Sunday, 25 November 2007
4oD on XBOX 360 and TV over the Internet

image If you've been reading my blog you will have noticed my fascination of trying to stream content via my Xbox 360 for services provided by the BBC iPlayer, SkyAnytime PC  and now Channel 4's 4oD service (TV and Film on demand). Basically the BBC, Sky and Channel 4 all provide separate services for which you can download content off the Internet. This could be an episode of Star Gate SG1 you may have missed (Sky), Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares (Channel 4) or East Enders (BBC and no I don't like it but my wife does).

What all of these technologies have in common is they all use Microsoft's DRM (Digital Rights Management). What this means is that the content provider (BBC, Sky or Channel 4) can control how long you are able to watch this content until it expires, this also controls who can watch it. All this is taken care of in the background where a licence is downloaded to your machine enabling you to watch the content. While all of these providers may appear to have different innovative interfaces, under the covers they are all really using Windows Media Player which supports DRM. The BBC got a lot of flack for not using an open source platform for doing the same thing. The truth is this method has probably worked out cheaper, as so many other providers are using the same technology its tried and tested (until someone cracks it of course).

One of the let downs I found of these services was there was no way of watching the content you missed on your TV. You had to watch it on your computer. Unless you were a bit computer savvy and knew how to plug your computer into your TV (not all TV's support this) there wasn't really much of an alterative. That was until the Xbox 360 started to be able to stream content from your Windows Media PC. I found the Xbox 360 proved to be a cheaper alternative than having a dedicated PC for watching content from the Internet on your TV. I have also found it also works well with content from Channel 4's service 4oD. The only problem I have found is that 4oD's videos are not as higher quality as those provided by Sky (this may probably change), it gives the impression of a pixilated image on my 1080i LCD screen. I think Microsoft can provide a lot more upgrades for the Xbox 360 to take advantage of this place in the market. Although I suspect they may be keeping a bit quiet about the potential because they may be thinking of a separate content deal they want to put together, so they can charge Xbox Live subscribers for the privilege.  

It looks as though no one has really taken advantage of the potential for a TV Over Internet Provider (TOIP) box that could pull all these providers together maybe even including Joost?

posted on Sunday, 25 November 2007 12:44:40 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Monday, 19 November 2007
Annoying cats

Having finally gotten around to taking some of my holiday time off work I've noticed just how annoying the cats can really be. I found the best solution to the problem when they run around in the morning knocking things over is just to put them outside every time they come inside. The cats do get a bit annoyed but the benefit is that around noon you let them back inside and thy fall fast asleep on their bean bags.

posted on Monday, 19 November 2007 11:14:50 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 15 November 2007
ITV Broadcast live on the Internet

It appears that ITV is one of the first broadcasters in the UK to broadcast live on the Internet. Now I know the BBC and Sky have shows available to download on the net but it appears ITV are broadcasting (with a slight delay) on the Internet all of their live channels.

Now if you think about it this makes incredible sense. ITV's revenue model is based on advertising, that means the more people you have watching your TV channels the more advertisers want to advertise on your channels. Clever? Very clever indeed. Sky however does not seem to be able to follow the same revenue model. If you can get Sky Channels on the Internet why on Earth would you want to shell out £25 a month on a Sky box and dish? Mmm that's not a hard one to figure out. I think ITV are onto a winner here I just hope they get the content and shows to back it up.

posted on Thursday, 15 November 2007 21:35:41 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

Goodbye Video Machine

My video machine has finally left the TV cabinet and here ends an era.

It started gradually I suppose when DVD's started replacing Video tapes in the video shops and I got my very first DVD player in the form of a Playstation 2. It was quite an exciting time, movies were crisp and all of a sudden I had Dolby Surround Sound - virtual bullets were flying through my living room along with a a stampede of horses. This was the true magic of home cinema I would no longer be able to go back to VHS after I had discovered this new and wonderful way of watching movies. Soon my video machines only use was for recording the odd program on TV I desperately wanted to watch. But alas - soon the poor video machine was no longer doing this when the Sky Plus box entered my household. Gone was the issue of ensuring you selected the correct channel on the video machine, setting the time on the video machine and finding it had recorded nothing but static. The Sky Plus box made recording live TV, pausing and rewinding it child's play. So much so the only job left for the poor video machine was to show the time. Later it was not even useful for this when it was replaced with a small LCD clock and eventually consigned to the loft. Maybe one day old videos machines will become expensive collectors items for watching old VHS video tapes not available on DVD?

posted on Thursday, 15 November 2007 19:51:10 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 11 November 2007
MSN Music vs iTunes

I thought today I'd have a look at this MSN Music UK tab in Windows Media 11 today. Why? Because I have an Xbox now and I thought it would be great to download music/entertainment from MSN Music instead so I could stream it to my Xbox which is connected to my surround sound system what a great idea right?


