It’s been over a month since my MythTV DVR committed suicide and I replaced it with a Tivo from my cable company. I think I’ve explored the features enough to be able to deliver a decent comparison of the two. Overall, I think I’d be very satisfied with a Tivo if I’d never used MythTV. Let me go into some more detail.
Due to the relative paucity of information regarding precisely what applications will be available for the Kindle Fire, speculation was rampant. The biggest question for many people: would Netflix be allowed to compete with Amazon’s own video offerings? This morning, the answer arrived: yes.
Rest easy, pre-ordering early adopters; the Fire will not be a complete walled garden for you. Considering that B&N also has a curated app store for the Nook Tablet, this puts them on a relatively even footing in the app battle. That still leaves the subtle differences: Nook is somewhat more powerful and has significantly more storage, but costs more and isn’t named “Kindle.” Does Amazon also benefit from their giant PR blitz, which garnered them a million or so pre-orders before the Nook Tablet was announced? How many people will cancel a Fire pre-order to jump over to Nook? Seems unlikely to me.
Barnes & Noble just finished their big reveal of the new Nook lineup. The press conference seemed like a lot of poking at Amazon, which is fun to see. The e-ink Nook Simple Touch is getting dropped to $99, which brings it inline with the Kindle Touch. There are a few differences, though¬†- the Nook doesn’t support audiobooks or text-to-speech, but it also doesn’t come loaded with “special offers” at that price. The Kindle costs $40 more to nuke the ads.
Of course, the big story is the new Nook Tablet. Surprisingly, they aren’t putting the Nook Color out to pasture; it becomes their entry-level color device instead. The Nook Tablet gets twice the RAM and¬†twice the storage of the Kindle Fire, as well as an expansion slot. Those are the most obvious differences in the hardware. The screen is supposed to be slightly better, and the CPU is 20% faster, but those differences are a bit harder to notice I’m betting.
The ecosystem is one of the deciding factors for these semi-mobile devices, and that’s going to be interesting to see work out over the coming months. Now that both retailers are going to have similar devices on the market simultaneously, the head-to-head competition will heat up more than it has in the past. When there was no color or touch Kindle, it was easy to dismiss the competition as being too dissimilar to really count.
Ecosystems…Amazon has their Prime program, which gets them an annual subscription fee and which gives the customer a variety of benefits. There are streaming videos from TV and movies, as well as free two-day shipping of many tangible products from the Amazon behemoth. Most recently, they added a free book “loan” per month (based on the explanation at Good E-Reader, it sounds more like they’ve paid for the books and are giving them away to entice more brand loyalty). Amazon also has their own Android app store, as well as the books they’re known for and their Audible book subsidiary.
Meanwhile, back at Barnes & Noble, they are touting the relative openness of the Nook Tablet in contrast to the curated experience at Amazon. You’ll be able to stream Netflix videos and Pandora music, as well as many other Android apps from the Nook app store. The Nook Color has become well known¬†for being easily rootable; there’s no reason to predict the Tablet will be harder to root as B&N doesn’t try to lock people in as much as Amazon does.
So, the Fire gets you one location with all your media paid for annually and bit-by-bit. Nook gets you several services with their own payment systems and subscriptions, but with more storage and speed for $50 more money upfront. Which model becomes the big winner will be hard to predict, but it sure makes this holiday shopping season more entertaining to watch.
Amazon just made life difficult for several competitors, but not Apple. Sorry, anyone looking for the iPad Killer, a 7″ tablet just isn’t the same category.
But, Barnes & Noble – you’ve been served notice now, beyotches. The cheapest Kindle is on sale right now, today, for $79. Cheapest Nook? $139. Oh, that’s gotta hurt. Coming in a month, the Kindle Fire competes directly with the Nook Color. Fire costs $200, or $50 less than the less-powerful Nook Color. There’s another stinging sensation right there.
