Until the Echo hit the street, the Xbox 360 was pretty much the only Windows Media Center Extender still on the market. Companies such as D-Link and Linksys discontinued their extenders years ago—probably because they couldn’t compete with the subsidized price of Microsoft’s gaming console.
Note: This review first appeared in the March 2013 issue of the magazine.
TiVo's Desktop platform is about to switch to a paid pricing model.
Ruh roh Shaggy, time is quickly running out to grab the free version of TiVo's Desktop software for PC. Starting June 5, 2013, the free version will no longer be available to download, so if you want to listen to music and view photos on your TV, or transfer shows from your TiVo DVR to your PC -- all of which the free Desktop software allows -- you'll have to download the software before the deadline. Even then you could still end up having to pay a subscription, depending on your operating system.
Apparently the mobile market isn't the only non-desktop/server space Intel is interested in encroaching; the world's largest semiconductor player also wants to dip its toes into the cable TV sector, as has been previously rumored. Word on the web is that Intel has grown frustrated with smart TV manufacturers who have bungled the whole Google TV initiative, so it's taking matters into its own hands and plans to launch its own hardware.
WATCHING AND RECORDING digital cable TV on your PC should be simple. Modern CPUs and videocards pack considerably more processing power than what you’ll find in even the highest-end DVR your cable company provides; and hard drives—while temporarily pricey, due to the flooding in Thailand—offer plenty of recording capacity.
In short, there is no technical reason why every interested TV viewer shouldn’t be able to enjoy this harmonious technological convergence. Ceton’s InfiniTV 4 USB certainly does its part, rendering the process as easy as can be, considering DRM issues restrict you to using Windows 7 (Linux users need not apply) and subscribing to your local cable company (satellite TV viewers need not apply).
In an ideal world, hardware like this would work seamlessly. You’d buy a multistream CableCard from your favorite retailer, plug it into your InfiniTV, connect the InfiniTV to your coax cable and to your PC’s USB port, and—bam!—your PC would be transformed into a four-tuner DVR vastly superior to anything any cable company offers today. In reality, the process is nowhere near that simple.
Microsoft has filed a U.S. trade complaint that, if approved, would ban TiVo from importing set-top boxes into the U.S., Bloomberg reports. However, the legal scuffle isn't likely to result in that.
"We have filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Washington against TiVo Inc. for infringement on four Microsoft patents," Microsoft said. "We have a strong and robust patent portfolio that we will vigorously defend against infringement. It is our responsibility to protect our customers and partners and to safeguard the investments we make to bring innovative products and services to market. However, we remain open to resolving this situation through an intellectual property licensing agreement, and we look forward to continued negotiations with TiVo."
In other words, Microsoft is performing a bit of legal posturing here and it's more likely that the two sides will come to some sort of an agreement as opposed to banning TiVo imports outright.
According to Bloomberg, the four patents in question involve program schedules and selection, controlling the interface, and a way to restrict use of the DVR based on the program's rating.
It used to be that if you wanted to record television or stream media into your living room, you'd need to fumble around with a home theater PC (HTPC). That's still an option -- and a good one -- but no longer necessary. There are a host of set-top boxes that promise everything from Netflix streaming to DVR functionality, and everything in between.
Hitachi hopes to capitalize on this semi-recent trend with the introduction of its 3.5-inch CinemaStar 5K2000 and 2.5-inch C5K750 drive families.
The CinemaStar C5K750 family ships in 500GB, 640GB, and 750GB capacities with a 375GB per platter design. They're Hitachi's first Consumer Electronic (CE) drives with Advanced Format technology, which increases physical sector sizes from 512 bytes to 4096 bytes.
Meanwhile, the CinemaStar 5K2000 family ships in both 1.5TB and 2TB capacities with a 667GB per platter design. According to Hitachi, these drives run nearly silent, and combined with lower power consumption, this makes them ideal for DVR and other set-top box applications.
If your DirecTV DVR box took itself offline late yesterday afternoon or early evening (or earlier depending on your time zone), don't worry, there probably isn't anything wrong. I experienced this myself, and come to find out, it was a SNAFU on DirecTV's part, and not a sign that my receiver was about to give up the ghost.
According to Fudzilla, only DirecTV DVR units appear to have been affected by the seemingly random lockup. Apparently there was an issue with a program guide update that confuzzled DVR boxes to the point where they froze and/or shut down. Making matters worse, DirecTV was attempting to push out a software update at the same time, which just led to more problems.
If your box is still locked up, you should be able to bring it back to life by pressing the red button behind the access card door on the front and letting it run through its cycle. Once it finishes, press the red button a second time within 30 minutes. What this does is delete the corrupted program guide information, forcing it to reload.
Up until now, if you wanted to watch a program in your bedroom that you recorded with your living room DVR, you were out of luck, at least with DirecTV. But with the launch of DirecTV's Whole-Home DVR service, you can do exactly that.
"We’ve created a connected whole-home service that is perfectly attuned to our customers viewing habits and lifestyles, delivering a DVR experience with maximum convenience and control," said Romulo Pontual, CTO of DirecTV. "The DirecTV® Whole-Home DVR service truly enables customers to watch what they want, where they want and when they want it, by simply using a single HD DVR."
The service runs $3/month, and for that you're able to record and watch shows in up to 15 rooms with a single HD DVR. That means if you record a movie in one room, you can pick up where you left off in another room with a standard receiver. What's more, you can control the DVR from any DTV receiver in your home, including record, delete, pause, and rewind functionality.
Sony's pretty excited about its upcoming Torne DVR and TV tuner for the PlayStation 3 console, so much so that they've went ahead and confirmed plans to launch the unit next month. The initial launch will take place in Japan only, in large part because it supports the country's terrestrial digital broadcasts, and so far, there's no word on when the Torne will fly stateside.
Quite the flexible device, the Torne hooks up via USB and comes capable of recording TV onto the PS3's hard drive or up to four external hard drives, all at the same time.
Users will actually be able to connect up to eight USB drives and register each one with the recorder. Programs can also be watched on a PSP, as well as schedule recordings with the handheld console.
The Torne DVR and tuner will sell for about $110 when it launches on March 18th. There will also be a special edition 250GB PS3 bundled containing the Torne device that will sell for around $470.
Google has decided to dip its toe in the stream of anonymized user data coming from TiVo. By subscribing to the TiVo data, Google hopes to make ads more useful to both advertisers and viewers. Google’s angle for selling TV ads is that they will only charge for the ads that are actually watched. So, if most people skip an ad, the channel makes almost nothing on it.
Online it’s easy to track impressions via clicks, but having the same scheme on TV upsets the people running the networks. Google already has a similar deal with Dish Network, and this deal just extends their statistical powers. Eventually, the data Google wields will make it painfully clear to advertisers how few ads people actually watch. This has the potential to erode the financial foundation of many television networks.
Neilson data has long been the guiding force behind the value of ads, and the networks are
understandably concerned about possible changes. Google contends this arrangement will simply lower the barrier to entry for TV ads. Will TV networks go along with the plan?