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Television Media

Will Digital VCRs Change TV? 157

schnucki writes "A new, innocuous-looking consumer electronic device known as a personal video recorder is not much different in nature from the video cassette recorder, and very few of them have been sold to date. And yet, an increasing number of executives at television networks and advertising agencies have their ears nervously on alert, ... " Its the NYT so you need a free account, but its decent piece talking about the impact of ReplayTV and Tivo on TV industry. Personally I think this is an intermediate step before we get to full, on-demand broadcasting over the net, but its a great step. RIP Network TV.
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Will Digital VCRs Change TV?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    What's the point of being 3L337 when people like you just GIVE it away?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Oh that'd be so easy to take care of -- just use masking tape (or something cleaner) to block off the offending advertisments.
  • Grrr. Did it always require cookies even to get to the login page? Without them it just seems to be redirecting to the same place over and over again.

    Oh well, won't be bothering with that article I suppose.
  • I don't see this as having the enormous beneficial impact some people expect. Mostly it's the issue of ads and revenue streams. If the commercial blocker works, there goes the network's money. They'll either find some way to insert ads into the actual content (probably overdosing on product placement, like the Truman Show) or just switch revenue streams completely and *all* shows become pay-per-view. I fail to see the advantage over today's system: Free TV with occasional application of mute button.

  • AFAIK my cable company has to pay for the people to count my money and an occasional downed line.

    Don't underestimate the cost of installing and maintaining that cable. It costs a lot of money to do the cable. Plus all the head-end electronics (satellite dishes and decoders, head-end amps, distribution hardware...)

    Plus, the cable company pays the cable channels some amount per viewer per month. In the case of the Weather Channel it's something like 25 cents per month - and for ESPN I think it's over a buck per month per viewer - that's money from your bill going to the cable channel. And you get the ads anyway. (I don't know who pays who on the shopping channels.)

    Another thing the cable company pays for is (from your pocket) money to your local government for the right to run the cable. Check the bill for something called a 'franchise fee'. Strictly speaking, that's a tax you're paying. But on the other hand, the cable provider typically has to support one or more public access channels.

    The end result is that the economics of cable TV is a lot more complex than you realize.

  • Give it some thought - what does the TV industry produce? Not programs. No, the fundamental product of Television is eyeballs, to be exposed to advertisers. Anything that upsets that balance will be visciously attacked as a disruption of the money flow. In order to get out of it, the TV industry will have to come up with a new paragidm.

  • Posted by MC BoB:

    Well, it's is easy enough to circumvent the commercials. What is a shame are the "fast forwad" buttons on the TIVO. I played with an early unit and there was about a 5 sec. lag between hitting FF and it really moving forward. When I pressed an engineer he admitted it was to please the advertisers.

    How commercial skip works:
    The networks send an "insert" signal right before they send the commercial in order to allow the local stations to preempt with a local spot. The commercial skip on most RCA vcr's works by reading the "insert" marker on the transmission (It's inband signaling contained in the vertical pulse, if I recall correctly) and marking that point on the tape. When the commercial is over, the networks broadcast a "return to downlink" signal to force the local station back to the network. The VCR then marks the "return" signal on the tape as well. Upon playback of the tape in an enabled VCR the system fast forwards through the marked sections. IT's a VERY important process becuase that's why the RCA was able to bring the technology to market. They are not eliminating the commerical, simply marking the in and out points. Not eliminating the commercial.
    I had a long talk with on the engineers on the project back in the early 90's. He said they spent, on average, 5$ per VCR for the technology and 15 million on the legal battles with the major programmers (I'm talking ABC,CBS etc, not C++)

    This feature would be realitivly easy to implement in the ReplayTV or TIVO, if you had the source code.

    BTW, I spoke with Replay a while back, (Right before Marc A. joined them) and they said they will have a PCI card based system at some point, they just didn't want to 'Confuse' the market too early.
  • Posted by MC BoB:

    It's already there, and most RCA VCR's will Fast Forward based on it's presence.
    MC BoB
  • Posted by Vik Olliver (at home):

    Once you have computer control of your VCR, it's simple to cut out the adds: Hash the images and just don't play anything that has been shown before.

    I guess it would work with a soundtrack too.

    Vik :v)
  • Posted by MC BoB:

    http://online1.quantum.com/src/tt/storage_quickv iew.htm
    For details.
    Pretty cool stuff, can perform Reads and Writes at the same time via, dual heads. The article mentions something about AVHDD, which I assumed was Audio Visual Hard Disk Drive. Anybody ever heard of this? Is it a superset of IDE, SCSI etc?
    MC BoB
  • Hmmm. I would have said that ReplayTV et al will have an impact similar to that of the video recorder. Significant but not as catastrophic as people forecast at the time they were launched...

    I want one. When can I have a PAL/230V version please?
  • The fact that it hasn't taken off yet should be telling. Ask the average American what shows he or she watches and they'll generally list 3 or 4. Does that same person watch only 3 or 4 hours of television a week?

    Television is a very passive medium-- people generally are happy to watch whatever happens to be on at that moment. It's entertainment filler. If people had to plan out their future viewing, they'd never do it. One of the quickest ways to reduce the amount of TV you watch is to take the TV Guide and decide which shows you *want* to watch-- those 3 or 4 hours a week.

    The only way to make this work is to make the boxes "smart", so that they observe what you generally watch and do the planning for you. Capitalism will, of course, take one look at this device and quickly figure out that the fine-grain consumer data it provides is worth a hunk of money. It can be used to decide which commercials to show you, what offers to mail you, etc. If you're using your cable company to access the Internet, so much the better to target you.

    As you say, "capitalism will find a new way to make money through this". The question is what the trade-off for the consumer is.
  • by crayz ( 1056 )
    Anyone remember the book "Contact"? Isn't this similiar to what Hadden did? And it destroyed all the networks. There was only one left, I don't remember which one though.
  • Given the current video cards that have NTSC out (like the TNT I have at home, and the Matrox I have at the office), and all that sort of thing, how hard would it be to emulate these Personal VCR devices with a current linux system? We already see linux-based MP3-player/FM-radio systems [empeg.com] in the ruggedized car-radio form-factor.

