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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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February 28, 2006

TiVo vs. Windows Media Center: Which one is right for you?

digital501 has a great review of the TiVo and Windows Media Center PCs with the objective of helping the end user choose which one is right for their needs:

There are two basic ways to enter the world of the Personal Video Recorder (PVR): through a dedicated hardware unit, like a TiVo or ReplayTV, or through a software-based PVR that runs on your home computer, like Windows: Media Center Edition (WMCE) or MythTV. In this article I will compare the most popular form of each platform, TiVo and WMCE, to help you figure out which one would be best for you.

To summarize, WMCE currently has more features than TiVo, though TiVo is catching up. WMCE requires a large cost up front, but no monthly fee, while TiVo is a lower (or no) cost up front (for basic models) but has a monthly service fee. MCPCs can also be used as home computers. Finally, TiVo is much easier to install.

Hit the link for the full details. Thomas Hawk adds to the review with details on HDTV:

Media Center can record HDTV, but only through over the air transmissions, TiVo Series 2 cannot record HDTV at all.

On the other hand, the DirecTV TiVo can not only record satellite premium HDTV (which MCE cannot) but it has four tuners (two HD, two standard def). This is the unit that I personally own and watch most of my TV on at the present time. Be careful with this unit though in the longer run as DirecTV very well could stop supporting it someday or force a trade in as they have recently begun a move from MPEG2 to MPEG4. The DirecTV HDTV TiVo supports the outgoing MPEG2.

Both Series 3 TiVo and CableLabs approved Vista Home Premium machines will record HDTV coming up later this year. Comparing a Series 3 CableCARD enabled TiVo with a Vista Home Premium CableCARD enabled PC will make for a very exciting comparison when the time is right.

More by following that link as well, including a pointer to Hawk’s earlier comparison of Media Center with the DirecTV HDTV.

Posted at 9:17 am. Filed under Companies, Microsoft, Personal Video Recorders, Software, Software PVR, TiVo

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October 13, 2005

TiVo Killers?—Windows Personal Video Recorders

Jason Cross checks them out at ExtremeTech:

Let’s say you don’t have Media Center Edition and don’t want to wipe your drive and install it. You have Windows XP and simply want to add a TV tuner card and PVR type functions so you can hook your PC to your TV or sit across the room from your large monitor and enjoy all the benefits of TiVo. There are quite a few programs available that let you do that; we’ll examine three of them today, including SnapStream’s Beyond TV, Cyberlink’s PowerCinema, and SageTV.

We were planning to include InterVideo’s Home Theater 2, but ran into some insurmountable setup problems with it and were unable to test it for this roundup. We’ll continue trying to get it working, so look for a review of it in the future. People familiar with PVR applications for the PC are probably aware of Myth TV, and are wondering why the free homebrew project isn’t included. The answer is simple: It requires Linux. There’s nothing wrong with Linux at all, but our roundup focuses on competing Windows applications. Besides, if you want to turn your PC into a PVR with Linux, Myth TV is pretty much your only good option.

Hit the link for the details, but all the applications tested had various annoying oddities. That’s too bad, because a good PVR package might attract a crowd.

Posted at 8:19 pm. Filed under Companies, Software, Software PVR, TiVo

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