So far, I’ve been enjoying the Olympics this week. I even enjoyed some of the Opening Ceremonies — sometimes not so much, as they tend to get long, drawn out and boring.
Although many people think that Friday’s Opening Ceremonies actually are the start of the Olympics, the competition actually began on Wednesday. How did I know that? That’s a really good question and leads into the new developments in electronics and broadcasting.
In the U.S.A., the Olympics are being broadcast by NBC and some of its affiliates. NBC, MSNBC, Bravo, and CNBC are broadcasting the Olympics on my cable company’s “basic + extended” service. Perhaps there are more broadcasts on the digital channels, but I don’t get those (long story, but short version is that my home theater pc has 4 TV tuners, but they don’t do digital).
The wide availability of high-speed Internet access, whether by cable services, DSL, 3G or 4G, has enabled some breakthoughs in broadcasting.
The really new thing this year is that NBC is also doing live streaming to computers and smartphones — but only if your cable company carries both MSNBC and CNBC.
If only it had been tested enough and was stable…
On the computer, the NBC Olympics Live link http://www.nbcolympics.com/liveextra/ seemed to work fine initially, after I selected my cable provider and entered my log-in information (at my cable provider’s web site, which then sent me automatically back to the "liveextra" site). Of course, as you can imagine, there are commercials…
The unexpected circumstance was that, every time the live streaming switched to a commercial, if I was running Firefox (my usual choice for web browsing) the Adobe Flash Player in crashed. Every time!
I got tired of Firefox becoming totally unresponsive, waiting for Firefox’s error reporting to trigger, and the ultimate error message displayed within Firefox:
Once you click the Send crash report link (be sure to do this), you get the option to reload the page to try again. Be sure to use this link instead of Firefox’s reload icon.
But, this crash occurred every time NBC switched from streaming the Olympics program to streaming a commercial.
So, I tried to use Internet Explorer 9 instead. Lo and behold, I was unable to sign on from this computer to the streaming service with IE9. The web server kept circling back to requirement to select a provider (my cable company).
I thought, perhaps, that I couldn’t log on with IE because Even an hour later, it still didn’t work, despite both Firefox and IE being closed for that hour. It was something specific to this computer, though, as I could log in via another home computer.
Am I happy with the video streaming to my computer? No. I got to see some interesting stuff, like the Men’s 10m Air Pistol competition, but I had to restart the browser about 15 times to see it all because of Adobe Flash Player crashes. I was unable to properly test on the same computer using Internet Explorer as I couldn’t even get IE to stream anything because of lqg-in problems. They have a lot of work to do on the computer streaming.
The other option I had was watching on my Apple iPhone. You can download the NBC Olympics app and the NBC Olympics Live app via the NBC Olympics Mobile & Tablet link on http://www.nbcolympics.com/. It’s available for the Apple iPhone/iTouch and iPad and for Android smartphones and tablets.
With the 3G and 4G speeds for smartphones and tablets, streaming these live events became feasible. The nice thing is that there are so many more events available for live streaming, than are shown in the composite shows that they broadcast. We can see events that never even make it to broadcast television!
The apps are free, but the streamed content that you display in the apps will use your purchased Data Plan, of course — watch out for overages, they’re expensive.
The "Mobile" selector that lets you pick iPhone will transfer you to that app in the iTunes store. In fact, I see as I’m writing this that there’s a new update today — I hope that solves the mobile app’s problems.
The problems with the NBC Olympics Live app is that program errors cause the program to hang — to be stuck in a loop. If you use the iPhone’s Home button to change to a different iPhone app or menu, and then return to the live Olympics app, the program is still stuck. I had this happen one time when I switched away from a streamed event and then returned later when the event was over. Another time, it just crashed while trying to connect.
The only way to break the loop is to power-off the iPhone and then power it on again. I’m not talking about clicking the Power button to blank the screen. I mean holding the power button until the Power Down slider shows up, and then using the slider to shut down the phone. This is the only program I’ve ever run on the iPhone that had this bad flaw.
An early version crashed the first time the streaming data was available (on Wednesday), but was quickly updated to a usable version (other than the loop/hang problem above).
I’m impressed by these early Olympic streaming efforts. I hope they have them fully debugged in a few more days.