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Rant: Why reconnect to broadcast?

Written By: - Date published: 3:40 pm, October 21st, 2012 - 59 comments
Categories: copyright, hone harawira, Media, tv, video, youtube - Tags: , ,

After Lyn’s 6 year time commitments to her documentary have subsided, we didn’t need the space to produce and then market it around the world. So nearly two months ago we moved out of the larger rental we’d had for the last 3 years back into my old apartment in a flurry of concrete dust from polishing concrete and cursing from fitting storage. But I still haven’t bothered with connecting up broadcast TV. Why would I want to bother? Broadcast TV is largely mindless and endlessly frustrating.

It is really hard to think why it will ever make its way up my nearly infinite list of tasks to the point that I actually do it. And I’d have to confess on this Labour weekend that is because I’m always short of time outside of work (greater than 50 hours per week) and the task of running this blog site (about 10-20 hours per week). And I’m not that unusual for the more highly skilled in our society.

At present, I’m currently heavily involved in the software side of the release of two products that I’ve been working on for two and half years for my employers. And Lyn isn’t any better so I can’t just foist tasks on to her. She snuck in the house move in between a shoot in China and a shoot in India as well as her usual workload at the Business School. Time is at a premium and really has to compete against the simple joy of blobbing out and reading a ePub on my iPad (I got rid of all my books during the move. Lyn kept her ones as “decorations”).

So there is a priority ordered list of 18 tasks on the fridge with everything in it from “sticking door” down to “buy a washing line” and “plug for the bathroom sink” that we’re steadily working through. At the very bottom next to “plants for patio” is the lowest priority task – “fix the aerial”.

I’ll explain that. Basically we can’t get Freeview in our apartment despite the building having it on the central aerial. This is most likely because the process of fitting cupboards over the aerial connection damaged the wiring. It is probably a problem that I could fix easily if I could locate my old soldering iron, moved the TV, my server and workstation (and the innumerable wires), and partially emptied the cupboard. Ummm.. we’re talking much of a day to do that because this area is wire heaven.  Ignoring it and going to Mitre 10 for a basic plug to get something off the list seems a whole lot easier.

But there are the benefits to broadcast TV that would outweigh the effort – surely?  Uh no… It is hard to think of any compared to the alternatives for me. And there is story behind that.

About 6 months ago I brought a BluRay player, mainly because the old DVD player’s firmware was having real problems with the steadily worsening problem of scratches and gunk coating the surfaces of video store DVD’s. You know you have a problem when the player doesn’t just skip the affected section, and you have to unplug the device before it will respond to controls. It was about a decade old so it went in the pile to go to the City Mission when we moved.

I got a a previous years model Sony BDP-480 (for well less than listed) because:-

  • The old DVD player was a Sony and it lasted well. Certainly a lot longer then the expensive DVD recorder I’d brought at the same time.
  • The TV is a Sony and the devices will work well together at full HDTV (Lyn insists on that)
  • It could play MP4‘s from both my DLNA server and USB (the TV was restricted to VOB‘s)
  • Because it was all setup to connect to the internet via a network cable.
  • It had the right jacks for everything including several USB’s in the right places.
  • It wasn’t expensive and was being specialled.

When I got it home and tested it it did everything perfectly.

But being a inveterate fiddler for function I checked out everything on the system. This included a pile of local and international internet media sources. After trying the usual YouTube junk that makes most reality TV look like it is worth watching, I found QuickFlix and MUBI subscription services. There were a pile more like Vice, Ziln, and (shudder) the bloody Wiggles but most of the content wasn’t up to wasting much of my time on. Turned out that there is only so much TEDTalks, Munchies, Citizen Bomber, nzheraldtv, money shows, OpenMic (I wonder where that came from?), and the like that we could watch.

But QuickFlix was for me definitely the pick of the bunch. Sorry, but the next bit is going to sound like an advertorial.

I want to watch mainstream movies and TV series and I don’t care much if they are up to date. If I want that then I can go to the movies or rent videos. What I need is what TV sometimes used to provide – actual entertainment, but to do it to my schedule – not to that of the advertisers. And it has to be cheap because I’m paying for most of the operational costs already through my internet link because the ISP’s grossly overcharge for local traffic.

