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Information Technology

The world is changing. Rapidly.

Bits are flying over the Internet at an unprecedented pace.

As my loyal reader…..you know my feelings about Cisco and video conferencing, but, it looks to me as though they are getting back to focusing on handling bits….a very good thing.  For everyone!

This commercial by Cisco is interesting.  I LOVE the part where they say that you do not need to be in the office to be productive.

DUH.   Telecommuting = Coworking = Telework

Comments?

Dare I say it?   Cisco rocks?   Ouch….that hurt…. :-)

Oh yeah…the bridge at the end is awesome…again, back to cisco’s roots.

VUDU Adds Glee and Modern Family

 (Our VUDU)

As my loyal reader….you know what I feel about VUDU (and here, and here).   Also see our movie reviews on ForCarol.com, a lot of what we watch is on VUDU.

Now that VUDU is embedded in new TV’s, Blu-Ray players, etc., you no longer need the separate box that we have.  There is also the ability to connect to Facebook, Twitter, and a zillion other features via the Internet.

It ain’t just movies anymore….

Although the user interface has gotten more bloated and harder to use (hint to VUDU designers) this is still the best streaming video service under the sun.  My hope is that is stays that way….note to Wal-Mart:  Hands off!  Let the VUDU folks do what they do better than anyone…

Anyway…on the TV side, the choices kinda stunk.  Until now.  NOW, I see this article that says they are adding “Glee” and “Modern Family”.

OK….this is GREAT news.  We LOVE “Modern Family”, and “Glee”…..well, it is ok too.  :-)

If you have not tried VUDU (’cause you are using Netflix streaming…which actually came after VUDU)…give it a try.

Now that we have Comcast Internet…we can watch HDX movies in real-time….the quality is awesome!

QR Codes

Ever see one of those square barcode like looking thingys?

I had one hanging on my door from Google Places, but, I did not know what it was or what to do with it.

It looked cool, so I stuck it up there.

So what the hell is it?

Well, finally getting curious I did a bit of web searching.  WikiPedia, of course, has a nice, concise, explanation which I quote below:

QR code (short for Quick Response) is a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.

Common in Japan, where it was created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994, the QR code is one of the most popular types of two-dimensional barcodes. QR is the abbreviation for Quick Response, as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.[1]

The technology has seen a large uptake in Japan and South Korea. However, in the west there has been a considerably slower adoption of QR Codes.[2]

I suspect that as SmartPhones become more prevalent, the use of the QR codes may increase here.

Give it a try! If you have a SmartPhone, and the appropriate app on it (you can find free QR apps on either the iphone or android phones)…….scan the QR code I put at the top of this blog entry.

Where did you go?  Pretty cool, huh?

I also have a QR code with my name, business, phone and email…in other words a contact QR code.

According to the “QR Droid” app (a great application by the way…I will donate some $$) I downloaded on my HTC Aria, I can make a QR code for:

  • Contact
  • URL Address
  • Application (calls up an app?, I have not tried it….yet)
  • Phone Number
  • Calendar Event
  • Free Text (how is that as opposed to priced text?)
  • Geolocation
  • SMS

Pretty impressive list of uses….I will start integrating QR codes in my work life more and more.  For example, do you want to rent a room, or sign up for coworking?  Scan the appropriate QR code to call me (and store my number easily on your phone), send me a text message, an email, or just go directly to Paypal.

VERY COOL. (Hmmmmm, I will make up a QR code with my contact information for the next Tracy Chamber Meeting….that would be interesting).

In addition to being useful…I think it is pretty geeky nerdy cool…..just like me!  :-)

Speaking of nerds……I will be getting a t-shirt made up with the QR code I made on top.

I can just see the kids at the Mall with SmartPhones scanning my shirt and then learning that they need to….

Drive Safe!  Never Forget.

AT&T To Cap DSL Usage

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I was surfing this morning and came across this bit of disturbing news from the good folks at Mashable (and also at Broadband DSL Reports).

AT&T will cap DSL users to 150GB (I assume Bytes…not bits) and Uverse users to 250GB per month.  If you go over that cap more than 3 times you will be charged $10 for every 50GB over.

I sent an email to my favorites, VUDU, and they replied with some byte estimates for me.  Thank you VUDU!

For SD (standard definition which is great for us) you can estimate (depending on the length of the movie but for a typical 2 hour movie) about 1.5GB. For HD the estimate doubles to about 3GB, and for HDX (which is awesome by the way) 8GB.

Soooo, if I watched nothing but HDX movies, I would burn through the 150GB cap after watching 18.75 HDX movies.  Hmmmm, I would be happy with that, but, we use the Internet for sooo much more than movies…

I remember a year or two ago Comcast announcing the same kind of capping…what ever happened to that?  Is that still in effect?  Well, now, DSL users will be getting it.

