Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Yesterday (Monday), The Democratic candidates took questions from YouTube users in a live collaboration between Google's YouTube and CNN. There is rumour that for a fraction of a second, a goatcx picture appeared within one of the videos (this has since been proven as fake). The main thing to note is that there is an illusion that this is the new form democracy will take, using Internet video and social sites like YouTube as a means to discuss and shape politics. But let's take a real look at what really happened behind the scenes between YouTube, CNN and the Democratic candidates.

There is an illusion that the questions were uncensored, but in reality I can tell you from experience within this field that the questions were most certainly screened, filtered and hand selected in advance. YouTube users were able to submit their questions in advance, and were allegedly allowed to vote on which were most applicable and relevant. However, the truth lies in a murky middle - the most popular questions were compiled and most likely distributed to each candidates Public Relations team, who in turn chose which questions they think they could spin best and selected the questions they would like to answer. These revised questions were given back and YouTube in partnership with CNN (remember) selected only those questions that the candidates felt comfortable with - regardless of whether they didn't make the user vote for most popular/relevant questions.

So you're left with a selection of questions submitted by YouTube users (which I guess is the closest we can get to anything democratic), which are in turn screened, filtered and reviewed by a CNN and YouTube panel, which again is then sent off to the candidates who screen the questions and choose the ones most capable of supporting their candidate, and those questions are in turn brought to the top of the user 'popular questions list' - which get read live on TV.

So it brings me back to the main point, is youtube really a platform for political debate and discussion? Well I'd say Yes and No, take a look at any video - there is almost always an on-going comment debate/flame war about America, Iraq War, Terrorism, Fear Mongering, Democratic/Republican bashing, or some sort of other political nonsense. So is YouTube a platform capable of political discussion - Yes - because many people seem to use it in this manner, and No - because it is virtually impossible for a free flow discussion due to the very nature of the commenting system, and the ignorance and idiocy of the users (something that all democracies are susceptible and plagued with).

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sun Microsystems Inc. signed a deal with AT&T to use it's proprietary Sun Fire Servers and storage servers to run its soon-to-be-released IPTV service named U-Verse. The current Sun technology supports 160, 000 simultaneous connections over the network. Remember this isn't Peer 2 Peer (P2P), it's an asynchronous one-way connection. AT&T already got the full rights over the IPhone and they've made a killing on it. With U-Verse picking up steam, we could see net neutrality laws start buckling as AT&T attempts to ration more of its bandwidth and backbone network for its own services. Scary stuff indeed.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Australian scientists have created a special box-set for your television that makes it possible to control your television set or DVD player without so much as a remote control. Instead lazy viewers can use hand or head gestures to change channels, skip DVDs ahead, or even mute channels.

A built-in camera allows the set top box to view and decipher gestures with an intricate biometric system that can distinguish between a thumbs up and thumbs down and according to a pre-configured setup can automate television watching tasks. There is actually a lot of uses for technology like this, besides for those too lazy to use a remote control:
  • Physical Handicapped TV viewers can now more effectively watch television and control their sets without needing speciality devices.
  • Lost the remote? No problem - just keep watching, no need to ever have to look for that remote again - your hands and your head can substitute.
  • Smarter Television - In the future perhaps we can refine the technology to pick up on physically expresses emotions so that a show that makes you upset or bored would instantaneously be changed. Imagine controlling your television set solely by what you like and dislike (no changing channels, the TV set would change according to whether you seem pleased or upset, or bored by the program).
The gestures currently used by the set-top box are limited, but it is claimed that anyone can learn them within 5 minutes. The software can already distinguish between intentional and unintentional commands, so making a sudden movement won't send you flying across channels. The next step is to adapt it for video games, where it can really become profitable.

Read Full Story..

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Microsoft's live broadcasting of the "Live Earth" concerts held across the world have not only done well, but have also broken world history records for the most event or celebration watched online. In the more then a decade that the Internet has been publicly used, we have seen various events broadcasted live on the Internet including Woodstock, New Year Celebrations (Millennium celebration), premier of movies, live casting of historical events like the War in Iraq, news broadcastings live from the scene (9/11, 7/7 newscasts) and even television premiers.

