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


Get Ready for HDMI 2.0

Posted by J Powers at 4:50 PM on September 4, 2013

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The folks at HDMI Licensing leaked released what will be known as the HDMI 2.0 specification just prior to their official announcement at IFA. Actually, AVForums reader Vism found this in Google cache.

The new HDMI specification looks to be able to handle 4K displays and above. Panasonic – who hasn’t come out with a 4K TV – will be debuting their new line at IFA.

HDMI 1.4 (current version) only supports 4K content at 30 fps. HDMI 2.0 looks to allow 60 fps, which will be great for UHD movies and more.

Panasonic is keeping the wraps on their 4K WT600 TV until keynote time. One things for sure – HDMI 1 cables are going to get a lot cheaper now…

Hulu Plus doubles subscriptions

Posted by Alan at 8:49 AM on April 30, 2013

Hulu continues to surprise me — the service never seems quite mainstream, but continues to thrive. This time the TV service is announcing record gains in subscriptions to its Plus service, the paid subscription plan that it introduced back in 2010.

“Overall, Hulu continues to grow very quickly. In Q1 of this year, we set new records for revenue, and for the first time ever, Hulu viewers streamed more than 1 billion content videos in a single quarter” states Hulu’s acting CEO Andy Forssell. In fact, the company has seen continued growth every year that it has existed – in Q1 2013, Hulu Plus surpassed 4 million subscribers—setting new records for subscriber additions.

hulu usage graph

Mobile viewing is also growing, now accounting for 15 percent of Hulu’s consumed videos in 2013-2014. Living room viewing now makes up 29 percent of the viewing audience.

Forssell also points out advertising revenue — “Hulu is also #1 in market share of all premium online video providers, delivering 1 in 3 of all premium video ads in the U.S. Our reasonable ad load drives the highest recall and awareness for brands, which results in higher effectiveness for the video ads”.

Hulu has recently jumped in the game of original content with Quick Draw and East Los High. This brings the service into direct competition with Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Little Black Box brings XBMC to the set-top box market

Posted by Alan at 7:38 AM on April 29, 2013

XBMC has long been a darling of the HTPC crowd, bringing a free and open source alternative to Windows Media Center. Now a Dutch company wants to bring the platform to a set-top box. Known as “The Little Black Box“, the device has just become available for pre-order.

The box will contain 1GB of memory, 4GB of Flash storage (800MB for the system, 3.2GB for XBMC) and a Meson3 single core processor capable of running at 1Ghz but clocked at 800Mhz.

little black box

The box is available now for €99.99 and according to the site “The first batch will be in limited numbers. As that limited amount needs to be divided between the different distribution channel, availability will most likely become sparse very fast”. The company is accepting pre-orders world-wide.

Should Amazon build a set-top box?

Posted by Alan at 10:25 AM on April 24, 2013

amazon prime logoToday, rumors are circulating around the web regarding Amazon. It is nothing new — the online retail giant has long been subject to such babble. Rumors of an Amazon phone still appear on a regular basis. Thanks to the success of the Kindle Fire, everyone seems to expect a handset to be the logical follow-up.

Today’s rumor is different though — there is no phone involved, but instead a set-top box. While I have no real interest in moving from a Nexus phone to a Kindle one, a living room device intrigues me.

I am a recent convert to Google TV and I love the platform. But I am also a Prime subscriber. I replaced Netflix with the Amazon service sometime back because it is not only a bit cheaper, but offers more upside with, not only the streaming video, but also free two-day shipping and a Kindle lending library.

Prime for Google TV has been greatly improved recently, with the app now being native, as opposed to opening a browser window. Thus I imagine an Amazon set-top box to bring Prime to the forefront and make it the focus of the device. And that does not feel like a bad thing.

If the device were Kindle Fire-like, in that it ran a version of Android customized for the big screen, then this could compete with the likes of Roku and Google TV in today’s growing environment of cord-cutters. Xbox may remain the front runner, but the power and financial backing of Amazon could present a real competitor in the market, and that would be good for all consumers.

Is the Hulu Desktop app dead?

Posted by Alan at 9:22 AM on April 20, 2013

Hulu, while being a great service used my many customers around the country (and world if you know how a proxy works), seems to have a bit of an identity problem. To be fair, the crisis almost certainly stems from the networks behind the service. The web site has been known to cut off browsers when it detects they are coming from such devices as Google TV, but now it has apparently done away with its desktop apps.

