ITV Player Comes To Roku

Roku LogoUntil today, the big absentee from Roku‘s line-up of catch-up services in the UK was ITV and its regional partners STV and UTV in Scotland and Northern Ireland. At #2 in terrestrial broadcasting behind the BBC, it was a fairly glaring omission, especially as Channel 4 and Five have been on-board for ages. Now UK Roku viewers can use ITV Player to catch-up with the last 30 days of ITV’s content across ITV, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4 and CITV with programmes such as Britain’s Got TalentCoronation Street and The Americans in addition to coverage of this summer’s World Cup and Tour de France sporting events. Hurrah!

TP-Link ACes Wi-Fi at The Gadget Show

Like many families now, it’s not unusual for everyone to be using the wi-fi network at home at the same time. Game consoles, tablets, media players and smart TVs all take their share of the data stream, and with the potential for multiple HD streams, the wireless takes a real hammering. In response to this demand, 11ac wireless uses dual frequencies and multiple antennae to get gigabit class data speeds, while still being backwards compatible with the older standards.

TP-Link Stand at GSL14

Under the Archer brand, TP-Link have a range of 11ac routers and modems, starting with twin antennae 750 Mb/s Archer C2 up to the three antennae 1750 Mb/s Archer C7. TP-Link has kindly sent one of the latter to GNC for review, so I’ll be taking a look at that later.

At The Gadget Show, I caught up with Simon from TP-Link who told me a little about their design philosophy and what they’re aiming for with the new 11ac routers.

The Internet is a Utility

Router and CablesLast week, I moved to a new Internet Service Provider (ISP). Nothing particularly unusual about that except that I had been with my old ISP, Demon, for nearly twenty years. That’s almost the whole of the my adult life and I’m sure it’s the longest customer relationship I’ve had. To be quite clear, I didn’t leave Demon as a dissatisfied customer and on the contrary, I would recommend them to anyone. So why did I leave?

To answer that, we’ll have to take a little trip down memory lane. Back in the early 90s, the 486DX2 was the CPU of choice, 8 MB was a lot of RAM, 120 MB hard drives were huge and dial-up modems were specialist items. JANET, the UK’s university network was the closest thing to the Internet, and it was email, ftp, telnet, Usenet and gopher. I imagine that some readers will be thinking, “gopher?” Never heard of that.

In 1992 and in an early example of crowdsourcing, Demon ISP was setup by persuading 200 people to pay in advance for a year’s dial-up access. I wasn’t part of that group but after publicity in the leading UK computer magazine at the time, Personal Computer World, I signed up for their £10 a month dial-up service. You had to buy your own modem in those days – no freebie wireless router – but it came with unlimited email addresses, 10 MB of ftp space and Usenet newsgroups.

Demon provided their own email package called Turnpike as this was all pre-Outlook, and a certain level of skill was needed just to get on-line. The connection software was a command line program called KA9Q that was originally amateur radio software. Winsock fortunately arrived shortly afterwards, which made life considerably easier with Windows 3.

One of the great things about Demon in the early days was that the support staff were technical folk too and quickly got the measure of the caller. If you said to them that you were having problems with DNS resolving, they’d understand that you had a reasonable grasp of the problem and work with you, rather than blindly follow the procedure written in the training manual.

Since then there have been many changes in the world of technology, not least the arrival of ADSL broadband, which single-handedly changed the web from geek toy to consumer product. In the end, two things conspired against Demon. The first was free web email such Gmail and Hotmail which meant that I no longer needed my ISP to provide me with an email address. The second was video-on-demand which had the twin impacts of volume and speed. My new ISP, Sky, offers twice the speed of Demon and no data caps for less money. Bit of a no brainer, as they say.

Demon provided a great technical service for geeks 20 years ago, but as the web has become a consumer product, the need for technical features such as ftp space has faded. All that is needed is the connection. The Internet has become a utility like water, gas and electricity, always there and always ready. No understanding of the technology is needed to use it, just as turning on a light doesn’t need knowledge of volts and amps.

