Sunday, April 29, 2012
Found a great article this weekend that breaks down the streaming video solutions for each of the major sports networks. I'm not a big enough NBA fan to pay for their streaming package and now that the playoffs are here there's no choice. Same with the NHL.
I have ponied up for MLB's subscription though I don't see why they haven't been able to make more local games available. If there's a weekend M's home stand I live close enough in Pioneer Square to Safeco Field to see it live, so restricted streaming isn't a great loss. The MLB has been the leader in internet broadcasts starting back with their RealNetworks Superpass and RealOne service plans in 2000/2001.
Yet the NFL's limited streaming during the regular season is my real complaint. Day games are available via broadcast as is the Sunday night game, so that's covered. I wish ESPN would start streaming Monday Night Football beyond their ESPN3 service which is only available to broadband users who already subscribe to cable. Thursday night games on NFL network are also off limits.
Bottom line is that while you can get a lot of sports via an HDTV antenna and some baseball and basketball via streaming (for a price) there's still a long way to go to equal the kinds of sports offerings available via cable and DirectTV.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Earlier this week I read how the University of Florida had planned to dismante it's computer science program, though apparently after a public outcry the administration has reconsidered the proposal at least for now.
Let’s get this straight: in the midst of a technology revolution, with a shortage of engineers and computer scientists, UF decides to cut computer science completely?
Who EVER thought eliminating computer science at a major state university was a good idea? Here in Seattle we're having trouble finding top flight engineers to fill our jobs at Korrio and I know friends running into similar stories at other startups in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles. The tech industry fights for immigration reform so we can bring the best and the brightest in from outside the US but a major state university decides it would rather churn out pre-law business majors and NFL linebackers.
When state governments are spending millions to try and attract businesses through tax breaks and subsidies they should remember that the most compelling and enticing thing any city or state can offer entrepreneurs is a well educated and skilled work force. Companies will come to a state like Florida with menial jobs if all you have is menial labor, but providing an environment where employees are well prepared and companies can foster each other provides the basis for real economic growth.
PS -- God willing this is the last time you will ever see any version of the Florida Gator logo on this blog.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
I don't use them all for the same things but I have them all so that I can test new apps, play with new ideas and make sure I see the user experience across all kinds of devices. Sometimes it's testing a friend's new app on Android but the majority is really just my own curiosity.
One of the things I've been curious about is why Google has both Chrome OS and Android. From the outside it seems that as Android adds more features and more apps are created for the platform, the web-only Chrome OS and the Chromebooks that run it will go by the wayside. With Google's Chrome browser now on Android, why keep the Chrome OS around at all? Chromebooks are light, but limited, though they are really just Linux netbooks running a full version of the Chrome browser. On a Chromebook web sites work as they would on any version of Chrome for Mac or PC.
Yesterday I had a couple of things I wanted to do, and while I knew I could do it using a Chromebook, it was a chance to try out the Android tablet as a simple laptop/netbook replacement. My goals were simple: edit a blog post with an infographic link and ordering something online. I wanted to use web sites for both tasks instead of trying some third party tablet apps.
Sounds simple enough. In addition to the standard browser I'd installed Google Chrome beta and Firefox beta apps for Android. As it turns out no browser would let me accurately handle the Blogger post. Some of that was bad UI design on the web site, but otherwise it was just poor redraw and crashes when I tried to navigate around the post once the infographic was in place. Copying an URL from browser windows sometimes worked but it was almost impossible to get it to paste into any web dialog. This was true even when I put the browser in "desktop mode" to try and fool Blogger. (I'm repeating the experiment with this post on the same tablet and even without an embedded image it's still frustrating).
The same was true for the online ordering, though I finally got it done. Where Firefox and the Android browser got hung up, Chrome at least allowed me to navigate completely through the transaction.
I get the appeal of mobile apps. You can customize the interface, have easy access to hardware features like the camera or GPS. People have been saying for a while that "the web is dead" or that startups should think "mobile first". It makes sense. However there are still a lot of applications out there for the web, including Google's own Blogger and Google Docs. If they really want Android to be even their own best mobile platform they have to solve the problem of browser compatibility and performance for Android 4.0 and beyond. To hope that Firefox (or Opera, Dolphin, Puffin or other apps) will do a better job as Android browsers than Google's own browser team is just ridiculous.
