James O'Neill's Blog

April 7, 2008

SD cards (again)

Filed under: Music and Media,Photography,Windows Vista — jamesone111 @ 4:37 pm

I was about to say some things about Vista and TV when I realized I had actually said them a few months ago

When your TV programmes are FILES there’s a different psychological relationship to them compared with TAPE. VHS cassettes were something you recorded over and over. You taped a programme watched it, taped over it. ..it’s easy to buy the DVD of the show … But with files we’re conditioned to Save them, why call them files if you don’t, well, file them ?

Memory cards for photos have got so cheap, I’m seriously considering using memory cards only once (with back-up copies).

Memory cards and photos first, A few weeks ago, I had a sad experience with my (almost) new diving camera…  Normally there is a 1GB Mini-SD card in an adapter for plugged into my laptop for Vista to use as a ReadyBoost device. When I heard that one of the changes in SP1 is that Vista uses Readyboost to speed up the time to come back from sleep I thought I’d stick an old card in the SD slot semi-permanently: ,it stays in when I put the laptop in its bag – although because it sticks out there’s risk of damaging the adapter.
At the end of my last dive trip I swapped the ReadBoost card with the one in my camera so as not to lose it while I downloaded my photos. When I came to swap the cards back the Mini SD card came out of the camera leaving the adapter stuck fast. To cut a long story short the SD slot was damaged, not covered by warranty and the quote to fix it was greater than the cost of a new camera – which arrived this morning.

With 7 day shop charging round the £6 mark for 2GB Micro-SD cards by Kingston and SanDisk (compatible with my phone and with a much safer adapter) I really should get rid of the old Mini cards, but that’s hard to do, Psychologically, we’re conditioned not to throw these things away. So, I tried to get a bit more life out of a device with a replacement cost less than a prawn sandwich  and it cost me a camera. As if to add insult to injury, the card itself died this weekend. I had two of them so the other is nowin the laptop – but at the first sign of trouble it’s going in the bin. As if to prove the that these events always come in the threes, the SD socket on my Portable Hard-disk/Card reader has decided to play dead as well. Grrrr. But on the bright side when I got it my biggest memory card was 512MB. Now I can shove 10GB of SD in my pocket. And it is still useful as storage photo photos and MediaCenter recordings. 

When I rebuilt my machine for Vista SP1 I managed to reset some of the settings in MediaCenter. Mostly, I like the Media parts of Vista, but every now and then they drive me nuts and it’s usually around storage. Firstly MediaCenter seems to insist on keeping 5% of my disk space free. Keeping the last 1GB from 20GB might make sense, but keeping the last 50GB from 1TB probably doesn’t. I’ve not found any setting to manage this. The problem is compounded because it over estimates the space needed by a recording, and sometimes, wrongly, says there won’t be space for a programme (e.g. 3 hours of Grand Prix coverage would have needed about 4-5GB of space, with 12GB free Media center said "No") . Worse, it keeps free space by deleting recordings unless you tell it not to:  infuriatingly last week it was told to record two programs back to back, and deleted the first one seconds after it was made. This sent me off to BBC iPlayer, which has become Vista Compatible since last time I wrote about it. I was surprised how small the file size was for good  quality with the iPlayer, which I daresay I’ll talk more about another time.
Since I’m pushed for space it makes sense to move the files off the machine but here comes the next irritation… Different channels run different levels of compression:  I recorded the same Episodes of Ashes to Ashes, on when first shown on BBC-one (2.30 GB) and repeated on BBC Four (1.70GB). A US drama on Channel 4 is 1.42 GB, but re-broadcast on on E4 it was 1.05 GB. So… I the number of 1 hour Episodes I can burn onto a data DVD varies dramatically: if I use Stephen Toub’s DVR-MS Editor to trim the channel 4 shows down, they’re only 40 minutes of actual programme so I can fit in 6 episodes on a disk; an hour of BBC is an Hour of programme and only 1 fits.  I can get 150 Minutes with a video DVD – and unlike Media Center’s files, a DVD will play on my Xbox. But making a DVD is a long process, not just because the transcoding takes time but also  because psychology cuts in again: unlike files-on-a-DVD-disk, a "proper" DVD feels wrong if it has all the extraneous crud of a recording, so it needs to be edited and before you know it you’re going to the trouble of making bootleg DVDs. The time it takes to make one is worth more than the cost of the commercial DVD – and I like to own the artifact anyway.   (And working for a company based around intellectual property, I really shouldn’t be making bootlegs).

With 8GB SD cards now available below £20 may the smart thing would be get some and treat them like VHS tapes; that would be more battery efficient when travelling too. Streamlining the media I use for everything sounds attractive. 

This post originally appeared on my technet blog.


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