I’m Not Always On, What Reason Is There For My System?

While the rumors that the next generation Xbox, Xbox One, will require a persistent internet connection seem to not be true in all circumstances, there has been acknowledgment that regular check-ins are going to be required. In an interview with Kotaku.com, Microsoft’s Phil Harrison indicated that the Xbox One needs to be online every 24 hours or even single player games and possibly even Blue-Ray movies will be unusable until it connects again. This has been confirmed in a few other areas. I suppose with sufficient negative feedback this could change by launch and I sincerely hope it does.

There is no question requiring a persistent or even just repeated internet connection helps them. We’re told it’ll make for cloud processing so we can get better gaming through server delivered content. I’m sure at some point they will cite piracy concerns and that it will help keep costs lower. I suspect it also ties into the way that Microsoft intends to control the 2nd hand market as well since new game installs need to be validated. That deserves more time and perhaps I’ll address that set of concerns in another piece. The reality, though, is that it also puts them in control of when we’re done with games or a system. If they no longer wish to maintain a server to verify our system, we can’t access it. How is that better?

Now they could promise support for a very long time, or do something else so endurance isn’t an issue, but that hasn’t happened yet. Until that is addressed, it effectively means we don’t own the hardware we paid for. That is a big problem. I’m not even sure one could sell one’s Xbox One to another party without Microsoft getting a cut. Perhaps it’s my knowledge of history interfering, but property ownership has been one of the big gets for the creation of a middle class. Most people think of it in terms of land, but it was more than just that. As it stands right now, the best you can do is lease the Xbox One. They won’t call it that, but it is the reality and it isn’t a better solution for the customer than what we have now. As someone who still plays games from the 2600/Intellivision era on the actual systems rather than through emulation, this sucks. I have no reason to believe anyone will be able to play an Xbox One 30 years after release.

Even if we do get a long term solution, we still have concerns about outages and availability. I have had in the last two years two separate internet outages lasting more than 24 hours (one was approximately 40 hours). If I wasn’t able to play games during that we might have had a The Shining level of mental breakdown. Additionally, I’d like to move in the next couple of years. I can promise that I should expect 10 days or more from move it to connection of internet services. Why shouldn’t I be able to play my games in that time frame? How is the Xbox One need to connect better for me?

Many others have pointed out that video games are a popular past-time for our deployed men and women in the armed forces. Not sure Uncle Sam will allow that use of their broadband. Why shouldn’t our soldiers be able to play their games? How is this need to connect better for our troops? I don’t point this out simply to get “Support our Troops” sympathy for my position. Rather it’s a demonstration that there are market segments Microsoft simply doesn’t care about who do care about gaming.

Finally, how is it better to have my ability to play possibly at the whim of a 3rd party who decides it’s a good time to unleash a DDOS or some other attack which forces the receiving system offline? In the history of the few games that have needed an active or repeated connection, the issues have generally been not at the users end.

I could cover rural users and possibly several other scenarios where connectivity requirements are either not plausible or practical. Regardless, the point remains the same. Gaming remains a leisure activity and the gamers’ ability to game shouldn’t depend on anything other than having the time. The question we need to hammer home when anyone announces their product will require an internet connection to use is to ask over and over “how is this better?” If they cannot answer that question in terms of benefits to the customer, then don’t spend the money. Then tell them you won’t spend the money and why.

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On Hurting Your Business by Abusing the Customer

Imagine that you are going to a restaurant for a meal.  Upon entering, you are required to present two forms of ID and register as the authorized user of that restaurant.  Then you are required to pay.  Before you can see a menu, you are reminded that unauthorized copying of any recipe is a violation of the law.  Also, you are more likely than not required to order an appetizer or dessert to get the meal you actually came for.  There is no staff to serve you.  While you wait for your meal, you are subject to advertisements for other meals they will be serving in the future.  Then you get quick acknowledgements of the suppliers that provided ingredients, the name of the head chef and possibly even told the names of the cooks.  Finally you are served.  You are unable to finish your meal, but are not allowed to take your leftovers (or dessert) home with you.  Now despite them serving your favorite dish, how likely are you to return?  For most people, the answer is no.