Meanwhile, the ereader vendors who come out with alternatives, such as the ECTaco, Pandigital, and even venerable Sony brands are going to have a hard time finding buyers when they compete against a $79 Kindle backed by the Amazon bookstore, or the $99 Kindle Touch edition. Heck, the new top of the line e-ink Kindle is only $189 with 3G and wifi (save forty bucks if you don’t mind ads when the screen is “off”). None of the new models from the Amazon competitors include 3G free, and the “but I like to borrow from the library” folks got that problem answered last week when Overdrive’s Kindle support finally went live.
And in 2011, you can get this for only $79, with 2GB of memory:
I can’t imagine what magic Sony and B&N will have to pull out of their hats to have a chance of competing with Bezos’ latest babies.
Oh, and if you really want a Kindle with a keyboard, the Kindle 3 with Special Offers just got dropped 15 bucks to $99.
This is possibly the best 30 minutes a Gen-X person could spend this morning. With more cowbell!
The foreshadowing at the beginning was a little too obvious, but the cold open had some great explodey bits and fabulous lines for Rory. But, once again, damn you, Steve Moffat! We’ve got to wait until September to get the second half of this two-parter? Holy frackin’ Sontarans!
NBC announced they are going to air a comedy this fall, based on Chelsea Handler’s memoir, starring Laura Prepon as Chelsea. I love Chelsea Handler’s drunk slut schtick, and Laura Prepon has been my imaginary girlfriend for a few years now (poor October Road, we hardly knew ye), but I have a hard time picturing Prepon as Handler. Prepon has played mostly good girls, who have sex and maybe even drink but aren’t the caricature of those actions that Handler has built a career on. And, Handler’s persona hardly seems fit for primetime; how much of her memoir could they air on network television – 10%?¬†Of course I’ll watch it (I give many shows two episodes before evicting them from the DVR), but I don’t have a great deal of optimism. Oh, I just heard that my other imaginary girlfriend, Natalie Morales, will be on the show too. Can we get another season of Middleman instead?
What is up with Steven Moffat and his “arc-y” approach to the Doctor Who series? Although billed as the conclusion of a two-parter, “Day of the Moon” still managed to sneak in a giant hanging cliffhangery wobbly thing.
I love the Silents as the monsters, the whole Rory/Amy/Doctor triad, and the idea that Rory can sort of remember the previous reality where he was made of plastic. That’s about as far as I can go without giving away any major spoilers, but this is a great way to kick of the new season. Woohoo!
I loved a man and his son playing the same character (especially because I love both of those actors). I love every scene with Alex Kingston in tight jeans. I love the mysterious new amnesia-inducing monsters from an Edvard Munch painting.
But, that cliffhanger! One week will crawl by, damn you Steven Moffat!
Last year, Guiding Light and As the World Turns got canceled. This year, All My Children and One Life to Live are getting canceled. It seems impossible to comprehend, but is this the last gasp of soap operas as a genre?
When I was a little kid, my mom was a housewife who watched Days of Our Lives daily. She joked about how one of the characters was born near the same time as my older brother, but by the time my brother had graduated high school, his Dayscounterpart had grandchildren who were in middle school. Meanwhile, that character’s grandparents remained middle-aged. Such is the magic of soap opera time. Although my mother, like most in her generation, eventually joined the workforce fulltime, soaps continued to survive.
During¬†my teen years, soap operas had followed the changing schedules of women (their target, but hardly exclusive, audience) and infiltrated prime time. In the 1980s, we had Dallas, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, Dynasty, and I’m sure some others. In time, the viewers grew weary of the recycled melodrama with the same characters, and by 1992 all of them were gone. But somehow, the daytime soap operas continued to survive.
