The Wii Internet Channel: Google Reader and your MP3s!

Okay, this week I have a lot to write about!

My plan was to first write a entry about why I am now using Google Reader even though I had previously decided not to. But then, during last week, I saw this: Google Reader has been optimised for the Wii!

Google Reader on the Wii is pretty nice. (I’ll write about why I like Google Reader another time). The layout is done well, so it easier to read feeds on the TV. The “2″ button pulls up the list of your subscriptions, which is very handy, except occasionally the Wii gets confused and thinks the 2 button is the shortcut to go to “column view” and it gets hard to switch back. The other bugbear is that if you visit a site outside of Google Reader and you go back, then when you bring up your subscriptions with the 2 button, it’s blank! It’s not substitute for a PC based browser but for a quick fix during a TV ad break, it’s nice.

In general, I’m not a big fan of the Internet Wii Channel. I have the Internet Browser for the DS and for a handheld that little browser is great. The Internet Channel on the Wii is built using the same technology and concepts it appears. On the Wii, all Internet pages have a fixed width so you can move around the screen, much like the DS Internet Browser where you can view webpages in full as well as in a handheld mode. But I find it annoying on the Wii. The Wii remote is not as precise as the DS styles. It’s all very awkward and makes reading webpages, designed for a PC browser, painful. Imagine a blog with posts to the right of the page. You have to move the screen over to read them, but you might end up moving a little too far and missing the first few letters of each line. It makes reading anything but a plain webpage with large font and big margins, uncomfortable.

But the Internet Wii Channel has one really useful feature. Video. Go to YouTube, watch the clip in full screen! But there is a catch here. The Flash version installed is an old version. I’ve tried other video sites and they don’t work and you can’t install the latest version of Flash. However there is still a very powerful use of this feature.

This weekend, I discovered Orb, which has been optimised for the Wii! You just install an app on your PC, create an account and then on the Wii, using the Internet Channel, open your Orb account and then you can watch any videos on your PC and listen to your MP3 collection! Surprisingly simple to set up if your using Windows XP.

I did have to do one change to get good video quality though. The Orb webpage performs a “speed test” before streaming video and for some reason it was getting dismal speeds. The video stream then was very low quality (because it thought it was a low speed connection). I set a fixed speed of 1meg and the video stream became very watchable. Occasionally blocks and artifacts when too much was happening on screen but otherwise very good. BTW you can stream your DivX videos and they’ll play on the Wii.

As far as I understand how Orb works, it’s just a web interface that give you a list of the media on your PC. You can configure where Orb looks for content on your PC. When you open Orb webpage and open some media, it actually creates a connection between your PC and where your streaming the content, not via the Orb servers. Which means when I use my Wii to listen to my MP3s, they are streamed only across my wireless LAN, not the Internet.

I don’t understand how Orb makes money. It’s a free service. I haven’t seen any ads yet or mentions of paid subscription. It simply works. So now I can stream music and video to my TV from my PC. Bloody great. My fandom for the Wii continues…

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