What is the advantage of Roku over smart tv or internet enabled dvd?

Can’t say for a DVD, but smart TV’s are likely to go the way of 3D TV’s, they are here today and will be gone tomorrow

Can’t say for a DVD, but smart TV’s are likely to go the way of 3D TV’s, they are here today and will be gone tomorrow. In my case, a 60-inch Samsung Smart TV, I’ve abandoned the Smart TV part and replace it with a Roku Premier. The advantages are more apps, integrated search across all the apps(amazon, netflix, HBO) and much more.

My Samsung had HBO GO, but I didn’t; it doesn’t have HBO Now, but I do. Apps would disappear overnight without warning, others, like Skype, would give 3-months warning and disappear forever. The Smart TV had no update control, always seemed to want to update when I wanted to watch it and more.

Overall, Amazon Fire Stick, Google Chromecast, Roku etc. have outperformed Smart TV’s in speed, features, and most especially apps. Thats not going to change, TV manufacturers don’t have deep enough pockets, long enough vision, and enough experience to catch-up

Giant fleet of small scheduling nightmares

In tenuous link between my recent posts on automation, here and especially here, where back in November I discussed autonomous vehicles and their impact on employment. I also said:

While many cities are salivating over the ability of self-driving, autonomous vehicles to fix their broken road and transport infrastructure, that’s missing the point.

Sometime between then and last weekend I became a weekend subscriber to the (Boulder) Daily Camera, a great local paper for the Boulder/Denver metro area. Right on queue, my first Sunday paper was laying in the snow on the drive this weekend and I opened it up and parsed it during the day. One item that particularly caught my eye was Dave Kriegers main editorial entitled “Imagine a giant fleet of tiny buses“.

serveimageI grabbed a pen, marked the editorial up, scribbled in the margins and sat down on Monday morning and wrote an open forum letter. It didn’t get published, I have no idea if it’s policy not to publish corrections on staff written op-ed pieces, or they just didn’t think it interesting enough to include?

Since a big fuss has blown up about an Uber self driving car today, running a red light yesterday(in full transparency, Uber self driving development has a big office here in Louisville that is a build-up from the Uber acquisition of Microsofts Bing mapping service.) I thought I’d turn Mondays open forum letter into a blog post.

This also lets me correct one misstatement. Self-driving cars will help with congestion theoretically. In heavy traffic, they will drive at a regulation speed, a safe distance from the vehicle in front, thus avoid the hard braking and the impact that can have on several miles of traffic.

It is hard to respond to Dave Kriegers editorial imaging “a giant fleet of tiny buses” in 300-words, but I’d like to have a try.

First, I completely agree with his sentiment that if you keep trying the same old thing, you’ll keep failing. However, when it comes to his “giant fleet of small buses” he falls into the same trap most transport ‘imagineers’ do when the come to self-driving vehicles. For the sake of brevity, let’s assume they’ll be electric; let’s assume they can dock themselves; let’s assume they have a slightly better range than current electric cars.

Dave jumps to the conclusion that less space will be needed for parking. Sort of, except the cars have to be charged somewhere. But yes, they could be charged in either fields or reclaimed parking garages outfitted with self-docking chargers. Dave then makes the confusing jump to the conclusion that “[they] could reduce congestion because fewer cars would serve more people”.

Anyone that’s given any serious thought to scheduling and transportation would understand implicitly that that isn’t true. It’s implied because it fits the paradigm of autonomous vehicles. If 20,000 people want to get into Boulder today between 7:15am and 9:00am in their own unshared transportation, and the demand is the same in the era of self-driving cars, then, you’ll have the same number of journeys. Add in the recharging trips, the fact that using Daves logic, there will be less self-driving cars, then some of those cars will have to drive in and out and back into Boulder, actually increasing the number of journeys and therefore contributing to the congestion.

If we take Daves “less parking space” claim at face value, then what will the space formerly used by parking garages be used for? Green space… err no, more offices/accommodation, with the potential to further increase the number of journeys and congestion.

Don’t get me wrong, self-driving cars are great, but until we have flying cars they will only help indirectly with congestion won’t help with congestion. The only way is shared transport. Bus Rapid Transport isn’t it either. Trams, street cars, metro-rail are the only real fix.

Google corrects typo

I reported the Google typo yesterday and it has been fixed now, Mbps it is. No change to their “free” tier of service though, so 5Mbps it is.

