Archives For Video

Until I find the time to crank out a proper ZvBox review, anyone can now give the promising Zviewer dashboard a spin. The Mozilla-based software is being releasing today as a public beta, without requiring an investment in $500 ZvBox hardware. While Zviewer will pretty much work on any PC (Mac support is coming), the main benefit of the large, lean-back interface is achieved by utilizing it in conjunction with a living room PC and remote control. I like where they’re going with this, though the top priorities going forward should be capturing more web video content before new windows can be spawned and working with sites for universal transport controls. From a marketing angle, giving away the software is a great way to get the word out on ZvBox.

Zviewer can take you anywhere on the web, or to the content and applications that you have on your computer, providing practically unlimited video on demand. Users with Microsoft Media Center-compatible remote controls will gain TV-like remote navigation using Zviewer, and functions like Play and Pause will work natively on popular websites such as Hulu. ZeeVee’s ZvRemote includes additional features such as a Full Screen button, on-screen keyboard for text input, and complete mouse control via a touchpad—allowing you to operate any website or desktop application from the couch.

While the screenshot above depicts a Windows-based laptop, you’ll soon likely see a Macbook in Netflix’s ads. For quite a while Windows users have had Netflix Watch Instantly Now video streaming – Mac users have had to sit by and wait or attempt virtualization. Well with Microsoft’s Silverlight, Netflix video streaming is finally arriving for most OS X users. I say most because it will only work on Intel-based Macs. Note, that as now, there’s no official word on the Netflix site, but my guess is we’ll see more info today given the press release EngadgetHD has posted.

The deployment, which will initially touch a small percentage of new Netflix subscribers, is the first step in an anticipated roll-out of the new platform to all Netflix subscribers by the end of the year. It is expected that Netflix members who watch movies and TV episodes instantly on their computers will enjoy a faster, easier connection and a more robust viewing experience with Silverlight, due to the quality built directly into the player. Among the viewing enhancements with the new player is a breakthrough in timeline navigation that vastly improves the use of fast-forwarding and rewinding.

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Brent Evans Geek Tonic.

Digital Media Bytes

Dave Zatz —  October 25, 2008 — Leave a comment

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our other blogs:

Each time Last100 covers the BBC’s iPlayer I get fired up. Why wait a year for BBC America or DVD for compelling content out of the UK? Of course, the easiest way to catch international television online is by finding (or providing) a friend with a Slingbox.

Warning: Über-geeky networking content follows.

But, for the sake of argument, let’s assume we don’t have any overseas pals. Most streaming websites (Hulu, BBC, etc) selectively permit access to a range of IP addresses based on geographic location. i.e. US addresses can view Hulu, European addresses cannot. Back in my old information assurance days, we occasionally applied geo blocking – but like these video destinations, it’s not a true security measure, it’s meant to be a deterrent.

Two ways to bypass this barrier involve bouncing web traffic through a proxy or tunneling directly through a VPN. Again, it helps to have friends in your target country. However, there are often open, freely available proxy servers floating around out there on the interwebs. Finding them requires some Googling and you can expect proxies to vanish as quickly as new ones turn up – though strained server performance is often subpar. Regarding VPNs, it appears a niche business has popped up facilitating these sorts of activities. Prices and bandwidth vary and, in my brief research, all appeared sketchy. So I overpaid (£10.00 GBP) for a service that uses PayPal, in lieu of giving up my credit card and billing information. Interestingly, the VPN details are buried in a connection executable – meaning, without more work, my iPlayer experimentation has been limited to Windows. If I were more motivated, I could probably sniff the details I need or use a hex editor to retrieve them – allowing me to utilize this connection information within OS X and/or on the iPhone, which had been my original target.

As it turns out, I wasn’t paying close enough attention to Steve‘s articles. Unlike the US-based Hulu, BBC iPlayer is a “catch up” service – only offering the last 7 days of broadcast content, versus many episodes covering many years. And, thus, my motivation has waned and I’m allowing my UK VPN subscription to lapse.

While some appear content to sit on the sidelines, Netflix and Pandora continue their digital living room encroachment. Both streaming services are now available to the Samsung BD-P2550 Blu-ray player (~$400) via a firmware update. Netflix’s standard def library (over 12,000 movie and television titles, according to NewTeeVee) is free to existing DVD rental subscribers on unlimited plans, and Pandora’s humungous audio library is free to all.