Category Archives: television

Tech media nonsense

I, like many others, watched the Apple event today (October 22, 2013) and was mildly unimpressed with the announcements.  But more interesting to me are some of the articles I see being written after the fact coming from the tech media.  Recently, it has become common place to say the computer is dying and tablets are killing them.  I don’t really understand this statement, as I see them being the same thing.

Computers are devices that we use to create, manipulate, and consume information.  The form factor is what is changing, not the fact that its a computer.  If the general public likes typing on touchscreens and more simplified software, this does not change the fact at all that the underlying components still comprise what is a computer at the core.

I recently started using a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 combined withe multimedia dock.  This dock provides usb ports for storage, mice and keyboards to be used with the small computer.  Additionally, the HDMI out port on the dock allows me to use my television or monitor as a large display.  In this configuration my large phone is now nothing more than a very small desktop computer, is it not?  It runs Android which is nothing more than a flavor of the Linux operating system but provides (in its phone format) touchscreen inputs as well as easy access to some sensors which also can be used with any other computer.  There are some limitations in that much of the software does not scale well and is designed to be used by fat-finger button presses as opposed to pinpoint accuracy of a mouse and that some of the shortcuts I am used to do not work properly on Android.  But, ultimately, you would have to provide me some seriously compelling data to convince me that this is anything but a small computer.

So when I read articles like this in the NY Times, I really question what the author is trying to convince me of.  So what if large computer boxes are not selling as much as small ones?  Most people don’t need a Xeon powered workstation to post what they are doing on Facebook.  So, they choose to use a smaller computer – whether or not this computer is in the shape of a smartphone or tablet means nothing – they are still computers and the idea that one factor is devouring the other really doesnt mean anything – does it? If the end goal is to post a picture of your glass of beer why does it matter what type of computer you use to do it?

AT&T to allow Sling Player over 3G

I read this on Edgadget this morning. This is a nice turn of events. First Skype is allowed to provide us with VOIP and now we can use our Sling Boxes. There is only one thing left for AT&T to do. Make the network actually work in NYC. I cant even make a phone call in my apartment. Very disappointing, but Aki’s work cell (from Verizon) doesn’t work either. I guess we are either in need of a new type of technology or maybe AT&T will get smart and release the femtocell in the New York Market….

Verizon FIOS in Brooklyn

I was out walking around in Park Slope the other day and I noticed a huge group of people loitering on the sidewalk handing out flyers.  Generally, I try to avoid these things as I get annoyed very quickly with people wasting my time.  These people were dressed as the Verizon network people, wearing white coveralls and hard hats.  I went over towards them, and they promptly handed me a flyer explaining the benefits of FIOS over Cable.

I agree with these things.  I would get FIOS right now — IF IT WAS AVAILABLE!!!  Verizon has been advertising for over a year now that FIOS is available in New York City.  From what I can tell, its available in a very very limited amount of areas.

So, why is this group of 100-150 people being paid to advertise a service in a neighborhood that it doesn’t exist?  Wouldn’t it make much more sense to pay the technicians to install the hardware to make FIOS work in Park Slope?

This was a bit annoying to me, and really makes me question the logic of marketing.  I do call once a month and ask when I can get FIOS, and generally I am told the same, “Soon, we are working on it” canned statement.

Annoyances aside, I still will get FIOS the day it is available — but for a different reason than you might think.  Of course I am interested in the fast internet speeds, but it is the TV service that I am more interested in.  For one, I am anxiously awaiting the ability to watch NFL network again.  When I lived in Canada this channel was included in basic cable, and it was watched by my girlfriend and my self MOST of the time in football season.  I caught her watching it all by herself a few times actually — even when I was not home.  Secondly, because the Scientific Atlanta 8300HDC is such a piece of junk (crashes at minimum one per week) I looked into what box Verizon uses.  It seems that it uses the Motorola box, which has proven much more stable in my experiences.

Regardless, I will not be holding my breath for the service to be available any time soon.

EA Sports to Return to PC

I read this article on shacknews this morning.  If you don’t want to read the article — it basically states that Electonic Arts (EA) is going to make sports games for Windows again in 2009 after taking a year off.

I am generally happy to hear this, but I hope they have really rethought their marketing strategy for the PC.  I really like playing games via the interenet on PC because there is so much more you can do than in a locked down environment like XBOX Live or PSN.  The other thing which is far superior on a Windows PC is the freedom to choose your controller.  I can use the great xbox 360 wired or wireless controllers perfectly on XP or Vista OR I can choose to play with a keyboard and mouse.  This is really where it is at for me and its why I spend more money on my PC.

I have to wonder what EA is thinking at this point.  Cancel the series…Bring it back….  I don’t get it.

In the past EA has half-assed their Windows versions of Madden.  They have left out control schemes, they have NEVER implemented force feedback, even though they natively support the XBOX 360 controllers, and they have used copy protection schemes that have rendered some of the games I have paid for unplayable in the past.  I think these reasons are enough to indicate why people may shy away from buying the PC version of Madden.

I hope they do a good job with the game and I hope people buy it, but I dont think people will and here is why.  We dont need to buy a whole new game every year.  It is just too expensive and after a new version every year since 1992, there isnt that much more to add.

