Mac Media Center – Quick Note

I was at Best Buy today and noticed that SimpleTech has apparently reworked their external drive offerings. As a result, the old model of the 1TB external USB drive that was $259.99 is now on clearance for…get this…$92.99! The online store still lists the full price so I suggest that if you are in the market for a huge external drive for pocket change, stop into the store and see if they’ve got it marked down. It’ll be the silver drive with the sloped front (the enclosure, not the box it’s in).

Also remember that if you use a Mac then you will have to format it because it comes as NTFS which will only give you read access. If you aren’t sure how that works, just fire up Disk Utility (in the Utilities folder) and select the drive. From there select the Partition tab and click on Options. You have to make it a GUID partition table or else the format will fail. After doing that you can format the drive using Mac OS Extended (Journaled). Give it whatever name you want and click Apply. In moments you will have a fresh drive ready for mass quantities of digital goodness. (Important note: There is a backup utility on the drive that you will need to copy off first if you plan on using it. I prefer to just use Time Machine so I didn’t bother.)

Personally I made two partitions so I can have one for Time Machine (200GB) and one for my movies (731GB, you lose some in formatting). I’m still waiting on Time Machine to finish the initial backup and then I’m going to copy the movies I’ve already ripped via Handbrake over and see how it works with the Xbox. When I get it all up and going I will update the Mac Media Center page with the details. Oh, and if you are worried that USB 2.0 won’t be fast enough, let’s just say I’m getting better than 1GB/min transfer and since the movies are about 1GB per hour…there should be nothing to worry about.

Edit: I fixed the reduced price. I incorrectly reported it as $96.99.

Organization Will Set You Free

I don’t know about the rest of you but I have friends that like to borrow things. These things are usually in the form of DVDs or books. With my memory not exactly being what it used to be, I really have a hard time remembering who has what. Heck, I’ve loaned stuff out that stayed gone so long that I forgot I even owned it. This is where Delicious Library 2 comes in if you have a Mac.

Delicious Library 2 is a program that will catalog pretty much anything and everything you own. Yes, I am aware there are lots of programs that will do this. Let me tell you the joys of why DL2 is superior. Probably the best feature in my opinion is the barcode scan ability. All you do is hold the book or DVD or whatever’s barcode up to your iSight camera and it will read it, look the item up on Amazon, and download all information about that item into your database (including current sale value!).

DL2 also integrates into your Mac’s address book which will let you drag an item you loaned to that person’s entry so you can keep up with who has what. It’ll even put an iCal reminder for the due date you set. See? Bad memory is no longer a problem. And speaking of friends, DL2 will use Bonjour to show you the library of other Macs on your network. It’ll even let you find libraries of your friends that are published to the web. Did I mention you can publish it to the web (using either .Mac or iWeb or even FTP)?

There’s a whole host of other things you can do including a simple three click process to sell an item on Amazon but for a full list of everything it can do I would suggest just going to the website. You can download the program and put up to 25 items in it before you need to purchase it. The cost is a very reasonable $40. Actually, next to the $20 I spent on Connect360, I think this is the best investment I’ve made in my iMac.

Home Media Makeover Part One: DVD Library

Technology abounds in every aspect of our lives. Computers are usually the center of a great many media types that we experience throughout the day. You can buy a computer pretty much anywhere these days for really reasonable prices. So the question on my mind has been, why are most people still using the old components of yore for their home theaters? Why not leverage some of this wonderful computer technology and versatility for the home theater experience?

Yes, I know there are HTPC options out there. Most of them run well over $1500 for the base model. I also know you can roll your own HTPC/DVR for about the same price. What I’m talking about is using a more distributed model, preferably leveraging systems you already have in place…just extending them to the HDTV in the living room. For my personal project, I have a 20″ iMac on my desk and a Vista laptop that usually sits on the coffee table. There’s a 50″ Samsung plasma TV in the living room that I really want to use to watch my media such as streaming video from the web with an XBox360 under it.

