Geek News: Latest Technology, Product Reviews, Gadgets and Tech Podcast News for Geeks


Blockbusted! Blockbuster Closes US Stores, Online DVD Rentals

Posted by J Powers at 8:24 AM on November 7, 2013
Blockbuster

Blockbuster

Down the street from where I lived we had a “Doorstep Video” (they used to deliver videos to your doorstep). I remember the day that Blockbuster acquired that local video store. It took me 2 years before I finally got a Blockbuster card, which I used all through the 90′s to around 2005.

Now that is just a memory…

Blockbuster – the video rental company that opened their doors in 1985 – has closed all DVD operations in the US. DISH network announced all remaining 300 stores will be closed and the online DVD rental service was also shuttered, along with 3,000 jobs.

Blockbuster opened in Dallas, Texas on October 19, 1985 by David Cook. It was bought out by Scott Beck, John Melk and Wayne Huizenga who turned it into a national brand. Blockbuster even almost made the change to big box retail when they tried to buy the failing Circuit City, but couldn’t come up with the capitol.

Was probably a good thing as shortly after Circuit City collapsed, Blockbuster started to see their decline. They eventually were purchased by DISH networks on April 6, 2011 after filing for bankruptcy.

“Consumer demand is clearly moving to digital distribution of video entertainment,” said DISH president and CEO Joseph P. Clayton in the press release about the closures.

The service was late and far behind from Netflix on DVD rentals and then streaming movies. Blockbuster suffered the same problem when Coinstar’s Redbox kiosks were placed.

Blockbuster @ Home will still be alive on DISH networks for their on demand service. Further, 50 franchise stores will remain open under the Blockbuster name for the time being.

Roku Surpasses Apple TV as Most-Used Streaming Set Top Box

Posted by J Powers at 11:05 AM on August 15, 2013

Roku-3According to a new report from Parks Associates, Roku has taken the lead as the most popular streaming video device in the US. Further, Parks Associates also showed the number of U.S. broadband households with streaming media device has doubled since 2011.

The group put out a report called Connected TV: Trends and Innovation (report for purchase). In this report, they found that 37% of households with a streaming media device use Roku – as opposed to 24% that use Apple TV.

Parks Associates expect the number of connected TV devices to reach 330 million by 2017. With newer, easier to use devices like ChromeCast entering into the market – along with Apple’s rumored upcoming updated Apple TV on September 10th, this number could grow a lot faster. Adding in 4K or Ulta-TV devices with simple app support that get people introduced to streaming media could spark the market even more.

“Roku customers are passionate about streaming, and we are delighted that independent research shows that we are the most popular streaming platform measured by usage on a U.S. household basis,” said Anthony Wood, Founder and CEO, Roku.

Roku’s newest version – the Roku 3 – is a media streaming device and small game console with programs like Angry Birds, Galaga and Pac Man. You can use the remote with Bluetooth headphones for privacy viewing or pull out your iOS or Android device to control the set top box.

This brings a true fight for the TV’s HDMI port.

Hulu Flip-Flopped. Video Service No Longer for Sale Again.

Posted by J Powers at 12:15 PM on July 12, 2013

Hulu LogoI am starting to wonder if I should even read stories of Hulu being for sale…

The conglomeration of owners that is known as Hulu has once again backed out of the for sale market. The group – consisting of 21st-Century Fox, NBCUniversal and Walt Disney Company – have confirmed via press release they will once again take the streaming content service back off the market and re-invest to bring more customers.

This is not the first time Hulu has done this. Back in 2011, Hulu had a potential suitor where the deal was called off because the group wanted to re-invest.

“We believe the best path forward for Hulu is a meaningful recapitalization that will further accelerate its growth under the current ownership structure,” said Chase Carey, President and Chief Operating Officer of 21st Century Fox. “We had meaningful conversations with a number of potential partners and buyers, each with impressive plans and offers to match, but with 21st Century Fox and Disney fully aligned in our collective vision and goals for the business, we decided to continue to empower the Hulu team, in this fashion, to continue the incredible momentum they’ve built over the last few years.”

