DoorBot – the Wi-Fi Enabled “Smart” Doorbell

DoorBot - the Wi-Fi Enabled The concept of a video intercom that lets you view who is at the front door is not new and is featured in many residences around the US and other parts of the world. The DoorBot improves upon this idea by allowing you to interact with the person on the other side of the door. DoorBot has also improved on another aspect of design in that you may be away from home, on the other side of the world, and still interact with the visitor at your front door.

DoorBot is powered by 4 AA batteries, so there is no cost for electrical wiring needed. Batteries should last for about a year, with normal usage, and the unit easily connects to your home’s Wi-Fi network. Once the DoorBot has Internet access, the owner next needs to download and install a free application. Both the iPhone and Android-based devices are supported.

The next time someone comes to your door and rings the doorbell, you will automatically receive a message on your smartphone. You will then have the opportunity to converse with the person at your front door, or you can ignore the caller and do nothing. If you do decide to contact the person at your front door, you merely start a conversation with the person, who won’t be able to see you.

I can see that DoorBot could have other applications as well. For small offices, one could be in a back room, yet keep an eye on the front door when someone approaches or a messenger comes by. For one man/woman offices, you could close the business while you get yourself a bit of lunch, and still be able to communicate with anyone who comes to your office. You could provide the person with a personal message telling them when you plan on returning or provide them with other information they may need. This can all be done without the necessity of having a secretary on hand during business hours.

This project is being crowdsource funded over at Christie Street and the developers are looking for $250,000. If the project proceeds, you will eventually be able to purchase a DoorBot sometime in July, 2013. The price for the DoorBot is estimated to be about $170.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Source: Christie Street

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by Stuart Chalmbers

Hulu: Can the Company Survive Its Own Success?

Hulu: Can the Company Survive Its Own Success?Hulu, which claims an estimated audience of over two million paid subscribers, has become one of the most popular sites for streaming TV shows and movies. With a subscription to Hulu, the viewer has access to content from over 380 providers. With this, however, there is a downside: In one month alone, Hulu also streamed 1.67 billion video ads to consumers. Why is this a downside? For Hulu, these ads spell big-time revenue income. If the company has become such a profitable business, what could possibly go wrong?

In this case, the problem is not with Hulu itself, nor with the company’s performance, but with the company’s owners — which include Disney, News Corp. and Comcast’s NBCUniversal. So, while one would think that the owners would be pleased about Hulu’s success, it appears that they are actually more focused, as with the US government, on bickering with each other. However, within the Hula conglomeration, the problem faced by the owners is unusual in that it revolves around the way that television is changing. This is in large part due to the fact that, not since the advent of cable TV, has the industry faced the problem of how new technology — in this case, online streaming — might change consumers’ preferences, thus creating a question on how to proceed in the future.

With this in mind, and given the complex combination of owners, Hulu has found itself in the snags of corporate disagreement on how to move forward with its programming. This confusion went so far as to affect investors who were hoping that Hulu would be offered to the public, only to find that this option never gained traction because the owners did not want to lose control.

Next came a disagreement over an alleged sale of the company that apparently failed, once again keeping ownership unchanged. In another vein, the quandary continues because the owners who don’t want Hulu to fail also do not want Hulu to take away from their conventional television advertising revenues. To control many of these issues, the owners are seeking to control licensing of Hulu’s content, thus creating a climate in which some analysts proclaim that there is no amount of cash the owners would take that would allow Hulu to flourish under someone else’s ownership.

These conditions have made the atmosphere so volatile that it has turned into a virtual shootout between the various managements and owners, One area of specific concern to Hulu’s chief executive officer is the cost for a subscription to Hulu Plus, which he believes is too high. However, the owners, looking at their piggy banks, think the pricing is just right. This argument ignited a powder keg when Hulu’s CEO went so far as to post his feelings on his blog, where he is known to have proclaimed to the world that old media is dead. Of course, Hulu owners took exception to the rantings and the real battle began between owners and executives.

So here is the problem as I see it. The owners are in a pickle as to how to maintain their interests in old media and keep their investors happy, all while keeping Hulu in the black. However, I also see another problem. Though both Hulu and Netflix have substantial subscription bases, both are fairly small when one compares their audience to the audience tuning into traditional, broadcast television media.

