Archive for the ‘How to Stream’ Tag

The 5 Links That Matter in Online TV at the End of 2009

At this time of year every blog, zine, site, and paper writes their End Of The Year wrap-up for whatever field it is that they cover – so I guess that means that I should be doing the same.

I’m not going to do it.

It would take too long and the play-by-play doesn’t really matter. All that matters is the outcome. At the end of 2009, only five links count in Online Television. Here they are.

1. Hulu – OK, there have been hints that they’re going to end the all-free gravy train. One of the three big partners got 51% swallowed by Comcast. And you still can’t watch it on an iPhone. It doesn’t matter. That ton of dough they dropped in 2009 worked and Hulu is a household name in more non-geek households than anybody.

2. Netflix – After killing Blockbuster, they’re going after PPV in a big way. They’re positioning themselves less as a DVD rental company and more of an entertainment delivery company. It’s working. Netflix is becoming THE name in net-connected devices from Blu-Ray Players and videogame consoles to the Boxee Box and even HDTVs themselves.

3. YouTube – Sure, Old Media loves portraying YouTube as a bunch of shaky cellphone videos and latter-day Wayne’s World clones – and the tech press still loves to poo-poohs them over techy things like getting stingy with their API, but Aunt Fran and Uncle Steve can’t be swayed. They know all about the YouTube and have spent a lot of fun time there. Through 2009, YouTube has still made comparatively few deals with TV and Movie networks, but they’ve given birth to more Internet Originals than anyone could count. Did anyone care how many radio stars the TV networks had in 1949? You Betcha! Did anyone care how many radio stars the TV networks had in 2009? Not in the least. We’re still very early in the first inning, folks. This will be a long game. And don’t forget, YouTube beat Hulu and Netflix to the iPhone by going on three years. Don’t underestimate the power of portability.

4. InstantWatcher – I’ve seen a few proto-aggregates pop up from time to time (including at this very website), but none lasted. At the end of 2009 the shining star seems to be InstantWatcher. It’s clean, fast, and easy. It’s like the Craigslist of finding streaming content on Netflix. Let’s hope they expand to include more sources.

5. iTunes – Apple customers can go out and get content from a variety of sources, but if you want to sell stuff TO those customers you have to go through Apple first. Apple doesn’t restrict me from using Handbrake or Evom and filling my iPhone with free content from the net and DVD rentals, but there is only ONE built-in “just press here” way to get content: the iTunes Store. Apple banks on laziness and ineptitude. It doesn’t matter if these tools have gotten “just five clicks and you are done” easy, most people don’t know this and don’t care enough to find out. The iTunes Store is relatively cheap, very easy, and (most importantly) right there. Who cares if it costs a dollar more? For most people it’s worth the dollar to save the time and effort to learn the other way. That’s not even taking free podcasts into account. Apple doesn’t sell (or even host!) podcast content, but they are the largest aggregate of Internet Originals and Studio Content, both free and paid. That’s nothing to sneeze at.

That’s it. That’s Who’s Who at the End of 2009. Don’t sweat it too much. At this point it’s likely to change as often as the weather and every player in my List of Links ( —-> —-> —-> —-> —-> —-> —–> —-> —-> —-> ) will be vying for number one.

Disagree? That’s what the comments are for.

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Remember when home taping was going to kill Hollywood?

piratebay-comic

The Pirate Bay.

Boxee MeetUp March 24th in NYC

Speaking of Boxee, if you live in New York (or will happen to be there on March 24), then you should check out the boxee meetup.

They will be releasing a new alpha version during the event and will “share some concrete plans for the beta”.

If you DO attend, send me some pictures.

Internet Television Test, Week 38: Using an iPhone 3G as my TV remote [Updated]

My Mac doesn’t have a remote control. It predates the Apple Remote by a year (and even if it didn’t, towers don’t have IR sensors).