    The case was made that you need special disk drives that can read and write simultaneously. How hard will this be to emulate, by just using enough RAM as an intermediate buffer between the receiver and a disk drive (or RAID array)? It's getting to the point that 256M desktops aren't that rare or that expensive. (I'm writing this from a 512M machine. A consumer PC will probably need at least that much to run M$ Win2K comfortably, anyway! :-)

    And if I can make my linux desktop act like a personal VCR, I'll have a lot more customizability for the interface, and a lot more programmable operation. Does anyone want to start work on a Linux PVCR project?

  • begin quote:
    NBC initially passed on ReplayTV because its 30-second skip button seemed much less industry-friendly. Tom Rogers, the president of NBC Cable, said, "The Tivo model did not seem antithetical to advertiser-supported networks."
    end quote
    ANTIETHICAL!! Thank you Tom Rogers for making my day! I guess toilets are antiethical to advertiser-supported networks too!

  • by jonr ( 1130 )
    What else can I say... :)
  • The only VCR I use is Linux/Broadcast 2000 (commercial). It records, loops, scrubs, composites, edits, all in realtime. The looped recording lets you record infinitely and keep the scenes you like. The realtime JPEG capture can record as much as you want on a hard drive, in twice the resolution of VHS. The scrubbing feature lets you fast forward scenes while still comprehending what's being said. You can write out clips to RealProducer and email them to your friends in the background. You can fix the audio tracks or simulate stereo in realtime. The possibilities of a Linux VCR are worlds ahead of VHS, even if it is commercial today.
  • I don't believe this is a violation of the GPL. Here's the relevant portion of section 3 (emphasis mine), of version 2.0 of the GPL [gnu.org]:

    3. You may copy and distribute the Program (or a work based on it, under Section 2) in object code or executable form under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above provided that you also do one of the following:

    • a) Accompany it with the complete corresponding machine-readable source code, which must be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    • b) Accompany it with a written offer, valid for at least three years, to give any third party, for a charge no more than your cost of physically performing source distribution, a complete machine-readable copy of the corresponding source code, to be distributed under the terms of Sections 1 and 2 above on a medium customarily used for software interchange; or,

    • c) [Section C omitted, since it does not apply]

    By my reading of section 3 of the GPL, TiVo has already stated their willingness to comply with section 3a) -- they will distribute the source code with their product if anyone asks for it. This might be a violation of the letter of the GPL -- my reading of the above says that to fully comply with 3a) they must distribute a copy of the source code with each and every product sold -- but it certainly seems in keeping with the spirit. After all, most home users of this product won't care about the source code, and the CD they got would be used as a coaster or something (what do you do with all your AOL "100 Free Hours!" CD's? New poll question!). So TiVo doesn't want to ship thousands of CD's that nobody will ever use, so they just ship them to the people that would use them. Seems fair to me.

    Disclaimer: I am not involved with TiVo in any way; I don't even own one of their units. So my information may be inaccurate, but it's unbiased.

  • ... it meant that the drive had the capability for the sustained throughput that was required for video recording and playback. I have one, an 8G SCSI that was made by Micropolis, that has this AVHDD 'label'. I never have used it for that purpose so I can't vouch for it.

    It's been too long, but IIRC but the SCSI interface is pretty simple. That is, the read and write heads are simply addressed as separate LUNs on the drive.

  • There's absolutely no point in trying to be 3L337, and giving away information is a Good Thing. Full disclosure, you know.
  • cutting out replayed imiges would have to be done selectively: think about those shows that replay the same footage, for example, Star Trek, when the ship goes into warp.

    Yeah, the first series of Babylon 5 would be like swiss cheese after this treatment! Though it might be better... I found all those repeated location shots very annoying.

    I'm not sure how workable this is in practice. Hashes work great on digital data that is the same every time. But TV, even digitised, has been through an analogue stage, that means it is different every time. I'm not sure how technically possible it is to remove the "noise" in such a way you get repeatable data that can be hashed. Of course, you also need heuristics about how long a piece of repeated data has to be to be worth removing, but compared to the first problem, this is easy.

    Just imagine you succeed. Suddenly everyone can watch their favourite programs at their leisure, without advertising. Networks can fix this problem in two ways: put scrolling text, animated doodads, or Howard Stern along the bottom of adverts to make them different every time and fool the hashing algorithm. Or fill every program with product placement as in the Truman Show. Yuck.

  • Sure. It's all in Video4Linux [linux.org.uk] or V4L2. The heroic Alan Cox [linux.org.uk] has been hacking on drivers for the open-source LML33 [linuxmedialabs.com] and similar Iomega Buz MJPEG compression cards. This'd allow you to record compressed video to HDD.

    MPEG2 has some licensing problems, and the owners are leery about open-source versions of their security measures, but work is progressing.

    I don't know about that double-headed HDD one fellow hinted at, but good caching, a quiet HDD and a well-designed custom filesystem may make that unneccessary.

    Quantum has a new technology caled QuickView [quantum.com] that might be that double-head dealie. Should be fun to write drivers for.

  • | Macrovision on DSS dishes? I'll
    | have a macrovision killer permanently
    | installed. I refuse to have my right to record
    | infringed upon.

    Macrovision - at least the ability to use Macrovision - has been on DSS units (and Dish Network units) since day 1. I've never seen it used on any programming I've watched, though. (I don't do PPV wrestling, etc - I'd expect it to be used there first)
  • Nonsense. I've seen this used many times in Amiga `scene' intro/demo scroll-texts.
  • I have one of these, and it's a great device.

    I see why some people are worried, in that I
    essentially never watch commercials anymore.
    However, on rare occasion, I will go back to view
    a commercial (movie ad, usually) that looked
    interesting while fastforwarding.

    It's really not an understatement to say that
    this thing "totally changes the way you watch
    TV". Being able to watch one recorded program
    while another is recorded has a greater impact
    than you would guess. Being able to pause anything, anytime is also amazingly useful.
  • Just to nit-pick a couple points:

    • The ads that are there get watched again - but there's no way for the networks to track this, so they can't charge the advertiser more for it. And if they can't charge the advertiser more, then it's not doing the network any direct benefit.
    • Recording PPV movies ... shouldn't be an issue either ... you already payed for it - I have to disagree with you here, this is just wrong. You pay to rent videos, but you don't have the right to make a copy of them, even for personal use - why should PPV be any different? It's just like software - the distribution medium doesn't mean a thing, it's the intellectual property that you are licensing.
    When it comes down to it, we are implicitly agreeing to the license agreement of the broadcasters whenever we turn on the TV - and you thought Micro$oft was bad about not letting you see the license until it's too late?. I want my GNU-TV! :-)
  • It's Monday, obviously - I stand corrected. (Memo to self - research first, then open mouth - insertion of foot is optional).

