Thursday, December 31, 2009

Time Warner Cable Shows Subscribers How to Cut the Cord


Time Warner Cable Shows Subscribers How to Cut the Cord

by Peter Kafka
Posted on December 31, 2009 at 8:41 AM PT


time warner screengrab The nightmare scenario for cable companies is that customers drop their TV subscriptions and grab their video directly from the Web, turning the cable guys into mere providers of “dumb pipes”.

But here’s a comprehensive set of instructions from a big cable company showing its customers how to do just that. It suggests that they head to the likes of Hulu, Fancast or “any search engine” — weird for them not to call out Google (GOOG), no? — to find their favorite shows.

Time Warner Cable’s (TWC) instructions on “How to Connect Your PC to Your TV” are embedded at the bottom of this post. And here’s a helpful video (Sorry for the clumsy screengrab – the video kicks in about 5 seconds in, and there’s some unpleasant coughing around 2:30. Yikes!):

The instructions (which Time Warner Cable promised to provide last week) are part of the company’s game of chicken with News Corp.’s Fox (NWS), which is supposed to come to a head tonight. If you believe the posturing so far, and Fox and its associated cable channels (Fox News, FX, etc) will disappear after midnight tonight, because the two sides can’t agree on new rate.

Alternate view: This thing will go down the wire and then get resolved, just as Time Warner Cable’s back-and-forth with Viacom (VIA) went a year ago.

If you want blow-by-blow coverage, let me suggest the LA Times’ tireless Joe Flint, who is updating each salvo in real time, or very close to it. Or you can just turn on your TV set after midnight tonight and take a look for yourself.

Still, no matter how this resolves, the danger for both sides is that consumers really do take up Time Warner Cable on its offer and start watching Fox stuff on the Web. And to be clear: Fox would prefer that people keep paying for cable TV, because it really likes getting subscription fees from cable TV providers.

That’s happening already, of course, but it’s not mainstream behavior yet. It may be that it’s inevitable anyway, but no matter what you hear from both sides of this contract dispute, both of them like this model very much, and they’d like to keep intact as long as possible.

Which is why discussions with would-be “over the top” providers like Apple (AAPL) are supposed to be about adding additional TV programming, not replacing cable.

The safety catch here for the TV business is that consumers who do go to watch TV on the Web, at least through sanctioned means, may be disappointed: They’ll find that the programming that is there doesn’t show up for at least a day — and often longer — after it airs. And some stuff, notably live sports like the NFL playoffs (contrary to the image in the screenshot above) and Fox’s “American Idol” don’t make it on the Web at all.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reading hybrid books

As books go beyond printed page to multisensory experience, what about reading?

By Monica Hesse
Monday, December 28, 2009; C01

The mysterious man looks completely wrong to me.

In the text of conspiracy thriller "Embassy," an online novel by Richard Doetsch, the character is described as "a starkly thin fellow with a protruding Adam's apple." My brain goes: Alan Rickman!

But when I click on the chapter's accompanying video, the man is younger, tanner, scruffier. He's dressed like he should be bumming clove cigarettes at a concert, not spying on the Greek Embassy.

What I'm reading is a Vook -- a video/book hybrid produced in part by Simon & Schuster's Atria Books. Interspersed throughout the text are videos and links that supplement the narrative. In one chapter, the Greek ambassador receives a mysterious DVD, and readers must click on an embedded video to learn what's on it. In another, kidnapper Jack ominously tells his hostage that he's going to prove that he means business.

"How are you going to do that?" Kate asks.

"Are you squeamish?" Jack replies.

Below that dialogue, a little box encourages readers to "SEE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT" by clicking the play button.

(What happened next, in a comically foreboding scene: Jack grabbed Kate's hand and threatened to chop off her fingers with a kitchen knife.)

It's a dizzying experience, reading Vooks. But they represent just a few examples of a new genre that has been alternatively dubbed v-books, digi-books, multimedia books and Cydecks, all with essentially the same concept: It's a book . . . but wait, there's more!

There will certainly be more of them. The first six books of text/Web hybrid "The 39 Clues" have nearly 5 million copies in print, and nearly 700,000 registered users for the site. A seventh book will be released in February. "The Amanda Project," released this fall, is set to be an eight-book series. Brad Inman, founder of Vook, said that his company will release as many as 200 titles next year -- a goal made more feasible by the relative cheapness of producing his online-only books. "It's very inexpensive in scale. We're talking thousands of dollars, not even tens of thousands of dollars" for each project.

Is a hybrid book our future? Maybe. "As discourse moves from printed pages to network screens, the dominant mode will be things that are multi-modal and multilayered," says Bob Stein, founder of the Institute for the Future of the Book. "The age of pure linear content is going to pass with the rise of digital network content."

Predicting the eventual death of the traditional novel sounds practically heretical. But keep in mind that the genre has actually existed in English for only about 300 years, and that experimentation and evolution have always been a part of the way we tell stories.

Perhaps the folly isn't in speculating that the book might change, but in assuming that it won't.
Choose your adventure

The bells and whistles in hybrid books are endless. In "The Sherlock Holmes Experience" -- one of six books, including "Embassy," published by Vook since the company launched in October -- two classic Arthur Conan Doyle stories are annotated with video clips of historians sharing Holmesian trivia. Hyperlinks pepper the text, sending readers to Wikipedia pages explaining old-fashioned terms.

In "The Amanda Project," a young-adult series launched earlier this fall, three teens investigate the disappearance of a mutual friend, primarily in a book but also on a companion Web site, where readers are encouraged to upload their own "clues" to Amanda's presence. Some contributions will be incorporated into the second book, due out in February.

In "Skeleton Creek," another work for tweens, the narrative alternates between the written diary of Ryan, a housebound teen trying to investigate strange occurrences in his home town, and the video missives of his best friend, Sarah. Ryan -- and the reader -- access Sarah's transmissions by logging onto a Web site with various passwords, provided at the end of each chapter.

Myebook, which helps users self-publish books online, is flexible with the definition of "book," allowing text to be mashed up with video and applications.

These hybrid books "truly [are] groundbreaking, and I don't use that word lightly," says David Levithan, a Scholastic editor who worked on "Skeleton Creek" as well as "The 39 Clues," a series involving an elaborate online game. "It's expanding the notion of what storytelling can be."

If readers visit every hyperlink, watch every video and play every game, it is possible for the experience of consuming a single book to become limitless -- a literal neverending story. It's also possible for the user to never read more than a few chapters in sequence, before excitedly scampering over to the next activity.

Hybrid books might be the perfect accessory for modern life. They allow immediate shortcuts to information. They feel like instant gratification and guided, packaged experiences. What they don't feel like, at least in certain examples, is reading.

Envision, for a moment, what it feels like to delve into your favorite book. Picture losing yourself in the fictional world for hours on end -- the way the characters sound in your mind, the way unfamiliar references give you pause. What is a nosegay, anyway?

If you could see the authoritative version of a character right away, without waiting for the movie version, would you?

If a floral dictionary were just a click away, would you interrupt your reading to visit it?

Would these abilities represent a breakthrough, the sort of enhanced involvement that book lovers have always dreamed of? Or would they tamper with our imaginations, completely changing the experience of reading?
Can you imagine?

It's not coincidence that many current hybrid books are aimed at kids -- the first generation of "digital natives" who, we're repeatedly told, feel stark naked without a cellphone, iPhone and a couple of laptops strapped to their persons.

"What they really love is staying in that world," says Lisa Holton of Fourth Story Media, which packaged "The Amanda Project." The non-text components "give them a way to dive even further. When you hang out with kids and you watch what they're doing, we as adults can't even begin to understand their relationships with technology." Holton left a job in traditional publishing to found Fourth Story and explore new forms of storytelling.

But what happens to the traditional reading experience, the one involving a fat novel, a fireplace and a cup of tea?

"It's very common for [a 15-year-old] to read, but have her phone there and her computer there," says Patrick Carman, who wrote "Skeleton Creek" and one volume of "The 39 Clues." "For her, having this multimedia experience is like sitting down with a cup of tea."

He directs me to his niece, an exceedingly generationally aware 14-year-old named Madison Wilcox. "The books with the videos, I think they keep our interest better," Madison says. "The generation we're in is always using technology. [Books like 'Skeleton Creek'] are easy to blend in with our lifestyles."

Inman of Vook says it would be a mistake to compare products like his with traditional texts, the two genres being independent entities.

"We don't pretend that it's a book because it's not." With the Vook, "there's an expectation that you're not gulping the text," as you would in a traditional novel. Instead, Inman says, "you're tasting the text," dipping in and out of it at will.

One wonders how this tasting affects the way we read -- that shortening of attention span we've read so much about.

"When you go from one task to another, your brain does slow down," says Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT. "Your brain has to reconfigure its cognitive network. For the first few seconds [of the new activity] there's an increase in errors," in how well we comprehend what we're reading or viewing.

"The way the brain handles language is very different than the way it handles pictures," says Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor who studies multitasking. "One of the ways is pacing. You read a book and you stop whenever you'd like. When you watch a video, you can't do that. It goes on." It's active entertainment vs. passive.

Retention and comprehension are moot points when the narrative in question is, for example, "Embassy." Missing a paragraph or two won't affect a reader's understanding of the plot; missing a plot point or two isn't a life-or-death scenario.

In reading "Embassy," what concerned me wasn't that my brain was getting overworked but that my imagination wasn't.

