Enforced Obsolescence

Casio TV-470As the last analogue TV signals are turned off tonight in the UK to make way for 4G and digital TV, thousands of TVs, videos and hard-disk recorders will become obsolete literally overnight. While an external decoder may prolong their life, the sheer inconvenience of multiple settings and synchronised recordings will consign many of these perfectly functional devices to the rubbish bin recycling centre. Reflecting, I suspect that this is probably the first time that enforced obsolescence has impacted on me personally.

Undoubtedly, I’ve had other gadgets that have become obsolete but they became out-of-date because I chose to make them so, usually by purchasing a newer devices. If I plugged in and turned on my first laptop, a Tandy 1400LT that ran MsDOS 3.2, I guarantee you that it would still work, albeit with somewhat crude CGA graphics accompanied by whirring floppy drives. The 1400LT became obsolete when I bought an 386SX desktop, but it still worked as designed.

But when I wake up tomorrow, my Casio TV-470 pocket TV and my Pioneer 530H hard disk recorder will be of almost no use as the analogue TV signals these devices need will no longer be broadcast. I find this enforced obsolescence somewhat disturbing as faceless government officials simply made a decision and that was that. Game over for the unfortunate gadgets.

To be fair, the analogue TV signal has had a good run for its money. The PAL system started in 1967 so it’s lasted over 40 years and my TV-470’s been around for about half of that (1991). I hope it’s happy in TV heaven.

Flixwagon Mobile Video Broadcast and Social Networking Platform

Arie Offner and Roy Ginat present Flixwagon (http://www.flixwagon.com/), a mobile video broadcast and social networking platform. The product is aimed at business and corporate users. Verizon will be soon launching the Flixwagon Android application for selected Verizon Android phones.

Interview by Esbjorn Larsen of MrNetCast.com and Jeffrey Powers of Geekazine.Com.

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Tech Serendipity

Sometimes things no one ever thought of simply seem to come together. Services and devices end up being used to do things the individual inventors and designers couldn’t have imagined.

For some time now, I’ve been thinking about attaching one of the new Mac Minis to one of my TV’s and utilizing it as a home theater PC as well as an over-the-air DVR to record high definition digital broadcasts from the local TV stations. A late Sunday afternoon trip to my local Best Buy and a Mac Mini was mine.

I sat the Mac Mini up with Eye TV and a USB HD tuner attached to my outdoor antenna. Depending on how I have the antenna rotated, I can receive upwards of 17 or more HD and digital broadcast channels. Of course, keep in mind that the Mini is on my home network, so I’ve got complete remote access in a number of different ways.

The Eye TV 3.4.1 software has easy iPhone/iPod/iPad/Apple TV file conversion, so I’m easily able to convert the files to the format of my choice.

A thought popped into my head. What if I converted the files to the iPhone format and put them into my Dropbox? I also have the Dropbox app for Android installed on my Sprint HTC Evo phone. Since I have an 8 gigabyte SD card installed with the possibility of going all the way up to a 32 gigabyte card if I wish, could I synch the exported iPhone files from my Dropbox on the computer to Dropbox on my phone?

To my surprise, I don’t even have to synch the exported iPhone videos to my phone – once they are synched to the Dropbox server, all I have to do is open the file from Dropbox on my phone and the file immediately starts streaming. If I’ve got a decent 3G Sprint cell signal, the video plays perfectly without a glitch.

So, I’m taking multiple different technologies, and using them in a way no single inventor or designer ever envisioned. I can record local TV programming from home, export it as an iPhone format file into my Dropbox folder, and stream the files to my phone. Pretty phenomenal stuff if you ask me.

For sure, there are other ways to accomplish the same end result, particularly if one has adequate bandwidth. For situations where bandwidth is limited and more variable, this solution works surprisingly well.

Tech Podcast Broadcast Booth @ CES 2011

While we are still four months away from CES 2011, the team members from TechPodcasts.com and TechPodcasts.tv have been very busy in planning for the 2011 event. For the first time we will have a broadcast booth on the show floor of the South Hall. Team Member Andy McCaskey worked with the CEA to get the broadcast space. I signed the contract on Friday, and while we have some more details to work out, we will be streaming live for the entire show.

Our 2010 appearance at NBC Universal, and the overwhelming success of those two live events, made us realize that we had to be live for the show in 2011, on top of having teams of folks on the floor as we always do. This is going to allow us to bring you a 24/7 non stop stream of news and information from the show.

There remains a lot of work to do, and we have to work like crazy to get all the sponsors lined up, but it should be a great event. If your company is interested in being a coverage sponsor drop me a line today. The best part is that as we cover the show, the Tricaster TCXD850 will be capturing every segment and we will be publishing that into a special TPN CES channels that will be on both the Roku and Boxee.

Choosing Influences

So now that I’ve cut the cord with Dish Network, I’ve started digging deeper into the instant streaming material available on Netflix. It seems that most of the programs I would have watched on Discovery, TLC or History – the three channels I watched 99% of the time — are available as season DVD sets streaming via Netflix.

There are also plenty of season DVD’s of television programs available for streaming that I don’t have any interest in. Now that I’ve cut my Dish Network subscription, I realize that I was paying dearly for their presence even though I had no interest in watching them.

The bottom line is that I can only watch one show at a time. Having 200 plus channels available simultaneously seemed exciting, but the reality is that at least 97% of whatever was on at any given point didn’t appeal to me in any way. It’s crap looking to influence whoever it can reach out and grab.

With audio podcast listening, it allows me to choose my own influences. The IPTV revolution brings that powerful ability to choose my influences to television.

This revelation shouldn’t surprise me, because I’ve been here before. Back in late 2004 when I discovered podcasting, it was exactly what I’d been looking for. I was suddenly able to pick and choose audio content and consume it on my own terms. I could listen to exactly what I wanted, when I wanted to listen to it. Suddenly, instead of being at the mercy of having to listen to what was mostly crap programming on radio stations I happened to be driving by, I was able to turn that huge amount of listening time I had while driving into a tremendous benefit.

Broadcast television has been traditionally viewed as mindless entertainment. Like audio programming, television programming can easily be used in the same beneficial ways. Now that I’m forced to choose what to watch, I realize that what I choose to spend time watching will be much more personally beneficial.

Broadcast television is potentially detrimental and there’s no question in my mind that much of it is hypnotic. If a TV screen is present and turned on most people can’t help but periodically stare at it, even if the sound is turned down.

It has only been a bit over 24 hours since I cancelled my Dish Network subscription, and I’m already over the emotional separation. Who needs all of those less-than-useless channels?