Songs created from Disney and Pixar Movies

A nineteen-year-old in Australia made this song using nothing but sounds and scenes found in Disney’s “Alice in Wonderland.” A certain appreciation of modern down tempo chill out music helps. Think Portishead, Air or Boards of Canada.

This one is even more impressive. The video for this track ‘Upular’, is composed using chords, bass notes and vocal samples from the Disney Pixar film ‘Up’

Hart v. Comcast P2P Settlement

Comcast

Back in January the FCC launched a formal investigation of Comcast interfering with customers usage of their internet connections. Two years ago, in October 2007, Comcast was caught slowing down the connections of customers who were using popular P2P programs like, BitTorrent and other P2P protocols Comcast didn’t admit, at first, that it was doing this, but when it finally acknowledged the practice it argued that filesharers put an unequal strain on its network and it had every right to throttle their connections.

Someone filed suit, which was turned into a class action and Comcast settled recently. You can get up to $16.00 of the $16 million available to members of the class action. Unsurprisingly, despite essentially losing the suit, Comcast won’t say it did anything wrong — it says it has every right to “manage” its traffic and says the settlement was because it wanted to “avoid a potentially lengthy and distracting legal dispute that would serve no useful purpose.”

U.S. District Judge Legrome D. Davis in Philadelphia gave the settlement preliminary approval last week, with a hearing for final approval scheduled for June. The preliminary approval gives time for affected Comcast subscribers to submit claims for the settlement.

You can read the details at http://www.p2pcongestionsettlement.com/

There are several additional class action lawsuits that are still in the works, regarding the data discrimination. They accuse Comcast of violating its own Terms of Service and breaking consumer protection laws by advertising its network as fast. If you thought you could use that Internet connection provided by Comcast however you please you were wrong and you still are wrong. They continue to manipulate your traffic for reasons that only harm the consumer. One the never ending reasons why Comcast sucks. Switch to someone else if you can.

One more thing, remember they are buying that other company called NBC Universal? Think how much more influence they will have after that happens.

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Dinner

Christmas Day has come and gone almsost as quickly as Santa spent delivering presents to the house. We had 12 people at dinner and it was a success for all. There were South Africans and a girl from Switzerland who isn’t too fond of Texas and the people there. There was also a new born baby whose parents were a wee bit tardy.

The turkey was definitely the smash hit of the evening and everyone enjoyed the wonderful smoked taste. Thanks to Dan for smoking it for us, I don’t have patience to do something like that, and of course certainly not the equipment. Looking forward to getting another turkey next year for Christmas or even Thanksgiving. The ham was pretty tasty as well. Doug made a fire in the fireplace for all to enjoy, thanks for doing that.

Christmas was wonderful and I had a blast.

DNS Benchmarking

I’m always looking for way to improve performance of my networks and systems. One thing that often slows down people is a slow DNS server. You may not even realize it that your Internet usage performance is being slowed down by either a poorly configured or poorly performing nameservers (DNS). I use a tool called namebench to find the fastest name servers for that network. If you are on Comcast then you definitely want to have a look at this tool because their nameservers are terrible. The biggest difference I have seen was on an Integra network. The local resolvers were over 200% slower than OpenDNS.

namebench

The tool will query from a list of both regional and national DNS servers and measure the response time. In every case OpenDNS servers are the fastest even beating out Google’s nameserver. Another reason OpenDNS nameservers are so nice is that they rarely return errors. Look at the error rates for all the other nameservers. You’ll notice they have a very low error rate as well as a very low “no answer” rate. Both of these errors will slow down you Internet activity.

Here are my results for home. I am using Qwest as my ISP and they do a pretty good job of providing well performing nameservers. No complaints really.

One thing to remember is that many DNS servers are able to cache queries to speed things along. Here is a second test using more than one query against each of the name servers. My local router has caching capabilities and that is why it is faster than remote nameservers in this benchmark.

Multi-run benchmark

You can download namebench here http://code.google.com/p/namebench/. namebench runs on Mac OS X, Windows, and UNIX, and is available with a graphical user interface as well as a command-line interface.


namebench

My Cell Phones

I threw together a time line of my cell phones over the years. Yes I spell timeline both ways. Get over it.