The web isn't dead yet on mobile devices. Google will be better served getting people onto Android faster and replacing laptops with tablets. Unless Google can sync up not only their Android and Chrome teams, but the web application teams as well to really make their web apps fully Android compatible then why go Android at all? Chrome OS will still have a place as the better web solution, and for tablets users will just go to the iPad where the web still sucks but the variety and quality of apps is far better than Android.
Monday, April 23, 2012
As I've been saying in my blog posts, if I can't stream it (or watch sports via broadcast HDTV) I don't try to watch it at home. From this chart on the death of physical media looks like I'm not alone.
Monday, April 16, 2012
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
- Do your kids have phones?
- What do they use them for and how do you monitor their usage, if at all?
|via cnet and the atlantic|
Somebody's gonna hurt someone
before the night is through
Somebody's gonna come undone.
There's nothin' we can do.
The Eagles, Heartache Tonight
Facebook is a big winner too. They snapped up one of the top 5 most popular iOS apps, and before long it will probably hold a similar place in Android soon. It's a small, smart team of developers ready to make Facebook's mobile apps the absolute center of smartphone photo sharing. Yes one billion dollars is a lot of money but Facebook has it, is about to IPO and pull in even more money. Zuck can afford it.
So who is the biggest loser in this deal? Google and in particular Google+.
Google, who has a billion dollars lying around under a cushion at the Googleplex, could have swooped in and bought Instagram before it was even an idea in Facebook's mind. Over 5 million downloads in the first week, after finally getting a version of Instagram for Android is just one example of how much this app means to Google. Now I'm sure Instagram will still maintain their development on Android and might even built a version for Windows Phone, though they clearly don't need Microsoft's money now.
Yes they will keep building for Android but will they build for Google+ now that Instagram is part of Facebook? I doubt it.
Instagram for Android shipped missing two key critical features for Google: saving Instagram photos to the camera roll and native sharing to Google+. Either of those would have instantly caused an explosion of sharing from Android users to Google's social network. If Instagram for Android would share to the camera roll when the Google+ app's "Instant Upload" feature would have automatically added all those photos to the user's Google+ account for sharing. Better yet would have been the "share to Google+" feature to put the network on par with Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr for media sharing.
Why did Google miss the boat? I can't say. It's a strange misstep because one of the brain's behind Google+ is Vic Gundotra, a super smart guy that I worked with at Microsoft in mid-90's. Back then Vic and I were technical evangelists in Microsoft's Developer Relations Group and no strangers to "checkbook evangelism" to get apps built for Windows. Google could have walked in and thrown money at Instagram not for a piece of the company but simply to insure that Instagram kept Google+ front and center. What is being Facebook's equal on photo sharing worth to Google? Tens or hundreds of millions easily. Google would have gotten what it needed and Instagram would have gotten free money to continue to build it's brand and potentially even drive up the price for a later acquisition.
What does Google do now? Go buy Hipstamatic. Seriously. Hipstamatic is currently iOS only, but it's the only app that can share photos directly into the Instagram network. They have a great in app purchase model, arguably a better camera app than Instagram, and could be an easy rival to the Facebook/Instagram combination. Hipstamatic will be cheaper than Instagram and give you almost the same value. You'll bring another great app to Android, probably keep it from ever going to Windows Phone and make Google+ even more useful.
Larry and Vic, are you listening?
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Saturday, April 7, 2012
Continuing my series on cutting the cable cord which I started discussing my broadband solution, I wanted to spend this next post talking about how I get live sports and the occasional local news broadcast.
I should start off by saying that I'm not the "average" TV viewer. I'm not stuck on the usual prime time shows. I could care less about who's winning the race, the loser, or the bachelor. If there's a show I really want to see (Mad Men for example) I'm more than happy to rent an episode or buy a season pass. I don't mind being the only guy at the office to not know what happened when a season premiered. All that makes it easy for not to care too much regular TV, with one major exception. Sports.
