Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Mission Statement

Lawson Report:
Mission Statement

Over the last couple of years I have used this blog as a place to share my ideas about technology in general, and media and consumer rights, in particular. As the new year and new decade dawn in very short order..
The time has come to explain my ideals in writing this blog:

1. I try to take a journalistic view to the articles; That is, while I don't do straight reporting, I do try to keep my writings as professional as possible.
2. Please remember that my articles are commentary and opinions on the subjects of the articles.

3. I Do not try to aggregate news and spit it out, anyone can do that. There are many places that do it very well.
What I do pick a topic or general subject and try to give a different view of the subject or topic . I try to see thing that are not usually obvious to the casual reader and would probably miss. Because I am older and not in the tech industry , I have a different view then most.
4. It is my underlying believe that slowly and surly all consumer rights to use their media and in many cases the devices to play them on are being taken away from them. Many times they don't even realize that this is happening. The concept of "Fair Use" for the consumer has become in many cases a joke and is very fast becoming nonexistent .
5. The traditional media formats and distributions methods are fast being replaced by both new models and more importantly are being bypassed altogether, or short-cuted to to bring about the same end result.
6. The changing landscape of both traditional media and new medias opens new avenues to express ones ideas and thoughts about the uses or missuses of the technology. This is my platform to share my ideas and concerns for the future of our media and in many ways our way of life. Please take the time to go through the past couple of years articles and feel free to comment and or email me your thoughts on my thoughts.

December 29, 2009
Kenneth Lawson

Saturday, November 7, 2009

And One Phone shall Rule Them All...Not...!!!

One Phone to Rule Them All.....NOT!!!!

I remember many years ago,when My wife had a pager. That was a big deal then. If I needed her to call someone, or call home when she was out and about I could page her. and as soon as she was able she would call me back and find out what was going on. I know that there were days it payed for itself.
A few years later we finely were able to get a cell phone it was a old Motorola flip phone that had a short little antenna, and a the Flip was a plastic panel that would flip up to cover the keypad, and protect it when not in use. Just being able to call during the day if there was a issue or to call someone back was at first a matter of convince, then it became a matter of necessity.

Fast Forward to today. We now have 5 phones on our plan. I have a basic phone as the the older kids who each have one. My wife is now completely computerized. everything is on her PDA/smartphone. It is plugged in every night to sync and charge. We have a saying;
"If its not in the computer,, It snot Happening.." Which pretty much sums up our dependence on technology. and computers, and her pda in particular.
For the last probably 10 years or so there have been what are generically referred to as Smartphones. which in a very wide sense, means any phone that can do more then just talk and other basic functions. Which could include everything from the keyboard texting phones, up to Palm Pre, My wife's Treo, to the king of the hill, Apple's IPhone.
Ah, the elusive IPhone, which has been hailed as the be all, and end all, of smart phones....
Again Apple followed its usual pattern of not being the first to a market, just doing it better then anyone Elise's once it got there. As was the case with the original ipods, and mp3 players. There were several players making mp3 players, out in the market, but none of them were doing well, their hardware, while mostly functional, was anything but ascetically pleasing and easy to use. Then along came Apple..
Suddenly was a struggling market, only geeks and techies know about bloomed into a national obsession.
Much has been written and made of the success of Apples Ipod Lines. The point is today they are the standard of which all other Mp3 and portable media players are judged against. The did the same thing with the smartphone, They didn't make the first smartphone, they just did it better then anyone else,,,
Until Now..

Now there is the Android series of smartphones, made by Motorola, HTC, and eventually several other manufactures for Verizon wireless, cell phone service. The Android is a direct competition to the Apple I Phone. While the IPhone has for the last couple of years been only on the AT&T network, The Android is only on Verizon . While the AT&T network is constantly panned for their poor service, ranging from coverage, to customer service, Very few, have paned the IPhone itself, except for a limited number of issues particular to that phone. The Verizon network is generally praised for its coverage, among many things, However, in recent years they have not been able to come up with a phone that could seriously directly compete with the I phone. Now it appears they finely have.
The Android runs on the relatively new Google operating system, and widely touted as being equal to the Apple Phone OS. In circles even better. But that's a subjective judgement call.

The pros and cons of each phone and platform, and even carrier, are being debated all over the web.
I am not even going to attempt to compare them, It wouldn't be fair, because at this point I've never used either, the closet I've come is the Apple Ipod Touch, which we got earlier this year.. Color me impressed.
However, that doesn't give me the creditability to compare something I've never seen or used.

The point of this article is there is room for two phones to rule them all to say.
Android will have a tough time competing with Apple, particularly if AT& T manages to improve the coverage and service. However, this may be the ship that many of their IPhone folks were looking for to jump ship, and many may not wait until their contract is up to do it. So based on AT&T's past record,
I see a huge letting of IPhones. That will help drive Android sales, However, Android better deliver, as had better Verizon, if they want to keep all those new subscribers, I've heard talk of their Nickle and dimeing services, That's a ploy that may well cost them in the long run, given T-Mobile's new program, where you buy a phone at regular price up front, and they give you a way better rate on the service plan, Something like from AT&T, and Verizon, would go a long ways to sway customers, and bringing down the retail price on the phones to begin would also help drive that plan, and they would make more in the long run.

