Archive for December 2008
Up until Jan 15 (2009) I’m offering a BIG discount on the Big Screen apps for Vista Media Center – and you can get them for a for only USD$14.95 each. (which is up to 40% of the SRP).
To get this special price – you will need to supply a discount code. See original email below for how to get this offer (and some further instructions on how to enter the discount codes below that) -
Note: This offer was also emailed out earlier this week to registered bigscreenglobal.com users (that had the ‘contact me about offers.. etc’ option enabled on their account profile). Although I’ve made an exception this time (and decided to announce this on my blog) – please ensure you do sign up for an account (and check the appropriate notification options) to find out about specials like this (and other product announcements).
Since I’ve had a few emails in the past on how to purchase/apply discount codes – – please see this quick guide below :
1. If you’ve already signed up for a trial version of the product you want to purchase (and you will have a bigscreenglobal.com account) – the ‘Buy Now’ button will be made available via your account management page as per the picture below.
Note : You can also get to this ‘Buy Now’ button via the ‘purchase’ page for each product (and you will be asked to create a bigscreenglobal.com account if you don’t have one or sign in to your existing account if not already signed in).
2. When you get to this page the full RRP will be shown. You can then enter the ‘discount code’ in the supplied text box. (example below for the above offer) :
3. Once you have entered the code and clicked the ‘Submit’ button – the page will be refreshed with the new discounted price. At this point you can click on the BUY NOW button to continue with your purchase.
4. After you complete the purchase (via Paypal) – you will then be the proud owner of a big screen product license. If you already installed a trial version of the purchased product – and nominated to ‘upsize’ your existing Serial Number (during purchase) – then all you need to do is run the product inside Media Center where you can ‘reverify’ the product (which will automatically remove the trial limitations/expiry dates). If you were issued a new Serial Number – then you can run the Product Registration tool and enter your new serial number without requiring a reinstall of the product (located in the Windows Start Menu – via the Appropriate Big Screen subfolder).
Please see the bigscreenglobal.com faq+support section for more details on purchasing/activation and ..
Happy purchasing – and remember this special discount will expire on Jan 15…
I’ve noticed that getting hold of latest rental movie’s on Blu-Ray seems to be increasingly more difficult of late – and it’s been at least 3 weeks since I’ve managed to hire a new release in that format. On further investigation – it turns out 2 out of the 3 local movie rental stores I go to have decided to stop getting new Blu-Ray titles altogether – claiming that people simply weren’t renting them. The other store who does still have Blu-Ray has only ever been half committed – and rarely gets more than 2-3 new titles a month. (and seems to be getting less and less of them).
I don’t ever remember anything like this happening when DVD’s were the ‘new’ format – and once rental stores starting stocking them (after a slow start) – they upped the number of titles quickly until their VHS tapes became relegated to a shelf at the back of the store.
Unfortunately – in Australia the Blu-Ray players are still too expensive – with the cheapest models available for around AUD$400. Similarly buying new BluRay’s movies will set you back around AUD$50 – whereas the same title on DVD will cost between AUD$20-30 depending on where you shop. For rental stores (who have all charged same o/night price no matter what the format) – it means they need to rent each title several more times just to break even.
Movies on demand as a viable alternative is still a LONG way off in Australia due to a plethora of reasons. Apart from the usual suspects – bandwidth costs, slow speeds and DRM related issues – so far the Australian offerings provide consumers with much less choice, older titles and worse quality – all for a substantially higher price.
Hopefully this isn’t a prelude to the death of the Blu-Ray format – as there’s really no ‘equal’ format that offers the full 1080P high def quality delivered. However, unless the companies involved can get the cost of both players + titles down – the future for Blu-Ray is looking very uncertain.
The introduction in 2009 of the Australian ‘freeview’ system could either be a blessing – or a really bad thing – for existing Australians television users (of which over 50% are now using DVB-T hardware to access digital TV).
The TV Broadcasters / and Freeview organization have so far been tight lipped about exactly how it will be implemented – but what we do know is that each of the 5 major broadcasters will be allowed an additional channel (which is not restricted to only showing duplicated content).
