TiVo Series3 + Amazon Unbox + Rhapsody + SlingBox = Digital Media Nirvana

TB and I have been NetFlix subscribers since the service debuted. We have not been watching as many DVDs lately due to our work & travel schedules but there also haven’t been many good movies out, in my opinion. We have a bunch of C- movies in our possession on average so we end up waiting a few days to receive a new movie we are interested when it is finally released on DVD. Well, no more.

We saddled up with TiVo again, finally trading in our Comcast DVR for a TiVo Series3. We were TiVo subscribers in our previous homes via DirecTV and missed the simple, easy-to-use and it-just-works interface of the boxes since switching to Comcast a couple years back. I’m glad we rediscovered TiVo as the Series3 boxes and their various services are simply amazing.

With our Series3 box we can:TiVo Unbox Rhapsody Slingbox

  1. Watch all our favorite high-definition broadcast (football!) and premium programs in all their 720p and 1080i glory.  
  2. Rent new movies and TV shows using Amazon Unbox directly from the TiVo—or any computer connected to the Internet. (more)
  3. Listen to the latest music via RealNetworks Rhapsody directly from the TiVo. (more)
  4. View our TiVo recordings in other rooms in our home among multiple TiVo Series2, TiVo Series3 and TiVo HD boxes. (Multi-Room Viewing)
  5. Copy any (unprotected) recorded programs from the TiVo to any computer on our home network—enables us to burn the program to DVD or take on-the-road on a laptop. This feature isn’t well advertised by TiVo…probably to keep Hollywood off their back. Requires the free TiVo Desktop 2.5 (or later) software. (TiVoToGo)
  6. Copy any video saved on any computer on our home network to the TiVo—enables us to watch things like YouTube programs and home movies on the big screen. This feature isn’t well advertised by TiVo either. Requires purchase of TiVo Desktop 2.5 Plus software for $25.
  7. Take any of those programs from #5 and copy them to portable digital media players like an iPod or our Zunes—great for the gym and airplane. Requires purchase of TiVo Desktop 2.5 Plus.
  8. Access our entire digital music collection and play our music on the big system with song information displayed on the big TV. Requires free TiVo Desktop 2.5 software. (more)
  9. Access our entire digital photo collection and view them on the big TV for sharing with family and friends. Requires free TiVo Desktop 2.5 software. (more)
  10. Check local weather, traffic, etc. using Yahoo! services. (more)

That’s quite a list of features that make the new TiVo boxes and monthly subscription fees worth it to us. Once you factor in our Slingbox AV—which gives us access to all our TiVo content from anywhere in the world—it’s clear we have truly reached Digital Media Nirvana.

Picture Gallery: South America

Here are some pictures from our trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil earlier this month to celebrate the 10-year wedding anniversary of friends we went to school with.

We spent a lot of time in cafes in Buenos Aires and hit the major sites (Christ the Redeemer, Copacabana beach, Sugar Loaf, etc.) in Rio. We also dined at authentic Brazilian churrascarias (steakhouses/barbecues) about a half-dozen times. All in all, we had a great time. Rio is a must-do if you haven’t been already.

Zune v2

Over a year has passed since Microsoft announced Zune to the world. According to reports published today, version 2 of the Zune brand of portable digital media devices will be unveiled tomorrow, Tuesday, Oct 1, in a joint PR event involving Bill Gates and J Allard.

I have been a Zune fan since the very first announcement despite the recent shellacking the Zune brand received following Apple’s introduction of its latest iPods—the iPod Touch, in particular. But it wasn’t what Apple did with their formidable iPod juggernaut that has me waiting on the sidelines ahead of the Zune announcements this time around. It’s really what Microsoft failed to do.

Microsoft failed to release any significant firmware, software or services updates for Zune v1 over the past year to narrow the sizeable innovation gap between its device and Apple’s family of devices. That is a very bitter pill to swallow considering Microsoft is a software + services company. That’s what we do. I don’t really care about the hardware that much as long as the device isn’t too clumsy and it has decent battery life and a killer display for watching movies. It is all about the services and the end-to-end experience (e.g., Xbox, Windows Vista Media Center, Windows Live, MSN Direct, etc.)

It’s embarrassing the original Zune has not been updated to natively support Audible files, podcasts or non-Windows Media video. It’s downright mortifying the device never received a firmware update to add a clock, alarm or casual games. The Zune desktop software is very buggy and not user friendly—I don’t use the Zune Marketplace. The one time I located a stranger in the vicinity via my Zune’s Wi-Fi connection, my attempt to share one of my favorite songs was unceremoniously rebuked…so much for getting into the social.

My Zune works and I have had no issues over the past year which is more than I can say for any of the iPods I have owned. It has traveled with me around the world and provided numerous hours of entertainment and ear candy on trains, planes and treadmills. Accordingly, I am willing to forgive all the Zune v1 transgressions above if the v2 firmware and hardware (finally) do something to significantly narrow the iPod innovation gap. If not, I will wait for Apple to fix the display issues and limited storage capacity of the iPod Touch—probably over the next 6 months—before rejoining the iPod ranks.

I am holding out hope Bill Gates’ involvement with the Zune v2 PR campaign bodes well for all the super-secret, highly-innovative user experiences the devices will offer. You see Microsoft’s beloved co-founder and chairman is on his victory lap and I doubt he wants to go out on a dud.