I could buy a USB IR sensor and an Apple Remote, buy I’d also have to buy software to make the IR sensor work. Total cost: $50+

For $30ish, I could just buy a RF remote with a USB dongle, but then I wouldn’t have the sleek Apple Remote. Instead, I’d be controlling my Mac with something that looks like a garage door opener.

Eight months have passed. IR remotes got worse and RF remotes got better, but I never bought either one.

Instead, my wife got an iPhone.

[She’s nearly got me convinced that I can’t live without one, but I’m holding off as long as I can. My trusty Nokia 6102i is barely two years old, but is breaking. Scotch tape has been holding it together for almost two months, but the other day a small metal piece popped out of the hinge and disappeared into the fourth dimension. Now, every time I flip it open it gets a little worse. I just need it to survive until June/July when the new iModels come out.]

On her phone we have VLC Remote, Remote, and Rowmote.

Currently Rowmote is getting the most use. It integrates directly with Front Row and behaves exactly like an Apple Remote, but Remote’s new iTunes DJ integration looks like fun.

The only problem is: When she’s not home, I don’t have a remote controller!

UPDATE: The guys at Boxee shot out an e-mail letting me know that they have a remote in the App Store, but until I get a new Mac or Boxee shows some PPC love, I’ll have to admire from a distance.

How To Drop Cable and Satellite and Still Watch Everything, Part 2: Downloads

[Continued from How To… Part 1: Streaming]

Downloads


Streaming isn’t perfect. If my wife is streaming Hart to Hart from Hulu, I’d better not be surfing YouTube on the laptop. If she was watching Fringe (which we download) I’d be fine.

Also, if the weather’s bad, the internet gets slow. That means lots of paused streams and filling buffers. Downloading your show in advance and watching it from your hard drive requires pre-planning, but your efforts will be richly rewarded.

Downloading allows for higher resolution, multi-channel surround, and the possibility of taking it with you on a gadget.

Like Streaming, there are both paid and free options. Also like Streaming, free comes in official and grey-market sources.

Paid Downloads
Six months ago, there was a small selection of places to buy TV shows that I might have cautiously recommended. Today there is only one: iTunes. It’s pricy, but reliable. That’s the only reason it exists at all. Most video stores have shut down (and the few that still exist are focused more on movies than on television).

Reliability is a big deal. Customers that were unlucky enough to buy video from a store that shut down found that their “purchases” weren’t purchases at all – merely licenses that got revoked when the company shut down the server that unlocked your video whenever the next verification was due. DRM (Corporate-speak for “Copy Protection”) may be dying for music sales, but it’s alive and well on television and movie sales. There isn’t a killer gadget or a killer store to strong-arm the networks into giving up on DRM.

Until that time, most internet downloaders are sticking to original content, or just pirating the good stuff.

Free Downloads: Original Content
Podcasts. Holy Cow, podcasts. This one deserves it’s own post.

Free Downloads: The Good Stuff
Arrrg! Mateys! We have a pirate wannabe! Well, I have a disclaimer for you: No TV network condones file trading. If you are trading a file of a TV network show then you are a pirate. And you know how the industry feels about pirates. If you want to risk it, here’s how:

Bittorrent
File trading methods come and go. The flavor of the week is currently Bittorrent. Bittorrent works like a treasure map and magic compass. The .torrent file is the map, and your bittorrent client (software) is the magic compass that finds the thing you’re looking for (treasure). There is a .torrent file on the internet for every episode of every season of practically every show ever. Find the .torrent file, and find the show.

You can set it up to do it all automatically.

TV Torrents on a Mac is as simple as P.T.T.
1. Perian.org – This Quicktime plug-in will allow your Mac to play your downloads with the native Quicktime Player and Front Row media center software.
2. Download Transmission. This is your magic compass. Set it to launch on startup, listen for .torrents (maps) in your Download folder, and to drop files (treasure) into your Movies folder.
3. Download ted. This is your map finder. Set it to launch on startup and to drop .torrent files (maps) in your Download folder as they become available. Add some shows.

