Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player

Play Blu-ray disks on your Mac or on your PC with this GREAT cross platform app.

MBP-01

The one thing that I’ve always felt has been missing from OS X was Blu-ray support. Apple didn’t – and still doesn’t for that matter – think that Blu-ray was relevant enough to include native support for in OS X. This is why Macgo Mac Blu-ray Player is my favorite DVD player. It provides all the regular DVD support, plus gives you support for Blu-ray DVD and HD video.

The coolest thing about Mac Blu-ray Player is that its the first universal Blu-ray media player for Mac in the world. It plays Blu-ray discs and Blu-ray ISO files on Mac and PC. It will also play all of these on iOS devices. You can also play most any kind of video, audio, or photo formats with it. It has multi-language support and is easy to use.

The app works on both Mac AND PC systems. It will run on any Mac running OS X 10.5 Leopard or later. It runs on any PC running Windows XP SP2 or later. The only obvious hardware requirement you MUST have is a compatible Blu-ray drive for either your Mac or PC

This is probably one of the best apps I’ve got on my computers. I was looking for something that would support Blu-ray on my Mac and on my PC’s and Macgo has a bundle that will allow you both Mac and PC licenses. The app is easy to use, and the interface is decent and easy to follow. With the ability to play nearly any and every kind of video file ever created, this app will give you the ability to play every multimedia file you can put your hands on and then some.

The app can also play HD video on your compatible iOS device. Just like Apple’s AirPlay, the app can project video on your iPod, iPad or iPhone. The only problem is that it doesn’t work with iOS 6.x devices. Macgo says they are working on a solution; but as of this writing, Airx doesn’t work with iOS 6.

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HTC One (M8) Performance at a Premium

The HTC One (M8) is a top notch performing device but comes at a premium price

It’s no secret that I use an iPhone 5.   It’s also no secret that that iPhone is considered a high-end, premium handset by everyone that’s ever seen or held one.   The device was $200 on a two year contract with AT&T. The iPhone 5s sells for a similar price, with similar contract terms, though now you have the opportunity to finance rather than subsidize your phone purchase. This gives you a bit more control over your upgrade cycle (you can pay your phone off early and upgrade on many financed plans, where you can’t with a subsidized device), so depending on where you are with your current phone and your current contract, you may be able to move to the HTC One (M8) sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, the HTC One (M8) is also premium priced, just like the iPhone 5/5s. The 32GB unit is $199.99 on a 2-year contract or $599.99 contract free.

However, today, I wanted to talk about device specs and performance; and not necessarily carrier issues or device cost.   Let’s dive into those at a later date. Today is about everything under the hood.

HTC2-STILL-01Here are the main specs for the device:

·    2.3Ghz quad core Snapdragon 801
·    2GB of RAM
·    32GB of Storage/23GB Usable
·    65GB of Google Drive Cloud Storage for 2 years
·    microSD slot supports 128GB cards
·    NFC
·    LTE/HSPA+
·    UltraPixel Camera

Those that care about raw specs should be happy with these.   The device is no slouch, having as much computing power as some low-end laptops.   The 2.3Ghz quad core Snapdragon 801 processor and 2GB of RAM should give you enough processing power to crunch through even the most graphically intensive games and mobile applications.   The device hasn’t given me any kind of grief or performance burps with any of the included apps or any that were brought down as part of my Google Account.   The device also handles multi-tasking and task switching very well and hasn’t hesitated when moving from one app to another for any reason.

You should have more than enough on-board storage.   With 23 of 32GB free, you should have enough space to put a decent amount of music on the device, plus a movie or two and still have space enough for a game or two.   With Android’s built in support for external storage cards and the M8’s support for up to 128GB microSD cards, you aren’t going to run out of onboard storage.   However, if you do, the device comes with 65GB of additional Google Drive space for a two year period.

NFC, or near field communications, is a nice add-on; but the focus on NFC as a payment solution component has diminished quite a bit over the past couple of years; and this isn’t as compelling of a feature as it once was.   I can say with a great deal of certainty that if NFC were missing from the HTC One (M8), no one would miss it… or even know.   I’m not certain that anyone would even care, either. If I’m wrong, and YOU are someone who has a specific need for NFC, please ping me in the comments below and tell me about it.

What’s slightly more interesting about the device is that it supports LTE and HSPA+ frequencies, allowing it to hang on just about any available, carrier supported frequency. That’s not to say that the device is unlocked. It’s not; but unlike traditional CDMA-based Verizon phones, it uses a microSIM card. It’s very possible that if the device were unlocked, that any microSIM card may work on the Verizon branded device.