I found that, after subscribing to Hulu Plus for approximately six months, I wasn’t watching enough to justify the monthly subscription fee. Therefore, even though I had no complaints about Hulu Plus’ streaming capability or its programming, I cancelled my subscription. Since that time, I have found plenty of entertainment and satisfaction in using my Amazon Prime, Netflix, and traditional television accounts. In the future, who knows? Hulu seems like it would be a great option for anyone using a home antenna instead of the standard cable or satellite systems.

What do you think? Can Hulu survive the television jungle?

Comments welcome.

Source: CNN Money

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by biggraham

iPhone’s Biggest Flaw: Vertically Oriented HD Video Recording

Dear Apple,

Okay, that’s it. I’m sick of this. Fix it, already.

As a long-standing iPhone user, I feel the need to bring to your attention a massive oversight that has slipped your attention with every OS revision you’ve released: enabling users to record vertically oriented video. Portrait mode is awesome for still photos, but not recorded video.

Never in my entire existence on the planet have I seen a video created by a user who intended on having that video recorded in a vertical orientation. Most consumer HD viewing experiences don’t work that way. Nobody stands their HDTVs in a vertical orientation, and an extreme few have vertically oriented monitors attached to their computers. Vertical video broadcasts can be equally as awkward. There’s really no need to enable either, anymore, but my beef is primarily with recorded video — with the portrait broadcast a close runner-up.

It is quite possible that the user intends to record the video in a vertical orientation to begin with, expecting the video would record precisely what is viewable on screen at the moment of capture. I could imagine you might want to do this if you were recording something that was more tall than it was wide. But… this just… never seems to work out.

Who embeds (wants to view) videos formatted in a portrait orientation?

I’ve had more than a few videos ruined because I was holding the iPhone parallel to a flat surface — like shooting an object on a table while hovering directly above it. I had always intended on shooting in a landscape orientation (and even held the phone in such a manner while recording). However, because I failed to check the screen orientation before pressing the record button, the result is not just a failed video recording, but a rather peeved user as well.

The answer isn’t “you’re holding it wrong.” Suggesting that the user is incorrect in this scenario is unfair, especially when the issue can be addressed with a software revision to the Camera app. I can’t imagine the feature would be limited to any iPhone that had been enabled to record video, either, because people have been recording vertically oriented video on the iPhone ever since you enabled them to do it.

Not being a UX expert, I can’t make formal suggestions as to how you might address this “problem” in software, but I’d imagine it would include some kind of new icon that would alert the user to an alternative recording orientation (along the lines of your excellent camera-flipping icon). Or, quite possibly, be set as a default of landscape recording instead of vertical if the user was holding the phone in a portrait orientation.

You require users to double-tap the screen to get a full field of view of the video dimensions, so it’s not like I’m out of line to expect that you’d also be able to figure out how to accommodate the death of vertically oriented HD videos.

While I haven’t done any kind of formal polling, I’d imagine that the vertical-happy faction of your audience is slim. The circular lens functions irrespective of screen orientation, so this is certainly not a hardware flaw. Fix it.

Thank you.

How to Put Tweets in a Live Video Feed

How to Put Tweets in a Live Video FeedYes, I’m a huge fan of live video streaming. I’ve been doing it long enough to accrue over 55,000,000 viewer hours with my own feed. It was my insane dedication to live streaming on Ustream that landed me a position on its advisory board (disclaimer).

So, people ask me what I use in my live video feed all the time — not just what happens to be on my desk, but how I integrate live chat into the feed itself. It’s not really all that tricky, so long as you’re using the right tools.

Here’s the thing: the right tool won’t cost you anything, since it’s free. CamTwist is (as far as I’m concerned) the end-all, be-all video element compositing utility. With it, you can apply layer upon layer of effects to your video feed. This is pretty much all I use in conjunction with the broadcaster software that any streaming service provides.

Sad to say, however, that CamTwist is only available for Mac OS X. Despite the claims, there are no viable Windows or Linux alternatives. Yes, there is similar software available for the alternative platforms, but none will come close to the ease, speed, simplicity, and power of CamTwist. Believe me — I’ve tried ’em all.