And that is what QuickFlix provides. It costs $10 per month which is a damn sight better than the $70 I used to pay for Sky a few years ago. It has a moderately large selection that appears to have been culled from the frequency of rentals for older stuff from video stores, but which I suspect is more constrained by  licencing restrictions. And above all it is is truly on demand, has no ads, doesn’t require me to have disk cleaners at hand, and is legal. Moreover it has interesting programmes that have never been displayed on NZ TV – like Being Erica which amused the hell out of me.

So back to my original point. Why would I want to revert to broadcast TV? What does it give me? This is my rough list looking at local TV (with Sky comments in brackets).

  • Mindless repeated ads with the sound mixing frequencies pushed to irritate me (and that includes Sky). All of the bullshit put out by the ad agencies is crap. They damn well mix them to be intrusive and loud.
  • Programs that are never ever on when you want to watch it in your busy time schedule (Sky is as bad).
  • Mindless TV reality shows  that I never want to watch (with Sky it is endless drivel ‘documentaries’ about military conflicts of no interest or value).
  • TV News and Current affairs that is rarely worth watching (Sky has a few channels worth watching – but I’d like to pay for them individually – like BBC or Al Jazzerra(which they don’t offer from memory)).
  • Irritating media celebrities, Te Radar comes to mind, doing travel commercials (the infomercial content is pretty high on Sky as well).
  • Shows, movies and documentaries that are repeated far too often (especially on Sky).

Ok there are a few things of real interest on TV as Brian Edwards pointed out today in “When Hone met Rachel – Now that was a surprise!“, and I agree with him that was definitely worth watching. Both Hone Harawira and Rachel Smalley were impressive.

But consider that I saw it on my iPad was the result of recommendation by someone whose opinion I value. I didn’t have to wade through the mindless drivel that broadcast TV has becoming to find a gem. Moreover, I did it strictly on my time schedule and using a direct link to the video page.

This is how I see almost everything these days on “broadcast” TV – I see fragments of their content. Someone tells me or I read that something is interesting – typically with a link. I watch it via the net. If it has adverts in it or is too damn slow (on-demand-TV from both channels comes to mind), then I find another source (video store or the like) or I simply wait for it to appear as a unencumbered link.

Sure I’m willing to pay for services, but as a discerning consumer that will be done strictly on my terms. Paying Sky for a pile of crap channels that I don’t want, paying rental on a obsolete junk device to decode broadcast, and doing it on their schedule isn’t a useful business model any more. I’ll pay for content provided across the internet where I can pick from a selection when I feel like watching something. And I want that as a fixed charge each month.

I’d pay to have the news and current affairs programs from all NZ channels available as a service. There are usually at least 5 minutes that I want to watch in the news each night. But there is no way that I want to go back to watching bloody ads and not being able to discard the sports and other dross.

I’m a pretty typical near the bleeding edge techie – I use what works. Where I go, you typically find the others follow over the following decades. And I’m so relieved that alternatives are available that I doubt that the aerial will ever go back in.  The day of mass marketing via broadcast is nearly over. The internet provides point-to-point delivery and media organisation should stop pissing around and develop a way of delivering content that way.

59 comments on “Rant: Why reconnect to broadcast? ”

  1. Tom 1

    I feel your pain. Really, I do. I’ve just stubbed my toe so I *really feel* it.

    What I don’t understand is your evident angst and nostalgia for a simple world .. of a few years ago. My box stands alone, unloved, unconnected.

    I find the speed of Debian’s latest kernel and a fibreoptic connection as well as html5 more than adequate for a/v news on demand from any number of sources.

    Don’t grieve for the CRT. It’s long gone.

    • lprent 1.1

      My sympathies for your pain. Fortunately I don’t feel it.

      But I do think that you rather missed my point whilst posing with your foot in the air.

      I don’t want to do it through a computer – I have been able to do and have done that for decades. A computer is what I program on. It includes a permanently kludged system, some messy reboots, lots of partitions and virtual machines, several operating systems, etc etc. A typical programmers system.

