General

Chromecast SDK: Introduction

Chromecast SDK: Getting Started

With the Chromecast’s open SDK i thought it would be good to look into it. There are 2 components;

  1. The Caster application. This application sends the video to the receiver. Google has changed how the new SDK works slightly from what you may see on Youtube or Netflix today. For instance, this SDK requires that the Chromecast device be selected from the Chrome Extension. You cannot list out the Chromecast devices on your own and allow for selection. This i think makes no sense, it detracts from the experience personally.
  2. The Receiver. You may not need this at all. The default receiver is what you see when the Chromecast is plugged in. You will only need to create a new one if A) you are playing DRM video or B) you want a very custom receiver experience. The code i have written uses the default receiver.

Developing a Caster

I found that the API was pretty easy to work with but there were things missing like Chrome extension detection. Without this the code flips out on say, Safari. I am providing a API wrapper i wrote to help make things easier. Please expand it and modify it.

chromecast wrapper JS

This is how to use it:

     // Instantiate the Object
     var chromecast = new Chromecast();

     // The Object will trigger a callback when everything is set up and a extension is available. (works, Safari, Opera, IE, Ect)
     $(chromecast).on('chromecast_availablity', function(event, payload){
if(payload.status == "available"){
          // chromecast.loadMedia('');
        }
      });

      // Load a video, this video works and is Big Buck Bunny...
      chromecast.loadMedia('http://commondatastorage.googleapis.com/gtv-videos-bucket/big_buck_bunny_1080p.mp4');

      // Issue playback commands to it
      chromecast.play();
      chromecast.pause();
      chromecast.stop();
      chromecast.seek();

Findings

  • There was not a lot of clear documentation.
  • Lack of self awareness. If you linked to the google cast js from Safari it blew up.
  • Rigid implementation, we should be able to iterate through the available players.

Developing a Receiver

First off, you need to start with a developer account at Google to register devices and create a new application. Go here, Google Development Center. Early warning, Google will charge you $5.00 for this privilege.  After signing in you will need to register a new app and a new device.

  1. Create a new App. Pick if you would like to create the receiver (the app the chromecast knows about) or use a pre made one that you can style.
  2. Have your Chromcast Device serial number handy. It is a 12 digit alphanumeric combo on the underside of the device. Warning: They made it nearly impossible to read. Grey text on black 2pt font and they crammed the letters together)

Since i have not built a receiver i will digress to Google here.

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First_Step_Device___The_Worlds_Most_Advanced_Hearing_Aid_AlternativeFirst_Step_Device_and_Inbox__67_messages__1_unread_
General

My new site launched

I have been quiet for a little while due to my work on a new site. When you start to learn how many people have a hearing issue it is sad. There are also so many children that cannot afford and help. I have put together a site that help people get a low cost, occasional use hearing device. The engineering on this device is amazing, it includes many of the technology you would expect in a high end hearing aid. We cal this a FSD or a First Step Device. It’s purpose is to help people that need a little hearing support but are not ready to make the expensive jump to a hearing aid. These devices work well, fit comfortable and look great, they look better than most Bluetooth ear sets people are used to wearing.

To deal with the issue of many children not being able to afford a hearing solution, we will donate a hearing aid to a non-profit that benefits kids for every 2 FSD’s we sell. I really believe in this plan and hope you will to. Its time for businesses to pay back to their respective communities.

Please check out: http://www.firststepdevice.com

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Consumer Electronics, Electrical Engineering, Engineering, Home Automation, Raspberry Pi, Toys

Raspberry Pi + Z-Wave

A cool thing i saw at CES was the “RaZberry”. The Razberry is a $59 Pi shield that turns your Raspberry Pi into a Z-Wave enabled Home Automation gateway. It comes pre-compiled with Z-Wave wireless network management software which you can drop your own web interface onto. As long as you know basic HTML and JSON you can have an app up with no problems. Here is info on the API. If you want to try home automation and have z-wave hardware this is a great project. I know i am looking forward to playing with it.

Razberry

 

Some Details:

  • Sigma 3102 Z-Wave Tranciever Chip
  • 32 Kbyte EEPROM
  • PCBA Antenna 868/908 MHz
  • Connects to PI’s GPIO
  • C or JSON baed API
  • Data subscription model for low network traffic

How do I get started?

