Recently, while on vacation in New Orleans for Mardi Gras and visiting family, we stayed at my sister’s house. She was kind enough to let us have her place while she found accommodations elsewhere. She moved in to this place herself not too long ago and was proud to point out to us the brand new, gigantic, flat-panel television and full Cable TV package she purchased slightly before our arrival. She felt that our four year old daughter Beatrix would especially get a kick over having so many kids channels to watch on such a big screen.
Now, we don’t watch what someone my age would consider a traditional television at home. We do own one — a 15 year old CRT model that resides in our third floor office loft. That said it is very rarely turned on. We don’t subscribe to Cable TV. It is connected to a not much newer DVD player. The digital converter and antenna we have for it have not been hooked up for a couple of years. Beatrix will occasionally remember it when we are up there and shove a DVD in the player to watch. That is the extent of its use.
When we want to watch things like movies and shows, we do so using streaming services on a three generation old iMac 20 inch that resides in our library/den. This means mostly Netflix unless available for streaming otherwise (Hulu, Amazon, iTunes, direct from the show’s website, etc.). One can safely assume that if it is not available via online streaming then we likely have not watched it.
I say all of this to set up the fact that Beatrix has little idea of how traditional TV works and seeing her first real exposure to it was enlightening to say the least.
The first time came after attempting to walk to a parade a few blocks away and getting caught in one of the area’s famous torrential downpour rainstorms and having to turn back. Wet from head to toe and cold, we figured finding something fun for Beatrix to watch on that great big screen would lesson Beatrix’s disappointment at missing the parade. After scrolling through what seemed like a hundred options in the built-in program guide, I finally found a channel that had something that would hold her interest on — Shreck.
I turn to that, Beatrix approves, and we watch. Then, a few minutes later, a commercial comes on. The volume difference is jarring to say the least. I would safely guess it is fifty percent louder than the show. I hurriedly reach for the remote and turn it down…
“Why did you turn the movie off, Daddy?”, Beatrix worriedly asks, as if she has done something is wrong and is being punished by having her entertainment interrupted. She thinks that’s what I was doing by rushing for the remote.
“I didn’t turn it off, honey. This is just a commercial. I was turning the volume down because it was so loud. Shreck will come back on in a few minutes” I say.
“Did it break?”, she asks. It does sometimes happen at home that Flash or Silverlight implode, interrupt her show, and I have to fix it.
“No. It’s just a commercial.”
“What’s a commercial?”, she asks.
”It is like little shows where they tell you about other shows and toys and snacks.”, I explain.
“Well the TV people think you might like to know about this stuff.”
“This is boring! I want to watch Shreck.”
“I know, honey. It will be on in a bit. Just be patient.”
The show eventually comes back on. I reach for the remote to turn the volume back up. We can barely hear it now. The difference in volume between the show and the commercial is shocking and I don’t remember it being this bad when I did watch television regularly. Perhaps it is only like this on kids channels. I wouldn’t know.
Of course, not more than ten minutes later, the movie is once again interrupted by a round of commercials.
“Why did they stop the movie again?” Beatrix, asks. Thus leading to essentially the same conversation as before. She just does not understand why one would want to watch anything this way. It’s boring and frustrating. She makes it through the end of the movie but has little interest in watching more. She’d rather play. The television is never turned on again during our stay.
A few days later and on our way back home, after a long day of driving, we arrive at a hotel. We check in, unpack the car of our essentials, make it to the room, and settle in for the night. There was a television in the room with some select Cable TV stations and Beatrix asked if she could watch a show. Sure, I said, so I turned it on, and flipped it to what appeared to be a kids channel. There was a commercial on.
“Is this a show?”, she asked.
“No. This is a commercial, we have to wait for the show to come on.”
I now realize, in hindsight, that she did not understand that all televisions work this way. She thought it was only the one in my sister’s place that was “broken” and “boring”. In her mind, this was a new TV and thus should work differently.
“We can’t honey. It’s not out yet. It’s just a commercial.”, I say. She seems more confused so I try an analogy.
“You know when we go to a movie theater, and they show you previews of movies that are not out yet before the real movie? It’s like that.”
“Oh.”, she resigns. Not sure she gets this but I think the television executives and I have finally worn down her curious resolve.
When the commercials are over, it is some live action teen show. She is not impressed.
“Can I choose?”, Beatrix asks. She’s still confused. She thinks this is like home where one can choose from a selection of things to watch. A well organized list of suggestions and options with clear box cover shots of all of her favorites. I have to explain again that it does not work that way on television. That we have to watch whatever is on and, if there is nothing you want to watch that is on then you just have to turn it off. Which we do.
I then do what I should have simply done in the first place. I hook up the iPad to the free hotel wifi and hand it to her. She fires up the Netflix app, chooses a show, and she is happy.
Recently there’s been much controversy over Google’s apparent hard-coding of Google+ profiles into Google search results. In response developers from Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace have produced Focus On The User, exposing the negative impact on more relevant search results. John Battelle, co-founder of Wired and author of the Google book The Search, explains how this happened and what it means for search:
Last week I spent an afternoon down at Facebook, as I mentioned here. While at Facebook I met with Blake Ross, Direct of Product (and well known in web circles as one of the creators of Firefox). Talk naturally turned to the implications of Google’s controversial integration of Google+ into its search results – a move that must both terrify (OMG, Google is gunning for us!) as well as delight (Holy cow, Google is breaking its core promise to its users!).
The music and movie business has been consistently wrong in its claims that new platforms and channels would be the end of its businesses. In each case, the new technology produced a new market far larger than the impact it had on the existing market.
1920’s – the record business complained about radio. The argument was because radio is free, you can’t compete with free. No one was ever going to buy music again.
1940’s – movie studios had to divest their distribution channel – they owned over 50% of the movie theaters in the U.S. “It’s all over,” complained the studios. In fact, the number of screens went from 17,000 in 1948 to 38,000 today.
1950’s – broadcast television was free; the threat was cable television. Studios argued that their free TV content couldn’t compete with paid.
1970’s – Video Cassette Recorders (VCR’s) were going to be the end of the movie business. The movie businesses and its lobbying arm MPAA fought it with “end of the world” hyperbole. The reality? After the VCR was introduced, studio revenues took off like a rocket. With a new channel of distribution, home movie rentals surpassed movie theater tickets.
1998 – the MPAA got congress to pass the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), making it illegal for you to make a digital copy of a DVD that you actually purchased.
2000 – Digital Video Recorders (DVR) like TiVo allowing consumer to skip commercials was going to be the end of the TV business. DVR’s reignite interest in TV.
2006 - broadcasters sued Cablevision (and lost) to prevent the launch of a cloud-based DVR to its customers.
Today it’s the Internet that’s going to put the studios out of business. Sound familiar?
Surprisingly good reporting on the Anonymous’ response to the FBI’s take-down of the site MegaUpload following public backlash against the SOPA legislation from Mother Jones:
Within minutes of the announcement, Twitter accounts associated with Anonymous, the shadowy hacker collective, announced #OpMegaUpload, a massive retaliation against government and entertainment industry websites. Just a few hours later, swarms of computers had brought down the homepages of the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Universal Music, the US Copyright Service, the US Department of Justice, and last, but not least, the FBI.
Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper, describes Second Crack:
So why did you make this?
Because I’m a programmer, and this is what I do.
Some people jog away from their house every day, only to jog back. Others walk on a treadmill, expending energy to get nowhere. In both cases, it may appear to others that they’ve accomplished nothing, but they’ve chosen to do these seemingly redundant activities on a regular basis to incrementally improve themselves. And it works.
Pirates would wear eyepatches not because they have horrible empty eye holes, it was so that they would have one eye already adjusted to darkness when they go under deck. They went underdeck quite often so it was handy to be able to see better straight away rather than wait for the eyes to adjust.
This post by Oren Teich, while interesting in its entirety (particularly for those interested in software development), surprised me with a particularly apt description of “The Flow” — the inspiration behind this blog. I’ve excerpted this section below.
Individual creatives are aiming for flow. Cranking out code, art, words. Just hammering away. In one session of good flow state I get more done than in weeks of fits and starts at work. Everyone has their own path to getting to flow. Some put on the headphones, wear a hoodie, and disappear into their computer. Go to a coffee shop, let the white noise wash over you, and get into the zone. Sometimes though, the conditions are right, but the project isn’t willing.
Blog posts, software development, homework: we are all familiar with the experience of working incredibly ‘hard’, but just not getting anywhere. 20 hours in, and you just don’t feel like you have a sense for how to even begin to tackle the project. flow has it’s own conditions. Without clear understanding of goals, you aren’t getting anywhere. Goals don’t come from flow. They come from somewhere else. When you’re creating, working on something innovative, they often seem to come from the subconscious. When you’re stuck, and don’t have a clear sense of the goal, if you’re lucky, you walk away. You take a break. Maybe for 30 min. Maybe for a month or longer. And something happens. A shift. A new angle. A comment. Inspiration. You can pick the project back up again, and now you’ve got traction. You can push just as hard and make some real progress. You personally can get into flow. Your project can pick up momentum.
