Author Archive

An e-mail message to Fox Broadcasting

I was really interested in watching Vanished, but the season started so early that I missed the pilot and started recording episodes a week or two into the story.

No problem…I figure I’ll watch the pilot online. So I go to Fox’s site to stream it. No luck. Apparently, Fox is only streaming episodes for a limited time. Very limited. [Blink] Hey…it’s gone! It…vanished. I’m weeks late, so no luck there.

OK, no problem. I’ll buy the episode on iTunes. Nope, not there. In fact, there’s nothing new there. That’s right…Fox has none—zero, zilch, zippo—of its new shows available for download through the iTunes music store.

It’s also not available for download or streamed viewing on Google, Guba, Amazon, AOL, or Yahoo!

So I won’t be watching Vanished this season. It’s a shame because I was really interested in this show. With the technology and media outlets available to content providers today, it could have been so easy! I was willing to pay to watch this episode that I missed, but Fox failed to make it available through any of the numerous delivery outlets. When will you folks get it?

RIP Marshall Field’s

This weekend, Federated Department Stores celebrates as it blankets the country with its Macy’s brand, leaving a trail of now-defunct local retailers in its wake. Federated’s acquisition of May Department Stores’ holdings resulted in a sell-off of about 100 store locations like discarded scrap. Furthermore, their Macy’s expansion has decimated time-honored and respected family brands like Strawbridge’s, Hecht’s, Kaufmann’s, Filene’s, and (most horrifically) Marshall Field’s. The arrogance of this move just astounds me, as it disrespects local communities’ rich retail heritage, while damaging the economies of shopping outlets where large storefronts now sit shuttered.

How is this good for anyone but Federated and its shareholders? Though not officially deemed a monopoly, Federated’s recent moves leave consumers with far less choice when shopping mid-range retail department stores. It would be one thing if a new Macy’s in town was something that people could value, but Macy’s just isn’t the store it was years ago. The Macy’s brand continues to decline as it becomes further diluted. It lacks the quality, diversity, and character that were once part of its heralded trademark. Consumers are now left with Macy’s sign of mediocrity hanging where communities once shopped their familiar local department stores.

Luckily, consumers still have some choices. Here are some of the choices that I’ll be making:

  • When visiting Chicago, I will pointedly go to Carson Pirie Scott.
  • I will purchase clothes at retail outlets like Eddie Bauer, Orvis, and other independent companies.
  • I will purchase housewares at Bed Bath & Beyond, Linens ’n Things, and Crate & Barrel.
  • I will shop more online (it’s amazing what you can get through amazon.com).
  • I will no longer shop at Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s.
  • I will let the world know why I’ve made these changes to my shopping habits (you’re reading it).
  • I will let Federated know that I’ve let the world know why I’ve made these changes to my shopping habits.

D-Link DGS-1008D 8-Port Desktop Gigabit Switch

I suffered from the same problem with this switch that others here have reported [periodic resets]. I returned it to D-Link for a replacement, because they had no record of any customers having such a problem and no idea what could cause it. When the replacement device arrived, I experienced the same problem–whenever I sent something to my network printer, the switch would reset, dropping all connections. I believe I’ve isolated this as a power spike issue. Each time I experienced this problem, it’s because my laser printer is coming out of sleep mode. Note that my switch is NOT plugged into the same power strip as my printer. In fact, I have my switch plugged into a surge/UPS block. One other point worth noting that I think speaks poorly of D-Link. Though they sent me the replacement product, I was charged twenty-five dollars when I hadn’t included the original “mounting kit” in the return package. The mounting kit consists of two screws and two plastic wall anchors. TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS! Unbelievable.

An e-mail message to the SciFi Network

Wow…VERY disappointing news that you plan to cancel the long-running series Stargate SG-1. As a long-time Stargate fan, from the original movie to this series and Atlantis, I’m saddened by your decision to end this show that continues to deliver new and interesting stories, despite its long run. Even Anderson’s departure was handled adeptly, introducing Browder and (cleverly) Black. The tongue-in-cheek dialogue combined with continually intriguing mythologies make this a mainstay for SciFi. Or so I thought.

