Forgot to mention about me, ooops.
About me, late 30’s enjoys computers usually Windows 7 or Ubuntu 11.04 or lower, got rid of my cable service so I strictly use a Roku Media Player on my TV to keep in touch with just Netflix movies: Anything really, and Hulu Plus for you guessed it, Glee and/or The Gadget Show, Fifth Gear, and other shows. :-) Other than that, I’m good.
Internet + Television + Digital Media
I keep struggling with the titular triad. I like television, and there’s a lot of great entertainment that you can get in your home for a monthly fee (or not, if you’re going old-school with an antenna). However, more and more of my media I’m either getting digitally, or over the Internet. This should be easy, right? No. For the past 3 years, I’ve been trying to reach nirvana, and I’m usually falling short. Now I realize, not everything works for everybody. The iLifestyle is for some, and others live “in the cloud”. But what if neither was an option? My iLifestyle doesn’t work in the cloud, and often not out of the cloud. I want to watch on a mobile device on occasion, but that mobile device is subject to change. And what about the stack of DVD’s and Blu-Ray discs I have?
There is no one solution, and in looking for one, I was bound to be frustrated. Currently, I have my PS3 (which you can pry from my cold-dead hands) and a hacked gen 1 AppleTV. Now, yes, I mostly use the PS3 for games and the fiancée uses it for workout DVD’s, so it is smart to keep around. However getting media to the PS3 is a bit awkward. I have my home “server” running PS3 Media Server to send media to the system, but I have to start it every time on the “server”, since it doesn’t run as a process. This also isn’t the primary TV. It’s in our “media/workout” room, that isn’t near anything in the house. When I want to watch something seriously, it’s down there, but for casual watching, I watch in the formal “living room”, which has the ATV. While it works good, it isn’t great. ATV works fine, XBMC worked fine until I did a network change, and Boxee has never wow’ed me. I keep trying and failing to like it.
However, there’s one thing that ties all 3 above products (ATV, XBMC, Boxee) together. Digital media. Almost all of them (less so on Boxee) are dependent on media files residing somewhere on the network. I’ve thought about this, and as much as I like collecting digital media, it’s going away. That, and it really makes no sense to keep eons and eons of TV shows and other programs unless they’re that good (see Doctor Who, Torchwood, Eureka, Firefly).
So what’s left, and what’s out there:
- AppleTV Gen 2: Glorified iTunes Media Streamer
- Boxee Box: Social Media Streamer
- Roku XS: The original Netflix Streamer… and not much more.
- PS3/Xbox 360: Gaming system that plays BD/DVD respectively
- Logitech Revue: Android TV
Now none of these really excite me except maybe the Logitech Revue. I’ve been thinking about it a lot since Google I/O, given the Android enhancements coming to it, and maybe it is the best method. The idea is adding functionality to existing Cable/Satellite TV. Not taking it away, not changing what you’re using to access media. From what I understand, it supports DLNA (a fancy protocol to stream media through your home from a server), and that actually helps me a lot, because I can keep my media on my server, and have it do all the work since DLNA supports transcoding (making your media work on any device on your network).
When/if I can get my hands on one with the Android 3.1 platform, I’ll let you know and review it appropriately, but as I write this, I think I’ve found my potential solution, in a highly unlikely spot… Looks like I may not be canceling DirecTV when my contract is up.
Viewsonic Cast a Giant "No Confidence" Vote for Smart TV Segment
Wow….. Wired is reporting that Viewsonic has a dismal outlook on the Smart TV space.
“…Viewsonic, for instance, just nixed plans for a Boxee-powered smart TV set and says we won’t see it anytime soon. The company showed off a 46-inch set earlier this year at CES and said we’d have them by the second quarter. But now the company says in a statement:
“’Smart TV’ has not achieved the consumer acceptance or market expectation… that was forecasted over the last couple years. In addition, consumer spending for Smart TV’s in general has experienced a significant slow down as the economy has slowed. Our current strategy is to stay involved with the various technology developments and consider them in the future as they become available.”
Read the full story here: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/09/smart-tv-casualty/
Thoughts on Mobile Application QA and Testing
As we wait for the imminent release of Movie Vault 1.2 on the iPhone and 1.3 on the iPad (which both add AirPlay!!), I thought I would offer up some information on the devices and testing we do for the various applications. We are also avidly working on Android, OS X, and Windows Phone builds which should be showing their faces very soon!
