Archives For Media

Folks who pre-ordered the DISH Network DTVPal DRV or Verismo VuNo may be receiving some pretty exclusive holiday cheer this week.

The DTVPal DVR ($250) is dual-tuning high definition DVR designed to record digital signals solely via antenna (OTA, ATSC), without requiring an ongoing TiVo-esque service fee. While interest in this product has been extremely high, early reports are a bit mixed. High quality visuals, though two reports of “pulsating” anomalies and timers (recordings, too?) seem to be scheduled via time slot, rather than content title. Guide data quality is dependent on the thoroughness and technology utilized by local broadcasters. However, this is a live platform and at least two initial customers have reported receiving firmware updates when connecting their unit over Ethernet.

The compact VuNow media streamer comes in two flavors, a standard definition “PoD” ($99) and an HD variant ($149). In addition to the requisite YouTube access, VuNow also aggregates a variety of other web video sites into a searchable interface. Through the addition of your own USB or network storage, local video, music, and graphics can also be enjoyed. Unlike that other diminutive $99 box, WiFi is not built-in – although wireless capabilities can be added via a fifteen dollar USB dongle.

I’m in touch with both DISH Netowrk and Verismo… and looking forward to getting my hands on a pair of review units. Speaking of devices I’m anxious to test drive, the Western Digital Media Player (~$120) seems to handle just about any sort of video thrown at it – with the caveats of no network connectivity and you must BYOD (Bring Your Own Drive). It’s on my wish list, too.

Data files on each of my web server, laptops, primary computer and iMac are regularly and automatically backed up to my networked Drobo. I also use the Drobo as a primary repository for 100’s of Gigabytes of centralized data – accessible from any device on my home office network, including my Apple TV, TiVo, PS3 and Xbox 360.

As of three days ago, I had two 500 Gigabyte drives and 1 Terabyte drive installed in the Drobo. Two days ago a flashing red light appeared beside one of the 500 Gig drives. This meant that the drive had failed. I purchased a 1 Terabyte Western Digital replacement drive for $114 at infonec.

True to data robotics claims, I was able to hot swap out the defective 500 Gigabyte drive and slide in the new Terabyte drive without incident. It took about 15 seconds to do. Subsequently, it took about six hours for Drobo to reconstitute data redundancy – ie: to format the new drive and redistribute my data across the newly constituted drive array such that data would once again not be lost if any drive failed.

Read the rest of this entry at The Daleisphere »

Are You Backing Up?

Dave Zatz —  December 23, 2008

The holidays, and related precious photo opportunities, are upon us… so it’s time for a backup public service announcement. And, unfortunately, I have a feeling most non-geeks leave their data vulnerable to loss.

The point was driven home recently, when I recovered the mother-in-law’s PC – containing thousands of irreplaceable photos, including a trip to China and her son’s wedding. After numerous attempts, the XP machine wouldn’t boot into Windows. Which is when I was called in. I figured either the install had been corrupted or the hard drive was failing. Since the drive was still functional, the first order of business was ensuring the safety of her priceless data. I popped the SATA drive into an external dock (above, ran me about $35 at Micro Center) and offloaded her content onto my Macbook. Then I went about restoring XP (on the same drive), followed by her files. And left her with a backup DVD. However, it’s just a stop-gap… and folks need a more comprehensive archive strategy.

Ideally, data is backed up both locally (convenience) and remotely (redundancy). Apple attempts to bring simple, seamless local archiving and restoration to the masses with Time Machine. While a Time Capsule is probably the easiest implementation for novices avoiding clutter, I periodically hang a 750GB Maxtor One Touch 4 off my MacBook via USB. In the days when Windows was my primary OS, I relied on Acronis True Image for disk images and incremental backups. My main Vista install is a Boot Camp partition, and I’ve used the free Winclone to take a baseline image that I can rebuild from should the need arrive. For remote storage, I was a Mozy customer for some time… But have since moved on to SugarSync. While it’s not quite the Mozy+Mac Gallery+Dropbox über solution I was hoping for, they’re off to a good start – I’m willing to give them some time to refine and and enhance their service. (Neither of these cloud storage services would be appropriate if your ISP restricts you to a low data transfer cap.)

So, are you backing up… If so, how? If not, why? And standby for a post by Dale on his Drobo RAID-like storage usage.

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our friends at Last100:

Hands-on: G1’s Android web browser rocks
where Android really rocks is the bundled web browser. It’s fast, renders the full web flawlessly (aside from the lack of Flash support), and does a fantastic job of re-flowing text when you zoom in on a specific part of a web page, therefore eliminating the need for horizontal scrolling despite browsing on such a small screen.

