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Comment Re:Why? To prevent you from skipping ads (Score 1) 83

They're required to re-negotiate if the sink device changes, or a sink is added or removed, but at the other end of the chain, a source is a device, not a service provided by the device. It's 100% legitimate for a source device (like a cable box) to negotiate the key exchange with all sink devices (like TVs, home theater receivers, etc), authorize the channels allowed for a customer, then switch between channels without fully re-negotiating the HDCP link from scratch. They just do it because it's easier to code and cheaper to develop & get certified, and they're unlikely to actually lose a single actual sale over it (because their customers are TV service providers & NOT end users)... so they just do it, end users be damned.

THAT is one of the things the FCC is specifically trying to prevent... companies steamrolling over consumers and subjecting them to shitty hardware and policies just because they CAN. This is a worthwhile effort by the FCC, even if it doesn't ultimately save consumers a cent. Or even if it ultimately adds to the cost of the hardware. The experience of using something matters at least as much as the cost of using it.

Comment Re:As long as it's for the right reason (Score 2) 480

They could probably flash a pattern of infrared light that cameras would be required to respect and shut down, but THEN it would be just a matter of time until law enforcement officers started flashing the SAME infrared light pattern to prevent bystanders from filming them. And venues like Disney started flashing it everywhere so they could make you pay them for photos instead of allowing customers to take their own photos for free. And stores like Best Buy & Walmart started flashing it to keep you from scanning barcodes and seeing how much something costs online. Right now, if a company or entity tries to ban cameras, they're likely to encounter at least a certain degree of resistance. Sometimes it won't matter, sometimes it will make them reconsider their desire to ban cameras. But if it becomes trivially easy to prevent photography and video recordings, within a matter of months every corporation in America will decide that it's a "best practice" to do it, just because their lawyers will tell them that to do otherwise would expose the company to a potential lawsuit or prosecution someday.

Comment Re:movie theaters (Score 2) 480

I really don't understand why movie theaters can't be built with a single-occupant unisex toilet and soundproof door (to keep the noise from being audible to the rest of the theater), a speaker inside simulcasting the audio track from the movie (if not one or more LCD TVs showing the movie itself, since it's all digital now anyway), and a queue area from which the screen can be viewed while waiting in line. They'd sell more mega-sized drinks, because people wouldn't have to be afraid of spending half the movie either desperately having to pee or missing 5-10 minutes running to the restroom after drinking a half-gallon of Diet Coke.

Comment Re:Why? To prevent you from skipping ads (Score 1) 83

Let's not forget other stupid things, like boxes that insist upon doing HDCP re-negotiation every goddamn time you change the channel and add a minimum of 3-5 seconds to the time it takes. It's 100% sloppy programming and design. HDCP's rules don't even require that they go that far... they just can't be arsed to bother optimizing channel-changing speed for boxes that have a captive market anyway.

IMHO, it should take AT MOST about 500ms to change channels (assuming that at the moment of change, you missed the I-Frame & had to wait for the GOP's end 15 frames later, then wanted to pre-buffer a full GOP to avoid artifacts from network hiccups and interference). And if the DVRs were REALLY smart, they'd put unused tuners to use watching the adjacent channels, so they'd be ready to switch to them in a literal instant instead of having to slog through the whole thing all over again. With a 4-tuner DVR that has one tuner recording a show, you could have the other 3 tuning the channel being watched and the one above & below it. Once the user starts changing channels, both of the spare tuners could be temporarily re-allocated to the next 2 channels in the same direction.

If it weren't for HDCP and DRM, we'd already have stuff like this, because people would be able to make their own tuners using FPGA dev kits if products like that didn't exist commercially. HDCP has made it almost completely impossible for small, nimble companies to design cool niche home theater stuff anymore, because the HDCP people won't give the keys to their castle out to anyone who works for a company smaller than Samsung, Sony, Phillips, or Huawei.

Comment Re:Moot (Score 1) 83

Um... you might want to Google "SlingTV", "Playstation VUE", and/or "Southern Fibernet". The first two are available now, the third is in beta.