      And when I compile code, I run g++ on -j$RUNS where

      CORES=`cat /proc/cpuinfo | grep "^processor" | wc -l`
      RUNS=`expr $CORES + 2`

      Which kind of makes it a bit sluggish to stream video over while that is happening even on a 8 core debian kernel system. Lyn’s OS/X systems are damn near as bad with the video stuff she does.

      A ‘box” is far preferable because I tend to watch TV when I want to avoid fiddling with systems. Start up a box and knowing that it is exactly where you left it last time is a boon. You’ll be able to watch TV rather than fiddling.

      As I said with all of your posturing you rather missed the point.

      But they are finally only just finally rolling out fibre in my area at the end of the month. But that isn’t the problem usually. ADSL2 is fine for video, even full HDTV, where I am. Almost all of the problems wind up as being on the server side.

      At this point I can’t see any use for fibre to the home unless Lyn starts pushing video direct to festivals again. In which case whoever she is employed by can pay for the link.

      • lprent 1.1.1

        Ok that was a trivial unfair. I just reread the post and realised that I’d forgotten an important restriction. No more fans. This is a small apartment, and we currently share with 4 computers, a fridge, and a air-conditioner for summer. It gets a bit noisy because currently two of my machines are on all of the time.

        The old windows server is getting the last of its old vbscript code ported this weekend (I hope). And will get shutdown next week. My laptop seldom goes on. Lyn’s mac laptop is pretty quiet. I’m starting the big shift from hard disks to SSD’s but since there are 6 terabytes that will take a while.

        The big advantage with a box is that they’re designed solidstate with no fans…

      • Nate 1.1.2

        See, this is why I have my home server as the MythTV backend and frontend too. My laptop runs Windows and rarely gets turned on and my main pc is always half broken for similar reasons to you…
        If there is anything worth watching on broadcast TV, we have usually already watched it from the US. If it’s a local program the MythTV box has a freeview-capable tv tuner card in which, like MyFreeview, can record and watch simultaneously. What more would we need? 🙂
        OK, so Linux Blu-Ray support would be good…

      • Draco T Bastard 1.1.3

        I don’t want to do it through a computer

        Then don’t. My sister has a TV that can connect to the wireless internal network and through that connect to the internet and every PC as well. This means that all the local media files are available as well stuff that’s available through the net.

        • lprent 1.1.3.1

          My tv does as well. But the firmware doesn’t do anything but VOB. It isn’t upgradeable. Not a format commonly available on the net.

      • Peter 1.1.4

        Agree. I have never owned a television, nor do I plan to. Actually, that’s a lie, I once owned a valve television bought for $20 in a nostalgia filled phase when I was younger and reminisced about the days when you had to warm the thing up for 10 minutes before watching the Network News at 6, and in the process, heated your living room. So, I’ve never owned a transistor television.

        Do I miss it? Well, I’m not sure what I’m missing, and if it’s mindless programming by unaccountable elites, I’m quite happy to miss it.

  2. karol 2

    My answer to Lynn’s question is – My Freeview.  My only concern now is that NAct are trying to kill off Freeview.
     
    I am a bit of a TV (and media) watcher.  But then again, it’s said that TV is something more women are into than men, while guys are more into movies – except that a lot of guys also like to watch sports and news/current events on TV. 
     
    With TV fiction, I particularly have an appetite for fantasy, adventure, crime/mystery, sci fi (especially if they have a bit of a political slant). Also will watch shows with assertive women characters.  These sort of shows lately have had a tendency to be pushed out of the primetime schedules by “reality” and game shows.  Some of the fiction shows I watch are now broadcast at fairly unsociable hours. I also feel that if a TV show is good, it’ll be good in a month or year’s time.
     
    I was becoming disaffected with broadcast TV, watching a lot of web series and DVDs, but was looking out for My Freeview to become cheaper.  A couple of months ago I found DSE had stopped selling My Freeview (making way for Igloo?).  So I took a punt and bought (from Appliance Shed) a Panosonic Freeview receiver with My Freeview, DVD player and recorder, and USB (I haven’t yet found a  USB stick that it will recognise).
     
