The Scarlet Pimpernel (1934) on IMDb

Here is a story that provided many of the roots of the modern comic book hero. As Wikipedia put it, The Scarlet Pimpernel is the name of a chivalrous Englishman, Sir Percy Blakeney, who exhibits characteristics that would become standard superhero conventions, including the penchant for disguise, use of a signature weapon (sword), ability to out-think and outwit his adversaries, and a calling card (he leaves behind a scarlet pimpernel at each of his interventions). The 1903 novel arguably established the idea of a secret identity.

Leslie Howard, who starred in this 1934 film, made a similar modern-day version of the story in 1941’s “Pimpernel” Smith, which is #60 in the Internet Archive Top 100. Nothing beats this original, where Howard rescues innocents from the French Revolution instead of the Nazis.

Sling TV logoAt least someone believes “soon” means in about five weeks. Sling TV stopped working on Channel Master’s DVR+ around midday yesterday. As I described last month, Sling had sent out an email to subscribers on December 14 advising that “Soon, Sling TV will no longer be supported on Channel Master.” Now on the DVR+, the Sling channel still displays appropriate channel information, but any attempt to stream content fails.

Last week at CES, I had the opportunity to ask Channel Master executive vice president Joe Bingochea about Sling’s announcement. He said that it was a technical issue – Sling was changing how it streamed – and of course it wouldn’t be an issue with his company’s Stream+ Android TV receiver, currently available for pre-order.

That original Sling email promised a $10 credit for the “inconvenience,” and sure enough, it was applied on my billing cycle that began Jan. 13. The service continues to perform normally on its other devices here, including my Air TV Player, just as it did yesterday morning on my DVR+. As with so many things, it was fun while it lasted.

Even a hurried, single day at CES will produce plenty of bits and pieces that don’t fit into a real story. So I conclude my 2018 coverage with the following hodgepodge in lieu of a regular set of Wednesday notes.

  • CES attendees tend to wear business attire, mostly business casual. (You can judge for yourself if you watch some of the B-roll videos available online.) But I did see one guy wearing the Rick and Morty T-shirt that I’ve embedded here, so I guess there’s no true dress code.
  • I passed someone else walking with a selfie stick, apparently dictating a video blog post. Exact quote: “This is, like, giant convention center.” I almost wish I could have stuck around to hear more.
  • Man holding a cnet sign on a stick, guiding a group at CESAnother, different use of people carrying sticks was the trend toward guided tours. I saw more of them, each leading groups of about a dozen rapt followers, than in the past four CESs put together. Personally, I can’t imagine allowing someone else to curate my serendipity of finding new products and trends that I find interesting, much less hiring them to do it. Those tours must not be designed for people like me.
  • I got a chance to catch the glasses-free 3D TVs at the Stream TV booth. BOE is partnering with Stream to make 8K TVs with Stream technology that lets viewers have the 3D experience with their naked eyes. A few years ago, 3D was a big deal at CES, then it was written off as a fad. Maybe this will be the big comeback.
  • Booth with small video-projecting robots on wheelsFor some reason, I was impressed by the Keecker, which is a voice-enabled robot with cameras, an audio system and a video projector; it can roll around to project movies on any wall in your home. Then I got home and the wife asked, “Why would you need that?” Well, you could use it for videoconferencing, or tell it remotely to show you what’s going on at home, or use its smartphone app to see exactly how humid it is. I guess it just struck me as cool.
  • My predictions of record-breaking hugeness seem to have been accurate. CES wrapped up with the largest exhibit area ever, and I’ll bet that when the audited attendee numbers come in, they’ll also be the highest ever. How long can it grow like this?
  • VIP ROOM sign stuck to doorFinally, in my opinion nothing says “Prepare to enter our special place to be treated as royalty” like a VIP Room sign printed on a wrinkled piece of copier paper and stuck to a door by two pieces of tape. Of course, now I’ve completely torpedoed any chance that they would invite me in. See you next year, CES!

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