I pay $14/month (with T-mobile customer discount) to get SlingTV's multi-stream service (including CNN, FX, Comedy Central, AdultSwim, History, NatGeo, and HGTV). The only thing that sucks about it is the lack of DVR functionality, which means that CNN is one of the only channels I actually watch on it (the other channels do have some/all of the current season's episodes of popular shows available on demand, which partially makes up for it).

If Vue would allow me to subscribe to the packages they offer to cities WITHOUT local channels (I have a perfectly good antenna and Windows Media Center DVR, thank you), I'd probably switch... but I refuse to pay for local channels I can get perfectly well on my own for free.

SFN looks interesting, and DirecTV/Uverse is planning to launch a streaming service of their own later this year. There's also "USTVnow.com", which is supposedly for overseas Americans, but will reportedly allow anybody with a valid credit card to subscribe.

My predictions: two years from now, every rural and Mom & Pop cable company in America will be jumping into the nationwide OTT streaming market.

Comment Re:Not so fast. (Score 1) 258

Actually, you probably WOULDN'T be able to live off the literal interest. You'd be lucky to get 0.15% interest... and no, that isn't "fifteen percent" -- it's fifteen hundredths of a percent. If you had 3 million dollars earning 0.15% per year, your interest income would be a whopping $4,500/year. Don't spend it all in one place...

Comment Re:Economics (Score 1) 216

> Issue isn't safety - airplanes would be making the trip anyway.

Not necessarily. If a non-wealthy pilot who'd normally be constrained by the cost of taking the plane up in the air can suddenly afford to fly it more often because he can easily find people to share the cost with, there WILL be more such flights.

Or, rephrased in terms of "freedom and liberty" -- the right of others to fly a deathtrap jalopy ends at my roof. The FAA has a duty to protect my rights as a non-passenger on the ground at least as vigorously as it protects the rights of someone to fly an inherently dangerous aircraft above it. If the FAA allows something to increase the number of such flights, it has a duty to mitigate the risk posed by those additional flights by making them individually less-likely to fall from the sky into my house.

Comment Re:Oh hell no (Score 5, Interesting) 216

Small (especially single-engine) planes are SEVERAL ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more likely to crash than large jets, and pilot experience has very little to do with it.

Don't believe me? OK, search Google for the last single-engine plane crash within 100 miles of your home. Chances are, unless you live in the middle of nowhere, there's been at least one within the past 2-3 years. Now... when's the last time a commercial jet crashed within 100 miles of your home (9/11 doesn't count)?

I live in South Florida. We've had exactly THREE nearby commercial jet crashes within the past 50 years... ValuJet flight 592 in 1996, Fine Air flight 101 in 1997, and Eastern Airlines flight 401 in 1972. One was the result of criminal corporate malfeasance, one was the result of breathtaking stupidity (an overweight cargo jet whose contents shifted during takeoff), and one was the result of pilot error that modern flight control systems make nearly impossible. Both MIA and FLL average at least one jet taking off or landing per minute, for approximately 18 hours per day, every day. Literally millions of people fly to and from South Florida on commercial flights every day, with a 50-year fatality rate that averages out to almost zero.

Now, contrast that with crashes of single-engine private planes. FXE (Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport) has had at least 3 crashes since 2009. I used to work at an office adjacent to one of its runways, and LITERALLY heard a plane crash about a quarter mile away while sitting at my desk. Another plane ran off the runway and ended up in a nearby parking lot. Another crashed into a residential neighborhood a mile away. And that's just one airport in Broward County. I think both of Miami's general-aviation airports (Opa-Locka and Miami Executive) have had at least 3 crashes apiece in the past 5 years, too. And I'm not even counting the planes that fall into the Caribbean between South Florida and the Bahamas.

Compared to commercial jets, single-engine private planes are deathtraps, and the FAA knows it. It doesn't have the political capital to ban them outright, but it's not going to allow several times as many people to put themselves (and others) at risk by allowing an Uber-like service to encourage more private flights with more passengers on board. It's either going to rigidly enforce its ban on commercializing private planes, or increase the regulatory requirements ON private planes to compensate... and if it encountered too much resistance over maintenance and equipment regulations, it would move to severely restrict the operation of private single-engine planes in urban airspace.

Comment Re:I only just played with it (Score 1) 211

The biggest problem with ISA-era expansion cards wasn't their lack of plug & play support... it was the fact that they all needed at least one IRQ of their own, and VERY FEW of them could actually use any IRQ besides 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7... and most of THOSE could only use 4 of them because the manufacturers were too cheap to put more than 2 jumpers on the board.

