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Tivo & Longevity

April 19, 2003

Luke Hutteman is concerned about Tivo staying around.

I was an early Tivo adopter, now own a second one (a DirecTivo), and am anxiously awaiting the HD version this year to buy a third… Although it’s of course quite subjective, I feel safe to say that the value I’ve gotten out of it (in convenience and pleasure) have already far outweighed the entry costs. 

For several years, one of the best deals going has been the DirecTivo, which incorporates two DirecTV receivers.  Since it’s partially subsidized by DirecTV (like purchasing any other receiver), and since it forgoes the expense of having an MPEG2 encoder (it just saves the encoded satellite data stream), it is usually sold very cheap—every so often it’s offered free for new subscribers, and for less then $100 for existing subscribers. 

Since it records the raw datastream, the playback quality is indistinguishable from normal DirecTV playback.  As it receives it’s guide updates from DirecTV (rather than the Tivo phonecall), I suspect it would be very likely to still be usable should Tivo eventually go down the tubes. 

The downsides are that the DirecTV version still doesn’t offer the Home Media option, and of course, you’ve got to use it with DirecTV (which just changed ownership).

Leaving that aside, I’d still have to think the prospects for Tivo’s longevity are good; with their only real competitor (Replay) having an uncertain fate (it was just bought up in a bankruptcy auction), they essentially own their market for the time being.

The other thing to consider is the substantial Tivo hacking community.  So many things on the Tivo have been hacked to be extended and enhanced, I’d be shocked if someone didn’t come out with a hack to allow guide updates from another source should Tivo shuffle off this commercial coil.

In any event, I’m sure most Tivo owners would say to forget all of that and just do it—using a TV without a Tivo is like using a microcomputer without an internet connection—sure, a lot of folks do it, but they’re missing out on a substantial amount of utility.

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Cultural Community

April 17, 2003

In Proposed: A barn-raising for civilization, Doc Searl suggests an apt mechanism for helping recover the lost antiquities of the Baghdad museums.

I particularly like the idea of setting up a website for the materials.  Picture if you will a comprehensive, consistent resource for materials from one of the richest (if not the richest) archeological areas of the world, using state of the art technology—not just the eyecandy, but enough metadata and machine-processable information that it becomes a truly valuable world resource, and sets the bar for similar collections.

Even better would be adding methods for community contributions—commentary, translations, contextual information and transclusion of related material.

Entirely too much of our past (recent as well as ancient) is offline.

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Got Whuffie?

April 12, 2003

I’m probably the last person on the blo[g]ck to read Cory Doctorow‘s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, but so far I’m seriously impressed.  It strikes me as what you’d get if you crossed Allen Steele with John Varley.  You can get your very own copy on real genuine dead trees at Amazon, or even a paid-for e-book complete with “digital rights management” (copy protection) at the same place.

Or you can download a free e-book with no annoying copy protection in over 15 formats here.

I hope we see a lot more from Cory, and no, I won’t even mind paying for the next one.

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Insufficiently Advanced

April 10, 2003

Arthur Clarke stated that “Any technology that is sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic”.  This of course implies the corollary – “Any technology that IS distinguishable from magic is insufficiently advanced”.

I love being able to post to a blog from a desktop app.  I’m currently using w.bloggar, which is nice, but leaves a few things to be desired.  My hit list includes:

1) WYSIWYG editing.  It’s not like I don’t know HTML, or like I can’t hit the preview window, but sometimes I find it distracting to have to look at markup when I’m writing.  An embedded WYSIWYG editor with a “code view” option would be very nice.

2) Spellcheck.  I’m not the greatest speller; spellcheck often keeps me from looking any stupider than absolutely necessary. w.bloggar includes a spellchecker, but its dictionary seems woefully short, and when I can’t spell it and the spellcheck can’t spell it, we’re definitely off in the weeds… Other products seem to sniff around and find Word’s dictionary; that would be very nice.

3) Smarter support of the target layout.  Posting to Movable Type, it’d be nice to be able to have an entry body and extended entry.  If we had excerpt and keyword, so much the better… Perhaps these aren’t exposed in XMLRPC?  Similarly, I post to a lot of PostNuke sites, and the ability to separate “hometext” and “bodytext” (analogous to entry body and extended entry in MT) would be nice.

Is there a product out there that I’m missing that has all of this stuff?  Ideally, along with the ability to post to PostNuke, although I’m afraid w.bloggar might be the only one to support that at the time being. 

Although it doesn’t support PostNuke, I’ve played a bit with Kung Log on OS X; it looks very nice indeed, but I’ve not gotten around the problem that it doesn’t like MT hosted on IIS rather than Apache (something broken in soap:lite apparently, although it doesn’t seem to bother w.bloggar.  If it wasn’t for that, I’d certainly be considering Kung Log for my MT posts at least.

Have I missed any good ones? Suggestions would certainly be welcome…

Aggregator-of-the-Moment

April 10, 2003

Speaking of aggregators, I’ve recently switched from Syndirella to SharpReaderSam Ruby has a great discussion of the differences between them.  As far as I’m concerned, I like the ability to group my feeds by folder in SharpReader, although I miss Syndirella’s automatic Syndic8 lookup.  The biggest point for me, though, is that development appears to be ceasing on Syndirella—not a good thing on something that is evolving as fast as the RSS world.

Yahoo RSS, not quite there yet.

April 10, 2003

Via Ben Hammersley, The RSS Validator folks have added a page to figure out the RSS feed for a Yahoo Group—enter in the group name, and it generates an URL to the RSS feed. 

This would be VERY handy, as I’ve got 40-some Yahoo Groups I track; many of which I use in a manner that would be much faster if I could use them in my aggregator-of-the-moment. 

Unfortunately, each and every one of them are groups that you must be a member of to view messages, and if that’s the case, then no RSS for you…

There needs to be some way that one could authenticate to Yahoo Groups so that it could cough up the RSS feeds for these groups. 

This seems like a win-win situation; Yahoo eliminates spending bandwidth on sending me a lot of messages (and Yahoo sends me a LOT of messages), and I save time by ignoring the 90%+ that I don’t care about, and only paying attention to (and drawing bandwidth for) the 10% that I do.

Unfortunately, innovation and Yahoo (outside of finding a new place to stuff an ad every 5 minutes) seem to have parted company back around 2000, when the bottom fell out of everything. 

There have been a few signs of motion lately, though; I see that they’re busy bringing up their Inktomi-based replacement for Google as their back-end search engine.  While I like Google better than Inktomi (I tend to get better ranking in Google :-), I’m hopeful that this is a sign that maybe we’re heading back somewhere in the direction of the innovative Yahoo of yore…

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