When I'm not pumping out my latest TV rant for the ol' Squad here, I write pretty infrequently for another blog with some old college roomies called The Suite Spot. It's really nothing more than a bunch of disgruntled twentysomething males talking about whatever we want.
Anyway, a few weeks ago, my buddy Keith wrote something that astounded me: he's canceled his cable TV service. And not just cable - I mean everything. Basic service too. The man is TV-less.
Wha?!? Just how the heck can a red-blooded American male say no more to cable TV? Good-bye ESPN? So long crappy late night soft-core porn? Farewell Desperate Hou... wait, nevermind. That one sounds great, but you get my point.
Is Keith still watching TV? Sure, tons of it. But he's doing something that many of us only use as a supplement to our normal TV viewing. He's watching everything online.
This season (Jay reviewed one a couple of years ago), Comcast, Cox, Time-Warner, and Bright House all have the Yule Log on their On Demand service (via iN Demand). It's that scene of a crackling fireplace to get you in the Christmas mood. It's especially good if you don't have a fireplace of your own (duh), and it's in HD! I have Comcast digital, and to access it, go to your On Demand menu, then scroll down to HD On Demand, then go to TV Entertainment. You'll see a "Yule Log & More" category (not sure how to get to the section on other cable systems - maybe it's the same?).
But wait, there's more...
If you were wondering just what that extra dollar buys you when you upgrade to HD in the iTunes store, you can get a free look. Our pals over at TUAW made note of a number of shows that have free episodes available, in HD. The files are large, with the HD versions clocking in at right around 1.5GB, so it will take a bit to download. Something that isn't helped by the fact that iTunes downloads the SD version as well.
I've been taking a look at them and I grabbed screenshots from Heroes, Life, and Battlestar Galactica to give you an idea of the difference in the picture. It's fairly dramatic. Those captures, and the full list of free episodes, with the iTunes links, are after the jump.
If you have been playing along with the home game, you'll no doubt remember last August when Apple and NBC had a little squabble over pricing. That led to NBC content being removed from the iTunes store, and lots of he said/she said over who was at fault. It would appear that time, and potential revenue, really does heal all wounds. NBC is returning to iTunes, and an HD option is being added.
The new deal was announced at the "Let's Rock" event, where Apple unveiled updated iPods. You'll also find shows from ABC, Showtime, USA, and Sci Fi in the HD mix. The shows are already available and have returned at the $1.99 per episode price for SD. The new HD option comes in at $2.99 per episode. Prices for seasons are a little less consistent. Upgrading to HD for season two of Heroes will cost you an extra $10. $12 more for season four of Lost. And apparently, medical shows are really awesome in HD, as Grey's Anatomy adds $15 to the season four price, and season four of House jumps $16 to $47.84.
Netflix currently lets users stream selected content using a web browser or a dedicated set top box developed by Roku. You won't need to pay any additional fees to watch Netflix videos. But you will need a Netflix subscription. Microsoft says the Xbox 360 will be the only video game console to support Netflix videos, but I wouldn't be surprised if what Microsoft is really saying is that the Xbox 360 will be the first video game console with Netflix support.
Microsoft has also announced that customers will be able to purchase and download videos from NBC and Universal. Titles will include Battlestar Galactica, The Office, Monk, The Mummy, and the Bourne Supremacy. The videos will be available in high definition. Microsoft says there are now over 10,000 movies and TV shows available through the Xbox Live marketplace.
The TiVo HD can record up to 20 hours of HD video or 180 hours of standard definition television. Of course, you need to factor the price of a monthly, annual, or product lifetime service plan. Those subscription fees quickly add up and wind up costing more than the unit itself. But it's always nice to save a few bucks up front.
[via TiVo Blog]
The EyeTV DTT Deluxe is a digital-only tuner, which means you cannot use it to pick up analog signals. At the moment it's only available in Europe, which means you can grab DVB-T or Freeview signals. No word on a US launch date. The European version will set you back about €79.95 or £69.95.
Now it looks like ATI is back in the game with the ATI All-in-Wonder HD. This PCI Express card has enough oomph to capture HD video and to play back HD video on your PC. It features DirectX 10.1 support, an MPEG2/VC-1/H2.64 decoder, and Vista and AMD Live! certification. It also packs a DVI port and HDMI jack.
