Xfinity on Demand on the Xbox and Net Neutrality

ComcastIf you have an Xbox Gold Member and are a Xfinity (aka Comcast) subscriber you may have noticed a couple of additions to the Xbox app store, MLB, HBO Go and Xfinity on Demand. However if you try to log into HBO Go you will find yourself blocked, because HBO Go is not available on the Xbox if you get your Internet through Comcast. Just in case you think this is a plot against Xbox users by either Comcast or HBO Go, it isn’t HBO Go is also not available on the Roku for Comcast subscribers, although it is available on the iPad. I am sure this makes sense to someone at either Comcast or HBO Go, but I can’t think of a good reason other than someone wants more money, never mind, I just answered my own question.

Which means if you are a Comcast subscriber you can now watch Xfinity on Demand and MLB through your Xbox. (MLB does require a subscription) The difference is any content you watch on the Xbox through the Xfinity on Demand app does not count against the data cap. Comcast says this because it is being streamed through a private network. This has net neutrality advocates crying foul, since all other services including MLB do count against the data cap. Comcast says since they are treating all services that are on the public network equally they are still observing net neutrality. I find this argument difficult to swallow, if we follow their argument on I can see a future where there are two Internets, one for companies who can afford to pay for private networks and offer fast service and another for those who are relegated to the slower public network. Unless Xfinity on Demand because it is a part of the Comcast service takes a different private path to my residence and that path can only be followed by services owned directly by Comcast. If this isn’t true, then a packet coming from Xfinity on Demand is no different from one coming from MLB and uses the same bandwidth ( assuming all other things being equal). It will be interesting to see how this pans out.

However for now the biggest problem for many Xbox users seems to be even connecting to Xfinity on Demand through the Xbox. Many people are receiving error messages, when they try to connect. Are you a Comcast subscriber and an Xbox owner, what do you think of Xfinity on Demand on the Xbox can you even get into it. Does it bother you that its is being treated differently when it comes to your data cap.

A Slice Of Raspberry Pi

Image Couresty of The Raspberry Pi Foundation

The long-awaited U.S. release of Raspberry Pi hit snag this month when the folks behind the pint-sized PC (credit card-sized, actually) realized the units were manufactured with non-magnetic jacks. “No magnetics means no network connection,” a blog post stated on the Raspberry Pi site earlier this month.

Tech folks have been buzzing about this British non-profit start-up (The Raspberry Pi Foundation is a UK registered charity) since it announced it was taking pre-orders for its Raspberry Pi and demand outstripped supply within minutes. Originally designed to provide a cheap, versatile and powerful little PC for young people to learn programming with, Raspberry Pi has instead captured attention from the entire programming world – many of whom (myself included) are waitlisted for the $25 to $35 dollar machine (probably more like $50 after taxes/shipping).

The draw is threefold – it’s inexpensive, versatile and small. Essentially, it’s a little Linux machine on a RM11-based Broadbom BCM2835 200MHz ARM processor with up to 256MB of SDRAM, composite and HDMI outputs, USB and memory card slots. No case, no bells, whistles, etc. They have a pretty extensive FAQ – it will answer all of your technical inquiries and then some.

Sounds pretty cool – a neat little PC that programmers both novice and pro can push and pull in many directions. The Raspberry Pi team has already taken to testing this little wallet-sized computer to the max, like running Quake 3 on it with minimal issues.

Outside of the technical impressiveness and the attractively cheap price, it’s the goal of this project that deserves the most respect. From the Raspberry Pi team – “We want to see cheap, accessible, programmable computers everywhere; we actively encourage other companies to clone what we’re doing. We want to break the paradigm where without spending hundreds of pounds on a PC, families can’t use the internet. We want owning a truly personal computer to be normal for children. We think that 2012 is going to be a very exciting year.”

They’ve got the buzz. They’ve got the mission. Now, all they need is magnetic jacks. Stay tuned.

GNC-2012-03-26 #753 Privacy Soapbox Time!

Feeling a 100% better and it is time to have a serious discussion about privacy and actions in the internet and public space. Looking for your feedback in a big way on these issues. Lots of great tech stories to share with you tonight as well.

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Play Store Rolling Out to the Google Toolbar

A couple of weeks ago Google implemented a major change to their Android Market by renaming it the Google Play Store to reflect the fact that it’s now more than just apps, but also contains music, books, games, and video.  With this change Google apparently also plans to make the Play Store something that is bigger than just Android handsets and tablets by adding “Play” to the Google toolbar.

While access to the Android market has always been available from a computer – previously at market.android.com and now at play.google.com – bringing it into the Google toolbar makes it accessible to the millions of Google users who aren’t (yet) Android customers.  That means millions more potential customers for Google.

In the past, Google has rarely made changes to their toolbar, but recently they have begun to experiment more often with changing around both the look and order of it.  The “Play” option doesn’t appear to be available yet for all users so don’t panic if you don’t see it now, but keep an eye out over the next few days.  Google usually rolls out these kinds of changes over a few days.

XBMC and AirPlay

XMBC I have an Apple TVand iPad. One of my favorite things is the ability to take a video that’s on my iPad and then send it over to the Apple TV by using AirPlay. Let’s face it some videos are better on a bigger screen. Plus everything sounds much better on the Apple TV, which is connected to my sound system than it does on the iPad. The problem is I only have one Apple TV and there are times when I’m sitting up late at night and looking at my iPad and I see a video that I want to see on my large screen TV in the bedroom. To that TV I have attached a Mac Mini which I use as a media center. As part of that media center I installed Banana TV to AirPlay my videos from my iPad to that Mac Mini. However Banana TV no longer works with the iOS 5 update.

