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Windows 7 Beta Release … Huge Failure Friday – Back again Saturday … Apology on Monday

Update: Saturday January 10th 1:00 PM eastern time.

Site is back up .. Key acquired … all is right with the world.

Update 2: Monday January 12th 9:00 AM. Microsoft Apologizes – 2.5 million key limit removed!

“I know many of you had issues with the Windows 7 beta site of the last 24 hours,” Brandon LeBlanc, a Windows communications manager, wrote in a blog post. “As you may have noticed the download site has been up and running smoothly since this morning. That said, we apologize for the inconvenience that it caused some of you.”

Friday January 9th

OK, to start with there wasn’t a clear statement on when the Windows 7  Beta was going to be released or which website to go to to get it.

So at 9:00 AM I started watching the site http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-7/default.aspx . The site was not available for quite a while … and then came up with the message Windows 7 Beta available for public download the afternoon of January 9th.  Geez … they couldn’t be a little more specific … like eastern time or pacific time or zulu time?

I trudge on … checking the site every few minutes  … Noon eastern time passes, 1:00pm comes and goes … 2:00 PM slides on by … I’m getting excited now as 3:00 PM approaches .. so pacific time  … that makes sense right … NOPE – 3:00 PM passes and I’m still checking the site every few minutes … ARGHHH!

I keep plugging away and around 6:00 PM eastern time I notice a message on the web page:

Thanks for your interest in the Windows 7 Beta. The volume has been phenomenal—we’re in the process of adding more servers to handle the demand. We’re sorry for the delay and we’ll re-post the Beta as soon as we can ensure a quality download experience.

Now I assume those guy’s and gal’s at Microsoft are pretty smart .. and they have tons of servers right … and its not too hard to add servers so I decide to keep trying … because I’m been doing this since 9:00 AM this morning and I’ll be damned if I’m going to quit  to have the beta come back up an hour later and the 2.5 million keys be gone when I try again tomorrow. 7:00PM …drags by … then 8:00 slowly ticks past … What .. is the server guy on vacation? 9:00 PM and I’m starting to get a little testy … at 10:00 PM I’m burning holes  in the shape of an X in the custom Windows 7  T-shirt I made for the occasion with my cigarette. 11:00 PM … yep you guessed it still no love from Microsoft.

I mean they could have said something … like come back tomorrow at noon pacific … instead of leaving me hanging with false hope  …

I went over to Friendfeed to see what my mentors had to say .. Paul Thurrott (my favorite tech person) was strangley quiet after his initial post about the beta availability … Chris Pirillo posted about the fail and posted a link for the direct download of the beta  http://www.lockergnome.com/griffin/2009/01/09/windows-7-public-beta-direct-download-links/ . Thanks Chris, but what we really want is an official release with the key that’s good thru August and not just the 30 day “no key” beta.

Now its 2:17 AM Saturday and NO the Beta is still not there. I’m throwing in my Mahalo towel and giving up for the night!

Paul Thurrott, I know you’re a pretty laid back guy… but I truly hope to hear you rant at least a little on the next  Windows Weekly about this whole debacle.

I’ve run the PDC Beta for a while. I like it.

Yeah I know Beta 1 is free … I already have the the Beta 1 from a direct link.

My concern is there are only 2.5 million keys and from the results yesterday its apparent they will disappear quickly … that’s what caused the “traffic jam” Friday and my complaint is about Microsoft’s handling of information …

“available the afternoon of January 9th” caused part of the problem and the vague follow up of “we’ll re-post the Beta as soon as we can ensure a quality download experience” continued it.

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Got Windows 7 ? .. find out how to unlock the special features

This was discussed last week on Leo Laporte’s TWIT podcast featuring Paul Thurrott and Within Windows blogger Rafael Rivera discussing Microsoft PDC and Windows 7.

Rafael stumbled upon the unlock while looking thru the mounds of stuff provided at PDC and posted the how to on his blog. Way to go Rafael 2 points for you!

read more | digg story

You should also check out Ed Botts follow up story.

