‘Gotham’ or ‘Batman Without Batman’

Gotham

When I heard this show was coming, I kind of groaned. The description about “Gotham” was that it’s to take place before Batman, Joker, and all the cool bad guys and gadgets. It’s “Batman Babies.” It follows young Jim Gordon and the Gotham PD around to solve crimes. Another cop procedural show, just what we need. I have this feeling that there’s some farm outside of LA somewhere, where writers just sit and churn out cop stories, then when Hollywood orders a new cop show, they just change a few names and settings, and we’re good to go. That’s how I felt about “Almost Human” but at least there were good actors, and the effects were pretty.

But I digress.

I’ll go ahead and say “possible spoilers ahead” even though nothing really happened in this first episode. The only real event that happened, is the one everyone knows – Bruce Wayne’s parents get killed. And they stuck to that. Outside of the names of Batman related characters, I’ve got a feeling they aren’t going to stick to the story lines very closely. We’ve already met Oswald Cobblepot, who will become the Penguin, but instead of the usual short, stout character we know, he’s a tall, slender guy with a limp and greasy hair. A different take, I guess. Young Catwoman is so obvious, yet so absent from this episode there’s no point in going into that really. This first one was a set up episode. As most pilots are. We meet young Jim Gordon. We know it’s him, because we hear his name mentioned about 80 bazillion times. We meet his partner Harvey Bullock, and a few other bad guys and gals.

I always give a show three episodes before I make a call on whether or not to continue. So we’ll see where this goes. I’m a big Batman fan, so I’m in for a few more eps. I just don’t know how great it’s going to be when all the fun stuff about Batman (costumed criminals, the Bat-gadgets, and Batman himself) are removed. I really wish the show took place in the 40’s. Like it did in the comics. A 1940’s Gotham PD would be pretty sweet, in my opinion. But it’s not. It’s modern day.  So I wonder – Will “Gotham”  just sorta leave us with another cop show, but with Batman-related names?

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!

The Gadget Show Live

Gadget Show LiveThe Gadget Show Live is the UK’s closest thing to CES, but that’s like comparing a boxing match to invading Iraq. Where CES takes over most of Las Vegas, the Gadget Show occupies a couple of halls at the NEC outside Birmingham. Nevertheless I popped over for a day to see the latest and greatest tech on show to us Brits and it was fun. I was there for GNC two years ago and this year the show was definitely bigger with a bit more variety. 3D TV was the thing in 2012, but 2014 is electric vehicles, 4K / UHD TVs and multi-rotor aerial vehicles. That’s not to say there weren’t other niche products and I’ve captured a few in audio interviews that I’ll post over the next few days.

Samsung were demonstrating their curved Ultra HD TVs and all I can say is, “Wow!” The screens were totally amazing – almost more real than real – and the detail was incredible. Even the flat, non-curved, versions were pretty stunning. Although the curved versions still have crazy prices, I can’t help but wonder if flat 4K resolution TVs will only be on-sale for a few short years before curved ones become mainstream.

Curved Samsung Screen

Volkswagen brought along the XL 1, a diesel plug-in hybrid, which surprisingly is not a concept car: it’s for sale if you have a fat enough wallet at somewhere in the region of £100,000. At a more realistic level, VW had a bunch of demonstrator e-up! electric cars, which at a little under £20,000 are much more affordable, though the equivalent petrol version costs closer to £8,000. I took a test drive in one and can report that it’s exactly like driving an automatic car, only quieter and with plenty of low speed torque. Top speed of 80 miles per hour and a range of 100 miles make it a perfect second car for the well off.

XL1 Front

 

XL1 Side

 

XL1 Rear

Sony’s been touting the waterproof features of the Xperia Z2 devices and they put their money where their mouth is at Gadget Show Live with a water-filled tank. Not content to simply leave the smartphone in the bottom, a team of scuba and free divers showed that the Z2 was usable under water to take photos. Outstanding.

Xperia Z2 Underwater

Finally, when I was at the show in 2012, Parrot were showing off the AR.Drone and pretty much had the airspace to themselves. Quadricopters were everywhere this year with DJI‘s mulitrotor devices (below) down to Hubsan’s tiny copters that fit in your hand. The future is three-dimensional but not quite in the way the TV manufacturers were hoping.

Multirotor Aerial Vehicle

There was plenty more and I’ll be putting the interviews out over the next few days – expect content from Sony, Canon, Optoma, Toca Boca, TP-Link, DJI and others.

The Gadget Show Live is on until 13th April 2014.

Amazon Fire TV

Amazon Fire TVAfter weeks of speculation, Amazon has finally shown its hand in the set-top box game with the Fire TV. It’s a $99 box with a Bluetooth remote control that connects to your HD TV and shows Amazon content plus media from partners, including Netflix, Hulu, ESPN and Pandora.

