Entries Tagged as 'Technology'

Open Letter to Netflix: Why I Sold Netflix and Support Them No Longer As a Shareholder

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun... So as of opening bell, I’ll probably no longer be a shareholder of Netflix.   It’s been a good run, but in my opinion, Reed Hastings has finally gone off the deep end when it comes to leading his company.  It’s one thing to make one mistake.  But to follow it up with an entirely different one is complete corporate suicide.

Let’s first preface this with the fact that I’ve been supporting the business since June of 2003. Yes, I have had my hands in this awesome business due to the fact that they just knew what the hell the customer wanted and provided it. And it rocked. Asian films, anime, you name it, they had it. And their customer service was completely and utterly awesome. The first time they had credited me for something that I didn’t even expect to happen. And this continued on for years whenever THEY made a mistake. This is how you run a company.

Then the price hike came. There have been others, but older customers always got grandfathered in under their old plan. Not with this hike though. No, this one had no explanation, no reasoning, just… hey, we’re going to up the price because we feel that streaming is just as good as DVD distribution. I’ll say that using their streaming, it’s as good as 2003 Netflix but not as good as current, especially the new releases. Regardless, the price was the same for streaming as it was for DVDs. Big mistake number one.

So Sunday night, Reed Hastings committed big mistake number two. He wrote all of this apologetic stuff that no one really cares about since their stock price tumbled due to subscriber loss and he stopped short of making amends for the price hike. Everything he said was true, as far as the reasoning for the price hikes, but he didn’t do what every other customer service driven company does. He didn’t appease the customers. Instead, he split the company in two so that Qwikster will be the DVD distribution (owned by Netflix still) and Netflix will concentrate on streaming only.

The key screw up here? CUSTOMER usability. If you’re getting into a streaming only business, that’s fine. But one key thing about user experience in the Internet world is interoperability behind the scenes. Believe me, I deal with it every day with my own accounting software company. The key to everything is always the fact that the customer should NEVER… EVER… have to sign into multiple items, or have to do a two stop shop, just because you think it’s a brilliant move. Everything should be integrated on the forefront and the operations behind the scenes are split into two entities. I don’t care how you do it, via API, or not, but two different billings and sites will kill you if people looked to your integrated area for use before. Operationally, I can understand the split. But what has been reported is that it’s going to be two different sites.

I’m sorry, buddy, but that was the last straw. Currently I’m looking to see if that invested money can be put to good use in Coinstar owned Redbox. Maybe some other internet IPO will come along and we’ll take a look at that. But as a long time customer, and supporter, the moves being made are going to placate your company for months to come. You said that you “slid into arrogance based upon past success” but finally saw the light. I hate to break it to you but the rest of your email reminded me of my mother when I was a child whom told me what I wanted to hear and said that I had a choice in the matter, but at the very end, threw in an argument that completely contradicted the entire hour of time she had spent. So, you’re not really thinking about us, are you? You’re thinking about how you can get us, and Wall Street off your back about all of this. And I’m telling you that customer service and Wall Street go hand in hand. Oh well, maybe you’ll see the light. Maybe you’ll understand finally that there were a number of things at play that propelled Netflix into stardom and kept it there. It wasn’t the streaming idea, nor DVD releases. It was the fact that you guys did it seamlessly and had awesome service. Put those two things in any business, and they’ll still be rock solid. Anyhow, if you ever want to change things up, just look me up.

Why Mergers Rarely Create Jobs

WASHINGTON - MAY 11:  AT&T President and CEO R... It’s interesting that sometimes you read about politicians trying to sell a sales pitch that is completely false. In this case, five Democrats are pushing the President to push the AT&T merger through without any regards to the DOJ’s decision, and the FCC’s decision. What’s more is that in their letter, something blatantly jumps out.

Job creation.

I have never seen full-time jobs created for a merger. Granted, there are many jobs that are contracted out. These are usually the same jobs that are let go and then contracted back out for the transition period. There is never an actual merger that doesn’t require some heads being chopped. Just look at Sprint and Nextel. Sprint themselves did a study on this, and having been with one of the vendors that was severely hurt by the backlash of the merger, I can say from personal experience that Sprint knows what they’re talking about. What’s worse is that one of the Representatives find themselves at the top of the list…. from my state. Rep. Heath Shuler (D, NC) is one of the leads on the letter above, trying to point out how many jobs it would create.

