Thursday, February 19, 2009

Boxee: Hulu, I hardly knew thee...

As you may have heard, the media center software called Boxee is being asked kindly to disconnect its Hulu feed at the request of Hulu's content providers (FOX, NBC Universal, MGM, Sony Pictures Television, Warner Bros. and more).

This move makes no sense to normal human beings (maybe that's just the difference between us humans and the Hulunites). Allow me to shed some light on why this move is stupid (are you listening News Corp?)
  1. People like watching TV on their TVs, but sometimes you can't see the show you want when it airs. If you don't have a means to record it, Hulu steps in and lets you watch it on your computer.
  2. Hulu embeds short advertisements in the episode streams that are not skip-able much like live TV, so using the argument that viewers using Boxee won't be exposed to advertising is foolish to say the least
  3. Boxee compliments Hulu by making it more than just a computer program - it becomes front and center in someone's living room. Isn't that where FOX and Co. want to be anyway?
  4. Boxee will continue with or without Hulu. There are plenty of other uses for Boxee such that Hulu (and their partners) are the only ones who really suffer here.
  5. Forcing users to go to to view Hulu content more or less is contrary to Hulu's Super Bowl ad that purports to let you watch your favorite shows on any "portable computing device" -- unless it's running Boxee
  6. Sooner or later someone else will submit a streaming work-around or Bit Torrent-based solution to get the same effect of Hulu in Boxee without going through Hulu's controls thus making Hulu and their content provider lose yet again
  7. By letting Boxee users stream Hulu, Hulu maintains control of the content stream. Forcing users to find other ways to stream their content through Boxee removes that control from Hulu (and their providers) and places it in the user's hands.
  8. Hulu stands to lose the most in this transaction from boycotts and general non-use of the site by stilted Boxee users.
  9. The Pirate Bay is doing quite well in it's copyright infringement trial. If they come out victorious Hulu's content providers should be quivering in their boots.
So to Hulu and their content providers (aka News Corp.) I say this:
This move is nothing if not short-sighted, implies a sense of Luddite-esque resistance to technological media trends, and is just plain bad business for all involved. I strongly recommend you and your content partners start turning on your brains on again and realize the gravity of your mistake.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Court says measles vaccine not to blame for autism

Original Source

I'm glad this has been ruled on. Blaming vaccines is tantamount to blaming TV or video games exclusively for a child's behavior. There are very likely many complex factors (including genetics) that come into play for behaviors and conditions such as ADHD, autism, and anti-social behaviors.

I wish people would stop focusing on who's to blame (and sue) and rather focus on what's objectively (and empirically) the cause or causes and use those discoveries to formulate a solution or remedy if possible.

On the other hand, autistic children often demonstrate amazing potential using parts of their brain rarely used by "normal" people. Unlocking to secrets to how they dwell primarily in these parts of the brain may help unlock new potential in all people to use their heads far more effectively.

Every challenge is an opportunity in disguise (sometimes a very VERY clever disguise).

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Amazon's MP3 Downloads - A Recipe for Happiness

Amazon has provided MP3 downloads for purchase for some time now and I'm hardly likely to surprise you with that news. What I am going to do is tout how impressively simple and elegant (and cheap) downloading full album MP3s is from Amazon.

I've never liked iTunes Music Store (iTMS) primarily for two reasons:
  1. It requires iTunes (and for Linux users, that just ain't happening)
  2. It used to only give you DRM-infested music that was only playable on an iPod or iTunes
I don't like iTunes and never really have. That's my own opinion, you're welcome to yours. I also run Linux at home so that means even if I liked iTunes and could get it running (which is possible I hear) the iTMS part of iTunes would not work at all so I couldn't buy music.

I also don't like DRM (Digital Rights Management). That's not because I want to pirate music, but because I live in a digital age where I want to be able to copy and transfer my songs to whatever device I happen to be using at the time I want to listen to my music. DRM essentially says to a customer, "I don't trust you. I think you're a chump who deserves to pay me for the same item every time you want to use it (somewhere else)." Let's just say it doesn't leave me with a fuzzy feeling of appreciation for paying the artist for his or her work.

Along comes after the Big 4 record labels have been niggling with Apple to allow variable-priced songs and offers a variable-priced online music store with one condition - the music has to be DRM free. Either because the Big 4 were tired of Apple being uncooperative or because by now they had started to realize that consumers really hate DRM, they agreed.

Thankfully for us they did because now we can download songs individually or as albums from places like Amazon. Also because of Amazon, Apple started to offer DRM-free downloads for some of their music and are in talks with the Big 4 to have tiered pricing (not quite fully variable like the Big 4 want).

So why is this important at all? Because the consumer finally won! We finally get unencumbered digital downloads at reasonable prices for music we want. (No offense intended to customers since has been DRM free since its inception, but there is no mainstream offering to speak of in their catalog.)

Best of all (for me), Amazon (almost) fully supports all three major platforms for its download service. If you download single songs you don't need anything but your credit card and a web browser. If you want to download full albums (sometimes at a discount) you need to install Amazon's MP3 Download Application which is a very small application that runs on your machine and hooks into your browser. It does not take up much memory or disk space at all and doesn't attempt to be a music manager - simply a download manager. In Windows and OS X however, it will attempt to automatically add your downloaded music to iTunes or Windows Media Player if you wish. 64-bit Linux support doesn't really exist, but with a little finagling it can be done.

After installing the MP3 Downloader and testing it out with a free MP3 Amazon provides, I dove in and bought an album. With a high speed internet connection (15 Mbps download speed) I grabbed the full album in well under 1 minute. The quality is excellent (unless your an audiophile, but you don't buy MP3s anyway so why are you reading this?), and the price was below what I would have paid in a store for the CD.

The down side is of course that downloads are not free to re-download, so you'd better save that music someplace safe or burn it to CD. I personally keep my music collection on a shared network drive that is in a RAID array and periodically backed up to offline storage - but that's just me.

What's this all mean? It means if you're interested in returning to the legitimate side of music downloads after years of freeloading songs off of LimeWire and KaZaA, check out Amazon's MP3 Downloads - you'll be glad you did.

Related Links:

WM 6.1 SMTP Issues

Original share

Ryan S. noted: “I have WM 6.1 and don't have this issue. Occasionally due to network hiccups I see that message in the screenshots, but I've it pop up on WM5, WM6, and WM6.1 devices. I don't believe the validity of this article.”

This is not just a bogus article. Microsoft has a formal fix and has recognized the problem in this Download Center page. If you haven't experienced it yet, you're lucky. My understanding is that it only started to take effect recently during perhaps an update of 6.1

In my case, every single time I synced, I could only download new messages - sent messages sayed in the Outbox and built up over time. I didn't even realize it for a month or two and was wondering why no one ever received my replies when I sent them from my phone.

I ended up re-creating the email account on my phone after applying this patch (all incoming and outgoing mail was lost on the phone - not on the server).

New Rule

For this, my first blog post on the Google Reader Discussions Blog I'm posting my New Rule:

If you're going to re-share an article simply to comment on it in a note -- don't. Write a blog entry, link the source material, and share your blog entry in Google Reader.

Since Google hasn't yet seen fit to incorporate it's very handy threaded discussions from Gmail into Google Reader, in order to keep the shares clear of a bunch of clutter and noise (besides the normal shares) I'm instituting this rule for myself and encourage other to adopt it.

Ideally, your blog will allow comments without creating an account, but at least make sure it does have comments enabled (or you're defeating the purpose).

Update: And by "you" of course, I mean me. It's my rule, but you're welcome to use it.