Netgear extender to deliver YouTube HD
The EVA 9000 Digital Entertainer Elite is aimed at “the tech-savvy, early adopter, not your average Roku user”, and, along with YouTube support, can download BitTorrent files, access additional Internet-based content, as well as stream video from any PC connected to the same local network.

Every NFL game streamed online, on-demand and ad-free
No longer content with leaving money on the table, the National Football League launched a new on-demand Internet TV service called Game Rewind that enables fans to “watch every NFL game in HD quality, with no commercials”

BBC iPlayer on more mobile handsets
It’s getting hard to keep up, with the BBC rolling out new versions of its UK-only seven day Internet TV catch-up service on what feels like an almost monthly basis. This time iPlayer support has been added to Nokia N85, Samsung Omnia, Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 and C905.

A periodic roundup of relevant news… from our friends at Last100:

Livestation demos live Internet TV on iPhone and iPod touch
Livestation is currently in talks with Apple to bring a version of its international news video application to the iPhone and iPod Touch, likely to be supported over WiFi only.

Nokia announces Internet radio and music streamer
Dubbed the Nokia Home Music, the device connects to the net via WiFi or Ethernet to stream music from Internet radio stations and access podcasts, and can also stream music from a PC, mobile phone or alternatively any UPnP device on your home network.

BBC iPlayer lands on PlayStation 3
Now that the PlayStation 3’s web browser supports full screen Flash video, I knew it wouldn’t be long before we’d see the BBC finally roll out a PS3 version of iPlayer. Available in Beta, as of today PS3 owners can now access the Beeb’s seven day TV catchup service (UK-only).

Sony’s eBook reader – the numbers are in
Claiming to have exceeded the company’s own forecasts, Sony says it sold 300,000 units of its Sony Reader device since its October 2006 launch.

Amazon MP3 arrives in the UK
With little or no fanfare, Amazon’s MP3 store has arrived in the UK. And in keeping with the credit crunch spirit of late, there are some real bargains on offer.

It’s unclear how many listen to President George W. Bush’s weekly radio addresses. I suppose reporters tune in, because I occasionally catch an excerpt on NPR, but I’ve never heard of anyone setting up their own podcast feed from for the weekly words of wisdom. Will that change when President-Elect Barak Obama takes over?

According to The Washington Post, Obama appears to be planning a weekly video address to be distributed on the White House’s own YouTube Channel. During the campaigns both political parties used online video extensively, but we’ve had no real indications until now of how much the government-based “new media” rage would continue post election. A YouTube channel certainly makes sense, but I’m hesitant to get too giddy over the fact that the weekly address will utilize a new medium.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m entirely supportive of an Obama administration that uses YouTube. But I wonder how well the administration will be able to use it. Will the weekly addresses come across as oratory or conversation? Should the President really have an ongoing conversation with the public or should he be operating at an entirely different level? Will the YouTube channel have comments enabled? Will the adminstration ever respond to comments? Will other video sites or bloggers be able to distribute or embed segments? The questions go on and on, and I certainly don’t know the answers. But those answers will determine whether the new YouTube addresses get watched by the public during the next administration, or only by reporters and historians. After all, how much does it matter if you have a YouTube channel, or a blog, or a Twitter account? It’s what you have to say and how you say it that matters.

Best BitTorrent Clients?

Dave Zatz —  September 19, 2008

Lifehacker documents their top five BitTorrent software packages:

As someone who steers (mostly) clear of P2P file sharing networks, when dabbling on the dark side I use (and recommend) the simple BitTorrent client built into the cross-platform Opera web browser download manager (pictured above) in conjunction with the Pirate Bay. What about you?

The open source XBMC project has released their ‘Atlantis” media center beta. The biggest news is cross-platform support: Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, and of course the original Xbox – which started it all. A few of the new features included in this beta release:

  • Cross platform support for Linux, Mac OS X (Leopard & Tiger), Windows and Xbox
  • New default skin “PM3.HD”, a high-definition tribute to Project Mayhem III for non-Xbox users.
  • XBMC Live – a bootable CD which gives you the opportunity to try XBMC on your computer, without modifying the hard drive. In addition, XBMC Live allows installation of XBMC, complete with an operating system, onto a USB flash memory stick for a permanent, fast booting, dedicated set-top-box style installation of XBMC. XBMC Live is designed to support Microsoft’s MCE Remote and USB receiver out-of-the-box.
  • XBMC for Mac release now has initial support for integrating iTunes and iPhoto media into XBMC

Note that this is a non-TV tuner front-end for the moment, so XBMC’s focus thus far is video, music, etc playback. XBMC offers some of the more impressive skins that I’ve seen – browse their nice collection here. XBMC is scheduled to be released from beta in October.

[Note from Dave: Interestingly, the new XBMC is the basis for Boxee – a competing package that overlays media exploration social/community features.]

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Brent Evans Geek Tonic.