IP-based broadcasting Archive

IPTV now being featured on mainstream TV media

Articles

Smart TVs (A Current Affair article) – NineMSN VIDEO

My Comments

From the recent “A Current Affair” broadcast on the Nine Network, it seems to me that the “Smart TV” or “Internet TV” concept is now ready for prime time.

What is this trend all about?

This is where functionality like access to IPTV channels, “catch-up” TV and video-on-demand is now being integrated in to most of the big-name TV sets that are to be sold at the likes of Harvey Norman. It will also include an “app-store” interface so that users can add functions to these sets in a similar way to how they add functions to a smartphone or tablet computer.

Some of the sets will come with an integrated hard disk which will provide PVR functionality. But what wasn’t mentioned was that most of the sets from the big brands, especially LG, Samsung and Sony, will support integration with the DLNA Home Media Network. This means that these sets could play content held on a computer or network-attached storage device that uses this standards-based technology.

Typically, these functions will be pitched at TVs targeted for the main viewing area i.e. the main lounge room or family room. But this kind of function may be added to existing sets through the use of some of the current-issue Blu-Ray players and network-media adaptors like the Sony SN-M1000P network media adaptor.

A few key questions that I have

“TV plus Apps” or IPTV and interactive-TV content?

There could be a fear that this could turn out as “TV plus apps” with the same old TV content plus some apps such as clients for the popular social networks, photo-sharing sites and YouTube-type sites thrown in.

But some providers are making ties with the various manufacturers to set up free and pay-TV front-ends through the IPTVs. Examples of this include Samsung establishing a tie with BigPond TV to provide direct access to that content or most of the manufacturers running ABC iView through their TV sets. It may also open up opportunities like video-on-demand or boutique content services. As well, once there is a level playing field for adding TV services, this could lead to the addition of extra TV content.

If there is a desire to provide new live or on-demand IPTV services, there needs to be support for adding the newer services to existing IPTV equipment. This could be achieved through an always-live app store on these sets. Similarly, existing broadcast content, both editorial and advertising, must be able to support links to apps and interactive front-ends that are accessible to the average viewer with one click of a particular button through the use of interactive-TV content-delivery standards.

This can include applications ranging from interactive games and competitions that are part of children’s TV through “play-along” quiz shows to polls run in conjunction with current-affairs shows which have the option for you to view “extended-version” interviews.

Equipment Useability

A key issue that I have raised in this site was the useability of services like the Social Web on this class of equipment. Typically, the “smart TV” concept prides itself on connection with social-network services like Twitter and Facebook; but there will be the desire to gain access to photo-sharing sites like Flickr and Picasa or gain full benefit from sites like YouTube. These can make use of “smart-TV” services more daunting for someone who doesn’t find themselves competent or isn’t experienced with technology.

An example of this was when I mentioned to a friend of mine about the Pixel Eyes app on the TiVo platform where they could view their Picasa albums through the lounge-room TV connected to the TiVo PVR. I mentioned that they would have to log in to their Google account using the “pick-pick” method of entering their credentials in order to view their pictures on this service and this idea frightened them off it.

The main problems is that different users will want to log in to this common terminal or, in the case of the Social Web, leave comments in relation to what they are viewing. Typically, this will require a fair bit of text entry and most remote controls won’t be fully engineered to cater to this requirement. The user will typically have to work a D-pad or wave a Wii-style “magic remote” around to pick letters from an onscreen keyboard and may have to switch between logical keyboards to use different character sets like numbers, different-case characters or punctuation. Try entering in a Facebook / Twitter / Google username and password that way or “knocking out” a Tweet that way.  As well, I have raised in that same article methods in which logging in to these services from devices like TVs and set-top boxes can be simplified and referenced how Facebook achieved a login experience suitable for these devices with their HP ePrint app. This includes being able to change the active user associated with a TV or set-top box to another user.

Similarly, I would look at issues like keyboard support for IPTVs. This is whether a TV comes with a QWERTY-enabled remote or not. The best method for add-on keyboard support would be to use Bluetooth HID connectivity so that a Bluetooth-based wireless keyboard can be used as a text-entry tool. Similarly, the ability for one to plug a standard USB computer keyboard in to the USB port usually reserved for USB memory keys and use this for text entry may make things easier. This would work well with those wireless-keyboard sets that plug in to the computer’s USB port.

A remote that doesn’t have a QWERTY keyboard but uses a numeric keypad for direct-channel-selection or parental-code-entry could use this keypad as an “SMS-style” text-entry interface, something which many nimble-fingered teenagers are used to. This would work better if it used the character-set-selection practices used on popular mobile phones.

