The iPhone – Wow!

This YouTube iPhone demo says it all! I want one!

I do have a few criticisms:

  • 8 Gigs is not enough RAM for the music and videos I’d want to carry around. 30 Gigs of storage would be my preferred minimum.
  • Cingular’s U.S. exclusivity.
  • No Canadian or other International carriers announced – though Rogers is a pretty good bet for Canada given its relationship with Yahoo! and nation-wide GSM coverage.
  • Walled-Garden – no third party apps will run on it – no SKYPE.
  • No WiFi VoIP announced.
  • EDGE only – no announced 3G support – though Steve said its planned and rumors are it already exists – until then, non-WiFi web access will be s … l … o …. w.
  • 5 hr battery life for phone or video or Internet seems a bit low for me (the 16 separate hours for audio is fine).

All that said, I still want one! Come on Rogers! Do a deal with Steve!

  • Click here for Wikipedia coverage.
  • Click here to view Jobs’ iPhone Keynote at MacWorld 2007.

Warner Announces “Total Hi Def” A Hybrid HD-DVD/Blue-ray Disk

Warner Home Video made a surprising announcement at CES. Starting in the 3rd quarter of  2007 it will exclusively release its HD titles on a hybrid, multi-layer, HD-DVD and  Blu-ray disk dubbed "Total Hi Def". HD-DVD formatted content will be on one side and Blu-ray formatted content will be on the other. Regardless of the HD player a consumer purchases, these disks would be playable.

In an effort to put the format wars behind (and increase sales), Warner has committed to licensing the Total Hi Def technology to any other TV/movie studio for free. Not surprisingly, fellow Time Warner properties, New Line Studios and HBO, have said they will also use the Total Hi Def format. Major retailers including Best Buy, Circuit City, and have announced they will support this format and make Total Hi Def DVDs available through these retail channels.  No word yet from Walmart.

Dale's Comment: This is an interesting development in the high-def wars (which I personally believe HD-DVD is winning). Consumers don't want to be left in a loosing Betamax-like camp. Universal exclusively supports the HD-DVD standard. Fox, Disney and Sony, of course, exclusively support Blu-ray. Other studios support both. If Warner is licensing this this technology for free, it is possible that these studios, with the exception of Sony, could eventually support this hybrid disk approach. That said, the per-unit manufacturing costs will be higher than producing disks with one format or the other because the process requires the purchase of dual manufacturing equipment to support both formats. 

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Variety: Xbox 360 Video Marketplace Succeeding

For  years I have called for video-download services to be provided directly to a TV-connected consumer electronics product such as the Xbox, TiVo or PS3. This Variety article discusses how the Xbox 360's new Internet-based video-on-demand service is having relative success (where others have failed) due to its available HD content and its direct connection to the TV.

The relative success of video downloads on Microsoft's Xbox Live and disappointment of's Unbox point to two factors that differentiate Xbox from Amazon and its many other competitors — consumers who download a movie want a simple way to watch it on their TV, and those with high-def TVs want high-def content.

A primary reason for its success lies also in the fact that DRM is not a relevant consideration for most users when the content is delivered directly to the display unit of choice. iVOD services to PCs have largely failed because most people do not want to watch TV and movies on their computers. And the DRM used by most of those services preclude users from copying the movie onto a DVD for playback where they want to watch them – in the living room. 

FYI: Joystiq has a pretty good preview of the system here including a YouTube demo. Note that the demo was done early-on. As I understand it the slow-downloads and other glitches experienced in the early days have been resolved.

Sources: Variety | Joystiq | XBox 360 Fanboy

Manage your iPod in Windows Media Player with DOPISP

The name seems daft, but this Windows Media Player ("WMP") 11 plug-in seems promising. I've long been a WMP fan. I only use iTunes because it was the only reasonable way to manage music on my iPod – until now. Microsoft chose, once again, not to provide iPod support in its latest version of WMP. To the rescue comes MGTEK with DOPISP. DOPISP is a plug-in for WMP that enables you to sync your MP3 music to your iPod directly from within Windows Media Player.

A free two month trial is available here. No word yet on final pricing. Of course it cannot manage any DRM'd AAC files purchased from iTunes.  If it could, my work here would be done! Well, at least until Apple and/or the RIAA sued them! 🙂

I haven't tried it yet, but one possible downside to this approach to managing your iPod is that it likely won't support podcasts. For some reason that only the God's know, Windows Media Player does not include podcast support. Since I discovered podcasts in October of 2005, I use my iPod primarily for podcast listening while on the road. Without podcast functionality, I'm not ready to head back to WMP!