Amazon Fire TV

Initially, this doesn’t sound terribly different from the Roku and Apple TV units, but when you get into the feature set, it’s pretty impressive. There’s voice search which helps you find the shows without the laborious letter selection that bedevils remote controls. ASAP is a predictive feature that pre-loads content so that shows start instantly without the buffering delay. WhisperSync synchronises watching and listening across multiple devices so you never lose a second, and X-Ray takes the movie experience further, showing film and character information on your second screen Kindle Fire HDX.

As you’d expect, the Fire TV is seamlessly integrated with Prime Instant Video, Amazon’s subscription streaming service, giving access to tens of thousands of movies and TV episodes. With Dolby Digital Plus, films and music will sound amazing and any media stored in Amazon’s Cloud Drive from photos to personal videos can be played through the Fire TV.

Tiny box, huge specs, tons of content, incredible price—people are going to love Fire TV,” said Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Founder and CEO. “Voice search that actually works means no more typing on an alphabet grid. Our exclusive new ASAP feature predicts the shows you’ll want to watch and gets them ready to stream instantly. And our open approach gives you not just Amazon Instant Video and Prime Instant Video, but also Netflix, Hulu Plus, and more. On Fire TV you can watch Alpha House and House of Cards.

Amazon are definitely taking the fight to the competition as the Fire TV is a mini powerhouse, with a quad-core processor and 2 GB RAM, which lets the unit double as a gaming unit with over 100 games available at launch. Already available are Minecraft, Monsters University, The Game of Life, The Walking Dead, NBA2K14, Asphalt 8, Riptide GP2, Despicable Me: Minion Rush and Amazon has signed up EA, Disney, Gameloft, Ubisoft, Telltale, Mojang, 2K, and Sega to bring their games to Fire TV.  To complement the gaming, there’s an additional game controller that will set you back a penny shy of $40. The controller connects via Bluetooth too and will run for up to 55 hours on AA batteries.

Simplistically, it’s a desktop version of the Kindle Fire tablets and sure enough, Fire TV runs the latest version of Fire OS “Mojito,” which is based on Android. This means that apps should be easily ported over to the Fire TV (and Kindle Fires).

The Kindle Fire TV is available now in the US. No news on international availability yet.

Tablo Takes TPN Award at CES

Tablo LogoDigital video recorders (DVRs) are commonplace but usually they’re integrated with a cable decoder. Tablo’s offering records OTA (over the air) HD broadcasts that are transmitted from local TV stations, free of charge. Still not excited? The Tablo can stream both live and record programs to any connected device including Android and Apple devices, and set-top boxes like the Roku or AppleTV. Now that’s cool.

The Tablo contains two tuners (with a four tuner option), so can record two broadcasts at once. There’s no built-in storage but there are 2 USB ports for external HDD units to provide whatever space is needed. It’s perfect for cord-cutters. I’d love to see this come to the UK too.

The Tablo is on pre-order for US$219 and will be available in February 2014.

Interview by Daniel J Lewis of The Audacity To Podcast and Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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

HAL TV Remote Set Top Box, Watch and Ring at CES

HAL logo

Todd and Don interview Eric Stalker from HAL.tv about the new Remote Set Top box for controlling your TV with hand gesture or voice control.  Once the box is setup, it allows you all kinds features like Hand control of your TV, Phone Calls, Reminders and a “mirror” mode.

HAL is also coming out with a smart watch and smart RING that will work with your smart phone. Details can be found at hal.tv.

Prices for the TV box and  the Watch will be $199 and the ring is $99. All these products will be available in the Fall of 2014.

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

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

Roku teams with Hisense and TCL, shows off new TVs at CES

The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas is now in full swing, despite that it doesn’t technically start until tomorrow. Products are already being announced at a blistering pace. One that comes as a bit of a surprise is a new TV from set-top box maker Roku.

The company has teamed with Hisense and TCL, who will actually build the hardware. The smart TVs will be powered my Roku software, allowing the interface to work in the same way as having a box hooked to a current set. “Roku TV removes all of the complicated layers and menus, and unnecessary features and settings that plague smart TVs today, and instead provides a Roku home screen that brings together all content sources. Just like Roku streaming players, Roku TV will have full access to the Roku Channel Store filled with more than 31,000 movies and 1,200 channels that feature TV shows and live sports plus news, music, kids, food, science, tech, fitness, foreign language and other programming”.

roku-hisense-tv

Customers will be able to control the TV via mobile apps for both Android and iOS or via the included standard remote control, which Roku promises will be less complicated than many of those currently on the market.

The sets will come in a range of sizes, starting at 32-inches  to going up to 55. The first units will hit the market in the fall of this year.

