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Moviebeam pulled from test markets, going dark

moviebeam interfaceAfter being announced about a year and a half ago (I got to chat with their PR folks soon after launch), it looks like Disney is taking MovieBeam offline, perhaps for good:

The company plans to close its experimental video-on-demand service this week in all three of its test cities. Disney spokeswoman Michelle Bergman said the shutdown was necessary to upgrade systems as the company seeks potential partners to explore MovieBeam's "next phase."

It is uncertain, however, when — or even if — the service will be relaunched.

I can't say I'm surprised to hear the news, the fees seemed way too high from the outset. It was $7 a month for the box, and $2.50-$4 for each movie you watched. You only got to view them in a 24 hour window before they deleted themselves and your selections were limited to a 100 or so movies. In the age of $3 DVD rentals at any corner store and Netflix to your door for $12-$20 a month, I don't think MovieBeam had a chance.

It was cool to see a company try wireless delivery of media, but they priced it higher than DVD, and it was compressed movie quality below that of a DVD. In the end, it's all about saving a few bucks for customers, and MovieBeam didn't offer that. It's surprising really, to think it was launched directly from a studio, no middle man at all, and didn't require anything beyond a settop box antenna to receive shows, but they priced it above simple DVD rentals.

Oh well, lots of lessons to learn here for others looking at the space. [thanks Mike]

April 27, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (22)

MakeZine.com: Free TiVo: Build a Better DVR out of an Old PC

The excellent Make Magazine (a great hacker how-to guide) has a good guide to building your own home theater PC: Build a Better DVR out of an Old PC.

The author uses an old PC and a copy of Beyond TV with a bunch of off-the-shelf parts and covers everything in this step-by-step guide that includes not only TV recording an playback, but music, video, and gaming capabilities.

April 27, 2005 in How-To | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

Open Media Network

OmnscreenshotguideThe Open Media Network launched Tuesday with a broad plan to enable many things we've been talking about here recently, like downloadable television shows, movies, and podcasts. Marc Andressen (a Netscape founder) is on the board and when I first heard about this, I assumed it would be a lot like Our Media, opening up content, streaming, and hosting to anyone on earth.

Despite the "Open" name and .org in their URL, it appears that Open Media isn't quite like that, built on Kontiki, a DRM-friendly media distribution system that keeps you from doing anything with files once you've downloaded them (I recall the first time I saw Kontiki, their product boasted features that would automatically delete downloaded movies after playing them x number of times).

The site doesn't work for me in Firefox and won't let me download a demo movie (which even includes "DRM" in the filename). In Internet Explorer, I'm asked to install a custom activeX control from a company I'm already having trouble trusting. Oh, and it's windows only.

I don't know how widespread Open Media adoption will be, but so far the early launch doesn't look too promising. Still, it's good to see more players in the IPTV space launching.

April 27, 2005 in News | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack

Free (after rebates) TiVo at Circuit City

UPDATE: Circuit City isn't listing any rebates for the 40 hour TiVo anymore. While there have been typos with online sales before, I doubt that's the case here because they had the message "Free after rebates and activation" on the Digital Video Recorders page. If you got in on the deal, enjoy your free TiVo (assuming those rebates come).

Circuit CityCircuit City is giving away free-after-rebate 40 hour TiVos. The $200 units have the normal $100 TiVo rebate and an additional $100 Circuit City rebate resulting in $FREE.

You're skeptical, I can appreciate that. You're looking at the Circuit City page and seeing that there's only one rebate listed. However, if you click the Rebate Details popup you'll see both rebates listed, and Circuit City's Digital Video Recorders page uses the phrase "Free after rebates and activation," so this looks like the real deal. The rebates end on April 23, 2005 and there's no telling when you'll actually get the rebate.

April 22, 2005 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack

Google Maps on TiVo

GooglemapsGoogle Maps was released a few months ago and quickly took the online world by storm due to the ingenious way you can drag around inside the maps.

Recently, they added satellite map views which don't really help you get where you want to go as much as look really cool when you zoom around your own neighborhood.

But cooler than all that is a HME hack that puts Google Maps on your TiVo, complete with dragging, zooming, and both satellite and normal map views, just like in a web browser. Also worth noting is that it was created by none other than the founder and CTO of Strangeberry (currently TiVo's lead engineer for TiVoToGo, HME, and other new TiVo technologies whoa! He just left TiVo).

April 21, 2005 in Hacks, News, TiVo | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack

The Onion: TiVo Wishlist Roulette

The always amusing Onion's own AV club has an interesting new way to goof around with a TiVo: set a random keyword wishlist and automatically record to see what you capture in 24 hours, dubbed TiVo Wishlist Roulette.

