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New Zealand in 4K

This video, shot in 4k of New Zealand vistas, is visually spectacular (even though my own display is not in 4k resolution). Watch it in full screen mode and enjoy the quality AND see why visiting New Zealand should be on your bucket list:

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Understand What ‘Resolution’ Means

As an amateur photographer, I often try to explain to people why my small Nikon D5000‘s 12.3 million pixels produces a better photo than their smartphone camera or even what could be produced by this new Lumia 930 with its 20 megapixel camera.

Besides the obvious: the lens is bigger, it is that and the sensor in the camera that determines the resolution of the image. I know figuring out resolution, and why it matters, is a challenge so I encourage you to watch this very well presented short video that explains it better than anything I’ve seen yet:

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The Bedtime Nooz

For anyone outside of the Twin Cities of Minneapolis & St. Paul Minnesota, the name of the anchor of WCCO-TVDave Moore, and the “Bedtime Nooz” has no meaning. Add to that people born after 1960 or so either missed it or were too young to stay up late on a Saturday night. My Mom would go to bed about 10pm, even on the weekends. My Dad would stay up so my older sister and I would stay awake and watch the Bedtime Nooz with Dave Moore. Our Dad would make a pizza about midnight which always seemed like some sort of shared secret treat.

WCCO-TV was the leader in the Twin Cities market and Dave Moore was a very serious, accomplished and trusted news anchor. This was in the day when the evening TV news — both national and local — were must-watch TV and just about everyone did. As such, someone like Dave Moore had quite a stature in the Twin Cities so having him perform such a loose, goofy and humorous rendition of TV news was amazing and a magnet for all ages.

Here is a fun look at the Bedtime Nooz. Worth a watch if you’re old enough and even if you never saw it: 

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TiVO and “Content Discovery”

For all the whining I’ve done about Comcast’s DVR, bundling of shows and more, I must admit being so delighted with my new TiVO — and especially with their iPad app — that it has materially changed the way we watch TV and how much we consume.

As I’ve said before, I’m embarrassed *for* Comcast that they have such crappy DVR technology. Though they continually promised that it would be replaced at some point, that never happened. I was either going to cut-the-cord and dump cable TV…or try something new. I thought I’d give it one last shot and bought a TiVO.

TiVO iPad app screen (click for a larger view)

TiVO iPad app screen

Wow. The interface is what I remember from my TiVO experience in the early 2000s but, of course, better. But I didn’t realize how amazing it would be until I tried the TiVO iPad app. Holy smokes! I can easily select a channel, scroll through two weeks worth of upcoming shows in seconds or choose one to record or get a “Season Pass.”

What I didn’t expect was content discovery. Because the interface is so well done, so easy to navigate through (and even use as a remote control to change channels or start recorded shows) I found about a dozen movies and shows to record the first night

It’s been like that ever since we got it a few weeks ago. Discovering good, quality programming that is mixed in with hours and hours and hours of crap (IMHO).

Makes me wonder: Why can’t Comcast deliver a DVR like this one? Or buy TiVO? Comcast has built out the infrastructure well but, when it comes to using it, all of their human interface and access technologies are a joke.

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Let’s (Not!) Play Comcast Monopoly

ARE YOU PAYING ATTENTION TV CONSUMERS? If you are, then you have GOT TO SEE the anti-competitive, monopolistic, anti-internet moves that Comcast is making. If you’re not, OPEN YOUR EYES AND START SCREAMING at your Congresspeople and Comcast themselves.

I didn’t fly off the handle and get really steamed today just because…it was this tweet from the guy that invented the World Wide Web, Tim Berners Lee, and it was a link to this page at Marketwatch. Seems that Level 3 Communications, one of the biggest backbone providers on earth, today released a statement about a MAJOR move by Comcast to put a big ‘ole “Collect $200″ every time an internet TV company passes “Go!”:

On November 19, 2010, Comcast informed Level 3 that, for the first time, it will demand a recurring fee from Level 3 to transmit Internet online movies and other content to Comcast’s customers who request such content. By taking this action, Comcast is effectively putting up a toll booth at the borders of its broadband Internet access network, enabling it to unilaterally decide how much to charge for content which competes with its own cable TV and Xfinity delivered content. This action by Comcast threatens the open Internet and is a clear abuse of the dominant control that Comcast exerts in broadband access markets as the nation’s largest cable provider.