    I think my basic point still stands, however - we are implicitly agreeing to the networks' licensing agreements when we turn on our TVs, and we don't have any rights to the content except those that the networks and/or content producers decide to give us. If, in the future, they decide to outlaw private recording of broadcasts, that's their right - no matter how many millions of people it pisses off.

    In a final, grasping-at-straws effort to vindicate myself against you somehow, I have found a nit to pick with your post - the 42% that you refer to are North Americans. I enjoyed a wonderful Canada Day (July 1) last week, eh!

  • I think you've nailed it - this explains infomercials and shopping channels especially. Network TV depends on people who don't care enough to use the remote control - I mean, really, who tunes in specifically to watch infomercials?

    The only infomercial I actually watched on purpose was one that was on WUHF every single night for months - essentially 30 minutes of bad cover tunes, over-endowed women in bikinis, and a 1-900 "chat line" number flashing at the bottom of the screen... how exactly would you program that preference into ReplayTV or TiVo? :=]

  • I believe from previous reports that both these units use Linux as their core. I expect they have some custom kernel modules, and their remote control response and TV-menu software is certainly proprietary, but all of that can be easily duplicated by us mere mortals. No doubt early open source versions won't be as smooth; in particular, the buffering will be tricky, favoring machines with lots of memory, and you won't want crontab firing off periodically, and you won't want large compiles in the foreground.

    Their real added value is the phone connection. But this only obviates the need to scan the schedule ahead of time, and most people are used to doing that now with VCRs. So for the initial open source versions and early adaptors at least, this is not an obstacle.

    Seems to me that there will be open source TV recorders within a year or two at most.

  • Good points, but you have to remember that it is an issue of attention span. When you read a magazine, you are at a more leisurely pace, and the ads "count" more. When you watch a sitcom, 30 seconds is pushing it! (If you watch a soap opera, 10 minutes and you don't blink!)

    The issue is making the exposure count-- look at AdFu! A timed delay where you are intent on what is happening, and the only thing you see is a banner ad! Smart!

    Somebody has to create a sufficiently non-obtrusive way to gain advertisement revenue with the "new media." If it is TOO obtrusive, people will find a way to block it.
  • Wow, what a novel concept! Imagine -- recording your shows and watching them at your convenience!! Why, I think I'll call the device that enables this massive paradigm shift - the "VCR".

    In all seriousness, as cool as the Replay and Tivo are, I already use my VCR the way they would. Any of my regular shows, I tape. This way, 1) I can't be interrupted by a phone call (I can always pause it), and 2) I can watch an hour of TV in 45 minutes. I recycle the same few tapes for my regular weekly episodes. How would my life be changed by digital VCRs?

    The fact is that broadcast TV is already dead. The future is narrowcasting. Cute toys like these aren't going to save it.

    - Richie

  • What I want is for my VCR to figure out when shows are delayed, and delay taping until the program starts.

    Lately, TNT has delayed the Crusade episodes because of drafts and other programming. So I missed the last 10/15minutes of the show. Same goes with any other network where news/games pre-empt regular programming.

    So if the machine would keep a realtime schedule and record only when the show is acutally on, this would be cool.

    "Man könnte froh sein, wenn die Luft so rein wäre wie das Bier"
  • This is stored on a hard drive, not a magnetic tape, so you can skip the commercials with the click of a button: just hit the "30-second skip" button and it skips it. Now the networks can start shuffling the *lengths* of commercials, but that messes up their neat little scheduling system, as they have to start keeping track of how long each commercial is and make sure that everything fits in ok. And even if they do that, I can skip ahead 2 minutes, and if my show has started skip back one minute, then go forward 30 second, then back 15 seconds. So even if I don't know how long the commercial is going to be I can still skip the commercials pretty quickly.

    The real question is whether people will adopt this technology. Frankly, $500 is a bit much to charge for the ability to avoid watching commercials. And it sounds like this is not yet as simple as a VCR, so many people may still find it confusing. I predict that most people will be too lazy to use this thing to its full advantage, and so it will bruise the networks but not destroy them.
  • Digital VCR is just the next logical step now that Digital TV is taking off... You'd need heaps of memory (flashram?) though which would make it very expensive.

    I saw a bit about these on 'Tomorrows World' a couple of months back (they had a huge hotwired version the size of a filing cabinet). It was the same device (I recognise the screenshot) so I guess they've managed to shrink it a bit.

  • It's just one more opportunity for companies to monitor you, and sell this information to anyone interested in buying it. The concept isn't bad, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my autonomy/privacy for a small increase in convenience.
  • It's already starting, of course. As an example, the VCD/ISO scene. If you're not sure what this is, look at isonews.com for an example.

    It's not QUITE the same as DVD-quality, but, heck. There are amazingly complicated conventional-VCR-tape-trees for everything from Black Harbour to Red Dwarf in place, so...


  • I see a dramitc increase in "product placement." this would mean increasingly blurred lines between program and advertising, merchandising etc...
  • by HeghmoH ( 13204 ) on Monday July 05, 1999 @10:34AM (#1818006) Homepage Journal
    All the talk of how the networks will have to change revenue models in response to this got me thinking about a similar market, where advertising is also very important to revenue and are easily skipped.

    Magazines. I don't actually subscribe to any anymore (thank you, internet), but I used to. It's really, really, really easy to skip past/ignore ads in a magazine. Yet I and many other readers paid attention to them enough to feed the magazine's employers. Why? Because the ads were interesting! I would read ads because they were cool, or because they had a product that was neat, or because I liked the company, or because I wanted to buy something.

    Maybe networks/advertisers should take a clue from this. There are the occasional ads on TV that I find interesting and actually watch, but by and large the majority are complete and utter trash, treating me like my attention span is measured in seconds, my IQ measured in singles, and my sole decision in whether to buy something is whether or not it's "cool".