The apps for both Windows and Mac have unceremoniously, and unannounced, disappeared from the web. The app had been around since back in 2009 and even supported remote controls such as those dedicated to Windows Media Center.

when asked, a Hulu support rep indicates they are “investigating the matter“. He went on to state that the company “hope to make the link available again soon”.

hulu desktop

Personally, I find it no great loss. While I had used a hack for plugging in the Hulu app to my Windows Media Center HTPC, I never actually used it, never purchased the Plus account and have moved on to Google TV which does not have a Hulu app and can not access the service from the browser. I find Amazon Prime to be more than adequate.

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).

Is HBO Go leaving its TV subscription confines?

Posted by Alan at 10:09 AM on March 22, 2013

hbo go logoHBO has remained a stumbling block for potential cord-cutters everywhere. While offering a wonderful app, the content producer has made it a requirement that users prove the existence of a cable or satellite TV subscription to use the app. Today the first chink in that firewall may have appeared.

Reuters is reporting that HBO CEO Richard Plepler, while talking at the premier event for Game of Thrones season three, stated that “maybe HBO GO, with our broadband partners, could evolve”.

HBO Go was launched back in 2010, but has been limited by the pay-TV shackles. This means customers not only need to pay the monthly TV bills, but also the subscription fee for broadband. HBO could partner with the broadband providers to eliminate the TV portion of the bill while simply adding a small fee for a monthly subscription to the app, potentially saving customers as much as $100 per month.

Plepler pointed out that company was still trying “to make the math work”. The company is faced with tough challenges from services like Netflix, Redbox Instant, Hulu, Amazon Prime and the like.

Video Podcasts Behaving Like TV?

Posted by tomwiles at 1:23 PM on March 18, 2013
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Roku

One of the downsides to Internet-based video content is that generally each new program being played back must be initiated by the user. This isn’t much of a problem if one is watching a full-length movie or television show via Netflix or Amazon Streaming. However, if one is watching short-form content like video podcasts such as “Film Riot” then watching a bunch of episodes in a row tends to be a bit more of a pain since each one must be started playing depending on the playback platform.

I discovered an interesting trick that the Roku is capable of using the free iTunes podcast database app that can be added from the Roku store on your Roku. The app connects with the iTunes podcast database and will display both video and audio podcasts. Select an episode and it will begin to play. If you select an older episode, either video or audio, it will play that episode and then automatically play all episodess that follow it in the correct order.

This is a very useful feature say if you want to catch up with several weeks’ worth of video podcasts. Each podcast plays automatically in the proper order. It is almost like being able to turn video podcast streaming into more of a conventional television viewing experience.

Silicon Dust

Posted by Alan at 5:30 PM on February 26, 2013

silicon dust logoIf you are a home theater enthusiast or HTPC owner, as I am, then you have probably heard of Silicon Dust and the HD Home Run. The box has been out for some time and retails for $199, but can be found somewhat cheaper in many locations.

The box takes a cable card and then sends its data out via ethernet to the rest of your network and, as a bonus, it contains 3 tuners. The data is distributed to your network in both ATSC and MP2 format. It all works great with many of your screens, but now Silicon Dust wants to solve the problem with devices like smartphones and tablets.

The new box is a 4 tuner version that can handle hardware transcode that transfers that MP2 and changes it to H.264. Now customers can send 4 separate streams independent of each other and have access to the data on mobile devices as well. It is also smart enough to recognize the difference in screens and resolution and encode for the device. All of this is done behind the scenes.

This latest Home Run box will be available in late spring or early summer. While no price is yet available, the company hopes to keep it in the same area as the previous version.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News and RV News Net

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PhaseHD Runs HDMI for 100ft

Posted by geeknews at 6:47 PM on February 20, 2013

PhaseHD Logo

HDMI is great interconnect technology but it’s really only designed for relatively short cable runs. What do you do if you want to send a 4K UltraHD picture 100ft? PhaseHD have the answer.

Canadian outfit phaseHD uses standard, albeit long, HDMI cables with smart adaptors on each end of the cable to transmit a clean signal at one end and boost the received signal at the other, while preserving the control signals needed for encrypted content. Obviously it’s more complicated than that and it’s definitely worth watching the video to understand how this technology differs from the video extenders that use cat 6 network cabling for long runs.

It’s not cheap either, with the expected price around $500-$600. Expect to see early adoption by event management companies and sports bars.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central and Don Baine, the Gadget Professor for the TechPodcast Network.

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