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TV

Video of the Rangers baseball fan falling from the upper deck

No, you don’t get to see the actual fall–thank god. And I hope they don’t actually show it because it isn’t something I’d want to see.

But the reactions of the players and fans to this tragedy that happened in Texas is pretty frightening.

FWIW, he got the ball. Another fan caught it and gave it to an usher. The usher passed it along to the team and they signed it before presenting it and other goodies in the hospital to the recovering fan.

Download Youtube videos via Safari Extension

Safari has added a new feature in the Version 5.0 release called “Extensions”. If you have Safari running version 5 (relatively smoothly, as there have been more than a few problems) you might want to take a look at some of the new extensions you can add:

http://mac.appstorm.net/

By far one of the most exciting is the Youtube downloader extension that lets you save a local copy of the content you are watching on Youtube. Quite a bit of fun. It’s on that list at the bottom of the page.

note: many people have reported problems with Safari 5 so you may want to wait until version 5.1 is available and sorts out some of the issues.

NBC Coverage of the Vancouver Olympics: More coverage with less staff

Things are a bit more advanced than the first televised Olympics in 1936

“NBC sucks” is a constant drone you hear each and every Olympics.  “They didn’t show enough of the Tajikistan entrance, ergo they are biased against Tajikstan” and other silliness often is heard on the messageboards and other sites (and no, I’m not kidding about the Tajik reference–it happens).

So now that we’re done with that, let’s talk about some real live numbers behind this year’s Olympics.

NBC is going to have 835 hours of coverage across multiple platforms (and I believe that includes online coverage as well).  This is way up from the 419 hours of Torino coverage in 2006, and 375.5 hours in 2002 Salt Lake City.  It will also be the first Olympics produced entirely in HD (though my local WRC coverage got messed up last night due to a glitch with Comcast that I had, so I watched most of the Opening Ceremony in Standard Definition.  How 2003 was that?)

NBC is doing all this coverage with a significantly lower staff this year.  2168 employees which is down from the 2,768 they sent to Torino and 3,260 in Salt Lake.  You would figure more advanced technology might require more personnel, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

But if you really want to get into the technical bits of the coverage, you need to read this amazing piece in BroadcastingCable magazine that goes into some massive details, such as What type of Cameras are they using for Vancouver?

NBCU will use more than 100 cameras, all equipped with Canon lenses, to supplement OBS’ coverage. They include Sony HDC-1400, -1500 and -3300 units, and for ENG applications, Sony’s new PDW-F800 XDCAM HD optical-disc camcorders.

Um, ok.  It also goes into some details about how the streams are being processed directly in Vancouver instead of backhauled to their HQ and redone there (as they had to do with the China Olympics).

Anyway, it’s a pretty interesting article if you like technical details of television sports broadcasting.

My Brent Spiner (Cmdr. Data) photo from the IWSIV party

Yea, it was low light and all I had was an iPhone, but I did manage to snap a quick picture of Brent Spiner from the It Won’t Stay in Vegas Party in Las Vegas last week.  I also met Levar Burton and quite a few tech celebrities like Robert Scoble, Leo Laporte and Dr. Kiki.  Was an amazing party.

3D TV or Die: Television’s last gasp gimmick to slow IPTV?

Are you really going to wear these?
Are you really going to wear these?

So everyone who went to Vegas came back talking about 3D televisions, and I guess I probably should as well.

The folks who saw 3D tv and who were awestruck basically fell into two categories:  gamers and sports fans.  The gamers were really excited about some of their favorite titles ending up in HD, and the sports fanatics were basically just a bunch of drooling jibbering idiots (according to Leo Laporte of Tech TV during one of his posts).  Oh yea, and porn too.  But we’re not going to go there.

But it might also be about keeping one step ahead of the streaming IPTV services.

Print never had a chance, music took solace (wrongfully) in the idea that mp3’s were of such an inferior quality that people wouldn’t give up CD’s for the sound, and radio went down a long dark road to HD nowhere thinking that was the solution to the problem (as they saw it).  TV moved up to HD quality a few years back, forcing everyone to buy a new television and forestalling, temporarily, the IPTV movement.  Just when bandwidth got to such a level to support some good quality streaming (such as Twit.tv) they raised the bar to a quality level that as some have said, once you have seen it is hard to go back to standard digital.

But now HD streaming is becoming more and more popular.  Hulu is offering HD streams of TV programs, Youtube is as well.  There are TV programs such as FILMON that allows HD streaming of content that is pretty impressive for live quality.