I hope you’ll reconsider this decision. Here we are just weeks into the new season, days after the celebrated 200th episode, and shortly after your inclusion of the series on iTunes for mobile consumption. This decision just doesn’t make sense. PLEASE, consider that television viewership has been at an all-time low this summer, as more and more people move away from traditional on-time, live TV viewing and adopt alternate entertainment experiences (gaming, web, etc.) and alternate content consumption habits (e.g., time- and/or place-shifting). As such, this series’ summer ratings alone may not be sufficient measure of its success.

Respectfully (and regretfully),
Richard
Washington, D.C.

Feedback for ABC.com

Streaming popular shows to the masses on abc.com…good. Streaming video ads with sound on the abc.com home page…bad. Experimenting with new advertising models…good. Disabling consumers’ ability to pause or stop advertisements…bad. Please consider that automatically playing video advertising on your home page (with sound and no ability to pause or stop the ad) is invasive and um, rude. I applaud your efforts to consider new media delivery models, but please be considerate of your audience.

Feedback for News.com

I didn’t think the sound quality on the daily news.com podcast could get any worse. I was wrong. This week, it sounded like Charlie was recording his segments from his bathroom. This in addition to the jarring “remote” interviews he’s been doing lately where it sounds like Charlie’s calling from a pay phone and the correspondent is back in the studio. That in addition to the fact that the audio level jumps from segment to segment in most podcasts and nearly every podcasts gets cut-off mid-word before Charlie can finish his final sign-off. And all of THAT just astounds me considering how tight, professional, and polished EVERY OTHER CNET PODCAST sounds. I don’t understand. It’s annoying enough that after 6 months, I just can’t listen anymore.

One final (now daily) annoyance: has anyone noticed that the Mazda announcer’s diction makes it sound like she’s saying “interducing” and “mazzausa.com?” If I were Mazda and provided you with that loop, I’d be embarrassed. If I were Mazda and you recorded that loop, I’d be demanding my money back.

Feedback for Vongo

Wow…what a great concept! I love this idea. All-you-can-eat, er…watch, videos downloaded from the net for a subscription fee. I love it. However, there’s one key problem with this model. The computer on which I download video is different from the Media Center computer at my television where I watch the video. Without a ten-foot interface or, even better, a Media Center integration point, there’s no way this can work in my household (and – I suspect – many, many others).


As far as I’ve seen, Vongo has one of the best, most consumer-friendly, legal video download services available. As a project of Starz entertainment (think Encore and Starz TV), this has a real chance of success. I hope they don’t forget, though, that people aren’t likely to sit at their computer to watch a two-hour-long movie. Similarly, people with Media Center computers hooked to their big-screen TVs rarely use a keyboard and mouse from the couch to run “desktop-style” applications. I believe that they need to integrate with existing services like Windows Media Center to make this service a success.

Logitech Harmony 880 Advanced Universal Remote

Imagine a remote that feels just perfect in your hands. It has the right curves, the right fit, even the perfect weight. It sits snuggly in your grip with an all-too-familiar shape and contour. Close your eyes, and move your thumb over its top surface to find the Volume, Channel, and Play keys. Can’t find them? Right…exactly. And that’s my biggest issue with this, the flagship of Logitech’s line of Harmony remote controls. For $250 – not outrageous for a universal remote, and certainly not the most I’ve paid for one, but still pricey – I had higher expectations.

The Harmony 880 Advanced Universal Remote puts a whole new face on the standard, yet outstanding form-factor of earlier Harmony remotes. It’s a face with a beautiful, bright, color LCD display. Unfortunately, it’s a face that lacks critical tactile differentiation between buttons. In a dismal design move I’ll never understand, Logitech gives new life to the horrid ring-of-buttons first introduced on the Harmony 688. The 880 is the first of a many models that blend the most used remote buttons – Volume and Channel – into a bezel that curves around the navigation pad and display screen at the top of the remote. Look carefully at the image of this remote, and notice that this affords you no means of differentiating the Volume and Channel buttons from any of those surrounding, including the Previous Channel, Mute, and some odd up and down arrow buttons. Raised dimples on each button at least let you know where on the bezel to press, but without actually looking at the remote, it’s nearly impossible to identify any one button from another.

The problem prevails with the shuttle control, numeric, and other buttons. These appear as though they were once one button carved into smaller segments. There is nearly no detectible physical differentiation from one button to another, again, making it impossible to know what you’re pressing without looking at the remote. That, in itself, sucks…but the situation is worsened by the poor backlighting that pales next to the bright LCD screen.

And that screen is so bright. It’s clear, it’s beautiful, and it seems completely out of place in the otherwise artificially-organic design of this remote. The sharp corners and hard edges scream next to the over-accentuated curves of the neighboring buttons. That said, the screen is large and offers up to eight customizable activities and functions per page, which can be navigated both forward and backward – an improvement over older Harmony remotes, which only let you page forward through activities. One additional benefit this remote offers is the ability to specify the order in which activities display on the screen. This is a long-needed upgrade for Harmony, but quite frankly, there’s no good reason why the same improvement couldn’t be made to earlier models with simple firmware and software upgrades. Of course, that wouldn’t encourage devoted Harmony users to upgrade to a remote…would it?

One final point: Who thought it would be a good idea to have to dock a remote? If you don’t regularly place this device on its home base, it will be brain-dead in just a few nights’ use. This, supposedly, is Logitech’s answer to the poor battery consumption of earlier models. But seriously, do you have a plug readily accessible to your coffee table that wouldn’t require exposing a power cable across walkways frequented by you, family, friends, and pets? ‘Cause I don’t. And the dock design itself makes it far too difficult to properly place the remote so that it actually makes the right contacts and recharges.

After about three weeks’ use, I returned this remote to the store from which I bought it. I continue to seek out the perfect remote. While Harmony remotes come closest to this target, Logitech just keeps missing the mark.


It’s worth noting that I tested this remote nearly a year ago. This is significant for two reasons. First, after almost a year, I still harbor the same ill feelings for this device. Secondly, though the physical design of newer Harmony remotes (like the 520 and Xbox 360 models) was a fresh and unique departure for Logitech, they continue some of the bad design legacy established by this particular model.

A message to Disney

Hey…what happened to “Walt Disney World Resort: Plugged In?” That was such a terrific podcast–great content, professionally produced, and always interesting. While there are lots of fan podcasts about Disney, it’s just not the same. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the whole podcast idea was nothing but a big publicity stunt for the new Everest attraction. The timing of your cut-off would sure suggest that….

To increase your continued listening audience, have you tried promoting it in your resorts? I’ll bet guests would love to know how to keep in touch with what’s going on after they’ve left for home from their vacation. Consider mentioning it in the TV loops that you produce for the resort hotel guest rooms. And promote it on your Walt Disney World web site home page. Give this one the chance that it deserves!

It seems that Disney has been eliminating just one after another of its programs designed for its most loyal fans and guests–first the Disney Club, then the Disney magazine, now this. Please re-establish your production schedule for “Walt Disney World Resort: Plugged In.” There are definitely Disney fans out here who listen regularly and enjoy.

An e-mail message to Adobe

I notice that Macromedia Contribute is conspicuously absent from your MAX 06 session line-up this year. I certainly hope that this isn’t an indication that Adobe is thinking about ending this product line. As an Advanced Certified ColdFusion Developer and web solutions provider, I’ve found that Contribute is a wonderfully easy and inexpensive Web publishing system. It’s perfect for small businesses and for intranet management.

I realize that Adobe is probably making some hard decisions about which product lines to keep and which to eliminate, and I certainly hope that you choose to continue expanding and evolving this product’s capabilities and usefulness. While I recognize that some products like FreeHand [didn’t Adobe already divest themselves of that once for anti-trust reasons?] and Fireworks may seem in direct conflict with some of the legacy product lines from Adobe, Contribute clearly fills a publication workflow niche previously untapped by your company’s offerings.

I look forward to seeing how you further adopt the various products and platforms gained through last year’s Macromedia acquisition and hope to see your continued support of their various Web publishing tools and solutions.