For me, this is how I perceive large media company’s operations.  I expect by now most everyone has seen the pirate DVD vs. original comparison graphic (if not, perform a Google Image Search for “Original vs pirated”).  That image is really more akin to being inconvenient to doing business with.  However that image is several years old.  If anything, it’s worse now than it was then.  Sometimes it’s downright hostile interaction with entertainment companies.  This week Ubisoft is changing servers which, with their DRM scheme, means certain games won’t play.  At all.  (for more detail, click here).  What this tells me is that Ubisoft can’t manage their IT needs.  There is no excuse for this in 2012.  Probably wasn’t a good excuse in 2002 either.  This should be a huge PR disaster.  I only found out about it because I was going to criticize Ubisoft for requiring an active internet connection on PC Games.  Being as some ISPs are capping data useage, requiring data xfer for single player mode is stupid.  But I’ll wager that not being able to manage to keep services active during a server move is higher on the stupidity scale.   And remember kids, Ubisoft wants to do this on consoles too.

So what this leads me to is a question for the people in media companies.  Would you take your money elsewhere if you were treated badly, consistently, by a business?  I bet you have already done this.  You want to be treated kindly; as if you were not someone just looking to take something without paying.  How many of your invoices for supplies need to be paid in full up front?  Do you see where I’m going with this?  If the fundamental duty of human beings is to treat others in the manner they themselves would prefer to be treated, big media is failing, badly.

Whether the entertainment industry wants to admit it or not, piracy is not a widespread problem when compared to the popluation at large.  There are FAR more people trying to play by the rules than breaking them.  With the SOPA and PIPA related website blackouts, the majority is becoming more aware of the esteem media companies hold their customers in.  There is no scarcity in entertainment product, so nobody should be feeling assured of their place in the market.  Treat the customer better than the others at the same price point and expect to be rewarded.

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Failure to Adapt

One of the underlying currents about the “demise” of TV as a medium is about how the networks have not embraced technological advances. Far more often than not, they actively resist them.  It’s not an unusual thing to resist change. For a group that is supposed to sway to demographics, the entertainment industry sure does seem to be ignoring larger societal trends.

What do I mean? Let’s start with the hours we keep.  When television was taking off, a lot of labor was in the manufacturing sector and this stayed true into the late 1970s.  That means set shifts and people starting and ending their day at the same time every day for the most part.  Often, these shifts started 6-7 a.m. and ended in the early afternoon.  The afternoon newspaper had a large readership among this kind of labor.  With its decline, newspapers publishing in the afternoon often switched to the morning, failed or both.

As a species humans remain predominantly diurnal.  That doesn’t mean we all finish our work days at 5.  The move away from rigid shift work within the middle class means there is flex within the work schedule.  This includes both starting early and starting late as well as working longer shifts fewer days per week (four 10 hour shifts, for example).  What this means for mass media is that the traditional “prime time” scheduling doesn’t work for a number of people and that number is growing.

This isn’t to say TV as an appliance isn’t as popular.  However what is considered a ratings success now compared to 5, 10, 20 and 40 years ago is entirely different in terms of audience share.  Where very popular shows in decades past had people scheduling their lives to catch the show, technology has made this unnecessary.  VCRs started this trend, DVRs continued it and now on-demand through the Internet has come close to perfecting it.  Only events that are best viewed live defy this.  The list of the top 10 rated US programs of 2011 back that claim up as Football broadcasts and the Oscars made up 100% of the list.  This isn’t the demise of TV.  It is likely the demise of the traditional network model.

This has presented a problem in terms of advertising. It used to be networks could sell ads based on knowing a number of people in a specific demographic would be watching at a specific time.  That doesn’t work now.  People tend to skip advertising on shows they recorded.  And there is no telling when a recording may be watched anyway, so advertising for that week’s sale does no good when it is viewed 2-3 weeks after.

As usual, though, technology is both the cause and solution to this problem.  It shouldn’t be an issue to inject current advertising into a data stream even if this was something on a DVR, especially if it is a cloud based DVR.  It’s no issue over a normal internet stream as countless online content providers have shown.  The fact some connected Blu-Ray players can actually do this with trailers proves the point.

The lesson is that no amount of control over media distribution channels is going to get everyone back on the same schedule.  It’s crazy to try.  Time to change the way viewership is measured.  Redefine how to sell advertising.  Find out if the programming has enough interest to be viewer supported and not rely on advertising.  There are many possible solutions.

