Tag Archive | "streaming"

Amazon Fire TV Stick Review (Focus on Miracast.)

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firetv

At €39 the Amazon Fire TV Stick is very interesting. For Prime customers it’s a must-buy but for those of us with Miracast-enabled devices it means that the Miracast feature (Screen Mirroring) also brings extra value. Early firmware builds for the Fire TV Stick didn’t support Miracast from Windows 8.1 but I’ve just received a stick here in Germany, upgraded the firmware and tested Miracast on two Windows PCs, a Windows smartphone and an Android tablet. All of them worked but there are still some issues that need sorting out. Read on for a review of the Fire TV Stick, a focus on Miracast and some thoughts about KODI, iConsole Micro and Chromecast.

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Amazon Fire TV Stick does Miracast too for just $39

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Every Windows 8 tablet I’ve tried recently supports Miracast but I rarely use it because it’s never plugged into my TV. I’ve thought about getting a cheap stick I can leave in the living room TV but never really got round to it. Now that the $39 Amazon Fire TV stick has been announced though I think the solution will be a no-brainer.

Amazon Fire TV Stick

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Flatster’s MP3 sales model is part radio-recording, part matching, all good value.

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At first I didn’t understand how the service worked but after testing Flatster over the last week I’m enjoying it. I’m also convinced there’s something new and interesting going on here. Legal MP3 downloads with no DRM for very little money.

flatster

My testing started after I won 50 MP3 songs on a beer-bottle-top competition. The Warsteiner / Flatster promotion allowed me to log into the service and choose 50 songs. I won another, and then another and I’ve got a 250 song allowance right now which really isn’t bad for a few beers!

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Google Announces Music Beta, Brings Updates to Music Apps on Honeycomb and 2.2+ – Request an Invite Today

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google music betaThe oft rumored service from Google has finally been announced at Google I/O and is currently operating as a free invitation-only beta service that only works in the US. No word as to whether or not it’ll find its way to other countries, but knowing how resistant the music labels are to these kinds of services, it likely won’t be an easy task to make it happen overseas.

The concept isn’t too far fetched… with Google Music you can upload all of your music to the web, then stream it to a number of devices such as smartphones, tablets, and any computer with a modern browser. Google has created a video which briefly illustrates how the service will work:

Google has made this service much more appealing to me than the similar Amazon Cloud Player thanks to Music Manager, a multi-platform program that will help you import your music from Windows Media Player and iTunes.

I’ve spent a long time rating songs and organizing my library; thankfully the Music Manager program, compatible with OSX and Windows, will import not only all of your music but playlists and ratings as well. This is a huge point for me, and one of the reasons that I still haven’t given Amazon’s Cloud Player service a try.

Google says that Music Beta currently supports up to 20,000 songs which will playback at 320 Kbps, according to Information Week. Quality will also change dynamically based on network conditions.

The service is free in the beta phase, but it sounds like Google will be charging for it once it’s officially launched.

As Jared Newman of Time Techland points out, Google Music sounds great, but Google isn’t actually selling any music at this point. You’ll have to upload music that you download from other services.

Music App Updates

music app updatesAlong with this announcement come updates to the Music app for Android devices running Honeycomb (3.0+) or Froyo and beyond (2.2+). Honeycomb devices should already have access to the update while Android 2.2+ devices will begin to see the update in the next few weeks, according to Google.

music app honeycombThe updated app enables support for Google’s Music Beta service which will allow users to play their entire cloud-stored library on their device. For offline access, Music will cache a number of recently played songs, and you’ll also be able to manually mark which songs/artists/albums/playlists that you want to always have available on a given device for offline playback.

Instant Mix

Google has also announced a neat feature called Instant Mix. Much like Apple’s ‘Genius’, the feature aims to create a playlist from your library based on a single song that you select. Unlike Genius, Instant Mix actually analyzes your music by listening to it, then suggests similar songs based on the waveform of each individual song. Pretty neat.

Request an Invite

If you want to give Google Music Beta a try, just head over to music.google.com and find the “Request an Invitation inch button at the top right of the page. There’s no word yet on how exactly Google is handing out invitations, but knowing Google, they’ll probably be rolling them out in waves.

Even if you don’t have an invitation to the service, you’ll still have access to the updated versions of the Music app for use with locally stored music.