The co-owners of Hulu continued by saying they will be adding another $750 million into the service. This will go toward building a larger subscriber base.

Hulu started in 2008. They currently have content from over 400 partners, 4 million subscribers and 30 million monthly views.

Finally Mobile Streaming Becomes Truly Practical

Posted by tomwiles at 8:05 PM on April 23, 2013

I remember driving around back in the early 1980’s dreaming of what it might be like if I could listen to what I wanted when I wanted to. Back in those days, in many areas of the country, there was nothing to listen to but farm reports and hog prices. AM and FM stations would quickly fade in and out. Driving cross-country it was necessary to constantly change stations as they faded in and out, often vainly searching for something worthwhile to listen to.

When podcasting came along in 2004, in many ways it was the answer to that dream. Suddenly there was new content to listen to, on demand, on a wide variety of topics. It had to be downloaded and put onto a player in advance.

The past few years I’ve been experimenting with mobile streaming. For a long time, it just wasn’t practical in rural areas. Pandora would generally work better than all the other streaming services, but attempting to stream regular radio stations or even podcasts was generally not going to work.

However, now things have changed once again. With the widespread deployment of LTE mobile networks, successful casual streaming all kinds of different audio is not only possible, but practical in most of the areas I’m driving in. This opens up yet another new world of possibility.

Podcasting itself is a good case in point for something that came together because enough bandwidth was available. MP3 files had been around for a long time. Computers had already had the capability of recording digital audio for quite a number of years. RSS had been around for a while. All of these things converged and became something new.

Today I’m spending a lot of time with the Stitcher app on my Google Nexus 7 here in my truck, suction-cupped to the truck’s windshield and connected to stereo speakers via Bluetooth. Stitcher makes a great streaming mobile radio service. Now that the mobile data network is good enough in most areas to make streaming practical in the real world, new possibilities have opened up.

All of these things have been around a while. Stitcher is not new. The streaming concept has been around for quite a number of years. Podcasting as well has been around for probably at least nine years. What is different is now I don’t have to fuss with downloading them ahead of time. I really like the way stitcher lets you search for a keyword or two and then sequentially plays the different podcasts that showed up in the search. I find myself on a voyage of discovery, bumping in to podcasts I’ve never heard of. Because everything is on demand, like watching Netflix or Amazon streaming video, if I find an audio podcast I don’t like I simply skip ahead to the next one.

I can’t predict exactly how this will eventually develop. However, I can say, now that the mobile data bandwidth is a reality, there’s something here, and it’s pretty interesting. It beats the heck out of listening to farm reports or hog prices. It also beats having to fumble around with an iPod and auxiliary audio cables.

StreamVu Producer Station Review

Posted by geeknews at 10:25 PM on April 21, 2013

streamvuOver the past several weeks I have been testing the StreamVu Producer Station from StreamVuTV, as you all well know I stream multiple times a week to services like Ustream, Livestream and my own personal Flash Media server that is hosted on Amazon. So I was excited to test the commercial StreamVuTV Producer Station offering.

This is a pretty powerful service / product offering. Lets start with the Producer Station (PS-102) box that you input your source video to, you input a HDSDI, Composite or HDMI source video which then pushes it in the desired format to the StreamVU TC Control center. Through their web interface you set the service / streaming box up to ingest and push at the exact stream size / desired bitrate from 32kbps to 10Mbps. Giving you the flexibility to scale down the stream rate when you have limited bandwidth.

For a commercial broadcast product it is very versatile, and the folks at StreamVu have designed their platform so that you can easily set your service up, so as to charge for access to your programming and hold a pay per view event. From the time you get your gear, set it up and configure your broadcast channels you should be able to be up and running in a hour or less.

Their service control panel takes a little getting used to, but it is relatively straight forward. Administrators though should take some time and learn the interface and put the streaming service through some test runs. Like many other services you setup your channels, and once you have done so they provide the embeds for you to put on your site. They also have set it up so that you can upload a video trailer that people can watch to be informed of your upcoming event.