The choice is in the hands of content providers.  They can adapt to a changing market and remain viable organizations or they can fail (sooner or later).  The one thing they are not big enough to do is dictate when we’re available to watch a show.

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Atari and Cars Overlap

One of the things mentioned in my profile was being a Geek Generalist with at least a casual interest in automobiles in addition to the usual technology associated with being a geek.  This week I found myself in a discussion that really felt like two areas had crossed over.

One of my weaknesses is a total inability to work with small components without breaking them.  Particularly if soldering is involved.  So since I had no tested good Atari 5200 controllers available to check against with my recently acquired 5200 system, I asked JFerio to have a look to see if I had gotten more horribly ripped off on the purchase than I feared*.

When JFerio was looking it over, he discovered while the console was healthy, none of the three controllers I had acquired were in working order.  With some serious cleaning, he did manage to get all three working.  However what he told me sounded just like any number of articles on cars I’ve read.  The original manufacturer used inexpensive and thus lower quality components in some key areas which adversely affected the longevity of the product.  Fortunately the aftermarket has resulted in replacements that when installed will actually out perform the originals.

I’ll need JFerio to leave a comment to detail what parts sucked the most on those controllers and why, but in terms of where you will see it on cars, I can  help.  It’s very predictable.  On mass market vehicles, you’ll see it on expected wear items first and foremost.  This includes but is not limited to tires, battery, brake pads and spark plugs.  This is true for most any car that isn’t a performance car, and some of those are this way too.

If there’s a lesson to takeaway from this, it’s that whenever someone says they only deal in OEM** parts, don’t take it as a sign of quality.  That just means it’s going to fit.  That’s true for both cars and electronics.

* I admit, I paid too much for it.  Especially since it didn’t come with controllers.  Caveat Emptor.  But hey, included 11 games!

**  Original Equipment Manufacturer

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A Forward Look at Going Backwards

People fear change.  They avoid change, taking great lengths to keep doing things the way they had been.  For the most part, businesses have accommodated this willingly, at least as long as it doesn’t cost them.  That’s a key point when dealing with backwards compatibility.  The great truth is that at some point, your favorite software/file format isn’t going to be supported anymore.  The question we intend to address is what’s a reasonable accommodation in the world of electronics?

We’re going to start with a look at a market segment where backwards compatibility is not actually all that common and that’s console video gaming.  In the early days of consoles where you actually could change games, the manufacturers rarely got a second generation.  The Atari 5200 did have an adapter to play Atari 2600 games, but there were many complaints about the form factor.  The later Atari 7800 system could play the vast majority of 2600 games with no adapter, but could not play 5200 games.  The 7800/2600 compatibility happens to be the first real example of backwards compatibility in the console market.  On the other hand, considering the two major competitors of the 2600’s day, Intellivision and Colecovision, also had 2600 adapters, perhaps playing 2600 games wasn’t that hard to accomplish.

The Sega Genesis (MegaDrive outside the US) did have a solution to play Sega Master System (SMS) cartridges.  It was the Power Base Converter which could be added on and only cost about the same as a new game.  Not a terribly big deal in the US, but was probably far more welcome in Europe where the SMS was actually more popular than the Nintendo Entertainment System.  In fact, when the MegaDrive II came out and it didn’t take the original Power Base Converter, a new one was created.  Our belief is that this is a perfectly reasonable solution.  Quite possibly the best model since people who don’t care aren’t paying for it on the Genesis and those who want it aren’t paying an arm and a leg.  That’s basically all there was in the cartridge era.

The disc era we believe made people believe that backwards compatibility should be expected.  This we fully blame this on Sony and the fact the original Playstation (PS1) games carried over very well to the Playstation 2 (PS2).  Upon closer inspection, that remains the exception rather than the rule.  But we’ll get back to Sony.  

Sega wasn’t the first company to put out a disc based system.  They were the first company that put out a second disc based unit.  However the Sega Saturn couldn’t play Sega Genesis CD games and the Sega Dreamcast was not able to play Saturn games.  This really was the standard.  