Are you serious Comcast? I truly hope that all the big kids with really deep pockets line up against you with their Howitzers. Maybe you’re itchin’ for a fight and methinks you’re gonna get one. Since you’ve got such little value-add or customer loyalty (I’d switch in a nanosecond if Qwest would get their sh*t together and drop fiber to my house which is only 1,000 feet away now) that I’d bet most people could care less if you tanked.

I’ve been writing about Comcast’s monopoly moves for a loooong time here and another site I run called Minnov8. See thisthis, this, this, this and this for more if you’re interested (and yes, there are even more posts).

Somehow this company thinks that THEY OWN the internet connection in to your (and my) house. That they get to control what comes over that pipe and that they should be able to charge Hulu, Apple, Google, Boxee, Revision3 or anyone who wants to deliver video content that somehow competes with what they offer.

I don’t care how much Comcast whines about the volume of streaming video bits that people are supposedly downloading. EVERYTHING COMCAST IS DOING IS ALL ABOUT PROTECTING THEIR MORE THAN $2B IN REVENUES FROM CABLE TV and not what they claim all the time: “Oh…it’s all about network management.” Again I call “bullshit” since Comcast is building out HUGE STORAGE CENTERS in Colorado, Minneapolis/St. Paul and Philadelphia so they clearly don’t want any of these other providers to get a foothold before they bring these centers fully online.

If anyone (especially someone representing Comcast in any way) tells you that this isn’t all about Comcast-protecting-Comcast they’re full of sh*t. Also, please oh please don’t comment with one of those, “But it’s good for the consumer” lines of crap. It’s not. It’s all about competition and let’s see if our paid-for new Congresspeople let the free market rein or if they protect their pals at Comcast.

You know what Comcast? I’ll bring over whatever bits I want to and I’ll pay you for your dumb pipe. That said, I really don’t want your crappy cable TV, your weak xFinity service or your on-demand that takes minutes to come up while your worthless and noisy previews run in the background. Your Scientific Atlanta DVR boxes are a joke and are worse than TiVO was 10 YEARS AGO; your on-demand pales in comparison to Netflix, AppleTV, GoogleTV, Boxee, PlexApp, Hulu…shall I go on?; and I’m sick of paying for TV that I don’t watch but have no choice in taking so you can promise households to ESPN and others.

Wow…I had no idea I was so pissed off at Comcast but there it is. What are YOU going to do or say or are you just going to lie there eating chips figuring someone else will figure it out?

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Sherlock Redux

PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! has a brand new adaptation of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries but brought forward in to the 21st century. What would a die-hard Holmes fan think about a Wifi, mobile phone, GPS and DNA using Sherlock?

Since I was 10 years old, I’ve been fascinated by the Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Watching the original Basil Rathbone movie adaptations as a kid were interesting, but Dr. Watson was portrayed as a buffoon which always bothered me. Then my sister/brother-in-law turned on our family to the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes and, for classic fans, Brett is arguably the absolute best embodiment of the character yet. The Granada TV adaptation also was so rich in visuals—and made the viewer feel late 1800’s/early 1900’s London—that I’ve hoped for a BluRay version of this series.

My son playing Holmes in the Sherlock Holmes Museum

Our family loved Holmes mysteries so much we went out of our way during a trip to London to stop at the The Sherlock Holmes pub and head over to the Sherlock Holmes Museum at the (used with permission of the City of Westminster in London) faux address of 221b Baker Street, Holmes fictional home/office location.

