The Pentax K-7, Pentax’s current flagship DSLR, is on big sale today at Amazon:
In-body shake reduction (full shake reduction on ancient lenses!), 720p movie mode, 5 frames per second, and dust, moisture and weather resistant case. This is the first time I’ve seen the camera for under about $1200, so it’s significant savings. Both body-only and kit models are available. I just might pick one up. (And so might you.)
Just after Christmas, our DirecTV receiver unceremoniously gave up the ghost. I had been looking into alternatives, and wasn’t encouraged by the lack of incentives for us to stay with DirecTV: In order to upgrade to a DVR, we’d have to pay $200 up front for the new unit (and still wouldn’t own it, as I understand), plus the additional monthly fee. By comparison, a comparable package with Dish Network was substantially less expensive, and they even offer an option to opt out of the 24-month contract — which is still cheaper than our existing DirecTV package.
But that’s not actually my point. My point is that when the first receiver broke, DirecTV promised to send us another one right away, but it would still take several days. And, quite honestly, we were bored now. So we gave ourselves a late Christmas gift: The Sony N460 Network Blu-Ray player (amazon link). Very briefly: it changes everything.
Devices like the Roku have been offered this capability for a while, of course [expanding from initially streaming Netflix, to Amazon on Demand and music via Pandora], and we’ve connected the MacBook video to the TV once in a while for Hulu or a Netflix stream. And more recently there’s a whole crop of blu-ray players that are internet-enabled, with varying service connectivity. Actually having the networked device connected directly to the TV is new to us, and the difference is stunning. I underestimated by a massive degree just how cool and convenient it is to push a button and have a library of streaming content available without screwing around with video cables. The N460 supports Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand, Youtube, and a small grundle of additional services, in addition to NPR streaming radio and slacker radio.
Netflix streaming — arguably the headline app — is excellent. Items in your instant queue are displayed in tiled icons on the screen, and it’s a serviceable presentation, though I’d prefer the coverflow-style presentation that Roku uses; the tiles are a little hard to read, and the lack of ability to organize a very large queue might eventually become a problem. Once a video is selected, the streaming starts up quickly and you just go to town (we connected the N460 directly to our Airport Extreme via ethernet cable). Browsing YouTube also works very well (and looks surprisingly good in fullscreen, too), and Amazon on Demand is simply sweet: We rented Star Trek for $3 and got Hi-Def streaming with digital sound. As Doctor Egon Spengler best put it, yes, have some. All of those singularly are super-cool, but as a package it means a new digital on-demand library. I’m still getting a handle on just how big that is for home video.
Oh, yeah, it plays blu-ray discs, too. That’s cool.
I’ve had a bad two weeks with Amazon.com: First they sent me a defective camera (bad focus) in the mail, which I tried to make work for a few days before sending back and ordering a different model. That second order sat in a warehouse (according to Amazon’s UPS tracking information), ready to ship, for six days, before it was, quite without any discernible reason, “returned” and processed for a refund. Although I’m frustrated at still being new-camera-less, I do want to note that when I finally got sick of reloading status pages and reading semi-automated support emails and dug up the support phone number, I talked with two friendly and helpful representatives who seem to be pretty sure now that things are in order.
So I got to thinking about tech support and started wondering, “Have I become That Guy?” The guy who calls tech support, and then calls back, and then writes letters—letters!—to customer service? Does becoming The Man imply that one is also That Guy? Questions that come with age, I suppose.
All this reminded me of when I did tech support for the college computer labs, when the college web site still linked to Gopher and used WAIS. (Man, we were kings when we first learned how to make animated GIFs. Kings.) The web was pretty fresh at the time, and a young woman came into the lab for help downloading the then-new version of Netscape. I asked all the right questions: Was her network connection okay, was she using the right FTP server, was she selecting the right file, and so on. I was puzzled, as she seemed to be doing everything correctly. And then she said, “Am I supposed to leave my computer on after the download starts?”
“You’re turning it off?” I asked, working hard to make the mustn’t-laugh-face look more like the studied-inquiry face.
“I think that’s the problem. You should probably just leave it on until it’s done.”
Ultimately I am reassured that there are still levels of That Guy which I have not attained.