So, the other day, CamTwist v2.2 was released — and with it, a new set of video extensions. Now, you have the ability to stream into your video tweets from either a specific user, or tweets related to a Boolean search from Twitter. If you have an active presence on Twitter, or you care to tap your video into the conversation, this is beyond perfect.

You can adjust font and avatar attributes separately, allowing for granular control over placement and design. Your live video feed will truly be live with a dynamic stream of tweets to augment the experience – even if you’re not there for your audience 24/7.

Budget Video Podcast Setup

LockerGnome reader John asks:

“I am going to start doing video podcasts and am in the process of picking out what gear [I want to use]. I don’t want to use my MacBook Pro iSight as the quality just isn’t there. As I am not up to speed with the current equipment available these days, I was wondering if you have any suggestions? My budget is around $400.”

Well John, you’re definitely entering the world of online video at the right time. The trick to finding a good video setup is determining exactly what you want from your vlog. Do you want it to be a pro-level rig with green screen and 1080p video? Would you want something a bit more along the lines of you sitting in front of a camera, giving your thoughts on various topics? If you’re looking for a good setup without a lot of investment, here are some ideas that might help you out:

  • Audio is Key – Even if your video looks fantastic, and your edits are absolutely perfect, your audio can make or break your ability to maintain an audience’s interest. Weak volume, echos, background noise, and overdriven audio are clear indications of a poorly planned production and can drive your audience away.
  • Check Your Lighting – You won’t find too many most watched videos on YouTube that have poor lighting. If your subject is lost in a shadow or covered in low lighting artifacts, you’ve got to add another lamp behind the camera. Chris Pirillo, Ray William Johnson, and Philip D. Franco are all fairly well lit in their relatively simple productions, and that small detail makes a huge difference in their overall quality.
  • Keep it Modular – As your video podcast grows, so should its budget. Investing in an all-in-one solution may be a great solution in the short-term, but that means reinvesting in every aspect of your show’s equipment when it comes time to upgrade.

Budget Video Podcast Setup

So, what kind of setup can you put together on a tight budget? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Using an iPhone
    • iPhone or iPod Touch ($200-250)
    • AT2020 or Blue Yeti ($60-120)
    • PC or Mac
    • Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie (Free)
    • GarageBand or Audacity (Free)
    • With this solution, you’re going to want to record audio separately using GarageBand, Audacity, or any other quality audio recording software. The iPhone and iPod touch provide decent video, but their audio could use some improvement. Once you’re set to edit the video, simply sync up the two audio tracks, detach audio from the video, and mute it. This way you’ll have your best audio track in play. This may not work in situations where you’re out and about, but the audio at your primary filming location should be your best.
  • Pocket Camcorder
    • Bloggie Duo Camera ($165) (Alternatively: The Kodak Zi8 and PlaySport) ($130-150)
    • AT2020 or Blue Yeti ($60-120)
    • PC or Mac
    • Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie (Free)
    • GarageBand or Audacity (Free)
    • This solution is a lot like the first, only using a dedicated camera which can give you slightly better results. If you decide to go with the Kodak PlaySport, you’ll have the ability to go underwater with your videos as well. One advantage to the Bloggie Duo is its self-facing monitor so you can position yourself as you’re recording for best results. Audio is a bit better on the Bloggie Duo though it’s always recommended to have the best possible audio when recording. Room echo can kill a good video.
  • Webcam Solution
    • Logitech C910 or Pro 9000 ($60-80)
    • AT2020 or Blue Yeti ($60-120)
    • PC or Mac
    • Logitech Recording Software (PC) or Photo Booth (Mac)
    • Windows Live Movie Maker or iMovie (Free)
    • This solution only works in front of your computer, but it does fall in line with your original setup. The C910 gives you 1080p recording capability with a quality camera while the 9000 pro is incredibly simple to use and delivers remarkable 720p video. In some cases, I’ve found the 9000 to be more reliable software-wise and have used it over the C910. This will hopefully change as Logitech tweaks the software. Because audio should be recorded live with the video and you can set the source, you may not need to do any difficult audio edits after the initial recording.

How to Get Clear Stills from Video

A LockerGnome reader asks:

“Could you let me know as to how I might get a better quality snapshot of a paused video recording (playback)? I’m trying to avoid hazy printouts.”

