Sony’s Game console embraces NFC


Sony released a minor update to its successful PS3 console today. And added a key feature to its gaming console – NFC support. To fully utilize the feature users will need an add-on – RC-S380 NFC reader/writer from Sony.

Not yet clear as of now, what will be the application of this feature in the console.

Update : It seems the NFC support is available only on consoles in Japan region.

References
Sony RC-S380 NFC Reader/Writer

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HD Audio explained


How many of your are aware of the Audio aspect in High Definition?

Many of us tend to limit our exposure to HD world in Video aspect only. Is this because of lack of awareness or plain ignorance.

 You ensure that you get the maximum screen size for your HD TV that your budget can afford. Did you ensured that you supplement that with a matching Audio setup?  If your current Audio setup with multi-channel speakers doesn’t carry DTD HD or Dolby TrueHD , then that means your Audio setup is not on par with your video setup.

So the question may arise how am I going to benefit from this?

To answer that let’s go back in history. If you are in your mid thirties, then your audio experience might have started by listening to Audio cassette. Then came Audio CD, then mp3.

Of course we know, the difference between our plain old audio cassette and a CD or Mp3 is analogue vs digital. But there is another angle to this – the level of compression or detail. In my opinion, if you compare audio recorded in cassette to CD or mp3, then the cassette gives an unaltered audio experience.  When an analogue signal is digitized, that involves a certain level of alteration and missing details during the process. And when it comes to mp3, there is further loss of detail from the original, as the audio information is compressed.

 The intention of mp3 format, is to store the audio information in compressed format as Hard Disk space was expensive when the technology was invented.

 But as time passed, disk storage got cheaper and you find a trend where the information whether audio or video , under went less compression compared to the past.  Films when it came in CD form, it started with VCD, then DVD, the HD-DVD or Blu-ray. Due to advancement in technology, we were able to pack more information on a disk of same size over a period of time.  If our VCD stored around 600Mb, then a DVD had a capacity of 5-8GB. Blu-rays tend to store around 50GB of information. We are ignoring HD-DVD in this discussion as that’s phased out.

When technology gave us the option to pack more data , we loosened our compression, which helps us in storing video and audio with less loss of detail.  We have reached a stage where we are able to store exact replica of the audio information which was as played live. Hence we term the current formats which store audio information as lossless.

Multi channel sound processing majors like Dolby Laboratories and DTS have formats which stores surround audio channels in lossless format. These are termed as the HD Audio formats.  You will find these formats available in movie titles available in Blu-Rays. So to enjoy lossless audio for your favorite movies , you need to enjoy the Blu-Ray versions on compatible home theater systems.

So what am I going to benefit from this? Will this make my movie watching at home more enjoyable?

The experience is very much subjective and depends on the audience.

If you are somebody who has never bothered even about surround sound or 5.1 or 7.1 channels , then, for you it’s just the same. But if you are somebody who like to enjoy the immersive experience of surround sound, then you will appreciate the additional detail and ambience created using these lossless formats.

So will it stop here ? The answer is – NO.

Technology will continue its innovation and we will continue our pursuit  to achieve the perfection in capturing what we hear with our naked ears.

We at this moment cannot predict what experience we will have in another 5 years from now. So until then enjoy the audio experience provided by DTS Master Audio and Dolby TrueHD sound formats.


Tip : Playing Media to Your Windows 8 from another DLNA Server


This post will give an Overview of what’s involved to Play media from a DLNA server on your network to your Windows 8 Desktop / a DLNA Media Render.

This scenario will arise when you want to control a HTPC without going to the Desktop on the PC to interact with the Media Player.  You can use a DLNA DMC to interact with Windows Media Player or a DMR to playback media from your HTPC.

Refer my earlier post on DLNA in case the terminology like DLNA, DMC, DMR, DMP etc. are new to you.

 

Windows Media Player available on  Windows 8 / 7 can act as a DMP, a DMS and a DMR. The purpose of DMP and DMR are the same – a player to play the media content. On DMP, you go and select the media that is played. But on DMR, you can remotely sent media to DMR for playing. For e.g.: Using DMC, you can route the content from a DLNA server to DMR.

 

I am assuming you have your Desktop , Smartphone, TV or Blu-ray player connected to your home network and a DLNA server already running

Refer this Post to Enable DLNA Server on your Windows 8

Steps involved.