Nintendo was late to the disc party, only moving to discs with the Gamecube.  However they did embrace it when the Wii came around.  Only this year, 5 years after release, has the Wii dropped Gamecube compatibility with their new systems.  Which is more than we can say for Microsoft and the Xbox 360’s ability to play original Xbox games.  The biggest strike on 360 backwards compatibility is that it required a hard drive which many of the pre-slim machines don’t have.  After that, it required a download which requires an Xbox Live account.  Even then, we’re looking at a maximum 213 games which worked at any level and many of them had glitches which impacted play from minor annoyance to making it effectively unplayable.  Really, it’s better to consider the two Xbox systems as standing alone from each other.

Which brings us back to Sony.  They did well when they moved to the PS2, with all but a handful of games working entirely from the PS1 library.  And to start things off with the PS3, they managed to make a system that was astoundingly compatible with games from both prior generations. However, decisions related to costs and market caused Sony to first change the method of PS2 backwards compatibility, resulting in a decline in games successfully supported from 98% to less than 90%, potentially less than 80% by some accounts, and then to remove it less then 3 years into the console’s lifespan. This doesn’t seem to be that short an amount of time, except for the simple fact that games were still being developed for the PS2, and they were still making and selling PS2 hardware  (In fact, games are still being made for the PS2 and hardware can be bought new). This strikes us as a bizarre decision, since one either has dropped making new games for a few years, or would never have had the backwards compatibility to begin with. And this does not include that the PS3 still plays PS1 games, even today. We try not to think about it too hard.

For all their tendency to practically ignore backwards compatibility for home consoles, Nintendo went completely in the opposite direction with regards to their portable lineup, with the original Gameboy and Gameboy DSi being the only systems that effectively did not support titles from other Gameboy platforms. The 3DS, original DS and Gameboy Color all support games from the immediate prior generation of their line, and the Gameboy Advance supported a staggering two prior generations throughout its entire life. In fact, to access the entire Gameboy line of games from beginning to end, all you would need to own is two systems. For twenty two years worth of games. Nintendo deserves a lot of praise for this, for this is well beyond what would be expected for a simple declaration of “you can play all your older games”. They have, indeed, told us that we can have our cake, and eat it too.

Which brings us right back around to Sony and the PSP.  While we can acknowledge that yes, indeed, they have committed to being backwards compatible with the PSVita… but only with the digital distribution, and not any physical media that you’ve picked up for their original Playstation Portable. And the idea that paying a fee to get the games you already have physical media for to play on the new system is like buying a Power Base Converter for the Sega Genesis, is not really close to the truth.  We think Sony, from a PR perspective, would have been better to just not try to be backwards compatible.  But PR has not been Sony’s strong suit.

This is where we move away from entertainment devices and onto “productivity” equipment.  Yes, time to tackle the computer.  There are several aspects to cover here.  There’s operating system level, hardware and file format support.  The most confusing may be file format, so we’ll start there.

For those of us who were heavy MS DOS platform users, we pretty much all used WordPerfect 5.X.  It was ubiquitous to the point that MS Word 2003 could still read files.  That’s actually very good.  This really was the days before open file formats and one really couldn’t expect cross compatibility, though the ability to read competing formats would be a benefit for adoption.  The reality, though, is that eventually, all file formats fall out of favor and the effort to keep them readable becomes less important and will be dropped.  In fact, we know that MS Word won’t even open certain (very) old MS Word formatted files due to security exploit concerns.  At least not without a registry edit.  

The real concern is related to proprietary formats.  Specialized software does tend to suffer from it worse than others.  In these areas the real need is for advance warning so that files can be converted to a supported format or output can be created for reference.  We will concede that two months may not be enough, but think a year or more is sufficient.  The other part is evaluating what a new format can do for you.  In most cases it means sharing your data is much easier.  Sometimes this is a hard concept to get across with niche market software, but before complaining, we think it’s important to find out what the new format(s) can do for you.  Sometimes it’s as simple as meaning you can now work on the latest version of Windows.

So what about OS updates for PCs and Laptops?  Well, for one thing we’re going to stay away from Linux because neither of us are heavy users and really couldn’t speak intelligently on the subject.  Thankfully Apple’s OS X and Microsoft’s Windows demonstrate pretty well the pitfalls of hanging on too long or dropping too soon.  

