Thursday, September 30, 2004

IBC Gadget Article

DMB Receivers from Korea

IBC was good this year. There was real stuff to see. Ideas that were whispered two or three years ago are now products you can play with rather than vapourware. But you had to be cheeky to find some of them. Marching up to the stands with a request for a 90 second product demonstration certainly helped to cut through the sales bitch, sorry, pitch. Camera man Dave Allen and I spent a couple of days preparing our "gadget safari", looking for products, including software, of interest to the independent producer.

Digital Lifestyles magazine has picked up on the presentation and now has the text and videos we shot online. I am thinking of starting a separate blog on "stuff for journalists". Anyone interested?

Dutch Invention?

Conference Bike

The Dutch love meetings. But this 9500 Euro bike is different. The conference bike is actually made in Germany and the video is not a joke...there really is such a thing. Now this is a novel way to lose weight - swapping hot air for fresh air.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Portable Audio Recorder

The new R1

Several companies have come with MP-3 or MPEG-2 recorders designed for radio journalists. They are all based on the use of flash memory. This is the latest from a US company called EditRol is being shown at a Photo fair in Cologne this week. Price in the UK is under 400 pounds. That makes it a lot cheaper than some of the competition. It does seem crazy that with all the radio reporters out there, many have to resort to Mini Disc which is notoriously unreliable.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Space Tourism

Today, UK entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson announced that his Virgin Group has entered into an agreement to license the technology to develop the world’s first privately funded spaceship. They are dedicated to carrying commercial passengers on space flights. The technology is currently owned by a Paul Allen company called Mojave Aerospace Ventures (‘M.A.V.’) and was originally developed to fulfil Paul Allen’s vision of building the world’s first privately funded, reusable space vehicle (‘SpaceShipOne’). This will undertake its first Ansari X Prize flight later this week. The licensing deal with M.A.V. could be worth up to £14 million ($21.5 million) over the next fifteen years depending on the number of spaceships built by Virgin.

Virgin has formed Virgin Galactic (‘V.G.’) a new company, which will become the world’s first commercial space tourism operator. It is envisaged that Virgin Galactic will open for business by the beginning of 2005 and subject to the necessary safety and regulatory approvals begin operating flights from 2007. The name was first registered and trade mark protection applied for in the mid 1990s. It is expected that around £60 million ($100 million) will be invested in developing the new generation of spaceships and ground infrastructure required to operate a sub orbital space tourism experience. Over five years Virgin expects to create around 3000 astronauts and the price per seat on each flight, which will include at least three days of pre-flight training, are expected to start at around £115,000 ($190,000).

I confess to having signed up - for more information. Having travelled on Virgin Trains though, I hope there are no breakdowns once this sort of thing becomes routine.

Sweden Pulls the Plug

Sweden is pulling the plug on parts of its analogue TV network starting in Autumn 2005. Gotland, Gaevle and Motala-Linkoeping will then follow what has already happened in Berlin - the death of analogue TV distribution. In order to continue viewing television in these areas you will have to connect a digital terrestrial TV box, cable television or satellite. Sweden will switch the last transmitter off in February 2008. My guess is that once the boxes drop in price, switch off will happen virtually un-noticed. Those who can prove hard-ship would simply get a free basic DTT box.

Holland is apparently planning something similar.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Smashing Big Time

A Bang Almost As Big as the Big One
Thanks to the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton observatory, an international team of scientists has observed a nearby head-on collision of two galaxy clusters that has smashed together thousands of galaxies and millions upon millions of stars. It is one of the most powerful events ever witnessed. Such collisions are second only to the Big Bang in total energy output. The event details what the scientists are calling the perfect cosmic storm: galaxy clusters that collided like two high-pressure weather fronts and created hurricane-like conditions, tossing galaxies far from their paths and churning shock waves of 100-million-degree gas through intergalactic space. The tiny dots in this artist's concept are galaxies containing thousand million of stars

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Sony's Secret New Phone

Sony has a secret new phone. The P910. So secret that it mentions it on the website, but no-one seems to want to tell me more. Is it delayed? Can I buy one (my P800 is falling apart and I HATE the chip fork you need to use the touch screen)? I send a message to the PR dept. No reply. I reply on the website - and become a case number!

Case: 40700372

Dear Sir,

With regards to your enquiry. Please put your request in writing and send it to the address below in order that it may be passed to the relevant department.

A mobile phone manufacturer who wants me to write a letter? Times have indeed changed. Case closed.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Global Broadband Tops 123M

Broadband adoption in the US is occurring at high speed, as research firm Point Topic finds a 55 percent year-over-year increase in the number of worldwide lines. DSL continues to account for the majority of the 123 million total subscriptions.