What's all the more fascinating is that despite the heavy on-line popularity of the event, Live Earth suffered from poor television ratings. This is most certainly a sign of things to come, as more people flock to their computer screen then to their television set for breaking news and entertainment.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

In anticipation of the Simpsons Movie, 14 Springfields across America were nominated to take part in an Official content which would dub one of the lucky towns to be dubbed the real "Springfield" - a crowning glory that would render the town the official headquarters of everything Simpsons. Not only that but it would bring much tourism and attraction to the town, and so all 14 towns which had been previously unknown to the drones of Simpsons fans battled it out via city-created videos that were posted on the USAToday and Simpsons webpage.

The winner with an astounding 15,367 votes was Springfield in Vermont, followed closely by the Springfield in Illinois (14, 634) and Oregon (13,894). What is upsetting is that many (if not all) of these cities could not care less for the show, but rather see it as a cheap way to increase tourism and so each city created a video that showcased why they should be the real Springfield - and to be honest not one video showed the sincerity of the Springfieldians. If I were in charge of one of these campaigns, I would probably have just rounded up a few teenagers and just held some sort of trivia competition - a real test to show how cult like the city really was or perhaps re-enact an entire episode with the locals. But instead most chose to do a very poor satirical attempt in showing the similarities between the cartoon show and their own respective town.
Jokes fell flat, half-assed attempts were clear, and ultimately out of the many - the best was chosen. Vermont did the best job in my opinion, although it wasn't perfect or to my liking, I did end up voting for it.

So what does this all mean? The winning city (Springfield, Vermont) gets a pre-screening of the movie (July 21st) before the International screening on July 27th. Tickets are already up for pre-ordering by the way.

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The next incantation of TiVO will be a $300 HDTV set top box capable of plugging in to both your television and your computer. TiVO 3 is rumoured to offer single and multi streams, and possibly could serve as a digital unscrambler for IPTV channels in the future. The interesting thing is that real IPTV channels may not be so far ahead, with TiVO 3 having some peculiar features that could only hint at some sort of Internet Protocol system being implemented shortly after its release in the 3rd Quarter of 2008. Well I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

The Live Earth Concert - "the ultimate campaign to save the Earth" went off without a hitch yesterday (Saturday), as it was broadcasted simulataneously across the world with viewers from all parts of the globe checking in to see their favourite stars perform in any 1 of several concert venues located across all 7 continents and amongst some of the biggest countries in the world. The campaign fueled by Al Gore, was cited as a "tremendous success in promoting a greener future for our planet."

Part of much of the success in the campaign lies in the technology employed by Live Earth to broadcast all of the concerts simultaneously live and for free. To do this, Live Earth went to Microsoft to use their soapbox platform and technology to broadcast using a Flash player to broadcast using RTMP technology. Amazingly Microsoft handled it very well even managing to cope with all the traffic being sent in and the bandwidth being used, serious kudos to Microsoft for not only handling this but doing it without a single screwup! Jeers to Google for not helping out, when it controls more then 85% of the world's Bandwidth lines.

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

The 7 Wonders of the World have been announced (broadcasted live on IPTV). I predicted 5 of the winners correctly, not bad but it was quite predictable - I think the results are quite fair, none of the modern wonders made it (e.g. Sydney's opera house, or the Statue of Liberty - given to the US by France). Instead the winners (as voted by Internet and mobile users) turned out to favour the historic and ancient Wonders of the World. Here they are, as they were presented on live webtv:

The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt [honorary]
No one was surprised that the only surviving wonder of the truly ancient world was given a straight-pass to the World Wonder list. The Pyramids of Giza have standed the test of time, and are truly an amazing piece of work that continues to marvel and humble us even today. There is still a lot of mystery as to how they were built, and archaeologists and architects still lie awestruck at these fantastic tombs of the ancient Pharohs of Egypt. The Pyramids of Egypt are an honorary member of the 7 Wonders of the World.

1) The Taj Mahal, India
The Taj Mahal was originally built as a tomb for the late Mumtas Mahal, who was the beloved wife of Shah Jahan, a 16th Century mogul emperor of what is now Agra. The white marble tomb was originally ordained with various emeralds and jewels, which were stolen and excavated shortly after the British arrived in India. However, the Taj Mahal still stands as one of the most ancient and romantic structures ever built. The reflecting pool that sits in front allows the Taj's opulence to truly be seen. [not pictured: Mosque to the left].