In the long run the two will have live together and each will have its strengths, and weakness.
Choosing which one is going to be a matter of taste, in many cases location. Depending on what features you need, and platform you work from, one may be better then the other for specific needs.
I predict that after all the release hula is over over the next few months, Things will settle down, and we find the two AA's ruling their respective carries and coexisting very nicely, While there will probably be a slant towards Apple, if Android, plays its cards rights, and Verizon, keeps it network up and reliable , and the android Apps store matures and useful aps that compare to the aps on the Apple App store come up soon, and the phone just works and doesn't send users screaming to tech support, on a regular basis, Android will do very nicely, it may take a while but Android should do very nicely.. In the long run.
And Two Phones Shall Rule Them All.....

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Brave New World

Lately I've been watching a lot of "TV" on the computer; ie, netcast, or podcast as the traditional term for audio, and now audio and video broadcast over the internet, either streamed live as they happened or played off a site or downloaded and saved to and played on a portable mp3 player, both without video and more and more with video.
What I'm mostly watching is TWIT.TV, TWIT stands for; "This Week In Technology".

It started out a a audio taping of a informal conversation about tech by Leo Leporte, and several of his old Tech TV friends.
It was later put up on a site and, eventually broadcast and downloaded. Long story short;
Leo Leporte has over the last several years built TWIT into a small station. They now do about 30 hours of netcast a week, besides streaming the feed live during the taping of the shows. and running repeats of the latest shows when now one is there.. They now have sponsors and so there are a limited number of comericals , which are all of products they they use .Theses "comericals" harken back to the days of old when the announcer would go into a ad for a particular product and then righ back to the show at hand. This is what they do on TWIT tv. When its time for the few, usually 2-3 ads that they need to run, Leo, or whoever is hosting the show, will say that its now time to mention a word from our sponsor, and do a speil about the particular product or service, there is no fancy music or other gimmick, just Leo hawking the product for that day.Orgininaly they only put out audio versions of their netcast, which are available to download from I-tunes and a number of other venues. Recently within the last couple of weeks Leo Leporte, founder and owner of TWIT TV anaunced that he had just signed a deal with a company called Media Fly which is a web media, ie podcast aggeriator. They collect and put out software and products to bring media off the web to other platforms, everything from traditional auduo/video mp3 players, to smartphones, and many other devices, so essentially you an either stream it directly fom the web or or download it to you portable device of choice and take it with you, includes both regular audio only podcast, and the a/v podcast. The importance of deals like this are many:

For starters they give the whole podcast industry a creditability they haven't had before. Suddenly they are no longer just those strange things that the geeks search out and listen to. On a equally important note, it also brings the podcast to a whole new market that would never take the time to look for them, then figure out how to download and play them. Suddenly they are almost as easy to play as turning on your tv. Actually Leo Leporte explained this whole ease of use and the whole though process that went into the making of TWIT tv and why podcasting hasn't taken off like it should in this speech he did in early October. The Second link is to the speech at Blogworld, where he announced the deal with Roku and Media Fly.
The two links below explain what I have been trying to explain here much better then I can.

Also, earlier this month he in connection with the media Fly deal , he announced that the entre TWIT program would beput on the set-top box called a Roku. You may ask what a Roku box is, it is a small black box the you hook up to your tv and then it connnects to your network either wireless or by wire and allows you to stream content over it to your tv. Right now they have 3 main sourses of content. Amazon, which has both rent and buy options for their movies and tv series. If you don't rent or buy anything it don't cost you anything. The other is Neflix, which uses a subscription model, one flat rate starting around 10.00 a months allows you to rent one movie at a time, ie, physical dvd, they send to you, the big thing however is, with this box you can stream as much content as you want off their library, which is quite extensive. The last provider is MLB, major league baseball. again a subscription model, which I know nothing about exept you have to pay for it. Its there, which is cool for thoses who want. Now they are adding the Media Fly content to the box. Further research shows there are content provider coming on board over the next probably couple of months. At least that is my hope.

What platforms like Media Fly and and anything lets lets one take content from locked in device and play the same content on any device, be it a tv, natively, or through a box like Roku, or Boxee, or even Apple tv, and then take the same media and play it on a portable device and take it with you give adertisiers a whole new market to sell ads to. By the podcasting doing short content related ads the support the content maker and allow him to afford to make his product and keep it free to give away, and the adviritsers get a captive audience , which is also a niche market, which is more likely to be interest in a product related to what they're watching or listening to. And probably more likely to respond to the ad. On top of that, they will be able to track how their ads preforms, and get better demographics about the audience. Its a win-win, for everyone, the podcaster gets to pay for his show, the advertisers get to sell to a niche market that is interested in their products, and the listener hears ads he's probably more interested in.

Any way that it comes out in the end, ie,over the next few years,; things are going to change drasticly. A lot of how this will play out will depend on how the FCC and to a large extent they large telecos and content providers react to the shift. In theory, the consumers should be the ultimate winners. But How do you define winner;
Yes you will be able to stream almost anything you want whenever, wherever, you want, but your account is being tracked and advertisers, are keeping track of what you watch, so they can show you ads related to the content your watching, and possiblity based on where your watching it, and on what device your watching it on.
So in the end, the consumers have to decide if this is a fair trade, what and when they want for constant tracking of their viewing habits, and possibility even more sinister uses of the data..

Yes its a brave new world....

Ken Lawson

Saturday, September 26, 2009

"Could OZ Help Save the Movie Industry ?"

I went down the " Yellow Brick Road " Wednesday night..
We went to see the showing of "Wizard of Oz."

