Another month, another toy ...

FINALLY gave in and bought a media player this week after going through many options. Earlier I wanted to build my own media player (i.e. was thinking along the lines of an Atom/ION based mini PC with a Win7 Embedded build and XBMC GUI) but then decided not to until next year so I can use to claim for tax relief ... yup, sometime soon will be another PC build.

There are like hundreds of different types of media players in the local market but probably the most popular are from A.C. Ryan and WD. Then there are those china-made players with no names and no support which are dirt cheap (as low as RM70!) but I decided against these. I have nothing against the heavy weights like the WDTV series or PlayonHD players but I had specific needs.

What I was looking for was something that can
  • Play mpg, mkv, avi, mov, mp3, m4v, vob ... the usual stuff. Didn't need rmvb/rm formats as I have none of those files
  • Network option - either wifi or wired prefably with UPnp or SMB playback
  • Bluray disc playback ... yeah, I actually started buying BD discs before getting a player
  • Multiple media support - HDD, USB, flash etc

The controlling option was the third one with bluray playback. I didn't want to get another standalone player just to play BD content and there aren't that many with optical drives anymore.

I first settled on a Kogan bluray disc player but needed to import from Australia. Final price was around RM1000+ but I would have to forgo things like warranty and replacement. Then there was the Popcorn Hour MNT machine. Weird that a locally made/designed product can't be bought anywhere here! I had to get it from Singapore for around S$400 + shipping + addon bluray drive (any normal PC drive) which drove up the cost ... this really is "Malaysia Tak Boleh".Finally settled on the Taiwanese Dune HD Max which burnt my pocket of RM1500++. It covered all my needs and provided a few which I didn't ask for but really appreciate and love now. Most importantly, it had region-free bluray playback (search for Dune HD region free for the patch to install) which was mucho importante since I had discs from every region in the world (DVDs from 1-6 and BDs A,B and C)

Out of the box (with new firmware of course), the Max supports SMB/CIFS/NFS filesharing so it could grab content from any PC in the network and playback without me having to copy between devices using thumbdrives or portable HDDs (which is does support). Best of all, it had wireless support AND it used the adapter which I already have (the Dlink DWA-140 which I got for free) ... so now its a wireless playback center which can grab content and also host content for other PCs to download from!! It has a hot-plug HDD bay for 3.5" SATA drives which allows for easy install and moving of large amounts of content if actually required.

Currently it grabs HD TV content from my PC upstairs and displays (with help of Zappiti) the following menu during playback ... nothing much since most of the other content is on external drives and these were the only ones on the running internal drive (thats already 120GB mind you!). Next up is to get another internal HDD to install ... all the ones I currently have are 7200rpm-ers which are too hot ... but thats for another day.

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File-sharing block in Malaysia

This piece of news is making its rounds on FB and twitter because the MCMC (Malaysian Comms and Multimedia Commission) has requested ISPs to block 10 sites that are illegally providing sharing services which contribute to piracy. [Ref TheStar article here]

The "1M Malaysians Don't Want SKMM Block File Sharing Website" on facebook has over 2000 likes as this post is written and is sure to grow as news spreads after the weekend. First things first, the group has a absurdly long name. There are the usual complainers and grouses from the public about the action being taken to ban these sites but a few really beg the question "Do Malaysians really understand their rights?".

This post above on the FB group made me wonder did the person/other users ever read the T&C when he signed up for Streamyx/FTTH-Unifi/Dialup/3G services from any of the local ISPs? You may have paid for the service but that does not mean you own it or can dictate the conditions required from it - those were already set when you signed up for the service. For example, Unifi has a clear T&C that
Transmission of any material in violation of any international, federal, state or local laws or regulations is prohibited. These include, but shall not be limited to copyrighted material, material legally judged to be threatening or obscene, pornographic, profane, or material protected by trade secrets. These also include links or any connection to such materials.
This obviously indicates the use of file-sharing sites but has the company ever taken any harsh action against any users of the service? What would this FB user say if the rules was changed and instead of banning the site, the ISP was to surrender the names and addresses of subscribers accessing these 10 sites for further action by RIAA/MCMC/PPM etc? Wouldn't that be a bigger problem for the user instead?

