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About this Author
Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @
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Feel free to contact me about articles, websites and etc. you think I may find of interest. I'm also available for consulting work and speaking engagements. Email: ernest.miller 8T gmail.com

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June 22, 2005

Listening to Radio On Your Cellphone

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Posted by Ernest Miller

BusinessWeek has an an interesting article about radio for your cellphone (Dial R for Radio on Your Cell).

Chances are radio services will be a hit with the 2 billion wireless subscribers worldwide. "Mobile phones are always with you," explains Nancy Beaton, a general manager at telco Sprint (FON), which became the first carrier with a commercial cell-phone radio service in December. "Because customers are familiar with how the phone works, adding radio can be very intuitive," says Beaton.

And many users want that addition. According to surveys conducted by America Online, a unit of Time Warner (TWX), more than half the respondents say they would listen to the radio on their phones. AOL is in talks with wireless service providers to offer its online radio stations on mobile phones within months.

Radio on phones is a good idea. I could see that it would be very useful. However, a couple of questions ... many related to my rant yesterday (Die Cellphone. Die! Die! Die!).

First, why the heck does AOL (or any other cellphone radio service) need to be in talks with wireless service providers? Why couldn't they simply be in talks with, you know, customers? The closed networks of the cellphone providers are really limiting competition and innovation (not to mention increasing the price).

Second, despite Miss Beaton's claim about ease of use, why the heck do we have to get the radio via a cellphone? Why not get the radio via an MP3 player? Why not let the MP3 player have basic connectivity for this purpose? A cellphone is great in some circumstances, but not necessarily all.

Radio service also could spark sales of other wireless content. "Since radio is how people discover new music, I'd look at radio as the trigger that would create follow-through sales of [popular content like] ringtones, ringbacks, and music downloads," says Lewis Ward, an analyst at IDC. If users hear a song they like on their cell-phone radio, they'll be able to immediately buy a related ringtone via their cell. That should accelerate the growth of the $500 million ringtone market, as well as sales of ringbacks and music downloads.
Of course, one reason the cellphone service providers like their closed networks is so that they can make more money via associated services. I still can't believe that people pay as much for ringtones as they do. Open up the network, let people buy ringtones without paying the cellphone service provider tax.
Most cell-phone radiocasters, though, plan to use existing wireless networks, but to varying extents. Motorola's iRadio, expected to cost $5 a month, will let customers download hours of radio programming via a PC. New radio-ready Motorola phones are expected to be unveiled this fall. Motorola plans to insert snippets of breaking news into these broadcasts as they're downloaded over its wireless network.
Downloading hours of radio programming via your PC already has a name. It's called "podcasting". Still, perhaps Motorola will share some of their technology, or help work on an open standard, for mixing breaking news with less time-volatile content. Would be useful.

via Mobile Content News

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Telecomm | Tools

June 21, 2005

Die Cellphone. Die! Die! Die!

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Paul Resnikoff of Digital Music News muses about the future of the iPod in a world where cellular phones have increasing music carrying capabilities (Resnikoff's Parting Shot: The Future of the iPod). He doesn't think the iPod has much to worry about it, yet.

This is a variation of a question that is always asked. Will mobile gaming devices be swamped by cellphone/game consoles? Will digital cameras be made irrelevant by cellphones/cameras? Will MP3 players be made irrelevant by cellphone/MP3 players? No. No. And No.

Why not ask instead, will the cellphone be able to survive domination by combination game console/phones? Will cameraphones be made irrelevant by cameras with phone capability? Will MP3 players that let you call out destroy the market for phones with MP3 capability?

Cellphones aren't going to go away, but they're only a tool for communication. There is nothing particularly special about them that makes them the only form factor for communication. At base, they're a commodity device. Why are cellphone manufacturers so darn busy creating things to do with a cellphone other than communicate? Because, otherwise, there isn't much to distinguish the darn things.

My life doesn't revolve around my cellphone. My life is about the other things I do. I want to have a digital camera that takes good pictures, a game console that is designed to play cool games, and an MP3 player designed to handle thousands of songs, playlists and podcasts. And, oh yeah, I want connectivity. I don't want a "cellphone."

Stop pretending to sell me cellphones. Honestly, the cellphone companies aren't really selling cellphones. That is just the sales pitch. The cellphone companies are essentially selling commodity connectivity and trying hard to hide that fact with fancy cellphone capabilities.

Data is data. Sell me connectivity and let me pick my own darn devices to take advantage of it.

That's right, I said "devices." I'm paying for the connectivity, so why should it matter how many devices I can use to take advantage of that connectivity? Sometimes I want to take my camera to the park. Sometimes I want to take my game console when I anticipate a wait at the doctor's. And I want to take my MP3 player for the workday commute.

Used to be that you could only get your landline phone from AT&T. They decided what equipment you could use on their network. We got rid of this foolish requirement and the internet was able to bloom.

Why do we continue to tolerate similar foolishness for cellular?

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Open Access | Telecomm | Tools

June 16, 2005

June 14, 2005

June 13, 2005

June 12, 2005

June 08, 2005

30th Anniversary of the Consumer VCR Yesterday

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Holy cow! How could I have missed this? Yesterday, the consumer VCR celebrated its 30th birthday here in the USA, according to the Cedar Valley Courier (On Its 30th Birthday, the VCR Begins Its Goodbyes). Actually, I'm not sure where they got that date. There seem to be several different possibilities for dating the first consumer VCR in the US.

