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November 1, 2014

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Top TV Stories of 2007: Hulu and the furthering of Internet Convergence

by Jay Black, posted Dec 26th 2007 8:00AM
I got this picutre from Chuck. I would have preferred to use the one where the hot blonde chick is dressed like Princess Leia.
The future is insanely hard to predict. For instance, when DARPA first created what would later be called "the internet," all they were trying to do was build a communication infrastructure that could reliably deliver porn after World War III. Had they known that a) World War III was only going to happen in 80s nuclear war movies and b) the internet would eventually bring about a disastrous television writers' strike, they might have dumped the money into some other crazy 60s idea. Weather control, maybe.

They couldn't have guessed where their research would lead, however, so here we are in 2007 with a vast interconnected network that exists pretty much so that people can argue as to the exact point The Simpsons stopped being good. As the internet evolves, though, it's beginning to realize its potential as a content delivery system.

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TiVo and Nero partner on PC-based PVR software

by Brad Linder, posted Nov 28th 2007 11:28AM
TiVoA few years back, ReplayTV looked like a company that could give TiVo a run for its money. Both companies had high quality set-top boxes that let users watch TV on their own terms.

But the times have changed, and while TiVo has managed to survive the onset of generic cable-company PVRs, ReplayTV got out of the hardware business and has decided to focus on making computer software for those of us brave enough to turn our computers into personal video recorders. But ReplayTV doesn't hold the name recognition it once did. The company was also late to the game with its PC software, and charged far more money at first than competitors like SageTV or BeyondTV. In other words, we kind of shrugged when ReplayTV entered the consumer software business.

But now TiVo, the company that is still synonymous with the concept of personal video recording is talking about getting into PC-based software. And we can't help but think that this could be a game-changer.

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BBC iPlayer to support Mac and Linux (using Adobe Flash)

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 16th 2007 11:00AM
iPlayer
This summer the BBC launched its innovative iPlayer software. The service lets UK television viewers watch any program that aired on a BBC channel over the last seven days. Missed the latest episode of Last of the Summer Wine? No problem, just fire up the iPlayer and watch it a few days after its original air date. No PVR required.

But the service drew a few groans for its inclusion of digital rights management technology, and for the fact that Linux and Mac users were left out in the cold. Well, while the BBC isn't lifting the DRM restrictions on downloaded episodes, it looks like Mac and Linux users will soon have a way to watch iPlayer content.

The BBC has partnered with Adobe to create a browser-based version of the iPlayer which will stream video using Adobe's Flash player. Adobe plans to add H.264 support to its Flash player soon. So while we don't know what video quality the BBC videos will stream at, the interface could theoretically support HD video.

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Why you probably don't watch downloaded video on your TV

by Brad Linder, posted Oct 5th 2007 5:30PM
Linksys media center extendersMicrosoft, Linksys, Niveus, D-Link, and HP recently announced the next generation of media extenders for Windows Media Center users. But here's the thing. If you've got a Mac, these things are useless and you'll probably need an AppleTV or similar device to watch downloaded movies and TV shows on your TV screen. And if you've got Windows XP (the non-media center version), you might prefer a different kind of box altogether for your streaming needs.

And that, in a nutshell is why you probably don't watch streaming or downloaded videos on your TV. It's just too complicated. If your computer is next to your PC, you probably need to buy a new video card that will let you run a cable from your PC to TV. And if you're like most people your PC is in a completely different room and you'll need to get a $300+ box which plugs into your TV so that you can stream video over your home network.

But as Techdirt's Tim Lee points out, shelling out the money for additional hadware is only the tip of the iceberg. You also need to find the right hardware for your operating system and software. If you download your movies from iTunes, Amazon, MovieLink, or Vongo, you'll need to make sure you have the right hardware to support your online video store of choice. And if you use multiple services, good luck. Oh yeah, and good luck trying watching Joost, VeohTV, Vuze, or Babelgum using a media extender.

While we don't expect everyone to start using the same video codecs anytime soon, it's interesting to note that Amazon, Apple, and other online music stores are starting to offer DRM-free music. Maybe one day we'll see the same thing happen with online video and as long as your hardware can support a wide selection of codecs, you'll have no problems playing any video on it.

