Media Shift

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:

Gadget Man – Why the World Needs InternetTV

gadget-manIn 2007 I became aware of a new show called The IT Crowd in the United Kingdom and a bunch of my geek buddies were highly recommending it. I found, ahem, alternative ways to obtain the show since it was not available in the United States at the time. My son and I started watching it and it became a much beloved show, and we had a really nice shared bonding experience over it (since he’s a geek too).  

Fortunately, today the show is available on Netflix in its entirety if you care to watch it. I wish Netflix streaming had been around then since I hated having to use those alternative ways to view the show back then but it was the only way to see it. 

We got quite a kick out of one of its main characters, Moss (played by Richard Ayoade). Looking for a video I’d mentioned to a client on YouTube, I stumbled across a show which I’d never seen before: Gadget Man, starring Ayoade. Turns out he’s just as funny and engaging as he was on The IT Crowd, and the British penchant for smart programming (vs. low-brow reality TV like so much of U.S. cable) makes this a very engaging show to view.  

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Howard Kurtz: A Turning Point in Media

You might have heard the brouhaha about CNN’s Howard Kurtz and his handling of the Jason Collins story, the supposed first major sports figure who came out publicly as gay. This is the seven minute segment where Kurtz sets up how he botched the story and gets grilled by two other journalists.

Why is this a turning point? Because in a day when any of us who blog, are on social media or are otherwise connected online we can comment and bring forth a shitstorm of opinion. By doing what Kurtz did this is the only way he could potentially save his career, maintain credibility at CNN itself, defuse the irony that he runs a show where he analyzes the American news media called “Reliable Sources,” and to do the right thing. Give it a watch:

The Minneapolis Star’s Demise

final-mpls-starMy dad died less than a month ago (here is our tribute site to dad) and my sisters and I have been going through the house and his belongings. Besides removing anything of value and cleaning the place out, we have a relative staying there who also has uncovered some cool stuff like this old newspaper in a crawl space which I saw and went through yesterday. Dated Friday, April 2, 1982, it was the last of the Minneapolis Star evening editions which was then merged in to the morning paper to make today’s Minneapolis StarTribune.

Paging through this yellowed rag brought back a lot of memories of the role this newspaper played in our lives and yet it was another reminder of how the old makes way for the new. People, and information delivery methods, all outlive our usefulness as direct economic contributors. The history of mass media shows how the first “high circulation” newspaper was the London Times in the early 1800s, so the major daily newspaper is but a blip in the timeline of humanity. 

Bill Borsch photo

Bill Borsch

Thankfully, as evidenced by how wonderful it was for my dad to be around for twenty five years after he retired at 62 years of age, dad’s influence and ‘usefulness’ to everyone around him continued on.

But back to newspapers. A lot has been written about the demise of ‘traditional’ media like TV, radio, magazines and newspapers. Most of us are aware that things are downtrending, some magazines have gone to digital only, and clearly newspapers are struggling. 

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Is Your WiFi Weak? Get MOCA Boxes Now!

MOCAWiFi signal strength in my house has always frustrated me, especially now that we have our AppleTV upstairs, another in the family room, my daughter streams Netflix through her Playstation downstairs, my son online games with his XBox upstairs and I am the guy who gets the brunt of everyone screaming, “Dad! The internet is really slow!

Since I was not about to go back to the Stone Age and wire my house with ethernet, I tried every solution I could think of: Two Apple Airport Express devices as network extenders (they stream music too) and a Belkin repeater in our home theatre area. I even tried three of these powerful WiFi routers at various times but my signal strength never did boost enough to make much of a difference. All of our WiFi connected devices worked, but doing anything on them was still slow in some areas of the house and our TV streaming quality was almost always crappy (especially if we were all online watching streaming TV and on our iPads, iPhones or computers).


MOCA boxes are inexpensive.
A 2-pack at Amazon is $115

Over dinner one night with our brides, I began whining to my brother-in-law about my wireless troubles (he owns Audio by Design in Minneapolis, a high-end installer). He chuckled and then said to me, “Why not install MOCA devices?” I had NO idea what he was talking about and, after he gleefully pointed out he finally had something about technology he could tell me, he told me all about why MOCA was so good, how it was so much better than ethernet over powerline, and that using WiFi repeaters like I had done in my house simply weren’t effective.

Turns out that there is so much available frequency capacity in the coax cable that runs throughout most homes that it’s trivial to piggyback on it with an ethernet protocol. The Multimedia over Coax Alliance (MOCA) was started to leverage that available coax and man-oh-man…it works really well! (Read more here at Wikipedia).

It took me less than 10 minutes to hook up one box between my cable modem and the wall and the second one downstairs between my daughter’s TV and the wall (an ethernet cable then went to her Playstation for Netflix streaming). The next night she came upstairs and exclaimed, “Wow! Streaming is perfect Dad!” We then bought two more and hooked up our home theatre and our upstairs AppleTV and now we experience zero stuttering, buffering, slow connections or anything else.

Take a peek at this MOCA video to learn more about what it can do (and there are a lot more MOCA videos here):

CES Coverage

verge-cesThe Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is in full swing and The Verge is doing a live show (archives are here). Though I have limited time to watch, it still is nice to have a bit of an overview as I wait for my conference call today.

What strikes me about coverage like this is how many new media groups (e.g., TWiT) are streaming, covering events, incorporating live chat, and are ensuring those of us not attending can get a good overview of what is happening. The challenge is trying to get “the headlines” without investing an hour in watching something live.

That’s why I typically go to The Verge. Their coverage is complete, attractive and opinionated. Their “CES Hub” is a one-stop-shop to see what is happening at CES as it presents all of their posts, videos and more. Very well done.

Technology is SO CHEAP!

Click for larger view…

Would you spend $13,000 for your Dell or Apple desktop computer this week? I didn’t think so. Well that is roughly how much this Radio Shack TRS-80 Model 16 would cost in 2012 dollars (using a relative measure of worth from here). This past week my sister purchased a new iMac with 8GB of memory, a 1TB hard drive and a huge color screen for $1,299! 

One of my favorite sites,, had this 1983 Radio Shack catalog of computers and accessories that you can view which is where I first saw this machine and its price. When I think that this green screen, 5.25″ floppy drive, half a megabyte of memory machines cost $5,000 back then it is just stunning how far we have come and how cheap and powerful today’s computers are (and don’t even start on the power of our smartphones and tablets).

You could also buy a 12 *megabyte* hard disk to accompany that computer for $3,495 and, as a point of comparison, you could buy a 128 *gigabyte* thumb drive from Corsair — a “superspeed” drive that’s one of the fastest on the market — for $150. I also remember paying over $4,000 — at an Apple Employee Discount cost — for a Macintosh IICi.

OK…if you are NOT amazed at how far technology has come in just a few short years then watch this hilarious bit by the comedian Louis CK on the Conan O’Brien show (skip ahead to 3:19 for the “everything’s amazing!” rant on technology).

UPDATE: The dorks at NBC Universal (now part of Comcast) for copyright reasons did a DMCA takedown on the video on Vimeo. The decent ones on YouTube have also been deleted. It’s sad that NBC doesn’t “get” that watching stuff like this is an incentive for people to watch Conan’s show. 

An Apple iOS Video Issue

I am always on the hunt for better, cheaper and easier ways to create and deliver content. The more steps that can get pulled out of any process, the more efficient it is and the more likely non-geeks will do it! 

The post you see below (below the line, that is) was created using the WordPress app on iPhone and the video was uploaded from the phone’s library.

What’s the issue? The movie format is a .mov (which is Quicktime) and therefore won’t be playable on a Windows computer (unless it has Quicktime installed), but it does play (albeit very slowly since it’s probably transcoding the video on the fly) on a Windows mobile phone. A .mov will also not play on an Android mobile device without loading a separate software player since .mov isn’t supported natively. Publishing this post/video with the WordPress app also embedded the video with the generic “video” tag which doesn’t allow WordPress plugins (e.g., JetPack) to auto-size the video so it is larger than the post content area (I resized it manually, by the way, so it fits now but that defeats the purpose!).

Sheesh. This could all be avoided if Apple made it simple to compress to .mp4 right within iOS 6. I’d love a setting which allowed me to make a choice to either use Apple’s native and uncompressed .mov, or instead opt to use the standard .mp4 file format which works on both Windows and Android as they support the MPEG standards out of the box.

What’s the workaround? Uploading first to YouTube or Vimeo and then simply pasting the URL into the post itself and JetPack will then automagically place the shortcode tags around the URL, resize it so it fits the content area perfectly, and thus streaming is optimized for all platforms and devices. Yes, it’s a workflow interruptor and a workaround but currently there isn’t a way around it as I can tell. Oh yeah…audio created by iOS is in the .m4a format (again, an MPEG standard) and is playable on every platform so Apple could do .mp4 if they wanted to do so.

Everything below the line is the actual post sent using the WordPress iOS app to create the post and upload the video from my iPhone:

This is a very short video taken in the chapel just outside Seattle before a wedding we attended a few weeks ago. I am posting this to see what it looks like once published on the blog.