    To the advertisers: If you don't want people fast-forwarding past your ever-so-expensive commercials, make the commercials something people want to watch. The reason they aren't effective is because people would rather do something else; change this. It's possible. How many people watch the Super Bowl as much for the kick-ass ads as for the sport? I know I do, and I know a lot of people that talk more about how funny the latest Budweiser/whatever ad was than how awesome that last-second touchdown/whatever was. C'mon, you ad agencies, surely your people are creative more than once a year!

    To networks: you kill shows that have bad ratings, maybe you should start killing sucky ads too. If you show better ads, more people will watch them, and you can get away with charging more. You are in control of your content. Exercise that control, make it clear that you won't accept just any trashy ad, and you won't have to worry about devices like this because people won't want to skip the ads. You can't force people to do anything, remove the need.
  • This is such an amazing concept that I'm surprised it hasn't taken off yet. The ability to record all your favorite shows "whenever" and then play them back at your leisure is something that almost everyone on this planet could want.

    It's probably going to change the landscape of TV and advertising dramatically. I mean, if I don't have to watch some lame puppet sell used cars or furniture, am I really going to play it? I may as well set this thing up to record Stargate SG-1 every friday and just catch it Saturday morning or something. This won't kill TV. All the doomsayers in the market will talk and talk, but capitalism will find a new way to make money through this.

  • If Tivo and such become more popular or their upgraded unproduced cousins become popular, production companies will have to find other ways for their shows to make money. The easiest way to do this? Let sponsors put their products in the TV show. There is technology available now to go back and add labels and such in post production, even after the final cuts to video have been made. Ever watch a sport on TV and see an add seemingly painted in the grass, but it changes every so often? This is one example of how to get the money to pay for sports and TV shows when people are fast forwarding through your normal commercials. Movies do this alot, a Pepsi can here, a store's logo there. They get paid for that.
    I think on demand broadcasting is nice but I hate when people want to use regular internet backbones for it. Backbones are already taxed with RealVideo and other streaming media, how do you think they would hold up to every yahoo with a TV getting a 1.5mb video stream? TCP/IP just isn't what they should use. Local providers should transmit the data to you by way of satillite (expensive) or by coax (cheap). It's not terribly difficult to fit a 2mb/s into a coax, and then give each household their own frequency. Thats what's being done with cable modems, there's lots of frequencies and channels available, and if you need more just put people on a different wire, so you can use the same frequencies and channels on each wire. The digital format should probably be the MPEG-2 digital standard, but the actual transmission protocols should be similar to direct cable transfers. The modem in the box upstreams and tells the provider what to send, and it sends it. The main server wouldnt need to be terribly complex or expensive, and the video could be stored on large RAIDs which would lower the cost. You could even have different content providers, Blockbuster ad Warehouse could open up digital video rental and provide their own equipment to the local providers.
  • This is NOT a PC, geez, everything with a CPU is not a PC. It's a media recording device, and you would be hard pressed to run a spreadsheet on it. The "special" hard drives they are using in the Tivo and such are SCSI and are only about 4 gigs or so. Ever looked up the price of a 10000 rpm hard drive? You're f**kin nuts if you think you're goingto build a cost effective PC that can do the same thing as this. BTW what is a "real-time kernel"?
  • I'm not sure how workable this is in practice. Hashes work great on digital data that is the same every time. But TV, even digitised, has been through an analogue stage, that means it is different every time. I'm not sure how technically possible it is to remove the "noise" in such a way you get repeatable data that can be hashed.

    You can get get rid of the noise with lossy compression. Use averaging and rounding, transform the picture to 50x50 16 color before hashing it.

    I wouldn't worry too much about them putting in animations at the bottom, you can then hash only the middle. Similiar filtering will remove many other possibilities for them as well. They can make entirely different commercials every time, but that is expensive. And it won't work too well either, commercials depends on recognition. They work best when people see them over and over.
  • I have just started looking into this. For TV quality, video capture cards are still expensive (see http://linuxmedialabs.com/ @ $410). While with enough compression (3.5 - 30) any bandwidth is supported, to do "TV quality" (much less DTV) you are pushing the limits of bus and hard drive speed. Altho' I'm sure a Quantum Atlas 10k 18Gb harddrive would handle it, that'd be $800+! And software under linux for this is still quite rudimentary. So for now, the Tivo player is quite a good deal - just wish they'd open up to the do-it-yourselfer's - a kit or card or software...? I wouldn't buy a Tivo because I'd expect so much more out of PC/TV integration - to quote from Steve Perlman in Wired:
    1) Internet TV - web/email
    2) response TV - audience survey
    3) enhanced TV - web, tv guide, vcr functions
    4) digital VCR - programming, user preferences
    5) personal TV - virtual channels, audio/video on demand, etc
    Those of us with cable modems see a vast untapped potential. We're just starting to see streaming MP3's, but streaming video is pitiful and most of the internet is shrouded in darkness...
  • Please go to their web sites and read about these devices functionality - it is A LOT more than just a digital vcr.
  • Actually you do NOT have to purchase one of their units to get the CD. I have an email at home from their webmaster asking me if I'm still interested in the source actually. It does appear, though, that you have to purchase the CD (to cover the cost of the CD, etc). I haven't bothered asking them if they are planning on making the source available on the Web. Maybe I'll just buy the CD and make it available myself.
  • ---

    Rather, the first real network T.V. I can't wait until I can do everything over the "E.N." (New acronym: Entertainment Network?). Imagine: broadcast movies to relatives, listen to music, watch old T.V. shows, even; shift the movie theater to the home (stop the damned candy monopoly!).

    Where are you on this one Sony?


  • Yes, Yes...short posts. Bad me.

    I was hoping to spur ideas. Just imagine (as in reply) would could be done with a bi-directional high-bandwidth link dedicated to on-demand video and media delivery.
    The funding comes from wherever, a big company, a new company, or perhaps a spin-off. More importantly, what do you think?


    -- Just wanting to make conversation...

  • The comment CmdrTaco made got me thinking... (uh oh... :-)

    Once video-on-demand is a reality, video becomes a packet-based media, not streamed like it is now. Packets are not-realtime, so they take time to download; that's where/when the advertising can be streamed. I may be able to skip commercials once I've downloaded the latest episode of B5; The Crusade, but while I'm waiting, my eyes and/or ears are captive.
  • A great idea, but the thrust of the NYT article seems to indicate that the "interests" of the producers are recieving more attention than those of the consumers.