The pleasure of reading has always been its uniquely transporting experience: the way a literary world might look completely different to two readers. One might picture the fictional heroine as a Natalie Portman type; the other might see her as Freida Pinto.

But when the "true" representation -- like clove cigarette guy -- is immediately provided to the reader, imaginary worlds could be squelched before they have a chance to be born. Reading Vooks made me feel a little like a creative slacker. Maybe there was no point in imagining what someone or something looked like, if I was going to be helped along anyway.

David Sousa is a consultant in educational neuroscience and author of "How the Brain Learns to Read." In his classroom research, he says, "we find that kids are not able to do imagining and imaging as exercises" as well as they once did, "because video's doing the work for them. . . . They still have the mental apparatus for that, the problem is they're not getting the exercise."

Reading has traditionally been one of imagination's personal trainers, and while skipping from medium to medium might provide other benefits (catering to a variety of learning styles rather than just the visual reader's), it might adversely affect the way we create our own worlds.

Of course, some hybrid books' companion activities seem designed to exercise creativity. Readers of "The Amanda Project," for example, are encouraged to contribute to the site's catalogue of reader-submitted stories in a sort of organized fan fiction compendium. Madison, the 14-year-old, says that though she's never been what you would call a bookworm, the multimedia aspects of her uncle's books have made her more willing to read other things.

And Stein of the Institute for the Future of the Book says that whatever assumptions we might make now about hybrid books, there's a good chance they won't hold true when the medium grows up. "Things like the Vook are trivial. We're going to see an explosion of experimentation before we see a dominant new format. We're at the very beginning stages" of figuring out what narrative might look like in the future. "The very, very beginning."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Editing film and sound to upload mixes to you tube

Add a soundtrack to your YouTube videos with AudioSwap

YouTube has rolled out a new feature called AudioSwap that allows users to add a music soundtrack to their videos after they've been uploaded to YouTube.

After you publish a video, click on the Replace Audio button on your My Videos page. From there it's a simple 2-step process of picking the song you like from YouTube's offerings (no worries about copyright infringement here), previewing it with your video, and publishing away. All of your previous audio will be lost (no huge problem if it's a computer demonstration or a noisy clip with bad audio to begin with), replaced by the soundtrack. I tried it out with a video I'm publishing later today, and it seemed to work without a hitch. — Adam Pash

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Apple TV-Service Proposal Gets Some Nibbles

Apple TV-Service Proposal Gets Some Nibbles

By SAM SCHECHNER And YUKARI IWATANI KANE

CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co. are considering participating in Apple Inc.'s plan to offer television subscriptions over the Internet, according to people familiar with the matter, as Apple prepares a potential new competitor to cable and satellite TV.


The proposed service by the maker of iPhones and iPod music players could, in at least some scenarios, offer access to some TV shows from a selection of major U.S. television networks for a monthly fee, according to people familiar with the discussions. Apple is pushing to complete licensing deals and hopes to introduce the service in 2010, some of those people said. It is unclear whether any networks have signed on yet.

Spokespeople for Apple, CBS and Disney declined to comment.

If Apple signs up enough networks to launch a viable service—still a very big if—it could ultimately alter the economics of the television business. The service could undermine the big bundles of channels that cable, satellite and telecommunications companies, including Comcast Corp. and DirecTV Inc., have traditionally sold in packages to subscribers.

Comcast declined to comment. A spokesman for DirecTV said, "It's difficult to gauge how competitive they will be without seeing the packaging, presentation and execution."

Apple is dipping its toe into the cable subscription model, but still needs to sign up networks, Sam Schechner reports on the News Hub panel.


The video strategy is part of Apple's plan to overhaul its iTunes store. The store currently sells downloadable music, video and applications like games, entertainment and productivity tools for its touchscreen devices, like the iPhone and iPod Touch. Apple recently bought music-streaming service La La Media Inc. as part of its plan to offer consumers more ways to access and manage their music purchases, according to people familiar with the situation. Similarly, the TV subscription service would be in addition to the way Apple sells individual TV shows.

Apple is revamping iTunes as it finalizes its plans for a tablet device, which is meant to be a multimedia gadget, according to people briefed about the product. The multimedia tablet is expected to be larger than an iPhone but smaller than a laptop computer. People briefed by Apple say the company is aiming to launch it by the end of March.



Apple faces an uphill battle assembling a critical mass of TV networks to sign up, a factor that could delay or scuttle a launch. A broad swath of media companies—including News Corp., Viacom Inc., Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting and Discovery Communications Inc.—appear to be opposed to or leaning away from signing on, at least to Apple's initial proposals, according to people familiar with the matter. It is unclear if NBC Universal, in which Comcast is buying a controlling stake, is interested.

As part of the Apple service, CBS is considering offering programs from both the CBS and CW networks, according to people familiar with the matter. CW, a joint venture between CBS and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., airs shows like "Gossip Girl" and "Vampire Diaries" that are among the most popular purchases, per episode, on the iTunes video and music bazaar.

Disney is considering including programs from its ABC, Disney Channel and ABC Family networks, according to a person familiar with the matter. Disney has in the past been among the first to jump into online video, including on iTunes. Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs is Disney's largest individual shareholder and sits on the company's board.

In at least some versions of the proposal, Apple would pay media companies about $2 to $4 a month per subscriber for a broadcast network like CBS or ABC, and about $1 to $2 a month per subscriber for a basic-cable network, people familiar with the proposals said. Those amounts are in some cases much higher than media companies receive from traditional distributors. The question is whether selling fewer networks at higher prices is better business.

Apple's TV proposal may be changing as the company woos networks, according to people familiar with the matter. An initial version of the proposal had envisioned selling access to advertising-free shows from a bundle of top cable and broadcast networks—the "best of television"—with a consumer price tag of $30 a month, according to people familiar with the talks.

Some media companies say the proposed Apple service could undermine the lucrative business of selling bundles of big and small cable networks to distributors like Comcast and Time Warner Cable Inc. That concern is less central to CBS, which owns few cable networks. But for companies with large cable-network portfolios, selling only some of those channels to Apple, even at inflated prices, could cut into revenue.

Some executives are also concerned that the Apple service wouldn't include advertising, at least in some of Apple's proposals. U.S. broadcast and cable networks sold $43.4 billion in ads in 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

"You don't want to shoot a hole in the bucket to create another revenue stream," one media executive said.

It is also unclear how many shows from each network could be made available through the Apple service. Networks' rights to TV shows online are snarled in a tangle of licenses with the studios that produce them. It is possible some shows produced by outside studios for a network could end up left out of an Apple offering, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Apple's initial proposals were reported in November by the Web site All Things Digital, which like The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp.

Even if Apple is able to launch the new service, it faces a good deal of competition. Movie rental company Netflix Inc. is expanding its customer base for its streaming video servicethrough partnerships with consumer electronics manufacturers and videogame console makers such as Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. Video site Hulu, which offers TV shows from several networks over the Web, is also looking at the possibility of launching a subscription service. Hulu, which is owned by News Corp., NBC Universal and Disney, has become the second-most popular destination for online video, after Google Inc.'s YouTube, with 657 million video streams in November, according to Nielsen Co.

Meanwhile, cable companies are rolling out their own services that put cable-TV shows online for existing subscribers, giving them more reasons to keep their subscriptions. Comcast brought out its system nationwide on Dec. 15, offering its subscribers online access to some programs from 27 cable networks. Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications Inc. are testing similar offerings.

According to Adams Media Research, Internet spending on movies and TV shows is expected to more than double to $1.14 billion in 2010 from $472 million in 2008.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

what do you use to capture the screen?

there are programs out there that will do it for you, but i do it the old fashioned way:

press and hold SHIFT, then press the Print Screen Key, (usually upper right hand corner of your keyboard)

open Windows Paint, (start, programs, accessories, Paint) i made a shortcut to paint on my start menu to save time.

once Paint is open, right click on the blank document and choose "Paste".

from there you can cut the area out you want to share using paint's little square edit thingy, cut and paste into a new document and save to your hard drive.

sounds complicated, but after you do it a few times, it's easy :-)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Flash Beta 10.1 and the Future of Online Video

Easily one of the most interesting developments in technology from this past week was the release of the beta version of Flash 10.1. What makes this version of the almost ubiquitous, and often annoying, browser plug-in so earth-shaking? The latest iteration of Flash promises to make a huge leap in the technology’s usability by enabling hardware acceleration of Flash video decoding. Prior to this beta release, all Flash video had had to be decoded by the CPU, a task that was very processor intensive, to the point that it made high definition and/or full screen Flash video essentially unwatchable because of poor quality, but also stuttering, crashes, etc. So even as Flash video has become the de-facto standard for online video streaming, powering such dominating sites as YouTube and Hulu, it has retained an almost fatal flaw for large format viewing. Flash’s weakness in this area was especially ironic as so many technologies and devices are striving today to bring Internet video precisely to large HDTVs in living rooms, as the next evolution of media distribution. Hardware acceleration of video on PCs is not new, however, and in fact, both nVidia and ATI have enabled hardware acceleration of h.264 video on their more recent video cards and GPU’s. In addition, integrated graphics solutions like nVidia’s Ion platform have been designed specifically to create compact, low wattage HTPCs with very modest CPUs capable of easily playing back 1080p h.264 content at high bit-rates. A glaring weakness for these video capable HTPCs and nettops, however, was their obvious inability to display Flash video well, even when the underlying codec in the video was h.264, because of how Flash functioned in all versions prior to 10.1. Finally, Adobe has addressed the problem and the 10.1 beta does in fact offload much of the video decoding processing from the CPU to the GPU, and based on my own tests, now lets HTPCs successfully show full screen and HD Flash based video. Prior to 10.1 I would never attempt to watch services like Hulu in full screen via my mini-ITX Ion-based HTPC, but now that is essentially not a problem any longer. Merely uninstalling Flash 10 and then installing the 10.1 beta made an obvious and crucial difference.