I do have some suggestions for EA regarding Madden:

  1. Make a new engine every 5 years for the game instead of every year.  Use the model of First Person Shooters.  Build a really good engine that is tweakable year to year to take advantage of lessons learned.  This will lower some costs.
  2. Since you are now not reprogramming the game from scratch every year, dont sell a game every year.  Instead, make money from microtransactions.  ROSTER UPDATES are clearly something people will pay for.  I think EA could STILL sell up-to-date rosters for Madden 92 and some people would buy them.  I have never understood why this isnt supported and I really question the marketing people at EA for it.  You can sell other things too via live, psn, or even steam — skins for stadiums,  weather packs (fog, snow, hurrricanes, etc), new uniforms and many, many others.
  3. Here is another idea I have been toying with for Madden in particular.  I think it might make sense to not even sell the game (still DO sell microtransactions, of course), but rather give it away for free and support it via advertising.  The game is already riddled with adds.  Why not add internet conenctivity to these adds and deliver personalized or local adds during game play.  For example, say you are playing online and your opponent calls a time-out.  A commerical for Taco Bell could run full screen while players choose their play again.  At first people might find it invasive, but if the game was free, I dont think they would care, I for one would gladly trade some of my attention for a free game.

These are just a few of my ideas.  I certainly hope that EA reads this and thinks my ideas are good.  If not, well, I hope someone else does and uses the ideas first.  Compeition usually helps out the consumer.  If you are reading this, and you represent a game company or marketing company, please feel free to contact me.  I have alot more ideas as to how to make money using networking and video games.  I might jsut do some free lance work for you.

Nvidia VFW driver for Vista?

Does anyone know if there is a working VFW driver for an Nvidia 7800GT with VIVO?  I have 2 of these cards and would like to use one of them as a video in on my HTCP as the video capture is pretty good on it.  I have been unable to find any indication that Nvidia supports VFW at this point.  I am hoping that someone has a hacked driver or something.  I have other video capture solutions that do work, but I would like to use one of these as well.  Please leave a message if you can help 🙂

Comcast “admits” to blocking vonage

I have been trying to figure this one out for almost 1 year now.

I have a slingbox connected to my Dad’s Satellite.  I can watch his DirecTV stream anywhere I am and since he has 2 tuners connected to it, I dont change the channel he is watching either.  It is a pretty nice setup and it ran great for 2 years without a single glitch until my Dad decided to fire Verizon as his phone company and opt to try VOIP from Vonage.

Initially everything seemed to be working great.  Vonage phone calls worked nicely.  Sling was working as usual and all other internet services seemed to be unaffected by the new Vonage box plugged into the router.

Then one night, I was watching a hockey game when I wanted to call my Dad.  I noticed a very big change in the quality of the phone call while streaming via Sling.  I decided to change some settings in the router to compensate for this.  I am using a Linksys WRT54GL router with Tomato firmware installed on it.  I set up the QOS to give the higest precidence to Vonage and to limit the bandwidth of the Slingbox to 300kbps as I have my Sling Player set to stream at 300kbps on myside.

This change had some benefit, but did not alleviate the problem like it should have.  Next, my Dad decided to opt in for Comcast’s Performance PLUS with PowerBoost package.  This package came at quite a premium over the regular cable internet service, but was guaranteed to have 2mbps upstream.  This would be plenty for the 300kbps Slingbox and 90kbps for Vonage to function together seamlessly.  Or so I thought.

After checking the upload speeds with serveral websites as well as running a straight FTP transfer of a 100 megabyte file to my server at work, I decided that my Dad was indeed getting between 2 and 4 mbps uploads.  Really pretty good.

So we tried the Vonage with Sling at the same time test again .  Same results — choppy phone conversation but Sling worked well.  This was really odd as I gave Sling the lowest QOS priority in the router.  At this point I tried 2 other routers with exactly the same results.

I then decided to try the test in reverse.  I would run my sling box while my Dad watched it during a phone conversation.  I do not have a phone, but rater use the Skype In and Out services for my phone, but he remained using Vonage.

This test revealed an interesting finding.  There was no sound issues at all and he could watch my sling box perfectly.  I set my WRT54GL router up the same as his and tried 2 other routers as well for thoroughness.  The only way to get the choppy phone conversation was when he was streaming something up to the internet while talking on Vonage.  We checked the bandwidth during these tests and he was never even using more than 1mbps even though he clearly tested up to 2-4 mbps every time.  Also, at this point I should say that I use Time Warner Cable for my Internet.

I was stumped as to how to solve this problem.  My dad can upload files to my FTP server at close to 4mbps, but when he uses Vonage the total bandwidth he is uploading seems to be capped at under 700kbps.  During a file transfer the speed will not just be split between the 2 applications, but rather the overal maximum transfer speed drops to this 700kbps.  When we hang up the phone, it goes back up to 4mbps.  Although I could not find a solution to the problem, I did suspect there was a casue.

I assumed at this point that Comcast was doing some kind of throttling on the bandwidth during Vonage calls.  I believe that Comcast can easily tell that you are using VOIP with Vonage and could very easily change things to screw up your connection to make it seem like Vonage isnt working well.  I thought my test of the changing FTP speed proved this point, but I had no idea what to do.

Then today, I read this news at the Wall Street Journal.  This pretty much proved my theory.  If Comcast gives their guarantee NOW that they will work with Vonage to make sure the connection is clear., this pretty much indicates to me that something was up eariler even though Comcast Denies it.  They also denied (falsely) that they were throttling P2P traffic ealier this year.

I am positive that Comcast was doing something to make it seem like Vonage VOIP was an inferior product — this article further supports my theory.  I will test Sling and Vonage again over the next weeks and see if my results are different.