Sources: DOPISP Website | Smart Cannucks | lifehacker | Uneasy Silence

Davis Freeberg Interviews DivX CEO Jordan Greenhall

Davis' interview of DivX, Inc.'s CEO Jordan Greenhall is interesting. There isn't much here that is new to me but it is topical given DivX's recent public offering. One bit that was new to me was his explanation of why the inclusion of DivX encoding technology within CE devices like PVRs didn't make much sense until recently. Unlike decoding, encoding media to DivX is computationally intensive. Until a couple months ago DivX encoding chips where far more expensive than the inexpensive larger hard drives needed for use with less efficient codecs. With the emergence of cheap encoding chips it now makes sense for manufacturers to start embedding them within CE devices in conjunction with the DivX codec. 

The interview covers the history of the company, the current status and trends (YouTube, convergence) and where this promising, yet controversial, company and its technology are headed.

Dale's Comment: I had to smile when I read Greenhall's answers. Having lived in Silicon Valley for a few years, and having left it, his "Silicon Valley-speak" reminds me of the good old bubble days.  Take this snipped for example:

So the fact that DivX technology is associated with that path is a really interesting physical manifestation, but the reality of the value proposition is that the market, the community itself is a value proposition, so what you’ll find is, if you map our progress on a go forward basis …

Silicon-valley-speak notwithstanding, its an interesting interview of an interesting man in control of an important technology. Good work Davis!

Sources: Davis Freeberg

Failed Getting TVersity to Stream to Xbox 360

After achieving success streaming videos converted to .wmv format with VLC (download here) to my Xbox 360, several people recommended I try the recent release (v. 0.9.9) of TVersity (download and system requirements here). TVersity holds the promise of transcoding and streaming most any video (in any format) to the Xbox 360 – assuming your PC has the hefty horsepower needed (mine does).

Initially, after reading the many comments in the support pages I figured this was going to be too difficult and didn't bother.  Since then I've seen articles popping up all over th net (see Sources below) touting TVersity as the second coming of video streaming to the 360.  I wonder how many of these bloggers actually tried to install it! 🙂

So, reluctantly I dug in, got out the notebook and pen (actually my tablet PC) and spent the better part of a day trying to install this program and get it to work.  I failed!  I can definitively conclude that this program is not ready for prime time. If you are a software and network engineer (or just plain lucky), you may be able to get it to work. I couldn't, and I suspect the average user won't be able to either.  

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TiVo’s Evan Young Discusses the Details of the new TiVoCast Service

Video: Streaming Media West 2006: Keynote by Evan Young, Dir. Broadband Services, TiVo

TiVo's Director of Broadband Services, Evan Young, gave this interesting keynote address to the Streaming Media West 2006 conference. I learned a few new things about TiVo's nascent TiVoCast service and I am concerned with the seemingly walled-garden-only approach TiVo seems to be going with the TiVoCast service.

Continue reading “TiVo’s Evan Young Discusses the Details of the new TiVoCast Service”

World Series of Video Games to Debut on CBS – December 30

CBS Sports is about to launch the World Series of Video Games on December 30. The New York Times indicates that Counter Strike 1.6, Halo 2 and Quake 4 will be among the games played.

Dale's Comment: I was quite stoked about this announcement. I'd love to learn some new Halo 2 moves from Fatal1ty. That is, until I got to the fine print. Apparently CBS will only show snippets of actual game play because the content of the competitions are too violent for prime-time television.  How crazy is this!?  While I gather getting network coverage IS a step forward, this is the same-old, same-old network thinking! Who would want to watch something called the "World Series of Video Games" without being able to watch the actual competitions in their entirety!  Clearly network TV is not the right venue for this. This will have to head on over to cable in order for it to be successful in the long term.  

Sources: New York Times | IGN | Next Generation | Team Xbox | Business Wire | | Kotaku

Internet-TV Aggregators are Popping Up like Dandelions

I don't know what is in the air these days, but Internet-TV aggregators seem to be popping up all over the Internet. I recently blogged about Tioti and the TVUPlayer, each of which have received substantial press coverage owing to their controversial nature. 

Over the last few days, I have become aware of dozens of online TV, movie and other aggregators running the gamut from sites streaming literally hundreds of live TV channels over the Internet to others indexing and hosting thousands of TV shows and movies for instant viewing over the Internet. 

Many of the live broadcast feeds are likely accessed from Internet feeds supplied by the content owners themselves. But, I'm guessing, others are likely redirected Slingbox or similar streams. As you can read in my TVUPlayer post, the company's CEO, Paul Shen, believes he can escape U.S. copyright infringement liability using the DMCA's ISP safe harbor. He argues that the streams are made available from the service's users and not hosted directly by his company.   

peekvid and QuickSilverScreen in particular, seem to be the most blatantly infringing services of the lot. They directly index over a thousand TV shows, movies, cartoons etc. for instant viewing. Users can select a particular TV series from a list and then directly view selected episodes – on demand. Movies can similarly be selected and viewed on demand. If peekvid is located in the U.S., I suspect it won't be long before the link fails to work owing to NAB and MPAA legal actions. QuickSilverScreen was located in the U.S. until Fox sent it a cease and desist letter. The proprietor has sold it to someone offshore and it continues to operate unabated from an offshore location. 

