Fix for error -15000 Remote speakers on iTunes / Windows 7

So, just to be clear: this is not about iTunes on MacOSX, it’s only about iTunes 10 on Windows 7. It might work on Windows Vista, but I have no PC with Vista to test. It might help on versions earlier than iTunes 10 (I read the version 8 already had the problem), but I haven’t tested that.

The problem is the following: while it used to be possible (in older versions of iTunes), your iTunes  might not stream the music to an Airport Express / Apple TV (the feature they call ‘Airtunes‘), and every time you try, iTunes will come back with an error ‘An error occurred connecting to the remote speaker (…). An unknown error occurred (-15000).‘. What is happening is that the Windows Firewall is blocking the UDP connections for Airtunes (ports 6001-6003 if you’re asking). For some reason the old firewall rules for iTunes don’t work with the new version.

How to fix this: only if you’re not afraid of diving into your PC’s configuration. If you’re a novice or feel unsure, ask someone more knowledgeable to do it for you. Check if the person knows what a firewall is used for. “Security” is a too general answer.

Continue reading Fix for error -15000 Remote speakers on iTunes / Windows 7

iPhone bandwidth: orders of magnitude – 2009

04112009175905[1]I did a bandwidth test the other day with the iPhone SpeedTest tool. I wanted to compare the speed using (standard) GPRS, using 3G and my own Wifi. The results were all a power of ten apart:

  • iPhone on Proximus GPRS: 35 kbps (download & upload)
  • iPhone on Proximus 3G: 350 kbps (download & upload)
  • iPhone via Wifi: 3500 kbps (download – upload is +- 300 kbps)

 

The real reason is that I wanted to see how fast I would wear out my Proximus data plan (200MB per month). The answer: with GPRS I would need more than 12 hours of continuous downloading, with 3G I could do it in less than 2 hours. So GPRS is pretty safe, it’s also easier on your battery, but you have to live with slow, pre-1996 modem-like performance. The latency – the time it takes to get your first byte after requesting a URL –  is easily 10 to 50 seconds. Not milliseconds, seconds!

 

As a side note: do not take a time-based data subscription, certainly not with the iPhone. My first post-iPhone Proximus invoice was 800,- euro, which is more than the price of my iPhone! When I contacted them about that, they immediately offered to reimburse it and advised me to switch to a size-based plan. I guess I was not the first one …

Imagine: a virtual iPhone for everyone

I was downloading a free iPhone app at noon, and I thought: some of these applications have no good alternative in the browser world. Imagine everyone could start using/buying the Apple iPhone/iPod Touch applications right in their browser. You give your Apple ID, you purchase an app like ColorSplash and off you go. Some of the multi-touch interface would be hard to emulate, but still. It would have to be an Apple application that does it: like e.g. iTunes. It’s got your Apple ID anyway. Why not run a virtual iPod Touch in there?

The advantages:

  • some applications for iPhone/iPod just have no worthy counterpart in the ‘normal’ world.
  • an application would run immediately on Apple MacOSX as well as Windows XP/Vista/7
  • the iPhone developers wouldn’t be looking anymore at a potential audience of some X million iPhone owners, but at all iTunes owners.

Research analyst Sam Bhavnani, of the market research firm Current Analysis, says that iTunes has 200 million users. Research analyst Shaw Wu, of the market research firm American Technology Research, gives a figure of 100 million. Oddly, Apple itself gives a much lower number: 10 million.
Google Answers

iPod Touch running inside iTunes

My quest for “Let’s get lost” – Chet Baker by Bruce Weber

Let's Get lost - movie poster
Let’s Get Lost (1988) is a American documentary film about the turbulent life and career of jazz trumpeter Chet Baker written and directed by Bruce Weber.

I saw Let’s Get Lost in Leuven, I guess around 1990. Chet Baker has been a weak spot for me ever since, because I now knew how much suffering was hiding behind that vulnerable voice. I tried to find a DVD of it but apart from a VHS tape (I don’t have a player) I couldn’t find anything. Then the other day I found the whole movie, split in 13 parts, on Youtube:

Continue reading My quest for “Let’s get lost” – Chet Baker by Bruce Weber

Create your own iPhone ring tones

I’ve had my iPhone for a week (loving it!) and of course I want to make custom ring tones for some of my contacts. I figured out how it worked from posts like create-free-iphone-ringtones-using-itunes-in-windows but I developed my own workflow:

1. Find a source file

  • I typically start from an existing MP3 file. It might be a CD I have ripped to MP3, or a soundtrack from DVDs or other sound bites. I also have a collection of accapella samples that are a nice source.

