Saturday, February 24, 2007

Watching Television on the Internet

After making the switch to Desktop Linux, I have finally got around to figuring out what to do for entertainment. Getting DVD media to play was a breeze, perhaps because it seems to be the first thing anyone asks after getting their OS up and running. Of course, we should do our best to push for open formats to replace DVD, but in the real world a little bit of "closed media" is likely to keep people from actively using Open Source everything-else. If a computer can't fulfill the basic human need for entertainment, it won't last long.

My next place to turn was to Television programs. There are a few series that I have enjoyed in the past, and I just gave away my 23" television to free up some space in the apartmet, leaving me with a 13" TV that I have decided only to use for 8-bit Nintendo. Television over the Internet would be a sweet alternative. Some shows are available for "free" viewing on their official websites, others are not.

The shows I think I'm interested in viewing right now are: 24 (Fox), LOST (ABC), The O.C. (Fox), The Office (NBC), Prison Break (Fox) and Veronica Mars (CW).

I will chronicle my level of success in this endeavor here:

I asked my brother "So how does one watch TV on the Internet?" and off the top of his head he referred me to ABC's website. I want to say "well done" to ABC for their episodes available online. They have done a decent job and it seems like Flash player is all that is required, making it a trivial matter to watch their content in Firefox on Linux. This takes care of my need for LOST, and opens up the possibility to some new programs which at the moment don't look very compelling for me, but may be possibilities. The first episode I watched had the same commercial played in every single break. I wonder about the effectiveness of this, and would have rather seen three separate commercials, even if they were all for the same product, simply because watching the same thing three times within an hour is not more productive than seeing it once.

Next I turned to Fox. Obviously I'm a fan of Fox, I have my eye on three of their shows, and I have purchased more Fox DVD box sets than any other show. In fact, it may well be true that every DVD box set I own is produced by Fox. The programs they put out seem to be of a high quality. I looked up the web site for Fox, clicked on Prison Break, and saw an inviting link that I may be able to watch full episodes for free. It directed me to a MySpace page belonging to Fox, which was a bit surprising: I thought MySpace was home to teenagers, not corporations. I observed right away that the site wasn't as clean and streamlined as ABC's, but then I got confronted with a major problem:
We're sorry, but only the following operating systems are supported at this time:

Microsoft Windows 2000/XP (not Vista)
(Intel) Apple Macintosh OS X or later
(PPC) Apple Macintosh OS X or later

Please check back soon for support for other operating systems.
It seems that Fox also has its programs available on iTunes, but I hear they will only play on the newer iPod devices, and the free iTunes software is only supported on Windows and Macintosh. I read an interesting article about "DVD-Jon" and some of his buddies writing some software that would let you purchase songs at the iTunes store using Linux, but I think it only worked for music, and furthermore, it was abandoned and does not work with the current iTunes Store. I would pay Fox directly to watch these shows if I could. So it sounds like I may have to wait until the current seasons of 24, The O.C., and Prison Break are released on DVD (if they are.)

NBC doesn't offer any apparent way to play full episodes from their websites, and if they are offering them for viewing in other venues they are not making this obvious by advertising them in any way. They do seem to offer short video clips and deleted scenes, etc., but I'm not one for spoilers. I will investigate at a later time to see if they offer them through another outlet, but except for my academic curiosity to investigate this at a later time, they would have lost my viewership.

The CW has a full episode feature, which links to this page, but the center area of the page just remains a white box and selecting a series from the right-hand list doesn't seem to do a thing. Right clicking on the white reveals that it is a Flash player. I don't know why it is broken, but I will presume they aren't supporting the Linux version of Flash (I don't know how that is possible), but I will give it another shot later in case they are just temporarily down.

So it looks like ABC wins. Stay tuned for an upcoming article on why even their solution isn't the best choice and why Television producers need to make some decisions in the upcoming years.

1 comment:

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