Most development teams do not have access to a wide array of devices, so they are forced to depend on the simulators that are included with the SDKs or great third party services like DeviceAnywhere. While most of these are really good ways of testing (and we use them in addition to the devices), we do notice that you can miss a lot of if you rely of them solely. So we have a nice stable of devices thanks to our partners and we are growing it rapidly. Here’s a shot of some of them:
We test on the following for iOS:
- iPhone 4
- iPhone 3GS
- iPhone 3G
- iPhone Classic
- iPad 2 (coming soon, still in line!)
For Android, we test on:
- Motorola Droid 2
- Motorola Cliq
- Motorola Backflip
- Adding more soon!
For Windows Phone 7 we test on:
- Samsung Focus
- HTC coming soon!
For IP TV boxes, we test on:
- Roku HD
- Roku XD|S
To start, it is very difficult to test memory leaks and memory related crashes through only the simulator. Whatever the reason is, the simulators seem to not exhibit similar leak behaviors. I can run an app for hours in the simulator and then put it on the device and kill it in 10 seconds.
Next, UI interaction… you know the jumpiness/smoothness factor. Because the simulator takes into account system processing power things always feel crisp. Not so on the device and especially when you go between versions (iPhone 3G to 3Gs to 4 for example). DeviceAnywhere also has issues here because it is network based so sometimes it can feel jumpier than it might actually be. Two heavy extremes.
Video and this is obviously where we want to shine. We would never use a hosted service to test this and the simulator in most cases can’t even run video well. We can test our streams outside of the app for general functionality, but we always like to try them on device to make sure it looks the best it can given our original source.
General usability is the best use of these tools and where they accelerate development. If you want to see how things look and how interaction functions, then they can drastically speed things up.
I won’t delve into the actual QA process, but we are very engineering oriented so we go through QA cycles, bug review, fixes, re-test, etc, etc. I can always talk to our process here in detail as well if anyone is really truly interested. I hope everyone enjoyed this and we always welcome comments and questions. Always happy to help and share our experiences.
Best Internet Connected TV Option
2011 is the year that the TV gets connected to the internet. Well, for the mainstream that is.
Many consumers that are early adapters have had their computers connected to their TVs for a long time and have had the use of the internet on the big screen for quite some time.
2009-2010 saw the blue-ray player and new TVs get basic functionality internet functionality come to the living room. Now we are seeing the big players of Apple, Google, and smaller players like ROKU, and Boxee create a full internet experience by creating ways for consumers to access all the rich media the internet has to offer.
Though, what I have found is that the product that takes the cake isn’t any of the companies or devices I have listed above. Surprised? So was I.
After trying all of the devices above, I was not pleased with the amount of content that the different devices had to offer. Everyone seemed to be missing something.
Boxee had a lot of apps, but it seemed as if the apps worked poorly and wasn’t nearly as responsive as great interface it has.
ROKU has limited local content accessibility. The Apple TV is in a since, just like every other Apple device. You can only use it with other apple products. Google TV cannot negotiate content deals the likes of NBC, ABC, ect so as of right now, their content is blocked. Connecting your computer to the internet creates a bulky experience.
So who is the winner? The Xbox 360. Wasn’t expecting that? Neither was I.
There are a lot of secrets to the Xbox 360 that most people who are not owners would not know. Beyond the basics of using Windows media center, the games that you can play on it, and the Xbox Live service, the guys over at Microsoft have done a great job of adding other features and building a snappy UI with little lag. New features listed below:
1. Microsoft just made a deal with Disney to get live and on demand ESPN content on the Xbox 360 for Xbox Live Subscribers
2. Access to music services like Last.FM
3. Ability to use the Zune Marketplace to rent newly released DVDs
4. Access to companies like Netflix, Vevo, Pandora, and soon Hulu.
5. Ability to watch movies and videos with other people through xbox live.
These are a few of the newest features available. With the elimination of a remote with Kinect and the rumor of a tv subscription service coming soon. Your next buy for a media center might just need to be an Xbox 360. No service is perfect, but it seems that Microsoft is positioning itself to try and become the leader in the category.