In no particular order, here are only a few of the dozens of live TV aggregation sites that have popped up recently.

All of these have the following features in common:
  • They all actually worked when I tried them
  • Of the dozens of other aggregators available, these sites required no prior signups or passwords. 
  • Unlike Tioti and the TVUPlayer, no plugins or downloads were required for these sites to work – simply show up, click and watch.
  • My browser, Firefox 2.0, is set to disable popups and redirects – all worked without popups or redirects 
  • Many of the video streams were resizable – even to full screen in many contexts
This is clearly a new trend, or at least a new trend to me. In light of the fact that iCrave TV was so quickly shut down in 2003 for doing essentially the same thing, it is surprising to see so many seemingly thriving. I gather that most, if not all, are hosted in far-off countries outside the reach of NAB and the MPAA – for now. As has recently discovered, locating offshore will not, alone, keep you outside the reach of the U.S. copyright lobby.
See also the comments to an original story about that provided the spark to get me blogging about this.

Success with Video Streaming to my Xbox 360 using VLC

For years I have been looking for a convenient way to stream my videos (movies, video clips, video game trailers etc.) from PCs on my home network to my HDTV in the living room. Today I have had my first success using the new video streaming functionality built into the most recent XBox 360 Dashboard software update.

This Arne360 blog entry describes the basics of setting up the new Windows Media Player 11, sharing media directories with the 360 and setting up the 360 so it can access content from a home network. That was all well and good, but a continuing basic problem was that the Microsoft video streaming solution only supports their proprietary (but still very good) .wmv codec. Most of my video content is not in the .wmv format – or at least it wasn't.

Today I stumbled across this Joystiq post about the freeware transcoding program called VLC (download here) (official website). This program is butt-simple to use.

  • Download and install the VLC program.
  • Download and save this text onto your desktop into a batch file (ie: Copy and paste it into Notepad and save it as VLC.bat onto your desktop).
  • Then simply drag and drop most any video in any format (or at least any format I use) onto the batch file's icon on the desktop, and it will automatically be transcoded into the .wmv format.

When done, a WMV version of the video will be saved in the same directory of the source file and, assuming that directory is accessible to your Xbox 360, it will be accessible and playable on the 360 with  no further effort. It's THAT simple.

All is not peaches and cream though. There's good news and bad news.

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TIOTI – Another Web-based TV Service Combining Legitimate TV with BitTorrent Feeds

TIOTI (Tape it of the Internet) is another web service in beta that intends to provide legitimate TV and pointers to TV show torrents for download through BitTorrent clients such as uTorrent and Azureus. According to the TIOTI Website:

We currently index 1,600+ TV shows – 90,000+ episodes – and we are matching everything up with content sources like iTunes, AOL and Amazon Unbox – with more to come.

Our beta feature set allows you to do exactly what it says on the tin and do it in style. With integrated message boards, groups, personalised badges and an extensive API, we have lots more great stuff coming soon too.

Dale's Comment: It appears the TIOTI founders believe they can steer clear of the many recent lawsuits brought against torrent host sites by including only pointers to torrents hosted elsewhere rather than the torrents themselves. I have little doubt that this presumed 'safe harbour' will be quickly tested in the courts if TIOTI becomes at all successful.

I have added myself to the waiting list to test this out once it expands its beta. I'll report back what I see if/when I join the beta.

Sources: TIOTI's Website | Techcrunch 1 | Techcrunch 2 – Paul Cleghorn (Founder) Interview | PVRWIre | TorrentFreak Interview with founder Paul Pod | Guardian Unlimited

Related Posts:

TVUPlayer – Watch Most Any TV Station Anywhere

Hearkening back to the days of iCrave.TV, the TV networks and studios have another imminent battle on their hands. The TVU Player (downloadable here) from TVU Networks in Shanghai, China. TVU Player allows anyone to place a broadcast signal on the Internet for view by anyone.  See Review here: (WebTVHub)

November 6, 2006 Update: Paul Shen the CEO of TVU Network was interviewed by CNET:

He acknowledged that much of the content on the TVUPlayer belongs to others but denied being a video pirate. Users of his technology are responsible for any copyright violations, Shen said, and they are the ones who stream the TV broadcasts–though he conceded that they are able do this only through the use of his technology.

Mr. Shen also claims that his technology was intended as a demonstration of technology only and that it "can help broadcasters mine a rich new distribution platform and advertise to new customers".

