This is an odd development but may be useful for some folks. The guys behind Weaknees figured out that you can interchange the front faceplates of TiVo boxes between almost any series 2 TiVo or DirecTiVo.
One of the downsides of having a standalone TiVo is that if you lose the remote or the batteries die, it's essentially a useless box. But the DirecTV versions always included basic TiVo nav buttons on the face. I've had a couple DirecTiVos for the past few years and from time to time if I'm sitting in front of my home theater setup fiddling with buttons, I tend to use the faceplate controls instead of a remote, but it's not very often that I do it.
Still, for die-hard TiVo fans a new button-filled faceplate might serve as a good backup in case your standalone TiVo remote ever dies.
Steven Levy of Newsweek does an article on the future of television, covering new hardware, time-shifting, video-on-demand, IPTV (TV on the Internets :), and other trends in television viewing.
However, the part of the article that rang most true to me was this:
The result may be that when all the time-shifting and space-shifting is accounted for, most people will watch the same stuff by the same creators. In fact, even with today's relative abundance, most people stick to only a few channels.
According to Nielsen Media Research, households that receive about 60 channels usually watch only 15. Households whose systems can receive 96 channels (around the national average) actually watch... 15.
What's more, a recent study conducted at the UPenn Annenberg School for Communications showed that when people were offered more programming choices, they stuck to fewer selections—and, alarmingly, watched fewer news shows.
In the midst of a Internet TV movement, I'm happy to report the Participatory Culture group has released their first beta of Broadcast Machine. Broadcast Machine is an integrated upload, download, bittorrent, and gallery web application that is simple to install and run, letting you upload your own video shows and share them with anyone online. The folks behind BM are also working on a desktop video player, dubbed DTV, which I'm guessing will be an auto downloader/cataloger that works like podcasting does (only for video in this case).
I setup a test site on my own server, using Creative Commons video as a source, and it took all of ten minutes to deploy the php package and add an item. The app looks great for a first beta and I didn't have any problems with the process. If you've been video blogging, have a broadband connection, and are looking for ways to distribute video yourself, check out Broadcast Machine. It's a great little package.
Mark Pesce has a two-part series on Mindjack concerning piracy of television content, the impact of p2p networks, the growth of broadband Internet access, and a proposal for a new way to create revenue streams from hyperdistribution.
The pervasive culture of TV downloading leaves the producers of pre-produced television programs high and dry, receiving nothing of value for their work. But is this really true? The absolute, basic motivation of a TV producer is not money — though money is needed for production — but to gain and hold an audience's attention. TV producers want their programming to be watched as widely as possible — by everyone. That's what they care about, and that's all they care about, because, with viewers, everything else takes care of itself: audiences equal money.
This assertion seems so basic, so fundamentally essential to the economics of television, that it's very hard to understand why anyone (other than a broadcaster being cut out of the value chain) would get upset about piracy of television programming. The model as practiced at present can't effectively leverage the economic benefits of hyperdistribution, but that model was created before hyperdistribution was technically possible. The age of hyperdistribution demands the development of new economic models which can harness piracy, for profit.
It's as simple as this: we're in an interregnum, that brief period of time before some bright young hacker or some clever company solves this problem definitively. When that happens, when the rest of us can download television programs quickly and easily, it'll seem like a bomb went off - broadband use will soar, people will desert the broadcast networks, and the only producers to survive this transition will be those who harnessed the strength a new value chain, where piracy truly is good.
While I understand where he is coming from, the industry of media has never been known to be quick enough to understand and capture the true demand of the media content. That being said, all it would take is for one big company to "get it" and the industry might shift their distribution mechanisms within a few years.
Living in Tokyo, and seeing the global demand for Japanese animation content, and all of the fansub communities, it's clear that Japanese media companies have no idea how big their potential market is. Cartoon Network is doing a decent job of it in the US, but the market is much, much larger than that.
After reading the article, how feasible do you think Pesce's proposal is?
Download (using BitTorrent, of course) the live presentation of "Piracy Is Good?", delivered by Mark Pesce on May 6th, 2005 at the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney. (200MB)
Up until now, the preferred method of getting guide data for MythTV has been using free data from Zap2It DataDirect. The problem with free is that you have to fill out surveys every so often, and it doesn't have some of the higher-end features that other guide data services offer. Enter LxM Suite, which is selling subscription data to MythTV users for an initial cost of $30 for 6 months.
