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Comment HBO GO standalone will come.... (Score 2) 447

HBO's CEO has hinted at the possibility of a standalone HBO GO subscription... It's probably coming. One of the challenges to this is the way that deals are structured, and this isn't a bunch of executives sitting around wringing their hands and twirling their mustaches. There are certain agreements that content providers have made with carriers because they didn't initially have as many options for distribution as the internet has made possible in today's world.

The other challenge is... so you've got these existing revenue streams out there. How do you structure your content distribution in a way that doesn't cannibalize the sales that will piss off the carriers who depend on a cut of the monthly fees they charge?

While Lombardo understands that "free" isn't an option, he's as shrewd as Steve Jobs in treating "free" as a competitor and trying to figure out what they need to do to make paid HBO as compelling. What the iTunes model did was treat "free" as a competitor and then go after a more convenient user experience and one-touch purchasing.

The point that's often missed in a lot of the moaning about "users want free so it should be free"... no. Free is not the thing that the users want. If I gave you a pile of trash for free, would that satisfy your appetite for Game of Thrones? It's the content they want. But all of these defined revenue streams instead of an ad-based model (which is the "free" alternative in the pragmatic world of content production) are a large part of why HBO can produce the extremely expensive-budget shows with fewer episodes and better writing than the ad-based models that have to appeal to the broadest, dumbest audience possible.

If those revenue streams are eliminated, there's no cushion for them to commit to shows that would never survive on network television. The only thing they need to do here is to research just how much their cable subscriptions would be affected by online, and perhaps make a deal with the cable companies to compensate their existing agreements the way Apple paid the content producers upwards of $150 million to secure unlimited cloud streaming.

Something will get worked out because every party has an interest... HBO could very well serve up a pile of crap and not care as long as they got their fees. That's how subscription cable works, and through advertising it's how networks work. But they're not the Wal-Mart of television programming nor do they want to be. If they were, none of us would be here talking about wanting TV shows that some nonexistent premium channel doesn't produce that you've never heard of.

Comment RTFB (Score 1) 543

SCOTUS filed a brief on the matter that explicitly indicates that the scope is only Title 17, Copyright law, not patent law and not the uniform commercial code. The petitioners argument is based on a misunderstanding of Section 109(a) which deals with Limitations on transfer rights. The case has to do with the inapplicability of transfer rights under section 109 in foreign countries where Title 17 does not apply. There's a very good reason for that inapplicability if you think about why other countries protections or prohibitions don't apply to actions or works created in the United States. So SCOTUS did its job in rejecting the petition.

The case will not apply to all goods sold. It will only apply to works not protected by Title 17 because those works were created in foreign countries not party to Berne Convention rules. And that makes sense. If I'm from some country that didn't sign off on the Berne Convention, and has totally different laws concerning creative works, then why would America's laws apply? That would be like expecting Saudi Arabia's Sharia law to be applicable to the actions of U.S. Citizens in the United States.

Comment Re:Needed: low-cost 3D ultrasound (Score 1) 139

This isn't needed so much as adequate training... a good radiologist/ultrasound technician can identify defects/anomalies in a 2D planar image. If more complex imaging were required, it wouldn't do the patient much good without being near a Level 1 trauma center fully equipped to actually do anything about it. And even then, three dimensional ultrasonography is very low in detail. There's not a tremendous amount more diagnostic information you'll gain, versus sending them to an L1 trauma center equipped with MRI.

Comment Ultrasound has many applications (Score 1) 139

The thing lacking in both the original article and the comments here (except for a few) is that ultrasonographic imaging has many diagnostic applications outside of neonatal care. Cardiopulmonary medicine, nephrology, hepatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology... the list goes on. All of these applications would make low cost, portable ultrasonography extremely beneficial in third world and developing countries.

Comment Carrying value (Score 4, Insightful) 378

Market cap is a completely nonsensical way of saying "what's the largest company". Market cap is simply whatever irrational price the market has placed upon a company, and has zilch to do with its actual value as a cash generating engine.

For that, one has to look at book value or intrinsic value, as defined by Graham, Dodd, Buffett and others in the value investing fold. Book value (or carrying value) is simply assets minus liabilities minus intangibles (e.g. goodwill, the paid in capital during acquisition of other companies in excess of their book value). Intrinsic value, more or less, includes the net present value of discounted cash flows looking probably five or six quarters forward (any more than that is pure speculation as companies tend not to forecast out more than a year or two from the known inputs into their business).

A third way of looking at it is net working capital plus net operating cash flows... paring it down to inventories on the balance sheet side (working capital) and cash flows related directly to the sale of their goods/services, and not via financing activities, acquisition, etc. This is a really strong measure of how powerful a business is. By almost all of these measures, Apple is pretty strong, but their market capitalization seems to have them overvalued several times relative to what their future cash generating ability truly is.... which is why you won't see any offers for acquisition any time soon, not that Apple would entertain any of them anyway.

Comment There are two sides to every bet... (Score 3, Interesting) 418

As a venture capitalist, Peter Thiel benefits from a larger pool of potential innovators to work from. Even better if they're college-age whiz kids who will work for pizza and beer. He's very skilled and knowledgeable at identifying winners, but he's also operating under a huge capital blanket that allows him to spread his bets and mitigate his losses.

The other side of this equation is the kid who takes him up on the bet. For every one that's actually successful, there may be 10 or 100 grant recipients who fail, and hundreds of thousands of grant applicants who take up Thiel's challenge but don't end up qualifying for the grant anyway. So, this is ultimately a losing proposition for many, as is often the case.

