Yawho??

Why does anyone use Yahoo anymore other than for webmail and catching some news. Why are Microsoft even bothering trying to buy them out, I don’t get it, there are so many better alternatives to Yahoo!, that are both more of “today”, giving you a more Web 2.0 experience e.g. iGoogle (surprise surprise!). The only thing I can see happening is that Microsoft buy out Yahoo and make it almost the same as how iGoogle operates, because we all know that MS is a bit of magpie of the IT world and nicks other people’s good ideas etc.

Google have basically swatted Yahoo! into relative obscurity in search engine usage, even if Microsoft bought them out and combined their search engines, they would still be lagging behind Google. Don’t get me wrong I’m not really a Google fanboy or anything, but why would you bother using something that’s not all that good when there is better stuff out there. Yahoo is not total rubbish, it’s just a bit passe, and doesn’t really push the envelope or offer anything new.

Google has 59% of US searches, versus about ~20% from Yahoo! (according to searchengine.com). That’s a massive share. Yahoo aren’t helping themselves by charging for POP3 email access, who want’s to pay for web mail when it’s been free from the start – MailPlus from Yahoo woooooooh!, how exciting, yes please take my £12 a year for allowing me to access my email on Outlook and er…. better anti spam technology, allegedly – hmmmm my mouths watering. I know it’s only a pound a month, but I just can’t even be arsed paying them and going through all the payment details. So basically I dumped Yahoo not so long ago (and it would have been sooner if I wasn’t that precious about my email address) – I have a gmail account, it’s free too from 3rd party client software, and all round is much much better. It’s survival of the fittest, and Yahoo is looking a bit haggard!

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Yawho??

Ripping DVDs is a consumers right

On the topic of encoding DVDs there is so much ambiguity about what you can legally do, but basically if you live in the UK or US, it’s illegal – nice! But people still rip DVDs and CDs regardless, you can’t throw us all in jail! The way I see it, I bought it, I own it, it’s for my own use, as long as I don’t file share it, what’s the problem? What possible threat am I doing to the poor, strapped for cash, beleaguered film industry? It physically doesn’t affect them in any monetary way, there is no financial hit to them, and that’s what it all boils down to anyway – money. I think the law should be officially changed to stop all this ambiguity as to whether it’s legal or not to encode your own DVDs for private use, especially concerning UK and US residents.

The Tide is Turning!

It’s inevitable, it will only be a matter of time and the laws will be changed to allow you to legally ‘format-shift’ your DVDs to hard disk or whatever format you like. What has started the ball rolling is a landmark case in 2007 – where the DVD Copy Control Association (a body you must get a license from if you intend to decode DVDs and play them in your technology, say if you were a manufacturer of DVD players) lost its breach-of-contract case from Kaleidoscope Systems, a maker of media servers.

Of course, it seems you can’t have a court case ruling without an appeal, and so DVD CCA are trying to overturn the ruling, BUT if they fail it will have huge ramifications – basically, it will mean that consumers will be able to format-shift DVDs – hooray!! Well thats for those in the US, but I expect that will influence legislation in other countries, especially the UK, who seem to follow closely in the steps of US. However format-shifting is happening in countries like Sweden, Germany and New Zealand despite the US stance and in Spain its legal to distribute your own media as well as pirated media, it only gets illegal if you try and do it for profit. Anyway I just hope, from a British standpoint, we don’t have to wait eons before format-shifting is legal here in the UK.

As an aside – why am I so keen on ripping DVDs….

Ripping DVDs is becoming more common because technology has advanced – its dictating how we, the consumer want our media. For the first time we have the power and technology and most importantly the storage capacity to rip DVDs. A couple of years ago this simply wasn’t the case, hard drives were too small and computers were too slow. Today you can have all your films streamed to Windows Media Centre or a PS3 etc, via your home network, and enjoy any of the movies you own, at the click of the button. This takes out the hassle of finding storage for a sizable collection, trying to locate a particular DVD, avoiding damage to the original discs, and lastly an overwhelming smug/warm feeling inside that you have all your film collection neatly stored on disk to access on a moments whim!

Software recommendations for format-shifting

  • DVD Shrink – encodes your DVD to VOB format.
  • Handbrake – converts VOB files to MP4 and loads of other stuff too.
  • PS3 Video 9 – more emphasis on PS3 but can be used for other devices

Also look at Lifehacker blog for some good info on DVD ripping software.

Ripping DVDs is a consumers right

Pixel (not) Perfect!