My favorite media center application is XBMC. XBMC is a free open source cross-platform media center. It is available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Apple TV and many other devices. XBMC is highly customizable thru the many add-ons that are available. As a media center it was great however without Banana TV there was no way to get my video from my iPad to my Mac Mini, until now. XBMC has just gotten an the official update from Dhama to Eden and with this update AirPlay from the iPad to the Mac has become available. If you already have XBMC than go ahead and update to Eden. If you don’t have XBMC you can download it at the website. Once you’ve either updated or downloaded it, you want to go into Systems, then Network and then Services and tap down until you see where it says allow AirPlay and click enable. Now you can AirPlay videos from an iPad to a Mac, PC or Linux machine. There is one caveat it does not work with videos that have DRM installed, despite this caveat I am really glad this update has occurred.

Space Alert: Moon, Venus, Jupiter Alignment Tonight

For the second time in a few weeks the moon, Venus, and Jupiter will come together in our night sky for a great viewing opportunity.  The alignment will be at it’s peak both tonight and tomorrow night (March 25 and 26).  If you are lucky enough to be in area that isn’t overcast then you will be treated to the crescent moon appearing between Jupiter (below the moon) and the brighter Venus (above).

If you are looking for the conjunction then plan to look west just after sunset.  Jupiter will appear about 15 degrees above the horizon with the moon just above it and Venus about 10 degrees higher than the moon.  To give you an idea of exactly how bright the two planets will be you may actually be able to see them during daylight hours.  They can be hard to spot during daylight most of the time, but thanks to their proximity to the moon, which is easily found during the day, they become much easier to locate.

For more in-depth information you can check out Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy blog over at Discover Magazine.  You can also check out the skymap below, which is also courtesy of Phil.

Text Spam DrivingYou Crazy?

Being a new owner of a smart phone, I had never heard of text spam.  After all, my phone number is on the federal and my state’s no-call lists, so why would I ever think I’d get spam in the form of SMS/text messages?

Well, I do get them, at least one a day.  After a couple weeks of this, I started to get aggravated.  I knew I didn’t want to just text “stop” in return.  That’s like trying to unsubscribe to email spam; all it does is bring on more spam.

Well, it turns out I can have my carrier (who happens to be ATT) do some of the work for me in cutting down on SMS/Text spam.  I can forward my spammy texts to 7726 (that spells SPAM).  When I do so, I usually get a text back from ATT asking me for the phone number from which the spam came. I text that number back, then get a thank you text from my carrier.

What happens after that is not completely clear, but I think the more people use this service, the more likely it will be that wireless carriers will be able to take action against spammers.  Time will tell if I’ll get less spam via text message, but I’m hopeful.

Instagram for Android Sign-up Now Available

Android Logo

Instagram, the popular iPhone app that allows users to share photos, is finally coming to Android as you may have heard.  Today they made it feel a little more official by setting up a web page to allow people to sign up for information on the long-awaited app.  Instagram showed off their forthcoming Android app at SXSW in Austin, Texas recently and it made quite a splash.

Unfortunately the sign-up page doesn’t give any real information about the new app, but only provides a place for those who can’t wait to enter their email address and receive notifications.  Still, it is another step closer to making this all a reality.  While we don’t know an official launch date, it’s likely that it will be within the next few weeks.  You can sign up at instagr.am/android.

FlixFling and Orb are About to Release FlixFling TV

FlixFling and Orb Networks have gotten together to offer something that sounds really interesting. They are combining FlixFling’s movie subscription service with Orb’s wireless video streaming hardware. This is the very first time time that a service that streams premium content has been bundled with a set-top box.

The package is called FlixFling TV. It gives you FlixFling’s unlimited streaming movie subscription service and the Orb TV Wireless Streaming Media player. When you subscribe for this package, you get a both a membership to FlixFling and a membership to the Orb TV Wireless Streaming Media Player at the same time, for one low monthly fee. In other words, when you subscribe to this package it automatically signs you up for both of them and puts the membership fee for both onto one bill. That’s rather convenient!

FlixFling is an application-based movie streaming service. It is compatible with several popular internet-connected devices including Web, iOS, Android, connected TV, Roku, Orb, and more. It has over 8,000 independent and studio movies for you to watch. Orb Networks is a company that develops hardware and software, smartphone applications, and web application services.

Here’s something else that is pretty cool about this package. FlixFling TV will use FlixFling’s mobile applications for iOS and Android devices and Orb’s AllPlay for Mobile Devices to bring the FlixFling service to any screen. You can use your iOS or Android smart phone, or your tablet, as a remote. AllPlay for Mobile Devices is an open, cross-platform API that enables wireless media streaming. The FlixFling TV bundle will start being available to consumers in April of 2012.

My husband and I are currently using NetFlix. I cannot help but wonder if the movies and television programs that are not on NetFlix might possibly be accessible through FlixFling. We signed up to get streamed content from NetFlix, and we have a computer connected to our television so that we can watch movies on a nice, big, screen.

It can be a bit problematic sometimes when that computer needs to do a software update while we are trying to watch something. It might be interesting to see if the set-top box that comes with the FlixFling TV package would alleviate that particular problem.

GNC-2012-03-22 #752 The Crud Strikes!

Hey folks have a serious case of the crud but the show must go on.. Probably better to listen to this one versus watch ;). Minor schedule changes on my Indy trip but a log going on here getting ready for the new quarter.

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