Tuesday, September 17, 2013

This post will self-destruct in 30s

Maybe the internet isn't forever after all. New services are popping up to enable you to privately share messages with a select few, and to even have them self-destruct at a given time/interval. Some high-profile people with a penchant for sending pics (looking at you Carlos Danger) should Love this. In the era of domestic surveillance and the realization that most tech companies are complicit is this the silver bullet?

Maybe not. Just because it's deleted from public consumption, how long does it take the site's respective crawlers to get it? Accessible and deleted are two different things.

 How will FB and Twitter feel about being used less as a publisher and more as a temporary broadcast medium. You might think that's what they were... you would be wrong. The ability to broadcast and store your thoughts, ideas and drunken outbursts for future consumption is a part of their value proposition.

Are their respective graphs as valuable without storing everything? If not look for the API or ToS to change very quickly to eliminate the ability for a 3rd party to delete on your behalf. On the other hand this is a means to combat hot new chat technologies like SnapChat (which for some reason feels it's worth more than 3 Billion)


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cut the Cord - Tales from the Clipped.

One month ago we cut cable - so far so good.  I took this as a personal challenge to make this process as smooth and positive as possible. It still is a change, but with a little prep work it has gone really well so far.
Recap: We (a family of 5) cut our Cable TV provider, upped our ISP package and replaced our homephone line with a free VOIP alternative. We also employ a DIY antenna. For a full description of the setup see here.
Kids are definitely watching less TV. There are less occasions where the TV sits on as background noise. Those moments of respite where we need to occupy the kids were my biggest concern. More on that later.

I'm using subscriptions for TVO's the Agenda and the Big Think so I have something interesting to watch if I was bored. I'm most proud of the fact that we no longer live in the continuous "breaking news" death grip of CP24. I don't need live coverage of the Royal Baby's baptism or first bowel movement. In reality Netflix is a very dangerous thing. The ability to get so many full series on demand is something cable never offered. The wife loves having a full series at her disposal and is actually watching more TV now.

I've started watching the formal news broadcasts more on the antenna. We could raise a lot of money with a "wait rewind that" jar. The PVR for live tv is definitely a perk I miss. Investigating MythTV as an option to record off the antenna and pause live tv.

As with all change there is a downside. The biggest problem is the disjointed user experience. Content sits on different areas or inputs. Is it on my home media server? or accessed through a browser. Is it on netflix? How do i get to the antenna. For me it's not big deal, but for visiting family and friends, or less technical folks it can be a bit intimidating or frustrating. The antenna operates on one remote, google TV operates the rest. Even within the google tv you need to switch apps between plex or netflix. Cable itself has gotten a bit fragmented with ondemand versus live TV and a lack of great user experience. But for the most part you search for a show, or a recorded show in very similar contexts.

Related Links:
Cut the Cord - The Setup

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Cut the cord - the setup

Droning on and on about cutting the cord some friends who are also feeling squeezed by robellus asked me for details. Maybe it was just to shut me up but i'm going to spell it out anyhow. Basically I swapped my ISP, switched to a no monthly fee VOIP service, cut my cable TV subscribed to netflix and installed an OTA antenna.

My main goals were cost savings, and to move off traditional media services. Cable companies are the next record companies the internet age is crushing large clumsy institutions.

I switched my ISP to Start.ca a great company out of London ON. They have fantastic customer service in the few times I've called them. I've had no outtages beyond blackouts. $50/mth for 20+mbps down 2mbps up. I'm watching multiple netflix streams without issue.

Home Phone
I replaced my homephone with a free voip service from Freephoneline.ca. They have a bunch of options, one where you rent an ATA device from there for $5 a month and they provide customer service. Or you buy the ATA device yourself (~50$) plug it into your home router and enter a few settings they give you ($25 fee for ATA settings). I did the latter. If you want to keep your phone number they charge $25 to port your number over. I have call waiting, call display, voicemail, voicemail to email, call following and other settings I haven't tried yet. I also get free long distance to about 30 large Cdn cities (see list)

Cable TV
This was the most difficult in setup, resistance and also the most recent. I cancelled cable over the summer. I backed up our DVD collection onto a free media server called Plex . To use Plex I needed streaming boxes to hook up to TVs. Through sales I amassed a WDTV Live, a Plex and a Google TV. All a bit different with their own advantages.

 One thing that was missing was live TV, news in the morning, watching "prime time network shows". For that I built an antenna with a friend. 1x4 wood with some fairly cheap wire and a $1.10 balun from radio shack. Having a house provided me with a southern facing point to point the antenna. Being on a higher elevation also helps. The antenna in a 1st floor window gets TVO, CBC, Global, CTV regularly. On occasion it'll get Omni1,2 and CityTV. Eventually a professional antenna mounted on the roof should be able to get NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX. Hooked into the panel in the basement should provide OTA for all cable outlets in the house. I'll need some additional hardware for that when the time comes. I'll likely setup or buy a DVR for it as well.

The ROI is solid. I'll dig up some numbers on my initial costs and go through it in another post.

In a few weeks I'll provide a followup on how things are going. The main concern is getting the rest of the family onboard, getting the kids used to less selection. But i'm a change advocate. I think it'll be good for them. Some kids change towns and schools. I cutoff treehouse...