  1. Enable DMR Profile on Windows Media Player
    • Start Windows Media Player
    • On “Stream” menu,  select  “Allow remote control of my player”
    • A Dialog box will open asking you to select whether to allow or not.
    • Select “Allow Remote Control on this Network”
  2. Leave Windows Media Player Open. This is required.
  3. Now you can use the following to control playback from a smart phone or PC
    • Windows 8 / 7 PC
    • iPod/iPhone/iPad/Windows/MacOS X/Linux / PocketPC.
      • Download / Install Linn’s  Kinsky on your Device / PC
      • Refer the detailed manual  for playing around with Kinsky
      • The below steps are assuming Kinsky is installed on iOS Device. Steps are pretty same for other versions also.
        1. Fire up Kinsky
        2. Selecting your Media from the DLNA Server
          • Under “Home” area Click on “Library”
          • You will see the currently available Media Servers listed here
          • Select your Media Server and Navigate to the folder containing the media files to be played
        3. Select the target of Playback. Kinsky refers this as “Rooms”
          • Click on “Rooms” button. You will find this on the Right hand column below the playback controls
          • This will list the DMR available. Select your preferred DMR
        4. From the Library section, tap on the track / file you want to play
        5. You will see the track appearing on the Right hand column(Playlist area)
        6. Tap on the track in the Playlist area. The track will begin playing on your DMR.

I haven’t explained Kinsky in detailed as there are other solutions around and the manual is pretty exhaustive. Also the steps captured can be used to Play any media – Music, Videos and Pictures.

Note : The playback depends on the Media Formats supported by your DMR.

Post back your DMR alternatives , issues and Feedback.

See Also : All Articles on DLNA


DLNA demystified


This post will try to help you in understanding DLNA from a layman’s point of view

In my opinion, Digitization was the technology which had a far-reaching impact during our time. This helped in making available our Photos, Music and Videos, even Cable on Portable devices or on  devices in which it was not originally intended for.  This offered convenient storage of our media which we cannot think off with out this technology. You entire memories are revolving around Hard Disks or Pen Drives. Your favourite tracks are portable and can be easily carried. You could create a mammoth video library eliminating the hassles of managing your VCD, DVDs or Blu-ray. You are able to enjoy your favourite Cable Channels on your Computer, Tablets or Smart Phones.

Without Digitization, your iPod &  iTunes would have never existed, Your Facebook wall will be boring without your’s and contact’s photos or Videos. How about a world with out CDs, VCD, DVDs and Blu-ray.

How our stored media was played in the past?

Few years back the only way of playing your stored media was by connecting your portable storage thru USB. This created a trend where we found USB ports on all Entertainment Devices released in a span of past 2 to 5 years.

This approach offered convenience to users and made USB hard disks a must to have at our homes.

Introduction of connected Entertainment Devices

We saw our homes, sharing our broadband connection across multiple devices thru routers or switches. This indirectly introduced home networks with in our home. Popular Operating Systems offered limited features which allowed sharing of media across our home desktops or laptops.

During all these years there was a protocol for media sharing under development, which would help users in sharing media across connected devices. More than sharing it will have support of compatible devices talking to each other about its capabilities, and based on that the media is served.  And this technology would allow Entertainment devices to utilize technology without any complex software installations on the devices. Enter the world of Digital Living Network Alliance , aka DLNA.

IMO the first devices which supported DLNA were Blu-ray players. Most likely, because they had a far more use of embedded software compared to earlier devices. Slowly DLNA support started appearing on TVs and portable media players. Your popular gaming devices like Xbox and  PS3 supports DLNA. Developers started launching DLNA supported media servers which can host and serve media to all connected device with in a network. Not only that we started giving more importance to meta-data within our media files. DLNA helps us in organizing our media utilizing the meta-data.

DLNA in detail.

DLNA is a set of protocols or rules defined for supported devices to talk. Other than serving and playing, it offers the framework of controlling DLNA devices also. All DLNA certified or capable devices support one or more DLNA profiles.

