Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Paperless Office

The Paperless Office is coming....

Well, Sort of.................

I have been trying for years to tame the vast influx of paper that come though this office. And mostly losing...

As I'm sure you know, 90% of the paper material that come through your front door is JUNK, most of it not even good junk, that at least semi-fun to read. Most of the papers that I handle in he mail go straight to File 13, nowadays one needs a very big trash bin next to the desk.
The the question is; What to do with the stuff you have to keep, which can be a pretty big pile by the end of the year.
Bills that need to be paid, car and house insurance paperwork along with income tax and other paperwork you'll probably never need, but if you don't have, You WILL NEED. All of this stuff needs to be kept in some sort of file cabinet or system.
The idea of he paperless office was to do as much as possible electronically and keep copies in hard drive, all filed for easy access if you ever need them, you can find and print them out. sort of defeats the propose.

Now days with external hard drives huge and cheap, there's no reason not to have at least one back up drive to save everything on.
Getting all your receipts into digital form means getting a scanner. Earlier this year we replaced our old HP scanner, It wasn't easy. Apparently, almost all regular retail outlets only carry those multi-function machines, that scan, print fax and make coffee... All we wanted was a regular flatbed scanner. After much calling around, I finely found one place that still had a couple $100. scanners perfect for what we need, as we already have a couple of printers and don't need a fax machine.0-95%

The idea of the paperless office was to reduce the amount of work we have to do. In some places and with proper implantation it dose. But for the vast majority of of its just a dream,

There are defiantly some things that one can do to reduce the amount of paper that is handled, or at least the number of times that one has to handle the same piece of paper, The biggest thing is sorting stuff as it comes in. And sorting right over the trash bin is the place to do it,
Bills that have to be paid should be put in one place and paper that need to be filed should be either imminently filed or at least put in a place to be saved up and all filed at once. Of course we all know what generally what I've gone over, however, how many of us actually take the time to sit down and figure out a filing system and actually stick to it?

The ideal thing to do would be to scan all your paid bills, and receipts into one folder, then file the paper originals, then if you need copies of a item you can just print it out. The added benefit is that if you lose the original, you can still print out the copy. Doing a little more work up front and setting things up will save you time long run.

The computer revolution and Internet has made many thing possible that we couldn't do a few years ago, and many things we still do are easier, such as writing papers and doing spreadsheets and the like are far easier on computer then they were ever before, However, one wonders if the amount of work its saved us, is creating more work, then its saving us from, just a different kind of work. We spend hours a week on emails, again, 90% of which are JUNK. One can figure on changing their email address every 2-3 years as by that time, their address has been put out in the wild for every slammer to send their junk to. One can spend a lot of time managing their computer, running system programs such as defrag and anti virus program, and spy-ware programs, not to mention doing actual productive work. So how much other stuff isn't getting done because your sitting at the computer maintaining it or sorting email, or other routine task that computers were supposed to free us from.

There are several culprits to blame for all this wasted time, one other major problems is our operating system. 90-95% of the folks reading my blogs are looking at it in a windows system. XP is by far the most stable windows we've ever had, however,it dose have major security issues and thus makes running antivirus programs and the like, thus taking up more of the time, computers was supposed to free up for us. The idea was to get on do your work get done, get off and have a life, not spend hours maintaining your system so you can do your work and check email.

The question becomes how much is the dream of the paperless office costing you and haven't even come close to getting to a paperless office yet?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Open Letter to The RIAA

Until a few years ago I had never heard of the RIAA.
Now it seems they've become the BIg Brother of the music world.
And they're looking for a fight. I venture to say that most folks had never heard of the RIAA until the started suing everyone for doing something they've been doing doing for many years. Actually they didn't know it at the time. When I bought a record, (LP) You remember them? I would play it the first time and make a copy onto whatever tape machine I had at the time, cassette or 8 track and put the record away and save the record. If someone wanted a copy I'd either make a copy from the record or the tape, whichever was easiest at the time, that not counting all the mixed tapes with songs from different artist on it. Of courses we were using good 'ole RCA jacks and swapping cables back and forth.we were using the technology we've had for the last 60+ years, of course Until about 20 years or so, we had never heard of digital anything. Now everything is digital theses days.