It will likely be a few months before Adobe rolls out 10.1 to everyone, but the impact of this move will likely be felt both in the short and long terms. Short term, hardware decoded Flash video could be a real boost tonettop PC’s and netbooks, allowing them to really become cheap and easy media playback devices. In the longer view, however, Flash’s innovation here could really cement its central role as they delivery avenue for video of all kinds over the Internet, dealing serious blows to both Microsoft’s Quicksilver, but also any other competitors still out there. Unknown is what Flash video’s dominance will mean for the file-sharing and downloading communities. Will video pirates move away from downloading entire shows via Bittorrent to instead watch free streaming episodes on Hulu -like services if quality differences disappear? Will more cable customers ditch their TV services in favor of going completely for over-the-top video? Such suppositions may be quite speculative at this point, but with the changes to Flash on the horizon, they are becoming more plausible every day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sezmi offers a new kind of TV service

Sezmi, a Silicon Valley startup that's pioneering a new type of TV service, is opening up a public test of its system today in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Consumers who are accepted into the program will be able to test out Sezmi's service for free for about three months.

In Los Angeles, Sezmi's service will offer cable TV channels such as the Comedy Channel, TNT and CNN; Internet video from such sites as YouTube; some 6,000 on-demand movies and television shows, as well as local broadcast channels. In the Bay Area, Sezmi won't be offering cable programming — at least not initially — but will include everything else.

After the three-month trial period, Belmont-based Sezmi will begin charging customers who continue to use the service. But the subscription rates will be considerably lower than those charged by cable and satellite operators for similar services.

"There's a lot of frustration among people," said Buno Pati, Sezmi's CEO. "They feel like they're paying a lot of money and getting an antiquated experience."

Sezmi's service differs from those of traditional pay-television operators. Its customers get local broadcast channels via the public airwaves. But the company also relies on those airwaves, via deals with local broadcasters, to send pay-TV channels to its customers. It also plans to send on-demand and Internet programming to consumers via customers' broadband connections.

The company, whose service
Sezmi, a Silicon Valley startup that's pioneering a new type of TV service, is opening up a public test of its system today in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Consumers who are accepted into the program will be able to test out Sezmi's service for free for about three months.

In Los Angeles, Sezmi's service will offer cable TV channels such as the Comedy Channel, TNT and CNN; Internet video from such sites as YouTube; some 6,000 on-demand movies and television shows, as well as local broadcast channels. In the Bay Area, Sezmi won't be offering cable programming — at least not initially — but will include everything else.

After the three-month trial period, Belmont-based Sezmi will begin charging customers who continue to use the service. But the subscription rates will be considerably lower than those charged by cable and satellite operators for similar services.

"There's a lot of frustration among people," said Buno Pati, Sezmi's CEO. "They feel like they're paying a lot of money and getting an antiquated experience."

Sezmi's service differs from those of traditional pay-television operators. Its customers get local broadcast channels via the public airwaves. But the company also relies on those airwaves, via deals with local broadcasters, to send pay-TV channels to its customers. It also plans to send on-demand and Internet programming to consumers via customers' broadband connections.

The company, whose service
Sezmi, a Silicon Valley startup that's pioneering a new type of TV service, is opening up a public test of its system today in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

Consumers who are accepted into the program will be able to test out Sezmi's service for free for about three months.

In Los Angeles, Sezmi's service will offer cable TV channels such as the Comedy Channel, TNT and CNN; Internet video from such sites as YouTube; some 6,000 on-demand movies and television shows, as well as local broadcast channels. In the Bay Area, Sezmi won't be offering cable programming — at least not initially — but will include everything else.

After the three-month trial period, Belmont-based Sezmi will begin charging customers who continue to use the service. But the subscription rates will be considerably lower than those charged by cable and satellite operators for similar services.

"There's a lot of frustration among people," said Buno Pati, Sezmi's CEO. "They feel like they're paying a lot of money and getting an antiquated experience."

Sezmi's service differs from those of traditional pay-television operators. Its customers get local broadcast channels via the public airwaves. But the company also relies on those airwaves, via deals with local broadcasters, to send pay-TV channels to its customers. It also plans to send on-demand and Internet programming to consumers via customers' broadband connections.

The company, whose service has been long in development, is also getting a boost from investors. It says it recently raised $25 million in a third round of venture funding from previous investors such as Morgenthaler Ventures, Omni Capital and TD Fund and a new, unnamed, "strategic" investor.

Sezmi's service includes a sophisticated antenna system designed to tune in sometimes finicky digital television signals and a DVR with 1-terabyte of storage space — good enough to store about 1,000 hours of programming, Sezmi says.

The service is designed to be customized for individual members of a particular household. Customers can personalize the "home" screen they see when they log in. More importantly, Sezmi's service will record a particular list of programs for each user.

The test that starts today is focused on Los Angeles. The company plans to allow anyone from Los Angeles who meets certain requirements to participate. Those requirements include having a broadband connection and being able to get decent digital television reception. About 80 to 85 percent of the L.A. area should meet that latter requirement, company officials said.

Sezmi plans a more limited test program in the Bay Area. Company officials did not say how many people will participate in the Bay Area or how it will select participants. Interested people can apply through the company's Web site at www.sezmi.com.

Following the free test period, Sezmi plans to charge consumers $4.99 a month for its service, which doesn't include the pay-TV channels. For its package that includes those channels, it plans to charge $24.99.

In contrast, Comcast charges $15 or more a month for its limited basic cable service, which provides only local broadcast stations and does not include a DVR or on-demand programming.

Satellite and television operators typically charge $45 or more for packages that include basic cable stations.

However, unlike the typical satellite- or cable-TV customer, consumers who plan to continue using the Sezmi service will have to buy its set-top box and antenna. Sezmi plans to charge new customers who sign up after the trial period $300 for the equipment.

It plans to offer a discount to consumers who participate in the trial.

The company has already signed deals with partners in the retail and broadband industries that could eventually lower the price that consumers pay for its equipment, bringing it more in line with those charged by rival providers, Sezmi officials said.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

An Eee PC in Every Room? Twenty Uses for Netbooks in Your Home

These Linux Eee PCs are so cool. They are getting cheap enough that you could practically have one in every room of your house. If you could, what would you do with them all?

Here's what I'd do (most of these things require you to disable the Eee PC's screensaver, which you can do quite easily):

1. Watch TV. The main purpose of our Eee PC right now is to use it as a very portable television. We watch Hulu mostly, as well as South Park when a new episode comes out. We originally bought the Eee PC because we lost our DirecTV (neighbor's trees in the way) and we didn't want to have to run a cable to the far room, so we just set up the Eee PC in that room and streamed content from Hulu. We love it. But you need a set of cheap speakers plugged into the Eee PC to really get sound. Otherwise it works great. My wife isn't a very confident computer user so I built her an easy menu of the sources of entertainment. (Yes, Flash for Hulu and YouTube runs fine on the Eee PC out-of-the-box.) Plus, the Eee PC has a port to connect to a larger monitor or TV (VGA).
2. Listen to streaming music.Pandora works on the Eee PC. If you haven't used Pandora, you should really give it a try. It is a free streaming music service where you can construct your own radio station of cool songs. You can pick a number of your favorite artists and then it will play music that is similar to those artists (as well as the artists themselves). It can go for hours with enjoyable tunes, and if you don't like something, you can vote it down and it will jump to the next song.
3. Listen to the radio. If you have a favorite radio station locally (or around the world), the Eee PC has a function built-in that will take you straight to the MediaU Website.
4. Tape recorder. My wife has a lot of cool ideas throughout the day and she likes to have a tape recorder to record them on the spot before she forgets. The Eee PC has a great microphone and simple sound recorder application built-in that works nicely.
5. Play video games. Okay, you're limited to games that work on Linux, but still. The Eee PC has a cute little penguin bodysurfing game that is quite fun.
6. Alarm clock. When traveling, you don't have to pack an alarm clock, just use your Eee PC. Here are instructions (look further down on the page after the business about the potato).
7. Digital picture frame. This works pretty well. Go into Flickr and use the slideshow feature. If you want just certain files to repeat over and over (like a standalone picture frame) you can use OpenOffice Impress (called Presentations on Eee PC) which works similarly to PowerPoint.
8. E-mail station. Like to look at your e-mail while you're eating breakfast? Why lug your laptop from your home office to the dining table? Just use your Eee PC (dining room edition)! Eee PC uses Thunderbird, plus has desktop links to Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL. Of course, you can get to any POP server through Thunderbird and any Web-based e-mail through the browser (Firefox).
9. Listen to podcasts and music. The Eee PC does not have a podcast catcher built-in, but you can download a Linux-compatible application like Songbird (sorry no iTunes on Linux but Songbird is really nice). Installation is a bit tricky, follow the instructions in this thread. Most Eee PCs do not have much storage space, so once you've listened to a podcast, delete it immediately. You won't be able to store your whole music collection on the Eee PC drive either, but you could use a flash drive (Eee PC has a USB port).
10. Watch tutorials. There are so many awesome video tutorials on technology tools (like this set on GIMP) but who has time to sit still and watch them? Take your Eee PC with you from room to room and have the tutorials playing while you make dinner or cut your toenails.
11. Read your own personalized newspaper (RSS).Google Reader is an incredible time-saving (time-wasting) tool. I've used it to create a personalized newspaper for myself. I don't care about 90% of the stories in my local newspaper, I care about other stuff, like stories about Agile development, business travel, Canadian news, systems thinking, holistic health, open source software, renewable energy, software productivity tools, Web 2.0, etc. So I was able to construct a constant stream of these types of stories using an RSS Reader like Google Reader. The only trouble with doing this on the Eee PC is that the screen is a bit small to see enough of the stories, but you can fix that. Hit F11 on the Eee PC and then click on the border in the middle and you should have lots of reading room.
12. Read your recipes. There are so many good recipe sites on the Web, but AllRecipes is my favorite. Use your Eee PC as a recipe station, eliminating the need to print them out.
13. Read PDFs easily. The Eee PC cannot be called an e-book reader, but it does a good job of reading PDF files. With my job (computer consulting), I often have to get through a massive PDF file and I don't like sitting in my office reading it on the screen. It is sometimes nicer to use the Eee PC to pull it up and read it anywhere, even in my La-Z-Boy chair in the loft. The Eee PC comes loaded with Adobe Acrobat Reader.
14. Mirror. Umm, you can use the built-in Webcam on the Eee PC as a mirror to see if you have something in your teeth. (Gettin' lame, I know.)
15. Social network status. If you are totally into a particular social network (Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, Ping.fm, etc.) you can keep that page loaded on your Eee PC and see what's going on realtime with your friends.
16. Encyclopedia. Nice to have an on-demand encyclopedia in every room, eh? Wikipedia is the obvious choice here.
17. IM station. The Eee PC comes with an instant messaging client, but you'd have to have it running only in one room, otherwise you get logged out elsewhere. Still, nice to be able to IM anybody anywhere in your house (maybe??).
18. Phone. Skype is loaded on the Eee PC, you can use your Eee PC as a phone, but you will definitely need the speakers (as mentioned previously). Although it has a Webcam, you have to go through some additional steps to get video Skype working. Maybe the newer Eee PC don't require this, I don't know.
19. To do list. Nice to have your favorite to do list right in the room with you. My favorite is Remember the Milk, but any Web-based system or Linux-compatible download will work.
20. Real-time information feeds. Things like weather or election results can be nice to have on-demand in the room you're in.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Connect PC with your TV