This is a great question. Unfortunately, the very nature of compressed video works against you here. As long as there is movement in a frame, you are likely to end up with slightly blurry stills. There are a few solutions that can help your chances of achieving a solid snapshot from a compressed video file.

For Windows users, Video Snapshot Genius is a program that takes snapshots automatically as a video plays, giving you the ability to pick the best out of a larger group of photos to use. Through this program, you can export snapshots as a single image or a thumbnail gallery.

You can also run the video through Windows Live Movie Maker and hit “take a picture” when you reach a spot that looks good enough to capture. The trick here is to keep navigating through the video until you come across a frame that looks the way you want it to.

Windows and Mac
also has an option under the video menu to take a snapshot of the file you’re viewing. It’s best to pause and navigate through rather than capture something as it’s playing live. This way you have the best chance possible of getting a good snapshot.

Patience is the key here, as it can sometimes be difficult to find a frame free of motion blur and/or compression artifacts. With a little luck and time, you should be able to capture a great image.

How to Stream PS3 and Xbox from a Mac

LockerGnome reader Joyn asks:

“I own a new Mac mini, and I know you stream your videos with one. Do you know how I can stream video from my PS3 and Xbox 360 from the Mac?”

Because the Mac Mini doesn’t come with a video in, you’ll need to purchase a video input device that converts your Xbox or PS3 component out to USB or FireWire.

One device that I’ve used is called a Dazzle. This is a simple input that allows you to feed your video from one device directly in to a system with USB 2.0. Once connected, it allows you to stream the video from your console to services such as Ustream or Livestream in much the same way a webcam is. I recommend using the Dazzle Pro HD if you’re wanting to capture HD content and stream it out in quality. One important note here for Mac users is if the audio doesn’t work through the Dazzle, you may want to try connecting it directly from your console to the Mac Mini using the line in port on the back of your Mac. This will provide clear, direct sound.

If you want to monitor it and stream separately, a program like Manycam can come in handy, allowing you to use a single video source with multiple programs simultaneously. Also, you might want to consider using CamTwist as it enables you to add lower thirds, basic overlays, and switch video sources on the fly should you decide to do some on-camera commentary after the game.

Another solution can be found in a piece of hardware called the HD PVR. This device allows you to capture and archive your HD video in addition to feeding you a clean monitor feed through VLC. Here, what you’ll need to do is couple it with CamTwist. This way, your live monitor window can be used as the video source through CamTwist’s Desktop+ option.

No matter how you decide to do your live stream, remember that streaming video from your home is bandwidth intensive and unless you have a significant amount of bandwidth, you may find that it can cause lag during game play. Some ISPs also impose bandwidth caps which are quickly met and exceeded by folks that stream video out of their home.

3 Tech Things You Shouldn’t Go Cheap On

It’s easy to “go cheap” when it comes to technology. The very idea of being a frugal geek involves saving money and/or getting more bang for your buck. There are, however, things you should avoid going cheap on for various reasons. One of the main ones being these things can end up costing you a lot more money in the long run than their more pricey counterparts. Here is a list of a few of them:

Power Supply
Your system’s power supply serves as its life source. It controls the flow of power from the outlet to vital components of your computer. I can tell you from personal experience, that buying the cheapest power supply you can find may hurt you in the long run in several ways.

The most obvious being the link between cost and wattage. If you buy the cheapest power supply you can find without making sure it has the wattage rating necessary to power all of your components, then you’ll quickly run in to problems as you start working with it.

Another problem with cheap power supplies can come in the form of shorts and more dangerous forms of failure. Power supplies don’t always fail by just not turning on. They can fail by popping and letting out sparks and smoke. A failed power supply can lead to failures in several system components that may ultimately lead to having to re-buy some more expensive system components. Some warranties don’t cover damage caused by other parts.

This has happened to me, twice. The first time was when I went cheap with a power supply that was included with a particularly cheap case. The second, with an included power supply on a CyberPower PC gaming system. They put high-end graphics and processor but went cheap on the power supply and motherboard. While a name brand power supply can still fail, it’s always best to keep in mind you get what you pay for with these.

