Picking a hard drive for your RAID system

As most readers know, a RAID system makes use of two bathtub-curveor more hard disk drives to provide a very reliable network-attached storage system.  In a sophisticated way, the system stores information redundantly across two or more drives.  If any one drive were to fail, the system would be able to continue in its normal function using the remaining drive or drives.  Importantly, no data would be lost.  This article talks about how you might pick the hard drives that you would plug into your RAID system.

Continue reading “Picking a hard drive for your RAID system”

The Super Bowl goes Over The Top

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been exploring the many recent media distribution developments that hold out the possibility of eventually “cutting the cord”, which in my case might mean discontinuing a monthly subscription to DirecTV.  (Others who are thinking of becoming a cord-cutter might discontinue a monthly subscription to a channel lineup with Comcast or Time-Warner cable or Dish network.)  Hulu, HBO Now, Netflix, Amazon Prime, CBS All Access … they each offer a taste of OTT (Over The Top), meaning, a way to get what you want using nothing more than an Internet connection.  Each involves some monthly fee paid to the service provider.

One of the areas of anxiety for some would-be cord-cutters is “will I be able to see my favorite sporting events?”

It’s one thing to wonder “what if I were to miss an episode of Big Bang Theory?”  If there were to be some mixup or problem viewing the episode, you could always watch it later.  Life does not end if a person is forced to watch an episode of a sitcom a day later than originally planned.  But for many sports fans, the prospect of “watching it later” if something were to go wrong is just unacceptable.

Which raises the question of the Super Bowl.  Can a cord-cutter watch today’s Super Bowl?  If so, what does it cost?  How do I do it?

The answer surprised me when I learned it.  The answer is, anybody (anybody in the US, at least) with an Internet connection can watch the Super Bowl.  They can watch it for free!

Amazon Fire TV.  If you have a Fire TV box, or Fire TV stick, just download the CBS Sports app and run it.  You will get to see the Super Bowl for free.

Roku.  Same deal.  If you have a Roku box or Roku stick, just download the CBS Sports app and run it.  You will get to see the Super Bowl for free.

Chromecast.  Same thing.

Android tablets and Android TV.  Same thing.

iPads and Apple TV.   Same thing.

XBox One.  Same thing.

It’s pretty clear that the NFL and CBS would rather get the largest possible number of eyeballs than try to charge a few bucks for the use of the app.

Keep in mind that if you use this app instead of watching the Super Bowl through your local CBS television broadcaster, you won’t see local ads.  It’s interesting to wonder how CBS will fill those advertising time slots that usually are set aside for local ads.

The local CBS television broadcasters probably won’t like this OTT offering very much, since it could cut into their eyeball count.

 

 

 

Disruptive technologies in nondescript boxes

I’ve blogged about many different disruptive consumer technologies.  I’ve blogged about VOIP telephone services (which is an over-the-top way of replacing a traditional landline).  I’ve blogged about streaming media sticks such as the Amazon Fire TV stick, the Roku stick, and the Chromecast stick.  I’ve blogged about the Tablo, a television receiver and digital video recorder that permits time-shifting and place-shifting your viewing of broadcast television programs.

What’s pretty interesting, I think, is what all of these technologies have in common.  Of course one thing they all have in common is that they rely on internet connectivity.  But the other thing they all have in common is their bland, featureless, nondescript boxes. Continue reading “Disruptive technologies in nondescript boxes”

Baby steps toward cord-cutting

Over the past year or so I have been making baby steps toward “cutting the cord”, which in my case means maybe some day discontinuing service from DirecTV. (For others, “cord cutting” might mean discontinuing television service from Comcast or Dish or Time-Warner.)  In past blog articles I have written about the best media stick to use when traveling and over-the-top service from HBO.  For my household it was a big step to drop the HBO service from DirecTV and to use HBO Now instead.

But there is a category of television reception that I have found to be harder to tackle, namely the reception of “local” network broadcast stations.  Where I live in the mountains of Colorado there are precisely no broadcast television stations.  For many, many years my household has been paying DirecTV to provide “local” television stations, by which I mean the Denver television stations.  I can’t receive the Denver stations at my home, because a mountain range blocks the signal.  Some of my neighbors pay Comcast cable to provide those same “local” television stations to them.  The point is that a would-be cord-cutter who lives in a place with few or no broadcast television signals faces the question what to do about picking up network broadcast stations.

The usual cord-cutting approach for most households is to use an antenna to receive over-the-air television signals.  But as I say, that approach doesn’t work where I live in the mountains of Colorado.  I’ve stumbled upon a new approach that may finally permit discontinuing all DirecTV service. Continue reading “Baby steps toward cord-cutting”

Music on hold and copyright rights

We all sort of vaguely know that because of copyright rights, one can’t just hook up any old audio source to the music-on-hold (“MOH”) port of one’s telephone system.  In this posting I describe the usual ways that people make mistakes about MOH and the new approach that our patent law firm is trying.  And I describe a way that the alert reader might win a prize.   Continue reading “Music on hold and copyright rights”

Blazing fast free wifi

I have been seeing a bit of a trend lately.  The trend is free wifi that is blafast-wifizing fast, many tens of megabits per second both up and down.

