Random Thoughts

The Return of Front Row, Sofa

January 3rd, 2010

Back in the day, I wrote a weekly column for dvdfuture.com called Front Row, Sofa.  I have decided to resurrect it as an entertainment news site on the Internet.  I’ve set up the site as a SquareSpace page for now at frontrowsofa.squarespace.com.  I figured I’d post the announcement for the new site here, since a lot of people have set up RSS feeds off this page.

I will be taking advantage of SquareSpace’s two week trial to get the site up and running, and then will decide from there whether the permanent site will use their platform or if I’ll be moving it over to WordPress or a similar platform.  I love the idea of someone else managing the software side of things, and so far it seems like a pretty good solution.

I’ve also purchased the frontrowsofa.com domain name, but have not aimed it at the new site yet.  I’ll wait until I decide on a permanent home before doing that.

Rotten to the Qore?

June 7th, 2008

Sony launched a new initiative this past week in the form of Qore, an interactive video magazine exclusively for the Playstation 3.  Qore will be released monthly at a cost of $2.99 per issue or $24.99 for an annual subscription.  You can think of it as a video version of the Official Playstation Magazine.

For your $2.99 (or $24.99) you get:

  • Video interviews with game designers and publishers
  • in-depth sneak peeks at upcoming Playstation games
  • access to exclusive downloadable content
  • access to exclusive betas

So, the real question becomes, is it worth it?

I purchased the first issue of Qore for $2.99, and immediately began the 1.5GB (!!!) download.  Once it was downloaded, I ran the installer (and yes, I’m as baffled as everyone else at the need for installers on downloaded PS3 content), and then entered the magazine (it shows up in the same section of the XMB as your downloaded games and demos).

QoreThe first thing I was treated to was a high definition trailer for The Incredible Hulk.  Now, I don’t have anything against this trailer, but aren’t trailers usually availble on PSN (or the Apple website, or any other number of online locations) for free?   After all, it’s advertising.

I get past the Hulk trailer, and then get Veronica Belmont introducing the first issue of Qore.  I like Belmont, she’s got the right attitude for this type of presentation, and given her background in video podcasts, she’s very believable as someone who would be genuinely interested in this content.

After Belmont’s introduction, we end up at the main menu, with a list of the content of the “magazine” to the left.  The content for the inaugural edition consists of interviews with the designers and previews of SOCOM: US Navy Seals Confrontation, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Secret Agent Clank, Soul Calibur 4 and Afro Samurai.  It also has an invitation to the upcoming SOCOM beta.

Also, for a limited time, if you purchase an annual subscription to Qore you get the downloadable game Calling All Cars (not a selling point for me, because I already have the game, but if you’re interested in it and haven’t already snagged it, it could be the difference between a Qore subscription being worthwhile or not).

In looking through the content, I couldn’t help but be disappointed.  The interviews and previews are reminiscient of the preview pieces that used to show up on the DVDs included with the Official Playstation Magazine, but the DVDs with OPM always had the benefit of offering demos of games at a time when downloading demos wasn’t an option.

You effectively get electronic press kit information, with some minor downloadable content, and none of it is significantly better than anything that was previously available for free. You also have advertisements before each feature, typically in the form of a PS3 game advertisement, but there’s also a Burger King in the SOCOM section.

So, is a Qore subscription worth it?

Right now, no.  The content here is just not compelling enough to warrant the $25 annual price.  Individual issues may be worth purchasing if they’re coming with access to Betas that are difficult to get into otherwise (for example, the first issue’s access to the SOCOM beta may be worth the $2.99 price of admission to some people), but let’s not kid ourselves, Qore is a money grab, plain and simple, and a poorly disguised one at that.

$25 a year is too much to ask for what is essentially a series of advertisements in a fancy wrapper.

The turning point during World War II came on June 6, 1944 when the Allies launched 150,000 troops onto the beaches of Normandy and established a beachhead in France. For the high def format wars, D-Day is likely January 4, 2008, when Warner Bros. announced their decision to discontinue support for the HD DVD format and exclusively support Blu-ray disc.

Blu-ray has been ahead in software sales for some time, typically by a margin of 2:1 or 3:1 (depending on the week), but because of Toshiba’s aggressive pricing strategy, HD DVD had been holding on in the hardware front. According to Warner’s press release, the crucial holiday season showed that even the hardware trend had been reversed, despite Blu-ray’s $100 price premium over its most formidable competitor.

Back in June and August of 2007, I had provided some analysis of how the format wars stood from a box office perspective. The initial analysis was done more to satisfy my own curiosity, but turned out to be quite popular. When Paramount/Dreamworks announced they were switching exclusively to HD DVD in August, I provided an update so the impact could be understood. I am now providing another update, in order to understand the impact of the Warner Bros. decision.