I’ve no doubt that Demon has a successful future working with business but I think that the future of the independent ISP in the consumer space is bleak. People will choose consumer brands linked to utilities or telcos – Sky, BT, Virgin, Orange – and get one bill for multiple services at a reduced price…as I did.

Routers and Cables 2” image courtesy of BigStock.

Wi3 Uses Coax for Ethernet Networking

Wi3 CartridgesThe folks at Wi3 have developed a new and innovative way of using the cable TV co-ax wiring to carry more that just pictures. Jeffrey and Andy find out more from Adam.

The Wi3 system replaces the cable wallplate with a modular unit that offers a range of connection or transport options. The first two modules offer twin ethernet ports or a single ethernet port with wifi access point. Later modules may offer a built-in “set-top box”  with HDMI out or a small PC could even be squeezed in. And all without affecting the cable TV signal by using MoCA technology.

It only takes about five minutes to install and one of the neat things I like about this product is that the connections come sideways out of the unit. Consequently, it looks more attractive and less noticeable in the home.

The first two modules are only available to dealers at present but they will be stocked in big boxes nationwide later in the year. Prices are $150 and $200 for the ethernet only and wi-fi models respectively.

Interview by Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine and Andy Smith of Geocaching World.Support our Show Sponsor:
30% off your new order @ GoDaddy: gnc30
1.49 .com New or Renewal geek149
$1.00 / mo WordPress Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: press4
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: geeks12
GoDaddy Promo Codes always save you money, check out my Promo Codes Today

Shodogg Unleashes Video From Your Smartphone

Shodogg Video's Best Friend LogoShodogg is a brand new content delivery technology that takes content shown on your smartphone and passes it to any web-connected device, such as a smart TV. Launched at CES, Andy talks to David, co-founder of Shodogg, to find out more.

Frankly, it’s probably easier to watch the video than to try and explain how it works but basically Shodogg lets you find video content on your smartphone but then play the video on a smart TV, PC, Mac or anything that can view a web page.

It works by giving a unique ID to each “screen” and once you’ve plugged the screen ID into your smartphone, the phone can then pass the video to this screen. Amazingly, you can swap screens during playback, with the new screen picking up at exactly where you left off.

Shodogg is in an alpha release at the moment and will be available late spring on iOS devices, followed by Android about a month later. It’s a great idea, simple to use, and I can see it being a very popular way of finding and then viewing online content.

Fetch, Toss, Share. Shodogg.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net.

Support our Show Sponsor:
30% off your new order @ GoDaddy: gnc30
1.49 .com New or Renewal geek149
$1.00 / mo WordPress Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: press4
$1.00 / mo Economy Hosting with a free domain! Promo Code: geeks12
GoDaddy Promo Codes always save you money, check out my Promo Codes Today

Independence USA Reality Show

Do world events have you rattled? Ever thought of learning to live off the grid?

Follow Frank Belcastro as he attempts to drag his family (sometimes kicking and screaming) toward his goal of being able to live completely on their own, off the grid.

“Independence USA” premieres on January 18, 2012 exclusively on GBTV.Com, Glenn Beck’s new streaming Internet-based television network. “Independence USA” is produced by GBTV and The WorkShop, L.L.C. whose team has produced shows for History, ESPN, ESPN Classic, Animal Planet, HGTV, trutv, Travel Channel, Lifetime, Discovery Channel, TLC, The Golf Channel, and Broadcast Syndication. The show will air weekly on Wednesdays.

The “Independence USA” trailer has hit reality show written all over it. In my opinion this is going to be a real game-changer for the concept of streaming video and new media. This is the first professional-quality TV series aimed at a mainstream reality TV audience produced exclusively for an Internet-based television network. Though networks have played around for years with streaming re-purposed television shows and movies, this is the first time a network is being built from the ground up, one module at a time to create a pay TV network for exclusive distribution on the Internet.

Will people subscribe to an Internet-only high definition TV network? The answer is, yes they absolutely will subscribe provided that the content is there. It’s highly likely that the addition of the “Independence USA” reality TV series will get many people over the hump and cause them to pay.

