Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category
This time it’s an App dedicated to bringing you streaming Video On Demand + live WebTV direct to your Windows Phone 7 (in awesomely hi-res quality) – and brings the mobilewares.net WP7 app range up to 19 products.
As the name suggests (the AU bit at least) – the app is primarily focused on Australian content (although has a smattering of quality o/s content) – so you won’t be wasting time watching low bitrate foreign language news from the Ukraine (as seems to be the go on many of the other video apps out there on other platforms).
AU Video.OD is built on the same engine used for the previously released AU + UK Newswire Apps – but enhanced somewhat to work directly with full screen live/streaming video and provides a more media rich front end browser.
The App (as pictured above and further below) – provides a couple of different types of sources of content :
One of these is the awesome collection of online streaming video provided by Australia’s ABCTV (and a couple of other parties) – including latest/previous full length episodes of over 20+ shows (ie. The Movie Show, Good Game, At the Movies, Q&A, Poh’s Kitchen, Media Watch etc) – plus latest selected segments from other current affairs/news shows like 7:30 report and Lateline/Lateline Business (which is handy if you’re just after a particular story or interview).
The ABCTV streaming quality is simply awesome – it’s fast, hi-res, full screen – and no buffering (if you’re internet connection is half decent). The other great thing (apart from there being 100’s if not 1000’s of hours of content) – is that it’s all updated daily as new episodes are screened – so there will be always something to watch.
The other source of content is from live WebTV streams – such as 6 live tv channels from BigPond (which I think are the same ones that T-Box users get – such as News, Sports News, AFL, NRL etc) – plus other international channels like BSkyB News UK, Nasa TV etc. These live channels are handy to have available – particularly when there’s live breaking news (such as last few days from the terrible earthquake in Japan).
Please note that all video is very good quality and pretty high bandwidth – so it’s recommended you use this app when you have a wireless connection (home, office etc) – or you ensure you have a very large 3g mobile plan (with several gb’s).
The screenshots above / and below give you some more ideas on the types of content you’ll have available.
Anyhow – AU Video.OD is available right now from the Music & Videos section (or within a couple of hours if you’re marketplace app is caching old data) – for just USD$1.99 – or AUD$3.00 (when converted using the Marketplace exchange rate).
If you’re reading this on a Windows Phone 7 – or you have Zune client installed – click this link below to go straight to the app (so you can install/purchase it):
And in other news…
Additionally – I’m also happy to announce that AU Newswire was a ‘runner up’ in the Microsoft Australia Dev vs Dev competition (results announced today) – and I’ll shortly be the proud owner of a 2nd HTC Mozart device.
Big congratulations are in order to the other runners-up and winner (whom I’m extremely jealous of given they won a totally awesome trip to Mix11 in Las Vegas) – and thanks to Microsoft AU for running the comp!
I’ve developed a couple of new Apps for Windows Phone 7 which will be available for purchase (and trial) via the Windows Phone Marketplace.
These app’s are designed for general consumers (read=non geek / non Media Center) users and are aimed at the ‘Health & Fitness’ category. These apps are Fertility Calculator (currently available for purchase) and Weight Calculator (available soon – currently undergoing certification) – and are both priced at USD$2.99.
Please see below for more information (and screenshots) for these apps :
Fertility Calculator offers a complete solution for fertility and pregnancy planning. Using one of three modes – ‘Trying to Conceive’, ‘Avoid Pregnancy’ or ‘Currently Pregnant’ – this application provides a visual calendar which shows you all the important dates and milestones of your menstruation cycles, fertility dates and your current pregnancy. If you’ve just fallen pregnant – this application will show you all the upcoming milestones like viability dates, your three trimesters and plot out the weeks of your pregnancy. If you are trying to get pregnant – you can also view your upcoming peak fertility and ovulation dates for each month, expected due dates (if you’re successful) and upcoming menstruation cycles. And if you’re avoiding pregnancy – this application will also help you plan the safest dates for intercourse.