2) Petra, Jordan
It may not seem like much at first glance, but the entire monument was built by carving the stone mountain into ornate and decorative scultupures and structures. The entire complex is carved into the stone mountains, and rooms and grande halways have been built by carving into the stones. Realize that this was done in the ancient world, so none of the modern technology such as timed dynamite or electronic drills were used - everything in Petra is hand carved. Each room and structure within Petra is detailed with decorations, scriptures and very beautiful and fancy Roman/Greek inspired designs and patterns.

3) Machu Pichu, Peru
Machu Pichu are the "forgotten" ruins of
an ancient city known as Machu Pichu. The city was thought to be the capital of Incan Empire and ruins prove that the Incans were using technology far in advance of what neighbouring factions possessed - including compasses, and an advanced form of astronomical calculations. The ruins of Machu Pichu shows the everyday life of the Incan people who mysteriously vanished (not really, the Europeans colonized the area resulting in their assimilation). The biggest mystery is why Machu Pichu was forgotten about by the Western world, and at times referred to as the Lost City - it's very presence is a ghostly reminder of a culture and people lost in time.

4) The Great Wall of China, China
Surely, the World's Largest running wall would make it on the list. It's no surprise that the Great Wall of China would make the list - but did you know that China's neighbour - India, houses the 2nd 'Greatest" Wall - located at the Kumbhalgarh Fort in Rajastan. But enough about that, the Great Wall of China originally built as an ambitious means to seperate what was then the border between Mongolia and what would later on become China, proved successfull in dispelling the Mongolians attempts. However The Great Wall is, contrarily to belief, not visible from the moon nor space by the naked eye.

5) The Colliseum, Italy
The Colliseum, it needs no description but I'll do say anyways, is a historic stadium or arena where spectators watched in awe and amusement as thousands of Gladiators and animals were put to death on the whims and victories of battle. In many cases plays were held and re-enactments of battles. The colliseum rounds off #5 of the Wonders of the World.

6) Christ the Reedemer, Brazil
Located in Brazil, Christ the Redeemer stands a top the highest perch overlooking all of Brazil. This is probably the only wonder I take exception to being on the list, but it is definately a more modern (historic, but slightly newer compared other wonders on the list) wonder standing over Brazil and expressing the sentiments of Jesus Christ's last moments on earth before his eventual resurrection. The Redeemer stands as a token of hope and prosperity reminding Brazillians to lighten up on the partying!

7) Chichen Itza,Mexico
The Chichen Itza is most famously described as a South American Pyramid. Built by the Mayans, the Chichen Itza was the cornerstone of the Mayan city of Itza and it served various funcitons including the religious and political podium for celebrations, gatherings and other events. Mystery is central to the Chichen Itza as skeptics claim that advanced civilizations must have faciliated in its construction due to the usage of astronomical and mathematical concepts that had not been discovered anywhere on the planet at the time. Could the Mayans have been avanced far beyond any other civilization at the time, or did some form of extraterrestrial being have contact with the Mayans?

Technically there are 8 World Wonders, but of course we need to realize that this isn't the Official 7 Wonders of the World - a private company stepped up and ran this competition, which making this semi-official since it's voted on by the people. One thing's for sure, there are a lot of angry people who aren't happy with the decision - including UNESCO which is the appointed designator of world cultural and heritage areas, and whose power also includes the labelling of monuments and structures as World Wonders. UNESCO refuses to accept these as the actual World Wonders, regardless of the party (featuring Jennifer Lopez as the MC) held by the private firm that orchestrated this entire campaign.

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Video is undoubtedly killing television, and with TV's demise comes the death of serveral television stars - who are all vulnerable to their latest escapades being covered by the various tabloid websites popular on the Internet. While images have been the bain of Celebrities for centuries, video has quickly made it all the more embarassing for celebrity to be quoted saying something ignorant or stupid. While an image could capture an embarassing moment, video allows everyone to relive it over and over and over again. Even worse is that video prevents celebrities from rebutting claims or falsifying the evidence, because everyone can see the video for themselves and make a judgement on what actually happened. Granted that video, much like any other medium, can be edited to appeal to a particular agenda - it's a lot more difficult, and even in its edited form still gives off a better impresion of what actually happened (something which can never truly be hidden).

