Using Chromecast

A year or two ago, I started seeing information on Google’s new streaming video device: Chromecast.  The information I initially gathered was sketchy, but, as I studied it, I began to understand some of it’s capabilities. Sufficiently intrigued, I asked Santa for a Chromecast for Christmas 2014, and guess what?  I got it!  

What is Chromecast?

chromecast appOstensibly, the $35.00 Chromecast allows you to watch streaming video content (ie Netflix, VUDU, Hulu, Google Play, YouTube, etc.) on your big screen TV.  All this is controlled via your smartphone and an app called, ingeniously, “Chromecast” (see the red circle in the picture).

Hmmmm, I already have two devices that allow us to watch streamed content from many sources: Our old Sony Blu-Ray player and our fairly new Samsung SMART HDTV . Each connects to the Internet (one wired, one WiFi) and each allows us to watch all sorts of online content (i.e. movies or binge on TV) on the big screen. 

Why do I need a Chromecast when I already have these two devices and am perfectly happy with them?

Well….in addition to streaming the video content from the web, I can also stream much of the content on my Android smartphone, or iPhone, or laptop computer onto the big screen:  Photos, applications, games, or just share the screen.

Question:  Do I really need this capability?

Answer: Probably not (me personally), but, maybe. “Build it and they will come”

Connecting Chromecast to Your TV

The picture shows the main components of the Chromecast system.  Just plug the pieces together as shown, then plug the Chromecast dongle into an open HDMI port on your TV and the power plug into the wall or power strip.  You are ready to go.  Easy as 3.14.

chromecast components labeled

Setting Up Chromecast

Now that you have it plugged in and powered up, you are ready to set it up.  When I installed it (in the crush of Christmas) I did not take screenshots or pictures, sooooooo, here is a Google video that shows the setup:

How Does Chromecast Work?

Now that Chromecast dongle is setup and working, here is what I suspect is happening.

  1. Chromecast is connected to the Internet via WiFi.  (If you don’t have WiFi you are screwed, but, it is 2015…get with the program.  haha).
  2. Your Android or IOS smartphone, tablet, or computer connects, via the Chromecast app or program, to the Chromecast dongle.
  3. Your phone then tells Chromecast where to look to get content:  Netflix, VUDU, Hulu, Google Play, or any number of apps that support Chromecast, see this list.
  4. Chromecast then grabs the content you want and displays it on your TV via the HDMI port.
  5. You can control the dongle via your smartphone or computer: Play, pause, stop, fast forward, etc.

Very cool and you now have a new remote to add to all the others….your smartphone.  haha

Watching Our First Movie

Now that we have it all connected and setup (and sort of understand how it works) we are ready to watch our first movie.

the interviewWith all the buzz around “The Interview” around the holidays, we decided to watch it via Google Play.  After finding and paying to rent it on Google Play we simply hit the play icon and the Chromcast icon (in the yellow circle) and watched the movie come to life on our big screen HDTV.

Nice.

Although “The Interview” was kind of a crappy movie (see my review), the video and audio quality were comparable to the Sony Blu-Ray player that is wired to the Internet. It did freeze at one point and we needed to fiddle with it to get it running again. But then it was fine.

Very nice.

Possible Issues with Buffering?

the best exotic marigold hotel

We have watched one more movie and noticed that the video streaming, again, stopped at one point.  I fiddled around but finally just rebooted and went back to the scene where it stopped.

vuduAs a test, I have since watched a few trailers on VUDU and noticed that the playback of the video stalled with a spinning wheel until it started up again a few seconds later. Buffering. For a quick comparison, I immediately viewed the same trailers using the Samsung SMART TV and they were smooth as silk.  (Note: The Chromecast was plugged into the Samsung and both are connected to the Internet via WiFi).

In case there is any doubt…here is a measurement of our Wifi connection speeds at home.

home internet via wifi

Not bad and certainly sufficient for smooth video operation even at HD bit rates.

Other Chromecast Features

Viewing Photos

To view the photos, they must be online.

sunny at 7

If they are just on your phone, this is the message you get.

photos need to be on the internet

Sharing Your Smartphone Screen

In Beta is the ability to share your screen on the TV.  Probably will be useful for presentations and such.  You can see my Galaxy note 4 in the bottom right.

screen sharing 1

Backgound on Your TV

You can put your own pictures as the background on your TV, or you can select various options.  Since I do not sit and watch the TV while the background is running, I just picked from one of the options.  However, for family photo viewing, this is great.

background 1

background 2

Conclusion

Chromecast is a fun device to play with.

If you do not already have a more expensive device to play content from the Internet then Chromecast is a good, very affordable, product for you to have.

If you want to show photos, or display your screen, and applications on a large screen, then Chromecast is again for you.

There are other features I did not touch on here, so please go to this web site for all you need to know about Google Chromecast.

For some nitty gritty technical details, visit this site.

VUDU Now Streaming on the iPad

++Originally posted on ForCarol.com++

If you have read our Movie Reviews on this blog, you may have run across the fact that we sometimes watch movies on “VUDU”.  As an engineer, and blogger, several years ago, I tested a new Internet-based streaming technology and LOVED IT!  That was VUDU (see my original blog post raving about it).

We own a VUDU box and it is the BEST…

Well word now comes that Wal-Mart (they bought VUDU a year or so ago) has released the ability for VUDU to work on your iPAD!  How cool is that?  All together now:  VERY COOL!!!

Here is the link to a Forbes article.

I’ll quote a bit of it below, if you are interested.

Walmart Launches Video Service for iPad

MarketNewsVideo.com , 08.10.11, 03:10 PM EDT

Walmart (WMT) said today it has launched its VUDU video-on-demand service for Apples (AAPL) iPad. The service will allow iPad users to rent or buy entertainment content and stream it over their iPad browser, without being obligated to sign up for a subscription, as they are with other services such as Netflix (NLFX).

Walmart said today it has launched its VUDU video-on-demand service for Apples iPad.

The service will allow iPad users to rent or buy entertainment content and stream it over their iPad browser, without being obligated to sign up for a subscription, as they are with other services such as Netflix ( NFLX – news people ) .

VUDUs library includes more than 20,000 blockbusters, Hollywood classics, independent films and TV episodes.

VUDU movie purchases and rental can also be watched online at walmart.com or vudu.com, as well as on other consumer electronics devices like internet capable TVs, Blu-Ray players, and Sonys () PlayStation 3.

Drive Safe!  Never Forget.

Information Technology

The world is changing. Rapidly.

Bits are flying over the Internet at an unprecedented pace.

As my loyal reader…..you know my feelings about Cisco and video conferencing, but, it looks to me as though they are getting back to focusing on handling bits….a very good thing.  For everyone!

This commercial by Cisco is interesting.  I LOVE the part where they say that you do not need to be in the office to be productive.

DUH.   Telecommuting = Coworking = Telework

Comments?

Dare I say it?   Cisco rocks?   Ouch….that hurt…. :-)

Oh yeah…the bridge at the end is awesome…again, back to cisco’s roots.

VUDU Adds Glee and Modern Family

 (Our VUDU)

As my loyal reader….you know what I feel about VUDU (and here, and here).   Also see our movie reviews on ForCarol.com, a lot of what we watch is on VUDU.

Now that VUDU is embedded in new TV’s, Blu-Ray players, etc., you no longer need the separate box that we have.  There is also the ability to connect to Facebook, Twitter, and a zillion other features via the Internet.

It ain’t just movies anymore….

Although the user interface has gotten more bloated and harder to use (hint to VUDU designers) this is still the best streaming video service under the sun.  My hope is that is stays that way….note to Wal-Mart:  Hands off!  Let the VUDU folks do what they do better than anyone…

Anyway…on the TV side, the choices kinda stunk.  Until now.  NOW, I see this article that says they are adding “Glee” and “Modern Family”.

OK….this is GREAT news.  We LOVE “Modern Family”, and “Glee”…..well, it is ok too.  :-)

If you have not tried VUDU (’cause you are using Netflix streaming…which actually came after VUDU)…give it a try.

Now that we have Comcast Internet…we can watch HDX movies in real-time….the quality is awesome!

AT&T To Cap DSL Usage

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I was surfing this morning and came across this bit of disturbing news from the good folks at Mashable (and also at Broadband DSL Reports).

AT&T will cap DSL users to 150GB (I assume Bytes…not bits) and Uverse users to 250GB per month.  If you go over that cap more than 3 times you will be charged $10 for every 50GB over.

I sent an email to my favorites, VUDU, and they replied with some byte estimates for me.  Thank you VUDU!

For SD (standard definition which is great for us) you can estimate (depending on the length of the movie but for a typical 2 hour movie) about 1.5GB. For HD the estimate doubles to about 3GB, and for HDX (which is awesome by the way) 8GB.

Soooo, if I watched nothing but HDX movies, I would burn through the 150GB cap after watching 18.75 HDX movies.  Hmmmm, I would be happy with that, but, we use the Internet for sooo much more than movies…

I remember a year or two ago Comcast announcing the same kind of capping…what ever happened to that?  Is that still in effect?  Well, now, DSL users will be getting it.

What does this mean?

Well…..if you are like me, you are watching TV and Movies (all kinds….) via the Internet, or you are a heavy duty gamer or surfer, or you participate in video conferencing, web conferencing, video chat, etc.  The Internet provides a great transport mechanism.

Maybe that will be changing….?

We watch VUDU movies in HDX, HD, or SD all the time (4 to 5 times a month…see ForCarol.com for my short movie reviews).

If I am subject to capping…will that limit the number of movies I watch?  If so, I am not happy about that.

Livestream Video Streaming on Facebook

OK, this is cool.

A few seconds after I downloaded the free app “Livestream Podcaster” I was streaming live video from the AltamontCowork public computer to Facebook!

I have tried Justin TV and Ustream as our “Virtual Window” but both dropped the calls, after awhile, within a few minutes.  Hmmmm, I wonder if it was Comcast limiting me?

Sooo, I’m trying Livestream.  Looks like the same software as Justin TV and Ustream and I still have Comcast, so I’m pretty sure, one way or another, the calls will start dropping.  No matter, this is cool anyway.

One really nice feature is you can give a live presentation using slides and video and audio to a Facebook audience.  See picture below.

Sweeet.

Ads interrupt the video stream every few minutes.

I won’t be doing this long term, but, as a cool experiment (and blog entry), it was fun playing with it.

My Opinion

The world of video communication (either interactive or one way streaming) is moving at lightspeed right now and I am seeing nearly all the predictions, hopes, and dreams I had for this technology the past 20 years coming to fruition!   WhooHoo!

Great stuff!

Now all I need to do is find something that will come true now….so I can live to see it.

+++

Help us raise awareness of unsafe teen driving and the need for parents to enforce curfews.

Justin TV: A Quick Peek

I found a gold mine of lost blog entries!  Here is another…

+++

TracyVirtualOffice Justin TV Page

TracyVirtualOffice Justin TV Page

Rating:  4 WaterTowers (Internet streaming made easy)

Justin TV allows you to stream live video and audio over the Internet.  It took me all of two minutes to sign up and start streaming.

Very easy and very cool.   :-)

I can see tons of applications for this, and I’m sure there are thousands already on Justin TV.  For us at the TracyVirtualOffice and maybe other coworking locations or businesses / education, I can see Lectures being streamed, meetings being streamed (like the TweetUP we just hosted), and when I am at home…this is an efficient security system!  We can connect coworking locations worldwide as easy as 3.14.

Official announcement:  The TracyVirtualOffice now has it’s own LIVE  stream (8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, PST) that you can watch at two locations:

1. The TVO Web Page

2. Justin TV Web Page

Take a look…just don’t get bored!  ;-)

My New Slogan: “TracyVirtualOffice TV: As Exciting as Watching Corn Grow”

I will occasionally turn the web cam inward so you can see the TracyVirtualOffice in action, but, I’ll wait until we have a few more members.  Right now, we are as interesting as the parking lot.   ;-)

What Am I Using?

I am using the TracyVirtualOffice emachines computer, running Vista, with a Logitech 9000 web cam.  I have Comcast Business Internet with 2.5 Mbps upstream and 20 Mbps, or more, downstream and the Google Chrome browser.

The Justin TV application is running in “Good” mode (see picture below) and it automatically selected an upstream BW of about 450 kbps.  I see no slowing of the Internet at that bit rate which is good.

The video quality at the viewer end appears to be very good (Comments?).  Note that I have muted audio for privacy, but, when it was on it worked very well.

Features

As a viewer:

You can watch the video at the default size or make it full screen.  You can chat with other viewers and the broadcaster.   You see updated list of the number of viewers, the number of fans, and the number of views since broadcasting started.   And you can change the audio volume.  The embed and link codes are there if you want to use them.

As the owner:

Justin TV Control Panel

Justin TV Control Panel

You can record video.

I did that yesterday but I have not been able to find it.  Maybe because I am using Chrome?  The recording seems to work ok, but, it never shows up in the designated spot.  I’ll give Firefox and IE a try over the next few days and let you know what happens.

You can change the video quality

The default is “Good” but there is a “Best” as well.  Since “Good” is running at 450 kbps, I have not yet fired up the “Best”.  450 kbps is plenty good for me.  :-)

You can personalize your Justin TV page

I uploaded a properly sized (650 x 125 pixel) logo, changed the coloring, and uploaded a background picture of our mug.  It all worked out very nicely.   See the picture at the top.

You can embed the video on your web page

Justin TV provides links and embed code that you can copy.  The picture shows how it looks on my web page.

TracyVirtualOffice TV Web Page

TracyVirtualOffice TV Web Page

You can link to it here to give it a whirl.  You have to click on the arrow button to start the video.  Once it is running, you can change the audio (we are muted), view the video in full-screen, and stop the video.  There is a link to the Justin TV site below the video feed.

I just wonder what the this will do to the data transfer rate of the web site?  Does the video feed thru it?  Or does it get fed somehow thru Justin TV?

Here is a full screen shot from the web site feed:

 

Full Screen from TVO Web Site Feed

Full Screen from TVO Web Site Feed

Summary

Not to long ago streaming video over the Internet was a difficult process requiring specialized equipment and expertise.  Those days are gone!

Justin TV brings this capabilty to the average person while providing excellent quality video and audio.  And the price is right….it is free.  Justin TV is super easy to set up and use.

All in all……a  super app!  :-)

As for my new slogan…..”TracyVirtualOffice TV: As Exciting as Watching Corn Grow”!  Believe me, I have experience there, my Masters Degree Thesis (University of Kansas) was on “The Coherent Optical Determination of the Leaf Angle Distribution of Corn”.  Many many (wonderful) hours spent in the cornfields of Kansas.

VidyoCast

Vidyo has introduced a new line of products aimed at the broadcasting industry.

Since I am not an expert in that area, I will have to study the information contained in todays press release copied below.

Enjoy

Vidyo Introduces Cloud-Based Broadcast Suite at One-Tenth

The Cost of Satellite

“VidyoCast” Revolutionizes Broadcast Contribution and Transmission


Amsterdam, IBC, September 10, 2010
– Vidyo, Inc. today announced VidyoCast™, a suite of broadcast products and services that unlock the potential for TV networks and stations to employ cloud-based solutions, expanding field operations and production capabilities with enhanced flexibility and substantial cost savings over other approaches. VidyoCast offers an array of software and hardware to achieve SD/HD quality video transport, remote contribution, ENG, sports production, net return, Master Control back up and disaster recovery. VidyoCast seamlessly integrates into existing broadcast infrastructure and workflows. VidyoCast solutions are being demonstrated at the IBC conference in Amsterdam, September 10 –14, stand 1.F15.

“The VidyoCast suite allows broadcasters to accomplish easily and inexpensively what until now has been difficult and costly, and includes innovations the industry has never before seen,” said Jim O’Brien, General Manager, VidyoCast.  “Now news and sports organizations, as well as game show and reality TV producers, can easily manage and control tens or even hundreds of contribution feeds from all over the world at the same time.”

“Because Vidyo can deliver HD video transmission at optimal data rates and the lowest possible latency, conversations between anchors-reporters-interviewees-contributors-panel members are smooth and exceptionally natural,” said Ofer Shapiro, co-founder and CEO of Vidyo.  “This, when combined with advanced IP network control and innovative software control architecture, creates a high-value platform that dramatically lowers costs for broadcasters while increasing functionality and quality.”

The VidyoCast Breakthrough

VidyoCast introduces first-to-market encoders and decoders based on groundbreaking H.264 SVC (Scalable Video Coding) VidyoTechnology. The system makes multi-party live on-air discussions easy to accomplish: a revolutionary breakthrough in everyday news/sports operations.

The VidyoCast suite is comprised of:

  • VidyoContribution Seamless integration with feeds desk/media operations to acquire, manage and control multiple ad-hoc contribution feeds from any desktop/laptop/bureau.
  • VidyoCentral An efficient multi-camera, multi-view and control solution to support remote productions and centralized operations.
  • VidyoEncoder/Decoder – World-class broadcast quality low latency encoding and decoding based on H.264 SVC. VidyoEncoder/Decoder adds network-aware adaptive optimization to squeeze video quality through a given IP connection. Available point-to-point or in conjunction with an Enterprise-wide multi-cast control system.
  • VidyoNetReturn – A compact, rugged solution to receive return feeds from the production center back to field operations (e.g. satellite truck).
  • VidyoTransmission – Professional broadcasting encoders and decoders with SD/HD-SDI or analog interfaces for backhauls and feed distribution to/from local affiliate stations. Includes point-to-multi-point capability for TV network and sub-network distribution (e.g. Zone control.) Optional encryption.

  • VidyoContinuity – An affordable backup solution for mission-critical satellite and fiber feeds.
  • VidyoMCR – Cloud-based Master Control Backup, and, Zone Control. Provides traffic interface, schedule execution and, typically, path redundancy for MCR backup. Local, remote or data center origination capability.

VidyoCast is available immediately.  Broadcasters interested in scheduling an appointment or learning more about VidyoCast, please contact Vidyo at info@vidyocast.com or +1 201 289 8597. Visit us at IBC Amsterdam, Stand #1.F15, September 10-14, 2010.

About Vidyo

Vidyo is a pioneer and innovator in H.264-SVC technology; an established, award-winning leader in the telepresence/videoconferencing market.  Vidyo is now revolutionizing the broadcast industry with VidyoCast, a suite of products and services that offers video contribution and transmission, based on the same patented H.264-SVC-based technology, at one-tenth the cost of satellite. Learn more at www.vidyocast.com. Follow Vidyo on Twitter@VidyoCast.

Lifesize LIVE Streaming from InfoComm

Once again I am sitting at my AltamontCowork desk dreaming of the old days….

This video is being streamed at 1 Mbps (I am viewing it on my trusty old Toshiba Laptop vintage 2006 with Windows XP), wireless, using Chrome browser.  I have Comcast Business Internet with download of about 25 Mbps and up stream of about 2.5 Mbps.  Good enuf for all sorts of HD…

One word:  AWESOME !

I think it will be running today (June 10, 2010) and tomorrow….check it out..

Lifesize Video Center at Interop Vegas 2010

 

UPDATE:  Read my latest (Sept 2011) Overview of LifeSize products / services here.

I’ve been sitting here at AltamontCowork dreaming about the good old days of TeleCon and other conferences, including Interop.

Lucky for me, I can be at this years Interop Vegas 2010 without leaving my comfy chair, thanks to Lifesize Video Center.

Check out the pictures.   Here is a quick review (not knowing how hard it is to set-up I can ‘t give a full review, but, as a remote viewer here goes):

++  Video quality = Outstanding

++ Audio Quality (I know how dang hard it is to get good audio at a conference…) = Stupendous.

You can visit the Lifesize booth here, but, you better hurry, ’cause Interop is over soon.

Full-screen

Wal-Mart Buys VUDU

You may already know that I think the world of VUDU.

Here is the most recent blog entry written after we received our very own VUDU box (yeah..that was before they were embedded in TV’s and Blu-Ray players…and way before Wal-Mart).

I suppose you could say, I know how to pick ’em!

Sure hope I am right about coworking and the Tracy Virtual Office :-)

What is the point of this entry (other than finally posting something new on my Technical Blog)?

Here is the latest Press Release sent to me by VUDU:

“”Walmart Announces Acquisition of Digital Entertainment Provider, VUDU

Company takes next step to enhance home entertainment
and information delivery options for consumers

BENTONVILLE, Ark., Feb. 22, 2010 — Walmart announced today a definitive agreement to acquire VUDU, Inc., a leading provider of digital technologies and services that enable the delivery of entertainment content directly to broadband high-definition TVs and Blu-ray players. The deal is expected to close within the next few weeks.

VUDU is a revolutionary service, built into a growing number of broadband-ready TVs and Blu-ray players, that delivers instant access to thousands of movies and TV shows directly through the television. Customers with broadband Internet access and an Internet-ready TV or Blu-ray player can rent or purchase movies, typically in high-definition, without needing a connected computer or cable/satellite service. New movies and features will be added continually, enabling customers to enjoy a product that continues to become more robust long after they have left the store.

“The real winner here is the customer,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman for Walmart. “Combining VUDU’s unique digital technology and service with Walmart’s retail expertise and scale will provide customers with unprecedented access to home entertainment options as they migrate to a digital environment.”

VUDU has licensing agreements with almost every major movie studio and dozens of independent and international distributors to offer approximately 16,000 movies, including the largest 1080p library of video on-demand movies available anywhere. Via their broadband Internet connection, users have the ability to rent or buy titles and begin viewing them instantly.

VUDU will continue developing entertainment and information delivery solutions such as VUDU Apps, a platform that delivers hundreds of streaming Internet applications and services to TVs and Blu-ray players with built-in Internet connectivity. VUDU has partnered with some of the leading names in Internet and media entertainment to offer applications on its platform including Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, The New York Times and The Associated Press.

“We are excited about the opportunity to take our company’s vision to the next level,” said Edward Lichty, VUDU executive vice president. “VUDU’s services and Apps platform will give Walmart a powerful new vehicle to offer customers the content they want in a way that expands the frontier of quality, value and convenience.”

VUDU, based in Santa Clara, Calif., will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Walmart. The company is not disclosing financial terms of the agreement as the acquisition is not material to its first quarter earnings for fiscal year 2011.

About Walmart
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT), or “Walmart,” serves customers and members more than 200 million times per week at more than 8,400 retail units under 53 different banners in 15 countries. With fiscal year 2010 sales of $405 billion, Walmart employs more than 2 million associates worldwide. A leader in sustainability, corporate philanthropy and employment opportunity, Walmart ranked first among retailers in Fortune Magazine’s 2009 Most Admired Companies survey. Additional information about Walmart can be found by visiting http://www.walmartstores.com. Online merchandise sales are available at http://www.walmart.com and http://www.samsclub.com.””;

VUDU Integrates Technology

 

VUDU_Logo (2)

Rating:  5 WaterTowers (awesome integration of technologies in the home)

What is VUDU?

VUDU is a device that uses peer-to-peer video streaming to deliver high definition (or standard definition) movies to your TV via the Internet.

As you may know from my previous posts on VUDU, I think it is one of the best technologies to come around in a long time.  It is reliable, relatively inexpensive, very easy to use, and it works extremely well.  It also has that WOW factor that gets my heart pumping.

Example of VUDU User InterfaceExample of VUDU User Interface

Last week, VUDU made a couple of, in my mind, groundbreaking announcements concerning the integration of their technology in home electronics.

LG Announcements

VUDU, Inc.’s industry-leading on-demand high definition (HD) movie service is now available on the BD390 Network Blu-ray Disc player from LG Electronics, giving consumers a whole new way to access the largest on-demand HD library of Hollywood movies in their living rooms, the company announced today.”

LG Blu-Ray Player with VUDU
LG Blu-Ray Player with VUDU

“The VUDU HD entertainment service is now available on LG Electronics broadband HDTVs, the companies announced today.  The VUDU service is available on LG’s LH50 1080p LCD series and PS80 1080p plasma series with “NetCast Entertainment Access.”**

LG HDTV with VUDU
LG HDTV with VUDU

Mitsubishi Announcement

“Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, Inc. (MDEA) today announced it has begun shipping VUDU integrated 1080p flat panel TVs in its Diamond models of Unisen Immersive Sound LCD Televisions. MDEA will provide the consumer the opportunity to experience the seamless delivery of thousands of high definition movies and TV shows.”

249_Solo2_Rt

Summary

You may not have felt the ground shake (and may not feel it even after glancing at this blog entry), but, mark my words……this is something that 10 years from now you will look back on and say:  ”That was the beginning of the end for the stores that rent DVD’s.”

The ability to browse VUDU for a movie (and search for tidbits on the actors, directors, etc) as well as download and watch a movie in high definition is extremely powerful.

I’ve said this before and after using VUDU for over a year now, I will say it again.

VUDU is awesome!

Librestream Onsight Review

 

Rating: 5 WaterTowers

Every now and then I see a product that blows me away.  It has been happening a lot lately (a good sign for technology) and it happened again last week with the Librestream Onsight.

The fact that it is one-way video (and I’m a two-way video kind of guy) is even more impressive!

TelBitConsulting says:  The Librestream Onsight ease-of-use and naturalness / robustness of communication is superb.  

What is the Onsight?

The Onsight is a hand-held device that is designed to be used in the field. Unique to the Onsight is the fact that it connects to the Internet or Intranet to send high quality video and two-way audio from the field to an expert anywhere in the world.

Using this camera and the Librestream SIP infrastructure, a remote expert on a Windows PC can work with the field person as easily as if they were both in the field.

Super cool.  

TelBitConsulting Example

I am the developer of a a new electric vehicle (yeah…I just picked up a ton of stimulus money) and there is a problem with one vehicle in Lawrence, Kansas.  Apparently the battery is not charging as quickly as it could be and the local mechanic (who has a PhD in Electrical Engineering) cannot figure out the problem.

PhD grabs the Librestream Onsight and turns it on.  The shop area has WiFi connectivity and the Onsight in Lawrence shows up on my computer screen as being available.  I double click on it and a few seconds later I see the inside of the shop from the perspective of PhD.  

PhD takes me to the car and we look at every diode, chip, resistor, and capacitor in the control system.  PhD loads the code and we observe the LCD panel’s error codes.  Working the Librestreams markup capability I see something and circle a possible problem.  An old fashioned cold solder connection.  PhD fires up the soldering iron and fixes the problem.  We both watch the charging process proceed normally.

Success!  

Installation

The installation proceeded normally on my Toshiba laptop.  Remember my laptop connects to the remote Onsight via the Internet.  I can control it, see the video, and hear the audio.  

Librestream sent me more detailed instructions for connecting to the SIP network, which was a bit more complicated, but the instructions were perfect and all I had to do was follow along step-by-step.  

Once I had SIP working it was easy to connect.

Making a Call 

Watch this Oscar nominated (I wish) documentary short showing how we used the Onsight one day last week.   

 

UPDATE:  The Librestream produced video has been uploaded….go here to see it!  

Features

There are many features, here is a quick list. 

1. Connection via 802.11 wireless network

2. Uses SIP

3. Battery operated

4. Embedded light source (see video)

5. High (~1 Mbps), medium (~250 kbps), and low (~150 kbps) bandwidth MPEG4 video.  Note that they were all VERY clear and crisp.  

 

Figure 1: High BW Connection Looking out the Window

Figure 1: High BW Connection Looking out the Window

6. Speaker and Mic controls and two-way audio.

7. Auto Focus or Manual Focus

8. Zoom (Note that there is no panning capabilty.  The field person needs to point the camera in the right direction)

Figure 2: View of Office Calendar

Figure 2: View of Office Calendar

Figure 3: Zoomed in View of Calendar

Figure 3: Zoomed in View of Calendar

9. Recording Capability (stored on computers hard drive)

10. Snapshot capability (notice the quality)

Figure 4: Penny View

Figure 4: Penny View

11. Auto Answer (I called an Onsight that was pointing out the window, figure 1)

12. Two way audio 

13. Annotations from either end.  

Pricing

I know some of you have been asking….so to get pricing information you will need to email Librestream at information@librestream.com  or, alternatively, you can fill out the contact form here.  

Summary

The Librestream Onsight is a great tool for those needing remote expertise without requiring the remote expert to be physically on site. 

Who can use it?  Travel agents, air conditioner repair, pool leak detection, police, fire, ambulances, remote health facilities, insurance, news…..

Your imagination should run wild a bit to understand the potential uses.

Hmmm, I want to see the view outside my friends condo in Kauai.  On the beach by the big log is where the original “TelBit Consulting” was born way back in 1995 or so (click on the panorama view).

Inauguration Online Video Viewing Stats

inauguration-01-20-2009

According to this report on CNN, the Internet broke some records during the Inauguration yesterday.  

Really quickly: 

1. Akamai says that 7.7 million people watched at the same time ( I suppose that means the peak simultaneous usage was 7.7 mil).  

2. Over a time span of hours, CNN hosted almost 27 million viewers (of which I was one).  This broke a record by a factor of 5.  Pretty impressive.

3. CNN also reports 1.3 mil simultaneous users just before President Obama’s speech. 

4. Even President Obama chimed in after the Inauguration on Twitter.  Gotta love him!  

Hmmmm, I wonder what it would be like to post:  “I just finished my acceptance speech for President of the U.S.A”  “Going to a Ball now.”  “Catch u later.”

While some people had trouble, I was off and on all day and did not have any problems.  Guess the technology knows who not to mess with ;-)

 With news, entertainment (including new original content), and Internet Movies streaming to players such as VUDU, NetFlix, Blockbuster, not to mention all the IP videoconferencing…the future looks exciting.  

TelBitConsulting says:  The Internet is very quickly becoming a streaming video powerhouse.   Our new tech savvy President will help technology and science flourish once again.  

PS: Do you know how hard it is to spell Inauguration?  There a some extra u’s in there that can be deleted as far as I am concerned  :-)

CES on YouTube

ces-logo1

Can’t make it to Las Vegas for the CES Show?

Not to worry, you can still catch up on many of the happenings with live video feeds and stored video on YouTube.

Here is an example of what you can find there.  An interview with Chris Brogan (sorry, I must be out of it, but…I need to Google who this is).  Ah…a blogger!

Like me!

Errrr, richer and more famous than me.  But I taught 7th Grade for two months, and sub all the time….bet he can’t better that!  :-)

Proclaim by NetBriefings Update

This Blog has moved: TelBitConsulting.com


proclaim-screen-shot

Last year I posted a couple of entries (here is my review) on Proclaim by Netbriefings.  Today, I decided to grab another Free Trial and give it a quick whirl for all the new readers to this blog.

After I signed up for Proclaim QuickTouch Lite, I noticed that my laptop was having an issue with my web cam, so I rebooted it.  When I came back on-line a few minutes later, I had a Proclaim message from Gary Anderson at Netbriefings.

Click this link to see Gary’s message.

I then played with Proclaim for a bit and came up with this message.

Click this link for my message.

Very cool.

There are far more capabilites for Proclaim than I show here.  One of the most intriguing, to me, is the ability to embed the video into a WordPress blog.  Unfortunately, for me, it does not work on this particular version of the WordPress blog….but….there are many of you who may be on a version that does work.  As a preview, here is a blog that shows what the WordPress blog embed looks like.

NOTE: I tried the above link with both Google Chrome and Firefox.  It did not work.  I then tried IE…that worked.  So if you click, you may want to use IE.  Since many folks use Firefox, and Chrome has been introduced by a slightly well known company, I assume these will be supported soon??

Summary

In these tough economic times, your company (or educational institution) may need to improve visual communication while helping to save money and the environment. Proclaim is a terrific tool that will help you meet these goals!

(NOTE:  I will continue testing Proclaim and post new entries as I learn more)

Cisco to Introduce Home Products

Update Jan 7 2009:  CES almost has started in Las Vegas (see this CNN article).  They say attendance is down.  Still pretty darn big if you ask me!  I was CTO at the now defunct “TeleCon” Conference and we were happy to get 20,000 attendees.  But, I’m pretty sure that live shows will, over time, draw less and less people to them.  On line Virtual Conferences exist and are getting better…hmmmm, maybe I’ll research that topic and post the info here.

 

This article states that at the CES Show in Las Vegas this month, Cisco will introduce several new products for the home.

Included in these products are a “Telepresence” version for your HDTV, and a streaming player for watching video over the Internet.

Verrrryyy inteerrrtesting.

I have long held the view that videoconferencing to the home would be a natural on your TV (see this web page of an article I wrote in 1995, scroll down to 6 PM if you are in a hurry).

Of course, my views on Internet streaming to watch movies using a device such as VUDU (hmmmm, do I smell a buyout  after all VUDU is a neighbor of Cisco’s) and other Internet streaming technologies is well known to you…my dedicated readers:

I think Internet video will change the world and will shorten the life of Blu-Ray (although I am totally enjoying watching my Blu-Ray movies).

As for videoconferencing with Cisco, they need to come up with a VERY inexpensive product for the home… or it will not fly. The home user (especially in these horrid economic times) do not have the cash that a major corporation has (or had).  Since Cisco is used to charging over $300,000 per end for their “Telepresence” units…they have a long way to go.

On the bright side….

Cisco getting into home Internet streaming of video (if it is true), and giving the good college try for home videoconferencing (if it is true) can only help the videoconferencing and collaboration technology space.

TelBitConsulting wishes them luck….time will tell if they can succeed.

Blockbuster OnDemand Streaming Video Player

Blockbuster has announced a streaming video player made by 2Wire.   This article in Information Week says it competes with Apple TV and NetFlix, but, unfortunately, it completely leaves out the one participant in this space that TelBitConsulting.com uses and loves:  VUDU.

No matter what, the future is clear:  Watching movies via the Internet will happen and may happen, in a big way, faster than I had originally thought.
Gathering some information on the new 2Wire player it looks like it does support HD.  Neither NetFlix nor AppleTV (as far as I understand…can support HD).   It works via a built-in wireless or wired Internet connection.
Here are some specs I grabbed from 2Wire’s Press Release:

Technical Details
In the Box

  • 2Wire MediaPoint Digital Media Player (8″ x 8″ x 1″)
  • Quick Installation Guide
  • Power Adapter
  • Composite A/V cable (supports SD viewing)
  • Remote Control
  • AAA Batteries

Video and Audio Connections

  • Composite
  • Component*
  • HDMI*
  • Stereo Audio
  • Toslink (digital optical audio)*

Network Connections

  • Ethernet*
  • Wi-Fi (802.11 b/g)

*cable must be purchased separately

UPDATE:  TelBitConsulting.com asked 2Wire a few questions (thank you to 2Wire for their prompt reply):

1. What size hard drives are available?

The built-in 8GB of flash memory can store approximately 5 SD or one HD and an assortment of SD movies at a time, depending on the length of the movies.

2. Can you connect an external hard drive to add capacity?

This is not currently an option.

3. Can a person purchase a movie?  If so will it be stored on the person local hard drive?  Is there a backup or archive capability to save the movies in case the hard drive dies?

At this time, you can not purchase movies through the MediaPoint digital media player.

4. Will Blockbuster make HD movies available?  How many movies are currently on the list?  How many are HD?

There are currently over 2,000 movies available through the ONDEMAND service, including a small but growing selection of HD movies. Blockbuster continues to add SD and HD movies to the ONDEMAND library.

5. Does your unit support 1080p?

Not at this time. The 2Wire MediaPoint digital media player currently supports the following: High Definition – 1080i, High Definition – 720p, Standard Definition – 480p, and Standard Definition – 480i.

6. Does your unit support 5.1 or 7.1 audio?

The 2Wire MediaPoint digital media player delivers stereo sound and supports 5.1.

7. If I want to watch an SD movie, how long do I have to wait before it starts?  HD?

This depends on factors that include the speed of your Internet connection and the length of the movie. For example, with a 3 mbps connection, you could begin watching a standard-length SD movie within 30 seconds to one minute after beginning download.

8. What is the size of your unit?

The dimensions of MediaPoint are 8 in. x 8 in. x 1 in – about the size of a box of movie candy.

9. Do you support HDMI out put to the TV?

A composite A/V cable is provided with purchase. The player does support HDMI output, but the cable must be purchased separately. The HDMI Digital A/V output jack provides digital audio and video signals to a compatible HDTV or HD monitor.

10. Are any currently in use?  Can you tell me how many?  (If not, that is ok)

We are very pleased with the sales figures since the launch, but cannot divulge specific numbers.

11. How is the streaming handled?  From a central location only?  Peer-to-Peer?  Other?

Unlike media players that stream movies over the Internet, the 2Wire MediaPoint uses progressive download to let movie fans access high-quality videos, and begin watching them during download. The video and audio quality is consistent, and does not depend on your Internet connection speed.


TelBitConsulting.com says:  If a streaming player does not support HD….forget it.  To introduce a product in 2008 that does not support HD is wrong.  It looks like 2Wire got it right. I know VUDU has it right….

Summary
The new Blockbuster player from 2Wire is significantly different than the VUDU player.  It is interesting to see how different design directions can be taken to solve a problem.
Engineering at it’s best.
For example, the 2 Wire player was designed, it appears, to watch a movie then that movie is gone.  There is some storage capacity but the smallish 8 Gig flash drive will not allow the massive storage that the 1 TB hard drive VUDU can come with.   You cannot “purchase” movies with Blockbuster, but, that is not surprising since Blockbuster is a rental organization.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next few years….either way, TelBitConsulting.com thinks this is the way people will be watching movies….as long as the Internet connections stay open…
See all my Blog entries on Streaming Video including a V-E-R-Y detailed review of VUDU.

VUDU Introduces HDX

If you have not yet experienced VUDU Internet streaming of movies…..now may be the time.

As you may know, I am a big fan of VUDU and now even more so. Check out my review of VUDU here.

With over 6000 movie titles in Standard Definition and High Definition….VUDU has recently introduced a new high definition technology they call “HDX”.

Since I have an older HDTV (how did time go so fast?) with less resolution, I figured HDX would not give me much improvement over their HD offering or even SD which I consider better than my upconverted DVD player.

I was wrong. HDX is simply astounding.

Since I cannot take a picture (or a movie) that would do it justice (but I gave it a try…see below), the best comparision I can make is this: Go to your nearest Best Buy and watch a full 1080p Blu-Ray movie being played. HDX is just like that! Even on my less than full resolution HDTV, the picture quality is a major step up from HD and worlds better than SD. And our Bose sound system captures the robust audio from HDX like nothing we have yet experienced.

I can’t wait to earn enough $ (remember…starving blogger) to get a full 1080p TV…..hmmmm, anyone need a decent videoconferencing guy?

A look at the VUDU “Most Watched” list shows that people with VUDU agree. The HDX movies are at the top of the most watched list.

The only downfall is that we have to wait about 8 hours for the HDX movie to download. With SD we can watch it instantly, and with HD we have to wait a couple of hours. So some pre-planning on our part is needed. I could always upgrade my Internet service, but, oh rats, starving blogger…..

I know I sound like a VUDU commercial….but….

Our lives with VUDU have changed. We have not gone to Blockbuster in months. We have not purchased a DVD in months. Where we once planned on buying a Blu-Ray player and start a collection of Blu-Ray movies…that plan is on hold. We are perfectly happy with VUDU spending about $5.99 for a movie rental and about $20 for a purchase. What could be better?

Tel Bit Consulting says: Internet video can (will!) change the way the world watches movies. I only hope that the Internet remains open and unrestricted.

Watching the Olympics on NBC.com

Rating: 5 WaterTowers

OK..this is COOL

I went to the nbc.com web site and signed up (all you need is your Zip code and browser…yes, Firefox works). Remember I have a Toshiba Laptop running Windows XP. Nothing fancy, nothing out of the ordinary.

NBC is streaming live video using Microsoft Silverlight.

Yikes! I never heard of Silverlight but here is a blurb at the front of their web site:

Light Up the Web
Microsoft® Silverlight™ is a cross-browser, cross-platform, and cross-device plug-in for delivering the next generation of media experiences and rich interactive applications for the Web.

Hmmmm, ok….great marketing, but…..does it work?

Yup…and YeOldeTechy says: This is super cool.

Cross browser….great thinking Microsoft! About time…errr, did I say that?

Anyway…..here is what you have to do:

1. Go to http://www.nbc.com
2. On the right (top corner) there is a sign up for streaming video…enter your Zip code.
3. Follow the procedures to download and use the Microsoft Silverlight.
4. Wade thru the menus and options to find what you want to watch.

I watched some LIVE (well maybe not really live, but…..) tennis and now have Yacht Racing (if you consider a one person surfboard thingy a Yacht) on…..WOW.

The control panel (below) lets you watch one of 4 live events. Apparently, as I watch this, there is only one event live. I will check later to see if the 4 events pop up. (NOTE: there are smaller windows on the left set of windows labeled 2, 3, and 4 that you can click…those fill in the empty slots so you can switch between them easily…..this is great).

Also, you get the video without commentary (a good thing sometimes) or you can select commentary. I tried it and have yet to hear commentary…I’ll keep trying.

Go U.S.A.

Gotta love the Internet…..streaming video ROCKS.

If you like this, check out VUDU….THAT is streaming video at it’s BEST.

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