Archive for July, 2008|Monthly archive page

Internet Television Test, Week 4: Getting Automated

This week, I finally discovered the usefulness of Miro.

I fully intended to review Joost, Miro, and Hulu’s RSS-based “subscriptions”, but I never got around to subscribing to anything on Hulu and Joost requires an Intel-based Mac, which mine is not.

Miro has taken hard drive space through two name changes and countless updates, but I never did more than fire it up once every couple of months… usually right after I ran AppUpdate.

I liked the concept, but I found the content lacking. I can get Ask A Ninja and StrongBad E-Mails through iTunes and I don’t care for the skimpy Discovery Channel podcasts in the Sample Channels. There is 2 minutes of content and 2 minutes of ads per “show”. That’s a terrible ratio.

But this week was different. This week I discovered tvRSS. (Link in the blogroll).

C|net has a great step-by-step tutorial on how to use tvRSS to make Miro useful. I discovered it about two hours after I finally figured it out for myself.

<Mr. Miyagi Mode ON>
Google first. Always Google first.
<Mr. Miyagi Mode OFF>

I added random things from my terribly named “What I’m Watching and How I’m Watching It” list, went to bed, and forgot about it.

The next evening when I sat down, there were two episodes of The Daily Show in Front Row. Shades of TiVo. It slipped my mind that I had told Miro to put the data files in my Movies folder. Scanning the rest of the list, I also found episode 4 of Secret Life of the American Teenager.

I added a few more random things to Miro and forgot all about Hulu.

Maybe next week while I check out Crafty TV I’ll browse Hulu.

We finished House M.D. Season 1. It was a great wrap-up and lots of juicy backstory came out along the way.

The Two Coreys and The Sarah Connor Chronicles sat unwatched, as did The Riches. I caught an episode of Mythbusters, and watched part of an episode of Dirty Jobs.

So far, replacing television with the internet has not cured the summer doldrums.

With No MTV, IMF, VH-1, or MTV2 to turn to, I hit YouTube.

Something Happy: Lemon Demon “Word Disassociation”

Something Melancholy: Chris Blake “Someone Else”

Something Uplifting: Sick Puppies – It’s All The Same

Something Sentimental: Journey “Faithfully” (Embedding is Disabled for this title.)

And I finally took a listen to Summer of Love 2008 from WHA!? Music.

01 Step Together // Phil RetroSpector (Happy Mondays VS the Beatles)
02 Pinball Wizard in the Drivers Seat // Apollo Zero (Dogtooth VS Who VS Cook’s County)
03 Black Acieed // dj lobsterdust (Ram Jam VS D-Mob)
04 What’s That Sound? // World Famous Audio Hacker (Buffalo Springfield VS 808 State VS Deee-Lite VS Prince VS Duran Duran)
05 Here Comes The Sunscreem // Bobby Martini (Sunscreem VS the Beatles)
06 Land Of Oz (Summer of Love Mix) // Flying White Dots (Manuel Gottsching VS Latino VS Grace Jones VS Pink Floyd VS The Orb VS Opus 3 VS Bjork VS Masters At Work VS The KLF)
07 diamond pressure // Simon Iddol (Richard Wahnfreid feat. Klaus Shultze, Manuel Gottsching, Mike Shrieve and Karl Wahnfried VS Little Louie Vega with Jay ‘Sinister’ Sealee and Julie McKnight)

Grab your free legal copy @ WhaStudios.com. It will help get through August.

Do People Under 25 Watch TV Shows on Television?

As someone young enough to think that “Duhhh” is a term from the 90s, one working producer thinks it’s crazy that the networks haven’t figured it out yet.

Why would anyone watch shows on t.v.? They are filled with ads, you can only watch one episode at a time, and you have to watch it when it is airing. Instead, you can download (and if it’s Gossip Girl very quickly) and someone has already kindly removed all the ads for you. You can download several episodes at once. You can watch them at your leisure. You can put them on an external drive and run them right onto your flat screen television or even pump them onto your ipod for the subway ride to work.

Well, I know my sister (20) watches TV on TV – but she’s been watching TV on DVD a lot more. She gets online regularly, but I don’t think she watches anything longer than a YouTube video. My wife and I (15 years her senior) just gave up TV altogether for the internet.