2. Create the 15 – 30 sec tone in MP3 format

  • You don’t need a 5 min ringtone, just 15 to 30 seconds will be enough
  • I use Audacity (with the LAME MP3 encoder add-on) to load the full source MP3 file, trim out the piece I want and then add a fade-in and fade-out.

Make iPhone ringtone with Audacity

3. Export to MP3

  • I then export the file to an MP3 file of 128kbps. You don’t need better quality than that anyway. If you want, you can convert the file to mono here, or it can happen in the next step
  • Result: ringtone.mp3

4. Convert with ffmpeg to MPEG4 ringtone

  • I prefer using the command-line ffmpeg for transcoding of audio and video.
  • The simple way of doing it: ffmpeg -i ringtone.mp3 -y ringtone.m4a (.m4a stands for MPEG4 audio, ffmpeg will see this extension and use default settings for the conversion.) Afterwards you then have to change the extension to .m4r (MPEG4 ringtone).
  • The detailed one-step-only way to do this: ffmpeg.exe -i ringtone.mp3 -ac 1 -ab 128000 -f mp4 -acodec libfaac -y ringtone.m4r

5. Open file with iTunes

  • Just double-click the file, that should do it.

The lazy way:

let’s make a batch file that will automatically convert the first 30 seconds of any MP3 file into an iPhone ringtone:
SET INPUT=%1
SET NAME=%INPUT:.mp3=%
SET OUTPUT=%NAME%.m4r
echo CONVERT %INPUT% to %OUTPUT% ...
ffmpeg.exe -i %INPUT% -t 30 -ac 1 -ab 128000 -f mp4 -acodec libfaac -genre Ringtone -y %OUTPUT%

Touched by the iPod

Apple iPod TouchAs most geeks in my circle of friends, I am known to buy hardware slightly more often than the average Joe. I have 3 Wifi routers at home (just gave away my 4th one), I have more than 2TB of hard disk storage, split out over half a dozen of PCs and devices, and I have more USB cables than teeth. But hardware that makes me *really* happy, that is uncommon. Don’t get me started on failing hard disks and non-functioning printers. So let me tell you about this new piece of hardware that I bought: the iPod Touch.

No iPhone, thanks

This is not my first iPod, I think I’m at n° 5. And before you start telling me “the iPod Touch is an iPhone, that can’t be used for calling. Why not buy an iPhone?”. Well, I don’t need a new phone yet, I’m probably gonna buy an iPhone in a year or so, when the GSM providers have reasonable data transfer prices, and there’s the price too: the 8GB iPod is slightly over 200 euro. The iPhone is 525 euro.

Applications

But this baby is really neat. It does music, sure, and video, like the previous one. But it’s got Wifi, a big, smart touch-screen, games, applications, and … From day one I’m using Google Mail (via IMAP), the Weather application, Google Maps. Then I started looking through the free applications on the App Store. So what am I using now:

  • Games: Dactyl, Cube Runner, BlueSkiesLite, Sudoku, TapTap
  • Stuff: iDoodle2Lite, WhiteNoise, Remote
  • Network: AirSharing, Speedtest, IM+, Palringo
  • Social networking: Facebook, AroundShare, GooSync, ShoZu, reQall
  • Info: BuienRadar

I’ve just started using reQall, a kind of task list + shopping list, which allows you to add via the iPod/iPhone, via the web and via a IM (Gtalk) account. This looks promising.

The games are not bad. Dactyl is strangely addictive, the movement sensors work really well with BlueSkiesLite, … I expect to see some killer iPod/iPhone games in the future.

The only thing I miss now is a good sync with my Google Calendar. iTunes can sync my iPod contacts with Google Mail, but not my calendar. GooSync is supposed to be able to do that, but I can’t get it to work. Of course Apple wants me to use (paid) MobileMe, but I want to see if I can find a free way first.

