Tech Support For Real

Some­times, toll-free tech sup­port does exact­ly what it should: help the cus­tomer solve their prob­lem.

[UPDATE 3/16/05: I final­ly sent my Garmin off and they returned it, repaired, with­in about 4 days. Not bad.]

Garmin Forerunner 201 - Courtesy of Garmin.com

Garmin Fore­run­ner 201 — Image cour­tesy of Garmin.com

I men­tioned on my run­ning page that I have been hav­ing trou­ble get­ting my Garmin Fore­run­ner 201 to talk to my PC via the sup­plied ser­i­al cable. (First of all, I’m not real crazy that Garmin is using that 1980’s-crap tech­nol­o­gy for their cool lit­tle device.) For some unex­plain­able rea­son, the Garmin just does­n’t get detect­ed on the port. I’ve tried it on sev­er­al PC’s and no luck. I even asked Philip Tor­rone, the gad­get mas­ta, if he knew of any prob­lems. Oth­er than his was some­times finicky, he did­n’t say that he’d ever had one that just refused to play at all.

I got around to call­ing Garmin’s toll-free tech sup­port num­ber today to see if I could get the device checked out. Well, just like you no doubt, any­time time I call a tech sup­port num­ber I dial with my teeth grind­ing. I am just wait­ing for them to tell me it’s a win­dows prob­lem or PC hard­ware prob­lem. Of course, that’ll be after I wait on hold for 20–30 min­utes, occa­sion­al­ly being remind­ed of the impor­tance of my call and how FIFO works.

Some­times, toll-free tech sup­port does exact­ly what it should: help the cus­tomer solve their prob­lem. Linksys used to be great about get­ting you right to the peo­ple who could help you with your prod­ucts. Their routers got pret­ty damn pop­u­lar and then they got bought by Cis­co. Now, you have to wait a while and they might tell you that it’s a Win­dows or ISP prob­lem when you’re con­nec­tion is bad. Plex­tor has absolute­ly incred­i­ble ser­vice. The last time I called about my new DVD burn­er, the guy I talked to explained the con­flict with some pre-loaded soft­ware on my pc and walked me through the prob­lems. He even game tips on mak­ing sure hyper­thread­ing was turned on for my P4. I thought he was going to give me tax or child rear­ing advice next.

I’d have to put Garmin up there in the cat­e­go­ry of “tech sup­port that actu­al­ly helps.” The first time I called, they sent out a brand new ser­i­al cable, AC adapter, & cable brack­et. No run around about war­ran­ty or pawn­ing me off to Microsoft (not every­thing is their fault). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, the new cable did­n’t work either. Today, they went back over the usu­al sus­pects, deter­mined I’d done every­thing I could, and gave me an autho­riza­tion num­ber to send back the GPS unit. No trou­ble. Sure, I’ll pay some ship­ping costs, but that’s no real issue. (The thing weighs 4oz., with pack­ag­ing.) With any luck, they’ll fix it and send it back to me (includ­ing all the data I’ve logged into it… the rea­son I need the ser­i­al con­nec­tion to work). Worst case, they replace the unit alto­geth­er. Either way, Garmin is a good com­pa­ny to do busi­ness with.

I men­tioned Philip Tor­rone above, and I want­ed to include a link to a pho­to of his dog. Just click and you’ll see why.

Firefox Plug-ins And Searchable Markup

Today, I’m work­ing on a Flickr search engine for Fire­Fox. Why has­n’t some­one done that already? Well, for one, Flickr isn’t real­ly set up for exter­nal search­es.

Flickr

Today, I’m work­ing on a Flickr search engine for Fire­Fox. I was real­ly sur­prised that no one had thought to cre­ate one yet, give Flick­r’s huge pop­u­lar­i­ty. Okay, maybe I’m more of a fan that your aver­age Joe (or Jane), but it does seem to be pret­ty hip with the kids. Any­way, these lit­tle search plug-ins are real­ly pret­ty easy to write and they are extreme­ly handy.

