Thursday, May 10, 2007

Netflix Instant Watching

Netflix has introduced a new Instant Watching capability which customers have lapped up...nearly 2 million movies have been watched in under 3 weeks since its introduction.

Check their demo.

My take...I love this functionality. media convergence has been a when rather than an if. I dont mind watching it on my laptop but I'd rather watch it on my television and work with the controls of my remote. It will be only a matter of time before TiVo and Microsoft MCE integrate Netflix functionality as plug-ins and extensions.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

LinuxMCE on Digg

A post about LinuxMCE made it to the top 10 topics on Digg today, so I decided to check it out.

Heres their take on LinuxMCE vs Microsoft MCE in this Google video. The commentary is very monotonous and is clearly biased, so beware of the propaganda.

It seems like LinuxMCE is based on the MythTV project with some cooler skins and user interface. The video, however, has contradicted the philosophy they are touting - "Linux MCE maintains the philosophy that if you're using a Media Center PC, it's all about the media, stupid, not the PC". The on-screen guide has completely obscured the media played in the background, even though it is in full-screen.

I like the navigation functionality of the media - programming guide, music catalog, movies in Linux MCE. On Microsoft MCE (XP), browsing through a large collection is such a pain that I am sometimes only listening to music in the 'A' section. Search is definitely a good help if you know exactly what you are looking for, but a technique like the iTunes Cover Flow makes selection so much easier.

The video hasn't covered Microsoft Vista, its only fair to do such a comparison as Vista has a lot more to offer such as HDTV support. At my end, I need to try out Vista myself.

About add-ons in LinuxMCE like close-circuit cameras, controlling thermostats and controlling television using a blue-tooth cellphone, I really dont care about such features and don't know if such features constitute a media-center PC.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Place-Shifting via Orb

If time-shifting is the mechanism to record and watch TV programming at my convenience, then place-shifting is the mechanism to watch them on any internet connected device with a monitor at my convenience. I have been on the road a lot lately and I have to wait till I return home to watch my recorded shows. I needed a mechanism to stream my data from my HTPC over the internet so I could watch it on my laptop.

I read about slingbox and its capabilities in this regard and then I found out about Orb Networks which I could install on my Windows MCE . Considering my cost-cutting measures, I decided on the latter so I could recoup my investments on my HTPC (Slingbox ~ $275, Orb = $0).

Orb was easy to install and set up (See and after the configuration I was able log in from my laptop and see all my photos, recorded TV programming, songs and videos.

I was able to watch the TV shows on Windows Media Player and Real Player, although at a much lower resolution, than in the original recording.

The compression implies viewing on a Wi-Fi network. This is too good to be true. Orb claims to be working on creating a client for PalmOS so I can watch the videos directly on my Treo 650 and drain my already short-lived battery out!