Posts Tagged technology

Hey movie/TV industry, this is why you’re losing money

A previous post established that the entertainment industry is, in fact, losing money. That said, they are not exactly helping themselves out. The Oatmeal has a brilliant cartoon explaining why:

I tried to watch Game of Thrones and this is what happened – The Oatmeal.

I tried to watch Game of Thrones and this is what happened - The Oatmeal

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TV industry takes aim at foot, fires, then complains that it can’t walk

The Business/Media section of today’s Australian had a special cover page dedicated to heralding the next step in television through IPTV (that’s “Internet protocol television”).

IPTV battle lines drawn | The Australian.

FOR more than half a century the humble television has commanded the attention of millions of families around the world. Yet despite our inextricable attachment to the box, the complaint that “there’s nothing on TV” has persisted for just as long.

The days of those complaints and the one-way nature of the television are numbered as the ubiquity of high-speed internet access ushers in a new era of a more connected broadcast medium through the adoption of IPTV, or internet protocol television, a technology that streams television and video services via the internet direct to your computer, TV or game console.

This all sounds great, but should hardly be coming as a newsflash to… well… anybody. The beginning of the last decade saw the music industry almost collapse as file-sharing technology and increased download speeds made it possible to share and download music across the globe for free.

Yet it was still somehow a shock when the exact same thing happened to the TV and movie industries. Somehow, during the whole experience that the music industry went through, it did not seem to register that they may need to start re-thinking their distribution models.

In fact, it seems like they still haven’t done that.

The (pretty mediocre) interactive guide that The Australian put together is far too generous to the existing TV providers, aside from the ABC, who are genuinely embracing technology in an effective way. As for Foxtel:

By far the most comprehensive offering but also the most expensive. It will be interesting to see how Foxtel heads off the likes of FetchTV, Optus MeTV and Quickflixs who are increasingly making inroads on their territory.

Well, they got one thing right, Foxtel are the most expensive. Most comprehensive though? Not quite. Here’s the biggest problem that none of the coverage recognised: the most comprehensive offering is the entire Internet.

The reality is that anyone with a computer and a half-decent broadband connection (the best kind available in Australia, unless you have the NBN, in which case you can add “exorbitantly expensive connection”) can watch almost any TV show or movie that has ever been made in HD whenever they feel like it and for free.

There is no reason to subscribe to the overpriced Foxtel monopoly when there is a better service being provided free-of-charge. Meanwhile, Foxtel has added the ability to record shows on IQ, as well as some pay-per-view movies and a piss-poor catalogue of online downloads, all of which barely amount to any effort to compete with online services.

The main issues are still there:

  1. Aside from the extremely limited “Foxtel downloads”, customers are confined to the single TV that is connected to the giant Foxtel set-top box through a wall outlet.
  2. Customers are completely restricted by what Foxtel thinks they should be watching at any time, unless they have recorded a series as it airs onto a very limited hard drive or they want to pay extra on top of their $100 per month subscription for a pay-per-view movie.

In other words, Foxtel are charging more money for a worse technology.

No company is in Australia is yet providing the business model that would work: a subscription-based service allowing a certain number of hours of viewing depending on your package and providing as comprehensive a library of on-demand viewing as possible. For anything besides live TV, there is simply no reason for a distributor to dictate when their customers can and cannot watch a particular show.

If Foxtel in particular does not start updating its product soon, it will be gone in a matter of years. The industry as a whole needs to seriously wise-up before it gets defeated by progress.

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Bin Laden caught using Zionist technology!!!

A little Cut & Paste for you all:

New Evidence about how Bin Laden managed to send emails without detection:

How bin Laden emailed without being detected by US – Yahoo! News

Holed up in his walled compound in northeast Pakistan with no phone or Internet capabilities, bin Laden would type a message on his computer without an Internet connection, then save it using a thumb-sized flash drive. He then passed the flash drive to a trusted courier, who would head for a distant Internet cafe.

And let’s remember what he felt about Israel:

Full text: bin Laden’s ‘letter to America’ | World news | Observer.co.uk.

The creation of Israel is a crime which must be erased. Each and every person whose hands have become polluted in the contribution towards this crime must pay its price, and pay for it heavily.

What was that again about “thumb-sized flash disks”?

Dov Moran’s world of total connectivity – Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

He invented the revolutionary “portable hard disk”, the DiskOnKey, and sold his company for $1.6 billion, making himself tens of millions of dollars in the process. Dov Moran could have comfortably retired, written his memoirs and devoted himself to playing bridge. Instead he set out to change the world, again.

And one last thing about Dov Moran, the inventor of the flash drive: 

Dov Moran: Executive Profile & Biography – BusinessWeek

Mr. Moran is a Co-Founder of msystems Ltd. He served as Independent Consultant in computer industry from 1984 to 1989. He served in Israeli Navy for seven years and was Director of its microprocessors department.

