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.

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Cox Leaving Wireless Business on March 30, 2012

Cox Logo

Cox Logo

A confidential document got leaked out stating the Cox cable has decided to get out of the wireless business. Within 24 hours, Cox officially stated this was true – on March 30th, 2012, Cox will end their wireless service.

Back in 2008, Cox bought part of the 700 MHz spectrum to start Cox Wireless. Last year they launched the service, however, the plan didn’t pan out. Maybe part of it was because Stephen Bye left in March (he headed the wireless division).

“Cox is working to make this transition as seamless and easy as possible for our customers,” said Len Barlik, executive vice president of product development and management.  “We are proud of our employees’ dedication to delivering the excellent customer service that Cox is known for, and we will continue to keep our wireless customers’ satisfaction a top priority during this transition period.”

This affects customers in the  Hampton Roads, Roanoke and Northern Virginia; Orange County, San Diego and Santa Barbara, Calif.; Omaha, Nebraska; Oklahoma City and Tulsa, Okla.; and Rhode Island and Cox communities we serve in Connecticut and Cleveland, Ohio. This only affects wireless and 3G services. Cox will be giving a $150 credit to those who had the multi-service.

 

 

Boxee Adding Digital Television Signal via Dongle

Boxee Live TV Dongle

Boxee Live TV Dongle

If you run your Boxee through a computer monitor rather than a flat screen TV, or just don’t want to flip to the terrestrial line, well fret no more. Boxee has launched Live TV – a USB dongle that will connect to your cable or antenna so you can watch television straight from the box!

The Live TV stick is an HD antenna that provides Boxee Box owners with local channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CW and any other over-the-air channel you might get. The Live TV will be available in January 2012 for $49.

“Last year, 89 of the top 100 shows were on broadcast networks – they remain the most popular channels on cable.” says Boxee CEO Avner Ronen on the Boxee blog. ” The Superbowl, the World Series, the Oscars, the Grammys, presidential debates and addresses, the Olympics… they’re all on broadcast. Yes, there are hundreds of cable channels, but make a list of the stuff you actually watch. You will probably find that most are on broadcast and the rest are available on Vudu/Netflix/Network sites.”

For $49, you get the dongle. I would guess there is no need for a remote, like a regular TV to PC dongle, because it could be controlled via the Boxee software.

Boxee screen

Boxee screen

Keep in mind, any over-the-air channel might not be in full HD. Primary HD channels could be in 1080p, 1080i, 720p or less. If a channel has a 2nd and 3rd sub-channel (ex: Channel 3.1 is the primary, Channel 3.2 and 3.3 are sub-channels), those would most likely run at 480i. If the Primary channel wants to run 1080p, it would have to turn off the sub-channels to do so.

Also keep in mind about the signals of over-the-air TV. The farther away from the antenna you are, the better chance of channel breakage you could get.

If you can get past that, this might be a great way to connect the TV to your… well, TV. Of course, if you haven’t cut the cable yet, you can also connect your cable to this and funnel those channels through your Boxee.

Freeview HD Coverage Checker

As the UK slowly moves towards turning off the analogue terrestrial TV signal and switching to digital transmissions, it’s been overtaken by consumer demand for high definition (HD) broadcasting. The satellite and cable providers, namely Sky and Virgin Media, have been quick to offer HD on their subscription services, but the terrestrial digital broadcast system, Freeview, has been somewhat slower to offer HD. Some regions of the UK, e.g. Northern Ireland, will not have HD terrestrial broadcasts until 2012. Consequently, there’s been a great deal of uncertainty and misinformation.

So it’s fortunate that ConsumerChoices has added Freeview HD coverage to its HD Coverage Checker. By putting in your postcode and your house number, you’ll be presented with all the HD options available to you, including satellite, cable and terrestrial. In addition, for Freeview (terrestrial), the website will tell you which transmitter to use, how far away it is and the likely signal strength. If Freeview HD is not yet available in the area, it will give the expected date for it to be turned on.

With Freeview decoders now available in a range of products including set-top boxes and HD TVs, there’s often a small price premium to pay for the HD decoder over the standard definition. By using the HD Coverage Checker, you can make informed decision whether to go HD and pay more, or stick with the standard definition decoder.

The Simple Functionality that DirecTV Still Lacks

directv logoA few days ago I had a DirecTV HR23 box go belly-up.  I awoke one morning to the smell of melted plastic.  I didn’t open the box, so I don’t know what went wrong, but it was obviously something bad.  Despite having no LED lights on the front panel there was still power – although it wouldn’t even try to boot up.  But, as long as the power cord was plugged in, the smell and a chirping sound (which probably was from the hard drive) continued.

