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Archive for the ‘HomeTheater’ Category

$100 Off Blu-ray Players at Amazon.com

November 8th, 2008 No comments

You can use the following link to save $100 on a Blu-ray player at Amazon.com. The promo requires that you buy 4 Blu-ray titles from Warner at the same time. There are some decent movies available like Batman Begins, Superman Returns, Corpse Bride, Speed Racer (incredible visuals in HD), and I am Legend. Jump on it, because the deal is scheduled to end Monday, 11/10.

$100 off when you buy a Blu-ray player and 4 Warner Blu-ray discs together

The choice of players is decent too. You can choose from Sylvania’s entry-level player (which gets you into Blu-ray for under $200 – including 4 movies), Samsung’s and LG’s Netflix-enabled players, and Panasonic’s amazing DMP-BD55K. Several of these players are Profile 2.0 so you can take advantage of all the capabilities of BD-Live content, even if the reality isn’t quite as good as the promise in today’s titles.

I’ve been waiting on the sidelines to see how all this HD media stuff would work out, but I’m ready to jump on the Panasonic BD55K. This player decodes all the HD Audio formats and has 7.1 analog outs. My receiver doesn’t do HDMI audio, so I would need the analog outs from the player to take advantage of the new high-def audio formats like Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus and DTSTM-HD Master Audio Essential. The Panasonic has great upscaling for SD-DVDs as well. The upscaling is said to rival the current king, the Toshiba HD-XA2 with the well-regarded Reon chipset. Since I have the Toshiba in my system now, I’ve been waiting for something like this to replace my player.

Just remember that for Profile 2.0 players you will probably need to add a SD memory card (at least 1GB) for all the features to work.

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Joost Beta

April 6th, 2007 No comments

Joost released beta invites to another wave of people yesterday and I finally got mine. I haven’t had a chance to look at it thoroughly, but my first impressions are pretty positive. Joost is an interesting combination of streaming servers and P2P filesharing to help speed up downloads. They also have made deals with Viacom to showcase a number of their properties including MTV and Comedy Channel programs.

What's Joost promotion video

The only real downside is that Joost still looks like internet video. In full-screen mode, the resolution isn’t quite high enough for my 1680 x 1050 display. It looks a little sharper in windowed mode where (I believe) it’s scaled to 1:1 resolution.

That said, my son and I watched the soccer channel for 15-20 minutes to watch a highlight reel of exciting goals from European matches (can Zidane strike the ball, or what?!). It was great to browse programs in Joost and pick programs similar to what you might see in an onscreen guide with your cable or satellite box. The playback bar lets you grab the pointer and move back and forth in the program quickly.

One thing I haven’t played with much yet are the Joost widgets that let you chat with other people watching the same program, rate the program, set favorites, share videos with friends, and so on. Apparently Joost is going to open this up to outside developers so that people can create their own widgets and share them with the world.

All in all, I’m cautiously optimistic about the future for Joost and internet TV in general. I think that the on demand, a la carte programming that a service like Joost makes possible is going to create a bunch of opportunities for consumers to get exactly what they want, when they want.

Why Transcoding is Here to Stay

March 31st, 2007 No comments

Chris Lanier wrote the other day that he thinks that digital media players are missing an opportunity because they only support a limited set of file formats or codecs. I love Chris’ blog and read his posts regularly to keep up with what’s happening in the HTPC world. I’m a little surprised that I disagree with him, but in this case my opinion is very different.

The point that I think Mr. Lanier missed is that supporting a wider variety of codecs would push the price point of these media devices far past what most would be willing to pay for a consumer electronics box. Hardware decoding is relatively inexpensive because you can buy an IC from Broadcom (or someone else) that handles most of the video processing and decodes H.264, VC-1, MPEG-2, etc. You can hit a $300 price point with a device like this.

However, if you want the horsepower to decode other codecs (especially at HD resolutions) *IN SOFTWARE*, you are going to be looking at high-end PC specs. Can you imagine if the TiVo Series 3 was based on the Core 2 Duo and had a nVidia 7950GT in it? It would definitely have the horsepower to decode just about anything you could throw at it, but no one would buy it when they could buy a fully functional PC for *LESS* that didn’t have a monthly subscription fee.

Transcoding is definitely where it’s at. I want the ability to manage my content from my computer and then make that content available to all the devices I own. Here is where the “support all codecs” on the media player argument is backwards in my mind. I want the devices to be functional and cheap. I want my computer to be the workhorse that can figure out how to make my content available to those other devices and be aware of all their limitations. I want to manage my content centrally too and have all this transcoding and compression happen in the background so I don’t have to deal with it.

I want to buy a HD movie once and then automagically have that content transcoded and resized to play on my iPod, Xbox, AppleTV, laptop, etc. I also want to download flash movies from the internet, divx home movies, and on and on. My media manager should be intelligent enough to know the MPEG block constraints of the iPod’s decoder, that my Xbox Elite is set to use 1080p over HDMI, that my AppleTV can only do 720p at 24fps or 540p at 30fps and so on. I definitely do *NOT* want my iPod to be capable of playing back 20Mbps H.264 content at 1080p because I don’t want to spend $2000 for a video iPod. I am willing to spend big bucks on my main computer though.

I have high hopes that someone will figure this out and create a seamless PC, TV w/extender, mobile solution that will let me enjoy my (legally obtained) content anywhere, anytime, anyhow I want to.

Joost Around The Corner

March 16th, 2007 No comments

Apparently Joost is just around the corner. I received an email this morning (along with lots of other people, I’m sure) that says that they are very close to opening up the service to more testers and they will shortly add everyone who has signed up to try Joost.

Being able to watch Viacom properties online will definitely keep me interested in actually watching something on Joost. I’ll be sure to post impressions as soon as I get my account setup. I’d like to hear your impressions too.

If you haven’t already, you can sign up for the beta test from their home page.

Forget AppleTV – Mac mini as Video Server

March 10th, 2007 No comments

I ran across this podcast/article at HTGuys today. It gives a pretty good high-level description of a working home theater system that uses the Mac mini as the hub for video and audio. The system is primarily used for movie viewing (ripped from DVD’s) and the bulk of the conversation is about this, but it does mention recording TV as well.

This article highlights some of the advantages that the mini provides over the AppleTV. In particular, the mini allows for AC3 audio passthrough to your receiver for surround sound. There doesn’t appear to be a way to encode surround sound into AppleTV-compatible files. The mini also allows for the possibility of TV recording and central storage that can be shared out to the rest of the house (the AppleTV has a 40GB hard drive for caching content shared from another computer’s iTunes library). With a wired network, the system here is able to stream HD content to three computers at the same time.

As much as I’d like to dump my cable DVR and roll my own, I still can’t make up my mind which approach to take. More and more, I see disadvantages to the AppleTV approach.

Streaming HDTV from the HDHomeRun to the Mac

March 6th, 2007 No comments

HDHomeRun GUI for MacAn enterprising user at the Silicon Dust forums has created a GUI for tuning the HDHomeRun to a particular channel and launching VLC to play the stream on your Mac. This doesn’t allow for timeshifting or PVR features, but it does let you watch live High Definition on the Mac. Now we just need integration with the IR remotes that come with newer Macs so we don’t have to touch the keyboard and mouse to change the channel. I mean, really, what is this? 1977?

Props go out to TUAW for posting the story first.

HDHomeRun hits it out of the park

February 7th, 2007 3 comments

HDHomeRunI’ve been following the HDHomeRun a bit since CES this year. The idea is very simple – the box takes digital TV signals from an OTA antenna (ATSC) or your cable service (QAM), including High Definition channels, and then uses 100baseT networking to stream those channels onto your local network. You can either watch those streams using VLC or capture them to a computer-based DVR system like SageTV, MythTV, or even Windows Media Center.

The obvious advantage is that in contrast to a PCI, PCIe, or USB tuner, the HDHomeRun isn’t tied to just one box. Multiple clients (up to two) can access the two tuners. Streaming to multiple clients (multicast) isn’t available right now, but this would be technically possible with a software update. Read more…