Has he not seen that the the Wells Fargo buy out of Wachovia meant that Wachovia laid off people along with temp jobs being created for the transition? Does he not know about the 2,000 jobs that are about to be lost due to the Duke Power and Progress Energy merger?

Sometimes, you have to wonder whether people actually do their homework when serving SIGs. If you’re going to push for someone that isn’t hiding their money trail very well, it’s probably a good idea to not be affiliated with them. In this regards, every party that has been rooting for AT&T has actually had cash donations to their causes.

Outside of antitrust, and monopoly ruling, I believe that AT&T chose the worst possible time to try to pull off this merger. When times were better, it would have probably been a no-brainer for the government to push it through unless they had some severe antitrust issues. But in the state of bad economics when unemployment numbers are even skewed lower than the reality (contractors, and P/T people are not counted in those figures), and people are hurting, they try to roll themselves back into Ma Bell of which was the original antitrust suit that broke them up. The irony.

Why SMS is Here to Stay

It’s amusing when I read about apps that try to out-do SMS.   Take for example, Facebook with their latest app.  Or iMessage.

Guess what, as a person that’s been watching technology trends for the better half of two decades, I can say for certain that SMS is sticking around.  Why?   SMS is a complete cellular protocol whereas any app by a social media company is driven by their only their users.  Even iMessage is completely driven by iPhones alone and not cellular in general.  This is one of the reasons why it’ll fail.  It doesn’t help when your friends use different technologies across different systems.   And SMS is built into a cell phone already whereas you can’t say the same for apps.   Take a look at how widespread Twitter is and why it’s constrained to the character limitations.   SMS designed and driven. Sounds too simple?  That’s because it is just that simple.  Standards and protocols rule industries.

So until iMessage/Facebook design a protocol that drives cellular in general?  I’ll wait until I see some new-fangled technology drive SMS out of its place.   Until then?  Everyone is limited to their 140 characters.

The Dark Power of Bitcoin

While this project is currently in beta, it’s actually a game changer. A scary one.

Bitcoin itself is an open source project where a currency bartering system was created based on P2P. A completely self-sustaining currency where there is no centralized system and everything is based entirely on the algorithm in which creates the bitcoins and the distribution. The fact that there’s an underground market for this, and that apparently there are people that are some stories of people using it as tender for illegal activities makes it entirely interesting.

The way each bitcoin is made seems to be along the same lines as [email protected]. Processing power is used to compute blocks, where when the blocks are assembled, it creates a bitcoin at random. Probably not entirely correct, but it’s enough to go on.

The biggest change here is that while governments can ban the use of bitcoin, they can’t really control the actual flow of money. Since it’s headless P2P, there really is no way to track the movement of the bitcoin transactions alongside the fact that you can’t tax it, or anything. The entire currency is hard to break down since it’s virtual and in essence, it could start an entire black market trade if it truly became banned. On top of this, the algorithm is an open one (considering the project is released under MIT license) but the amount of power to compute the entire thing is completely ridiculous to try to game the system or mine for more “money”.

All in all, this project was brilliantly conceived and scary in the same breath. I so want to actually give it a test run, but you know that the government at some point will turn their eyes on this. And the moment that happens, everyone will fall into a net of some sort if you have a connection. Thanks but no thanks. Irregardless, it’s one of the few currencies in the world right now that actually has some value to it instead of drawing up some random paper and assigning values to it. Consider this: this is the only currency that requires power to generate it in the sense of the energy spent in CPU processing. No other currency has that sort of value outside of commodities. Food for thought.

(h/t to Jason on the project itself)

Tips and Tricks: Cisco ‘Type escape sequence to abort.’

In the Cisco routers, whenever you initialize a traceroute or some other command that does a repetitive task, you’ll be notified at the beginning of the sequence of events with: “Type escape sequence to abort.”

Unfortunately, Cisco actually fails to mention what this escape sequence is in their message. So, the sequence is:
CTRL-SHIFT-6, twice.

Push all three keys together simultaneously, twice in succession. Crazy isn’t it. Gotta love Cisco sometimes.

