Friday, January 18, 2008

Snapstream Shutting Down Couchville - Free TV Guide Suite

couchvilleEarly this morning, Rakesh Agrawal, CEO and founder of Snapstream announced on the Snapstream forums that the company would be taking their free, TV listings website, Couchville offline.  He said that "at least for now, this is the end of the road for any kind of a free, TV listing website from SnapStream."

Snapstream is the maker of Beyond TV, a software-based DVR program that gives the user a "Tivo"-type experience without the cost of TV guide subscriptions or any annual fee like you have with the Tivo.  Snapstream isn't changing the TV guide feed that they provide to the users of Beyond TV in any way.  The Couchville site (announced on this blog post in March of 2007) and on Snapstream's Blog as well was an experimental project by Snapstream that started with the aim to be the "simplest place for TV listings on the web."  The site ran using Ajax and was touted on many popular tech blogs including Techcrunch, Download Squad, and when it was first released to the public, but the project was basically abandoned in terms of development by Snapstream soon after it was released.

Back in November when I interviewed Agrawal, I asked him about the status of Couchville.  He said the project development had been in a holding pattern and there were no plans currently for changing the site from its current functionality.  Its obvious that the focus of Snapstream will be on their new Enterprise hardware/software for businesses and the Home-version of Beyond TV.  Agrawal said in his announcement that "for the Couchville loyalists out there, we're sorry to take the site away from you. If you're wondering why we're making this move, simply put, it doesn't make business sense for us to keep the site running."  There had been hopes by some BeyondTV users that some of the functionality of Couchville would be integrated into BeyondTV's own online TV webguide "", but those hopes have faded and it looks highly unlikely that anything further will come of the Couchville site.

via Snapstream Forums

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Apple TV - Take 2 Still no DVR?

appletvI watched the announcements for the second incarnation of AppleTV yesterday after the Macworld Keynote Address by Steve Jobs.  I was watching for a few particular features that I think would make the AppleTV actually take off.  Did Apple come through?  Well here's a quick rundown of the new features for the Apple TV Take 2:

  • Price (suggested retail): $229
  • 40 GB storage or for an extra $100 you get $160GB (not much storage for the price in my opinion)
  • AirTunes support for Apple TV for streaming directly to the device.
  • TV Shows $1.99 per show
  • Movie Rentals (HD movies with 5.1 Surround for $3.99; $4.99 for new releases) - You can get them but you can't move the movie out of the Apple TV if you acquired them on the AppleTV.  So no portability there.  Another potential downer for me is once you start viewing a movie, you have to complete watching it within 24 hours.
  • DVD quality and HD quality + Dolby 5.1.  No other codec changes that I could see
  • No computer required to run it since you can link directly to iTunes store via the Apple TV and download without a computer.  It does help to have a computer so you can sync content between the AppleTV and computer and vice versa though.
  • You can purchase music directly from AppleTV
  • You can browse audio & video podcasts
  • Ability to Sync content with youriTunes
  • Flickr photo browsing capability
  • .Mac photo browsing capability
  • Preview movies

As I look at this I still wonder how much of a market there is for such a device.  Why you ask?  Well as a full-fledged HTPC user I certainly want the ability to watch liveTV and have DVR functionality Grant at ProjectHTPC was looking for this and Thomas Hawk agrees.  Is that just because I'm an HTPC hobbyist?  Well I think if you were to ask any of my non-technically inclined family some of which do have iPods and other gadgets they would say "where's the TV?"  "You mean I have to pay to watch one episode of TV that I can get on my TV already for free?"

Apple did take care of several of my issues with the first version of AppleTV so it's certainly an improvement.  I love the small size, the silent nature of the hardware and such but it's just not enough for my needs.

I think those are the questions your average household will be asking.  Apple will continue to sell the Apple TV, but I don't see it being a major success.  What do you think?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Setting Up the HDHomeRun QAM Tuner with Beyond TV and SageTV

If you are a Home Theater PC fan and want your HTPC to tune those unencrypted QAM digital cable channels, one of your best options is the HDHomeRun dual QAM tuner.  SiliconDust's HDHomeRun tuner has been one of my best gadget purchases to date and I'm still a happy user since the beginning of 2007.  If you'd like to learn more about the HDHR tuner, check out my review of the HDHR from last March HERE.

The setup since that time has changed quite a bit (for the better) for both Snapstream's Beyond TV PVR software as well as SageTV's HTPC software. 

For a nice walkthrough of the setup process for setting up the HDHR with BeyondTV check out ProjectHTPC's guide HERE

And for another how-to based on setting up the HDHR with SageTV's HTPC software check out the guide by HERE


Either way, setting up the HDHomeRun is pretty easy and is a great addition to any Home Theater PC.

You can find out purchase and more setup information for the HDHR at the SiliconDust website.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Virtual Reality Wii Remote Hack

Whether you are a hard-core gamer or a casual gamer, Johnny Chung Lee's latest Wii hack will be of interest to you.  Late December, Mr. Lee posted this video showing off a simple, but amazingly realistic virtual reality head tracker. 


The hack basically turns your TV into a live window - imagine looking out of a window of a spacecraft as objects are moving and as you move around in the room, you see different things through that window.  Take the time to watch this 5 minute video.  Don't let the geekiness of it all keep you from making it to the middle of the video - I promise it's worth it.  The effect is one you just have to see to totally understand so without further discussion here it is:

I must say it would be rather easy for game console makers to incorporate this type of functionality into their games and would open up another level of reality to your video games.  You may have already seen this video since it's already been viewed over 2 Million times, but I wanted to share it with you just in case.

Lee has the software you can download on his project page and try this for your self with just a Wii remote.

To see more of Mr. Lee's Wii projects, head over to his website

Netflix Watch Now Unlimited Starting Today

The AP is reporting that Netflix will be lifting their watch-instantly movie streaming service for all Netflix customers (except for those Netflix customers who pay $4.99 to rent up to two DVDs per month) beginning today, Monday, January 14th, 2008.  This move is reportedly in response to a potential threat from Apple Inc. right before Apple's expected entry into the movie streaming rental business.

The article says that Steve Jobs is expected to make an official announcement Tuesday of Apples intention to begin renting movies via an online streaming service.

Netflix is working with LG to add Netflix watch-instantly to a new LG set-top box and hopes to work with many other hardware vendors to include it's watch-now service within various hardware devices to help Netflix enter the living rooms of America for what will likely be the next battle for movie rentals.  While renting movies with the press of a button is mostly done via peoples cable boxes right now, it is likely to become commonplace in devices of all kinds eventually squeezing out the all familiar DVD rental.

Read the entire AP story here


My netflix account was switched to unlimited watch-now mid-day Monday.  Here's a screenshot of my Netflix account details reflecting the change.

Netflix Unlimited Watch Instantly