30 Days

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

I enjoy Morgan Spurlock’s work; both Super Size Me and 30 Days provide a fresh, provocative look at modern issues. It got me thinking: how would each of us cope if we had to live a lifestyle opposite to our own for 30 days?

Nice computer!The first step in this thought experiment is figuring out what that personally meaningful opposite is, be it a belief, lifestyle, or position on a certain issue. For me, I think something that shapes my life significantly is the regular use of computers. It’s how I earn a living, communicate with friends and family, and even meet women. How would I fare if unplugged for a month?

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Spam is a Universal Langauge

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

The amount of spam I get on the blog has been going down, and most continues to be caught by Akismet. A German trackback spam slipped through today, though, and even through it was in German, I could tell it was spam. The use of short, phrases in bold and something about a free film transcended any language barriers.

This could actually make for some hilarious sci-fi parodies; imagine if they had to negotiate all every tense intergalactic situation metaphorically using home mortgages and natural male enhancement?

The Hidden Pilot

Friday, May 4th, 2007

Grey’s Anatomy’s two-hour “special episode” last night actually turned out to be a hidden pilot for a new spinoff. I had heard Kate Walsh (Dr. Addison Montgomery, the redhead) was getting her own show, but this was a surprise tactic to grab some existing TV producers are being forced to get clever at marketing and drawing enough of an audience to keep a show alive.

As for the spinoff, it’s Grey’s Anatomy in a hipper, sunnier setting (LA instead of Seattle). Other than that, it’s about the same: a bunch of horny doctors who inject a bit of extra drama by sleeping with as many colleagues, friends, and other people’s spouses as possible within the limits of the mathematically unique character pairings. Indexed has diagrammed it some point, I’m sure. Add to that one introspective, slightly self-occupied female lead, and you’ve got yourself a show :)

It does have a number of big names in the cast, though, so maybe it’ll last more than the token few episodes and “complete series on one disc” DVD release.

Is 24 running out of time?

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

The LA Times asks Is 24 running out of time? My answer: yes. You can only recycle plot lines so many times in six seasons before the audience gets bored. In fact, the main reasons I’m still watching are for the cliches and Dave Barry jokes.

Where the show really missed it’s big opportunity was the season 4-5 transition. Without spoiling anything, Jack was more isolated than ever and they really could’ve taken it in a different direction. Instead, things quickly returned to normal after a strong start the next season.

It’s tough to keep any show going past the first few seasons, when fresh ideas start to run out and it’s easier just to keep cranking out the same plots to keep the money coming in. Perhaps 24 has hit that point and it’s time for Jack and the gang to take a much-needed early retirement before someone blows up the office for the 16th time…

Apple TV vs. TiVo Series3 HD

Monday, March 26th, 2007

Gizmodo handily sums up the state of legally downloadable TV and movies, including Amazon’s Unbox, and shows how to do an honest review in Apples and Oranges Hands-On: Apple TV vs. TiVo Series3 HD with this quote:

It’s now possible to download TV shows and movies with TiVo, using Amazon’s Unbox service. Both Unbox and the iTunes Store don’t have enough movie and TV show content for our taste, and both can’t deliver HDTV movies or TV shows. So in our mind, for now, they both suck.

Battlestar Galactica Season 3 Finale

Monday, March 26th, 2007

In a word: wow. I’ve written before about what a great show Battlestar Galactica is, and they proved it again with this finale. Without spoiling anything, they wrapped up this season’s latest story of Baltar’s trail with a good bit of drama, and then kept piling on the tension by picking up the main story arc of the unknown enemies among us and the search for Earth. The twists, along with some good musical choices, made for a mind-bender of an episode, aptly prompting the Digg thread “What the FRAK just happened!” (warning: obsessive discussion and spoilers). It’s gonna be a long wait until 2008 for the series to pick up again…

Wattage

Sunday, March 25th, 2007

I finally plugged my HDTV into a Kill A Watt power meter, and was pleased to find it only draws around 160 watts when on to around 260 watts watching TV in power-saving mode. That’s much better than the 400+ watts I expected from previous research into TV Power Consumption.

Buying a LCD instead of plasma would’ve been a greener choice, but since it isn’t on that much, it was a fair trade to make for better colors. Of course, it would be nice if TV manufacturers enabled power-saving mode by default instead of making you hunt for it.

To put those naked numbers in perspective, 160 watts is about what I managed to put out on the elliptical trainer this morning.

Comcast Redeems Themselves

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

Comcast actually redeemed themselves from yesterday’s fiasco today by sending out a technician who was smart enough to immediately grasp the problem. The problem, as suspected, was the free HBO and Starz promo wiping out one of my CableCards and multiple customer service people not grasping that they could simply correct the settings over the phone.

Instead, we hung out while she waited on the phone for someone to fix it. They had written up the work order as “customer needs help installing digital box”, so she said she was expecting a little old lady instead of a young guy with a mountain of electronics. We also talked about the Tivo-Comcast deal; Comcast’s own people seem just as excited as the customers to get some decent DVR software.

The new channels are nice; I think the last time I had premium cable was in the 80’s, when HBO was only one channel. Now it’s almost 10, with several in high definition. The Tivo’s going to be busy :)

It’s Only Free if Your Time is Worth Nothing

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

People used to joke that Linux was only free if your time spent setting it up was worth nothing. Newer distributions like Ubuntu seem to have defanged such arguments, which are now more applicable to free offers from your cable company.

Comcast offered me free HBO and Starz for six months, and a few weeks later sent me a digital cable box and instructions to call and set it up. Now I had my doubts about this from the start, since I have a Tivo Series 3 that uses two CableCards instead of a cable box. Both have addresses and can recieve premium channels, though, so I figured I had a shot.

After half an hour on hold on the activation line, I explained this to a woman who only knew how to activate that particular model of box. She directed me to Comcast’s main line, where another 15 minutes on hold got me to someone else who soon grasped they didn’t know how to handle it and transferred me to my local office. Ironically, before outsourcing and call center consolidation, I would’ve started there in the first place.

Even for the local office, it quickly escalated to having to send someone out. It’s impressive that they can offer appointments within a day or two, but it still throws a monkey wrench it my schedule for something that it should be possible to do remotely. Also unimpressive was the fact that they weren’t even willing to try fixing my existing CableCards over the phone, one of which is only getting about 1/4 of the channels it should.

Comcast isn’t winning any points here; their free offer will end up wasting at least three hours of my time, and the other options aren’t much better. Their own DVR pales in comparison to Tivo, and their only competitor, satellite TV, doesn’t work with the Tivo Series 3. Good thing for them they have a monopoly.

Evil DRM in Your Tivo

Tuesday, January 30th, 2007

I saw something scary on the second-level info screen of my Tivo tonight:

Due to the policy set by the copyright holder, this recording:


Cannot be transferred to VCR, DVD, or any other media device. For more information, visit www.tivo.com/copyprotection.

One of the horsemen of the apocalyse predicted to ride in with digital and HDTV was the ability of enforce Digital Rights Management (DRM) all the way down the wire into your living room. In actuality, it’s not the Tivo enforcing this, but the CableCard from your friendly local cable monopoly.

The principle of it bothers me more than the practical implications. With 300 hours of storage, I’m not terribly concerned with offloading programs, and despite (unknowningly) having had this on two Tivos going back 4 years, it’s never been a problem.

I’ll even concede that some of the restrictions are reasonable. Since I’m already paying for content and the Tivo hardware, though, I expect to be able to record it and timeshift it as I wish, two freedoms that can be taken away by this scheme.