YUI Theater channel for Roku

I have just released a YUI Theater channel for Roku streaming players.  The channel is a private channel, meaning that you cannot find it in the channel store on the player, however all you need to do to add the channel is visit the following link:


When you have confirmed that you want to add the channel, go over to your Roku box and go to the Channel Store.  When the Channel Store has loaded, exit back to the main channel view and you will see the YUI Theater channel.  This will allow you to stream all of the available YUI Theater videos in the comfort of your family room, den, bedroom, or wherever you use your Roku!

This really was an opportunity for me to see what is involved in building a Roku channel.  After reading a post on the Yahoo! User Interface Blog about the availability of the videos on the Boxee platform, I had been thinking about doing something similar on Roku.  I finally had a few spare hours to play around with it this past weekend, and this is the result.

A little bit of background about Roku channels – underlying the channel is a Brightscript script, which uses an XML feed (served up from a little app running on Google App Engine) containing information about available videos to drive the content that is displayed on-screen.  Brightscript is Roku’s scripting language.  In some ways it is similar to Javascript, enough for me to pick it up pretty quickly, however there are some differences.

I hope this provides value to those of you who are YUI users.  If you have any feedback, please let me know.

Posted in Roku, YUI | Comments Off on YUI Theater channel for Roku

Switching to WordPress

After a long bout of inactivity, I have decided to revisit my blog, and, as part of that process, update from the aging version of Movable Type that is used to manage my existing content to WordPress.

I am still in the midst of figuring out how to move my old posts across from there into WordPress, but, from this point onwards, I will be posting here instead.

Update: Courtesy of the nice Import plug-in for WordPress, I have been able to pull in all my old content.  Great stuff!

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Unable to connect to package content server

Not the most interesting blog posting title, is it?

Anyway, the reason for the aforementioned title is that I just upgraded at work to a new laptop, a Lenovo (nee IBM) Thinkpad. One of the issues I hit while setting it up is that the ThinkVantage System Update utility repeatedly failed to work, reporting ‘Unable to connect to package content server.’

After a quick install and run of Ethereal, the culprit turned out to be the System Update utility, which attempts to download package information from a remote server on port 7618. Our firewall here at work is pretty restrictive when it comes to outbound access on non-standard ports, and therefore it was blocking access to the remote package server, resulting in the error. A tweak of the firewall rules by our local friendly firewall administrator, and I was in business. The laptop is now happily downloading updates as I type.

I have yet to really get to grips with the new machine, but is definitely a big step up from my previous laptop, a Compaq Evo 1GHz, and I am looking forward to a speedier work environment!

Posted in Technology | 3 Comments

Busy Times in San Jose…

The summer has flown past, vacations have gone, and now it is time to get back down to some serious business. Started a new project on Monday, and it looks like I will be spending some quality time out here in San Jose – certainly a change from sunny New Jersey!

Hopefully I will be able to squeeze in a Mobile Monday or two while I am out here – it has been a few years since I was heavily involved in the mobile space, and I am interested to find out what has developed since that time. Aside from that, with the little spare time that I will have available, I intend to catch up with a few people based over in the Valley. If you’re around the area, and want to grab a cup of coffee one weekday evening and talk technology, just drop me an email.

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quickSub 0.3.5 released

With the recent talk about feed subscribing, I realized that quickSub was long overdue a new release. So, at long last, quickSub 0.3.5 is now available. The most prominent change is the addition of FeedDemon to the list of newsreaders – this has certainly been the most-requested modification since the last release.

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Caller ID R.I.P.?

Caller ID has been compromised. No longer do you have the assurance that the number displayed on your ringing telephone actually represents the person on the other end of the line.

With the advent of so-called Caller ID spoofing services, anyone with a credit card can initiate outbound calls with the Caller ID of their choice. Aside from the fact that these services easily allow anyone to compromise the integrity of the Caller ID service, they also open up a number of critical security concerns across different voice-based systems.

Logging into my cellphone website account today, I noticed a security alert for the voicemail system. My provider’s voicemail system has an option to bypass the requirement to enter your PIN if you’re calling from your own cellphone. Hackers have been able to access the voicemail accounts of others through exploiting this ‘feature’. If you have a cellphone voicemail account, you really should consider enabling PIN-based authentication.

Think about the other types of systems today that use Caller ID for authentication. Caller ID spoofing will have a big impact on all of these if it is the sole authentication token. Here’s another example: Recently I received a replacement debit card, and, when I made the call to enable the card, it confirmed that it had matched my telephone number to the number on file and would not require any further confirmation. This is scary – banking institutions should seriously reconsider the authentication model used for new card enablement.

I’m not completely familiar with the intricacies of the switching network (SS7 et. al.), however I do hope that some steps are taken to restore integrity to the network. Caller ID is a useful feature, but, with the advent of spoofing services, its value has diminished.

