Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tivo Series 3

I'm not usually a super-early adopter of home electronics. After spending all day thinking about code, I don't want to come home and have to debug my TV setup. But when I heard about the Tivo Series 3, I was instantly interested.

I've had a Tivo Series 2 for years. Before I got it, people would tell me, "it will change the way you watch TV". I found this hard to believe at the time, but after using Tivo for a few weeks, it quickly became hard to remember the pre-Tivo days. Watching TV on my own schedule + Tivo suggestions + instant replay + 30 second skip = a truly better TV experience.

Until the local cable company started offering HD programming. I then found myself having to choose between HD content the old-fashioned way, or the now-inferior SD picture on Tivo. Additionally, I now had both the Tivo and the cable box sucking power 24/7. In an attempt to resolve this, I tried the cable company HD DVR, which seemed like a reasonable solution, but it just couldn't match Tivo. Awful UI + no 30 second skip + massive power consumption + lockups = a very unsatisfactory product.

So the notion of a Tivo, with all its goodness, that could display/record HD seemed like the perfect solution. And when I found out that I could transfer my lifetime membership from my Series 2, I was sold. Having now spent about two months with the Tivo Series 3, I can say it has lived up to my (high) expectations. The high points:
  • Same great Tivo UI
  • HD recording/playback
  • THX certified
  • Dual tuners (works for HD, too)
  • Internal format conversion (essential when your TV only does 1080i)
  • Lifetime membership transfer
  • Great remote (even better than the Series 2)
  • 30 second skip still works!
Power consumption is quite reasonable too - even while recording HD, the Series 3 only draws 34 watts, compared to 28 watts for the Series 2. (Both of which are way better than the cable company DVR, which could be used to heat a small room). Of course, not everything is perfect. Some (minor) lowlights:
  • Tivo to Go is currently disabled
  • No HD display for Music/Photos
  • Music/Photos does not support DLNA media servers
Hopefully these can be rectified in a future firmware upgrade, but they're really just minor complaints. Overall, I've been very satisfied with the Series 3. It just works, and works great.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Gmail Theater: Why Use Gmail?

Why you should use Gmail... in four acts.

And now that you're convinced you should use Gmail, you can sign up for an account at As of yesterday, we've dropped the invitation requirement for new accounts, so anyone can use Gmail.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Google Talk URLs

I've been meaning to post this for a while, but was holding off until all the pieces were in place. But now that CustomizeTalk has scooped me on this topic, I figure I ought to publish it ASAP...

Did you know that Google Talk has its own URL scheme? These "gtalk" URLs can be embedded in web pages or desktop shortcuts to make it easy to message or call someone from Talk. Right now, the two supported URLs are:

gtalk:chat? (starts a chat)


(starts a call)

Simply replace "" with the XMPP ID of the person you want to chat with/call and you're all set.

If you use multiple accounts, you can also add the "from_jid" parameter to the URL to control which account the message is sent from. Here's an example of a URL using from_jid:


As mentioned above, "call" and "chat" are the only URL commands currently supported. If you specify any other string, invoking it will simply cause the Talk client to come to the foreground.

Update: previously I had mentioned that you could use these links to put a "contact me with Gtalk" button on a web page. I goofed; the currently released version of Google Talk won't bring up the invitation UI when these URLs are invoked, so you can't do this quite yet.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Usage Stats From the Major IM Networks

Yesterday I saw a post from the Windows Live Messenger team where they said that they recently went over 30 million simultaneous users. Now, lots of statistics are offered up by the major IM networks when referring to their respective audiences, but the two that I like to focus on are simultaneous online users and IMs/day. Claims about "active users" or "total users" can be hard to compare, since it all depends on how you count. Simultaneous users and IMs are clear indications of how many users are stressing the system on a daily basis.

The WLM post got me interested on whether I could determine these numbers for all the major messaging services. A little Googling, and I was able to come up with numbers or reasonable estimates for most of the major services; I've included links to the sources I used. (Google does not release user numbers, so Gtalk is absent from this chart.) Here's the breakdown:

ServiceActive UsersMax Simultaneous Users
Total IMs/dayDominant Regions
Windows Live
Europe, Latin America, East Asia
China, South Africa
US, Israel

India, ?
East Asia, Europe

I couldn't find exact data for some of these numbers, so extrapolated from what I did have. Readers, if you have recent public data for the estimated values (especially Yahoo), I'd be interested to see it.

Nevertheless, from these numbers, it looks like WLM is about as big as Yahoo+AOL+Skype combined. That's a formidable lead in a space that is fairly mature.