Thursday, November 29, 2007

IPTV... I had high hopes for SkyAngel

Those of you in my close circle of friends have heard me talking about my hope for the IPTV service that SkyAngel is eventually bringing to the US. I was hoping they would enable GodTV reaching more people in the US (currently limited to DirecTV only). Well, today my hopes aren't quite as high.

Back in August, I emailed SkyAngel to let them know I'd like to be included in their beta of the new service. I knew they had already successfully lunched the service in Canada and were working on plans for the US version.

Specifically I'd emailed them "I'm a professional IT geek and a blogger. I already have ethernet connections at each of my TVs, use TiVO and have HDTV service. I also have 802.11g and 802.11n wireless networks in my home." I sent my request directly to their VP of Corporate Communications and got an acknowledgment the same day.

Well September, October and pretty much all of November came and went with nary a word from them. So today I sent a follow-up to the same VP. This time it triggered a chain of emails and a call from another VP apologizing for the fact they had dropped the ball and no one ever followed up on my email.

That would have been a great call... except they had already sent all their beta invitations out earlier this month. And each one of them was specially coded for survey tracking... and their IT department was too busy to program in and send out another code.

Now I've been in corporate IT myself. So I understand busy. I understand beta and phased deployments. I understand things getting missed. What I don't understand is why you call someone after they've been forgotten for 3 months only to tell them they were forgotten and there's nothing you can do about it. That just seems asinine.

I've been trying to figure out the possible motivation for that kind of call but really I'm at a loss. How often am *I* at a loss?!

Then later this afternoon I get an email from the VP of Communications apologizing for having dropped the follow-up on my initial email. She also informed me that post launch they're thinking about inviting some media to test and review the service.

Her email settled it for me. This is the same old Dominion Satellite. They didn't learn anything from SkyAngel's satellite service launch, lack of uptake in the broader market, and the experiences (trouble) people had with their service. Common sense in marketing dictates that you want to generate positive buzz before something hits the general market.

What troubles me most is this is a group that represents Christian ethics and morals. I truly appreciate what they're trying to do with religious programming distribution but they are apparently clueless about how the business world works. And that cluelessness has translated into a lack of understanding of the tech world.

Here they're launching the sort of product that all of the tech industry would like to see - standalone IP based TV. Think of it as Vonage for television - SkyAngel TV channels delivered over any viable IP reception method - cable, DSL, T1, etc.

This is exactly the thing that we Christian IT leaders, bloggers and executives would like to put our weight behind. Alas SkyAngel has proven they lack vision for IPTV just like they lacked vision for how to get out into the general market with family friendly satellite service. So instead of Vonage for television, we're destined for SunRocket for television.

I may one day own a SkyAngel IPTV box... I did sign up back in October for notification when it comes out. And it is exactly the sort of service I'm looking for. I just hope I get more use out of it than I got out of my Sunrocket phone before the service dies.

Too bad SkyAngel, a communication company, simply does not understand how to communicate in the 21st century. SkyAngel IPTV service is destined for the same limited market exposure as SkyAngel Satellite garnered.

In economic terms, based on their current market savvy it's unlikely the addition of IPTV to their portfolio will generate enough cash flow to keep the company afloat. Those of who were looking for IPTV to fix the channel bandwidth crunch caused by them losing transponder space on Dish Network appear to be in for sore disappointment. Sorry friends.

Monday, November 26, 2007

SDV coming to TiVo - TiVo here I come!

For those on digital cable systems like those sucky bozos at the Greensboro, NC division of Time Warner, there's good news! TiVo will be getting and add-on module that will allow it to work on systems that have deployed switched digital video (SDV).

SDV is a new feature on some cable systems that keeps the channels that aren't being watched by anyone in the area from being broadcast on the cable coming into your home. That allows the cable system to theoretically add more channels. (Now don't get me started about all of the crap channels that people don't want to watch. If those weren't there SDV would be irrelevant. Duh!) I won't get into the technical limitations of that but I will summarize by saying its a stop-gap measure at best. Spectrum on coax is limited by the carrying capacity of the wire. Fiber is the final and only option that will really be a viable long term solution.

The problem with TiVo, especially HD TiVo, is that it couldn't do the special handshake that the cable system needed in order to say "ok, send me these channels and let me know where they are." Several cable system divisions were using that lacking feature to poopoo TiVos and similar products in order to get people to accept the crappy cable boxes like you heard me fussing about last week. Customers who bought TiVos on SDV enabled systems were often finding the HD channels they were getting cable for in the first place to be inaccessible.

Today's announcement by the NCTA and TiVo puts and end to that madness. I'll be out getting 2 TiVos to replace these 2 B%T$H Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HDC boxes. (Few things in life I hate... they have managed to get themselves added that list!)

PS... Dad if you had time to read my blog, you have time to put a new electric outlet in the basement!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Let's Say Thanks

I may not like our bozo president. Or the lame war he and his cronies got us into. BUT I do support our men and women who willingly agree to serve in our armed forces - even if they are technically under the direction of said bozo.

Here's your chance to let our men and women in service know that we appreciate them. Xerox is powering a program called Let's Say Thanks (LST). Click over to the LST website, pick a postcard style, personalize the card and poof, Xerox prints it and sends it to a service man or woman for free.

You can also download the kid-drawn art from the cards for use in your own personal cards and letters to those in service you have a personal connection with.

So what are you waiting for?! Let's Say Thanks!

