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XBMC Babylon now available for free download

May 12th, 2009 · Comments Off on XBMC Babylon now available for free download

xbmc babylon
There’s a new version of XBMC available for download, version 9.04. I’m a big fan of the multimedia platform, which I still run on an original xbox. There are now versions which run on the  Mac OS X, Linux, Windows and Apple TV devices. Codename Babylon, it’s now available here.
XBMC promises improved stability and performance, especially for the Windows and Mac operating systems, and for playback of networked media. If you’re a Linux user, you’ll also get support for Nvidia’s PureVideoHD to access full HD playback.
There are also plug-ins for online videos, karaoke features, an audio decoder for Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby TrueHD and other neat stuff.

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Home Cinema Choice Awards:the director’s cut

May 2nd, 2009 · 1 Comment

[issuu layout=http%3A%2F%2Fskin.issuu.com%2Fv%2Flight%2Flayout.xml documentid=090430143209-35a64c30f2474472a180c561549895fa docname=hccawards username=homecinemachoice loadinginfotext=Home%20Cinema%20Choice%20Awards%202009%20Special%20-%20Digital%20Edition showhtmllink=true tag=av width=420 height=300 unit=px]
Looking for a new piece of AV kit or just want to window shop? Then the annual awards issues of most specialist press journals are a good place to start. At HCC, we’ve now produced a digital edition of the Home Cinema Choice Awards. It’s a Director’s Cut (if you like) of the version printed first featured in the magazine, slightly extended simply because we could. As with Living with Home Cinema (see below) it makes use of the Issuu pdf-to-flash platform. We’ve only been using Issuu for a few weeks but we’re already dominating that site’s Technology section, which is really gratifying, and I’ve no doubt that when we unleash our Free Digital Magazines initiative we’ll have some of the most popular (fre)e-mags on the site.

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Are digital magazines the future?

April 25th, 2009 · 4 Comments

[issuu layout=http%3A%2F%2Fskin.issuu.com%2Fv%2Flight%2Flayout.xml documentid=090421160754-d5a640758a194fccae51bf90768e02aa docname=living_with_home_cinema username=homecinemachoice loadinginfotext=Living%20with%20Home%20Cinema showhtmllink=true tag=automation width=420 height=297 unit=px]
A little project I’ve given myself is to create an archive of digital magazines, which will be accessible from within the Home Cinema Choice website. These will comprise specials we’ve done, like Living with home cinema (browse above), plus samplers and ultimately entirely new, digital editions. The issue above was created using the Issuu platform, a free pdf-to-flash application that I think works supremely well. To take a browse through the hundreds of free magazines now available in this format, visit the virtual bookshelves at issuu.com.
I also have a half-baked idea to compile a retro publication featuring the writings of Bob Tomalski. Bob was a hugely influential UK tech journalist with an infectious enthusiasm for AV and an ability to craft stories in a way alien to most contemporary media commentators. Issuu seems a great way to give his archive some visibility.

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Why no Dolby Digital 5.1 for Battlestar Galactica climax?

March 18th, 2009 · No Comments

Hey Sky, what the frack is going on with the sound on Battlestar Galactica?

Battlestar Galactica

I wrote the story above (click the link to read), after yet another disappointing hi-def transmission of Battlestar Galactica from Sky. For the second week running, the show was broadcast with a Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack. On my AV system, this makes a massive difference to the viewing experience. At its best, the show is the equal of any big budget SF movie. But in stereo, it just loses so much depth. And for a premium platform like Sky+HD, it’s just not good enough.
BSG broadcasts have been plagued with sound problems of late; only a few weeks ago the show went out with big chunks (several minutes apiece) of non-audio (that’s silence to you and me). As I was watching several days after the event, this sent me into a total panic, and I had to try and find SD repeats just so that I could follow the story.
For many viewers, Battlestar is a big enough show to justify Sky’s subscription fees alone. So this kind of foul up is infuriating. It’ll be interesting to see what response I get from the PR team in Osterley.

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Can the Sony PSP become the saviour of digital comics?