There is a term in the entrainment industry called "fair use". I first read about it in connection to the early days of VCR. The studios had tried kill VCR and the courts had rejected the studio argument's saying that consumers had a limited right to use the VCR to time shift TV broadcast to a more convent time.
I am not going to try to explain a very complicated subject, which I only have a broad and very basic understanding of the concept. Instead I will supply links at the bottom of the article to give you more detailed reading material.

The idea of this article is to try bring together the idea of protecting copyrighted material, and the individual consumers right to use the material as they see fit. It is generally accepted the one can make a couple copy's of a disc for back-up proposes. The question starts to be sticky when you try to give a copy to someone else. Is it just sharing a interesting work or stealing,?

In the early 1990's when the mp3 craze started and Napster came into vogue, and folks discovered they could copy all their Cd's into their computers, which were finely powerful and fast enough to actually store and play them, This also coincided with the opening up of the Apra-net, becoming the Internet. We all know the stories of college students sharing gigs of music through the campus. This is when the RIAA came out of hiding. Of course once the cat was out of the bag, so to speak it can't be put back in.

The records companys say the because of the sharing of music over the Internet that they had lost a substantial amount of sale, and thus monies they would have made through the sales of CDs during the heyday of file sharing. While this may be true, they know they will never get that money back. That's like saying you lost money because you didn't or did do or buy something and wanting the money you would have made back. Not going to happen. Essentially the 1990's and early 2000's is water under the bridge.

Its time for the RIAA to bite the bullet and sowoll hard and stand up and say they've made some big mistakes in the last 12 or so years. and essentially, be a man ,and take their lumps. and start over and work on new models is distribution , which if it wasn't for Apple and I-Tunes they probably still wouldn't be doing.

By continuing to down the path they are now, they are alienating they very public they are trying to reason with.

There is the question of where all the money that they get when they settle one of the suits goes. In theory, it should go to the artist, they are supposed to represent . We all know about the only people making money is the lawyers.

It would seem to me that if any suing was done at all it should be up to the artist themselves. After all it was their work that was "stolen" Then the RIAA can sue on behalf of the artist and the amounts of damages should be up to the artist themselves. and make sure they get the money.
I would venture to say most artist probably would elect not to sue, if nothing else because of the negative image it would bring them, and if the truth were known, most of them had probably done some file sharing themselves. Which puts them in a rather interesting spot. If a artist had the RIAA sue some one and in the course of the trial it come out that they had or even at the time were doing exactly what they were suing about, one can imaige what a laughing stock they would be.

There is also another aspect of the file sharing, that is how much of the material downloaded by folks is material that they already own in LP or cassette or 8-track from and what they were essentially doing was getting material they already own in a new format. That opens up more questions of fair use and copyright issues. If one can prove they a already own a copy of the material and were getting copies of their material.
No one I have seen has mentioned that issue.

In short , its time for the RIAA to back down and rethink its approach to the consumer. By continuing as they are they are in a lot of cases driving people into he idea that they don't want to support them and refuse to buy CDS , if nothing else in a form of protest.

I have been reading lately, the there has been a movement to drop DRM on mp3s. This is a sign that they have finely discovered that it don't work and causes more problems then it solves. Sony got into trouble earlier this year over a hidden root-kit it had on some of it CDs, which had actually damaged peoples computers.This proved that that model was not going to work and it was dropped by Sony after they were sued.

What it all boils down to is when doses "fair use" turn to stealing and who decides it and what are the penalties and who gets to droll them out.

This is a open letter to the RIAA asking them to rethink their tactics and consider the points I've mentioned.

As for the links;

Here are the links I promised;

Saturday, October 6, 2007

All I Wanted to Do Was Buy A New TV.....

All I wanted to do was Buy a new TV....

Not go back to collage ..........

One could very easily utter those very words when One enters one of the new superstore, or big-box retailers, two, of which ,spring to mind and I think you know who I mean....

A few years ago buying a tv was relatively easy and straight forward .
You went in pick up the size you wanted, usually 27' diagonal, and went home, hooked it up to whatever source you got your signal. usually a roof antenna or in some cases rabbit ears on top of the tv.
In the days of yore, a tv was a piece of furniture. Manufactures tried to make a cabinets look like they belong in the room and not some ugly box with a screen sicking out in the middle of the room, they used real wood and and were finished like furniture. At least on the bigger 27 consul models, I remember seeing some nice looking tvs back then.