Connect PC with TV - The funniest videos are a click away

How to Switch from Cable/Satellite TV to 100% Internet TV

Summary: When it came time to abandon our much loved satellite TV service (DirecTV) we made the big decision to go completely IPTV – all our television entertainment from Internet sources. It took some research and some fiddling with gadgets and TVs, but it was worth it. Now, almost a year later, we couldn't be happier. We went from paying $110/month with DirecTV down to only $17/month. Read to find out how you can do the same with just a normal broadband Internet connection. FAQ at the end of the article.



We Like TV

We were pretty happy. We had a good TV life. My wife, who is a seamstress, really likes to have the TV on while she does her cutting and sewing. Background noise, but also giving her the ability to look up and see the show whenever she wants.

I like to watch a movie almost every night, plus I love watching Jon Stewart's Daily Show. On the weekends, we usually watch one or two movies on Saturday night and something on Sunday night as well.

So we are not TV-o-phobes. We like our TV.

We have three main places where we watch TV in the house: my wife's cutting room (used to be a dining room), her sewing room (kind of a den) and the loft (living room).



The Trees, The Trees



What happened was our neighbor's trees grew too high and blocked our satellite reception. It also happened last year. At that time, we asked our neighbors if they would mind if we trimmed the tops of their trees, they said it was no problem. But this time, we realized it was going to keep happening every year, and we'd have to ask them to chop the trees down, which they wouldn't agree to. So we needed another solution.


From Satellite to Cable?

Should we go to cable? My wife and I had both used cable services before moving in together, and we hated them. Bad quality reception, bad customer service. No thanks. But what was the alternative?

Finally we decided to make the move to 100% Internet television. But this was going to take some research.

Our questions were:

* Could we get television in all the rooms we needed (cutting room, sewing room, loft)?
* Did the Internet have the particular TV shows that we liked?
* Was the bandwidth of our connection fast enough to provide full screen video?
* Was the equipment to get us set up going to cost too much for the savings per month?


The answers were Yes, Yes, Yes and No.



The Equipment

After looking on the Web for articles (one like this one would have been good!) on people's experiences (not vendor success stories), I decided to get the following equipment:




Eee PC (Linux)





Roku Player





A GigaWare PC-to-TV Converter (Radio Shack)


and a DVD player (no photo)




The Eee PC cost about $400 (then, now it's below $300). The Roku Player was $99. The DVD player was about $50. The GigaWare converter was around $100 once you got all the cables with it. It seems like GigaWare doesn't sell that box anymore, so maybe this would work instead.



$650 Invested in Equipment

Total investment = $650. Equal to about 6 months of DirecTV.


The purpose of the Eee PC is to act as a television for my wife's cutting room. It is super-portable, so she can carry it around if she wants to watch TV elsewhere, like our screened-in porch. She does that a lot after she finishes her work.





The Roku Player we set up in our loft / living room. It connects easily to a television with composite video connectors (there are a bunch of options). We have a 55” rear-projection TV (about 12 years old) and this combination works great.

By the way, we have wireless Internet all through our house. This is a NECESSITY for this plan. Roku depends on it, as does the Eee PC.

The reason for the GigaWare PC-to-TV converter is to be able to connect one of our laptops to a TV. To explain that a little more, we will have to get into the next topic: Content.



Can We Still Get the Movies, TV Series and Specials We Want (Need?)


We knew that we had a diverse set of content that we really wanted to get with our new setup. Here was a sampling of our regular watching (just to get this list took some analysis!):

* Movies, movies, movies – from the latest releases on DVD to foreign films to back catalog
* The Riches
* The Daily Show
* The Colbert Report
* South Park
* The Simpsons
* King of the Hill
* Nip/Tuck
* Weeds
* Sledge Hammer
* Married with Children
* Desperate Housewives
* Dancing with the Stars
* Family Guy
* American Dad


Neither of us watch a lick of sports, nor do we pay attention to the local or national newscasts. No soap operas, daytime talk shows or kids' programming (unless you count South Park).

This was our target list. As it turned out, we were able to use Hulu.com to get most of the TV shows (Riches, Daily Show, Colbert, Simpsons, King of the Hill, Nip/Tuck, Married). For others, we were able to use ABC.com (Desperate, Dancing). South Park actually has its own Website, where their content is available a few weeks after it airs on Comedy Central (SouthParkStudios.com). Cost so far? Nothing.

Now for movies. Hulu definitely has some movies, but not much. Especially when we were doing this experiment (early 2008). We needed a bigger variety. So we decided to get started with NetFlix. We knew that NetFlix had a dual service, where you could get DVDs in the mail and also have simultaneous access to another set of movies through an Internet download service. This sounded like the ticket. The price was nice: $17/month for three DVDs at a time. (Now it's gone up a bit - $17/month for only 2 at a time, including access to Blu-Ray).

And NetFlix had another advantage. Now we had access to the HBO and Showtime series we were missing on Hulu and elsewhere. We have always liked watching the pay-TV series throughout the years, like The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Weeds, Huff – you name it. Now, through NetFlix, we had access to these series either through instant download or as a mailed DVD.

Now we had it! For $17/month, we had as much content available to us as before, but most of it was on-demand - even better!! We could pick from a few hundred movies on Hulu.com or over 10,000 on NetFlix download. On mailed DVD, we had over 120,000 to choose from. And for TV series and specials, it was all there.



Frequently Asked Questions

In this section, I'll try to ask some of the questions I've heard from friends as I've described our set-up (my friends are bored hearing about this already).

Q. Isn't the picture jerky on movie downloads?

A. Depends. Hulu had lots of problems with jerky pictures early on, but they seem to have fixed this. All you have to do is bring up the show initially, let it cache for a minute or two, and you can proceed with no jerkiness. NetFlix download through Roku is never, NEVER, I mean NEVER jerky. I don't know how they do it.



Q. How is the picture quality?

A. On Hulu, the picture quality is excellent. They even have some of the shows available in HD. On NetFlix download, the picture is okay to good, depending on the day. No complaints, unless you are a very picky TV watcher.



Q. Do you have to have Windows for this all to work?

A. We do not allow the Windows operating system in our house. Everything runs either Mac OSX or Linux. Hulu runs everywhere, even Linux on the Eee PC. It just requires Flash or an open-source Flash player equivalent. The NetFlix player works on the Roku, but you can also watch any download on your computer. The NetFlix player is very picky. It works on Windows, of course, as well as Mac OSX (Intel only). It does not work on Linux nor on the older Mac PowerPC boxes (we have a Mac Mini like that). Has something to do with DRM (digital rights management).



Q. Why didn't you go with Apple TV or Cinema Now?

A. I've heard the Apple TV is very nice. Easy to use, fast to set up, lots of content choices. The reason we didn't go that route is that my wife is a penny pincher. If we sign up for a monthly “all you can watch” system, she will watch shows freely. But if we had a per-download cost (like on Apple TV or Cinema Now) she would penny pinch and end up postponing watching her TV show for days and days to save money. So, to save us both that headache, we stuck with everything being all-you-can-watch.



