Netflix to revamp video streaming tech

Jeff Morganteen on Netflix:

Netflix uses about a third of all internet data in North America at certain times, according to the trade publication.

This is pretty insane. At certain times 1/3 of all internet traffic is hitting a Netflix server. Evidently, if you want to influence North America just have a bunch of stuff on Netflix…

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Drowning in Information Overload

Bradley Chambers on dialing back our connectedness:

I’ve not completely disconnected, but I’m reducing the amount of time I am connected.

Oddly enough, I read this after my own decision to dial down the amount of input that I have. I’m not on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram much, but just gazing into the iPhone screen for hours each day was enough to make me dial back to a Blackberry for a week. I’ll be curious to hear his thoughts on how it turns out.

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A Little Experiment Results

The iPhone/Blackberry experiment is over. I went from Monday morning until about Friday afternoon with no iPhone. I turned it on maybe twice to get some information that wasn’t available anywhere else and promptly turned it back off. As promised here are some thoughts on the week.

It was definitely a challenge and a mindset change to not have so much information readily available in my pocket. Most of my day is spent either downloading or uploading code, documents, emails, etc. via the internet, but I’ve realized there is so much distraction in such a small form factor. It’s just so darn convenient that it was a bit difficult to adjust. The ease with which I can get almost any type or amount of information on a smart phone is unfathomable. The Blackberry effectively has no browser which means it has no ability to get that information. It couldn’t even load up Google… This was probably for the best. Forced information diet at least from that medium.

I did miss the music that I have on my iPhone. When I got in the car or sat down to work, I missed the ability to put my headphones in and get in the zone. I suppose I could have downloaded some of my iTunes library to a computer while at work, but that thought didn’t cross my mind until just now. It was somewhat nice to drive for an hour one day with nothing but road noise.

I missed the way I’ve been able to interact with the content on the screen. I made the mistake of poking the Blackberry screen in order to get it to do something more than a few times. I also missed being able to fire up a quick game while sitting in the waiting room for a doctor’s appointment. I did start up Brickbreaker a few times, though. The distraction factor of “get me away from ‘8216;boring’ right now” simply wasn’t as easily available and this made all the difference

The most interesting observation that I made during my down week was that, although I felt less connected, I didn’t really feel like I was missing out. The thought crossed my mind a couple of times, but most of the interaction that I participate in during a regular day could also be handled through another device. I did drift toward that at times during the week, but I was conscious of it which made all the difference. When I was forced to move to my iPad or computer to do the same thing that I used to do on my iPhone, it was more of a conscious choice instead of just a automatic response to move toward my iPhone. I’ll take this as a good thing. Being mindful of my device and information consumption was a good outcome for my little experiment. Now, it’s time to carry those lessons forward.

A Little Experiment

I’m trying an experiment this week. I have taken the SIM card out of my iPhone and put it into the Blackberry that I’ve had for years. I keep the Blackberry around for international travel as it is unlocked and can accept just about any GSM SIM. I’m not sure what prompted this decision, but yesterday as I was fiddling with extra cables in my desk and reducing the amount of clutter there, I decided to pull it out, charge it up, and make it my primary cellular device. Yesterday and for many years before I’ve tried to reduce the clutter in my life, and I’m wondering if the iPhone is a part of that clutter. Tim Ferriss advocates an information diet in his very popular The 4-Hour Workweek, and I’ve binged and purged since reading his thoughts on this topic. Because the iPhone is a portal to a ridiculously large amount of information, it might be nice to reduce the load for awhile.

The Blackberry on the other hand, has a total of 5-7 “apps” that will be able to replace the existing ones on my iPhone:

  • Phone
  • Text
  • Contacts
  • Clock/Alarm
  • Brickbreaker

It’s nice that the Blackberry is unlocked, and after 6 years of usage, it’s actually still a decent phone. So sad that they went out of business. The iPhone screamed onto the scene and completely decimated the smart phone market. I’m sure I will be considerably slower in typing text messages, but I don’t get that many anyway, so I think I’ll be alright. Phone calls may be coming back into my life, who knows?!

Part of me really doesn’t want this to work as I’ll have an excuse to discontinue the experiment. It is the Christmas season after all, so maybe this will be a great time to really turn off and enjoy the season for what it is. I’ve been telling all of our family that we should unplug from the consumerism (at least for the adults), and remember what this season is about. Keeping the Christ in Christmas is a silly phrase, but I don’t want to focused on all of the gift giving. Let’s be honest: there are very, very few people that are thinking about Jesus while they are spending gobs of money that they don’t have. One step further? How many of us actually remember what we got last year? I remember one large item as it was picked out by me. My parents gave me and my brothers cash last year as it was a difficult holiday season for them. I remember having so much fun picking out my Tom Bihn Smart Alec backpack and all of it’s matching accessories. I still have fun picking stuff out from that website.

Another part of me does want a reduction in iOS consumption mostly because it will be a severe reduction in my mobile plan cost. It will also hopefully reduce the amount of information that goes into my brain. I’m on my phone quite a bit. Being off of it for awhile will be a good thing.

I’ll report back in a week or so and let everyone know how this little experiment is going and whether I think it’s a good idea or not. I had the phone ready to rock right before bedtime last night, and I’ve already had two incidents this morning (yep, before 6am) that my brain will have to work around.

  1. I grabbed my standard white Apple earpods for my walk this morning. No music could be listened to on the Blackberry. :/
  2. As I opened up Editorial to write this morning, I wasn’t quite sure if I’d sent yesterday’s daily muse to Day One. I normally check my iPhone for this. :/

There are a number of things that I think that I will miss. We’ll see if that pans or not. It will be interesting to compare the “think I’ll miss” list to the “actually miss” list.

iOS 9 Review

Federico Viticci on the evolution of the iPad as a primary computing device:

The problem that Apple needs to solve with iOS 9 for iPad is complex. How can Apple make good of the post-PC promise with features that are drastically different from what came before – without the overhead and inherent complexity of forty years of desktop computers – but also capable of addressing modern user needs and workflows?

I have a Windows 8.1 PC that I use for work. As a software engineer on the Microsoft platform, I don’t have any other choice, but it does the job. When I get done with my work day, it’s refreshing to go to “work” on my iPad with a platform that doesn’t require registry manipulation in order to make some aspect of the application work the way it should be design.

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iOS Only

One of my favorite charts is the Pareto. It’s incredibly useful for triaging your life. That’s not an exaggeration. I use it all the time. For example, let’s solve late arrivals to work. Solve the issues with the most occurrences for the most ROI. If one solves the first three issues of traffic, child care, and public transportation, she can reduce the number of late arrivals to work by 78%. As an employer there’s not much she can do to solve the traffic issues apart from making large contributions to the new roads budget and hope that someday the roads will be wide enough to account for all of the traffic that is headed to her office. Childcare could be helped by offering employees a discount at a facility close to her office. Public transportation could be helped by larger budgets as well. This would allow for more frequent cycles for buses, trains, and light rails. The point is that if she solve these three issues, you can reduce late arrivals to work by a very large margin.

I’m sure Apple went through a similar process when evaluating the target audience for iOS1. As an ecosystem, I’d say it covers 68%-80% of the computing tasks in the world. This covers the first standard deviation all the way to the third Pareto point. What do most people in most cases do on their devices whether they be desktop/laptop or mobile?

  • Messaging (email, Facebook, text, WhatsApp, etc.)
  • Photos
  • General Internet browsing

If you think about your daily usage with any sort of device (laptops and desktops included), these are 68%-80% of your activities. The most common computer users are not developers. They are not tech-y. They want their devices to work. They want them automatically backed up. They don’t want to fiddle with them. For most people in most cases iOS should be your go to when selecting an operating system for your devices. I’m not talking about just your mobile devices. I’m talking about all devices. As I get older, the more I fit into this category. At one point it was fun to experiment with all of the options. At times it still is, but for most people in most cases, iOS fits this description very well.

As an operating system, iOS is behind every other operating system in the world. It’s clearly not as capable, but is that hindrance to using it for your primary devices? You can’t drag and drop. You can just now multi-task on an iPad. Heck, you couldn’t even copy and paste until two years into the iOS product life cycle. Now that it’s growing up and is soon to be in its ninth iteration, we’re getting a more mature operating system. Is that what we want, though? Do we really want a full-blown Mac OS X or Windows 10 on our handheld and ultra-portable devices? If you’re on vacation, do you want to be fiddling with the registry and pLists because your photos application crashed after visiting the Great Wall of China? Nope. It should just work. It should just work all the time. In all of its simplicity and “lack”, I want iOS. It’s what most people want.

From a hardware standpoint, peripherals just get in the way. There are edge cases for all of these, but most people don’t need Das Keyboard. Most people don’t print photos of their daily activities anymore. Most people would throw their mouse in the trash for a chance to touch the screen instead. You can type a bit slower on an iOS device than you can on a traditional keyboard, but no matter. You don’t have to lug around all of the technical baggage that comes with a complicated operating system like OS X or Windows 10. Let’s face it. No one really wants to use either of these. Definitely not Windows 10.

