Bob and Joy Schwabach
 

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August 2007, Week 4    

wagging dog

TV GETS A JOOST

Last week we wrote about devices for displaying Internet video on your TV. This week we'll go in reverse and look at ways to bring TV shows to your computer.

Joost.com is one way of watching TV on the Internet. It offers hundreds of free shows, and there is no schedule you have to follow. Everything is prerecorded, so you click on what you'd like to see. The free software is still in its beta version, meaning not the final release, so some bugs may come up. It works with Windows or Mac.

We gave it a whirl and watched some new features from Reuters, "The Little Prince" (one of a collection of classic films from Paramount Pictures), a National Geographic special on snakes, the British Poker Open (wildly overdramatized), hockey playoff games and then went to dinner. There areJoost TV more than 150 channels, and some new shows have appeared here before they went to broadcast TV. The selections were tons of fun, even though they came with some ads.

The founders of Joost are the same two Scandinavians who created the groundbreaking Skype software for making free phone calls over the Internet.

STILL MORE VIEWS

New as Joost is, a competitor has already popped up. That's Veoh.com, which offers video from thousands of Web sites. These include the major TV networks -- Fox, PBS, NBC, ABC, CNBC, CBS -- and independently produced videos from YouTube, Google Video and MySpace. You can watch classic TV shows, like Milton Berle, "Dragnet," "The Beverly Hillbillies" and many more. There's also educational material from the Science Channel and New York Times Video. News programs tend to run behind current broadcast news, sometimes two weeks behind.

Veoh offers a few features Joost doesn't. You can watch videos on your cell phone, if you use V Cast, a service of Verizon. You can upload your own videos Veoh TVor save video to your hard drive. You get the software from Veoh.com. Again, this is beta software, so there may be bugs along the way. On the other hand, it's free.

TV ANYWHERE

It's one thing to watch preselected and prerecorded TV on your computer, but it's quite another to watch a live broadcast from any station you currently get on your home TV.

The giant killer in sending TV shows to a computer is the SlingBox from SlingMedia.com. It is now available as the SlingBox Pro, $200 to $249 from various retailers. We tried out two competing boxes, one from Pinnacle (PinnacleSys.com), the other from Hava (MyHava.com), and while Hava didn't quite measure up, it's getting close. They all sell for about the same price.

We're going to skip reviewing the SlingBox here because there must be a hundred reviews already out on it. You can check them by going to Google and searching on "slingbox reviews," or you can go to Cnet.com or PCMagazine.com, Amazon.com, etc. In other words, the whole journalistic world has been on this case for some time. Let's move on to the new boxes.

We won't bore you with the sordid details, but we couldn't get the Hava box working at all, even after lengthy discussions with the company's technical support. We finally reached the end of our tether on that one and passed out on the rug.

The PCTV to Go, HD Wireless, from Pinnacle Systems, was easier to set up and worked reasonably well. Joy took her laptop to a library that had a wireless Internet connection. After connecting to the Internet, she clicked on the PCTVLittle Womenicon on her laptop and started watching the movie "Little Women." The cable box back home was on, but the TV itself was off. The movie came in quite clearly on her PC.

We saw two problems: one is there's no on/off switch, and the PCTV unit sitting on top of our cable box got pretty hot after a while. The other is that the box requires the placement of two infrared lights over the infrared sensor on your cable box. What, you don't know where that sensor is? Welcome to the club. You can call the cable company and ask, or just work through it by trial and error.

Once set up, you can use the Pinnacle box to watch your home TV on your PC from anywhere in the world. Or you can watch on your PC at home from a TV nearby. If you're at a remote location and want to watch a show that is broadcast from your home base, remember to tune in at the right time. A showPCTV to GO being broadcast at 8 p.m. in Chicago would have to seen or recorded at 8 a.m. in Bangkok. If, however, you have a digital video recorder (DVR) or TiVo-type device, it too can be controlled with PCTV to Go. You can set it to record the show and play it back on your own schedule.

When you're watching your home TV from a remote location, the picture will be about half the size as when you're watching locally. You can bring it up to full but the resolution will suffer.

Who uses this thing? We're told that parents who don't want to clutter up their children's bedrooms with TVs and computers install only a computer in the bedroom and beam TV to it. People also like to watch TV from their backyard, by bringing their laptop outside. We think it would be fun to watch your home television on your laptop when you're in another country and can't find any programming in your own language.

 

 

 
 
 
           

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