My TiVo2Go up and went!

When we first got TiVo2Go (which is too hard to type, so now I will call it t2g), it didn't work very well.

Most importantly, it is unusable without a $15.00 update to your PC operating system.

The reason for this is that Microsoft Windows XP does not ship with an MPEG2 playback license.

The royalty on this license is $2.50 and no way is Microsoft going to pay someone $2.50 on every copy of Windows they sell.

That's why on the Xbox you had to buy that remote before you could watch DVDs - you were basically paying the MPEG2 licensing fee for hardware, which used to be like $20.00 I think.

Windows Media Center PCs cost a little more and come with the MPEG2 license.

Frequently your video card would include the MPEG2 license so your machine might work. I had reinstalled Windows and my video card so often there was no MPEG2 playback software in sight. Eventually I found something on an old disc but was not reliable.

So, I paid the $15.00 to Sonic for their playback license.

Now I could watch TiVo on my PC, but not burn discs.

That cost more money for TiVo - you have to buy Sonic's burning software which I eventually got on sale for $40.00. It also comes with the MPEG2 playback license but since it was getting put on another machine that gave me two computers that could play back TiVo2Go.

So finally I decide to burn some discs. The Sonic software has a mode that will put your movie on your disc at a variable quality rate which is supposed to make it as good as it can be. Luckily I tried that and found it didn't play back right on an older (not that old) DVD player. Now I manually chose the highest bitrate that will fit on the disc and that looks good on both of our regular old DVD players.

The quality is okay but not great. The thing is, if you want a great looking DVD, you should buy it at the store! The prices are cheap, you get extras, and a box, and the best possible quality. If you are burning your own discs, it's probably stuff that you only want for the kids or where the visual quality doesn't matter that much, or that you can't get any other way.

If you burn your own discs of a movie from HBO, consider the following place you are in the food chain:

Movie comes out in theatres;
Movie comes out on DVD for sale or rental;
Movie comes out on pay-per-view;
Movie comes out on subscription TV;
Movie comes out on regular TV.

You are very near the bottom of the food chain - the movie has been out a long time. So that means you're willing to wait before getting the movie. Then, you finally record it on your TiVo, which compresses it. Then you recompress it, which takes hours, and burn a DVD, which is probably single layer, and so the bit rate isn't very high. If you want chapter stops, that takes extra time to choose.

Finally you have your DVD. It looks okay - kind of like VHS, but better, probably, depending on how much you had to compress it to fit.

So, my feeling is that nobody is losing out on DVD sales due to TiVo2Go.

The main things we recorded onto DVD were some kids shows we couldn't get (mostly Christmas specials and the most recent Clone Wars).

It's great for archiving TV shows, so if you wanted your own version of Lost on DVD without paying for the box set it would work.

Overall, I like it, but for really cool shows or movies, I suggest you buy the DVD rather than burn your own.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Disneyland Celebrates 50th Anniversary - Yahoo! News

Disneyland Celebrates 50th Anniversary - Yahoo! News:
"Broadcaster Art Linkletter, 93, who hosted the live telecast of the park's opening day along with Ronald Reagan and actor Bob Cummings, kicked off the ceremony joking that his longevity allowed him to be present at Disneyland's golden anniversary.

'I'm not only happy to be here, I'm happy to be anywhere,' said Linkletter, who was also celebrating his birthday Sunday."

(Emphasis added.)

Images of Disneyland

MiceAge.com - A different look at Disney...:

"Images of Disneyland"

A series on MiceAge.com of historical pictures of Disneyland:


Harvard Business Review Online | Managing for Creativity

Harvard Business Review Online | Managing for Creativity

Although the press has played up the company’s 35-hour workweek, the truth is, employees often put in extra time to complete a project or fulfill a responsibility. But make no mistake: This is a far cry from some Silicon Valley start-up. The company actively discourages people from working 70-hour weeks. “After eight hours, you’re probably just adding bugs” is a company proverb, repeated often enough by the CEO and others that managers take it seriously. SAS encourages employees to disconnect from work for a time and then come back recharged. Creative people can be trusted to manage their own workloads; their inner drive to achieve, not to mention accountability among colleagues, compels a high level of productivity.


Happy 50th Disneyland

In honor of Disneyland, and really of Walt Disney, certainly one of the most visionary entertainers ever, I present this photo of the model of Epcot that used to be on display at the Carousel of Progress at Disneyland, and which is now briefly visible from the PeopleMover at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.