  • Digital Media Player (DMP)
  • Digital Media Server (DMS)
  • Digital Media Renderer (DMR)
  • Digital Media Control Point (DMC)

Minimalistic implementation of DLNA is thru DMP. Devices supporting this profile has the capability to play back media served by a DMS. It also has the capability to detect available DMS with in the network. It supports meta-data, organizing media in categories and display thumbnails against you media files. This is the profile supported by all DLNA capable entertainment devices.

What is the use of players if we don’t have any servers? That gap is addressed by the DMS. DMS hosts you media and negotiates with other DLNA devices and shares media based on the request. This is mostly software based implementations. On your Windows 7 and 8 , when you enable sharing of media, DMS is enabled on the background. Entertainment devices supporting Android seems to support DMS also. There are basic to full featured media server applications like Serviio, J River Media Server, miniDLNA which can be installed on your desktops which can serve media to other connected DLNA devices.

An advanced DMP implementation is the DMR. This helps you to playback media from other device to a DMR supported device. WDTV, which is a popular portable media player device supports this. That means from your Windows 7 / 8 you can initiate a command to play media to WDTV, so that you will find the media playing from your WDTV. This feature is available on Samsung and Panasonic Wide screen TVs also. Imagine the flexibility of sending media from your desktop or smart phone, without hooking up your USB disk to the TV and playing from there.

You have a Player, Server and Renderer, why cannot we have a remote control? That’s filled by DMC implementation. Applications are available which can control the DLNA devices available on your network. This is handy in a complex implementation of DLNA. Assume you have multiple DLNA devices available on your network. Your Living Room TV is DLNA capable. You have DLNA server hosting the Media available on your NAS Device. You have a DLNA supported Audio Player available on your Kitchen. Using DMC running on your Smart phone or tablet, you can control the media playing on each of the entertainment devices. Complex implementation supports the concept of Rooms hiding your physical devices and decide and control the media playing on each of the Rooms or Zones. One open source app available for iOS, Android etc is Kinsky from Linn.

See Also : More articles on DLNA

Imagine the possibility of serving your Photos, Music and Movies from a central location to your connected Entertainment Devices. So,  What do I need ?

  1. Network – Can be wireless or wired
    1. A UPNP supported network router or Switch
  2. Media Server
    1. Your existing Desktop or Laptop
    2. One of the below
      1. Serviio , a free media server available on Windows , Linux and Mac OS
      2. Your very own Windows 7 or 8
      3. miniDLNA, Rygel available on Ubuntu
      4. J River Media Server, advanced server, Paid version
      5. XBMC – Open Source Media Server available for Windows, Linux, Mac OS, iOS, Android etc. This is an entertainment monster, DLNA is one from its arsenal
  3. DLNA capable Entertainment Devices
    1. Any of the following
      1. TV
      2. Blu-ray Players
      3. Media Players from Western Digital
      4. Xbox
      5. PS3
      6. Smart Phone with DLNA Media Player App
  4. DLNA Media Control Point (Optional)
    1. Any of the DMC App available on smart phone or tablet
      1. Kinsky
      2. J River Media Server which has Media Controller component also

Other than hooking up the components to your network, defining your media library there is nothing complex involved. As the DLNA devices are self negotiating, they are able to recognize other DLNA pieces with in the network.

Post your feedback or questions, if any.


Tip: How To play media available on Windows 8 FROM connected Entertainment Devices


Windows 8 can serve media available on it to connected Entertainment Devices. This makes it possible to enjoy your Videos or Photos on your living room wide-screen TV or play music on your networked AV Receiver. The technology that makes this possible is DLNA in disguise. Microsoft hardly mentions this anywhere.

For this to work, your Entertainment Devices should be DLNA enabled and in particular supporting DLNA Media Player profile.

This is the basic functionality supported by all DLNA enabled TV, Blu-ray Players, PS3, XBox, AV Receivers and other Media Players.

Setup your Media Library.

Follow the following steps to add media stored on your local hard disk to Media libraries on Windows 8.