So, is it an age gap or technology gap? What do you think? The comments are open.

Internet Television Test, Week 3: Rerun Season

(For those just joining us, here’s the story so far.)

Ah, Mid-July.

The time of year when I catch up on shows that I missed and the TV networks bombard me with advertisements for the new shows debuting next season. I think. Has it started yet? I don’t know. I don’t own a TV.

My list of links to the shows I’m watching is about half done. There is little motivation until new shows come out. Instead I found myself finishing Burn Notice Season 1 by getting the two-part finale free off of iTunes.

We also finished Disc 2 of House M.D. Season 1. This is a really good show. If you’re like me and missed the boat the first go round, pick it up.

We watched In Plain Sight on Hulu rather than USA Network this week. Our first impression is: The controls are much better. Better for going INTO full screen mode, better once you’re there.

On USA Network’s site, to go to full screen you have to click a small rectangle-within-a-rectangle no bigger than my Mac’s pointer. At first I didn’t even know it was clickable. On Hulu it’s a large button. It’s so large of a button that it fits the words “Full Screen” and an easy-to-see icon. The ICON is four times the size of USA’s whole button. Brain-dead simple to figure out and do from the sofa.

Once in full screen, on USA Network’s site uses the same controller as when it’s in a tiny window. It doesn’t get any bigger. Pause is a tiny target sandwiched between “rewind” and “exit full screen”, barely a fraction of an inch apart.

On Hulu’s site, “pause” and “exit full screen” are on opposite corners. In fact, they ARE the opposite corners. The whole corner square inch is one big button on each side. To rewind/forward, just click the timeline. Brain-dead simple to figure out and do from the sofa.

TheDailyShow.com’s player is similar to Hulu’s, but not quite the same. The buttons are still in opposite corners, but they don’t take up the whole corner. Someone on Comedy Central’s website team needs to learn about Fitts’s Law. (Remember: Design is more than “how it looks”)

After Hulu and TheDailyshow.com, the USA Network player is bad enough to make me NOT browse USA Network’s site for new shows when I’m looking to discover new content. Instead, I watched the Pilot Episode of Remington Steele and added The Riches to my list, both found on Hulu.

Speaking of The Riches, I watched the pilot episode of yesterday. It was 180 degrees from what I was expecting. When I read Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, I was expecting a sitcom. When I saw it was an hour long, I still imagined something closer to The O.C. than The Sopranos. Instead, I got the best Pilot I’ve seen all month. I cannot wait to finish Season 1.

This week brought another episode of The Secret Life of the American Teenager and another visit to ABC Family’s web site to stream the episode. This time everything appeared to be there, but I only clicked on Episode 3 for fear of jinxing it.

Same as last week, you have to click the screen after each commercial break, but you can click anywhere. Still annoying.

On the download front, both my wife and I are still enjoying The Sarah Connor Chronicles. I downloaded this fully expecting it to blow as badly as Clerks, My Big Fat Greek Life, and many other Movie-to-TV translations. Instead, I find myself curious to see where they’re taking this. It may have to be added to the list.

I have low expectations for The Two Coreys, Season 1. After Scott Baio is 45… and Single (and its sequel) my appetite for peeping into the dirty laundry of the stars of my childhood entertainment is is fully whet and the torrent is 99% finished.

the show with zefrank

About the show with zefrank

Streaming:
Popular Episodes
Start @ The Beginning

First Review: 18 JULY 2008
From the Website:

“the show with zefrank” was a short video program produced Monday through Friday
for one year (March 17, 2006 – March 17, 2007). […] Start by watching a popular episode or two—but realize that you’re joining a conversation already in progress.

While no longer topical, “the show with zefrank” definitely holds up with age. That isn’t something you can say about a lot of Internet Original material.

Smart, hip, and funny – this podcast is a shining example of the quality that Internet Originals can be.

I recommend starting at the beginning and watching three or four in a setting. Any more than that can cause confusion, then addiction, and finally sudden withdrawl when the show comes abruptly to a stop.

Ze, I know you’re still out there. I hope you come back online with another show.

Who likes the little, little duckies in the pond? The Comments are open.

