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Entries From February 2006


February 25, 2006

Scratching Xbox 360 Discs

Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

If you are looking for a way to ruin your Xbox 360 games…I have found it! It is very simple…
  • Put a game in the unit.
  • Start the game.
  • Switch the orientation of the Xbox 360 (from vertical to horizontal or vice versa).
  • Note extremely loud buzz saw noise.
And that is it! You have destroyed your $60 game. You will notice scratch marks all around the outer edge of your game disc.
 
Normally I would never switch the orientation of the unit while it is in use. However, I heard a really loud fan noise at one point in a game and I wondered if the noise would be quieter if I put the Xbox flat.
 
I called Dell about this and they are going to replace the disc Actually, they are replacing everything, since they only have an order number for the Xbox 360 bundle and not the disc. No questions asked! I like Dell.
 
It sounds like I’m not the only one to run into this. These guys ran into the problem and did a thorough investigation into the cause and how to modify your Xbox so it won’t scratch any more discs. They even have a video that shows how it works (in case you don’t want to try it on your own discs).
 
UPDATE:
Dell did not have any Xbox 360 bundles in stock, so they could not replace my scratched disk. They contacted me about the issue and gave me two choices: a full refund and I return the whole system or they would give me a credit of $50. I took the credit (of course). The game actually cost $50 so it worked out well..I promptly went to Best Buy and bought a new copy of Kameo. I like Dell.

February 18, 2006

Best Web Browser

Filed under Reviews, Software

My favorite web browser is Internet Explorer (IE). Why? It is the most compatible web browser out there. And since it is bundled with Windows, it is very likely that it will be on any computer you use.
 
For the web pages I visit, IE always works. I like it when things just work. Since IE has the largest market share, it is highly likely that most web pages are tested to work with IE.
 
However, IE does lack in some features that other web browsers have. The most noticeable is “tabbed browsing.” On my Linux box at work, I use Firefox (no IE for Linux…surprise!) and really like its tabbed browsing interface. I open 10+ web pages at any one time, and using a separate window for each can get unwieldy. Also, it is nice to use the middle mouse button to click on links and let them load in the background in a tab while you continue to browse the current page. When you are done, you can move on to the other tabs that were loading in the background…no need to wait on web pages loading!
 
IE 7 will have tabbed browsing. Actually, IE 7 will have better tab browsing than Firefox. Microsoft’s new take on tabbed browsing is called “quick tabs.” With quick tabs, you can see mini versions of all your open web pages, all on a single page. From quick tabs, you can see which pages have loaded (or have loaded enough to be usable) and pick which one you want to view or close. I can’t wait to try out this feature…I’m sure I will use it daily. Read more about the current state of IE 7 Beta 2 here.
 
Unfortunately, IE 7 is not out yet. It is planned for the second half of 2006 (it will also be a part of the next version of Windows, Windows Vista). So no tab browsing for the current IE…or is there?
 
I’ve found two ways to add tab browsing to IE. One is to use MSN’s toolbar. This review didn’t make me want to run out and try it. The review says the performance is slow and integration seems more like and afterthought. To try it out for yourself (it is free), get it here.
 
 
The other way to get tabbed browsing in IE is to use Avant Browser. Avant uses a different approach than MSN’s toolbar. Avant wrote their own web browser. But, Avant uses the IE rendering engine, so the net result is web pages look the same in Avant as they do in IE.
 
The tabbed browsing works just like Firefox. I love it! I would recommend Avant just for the tabbed browsing, but it also has a couple other nice features that I’ll use:
  • Flash animation blocker. I found that some of the advertisements Yahoo puts on my home page are of the flash animation variety. I didn’t worry about it until some of the animations sucked up 100% of my CPU and slowed everything down…especially loading my home page. With the flash animation blocker, this is not a problem any more. Plus, it is easy to turn back on if you do want to watch an animation, just go to the Tools menu and uncheck “Disable Flash Animations.”
  • Ad blocker. Avant will filter out requests for advertisements so you don’t waste time loading ads…makes web pages load much quicker.
Avant is free, but they do take donations. I sent them $15 because I think they did a great job. You can download it here. Highly recommended!

Best Looking B-Ballers

Filed under Lists

 
 
Believe it or not, there are a few. Something about a girl that can play hoops…very sexy.
  1. Becky Hammon, New York Liberty (she’s the little one in the picture above)
  2. Sue Bird, Seattle Storm
  3. Lauren Jackson, Seattle Storm (in SI’.s swimsuit issue this year)
  4. Kayte Christensen, Pheonix Mercury (waived in July 2005)

LED DLP’s

Filed under HDTV

There will be two companies making LED DLP’s this year. I already mentioned Samsung, but I did not know about Akai. They have a 42″ for $1799 (PT42DL27L) coming out in March and a 52″ for $2199 (PT52DL27L) coming out in May. I’d be interested in the latter based on screen size. Considering the Samsung 56″ is expected to be $3999, these prices are really good. Have to see a review to see how they stack up.
 