  1. Order to board and a Raspberry PI.
  2. Follow the guidelines on the Raspberry blog how to load a operating system of your choice to the board.
  3. Plug in the RaZberry board, log in and type in the following command line: wget http://www.z-wave.me/install_razberry.sh -qO – | sh -c
  4. Go to http://IP_OF_YOUR_RASPBERRY:8083 to get access to the demo UI.

Get One:

  • Website Purchases (link)

Z-Wave.Me c/o Alsanet S.A.
10 ch. Champ-Claude
1214 Vernier
Switzerland

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IMG_0004
Business, Cable, Consumer Electronics, Engineering

CES 2013

I was at CES 2013 to support a demo we had running at the Intel Booth
(see story). I got to walk a lot of the floor and saw some interesting things. The overall theme of the show was BIG Tvs and anything for iPad and iPhone. The amount of accessory vendors was overwhelming. The main Electronics Manufacturers like Samsung, Sony, Panasonic, Sharp and LG made huge showings this year. Most of them focused on the 4K (4 X HD) technology as well as pushing the limits of OLED. Everyone had the largest OLED screen (How is that possible?). Here are a few things i found interesting.

 

 

4K and OLED

The screens have become so crisp that you believe that you are looking through a window into someones house not looking at a TV. There is a lot of hype around this but no one has talked about the amount of effort or cost associated with all of the production houses updating their cameras to film in this format. I think it will be awhile before we see 4K channels on our cable account.

BIG Tvs

They are soooooo big we will all have to upgrade our homes to fit them. Lets say the 110″ Samsung eventually comes down to the 3k-4k price range, where do you put it? Can your meager walls support the weight? Will to pure light output give you a tan?

Tablet Phone Accessories

Everyone is making accessories for your phone and tablet and the Shenzen province of China made a huge showing. I am sure none of us even knew how to pronounce Shenzen before Apple started producing devices there. They have everything for your tablet or phone. Cases, Stands, Speakers, Earphones, Toilets….. Toilets? Yes they have a potty training toilet with a integrated ipad dock to keep your child on the potty longer. I said they had everything.

Life Systems

Also being shown was a gamut of lifestyle devices. You may know FitBit as a leader but there were a lot of followers. Many devices track everything you do each day in a effort to show you problem areas in your life. I need a device that tracks my Cheetos consumption. I’m sure that would show a problem area.

Telepresence

As a “Work from Home” guy who travels to Philly every month i have to admit this intrigues me. There we at least 4 companies showing this technology. One of the companies Beam offered the highest level solution which allows a company to have multiple devices per location and a webservice that allows any user to take a device and use it at the location. Starting price for this technology? 16k. Is it really that beneficial?

Cool People

I got to meet some of my favorite Web TV personalities from the Revision 3 show Geekbeat.tv. Cali Lewis and John Pozadzides. They were both very cool and down to earth we talked for a little while about technology and had a great time, i hope to get to hang with them again some time.

Geekbeat

 

 

 

 

 

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Completed Pandora Pi
Engineering, General, Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi: Project 1 – Pandora Streamer

Overview – What is it

Using a Raspberry Pi you can create a pretty cool stand alone Pandora Streamer. Its a pretty easy project to put together and will only take an evening. Even though this project is basic from a Electrical Engineering standpoint you will learn the basics of GPIO, Python, BASH and basic Circuts. The best part is you can totally use this project on a daily basis. This version also will allow you to use the device as a Airplay reciever when you are not using Pandora.

I do not just want to show you what i did but show you where i went wrong and how i got the correct answers so you will feel confident trying this stuff yourself. This project cost me about $50 – $75 USD and was a blast.

I originally found this project on Instructables (http://www.instructables.com/id/Pandoras-Box-An-Internet-Radio-player-made-with/?ALLSTEPS). I started with this but re-wrote most of the code. I also changed the circuts to remove components that were unnessicary.

What you will need
  1. Raspberry Pi (sparkfun, Element14, adafruit)
  2. Breadboard
  3. PI Cobbler
  4. LCD Screen
  5. Buttons
  6. Resistors (10k and 1k)

Optional

Lets get started

Step 1 – Get the Raspberry Pi Prepped

A. Flash the Raspberry Pi’s SD Card with the latest version of Raspbian Weezy. First, download the latest OS. Second, put it on the SD Card.

