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XML goes prime time (literally): XMLTV

A look at how XML can impact your TV-viewing life.

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XML goes prime time (literally): XMLTV

I'm a big fan and a regular reader of O'Reilly's Update newsletter, which often provides inspiration for these tips and grist for my personal XML mill. These newsletters are always interesting and informative. This newsletter also draws on the experience and interests of numerous XML experts and gurus in the information and viewpoints it presents. Sometimes, they strike a fascinating balance between hard-boiled technology and personal interests, as in the strange confluence between television and XML.

The most recent Update Newsletter includes a story by Kyle Downey entitled Television Listings and XMLTV wherein he recounts a fantasy that many techno-geeks must share because I've pondered it myself from time to time. He recounts his interest in building a multimedia PC for home use, with one or more big hard drives (Fry's is selling 200GB drives for just a little over $100 right now), Linux and PC-TV software packages like Freevo or MythTV. He notes—as so many other videophiles have done—that such a system could record TV, manage MP3s and other music files, and share its data with a TV and other PCs for very little cost (under $500 in many cases).

Where does XML come into all of this?" you might ask. The crux of managing TV data for recording is to be able to grab and use schedule data available from the "data channels" that most cable TV operators use to report what's playing when on their numerous channels (where I live, Time Warner uses Channel 7 for this purpose). This kind of software essentially grabs the text data right off the screen (a venerable technique originally developed to harvest data from otherwise incompatible mainframe applications called "screen-scraping") and uses it to drive the channel selection and start/stop time data so necessary for video recording. Essentially, XMLTV is a Perl and XML based application that Edward Avis developed. It can grab the necessary data, turn it into XML, and use it to drive video recording behavior.

So, for those who've always thought that XML was only good for the workplace and had no potential for impact on personal life, think again. What's more important at home than TV? XMLTV and cheap technology can turn any self-respecting techno-geek's household into a video storehouse (if not an outright video paradise). To me, this counts as sort of an "ultimate proof" that XML can genuinely rework life as we know it!

Ed Tittel is a VP of Content Development & Delivery at CapStar LLC, an e-learning company based in Princeton, NJ. Ed runs a small team of content developers and project managers in Austin, TX, and writes regularly on XML and related vocabularies and applications. E-mail Ed at

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Fun article to read...I know it was old as they were selling 200g drives for 100.00... I got a 4TB drive for the same last year. But I have been working with XML based web services and never thought of this aspect. Thanks for the input.