Does anyone really want ‘social TV’ and its spoilers?

The Empire Strikes Back shocker: could it be possible today?

The Empire Strikes Back shocker: could it be possible today?

Back in the days when there were video stores, imagine somebody had walked into one and shouted, “Darth is Luke’s father!” or “Bruce Willis is dead all along!” If you hadn’t seen those particular movies – The Empire Strikes Back and The Sixth Sense, respectively – you might be inclined to punch that person in the face for senselessly broadcasting key plot spoilers. This is why sane people generally didn’t do such inconsiderate and dumb things (I’m mentioning them here because, as older movies, they passed an acceptable statute of limitations some time ago).

Fast forward to today and many people have no such compunctions. Social media is rife with people sharing spoilers of movies and especially TV shows without any consideration that they’re indeed broadcasting such information to plenty of people who definitely don’t want to hear it.

Case in point: Game of Thrones. I’m a fan of the show, but I never watch it until a full season has aired. With a complex plot and so many disparate characters, I find that binge-watching episodes is the only way to keep track of what’s going on. That means purposely staying away from spoilers for a good 10 weeks, which is next to impossible thanks to Twitter and Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Facebook, Twitter, television


Netflix and the fine line between it and piracy

netflix-hemlock-groveTo the surprise of virtually no one, Netflix is raising prices. And soon – within the next few months in some places, according to financial results released by the company on Monday:

Our current view is to do a one or two dollar increase, depending on the country, later this quarter for new members only. Existing members would stay at current pricing (e.g. $7.99 in the U.S.) for a generous time period. These changes will enable us to acquire more content and deliver an even better streaming experience.

That “generous time period” could be two years, if the Irish experience is anything to go by. Netflix raised its subscription price in Ireland by one euro to €7.99 in January, which resulted in “limited impact.”

While few observers believed such low subscription costs could be sustained for long, Netflix does have to tread carefully. The streaming service straddles a fine line between expensive cable TV services at one end and free file-sharing at the other. It’s only been a few short years since the company emerged as Hollywood’s antidote to that perceived scourge. Over that time, it has converted more than 35 million potential file sharers into customers who are at least paying something for some of the shows and movies they watch. While file-sharing used to account for the largest share of Internet traffic, it’s now Netflix that accounts for about a third of all bandwidth usage.

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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in comcast, netflix, piracy


Ottawa’s best option: Let Mobilicity die

mobilicityTelus is trying yet again to acquire struggling wireless company Mobilicity in a deal worth $350 million after being rebuffed by the federal government twice last year. The difference this time? The moratorium on spectrum transfers from so-called new entrants to big carriers that began five years ago is now up.

Under those original rules, Telus or any of the two other big cellphone companies (Bell or Rogers) would have been free to acquire Mobilicity and its prized airwaves, or even Wind Mobile for that matter, as of early this year. But in June last year, the government changed all that with a new set of rules that gave it the power to review all spectrum transfers. In no uncertain terms, Industry Minister James Moore has repeatedly and ardently stated, “We will not approve any spectrum transfer request that results in excessive spectrum concentration for Canada’s largest wireless companies, which negatively affects competition in the telecommunications sector.”

Not surprisingly, Bay Street is trying to make a case for why the Mobilicity sale should be allowed. Telus would get to take out a competitor – more on this in a second – and it’s also the best possible outcome for the smaller company’s investors. To this extent, some financial analysts are even overstepping their roles in trying to give Moore and the government a face-saving out. As TD Securities analysts wrote in a note to clients last week: Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on April 21, 2014 in telecom, telus


Easter: a time for skills renewal

sbb-screenLast week I lamented the dark clouds swirling over the profession of journalism; what with the continual layoffs, frequent rejection and criticism from the public, it’s not what most people would consider to be a great job. As with people working in many fields that have been disrupted by the internet, today’s journalists need to learn new skills to remain employable – and competitive – in these turbulent times.