If picture quality is what you’re after, don’t go cheap on a webcam. For some reason, off-brand webcams have an incredibly terrible batting average when it comes with picture quality. Low-cost webcams are too often riddled with hot pixels, dead pixels, poor audio, bad low-light imaging, among other issues. A ten dollar webcam will probably leave you with a bad taste in your mouth despite promising HD video and stereo audio on the packaging. If you see a webcam that costs less than a Logitech advertising more than the more pricey Logitech equivalent, look upon that device with suspicion. Some good brands are Logitech, Microsoft, and Creative which has put out some stinkers but lately is doing better in this market. There are more expensive and higher quality offerings from brands like Axis, but this is a frugal tech blog.

USB Headset
Every tech and audio company in the world seems to be in the headset market with at least one offering. Unfortunately, quality is often sacrificed for competitive pricing. Problems with many of the off-brand and budget headsets out there include poor microphone and speaker audio, fit, fragile design, and general lack of comfort. There are some great budget headsets out there, but in this market especially, stick with brands you know.

There are a lot of gimmick headsets out on the market that have interesting paint jobs and/or skulls on them. These may look better than the standard black or white options, but they also feel and sound terrible. What do you expect for $15?

There are many ways to save money in the world of tech, but sometimes the best deal isn’t really as good as it looks on the price tag.

How to Make Video Size Smaller for Free

Thanks to hard drive size increasing at a rapid pace, digital video is beginning to find its way to direct download distributors and consumers are becoming less reliant on those thin round discs that seem to scratch and become useless fairly easily. Even with hard drive space becoming more abundant, you may find yourself running out of space when you need it the most. This is one problem that can be solved with the right encoder and understanding of how digital video works.

It’s important to know the two biggest components of a modern digital video. The first and most recognizable is the container. The container can go by several names the most common of which are AVI, MP4, MOV, FLV, etc. In addition to holding the video data, it also contains the audio and extra information such as chapters and other advanced features.

If the video file were an actual physical file full of data, the container would be the manilla envelope the pages of data are contained within. Some players are only able to deal with certain containers, so it’s important to find out which container format is best considering where and how you intend to play the file.

Some containers are flexible and can work with multiple codecs while others are more specialized. The MP4 container doesn’t just work with MPEG-4, which seems like an exact match due to their similar names. It also works very well with H.264

The second major component of a digital video file is the codec. If the container is the folder the data is located in, the codec is most certainly the data. This is the chief determiner of file size within a video file and, in general, is the most important to consider when converting a file from one format to another. Some codecs offer better compression than others, giving you a quality image with as little space taken up as possible. The most popular lossy codecs include H.264, WMV, DivX, FFmpeg, VP8, MPEG-4, etc.

Of these, my personal favorite is H.264 due to its adoption rate among mobile devices and usability with HTML5 video embedding. There are several adaptations of the codec out there, but to keep things simple just look for H.264 in the video encoder to simplify the process.

One drawback to converting any video file for a smaller file size is you have to deal with lossy formatting that will degrade your video quality to some degree. No matter how good the codec and compression settings you choose, encoding video degrades the quality each time  you do it, like making a copy of a copy on the office copier.

Finding the Right Software
Now that you have an idea of exactly what impact your codec and container selections have on a video file, it’s important to take a look at which program you’d like to use to achieve solid video compression. You may want to keep in mind that video compression utilities of professional quality doesn’t come cheap. The suggested options below are simply some of the better known and reliable programs currently being distributed at no charge.

Handbrake is a popular option that allows you to take video off a DVD or even load up a video file currently on your drive. In addition to being free, it offers you a wide range of options including the ability to set a goal file size. This means that it will determine how much it needs to compress the file to reach your goal, or something close to it. Handbrake sends video out in two primary container formats, MP4 and MKV. Both of these formats are widely accepted by a broad range of media playback devices. The MP4 file comes out as an M4V which allows it a more complete compatibility with the Apple TV, but it is still an MP4 file.

Miro Video Converter is free for the Mac and gives users the ability to take one video file and convert it depending on which device you prefer to play it back on. While it is more of a converter than a utility targeted at compressing files, it does a fair job of making videos optimized for specific devices and formats without leaving them too bulky.

VirtualDub is a great free program that also assists with video formatting and compression. Though it doesn’t give you much in terms of video editing, it does give you a suite of features for post-production processing allowing you to make sure the file you get is what you want.