The upshot is that they offer better guide data, recommendations and new themes. They're also channeling some of the subscription money back into the MythTV community by funding the developers. Subscribers can even vote on features that they want and LxM will offer bounties based on what's popular. Take a look at their services page for more about what they're doing. This seems like a textbook example of creating a business around open source software, it will be interesting to see what comes out of their 6 month pilot.
People spent the weekend answering the question "How would you change TiVo?" over on Engadget. Even TiVo loyalists will admit that there are imperfections with their PVR of choice. While the perennial favorites "Get rid of TiVoToGo DRM" (which is the root of the "Support x non-Windows platform" suggestions), "built in networking hardware," "dual tuners," "expandable storage" and "sell out to Apple" were all well represented, here are a few of the more interesting ones:
There are also a lot of complaints in the comments, hopefully TiVo is listening to all this free market research.
You know it's time to move the Long Tail from the wired column to the tired column when USA Today starts talking about it. The paper assembled an all-star panel including TiVo chairman Michael Ramsay, Firefox developer Blake Ross and Chuck D to talk about what's ahead for the internet and digital entertainment.
Q: What does the "long tail" mean for entertainment and media?
Ramsay: ... We can measure it. There's maybe only a hundred people who watch bass fishing or speed knitting or whatever. So they watch it, and it's important to them.
What we've found is that the viewing patterns of people who watch live television — and are therefore restricted to prime time whenever they're home — are dramatically different than the viewing patterns of people who have the choice of just picking whatever they want.
Given the choice, people will migrate towards a much greater variety, and the deal is you've got to make everything available to everybody so that they're not restricted. And if you do, the market for that more esoteric, more specialized stuff is just as big as the market of the mainstream stuff.
There's plenty more good stuff in the article, including Michael Ramsay talking about "storage anxiety" when people have too many things saved on their TiVo that they're never going to get around to watching.
Women who give birth at Parkland Memorial Hospital over Mother's Day weekend will each get a free TiVo digital video recorder – even if they don't know what it is. Company representatives were at the hospital Friday morning chatting up new moms and handing out certificates for the recorders along with free lifetime TiVo service, both valued at $498. While the women seemed grateful, several patients admitted later that they weren't sure at first what the devices were used for.
Link to Dallas Morning News article (complete with registration wall)
Great news from the legal front: a court has ruled that the FCC overstepped its bounds in requiring all new HDTV hardware to have broadcast flag features after July 1, 2005 and promptly struck it down in a unanimous decision. Here's a background piece from last year outlining all the problems I saw with the law.
This is especially good news to those building their own home theater PCs that are HD-capable and even better news for manufacturers that won't have to have every device vetted by a secret panel before it can go to market.
I was just about to announce that the EFF is throwing another build-in, where they have an open invitation for those wanting to build HD-recording, linux based PVR machines which would be illegal after July 1 of this year. Now that they've won this battle, it doesn't have the same urgency (less than two months was left before the lock-down), but the event in San Francisco is still going off on Saturday, May 21st, as both a celebration and a hacking fest. Details follow:
***** EFF's HD-PVR Build-In *****
-- Saturday, May 21, 2005 --
Want to make your television work for you? Build your own high-definition personal video recorder (PVR) before the FCC's broadcast flag mandate takes that opportunity away.
Join EFF and friends for an HD-PVR build-in. You bring a computer and HDTV tuner card, and we'll help you get it up and running as a PVR. We'll be installing MythTV, an open source software package that lets your machine function like a TiVo in high-def: pause live TV, schedule recordings over the web, and manage your media the way you want it.
It's not all fun and games, though. The FCC's broadcast flag mandate, set to take effect July 1, 2005, prevents manufacturers from making HDTV (ATSC) tuners that give users access to the unencrypted signal that's broadcast over-the-air. The good news is that tuners made before July 1, such as pcHDTV.com's HD-3000, will continue to work flag-free after the deadline. Building your own HD-PVR now helps ensure you'll have open an media platform now and into the future.
If you're interested, check out recommended hardware configurations at http://www.eff.org/broadcastflag/cookbook/guide.php#requirements
RSVP to BuildYourTV@eff.org to give us a rough head count before we finalize the details.
Scheduled from 10-5, at the EFF Offices in San Francisco, California:
454 Shotwell Street
San Francisco, CA 94110 (Google Maps)
The new version of OS X from Apple includes Dashboard, a sort of API using simple web scripting to build widgets you can manipulate on your desktop. There are hundreds of them available already to do all sorts of things, but one noteworthy new dashboard widget is the TiVo Now Playing widget.
It works with standalone TiVos with the 7.1 OS and TiVo Desktop, showing you what's available on your TiVo in real-time. It also looks pretty cool.