Man (and woman) shall not live by movies alone. You've got to be able to get your sports content, including NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA and PGA. Generally I can get my weekends full of sports with a simple, cheap HDTV antenna.
Living in downtown Seattle I'm lucky enough to get pretty good broadcast TV signals. I think too many people don't know that the "broadcast" networks still do exactly that. They broadcast a high definition signal available for free, or at least for the cost of the antenna. After trying a cheap alternative from Target I finally settled on a unit from Terk that I picked up at Best Buy. It plugs directly into the coax cable/antenna jack and after letting my Sony 42" Bravia search for channels and set up its tuner I've got "free" TV anytime I want.
While I'm sure there are several great HDTV antennas out there, and a savvy shopper could be comparing Amazon.com reviews until the cows come home. I spent about $50 on my unit, though you can certainly spend more as well as find units with external power supplies to boost signal strength. Unless you live far away from a broadcast tower I doubt that's really necessary.
As for the quality my antenna really works well. As a Kentucky fan I couldn't miss their championship run and CBS came through in clear HD. A week later I got to see every blade of grass at Augusta National for Bubba Watson's win at the Masters. During the fall NBC Sunday Night Football worked just as well as did the Super Bowl. You can't see every game, and you miss out on Sportscenter or Monday Night Football on ESPN, but there's still more than enough sports for me.
This solution isn't perfect. As I said I'm in downtown Seattle so I imagine I've got a pretty strong signal from the broadcast towers. Still I will see interference from time to time, usually weather related. I also had to find the right position for the antenna (mine is on a window sill) via trial and error. Aside from the occasional glitch there have been no complaints.
Adding the cost of the HDTV antenna, $50, I'm spending about $4 a month over the course of a year. Added to my broadband costs my running total so far is $34.
My next post I'll talk about content services, starting with getting sports delivered over the Internet through services like MLB.TV.
At times like this, with the Final Four (congratulations Kentucky Wildcats!) as well as the second season premiere of Game of Thrones, could make someone pretty anxious about not having cable or satellite TV. I "cut the cord" when I moved to Seattle in 2010. Since then I've done without cable and not looked back. That's not to say I don't watch movies or TV. Between Netflix, Amazon Prime, iTunes and a over the air HDTV antenna I stay pretty plugged in. Let me talk about my setup and how I've saved money compared to the $150 or more a month I was paying for broadband and cable TV in Los Angeles.
To explain how I've done it I'm going to lay out my set up in a series of posts over the next few days. First step is connectivity, because streaming needs a stream.
Step 1: BroadbandIn Seattle why not go with one of the cable providers for broadband as they were wired into my apartment building? First I guess I have a problem with dealing with the cable companies in any form, not just for TV but for broadband. In Los Angeles the local company was Time Warner Cable whose broadband was so slow and the connection so unreliable (it would be worse than dialup every morning from 7 to 9 AM while everyone logged into to check email before work) that I finally installed an AT&T DSL line as an *upgrade*. After that horror show there was no way I'd repeat the same mistakes in Seattle.
When I first moved north I tried Clearwire WiMax wireless broadband. I can't say I'd recommend it to anyone now. It's a dying technology (being replaced by LTE) put out by a company that's constantly running low on cash. It's no surprise that their 4G wireless, while completely unlimited in how much you could use per month never really provided a great streaming experience. You could download HD movies, as long as you were willing to let the download run overnight. In the end I was convinced that either my bandwidth was being throttled or the local network was just oversold and over capacity. It was time for another change.
A couple of months back I switched to a new provider that's only available in a few Seattle neighborhoods, Atlas Networks. From what I gather they are running antennas to apartment buildings and then leveraging the CAT5 wiring to drop into each apartment. With Atlas I signed up for 50 Mbps with bursts up to 100 Mbps for $59 a month. As I type this Speedtest on my Android comes out at 16 Mbps and 25 Mbps on my MacBook Pro all while I was streaming an (SD quality) movie via iTunes to my Apple TV. No matter what the absolute speed it's still 3 to 5 times better than what I had with Clear.
Total cost per month of $59, but since I use the connection for work (and blogging) as much as I use it for entertainment, let's allocate about 50% of that cost or $30 to my cord cutting tally.