    It has the added advantage that I can start watching a programme while it is still recording.  So, now I usually wait til about 20 minutes into an hour’s show before I start watching.  I also record Question Time, and start watching almost immediately.  It means I can stop to do stuff that needs attending to, and then just skip through those NAct patsy, “That’s a very good question”, advertorials.”  I can record both TV One and TV3 6 pm News, and flick back and forth between them, comparing their coverage, and flick through the dreary crime and celeb pieces.
     
    I can record 2 Freeview programmes at once, unlike my old freeview box + DVD recorder, which would only allow recording of 1 channel at a time. Setting to record is very easy, and I can set it up to record a whole series.
     
    I have no idea how this Panosonic machine will stand the test of time, but for now I’m happy with it.  And I no longer play around online during ad breaks, then forget to switch the show back on after the commercials – just flick through the commericals.  And when I do sit down to watch TV, even  if there’s nothing being broadcast that I want to watch, there’s plenty waiting on my recorder.
     

    • lprent 2.1

      The usual failures on things like My Freeview/ My Sky etc are the hard disks. But it is an option.

      Of course I still have to fix the aerial… And I can still get most of the local news etc on the net to my TV using a computer. I should look at buying something like that or just making a dedicated device.

      I wonder how good the automatic advert strippers are these days. They weren’t bad 5 years ago..

      • karol 2.1.1

        How long is one of the hard discs likely to last?  I am disappointed that, so far, I haven’t been able to connect an external hard drive to the Panosonic recorder.
         
        I like the idea of a TV that can also connect with a computer, so that I could easily switch between them.

        • lprent 2.1.1.1

          The resolution on TV’s isn’t particularly high.

          I have had hard disks that failed after two years of continuous use. And I have had ones operating as boot drives that were still functional after 8 years when I wiped and disposed of them. Apart from saying that slower rpm drives usually last longer, have never been able to tell.

  3. Pete 3

    Area man constantly mentioning he doesn’t own a television. I’m being tongue in cheek, but I think we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the quality of television shows over the past decade. With plot arcs and production values, no less. Look at Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, Mad Men for stuff that’s currently being made or Battlestar Galactica and Band of Brothers for shows that completed their run. This increase in quality is due in no small way to competing with the plethora of media options open to people today. Unplugging the aerial wouldn’t be for me.

    • karol 3.1

      Agree with you on the improvement in quality.  I’m watching Game of Thrones, and was majorly into BSG. The others you mention, except for Mad Men, have a fairly masculine bias.  But I have watched some Boardwalk Empire and liked some of it. 
       
      Actually, earlier this morning, I was pondering on doing a post on my year’s TV watching – I was  thinking of doing such a post over the summer on one of those slow news days.

    • lprent 3.2

      Most of the interesting US ones are coming of HomeBoxOffice or ShowTime which are subscription cable channels. In other words they are coming off non-broadcast media.

      They tend to arrive in NZ almost as fast as they wind up on DVD/BluRay. In fact several times the hardcopy arrives here before the broadcast does. Of course you have to buy them “in the US”, just the same as having to use a VPN exiting in the US to watch them online. The difference is that you can minimize the ads.

      BTW: Most of the techniques these US shows use I can see in old 80’s and 90’s tv series from the UK. Lower budgets, same techniques.

      • Pete 3.2.1

        That said, some kind soul keeps on uploading episodes of QI to YouTube. I have a Sony TV too and it plays YouTube beautifully. I have unmetered youtube through my ISP, so I’m very pleased with that and the other shows I’ve discovered on there.

    • weka 3.3

      “Unplugging the aerial wouldn’t be for me.”
       
      All the TV programmes I watch I do so on DVD. I get to watch them when I want, no ads, and I don’t have to wait a week to watch the next episode and risk missing it.
       
      On of the turning points for me was a few years ago when TV3 joined TVNZ in the bizarre practice of taking a series off for an indeterminate period of time and I had no way of knowing when it would start up again (and thus missed some crucial episodes).
       
      btw, does anyone know how I can buy an external optical drive for my laptop that is region free? I’m on a mac. Can’t seem to find any in NZ, and places like Amazon won’t let me buy electronics from NZ.
       