Being such classic fans, when PBS launched this new series my wife, daughter, son and I were highly skeptical of any sort of re-do, especially one set in the 21st century. To say we are incredibly delighted with the series is an understatement. Within 10 minutes of watching the first episode we were hooked and thinking this ‘new’ Holmes and Watson are nearly perfect.

Having Holmes leverage all of today’s new technology and techniques could’ve been intrusive and a crutch, but its use surprised us that it didn’t take away from the core mystery. In some ways new tech and techniques take a back seat to the drive Sherlock has in solving the mystery and doesn’t seem to be invasive.

In another way, having Holmes and Watson be in the 21st century solving mysteries does something odd to a longtime Holmes lover: it takes away one troubling feeling that a consulting detective, living in a time when fingerprinting, DNA and other forensic techniques hadn’t yet been invented, was at a distinct disadvantage. This adaptation makes it contemporary and the focus now is on the purity of the characters and the mystery itself.

Haven’t been this enthused about a Masterpiece Mystery! program ever. There are only three episodes in Series I and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that there will be many, many more.

Check it out and, if you miss it, you can watch last week’s episode online or with the iPad PBS application.

NOTE: Ironically, the world’s best collection of Sherlock Holmes items resides here in my home State of Minnesota (see more here):

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Comcast’s Xfinity Fail

When Comcast announced their nationwide Xfinity initiative, I greeted it with skepticism and that has only grown over time. Their “Fancast” website, now dubbed xfinity tv, has surprisingly crappy quality and I’m on a 16mbps down/2mbps up internet connection through Comcast. It’s so bad that I would opt for my AppleTV, Mac mini running Boxee, or the Roku box downstairs in a nanosecond before I’d watch this poor excuse for HD.

As an old mentor of mine always said, “Whenever there is great flux, there is great opportunity” and mine is to explore cutting the cable like so many other people are doing. This Wall Street Journal article positions cable cutting as consumers cutting costs in an economic downturn, but I believe it’s because cable isn’t delivering, they’re jamming too many costs down our throat for programming we don’t watch anyway, and there are so many preferable on-demand alternatives that people are cutting cable regardless of whether they have budget woes or not.

In my view, it’s crappy service and experience making most of us want to cut the cable. In my neighborhood we probably have more HDTVs per capita than anywhere in the Twin Cities. Lots of 30-n-40 somethings, bunches of technoweenies, and a demographic right in the sweet spot of a vendor like Comcast, but their nationwide Xfinity rollout is causing us nothing but problems:

  • Digital channels that break up, becoming pixelated with audio dropouts making shows unwatchable (see “Comcast’s Oscar Fail“)
  • A digital video recorder with the worst user interface I’ve ever used, making the first TiVo 10 years ago feel cutting edge like today’s iPad
  • An OnDemand system that is painful to use due to the lag time and constantly running (and loud) “commercial” for movies that plays while you browse with no ability to turn it off
  • The changeover from analog to all digital occurring now (so Comcast can pack many more new Xfinity services over their cable) that takes away HD viewing on TVs without a digital box connected to them AND a whole house distribution system that simply “isn’t available in your neighborhood” forcing us all to hang a bunch of crappy little analog-to-digital boxes on every TV in the house.

The biggest problems? There are two…. [Read more...]

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TV Disruption and the Politics Wildcard

I love the idea of a free market, one “...in which there is no economic intervention and regulation by the state, except to enforce private contracts and the ownership of property.” Unfortunately only the childlike, uneducated or the naive (um, like the Simpsons) would believe that the current and coming war for the digital living room is one which won’t see enormous political machinations. Especially since corporations are now people and can spend whatever they please to get whomever they want elected and thus get the votes for legislation in their best interests.

Unfortunately those best interests are rarely in line with startups, entrepreneurs or innovators threatening incumbents.

