Why do I like VLC Media Player? Because it plays media. That’s pretty apparent in the title, however, so hear me out: The bane of Windows Media Player is that it straps a whole ton of accessories and add-ons into the picture when all you want to do is play a movie file. You don’t want to fuss with the library. You don’t want to go through a bunch of crappy skins or rudimentary add-ons. You don’t want to wait for Windows Media Player to load. You want a video. End of story.
Yamaha this week unveiled (PDF) its BD-A1000 Blu-ray player with content playback capabilities from Netflix, Blockbuster, and YouTube Internet streaming baked in.
"The BD-A1000 represents Yamaha's first universal Blu-ray player, and adds a new dimension to home entertainment with a multitude of Internet-related, interactive features such as BD-Live and BonusView, which provide secondary video/audio for enhanced commentary and information, as well as features for existing and future entertainment options via USB," Yamaha said.
Some key features include Full HD audio decoding, 1080p/24Hz-compatible HDMI, 7.1 multi-channel analog output with four 2-channel DACs, and disc and USB multimedia format compatibility for AVCHD, WMV, JPEG (HD), MP3, and WMA. Yamaha notes that the BD-A1000 has been specifically designed to integrate with the company's AVENTAGE line of AV receivers, so that by pressing the SCENE BD/DVD button on an AV receiver, for example, fires up the BD-A1000 and begins disc playback.
The new Blu-ray player carries an MSRP of $700, making it one of the pricier players we've seen in some time.
I don't get super-excited over new Web apps very often--not unless said application has the words, "World," "Warcraft," or "Apple" in the title (I kid; I kid). But a new find on my Web App radar has had me rocking out all weekend long. Literally, rocking out, as said app is an awesome tool for finding new music to jam to.
I'll steer this one off at the pass: No, the Web app is not Pandora. However, it does borrow from Pandora's general setup in that it attempts to create an online playlist of songs for you to rock out to based on a common theme or classification. In this case, you don't start out with a favorite band as the first breadcrumb in your trail of match-ups. Instead, the Web app Stereomood does as its name suggests--you pick from a whopping list of emotions and, upon doing so, the service matches you up with a ton of music to listen to based on your selection.
Unless you have some super-fancy configuration set up, odds are good that you--like most--default to Windows Media Player as your multimedia software of choice for playing just about anything that comes across your system. There's no shame in that. While a number of freeware tools support more codecs and/or file formats, and come bundled with other fun features and extensive customizations, it's alright to admit that you use Windows' built-in tool for the job.
In fact, you might very well have found yourself quite fond of your operating system's default media player. That's alright too. I'm not about to show or suggest third-party tools that might add confusion to your routine. Instead, you might want to check out a little chunk of software called Windows Media Player Plus! This app--really, a series of plugins--isn't a replacement for Windows Media Player. It simply builds free enhancements into Windows Media Player to give you even more options to tinker with and features to enjoy.
Why bookmark when you can Huff-duff? Excellent point. Now, what the heck is a Huff-duff? Actually, "huffduffer" is both a verb and a Web service, a word that's derived from a technology you can use to triangulate the location of radio transmissions from any given point. Huffduffer, the offshoot of "huff-duff," allows you to perform a similar-but-not-really kind of triangulation for online audio files.
Rather than helping you search for new music, podcasts, or sounds, Huffduffer is instead a platform that allows you to add these sounds into an ever-growing list that--surprise--is actually a podcast of its very own. That's a super-long way to describe what Huffduffer does, but I'm a bit apprehensive to suggest that the Web app allows you to build your own podcasts. It does, technically, but it's not as if you suddenly have a centralized service for recording, editing, tagging, and launching a radio show of your very own.
No, Huffduffer merely aggregates files you've already found on the Web into a podcast of your very own. But that's a useful feature for a number of reasons.
There's a ton of great freeware and open-source software in the online world today. That statement should be a no-brainer, especially if you're been reading these application roundups over the past year and a half or thereabouts.
However, that's not to say that every single application that you install on your PC--including your operating system itself--is immediately minted in gold just because it passed your personal, "do I need this?" test. That's no fault of your own; In fact, it's half the point of the open-source movement to begin with. Industrious users think of new ways to use a piece of software or, rather, new add-ons that they can build into a particular application. This transforms the common application into a forked project, which itself can become the source of inspiration for future spin-offs from an even wider range of users.
