Friday, May 25, 2007

Canadian Analog TV Signal shutdown date

Discovered this little tidbit from Peter Near's blog.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has introduced changes to the way it regulates conventional television broadcasters. These measures will ensure Canadians have access to digital and high-definition television programming, and that broadcasters continue to contribute to the production, acquisition and broadcast of high-quality Canadian programming.

Notably, the Commission has decided to:

  • remove restrictions on advertising time limits after gradually increasing the amount of advertising allowed;
  • establish August 31, 2011, as the date by which television licensees will only broadcast digital signals;
  • require English- and French-language broadcasters to caption for the hearing impaired 100 per cent of their programs over the 18-hour broadcast day, with the exception of advertising and promotions; and
  • deny a subscriber fee for the carriage of local conventional television stations on cable and satellite as its necessity has not been demonstrated.

More information is available at the CTRC press release 'The Commission establishes a new approach for Canadian conventional television' as well as Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2007-53.

What does this mean?

In the US, the FCC has enacted a similar analog broadcast shutdown date of February 17, 2009. Beyond this date, any over-the-air television broadcast needs to be in digital format (ATSC). Prior to this announcement, many networks 'dragged' their feet in switching over from the older analog broadcasting equipment to much superior digital broadcast equipment. This shutdown deadline was really what got the ball rolling on this conversion, as sometimes, a deadline is needed to spur one to action. Hopefully, this announcement causes a similar process to occur in Canada, especially for those few stations who still haven't started broadcasting in digital format (cough cough Global TV in Toronto). Now that we have a defined analog shutdown date, there is added incentive for the broadcasters to make the switch.

I've talked about over-the-air HDTV in the past in the blog entries First Foray into HDTV, HDTV Antenna Update, HDTV Antenna Update Part 2, and Media Center in Vista. With the number of digital television broadcasters soon to increase, people will soon realize that they have a free source of high quality programming available to them (obviously Bell and Rogers don't want you to know about it though). Perhaps you may see aerial antennas, currently used mostly by enthusiasts, become more mainstream. Even the media is starting to pick up on this, as seen in this recent canoe.ca article A new life for 'rabbit ears' (Thanks for the link, Laura).

Media Center Implications

Of course, this announcement has Media Center implications! Hopefully with Canada's commitment to over-the-air broadcasting, Microsoft will officially support ASTC tv signal source in Media Center for Canadians. Currently, we need to resort to hacks as described on Peter's blog - ATSC in Canada with Media Center Vista (RTM). Going forward, hacks like this should not be necessary, and I hope that we will see movement on this, even as soon as the next Media Center revision.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Sponsor me for the Ride for Heart

As some of you know, I am participating in the Heart and Stroke Foundation's Ride for Heart (Toronto) on June 3, 2007. I think it's a great event that raises money toward a great cause.

If you are interested in sponsoring me for this ride, I would be grateful. You can do so by visiting my personal donation page. If you are interested in joining my team (Team Pedal Faster), as mentioned in a previous blog posting 'Anyone interested in forming a Ride for Heart group?', more information is available on my team page. It's not too late to get the discounted group rate, and what a better way to donate to the event than to plough the savings back to the Heart and Stroke Foundation by way of a donation?

Whatever amount that anyone is willing to donate will be greatly appreciated.


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Hawk-Eye Wimbledon debut confirmed

The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club confirmed today that Hawk-Eye would make its Wimbledon debut.

The move follows the successful completion of recent testing on grass to verify the accuracy of the system on that surface. It was also announced that the Player Challenge system at Wimbledon will allow for three incorrect challenges in a set, an increase from the previous figure of two used at the US Open and Australian Open.

For more information, see the following two press releases:


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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

CableCARD and Digital Cable vs Firewalls

Because I live in Canada, this topic doesn't mean too much to me. That said, for those of you that have Vista Media Center setup and have CableCard/Digital Cable Tuners, the CableCARD and Digital Cable FAQ might be useful to you.

In the past, I've written about the ports that need to be open for Media Center to operate in an optimal manner (Media Center Extenders vs Firewalls (MCE2005 and Vista) and Media Center Extender Setup and Windows Live OneCare: Issues and Resolutions). For those of you who have CableCard/Digital Cable Tuners, there are additional ports that need to be opened as per the above FAQ. See the below instructions for your firewall:

Windows Live OneCare 1.5: Use the firewall connection tool to allow the Windows Media Center ports to be available to the Digital Cable Tuner. To do this, follow these steps.

