At Home with Tech

Don’t let your gadgets kill your Zen. Byte back with your inner geek!

Apple Returned My Movie Trailers

My love/sometimes-hate relationship with Apple has taken a recent happy twist. It’s not a universe-changing event, but for those of you who like to maintain your own personal collection of movie trailers, I’ve got some good news for you buried in iTunes…

My love/sometimes-hate relationship with Apple has taken a recent happy twist. It’s not a universe-changing event, but for those of you who like to maintain your own personal collection of movie trailers, I’ve got some good news for you buried in iTunes…

A year ago, I bemoaned the loss of downloadable movie trailers on Apple’s iTunes. Without explanation, newly posted QuickTime trailers became streaming-only. And only at a resolution of 720P.

Nothing in 1080P!
And no more downloading!!
(gulp)

I really enjoyed watching my movie trailers on demand and having them live on my iPhone to be summoned wherever and whenever I had two minutes to kill.
(Without a strong wireless or Wi-Fi connection, a streaming solution just isn’t going to hold up.)

I experienced this new stark reality as a slow, cruel, excruciating loss.
And this geek was really sad.

I publicly pleaded with Apple to reconsider this decision.
“Please…. Restore my little joy,” I posted on my mighty, tiny blog.
(as if I had some inside track)

And then… I moved on with the rest of my life.
(Because what else can you really do?)

But I did not forget…

In a World Without Downloadable Movie Trailers…
Over the past year, I think I’ve adjusted quite nicely, thank you very much.
Ironically, Apple’s iTunes Movie Trailers website is still the best game in town to watch trailers for the season’s upcoming movies. So despite it all, I’ve remained a frequent visitor.

But deep down, the disappointment… it hadn’t entirely dissipated.

Every so often, I still Googled “Download Movie Trailers” to see if anyone else had picked up this particular torch. Sure, there are a few homegrown efforts out there, but I’ve always felt more comfortable downloading content from a known commodity.

A couple of days back, I found myself randomly running the Google search before hitting the sack, as if some ‘Q-based’ life force in the universe would simply ‘will’ there to be different answer.
And guess what…?

Just before I was about to power down, I glanced over some of the wording under Apple’s standard link to iTunes Movie Trailers.

I almost missed it, but there they were… “Download” and…”1080P”

What?

I quickly navigated to Apple’s movie trailers homepage.
No. Nothing had changed.

Hmmmm…

There Lived One Man Who Almost Lost His Faith…
Then it hit me!

  • I opened up iTunes as a program and immediately clicked on the iTunes Store.
  • Then, I navigated to the Movies section.
  • Buried at the bottom of the ‘Movies Quick Link’ section on the right is ‘Theatrical Trailers.’
    (I rarely go there, because of the extra steps it takes to open up the same inventory you can more quickly access on the website.)
  • Click

At that moment, I think I noticed the wind pick up outside.
And was that some distant thunder I heard?

I focused my gaze from the myriad of trailer choices down to the thumbnail photo for this winter’s final “The Hobbit.”

I hovered my mouse over “The Battle of the Five Armies.”
(A chill ran down my spine.)

Click.

OMG.

He Would Wait a Near Eternity for the ‘Return…’
There it was.
A download icon right under ‘Play.’
And when you click on ‘Download,’ you can choose between 720P and 1080P.

I sat there stunned.

It was back. All of it.

For the Fate of the Universal Movie-Trailer Experience was Finally at Hand
On the edge of the next month’s anticipated Apple announcement where the world is salivating over the upcoming iPhone 6 and who knows what else…

I am already satisfied.

My movie trailers have been returned… securely positioned within the iTunes ecosystem.
My faith is restored.

I don’t know how long these downloadable trailers have been back.
And I don’t care.

Oh yes, it’s the little things in life…

Is the TrueNorth Chip the Next Step Towards ‘the Singularity?’

If you’re thinking the future isn’t going to look anything like the fantastical scripts of your favorite sci-fi films, don’t be so sure.  Maybe all it takes is a little tech breakthrough buried in today’s headlines…

If you’re thinking the future isn’t going to look anything like the fantastical scripts of your favorite sci-fi films, don’t be so sure. Maybe all it takes is a little tech breakthrough buried in today’s headlines…

Have you heard about TrueNorth?
It’s a new computer chip developed by IBM, that’s designed like the neural pathways of the human brain and is intended to mimic the way your noggin recognizes patterns.

Its power requirements are super low, and the one million ‘neurons’ in this revolutionary, ‘neuromorphic’ chip are about as complex as the brain of a bee.

No, it’s not the fastest game in town.
But remember… its sting is just the first generation.

The Pentagon has been funding IBM’s research with the goal of creating ultralow-power biological processors to automate some of the surveillance done by military drones.

There’s a Storm Coming
So I stumbled across all this while scanning the news headlines and sat back to digest this development:

  • There’s now a computer chip out there already about as smart as a bee.
  • It uses the ‘same wiring rules and architecture’ of the human brain.
  • The design is a breakthrough in computing technology.
  • It’s funded by the Pentagon.
  • And one day, our military drones will be using them.

I’m not quite sure how to feel…
It’s both exciting and a little scary.

And there’s something else-
A sense of déjà vu.

Like this was all part of a story I had already read… or seen.

Are you getting it too?

Come on…

Let me give you a hint:

“I’LL BE BACK.”

Rise of the Machines
Yes, doesn’t this whole story read like a discarded pre-credit sequence from 1984’s “The Terminator?”