I got a lot of feedback on my “negativity” over this, both on the neighborhood forum, the comment below, and via personal email. And yes, being able to pay the $300 fee in installments is a good break. So it looks correct, 5Mbps while useful, really isn’t good enough for a family except for email, facebook and infrequent youtube/netflx.

TWC offer a comparable 6/1Mbps plan for $29+modem/wifi, taxes fees. < Which is non-competitive on price/performance to most of the rest of the world where cable exists, where are 4/1 service costs less than $20 per month, and often as low as $12 per month. Fiber providers are 40/10Mbps packages for $25-$35 per month or better, and thats what I was really hoping we'd see.

Google fiber disappoints on price

displayfile (1).jpegWell Google fiber is on its way, they’ve sprayed marked across our front yards this week ready to install the vaults, most people don’t understand these will be buried in your front yard, after all fiber optic cable isn’t your parents cable.

In other news, Google have announced the Austin pricing and service speeds, and I have to say, it’s pretty disappointing really.

WTF are Mpbs?First up as seen in this screen capture, their website lists speeds in Mpbs. I work in the tech sector, heck I used to be a networking specialist, I admit I have no idea what Mpbs is. So I googled it, and Google asked Did you mean: Mbps

Normally network speeds are indeed listed as Mbps. Megabits per second. Unlike disk/file storage which is most often described as MB, and sometimes MBps megabytes per second. In storage you are storing files and characters, so a byte has a meaning and it’s important to understand. In networking, especially streaming music, tv, video it really doesn’t, so bytes really don’t have any meaning, and Megabits is the norm. Also, Megabits are also in units of 1000, in the old days it was often expressed as 1024 but no longer.

So we really have no idea what Google are offering. Lets assume thats just sloppy web content creation, and that 1,000 Mpbs is really 1,000 Mbps, which is 1-Gigabit, which is what Google have been touting, by coincidence. I’m really left wondering though what their free offering is though? 5 Mbps is really for the most part unusable for anything other than sending email asynchronously. So I assume that should really be 5 MBps, as in megabytes. But as discussed earlier that isn’t really a usable measure, although it’s pretty standard marketing BS from the existing cable cartel companies used to confuse people.

If it is 5-MBps, then it could be 40-Mbps, which would be more usable, either way the web page is a shambles.

Given these assumptions, overall the Google pricing is disappointing. Google are for the most part just joining the existing cable cartel. Yes they are bringing fiber speed but they are really doing nothing to help with pricing. The $300 installation fee for the entry services is a barrier to entry for low income households.

$70 is great for those that can afford it, getting potentially a 100x increase in download speed, if the network inside your house can exploit it. Remember you’ll need gigabit ethernet ports on all your devices, gigabit wifi(which doesn’t exist as a domestic standard) and of course a Google compatible gigabit cable modem and switch.

What is more disappointing is the pricing though. It’s slightly more expensive minus taxes and fees than the TWC Service I’m paying for at the moment.. What about something in between for low income households? $35 a month for 100Mbps?

Disappointing

Dust to Dust

Friedman wrote in this Sundays column in the NY Times “Over the years, I’ve seen an America that was respected, hated, feared and loved. But traveling around China and Singapore last week, I was confronted repeatedly with an attitude toward America that I’ve never heard before: “What’s up with you guys?””

Friedman was talking about the way the United States was/is perceived in the lead up to, and since the Government shutdown. It’s well worth a read.

However, in many ways were are increasingly being judged both through the political shenanigans, but also for the lack of progress we are making in almost any other walk of life. Yes, in many ways we are still massively ahead, investment in the country and it’s infrastructure, we are going backwards in real terms.

US Investment

US has hit its lowest level since demobilisation after the second world war because of Republican success in stymieing President Barack Obama’s push for more spending on infrastructure, science and education. Overall this has lead to problems with bridges, and increasingly roads here in Texas being turned back into gravel paths. This caught my eye while speed reading the Financial Times

Kirk Dale, the township supervisor of Marlette, Michigan, has first-hand experience of what it means to spend less on infrastructure. Thirty years ago, he felt his small town was on the rise when Cooper Road, a local residential street, was first paved. But today, Marlette cannot afford the maintenance and has joined a number of small communities that have pulverised their streets and gone back to gravel.
“You make a calculated, rational decision on which mile to do,” said Mr Dale, the township supervisor. “And then you look long-term down the line saying ‘Hey, even if we were to pave this, how are we going to repave this 10 or 15 years down the line?’

