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TiVo Desktop 2.4 Beta released

Dave Zatz was the first to notice the new beta of TiVo Desktop 2.4 was released this weekend. It's PC only, and will work best with a Series 2 TiVo.

The big new feature added seems to be transcoding on the fly, reformating any mpeg1, mpeg2, or wmv video on your computer into a format that can be transfered and played back on your TiVo. They also upped the sizes of photographs that get displayed, up to 1280x720, calling it "HD photographs".

Looks like a good update, especially if you have a lot of multi-megapixel photos on a nice TV and also for those downloading a lot of shows or movies for playback on their TV.

February 26, 2007 in TiVo | Permalink | Comments (6)

Slingbox recording on a mac

Last night I had a dilemma: a friend in Germany missed a segment of the Oscars featuring a friend of ours (long story) winning an award. I had it on my Series 3 TiVo, but there was no way to get it off, thanks to TiVo not allowing show downloads.

Slingplayer That's when I remembered my Slingbox.  In researching how to record a slingbox stream, I could only find this old product for the PC, but it only worked with the original Slingbox with the old firmware. Turns out the Slingmedia folks started encrypting the streams so people couldn't dump the video to their computers.

I knew there had to be a way though, given that the video was playing on my computer and a computer is a pretty flexible tool. And that's when it hit me: why not try a simple screen capture utility? On my mac, the excellent (but horribly named) Snapz Pro X offers motion capture of anything on your desktop, along with the audio. I launched my slingplayer, started a high bitrate Snapz Pro X capture, saved that to my drive (700Mb file!), converted to compressed quicktime (10Mb file), then uploaded to youtube.

Here's the result, which I sent to my friend in Germany, and he got to see the less than 2 minutes of the Oscar show that really mattered to him. This method isn't useful for long captures, since the filesize of the video capture get really big really fast, but for grabbing a minute or two here to demonstrate a point or share a moment, it works great.

February 26, 2007 in Hacks | Permalink | Comments (5)

A couple of things

Hacking Netflix has a cool idea using Yahoo Pipes, Netflix, and a PVR. Using your Netflix queue RSS feeds, it would be cool if movies being shown on cable could be recorded automatically from your Netflix queue, and removed afterwards so you don't have to rent them. The author mentions Yahoo pipes, a nice RSS mashup tool, but it's not totally necessary.

It's not currently possible, but it certainly seems doable, and something I'd use if it showed up on my TiVo.

Hdmi The other thing worth sharing is "Beware the HDMI Scammers". It's about the proliferation of overpriced HDMI cables. A couple years ago, you could find a decent length of HDMI at many electronics places for maybe $50. Now, you'll often see them carrying prices of up to $300. I've heard that places like BestBuy carry cables that start at over $100. Even Radio Shack isn't immune to the greed -- my local store's cheapest cable was $69.

HDMI cables are all pretty much the same, it being a digital connection and all. You can find perfectly good cables in the $5-$20 range online at lots of places. Don't get snookered into overpriced cables the next time you buy a TV. Hold off and order them online for much less.

February 20, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (5)

DVR owners don't always fast forward

Today's New York Times carried an article about DVR fast forwarding containing numbers that surprised even me:

It turns out that a lot of people with digital video recorders are not fast-forwarding and time-shifting as much as advertisers feared. According to new data released yesterday by the Nielsen Company, people who own digital video recorders, or DVRs, still watch, on average, two-thirds of the ads.

Only 1/3 of DVR owners skip the ads? Are there a lot of DVR owners that don't know how to use the remote?

Digging deeper into the article, the 1/3 number is actually an average across all TV viewing by DVR owners, including an interesting stat: average DVR owners watch 50% of their TV live. When you take out the live TV numbers, the 1/3 that skip ads jumps to 60 percent which still feels low.

They don't mention if the owner pool is strictly TiVo, strictly cable-company DVRs, or a mixture of both, but I would bet that among DVR owners that paid for their hardware (like TiVo owners), the number that watch commercials is lower than average. If someone loves TV (and/or hates ads) enough that they plunk down $300+ dollars for a TiVo box, chances are, they're not going to waste their investment watching ads, whereas I bet most people with cable company DVRs are watching a lot of live TV, and might not get the hang of the remote/UI provided with generic TV recorders.

Personally, I might watch 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 commercials that go by, if something catches my eye, and I've found that friends and family with DVRs follow similar patterns, so these Neilsen numbers published in the NYT today seem a bit optimistic.

February 16, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (14)

TiVo, Amazon offer video downloads

Amazon_unbox_tivo Wow, looks like the long-running "Amazon Unbox downloads on your TiVo" rumor is true. The LA Times is reporting an unspecified number of TiVo customers will start testing the service Wednesday.

It's perfect timing, with the AppleTV/iTunes store integration coming out this month and Wal-Mart launching movie downloads today. A lot more people have TiVos already and are likely to be Amazon users, so this seems like a natural fit. No word on video quality, file size, or download times, but I hope to see this rolled out to all TiVo customers soon. [thanks wendell!]

update: here's TiVo's official site for it.

February 6, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (2)

NetFlix streaming now available?


I decided to poke around my Netflix account today, wondering if the beta program for NetFlix streaming video had been extended to more members. Lo and behold, as soon as I arrived on the Your Account page, I saw the small screenshot above (here is a full sized shot). I asked a couple Netflix-using friends to try their own account page as well and they saw it too.

After clicking on the link, you'll arrive at a page leading you through the streaming video process as found on the Hacking Netflix blog:


Once you've clicked the button there, you'll have the "Watch Now" tab on your Netflix nav, and if you've got Windows/IE (or Parallels running XP on an Intel Mac), you'll be asked to download a Netflix app and upgrade your Windows Media DRM. Titles listed at Netflix under the Watch Now tab will have a "Play" button where the "Add to Queue" button usually is.

The selection of streaming video is fairly odd. It's mostly second-run films, outsider documentaries, and lots of old stuff from the 80s. It's probably a pilot program that studios agreed to test with lower demand stuff. Here's a shot of Bring It On 2 playing on my browser:


The video quality is so-so, a bit better than stuff you'd see at YouTube, but obviously pixelated if you chose to view full screen and even at the default size it's got compression artifacts (I'm on a 8Mbit connection so I should be getting fairly high quality streams). I watched a standup comedy movie I didn't know existed from a comedian I love and it wasn't so bad. I had the window running in the corner of my desktop and I listened to jokes and glanced at it while doing other stuff.

I would definitely prefer to watch movies on my TV with increased output quality but it was kind of cool to watch something instantly and maybe sample a movie before I throw it in the rental pile.

February 1, 2007 in News | Permalink | Comments (11)