Google Announces Music Beta, Brings Updates to Music Apps on Honeycomb and 2.2+ – Request an Invite Today

Tags: , , , , , ,


google music betaThe oft rumored service from Google has finally been announced at Google I/O and is currently operating as a free invitation-only beta service that only works in the US. No word as to whether or not it’ll find its way to other countries, but knowing how resistant the music labels are to these kinds of services, it likely won’t be an easy task to make it happen overseas.

The concept isn’t too far fetched… with Google Music you can upload all of your music to the web, then stream it to a number of devices such as smartphones, tablets, and any computer with a modern browser. Google has created a video which briefly illustrates how the service will work:

Google has made this service much more appealing to me than the similar Amazon Cloud Player thanks to Music Manager, a multi-platform program that will help you import your music from Windows Media Player and iTunes.

I’ve spent a long time rating songs and organizing my library; thankfully the Music Manager program, compatible with OSX and Windows, will import not only all of your music but playlists and ratings as well. This is a huge point for me, and one of the reasons that I still haven’t given Amazon’s Cloud Player service a try.

Google says that Music Beta currently supports up to 20,000 songs which will playback at 320 Kbps, according to Information Week. Quality will also change dynamically based on network conditions.

The service is free in the beta phase, but it sounds like Google will be charging for it once it’s officially launched.

As Jared Newman of Time Techland points out, Google Music sounds great, but Google isn’t actually selling any music at this point. You’ll have to upload music that you download from other services.

Music App Updates

music app updatesAlong with this announcement come updates to the Music app for Android devices running Honeycomb (3.0+) or Froyo and beyond (2.2+). Honeycomb devices should already have access to the update while Android 2.2+ devices will begin to see the update in the next few weeks, according to Google.

music app honeycombThe updated app enables support for Google’s Music Beta service which will allow users to play their entire cloud-stored library on their device. For offline access, Music will cache a number of recently played songs, and you’ll also be able to manually mark which songs/artists/albums/playlists that you want to always have available on a given device for offline playback.

Instant Mix

Google has also announced a neat feature called Instant Mix. Much like Apple’s ‘Genius’, the feature aims to create a playlist from your library based on a single song that you select. Unlike Genius, Instant Mix actually analyzes your music by listening to it, then suggests similar songs based on the waveform of each individual song. Pretty neat.

Request an Invite

If you want to give Google Music Beta a try, just head over to music.google.com and find the “Request an Invitation” button at the top right of the page. There’s no word yet on how exactly Google is handing out invitations, but knowing Google, they’ll probably be rolling them out in waves.

Even if you don’t have an invitation to the service, you’ll still have access to the updated versions of the Music app for use with locally stored music.

Streaming YouTube HD on the Archos Internet Media Tablet. (Video)

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IMG_0912 Before we start on the topic of video performance I have to highlight how complex the subject is and how difficult it is to present performance figures. Digital video is a complex matrix of multiple wrappers for multiple encoding types (video, multi-track audio and multiple subtitles) with different encoding profiles, options, resolutions and bitrates. Format conversion, phsycovisual optimization, buffering and on-the-fly resizing is another set of complex topics. Speak to anyone in the video streaming business and they will take pleasure in telling you how extremely complex it is. For example, at IDF I spoke Envivio, a company that specialises in video streaming.  Because of the complexities and ever-changing capabilities of client devices they’ve chosen to do all their encoding in software on general purpose X86 CPU’s rather than in dedicated silicon.

As consumers, we tend to use a number of benchmarks. YouTube streaming, DVD and camcorder files.  YouTube quality is determined by how smooth LQ, HQ and HD versions are in windowed and full-screen mode. DVD is a tighter standard based on MPEG-2. Camcorder files have already reached high bitrates and there are even 1080p (1920×1080 resolution) consumer cameras out there. I tend to talk in terms of codecs and bitrates rather than 720p/1080p because those expressions are often used incorrectly but for online video, the simplest way to do it is just to demonstrate it using what most web-based customers are moving to. HD-quality YouTube.