The 1975 debut of the video cassette recorder forever changed American television viewing habits, but with the advent of new technology, the VCR may be entering its final decade.
And, had a tremendous impact on copyright law, innovation, consumer expectations, Hollywood, you name it.
Mark Johns, professor of communication studies at Luther College in Decorah, says the time-shift idea of watching shows at one's leisure is here to stay. And while technology will continue to improve the way we do that, the VCR lit the match that sparked the home entertainment fire.
Yep, whatever the actual birthday is.

via PVR Wire

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Tools

June 07, 2005

June 04, 2005

June 01, 2005

May 31, 2005

May 30, 2005

May 29, 2005

Darknet Interviews Andy Wolfe, Fomer CTO of ReplayTV

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Over on Darknet, JD Lasica interviews Andy Wolfe, formerly CTO of ReplayTV (Interview: Andy Wolfe, former CTO, ReplayTV). The interview is incredibly good. Highly recommended: Read the whole thing. A small sample:

That’s why we were amazed there was such rigamarole around this. We sold 60,000 of these things. ATI sells a million cards a year that lets you record shows and attach it to your email. They still do. Sony sued us, but they let you record stuff on your Vaio and burn it to DVD and email it to anyone. AOL lets you attach a show to Instant Messaging. It’s amazingly hypocritical, with these companies and their software that are out there and can do all this stuff on the PC, they took it for granted, but when we came up with this device that ordinary people could use, they panicked. [emphasis in original]
Alright, I can't resist, another sample:
We did a marketing study and found that two things were in high demand: porn, and Bollywood, because Indian films are not widely distributed in the U.S.

That’s part of why this whole thing got a little threatening. We think that if there was a real service, that independent content would become an important part of that service. We didn’t think people would sign up for a service if it only had independent content. They’ll sign up for Harry Potter or Terminator 3. It’s the blockbusters that get people’s attention.

We got a call from churches who wanted to distribute their sermons on Sunday mornings by sending videos around. There are also surveillance applications. We found lots of people who were interested in building new things on top of this. We felt these other things would follow, but the entertainment had to drive it. [emphasis in original]

For all you atheists and non-church-goers out there, if you're not familiar with how churches are using this technology, I suggest you go check it out. Many of them are really quite savvy.

Did I mention you should read the whole thing?

PS: The interview was conducted in June, 2003.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | Tools

May 28, 2005

Taking Public Transportation to the Next Level

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The Guardian reports that Portsmouth is taking its public transportation to the next level with a sophisticated and public wireless network (Rush Hour Revolution)

What Portsmouth desperately needed was to get more people out of cars and on to public transport. But the city's congested streets played havoc with bus timetables, and unreliable scheduling deterred people from taking the bus. To encourage more people to ditch their cars, the city invested in a wireless mesh network: a web of wireless antennae, situated at bus stops, which supply the city streets with a huge amount of air-bound internet bandwidth.

In practical terms, this means that passengers at any of the city's 37 real-time passenger information bus shelters are told exactly how long they will have to wait. This is not an estimate based on timetables, but accurate up-to-the-minute information beamed directly from the bus. Because bus operators have access to the exact location of their fleet, they can set schedules accordingly.

The city's 308 buses have been equipped with their own "ruggedised" PC, running a version of Windows. Each bus is able to monitor its precise position with a GPS (global positioning system) connection and upload information about its accurate arrival time using a mesh mobile radio data modem.

Such systems could really do a lot to make public transportation more viable. Permitting the data to be used by others would allow for clever developers to create new applications based on using the public transportation network efficiently. Have you ever planned a route via one of the mapping websites? Well, why not be able to schedule a public transportation route and get real-time information on it?

via Smart Mobs

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Tools | WiFi

May 25, 2005

May 23, 2005

May 22, 2005

May 16, 2005

May 15, 2005

May 13, 2005

GPS-Guided Audio Tours Launched in Montgomery, AL

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The world continues to be layered in an ever-richer digital data overlay. Intellitours, a company that provides GPS-guided audio tours, has installed such a tour on the Montgomery, AL, trolley system with audio narration for 45 different historical locations (Montgomery Trolleys Adopt First GPS-Guided Audio Tour of Civil War and Civil Rights Historical Sites). This just seems very cool. When can I get one for my walking tours? When will the tools be available so that I or others can easily create them?

via engadget

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April 06, 2005

The Countdown for the Extinction of Kiosks has Already Started

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Mark Cuban predicts the coming death of the CD (The countdown for the extinction of CDs is about to begin). Well, of course. The CD is ultimately doomed as a format. However, I don't see anything to replace it that is supported by the major labels. Until the labels provide a format that is not locked into a particular vendor, is future-proofed and provides the security of purchase of physical ownership, the CD will remain relatively strong. In any case, what Cuban gets wrong is not that the CD will eventually die, but that music kiosks will replace it in retail outlets.

Kiosks are dead before they've even really got started.

Why go to a physical location to download music? Does it really make sense to go to Walmart with your MP3 player to download music? Such services would be better off if you could download wherever there is wireless access. Wireless should be integrated with your MP3 player.

What this will enable is the ability to download music wherever and whenever you can be encouraged to buy, generally when you are actually listening to music. "Hey, I like that song. I want it." This is why concert sales of music make a lot of sense.

But, as for retailers ... Hear a song that you like in Starbucks (excuse me, an independent coffee house)? It should be on the wireless ether in the shop, ready to be captured in your MP3 player. You hear a song you like, you press a button on your MP3 player and the song is automatically downloaded for you. Hear and save.

Is this good for music retailers? Nope. However, it is good for other retailers and anywhere people listen to music. If Starbucks (I mean, a non-Starbucks coffee house) plays an artist's music and people capture it in the store, perhaps there should be some sort of commission for Starbucks (you know what I mean). The cost of providing this service would certainly be much less than having a innumerable physical kiosks around (all the effort is on the backend, all the shop needs is wireless), and it would make impulse music grabbing much more convenient.

Of course, all this would work much smoother if there were some sort of voluntary blanket licensing.

