The Hotness: Hokkaido DVD Player

via geeksugar — Geek is chic. by geeksugar on 7/3/08

If Phil Bartoszewicz had his way, the days of storing those boring black-cased DVD players in your attractive entertainment center would be over. He would ensure that everyone had access to DVD players that blend in with your stylish decor. And that’s exactly what he’s done with his concept design called Hokkaido: a stand alone optical DVD player with a retro touch, but obviously modern in its design. Sleek and geek chic, that’s how I like my components.

Seriously, can someone please give this guy a job so I can claim a Hokkaido for myself? Oh, and just one tiny suggestion? Make it Blu-ray compatible, please. Thanks.


Toshiba Kills HD-DVD


Toshiba announced Tuesday that it will no longer manufacture HD DVD hardware. From its press release:

“Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. This decision has been made following recent major changes in the market. Toshiba will continue, however, to provide full product support and after-sales service for all owners of Toshiba HD DVD products.”

Gizmodo’s man in Japan, Ichiroo, reported that the press release was “in the wild” before the company’s press conference had even begun.

The BBC has its version up. So does Bloomberg and the AFP.

There’s no nonsense, no big show, no morbid preliminaries: just the final truth in black and white, seemingly pre-empting its own schedule of events. Perhaps some still wondered if it would be too “proud” to act quickly, and would somehow drag it out for days, or even weeks.

Even the AP works this thought into its coverage, saying that the format’s demise is a “possible blow to Toshiba’s pride,” as if the corporation itself—or even the very technology—has emotions. But really, isn’t it all just business?

Toshiba Kills HD DVD, Official [Gizmodo]

Tokyo—Toshiba Corporation today announced that it has undertaken a thorough review of its overall strategy for HD DVD and has decided it will no longer develop, manufacture and market HD DVD players and recorders. This decision has been made following recent major changes in the market. Toshiba will continue, however, to provide full product support and after-sales service for all owners of Toshiba HD DVD products.

HD DVD was developed to offer consumers access at an affordable price to high-quality, high definition content and prepare them for the digital convergence of tomorrow where the fusion of consumer electronics and IT will continue to progress.

“We carefully assessed the long-term impact of continuing the so-called ‘next-generation format war’ and concluded that a swift decision will best help the market develop,” said Atsutoshi Nishida, President and CEO of Toshiba Corporation. “While we are disappointed for the company and more importantly, for the consumer, the real mass market opportunity for high definition content remains untapped and Toshiba is both able and determined to use our talent, technology and intellectual property to make digital convergence a reality.”

Toshiba will continue to lead innovation, in a wide range of technologies that will drive mass market access to high definition content. These include high capacity NAND flash memory, small form factor hard disk drives, next generation CPUs, visual processing, and wireless and encryption technologies. The company expects to make forthcoming announcements around strategic progress in these convergence technologies.

Toshiba will begin to reduce shipments of HD DVD players and recorders to retail channels, aiming for cessation of these businesses by the end of March 2008. Toshiba also plans to end volume production of HD DVD disk drives for such applications as PCs and games in the same timeframe, yet will continue to make efforts to meet customer requirements. The company will continue to assess the position of notebook PCs with integrated HD DVD drives within the overall PC business relative to future market demand.

This decision will not impact on Toshiba’s commitment to standard DVD, and the company will continue to market conventional DVD players and recorders. Toshiba intends to continue to contribute to the development of the DVD industry, as a member of the DVD Forum, an international organization with some 200 member companies, committed to the discussion and defining of optimum optical disc formats for the consumer and the related industries.

Toshiba also intends to maintain collaborative relations with the companies who joined with Toshiba in working to build up the HD DVD market, including Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, and DreamWorks Animation and major Japanese and European content providers on the entertainment side, as well as leaders in the IT industry, including Microsoft, Intel, and HP. Toshiba will study possible collaboration with these companies for future business opportunities, utilizing the many assets generated through the development of HD DVD.

