Archives For Software

TiVo Releases Android App

Dave Zatz —  January 6, 2012

tivo-android

Hot on the heels of TiVo’s Premiere software update, the DVR purveyors have also just pushed out an Android app to the Market. Although, back in June of 2011, we were told it was coming soon… but, as with most TiVo initiatives these days, a little patience is required. The TiVo companion app, designed for Android 2.1 or higher smartphones and 7″ tablets, is quite similar to its iPhone brethren, featuring:

  • Browse the channel guide without interrupting the show you’re watching
  • Schedule TV show/movie recordings and ongoing (Season Pass®) recordings
  •  Browse your recorded shows list and play a show from the App
  •  Search across TV, Netflix, Amazon Instant Video & Blockbuster —and see integrated results on Demand to find what you are looking for
  • Explore cast and crew while watching a show
  • Comment about what you’re watching on Facebook or Twitter
  • Use a TiVo remote control replica or our intuitive, gesture-based remote control
  • Manage your ongoing (Season Pass®) recordings and your To-Do List
  • Delete and reprioritize recordings for your favorite shows
  • Instantly schedule, search and browse for shows while you’re away from home
The new TiVo Android app is visually appealing and, like its iOS predecessors, may be the best way to actually manage your TiVo (assuming you have a Premiere). Yet, I still prefer the speed and flexibility of the guide found in Verizon’s FiOS TV apps.

 

Everyone could use a few procrastination helpers this time of year, and Google’s provided another one in the form of brand new custom Santa video messages. The video app complements Google’s other service launched last week to let users send personalized Santa phone calls. The phone calls alone are hilarious, but the video version of the app adds a certain je ne sais quoi.

Here’s how it breaks down. Click over to Google’s Send a Call From Santa page and answer a few questions about yourself and the recipient of your message. Google will customize a short Santa animation incorporating names, characteristics and plot choices from the questionnaire. It’s not only the audio that’s customized either. Certain visual elements change based on your choices – like the gangsta-style Christmas tree that appeared in my first creation. Watch the preview of your message and then send it on to any email address or G+ account you like. You don’t have to use Google+, or even have a gmail address. Any email will do.

Unfortunately I can’t embed my own personalized message here, but you can see Google’s demo on the official Google blog. It’s right up there with the animated Rudolph special gracing TV sets everywhere this time of year.

Discovering Read It Later

Mari Silbey —  December 13, 2011

I am seriously late to the game on this one, but if it took me this long to discover Read It Later, I’m guessing that others have missed it as well. And this app is worth even some very-belated attention.

Read It Later does just what you’d expect it to do. It allows you to mark articles online for later reading. This is particularly handy for me as I tend to open up 30 or 40 browser tabs in the course of catching up on my Twitter feed. Now instead of keeping those tabs open, I can scan some stories immediately, then click a link to save others to my reading list for later. I downloaded the software first on my PC, but have since added the pro version ($2.99) on my Android phone as well. The app syncs across devices so my reading list now follows me wherever I go.

Read It Later’s been around since at least 2007, and it offers an API that’s used by many, many other popular apps, including press darlings Flipboard and Pulse. However, whether you use RIL’s daughter apps or not, the original is one of the simplest and most effective online productivity tools I’ve ever downloaded. Here are some of the features I like best:

  • One-click access- I’m always a link away from my reading list
  • Reading archive- access to older articles I’ve already marked as read
  • Mobile-optimized- an optimized view of articles on my phone’s small screen (you can also see an article in its original layout)
  • Filter and search- ability to search reading list and filter stories by title, site or tag
  • Offline reading- mobile app downloads articles for offline reading

If you’re looking for a way to control the information overflow, check out Read It Later. It’s available for all web browsers and the iOS and Android platforms. If you’re primarily an iOS user, Instapaper is a noted and worthy competitor, with some additional Kindle integration.

Everyone wants in on the EPG business. That’s one of the conclusions I took away from the SCTE Cable Tec-Expo event earlier this month. Even as CE manufacturers are pumping up the volume on connected devices with their own video interfaces, vendors in the cable TV world are pushing a range of solutions that tie the electronic program guide into larger content management systems for pay-TV operators. I talked about Rovi’s TotalGuide EPG a couple weeks back, and there’s Arris’ Moxi guide, but those two are far from the only players in this game. Here’s a sample of three other companies touting their own guide solutions.

Clearleap

Clearleap is perhaps better known in the world of Internet delivery than it is in the cable industry, but the company is rapidly carving out a niche among MSOs. Speaking with CTO John Carlucci at the SCTE event, I learned that Clearleap has a hosted, white-label guide on the market, and that it offers media services to help operators manage, encode and deliver video to connected devices. Clearleap’s solutions are strictly IP-based, but they’re already being used by Verizon for its VOD platform, and Carlucci says the company’s in trials with “four of the top five” operators for its media services. As for the guide specifically, Clearleap’s solution could be a compelling one for tier-2 and tier-3 operators. The service runs on a pay-as-you-go model, and Clearleap is rapidly adding advanced features. The company recently integrated with Great Lakes Data Systems (GLDS) to add options for a-la-carte transactions that are tied back to a subscriber’s monthly cable bill. (Think additional IP content purchases on top of the monthly subscription) Carlucci says social features are on the way. Orbitel, a small cableco out of Arizona, launched the Clearleap/GLDS solution in October to create a branded VOD experience on subscriber Roku boxes.