One of Apple’s original marketing slogans was “it just works”. I’d argue that other companies can and should have this mentality when it comes to their devices, but for now iOS is the best competitor in the market. I no longer have a computer for personal use. I have a work issued computer, but I very rarely use that for personal tasks. I use it create Pareto’s and standard deviations. I’m on my iPad Air 2 with ClamCase or my iPhone. Between those two, I can do just about everything. Anything else that I think need to do is not nearly as important as I make it out to be in my mind. There’s no need for an additional device floating around in my backpack that takes up unnecessary weight. There’s no reason to cart around another device that is going to cause undue troubleshooting while what I really want to do is spend time with my family or enjoy a sunset.

Fireworks

If you or someone you know is old enough to know that lighting explosives off the top of your head could kill you, you don’t need a law to restrict your purchase of said explosives…

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ISIS

If you haven’t yet read the Graeme Wood article What ISIS Really Wants from the March 2015 issue of The Atlantic, I’d suggest you take some time (quite some time actually) to do so. While I don’t believe that Graeme fully answers the question implied in the title of his article, it does shed some light on my own misconceptions about ISIS and what it’s really about. There has been a lot of feedback (some 14,000+ comments) on the article itself as well as tweets, Facebook posts, and others all surrounding this article. There were even a handful of followup articles that I haven’t had time to read yet. I’m glad that men like Graeme have taken the time to write about such a polarizing topic.

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Live a Quiet Life

I’ve often thought about this passage from 1st Thessalonians. In a world fueled by novelty, it’s difficult to find a place that is legitimately quiet. The topic has been written about ad nauseam. Most of these articles talk about the practical physical health benefits with specific regards to sound. There’s more to noise though than just sound, right? No doubt the noise aspect is an interesting topic. In our culture, the typical day roars to a start with an electronic alarm clock that immediately has a long list of notifications from the night before. During your groggy “snooze-button” state, a clever email marketer wrote a catchy subject line that is now embedded in your brain before you can even decide that it’s not worth your time. This is the time when we make our worst decisions. If you look at your phone or computer during this time (or really any time during the day) and even read a few mere words, you’re in. As the day progresses, we’re bombarded with information via email, music, advertisements from every angle, TV, conversations with co-workers, more email… You get the point.

I’ve decided to make an active attempt to quiet the noise in my life. I long for that quietness that I remember when I went camping with my family as a kid. I’ll define what noise means in the context of this writing, so we can be on the same wavelength. Noise is anything extraneous and undesirable for the life I want to live. Some might call it clutter. Some might call the mindset of reducing this noise feng shui. It doesn’t matter what you call it. The principle is the same: reduce the nonessential. Think about trying to hone in on the amazing jazz player in Central Park while the hustle and bustle of New York City is all around. This is what we’re going for. How about some examples and practicality?

Advertisements

As a business owner, I understand that one needs to talk about and advertise the business. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Doing what you can to promote your products to the right people makes perfect sense. On the buyer end, though, is it really necessary to have fifty new emails each morning telling you about all the new stuff that’s out there? Is it just to satisfy your curiosity or are you legitimately interested in purchasing something from this company in the next month? If you are, great! By all means keep that email subscription, but if it’s just to satisfy your curiosity, just because you’re afraid you’ll miss out, unsubscribe or choose not to expose yourself immediately. This is noise. This applies to any and every email. Be ruthless. Check out SaneBox if you want some help with this.

Software

While advertisements through email, TV, smart phones, tablets, and the like are near inevitable, here is one practical step you can take to reclaim some sanity and stimulate the economy. If you are a computer user (this includes smart phones and tablets), pay for the non-advertisement version of the developer’s app. Apps are cheap (although they should be more expensive). You see fewer ads, and everyone wins. Value the developer’s work. Try out the free version if there is one. If you like it, buy it. Put some food on his/her family’s table and give your eyes a break from all the ads. Don’t go crazy, but support good software for people that are also trying to make an honest living by working with their hands.

Clutter

Let’s move to the more physical world. Do you have a closet or garage filled with moving boxes that have been unopened over the past few moves? Stuff that’s sitting around that could be sold for a few dollars or even more? It’s too much. Sell it. This is also noise. You don’t have to get rid of everything that you deem sentimental. Just be honest about whether you really need it in your life. Peter Walsh (no relationship), author of “It’s All Too Much” (linked above), can shed some light on this topic. Every time you pass that closet or box, there is a subconscious activity taking place. Your brain knows it should do something about this stuff, but another part of your brain is saying there is nothing to do about it. Conundrum. It’s a waste of mental energy. It’s what David Allen calls an “open loop”. Make the decision to do something about it. It’s noise in your life. You’ll breath easier at the end of the day when you come home and there’s tangible stillness in the air.