    The discussions between the components of the broadcast side, and the insidious notion of the PVR interpolating it's own suite of commercials suggests to me this is not the death of network television, instead it is the beginning of a fat client on that network.

    Interestingly, we the consumer, are being asked to pay for this new an improved facility in exchange for some modest improvement in convenience.

    The idea is marvelous, and if there were an open consumer-focussed implementation I'd applaud it even more, but it seems that we are only being granted these improvements in exchange for ceding greater advertising content control to the networks.
  • Try #warez and #dreamwarez on RelicNET.

    I would guesstimate about half of the transfers I see from logging onto FServes (or whatever they're called... I'm not too familiar with IRC lingo) are music videos, REAL movies (Austin Powers 2 and The Matrix seem pretty popular right now), and shows like Futurama.

    Not to mention South Park episodes, but you can get those off of web sites :)
  • But with these boxes, you WON'T be able to see commercials at all, at least if the 30 second skip feature works as claimed..

    Personally I would prefer a 28-second skip to account for my (lack of) reflexes.. :)

    Re: Macrovision on DSS dishes: Isn't that impossible unless it's actually installed in the satellite receiver its self? Macrovision messes with the video signal directly and so probably can't be done before the MPEG 2 decode.

  • Is there any potential in hacking these boxes, say by purchasing the cheapest possible hard drive and swapping it yourself for a larger unit? How about other neat things? I mean, there is a PC in there.
  • Just wait... My VCR comes with a little infrared gizmo that controls my cable box and can control satellite boxes..
  • Also remember that MP3 has it's roots in VCD technology. MP3 is a quasi-proprietary variant of MP2, which at 224Kb/s is the VCD audio format.

    So, it makes sense that ISO VCD's are the next logical step. The quality is decent with a good encoder (320x240 w/NTSC though, NOT DVD-quality 640/720x480), the format is a heckuva lot more open than Real or MS video (the latter being encapsulated MPEG4), and encoders and players are available for Linux. (Some, in low-resolution and low-quality modes, can be run in real time.)

    And of course the audio is good, too. :)

    - Chad,

    (who dosen't trade ISO VCD's though... it just makes sense that ppl _do_)

  • oops. I meant some _encoders_ can run in real-time. Any decent decoder will work in real time on a (P/K)6-level machine.
  • Firstly, you probably don't record the news or live sport and then play them later. And if you aren't recording it, then you've got to watch the ads. I don't know a real sports fan who would prefer to watch a delayed telecast than watch the thing live.

    Secondly, you probably use the fact that ads are catered for in the scripting of shows, where ads are inserted in an appropriate place (well.. most of the time). This means that you can dash to the kitchen for a drink, do some study, or dash to the toilet. Instead of guessing when the best time to pause would be, I've seen people (and do it myself) play a recorded movie and use the ad breaks rather than skipping them.

    Advertisements won't go away. Free to air TV won't die. Certain advertisement slots may get more expensive though.

    Although.. infomercials may die - fingers crossed!
  • As anyone whos been on the net for any real length of time probably knows, the wacked out NuMb3rd Sp3Ak only existed to create hard to search filenames, ...

    Actually that kind of juvenile nonsense predates warez on the net by about 5 or 6 years. I should know, I was there.
  • Replay TV may disable the 30 sec skip and add banner-adds to save the networks, but what happens when some open-source software comes out to replace replay-TV? The networks will be in trouble. Maybe Replay-TV will too since their technology is no more than a computer and most people have a computer now anyway.

    Hmm. An integrated MP-3 stereo, replay tv mpeg recorder.
  • by delmoi ( 26744 )
    windows media player works fine on my p200mmx.

    and that's full screen 1024x768(with hardware scaling probably, though)
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • heh, well those fancy shmancy hard drives won't work with your dish, you know... :)
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • PPV may actualy be a good thing. think about it, i f you're *paying* for television, then youre going to be getting good stuf (I mean if you pay per show) beacuse its not going to be some comercalistic, mass apeal crap. well that's what I hope anyway.

    btw, does anyone know what the CPM of tv adds are?
    "Subtle mind control? Why do all these HTML buttons say 'Submit' ?"
  • If you have a DSS unit, take a look inside. You'll find an ASIC in there with the Macrovision logo on it.

  • I'm not certain what the big deal is about the price of retrieving a copy of TiVo's source modifications. All it takes is a single person to pay Tivo for its expenses in shipping out those changes. Then that single person is more than welcome to post those changes to the Web for all of us to examine. In fact, that person is more than welcome to an account on my machine, which has plenty of bandwidth for the downloading.

    Endgame: TiVo regains its time, and we get the code. Everyone happy? Good.
  • To Pick Deeper:

    The ads that are there get watched again - but there's no way for the networks to track this, so they can't charge the advertiser more for it. And if they can't charge the advertiser more, then it's not doing the network any direct benefit.

    The ratings companies, err, Neilson(a monopoly) can account for this through thier diary system. If you watch a show, even away from it's normally scheduled air time, you write it down and it's added to the shows rating. The problem (and this is a Big Problem now) is the low sample rate that Neilson uses (1/3 of the country lives in NY and LA, um, no) and it's geographic bias make for a ratings system that is already very flawed. The Networks don't want it to change, b/c the system benefits their percieved ratings. And the Networks pay Neilson's salaries, and have the quick access to the ear's of ratings executives.
    What the TVreplay will do is fragment the whole thing even more. But I have to agree with the NYTimes article, "Network TV is dead."

    Recording PPV movies ... shouldn't be an issue either ... you already payed for it - I have to disagree with you here, this is just wrong. You pay to rent videos, but you don't have the right to make a copy of them, even for personal use - why should PPV be any different? It's just like software - the distribution medium doesn't mean a thing, it's the intellectual property that you are licensing.

    Actually you do have the explicite right to record these movies. It is the distribution for profit that is illegal. They don't advertise the service as such (notice the parallel in the NY Times article) to keep on the good side of the studios. The loss of quality is one reason they don't worry about this, and totally freak about digital copying (1,000,000 perfect copies, everytime)

    Happy Fourth of July weekend to you other 42% Americans out there.
  • Actually you couldn't replace the hard drive cheaply and still have it work properly. These boxes use specialized hard drives which can read/write at the same time. Although you could possibly purchase a larger hard drive of the same type it would still be expensive and you may run into problems where the device expects the drive to be properly formatted or set up before it's use and you may run into problems of software not being on the drive. You're probably better off buying the capacity you wish because the drives are not your average run of the mill. Now if someone is daring enough to disect one and analyze it that might be different :)
  • Networks sell adds based on ratings. Ratings are based on how many people are watching the program at the time it airs. People who record it and watch at a later time aren't counted. ]

    ^. .^
    ( @ )
  • by ZorinLynxie ( 32798 ) on Monday July 05, 1999 @07:47AM (#1818035) Homepage
    I feel that recording off TV should never be impeded, and that networks should have nothing to worry about.