Say Goodbye to the DVD Player

DVD

I remember getting my first DVD player and the movie “The Waterboy”. I also remember streaming my first movie in “Hulk”. Years since, people have debated about losing the tangible disc and moving to streaming. Eventually we knew the DVD would become a thing of the past. As technology improved and new devices came out this year, we may have seen the last viable use for the DVD. Here is why:

Blockbuster

Blockbuster

Blockbuster Goes Bye-Bye, Streaming Video Grows

Blockbuster video rentals closed up in November. This was after a long run and competing with Netflix, followed by Red Box machines. When DISH network bought out Blockbuster, they gave it a home. Its apparent that DISH didn’t want to get into the physical video rental business. So the doors closed.

Netflix tried to close their DVD rental doors a couple years ago with the whole Qwikster debacle — a move that almost killed the company. Somehow they came back stronger than ever, pushing more streaming TV shows and introducing quality shows like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Add to that promotions — such as the launch of Chromecast: Netflix gave 3-month subscriptions to the first buyers.

I have to admit, I still have my Netflix subscription…

Since Netflix switch to TV show-based content over movies, newer movies take a lot longer to show up on the service. That is where Amazon is leading the pack. You can rent or own the home digital rights of a movie or TV show instead of going down to the store and picking up the box.

Well, at least, kinda…

This last week Disney made Amazon pull back owners rights of holiday movies. It brought up some issue about if you actually own a video. Will that stop millions from buying movies? Probably not.

ChromeCast

Streaming Getting Better

Google Chromecast did two things. They brought the streaming app device down to an affordable price (not that it wasn’t already with the Apple TV and Roku). Chromecast also extended the life of older LCD TVs.

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars on TV’s with apps inside, they could get a cheaper TV and a set top box to run their content. Sure, the TV is not 1080p 120 Hz, but how many homes care about that type of quality? Especially if the TV is in the bedroom or even since our generation spent years staring at a Cathode Ray Tubes with full satisfaction.

Ultimately, they just want to get Chromecast and Netflix, then possibly cut their cable.

Netflix_Web_Logo

Netflix and YouTube in 4K (2160p)

Time to move to bigger and better video quality. 4,000 pixels – or 2160p. At CES, we will definitely be bombarded with 4K television technology — and we will LOVE it.

Even though some home theater experts have adopted 4K, home Internet speeds don’t really take into account 4K streaming just yet. A 4K video will take 6-12 Mbps connection. DSL won’t be able to handle that, especially if you surf and watch at the same time.

Nonetheless, we move forward. Netflix announced earlier their popular “House of Cards” series will be shot and streamed in 4K. YouTube already has 4K video available, although if you try to stream via Roku or Chromecast, it will most likely try to push the 720p version first. 

iPad 2 Smart Cover

Tablets, Game Consoles, Computers Go DVD-less

Even the computer is losing the DVD drive. Current Mac models don’t come with any type of optical drive. Tablets and smartphones also are disc-free. As desktops lose ground to tablets, the DVD will join the floppy disk, Zip drive and tape backup.

The Pawn Shop Effect

The best way to watch the DVD market is to watch the resale of the DVD. Major chain Pawn America runs a special on Tuesdays for DVDs. In May, they started special events where DVD movies only cost $1.

While newer titles might fetch your more, if you pawn a DVD title, they will most likely buy it at .10 cents so they can make .90 cents.

With all these factors (along with others such as DVR technology and flash drives), 2014 looks to be the year we finally lay the DVD optical disc format to rest. Blu-Ray discs still have value, but the DVD player will definitely be placed with the old TV and VCR down in the basement or garage.

Roku Gets YouTube

Roku 3Perhaps unsurprisingly given Google’s now somewhat defunct plans for GoogleTV, YouTube has been one of the glaring omissions from the Roku platform. But not any longer. Roku has announced that a YouTube channel is now available on the Roku 3 in USA, Canada, UK and the Republic of Ireland. Older Rokus will be getting the channel next year, though the exact timing is unclear. For non-Roku owners, a channel is roughly equivalent to an app on other platforms.

The YouTube channel supports full 1080p HD and the press release suggests that subscriptions will carry over from other platforms so that your favourites can easily be seen on the Roku. The new channel also features “Send to TV”, which after pairing, lets you send a YouTube video from your smartphone or tablet for viewing on the Roku.

As a Roku 2 XS owner, I’m delighted but will have to wait a bit longer until I get the YouTube channel on my device (unless Santa has a surprise for me). Sadly, it will be one less reason to turn on my Nintendo Wii, especially with the HD support on the Roku.

4oD on the Roku

4oDHurrah – 4oD (4 on Demand) is now available on the Roku in the UK! It looks like this is breaking news as there’s no mention of it on either Roku‘s or Channel 4‘s websites and I only happened to notice when I was checking for new channels. A few tweets are beginning to appear. Having a quick rummage, it looks on a par with the web version but without some of the personalisation features.

For non-UK residents, Channel 4 is one of the four terrestrial broadcasters (BBC, ITV, C4 and C5). The BBC’s iPlayer and Channel 5’s Demand 5 are already on the Roku, leaving ITV as the last network to get their catch-up TV service onto the Roku. Hurry up!