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April 05, 2005

March 31, 2005

Department of Useless Technology - "Start Over"

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Mutichannel News reports that Time Warner Cable will be introducing new cable technology that is as useful as hitching posts for those new-fangled auto-mobiles (Time Warner to ‘Start Over’ on DVR):

[I]f a customer came home at 9:15 p.m. and wanted to watch a program that started at 9 p.m., he or she could hit the Start Over button on their remote and watch the program from the beginning.

Users of the feature would also have to watch all of the commercials during the program -- Start Over disables the fast-forward feature on the remote. That pleased broadcasters, which have fretted over customers speeding through commercials on their DVRs.

This would have been pretty dosh garn neat sometime last century. Let me one of the first to predict the demise of this "unnovative" new technology.

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November 09, 2004

The Server in the Closet Gets a Little Closer to Reality

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Posted by Ernest Miller

I remain enamored of a concept I think of as the "server in the closet." I believe that, eventually, every home will have a fairly sophisticated server as the locus of the many networked device in the home. Everything from the VoIP phone system, presence-enabled media (IM), multimedia (podcasts, broadcatch), etc., etc., etc. There will be fat and thin clients in the home, all of which can be (but not required to) coordinate through home's central server. More importantly, this "server in the closet" will be part of bi-directional communication with the rest of the world wide network, turning every home not only into a receiver, but a transmitter.

Anyway, that is my dream and every once in awhile I note devices and other things that tend towards this future. Today's edition is about a terabyte server priced for the consumer.

If you can read Japanese, check out the press release: Buffalo Terastation [Japanese]. Otherwise, you might want to try Gizmodo (Buffalo TeraStation 1TB Network Storage).

$1,000 bucks and you get 1TB of storage, nicely configured with four drives, RAID and highspeed connectivity. That is some serious storage for the price. And how much info is in the Library of Congress? I seem to recall an estimate of 17 Terabytes. The day when the LOC is available on the desktop is not too far off.

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August 31, 2004

XM Radio's Stockholm Syndrome

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Well, it is official. According to C|Net News, XM Radio has withdrawn their PC hardware version from the market as a response to the software known as NeroSoft TimeTrax, which permitted people to record from XM Radio to MP3 (XM Radio pulls PC hardware amid piracy concerns). TimeTrax has previously been featured here on Hatch's Hit List (Hatch's Hit List #30 - XM Radio to MP3).

Interestingly, according to the article, pulling the hardware off the market was not done at the behest of the RIAA:

"We are very concerned about a variety of technologies that essentially transform performances into music libraries," RIAA spokesman Steve Marks said. "We have communicated our concerns to XM and other broadcasters and Webcasters, (and told them) that we'd like to work together with them to address technologies that hijack these performances."

Marks said the RIAA wasn't behind the discontinuation of the PCR.

"We've raised the concern generally," he said. "They've obviously decided to take this action on their own. We've identified for them the potential problems."

Sounds like Stockholm Syndrome to me:
The Stockholm syndrome is a psychological state in which the victims of a kidnapping, or persons detained against their free will - prisoners - develop a relationship with their captor(s). This solidarity can sometimes become a real complicity, with prisoners actually helping the captors to achieve their goals or to escape police.
UPDATE 1955 PT

Educated Guesswork (Death to XM TiVo):

OK, I can totally understand the objection that people will use this to build a local library of songs--not that I think that should be illegal, but I understand it--but this last paragraph is, as far as I can tell, total nonsense. The gating factor in song availability over KaZaA is unlikely to be the ability to get a ripped version of the song. It's not like there's any shortage of consumers with Britney Spears CDs and CD-ROM drives. In fact, I would expect the availability if this sort of technology to decrease the amount of file sharing by making it easier to collect a library of known-to-be-correct songs.
Indeed, and even if your rip the songs, won't you still be paying subscription fees?

Techdirt (Is XM Bending Over Backwards To Make Satellite Radio Less Useful?):

It's quite a world when it's considered a problem that someone has made your service more useful. The note at Broadband Reports also claims that XM is considering removing USB ports from future equipment for the same reason. Both of these seem unconfirmed at the moment, so it would be nice if there were some real confirmation on either rumor. However, the satellite radio business is in a tough position. For all the success they've been claiming in signing up customers, they're nowhere near profitability. Their capital costs are incredibly high, and the thing they need, more than anything else, is more subscribers. Shutting down tools that make their offering more compelling just means they're making their job that much more difficult.

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August 30, 2004

The Google File System

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Slashdot points to an extremely interesting Google Gmail hack - the Gmail File System (GmailFS - The Google File System):

GmailFS provides a mountable Linux filesystem which uses your Gmail account as its storage medium. ... GmailFS supports most file operations such as read, write, open, close, stat, symlink, link, unlink, truncate and rename.
Most of the comments on Slashdot deal with the fact that this hack probably violates Google's terms of service and may result in users having their accounts abruptly terminated. However, there are some insightful ones (Re: GoogleOS).

More importantly, this does point towards another piece of the internet operating system puzzle (or, more specifically, Google Operating System).

Gee, I wonder if the advent of a Google Operating System will have any impact on copyright law, telecom regulation, etc., etc., etc...

UPDATE 2200 PT
On a somewhat related note Discourse.net (GoogleWatch Says 'Google Is Dying').

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Internet | News | Open Standards | Telecomm | Tools

May 28, 2004

Every PC a Server

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Posted by Ernest Miller

There is an interesting article in the Java Developer's Journal on what the killer app for JXTA might be ("Make Every PC a Server" - Is That JXTA's Killer App?). I'm not interested in the specific technology so much (JXTA is pretty cool, though) as I am interested in the proposed killer app - every PC a server. One of the problems with the current architecture of the internet, I believe, is that it relies too much on the client/server distinction. In our collaborative, creative future, we are interested in both publishing and consuming. It only makes sense that our home PCs will not only fetch content and resources but serve the same, some of which might not even be ours, but will be authorized for distribution. The server in the closet is not simply about sharing resources within the home network, but outside of it as well.