A deeper look at broadband in the UK by Ofcom reveals that roughly 5 million subscriptions provide high-speed access to more than one-third of Internet households. The firm estimates that almost 50,000 new broadband subscribers are added every week, up 10,000 over late 2003's additions.

A September 2004 report from the National Statistics Online shows steady increases in broadband subscriptions, growing from 17 percent of all connections in July 2003 to 31 percent after 12 months.

Internet users in the UK can choose from metered "pay-as-you-go" narrowband packages or an unmetered option that allows for unlimited access. Broadband hit a milestone in July 2004, as high-speed connections surpassed unmetered dial-up access in the UK. Just 29 percent of UK users connected via unlimited dial-up in July 2004 compared to 35 percent a year prior.

While the U.S. boasts nearly six times as many broadband users as the UK (29 million versus 5 million), they are very closely matched in terms of high-speed penetration among their respective bases of Internet users.

In the States, San Diego maintains its top-speed lead, with roughly 70 percent if its Internet users connecting via broadband. Nielsen//NetRatings attributes high-incomes and large professional workforces to the high penetration among U.S. coastal cities.

Top Broadband and Narrowband Markets, September 2004

Locale Broadband Narrowband
San Diego, CA 69.6% 30.4%
Phoenix, AZ 68.4% 31.6%
Detroit, MI 67.0% 33.0%
New York, NY 66.8% 33.2%
Sacramento, CA 64.9% 35.1%
Orlando, FL 64.7% 35.3%
Seattle, WA 63.0% 37.0%
San Francisco, CA 63.0% 37.0%
Los Angeles, CA 61.6% 38.4%
Boston, MA 61.4% 38.6%
Baltimore, MD 50.1% 49.9%
Miami, FL 49.6% 50.4%
Chicago, IL 48.4% 51.6%
Denver, CO 48.3% 51.7%
Minneapolis, MN 46.9% 53.1%
Milwaukee, WI 39.3% 60.7%
Salt Lake City, UT 35.3% 64.7%
Pittsburgh, PA 33.3% 66.7%
Charlotte, NC 31.6% 68.4%
Columbus, OH 26.9% 73.1%

Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

adapted from an article by Robyn Greenspan

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Writings on the wall...

Just to prove someone has time to write a program to allow to send messages in blood - to a friend. Messages expire after 21 days and others can, of course, read the scrawl as well as the intended recipient.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Quarter of TVs sold in US during 2004 will be HDTV

Manufacturer-to-dealer sales of digital television (DTV) products continued to soar during the first half of 2004, reaching 2.8 million units and dollar revenues of more than $2.7 billion, according to the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The CEA said one out of four televisions purchased this year would be an HDTV. DTV sales have now reached a total of 11.7 million units since the technology was introduced in 1998, with most sales occurring during the past two years. The CEA also reported that DTV sales during the first half of 2004 are up 80 percent compared to 1.5 million units sold in the same time period last year.

The CEA defines Digital TV products as integrated sets and monitors displaying at least 480 active scanning lines and, in the case of integrated sets, receiving and decoding ATSC terrestrial digital broadcasts.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Zen & the art of Multi-Media

500 bucks buys a new Zen Portable Media Center which started shipping in the US to places like Best Buy, Fry's Electronics and . Similar to the Archos 400 player I mentioned earlier, this device works on Windows Media 10 technology (Archos uses MPEG-4 Div-X) This device comes with a rechargeable, removable Li-ion battery, a case that doubles as an adjustable stand, an AC adapter, USB 2.0 cable, high-quality earphones, and a video cable. Optional accessories, including a docking station, spare battery, FM wired remote, and an IR remote. Microsoft people are walking around with these things at IBC 2004. Wonder how long the batteries last...

 Posted by Hello

High Definition TV Production For Prosumers

Now this is interesting. As a video documentary maker, I'm very interested in the new HDR-FX1 from Sony, due out in November for around 3500 Euro. It has a MUCH better resolution than what I am doing now. The new HDR-FX1 utilizes the 1080 lines horizontal resolution / 60 interlaced frames per second frame rate for the HDV specification, which records to standard MiniDV tapes. Wonder what the sound processing is like and whether they will come out with a Desktop recorder like the DSR-11.

