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This is the first time in my 25+ years in computing that a hardware manufacturer has informed me that it wants to charge me for a firmware upgrade. I innocently checked my Drobo for firmware updates yesterday and was startled to receive the message above.

It was bad enough that my DroboShare experience was a disaster. Despite promised upgrades, Data Robotics support folks could never get it to work properly with my Vista 64 or my XP systems on my home network – others had the same problem.  They just gave up. To this day, my DroboShare sits unused on a shelf in my closet – $300+ wasted. In-depth forum posts that I wrote about this topic on the DroboSpace forum are now hidden behind user account walls – viewable only by Drobo owners. Serial numbers are now needed to access their forum. This wasn’t the case last year.

To have to pay for firmware upgrades, which primarily amount to nothing more than bug fixes over time, for Drobo hardware is ridiculous. I gather that if they ever do fix the DroboShare problems which made the product unusable from the beginning, I’ll have to pay an upgrade fee. Give me a break!

I still love my Drobo, but I’m beginning to resent Data Robotics.

Dale Dietrich is a Toronto-based technology, video game, and interactive media attorney. Read more at The Daleisphere.

Hulu Drops The Hammer

Dave Zatz —  February 18, 2009


I sort of figured this day would come… Based on my perception of the licensing/royalty complexities and content providers fear that a current web video catalog piped to the television competes with live broadcasts. Hulu has shown their true colors – spawned of big media and beholden to big media. And Boxee has become a victim of their amazing success:

two weeks ago Hulu called and told us their content partners were asking them to remove Hulu from boxee. we tried (many times) to plead the case for keeping Hulu on boxee, but on Friday of this week, in good faith, we will be removing it

We don’t yet know what this might mean for others, like PlayOn, D-Link DivX Connected, and SageTV HD Theater, that also deliver Hulu content to the boob tube. Even if these folks don’t hear directly from Hulu, they’ve got to be rethinking the development resources they dedicate to Hulu support going forward. Related, I don’t believe this move foreshadows Hulu’s own set-top box. It’s just more of the same old school, short-sighted thinking that crippled the record labels. Good luck with that.

We knew Amazon Video on Demand was headed to Roku‘s media streamer ($99) early this year. And now, via their forums, we have word that the service has entered private beta. I had hoped Amazon VOD functionality was hidden within the recent 1.5 software update, however it’s rolled into a more significant 2.0 upgrade. Which potentially means a longer wait. Although, the refresh may also contain YouTube access. Look closely at the screengrab above for some (possible) visual confirmation. I can’t say YouTube excites me all that much. But combined with Netflix and Amazon, Roku’s negotiated quite the impressive trifecta for such a tiny, inexpensive box. But what I really want to know (still) is: Will Amazon VOD be offered in HD?

Just in time for the historic presidential swearing-in ceremony, CBS has debuted a new Silverlight player with seven (!) live HD feeds.

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

10 feet away: YouTube lands on PS3 and Wii
Perhaps taking a leaf out of the BBC iPlayer’s book, Google-owned YouTube have launched a version of the video sharing site designed specifically for viewing on a television.

DivX 7 adds support for Blu-ray rips
DivX looks set to continue to be the video format of choice for ‘grey’ content, with the company announcing that version 7 adds support for H.264 video and, more significantly, the Matroska (MKV) container.

Playing catch up, Blockbuster partners with CinemaNow
In a bid to play catch up with the likes of Apple, Netflix, Sony and Microsoft, video rental chain Blockbuster has signed a strategic partnership with Sonic Solutions, owners of the video download store CinemaNow.

Who has the most to fear from Palm’s “New-ness”?
Palm’s new webOS and Pre smartphone has the potential to take the mobile experience to the next level. Who should fear Palm’s “New-ness” most: Apple, Google’s Android, Blackberry, Nokia or Windows Mobile?

Why you may never see Firefox or Opera on the iPhone
A report on Macrumors observes that the company appears to have relaxed its iPhone App Store policy in relation to third-party web browsers. This has led to many speculating that heavyweight competitors, such as Firefox, Opera or Google’s Chrome, could be next to land on the iPhone. Not so fast.

With all of the CES news last week, some media/electronics coverage was overshadowed. Such as the update of popular AV compression and playback software DivX version 7.

DivX 7 introduces support for full HD H.264 videos. The software comes in two forms, a freeware edition with video playback support and a $20 version providing additional creation and conversion tools for DivX videos.  The package also includes the DivX H.264 decoder filter and the DivX MKV Demux filter (both DirectShow filters that extend playback support for MKV files.) MKV has quickly grown in popularity for HD downloads as an open standard enclosure that allows an unlimited number of video, audio, picture and/or subtitle tracks inside one single file. Another new feature is the integration of AAC audio – digital audio format with multichannel audio support.

Also of note for media gadget Fans: DivX has announced the launch of the DivX Plus Certification program enabling additional implementation of DivX technology on game consoles, televisions, mobile devices, and more. In fact, I noticed that Windows 7 will have native DivX capabilities.

Download DivX 7 here with a 15-day trial to sample all the encoding goodies.

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

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

Have we just witnessed the second coming of Palm?
The company unveiled its brand new Palm operating system (dubbed the webOS) running on a new smartphone called the “Palm Pre” that features a 3.1-inch multi-touch screen and slide out portrait keyboard. It’s of course early days until we see the first reviews of the Pre and I get to personally play with the new Palm OS and device but from what I’ve seen, I’m very, very excited.

ASUS Eee ‘media center’ Keyboard, Eye-Fi does video, and Negear Internet TV
Although the expo floor of the Consumer Electronics Show doesn’t open until tomorrow, there’s already been a flurry of press conferences and sneak previews fueling the tech press and blogosphere. Here are a few products that have caught my eye.

Internet TV partners: Intel and Adobe, Roku and Amazon, Netflix and LG
A number of industry players announced partnerships relating to getting Internet content onto the TV – a theme that will, once again, be prevalent at CES.

Hackintosh Netbook: Goodbye XP, hello OSX
Although it’s been possible to run OSX on the MSI Wind (or in this case the Advent 4211, a Wind clone) for many months now, it previously involved swapping out the WiFi card for a compatible one. That is until RealTek released an unofficial driver for OSX last month. So how does it run?

Over at the Qualcomm booth today was a strange little application called Mikz from a company called Conveneer. Just launched on select Qualcomm phones, Mikz gives your cell phone a URL so that other people can browse the media on your handset.

I know. First reaction: Huh? But here’s why it’s cool. You can set permissions for the people you want to have access and for types of media you want them to see or hear. For example, with Mikz I could have all of my CES pics on my phone instantly available online for anyone I want to see them. And while it’s not ready yet, the VP I spoke to said video support is on its way.

Mikz also has a Facebook widget (I foresee pic-publishing disasters at college parties everywhere) and can show your location on a map. The company says more phones with the app are on their way. I’ll update this post if we manage to get a listing of currently supported phones, carriers, and regions.