I have always had a problem or shall we say fear with the issue of “dead pixels” when purchasing a new monitor – and the fact that it seems totally justified and somehow reasonable for manufacturers to sell equipment which I believe is essentially B grade and defective.
Every few years, when its time to upgrade my monitor, I am always filled with a certain sense of dread and fear. It’s that horrible sinking feeling you get, just before you switch on your pristine, brand new, black and gleaming LCD (if the colour is black and indeed finished with gleam). The anticipation of seeing the dreaded, ever permanent dead pixels staring me in the face, getting in my field of view and essentially annoying the hell out of me, until:

a) I sell it on eBay (is that fair?).
b) Cover the dead pixel with a tiny plaster (not ideal, and really what is that going to achieve?).
c) Smash the screen with a small hatchet and fevered rage (satisfying, but only momentarily, achieving even less than (b)).

Sometimes I wake in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat from night-terrors about dead pixels consuming and overtaking by LCD – I run downstairs, fire up my PC, and scan every inch of the screen to find lo and behold … everything to be fine. Phew!, stop worrying, dead pixels are a thing of the past, its 2008, monorails and hover-boards are around the corner, this type of thing just doesn’t happen anymore.

But maybe one day things might change…and that, my friends, has now happened. My “BRAND NEW” Iiyama 24″ display tricked me into thinking it was a 1st class piece of hardware. It showed no symptoms of Necrotising Pixelisus for several days, and then, to my horror, a glinting, bright green pixel appeared unto me, blinking and sparkling like an exploding supernova of shitness (right in the middle of the screen)!! What new hell is this!

I have to live with this for the life-time of the product, and there is no way I can return this back to Iiyama, its a fault I am supposed to tolerate according to ISO 13406-2 standards and other such bullshit – furthermore, I only have power of redress if the monitor develops over 6 dead pixels, and/or 16 dead sub pixels (i.e. if the pixel changes to a permanent colour, red, green or blue, not completely dead and black). But one is enough!!!, thats enough to ruin the screen in my view, unless it was right in corner and sort of indistinguishable from the edge. Even worse, the bigger the screen the more dead pixels you must have before you can get a new screen, – its like if you bought a brand new car and it had a scratch on it – you’d be a mite pissed off and be wanting something done about it. If it had 10 or 11 scratches on it because its a “big car” then you’d be furious, you’d be wanting another new car straight away or your money back! But you buy something new, you want it new and unblemished, well I do anyway.

Update: I found this link to dead pixels, it may be old but its still useful espcially concerning the different classes of monitors:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/penalty,604.html

Pixel (not) Perfect!

I’ve just inherited visual crap!

I can’t believe Visual Inheritance is such a piece of crud! It does not work – simple as. This may be old news to some of you out there, but I think it’s worthy of a rant anyway. For those who don’t know what it is – well basically Visual Inheritance lets you create a form – lets call it your base form, and lets you inherit children forms from it or more specialised functionality of the base form. Its essentially a great idea, as this should potentially save you time if you design well.

If you don’t get the “One of more errors encountered while loading the designer…” blah de blah error message, then you cant get nested controls to work properly, like controls on the toolstrip etc. It’s just rubbish, especially when you spend time and effort into designing your code base to implement it.

Firstly – I am really annoyed at MS (Microsoft) – how could they release such fundamental flaws into a programming language, how did it get past formal testing? – it really dents your confidence in the product – but actually because I happen to like the framework so much, I have the inner strength to forgive them. But I’m still angry!

Secondly – In the past MS made voiced Visual Inheritance as a key feature of VS (Visual Studio) – they must have known that it was a bit dodgy but but put it in the release anyway.

Thirdly – MS even include it in the MS Certification exam (70-316). They are testing you on something that doesn’t work! – “I sense the conflict within you” (geek point for Star Wars type reference ;))

Fourthly – Be honest with us – tell us “we don’t recommend you use it”, we made a mistake and we can’t be bothered to rectify it. Now move on.

Finally – you shouldn’t have to be constantly fighting with the IDE designer, looking for workarounds and phantom errors that don’t really exist – its supposed to help us poor programmers – not toy with our patience and fragile emotions (well, at least mine).

So the final upshot is this – FORGET VISUAL INHERITANCE – Microsoft have!

You just have to do things the non-OOP way – it’s not as elegant, it’s more work, but at least you’ll be one step closer to delivering.

I’ve just inherited visual crap!

In the Beginning…

Welcome to my (soon to be) brilliant blog website thingy!

The blog will have a focus on all things Microsofty, GIS, train travel, life in general and idiots.

Warning! I can sometimes be opinionated, mis-informed, hugely entertaining and downright wrong – but thats the essence of ranting! – which so happens to be one of my favourite hobbies!

I will endevour to produce high quality readable articles on a regular basis – but then probably get fed up because no one will bother to read them – just like Facebook, which now everyone is mildly bored with now. Come on! it was always going to happen!

In the Beginning…