Replacing Television with The Internet, Part 2 1/2: The Sound Redux

In an unexpected development, my AV Receiver died.

One step forward, two steps back.

Purchased in 1998, it served me well.

In Part One, I bought the first part of my new system: A screen. ($300)

In Part Two, I brought along a Mac (current eBay value: $355) , 5.1 AV Receiver (current eBay value: $0), and sundry cables and cords.

What I didn’t bring along was computer speakers.

Yes, I know I was pleased when I reported that my Mac had a built-in speaker and I’d never be without sound. Well, sorry Mac – your built-in speaker is no match for a good DTS track. The built-in speaker is good for music, but so-so for action movie dialogue.

I grabbed the Philips SBA 1500 powered notebook speakers my wife uses with her iPod and connected it to the Mac.

It’s not perfect, but it’s better than constantly asking: “What did they say?” and trying to rewind with a keyboard and mouse.

The HDMI switch that I was going to be reviewing this week went back to the store unopened, the Netflix box postponed, and my wife even offered to give up her iPhone money for a new amp.

With a budget of $499, I was able to find the Sony STR-DG920 for $487.03 shipped. It should be here by this time next week. Until then, it’s tiny, white, and 2.0 for me.

The Riches


The Riches Episode Guide

Streaming:
AOL Video
Hulu
Fancast

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3

First Review: 19 JULY 2008
I watched the pilot episode of yesterday. It was 180 degrees from what I was expecting. When I read Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, I was expecting a sitcom. When I saw it was an hour long, I still imagined something closer to The O.C. than The Sopranos. Instead, I got the best Pilot I’ve seen all month. I cannot wait to finish Season 1.

Remington Steele


Remington Steele Episode Guide

Streaming:
AOL Video
Hulu
Fancast

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Seasons 4 and 5

Internet Television Test, Week 2: TiVo Season Pass List Replacement v1.0

The nice thing about TiVo is that you can become blissfully unaware of programming schedules. This allows you to think of TV as non-linear. Because of this, I think it will be easier for me to make the leap to internet-based-TV than most.

The problem is that TiVo did all my thinking for me, and now I have no idea when my shows come on, what’s in re-runs, or what was cancelled. Because of this, I think it will be harder for me to make the leap to internet-based-TV than most.

Crap.

The first question is: Which shows do I download, and which shows do I stream? Well, it’s hard to make that decision without knowing which shows are even available, and for how long.

Nine episodes into the 12-episode Season One of Burn Notice, the shows disappeared from both Hulu and USA Network’s site. I found some torrents, but so far zero percent.

While I was browsing, I grabbed the torrent for Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It’s about 60% done.

Googling around I found The Dick Van Dyke Show, and watched an episode. Now I have to add that to my list. Too bad I forgot to bookmark the page. I’ll get around to it.

I started making my TiVo Season Pass List into a page of links to keep track of what show is available where. I figure it can be the page I pull up whenever I’m ready to “watch TV”.

Meanwhile… House M.D. Season One (Disc 1) came in the mail. After just 4 episodes, my wife and I are hooked. That’s added to the list.

I tried to pull up episode 2 of The Secret Life of the American Teenager, but I couldn’t find it. ABC Family reports that the episode is missing. (Already??!? ZIt just aired a few days ago!) From the looks of the site, the episode is supposed to be there, but the link is broken. Bittorrent has it on my hard drive in just over an hour… in HD.

To kill the hour, I watch the pilot episode of Sliders. Gotta add that to the list.

Ohh! Incredible Hulk Pilot Episode in it’s full Bill Bixbyish glory! Oh, that has to go on the list.

How long is this list going to get?

After finding about twenty shows, I’ve got a nice collection of jumping-off points for when I go looking for links – and just when I think there are no more… I find another gold mine of content.

I gotta start filling that blogroll with something useful – links to streaming video sounds good.

So ends week 2. The weeks ahead will include learning about HDMI, buying an HDMI switch, reviewing the Roku Netflix Player, testing different Remote Control solutions, Subscribing to RSS feeds, checking out the world of Podcasts and, of course, BluRay.

