The iPad is announced! I just don’t don’t get it

With some fanfare the iPad was announced today. And if I am reading it right, it’s like an iPhone but big and fat.

I don’t get it.

It’s an iPhone without the phone. It does not multitask.  So while you are using it as a ebook reader, you can’t keep any instant messenger sessions in the background.  You can probably play music, but no streaming music via the wifi.  You can probably still cut and paste, but no switching ssh sessions ’cause that will make the ssh app to exit.

What’s the appeal again? Seriously, who will step up with a really useful little tablet? I’m hoping ASUS or MSI will deliver something that I actually want. I already have an iPhone.

Cool, Geek, Software

Transcoding for the iPhone

This is definitely one of those “you’d better write this down” posts.

Being a longtime LINUX monkey, I am used to manipulating files via the command line. The GUI is a fad and if you want to get something done switch to command line. Transcoding video files are good for that sort of CLI manipulation.

Let’s say I had a .mkv file and wanted to play it on my iPhone. The iPhone does not play that format so I need to convert or transcode the video/audio/subtitles to something the iPhone can play.

It’s a two step process that requires two executable files for Windows, mencoder and ffmpeg. Doing a basic search on Google located the two binaries that I wanted and I put them in C:\util.

The first one used is mencoder.exe and that’s to take the mkv formated file and convert it to an avi file. This is accomplished using this command:

C:\util\mencoder.exe -mc 0 -noskip -oac mp3lame -lameopts cbr=128 -ovc xvid -xvidencopts bitrate=1200 "C:\Videos\Episode-01.mkv" -o "C:\tmp\Episode-01.avi"

This is an intermediate step since the iPhone can’t play avi files either.  Depending on the file this could take a while.  Once the output file Episode-01.avi has been generated then it’s time to use ffmpeg.

C:\util\ffmpeg.exe -threads 2 -i "C:\tmp\Episode-01.avi" -acodec libfaac -ab 128kb -vcodec mpeg4 -b 1200kb -mbd 2  -cmp 2 -subcmp 2 -s 640x352 -async 1 -title "Episode 01" "C:\iPhone Video\Episode-01.mp4"

I am running on a Intel Core 2 Duo so I use the -threads 2 option. After that’s completed, I just drag the new file into iTune’s and sync my phone.  The sync process will not transfer a video file that it thinks the iPhone will not play so even it iTunes can play it, the phone might not be able to.

There are GUI wrappers for this, but I could not get WinFF or Handbrake to work reliably for me. They both wrap the CLI commands, so this works out better for me. The quality is not that good outside of the iPhone but that’s what the original .mkv versions are for.

Now in 9 months, when I want to do this again, I’ll have the steps ready and wont waste the morning trying to remember what I did last year.


Attention Apple: AT&T is hurting your brand

Another day and another 3G outage for my iPhone. Even EDGE is not working today. Voice works, just not data. If the Palm Pre is successful it will not be because of an iPhone issue, it will be because AT&T’s 3G network is a joke.

The iPhone is a great piece of convergent technology. But without Internet connectivity, it’s primary function is crippled. It’s a cool device and works well when the network cooperates but without it I’m left to listening to music and playing games.

I can now play 3 card draw solitaire as an expert and Bejeweled 2 bores me to tears. I would much rather read my RSS feeds via Google Reader but AT&T’s poor network just can’t work. This is why Apple should turn to Verizon or Sprint.

If Apple were to actually have a model of iPhone that works on a non-AT&T network, it would be a bigger hit than it is now. In the meanwhile I look forward to more Android phones and the latest Palm offering.

Geek, Software

Looks like I'll need to try iTunes again

I don’t like DRM. It’s not an effective control since you can almost always convert the protected media into an unprotected version.It treats paying customers like trash and is meant to keep the fish swimming in neat little lines.

That’s why I buy all my online music from Amazon. I’m not an Amazon fan exactly, I just think that Apple is pandering to the music factory. The integration with my iPhone is broken so I buy music via the web and run iTunes and add the new files to my collection. There is a Firefox plugin but it works sporadically and I gave up on it.

Recently Apple relaxed their DRM.  Your account is still stamped on the downloaded music, but most of the songs are no longer encrypted. That means I can play that music on Linux, my XBox 360 (I think), etc.  For a not huge fee you can convert the songs in your collection from encrypted .m4p format to .m4a format.

It’s a start and I’ll give it a shot and pick up some tunes.  I’ll believe Apple’s iTunes Store is really “open” when the Creative MP3 player can plugin and sync using iTunes.