Saturday, January 05, 2008

Week in Review: Week Ending 1/5/2008

Well, actually its a few weeks in review, but due to the vacation and light posting I'm wrapping the last several posts up here.  I have several good posts planned for this week and if you're interested in a view of the CES shows first-hand, keep an eye on the ZatzNotFunny Blog for a few first-hand reports from Dave Zatz and Mari Sibley who are both in Vegas for the show.


Netflix teaming with LG for Set-Top Box

  The Hacking Netflix Weblog is reporting that Netflix is teaming up with LG to make a set-top box that will stream movies (not store them) to your TV.



How To Convert Beyond TV Shows into SageTV

...a simple solution to this problem for anyone migrating from Beyond TV to SageTV or even for those who might want to take SageTV for a test run....


Send a Free Email Card With Flickr

Time has run out if you want to send a Greeting Card via snail mail.  One of my favorite flickr hacks is a site called Delivr.


Taking a Netflix Vacation - How to Temporarily Hold Your Netflix Account


Netflix has a nice Vacation-Hold Feature they've added in the past year that is really nice.  Being a long-time Netflix subscriber I've always struggled with how to deal with times when I'm on vacation or going through weeks when I'm too busy to watch the movies Netflix sends me...


Xbox 360 Red Ring of Death Still a Problem?

I was at the UPS store shipping a few packages and realized there were two different people (unrelated) in the store with XBox360's on their way to be repaired.  I asked them about it and they both said their XBox360 quit working and they were experiencing the "Red Ring of Death."....

Friday, January 04, 2008

Friday Reads From Around The Web

Lots of good reads already, much of it resulting from the CES show that is just about here:


slingpro-hdDave Zatz talks about the Slingbox pro-HD and the Blackberry Mobile Client.  The pro-HD looks interesting as it streams high-def video at "up to" 1080i and with 5.1 audio.  It also will incorporate a digital tuner for ATSC and clear QAM content which is very exciting news indeed.  I'll be interested to see how the quality is if it requires compression over a network and also how this works and how (or if) it might be used in conjunction with a HTPC....  More details can be found at ZatzNotFunny, A hands-on post from Engadget and a hands-on impression from Gizmodo.


Lifehacker has a nice writeup with their List of The 23 Best iTunes Add-ons.  My favorites from the list is the MP3 to iPod Audio Book Converter which they discovered from my post earlier this year (I use this one often as I listen to a lot of audiobooks on my iPod...) and The Filter which is another one I use occasionally.

I would add to that list of fine iTunes tools the following iTunes/iPod tools:

  • QTFairUse which will strip the dang DRM from your iTunes files so you can listen to those tunes on any device
  • The iPodifier which you can use to automatically monitor and transcode video and then import that video into a variety of video sources such as BTV, MCE, SageTV etc. 
  • The last one I'd add to the list is MyTunesRSS which gives me remote access to my iTunes collection over the internet.

I guess that list solidifies my status as a geek.........


Sean Alexander tells us about HP's plans to put Microsoft's Media Center onto their new MediaSmart TV's and Receivers.  Integrating MCE into hardware takes that HTPC one step further into the regular-guy's household.  I can picture my dad for instance buying one of these and thinking "wow, it sounds nice to put the DVR, Music and Video's into my TV...."  and then calling me to spend a week helping him to get it working (and me telling him he'll have to buy a Vista Media Center PC to use that feature).  Not sure if that's a good thing or bad thing, but it shows Microsoft is serious about extending the PC into the living room one way or another.


Davis Freeberg has been getting a lot of attention after he explained how adding a monitor to his setup caused Netflix's "Watch Instantly" streaming service to lock him out of the Netflix Feature due to DRM restrictions.  It was picked up by Hacking Netflix, Boing Boing, Thomas Hawk among others.  Read Davis's story HERE.  It's worth a read if your interested in how DRM can be bad even if you're trying to follow all the rules.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Netflix teaming with LG for Set-Top Box

  The Hacking Netflix Weblog is reporting that Netflix is teaming up with LG to make a set-top box that will stream movies (not store them) to your TV.  Netflix's Reed Hastings has said Netflix will partner with other companies as well for additional set-top boxes.  This would undoubtedly work with a ramped-up version of Netflix's "watch instantly" feature already available to Netflix subscribers today.

Hacking Netflix has a few further details on the box along with a screen-shot of the interface.  I see this as a good move by Netflix as long as:

  • Netflix improves the "watch instantly" collection tremendously - including new releases and television shows.   Currently there are around 6,000 titles of which none are new releases and popular titles are sparse.
  • The set-top boxes are priced low - think $99 for a nice price point.  And the rental prices (or subscriptions) are reasonable.
  • The quality is decent on larger sets (including HD) and the streaming quality is good even with 802.11g - without delays during playback.  If it's not, I don't see how people would opt to pay for a box.
  • Netflix partners with Microsoft to put the feature on Xbox360's, Microsoft Media Center PC's & extenders, SageTV Computers and extenders, Sony PS3's and Nintendo Wii's.  Do that and they will succeed.  Limit it to do-one-thing boxes and it will fail.

The acceptance of Movie and Television Show Streaming by the masses is coming - it's only a matter of time and the right technology and product.  Netflix is in a perfect position to deliver a successful product here that could position them to be the market leader and transition themselves away from the movies-by-mail model that they rely on today.  If they fail this time someone else such as Amazon or Microsoft will step in and take their place.

via Hacking Netflix


More Netflix Stories

Happy New Year from GeekTonic

Happy New Year! I've enjoyed this past year at GeekTonic and look forward to a great year ahead.  Thanks to all of you who have read, commented, e-mailed and often times have become my friend. Best wishes to everyone.