What does this mean?

Well…..if you are like me, you are watching TV and Movies (all kinds….) via the Internet, or you are a heavy duty gamer or surfer, or you participate in video conferencing, web conferencing, video chat, etc.  The Internet provides a great transport mechanism.

Maybe that will be changing….?

We watch VUDU movies in HDX, HD, or SD all the time (4 to 5 times a month…see ForCarol.com for my short movie reviews).

If I am subject to capping…will that limit the number of movies I watch?  If so, I am not happy about that.

Livestream Video Streaming on Facebook

OK, this is cool.

A few seconds after I downloaded the free app “Livestream Podcaster” I was streaming live video from the AltamontCowork public computer to Facebook!

I have tried Justin TV and Ustream as our “Virtual Window” but both dropped the calls, after awhile, within a few minutes.  Hmmmm, I wonder if it was Comcast limiting me?

Sooo, I’m trying Livestream.  Looks like the same software as Justin TV and Ustream and I still have Comcast, so I’m pretty sure, one way or another, the calls will start dropping.  No matter, this is cool anyway.

One really nice feature is you can give a live presentation using slides and video and audio to a Facebook audience.  See picture below.

Sweeet.

Ads interrupt the video stream every few minutes.

I won’t be doing this long term, but, as a cool experiment (and blog entry), it was fun playing with it.

My Opinion

The world of video communication (either interactive or one way streaming) is moving at lightspeed right now and I am seeing nearly all the predictions, hopes, and dreams I had for this technology the past 20 years coming to fruition!   WhooHoo!

Great stuff!

Now all I need to do is find something that will come true now….so I can live to see it.

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Help us raise awareness of unsafe teen driving and the need for parents to enforce curfews.

VUDU Review 2

my-vudu

Rating:  5 WaterTowers (still nearly perfect)

After you are done here:  See my original review of VUDU.

This weekend we recieved our new Vudu system.   As you may already know, we love Vudu and we used it for a long time before I actually had to remind Vudu that we had the demo unit.

Life was miserable without Vudu.  Now we have our own, and in the two months or so we have been without it, there have been some cool additions to the service.  Not surprising since they update a lot.

Cool New Features

The first new feature I noticed was the addition of a rating by the “community” in addition to the rating by the “critics”.  In my opinion, the “community” rating means more to me.

The next feature I noticed was “Vudu Labs”.  This is an area where Vudu is testing new applications.  I really love this!  Figure 1 shows a screen shot.

Vudu Labs Experimental Features

Figure 1: Vudu Labs Experimental Features

Within Vudu Labs, we can:

  • View YouTube videos (including our own)
  • View publically available Flickr pictures (again, including our own)
  • Watch special streamed video from categories such as New, Sports, Entertainment and more.  For example, I watched a CNN update for Sunday. Very cool.  :-)
  • There are games.  The old Asteroid game from, I believe, the Atari (how many of you remember that?)  days has been upgraded….and I still lose.  There are also several versions of solitaire.

Adult content has also been added.  I suppose to be totally objective, I will have to review this portion as well.  ;-)  Stay tuned.  What I have seen so far is that Vudu “After Dark” takes you into a different set of tabs.  I believe (I will check and update) that that can be password protected to keep the young’uns away.

Installation

Installation proceeded normally until I got to the page that said it was “Updating Content”  (see figure 2).  I got to that stage pretty late at night and decided to let it run over night.

Updating Content Page

Figure 2: Updating Content Page

Unfortunately, when I woke up it was still on that page.  I pondered what to do and finaly rebooted Vudu.

After the reboot, it found my account, did a bandwidth test, and took only about 10 or 15 minutes to move past the offending page.

TelBitConsulting says:  Not sure if this happens a lot, but, it would have been nice to have the option of getting out of that mode without rebooting.

Updated Diagram

Figure 3 shows the latest schematic.  The video and audio from every component is terrific.

Schematic Diagram of Home Entertainment

Figure 3: Schematic Diagram of Home Entertainment

We now have a full complement of clickers lining up under the TV (Figure 4), and the new Black Box 3 to 1 HMDI interface box is now full.

Clickers Galore

Figure 4: Clickers Galore

I connected the Vudu to port 3 of the Black Box, and to the Cable / Sat audio input on the Bose since my TV inputs have run out.

Summary

We now have our own Vudu.  How cool is that!

Let’s hope that Vudu can stay in business in this awful economy (I have seen some web pages referring to this).  From my point of view, escaping reality by watching movies, is something we all need.  Our own stimulus package.

Vudu ROCKS!!!

