iPad

Comcast Xfinity iPad App is Amazing

If you are a Comcast customer, have a compatible DVR and an iPad (or iPhone), you have access to a free app in the iTunes store that is definitely a game changer.

I’ve used myDVR on my iPxx devices to remote schedule recordings, and I watched the CES demo video that Brian Roberts did and drooled.

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After installing the app, at first run, a welcome screen appeared, which I dismissed (being a Type A) kind of geek. Actually, after logging in, I could tell that the application already knew about my two DVR boxes as they were already paired from my use of myDVR.

The Guide in this new app is FAR more usable than the one included with the original Comcast iPhone app. There are filters, as shown below (but I have not yet found a way to specify favorite channels.  Filters aren’t “sticky” so being a HD snob, I do have to turn the setting for HD only to ON each time I launch the app (and am hoping this will change to a sticky setting).

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Once a show is selected, two choices are available, record or watch on TV. Record works in the same way as the older myDVR app, but WATCH TV is awesome. As you can see below, when WATCH TV is selected, an animated icon pops up and the channel changes on the TV. (Full disclosure, when I installed this yesterday, channel changing didn’t work for me. I opened a ticket and it was fixed 24 hours later).

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Comcast has more features coming, including the ability to watch some shows directly on the iPad. 

(Update 11/17) Engadget has posted a video showing off both current and future capabilities of this app. Currently (and I’ve reported this to Comcast), the On Demand listing in the app isn’t as up to date as the EPG on the STB itself. Also, with On Demand, you still have to pick up the Comcast (or Harmony-whatever) remote to confirm “purchase” of an On Demand asset. I’ve asked that they consider a settings option to override this annoying behavior. We’ll see.. (I’m thinking of getting a Red Eye mini which will at least let me confirm from the iPxx device).

What makes this app interesting to me is that, to change channels, NO IR device is needed. This is a good thing because the iPad/iPhone devices do not have onboard IR (although there are some third party add-on devices available). The iPxx device actually communicate with the DAC (Digital Addressable Controller) via some web service that sends commands to the local DAC when you make a channel selection over your WiFi or 3G Internet connection. To accomplish a real time channel change, a lot of moving parts need to communicate and work seamlessly. I’m impressed.

Thanks, Comcast, for a great contribution to my connected home lifestyle!

Windows 7 Play To/DLNA Streams to iPhone/iPad

Yes, you read that correctly. The iPxxx devices don’t natively support DLNA functionality, which rules out using Windows 7 Play To”, so I decided to see what could be done, at least as a proof of concept, to try to get this working.

The secret sauce was finding an app called PlugPlayer and installing it on my iPhone and iPad and seeing my iPxx devices show up in the Network Window .

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I was intrigued, and not expecting much success, used Windows Explorer, right clicked a music file and saw not only my TV and Sonos Players listed, but my iPhone (via PlugPlayer) as well.

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Then, the next task was finding which file formats would be supported. 

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Connecting an IP Camera to WMC, iPhones and iPads

Motivated by the upcoming yearly Halloween onslaught of youngsters and the not so young about to come through my condo complex, I started thinking about how to integrate an Internet capable surveillance camera with my connected home and devices. I’m not a “real” developer, but I’m a pretty smart geek (IMO) and I started looking around for ideas that  I could borrow and customize.

My goals were to be able to check activity in my parking lot/walkway on demand from Windows Media Center, my iPhone, and my iPad. The web is a wonderful wealth of information, and putting this together was not really difficult. And definitely worth sharing with others.

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Sonos S5 Music Players, Connected, Converged, Fantastic

I’m not easily impressed, but my jaw is hanging open today after installing two Sonos S5 Music Players to cover my home with end to end music. I’ve used computers, Media Center Extenders and all kinds of hardware and software in the past to move music around my home, but I always had to cobble together pieces and use separate devices and controllers to get what I wanted.  What did I want? Well, everything imaginable. The list below is not in any particular order:

1. The ability to stream from ANY of my computers (using Play To or anything else) to more than one music player/renderer simultaneously.

2. To be able to control the volume above individually or together.

3. Play Pandora Radio and other Internet sourced digital music

4. Use existing/create new playlists

5. Use iPhones, iPads and  iPxxx whatever to control and manage the device as a remote control (including graphical menus).

6. Use the system as an alarm clock with choices to wake from alarm, music, Internet music, whatever

7. Wireless connectivity in my Living Room

8. A system that was upgradeable.

9. Quality sound

10. Expandability

I’m still stunned that I found a system that does ALL of the above. (And I’m betting I discover more features – I’ve only had a few hours experience with this all, so my exploration and discovery has only just begun).

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AT&T Confirms Cellular One as a Roaming Partner in NE, but not in Ski Country/Grafton Country

I’ve been having quite the discussion with the AT&T folks on their Facebook Northeast Discussion board. I did (finally) get them to confirm that (at least in Northern New England) they’ve lit up 100 new towers with roaming coverage by establishing a partner roaming agreement with US Cellular. But not in Northern New England.

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The update received today (Monday) demonstrates that AT&T isn’t being entirely transparent as they certainly have NO coverage at all above Lincoln NH anywhere in Grafton County.

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I can’t help but speculate that this sudden new partnership deal could be part of a defense against a Verizon iPhone. In my mind, this move, coupled with the early deals on new 2 year contracts for iPhones that AT&T announced, lends more credence to the growing speculation about a January-February Verizon iPhone launch. (Hey, there’s no reason not to speculate). And this blogger will be first in line when that day comes.

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