People already in the new media/streaming media space should welcome GBTV, because it is going to be a game-changer. It’s success will likely cause a bit of a land rush towards streaming. Devices such as the Roku are in a great position to reap those land rush benefits. The presence of professional level TV networks on the Roku will potentially have a bit of a “halo effect” for existing new media creators.

On The Net, Less Can Offer More

For some time now I’ve been using an iOS/Android app called “Heytell” to communicate with a number of friends and relatives. Heytell’s appeal is that it offers reliable asynchronous voice messages that are quick and easy to send to people when you don’t want to invest the time in a phone conversation. Heytell’s success as an app is that it offers something that’s less than a phone call but does it very well indeed.

Text messaging is successful and popular because it offers the opportunity to send quick and easy messages directly to the cell phones of others if you don’t want to invest the time or effort into writing a full-fledged email. Text messaging’s success is that it offers something that’s less than an email but does it very well indeed.

For some time now, I’ve been experimenting with various set-top boxes, including the Western Digital WDTV as well as built-in apps in a couple of different brands of Blu-Ray players, the software version of Boxee, an Apple TV, and even a Mac Mini connected to my HDTV. All of them had their strengths, however, it still felt as if something was somehow wrong or missing from each one of those experiences and user interfaces.

Over the weekend I bought a Roku 2 XS. The Roku is by far the best set-top box experience I’ve ever had. Roku has got it right. They’ve currently got well over 100 apps to chose from, with many more constantly being added. Roku has a tremendous amount of content provided by those third-party apps, and content drives success. Content is king and always will be.

It hit me what the appeal of a box such as Roku is with its third-party apps. These streaming apps, such as Crackle, Netflix, etc. are something less than a full-fledged cable or broadcast TV network. They can have lots of highly-specialized content to choose from, such as Netflix, or such a small amount of highly-specialized content that it’s only updated once a week. Big traditional cable and broadcast networks provide only one program at a time that the viewer has to make an appointment to watch. Roku video streaming apps provide specialized content that in many cases could never make it on a traditional broadcast network because the audience would be too small. That same specialized content begins to have tremendous appeal in a Roku app venue where it’s something less than a full-fledged network environment, yet delivered very well indeed.

On the Internet, less really can be more.

Video’s Streaming Future

Many people are likely familiar with the radio/television on-air personality Glenn Beck. His television career included both CNN and the Fox News Channel. On Fox News, Glenn Beck had the most-watched nightly show of any of the cable TV news networks.

Recently, Glenn Beck left Fox News to form his own online streaming television network, GBTV, available at http://www.gbtv.com.

About a month ago, after viewing a few of the free Glenn Beck highlight clips from his two-hour nightly streaming television show, I took the plunge and subscribed.

I am very impressed with the production quality. GBTV, LLC currently has 120 employees. This is a genuine, highly-professional high definition television network that has a spectacular set and world-class production facilities that is just as good if not better than anything that Fox, CNN, etc. are capable of doing. Like any genuine television network, live streaming shows start and end right on time and incorporate a number of regular breaks. GBTV is creating genuine television programming that is broadcast directly to the Internet as opposed to satellite or cable distribution. As such, it removes the filter between the content creators and the end viewers, yet high broadcast standard production values are maintained throughout which lends what GBTV is doing an aura of genuine excitement. Real multi-camera live HD broadcasts can be sent directly to subscribers, thus eliminating the cable/satellite middleman.

There are a variety of subscription plans, including monthly and yearly plans. One can subscribe for $4.95 per month, or $49.95 per year. I subscribed to “GBTV Plus” for $99.95 per year, which includes the 6 camera HD shoot of the daily Glenn Beck Radio Show along with other streaming television programs that are coming onto the streaming service. GBTV is in the process of becoming a full-fledged streaming television network that has ultra high production values along with impressive content. Subscription plans include a 14-day free trial.

GBTV currently can of course be viewed on a computer. Other devices include the Roku, as well as iPad and iPod/iPhone apps. All programs remain available for streaming any time for a period of 30 days before dropping off.

I cut the satellite cord more than a year ago, because I felt I wasn’t getting $100 dollars per month worth of value out of my satellite programming. I am more than willing to pay for good content, but I want it on my terms, on a variety of devices, and on my schedule. GBTV offers a tantalizing glimpse at the future of high production value TV content.

