The new port of XBMC not only makes the second-gen AppleTV one of the cheapest devices out there that can run XBMC short of a used Xbox, but it also adds some lovely functionality to Apple’s woefully slim-featured set-top box, including the ability to pump out 1080p video, play a myriad of codecs and web content natively, as well as install and expand your experience with new apps.
My original Xbox running XBMC was, hands down, the best media centre I've ever owned. It never once complained about codecs and it ran silky smooth. In fact, I still keep it hidden under my TV for emergencies. The only problem with it is the hardware itself. The Xbox is bulky, noisy, ethernet-only, and has no remote control, so when I use it, I'm forced to use the monstrously huge Xbox controller, with its cable draped across my living room.
I had been thinking about getting a Boxee box, but slightly went off the idea after reading Jon Hicks' lukewarm review. The availability of XBMC on the ATV2 nails it for me. My next toy.
Sinead Duffy is a lifecoach (with her own company, Great Minds) who has set up the mother of all Twitter accounts. Called Greatest Quotes, it's an auto-tweeting feed of... greatest quotes. Astonishingly, Greatest Quotes is growing by 10,000 followers per week. That's almost as much as Ashton Kutcher.
Ah, you think -- that's a bit of a swizz. Sure, just set up a few RSS feeds and let it take off; that's not a real account.
Think again. Because of this account, Duffy is getting business online. And it's cash upfront. "I coach select overseas clients via Skype and charge through Paypal," she tells me. "It's mostly through Twitter that potential clients find me."
Who's laughing now?
Coaching. "Select overseas clients". From a Twitter account that spews out 'greatest quotes'.
Sometimes I think this recession hasn't hit hard enough.
In fact, aside from the fact that Blu-Ray’s high definition picture is so ridiculously gorgeous, the whole format is demonstrably worse than what came before it.
— Khoi Vinh
Agreed. I’ve only used Blu-Ray on a PS3, which is probably better than most standalone players, but all of the consumer-hostile “features” of DVDs — unskippable logos, previews, warnings, and disclaimers, long animation delays before menu activation, custom-themed interfaces that make everything more difficult — has advanced to new levels of hassles, delays, restrictions, and annoyances.
Granted, I probably own more Blu-Rays than I should (I'm slowly weaning myself off physical media), but each time I pop a new disc into my PS3 and wait the full three-to-five minutes for my movie to actually begin, I say "This is why people pirate movies".
Although recently, I'm noticing a disturbing trend in the pre-movie junk. Where there used to be the "You wouldn't steal a car" warning, some studios are now putting a message to say "Thank you for buying a legitimate copy of this movie". Except the whole thing is done in a comedy voice, kind of like the E4 announcer, which makes the whole thing seem really insincere. Which is a step in the right direction, I suppose -- at least they're no longer treating consumers as potential criminals -- but it's a long way from what consumers actually want, which is quick access to the movie they just bought.
What does this mean? Well, naturally it means a tax (this is Italy, after all - some money has got to change hands). It also means that these sites will be obliged to prohibit access to content inappropriate for children in certain time slots. More importantly though, it means that the sites are now legally responsible for all user-content uploaded to them, meaning that if some half-senile old fuck who controls half the media in the country finds some of their content on there, he finally has someone to sue.
I have to be honest, if the owners of these sites decide that the easiest way to solve all these problems is to just block access from Italy entirely, I wouldn't even be slightly surprised. That guy from YouReporter.it nailed it: "This is a legal absurdity and violence done to reality."
One of the most difficult things about getting married is how to bring together two family's worth of Christmas traditions into one cohesive whole. For example, on Christmas morning, my wife's family wakes up and has breakfast of smoked salmon on brown bread. Very dignified. In my family, our Christmas breakfast is usually an entire selection box, inhaled more than eaten, with the wrappers picked out of your teeth when you finally wake up from your diabetic coma a couple of hours later.
Okay, that's a no-brainer. We'll adopt my wife's way. And hey, to add our own personal touch to the proceedings, why not have Bellinis for breakfast too? There we go, that's breakfast sorted.
In my family, our Christmas dinner is turkey and ham. In my wife's family it's just turkey. Since it's just the two of us, and we have enough trouble finishing an entire turkey by ourselves, we can safely ditch the ham (although there is nothing -- NOTHING -- quite like a Stephen's day sandwich of leftover ham on batch bread, so we retain the option to introduce the ham at a later date).
Then there's the Christmas presents. In my family, I would wake up at about 4am, make my way down the stairs, shaking violently with barely-contained excitement, and finally proceed to tear open all my presents in just a few seconds flat. A wrapping-paper massacre of epic proportions. In my wife's family, the kids are not allowed open their Christmas presents until after the whole family had come back from mass. They were allowed open their Christmas stocking, but that's it.