That being said, when you look at the code from a search from Google, you’ll notice lit­tle remark tags before and after each search result item:

<!--m--><a href=https://www.jasoncoleman.net/>super_structure | <b>Jason</b> <b>Coleman</b></a><br><font size=-1><b>...</b> And The Coal Men — singer Dave <b>Coleman</b> and cohorts Dave Ray and <b>Jason</b> Hitchcock [yada, yada, yada]<!--n-->

As you can imag­ine, those lit­tle remarks con­tain­ing m & n make for very nice search strings. The set of search results for each page returned are also bound in sim­i­lar remarks, with a & z (get it? From “a” to “z”.). Yeah, any­way, most of your oth­er sites don’t con­tain such lux­u­ries (like, say, Yahoo). Flickr, sad­ly, has even less. The results from a tag search at Flickr, such as “cam­er­a­phone” don’t con­tain any delim­i­na­tors to speak of. Of course, the idea here is that you just use part of the mark-up as a text string in your search for where an item begins and ends, but that does­n’t work so well. Of course, the nat­ur­al markup would be <li> & </li> (Flickr uses <p>, which is the same for this argu­ment), but alas, that’s no good when you add a class, id, or style which con­tain ” ‘s (quo­ta­tion marks). The prob­lem is that those ” ‘s trun­cate your text string pre­ma­ture­ly. (Also, Fire­fox does­n’t seem to under­stand using &quot; in this con­text).

All this being said, I’ve sub­mit­ted my lit­tle code to the Mycroft peo­ple at Mozil­la, so maybe it’ll be up there soon. You can down­load the file right now from me, and just stick it in the \Mozil­la Firefox\searchplugins\ direc­to­ry and restart Fire­fox. You won’t have an icon just yet for Flickr. They like those to be down­loaded from their site, as opposed to just any old place.

I think that Google’s use of the remark tags as delim­i­na­tors is a pret­ty nice lit­tle fea­ture that 99.9% of users nev­er know about, but can ben­e­fit from because of fea­tures like the tool­bar search in Fire­fox. If you hap­pen to have installed the side­bar search, and have my Flickr search, then doing a search on a term in both Flickr & Google simul­ta­ne­ous­ly will show you the ben­e­fit. Google returns results just like the Google page. My Flickr plug-in only returns the thumb­nail (non-hyper­linked) and the cre­ator (also, non-hyper­linked). I had found a way to include the title of the pho­to, but then the link for the result went to the cre­ator’s “pho­to­stream” and not the indi­vid­ual pho­to. Is there a way around all this? I’m sure, but I’m not a good enough code writer to do it. Plus, I doubt most peo­ple even know about the side­bar search, let alone use it.

Up next, a search plug-in for Wired News!

TiVo ToGo TooSlow — Redux

So, in the last day I’ve been play­ing catch-up to some folks who have already deter­mined that using Son­ic MyD­VD transcod­ing for .tivo files was not for them either. They’ve detailed they’re steps, so I’ll just take a bit to gloss over mine.

Using the Moonlight-Elecard filters to convert a .tivo file to an .mpg file

So, in the last day I’ve been play­ing catch-up to some folks who have already deter­mined that using Son­ic MyD­VD transcod­ing for .tivo files was way too slownot for them either. I want to use my own DVD author­ing soft­ware using the video from TiVo. PVR­Blog had post­ed an arti­cle near­ly two weeks ago and I’ve found sev­er­al oth­er blog­gers who have all come up with vari­a­tions for the same process. They’ve detailed they’re steps, so I’ll just take a bit to gloss over mine.

  1. Down­load GraphEd­it, a handy lit­tle pro­gram from Microsoft, which is part of Direc­tX 9.0 SDK. You can even find some help for GraphEd­it on Microsoft­’s MSDN site.
  2. Down­load X Mux­er Pro from Moon­light. It’s a pre-release 1.0 ver­sion, but it’s cur­rent­ly free. This includes what will be your “fil­ters” for GraphEd­it. Once installed, GraphEd­it will find them in you reg­istry.
  3. Final­ly, grab the dump fil­ter and Reg­Drop (unless you already know a bet­ter way for the next part of this step). Sim­ply drag the dump.ax file onto Reg­Drop to add the fil­ter to your list.
  4. Drag a .tivo file into the GraphEd­it field and enter your pass­word (TiVo’s not dumb). You’ll get some default fil­ters con­nect­ed to it, so just high­light them all and delete. Click Graph→Insert Fil­ters…→ and find Direct­Show Fil­ters. You want Moon­light-Ele­card MPEG2 Demul­ti­plex­er & Moon­light MPEG2 Mul­ti­plEX & Dump. For the dump fil­ter, you’ll sup­ply a file name (include the .mpg file type). You might want to check those all as favorite fil­ters and save your .grf file, if this seems like some­thing you’ll be doing a lot of.
  5. Con­nect them all up like you were wiring your enter­tain­ment sys­tem and press the green play but­ton. It’s anti­cli­mac­tic, but in about 5 min­utes (for a 1 hour show) you’ve got your­self a .mpg file from your .tivo file.

