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How to TiVO-ize your PC

But Windows only, right now

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IDF TiVO-like time shifting capabilities have come to the PC. At the Intel Developer Forum, Rakesh Agrawal, CEO of thirteen-man SnapStream, took his PVS software through its paces for The Register's pleasure.

It does two clever things. First it does the job of a DVR (digital video recorder) like a ReplayTV or a TiVO, complete with the electronic program guide. Secondly it streams live or recorded streams to a portable device across an 802.11 network.

This was why SnapStream was on the Compaq booth: the client in question was the iPaq. PVS can also burn shows to a DVD, so you can record them on your PC, and then veg out on the sofa in front of a real TV set.

The PVS records using a range of compression ratios, including "VHS" at 1.2 mbit/s, and "near DVD" at 2.2 mbit/s. Agrawal said SnapStream plans to launch the service for around $5 a month. You'll need a TV capture card, but it interfaces to cable or satellite. Snapstream recommends a Pentium III 700Mhz or higher to encode the streams, although a Pentium 4 at 1.4Ghz is "comfortable".

The downside is that it's heavily biased towards Windows users at the moment, and will use .NET as the infrastructure.

"Windows Media has the richest SDKs for third parties. The player is already on a lot of desktops," Agrawal said. Support for DiVX was in earlier versions, and Agrawal promised it will be restored. He saw little pull for Real and QuickTime formats, however.

He acknowledged concerns about using Passport authentication and Hailstorm (official called .NET MyServices), but said that the Liberty Alliance wasn't sufficiently mature to offer an alternative. A more likely authentication mechanism will be home grown.

"As we continue to grow, we'll probably do a Mac version. But right now the numbers aren't there. And we hear a huge demand for a Linux version."

"We anonymize our data. It can't be traced back to you. Once you start contemplating selling personal information to third parties you're on a slippery slope," he told us.

Snapstream isn't going to be the death of TiVO, which is specifically designed for the living room, for playback on a conventional TV. But it's likely to attract similar early adopters, and looks very impressive indeed. You can find more here.

Update: Several of you have pointed out that SnapStream, isn't unique, and does exactly what ShowShifter does. "And ShowShifter doesn't have that Paranoid Ass. of America DRM crap around it," writes one happy ShowShifter.

We hope to compare the two real soon now, although - horror of horrors - that was mean we'd have to WATCH SOME TV. The things we do for you, dear readers ... ®

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