Saturday, 14 August 2004

Do you use TiVo? Or own a Windows XP Media Center Edition PC (and if so do you use the MCE features at all)? What about PC-based software that does TiVo/MCE-like functionality, such as SnapStream?

I'm a TiVo guy - I have one of the original 20GB TiVos that I "hacked" and now it has 240GB of storage in it, and I can't imagine ever running out of space. I've recorded (literally) every episode of the West Wing, and each and every day I record the Daily Show and Dennis Miller. I love Season Passes, and I still have tons of space left.

But there are certain things I wish it was better at.

I have been considering, for some time, going the route of a Media Center PC. I want and need a new PC anyhow (mine's dead in the water under the desk and I have been lap-topping it the past few months). Two things have stopped me, though. The main problem is the fact that I can't build my own - I have to buy a pre-built machine and none of them really meet my (very specific and picky) needs. The second is cost - I'm not interested in shelling out the premium that the system builders charge, when you consider what you'll end up with. Yeah, I know I could use the MSDN subscription to download it and build a "test" machine, but that's not really kosher. Point is, it's the restrictive nature of the operating system and how it's licensed that's stopped me. Other than that, I'm all game.

There are other options I may just look at. For example, I've played with SnapStream's software in the past. These days they are selling a product called Beyond TV, and they will soon be coming out with Beyond Media, which will will have some nifty features and will work nicely with Beyond TV, they say. It looks very promising, and it's affordable. Hopefully there will be a version of Beyond TV to test soon - I'll be interested to see what it looks like and how it works. If I can arrange an early test copy, I'll even review it here, maybe do a side-by side thing. We'll see.

But for now, I've got the TiVo. I just wish it did more. Yes, I have seen the Series-2 TiVo product with the Home Media option, and the ones that are built into a DirecTV receiver, and the ones that have the DVD recorder in them (yada yada), but it's just not all there for me. I want to detach from the central device and use media anywhere I like. Give me HDTV capability and network sharing and sync capabilities. What is I want to want to view a show or something on my PC? Quit dumbing down the hardware that's already in the box. Let me export my digital media files to whatever I want, and make it easy for gosh sakes.

In the "make-them-better" department, Thomas Hawk recently wrote "Ten things that Microsoft and TiVo must each do to win the living room," which anyone who is tracking the future of digital media for the home will be interested in reading. I think he's pretty spot-on.

What do other people use? Right now I am tied to a Dish Network receiver (but definitely not married to it and I'll change for the right feature set - I just have not seen anything else compelling enough yet). I can't get cable and have not even tried to receive broadcast HDTV yet out where I live (which is very rural, by the way - my broadband is over a wireless connection to a tower on a mountain I can see from here). MY home theater consists of a big cave of a room with a projector (resulting in a 110-inch projected television image in HD), pretty darn good audio and a DVD changer. It rocks, but there's no computers involved.

Hmmmm... Ideas?

(inspired by various content found via Scoble's experimental aggregator blog)



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Tech
Saturday, 14 August 2004 15:30:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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A few months ago I got excited about the forthcoming Motorola MPx phone - a PDA/mobile-phone unit running the Windows Mobile OS and sporting a true HTML browser, WiFi, etc. Well the story is even better now, by a long shot:

Research in Motion announced a couple of weeks ago (now how did I miss that?) that the MPx and MPx220 will include BlackBerry Connect capability, meaning the MPx will be a full-blown Pocket PC PDA (Windows Mobile OS), a telephone, and a Blackberry device. The MPx220 (the smaller SmartPhone that will get the software) is a quad-band device - I am going to have to assume for now that the MPx is what their spec sheet (PDF) shows: GSM 900/1800/1900 and GPRS.

I bet it costs a fortune, but I'll keep my fingers crossed. This is exactly the type of device needed for companies that have people who travel a lot, have to be constantly in touch, need the immediacy of Blackberry email but want to be able to kick a PowerPoint presentation onto the screen and have it really work, or view and make some simple edits to a spreadsheet, or browse the intranet or Internet. Who needs a laptop? The QWERTY keyboard is just right. I like the rumor of a dual-hinge capability - supposedly it can open hinging on either the long side or the short side, depending on what you want to do with it. The image look like that's true too, although they all seem to show it its long-side pose.