    Recording gives programs more exposure. It used to be that you couldn't watch more than one program at a time. Now that you have a recording device, you can record what's on ABC while watching something on CBS, then watch what you recorded off ABC later. Both networks benefit.

    Fast forwarding over the commercials? Yes, some people do that, but you can still see the ads as you fast forward. At least I can. Also, a lot of times I don't bother, and can still hear the ads while I'm working on something else (just like I would if I were watching live)

    People trading tapes and recordings of programs someone missed? This shouldn't be a problem either. The program gets more exposure. The ads that are there get watched again.

    Recording PPV movies? this shouldn't be an issue either. You already payed for it, you should be able to record it. Of course, distributing the recording could be considered illegal, but then so is making a copy of a commercial videotape and distributing that. Nothing changes here.

    The day they start finding ways to prevent recording off TV, I will start finding ways to circumvent it. Macrovision on DSS dishes? I'll have a macrovision killer permanently installed. I refuse to have my right to record infringed upon.
  • >I tend to think that in time, the concept of
    >channels will disappear.

    This, in consideration of an old wired article that struck a nerve
    ( "The Internet will be just like television: [wired.com]
    There may be 60 or 70 main sites out there, but the audience ends
    up going to only six or seven on a regular basis.").

    And with the Nielsen's trying to demonstrate advertising can
    happen in a web-style manner ( Nielsen Comes to the Net [wired.com])
    we've got some pretty wacky paradigm-buzzword throwdowns ahead of us.
  • I don't know about the Neilson (sp?) ratings, but a different rating system that I participated in in college counted vcr recorded shows as well as viewed. They even wanted to know if the tape was watched once or saved for later viewing.

    I received a copy of the ratings for the timeframe that I participated and there were shows highlighted for larger number of recording viewers than actual viewers.
  • There is a downside to the advertising income that pays for magazine publication, the data that they gather about their subscriber base and resell. The reason that publishers can charge so little for subscriptions for magazines is the amount of revenue that they gather about their subscribers and then sell to advertisers or anyone else willing to pay. When I worked for the largest magazine fulfillment company in the US I learned way too much about the sheer volumes of information that they have gathered and how well they can manipulate it.

    The reason that you pay attention is because they know enough about you that they can tailor the ad to what you are interested in. Coupons, special deals, special phone numbers, addresses etc. are used to track the effectiveness of their ads and they have been tuned over time. Would you believe that the background color of one of those 3X5 cards in the magazine is traced for effectiveness? Each new piece of information that they gather is statisticaly analysed and used.

    I would also warn you that the online magazines are worse, if they are run by traditional publishing houses. Their interactive sites tag you with a cookie and keep track of everything you do for dual purpose of giving you a better site and to be able to sell information about their users. The publishing houses like online sites even more than their traditional media because of how easily they can gather even more information about their subscribers. Every survey can be saved with your preferences, the emails that you ask for, the articles that you read, the pages that you skip by quickly and the ones that you spend extra time on, what OS you use, what browser you use, who is your primary provider, perhaps even who you work for if you help them make the connection. The well intergrated site will so completely map you that they could build a psychological profile.

    I would warn that before we wish for a change in the traditional passive advertising on television, we remember how much junk mail we receive in our snail mail, and how irritating spam is in our email boxes. Also consider television taking on the ideas of banner ads in our shows. Will we start seeing the vertically split screen for more than just the credits of our shows, especially when HDTV renders most of the reruns that are currently on cable specialty networks into a format that leaves a good portion of the screen unused?

    I don't think that the bleak picture that I'm painting will come to fruition completely in the television media. I do think that as the media merge, and these products are just another step, the things that bother us the most may come along from all of the different media. Some of the good things will come as well, and if we can make sure that we are informed, intelligent consumers, we can know what we want to change, and what trade-offs we are willing to make to keep the costs in the region that we are willing to pay. There could be some really nasty changes that we would have to deal with, both in front of and behind the scenes if we always insist on the cheapest price only. You get what you pay for.
  • Kewl, sounds great to me.

    I don't see a down side, I could watch recorded Buffy, whilst recording more Buffy - life just gets better and better...
  • I tend to think that in time, the concept of channels will disappear.

    Right now, if you want to watch a program, you either have to be in front of the box, or set up your VCR in advance. If not recording, and two programs are on at the same time then you have to decide which one you want to miss and which one you want to watch. Ditto for three if recording.

    If you don't know about a program in advance, you loose.

    Cable channels like HBO repeat the same program/movie multiple times in the month, this helps the problem a bit, but even so, you're still at the channel's mercy for when you can see it.

    However, with boxes like this, and increased channel capacity, we're going to move to an interface more like the web than like traditional TV. Instead of being driven by the channel's schedule, we will start making our own decisions about what to watch when.

  • I'd imagine that there would be a similar sort of thing with TV programs.

    Fans of various TV programs would watch them on a regular basis, but programs which people watch just because they're on after Sienfeld or Friends wouldn't get that audience boost.

    This wouldn't greatly affect the total number of shows. I'm sure that the 6 or 7 sites I visit reguarly isn't the same as the 6 or 7 the next person does, but it would mean that people would watch less shows they're not interested in, just because they're on.

  • What is a shame are the "fast forwad" buttons on the TIVO. I played with an early unit and there was about a 5 sec. lag between hitting FF and it really moving forward. When I pressed an engineer he admitted it was to please the advertisers.

    Not so -- the production units have no such delay (I've got one). I was told a much more believable reason for why the early units had this glitch: they didn't have enough memory (probably too much code swapping going on). The problem was apparently fixed before they started shipping.

  • NOT! This will not change anything as far as commercials are concerned. All that advertiers and network executives have to do is randomly shuffle the time for commercial breaks. They do at during sports anyway. Most poeple are going to be too lazy to sit and watch this machine record so that they can cut out the commercials. It is just like a VCR except there is no "pirate" distribution of recorded content. You still need a VCR to make permanent copies.