The new Sony has apparently much better handling of low-light situations, better than the only other Prosumer HD camera on the market from JVC. The JVC came out last year with a minimum of 25 lux, the Sony boasts a 3 lux minimum. Try before we buy :->
 Posted by Hello

Dying star creates fantastic sculpture of gas and dust

Amid the disappointment of the Genesis crash, pictures from the Hubble Telescope are proving fascinating. The so-called Cat's Eye Nebula, formally catalogued NGC 6543, is one of the most complex planetary nebulae ever seen in space. A planetary nebula forms when Sun-like stars gently eject their outer gaseous layers to form bright nebulae with amazing twisted shapes.
Hubble first revealed NGC 6543's surprisingly intricate structures including concentric gas shells, jets of high-speed gas and unusual shock-induced knots of gas in 1994. This new image, taken with Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS), reveals the full beauty of a bull's-eye pattern of eleven or more concentric rings, or shells, around the Cat’s Eye. Each ring is actually the edge of a spherical bubble seen projected onto the sky - which is why it appears bright along its outer edge. Another wonder from far off...
 Posted by Hello

Shake Hands at IBC

IBC Conference 2004 in the Forum Zaal

Getting ready to host the production day at International Broadcasting Convention in Amsterdam. Attendance is up this year - 48,000 and the numbers of people registered for the conference is looking good. IBC has moved the times of the presentations I'm hosting....why not come to Forumzaal on Saturday 11th September 0900-1200 and 1400-1700 and shake hands.


0900- (new earlier time) - Future of HD production.
1045-(new earlier time) - Interactive News Production

1400- Shane Robison, HP, Afternoon Keynote Presentation - HP meets Shrek 2
1530- Cross Media Production in radio and TV for entertainment

Or come to the What Caught My Eye session on gadgets 1030-1130 on Monday 13th in ROOM L.

This is Crazy...

How on earth do you have an emotional relationship with a power company? One company in Holland, called Eneco is boasting about its new loyalty programme which it has developed with an Amsterdam PR agency. It will improve the relationship with their 2 million client, so it claims.

What on earth are they trying to sell - should I switch on more bulbs to boost their profits or save energy to keep my costs down? I already have an emotional reaction when I hear that name. My experiences with Eneco's helpdesk ended in pure frustration - as soon as their monopoly on billing for cable goes away, I will escape. Now they are going to waste resources promoting something that I thought was part of the public good - along with water, air and occasional sunshine.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

New DAB Radio

The new 80 quid DAB/FM radio from Pure in the UK. Works on batteries too. Reminds me of the earlier Roberts Radio designs Posted by Hello

Monday, September 06, 2004

A little bit for Kids

In the US, the FCC is about to impose "tough" new obligations on television broadcasters to air dramatically more children’s programming on their new digital television channels. USA TODAY, citing two FCC officials as its source, said the commission may require that broadcasters run three hours of children’s programming a week on each new 24-hour multicast channel that a station broadcasts in addition to its main channel. Under current rules, a broadcaster must show three hours of educational programming each week on its main analogue channel.

The rules would allow broadcasters to shift the children’s shows to another multicast channel if it were impractical to air the programs on, for example, on an all-weather or all-sports channel — as long as the total number of required hours was met. So, surprise surprise, one option, would be to broadcast an all-kids channel.

The newspaper said the proposal is supported by most of the five FCC commissioners, including Chairman Michael Powell, and could be officially approved as early as this week. The proposed new rules stem from an FCC initiative to set public interest obligations of terrestrial broadcasters in exchange for their free use of billions of dollars worth of broadcast spectrum owned by the public.

Some broadcasters have expressed concern that the requirements could hinder their multicasting plans. Many NBC affiliates, for example, plan to air all-weather channels, and possibly three or four other niche channels, such as sports, said Alan Frank, chief of Post-Newsweek Stations.

By year’s end, USA TODAY said the FCC also plans:

To propose how much public-affairs programming broadcasters must air on their digital channels.
To determine whether broadcasters must publicly disclose the amount of public-interest programming they air.
To decide whether cable systems must carry all of a TV station’s multicast channels.

Of course we're very interested to see what qualifies as children's programmes. A while back that meant adventures of the Super Mario Brothers, which I found difficult to classify as educational!

Sunday, September 05, 2004

US Copy Controls starting up

Most television viewers have no idea that new copy controls will soon allow programmers to determine what they can and cannot record on their home VCRs. Under the guise of protecting digital content from piracy, the FCC adopted a rule that digital television tuners must recognize copy controls, known as the broadcast flag (PDF), encoded in content streams.

Future digital video recording devices will detect the broadcast flag, and the flag will prevent users from making multiple high-quality copies of the programs. As of July 1, 2005, it will be illegal to manufacture or import devices that can receive digital programming without responding to the broadcast flag.

To fight the impending rule and to stoke backlash from TV viewers, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has launched the Digital Television Liberation Project to guide viewers on how to make their own personal video recorders from off-the-shelf parts. The digital-rights group is encouraging people to buy digital TVs, or DTVs, tuner cards for their PCs, and is distributing instructions on how to build TiVo-like digital video recorders.

The idea, reports Wired News, is to get viewers hooked on the charms of time-shifting— recording a program and then watching it at a later time — and to help them understand what they will be missing once the broadcast flag rule goes into effect.

The broadcast flag will prevent a lot of actions that aren’t violations of copyright law. For instance, copying a clip from FOX News might not be possible with the broadcast flag —even though it’s legal. Or time-shifting might become cumbersome with the broadcast flag restrictions, even though it’s also perfectly legal.

To build a DTV PVR, users need a tuner card capable of reading the DTV signal, Wired News reported. Once installed, the tuner card can record programs to the hard drive of a PC. Users would then hook their PC to a television or a high-definition monitor for viewing. The PCs also could burn the programming to a DVD and perform TiVo tricks like pausing, replaying and fast-forwarding.

The EFF uses a software platform called MythTV, written for the Linux operating system, to manage content on its demo machine, but other projects like Freevo and eBox are also available.

The broadcast flag only applies to over-the-air broadcasts. Cable and satellite companies already have their own digital-rights management in place.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Life Explained

No claims for originality on this...but still a nice story.

On the first day God created the cow. God said, "You must go to field with the farmer all day long and suffer under the sun, have calves and give milk to support the farmer. I will give you a life span of sixty years."

The cow said, "That's a kind of a tough life you want me to live for sixty years. Let me have twenty years and I'll give back the other forty." And God agreed.

On the second day, God created the monkey. God said, entertain people, do monkey tricks, make them laugh. I'll give you a twenty year life span."

Monkey said, "How boring, monkey tricks for twenty years? I don't think so". He gave back ten. And God agreed again.

On the third day, God created the dog. God said, "Sit all day by the door of your house and bark at anyone who comes in or walks past. I will give you a life span of twenty years." The dog said, "That's too long to be barking. Give me ten years and I'll give back the other ten." So God agreed (sigh).

On the fourth day God created man. God said, "Eat, sleep, play, enjoy. Do nothing, just enjoy, enjoy. I'll give you twenty years."

Man said, "What? Only twenty years? No way. Tell you what, I'll take my twenty, and the forty cow gave back, and the ten dog gave back and the ten monkey gave back. That makes eighty, okay?"

"Okay," said God. "You've got a deal."

So that is why for the first twenty years we eat, sleep, play, enjoy, and do nothing; for the next forty years we slave in the sun to support our family; for the next ten years we do monkey tricks to entertain our grandchildren; and for the last ten years we sit in front of the house and bark at everybody.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Beijing & IOC BS

RSF report on Chinese suppression of the media

I am sure that there have been thousands of protests to major broadcasters like the BBC & NOS who have been forced to switch off their internet streams during the Athens Olympics because of rights demands by the IOC. Hopefully in 4 years time, the broadcasters will make a stand as they see their traditional audiences using other media, like broadband, as well as over-the-air material. And what about repeats using the services like Uitzending Gemist (Missed the Programme) from

By 2008, there will be thousands of mobile phones in the stadia, all equipped with cameras encoding in MPEG-4 and with a possibility of streaming stuff to their friends. Is the IOC going to wake up and move into the new century? Or will they demand spectators leave their camera phones at home?

It is worring that the Chinese authorities are quick to close down any controversial websites China closes web site opposed to Japan train contract. The South China Morning Post web site carried the news yesterday that a Chinese mainland web site has been shut for opposing the Ministry of Railways' decision to grant a multi-billion yuan bullet-train contract to Japanese companies without a public hearing. Beijing-based Patriots Alliance Network administrator Lu Yunfei said his web site was taken off line 22 hours after it launched a petition this past Monday.

"Our server operator told us that the Beijing Communications Administration ordered the shutdown because officials thought the issue was sensitive," Mr Lu said. On Monday, 68,733 signatures were collected from individuals and other websites before the shutdown went into effect.

As the Athens Olympic Games entered their final days, French-based Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) awarded China an additional gold medal - one for human rights violations. China's repression of dissidents, including journalists and cyber-dissidents, has not let up during the Athens games. The People's Republic of China is the world's biggest prison for the press. Twenty-seven journalists and more than 60 Internet users are detained for crimes of opinion.