NYE 2008

photo by Mazda6 (Tor) at flickr

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

How To Convert Beyond TV Shows into SageTV


Beyond TV and SageTV are two competing Home Theater PC software programs that allow you to turn your home computer into a high octane TIVO-like device.  After using BeyondTV for several years and building up many recorded shows in BTV, I began testing SageTV and ran into one annoying stumbling block that has been bothering me for a while.  SageTV didn't recognize the metadata such as recorded date, show information etc.  To make matters worse, SageTV required me to import those shows into the video section under a separate menu from the recorded shows.  With the help of Fonceur on the Snapstream forums and Nielm on the SageTV forums we now have a simple solution to this problem for anyone migrating from Beyond TV to SageTV or even for those who might want to take SageTV for a test run.

Why not just leave your old recorded shows (recorded in Beyond TV) in the videos section of Sage?  Your shows that were recorded on other DVR programs don't import into SageTV as shows.  Instead you have to import them into the video section where movies reside.  While this is a workaround that is functional, it isn't convenient to have some recorded television shows in your video folder mixed in with all of your movies and other television shows in your recorded TV section.

To make SageTV recognize your recorded Beyond TV (BTV) shows as recorded shows in Sage follow these steps:

  1. Create an xml file with all of your recorded shows names and metadata:
    1. Close SageTV completely
    2. If running SageTV service, stop SageTV Service
    3. With SageTV closed, I usually back up SageTV by copying the sagetv folder to a backup location (just in case)
    4. With SageTV closed, run BeyondTV
      Download BTV Negociator 4.1a or newer.  The latest version can be found HERE (Note this feature was added to Fonceur's excellent add-on for BeyondTV.  Fonceur is one of the most talented non-Snapstream affiliated, BeyondTV developers.
    5. Run BTV Negociator (BTVN)
    6. Click on the "Browser" tab in BTVN
    7. Click on the "Library" sub-tab in BTVN 1 btvn1
    8. In BTVN, you should now see all of your recorded shows in your library.  Now select all of the shows you want to import by clicking with your mouse and holding either the shift or ctrl key
    9. Right-Click with your mouse to see the execute menu and select "Extract the infos to a file"2 btvn2
    10. Close BTV Negociator
    11. You will now have a file named ExtractedInfo.xml in BTV-Negociator's folder (same folder BTVN is located) - this single xml file includes all of the metadata for each recorded show from beyondtv that you selected.
    12. Next completely close Beyond TV.  Close BTV Viewscape and BTV Agent -  be sure you no longer have the BTV icon in your toolbar.
  2. Convert this BTV XML File into a format that SageTV can recognize:
    1. Download the "Translate BTV XML" created by Nielm HERE (thanks to Neilm for his work on this - I already appreciate the work Nielm has done and continues to do for SageTV users)
    2. To install "Translate BTV XML", extract the contents of the zipfile into any directory.
    3. Either double-click the JAR file, or start->Run Java -jar /path/to/nielm_translateBtvXml.jar
    4. From the "Translate BTV XML" program, click on "open BTV XML file4 BTVXML 2 (it will be located in the BTV Negociator directory).  Once you select "open", it should say something like "parsed 5 (or however many you have) shows in file" 5 BTVXML 3
    5. Click on the "save sage xml" button and select the name and directory to save it to.  Remember this name and location as you will need to import this file into SageTV. 81 Sagetv Webserver 419 Sagetv Webserver 5It should say "file written successfully" when completed.
    6. Click the "ok" button and close the "Translate BTV XML" program
  3. Next You'll need to import this newly converted XML file into SageTV using Nielm's Web User Interface:
    1. If you already have the SageTV Web User Interface version 2.21 20 or newer skip to step 3 below.
    2. If you haven't already, upgrade the SageTV web user interface to 2.21 20 or newer (by Nielm) HERE
    3. Re-open SageTV
    4. Open the webserver in a web browser (remember it must be 2.21 or newer)
    5. Under the SageTV menu item select "Import XML file" 6 Sagetv Webserver 2
      Now on this page, check 'Import TV files' and de-select all the other boxes.  7 Sagetv Webserver 38 Sagetv Webserver 4
    6. At the bottom of this "Import XML Files" page of the webserver, click the browse button and locate the xml file you converted using Nielm's "Translate BTV XML File" converter used above.
    7. You will now see each show being imported listed in your web browser and when it's finished it will say "imported # mediafiles".11 Sagetv Webserver 7
    8. You should now be able to open up the recorded shows in SageTV and all of your BeyondTV shows along with their metadata will be there just as they were in BeyondTV.  Below is an episode of "The War" along with all of its metadata showing in the SageTV recorded shows:12 sagetv recorded shows

While this may seem like a lot to go through to convert your shows over to SageTV, it is necessary given the way SageTV and BeyondTV maintain their metadata differently.  The solution works perfectly and only needs to be run one time if you're converting over from BeyondTV.  Thanks again to Fonceur and Nielm for your work to make this process possible.

CLICK HERE For other SageTV related content

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Blog Update

Sorry for not posting this past week - Our holiday was celebrated in the Caribbean with family so not much in the way of good Internet access.  I'll be back to a normal posting schedule shortly.  On my cruise I used a new set of noise canceling headphones, an iPod Classic and a garmin handheld 76cs GPS all of which I plan to write about soon.