Sunday, January 20, 2008

What's in the wind?

The air, of course - being the MacBook Air, as announced at the MacWorld expo last week. It looks, well, thin, and is certainly expensive - but then again so was the iPhone, and that seems to be selling?

Steve Jobs also announced AppleTV take 2, with a big change of emphasis, taking the AppleTV from an 'iPod for the living room' tethered to a Mac, into a stand-alone box that can be used to access the iTunes Music Store directly, for renting movies. These rentals, which were announced for US only so far, involve a download, then 30 day authorisation, and a 24 hour window of access from first running a file. Once either deadline expires the movie self-destructs (or maybe asks for more money). In other words - DRM (digital rights management), now with time and access limits in the iTunes environment.

What's the big deal? Remember the reason that the BBC's iPlayer couldn't be ported to Mac (except for streaming, since Dec 25th) - lack of DRM on the Mac platform. And has the BBC noticed this development? Yes, they certainly have, in the person of Ashley Highfield, current head of digital stuff over in White City. (But, as recently announced, to move to Salford's Media City one day). In his own blog:
This, coupled with Apple's (long anticipated) move to a rental model, means that we can look to getting BBC iPlayer onto this platform too, as we should be able to use the rental functionality to allow our programmes to be downloaded, free, but retained for a time window, and then erased, as our rightsholders currently insist.
And maybe there's good news for the rest of us, too, with the possibility one day of gathering income from podcasts (he says with feeling!).


Footnote - yes I know I promised to have Series 2 of 'Out of Vision' up and running: I must plead variously pressure of other projects and a 5 day loss of broadband connection (thank you Orange Broadband). But coming Real Soon Now

Friday, January 18, 2008

Jan 2008's meeting - report and links

Oxygen wasn't rationed, but we were just about at capacity for 2008's first wefcpug. Maybe everyone needed something to kickstart the brain after holiday season.

Here are the links for the presentations -

The GIMP is an open source graphics program long known to Linux and Unix users, and (as I reported a year or so back) has been ported to the Mac, where it works in the X11 windowing environment. At least, it DID work, until Leopard was released. There are now two updates that restore a working Gimp to the platform:

the latest version of the Gimp itself here at the charmingly named Wilber-loves-Mac site. (Worth visiting the second link first if you need to read things up.)

and an open-source modified version of the Apple X11 system for Leopard installations. My understanding (which only just stretches this far) is that the modified X11 on this link adheres to the XWindows standard in ways that the X11 bundled with Leopard does not. If you're happy downloading a modified X11 (which I believe incorporates changes into the Quartz graphics layer as far as it affects X11) you can make it work! One of the open-source developers quotes an Apple team member saying they hope to make this an official Apple update one day.

So - you might want to wait until the next point upgrade to the OS, 10.5.2, which we expect any day now.

Other Leopard news: Skype and AudioHiJack have both released updates to be better compatible with Leopard.

Simon Walker presented the first Show'nTell of 2008, creating an impressive 30" commercial spot in Motion from humble ingredients. His website is here.

Anika Tokarchuk showed trailers and clips from her Tibetan trilogy of films - read more about them here.

Next meeting - Feb 4th

Monday, January 07, 2008

Lithium problems - Come fly with me (or not)

Amidst all the confusion about airport baggage restrictions here in the UK, you may not have noticed a new rule implemented from Jan 1st by the US aviation authorities. There are new restrictions on carrying Lithium-Ion rechargeable batteries, especially the chunky ones that pro camcorders use. You can't put spare batteries loose into checked-in luggage and there are quantity limits on how many batteries in total you can take on board with you. The limits are specified in terms of grams of Lithium: 25g is the upper limit, which is approx 300 watt-hours. (Two very high capacity packs).

The official US advice page is here.

Although these limits apply only to FAA governed flights, I suspect it can only be a matter of time before the CAA adopt them for UK flights. These aren't terrorism-inspired limits, but rather safety rules prompted by faulty batteries catching fire.

If you were at the December wefcpug, you may recall my ranting about the sudden and unexpected death of two of my IDX batteries, and the shocking price of replacements! I am happy to recommend an alternative manufacturer of compatible battery packs - DSM who are a UK source. What is also interesting is that, over 5 or so years, capacities have doubled for the same price (so not so shocking after all).

2008 kicks off!

And a Happy New Year to all wefcpug members and casual readers to the blog. The first wefcpug of 2008 happens next Monday, that's Jan 14th, and I'm hazarding a guess that we're back at the Beeb in Bristol (yet TBC).

If perchance you are the other side of the Atlantic, at the MacExpo in San Francisco (admittedly the second choice of events to attend next week), then do look out for the FCPUG 'Supermeet' which is organised by our sister User Group in San Francisco, led by the estimable Claudia Craske.

In Claudia's own words
We plan to have ONE HECKOFA FCPUG PARTY, and please be there with us in spirit even if life prevents you from being there in person. Please make sure your
members know we are in a new location.

You are invited to the FCPUG Network Supermeet Jan 16:

only $10 in advance, any remaining tickets will be $15 at the door - seating
is limited, so please buy your tickets as soon as possible.

Over $40,000 in hardware, software and training being given away - all in
one night!