That’s about 12x faster than the transcoder in MyD­VD. Futher, now Now you can eas­i­ly use the DVD author­ing soft­ware of your choice. I’ll be using Nero 6 Ultra. This will still have to go through the process of transcod­ing the video, but I’m in con­trol of what pro­gram I use. I like TiVo for record­ing tele­vi­sion, but I don’t need them to decide what soft­ware I’ll use for mak­ing DVDs. They’re secu­ri­ty fea­tures are still in tact.

You’re mpeg2 file will have a lit­tle logo in the top right-hand cor­ner, but it’s noth­ing dis­tract­ing. I appar­ent­ly had an old­er Ele­card codec that TiVo was using in Win­dows Media Play­er any­way, so if noth­ing else, this was a good way to update to a free (at least while it’s pre-release) codec. I would still rec­om­mend the down­load in my post yes­ter­day, just so you can have some con­trol over what codec Win­dows Media Play­er defaults to. It will tell you if TiVo has any prob­lems with the one you’re choos­ing. All of the ones I tried seemed to work fine.

Final­ly, and I’m not just say­ing this to cov­er my ass: this is for per­son­al use only. DO NOT redis­trib­ute these mpeg2 streams out­side of your house­hold. We have our fair use rights, but they do not allow us to vio­late copy­right law. These mpeg2’s have the same license restric­tions that the .tivo files have. Until we can change the law for the bet­ter, we have to live with it.

TiVo ToGo TooSlow

After three weeks, I final­ly got my ser­vice update for v7.1 of the TiVo ker­nal yes­ter­day evening. By the next after­noon I had a DVD of record­ed shows. Instant grat­i­fi­ca­tion it’s not.

After three weeks, I final­ly got my ser­vice update for v7.1 of the TiVo source code yes­ter­day evening. I imme­di­ate­ly installed v2.0 of TiVo Desk­top, which is does­n’t have many more bells-and-whis­tles than the pre­vi­ous ver­sion. Odd­ly enough, my Linksys USB Wireless‑B net­work adapter was­n’t work­ing after reboot­ing the TiVo. Sim­ply pulling out the USB con­nec­tor and re-plug­ging it cor­rect­ed the prob­lem. What I would have liked to be doing is plug­ging in a Wireless‑G adapter, but that was­n’t part of this update. This leads me to speed issue num­ber one. Even though I have an “excel­lent” con­nec­tion at my TiVo on the WiFi net­work, it takes approx­i­mate­ly 1 hour to trans­fer 30 min­utes of medi­um qual­i­ty video. That’s not just slow, it’s damn near unten­able. Why was the NFL wor­ried in it’s case try­ing to block TiVo from hav­ing the ToGo ser­vice that peo­ple on the East Coast would be send­ing video to blocked out view­ers on the West Coast? At this time, that is com­plete­ly not pos­si­ble using the out-of-the box hard­ware and soft­ware for TiVo. Can you mod­i­fy it to do that? I’ve no doubt that can be done, but the NFL was­n’t going after those peo­ple.

With my TiVo once again on the net­work, I pro­ceed­ed to down­load some of my record­ed shows to my Win­dows machine (still no Desk­top 2.0 for Mac? Will there ever be any­thing TiVo for Lin­ux? Does any­one else find that iron­ic?). I want­ed to check the show, so I opened one up in Win­dows Media Play­er, only to find this annoy­ing mes­sage scrolling over my show stat­ing that my Ele­card MPEG2 Decoder had expired, and to go to some site to update. My Ass. Just down­load Win­dows XP Video Decoder Check­up Util­i­ty and switch your default decoder. I hap­pened to have two oth­er ver­sions of Cyber­link’s decoder installed. You prob­a­bly have one, and if not, Pow­er DVD from Cyber­link is rel­a­tive­ly cheap and works nice­ly.