Microsoft seems to have a strange relationship with it’s customers.  Despite being in a dominant position in the market, it does seem to respond to customers if they complain consistently and loudly enough.  It’s just impossible to predict what complaint they are going to respond to.  Windows 95 could basically run your old DOS software, and since Win 98 and Win ME also were based on the same kernel, you had years and years of software you could run.  NT and 2000 did pretty well as well, but then XP came in, some of it wasn’t working so well.  Then came XP 64 and some old things really stopped working.  So when Microsoft finally decided to commit to 64 bit with Windows 7, we got XP mode as a possibility if you got the right version.  It’s a virtual environment running in Windows, although it has its limits, it is a viable method of supporting old software.  All of this revealed a tendency in the Microsoft customer.  They don’t want to replace software if it still does everything they need it to, either because it’s considered prohibitively expensive, or in a few cases, is no longer supported by the original publisher.  Both of those reasons are dwarfed by simple stubbornness.   They are used to a software that does X in a way they like and don’t want to learn something “new” even if it would save them hours.  On the other hand, software companies, which Microsoft is one of, want customers to buy more.  This is where we think Microsoft watches itself.  They very easily could use their OS position to render old versions of Office unusable on new versions of Windows.  That could both bring the attention of the Feds as well as drive customers to other products entirely.  So unfortunately, we think they haven’t advanced as much as they could have had they pushed a little harder to not support old software.  We do believe there is a middle ground of cheap updates to current versions when updating the OS out there.  However there’s nothing that can be done about customer stubbornness.

Apple tends to force change through.  OS X had included support for the classic Mac OS up through Tiger’s lifespan (released in 2005), but that really only mattered if you had pre-Intel processor hardware.  When they started with Intel processers in 2006, they couldn’t run the classic software environment and subsequently you could not maintain that classic software support if you wanted to move up to a newer version of OS X even on older hardware.  So in this case while technically supported on patches, it really wasn’t supported in the long term.  So the question becomes how long is long enough?  It sure seemed like classic support was dropped fast, but then OS X was born in 2001.  Five years of real support, which is actually longer than the effective lifespans of most computers, so Apple didn’t do that bad.   The classic environment also reached back further into old Mac OS capability than just 9.X.  Keeping it into the Intel era would have been quite a feat of programming.  This is a polite way of saying, “not worth the development time” as it would require emulation within emulation within emulation.  Regardless, the main lesson here is that Apple remains fundamentally a hardware company; when the hardware moves on, the software will too.  Quickly.  Without looking back.

The real bugaboo with the PC world and backwards compatibility actually seems to be with hardware.  Not so much the PC itself, but peripherals and accessories.  To be very specific, printers seem to be a big deal.  That’s a lesson that was learned by Microsoft very hard with Vista because old drivers just didn’t work there which seemed a bit of a departure from previous Windows updates.  Printer makers really had no incentive to make updated drivers for printers no longer sold, so it kind of fell to Microsoft themselves as it was a barrier to upgrading and they didn’t follow through.  Not until Windows 7.  We can understand this being a hang up for a recent purchase.   However if your printer is still connected through a parallel port (via adapter) rather than USB, we don’t feel much pity.  

So what conclusions can we draw?  As a company you are probably better off from a PR standpoint not being backwards compatible than having it then dropping it shortly after.  File formats should not be considered immortal.  If you can still use software five years older than OS you are using, you’re probably doing pretty good.  However most fundamental is that once a new technology has proven itself in the market, expect everyone to jump onboard that train.

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On Intentionally Making it Scarce

Warner Brothers has advised this week that as of the end of this year they will cease shipping DVDs and Blu-Ray Discs (BRDs) of the Harry Potter movie series (read more here [new tab]).  Now the last of the eight movies has not yet been released and I expect that I am most definitely not alone in having waited for the conclusion of the series to purchase en masse.  This move tells me WB doesn’t actually want my money.  I do not like being told how or when I should buy something.  Particularly during the holiday season.

Pre-order prices for the whole set will vary depending on format and where, but $60 for DVD and $100 for BRD are the low-end of what I’m seeing.  Now were I a child, say like the likely target audience for this, we aren’t discussing an inconsequential amount of money.  Probably would have taken my entire allowance for the two months they will be available (adjusting for inflation).  Though it is unlikely retailers will run out immediately after shipping stops, I find it a real possibility that some interested parties may not be able to purchase this during their designated window.  Instead they have to wait until the next release which is at an as yet undetermined time and price.  Could cost more.  Could cost less.