News Flash – Hulu and Netflix play directly to your TV – Popcorn Hour and MediaMall Playon

Popcorn hour a110 … its a networked media tank, a NAS, A UPNP server, a samba server, a media server, a NFS server, a Bitorent client, an NZB client and an energy saver to boot.

So my Popcorn hour a110 came in last week and I’ve been having tons of fun playing with it.

I have a netgear digital entertainer hd eva8000 (about $300) which has some similar features to the popcorn hour box… that is it’s HD, you can stream movies and music and pictures from attached usb drives or network shares , watch youtube and get some internet news feeds etc. Its great but there are some major differences …

1. You have to run software from a PC
2. No internal storage
2. No Hulu and Netflix
4. No using it as a nas
5. No nzb downloads
6. No Bitorrent client
7. Not much web content

The Popcorn Hour doesn’t need to have a PC running, you can add a internal hard drive or not. You get much more functionality when you do.

You can add more than 1 usb external drive.

Without a PC you can plug in a usb drive and hook the supplied hdmi cable to your TV and watch your movies or listens to music or view pictures. Add a drive and you can install all the extra provided software ..

You get:
A universal plug and play server which will usually automatically find any shared network stuff ( like my windows home server)

A samba server so you can connect the internal drive to your PC … map the drive on your pc and use it as a NAS or just copy over movies to play directly on the popcorn hour. To connect your popcorn hour to your PC (in vista) click start and type //192.168.0.190 (or whatever ip address you popcorn is using) hit enter and you will get a login box asking for a username and password … which by default is nmt for username and 1234 for password. In xp I think its start, run and then type.

•Right click on the “share” folder. You can see one option as “Map Network Drive”. Left click on that.
•Select the drive label you want to assign to the “share” folder, and click finish.

You might also use the smb server to create a network share with your nas or windows home server. If you have a windows home server then on the popcorn hour click setup then network shares then add

Share name videos

url smb://server/videos

username any username you already set up on the server

password the password you setup on the server for the above username

You can do the same for the folders photos and music . You’ll then see those listed under source on your popcorn hour.

An NFS server … another way of connecting.

An FTP server …

A Bitorrent client … just port forward 8077 on your router to the ip of your popcorn hour (note: you should also set the popcorn hour to a static ip address in the network menu on the popcorn hour.) and drop or save torrent files to the torrent folder on the popcorn hour drive you mapped to your pc earlier. You can manage the torrent downloads from your browser. http://192.168.0.182:8883/torrent/bt.cgi

An NZB app … if you have a usenet news server account just open the .nzbget folder on your popcorn hour drive and edit nzbget.conf file in notepad and change the newsgroup section replacing server1 info with your =news server, your =user name, your =password and save the file.

# Host-name of newsserver
server1.host=news.powerusenet.com
# Port to connect to (default 119 if not specified)
server1.port=119
# Username to use for authentication
server1.username=blahblah@mail.com
# Password to use for authentication
server1.password=12345678# Maximal number of simultaneous connections to this server
server1.connections=4#

After you’re done just drop or download an nzb to the nzb folder on the popcorn hour drive and boom its downloading to the download folder … even unrar’s the files.

Has youtube and other web content and saya tv .. I was not too interested in those .. but what really struck my fancy was a separate download – mediamalls playon. You install it on your pc and it acts as a server that lets you play Hulu and Netflix directly to your TV. QUITE AWESOME!!!!!!!!

So all that stuff I tryed … except nfs and ftp. Worked perfectly .. downloaded a torrent no problem. Downloaded an nzb and unrared no problem. Watched movies from windows home server shared drive, shared drive on the pc perfect … Played some music, watched some picture slide shows also perfect.

Now the popcorn hour is not as easy to setup as the Netgear hd Entertainer eva8000 and the popcorn hour doesn’t have the fancy pictures and movies descriptions you add with tags in the Netgear either. BUT you can add them . There’s a program called my Yet another Movie Jukebox that creates a movies catalog for you automatically with details and pictures from IMDB. Of course as you probably know you the movie you search for on IMDB may be another movie with the same or similar name so there are some drawbacks to the completely automated option.