I installed the tri­al ver­sion of Son­ic’s MyD­VD 6.1. The soft­ware’s no more impres­sive than I remem­ber the ver­sion pre­loaded on my Dell to be, but you can at least import cus­tom made DVD menu themes from Pho­to­shop. That’s a nice bonus that I don’t think Nero yet has. I just used a stock theme for my project, as cus­tom themes are for peo­ple who don’t have new toys to play with. The video edit­ing kept crash­ing the pro­gram, so I can’t tell you what its capa­bil­i­ties are. The chap­ter selec­tion works well, which is the eas­i­est way I’ve found around com­mer­cials for record­ed tele­vi­sion (I also have a Win­dows MCE PC, so it’s come up before). So now it was time to test the DVD burn­ing.

Now, I had fears that it would cause a mem­o­ry dump with my Plex­tor burn­er, as did the old­er ver­sion that I had scrapped after a Plex­tor tech sup­port agent had explained the con­flict. By the way, Plex­tor tech sup­port is the best I’ve ever delt with, just in case that fac­tors into your hard­ware deci­sions. Any­way, that con­flict is why I was so dis­ap­point­ed TiVo was going with Son­ic in the first place. Well, that at least was no prob­lem. I was able to burn a DVD with Plex­tor as adver­tised on Son­ic’s hard­ware list. How­ev­er, if I thought trans­fer­ring the data was the only slow thing I’d have to deal with, I was mis­tak­en. Speed issue num­ber two involves the fact that the TiVo video must be tran­sod­ed to mpeg 2 for DVD. This is done at rough­ly a 1:1 speed. That is, for ever minute of record­ing, it takes about the same amount of time (or more) to transcode the video and audio. It’s like we’re down­load­ing this stuff on a 28k modem all over again. It’s not that I don’t have a rea­son­ably fast PC: a 3.0Ghz P4 with 512MB RAM and a Seri­alA­TA hard dri­ve. It’s not the fastest I under­stand, but com­bined with the pokey 802.11B trans­fer, we’re talk­ing near­ly 6 hours to put togeth­er a DVD. Why did I even both­er buy­ing the real­ly fast Plex­tor? Four times write, 8x write, what dif­fer­ence does it make at that point?

So TiVo ToGo has­n’t exact­ly let me down. I still plan to add on a cou­ple of cav­ernous hard dri­ves onto my home net­work to store some tele­vi­sion series and a few movies. Some of these will, in time, even make their way to DVD. How­ev­er, I don’t think I’ll be pass­ing out copies of foot­ball games or movies any­time real­ly soon. My time’s too valu­able to spend it just try­ing to piss off the NFL and the MPAA.

iPod Shuffle And The Bigger Question

I think that we should con­sid­er how we real­ly lis­ten to our music, and not just what we think we’ll be miss­ing. It’s role in the iPod fam­i­ly is not to be your entire music library on the go, it is just a ran­dom snap­shot of it.

Photo by pt courtesy of Flickr

So it would seem that Apple’s lat­est hot prod­uct, the iPod Shuf­fle, might as well be called the iPod Ruf­fle, as in feath­ers. Just to men­tion a cou­ple of posts I came across today from poe­ple whose opin­ions I val­ue. Chris Ander­son of The Long Tail fame writes that it suf­fers from the same prob­lem as com­mer­cial radio in that the user gives up the abil­i­ty to hear the songs they real­ly like, or in his words, “the sig­nal-to-noise ratio in your own col­lec­tion can be near­ly as vari­able as that in any com­mer­cial music ser­vice.” Ander­son ends his arti­cle by stat­ing that he does­n’t think the Shuf­fle will have the same impact on the mar­ket that the now near­ly ubiq­ui­tous iPod had. Irman Ali seems to like the Shuf­fle okay, but finds inter­est in the fact that Apple mar­kets what he writes is the prod­ucts great­est weak­ness, the ran­dom­ness, as it’s strength.

First, I know that I can’t speak for every­one who lis­tens to music (that’d be about every­one with hear­ing, right?). I have some purist friends that pre­fer to lis­ten to only entire albums from start to fin­ish. They’re not big fans of the shuf­fle (or ran­dom, if you don’t use Apple prod­ucts). How­ev­er, I almost exclu­sive­ly lis­ten to iTunes or my iPod using that fea­ture. I am my own radio sta­tion, so to speak. Sure I like some songs more than oth­ers, but I am con­stant­ly com­ing back across songs I had­n’t heard in quite a while and had near­ly for­got­ten about. I see this as the oppo­site of Ander­son, in that I am look­ing down into the long tail of my own col­lec­tion. Rather than using the rec­om­men­da­tion mechan­ics of Ama­zon or iTunes Store, I am using “chance,” to quote Apple’s Ad. Hon­est­ly, I find this an eco­nom­i­cal way of keep­ing myself enter­tained, as it keeps me from buy­ing new music as much. Instead, I’m redis­cov­er­ing music I already had.