Momentum is fickle. It’s not something you can predict, store, save, and spend. Some projects are real bastards – they get stuck just when you think you’re making the most progress. Sometimes you need to put it down and pick it up 6 times over 13 months before you finally cross the finish line. Some projects get momentum from the second you sit down, and one night later you’ve launched.
A further explanation of the topic can be found here.
Martin says that the trouble began in 1976 when finance professor Michael Jensen and Dean William Meckling of the Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester published a seemingly innocuous paper in the Journal of Financial Economics entitled “Theory of the Firm: Managerial Behavior, Agency Costs and Ownership Structure.” […]
The principal-agent problem occurs, the article argued, because agents have an inherent incentive to optimize activities and resources for themselves rather than for their principals. Ignoring Peter Drucker’s foundational insight of 1973 that the only valid purpose of a firm is to create a customer, Jensen and Meckling argued that the singular goal of a company should be to maximize the return to shareholders.
The popular argument nowadays is that the movie business is tanking because the majority of movies suck. But that’s not really true. Sure, many big, Hollywood movies suck. But for each of those, there are a few smaller, independent movies which are great. In fact, as a whole, I might argue that quality is better than it ever has been thanks to technology greatly driving down the cost to make a film.
As Ebert lays out, the actual problem is with the distribution model. That is, most movie theaters in the U.S. are set up to play only the big ticket items — and again, a good percentage of that is crap. Massive films like Avatar and The Dark Knight disguise this — but only temporarily. This year there wasn’t a film of that magnitude, so we’re seeing it.
ok so heard this jam a while back and never gave it much attention, however i just saw new trailers for the lorax, which features this tune and i can’t get enough of it. even though we should probably post something for christmas, i think this song is lighthearted enough for us all to enjoy. hope you all are having a jolly christmas eve and mazel tov as well.
I’m starting to resent Apps like I resented CD-ROMs.
I started playing this evil little game called Tiny Tower last week. It’s effectively a Sim-Tower-heroin-clone-resource-management game. Every few hours I return to feed the beast make sure the little “Bitizens” are OK. Moving things, managing resources, restocking virtual shelves with new virtual goods. Mindless and addictive, but pointless.
The Update Beast
I realized that I’m doing the same thing with the apps on my phone. I’m always feeding the Update Beast. How often have you looked at Non-Technical Friends phone and showed them how they need to update their apps? All the time.
Scott agrees with David Winer that apps have a long way to go and posits the hard to dispute notion that web apps and native apps are constantly pushing each other forward. Linking between native apps has taken baby steps in the right direction — savvy developers can link between supported apps, but they still lack the seamless integration and automatic updates seen on the web.
This post isn’t really about Scrabble. It’s about taking a load of ugly data and hacking around with some scripts to refine it into something I can commit to memory. Then its about Scrabble. Winning at Scrabble.
Knowing exactly which two-letter words exist gives a player a sizeable advantage because it opens up tight corners of the game board and allows them to run two words side-by-side. Sadly most of us only know a handful, and beyond that we’re guessing. Then we’re arguing. And then (inevitably) looking on Google for a list of valid words.
Personally I’m all for having the 2-letter-word-list on display during play to help us out of tight spots and to keep things fair. But I’ve had plenty of opponents object to this, saying that if I really want to play like that I should memorize the list. How hard can it be?
What is the secret to Apple’s success? After introducing the iPad 2 in March, Steve Jobs offered one answer:
It’s in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing — and nowhere is that more true than in these post-PC devices.
Steve Jobs’ resignation as CEO of Apple leaves the company without its founder and lead visionary, but still in very capable hands. As I’ve written, Tim Cook is better suited than anyone in the tech industry to run Apple and lead the company into the future.
Apple’s violent success should serve as a powerful beacon that others should follow. Rather than copying its products other companies should copy Apple’s processes–its way of thinking. They should copy how Apple harbors the creative process and the technology processes under the same roof.
Great post from Antrop on a new way of looking at browser windows. I’ve often wondered whether we couldn’t make better use of the left or right hand space in browser windows and I think this post presents some beautiful options.