YouTube HD quality is based on MPEG-4 Part 10/AVC  (H.264) and offers 720p resolutions (1280×720) at an average bitrate of 2Mbps. (See good Wikipedia entry here for more info) Netbooks and UMPCs running XP can not play this file format but by installing the Adobe Flash player, you get access to this format via YouTube and their embedded Flash content. Unfortunately, the Adobe Flash player is heavy on CPU usage so on these low powered devices the quality is terrible.  There are ways to improve this. YouTube download tools allow you to play content in a separate video player which works in an efficient way. I’m able to play downloaded YouTube HD files on my netbook right here. In the near future, the Flash 10.1 player will be able to access hardware video decoders (not currently on most netbooks although the next generation of netbooks will be able to support this) making it even easier for consumers but there are already a few devices out there that can give you the YouTube HD experience out of the box.

I’ve been testing one of those devices. The Archos5 Internet Media Tablet running Android and many people have been asking me about the video performance so I thought I would answer most of the questions by way of a video demo. Some of the details get a bit technical and of course, the video is not representative of the actually quality of video playback on the Archos 5 but the demo gives you a good idea of what you can expect.

Just one note, this was shot in VGA using M-JPEG encoding at about 15Mbps, converted to 1.5mbps WMV  and you’re watching it via the flash decoder after conversion by YouTube to the H.264 (or Sorenson) codec. See what I mean!

Break out into a full-screen window and hit the ‘HQ’ button for the best quality possible. The original WMV version is available at Blip.tv.

For completeness and attribution, here’s the original video on YouTube.  Hit the ‘HD’ button and see how it streams on your device.

What’s the Smallest Device for Webcam Chat?

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This question just cam up on Twitter and I think I know where Daniel Blake, the CEO of TinyChat, a web-based Webcam-enabled chat system is going with this!

It’s a subject very close to my heart and so I’ve decided to answer it in more than 140 characters.

The requirements are:

  • Small device
  • Webcam
  • Mic
  • Wifi
  • Flash 10

First of all, let me highlight my recent article about the Mobile reporting solution version 6. It’s a 3G-enabled solution with an external cam but the core, the Viliv X70 UMPC, can actually run with its own webcam. The X70 is probably the best long-battery-life mobile (and 3G capable) solution out there. But that’s no what Daniel was asking. He just wanted something small with Wifi.

In my experience, the quality of the webcam depends on the software drivers behind it. For example, the very small, very light Kohjinsha SK3 has an awesome 3mp, auto-focus webcam on a swivel screen but the video drivers are so damn heavyweight that the results are just not up to scratch. On the other hand, the lower quality Clevo TN70M with the 800×480 screen is a much better solution. I’ve done WiFi-based Skype on this for long periods and the quality is excellent. The best thing is that it’s available without an OS so you can drop Ubuntu on it and have a sub-1KG portable web chat system for under 400 Euros.

Looking at the product database (and sorting by weight) I see some other solutions too. The smallest and lightest solution there is the UMID M1 at 315gm / 11oz.  We’ve done a full review of this one and here’s what I said about the cam.

The quality of the webcam is good for such a small device. Recording using Movie maker at a relatively high 1mbps bit-rate resulted in better-than-expected results. It also works with Skype although you will be hitting CPU limits that will keep the frame rate down. Streaming with Ustream again returned better than expected results.  Not totally smooth but certainly acceptable for a quick broadcast.

IMG_0685

Remember it’s running the same CPU as the Clevo and X70 I just mentioned and it’s also available in a very nice black finish too. Ben is testing that one right now.

In summary then. Here are the top three choices.

Devices based on the Intel Atom 1.3 or 1.6Ghz version e.g. the T91, the U820 (available with a 2.0Ghz Atom!) and some of the lighter netbooks, are all worth looking at. Also keep an eye on the Archos 9.  If its small and light that you want though, the UMID is unbeatable for the occasional web-cam chat session.

Let us know if you do any tests Daniel.

Move Networks to Demo Live TV on MIDs

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Move Networks have been working with Intel for a while now. I last saw them at IDF where I had a great demo of their adaptive streaming service on a MID. The player was well-designed and with a back-channel in use, the client and server were able to adapt to changing network conditions and provide the best quality stream for the current bandwidth. The player also supported hardware decoding of the H.264 stream which meant that it was efficient and able to support some very impressive quality levels. Move Networks will be demonstrating this again at CES so if anyone out there in Vegas is reading this, I encourage you to visit them at the Intel booth # 7153.

Press release via Broadcast Newsroom

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