The Day TiVo Died

Maybe the title is a bit sensational. The post is really about the day my HD DirecTiVo got traded in for a DirecTV HD DVR.

Up until Monday, DirecTV had been transmitting their HD signal using MPEG-2 encoding, which my HD DirecTiVo happily displayed. Yesterday DirecTV rolled out new HD channels using MPEG-4 encoding, which required me to update to the new model.

The new model, a DirecTV HR20-700 High Definition PVR, does not use the TiVo software, but instead uses DirecTV's own software. From a capabilities standpoint, the boxes are pretty similar, with the HR20 probably having a few additional 'future options' included in the hardware.

My biggest problem is that I think in TiVo. I've been using a TiVo since ~2002 and that is my only interface to TV. I've transformed my thinking into the way TiVo views the world. Now I have to readjust my thinking to this new and less elegant world.

After a few days I'm pretty confident that this new box will serve me will and allow me to do what I want. The new HD channels are certainly worthwhile. I'll be watching the Illini trounce Penn State (one can hope) this weekend in High Definition on the Big Ten Network. I'm also really looking forward to FX and Sci-Fi's HD roll out this fall.

Java Email Server 1.5 Released

After a three year hiatus, a new version of Java Email Server (JES) is available.

The new version, 1.5, adds the ability to use a SMTP server that required authentication as the default gateway. As ISPs continue to crack down on spam (a good thing), they are instituting policies that can make it more difficult to run your own email server. One of these policies is to require all outbound email to go through their SMTP server, and requiring you to authenticate with that server. With this new addition JES can now work correctly in these environments.

No other changes were made to this version. JES is stable software in maintenance mode. New features or changes are minimized to insure stability.

This feature was added by Matthew Lohbihler of Serotonin Software ( Thanks Matthew, and thanks to everyone in the community who has contributed over time to help fix and improve this software.

You can download the new update from the JES homepage:

Time is the key to Google Success

I've written a couple of open source applications that have achieved a modest level of success. Both iTunesExport and Java Email Server (JES) have had both staying power and regular level of interest.

I quantify 'modest success' with the following yardsticks:

Google Search
Both projects are the top ranks for intuitive search terms (OK, so their name helps):
'itunes export' and 'java email server'

I think the JES rank here is especially impressive considering the second result is the Apache project JAMES, which is also an open source Java email server.

Google PageRank
iTunes Export: 4/10
Java Email Server: 6/10

OK, so we're not talking about the homepage here (9/10 BTW), but still a pretty impressive showing.

Java Email Server: ~1000 downloads/month
iTunes Export: 4,500 downloads/august

You can tell from these links that JES is very stable while iTunesExport is still ramping up and has really taken off the last few months, in part thanks to a high profile post on LifeHacker.

At this point both projects are primarily driven by contributions from the community. In the case of iTunes Export, Jeff Donnici has stepped up and taken care of many new features and updates. Java Email Server has contributions from quite a few people, including a recent contribution from Matthew Lohbihler of Serotonin Software who submitted a contribution I still need to release.

The point of this post isn't to talk about the stats for these applications, but instead talk about why I think they have been (modestly) successful. I think it boils down to:
  • Niche
  • Free/Open Source
  • Treat your users well
  • Time
First, they both attack a specific niche that is large enough to support. In the case of JES, I purposely kept the application small and easy. If you want all the bells and whistles you can just use JAMES. If you want something you can get running in 15 minutes and can understand ALL the source code yourself, JES is for you.

iTunes Export does just one thing, allows you to use your iTunes playlists in other applications. iTunes is a great product, and even if only 5% of the people want this feature, there will still be a huge potential user base.

The fact that they are free, as in both beer and speech helps. For JES a lot of users have made key modifications to make it useful for their specific environment. Most of these changes were rolled back into the main release. For iTunesExport this has been true, although to a lesser degree, but the free as in beer aspect certainly is a big plus for both.

I respond to every user's email. My email address is posted on the website and I respond to all emails, even if my answer is 'I don't know'. In several cases, I've improved or patched an application within days of an email and put out a new release. I believe that this make users more loyal and more likely to post links to my applications elsewhere.

The real key though is time. iTunes Export is nearly 4 years old, and JES is over 6 years old. Over this length of time, many people have found them useful, and linked to them from various sites. Initially I got really excited when I came across a new site in my referrer log. Now, I subscribe to Google Alerts and see new links (especially to iTunes Export) on almost a daily basis.

I've never done any real extensive work to publicize them, although I think there were some key actions:

I registered both projects on and updated the entries for each release.

I named the projects well. The names match well with what people would type into Google to find these solutions.

I kept the applications updated. Initially this was my own effort, but as the applications reached a critical mass, I just incorporated the contributions of the community.

If you want to write a (modestly) successful open source tool, there are a couple of things to do: Find a niche and own it. Name it appropriately. Make it free. Leverage free advertising. Be responsive. Keep with it.

If you find a niche and write a moderately useful application, as long as you stick with it and treat your users well, you'll be successful.

Greed is Good

The actual quote is: "The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA" (thanks IMDB).

A great movie (Wall Street) that grew larger and larger as time passed. It sounds like Gordon Gekko may be making a comeback in a new film called "Money Never Sleeps". The Telegraph has an article that discusses the stature of Wall Street and the ideas behind the new movie.

I'm interested, but mindful that most sequels fail to recapture or improve on the initial magic that the first hit provided.


Not to turn this into a soccer blog but...

The U-20 team was sent home by an obviously superior German team. The US played well but were simply outmatched. Since they were lucky to escape group play with their poor performances in the first two games, I simply can't criticize their result in the second round.

Beckham. He is out 6-8 weeks, which is most if not all of the remaining season, with a sprained knee. LA was a long short before the playoffs before Beckham showed up, and I have to said I'd be pretty surprised to see them in the post season now. I do know there will be a lot of disappointed ticket holders for the remaining LA games this season, home and away.

There are a lot of other new players in the league under the 'Beckham rule'. Unfortunately for the Chicago Fire, New York's Angel scored the only goal in a victory over Blanco and the Fire. Both Angel and Blanco are new to the league and delivering a lot of new fans and exciting plays for both teams. There are a lot of interesting players to watch in the, with or without Becham.