New York, N’ooo Yoyk!

Bouncing out of Nashville we set about attempting a 2am ETA in NYC and made it!

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Strangely, after all that people had said about driving in the Apple and it being a city that never sleeps, there was hardly a thing on the road and it was a straight forward navigation to our downtown 6th Ave hotel, where they promptly stole the Snot Rocket (our car) for safe keeping.6th Ave

However, the New Jersey (N’ooo Joyzeee) Turnpike is NOT for the faint hearted or for anyone with a shred of logical commonsense due to the clarity of the signage, or indeed no signage. Thankfully, other than a few other lost souls, all was good.

The following day was a mad rush and full on with Gabsatrucker heading out early to chase her own butt up 20 blocks and pound out the rest of her 7 mile run around Central Park.

I jumped in a cab and headed to Chelsea and the new global headquarters of Rocketboom.com!rocketboom gold

Set in tasteful surroundings and interrupted from beavering away I sat down and had a great chat with Andrew Baron about how the future for Rocketboom and how other enterprises were rapidly shaping up to be far larger and indeed a permanent existence in the day on day “must watch” web media  listings :-)

The evolution of Rocketboom has been long and its consistency in what I call intelligent humour – ie Witt, sarcasm and irony mixed in with a variable amount of new or leading tech, entertainment and global web cultural insight is well established and is still leading in this field.

Andrew’s exceptional ability to seek out great talent for presenting Rocketboom is second to none and the present anchor of the show Keghan Hurst is a perfect example of this.

Andrew Baron’s great strength is not just that he is one of the first true instigators of what we term web media, but it lays at the door of not just knowing what he wants to achieve, but also in listening to so many others without being derailed from his overall aim. In this he has achieved a greater understanding than most within this field and in the creativity stakes there are few to rival what he has achieved.

In the evening Gabsatrucker and I headed over to meet Andrew, his stunning and glowingly pregnant wife Rima and their friend Eli for what Andrew termed Korean BBQ which was a fantastic evening with a lot of laughter.

While we were invited to stay for another evening, our plans were forever changing and we were sadly unable to. As we walked back to our hotel leaving great people and company behind us we came upon Times Square which was very much alive and bouncing.

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Grabbing pictures and a bit of t’shirt swag we called it a night.

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Day 2:

Waking early and packing up our gear, we headed out to catch a few sights before leaving this unrelenting island city.

A fast walk up the street our hotel was on (that sounds like they moved it) and you hit the likes of Radio City and the not so liked News Corp headquarters.

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Onto the subway and Grand Central Station for crepes (of course)

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Then South to the 911 Memorial.. BUT, remember all the trouble I had getting into the Hoover Dam? Well this time, I’m wearing a Leatherman tool and all manner of sharp objects as we headed into security.

The X-ray operator sees the Leatherman and asks to look at it, calls another guard over and then “Sir, where did you get this?”

Me: “Ebay, why?”

Reply: “I’ve been looking for the same model” before handing it back to me…

Now that is commonsense security!! They acknowledge the item, make you aware they have and then carry on as normal – and where? Where this whole terror thing for this country started!! Well-done 911 Memorial Security with their reasoned, professional and very logical approach to what they do.

I can’t really add much more, this place and most definitely this memorial leaves you silent as it stands for so much more now than the day it all happened, and to a far higher loss than ever before.

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With that, we left the fair city of New York and headed back south, Philadelphia, DC, and on to Virginia – or ENGLAND as I like to call it.

Where is the TV you’ve been waiting for?

As many know, back in the early to mid 2000’s I worked on the development of 4G. Back then the basic requirement was for a 20Mb download and 20Mb upload to any base unit or moreover – a handheld device. We increased this to 25Mb and at a time when there was a lull in the computer industry, we were working on some pretty cool and what was often called “over the edge” technology. Since then the benchmark has gone literally through the roof.

But the problems regarding bandwidth, power, mobile, fixed line accounts and billing aside – the real problem was that there wasn’t an end user device that could handle this in the mobile field. This gave birth to the requirement of advanced PC levels of power in a handheld device which (and this is still an issue) wouldn’t melt the head of the user. But more over, this system for the most part wouldn’t require video compression, that’s right – complete real-time video! In this, I looked to the future and realised very quickly that this would probably be the end of terrestrial/cable/satellite TV.  The future of TV would be simply Web-based and cut the massive costs of powering and building the millions of transmitters that exist today.

A few years later I was observing a discussion on Joseph Mallozzi’s blog; who was then the executive producer of the MGM Stargate Atlantis franchise about the stunning number of DVD sales worldwide for their show, yet cable and channel subscriptions appeared low. In a conversation I mentioned that most people I knew around the world who watched the show – watched it the following day on the web and that it was highly likely that it was these people buying the DVD’s. As it turned out, MGM sold the show badly around the world to expensive pay channels or in some cases – highly obscure channels. This, coupled with highly inaccurate method of gathering viewing figures proved that the industry as a whole is not in step in any way with the technology to hand and were grossly over concerned with “Piracy/copyright” than acknowledging that this system (because of the show’s popularity) was actually making them more money… The bottom line is people want to watch shows when THEY want to watch them and if a company can’t see the alternative method of generating revenue then there is a real problem with that company.

