Olympics at Work

Olympics 2010

So I decided to check out the Olympics streaming content from NBC and the whole site struck me as a bit overloaded. The selection of live feeds is pretty sparse but they do have lots of content you can view ex post facto for what that is worth. Odds are good that you will have already read who won by the time you get a chance to watch the replay.

I started to watch a Womens Hockey game after having to prove that I pay for TV and that my TV provider forks over lots of money for Olympics streaming rights. I wonder if there is different content for different TV subscribers? After a few seconds I notice that there is a boss key on the Silverlight player! it is on the lower right corner of the Silverlight client. The NBC Olympics web site is a very Microsoft oriented thing.

The main streaming page.
Olympics

The boss key is on the lower right corner, click for larger image.
Olympics

The Boss page is Windows Vista with Excel 2007 show a blank sheet. Funny stuff.
Olympics

I hope you’re not running Linux. “Oh you switched to Windows!?” “Um … yes, yes I did. I’m only going to give it two weeks to see how it works out. Then I may switch back.”

I remember in the old days computer games had a boss key. I was too young to have a job and need a boss key, although it came in handy hiding games from the homework czar. I haven’t seen a game ship in a long time with a boss key.

I do credit for NBC understanding there will be a large demand for viewing while at the office. In order to maximize viewers they don’t want them to get fired for watching the Olympics. The video quality is good but there have been frequent disconnects and dropouts. I have had to reload the whole page twice to get the player to start streaming content again. The lack of a pop out window option is a bit of a disappointment.

Now, if you think these pay walls are a one time thing, think again. This will be all to common once NBC is owned by Comcast. They will provide premium if not all content to those who subscribe to their cable service. Things are only going to get more expensive once Comcast owns NBC Universal.

Comcast vs. Congress

Comcast

Recently the dynamic duo of NBC President Jeff Zucker and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts went before a Senate subcommittee hearing to discuss their merger. The duo got very little love from the panel. Is the Senate being tough for the cameras or do they actually have concerns.

The toughest critic so far has been Senator Al Franken (D-MN). I am certainly no fan of Stuart Smalley but he made some valid criticisms of NBCU and actually seems to understand what is going on here and what is at stake. Ars Technica has a great write up on their exchange which frankly seemed to be a bit personal. It certainly makes for interesting reading as these matters are usually handled behind closed doors but this disagreement was made public. Here is the video.

As I have said before, what is really going on here is not about traditional TV but TV served over the internet. Companies like Hulu, Netflix, and Youtube are really the ones who are at risk. NBCU and Comcast know that is where the future lies and they are fighting it tooth and nail. These providers like Netflix are particularly threatened by this merger because Comcast is the largest ISP in the US, therefore a large number of its streaming customers rely on Comcast to view the content. Comcast can use that as leverage against Netflix when negotiating NBCU content distribution deals with Netflix. With the proposed network neutrality rules (which is a sham) Comcast will be able to throttle manage Netflix data streams to where users become dissatisfied and look elsewhere for that content. Comcast has already demonstrated a willingness to battle over this territory.

Netflix has commented, ““If left unchecked, the “managed services” category could engulf the Commission’s open Internet policies altogether. As such, the Commission must carefully circumscribe the network operators’ ability to exempt certain services from the openness rules by classifying them as managed services,” Netflix wrote in its filing.”

They can get cut off by Comcast at any time on both the back end from the NBCU side or on the front side by the ISP side of Comcast. You can also think of a managed service as a dedicated channel on the Internet for things like telemedicine or streaming video like Netflix. An ISP like Comcast allots a certain amount of bandwidth and assurance for quality to that channel. Those companies have pushed for exemptions in the FCC’s net neutrality rules, bringing up examples of video for remote medical care that need prioritization. But also imagine how a company would put their own video services in that channel – essentially extending the cable television model to the Internet. We know how well that is working out for consumer household budgets.

Netflix is among a growing number of Internet video companies pairing up with TV makers like LG, Samsung, and Sony who provide “apps” on their devices or set top boxes like Roku, which enable your large living room TV to conenct ot the internet and watch streamign content. This is really the convergence of the Internet and televisions that has been long sought after. Those companies have pushed a slow but remarkable move by consumers to cut their cable and satellite subscriptions. Almost every TV and Blu-ray player announced at CES this year had some sort of VoD app capability.

Congressman Mark Cooper (D-GA) challenged the very idea that the Comcast NBCU merger was not a horizontal integration. NBC has a significant stake in Hulu.com, and Comcast with Fancast.net and its TV Everywhere initiative. Comcast’s efforts will allow it’s cable video customers to access Comcast provided content online.

