All I Want For Christmas is My Two Front Digital Teeth… Oh Yeah, but Time Shifted, Without Commercials, in High Def and Accesible Remotely
Once again Christmas time is here again and all around the world little boys and girls experience the magic of telling Santa what they want for Christmas. Well here in techland we ought to be able to tell Santa what we expect for the upcoming year. So with this said, following is my top 10 Christmas wish list to Santa for 2005.
1. Full cable and satellite HDTV support for Microsoft’s Media Center Edition Software. Microsoft’s Media Center software is phenomenal. It opens up entertainment to the living room in ways never before possible. Custom slide shows of friends when they visit; full 43” plasma projections of a recent trip to Italy complete with that beautiful background Beatles acoustic guitar cover CD that you bought from the street musician on the visit; watching what you want, how you want, when you want while skipping those annoying commercials – and yet no real HDTV solution.
Since Media Center’s launch in October of 2001 we have all been anxiously awaiting each new upgrade holding out for the hope of HDTV. With MCE 2005, Microsoft has its most stable platform to date and at least it can support OTA HDTV. The true dream of living room convergence will not be complete though until that vision includes recordable, timeshiftable Media Center HDTV from cable and satellite.
Right now my solution is the bifurcated platform of HDTV TiVo for television and MCE for everything else. Microsoft hopefully will deliver this to us in 2005.
2. HDTV TiVo to go. TiVo to go. What the hell? On the earnings conference call last month, CEO Mike Ramsey promised us this exciting new technology before year end and yet here we are with only a few weeks left and no significant news, rumors or marketing push on the product. Is this just another example of a tech company hyping its own product or will Ramsey actually deliver us this product before year end?
More significantly, and yes, the devil is in the details, will this be some stripped down weak offering for only TiVo Series 2 boxes, or will I be able to truly get the HDTV recordings off of my DirecTV HDTV TiVo and on to my laptop to make those BART rides all the best that they should be? Will I be watching CSI New York in high def on my next flight to the East Coast or will I be shut out as a DirecTV subscriber? Let me get this content off the box damnit.
3. Municipal Wi-Fi. Well apparently they shot it down in Philly and I’ve heard nothing else about it since Mayor Gavin Newsom mentioned it in a speech a few months back in San Francisco. My laptop goes with me everywhere. Please give the world the connectivity that it needs and demands… oh yeah and make sure it’s in the Bay Area. So, until we get the connectivity that we need 24/7 everywhere in the Bay area, give me my…
4. Bloglines Downloads. Bloglines is a wonderful RSS Reader. It is one of the most popular at present and offers an amazing array of feeds organized in highly intuitive ways, searchable and very accessible. The problem: how do I get my bloglines when I’m not connected to the internet and how can I save and archive the feeds on my desktop that I’d like to save as much of the blogsphere is fleeting after it moves off the front pages of our lives? Bloglines needs to develop a download technology that at minimum can scrape text from feeds and even go into the sites to further scrape the actual articles and then be smart enough of an app to reflect our offline viewing once we connect back online. Equally significant they need to offer text archives of blogs as constantly monitored for personal archiving on one’s desktop. Oh yeah guys, you can charge for this by the way.
5. Improved Search including Full Meta Data Desktop and Online Search as well as search of book texts and television closed caption files. Imagine being able to go online and do a search of your unique name and under Google’s image search having dozens of photos of you show up, some from years ago, that you never knew existed. Standards need to be developed to best meta tag data in both the burgeoning world of digital photography as well as the same meta data standards for scanned photographs and other digital media. This data then needs to be accessible where published to search engines enabling a whole new way to search for images and other personal media online.
This same meta data online search should be fully incorporated into lightening fast indexed desktop search for fast retrieval, initially and especially of digital photos. Basic tags should include location (and to the degree possible automated by camera GPS chips), time and date, event or function and individuals photographed. Eventually the software should become smart enough to utilize facial recognition patterns to do much of the meta data input for us.
As photos are published to the web, the meta data should come along as well opening up a whole new way to search for images. Imagine searching for current photos of long lost friends. See what your old high school girlfriend looks like today (yeah you missed out on that one). Ok ok, forget about the privacy thing for a minute and just imagine the possibilities.
We are just beginning to see the start of a new revolution in pages indexed or search. Yahoo just announced their video search. Google is going to archive public domain and other non copyright protected books. Amazon has A9. We need to see a continued push towards making more and more of the printed word searchable as well as, and especially, the large library of locked up closed captioned transcripts and their corresponding video feeds that the media conglomerates are holding hostage.
6. Better Support for Large Digital Libraries from Windows Media Player 10. Face it. Our mp3 libraries (notice I didn’t say our wma libraries) are getting larger and larger. Windows Media Player may be one of the true great freebies of our lifetime. For no cost anyone can download what may be the best media player on the market today. What a deal. The problem, and it’s very basic, is that our pals up in Redmond have not seen fit to allow indexing of your digital libraries to create a truly wonderfully free flowing aural digital music experience. As my own personal digital library has grown, and yes I’m a geek and a freak with a huge digital media addiction my Windows Media Player and, by extension MCE, has slowly crawled to a very very slow halt. Hopefully we see a fix for this in 2005.
7. A True Terabyte Hard Drive. Ok so La Cie has the big drive but that’s just a bunch of little drives in a big box that doesn’t work all that well from everything I’ve read. Why has hard drive storage space slowed down as of late? Although Moore’s law doesn’t apply to hard drives per se, how about some significant improvements in large personal storage this year. Sure, the disk drive business is a brutal, ugly place with razor thin margins where companies eat their young but what do you say we ramp it up this year and get the drive size to the short-intermediate benchmark of the terabyte drive. My appetite for media continues to grow. We are still at the appetizer phase of the dinner that will be our digital life. I’m looking forward to sitting down for the real meal when storage constraints truly do become virtually unlimited and music, video and all forms of personal media are archived for all time.
8. True Remote Media Synching. Ok, podcasting rocks and it’s also nice that WMP 10 finally allows synching to outside devices but where is the creativity here? Why, for instance can’t I synch my 5 star rated song list on my desktop with my laptop for remote listening? And why can’t my car mp3 player be treated as a wi-fied remote external device for WMP? How slick would it be for me to synch my 5 star play list to the hard drive on my car mp3 player while it sits in my garage all wirelessly. Let’s go Microsoft. Remove all boundaries for external devices. Laptops, other home PCs, anywhere and everywhere I want to synch I should be able to.
Same goes for podcasting. I want to each day have an automated version of the Howard Stern show automatically placed on my car mp3 hard drive so that I can listen to a few minutes in the morning and then pick it back up where I left off on the way home later that night. Let me at least time shift yesterday’s broadcast and well… (he say’s sheepishly) yes fast forward through those annoying Howard Stern commercials.
9. An Underwater mp3 player. The past few years I’ve taken up swimming. Yes, yes I know you can’t take your laptop in the pool and I do go through those withdrawals but if I don’t do something this finely chiseled machine (photo not included) would be in serious trouble. I’ve seen a few solutions but nothing that really seems to be really suitable for swimming and yes, once again catching the rest of the Stern show from yesterday or some of my 5 star tunes. If you ever see me at the pool I just may be the guy with the laptop strapped to my back in a zip lock bag.
10. A Pogo Stick with Training Wheels. So here’s my dilemma. My oldest boy Jack, four, has been asking for a pogo stick for about a year. I took him down to Toys ‘R Us to show him that it’s pretty darn tough for a four year old to pogo and yet he still won’t relent. At our visit with Santa this year he pressed Santa on the matter as well.
I’m in a bit of a catch 22 though. Jack will be disappointed if he doesn’t get the pogo stick, but he’ll also be disappointed when he finds that he can’t ride the pogo stick as a four year old if he gets one. So if you know of a pogo stick with training wheels, be sure and let me know.