Then, Windows went completely batshit crazy around the XP era, went totally overboard in the opposite direction, and started doing stupid things like attempting to use a single IRQ for literally every single device in the system... right around the same time Intel increased the IRQ limit up to ~24 and eliminated any need to actually DO it.

Comment Re: OS/2 (Score 1) 211

Remember, there were basically two kinds of "Winmodems":

* The cheap shit "Host Signal Processing" ones that were basically glorified soundcards with a phone jack & used the CPU for literally EVERYTHING.

* The premium ones that had a proper DSP to do the heavy lifting (like Lucent's), and only used the host driver to implement things like parity and +++AT commands.

The DSP-type Winmodems, on a fast computer, often had slightly BETTER performance than non-Winmodems. Why? Most non-Winmodems had underpowered microcontrollers... their embedded CPU was sometimes a performance-limiting factor. In contrast, DSP-type Winmodems could take full advantage of a powerful CPU to do things almost instantly that took substantially longer to do on most non-Winmodems.

Comment Re: OS/2 (Score 1) 211

If you were wealthy enough to afford 16 megs (somewhere around $750 circa 1993, from what I vaguely remember), OS/2 was definitely a step up from Windows 3.11. It did a better job of multitasking Windows 3.11 apps than Windows 3.11 itself did. IF you had the RAM.

That said, Windows 95 was a real-world step up from OS/2 Warp in every meaningful way. I remember that my soundcard (Gravis Ultrasound) NEVER, EVER worked reliably under OS/2. From what I recall, it could only do 1024x768 in 16-color mode without hardware acceleration on my first-generation S3 '911 video card, and crashed constantly with the Tseng ET4000/w32 card I bought to replace it (on rumors that it worked better under OS/2). And I'm pretty sure I had to do a scorched-earth total reinstallation OF OS/2 Warp to change to that new video card after I bought it.

Windows 95 wasn't perfect... but it was literally the first time I'd ever had an OS that fully and effortlessly supported every single piece of hardware I owned.

In retrospect, OS/2 Warp's most valuable legacy was its partition and boot manager, which I continued to use long after I'd ceased using OS/2 itself. It was absolutely without equal until Partition Manager finally came out.

Comment Re: Nothing new to the customer (Score 1) 113

I'm pretty sure that in the worst-case, ATSC MPEG-2 frames have at least one I-frame per 15 frames, so the total latency should still be well under a half-second per channel EVEN IF you had to wait 1/4 second for an I-frame, then spend another 1/60th of a second analyzing it and another 1/60th of a second outputting it to the display. If switching between a 720p60 and 1080i60 channel, maybe add another 1/15th of a second of delay (assuming the box can't transmit the resolution/framerate metadata with each frame, so the TV could get started with switching output modes even while the box was still waiting for the next I-frame).

Insofar as encryption is concerned, there's no reason why the box shouldn't already have a copy of every channel's current encryption key pre-negotiated and ready to go. It's not like RAM is actually expensive anymore, and 2GHz+ quadcore ARM processors are now almost free. Worst-case, maybe add another dollar or two for a second DSP to constantly walk through the channels, update its metadata, and renegotiate encryption keys as necessary in the background.

I really wish I knew why American HDTVs are so completely "dumb" in their operation. On paper, at least, there's NO REASON why a broadcaster shouldn't be able to seamlessly transition from a 720p60 newscast to a 1080i commercial, then transition to a 720p50 imported TV show and follow it up with a 1080p24 movie (all with more 720p60 and 1080i60 commercials seamlessly inserted along the way). I'd love to know where in the transmission chain the whole thing breaks down and makes mode-changing such a big deal. IMHO, changing from 1080i60 to 720p50 (for example) should AT WORST cause 1/60th to 2/24ths of a second of blackness before resuming video display in the new mode.