This is a commercial service and is designed for the serious webcaster. They have three packages starting at $15.00 a month plus .50 cents a GB going all the way up to $500.00 a month which includes up to a TB of bandwidth.. While the pricing is not for the faint at heart, if you are a serious webcaster and you are doing on demand events the cost is very reasonable. The also offer an addon service for $6.00 a month plus bandwidth that enables the stream to be seen by iOS users.

The StreamVU TV Producer station itself comes in three models with prices starting @ $399 for the composite only box, $999 for Composite & HDMI and $1999 for the unit I tested that takes Composite, HDSDI & HDMI.

I want to thank the team at StreamVu for being patient we both attended NAB and I have had the box a little longer than I wanted to.. Their team is excited to start working with folks in the New Media space and is a viable player in the streaming media space.

Watch Star Trek on Hulu for Free!

Posted by JenThorpe at 5:16 PM on March 22, 2013

Hulu LogoHulu is celebrating William Shatner’s birthday by offering viewers free access to five Star Trek television series from now through March 31, 2013. This includes every episode of “Star Trek” the original series, “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, “Deep Space 9”, “Voyager”, and “Enterprise”.

The LA Times points out that when you add it up, it comes to 693 episodes. You’ve got just nine days to do it in. Make some popcorn and have a Star Trek marathon this weekend! The NextWeb has calculated that you would have to watch 69 episodes a day, every day, between now and the end of the month if you wanted to watch them all for free through Hulu.

An easy way to find everything is to visit the page that Hulu put together about it. Click the image of the series you want to watch and you should be good to go. You do not have to be a Hulu subscriber in order to access free Star Trek right now. Apparently, Hulu periodically unlocks some of its content for free (which I was unaware of).

Pure Jongo at CES Unveiled

Posted by Andrew at 5:34 PM on January 21, 2013

Pure LogoAt this year’s CES, Pure launched Jongo, the world’s most affordable (and colourful) multi-room music system. Vicky tells Todd all about it.

The Jongo range will shortly include a couple of wireless speakers and a hi-fi adaptor, all with both Bluetooth and wi-fi built-in. Music can be streamed using the Pure Connect app via wi-fi to any speaker in range or else smartphones and tablets can stream music directly to the speakers using Bluetooth. Both Apple iOs and Android devices are supported and it uses the existing wi-fi infrastructure: there’s no need for special transmitters.

The S340B speaker will be available soon and can be pre-ordered on Amazon. Price is listed as $229.
The stereo speaker (T640B) and the hi-fi adaptor (A140B) will be on-sale in the summer with MSRPs of $329 and $119, respectively.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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BTR006 Bluetooth Audio Receiver Review

Posted by Andrew at 1:28 PM on August 6, 2012

BTR006 Bluetooth ReceiverA2DP Bluetooth rarely comes as standard in cars except on prestige marques, but most new vehicles at least come with a 3.5 mm audio socket on the audio system for plugging-in mp3 players. If you want a quick and cheap way to upgrade the car’s audio to Bluetooth, take a look at he BTR006 Bluetooth Stereo Receiver.

The BTR006 is a small plastic rectangle just a few millimetres deep (45 x 33 x 8 mm). It has only one button for on/off, an activity LED, a DC power socket and a 3.5 mm audio jack on the end of short lead. It’s a doddle to use: charge up, connect the jack into the 3.5 mm audio socket, pair with smartphone and starting playing music from your smartphone through the audio system. Simples!

Audio quality is perfectly acceptable given that it’s Bluetooth anyway and the receiver successfully paired with every device I tried it with. The receiver supports both Bluetooth 2.1 with both A2DP and AVRCP.

There’s an internal battery that’s good for 12 hours according to the spec, which is probably about right based on my experience. I get a whole week of podcast listening which means somewhere over ten hours based on weekly commute and other travel. Contrary to some reviews, it is possible to charge and use the device at the same time. The confusion arises as connecting the charger does turn off the BTR006, but turning it back on again lets the receiver charge and play at the same time.

One of the best features is that it automatically powers off when the Bluetooth connection is lost for a few minutes so the battery doesn’t run down when the car is parked and not in use. Obviously the receiver has to be turned back on, but that takes seconds to do.