What this means simply is that, unlike client/server, JXTA is client/server and server/client or even server-to-server or client-to-client. The information, storage, processing, and communications can start at either end. In the world of applications this also means that I don't have to work in a world of centralized resources where there are multiple issues. The worst problem of course is just the impedance mismatch between the world of application and the world of Web applications.

Unfortunately, our current telecommunications regulatory structure, among other things, makes the possibility of true bi-directional communications from the home difficult to take full advantage of.


via Unmediated

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May 26, 2004

The Network Television

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Posted by Ernest Miller

According to a Reuters wirestory that was widely published, including on C|Net News, Sony will be incorporating its new "Cell" processor in both the next generation PlayStation and what they call a "network television" (Sony says 'Cell'-based TV ready by 2006).

The article lacks any detail about what, exactly, a "network television" is, but the image the words invoke is fascinating. I would imagine that one could rather easily broadcatch with a network television, for one.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Tools

April 27, 2004

Crippled External Hard Drive for DVRs

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Posted by Ernest Miller

A number of gadget websites have noted what sounds like nifty new technology, an external hard drive especially designed for Digital Video Recorders (DVRs). The device, from hard drive manufacturer Maxtor, connects to an existing DVR to provide up to an additional 160 hours of recording capability. Read the press release: Maxtor Expands QuickView Outside the Box.

What the press release doesn't tell you:

The first devices will be available in the summer of 2004 and have an eSATA interface. Maxtor is exploring USB 2.0 and FireWire/1394 connections. Good enough.

However, the product will not be available in retail initially, but rather via your cable/satellite provider. In other words, you won't own it. Actually, ownership is probably not a good idea because the device will not be portable and will be designed to connect to a single DVR. Moving or switching providers will be fun.

Furthermore, according to Maxtor's press contact:

Due to content protection/privacy, the Expander will not communicate/share files with the PC.

Content privacy? Not sure what that is. Regardless, why are so many new consumer devices being designed deliberately crippled? Why is the United States sacrificing so much potential innovation? Perhaps, Mary Hodder is right and it is time for "Silicon Valley Lamented".

via Designtechnica

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April 09, 2004

Steadicam for the Masses

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Not all technological advancements that increase the ability of the average person to produce professional-quality video come in the form of software or silicon. Sometimes they come in the form of $14 worth of galvanized pipe, washers, nuts and a barbell weight.

Multimedia artist Johnny Chung Lee has developed the poor man's steadicam. What is a steadicam? According to the Steadicam FAQ, it "is a camera stabilization device that, in the hands of a skilled operator, combines the image steadiness of a dolly with the freedom of movement of a hand-held shot." Normally, the cheapest 3rd-party steadicams go for $500 and up. Lee's version costs about $14 in parts ($14 Steadicam). It might not have all the bells and whistles, but seems to do a pretty darn good job, considering the price.

Sometimes it is nice to note that not all cool hacks are digital.

via mehack

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Tools

March 15, 2004

Hey, Advertisers, Pay for My HDTV

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Posted by Ernest Miller

USA Today reports on a rather bizarre market niche: companies that are charging people to display artwork on their HDTV sets (Start-ups turn flat-panel TVs into works of art):

An expensive new digital television is big, beautiful, flat and can hang on the wall. Some might even consider the set a piece of art.
So why not display Picasso, Renoir, Monet and other masters on the screen itself?
Three companies have recently formed to help consumers do just that.

The article notes that HDTV sets are rather expensive, from $500 for the smallest models to over $17,000 for nerdvana sets. On top of this initial expense, the three companies discussed in the article expect consumers to pay a nice additional chunk of change to display licensed artwork on the sets.

Techdirt wonders if people can't come up with simpler, cheaper (presumably free) solutions (That Flat Screen TV Needs A Screensaver).

I wonder if there isn't a solution where companies pay me to have an HDTV. Why couldn't advertisers pay people to play commercials on their HDTV sets and subsidize the cost of the plasma set in return? Instead of a Matisse, why not a McDonald's?

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MP3 Player Dreams

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Educated Guesswork recounts some of the problems with the iTrip FM transmitter for the iPod, which allows you to listen to your iPod through your car radio (iPod and iTrip annoyances). I have frequently had similar problems with MP3 players when trying to use them in a car.

What I would like is a nice cradle I can put my MP3 player when I'm in the car. The cradle would, of course, connect directly to my car stereo. Is that too much to ask for?

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March 10, 2004

APEX's New Networked DVD Player

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Posted by Ernest Miller

APEX Digital, makers of famously inexpensive DVD players, is launching its first networked DVD player (APEX AD-8000N Connected DVD Player). The new device will not only play DVDs, but will be able to play files stored on a local computer, such as those movies you downloaded (legitimately, of course). APEX devices have also been famously hackable (Apex/Hiteker DVD Hacking Pages). How hard will it be and how long will it take for hackers to figure out a way to backup your DVDs on computer through the new APEX AD-8000N?

via engadget

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Millennium Copyright Act | Tools

March 09, 2004

Intel on the "Server in the Closet"

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Well, just after I posted the last article on "Technology Advances for 'Server in the Closet'," I came across a recent speech by an Intel honcho on the subject. Louis Burns is Vice President, General Manager, Desktop Platforms Group for Intel and he goes into some depth about where Intel thinks these things are going (Intel Developer Forum, Spring 2004 - Louis Burns Keynote).

Surprisingly, the speech is really quite good at describing the potential for such devices and Burns seems to almost get it. I highly recommend reading the full article.

