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Expat Tech: Miro, Your TiVo for the Internet + Your Favorite Shows

A lot of people were interested in our post about using the Slingbox to stream your TV over the Internet and watch it overseas, and while it works fairly well, it requires some setup, including having a cable and Internet connection in the States. Unfortunately, not everyone has this luxury. So, what do you do when you want to watch your favorite U.S. TV show in Buenos Aires? You use Miro.

In technical terms, Miro is a free, open source Internet TV and video player that can automatically download videos from RSS-based channels. It also features a built-in BitTorrent client. What does this mean for you? It means you can use Miro to automatically download video from the Internet and then play it back at a later time. Lifehacker has a great article on using Miro as your TiVo for Internet video that explains this in more detail.

So, that’s all great, but you may not want to watch YouTube videos all day. Well, you don’t have to. When you combine Miro with the TVrss site, Miro can now download hundreds of TV and premium cable shows automatically. In fact, you can even download whole seasons of shows.  Not only that, but many of the shows are available in HD quality. Pretty cool.

So, is this legal? Well, as HackCollege explains:

Now comes the questionable part. You have to install RSS feeds that syndicate downloads of your TV shows. This usually involves piracy. Ideally, someday, the networks will man-up and make feeds of their TV shows regularly available – in which case you can still follow this tutorial, obtaining the feed from a legal resource.

Until then, this method is about as legal as recording a show on VHS, but a whole hell of a lot easier. This ain’t your typical torrenting experience. No abrasive pictures promising singles in your area and no silhouettes in the audience standing up in the way of a camera smuggled into a theater. It’s clean, simple and the quality is pristine.

Read the rest of this article from HackCollege for full details on how to set it all up.


Expat Tech: Slingbox

I don’t watch a lot of TV, but before I left for Buenos Aires, I decided it would be nice to watch some U.S. TV stations and shows while I was here. Watching my DVR would be great too, and I also wanted to be able to watch Michigan football games this fall. Luckily, The Slingbox comes to the rescue.

The Slingbox lets you watch your TV over the Internet on any connected PC, Mac or mobile phone. The small box plugs into your TV on one end and high-speed Internet connection on the other.  An infrared controller attaches to your cable box and controls the functions of it (including your DVR). You then simply install the SlingPlayer software on your laptop or mobile phone and connect.  You’re now watching and controlling your home TV from wherever you are. (You can check out their flash video for a better explanation.)

All right, so this tech trick requires some setup before you leave (or a friend willing to set it up for you), a working high-speed Internet connection and cable TV, but if you have some place to set it up, it works pretty well.  I have the SlingPlayer software running on my wireless laptop and connected to the TV with an S-video cable. A wireless mouse lets me control the on-screen remote from the couch.  Now, I won’t have to miss any episodes of The Daily Show even though I’m thousands of miles away and I can still skip the commercials!


Expat Tech: Google Translate

Today I thought I would start a series of posts about technology solutions that I have found to help deal with a number of common problems that I have encountered.  These are some technical ways I’ve been dealing with issues that I have run up against.

One of my ongoing issues is not speaking or reading much (any) Spanish yet. While this presents some problems in the real world, it also means that it is more difficult to navigate some of the local web sites which are entirely in Spanish or to email some of the people I deal with while here.  Luckily, Google Translate makes all of this a lot easier.

Google Translate has a lot of features and options. From the main page, you can enter a block of text and have it translated from one language to another. This is great for handling email conversations.  You can also translate a web page by entering its URL and clicking translate. They also have a feature to add 1-click translations to your browser’s toolbar, so whenever you want to translate a site you’re viewing, all you have to do is click once.  The translations may not be perfect, but they definitely do the job. Note that this only works well on basic text and does not help with Flash-heavy web sites.

In addition to this, they have Translated Search which takes your search query in English, converts it into Spanish, searches Spanish language sites, and then converts the results back into English. There’s also a dictionary for looking up words and they’ve just released Google Translate for the iPhone too, so now it’s portable.

It’s an indispensible tool for anyone learning a new language or needing to view a foreign language web site.



Yes, it is with a heavy heart that I must announce some really horrible news that befell me recently..

I have not had an Internet connection at my apartment since Thursday! Yes, it is probably one of the worst things that could happen, and I’m starting to wonder if I shouldn’t have been so greedy. You see, I asked my landlady to increase the Internet speed from 1.5 Mbps to 5Mbps. It was working fine, I had Internet, I had wireless, I had my Vonage phone, but it just seemed like it could be faster. So, on Thursday, I was supposed to be switched over. Obviously, that did not go as planned. Something happened that completely knocked my DSL line out!

Now, the landlady is very nice, but she does not speak English, nor has she ever used a computer, but on Friday, she and her friend spent all morning on the phone with Arnet trying to get the service back up.  No luck. She came back with her friend on Saturday. Again, no luck.  Now, I’m very technical, but not speaking Spanish has put me at a severe disadvantage since I could not explain much to her or Arnet. The other problem is that the representatives at Arnet will try a few things and when those do not work, simply say they have to call you back. Of course, they never do. There seems to be no way to get to a higher level of support, or even get a manager on the phone, and they don’t seem to be very concerned that you don’t have any Internet either. Don’t they know that this blog has to be updated?!?!?

This morning, after begging our Spanish teacher to come over, we again called Arnet – translator and me. We tried with the first rep. No luck. She said she would call back at 8pm. Right.  Marco decided to call again. This time we got someone else. Again, no luck. BUT, he did say that the problem was on Arnet’s side and it was related to a problem with the speed upgrade from last week. Aghhh! Well, at least we know knew what the problem was. When would it be fixed? Well, that seems to be another story entirely as he could not give us a date or time that it would be back up and running. We had to hang up and try again tomorrow. Marco explained to me that this is how things work in Buenos Aires. I guess I have no choice but to accept it… So, we’ll try again tomorrow.

I do have to thank my friendly neighbor (whoever they may be), I’ll just call them “Señor Dlink.”  They are the only ones with an open wireless router that has been feeding my addiction… I have my laptop set up as a router, plugged into my Vonage phone and giving my desktop PC Internet access as well. Señor Dlink, I’m trying not to use too much of your bandwidth, I promise. Please don’t decide to password protect your wireless Internet like all the other neighbors.  And, if I ever find out who you are, I owe you dinner…

Oh yeah, and to make matters worse – Gmail is down too! And Craigslist was down yesterday!  What is this world coming to?

UPDATE (8.13.08): My Internet access was finally restored today! All is once again good.