The thing that hit me straight away when using MSN Music was it really wasn't iTunes. It didn't come close, its as though MSN just thought about their own convenience when setting up this option in Media Player. MSN Music is basically a website rendered within Media Player with hooks into the player. A bit like iTunes but so badly done. The first thing I did when I entered it was type in the name of the song I was searching for in the search bar just above the MSN Music logo. This of course was the wrong choice as it started to search through MSN Live Search. Why on Earth have this functionality here where you are trying to sell music? What I should have done of course was go further down the page to the Music Search box's. Before I could do anything though I had to install a plug-in for MSN music urrrghhh why? Microsoft have such great ideas but you can't help but think the usability department is out on a constant lunch break most of the time.  Looking at the page I saw an option for movies and naturally thought I could download some movies that I could watch on my PC....wrong! This was just the MSN movie section that contained reviews about movies... Argghhh. Now I understand what Microsoft is trying to do with Windows Media player. Its a market place for you to select the music or video provider of your choice. The problem is how it does this and a distinct lack of clarity and usability. Anyway that said MSN Music does appear to be good value for money when it comes to their streaming juke box player. Which only costs £5 a month and you can listen to what ever you want.

posted on Sunday, 11 November 2007 16:24:55 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Saturday, 10 November 2007
Barclays in sub-prime panic

There was a rumour of it before the Northern Rock crisis took place which seemed to have been brushed off by Barclays. Now it appears the London Stock exchange briefly stopped trading in Barclays shares yesterday when they fell by more than 9% in early trading. Apparently the reason the LSE stopped trading in their shares was actually caused by an automatic cut off by the system which thought it may have been a technical problem.

Rumours are spreading that Barclays may be facing some problems brought about by the under performing home loans market in the US. Barclays strongly deny these rumours have any substance.

At the moment no one really knows just how badly the UK banks have been affected by sub-prime lending in the US. Any announcements of these problems could cause mass panic a lot bigger than the affect the Northern Rock crisis had.

posted on Saturday, 10 November 2007 23:35:13 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Thursday, 08 November 2007
Mmm Biltong

Biltong is what I coin as a South African delicacy my friends in the UK call it dried out meat and are not too keen on it and neither is my wife. The closest thing to biltong in the UK is Peperami which is a pretty poor substitute.

The one thing useful about biltong is if you have South African IT staff working for you, you can probably boost productivity by about 40% by giving them biltong.

posted on Thursday, 08 November 2007 19:53:43 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [1]

 Wednesday, 07 November 2007
Glass Bus Shelters

I understand our local council is trying to introduce a bit of "culture" with their new glass bus shelters but I knew even before the week was ended that we'd see the local young hooligans names etched on the glass and a few releases of trapped energy which lead to the smashing of glass...oh well..

posted on Wednesday, 07 November 2007 20:19:04 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Sunday, 04 November 2007
Blogs with too many widgets

I've started seeing quite a trend in blogs that have just too many widgets installed on them. The content of these blogs may be great but the amount of widgets, movies and music playing when you enter the blog page really slows it down. Sometimes your browser starts to hang as it tries to download all those plug-ins and widgets, before long you've got frustrated and just closed the browser window.

It makes me wonder if people actually visit the front page of their blog often or just post to the blog with a publishing tool.

posted on Sunday, 04 November 2007 13:14:11 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

 Saturday, 03 November 2007
MyBlogLog and Yahoo again

Having spoken to friends who have read my previous post about MyBlogLog traffic trailing off after users where forced to sign-up for a Yahoo account after MyBlogLog joined the Yahoo network. I have discovered that many of them have noticed much the same stem in the flow of traffic. I am not entirely sure why this has happened but they still appear to be getting traffic from BlogCatalog so it must be a MyBlogLog thing, maybe people are taking a while to change accounts to Yahoo or they just don't want to?

To be honest I can't remember the last time I used my Yahoo account this has been the first time I have used it in ages in order to use MyBlogLog again. I think the reason I don't use Yahoo that much is that I mainly used it for its messenger program that started to get incredibly bulky my friends realised they were having the same problem with it and moved onto Google Chat. Yahoo Messenger takes up about 55 - 60megs of memory when it runs which is bigger than MSN messenger (only just). A number of my friends prefer to use Google Chat because it is just so simple and lightweight I think all the other messenger programs out there have tried to pack just too much into their applications. When ever I had a problem with my machine running slow I would usually kill Yahoo Messenger, ICQ and keep Google Chat running some of my friends have removed them all together and just use MSN and Google Chat. Maybe if makers of these messenger programs optimised their programs so they took up less space on peoples machines they'd stay on machines longer? I think Google has the right idea here producing something that is lightweight, so easy to use and just plain simple is definitely the right move.

posted on Saturday, 03 November 2007 13:16:57 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

Information Overload

I just have too much information to take in every day. At work I have about 50-100 e-mail's a day to cope with, then I have a constant feed of RSS traffic from just too many blogs coming into my RSS reader, Facebook traffic comes in at a constant stream and then my ISP email account and my GMail account never end.

You would just say I could turn off the RSS reader? The problem is the current project I am working on uses a Wiki for everything so every time people make changes or tag things for your attention my RSS reader goes nuts bringing in traffic. My work email account I have had for such a long time that I get all kinds of spam now and company emails going back and forth. As it takes me so long to read everything I just glance at it and use the Outlook flagging tool to mark it as important to read later. I don't think I could cope with another social network or information source and ironically enough when I want to get any work done at work I actually turn off all of these information sources. Its funny that all these information sources that are supposed to be such a "boost" and help in the workplace are actually a hindrance. Every hour at work I will start up Outlook and begin deleting the messages that are not important. Another interrupter at work is MSN messenger which we use for communicating across sites, I will also turn this off when I need to get work done and turn it on every now and again if I need to bother a colleague for help.

I realise a lot of organisations have blocked many of these "tools" and social networks on their firewalls to stop their staff from being distracted, I like to think I am good at self policing myself, but I realise why companies do this. Sometimes people just can't help themselves and I have friends who admit they have a weakness not being able to leave Facebook, Beebo or what ever social network they belong too alone while at work. I personally never use social networks while at work, as I know how distracting they are. Although one of things I say to people is while you are using them look at the clock on your PC when you first start and write it down. Then look at it again every now and again, you'll be quite amazed by how 2 minutes turns into 30minutes.   

posted on Saturday, 03 November 2007 12:58:12 (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]