  1. Start Windows Live OneCare.
  2. In the left pane, click Change OneCare settings.
  3. On the Firewall tab, click Firewall connection tool.
  4. Click to select the Connect my XBOX 360 or Media Center Extender to my Media Center PC check box.
  5. Click OK, and then close the Windows Live OneCare Settings dialog box.
  6. Restart the computer.

Symantec Norton Internet Security 2007: Run LiveUpdate to install the latest signature files (released after January 31, 2007).

McAfee Internet Security Suite 2007: You will need to manually allow access to the system service port in the Firewall feature.

  1. Right-click the McAfee icon in the Windows system tray and click on SecurityCenter. On the Internet & Network Configuration pane, click Advanced.
  2. On the Firewall tab, click Firewall connection tool.
  3. On the Firewall pane, click System Services.
  4. Under Open System Service Port, select Universal Plug & Play (UPnP).
  5. Click OK.

Other Firewall Programs

If you have a firewall not listed above, try the following steps:

  1. Go to your firewall's settings option.
  2. Look for a list of applications that are allowed or prevented access to the Internet.
  3. Look for the applications listed in the table below. If it's designated as blocked or prevented access to the Internet, change the setting to allow access. If it's not listed at all, manually add it and allow access to the network.
  4. Save your changes and restart your firewall program.

If you configure a firewall after you install and configure your Digital Cable Tuners, you must manually configure the firewall to open the following ports.

ApplicationProtocol/PortDirectionNetwork
ehprivjob.exeUDP 5001-5006InboundLocal Subnet
svchost.exeUDP 1900Inbound, OutboundLocal Subnet
systemTCP 2869Inbound, OutboundLocal Subnet
ehprivjob.exeTCP 554OutboundLocal Subnet
ehprivjob.exeUDP 5757-5772OutboundLocal Subnet

The procedure that you use to manually configure these ports is different for each firewall model and for each firewall manufacturer. For more information about how to configure your firewall, see its documentation.

Hopefully this helps some people who have run into issues that might be caused by a firewall.


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Friday, May 11, 2007

Boot your Xbox 360 directly into Extender mode

For those of you who have installed the new Spring 2007 Xbox 360 dashboard update on their Xbox 360, there is a new feature that might interest those that use the Xbox 360 primarily as an Extender.

You can have your Xbox 360 load the Extender software directly upon boot-up, which should save a few presses of buttons. To do this, once you have installed the Spring 2007 Xbox 360 dashboard updates, follow these steps:

  1. In the the Xbox Dashboard, goto the System blade;
  2. Select Console Settings;
  3. Select Startup; and,
  4. You will see three options, Disc, Xbox Dashboard and Media Center. Selecting Media Center will bring up the Media Center Extender upon bootup.

This setting primarily affects the power up path when you use the power button on the Xbox 360, or through the Xbox Guide button on your controller or even your Xbox 360 Media Center remote.

Even after selecting this feature, you can always go back to the dashboard through the normal means (by pressing the Xbox Guide button on the Controller or Xbox 360 Remote).


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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Portable Media Center platform demise

Every once in a while, I am asked about what happened to the Portable Media Center. At the MVP Summit, we were given an answer when we asked about it, but since I had not heard about it through official means, I didn't want to blog about it. Now that I've found something public, I can discuss it. Here is an announcement that was posted by David Bono, a Microsoft employee, in the microsoft.public.windows.mediacenter.portable newsgroup.

Microsoft is no longer licensing the PMC software. Here is an announcement that was sent out last year to our PMC partners:

In early 2006, Microsoft released the second version of Windows Mobile for Portable Media Centers to our partners. The second version of the Portable Media Center software enhanced the end user experience and enabled partners to build smaller, less expensive and more competitive devices.

As part of the ongoing review of our product investments, we have decided to take what we have learned from our investments in Portable Media Center and focus our product and marketing resources on building media experiences on connected Windows Mobile powered devices.

