Tag Archives: TV

Dreams of TV direct via NBN – legal and paid

I’m puzzled that some shows that are quite big in the USA (The Office, 30 Rock, Boardwalk Empire, Sons of Anarchy, even Mad Men) just don’t seem to make it here on free to air.  It could be that,except the first 2, they are all on cable in the US. Not just that, but made/funded by cable – I think.  So perhaps cable here (the Foxtel monopoly) has first rights, particularly given they have local affiliate Foxtel channels, Showcase et al (?)

I think One HD has renewed Sons of Anarchy, but they are years behind.  30 Rock, on Ch 7 is only a few eps behind.
In all honestly, I can see this happening in the future:  (That is once the NBN is bedded down).

I’m currently paying ~$60 per month for my naked DSL line and 100 GB.  I’d be happy with an NBN-based thing where I’d pay:

  • $20 pm for a Hulu-style US TV feed  (‘current’ shows)
  • $20 pm for a BBC/UK TV feed (ditto)
  • $20 pm for a reduced Internet download amount per month

As long as the first two can record! 

Maybe the $ amounts may vary, but I’d cross that bridge. Would it put Channel Bravo Tango out of business? Of course not, it’s only the TV (not the Movies nor S/W etc). But it’s a start.
The Hulu thing would probably NOT get the US cable shows on it, but that’s their loss if they won’t play ball. Literately. uTorrent’s gain…

About to watch shows on a Popcorn

No not WITH popcorn ON a Popcorn. Actually VIA a Popcorn to be precise…and through my lounge room TV.

Enough witty opening lines. A Popcorn A-100 is a network media player, also known as a network media tank.  It has 3 main parts to it:

  1. A network connection, to hook up to my PCs and the Internet
  2. Connections to plug in to a TV and Amplifier (HDMI, Component , 5.1 Digital Sound etc)
  3. A hole inside it (yes we will return to this one)

When it arrives from the USA I will

  • Plug my home network – the LAN – into 1.
  • Plug the LCD TV and Amp into 2.
  • Configure a few things.

….then watch nearly every media file stored on my PC (in the Study)  on the 720p  LCD TV (in the Lounge)  -  including high definition ones with full surround sound. Sweet! For the tech dudes, this includes not just AVI (DIVX and XVID) but the newer containers like MKV. I already have some demo MKVs with 720p high def video and 5.1 DTS, but the current laptop in the lounge is too old and slow to play them.

This is streaming the media; taking them from the PC and playing them via the Network. The media isn’t just limited to video files, but also music and photos. The Internet connection allows YouTube etc videos to be show, I believe.

It can also attach an external USB drive and stream the media from that too.  Plus the Popcorn is quite small, about 27cm x 13cm x 3cm (high)

And as for the hole inside. It’s for you to install your own hard drive. Add a standard laptop 3″ disk and you can do lots more with the Popcorn. As it runs a neat operating system (O/S), you can store you media files locally on this hard drive to run ‘offline’ (with no network connection). Plus the Linux O/S comes with other smart things, including a BitTorrent client. Again, I say sweet!

Maybe this disk storage gives it the nickname of Media Tank?

The cost. About $270 Australian, landed ; meaning including shipping from the USA. Would have been cheaper a month ago when we nearly had parity with the $USA!

From what I read it can handle nearly every media file you can throw at it. Now that’s interesting for me because I can record HD TV on the bigger PC in the Study, but have no way of playing it back on the TV in the lounge.  My understanding is the Popcorn A-100 can do exactly this playback. Plus it has regular firmware/software updates you grab of the Net.

Time will tell. The local forums say it shouldn’t take long to get here. More information at the Popcorn web site.

Ideas for The Hollowmen

I’ve already expressed surprise – and a tinge of sadness – that The Hollowmen is just not cutting through in the ratings. In thinking about it some more, a few things come to mind as to possible reasons.

Similar Story Arc (plot) in each show?

Government in trouble over issue.  Tony has to solve it. Phillip and Warren provide the official guidelines/suggestions (usually involving a PowerPoint and a preliminary report in 6 months). Tony has to work around them without offending them. Sometimes a focus group is run.  Murph thinks of clever solution. End.  (I know I’m exaggerating, but you get the point)

Too Narrow Cast of Characters?