A friend of mine just sent me a link to the VC Fred Wilson’s article, “TV and the Digital Living Room,” and I was going to respond by email but realized that this was a post that had to be written. Fred pointed to an article by Mark Suster wherein Suster discusses “The Future of Television and the Digital Living Room.” In it Suster starts off with this and then details his Top Ten list of issues that form his perspective:

Nobody can predict 100% what the future of television will be so I won’t pretend that I know the answers. But I do know that it will form a huge basis of the future of the Internet, how we consume media, how we communicate with friends, how we play games and how we shop. Video will be inextricably linked to the future of the Internet and consumption between PCs, mobile devices and TVs will merge. Note that I didn’t say there will be total “convergence” — but I believe the services will inter-operate.

The digital living room battle will take place over the next 5-10 years, not just the next 1-2. But with the introduction of Apple TV, Google TV, the Boxee Box & other initiatives it’s clear that this battle will heat up in 2011. The following is not meant to be a deep dive but rather a framework for understanding the issues. This is where the digital media puck is going.

Suster and Wilson both miss one, huge wildcard that might just be the biggest obstacle or the saving grace of TV as it is and as it could be. [Read more...]

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Watching Tweevee: Old & New Media Use At The Same Time

If you’re engaged with multiple forms of media–both ‘old’ or traditional media like TV, newspapers and magazines or ‘new’ media like social networks, blogs and real time communications like Twitter–then you are probably one of a growing number of us who use both old and new simultaneously.

When I wrote the post, “MSNBC’s awesome Super Tuesday primary coverage” and started off the post with “This, my friends, is the future of television” I believed it then and believe it even more now. It’s just that the connections to traditional TV weren’t exactly what I expected when using the multimedia platform delivered by the gang over at MSNBC, and that emerging technologies would make TV watching a shared experience similar to the “old days” when many of us would hang around the water cooler at work the morning after some TV event or show and commiserate about it.

The crew over at the Nielsen Company just released a new report that is revealing more about how people are watching “Tweevee” (my made up name for a combination of Twitter use and TV watching):

Americans increased their overall media usage and media multitasking according to The Nielsen Company’s latest Three Screen Report (PDF), which tracks consumption across TV, Internet and mobile phones.  In the last quarter of 2009, simultaneous use of the Internet while watching TV reached three and a half hours a month, up 35% from the previous quarter. Nearly 60% of TV viewers now use the Internet once a month while also watching TV.

The rise in simultaneous use of the web and TV gives the viewer a unique on-screen and off-screen relationship with TV programming,” said Nielsen Company media product leader Matt O’Grady. “The initial fear was that Internet and mobile video and entertainment would slowly cannibalize traditional TV viewing, but the steady trend of increased TV viewership alongside expanded simultaneous usage argues something quite different.

It went on to talk about DVR use (surprise…more of us are timeshifting our video use!) and then in to online video consumption:

Online video consumption is up 16% from last year. Of note, approximately 44% of all online video is being viewed in the workplace.  The research shows that Americans watch network programs online when they miss an episode or when a TV is not available.  Online video is used essentially like DVR and not typically a replacement for watching TV.

Active mobile video users grew by 57% from the fourth quarter of 2008 to the fourth quarter of 2009, from 11.2 million to 17.6 million.  Much of this increase can be linked to the strong growth of smartphones in the marketplace.

Here’s the deal: No question in my mind that connecting socially makes it more fun to watch a live event (e.g., Academy Awards, Grammys, Super Bowl) and see what our friends are saying about it, almost like they’re in the room with us. But what’s more intriguing to me is that more of us are consuming information, connecting socially and engaging online while doing something else.

Is TV too boring? Is it the ability to share with our friends and acquaintances? Are we more capable of multitasking then we thought? Maybe all or some of those, but we’re also discovering that for every hour of TV watching we do, the increase odds we’ll die go up 11%.

One this is certain though, the way we connect with others and consume media has already changed forever.

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White House Screening of “The Pacific”

My respect for Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks has never been higher and I’m looking forward to seeing their new project, The Pacific. It’s on HBO which I currently don’t subscribe to, but will just for this miniseries.

I follow the White House blog and came across this post. It seemed interesting enough to blog about since it gives Spielberg & Hanks’ motivation behind the making of this miniseries and is kind of a fun peek behind the scenes.