What to expect

These are the main areas of my life that I’ve committed to doing something about. These are the ones that I wrestle with. It’s a process and probably shouldn’t be handled in a weekend. I’ve been working toward a quieter life over the past several months. I’ve deleted apps (noisy ones that are clamor for my attention). I’ve unsubscribed from hundreds of emails. I’ve reduced the number of devices and amount of stuff in my life. I’d like to be able to live out of a backpack. As I get closer to the goal, though, I find that I have some very bad habits. I still check email habitually on my phone. Even though SaneBox is quietly working behind the scenes, I “just check” all the time. It’s a terrible habit that pulls me away from the current moment and the stillness that is everywhere if I would just open my eyes and absorb it. Living a quiet life is not so much about the cacophony of sounds in our lives, but mostly about the “noise” that consumes our culture. It’s about a return to what’s truly meaningful in life. Expect this to be a challenge. It’s doable, but it’s an easy decision to just start. Start with just being aware of it. Move on to making some small changes. Try it out for a week, and notice what happens. You can always go back. You probably won’t want to, though.

A Prophet is not Welcome

It’s a vexatious thought to consider: you have a message, a very important message. Should you share it? You consider the ways that the message could be delivered in a tactful, unassuming way. You try to be considerate of the recipient’s feelings. You consider the implications of the delivery of your message. You open your mouth for the first time with a trusted friend. She listens, but you get the idea that she’s only listening because she cares about you, not because she’s actually interested in what you have to say. You see her again later that month, and the same topic comes up. She’s slightly more agitated this time and politely changes the topic. The friendship continues, but it’s clear that something is driving a wedge between you two. Is this message worth the relationship? Yes. It’s that important. I care about her, and she needs to know. As the relationship continues to center around this topic, the tension grows. The conversations become shorter. The dialogue about anything else that used to be foundational to the relationship dwindles. She stops returning your calls and texts. She’s gone. You’ve lost a friend. Why? Your message is perfectly clear. It makes logical and common sense. Why won’t anyone believe you? Why are you the only person this is obvious to? Do people think you’re crazy? It doesn’t matter which way you spin it. The result is the same: you’re unwelcome, off your rocker, or even worse a lunatic. This is especially true if you’re right.

Such is the life of the prophet. I’m not speaking in Biblical terms alone. It doesn’t matter if you’re Edward Snowden or Jesus. At some point, friends and family write you off as the black sheep. We’ve all been there. A friend comes to us with an urgent “message”. We hear the words, “The sky is falling! Take cover!” Yes, yes. I know it is. Thank you for sharing. Please, let me resume drinking my beer and watching Big Bang Theory. We wouldn’t be wrong for responding this way. He’s wrong, and I’ll just be polite until he quits telling me about it. Another round! If he’s right, then I have some hard work to do. What if he’s right, though? Have I even considered that possibility?

The global and historical response to the “prophet” is essentially the same: “You are not welcome. Your words are uncomfortable to my ears. I don’t like the fact that I’ll have to do some soul searching or potentially change my life in order to heed the warning. This is hard work, and I don’t like the idea of being inconvenienced by what may or may not be true in your message. Right or wrong, I don’t care. I just want to get on with my life.” We’ve all been there. We’ve all been the prophet. We’ve all been deaf to the prophet. We’ve all been the crazy prophet with a crazy message, and we’ve all rightly become annoyed at the craziness of his message. It’s not a constant state of being in one role or the other. At times we have urgent messages we’d like to deliver to friends and family. It might be the latest MLM scheme or something of much greater importance. If we’re bold enough, we vocalize. Other times we don’t. For fear of being ostracized, ridiculed, or beaten, we shut down. We are the prophet, and society passively beats us into submission until our voice is silenced. In other circumstances we are on the other side as the recipient. We hear the crazy talk, and in the worst case scenario lose a friendship because this issue is the issue that is of utmost importance now. To not take the issue seriously is to not take the prophet seriously.

In my own life, at some point, I’ll be entrusted with a very important message. Most of the time, I’m pretty vocal. My fear is that I’ll be unable to communicate a very important message clearly or that ostracization will drive me to keep my mouth shut. On the flip side I’m afraid that someone in my life will come to me with an important message, and I’ll be too concerned with the meaningless activities in my day that I won’t hear that, this time, the sky is indeed falling.