Stick a fork in HD DVD it’s done

According to Engadget, sources from across the globe are confirming earlier reports that Toshiba would be bowing out of the optical disc format war, but it will happen sooner than we originally heard. Reuters and the NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) claim to have inside sources that confirm that Toshiba is officially retiring the HD DVD format as soon as possible and will be shutting down its DVD factories in Aomori Prefecture located in northern Japan. The shutdown will reportedly cost Toshiba hundreds of millions of dollars.

The death spiral of HD DVD seemed to have been kick started in June 2007, when the corporate rental giant Blockbuster said they would only carry Blu-ray within it’s retail locations. Then in early January 2008, Warner Bros. confirmed they would drop HD DVD in favor of the Sony backed – but not owned – Blu-ray format. Earlier this week HD DVD was knocked to the ground and repeatedly kicked as Netflix and Wal-Mart chose to support Blu in this completely ridiculous interesting format war.

While we wait for official word Stateside from Toshiba it certainly looks like this format war is completely done-zos.

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No Vista installation CD? You can still download a Vista recovery disc

via Download Squad by Brad Linder on 1/26/08
Vista Recovery Disc

The Windows Vista installation DVD includes more than just the files you need to install an operating system. There’s also a recovery center which helps you deal with operating system problems. It can search for problems, find system restore points, restore from backups, or fix a broken boot manager. The problem is that many, (if not most) home computer users don’t have a real installation disc. What they have is a system restore disc provided by their computer manufacturer.

A few months ago we discovered that you could create your own standalone system recovery disc using tools included in Windows Vista SP1. But if you haven’t downloaded the beta version of SP1, or if something has gone horribly wrong and your computer is in an unbootable state, you might need to look elsewhere.

Fortunately the folks at NeoSmart have put together a downloadable recovery disc image. The ISO is about 120MB, and you’ll have to burn it to a disc before you can use it. So you’ll need a working computer of some sort to play. If you’re running Vista and you don’t already have an install disc or a recovery disc, we’d highly recommend creating one now. The recovery center is really one of the most useful new features included in Windows Vista.

[via CyberNet]

Sony Blu-ray-to-PSP Movie Transfer Gets Official

via Gizmodo by Matt Buchanan on 1/7/08


Sony synergy FTW! Sony officially announced Blu-ray-to-PSP movie transfers at CES today. Pop a Blu-ray movie into your PS3, jack in your PSP and download to the portable or a Memory Stick for keeps. It’s sorta like pre-ripped iPod rips on DVDs, but on Sony’s ball field.


ImgBurn: Free CD/DVD image burning for Windows

Looking a way to burn a disc image to a CD or DVD but don’t want to shell out the money for a copy of Nero? ImgBurn is a free Windows app that does just what it’s name would suggest: it burns images. You can also use it to create images from CDs or files on your computer.

ImgBurn isn’t the only game in town. CDBurnerXP or InfraRecorder are also both free, and they also support burning images to a disc. Both programs are also a bit easier to use if you want to create a compilation, audio CD, or pretty much anything other than a disc image. But ImgBurn’s focus on disc images makes it ideal if you’re happy with the built in Windows XP/Vista disc burning utilities, but simply need a solution for burning ISO, NRG, or BIN files to disc.

[via AppScout]

New Zunes support DVD quality video over TV-Out

Zune Insider has a little update about specifics of the new Zunes up on their site, with the rather minor — but interesting — tidbit that the new Zunes natively support video of up to 720×480 at 30fps, or 720×576 at 25fps. These formats will only play at full quality via TV-Out — the Zune display is expected to be a regular 320 x 240 affair — but it’s nice to know that you’ll be able to lug around full DVD resolution movies on the next Zune, right?

[Thanks, alexsv: via Zune Online]

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Pirate movies no big deal say most Americans

Hollywood and the MPAA are pretty serious about stopping the spread of pirated movies via Bittorrent and other P2P clients. Unfortunately, it appears they’re losing the battle through a hole their first line of defense: Public Perception. According to a new research study, most Americans see downloading movies rather than buying them as tantamount to a “minor parking violation.”