The picture below (from freeview site) shows the 15 unique channels that will be offered both with/without freeview. Note that for Channel TEN – this picture is wrong – and the three channels are actually going to be Ten SD, One HD, and ONE SD (with ONE being the brand name for a new sports only channel) – and the existing TEN HD channel being ditched (so standard shows on TEN will no longer be broadcast in HD much to the dismay of many viewers).
Unlike the freeview systems in the UK and NZ where ‘freeview’ introduced a new MPEG4.h264/DVB-S2 based system – all these channels will be delivered over the existing DVB-T system (which is locked down to MPEG2 content only). As with UK/NZ freeview – manufacturers will need to pay a per unit fee in order to have the official ‘freeview’ logo on their packaging, rumoured to be around $10 at manufacturing point (and potentially a lot more by the time it hits retail). Keeping in mind that you can pick up DVB-T Set Top Boxes (STB’s) from the supermarket down here for as little as $30 a pop – this might raise the prices significantly. Additionally – in order to get the freeview badge on PVR equipment – features like ad-skipping will be banned as will ability to seek through recordings (with maximum of 10x speed allowed).
While Australian’s will welcome the new channels – the major point of concern is what will happen to the current 7 Day Electronic Program Guide (EPG) – which is transmitted unencrypted and for viewable for free (without upgrading to any ‘freeview’ approved devices). The existing 7 day EPG metadata is viewable on the large majority of STB’s and HDTV’s on the market now – as it conforms to open standards (where the actual guide metadata can be parsed and understood). This conformance also means both hardware and software based PVR systems like Vista Media Center (as of TVPack2008) can read in this EPG – allowing users to search the EPG, schedule recordings in advance and do automated series recording.
Again – while no concrete evidence is yet available – it’s starting to very much appear like the freeview ‘EPG’ might be delivered using MHEG5 (Interactive TV Technology) – which means a small iTV application will be transmitted over the air and run on the local STB/HDTV/PVR system. (much like a java application is downloaded and run in your browser). While this will give end users a consistent looking User Interfaces for viewing the EPG (some of the existing devices out there have woefully bad inbuilt EPG viewers) – it puts up a brick wall between the device and the MHEG application – meaning that the device will no longer actually be able to access the raw EPG metadata. (and hence tight integration with PVR systems like Media Center etc will no longer work).
It may also mean that the hundreds of thousands of DVB-T capable devices out there will be rendered obsolete (if the viewer actually wants to get the EPG) – as none of the existing devices support MHEG5. There was a single MHEG capable STB released for the Australian market back in 2002/2003 by TEAC (priced at over AUD$450) – and due to poor sales – and there only being the odd token Interactive program being broadcast (that utilized MHEG) – it was discontinued shortly after. (and no MHEG content has been shown in Australia DVB-T since).
*If* this MHEG guide is implemented for freeview – the big question will then be :
1) Will EIT and MHEG guides be transmitted in future in tandem..
2) Will the EIT guide be switched off altogether (or only now/next info be transmitted) – and users forced to buy freeview approved devices to see an EPG.
If it’s 2 – then it’s a really bad thing – and the entire freeview system is really just a nasty way of tricking the public into paying extra for a DRM protected EPG system offering absolutely no additional benefit (and more than likely taking away features they used to have).
There’s also been no mention whatsoever of any ‘additional’ interactive services being made available – which could have actually been a real compelling reason to upgrade to a MHEG compliant device.
It also will be hugely expensive for consumers to upgrade their equipment – many having just spent $1000+ on new HDTV’s with inbuilt tuners (which no doubt will either not be upgradable to support MHEG5 or require the associated costs of getting a firmware upgrade). Right at the moment of course – ‘freeview’ badged equipment is not available for sale anywhere (sometime in 2009) – so many users buying new equipment for Xmas are likely to end up with outdated goods very quickly (with no manufacturers committing to free upgrades/etc).
We won’t know of course the full extent of what freeview brings us (or takes from us) until more announcements are made over the coming months.
If you’re an Australian internet user – or an Australian/global entity that targets Australian users via the Web – I urge you to sign the GetUp! “Save the Net” petition – and help prevent the Australian Federal Government’s planned mandatory internet censorship filters from being implemented.