       
       
       

      • Pete 3.3.1

        Install VLC media player. It’s open source and it bypasses the region locking on your computer.

        • weka 3.3.1.1

          Thanks, but it doesn’t work on my mac.

          • lprent 3.3.1.1.1

            It should do. Works in Linux, and Lyn pointed me in its direction, and she mostly uses macs.

            • weka 3.3.1.1.1.1

              It’s a known issue, something to do with the macbook pros I think. I’ll try again, but last time I tried this it didn’t work.

              • weka

                Just tried again. Looks like VLC can’t recognise the disc, even though I can get it to see the disc to try an open it, it doesn’t actually work. I get an error message saying “playback failure DVDRead could not read – 1/4 blocks at 0xae” and then in the log there is a highlighted bit that says “macosx warning: unknown disc type, no idea what to display”.
                 
                 

                • weka

                  Although according to this, it should either work or trip the mac’s region code check
                   

                  You can use an alternate video player like VLC that doesn’t check the region code. Beware that your drive’s firmware still triggers the OS counter, which may then trigger a firmware setting change on your drive. It’s hit and miss on whether or not this will happen, with some Macs allowing any region movie to be viewed in VLC without triggering a change and others triggering a change and potentially locking you out of future switches when you hit the limit. If you know you have at least two changes left, try it and see. My Mac Pro works fine using VLC on Region 3 movies, but my MacBook Pro and PowerBook G4 prompt me to switch regions when I try. Your mileage will vary.
                   

                  http://lowendmac.com/fishkin/08af/region-free-dvd-mac.html

                  • weka

                    Here’s the explanation from VLC
                     

                    Why won’t VLC play DVDs from a region other than what my drive is set to?

                    Many people try to use VLC to play DVDs from regions their drive is not set to. However, the DVD drives on most new Macs have region lockout on the hardware level, so VLC will not necessarily be able to play discs from multiple regions. You may be able to play the disc by opening it as a Video_TS folder instead of a DVD, or by changing the method used by libdvdccss to decrypt DVDs (go to Preferences->All->Input/Codecs->Access Modules->DVD without menus->Method used by libdvdcss for decryption). If you play a lot of DVDs from different regions your best option is to buy a USB or Firewire external drive that you can set to the region you require.
                     

                    http://wiki.videolan.org/FAQ_on_MacOSX_only_issues#Why_won.27t_VLC_play_DVDs_from_a_region_other_than_what_my_drive_is_set_to.3F

                • PlanetOrphan

                  Is there a version of DVDDecryptor for Mac?
                  (U could do a VM machine for Windoze if not)

                  Just rip it too the hard drive …. problem solved.

                  (PS don’t try to “Break” the DVD, ie leave the disk encryptions etc alone, and you can play it like a normal DVD)

                  • weka

                    I don’t know what DVDDecryptor is sorry. I do know that I don’t want to hack the firmware as I still have two years left on the warranty which would be voided if I did that.
                     
                    Ripping discs to the hard drive, yeah but kind of tedious for a TV series that has 20 episodes x 5 seasons.

  4. captain hook 4

    my dvd is a transonic cheapy from the warehouse for $60 and it doesn’t want to stop going.
    recently I got a freeview box because I was sick of the reception from rabbits ears and I thought I would get a whole lot more channels and whooppeee.
    nada.
    the airwaves are filled with utter nonsense, movies that TVNZ re runs over and over and most of the rest is just pure piffle.
    alien masterchef?
    senior masterchef?
    bi-polar masterchef.
    so whats new?

  5. chris73 5

    I’ve heard good things about isohunt

  6. willie maley 6

    Best thing I have done over the past year was cancel the Sky subscription.
    Now using a VPN which allows me to watch TV from all over the World, particularly enjoying the iPlayer content.

  7. karol 7

    The main issues I have with NZ TV, is the lack of accessible and affordable public service broadcasts that everybody could watch.  Also, TV is a social medium, watcing on a laptop is more of a solitary activity.
     
    Access to a good selecton of programmes internationally also is a good idea – but prefereably from a range of countries.  Why is our overseas content so US dominated.  And why are a lot of the Kiwis who download overseas programmes, so addicted to US TV?  There’s a lot of right wing propaganda mixed in with shows from there.
     