If you’re like me, your digital media life is messy. If I were to take inventory of where all my digital media resides, the list would include Flickr, Facebook, iTunes, Android, Netflix, YouTube, Picasa, Flipshare, Amazon, Kindle, iBooks, Windows PC, Mac, iPad and so on.
Like I said, a mess.
And while I’m an early adopter, I’m probably not very different from tens of millions of consumers who face digital media anarchy every day across the various screens, accounts and software populating their life.
Apple is the first company to even come close to helping us manage this chaos, with iTunes. After it was first introduced a decade ago, the service became hugely popular partly because it was the first cohesive management tool for first music, then later other types of media.
But iTunes has gotten flabby with age, and the creaking has gotten more noticeable lately as the cloud becomes more and more important for digital media storage. In a way, iTunes has become the Windows of consumer media management — dominant but a relic of a past era.
The bottom line is that consumers want their media storage simpler, not more complicated; the push of content upward into the cloud presents that opportunity, not just for Apple, but for a handful of competitors as well. Proximity and control over content management and playback means a bigger stake in consumer purchase behavior (both for content itself and, in the case of Apple, the playback devices). The bigger the stake, the more monetization through a direct storefront, affiliate/partner, or advertising.
So who could — and should — create iTunes in the cloud?
Sometimes the sheer wrongness of what is posted on the web leaves us speechless. Especially when it’s picked up and repeated as gospel by otherwise reputable sites like Engadget. “Google copied Oracle’s Java code, pasted in a new license, and shipped it,” they reported this morning.
Sorry, but that just isn’t true.
It all started with an article written by Florian Mueller, who by the way is neither a lawyer nor a developer although he plays one on TV. I downloaded and examined all the files he wrote about, and my analysis as an expert developer comes to a completely different conclusion than Mr. Mueller. Here’s what I found:
Florian Mueller has been killing it these past few months with his analysis of various tech patent suits on his FOSSpatents blog, and today he’s unearthed a pretty major bombshell: at least 43 Android source files that appear to have been directly copied from Java. That’s a big deal, seeing as Oracle is currently suing Google for patent and copyright infringement in Android — which isn’t a hard case to prove when you’ve got 37 Android source files marked “PROPRIETARY / CONFIDENTIAL” and “DO NOT DISTRIBUTE” by Oracle / Sun and at least six more files in Froyo and Gingerbread that appear to have been decompiled from Java 2 Standard Edition and redistributed under the Apache open source license without permission. In simple terms? Google copied Oracle’s Java code, pasted in a new license, and shipped it.
Now, we’ve long thought Google’s odd response to Oracle’s lawsuit seemingly acknowledged some infringement, so we doubt this is a surprise in Mountain View, but we’re guessing handset vendors aren’t going to be so thrilled — especially since using Android has already caused companies like HTC and Motorola to be hit with major patent lawsuits of their own. We’ll see what happens, but in the meantime you should definitely hit up Florian’s site for the full dirt — it’s some 47 pages worth of material, and it’s dense, but if you’re into this sort of thing it’s incredibly interesting.
AS ANYONE who has ever wiggled in his seat at a classical concert or stared in disbelief at a work of conceptual art can attest, culture in America has usually been imposed from the top down. Media executives, academics, elite tastemakers, and of course critics determined what was good and what wasn’t, what would have cultural purchase and what wouldn’t, what would get rewarded and what wouldn’t. Which isn’t to say that ordinary folks were entirely passive in this process. Early in the Republic they began a counter popular culture to challenge the so-called “official’’ culture, and it survives today to the point where it has often merged with high culture. But the cultural hierarchy held on.
Or at least it did. Among the many effects of the Internet, one of the most significant has been the democratization of cultural influence. No longer does the New York Times or the New Yorker or Time anoint the books we should be reading, the movies and TV shows we should be watching, the music we should be listening to. A populist aggregating website like Rotten Tomatoes that awards fresh or rotten tomatoes to movies, or Ain’t It Cool News, which preempts most mainstream film criticism by reporting on movies first, probably has more power than all the tonier critics combined. And Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace certainly have a great impact. One has only to look at “American Idol’’ to see how regular citizens have seized control of starmaking.
Naturally, no one relinquishes that kind of control willingly, which is why the old cultural imperialists joined forces recently in several bold attempts to show that they still mattered. But what is striking about these forays is not that they happened but that they were ultimately unsuccessful. For over 200 years, normal Americans have longed to exercise their cultural independence and free themselves from the tyranny of the elitists. Last year they did. In effect, the elitist empire struck back and then struck out.