January 28, 2005

Finally, An Endangered Species List I Can Get Worked Up About

I found the EFF's Endangered Gizmos List from Slashdot, and I'm happy to say I own one of the gizmos listed as 'extinct' on it. Just one. Really. Honest:

Species: ReplayTV 4000
Genus: Personal Video Recorder (PVR)
Closest Surviving Relatives: TiVo's "Tivo-to-go" is heavily encumbered by DRM and its 30-second skip is hidden. Build-your-own PVRs like MythTV let you skip commercials and export files to your heart's content.
What it is: A personal video recorder with user-friendly features.
What it allowed you to do: Skip over commercials and send recorded TV programs to another ReplayTV device.
Why it's extinct: Former Turner Broadcasting CEO Jamie Kellner called skipping commercials "theft" -- and evidently the major motion picture studios agree. They sued the manufacturers of ReplayTV out of existence, and the company that purchased it buckled under and removed the contested features.
And the reasons it's extinct are a large part of I like it so much - automatic commercial skip (with a correctness rate of ~80%) and no digital rights management. You can still get ReplayTVs on eBay, but be advised that if you're looking for automatic commercial skip (called Commercial Advance), you'll want a 4xxx series model, not a 5xxx series (5000 series models may have CA, I don't remember, but 55xx series models definitely do not).

I've combined my RTV with DVArchive (which lets me move shows to my PC) and my DVD burner to create an essentially unlimited library of whatever the hell I want from my TV.

No wonder Hollywood doesn't want me to have it.

A gizmo on the endangered list has also caught my attention - Total Recorder:

Species: Total Recorder
Genus: Virtual soundcards
Threat: Entertainment companies pressing for operating system-authentication of soundcard drivers.
What it is: A software program that appears to your computer to be a soundcard, but rather than sending an audio stream to your speakers, it saves it to a file on disk.
What it lets you do: Total Recorder allows you to record any audio that your computer can play.
Why it's endangered: Hollywood is pushing Microsoft and other operating system developers to make it so your computer will detect whether the soundcard software in use comes from a major manufacturer -- that is, whether it's been "tamed" and will do what Hollywood and the majors have agreed it may do.
Just the thing to allow me to mix radio highlights of games and add my own commentary, much like I do for TV. Never mind that this fits pretty clearly under the definition of Fair Use; Big Media doesn't want me to be able to do it.

Posted by Chris at January 28, 2005 05:19 PM

Category: Media Stupidity