(this post features occasional guest author and time-saving maven Merlin Mann of 43 folders fame, and how he uses his TiVo to improve his watching habits)
I’ve only recently learned to appreciate the “wish list” functionality that allows you to view all upcoming programs by keyword, actor, genre, or even movie director. It was during the Olympics that I saw some good reasons to view available shows by Type. Want to see just sports shows or R-rated movies? Not a problem. Just walk through the wish list steps, and you can even set it to record future programs for you automatically. Now our household won’t be missing another TV appearance by Charles Nelson Reilly—no sir, not on my watch.
A more practical application exists if you’re thinking about sorting through some of the fresh leavings that the networks will ease out over the next few weeks. Try making yourself a couple wishlists for “SHOW TYPES/Season Premiere” and “SHOW TYPES/Premiere” and you’ll have a quick guide to what’s new on the low end of your dial. That rascal Joey will be yours to enjoy again and again.
Also remember (at least on my Series I DirecTiVo), you can use “Show Options” to filter the Live TV channel guide for any given genre or show type, greying out any channel whose offering doesn’t meet your craving for the evening. Hello, documentaries!
Kristopher Kubicki of Anandtech.com has gone to some considerable work and effort to document the building of a SuSE Linux-based MythTV PVR using a Hauppauge WinTV PVR-250MCE for the TV tuner card. He summarizes:
And finally, after several hours of turmoil and despair, we have installed and tested our Linux device. Its far from perfect - we cannot readily work with digital TV broadcasts, for example. What we do have is a machine that will readily emulate all of the basic Windows MCE or TiVo functionality at a reduced cost - and we can hack/configure/manipulate it to any extent that we wish to in the future. On the downside, it did take us over four hours to set up and install everything.
Other drawbacks of MCE devices include the inability to play back the video content on anything but other MCE devices, and the inability to re-render the recorded files into a different format to save space. With MythTV and Linux, on the other hand, we can capture, re-encode and playback on completely separate machines, even Windows systems. For the truly crafty, Myth allows us to connect the front end of a different machine to the first MythTV system and play video files/streams in that manner.
Subscribers who belong to both services will be able to download their Netflix DVDs over the Internet directly into the TiVo boxes in their homes, instead of receiving them in the mail.
There aren't many details, but the article makes it sound like the downloading and viewing will be instant when even on a good fast cable modem, it's likely a ~700Mb DivX encoded movie would take around an hour to download for viewing. Still, it beats having to wait several days for discs in the mail and having to return anything.
I'm curious how TiVo will be able to do this, given that it's likely to cut into movie studio profits from the sale of DVDs to home customers and video stores. Will Netflix be required to only allow x number of copies of a film downloaded, where x equals the physical DVDs they have purchased? Will they only let you have another movie when you delete the film off your TiVo?
And I hate to be an asshole that goes around saying "I told you so!" but I did float this idea two and a half years ago. I really wish my DirecTiVo could do this, because this feature alone would turn me back into a Netflix customer. It definitely sounds like a win-win for both companies, especially since just about everyone I know that has a TiVo also has a subscription to Netflix.
"How to Enable web based viewing and remote control over your Tivo" is a geeky guide to controlling and streaming your TiVo from a website. It involves hacking together an IR remote that can be remotely controlled, and combined with output sent to Quicktime's streaming server, it certainly looks like a plausable way to do intranet sharing of your TiVo.
After getting it to work with a handful of simple parts, the author reports that internet viewing was possible, at 10 frames per second, and even possible on his phone when the stream was reduced to 3 fps. It mentions that there is a 10-15 second lag when controlling it remote, which would make surfing through TiVo menus time-consuming and tedious, but once video is streaming, it sounds like a great hack. Also, the coolest thing about the use of IR blasters is that it'll work with any TiVo, including new ones. [thanks George]
While not directly TiVo related, recently on a few threads here mentioning the radio features of networked appliances and Microsoft's Media Center, we've talked about how great it'd be to get a "tivo for radio."
Everyone has their favorite radio shows, but we've all got our own schedules that rarely allow us to catch them. Well, someone heeded our call and made a program called TimeTrax that schedules recordings off your PC-based XM satellite radio and saves them as MP3s you can listen to later.
So let's look at this for a second. XM radio is a subscription-based satellite radio network that runs $9.95 per month. There are several types of receivers but one of the cheapest is a USB-based unit that works on Macs and PCs, costing around $50. Simply put, folks that get XM radio are big fans of radio.
XM radio is fairly well scheduled, with daily talk programs, super hip DJs on music channels, and various bits of esoteric comedy and news programs. I myself tried it out for about 5 months earlier this year. I originally got it to hear some BBC and Air America, but quickly found myself spending more time enjoying the various jazz and alternative stations. In addition to talkshows, the music channels are superb, almost seeming like a college station where all the DJs are way into their kinds of music and the boring corporate stuff is nowhere to be heard. Eventually I gave it up when I couldn't always be around to catch various comedy and talk shows on time.
TimeTrax not only lets you schedule recordings, but you can have it search for keywords like bands you like and people you want to hear on shows. Basically, it gives big time radio fans a powerful tool to let them enjoy their radio even more. So what did XM radio do when they found out?
They decided to stop selling the USB-XM radio hardware altogether. They claim piracy, but if someone's paying $10 a month just to save a few MP3s, I seriously doubt they are redistributing it to thousands of folks that would otherwise be XM customers (unless someone can show me an XM radio archive somewhere of all these pirated MP3s). XM shouldn't be pulling devices off the market that get them new subscribers (duh, the units are inoperable without a subscription), they should have bought the TimeTrax product and incorporated it into their PC control software, which did allow you to set alarms when your shows were on (you still had to actually sit in front of the computer and listen to them though).
XM dropped the ball, picked it up, and is now taking it home instead of giving their most loyal customers a chance to further enjoy their subscriptions on their own time. But at least for me, there's now an upside. I can take my $40 XM radio PCR unit and sell it on eBay for upwards of $400.