  1. Launch Windows 8 Desktop App by clicking on the “Desktop” tile on your Start Screen
  2. Once on the Desktop, fire up “File Browser”(look for the Folder icon on your task bar on the Desktop)
  3. File Browser by default show your libraries in the window opened
  4. Double Click the library to which you want to add media files. For eg Music
  5. By default your My Music (in this eg) folder and C:\Users\Public\Public Music (in this eg) are available on the Library
  6. To add a different Folder to your library, Click on “Manage” menu from the File Browser menu bar
  7. Click on “Manage Library”
  8. A dialog box will open to add your folders containing media to the Library
  9. The “Library locations” section will list your existing folders available on the library
  10. To add a new folder location, Click on Add and then navigate to your folder of interest and click on “Include Folder”
  11. Repeat step 10 for additional folders if required
  12. Click OK to close the “Music Library Locations” (in this eg) dialog box
  13. Windows will scan and list the media files in the File Browser. You will see that it also displays the Meta data  in the listing
  14. Continue steps 4 to 12 for other media types as appropriate

Once the library is step up, you can find media files on newly added locations on Windows 8 built-in media apps like Music, Videos and Photos

Share your Media with in your network

Follow the following steps

  1. Invoke the Charms Bar
  2. Click on “Settings” then select “Change PC Settings”
  3. On the “PC Settings” column select “HomeGroup”
  4. Once selected you will see the “Libraries and Devices” settings on the left side
  5. Switch the toggle to “ON” for the Media types you want to share. Windows 8 may throw up a message that File Sharing needs to be enabled on your network if it’s currently disabled. Accept and continue.
  6. Under “Media Devices” section , enable the option for allowing your media devices to play the content

Your Media is ready for playback from your connected devices. On your Entertainment device’s respective menu, you will find your Windows 8 Machine name along with the user who is sharing listed under servers. You can navigate to the media folders and starts playing on your Entertainment Device.

Currently Windows 8 doesn’t do any media transcoding, so you will be only able to play media types supported by your Entertainment Device.

If your media is available on a network folder or NAS, the steps captured under “Setup your Media Library” will not work. In that case use Windows Media Center if available, to add your network location to the respective library.


Tip : Playing your media available on Windows 8 TO any connected Entertainment Device


Now a days its hard to find any entertainment device which doesn’t offer any network connectivity options. Your Wide Screen TV, Blu-ray player, AV Receivers, Media Players and your gaming devices like PS3 and XBox comes with either Ethernet or Wireless Connection.

If you have your devices connected together using a Router / Switch / Hub then its easy to share media across devices. There are quite a number of implementations from different manufacturers. Few are proprietary, others are universal. Airplay from Apple is restricted to devices from Apple. To have Airplay supported by an entertainment device, there involves licensing. So you find features like this available only on high-end products. But there is one universal standard which is quite popular and supported by majority of devices out there today. You will find even on your Smart Phones – DLNA.

Refer this post for more details on DLNA. To simplify, it provides a set of protocols to share, control and consume media – Music, Pictures, Videos.

9 out 10 Entertainment devices which has a connectivity option will have DLNA implementations. Some manufactures try to give their own name to this,  like AllShare by Samsung. So if your TV , Blu-ray or media players support DLNA then you can stream media from your Windows 8 Desktop / Tablet to these devices. This Windows 8 or Windows 7 feature is called “Play To”.

Please note for this to work your Entertainment Device should support DLNA renderer profile. Other wise, you can only play media from the device which are made available by a DLNA Server. But don’t worry your Windows 8 supports DLNA Server profile also. In such a scenario follow this post on steps involved. The difference is, if your Device support DLNA Renderer Profile, then while browsing media on your desktop you can initiate a playback on the device from your Windows 8. In the other case, you need to go to the menu system on your Device to connect to a  DLNA server and pick the media published by the Server.

How do I know whether my Entertainment devices support “Play To” or DLNA Renderer profile?

Multiple ways are available

  1. Go To your Charms Bar. Select “Settings” then “Change PC Settings”. From “PC Settings” page select “Devices”. See your Entertainment Device is listed or not.
  2. Go To “Control Panel”, Select “Devices and Printers”. You will see your “Play To” supported devices under “Multimedia Devices”

So if you are happy to see your Device listed, then lets find out how to stream media to your Device.

While browsing your media on your media library or File Explorer on your Windows 8, right-click on the music file , image or video and Select “Play To” from the context menu. On selection of “Play To” you will see your Devices listed on the sub-menu. Select the Device to which you want to play the media.  You media will start playing on the device, provided its switch-on !!!

Note : Even though your devices are supported and still this is not working, then please ensure that “UPnP” is enabled on your Router. Consult the Router manual for enabling the same.