The basic concept is straightforward: "It's simply giving users what they want, any content on any device, anywhere in their home. Simple to say, difficult to do, but exactly what they're asking us for." Unfortunately, implementation is not straightforward, especially when you try to accomplish two opposed things at the same time, such as implementing DRM and making things easy and transparent to connect to each other. For example, Intel is sucking up to the MPAA:

We talked earlier, it really has to deliver on what we call premium movie content. Doing your own personal pictures or videos is cool, but we need premium movie content.
So with that in mind, we've been working very closely with Movielink. Movielink is one of the first movers, the fast movers on delivering premium movie content through the IP network.

Yeah, integrated DRM, that is what consumers want. That will make it easy to get content on any device, anywhere.

The other problem is that Burns shorts the potential for content creation and sharing outside the home. Near the end of the speech he devotes two whole paragraphs to the idea of consumers creating content. The example he uses, organizing and manipulating your digital photos, is pretty lame given the incredible possibilities. There is also little talk about how one would then share their creations in an effective, efficient way.

Still, this is an important vision statement from Intel.

via PVR Blog

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Technology Advances for "Server in the Closet"

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Posted by Ernest Miller

I've always thought that one of the forms that convergence will ultimately take is the "server in the closet," a device that stores media for access/display throughout the home as well as handling some, but not all computing tasks (Longhorn and the Server in the Closet). Although such technology is available today, simple consumer-oriented versions are several years off, at least. Still, I like to keep an eye on this stuff. C|Net News has a couple of articles about enterprise technology advances in this area. Though the technology is aimed for the enterprise, I imagine it running my own home network.

In "Faster Fujitsu drive plays catch-up" we see still yet more advances for serious storage/performance hard drives:

The 300GB hard-disk drive will let customers build storage systems with "significant enterprise storage capacity with a focus on cost-effective performance," Joel Hagberg, vice president for marketing at Fujitsu Computer Products of America, said in a statement.

I think, mom and dad can watch stored versions of Law and Order, while the kids stream South Park and the latest music.

There are also a couple of interesting articles on blade servers (Blade PC company links up with IBM and HP to put blade servers on a diet). The first article discusses blade PC technology, where the display, keyboard and network connection are the only thing the user needs ... the PC is stored in the closet. The second article talks about storing more blade servers in less space. For many consumers, space is certainly a consideration.

This stuff is in no way ready for the consumer. But I can dream, can't I?

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E Ink E Book Reader Soon

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Posted by Ernest Miller

MIT's Technology Review (reg. req.) reports on a new e-book reader that uses digital ink from E Ink (Dazzling Display):

E-book readers—handhelds that display the contents of book files downloaded from the Internet—just got a whole lot more readable. Philips Electronics and Cambridge, MA-based E Ink have developed a prototype electronic display that looks like paper and ink, not a dim, fuzzy screen. The device uses E Ink’s tiny fluid-filled balls containing oppositely charged black and white particles, which are layered in a thin film on a sheet of plastic or glass. Connecting this film to electronics allows the reader to display text and graphics by controlling the voltage across each ball, determining whether it appears black or white. The result: higher contrast than newspapers and better resolution than laptop screens. The 15-centimeter-diagonal display is about half the weight and thickness of comparable liquid-crystal readers. It has been in the works for a few years, but this is the first version that is ready for commercial production. Look for the new readers to hit shelves later this year.

E Ink has been one of those promising technologies that has been just around the corner for the past decade or so. Its display quality is superior to LCDs, it is lighter, can be applied to a variety of surfaces, its power requirements are lower and it can retain an image even with no power supplied. As Teleread says, E Ink is "tantalizingly close to paper."

I'll wait until I play with one myself, but this does seem to be a major step forward. If E Ink acheives its potential it would likely lead to a major change in how humans relate to text. Not to mention all the interesting e-book filesharing discussions that will inevitably follow.

via engadget

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March 04, 2004

New Hacking Blog

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Ed Felten writes about the Freedom to Tinker, "the right of technologists and citizens to tinker with technological devices." Anyone who has ever pulled something apart and tried, successfully or not, to put it back together understands the freedom Felten is talking about. While Felten focuses mainly on the legal and policy issues, there is now a blog (not associated with Felten) dedicated to practical examples of the "Freedom to Tinker," though Felten might not like the name too much.

mehack describes itself thus:

extend, personalise, break, poke, peek, learn. hacking hacking hacking. ever had that desire to pop open your tivo, your xbox, cell phone, or your car? ever wanted to know what the hardware and software hackers are up to? this is what mehack is all about.
we all know the frustration in discovering that there isn't something out there that does exactly what you want it to do. we've all fantasized about doing it ourselves, or taking something off the shelf and modding it. we're going to be tracking people, projects that are doing both -- we're interested in those that take the "hell with it, i'll just build it" attitude, and we're interested in those that buy those things off the shelf and pop them open to coerce them into doing what they want. and we're interested in the tools they use too.
our agenda is simple -- we want to learn from others. we're not interested in doing anything destructive. and we're not interested in piracy. we just want things that we can hack on. and most of all, we want to make it simple for people like you to start building.

There are already some good posts on the hecklebot, audiotron api, and playing with linksys access points upping the firmware.

Add it to your RSS feed when adding the new gadget blog, engadget.

via PVR Blog

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February 27, 2004

Program My TiVo!

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Posted by Ernest Miller

A couple of weeks ago, I posted on an innovative new RSS format for Personal Media Recorders, such as the TiVo (RSS for TV, Music). Imagine an RSS feed that would program your TiVo. Now, Andrew Grumet, the developer of this great idea, has implemented a web-based version: Program My TiVo!.

