Tech Talk

Note: I did start this in September. Some things have already come to pass, but I am not going to re-edit this to change all the tenses and deal with time shift. The info is still good despite any potential time-based grammar difficulties…

I want to talk about some of the new technology Apple has recently released, the new releases in the pipe for this Fall, how those will help solve many of my recurring problems (and probably some of yours too), and how this adds one more layer to the  (largely untapped) capability modern technology has made possible, and a few ways we could use this technology.

To be able to really describe what is coming and how it will help, first, I will tell you about how I use media and how that has changed over just the past 5 years. Along the way, we will talk about international copyright law and piracy, and a few other things. It is about twice the length of the recent doggy tales serial and I plan to use a similar format. Probably 10 episodes, covering around two pages each, but with more text and less pics in each post. And we will close with the new Apple tech, what it can do, what it might also do, and what it could do. Also, a few thoughts on additional ways to expand the use of this technology to allow greater access, flexibility, portability, and back-up solutions to everyone.

We will come back to this point, but let us take a moment to clarify two terms that we use somewhat interchangeably in common speech, but that do have distinct meanings in this context: Storage and Backup. To keep it simple and easy to visualize, we will use traditional bound paper books as an example. The bookcase in your home is a place for storing your books. You can access any book on the case any time you are co-located with the bookcase. If you have two copies of the same book and both copies are on the bookcase, you do not really have a backup copy, you have two stored copies. To get from storage to backup, you need to have the second copy of the book stored at a different physical location, as distant from the original storage site as possible. Now that you have two copies stored in different locations, you have achieved Backup.

Let us begin.

The two constants in my shifting media equation are both hard disk space. The space on my iPhone (29.3 GB), and the space on my laptop (320 GB – which has to hold all the software, all the core documents I may need from 7 different businesses, lots of past project details, several website backups, tons of photos, and my changing media).

As a quick example of how this works in practice, I have been mostly on the road since   mid April. I brought my 2 TB firewire 800 external storage drive along. This has been awesome to have as I have purchased at least 6 audiobooks, a few movies, and several TV episodes (Friday Night Lights Season 5 for example) in that time. Having the storage  drive along has allowed me access to my media archive, given me the ability to store newly purchased content, and the freedom to delete new content from my laptop and iPhone to free up hard disk space for different material without losing a local copy I can access at will. Since it is my media archive, I can load any of my shows, movies, books, podcasts, and so forth, back onto my laptop and then the iPhone, also at will.

The thing is that I love TV, but I don’t watch TV like a lot of people do. I hate commercials with a passion. I don’t do laugh tracks. I am not into the procedurals. I don’t want the dialog dumbed down to reach a wider audience (see above: “I am not into procedurals”). I don’t want a story-of-the week kinda show. The only exception I can think of is Star Trek The Next Generation, and even with this show, my favorites are the 4 or 5 part story arcs.  I want a good, long plot. I like characters, but you can’t win me on characters alone. A good story makes up for many other deficiencies. Friday Night Lights is a great example of this aspect. I love that show, but I do not like very many of the characters. On the other hand, characters alone can’t pull me in, you gotta have something for them to do. Ideally, I want you to have already built a world and then invite me in to play. I want a 5-7 season show with a continuous narrative. While I do critique poorly done finales, I am not so fussed about how a show ends, as long as it was a good ride.

I made a transition around 2006 to life without an actual TV. Several things happened at one time and this morphed my TV experience. I was living with friends in Northern Virginia (NOVA), working in their small business run basically from home. I got an 80 GB iPod classic (the biggest one they had at they time), and I discovered that one could purchase TV shows from the iTunes store and watch them on a computer or iPod. These have no commercials. If you buy a whole season or a whole series, you don’t have to wait a week in between eps and a summer or more between seasons.

If I have an hour or two in my day to watch some TV, I don’t want to have to scroll through what is on at that time and hope I find something passable. I want to spend that time watching a show I like and am to some extent invested in. I want to follow that arc out to the end. Tevo, DVRs, and OnDemand helped, but I don’t really have a home (or TV) to set that stuff up. Netflix can be great, but it has its own very broad though still limited collection, and it is dependent upon a decent internet connection maintained for the duration of your viewing experience and may or may not really work in every other country. With the iPod and my iTunes store TV show downloads, my TV was now portable and largely internet free. In line at the DMV for two hours? Watch a few eps of the West Wing and learn something about how the different branches of our government actually work on the day-to-day and maybe even get a little inspired about politics again, or at least balance out your rage with the inefficiency of your local government experience. I felt like this was technology made just for me!

I was heavily into three new shows at that time (2006 in NOVA) – Lost, BSG, and Friday Night Lights. I did not have a very good place to watch actual TV at home, and whenever possible, I prefer to be outside. I watched BSG on Fridays at some dude’s house. And I watched Lost and Friday Night Lights the day (or sometimes a few days) after they aired when the new eps were released in the iTunes store. The laptop I had at that time had terrible battery performance, and I was not smart enough to know that one could simply replace the poorly performing battery with a new one. (Though I had a Dell and this was around the time of the exploding replacement batteries.) I watched a lot of TV sitting outside in the evenings with that iPod in my hand, eyes glued to the action on the beautiful 1 ½” x 2” screen.

This is a different story that we won’t really get into here, but not long after, I decided to move to India and start a few companies with my friend Ram. For two years in India, I continued watching TV on my laptop and my iPod. I was able to do more laptop than iPod viewing while in India, but access to content was a problem. I did bring a lot with me. I had: the Gilmore Girls DVDs through season 5, My So Called Life, all of Buffy, Angel, and Firefly on DVD, the first few seasons of Lost on DVD/iTunes, a few seasons of BSG on DVD/iTunes, a few seasons of Friday Night Lights on iTunes, 10-15 movies on DVD – I had stock. But access to new content and new eps of currently running shows was a problem. We shall make a quick detour to talk about the global media industry (music, TV, movies). This is actually relevant to several aspects of the larger discussion and to my particular issues with new advances in tech.