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Olympics 2004 on Usenet

olympicsA couple weeks back I predicted that Bittorrent would be a big way to share coverage of the Olympic games when fans felt their local TV coverage fell short, and I admit I don't see much in the way of bittorrent sites listing olympics videos at this time. But I did notice some action on Usenet, especially the newly formed alt.binaries.olympics. Just a couple days into this year's games, a rip of the BBC's opening ceremonies was floating around along with a few basketball games.

Andy Baio has the full scoop with a link to a sample of Brazillian TV coverage from last night's coverage, along with a full listing of what the usenet group currently has posted.

I knew the demand of fans for their favorite sports would take the Olympics online this year, whether or not the IOC wanted it. But I guessed wrong on Bittorrent being the place to be, it turns out the old school Usenet network is where the action's at this time around.

Personally, with a two-tuner DirecTiVo and season passes with the highest priority set to record any and all Olympics coverage, I'm getting way more coverage than I expected. I've been able to see just about every sport in the games and aside from the same old "triumph over adversity" montages before every event an American is going to win, the NBC coverage has been great.

August 24, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

HDTV, DVD, Hard Drives and the future

Mark Cuban, owner of HDnet, the Dallas Mavericks, and the guy behind The Benefactor reality show, has a great post over at his site about HDTV, DVD, Hard Drives and the future. Mark brings up a lot of good points about how hard drive space is constantly moving up while price per byte falls, while upcoming DVD formats will be limited in storage capacity and technological improvement over the years. He mentions recent experiments with various video formats and storage devices:

On the plane, I popped the first keychain drive into the USB Port. Got the ready signal, got prompted to open my video player, and watched a nice movie right from the keychain drive. On the way home, did the same thing with the other movie. I loved it. Far less space than DVDs. Could put them in my pocket instead of filling up my briefcase. I immediately went out and bought a 1gb keychain drive so I could hold 2 movies on 1 drive, in addition to my first 2 drives.

He goes on to describe various HD formats and how someday Netflix could send you a hard drive instead of a disc. I doubt anyone behind emerging DVD formats would embrace this kind of cutting edge technology, but it's great to hear someone in the industry willing to share these ideas. [thanks Olivier!]

August 22, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Frauenfelder on S-A Explorer 8000

Mark Frauenfelder, founder and contributor to the weblog BoingBoing.net does not like the Scientific-Atlanta 8000.

So many other things suck about the user interface that I can't list them all. But the main UI problems include lack of keyword scheduling, way-too-slow fast-forwarding, no alpha character entry, and the inability to see how many hours of programming are available on the hard drive.

This last flaw hit home when the machine suddenly stopped recording shows. I tried everything I could to get it to work, including rebooting the system and calling Time Warner Cable customer service. They told me that they'd have to replace the unit, which would take five days.

Five days later a service technician came with a new box. I asked him if this problem was common, because Google returns a lot of pages from people who think the Explorer 8000 is a piece of junk. He said the system is fine as long as you didn't store too many shows on it. If you fill up the hard drive, the system freezes up, and there's no way a user can undo it. But how do you know when the disk is close to being full if there's no gage to tell you? The service tech's answer: "don't keep very many shows on the hard drive." That pretty much defeats the purpose of a DVR, doesn't it?

He also warned me not to put anything on top of it, as it was notorious for overheating and seizing up. I told him I was considering TiVo, but he insisted the Explorer 8000 was better than TiVo. How so, I asked? "We will give you a new one if it breaks," he said.

Anyone else have any stories, good or bad, about their S-A 8000?

Boing Boing: I hate this digital video recorder: Scientific-Atlanta Explorer 8000

August 16, 2004 in Product Reviews | Permalink | Comments (58) | TrackBack

Saving TiVo through Strangeberry

tivo-bubbleThis new Business 2.0 article (unfortunately, the full text is only available to subscribers or AOL users) describes that while much talk about TiVo has been grim this year, they may be on an upswing, thanks in part to new features developed from their acquisition of the startup Strangeberry.

So far, not much has been said about the Strangeberry-TiVo connection, but this article goes into some of the features the combo will bring to our favorite PVR:

The Wonderful World of Strangeberry

1 Strangeberry software does all the work. It recognizes the format of the content flowing in via TV cable or broadband Internet connection. Designed for easy tweaking, the software will be able to deal with formats that haven't yet been created.

2 The system is TV-centric, rather than PC-centric. A simple graphical interface is displayed on the TV, allowing the user to find what he wants and play it. The huge volume of content can be navigated with a single remote control device.

3 Strangeberry also recognizes where the user wants the content played. It routes the MP3 files to the stereo, but could simultaneously display album covers and music notes on the TV or a laptop.
It sounds great, having a system that builds upon the Home Media Option greatly to turn TiVo into a central entertainment hub that can send stuff from any of your computers to any of your stereo and TVs and vice versa (including sending video to and from your TiVo and PCs!). They also touch on a possible API that will let content companies build apps that can be accessed through TiVo, like voting for American Idol with your remote. If the entertainment companies can put their copyright sledgehammer aside and let TiVo do even half of what they describe, Strangeberry + TiVo could be a whole new revolution in home entertainment. I for one, can't wait to see what they do with it.