Family Guy

Family Guy Episode Guide

Streaming:
FOX on Demand
Fancast
Hulu
AOL Video
TBS.com
TV-Video.net
WatchTVSitcoms

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
Netflix

Midwest Teen Sex Show

Midwest Teen Sex Show Episode Guide

Streaming:
MidwestTeenSexShow.com

Subscribe:
iTunes
Miro

Reaper


Reaper Episode Guide

Streaming:
CWTV
Surf the Channel

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
Season 1
Season 2

The Colbert Report

The Colbert Report Episode Guide

Streaming:
Comedy Central
Fanpop
Fancast
Hulu

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
The Best of The Colbert Report

Exes and Ohs


Exes and Ohs Episode Guide

Streaming:
Logo

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
Season 1

Inline Ads: A First Impression

I don’t mind commercial breaks in online shows, so far. Each episode seems to have one sponsor, and you get a single ad in each adbreak where a clump of ads normally would be if it were on broadcast tv.

Some sponsors are better than others. Outback Steakhouse has already made me a hater. It’s not the content of the ad. I’ve seen it before on TV: Four men are golfing, one describes his meal at Outback Steakhouse. Big deal. The problem is that’s the only one they play. With six breaks per episode – it was at least four times too many.

AT&T has a nice three-parter. Each “segment” gets repeated once. If only the ad wasn’t so stupid. They get points for non-repetition and for not breaking my “full screen mode” like Outback Steakhouse did.

Yes, Outback Steakhouse – in addition of making me hear that same dreaded commercial six times in 44 minutes, forced me to have to manually exit and re-enter “fullscreen mode” after each ad. Not fun. And you can’t use the mouse to fix it. You have to press ESC on your keyboard, then use the mouse to hit a tiny target to the bottom left of the video to return to FS Mode.

The Secret Life of the American Teenager forced me to click to continue, but at least it was just one click, and it could be anywhere.

I wonder if they’ll all be like this.

South Park

South Park Episode Guide

Streaming:
South Park Studios
AOL Video
WatchTVSitcoms.com
Fancast

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5
Season 6
Season 7
Season 8
Season 9
Season 10
Season 11

The Secret Life of the American Teenager


The Secret Life of the American Teenager Episode Guide

Streaming:
ABC Family New Link! (20 JAN 2009)

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

First Review: 17 JULY 2008
A surprisingly complex family drama that shows how a teenager can be smart, stupid, scared, and brave all at the same time. The Secret Life of the American Teenager takes an unblinking look at the consequences of a stupid one time mistake, and how gossip and reputation is more powerful than even the harshest realities.

After just three episodes, I find myself looking forward to new episodes each week.

So far I’ve only found one stream for this show. ABC Family makes you click the screen after each commercial. It’s a minor annoyance, but still an annoyance. If anyone finds another stream, please send me a link.

What do you think of the show? Comments are open.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Episode Guide

Streaming:
TheDailyShow.com
Fancast
Fanpop
Hulu

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Indecision 2004

Rocketboom

Rocketboom Episode Guide

Streaming:
Rocketboom.com
YouTube

Download:
Rocketboom.com (follow the “Download” link)

Subscribe:
iTunes
Miro
Google
MyYahoo!
TiVo

Medium

Medium Episode Guide

Streaming:
Fancast
Hulu

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5

In Plain Sight

In Plain Sight Episode Guide

Streaming:
USA Network
Hulu
AOL Video

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
Season 1
Season 2

Samantha Who?

Samantha Who? Episode Guide

Streaming:
ABC.com

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
Season 1

The Simpsons

The Simpsons Episode Guide

Streaming:
Fancast
AOL Video
FOX on Demand
Hulu

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5
Season 6
Season 7
Season 8
Season 9
Season 10
Season 11
Season 12
Season 13
Season 14
Season 15
Season 16
Season 17
Season 18
Season 19

Burn Notice

Burn Notice


Burn Notice Episode Guide

Streaming:
USA Network
Hulu
AOL Video

Download:
Torrent (change season and episode number as needed)

Disc:
Season 1
Season 2

Internet Television Test, Week 1: I miss TV

I gave away the TV/VHS/DVD combo player and in an impulsive move gave away the TiVo, too. I didn’t want to have to carry anything up the six flights of stairs that was just going to go away again. Normally, this would have caused panic – but I was too tired to care.

