Sunday, May 28, 2006

Streaming TV...

I just did it. I watched my first TV episode as a legitimate "vidcast".
I'm not talking about some small-time video. I'm not talking
about watching a bittorrent of a recording somebody made in
their living room.

I'm talking about an episode of "Alias" broadcast on They
have the entire season "online"... for viewing whenever you want.

It's at - not
difficult to find... you wouldn't need this blog to get

You can also watch the last 5 episodes of Lost, the last 5 of Desperate
Housewives, or the last season of Commander in Chief.

I had missed the last two episodes of Alias. Normally, I time-shift
these with ReplayTV (to Tivo; as Pepsi is to Coke).

Ok: so the last episodes - the end of the season... and the end (?)
of the story weren't really that great. Sort of a big "let's kill
the bad guys" thing... with enough uncertainty that there could be
a Star Trek -style movie sequel... or something.

But the cool thing was that I was watching what might be called
the beginnings of "IP TV" - that is, TV that you watch on your own
time, without having pre-recorded it, and without needing to find
a copy that somebody else made.

One wonders just how much Steve Jobs had to do with this... with
the somewhat recent acquisition by Disney of Pixar (of which Steve
was CEO; now, he serves on Disney's board of directors).

For comparison, I thought I'd visit the the online video offerings of NBC, CBS,
and FOX - to see what shows they offered for streaming viewing. There's nothing
on any of these sites that comes close to what ABC is offering. Nothing.

NBC has a bunch of annoying clips. I say annoying because they're between 15 seconds
and 5 minutes long. So: you have to spend all of your time clicking around the site
looking for something. Certainly, you can't go watch the last 5 episodes of "The Office"
or "My Name is Earl" or "Scrubs" or "Conan O'Brien".

CBS has a nicer layout... and appears to be trying to sell episodes for 99 cents. Likely
to compete with Apple's Itunes... which is selling episodes of ABC programming for
download to your iPod. But wait - CBS on demand appears to only be selling the last
season of "Survivor"... ! for now... What's even more strange is that the older season
episodes, #1-#6 go for $1.99, while the more recent #7-#15 go for $0.99 each.
And there's a strange-sounding "Go Rent" button attached to these... presumably to
highlight the notion that whatever you may think, you don't "own" the things you
pay money for.
You can watch Letterman elsewhere on the site in a piecemeal fashion -- it's easier
to navigate than NBC's site, but still, not completely enjoyable.

FOX doesn't do much better. There's lots of information on the shows... play-by-play
descriptions of what happened in each episode of 24... but no video to speak of.
Compared to ABC, very disappointing. Sure, FOX says they'll be running season 5 of
"24" in 2 hour segments on Fridays... but that just means that I'd have to program my
Tivo/Replay to record it. What a waste. ABC is far ahead of the game here.

[[I am in no way affiliated with, Disney, Pixar, or Apple.]]

Continue reading "Streaming TV..."

Friday, May 12, 2006

NSA: Please help me.

USAToday reported recently that the NSA has compiled an enormous database
of the phone transaction records of millions of Americans.

People are rightly concerned. It's good to see this covered in the news.
Maybe we should hold local debates on the topic as well - it would be interesting
to get the average person involved in the discussion - both to learn what s/he
thinks, and perhaps to broaden the perspectives of the general public.

I don't want to justify the existence of this NSA phone database. Or of
continuing to collect data that adds to it. But: I want help with a problem.
I want access to a slice of this database.

I want to know who's been calling me.

Too much phone spam.
I estimate that for every "legitimate" phone call I receive - that is, a call from
somebody I know and care to talk to - I receive 5 that are junk, phone-spam,
telemarketers. I consider each of these phone-spam calls to be trespass. It's
an invasion of my home. Noise pollution. Interruption. Trespass.

I think many Americans would agree. None of us purchased a phone line for the
privilege of having telemarketers call us. None of us (I hope!) sits around at night
hoping for a phone call that would lower his mortgage with some unbelievable
offer that is just too good to be true.

Postal junk mail is bad enough: at least I don't (yet) pay for my mailbox.

CallerID is a joke. It doesn't work for *any* of these phone-spam calls. So: my
phone-answering technique is reduced to this simple rule: if you don't identify
yourself by caller-id when you call me, your call goes to my answering machine.
If you don't start talking (and aren't selling me something), I'll probably won't
pick up the phone and talk to you. Phone-screening: What a waste of my time.

I'm sure that the caller's true identity is in the NSA database. And the NSA probably
knows something else: they probably know if a single marketing corporation has
hundreds of phone lines owned by companies with different names... that these all
effectively originate from one place. They probably have all sorts of fancy ways of
cutting through identity subterfuge that telemarketers use.

I'd like access to this information.

I think it would help us consumers. Help us to get rid of this abuse of our private
property - the peace and quiet we expect at home.

Continue reading "NSA: Please help me."