DirecTV has always had excellent customer service, at least in my experiences.  This was no exception – they were ready to send me a new HR23 via priority shipping.  The box arrived in two days, along with a paid label to send back the old DVR.

Setup is simple – just plug in the old connections that are already in place.  Of course, you need to call DirecTV to activale the box, but that isn’t a big deal either.  It’s after that step that you see where DirecTV, and every other DVR (as far as I know), are lacking.

What do these cable and satellite companies need to add?  Backing up all of your recorded shows would be nice, but we have seen how difficult a netwrked DVR has been for Cablevision.  What I noticed when re-setting-up my HR23 was a glaring lack for backup of personal settings.  I had to, once again, add all of my season passes, set my video preferences, re-enable my network settings, etc.

Is it too much to ask that all of these personal settings be backed up by the provider?  Or at east that they provide a path for backing them up locally to a networked PC?  After all, the HR23 has ethernet and shows up on our home network.  It seems like a simple update to add backup of personal settings.  More importnantly to the providers, it doesn’t seem like anything that would cause them to end up in court.

This seems like a minor addition to the software package of any TV provider.  Still, it doestn’t seem to be mentioned by anyone as an update that is on the roadmap.  I know that I would seriously consider moving to one that decides to add it.

 

Virgin Trials 1.5 Gb/s Cable Broadband

In a press release today, Virgin Media announced that it was trialling 1.5Gb/s cable broadband connections with four media companies in London. Offering 1.5 Gb/s down and 150 Mb/s up, if successful it would be the world’s fastest cable broadband and about 240 times faster than the UK average connection speed.

The technology will use the same infrastructure as delivered to residential customers, so in theory, if it works in this trial it should work just about everywhere Virgin has a cable network. Virgin has already successfully trialled download speeds of 1Gb/s in its fibre network but currently offers 100Mb/s as the maximum speed. Virgin has connections to 12.6 million homes, mostly in urban areas, making them one of the largest residential broadband providers in the UK.

Jon James, executive director of broadband at Virgin Media, said: “Demand for greater bandwidth is growing rapidly as more devices are able to connect to the internet and as more people go online simultaneously. Our growing network provides a highly competitive alternative to the fastest fibre networks of the future and, with our ongoing investment plans, we can anticipate and meet demand as it develops over time, ensuring Virgin Media business and residential customers continue to enjoy world-class broadband.”

The four companies involved in the trial are all in “creative industries” working with on-line video, broadcasting and interactive applications. Sam Orams, co-founder of BespokeBanter.com, one of the companies testing Virgin Media’s 1.5Gb broadband, said: “While the average home might not need these speeds quite yet, we certainly will. The internet is critical to what we do and intrinsically linked to our future growth so it’s exciting to be working with Virgin Media at the forefront of broadband innovation in the UK.”

The Virgin Media network uses DOCSIS3 and can bond several channels together to provide the data speed bought by the customer. Consequently, there’s a choice of different speeds (10 Mb/s, 30 Mb/s, 50 Mb/s, 100 Mb/s). Virgin currently offers 100 Mb/s in cabled areas for £35 per month. Regrettably, I’m not in one of those cabled areas and I’m stuck at about 3 Mb/s. Bah!

Shredding The Cord

Ah, my once-beloved Dish Network account – the thing I once thought I could never do without; the budget monster that consumed $100 per month, month after month, year after year. I agonized for months over the idea of simply killing it before finally pulling the plug.

It’s been the better part of a year since I put the budget-busting beast to rest and cancelled the account. Dish Network itself seemed to want to throw up as many roadblocks as possible to get me to change my mind. They wanted the LNB module off of my roof, in addition to the two receivers. I had 30 days to send the units back in the packing boxes they sent or they would make me pay full price for them.

I was able to talk the guy out of forcing me to climb up on my roof to retrieve the LNB, and I was able to get the two receivers sent back to them within the 30 days of cancellation. However, somehow they had in their billing system I had three receivers, not two. They sent return packaging for three units. I spent time on the phone with them to make sure this discrepancy was resolved, and they assured me it was.

Ooops, not so fast! A month or two later I got a letter from them stating I still owed them for a receiver and they intended to hit my bank account for the amount. A phone call to them resolved the issue and I haven’t heard a peep from them since.

How has life been without all of those channels? $ome part of me hate$ to admit it, but I haven’t missed it at all. I’ve got an Intel Mac Mini set up as a DVR for local over-the-air HD broadcasts, as well as a Netflix account and several other Internet-connected set top box viewing solutions.

Observations

A very large percentage of TV programming is marketing presented as content. Much of what passes for entertainment depicts multitudes of dysfunctional drama queens assaulting and insulting the people around them. The more dysfunctional they are, the more likely it is the marketing messages will seep into the mesmerized minds of the audience. Even if one isn’t watching commercials, product placement and even behavior placement abounds. Viewers are being programmed to buy certain products, as well as behave in certain ways.