Makes for dramatic reading and sets the tone for how things are perceived, but I’ve never been to Marlette. Turns out google maps has been there, but never been on Cooper Rd, but the parts you can see show it’s not like it’s a main street. Check on out on streetview here. Also, I know someone who actually lived on a S Main St, and that wasn’t paved ever. Perhaps the FT team could have researched this a bit better?

Psalm
Take this link, then click on satellite

Interestingly Google Satellite include this view of Cooper Rd, maybe this is an elaborate message from the heartland to god to save their road?

I digress, what the FT points out is that by comparison, not only is the US getting left behind, but that it is going backward. Why does this matter? Well back to Friedman, its not really how the US is doing that matters. The entire international finance system is based on a confidence trick. The investment in US Government bonds is based on the perception that the US is growing, doing the right things and can buy back or pay off those bonds. Much like a run on the stock market, once everyone gets scared that the US is going in the wrong direction, they run in the other direction.

The FT also notes and I agree

  • Construction projects have taken the early hit as budgets come under pressure, with state and local government building fewer schools and highways
  • Public investment is expected to fall further under almost everybody’s budget plan

The upcoming budget discussions will form a key bellwether for the USA, not only what the politicians say or don’t, but based on what’s in the budget. If they manage to substantially cut public expenditure again, the debt crisis will become more real as the value of US Government bonds will come under pressure.

Perhaps the Marlette field is reminding us of “The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously.” Psalm 37:21; on maybe Psalm 22:7 says the borrower is servant to the lender. Tea party anyone?

I have a choice, or will

 

Graphic by slashgear.com
Graphic by slashgear.com

This application of the City of Austin website indicates that google fiber is coming to my neighborhood, and specifically includes my block. I’m delighted although Google have yet to announce this, and I’ve not seen the pricing or terms and conditions, it can only be a good thing.

Can’t get enough Fiber

So, it’s formally announced, Google Fiber is coming to Austin in 2014.

This is potentially a great announcement. The focus will be on the speed, which in my view is wrong. It should be on the affordability and open access. For the most part, as I’ve blogged numerous times, Time Warner Cable is more than fast enough for most homes, its just uncompetitively priced for most, and not affordable for many.

I’ll be especially interested to see how they do this, right down to if they lay new cables underground, using existing or new carrier pipes; hopefully it wont just be more optical cable strung between poles. Obviously what will also bet interesting is the plan, which neighborhoods first etc. The devil is in the detail though, here are some of my first thoughts on it.

  1. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but there is nothing revolutionary about google fiber. Many communities already have this sort of speed, it’s just not from google
  2. When and if it arrives in the ’04, it will come with a bunch of infrastructure that will require users to give up more data on themselves and what they do, what sites they visit etc. How much should google know about you?
  3. On the plus side its competition for TWC, which if you’ve been following along, is what I’ve been campaigning for, writing letters, making calls.
  4. They have a free offering. How this is used, who it is made available too is key; with more and more services going online we can’t afford a class of citizens who are denied access. Should we look for ways to subsidize the install/sign-up fee?
  5. If they just string fiber optic cable between existing polls, boooo. On the other hand, if they do it right and runs the optical fiber(glass cable) underground, are you ok with them digging up the streets. I am. We need to get all the cables underground to improve service, reduce maintenance costs, and get rid of the visual mess it creates.
  6. If you just have a one or two wireless devices, you are unlikely to notice the speed-up, and thats OK. Sure there are new standards that will enable a wireless device connect to the Internet at a theoretical speed that matches your Internet connection, as others have pointed out, Wireless N can already exceed the basic TWC services. Except for multiple people gaming, a couple of HD movies streaming though, you’ll be hard pushed in most homes to notice the difference.
  7. Start downsizing your TWC services now, I effectively shaved $60 off my monthly total bill for TV, HBO, Internet access, TWC need to understand that they can’t depend on the fact y’all have too much money and are too apathetic to go through the change. Lets create some real competition…

It’s no coincidence then AT&T, apparently smarting from the widely leaked google announcement, I can’t even get their service on my urban, less than a mile from city hall street, despite the fact they have two poles and cables on my block, responded by saying “we invest more than any other public company.”. Not here you didn’t.