As anyone who either knows me personally, or has read my blog over the last couple of years knows I am a big fan of classic movies. So when when I got the TCM email a couple of months ago, announcing the screening of of OZ, I talked to my wife and she went and prebought the tickets.

It was great. While I was not a huge fan of the movie itself, I did enjoy seeing it.
What really amazed me was the lines... The had 2 showings running at the same time, they had so many, The one I was in was mostly filled up. There were many older folks and yes quite a few kids. When Robert Osborne came on screen it was dead quiet after the applause....
He said his intro talking about the directors and the stars, showing clips as he talked. Even seeing those old black & White clips up on the big screen as amazing. Probably most of the clips he showed had never been blown up that big since they were first shown in theaters 70 years ago. When Mr. Osborne finished there was a applause. Theres was more applause when the movie started. The was no mention of the movie in the lobby, just a line forming, they told us which theater to go into, and the line was huge, they were still coming in to sit when the movie was just starting.. I was proud to see so many people come out to support this classic movie. For generations people have been watching this and other classic movies on a 27" tv, with crappy sound, and now to see it up where it and all classic movies belong was a beautiful thing.

I had read several places where folks were complianing that because it was all digital, it was not the same as the original film print. Who Cares?
When it was over the screen went blank and a windows toolbar came up on the screen bottom, My daughter was surprised, It was on a computer?

You know what she didn't care, it was a great movie, and execellantly restored to its glory,

No matter whether your a die-hard purist, or a tech junkie like me, a great movie transcends any medium, as dose great art of any kind.
There are volumes of material about both the orginial movie, and the rstoration of the movie, I won't try to be a historian about the movie, As, I have bigger fish to fry;;

The bigger point is they did it and people came,,

One perspective of this is; Will help open they eyes of many younger folks to the great movies they're missing and bring attention to film preservation, and restoration in general?

Of course thees a bigger picture. The bigger picture being the movie industry. For many years the movie industry has been complaining about loosing money to piracy There are major lessons to be learned here. That there is a major audience for classic movie in the major theaters. Is it possible that they may have discovered a way to bring folks back to the movie theater? Classic Movies.
I am not for one instant subjesting that they stop making new movies, and inventing new technologys to make the movies with, Far from it. However,, There is a very large untaped market of baby boomer's and even older people who have little or no interst in spending what money they do have on seeing the newest latest greatest movie of the week. On the other hand,, if they were to spend just one weekend a month showing classic movies on one or two screens they would draw them out,, and a whole new market share which has always been there, but been ignored would come out to spend. Of course it would take advertising, and possibility even doing senor specials and discounts. In the long run it would be worth it. Another possiblity, teaming with a national resturant chain to offer package deals with dinner and a classic movie,, I know its crazy,, bit if done right with the right promotion it could very well open up a forgotten market. In southern retirement states, it could go over very well.

Theres also another aspect of the Wizard of Oz that is equally important. Preservation and restoration of classic movies. The general public dose not understand how fragile out movies history is. How little it can take to start a film degrading, actually turning to dust if left in the wrong conditions long enough. Over that last 20-30 years theres have been several projects to preserve and restore our film libraries around the world. Rather then try to explain what happens as films slowly turns to dust I refer you to a film. a documentary actually, called "Keepers of the Frame" This film very clearly tell the tale of the film and why it is so important to preserve and restore our film libraries. Here are three links to material about "Keepers of the frame" ''

Please take the time to check out this extorinary film about films.

Hopefully all the attention that OZ is getting this next week with a release of Blue-ray and related material will focus interest on the possible comerical value of re-releasing classic films in theaters on a national and widespread basis with the supporting advertising so folks know that are being put out there again.

Judging from I have seen and read, this is a potionial serious money maker for the movie industry which claims to have been bleeding money for the last decade. This will help on at least 2 fronts, 1. Bringing in more revenue across the board, 2. In some ways more importantly, Giving classic movies a venues they haven't had for decades and exposing them to whole new audiences, which most if given the chance probably would at least check out the movies, Introducing theses movies to new audiences on the big screen will have a far different impact then seeing the same material on a 27' screen, or even on a huge flat screen tv. There is no replacing the experience of seing Bogart or other classic stars in a movies screen the size of a house.

Yes the" Wizard of Oz" was important in 1939, and it could be more important in 2009, 70 years after it was released. If it helps bring classic movies to the general movie theater on a regular basis, and bring more attention to preservation and restoration of movies, then it has more then payed for itself, both in historical value, and in saving the movie industry .

Ken lawson

Sunday, September 13, 2009

To Go To Video... Or Not ?

I have seen the future,, and I am using it as I type...

Over the years, one has to change and adapt to the changing meathods of doing things,,, First there was barely a pen made of a feather, and some conconcation they called ink,, and rough paper to write on, then eventually the printing press was invented and eventually bring books down the realm of everyday people who could then learn to read and learn,,
Then came the typewriter, so anyone could make legiable documents and have their say and be able to be read, not relying on handwriting which as we all know can be very changeling to read,,

Fast forward to to today, eveyone who has a computer and a printer is in effect their own publishing house, at least on a small scale. The ways in wich the printed page can be manulapied are endless,, from font to front size, color of print to adding pictures,,

Fast Forward to today when self publishing take on a whole new meaning with the advent of the blog, and the personal video camera, or webcams as they are often called. Thus allowing millions of people to put their silliest foot forward, and be stupid on camera for the world to see. While I have always liked the idea of YouTube, and the like, I have alway felt that it has for the most part never come up to the potential that it could have, at least content wise. No one can say its a failure, ar that it doesn't fill a niche, a niche it created, The full poteniol of the personal video hs rarely been used as it could be.
The blog has over the last several years become a form of citizen journalism of sorts. Many blogs are penned my well-known and respected people who have something to say regarding whatever their particular area of interest is. Millions of people read them and engage in lively discussions about their ideas, This is how it should be. However the short form video has not evolved tp that point with a few notable exceptions.

