Scott Hanselman

The Immediacy and the Remoteness

April 22, 2006 Comment on this post [6] Posted in Z | Coding4Fun | Movies
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Orb4Remote1Ok, you've sold me. I poo-pooed in the past, but I'm digging it today. I'm away from home and local news in the hotel I'm in is crap. I've got TVs and movies at home I'd like to watch., while sporting the worst of user interfaces, is the bomb. It was obviously written by folks who know their server side. ;)

I've used BeyondTV in the past for this same thing, forwarding ports outside and auto-transcoding video streams, but the setup of ORB was so very easy and it just works.

I've got the Windows Media Center PC running over yonder in Oregon while I'm here in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in a hotel. I want to watch a show that the Media Center taped back home. I'm connected to the 'net via a Verizon Wireless Cellular Phone PC Card.

Orb detects my connection speed and transcodes the video to the level appropriate for my connection. (This can be overridden as well.) The quality of the video over this cellular connection is pretty sweet.

Orb3There's some kinks to be worked out around seeking within a stream, but this is a no-brainer: Microsoft, buy them, build it into Windows Media Center. (Of course, this is too niche and no one cares about remoting TV, right?)


Other than BeyondTV (BeyondTV Link) what are the competitors?

Of course, an alternative to getting video from my house is to get it from the cloud. Why get my copy of a show when there's a cloud copy?

As an aside, being away is hard, but Webcams make it easier. Watching Z react to my voice over the phone is a blast.

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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April 22, 2006 16:49
He is one of us now.... ;)

The problem that I see with obtaining the "cloud copy" falls into that gray area of copyright law that just may get challenged in court. You can use orb to view your copy because all that you're doing is time-and-place shifting a television signal that came to your house in the first place (the fact that your capture card produced the bits on your hard drive is paramount to the argument that you are entitled to use the content for your own purposes). The cloud copy is usually a high-quality recording (HDTV) that is cleaned up, stripped of all commercials, and transcoded to a MPEG4-type format (i.e., Xvid) to reduce the filesize. This is not in the format of the original broadcast, and definitely not a signal that your computer captured.

(But, personally, I'm so glad that such "services" exist, especially when coming home and realizing that LOST didn't get recorded for one reason or another.)
April 23, 2006 15:46
I tried out Orb, and it looked quite promissing. However, is it just me that uses the following?

Audio: My music is stored in Apple Lossless, and I also have a lot of stuff in non-DRMd AAC and some purchased from iTunes store. Only my MP3 music seems to work.

Photos: My photos are allways taken in raw format (.NEF). Not supported either, from what I could tell. Operating systems are now natively supporting these files.

Videos: Ok here I am probably in a small minority. My video files are stored in .M2T format, the raw format captured from my consumer HDV cam. I'm not surprised those don't work. But even those in Quicktime don't work out of the box, I need to download a 3rd party codec - that will just make my setup that much more complicated to reset when I need to.

Well, in any case, Orb is promissing, but 0 of the 4 things it lets me do really work for me. The 4th thing is the TV support. I use digital TV, and where I live, there is no way to get that into my computer in a digital format... it is proprietary. I would have to use the set-top box's analog output and buy a capture card, and an infrared emitter, I suppose. Right?
April 24, 2006 20:16
Have you seen slingbox? - It's supposed to be a very cool solution especially for those of us without media center PCs.
April 25, 2006 2:41
Yeah the SlingBox (or as we call it, "SlingBlade") is pretty cool, especially if you don't have/can't afford a MCE computer. My friend uses it to watch his DirecTivo at work on his wireless laptop. I use it to watch AquaTeen and Robot Chicken when he's not watching COPS. The only thing that sucks is only one person can use the SlingBlade at once. Plus he's got two DirecTV Tivo units (for a total of four tuners) and SlingBlade can only control one device at once. It has inputs for 3 devices but only one IR Blaster thingey. So its not perfect but still very cool.
April 25, 2006 3:32
> ... especially for those of us without media center PCs.

Orb does not require Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005:

Orb will actually serve as a companion of sorts to MCE (both access the same media), or as a standalone alternative.
April 25, 2006 9:28
I go 'low tech' and put movies and my recorded shows from BeyondTV on my Archos 500. This 30G portable device is the best portable video player.
I don't see the need to watch the latest shows that soon. I am usually behind in watching my recorded shows anyways.

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.