Last week, my iPod Nano (6th generation) stopped working since its power button got stuck and failed to do anything to activate the machine. I rushed out, and got myself a replacement player in the form of an Apple iPod Nano 7th generation. I must admit that I have not found any alternative to an iPod paired with iTunes when it comes to a plain stand-alone audio player. After the utter disappointment that the 6th gen nano was, the 7th gen turned out to be surprisingly good and might even be almost up to the standards of the near-perfect 3rd generation.
Once upon a time, I was young man in high school where our little computer club got a new PC with a color screen and a floating-point coprocessor. One fun little program I wrote was a simple gravity simulator, where a number of point-size assigned various mass flew around interacting with each other. We used that program and tried to set up initial setting for sizes, speeds, and directions of bodies that would result in some kind of stable system. More often that not, all we managed to create were comets that came in, took a sharp corner around a “star” and disappeared out into the void again. Still, it was great fun. And when I discovered Angry Birds Space it felt like a chance to try that again. Overall, “space” as my son calls it is a great spin on the Angry Birds idea. However, the way it is sold does not make me too happy.
Is the touchscreen the end-all of user interfaces for mobile devices? There were rumors in early 2011 that the iPad2 would lose all physical buttons (which did not come true, obviously). To me, that sounds like a really good and bad idea. Good, in the sense that a device that is all a big screen certainly looks nice. Bad, since it would be much less user-friendly than a device with some real physical buttons to press.
I have been thinking about this subject lately, after using a BlackBerry Torch 9800 as my work phone for a few months. I like the device a lot, but there are certainly some rough edges and some places where there is a UI conflict between touching the screen and pressing the buttons. At the same time, I am using both an iPod Nano 3G, and a couple of iPod Touches. I used to have SonyEricsson Symbian-based P900, P990i, and G900 smart phones which also were combined touch/press devices with a stylus.
We recently got ourselves an iPod Touch, to entertain our oldest child on long trips. It is a brilliant device in many ways, I can understand why people love their iPhones (even though I am very happy with the very different style of the Blackberry phone that I was given by my employer). However, I have found one weird behavior in the music player that leaves me wondering how it got through into the shipping product.
Last year in a blog post on video encoding for the iPod Nano, I complained about the lack of performance on my old Athlon. A bit later, I noted that (obviously) video encoding is a good example of an application that can take advantage of parallelism. Yesterday I put these two topics together in a practical test. And it worked nicely enough.
I just got myself a new home PC, to replace my no longer very trusty five-year old Athlon-based PC. In the process, I realized I had to move my iTunes library from the old machine to the new. Reading on the web and the Apple support area made me somewhat skeptical as to the feasibility of this operation… would all my cover art, podcast subscriptions, playlists and ratings survive the move? There are many stories of failed moves and lost data out there… and moving from Windows XP to Vista 64-bit did not make the dread less.
In the end, it turned out it was really dead easy!
The colder season is coming fast here in Uppsala, and it is time to bring out gloves and warmer jackets. Even if we have had some nice sunny pretty warm days (up to 15 degrees Celsius!), we are getting into October soon, a month where there is usually some day of freak snow fall.
Another sign that it is getting colder is the reaction of consumer electronics.
A question that pops up quite often when computer architects and representatives from firms like Intel encounter a crowd today is but just what do you need more computing power for????. Most regular users are fairly happy with the speed at which they process words, surf the web, read email, do IP phone calls, crunch numbers in Excel, and other common tasks. It is hard to perceive the need for more speed in everyday tasks, unlike a decade or two ago when you could definitely ask for improvement. I remember scrolling a page in PageMaker on a Mac SE (8Mhz 68000). You counted the clicks and waited for the screen to jump, redraw, jump, redraw, stabilize… quite a different experience from working with modern computers and far more complex software that still responds instantaneously to almost any work.
A short update to the previous posting on how to compress video for the nano.
It turns out that the “iPod video” profile of Nero Recode is half aimed at showing video from your iPod on external devices. That’s the only good reason for the “high” resolution. I typically got a video size of 15MB per minute with these settings, which quickly fills up even gigabytes of space.
Using the “iPod Video-AVC” profile instead is optimized for viewing on the Nano itself and not on some external device. The resolution is down to 320×200-240 depending on source aspect ratio. And the resulting files are only about 5MB per minute, much more manageable for carrying a large video library on an iPod. I cannot see any difference in the quality of the output…
Update (2007-September-23): The default iPod-AVC setting has some issue with rapid cross-fades between scenes. To get around this, I set the quality settings to “2-pass” and “highest quality” in the detailed settings you can make in the second screen before moving on to actually encode things. This created very nice looking video that had no problems handling even the previously broken fades.
The cost was even more compute time. I think the current settings takes some 5 to 10 hours per material hour to encode (on my Athlon XP 2700+, not exactly a screamer by current standards).
This is not in my self-assigned range of topics, but I like when other people put up their helpful notes of how to accomplish some task that I am researching. Thus, I feel obliged to do the same when I have tested something reasonably new.
The task at hand here is “how to get video into an iPod Nano”.