Monday, March 07, 2011

I love my WDTV

Western Digital WDTV Full HD Media Player - Recertified(Update 21 Sept 2015 - scroll down) Some while ago I bought a Western Digital WDTV Live. Its a box that I bought to connect to the TV to play movies files, show pictures and play MP3s. What I didn't expect was an Internet media experience. When I had bought it, I saw reviews praising it for it's ability to access YouTube. It does what it says on the tin but with a few exceptions. YouTube, in it's efforts to appease media publishers, added an attribute to videos that it streams to limit where it can be played. So, a few media publishers who allow YouTube to stream their content have limited them to be played only on the computer. Which means some content on your YouTube playlists may not be playable on the TV. I understand the existing concept of charging separately for content that is broad-casted on TV. The model is that a media publisher, usually movie studios and primetime TV networks, make money on distribution or syndication. The more times they can sell a show to show on TV, the more money they make. The Internet throws a spanner in this machine, especially YouTube. The media publishers haven't figured out what to do with them yet. They saw what happened to the music industry and don't relish the same fate. So in this mess, the result is that you can watch a video on YouTube on the PC but not when you connect it to a TV. I have been thinking about this for some time now and I think I'll get back to it later in another post.
Western Digital WD TV Live Plus 1080p HD Media PlayerLike I said earlier, the WDTV Live provides a rich Internet media experience. At least it is one half of the puzzle. I also just got a high speed Internet access, running in multi-megabits per second. This made other Internet services that came with the WDTV came alive, most notably Mediafly and Flingo.
Mediafly is a site that allow you to find and manage podcasts, both video and audio. It provides a way to build a list of favorite podcasts so that you don't have to wade through a huge list every time you want to listen or watch your favorite show. The site divides the list of podcasts into categories to make them easier to find. However, this does not make finding one that you tune in regularly to easier to find because the list shows the most recent show first. So the playlist feature is useful. It also provides community interaction so that you can recommend your favorite podcasts to others. There are lists for this like Most Recommended by categories. The kicker is that I can "link" my WDTV to my account on Mediafly and have the same lists appear on the box. Which is like making up your own channel. With the high speed Internet link, the wait is almost nil and almost no buffering. Point to show and it comes on. - Updated: Unfortunately, MediaFly is no longer available.
Another surprise is Flingo. While it also organises podcasts, the content available is now expanded in to other media publishers, including Internet-focused on like and Revision3. I do know that those are also available via podcasts and directly on the browser. But to have it on the big screen TV is a lot of work. It means hooking up the laptop to the TV (cable tangle alert). I even have a MythTV project completed and later abandoned. In short, compared to the standard TV experience, it is a chore. The WDTV reduces the entire process to a. crash on couch and b. click the remote. Flingo behaves more like a cable or satellite service. The channels are set by them, you can't create a playlist. But you can set up your favorite channels. To make up for this, you can 'fling' videos or links to the WDTV when it is on 'Flingo-mode' from the PC. It's like the thing they do on NCIS LA.

Being like a standard cable service allows media publishers to understand them better and offer content to be shown. The big TV networks are weary, so the selection is limited to clips. But others are offering content that are not normally directly available on the Internet. The quality may just be above 'corporate video' level but still ok. If you don't have or want the WDTV, Flingo is available on other devices. Check it out at
Western Digital WD TV Live Hub 1 TB Media CenterThe WDTV also reads network shares and to a certain degree, media streaming via UPnP. It means that it does not understand all UPnP Media Servers, which beats the whole 'universal' in UPnP. It also does not come with a hard disk but has 2 USB ports for external drives. This is odd for a hard disk company but it does offer the consumer the choice of getting the size they need when they buy it.  Mine was bundled with a 500GB 2.5" WD Essentials which to me, was the right choice. The WDTV can also share out that disk on the network, so that you can copy files to the WDTV hard disk straight from your PC.
Western Digital now offers the WDTV Hub, which is like the WDTV with a hard disk. I haven't tried it myself. I'm too busy watching the Internet.
Update - this product is no longer supported by WD except through forums and existing firmware downloads. The only online feature of note is the YouTube Leanback client but it causes the box to re-boot after playing 2 clips in a row. If you can catch it at the end of the second clip, it will play other clips ok after that.


Jhemmi said...

glad you're diggin' the mediafly OnAir podcaster on your WDTV!

We're always searching out great new content to add to our index, but you can always add rss feeds yourself if you come across a show that isnt already 'OnAir'

you can do that here -


Techsplatter said...

Thanks for the tip. Frankly, the amount of content vs my time is enough for me to think about cancelling parts of my satellite subscription!