Ditching cable TV

After our cable bill increased due to losing all discounts, Deb and I considered just how much we watch “live” TV these days.  The answer was “not much”.  We’ve decided to ditch cable TV.  This morning I made the call and terminated all TV services from Comcast.  A few hours later all of the set top boxes were returned to the local Comcast branch.

It will be interesting to see how things end up going.  Honestly the biggest concern is Monday Night Football, since we don’t have ESPN anymore.  We can pick up local channels using an antenna (hooray for HD quality!), and those will cover all the other games we care about.

As for other TV watching?  Well, there’s Netflix.  Given that we use their streaming more than we were watching normal TV, I don’t think we’re going to miss much.  This change will save us about $1400 per year!  All of our TV’s have Netflix built into them, or have an Apple TV attached, so there’s no extra cost there.  We do need to purchase antennas for three of the TV’s, (total of about $75), and a media PC or two, so even worst case, we’ll break even in year one.

In a day or two expect a post about our new Media Center PC in the living room…

XBox 360 – so much love, so much hate

It happened *again*.  Our XBox 360 died with the ring of 3 red lights.  This is the second time in six months this has happened.  Unfortunately, this time it was out of warranty, so I’m out $139 to get it repaired.
We use the XBox 360 pretty much every day.  Not so much as a game machine, but as a media center extender.  Our primary PVR is an HP Media Center equipped PC.  When we watch TV in the living room, we use the XBox 360 as an extender for it.  Due to this hardware failure, we’re going to have to use another extender while the 360 is off getting repaired.
Amazingly, when going through the process of getting the RMA, I was told that I was doing something wrong by plugging in the 360 into a UPS! The friendly tech support lady said that when you plug into a UPS, the 360 can not get enough power to drive the fans fast enough.  Why would they say this?  In the real world, you plug your valuable electronics into a UPS, especially when you live in the lightning capital of the world!  It’s pretty funny as I have my development workstation plugged into a UPS.  I’m pretty sure it draws a lot more power than a 360 does, and yet, it continues to run just fine.
Word is that later this year, a new revision of the 360 will be out.  It will feature a smaller die processor, which should help reduce heat.  If our 360 dies again after the renewed warranty expires (we get another year for paying for the repair), we’ll probably get a new revision model. If it isn’t out after that, I’m not sure we’ll get another one or repair this one if it breaks again.

Great short video – Shift Happens

I picked this up off of Joe Healy’s business blog.
What a great video!  Everyone should watch it.  For those of us who have been around for a while, it just drives home that what we’ve seen so far is nothing compared to what’s coming! 
My first home computer had 4k of memory – notepad.exe in Windows Vista takes around 150k. 
The first terminal I used had a 300 (30 characters / sec) baud modem. My current broadband connection is 800,000 characters / sec.
The first floppy disc I messed with was 8" across.  The first one I owned was a 5.25" single sided floppy that stored 160k and it cost several hundred dollars, in the early 1980’s.  Hard drives will reach roughly one terabyte this year (something like 6 million times as big).  For $500.
The first LCD monitor I bought was 16" and cost well over $1000.  Today I run a 24" that cost under $700.  And that’s in just 5 years.
Imagine where the next 10, 20 and 30 years will take us!

Computers in movies

Through Digg.com I found a link to Annoyances.org The use of Computers in Movies list.  This thing is dead on!
A couple of my favorite items (not in the list):
In the movie Hackers (so bad I watch it every now and then just to laugh at it), when the main guy asks the love interest / hot goth hacker chick (or whatever she is) if she’s woman enough for her computer – a bitching IBM laptop with something like a 386sx in it.  Oh yeah, take that!  Also gotta love the "Gibson" (mainframe).  I’ve seen many mainframes in my life, and not one looked as cool as that thing!  Look at the blinking lights!  Ooooh, shiny!
In the movie Antitrust – one program uploaded to a bunch of satellites manages to override the contents being displayed on every single computer, television, pda and cell phone on the planet.
Finally, I leave you with this, perhaps the worst line ever uttered in a movie relating to computers:
"This is Unix… I know this!"