Then there are posts that repeat the PM's statement about non-censorship of the internet. There exists a very thin boundary between censorship and banning. Admittedly I may not know the laws and jurisdictions of the Government well enough (aku bukan loyar ler) but do you consider the blocking of a "file-sharing website" as a form of censorship? From the governing bodies' view, the block would basically support the rights of a copyright holder which are definitely more than the subscribers right to pirated material. This basically boosts a goverment's outlook as one that supports media rights instead of piracy but draws hatred from the rakyat instead. It all boils down to a simple question - Does blocking pirated material constitute censorship OR support the copyrights? - that is the major problem.

Personally I'm torn between both FOR and AGAINST the action to block access. I don't consider the block as a form of censorship but basically the right action to support the copyright holder's rights to the material. A downright block is what I am against as there are legitimate uses for these filesharing sites (an email can only attach so much). As of writing, TPB is not yet blocked but down (once again) because of some server problems ... I think.

UPDATE 2011-06-11 1600hrs (+8GMT) confirmed that TPB is still accessible and those people swearing online in FB were just paranoid crazy. TPB was out earlier due to power outage at their server ... so, torrent while you still can!

[P/S swearing in FB doesn't prove anything other than you having a really extensive vulgar vocabulary and the class of major A-hole]
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10 things you learn ...

... when driving on Lebuhraya Damansara Puchong:

[1] The lane you are in will always be the slowest - no matter how many times you change lanes .... so why bother? Its less stressful and safer to just keep to your own lane.

[2] No one reads/obeys road signs. See a 60km/h sign? No worries, go ahead and drive at 140km/h until *BANG* you hit the car in front of you ... lost count the number of times I've seen this happen. If you ask 100 drivers on the LDP, probably 99 of them won't know that motorcycles, trucks and construction vehicles aren't allowed on overheads and underpasses .... no one reads the signs *sigh*

[3] "I see dead animals" On average, you will see at least one roadkill per journey. So far I've seen the usual cats and dogs. And then theres the occasional snake, alligator, turtle, stork, cow (how in the heck do you hit a cow and not leave the vehicle behind?) goat, iguana etc.

[4] The driver throwing rubbish out their windows are more often those that are driving BMWs, Mercs, Alfas of some other high-priced vehicle. During these times I really pity those drivers ... their cars cost so much that they can't afford a rubbish bin at home and are forced to drive just to throw their trash. Worst offenders are those that throw diapers onto highways *yuck*

[5] Majority of drivers on the right lane are on the wrong lane. Want to turn left? Then keep right ... however most drivers wait until the very last minute and the last 2 metre stretch before merging like crazy just to get into the wrong lane .... and please learn to signal-lah.

[6] Planning a journey on the LDP is based on two important factors. Time of journey and weather. If travelling during peak hours (mornings from 0730 to 1000 and evenings from 1630 to 1930) add at least 45 minutes of travelling time. If it is raining add one hour .... scale as necessary depending on how far into the journey you are. If it is peak AND raining add 95 minutes travelling time. To prepare for unpredictable scenarios (i.e. snake in temple, 6 car pileup, overhead pedestrian bridge collapse, etc) add X = ∞ time. ALWAYS make sure the gas tank is half-full in the first two conditions.

[7] Drivers that 'flash' you are usually on the wrong lane (see point number 5). 'Nuff said.

[8] ALL construction on LDP is for show only. No matter WHAT they add or WHEN they do it, it still does not solve the problem of overcapacity. The management doesn't seem to understand that the problems are mostly cause by the high number of exits on the highway (*snort* yeah right ... "highway" konon). For example, block of the exit in from of St. Ignatius Church and that will reduce the slowdown on the overhead approaching since there is already a sliproad before that .... simple really. Last-ditch measures like contra-flows only push the problem around and never really solve it at all.

[9] Yes there are ways to avoid some tolls and in some cases actually save you time and money.

[10] ALL the electronic signboards on the LDP are useless and tell you nothing about traffic conditions. Recently they only promoted "Promosi Touch 'n Go di Alamanda" throughout the day .... at Kelana Jaya .... come-on lah people. Who in their right money-saving minds will go to Alamanda when they are in KJ?