Perhaps this whole 3D thing is just another attempt to push the bar a bit higher–to differentiate IPTV from 3DHD.  Make it harder for the computer folks to keep up with what the television networks are offering, and you are able to stay in business a few more years as an over the air / cable broadcaster.  Stay alive until the new new thing is out, or until TV figures out streaming in such a way as they can make a decent profit from it and avoid the piracy concerns they have.

Or maybe it is just a gimmick.

As for me, no way I’m buying a 3D TV for at least a few product cycles (i.e. until they get a standard, and work out the kinks).

Increase size of subtitles in BBC iPlayer

bbciplayer01Random tip of the day.

One of the odd things I’ve noticed with the BBC’s iPlayer downloader is that when you play back videos in full screen, the font size of the subtitles can be ridiculously small.  I looked through the settings trying to find a solution, but there didn’t appear to be on easy way to do it.  I then stumbled across an easy solution.

Switch from fullscreen to the smaller window’d viewer.  Then grab the bottom right little corner and shrink the box even further, to the smallest size as possible.  Suddenly the subtitles will be quite large.  Then hit the fullscreen button.  Viola, you’ll have large subtitles on your playback.

Go figure.

Watch France 24 on your computer with a desktop widget

picture-1When it comes to IPTV, the US has Hulu, and the rest of the world has the really cool stuff.

France 24, the France’s government-funded answer to CNN (and in English too)  has been doing some cutting edge stuff like being one of the first ‘live streaming’ applications for the iPhone.  Now they have a desktop widget that will put France 24 on your desktop with relative ease.  Just click to get the widget and turn your PC into a tv (albeit with only one channel)

Living without Cable TV–Month 2 observations

 

Doctor Who live and direct from London via the net.
Doctor Who live and direct from London via the Slingbox in my UK office.

Wow, it’s been over two months since I made the decision to cut the Comcast cable to the house and just live in an IPTV and ‘Over the Air’ world.  I hooked up Mac Mini’s to each of the TVs (god I wish Apple would really delve into the market of guys who have Mini’s on their TVs instead of the comparatively crippled Apple TV).  I also have an EyeTV attached to one of the Mini’s which is providing me with TIVO like functionality for those channels I get over the air.  

 

How has it been?  I haven’t even noticed the difference.

Ok, that’s a bit of a stretch, but seriously, I have not missed much.  I have the basic TV and some over the air TV from an antenna.  This is giving me the networks (though not in HD) and some PBS stations.  From Livestation and TVUPlayer I’m getting some live stations, and even some sports (watching cricket the other day–ha).  By far the biggest loss has been CNBC which is not part of the basic package and was nice background noise during the day.  But for news I’m getting by with a wide variety of options, from France24 and AlJazeera English service online, to my link up with the BBC (which is kind of tricky).  

My biggest expense monthly was movies, but between Redbox and Netflix (now streaming live to the TV) I’ve got more content than I know what to do with.  I initially resisted the Netflix, feeling that with shipping times and whatnot I wouldn’t be able to watch more than $9 worth of movies a month vs. the Redbox ($1 or free, if you had a code).  Well that’s not the case.  Netflix has a facility within the 1-day mail delivery to DC so I get films basically overnight from Netflix, and with the streaming option I get a whole catalog of movies (though most are generally B-grade movies, there are a few gems inside).  

I have one negative–too much content.  I mean, I don’t have time to watch everything I would like to watch.  Between podcasts downloaded and shows TIVO’d and movies I can watch on Netflix, I never want for something to watch.  Seriously–there is more than I can handle.

The big test will be football season.  We’ll see how far net streaming of college football has come.

Thus far, I’ve saved over $300 in two months on cable TV and haven’t looked back.  I’ve actually received quite a bit of fan mail from others who have done the same.

If you are looking to do the same, this would be the setup I would recommend:

  • Mac Mini (the entry level is fine, you may want to add more memory but your call)
  • EyeTV Hybrid (this connects the cable from your antenna or ‘lifeline’ service to the Mac’s USB)
  • A DVI cable or a DVI-HDMI cable and convertor to connect to your TV
  • A Bluetooth Mouse & Keyboard (honestly, it’s so much easier than using the remote)

Is everyone in Sweden a sex-crazed homicidal maniac? My thoughts on Wallander

dvd-se-wallander11-large
The Swedish Version
wallander2
The British Remake

You might get that idea in the media.  This month I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which in Swedish was called Men who Hate Women Menn Som Hater Kvinner.  It was about some murders of women…well I won’t spoil the plot other than to say sex and murder had a pretty big role. 