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Hackers discover how to download streaming movies from Netflix

by Brad Linder, posted Aug 6th 2007 6:45PM
Netflix
Earlier this year Netflix announced a new service that would allow you to watch a limited number of videos online instead of waiting for the DVDs to come in the mail. The service is free with your regular subscription. If you pay $17/month for access to 3 DVDs at a time, you can watch 17 hours of video per month. If you pay $5 per month for access to 2 DVDs per month, you can watch 5 hours of video online.

There's just one problem. You have to watch on Netflix's terms. The video player is browser based, and the movies are encoded using Windows Media DRM. If you want to begin a movie now and finish it later, you're out of luck. Or if you want to copy it to a portable device for viewing during your morning commute (on the train, not while driving, of course!), no soup for you.

Well, the smart folks over at the Rorta forums seem to have cracked the code, using Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player 11, FairUse4WM, and Notepad. The solution involves finding the URL of the video file, downloading it, acquiring the license key and then stripping the DRM. It's a bit involved, and will probably take longer than just sitting down and watching the movie. But hey, it's the principle of the thing, right?

Keep in mind, this hack will not let you download more than 17 hours of video per month, so it's not exactly going to be a great trick for starting your online video piracy empire.

Update: As several people have pointed out in the comments, you can indeed stop a Netflix "watch now" movie and start it again later, or fast forward to any point in a film to begin watching. Thanks!

[via Brent Evans]

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Apple iTunes Plus music unencrypted, still unplayable on TiVo

by Brad Linder, posted Jun 6th 2007 10:52AM
iTunesIf you've got a TiVo Series2 box hooked up to your home network, you can play music from your computer's iTunes library on your TiVo -- and by music, I mean MP3 files or unprotected AAC files.

Now that Apple has begun selling unencrypted music from EMI, you'd think you could stream those files to your TiVo too. After all, they're designed to play on pretty much any portable media player that has AAC support.

But if you try to play the unencrypted AAC files purchased through iTunes plus through TiVo Desktop you'll get a "rejected song because song: format purchased AAC audio file not mp3 or convertible to mp3."

Since the tracks are DRM-free, you can convert them to MP3 or reencode them as unencrypted AAC files and TiVo will play them. But then you lose out on one of the selling points of iTunes plus files: higher quality. Any time you convert a file from one compressed format to another you're kind of butchering the sound quality. Hopefully TiVo or some hacker with too much free time on his or her hands will come along and offer a fix soon.

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5 easy TiVo hacks

by Brad Linder, posted May 11th 2007 9:56AM
TiVo Series3People have been hacking their TiVo recorders as long as there have been TiVo boxes. You can add more storage, enhance your networking experience, or make your TiVo remote control a bit more useful.

While some of the more advanced hacks require some technical know-how and some modifications that could potentially leave you with a dead PVR, there are plenty of beginner-level hacks. Our buddy Dave Zatz has compiled his top 5:
  1. Program your TiVo remote control to add a 30-second "commercial skip" button.
  2. Add an extra hard drive or replace your existing hard drive with a larger one (or pay someone to do it for you).
  3. Transfer video to your TiVo box.
  4. Remove the DRM from TiVoToGo programs you've moved from your TiVo to your computer.
  5. Stream AAC, WMA, OGG and MP3 files to your TiVo.
Zatz's article has all the steps you need to take to perform these hacks.

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HD-DVD and Blu-Ray DRM cracked

by Brad Linder, posted Feb 13th 2007 11:23AM
HD-DVDMaking (illegal) backup copies of movies you purchase on HD-DVD and Blu-Ray discs may have just gotten a little easier. Just a month after the first HD-DVD rips began showing up online, it looks like members of the Doom9 forums have found the holy grail of DRM stripping: a universal processing key used by every HD-DVD and Blu-Ray disc. Up until now, the only way to get past the AACS copy protection was to find a specific key for each individual movie you were trying to extract.

In other words, ripping a high definition disc just became almost as easy as ripping a DVD. In the short term, you can probably expect to see an explosion in high definition films torrents available online. In the long run, we can only hope someone will wrap this hack into a nice little GUI and create an easy high-definition disc backup utility that anyone can use.

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