Motorola

Motorola showed up with a reference EPG back at the Cable Show in 2010, but that’s as far as the company had ventured into the guide world until this fall. Continue Reading…

Rovi TotalGuide 1

It’s the start of the SCTE Cable Tec-Expo in Atlanta, which means you’re going to see a lot of cable news over the next two days. Among the vendor announcements, Rovi’s put out two customer releases related to the company’s TotalGuide EPG solutions. BlueRidge Communications is now using the white label version of Rovi’s TotalGuide xD application for smartphones and tablets (think Comcast iPad web app, but built by Rovi), and Buckeye Communications is rolling out the TotalGuide on its advanced set-tops.

This may not sound like exciting news, but it is when you consider that Rovi is bringing Internet-sourced content to the cable TV guide experience. Features include an HD interface, unified search, and “six-degree discovery” recommendations linking related content via cast and crew, awards, similar programs and more. When I spoke to Rovi VP Sharon Metz last week, she mentioned that Buckeye specifically is delivering Internet-based guide data using the DOCSIS modem in Motorola and Pace set-tops. Now there may be other applications using that set-top Internet connection by now, but this is the first consumer app I’ve heard of that takes advantage of that connectivity. (We’ll talk about what’s happening on Arris gateways another time.) Rovi’s got other customers on the roster too. This year the company’s announced TotalGuide EPG deals with BendBroadband, Armstrong, Suddenlink and Charter Communications.

Pandora pushed out an iPhone app update yesterday that leverages an interesting new feature of iOS 5 — the ability for third party developers to change lock screen imagery and provide textual information. Cues that seem perfectly suited for a music streaming app such as Pandora.

For years we complained about missing iPhone features. But now, while still lacking the customizability of Android, iOS is supremely polished and (for most) well beyond feature complete. Need more proof? While I’ve invested in the fine TrackThis app, at some point the iPhone software was updated to natively link tracking numbers in email messages to their respective shipping companies.

I’ve been flirting with Windows Phone 7, but little touches like these (along with the massive app ecosystem) make it difficult to quit Apple.

Maybe it should have been named Pumpkin Spice given the timing, but the Android 2.3 update, aka Gingerbread, has been rolling out successfully to HTC Thunderbolt owners over the last several days. I left my own Thunderbolt on overnight, and woke up pleasantly surprised to see the OS update installed and running smoothly.

Some of the immediately noticeable differences in the latest software release (2.11.605.5)  include updated icons, a new Quick Settings tab, and a favorites section with frequently-used apps. The Quick Settings tab is useful because it provides shortcuts for turning on and off Wi-Fi, mobile data, GPS, etc. Not that you can’t bookmark these functions anyway, but it makes sense to have them readily available from the get-go. The icon updates are generally nice, and the favorites section is a helpful alternative to scrolling through pages of apps on a regular basis.

Digging a little deeper, the latest software build also adds a few new apps to the 4G smartphone, including Google Books and a desktop mode app. I hit up Google Books for a free excerpt of the Steve Jobs biography, but given my Kindle account, I doubt I’ll make any further use of the Google software. The desk mode app, meanwhile, only works with the official HTC hardware dock, but it’s making me think that a dock purchase (or gift request) might be worth re-evaluating. The landscape view offers time and temperature, a stream of friend updates, and three icons for photos, music, and calendar access.

The other biggie in this release is a security update. When HTC first started sending out its Gingerbread upgrade, there was a major security hole in place that allowed apps to access a slew of tracking information. That issue’s reportedly been fixed, and HTC says it’s improved Bluetooth security as well.  Continue Reading…

Skifta-android-app

We’ve written about Skifta before, but now that it’s out of beta – and I have an Android phone that rates above the 2.1 OS – I decided to give it a try. Skifta is a DLNA app from Qualcomm that lets you stream content around to different networked devices. Sadly I don’t have a DLNA TV, or a media streamer that supports DLNA, so my testing was limited, but I was able to get the gist of the app with just my phone and PC.

First the good stuff. After downloading Skifta, my phone instantly identified my PC as an available content source. I selected the source, and my playback device, and Skifta popped up an option for browsing available media. From my phone I was able to see photos, music and video on my computer. I opened the video folder first, and immediately played an old home movie I digitized for Christmas last year. It was an odd moment. Here was a video recorded on VHS nearly 20 years ago, now available on my smartphone. Surreal. Music streaming worked reasonably too, though there was a bit of a lag when trying to skip between tracks. Continue Reading…