Well isn’t that ironic…

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Why our kids will never be patient

A little random one here. “John Cheese” from Cracked wrote an article about how our children (as in, the current Gen Y) will grow-up. It’s really strange to think that, having grown-up in the 90s, we have experienced a few things that 21st century kids will never know – like arguing about a fact that you can’t look up, having to share a phone line and an internet connection between a few different people, getting lost and having to ask for directions/struggle with a paper map, miss an episode of your favourite TV show or even use technology to store and transmit data physically – like videotapes, CDs and books.

It’s a scary thought really – our kids will be used to having access to absolutely everything, all the time. Their attention spans will be even shorter and they will need constant stimulation or they will become bored and fidgety – I have already seen this with my 5-year-old cousin, who cannot cope if she is without an electronic game for 5 mins, she hasn’t learned how to amuse herself like children used to have to.

There is definitely some value in having to wait for things and needing to figure them out for yourself, rather than having the answer given to you all the time. Sure, it doesn’t seem like it when you’re actually going through the process, but paying attention for extended periods makes a whole lot of otherwise impossible things possible. I guess we’ll need to figure-out a way around it, maybe it’ll require being those cruel parents who don’t let their kids near the iPad until they have read a book and built a model airplane or something…

6 Things Our Kids Just Plain Won’t Get | Cracked.com.

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Irans Attacks

Iranian technology at its finest

A good little story to finish off the week.

Earlier in the week, Iran announced on its state media that its scientists had just developed the world’s first actual flying saucer. Whether or not they are planning to abduct dumb rednecks from Texas was not confirmed.

Experts have posited that this is an attempt to destroy US air power like the aliens from Independence day. I guess Iran didn’t factor Will Smith into the equation.

Iran and America go to war - artist's impression

Iran scientists build unmanned flying saucer | ISNA.

TEHRAN (ISNA)-Iranian aerospace scientists have built an unmanned flying saucer.

The flying saucer (cuadrotour) called “Saturn” (Zohal in Persian) was unveiled in the exhibition of strategic technologies with the presence of Islamic Revolution Commander-in-Chief Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei.

The device belonging to the new generation of vertical flyers is designed for aerial photography.

It is equipped with autopilot, image stabilizer and GPS and has a separate system for aerial recording with FULL HD quality as well as another system for aerial photography with 10 megapixel capability which can be sent and recorded simultaneously.

The machine involves a small and portable land station with the monitoring capability and is able to fly indoors and outdoors.

Easy transportation and launch and flying with less making noise are some of the advantages of the device.

The picture above comes from Fars News Agency. The ISNA released the far more realistic but infinitely less cool photo below:

Looks like Mr Achmadinejad is more Plan 9 From Outer Space than War of The Worlds, if you catch my drift.

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I’m not impressed, Apple

 

 

Taking a break from death and violence in the Middle-East…

Apple unveiled their new iPad 2 last night (Sydney time). I’m generally a big fan of Apple’s products, I love their innovation and usability as well as the great consumer experience. I was going to buy an original iPad at one stage, but was convinced that waiting for the second model would be a better idea, since it would definitely show some fantastic improvements.

Not so, the second version of the tablet is not exactly awe-inspiring. The upgrades they have made, besides a fancy new cover, are pretty much no-brainers – a slight redesign to make it smaller and lighter, a faster processor and cameras. The improvements to the OS are also quite minimal – free photoediting software, better streaming and a faster browser.

They have also allowed you to change the side button, which seems exactly like the iPhone’s mute button but for some reason locks the screen instead, into a mute button. And they have allowed internet tethering from an iPhone to an iPad, so that you can use your iPad for internet without having to switch sim cards and not have a phone, which is especially annoying to do as Apple figured they would make it extremely difficult to remove the sim card from the iPhone, also for no apparent reason.

These are things that really should have been included in the first place. There’s no reason for their exclusion besides Apple’s “we know best” mantra.

This is all extremely underwhelming. There are so many things that should have been there that I can’t even write about them in detail, I’ll just list them here:

  1. External memory capabilities – you have large apps, a music collection and a movies collection, all in high quality. When you can buy a flash drive with 1,000gb for $80, spending $1k on a 64gb device doesn’t seem so appealing.
  2. Better display – sure the graphics are faster, but I want them clearer.
  3. More magazines, books and movies – Apple has done very well in getting music into its iTunes store, not so for other media. Their insistence on charging 30% commission on everything means that publishers and film studios are signing deals with Google or Amazon and holding-out against Apple.

An OS overhaul:

  1. Better Safari – The little iPhone version is fine on a tiny screen, but I’m always frustrated that the iPad one lacks functionality like proper tabs, extensions, themes and everything else that you have on a regular computer.
  2. Flash!!!! – Steve Jobs needs to get off his high horse here. Whatever you want to say about battery life, processor speeds etc, without flash too much of the internet is not usable.
  3. Windows/widgets – why can I not have keynote and pages open at the same time? Why do I have to leave safari to check my mail or update twitter? It massively detracts from the potential uses of the iPad.
  4. Expose – the little dock thing is not the ideal way to switch through apps. Apple has a great way of looking at different screens and switching between them, why isn’t the iPad able to do this?