But you must also remember that Piracy is not theft! Theft is when something tangible is “taken” from you, but copyright infringement is the actual problem. Also what about all of us who come across things on the web (think YouTube as an example) and end up watching things you didn’t search for? For most they wouldn’t have gone out of their way to buy, pay for or even consider watching or listening ordinarily – and here lays many problems and issues of which there are too many to list here, but the promotional attributes are limitless. Yet this again shows a complete initial lack of awareness by the mainstream entertainment industry of the technology they’re prepared to use for profit in a totally unsecure manner. In effect, a rod for their own back. In turn, while they cry foul, a few years ago these modern formats allowing them to make billions more in profits simply didn’t exist.

At the same time true innovators of web media and web shows like Andrew Baron owner and creator of Rocketboom and frankly an authority on the subject, has understood the direction of web TV for a very long time. There are several web based shows; Robert Llewellyn’s “Carpool” and “Fully Charged” and a great many more now exist – so where is mainstream web TV? Strange things happen, take for instance Amanda Tapping’s “Sanctuary”. This show was always designed to be web based. They used little more than green/blue screens in order to put any and every location background they liked to the show. The initial run of “Webisodes” was put together at minimal cost and used many of Amanda’s close acting and directing friends to see if it would be popular. It was, and strange as it might be – the show got picked up for mainstream TV. So the power of TV designed for the web is powerful enough to make the TV Studios sit up and appropriately beg.

The problems are several fold but it basically comes down to the TV companies and cash… I can go to the BBC’s iPlayer to watch their shows, CBS website (if I’m in the States) and watch their shows – along with Fox and everyone else’s websites. But you have to bounce from site to site all the time and then wonder if the “Geolock” will prevent you from watching what you want – this really does have to stop… it’s not good for business, it thwarts overall growth and is a shockingly bad business model!

The future of Global TV will rest in the palm of the people, company or person who can achieve what is seemingly impossible; to sit down and work out, negotiate and then generate one of a handful of sites that does it all. A site that will have to decide to pay for itself via advertising, pay per view or all possible methods together. A site where you can watch what you want, when you want. But the reality is that copyright and other royalties are the very things that stand in the way of this happening.

Web TV in the format of YouTube and commercial business sites is an entertainment and subculture all of its own already and has been for years. If you want to know if a product is good rather than get mugged by TV shopping channels – go and see what people who already own the product say about them on YouTube. You’ll soon learn the truth and probably save money – especially if you need to repair something! Lets say you need to fix your laptop, replace the broken screen on your smart phone, anything practical you don’t know how to do – someone somewhere has made a video of how to do it. And what about skill learning? Want to learn Photoshop? go to the simply vast library of videos on the Adobe website to learn just what you need too. The list is endless.

But what of the technology for the home? What are the overall bandwidth and usage requirements which, in reality, have to be limitless. Thankfully newer home entertainment, LCD/LED TV’s all come with web connectivity now. But there are other issues on a global scale which need to be sorted out like; age of the viewer and/or in some more religious cultures; censorship or more edited programmes and movies. But as a technical issue most people will be aware that terrestrial TV (certainly here in the UK) is swapping over from Analogue to Digital. This raised many questions from viewers to why they should go out and buy a set-top-box to place on their old TV to see this new digital medium. Well the answer is quite simple; For a lot of people who may not know, analogue and digital signals are both very different and even look different. A digital signal is basically a signal of “On and Offs” which is basically binary and would look something like this:

Analogue signals are far more complicated and looks sort of like this:

The difference  for the most part is that the digital signal is predictable and can therefore can be repaired by your TV, computer or set-top box with either an On or Off and an Analogue signal simply can’t – because there is no reference to what was damaged. Here are the same two images with sections deleted; you can easily work out the digital repair – but not the analogue.

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So the digital is better, but more importantly – it also means it can be sent across the web with complete and total ease.

The future is Web based, but what about the redundancy of normal TV? Will it just become a persistent “Day Time” schedule mixed with News and Current Affairs? Probably! Or will we use the infrastructure that transmits it as the base for 4, 5 or 6G bandwidths? TV IS destined for the web, it’s been there for years – just no one has organised it yet, can you imagine the accuracy of the viewing figures? I strongly doubt Firefly would have been cancelled that’s for sure. In fact one of the reasons the original Stargate franchise was cancelled was simply that they make the same money in advertising revenue from re-runs as they did from a new show/season. Thus what was the point after 10 seasons in spending the money to make more?

It’s a massive subject that needs to be sorted out, the pitfalls and mountains to climb are obvious – but the moment one person lays the road ahead out clearly – all others will follow. So, stop messing about with strange apps, and let’s get on and get this minefield navigated so we can stop the witch hunting across the Web and get to a place where we can all watch and listen to the media we want, when we want it – in a way that everyone is happy with.

As many of you may know, I don’t own a TV and haven’t done since 1998, all my entertainment, news and 99% of my communications comes through the internet medium. If I stay in a hotel I do switch the TV on, but tend to select a 24hr news channel like the BBC, Sky, Al Jazeera or CNN. Irrespective of how scattered the entertainment on the Web is, there is an abundance of it, it just needs work. Until then, you can watch “The” daily internet culture show at www.rocketboom.com and for the Car Pool interview chat show and “fully charged” the complete inside real information on the future of electric cars – go to  www.llewtube.com.  And so much more…

Austin… the saving grace of Texas

Now I could go into the history of this City, the capital of Texas – but that is what Wikipedia is for… so go there to read it ;-)

I on the other hand will write of my brief experience of this Oasis of a city and one I’d like to return to. Beyond the complaints of the I-35, a little known parking lot that runs the entire length of Austin. As you approach Austin at night it looks like an oasis of high-tech and modern living. Indeed, Andrew Baron of Rocketboom even called this city “The saving grace of Texas” and for the most part I can see why.

Oh, it is an oasis… but furthermore it’s also a city of culture and has a “cosmopolitan feel” if you like. Like all modern cities though, the concept of skyscrapers in the centre have not escaped Austin, crushing much of it’s history into oblivion. Yet down there in the heart of it is the famed and acclaimed 6th Street and if you add in 4th, 5th and Congress Avenue… then there is more than a heart beat or pulse of this city’s history and entertainment right there.

These days, the area of South Austin seems to have a greater vibe, open parks, restaurants, leafy suburbs and a greater “wellbeing” feel. Something I found very attractive and yes from what I could see, it’s obvious the town planners have long term goals for making the city greener and healthier than most.

Austin like any large city has its good and bad, the first day we walked down 6th Street (2nd Jan) around 2pm and a full on brawl broke out in front of us. Two guys punching the living daylights out of each other without a care in the world of who they bounced into, or where in the world they were from.. No police presence, and while I sidestepped them as they flew past – this blogs buddy @Gabsatrucker got fully barged out of the way by them, just before skulls met the concrete sidewalk. This was certainly, how should I say… interesting… We went to Starbucks and I said “soooo, this is Austin huh?” Gabby on the other hand was really not happy either… This was on the back of the news that on New Years morning 3 people had been shot, one to death and someone was killed trying to cross the I-35… Kinda leaves you with a cheery feel… That and the fact that Austin has oh so many people begging on street corners in the 4th,5th and 6th street areas at night.

But nevertheless… there is a vibe to the city as a whole you can’t quite put your finger on, the south is awesome and the club names like Antone’s, reverberate through the music scene globally. In fact one night in Antone’s made up for a lot of the misgivings we had earlier.

Yes Austin does have it’s many sides, but it’s this mix that probably makes it so intriguing and apart from having to change hotels due to rather unpleasant smell at the first one – it is a city I will definitely spend more time to explore.

Austin also has quite a few interesting slogans “Keep Austin Weird” is something you’ll see just about everywhere and then the “Austin, Live Music Capitol of the World” and it’s fair to say they’re not wrong! It’s a city of modern culture, hi-tech industries, fitness and fresh air – heck they even name the flight between Silicon Valley and Austin the “Nerd Bird”… It also has to be right up there with as one of the biggest conference venues in the world along side cities like Dubai and with it being home to South by South West (SXSW) there are hotels galore – some better than others, but the closer you get to downtown the prices go from reasonable to extortionate.

This is one of the major centres of entrepreneurship in the US and certainly with regards to technology, but it’s frankly stunning that Dell computers does not seem to have anything for the public, nerds and geeks to visit or see… In fact I was seriously surprised there was little in the way of Dell’s visibility at all – certainly an opportunity lost on Dell’s part. A “Dell Technology Showcase” or “Experience” is seriously needed.

With so much going on I think the city will grow, continue cleaning its image. But if you want to enjoy a fitness lifestyle, then look no further than this awesome city with the Lance Armstrong cycle way, large parks and running areas and even a park on the water front with a special area to allow dogs to run freely.

Yes, it’s right to keep Austin weird, but it’s also right to redesign and build for future tourism, future-tech transportation systems and greener more hi-tech lifestyle and I really think Austin will…. Because if it doesn’t, it’ll just grow more monolithic buildings and increase its number of tourist t-shirt shops that will be more about a “has-been” city than the heart and soul of the great state of Texas… I some how doubt that will happen though :-)

Austin is (with insight from; Andrew Baron, Gabsatrucker and Mary Hennig and adored by Dr Sue Black )

100% TWBrit Highly recommended

I guess I should make an actual TWBrit approved logo now then lol…

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