television

Boxee changed my life

The news that Samsung has acquired Boxee caught me a little by surprise. Boxee is software that I don't use much anymore, but it changed my life. Back in 2009 I first started using Boxee, which was then a fork of XBMC. Initially I was interested in the social aspects of the software, the ability to share and recommend content, but what became increasingly important to me was the presence of web content as a central feature of the user interface.

Web TV Highlights no.3

It may not be trendy to say it, but I like watching television, but it has to be interesting television. Some of it I watch over the air in the traditional way, some of it on the web where many fine series are to be found. So here is the third in my series of posts about web series that I have been watching. It is amazing to see the variety of content on offer and all of the people who want to tell their stories, these are just a few of them.

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.

Web TV Highlights no.2

It is an exciting time in the world of web series! So following on from Web TV Highlights no.1 here is the second in my occasional posts about tv shows that I like on the web. Last week saw the second International Academy of Web Television Awards which took place at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Paul Kontonis, Chairman of the IAWTV released some surprising statistics about the web TV industry. Nearly five hundred web series submitted themselves for consideration for an award to the IAWTV, five times the total number of web series that were produced in 2009. In 2013 it is predicted one thousand new web series will launch. He also commented that in 2011 about US$50million was spent on original online content, but this is predicted to rise to $250million in 2013.

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.

Back to the shop with the Sony Google TV box

Sony GSZ-NS7 box

On Saturday I decided to go out and but the snappily named Sony NSZ-GS7 Internet Player with Google TV, but on Sunday, with great disappointment I took it back. I have been following the Google TV story for some time and was looking forward to it coming to the UK. The price tag of £199 for the box seemed a bit hefty, especially when compared to games consoles but that can sometimes be the price of being an early adopter. I have an Android phone and an Android tablet so a Google TV box would mean that the biggest screen in my house - the TV could be integrated into the Android eco-system. The box would also integrate with my satellite box to some extent, hopefully bringing Internet and broadcast TV closer together. Most of all it is a consumer device so I was hoping that this sort of box would have the potential to change the TV experience for many people. However when I got the box home the disappointment began.

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.

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.

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