Sure, I’ve got some duds (name­ly, that Best of James album I bought for the song Laid), but I could just as well take those songs out of my col­lec­tion. I’d nev­er miss them. But so what if I did­n’t and occa­sion­al­ly they got loaded onto the Shuf­fle. There’s a skip but­ton for just such emer­gen­cies, which I sup­pose works in shuf­fle mode. Also, aut­ofill has the option to choose high­er rat­ed songs more often. This is about as ide­al as shuf­fle gets, and although I don’t much use the rat­ings fea­ture of iTunes or my iPod, I imag­ine that’d become of your rou­tine with the Shuf­fle. My only com­plaint there not hav­ing the abil­i­ty to export that infor­ma­tion (maybe as xml like one of Ander­son­’s com­men­tors sug­gests).

I don’t think any­one could have pre­dict­ed the iPod would have the dra­mat­ic mar­ket explo­sion that we’ve wit­nessed. It was­n’t the first portable dig­i­tal music play­er (remem­ber when we just called them all mp3 play­ers?) and it has nev­er been the cheap­est. How­ev­er, it had a great design, both in style and inter­face so it sold mil­lions. Fur­ther, iTunes is real­ly a great piece of soft­ware. If for no oth­er rea­son, it’s a nice and free rip­per. It’s also got great library man­age­ment fea­tures. Is Apple’s moti­va­tion to have an online music store to sell iPods or is it to sell iPods just to make a killing off of song down­loads? I don’t know. I’m sure they’ve got some pret­ty good mar­gins on both fronts. I do think, though, that hav­ing an entry lev­el, USB dri­ve based mp3 play­er labled as an iPod is only going to help the brand. I fall on the oth­er side of the fence from Ander­son on this one as well. I say the iPod Shuf­fle is going to solid­i­fy the mar­ket as Apple’s.

One oth­er point that a lot of peo­ple seem to rip­ping the Shuf­fle on is it’s lack of screen. Seri­ous­ly, stop with the jokes about putting a sticky note over the iPod screen. It’s stale now. So what if it does­n’t have a screen? Do peo­ple hon­est­ly look at the screen dur­ing every song? I bought all most of those songs, and I know pret­ty much what I’m lis­ten­ing to.

Final­ly, what I’m say­ing here is that it’s not fair to com­pare the Shuf­fle to the good old iPod. One costs $99 and the oth­er costs $249 (the Mini). No one thinks it’s fair to com­pare a Toy­ota Cor­rol­la to a Lexus ES330, so why is this apples:apples? So that’s the big­ger ques­tion, here. My answer is to give the Shuf­fle a chance. It’s role in the iPod fam­i­ly is not to be your entire music library on the go, it is just a ran­dom snap­shot of it and that’s also got some inter­est. I think that we should con­sid­er how we real­ly lis­ten to our music, and not just what we think we’ll be miss­ing.

Video Searching Using Google

The pow­er behind this is the use of closed cap­tion to cre­ate search­able text from tele­vi­sion. The nice thing here is that you can search video based on total spo­ken con­tent.

The lat­est post over at PVR Blog by Matt Haugh­ey is about Google’s Beta site test­ing their new video search tool (also at Wired). Unfor­tu­nate­ly, right now, there’s not a whole lot of video out there to be watch­ing. So if you look­ing to down­load some free porn, you might want to use anoth­er site. Every search I tried came back with “Video is cur­rent­ly not avail­able.” Of course, I was search­ing for only fam­i­ly-friend­ly con­tent.

The pow­er behind this is the use of closed cap­tion to cre­ate search­able text from tele­vi­sion. The nice thing here is that you can search video based on total spo­ken con­tent. Some­day, we’ll be able to search on scene tags (like Flickr). Until then, we’re stuck with real­ly bad closed cap­tion auto-trans­la­tions, like this:

David duh cub any stays next X Files movie will Like­ly shoot late they are year and it will be a stand-alone hor­ror film.

from my search for x files. Now, I sup­pose the small amount of pages that turn up are because this things only been col­lect data for a very short peri­od of time (like 2 weeks), so it will get bet­ter. Maybe the com­put­er trans­la­tions will get bet­ter, as well.

