Meine Dispatcher Tells Me There’s A Problem With Deine Kable?

The Cable Guy is here (shut up, he’s just fixing the cable) because I plugged in a TV into the HDMI port and got no audio. And then, when I plugged the old TV back in, certain channels came in scrambled.

It only happens with the HD channels coming through the component port, and only some of the channels. He’s baffled.

Me, I think it’s DRM. Somewhere in the “who’s got permission to do what” logic, they’ve screwed it up. Of course, this guy has no chance of figuring that out (if it’s true) since it’s buried somewhere in the logic of the cable box. The analog ports are all supposed to be open anyway, since older TVs don’t conform to any protection schemes.

But that’s just the paranoid rantings of someone who’s been banging his head against copy protection aimed at paying customers while the thieves run rampant.

Server Madness

I’ve been replacing the old server with a new one, and it’s been going pretty spiffy.

Lots of work, though. In addition to handling a mad work situation that popped up as if aware that I was starting a new business this month. I’m wrestling through my least favorite part of any business (paperwork) though. The product is fun and interesting, to say nothing of useful.

The only problem is, it could always be better. Initially I was approaching the situation a la the old Model Fords. One size fits all. But I can’t mass produce them efficiently, anyway, so I might as well add the customizations. I realized last month or so that I was actually providing a service (that of installing powerful but particular software) and not a thing (the hardware it resides on).

Though I’ve already got plans to make the hardware better and cheaper than an individual building for himself could. But I gotta get things off the ground first.

HD-DVD Post-Mortem

Andy Marken has google-doc’ed his latest “Content Insider”, this one on the death of HD-DVD.

It’s not really a glowing endorsement of Blu-Ray (nor should it be) nor is it a rose-colored prediction for the download market (nor should it be).

Andy hits the nail on the head when he says:

The stability of a single format may help push sales up but consumers as economists delicately say are still …price conscious.

Convince me that I should pay $29 for a high-def version of I Know Who Killed Me instead of the $6 version that’s in the bin at Wal-Mart. Anyone?

He uses Raiders of the Lost Ark for his central movie reference, but to me the a propos line comes from Men In Black, when Tommy Lee Jones looks at this new storage format and sighs:

This is gonna replace CD’s soon; guess I’ll have to buy the White Album again…

Unfortunately, the big guys have made a business model out of selling us the same stuff over and over again. But critical to being able to do this is:

  1. Buy Congress to keep extending copyright
  2. Never actually sell anything to anyone

Old Walt Disney’s 40 years dead, but his corporation controls Mickey Mouse to this day. (Keep in mind that copyright has, as its sole purpose, the fostering of creative works. It’s been well perverted to prevent that.)

#2 is one near and dear to my heart. I pay huge sums of money to get a cable signal into my house. I’m forced to pay to get what I want, because I can’t get just what I want, I have to get everything that my cable company needs to satisfy their business model. Meaning I pay for hundreds of channels I never use.

But despite paying for that signal, the cable companies go through considerable effort to make it so that you can’t do with that signal what you will. The signal coming through the cable is encrypted, sometimes in defiance of law. Even if you have a cable box and run things through that, they’ll encrypt the signal coming out of the Federally-required-but-often-not-activated firewire port.

In short, you can plug that cable into your TV or into an “approved” recorder, most likely one that they lease you. Don’t like it? Tough luck. You get what you’re given. Don’t like it? Bitch to the FCC. (They might respond.They might not.) Just because you pay for it–and handsomely–doesn’t mean you actually own anything. Not even the right to view things when you please, like you used to with VCRs.

Though, if you’re lucky, you can get a reduced quality version of your cable box’s output.

How’s that for a mixed message? We want you to demand high-definition stuff! But, uh, we don’t really have the capacity (or the drive, it seems) to give it to you the way you want it. So, here, have crap.

If history holds true, technology will break their backs, and they’ll get rich as a result. And then, when the next big tech thing comes along, they’ll fight that to the death, as well.

(Click on the HTPC links to see my efforts to build a fully-functioning hi-def Home Theater PC.)

The BVo Proceeds Apace

I haven’t mentioned it in a while, but th B-vo (the Blake version of the TiVo) is humming along pretty nicely.

It takes more hacking than I’d like (as I hope to produce a lot of these) but the main items (viewing almost-live TV, recording, ripping and playing DVDs) and a lot of the peripheral items (weather, web browsing, slideshow viewing, etc.) are also sweet.

My only concern now is with my TV. I’m not usually “cutting edge” with technology. That may seem funny coming from a programmer but it actually fits in pretty well: I’m happiest when I can sit down and program. When I’m fiddling with environments, dubious hardware interactions, network issues, etc., I’m not programming. So I generally wait until the kinks in a system are worked out before messing with it.

It’s been a lot of work to put this together, especially for someone as lazy and easily bored as I am. But I can sell the fruits of this labor, I hope, and refine the hardware into something really slick as time goes on.

I’ve got, for example, a guy who can build custom cases. (Right now the B-vo is a not a pretty thing.) The ultimate goal is to make a small, sexy thing, like a Wii, that’s completely quiet (the B-vo is very quiet, with just one small fan).

Probably about the time I really get rolling, Apple will work out the kinks and legal issues with their Apple TV system and shoot my business all to hell, so I’m already looking at little twists and turns that will make the system more fun than theirs.

It’s been a while since I’ve had my own business. It’s time to start again….

The “Bvo” gets closer to completion…

…but it’s still farther off than I’d like.

The “Bvo” is what we call the PVR we’re building around here. I’d love to assemble the whole thing into a mini-ITX form factor (4"x4" base) but I don’t think it’s going to be possible. After the base system is completed, though, I’m going to definitely consider throwing together a 4×4 front-end.

I’m hoping to have the box assembled early next week, and the set-up nailed down shortly after.