 
So now I’m tracking 3 potential suitors for my HDTV:
  • Akai 52″ PT52DL27L
  • Samsung 56″ HL-S5679W
  • Sony 55″ 2nd Generation SXRD

February 13, 2006

XBOX 360 as a DVD player

Filed under Reviews, Xbox 360

I watched a couple of movies on my Xbox 360 this weekend. I noticed some motion artifacts that do not show up on my Sony DVD player.  For example, the credits at the end of a movie seem to jerk slightly every second or so. I watched the credits with my Sony DVD player and I did not see any issues. My guess is that the Xbox 360 is taking an interlaced signal and converting it into progressive. This might work better if I had an HDTV, but I don’t.

I’ll try this again when I eventually get an HDTV, but until then I won’t be using my Xbox 360 for watching movies.

HDTV Purchase Plans

Filed under HDTV

I have been looking into buying an HDTV for a while now. I have narrowed down my search for the “perfect HDTV” to a few features:

  • Native Resolution
  • Display Technology
  • HDTV formats supported
  • Screen Size
  • HD DVD/Blu-Ray support

Native Resolution

The native resolution is the fixed resolution of the display device. For example, this Sony LCD has a native resolution of 1280×768. So everything that is shown on this TV must be converted to 1280×768. Both of the main HDTV formats (1920×1080 and 1280×720) must be converted to fit into 1280×768.

If the native resolution is less than the format you want to watch, then you will lose detail. In the example above, a video in 1920×1080 format will have to throw away a bunch of pixels to fit into 1280×768.

So I don’t have to worry about throwing away details, my HDTV will have a native resolution of 1920×1080.

Display Technology

There are several display technologies to choose from. Each has its pluses and minuses.

At one point, I was set on getting DLP. However, the color wheel used to break light into red, green, and blue has two nasty side effects: the Rainbow Effect (RBE) and noise. You can see the RBE especially when you have a high contrast video (like white text on a black background). To really bring out the effect, blink your eyes while turning your head side to side. You will see rainbow colors, even when the video is showing only black and white. I am tired of all the fan noise from electronics, so I do not want a TV that contributes more noise. So I decided against getting a DLP. 

However, at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this year, Samsung showed off a new DLP set that uses LED’s instead of a light bulb. How is this better?

  • No color wheel needed, so no more RBE or color wheel noise
  • LED’s have a wider color gamut, so it can display more colors than a bulb
  • LED’s last 20,000 hours compared to 3,000-6,000 for light bulbs
  • Fast TV start up time: 7 seconds for LEDs (longer for bulbs, but not sure how much)
  • Brighter images

Samsung only plans on building one LED-based DLP set this year. It is a 56 inch 1080p set with a price tag of $4,199. It also has two 1080p inputs. It should be out in April. I will be watching this one closely!

I don’t like LCD for a few reasons:

  • Most do not have the 1920×1080 native resolution I care about
  • Have problems displaying black (it usually looks dark grey)
  • The Screen Door Effect: You can see a border between individual pixels when you get close to the display. The border can look like you are watching TV through a screen door.

If I had to buy a TV today, I’d probably get one using Sony’s version of LCoS, called SXRD. I have heard very few negatives regarding LCoS. It has gotten very good reviews (here and here). My biggest issue with this current generation of SXRD is that they do not support 1080p signals. However, the next generation previewed at CES this year will. The new features planned for the 2nd generation SXRD’s:

  • 30% thinner than previous generation
  • Two 1080p HDMI inputs
  • No more “Dumbo Ear” side speakers (i.e. won’t be as wide as previous generation)

A poster to a forum claims there are 3 new versions of the SXRD for 2006, 50″, 55″, and 60″…

KDS50XBR2000 (August 2006) MSRP $2999.99
KDS55XBR2000 (July 2006) MSRP $3599.99
KDS60XBR2000 (August 2006) MSRP $3999.99

I still have to wait for the LED DLP and the 2nd generation SXRD to come out and be reviewed before I can pick. But with what I know now, my HDTV will either be DLP or LCoS (SXRD).

HDTV Formats Supported

Most HDTV’s will have input’s that will accept 720p and 1080i. Most current HDTV’s DO NOT support 1080p. Currently there is not much 1080p source material…but it is coming. Both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray store all of their information in 1080p. So if you want to see the best picture possible from these next generation DVD’s, you will need a set that supports 1080p.

My HDTV will support 1080p

Screen Size

This is a really difficult topic. It would be really easy if all the content on TV was in 1920×1080p…just get the biggest TV you can. However, getting a huge set will make standard definition (SD, regular television) look terrible. I read an article about this today that has some nice charts comparing screen size to distance from a set for various types of content.

