Saturday, January 22, 2011


A few years ago (maybe it was in 2001. I don't remember), 2001: A Space Odyssey had a brief nationwide theatrical run. This was my first opportunity to see a movie that was made to be shown in a theater before I was born on a big screen, as it was intended. I had, of course, seen the film before, but always on Television, which until only recently meant NTSC video. Seeing it in the theater was a tremendous revelation. There was just an amazing amount of detail in the original film that I had never seen in all of the times I had seen the film on TV. The most striking example of this is in the scene when the lunar lander was being lowered into the moonbase. On either side of the elevator there are numerous windows, none of which were truly distinctly discernible on TV. There were actors walking around doing stuff and video screens displaying changing information while the lander was descending, all of which lent an extra air of reality to the scene. No doubt Stanley Kubrick went to a lot of extra trouble to add that in, knowing that people were going to be able to see it and that it would make the scene look just that much more realistic.

All that was nice and all, but I had my doubts that even HD would be able to present as much detail as that.

Turns out, I was wrong.

Just on a whim I decided to watch 2001 via Netflix Watch Now on the TiVo. Our Internet connection is good enough that we pretty routinely now get the highest quality streams available.

The stream they're showing now is every bit as nice as what I saw in the theater that day. All those details are clearly visible on our 50" TV from 8 feet away.

In hindsight, it should have been obvious to me. All you need to do is watch a little bit of an NFL game in SD and then HD to see the difference. It's not subtle. Not even a little.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cisco Ūmi - say what?

Let's just call it what it is. The Cisco Ūmi is FaceTIme for your living room. As such, it's a pretty cool idea.

Cisco wants you to pony up $600 and $25/mo for the privilege.

Are they nucking futs?

For the same amount of money you literally could buy a mac mini and a webcam and plug that in your TV. You could then download Apple's FaceTime software for free and chat with your similarly equipped friends with no monthly cost at all (besides your Internet connection, which you'd have to pay for with Ūmi anyway).

I may have been born on a Saturday, but it wasn't last Saturday.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Verizon iPhone

Welcome, Verizon.

It'll be interesting to see how many people jump ship from AT&T and how many people trade in various other Verizon phones for iPhones.

At the moment, AT&T and Verizon offer a Morton's Fork to the phone connoisseur: AT&T's network is fast, when it works properly, but has lots of holes, even around here (AT&T is notoriously bad in Palo Alto, for instance). Verizon's network may have somewhat better coverage, but it's as slow as EDGE for data.

Maybe it'll be better with LTE, but of course, the Verizon iPhone isn't going to do LTE (which is only fair - the first iPhone was EDGE). We'll have to wait for that for probably at least another year.

The big news is the word that the Verizon phone will include a WiFi hotspot feature. It'll be interesting to see whether AT&T will add this feature, and how they'll price it (it really should be added for free to their existing tethering feature).

What has been left unsaid so far is whether or not Facetime will be supported without a WiFi connection (that is, over CDMA data). There's a much better case to be made for restricting it on CDMA given the constricted bandwidth compared to HSUPA.

My prediction is that Verizon will offer Facetime without restriction, which will force/shame AT&T into dropping the restriction on Facetime, and AT&T will follow suit with the wifi hotspot for folks who have the tethering plan.

Friday, January 7, 2011

No more POTS lines

I am about to cross a generational rubicon.

I am, sometime in the next week or two, going to call up AT&T and cancel our last remaining POTS line.

This line was "under" our DSL connection, and I had it on the cheapest measured-rate service I could get, because at the time you couldn't get Naked DSL. And, at the time, we had DirecTV receivers that required a connection to a land-based phone line, and we had our alarm system and we used the number to receive faxes.

Well, within a space of about 2 months, I've managed to make all of those justifications vanish. We tossed DirecTV and bought a TiVo Premiere and Comcast cablecards; we replaced our DSL connection by moving the server off into the cloud and buying a cable modem; I've equipped the alarm with a GSM modem and an AT&T prepaid SIM card; and the fax receive capability broke when I shut the server down, and wasn't really being used for anything anyway.

So now the only RJ-11 wiring in the entire house runs between the Vonage box, the cordless phone base, and our printer (for fax sending). Everything else we do is either via cell phones or IP.

How different it was 15 years ago. In 1995 I had a dialup ISP in my home with dialup PPP connectivity to the Internet that cost 4 times what I pay now for 50/10 megabit service. I subsidized the cost of the Internet connection with the ISP business. I had, at the height of it, 5 dialup modems and a couple dozen users. From 6 copper phone lines, down to 0.

Mac App store first impressions

I've perused the Mac App Store. There are some nice apps in there, but I have to say that just based on the value to me being offered, almost every single paid app I've seen so far has been a minimum of double the price I'd be willing to pay for that app. I'd be happy to pay $10 for Daisy Disk, but not $20. Maybe $15 (more like $10) for Earthdesk, but not $25. The one exception is the Contact Cleaner and Calendar Cleaner apps. I don't know if they're any good or not, because my calendar and contacts are clean enough for me at the moment, but if, for example, I had my Mother's calendar and contacts, it'd for sure be worth $5 to fix them.

We'll see if the market as a whole shares my view. Early indications are that at least some developers who got in on the ground floor are ecstatic about first day sales, but I do suspect that, as with the iPod/Pad/Phone app store that preceded it, prices will plummet as we see a race for the bottom.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

iPhone and IPv6

I've been a devotee of IPv6 for years now. I bought, and continue to use, an AirPort Extreme because of it's support for 6to4 and tunneling.

Long story short, I've discovered that when an iPhone with IOS 4.x is connected to a WiFi network that's got an IPv6 router serving a globally reachable prefix, it will, in fact, use it!

Here's proof: The Dancing Kame on an iPhone.

This page has logic on it to detect whether or not you are fetching it with IPv6 or not, and though you can't see the animation in the screenshot above, the text surrounding it is different than what you get over IPv4.

So, Apple.... what's stopping you from at least optionally supporting 6to4 over 3G?