This is great. I would love to have an easy means by which my friends and family could set up something to be recorded for me. My brother and I are always telling each other to record certain programs via TiVo. This would save all the forgetting and stuff.

via PVRBlog

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February 11, 2004

RSS for TV, Music

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Andrew Grumet is developing a very interesting TiVo hack (RSSTV: Syndication for your PVR). Basically the idea is to share PVR program recording information via RSS. So, when you subscribed to an RSSTV feed, your PVR would record the shows in the feed. Friends and bloggers could easily suggest shows to each other and even create their own virtual networks. Channels would no longer manner; we would watch Mary TV, or the Felten tech channel, based off these RSSTV feeds. Goodbye NBC, CBS, and ABC. Hello, Balkin's Pop Culture for Constitutional Scholars TV.

Of course, another thing I would really be interested in is a nice RSS feed for music. Programming playlists is too much work, and I like the structured serendipity of a good radio show. Why not RSS feeds for music that my MP3 player would synch with? It would be great if it would download stuff I didn't already have, but even without that, it would be pretty darn nice.


via David Galbraith

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January 21, 2004

Mix CD Starting Kit

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Now this is cool marketing: Diesel Mix CD Starting Kit.

Mix CDs are fun! Take them with you! Trade them! Impress your friends! To help you satisfy your 'mix fix,' Diesel and Insound have put together a 'Mix CD Starter Kit.' When you spend $25 or more from Insound you get an adorable CD-R in your order to start your mix CD. In case you're having trouble finding the right songs to include on your CD, don't worry. We've got the best new music here on this very page. Songs perfect for first crushes, breakups, lonely hearts, friendships, Bar Mitzvahs. We've got it all. So, simply check out the newest MP3s on this page and start making your playlist. When you're ready, you put your CD-R into your computer, burn your tracks to the disc and you can start impressing people with your good taste. Check back here each month for new music and simply spend $25 to get the free CD-R. It's very cute and pretty fancy.

Check out photos of the kit here: Outside and Inside.

via Not Quite a Blog

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January 09, 2004

HP Goes Off the Rails

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Things must really be bad at Hewlett-Packard since CEO Carly Fiorina sounds quite desperate in her keynote speech at CES as C|Net News reports (Fiorina calls for defense of digital rights). How strange the spectacle of a major computer manufacturer calling for an all out war on what computers enable:

"[Copyright infringement is] illegal and wrong, and there are things we as a computing company can do" to prevent it, Fiorina said.
The HP chief added that starting this year all HP digital entertainment products will use software that respects the copyrights of artists. The company will actively promote copyright protection and step up efforts with antipiracy and consumer groups [which consumer groups would those be?], she said.

Does Fiorina think that by saying these things it will make her and her company more popular with the beautiful people of Hollywood, with the in crowd? Hollywood has never respected the tech industry; as far as Hollywood is concerned technology exists to increase their profits, period. To the extent that the technology industry has different ideas, Hollywood sues and legislates against it. Would there be PCs or an internet if Hollywood were in charge? Yet this is the group that is now giving Fiorina their approval:

In a show of support for HP's stance, Fiorina was joined on stage by Interscope Geffen A&M Records Chairman Jim Iovine as well as artists Dr. Dre, U2 guitar player The Edge, Sheryl Crow, Alicia Keys, Toby Keith and other music executives.

Such celebrity worship is simply sad. Even worse is the schizophrenia evidenced by the next line of the article:

HP also provided a glimpse of new products that would allow for easier use of digital media.

Since when has DRM made the use of digital media "easier"? All DRM systems that I've worked with have only served to increase frustration. And what is this "allow"? A subtle reference to the fact that DRM "allows" one to do what would otherwise be considered a right?

Apparently, HP will happily be used by Hollywood for some mythical short term gain in the consumer electronics market. Consumer electronics is a viciously competitive market. Yet HP seeks to thrive in this marketplace by ceding control of the future of HPs primary market (computers) to Hollywood. This is the epitome of a sucker's deal, one the shareholder's of HP will regret.

HP sells really nice computers, which are essentially being commoditized. So what do they do? Seek partnerships with content companies. Brilliant strategy - not!

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January 08, 2004

Neat Devices with Terrible Names - 2004 Edition

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The New York Times (reg. req.) has a short, regurgitated press release on the latest entrant into the personal media recorder wars (VIDEO: Beam Your Favorite Shows to an Expandable Cache). The unfortunately named "Prismiq" is yet another attempt at a converged home media center with oodles of undesirable functionality, such as web browsing and IM through your television. Now your viewing can be interrupted not only by corporate sponsors, but friends and family. Oh, rapturous new world!

However, I write this post not to rag on the continued foolishness of product designers, but to point out something that is neat and useful about the new Prismiq MediaPlayer and which will, hopefully, be a ubiquitous design in the future.

The neat thing about the Prismiq (god, what an awful word to type or read) is that it is fully integrated with a home network. The device itself won't have a hard drive (why not? they're dirt cheap), but will record to storage devices on the local network (such as your PC's hard drive). Thus, easy expandability (and likely, easy portability for the content).

The device is certainly trying too hard to do too much, but the idea that all your local storage devices are accessible to read and write to is a good one. Here's hoping they don't get sued.

Read the original press release (Prismiq Introduces High-End Entertainment Gateway Product, the Prismiq MediaPlayer/Recorder).

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December 12, 2003

Fight the Broadcast Flag - Give TiVos as Holiday Presents This Year

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Using a TiVo is a conversion experience. It transforms the way you interact with broadcast media and creates entirely new expectations regarding entertainment, even more so, in many ways, than MP3 players. This is why I am excited by a number of reports this week regarding personal media recorders, such as a story in Newsday that notes a high demand for DirecTV set-top boxes that include TiVo (TiVo-Based Set-Top Boxes in High Demand).