Also check out My lil Movie Jukebox and a demo of it . My lil jukebox creates its pages from a neat program call Movie Collector which is not free but I already had it so …. Its has a lot more control of the data and you not only get cover pics and imdb details and ratings, but actors links and bio’s.

So that’s where I am right now .. This ain’t a box for your granny … but if you’re halfway intelligent you can figure it out and there are lots of great links on the popcorn hour group on Geeks.

Everything works perfectly playing from the popcorn but I am still working on getting the my lil movie jukebox add on program to play the links from my windows home server share. I’ll keep you posted as I progress.

2 days later

Okay .. here is my update on getting My Lil Movie Jukebox working on the Popcorn Hour A110 using media files on the windows home server.

Before you read any further you should be aware that one of the programs required to run My Lil Movie Jukebox is Movie Collector Pro which is not freeware. If you have a lot of movies … I have 500 .. you can expect to spend several hours using the program to grab photos and data about your movies and creating links to the actual movie files where ever they reside. There are other programs that will create a jukebox and try to populate the data from imdb automatically … Personally I would rather have the correct details and the added control you get from Movie Collector.

The My Lil Movie Jukebox has an extensive details page on how to use it. You should read it . Some of the setup details were incomplete and didn’t work for me with windows home server and the export app would not let me change the play button icons … but once I got it to install correctly I would say its pretty nice.

Another note before I describe how I got it to work with windows home server … about the Movie Collector export settings … while experimenting with different paths and going back to export again I found I had to reset the file to index.htm and the template to nmt.

The main page for My Lil Movie Jukebox has all these links below … I just put them here for convenience.

Download Movie Collector Pro and choose the default install

Download the My Lil Movie Jukebox software and unzip to the movie collector templates folder in your my documents folder

Download the Irfanview program file and choose the default install.

Download the ImageMagick program and choose the default install.

How to get My Lil Movie Jukebox and Popcorn Hour NMT to work with Windows Home Server.

You should be running the NMT software samba server and the Upnp server on you Popcorn Hour. You should have the drive on your popcorn hour mapped to a drive letter on your PC.

When I tried initially the Upnp server found the server:1: windows media connect and you could browse the folders and play the files from the popcorn hour but that won’t help you with the My Lil Movie Jukebox setup.

The Network Shares in setup showed nothing. You can manually add a network share or browse and add a network share. Browsing there I could see SERVER but clicking on it brought the infamous “no content found”. You can manually add an smb share and it will add a source where you can browse your shared folders and play your files but the link it created would not work with My Little Movie Jukebox export.

The solution is …. login to your windows home server go to users and enable guest with no password. Make sure Guest has the rights for Videos, Photos and Music. After you do that go to setup and network shares and click browse .. now when you browse to SERVER you will see the shared folders. Click on Videos leave the name blank … you don’t have to use Guest as user here you can use any name and password that is setup on your whs. I used Guest no password.

Below is what the export looked like. On the Windows Home Server in Videos I have 4 folders inside the Videos folder … Favorites, TV, new, and Movies which has 2 sub folders, grade a and grade b. I have the shared folder Videos mapped as Z:\ I used all the default settings in export except I chose to show title below image, and I took out the last 4 filters. enjoy

Drive Location = Y:\
Copy Resources? = YES

My PC Location 1 = Z:\Videos\Favorites\
My NMT Location 1 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/Favorites/

My PC Location 2 = Z:\Videos\Movies\grade a\
My NMT Location 2 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/Movies/grade a/

My PC Location 3 = Z:\Videos\Movies\grade b\
My NMT Location 3 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/Movies/grade b/

My PC Location 4 = Z:\Videos\new\
My NMT Location 4 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/new/

My PC Location 5 = Z:\Videos\TV\
My NMT Location 5 = file:///opt/sybhttpd/localhost.drives/NETWORK_SHARE/SERVER:Videos/TV/

******** INDEX SECTION *************

MovieIndex = index
Movies per page = 091
Index Background = background.jpg

Movie Columns = 7
Thumbnail height = 195
Thumbnail padding = 6

Focus Text = #000000
Focus Color = #FDDB2B
Captions? = YES

Thumbnail Cleanup? = YES
Irfanview Folder = C:\Program Files\IrfanView

ImageMagick Convert = YES
ImageMagick Folder = C:\Program Files\ImageMagick-6.4.2-Q8