At right is a speed test result for the free wifi in the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.  And this did not even require me to accept some terms and conditions.

Some time ago a friend was in the new Whitney museum in Manhattan.  Again blazing fast, eighty megs down and fifty megs up.  And again no need to accept terms and conditions.

It’s nice when this happens.

What’s the fastest free wifi you have encountered?  Please post a comment.

The last time I tried to use the public wifi at the USPTO, which was a few months ago, the login process was so cumbersome that eventually I gave up and used my own wifi hotspot instead.  The last time I did successfully log in to the public wifi at the USPTO, which was a few months before that, it was embarrassingly slow, slower than 100K bits per second up or down.  Basically voice phone modem speeds.

Can someone who has recently made use of the public wifi at the USPTO share a comment about how fast the wifi was, and how easy or difficult the login process was?

Amazon scraps its Local Register service

Used to be that to accept credit cards, a business had no choice but to open a “merchant account” through a bank.  The merchant account had a monthly service fee of at least $30 and required purchase of a card reader costing $500 or more.

A couple of years ago, startup Square offered a new way that a business could process credit card payments.  An inexpensive card swipe reader would plug into the user’s smart phone.  With no monthly service fee and no signup fee, Square became very popular among small businesses.  Close on its heels, Paypal launched its own very similar service.  Then a year ago, Amazon decided to take over the market with its Amazon Local Register service.  Amazon promised a smaller commission (a mere 1.75% compared with 2.5 to 2.7% for Square and Paypal) and backed the system with its well-known brand name and market clout.

Then October of 2015 kept getting closer and closer, and this was important because in October of 2015, there was going to be a “liability shift” in which a merchant would have to absorb the losses from credit card fraud if the store failed to use the “chip” in a credit card.  Square sent out new card readers to its users, card readers that could read a chip as well as swipe a magnetic stripe.  And Paypal rolled out a super-sophisticated card reader that would read a chip, swipe a card, or even accept a contactless payment such as Android Pay or Apple Pay (and that cost $150).  Industry watchers watched Amazon to see what it would do for its users of Local Register.  Would Amazon mail out small and inexpensive chip card readers to its users as Square had done?  Would it invite its users to purchase super-sophisticated $150 readers as Paypal had done?  Or would it move to the head of the pack by rewarding its loyal customers with free-of-charge super-sophisticated card readers?

I was astonished to learn today that Amazon has given up.  It will not do anything to make it possible for its users to read chip cards.  Amazon stopped signing up new Local Register accounts today, and users with existing accounts will only be able to use them until February 1, 2016.  Amazon is abandoning the merchant credit card processing business.

What should existing users of Amazon Local Register do about this? Continue reading “Amazon scraps its Local Register service”

The software in your car

Readers may recall that some months ago I blogged that I had replaced the (incandescent) brake lights in my Subaru car with LEDs.  Readers will also recall that Volkswagen is in the news for having included software in the engine computer of some diesel cars that would detect when an emissions test was going on, and at such times would adjust the engine to greatly reduce the emissions.  All of this reminds me of the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) which generally forbids reverse engineering of software in consumer electronic products.  So how do my LED brake lights fit into this story? Continue reading “The software in your car”

Over-the-top as it relates to telephone services

(Summary:  SIP telephone service is really neat and you should learn about it and use it if you want to be trendy, modern, and up-to-date.)

“Over-the-top” is a general term for the Schumpeterian sort of disruption that we see over and over again as various categories of commerce get disrupted by new distribution mechanisms (generally involving the Internet).  We see the traditional world of record labels, a world in which ten or twenty years ago a handful of companies had a stranglehold on the distribution of music.  A world in which I had no choice but to purchase a “record album” of maybe ten tracks to get the one or two tracks that I actually wanted to listen to.  That traditional world is now in the past, replaced by an over-the-top world in which the consumer can download the one or two tracks of interest by clicking around on the Internet at iTunes or Amazon.

We see the traditional world of video entertainment, a world in which ten years ago a handful of cable TV and satellite TV companies had a stranglehold on the distribution of things like HBO and sports event broadcasts as parts of bundles of dozens or hundreds of channels which the consumer was forced to buy to get the two or three or four channels that the consumer actually wanted to watch.  That world is likewise gradually receding into the past, with OTT mechanisms like HBO Now and Netflix and Hulu and CBS All Access.

I’ve recently encountered some aspects of modern telephone service that also count as over-the-top, new services called “SIP” that bypass the traditional landline telephone companies and that will likely be as disruptive in the telephone world as the OTT services have been for music and video.  I will tell you about some of the SIP services. Continue reading “Over-the-top as it relates to telephone services”

Over-the-top entertainment redux

The last you heard from me about over-the-top entertainment was here (blog article) where I commented on the growing resolve at HBO that it might eventually be able to bypass its traditional distributiohbo-nownhbo-go mechanisms (cable TV companies and satellite TV companies) and distribute its programs straight to consumers.  This has now reached fruition.  Those who wish to be trendy, modern, and up-to-date will want to try out HBO Now as a successor to HBO Go. Continue reading “Over-the-top entertainment redux”