Rant: DSL, Cable, HDTV, DirectTV and such…

I have been trying to find the best way to get TV, internet and phone service at home. I started with comcast for cable and internet and Qwest for my phone service. Then got fed up with comcasts crazy pricing system. So I went for the whole package deal with Qwest. It’s been slightly better pricing but for some reason each month Qwest has a ton of hidden service charges. DirecTV sucks as in that it’s a totally locked down system. It’s a pain in the ass to get it to work with my Tivo. I went to all the trouble to get a USB to serial to Tivo serial (mini jack) connection to work and the DirecTV updated their system and broke the functionality.

The other thing that sucks about DirecTV is that all the channels are on east coast time. Sometimes its nice to have a program on earlier but for the most part I have no idea when anything is on. So I have to hope my Tivo got it before I got home from work.

So I finally got fed up with DirecTV today because they added some game service that totally busts the whole user experience. If you change to a game channel then you can’t change away. There is no way to do it without going back to the guide. They are making a terrible user environment. Their remote blows chunks too. It’s so bad that I bought a universal remote. My Tivo remote used to work fine.

The Qwest DSL has been a joke too. Their highest speed is 512 up and 1.5 down, but the best I get is about 128k up and 256k down. I have never seen it perform at full speed.

I picked up an LCD HDTV the other day and to add insult to DirecTV I found the over the air Digital TV (DTV) signal for HD to be a 1E + 48 times better. Oh and I’m using a small wire for my antenna. Thank you free excellent quality TV from the air. It actually seems like a pretty good set up. The signals are clean and the tv guide service works really well. What I don’t get is why there are like 5 religious channels when there are only about 13 total DTV channels available. I’m wondering if I can get my own DTV channel?

So I’m switching back to comcast and this time I’m switching everything to comcast.

I’m pretty close to getting rid of my landline phone. The “land line” will cease to exist but will be included in the comcast VOIP service. Which is one step closer to no longer being needed.

What I don’t get in all of this chaos of poor customer service is that there are basically two options for me to choose from. Why isn’t there more competition?

When will internet TV be good enough for me to unplug this crap they call cable broadcast TV?

The Uncanny Valley

Uncanny Vallley
I find the concept of the uncanny valley very interesting. Having worked with 3D modeling and design, I’ve watched the work of people much more talented then myself create human like characters. I never knew there was a name for it before, but I’ve felt the instinctual feelings that something was wrong with the person in the image. Take the Miss Digital World Contest for example. If you follow the link and check out the images and videos you’ll start to get a feel for how visually they don’t really look right.

Some still image models have been done very well and they seem to cross the valley. I think the KAYA model is a good example of that (images here) However, if you watch the video, the animation makes the character slip right back in to bottom of the valley. I do think this is very subjective and observer based however fixing it by toning down the human like characteristics is fairly straight forward. The new movie Monster House uses stylistic human characters to a much stronger effect.

Robots have the same problem. Currently the most advanced looking human like robot is the Repliee Q1Expo. It sort of scares me. I’m excited about the progress being made in the area of more human like design, but I find that I have a stronger emotional association with the Aibo or QRIO. I’m not sure what it’s going to take to make the fully animated android / robot cross over that line, but when it does I think it will be exciting for sure. However until they do look like Daryl Hannah in Blade Runner, I think they need to keep the creepy zombie creatures (NSFW link) out of the public eye. It’s scaring people away from the whole study and development.

What’s up with Brightcove?

Welcome to Brightcove

Here’s what I found so far:
The founder Jeremy Allaire is smart guy. He was one of the creators of Cold Fusion. He also created Homesite which became part of the very successful Dreamweaver application produced by Macromedia.

What Brightcove is doing:
Creating an open standards based software application that will be used for finding and watching video streams off the internet and on your TV. The idea is to strike deals with companies like Tivo, Sony, Phillips, etc. to use this software on their systems. Another plan is to get it running on home media center systems like MS Media Center Edition or on OS X. This is a big challenge these companies are already producing their own products. They’re big difference from all the other web based video tools like this is that they want to get this off a computer screen and on to a TV screen.

What technology are they using:
The front end is an all web based Flash interface. All the video is played through flash using the On2 Flix software for encoding. So something a lot like Google video.

Quote from Brightcove:
“It’s our hope and intention for Brightcove to become an essential online service for building Internet TV businesses – with full choice and control for publishers over user experience, monetization and syndication.”

Why AOL:
This is huge for them. One of the big challenges they faced was getting advertiser dollars. Now they have the backing of AOL and if successful can integrate in to their ad network. I’m also guessing that this could solve their bandwidth problem if they every had one.

My take away:
Home media computers are on the rise but are still a very small market space. Apple, Microsoft and other very large well funded companies are trying to get in to this space. Brightcove wants to piggyback on that. They can be successful if they have good content, can find ways to make content providers money, and it’s easy to use. I’m not sure what their plan is in regards to quality programming. Without quality you end up with the same stuff that’s on google video: people crashing their cars, cats, babies, and more dumb people doing dumb stuff. I for one don’t want to watch that sort of crap.

Technology wise what they are doing is easy. At least from everything I’ve been able to find. It’s just been a matter of putting together all the said technologies in to one easy to repurpose package. I’m not sure what their storage solution is but I guess some very large SAN system.