Xbox Boosts On-Demand in the UK

Earlier in the week, Microsoft gave the Xbox a big push in the race for HDMI 1 with Steve Ballmer announcing Xbox TV and partnerships with over 40 content providers. Jeffrey Powers has already covered the main announcement on GNC but I wanted to add a little bit of UK spin.

In the UK, additional programming boxes such as the Roku, Boxee or Apple TV are very rare. Most of my friends would enjoy their gadgets and technology but I don’t know a single one of them who has an extra box. However, many of them would have a games console and there’s a fairly even spread of Xboxes, Playstations and Wiis. Consequently it’s no surprise that the race to provide on-demand content is taking place on the consoles.

Most people in the UK are using the availability of on-line TV to catch up with programmes they missed when they were originally broadcast. What typically happens is that you go into work and some says, “Did you see…..last night? It was brilliant” and you watch the programme through the various free on-line services. The BBC’s iPlayer is very popular.

Reviewing Microsoft’s press release, here are the organisations that will provide on-demand content available in the UK on the Xbox. I’ve ignored the standard social networking sites, such as Facebook and YouTube, but have added the organisation’s background so that non-UK residents can get a feel for what’s happening.

  • BBC – Terrestrial broadcaster
  • Channel 4 – Terrestrial broadcaster
  • Channel 5 – Terrestrial broadcaster
  • BSkyB – Satellite broadcaster (requires monthly subscription)
  • LOVEFiLM – On-line film rental
  • blinkbox – On-line film rental
  • Crackle – Free on-line films
  • Screenrush – Film trailers
  • Muzu.TV – Music videos
  • VEVO – Music videos
In terms of the numbers, the traditional terrestrial and satellite broadcasters have the greatest presence and there’s only one major UK broadcaster missing from the list, ITV, which is a conglomeration of regional broadcast companies.
LOVEFiLM is owned by Amazon, Crackle is a Sony property and blinkbox is 80% owned by Tesco, one of the UK’s leading supermarkets.
The challenge will be to get consumers to pay for the on-line film rentals. Here in the UK, there is lots of good free programming which was originally broadcast but is now on-line through the broadcaster’s portals via tools similar to iPlayer. It will be interesting to see how the paid-for market develops and if the games consoles are key to the transition. It’s certainly where the media companies need to be for the UK market.

NHK World TV iPod App

Like millions of others, I’ve been glued to news sources to get as much current information as I can about the ongoing disasters in Japan following the massive earthquake, tsunami and ongoing nuclear plant disasters. This has to be the biggest natural disaster that has occurred in my lifetime.

In pre-Internet days, we had to rely on newspapers and television for news. Those forms of information have their problems. This is the Internet age. I want current information directly from the source NOW, not later. I want current information of my choice, not what news agencies that aren’t directly on the scene think is or is not important for me to know. If I want 24/7 disaster coverage, in the Internet age that becomes possible, allowing me to completely bypass limited conventional coverage.

It took a while for me to find, but there’s an iPhone/iPod/iPad/iOS app from Japan’s NHK called NHK World TV Live. The app is free. Once the app is installed, it operates very simply. You simply open the app and the live video directly from Japan’s NHK World news service immediately begins streaming. Search iTunes for NHK World TV Live.

The service has an English translator that talks over the lowered volume of the original Japanese broadcasts. The English translators aren’t slick and you can hear them become a bit confused from time to time.

There’s also an app from the Al jazeera TV English news network that operates live out of Doha, Qatar. Al jazeera TV English is highly produced from a beautiful state-of-the-art studio. The on-air newsreaders seem to be British nationals. Though Al jazeera gives more news from the Arab world than the typical American is used to, they do a pretty good job of covering international news, including the situation in Japan. Search iTunes for Al jazeera English Live.

Savvy TV news agencies in today’s world have to make themselves available if they want to continue to be relevant. News agencies such as the BBC, CBC, CNN, Fox, etc. seem to be dragging their feet regarding available-to-anyone-anywhere 24/7 Internet TV broadcasting. I believe they are already losing world market share.