It’s probably difficult for most kids today to imagine a house where mom got them up in the morning and was awaiting their arrival from school in the afternoon. Accompanying those hours in between direct childcare, mothers got to hang out with their neighbors and buy Avon from door-to-door salesladies (sometimes the same people), and watch soap operas while folding the never-ending laundry. Personally, I couldn’t figure out how soaps stayed around after the 1980s, since the stay-at-home mom era seemed over by 1990. But the soaps were still there, with the same characters (frequently played by an array of actors but other times by very well-preserved surgically-altered actors). And now they’re almost all gone.
What changed in the last 20 years? Cable TV, some would say. Ah, but we had cable in the 1980s and we saw a boom in soaps, not a bust. I think it’s the DVR. While we had VCRs in the 1980s (I was in charge of programming our first model, which consisted of an array of wheels and buttons on the face of the strange device), very few people time-shifted many programs. Sure, you’d record some special episode you were interested in, but nothing routine. I knew a family whose mother couldn’t be dissuaded from her belief that the television had to be on for the VCR to work, but didn’t want to see any spoilers from the free movies she was recording off the air, so she covered the screen with a cloth. VCRs were magic. In later years, when I was attempting to replace a nice VCR that had died with a similar quality recorder, I was told that so few people every actually recordedanything on their video cassette recorders that most of the features I liked were discontinued. So, at least anecdotally, it seems VCRs were only disruptive to movie watching, not to television viewing.
In 1999, Tivo and ReplayTV were introduced. Although ReplayTV had the better product by most technical measures (automatic commercial skip for one), today they’re almost completely lost down the memory hole. Still, Tivo survived and thrived and grew from a hipster bragging right to a default home electronics device. There are DVRs in cable boxes, satellite boxes, even in some televisions. In the five years since I built my Mythbox, it has changed the way I think of television schedules profoundly. What time something comes on, what day it is shown, even what channel it is on – all are irrelevant now. I tell the magic box to record the shows I’m interested in when it finds them and I walk away. When I’ve got time, I flip through my personalized library of video entertainment. Twilight Zone is one whenever I want now, and not just during some late night hour or holiday marathon. There’s no need to be concerned that I might miss a show because I’m busy or running late on some errand – the magic box will have it waiting for me whenever it’s convenient for me.
This, I think, is what finally killed the soap opera – easy access to all the other hours of the day. When our mothers and grandmothers were staying at home, baking pies and doing laundry and all the other things we imagined they were doing, they were held hostage by Proctor & Gamble. There were three channels, and all of them had serialized programming that was intended to appeal to women. Now that those women (and men, to be fair) who remain at home during the day have the easy ability to watch 50 channels of programming, from any time of the day or night or week, it turns out they don’t actually want to watch Luke and Laura do whatever it is they do.
No need to be too wistful for the fading of an entire genre. From Guiding Light’s radio debut in 1937 until whenever the final soaps wither away, it’s been a pretty good run. And meanwhile, the networks do occasionally let a show have a long-form serial plot in the background. Sometimes it even stays on the air more than one season.
In some sort of strange reversal of normality, the first group that seems to have really dug into the NPR “sting” video in any detail appears to be The Blaze. The Blaze is a conservative website, which you can tell because every headline is in all-caps (seriously, Righties, why do this?). Although not agreeing with Ron Schiller’s statements, the writer of this piece shows very clearly that some of the statements are taken so far out of context that it boggles the mind. One example -he¬†replies to¬†a statement that isn’t shown in the edited video, but it makes it look as though he’s¬†countering a completely different statement.
It’s really quite interesting and a good piece of investigative journalism. Schiller was still obviously unwise in making some of the statements he did to these near-strangers, but in context it appears to be yet another James O’Keefe cut-and-paste mess. That guy makes Mike Moore look like an honest videographer.
James O’Keefe and Andrew Breitbart have no credibility whatsoever, after their various misdeeds of the past few years. In case they’ve completely escaped you, these stunts include “fake pimp going to ACORN offices,” which revealed nothing untoward within the organization and were nearly completely fictionalized after editing; “Shirley Sherrod is a racist” video, which was so deceptively edited that it showed the exact opposite of reality; and of course, attempting to illegally bug a Senator’s office. By this time, if you see O’Keefe or Breitbart mentioned in any sort of journalistic story, you would be justified in assuming there is no truth to it at all.