Online advertising... getting a little too personal

For those of you who haven't been tracking the fuss that Facebook started lately, you might want to pay attention. I've linked to an article over at Broadband Reports in the header above.

What's all the fuss about? Simple - technology has caught up with us and internet anonymity is now non-existent. The technology now exists and is in place for multiple sites to all share data with each other about what you've been doing on their sites - what you've bought, what you looked at, who you've talked to, etc.

The reason they're doing this is not so much "big brother" but so they can charge advertisers more money. See the more they can say that they know about you, the more they can charge for putting someone in front of your eyeballs.

Facebook's latest nuclear explosion stems from the fact that they let out a little too much information. Friends don't need to know you went to Overstock and bought a pair of silk underwear. At least not my friends.

I'd encourage you to take a closer look and start tracking where this privacy train is headed. Europe appears to be headed in one direction (legally mandated privacy protection) and the US appears to be headed in another (open season on every tidbit of data someone can get about you - i.e. *no* privacy).

Saturday, November 24, 2007

All I have to say about Thanksgiving...

Thanksgiving has come and gone. I did a little shopping today... oh alright, a lot. Here's all I have to say about Thanksgiving 2007:

Special thanks to K&W Cafeteria for keeping us out of the kitchen. Now if only they'd hurry up and build one of the new concept K&W Cafe stores in Roxboro.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Soapbox: My take on OJ

I was catching up on some reading and just had to say something about this mess. So here, quote me!
If you are blessed to get away with killing 2 people, you might want to lay low and keep your mouth S.H.U.T, stay out of Las Vegas and hire someone to keep you from doing something else stupid!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Time Warner Cable Sucks

Ok... I've endured the services of Time Warner Cable via their Greensboro, NC division now for 6 months. I can now officially say - They Suck!

Why do they suck? Let me count the ways:
  1. Laughable HD DVR. The Scientific Atlanta 8300HD/HDC. I have 2 of them. I hate both of them. I've gone through 5 of them trying to get 2 that work. I still get audio drop-outs on HD recordings (the live versions were fine), the user interface was teleported in from 1985, and recordings just fail to occur for no explainable reason. Tonight was the last straw. I couldn't watch Ch 557 (HGTV HD) or Ch 558 (Food Network HD), called tech support, they did something and I could watch it on the livingroom unit. Went into the bedroom later and it said "Guardian has determined your software must be updated. This may take 20 minutes or more..." Well 2 hours later and a call back to tech support confirmed I just toasted *another* SA8300HDC. Tech scheduled for Monday. I'm going to Best Buy and buying 2 HD TiVo's tomorrow to replace these SoBs! And I'll make the tech use the M-Cards from the 8300HDCs in the TiVo's. Ha!

  2. Inexplicable lack of certain channels. I've never been on a cable system where there were no national religious channels. I mean come on, everyone has TBN - they pay local systems for placement just like QVC! But for some reason the Greensboro market has no mainstream religious programming. No TBN, no Daystar, no EWTN, no GodTV, no nothing. I think we may get some Catholic channel a couple hours a day. I can't believe the churches around here or at least the cable customers haven't complained.

  3. Craptacular HD Channel Lineup. I can't believe they're actually advertising how many they have - 29! They even trumpet it in their on-hold announcements. DirecTV - which I have at one home - has 70 channels. Time Warner doesn't carry 7 of the local HD broadcasts I get on DirecTV.

  4. Limited internet bandwidth. I have the "Turbo" package which is supposed to yield 8mbps x 512 kbps. That's great except Time Warner doesn't overprovision... so you only get ~85% of the stated speed. I've never downloaded faster than ~7.5 mbps. Upload is never over 500 kbps. Compare that to the Embarq service I have... 6 mbps x 896 kbps. I consistently download at the actual 6 mbps and upload around 850 kbps. I miss having 1/2 my upload speed horribly when I'm on the Time Warner connection. I'd like to see them move to 10 mbps x 1 mbps.
Well, I'm off to bed. Can't watch HGTV HD, Food Network HD or a handful of other channels on the fried 8300HDC. The only thing I get now on those channels after an hour on the phone with tech support is a black screen. Whee.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Christmas performance season is heating up!

Well, it's that time of year again. The radio stations have started sneaking in Christmas music, I just loaded Christmas tracks into the on-hold system in the office and I bought one of the $99 HD-DVD players at Wal-Mart's "Secret" pre-holiday sale the other week.

There's a big event happening in Burlington, NC this year. On Sunday, December 9th, Integrity Church and Brookwood Church are joining their bands and worship teams together to produce a night of worship and entertainment unlike anything in the Piedmont Triad.

The event is billed as United In Worship: the Nativity story. It will be held at the restored Paramount Theatre in downtown Burlington, NC and tickets are only $5 but need to be purchased in advance because they're selling out fast. Showtimes are 4:00pm and 7:00pm. Proceeds from the event go to support Alamance County's premier food pantry - Loaves & Fishes.

Integrity's band is known for rocking down the house on Sunday mornings and Brookwood is known for its variety in its vocalists. Combined, the two should create an unforgettable evening for all those in attendance.

I would encourage anyone within 300 miles of Burlington to buy tickets and get to this event on December 9th. While you're at it, buy a few extra tickets and load up your car. That way you can split the gas expense with a few someones.

You can hear a sample of Integrity's rockin' worship here. And you can buy tickets online via the United in Worship e-ticket site. They can also be bought in person on Sunday mornings from now until they run out at both Brookwood and Integrity.

PS... Integrity also knows how to go soft and smooth.