Model of Epcot

(Click for bigger version.)

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.




This is a nice presentation of the changes made to Discovery.

I read Feynman's Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman (I hope I have the right book reference) where he talks about the Challenger disaster and how his analysis showed the risk of catastrophic failure due to the design of the shuttle was about 1 in a 100, and not 1 in 100,000 as Nasa had claimed.

It turns out he was wrong - based on actual history, the chances of catastrophic failure are about 1 in 50 - there have been two disasters out of about 100 launches.

His concerns had to do with the design and not so much the implementation. The design was just too complicated and worked too hard to defeat physics. For instance, a good nuclear reactor will shut down automatically if the water leaks out. This is done by making physical linkages that put the rods into the reactor automatically - it's not done by a sensor, or a computer, but by the nature of the physical world.

The shuttle design flies in the face of that and has all kinds of little hacks (the more recent ones are documented in the link above) to 'work around' the nature of the physical task it is made to perform. (My favorite is the 'bolt catchers'.)

So, the odds are good that the shuttle will fail catastrophically again. And it will be in some system or subsystem where the engineers already knew there was a problem, as happened the last two times.

And it will be very sad.


Aliens invade my hood!

I was getting my oil changed at Oil Can Henry's. The opened up the hood and I saw an alien symbol on my car's hood!

I had a digital camera with me (of course - it won't be long before everyone has one with them all the time, which might have an interesting effect on crime rates) and so I snapped a photo.

Click on the little picture for a bigger picture showing that this is the hood of my car. The alien head is actually the wiper squirter.

An alien symbol on the hood of my car

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

I've been Terminated!

Stephen's actually a terminator!

The fact is I've terminated people and I've been terminated. It's a natural part of life in a capitalistic economy, especially if you are passionate about what you are doing. (Anyone pissed at me for firing them will be happy to know I've been fired two or three times myself. I think three times.)

I was laid off once, but hired back after a month with back pay. I was very young and that made me really nervous! I was very happy to get hired back.

My favorite firing was when I was fired for quiting. That was hilarious. (Well, the boss was pissed because he'd just given me a bonus a few days before, so I don't blame him too much for getting mad at me.)

Another time I was fired and the company gave me a check for $150,000.00. It turns out they had signed me to a contract a few months before and they had to pay off 100% of my brand new stock options which suddenly fully vested. I still have the check stub hanging on my wall as a reminder of the glories of capitalism.

I had to pay over $50,000.00 in taxes on that check. I wish I hadn't spent the rest of it. I should have given it to my wife to invest.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

www.videogameslive.com - Frequently Asked Questions

"Who started Video Games Live?
Video Games Live was founded in 2002 by industry veterans Tommy Tallarico and Jack Wall under the parent company Mystical Stone Entertainment, LLC. This show was created by gamers for gamers. Although fans of video games are going to really enjoy this event, the show will want to be attended by anyone who enjoys live upbeat, intense and passionate music with mind-blowing visuals and on-the-fly musical interactivity that has never been attempting in the history of live entertainment."

I'm famous as the person that gave Tommy Tallarico his start in the video game business.

Too bad this concert series isn't coming to Seattle. Hey Tommy, you know, Nintendo and Microsoft and Valve are here in Seattle! And we have a beautiful concert hall!

[Edit - it did come to Seattle and it was great fun!]


Heavenly Sword Developed By Ninja Theory Next Generation Games Developer In Cambridge UK

Heavenly Sword Developed By Ninja Theory Next Generation Games Developer In Cambridge UK

Wow. I wouldn't want to say anything bad about Microsoft Game Studio's Marketing and PR. Luckily this guy says it for me.

It's weird at MS. Sometimes a game (like Project Gotham Racing) will have a super-enthusiastic Program Manager and the marketing guys will have him talk to the press and things go great!

On Halo, that's what Ed Fries did - he knew the game and went out there and hyped the hell out of it. He did a really good job!

Other times they'll put a guy that used to sell sportswear in front of the press, and it all goes to hell.

I don't get it. It's some kind of cultural weirdness there that allows such a thing.

I'm serious. I really don't get it. The usual excuse, 'we grew really fast', won't work anymore. I think there is just something about their culture at MS that says, 'a good marketing guy can sell anything.' But guess what - that's not true!

Especially in games. Game journalists can smell fake gamers a mile away.


