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Children of Chaos

I have had this book on my bookshelf since 1997(or maybe 1998), but it has sat there unread for a number of reasons over the years but finally it seems my brain has been prepared enough to take it in.

If you didn’t get the blog post title, the book is Children of Chaos by Douglas Rushkoff.

I keep thinking that he is talking about YouTube or Twitter, things from post 2005, but then he starts talking about the new fangled browser Netscape, recently evolved out of Mosaic, and it hits home the fact that he is talking about our online world today as a “prophecy” of where he sees us heading based on the cultural shifts around him in the mid 90’s – 15 years ago!

There are bits of what he talks about that are only now starting to become reality in south Africa in the past few weeks thanks to the recent uncapped broadband offers at reasonable prices.  Video content generated by individuals not corporations (like YouTube or more specifically examples like our local ZA Tech Show Live Stream).

I am filled with great hope for a far more connected community, and greater freedoms and expressions of a non-traditional media.  He pre-empts some of the thoughts in the Cluetrain Manifesto (1999/2000), the blogging “revolution”, and the demise of traditional media (which has only really hitting the “front page news” in the past few years.

A lot of the concepts expressed in the book can come across as socialist, anarchic and anti-establishment dreams for the future but if you look beyond those labels you will find an expression of the struggle for meaning, relevance and the value of an individual within an increasingly global and politically correct society.

There might be a lot that is disagreeable in the book (depending on your personal beliefs) but the fact that his vision of where we would be heading from 1996 forward has such a lot of similarity with what has happened in the past 15 years shows that, whatever disagreements you might have with his philosophies, he has a good understanding of our culture and the forces that drove us forwards in the past 15 years.

Give it a read, you might be pleasantly surprised.

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Xbox 360 Media Streaming and how TVersity rocks

Let me start at the begining here.  I’ve always loved podcasts, and video podcasts so I have a fair bit of odd format video on my PC.  Add to that videos from digital cameras of my own, my wife’s, and friends and family and you end up with a large problem.  Person A has encoded as WMV, B uses DivX, C uses XVid, D has made an FLV, and E has some odd concoction from elsewhere.

On my PC I usually resort to VLC to play back videos that are tough to play via anything more standard.  But this doesn’t help me play that video on my TV 2 rooms away from my PC.  This is where the XBox comes in.

Since Windows Media Player 11 (apparently), you can share your video and music library on your PC with your XBox.  While that’s pretty darned awesome, it has one catch: The XBox does all the decoding of the video format.  So if it’s in anything even remotely non standard, it fails badly.

Recently we upgraded to nice new PC’s with Windows 7 on them, and so entered Windows Media Center which became the bane and joy of my life.  With this, I could stream my media to the XBox and the Media Center would do the work of decoding the odd formats and encode them in a format that the XBox could use.

Awesome! Problem solved!  … But life isn’t that nice.  For all it’s wonders, the Windows Media Center interface just keeps on hanging.  It seems to improve if I remove certain of the more troublesome videos from my library, but that doesn’t really help if I want to watch those videos.  I’ve resorted to using Windows Media player to push the trouble video’s down to the XBox as a “Media Center Extender”, which means running from the TV and the PC to queue up a video and then running back again to watch it before I miss the start.

Another down side was that only one PC could be associated with the XBox’s Media Center interface at one time.  So either my wife’s PC or my PC could stream, but not both.  We needed to pool our media, or go through a complicated process to swap the XBox Media Center from the one PC to the other.  (Neither was a really good option)

Enter TVersity. [Queue angel lights overhead, and heavenly music]

TVersity does exactly what Windows Media Center does, just without the Media Center interface, and with way more video transcoding abilities. (e.g. TVersity handles .flv files quite well, while Media Center doesn’t handle them at all)

It wasn’t quite as simple as download, install, and revel in the beauty of a working system though.  So here’s the deal for getting it to work:

  1. Download TVersity
  2. Install TVersity
  3. Search the start menu for “Allow a Program through Windows Firewall” and run it
  4. Find TVersity Media Server in the list, and ensure that “Home/Work (Private)” is ticked (it wasn’t on mine, and without this your XBox won’t see TVersity)
  5. From there it’s a matter of tweaking TVersity to your needs. I went to “Settings | Transcoder | Windows Media Encoder (for Xbox and Windows Mobile Devices)” and changed it to use “Windows Media Video 9”, which improved the video quality quite nicely.

That’s it.  Now on the XBox you can go to “Video Library” and you should see your PC’s Tversity server running nicely.