TiVo users, such as myself, would love to see easy to use links in the search results for upcom­ing shows. This could be very eas­i­ly imple­ment­ed by Google using the “Link to This” fea­ture of TiVo, which I first read about at George Hotelling’s site (he cur­rent­ly writes for PVR­Blog). Sad­ly, the links TiVo uses there aren’t eas­i­ly deci­phered by humans to write into code (hint, hint: use time­stamps and Eng­lish words, like nor­mal search­es). Any­way, maybe even if Google does­n’t decide to do it, a Fire­Fox plug-in might accom­plish the same thing by rec­og­niz­ing video search results and giv­ing some handy dandy record­ing options, sort of like what Chris Ander­son was wish­ing for at The Long Tail.

So it appears that with some of the recent moves by Google (i.e. — scan­ning library doc­u­ments, video search­ing, and pret­ty much every­thing except g‑mail), they are set­ting them­selves up to be the world archivers of infor­ma­tion. They also give us a num­ber of ways to use and manip­u­late that infor­ma­tion with their very sim­ple and effi­cient search­es. I’m not sure that what the video search gives us as yet pro­vides any­thing we can’t already do even more effi­cient­ly else­where, but being able to search ver­bal con­tent of tele­vi­sion and film is obvi­ous­ly a huge leap in the usabil­i­ty of that form of data. How long until life is just one big data­base held on Google’s noto­ri­ous­ly fru­gal servers?

TiVo Made Something Difficult?

The Wash­ing­ton Post has a review of the new TiVo ToGo ser­vice, which I’m still await­ing my ser­vice update for. The review­er feels get­ting the media to your PC is too dif­fi­cult for most users. I thought he might be refer­ing to the fact that the TiVo desk­top and the Son­ic MyD­VD aren’t as well inte­grat­ed as he’d like (not that’d he know since the required update of MyD­VD isn’t avail­able yet). Nope. He thinks set­ting up the TiVo on a net­work is too dif­fi­cult. Sure, I’m a geek and love that stuff, but it’s a won­der this guy can turn his lap­top on.

Apple Stakes Its Claim

Apple seems to be tak­ing the Tar­get approach to design. That is to say, great design need­n’t be expen­sive.

It seems that the theme of this year’s Mac­world Expo is going to be afford­abil­i­ty . With the keynote speech announce­ments of the head­less iMac, called the Mac mini, as well as the sporty iPod Shuf­fle; Apple seems to be tak­ing the Tar­get approach to design. That is to say, great design need­n’t be expen­sive. You’ll make up the cost of the design in vol­ume.

There was a great deal of spec­u­la­tion about the “head­less” iMac online, lead­ing to some law suits. It appears that the iHome was indeed a hoax, but on the right track when you take into con­sid­er­a­tion the Mac mini as well as the announce­ment of Final Cut Express HD. Of course, I’ve yet to play around with one, but a G4 Mac in a small square-ish box (stop me if you’ve heard this one) sounds like a cool lit­tle com­put­er. Pro­vid­ed it does­n’t over­heat like the cube. Based on what I know about the per­for­mance of the new iMac, I’d say it’s safe from over­heat­ing. They’re putting lit­tle fans in there just for good mea­sure these days. All of that aside, I’m glad to see a well-designed Mac with some decent specs at what seems like a super price. Par­tic­u­lar­ly since most of us already have a mon­i­tor, mouse, key­board, & speak­ers we can plug into one. While I love the design of the iMac (which is, by the way, a G5 now, instead of a G4), if you already have those things on your desk, buy­ing them again seems waste­ful. Just buy a KVMS switch (like the one I have from Belkin for my PC & Lin­ux box).

I am impressed with the iPod shuf­fle as well. Do I real­ize it’s just a USB key dri­ve with a speak­er jack & music play­er but­tons? Of course I do. How­ev­er, it’s a nice­ly priced one that hap­pens to have the über-cool name of iPod attached. Demand greater than sup­ply? Unless they’ve already pro­duced these things buy the 100’s of thou­sands, than you bet. I bought a 1GB USB key for about $70 a few weeks ago, and I’m already wish­ing I’d just wait­ed and bought this thing for twice that. I’m hap­py to pay pre­mi­um for this kind of cool.