Screenshots Below (See Marketplace for additional screenshots – or take the App for a free Trial run) :
Pricing/Availability : USD$2.99 (Trial Version Available) / Available Now in the ‘Health & Fitness’ category in Windows Phone 7 Marketplace.
Weight Calculator offers a complete solution for keeping track of your weight and your health – by analysing 4 vital statistics of your weight profile – including BMI (Body Mass Index), BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), BFC (Body Fat Calculation) and your WHR (Waist to Hip Ratio). Once you’ve updated your profile (which includes your age, weight, height and other body measurements) – Weight Calculate will do the rest – giving you detailed personalized reports to view (with advice/classifications, calculations and graphical charts) – and target values to achieve a healthy lifestyle. The BMR calculator also provides advice on your daily calorie intake needs – providing calorie ranges for different levels of activities. This application is designed for use by Adults aged between 18 and 75 years old – and supports alternate calculations for Males and Females – as well as supporting both Metric (pounds/inches) and Non-Metric (kg/cm) measurement systems.
Keeping track of your Health was never this easy……
Screenshots Below (See Marketplace for additional screenshots – or take the App for a free Trial run) :
Pricing/Availability : USD$2.99 (Trial Version Available) / Available Soon in the ‘Health & Fitness’ category in Windows Phone 7 Marketplace.
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.
ABC TV in Australia (the gov run station) have launched an online video service iView – accessible via your browser (flash based) – featuring 5 channels of full screen on demand video (taken from their on air content). The service is free to the public (not clear if you can access it from outside Australia) – but might gobble up your monthly bandwidth if you don’t keep an eye on things. (currently iiNet is the only ISP to announce they will make this site unmetered – however more will follow soon).
The UI is really nicely done (shame it wasn’t Silverlight) – supports fullscreen mode – and allows you watch recent/latest shows that were broadcast on ABC1 and ABC2. The channels include ABC News, ABC Catchup (recently shown tv), ABC Kazam (kids/animation), ABC Docs (documentaries) and ABC Arts – plus includes the ABC Shop with DVD previews.
If you can get to it – I’d recommend checking out "The Gruen Transfer" – a new show I’ve discovered a few weeks ago – which has a panel of advertising execs discussing latest tv ads/campaigns – and puts a couple of agencies head to head each week by challenging them to come up with an ad for an ‘unsellable product’ (for example last weeks theme was to make an ad encouraging an invasion of New Zealand).
This product + design would work really well on Vista Media Center – alas it’s not controllable by remote control.. (and done in flash).. see the UI below. I’d love to see the other networks embracing the online world like ABC has done – way to go!
Finally – an official EIT Program Guide for Australians…
Some (sortof) great news for Australian PVR users – over the past few months the FTA stations have finally been making their EPG’s available over the air via the EIT features of DVB-T system. Since the Australian digital system was launched (back in 1999) – we’ve only had flakey now/next information – and most of the commercial stations have fought tooth and nail to prevent users from getting an EPG anywhere near a PVR system. Luckily – they all did a well needed policy u-turn – and now Channel 7, Nine and TEN (the commercial networks) all have a 7 day EIT guide on offer, ABC a 4 day guide (gov run). SBS (also gov run) are still struggling to get the now/next information working – but it’s rumored they will have their 7 day guide working sometime by November.
There’s still a few things to iron out with the new EIT services – such as ‘quality and standardization of data, and correct spelling’ - – which might make series recording and the like quite difficult to do. A local site www.myepg.com.au (run by a user from www.xpmediacentre.com.au who initially setup an online petition for EPG data a couple of years ago) – is aiming to keep the bastards honest – and demands the government mandate the networks to clean up their act (and make it a workable solution for scheduled recording).
Without doubt – the #1 feature that will be demanded in future by Australian Vista Media Center users will be ability to consume the EIT guide data from within Media Center.
Australian TiVo has arrived (with a whimper)…
A few weeks ago TiVo was officially launched in Australia (via a partnership with the Seven Network) – aimed squarely at the FTA market (no paytv support) – minus a number of the features found in the US systems. Amongst the exclusions are ad skipping (whats the point without this) – all online services/content – and the ability to share data to your pc (these latter two features will come via paid upgrade sometime in the future). The product is being marketed quite differently over here – with users paying an outright/up-front fee of AUD$699 for lifetime usage (although will incur charges for future features). The product is currently sold exclusively via Harvey Norman stores for the time being (so don’t expect any bargains).
