TiVo LogoTivo continues their trend of interesting promotions. Next week they’re hosting a long-overdue funeral for the VCR in New York City. By contributing a video cassette to the casket, you’ll be rewarded with a free Tivo (and a one year service commitment).

Tivo says: As the curtain rises on one of the country’s ultimate consumer technology and entertainment shows, Digital Life, TiVo will bring down the curtain on the VCR. In a ceremony celebrating the demise of the VCR as a household necessity and commemorating the passing of this venerable, but clunky analog technology, TiVo will encourage consumers to trade in a VCR tape for a free TiVo(R) box. The event will feature a mock funeral, including an eulogy, witness speakers sharing their personal memories of the VCR and a casket overflowing with VHS tapes.

TiVo will give away hundreds of its pioneering DVR boxes while supplies last as VCR replacements to every consumer who joins in the commemoration of the VCR’s passing by “Tossing a Tape” in the commemorative casket carrying a VCR with a venerable flashing 12:00 and activating TiVo service on their free TiVo box at the “Passing of the VCR” event.

CableCARDThe National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA) has provided a CableCARD status report to the Federal Communications Comission. For the most part the association documents the adoption rate, consumer costs, rate of incidents, and other metrics of current CableCARDs amongst the top cable providers. However, the more interesting news is the status of CableCARD 2.0 on track for 2006 deployment. The current CableCARD tecnology provides the ability to decrypt and display digital cable without the need of a cable box, whereas the CableCARD 2.0 spec allows for both multistream (for dual tuning DVRs) and bidirectional communication (interactive program guide, Pay Per View, and Video On Demand). Initially, only multistream 2.0 CableCARDs will be released with bidirectional functionality following in only  another year or so if we’re lucky.
Tivo has promised a HD-capable DVR with CableCARD support next year.

NCTA says: The Commission asked for a report on the “effort to develop and deploy a multistream CableCARD.” We are pleased to present the following information in response to that request. The specifications for Multistream CableCARDs and the Multistream CabelCARD interface are complete. The “M-card” will operate in a backwards compatible, single-stream manner with single stream devices (for example, in a UDCP); or in the multi-stream manner with multi-stream devices. See CableCARD Interface 2.0 Specification OC-SP-CCIF2.0-I02-050708, http://www.opencable.com/specifications/. Pre-Qualified samples of the multistream CableCARD will be submitted to CableLabs for preliminary testing in the fourth quarter of 2005, with the expectation of full testing and qualification early in 2006. It is expected that multistream CableCARDs will be widely available for use in commercially available commercial devices by mid-2006.

DishWith the proliferation of satellite TV and DVR services, tracking viewing trends has become more difficult and less precise. To collect more comprehensive data Nielsen announced a partnership with Dish Network today, in addition to their preexisting DirecTV/Tivo trial.

Dish says: EchoStar Communications Corporation (NASDAQ: DISH) and its DISH Network satellite TV service today announced that it has signed an agreement with Nielsen Media Research for national TV ratings service. Nielsen, the leading provider of television and audience measurement services, measures the viewing habits of TV homes including DISH Network’s estimated 11.4 million customers. The deal will allow DISH Network to use Nielsen Media Research data for marketing, programming and sales research purposes. DISH Network can use the data from Nielsen to guarantee advertisers a specific number of viewers for their advertisements.

Play-YanNintendo has rebranded their Play-Yan multimedia device for the Gameboy Micro with updated software. The Gameboy Micro’s 2″ screen pales in comparison to the luscious PSP display, but support for MP3’s and MPEG4 video in such a compact device is very cool indeed. The unit works by reading data off of an SD card, which you provide, and streaming it through the Gameboy.

The Play-Yan is bundled with Media Stage 4.2, PC software for converting and organizing your content. However, you are not required to use it if you don’t happen to read Japanese. In fact you can use the same PSP software and methods for converting Tivo files to ASF MPEG4 — be sure to specify 240×160.

WinBook MCETom’s Hardware has documented their “master plan” of building the ultimate home theater PC (HTPC). While they weren’t trying to accomplish anything extraordinary, they were trying to squeeze the components in a set-top sized case with minimal fan noise. Using a proprietary small form factor case limited their choices of components and, combined with quirky software, led to great frustration.

I do feel their pain having been down this path several times. Heck, they didn’t even run the device long enough to truly experience the driver update rollercoaster. What Tom’s didn’t seem to realize is that companies have started releasing preconfigured living room-friendly HTPC’s, such as the WinBook model pictured here. You might encounter some of the same software frustrations, but at least someone else has taken care of the hardware integration.

Tom’s Hardware says: Hype aside, is it really possible to build a PC that is quiet and does everything that a high-end remote-controlled set-top box can do? And don’t forget it’s got to look good in your living room, too. To avoid jumping in and randomly throwing together a system, we first compiled all the functions and properties of our HTPC. The list was not very long, because the main features were TV capability and playback of various video and audio formats. We are still not satisfied with the results of our Home Theater PC, and are temporarily giving up handcrafting our own hardware. But it looks as though a better solution is within reach.

Galleon PodcastingI like to think of Galleon as the Tivo Swiss Army knife – it pretty much does everything. You want email, weather forecasts, or RSS feeds displayed on your Tivo? No problem. You want to schedule downloads of podcasts for streaming to your Tivo? No problem. You want better music, image, and video management than Tivo offers you? No problem. The list goes on! But don’t just take my word for it… Tivo honored Galleon as the “Most Creative Application” in their Developer Challenge.

Leon Nicholls, a Java programmer by profession, and I chatted about his work on Galleon. The software originally began life as JavaHMO – a program improving upon and, for many, replacing Tivo’s own desktop software for stand-alone Series 2 units. With the release of HME, JavaHMO was rebranded and rewritten as Galleon to enhance and simplify a variety of multimedia functions while serving even more Internet content to your Tivo. Despite spending numerous hours a week coding, testing, and responding to issues, he assures me Galleon will always remain free.

Leon had more to say about his motivation and where he sees the project going:
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Optoma H10Being city-based apartment dwellers, we don’t have the space for a dedicated home theater. Therefore, projector/DVD combo units are appealing as a way to host an occasional big screen experience. Robert Heron reviewed three contenders in the 10/18/05 issue of PC Magazine. Optoma’s MoveTime DV10 was his Editors’ Choice due to accurate colors, native 16:9 resolution, and a quiet fan. HP’s ep9010 was a close second, and while it had great sound from the built-in 20 watt subwoofer the unit’s excessive weight and noisy fan kept it out of the winner’s circle.
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