LCA walk through

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I think it went well. We certainly thought of a few more things which need to be covered, but nothing major. That’s a good feeling, given the conference is only seven weeks away.

[tags: conference opensource]

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Firefox bug

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Did you know if you have more tabs open in firefox than there is width on the screen to display the icons for, then you start to get some lovely paint bugs in the top right hand corner of the window. Kinda cool. I guess that means it might be time to do the annual tab cull.

[tags: firefox]

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Foxtel iQ launch

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Last night I attended the launch party for the Foxtel iQ in Canberra, Australia. This is the first TiVo like product to be released commercially in Australia with an Electronic Program Guide (EPG). Overall, the presentation was pretty slick, and I was impressed with the knowledge of the sales people present — it was only the tougher questions they needed to refer to someone else. The launch seems to have generated some interest. Anyways, here’s a dump of my thoughts about the whole thing.

Features: the box is a replacement for your current Foxtel digital set top box. If you’re note a Foxtel digital subscriber, then you need to become one before you can get yourself an iQ. The box looks much like the one which Foxtel shipped me when I joined Foxtel digital, and whilst I can’t find a product data sheet on the pace website, I believe that they’re manufacturer. Who makes it is irrelevant anyways for reasons I’ll discuss a little later.

Much like a TiVo (and I presume Windows Media Center edition, although I haven’t used that), you can fast forward and rewind programming with a variety of speeds. The iQ only caches an hour of live video, so that’s as far back as you can go. I don’t believe that my TiVo series one has any such limitation, but is limited by free disc capacity. I haven’t explicitly tested that though. You can pause live TV, and in fact can record two incoming streams at once, which is a win over a TiVo. The presentation made a very big deal of the pause and fast forward features, which took most of the face time with the customers to explain.

You can setup Season passes for shows with the iQ, again much like a TiVo, but the show must have been marked by Foxtel as being a series before that will work. They made comments that their EPG was still a work in progress, and that it would take some time to get all of that right. There is no concept of the device learning about genres you like, and there is no title word searching, so you can’t record all of a show which is not a series that way.

The Foxtel staff pushed the “time shifting” line very hard. They see the device as solely for that purpose, and used that to explain the gaps between features available on the TiVo and the iQ. There is also no facility to download the recorded videos to watch on another device later. This isn’t legal in Australia anyway, so that’s probably for the best.

The remote is horrible. I love my peanut remote.

Pricing: the box is expensive. Foxtel will charge $395 for you to sign on, and $100 for the install. There is no self install. You don’t own the device however, and if you cancel they take it back, just like you set top box now. That makes the iQ very expensive. You can reliably get a TiVo in the US for $90 dollars, and importing it to Australia costs about the same, which means the TiVo option comes in at about half the price of the iQ.

Foxtel also charges a monthly access fee for the device, on top of your Foxtel digital access fee for the shows.

When pushed on why the device was so expensive, the Foxtel staff said that “you should see what we pay for them”. That logic amazes me to be honest — because Foxtel got screwed and didn’t do enough research, they intend to pass the pain on. Wow. That’s customer service.

Legalities: it is my understanding that time shifting is not legal in Australia. All VCR ads certainly say things like “subject to copyright” on the adverts. I guess that Foxtel selling a box to time shift means that there is an implicit license for you to do that. That makes using a TiVo or a media center legal as well I would think.

EPG: now that there is EPG data for Foxtel shows, I would think that Microsoft should stand a chance of getting EPG data for the Media center happening soon. That would make me a fairly happy chappy.

Overall: the iQ feels like a bad TiVo series one clone. They talk about rolling new features out in the future, so you can hope that things improve over time. Then again, this is a big step forward for what is commercially available in Australia. Here’s my buying guide:

  • Technically savvy? Can install onto a PC IDE disc from a boot CD? — Get a US TiVo and hack it.
  • Don’t mind not having guide data? — Get a Windows media center
  • Failing all that — Get a Foxtel iQ

[tags: tivo foxtel tv windows media]

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Google, murderer of users groups

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I was attending an AUUG committee meeting the other day, and someone mentioned from across the table that Google had had a noticeable affect on many of the users groups that he knew of. This got me thinking, and he’s right.

Many years ago, lost in the mists of time, there was this thing called a users group. You went there to find out how to make products work, bitch about the bits that didn’t work, and share hints and tips. People were even willing to pay money to join these things, and a community grew.

Now, people just Google if they have a problem. People also put less effort into documenting what they’ve learnt about a product, although blogs help with that a little. This means that there is much less of a community spirit focused around products than there used to be. It also means that many users groups aren’t having a lot of fun at the moment. The notable except here being things focused on .NET or open source, for some reason I don’t fully understand.

Anyways, that’s my ten cents. Thanks Google — killer of users groups!

[tags: google usergroup]

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