If you want something a bit more professional and aren’t afraid to spend some cash, some of the best compression utilities include Compressor for the Mac and Adobe Media Encoder for Windows. These utilities come with Final Cut and Adobe Premiere, respectively, and offer a multitude of rendering and encoding options with professional quality. Quicktime Pro / Quicktime paired with iMovie can be a powerful solution at a very low cost.

Stay away from changing frame rates, as that can result in jerky movement or very long processing times. The more you shrink the files, the less reliable the results will be.

No matter what you decide on, what’s important is that the files you are compressing end up looking and sounding the way you want them to. The fight between encoding systems has waged on for years and will continue to do so as long as audiophiles and video enthusiasts have anything to say about it. Fact is, if you can’t tell the difference between before and after, you’ve probably landed on a great solution.

Apple TV Giveaway

Do you want this? Listen up.

If there is one thing we frugal geeks love more than anything in the world it’s free tech. Free tech can come in many forms including a good piece of open-source software, a hand-me-down system you can turn in to a home server, and even something that is just being given away. This month, we’re giving something away.

How would you like a chance to win an Apple TV? It’s small, connects right to your TV or monitor, and plays media both from the web and computers on your network. It can even play media right from your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch using AirPlay. It’s an awesome little device, and you can win it.

Being entered to win is easy. Simply log in to Twitter and tweet out the following message:

"LockerGnome is Giving Away an Apple TV @LockerGnome @FrugalGeek"

After that, follow @LockerGnome and @FrugalGeek on Twitter. You have to be following them both or you can’t win.

Entries are accepted between now and April 15th. Due to international rules and regulations and blah blah blah the offer is only open to folks in the U.S. and Canada.

So, what are you waiting for, follow @LockerGnome and @FrugalGeek and send that Tweet. The winner will be selected using

Even if getting this for free wasn’t up your alley, if we get a good reaction from the community, we’ll be able to approach other vendors and get you more free stuff, more frequently.

How to Convert Video

An email was sent in posing the simple question, “How do you convert video from one type to another?” While video formatting includes numerous variables, the most common format change is the file container and codec.

One of the trickiest things to understand about digital video is how encoding and formatting actually works. While one format may play very well on your desktop computer; your iPod, mobile phone, and media center may not translate the file the same way. It’s for this reason there are literally hundreds of video convertors on the market. Some of them are targeted at home users for personal use, while others can cost hundreds of dollars to provide professional quality conversion.

For most home users, converting video from one codec or file type to another can be an easy process. You just need to find the right program to fit your needs. These programs all basically work the same. You determine a source file, select the file type to convert it to, and go.

It’s also important to note here than not all encoders / converters are created equal. Finding a really good media encoder that works for you can be an expensive endeavor. It’s also important to remember that every time you convert a video or otherwise reencode it, you will experience quality loss. Video compression is a tricky process that degrades a video’s quality by its very nature. Imagine you’re taking a large photo, scaling it down a tiny bit, saving it, and blowing it back up every time you encode.

Below are a few solutions for Windows and Mac users:



All prices listed below are based on their current price on the Mac App Store.

Please keep in mind, this is only a small portion of the countless video conversion and encoding programs on the market.

Solve a Sluggish Computer by Adding an Older System

Many of us have one primary computer that everything is kept on at once. This single system supports your email, games, browsing, music, tweeting, movie and audio editing programs, photo collection, etc. This can be quite a burdon for one system to keep up with which is why you may see a performance increase by simply bringing back that old system sitting in your closet or heading to your nearest secondhand electronics dealer.

Right now, I’m sitting at my home office desk with two screens in front of me. One belongs to my iMac which I use to record and edit audio and video, render HD footage, edit photos, and screencast. The other is a Dell system that I bought from Discount Electronics, which specializes in selling older model refurbished systems. The Dell required an investment of about $150.00 and currently works as a file server, iTunes share server, browser, video player, Twitter and Facebook client, and extra audio recording device.

A second computer that handles routine scheduled tasks such as email will save clock cycles on your higher performance system for use in games and media editing where the power is actually needed. Distributing tasks to the older system like managing shared drives, running social network programs, IRC, and your often demanding iTunes playback is also a great way to give the new system more room to shine.

Let’s say you’re in to video editing and use your primary system for this task. Did you know that in professional production houses their editing machines typically have only editing software loaded and running at any given time? Often, they’ll have a system or set of systems that do nothing but render video all day while their editors work on dedicated editing machines apart from their day-to-day office system they use for email and office documents. This is done to allow maximum clock cycles and resources to be dedicated to the demanding task at hand which makes for an easier and better experience.

Many gaming houses and LAN gaming establishments wipe everything off their systems except for the games they host. This is done as part of their optimization routine to make their systems run as smoothly as possible for their clientele. Windows machines typically have an abundance of background services running constantly to keep up with the many productive programs people install on their systems. Email, iTunes, and other programs eat away at your RAM even when they appear to not be running. Installing them on a second system and completely wiping them from your gaming rig is a great way to improve your gaming experience.

Having two systems running is also a great way to multitask. Many people attach two monitors to a single system in order to be more productive and this can work, but at home I’ve found running things on two separate systems allows me the freedom to do things like browse the web for maps while enjoying Guild Wars in full screen, chat with friends on pidgin without slowing down a video render, and play and change music on the fly without having to switch out of Call of Duty.

While there are many programs on the market that insist they can boost system performance, if you have an old machine sitting in the closet that can very well run the day-to-day programs, it might save you from having to upgrade before you really need to.

Amazon Releases Free Video Streaming For Prime Members

We all love streaming video from Netflix and Hulu, getting all of our favorite shows where we want them. Today there is a new competitor entering the game, starting today for all Amazon Prime members they can watch free streaming movies from Amazon.

Amazon Prime members can instantly stream around 5,000 or the nearly 90,000 movies and TV shows Amazon already has to offer for a fee on Amazon Instant Video. Currently the more than 5,000 titles available is limited and the newest releases available from the service are “Feed the Fish” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” which normally cost $3.99 to rent on Amazon Instant Video. Lucky for Amazon Prime subscribers the shows that they have to pay for are reduced in price. That means you can watch “Gossip Girl” and “Glee” for less than a non-subscriber.

Amazon Student members will not be as lucky as Amazon Prime members, to get access to the free streaming movies and TV shows they will have to fork over $79 to gain access to the free instant streaming benefits.

For all you just about to cancel your Netflix account, don’t. Starting at just $96/year, Netflix has more than 28,000 titles, and unlike Amazon it can be streamed to multiple platforms. Amazon Prime videos can only be streamed to your PC and offer a very sparse collection of movies.

As some may recall, in January Amazon acquired Europe’s equal to Netflix, LoveFilm.

Adding unlimited instant access to thousands of movies and TV shows at no additional cost is a great way to give members even more value for their $79 annual Amazon Prime membership,” Robbie Schwietzer, VP of Amazon Prime, said in the statement. Their millions of members can certainly get more out of their Amazon Prime membership, but are the movies they have to offer good?

Why Amazon Subscription Web Service Will Be Good For Consumers

As many of you are aware, I am a huge supporter and user of Netflix subscriptions services. I not only get my one DVD at a time fix, but also streaming video to my HDTV. Amazon is also another business that I use and I am also a Prime member and have been using the free shipping service for about two years. So when I read about Amazon also getting into the streaming business as part of its Prime service, I immediately starting thinking which service I would want to use.

Netflix charges $7.99 a month for its streaming service, or $95.88 a year. If Amazon does include streaming video along with its Prime service, that is $79 a year, so consumers would save a few bucks. One article also states:

The Web’s biggest retailer has held talks with the Hollywood studios and several independent companies about acquiring library content for a subscription movie streaming service similar to Netflix, according to people familiar with the matter.

So why is this going to be good for consumers? Simple. It’s competition at its finest. Though I think that Netflix is doing a fine job at streaming movies into our living rooms, I believe that Amazon will also be able to provide a similar service at a competitive price. Amazon is currently offering VOD, video on demand,  so it just needs to fine tune streaming as a free service with a Prime membership.

I think that many of us who use Netflix for streaming movies may wish to consider what Amazon will offer. It is obvious that no company can offer new releases at these prices. I am anxious to see exactly what Amazon has up their sleeves.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source – L.A. Times