In 1998, a new station came to the world it was full of cpu's, and hard drives and and funny intials,, ZDTV,, The ZD standing for Ziff-Davis,, It was cool and different, and fun,, and bought to us at a time when technology was changing fast, not that its not changing fast today, it seemed even faster then, The shows were both serous and fun. It had its own news, its idea of sports was gamespot a show about then emerging gaming platforms and even covered computer gameing.
On the tech side, they had two live call-in show 5 days a week, one geared for the novice user, wh could barely turn on their box, and the other for the geekier corowd, "Call for Help" and Screen Saveers," I could go on about the network, short version it evolved to become Techtv, and made great strides in bring techonlgy to the masses and helping them understand tech and what it could do for them. Sadly they are now gone, but not forgotten.
You can read the full rundown on Techtv here;

All Of of this brings us to today;

Lately I have been feeling "Creatively Inspired". A lot of this has been brought about by my finely getting a new computer.
My old primary machine was feeling its age, maybe 3 years old,, As you know, 3 years is several generations in the computer world. I was finding that my old machine was having a hard time doing routine task, web surfing, ect.
For less money then I spent on the old machine I got a machine that leaves it in the dust. Dual core, 2.60gh,processer, 6 gigs of ram, and 64 bit windows Vista, all of this horsepower coupled to my 22 lcd monitor is a work of art.

The ablity to create , in my case write, and put my ideas down on "paper". without having issues with the machine giving problems trying to basic things is freeing..
But theres another Aspect of having both a fast laptop, and now a faster and capable tower , that has helped bring new life to my interest in creating content again. That is web tv, or streaming media, Now that I have equipment that can play full streaming video without buffering every other second, for five muinutes, and eventually not working at all, I can begin to see possiblies, that I though were always there, but I'd never been able to put to use.

Over the last few days I have enjoyed watching many alumni from the Tech TV days continue to build careers on line and showing me the possiblies of what can be done.

While I don't have the resources to start my own multi-show web network As Leo Leporte has in his venue, and Patrick Norton, and other folks from Tech Tv have over at Revision3. I do see possiblites of opening up new ways expanding on this blog. I have tried a couple different ideas, both failing rather nicely,,, However, Now with this new tower, and my trusty old DV camera and fire-wire and running some test recently I find that doing a video version of the blog that your reading to be quite possible. Obiviouly, there are limitations as to what I can do, One main limitations right now is YouTube, as they only allow videos up to 10 minuts, it can take almost that long to read one of my articles. Which leaves little or no time to make offhand comments or discuss the material in the article.
While, I defiantly like the idea of doing the video version of my blog: several questions come to mind;

The question is, doses the world need another video blog ?
Also if I do take the time to do it,, will anyone watch it?
Can I contribute something of interest and bring new ideas up for discussion in ways that I can't do in a regular blog?

I am interested in getting feedback as to if I should even continue on this path. If so, any ideas as to how I could do it different or make the whole process better.
I am also interested in the possibility of going back and covering my earier articles , is there a interest in my doing videos of either a select few of the earlier articles or going straight through and doing all of them?

I am opening this up for discussion and comments,, feel free to leave a comment here, or email me, you thoughts.

Ken Lawson

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Comments on Comments

Over the last several years I have been very active in posting comments on may articles on a number of sites. One of the many comminunity aspects of the net and a very large number of sites is the ability to ask for and receive user/reader feedback . However, over the last several years I have noticed a very disturbing trend among many if not all of the sites that I read regulary. Theses sites generate user feedback in the form of comments on the individual article that they publish.

Simply put it boils down to two thing, relevancy to the article that folks are commenting on.. and Stupidity. When I take to time to comment on a article I make sure that I have something to contribute to the discussion, usually its a aspect or point that was not mentioned in the article. In other words something useful to say.

One of the many uses of the web is to bring people together to discuss issues, topics, and on a more personal level, even articles published on magazine site, I am not limiting this rant to just "Written" articles, I am also including commenting on YouTube video, and other forms of media on line. Be it a You Tube video, or a video review by Cnet or a personal blog, They all deserve the same respect as anything written but a magazine site. They put in they're time and energy to make whatever media the felt the needed to. After it is posted instead of thoughfull feedback and useful comments they log back on later to find some of the stupidest and often times juvinal and unfaltering post any 10 year old could post, by supsosed adults. The is was not supposed to be a playground for stupid irrelevant comments and flame wars. and generally insulting people.

Many times I have read a excellent article only to get to the end and find a host of irrelevant, or mean-sprited comments, none of them having little or anything at all to do with the article I've just read. Apparently, they didn't read the same article I just had. What the point of posting theses types of comments is , elludes me.

