Lots of sports streaming live this weekend. From tennis to hockey and NFL playoffs, it’s all online.

NHL on CBC.

I was going to avoid the NHL as my own way of protesting the league’s lock-out. It lasted 20 minutes. The reason is that CBC is streaming all three opening games live. Winnipeg and Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal and the Canucks and Ducks in the night-cap. And with more games each week, Saturday night hockey is too good to resist.

Sunday morning update: Three minutes to go in the Leafs game, and the CBC stream froze. By the time I reloaded the page on my Sony Google TV twice (and was forced to watch to same commercial twice each time), the game was over. Arrgh, Leafs won, but such is the hazard of being on the freezing edge of TV.

Australian Open.

Live over on TSN. You can pick your match and imagine you were someplace warmer.

NFL playoffs.

Sunday’s games are streaming live on TSN – Atlanta and San Fran at 3 and Baltimore and New England later. I watched last week and while it took 5 minutes and two missed touchdowns to get things going, I enjoyed the Baltimore/Denver game – one of the most exciting games I’ve seen in a long time. The broadcasts were, for the most part, clear. The picture occasionally dropped out of HD or minimized itself. But there I was watching two great football games on my Google TV…. and I thought sports was going to be a problem when I cut the cable.

Let me know if you have other live sporting events on your watch list.

Go Leafs!

NSZGS7_CA

This week I unwrapped the Sony Internet Player with Google TV. I also uncovered some interesting insights into what makes Google TV in Canada very promising for the future.

The sleek looking unit sits neatly beside my TV and comes with easy set-up directions and a very cool remote/keyboard. (But more about that later.)

Basically, and without complaint, Google TV is Chrome on the Big Screen. That means a simply designed and serviceable looking home page with widgets you can choose to set up along the bottom of the screen – like Netflix, ReduxTV and the Weather Channel. Other widgets like Slacker Radio, can be placed in the main portion of the home page for easier access.

The Chrome browser makes it simple to access and bookmark your favourite sites for easy viewing. Nothing radical here: it’s the main attraction of Google TV. The number of actual apps available through Google Play is somewhat disappointing, but that’s a function of living in Canada – like winter. (Come on, Google Play Music Player!)

Google TV doesn’t let you mask your IP address to access US content.  Not that I would ever do that. Unlike Boxee, there’s a more up-to-date version of Flash that gives you access to all Canadian TV stations – Global, City and CTV etc. However, you can’t access Rogers Anyplace TV because it requires a higher version of Flash. No real loss there.

But the best part of the system is the fully featured qwerty keyboard on the back of the remote. The buttons have a satisfying “click” to them for easy use. Entering information onto a site is much easier than, say, Xbox where you have to hunt and click to find the letters you need. The front of the remote has a home button, and a touch-sensitive pad that makes scrolling up and down a breeze.

What makes Google TV from Sony very exciting is its integration into the Google universe. With Google+ Communities, you can find like-minded souls who are using Google TV in Canada, and who will respond to questions and comments.

Sony’s Google TV pays off now as a way to cut the cable. And, when greater access to the Google Play app store is available, it will be a great way to enjoy TV and Android apps, all in one.

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Boxee is going back in the box.

The cool looking set top box is my first attempt to get a streaming device that will enable me to go cableless here in Canada.

You’ve got to admit, trusting your TV to the Internet is a gutsy move here in Canada. The choices are not as extensive as those available in the U.S. Netflix Canada has come a long way, and is now where it’s worth the $8 a month.  There’s a good selection of TV to watch plus some fairly recent movies and a good choice of documentaries. I just finished up Season 2 of The Walking Dead, which was great fun (Where’s Carl?)

For current shows, I turn to CTV, CityTV and GlobalTV, where most of what I watch is available – Elementary, Castle, Person of Interest and Hawaii Five-O. But there’s no Hulu this side of the border, unless you mask your URL (or live in Japan). Sunday Night Football’s online viewing? Blocked at the border.

So it’s important that the streaming device I use give me access to these sites and the shows I want to watch.

And that’s where Boxee stumbles. To be fair, there’s lots of potential in the box:

  • I have read to the contrary, but in fact set up was very easy. Plug it in. Let it download the latest update. Set your account details and you’re ready to go.
  • The dashboard was solid but not inspired, considering it could display your favourite shows, latest tweets, and recommended movies. It’s just a drab set of icons.
  • The movie selections that are included are just not watchable – no offense.
  • Lots of apps, but of limited interest to me. (Dorm TV?)
  • It comes with an easy-to-use remote with a qwerty keyboard on the back, and a brilliant Netflix button. But then, everything comes loaded with Netflix, doesn’t it?

The biggest problem has to do with Boxee’s version of Flash. And it’s a showstopper.

With recent updates to Adobe’s version of Flash, content that I want streamed to Boxee isn’t available. Global TV for instance, requires a more recent version of Flash, which Boxee doesn’t provide and doesn’t seem interested in doing so. With the transition to HTML 5, Adobe support for set top boxes is limited.

With the limited choices at my disposal, losing almost one-third of my TV viewing is unacceptable.

According to deviceguru.com in the U.S.: “At this time, Boxee is uncertain when a Boxee Box firmware update with the required plugin can be made available. As the company states … this situation is at least partly attributable to the ongoing transition to HTML 5.” There’s a great discussion about the problems in the U.S. It’s described as the greatest device that never was. Beautiful. And a Canadian forum describing the same issue is here. Considering I just bought Boxee yesterday, the problem is still very much…well…a problem.

So my Boxee is going back to Best Buy, and I’ll try out the next streaming device.

Any suggestions?

If you only read 5, these are the ones to have, according to Fortune Magazine: