Adam Fields (weblog)

This blog is largely deprecated, but is being preserved here for historical interest. Check out my index page at for more up to date info. My main trade is technology strategy, process/project management, and performance optimization consulting, with a focus on enterprise and open source CMS and related technologies. More information. I write periodic long pieces here, shorter stuff goes on twitter or


Why am I writing about HD home theater frustrations?

Filed under: — adam @ 12:21 pm

The consumer electronics companies really have their collective head so far up their ass they’re wearing their tongue for a hat.

So to speak.

I made the jump to an HD projector, which I have nothing but good things to say about. It’s a Mistubishi HD1000U. At this point, it’s a few years old, but that’s how you get a 720p projector at a sub-$1000 price instead of dropping a few grand. The picture quality is amazing, the contrast is strong, and it’s bright enough for me. We’re projecting onto a plain off-white wall instead of a screen, and the color is brilliant and rich. For the most part, we watch movies at night with the lights off, and I sometimes use it during the day with a computer for web browsing and email. For these purposes, it’s just fine. I’m very sensitive to picture artifacts, particularly the rainbow effect of DLP projectors (which this is), and while they’re still sometimes present, they’re MUCH less noticeable than on any other projector I’ve looked at. Big thumbs up to Mitsubishi here – this is a winner at this price point or cheaper. Two small notes on the setup:

  1. This projector has a weird throw angle which is noted in many reviews, so positioning is limited and they claim you’ll want to ceiling mount it or put it on a table in front of your seating. I put it on top of a high bookshelf behind the seating, angled down at about an 18-degree angle by putting it on top of a Roadtools Podium CoolPad at the maximum height. This is stable, allows plenty of air circulation under the projector, and is well within the 30-degrees of maximum tilt usually recommended for projectors.
  2. The native resolution for the projector is 1280×720, which my Mac Mini couldn’t do by default. It looked terrible at all of the choices, so I dropped a whopping $18.37 on SwitchResX, which let me set a native resolution of 1280×720, and which looks fabulous.

Set aside for the moment the fact that there’s an HD disc format war to begin with, which is the height of idiocy because DVD was the most successful consumer electronics uptake ever solely because there was one single format and everyone looked at DVD compared to VHS and said “oh, yeah, well, I’ll take that”.

It was the cheapest option and I might get a PS3 at some point in the future, so I picked up a Toshiba HD-A2 HD-DVD player to check out some HD content. I got rid of cable a while ago (but would probably go back if I could just buy Discovery HD and maybe cartoon network and scifi), and Netflix, sans tonguehat, kindly offered to send me a bunch of stuff that was already in my queue in HD-DVD instead of crappy old regular DVD.

They’ve reproduced a bunch of the usability problems in the first generation DVD player which I bought ten years ago (which, now that I think about it, may also have been a Toshiba). The machine itself is big (same form factor as my 6-disc DVD changer). The machine takes a long time to boot up. Backward compatibility is weird – regular DVDs play in a tiny portion of the screen unless you manually set the machine to 480p mode before starting. The first round of discs don’t seem to support the “resume from where I stopped when I press stop then play again” feature, so if you press stop for a minute, you have to watch the FBI warning again. Why is there even an FBI warning in the first place?! Isn’t the overly invasive “copy protection” they foisted on me supposed to prevent me from copying it, even if I wanted to? Oh wait, that’s right… it’s just there to irritate me and not prevent anyone from actually copying anything. The warning I have to stare at every time I switch discs does that.

Which brings me to inputs. I’m somewhat of an expert at setting up electronics, and I find this needlessly frustrating. The projector has HDMI and component inputs, but no output. Previously, I’d had everything wired through S-video and optical audio (TOSlink), using my receiver as a switcher. This worked pretty well. However, the receiver is older and has neither component nor HDMI in or out. I have a component switcher with TOSlink support which I’m using for all of the things that I used to use S-video for (DVD player and PS2), and the component video goes to the projector and the TOSlink goes to the receiver on a single input. But this totally breaks down with HDMI. They collapsed the audio and video streams into one cable to “simplfy things”, but that doesn’t change the fact that the two streams need to go to different devices. There seems to be no standard way to deal with this. There are HDMI switchers that will split out the audio portion to a TOSlink audio cable automatically, but they’re prohibitively expensive (hundreds of dollars). The solution seems to be to use separate switchers for HDMI and TOSlink, and program a universal remote to switch them at the same time. Hardly fun for the average person. It’s doable, but what were they thinking?!?. It makes no sense to put audio and video on the same cable unless all of the devices support that (they don’t) and you can freely move the signal around, which of course you can’t because the “copy protection” won’t let you.

On the other hand, the picture quality is quite stunning. DVD looks “really really good”. HD-DVD looks “better than film”.

A big thank you to Mitsubishi, Netflix, and the film crew on that BBC Planet Earth Documentary. The rest of you, please buy another hat.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,


Will the iPhone experience be as good when winter rolls around?

Filed under: — adam @ 9:35 am

It seems to be a serious problem for those who live in places where it’s not warm all the time that the iPhone will be completely unusable while wearing gloves.

Tags: , , , ,


Transformers was the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in a while

Filed under: — adam @ 11:48 am

Since I live in the land of the future, we got to see Transformers last night. It was silly, the plot was thinner than the sheen of sweat on hot girl mechanic’s belly, and it had faults. The pacing fell apart after the first 2/3 or so, and it was pretty clear that they went through a few different endings.

Who cares?!? Giant Fighting Robots!!

Where did they find all of those robots, and why aren’t they doing any other movies?

Short review – this was the most fun I’ve had in a movie theater in a long time.

Tags: ,

Powered by WordPress