Archives For Media


Seagate has licensed the Pogoplug personal cloud experience, to power a line of networked hard drive docks – presumably for use in conjunction with Seagate’s external drives. Pogoplug, in its original $99 form, is a wall wart power adapter that also happens to contain a tiny Linux computer capable of sharing any USB storage, both locally and via the Internet. And I recently received a loaner – while I’m still formulating a Pogoplug opinion, check out my unboxing pics and their new streamlined social file sharing functionality. The Seagate Freeagent Dockstar lineup starts at $99.

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Mapping Television Online

Mari Silbey —  September 16, 2009

Mapping online TV Verizon Comcast Time Warner Cable AT&T Hulu

The landscape of television online is changing so rapidly, it’s hard to keep up. Since the announcement of TV Everywhere trials by Comcast and Time Warner Cable, Verizon has jumped into the mix, and AT&T has started testing its own TV portal site. Comcast’s Stephen Burke has also announced that the initial Comcast trial will go national in the next 30 to 60 days – a far more optimistic timeline than those presented at the TV Everywhere breakfast in New York last month.

That’s all on the good side. On the bad side, there’s word over at Multichannel News that Hulu is considering a new subscription model. It’s not surprising, but we may soon be paying to watch free broadcast TV channels online. Given that ads still don’t bring in TV-level cash on the Net, a subscription model makes sense. Don’t be mad. As Mark Cuban (rightly) rants, subsidized TV is not a constitutional right. Better to focus on getting the pay-TV providers to roll out their TV Everywhere services faster, faster, faster. At least we’ve already written the check for that content.

Having trouble keeping up? Don’t worry. It’s only going to get more chaotic and confusing for a while. But if I can ultimately watch my shows anywhere I go, I can live with that.

Comcast wall fountain girls

A meeting at Comcast HQ this past week gave me the excuse to check out the latest updates to the video wall in the lobby. You may recall when Comcast installed the IMAX-like experience last summer. It’s quite a hoot to watch people react to a bunch of wood panels that suddenly become a gigantic movie screen. Well, the cable giant has moved on from solely pastoral video feeds of running water and the like to scenes of dancing girls. The girls, of some yesteryear, are clad in slinky outfits and choreographed in multi-tiered human sculptures. A bit surprising from Comcast, but certainly a showstopper. And if dancing girls aren’t your thing, there are still scenes of falling leaves and cosmic wonders. Plus an oh-so-clever snowy scribe outlining the Comcast Experience. Check out the gallery below.

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The Seagate folks recently sent me a pair of devices to check out, including Replica – their newer, sleek and slim bundled hardware+software PC backup solution. I wasn’t sure I’d find time to play with it before the big move, but Melissa’s Dell Studio XPS 13 has been in need of some TLC. Her laptop rocks, other than early lockups which I cleared with a few Dell updates, and is by far the fastest 13″ computer (Mac or PC) I’ve ever used. However, at some point, the Vista install was corrupted. (I’m guessing a non-graceful shutdown, but the jury’s still out on the root cause.) The boot sequence has been full of errors and we’ve been unable to install any software, such as iTunes.

My plan had been to backup her computer using Replica as a precaution and then upgrade the XPS to Windows 7. As it turns out, Vista was so hosed I couldn’t even get Replica working. So, we rolled the dice and went for a Vista -> Win7 upgrade with merely a file copy to USB. I figured we had a 50/50 chance of an in-place upgrade working, without requiring a clean install. Fortunately, it went smoothly and all Windows errors/issues have been resolved. Although, we ended up with a non-functional version of Trend Micro under W7 – now replaced with the Microsoft Security Essentials beta.


The Replica install and config was ridiculously simple/automated, taking just a moment or so. Attach drive, let it update itself, backup of primary partitions begins. I guess the only complaint I could have is completing the required (?) registration splash screen before kicking it all off. Like Apple’s Time Machine, Seagate does it’s thing in the background when a drive is connected, providing both file level restoration and disaster recovery (via included boot CD). The Replica is offered as a 250GB single PC model (~$100) and 500GB multi-computer edition ($~180). And the primary difference, other than capacity, is the higher tier unit ships with a dock.

For a hundred bucks, I don’t think you can go wrong – a sleek, quiet, and cool drive with thought-free backup software. Of course, the real value of this solution won’t be known until attempting a system restore… which is something I’d rather avoid.

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As ZNF readers are well aware, one of the biggest challenges we face with digital media (books, music, video) is in sharing it. Legally.  Over at Live Digitally, Jeremy Toeman details one possible scenario for an Amazon Kindle used book store – allowing folks to resell books back to Amazon for a store credit. And in turn, Amazon offering these ‘books’ at a lower cost than ‘new’ ones.

Despite his calculations, I’m not sold. Traditional supply, demand, production, and distribution rules don’t transfer cleanly from the analog world to a wired marketplace hawking digital goods. Other than an artificially lower resale value, what’s the difference between a ‘used’ ebook and a ‘new’ one?

A better solution to increase adoption and loyalty while staving off piracy is the integration of a gifting option. After purchasing most Season 1 episodes of Mad Men and Burn Notice digitally, I’d have liked to give these titles to my mom (~1,000 miles away). Instead, I ended up buying her the DVDs. Which I’m sure the studios love. But how about thinking bigger picture?

What if each digital download/license could be transferred (not copied) just once – what I believe to be a reasonable compromise between producers and consumers. And let’s give incentivize the retailers by limiting transfers to their own ecosystem. So in my case, Apple would get a new iTunes member in my mom and probably an Apple TV purchase – as I don’t see her watching video for any length of time at the computer. Building upon one of Jeremy’s ideas, perhaps retailers could also facilitate bartering (with a per exchange fee) between strangers. Which could also be a big win for music discovery, leading to additional digital purchases.