Back then you only had one connection to hook up, coaxial cable from your antenna. You got the sound from the tiny speakers which were built in the tv set.
And so it went, for many decades. Eventually black and white gave way to color.
Over the years stereo was introduced. First, there were stereo speakers built into the tv itself, After a fashion, connections were added to pipe to audio into external speaker and eventually running the audio into a stereo for a fuller richer sound.

As the tv has evolved, the was of getting the signal also changed. Cable tv was introduced and along with more channels. Now we have both cable and satellite distribution of tv content. Along with stations that show nothing but old shows that were made before this brave new media was ever dreamed up. That is a very short version of how tv came to be what what know today.

All of this to say choosing a tv has become challenge.
There are so many different ways to get content into your tv and almost all of them have a different connection.

Depending on what your source is,you can hook it up a number of ways. Of course for a very basic off air signal either standard definition, what your watching now. Or if you have a set with a built-in HD tuner, and the right antenna, in the right area, you can pull in off air High definition channels. Thats not even counting hooking up you dvd player.If you have RCA cables you can probably use them and get a ok picture. If you a dvd player with HDMI outputs and your tv has at least one HDMI input you can run the dvd player through it and it will upscale the picture to near high-definition quality and look really good.

The point is selecting a Hight definition tv is a daunting task. You must consider where your putting it, If in a bight living room with lots of light and windows a LCD, is considered the best option, if in a dark room or basement or dedicated viewing room, a plasma is considered best. Then the size, of the tv. The big thing is they have changed the screen format from the traditional 4;3 square that were used to , to the new 16;9 format. and they still use the old diagonal measuring system, which always was misleading to begin with, and who ever thought of the idea if measuring the screen diagonal in the first place? The screen size should be stated by at least the height and width of the cabinet so you know how much space the unit will actually take. and give you a much better idea if the size screen your getting.

I've said all this, and I haven't touched on screen resolution yet,
Our stranded definition tv is all the same approximately 480 lines and hasn't changed in over 60 years. Until now.
I could go into a lot of technical details that I'd probably wouldn't get right. I won't try to explain stuff I'm not a expert in, Instead I'll post some links at the end of the article,
Suffice to say , HDTV come in three varieties, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p.
The experts say 1080i is the best you can get right now, However there is very little content that is native 1080p, other then Sony's PS3 and Microsoft's X-Box 360, and some Hight-def dvd, that require a High-def dvd player to play them properly.
The broadcasters that do send a high def signal on send the lower 720p signal.which is still a HD signal, and WAY better then what we're used to seeing now.

I which I could just say get this or that brand and model. As you know a picture like audio is subjective, what looks or sounds good to one person my sound or look lousy to another. All one can do is read the reviews and actually go see the tvs in person and bring your own content to test it with. Bring material you know, both in HD and standard def. Ask the place to show you a standard def signal on the tv you looking at, some tvs handle the up converting from standard better then others, don't bring amainated material to test with, it will always look good no mater what. try looking at the tvs from different viewing angles and if possible different lighting.
As more stations convert to HD the choices of content increase, for some stations converting to HD is easier to integrate into the system then others. Particularly those who have a lot of old footage that they need to either up convert themselves or have it done for them. The success of the up converting depends a lot on the material they have to work with. Ideally working form the original print would be best, as you can guess that may not always be possible,
As you start on this venture, consider your source of HD content, at the low end of the scale, pulling it off air with a antenna is a option, depending on where you live, Most folks are going to go to either a cable or satellite system, either Direct tv or my personal favorite, Dish Network.
At the moment, Dish had almost forty channel in in their HD package, They seem to be adding channels on a regular basis. By the end of the year they could very easily have 50 channels give or take. Not that I'm specifically plugging them But I have had Dish for almost 10 years and have been very pleased with their service and channel selection. (Something to consider.)
Most HD tvs also have the options of piping you computer to the tv so you can use it as a monitor for the computer. This opens up a new world of content. Image being able to stream last night esispode of a a tv show of the computer and instead of watching it on your computer monitor, you watch it on your big tv. Having never done it yet, I can't vouch for the picture quality, however if its done right I hear it can look pretty good, But it defiantly opens new possibilities.

