Shivering on the 49th Parallel
Friday, May 9, 2008
As long as I can remember, I've been looking for a way to watch tv on the go.
Three years ago I installed a Slingbox at my parents house in Vancouver and then connect to it and stream their tv channels to me down here in Cayman, or on my laptop in a hotel room when I'm on the road (of course, I make sure to check in to a hotel that has free high-speed internet) :) it works pretty good. The main reason I did it was to watch Canucks games, and it works OK for that... My parents' upstream speed is just 512kbps and I find I can get about 489kbps fairly consistently. The lower the bandwidth, the slower the refresh and the blockier the video gets. Not ideal for watching something fast like hockey, but watchable. Upgrading them to the 'extreme' cable modem speed would double their upstream to 1024kbps for $10 month more. I always meant to do that, but never got around to it. Now that I'm moving back to Vancouver it's kind of a moot point. The only drawback is that it's "live" tv. if I wanted to record or time-shift anything, I'd have to buy, set up and configure a TiVo at their house. Slingbox supports a TiVo right down to the remote, but it's another expense and another device to manage.

I've been filling in the blanks with torrents anyway. Widescreen HD streams (although they're shrunk and compressed, they still look better than regular TV) and then watching on my laptop or desktop took the place of watching stuff on TV on someone else's schedule.

Last year when I picked up an Xbox360 and then did the fall update to support XviD, we started using that to stream the tv shows over the network to the TV. Wireless just didn't have the balls to do it though, so I went with a pair of Linksys powerline ethernet devices which promise up to 480mbps throughput. Using Windows Media Connect, it worked great. The only problem that remained was watching this sweet, widescreen, pseudo-HD videos on a shitty 21" TV (at least it has component input) with a nasty overscan.

Not anymore... just after lunch today I took a swing by my US freight/mail forwarder and picked up a new bulb for the tv we got our grubby little mitts on. Tonight, we dine in HELL! OK maybe not... but tonight we watch on an HP 65" DLP HDTV! SO THAT problem is solved, that just leaves.... mobile watching.

When I picked up a PSP a couple years back I had visions of watching tv via WiFi dancing in my head. It never materialized. Sony released the Location Free TV which had a PSP client, but it was $200, and then the client for the PSP was another $30, and then the inevitable nail in the coffin was of course no one knows what the IR codes are for the WestStar custom tv boxes. If you have a learning remote, you can program it to control your WestStar box, but that's it. I went so far as to use PSPVideo9 to automatically convert and sync every video that came down to the PSP, but with a 1gb Memory Stick it filled up pretty quick. I was hoping to be able to watch a show or two on my lunch break the next day, but it never worked very well. Consequently, due to my impending departure in august, I'm selling my PSP. The details are at the previous link on eCay Trade, the free classified ad website down here.

Last year I picked up an iPod Touch and stopped using the PSP for watching video on the plane. Yes, I'm on planes enough that this was something that needed to be addressed. It's an hour and five minutes from Grand Cayman to Miami, which is about 45 minutes of time when you're allowed to use your electronic devices. As it turns out, a 60 minute tv show minus it's commercials is about 42 minutes. Coincidence??? I now had 16 times the amount of storage that I had on the PSP in a device a lot smaller and with an almost comparably sized screen. The iPod's screen is way crisper than the PSPs somewhow, even though it's .1" smaller and slightly less resolution (I think).

It turned out I still had the same issues though, I had to plan ahead and convert videos using Videora's Ipod Touch converter which takes practically real-time to convert from xvid avi to an iPod compatible MP4. As of today, that's no longer a problem. Today I read an article on Lifehacker called OrbLive Streams Live TV to your iPhone or iPod Touch. Excuse me? JACKPOT!

I clicked over to Orb's How-To page and gave it a quick once-over. It seemed easy enough, install the streaming server on your computer and then whatever clients you choose can stream your data (videos, tv tuner, webcam, photos, documents, games, music and even youtube and other online video sites) including the Xbox360, PS3, Wii, Sansa and the iPod and iPhone. They went a step further in that if you have a jailbroken iPhone or iPod you can download a native app to connect to the server rather than a web-browser based interface. Slick.

I used Remote Desktop on my lunch break to log in to my computer at home and download the server. I installed it and created a username in about five minutes and pointed it at my Incoming folder.

Then on my iPod I went to the installer app, updated the sources list and then from Multimedia selected OrbLive. It downloaded the 1.8mb package and then installed it and restarted. After that I had a new OrbLive icon on my screen. I clicked it, entered my username and password as I had set up on my server and... it connected! I clicked Video, and then Folders and there it was: E:\Incoming-BT I clicked that and it brought up a list of the videos in that folder! Slick! I clicked on jPod S01E10 and after a few seconds of Connecting... and Buffering... there it was! it was streaming the video from my computer, over the internet to my iPod via Wifi! SWEEEEEEEEEEEEET! Everton and I then went to get a bite to eat at Cimboco and where we were sitting was within range of one of the C&W Hotspots of which I now have a working username and password. I tried streaming from there and while it worked, it was kinda chunky and stopped to buffer a lot. It was kind of like trying to watch ANYTHING on Real Player (buffering...) I switched to Photos and clicked through the stack of photos to some baby pictures of my brothers and I that Steve had going on a loop at the guestbook table at his wedding. Nice.

If I had a TV tuner and an input going into my computer I could stream Live TV to my Ipod or watch recorded TV in addition to everything else! In addition to the cool-as-shit iPod/iPhone app, the web interface is pretty cool, too. It looks like MediaMonkey and allows you to stream anything you've set to stream to another computer via the web interface, which then invokes your default players when you click play on something. And for some reason it's all free? It would be worth it at TWICE the price!

Friday, May 9, 2008 1:34:51 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00) | Comments [2] | Gadgets | Gaming | Wireless | WWW#
Saturday, May 10, 2008 9:27:38 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
Save jPod! http://savejpod.ca :)
Thursday, July 10, 2008 5:23:30 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
the ir code is 23 for weststar
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