Thursday, September 27, 2007

my internet tv

Several pieces to a puzzle I didn't know I was trying to solve have suddenly come together, and I'm only spending enough time to post this minimal update so that I can get back to finishing this project.

The first piece is Miro (formerly the Democracy TV project), a lovely media player that merges the play-anything smarts of VLC with the ability to slurp content from RSS feeds that use for content. When combined with a built-in BitTorrent engine, it's enough to send even the most seasoned TV studio executive to the liquor cabinet.

As one might expect, there are several sources of RSS feeds for popular (and not so popular) TV shows. The excellent tvRSS even allows you to tweak your feed so that, for example, it only contains HDTV-ripped shows. Now that's thoughtful! But a Miro "channel" created with such a feed is stark in comparison to several channels that come with the default Miro installation. Where was my show description, episode title and synopsis? Where were my video still thumbnails?

I knew several web sites offered this kind of information, but I wanted a site that offered it in a structured format - preferable, as an RSS feed. It took a while to find, but theTVdb provides all of this, and more. This site is used by several home theatre PC projects to provide metadata for TV shows captured.

But there was still one piece missing: how could I combine the TV torrent feed with the TV metadata feed to get one feed that Miro could use? I contemplated cracking open documentation pages for bash, PHP and Python to roll my own script when I remembered Yahoo Pipes. This Yahoo project is designed to slurp in structured content like RSS feeds and provides tools for manipulating the data to create new feeds! Sounds just like what I'm looking for.

Stay tuned for future postings about my antics with Yahoo Pipes...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

the times is a-changin'

A sign of things to come: the New York Times has decided to stop charging for the few remaining sections of its online publication that have been available by subscription only. The reason? I can't state it better than this senior VP:

The Times said the project had met expectations, drawing 227,000 paying subscribers — out of 787,000 over all — and generating about $10 million a year in revenue.

“But our projections for growth on that paid subscriber base were low, compared to the growth of online advertising,” said Vivian L. Schiller, senior vice president and general manager of the site,

In other words, they can make more money by attracting as many eyeballs as possible to their content (with ads) than they can by charging a subscription. Seems like advertising is being leveraged to support everything these days; I wonder what the limit is?

NYT story link (available for free, naturally).

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

LOLcat meets Dune

Ok, it's now official: the whole LOLcat meme is out of control.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sunday, July 01, 2007

checking out bytes

It's always interesting to see old distribution models applied to new media, and especially humourous when those models enforce constraints that simply don't apply to bytes. So I had a chuckle when I learned about the OverDrive distribution system being used by the BC Libraries to offer audio books to patrons.

I was pleased to hear that our library system now offered audio books as a direct download (yay!) and disappointed (but not surprised) to learn that DRM was involved (boo!). The chuckle came, however, when I read this snippet from the BC Libraries web site:

"You may have a maximum of 5 titles checked out from the Digital Library.
Downloaded titles are checked out for 14 days and are automatically returned to the library."

"Checked out"? "Returned"? What, do the bytes magically travel back from my computer or MP3 player to their home servers [giggle]? Such restrictions make sense in a world where you are actually borrowing a book or physical media; as long as you have the atoms in your hand, no one else can use them. But downloaded bytes?

I doubt, of course, that our library system lobbied for these restrictions - such concessions were likely by the publishers as a key condition to making them available through the library system at all. But when the gap between the fluid availability of bytes and centuries-old distribution model designed for physical objects becomes so glaringly obvious, it's only a matter of time before someone takes advantage of this inefficiency.

Friday, April 06, 2007


In a posting on the blog yesterday, product manager Nick announces the availability of an updated extension for Firefox. The quick tour page gives an excellent overview of the new features available, and being a fanboy, I had the new extension up and running in minutes. So far, I'm quite impressed with the greater integration of bookmarks within Firefox - my bookmarks now seem "nearer at hand" than they did when I had to jump to a separate web page to view and search them.

If you "roll" with both Firefox and, check out the quick tour to see if you'd like to trick out your browser with this new extension.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

pity the pirates

When considering the negative impact of P2P networks, it's the MPAA or RIAA that come to mind. But in the old days pirates used to steal digital bits and encode them onto physical discs for sale to consumers looking for movies, music and software on the cheap. What ever happened to them?

TorrentFreak brings a human face to the impact of P2P networks on piracy in the tale of "Tony", a working-class bloke who lived his own rags-to-riches-and-back-to-rags again story. Snippets like the following brought tears to my eyes:

By 2001, Tony was renting a factory unit and employing 3 people to operate duplicators 24 hours a day, 7 days a week but although business was lively right up to 2004, profits were being squeezed every year. Forced to increase the amount of media burnt each week to make up for the shortfall in profit, it became clear that the business was in trouble - demand was falling dramatically.

“In 2005 we shut down the factory unit” said Tony, “we just couldn’t keep going on that scale, nobody was buying anything in quantity anymore. So we closed up and moved back into a bedroom at home with my wife and her sister operating the burners, something they hadn’t done in years. They weren’t happy.”

Forget the negative ads targeting illegal downloads of movies and songs. If more kids knew how their downloading activity have affected former pirates like "Tony" and his family, perhaps they'd give up downloading and get their pirated content at flea markets instead [sniff].