With that being said, how in the hell could this be any worse for NPR? NPR marketing droid Ron Schiller tells fake Muslims that the GOP and Tea Party are racists and entirely owned by the evangelical movement, as well as saying that NPR would be better off without federal money. Obviously, I believe his opinions have some validity – the current GOP has been in thrall to the Religious Right for decades, some in the Tea Party have a significant xenophobic streak, and NPR’s begging means they end up beholden to whichever way the political winds blow. But, I can say those things in public or in private because I have no authority or power in any significant way. A senior NPR executive should just shut the fuck up when dealing with near-strangers. It doesn’t help Schiller’s appearance much that he left NPR last week for another job. That may be true, but it sure does look like he’s running away and giving NPR deniability.
I’m very curious how this will end up playing out. There seems to be more than enough stupid to go around on both sides.
Part Batman, part Dark Angel, part every cop show ever made, and a little bit of Robocop, the new series “The Cape” began this week. ¬†So far, it’s a bit of a cliche-filled mess with one-dimensional characters. ¬†On the other hand, Summer Glau. ¬†Maybe we’ll give it another week to see what they make of the show.
Orwell = Lucius Fox (Batman)/Eyes Only (Dark Angel)
ARK = OCP (Robocop)
The Cape = Batman
The latest Doctor Who Christmas special, with Michael Gambon and Katherine Jenkins, is the best yet. ¬†Of course, doing a Google search for Katherine Jenkins shows that she likes to show off her cleavage at public events, so bonus!
But, why was Rory dressed as a Roman soldier? ¬†The final episode of last season, they remade the universe so the Rorybot never existed. ¬†They’ve got a lot of explaining to do this spring.
If you’re a geek, you’ve thought of or maybe even built a home-theater PC – that strange device which is a full-fledged computer hooked up to your television. Most of the rest of the TV-watching public, however, is utterly uninterested in such geekery. They do want to see their Youtube videos and Netflix streams on the bigger screen, but they’re not interested in doing the hard work necessary to put them there.
Enter Google TV and¬†Roku boxes¬†and Apple TV. A simple, somewhat affordable (Logitech, why 300 bucks?) device, hooked up to your television and your internet connection, enter some passwords and usernames, BAM! Internet media on your television. That’s the dream, right?
Google TV has been blocked from streaming ABC, NBC, and CBS shows from the networks’ web sites. Think about this for a minute, and you may begin to see the point of view of Network Neutrality advocates. Google TV uses Chrome, the web browser, to access ABC’s website. The user on his couch sees the web site just as he would see it if he were using his regular PC to view that site. The same ads load. The same content is there. But, because the machine he’s using says (as it’s supposed to), “I’m a Google TV browser” – no soup for you.
Still here?¬† True, this is not an actual case of network neutrality being violated, because the ISP is not the one blocking content from flowing over their network. The content provider has the right, no matter how irrational, to prevent anyone from watching their content in any manner. They could capriciously decide that only certain blocks of IP addresses could view their shows online. They could browser sniff and decide that they don’t like Opera, even if Opera is perfectly capable technically of watching their content. They’ve decided they hate Google this week. By extension, their viewers, the ones who care enough about How I Met Your Mother to go to the CBS website and seek it out, the most avid viewers with the most brand loyalty – fuck them.
Interesting business decision.
The jeep was out of the Army inventory before I enlisted (I saw lots of CUCV and HMMWV and tracks and the occasional deuce and a half or five-ton), but they were legendary for their ease of repair.¬† These guys make it look incredibly easy to rip one apart and put it back together, in less than four minutes.¬† I think they’ve practiced.