Seriously, it's open-source 101.
However, you don‘t have to be a coder, or even a visionary, to reap the benefits of new transformations that run on top of the applications you use day-in and day-out. That's why I'm profiling add-ons in this week's Freeware Files: By now, you should have a pretty healthy laundry-list of common apps that you're always fiddling around in. I'm going to show you how to make them just that much better.
We thought we scored a pretty banging deal when Wal-Mart started selling Toshiba HD-DVD players for $98, and truth be told, we're still a little ticked at having plunked down a C-note only to watch the format war shift in Blu-ray's favor not long after. We're slowly getting over it, especially now that Blu-ray player pricing has dropped into budget territory.
For two pennies shy of $70 (before tax), you can walk home from Target with a Philips BDP5010 Blu-ray unit under your arm and kick that HD-DVD player to the curb. Pretty remarkable price, considering Target.com has it listed for twice as much at $140, and you'll have to wait 2-4 weeks for it to ship.
Given the online price, we're a little bit skeptical of the in-store pricing, but if you do manage to snag one, you'll be getting a Blu-ray player with an SD card slot, BD Live, and DivX support. Not a bad deal, and we can remember paying a good chunk more for our 6-head VCR back in the day.
Problem: You have a ton of awesome jams on your iTunes / Zune / Windows Media Player / multimedia organizer of choice, but you don't always use the PC that contains your ultimate rock collection. What do you do? There are a few answers, but all require some software setup in order for you to be able to access your music from afar. You could use Hamachi-based networks to access a shared iTunes library; You could also set up your primary machine as a radio server, which you can then use to stream your files via an easy-to-operate, Web-based interface!
Still, that's a lot of work. There has to be an easier solution, right? There is. It's called TunesBag, and it offers the same functionality you'd otherwise get by building your own Internet radio station the hard way. Although the service is limited to one GB of music for free accounts, that's still a hefty amount of rocking out for your average listener. And uploading, playing, and categorizing music using TunesBag's Web-based interface couldn't be easier--or faster!
Put on your headphones, click the jump, and get ready to turn the dial up to 11!
It's back! I've covered Songbird before, but that's only because it's one of the best open-source alternatives to Apple's iTunes. Well, Songbird just got bumped up to version 1.4.2--a brief fix for a UI glitch that was affecting its December 21 release of version 1.4.1. The latter is really the meat and potatoes of Songbird's latest update, representing as good a time as any to try out this unique and easy-to-use application!
Why Songbird? Well, you won't be locked into using Apple's proprietary iTunes platform... sort-of. For while Songbird supports device synchronization for the app's music files and playlists, users of those i-named Apple devices will still have to use Songbird's clever iTunes export workaround to sync music to their devices. Beside that, Songbird offers a comprehensive amount of media sorting, organizing, and tagging--including playlists that automatically update with new pictures, videos, and tour dates for bands of-interest.
In fact, this is one of Songbird's strongest features. Its built-in Internet-based enhancements deliver a wealth of additional information and functionality beyond what you'd expect to find in iTunes and it's... well, it's single connection to Apple's own Music Store. Shoot, you can even purchase concert tickets through Songbird, not to mention pack a bundle of additional add-ons and customizations to truly trick out your media player/organizer as you see fit.
So what's new with this super-handy music app? Click the jump to see all the big 1.4.1 changes!
Doubts have been cast on the success of the Blu-ray format ever since it debuted. Initially, the format appeared to be doomed due to a poor adoption rate, thanks mainly to a host of factors, including the PS3’s initial tribulations, popularity of the DVD format, and the steady rise in the popularity of digital downloads.
However, it soon appeared that the tide had turned as PS3’s sales picked up and the rival HD DVD format ran out of steam and met its sorry fate. The latest good news has come in the form of sales data released by research firm Futuresource, which indicates that Blu-ray sales during the ongoing holiday season have been promising.
Another sinister portent for the Blu-ray format happens to be the grim sales picture of the PS3; strong sales of the console surely could have gone a long way in popularizing the format. I expect Blu-ray to share the same mediocre fortunes as the PS3 during the remainder of its lifetime.