  • actually, i think another heuristic you could use to cut out ads would be to analyze the audio track. commercials usually have very high compression applied, which is easily detectable.

    but why bother with any of these stupid and fallible high tech solutions when you could just have a human being watch the shows and edit out the commercials manually? for each channel, you would have a human watching somewhere and turning off/on thousands of video recorders over the internet... sign people up and sell it as a service. bingo. instant millions.

    or you could run it more like slashdot with most people watching while some people have "moderator" status. then you average the times that moderators punch in/out. might not be perfect, but it might be good enough...

    and actually, with the time-delay nature of these digital vcrs, you could easily transmit the punch-in/punch-out information *after* the broadcast was over and the punches could be verified.

  • I've heard about these devices and it sounds like it could really change the way tv is viewed. No more prime time. To hell with programming execs. You wouldn't have to choose between two shows, you could watch either whenever you wanted. Forget about commercials, you could quickly scan past them. Or perhaps even have the ability not to record them at all. Of course, giving the average American so many choices could confuse the hell out of them. Zeke may say, 'to hell with it,' and read a book....well, we can dream.
  • I believe both Matrox and ATI have daughterboards for their new cards that allow for realtime mpeg-2 (DVD quality) encoding on => Pentium 2 systems.

    With one of these cards and a $ 500 25 gig harddisk, you could be doing this already (except of course, you can't expect to use the computer for anything else while you are at it).

    Maybe when the current P2 gets replaced this is what I will do with it, like the old Pentium is playing MP3s today (and 486 is, em, printing :-) ).
  • Comments Below:

    >As you say, the offer is open to anyone, which is good. Are purchasers of the product notified of this in writing, as section 3b of the GPL requires?

    Absolutely, in the manual.

    >Of course, in due course someone will pay the $24.95 and put your changes up on the web themselves, as they have every right to do under the GPL. But it's a little exasperating that you can't be bothered to even make a token gesture of goodwill towards the people who wrote the kernel that gave you such a tremendous head start on your product.

    Please, by all means, post away. As for the gestures of good will, and your feelings about the time and costs of the CDs, I only offer that we are a start-up company with fierce competitors, including WebTV, and we want to get a firm grip on our market before we tell everyone how we did it. We aren't quite ready to stop improving our system to take time to contribute to the betterment of our competitors. We are distributing our source changes, as required, but every moment that Dave is burning a CD is a moment that he ought to be compiling new enhancements.

    I don't mean that we don't want to be active participants in the true community efforts surrounding Linux, but right now we're still trying to keep the lights lit.

    As for your suggestions about the web distribution of the source, thanks for the input -- you have been heard. We are trying to solve several problems in this area right now, and we will probably release our source there in the future. For our first distributions, this method works just fine.

    Cheers, and thanks for fighting the good fight,

    Richard Bullwinkle
    TiVo Webmaster
  • by Bullwinkle ( 45220 ) on Monday July 05, 1999 @12:52PM (#1818049) Homepage
    Hmm, enough mis-information from you!

    Try this:

    We are distributing all our modifications to the Linux Kernel as part of the GPL on CD for $24.95. That covers the cost of the CD, shipping, and the time it takes my dear friend Dave to dupe the CDs.

    We have no immediate plans to distrubute the code over the web, but will reconsider once we move our website to a more robust server in the near future.

    On the CD you will find minor modifications to the Power PC kernel, v.2.24.

    This is available to anyone, not just people who purchase the TiVo service.

    Please email me if you have any questions.

    Richard Bullwinkle
    TiVo Webmaster
  • Anyone else remember the episode of ER that had about 15 minutes devoted to Tae Bo? product placement is here now, expect it to get much, much worse once the networks can say that we just skip the commercials entirely, not even having to fast forward...I can see it now...

    "our studies show that 80% of Americans own PVR's and 98% of those owners skip through the commercials. But for just 500,000 dollars more you can get your product INTO THE SHOW!!!!!"

    PVR won't change much itself, but just the fact that networks can use the tech buzz that will surround PVR's to scare people into paying more for product placement...
  • I spoke to a rep at TiVo about this issue. They are very competetive with there information, but gave me general stuff.

    1) the system uses a modified Harddrive, with two sets of heads. This allows it to read and to write to the drive at once. This is used in both TiVo and Replay TV. I believe the device is made by Quantum.

    2) The TiVo unit is based on the Linux kernel. They did have to do some kernel hacking to increase the multimedia performance, but would not release the code to me unless I purchaces one of their units. They intend to send the code out on CD to those who ask and have purchaced a unit.

    3) the unit uses a custom File System. the code for this file system is not given out, and is required for proper operation of the unit (according to them. I think you might be able to trick it).

    4) The Unit's software to actully record/playback, etc. will not be open sourced, nor will specificaiton be published. (again, they do not want make it easier for their competitors)

  • I don't know what you are re-fering to, but let me take a guess.
    A bastardation of Elite. Used by many 'script kiddies' and wannabe-crackers. Also used by children trading WAREZ and MP3s. Used both as a term of pride "I am 3L337, dude!", by the ignorant, and as a put down towards those who might use it.
  • by EEPROM ( 50820 )
    Username: cypherpunk
    Password: cypherpunk
  • "They did have to do some kernel hacking to increase the multimedia performance, but would not release the code to me unless I purchaces one of their units"

    Excuse my ignorance, but would this not be a violation of the GPL?

  • I saw an article about these things in Consumerreports magazine. I'm sure you can find the article at http://www.consumerreports.org/ [consumerreports.org]
  • Watch many of the predictions currently about MP3. As your average user's bandwidth increases the "digital video images" will start to be traded around much like MP3s are now. Probably starting off with music videos (since they average about 4-5 minutes) and then gradually expanding to include any type of video.

    This also includes "shoutcast" type systems where anyone with cheap video camera and fast net connection can broadcast their own TV show over the internet. It will be beautiful...

    Also, the convergence of "Tivo" and writtable DVDs will really bring about major changes. Writtable DVDs will eventually be as cheap as CDs are now, probably within 2 or 3 years. These digital VCRs will be able to output four 1/2 hour shows or a full length movie once writtable DVD comes standard on them.