Last night I watched the first episode of Wallander on Masterpiece Mystery.  Wallander cop stories have been a staple of reading in Europe for the last decade, and a Swedish tv version has been around for nearly as long.  The BBC took a shot at making some films and the result was pretty good, though it also dealt with the same weird sex / violent murder that seems to be particularly Swedish this month.

 

Wallander was pretty good.  I suspect I’ll watch the next few episodes and maybe read a book or two (heck, without cable I don’t have much of a choice besides PBS).  I don’t think I’ll be visiting Ikea anytime soon.  Too much weird Swede stuff this month.

Al Jazeera English now over the air in the USA

aje
Doha Calling, Doha Calling

Al Jazeera’s English service is very slick, very professional, and if you want, very biased (depending on who you talk to).  But for most Americans without FTA dishes or access to some IPTV programs, they never had an opportunity to judge for themselves.  Until now.

MHZ Networks, a non-profit in DC that rebroadcasts nearly 10 foreign news services is adding Al Jazeera English service to their lineup, so says the Washington Post.  MHZ currently offers Russia Today, France 24 and Euronews to name a few, but AJE will certainly be  a eye-catching event.  

I’ve watched AJE sporadically over the last few years on the FTA dish and later on Livestation and other tv players.  It’s not my first choice for news (it is heavily focused on the Middle East, no surprise) but it isn’t bad nor is it as biased and opinionated as the more famous network Al Jazeera, called the Bin Laden channel by many of its critics.

Anyway, Comcast and Verizon Fios should see the new channel soon.  No idea when we’ll get it out here in the sticks (and since I don’t have cable I probably never will figure it out).  Still worth checking if you want to hear a different slant on thing.

A week without cable

Well, I survived, more of less.

When I was in Hong Kong, there were basically only a few channels of English programming. BBC World, CNN International, DW (English and German), the English Premier League soccer channel and ATV, which showed reruns of 24 and a few other tv shows. In fact, while I was over there I started watching the ‘Drew Carey’ show simply because it was on (and later, because it actually was quite funny at times).

That last little bit is kind of funny. After the cable was ‘cut’ the TV turned to static. I then connected the wires and whatnot and ran the auto-tune on the TV to find the channels. When it has finished it stopped on the ‘ION’ Channel which is a DC-based repeat channel, and believe it or not the opening credits for the Drew Carey Show were playing on the TV. Talk about a weird flashback.

It hasn’t actually been total, as we’ve been able to get some digital feeds from over the air and through other means, so TV hasn’t been totally ‘gone’. But on those few occasions when I flip on the TV (which now runs through the computer, btw, rather than through the TV tuner) I’ve pretty quickly been able to ascertain ‘there is nothing on worth watching at this moment’ pretty quickly. I’m sure I probably could have seen Notre Dame’s horrible loss in hockey last night, or a better movie than the one I watched last night had I still had all the movie channels and the on demand library, but I don’t think I’ve missed all that much.

I’ve been doing a lot of TIVO’ing off of the over the air signals and integrating with Boxee, Hulu and Front Row on the Mac. There is a pretty cool media interface set up now where we can flip between all the content we’ve recorded and even more that is online (note to apple: Boxee will kill you unless you expand Front Row to include online content). We’ve grabbed a large number of Thomas the Tank Engines (to replace the ‘on demand’ feature we had before) and also a couple of MI-5 episodes and Mystery, a show we like to watch when relaxing. We’ve watched two DVDs this week and, perhaps thankfully, I spent two nights going to bed about 8 pm with the kids (so that I could be more functional at 5 am when they awoke looking for their trains).

One week down, many many more to go.

Slingplayer for iPhone

From the about fricking time department, word has come from the TUAW that the much anticipated Slingplayer application for the iPhone has been submitted for approval with the overlords at Apple HQ. Slingplayer is a tool of many an expat used to ’sling’ back television content from a central location (i.e. their parent’s house) to their current assignment overseas. It’s also used by people in offices, geeks in college, and plenty of other folks who need to move their video content from one place to another (myself included).

When the iPhone first came out, we heard rumors that Sling would do an application, but that was off/on/only if jailbroken/on/off/on again, or something to that effect. There are already several other live TV apps for the iPhone that are out, but few that will have the functionality as basically getting your cable TV on your iPhone.

And this is the week I got rid of cable in the house. I think the Slingplayer is still in a pile of cables behind where the Comcast box once stood. Guess I have to rewire things.

All I want for Christmas

Is a voice-changing Dalek head toy.

Well, not really (I want a real Dalek). I’m also thinking it would be cool to build a Tardis as a server rack or as a ’secret door’ to a store room or something. Something I should put on my list of things to do I guess.