In a religious sense Easter is a time of renewal, but on a personal level I’m also trying to drink my own Kool Aid, which is why I recently took a course on how to use WordPress, the popular software for designing websites. I have a few big projects in the works that I’ll be talking about very soon, but they will all involve the web, hence my interest in the course. Now is as good a time as any to refresh those skills.

For some quick practice, I decided to rejig the site for my book Sex, Bombs and Burgers. The new site, I think, is simple and straightforward, and miles ahead of what I was able to manage five years ago by using iWeb. Have a look and please send along any comments, questions or criticisms. Any feedback will certainly help with what I’m working on next. And have a great Easter!


Posted by on April 18, 2014 in books, media


Beware the garbage served up by ‘viral’ sites

newcastleThis is probably not breaking news to anyone, but there’s a lot of garbage on the internet. What continues to surprise, however, is how easily people buy into it.

The latest example is something called Viralscape, which looks to be a month-old website devoted to “the most viral stories online.” That’s about all that can be deciphered about the site, since it has no “about” section, descriptions, contact information, writer names or even publication dates on its posts. But of course, it serves up ads.

Despite all those warning bells, people are still sharing “stories” that appear on the site. One such listicle caught my eye on Wednesday and made my blood boil, since it deals with a topic I hold dear: beer. In “8 beers that you should stop drinking immediately,” Viralscape – through an unknown author on an unknown date – presumes to tell readers what beers they should and shouldn’t drink. As of my writing this, the article had been shared more than 217,000 people on Facebook and 1,149 people on Twitter. And yet, the article is utter bullcrap. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in media


Car tech priority should be to keep it simple

BMW's dashboard-mounted tweeter makes for some sweet driving sounds.

BMW’s dashboard-mounted tweeter makes for some sweet driving sounds.

It has often been said that the car is the perfect piece of technology – you just stick your key into it and it works. Yet, with automobiles quickly becoming the next tech battleground – both in terms of the extra functionality manufacturers are cramming into them, and in regards to their inexorable march toward full automation – that long-held simplicity is looking like a frail thing indeed.

The fact was driven home for me the other day when I test drove a fully loaded 2014 BMW 750xi Sedan. The $136,000 car was tricked out with just about every technological addition on the market today: a rear-view camera (including night vision), electric rear and side shades, satellite radio, active blind spot detection, a steering wheel that rumbles if you change lanes without signalling, a touch-knob-controlled heads-up-display with GPS and a high-end Bang & Olufson sound system complete with dashboard-mounted tweeter. Truth be told, I felt a little lost. In fact, even the old truism about key simplicity no longer holds in this particular BMW, where the ignition is started by pushing a button on the dash. Its “keys” are just a fob used to unlock the doors.

My regular car is a 2003 Toyota Corolla, which might as well have been manufactured before the internet existed. Friends marvel and sometimes snicker at the fact that I still have to manually roll down the windows. About the most technologically advanced thing about it is the fact that it’s black, which helps snow melt off it faster when the sun is out. Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in cars, video games


SaskTel cries poor over wireless competition

PalpatineOne could be forgiven for thinking a story last week about SaskTel’s wireless woes was an article from The Onion. The story, which featured chief executive Ron Styles complaining about too much wireless competition in his home province of Saskatchewan, did indeed read like something from the notorious news parody outlet:

The CEO of SaskTel says he is heading to Ottawa to argue that new federal regulations are hurting the Crown corporation’s bottom line.“We just need to make our case … that some of the things they are putting in place … are having unintended consequences,” Styles said as he outlined the position he will take when he meets with federal government officials.

The humour, of course, lies in the apparent fact that Styles hasn’t been paying attention to anything regarding his industry for… oh, the past few years. Those lower profits – and therefore lower prices – are actually exactly what the federal government has been desiring for some time, not just in Saskatchewan but in every part of Canada. It’s reminiscent of the Emperor telling Luke Skywalker near the end of Return of the Jedi that when his friends arrive at the Death Star, they’ll find the shields to be “quite operational,” except in this case our young executive Padawan must be learning that the consequences his company is experiencing are, in fact, “quite intentional.” Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on April 15, 2014 in bell, rogers, telecom, telus


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