Virtuality = Caprica?

Ronald D. Moore is the creator of the highly successful Sci-Fi Channel show, Battlestar Galactica, and his spin0ff venture called Caprica seems to be just as good.  I bought the direct-to-DVD pilot episode of Caprica and really liked the story, characters, and acting. I can’t wait for this show to start up next year.

Another one of Moore’s creation is a TV show called Virtuality which aired yesterday night. It involves 12 astronauts on a deep space mission who use Virtual Reality devices to help them keep their sanity while traveling on a 10 year mission. In my opinion, the pilot show was a bit slow and had too much of the “reality show” stuff that turned me off. What was really disappointing, is the fact that the virtual reality component of the show resembled much of what was shown in the Caprica pilot. It was just too similar, appearing that Virtuality took an interesting piece of Caprica and put it in a different setting (traveling spaceship). If I had a choice between the two shows, I’d probably select Caprica over Virtuality because Caprica appears to have more options so far as story development, new characters, etc. Of course, this is a moot point since from what I’ve been reading Caprica is a definite new series while Virtuality still hasn’t been give the green light by the Fox network.

Streaming Videos From Home PC

orb_logoEarlier this week I was out of town on a business trip, and I had several TV recordings waiting for me on my Home PC. Since I was bored surfing the local TV channels in my hotel room (nothing was on, of course), I wished I had access to my video recordings so I could watch them. Sure, I could have used logmein to put the WMV video files on an ftp server and then download them to my laptop, but that would have been a big hassle with the extra work, transfer times, etc.

Recently, I did discover a new free service called Orb which is a software package you install on your home PC (with an “always on” Internet connection) that will stream video, music, pictures, or documents to a remote computer system via the Internet. So if I had this software installed on my home PC, I could have watched my TV recordings on my laptop in my hotel and feel right at home!

Also, Orb can be used to display a live TV show from my home PC via the installed TV Tuner card, which sounds very much like what the SlingBox hardware can do. As a test, I found that streaming live TV shows in this manner appeared choppy and had a lot of delays with the stream buffering, but I imagine some of that can be fixed with some tuning of the streaming settings.

To use Orb, you simply go to mycast.orb.com in a standard web browser and log into your Orb account. From that point, you can select which video you want to watch from your home PC, and let Orb do its thing. Orb will do a quick speed test (to determine the resolution and streaming speed) and will then bring up an appropriate media player on your remote machine for playing the video.

orb_example

When I tried streaming one of my WMV video files (converted by my PC for my Zune), it did come across the Internet connection very well with no delay in stream buffering. Most likely this was due to the fact that the video resolution was 320×240 and thus it didn’t need to send across too much data per frame. Still, using Orb seems to be an effective way of watching my TV recordings while away from my home PC.

What’s really cool, is that I was able to stream a WMV video file from my home PC to my Motorola-Q cell phone (with Windows Mobile 5 OS) which played in Windows Media Player. The video image was reduced in resolution, but it played fine. Not bad for a wireless internet connection via the Verizon cell phone service. I can certainly see myself using Orb to watch my TV recordings on my Moto-Q phone while waiting at the airport gate, in my hotel room, etc.

As another test, I tried accessing Orb using my wife’s Blackberry Curve smartphone. Sure enough, it worked fine for playing the selected video (albeit, the video image was small on her phone).

So, I highly recommend you check out Orb to see if it meets your video watching needs.

Back to Watching TV Re-Runs

erWith so many crappy TV shows on the air these days (a.k.a., reality shows), I’ve decided to go back to watching old TV shows from the 80’s and 90’s. One such show, is ER which is being broadcast on cable channel TNT every weekday (two episode per day). They are currently up to season 4, which was originally broadcast around 1997. Although these episodes are from 12 years ago (evident from the large cell phones and ancient PC computers), the stories are still relevant today. Of course, I have my trusty Vista Media Center system diligently recording these shows everyday, and I can watch them at night in bed before I hit the sack!

Can’t Convert AMC TV Recordings

videosThe other day I recorded “The Searchers” (old John Wayne movie) using my TV Tuner card in my PC with Vista Media Center, and I noticed that DVRMSToolbox had difficulty converting the recorded DVR-MS file to WMV format for my Zune.  Upon inspecting the generated log file, I noticed that the conversion software crashed. I then tried several different methods for converting the DVR-MS file (to WMV format, to MPEG format, etc) but everything I tried failed.

I then did a Google search on the topic, and discovered that the AMC (American Movie Channel) broadcast must have DRM protection enabled. As such, I can watch the recording on my PC but I can’t convert the video file to any other format. What a bummer! So, there’s not much I can do to get this video on my Zune, so “The Duke” will have to wait until I have time to watch it on my PC screen. 😦