On the TV tuner side of things, the AiW HD can handle SD, HD, and ClearQAM signals.The card should be available in July for $199.
But while the TP1D comes in white and packs a 320GB hard drive, the TP1DQ comes in black, has a 500GB hard drive, and a Blu-Ray burner (the cheaper model comes with a dual-layer DVD burner).
Both machines are due out in Japan in a few weeks, with the TP1D selling for the equivalent of about $1400, while the TP1DQ will set you back about $1850.
As you can tell from the screengrab, Cannon PC isn't ready to sell a consumer model with 6 CableCARDs just yet. But the company wanted to show that it is possible. Windows Vista Media Center only includes native support for 2 CableCARDs, so the trick isn't just designing a system with a huge hard drive, massive amounts of RAM, and space in the box for 6 tuners. The company also had to adjust the software to allow additional CableCARDs.
You can see the results yourself in a YouTube video posted by Cannon PC.
While you can use it to play videos, music, and photos stored on your PC, the MediaSmart Connect has a few other tricks up its sleeve. You can access online radio and video streams using Windows Media Center. And the MediaSmart Connect has 2 USB ports and an HP Pocket Media Bay for additional stroage which lets you access media stored on a hard drive.
The box supports a bunch of formats including MPEG2/4, DiVX, XViD, DVR-MS, WMV, WMV-HD, MP3, WMA, AAC, JPG, BMP, GIF, TIFF, and PNG. You can connect it to your home network via an Ethernet port or over a wireless 802.11a/b/g/n network.
The MediaSmart Connect should be available for preorder later today for $349.
[via The Windows Experience Blog]
The DSM-330 is basically a media extender device that does many of the same things as an Apple TV or Xbox 360. You connect the box to your television and your home network via Ethernet or WiFi (802.11g) and you can stream videos from your computer to your TV screen.
The unit can handle videos with resolutions of up to 720p and has an HDMI port. The included software lets you access music, movies, photos, and online media. And DivX is encouraging third parties to develop applications that will run on the box, so you could see new software from independent coders or from big names like Amazon or CinemaNow in the future (I'm not trying to start rumors here. I have no evidence that either company is working on software, I'm just saying it's possible).
Sure, you pay by watching (or skipping) the commercials or subscribing to cable/satellite channels. And movie studios get paid a wee bit o' cash every time a deal is struck to broadcast a movie. But the MPAA wants the FCC to allow the use of technology called Selectable Output Control that would block your PVR from recording some HDTV movies.
The MPAA filed a petition with the FCC last month asking for the abillity to prevent users from recording movies that are broadcast before they are released on DVD. The idea is that if you can record a higher than DVD quality video before it's available for purchase, why would you go out and purchase it? So obviously, the solution is to prevent you from using perfectly legal technology to record it. Never mind the fact that the film studios could easily avoid this problem simply by moving up DVD release dates and/or refusing to sell broadcast rights before the DVD release.
The FCC is seeking public comment on the proposal. If you have some thoughts you'd like to share, you can file a comment at the FCC web site. The docket number is 08-82.
Blogger Brent Evans got his HD-PVR yesterday and posted the unboxing video you can see above. He says setup was easy and that the latest beta version of SageTV recognizes the tuner. The software that comes with the HD-PVR lets you record programs, but it does not let you watch live television.
Evans says while his computer seems to have done a decent job of recording HD video, he can't get it to play the video smoothly. The HD-PVR also locked up twice during his initial test, and he had to reboot it by turning it off and on again.
You can find some more first person accounts at the GB-PVR forums. It looks like Brent Evans isn't the only one having some problems. Several GB-PVR user says they've been having problems with recordings failing or the device locking up altogether. In other words, if you've been waiting patiently to get an HD-PVR, it looks like you might want to wait a little longer.
The quality might not be as high as the video quality you'll get from an ATSC, ClearQAM, or CableCard tuner. But the HD-PVR is extremely versatile since it works with a variety of devices. It includes S-Video and composite and component inputs. So if your video device supports any of those standards, you're all set.
The box can handle 1080i and 720p resolutions. Several major media center applications for Windows already support the HD-PVR, including BeyondTV, SageTV and GB-PVR. Windows Vista Media Center support is coming, and MythTV developers are working on adding support to the open source Linux media center application.
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