******** DETAILS SECTION *************

Details Background = AllBlack.jpg
Image File Ext. = png
Display Movie Back = NO
Cover Image Height = 500

Focus Text = #000000
Focus Color = #FDDB2B

Play (not selected) = play1.png
Play (selected) = play_selected1.png

IMDB rating = YES
Video format = YES

Show Seen It = NO
Show Cast Info = YES

Show Crew = YES
Show Actor Links = YES

Show Nav Top = YES
Show Nav Bottom = NO

******** ACTOR SECTION *************

Actor Background = Movies1.jpg
Copy Actors Folder = YES
Perform Actor Export = YES

Focus Text = #000000
Focus Color = #FDDB2B

Actor Movie Columns = 6
Actor Cover Height = 230

******** FILTERS SECTION *************

# Filters to Export = 16
Main Index Title = Movie Index

Filter 101 = Action Action Movies
Filter 102 = Adventure Adventure Movies
Filter 103 = Animation Animation Movies
Filter 104 = Comedy Comedies
Filter 105 = Crime Crime Movies
Filter 106 = Drama Dramas
Filter 107 = Family Family Movies
Filter 108 = Fantasy Fantasy Movies
Filter 109 = Horror Horror Movies
Filter 110 = Musical Musicals

Filter 111 = Mystery Mysteries
Filter 112 = Romance Romance / Romantic Comedies
Filter 113 = SciFi Science Fiction Movies
Filter 114 = Thriller Thrillers
Filter 115 = War War Movies
Filter 116 = Western Westerns

You can buy the a100 Popcorn Hour for $179 and the a110 for $210.

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Roku opens platform … Rumors Amazon, YouTube, and Hulu among the partners being sought.

From an article by WebTvWire:

 

“This week when Roku founder and CEO, Anthony Wood, told a packed audience at the Streaming Media West conference all about his companies plans to expand onwards and upwards.

Wired reports that Wood announced:

“We’re opening up the platform to anyone who wants to put their video service on this box,”

“We’re going to release the software developer kit, so anyone can publish any channel, and users can access web content on their TVs.”

Conclusions

Wood, speaking during his keynote to the conference, refused to give a time line for this new strategy, but he did state that the company wouldn’t be changing its business model (making money from the hardware), or altering its relationship with Netflix.

This is brilliant news for existing Roku owners as well as mainstream consumers who are looking in to buying an Internet streaming set-top box.

It will be interesting to see which content providers Roku can now sign up, with the three companies already mentioned surely the natural primary targets.”

The Roku box which does include HDMI … connects directly to your TV without any connection to your PC.  Won’t be long before we can all watch Hulu and Netflix and everything thru this simple inexpensive and easy to use TV set top box.

Popcorn Hour Box – PLAYS Hulu and Netflix on your TV

A brief history first … I dropped cable about 8 months ago. Since then I have been getting video from a number of sources using technology.

I have multiple pc’s on a wired gigabit network with a Dlink draft n router. I connect to a windows home server where I have 2 terabytes of storage.  On the home server I store my digital DVD and TV show collection, my 5000+ mp3’s, and bout 12 GB of photos. I also do back ups of the pc’s.

In addition to the home server I have several external usb drives with digital media, 4 replaytv’s loaded with recorded shows, a roku box for Netflix Movies and TV shows, (its rumored Roku will add Hulu and others soon) and a Netgear Digital Entertainer HD eva8000.

With the Netgear eva8000 I can play all the media on my windows Home server and any external usb drive I attach to the eva8000 directly to my HDTV with hdmi cables. The replay attaches directly to the tv and I can play any stored shows and also transfer the shows to a PC If I want.

The Netgear eva8000 is great … it cost about$300, but there is another really awesome box called the Popcorn Hour (see the video review). Its about $200 and can do all that the eva8000 can plus a whole lot more. I ordered the popcorn hour a110 about a week ago … demand is extremely high so there a a several week wait …  next shipment date is October 15th.

Chris Pirillo started a new social site called Geeks (similar in ways to facebook). So while I was waiting to get my Popcorn Hour Box I joined Geeks and started a group there called Popcorn Hour. The purpose was to get some tips from current Popcorn users and get the most out of my box when it arrived.

Well I answered a lot of my own questions while researching links to start discussions in the group. So far I have started 13 dicussions which all include detailed information, how to’s, faq’s, forums …

Rather than repeating them all here I have included a link to the Popcorn Hour Group on Geeks. If you have the Popcorn hour I encourage you to add comments on the discussion threads there. Once I receive my box I will try to do a post including the unboxing all the way through to integration with my other video devices.

So checkout the Popcorn Hour Group for all the details and enjoy watching Netflix and Hulu on your big screen TV.

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I’m helping digitize part of The New York Times!

Captcha or reCaptcha … using Captcha security to correct OCR mistakes.

OK … we all know what a captcha is … that little box with numbers and letters you have to fill out in registration forms on websites to prove you  aren’t a robot with malicious intent. If you didn’t know … Captcha stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”.

Yes … hackers have been beating the Captcha for a while now … fact is I’ve noticed they are getting harder to read and some of them have 2 sets of words.

So all of you who have seen and used this 2 word captcha give yourself a big pat on the back because you’ve been helping to digitize libraries of ancient books and newspapers.

The new project called reCaptcha was the idea of Carnegie Mellon University Assistant Professor of Computer Science Luis von Ahn in conjunction with the New York Times, which is digitizing newspapers going back to 1851, and a nonprofit called the Internet Archive, which is digitizing thousands of books.

If you’ve ever user optical character recognition you’ve seen that there are some words that just don’t get recognized correctly. It becomes even harder when the text is old newsprint or ancient books with faded and yellowed text.

That’s where reCapthcha comes in. More than 40,000 web sites including large volume sites like Ticketmaster, Facebook, Craigslist … are using the 2 word reCaptcha system. One of the words is the actual keyword to get verified but the other word … which is hard to read … is from a newspaper or book that OCR couldn’t decide on. How it works is they accept any word you put in but the word input most becomes the OCR correction.

According to Marc Frons CTO of the Times they are digitizing about 2 years worth of old newspapers every month.

So far they have been able to digitize 1.3 BILLION words.

Although we hate having to type in anything on those websites … reCaptcha is less irritating than Captcha as it is easier to type real words than random sets of numbers and letters.

Cool huh? Now we know our time wasn’t totally wasted!

Its estimated that 200 million Captcha’s are typed in every day.

IMDB offers free streaming videos ? Not ready for primetime!

I saw a mention on a blog today about a new site for free streaming movies and TV.

Yes …  IMDB the internet movie data base has joined the cast of others offering free content . Their site http://www.imdb.com/features/video/ leaves much to be desired unfortunately.

Their page says “IMDB is now showing full-length movies and and a great selection of full-length TV episodes directly on our site — for free!. We have the best selection of films and shows on the internet, paired with all of the rich film and TV information that you expect from IMDB. Best of all, you can watch it all right now for free! Take a look at our featured content below, or search for your favorite films and TV shows to find the videos and movies you want to see!”

Really? … the fact is there are currently 20 New TV Episodes, 20 Classic TV Episodes, 20 New Movies and Recent Favorites (I wouldn’t call them new), 20 Classic Movies, 20 Independent Shorts, and 20 Latest Trailers available for immediate viewing.

Lets see .. that’s 120 … 80 if you take out the shorts and trailers … or 40 if you also take out the dated classic tv and classic movies. A far cry from 6000 they mentioned … since there is currently no way other than random search to find the other 5880.

Yeah right … like we are really going to randomly search and hope to find one of the free ones?

All the ones I clicked are actually streamed from hulu.com so why would I not just go to HULU where I can easily find them?

Word is IMDB will have HULU and ABC content and that the movies and TV shows will only be available for set periods of time … not perpetually.

Sorry IMDB .. I love your movie index but this new service really needs some work, especially the navigation.

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