    • willie maley 7.1

      Karol good points regarding public broadcasting, the BBC has 4 channels and among the dross there are some gems. Amazing that people in the UK moan about the BBC!
      With regards to watching on the laptop, I use an HDMI cable which allows me to watch the feed on the TV screen.

      • karol 7.1.1

        I have a little HD TV that I got about 5 years ago.  For some reason it doesn’t work when I plug an HDMI cable from my laptop into my TV.  I asked down at DSE a few months back.  They used my HDMI cable to connect a TV and computer in their store and it worked fine.  They couldn’t explain why it doesn’t work with my TV.

  8. Rogue Trooper 8

    Rachel Smalley is a Deaconess (maybe even, a priestess)

  9. the sprout 9

    As a tv addict with very low standards, even i can’t find anything to watch on the box most nights now.
    Don’t bother fixing the aerial, you’d only be disappointed.

  10. captain hook 10

    bought a box of music world vids the other day for a buck each, whole lotta 60’s stuff but more oomph for the buck than any drongo that cant play, cant sing, can whine and can afford a gibson les paul.
    how come they all got the top gear but cant play it?
    anyway. one bawl from grace slick has more emotion than kimbra, wigmore, ladyhawke, brooke whatshername and all the rest put together.

  11. geoff 11

    Why should you reconnect to broadcast?

    The shopping channel!!

  12. Flying Kiwi 12

    My Sky subscription would be on the first tumbril to the guillotine if the going got tough but currently – and I’m sure not accidentally – there are just enough pearls amongst the dross to dissuade me from cutting the umbilical.

  13. tc 13

    Agree, it was only worth it when the 4 SBS channels,on the Optus D1 came on my ‘Strong’ freeview box.

    Apparently Sky saw that off from 1/5/12 as it’s encrypted now so between that and Heartland being behind a paywall that sums up the state of play here in a nutshell,if they can’t make money off it, they go all out to ensure it can’t be viewed by others for free.

    Currently looking at a solution that can get both SBS and ABC satellite channels, both have excellent content and SBS does fantastic football coverage, it’s not looking easy or cheap.

  14. PlanetOrphan 14

    Anyone know a good digital decoder for Linux?

    I’ve looked and come up empty handed.

  15. I only watch BBC/Fox/CNN and occasionally documentaries but even they are getting shit now.
    My TV is mainly for playstation and movies.

  16. terryg 16

    I only had sky tv because my darling wife liked it – she loved the cooking channel in particular. then she died, so I cancelled it – but of course they demand one months notice. next week I have to take the box back. I briefly considered freeview, but I have no interest in TV fiction and cant stand adverts, so I wont bother. Youtube works well enough for me.

  17. brybry 17

    “Democracy Now” is good. Daily. 1hr. Stream from democracynow.org

  18. SHG 18

    I have an AppleTV and an Internet connection.

  19. Rich 19

    I gave up TV five years ago. In my current house, it would just be a matter of buying a coax cable and plugging the TV into Freeview, but I don’t. All that time spent watching is time you’ll never get back. It takes a TV news programme 5 minutes to convey the same infomation as 30s of reading – dialup for the mind, basically.

    I guess if one aspires to a political or media career, it’s important to know what the proletards are being fed. For the rest of us, there’s no point.

  20. Lloyd 20

    Hey. Where is the comment supporting a reinstatement of Channel Seven?

    Channel Seven on Freeview was a public service TV channel that was INFORMATIVE as well as being entertaining. There was minimal, channel only, advertising and was a breath of fresh air compared to all the other channels.

    Labour gave birth to it without any real support (No listings in magazines, no advertising on Channel One or Two) and National killed it by starvation, malice and distortion of statistics.

    Two or three Channels like Seven on Freeview would cause a lot of you to give up your clunky internet connections because it would be RELEVANT, other people would be watching at the same time so you could talk about it in the lunch room next day, and it would be coming from a studio in this country. It seems to me that internet TV is just another way to lose another industry from this country to foreign sources.

    Internet TV is for sad people who will never get the revolution together.

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