Other methods that can be looked at include the use of smartphone apps as virtual remote controls like what Samsung has done for their Android smartphones. Here, a user could download an app to their Galaxy S phone and have this become the TV remote control. This could be extended to ideas like multi-control for interactive applications such as “own-account” operation for Social Web and similar applications with the TV screen becoming a “common monitor”.

What to consider when choosing or using your network-enabled TV

DLNA functionality

The TVs or set-top devices should support DLNA Media Player functionality at least, with preferable support for DLNA 1.5 Media Renderer functionality. Initially this would give you access to content held on your computer’s or network-attached-storage device’s hard disk.

The Media Renderer functionality can allow the TV to be controlled by a UPnP AV / DLNA control point such as TwonkyMobile, PlugPlayer or Andromote on your smartphone or tablet computer, or TwonkyManager on your netbook.  In the case of Blu-Ray players and set-top devices, you may even be able to play music from your network storage through your favourite stereo without the need to have the TV on to select the music

If the TV or set-top box offers integrated PVR functionality, look for DLNA Media Server compatibility because this may allow you to play recorded TV shows on other TVs in the house without them needing to be of the same brand.

It is also worth noting that some DLNA functions like DLNA server or Media Renderer may not be enabled by default even though the set has these functions. Here, you may have to go to the setup menus and look for “DLNA control”, “Media Server” or similar options and enable them to benefit fully from these functions.

For further information, it is also worth reading the DLNA Networked Media articles that I have written on this site.

Connecting the set to your home network

When you connect one of these TVs to your home network, I would suggest that you avoid using Wi-Fi wireless connectivity, especially if the TV or set-top box uses a dongle for this connectivity rather than integrated Wi-Fi connectivity. This is because of the fact the Wi-Fi network is radio-based and if anything is shifted slightly between the Wi-Fi router and the TV, you may have service-reliability issues.

Instead, I would recommend that you use a wired method such as Ethernet cable or a HomePlug AV powerline-network setup. The Ethernet-cable solution would work well if the router and TV are in the same room; you have wired your home for Ethernet or you can get away with snaking Ethernet wiring through windows. On the other hand, the HomePlug solution would work well for most users who don’t want to or can’t lay new wiring through their homes because this uses the house’s existing AC wiring.

In fact, if you are renovating or rewiring your home, it may be worth considering wiring the house for Ethernet and making sure you have an Ethernet connection in the main TV-viewing areas of the house. This may be achievable if you have an electrician who is competent or knows one who is competent with communications or data work doing the job.

Conclusion

This site will have regular coverage of home media network issues that will become of importance as we head down the the path towards online home entertainment.

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Product Review–Pure One Flow portable Internet radio (Frontier Internet Radio platform)

Introduction

I am reviewing the Pure One Flow portable Internet radio which is the younger brother of the Pure Evoke Flow radio that I have reviewed a while ago. This unit is designed along the same lines as the “old-style” portable radio that can be perched on a window sill or the top of a fridge.

Price

Recommended Retail Price: AUD$249

ChargePAK battery pack: AUD$99

Pure One Flow portable Internet radio

Functions

Analogue Radio FM RDS stereo
DAB+ Yes
Internet Radio vTuner (Pure Lounge portal)
Network Media DLNA media player

 

Connections

Input Count as for a device
Audio Line input 1 x 3.5mm phone jack
Output  
Headphone output 1 x 3.5mm phone jack
Network  
Wi-Fi 802.11g WPA
Ethernet Requires mini-USB Ethernet adaptor

 

Speakers

Output Power 2.5 Watts (RMS) 1 channel
Speaker Layout 1 3.5” full-range

 

The Internet radio

The Pure One Flow is the same size as a midsized portable radio and is housed in a rubberised cabinet with knobs for volume and “select” function and buttons below LCD display. The rubberised casing is a marked difference from the glossy plastic that is used on some radios, which attracts fingerprints and is hard to keep clean. I also like the knobs, especially for the sound volume because it is an interface most of us are accustomed to, where you can just “flick” the knob downwards to turn it down.

Like the Evoke Flow radio that I previously reviewed, this unit can work on AC using a supplied “wall-wart” power adaptor or battery power using a “ChargePAK” rechargeable battery pack that is available as an extra-cost option.