A few items of note:

  • films DIRECTED by Steven Spielberg are captured as format neutral, with the exception of Close Encounters (which is captured as Blu-ray exclusive because it is currently available only on Blu-ray, and has been advertised as Blu-ray exclusive). This is to recognize that when the HD DVD group has tried to advertise any Spielberg films as HD DVD exclusive (twice, so far), Spielberg has required them to publicly acknowledge that his films are not exclusive to HD DVD. Films produced or executive produced by Spielberg are assigned based on the studio that released the film, as the public acknowledgments have only covered films he directed.
  • I have included films from Warner Bros. subsidiaries (e.g. New Line) as Blu-ray exclusive. I realize the “official” announcements have not come from these subsidiaries as of this writing, but realistically, it’s only a matter of time (the wholly-owned subsidiary doesn’t stray from the path of the parent company).

Read the rest of this entry »

My Mac Experience

October 2nd, 2007

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve pretty much had it with Windows. The only reason I hadn’t switched to a Mac was because I was waiting for Apple to release “the missing Mac”, something with the same sort of power as an iMac, but without the integrated display. I’ve given up on waiting, and ordered an iMac shortly after the Aluminium models were released. This blog entry is about my experience with my new Mac, from the point of view of a frustrated Windows user. Read the rest of this entry »

On July 1st, I posted a piece on the Blu-Ray/HD DVD format war, which showed pretty effectively why HD DVD was on the losing end of the format war. With today’s announcement that Paramount and Dreamworks had been convinced to exclusively support HD DVD, I wondered what the impact would be on the overall picture. While this definitely muddies the waters, Blu-Ray supporting studios still have an advantage when looking at the numbers overall. Read the rest of this entry »

How To Fix Network Television

August 12th, 2007

A Television — Duh!The fall television season is almost upon us, and it’s time for the networks to pull out all the stops in trying to get us to tune into all their new programs. Before the end of October, the majority of the new series will have come and gone, and by December, we’ll have forgotten about most of them (remember Four Kings? No? How about Love Monkey? No? Both started in 2006).

It wasn’t always like this. There was a time when a network would order an entire season’s worth of episodes of a new show, and they’d air every last one of them. Now, if the show doesn’t have a significant audience after episode number two, its days are numbered.

The networks don’t seem to understand their audience, and in their effort to maintain their audience in the face of competition from movies, video games, cable television and even (gasp) books (damn you, Harry Potter!), their patience with new series is at an all time low.

With that in mind, here are 10 tips for the networks as we approach this fall season. I’m providing these free to the networks, because they can’t seem to figure out these common sense items for themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

I realize that not everyone owns each of the next…errr…current generation consoles. This puts me in the fortunate position of being able to compare them and offer a unique insight into the pros and cons of each console. The pros are easy to write about, though, as all three consoles have a lot going for them, so I decided to go all negative and focus on five things that suck about each console. These are presented in no particular order, so it’s not a “top five six” list or anything like that. Read the rest of this entry »

Recently, Bill Hunt over at The Digital Bits caught a lot of flack over a piece he wrote on the HD war, and why The Digital Bits was backing Blu-Ray as the “format to beat”.

Bill’s piece was a response to a post from Harry Knowles over at Ain’t It Cool News where Harry talked about picking up a HD DVD player, and why he had chosen that particular format. Bill decided to respond to the piece primarily because Harry’s piece was full of erroneous information (I know, on Ain’t It Cool News? Surely I jest…). Harry’s piece has since been edited somewhat, but is still far from correct. It is full of fear, uncertainty and doubt, and has several facts flat out wrong. Bill’s piece does a more than adequate job of pointing out the flaws in Harry’s arguments, though, so I won’t get into that here.

I found Bill’s piece thought-provoking, and very well researched. It is a very logically presented argument as to why Blu-Ray will ultimately prevail in the HD DVD/Blu-Ray format war. It also started me on a train of thought related to one of the specific reasons Bill feels Blu-Ray will win; studio support.

I thought it’d be interesting to take some data from Box Office Mojo related to the studios and which format(s) they support, and then amalgamate that data. Read the rest of this entry »

I was watching an episode of Cranky Geeks on my iPod a few days ago, and John C. Dvorak and his crew were talking about the iPhone. Dvorak is pretty open with his opinion that the iPhone will be a “flop”, and realistically, he could be right.

The question, though, is how successful does the iPhone really have to be for it to be worth Apple’s (and AT&T’s) while?

The iPhone is definitely different than other cellular phones on the market. It not only packs a completely uniqueThe iPhone user-interface (and really, would you expect anything less from Apple?) it also is the first time that a phone has been designed from the ground up with the user experience in mind.

Every cellular phone I’ve ever used has been compromised in one area or another, and most of the time those compromises are related entirely to cost. The iPhone is the first cellular phone where the cost issue seems to have been ignored. As a result (and due in large part to Apple’s desire to maintain the high margins they have on pretty much all their products), it’s one of the most expensive consumer-oriented phones on the planet.

Read the rest of this entry »



Rumor has it that Apple is poised to introduce some new iMacs in the not-too-distant future. Since the introduction of the first iMac in 1998, it has represented the cutting edge of Apple’s unusual designs for computers.

The first iMac, like all iMacs to date, was an all-in-one unit. It was unique in a few ways, though. First, the form factor wasThe original iMac unlike anything anyone had ever seen, and second, it was the first Mac to come without a floppy disk drive. It was based around a 233MHz PowerPC chip, shipped with a 24x CD-ROM drive and supported up to 256MB of RAM. It was also the first popular computer system to do away with legacy peripheral ports, opting instead to use USB for everything.

Over the next few years, Apple would offer periodic revisions to the iMac, including a variety of colors and patterns, but the basic design stayed the same until the flat-panel iMac was released in 2002.

The flat-panel iMacSteve Jobs declared the CRT dead (although it made a reappearance in the suspiciously early-iMac-like eMac for educational markets) and a new era was born.

The flat-panel iMac was even more unlike anything the public had seen, and generated a huge amount of buzz. It was also, as a result of the flat-panel LCD being used, expensive for the amount of power being offered. Especially when compared with comparably equipped PCs of the time. The new iMac did come with a G4 chip in the consumer space, though, something that hadn’t been offered before.

The initial flat-panel iMac design served Apple until 2004, when the G5-based iMac was released. This again represented a significant change in the aesthetic of the iMac, with the flat-panel monitor and computer being integrated into one unit.The iMac G5 design Interestingly, this design went against the very design ideals that Steve Jobs had in the initial flat-panel design of the iMac (having the monitor and computer integrated into one unit was something Jobs considered undesirably clunky). This same form factor has served us until today, and considering it’s been almost three years, the iMac is definitely due for another dramatic reinvention.

The question then becomes, what will be different? Here are the things I think will be in the new iMac based on patents Apple has applied for, the Jobsian desire for things to be great, and a lot of speculation.

  • an Intel chip (duh). But it won’t be a desktop chip. Like the current iMacs, it will run off a laptop chip, but it’ll have a better excuse for doing so.
  • Quad core – I wouldn’t be too terribly surprised to see a quad-core chip available in the highest end model, much in the same way the top-end Mac Pro has a 3.0GHz Xeon chip that isn’t available to other manufacturers (yet). Intel has made no secret of their desire to get more cores running in desktop and laptop computers, and Apple is rapidly becoming one of their highest profile customers.
  • Wireless keyboard and mouse as standard. This isn’t much of a leap. Expect to see the computer have some kind of convenient built in charging station, as well.
  • iPod dock – this is a big maybe, since Apple seems resistant to including it on Macs. If any Mac were going to get it at this point, I would expect it to be the iMac (especially since this is the machine that iPod loving Windows users are likely to migrate to).
  • New video chipset – either the NVidia 8×00 series, or the ATI x2×00 series graphics. Which one is in there as standard may depend entirely on which manufacturer offers Apple a better deal. Whichever way they go, hopefully it’s with a chipset that uses its own dedicated video RAM.
  • AMD processor – this is pretty unlikely, but if AMD is able to offer Apple a great deal on a processor and ATI graphics chipset combination, we may see the first Apples using AMD processors as a result.
  • Support for more RAM. The iMacs are currently limited to 3GB of RAM, and with the amount of users wanting to run Mac OS X and Vista simultaneously, it isn’t enough. Expect support for at least 4GB of RAM, but don’t be surprised if it supports 8GB (but likely will only include 4 RAM sockets).
  • Touch screen functionality – Apple has developed a very unique interface for the iPhone. This could easily spread to the Mac.
  • Removable LCD flat panel display – this would go with the touch screen sensitivity and wireless keyboard and mouse. Imagine a display you can detach from the computer and use wirelessly from anywhere in the house. Technically, the computer (processor, RAM, video chipset) could be contained in the display. Battery-draining components could remain in the “base station”, including hard drive and optical drive. This would allow users the best of both worlds…portability around the house, coupled with the flexibility of a desktop computer, and their battery wouldn’t be draining every time the hard drive was accessed. This would be the unique identifier for this new iMac, and could potentially revolutionize the way computers are used.

Again, all of this is based on speculation, and I’m curious to see if any of my predictions will come true. The question also becomes, would you buy an iMac containing the functionality above?

Would you buy an iMac with the above-mentioned "wireless display"?

  • I would - I don't care about the price! (27%)
  • I would if it cost $1,500 or less (23%)
  • You couldn't get me to buy this at gunpoint. (20%)
  • I would if it cost $1,000 or less (17%)
  • I would if it cost $2,000 or less (13%)

Total Votes: 30

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