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Post-mortem for another web pioneer: Television Without Pity
March 31, 2014 | 4:31 pm

television without pityI wrote earlier this month about the closure of Collage Video, a pioneering niche online retailer who fell victim to growing competition from Amazon, YouTube and other market forces. The eulogies for them on-line were sentimental, heartfelt, and usually followed by the frank admission that the person simply didn't shop there anymore. Well, the market forces struck again this week, as pioneering television recap site Television Without Pity announced that they too were shutting their doors. The site was known for its motto 'spare the snark, spoil the network' and it posted gleefully acerbic recaps of television shows. So, what happened? This...

How TV is Looking to Novelists for Inspiration
March 27, 2014 | 10:25 am

novelistsBy Miles Young Game of Thrones. The Walking Dead; if you've ever had trouble tearing yourself away from one of these hot TV programs, you understand why critics call today's menu of tantalizing cable offerings the “New Golden Age of Television.” The shows keep you up past your bedtime. They account for a significant amount of bleary-eyed commuters each morning.  Staying up late to find out what happens next in a soul-gripping TV melodrama isn't a new phenomenon. Before the serial soaps of today, there were the thrilling page-turner novels of yesterday. Some people say that today's must-see cable shows rival the...

Collage Video: the death of a niche retailer
March 13, 2014 | 10:47 am

collage videoI received the news via the Video Fitness forum I visit, that Collage Video, a pioneer in the home exercise market, is closing after more than 20 years in business. One message board poster spoke with a rep who said that management made the decision because they felt they could no longer compete with the 'larger companies.' My virtual friends in this niche community are, of course, devastated by the closure---for sentimental reasons. Many got their fitness start purchasing from this company, and enjoyed receiving their quarterly glossy catalogues, watching the preview clips they posted with every title, and reading the...

Thirty years of time shifting: The Supreme Court decision legalizing the VCR
January 18, 2014 | 2:14 am

Today marks an important anniversary for our digital media era—an era that couldn’t have been foreseen thirty years ago, but nonetheless relies to a very great extent on a legal decision exactly thirty years old. Today is the 30th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision that declared the Sony Betamax VCR was legal because “time shifting,” recording a program off the air to watch it later, was fair use, and thus the VCR had substantial non-infringing purposes. Ars Technica has a feature article looking at the context of the decision in greater detail. This decision is crucial to...

Have you ever been ‘vidnapped’? A new term defines our times
January 14, 2014 | 6:32 pm

vidnappedIn criminal law, a ''kidnapping'' is, of course, the taking away or transportation of a person against that person's will, usually to hold the person in false imprisonment -- and sometimes to demand a ransom. But in the online world of viral videos, a new term has surfaced, and been officially sanctioned by the folks at Urban Dictionary -- "vidnapping." So what's a vidnapping, you ask? It's when a person is videotaped or digitally videoed against his or her will, and without his or her consent or permission, usually in public space such as a city park or football stadium. In most...

Bill Gates, Nathan Myhrvold seek patent to convert text to video
August 18, 2013 | 12:14 pm

text to videoNeed an imagination? There's an app for that. Or soon will be. Among the wackier wheezes worked up lately to improve on plain old Mark One printed text is a patent application filed by Bill Gates, Nathan Myhrvold, and a bunch of other Washington State dreamers to autoconvert text to video. The application covers: "A system for converting user-selected printed text to a synthesized image sequence, comprising: processing electronics configured to receive an image of text over a network, to translate the text of the image of text into a machine readable format, and, in response to receiving the image, to generate model information...

Netflix Finally Adding Profiles
August 1, 2013 | 12:54 pm

AmazonOh happy day! We've been cord cutters relying on Netflix for years, and yes, our son in college is one of those "digital moochers" that Joanna wrote about earlier this year. Unfortunately, my son, husband and I all have different tastes in movies, and Netflix offers me up some interesting suggestions. (No, I don't want to watch Chinese martial arts movies. Or depressing art flicks.) At least there aren't any youngsters in the house, so I don't have to deal with animated pony recommendations. Netflix has been talking about adding profiles for most of a year now, and it looks like they...

Google’s New Nexus 7 Tab Will Get You Some Tail (Video)
July 24, 2013 | 4:47 pm

Google Nexus 7Say it with me: Tech is sexy. Feels a bit weird, right? But hey, I’m not the first to say it—I even felt a bit squeamish when I first heard a friend’s reaction to the form factor of a certain mobile device as such. You see this with car enthusiasts, treating their prized ‘whips’ like the true loves of their lives. I have no comment other than, Well, I guess there are far more odd things to be into. So, taking that notion a bit further, I’d like to pose a question for all y’all: Can having cool tech items get you some —...

Video: How To Turn Off Popular Highlights on Kindle
July 23, 2013 | 6:51 pm

It's a common question from a new Kindle owner. "What are all these underlines, and how do I get rid of them?" Well, let's start with what they are. Amazon keeps track of words and phrases that are commonly highlighted and displays them, if you choose to view them. If you're like me and preferred to buy your text books new, the "feature" probably drives you crazy. Fortunately, it's easy enough to get rid of them, as I'll show you in the video. Please note that I'm demonstrating on a Kindle Touch. Your screen may look slightly different, depending on your model. ...

The ‘Future’ of Entertainment Looks a Lot Like 1995
July 21, 2013 | 8:44 pm

iTunesThis weekend, we hit a milestone in my household: the Beloved finally got sick enough of the limited selection on flat-rate Netflix to venture into the pay-per-movie world of the iTunes Store, which we can access on the bedroom television via the spiffy little Apple TV box. And ... color us disappointed. We made our selection, pressed the play button and got the following screen: 'Ready to Play in 2 hours, 7 minutes.' Um ... really? What followed was almost more entertaining than the movie turned out to be: As the Beloved kept trying to reload the screen to increasingly random predictions (ready to...

Author John Green backs traditional booksellers, editors and publishers
June 5, 2013 | 10:47 pm

Author John Green is an Internet sensation. He has millions of followers through various channels such as Twitter, YouTube and Tumblr. Green recently was named Indie Champion by the American Booksellers Association. The ABA published his acceptance speech on YouTube last week, which I spotted on the Huffington Post today. His speech may be not NSFW, but he gives a heartfelt rant about the power and necessity of tools of traditional publishing: “I am sometimes held up as an example of someone who is like changing the publishing paradigm or whatever because I have a lot of Tumblr followers or YouTube subscribers and I...

TED Talks: How Books Can Open Your Mind (Video)
June 1, 2013 | 11:30 am

TED TalksFor anyone who hasn't yet had a chance to watch the video of Lisa Bu's beautiful TED Talks lecture about the power of books, and the life-altering affect they had on her own life, give yourself the gift of clicking on the video below; it's just six minutes and 17 seconds long. I don't know if any of you will feel the same way, but the next time I happen to find myself stuck in a reading rut, I plan to sit back and give this video another close look. (Lisa Bu, by the way, is TED's content distribution manager. Her...