Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cable companies want media to aggregate their channels more efficiently

Cable companies are pressuring media companies to package their channels into bundles that represent what consumers really want, as a way of offering lower prices, according to a story in the Washington Post today by Cecilia Kang, link here
The concept seems important to me because major networks need to provide ways to cover regular programming when it is preempted in some locations by breaking news, especially sudden presidential news conferences or severe weather warnings. 

For example, in Washington DC NBC has a regular hi-def channel (211 in Arlingtopn on Comcast) and is supposed to use 208 as a backup, but often does not use it, meaning the episodes of some shows are missed entirely in some areas (although they can usually be found online the next day).  Networks should set up backup channels on cable that can always carry scheduled programming , and include them in cable packages.

The availability of many programs online is undermining the older business model for cable.  (I'm watching Sunday night's "Revenge" right now as I write this. Nolan is irresistible!)  
For my own reference as much as anyone’s, here’s the Comcast lineup

Monday, March 18, 2013

Who needs to "root" his cell phone?

My own Motorola Android is “getting old” and is probably “inferior” to the iPhone.  But I picked up, at a BN, BDM’s “Advanced Hacks + Guides + Tips for Android”.  The book appears to come from the UK.
Of particular curiosity is the chapter on “rooting” your phone, on p. 90.  It seems a bit risky, because you could “brick” your phone (make it unusable for good), and it’s hard to imagine the benefits.  But maybe for some people, some custom ROM software really does work better.  Maybe something like software that gets you a taxi quickly in a dangerous area of a particular city, or some other particular issue in interfacing with the physical world.  Rooting usually requires Java JDK and HDK.   (Somehow the term hints at shaving.)  On poage 96, the booklet talks about rooting with a tool called “SuperOneClick”, as well as the more complicated “Revolutionary” (an ironic name, given the substance of a recent NBC miniseries). 

I'm not sure what the legality of all of this is, assuming even that you are on your original contract.  

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Congress sympathetic to consumers who want the legal right to unlock cell phones again

Should cell phone unlocking be legal again?  Chloe Albanesius has a detailed story in PC World about the reaction of legislators, since unlocking became illegal again in January after a 90 day waiting period.

The main story is here.
The Copyright Office had been involved in an obscure deliberation of whether the unlocking envisions “non-infringing” intentions, a consideration in whether to allow tampering with a device under the DMCA.  The PDF of the press release from last October is here.  This area of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act is more obscure than the "Safe Harbor" (or "safe haven") area, and seems to have unintended consequences in areas not really involving copyright (although patents could come into play).  

This action by the Copyright Office seems to have originated administratively and has drawn attention from more libertarian and perhaps GOP members of Congress.  The penalties could be enomrous and the means of enforcement would be obscure (facial recognition)?

Sam Seder has a video on the LOC's action here.
So many lawmakers feel that you should be allowed to unlock a phone when you own the hardware. This probably is true in state legislatures, too.  
The practical concerns could occur when a customer moves to a different area of the country (maybe because of job change) because his home carrier doesn’t cover the new area well. For example, Verizon doesb’t cover a lot of West Virginia very well, but Sprint does.  When I moved back to northern Virginia in the early fall of 2003, I found that USWest (from Minnesota) didn’t cover the new area at all, and I had to start all over with a new cell phone, an additional moving expense.

A earlier article by Chloe in PC World warned that jailbreaking can void your warranty on an iPhone (or any smart phone).

There is an article in Tech Liberation, which informs us that the true libertarian (Cato) position is to respsect the carrier's right to enforce a contract, article by Jerry Brtio, here
It’s likely in the future that some remote home security features, and even 2-step website signon may work better with some carriers on some manufacturers (the iPhone) than others, especially for consumers traveling overseas, and this could provide additional legitimate reasons consumers could want to switch.  

Saturday, March 02, 2013

"National Day of Unplugging": Is this giving up technology for Lent?

I’m not much for ceremonial observations of Lent, but today (mabe starting yesterday) is supposed to be the “National Day of Unplugging”, where people “give up” using cell phones and laptops (desktops seem to be OK).  Here’s the major link.

The idea is supposed to be engaging people, and building social capital.

The Daily Beast has an account here
Are people supposed to give up blogging, tweeting, and social media?
At nearby churches, the youth recently did their “30 hour fasts” to recognize hunger (see my Moives blog yesterday), but what do they do with the time?  Make a short film.