Most of us have had a TV moment (or several) in our lives. No, I don't mean one that would be great as a TV show, I mean a moment where the TV dominates your schedule. That time where we have to get home in order to watch a certain programme, lest we be left wondering what everyone is talking about 'round the water cooler. It's a problem I call "TVSM", for "Television Schedules Me."
We've come a long way in our efforts to fix TVSM. Treatment options are now provided by your satellite or cable company in the form of TiVo, or in the On-Demand stations. Such technology allows us to turn TV on our schedule, allowing us to watch it when we would like and even fast-forward through obnoxious advertisements.
The only problem with these technologies is that they can be expensive, while the MPAA and friends are finding new ways to stop you from recording the hottest programs. You can get around that with a home theatre PC, but there we get right back into expensive and a complicated learning curve to boot.
Fortunately, for those without a lot of money, patience or both, there is a new service -- TV on demand for a "small" subscription fee, downloaded via your Internet connection. Its name is Joost -- but is it any good?
So what does it do?
Joost is to television what Napster (the legitimate new version) is to music -- a content service. The Joost service will (once out of beta) will be a free service providing on-demand, streamed television content to your PC. Unlike Napster, there is currently no ability to actively download the content, nor can purchase a permanent version of it -- it currently provides streaming content only. This content will be supported by advertising revenue in theory, so who can complain?
Joost has an easy to navigate interface and some great content. But how well does it work?
Pour me some Joost
For those who have somehow missed the very existence of Joost, I would like to ask what rock you've been hiding under. It seems everyone has heard of the service, though its closed beta has led to not nearly so many people actually trying it out. So, in an effort to provide our own brilliant thoughts and tremendous insight into the program, we begged an invite from a friend to give it a go.
Since I have a system for every major OS, I had the luxury of being able to try out both the Mac OSX version and the Windows version of the Joost beta. I would have loved to try it out on Linux as well, but there is no version available for it yet. So, I'd end up just running it through a layer program like Wine anyway, giving me essentially the same experience as in Windows.
My test systems (at least the parts that matter) are as follows:
Laptop -- 13" MacBook with Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 (2.0GHz), Intel GMA 950 on-board graphics, 2GB of Corsair DDR2-667 memory, 802.11g wireless networking, Mac OSX 10.4.8.
Desktop -- Intel Core 2 Duo E6600 (2.4GHz), 4GB of OCZ FlexXLC DDR2-1200 memory, 100Mbit/sec wired networking, Windows Vista Home Premium.
HTPC -- AMD Athlon 64 X2 4200+ (Toledo core, 2.2GHz), 2GB of Geil Platinum DDR-400 memory, 802.11g wireless networking (over USB), Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005.
All operating systems were patched to their latest versions, and each was running the current beta of Joost at the time, version 0.9.4.
Have you seen Stella? I hadn't...but maybe that was a good thing.
Aside from the menu bars (which you hardly ever see anyway), Joost ran nearly identically on each of the systems. Even network activity remained fairly constant over all three set-ups, despite my laptop and HTPC being wireless and my desktop using a normal Cat-5 100Mbit/sec connection. With multiple systems and connection methods, I was able to replicate a variety of what I picture as common usage scenarios.