By the same token... it drives me nuts that 1080p60 wasn't one of the official ATSC modes. Yes, I know that realtime compression of 1080p60 back in the 90s would have been almost impossible (at least, at an acceptable quality and keeping the bitrate below ~19mbps). HOWEVER, I also have a pile of old VCDs I made from ripped DVDs using TMPGEnc that got near-DVD quality out of 2.7mbps burned to a CD-R, so I know what's possible when you can let the encoder take its time to chew on the file and re-analyze the video at its leisure... especially when variable bitrate and long GOPs are available options. With the exception of sports, news, and award shows, almost NOTHING gets literally encoded in realtime anymore. And even news & awards shows now get delayed by 15-30 seconds so they can prevent the transmission of anything obscene or shocking (like someone blowing his head off on a live news feed, or flashing a boob at the superbowl). For any other content, there's plenty of time to aggressively cross-reference frames & use motion-estimation to shave the 1080p60 bitrate down to something you could send at high quality with just 18mbps.

Comment The madness of different distributors (Score 1) 438

There's an easy way to fix this: a free trade agreement that stipulates that anyone with the rights to license content in one country within the zone automatically shares the rights to distribute that content to viewers in ANY country within the zone... maybe throwing in a statutory formula to allocate a chunk of the profits to the official licensing entity for a given country while denying their ability to block or prevent it. And prohibiting licensors in the zone from attempting to limit distribution by country in their contracts (in other words, by law, any contract that gives you the right to distribute content in the US would automatically give you the right to distribute it in Canada and Britain, regardless of any other wording in the contract).

Example: suppose MusicCorpUS owns the rights to ThemeSong. In Britain, MusicCorpUK owns the rights. In Canada, SomeOtherMusicCorp owns the rights. Now, Fox makes a TV show using ThemeSong, and wants to show it in all three markets. However, SomeOtherMusicCorp decides to throw a monkey wrench into their plans and use the show's expected popularity as a rent-seeking opportunity to wring more cash than Fox is willing to pay. Under current law, the show wouldn't get shown in Canada. Under my proposed treaty, Fox would could just give SomeOtherMusicCorp the finger, recursively inherit the rights from MusicCorpUS, and write the royalty check to them... leaving it up to MusicCorpUS to figure out the statutory royalties they owe to MusicCorpUK and SomeOtherMusicCorp for the show's Canadian & British viewers. And in fact, if either MusicCorpUK or SomeOtherMusicCorp were willing to undercut MusicCorpUS, Fox could license global rights to use the music from THEM instead.

This is why, for example, MTV (US) never, ever, EVER shows the European Music Awards as anything more than a scattered collection of 3-second clips... and why shows like EuroVision never get shown in the US. The production costs would be close to zero since the video already exists, but the licensing costs for literally dozens of pop songs would make it more expensive than producing an episode of a show like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D or Grimm.... especially since any one of the individual licensors could hold out and demand more. Putting them all into competition with each other, and prohibiting licensing deals that limit distribution by country, would solve most of the problem.

In the worst case (one big multinational corp buys up the nominally-independent distributors in the various countries), it would still have the benefit of reducing the transaction costs by massively simplifying the distribution agreements. At the end of the day, BigMultinationalCorp still needs to license its works to make money... and the TV shows that would today require an army of lawyers in each country to negotiate royalties could pay a single legal team who'd (by law) be negotiating a contract good for everywhere within the trade zone. It would become impossible for one rent-seeking licensor in a significant market to get in the way.

Comment Re: Nothing new to the customer (Score 3, Insightful) 113

Pffft. I remember what Dish Network was like back in 2000... With their crap gear, changing channels took upwards of 5-15 seconds. It was LITERALLY impossible to channel-surf in any meaningful way.

Voom (circa 2003) was a million times better... High-quality high-end hardware that, if anything, was somewhat over-engineered (I think they were planning to make any box DVR-capable by plugging a hard drive into it, but shut down before they got around to it). Going from Voom to Comcast and their Motorola boxes was downright painful... Not quite as bad as Dish, but nowhere near as responsive and snappy as Voom. In 2008, my DirecTV HR-20(21?) was almost as good as Voom's boxes... until they changed the firmware around 2010, and almost overnight the box became glacially slow.

In retrospect, I think the fastest cable boxes I ever had were there Scientific Atlanta boxes from the late 80s/early 90s... Literally instant channel-changes. You could hold the channel up or down button, and let it rip through at least 2 or 3 channels per second. Sigh... Two steps forward, 1.97 steps back...

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