Thursday, June 17, 2010

LUS announces Mediaroom set top box software

At a 2:30 press conference today LUS officially announced the launch of media room with Terry Huval saying that adopting the new software would move the system to the cutting edge of video services and development. According to the press release:
The platform focuses on giving consumers advanced flexibility to enhance their overall TV viewing experience. LUS Fiber is the only provider in Acadiana that has a network capable of delivering Microsoft Mediaroom to its customers. With the power of Lafayette’s only 100% fiber optic network, and the compelling Microsoft Mediaroom IPTV platform, residents and businesses will now have access to world class features not available from conventional cable TV companies.
Current customers are being called and appointments made to replace the current set top box with another containing the new software. The change-over will begin immediately:
LUS Fiber anticipates that the new Video service powered by Microsoft Mediaroom will be made available to all customers receiving new service beginning July 8.
The most visible changes will be in the enhanced capacities of the DVR software that allows recording shows for later viewing.
  • Whole Home DVR
    • Record and watch recordings from any set top box equipped TV in the home, which allows a customer to start playing a recording in one room and finish watching it in another room. Record up to three programs at once – Flexible!
  • Instant Channel Change
    • No more waiting for the next channel to show up. You can scroll through channels with ease to find the program you want to see – Faster! ·
  • Picture-in-Picture Browsing
    • Get a peek at what else is on other channels while still watching your current program – More!
  • Enhanced Search
    • Find shows and movies quickly. This comprehensive search will even check the recorded TV list and Video on Demand offerings – Better!
Terry Huval addressed the question of why the change was necessary:
“During the deployment of our LUS Fiber system, a number of our customers asked us for more advanced video features...Microsoft Mediaroom provides the platform that will deliver the features our customers want and, because it’s a web-based system, it offers us endless possibilities for future applications and expansion.”
That last sentence is the key: LUS recognizes that what is wanted and needed is a platform that will allow bringing internet-based material and methods to your television. The television needs to also become another screen onto the web; albeit one especially suited for showing video and for occasions when multiple people want to view the same material. During the Q&A after the short demo I asked Huval to elaborate on those possibilities. He responded that they anticipated weather and news apps and mentioned putting caller ID on the screen and providing the ability to remotely program your set top box's DVR.

I talked to an Alcatel rep after the show (Alcatel is the maker of much of the equipment that hangs on the side of your house and pretty much the system integrator) and he said that Microsoft makes the platform that the new apps/widgets/services runs on available to developers as a download. That sounds awfully good; I know that there are a lot of folks locally who are raring to get involved. Alcatel makes some middleware and I presume that is what LUS is using. Linking up the two should make most development possible. That sounds like the avenue for anyone who wants to get ahead of the TV app tidal wave...

Itsa good thing gang. Major media showed up; look for it on your (old-fashioned) TV screen tonight.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've just received the new set top box and MS Media Room upgrade. Let me tell you, it is wonderful. For those of you familiar with ATT u-verse, it is essentially the same, which is a good thing. The guide is really crisp and beautiful, not to mention that it is SO much more user friendly. All the highlights touched upon in the article are there, and are a welcome sight. In addition, they've added a couple of channels to the on-demand lineup (only HBO and Cinemax) but at least you can access some of your favorite shows from those channenls. Hopefully they will be adding more later, as I will certainly suggest it. I've been in contact with Mr. Huval and he has talked about upgrading cable packages once they get the MS media room out to everyone. Keep up the great work LUS, and all you customers who have availability to get the service, I highly recommend you do. It is a breath of fresh air from a long time unsatisfied cox customer.

Raymond Camden said...

I've had the box for a week. I'm getting freezes from time to time, which is frustrating, but the firmware is an infinite step above what they had before.

Next up - get the darn OnDemand system fixes. 4 videos, 2 of which are porn? For shame. :)

John said...

Raymond, Anon,

I've had the new box/ new software for a bit more than a week myself. it is a LOT better than the old software.

I've been getting a few freezes too. Not enough to interrupt the flow of the show but definitely noticeable. Raymond do your freezes last longer?

Chappie said...

I've had the box for a couple days now. It's certainly a significant upgrade, but still seems to be missing important features in the DVR department. Specifically, you can't tell it how many episodes to keep, which is incredibly useful if you want to keep a few kids shows on hand, but don't care what they are exactly. Or I liked being able to have the latest episode of Baseball Tonight, without having 25 episodes of it cluttering up my list. I note that there is an option when setting your recordings which is blank. Hopefully that will somehow be upgraded into the "# of episodes to keep" option.

As far as stuttering goes, I am getting WAY less than I had been on the old system.

Interestingly I am still able to connect my internet router to the ethernet port on the back of the box, which the LUS engineer said was impossible. Initial tests with the technician present just caused the whole thing to lock up, but I managed to get it to work later on without really changing anything. This is super helpful with my numerous devices that require an internet hookup in my A/V stack. For example, I get excellent to HD quality downloads on my Netflix subscription, due to the fact that I can run an ethernet wire straight out of my router and into my Blu-Ray player. Also this places my wireless hub in the middle of the house, allowing me to now get a strong wireless signal throughout.

