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Blip: Not just a video site but your next TV channel

Blip logo

Anything that can make it easier to discover great content on the Internet is always welcome. I've been having a look at Blip, a video service that helps do this for web series. It offers many facilities to help viewers and producers of web series alike. Blip is more than just a video web site or a collection of apps; it is the concept of a TV channel reinterpreted for the web. Crucially, it promotes web series content through its own web site and apps and on major social media websites and provides a business model where web series producers can make money too. In this blog post I'll be taking a look at the blip experience and examining what is in it for viewers and producers alike.

Do you watch web series (e.g. original scripted, talk show, technology show videos)?

Yes, regularly
27% (12 votes)
Yes, sometimes
27% (12 votes)
No, but I might one day
18% (8 votes)
No, they do not interest me
27% (12 votes)
Total votes: 44

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Developing a Roku channel is fun!

I recently treated myself to a Roku LT which is an inexpensive little gadget (currently retailing for about £40) that streams content from the Internet to your TV. Roku has got a lot right with this device. It is simple to use, the user interface is consistent, and it is compact - the unit is about the size of a hockey puck. A software development kit is also available so you can develop your own apps, or channels in Roku-speak. So I set myself the challenge of writing a new channel to see what developing for a Roku box is like.

Web TV Highlights no.1

When you live and work in a world of technology it is easy to forget that it is not the technology that matters but what people do with it. Right now there is a huge amount of creativity being released into the web TV world. It is very exciting and I have been finding myself watching more and more online, so I thought I would start writing occasional posts about what has stood out for me. I'm going to embed previews where possible too, so I hope that the folk behind the shows don't mind.

The Raspberry Pi as an open set top box

A remote control and a partial screenshot of the XBMC interface showing videos

The Raspberry Pi may be designed as a cheap educational computer, but hardware-wise it has a lot in common with set top boxes. However, set top boxes are traditionally locked down and not easily modifiable by the user, the Pi is the opposite and is open to user experimentation. People have been building their own media centres for years and now the Pi offers a very cheap route into learning about this area. XBMC defines itself as a "software media player and entertainment hub" that is packed with features and offers a fairly friendly user experience which follows the ideas in the ten foot user interface. It has also been ported to work on the Pi. I've been experimenting with OpenELEC - a minimalistic Linux distribution that hosts XBMC and makes setting up this sort of environment on your Pi not as difficult as you might think.

Getting started with watching web TV

Shot from a TV studio control room looking through the rear window.

This year's CES was abuzz with announcements about Internet connected TV sets. Much discussion of the technology powering these televisions followed and on this blog I have been exploring some of that technology over the past few years. Alongside these developments a whole new industry of web television is springing up. Last month even saw the first ever International Academy of Web Television (IAWTV) Awards that highlighted the achievements of this sector. However as this is a whole new world of television, where do you start? I made a resolution this year to find out much more about web TV. Here are some interesting examples of web TV shows that I've been watching.

A first look at Ubuntu TV

TV icon

It already looks like 2012 will be an exciting year for Internet connected TVs with a multitude of announcements at this years's International CES. One announcement that particularly caught my eye was by Canonical for Ubuntu TV, a version of the popular GNU/Linux based operating systems that will run on TV sets. Running Linux on consumer hardware is of course nothing new, quite a lot of gadgets in the home are Linux based and many people will be using Linux every day without even realising it (a couple of good examples are Samsung TVs and Bluray players and Humax set top boxes but there are many, many others). There is also no shortage of operating systems for Smart TVs. What is interesting about this announcement is the application of the Unity interface to a completely different context - the TV. Canonical have made the source code for Ubuntu TV available so I decided to check it out and take a look for myself.

An experimental CouchDB powered Samsung Internet@TV app

People on a sofa talking in front of a bank of TV screens

I've been experimenting a bit with CouchDB again recently and started thinking more about what it means to see non-relational databases as different from rather than better than traditional relational databases. One idea that I wanted to explore is that these differences mean that we do not have to use these new technologies in the same way as a traditional database layer. A notable feature of CouchDB is that it delivers data over an HTTP connection, so it can deliver data to the web without the need to write a layer of software to go in front of it. It can also store files quite happily. This could hugely simplify the server side of many phone, tablet and Internet TV apps so I thought I would have a go at building an experimental proof-of-concept app for the Samsung Internet@TV platform that gets both its metadata and video files from a CouchDB server.

An HTML5 Leanback TV webapp that brings SPARQL to your living room

A group of people looking in through a living room windowWhen you are sat on the sofa at the end of the day relaxing and watching TV, maybe eating food and not in the mood to have to keep constantly making decisions about what to watch you might not think that you are in a situation where Linked Data and SPARQL queries could be useful. Yet the flexibility of the data that can be obtained from data sources supporting these technologies makes them ideal candidates to power a Leanback TV experience. With the right query it is possible to curate a collection of video podcasts that can be played one after each other to keep the TV viewer happy. They still have control, they can still go to any podcast in the collection, but they are not faced with a decision every ten minutes about what to watch, allowing them to relax and discover new content.

Book Review: Building Web Apps for Google TV or "Why I read this book even though I don't have Google TV"

Book cover

I don't own a Google TV device and I live in the UK (at the time of writing Google TV boxes are only available in the US) so why, you might wonder, would somebody in my position want to read a book about how to build apps for it? Thanks to the magic of web technologies it turns out that in the context of this book not owning a Google TV device doesn't matter all that much. In fact if you have a computer that runs Google Chrome then this book can still work very well as a primer on how to develop for the TV web and the issues involved. If you already have web development or design skills and want to start developing for TVs this book could be for you as it will tell you not just about the technology involved but also how to create an experience for the user that will work in the living room.

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