As far as carrier reception is concerned, out here in the Lincoln – Omaha, NE area, I am getting 2-3 bars consistently.   I’m used to getting 3-4 bars in the devil’s basement in the Chicago-land area, so it’s clear that the weaker signal is due to geographic location.   While I get good reception on the street, I get 2 bars or lower in my apartment and 2-3 bars in the car.   I’m headed back to Chicago this weekend so I’m expecting to see a huge bump in signal strength once I get to Chicago (unless there’s an issue with the antenna). Either way, you can expect some follow up early next week on this particular issue.

The UltraPixel camera is something that I’m still out to lunch with. I really haven’t made up my mind yet. As I said, I’m headed to Chicago this weekend and will take some shots of the family with it while I’m there.   The camera makes use of two different lenses.   One lens captures the photo you’re looking to take. The secondary lens captures depth of field information.

The idea is that the resulting picture is in focus, the background is a bit softer and the entire composition has enough light.   The big downside is that the rear camera itself is only 4MP.   In a time when most smartphone front facing cameras are 5MP with an 8MP or greater rear facing camera, 4MP seems a little light on the digital details.   While 4MP should have enough detail to give you a decent 5″x7″ photo, don’t expect to do a lot of cropping or to print a photo any larger than that. It just doesn’t have enough resolution to give you a better picture.   When you’re used to dealing with a 24MP DSLR, a 4MP point and shoot seems like it’s not going to give you a decent shot.   The camera is also missing the optical image stabilization that was present in the HTC One (M7), which doesn’t make any sense. Without this, most of the video you take is going to look like you took it while you were on a pogo stick or in an earthquake. However, I’m going to leave my final judgment until after I get back from my weekend in Chicago with the family.

The other big problem I have with the camera is that the volume button is on the device’s right side. This means that if you turn the device on its side to take traditionally accepted and expected landscape pictures, the camera’s shutter release button isn’t where you’d expect it to be.

I’m right handed and want to snap photos with my right index finger.   You can’t do this with the HTC One (M8) at all. If you wish to use the volume button as the camera shutter release – which the camera gives you the option to setup   automatically the first time you try to do that – you’re going to have to shoot with your left index finger, or your right thumb.   The camera is totally backwards to what the existing paradigm is on any and every camera I’ve ever used or seen offered for sale in my entire life – digital or film cameras included where the shutter release button is on the top right corner of the device.   I just don’t get it…

Are there any issues or items that you’d like to have addressed?   Are you curious about any specific or particular aspects of the HTC One (M8) that you’d like me to comment on and/or look into?   If so, please let me know in the comments, below, and I’ll be happy to take a look and then get back to everyone in a future blog or in the final review of the device.

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HTC One (M8) Initial Impressions

I have seen the new hardware; and it is good… if you have 3 hands.

As I’ve said, I’ve been in mobile devices for a long time. I’ve used nearly all of them, too; at least on the Windows Mobile and Android side. I had nearly every Compaq iPAQ. I had all the Palm Tungsten T devices (T, T2 and T3… that hardware was totally awesome – solid and well built).One of the biggest and most important tenants of mobile device use has consistently been one handed use.

HTC-One-M8

With the HTC One (M8), it’s just not possible. The phone is very wide, with the body measuring 137.4 x 68.2 x 9.3 mm (5.41 x 2.69 x 0.37 in). Don’t get me wrong. The device fits very nicely in my hand(s). The problem is that you can’t use the device with one hand. The average person’s hand isn’t wide enough and their thumb isn’t long enough to enable one handed use on a device that’s nearly 5.5″ tall and 2.7″ wide. However, it fits well in the one hand that you do use to hold it. The device’s curved back lends to the comfort you do feel, holding the device

This is a big problem with the current smartphone screen size trend as I see it. You can’t work the device with one hand. You must use two, meaning that in order to successfully use the device for the task at hand, you must focus all of your attention on it and nothing else. You also don’t get to have anything else in your hands. This means that you can’t be at the office, walking down the hall on your way to another meeting with a notebook, tablet or a cup of coffee in one hand while you check newly arrived mail with your smartphone in the other. You either need to be empty handed or you have to stop and put something down so you can use your phone. Not totally intuitive or user friendly, if you ask me; and I think it’s the biggest reason why Apple hasn’t jumped on the new wide screen fad/ paradigm shift up to this point. Jobs was all about one handed use (which is also another reason why he didn’t like styli. You had to use both hands AND it was another thing to carry and lose…)

The screen is clear and bright. It’s easy to read and easy to view content on. For someone firmly in the middle of life where eyesight is currently an issue (and it most certainly is with me), this is a great screen to have on a mobile device. Fonts are easy to read and are crisp and clear. Video is easy to view on the large 1080p compatible screen.

