Monday, December 26, 2005

Cutting Costs?

I was intrigued with the FCC's proposal that the time had become ripe for the cable industry to start offering its channels "a la-carte:" That is; let the customer decides which cable channels they need and therefore, pay accordingly.

But why stop there?

I am inclined to believe the time has indeed come for the cablemeter. This handy device will sit alonside your gas, electric and water meter and measure your usage of bits and bytes; and since there is upstream and downstream movements of digits, the meter will occilate for your monthly totals.

This is better than buying channels, because one would simply get a cable box from his provider, which would have no restrictions built into it. If for instance, one want to watch Showtime, Cinemax or whatever tickles his fancy, then let the good times roll; you literaly pay for what you use!

This is a neat idea but it probably won't fly for a number of reasons:

01: Cable companies would themselves baulk at the idea.

They'll cite the increase cost of providing a detail bill as a hinderance but nothing would be further from the truth. If a customer could see what he's paying for, then he would be in a position to fine tune his digital consumption.

02: Cities and states would try to regulate rates; states especially, which would set the rates and then allow its citizens to control rate-increases through the lobbying process.

03: The MPIAA & to a lesser extent, its ugly twin, the RIAA would object. Their objection would be based on the people's freedom and right to record any show they so desire.

This is a short sighted idea of course because the cablemeter is the ultimate subscription idea for these folks.

04: The FCC would start micro-managing the cable industry. This is a bad idea, given the propensity for people to throw their weight around.

05: The big five news outlets would cry foul because they would further be relegated to the side lines.

Who needs Disney-ABC, MSNBC, Viacon-CBS, Fox & PMS-CNN at the same time?

Any of these outlets would do because they all show the same thing in a twenty minute cycle.

The above five points are not necessarily the end of objections but on the plus side, the idea of a cablemeter have very good appeal. The cablemeter is simply a device to measure usage of a service; that's all.

The internal box sitting on top of the television is another matter. It can be standardized and open to other manufacturers. In addition to having the usual stuff, this box can be enhanced with a built-in recorder, internet radio interface capability, built in DVD/CD player...

The possibilties are endless as I imagine the remote for one of these babies.


PS: It goes without saying that both C-Span channels would continue to be offered for free. We, the people need all the help that we can get to keep track of all the chincanery that our highly esteemed congress has up its sleeve!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Service, Please!!!

I have, through the fine art of consolidation and elimination reduced both my taste and consumption to the few things which pleases me. For example, I have reduced the number of foods that I consume to their most basic components: i.e: nuts, fruits, grains, vegetables and meat, which include selected red meats and fish. These catergories are taken to mean the food is consumed closer to their origin rather than long into the processing chain.

I am trying to increase my water intake but that is proving to be a challenge because living in the cold negates thirst; but I am working on that...

In the realm of operating systems, I have moved the bulk of my computer usages from the MicroSOFT windowing environment to the free side of GNU/Linux. I started this conversation in the waning months of 2002 and I am happy to say that I do all my work in Linux.

I use the computer for writing, which negates the need for the faster and by defintion the newer boxes. Incidentally, I have two newer computers sitting on the floor of my basement with the Windows OS installed. I have not used either in many months: one, an AthlonXP in more than six months; the other, even longer.

Which brings me to my gripe:

I want to buy an MP3 player. One that have a large enough capacity to hold the entire theatrical production of King James Version of the Holy Bible, plus all my music collection which is nothing but the entire Bob Marley collection and a few others thrown in.

One would think that's not an unreasonable request, but whenever I read about the introduction of new MP3 devices onto the market place, I am always stuck with two things: the insidious comparison of the product to Apple's iPod and the asinine remarks as to what formats, these players can do.

Which in of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, the iPod is the market leader and most people have Windows installed on their computers BUT THERE A FAIR number of customers in the great hinterland, who would like to see some of these gadget makers, make an extra effort and release software that would make it possible to easily load music from other OSes. Just once, I would like to see, in fine print another OS other than Windows 2000/XP being supported.

SONY, of all these companies should have figured out this by now. After all, the company is based in Japan and they should know about the perils of competition; they are locked in one right now with regards to the new gaming consoles that's coming BUT this company first got its start in the music industry.

These guys should have software on their website, which should allow the user of any OS to transfer musical files from any computer to their digital range of walkman. Instead, I am reading that these things would only allow for the playing their proprietory AATRAC system and, until recently MP3.

The argument that Linux is too fragmented to make a cohesive program is dumb. Pick any flavor of linux, make sure the program works on that and release it with the specifications attached. Better yet, go to Novell or RedHat and have them certify the program to be used on their OS; and if the program is released, then the public will hack the crap out of it to make sure that it work on other flavors of GNU/Linux.