Music Industry wins German case against allofmp3.com

Music Industry wins German case against allofmp3.com:
"If there's one site that sells music downloads that has really gotten on the nerves of the major music labels, it is allofmp3.com. The site - based in Russia charges users for their download by amount of data that is downloaded, generally 2 cents per MB. In February this year, the site came under criminal investigation in Russia for copyright violations but later on, in March, it emerged that allofmp3.com wasn't breaking any current Russian laws.

The IFPI swore that it would not give up and it didn't. A Court in Munich has now prohibited allofmp3 from making copyrighted data publicly available within Germany. In the same press release that brought this news, the music industry also stated said it's going to take action against sites that support allofmp3, or similar sites, with advertisement or links."

Billboard PostPlay: Weedshare Adds RCA To Label Roster

Billboard PostPlay: Weedshare Adds RCA To Label Roster:
"I haven't seen an official press release yet, but p2pnet reports that Kelly Clarkson has released a new single, 'Since U Been Gone', in the Weed file format into the P2P universe...Her website also confirms the report and the song is priced oddly at $1.09. Since Sony BMG owns RCA, it is yet another strong signal that the industy is evolving (with less kicking and screaming) to commercial P2P.

Sony BMG Music and RCA Records are the first major label to distribute content in the Weed format and I'm sure the other 3 majors will follow suit soon, once they comprehend and feel comfortable with the whole model. Kelly's Weed file, which is an exclusive remix of her single, is currently available HERE, but will be eventually be everywhere as it grows like a weed across the net..."

Weed was designed and implemented here in the Seattle area.

I like the weed interface to the license server ... you click 'play' and it says, 'Hang on a second.'


Biggest Rainbow EVAR

A short movie of the biggest rainbow EVAR

Click on the thumbnail for a 1.2 megabyte mpeg movie.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


Re: Jeffrey Snover - Monad explained

Re: Jeffrey Snover - Monad explained

After watching this video, I was perhaps overly cruel in my earlier entry. It sounds like MSH will leverage all that bizarro inaccessible type information for all the objects floating about your system, and make it accessible.


Finally! TA2

I've been waiting YEARS for this! Atari could never figure out how to make a sequel to Total Annihilation so now THQ and Gas Powered Games are making the 'spiritual' sequel to TA.

Supreme Commander Screenshot


© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.

Dashboard of best webcams on Net

Dashboard of best webcams on Net

Not bad. You get new stuff everytime you visit.


Speakeasy Speed Test

Speakeasy Speed Test

This is a very nice looking speed test. You can see some while it runs.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.


An 'Incredible' Marketing Ploy - Forbes.com

An 'Incredible' Marketing Ploy - Forbes.com:
"The number of kids armed with cell phones is surprisingly high. By the end of this year, half of all children between the age of 11 or 17 will have their own phone, according to the Yankee Group. They're profitable consumers, too: Kids use more minutes on their cell plans and spend freely on premium, paid services. All told, users under the age of 18 probably account for as much as a quarter of the $100 million a year cellular service market. "

A Disney network would follow the lead of the Virgin Group, which launched its own using the Sprint PCS network in 2002. Virgin Mobile USA targets young adults between the ages of 18 and 24, enticing them with sexy commercials and a content partnership with MTV. The company already has nearly 2 million subscribers, and is reportedly considering an IPO during 2005, which could find the company valued at as much as $2 billion.

Thefacebook | Welcome to Thefacebook!

Thefacebook | Welcome to Thefacebook!

When I was at the Northrop Research and Technology Center in 1986 we heard about something called the Face Server. We thought that sounded cool so we went around (no kidding) and collected everyone's security badge and scanned it! Workstations were just black and white (no gray) so we had to reduce each photo down to a dot pattern that was still recognizable.

After we did all that, we lost interest, and never actually implemented the Face Server.

Apparently the Face Book is something similar for college campuses.


Digital Music News

Digital Music News:
"XM Satellite Radio is continuing to beef up its subscriber totals, most recently adding 640,000 in the second quarter. That addition brings the overall total to 4.4 million, and reflects a growing rate of increase. For the first quarter of this year, XM tacked on an additional 540,000, while 418,000 were added in the second quarter last year. 'In just one year, XM has more than doubled its subscriber base from 2.1 million in the second quarter of 2004 to over 4.4 million subscribers today,' said XM chief Hugh Panero."

That's impressive as anything I've heard. You can get people to pay for something they used to get for free.