The other thing that struck me right off the bat was the dot case and the clock/weather screen. I activated the phone on Saturday 2014-03-29, shortly after I did my unboxing. The first thing I did was put it in the dot case, because it was included and I honestly didn’t want any scratches or blemishes on this device while I had it on my watch.

When you opened and then closed the case, the device clock and current weather conditions would activate as you expected it to. It did that pretty consistently…for about the first hour and a half that I had the device going. Shortly after that, it stopped displaying the time and current weather conditions when the case closed. Now when you close the case, the display just goes dark. The only way to get that information to display is to double tap the case while the cover is closed.

Amazingly, the device detects the double tap through the case cover and displays the time and current weather. However, I have been all through the device’s settings. I can’t find any information or settings page where you control what happens with that case. I find that very aggravating. I didn’t change anything on the device to make that cease from functioning. The HTC One (M8) just stopped doing it on its own. Yeah… I don’t get it.

The dot case itself, however, is a dark gun metal grey. It’s a dark contrast to the HTC One (M8)’s light gunmetal grey metal casing. I like the way it looks. It’s unique in the mobile device world, as I’ve never seen anything like it before; and it does a decent job of protecting the device. The only thing I don’t like about it is that there’s no good way to use the device with any kind of a universal device cradle in my vehicle with the case on.

In order to use the device in the Arkon Slim Grip Ultra mount for example, you have to bend the cover back around the back of the device. This produces two potential problems.

1. Hinge Stress
Unless the plastic in the case will be able to withstand a great deal of stress, I can see cracks developing in the hinge over time. The whole thing makes me nervous; but I’d rather not risk scratching the beautiful screen without one.

2. Flexible Cover
The Arkon mounts I have in my Camry allow me to secure my iPhone 5 as well as any other mobile device (in this case the HTC One (M8)) while I’m driving. That way, I can use either/both device’s built in GPS functionality and/or audio players while the vehicle is moving. However, the Arkon Slim Grip Ultra mount likes to grab the dot case cover while its wrapped around the back of the device and not let go of it when you try to remove the device from the universal mount. I can see the cover tearing away from the case backing, especially if there’s stress cracks in the hinge. You can use a side gripping mount like the Arkon Mobile Grip 2 mount; but honestly, I don’t feel that the device is as secure as I do with the Arkon Slim Grip Ultra mount.

I’ve done a lot of talking about the screen today – size, resolution, etc. as well as the device’s dot case. Come back tomorrow and I’ll have some thoughts on Android 4.4.2 Kit Kat and HTC’s implementation of it on the HTC One (M8) as well as device performance.

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Amazon Free Video Streaming Service?

Yeah… Not so much.  Amazon denies rumors of a free video streaming service.

The interwebs were abuzz the other day when rumors of a new, and free, streaming service from Amazon hit the wire.   The Wall Street Journal had reported that the Everything Store was planning to introduce an ad-supported video and music streaming service in the immediate future.   The service was rumored to feature original series and licensed content, similar to “Betas,” a TV show produced for Amazon’s Prime video service last year.

Amazon-streaming

The big sticking point in this rumor is exactly that – Amazon’s Prime Video service. Prime Video is a perk offered to Amazon Prime Members as part of their (now) $99 per year membership fee.   How this rumored free service would live alongside Amazon Prime Video was not immediately available.   However, the rumor surfaced ahead of a special Amazon media event where the purveyor of nearly everything available on the internet was expected to announce a set top box or streaming stick, capable of delivering web-based video content to your television set.

Amazon’s Sally Fouts, a spokesperson for the Everything Store, has since come out and denied the rumor. Says Fouts, “we’re often experimenting with new things, but we have no plans to offer a free streaming-media service.”

For me, a long-time Amazon Prime member, this is good news.   One of the best perks of Prime membership, one that I use much more often than Prime’s free 2-day shipping, was its video streaming service. If that could be gotten for free, I was giving serious consideration to cancelling my Prime membership.

When I moved to Omaha to take a new job, I decided not to get cable TV service and decided to be a cord cutter. I stream video via Amazon Prime multiple times a week.   If Amazon was going to offer a free streaming service, ad supported or not, it would have left a number of Prime members wondering what they were really getting for their membership fee.

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