Why Picocells Won’t Take Off As Planned

cellular antenna in Ein Iron, Israel

So apparently the new fangled thing for cellular is going towards picocells. These are the small cellular cells that allow backhauls from home broadband. It really isn’t that new in cellular but its becoming a hot topic with the tech journalists.

And let me tell you why it won’t take off.

To get good coverage, you still have to put picocells on higher physical footprints. So they would still exist on higher towers, buildings, etc. albeit not as noticeable although when was the last time a person noticed cellular antennas within a city? This still doesn’t help commutable ground such as highways into rural areas and so forth since the traffic follows freeways and thus you need multiple targets instead of towers to handoff traffic. That becomes a space nightmare.

The technology is very sound. It takes traffic off of the precious spectrum and uses broadband instead of packet backhaul. But in doing this, the carriers are not giving back to the consumers. Like solar panels, if you generate more than you use, some states allow credit for energy provision. Given that picocells allow more use of the spectrum for “mobile” applications instead of stationary use, this would be the obvious choice to take. On top of all of this, you won’t hear about a carrier reducing rates. Not for that. Last I checked, AT&T even had you pay for it even though your benefit didn’t outweigh theirs. And they want to push this to all their consumers? Ick.

On top of this, there is the entire security aspect of this. If your backhaul is becoming multiple points in the network where it’s public, it becomes a major concern on someone actually taking over the network, or snooping on the network. Currently, your cellular traffic runs through a private network that is tied into switches that route the calls elsewhere. The moment you start dividing up traffic so that that it can be accessed elsewhere for backhaul, there also creates a middle-man area where a vulnerable point exists. This makes it difficult to convert a current network into one that supports both private and public backhauls without allowing infiltration points.

It’s a huge hassle in re-designing current infrastructure as an overall network design and would only be good in either developing markets or as a supplementary market. Having worked in telecommunications infrastructure for the last decade, I have to say that it would be a great shift in thinking to actually have anyone plan this far ahead with this type of technology. And if we did roll it out? There would be hell to pay without addressing the issues mentioned.

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FAA Still Denies Cell Phones in Air

Cell Phones Everywhere
Image by Scott Ableman via Flickr

The FAA is still denying that cell phones are safe in the air.   While it’s true that cell phones do generate electromagnetic signals, it’s also true that the signal of the EM field dramatically drops off as you get farther away from the user.  Most do not generate any substantial field outside of the “personal space” of the cell phone user.   If you don’t believe this, go buy a EM reader and give it a shot.   It’s rather interesting on the non-linear drop.

On top of this, it was shown on Mythbusters (episode 49) a while back that cell phones do not interfere with the navigational equipment of a plane unless the plane has unshielded wiring.  And believe me, if you’re running faulty wiring, the least of your worries will be coming from mobile devices.

I will agree that banning cell phone use on a plane for sake of safety is a cop out play when in reality, the only thing that cell phones are in the air would probably be the annoyance factor.   Due to the background noise of the plane, people that talk loudly already would just raise their voices.   And the last thing most passengers want to to is to be locked in a confined space with a bunch of shouting business people that are trying to conduct business.

Fortunately, I have a solution for this.   If someone has enough change to spare that they’re willing to sign an agreement before the flight takes off to have a decibel monitor on them, and their credit card on file, then if their voice ever goes above a certain level, they’re automatically fined.  This fine is then distributed to both the flight crew, airline, and passengers on board guided by the fact that since everyone will be annoyed, you might as well be compensated for the annoyance.

This would either prevent people from calling as much on flights, or keep their voices down of which they should be doing anyways.   While policing the airwaves at thirty thousand feet isn’t something fun, use the right reasoning.   I mean, let’s be honest.   If people can use cell phones when they “touch down” on the landing, then it would also be safe to say that those EM transmissions would not effect other instruments.  Or else every time you land, you’d see a blip in your flight instruments that would be visible to the naked eye.

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Google Will Be Chasing Television Ads

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

People that know me have known that I’ve already been talking about this for the past few months, but it’s time to put it on paper. I’m calling it. Google is going to be chasing the airwaves for ad space in a couple years. Guaranteed.

Why? Pieces of the puzzle are falling into place already. Google Fiber experiment? Pulease. That’s a FiOS pull if I’ve ever saw one. And Verizon already brings television to your home. This would just give Google medium to mine all that invaluable data and run their algorithms on it to find out what you’re watching and how to target the advertisement. And we all know that Google is king when it comes to algorithmic ad targeting.

