Xfinity for iPad VOD Streaming Launches

Posted Posted in Apple, Connected Home, iPad, iPhone, Technology

Quality Video on Demand content (as opposed to live streaming of on air shows which may be coming down the road), including HBO, Cinemax, Stars, and a few other networks is now available for Comcast customers. It’s really a ton of content, and it looks incredible and works perfectly. To get the premium content, you need to subscribe to those channels, obviously.

Comcast promised this was coming, and they’ve done a great job. This really rounds out my options for viewing content wherever I am.  Does it replace Netflix on my iPad? Not yet. But the two complement each other nicely. Comcast promised more and better “TV Everywhere” and they are delivering on that promise.

I fired up the updated Xfinity app that showed as an update and here is a walk through:

First, iPad users will see a new Play Now button. This is the key to streaming to the iPad.

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HP ePrint is disappointing

Posted Posted in Connected Home, ePrint, HP, iPad, iPhone, Networking

When my older low end downstairs printer needed all ink cartridges replaced at the same time, I realized that buying a new printer would actually be cheaper.

HP has been trumpeting its latest crop of ink jet printers that feature ePrint, a technology that assigns an email address to each printer and enables you to send mail via a HP web service that is supposed to print documents to your printer from anywhere in the world using email.  I had a $50 BestBuy gift card and they (and HP) are selling the D110 ePrinter for $70. That was a no brainer for me.

Too bad ePrint  needs constant care and feeding by the end user to actually work. Here’s my quick review:

The Good: Printer setup over 802.11n was a breeze, as the printer includes WPS. The printer immediately discovered an available firmware update and I applied the update (and had to reconfigure). I setup the ePrint mail list (which lets you restrict who can send jobs to the printer) and added the email address to my contacts. Next, I used my iPad and was easily able to discover and print a page in Safari.

The Bad: Normal TCP/IP network printing works as expected, except for buggy 64 bit drivers that need to be reinstalled after a computer restart.  This has existed for at least a year and HP thinks reinstalling every restart is an acceptable solution, apparently. Many of their printer support pages all point to the same KB/FAQ so stating. Also,  HP is using the Bonjour protocol on the printer, which enables the IOS functionality. (It is too bad that Apple decided to use their own proprietary protocol, but it is good news for folks like HP who hope to sell new network printers. I assume that the reason that printers connected to local computers work with the new iPxx print function is that Bonjour is installed (and required) on the host computer.

The Ugly: The real travesty is that the ePrint functionality that links the printer to the HP Web Service is badly broken and these printers lose their connection to the Web Service (but ALL other functions continue to work) and that HP has been aware of this since at least August, as evidenced by this 18 page (and growing) thread. HP interns patrolling the forum have marked “power cycle the router or the printer” as an acceptable solution, but there has been no official reply from HP tech support OR a commitment to fix this.

Update 11.29.2010: Had and email exchanges with HP Support. After they emailed their scripted response to run their proprietary network trouble shooter (for an issue that does not even require a local computer to be turned on) I asked them to escalate to someone that understood ePrint. I’ve told them it was not a LAN issue in all the emails and clearly,with bold type,characterized it as an issue between the web service in the cloud and the printer not maintaining a connection or renegotiating one. When I installed the basic driver on a second W7 x64 laptop, the first page I printed displayed the following message (these are the print cartridges included in the factory sealed box).

cartridges

In Conclusion: I suspect that HP needed to release and promote a not ready for primetime function to coincide with the launch of IOS 4.2.1 which enabled printing from an iPxx device. HP’s current list of ePrint enabled printers as of 11/22/2010 includes:

•HP Officejet Pro 8500A e-All-in-One Printer series – A910  for customers worldwide
•HP Officejet 7500 Wide Format All-in-One Printer Series- E910  for customers worldwide
•HP Officejet 6500A e-All-in-One Printer – E710
•HP Photosmart D110 series for North America customers
•HP Photosmart B110 series for Asia and Europe customers
•HP Photosmart B210 series for customers worldwide
•HP Photosmart Premium C310 series for customers worldwide
•HP Photosmart C410 series for customers worldwide
•HP Photosmart Ink Advantage K510 series for Asia and Europe customers
•HP Photosmart eStation e-All-in-One Printer  C510 series for North America and Europe customers
•HP Envy eAll-in-One Printer D410 series for customers world wide

Recommendations: If you need a replacement printer or especially in you want iPxxx print functionality, and can live with having to reinstall drivers on 64 bit Windows at inconvenient times, check out one of these printers. If you are looking for ePrint, it isn’t ready for prime time.

Xfinity iPad App is Amazing

Posted Posted in Connected Home, iPad, iPhone, Media Center

If you are a Comcast customer, have a compatible DVR and an iPad (or iPhone), you have access to a free app in the iTunes store that is definitely a game changer.

I’ve used myDVR on my iPxx devices to remote schedule recordings, and I watched the CES demo video that Brian Roberts did and drooled.

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After installing the app, at first run, a welcome screen appeared, which I dismissed (being a Type A) kind of geek. Actually, after logging in, I could tell that the application already knew about my two DVR boxes as they were already paired from my use of myDVR.

The Guide in this new app is FAR more usable than the one included with the original Comcast iPhone app. There are filters, as shown below (but I have not yet found a way to specify favorite channels.  Filters aren’t “sticky” so being a HD snob, I do have to turn the setting for HD only to ON each time I launch the app (and am hoping this will change to a sticky setting).

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Once a show is selected, two choices are available,record or watch on TV. Record works in the same way as the older myDVR app,but WATCH TV is awesome. As you can see below, when WATCH TV is selected, an animated icon pops up and the channel changes on the TV. (Full disclosure, when I installed this yesterday, channel changing didn’t work for me. I opened a ticket and it was fixed 24 hours later).

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Comcast has more features coming, including the ability to watch some shows directly on the iPad.

(Update 11/17) Engadget has posted a video showing off both current and future capabilities of this app. Currently (and I’ve reported this to Comcast), the On Demand listing in the app isn’t as up to date as the EPG on the STB itself. Also, with On Demand, you still have to pick up the Comcast (or Harmony-whatever) remote to confirm “purchase” of an On Demand asset. I’ve asked that they consider a settings option to override this annoying behavior. We’ll see.. (I’m thinking of getting a Red Eye mini which will at least let me confirm from the iPxx device).

What makes this app interesting to me is that, to change channels, NO IR device is needed. This is a good thing because the iPad/iPhone devices do not have onboard IR (although there are some third party add-on devices available). The iPxx device actually communicate with the DAC (Digital Addressable Controller) via some web service that sends commands to the local DAC when you make a channel selection over your WiFi or 3G Internet connection. To accomplish a real time channel change, a lot of moving parts need to communicate and work seamlessly. I’m impressed.

Thanks, Comcast, for a great contribution to my connected home lifestyle!

Connecting an IP Camera to WMC, iPhones and iPads

Posted Posted in Connected Home, iPad, iPhone, Media Center, Networking, Wireless Streaming

Motivated by the upcoming yearly Halloween onslaught of youngsters and the not so young about to come through my condo complex, I started thinking about how to integrate an Internet capable surveillance camera with my connected home and devices. I’m not a “real” developer, but I’m a pretty smart geek (IMO) and I started looking around for ideas that  I could borrow and customize.

My goals were to be able to check activity in my parking lot/walkway on demand from Windows Media Center, my iPhone, and my iPad. The web is a wonderful wealth of information, and putting this together was not really difficult. And definitely worth sharing with others.

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