Tag Archives: media

Sorry?

I was quite surprised when I saw these adverts for the first time yesterday at Paddington Station. I saw them again this morning at Oxford Circus, and I suspect they’re being shown quite widely. This one was on its own, but they were also being shown as every other ad on the video ad screens up all the main escalators.

It’s quite a daring advert campaign – and one I have a hard time believing. To me, the Evening Standard, along with its former owner the Daily Mail, have been for a long time synonymous with racism, homophobia and general, widespread negativity. I’ve assumed that every article is pretty much about sending the ‘dirty black, gay, asylum-seeking, dole-scum’ back where they came from.

The Guardian comments on the new advertising campaign, noting that if nothing else it will spark debate, following the paper’s acquisition by a Russian billionaire and his plan to transform the paper.

He stated that he’d like to make the paper younger, more ‘progressive’ and more positive about life in London. This can only be a good thing – I for one would pay for a quality evening newspaper that provided a decent amount of interesting news – a Guardian-lite, perhaps – instead of the drivel that is currently available, whether the freesheets or the current incarnation of the Standard. When the paper is relaunched on 11 May, it’d be great to see this transformation – but I think I’ll wait for the news coverage rather than queuing for my own copy.

Doubletwist

I first heard about Doubletwist around a year ago, and never really expected it to turn into a real product, but it entered into public beta (on the Mac, at least) this week.

It’s slogan is ‘All your stuff, on all your devices, with all your friends — in seconds’. It’s a media manager that seems to have a pretty good UI, and on the Mac mimics somewhat the Finder or iTunes sidebar, showing your music, photos and videos. It also has a ‘friend feed’ for you to see what your Doubletwist friends are playing (or sharing), and you can upload media to Youtube, Flickr and Facebook. Surprisingly, you can even share tracks you’ve bought from iTunes with your friends.

The most impressive feature is that of copying your media (including DRM-protected content, such as purchased iTunes songs). A pretty large set of devices are included, counting Nokia phones, Blackberries, Windows mobile, Android and the PSP – oddly iPod and iPhone sync support is only available in the PC version.

Sync is as simple as it could be – just drag the media you want on to your device, and any encoding or translation is done on the fly.

Whilst some of the more extreme DRM-ripping features have been removed since the initial concept came about last year, and the media playing features aren’t that great yet, it looks like an interesting tool to keep an eye on.

UK TiVo Upgrading

The TiVo, in my mind, is one of the best media inventions – basically ever. It’s been around for quite a number of years now, starting life as what’s now seen as a simple PVR (personal video recorder). The biggest selling point when it first launched was the ability to pause live TV, and when it launched in the UK it was decidedly ahead of it’s time – it launched at around £500, plus subscription, and people didn’t really understand what the point was.

The exclusive distributor in the UK was Sky – and of course they quite happily ripped off the product when Thomson decided to stop making it, in the form of Sky+. In the US, meanwhile, where there’s somewhat less of a TV monopoly, TiVo have continued to innovate. The software is available in standalone units for both standard and HD TV and also embedded in satellite and cable providers’ boxes as a premium option. It also now integrates with the (again US-only) Amazon Unbox movie download service, and can stream a variety of other sources of media from your own home network and assorted internet download sites.

So this takes me to the subject in hand. I bought one of the last TiVos from a store in London, an ex-demonstration unit. I absolutely loved it, and for a long time resisted the urge to swap my Sky and TiVo combination for a Sky+ unit – the functionality of the TiVo is so much better implemented, with a clean and easy to use interface that masks a wealth of functionality in comparison to the continual disappointment of Sky+. I’ve recently sold my TiVo for the ease of a one-box solution, however I kept a variety of links for the upgrades I’d made to my TiVo and thought it might be worthwhile listing them for someone to find via Google.

Hard Drive

The TiVo came with a 40Gb hard drive, which allows for around 20 hours or so of recording on ‘best quality’ mode. It’s a standard 3.5″ IDE hard drive, and the TiVo itself runs Linux, so it’s a relatively easy thing to do to add a new drive. You’ll need a PC with a CD/DVD drive, from which you boot an image CD that lets you modify the hard drives, and ideally a spare FAT-formatted drive for a backup. There are a variety of guides for this, but the best I’ve found are:

Steve Conrad’s Upgrade Diary – A UK TiVo user’s upgrade experience
MFSLive – The best download source for boot images and TiVo drive tools, as well as a (non-UK) upgrade guide
ljay’s guide – Another UK guide

An upgrade to a 300Gb drive (very cheap these days) will give you over 100 hours of recording space

Ultra-Mega-High-Quality recordings

Next up, now that you’ve got a whole heap of disk space you might want to improve the quality of the recordings. The TiVo has a number of recording modes – Basic/Medium, at 352×576 resolution, High at 480×576 and Best at 544×576 are the ‘normal’ ones available. There is also a hidden extra mode, mode 0, at 720×576. The easiest guide for doing this is again at Ljay’s site. This can cause the odd adverse effect – particularly some flickering lines at the bottom of your picture. The background to the Mode 0 upgrade is on the TiVo Community forum.

Web Upgrade

TiVo Central will sell you for under £70 a network and cache-card combined. The network card plugs into a slot on the motherboard of your TiVo and allows you to access it over your network… Moreover it allows you to avoid the nightly phone connection, instead downloading TV listings over the internet.

There’s an actively developed web server, which lets you remotely schedule recordings of TV. By means of port-forwarding, this means you can access your TiVo from anywhere and set, change or delete recordings or Season Passes. The web server is called, cunningly enough TiVoWebPlus – being an evolution of the TiVoWeb project.

TiVoWeb is pretty advanced – as well as setting recordings, you can also control the TiVo – remotely accessing all of the functionality of the TiVo’s menus and also getting at the innards. There are a vast array of scripts you can download, allowing you to receive daily emails (or RSS feeds) of the programmes that have been recorded or that are scheduled, or to add dynamic padding so shows are less likely clash whilst still ensuring you don’t miss the start or end of a show.

You can also update the channel logos seen on the TiVo – there are logo packs, and scripts for doing this.

There are scripts that allow you to validate the data in the channel guide and improve it, too.

Finally, for those with good TVs, there are scripts that allow you to modify the graphics for the TiVo’s on-screen menus to avoid flickering.

Hopefully this is useful to someone who’s recently acquired a TiVo and would like to play with it… At least to tide them over until one day TiVo comes back to the UK.