B. Next, Stop the OS from writing to the UART, which we will need to drive the LCD:

In LXTerminal:

sudo nano /boot/cmdline.txt

And change:

dwc_otg.lpm_enable=0 console=ttyAMA0,115200 kgdboc=ttyAMA0,115200 console=tty1 $

to:

dwc_otg.lpm_enable=0 console=tty1 $

Next:

sudo nano /etc/inittab

And change:

#Spawn a getty on Raspberry Pi serial line
T0:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyAMA0 115200 vt100

to:

#Spawn a getty on Raspberry Pi serial line
#T0:23:respawn:/sbin/getty -L ttyAMA0 115200 vt100

Reboot the Pi

C. Adding Serial Communication to Python, This lets us talk to the LCD:

In LXTerminal:

sudo apt-get install python-serial

D. Enhancing BASH’s GPIO Capabilities, This lets BASH talk to GPIO. This is because we only launch the Python files if we detect HIGH on GPIO pin 22 or we know buttons are connected:

In LXTerminal:

sudo apt-get install git-core
git clone git://drogon.net/wiringPi
cd wiringPi
git pull origin
./build

Go Wireless (optional)

If you choose to go wireless (much cleaner) plug the WIFI adapter into one of the USB ports. Log into the Pi using a keyboard/mouse and HDMI connection. You want to be using the actual Linux GUI not SSH. On the desktop use the “WiFi Config” tool to set up the connection to your wireless network. I was not successful setting it up on my network using just ssh.

Step 2 – Install Pianobar

Pianobar is a command line interface for Pandora. It is super lightweight and will work well with Python.

A. Download and Install

sudo apt-get install pianobar

Accept all of the prompts to install. Type “Pianobar” at the prompt after installation to see it run. It will ask for your email and password but we will automate that in a minute. After starting it will ask which station to play. Select your favorite. After selecting it you will see a 18 digit code in parenthesis next to the station name, copy this we will need it for the config file. Type “?” after it starts to see a list of commands.

B. Set up a config file for Pianobar

If you have been logged into the Pi as the user “Pi” then Pianobar has installed into “/home/pi/.config/pianobar”. Under the Pianobar folder is a config folder, we will put a config file in there that will allow the app to auto-signin. Download the config file below.

Pianobar Config File

In the User section replace user = [Your Email], password = [Your Password] with your credentials. Also, replace autostart_station = [Favorite Station ID] with the ID of the station you want the device to tune to first. Enter the 18 digit code you copied from the last step.

Step 3 – Set Up FIFO

What i learned: In this section i tried creating the FIFO file as a standard one, not using the mkfifo command. I spent a long time trying to figure out where i went wrong.

FIFO is a file that allows communication between Pianobar and our Python scripts. Basically Pianobar is always looking at this file for changes and will treat the text in the file as user input. The config file we added points Pianobar to the folder for FIFO.

fifo = /home/pi/.config/pianobar/ctl

This folder does not exist yet so create it with:

mkfifo /home/pi/.config/pianobar/ctl

To test that everything is working correctly, restart Pianobar. In another terminal window, enter:

echo ‘n’ >> /home/pi/.config/pianobar/ctl

You should be able to fully control Pianobar this way. Once you full understand this concept then the Python scripts will make more sense.

Step 4 – Connect the LCD

What I learned: The original circuit called for a 3.3v voltage regulator connected to the 5v bar.  I realized this was not needed since the LCD i used could use direct 3.3v from the Raspberry PI. That circuit got simple at that point with only a 1k resistor between Tx and Rx.

A. Connect Power

Connect the 5V on the LCD to the 3.3V rail (5V label on this exact model of LCD is a misprint, it is actually 3.3V)

Connect GND to the Ground Rail.

B. Connect Tx

Connect Rx from the LCD to Tx on the Pi using a 1K resistor (Brown, Black, Red, Silver/Gold) in between.

Connection Diagram

Edit: In this Diagram GND should be connected to the GND rail not SDA, sorry.

LCD_Hookup

Step 5 – Connect your Buttons

What I learned: The original circuit had the switch wired to where the 1k and 10k resistors meet. I found that this would not always work as desired but the diagram below works well.

