Boxee is an open source media center software alternative to many of the heavily commercialized, codec-light set-top boxes on the market. In its early stages, Boxee was only available for PC (Windows and Linx) and Mac users. Apple TV users could also convert their boxes into something useful. Boxee can play just about any video you download or create, as well as a large collection of online streaming content from Netflix, VUDU, and several TV networks.
I was doing a Google search for HTML 5 video, and an ad came up for Netflix jobs. I hardly ever click on ads, but I was curious to see what the connection was. Sure enough, Netflix has a job opening for:
Senior Software Engineer – HTML5 Video Standards
One would assume that means Netflix is at least flirting with the idea of streaming its video using HTML5 technology. Then again, we all know what assuming makes us.
I recently switched from AT&T to Comcast because the former was cheaping out on DSL customers, trying to nudge them toward U-Verse, an alternative that is faster, but more expensive, requiring you to sign up for at least TV service (if not also phone service as well).
I was pleased when I found my new Comcast connection could hit 20Mbps without problem, a speed that was higher than the 15Mbps they advertised. Nevertheless, it was not long before I found out Comcast had instituted a bandwidth cap of 250GB per month. If you go over, they do not just charge you, they may actually terminate your service.
Now AT&T has thrown their hat into the ring with their own similar bandwidth cap for U-Verse customers – 250GB, and if you go over, the slap a $10 fee on for each 50GB over (makes me wonder what they’ll charge for 1 KB overage).
The ISPs obviously think they can bully people into sticking with cable TV, because that is what this is really about. They want us to keep on paying for channels we do not watch and only get because they come with bloated, overpriced packages. With online streaming (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon OnDemand, etc), we can watch whatever we want, whenever we want, and the big ISPs will do anything to stop us form doing that and costing them money.
Linux has quietly inserted itself into the hands of millions of people without them evening knowing it. Linux and free software supporters have long dreamed of the day when people would readily adopt Linux on their desktops and laptops, but it has been in the mobile and embeded markets that Linux has taken hold. Anyway, here are 6 undercover Linux devices:
1. Roku – The tiny little media player that pumps out Netflix videos and other streaming content is Linux powered. Unlike Linux desktops, it can play the DRM-laced videos from Netflix, but getting the Linux source code won’t help you hack it to that end.
2. Droid, HTC EVO, etc. – There are now a ton of Android phones flooding the mobile phone carriers. Take your pick. The Android operating system is a Linux variant, so all of them run Linux.
3. The Nook – The little e-book reader that could from Barnes and Noble is not only a Kindle killer. It also runs Android and, therefore, Linux.
4. The Kindle – Not to be outdone by the Nook, Amazon’s own e-book reader also runs a custom Linux variant. Nevertheless, like the odd Roku/Netflix situation, there is no desktop Kindle reader for Linux.
5. Google TV – Also Android-powered (seeing a trend yet?), Google TV will continue the Roku trend of bringing Linux to the living room.
6. Boxee Box – This aught to be called Geek Box, but people might confuse it with Geexbox. This little cute thing can play just about anything you throw at it, making it a real competitor for Roku, Apple TV, and Google TV. To top it all off, it runs Linux, and unlike the others, you can download Boxee for your Linux computer.
Will Linux make it into your stocking this year?
When I was a media specialist (school librarian), I used to read a book called The Toll-Bridge Troll (say that three times fast). It was about a mean little troll that would stop people, usually poor innocent children, at his bridge and demand they pay him a fee for crossing. One smart little boy decided that he couldn’t afford the “penny a day” fees the troll demanded from him, and came up with a plan to use riddles to trick the troll into letting him across.
What does this have to do with Comcast? I’m so glad you asked. The executives of the giant cable company apparently are not satisfied with their large pots of gold and believe they need to charge Internet companies for sending data through their network. One such company, Level 3, is a particularly big blip on their radar, and they are demanding that the Internet media business pay them a toll to use their bridge: your cable Internet service.
I just finished watching the latest episode of The Event on my Sony Blu-ray Disc player, using Hulu Plus streaming video. It played well with a clear HD picture, and it was nice to sit in front of the TV to watch it, rather than at a computer.
Despite that good experience, Hulu Plus falls short in other areas. For one, the presence of ads, even with a $10 per month subscription, is just annoying, and the ads seem to take longer to load on the TV than they do on the computer, making the wait time to get back to a show significant, especially when an ad comes up after every normal commercial break.
The ad issue aside, the biggest problem with Hulu Plus is mostly about content. While I found The Event, I did not find Community. On the other hand, 30 Rock, which airs on the same channel, on the same night as Community is available for this season and previous ones. Similarly, you can watch Law & Order: SVU but not Law & Order: Los Angeles. These inconsistencies are compounded when you consider that some shows are available through Hulu Plus on the computer but not on other devices. If you go to Hulu’s website, these unavailable shows will have disclaimers offering excuses about licensing.
If you happen to use the Netflix Watch Now service and love it, the way I do, it has been frustrating to see only a handful of new DVD releases actually make it onto the Internet streaming movie service. Watch Now has made mailing in DVDs to get new ones seems as old-fashioned as the mail-in service once made driving to the video store seem.
Now, Netflix has cut a deal with Epix to stream movies from Paramount, Lions Gate, and MGM. The ramifications are tremendous. Netflix would like to stop having to pay postage on DVDs just as much as we lazy movie watchers would like to stop having to go to the mailbox and wait for new discs to arrive. The service starts in September, although there is no word about which movies, how many movies, or how soon new releases will arrive. Nevertheless, it will extensively increase the Netflix library.
We use our Blu-ray Disc player to play Netflix Watch Now. You can also get a set-top-box like Roku or use a gaming console like the Nintendo Wii or Xbox 360. There is also desktop computer support for Windows and Mac, still no Linux — shame on you, Netflix!. Despite that one shortcoming, the future looks bright indeed.