That’s it. You’re done. Tomorrow there will be shows in your Movies folder.

[NOTE: I will include a Windows version if/when I get my trusty Dell to boot again.]

Manually Searching
Searching manually is great for Barbara Walter’s Specials, TV Movies, and new DVDs that’s you’re too impatient to wait for Netflix to deliver. Manual Searching is also a good skill to have in case the automated way skips an episode or two because you forgot to boot up the computer for two weeks or ted thinks a new season started when it hasn’t.

When you bittorrent, you need to know EXACTLY what episode you’re looking for so you know which .torrent file to use as your map. Start by visiting the encyclopedia of TV titles: epguides.com.

Epguides makes it easy to remember that the last episode of The Middleman I saw was the one where they had to go on a boat to keep cursed musical instrument from killing Titanic aficionados. I also found out that it was called “The Cursed Tuba Contingency” and (most importantly) it was Season 1, Episode 7.

Now I can search for “The Middleman S01E07” on Yahoo, Google, or one of the many .torrent trackers online.

On your Widescreen and In Your Pocket

Downloading holds many advantages over streaming, the biggest advantage being portability. You are no longer tied to a web browser. My wife got an iPhone for Christmas.

The primary reason for the purchase was Google Maps, with Mobile Safari a very close second; however, I know my wife. As soon as TV Junkie #2 catches a few episodes while waiting for the bus… I’ll be loading her iPhone with television. Luckily, I’m prepared.

[To be continued in How To Drop Cable and Satellite and Still Watch Everything, Part 3: On your Widescreen and In Your Pocket]

Internet Television Test, Week 27: Six Months Without Cable and I’ve Missed Nothing

Last night when I told my wife it has been six months since we dropped cable, she couldn’t believe it. She was taken aback. The got weirded out about it again this morning as she was pulling up her daily episode of Hart to Hart.

Six months? Really? It doesn’t feel that long. I guess because it’s gotten so easy.

Like having a child, she is so happy with the result that she doesn’t even remember the labor pains. The only real difference in our TV viewing habit is the loss of the remote control (which I hope to remedy, soon).

Has it really gotten that easy, or are we just used to it?

This thought has been on my mind since New Year’s Eve. My family came to visit and my brother, who can’t send an e-mail and defers his web browsing to his fiancee, leapt toward the computer when I pulled up the Three Stooges page on Hulu. He spent the rest of the morning in Saturday Morning Cartoon Mode. He clicked until he found the episode he’d been looking for for years.

Back to the conversation with my wife.

Easy? That’s because everything is set up and bookmarked! I make this LOOK easy!

When she stopped laughing, she kissed me and went to make toast.

I kept wondering if it’s easy for us because it’s all bookmarked and we’ve found all our current shows, or if it’s really gotten that easy for everyone.

The networks have been doing an excellent job of pimping their websites, so I decided to start there.

I went to all the broadcast and cable network sites I could think of. I’ll be posting a write-up soon. (UPDATE: Link). Some (Like ABC and ABC News) were greatly improved, while others (The Discovery Channel) seem to not get the concept.

Then there’s the subject of the shows we DON’T stream.

I’ve come to the conclusion that in January 2009 streaming TV is easier than it used to be, but still not there yet, and bittorrent/RSS is still too difficult for the masses.

More and more people are cutting the cable to go all-internet, but we still don’t have a killer set top box. You can’t expect people to choose between watching on a computer and hooking a computer up to a TV.

AppleTV needs streaming, The Roku box needs downloads, TiVo needs to cut the cable, and a game console is a poor substitute for a dedicated internet television device.

Whoever gets the streaming/download balance correct can rule the Widescreen.
I’m looking at you, Boxee.

This year promises to be interesting.

How To Drop Cable and Satellite and Still Watch Everything, Part 1: Streaming

Times are tough. We’re all looking for ways to cut spending. After looking at my cable bill, I decided (with zero research and zero preparation) to see if my wife and I could live without television for 52 weeks, relying solely on the internet.