What the MPx will have:

  • GSM 900/1800/1900; GPRS
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 2.4 x 0.9 inches; 99.7 X 61.2 X 24 mm
  • Weight: 6.1 oz; 174 g
  • Up to 180 minutes talk time
  • Up to 140 hours standby time
  • Integrated 1.2 megapixel camera with flash
  • 2.8” 240 x 320 color touch TFT screen for easy data input that also works with a stylus
  • Multi-function QWERTY keyboard with touch screen that also works with stylus
  • Opens in portrait view for phone use, PDA applications and games
  • Built-in Wi-Fi: embedded 802.11b wireless networking
  • Microsoft Outlook on the PocketPC
  • Integrated Bluetooth Wireless Technology
  • SD/MMC slot up to 1 GB
  • Compatible with all Microsoft Pocket PC applications
  • WAP and HTML browsing, streaming video and audio
  • Multi-Media Messaging Service (MMS)
  • IrDA (Infra red) and Built-in "ActiveSync" protocol
  • Connectivity via IrDA, USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth

If anyone happens to read this who know when and where it will be available (aside from “second-half of '04” that is), comment or email me.

What do you think? What would make the perfect device that could replace a laptop, phone and PDA? Comment your thoughts below.

(...by the way, companies that put search functions on their web sites should only do it if it works worth a darn. Compare this search with the same one in Google... Argh!)



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Mobile | Tech
Saturday, 14 August 2004 10:04:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 12 August 2004

Seemingly random post, I know, but Citizen Dmitri's web log site is great looking and has some very cool functionality. I've spent considerable time just refreshing and browsing to look at the pictures that make up the site and its entries. If you're a visual person, check it out.

A little while back I started doing a custom layout for my site, but ran out of time pretty quickly. This one puts the spark back in me to think about that again.



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Blogging | Random Stuff
Thursday, 12 August 2004 19:34:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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My friend and coworker Scott pointed me to an article by Robert Hensing on his new security incident-response weblog that does a great job of explaining “Why you shouldn't be using passwords of any kind on your Windows networks.”

The fact that Microsoft's security people are now starting to blog about their areas of expertise is awesome - and I realize it's not an easy thing for security management to buy into for a number of justifiable reasons. What Robert suggests in this article is right on the money, and is where many companies are already heading (and where the rest should be heading).

Subscribed:



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IT Security | Tech
Thursday, 12 August 2004 12:24:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 11 August 2004

Update: Six more invites available to resourceful peoples who can follow instructions... Wow, making a real mess of this post! ;-)

I have one invitation to offer up for a Gmail account. First email to reach me gets it. You'll have to find/guess the email address though. ;-)

WINNER: Tim Gilbreath was first, and got the gmail account. Thanks for playing. :-)

EDIT: This is apparently harder than I thought it would be... No, no everyone... Not my regular email address, and it's not like it's rocket science or anything... Look around you. Follow the yellow brick road, push the envelope, open your eyes... Heh...



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Random Stuff
Wednesday, 11 August 2004 19:42:37 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Microsoft has published this list of dates for where and how XP SP2 will be made available:

  • From 8/06 - Release to manufacturing
  • 8/09 - Release to Microsoft Download Center (full network install package)
  • 8/10 - Release to Automatic Updates (for machines running pre-release versions of Windows XP SP2 only)
  • 8/16 - Release to Automatic Updates (for machines not running pre-releases versions of Windows XP SP2)
  • 8/16 - Release to SUS
  • Later in August - Release to Windows Update for interactive user installations

UPDATE: If you have to deploy to an organization, you should read this guide.

Other Methods of Deployment
In addition, they have published an article and related tools called "Temporarily Disabling Delivery of Windows XP Service Pack 2 Through Windows Update and Automatic Updates," which offers a number of options to IT operations shops that may need to delay the auto-updating of SP2 on any one of a number of machines, until testing can be completed. The tools allow you to temporarily disable application of the service pack via Windows Update, as well as to re-enable it. The article also discusses some of the benefits of using Software Update Services (SUS) or Systems Management Server (SMS) to deploy SP2.

By the way, a little about SUS: Do you have a company that relies on Windows Updates to patch your computers, but wish you had more control over the process? Ever have a patch cause a problem because you didn't get to test it first? SUS is your answer. Information on SUS is available at www.microsoft.com/sus. Note that SUS is available as a free download to customers with a Windows Server 2003 or Windows 2000 Server license and can be downloaded from here.

For those who are thinking they'll just block the Windows Update IP address or URL at the firewall or content filter, think again... Laptops, anyone? You get the picture. Plus, a firewall block would just be a cheap, lazy "solution" that would break every other update. Read the article and the FAQ.



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IT Security | Tech
Wednesday, 11 August 2004 06:57:56 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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