Probably everyone who cares already know that you can’t listen to Pandora in the background while you browse the web, or do anything else on your iPad — that kind of multitasking won’t show up until iPhoneOS version 4 makes it to the iPad sometime in the fall. But did you know, you can listen to some kinds of streaming audio at the same time you browse and use other appsiu? I didn’t, until I decided to try.
For it to work, your streaming source needs to support streaming of MP3 or AAC audio over http like our local NPR station, KUOW. Then you just click the link to start the stream, which starts a player in a browser tab, then you just go ahead and open a new tab and continue with your browsing, or switch to another app. This isn’t an earthshaking feature, but it should come in handy.
Last month I tried out Netflix’s streaming video service. I thought the price was right (free with most Netflix subscription plans), but the video quality was poor, like an old VHS tape recorded from TV. The selection was so so as well, but the all-you-can-eat price is right, especially compared to the $3-5/pop it costs to rent something on iTunes.
They.’ve recently addressed another issue. Roku has just released a $99 set top box that plays Netflix on demand. Netflix doesn’t have HD content (and I doubt that most people have internet connections that would be up to streamed HD), but the device is HD ready. I’ve been thinking of replacing the computer hooked to our TV with a smaller, more efficient device, but I’d been leaning back to using a computer so we could use netflix’s streaming. The Roku device solves that problem, but, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to play anything else. Too bad. I’d happily pay another $25-50 for something that would play content from a media server.
A few months after Netflix launched their “watch instantly” streaming feature I tried to get it running on the computer hooked to our TV. I didn’t get very far though, since it required WinXP, and the computer was (and still is) running windows 2000. In addition, our DSL speed at the time was only 1.5Mbps, which wasn’t enough for their top quality.
I decided to give it another shot though. I haven’t upgraded the TV computer, yet, so I thought I’d try and run it from VMWare Fusion on a Mac laptop I use. The good news is that it works — I thought that DRM restrictions would prevent it from working in a virtual machine.
The bad news is that the quality is truly mediocre, even using our 3Mbit connection, and from what I can tell, a faster connection won’t help.
It’s too bad, because the price is right, unlike the $3.99 rentals on iTunes. I only wish Netflix had the option to queue up a higher quality version to watch later.