TiVo To Go

There is a lot of news going around my house­hold in this New Year. Not the least of which is the fact that tomor­row is the last day of my job at URS Cor­po­ra­tion or that I have sev­er­al new gad­gets that don’t entire­ly work! That’s all for anoth­er time, though. This post is all about the TiVo.

TiVo announced the TiVo To Go ser­vice way back in Jan­u­ary of ’04 and final­ly rolled it out on Mon­day. Well, they sort of rolled it out. They post­ed an updat­ed ver­sion of TiVo desk­top on their site and the newest ver­sion of the TiVo soft­ware will include the capa­bil­i­ties. Of course, the sched­uled down­loads for the box soft­ware don’t occur imme­di­ate­ly. The best you can hope for is request­ing pri­or­i­ty and you might get it in the next few weeks. Fur­ther, there’s no Mac sup­port as of yet.

Now, to be able to burn your record­ed shows from your PC (again, not Mac as of yet) to DVD, you’ll use Son­ic’s MyD­VD v6.1, which was announced yes­ter­day. I had a copy of MyD­VD that was pre-loaded on my Dell Dimen­sion 4600 Media Cen­ter PC. I did­n’t real­ly care for the inter­face, so I nev­er real­ly used it much. I pur­chased Nero 6 as soon as I got the PC and have used it ever since, espe­cial­ly since Nero soon added sup­port for Microsoft­’s .dvr-ms for­mat mpeg video. That aside, a soon there-after bought a Plex­tor PX-708A DVD Burn­er and after a cou­ple of frus­trat­ing days, final­ly learned that MyD­VD + PX-708A = mem­o­ry dump. Bad.

Son­ic’s site lists the PX-708A as com­pat­i­ble hard­ware, so hope­ful­ly that prob­lem’s fixed now. None-the-less, this is now one more piece of soft­ware that does some­thing that anoth­er piece of soft­ware I already own does, with the excep­tion of one tiny task which will cost around $50. Not to sound cheap, but why can’t TiVo and Nero get togeth­er on this as well? Since Bill Gates announced at CES ear­li­er today that Microsoft­’s going to sup­port TiVo ToGo in Win­dows soft­ware, why can’t Nero be on board?

I’m addict­ed to TiVo and desparate­ly want the abil­i­ty to get my video files to and from the machine to some net­work stor­age or my PC. How­ev­er, I’m not crazy about buy­ing anoth­er piece of soft­ware that I was­n’t impressed with before to replace some soft­ware that I real­ly like.

Last­ly, on the TiVo front, they’ve been tak­ing a lot of flack over their sol­lu­tion to skip­ping over adver­tis­ing. The idea is that when you fast-for­ward through 2 min­utes (or so) of com­mer­i­cals, a sta­t­ic ban­ner ad will pop up on the screen. Frankly, I don’t care so long as it does­n’t eat up my band­width. I’m watch­ing peo­ple zip around the screen at 4x FF, what do I care if an ad is slapped over that? Ads are every­where, and good ads are an art­form. Peo­ple get too upset over adver­tis­ing to real­ize that when done right (and whose to say this won’t be), it helps the cus­tomer con­nect with a sup­pli­er. It does appear that some peo­ple seem to agree that this is a non-issue, and I think that no one is goign to get rid of their TiVo based on this. Fur­ther, this is a whole lot more ten­able than the Sen­ate’s stu­pid sol­lu­tion to mak­ing fast-for­ward ille­gal!

After doing some fur­ther read­ing, I thought I’d post this link to a response on the TiVo com­mer­cial skip stuff from one of the prod­uct man­agers at TiVo.

Robocop

Screen Shot of Robot Commercial

How come I don’t see com­mer­cials this cool on tele­vi­sion? Seri­ous­ly, I would­n’t fast-for­ward right through them with TiVo if 1 out of 10 were this fun to watch. Okay, so this isn’t a real com­mer­cial for any­thing, but still; you could place robots like this in Ben­gay com­mer­cials and I’d watch the reli­gious­ly. The image links direct­ly to the video, even though the team respon­si­ble has asked folks not to. I don’t think the two or three clicks this will get is going to both­er them. Here’s their site just in case you design-types want to know more.

If you like this com­mer­cial, syn­thet­ic rab­bit post­ed anoth­er great one (for a real prod­uct) on his site here.

Final­ly, how cool is a robot with Wifi anten­nae, rab­bit-like ears? I love it.

UPDATE: The links above aren’t bro­ken, you just need to look down the page for the Tetra Vaal Video.