Ideally, I want to get rid of the DVD player and replace the set-top box from Comcast with my media system so I can drop the cable television service and thus save myself over $1000 a year. Now I realize that for my particular desires, I will not need a PVR/DVR setup and can thus skimp on some hardware. Actually, for step one of my media center makeover, I just want to stream ripped copies of my DVD library so my 360 will play the part of extender. For this setup, storage will be the biggest concern with network bandwidth running a close second. With today’s prices for hardware, neither of those should be a challenge to satisfy on a budget.

Continue reading “Home Media Makeover Part One: DVD Library”

iMac vs XPS

I’m the first to admit that Apple’s upgrade pricing is completely insane (though it has been toned down some since the iMac refresh). But I am so tired of hearing that Apple hardware is way overpriced for what you get. Quite to the contrary, Apple’s systems are right in line with similar systems from other manufacturers. Let’s compare the 20″ iMac with a Dell XPS all-in-one system and see what we get: Continue reading “iMac vs XPS”

Parallels Desktop Bundle

Just a quick update, all of the applications in the MacUpdate Parallels Bundle have been unlocked. That’s right, for 64.99 you can get Parallels with nine other apps. These are the full versions of said software and the cost is less than the price of Parallels alone. So if you are in need of Parallels and think you might be interested in some of the other applications in the bundle, hurry over to MUPromo and snag a copy. Move fast, the bundle is only available for four more days.

A Mac Software Deal

MacUpdate is currently running a software bundle special. The MUPromo bundle has 10 full versions of shareware apps for the price of 64.99. Most notable is Parallels Desktop. This is the application that lets you run Windows in a virtual space inside of OS X. Other applications include handy tools from file management to programs that integrate iCal into your menu bar clock. Now, since the total cost for these applications separately would run somewhere over $250, one might wonder if there is a catch. Well, the answer is yes and no.

Yes there is a catch of sorts. Three of the applications are “locked”. That is, they do not come with the license keys for the full versions. What happens is that as more of these bundles are sold, these applications become “unlocked” and everyone that has purchased the bundle get the license key sent to them for the full version. Once 5,000 are sold, Sound Studio will be unlocked. Then you get BannerZest at 10,000 and finally Parallels at 15,000. This should not be a deterrent to getting the package. On the contrary, it should encourage everyone with a Mac to pick up the bundle.

Apples aren’t all roses

Don’t get me wrong, I love my new iMac. It’s sleek, fast, and easy to use. Every program I use regularly at home on my Vista laptop has an OS X counterpart. But I do have a bone to pick with Jobs’ company about one thing. While the overall prices of the base models are in line with the cost of PC’s with similar specs…prices on the upgrades are somewhere in the realm of stupid. Continue reading “Apples aren’t all roses”

Life with an iMac

So I had the DOA Superdrive replaced. It was as easy as dropping it off Monday afternoon at User Friendly, the local Apple service center and then picking it up on my way home on Tuesday. Don’t let their website fool you, these guys are a full blown Apple retailer that really knows their stuff. I spent about an hour in there on Tuesday talking shop. I know that we are getting an official Apple Store in the Jackson, MS area, but I think I will continue to give the guys at User Friendly my business. There’s a lot to be said about a friendly atmosphere of knowledgeable people that don’t pressure you into purchases you may not want or need. Continue reading “Life with an iMac”

iMac – First Impressions (updated)

As I mentioned previously, I am not a Mac user. I use Windows and Linux for my computing needs. But now my iMac is in and I have been playing with Mac OSX Leopard for a few hours. Let me just say to Microsoft, this is where the Wow is.

The initial setup of OSX when you first turn on the iMac is as simple as you could ask for. It finds your network, wireless or wired, and prompts you to input any necessary configuration information to connect to said network. It asks you to create an account password and picture (using the built in iSight camera…more on that in a minute) and then let’s you into the desktop. It quite literally took less than five minutes to get the entire initial setup completed. Are you listening Microsoft? I really don’t need Vista taking in excess of 15 minutes on the initial startup. It’s a waste of my time and I don’t have all that much to spare. Continue reading “iMac – First Impressions (updated)”