Frontline had a number of more independent  lead roles, so multiple threads could be developed. HollowMen is a bit more linear. Bit hard to explain what I mean, perhaps the Suggestions bit at the end will cover it.

Little Buy-In From Viewers?

Do we just assume this sort of thing goes on anyway.  I know it’s satire, but maybe it’s ‘really’ only 10% exaggerated, or perhaps the public perceive it as being very close to the truth.

Perhaps viewers are too removed. Again it’s hard not to mention Frontline. It sent-up something we see every day; current affairs.  Viewers had a buy in and could relate to it. This Canberra public-service stuff may be too distant or not easy to relate to.


The One with Phillip and Warren. How about a show that turns things around. Spin off another thread.  We focus on Phillip and Warren, with Tony etc being bit parts. We see how P&W ‘really’ work and how they relate to – and view – Tony et al.  They may be just as manipulative of Tony.

The One where Things Stay Wrong. What happens when they can’t spin it. How does the gang cope? Do they turn on each other, find a scapegoat?

The One with the Documentary Crew.  The ABC is making a documentary on the Department. How does Tony explain their activities to a journalist who clearly knows what is really going on.  As she used to work there…

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ABC iView is streaming not downloading

ABC TV has done a great thing and launched their iView service. To quote their web site it “is a new way to watch TV – a free internet (sic) broadcasting service that lets you watch ABC programs on your computer…”

The key phrase to note there is broadcasting. It correctly sums this up, the data is streamed to your PC or Mac. More importantly it is NOT downloaded in the sense that most people understand.

This is important to understand as I have heard people – in the media, including the ABC – refer to iView as allowing you to “download shows”. Bzzz. No it doesn’t.

To explain.

Broadcasting (or Streaming) is where the digital data that makes up the TV show is sent ‘live’ to your PC – sourced from the ABC – and you watch it ‘live’. So when you request iView to start playing an episode of The Gruen Transfer, it starts to do it, basically just for you. Video on demand.

However it is not stored on your PC as such and you must be connected to the Internet to watch it. You cannot save it and watch it later, including if you go offline ; disconnect from the Internet.

Downloading, to most people, is saving the whole TV show as a file to your PC, then watching it whenever you want, including offline. You usually must wait till the whole thing is downloaded. However the ABC is obviously reluctant to allow you to save a copy of their programs to your hard drive.

In reality, of course, it is a bit more complicated:

  • iView, as I understand it, may store a portion of the program on your PC. Why? To ease the load on their servers. I believe that when you use iView to watch (say) The Gruen Transfer, it checks to see if other users are also watching it at the same time. So rather than you get it all from the one place – the ABC’s servers – you can get parts of it from others users. Spread the workload. It happens ‘in the background’ and is called Peer-to-Peer
  • No doubt someone will quickly hack iView to allow you to save the streamed show to your PC. So you can watch it whenever you want. iView has been around officially for a week and I’d be surprised if it isn’t ‘broken’ like this already.

I’m sure the ABC had a choice; let us download the whole show but have it (somehow) stop working or erase itself after a given time period. Or stream away with ‘live’ playback.  In the end they had to do something as BitTorrent was making entire shows available anyway.

I have tried iView and the video quality is just okay. Maybe it was my connection; it was better than (standard) YouTube but not even really VHS tape quality. It a bit blocky and seemed to use a low frame rate, so it the picture ‘jerked’.  But hey, it’s version 1 and week 1. Give them time.

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High Definition TV recording and playback

I have mentioned HD TV before. In fact I do have a HD TV, but it’s ‘only’ 720 lines; technically it’s a 720p LCD, compared to full HD which is 1080p.  BluRay disks are 1080p so I wouldn’t be getting the full resolution if I was to buy a BluRay player. The TV also has a built in HD tuner, so I can watch HD TV, but not record it.

In actual fact that’s not 100% true. And twice over:

  1. My Standard Definition (SD) Topfield recorder can actually record HD TV shows, but it itself can’t play them back. You have to copy them over to a PC then use something like VLC to play them back.  The copy process is quite slow. Then there’s another problem, which we’ll return to in a minute.
  2. I also have a HD USB Tuner which can attach to the main desktop PC or the laptop. I’ve had it for a few years now and it’s fairly reliable. It was used regularly before I got the Topfield.