BTR006 Installed in Car with Velcro

Unless there’s a convenient nook or cranny in your vehicle, the BTR006 will hang down from the audio socket, especially as the lead isn’t very long. Of course, the easy solution is to use Velcro, with a small strip on the back of the BTR006 with a matching strip on the dashboard. The BTR006 can be easily detached for charging at home or in the office via the supplied USB charging cable. Here’s what it looks like installed in my car….yes, I probably should have cleaned the dash before taking the picture.

Note that the BTR006 does not have a microphone so it’s not possible to use it for hands-free calls but regardless this is an excellent buy to play music through your car’s audio system via Bluetooth.

Available from Amazon for around £15 or $28 – just search for BTR006. Disclaimer – I bought this device personally.

LiveShell Lets You Broadcast Without a PC

Posted by JenThorpe at 4:51 PM on May 1, 2012

LiveShell is a device made by Cerevo. You can connect it to your video camera and stream directly from it. LiveShell lets you broadcast without having to use your PC the true beauty is that you can take this device and connect to a mifi or other wireless device and stream live anyplace / anytime. It is extremely stable and can be used to broadcast 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. If it is streaming and the internet connection temporarily disconnects LiveShell will do an automatic recovery.

Compared to everything else out there it is very inexpensive it costs $299. You can purchase it from the Official Cerevo store at Amazon.com, or from Buy.com, eBay, Contour Store, newegg.com, Quantum-Wireless or SmartHome. LiveShell is a reliable Ustream certified product. It is the first product that Ustream has given this certification to. LiveShell is fully compatible with Ustream, and it also supports NicoLive, LiveStream and other RTMP services.

Todd will have one in a few days and will bringing you a full review which I am highly anticipating.

Personally, I can see where LiveShell would be great for people who are new to podcasting and who want to start streaming their show remote. The LiveShell can be attached directly to your camera and you are ready to go. Simple! The device is small, which makes it convenient to carry around, and then quickly attach to your camera when you are ready to start streaming. It will also give podcasters, (both new and those with experience), a lot more freedom about the locations that they can be at and stream a show from.

LiveShell Features and Specifications:

Weight: 108 grams

Size: (D) 120 mm x (W) 68 mm x (H) 26 mm

Power Supply: 3 x AA batteries
Sanyo Electric’s eneloop or eneloop pro are recommended

Operating Time: More than 3 hours of battery life. Can have 24 x 7 continuous operation with the AC adapter (and while using Sanyo Electric eneloop pro batteries).

Network connection function: 10 / 100 BASE-T wired LAN and 802.11 b, g, n compatible wireless LAN

Broadcasting video resolution: 4 CIF (704 * 528 pixels) Max. aprox. 1.5 Mbps

Video input terminal: HDMI composite (NTSC/ PAL) Supported VGA, 480p, 576p. Not compatible with HDCP

Audio input terminal: HDMI/ Stereo microphone in / Line in
Volume can be adjusted for each item independently. Broadcasting is done after mixing internally

Accessories: AC adapter, mount shoe, AV-IN cable, WiFi adapter, HDMI cable with 60cm right angle (HDMI to HDMI-mini) and set-up cable

WD TV Live at The Gadget Show Live

Posted by Andrew at 12:27 AM on April 23, 2012

WD TV LiveWestern Digital’s TV Live series of media players has been around for a couple of years and they’ve gained a sizeable following with over 3.5 million devices sold. The 3rd generation WD TV Live has been released recently and Daniel Mauerhofer was kind enough to give me an interview at The Gadget Show Live.

The new WD TV Live model introduces wi-fi connectivity which was absent on the previous model and it’s now been localised for the UK market with the inclusion of iPlayer and Spotify. Coming in two models, one without an internal hard drive (£99), which is available now, and a second which will have a 1 TB drive and will be available later in the year (approx. £129).

As ever, there’s a complementary remote control app for Android and iOS devices, which looks pretty useful; it’s certainly more than just a button-for-button replacement of the IR remote control.

My personal pet peeve in this area was that media players seemed either play from the local network or stream from the Internet but it was a rare device that could do both. The WD TV Live does both so it’s a thumbs up from me.