Think you can’t do without cable or satellite TV? Think again. I was paying $1,200 dollars a year for Dish Network. Multiply that by just 5 years and that’s a whopping $6,000 dollars for the privilege of being shaped and influenced by marketing messages so I would spend even more money.

Let’s go one step further. For many people TV is an addiction. These people are crack dealers in disguise. How else could it be that they can continue to raise their prices and people continue to pay ever more?

Let’s be honest. The vast majority of cable TV programming is less than worthless. Could that $6,000 dollars been better spent on higher-quality programming? Of course it could.

Unplugging Cable/Satellite – Not Quite Yet

I know many of us keep discussing unplugging cable/satellite and going with set-top boxes and Internet programming instead.  An article on Mashable by Christina Warren explains pretty well why most video media consumers won’t be switching from cable and satellite anytime soon.

The fact is, moving from passive pay television, where you can easily channel-surf your way through the lineup (or use the guide with the touch of a button), to a more active style of not only finding content, but viewing content, is just not going to happen for most people.  While the Boxee, Roku, AppleTV, and other devices enter the market, the ease of use hasn’t caught up.  Regular television provides an easy-to-access method for figuring out what you want to watch, and the rise of the DVR means you can also record what you don’t have time to watch at that moment.  There is very little physical or mental encumbrance in using passive television to fulfill a need for entertainment.

Ms. Warren goes on to point out that if set-top boxes are going to be a replacement for cable and satellite, then they need to actually provide what people are not only used to, but what they want.  No one wants to spend ten minutes picking through a menu to find what they want to watch.  They want to turn it on, flip through a few channels, and be ready to watch.  Most users of DVR’s are doing the same thing, albeit with recorded shows:  bring up the guide, pick what you recorded, push play.  There is instant playback, instant access.

The other piece of the puzzle is live television.  Live news, live sports events, breaking weather, all of these things are not being accommodated in the set-top box space.  They can’t be, by definition.  I just lived through three days of gloom and doom regarding a Midwest blizzard, and believe me, that live connection to information was critical in determining if we were going to make it to work, doctor’s appointments, etc., and also helped us decide if we needed to take extra emergency precautions to keep our homes and families safe.  I could have never gotten that information from my AppleTV.

When solutions can be found to these issues, and set-top boxes can act more like passive television viewing, we might just see more adoption in the market.  But as it stands, I don’t see anyone giving up cable/satellite for set-top boxes anytime soon.

The Best; Then There’s The Rest

One of the classic methods of marketing centers around the idea of bundling; i.e. getting people to pay for lower-quality merchandise by pushing sheer quantity over quality. This strategy isn’t always successful, but when it works it can work brilliantly.

When I was a teenager growing up in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, music was sold via vinyl records. The “hit” songs were played on the radio, thus creating artist familiarity and product demand. Radio stations of the day would sometimes play the “B” side of the record but most often they only played the “hits.” In other words, they weren’t playing the “misses” on the radio.

In a stroke of marketing genius, however, someone somewhere got the idea to bundle the musical misses and missteps on the “B” side of the vinyl records. When 33-RPM records came along, this trend was amplified because there was more room than ever. Make consumers think they were buying not only the artist’s latest hits, but throw that filler material in there too. Sometimes with certain artists the filler material could be brilliant too. However, most of the time it was just filler material.

This strategy mostly worked until digital recording and playback techniques, combined with the Internet, caused massive changes in the way people manufactured, discovered, marketed, and purchased music. For a variety of reasons, today people tend to only want to buy what they consider to be the very best “hits” from services such as iTunes, and there’s little to no market for the “filler” misses.

The same marketing concept has been used via bundling to get people to pay for “filler” cable TV channels. Want a “good” channel such as Discovery, TLC, or History? Sorry sir, that sandwich only comes with pickles, mustard and horse radish – take it or leave it.

What consumers often fail to realize is that substantial portions of their cable TV and/or satellite bills are paid directly to bundled channel providers that they probably never watch. Bundled mediocrity gets rewarded.

Why are you mindlessly paying good money for bundled channels you probably don’t know the names of? Stop rewarding bundled mediocrity. Turn off your cable or satellite subscription. I promise you – your heart won’t suddenly stop beating. The world won’t suddenly come to an end.

GNC-2010-11-22 #629 Headed Home

I have had a very productive trip here in Albuquerque but I am more than ready to head home. Lots of work to do in the studio and not a lot of time to do it. PLus my honey do list is a mile long. I expect to do a Saturday Morning Tech Show if the Studio is ready. Sunday we announce the Slate for 2010 Podcast Awards so it has to be ready. :) Have a great Thanks Giving and be Safe.

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