“Comcast is clearly attempting to control the distribution of the video content it makes available on the Web by restricting sales exclusively to Comcast cable customers,” Cooper charged, in that the content is not available to non-Comcast subscribers.

“By contrast, NBC has exactly the opposite philosophy—or at least it did,” he warned. “Through Hulu, NBC is competing for both Comcast and non-Comcast customers by selling video online that is not tied to cable. NBC also has incentives to make its programming available in as many points of sale as possible. Merger with Comcast will put an end that pro-competitive practice.” He nailed it.

Comcast is continuing to stifle competition and innovation in an attempt to protect it antiquated business model. Comcast isn’t interested in you as their customer.

Superbowl

Super Bowl 44

Everyone had a was in a great mood, ate way too much, and had a great time. I know I’m happy that the New Orleans Saints won the game. The food was very tasty and the homemade Chili con queso that S. constructed was the big hit of the evening to be sure. Now that the party is over we all had to agree on which were the best commercials of the evening and we were able to reach a consensus. Our top three picks for 2010 are:

(caution they all autoplay)

  1. Megan Fox Motorola Third Quarter
  2. Simpson’s Coca-Cola First Quarter
  3. Budweiser Human Body Bridge Second Quarter

The Top Ten according to fanhouse.com:

  1. E-Trade: Jealous Girlfriend
  2. NFL: Lift Off
  3. Anheuser Busch: Clydesdale Friend
  4. VW: Punching Game
  5. Doritos: Dog Gets Revenge
  6. Google: Parisian Love
  7. Coke: Sleep Walking
  8. Doritos: Play Nice
  9. Budweiser: Body Bridge
  10. CareerBuilder.com: Casual Fridays

I also really enjoyed the shear geekiness of the Google ad, called “How to Impress a French Woman.” I think a lot of people at our party did not like it or didn’t get, but that could be because it required paying attention and reading, which is a dangerous combination these days.

Stimulus?

Portland Federal Building

In the New York Times article In Portland, Growing Vertical, they detail how the government will spend $133 million on a renovation of the General Services Administration building. They are planning to cultivate “vegetated fins” that will grow more than 200 feet high on the western facade of the main federal building here, a vertical garden that changes with the seasons and nurtures plants that yield energy savings.

How much savings per year?

The G.S.A. says the building will use 60 percent to 65 percent less energy than comparable buildings and estimates a savings of $280,000 annually in energy costs. Solar panels could provide up to 15 percent of the building’s power needs. The use of rainwater and low-flow plumbing fixtures will reduce potable water consumption by 68 percent. And energy for lighting will be halved.

These people are insane, there is no other explanation. Their lust for an eco-green universe has driven their ego to take over. Spending 133 million dollars to save 280,000 per year will take 475 years for that investment to be recouped. Perhaps they could just build a new building from the ground up instead and make that one all “green” instead of turning this existing place into a chia building.

This is by far the biggest waste of the so-called stimulus money so far.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

Early last week the snow was piling up and so we decided to head for warmer weather weather. Las Vegas seemed like the perfect place. Only a couple of ours away and plenty of fun things to do, but more importantly, warmer. S. and I headed out with L. and L. for a weekend of fun.

Along the way we decided to name our tour. So we came up with, “The Seven Deadly Sins Tour.” Remember those list of sins from the Old Testament? Things God doesn’t like. There have been many versions of the list over the last two millennium. We settled on the Pope Gregory I revision. Dante’s list would have worked well also, but he manages to come up with ways to punish the extravagant, as the wasteful are punished in the fourth circle of hell.

So how did we do?

  • Lust
  • Most people think of this as sexual, but it can be almost anything. Lust is an inordinate craving for the pleasures of the body. I suppose going to the the gym everyday would qualify.

  • Gluttony
  • We managed this one with flying colors. Way too much food.

  • Greed
  • It was Vegas right?

  • Sloth
  • I think we can get a passing grade on this one as well. Perhaps, sleeping in late? Oh wait, the whole trip was an avoidance of of physical or spiritual work.

  • Wrath
  • There was a host that we were unhappy with. Oh, and those annoying guys flapping their smut fliers on the sidewalk on the strip. Definitely not happy with them.

  • Envy
  • I really wanted to eat all of L.’s doughnut holes.

  • Pride
  • Thinking you can predict the future.

All in all not a bad attempt on such a short notice. I guess next weekend we’ll have to go for the Seven virtues contrition and misdeeds plan. Good times.