Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Buying a TV today

Each month I visit an electrical goods store to check out the televisions. The screens get bigger, have more resolution, and are cheaper every time I look.

There are four distinct technologies generally available:
  • Cathode Ray Tubes, where a large, evacuated, glass tube shoots electrons at a phosphor layer.
  • Plazma, where a flat screen also makes phosphor glow with excellent contrast.
  • LCD, where liquid crystals block or allow through the backlight.
  • Projection, either forward or back.
The other variable is the resolution of the displays. Here are the current options:
  • 625 Lines is what standard definition is today (525 for NTSC)
  • 1024 (wide) by 768 (lines) is a bit better and very common
  • 1920 (wide) by 1080 (lines) is real "high definition"
When you visit a shop it's not easy to find out what you are looking at. Labels such as "HD Ready" don't tell us what the screen is actually able to display. Combine this problem with the fact that as I write there isn't much true HD content around, means that it's very hard to judge the screens in a shop.

So what's the best screen technology? It's not clear unfortunately. Plazma has better blacks and therefore higher contrast but they are reputed to fade within a few years. LCDs have a poorer colour gamut but consume less power and therefore run cooler.

Computer screens are getting larger and it's likely that soon we'll be watching some sort of computer in the living room that can either record or simply download programs for direct view. Whatever happens I hope we can soon dispense with the multitude of remote controls that litter the room.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Media ratings survey asks wrong questions

My fourteen year old daughter recently completed a two week media survey diary for Roy Morgan Research.

They paid her to the value of about $35, it wasn't worth it. The survey was a combination of a detailed questionnaire about her interests and behavior and a diary of what she watched or listened to on TV or radio.

She's tech savvy and doesn't like watching ads so TV is mostly watched in delay by recording it on our digital video recorder so the ads can be fast forwarded through. The strange thing is that the diary asked only the time and channel, but not the program. As my daughter pointed out they weren't asking the right questions.

Luckily for them she was kind enough to look up the time and date of the recording and try to fill in the diary to reveal the program, which is presumably what they wanted to know. But what about when she watched a program while recording another, there was no way to reveal this.

Incidentally, it appears she listens to no radio at all. All music is on iPod from various sources. That's a depressing thing for a radio lover like me.

Reading their site, Roy Morgan Research, seem to be on the ball, but after seeing how they survey I would have to be highly skeptical about the accuracy of their media survey results.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Fedora Core 6 - linux for my mother

FC6 seems like a great release. Install is smoother than ever, not quite as beautiful as ubuntu, but no hitches.

I've tried it on a Dell desktop, a Dell laptop, and my MacBook (via BootCamp). I couldn't get wireless going on the Apple laptop which is a showstopper for me, but the cool new "Desktop Effects" did work while they didn't on the other two machines.

Desktop effects so far seems to make windows and menus "wiggle" in to view. I guess this is the beginning of the effects we've come to expect in MacOS X and soon Vista.

The web browser is Firefox and is as good an experience as it is anywhere. Now that I use Google Browser Sync, I can jump from machine to machine and feel right at home with all my bookmarks and even cookies following me around.

On the software side, I enabled IPV6 and have had trouble with WebService clients that used to connect to "localhost" that now need "" for some reason. Yes it's in /etc/hosts.

What a great set of default apps you get. The OpenOffice suite is looking fantastic and any MS Office user would feel right at home.