You will be using the following 6 GPIO pins (SDA, SLC, 4, 17, 27, 22) for input. You need to build a circuit for each

A. Build the button Circuit

Power > 10k > 1K. The 1K splits to the GPIO pin (its the D1 – LED in the diagram) and the Switch witch goes to ground.

B. Repeat for all buttons.

Repeat for (SDA, SLC, 4, 17, 27, 22)

Step 6 – Add the Scripts to connect everything

A. Download the scripts

cd /home/pi/.config/pianobar
git clone git://github.com/shaungehring/Pandora-Pi.git
cd Pandora-Pi
git pull origin
cd ..
cp -r /home/pi/.config/pianobar/Pandora-Pi/scripts/ .
sudo chmod -R 777 /home/pi/.config/pianobar/Pandora-Pi/scripts/

View the README.md for an explanation of the files.

B. Have the scripts autostart with Pianobar

sudo nano /etc/xdg/lxsession/LXDE/autostart

Now add two lines to the end:

pianobar
bash /home/pi/.config/scripts/PandorasBox.sh

Step 7 – Add Airplay support (optional)

Credit To: http://trouch.com/2012/08/03/airpi-airplay-audio-with-raspberry/

This is cool because the Pi will become another audio Airplay device on your network and will show as available for all your IOS devices.

A. Become ROOT

pi@raspberrypi:~$ sudo su
root@raspberrypi:cd /home/pi

B. Update Aptitude (Apt-Get)

root@raspberrypi:~# aptitude update
root@raspberrypi:~# aptitude upgrade

C. Install Depedencies

root@raspberrypi:~# aptitude install git libao-dev libssl-dev libcrypt-openssl-rsa-perl libio-socket-inet6-perl libwww-perl avahi-utils

D. Download & Compile

root@raspberrypi:~# git clone https://github.com/albertz/shairport.git shairport root@raspberrypi:~# cd shairport
root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# make

Test that it worked by running:

Replace [AirPi] with what you want it to be called.

root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# ./shairport.pl -a [AirPi]

You should see it on your network and be able to play audio over it from a IOS device.

E. Make a Daemon that will Autostart

root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# make install
root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# cp shairport.init.sample /etc/init.d/shairport root@raspberrypi:~/shairport# cd /etc/init.d
root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# chmod a+x shairport
root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# update-rc.d shairport defaults

Edit the Shairport file with the Name you want it to use.

root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# nano shairport

Modify the DAEMON_ARGS line to look like, (change AirPi to what you want to name it):

DAEMON_ARGS=”-w $PIDFILE -a AirPi”

D. Start Service

root@raspberrypi:/etc/init.d# ./shairport start

Step 8 – Make a case!!!

Personally i used a old blank CD spindle case that i had lying around. If you have access to a hackerspace i am working on a acrylic case but the design files are not complete.

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Engineering, Raspberry Pi

I’m Back

Hey All,

Sorry, we just completed a stressful move from the Philly area to beautiful Mooresville, NC. It is a pretty cool area even though its not super tech savvy. I still work for Comcast but i am currently focused more on my extended family and helping where i can (ahm, house maintenance). I have some new content coming out for instance i am working on a post about my first Raspberry Pi project which is a stand alone Pandora radio. Stay tuned (ha) for the full build details as well as the files that make it run.

 

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Engineering, General

Programming 101

I have had a lot of people ask me about how to get started programming. One guy said it best while waiting for the elevator one day, he looked at me and said: “You know we get paid way too much for what we do, when are they going to learn that”. The rest of the world is catching on and the technology field is hot right now. I would break the Tech scene into four groups:

  1. Programmers/Engineers (people who make applications and services)
  2. Analysts/Network Engineers (people who maintain computers/networks/servers)
  3. Quality (people who test and make sure everything is as designed and bug free)
  4. Business (people who tell everyone else what to do.

We are going to focus on number 1. One benefit we have today is the amount of knowledge out there for free. This stuff was nonexistent when i was starting out. Right now a kid in high school with an interest in programming could have a solid career by 20 years old with no college. Let’s look at some resources to get started.

 

Popular Languages

Learning Resources

Paid

Free

More Updates To Come. This is a LIVING post!

