split your 48 hours of viewing between mobile and desktop without repeatedly re-downloading the movie to your phone.

You can watch on a desktop, but only in the browser. When buffering (in a YouTube player) video playback was often stuttery. Now I know my hardware can play back 1080p YouTube content, so there is something different about this flash only player. Video played smoothly once the entire film was buffered, and was good quality, at a max. of 720p for the particular film I rented (which was released in 1976 and so would not have benefitted from any higher resolution). In addition, and although having not tried this with standard YouTube content, it is not possible to use dual monitor functionality when playing rented movies in the browser. Once the lightboxed player is full screened, other tabs cannot be opened and used whilst full screen (I was using the latest version Chrome on my mac).

Or…I hear if you somehow find yourself in posession of a verion of the film as an .avi, it plays pretty much anywhere, for as long as you want. I would never encourage the aquisition of films in such a format however, when faced with inconveniences between the content and the enjoyment of the content there is little wonder why the path of least resistance is often followed by consumers.

Dropbox Cache [UPDATED]

Although I am championing Google Drive at the moment, I do still use Dropbox from time to time (especially seen as I’ve been given 50GB of Dropbox space with my Samsung Galaxy S3, although in true Dropbox ‘it’s not really there’ style, this will disappear after 2 years). Having read this article I have been able to save 7GB(!) of hard drive space on my mac. Read the article for more info but essentially:

  1. Show system files (or hidden files on windows).
  2. Delete the damn .dropbox.cache folder in your Dropbox folder
  3. Reclaim vast amounts of storage space!

As I’m using the fantastic TotalFinder, showing system files was easy, I’m not sure it it’s always been available on the View menu in the standard Mac OS Finder, but it’s well worth investigating to reclaim some wasted space.

[Updated]

You can easily access this folder from the standard OS X finder by selecting “Go to folder” from the “Go” menue in the the finder (or by pressing Shift+Cmd+G) and pasting / entering the following:

/Users/[username]/Dropbox/.dropbox.cache/

 

This will take you straight to that folder if you can’t show hidden folders! You cant then delete the biggest folders or the whole thing, and Dropbox will sort itself out as and when it needs to. Might be a good idead to have dropbox completely closed (right click on the icon) when you do this.

Samsung Galaxy S3 – T-Mobile review

Having recently got a new phone and having left Virgin Mobile for T-Mobile, I wanted to post my reaction to the handset and service.

Given the hype surrounding this handset, the and endless amount of reviews already available, I wanted to express my opinions more in the form of a reaction to the common criticisms found in said reviews, rather than in the form of my own mini review.

Firstly, battery. I felt details were sketchy whilst I was reading reviews and yes, I’m impressed. With average-heavy use I still seem to have approx. 40% battery remaining at the end of the day. It’s reassuring to know there is capacity available for giving the phone a hammering when needed (like Dead Trigger!).

The ‘flimsy’ plastic back panel – not a problem. Yes if you remove the back it is a flimsy piece of plastic. But I can more than comfortably agree that this is to keep the weight and thickness down. The phone is light enough that a thicker back plate would likely make a noticeable difference to the device’s weight, and how often is the back going to be off anyway really? When attached, the plastic back plate it firmly in contact with the solid body and battery, and so feels as strong as the back of any other phone I’ve used.

Speed – is noticeable from the upgrade from my original HTC Desire. I’ve not seen the device stutter, but the most noticeable improvement is when installing apps. Often there is no ‘installing’ message, just a ‘successfully installed’ notification.

The handset did feel quite slippery when I first started using it. Once I got used to its weight and holding it, I didn’t find this a problem anymore. I do have a rubber case on the way (for a whole 99p), but we’ll see how that goes.

File transfer is a bit of a pain, compared to the removal drive method used previously. This is because there is one partition for storage and a protocol called MTP is used. This is supported natively on Windows, but required a download from Android.com on a Mac. The PS3 doesn’t support this system unfortunately though, which is Sony’s fault not Google’s.

The screen seems to be more repellant to dinner prints and general grime, which is great. Yes the colours may not be as realistic as with the LCD equivalent screen but to my eyes out looks great and it’s not like I’m going to be colour correcting on the phone.

I’m very happy so far!

Google Music

Very easy way to get Google Music working in the UK:

I’d read that Google Music only checked the geographical location of your IP when you accept the terms and conditions. I had tried with a free proxy service to accept the terms and enable Google Music for my account but to no avail.

I recently persevered using the free option on the paid service proXPN.

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Vinyl Comparison – Background

Firstly, I’d like to just cover some interesting things I’ve discovered about the medium, as I believe they play a major part in why there are supposed differences between modern high fidelity digital formats (of which I only consider their to be only one – CD quality WAV) and vinyl releases.

As I mentioned in the introductory post, what goes on on the surface of a record is largely black magic to me, and the process of converting 1s and 0s into an audible waveform makes much more sense. However, after doing a bit of reading, I may have shed some light onto the surface of those little discs.

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“Journey”

On the recommendation of a colleague, I recently played the game “Journey” available from the PlayStation Network Store and made by “thatgamecompany“, so I thought I’d write a post about it.

The game was a new experience for me as, in my naiveté I was unaware that it was possible for relatively small companies to make and distribue games. As a result of the PSN Store it is financially viable it would seem, for “non-mainstream” games to be produced which allow drastically different gaming experiences than certainly I was used to.

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