In any case, I discover a new use every day. It’s … exciting, actually.

Continue reading Touched by the iPod

my iPod Nano cannot be unlocked

iPod Nano cannot be unlocked

My iPod Nano has gone into the equivalent of a coma. No matter what you do with the “HOLD” switch, it remains in a locked state. So while you can see when you connect it to a PC that the music is still there and the battery still works, you cannot use it, since the play-button (as well as all the others) does not respond.

Switching frantically between HOLD ON/HOLD OFF does not work, pushing excessively towards “HOLD OFF” (to the left) does not work. Is there a way to disable the HOLD button, or is that a mechanical connection that is not managed by the firmware? Can you open an iPod Nano and ‘clean the contact’?

The only other option I see is to buy a docking-station-with-speakers that includes a remote control. But why spend another 100€ on a 4GB iPod that doesn’t work properly …

Any ideas?

Apple trailers: when 720p isn’t always 720p

One of the best places to look for high-quality movie trailers is Apple Trailers. They have lots of bandwidth and a large selection (altough they don’t have e.g. the new Indiana Jones 4 trailers, which are exclusively on Yahoo HD trailers).

Apple typically offers its HD trailers in 3 formats: 480p, 720p and 1080p. The “p” stands for “progressive” i.e. not interlaced, every frame is a full picture instead of only the odd or even lines. The 480 in “480p” stands for the number of lines in the image. 480p is roughly equivalent with DVD quality, 720p is “HD Ready” and 1080p is “Full HD”.

But let me give a concrete example of the resolution of 3 trailers:
resolutions of Apple Trailers
Continue reading Apple trailers: when 720p isn’t always 720p

Pimp your laptop: Apple vs Dell

Imagine you can walk up to your favourite hardware store and tell the guy: “Give me the biggest, fastest, meanest laptop you have. Money is no issue”.

Let’s see what this would buy you in the (Belgian) Apple store:

Pimped-out MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro

2,4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
4 GB 667 DDR2 SDRAM
S-ATA disk 250 GB (4200 rpm)
17″ Glossy WUXGA (1920×1200)
NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT, dual-link DVI, 256 MB GDDR3 SDRAM
SuperDrive 8x (DVD+R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
Bluetooth 2.0
Apple Remote
AppleCare Protection plan: 3 years

Which would cost you around 3400 euro (excl taxes/transport).

Let’s now compare that to a fully expanded Dell Precision portable workstation from the Dell store:

Pimped-out Dell Precision M90

precision_m90

Intel® Core™2 Duo T7600 (2,33 GHz 4 MB L2-cache 667 MHz FSB)
4 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM
Windows® XP Professional, SP2 (NTFS)
3 jaar Business Support
3 jaar CompleteCare Accidental Damage Cover
17″ WUXGA (1920 x 1200) UltraSharp screen
NVIDIA® Quadro® FX 1500M, 256 MB RAM
100 GB harde schijf (7.200 rpm)
8x DVD+/-RW-station
Intel PRO/Wireless 3945 802.11a/g Mini-kaart (54 Mbps) Core2 Duo
Dell Wireless 350 Bluetooth

Which will set you back … 3280 euro. Or wait, try this:

Pimped-out Dell Inspiron XPS M1710

dell_xps_1710

Intel® Core™2 Duo T7600 Processor (2,33 GHz, 667 MHz, 4 MB L2-cache)
Windows Vista™ Home Premium
Premium XPS-service, 3 y
17″ UltraSharp WUXGA display, 1920 x 1200
4GB 667 MHz Dual Channel DDR2 SDRAM
160 GB S-ATA disk (7.200 rpm)
8x DVD+/-RW
512 MB DDR3 nVidia® GeForce™ Go 7950 GTX
Dell™ Wireless 355 Bluetooth 2.0
Intel® Pro Wireless 3945 802.11a/b/g mini-PCI-kaart

At a staggering … 3280 euro, or just the same as the Precision.

I know, to some extent, it’s comparing Apples to oranges, but I’m just saying: for a high-end notebook, a MacBook Pro is not that excessively expensive.