Posted in Technology | 2 Comments

NASA’s Java PathFinder

Now this looks interesting:

Java PathFinder (JPF) is a system to verify executable Java bytecode programs. In its basic form, it is a Java Virtual Machine (JVM) that is used as an explicit state software model checker, systematically exploring all potential execution paths of a program to find violations of properties like deadlocks or unhandled exceptions. Other than traditional debuggers, JPF reports the whole execution path that leads to a defect. JPF is especially suitable to find hard-to-test concurrency defects in multithreaded programs.

This is NASA’s first program to be actively developed and hosted on SourceForge, licensed under the ‘NASA Open Source Agreement‘.

Something to add to the must-look-at list!

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Today I had my first experience with Greasemonkey. For those of you who have yet to come across it, Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that opens up a whole new realm of client-side website personalization opportunities.

Greasemonkey enables the execution of user-written scripts against any webpage. These scripts can interact with the webpage, look-up external content, and literally perform any type of modification.

The first example I tried was Adrian Holovaty’s Chicago Transit Authority map on Google Maps. This script seamlessly adds a third option to Google Maps. Now, in addition to Map and Satellite options in the top right corner, an option for CTA map is added. With the map pointing to Chicago, clicking on CTA map replaces the existing map with the layout of the Chicago Transit tracks. Anyone going to build one for the NYC MTA?

There’s already a long list of canned scripts available from the Greasemonkey script repository. Another interesting script is Jon Udell’s Library Lookup. He modified his existing bookmarklet to rewrite Amazon book pages. Now, while browsing books at Amazon, the Greasemonkey script goes out in the background to your library’s online database and checks for availability. Awesome integration!

Now, it makes me think that I should get around to writing a Greasemonkey quickSub script. This would rewrite any links to RSS/Atom feeds so that they included the appropriate URL to enable subscription against a user’s desktop or web-based aggregator. Any interest?

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Going SWIMming…

Congratulations to Daniel and the team at under[de]construction for the v1.0 release of SWIM. SWIM provides a very innovative approach to Content Management, without the complexity of traditional solutions. You can read more about SWIM in the post over on Daniel’s blog.

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An Open Automotive Applications Platform?

Following on from yesterday’s car radio podcasting request, GadgetGuy brought me down to earth with what we could realistically expect in the near future.

While I do not expect car stereo manufacturers to grok podcasting, it would be nice if they offered me an open applications platform on which I could deploy a podcasting aggregator.
In other words, how about we see the same transition that happened in the mobile phone industry? Nowadays I can go into any wireless phone store and pick up a cellphone that has some form of OS on which I can deploy my own software or (more realistically) deploy software from a software vendor. While I do not expect to see Motorola or Nokia offering a podcasting application for their cellphones in the near future, I could certainly envision some opportunities for the third-party software market.

Give me a car stereo with a built-in hard drive, some form of connectivity (Bluetooth would be better than nothing, WiFI would integrate nicely with the home networking environment and hotspots), and an open platform on which I can deploy my own applications.

This sounds like a prime market for Microsoft. A cursory search turns up Microsoft’s Automotive group, with their Windows Automotive platform. From what I can garner from the site, this is based upon Windows CE. According to the site, its goal is:

“… to deliver adaptable, scalable platforms for connected devices that will enable and enhance applications and services offering flexible solutions for customer needs in the automotive industry.”

Sounds great. They also say:

“This technology will enable the industry to give drivers and passengers seamless access to a wide range of Web services as well as smooth functionality among all Windows powered devices.”

Wonderful. With Microsoft’s other relevant investments in the automotive space (Streets and Trips, for example), it looks like a great space in which they could capitalize. A look at the partners list shows some very interesting developments, like the Carman i from Nextech. A question to Mr. Scoble – when am I going to be able to go to my local car electronics/big box store and get one of these things installed? And how open is this platform?

A quick aside – with the recent announcements about Tivo-to-Go, wouldn’t it be a great app to be able to transfer Tivo-ed programs to the Windows media-enabled entertainment system in my car? (For the benefit of the people in the rear seats, of course!)

Aside from Microsoft, I’m curious about other vendors that are making advances in this space. A few years back a company called empeg created a Linux-based in-dash mp3 player. It had an integrated hard drive, and a pretty decent UI. The technology (and team) got acquired by SONICblue, who eventually discontinued the car player division. The team behind that product moved onto other efforts. This technology would have been prime for evolving into a next-gen connected in-car system. Other companies, like PhatNoise, have also made advances in terms of offering HD-based digital media capabilities in the car; it would be interesting to see their product roadmap.

Anyway, I’m going to keep on dreaming about what I’d really like to see in my car. Hopefully in the not-too-distance future I’ll be able to buy a product that takes the first steps towards it.

Posted in Content Syndication | 1 Comment