HDHomeRun DVR screenshot

The HDHomeRun DVR’s Discover screen offers good suggestions in lieu of an alphabetical list of what’s available.

Completing my whirlwind day at CES last week was a visit to the SiliconDust hospitality suite where I met with its ever-gracious CEO Theodore Head. He was showing off a great new product, the HDHomeRun Connect Duo+, which combines their best-in-class over-the-air TV tuner technology with DVR software and 250 GB of storage, all built in to one small box. To explain the significance of the Connect Duo+, I’ll need to go back a few years.

SiliconDust has been making HDHomeRun tuners for quite a while, and they’ve always been the perfect ingredient for a homebrew entertainment system, whether that was Windows Media Center, Plex, Kodi (formerly XBMC), or something else. A few years ago, they ran a successful Kickstarter campaign (to which I contributed) to fund the creation of their own DVR system. After months of work, it was ready for beta users to play with, but I ran into self-inflicted problems.

The HDHomeRun DVR could store its recordings on a semi-dedicated PC’s hard drive, but the recommended way was using a Network-Attached Storage (NAS) device. Actually, it required one of a limited set of NAS boxes, but I didn’t pay attention to that part. I rushed off to the computer parts store, bought a cheap NAS and a couple of hard drives, and put it together. Because what I bought wasn’t compatible, it didn’t work. Embarrassed, I put it all aside and got busy with other projects.

In late 2017, I heard a gathering buzz about the DVR, so I got the right NAS this time and was able to get it set up somewhat easily. It’s amazing how well the right parts work! The DVR functions well, though I still use my Tablo for OTA recording and playback on a regular basis. I’d go into a full description, but TechHive already did that just a couple of weeks ago. Its review of the DVR is harsh but not inaccurate; TechHive loved the hardware but wrote, “Unfortunately, HDHomeRun DVR is still too rough to recommend”.

That’s why the Connect Duo+, when it ships later this year, will be a huge step forward. Instead of needing to download software and set up a NAS, the user should be able to just plug in this box and watch. The amount of storage is just a bit limiting, but it should appeal to customers who doesn’t want to buy an external USB drive or identify, purchase, and assemble the right NAS. You know, regular people. I look forward to giving it a try once it’s released.

The film at Number 11 on the Internet Archive Top 100 that I finished a few months ago was My Darling Clementine (see trailer above). When it came time to embed the movie in this post, I discovered that it has been removed from the Archive, probably because it isn’t in the public domain. I can’t find a good substitute for so lofty a spot, so let me tell you a story.

When I first began compiling this list from the Archive’s Feature Films collection, I saw that the set included a treasure trove of great English-language movies with Portuguese subtitles. The trouble was that many of them, though hidden by their translated Portuguese titles, were clearly not in the public domain; any spotlight on them would probably get them noticed and removed. I disqualified them from consideration.

Movies can leave the public domain. I’ve still got a copy of And Then There Were None (1945) that was PD when I downloaded it from the Archive but was later withdrawn from the PD. I’m using this spot in the list to commemorate and suggest the many feature films that come and go. So you can still watch a full movie, I’ve embedded one of those Portuguese specials. Please excuse me if I don’t mention its title. Enjoy it, if that’s legal, while you can.

 Touch of Evil (1958) on IMDb

Continuing this blog’s tradition of filling in holidays with music videos, it turns out that there aren’t nearly as many Martin Luther King Day songs as there are, say, Christmas songs. Fortunately, there is a good one by the man largely responsible for the holiday, Stevie Wonder. That story is here, and the song is embedded above. Happy birthday!

 The Private Life of Henry VIII (1933) on IMDb

Charles Laughton won an Oscar for his work in this sweeping historical drama of the infamous English monarch and his many queens. Elsa Lanchester, Laughton’s real-life wife, was especially strong as Anne of Cleves. The Private Life of Henry VIII was also nominated for best picture (they called it Outstanding Production back then) but lost to Cavalcade.

This was the first non-American film to win an Academy Award in any category, and the first to be nominated for best picture. Leonard Maltin gave this movie a perfect 4 stars, That plus strong support from IMDb users pushed it near the top of the Internet Archive Top 100.

Two men on a stage in front of a crowded room

Ben Sherwood, right, interviewed by Variety co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein at CES

Wednesday morning at CES, Ben Sherwood, president of Disney-ABC Television Group, sounded upbeat about his division’s prospects for the coming few years. “I’ve been at this long enough to know that every decade obituaries are written about broadcast,” he said. “In my view, the sky is not falling; I think the sky is rising.”

Interviewed by Variety co-editor-in-chief Andrew Wallenstein, Sherwood declined comment on Disney’s proposed purchase of some Fox Studio assets, though he added, “Personally, I’m extremely excited about it.”

The Disney direct-to-home streaming service won’t begin until 2019, though Sherwood said that his group was “heavily involved” in its preparation. An ESPN+ streaming service should start in Spring 2018. He said that Disney’s timeless characters and content would provide “an irresistible family service” for households and kids.

The expansion of distribution methods has fractured the audience, but viewers are watching more video than ever. “It’s a critical period, but I would say that it’s always been a critical period,” Sherwood said.