Q. Why still use the NetFlix mailed DVDs if you have so much online?

A. I can't give a logical answer to that logical question. The only logical reason could be that there is a much larger library on DVD than from NetFlix download. The real reason is an emotional thing. We like the excitement of getting a DVD in the mail. Even though I know what it's going to be. I can't explain it.



Q. What about other basic cable channels like Discovery, SciFi, Food Network, HGTV, PBS, etc.?

A. At the time last year, most of these networks were not online yet. But now they are. You can find at least some content for all these networks these days. Just check their “full episode” line up to make sure they have your favorites online.



Q. Don't these Websites force you to identify yourself as a cable or satellite subscriber? How can they give this away for free?

A. None of this content is truly free. On Hulu.com, ABC.com and SouthParkStudios.com, all shows are supported by commercials. And you cannot really skip the commercials (without some additional effort and hacking). The good thing, though, is that the commercial breaks are very short. Usually only one 30 second ad per break – that's it. I'm sure that will change. With NetFlix, the downloads are part of your paid service, so no commercials there. As a result, we tend to watch NetFlix downloads a lot more than Hulu (except when it's my wife by herself, then Hulu is usually her choice). We are certainly concerned that the cable companies will see all this revenue escaping from them and put demands on services like Hulu to make sure that every Hulu viewer is also a subscriber of a cable TV service. But so far, that has not happened. (Please, please, don't let it happen!)



Q. What about sports?

A. Sorry, I don't have a clue. Do some research on ESPN, etc. maybe they have some options. I think the NHL has an online viewing package for all the local games.



Q. How long do you have to wait before a show begins on download?

A. On NetFlix, it is usually about one minute. Then it starts, and never skips, jerks or has to reload. Hardly ever. With Hulu, you put it on pause at the beginning, wait for about two minutes to let it load, and away you go.



Q. Does this work on slow DSL connections?

A. Yep. That's what we have. We probably have the slowest broadband you can get. (If you still have dial-up, stop reading now.) However, if you have the slowest cable connection, you might have trouble. I think most cable Internet providers have higher bandwidth choices, so definitely factor that additional cost into your calculations before switching.



Q. Do you watch other content besides the professionally produced TV content?

A. Oh yes. We watch video podcasts and other TV series that are only available on the Web, like the excellent “Something To Be Desired” (now in its sixth season). Most YouTube videos we watch are on our computers, not through the TVs. It's funny to find old, dead networks like The WB on the Web as well. This was their opportunity to recycle all that old content, some of it is pretty good. You can also use directories BlinkX.com to find new independent video.



Q. What do you do about high-definition (HD) content?


A. It costs $3/month extra at NetFlix to get Blu-Ray DVDs, which we gladly pay. We have an HD projector and a Blu-Ray DVD player, so we use these on special occasions (most weekends) to play some big epic movie or whatever. It projects out to about a 6 ft by 5 ft image – really impressive. It's so nice to have a big white wall. NetFlix has HD downloads on some movies (very few) and the Roku can easily connect to our HD projector. Hulu also has HD content, for that we connect our Eee PC or other laptop to the HD projector. I would say we watch less than 10% of our content on HD. Even the HD movies seem to download in a reasonable amount of time and do not have jerkiness thereafter. Amazing - I don't know how that's possible with just a normal DSL connection.




Q. Is the Eee PC powerful enough to watch full-screen video?

A. We've never had a problem. The only problem is with the bandwidth coming in, and that is solved by pausing the show for a minute or two to let the content cache, then it's fine.



Q. What about when you travel?

A. I'm a computer consultant, so I travel a lot. No problem. My NetFlix downloads and Hulu come with me on my laptop. Hotel Internet connections are always too slow, however, so I always use my wireless modem from Verizon Wireless.



Q. How does this work for people outside the U.S.?

A. Not worth a crap. Sorry.



Q. Do you use Boxee, Square Connect or another service as an content directory?

A. We don't. I just set up a Web page for my wife and we left it at that. These services are very intriguing, and once they have Hulu and the NetFlix content all integrated into one service, we will probably switch.



Q. Are you happy with Internet TV?

A. Yes, extremely. It's been almost a year post-satellite and we don't miss it one bit. It is scary to think if our Internet connection would ever go down, we'd have no e-mail, Web surfing or TV. But, luckily, that hasn't happened yet.

Labels: IPTV, satellite television

posted by Daryl Kulak @ 1:56:00 PM 2 comments links to this post
2 Comments:

At 6:42 PM EDT, Blogger Rizwan said...

Here is a video tutorial on how to connect PC with a TV..
Hope u will watch this video tutorial
http://rizeworkshop.blogspot.com/2009/03/how-to-connect-pc-with-tv.html

At 8:41 PM EDT, Blogger Daryl Kulak said...

Hi Riswan,

Thanks for the comment and the video tutorial. I'm sure people will find it useful.

The tutorial is good, but the music is kind of annoying.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The pros and cons of switching to Windows 7

By Woody Leonhard

If you're still sitting on the fence about upgrading to Windows 7 — after all, it's been widely available for all of a few hours now — I'd like to regale you with my top eight reasons to jump in with both feet.

I'll also tell you three possible reasons for keeping the new OS on the shelf — for a while, at least.

After you wade through the Win7 marketing hype, you'll find a solid core of real improvements in the new release. There are many aspects of Windows 7 that cry out for adopting it and just a few that suggest sticking with Vista or XP.

• 8. Windows 7 is easier on the eyes

No doubt you're way beyond the stage where fancy wallpaper and cute icons curl your toes, but any way you look at it, Windows 7's a stunner. From wallpaper that changes itself to the tightly controlled group of icons in the area near the clock, Win7 puts the things you need most where you need them. The OS also moves the flotsam out of the way.

Since there's no Sidebar in Windows 7 — good riddance, I say — Win7's gadgets move to the high-rent district of the desktop, where you can move, resize, and snap them together neatly.

• 7. The Action Center puts all the nags in one place

Windows XP and Vista are notorious for scattering important information all over creation. At the same time — and quite perversely — every two-bit application you install on an XP or Vista PC can pop up annoying messages, distracting your attention while you're trying to get some work done.

Win7 reduces the shrill impositions to a minimum by funneling almost all interactions through the Action Center. Yes, the Action Center has its roots in the old Security Center, but it's all grown up now.

The Action Center serves as traffic cop for announcements that inform, warn, and often annoy. But rather than a pop-up window, the only alert you'll see is a flag in the notification area (near the clock) that turns yellow or red as needs dictate.

• 6. Win7's security is stronger and less intrusive

Security stuff gets complicated very quickly. Suffice it to say that Windows 7 is significantly more difficult to crack than Vista, which in turn was an order or magnitude tougher to break into than XP. (Internet Explorer and the .NET Framework are noteworthy exceptions.)

Compared to Vista's in-your-face User Account Control (UAC), the equivalent in Windows 7 is clipped and reined in. You can get to the settings easily. For most people, security won't be nearly so difficult in Win7 as it was in Vista — and it won't be as, uh, permeable as it was in XP.

• 5. You can make a movie of what ails your PC

If you haven't seen Windows 7's new Problem Steps Recorder (PSR), you owe it to yourself to try it. Click Start, type psr, and hit Enter. This little utility lets you record everything on the screen — except the stuff you type — as it happens. When you're done, PSR spits out an MHTML file that can be opened and played back in Internet Explorer.

Like the Snipping Tool in Vista (also available in Win7), once you try PSR, you won't know how you ever lived without it.

• 4. Search works — finally!

Windows XP's built-in search feature is a slow, painful, buggy joke. In Vista, search is a little less labored, occasionally usable, but still unreliable.

In Windows 7, Microsoft has, at long last, woven search into the operating system itself. There's no noticeable system overhead, searches proceed fairly quickly, and — most important of all — the results are accurate.

You can initiate a search from just about any location in Windows 7: on the Start menu, inside Control Panel, and in Windows Explorer. Although there are a few idiosyncrasies — such as no true wildcard searches and text searches that match only the beginnings of words — searches in Win7 usually find what you're looking for.

• 3. You get better control of your devices

Windows 7 centralizes control of all devices: printers, MP3 players, phones, keyboards, mice, fax machines, and anything else you plug into your computer. The controls all appear in a place called Device Stage.

The revolutionary part of Device Stage isn't its omniscience. Windows has had various Devices and Printers–type capabilities for years. Device Stage differs in that manufacturers have started writing their drivers to hook into Device Stage directly.

If you're tired of having 10 different programs in 10 different places to control your attached hardware, those days are rapidly drawing to a close. The junky little programs that go with the devices will disappear, too. At least I hope they will. So long, commercial driver-update utilities!

• 2. Win7 Libraries beat out My Documents any day

I first described Windows 7's Libraries feature in my May 14 Top Story. While Libraries don't do away with the need to organize your files, they make it much, much simpler to track files and put them in the right locations.

"A place for everything, and everything in its place," as Mom used to say. With Windows 7 Libraries, file management is easier than ever.

• 1. HomeGroup makes sharing safe, fast, and fun

A stroke of pure design genius, Windows 7 HomeGroup bundles all the sharing options you'd likely want in order to make files, printers, and media accessible to any other Windows 7 PC on your network.