The article also paints a pretty rosy financial picture for TiVo, as they near profitability for the first time, which is also good news.

August 12, 2004 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

TiVo Rewards program launches.

tivo-cardAbout four years late, TiVo has launched a new rewards program. So far TiVo has relied on users as evangelists, but it looks like they've finally taken a lesson from Amazon.com and instituted a program to encourage folks to insert affiliate codes for free prizes.

I just signed up and it appears they're doing everything they can to keep the program from becoming an affiliate marketing spam hell that many other programs are. There's no cash involved for prizes and they don't provide HTML snippets of code that could someday show up on zillions of link-farmed search engine spam sites. You simply plop someone's email (like mine, at matt@haughey.com) into the signup process, and I collect points.

Looks like a nice simple system, a lot like Vonage's, but hopefully without all the Vonage spam sites lingering behind every Google search for Vonage [thanks George].

August 12, 2004 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

BitTorrent and RSS

Salon has an interesting article by Farjad Manjoo, Must-download TV [salon.com], looking at the emerging marriage between BitTorrent for media downloads and RSS for notification. While not directly addressing PVRs, it does speak to potential futures of media distribution, which is an area near and dear to PVR users.

In recent months, a host of developers and TV enthusiasts have been working on ways to improve online trading -- they're building sophisticated networks to record and encode and distribute shows, and they're improving peer-to-peer transfer systems to make downloading easier. The hottest new improvement is made possible by the merging of two Internet innovations, the peer-to-peer protocol BitTorrent and RSS, the popular Web syndication standard. Together, these systems enable a computer to automatically find and download a user's favorite shows -- something like having a TV station designed just for you.
The main Buttress site seems to be down at the moment but other similar apps mentioned are TV RSS (a Linux-based RSS-linked downloader).

This reminds me of the fansubbing culture associated with anime where Japanese and Western fans work together to translate Japanese anime shows for a global niche audience often within hours of the shows being broadcast on terrestrial Japanese TV.

Media demand is global but the content providers have yet to develop a business model to effectively provide that media to a global audience, and thus the lovers of the content have to "break laws" to watch their favorite shows. It is, as the hackneyed phrase goes, "a lose-lose" (in the sense that the content providers perceive that demand as theft and the content viewers often cannot get what they want when they want it legally.)

Salon.com | Must-download TV

August 12, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Tivo LCD Project

The Tivo LCD Project is a cool hack, plugging a small LCD to the front of your TiVo to show current status. Along with the basic computer info like uptime, time of day, and temp inside the box, it also displays info about the current show, channel, and how much space is left on your TiVo.

The site features a step-by-step guide with photos and necessary tcl scrips so you can do it for your own series 1 standalone or DirecTiVo device. [via waxy]

August 11, 2004 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Ten things that Microsoft and TiVo must each do to win the living room

Thomas Hawk, the guy that wrote the in-depth test between his Windows Media Center box vs. his new HD TiVo has published a great article on engadget today called Ten things that Microsoft and TiVo must each do to win the living room.

In it are his ten biggest gripes with both Media Center and TiVo, and what they can do to produce the ultimate device. After reading about his struggles with a Media Center unit, his ten suggestions sound great, though some are certainly difficult (he calls for the creation of a TiVo-for-radio feature) and others are bordering on the impossible ("Media Center should be as stable and error-free as TiVo’s Linux-based system" heh).

On the TiVo wishlist, two gripes are about the discontinuity between DirecTV's TiVo unit features and TiVo's own featureset, which I wholeheartedly agree with. The "DVD in every TiVo" would be a nice addition as well, though I suspect content companies will never let it happen in the HD model.

I hope engineers from both companies are listening, as well as management. Thomas is an early adopter that spends thousands of dollars on these products and before you know it, his views will be the same as the mainstream as they get increasingly used to these products.

August 11, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

The Polyphonic Spree gives TiVo the triple thumbs up

Amusing news today about a member of the band Polyphonic Spree, coming home from a gig with a microphone in his bag that was mistaken for a pipe bomb that shut down an entire terminal of the Dallas Fort Worth airport (completely unbeknownst to him). When he arrived home, he was surrounded by armed agents ready to take him into custody, but his TiVo saved the day.

Teasley explained that the item in question was not a pipe bomb, but a microphone.

"I told them we had just used it when we were on Craig Kilborn's show," he said. "I still had it on my TiVo, so I was like, `Come watch it with me.' After they figured out I was telling the truth, they were pretty cool. I was talking to them about music. But thank God for TiVo."

August 9, 2004 in News | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Like Apple, TiVo Faces a Struggle in a Market It Helped Create

The New York Times published an article today comparing TiVo's financial pickle with Apple's in the dawn of the PC revolution. I came to the same conclusions a year ago when I published TiVo's Apple Problem.

August 9, 2004 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack