Netflix…baby steps: unlimited instant viewing

Netflix did it. The finally gave me unlimited access to their library (see official announcement below). I now have unlimited hours of viewing from their “instant viewing” site. The library they have is growing and the player is decent. The only problem is having to view content on your laptop or hooking the ‘puter up to your tv.

I love this feature. In fact, I called Netflix and asked to cancel the mailing of DVD’s and just use the instant viewing. Made sense to me as I watch most of my stuff through instant viewing, and I figured I would reduce my carbon footprint a little too.

Customer service agent told me that is not possible. You have to subscribe to the mailings to receive the instant viewing. Seems kind of silly and so I hope the next move for Netflix is to give us a instant viewing only price.

Anyway, Im going to enjoy the unlimited viewing for now. The idea of being able to watch any movie, anywhere, at anytime is absolutely amazing. Now that it is unlimited I can just throw it on like a tv channel. I can feel the future of tv and internet streaming getting closer.

Thanks for the competition Apple and keep it coming.


My official email from Netflix:

Now you get even more

Dear steven,

As part of your current Netflix subscription, you have the option to watch some movies and TV episodes from the Netflix library instantly on your PC at no additional charge. Now, we’ve made it unlimited!

So watch instantly on your PC when you want, and as often as you want. Select from our separate, smaller library of over 6,000 familiar movies and TV episodes available to watch instantly.

– Your friends at Netflix

Gadgets Dreams for 2008

The recent CES convention that I have been following prompted me to write up my 2008 gadget resolutions. Their are so many things I want!

Media Center PC

Currently, I take my laptop plug it into my LCD, switch over to projector mode, and then play content. I have no remote and my laptop is effectively locked for the duration of the show. I want a dedicated PC for my TV. I would need to have wireless connectivity, a remote, and small size. I will only be using it for streaming content, although, it would be nice to have some storage space. I’m not really into the “ownership” thing, I just want to watch tv. Still storing my epic music collection would be cool, especially hooked up to the surround sound.

A Robot

Will this be the year I get one? He (or she?) will need to be able to recharge himself. I don’t want to come home and find him powerless in the middle of the floor. Plus, he will need to be dog/cat friendly. Maybe he will need to battle with them, or maybe just keep them occupied for a few hours. In fact, if that is all he does I would be happy. Maybe he will do some household duties (vacuuming), play music on command (I’ll ask nicely), or just be a third pet (I always wanted a gecko).

Wireless iTunes Sync

Podcasts, I love them. iTunes I love you. Both of you work very hard to get me the content I want. You consantly update and are always full of new content. Too bad I only get a change to “sync” with you every few days. Wouldn’t it be nice to just drop my Apple gear close by, auto-sync, and then be good to go?

5 Wireless Devices

I am close. I have 3: my laptop, iphone, and bluetooth headset. What will be my next two? Hopefully a media center pc and robot!

New Laptop

My current baby (Dell XPS M170) got its first “slap in the face” in 2007. Guitar Hero 3 said that she wasn’t good enough for it. Stupid game requires dual core processors. Regardless, techies around the world know that as soon as you feel the “out of date” wave coming, it’s time to start shopping. For me, I want a cool Apple laptop or a PC gaming laptop…

High Def DVD & Xbox 360

These are my last wishes (for now). I don’t care which format I get, I just hope the industry sorts itself out this year, so I can buy one. Also, I will finally have to decide whether I want a Wii or 360…I can’t decide!!

Why the Presidential Elections are Broken

Its actually very simple: money

Not only is that why they are broken, but it is also the main issue of this election. People can ask questions all they want about health care, Iraq, immigration, taxes, etc. It doesn’t matter though. Candidates won’t even stay around long enough to answer them if they don’t have money. Some are already expected to drop out because of the money issue. These drop-outs are not poor either. Take a look at this, pulled from Wikipedia and fully referenced:

The reported cost of campaigning for President has increased significantly in recent years. One source reported that if the costs for both Democratic and Republican campaigns are added together (for the Presidential primary election, general election, and the political conventions) the costs have more than doubled in only eight years ($448.9 million in 1996, $649.5 million in 2000, and $1.01 billion in 2004). In January 2007, Federal Election Commission Chairman Michael Toner estimated that the 2008 race will be a “$1 billion election,” and that to be “taken seriously,” a candidate will need to raise at least $100 million by the end of 2007. [6]

That’s right. To win the election and become president you have to earn a large fortune.

Problem: Bad Qualities

The primary skill our president needs to have is the ability to get money. What kind of qualities does that breed? Does it accurately reflect what qualities they will need in office?

I don’t think so.

The ability to make good moral decisions. The ability to negotiate complex issues that can benefit the most people. The ability to work with world leaders, generals, lobbyists, and the average American. These are the abilities that are required in office.

When the elections become about money, you lose those qualities. They become second tier qualities.

Just look at the last 2 presidents. Each one faced major scandals and issues. Almost all relating to bad moral choices. Now, I am not saying that being president is easy. It’s one of the hardest jobs in the world, I mean every president ages quickly and often has serious health problems. But, they get million dollar budgets, large staffs, and plenty of information. With all of that I think they all have no excuse for any of these scandals and problems.

Issue: Cutthroat

In this intense race to make 100 million, candidates are forced to become evil. They have to. Making money is not about baking cookies, working hard, and doing what is right. It is about making money. Nothing else stands in the way, everything else is secondary.

Guess what happens to candidates who “do the right thing” in politics? They win respect, but they don’t win elections.

Issue: We all lose

Does anyone actually benefit from this accelerating spending pattern. The average American is feeling more disconnected, leaderless, and disenfranchised than ever. Big donors might, but even they lose influence when so many big donors are required for each candidate. Politicians themselves, they lose the most. They lose their time, families, and morality.

The honest truth is that the road to the presidency is not one of democracy, morality, or leadership.

Resolution: Cap Election Spending

Democratize the process. Put a cap on spending that is low enough to allow more candidates to participate. Open up the leadership pool beyond the most famous, richest, and most “networked”.

Find a number that is fair for both big interests and the average American. Make candidates choose which check to accept and stop forcing them to accept all checks. Make it a process that allows the candidate to stop fund raising at some point and start discussing issues.

All of this is reasonable and possible.

Please, join me in this thought by signing your name on this virtual petition. All you have to do is read the paragraph and then sign your name if you agree. If you need help editing the page, please leave a comment about your question.

With enough signatures I will submit this petition to our elected officials and news outlets. Thank you.

Legal full-length embeddable high-quality movies. Unreal

Yesterday, I was able to watch Master and Commander on What a strange experience…

Watching a “tv movie” on my laptop, except it is hooked up to my tv. I’m using a DVI cable to make the video connection and an audio jack to get the sound going. Streaming across a wireless connection I get a high-quality movie for free on my 40 inch LCD tv.

Weird, that some folks are critical of hulu for leaving you tube, but it is part of a growing trend. Personally, I don’t care. I watch content from tons of sites and whichever one can get it right is where I will go.

The interesting part is going to be how Hulu handles commercials going forward. In the movie embedded below there is one about every 10 minutes or so. The normal tv shows are still under 1 hour, coming in at about 45 minutes. Those episodes usually have 5-6 commercials total.

This is obviously a huge improvement from what cable and broadcast tv offers. Its free, on demand, and with less commercials. I just hope that Hulu doesn’t get greedy and start pumping up the amount of commercials…

If they do the internet is open enough that I can just move somewhere else!

Here is Master and Commander for your feature movie enjoyment:

The title of this blog is a quote pulled from the comments about the film, written by user, mos6507

Digital Exhaust

A quick, but non academic search, shows no definition of this term. It is one that my colleagues and I have been using for a while. I hope to get a quick sketch of this term here, for a piece I am writing.


  • Expressed in numerical form, especially for use by a computer. [1]
  • Digital information is stored using a series of ones and zeros. Computers are digital machines because they can only read information as on or off — 1 or 0. This method of computation, also known as the binary system, may seem rather simplistic, but can be used to represent incredible amounts of data. [2]
  • Traditionally, digital means the use of numbers and the term comes from digit, or finger. Today, digital is synonymous with computer. [3]


  • To let out or draw off. [4]
  • Pertaining to steam, air, gas, etc., that is released from the cylinder of an engine after having preformed its work. [5]
  • to draw off or let out completely, as from a container [6]

Two very interesting terms. One relating primarily to computers and electronic mediums. The other relating mostly to automobiles and their exhaust systems. The combination of the terms is designed to bring a similar thought to mind. One where the electronic medium produces its own exhaust system. The output is not air, gas, pollutants but instead photos, videos, blogs, and more. It is this representation that leads me to this definition…

Digital Exhaust:

  • The output of human beings using the internet.
  • The production of vast amounts of information in binary code, represented as words, texts, videos, photos and other mediums, expressed on computers and websites, and distributed across the internet.
  • The individual representation of a person using the aggregate of their past interactions on the internet.

Senate Hearing Discusses Web 2.0 to Improve our Democracy

Wow, I am really excited. Something amazing happened yesterday, Dec 11, 2007, for the American people, democracy, and my work. I will try to break it down for you in a simplified way. The story is pulled from several statements, 60 plus pages, and a Senate Hearing. Here it is:

A Congressional Hearing was called by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins to discuss the state of the web, our government, and web 2.0. They invited Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), Google, the OMB, and the Center for Internet and Democracy.

The session was all about opening up our government websites to the people of America (and the world) by introducing collaboration and transparency into the process of democracy. Senator Susan Mullins, in her opening remarks, states that the internet has been around for 20 years, but the “federal commitment to the web…is only 5 years old” (see E-Gov, 2002). Meaning that they have a lot of catching up to do.

First on the agenda was search engines. A Pew study conducted in 2004 shows that 77% of Americans get information about their government via search engines [1, pdf]. Furthermore JL Needham, of Google, stated that, “we can assume that this already impressive number has risen farther” since 2004. I can easily imagine this number today being in the 90th percentile.

The speakers go on to demonstrate that a surprisingly large amount of publicly available government information is not searchable. They cite various reasons, one being that websites are using *robots.txt* files, which prohibit search engines from “crawling” the data. The conclusion and recommendations from all was that this needs to change. Senator Lieberman, even questioned whether this was an accident or just simply “not going the extra mile”.

Imagine what resources could be made available to anyone using a search engine once this issue is resolved. We are talking about science reports, emergency information, available grants, and much more.

The second recommendation was for the government to embrace collaboration and openness. Not only within the government but with the American people. In the words of Senator Lieberman,

“Today, we will also examine how new collaborative technologies can strengthen interaction among government agencies and the public. Jimmy Wales – the founder of Wikipedia, the most thrilling example of what collaborative technology can produce – will walk us through the concepts behind Wikipedia and how similar technologies can be applied to government for greater information sharing, collaboration, and communication both within government and with the public.”

That was his opening line! To his credit, Mr. Wales impressively laid out the business process and features of Wikipedia in a clear and simple way. Making sure to answer some of the more controversial aspects of the online encyclopedia, while also providing examples of how the process can be used for government agencies.

His prepared speech impressed me the most and I recommend reading it (pdf). In it he discusses how the First Amendment, freedom of speech, is being both protected and fulfilled in Wikipedia, and how this very same process can,

“…improve our government’s ability to gather and share information for increased security, for increased governmental responsiveness in our open society, and for the preservation of democratic values.”

His final recommendation was for the American government to use wiki’s, both internally and for the public. The public wiki angle excites me the most as this is something I have been asking for and speaking about for a while. Engaging the American people in a dialogue about our laws, amendments, problems, programs, and more using a wiki can have a tremendous impact on democracy in America. I can imagine our laws being drafted in a public wiki, and citizens can directly edit, discuss, and impact the laws of our federal, state, and local governments.

Forget, “get out the vote”, lets go with “wikify the government”.

I know things like this will definitely take time, but this is an important first step. Having the right people, saying the right things also helps too. What an exciting moment and an invigorating era to be alive in!

Reference Materials:

Further interesting observations:

Who knew lobbyists, or rather Google lobbysits, would be pushing for this?

Even more so, who knew that in 6 years a little known project called Wikipedia that called for “free access to the sum of all human knowledge” would be before Congress asking them to join in?

Senator Lieberman – Both the Legislative and Executive branches must “increase its transparency and expand its interactive relationship with the public “ [2, pdf]

JL Needham – “Making publicly available government information more accessible and useful to citizens…makes our democracy more transparent, accountable, and relevant to its citizens.”

Mr. Needham, again – “In the Web 2.0 world, where more and more citizens are using blogs, wikis, online mapping, video sharing services, and social networking sites to communicate and collaborate with each other, there will be even more demand for government to bring information to citizens where they are through these new platforms. This information will also help serve as a core component of the user-generated content that is driving the deeper engagement of Americans with each other, and with our democracy, through the Web.” [3, pdf]

President George HW Bush – “…expanding the use of the Internet and computer resources in order to deliver Government services, […] for a citizen-centered, results-oriented, and market-based Government.” [4]

Jimmy Wales – “it is important that governments use technology wisely to communicate with the public, and also to allow the public to communicate with the government.” [5, pdf]

Cake – Set List, Dec 10, 2007

Just got back from an awesome concert by Cake. They are the best band live I have ever seen. Here is the set list from the concert:

  • Frank SinatraView from the sound booth before the show
  • Sad songs and waltzes
  • Comfort eagle
  • Stickshift and safety belts
  • Shadow stabbing
  • Love you madly
  • Comanche
  • Friend is four letter word
  • Wheels
  • Guitar
  • Rock n roll lifestyle
  • Opera singerCake on stage
  • Never there

At this point the band left the stage…encore:

  • Short skirt long jacket
  • Pause for a tree giveaway (a blue spruce). Was given to Rusty and he had to promise to plant it and take a picture of him and it for the cake website.
  • Kenny rogers cover – ruby, don’t take your love to town
  • Black sabbath cover – war pigs

What a great show!

P.S. There was a cool intermission band to called, King City, they rocked the joint before Cake came on.

internet pop culture

Almost every time I hang out with a friend they drop some line on me like “have you seen this commercial?” or “did you watch the last episode of…?”.

The answer is usually no. I am almost completely removed from American pop culture. If you read my post titled, cancel your cable, you will like it, then you know that I have been cable free since Feb 2007. The results of this are strange and exciting, with some positive and negative aspects to it.

The negative first. I am somewhat removed from my friends and the average person. I can’t strike up that casual conversation with folks over pop culture that I used to, sometimes I miss that common ground… I also miss key tv events, like sports games on cable-only channels, music events on MTV, and other “special” pop culture moments.

Really, though, that is it. Everything else has been a boon to my life. I have more free time, I save money by avoiding the 100 dollar cable bill, and I avoid the always annoying commercial spam.

The free time does give me a chance to write more, which i love, but I still miss good content. For that I have turned to internet pop culture. On the net, I can watch full episodes of lots of tv shows, I can keep up with news, and there are even internet celebrities. And, more and more content is popping up. I can get content from the pro sources like ESPN, NBC, Comedy Central and user generated sources like audio/video podcasts and youtube.

At this point, I have all that I need and more. I love my new internet pop culture in all its nerdy goodness.

I hope to share this goodness with you through my delicious bookmarks tagged with swordplaytv and tvnews. Take a look below and feel free to share your bookmarks with me using that tag too:

+ Add me to your delicious network