As described in my May 14 Top Story and my Oct. 1 Woody's Windows column (paid content), homegroups work only among Windows 7 PCs — there's nothing analogous in XP or Vista. Still, sharing among Win7 PCs couldn't be simpler.

Three reasons why Windows 7 isn't for everybody

Despite these and other Win7 positives, there are at least three good reasons for Windows XP and Vista users to stick with their current OS:

• 3. If your PC isn't up to snuff, fuhgeddaboutit!

While Windows 7's hardware demands are less stringent than Vista's, there are zillions of PCs that simply can't handle Win7.

In my March 5 Woody's Windows column (paid content), I described how to convert any three- or four-year-old desktop PC into a Windows 7 wonder by bumping it up to 2GB of memory and sticking in a sufficiently powerful video card. I've retrofitted dozens of Windows XP desktops in this way, and the results are hard to believe. With a little bit of goosing and a couple of hundred bucks, those old PCs run Win7 much faster than they used to run XP.

However, if you have a desktop machine or laptop that's more than a few years old, upgrading its hardware to support Windows 7 is likely more trouble than it's worth. Don't bother.

• 2. If your hardware or software demands XP, stick with that OS

The XP Mode built into Windows 7 Professional and Ultimate is a Virtual PC–based implementation of XP. XP Mode makes sense for large companies that want to get the benefits of Windows 7 but have to put up with hardware or software that runs only under Windows XP.

For the typical home or small-business user, however, XP Mode is a pain in the neck. My advice? If the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor (which you can download from the Microsoft Windows 7 site) indicates that your XP setup isn't compatible with Windows 7, either upgrade the machine's software and hardware or give up on running Win7 on the system. Life's too short.

• 1. Don't try to fix what ain't broke

By far the most-compelling argument for staying with Windows XP or Vista is this: The Windows you have now does everything you need, and you aren't overly concerned about rootkits or other nearly invisible malware hosing your machine. In this case, there's no compelling reason to go out on a limb with Win7.

Replacing your operating system is slightly simpler than performing a self-administered brain transplant, but it's still no walk in the park. In the vast majority of cases, upgrades to Windows 7 go in smoothly, with a few minor irritations — maybe you can't find the install CD for an old program, for example, or you forgot to write down a password.

But in a small percentage of cases, the Windows 7 installation doesn't go well at all. As they say, stuff happens. Any upgrade could potentially become calamitous, and Windows 7 isn't immune.

If the thought of upgrading your system makes you lose sleep, hey — don't worry. Better the devil ye ken, eh?

Monday, October 12, 2009

On The Internet, Nobody Knows You’re Not In The USA

On The Internet, Nobody Knows You’re Not In The USA


by Nik Cubrilovic on October 5, 2009


A large number of web services are geographically restricted, such as Hulu, Pandora and Spotify. The reasons are usually to do with content licensing restrictions, or because US visitors (or visitors from other advanced economies) are of a higher value from a monetization perspective. A web application can only guess at the location of a visitor based on an IP address and other information, such as browser language and regional settings.

IP addresses are mapped to countries (and in some instances, further to states and cities) using large commercial datasets such as GeoIP from Maxmind, which is a ‘best guess’ database based on data it has collected (how, I would rather not know). The system is accurate enough to enable services to block on a country level, but often fail at a more local level.

But the nature of the web means that geographically restricting web services is next to impossible, because those who are technically adept have known how to find and use proxy servers (both open and private) and VPN services to masquerade as being from another country.

The demand for such services has become so popular that more apps are being released that make this process almost as easy as installing any other application – one-click VPN/Proxy install and then pick a country you want to be surfing from (default USA). Even better, there are now VPN solutions available for free – some of which are outright free, others which are ad supported.

If you find yourself outside of the USA and wanting to watch Hulu, outside of the UK and wanting to checkout the BBC, or wanting to rig a web poll, here are some tips:
Proxy Servers

Easy to find, easy to setup. Some sites have become smart enough now to check if the IP address you are coming in from is an open proxy server and will attempt to deny it – but this is most often the easiest solution. The key is to find an open proxy server that everybody else, or even worse, Eastern European crime syndicates, are also not using.

The best source if you are a blogger is to check your spam comments. Most of those IP addresses will not only be open proxy servers (you just have to work out the port – or if you host your own blog, start logging the port), but will be virgin proxy servers.

Otherwise there are a ton of lists available online, often updated each minute, as well as services where you can test your proxy.

FoxyProxy is a Firefox plugin that allows you to easily switch between proxy servers (many Chinese web users are very familiar with having to juggle proxy servers and use such plugins, or browsers that have similar features built-in)

bbc-restricted
VPN Servers

Similar to a proxy, except that a VPN is an encrypted link to a server that will route all of your network traffic (your computer, in effect, becomes part of the network).

FreeVPN – thefreevpn.com – A completely free VPN client and service for Windows machines. No ads, and a fast service. Not sure what the business model is, which is why I wouldn’t trust it with any personal or private information and restrict it to just movie watching or poll rigging. Best free VPN service and super easy to install (see review here)

Feeedur - www.freedur.com – A commercial VPN/anonymizing service that works well.

HotSpotShield – hotspotshield.com – Another free VPN service, but forces you to click on an ad. Working with Hulu again.

UltraVPN – www.ultravpn.fr – cross platform (OS X support). Both free and anonymous.
The Web Is Flat

Using a proxy or a VPN to bypass geographic restrictions or to preserve anonymity online has been known and used by more advanced users for years. More modern services and tools are making it easier for the average internet user to take advantage of the same techniques.

There are entire business models that depend on geographic targeting, so there is a constant cat-and-mouse game between providers of these services and those seeking to bypass the set restrictions. Those who are seeking to access content are winning though, and they will continue to win, as the very nature of the Internet and web make it near impossible to detect where somebody actually is if they refuse to let you know.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Netflix Everywhere: Sorry Cable, You're History

By Daniel Roth 09.21.09
It had taken the better part of a decade, but Reed Hastings was finally ready to unveil the device he thought would upend the entertainment industry. The gadget looked as unassuming as the original iPod—a sleek black box, about the size of a paperback novel, with a few jacks in back—and Hastings, CEO of Netflix, believed its impact would be just as massive. Called the Netflix Player, it would allow most of his company's regular DVD-by-mail subscribers to stream unlimited movies and TV shows from Netflix's library directly to their television—at no extra charge.

The potential was enormous: Although Netflix initially could offer only about 10,000 titles, Hastings planned to one day deliver the entire recorded output of Hollywood, instantly and in high definition, to any screen, anywhere. Like many tech romantics, he had harbored visions of using the Internet to rout around cable companies and network programmers for years. Even back when he formed Netflix in 1997, Hastings predicted a day when he would deliver video over the Net rather than through the mail. (There was a reason he called the company Netflix and not, say, DVDs by Mail.) Now, in mid-December 2007, the launch of the player was just weeks away. Promotional ads were being shot, and internal beta testers were thrilled.

But Hastings wasn't celebrating. Instead, he felt queasy. For weeks, he had tried to ignore the nagging doubts he had about the Netflix Player. Consumers' living rooms were already full of gadgets—from DVD players to set-top boxes. Was a dedicated Netflix device really the best way to bring about his video-on-demand revolution? So on a Friday morning, he asked the six members of his senior management team to meet him in the amphitheater in Netflix's Los Gatos offices, near San Jose. He leaned up against the stage and asked the unthinkable: Should he kill the player?

Three days later, at an all-company meeting in the same amphitheater, Hastings announced that there would be no Netflix Player. Instead, he would spin off the device, letting developer Anthony Wood take the technology and his 19-person team to a small company Wood had founded years earlier called Roku. But Netflix, which had already begun streaming movies to users' PCs, was hardly giving up on the idea of streaming them to televisions as well. Instead, the company would take a more stealthy—and potentially even more ambitious—approach. Rather than design its own product, it would embed its streaming-video service into existing devices: TVs, DVD players, game consoles, laptops, even smartphones. Netflix wouldn't be a hardware company; it would be a services firm. The crowd was stunned. In half an hour, Hastings had completely reinvented Netflix's strategy.

Today, nearly 3 million users access Netflix's instant streaming service, watching an estimated 5 million movies and TV shows every week on their PCs or living room sets. They get it through Roku's player, which was successfully launched in May 2008. (The Roku now also offers more than 45,000 movies and TV shows on demand through Amazon.com and, since August, live and archived Major League Baseball games.) They get it through their Xbox 360s—Microsoft added Netflix to its Xbox Live service last fall. They get it through LG and Samsung Blu-ray players. They get it through their TiVos and new flatscreen TVs. By the end of 2009, nearly 10 million Netflix-equipped gadgets will be hanging on walls and sitting in entertainment centers. And Hastings says this is just the beginning: "It's possible that within a few years, nearly all Internet-connected consumer electronics devices will include Netflix."

And the devices won't just be streaming remaindered basic-cable or art-house fare: Already, Netflix customers can call up just about any episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, The IT Crowd, or Lost whenever they like. They can watch recent releases like WALL-E and Pineapple Express. In other words, they can get unlimited access to the kinds of programming that previously required a cable subscription. (One visitor to the Netflix blog was particularly pleased to see that they could stream old episodes of Dora the Explorer: "We couldn't cancel cable until more kids' shows were available to watch instantly. Thanks for saving us another $400/year.") Netflix has taken the boldest step yet toward a world in which consumers, not programmers, determine not only what they watch but when, where, and how. The dream of routing around cable companies just may be in sight.