Justin TV: A Quick Peek

I found a gold mine of lost blog entries!  Here is another…

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TracyVirtualOffice Justin TV Page

TracyVirtualOffice Justin TV Page

Rating:  4 WaterTowers (Internet streaming made easy)

Justin TV allows you to stream live video and audio over the Internet.  It took me all of two minutes to sign up and start streaming.

Very easy and very cool.   :-)

I can see tons of applications for this, and I’m sure there are thousands already on Justin TV.  For us at the TracyVirtualOffice and maybe other coworking locations or businesses / education, I can see Lectures being streamed, meetings being streamed (like the TweetUP we just hosted), and when I am at home…this is an efficient security system!  We can connect coworking locations worldwide as easy as 3.14.

Official announcement:  The TracyVirtualOffice now has it’s own LIVE  stream (8:30 AM to 5:00 PM, PST) that you can watch at two locations:

1. The TVO Web Page

2. Justin TV Web Page

Take a look…just don’t get bored!  ;-)

My New Slogan: “TracyVirtualOffice TV: As Exciting as Watching Corn Grow”

I will occasionally turn the web cam inward so you can see the TracyVirtualOffice in action, but, I’ll wait until we have a few more members.  Right now, we are as interesting as the parking lot.   ;-)

What Am I Using?

I am using the TracyVirtualOffice emachines computer, running Vista, with a Logitech 9000 web cam.  I have Comcast Business Internet with 2.5 Mbps upstream and 20 Mbps, or more, downstream and the Google Chrome browser.

The Justin TV application is running in “Good” mode (see picture below) and it automatically selected an upstream BW of about 450 kbps.  I see no slowing of the Internet at that bit rate which is good.

The video quality at the viewer end appears to be very good (Comments?).  Note that I have muted audio for privacy, but, when it was on it worked very well.

Features

As a viewer:

You can watch the video at the default size or make it full screen.  You can chat with other viewers and the broadcaster.   You see updated list of the number of viewers, the number of fans, and the number of views since broadcasting started.   And you can change the audio volume.  The embed and link codes are there if you want to use them.

As the owner:

Justin TV Control Panel

Justin TV Control Panel

You can record video.

I did that yesterday but I have not been able to find it.  Maybe because I am using Chrome?  The recording seems to work ok, but, it never shows up in the designated spot.  I’ll give Firefox and IE a try over the next few days and let you know what happens.

You can change the video quality

The default is “Good” but there is a “Best” as well.  Since “Good” is running at 450 kbps, I have not yet fired up the “Best”.  450 kbps is plenty good for me.  :-)

You can personalize your Justin TV page

I uploaded a properly sized (650 x 125 pixel) logo, changed the coloring, and uploaded a background picture of our mug.  It all worked out very nicely.   See the picture at the top.

You can embed the video on your web page

Justin TV provides links and embed code that you can copy.  The picture shows how it looks on my web page.

TracyVirtualOffice TV Web Page

TracyVirtualOffice TV Web Page

You can link to it here to give it a whirl.  You have to click on the arrow button to start the video.  Once it is running, you can change the audio (we are muted), view the video in full-screen, and stop the video.  There is a link to the Justin TV site below the video feed.

I just wonder what the this will do to the data transfer rate of the web site?  Does the video feed thru it?  Or does it get fed somehow thru Justin TV?

Here is a full screen shot from the web site feed:

 

Full Screen from TVO Web Site Feed

Full Screen from TVO Web Site Feed

Summary

Not to long ago streaming video over the Internet was a difficult process requiring specialized equipment and expertise.  Those days are gone!

Justin TV brings this capabilty to the average person while providing excellent quality video and audio.  And the price is right….it is free.  Justin TV is super easy to set up and use.

All in all……a  super app!  :-)

As for my new slogan…..”TracyVirtualOffice TV: As Exciting as Watching Corn Grow”!  Believe me, I have experience there, my Masters Degree Thesis (University of Kansas) was on “The Coherent Optical Determination of the Leaf Angle Distribution of Corn”.  Many many (wonderful) hours spent in the cornfields of Kansas.

VUDU Price Reduced

next-web

If you have not read my VUDU Review blog, now may be a good time.  

The basic VUDU unit (good enuf for me) is now selling for $149.00.  

Watching movies downloaded from the Internet has never been so easy and so enjoyable.  I gave VUDU 5 WaterTowers a year ago and only recently had to send it back (hey….I finally reminded them I had it, since they did say they would call me if they needed it back).

Not to worry, for $149.00 we are buying one (from Best Buy)!  It should be here in a day or two since, apparently, Tracy, CA is not the hot bed of activity for VUDU’s.  It should be!

I recommend VUDU to anyone reading this….you will not be disappointed.  