For the first time since my mom bought me a set for my bedroom when I was five, I don’t own a television. My wife pointed out we are CRT-free for the first time ever, as well.

It was a liberating feeling to not own a television until the end of the first day of moving when I realized I couldn’t just turn on something mindless and vegetate on the sofa. The computer was still in boxes and what would become the entertainment center was still in pieces. I would have to “lay like broccoli” with nothing to distract me from my aching bones for the first three nights.

Friday, July 4, I finally get the computer set up and want to watch something. Randomly, I choose CBS’ “How I Met Your Mother”. I zip over to the CBS-run “InnerTube” site, follow a maze of menus, only to find the video for the episode I want to see is no longer available.

I’m way too tired to be working this hard for 22 minutes of entertainment.

I decide to switch networks and head over to ABC Family’s website. Up front and center is an ad for The Secret Life of the American Teenager starring Molly Ringwald. Being of the John Hughes Generation, I decided to give it a go. (OK, while it was a good enough show – definitely tame enough for ABC Family – Molly Ringwald should NOT get top billing. She was barely IN the show.)

The show played with minimal buffering and stuttering, but was pretty blocky when blown up to full screen. It was OK for “instant gratification” TV and was watchable from 10 feet away, but it won’t replace bittorrent for my favorite shows.

Where each “commercial break” would be on TV it played a 30 second ad for Carnival Cruises and then made me click the screen to continue. Weird.

After that, I decided to watch the Pilot episode of Burn Notice. USA Network’s website is much easier to navigate than ABC Family and I am watching the episode with minimal effort. Burn Notice looks much better scaled to 1080 than American Teenager, but would get “stuttery” from time to time.

The USA Network show had twice as many commercial breaks as the ABC Family show, which was only exasperated by the fact that it was the SAME commercial every time. After the show, I hated Outback Steak House. They even put their logo in the black space under the show – and left it there the whole hour. It looked like I had an Outback Steakhouse branded TV, or was watching The Outback Steakhouse Channel. Luckily, it wasn’t on episode 2.

I hoped to watch a little of Monk from where I left off (somewhere in Season 3), but USA Network only has a few episodes online and they’re all from the most recent season.

Week 1 was a short one. With only two actual days of watching TV online and not much exploring, I really wish I still had my safety net for while I’m unpacking. Oh well…

Replacing Television with The Internet, Part 2: The Sound [UPDATED]

In Part One, I bought the first part of my new system: A screen. Rome wasn’t built in a day and nine-fifty per hour only buys so much. I had to build my new “Internet Entertainment Center” one piece at a time, and Frankenstein parts of my old AV system and computer to fill in the gaps.

I brought along my Mac (current eBay value: $355) , 5.1 AV Receiver (current eBay value: $0), and sundry cables and cords.

Yes, my “Media Center PC” is my primary machine. The trusty Dell (running gOS) is literally falling to pieces and only gets booted for web browsing. My TV is my only computer, more or less, and vice versa.

How I set it up in my new place is enough for a post of it’s own.

If my computer is going to be my primary entertainment machine, it’s going to have to be capable of more than just Stereo Sound, even if the majority of today’s net-video is only 2.0.

The first thing I did was connect my ten-year old Sony 5.1 amp (model STR-DE835) to my Mac. Every Mac has Optical Out, but the towers have Toslink ports so I didn’t even have to buy a converter and could use the same cable I used on my last three DVD Players.

Once the cable was in place, I made a few adjustments to my Mac.

First, in System Preferences->Sound-Output I changed it from “Internal Speakers / Built-In Audio” to “Digital Out / Optical digital-out port”. As soon as I did this, all system sounds and iTunes played out of my amp. As a side-bonus, whenever I turn my amp off, it reverts to the built-in speakers, so I’m never without audio.

I then made two other changes.

First, to DVD Player. In the Preferences, under Disc Setup/Audio I changed it from “System Sound Output” to “Digital Out-Built-In Audio”

Second, to VLC. Under the “Audio” Menu, choose Audio Device -> Built-In Audio (Encoded Output).

Now I can play Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 encoded files and discs in my Mac. Cool.