You'll never hear Hastings point that out, however. Unlike many in the tech world, he's a quiet disrupter, sabotaging business models silently and irretrievably. His first hit was to the DVD business. Netflix, which lets subscribers hold on to movies for as long as they like, was cheaper, easier, and more convenient for consumers than building film libraries; DVD sales have plummeted as Netflix has grown. And while his streaming service would seem to present a similar threat to cable companies, Hastings argues that their real challenge comes from the Internet in general, not just Netflix. "I mean, will people disconnect their cable over time?" He shrugs. "Potentially." Hastings may undersell the impact of his service, but some of his partners don't share his gift for diplomacy. "Our goal is to have everyone cancel their cable subscription," Roku's Wood says.

Whether Hastings cops to it or not, that day could be coming soon. That's why, for Hastings to fully accomplish his vision, he'll have to go up against some of the most powerful incumbents in media: the cable companies and content providers that have successfully stymied or co-opted all previous entrepreneurial efforts. So far, Hastings has avoided the wrath of the giants by building his Netflix service surreptitiously, slowly amassing his library of streaming content and giving viewers new ways to access it. And now, even if the cable and content companies do take him on, it may be too late. Hastings' Trojan horse—Netflix's software, embedded on myriad consumer devices—is already in place.

It is odd, in an era when the Internet seems able to worm its way into every part of life, that nearly all of us still watch television the old-fashioned way, piped over cable or beamed in by satellite and available only in bloated packages of channels programmed by network executives. Breaking out of this system requires more patience, money, and technical expertise than the average couch potato is willing or able to expend: Plunk an expensive streaming device or PC tower in the living room, wire up a connection to the TV, and install the Boxee app or program a BitTorrent RSS feed to get the content. Watching live shows in real time requires an even more elaborate work-around. Cable companies have made some feints toward giving subscribers more control over what they watch, but most of their efforts have been lackluster. Verizon's FiOS TV offers access to a few user-generated Web sites; Comcast and Time Warner Cable are rolling out services that let subscribers stream cable channels to their PCs.

The set-top box has proven to be a closed and well-guarded fortress against a world of clouds and openness. The cable and satellite industries, and their partners in Hollywood, work strenuously to keep it that way. It's easy to see why: Those little boxes bankroll their business. While the cable companies offer telephone and broadband, TV subscriptions still account for about 60 percent of their revenue. About a third of those fees get funneled to cable networks like Disney and Discovery, where they account for at least half of their revenue. Another chunk of subscription revenue goes to movie studios, which make more than $1 billion a year charging premium channels like HBO for the right to air their films. Even broadcast networks like ABC and NBC, which don't make any money from cable bills, would still prefer that the content they make available online not be viewed on a TV set, because they can't sell as many ads for their Web versions. Fox crams 18 commercials into every Sunday night airing of The Simpsons, earning 54 cents per viewer. But, according to research firm Sanford C. Bernstein, Fox airs just three commercials for the same show on Hulu—a site it co-owns with NBC Universal and Disney—earning a measly 18 cents per viewer.

The man who would overturn this decades-old system is an unlikely revolutionary. Hastings carries himself with a laconic modesty that contradicts an ambitious and restless mind. He has the deep tan of a dedicated snowboarder and a salt-and-pepper goatee that gives him a casual, approachable air. A quiet, hands-off leader, he sets the tone and objectives and lets his employees figure out how to execute them. His main directive is that everyone act like an adult: Netflix has no vacation policy (take as much as you need, when you need it), pay is flexible (stock or cash, your choice), and though firings are unusually common, severance checks are unusually generous. Hastings is comfortable creating his own rules for how to run a business; you don't see any management tomes in his office. In fact, he doesn't even have an office. The CEO prefers to stroll around, a ThinkPad in hand, pitching camp in an empty conference room or huddling in an engineer's cubicle to whiteboard some formula.

One recent morning, Hastings gathered a group of seven newly hired Netflixers in a sunny conference room on the roof of the company's headquarters. He does this once a month and, as always, kicks off the discussion by asking everyone to talk about the best movie they've seen in the past few weeks. He picks Jimmy Carter Man From Plains: "Five minutes in, I was hooked. The filmmaker did a good job making him not boring." The talk flows easily, but the goal is bigger than making everyone comfortable; he's reinforcing the idea that Netflix culture revolves around serving up content.

Since starting the company in 1997, Hastings' goal has always been the same: to deliver the right content in the fastest and most economical way. Obsessed with designing the perfect algorithm for helping viewers discover new movies, he has packed the place with mathematicians and engineers. They test everything, from the recommendations engine to the Web site's design. But if Hastings uses geeky number-crunching to help customers find their movies, his process of delivering them has been decidedly low tech: sending DVDs in red envelopes via the US Postal Service, which costs him roughly a quarter of his $1.4 billion in annual revenue.

Hastings has wanted to move beyond the silver discs for years, but his early attempts to deliver movies over the Net were slow and kludgy. In 2000, his engineers came up with a service that took 16 hours to download a two-hour movie. Hastings killed the project and disbanded the team. In 2003, a new group of engineers built a small, TV-connected Linux PC that could pull in movies. It cost $300 and took two hours to download a film. Again he wielded his ax. Hastings' decisions may have seemed coldhearted, but ultimately they were proven correct. Other competitors like Akimbo brought similar boxes to market—and failed.

It wasn't until 2006 that he tried again. By this time, the long-download problem had been solved by widespread adoption of broadband among consumers. Meanwhile, the spread of YouTube had gotten users used to the idea of streaming content rather than downloading and saving it. So Hastings put together another team of engineers, who developed a way to navigate unreliable home networks, allowing bitrates to shift midstream to maintain the best picture quality with the least amount of buffering.

But the technology was the easy part. Once Hastings decided not to release his own player, he encountered a different challenge: finding devices beyond Roku that would agree to host Netflix's streaming service. One of the first companies he turned to was Microsoft. Practically since releasing its Xbox in 2001, the company had dreamed of making the console into more than just a gaming machine for teenage boys. It offered more than 17,000 movies and TV shows over Xbox Live, but consumers mostly ignored them; apparently they still saw the console as a Halo delivery device. Providing unlimited access to Netflix's streaming library could change that. Microsoft executives were won over, but even they were surprised at the service's success: Within three months of the late 2008 launch, more than 1 million people had signed on, a huge percentage of whom had never touched an Xbox before. "There's a whole demographic—women—that we now pick up," says Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division. "They always thought of Xbox as a hardcore gaming machine. It belonged in the kid's bedroom or the den or some place where 'my husband cocooned when he wanted to play games.' Now its front and center in the house because everyone wants to stream a movie."

Since then, a full Netflix pandemic has broken out. Microsoft incorporated the service into its Windows Media Center software, meaning anyone with Vista can stream Netflix to their TV. Hastings inked deals with Sony and Samsung to put the service into Bravia TVs and Blu-ray players, respectively. The service started showing up in TVs made by Vizio, the largest seller of LCD televisions in the country. And Broadcom began baking the software into some of its flatscreen chips, making it easy for any TV maker to offer sets pre-loaded with Netflix. (As an extra incentive, Netflix pays manufacturers a bounty for any new subscribers that sign up via their products.) Investment bank Piper Jaffray estimates that 25 percent of Netflix's 2.4 million new subscribers this year will come through one of the streaming devices.

With the device makers on board, Hastings had an even tougher task. He needed more and better content. The interface could be the slickest around, but nobody would tune to Netflix's service if it only had back-catalog flicks and old TV shows. In other words, Netflix needed Hollywood.

Despite having run a movie-distribution company, Hastings was far from a Hollywood insider. Netflix simply bought DVDs like any other customer (albeit one with a major movie jones), occasionally striking special revenue-sharing deals for certain titles. The studios couldn't do much: A section of the US copyright law known as the First Sale Doctrine states that, as long as you own it, you can basically do whatever you want with a physical disc. As one studio exec says, "We don't have a choice. We were backed into the business model."

But with online streaming, Netflix has no such advantage. The First Sale Doctrine gives Netflix the right to do what it wants with the disc, not the movie. Netflix suddenly needed to craft more-complicated licensing deals. Push too hard or offer the wrong incentives and the studios could block Netflix from getting good content; acquiesce too easily and Hollywood would happily impose intolerable rules regulating when a movie could be shown, on what platform, and for what price. Part of Netflix's promise is that it offers, like cable and broadcast TV, all-you-can-eat content. If the company bargained away that feature, its service would become just another pay-per-view platform.

To woo Hollywood, Hastings turned to Ted Sarandos, who oversees a staff of 75 at Netflix's Beverly Hills beachhead. Sarandos, a former executive at a video distribution company, serves as translator between the geeks and the studio executives. "There's a lot about the entertainment industry that drives Silicon Valley insane," Sarandos says. "Just the way things work, the politics of it, the pace of it."

Sarandos asked his team to use their data-mining skills to help him find deals. While other video providers might ask studios for a sack full of sure things—new releases by big-name stars—Netflix's engineers could dig through their queue and review databases to find sleeper hits that its users actually wanted to watch but that studios might be willing to license for a pittance. Earlier this year, for instance, Netflix jumped at the chance to stream a French film called Tell No One. The movie pulled in just $6 million at the US box office, but enough subscribers added it to their rental queues that Netflix was able to calculate an estimate of how popular the film would be. Almost immediately after Netflix started streaming it, Tell No One became the fourth-most-watched piece of content. "We have the rental history and the queue insight that enables us to go after things that other people may not be really even hunting," Sarandos says.