Certainly some products lend themselves to exclusivity.  However that’s really limited to physical properties.  In a digital age, I’m sorry to say movies are not allowed to do that.   It is a common mistake, though.  Basically if your company is unwilling to sell me your product and I can acquire it through other means, I have no ethical reservations about doing so.  So for an album, book, movie or video game that’s out of print, violating copyright seems completely justified.  It’s not like you deprived them of a sale.

To take this further, there is a band I know personally who ran into an issue with the record company they recorded an album with.  The label would neither print more copies of the CD nor did they want to release their rights to the masters so the band could do it themselves.  So the band told us they were OK with the fans just burning copies for new fans.  Eventually this was resolved.  The band was, within a couple of years, able to re-master the album and I bought the new version.  Does make me wonder how many sales were lost in that time?  Warner Bros. should be asking a very similar question about this plan of theirs.

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Not Paying for it Anymore

I canceled my TV satellite service last week and am not changing to what most would consider a direct competitor.  Since it isn’t strictly an issue of affordability, questions may arise as to why I would dump this sort of television after nearly 12 years of paying for similar services.  Particularly when, unlike many of my close friends, I really like sports.

The short answer is that I don’t feel like I’m getting my money’s worth.  Oh, there’s a long answer starting after this paragraph, but just wanted to get that out of the way for the TL;DR crowd.  I’m paying for far more than I can really use under the guise of having choice.  I’ve always wanted a la carte programming and with the age of legitimate streaming internet content, I can pretty much have that.

So yes, I’ve become one of the many who have dropped TV subscription services in favor of internet delivered content.  In the interest of full disclosure, I’m not trying to convert anyone as much as looking to explain my thought process.  There are a lot of legitimate options out there via the ‘Net.  What it came down to wasn’t a lack of willingness on my part to spend money to support the entertainment I like, it’s a lack of willingness to spend money to support the entertainment I don’t like.  If that doesn’t make sense to you, then let me indulge in an overview of how the pay TV business appears to work from this consumer’s perspective (emphasis on perspective).

I think consumers generally know most cable channels are just one of many owned by a parent company, like Viacom has the MTV networks, Comedy Central and so forth.  Warner has a family as does Fox, Disney, Comcast and others. They understand the cable or satellite TV provider must pay for access to these channels.  Like with most things, for Comcast to get what they want from Disney, they must also get something they may not want, but it’s part of the package.  It makes sense for the networks to be able to get channels in front of more eyes.  So if you’re a single (no kids) sports lover to get ESPN and ESPN 2, you’re also paying at some level for channels you are not likely to watch, like say ABC Family.  That’s just an example (I’m sure it’s no coincidence that consumer channel packages seem to operate similarly to the bigger picture).

Now even as recently as 5 years ago (give or take a little) this model made a certain amount of sense because some of the niche programming out there would not necessarily be able to survive apart from the package of sister channels.  But in pursuit of more eyes for advertising what were once educational or special focus networks have expanded well beyond their original scope and often not in a good way.  This is not behavior I wish to encourage.  I want my learning channel to teach something.  I want my science fiction network to actually have science fiction.  I want by British channel to have British shows and movies.  I could go on.

To continue to pay to have these channels even if unwatched just encourages the entire system to continue as is.  Putting up with it just to watch the handful of core shows still true to the network’s original mission statement still on from before the format change really makes me a hypocrite.  Not when other legitimate avenues to view them exist.

If  you look back up at the selection of channel owners I named is that they often happen to be not just content providers, they also often double as content delivery.  There are rules in place that make it so they have to share that content, but every so often competing delivery services get in a pissing contest over pricing.  Whenever it is settled, my costs invariably go up.  They fight and the audience loses. Time-Warner and Comcast has no real business reason to provide competing services like Dish Network or DirecTV with good prices on their stations when they are direct competitors in several markets.  I believe it’s an inherent conflict of interest and again, paying into it just encourages the behavior.  And I haven’t even entered into the idea of sticking their sports channel on a higher tier than your sports channel.

Regardless, it really is a shame that with all the money in entertainment that they can’t reach a mutually beneficial agreement.  From a content provider standpoint, more eyes means more advertising.  From a content delivery, exclusivity drives customers to you if you have what they want, thus the conflict.

So it really does come down to money.  As in really thinking about what do I pay these people to do for me and if I feel I’m getting value for it.  The answer for me was no.  My money isn’t going to participate this way.  I feel better off buying the specific content I want.  I hope it means a bit more than some Neilsen ratings number.