On a side note – the Australian venture suffered a bit of embarrassment when it was pointed out that their advertisement (running on Australian TV) – was remarkably similar to a previous apple ad (which showed images flying in 3d to create buildings etc).
Freeview confirmed for 2009 in Australia
From the article on xpmediacentre.com.au –
The ABC, SBS, the Seven Network, the Nine Network, Network TEN, Prime, WIN and Southern Cross have joined forces to deliver the free-to-air digital television platform. The media companies will comprise a new not-for-profit organisation, chaired by the ABC’s Kim Dalton. Freeview will offer 15 television channels from free-to-air broadcasters on digital platforms, including new channels from the big three commercial networks. It will not include subscription TV. Freeview operates in the UK with an EPG at no cost to viewers, with no satellite dish, no subscription, no ties, no contracts, and no installation costs.
Its a tad unclear what exactly will come out of this beyond what is currently on offer (as each station already has several under utilized subchannels – despite the restrictions being lifted)- and we’ve had our fair share of disappointments in the past by announcements like these not being followed through. Only time will tell – and hopefully it will eventually mean more choices for viewing (for example if you switch on the TV on Sat/Sun afternoon you’re likely to only get live sports or cashforcomment lifestyle programs on every single channel).
As mentioned previously on this blog – the Australian TV Networks are starting to launch breakaway ‘HD’ channels (rather than just simulcasting HD + upconverted SD content) – and this Saturday the 16th Network Ten (10) will be launching their own channel.
Some details were released about a week ago (sample Guide included) – and it’s looking like this new offering from Ten will be really worthwhile for Australian viewers. (with over 50+ hours of unique HD content per week)
Some of the highlights include :
- Time shifted News from 5:00pm to 5:30pm (this is actually really useful for me as we quite often eat at 5:30pm – and have to wait until 6pm otherwise).
- Breakaway programming during the weekday afternoons (HD documentries) at 10:30pm each night – HD movies plus drama series like Veronica Mars (previously taken off air down here) – Over There and The Shield.
- Sci Fi Thursdays (was going to be Saturday initially). This includes new episodes of Smallville, Battlestar Galactica, Torchwood, The 4400, etc.. Breakaway viewing will start at 7:30pm on this night (normally 10:30pm). Hopefully the HD Movie they show on Thursdays will also be Sci Fi as well…
- When simulcasting – TEN HD claims to have HD versions of nearly all the latest US/Imported shows – plus will simulcasting all home/away footy matches next year in HD.
As with previous HD transmissions – shows will be broadcast in 1080i (with 5.1 DD).
Rival network Seven’s HD channel (already launched a couple of months ago) hasn’t been too impressive so far (for some reason HDTV has meant showing a whole bunch of episodes of ‘The Grid’ and ‘That 70s Show’ – which isn’t even widescreen – and the odd matinee movie). This channel however seems to be evolving – and by looking at this weeks guide – they seem to be adding a lot of extra content. (maybe now that there’s some impending competition).
Channel Nine ("Me Too" HD) are still yet to reveal their hand – but promise it will be "everything everyone else’s is and then better" – (ok these weren’t the exact words but was something vaguely along those lines)… no known launch date for this one as yet. If Channel 9 actually pulled all those really great shows they are sitting on out of the closet (as TEN are doing) – and treated viewers with respect for a change (so they have some comfort that the show won’t suddenly be pulled, shown 2 hours late without warning, or moved to 3:00am etc) – they could actually have a winner.
Once upon a time – there lived three commercial TV Stations – Channel 7, GTV 9 and Network 10. Times were never better, and the citizens of the land only had to switch on their tubes to get the latest news, current affairs and light entertainment – often hours before the rival Newspapers had a chance to deliver their versions of events.