It is really important that young people recognize that the handful of startups that succeed enormously, distorted by the myopic lens of the media, are vastly outnumbered by the carcasses of miserable failures, many of which were well-planned, well-executed, but simply not in the right place at the right time with the right connections. And here's the rub: The two most talented pools of business innovation fellows come out of Stanford and MIT... which not only teach the necessary skills to make successful ventures, but also put those students in an environment conducive to building the right networks of people with fresh ideas that they can get off the ground before anyone else. Notice I didn't say "get there first"... Many get there first, and then don't know what to do from there, and never get truly off the ground.

Consider on a smaller scale the movie review websites Cinemablend and Ain't It Cool News... There are seas of film websites that come and go, but these two were able to monetize successfully simply by virtue of being among the first to get there, and they both rely on a relatively endless supply of free labor. But even they are working constantly just to stay in place. I know a guy who runs a film website with huge traffic and he can barely pay himself, let alone his 50 tireless volunteers.

Apple was there early. Google was there early. Facebook wasn't there first but they were in the right place (both Harvard and Stanford) at the right time, and they made some key innovations that no other social networks had thought of (most people who want to find former classmates go to Facebook. It's funny what one single field of data can do... but Facebook thought of it, and implemented it well).

So it's really critical to have a backup plan because the fact is, the market is so saturated that statistically most of you will never be a Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, etc. It would be great to see it, but I wouldn't bank on it.

Peter Thiel is another story... because no matter how many of you lose, he still wins.

Comment Re:Receivers should have error counters (Score 1) 399

I'm always amused when audiophiles (pronounced: "scientifically illiterate people with more money than brains") tout the potential for "digital jitter" or "coloration" of the signal when Pohlmann's Principles of Digital Audio had outlined that most DACs in production were manufactured with sufficient sample and hold buffering as well as internal reclocking of the signal and parity checking to eliminate such errors ... by around 1985.

Comment The Secret of The Cable (Score 1) 399

Here's a secret that isn't concealed very well... Almost all cable distributors get their cable and interconnects from one of a couple vendors. Belden is the primary supplier to all, including Monster Cable. They assemble the cable, interconnects, and then all the reseller does is slap sheaths on the ends that have their brand name on it. This is also why the same suit at Halberstadt's costs $500 more at Marshall Fields (or what is now Macy's)... because the suit comes from the same factory, but has a different label sewn into it depending on where it is sold.

The funniest experience I've heard relating to this phenomenon of rebranding: I have a friend with an M.S. in Engineering. He did R&D on ASICs for Honeywell as well as R&D for CBS Soundlabs, including but not limited to the development of the FMX quadrature. He was given a tour of the Wadia factory. Wadia, for those who don't know, is a manufacturer of, among other things, $3500 CD players. Granted, these CD players use marginally better (not worth a $3450 premium, however) Burr-Brown D/A converters (at a time when every CD player manufacturer uses one or another Burr-Brown DAC)... but the laser transport mechanism that they say is so special is manufactured by... wait for it.... PIONEER, and is the very same laser transport that goes into Pioneer's bottom end CD players.

A fool and his money are soon parted...

Comment Re:Not Exactly News, But Consider This... (Score 1) 399

I keep asking myself how I can get some of that idiot money.

Unfortunately, if you want cables et al that are not complete junk, you often have no choice except for the "audiophile" stuff. Not everyone who buys that stuff is an idiot, some just want a solid cable that will last for 20 years and will not break during normal use.

16 gauge zip cord works just fine... because the only two things that really matter, electrically, for power delivery to a set of speakers properly matched to a similarly rated amp (in terms of power output vs. speaker sensitivity rating) are inductance and capacitance, and these are driven by only two things: the thickness and length of the conductor.

If the 16 AWG zip cord you bought at the hardware store for a few cents a foot breaks, you're not out thousands of dollars. I'm pretty sure I can replace 35 feet of zip cord every year for twenty years and still not have wasted thousands, let alone hundreds, of dollars.

Comment Faster than a speeding bullet... (Score 1) 405

Aside from the obvious engineering research benefits that Richard Noble and his predecessors such as Craig Breedlove have brought about, in addition to the decades-long tradition of high-speed research at Daimler (Benz had built a diesel engine capable of speeds in excess of 200mph in the 1920's, and used these vehicles often to test high speed safety features including crumple zones, ABS and airbags, the first two which they had made standard)... but here's a fun fact for those questioning the noteworthiness of 1050mph as it relates to bullets...

35 years ago, in 1976, the SR-71A Blackbird reconnaissance aircraft broke the world speed record for a fixed-wing aircraft (excluding rocket-powered types, e.g. Bell X-15) at 2193 mph (3216 ft/sec). That is faster than the muzzle velocity of a .30-06 bullet (2910 ft/sec max).

Comment The Cosmic Perspective (Score 1) 185

It's worth noting that a massive letter writing campaign organized by Star Trek fans in 1979 convinced NASA to rename the first Space Shuttle, originally the USS Constitution, "USS Enterprise" and the first black female, Dr. Mae Jemison, was inspired to pursue her career after seeing Lieutenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) on the original series.

The influence of Star Trek can be seen everywhere, but polls of NASA engineers have revealed that a good portion of them were motivated toward aerospace careers because of Star Trek. My only hope is that near Earth orbit is not, if politicians have their way, the final frontier of our space exploration in my lifetime.

My generation and yours needs our own July 20, 1969 to usher in another era of progress. We need seemingly unattainable goals to push us beyond the reaches of our imagination... to boldly go, as corny as this may sound, where no mind has gone before. If we shutter our intellectual curiosity, we are doomed for generations.

Sagan was right... had the Library of Alexandria not burned down, and set the world back some 1700 years in intellectual progress, there might today be survey ships returning from Alpha Centauri with a dodecahedron insignia on their hull. Just imagine.

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