With the re-investment of resources in media experiences on connected Windows Mobile powered devices, Portable Media Center 2.0 is the last version of our Portable Media Center software under the Windows Mobile brand. We do not plan any future Portable Media Center software upgrades or marketing activities.

Thank you for all your support- Microsoft is proud of its work, the work of its partners and the devices and services delivered as a result of
those relationships. We will continue to work with existing Portable Media Centers licensees to ensure that devices they are developing come to market.

To summarize, the Portable Media Center platform is dead, but the fruits of the labours of that platform should be visible in future Windows Mobile-based products. This might be old news to some, but I don't recall it being announced with much fanfare (not that discontinued products generally tend to be front page news), so for those that were wondering about Portable Media Center and its future, hopefully this brings some closure to this issue.


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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Linked from CNNSI.com again

It looks like my blog was linked to by Jon Wertheim, a writer for CNN/Sports Illustrated, this time, with regards to, presumbly, my latest Hawk-eye/Wimbledon redevelopment entry.

This is the third time (that I know of) that I've been linked to in Jon's weekly Tennis Mailbag column. Hopefully, readers of his column find some of my tennis related blog entries to be useful, from technology used in tennis, the volunteer work that I do for the Toronto tennis tournament and just my general interest in the tennis world.

Here's some links to some of my better tennis related postings (in order of latest postings):

To the new visitors of my blog, I hope you enjoy reading some of the postings that I have made. Feel free to leave comments if you wish and I will respond where I can.

For those interested, my blog as been linked to from these articles:

  1. Giving Serena her due (pt. 3) - Wednesday May 2, 2007 11:25AM in the Shots, miscellany section;
  2. Is a loss the best thing to motivate Serena? - Thursday January 18, 2007 11:07AM in the Miscellany section; and,
  3. Sudden impacts (pt. 3) - Wednesday July 19, 2006 11:27AM in the Shots, miscellany section.

Jon, if you are ever in Toronto for the tennis tournament, come by the Transportation desk and say hello!

Virtualcity.ca - connect users to their surroundings through online mapping

Shima posted a link to an interesting site from her blog today. This was something that was definitely up my alley, given my interests in Planning, GIS and technology in general.

VirtualCity, a company based in Toronto, has mapped out much of Toronto's major metropolitan areas through street-level photography, as well as implementing a business name search such that one can view their actual storefront, all without any software to download or install.

Built upon Google's mapping APIs, users can either use the built-in search functions to find a point of interest, or drag and drop a viewfinder on the map to begin “strolling” the city. Millions of photographs are seamlessly stitched together for each area, giving VirtualCity users the unique ability to virtually stroll through streets, viewing points of interest before they ever leave their computer. In addition, due to Google's mapping APIs, the site allows users to traverse maps traditionally and find detailed directions complete with time and mileage summaries in a relatively familiar interface.

VirtualCity’s photographs are collected via highly specialized mapping vehicles equipped with high-definition video cameras and the latest in global positioning technology. GIS-grade GPS, accelerometers to sense increases and decreases in acceleration, and gyro meters to sense directional changes, all tie into the vehicles’ computer bus to sense each full rotation of the wheels, while custom software compares these readings 10 times per second to create extremely accurate location data regardless of degraded GPS or "urban canyons". This is typically called "dead reckoning" by navigation systems. Over 4 million photographs were taken of the Toronto area.

I think this is an amazing way of integrating existing technology (GIS, GPS data collection, etc) and improving upon how data is presented to a user. Today, we are accustomed to seeing overhead satellite views on either Google Maps or Windows Live Local. That can be really useful, but it is street level views that people are likely more accustomed to via walking, biking, or of course, driving (unless of course you are an airplane/helicopter pilot).

VirtualCity's product is not exclusive to Toronto. By using geolocation, Toronto users are automatically sent to the Toronto site. However, VirtualCity is also available for those in Montreal. VirtualCity plans to expand into the United States before the end of the year, beginning with Miami and continuing into the New York, Chicago, and Boston markets in 2007.

A couple suggestions I would make to the developers of this product would be the following:

  1. Provide the date that the photographs were taken; and,
  2. Provide an archive of the photographs that were taken over time.

With disk storage space being so abundant, I don't see why this would be too hard to implement. I think that this would be an interesting way to show the evolution (or devolution) of the streetscape over time, and could become a great tool for planners to use.


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