    The big networks probably have more to fear than they think....
  • When I was younger, I had no money and tons of time. I could sit in front of a TV for hours because there was nothing to do. I never needed the VCR because I could be ready when the show came on.
    It drove me crazy.
    Now I almost never watch TV. I have money. I can work on building a new bookshelf for my books. Upgrade my system, work on my plan for the 'Ultimate Game'.

    Replay and TIVO are interesting. I think they will be hacked after they come out to the marketplace. (Note: they ARE available. Aparently you can buy one though 'Specialized sales on the internet.') The machines currently do not allow users to build librarys of shows. I'd love to have a complete set of 'Max Headroom'
    I can also see another hack to allow the replication of VCR tapes.

    >Still, Ancier conceded that many of the machine's implications "scare the heck out of me." Tom Freston, the chairman of Viacom's MTV Networks, said: "I hate to think about Replay and Tivo. We kind of like the world the way it is now."

    Heh. Spoken like a true dinosaur.

    Hmm, the place I work for has full cable. If I get this I can get a copy of al the shows I miss on the weekend!

    Erik Z
  • i think that we could have a truce with the advertisers: only block out car commercials and disgusting products. wouldn't that be enough? especially the disgusting products they used to be only girl stuff but now we've got bob dole telling me to be brave and try some viagra.... oh god the world is going to hell in a handbasket!!!
  • In all seriousness, as cool as the Replay and Tivo are, I already use my VCR the way they would. Any of my regular shows, I tape. This way, 1) I can't be interrupted by a phone call (I can always pause it), and 2) I can watch an hour of TV in 45 minutes. I recycle the same few tapes for my regular weekly episodes. How would my life be changed by digital VCRs?

    AFAIK one thing you can benefit from these digital VCRs is you can overlap real-broadcast and viewing (you could at least with one machine ive seen an preview of)

    That says you may as well watch any show at the time they broadcast it (or generally 15minutes later), skip over Commercials and hit "PAUSE" for a phone call..

    Speaking of commercial breaks - the german magazine CT has shown a way to let the computer decide wether the now broadcasted program is a commercial break or not. Wether one could hack such a dedection into an digital VCR direct ? (instead of having the PC watch TV and doing remote signals...)

  • I think this is going to push television into the same realm as many other industries today. People want to get the thing they want at the imt they want it in the way they want it. Period.

    Pay per view programming seems like the obvious answer, but that's pretty unattractive to a lot of people, particularly ones who want to spend hours and hours watching television. A relatively simple compromise for this would be to grant users viewing credit for watching commercials; it could be set up on such a scale that the current setup -- 43 minute show/17 minutes of commercials -- would result in no fee. Credit could be saved up by watching more commercials and used to watch movies uninterrupted.

    Better still, you could choose your commercials the same way you chose your shows. You'd submit a list of the products you were interested in seeing advertised, thus making the commercials more likely to be appealing to you. Don't want a new car? No commercials for car dealerships. Advertisers would be happy to reach one tenth the audience they are now if they were sure those people were interested.

  • Here's the system I want. A large (52"?) plasma or LCD HDTV display. The display would be attached (but removable, if you wanted to wall-mount it) to a base. Thev base contains a RePlay/TiVo-type recorder and a DCD-RAM/RW drive. You feel you need to make a more permanent copy of your favorite ER? No problem. Select the show from the PVR device's menu and send it to the DVD drive. Just plug in your speakers of choice to enjoy the Dolby Digital, sit back, and enjoy.

    Maybe Nielson will need to modify its rating system to consider programs that are watched when air versus shows that are recorded for watching later?
  • Maybe you should pay more attention :

    antithetical /= antiethical

    The first term is the 'anti-thesis' or opposite
    the other is 'not ethical'.
    I think you jumped your gun

  • Same thing occurred to me - North American broadcast television stops for commercials every few minutes, but there are places in the world where all of the ads are held until a program break. Generally this means that the advertisers must compensate by making the advertising highly entertaining or artful. Take a look at the Cannes Advertising festival some time, or old Clio Awards reels - European advertisements are more likely to have higher production values, edgy or daring aesthetics. Not that this is a universally good thing, adds are still used to push products of dubious value and make unsubstantiated claims (although a Hungarian gov't commission once disallowed a coffee ad that claimed "better taste", saying that this was a subjective judgement which could not be proven), and project the social and political ideals of the advertisers. It does make them more entertaining and easier to look at.

    Note that I said "more likely" - there is still a certain amount of crapola. The problem of interminable repetition, by far the worst feature of TV ads, still exists, but is mitigated somewhat by the fact that there are less advertising breaks in general.

    With deregulation challenging state-sponsored broadcasters in many countries, it will be interesting to see if French and Italian TV get flooded with Krazy Discount Appliance Warehouse purveyors. Will Austrian morning time slots be flooded with loser commercials for pawnshops, personal injury lawyers and correspondence schools? Will Norwegians spend dark evenings contemplating chat lines and psychic networks?
  • Wow... this would give someone the ultimate feeling of power... they'd be holding the god of all remote controls.

    Of course, most of these people would have other agendas in mind...

    "New research shows that men are biologically inferior to w-" *CLICK*

    "Coming up next: Yanni Live At The Ac-" *CLICK*

    "Reports are arriving that the controllers of Internet VCR services are abusing th-" *CLICK*
  • Who said that stupidity and scroll-texts were mutually exclusive?
  • And the funding comes from where? You mention broadcasting movies to relatives.. over what? Analog modems?
    Elaborate on your idea. Think it out and share it before you go ahead and post.
  • http://www.atitech.com/ca_us/products/pc/aiw_128/i ndex.html

    The hardware is there right now. No special hard drives. I have it running under win98 on a celeron 300a oced to 464Mhz / 64MB SDRAM with a 6GB hard drive. Ok granted I can only record a little over 2 hours with the 3GB I have free on there but I can always buy a bigger hard drive when they get cheaper ;)

    Highest spec is MPEG-2 with MPEG layer 2 audio 640x480, IBP frames at 25MB / min or 40.26 min per GB. This DOES want a Pentium III - 500 but those should be getting a lot cheaper now that AMD is releasing the K7.

    It's also nice to be able to watch TV in a window or as your desktop as well. Now someone just has to lean on them to release the spec so someone can write some open source software to interface with this beast.

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller