Category Archives: 4295

Reader Questions: Round 1

Have any questions
for me?  As a part of Media Center Week I’m
trying to answer as many as I can.  Post them
here.
 

Q: I’ve heard
that Cox is refusing new HD channels for CableCARD users even though they are
not going to SDV until the end of the year. Do you know why and how they are
able to do such a thing?

I haven’t heard about this specifically, and I’m not sure it
would work.  The channels either need to
be on their existing network, or the SDV network.  If they are not on either, you’re talking On
Demand/VOD which is generally a separate subject and of course not used for
traditional channel delivery. 
Semi-related, Bright House Cable pulled several HD channels from their
lineup in preparation for their move to Switched Digital Video (SDV), but they
have since caved and added them back until they rollout SDV. [Engadget
HD
]

Q: Any codec
updates coming to Xbox 360 MCX?

The Xbox 360 Extender will have to support H.264 in order to
playback recordings and live content from DIRECTV HD.  Given the DIRECTV tuner is a part of the next
Media Center release, I’d expect an MCX update for H.264 at the least around
the same time.  As for other codecs, I’m
not sure.

Q: I need a
recommendation for a small or slim form factor VMC. I’m not messing with
CableCARD, just ATSC and analog cable DVR functionality plus random web video
(Netflix, Hulu).

I’m a fan of HPs
Pavilion Slimline
series myself. 
Vista Home Premium, Core 2 Duo E4600, 2GB of RAM, GeForce 8500GT, and
500GB hard drive for under $650.  The
system should be just fine with ATSC and analog cable, just make sure you go
with the 8500GT option for smooth HD and you should be golden.

Q: Along the Mac Mini
line, is there a way to use the Sony Firewire DVD Jukeboxes on the Mini without
booting up windows? Also, do you know if the Hauppauge HD PVR will be supported
in OS X?

I haven’t seen any projects that tackled the DVD Changers on
platforms other than Windows, and considering they are pretty much dead now I
wouldn’t expect to see much action either. 
HD-PVR on OS X is another big question mark, but Elgato
might just have it on their radar.

Short Bits: Big Screen Apps, Apple TV, Start Menu Feedback

You can now purchase all Big Screen v2 products online at bigscreenglobal.com.  Even better, right now you can get a few
bucks off your purchase by clicking
here
.  Next week, in the sprint of
the new branding in the sidebar you might just be able to win a free copy right
here.  Stay tuned.

Could Apple really beat
Microsoft to interactive TV applications
? 
They now have a patent that describes OCAP-like interactivity
features.  OCAP of course, is the
interactivity layer that is defined in the CableCARD 2.0 (tru2way) specs that
should be supported in BOCRs.  No idea if
it is OCAP-based, but Apple seems to be getting more committed to Apple TV.

Charlie
Owen is asking for feedback on the Media Center Start Menu
over at The
Green Button.  The overwhelming majority
of people want to have basic customization such as rearranging and hiding tiles
and strips.

Apple TV Gets Upgraded

Apple finally upgraded their Apple TV yesterday at MacWorld making
it worthy of a look.  Overall, I’m
impressed with the upgrade, but still not touching it.  I’m sure a lot of people out there are not
impressed, but I’m trying to see it from Apple’s angle.  No
PVR
and no
DVD player
is exactly what they want in this product.  As soon as they give you the ability to
playback “legacy” formats you have no reason to buy/rent the same content from
them.

The big draw of the new Apple TV is being able to make purchases/rentals
directly from the unit, taking the PC out of the picture.  I’ve said that would
add significant value before
and I think it succeed in that.  What they haven’t succeeded in is killing
Netflix.  With HD movie rentals for $3.99
($4.99 for new releases), I’d much rather pickup an $8.99 Netflix account.  New releases will be delayed 30 days from the
DVD release on iTunes, so Netflix is still the top choice here.  Plus, at $3.99/$4.99 you are talking about
Blockbuster rental prices, which have been too high for a while and caused the
switch to Netflix.  I’ve completely skipped
the technical stuff like lackluster bitrate and resolution when compared to HD
DVD/Blu-ray.

Apple did drop the price to $229 for a 40GB model, which
does beat out the price of any current Media Center Extender.  The problem is, the two products are competing
against each other while offering completely different feature sets.  If Microsoft would bring the Xbox Live
Marketplace rentals to Media Center and Extenders the products would match up a
bit more and I think give Media Center a big push.   Doing this doesn’t fix the price issue from
above, but it does give you choice as DVD playback is part of several Extenders.  If Microsoft can actually combine them all (you
know, like a Connected Home) then Apple could have a fight on their hand to upgrade
Apple TV to support other formats and features.

Apple TV
no longer sucks
, it is just not for me. 
What about you?

Apple
TV (Take 2) Details (Engadget)
, More
on Apple’s iTunes rentals (Engadget)
, Apple TV
Take 2 Hands-on (Engadget)

Short Bits: Worst Tech, Remotes, Ed’s Extender

Apple TV scored the #1 position on Yahoo’s 10 Worst Tech
Products for 2007
.  I’m no fan
of it
, but as it appears Apple might finally
be launching movie rentals in iTunes
it could get a second coming.  Renting movies from the Apple TV would
defiantly add significant value, but then again so would iTunes purchases in
general from Apple TV. 

Microsoft Surface and Windows Vista also were included in
the list.  I can see Windows Vista as the
public perception of it is horrible, but not Surface.  The author of the article seemed to be taking
Surface as a consumer product, complaining about the requirements and
price.  At some point, when technology
prices drop that will be true, but Surface was introduced as a business and
public display product.

There have been a few new Media Center remotes released into
the wild that I don’t think have got any coverage.  MediaGate has a silver remote
that looks like all standard Media Center remotes, but they also have a black one that has an
interesting design
.

Philips has a
nice Media Center remote with a display
(Via The Green Button)
for browsing your music library.  It
might not be SideShow, but if music is your main goal you might want to look
into it.  Of course, they also have this
one
which was one of the first Vista remotes seen.  I’m not sure that I’ve seen them officially
for sale in the US however.

Ed Bott got
his Linksys DMA2100
and seems pretty happy with it.  “It takes about 10-12 seconds to go from a
cold start to the Media Center interface” says Bott.  Is it bad when the remote is nearly as big as
the actually product?

Apple Releases New iPods; Zune Dies in the Corner

Sorry for anyone looking for a pro-Microsoft post today, but
Apple just announced those new iPods I was
talking about last night when criticizing the Zune
and I’m personally declaring
that the Zune is dead.

On the iPod front, there is one for every budget.  New
Shuffle colors
(1GB $79), new
iPod nano’s
that support audio/video with 24 hour of audio playback on a
charge (4GB – $149, 8GB – $199), new iPod Classic
with audio/video support (80GB – $249, 160GB – $349), and finally iPod
touch
(8GB – $299, 16GB – $399) that also will support wireless browsing
and download from the iTunes Store which was one of the biggest problems with
the Zune that launched with WiFi too.

Zune is dead.  The only thing that might save it (long shot) is that v2 Zunes launch with a WiFi Zune Marketplace, relaxed music sharing restrictions, built-in Media Center Extender, Media Center-based syncing, a something that Apple has yet to think of (is there anything?)

What are your suggestions to save the Zune?  Am I wrong about it being dead?  You buying a new iPod?  Let me know. 

Apple Disappoints Me Today

So, I basically have my credit card ready early today
pressing F5 on Engadget
to refresh their WWDC coverage
waiting for Steve Jobs to say something,
anything about the Mac mini or any other Mac hardware updates.  Several sites have reported that they think
it will be scraped, and I’ve been praying for the past month that Jobs would
either confirm the death or announce an upgrade to at dump it up to a Core 2
Duo.   And yet, Apple announced no new hardware or
hardware upgrades today!

The mini has been my ticket to get a Mac but because of it’s
weak specs I’ve yet to purchase one.  If
they end up killing the Mac mini (or effectively failing to upgrade it) I don’t
get to finally try out a Mac.  I have no
interest in a MacBook or MacBook Pro as my current Thinkpad X40 works just
great and my next upgrade is set to be a X61 Tablet (I hope).  I also have no interest in having another
monitor on my desk, so the iMac is out. 
And unless someone out there wants to donate some cash for me to get a
Mac (hint, hint) the Mac Pro at over $2,000 is a bit out of my price range.

So, should I start a donate for Chris to get a Mac campaign or
should Apple just upgrade the Mac mini?