If I was running theses site I think a disclaimer above the comments section saying that your email is required and that the comments are monitored; If you leave a illrelevant or otherwise noncontributing comment you will be notified that your comment is being removed and told exactly why, offered one chance to post a civilized relevant comment. Continued abuse of the system will lead to your being banned from leaving comments on that particular sit. It would be spelled out in no uncertian terms, you either play nice or you don't play. period. I realize that many of the very large sites with large numbers of articles cannot police every single article and comment. which leave the users to think about the comments that they leave and will what they think they have to say add anything to the article. If they can't say something usefull , then they shouldn't be commenting and wasting webpage space and server space storing stupid comments .

In other news, Birthday greeting go out to, They cerebrate one year in streaming movie and tv to the world.
Their fist year has not been without issues,, ie,,the Boxxee issue,. Hulu says that the blocking of boxxee as ordered by the content owners and was not supported by them.
In the end, it don't matter who ordered the blocking of Boxxee, end result is they can't use a service, thats all they care. It isn't like Boxxee was cutting out commercials or otherwise editing the content or changing the experience, other then the fact it was going through Boxxee, and then on to a big tv screen.
To My way of thinking; They should be letting them play Hulu on any platform, as along as they don't change anything about the format or more importantly edit out the comericals. Being able to stream Hulu on any platform, be it Iphone, Blackberry, and other web-enabled smart phones natively would be a killer app. Even being able to stream it on my Ipod Touch would be nice.

The continuing saga of Real Networks fight to continue to produce software to rip and store dvd movies on computers has been dealt a several blow, What is means for consumers is that another aspect of consumer rights to use media that they though that they had bought is in the process of being eroded. I say" thought they bought", is slowly become buy to rent. You only think you own in reality you long term lease the media, subject to their restrictions, are many. Granted that is probably a bit of a extreme senrio, today,,, However, in the future it may become more real in many ways. It is legal to make copies of media for personal backup and archival proposes , But its illegal to make and sell software to allow you to make limited legal copies of your material. How much sense dose that make? it would be like owning a gun and it being illegal to buy the bullets for it, or not being able to buy gas for your car,, both are which are perfectly legal to own and use pretty much as you want to... So why dose the record/movie industries feel they have the right to limit how you can use your media for your own personal use. Your not making copies and sellings them on streetcorners. All one wants to do is make a back up copy of material that they have legally bought and paid for in good faith. Tho have the media companys telling you you own the media,, Yes, you can can make a back-up copy, Oh by the way the software to make decent copy-protected back-ups is illegal and any company that makes it will be sued out of business and their lives runined..
Thanks for buying our products,,
It is time for web users who use the comments to work with sites to encourage them to state a more directly worded commenting policy. Reporting comments that are offer no contribuation to the discussion of the article to site mangers. A campaign to bring awareness of the issue,, Granted in the overall scheme of things stupid comments aren't the most important thing, However, they do create lot of unneeded problems for webmasters and site owners.

Ken Lawson

Monday, July 27, 2009

The future of TV and Media is Evolving

Lets see now,,, Where to Start,,,?
Interesting news crossed my desk this morning,;
Apple is now working with record labels to try to push the sale of complete albums. From what I grather they are working on putting together a more interactive, value added experience for the album buyer in hope of entising more complete album sales. and cut down on the single track sales. Unfortunately, too little too late. If they had done something like this several years ago, they might have influenced the buying patterns of consumers. However, now except for rare occosions or special issues of classic albums no one buys a whole ablum, They pick and choose what tracks they like.

I personally have very little interest in buying a whole album, except for replacing material that I already have. For example, I have the 2 disc lp of Elvis Hawaiian concert, Only been played a few tines to make cassette copies many years ago, in other words practically new. Buying a new remastered copy might interst me. However, I prefer to have a CD and not just a digital copy. So a digital copy would have to offer material that I can't get now, and and I doubt they very much they could ad to a 30+ year old concert of a guy whose been dead for almost all of those 30 years.

However, other models of marketing and packaging do interest me. I have seen lately where Disney was offering its movies on Blu-ray, and including a regular Dvd in the same package. THAT makes sense .. As may folks will have only one HD player while regular dvd players are dirt cheap and the kids probably have at least one device that plays dvd, be it a laptop, or a portable dvd player, Let the kids have the regular dvd, and save the HD version for the main HD set-up at home, if they loose or ruin the dvd it not the end of the world, so to speak. In order to combat piricay. Media producers are going to to have add value to get consumer to spend money on material, they could just as easy download form bit-torrents and the like. Adding the regular dvd to the HD set, just makes sense, and is only the beginning. The new crop of Blu-ray players is offering a host of networked interactive features. Of course how many people actually use them remains to be seen..

The television as we know it has evolved over the last 20 years, particularly over the last 5-10 years. The digital transition went off in June, and he world didn't stop turning. However, the broadcasting world did change. The tvs have become almost entirely flat panels, either LCD or Plasmas, or in some expensive models, OLEDS, and other new technologies. The old old 4x3 form factor is now entirely gone. Every unit form the little 7 inch monitor up to the massive 65 inch Plasma are in the wide format, 16x9 format. While the number of inputs that one can feed into a tv has jumped to a panel in the back and side that resembles the back of a high end surround sound receiver. There is usually a set of legacy ports, RCA, S-video, and of course the new HD connections, HDMI, and digital audio in and out, carrying all 5 channels of surround sound both in and out to receivers, and Blu-ray players. Next genration game consols, and even laptops with HDMI out on them, allowing one to connect the laptop to the Tv. This allows one to surf the web on the big tv, add a wireless keyboard, and mouse and you have a nice set-up. Ideal for streaming Hulu and the like. One concept that I've seen a lot lately is the idea of the connected tv. What they are touting as connected is the ability of the tv to natively download and play movies of the likes of Netflicks, Amazon,. While I'm sold on the idea of the connected tv,
I'm not sold on the idea of buying my media only in a pure downloaded format, trusting them to keep my media that I've bought on their servers and remembering is mine when I change tvs or even the next time I just want to watch it. My idea of a connected tv would be native wireless connectivity, ie , it sees the local network and ask me for permission to jump on the network, and then I go the to menu and find a built in web browser, Firefox, or Chrome. A included wireless keyboard would make running the whole tv much easier, Possibility include special buttons to access the tv menus and setting for tweaking and set-up. A trackball on the keyboard would eliminate the need for a wireless mouse.
A small fash memory built in would hold the browser programing along with bookmarks and flash and other web necessary programs and could be reset to factory default if needed. Thats a connected tv...

Cable companys are desperate to try to bing in customers and keep the ones they have are trying several new models, the the so called "TV anywhere", which essentially allows subscriber to log in and watch their regular programing on a computer and they are verified as a subscriber. Their is allready a soluation for this, called slingbox, which onced connected to your cable box lets you watch whatever you have connected to it on any computer in the world. Dish network, which is a investor and part owner of Slingmedia, already has a new reciver coming out later this year which has the sling capabilities built right in. That is the technology that the cable companies are fighting. As soon as the new Dish receiver is made publicly available, they will have lost the battle. And they know it.
The cable company's "Tv Everywhere" is doomed to fail, no one will pay extra to get the same content, they can get much of for free, via, Hulu and other streaming sites. There is going to have to be a real valued-aded component to this and a very compelling one at that.

As for music cd's; How about including a set of MP3 on the disc themselves that can be legaly downloaded to a computer for use in mp3 playes and the like, or even a code to get a set of very high quality audio files off a certain site. Or better yet, behind the scenes content an the making of the music and the artist, and possibility even the ability to download enhanced tracks or stream material not yet released, but not able to save new material locally until its released. In general, offering maore ways to interact with the artist other then just his regular fan site.

In order to continue to sell hardware and media in a ecomay where people are becoming more careful about where they put their money, and what they invest in, be it a HDTV or a media player or even the media they actually play producers are going to have to be more creative in their marketing more importantly they need to give consumer more value for their money. be it adding a regular dvd version to a HD copy of a movie, or adding extras to music cds .If consumers don't feel they're getting what they paid for they will either stop buying, or in the case of media go to "Alternative Resources" to acquire what they want. By giving consumer extra content they can't get by downloading a copy off Bit-Torrents, they help give the consumer a reason to spend the money for the product.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Toe Into the Apple Well, And Other News

Several months ago we made the switch to Apple, at least in the main mp3 player of choice. Over the years we've had a number of mp3 players for various members of the family. I have Creative Labs Micro photo 8 gig unit that in spite of the small screen I can read pretty good. However, lately it has taken to not wanting to play with my xp, or Vista laptop. It wouldn't show up on boxes, or even charge properly. My wife had a small RCA unit that worked pretty good, but had issues charging or not working right in general.

My wife had seen the Ipod and liked it and decided to look at them. . What she finely got was the new Ipod Touch. 8gig unit. We brought it home and set up I-tunes, and her music library and hooked it up and it worked...!! It just worked... And continues to work..Flawlessy..We have a wall charger and charge it on that mostly.

The more we play with it the more we like it. Over the last few weeks we've used it constantly and it it just keep working. Flawlessly .
The library of programs and application that it comes with is astonishing. This little unit dose so much more then just play music, it allows us to carry pictures, play games and even get on a local wif-fi and check email and generally surf the web. Granted in some cases the screen is a bit small, but the touchscreen is excellent.
If the rest of Apples product line can be judged by the the experience with the ipods in general and the Touch is is closer to being a real miniature computer. Then the praise for the Apple is deserved. Now if they could just lower the prices some...

As many of you know the Touch is the little brother to the Iphone, essentially the IPhone without the phone. The recent news is that the IPhone and Touch sales have driven up Apple sales numbers up. AT&T is also making out like a bandit due to the fact that they're selling bundled data planes with the I Phones . There is criticism of the service provided by AT&T in relation to their 3G service. I suspect the customer service is lacking also. While it would be nice is Apple open up the IPhone to other carries, AT&T is fighting tooth and nail to keep exclusive rights to the IPhone to at least 2011. Thus insuring that it can survive at least that long. The numbers of new subscribers carried on the backs of the IPhone is huge, but 2010-11 most of those contracts will be up and many will have the new 3G version that is set to be released soon, and it hopes to grab that market also. In many ways this is like the old day when a ipod would only work on a apple computer. Once it was opened up to windows the sales number increased dramatically, Apple would be wise to open the IPhone to the other carries. This would give the other carries more incentive to build out their 3G networks and work out the bugs and generally level the playing field for the consumer.

In other news....

