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Announcing: HME.pvrblog.com

HmepvrblogThe first question I had for Howard Look at TiVo when I heard about the new HME launch today was "is there some sort of gallery/forum that I can go to find the best apps or share apps I build?" His answer was basically no, but they were hopeful that someone could put something together. I pinged a few friends and eventually George Hotelling, who has been posting here, put something together.

I give you: http://hme.pvrblog.com/

Our goals were to get a place where we could have a categorical list of applications, a way to rate those apps, the ability to add screenshots, and a forum area to discuss each app and topics in general. I encourage any new HME app developers that want others using, rating, and commenting on your work to get the word out by uploading them to our new site.

January 31, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

TiVo's Home Media Engine launched

Tivohme_1As reported at CES earlier this month, TiVo's new developer-friendly package, dubbed Home Media Engine (HME), launches today. I got to chat with Howard Look, VP of TiVo Application Software and User Experience a couple days ago about it, and here are the main points about today's rollout:

  • Developer Toolkit available at Sourceforge starting today: http://tivohme.sourceforge.net/
  • Toolkit includes a sandbox TiVo emulator app you can run on your desktop to test applications against
  • Developer backdoor password that enables HME (will require that you have the new TiVo 7.1 OS)
  • You can now code simple games, audio applications, video applications, and utilities in Java that will run on your computer and communicate with any TiVo with the backdoor enabled on your network (you can share your code with others if they want to run the apps too)
  • Developer contest announced, to award the best apps developed in the next few months
  • Included sample apps include a simple game, a RSS reader, and a weather app

Not much that they didn't allude to at CES, but great to see it out just a couple weeks later. As I've said before, I believe embracing developers and letting them extend TiVo is one of the ways to keep TiVo ahead of the PVR pack. I see an explosion of cool apps coming really soon that will tie the web closer into every TiVo.

Keep in mind this is a developer release, and the first apps will probably be buggy and slow, but I'm sure the best apps will eventually migrate to everyone's TiVo. They're launching with the audio and photo app support (no video for now, but will come soon and may support transcoding any video to your tivo). The audio and photo demo apps I saw at CES were full blown custom interfaces, and I can't wait to see audio clients for Shoutcast streams, Live365, and the Internet Archive, and photo apps for Flickr and Ofoto someday soon.

This new package should open up a whole new world of cool apps for TiVos. Record labels could have showcases for their bands, photographers could show off their best work to friends, and someday soon, folks will be able to stream video on demand, over the net, to their TiVos. A few months from now, I'm sure there will be hundreds if not thousands of HME apps for your TiVo -- I predict some exciting times ahead for TiVo owners.

Update: We've launched hme.pvrblog.com!

January 31, 2005 in News, TiVo | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

NY Times - Steal This Show

The New York Times does a wide-ranging article on PVR technologies including profiles on the technologies and people behind  BitTorrent, Videora, MythTV, and KnoppMyth. 

First popularized by TiVo and ReplayTV about five years ago, the DVR gave consumers a new degree of control: instead of being at the mercy of the broadcast schedule or VCR's, they could now be their own television programmers, scheduling shows at their convenience, pausing live television and skipping easily past commercials. Smith Barney estimates that though only a little more than 6 million Americans now use DVR's, by 2010 nearly half of American television households, or 58 million homes, will have them.

The article also touches upon the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Television Liberation Digital Front which is working towards defeating the FCC's broadcast flag, which will restrict ways in which media content can be used.

The article closes with some quotes from television company executives, who are planning for a pay-per-view future, think that people will pay $1 per TV show (without commercials) and $.50 per TV show (with commercials.)  What do you think about the future of TV viewing and pay-per-view?  Would you pay per show?

The New York Times> Steal This Show

Thanks to the New York Times Link Generator for a weblog-safe link.

January 30, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (28) | TrackBack

Free TiVo (after rebates)

No, this isn't one of those annoying chain-spams.  CompUSA is offering $100 rebates on TiVo boxes when you spend more than $500 on other electronics.  Combine that with with TiVo's $100 rebate to make a $200 40 hour Series 2 cost $FREE — after however long it takes the rebates to arrive.  This deal is only good through tomorrow, January 29th, so you'll have to impulse buy that new computer to get the rebate.  Oh, and that new computer you wanted to impulse buy?  Sorry, the deal doesn't apply to Apples.

CNet's got the scoop (and they just published this today too, so no blaming us for only giving you a day's notice).

[Update: High Five? Up high.  Down low?  Too slow.  The deal's over.  See what happens when you don't spend your weekend watching PVRblog for updates?]

January 28, 2005 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (1)

early adopters do not a market make

Om Malik has a bunch of links to new survey data that supports information we have known for quite some time.

A lot of people laughed at Steve Jobs when he introduced a hard-drive based music player nearly three years after the competitors introduced his. But his timing was right. It is the same issue at work here - TiVo and its ilk came out too soon. The Ipsos study finds that people would rather get a DVR from their cable or satellite (or soon telephone) company than buy a standalone product.

Om Malik on Broadband » We Like TiVo, Just Don’t Want To Buy It

January 27, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

A sleepy DISH Network receiver

My friend Meg has posted about her problems with a DISH Network receiver, where after four hours of inactivity, it puts itself to sleep and her TiVo can't record anything. I know having an external TiVo hooked up to another DVR may be a rare use case, but it is a weird issue and Dish techs have told her non-DVR versions do the same thing to conserve energy and wear and tear, even though a TiVo needs 24/7 access to the stream. Anyone that has ever experienced it or found a way around it is encouraged to leave a comment on her site.