March 18th, 2009 · No Comments

Sony PSP to become huge online comic store | Home Cinema Choice

Using the Sony PSP to read digital comics seems like a great idea. I’ve yet to find a platform that actually does this particular job properly (my desktop is littered with downloaded .cbr/.cbz readers) and the PSP might well be the answer. However there seem to be some super-powered hurdles to overcome when it comes to access and content.
The video trailer for the service (click the link above to find it) is clearly focused on manga titles and I can imagine that the Japanese comic industry is well placed to migrate to this kind of content delivery. Japanese publishers have been delivering digital comics to mobile phones for years. Europe holds some promise. Personally I’ve no interest in Euro comics – I’ve read enough Tintin and Asterix to keep me going for years – but 2000AD is already available to UK subscribers via an iPhone app, so that mag would be an ideal early contender. But it’s not enough for the concept to gain traction. What the PSP would need is one of the big American publishers to sign on.

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Which UK consumer electronics major is heading for the exit door in 2009?

March 8th, 2009 · No Comments

Despite my dour demeanor I try hard to be a ‘cup-half-full’ sort of guy. But the grim reality of the current economic choke-hold could clearly be felt in the latest set of financial reports delivered by the world’s biggest consumer electronics companies. All confirmed that a slowing demand for everything from screens to semiconductors, not to mention the strong yen, were demolishing their earnings. Red flowed like spilt wine across the financial papers.
When Sir Howard Stringer’s troupe announced a 90 per cent fall in quarterly profit, commentators gasped. Operating income in Sony’s electronics division plunged like necklines on Strictly Come Dancing. Only the seemingly invincible Nintendo significantly grew its business. Currently ranked as Japan’s sixth-most valuable listed company, ahead of Canon, Panasonic and Sony, Ninty recently posted a stonking 36 per cent jump in quarterly operating profit, thanks to ongoing demand for its Wii console and DS handheld. As a token gesture to the global crunch, it cut its operating profit forecast, before heading out into the Osaka night for a big party.

Ironically, these numbers all emerged even as the majors unveiled significant technologies and concepts that should see them power ahead over the next five years.
Unfortunately, I have the nagging suspicion that we’re destined to see at least one high profile exit from the UK consumer electronics market over the next twelve months. Naturally I hope I’m very wrong (and it must be said that I have a rubbish track record in such matters, having bought Betamax and backed HD DVD), but the omens don’t look so good.
Thankfully, there are those who predict that the credit crunch could actually be good news for all of us in the AV business. London-based market research firm FutureSource argues that consumers will opt for ‘stay-cations’ rather than vacations, and invest in new home entertainment systems to keep them entertained in the cold, dark nights ahead. FutureSource predicts that Blu-ray sales will triple over the next 12 months, bringing the total number of players shipped into the UK to 1.8 million. And that doesn’t include PS3s. And more BD player sales should translate to ongoing demand for quality big screens, new AVRs, associated speaker systems and even projectors. ‘In times of economic hardship, we’ve seen consumer electronics and in-home entertainment weather the storm,” says director Sarah Carroll.  “Sales of VCRs jumped by 440 per cent during the Eighties recession.’
I like her thinking. Let’s raise a glass of sparkling Perry and toast a swift return to the good old days, before having a quick workout on Wii Fit to celebrate.

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Why violent movies can be a good influence on kids

February 22nd, 2009 · 1 Comment

Quantum of solaceExclusive review: Quantum of Solace is a Blu-ray blockbuster, but Bond’s package could be better | Home Cinema Choice

There’s no doubt about it. Kids are influenced by movies, but not always in the way you expect. While watching the Blu-ray of Quantum of Solace with my son (click the link above to read the resulting review), he turned to me after a particularly prolonged and violent sequence featuring Daniel Craig and said: This film really makes me want to wear a suit.’ Coming from a committed hoodie-wearing herbert, I was really quite shocked.

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Probably the best AV magazine in the world…

February 15th, 2009 · No Comments

Home Cinema Choice 166 now on sale

The latest issue of Home Cinema Choice is on sale and even if I say so myself, it’s a  corker. There’s no shortage of interesting reviews, plus coverage from CES 2009 and (ironically) my in-depth preview (sic) of Pioneer’s next generation of Kuro picture processing technology, codenamed Fuga. This, of course, will now probably never see the light of day, given that Pioneer no longer plans to introduce any more screens once its current range sells through.

It just goes to show how quickly the company made the decision to pull from the market. The interview was done in Japan in December and clearly Kuro was still in

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