Diary Of My Switch To Internet TV – Part 5 – Doldrums, IR Remotes and Google TV

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Tim Higgins

Maybe its that summer weather has come early to SNB HQ in central Virginia. But much of my fervor to bid bye-bye to DirecTV has ratcheted back to a more leisurely pace.

It seems that I’m not alone in taking things slow. Last week the WSJ reported that Hulu won’t be launching its subscription service by the end of May, as previously rumored.

This probably isn’t because the folks at Hulu have all caught spring fever. But I want to see how much more content Hulu will release with their paid service, which is still supposedly priced at $10 / month, before I make the call to the customer retention folks at DTV.

In the meantime, Netflix via the Roku box remains our Internet "TV" platform of choice. Ms. SmallNetBuilder is as comfortable with it as she is with the DTV DVR and she can drive it with no problem via the activity that I programmed into our Logitech Harmony One remote.

She may even turn to Netflix more often once Roku rolls out its new interface ("coming soon" they say), which will allow access to all Netflix "Watch Now" content. We seem to find more and better quality "Watch Instantly" content on Netflix each time we check, and the new GUI will make it easier to access.

The new Netflix interface on Roku, "coming soon"

The new Netflix interface on Roku, "coming soon"

I continue to occasionally dabble with Boxee and Hulu Desktop, mainly because both are easy to use and have a wide variety of content. I also bring up Windows Media Center from time to time. But its Internet selections are too limited to hold my attention for long.

One of the things that has been holding me, and, more importantly, Ms. SmallNetBuilder back from using anything other than Roku / Netflix is that using them required me to drive. As noted last time, I’ve tried the Boxee app, collect3’s XBMC app and studio WildCat’s RemoteX. In th eend, RemoteX ended up being my go-to app since it has mouse and keyboard capability.

That is, it was my go-to app until I found Mobile Air Mouse, which is way cooler and easier to use than RemoteX. Switching between keyboard modes is a breeze and I found myself using the shake-to-bring-up-and-put-away-the-keyboard feature a lot. Other features like portrait / landscape mode, application dock and customizeable keys make it a steal for $1.99!

Even better, though is the version for the iPad. With all the iPad extra screen to work with, you can have a huge trackpad and keyboard at all times. Again, a steal at $2.99.

But my spouse isn’t big on swapping from remote to remote. So I decided it was time to get IR capability added to the Acer Revo 3610, so that the Harmony One could be used to drive it, too.

Going against the advice that I had gotten in this post and influenced by it cheap price and Amazon reviews, I first tried this very cheap remote, which did not work out. Try as I might, I could not get its IR receiver to work with the Harmony One. I tried using the recommended Chinavision CVSB-983 profile and even learning the IR codes directly from the remote in RAW format. But at $9, it was worth the experiment and the remote and IR receiver do work together properly.

So it was back to Amazon to order the recommended remote, a Noah Company MediaGate GP-IR02BK.

This is the remote to get to add IR to a PC

This is the remote to get to add IR to a PC

Although it was three times the cost of the no-name remote, it worked like a champ and the recommended Microsoft Windows Media Center SE Harmony remote profile worked first time. I was able to follow the somewhat cryptic instructions in the link above to add mouse control, too.

The other nice thing about the MediaGate remote is that its IR receiver has a built-in feedback LED so that you know it’s receiving remote commands. And it has jacks for two IR blasters and comes with one in case you need to relay IR to another device.

MediaGate IR receiver

MediaGate IR receiver

Google TV

The big news for Internet TV last week was Google’s circus around its Internet TV platform. They’ve lined up impressive partners including Sony, Logitech and Intel, all of whom hope to use Google’s pixie dust to improve their fortunes in an area where they are falling behind.

But as anyone who has been fooling around with Internet TV knows, the hardware and software used to play the content ain’t the problem. It’s getting the content that we want to watch. Maybe the Google wizards will be able to use their magic to find 47,432 different places to grab the latest Daily Show episode (I wonder if their search will include the various torrent sites and EZTV?) But if the content owners don’t want Google TV to serve you their content, be prepared for crappy resolution, dead links and playback hiccups galore.

Maybe Hulu, Viacom, et al won’t screw with Google as much as they have with Boxee. But if Google doesn’t get its content partners lined up like it has its hardware peeps, then it’ll be another all hat, no cattle "solution". And don’t think for a second that the broadcast networks, cable and satellite folks will be lining up to turn over a chunk of their ad revenue, either!

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