The lowly peasants were indeed happy – and mostly due to the ‘clever’ television stations having devised an ingenious way of providing these offerings to them for free - by getting other such prophets and purveyors of goods and services to pay for voicing their opinions.
To ensure peace and harmony – the residing king had also passed laws – that protected the citizens from foreign media invaders – and divided the citizens up in equal shares to each of his friends (at least those who had bought him lunch) - the commercial TV stations.
One day, a fierce and ferocious beast – the internet – invaded the land. The commercial TV stations at first ignored this beast - however the citizens however embraced it with open arms.
The commercial TV stations ran to the king with their arms in the air – and said ‘help protect us from this terrible beast – we fear once the citizens have tasted choice – they will never want to listen to us again’. Again the king passed more laws – but being unaware in the many mysterious ways this beast worked – was not able to stop it.
Soon the commercial TV stations saw the errors in their ways – and thanks to their large inheritances – they were able to purchase most of the goods the internet beast had to offer. And once again they lived in harmony with the citizens – and were again able to provide the services for free to them – via charging the same group of prophets eager to voice their opinion in this new medium.
But once again, the peace and harmony was disturbed by a new wave of foreign invaders - that were this time much more ferocious and intelligent then ever before. These included the Earl of Torrent, the Duke of PVR, the Prince of IPTV and by far the nastiest of them all – the Lord of EPG. These new invaders all had one thing in common – they had made close alliances with the internet beast long beforehand – and they were all good friends.
The commercial TV stations once again ran to the king – who passed even tougher and stricter laws – but this time the citizens weren’t listening. The commercial TV stations however this time refused to make peace with these new invaders, and instead squabbled amongst themselves, allowing other less noble citizens to prophecize.
After several years passed, they came up with many solutions. ‘Lets charge the citizens lots of money for what they used to get for free’ said one. ‘Lets make it really poor quality and restrict what they can do with it’ – said another. ‘Ive an even better plan’ – said the richest – ‘lets buy all the goods and never let the citizens see them unless they are awake past midnight and are willing to wait a year or two’. But by far the most devious solution was ‘Lets silence the Lord of EPG once and for all – and not let those pesky citizens know what we are up to at all’.
But unfortunately, by this time – the citizens had in fact also made close alliances with the internet beast, the Earl of Torrent, the Duke of MCE and the Lord of EPG - and no longer subscribed to the ways of the past. Not only that – but they no longer needed to be friends with tv stations – who had long since become irrelevant to their way of life.
The commercial TV stations began to slowly wither and die – many going to the same retirement homes as their poor cousins who previously owned record stores - and no amount of law passing by the king could save them.
The citizens however – lived happily ever after.
One of my favorite comedy shows The Chasers War on Everything (fka CNNNN ) – is starting again next week (March 28th) for Series 2. It’s a locally (Australian) produced show from ABC TV – and probably wouldn’t make a whole lot of sense if you’re not from these parts. Chasers made the news a few times last year with their stunts (and even managed to get arrested on one occasion) – and cast member Craig Reucassel is at it again with something we will probably see on next weeks show.
So if you’re in Australia – set your pvr’s to record at ABC – 28th March / 9pm for episode 1. They got a pretty raw deal with scheduling (I think they are up against shows like House, Heroes, Prison Break and Medium at this timeslot – so a dual tuner may not help you either) – so luckily there’s a repeat of it 11pm Friday’s – and then some more on ABC2 the following week.
If you’re really worried about missing it – you can also run their countdown clock on your desktop.
Something that also might be of interest with this – is that they use a 3d program called Animation Master (from Hash Inc.) to do almost everything you see (except for some of the final fancy stuff done with Adobe AfterEffects). Animation Master is distinct in that – it only costs US$299 for the full product – as opposed to $1000′s (or $10,000′s) you would pay for some of the rival products. (3D Studio, Maya etc).. So this makes it totally in reach for a lot more people – and smaller companies/developers who want to create high end 3d graphics. I think there’s a demo version available on their site – so if you’re into this sort of thing – give it a shot. (and I believe there’s a strong/active community of end users and enthusiasts for AM to help you along).