Pure One Flow portable Internet radio - side viewAudio connectivity is in the form of an auxiliary-in jack so you can use the radio as an amplified speaker for your MP3 player or other audio device. It also has a headphone jack which is a connection that I am noticing is becoming increasingly rare for Internet radios. The reason I find this connection important is that you could use an active-speaker system like a pair of computer speakers as better-sounding more-powerful speakers for the radio.

The set works well as a DAB-based digital radio, being able to pick up all of the multiplexes that are broadcast in our area.

For Internet-radio station selection, this unit uses a  “Form style” user interface if you intend to select a smaller group of stations but will give you the complete list of stations if you are just browsing. This is in contrast to the “tree-based” approach that most Internet radios use for selecting stations.

There is also access to a “sounds” service where you can hear sounds like sea wave; as well as access to the “FlowSongs” music download service.

This radio works properly as a DLNA-compliant media player, being able to play most audio file types that are held on UPnP AV media servers.

The sound quality for this set is very similar to an average mid-sized portable radio such as the archetypal transistor radio of the 1960s. It can still fill an average-sized room with music and the sound is focused around the middle frequencies.

Limitations and Points of Improvement

This unit could be improved with the telescopic aerial being used for the Wi-Fi wireless network as well as for FM and DAB radio.  The Wi-Fi functionality could work well with keeping the details for up to five wireless networks, which can be useful if you take the radio between multiple locations, which is something you would be tempted to do more readily with this set.

Another limitation is that you can’t enable daylight-saving time on this set. Instead, when you determine the time zone, you only can set up for standard time. This could be rectified with a firmware update which exposes a “daylight-saving” on-off function or access to a table of “spring-forward / fall-back” times hosted on the manufacturer’s Website.

Another improvement that I would like to see would be to support regular AA, C or D batteries even with a battery cage so you don’t have to look for the hard-to-get ChargePAK battery packs.

Conclusion

This set may be considered as an option when you want to replace that old “transistor radio” with something that gives you access to “modern” radio sources like DAB or Internet radio. It could he very useful where you want a set of this class to be highly rugged and durable.

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Foxtel–now to be offered in a manner similar to Canal+

Article

Telstra to offer FOXTEL on T-Box in May 2011 – Media Announcement – About Telstra

My comments

Most of the other countries in the world have at least one Internet service provider who provides IPTV or “triple-play” Internet service offering the TV channels that are expected in a multichannel pay-TV service as part of their TV deals. This is whether as a separate option or integrated in to the TV package.

For example, most of the French “triple-play” packages (Livebox, Freebox, Bbox, Box SFR, etc) offer the Canal+ pay-TV service as a “channel package”. Similarly, the channels offered through US cable-TV services are being offered via AT&T’s “FiOS” IPTV offerings.

Now this trend is coming to Australia with Foxtel, Australia’s main pay-TV brand, offering their TV channels through the Telstra T-Box IPTV setup. This will be offered in the same manner as what is done in France, where the Foxtel packages are sold as a particular add-on rather than the channels being part of packages that Telstra BigPond determines.

Advantages

One main advantage I have often seen regarding delivery of the Foxtel brand via IPTV is that there isn’t the need to run extra coaxial cable to each viewing location or fuss with a satellite dish in order to receive this content.

Some households that have highly-landscaped gardens can benefit because there isn’t the need to dig up the garden to run new cable from the street (in the case of underground-cable setups). As well, people who live in forested areas of the cities

Another advantage with this particular setup is that you only need one set-top box to receive the IPTV services provided through BigPond as well as Foxtel. This is more important to those of use who value the idea of “all the eggs in one basket” but have had to worry about room on the TV cabinet for the T-Box and the Fox Box; or extra inputs on the TV in order to have both these services.

Outstanding Questions

There are still some outstanding questions and issues that need to be raised concerning this service. One is whether a user can set up concurrent recording of shows broadcast on Foxtel, BigPond TV and regular TV at the same time. It also includes handling of sequential recordings, especially where the user requires a certain amount of run-on to be recorded to cater for when channels finish their shows later.

This same problem can extend to capacity issues for T-Box and will eventually require measures like support for “offloading” to approved NAS devices, and the availability of larger-capacity PVRs that work with the BigPond IPTV service. This can also open up issues like true multi-room setups with scalable customer-premises hardware in the form of PVRs that have different capacities and functionalities as well as view-only set-top boxes  Here this could allow for “follow-me” viewing, setting up recordings from other rooms and increased recording capacity and concurrency.

How this could affect the pay-TV landscape

It will also be interesting to see how long this deal will be exclusive to Telstra BigPond. This is especially real as some of the other ISPs in the Australian market like iiNet and TPG are offering IPTV service by “picking off” channels from various content providers. As well, Optus will want to get in to this new game by offering IPTV service and may want to run the Foxtel name in its lineup. Similarly, the Austar name, which covers the Foxtel lineup outside the capital cities will want to appear in any IPTV lineup in its market area.

It could then redetermine the role of the traditional multichannel pay-TV distributor like Foxtel or Austar, who used to rely on their infrastructure and their set-top boxes as being core to their operations, causing them to become a “content wholesaler” or “content franchise”. Here, the customer views these services through hardware provided via their IPTV operators such as “triple-play” broadband providers and chooses the service as an option that is part of their broadband, “triple-play” or IPTV package.

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Consumer Electronics Show 2011–Part 2

The Android technology doesn’t stop at handsets or tablets anymore at this year’s CES.

In the car

Parrot are premiering the “Asteroid” which is an Android-powered car radio / multimedia player. It has USB for connectivity to iOS devices, USB flash memory, wireless-broadband modems and GPS pucks at the moment as well as line input for regular audio devices. I am not sure what Bluetooth or hands-free calling abilities it has at the moment but this could change by the time it is released. Of course it has FM radio and, through the 3G connectivity and an Android app, could support Internet radio in the car as well as being a media player and GPS navigation device. It has a power output of 55W x 4 but also has three preamplifier outputs (front, rear, subwoofer) so it can be the head unit for the most tricked-out sound system on the street. Oh yeah, boys!

Similarly, Fujitsu Ten are previewing an satellite-navigation unit which is powered by the Android operating system. The main issue with these Android systems at the moment is that the Google “Android Marketplace” doesn’t support them because they use an interface that is dissimilar to the handset or tablet devices. Here, Parrot or Fujitsu Ten will either have to contract with an Android app store to supply applications to these devices and this app store would have to support the user interfaces provided by automotive Android devices.

In other car-tech news, Ford have developed an AppLink system so that specific iOS apps can be operated from the car’s dashboard. As well, General Motors have developed an IOS link to their OnStar vehicle telematics system but the main problem with these systems is that they necessitate an extra app on the smartphone for each marque. This is compared to Terminal Mode which the European vehicle builders are implementing, which allows one piece of software on the smartphone for many different vehicles and suits the reality that most of us will drive different vehicle marques through our driving life and even have regular access to two or more different vehicles.

As well, GM are intending to implement the PowerMat wireless-charging system in the  American-market vehicles from model-year 2011 onwards. This allows devices with Powermat charging circuitry, whether integrated or as an add-on module to be charged or powered on a special mat wirelessly. I have wondered whether this announcement will then apply to GM nameplates other than Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet or GMC or other markets.

Networked Home Entertainment

Video Entertainment and the Home Theatre

As far as video-based home entertainment goes, 3D video still rules the roost with every one of the major camera names from Japan with a 3D camera or camcorder in their model lineup. As well, every major TV brand that serves the US market is selling a 3D flatscreen TV in their model lineup. Most of the manufacturers are working on 3D viewing technologies that either don’t need glasses or can work with lightweight glasses. This also includes some manufacturers establishing design partnerships with glasses-frame designers to make attractive 3D-viewing glasses.

But there is a lot more action when it comes to network-enabled TVs and video peripherals This is again driven by the supply of  “over-the-top” Internet video services like Netflix and Hulu Plus. It is also being helped along by manufacturers building up “app platforms” which allow the user to download apps to the TV as if it was like one of the smartphones. It can capture the reality of interactive TV as well as use of common Internet services like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook from the comfort of your couch. As well, programs like Skype are being implemented on these TVs in order to make them become large-screen video-conferencing units for the home or small business.

LG have supplied the ST600 Smart TV kit, which is an add-on kit for selected (or all?) LG TVs to link them to the Internet and the DLNA Home Media Network. As well, one of their pico-projectors that they had on show is equipped with an digital-TV tuner and can stream content from a DLNA Media Server.

Sony now has it that all of their new Blu-Ray players are all DLNA and Gracenote enabled/ They all can quickly start a Blu-Ray movie and have support for the “Media Remote” RF link with Wi-Fi-enabled iOS or Android device running a specific app. These same features are also available to their Blu-Ray home theatre systems.

As well, most of the Sony BRAVIA TV range released this year will be network-enabled with DLNA, Internet TV, Skype large-screen videophone and similar functionality. Some models will have integral 802.11n Wi-Fi functionality while the lower-cost models will require a dongle to connect to the Wi-Fi network. This really shouldn’t worry most users because they could use direct Ethernet or HomePlug AV links to connect the TV to the home network.

The Skype videophone function will work with an optional USB webcam / microphone kit that will be available from Sony.

As well, most of the TVs and home-theatre systems honour the full HDMI 1.4 expectation with Audio Return Channel. This means that the sound from the TV’s integrated sources like the digital TV tuner travel back to the home theatre amplifier using the same HDMI cable used to connect the TV to that amplifier. There is no need to use extra digital cable runs to have properly-decoded surround sound from TV broadcasts received via the TV’s tuner.

As well, Sony has released a network-audio product that makes Apple squirm when it comes to their Airport Express and AirPlay subsystem. This product which comes in the form of the HomeShare speakers connects to a Wi-Fi home network and can play out audio content under the control of a UPnP AV (DLNA) Control Point like Windows 7 or TwonkyMedia Manager. This same control functionality is also available in Sony’s latest Blu-Ray Players as well as the NAS-SV20 and NAS-SV10i iPhone docks.

Samsung have come around with a Blu-Ray player that is the thinnest such player ever. This Wi-Fi-enabled player can be wall-mounted and, in my honest opinion, is cutting in on Bang & Olufsen’s “design AV” territory.

They also are releasing the D6000 TVs  which work with RVU compliant pay-TV gateways. This standard, which is a superset of DLNA for pay TV applications). enables access to the full pay-TV feature suite like pay-per-view or video-on-demand without the TV being connected to the pay-TV operator’s set-top box/ This concept has been proven to works with an RVU server box that links to DirecTV’s satellite pay-TV service.

Iomega have also released a Boxee TV set-top box which is similar to D-Link’s unit. But the similarity stops here because it has integrated NAS functionality with DLNA Media Server. It is capable of working with Ethernet wired or 802.11n Wi-Fi networks and uses a double-side remote with QWERTY keyboard. It is available as an enclosue or with a 1Tb or 2Tb hard disk.

Vizio, a low-cost TV brand in the US similar to Kogan, is to implement Via Plus (Google TV) in their Internet-enabled TVs. They will be providing apps that link to Hulu Plus, Blockbuster On Demand, and other popular “over-the-top” TV services. These sets will also have Skype functionality when used with a USB webcam. Vizio will also be implementing glasses-free 3DTV and are dabbling in 21:9 ultra-widescreen TV

Cisco have been focusing on the interactive TV front but in a different way. They sell  the Scientific Atlanta set-top boxes on contract to cable and satellite providers and are implementing an app platform on their newer boxes. This also means that they are providing a “VideoScape” content-selection experience so that users can find the content they are after or look for related content easily.

JVC have released the first “soundbar” speaker system which implements the HDMI 1.4 Audio Return Channel. Here, this technology comes in to its own with these speakers because the sound from the TV emerges through the easy-to-set-up soundbar unit.

Internet radios

Grace Digital have released three Internet radios that have a similar user interface to the Grundig TrioTouch stereo Internet radio or the Revo IKON stereo Internet radio. Here, these sets use as their primary user interface a colour LCD display with icons laid out in a grid not dissimilar to a smartphone or tablet. The Mondo is designed to be a full-on clock radio for the bedside and has a 3.5” display, Ethernet and line-out connectivity and a remote. The Solo Touch is a tuner that connects to one’s favourite music system and has a large 4/3” touchscreen. It connects to the home network via Ethernet. The Bravado X is a stereo table radio with line in / out and has a 2.7” display. These units can also be controllable via a smartphone app which is available for the iOS only at the moment.

As well, Vizio have jumped on the Android bandwagon by providing a stereo table radio which operates on the Android platform. This one is controlled by a colour LCD touchscreen like the typical smartphone. It would most likely would have an Internet-radio app and also pull in music from a DLNA Media Server device.

The next article in the series will focus on network-infrastructure technologies for the small network and what is being offered here.

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Interview Series–Network audio and video

Introduction

Between the end of October and the beginning of November, I had a chance to interview people who work with two different companies that work in the consumer audio-video market and had noticed some trends concerning this market and its relevance to the online world.

One main trend was that there was increased focus by consumer-audio manufacturers who work in the popular marketplace on delivering DAB+ digital radio equipment rather than network-connected audio equipment to the Australian market. This may be because some of these firms need to see this technology become more popular here and want to have “every base covered”.

Sony

From my interview with Kate Winney I had observed that Sony had a strong presence in the connected-TV scene. Here, this was more concentrated with their newer “main-lounge-area” TVs but they are providing this functionality on some of their video peripherals, namely their BD-Live Blu-Ray players.

We agreed that Sony had no Internet radio in its product lineup although they implement Shoutcast on their high-end home-theatre receivers like the STR-DA5500ES. But we agreed that they need to make DAB+ available on their stationary “big sets” like hi-fi tuners, receivers, home-theatre-in-box systems and bookshelf audio systems. They are releasing a few DAB+ sets but most likely as stereo systems rather than as portables or components.

I had stressed to Kate about Sony implementing vTuner or a similar directory-driven service which is implemented in most Internet radios. This is because most of these services offer access to the simulcast streams of the government, commercial and community radio stations broadcasting to local countries around the world as well as the Internet-only streams of the kind that Shoutcast offers. It is also because most people who are interested in Internet radio are likely to want to use it as a way of enjoying the “local flavour” of another country that is provided by that country’s regular broadcasters rather than just looking for offbeat content.

Kate also reckoned that DAB+ digital radio needs to be available in the dashboard of cars in the new fleet, preferably as standard equipment or as a “deal-broker” option offered by car dealers for the technology to become popular. I was also thinking about whether Sony should offer DAB+ technology as part of the XPLOD aftermarket car-audio lineup.

Bush Australia

From my interview with Jacqueline Hickman, I had noticed that Bush are still focused on implementing DAB+ digital radio in Australia but are using Internet radio as a product differentiator for their high-end “new-look” sets that are to appeal to young users

Their market focus for consumer audio is on the “small sets” like table / clock radios, portable radios, small-form stereo systems but I have suggested implementing or trying some value-priced “big sets” as product ideas. This is even though they run some “main-lounge-area” TVs and digital-TV set-top boxes in their consumer video lineup.

The ideas I put forward are a DAB+ or DAB+ / Internet-radio tuner that is for use with existing audio equipment and a FM / DAB+ (or FM / DAB+ / Internet-radio) CD receiver with optional speakers. A market that I cited are the mature-aged people who own “classic hi-fi speakers” from 1960s-1980s that they like the look and sound of but may want to run them with a simpler cost-effective component. I had made a reference to the “casseivers” of the late 70s and early 80s which have an receiver and cassette deck in one housing and what these units offered. Jacqui had reckoned that companies like B&O and Bose filled the market but I have said that some of the companies have gone to active speakers rather than integrating power amplifiers in the equipment. As far as the DAB+ tuner is concerned, she suggested that a person could use a portable DAB+ set and connect it to the amplifier using an appropriate cable.

I raised the topic of IPTV but Jackie was not sure whether this will be implemented in any of their TV sets or set-top boxes at the moment. This sounds like a product class that hasn’t been properly defined with a particular standard and platform especially in this market.

Conclusion

It therefore seems to me that there is more interest by consumer-electronics companies in nurturing the DAB+ digital radio system and the DVB-T digital TV system because they are based on established technology and established metaphors; and appeal more to “Joe Six-Pack” than the Internet-based technologies.

Also, I had noticed that it takes a long time for all equipment classes to benefit from a new technology. This is more so with DAB+ digital radio and, to some extent, Internet radio where the mains-operated stationary “large sets” like hi-fi equipment and stereo systems are under-represented.

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The Telstra T-Hub can now become a fully-fledged Internet radio

News article

Tune into the world with the latest T-Hub software update – Radio, Software, Global | Telstra Exchange

My comments

Previously, the Telstra T-Hub multipurpose Internet device had an Internet radio function but this was limited to receiving the Internet streams of Australian radio stations. Most of us would think that this is limiting because of radios like the ones reviewed on this site being able to pick up Internet streams from overseas radio stations or the fact that we could use vTuner or Reciva web sites to “tune in to” these streams.

There had been a lot of discussion about this on Telstra’s “Exchange” website especially as they were about to release new software for this device, especially with a desire to have this functionality on board. Now Telstra have answered these calls by integrating the fully-fledged Internet radio functionality in to the T-Hub as part of the latest (version 1.10k) firmware update.

Someone raised in response to this article an issue about whether the Internet-radio service would be counted towards one’s Internet-traffic limit and there is a fear that it may not be so for overseas stations. Another key issue that also has to be resolved would be the quality of service that one gets with Internet radio because, as from my experience, there are times where there is increased jitter and latency with Internet radio stations especially when the station’s home country or we enter peak Internet-use times.

This news is also of interest to manufacturers, distributors and users of other multipurpose Internet devices that are intended to supplant or supplement landline-telephone functionality.

How to update the T-Hub to the latest version

  1. Touch the “Settings” icon on the T-Hub’s second home screen
  2. Touch the “Software Updates” icon.
  3. Touch “Check for New Software Updates”. This will identify if the T-Hub is on the latest firmware or whether there is an available update.
  4. If an update is available, touch “Download Now” to start the update process.
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HDTVs and a BD-Live Blu-Ray player driven by Google TV offered by Sony to the US

Articles

Sony Intros the Worlds First HDTV Powered by Google TV | eHomeUpgrade

Sony Internet TV & Sony Internet Blu-ray Player Revealed at NYC Event | Sony Insider

My comments

The new Sony TVs and Blu-Ray player have moved from a regular Sony firmware to a firmware based on the Google TV platform with access to the Android Market. This will provide the extensibility that Google TV can provide especially when new “over-the-top” or interactive TV services come on the Internet scene.

There is no mention of any DLNA support for integration with the DLNA Home Media Network devices; but an Android app pitched at Google TV devices could solve the problem.

At the moment, these sets are only available to US market with the market-specific features such as an ATSC tuner with CableCard support and the BD-Live Blu-Ray player only able to play DVD Region 1 and BD Region A discs. But it doesn’t take long for Sony to reconfigure their TV devices for the European, Asian or Australian / New-Zealand markets by adding features that are specific to these markets .

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Tweet this on your lounge-room TV with Panasonic

 

Panasonic Adds A Twitter App To Its Viera Cast Plasma HDTVS

My Comments

First, they did it by enabling video conferencing with Skype, now Panasonic are allowing you to Tweet a comment about that show you are watching or follow your Twitter friends on your lounge-room TV. Who knows not if but when Facebook will become the next add-on for Panasonic’s Viera-Cast TVs and Blu-Ray players. These sets will also need to work with a remote control that has a QWERTY alphanumeric keyboard so you you can get those Tweets or status updates out as that show progresses.

This happens to be highly relevant as an increasing number of television shows, mainly sports, talk shows, current-event broadcasts, reality TV and the like integrate Twitter in to their content and have set up a particular hashtag associated with that show. This typically includes the use of a “Twitter crawl” that appears at the bottom of the screen and / or the show’s compere or anchor citing selected Tweets directed at the show.

It is becoming the direction for manufacturers to extend the common social-Web and Internet-driven-communications platforms to a “10-foot” experience on the lounge-room TV or video peripheral (Blu-Ray player or “personal-TV service”) either by providing the function as an “app” that you choose from an “app-menu” or “app-store”; or as part of a firmware update that is rolled out to the device.

This may require a change in the direction on how the remote control for the TV set is designed. This may be in the form of a handset that mimics the Nokia N97 Mini smartphone where the top of the remote swings away to reveal a QWERTY keypad; a handset that looks like a BlackBerry or Nokia E-Series smartphone or simply an app for the common smartphone platforms which provides TV control as well as a link between the phone’s text-entry keyboard and the TV. It may also mean that the infra-red remote control will go the way of the ultrasonic remote control and be replaced by a Bluetooth or Wi-Fi remote control. Other solutions may also include support for standards-based Bluetooth keyboards like the Logitech diNovo Mini or Microsoft’s Media Center keyboards.

In this case, there will need to be an interest in designing more of the multimedia keyboards that appeal to being operated while you are slouching on the couch. This will mean keyboards that are backlit when they are used, small keyboards that can be worked with two thumbs; keyboards resistant to damage from crisps (US: chips) and sweet drinks that are often consumed in front of the telly and elegant-design keyboards.

Now it will certainly mean that the TV isn’t just for watching your favourite shows any more. It will also be about integrating the social Web with the experience.

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Another one for the Android-based TV platform

News Article

Sony Internet TV Has An Intel Atom Processor And Runs Google TV, Chrome, Flash 10.1 | Sony Insider

From the horse’s mouth

Sony’s official Internet TV Website – Sony Style

My comments

Previously, I had written in my blog about People Of Lava introducing an Internet-enabled TV that was based on the Google Android Platform. This is a brand that may not be on everyone’s lips, especially when it comes to consumer electronics.

But now Google had determined an Android-based app-driven TV platform to go alongside their Android app-driven mobile phone platform and described it as “Google TV”. They have pitched this at digital TV sets and various set-top applications, primarily as an open platform for delivering Internet-enabled interactive TV.

Sony have become the first mainstream TV manufacturer to implement this platform, which will give it an air of legitimacy in the consumer-electronics space. This is eve though the interactive-TV space has been dominated by various closed or limited platforms like the games consoles, the PVR boxes such as TiVo, and various pay-TV platforms.

I often wonder that if Google keeps the Android platform as an open platform, they could provide many interesting applications and uses for many devices.

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Product Review – OXX Digital Classic DAB+ tabletop Internet radio

OXX Classic V Internet radioI am reviewing another of the Internet radios that are in that “mantel-radio” form factor like the Kogan Internet radio that I previously reviewed. From what I have noticed, it was as though it was the Kogan radio but without an iPod dock and in a glossy white cabinet.

The set is connected to mains power via a mains cord that is attached to the set rather than the usual AC adaptor that plugs in to the set. This is more in line with the traditional mantel radio or most of the clock radios that are currently ins use and will be likely to benefit people who have to deal with crowded power outlets and powerboards,

The set uses a bitmap LCD display which yields a large clock display whenever it is turned off and provides a useable menu display. The knobs are of an equal shape and all the buttons are lined up under the display in a single row. This may impair useability for older people because the labelling is too small.

On the other hand, the volume control is a real analogue volume control rather than the rotary encoder that I have used on most Internet radios and other recent consumer electronics. This will appeal more to mature people who want greater control of the set’s output volume – I have even heard that a sign of a person’s maturity is knowing that the volume control can be turned down rather than always up!!!!

Connectivity

Kogan and OXX Internet radios

Kogan and OXX Internet radios alongside each other

Like the Kogan table radio, there is an auxiliary input for external audio equipment like MP3 players and Discmans as well as a headphone jack which you can use as an external speaker jack when connected to active speakers.

It also excels on network connectivity through the provision of an Ethernet socket for use with wired networks, including HomePlug powerline networks. The wireless-network connectivity has been improved through support for WPS “push-push” setups as well as network profiles for multiple different wireless networks.

Lately, I had visited another location where this set was in use as a kitchen radio and was setting it up to work with a multiple-access-point wireless network and it shows each access point as a single entity even though the network was set up as an extended-service-set. This is still a problem with the Frontier chipset Internet radios because they are presumed to be kept in a single position rather than moved around the network. As well, the WPS “push-push” setup experience went very smoothly without a problem when I enrolled it with a router that was set up to work as an access point.

Use

There are four preset buttons for each of the operating bands as well as support for integration with the “www.wifiradio-frontier.com” Internet-radio portal. This then allows for a larger list of preferred stations to be kept consistent across multiple sets.

The unit also has improvements in other areas like dead-programme “clean-up” with DAB multiplexes for sets that are moved between towns or whenever the multiplexes are rearranged. Similarly there is also an equaliser function with five tone presets and manual adjustment for bass and treble. There wasn’t a loudness-compensation control on the manual tone adjustment unlike other Frontier radios with similar firmware.

It does work well with DLNA media services, especially the TwonkyMedia Server that is part of the Western Digital MyBook World Edition network hard disk. At the moment, it only works as a media player that can be operated from its control surface.

Bitmap display on OXX radio

Bitmap display on OXX radio

When this set is run at a loud volume, it sounds as loud as the Kogan set, which is loud enough to cut over noisy kitchen appliances for example.

Limitations and Points of Improvement

One main limitation that I have experienced is the tendency to work on a small buffer which causes the radio to “start and stop” especially when playing some overseas Internet radio stations. It may be also limited through problems with Wi-Fi networks that may be difficult in some areas. The problem may also become worse as more people “hit on to” Internet radio – the new “short-wave” band, and servers don’t work well for quality of service. Other radios don’t seem to be as sensitive to this problem as much as this model.

A point of improvement that I would like to see would be steps to make the set more ergonomic and easier to use. For example, I would like to make the buttons more prominent so they are easier to find. This is more so for the on-off button and the mode button. As well, the LCD display could be better replaced with one of the monochrome OLED displays to improve on readability, or could be engineered to fill the display panel space more to make better use of that space.

Other than that, there wasn’t any other main limitation with this particular set for its class.

Conclusion

Although there is the limitation with the set working on a small buffer and being more prone to “start-stop” behaviour with Internet radio, it can work well as a tabletop radio / network media player for an office, waiting room, small shop or kitchen. I wouldn’t recommend this set for use in a workshop or similar location because of the glossy finish being more susceptible to damage that occurs in those areas.

Update note – 18 May 2012

I have added some further experience notes about the OXX Digital Classic DAB+ Internet radio since this review was published. This is due to my using a a radio of the same model that had been purchased by someone whose home network I was servicing and optimising.

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