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For more than a decade manufacturers have been trying to bring the Internet to the television. And while many ventures have been quite meaningful (online gaming, video streaming), most text-based content has been out of place. In most cases, it’s just not suitable for the 10′ lean-back, couch-based experience. Not only can it be hard to read (and type), somehow it also seems to be lacking intimacy. But that hasn’t stopped both Verizon FiOS TV and the Xbox 360 from bringing Twitter and Facebook to their platforms. While I’m all over Twitter (and struggle with Facebook), I just don’t have much use for this. Am I alone?


Multichannel received word this spring that Comcast intended to bring remote web DVR scheduling to customers in 2009. And if is any indication, they’re nearly ready to pull the trigger. Not only does this “MyDVR” service appear to support Comcast’s stock (Motorola) DVR hardware, a variant may also launch for Comcast-issued TiVo units. I was tipped by Joe F. (thanks!), who found himself unable to link his account and reports that Comcast support couldn’t assist. So, it appears that the site isn’t quite ready for prime time. But it’s safe to say we’ve reached the point where one should expect the convenience of online scheduling as a standard DVR feature (see: Verizon FiOS TV, DirecTV, TiVo, DISH, AT&T, Moxi).

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The pro football season is nearly upon us. Although I’ve yet to research my fantasy draft strategy, the NFL marches on. They’ve announced free Sunday Night game web streaming, in conjunction with NBC and utilizing Silverlight. Additionally, the RedZone Channel will be inaugurated on both Comcast and DISH Network.

Sunday night streaming doesn’t do much for me – I like my football from the couch. And regardless of where I travel in the US, I assume they receive NBC. But the RedZone Channel appeals, bringing some of DirecTV’s formerly exclusive football goodness to other providers for a small fee. (The typical Sports packages seem to run 5 or 6 bucks a month.) Here’s an excerpt from the NFL’s marketing spiel, if you’re not familiar with this concept, ideal for those of us with self diagnosed ADD:

Every touchdown. Every game. Live in HD. NFL RedZone will jump from game to game to bring you key moments from around the league — live as they happen on the field in HD. That’s not all NFL RedZone delivers. See fantasy stats, near live and extended highlights and more.

Never thought I’d miss Comcast, but as a new resident of Northern Virginia I’ve inherited Cox Communications. Not only do they have difficulty supporting CableCARDs with tuning adapters, they haven’t yet struck a deal with the NFL to offer this channel. And speaking of television services, although TiVo isn’t offering a fantasy football widget this year it looks like Verizon FiOS TV is.

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A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our friends at Last100:


First ‘powered by Chumby’ device to be a digital picture frame, Internet-connected TVs to follow
Chumby, along with an unnamed device maker, thinks it can help re-invent the digital picture frame category displaying content from photo sites Flickr and Photobucket, along with access to Facebook and Twitter social networks, and presenting Internet radio and weather forecasts.

Blockbuster VOD service to land on Motorola handsets sometime in the future
Future being the operative word here as we don’t yet know when or on what phones, although it’s likely that the service will utilize Blockbuster’s recent partnership with Sonic Solutions, owners of the video download store CinemaNow, whose technology is already compatible with a range of mobile devices.

Sony PlayStation video store coming to the UK, France, Germany and Spain this November
While Sony will get there in the end — the company was already playing catchup in the games console delivered online video space even in the U.S. — the hold up has likely been the usual issue of content licensing. Striking deals in one territory doesn’t guarantee speedy success in another.

VidZone, Sony PS3’s on-demand music video service, is a hit with… record labels
I was so underwhelmed with VidZone, the PlayStation 3’s on-demand music video service, that I couldn’t bring myself to review it. However, it seems that I’m in the minority, if the company behind VidZone is to be believed.

Download the complete Pirate Bay torrent index, if you dare
I personally wouldn’t go anywhere near this. Try justifying the complete Pirate Bay torrent index sitting on your hard drive — all 21 GB of it — and well I wish you good luck.

I have recently been experimenting with various cloud-based services. Among the best are EverNote, Google Apps Gmail with iMap, xmarks (formerly Foxmarks) and, now, Dropbox.

Dropbox works within my cloud-computing rules. Namely: (i) the service uses the cloud but my key files are never left only on the cloud – I am never left at Dropbox’s mercy; (ii) files are securely encrypted as they are synced between computers and as they reside on the Dropbox services; and  (iii)I am not locked into their service. I can leave it at any time.

After signing up, you download and install the Dropbox applet onto the computers you wish to sync. You tell it where you want the drop-box folder on each PC. From then on, anything you put into any of those folders, and any edit you make to any of those files, is instantaneously synced to the other systems.

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Stay Away From Swoopo

Dave Zatz —  August 18, 2009


I have a pretty extensive history of mucking about in the online auction space. I picked up my very first DVD player (new) at a steep discount in 1998 via Ubid (or maybe it was Microwarehouse’s auction site). Over the years, I’ve also unloaded a ton of gadgets and more on ebay, originally via my own account and most recently via a real world consignment shop. And yesterday, after seeing a ton of ads and catching the NY Times write up, I gave Swoopo a try.

Swoopo positions themselves as a spend to save, shopping entertainment site. But this ain’t no Mercata. Bidding on the nice looking new inventory runs 60 cents a pop. (Bid units are bought in bulk, with 40 @ $24 being the lowest entrance fee.) Which doesn’t sound like much, but with limited merchandise and numerous competitors you’re going to spend a pretty penny to most likely fail in your quest. Plus, each bid extends the time remaining in an auction by a preset amount of seconds. Resulting in additional bids.

I blew about $30 trying to pick up the nice looking Panasonic Lumix TS1 waterproof digicam last night. The winner ultimately nabbed the camera for about half off, but who knows how much he spent for that honor. And the automated BidButler sniping feature he used takes away the competitive joy. In fact, I wonder if I’m bidding against pros who’ll ultimately resell their bounty. I’m also left with a somewhat dirty feeling using Swoopo, which is more akin to gambling than other auction sites. And, as with Vegas, the house always wins.

The Limits of Online Video

Mari Silbey —  August 15, 2009 — 6 Comments

Dollhouse Epitaph 1

Last night I had one of those moments – scratch that, one of those hours – which illustrates exactly why TV is still the best medium for television shows. I’m a big fan of Hulu, and I love that I can catch the occasional old episode of Bones or Thirty Rock on my netbook while hitting the treadmill or cleaning the kitchen. However, by far the best TV experience for me still comes from pointing my remote at the big screen in my living room. Here’s why.

I discovered recently that an un-aired episode of Dollhouse, Epitaph 1, had made its way to iTunes (Amazon VOD, too), where the Whedon show has been exceedingly popular. I instantly plunked down the $2.99 and started downloading the HD version to my trusty Eee PC. Since the episode was a 676MB file, I left my computer running and checked in later… only to discover that my PC had done an automatic update and automatically shut itself down. Begin download take two.

The second download worked fine, and last night I set things up to watch the coveted episode on our big screen TV. I plugged the netbook in to the TV with a VGA cable and connected the audio up to some living-room speakers. Brilliant, right? Hardly. I assumed that since the show was downloaded and not streaming, and since I had successfully watched crystal-clear HD content on my Eee PC before, that porting over to the big screen would not be a problem. Unfortunately, my poor little netbook didn’t have the horsepower to carry it off. First came the stuttering, and then came the abrupt, no-warning shut-down of my computer. Continue Reading…