It has been tough mental adjustment to paying for content that my brain says should be “free.”  The reality is that it has been nearly $1000 a year going out the door just for entertainment and I can’t help but feel that money has been poorly spent.  So logically it’s a matter of rethinking what I was paying as “included” rather than “free.”

The tougher adjustment has actually been having free time, sitting down to watch TV and then realizing the question is “what do I want to see?” as opposed to “what’s on?”  There’s an opportunity for a joke about adjusting to life outside prison or at least why the caged bird sings.  This is what most people would consider a good problem to have and I want to maintain that thought.

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Geek Radiation Zone Welcomes GeekGoban

Who is this Goban you ask?

I take my name from a minor character from a TurboGrafx-16 CD game.  Why?  Why not?  A technical support staffer by day and ne’er do well by night, I radiates geek on several frequencies.  I am best described of a geek generalist with at least a casual interest in automobiles, music, video games, science fiction, fantasy, comic books, computers and more.  I won’t tell you my age, but if it helps, I know what this is for and how to use it.

Antique Accessory

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Two Pissing Giants

I’m definitely annoyed with some of the players in today’s book market… more importantly, today’s maturing ebook market. And, sadly, that has taken me out of the ebook market until another player arrives to challenge the incumbents.

I’m talking about Barnes & Noble versus DC here, and the current “pissing match” over DC’s exclusive deal with Amazon for 100 of their titles to be released digitally. To which B&N responded, “well, fine, we won’t carry those until we get them in digital release in our store as well.”

Now, I recognize that, as a business, they are free to carry – or not carry – whatever they deem fit or unfit, as the case may be. However, the reasons for it – that it’s bad for the customer that they can’t sell it in all available forms – are secondary to the fact that Barnes & Noble has chosen to exclude content outright, and thus are hurting the customer anyway. This combines with the fact that they’re pretty much the only big player left in town in terms of being specifically about books, to make me feel pretty nauseous. Because they’re essentially saying to DC, “yeah, you won’t let us carry the digital, we won’t carry the physical now, watch your sales plummet.” Since the only other market is to walk into comic stores, and if you’re trying to do a quick shop for a graphic novel for Sally’s geeky interests, with no interest yourself, you’re going to go to the big store.

I will admit, until this news came across my browser, the Nook was looking pretty good in my eyes, to the point that I was seriously considering buying one soon. That decision has changed. And I’m accelerating my program to buy 100% of my books from a handful of local shops, that I’m lucky enough to have in this metropolitan area. Many communities aren’t this lucky, it’s Barnes & Noble or online ordering.

This, however, does not give DC a free pass. Having an exclusive deal with Amazon is, well, exclusionary to the point of absurdity, regardless of the retailer’s size. I’ve not been a fan of “exclusively through/in/on” with regards to content. It is an artificial division of the market into “haves” and “have nots”… whether it be for toys (TMEGA MOVIE TIE IN TOY HAZARD ORANGE COLOR EXCLUSIVELY AT TARGET!), games (exclusively on Gamestation), and even now video content (DVD versus Bluray and the special features for the movie). It basically says you have to join a specific community to get the benefits, in this case to boost sales of Amazon’s Kindle Fire. This is regardless of any other costs or justifications. I don’t even care for it all that much in terms of gaming consoles. In fact, I remember back in the golden age of gaming, when Atari, Coleco and Mattel not only made games for their own systems… but they all made games for the competitor’s systems. I don’t think there’s much more than a business excuse for them to be doing that now. Shall I stop buying DC content in response? Well, to be fair, I’d need to have been buying from them much more regularly than I have been to be doing that, really.

Overall… do both sides have the right to do what they’ve been doing? Absolutely. Does it make it RIGHT, from a customer perspective. Oh, absolutely, completely, utterly NOT. Both sides have been involved in some form of pissing match, and everyone’s losing something in the resulting fight. Especially the customers.

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I had someone somewhere manage to compromise my Twitter account over the weekend. They only managed to get out one post before I changed my password, thankfully.

So, in response, I’ve locked out pretty much every external application that had been authorized. Which meant taking the Twitter feed widget off this blog.

Sometimes, trying to keep the house locked up on the internet is so much trouble.

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