They set it to "War" and let it go to town, and in the process it grabbed movies, documentaries, kids cartoons, and even music shows. Any generic term would grab random programs, but this might be the cure for the summer reruns when nothing interesting seems to be on. Just pick a word and run it for a few days to see what you get.

April 20, 2005 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

TiVo chatting up Yahoo!, Google

TiVoogleCNET is reporting that TiVo is courting the top two search engines, Google and Yahoo!. One possible use would be allowing people to schedule recordings for shows they find in the search engines.

Then there's the fact that both Yahoo! and Google offer video services now, which fit in with TiVo's Video Publisher. This would give TiVo access to a whole lotta Long Tail video. This would be especially powerful if TiVo opened up scheduling via web services. As this weekend's Ajax hacks showed, there's a lot of people who want their TiVo to do more. Speaking of the Long Tail—and who isn't using that buzzword these days?—the Long Tail blog shows how this could be done.

For the benefit of the deathwatch crowd, there's also talk of investment or even a buyout:

A second person familiar with the talks said TiVo has held talks with both Google and Yahoo about a potential equity investment, including the possibility of an outright acquisition. Any deal would likely be exclusive, this source said, Nothing has been finalized, however, and the talks could yet fall apart.

"A deal to cooperate could happen quickly, but then the details would have to be worked out," the first source said. "The search companies need to work with companies like TiVo because they have access to the living room, and they own a television interface."

April 18, 2005 in News, TiVo | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack

TiVo gag on the Simpsons

In the interest of not freaking Simpsons nerds out, I've hidden what some might consider a spoiler from the April 17, 2005 episode below.

update (from Matt): now that it has played out on the west coast, here's a 3.5Mb video clip from the show, demonstrating the tivo sounds and tivo spoof OS of Professor Frink's astrology machine.

Simpsonstivo

April 17, 2005 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack

PSP Home Control 1.0

liquidice recent wrote in describing a pretty crazy PSP hack, reportedly using it as a wireless controller for his entire entertainment system, including his TiVo. Without a PSP and his code, I can't verify that this is real and it's possible it may be a hoax, but I'll reproduce his post in full and let you decide, because it looks like a really cool hack:

I have not seen anyone else do something like this with the PSP, so I am posting it in hopes to inspire others to do something cool with their PSP. The closest thing I have seen is a controller page for XBMC, but it was just some text links, and did not impress me.

I've taken it a step further. I now have the ability to turn my lights on and off. Have full control (Play, Stop, Pause, Menu) of my DVD player, TIVO, and High Def TV, all wirelessly from my PSP. I did this in a few hours using Photoshop to make some graphics. I put an image map on the graphics and created some HTML pages which are hosted on my WACI NX server. The links are crafted so that when the PSP highlights and clicks on a spot on the image map, it instructs the WACI NX server to send an IR signal to my A/V equipment or triggers it's relays to cut power on the lights.

PSP Home Control 1.0

PSP Home Control 1.0

PSP Home Control 1.0

Apologies for the blurry pictures. The PSP is not very photogenic.

My next step is to add some temperature monitors, and more integration with my PC and some AV switching equipment to stream video signals around the house. Hopefully there's a way to embed a little video clip or live stream in the new browser.

I hope that Sony realizes the potential the PSP has. If firmware update on May 1st adds a browser that resides in flash that can be called from the 'start' menu, I will be able to quickly surf to my control page and start controlling things throughout my house. Currently, I just leave Wipeout in browser mode and put my PSP to sleep. Wipeout has so many menus and loading screens to get to the web browser.

Oh and before everyone goes around screaming that this is another hoax like the AIBO PSP controller. I can assure you this is real and it works, and I use it every day. I snagged the WACI NX web server left over from a home theater install job I did last month. It's great because it has an HTTP and FTP server and uses regular HTML to issue the commands making it the perfect match for my PSP, which does not support any fancy Javascripts or DHTML. For more info on the WACI NX you could check out waciworld.com

Also view the original post here:

http://psphacks.blogspot.com/2005/04/psp-home-control-10.html

April 16, 2005 in Hacks | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

TiVo + Ajax hacks

Piechartgregman wrote in with a couple choice hacks he's written, one is a better nowplaying list for your OS 7.1 equipped TiVo, and the other is a pretty cool visualization of the now playlist list as a Pie Chart.

The notable thing about the nowplaying list hack is that it uses ajax, a recent trend of scripting/data streaming tweaks in web applications.

April 16, 2005 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack