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April 26, 2006

Yahoo offers free software personal video recorder for Windows

I’ve mentioned software PVRs before – they’re add-on applications that give your Windows XP PC more or less the equivalent functionality of an XP Media Center PC or for that matter, a dedicated hardware PVR like TiVo. Now Yahoo has stirred things up by offering a software PVR for free:

Yahoo has released a beta version of software that turns a PC into a digital video recorder.

The software, Yahoo Go for TV, is free to download. After the software is installed, people plug their computer into their television’s video and audio input connections. The computer can then record and play back shows on the TV just like with a standalone DVR. Consumers can also play DVDs, music, photos or other downloaded content.

The cost of a few cables and TV tuner card, in comparison with the hundreds of dollars being shelled out for DVD players or DVRs, could lure consumers away from DVR competitors like TiVo. And many industry leaders see TV-computer combinations as the portal for reaching consumers.

The package, acquired from startup Meedio, seems to have the expected functions including television listings and also incorporates other Yahoo properties like the Flickr photo sharing service.

Microsoft said recently that its Windows XP Media Center software is outselling the standard edition of the software, and Hewlett-Packard announced last year that it is developing technology to let high-definition televisions directly access digital content from home computers.

And there’s the rub, of course. You don’t need Yahoo Go for TV if you already have a Media Center PC. Still, it might be attractive for owners of an XP machine that would like to turn it to home entertainment use, so it’s interesting to check out the early reviews and comments.

Dave Zatz has many screen shots but will do a review later

Eirik Solheim has a detailed review which is complicated a little by the fact that he is in Norway which technically isn’t supported. On the other hand, he’s very familiar with Meedio. His net is that very few of the good features of Meedio made the transition to Yahoo, at least in this version, and:

This is what’s going to happen

The existing Meedio community will flee to MediaPortal. This free and open source solution will outperform Yahoo! Go for TV in all areas for the advanced user. With some plugins, the Democracy player in the background, TVTonic and some simple tweaks you get loads of online content for that solution.

For the regular user, Windows Media Center Edition will give you a solid core functionality and huge amounts of content from the net through Online Spotlight.

Thomas Hawk sees no advantages over Media Center, although he may do a full review later.

Dan Ackerman at CNET:

When trying to initially install Yahoo Go for TV, we couldn’t get it to recognize our TV tuner card, even when we swapped in a card on the very short list of supported TV tuner cards. We’re currently troubleshooting the TV tuner card issue, so stay tuned for a full review of Yahoo Go for TV later in the week.

Update: After much installing and uninstalling of hardware, we got one of the TV tuner devices supported by Yahoo Go for TV up and running. Via an external Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-USB2 TV tuner box, we were able to watch live TV and download a local program guide through the Yahoo Go for TV setup interface.

I still think there’s a place for a software PVR on plain Windows XP systems, but it doesn’t look like Yahoo’s current offering is it.

Posted at 11:44 pm. Filed under Companies, Software, Software PVR, Yahoo

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Seagate ships 750GB disk drives

It started as a news leak, but now it’s official:

26 April 2006 – Seagate Technology, the world’s number one hard drive maker, today surged to new levels of areal density and storage capacity leadership with the introduction of the world’s first desktop hard drive to hit the 750GB capacity mark. The monster drive is part of the new Barracuda 7200.10 family built on perpendicular recording technology to meet the growing storage capacity, performance and reliability requirements of desktop computers and low-end servers.

The new Barracuda 7200.10 family is now shipping to the worldwide distribution channel. With the introduction of these drives, Seagate now delivers perpendicular recording technology across its desktop, notebook, enterprise, consumer electronics and retail hard drives. The technology stands data bits vertically onto the disc media, rather than horizontal to the surface as with traditional longitudinal recording, to deliver new levels of hard drive data density, capacity and reliability. The new data orientation also increases drive throughput without increasing spin speed by allowing more data bits to pass under the drive head in the same amount of time.

The specs page has more details but here’s the net on the differences in the four models: ST3750840AS and ST3750640AS are SATA 3Gb/s with 8MB and 16MB of cache respectively while ST3750840A and ST3750640A are Ultra ATA/100 with 8MB and 16MB of cache. One wonders why they bother with the smaller cache size. In any case, what struck me besides the lack of estimated average seek time, was the 5 year warranty. Even better is the pricing:

Surprisingly, Seagate’s 750GB drive won’t carry a high premium, even though it’s first to market at this capacity–and using a new technology at that. In the past, many new hard drives have debuted at $1 per gigabyte; the first 500GB drives sold for $500 at launch.

The SATA version of the 750GB Barracuda 7200.10 drive, however, will debut at $590, which works out to $0.79 per gigabyte.

Speaking of prices, a little looking around the Web found the ST3750640AS already available for ordering at some vendors with prices ranging from $517 to $549 (at US vendors). As always, your shopping may vary.

Posted at 10:10 pm. Filed under Companies, Hard Disks, Seagate, Storage

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April 9, 2006

Acer announces 20″ HD DVD notebook

Acer Aspire 9800

If you have always wanted a Paul Bunyan sized notebook PC, Stuff Magazine has some news for you about the Acer Aspire 9800 series:

Team HD-DVD has just extended its lead over Blu-Ray Utd thanks to a piledriver from Acer; it’s just made the second HD-DVD-playing laptop, following Toshiba’s G30 last month.

If anything, the Aspire 9800 is even more accomplished than Tosh’s world first. We may be guilty of over-using the word ‘cinematic’ to describe screens, but not here – it has a 20in, 1680×1050, which is good enough for 1080p high-def.

20″ sure isn’t going to fit on an airline tray table. This seems to be a Europe-only announcement so far:

Acer, the leading vendor in the notebook sector for EMEA – Europe, Middle East and Africa, today presents the new Aspire 9800, a new notebook series with a spectacular 20-inch LCD screen, delivering enough power, functionality, flexibility and presence to rival the very best desktop PCs.

Equipped with the largest screen size currently available in a notebook an Acer 20.1″ CrystalBrite colour TFT LCD display (WSXGA+ resolution of 1680 x 1050) featuring Acer CrystalBrite technology for maximum screen brightness in all lightning conditions and powered by the high-end NVIDIA GeForce Go 7600 graphics card with up to 256MB dedicated video memory, the Aspire 9800 guarantees an altogether immersive multimedia experience. In addition, the DVI-D* connectivity provides faster and higher-quality images for high-definition entertainment on external monitors.

Storage-wise, a generous HDD of up to 240GB meets the needs of multimedia file collectors. For the optical drive you can choose between the excellent slot-loading DVD-Super Multi double-layer drive or an HD-DVD drive (when available – ed.).

And there’s more including a Intel Core Duo processor, memory card reader, 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, Dolby sound, TV tuner, video camera, and some models include a Bluetooth connected VoIP phone/speakerphone. Stuff says it is coming to the UK in May and starts at £1500 ($1800), but somehow I expect that most will end up pricier than that. I also haven’t seen anything on weight or battery life and it probably doesn’t make much difference – this is more of a portable PC than a laptop. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but I wonder at what point it isn’t preferable to have a separate keyboard and monitor.

Posted at 11:07 pm. Filed under Acer, Companies, HD DVD, Laptop, Notebook, Storage

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