The more garish thing is that online video affects not only celebrities, but real life ordinary people. People get turned into overnight stars through viral YouTube videos, but sometimes this can be much more of a curse in disguise. Take the incident of Star Wars Kid, by now you've most likely not only heard of him but have probably seen the variations of the original video. For those who have been living under the preverbial rock, Star Wars Kid is a Montreal (Quebec, Canada) teenager who was goofing around in his school's storage cabinet with a video camera - mimicking the moves of a Star Wars jedi (pretending he had a light sabre). Unfortunately for him, he forgot to remove the tape from the video camera and some of his evil peers decided to upload it to the Internet - in less then a few weeks, the video had spread and become a wild attraction. Variations of the video were made and edited, and the kid faced embarassment from the entire world - with people writing to him and even ridiculing him on the street. His parents sued the kids that leaked the video, and there has been much cafuffle on the sanity of the Montreal teenager. Many other cases like this have become common, with sex tapes, mms scandals and the likes becoming an all too familiar presence in our technological world.

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Friday, July 6, 2007

The announcing of the 7 New Wonders of the World are being broadcasted live from Lisbon, Portugal using Internte streaming technology. In order to watch it you must have voted, and it will require the Octoplugin in order to work (so you have to install it). It's the "official" announcement of what the next 7 New Wonders of the World will be and I can guarantee it will be making frontpage news when it hits the news presses later today.

My guesses for the 7 wonders that will win (or that I think should win):
  1. Pyramids, Egypt (no contest, it's already known the pyramids are in)
  2. Great Wall of China (did you know the 2nd largest wall is in India?)
  3. Taj Mahal. India
  4. The Colosseum, Italy
  5. Chichen Itza, Mexico
  6. Angkor Wat, Cambodia
  7. The Acropolis, Greece
Those are who I'd like to win, here's who will actually win:
  1. Pyramids, Egypt
  2. Great Wall of China
  3. Taj Mahal, India
  4. Statue of Liberty, USA
  5. Chichen Itza, Mexico
  6. The Colosseum, Italy
  7. Stonehenge, UK
We'll see how close I am ... you can view the live webcast here.

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When you live in a country as ethnically diverse as America, Canada, UK or any other country for that matter, you're bound to have people whose culture or language differs from that of the dominant culture. Large Telecoms and Media companies have exploited this for far too long and they usually offer a basic tier of cable, and special language or cultural channels are deemed "speciality channels" and you have to pay a premium subscription to just get the few channels that you want.

Well that's all in the past because now many foreign language broadcasters from over-seas are making their non-English language content available for free - most of which is available on their sites in video or text form. But in those very rare instances they are made available live and streaming, and that's where some viewers are saving a fortune by not having to pay for monthly bundled cable subscriptions. So if you're one of those rabid tv fans that wants to watch foreign language programming, just knock back on your computer and do a quick search for the content of your desire. I hope to include some examples in the future, but it will have to wait for a future article from Web TV Free.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Not so new, but more of a new discovery to me - is the existance of a site called FreeTube, that claims it "[..] lets you watch TV online for free without the need for any special software, hardware or subscription service. We are a completely free alternative to cable television that lets you watch tv channels and tv shows online using just your browser. "

Interesting concept carried out quite well seeing as how it sticks to it's promise, I didn't have to download anything special and I was able to use the site using my older 500mhz PII. I did however have to update my Windows Media Player, but that was only a 2 minute download and installation. After installing windows media player, it was quite simple - just a simple click on what they call a "category" [think topics like sports]. The channels are sorted and listed under these categories and you just click on one to watch. It has this google mail type loader that doesn't refresh the page..I think they call it web 20 or something?

I couldn't get windows media player to show the actual video but I took a screenshot (imagine that theirs some video in there lol):

The channel wasn't broken but for some reason it said it was, again I wish I could have got the actual video in the screenshot but it just refused to get the vide in the shot. Anyways, check out FreeTube here. It's definately the future of Internet video.

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