Two TV Junkies under one roof can consume a remarkable amount of programming content. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there is no silver bullet one-size-fits-all solution to replacing television with the internet. We watch a mixture of streamed shows and downloads.

After a bit of a learning curve we’re up to speed and have not missed a single show. Election night was a bit tense, but I didn’t miss a beat. Plus, we’ve saved $250 in five months. Best of all, my setup has passed The Wife Test (your milage may vary).

Streaming


Streaming gets me in that instant-gratification way that video-on-demand should. It’s perfect for when I sit down and I don’t know what I’m in the mood to watch. In the old days I would have flipped channels or consulted The Guide to see what was on. Now I browse for what’s available and the selection just keeps getting bigger.

There’s a ton of services out there that want you to download and install their software. DON’T DO IT!! If it’s not crawling with spyware, it’s big and bloated and unnecessary. All you need is a Mac or PC built in the last half-decade and a web browser.

Free Streams:
Five months ago I felt that I needed to make a page of links for each show I wanted to watch; because I never knew what there was to find, where to find it, or how long it would be there after I found it. (It’s still mostly true, but it’s gotten a lot better.)

In the last few months, the networks have wised up quite a bit and most of them are offering at least some streaming (and it’s usually their biggest shows). All the major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, The CW, and PBS) are doing it, and several of the Cable Networks are dipping their toes in as well. USA Network, HGTV, A&E, CNN, The Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Food Network, Lifetime, ABC Family, MTV, and even TBS and The Weather Channel.

UPDATE: (March 2009) A much longer List of Links is on the right column of every page. —> –> —> –> —> –> —> –> —> –> —> –>

YouTube, the big kahuna of online streaming, will be offering MGM Movies and CBS Television soon, but the big dog in a post-television television world may just be Hulu.com.

Hulu is my first stop when looking for a show. Hulu even lists things they DON’T show, but only if they’re available through official distribution channels. They don’t link to JustinTV, TVLinks.cc, SurftheChannel, ChannelChooser, TV-Video.Net, WatchTVSitcoms, or other grey-market sites.

For those things, Google is your friend. If you have little ones, you will find The Disney Channel & Disney Channel 2 by any means necessary.

Sometimes you don’t feel like searching for things. Sometimes you just want to “turn it on and let it go”. For those times, I go to Joost. Just last night, I was watching a collection of Christmas Episodes from random TV Shows.

For mindless music in the background there’s Pandora, for music videos there’s MTV Music and Songza.

Paid Streams:
Netflix. Technically it’s a paid stream but because my bill didn’t change it feels free. All-you-can-watch streaming is part of most Netflix plans (including mine) and I use it.

I don’t have a Windows PC or an Intel Mac so I can’t see it in my browser (like most people); however, there are an increasing number of gadgets that allow you to watch Netflix streaming, most of them more likely to be attached to your TV than your computer is. If you have a new Samsung BluRay Player, a TiVo HD, The Netflix Player by Roku, or an XBox 360 you can get Netflix Streaming on your TV. Me? I’m buying a Mac mini.

Fancast is a some-free, some-paid browser-based streaming site. It had a very interesting beta period this summer, but now that the networks are waking up, it seems a bit redundant. It’s a great bookmark for those hard-to-find episodes.

If you live in Wisconsin, and have RoadRunner / Time Warner, and have a PC running XP or Vista then you are in the test market for HBO on Broadband.

Downloads


Streaming isn’t perfect. If my wife is streaming Hart to Hart from Hulu, I’d better not be surfing YouTube on the laptop. If she was watching Fringe (which we download) I’d be fine.

Also, if the weather’s bad, the internet gets slow. That means lots of paused streams and filling buffers. (Continued in How To Drop Cable and Satellite and Still Watch Everything, Part 2: Downloads.)

@ http://digg.com/television/Replace_Cable_TV_with_The_Internet_Part_1_Streaming