The system been largely touted by the government as ‘necessary step’ to prevent child pornography (and apparently ‘euthanasia material’) – and that the existing ‘opt-in’ system for locally installing free/provided filters (known as ‘NetAlert’) is not enough. However, the system won’t actually be able to filter/prevent content being passed through file sharing, chat rooms and other secure or proprietary systems (indicated by child welfare groups as the place this sort of illegal activity generally occurs) – and tests so far indicate it’s completely ineffective at trying to block ‘inappropriate’ content.
Here’s a quick run down of what’s going down, from the GetUp! site – (which offers the online petition – so far signed by 85,000 people) :
The Federal Government is planning to force all Australian servers to filter internet traffic and block any material the Government deems ‘inappropriate’. Under the plan, the Government can add any ‘unwanted’ site to a secret blacklist.
Testing has already begun on systems that will slow our internet by up to 87%, make it more expensive, miss the vast majority of inappropriate content and accidentally block up to 1 in 12 legitimate sites. Our children deserve better protection – and that won’t be achieved by wasting millions on this deeply flawed system.
Sign the petition below:
”I don’t want draconian government restrictions on the internet that will hold back the digital economy and miss the vast majority of unwanted content.”
GetUp! has also published a ‘Fact Sheet’ – http://www.getup.org.au/files/campaigns/internetcensorshipfactsheet.pdf for some more interesting (and disturbing) reading.
The labor gov. has so far been ignoring the huge backlash from the public, various child welfare agencies, the Greens and others who have all also slammed the system as completely ineffective – and sure to take Australia back into the digital dark-ages by severely degrading internet speeds.
The mandatory censorship seems to be a ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ system – and done with no real public consultation – and I’m very disappointed to see the Labor government doing this sort of thing. (and definitely not what most Australians who voted for PM Rudd expected). If implemented – we would be the only western democracy in the world to have such measures. (currently similar systems are running in places like Saudi Arabia, China and Iran).
There’s also been absolutely no information provided by the government on how the innocent victims (companies/individuals who run the 1 in 12 legitimate sites that might get ‘accidently’ blocked) can actually appeal/remove themselves from this ‘secret blacklist’. I’ve no doubt that it won’t be an overnight process – and given the governments reputation for being unable to act quickly (or make sensible decisions on anything related to technology ) – it could easily result in companies having their business destroyed while they wait for public servants to muddle their way through a resolution.
Let’s all hope this system never see’s the light of day.
SBS Australia has just started transmitting a 7 day EIT Electronic Program Guide (transmitted over the air) for their primary SD + HD DVB-T channels (nothing appearing yet for the World News channel). Up until now they were only providing half working Now/Next data – and were the only broadcaster not providing a 7 day guide (most of the others came to the party over the last 3-6 months).
The SBS EIT data has also been delivered a couple of months earlier than expected (previously I was told that they were aiming for late feb 09 – but no ‘promised dates’ were committed to).
This is great news for Media Center users (who are using either TVPack2008 or Windows 7) – and due to changes to the platform (introduced with TVPack) were prevented from loading 3rd party EPG’s.
Combined with the new Dec08 fixes for TVPack 2008 – VMC is now finally a full ‘out-of-the-box’ solution for Australian consumers (with all guide data now available for the first time ever).
Pete Brown over on the Media Center and Me Blog asks Media Center users on TGB what ‘single feature you want Santa Soft to add to Media Center for your holiday gift’..
Luckily – Aussies and UK users who have been battling it out with (or already uninstalling) TV Pack 2008 – have been paid an early visit from Santa already – in the form of the December 2008 Vista Media Center (TV Pack) Commulative Updates KB957209 + KB959485 . This blog entry has all the download links (some of which are not quite enabled at time of posting) – and KB957209 is the really important one for me (and other DVBT/EIT users) as it fixes the problems with broken and forgotten scheduled recordings…
Congrats to the Media Center team for getting these issues sorted – and I look forward to these patches in the next Windows 7 beta (which is currently inherits the TVPack2008 problems)…
ps – there’s of course no love yet for 3rd party EPG services – however the Aussie EIT data is slowly improving (except for SBS) – and seems to be working fine for series recordings at least..