Joel said...

I can live with an occasional freeze from the DVR. I've had the same problem with every service I've ever had. (DirecTV, U-Verse, and Cox) Agreed about the On-Demand lack of channel lineup. It would sure be nice to have primetime channels and more premiums to view as was the case with Cox. More HD channels would be a +, but I think I can look past that by having a good on-demand service. (ABC, NBC,CBS,Showtime etc.) But hopefully these additions will be addressed once LUS upgrades current customers boxes and firmware. If you want the On-Demand changed or more HD channels, please email Terry Huval. I did, and got a prompt response.

John said...

Following up two comments...

On Anon's remarks (top above)—I found that the Video on Demand section had indeed been enlarged. There are many more pay per view options available and, even nicer, a healthy selection of current HBO series and movies are available for free (I pay for HBO). This will make re-viewing recent episodes of Treme issue-free as the last three episodes are instantly available. Unfortunately video on demand shows cannot be recorded... Other premium channels may be available but since I only pay for HBO it makes sense that that's all I see.

On Chappie's remarks (above)— to my complete shock, since it violates my understanding of how all this works, plugging my Time Machine router into the set top box really does give me access to the internet. Plug one end of the ethernet cable into the WAN port and the other into the back of the set top box and wham I was back on the net via wi-fi; and ethernet connect from the router also worked. As Chappie says this is VERY convenient. I hope it is a feature and not a mistake. :-) But just the fact that it is clearly possible opens up some pretty interesting vistas for both home networking and digital divide issues. As currently implemented it does appear to be upload constrained when I tested it on speedtest (about 3 megs) but not download constrained...I got about what I could get through my regular LUS connection. On this one I am puzzled but happy.

Raymond Camden said...

I was just watching HBO (302 I think) with my son - when it froze. I've now lost the entire HBO stack. All of them. Tried the hard boot - no go. I guess I'll call LUS tomorrow.

Wow - and now its back. For a full 10 minutes though it was dead.

Nice to hear the OnDemand has updated. That must have happened in the last day or so?

Lord forbid someone from LUS actually post on this blog. I mean - obviously they _know_ when updates like that happen. Why not be more vocal?

Brent Faul said...

I just got the set top box yesterday and I am as pleased as can be with it. I was terribly frustrated with the old one. This new interface works as well as any I have used. I love the quickness of it. It fixes just about every gripe I had with the old one. The initial choice of set top interfaces was a big misstep for LUS and I am thrilled to see it corrected so quickly.

LUS has one more major hurdle, to get past Cox's anti-competitive behavior and join the co-op. Most people do not seem to realize what's going on. I was unaware of it myself until I read about it on this blog and let me just say, it has cemented my feelings about Cox like nothing else has. I wouldn't be a Cox customer again for any reason or under any circumstances. Since I first heard about it I've mentioned it to many people and not one of them were aware of the nature of the problem even after the articles in the papers came out. People in Lafayette don't seem to know Cox is blocking the city from entry into the co-op. When I tell them about it they tend to express the same resentments I feel toward Cox. There needs to be a campaign of some kind to inform people.

Chappie said...

As I had hoped, the empty recording option has turned into the "# of episodes to keep" option. So now, I feel like this DVR is completely up to date with modern DVR technology, and I am throughly happy with it. I think I got an update within 12 hours of making my original comment about it here, which was a very pleasant surprise. I wonder if the right people read this blog... Probably just a coincidence.

Back to the internet access thing -- it worked on my original box, but the installer then did not expect it to. So when the guy came to install my new box we talked about it. He felt like it probably would not work, and in fact it appeared to be the source of a major problem which kept him there for much of the day (we suspected it of interfering with the new box pulling a good ip.) In the midst of our trouble, he spoke with one of the engineers behind the scenes who confirmed that it was not designed to work like I wanted. However, about 30 minutes after I had unplugged it, I started messing around, trying to think of ways to make it work. Essentially without changing anything, I just plugged my router back in and saw green lights pop up. To my surprise it worked fine, and continues to do so. Hopefully that won't change, as now I consider my setup ideal.

John said...

Hey Chappie,

After seeing your note here I checked to see if I'd gotten the "# of episode to keep" and I had. Great news. I do think folks at LUS read this blog...but don't think that in this instance it was the factor. I talked to one of the marketing people after the press conference and asked about the "blank" field on the series setup page. She said that it was to be filled with a set of options like the one we are now seeing. So it had been planned for awhile.

I hope the internet from your set top box keeps working too...a nice feature.

Doogie said...

Is the DVR capable or recording only first episodes and ignoring repeats? Or also recording repeats if desired?

John said...

Doogie,

It'll do "first run" and "first run and reruns."

It also has a feature under "Time" which works well in conjunction with this...

1) Any day, around (time the show starts)
2) Any day, anytime
3) Any day, anytime, once per day

Used judiciously, #s 1 & 3 let you eliminate the failure of the content provider to post accurate data to the guide on rerun status. My Tivo regularly records Comedy Central shows where rerun status is not specified resulting in multiple unwanted recordings in a day. Narrowing it down to the "around 10:00" slot works so that doesn't happen on the LUS box.

Nice.