Adam Jarret

Blog

Google DNS vs OpenDNS vs Comcast

| Tags: comcast, fyi, google-public-dns, opendns

I jumped from OpenDNS to the new Google Public DNS after Gruber did.

The speed difference between the two during real world browsing has been negligible. In fact, a recent BrowserMob article has me reconsidering the plain-old Comcast DNS servers.

Download the Java utility from BrowserMob to run your own speed test.

Usage instructions

java -jar browsermob-dns-perf.jar

To test your ISP’s DNS as well, add the IP address(s) to the command like so:

java -jar browsermob-dns-perf.jar 123.456.789.012

BrowserMob

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Windows Media Center "Little Red Dot"

| Tags: fyi, htpc, windows, windows-media-center

The Show taskbar notifications setting in Windows 7 Media Center (found under Settings>General>Startup and Window Behavior) toggles the appearance of a little red dot in the taskbar when a program is recording.

It does not refer to hiding the silly balloon notifications that appear even when WMC is running, as I and this guy mistakenly thought.

The dot is a handy notification when the WMC interface is closed. I'd recommend leaving this setting enabled and also clicking the up arrow next to the task bar, choosing "Customize Taskbar" and selecting "Show icon and notifications" for the Windows Media Center icon so that it is always visible when a show is recording.

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Why Isn't the Zune HD a Windows Media Extender?

| Tags: cablecard, htpc, opinion, windows-media-center, zune-hd

Zune HD

Zune HD

The Problem

TV Shows recorded via CableCARD on Windows 7 are saved as copy protected WTV files. These recordings can only be played on the computer that recorded them or on a Windows Media Extender such as an Xbox 360 or a Linksys DMA2100.

Microsoft has announced that some content may be marked "copy freely" by the content provider after a forthcoming firmware update for the ATI TV Wonder Digital Cable Tuner is released. We're still waiting for the update, and there's no way to know how many shows will be free of DRM, but it's a promising trend.

It's easy to immediately start cursing DRM and mocking the futility of it all, but I have a different critique.

The Solution

I put it to Microsoft: If the content providers insist on draconian measures to stop users from enjoying their content how they wish, then it's on you to make those measures as invisible as possible. You don't want me to post the file on The Pirate Bay? Fair enough. I can't watch the recording on another computer that I own, even if that computer is running the same version of Windows? That's ridiculous.

I hate DRM as much as the next guy, and I believe that I should even be able to watch the shows on my gasp Mac, but I'm trying to be realistic. HD DVR is awesome. If DRM is unavoidable for now then Microsoft could at least take a page out of the iTunes Store playbook and allow users to authorize a certain number of computers and unlimited devices to play recorded media.

If even that seems too liberal for Microsoft and the content providers, then at the very least there should be a "Virtual Media Extender" application for Windows 7 that allows a second computer to act as a media extender. This way Microsoft can still control how the content is accessed while allowing the user reasonable portability.

Background

When the record companies wouldn't let the iTunes Store sell music without copy protection, Apple focused on making a seamless ecosystem in which everything worked. This placated many non-technical users who didn't notice that they couldn't use the content on a non-Apple devices because they never tried. Microsoft has an opportunity to take advantage of their considerable lead in CableCARD support and make the Zune HD a relevant device.

Apple seems to have forsaken CableCARD support in the same way that they were slow to adopt Blu-ray drives. Apple likes the focus to be digital distribution (preferably that they control) and have sought to replace the cable provider as opposed to working with them. In this way I fear they may once again be perilously ahead of their time. I have no doubt that a day will come in which cable and satellite television will not exist as we know them today, but in the mean time Microsoft offers a superior experience when interfacing with digital television.

The really galling thing is that the support structure for sharing recorded TV shows already seems to be in place. In Windows 7, I can link my media library to an online account using Internet Streaming in Windows Media Player. By linking both my HTPC and my MacBook Pro (running Windows 7) libraries to the the same online account, I can browse either library (included recorded TV shows) from the other from anywhere with an internet connection. Unfortunately, when I try to play remotely stored copy protected files, Windows Media Center simply presents a blue screen with a "Copy Protected" warning.

Conclusion

I frakin' love my Windows 7 Media Center. The interface is slick, the performance is great and for CableCARD they're the only shop in town. Despite being feature-rich, extensible and easier to use than people give it credit for, the Windows Media technologies seem to lack the unified vision of Jobs-ian leadership. Apple has the advantage of being a boutique manufacturer that is not restricted by the giant diverse market that Windows must support, but it's hard to argue with everything simply working together as it should.

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Linus Torvalds Interviewed on FLOSS Weekly

| Tags: floss-weekly, linus-torvalds, linux, twit

Thanksgiving weekend has afforded me some time to catch up on my backlog of podcasts. With the exception of Kevin Pollak's Chat Show, all my favorite podcasts come from the TWiT network.

Episode 88 of FLOSS Weekly is an interview with Linus Torvalds and is well worth a listen. Linus is spectacularly interesting both with regard to his thoughts on programming and his opinions of the open source movement in general.

Throughout the interview, the father of Linux is funny, down to earth and likeably smug.

Randal Schwartz (host): Any last words that you want to share with our audience?

Linus Torvalds: No I don't ever have any last words just because [I don't have] a message for people. I don't care enough. You can all rot in hell, I'm doing it for my own reasons.

Readers might be interested to know that Linus is currently running Fedora, uses alpine for e-mail and MicroEMACS for code editing. Oh, and he doesn't care about Twitter.

FLOSS Weekly on TWiT

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Use the built-in iPhone sleep timer

| Tags: fyi, iphone, iphone-3gs, ipod-touch

Searching the App Store for a sleep timer yields a half dozen or so competing results, but did you know iPhone has basic sleep timer functionality out of the box?

I'm not sure how long this feature has been around, but tucked away in the Clock app that ships with the phone is a Timer feature. When the timer finishes, the default action is to play a ringtone, but by tapping the "When Timer Ends" button, you can change this behavior to "Sleep iPod."

Instructions

  1. Play a song/playlist/audiobook/podcast/etc. using the iPod app as you normally would

  2. Hide the iPod app by pressing the Home button

  3. Start the Clock app and tap the Timer icon on the toolbar

  4. Set the timer duration

  5. Tap the "When Timer Ends" button and select "Sleep iPod"

  6. Tap the "Set" button to confirm your selection

  7. Tap the green start button and drift off to sleep

Both the Clock and iPod apps are examples of iPhone apps that continue to run in the background. This means that if you want to fall asleep listening to a video, you should be able to set and start the timer before playing media with the iPod app and still trust that the timer will function properly.

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Facebook "for good" promotes world peace

| Tags: facebook

As opposed to "Facebook for evil."

Facebook for Good