Solid|Drive desktop – a neat idea!

I saw the Solid|Drive Desktop device on a Microsoft Channel 9 video on the "house of the future" in London.
The Solid|Drive device is just a hockey puck looking thing that you place on your desk (or in the video, your kitchen counter) and the surface that it’s resting on becomes a speaker.
It’s pretty cool!  Watch the video for a demo. 

The E-Ring TV show – some potential, lots of irritants

A friend of mine recently recommended E-Ring as a show worthy of watching.  I told him that I didn’t want to get addicted to any more shows, as our MCE system records more than we can watch anyway (we don’t watch that much TV).
Well, in any case, a few day ago Deb and I were up and unable to sleep, so we had a Law and Order marathon on and at midnight or so an episode of E-Ring came on.  Since it had just come up earlier that day, I decided to take a look.
Overall, I think the show has some potential, but I’ve got to say that some of the writing and clips used during the show really ruined it for me.
The premise of the show that I watched was that a spy working for America in China had been exposed, and America had to go get her.  The plan called for her to be extracted within 6 hours of when she asked for help.  So far so good.
The spy then proceeds to do a pretty good job of changing her appearance to look like a guy so that she can safely drive to the beach where the SEAL team is going to pick her up.  Peachy.
Now things start to go downhill.  She is a spy, and is running for her life.  *Everyone* has pictures of her, there are checkpoints everywhere, agents chasing her, etc.  So why is it that in just about every scene, she is using her cell phone to talk to someone?  Um, if you’re wanted that badly, perhaps you should turn off the radio transmitter that’s giving away your position, don’t you thinK?  Okay, I can deal with this – if I was under that kind of stress, well, I’d do stupid things too (heck, I do stupid things on a daily basis, and I don’t have the cops chasing me).
The slide downhill just continues to accelerate.  From the Pentagon General’s virtually schizophrenic  personality (essentially – "you should never do that again!  You broke the rules! Now let’s try out your suggestion that broke the rules!  YEAH!")  to the submarine shots that really got my back up.
See if you can explain the logic to me: There is a sub on a top secret mission off the coast of China working with a SEAL team – very convenient.  Cut to a shot of the sub – on the surface?  Is this 1939?  Then later on, when the SEAL team is given approval to go rescue the spy, they show the sub in an action shot underwater – turning and openening a torpedo tube!  Maybe they’re going to make the SEAL’s trip a rapid one.  A few seconds later you see the SEAL team exiting a hatch on top of the sub – I guess they didn’t want a ride on a torpedo – chickens.  At this point, the sub is 1 mile from the coast of China, with a SEAL team in transit underwater to pick up the spy.
Now things get really "interesting" – little Ms. Spy has been on the beach, in the same location for three hours blinking a red flashlight into the water to signal the SEAL’s that aren’t there yet.  Good thing she’s doing this in China.  In America that behavior would be considered unusual and would be investigated.  However, in China, it appears that if you are a wanted criminal, you should stay in one spot and really make yourself stand out.  Good to know.
Finally, the SEAL’s "rescue" her, a Chinese satellite is making it’s way towards them so they have to get away from the beach fast, and… the sub has to crash dive in order to avoid detection?!  WHAT?!  So they eject the seal team underwater, and then surface to enjoy the brisk air?  WTF? 
That was the limit of my ability to suspend disbelief and buy into the show.  I’d been hoping that it would get better, but at this point, I was done.  I knew this show wasn’t going to go onto the scheduled recordings list.
There were some other parts of the show that were just as bad, but I believe I’ve given you enough highlights to know whether you’d enjoy it or not.
The shame of it is – the actual episode plot concept was a good one!  If they had done it without all the technical errors and perhaps not treated some of the characters as if the military was staffed by a bunch of stereotypes (the daring Colonel fresh from Afghanistan, the staffer with an attitude but who can get anything done, the General cranking the 70’s music in the Pentagon, etc), it could have been a very good show.
Oh well, spares me 42 minutes a week…
Post a comment and chime in!  Agree or disagree?