What this means is that Apple’s competition is starting to look much more appealing, they will have a lot of these features that Apple has left-out.

For more:

Apple – iPad – All-new design. Video calls. HD video. And more..

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How much influence did Facebook and Twitter have in Egypt? The full story

Leading on from this post, I may have an answer to Malcolm Gladwell’s question, “did social media solve a problem that actually needed solving?”

Writing for Foreign Policy, Reuters reporter Maryam Ishani has detailed the Egyptian “Twitter revolutionaries” and the role that technology played in the whole revolution. She seems to support Clay Shirky’s theory – social media did not bring down Mubarak on the strength of its pure Justin Timberlake awesomeness, but it did help long-term to facilitate the movement’s organising. The people that she says were behind the protests’ initiation seem extremely resourceful, dedicated and intelligent and were able to utilise social media as another tool in their kit in order to aid their project.

The Hopeful Network – By Maryam Ishani | Foreign Policy

The groundwork for the Egyptian uprising was set well before these high-profile figures and organizations [El Baradei and the Muslim Brotherhood] became involved. Nearly three years ago, a group of youth activists with a strong sense of Internet organizing and more than a little help from abroad was preparing for a grassroots, high-tech opposition movement.

I’m going to start by questioning whether these activists were quite as important as Ishani makes out – after all, the story sounds much better if this is the case. She puts a lot of importance on social media – she even says that the whole movement was sparked by Facebook:

Not surprisingly, it was another Facebook page set up by the April 6 youth — this one devoted to the memory of Khaled Said, a man brutally killed in police custody — that sparked the beginning of the current uprising in Egypt. Thanks largely to the legwork done by the April 6 movement and the Egyptian Democratic Academy months earlier, Egypt’s opposition had been integrated into a closely knit online community. The movement showed up in force on Jan. 25, when the protests began.

It’s funny, because everyone else seems to think that the protests were sparked by the events going on in Tunisia – where the Egyptian people suddenly realised that dictators can be taken down.

If we do accept her premise, there is still a lot to think about. I’m sure Gladwell would again take the line that they happened to use social media, but the revolution could have happened anyway. I made a list of the different ways in which these activists used social media, in an attempt to answer this point:

  1. To distribute a manual on protest methods.
  2. To form connections with other groups, such as Italian anarchists, who provided training and expertise.
  3. To quickly communicate information about arrested activists, so that they could be located and freed by a legal team, rather than languishing in prison for weeks without charge.
  4. To distribute videos of protests and brutality against protestors.
  5. As a map, to locate good areas for protests and goof photography vantage points.

Having reduced their use of social media to these points, Gladwell does seem to be on to something. None of these things couldn’t be achieved without the internet; pre-1990, you could still distribute manuals, have communications systems and use maps. The social media would make these things a lot easier, when used properly, but I’m not convinced that they were absolutely necessary.

In fact, the activists used a whole variety of integrated tools, not just social media. For instance, after noticing that the videos of Iran protests around the election last year created a massive stir, but were less effective than they could have been due to poor quality, some of these Egyptians went to the US for film training. Also, they had contingency plans for when the internet failed:

The activists acted quickly during the blackout to create workaround solutions. Within days, clandestine FTP accounts were set up to move videos out to international news outlets. While accredited members of the media struggled to communicate and coordinate, street protesters were using land lines to call supporters, who translated and published their accounts on Twitter for an international audience hungry for news of the unfolding events.

As I said before, this sounds like a very intelligent, very resourceful group of individuals, who used all of the tools and techniques available to them in order to achieve their goals. This is not to underestimate the role of social media in their effort – without these new means off communication, their job would have been far more difficult, we definitely do have a lot to thank Facebook and Twitter for. The question is whether or not they could have achieved what they did without the facilitation provided by social media. This is not as clear cut as social media’s best friends seem to think it is, there are definitely strong arguments for each side.

Speaking of Twitter quickly, Foreign Policy blogger Colum Lynch has written a piece that really illuminates the value that it does and doesn’t have for following current events. He points out that it has sped-up the news cycle in an unprecedented way, and that there is no better tool for following the news as it happens, as well as sourcing a huge variety of content. That said, he also observes that it allows disinformation from dubious sources to spread extremely quickly and possibly be picked-up by lazy journalists in well-regarded publications, allowing it to spread even further.

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Australia sucks at Twitter

This apparently shows the Twitter use worldwide on NYE. I know that Australia is very sparsely populated, but our population definitely looks underrepresented, even on the East Coast.

I’m not sure why it’s taking so long for this tool to reach us Down Under when the rest of the world seems pretty on board to the point where Kanye refuses to interview on anything else. Even parts of Africa are brighter than Sydney and Melbourne. If this was a map of electronic lighting usage or something, you would assume that Australia was a developing country.

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