Smart TVs Are Stupid

  • Written by Mike
  • April 15, 2015

There’s always this drive in the consumer electronics industry to keep us buying. If you just bought an HD TV that was 720p, then you now need one that’s 1080p. If you just bought a 1080p TV, now there’s 120Hz. Or 240Hz. Or 3D. Or 4K. In that endless quest to keep us updating, consumer electronics companies are now pursuing smart TVs.

I think this is a scam. I also think it’s an incredibly stupid use of technology. Now, before I dig into this, let me preface this. I love technology. Seriously. I love technology. But I’ve never wanted to be mindless about that love. In order to be what I would consider a good technology, it has to actually offer some measurable improvement in our lives.

When VHS was replaced with DVD, the new format (DVD) clearly represented a huge leap forward in image quality. I remember the first time I saw DVD, it was like someone had scraped an inch of crud off my eyes. The detail in the picture was amazing. The sound too was spectacular. My first glimpse of HD TV, which was probably 1080i, was a pretty big jump, but honestly didn’t look that much better than DVD. I’ve seen a lot of 720p and 1080p video over the years. I would say that each of those incremental improvements has brought with it diminishing returns. Although I do like Blu-Ray discs, I mainly notice the differences between DVD and Blu-Ray in the textures of fabrics and the text of signs and notices. For example… I always thought the shirts on the inmates in Shawshank Redemption were grey. On Blu-Ray, they’re blue & white striped. On my Blu-Ray of 2001, you can read the directions for the zero-gravity toilet; on DVD, it’s just a blurry mess.

So there’s definitely some value in these technology enhancements. But, Smart TVs do not make any practical sense. Here’s why...

How The Self-Driving Car Changes Everything

  • Written by Matt
  • April 8, 2015

The self-driving car has been a dream practically since the invention of the car.  For years automakers toyed with the idea of how to make a car that required no input from the driver.  Quite a few ideas have been floated over the years, but they were always impractical or too expensive.  All that appears to be changing and the self-driving car is no longer the stuff of science fiction or books on the future, they are here and sooner than we realize.  The question is no longer will we get the self-driving car, it is how much will the world change once they arrive.

We only like to think about the great benefits of the self-driving car. The first thing that comes to my mind, and I think most people’s mind, is the work commute.  Being able to grab a few more minutes of sleep in the car, finish up the work report, grab a shave, text my friends (some people already do these things while driving) and so on.  The self-driving car will also cut down on the commute time as the dreaded traffic jams will no longer be a part of your commute.  While this is what most people think of as the best part of the self-driving car, these are just the tip of the iceberg.

The self-driving car is going to change everything, not just your ability to do other things while in the car.  Let’s take a look at some of the jobs that will be impacted by the self-driving car; first let’s start with the chauffeur, I know a lot of us would like to get rid of that added expense every month, I know I would.  Seriously, I don’t have a chauffeur and I’ve never met anyone with a chauffer and I’ve never even met a chauffeur.

A Better Way

  • Written by Mike
  • March 25, 2015

I was glad to welcome my co-host’s first blog entry to the site this week, and after reading it there were a couple things I thought I’d like to respond to. So here it goes…

Matt and I don’t always agree on politics but there is actually quite a bit that we do agree on, even politically. I think he’s on to something in that entry and I wanted to expand a little on it with my own thoughts. I definitely agree with the assumption that something is broken in the US political system, and honestly I think most people would at this point. Matt is 100% correct that our politicians no longer represent us. And yet they keep getting elected somehow.

Like I said, I think he’s on to something, and in particular I think one of the big things that has changed since the 1980s or 1990s is the focus on the election. It seems most of our politicians spend 70-80% or more of their time campaigning or at least making the connections and networking to FUND their campaigns. And I think that’s caused a very fundamental shift. That kind of fundraising isn’t something that your average person has any kind of experience with, or interest in. And yet it is consuming our politicians’ time. I would submit that this has fundamentally changed those politicians, such that they now have more in common with each other than with the rest of us.

Because of that, I think the main “differences” between candidates are mostly for show, as part of the political spectacle that is the election process itself (at least the public part of it that you or I could see and participate in). The Hilary Clintons of the political world stake out this or that position that appeals to the political base that will get them elected, and so do the Ted Cruzes of that world. And they even go through the showy political battle of opposing each other in the media. And yet they all know that those extreme positions will never get any traction, because the majority of Americans don’t care about them. Those positions are safe in the sense that they don’t really need to be implemented and they are solely about appealing to the slice of the electorate that will get that particular politician elected.

What’s Wrong With Our Government?

  • Written by Matt
  • March 23, 2015

While looking at the title you might think that this will be the longest article in history, the “War and Peace” of articles if you will.  Asking what is wrong with our government is sort of like asking how many grains of sand there are or how many molecules exist.  This article isn’t to find all of them, it’s to point out the most glaring. I’m writing this article from the view of the voter, not a Washington insider or someone who watches news talking heads all day.

The constituents, yes the actual voters and citizens are partly to blame.  Since we have a 2 party system we seem to have a reached a point where people from the fringes of both parties are running the country, leaving a gaping hole in the middle.  The problem is that our Congress is now split that way as well and they are so diametrically opposed that no compromises can be reached on anything.

Our elected officials from both parties act as if they compromise or work with the other side they’ll be ousted at the next election.  Since fear of losing an election seems to be our politicians’ only motivation for doing anything, they all dig in their heels and draw a line in the sand.  This is the first time in my life that I can remember Congress literally not accomplishing anything and they don’t seem to be ashamed about it.

Reflections on Net Neutrality

  • Written by Mike
  • March 2, 2015

Last week, on Thursday 2/26/2015, the FCC did what in February of 2014 seemed impossible. They declared the Internet protected under Title II of the Communications Act. This is absolutely huge and since Matt and I have been big supporters of the idea of Title II for quite a while now, I thought it was worth jotting down a few reflections on this. But first... here's some of the awesome John Oliver, laying it down on net neutrality...

What is Title II?

Title II establishes communication services as “common carrier”, which means that the provider is responsible for transporting all traffic of that communication without discrimination or interference and for all users of the service.

In the 1990s, when the Internet first started becoming huge, its biggest strength when going up against the proprietary networks of the time (AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe) was that it served everyone equally. There were tons of smaller Internet Service Providers, and eventually those proprietary networks connected themselves to the Internet as well. The “vast open playground” of the Internet won out over those proprietary networks. In a sense, that kind of Internet was set up along a common carrier model. Your ISP didn’t care whether you used Netscape Navigator or Internet Explorer or the original Mosaic browser, and it didn't care what sites or services you visited online. Hell, my first Internet browsing was done via a terminal session into a Linux host on an Apple IIGS client machine using Lynx (all text, no graphics or multimedia).

Back then, when people talked about the Internet, it was understood as a level playing field. But starting in the 2000s, with an overly friendly to telecom/cable FCC, that started to change. As people switched to cable modems and DSL, the Internet was no longer an equitable network (where your client had just as much bandwidth as the other systems on the network). It became asynchronous… your download speed was greater than your upload speed. And because of that, we started to see a shift.