Wash, Interesting

Netflix: No more renting DVDs from smart devices

netflix.com Director of Product Management Jamie O’Dell announced today that the company will no longer allow customers to add physical DVDs to their queue from streaming devices such as the PS3 and iPhone. The claim is that they are trying to “concentrate on offering you the titles that are available to watch instantly.” The powers-that-be at Netflix apparently feel that “providing the option to add a DVD to your Queue from a streaming device complicates the instant watching experience and ties up resources that are better used to improve the overall streaming functionality.”

The problem with this thought process is that many subscribers feel this is a huge step backwards. The desktop computer is becoming more obsolete in the days of mobile devices. Why, then, is Netflix only wanting to allow you to add movies to your queue when logged into the website itself? According to the comments being left on the announcement, people aren’t very happy – to say the least.

What are your thoughts? Is Netflix making the right move here, or have they gone a bit off the deep end?

3,900 Saturdays

I get a ton of emails each day.  Newsletters, advertisements, actual valuable work info, etc.  Several weeks ago I got a newsletter/advertisement email that contained this story.  Then today I got the same message... believing that things don't just happen.  I thought I should share the story.  Hope you enjoy!

The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday morning. Perhaps it's the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe it's the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the garage with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it:

I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind; he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whomever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles." I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say.

"Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you're busy with your job. I'm sure they pay you well but it's a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. It's too bad you missed your daughter's dance recital," he continued; "Let me tell you something that has helped me keep my own priorities." And that's when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles."

"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years.

Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3,900, which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now, stick with me, Tom, I'm getting to the important part.

It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail," he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round up 1,000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear.

Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away. I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life.

There's nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.

Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure that if I make it until next Saturday then I have been given a little extra time. And the one thing we can all use is a little more time.

It was nice to meet you Tom. I hope you spend more time with your family, and I hope to meet you again here on the band. This is a 75 year old man, K9NZQ, clear and going QRT, good morning!"

You could have heard a pin drop on the band when this fellow signed off. I guess he gave us all a lot to think about. I had planned to work on the antenna that morning, and then I was going to meet up with a few hams to work on the next club newsletter.

Instead, I went upstairs and woke my wife up with a kiss. "C'mon honey, I'm taking you and the kids to breakfast." 

"What brought this on?" she asked with a smile.

"Oh, nothing special, it's just been a long time since we spent a Saturday together with the kids. And hey, can we stop at a toy store while we're out? I need to buy some marbles."



A Big Step Forward for The Hobbit and James Bond

With a burst of hopeful feeling for The Hobbit and the James Bond franchise, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced today that it has found new management and can finally tuck itself into the ugly chrysalis of bankruptcy proceedings and emerge as a bee-yutiful production company.  Gary Barber and Roger Birnbaum (founders of Spyglass Entertainment) will become its new CEOs, effective as soon as its bankruptcy proceedings have been worked through.


This agreement with Spyglass will allow MGM to keep the arrangements it has already made on movies currently in production, while giving the company the time (and financial leeway) to reduce itself to a production company only.  MGM’s film distribution would be handled by Spyglass, who will be merging the company with a couple of other movie studios… it all gets very complicated, but you can take a look at the official statement at Deadline, if your tastes run that way.

Now that MGM is on a firm path towards climbing out of its $4 billion of debt, it can actually look at maybe making some money.  The Hobbit and James Bond are two of the biggest brands MGM has in their library, and so as ScreenRant puts it: “it’s now a matter of when and not if we’ll see them made.”

Between studio fires, actors disputes, and a conspicuously empty director’s chair, MGM’s money problems haven’t been the only thing standing in the way of a smooth production for The Hobbit, but consider this one more obstacle removed.  James Bond’s 23rd installment is comparatively unfettered.  Daniel Craig is signed for three more Bond movies, so that’s not a problem.  Hopefully we’ll see some movement on the two franchises soon.


Twitter unveils new home page - with added video, images and more

We were promised some big news from Twitter yesterday, but what it rolled out actually exceeded my expectations. New Twitter, the latest version of the Twitter home page, actually looks really strong. And for the first time it could mean that serious Twitter users start looking beyond third party apps like Seesmic, Tweetdeck and my favorite Hootsuite and use the home page.


It splits the home page in half. So one half is a person's tweets as is the case now, but the other features a range of options including replies, more tweets from the same user, a map showing where the tweet was sent from, or embedded media.

The smart bit is that when you click on person's tweet you can see the images/video they have added.

The revamped page, which is being rolled out across the network from now but doesn't seem to be available in the UK yet, carries out three key tasks for Twitter.

For more on what the revamp might mean for Twitter and apps like Tweetdeck click here.

Helping Others in Burn Notice

In Philippians Paul says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” These seem to be among the hardest commands in Scripture to carry out. Partly, this is true because humans are selfish creatures, and partly it's true because over time the instructions within these verses have been misrepresented repeatedly until their meaning is twisted in our minds. Just as Jesus’ words in Matthew, "Blessed are the meek" have incorrectly become synonymous with lifetimes of doormat-hood in some circles, the idea of not only looking after our own interests but also looking after the interests of others has become the springboard for many misguided journeys in which people shortchange their contributions, dreams, passions and needs out of a belief that the Bible actually says everyone else's life is more important than our own.

Even knowing that the true meaning of this passage encourages those who would dare to live their lives according to the principles laid out in the Bible to look after the interests of others while they pursue their own interests as well has not made these commands easier to follow. Understanding the simultaneous nature of pursuing personal interests and protecting others' interests makes the commands less constraining but definitely not easier to follow. For me, I think this is true because so few people get the balance right. I know I don't. While we see a lot of examples at either unhealthy extreme, there aren't a lot of places that we can look to see someone who is full-out pursuing the life that they want personally but is still willing to turn aside and do whatever they can to meet the needs and serve the interests of those around them. But I have found one example to watch this summer. I’m guessing a lot of you watch, too.

His story begins this way: "My name is Michael Weston. I used to be a spy ... When you're burned, you've got nothing … You're stuck in whatever city they decide to dump you in. You do whenever work comes your way ... Bottom line: as long as you're burned, you're not going anywhere.” In case nothing is sounding familiar yet, this is the opening sequence from USA network's espionage series Burn Notice. The foundational plot line of the show over time deals with Michael's efforts to discover who burned him, so he can go back to being a spy. As I have watched the show recently, however, I have noticed that almost every episode involves Michael and his friends helping to protect someone else—from clueless civilians of every variety to, most recently, a retired Cold War spy unaware of the danger headed his way—while they continue the journey to find and confront the person who burned Michael.

Certainly, while Burn Notice routinely hits its mark as entertainment, it is not particularly spiritual or even morally grounded in many of its plot lines (aside from the pattern that some good usually triumphs over some evil). Having said that, Michael Weston’s example of pursuing the thing that he most wants personally while continually also focusing on the needs of those around him who can benefit from the specialized skill set he has developed presents a potent visual of what balancing personal interests with the interests of others might look like. I don’t know about you, but sometimes, all I need is a good visual that connects with the truth I already know to keep me interested in the story—the one written each week for the show and the one I’m writing every day with my life.

Apple Mac

Red-Green style fix for iPhone 4

It's not the sort of thing you expect from Apple and certainly not from the beautiful smooth-running iPhone 4, but turns out there's a hardware flaw. And if Apple don't issue a recall to fix it, you might have to do it yourself, maybe with some duct tape.

It's to do with the stainless steel strip around the outside, the externalised aerial. If you touch the gap in the aerial while on a phone call, signal plummets, often to the level where you could lose a call.


Rumors of this had been milling around on the internet, where people christened the particular hold that tripped the phone up as the "death grip". But Consumer Reviews did some in-lab testing on the new phone, proved the fault and went so far as to withdraw their recommendation for the phone until Apple has issued a hardware recall (fairly inconceivable).

Their solution is simply to cover the gap in the metal strip up with something non-conductive, like duct tape.

Or of course, just to be careful how you hold it.


Have you experienced this problem?

it's not that easy, zooey

Hulu's New Pay Service

Hulu's move to start a pay service for $9.99 a month isn't new in the world of television. It actually follows one of the now-oldest alternative platforms of TV, which really got going in the late '70s: pay cable TV networks.

And while some may complain about Hulu's move, here is the good news for media executives: the pay TV platform is thriving.

HBO, Showtime, Starz and others are growing, so much so that other media companies -- like Viacom, MGM and Lionsgate -- believe that there is room for another pay cable group, Epix.

When TV companies shook the entertainment world about five years ago by taking their TV shows online, critics almost universally noted that pay cable TV networks in particular would be hurt by this move.

That never happened. In fact, those networks have thrived. HBO is now at some 41 million subscribers, pulling down just under $4 billion in revenue from cable subscriber fees. Profit margins for pay TV channels have grown to 30%, up from 20% in recent years.

It's no surprise the big media partners behind Hulu -- Walt Disney, News Corp. and NBC Universal -- have been very verbal in their proclamations they want a part of Hulu to be a pay service.  It's their content, after all.

While a free, advertising-supported TV service fosters some nice consumer feeling, media executives know consumers will pay up for entertainment stuff they want.

Everyone worries that the prospective owner of NBC Universal -- Comcast Corp -- might morph the NBC network into a cable channel. 

They won't have to. Future NBC programming through Hulu or other digital platforms will surely have a consumer fee component, if not a combo consumer fee and advertising revenue component.

Of course, initial consumer response to Hulu's paywall was negative. Almost 83% of those surveyed in an iTunes poll said it was a bad idea.

Perhaps the real competition for pay TV and premium sites like Hulu is the other big form of entertainment: theatrical films. At $15 or $20 a visit for one theatrical movie (with snacks), pay TV and pay-Hulu, with even bigger in-home TV screens looking to compete with in-theater screens, might be viewed as a deal for around $10 a month.

Consumers may be upset now. Unlike pay cable in the 70's, Hulu is entering an exploding market dominated by consumer choice. Netflix, iTunes, Google TV, etc are just a few of the subscription services that compete directly, or indirectly, with Hulu Plus. The backlash over Hulu's selection, price, and decision to include ads in Plus shouldn't be taken lightly as long as consumers feel they have a wealth of competing options, and content, to choose from.

Until Hulu Plus becomes the only way for people to watch old episodes of broadcast television (and until old episodes of broadcast television become the new must-have entertainment), Hulu's going to have work hard to win their customers.

job well done, spike

NBC congratulates Conan

"NBC congratulates Conan": That's the official statement from the Peacock Network.

Yeah. But I'm sure we won't see any NBC on-air promos to that effect.

Snickers all around, I'm sure.

In an unusual Emmy marketing campaign, TBS -- who will get the services of Conan O'Brien come the fall -- manages to reap the rewards in getting O'Brien nominated for his efforts as the host of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien." 

NBC's Jay Leno wasn't nominated. Not even David Letterman (that's the first time that's happened since 1993). More snickers, I'm sure.  

"Everyone at TBS is excited to see Conan get this well-deserved recognition, and we're proud that he'll be joining our network in November," Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks, said in a statement.   

Of course, Koonin knows a thing or two about marketing, coming to Turner years ago as a long time marketing executive at this little soft-drink company based in Atlanta.  It must have to do with the alphabet. Like Conan, that soft-drink company's name begins with the letter 'C'.

What could NBC say beyond what it did? Not much. Few networks let go of a TV show that is on the verge of winning an award. Even then, awards don't pay the electric bills at NBC. Maybe that should be the message: "We love our shows. We love when they get nominated. But awards hardware can't start up our generators when the ratings storms take us down." 

Now, if TBS wants to do something really unique and cool, it could start up a new series of TV promos this summer -- not just touting O'Brien's upcoming late-night talker, but mentioning that his nomination was specifically for his tenure at a NBC show.  

And then, when the promo is all done, TBS could say in big, bold letters: "Thanks, NBC. From here on it's... Nothing But Conan."


The Solution Was in ... Holland?

Everyone knows how bad the BP oil spill is by now. But apparently it didn't have to be this bad. After it happened, Holland (who has an intense oil clean-up system in place) offered the U.S. its full services to clean up almost all of the oil. Only the U.S. said "no" because "really clean" isn't clean enough ...

This is frustrating—apparently Holland had the technology to clean up the oil spill. And the US said no