If your not sure how to hook up your new HD tv to get the best picture possible, it may be well worth the investment to have it professionally installed and set up.They will know the best way to hook it up given the source. I am not sure recommend using the installation services or even buying from one of the above mentioned big-box stores, simply because the level of training and expertise of the personal in the stores can very from some kid who barely know what a tv is, to a "expert" that may or may not actually know whats hes talking about.
I think, I'd subjust if possible and money allows go to a local custom installer who can sell you the equipment and install it and back it locally if there are any problems, if they install it they will probably adjust the calibration and fine tune it to get the best picture, you probably also get a matching surround sound system and they should install it too as a package deal. I realize that that is probably a more expensive way to go, and not everyone can do that but your sinking a considerable sum of money into your entertainment system, which hopefully you will have for many years to come.

So if your looking to get a new HDTV, take your time and do your research, because time is on our side, The longer you wait the lower the price goes, and the more content will be available to watch when you finely get a new tv.

Here is a excellent link for more information on choosing your new HDTV;

Monday, October 1, 2007

A World Where Anything Will Play Anywhere....

The times, they are a changing,,,,
The times,they are a changing....

The media is a changing...
The media is a changing....

Apple and NBC recently had a falling out,
NBC has pulled all its shows from Apples I-Tunes....
Not that it makes any deference to me....

Theres a bigger story here..

If you read on you find the NBC is opening their own site to stream their own shows for free. As I investigated further I found that CBS, and ABC are also following suit.

Now it begs to question , will theses new models survive?
If you read closely you find at least with NBC, the commercials followed them to the new site.
Will people want to have the options of streaming a show with commercials and being tied to their computer for the privilege.
On the other hand with Apple I-tunes, you pay 1.99 or something to that effect and you get to download it to your machine and you own it. you can then play it on you computer, ipod, or stream it from your computer to your tv, using Apples I-Tv.

And that's not even counting burning your material to DVD, theres some rather heated discussions going on about that in some circles.

In a perfect world.. One could get any show, movie song or other media whenever one wanted, and watch it on whatever was convenient at the time. To be be able to watch a movies or or show on everything from a Ipod to a 50" plasma tv. with 7.1 surround sound.

What we need is a format and hardware both set-top, and portable the will recognize and automatically format and play the media in whatever form is available to the hardware, weather its a Ipod like hand held that can see any wireless network and pull any media off any shared folder, along with whatever is on the actual hardware, be it a hard drive,sd card.

All of this is not factoring in digital rights management(DRM). Hardware must be able to recognize what a file is and what allowed. There will always be a camp will fight and/or otherwise circumvent any DRM scheme that anyone come up. While I am in principle agree with the idea of protecting one own intellectual property . There is STILL such a thing as fair use. The problem is, over the last few years people have taken advantage of the concept of fair use to the point that the record company's having a heart attack and trying to recover a perceived loss. I not saying that haven't lost money over the last few years. However their methods of "recovering their losses" are only serving to strengthen opposition to DRM in general and the RIAA in particular.

The end result is a world with both media hardware and media software coming with DRM in the firmware. In the end the dream of a universal plug and play world, where any media will play on any media without its having to call home and see if its allowed is probably dead.

Back to the lead-in, When I have a computer that I can send a signal to my big tv and watch streaming media off the computer/internet and pipe the audio through the sound system, I'll be more interested in watching streaming media. One other possibility that comes to mind would be a satellite receiver that connects to the internet and gets its programing guide and other software over the internet and lets you surf the web on your tv through the sat receiver, of course you wouldn't have all the printer and other capabilities you have on your computer.
Unless of course you have one of the new media center pc, withe the turner and other niceties that Microsoft offers. Having never had the "pleasure" of using one I can't say how well they work. Xp or worst Vista running my digital media center is not my idea of the optimum media software. However,choices are limited in this respect, When a Tivio can brows web sites and stream media off the net and possibility even store it even temporary on its hard drive, then we're heading in the right direction..
So for now let the major network stream their shows on line for free,,,,,

I don't watch any of them anyways....

Ps; Heres the link to the original story;