I'm excited because everyone I know who uses TiVo won't go back to traditional television viewing. Simply using TiVo creates consumer expectations that are going to run smack dab into the anti-consumer mandates of the broadcast flag. Sure, the FCC says that the broadcast flag won't inhibit uses consumers have today, but it does and will. People habituated to the ease of use of TiVo, of burning shows to DVD, of networking television throughout the home, are in for a rude awakening when the broadcast flag takes effect. Frankly, there are going to be some seriously inconvenienced consumers come July 2005 and I would hate to be the politician on the other end of their anger. I can see the bumper stickers now: The FCC can have my TiVo when the pry it from my cold dead fingers.

Of course, the more people habituated to TiVo, the bigger the resulting backlash, which is why I recommend giving TiVos as holiday gifts for all your TiVo-less friends and family (there is a good chance it will be the best gift they get this season). I'm not really a big believer in consumerism ... but sometimes consumerism and activitism go hand in hand.

Of course, I'm using TiVo in the generic sense. Add the homemade touch (like those holiday cards you made from posterboard, glue and sparkles in elementary school) by building your friends an open source TiVo (Freevo, MythTV, KnoppMyth, XMLTV). By the way, MythTV explicitly supports the pcHDTV card and undoubtedly will support software HDTV as well (GNU Radio: Hacking the RF Spectrum with Free Software and Hardware).

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December 10, 2003

Technology Continues to Challenge Legal Regimes

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Posted by Ernest Miller

C|Net News reports that Toshiba will be unveiling a new micro hard drive, about the size of a quarter, next month (Spare a microdrive, Toshiba?). The storage capacity is anticipated to be about 1-4 GigaBytes. Hard drives continue to kick Moore's Law's behind. Any consumer electronics device worth more that about $100 will soon have massive amounts of storage available to it. The advent of such huge amounts of storage everywhere has some important implications of intellectual property law. In particular, it significantly raises the cost of a mandatory DRM dystopia as well as the costs of monitoring for compulsory licensing schemes. Levy compulsory systems that raise money through a tax on consumer electronics and connectivity will be challenged by such rapid development. The digital revolution is far from over.

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November 20, 2003

iRATE Radio

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Posted by Ernest Miller

iRATE Radio has nothing to do with the angry blowhards of the talk radio circuit, but rather is an open source,

collaborative filtering client/server mp3 player/downloader. The iRATE server has a large database of music. You rate the tracks and it uses your ratings and other people's to guess what you'll like. The tracks are downloaded from websites which allow free and legal downloads of their music.

I haven't actually tried this yet (I've got too much stuff on my system as it is and it looks like it is pretty early in the development cycle), but it sounds like something I've been wanting for awhile (see, The End of the Beginning: The Death of MP3.com).

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November 19, 2003

Get 'Em While They're Legal

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Thank goodness! The TiVo-addict friendly PVRBlog reports that HDTV-capable TiVos will be available for sale the first quarter of 2004 (HDTV-recording TiVo). See a picture of the device here: TiVo HD DVR. What this means, of course, is that such devices will be available without broadcast flag implementation, at least until July 2005, as many of the commentators on PVRBlog note.

Interestingly, PVRBlog is selling a home-modified TiVo (extra capacity, wireless connectivity) on eBay (Upgraded Series 2 188hr TiVo, HMO & wireless). Pretty good price right now, too. Unfortunately, under the current regime we won't be seeing too many home-modified devices after July 2005.

via Gizmodo

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November 18, 2003

Bundling Music with Cars

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Eric Rescorla's Educated Guesswork blog brings up a concept I've thought about for quite some time, selling MP3 players pre-loaded with music (The future of the iPod?). In Eric's concept, although heavy discounting is involved, the price for a populated iPod would be about $1000. That is still a pretty high price, particularly with all the DRM involved. But the price doesn't seem all that outrageous as part of the price for a new luxury sedan or SUV.

So, why not have cars marketed with an integrated MP3 player pre-loaded with a nice selection of music? Cars are mostly marketed as a lifestyle purchase anyway, often through the use of music. So, why not spice up that purchase with a generous selection of music that matches the particular purchaser's lifestyle? Why shouldn't a music package simply be one of the possible extras and accessories that car purchasers choose along with color, fabric and undercoat protection?

Apple and Volkswagen once ran a promotion in which iPods were given away with the purchase of a new Volkswagen Beetle (iPod and Volkswagen Beetle unite). Why not take it to the next step?

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November 12, 2003

TV Producers Take Heart - TiVo Addiction

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The San Diego Union-Tribune runs a Reuters wirestory on the difficulties some have taking time off from their TiVo (PluggedIn: TV viewers find TiVo addictive). A long list of recorded shows on TiVo apparently makes some feel guilty not watching them. While in the past, if you missed a show, you simply missed it. Now the show sits on TiVo's hard drive waiting for you to watch it. I can imagine this can be a problem for some, but most people have experienced similar feelings at one time or another. Have you ever felt guilty about not keeping up with a newspaper subscription, for example? Do you have a stack of magazines waiting to be read, eventually?

Though I don't think this phenomena particularly compelling, I do think that the social ramifications of TiVo are going to be quite interesting, as we increasingly switch from traditional broadcast to new hybrid models.

Side note ... who else thinks that the TiVo trademark is in danger of becoming genericized?

via Techdirt, see also BoingBoing

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November 10, 2003

TiVo w/DVD Burner Rocks

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The very interesting Mark Evanier has purchased one of the new TiVo's with recordable DVD which I wrote about a couple of weeks ago (TiVo is Officially an Endangered Species?). He has written a fairly substantial review from his personal experience with the device (Toy Story). His opinion is mostly positive, though there are some v1.0 issues. Overall, though, this is the device that any TiVo lover will want (and everyone who has actually used a TiVo loves it). Forget HDTV ... this is the future of digital television, if only the FCC would recognize the fact and get out of the way.

via Gizmodo

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Sony Video iPod a Reality

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Gizmodo reports that Sony's new personal video player will soon be available in Japan (Sony's Personal Video Player is a reality). The device can hold 31 hours of video and can be uploaded via USB 2.0. No word on when the device will be available in the US, but hopefully before the broadcast flag mandate takes effect.