The merge of web and television continues.. Every ones favorite streaming media site has been making news both good and bad. As anyone who has read my blogs before know I'm a big fan of and the whole whole idea of any media on any platform in general. As I've said before, Hulu has done many things right, and essentially set the bar for online streaming of video content, both in quality and in site layout and navigation, They seemed to have found the right mix of advertising and content. Earlier this year there was a issue with Hulu not allowing their content to be streamed on Boxee players directly to tv set. There was a work around for that and that was fixed so it wouldn't work. I'm not sure what the situation is now with Boxee. The feeling I had, at the time I was reading the articles, was the the content owners were shooting themselves in the foot. Not allowing their content to be streamed to units like the Boxee was biting the hand that was feeding them. No ads were being striped from the content, so it was like watching it on the computer,only on a nice big screen. A google news search for Hulu shows a number articles pointing to their huge success in general, several pointing to new materials to stream, and venues to showcase its wares. Hulu is in talks with record labels to ad music videos to the content they carry.Also, more importantly there are talks that there will soon be a native ap to view Hulu on the Apple IPhone, and probably the touch, through WI-fi. I know that the idea of being able to watch Hulu at say a Dr's office waiting room or other such place would be a killer AP and a deal maker . Bringing it to other handheld devices would also expand their reach and thus advertisers reach to a grater range. As long as they keep the ads short and well spaced out people will tolerate and use Hulu. Bringing it to new tvs that have web access would also be a huge draw. Right now from what I've seen tvs with web access are very limited. what is needed is a tv with a full blown web browser and flash and other web specific programs built in . It would really be nice if they came with a wireless keyboard for entering urls and general typing and data entry. The ability to connect a usb hard drive in the usb port many new tvs have would allow for saving bookmarks and pictures to a local hard drive. Also allowing the tv to get on your local network would make streaming everything on your local network storage a breeze.
(At least in Theory)

The list of things to be covered is long and winding, like the path to tech nirvana, The other big thing in computer is the All-in Ones. a monitor with the computer built into it. adding a wireless keyboard and mouse and you have a simple elegant way to ad a computer to places that you don't necessarily want to add a tower or extra wires that go with a traditional desktop unit. Putting that together with a tv tuner and hooking it up to the cable or sat box, give you both computer and tv in places you wouldn't have been able to ad both easily. While probably wouldn't want it as a main computer for mission critical work, Ie, date book, other work that is very important, However, as a second or third machine in the house connected to the local network, they would be fine.
The latest curve in the road is the recent transition from an analouge to digital transmission by all of the nations tv stations. I have been reading of various unexpected issues that have come up and will continue to come up as the summer wares on. I will delve into my ideas, in details, on the transition in a new entry.

Ken Lawson

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Note to Microsoft; Start Over....

Microsoft bashing, over the last few years has become sort of a national passtime. I have to admit, I've done my share of bashing, and probably will continue to do so as long as they keep putting out products like Vista. Even XP is not exactly a shinning example of what an operating system should be.

I could go into the details about the virtues and demons in each OS, however that would accomplish little but build up my word count for this article and add very little real value to it...
So instead of griping about XP and particuly VISTA, how about a way to fix the problem?

It's simple : Start Over. Incremental updates and service packs do little to fix underlying problems. All they do, or at least is band-aid them. Service pack and the like may fix some problems and security holes, and defiantly make the end user feel like they've done some good for their beloved OS, but in reality, they may have done little more then fix emeracy hole that was found after many machines had been messed up, One way or another.
They do nothing to fix the underlying problem that caused the problem or hole in the first place. I'm not saying, not to do service pacts the update, DO THEM !! But understand they're not really fixing the os. Thats because the os was broke before you ever got it. But then we knew that.

What is needed is to start over completely, writing a whole new kernel, and driver support and new hardware support. What this will mean is limited or no support for old devices. Anything that is over a year or two years old won't work, because the driver set won't see the older hardware. Apple did this when they introduced os X. of course there were issues and problems, but in the long was worth it as venders were able to write new drivers for hardware, and port he programs to the new os.
Apple also covered the gap in the old os 9 and the new osX buy selling their machines with both operating systems installed on them. They booted to x, however you go into 9 if you needed to run programs that didn't work in X. Then as support for OSX came along they phased out the os9. I don't think they come with 9 on them now, but its been several years since they started. The point is that they didn't just jump ship from os 9 to osX with support and allowing folks to go back to os 9 if they needed to.

The amount of space the operating system takes up on a hard drive has become huge , every operating system seems to take up more of the primary hard drive then the one before it. XP needs 32-3 gigs of space to live and work, and Vista needs upwards of 15-20 gigs of space to be happy. Granted the new hard drives are large, that doesn't mean that the operating system should grow in relation to the size of the hard drives its living on. Compare that to a typical install of Linux, usually down loadable on to a CD, thats right a 700mg cd will hold a entire Linux os. Granted there are differences in the two operating systems. I have played with Linux on several occasions, and been very impressed with the it and and finish of the desktop and the whole thing in general. This just shows how bloated windows is. There are many areas where they could the code down and retain functionally, one that comes to mind is the install process, Currently There are a number of build in routines the programs can use to install themselves on to the operating system. Lets make it simple, build one set of installing routines that all programs need to work with to install themselves, Make the code available to anyone who needs it and streamline the who process. It would also cut down on errors and make coding easier fro programing. The number of lines of code each operating system has has jumped along with the space that it takes, According to my research, Vista has over 50 million lines of code, and Xp had around 35million lines of code when it was released. It probably has gone up since then, when you ad service packs and updates it continues to go, As will Vista, when service packs and update are factored in. So is it any wonder why Xp is considered to be more stable and generally better then Vista, There's less code under it to start with. Most Xp machines run with 40-60 process or services running in the background. Vista can have upwards to 100 process running in the background,depending on whats been installed on the machine from the manufactures and whats set to start on start up.