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Quirky Process
General

Lets all make great products

Have you ever seen a product on TV and said “Hey, i thought of that 2 years ago”. Many of us have what i call couch inspiration. Each day presents us with challenges that we each come up with creative solutions for. There is probably though only 5% of us that actually chase that idea and invest the time/money to produce that product. Wouldn’t it be great if we could pass off the idea, invest a little effort online and still get paid?

Welcome to QuirkyQuirky is a social product development company that works on one premise. The customer knows best. Here is how it works.

  1. Sign up for an account
  2. Post a new idea, this can be just a description or even a drawing of your idea. Ideas cost $10 to post. This weeds out spamming (Coupon Code: BBRUSH) will get you one free idea posting.
  3. Quirky takes over with its process.
  4. Other participators vote on your idea, if its popular it moves on.
  5. Other participators vote on Name, Tagline, Tweaks to the product to make it better.
  6. After all the steps are completed Quirky produces to product and puts it in their store, they also sell the product in retail stores.
  7. As the inventor you get a cut of each transaction. As a participator you gt a share of influence of each product. If a product you influenced sells you get paid.


This premise is simple but works. Products people really want get produced and people get paid to contribute. Will it make you rich, No. Will you make some money for very little work, Yes. Product creators are averaging 6-10K for their product. Influencers can make steady money about 3-6 months after they start influencing. The more you contribute the more you can make.

Check out some of the cool products that have come out of this process.

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buried
General

Been Awhile

It has been a long time without any posts. Having a baby and changing positions will do that to you. I hope to get back into the swing of things and start updating this again. If anyone is still listening, thanks.

BTW, i know i m late to the game but i started a Rails project… Very cool. If you are new to the programming game check out some Railscasts.

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2010 Apple iPad
Business, Engineering, General

The iPad isn’t for you!

If you are reading this post then i am going to go out on a limb and say the iPad isn’t for you! Why not? Because you are probably technically savvy. See, for you the iPad just does not do enough, sure you can get email and browse the web but what if you want to torrent the latest TV show Blu-Ray disc transcode it and output it to 1080i on your TV. If it cant do that it must be worthless. For you, having an iPad is only going to leave you frustrated because you want more out of it.

We have to remember that computer savvy people make up a extremely small percentage of actual computer users 0.02% – 0.05%. The best way i heard it explained was a comparison of video game consoles. Lets compare.

Microsoft Xbox 360

Developed for: Avid Gamers

Total sold to date: 258 million

Sony PS3

Developed for: Avid Gamers

Total sold to date: 138 million

Nintendo Wii

Developed for: Families, Casual Gamers

Total sold to date: 275 million

The Wii is the iPad and the Netbooks/Laptops are the Xbox/PS3. That is why Apple keeps emphasizing that this is a new vertical. Apple is targeting a whole new group of individuals. This goes back to Apples methodology of targeting particular sub-markets first. The iPad is the light computer for the MASS market. Now, because you are tech savvy and you probably to tech support for your entire circle of friends and family let me put this scenario together. Your 75 year old gram wants to dip her toe in the technology pool. She wants to check out the “Internets” that she has heard about and start sending email. Between a iPad, Laptop and a Netbook what is the easiest platform for her to get started on? With a Laptop or Netbook you are going to get 2 calls a week. “Jonny, i clicked something and now my screen is blank”. “Jonny, i moves the mouse and now i don’t see it”. Instead of critiquing the new iPad you should be applauding it. For $499 you family can get a computer that does everything THEY need it to do and you won’t get 10 calls a week to fix things.

So, Apple will probably sell well in this market but they will also do well in the tech savvy early adopter market. Sure it does not do everything i wish it would but it will replace my 8.5 x 11 notepad. So lets not hate on the iPad. I think we will all be surprised on how well it does.

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2010 Apple iPad
Business, Engineering

Oh the iPad

If todays iPad event happened six thousand years ago it might have played out like this;

And on the twenty seventh day of the first month of the two thousandth and tenth year the gods of Apple decided to bless the mortals of the earth with a bounty of media, email and photos. And the mortals rejoiced greatly looking upon the work of the Apple and seeing that it was good. And due to the personal nature of this gift, it’s texture and flatness the name iPad was bestowed upon it by the mortals. But, outside the garden were mortals who were jealous of the gods. “Why have the gods not seen fit to give us a camera or allow us to partake in the games of Flash or even output our video at 1080i?”. These mortals thought they knew more than the gods, they became insolent and hoped the righteous mortals choked on their iPads. They  had forgotten about all the wonderful contributions Apple had given them to date including the modern user interface not to mention the 50.2 billion dollar track record the gods had already set.

These rebellious mortals began to bicker, plan and build altars to the gods of Microsoft, Dell and Asus. These mortal became jealous of the power Apple wielded. After many offerings and sacrifices the false gods were unable to extinguish the fire of the iPad.

2010 Apple iPad

All joking aside there are some interesting things to take into consideration. It seems as if most people love or hate the new iPad. Some excellent points were made today at the event. I do believe that the iPad fits a specific second screen market. For instance, if you are watching TV and want to use the internet then your smartphone is probably too small. Your laptop is too large, hot and bulky and your netbook is too small/slow. The iPad does provide a light, thin quick second screen experience. Don’t get me wrong i don’t really believe that it is a perfect device (handed down by Gods).

I would like to see;

  • Wireless Syncing
  • Flash Support (Fancst.com, hulu.com)
  • Silverlight support (netflix.com)
  • IR port (Use as universal remote)
  • Larger SSD (150 Gig)
  • Camera (Skype)

For a Rev 1 device in a totally new vertical you have to admit this is a good start. Remember it is not a netbook, Apple once again has sat back and watched the netbook craze compiled user feedback and positioned themselves within this new vertical.

Now for untapped goodness. Let’s just say that people outside of the Apple fanboys hate the iPad and it gains no traction with the mainstream user base. Apple has already positioned themselves with businesses. Get a iPad download the Saleforce.com app and you have a technical advantage of other salesman in your field. Even if Apple fails they win, i like those odds.

Many including myself will critique Apple at times, second guess and ask for more. No matter what we say or do we have to admit, Dang, they know how to make $$$.

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Business, Cable, General

Would you pay for Hulu?

If you can see this blog then you probably know what Hulu is. For those that do not it is basically free tv on the internet. There has been controversy back and forth on Hulu with most people loving the service. I like Hulu and have enjoyed shows/movies on it mostly because of three reasons;

  1. Because it’s FREE
  2. It’s on demand
  3. It’s FREE

Well for all of you enjoying Hulu or one of it’s many partners, this announcement was made 10.21.2009:

“I think a free model is a very difficult way to capture the value of our content. I think what we need to do is deliver that content to consumers in a way where they will appreciate the value,” Carey said. “Hulu concurs with that, it needs to evolve to have a meaningful subscription model as part of its business.” – Chase Carey – News Corp. Deputy Chairman

I am curious what they are trying to say exactly. Are they saying people only find TV programming valuable if they pay for it? Maybe they are saying that Advertisers don’t think it’s valuable enough unless people are paying. What is a meaningful subscription model? Let’s see what you think with the below poll, what would you spend for monthly Hulu service?

How Much Would You Pay For Hulu?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

 

Some facts on Hulu:

Despite more than 40 million unique visitors and 500 million free online streamed videos, Hulu continues to lose about $33 million annually. It shares ad revenues with content owners. Still, Hulu’s three broadcast network owners lose an estimated $920 in ad revenues for every 1,000 viewers who substitute the PC for the TV – Analyst Laura Martin.

If Hulu does go to a subscription model it better well come with a box i can hook up to my TV. If i am paying monthly then i want a traditional viewing experience. The one think i don’t think they are getting is that people use Hulu because it is easy. More importantly it’s easier than torrenting a movie or show. As soon as you start charging then torrenting seems easier to some. If they are concerned about the value of the content then make better content don’t charge to imply value. If ad revenue is an issue there must be a better way of engaging the audience while keeping the content free to the user.

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Business

Get your money for nothing and your chicks for free

I used to believe that only the Dire Straits got their money for nothing, i mean who pays for nothing? The whole concept around paying money is that you receive something, correct? I know, I know. “We pay for experiences, entertainment”. I agree we do but you usually walk away feeling good, entertained!