And what's so wrong if SONY allow others to freely encode their music in their format?

Wouldn't that make for the selling of more hardware?

The purpose of making gadgets is to sell them. That's Apple's purpose: they charge a premium for their goods in exchange for being stuck with their iTunes service. No other supplier will match that volume because they are all feeding out of the same trough: i.e: Downloaded music through the Windows environment!

It is a dumb, stupid and short sighted decision to tie your fortunes to a single OS, given the predictable volatilty that's coming. Another area is mass storage. However that's for another gripe but for now, can someone get a message through to the guys over at Creative Labs?

They have a 20/30 GB mp3 player that's just dying to go...

I would like some service, just for once...

Random Thoughts Going Into '06

It hasn't begun yet on the idiot box but pretty soon, all the major television networks, radio included, will begin remind us about the good, bad and ugly, especially the bad and ugly from the year. It will be hailed as the Year In Review and I will try to avoid this crap, if I can.

As for me, I would rather spend my time looking towards the future and making decisions, which should make my life as pleasant as possible. Here in point by point style are some things that I will or will not do or I think will happen.

I will add to this post as the year comes to end!

01: The General Motors Corporations will float the trial ballon of bankruptcy. Reason: Albatros pension and medical commitments.

02: We will see the first serious threat to the Intel/MicroSOFT hegmoney. Sun Microsystems will approach IBM with hopes of merging their processor technologies. This move will really revatilze the *nix world, especially GNU-Linux and Solaris.

The current spate of flat panel TVs, in all their variants will not live up to hype. Someone will rework the old CRT design to bring competition to this market.

04: I will not buy Sony's PSP unless there is recordable Universal Media Discs.

05: I will not buy Sony's PS3 until I have a High Definition television. I am currently leaning towards the Philips' 36 inch CRT. I would buy a 40 inch model, if there's one available.

06: The World Wide Web will loose more of its lustre, prompting other countries to setup their own domains and registration facilities. Content will become even more restricted as ISPs try charging for it.

07: The encrytion system on the gaming consoles will be cracked by the end of '06. oth: SONY might open theirs, partly to gain the upper hand against MicroSOFT.

08: There will never be a media center PC; not in its current form. There will be embeded media players, where everything is controlled with a remote. The idea of having a computer with the accompanying keyboard and mouse doesn't sell well with consumers.

SIDE NOTE: Nintendo have the right idea for a remote. It is a game controller but this company has demostrated the fact that everything can be incorporated into one device.

09: Some one should launch a commercial only channel. Imagine, just sitting there and lettinge the world+dog trying to convince to try their product. I would pay for that!

10: When are they going to integrate the capability of playing radio over the internet into DVD players? I thinkg that will be a cool method for bringing AM/FM radio into the home.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Saving General Motors: 105

101 Revisited: Idea 02...

A friend candidly told me that the various divisions within must be kept if the General Motors Corportation is to survive and I whole heartedly disagreed with him. He made, howbeit, a rather compelling point that these various brandnames are the very reason the people buy, say Pontiac over Oldsmobile or Chevy from Cadillac.

I agreed with him, only to the extent that my friend's point that many of these people are Detroit (okay, Michigan and quite possibly, the Great Lakes) bound and they, and or close relatives have worked for these respective divisions. Longevtivity does count for something and salespeople are only too willing to capitalize on nostalgia: I see far too many old people driving Detroit steel not to see my friend's point.

However, there is a compelling reason for eliminating many, if not all divisions, by name, in General Motors and it's called saving money. Each division carry around a series of dead weight in the personages of a president and vice-president. These have their respective executive secretaries and then there are paper pushers and bean counters attached to them.

Eliminating these divisions would save substantial monies from the payroll; a move that would certainly go a long way in letting the saleried people at the company know the pain is shared. It would also pave the way for ending duplication within the company, which would further save money.

Note what I am saying here: I want the divisions to go. That means all the trappings which go along with them but in no way am I advocating the non-use of the names. General Motors is free to retain and use these brands for their automobiles because it's already being done.

Divisions withing General Motors share technology and production lines pump out the same product. A Chevrolet Blazer is the same thing as an Oldsmobile Bravada, which is no different than a GM Jimmy. These are all trucks, marketed as SUVs with similar drive trains, wheel sizes and tires.

What therefore is the difference if one million Jimmys, as opposed to one million Bravadas re sold annually?

None, except the cost would be substantially lower than making 333,333 Jimmys, Bravadas and Blazers each.

Come on General Motors: Get the rid of these wasteful divisions and get on the track of saving yourself.

Youth is the wave of the future. Save your luxury division for the people with money...