Over the years, I’ve had many music licensing, DRM, etc talks with ZNF contributor Dale Dietrich. He (had) envisioned a digital media “utopia” where every piece of content is registered with a unique serial number via an online licensing clearinghouse – and could be freely traded, sold, or loaned. In reality and unfortunately, I doubt any of our scenarios will come to pass. They’re too consumer friendly. And perhaps to complex. Guess we’ll continue to settle for low-def Hulu streaming with commercial interruption.

ZNF ‘Round The Web

Dave Zatz —  May 3, 2009

Leaving comments across the blogosphere…


Why Does Photo Sharing Still Suck?
Yep, I agree. Still looking for that perfect solution. And still pissed at Kodak for deleting my Galleries when I didn’t make a purchase. PS SmugSmug has a backup solution which uses Amazon’s cloud storage/server farm for an extra fee. They’ll even mail you recoveries on DVD.

Palm’s Foleo: Back From the Dead?
Agree with DTNick – Palm shot themselves in the foot. They understood the form factor, they didn’t understand the market. I played with a pair of Foleos at two different tech press events. Really liked the small size and super sprightly OS. The apps were minimal and minimalistic, but they seemed to have more powerful stuff in the pipeline. Thought it would have made a great mobile blogging tool. Then they blew it all up. I tried to get one that hadn’t been destroyed through some back channels, but never succeeded.

Why I Jumped on the Blu-ray Bandwagon
I had a Blu-ray player via a PS3. But I ended up dumping it. Not because I didn’t like the Blu-ray, but because I didn’t like the gaming experience. I’m fine with HD movie rentals (Xbox, Vudu, Amazon, cable box) and premium cable for now. Oh yeah, I also had a HD DVD player for a short time. That didn’t work out so well.

Here’s Why You Want Bandwidth Caps
Neil, it’s already a reality. Comcast has me capped at 250GB… without a meter to track household usage. 250GB isn’t unreasonable, but online backup solutions are much less useful/realistic. Also, there are NO higher tiers or overages. Break the cap, and my ISP reserves the right to dump me. Unlike a utility, which they may claim to be.

HP’s LX195 Low-End Windows Home Server is $390
@SysRq_: It’s definitely not a Time Capsule killer because HP’s MediaSmart servers don’t actually recover Macs. It’s a bit of smoke and mirror marketing… HP supports Time Machine for individual file recovery, but there’s no network whole-OS recovery. I got burned by this with the EX485.

Are There Caps on Boingo Wireless Wi-Fi Usage?
You still have any phones on T-Mobile? $10 gets you unlimited HotSpot (Starbucks, many airports, etc) PLUS unlimited WiFi domestic calling (if you have a UMA phone like Melissa’s Blackberry Curve 2). Great deal! I also have a Starbucks Gold (black) card which gets me that WiFi. Though the benefit seems the same as the regular debit card – 2hrs/day, purchases every 30 days. Although, I still need my Sprint 3G card. I have it on the friends & family plan, so it’s $50/mo instead of $60. It’s a lot, but well worth it to me. Maybe I should resell some of my wireless access.

The Vudu Status Report

Dave Zatz —  March 6, 2009


It’s been awhile since we’ve talked Vudu here on ZNF, so it’s time for a 2009 status update. The year started with a second round of layoffs, which came as no surprise given some of the funding chatter that came my way late in 2008. Not surprisingly, Vudu followed this by announcing a renewed focus on licensing the Vudu platform and permanently slashed prices on their standard box by 50% $150 is a much more compelling and competitive price point.

On the experiential end, Vudu now offers HD movie purchases in addition to rentals. In this day and age, however, I have no desire to own digital content. I’d rather rent on demand. Of interest, a pair of iPhone apps have been also released. The official app provides an efficient method to browse and rent HDX titles on the go – so they’re ready for playback when you get home. The Vudu iRemote, like the TiVo DVR iPhone remote, utilizes your network and built-in Vudu home automation hooks to provide touchscreen device navigation.


This week, version 2.2 of Vudu software was deployed to boxes, consisting of mostly minor enhancements and fixes. However, the next update is rumored to address some of Last100’s concerns by providing local network storage/archiving… and extender streaming functionality. Something many of will look forward to.


As a guy who’s been reading e-books for nearly a decade on handheld devices (Palm V , Dell Axim, PPC 6700, etc), I’m pretty psyched this AM to see Amazon follow through on promises to expand the Kindle experience beyond their own hardware. While both Stanza and eReader are installed on my iPhone, they don’t offer nearly as many titles as Amazon. More importantly, they can’t compete on price. (Amazon’s best sellers and new releases run $9.99.) However, my hopes of a directly integrated bookstore have been dashed with the initial Kindle on iPhone app release. In fact, Amazon’s own shopping app can’t even purchase Kindle books. I assume this is a temporary limitation, and is optimized for mobile Safari. Because as an infrequent and spontaneous (book) reader, I know I’ll be looking for titles in an airport just before boarding a flight.


Obviously the iPhone reading experience is much different from using Amazon’s dedicated Kindle hardware. The screen is smaller and while the backlight is great for reading in dim locations, a bright LCD can be visually fatiguing. Above, notice the macro Kindle e-ink shot taken by Tumblr lead developer Marco Arment. He’s concluded the little splotches are unintended artifacts, a result of immature tech. However, I believe this is intentional – mimicking the the composition of paper. Certainly the Kindle screen is easy on the eyes. When it’s not blinking with each page turn.

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