My Cell Phones Timeline
Sure does bring back memories
  • The worst phone I ever owned by far was the Motorola V770. The UI was absolutely horrible. It made no sense what so ever.
  • The phone that I had the most fun with is probably the iPhone.
  • The best phone I have ever owned is the iPhone 3G.
  • If I could wave my magic wand I would want … Standard power chargers using USB and standard USB connections. Proprietary cables are a gold mine for these companies.

Comcast, why the merger should fail. (Part 4)

Comcast

This is part four of a three part series, or something like that.

Last time I wrote about how awful the Comcast DVRs are for humankind. If it helps think of it as the Yugo of the DVR world. Today I would like to once again comment on the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC Universal. Let me first say that I definitely consider myself firmly in the “Capitalist Pig” camp when it comes to economic systems in the US and the world at large for that matter. I also want as little government interference in business as possible. The government is the government and these days it is only looking out for itself in case you haven’t been paying attention. It has become outright hostile to business during both the Bush and Obama administrations. At the same time, a healthy balance should be struck, so I have some common sense and in general haves soft spot for consumers getting a quality product at a fair price. Not getting ripped off is always a good thing. Does the government even care about such things these days? Alas, I am geting off topic.

So why is the Comcast merger bad for the consumer exactly? Well let’s remember that Comcast reaches one out of every four cable customers. NBC owns 27 local TV stations, and the NBC network reaches 99% of US homes with a TV in it. That is an unhealthy amount of media control for a single company. The only reason Comcast has been so successful in its distribution of TV is because there are so many channels which provide tons of competition. Controlling that much of the market is a bit scary and with these two giants together there will be far less incentive to compete. Combined they would have an annual revenue of over $50 billion. I’m all for making as much money as the next person but have you seen a cable TV bill lately? Have you done the math to notice that your bill goes up 8% every year, automatically. It is all about acquiring and keeping the customer. They know that once you have signed up with Comcast that you are very unlikely to switch providers because it is too much hassle for you to bother. It is outrageous what people are willing to pay for these days. The only reason you get a bevy of channels is because of competition. In the 14 years I’ve had DirecTV they have only raised the rates on me twice. Don’t kid yourself if you think you are getting tons of content with Comcast, it is all a bunch of marketing trickery. Go investigate whatever competition you can get at your house and see for yourself.

If this merger were to succeed then Comcast-NBC would control one out of every five viewing hours in the average US household. They will be bale to do this because the new company would have national 52 cable channels and Hulu. That would result in an unhealthy level of competitive advantage against its competitors. The merger would not necessarily create a monopoly that definition has a different meaning entirely.

It pains me to be making the case for government intervention in just about anything. I mean, it is the government we are talking about here and they do indeed fail at just about everything. The notable exception of course is the military.

With less competition Comcast is sure to raise the rates that its subscribers will have to pay. It already raises the rates 8% every year, and that wil surely go up even higher.

This single larger company will have control over more news and information. This will limit divergent opinions from being presented. Comcast will also prioritize the NBC programming instead of local or independent voices. NBC already has serious credibility issues with its news department, this merger is certainly not going to help that improve.

There is one that is surely going to suffer from this merger and that is Hulu. Hulu previously announced that are going to start charging for content, but that is pretty much irrelevant given that these merger talks have been in the works for quite some time. Comcast’s acquisition of NBC, which, along with ABC and Fox, owns a substantial share of Hulu, would further harm the developing online streaming video market. A newly joined Comcast and NBC would control both content in the form of both NBC programming and Comcast networks and its distribution through Comcast the ISP would then be inclined to move all this content behind pay walls to make its properties both exclusive and more valuable. It isn’t too much of a stretch to see NBC-Comcast removing NBC content from Hulu, and making streaming NBC content available only to cable subscribers. Even more likely Comcast-NBC could further restrict streaming content to customers who subscribe to both cable and internet, forcing customers who enjoy watching streamed content to sign up for unnecessary bundles. And by withholding content from any other streaming video service, whether free or subscription based, Comcast-NBC would harm their chances at viability.

V (and why it is doomed)

V

When I was a little kid I watched the V mini-series and really liked it. So when the relaunch started a while ago I was pretty excited to see how they would handle it. I made a few notes right after the premiere aired and I think I should share those. These thoughts are a bit dated but I just now got around to writing about.

Diana

I liked the first episode and found it engaging but I didn’t love it, like when I first watched BSG. I think the pacing of story and character introduction was rushed a little too much. They could have spent a little more time playing out the drama, political and emotional, of an alien visit. Having most of the main characters figure out this is a sinister alien invasion and discovering the secret identities of the visitors-in-our-midst in the first episode was a really profligate waste of dramatic material. The discovery of the truth is worth a lot for these characters. Instead it will focus on the fight.

If I were 17 and the super-hot alien blond girl wanted me to put on a German gay disco doorman’s jacket, I would have done so unflinchingly.

Scott Wolf is just hard to take seriously when he’s not crying over Jennifer Love Hewitt in Party of Five. Maybe he’ll improve, but I fear he may have a Mickey Rooney problem in that he won’t be able to play a non-teenager until he’s 60. Alan Tudyk is awesome because he’s awesome. But he’ll be under-used and killed in no time. Because that’s just how he rolls. We now know that he really isn’t dead. They better use him way more. Big hair is out, short hair is in. Morena Baccarin of Firefly fame rocks the Anna character and I think not only does she know it, but she knows that we know it.

Anna

The overt politics of the episode: I simultaneously loved the “universal healthcare” line and thought it was a bit clumsy. I like that it bothers all the socialist liberals out there worshiping the new Messiah, but I think they could have been a bit more subtle. However it’s worth recalling that the visitors in the original series promised to cure diseases as well. So get over it. I think as appealing to middle America as this notion is, it will be done away with and the systematical dialectic contradiction of their beliefs might be too much for the network to handle.

Someone who might find association with the Tea Party movement might love this episode but again those ideas will quickly be destroyed by the next three episodes and the replacement of the show runner. If liberals were less insecure about the political climate, they might even argue that much of the stuff about the dangers of “devotion” and promises of miraculous cures amounted to an indirect shot at faith-healing evangelicals.

It’s also worth noting that the show is still an allegory for fascism, albeit a slack one which rungs true for most sci-fi today. The obsession with youth, the promise of a new age, the seduction of power, the aesthetics of physical beauty and uniformed order, and yes, the promise of universal health care etc etc: This all fits perfectly well into fascist wheelhouse.

The special effects are vastly improved over the original, up the modern TV standards but still not reaching into BSG territory. After the final parting shot of the fourth show could epic space battles be in store for us? I really doubt it, the story lines will probably take place on Earth and if the ratings get worse than they are now then the writers will pull the ace out of their collective hat and take the fight the resistance is waging into space perhaps even to the home world of the visitors.

V got off to a great start earning the biggest drama series premiere of the season, seen by 14.3 million viewers and netting a 5.2 rating among adults 18-49. However, ABC has already cut this year’s number of show orders and replace the original show runner Scott Peters has been dumped and replaced by Scott Rosenbaum. These are all bad signs the the network is making overriding decisions by committee instead of letting the talented sci-fi writers, write. The four month intermission is death to a serialized show like this. I don’t understand why the amateur knob twiddler’s of the network make these huge mistakes. Yes it is obvious they are trying to avoid competing with the Olympics. Why not just wait to start the show and keep the air time all contiguous. Ultimately the drop off number have been catastrophic for V and I will be surprised if it makes it into a second season.

Too much of a cliche. The big alien ship hovering over the sky is so over done these days it has become too familiar and doesn’t evoke something new from us. It fails to draw the viewer in.

The scope of V is big enough with the aliens — oops, visitors — and the whole world in rapt attention. The show didn’t need a dozen characters right from the start. I felt like I was in a pinball machine going from one character to the other, never staying long enough to get involved.

I think my expectations were too high for this series. I remember the original and I was bedazzled by the mini-series. For its time, it had great specials effects and it looked amazing on my 4:3 TV. But more than that, I was captivated by the story. I still remember the feelings the show evoked when watching, which were a mix of wonderment intertwined with fear and jolting collision of ideas. Sadly enough all of those emotions are missing from the new V. I was unmoved.