When I get it, I’ll post another review, as an update, and also post new schematics which include the Black Box Catalog HDMI 3 to 1 device I got for Christmas.  

Even though we have a Blu-Ray player now, I expect VUDU to be our primary movie watching mechanism.  One seemingly insignificant thing:  We miss searching for an actor or director to see when they were born…VUDU made that easy!

Have a nice weekend!  

I’m gonna take a few days off….and watch some movies!

Test Your Network Connection

Google has added some capabilities (via collaborations) that, when fully operational, will allow you to do some pretty detailed testing of your Internet connection. 

See this article for all the information (well, not all, but, some pretty good stuff).  One of my heros from my college days when I was learning communication technology,Vint Cerf, has something to do with this.  :-)

I have mentioned in previous blogs that if Internet providers impose limits on access; watching movies via the Internet could be adversely affected.  

Here is the link to the test site.  

The information could be especially helpful to those of us who videoconference and want the best video quality we can get.  One question you might ask is:  Is your provider providing the upstream bit rate you are paying for?  In my case I am paying for 384 kbps upstream.  

I tried a few tests and only one worked.  This may be due to traffic, or we may be a bit early and they may not have all the pieces in place.  Technology takes time.  :-)

TelBitConsulting says:  This is interesting, and useful, information for customers who want to know more about their network connectivity.  And it couldn’t come at a better time.  

Quick Test

I ran a quick test to see if my DSL provider (AT&T) was limiting BitTorrent traffic on my line.  Note, according to the BitTorrent web site, it’s technology is:  “the global standard for accessing rich media over the Internet.”

Here are the results:

Is BitTorrent traffic on a well-known BitTorrent port (6881) throttled?

* The BitTorrent upload (seeding) worked. Our tool was successful in uploading data using the BitTorrent protocol.

* There’s no indication that your ISP rate limits your BitTorrent uploads. In our tests a TCP upload achieved minimal 389 Kbps while a BitTorrent upload achieved maximal 394 Kbps. 

* The BitTorrent download worked. Our tool was successful in downloading data using the BitTorrent protocol.

* There’s no indication that your ISP rate limits your BitTorrent downloads. In our tests a TCP download achieved minimal 636 Kbps while a BitTorrent download achieved maximal 641 Kbps.

Is BitTorrent traffic on a non-standard BitTorrent port (10009) throttled?

* The BitTorrent upload (seeding) worked. Our tool was successful in uploading data using the BitTorrent protocol.

* There’s no indication that your ISP rate limits your BitTorrent uploads. In our tests a TCP download achieved minimal 384 Kbps while a BitTorrent download achieved maximal 389 Kbps.

* The BitTorrent download worked. Our tool was successful in downloading data using the BitTorrent protocol.

* There’s no indication that your ISP rate limits your BitTorrent downloads. In our tests a TCP download achieved minimal 629 Kbps while a BitTorrent download achieved maximal 640 Kbps.

Is TCP traffic on a well-known BitTorrent port (6881) throttled?

* There’s no indication that your ISP rate limits all downloads at port 6881. In our test, a TCP download on a BitTorrent port achieved at least 636 Kbps while a TCP download on a non-BitTorrent port achieved at least 629 Kbps.

* There’s no indication that your ISP rate limits all uploads at port 6881. In our test, a TCP upload on a BitTorrent port achieved at least 389 Kbps while a TCP upload on a non-BitTorrent port achieved at least 384 Kbps.

Inauguration Online Video Viewing Stats

inauguration-01-20-2009

According to this report on CNN, the Internet broke some records during the Inauguration yesterday.  

Really quickly: 

1. Akamai says that 7.7 million people watched at the same time ( I suppose that means the peak simultaneous usage was 7.7 mil).  

2. Over a time span of hours, CNN hosted almost 27 million viewers (of which I was one).  This broke a record by a factor of 5.  Pretty impressive.

3. CNN also reports 1.3 mil simultaneous users just before President Obama’s speech. 

4. Even President Obama chimed in after the Inauguration on Twitter.  Gotta love him!  

Hmmmm, I wonder what it would be like to post:  “I just finished my acceptance speech for President of the U.S.A”  “Going to a Ball now.”  “Catch u later.”

While some people had trouble, I was off and on all day and did not have any problems.  Guess the technology knows who not to mess with ;-)

 With news, entertainment (including new original content), and Internet Movies streaming to players such as VUDU, NetFlix, Blockbuster, not to mention all the IP videoconferencing…the future looks exciting.  

TelBitConsulting says:  The Internet is very quickly becoming a streaming video powerhouse.   Our new tech savvy President will help technology and science flourish once again.  

PS: Do you know how hard it is to spell Inauguration?  There a some extra u’s in there that can be deleted as far as I am concerned  :-)

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