Well, as i said i used to believe this. There is a revolution of people paying for nothing. You can go out and set up an account right now with OfferPal, the setup only takes 10 mins. In a short period of time they will have you set up to sell NOTHING. You heard me. Let’s look at an example. Zynga, you may have heard of them. They are the small company that produces games in Facebook like Texas Hold’em, Yoville, Farmville and others. Each of these games use the same underlying framework and work off the same model. You use a form of imaginary currency that they determine. To get more currency you play a game or preform a series of mundane tasks. After ahwhile you might become bored of these task so what can you do? You can BUY more coins, points, etc. This is where OfferPal comes in.

OfferPal links your application with big advertisers like Netflix. OfferPal gives you iFramed content targeted to your user. They may see ads for Netflix, eHarmony or others. If they signup for one of these the user may get up to 10,000 points to spend in your game. You get $20-$40 per signup depending on the advertiser. It was estimated that Zynga may earn 200,000 + a year per game based on this model. Now that is what i call “Good Times”.

What do you spend the points on, is it entertaining?

Farmville: With enough points you can buy a combine (it’s actually a 50px x 50px GIF that looks like a combine). You can use that combine on your farm. Oh, wait, no you can’t it’s actually JUST a image. Ha, you can show your friend how much money you spent on a image of a combine the most sought after piece of farming equipment known to man.

Texas Hold’em: You can use your chips to buy someone you don’t know an image of a Pastrami on Rye, Vodka, Tiara or a Teddy Bear.

Yoville: You can buy 100,000 coins for only $40 USD and use them to buy your friends furniture for their home. I don’t even buy my friends furniture in real life. I believe this type of action builds friendships we are not ready to commit to. I mean if i buy you a couch, thats it, i am not contributing any more beyond that to our relationship.

I guess the most surprising thing to me is that with the economy the way it is and so many people cutting back this business is thriving. There are millions to be made with this model and the end is still far off. The lifespan of many of these games is not very long, maybe just 18 months or so. These things are very trendy so if your interested think of something HOT and get in quickly.

So if we have learned anything its that Zynga is getting it’s money for nothing, i am not sure if the chicks are free.

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Product Managment

Pragmatic Marketing Product Managment

A few weeks ago i was able to take 2 courses from Pragmatic Marketing. I took “Practical Product Management” and “Requirements That Work”. I can’t say enough about these two classes. The instructor was very knowledgeable and had great everyday examples of the application of the concepts. I encourage anyone who feels overwhelmed as a Product Manager to look into this. For the price you will not find anything better. After my 2 day class i took the certification class, i have never been a great test taker but it felt easy after all the instruction we had. I am happy to say i passed.

The classes finally helped me to feel confident in the direction i was taking products because i knew i was making decisions for the right reasons. So try it out. Download and read their E-books. Tell me what you think.

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Business, Cable, General

Jericho, Neilsen and the Future

Folks, something interesting happened the other day. Last Friday CBS announced that Jericho was going to be canceled, again! I happen to be a fan of the show in a time when the majority of TV is considered garbage in my mind. Most of you may recall what happened last time the canceled Jericho, the viewing community responded by sending boxes upon boxes of nuts to the studio. This action prompted CBS to bring the show back for a second season and see how the ratings do. This time around they averaged 6.8 million viewers.

6.8 million viewers seems great but isn’t to the TV community. Let’s look at what popular ratings are, wow, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (13.3 mill), SAMANTHA WHO? (9.6 mill), AMERICAN IDOL-TUESDAY (18.8 mill). In fact the 6.8 million Jericho viewers are just behind CRIMINAL MINDS, it just wasn’t enough.

This brings me to the real reason for this post. Neilsen is an archaic system. We use a sample group of 5k people to determine what 99 million homes are watching. With the vast technology we have at our disposal the best we can do is attach a little black box to someones cable line to determine what people like? In just that last few years we have developed Personal Video Recorders (DVR, PVR, Tivo), web streaming shows (cbs.com, hulu.com) and downloadable content (iTunes). Neilsen does no take into consideration any of these sources, in fact when CBS reinstated Jericho they asked people NOT to DVR/Tivo the show because they would not get accurate ratings. According to Tivo’s website Jericho was in the Top 25 most recorded shows (week ending in 3.25.2008). I would not be surprised if the total viewers on these three other mediums were well over another 1.5 – 2.5 million.

If i were Neilsen i would be looking at how i could roll new viewing methods into my ratings calculations.

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