One has to question, do we really need all of the bells and whistles that Vista offers, What is really need is a good stable secure operating system, That has all of the needed programs to do mission critical work Word processing, and the like should be built in, along with programs to handle pictures, both in seeing them, and managing them, of course it shouldn't take 10 click through Menus to ad a picture to a word document, Any program should automatically see any media that stored on the computer, and able to use it without going through import menus just drag and drop, or copy and paste, and resize as need. The same with audio files,and video files, Making a cd or a dvd should be easy.
All audio and video codecs should be supported Nativity and without requiring a special download from a download site.

There is no need for more then 2 versions of any operating system, A basic home user version and and a beefed up media center version, which mainly has a fancier interface and uses a remote, that included in the package, along with proper video card and other hardware for use as a media center. Everyone else just needs basic multimedia capabilities, with the options to add others if needed. Six and Seven versions not only confuse the consumer, but also make it very hard for troubleshooting over the phone and a nightmare for tech support, trying to figure out which one the person on the other end has, many barely know they windows or if it XP or Vista, much less which version they have on their machines. The possibilities of 7 versions of Windows 7 is not a pleasant one, and I probably won't touch it for a long time after been released.

Security is as more important now then ever before. The windows firewall should be turned on by default and it should be hard to turn it off. Anti-virus and ad ware software should be included and dovetailed to work with the firewall.

The rest of my start over plan includes following in Apple's footsteps and releasing the new operating system with either a basic version of Vista, or better yet, XP either installed on a separate partition or on a install disc to be installed, it would probably be better to install the older os on a separate partition. This would allow users who had driver issues with older hardware to switch over the the older os to use them, the same thing for software. As we all know Vista was famous for not liking older software. The new OS should fit on a dvd, and NOT fill it. It would probably be too big for a cd, but theres no reason why it should fill a whole 4.gig dvd. The the footprint should be not as huge as the current systems are.

This leads to another area that should be addressed, while not technically the operating system, RAM, or memory as is often called. RAM is the workspace of a operating system. The bigger the workspace the better. Microsoft knows very well that XP likes at a minimum of one gig of ram, it would in most cases be happier with two gigs of ram. How about requiring that manufactures put in the proper amount of ram in the machines when their sold. especially considering the most will share the ram with the on board video and thus rob the cpu of ram. Vista wants at least 2 gigs of ram, so install it on machines with it on it, and provide easy access to upgrade it if needed.

Other ideas include educating consumers about how to uses their new system. Including a dvd with every new machine showing how to do basic things like saving and retrieving documents and photos and music, ect. Also educating consumers about safe computing, ie anti-virus and anti spy ware and other necessary programs, also detailing how to back up data to a second hard drive and make back up copies of their data on dvd for safe archiving. This should not be a form of advertising for MS but real education and information they need to know with no bias to MS or any operating system.

A whole new approach to selling computers is in order, particularly, to the non-geek, or casual user who doesn't understand the theories behind working with computers and saving their photos and and data and lower the risk of losing them to a hard drive failure or other disaster .

If I was putting together a system for retail sales I would defiantly include the fast CPU, 2-4 gigs of ram, good video card,with ports to get video out to allow it hook up to a tv or other type of monitor, and a good sound card with outputs for optical or fiber outputs to a external amp or stereo, he biggest change would be the hard drive, there would be two. Yes two hard drives, The primary drive installed in the machine, the c drive would be relatively small, 80gigs or so. Windows Xp and any extra programs would neatly fit and run off it and the 2nd hard drive would be a external included in the package,the size would probably be from 500gigs up depending on the price point. When the machine is first set up and ran here would be a on-screen demo on how to hook up the hard drive, plug the power in and plug the usb into the plug in in the back of the box, and more importantly it would show how to create folder and shore data to the folder on the external hard drive, Documentation showing how to use the dvd-r to back up data and how to get programs to automatically save data to the external would help keep consumers safe from themselves. We all know the windows will need to be reinstalled again at some point, or the hard drive will fail,its just a matter of time. Having your life on one big 500gig hard drive and Windows decides to take a dive due to virus spy ware ect or just plain bit rot, and you have to a a complete format and install, and all your pictures, Mp3's ect are on the same hard drive you need to wipe and no way to save them is not a good thing. So it seems to me a responsible computer vendor, whose been in the business long enough to know theses facts of life, would wise to put together such systems and take the time to explain why they're selling their machine in this configuration and offer service after the sale, helping customers learn how to do the file creation and saving, even better have a demo system set up and teach them right there on the floor, hands on, actually make them sit down and create folders and move data around between hard drives ect so when they get home with their new system, they know what they're doing. As part of the in-store training I show show them how to use whatever audio and video ports were on the machine, so they know he possible ways to use and hook up their new box. I realize that most of the folks reading my blog probably already know most or all of what I've talked about. Let me ask you this, who taught you? Did someone sit down and take the time to explain the in and outs or creating and moving folders and telling programs where to install, or did you like me figure it out mostly on your own through trail and error? This sale approach is geared for the non-geek, who just wants it to work, How about they make it work and not curse that day they bought it when it dies terminally and all their family pictures are a a dead hard drive? A hard drive can be replaced, priceless family pictures can't.

In the end, the new Windows 7 will be what Microsoft wants it to be, not what we necessarily want it to be. Hopefully Redmond has been listening over the last few years.
I'm not going to hold my breath ..