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November 06, 2003

Advances in Portable Hard Drive Tech

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Yesterday, C|Net News took a look at Toshiba's advances in small hard drives for portable devices (Tiny Toshiba drive gets a boost). These hard drives, which are only 1.8" in diameter, about the size of a credit card, can now store 40GB of information. They may already be used in the iPod and similar Hitachi drives are being used in Dell's new Digital Jukebox MP3 players. 40GB can store approximate 6 full-length movies or dozens of hours of television - all in something that fits in a shirt pocket. Heaven forbid that such innovative uses develop without the not-so-friendly regulatory arm of government controlling that development. Just how successful would the Diamond Rio have been if it had needed FCC approval first?

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Linux Boxes via Amazon only $199

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Posted by Ernest Miller

C|Net News reports that Amazon is now selling Linare Linux PCs for $199 (Desktop PC company begins Amazon deal). You can check out the PC here on Amazon here: Linare PC (1.3-GHz AMD Duron, 128 MB RAM, 30 GB Hard Drive, CD-ROM). While Walmart has been selling similar systems (Linux OS PCs) for some time, Walmart is not usually a store you associate with PCs.

One small problem with the Amazon technical specs page which I hope they change soon:

Special Features: Licence [sic] Free Operating System [emphasis in original]

RMS might take offense to calling something under the GNU license "license free."

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The Television Tax - aka Broadcast Flag

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Gizmodo points out how Nokia's new television/cellphones may have a significant surcharge (~$190) due to government regulation (Nokia's TV phone might cost a little extra). The Broadcast Flag? No, this surcharge is due to the license tax that many European countries charge for owning a television. At least in most European households you only have to pay the tax once, no matter how many televisions you own. In the US, the new Broadcast Flag tax will require you to pay for the additional equipment for each and every television you own.

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Neat New Tool to Be Affected by Broadcast Flag

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Gizmodo points out a truly nifty little product - an external TV tuner with a USB connection that you can use for your PC or laptop (New external USB TV tuner from Canopus). The system comes with software that will let you record your favorite shows... for now. I wonder how much more expensive the device will be after July 1, 2005. I also wonder how difficult it will be after July 2005 to transfer shows from your laptop (copied while on the road) to your legacy home network - the answer according to the FCC will be "impossible for the average consumer."

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The iTunes Catalog is Cool

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Ernie the Attorney points to a neat little program called the iTunes Catalog that lets iTunes users (Mac only) create a professional-looking catalog (including album cover art) of all your iTunes music in HTML of PDF formats (What's in your iTunes music catalogue?). You can check out a sample catalog taken from Ernie's collection here (Ernest's Library). I think this very cool (though I don't have an iPod).

However, a few questions/points:

First, why do you have to pay ($10) for this software? The HTML catalogs can easily be linked into the iTunes store, thus providing lots of free advertisement for iTunes and their licensed artists. I rather expect Apple and its now numerous rivals to provide this functionality in upcoming releases for free. Heck, I would imagine that they would host the catalogs free-of-charge.

Second, where is the easy ability to publish playlists and the associated software that will let me automatically download all the music to go along with someone's playlist that I trust? I have eclectic tastes in music, but generally I don't want to indiscriminately mix genres (discriminately mixing genres for a playlist is something else). Playlist functionality would be a useful addition to all these online systems.

Third, people always talk about the social benefits of Original Napster-like collection browsing. Doesn't software like this provide almost the same social benefits (and in some ways, more), while being fully legitimate?

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Longhorn and the Server in the Closet

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Posted by Ernest Miller

As part of its series on Microsoft's recently unveiled next-gen OS, Longhorn, C|Net News analyzes the strategy behind the software (Plan A for Microsoft). The strategy, according to C|Net, is a return to a "fat client" architecture, where lots of processing takes place on the user's PC or portable device, as opposed to a remote server.

Frankly, I don't really get this thin/fat client debate. The debate most often seems to be not whether there should be a server/client architecture, but how robust the client should be for the consumer. Personally, I've never really understood the value proposition for most thin client architectures, given the relative inexpensive of silicon and magnetic storage. The question for me is why consumers aren't running both clients and servers.

Many consumer electronic devices are basically computers, but they don't need to be that smart, they can be specialized. What I need for my consumer electronic devices is not easy internet access, but home network access. If Microsoft is looking for new markets for software, why not develop and sell a server for consumers? What I would like is a machine that homeowners can easily stick in a closet, but will provide media and applications functionality throughout the home. Consumers don't really need a new version of Office, they need something that will let them more easily manage their increasingly gadget-filled home.

Oh yeah, and it would be nice to easily run a server from home that handles all my internet publishing needs, but that is more of a telecom issue.

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October 28, 2003

TiVo is Officially an Endangered Species?

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Gizmodo brings word of a brand new TiVo that includes a fast DVD burner and non-subscription basic service (Pioneer's DVD recorders with TiVo). The devices are expensive (MSRP starting at $1,199), but can store 80 hours of video and burn a one-hour show in as little as three minutes. The DVDs can then be shared with friends and family, and are generally compatible with legacy devices. Interestingly, the Pioneer Burner webpage has the following tagline:

Your VCR is officially an endangered species

Given the Broadcast Flag mandate and an analog resurgence, it is probably Pioneer's Burner that is endangered.

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