Two recent universal remotes caught my eye. It looks like Logitech has updated the 880 into the Harmony 890 (reviewed here a few months ago), adding RF device support through the use of an IR blaster. This means you'll get support for stuff like remote controlled lighting systems, overhead fans, and other non-infrared remote controlled devices. It's pricey though, going for $399 retail (the 880 is more than $100 cheaper).
Another notable new universal remote is the OpenPeak SimpleRemote. It shoots for doing everything the Harmony can do, while adding WiFi support to the device, letting you download codes, program guides, and other info directly from the internet into the remote. The one downside to the Harmony and similar remotes is you have to use a USB cable to update almost any function and often setup requires a few hours of tweaking and running between your computer and home theater system. If the SimpleRemote can let you skip that step it just might be worth checking out.
Thomas Hawk sent me a pointer to Cnet publishing a rumor that TiVo might be bought by Cisco. Both parties involved aren't talking, which doesn't say much, but this looks somewhat plausable after Cisco's acquisition of Linksys a couple years back and Scientific Atlanta more recently. Of course, Cisco is in the business of networking. With Linksys, though it was a push into the home market for Cisco, they haven't really pushed Linksys to make smart home products -- Cisco has continued to focus on making good cheap network hardware. It's too early to tell what they'll do in the set-top box market.
I could imagine a post-Cisco TiVo could really be an attractive smart home concept that could act as a DVR, wireless hub, music/video network streaming station, among many other things. I'm not entirely sure Cisco wants to move in that direction though, away from their core business of networking products for the enterprise and home. They'd have to dip heavily into the software world to run something like TiVo and build a smart home operating system and they'd have to get in bed with content companies that would fight tooth and nail to make sure no free movies or shows are moved around anyone's network without their say.
So on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being never ever and 10 being totally likely to happen any day now, I'd put a Cisco buying TiVo rumor at a 6.
Richard over at FreshArrival has posted a lengthy review of BeyondTV 4 after using it for a couple months. There are screenshots of it in action, a tip on how to create a custom background image, and an explanation of some pretty sophisticated recording conflict resolution. Sounds like the test rig was an older PC so there's no coverage of the OTA HD recording and playback features, but still a good in-depth review of the latest home theater PC software.
Building a Home Theater PC (HTPC) is a great way to get exactly what you want in terms of PVR features and functionality. The problem for first time builders is there are so many variables. There are loads of video capture card options, there are at least a dozen options for PVR software to run it, and then there's the most basic question of what processor and case to power it with. Prices can vary widely depending on what options you chose but expect a baseline of $500 or so and a top-end in the many thousands of dollars.
Engadget has a great step-by-step guide to building a HTPC that is powerful, capable, and costs about $1,000 to build, which is a good target price to shoot for.
They end up with a 3Ghz Pentium 4 box with tons of RAM and ample hard disc space, but I'm kind of surprised they didn't opt for a HDTV capture card (they mention it would add about $100 to the cost). It sounds like the processor is fast enough to record and playback HD content, which should be a goal of any HTPC built in 2006 (even out in the sticks I find I can get 2 or 3 HD channels over the air).
When HDTV capture cards that support the CableCARD standard come out, I just might be building something like this to record Comcast HD content at home, so I can chuck my Motorola 6412 receiver into the trash where it belongs.
Ever wonder what the TiVo headquarters looks like outside and inside? Dave Zatz has some photos.
The people over at Snapstream are at it again, this time building the 11-tuner (4 HD/7 SD) Godzilla PVR. Of course, there are few situations that you'd ever want 11 tuners and this is mostly a design exercise, but I'm pretty impressed by a single tower system with a single dual core hyperthreaded processor can process four simultaneous streams of HDTV, in addition to 7 more standard def streams. Looks like anyone can build one just like it for about $4k.
Griffin, a company that makes a slew of cool mac-related products announced their new super iPod dock dubbed TuneCenter at MacWorld this week. Basically, it's a iPod dock with a S-video, RCA and audio out, some media center type software embedded in the dock, and it includes a remote.
Make Magazine has a shots of the back and front of it on their flickr stream:
Combined with a new video iPod, this small, sleek dock can stream music, photos, and iPod video (very low resolution) to your TV. It's a great idea and clever way to extend an iPod into the living room without a lot of hardware and software. Basically your iPod becomes a rather powerful component in your home theater system, all remote controlled.
I'm surprised that Apple didn't have a product like this in their MacWorld offerings, it'd be great if the Airport Express could have video-out and offer similar capabilities.
The new ajax-enhanced TiVo Central Online is online, and even cooler, anyone can check it out by clicking the Browse TV Listings button on the right to check out listings and how the show information panels slide in without needing a TiVo login.
Gear Live has a great short video of the Series 3 prototype in action at CES. It features TiVoPony showing off features (TiVoPony is the TiVo employee that hangs out on the TiVo Community board). The front LED display is incredibly sharp and looks handy. The way the multiple tuners works looks pretty smooth. Pony also covers how hard drive upgrades will be simple plug-n-play type upgrades. The new remote control is also covered, which features a way to tell top from bottom, even in the dark (they have ribs on the back, on one side).
I can't wait to buy one of these boxes and ditch my crappy cable-provider DVR, and if anyone at TiVo is reading this, I will name my next child after you if I can get a unit for early review when they're closer to being done.
MegaZone covered a lot of TiVo news last week at CES, but I somehow missed this important one until today: Screenshots of TiVoToGo beta running on a mac in the TiVo booth. It's described as "pre-alpha" so it might be a couple months before you can download it but this certainly looks promising and is great news. I'm curious how the DRM playback is going to be handled because the screenshots look like plain old MPEG files are being swapped, but maybe that's just a feature in the alpha.