Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Windows Media Center Fiji Beta Testing Underway

Mary at ZDNet is reporting that Microsoft has begun testing Fiji, the next iteration of Vista Media Center. 

You may remember rumblings last year about this time that the Windows Media Center Fiji Update was to be delayed until 2008.  Well it sure was - matter of fact it could be the end of 2008 or even beginning of 2009 when it actually sees the light of non-beta-testers eyes.

According to the rumors the update will include support for the yet-to-be released Satellite, DirecTV tuner and some other unknown "polish" updates to Media Center.  The Fiji release date is unknown as well, but rumors are that it could be released by the end of 2008.

ZDNet Windows Fiji Beta Testing

via Chris Lanier

American Idol Winners Predetermined?


Time for my TV rant for the month.  I watched American Idol last night and have been following it all season which is not the norm for me.  What I have noticed is that the judges are there for the viewers entertainment more then they are there to really "judge" the performers.  Seems like the judges spend more time saying who the winner should be than actually listening to the music. 

Here's an American Idol Musing post I agree with at the TV Remote

Oh well, back to regular programming :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Napster Offering Over 6M DRM Free MP3s


In what can only be described as an amazing irony, AP is reporting that today, Napster will begin offering its complete catalog of over 6 million music tracks in DRM-Free (aka unprotected) MP3 format.

All four major music labels along with countless indie labels are represented in the store.  Add to this that every track will be available at 99-cents!  This in my opinion is the equivalent of the music industries final acceptance that their old business structure is dead.  It's about time......


At first glance, Napster's store isn't very well done.  And add to that the fact that their subscription model where you pay $13 a month for all you can rent music is still their main business.  Still, it's the fact that the music industry has gone full circle on the concept of DRM-Free music that is somewhat amazing to me.

While we're on the topic of digital music, I wonder why people are still buying DRM'd tracks when there are DRM free tracks available?  I'm purchasing all of my tracks from Amazon right now because they are DRM-Free.  ITunes won't get any more of my business until they are competitive on DRM-Free digital music.

Napster Online Music

Roku Announces First Official Netflix Streaming Box


Roku has won out as the first, official, hardware-based Netflix streaming box on the market.  The concept and subscription plan that has been worked out by Roku and Netflix look very smart. 

For those of you keeping score, Netflix's CEO Reek Hastings said in the past that there would initially be four hardware partners to offer up Netflix Watch-Now content.  LG was the first one announced, Now Roku is obviously a second one and there are at least two remaining.

Here's some of the details on the Roku/Netflix Box:

  • Roku Box Price $99
  • Minimum Netflix subscription cost $9
  • Roku Box look and feel:  Small, boxy, black, fanless, comes with its own remote control
  • Connections: HDMI (audio & video), Component Video, S-Video, Composite, Optical Audio, and Stereo Audio- cables not included
  • Wireless and Wired Ethernet Connections Built-In
  • Current accessible movie streaming available: almost 10,000 titles including movies, televisions shows and other content.  Note that this does not include recent released movies which helps Netflix keep the cost low and their movie studios happy.  I think this is another big disappointment, but still the large collection is a step in the right direction.
  • Roku box is HD-ready and will support near-HD streaming once Netflix releases it.
  • The Roku box will eventually support other online content in addition to Netflix
  • Interface: I personally think the current offering is weak as there is no interface.  You just use your remote to browse your already selected (using web browser on a separate computer) queue.  You cannot currently search for movies with the boxes interface.


I think Netflix is making some very smart moves here.  Use their excellent streaming capability and move as many titles to the boxes as possible.  Hopefully now that they've hired a proven interface developer they will be working hard on improving the interface and expanding the watch-now streaming to other hardware/software solutions such as HTPCs.

What do you think?  Would you pay $99 for another box with Netflix built-in?

UPDATE:  Looks like Zatz is picking one up so we'll likely get firsthand reports at ZNF soon.

Roku Netflix Player Details at Roku Website

More on the Netflix/Vudu box versus AppleTV at NYTimes Blog

via Gizmodo

Hauppauge HD-PVR Units Nearing Shipment


As I mentioned at the end of April, the highly sought after Hauppauge HD-PVRs were delayed to Mid-May at best.  The delay was due to production delays on the plastic cases for the HD-PVRs.

An administrator on the SageTV forums is reporting that the first set of Hauppauge HD-PVRs arrived at Hauppauge this Monday with their plastic cases.  Qualification testing is underway at Hauppauge and the first set of pre-orders should be delivered once testing is complete.  Note that nobody has said how many of these units have arrived at Hauppauge so Its possible that not all pre-orders will be shipped if there aren't enough units there yet.  Estimated ship date for the first of these units will be next week (May 27th - 30th) sometime.

I'm anxious to see how these component video recorders perform on SageTV and Beyond TV, both of which have betas running with HD-PVR support built-in.  I'll have a post in the next day or so with all of the facts I could gather on these devices so stay tuned.  If you have any questions about the HD-PVR let me know in the comments and I'll do my best to find out and answer your questions in my next HD-PVR post.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Netflix Hires Vista MediaCenter Netflix Plugin Developer


Netflix made a smart move and hired the developer of the MyNetflix Vista MediaCenter plug-in, Anthony Parks.  Parks will participate with a "research" team working to:

"prototype and research user interaction models for new platforms for the Netflix service."

Which to me means Netflix liked what they saw with Parks the MyNetflix plugin and would like to see similar functionality on other platforms as well as more "official" integration of Netflix Watch-Now with hardware/software combinations such as Home Theater PCs.  I hope this would mean willingness to work with smaller HTPC software companies such as SageTV as well, but it does make sense to start with the big guys on the block such as Microsoft first.

There are multiple Netflix plugins available for HTPC software such as Vista Media Center, SageTV (I use this one), MediaPortal and GBPVR, but all of them are user-developed and could easily lose functinality if Netflix were to change things around on their Netflix Watch Instantly website.  Official support from Netflix could be a very positive move.  The other obvious thing Netflix wants to do here is to give hardware such as game machines, DVD players and other devices the ability to use the Netflix Watch-Now movies.

Parks has more details of his job on his blog.

via HackingNetflix