This cautionary tale doesn’t specifically address how the technology of the government-funded, self-aware Skynet was originally created.
Although “Terminator 2” does spend some time with the scientist who reverse engineered the CPU remaining from the first Terminator’s damaged arm.
(too much geeky detail?)

Now take today’s headlines about TrueNorth, and I think this reality-based plot addition would fit seamlessly into the fictional history of “The Terminator” movie series.

And if anyone out there is thinking of making a Terminator prequel, the first page of your script is already written for you…

Pop Quiz: Fact or Fiction?
Look, I’m not saying that TrueNorth is the first step towards the evil Skynet or the murderous HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Maybe TrueNorth will evolve into the heroic cybernetic brain that “Star Trek’s” ‘Data’ uses. There are lots of possible positive directions for TrueNorth to improve our society.

I just find it so intriguing to witness another blending of fact and fiction involving today’s technology. There are already so many examples of yesterday’s sci-fi becoming today’s science fact.
(Just walk into any Apple Store.)

I think we’re becoming so accustomed to this merging of realities, that we’re less inclined to recognize it, even if it’s front and center in a news headline.

Stay Tuned for the Singularity
And the pace of tech innovation isn’t slowing down…

Ultimately, in the not so distant future, you’ll likely have to adjust to the birth of ‘the singularity,’ when artificial intelligence leaves the best human brains in the dust.

Some scientists say that’s the day computers will take over the world.

You are Obsolete
No, a robotic Terminator is probably not going to be knocking on your door any time soon.

All I’m saying is…
You should pay close attention to innovations like TrueNorth.
(Incremental as they may seem…)

Otherwise, you might wake up one day and find a giant bee in your kitchen… with a higher IQ than you, sipping your favorite coffee, and surfing Amazon to buy some handy ‘human-be-gone’ spray.

Ouch… now that really stings!

Evolution can be a rude awakening.

Cure the Cause of Your Computer’s Crippling Coma

Does your Mac get a headache keeping up with all the programs you’re running?  It’s time to dial it back.  Activity Monitor can help you decide which programs to close down.

Does your Mac get a headache keeping up with all the programs you’re running? It’s time to dial it back. Activity Monitor can help you decide which programs to shut down.

My iMac has been slowing down lately.
Slowwwwww…

Its spinning beach ball shows up whenever you click on the simplest task…
And then you’ve got to wait around like it’s 1999.
You look up…stare into space.
Yup…
The moon’s still there.

Suddenly, you hear the whir of the computer’s fan grow louder.
It really shouldn’t be working this hard.

Hmmm.
Well, my Mac is a few years old…

So I wondered if it was time to think about a new one.
But it’s got 4 GB of RAM and the i7 processor.
It shouldn’t be hurting that badly.

Doctor Barrett… what’s the problem?!

Activate Repair Disk Permissions
One good maintenance check is to run ‘Repair Disk Permissions’ in Disk Utility.
That can speed things up a bit.

Unfortunately, that fix didn’t improve the health of my panting processor this time.

Of course, the big question is…

  • How much software do you have running simultaneously?

No computer is a bottomless bottle of beer.
So I sat down with my Mac and we began some self-reflection.

Billions and Billions of Programs
Well, first off… I often use Apple’s Aperture to edit and organize all my photos.
(Everyone talks about what a memory hog that program is.)

Then, you might recall I added CrashPlan a while back for automatic cloud backup, in addition to my Time Machine drive.
(You can never be too careful.)

Do I have lots of Safari windows open?
Guilty as charged.

Plus I see, Dropbox, Word, Outlook….

Already, it’s getting to be a pretty large list.

Maybe I’ve been maxing out my Mac after all.
(And I haven’t even mentioned iTunes or Final Cut Pro.)

So how are you supposed to know how much weight your Mac can bench press?

X-ray Vision into Your Computer
Yes, Apple has, of course, thought of that.
The answer comes in the form of a little utility called Activity Monitor.

It lists all of your open programs, charts the drain and graphically displays the ‘memory pressure’ your poor computer is enduring.

There’s lots tech jargon to consume, but it’s immediately clear which programs are depleting your digital companion.

And then you can close down the particular offenders directly in Activity Monitor.

Time to Tidy Up
I’ve opened Activity Monitor before, but it was more out of curiosity than need.

This time, I went in and saw some Safari pages ‘not responding’ and putting a pretty big drain on the system.

Click…. See you guys later!

That seemed to do the trick… but then I didn’t close out of my nifty new window into my Mac’s brain.

I left it open and positioned it in the top left corner of my screen.
And that was a few weeks ago…

Now, it’s always there to help me see what’s going on and which hungry programs are grabbing more than their fair share.

Yes, a newer Mac or more RAM would also solve the problem, but really, how many programs do you need to have open simultaneously?

When I was a kid at home, my mom always pestered me to turn off all the lights in the room I just left.

“That’s just wasting electricity,” she’d say knowingly.

Decades later, I finally get it…

Happy Computer, Happy Human
…What’s that, you say?
And how much memory does it taken to run Activity Monitor 24/7?
Good question…

Could this reveal a circular logic flaw…?

As I write this, Activity Monitor is sipping a miniscule 14.7 MB.
By comparison, Word is consuming 148.3 MB.
And CrashPlan is gulping 698.3 MB.

The price we sometimes pay for peace of mind…

By comparison, Activity Monitor is a welcome dose of aspirin to clear up your headache and keep your computer focused on what really matters in the moment.

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