Sunday, February 27, 2011

Boxee and the art of watching movies

(Image courtesy -

Finally got myself a boxee box (Dlink Boxee Box) after an endless discussion with myself. And the fact that my good friend and neighbor happened to be in the US at that time had absolutely nothing to do with it!

Amazon did a fantastic job of delivering it in 2 business days and I had the boxee with me in 4 days from the time I ordered it!

I'll be honest and say upfront that I was disappointed with the initial experience. I did use the Boxee app a lot in the US - the experience there was fantastic.

Setup was good and quick - but it did take a few hits and misses for it to pick up movies from my Linkstation Live LS-CHL. Lack of DLNA (uPnP) definitely was disappointing. I had to connect to the SMB share by typing in the IP Address and then it worked fine. The fan noise is also almost a deal breaker for me. I am sensitive to noise and any humming is definitely a no-no.  There's a good discussion on this elsewhere on the web...

Other things that didn't go well:
  • No Power-on button on the remote!
  • Standby mode just switches off the display - everything else (including the fan) is pretty much on in standby mode
  • User experience through the remote was ok - with the keyboard on the reverse side being the face-saving point
  • iPod Touch remote  app did not work (still does not - need to figure out why)
All was not lost however - and things started to change the moment I upgraded it to the latest version. Contrary to most folk (or at least from what I've read on the web) - I love the new interface. Since I mostly watch locally stored movies - it was a joy to watch Boxee play any format that I threw at it!

I even tried an online video - it was a Nat Geo/Discovery kind of movie and it played beautifully (took a few seconds to buffer - but the video quality was great!).  Even my VCD stored format plays decently through the Boxee. The browser app is a mess - but gets the job done. It is a pain moving the mouse around through the remote.

For improving the boxee box experience - some suggestions I would have:

 - Have a sleep mode that will only be woken up by the remote
 - A new browser app (I might build one myself)
 - Power button!!!

Overall the gizmodo review pretty much sums up my experience - "Good at one thing - bad at everything else".  I think the box is slowly growing on me - although it is far from being a cord cutter I thought it would be...


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Apple refreshes the MacBook Pro line

As highly rumored, Thunderbolt (earlier called Light Peak) makes its way into Apple's MacBook Pro family.  A quick look at what is new:
  • Intel Sandy Bridge - quad core i5 and i7 on the 15inch and 17inch models (13inch gets dual core i5 and i7 options)
  • AMD Graphics (Radeon HD6490M on the 15inch and AMD Radeon 6750M on the 17inch models) Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics on the 13inch one. Goodbye NVidia!
  • HD Camera (for better Facetime)
  • Thunderbolt I/O
  • Multi-Touch Trackpad
There is no Display Port (not even mini-HDMI/DVI) - and that's what's interesting about Thunderbolt (apart from "speeds up to 10 Gbps"). You can now connect devices with HDMI, DVI, and VGA over DisplayPort interfaces to the Thunderbolt port. Of course, this means a whole lot of HDMI/DVI/DisplayPort adapters to buy! Nothing surprising here - given Apple's penchant for getting you to always buy some kind of adapter.

All other things are pretty much the same - aluminum unibody, glass display and trackpad, although an intriguing thing is that Apple has not gotten rid of the Firewire port. With Thunderbolt coming in - I would have pretty much assumed that Firewire would die out...

Overall, the 15inch model looks highly tempting! I wish the 13inch one got these specs - I would have arranged for the small crack on my existing 13inch white Macbook to take its toll faster, thereby "forcing" me to upgrade ;-).

On a side note the 13inch White Macbook doesn't seem to have got any serious upgrades.

Which one will you be buying?