This is something that we'd been going backwards and forwards about. My wife argues that it's better to do things her way, because it teaches delayed gratification. That's one argument, I suppose. Personally, I prefer instant gratification, and I believe that Christmas is the one day which should be entirely about instant gratification. You want to eat that entire box of Cadbury's Heroes in one sitting? Go right ahead, it's Christmas!
I think this year has taught my wife the danger of her way of doing things.
My wife's sister (who also comes from the school of 'no presents until after mass') brought her two young children to mass on Christmas day. They sat right up at the front of the church. The priest saw them, and them being two of the most adorable-looking children ever, started asking them about Christmas.
"And what did Santa bring you?"
"Oh! And uh... anything else?"
Come Here to Me, easily the best Irish blog right now, talks about the history of Dublin Mean Time, when Dublin was 25 minutes ahead of Britain. "Incredibly, prior to October 1916, there had been some hostility to the idea of synchronizing our watches with Britain. In August 1916, a letter appeared in the Irish Independent arguing against it on nationalist grounds! The writer noted that “the question is whether we should give up this mark of our national identity to suit the convenience of shipping companies and a few travellers”."
In the Assassin's Creed games, your character, Desmond, spends his time hooked up to a "genetic memory reading" machine, where he relives the memories of his ancestors. You remember Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the way Jim Carrey is forced to travel through his memories to find a safe place to hide Kate Winslet? Well, it's sort of like that. Except you're looking for something, not hiding it. And the 'memories' all took place at least 500 years ago. At the beginning of the latest game, Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, Desmond emerges from a memory of being at his ancestor's villa in the year 1500, to find himself at the same villa in 2012, trying to get in. It's his first time to actually visit the place in real life, and he makes a remark about 'remembering' a secret passage. The joke being that he's 'remembering' visiting a place he's never actually visited.
I know exactly how he feels.
Herself indoors was working in New York for the past couple of months. I decided it might be nice to head across for a week once she'd finished up, so we could take a couple of days over thanksgiving to visit Washington while we were at it. I had never been to either place before (West Coast is the Best Coast). In fact, I've always said that there are two places in the world I was terrified to visit. The first is Las Vegas, mainly because I'm afraid what horrible qualities would emerge in me (am I a secret compulsive gambler? a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil? Who knows!). The other is New York. I was just afraid of being one of those dopey-faced tourists that look like walking "Mug Me" signs because they're walking around gawping at the scale of it all,. I mean, it's completely alien to someone who grew up in a country where the tallest building is only 233 feet tall.
It's amazing what two months away from your wife will do to your irrational fears.
Something that made it easy for me to get over my fear was the fact that, despite having never been there before, the whole place was so familiar to me. Between all my years playing the various Grand Theft Auto games (Liberty City being the game's equivalent of New York City), and the general immersion that comes from watching movies and TV shows set in NYC, I never really felt that disorientated. I never got that overwhelming sense of strangeness that usually comes from visiting a new city. I knew how this city worked. I spent most of my time pointing out the various bits and pieces. Hey, there's the Library from Ghostbusters! Hey, there's the Getalife Metlife Building. New York City being the default setting for games and movies meant that I had learned the geography of that place by osmosis.
Washington wasn't much different. Shortly after arriving, I demanded that our very generous hosts drive us 15 minutes in the wrong direction just so I could see the Exorcist steps in Georgetown. This grounded me, gave me a central location to base my understanding of the geography fromAlthough, did you know there's an Exxon at the bottom? This wigged me out no end. I would have expected a statue to the mighty Lee J. Cobb or something.
The White House was the weirdest of all. We came at the building from the east side, hitting the press area first. Again, having never been there before, I was able to point out certain areas to my wife - there's the press area, there's the rose garden. How did I know this? Splinter Cell: Conviction, where your character sneaks through this area to get into the White House and, eventually, the West Wing.
And speaking of the West Wing, I've been watching a lot of that show recently, and that's given me a weirdly intimate understanding of the way the place worksEven if it's deliberately not a completely faithful reproduction of the layout of the office area. But it had another, stranger effect on my experience of the White House in general. Rather than seeing it as the centre of power for arguably the most powerful nation in the world, for me the White House actually felt more like a movie set, like the Psycho house at Universal Studios - a really elaborate facadeInsert your own political commentary here, you fucking wag.
I'd probably join Harry Crane as "Chaotic Neutral". I have no idea where my wife would be. Also, could there be a whole new alignment, just for Pete? "Really Evil, like a Cold, Dead-Eyed Sociopath-in-Waiting" has a certain ring to it.
Listen up. I know the shit you've been saying behind my back. You think I'm stupid. You think I'm immature. You think I'm a malformed, pathetic excuse for a font. Well think again, nerdhole, because I'm Comic Sans, and I'm the best thing to happen to typography since Johannes fucking Gutenberg.