Another way of gauging the size of a screen is based on the field of view (FOV). If you want to get a true movie going experience, then you want to have the same FOV that a movie screen has. SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers) recommends a 30 degree FOV for movie theaters. For a movie theater to get THX certification, it must have a 36 degree FOV. This webpage has a nice calculator that will tell you what your FOV is given your TV size and the viewing distance.

Since I want SD and HD content to look good, and I will sit about 9 feet from my screen, I want a screen size around 50 to 55 inches.

HD DVD/Blu-Ray support

The next generation DVD formats should arrive soon. It is quite possible (especially with older HDTV’s) that HD-DVD/Blu-ray will not work correctly without the proper copy protection circuitry. I will wait until these new formats are finalized and tested with HDTV’s to verify they work. My HDTV will support both HD DVD and Blu-ray.

February 8, 2006

Blog from a cell phone?

Filed under Blogging

I am stuck in a lab without internet access waiting for my software to build. Thought I would see if I can write a blog entry while I am waiting.

Looks like it worked! Cool!

February 5, 2006

Website transfered to Blog!

Filed under Blogging

I’ve spent the weekend transfering my old web pages to my new blog. So now I’m going to make http://www.davidlenihan.com/ point to my blog, blog.davidlenihan.com. What a pain! But I’m glad I’m done and now I will hopefully be more likely to add more content. Now I can go watch the Super Bowl!

How to use the DirectX Extensions for Maya

Filed under 3D, DirectX, Maya

I wrote up a webpage to show how to use the Microsoft DirectX Extensions for Maya.

How to manually install the DirectX Extensions for Maya

Filed under 3D, DirectX, Maya

I could never get the Microsoft DirectX SDK to install its extensions for Maya. I wrote up a webpage that explains how to install these extensions manually.

With the DirectX Extensions for Maya, you can export the .X file format, use .FX files for materials, and open a Direct3D viewer inside of Maya.

How to stop “Please select the view you want to render” dialog box in Maya

Filed under 3D, Maya

If you use Alias’s Maya, then you have probably run into this. When you open a tool or another window, the focus leaves your 3D view. When you try to render a view, you get this annoying message…

Please select the view you want to render

I put together a web page that explains how to tell Maya to use the last view you had selected for rendering and get rid of this annoying dialog box.

I got a thank you from a Maya modeler that has had the annoying problem for a long time. I wondered how he found my website. I did a search on Google. I found that Google has indexed my website. If you do a search on the above dialog box message, you will find that I am one of the top links on Google!

February 4, 2006

Moving to a Blog

Filed under Blogging

Blog’s are all the rage these days. Blog stands for Weblog, which is essentially a diary. The main advantage of a blog is that it is REALLY easy to update. I hope that means I will be more likely to add content to my website.

So I’m going to throw away my old “davidlenihan.com” web page and replace it with this blog. First I’m going to add all my old content to the blog and then (hopefully) I’ll be better about adding new stuff.

I’m using the blog software from the people that are hosting my website (Hostway). If you are interested in starting your own blog, check out MySpace, Yahoo! 360, or MSN Spaces. They all are free and should be easy to setup.

February 3, 2006

Xbox 360 Arrived!!!

Filed under Xbox 360

I got my Xbox 360 last night.  Very cool.  I’m anxious to play online against my friends…so add me to your friend list…I’m RGBA . The graphic to the right is my “gamer card.”  It is updated in real time.  My profile name is “RGBA.”  The “Rep” is my reputation.  You start with 3 stars and gain stars when people want to play with you.  When people avoid playing with you, your Rep goes down.  The G is for “Gamer score.”  Every game has tasks you can complete that add to your Gamer score.  Zone is what type of player I am (Recreation = just for fun, not super competitive).  The bottom shows the last 5 games I’ve played.

I used this website to find out who had Xbox 360’s available.  I wanted an Xbox 360 standard system (the one with a hard drive).  Many of the bundles include lots of games and books that I didn’t care about.  I found that Dell had a bundle that was pretty close to what I wanted, for $680 (no mark up on price).  Their bundle included:

  • Xbox 360 (Console with chrome DVD tray, Hard Drive, Wireless Controller, Xbox Live Headset, Ethernet Cable, Component (HD)/Composite (RCA) video cable)
  • 2nd Wireless Controller
  • Play and Charge Kit (cable and rechargeable battery for wireless controller)
  • 13 Month Xbox Live Subscription Card
  • 3 Games (Madden Football 2006, Project Gotham Racing, Kameo)

I found I needed a few more things to get my setup just right, so I ran to Best Buy to get:

  • Wireless Network Adapter
  • S Video cable (don’t have HD TV yet, and wanted a better picture than you get from RCA cables)
  • Rechargeable Battery Pack (so both controllers are now rechargeable)
  • Remote Control (In case I start using my Xbox to watch DVD’s)

I ordered from dell.com on Monday and it arrived on Thursday using their free shipping option…not bad!

GamerCard


About February 2006

This page contains all entries posted to David's Blog in February 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

November 2005 is the previous archive.

March 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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