January 26, 2005 in Q & A | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Engadget how-to: Turn your Mac mini into a media center

Engadget has a pretty good and complete how to on turning a Mac mini into a media center that covers all the connections necessary, storage needs, and software you could use to control it. A great start and look into the possibilities the new unit offers.

January 25, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Google Video Search

TivogoogletvGoogle launched video search tonight and doing a quick Google Video Search for TiVo shows you that it's pretty good at pulling out all the mentions of the company in the 24 hour news cycle. Lots of little news shows showing up in the screenshots. It goes beyond simply search through transcripts and actually shows screengrabs of when the words were mentioned. Does this mean Google has a Myth or TiVo farm somewhere in the Bay Area, sucking down every single channel's video to index for the search engine?

I can't wait to see this new thing grow -- hopefully someday soon all that video will be one click away to view. Maybe they could even become an iTunes Movie Store and sell shows/movies too?

January 24, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack

Why Hasn't TiVo Improved?

34_button_remote_charcoal_picture.jpgIt's not too hard to find a daily essay predicting the demise of TiVo, but they're not all bad. Ed Felten is convinced it was due to product stagnation while TiVo spun their wheels making deals with networks, which is a popular criticism. Essentially no major feature was deployed in 2004 to the OS, but 2005 looks promising with loads of new features (hopefully the developer API lets a million add-ons bloom).

Felten notes TiVo is looking to a new CEO that focuses even less on technology, which is disheartening news, but commenters on Felten's site rightfully point out when ReplayTV worked on innovative technology, they were sued into bankruptcy.

I believe the reasons are a bit of both. TiVo certainly has stagnated and appeared to have their hands tied behind their back for the past couple years, though I sense a reawakening. But I also believe TiVo held back time and time again because they spent so much time wrestling with the movie industry and the TV networks (and it looks like the cable companies are still dragging their feet on CableCARD support).

Lawsuits are killing innovation. It's a common story in the world of technology. Any time a company produces a disruptive technology that does something cool, they have to have a legal department that is bigger than their engineering unit to survive, and that sucks for business, sucks for customers, and sucks for the technology industry. I work around lawyers all day and I wish this was a bigger issue with the public.

Anything that helps customers enjoy TV, movies, or music is a target for lawsuits. We saw it with the Rio mp3 player (what, exactly, was illegal about playing a mp3 on a portable player?). We saw it with ReplayTV and TiVo. We see it in the entire DVD region-coding disaster that gets region-free players pulled from the US Market. The content company dinosaurs are so wed to their antiquated business models that they'll send off their legal department to attack at the slightest provocation (this includes imagined potential profit losses).

At this point, TiVo has a lot of customers and a lot of supporters in the US. I believe if anything, they need to move more of their resources into technology innovation and damn the torpedoes -- continue to make technology that makes customers happy, regardless of what Hollywood thinks. I believe if there is a concerted effort by the content industry to kill TiVo, it would not be successful like it was with ReplayTV, as there are just too many (happy, well-off, voting) TiVo customers to grapple with, much less the court of opinion that rarely goes to Hollywood's advantage.

TiVo, every day it's looks more and more like you're finally on the ropes, but it's time to start fighting back.

January 21, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (38)

But on the plus side: TiVoToGo Hacks Already Abound

3556805_81b8c00ccb_mIt turns out that, along with TiVoToGo, another thing added by the upgrade to version 7.1 of the operating system is a built-in webserver. From the looks of things, the functionality it offers is limited to browsing the Now Playing list (screenshot) and downloading recordings off the box (which are still encrypted with the TiVo's media access key); there's also an XML feed of the Now Playing information, and someone's already written a tool to parse it with PHP. (Of course, given that online, remote scheduling can be done via Tivo Central Online, that's a feature that's not really needed onboard the box itself.)  I'm sure that there are other goodies hidden in there, just waiting for someone with command-line access to their TiVo to discover them.

Another positive development is that the TiVo Community is already going over the video/DVD format with a fine-toothed comb even though the update is only a couple weeks old. While Sonic did release the DVD burning program, it seems folks figured out one way of converting the files to a standard DVD format and burning with anything. This post explains how the video codec interacts with Windows, and how any DirecShow aware editor may be able to access the video files.

What's cool about both the webserver and file conversion news is that I'm happy to see TiVo adopting features and functionality seen in the "hacker underground" tools like TiVoWebPlus, which offer quite a number of features that I've long wished TiVo would adopt in their OS.

Of course, there is some debate on the boards over what is and isn't legal, and what folks should and shouldn't be sharing (PVRblog authors are debating the same issues, which is unfortunate). The TiVo Community site has always seemed to support the TiVo corporation and banned talk of video extraction or service theft. I suspect if this chatter becomes a problem, they'll make these topics off-limits as well.

It must be difficult for TiVo, on the one hand they need to keep pleasing the content companies and I wouldn't be surprised if eventually they end this kind of discussion or any block simple extraction tools that come out of it. But on the other hand you have to consider the same folks figuring out ways to get unencumbered video out of their devices are also their biggest fans and customers. Someone in a thread mentioned how their DVD burning TiVo won't be getting the update for a few months (there was a major bug revealed in beta testing that only applied to a certain configuration of TiVo) so they were going out to buy a new standalone TiVo, just to play with these new features. Signature lines at the TiVo Community often mention owning 2 or 3 TiVos. These aren't just customers, they're fanatics, and to close off their discussion would be unfortunate.

Compared to other major feature upgrades to TiVo, the amount of enthusiasm for TTG is high, and I suspect after another couple weeks of all these people poking and prodding their devices, we'll see some simple one-click ways to get video off your TiVo, convert to MPEG, and edit out commercials.

update: looks like someone produced a tool that does the conversion in five minutes.

January 20, 2005 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (38) | TrackBack