Tag Archives: cnn

Unboxing Boxee

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Boxee is an open source media center that allows you to enjoy your movies, tv shows, music and photos in one place and pull more streaming content from the web. You can recommend items to friends – and see what your friends have recently watched or what they recommend.

I installed Boxee on my Macbook Pro running Leopard OSX 10.5.6.  Boxee automatically discovered the music, movies, tv shows, and pictures on my hard drive, allowing me to navigate by format of choice.

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One of the great simple features about Boxee is that I have the option to go online within each category seamlessly. For example, under “movies” I can access my Netflix account and stream movies from my instant queue. Under “music” I can log in to my Last.fm account and stream a station. Also cool is the ability to discover content from CNN, CBS, Comedy Central, Hulu, etc under “television”.

I can set up RSS feeds to add niche-specific shows that I prefer. This is where it gets interesting.  Should I feed in a TED video podcast? How about CNN breaking news clips – or a torrent of Gossip Girl?

Extremely intuitive, sleek design. Awesome. Now how do I get this from my mac to my television?

For picture I connected my laptop to a Samsung 36″ HDTV using a DVI-D to HDMI adapter. For audio I used a basic Y Cable running from the laptop’s digital output to  Onyko 5.1 Surround. Still looks sleek. In settings I can check real-time details to monitor how close I’m getting to 60 Hz.

Pretty cool. Now how can I control Boxee remotely to make the experience akin to watching television?

I discovered that the Boxee remote app is due any day. In the meantime, found an app called AirMote and installed it on my iTouch running 2.2 software.

All of this sounds fine and dandy. But, how does Boxee handle streaming?  I can have access to all the content in the world but if the streaming quality is bad – buffering does not a good movie watching experience make.

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Speakeasy.net tells me that I’m clocking in at a 1.5MB pull. Not bad. I watched a few trailers from the apple site and it looked great. I then went to Hulu to catch the latest episode of 30 Rock. Halfway through I almost forgot that I was watching over the internet. The stream was crisp and there was no buffering at all. The quality was about the same as watching television but higher bandwidth paired with more HD offerings could easily solve that. Streaming a movie from my Netflix instant-queue was different. It didn’t buffer but the video occasionally dropped a few frames.

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I skated over to the music category and streamed music from my library then visited Last.fm. Would love to pull in music from other sources such as Pandora or Slacker, too.

Boxee allows me to friend other users and see what they’re watching. I can recommend programs to my friends and view items recommended to me on the Boxee homepage. At friendfeed, Twitter, and Tumblr I can share my recommendations, what I’m watching, and what I’m listening to.

I like having all of my digital media in one place. It’s fun albeit a little strange to lifestream what I’m watching.  However I can’t multi-task and surf around on my computer while I watch. Time to save up for a Mac Mini! Then I can network all of my media somehow…. Which makes me wonder how I would go about backing it all up…ahh there’s always something.

Anyway, 2 thumbs up for Boxee.

note: thanks to Andy Sternberg for the Alpha version invite.

Twitter, Facebook, and Fox News, Oh My. (or, how I was seduced by the internet on election night)

Taking in the presidential election results on Tuesday happened in different places in various ways.  Beginning at 4pm at work we tuned the TV to CNN.  NPR was on the radio. and I had npr.org and the NY Times both open on my computer.

Later on I went home to twitter the unfolding results for KCRW, the Santa Monica-based radio station where I work.  I felt particularly anxious – preferring to avoid the parties and mayhem on the streets of LA to enjoy and reflect upon on the outcome at home. But I didn’t feel alone, and I wasn’t.

I twittered as the results came in and people responded with comments like “Ooh. I like this show. One of my faves. Thanks.” and “Spanky, Spanky, Spanky, Ms Dole. Naughty campaign.”  Twitter allowed for real-time conversation fostered among strangers and among friends.  On Facebook, friends’ status messages lit up with their reactions and observations. My cell phone rang with calls from friends and family from Ohio and Los Angeles. It bleeped with incoming text messages from Paris, Boston, San Fran, and  Columbus, OH. I excitedly chatted with friends on IM.

CNN’s live video feed was broadcasting in one window and Twitter’s election page was running in another. The NYTimes election module, San Fran Chronicle, and Current TV’s election coverage were open in other tabs. NPR was blasting through the apartment (and a few of my neighbors). When the final results were announced, people were dancing, shouting and hollering with joy in the streets on the sleepy block in the beach town of Santa Monica where I live.

I think back to how this relates to the last election.  Sites like Twitter, FB, and Current TV were still babies – if they had even been born yet. The technology required to build nimble news modules was not nearly as evolved.

The ability to communicate with others with lightning speed and accuracy was nothing like it is now. The very way we communicate with one another has totally evolved. As Seth Godin recently said, “The transformation of communication is real, it’s permanent and it’s more powerful than most of us notice”.

The last administration was a secretive club that could easily manipulate voters perceptions.  We’re entering a new era where we’re constantly being informed and always plugged-in, whether we like it or not.

The internet has finally become a forum for public discourse. I can quickly and easily express who I am voting for and why. I’m not going to try to convince you to do anything – just give you reasons why I think the way I do. And because we think in a similar way, maybe you’ll be open to what I say compared to, oh I don’t know, Fox News. When election time rolls around, being from Ohio becomes especially important to me. I grew up knowing lots of people (including myself at one point) who can be easily swayed by what they hear in their sheltered communities at church or around the dinner table. It’s a self-perpetuating  mechanism with no incoming feed from the outside world.

Not anymore.