Now the problem with both of these solutions is the same. Only the desktop PC has the raw processing power to play back the HD TV recordings. The laptop a-l-m-o-s-t makes it, but stutters and the picture breaks up. And I don’t want to watch TV on my PC in the computer room!  The laptop is in the lounge attached to the 720p TV. No, the desktop is too old and noisy to just move it to the lounge.

The solution is not to get a TiVO. Early reports are that it’s very nobbled. Maybe the firmware dudes will get out there and release ‘jailbreak’ software for the TiVO soon; to free it up so you can attach it to your own network, copy your recordings off, skip adds etc.  But it’s not for me, nor anyone else – I’d suggest – who naively want’s to just replace their VCR. Will they get a shock when they try to work out how to keep a recording, like they currently do with their VCR!

Anyway I’ve got a two-pronged wish list:

  1. Get a dedicated PC in the lounge. A Media Centre. Purpose built; fast and nice and quiet. Would have dual-HD tuners and the capacity to play back BluRay disks, but without – initially – a BluRay player on board. Just a DVD.  Whirlpool maintains parts list of a suggested system.
  2. Later on, when the price of add-on BluRay players for PCs has fallen, simply drop one in and go. 

Hopefully by then I may have a proper 1080p TV too. Dream on…

Hollowmen : barely making Top 50 in ratings

Ouch. Didn’t like reading the reports in yesterdays Green Guide (page 14) that ABC TV’s The Hollowmen was “slipping in appeal” and was “No. 54 in Melbourne”….and “No. 68 Nationally”.  I wonder why. Is it too clever by half? Are people finding the storylines somehow predictable? Are the characters actions also predictable?  Too limited appeal? Bad timing with a (relatively) new government in power?

All these questions. I’m sure that someone is doing the qualative analysis. Particularly when the ABC had agreed to Series 2 before the first episode of Series 1 even went to air.

Homo Vacuous and the great big nod

Good comedy, to me, has me not only laughing but nodding.  I not only find it amusing but it has triggered a recognition, even if it’s one that is disguised, buried or exaggerated via satire.

One of my favourite hobbies is Spot the Bluffer.  This is a person, usually in the workplace, who is good at linking together the buzz words and statistics, whipping them into a verbal froth and smothering those around them.  No-one really questions exactly what they do or value they bring.  And why would you, when they can easily say things like:

The entire solution is built around open standards, embracing Web 2, mulitmedia streaming, XML with an Enterprise Bus as a central  object-oriented workflow engine. The rigidity of the framework offers a stable platform for immediate deployment, yet has the potential to embrace new IEEE Web Services as they are developed, to further enhance the interoperability.  Overall productivity, as measured via Michelson–Morley end-to-end,  vector synthesis, is expected to be 18.3%. Compounding.

The Bluffer. Homo Vacuous. The Hollowmen.

So was I nodding last night whilst watching episode one of The Hollowmen (ABC TV, Wed 9:30pm).  Whilst not quite the same thing as my Bluffer concept, I reckon it’s close enough for me to get a sore neck anyway.

The repetitive catch cries, buzz and key words,  the boiling down of complex problems into a few points on a white board (and hence they can be easily ticked off), the change of priorities (but not telling others). It’s all there.

A few other items of interest that I spotted in Hollowmen:

The 180 degree task flip: I once had a manager who explicitly – on the phone – told me NOT to contact Customer A and gave me 2 reasons why I shouldn’t. Some months later, during a team meeting, they asked me why I hadn’t contacted Customer A (!).  And then told me off when I tried to point out their original instructions. 

Paper shuffling bureaucrats. One of the great cliches of this class of person is the paper shuffling. Yet Tony, in the show, has the running gag of not having a pen. So he’s clearly not one of those :-)  In fact he whips up his ideas on a whiteboard – well actually other people’s ideas – then asks them to capture them and email them to his mobile phone.

Seizing the Momentum. Sounds a great concept, grabbing the energy and manfully forcing it into a policy. But Momentum itself is actually quite an abstract thing in science. It’s a mathematical construct that is velocity multiplied by mass (weight). You can’t touch it or seize it.  In fact what hurts you in a collision is not the momentum, but the change in momentum ; the impulse. So, in fact, if you could somehow quickly seize the momentum, you may very well end up in hospital.

Sparkling White Wine comedy from the Working Dog team.

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