Dale's Comment: Given the Chinese jurisdiction, this one may be harder for the MPAA et. al. to shut down. However, PVR Wire says that Paul Shen lives and works in Northern California. Mr. Shen may wish to talk to the folks behind iCrave TV and to see how receptive the broadcast industry will be to this kind of help! 🙂

Original Sources: Gizmodo | Web TV Hub | PC Magazine | ABC | P2P-Weblog | Digital Journal | PVRWire

Related Posts:

Using TiVo Series 3 in Canada

I am one of the first, if not the first, TiVo Series 3 PVR owners/users in Canada. Despite its current limitations as a viable product in Canada, I set out my reasons for purchasing the S3 in this thread at Digital Home Canada forum and in this thread on the TiVoCommunity forum. Below are my initial thoughts and conclusions.

While not ready for Canadian prime time, I can certainly recommend it for bleeding-edge, tech-savvy, gadget lovers looking for the best HD PVR available – assuming you have lots of extra cash in your pockets, live reasonably close (within 40 miles) of the local HD transmission towers and don’t mind using it in manual mode until programming guide information becomes available for over-the-air (“OTA”) digital programming in Canada!

For hundreds of posts on others’ experiences with the Series 3 in the U.S., please visit the TiVo Series 3 forum on the TiVo Community Forum website. I recommend checking out Megazone’s S3 FAQ, his S3 review, and his S3 photos. The S3’s user guide can be viewed (in .pdf format) here.

April 24, 2008 UPDATE: Global is now broadcasting in HD and can be recorded on TiVo S3s and TiVo HD’s in Hamilton, Metro Toronto and surrounding areas. Click here for details.

March 2008 UPDATE: As mentioned in my May 2007 update below, I stopped using my TiVo S3 in manual mode and started using guide data from Niagra Falls. Recently I re-did Guided Setup and my TiVo S3 now thinks I’m located in Youngstown New York with zip code (14305). As a result my TiVo S3 provides the proper guide data for all the U.S. broadcast stations I receive in Toronto and, now with the Youngstown zip code, Toronto’s City TV, and CFTO. I still record the other Canadian HD stations in manual mode – though rarely because their content is almost always just a duplicate U.S. content. I expect more Canadian stations will be added to the Youngstown line-up over time. The guide data for CBC exists too, but due to a problem with Tribune’s guide data, I still cannot use it to record from CBC other than in manual mode. See this TiVoCommunity post for details. If/when Tribune/TiVo starts providing native Toronto digital broadcast guide data I will update this post.

December 2007 UPDATE: TiVo S2 Now Available at Retail in Canada. As of December 2007, the Series 2 (non-HD) TiVos are available for sale at retail in Canada – only 9.5 years after their U.S. launch! 🙂

September 2007 UPDATE: With the recent updates, the Series 3 TiVo’s now have all the advanced functionality that the Series 2 models have, including multi-room viewing, TiVo to Go, TiVo to Comeback (ie: transferring content to and from a PC over the home network and copying to portable devices like an iPod or a Zune).

May 2007 UPDATE: For some inexplicable reason Tibune and TiVo still do not provide OTA-digital guide data for Canada. Despite dozens of emails, phone calls, forum requests etc. I have not received an answer from anyone at TiVo or Tribune or Zap2It in answer to my question when will OTA-digital guide data be available in Canada. I gave up and decided to set my TiVo with a Niagra Falls New York Zip code. I purchased a dual-tuner S2 to record my analogue and digital cable channels. This combination works well. Ht Niagra Falls guide data gives me everything I need to record U.S.-based network OTA-digital channels in Toronto. It does not have Canadian networks, but since everything I want to record on my S3 originates from the U.S. networks, this is no loss. So, I no longer use the ‘temporary’ manual recording approach that I describe below. I have a fully functional S3 in Canada without the ability to record from analogue cable any more – that’s what the new dual-tuner S2 does.

Nov 3, 2006 UPDATE: On Sunday October 22, My TiVo Series 3 died completely – wouldn’t even turn on. Working with Weaknees my replacement unit arrived on Thursday November 2. The new unit is working perfectly. Please see the warranty replacement details in the new section 14 below.

Continue reading “Using TiVo Series 3 in Canada”

AllPeers, The P2P File Sharing FireFox “Killer App”

AllPeers is preparing a BitTorrent-based Firefox extension service that will let users share files privately through a Web browser using a “buddy list” of friends and acquaintances. By contrast most file-sharing networks today are all-or-nothing propositions — you either share files with the entire Internet, or with no one.

Sources: CNN  |  Techcrunch  |  Red Herring  |  P2PNet  |  Yahoo! News  |

An Introduction to IPTV (ars technica Feature)

Over the last decade, the growth of satellite service, the rise of digital cable, and the birth of HDTV have all left their mark on the television landscape. Now, a new delivery method threatens to shake things up even more powerfully. Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) has arrived, and backed by the deep pockets of the telecommunications industry, it’s poised to offer more interactivity and bring a hefty dose of competition to the business of selling TV.

Source: ars technica