Unearthing overlooked gems is great, but Netflix's service will never take off until it can offer up its share of blockbusters. To get those titles, the company needed some way to hack the so-called windowing system, the complicated schedule that governs which distributors can show what films and in what format. First, national and international theatrical distributors pay to show a film in their theaters. Next, there's the DVD and pay-per-view windows. Then there's the combined $1.7 billion a year that channels like HBO, Starz, and Showtime spend to secure the exclusive rights to show movies to subscribers. (Each studio usually signs with just one pay channel; all Warner Bros. movies appear only on HBO, while Sony's go to Starz.) After a few months, the pay-TV networks hand off their rights to broadcasters and ad-supported cable stations. A few years later, the premium channels get the films back, giving them exclusive rights to air them. The windowing system can keep films locked up for years; Disney's National Treasure: Book of Secrets came out in 2007 and is spoken for until 2016. Unless Hastings and Sarandos could find a way around the windowing system, it would be a challenge to show any major movies that had been released in the recent past.

Then they discovered a loophole: Why couldn't Starz sell Netflix the right to air its movies, just as it did with Comcast? Starz had the pay-TV rights to newer titles, exactly what Netflix lacked. Netflix had nearly 9 million (now almost 11 million) subscribers; if it were a cable company, it would be number three, bigger than Cablevision and Charter combined. "We looked at our contract rights and saw that they were an aggregator of content just like the other distributors," says Starz CEO Robert Clasen.
Anthony Wood created the Roku media streamer while working at Netflix.

In October 2008, the two companies announced a deal that would add 2,500 fresh titles to Netflix's service. The studios were stunned. "This is the last thing you want," moaned one studio executive. "More eyeballs with no incremental revenue."

Hastings' window probably won't stay open forever. Unhappy studios or cable companies could easily renegotiate their contract with Starz to discourage it from working with Netflix. Still, the deal kicked off what Hastings hopes will be an unstoppable virtuous cycle. If Netflix can use the Starz offerings to sign up more subscribers, those subscription fees will generate more revenue. And with more revenue, Netflix can afford to pay more studios for rights to more films—which will draw in still more subscribers. And so on. Ultimately, if Netflix can grow and maintain a big enough library by working directly with the studios, it won't need the likes of Starz. Sure, it could potentially overturn the way Hollywood has done business, but as long as the studios are getting paid, why should they mind? "Think of all things in Hollywood as 'money talks,'" Hastings says. "If we can generate enough money for studios, we can get any content we want."

As Hastings chips away at Hollywood, he's also moving as fast as possible to cement Netflix's presence in the next generation of home entertainment devices. He knows he has limited time before the rest of the movie-distribution industry realizes what has hit it. "We had DVD by mail mostly to ourselves for five years before Blockbuster attacked," he says. "And then they gave us hell for five years. So, as great as things are going now, I'm like, remember, hell will return."

It could come from anywhere. Maybe one day the studios decide they don't need Netflix and start dealing directly with device manufacturers. Or they could just jack up the fees they charge Netflix. Amazon or Apple could emerge as a tough competitor. Cable behemoths could use their power to block Netflix's access to content, or they could try to put together their own Netflix-like services. ("There is no reason why this isn't something we can compete with," says Peter Stern, chief strategy officer of Time Warner Cable.)

There are a million different ways for Netflix to fail. But that has always been the case. Netflix should have failed already, taken down by Blockbuster or Wal-Mart, kneecapped by Hollywood, made irrelevant by BitTorrent or iTunes. Yet time and again, the company has not only survived but quietly thrived—on the strength of its unique algorithms and its relentless focus on getting customers content they didn't even know they wanted.

Speaking to his new hires, Hastings lets slip a rare glimpse of immodesty. "When people connect with a movie, it really makes them happy, and that's fundamentally what we're trying to do," he says. "Today you love one out of three movies that you watch. If we can raise that to two out of three, we can completely transform the market and increase human happiness." He makes it all sound so easy—never mind the powerful competitors. Ultimately, the key to film nirvana, whether delivered by DVD or streamed over the Internet, can be as simple as cracking an equation.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The impact of FCC on Net Neutrality

By Chris Albrecht on Legal

FCC Chair Julius Genachowski delivered a speech this morning about the importance of net neutrality and an open internet. Stacey over at GigaOM has a great recap of the news, and you can read the full text of the speech here. As we are about to embark a whole new world of over-the-top video, anyone who cares about expanding their video choices via the Internet should pay attention to what the Genachowski wants to do.

There were three key takeaways from Genachowski’s speech: first, he expanded the number of FCC network neutrality principles to six from four, and second, he kicked off the process to turn these principles into actual rules, and third, he said he would make all of these principals effective for wireless and wired networks. Here are some key excerpts from his speech (emphasis ours):

The fifth principle is one of non-discrimination — stating that broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers’ homes. Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and applications succeed.

This becomes more important now that a company like Comcast, which provides both internet and cable TV services faces video competition from the likes of Netflix, Apple, Amazon and others piping in movies and TV programming directly to your TV using your Comcast-provided data connection (and potentially getting you to cut your cord). And those alternative choices will also be taking up more bandwidth as HD streaming becomes a mainstream activity.

Now that the federal rule limiting how much of the U.S. population a single cable company can serve is lifted, the door is open for cable cos to get bigger and more influential over your access.

This fifth principle tackles more than just who can deliver video to your TV, but the ways in which it can be delivered. In Genachowski’s world, P2P, a technology that cable companies have fought tooth and nail against, wouldn’t be a dirty word, which leads to the sixth principle.

The sixth principle is a transparency principle — stating that providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices. Why does the FCC need to adopt this principle? The Internet evolved through open standards. It was conceived as a tool whose user manual would be free and available to all. But new network management practices and technologies challenge this original understanding. Today, broadband providers have the technical ability to change how the Internet works for millions of users — with profound consequences for those users and content, application, and service providers around the world.

Transparency has been an issue with companies like Comcast (again) in particular, which denied that it was managing its network only to later admit that it was indeed interfering with P2P traffic.

Genachowski’s principles are all well and good, but whether or not the FCC has any teeth to enforce these grand ideals remains to be seen. Comcast has already sued the Commission, questioning the FCC’s right to enforce any net neutrality principles. The FCC filed its opposition brief in response to that suit today.

To back up his bark with some bite, Genachowski has kicked off the process to turn some of these principles into rules. Once he has the support of the Commission in issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking, the proposed rules will be open for feedback and input. To help facilitate that discussion, the FCC today launched the new web site openinternet.gov.

The impact of FCC on Net Neutrality

By Chris Albrecht on Legal

FCC Chair Julius Genachowski delivered a speech this morning about the importance of net neutrality and an open internet. Stacey over at GigaOM has a great recap of the news, and you can read the full text of the speech here. As we are about to embark a whole new world of over-the-top video, anyone who cares about expanding their video choices via the Internet should pay attention to what the Genachowski wants to do.

There were three key takeaways from Genachowski’s speech: first, he expanded the number of FCC network neutrality principles to six from four, and second, he kicked off the process to turn these principles into actual rules, and third, he said he would make all of these principals effective for wireless and wired networks. Here are some key excerpts from his speech (emphasis ours):

The fifth principle is one of non-discrimination — stating that broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. This means they cannot block or degrade lawful traffic over their networks, or pick winners by favoring some content or applications over others in the connection to subscribers’ homes. Nor can they disfavor an Internet service just because it competes with a similar service offered by that broadband provider. The Internet must continue to allow users to decide what content and applications succeed.

This becomes more important now that a company like Comcast, which provides both internet and cable TV services faces video competition from the likes of Netflix, Apple, Amazon and others piping in movies and TV programming directly to your TV using your Comcast-provided data connection (and potentially getting you to cut your cord). And those alternative choices will also be taking up more bandwidth as HD streaming becomes a mainstream activity.

Now that the federal rule limiting how much of the U.S. population a single cable company can serve is lifted, the door is open for cable cos to get bigger and more influential over your access.

This fifth principle tackles more than just who can deliver video to your TV, but the ways in which it can be delivered. In Genachowski’s world, P2P, a technology that cable companies have fought tooth and nail against, wouldn’t be a dirty word, which leads to the sixth principle.

The sixth principle is a transparency principle — stating that providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices. Why does the FCC need to adopt this principle? The Internet evolved through open standards. It was conceived as a tool whose user manual would be free and available to all. But new network management practices and technologies challenge this original understanding. Today, broadband providers have the technical ability to change how the Internet works for millions of users — with profound consequences for those users and content, application, and service providers around the world.

Transparency has been an issue with companies like Comcast (again) in particular, which denied that it was managing its network only to later admit that it was indeed interfering with P2P traffic.

Genachowski’s principles are all well and good, but whether or not the FCC has any teeth to enforce these grand ideals remains to be seen. Comcast has already sued the Commission, questioning the FCC’s right to enforce any net neutrality principles. The FCC filed its opposition brief in response to that suit today.

To back up his bark with some bite, Genachowski has kicked off the process to turn some of these principles into rules. Once he has the support of the Commission in issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking, the proposed rules will be open for feedback and input. To help facilitate that discussion, the FCC today launched the new web site openinternet.gov.