But this piece that I just found out about…. now this really puts it into perspective. Google is getting into set-top boxes. Forget Internet television. There is a real big money play being driven here, and it’s being done through the eyes of people thinking outside the box but staying within the realm of what the company is just plain good at: mathematics.

Companies like this are few and far between. Even many of the older 1990s companies have not been able to take any of their product lines outside of their general medium scopes. Google is actually buying up real estate in new mediums to try their hand at things that they have stuck with in the Internet world. And believe you me, it’ll work like a charm. Like a friend of mine told me a long time ago: it’s not the fact that you’re inventing a car, or a plane. It’s the thought that you’re building a car that can fly like a plane that is what no one else has grasped. And Google already setting up for take-off before anyone even realizes.

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Wazing My Way Around

If you have a smartphone, I urge you to check out Waze.

The Android client is a bit new and they’re still working on it, but this is one thing that can totally get you to learn the area you live. Or at least drive it. Waze is basically a social geolocation game where you collect points on the streets you drive, and help map the environment by “road munching” new roads. Basically, you think of it as a real-life Pac Man meets Wikipedia mapping. The more users there are, the better it is and what’s interesting is that you can report hazards, speed traps, police, and all sorts of other things.

While based on the economy, I’m not inclined to drive all over jeebus to road munch, but I have to admit that there are a lot of people that are out there that are doing it.

What’s even more interesting is that you can see the business model and where this could really be fruitful. Garmin or Tomtom anyone? This not only makes cartography a lot easier as far as mistakes go, but it also allows you to not have to wait for a company to come out with the next version of whatever software to actually get the right road name (nudge at Garmin for spelling Raleigh – “Raliegh” on the I-40 Eastbound). It’s like Wikipedia but for maps and the more people that use it, the more fun it is.

Not having touched the iPhone app, I’m curious as far as if it’s better and more user friendly than the one for Android. Overall, the map editor on the web, and Android clients are a little clunky, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed easily. It’s the thought process behind this that counts. And if Waze just happens to give out free things for random driving events like their Christmas event? Then you can entirely count on a lot more users playing this game. I mean, everyone loves free stuff.

Oh. And it does integrate with Foursquare, so you can check-in at your local coffee shop easily from the app itself without having to exit. Or Tweet your location, or what not. Facebook anyone? There’s just so much that can be done with this, that I’m excited just thinking about it. Now if only they could make the client a little less laggy…

First Thoughts about Bing.com

bing I have to say that from a technical perspective, I’m pretty disappointed with Microsoft’s Bing.com. A lot of press came out when Microsoft released Bing, and to tell you the truth, the fact that it held even number two for a day was pretty amusing. Mainly because most people didn’t know what it was.

I for one, was actually curious when I saw the tv advertisements and it had a bunch of pretty high contrast pictures. Bing.com? What the heck is that? Decision engine? You realize later on that the entire decision engine thing is sort of a joke. I’m not sure which marketing person came up with that, but Caterina Fake’s Hunch, is way more of a decision engine than Bing ever was. But with all of the imagery, I had thought that Bing finally hit on something that people have been waiting for. Image search on the next level.

Let’s not forget that Google had acquired Riya years back and there was a significant amount of press about that cool image searching. Basically, the thought is that you can give an image and the engine would be able to detect where faces were and perhaps next steps were to detect similarities in facial recognition and say… search out all of my pictures on the web. Now, image processing at this level isn’t something that’s revolutionary but in an indexed web form, it is. According to my father, whom I would say is an expert at image processing, it’s not about whether or not it can be done as much as the processing that comes with it. It takes a lot of power to determine if images are related and if there are matches in facial structures. That’s what I had thought Microsoft had cracked with Bing since that definitely would propel it into another arena, especially with its research into Photosynth.

Unfortunately, like many others, it was a real disappointment. It seemed that Bing.com was just another search and it still didn’t pull as accurately as Google does. While there are some that are touting the greatness of Bing’s moves in search and the gradual growth of market share, I frankly don’t see it. If the results were better or they had focused on something like images, I would definitely consider a switch. Call me a cynic, but I really don’t understand how seeing a picture of the Sydney Opera House today is really going to help me search for anything… for example: web based accounting startups.

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