Only 40 percent of Americans polled called downloading copyright protected movies without paying for them a “very serious offense,” a condition which Kaan Yigit of Solutions Research Group attributes to the Robin Hood effect. Simply put, most people see Hollywood and its stars as being too wealthy already, thus viewing a little personal piracy as an easy way to take from the rich and give to the poor, a pseudo-altruistic view that tends to break down when exposed to the light of day.

It’s obvious that a sue ’em all and let god sort ’em out approach like that employed by the RIAA only further solidifies internet users in their Robin Hood philosophy but, what’s the answer? Cheaper DVDs? Inexpensive DRM-laden downloads? How would Download Squad’s readership stop the bleeding and start the healing?

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Microsoft Expands Vista Options

vista.jpgMicrosoft is increasing the ways that users can purchase Windows Vista, and upgrade to premium versions.

Upgrade Pricing, Discount Promotions

Tomorrow, the company is expected to announce pricing for a previously revealed consumer upgrade system for Vista called Windows Anytime Upgrade. Microsoft has said it will put all of the versions of Vista on one DVD in packaged form, or on a PC if the OS comes pre-installed. Users will get a product activation key that can activate whatever edition of Vista they purchase, and then can use that to install the OS.

However, if a user decides he or she wants to upgrade to a more feature-rich version of Vista than the one originally purchased–such as from Home Basic to Home Premium–Microsoft will allow a customer to pay $79 for a product activation key for that upgrade rather than requiring that customer to go out and purchase the edition at full price, which for Home Premium would be $159.

Thursday will also see Microsoft unveil a promotion through June 30 intended to inspire computer enthusiasts with more than one PC in the home to upgrade more than one computer to Vista.

Dubbed the Windows Vista Family Discount, it will allow a customer who buys the retail boxed version of Ultimate to purchase digital licenses for Home Premium for $49 each that can be installed on up to two other PCs in the home. As I’ve explained in the past, the suggested retail price for Windows Home Premium is $159.

Vista, Office to be Available as Downloads

Microsoft will also announce tomorrow that, for the first time, users will be able to purchase its Windows OS by downloading it over the Internet.

On Jan 30, various consumer versions of Windows Vista–such as Windows Vista Home Basic, Windows Vista Home Premium and Windows Vista Ultimate–will be available at the company’s Windows Marketplace. Microsoft Office 2007 will also be available on the site, marking the first time customers can purchase the productivity suite by downloading it.

The company revamped the site in August, adding a new feature called Digital Locker, which keeps track of a customer’s license key online so that software can be downloaded and securely purchased over the Internet. This feature is one of the reasons Microsoft now feels it is safe enough to distribute Windows Vista and Office over the Web.

Netflix Offers Online Movie Streaming

Subscribers of the movie service Netfilx will gain the capability to stream movies to their PCs. About 1,000 films and television shows would be made available through the service, which will be rolled out to current customers over the next six months.

Netflix is facing an ever more competitive Blockbuster, which recently added new rental options to lure customers away from its bigger rival. The streaming feature will be provided at no additional cost above the standard monthly charge.

Netflix has plans to continue to expand the number of movies available, and says it will eventually support other platforms, such as the television or mobile phone. Mac OS users cannot currently use the service, as it requires Windows.

“While mainstream consumer adoption of online movie watching will take a number of years due to content and technology hurdles, the time is right for Netflix to take the first step,” CEO Reed Hastings said in a statement.

Customers would not be able to purchase videos from the service, as the company has indicated that is has no interest in that market. Rather, it would focus on rental, where the downloader has a set period of time to view a download.

When a customer begins a download, they would almost immediately be able to begin viewing the movie. Downloading of a browser applet would be required to viewed the movie, and quality would be scaled to the speed of a user’s connection.

For example, a one-megabit per second connection would result in quality equivalent to Netflix’s current online previews, while a three-megabit per second connection would result in near-DVD quality video.

Depending on their monthly plan, subscribers would be given a set number of hours for online viewing. For example, those on the $5.99 USD plan would get six hours of movie streaming, while those on the $17.99 USD plan would get 18 hours.

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