Plex is what happened to the OS X port of Xbox Media Center. They forked off and have been attempting to make XBMC easier to set up and use, and the latest release is something to behold.
Setup is still a little finicky. To get full use of the fancy interface and metadata, the app needs to scan your libraries, so you need to point it where to go and tell it what sort of files it’s seeing. Then, it crawls the file structure and tries to make sense of it all, sucking down cover art and plot details and what have you. (Of course, you can forego this process and simply browse a flat file list, but that’s for suckers yo.) Films worked mostly pretty well, but TV shows were all over the place. I recommend you organize your files before scanning them in – organizing shows like “Show/Season 1/ShowS01e01.avi” works well. I had a few folders of personal videos that were radically misinterpreted, of course, and I went through each file removing them from the library, but the next time I scanned the sources to get some new stuff in there, all the old files showed up again. So you kinda have to move them into a different folder.
Once you have everything scanned, however, this app takes off and soars like a majestic eagle-god for couch potatoes. Let me bring in my old friend the unordered list:
HD playback is the best I’ve seen, way better than Front Row and much better than VLC Player. On my 1.83gHz Mac Mini, Front Row can choke on some 720p files and barfs up 1080p; VLC can stomach the former but not the latter. Plex drinks them all down. This is huge. It’s also probably true of other XBMC-based projects, such as Boxee, which I’ll get to later.
Surround-sound decoding is also best-in-class. When I tried XBMC, it refused to output AC3, DTS, etc. etc., failing at one of the key things I want out of a media centre. It has to do with one’s amp, and it’s complicated and I don’t understand all the details, but I know this: Plex works, and other apps don’t.
It interfaces with iTunes, giving you access to iTunes libraries locally or around the house, and even plays DRMed stuff.
The interface, dude. Check out the screenshots on the homepage.
When you navigate to a TV show, it plays the theme from the show.
It’s very powerful and configurable. You can pull up an options screen during playback and do lots of shit, like toggle subtitles, set bookmarks, change aspect ratios, etc.
I was able to compensate for overscan.
You can customize the background images for the different sections, or the whole skin itself.
It can auto-update itself.
Now, keep in mind that a lot (but not all) of these features are common to other XBMC apps. Such as Boxee.
I finally got my Boxee alpha invite, so I gave it a shot too. If you hadn’t heard of it, Boxee is also based on XBMC and is available for Mac, Apple TV, Linux and Windows. It does almost all of the things Plex does, and sports a fine interface itself. The additions it brings are twofold:
It incorporates a lot of net sources, especially Hulu, Comedy Central, YouTube, CNN, CBS etc.
It has social networking features – you can view lists of what your friends have watched and/or recommend.
Boxee requires the same sort of setup as Plex, with many of the same problems.
Boxee is also pretty awesome, and I could see many people choosing it over Plex, both for Hulu and the facebooky features. However, it has the same surround decoding problems as XBMC did, which is a big issue for an A/V nerd like myself. Also, Hulu doesn’t work outside of the US, so that’s not a big draw for a Canuck, and until it has mass acceptance the friend features aren’t going to do me much good.
As you can probably tell, I’m favouring Plex right now. I’m totally hyped about it, in fact, and am getting ready to customize all the screens and such (ghetto blaster for the Music screen, yeah?). It’s also a small team doing amazing things, whereas Boxee is venture capital funded. But that’s sort of a false dilemma, and I’m definitely going to check back in on Boxee as it develops; as I understand it with these open source projects, they could fold whatever Plex did with their surround decoding back in to their project and that could be enough for me. So check out both and see what you think.
Thanks to Matt for turning me on to Fucked Up, the Toronto hardcore band. I haven’t listened to hardcore since the early 90s, but this shit is awesome. A couple quotes from the wiki entry demonstrate why:
“This single was in tribute to the Viennese Actionism a far left art movement during the 1960s, and the Situationist International. The record featured one song spread over two sides, and illegible liner notes, meant to shock and annoy the buyer.”
“The Looking for Gold 12” contained no liner notes or credits, no song titles, and a hidden track. It was self-released by the band in 2004 in two limited runs of 300 & 400 copies and immediately became one of the most sought-after modern hardcore punk releases, selling for over $100 on internet auction sites like ebay. The title track was 17 minutes long, used 19 guitar tracks, had a three minute drum solo and contained 4 minutes of whistling, all unconventional by punk rock song-writing standards.”
And here’s the performance on MTV Canada (thanks, Teddy). It has to be some of the best television I’ve seen in a while.
That should be pretty obvious to all except feed-followers.
I loved the old design, but it was really suited for what the site used to be, and not what it is now. I returned to this site’s original design, which was based on Phu Ly’s Simpla theme, and then took it from there. And here we are: a simple, 2-column blog design that hopefully doesn’t spit in your eyes and is displaying okay in your browser (let me know if it ain’t, okay?). I’ll gradually add things back in when I have the time, but it seemed baked enough to let it out of the oven.
That leaves the question: what is this site now? I’m reluctant to answer that; I’d rather find out gradually. There’s an aphorism about butts cashing cheques that applies to mission statements from people with full-time jobs. But the general idea is to write about things I’m doing and things I love. Which hopefully will overlap somewhat.
I’m as serious as cancer when I say Rhythm is a dancer
I’ve got nothing against using cancer as a metaphor, even as a metaphor for how serious you are. But then you have to step up to the plate, which Snap most certainly does not. “Rhythm is a dancer”? What does that even mean? That’s like saying “flight is a pilot”. And don’t go looking through the rest of the song’s lyrics for possible exploration, you’ll drive yourself insane.
Best worst lyrics ever: Tom Petty
First in the Traveling Wilburys song “Last Night”:
I was feeling no pain Feeling good in my brain.
And then, from “It’ll All Work Out”:
She wore faded jeans and soft black leather She had eyes so blue they looked like weather.
I can’t even find words to express. Although some keywords might be “marijuana, zen, inane, mild brain damage.”
It’s over here, and the production designer brags that there will be ten new terminator models. I’m of two minds with regards to this project. In its favour:
they are disregarding the third film in the franchise
since the first film, haven’t we been waiting to see actual details of the robocalypse and the subsequent resistance?
there’s a mech-sized giant robot terminator
On the other hand, consider the following reasons it could suck:
there’s a muscly humanoid chain-gunning terminator. Why? Humanoid robots are cool and all but presumably SkyNet is rational and wouldn’t build a complicated human skeleton if a turret on wheels would do. There are warning signs that this film is going to be, like, cool action and stuff, that doesn’t really make sense when you think about things for more than a half second and doesn’t do justice to the first two films.
there’s a mech-sized giant robot terminator. See above reason.
I’m torn between two commitments this month: National Novel Writing Month and Fallout 3. I thought it would be a bigger problem than it is. I love getting lost in immersive worlds, so I imagined Fallout would swallow me whole, sabotaging my attempt to force myself to write more through gimmicky contests. However, I’ve realized that whatever electro-chemical cocktail that makes me like exporing worlds is the same formula that makes me like writing. When I’m writing, I’m creating a world, with only myself to blame if it gets boring.
The challenges of writing come from the vagueness of it all. You lay out a huge goal, yet there are many smaller steps that are unclear. Also, there is no one to tell you what to do next, or to even to do anything at all. It makes you wish you just had to chop wood all day. That’s the great thing about NaNoWriMo: it makes writing more like chopping wood. You need to hit 1667 words per day, and if you don’t, you didn’t do your job. No matter if the words suck, just keep blasting away.
So if you even see me up in this robot, I’m totally procrastinating and you shouldn’t encourage me. Bad readers! Look away!