HOWTO: Simulate the “I’m on a business trip” experience

January 30, 2008

Did you ever find yourself longing for that “I’m on a business trip” feeling?  Of course you have!  After all, I know old timers like some of my co-workers are just dyin’ to “get back on the road” and “check into one of those fine business hotels” we all love staying at.  (Gosh, I know I sure do.) 

Well, it just so happens that while on my last business trip, I determined that there are some quick and easy steps that you can do right now in the privacy of your own home, to attain that extra special, “I’m on a business trip” feeling… and you don’t even have to go to a business training conference to do it!

Install IE Throttle ( on your PC.  This will limit the bandwidth that your PC can consume at once.  This will properly emulate that crappy network connection your average business hotel has preventing you from establishing a stable VPN connection and doing any real work.  Resolve that the connection is bad enough that you might as well tether your cell phone to your laptop because you’ll probably get better bandwidth that way.  Remind yourself later to complain to the hotel front desk to have the daily Internet usage charge removed from your bill.

Download and unzip this .WMV file of a generic “LodgeNet Menu Selection” recording (available here:’ and play it.  Hit CTRL-T within Windows Media Player to have it loop infinitely in the background.  You will find the auditory ambiance will be similar to when you accidentally turn on your business hotel’s TV but you forget to change the channel from that default Welcome screen and leave it running “for background noise”.

Go online to and order some food for delivery.  Doesn’t matter where.  Order something extra fatty.  Like a burger and fries.  Or maybe fried chicken.  And throw in a shrimp cocktail because I know you want one.  Now wait 45 minutes for the food to arrive at your door.  Once it arrives, notice the exorbitant “delivery charge” added to your bill on top of the 20% tip you’re expected to cough up after the meal arrives 30 minutes after it was served… cold and soggy.

Go to your thermostat and crank that puppy up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.  Or 90 degrees Celsius if you’re Canadian.  Next open up all the windows in your home.  Go ahead.   Break ‘em wide open.  Let so much outside air into the room that when the cold front from the outside meets the warm front from your heated environment, it actually starts to rain in the middle of your dining room.  Be sure wear as little as possible to increase the opportunity of catching the infamous “traveler’s flu” from the constantly fluctuating temperatures in your home away from home.

Go to Costco and buy 6 lamps each with some inane level of illumination… like a 7 watt bulb.  Now disable all the other brighter, more practical lights in your current living space and set these lamps in inconvenient positions all about the room.  Force yourself to turn them all on or all off just to get some decent lighting to work in.  For extra credit, make sure the bulbs are cheap piece o’ crap fluorescent replacements to simulate that synthetic corporate concern over the energy conservation.  Now remind yourself that all they give a damn about is the electrical bill they have to pay.

Drop all your towels on the floor of the bathroom and just leave them there.  Imagine that this is the universal signal to the hotel maid tomorrow morning that you want “a fresh set”.  Do this every day of the week in protest for ridiculous rack rate you have to pay for your room.  $229/night?  That’s the supposed glorious corporate discounted rate?  Are you frickin’ kidding me?  That’s like $20 less than the rack rate posted on the back of the closet door.  Hell, I’ll be damned if I don’t get a fresh set of towels in my room every day at that rate.  And while I’m at it, I’m gonna leave all the stupid 7 watt lamps on everyday too when I go down stairs to go to general session.  And if I remember, I’ll leave the water running full blast too.  (Incidentally, try to disregard the fact that you’re actually at home, have to pay the electric/water bill, and that there really isn’t any maid in your home, and you’re going to have to pick them all up yourself tomorrow.)


You’ve now attained that “I’m on a business trip” feeling without ever leaving the comfort of your own home.  Yessiree.  No need to file that expense report now.  You’re on your way to “coming back home” with the flu, to a Inbox full of mail, and arteries clogged with fat deposits from all that healthy livin’!

HD DVD: “Why Sony & Blu-ray ultimately can’t win” (Part 1)

January 29, 2008

I should have entitled this post "Becoming one with the Force".  I originally wrote a post that proposed that the Media & Entertainment industry folks that supported Blu-ray would ultimately get their just desserts and if Blu-ray does in fact succeed, I believe that there would be some dramatic ramifications.

And what would those ramifications be?

History 101:  Microsoft & HDi in HD DVD
Newsflash:  Microsoft doesn’t really care about formats.  From a software perspective, HD DVD or Blu-ray… it doesn’t really matter that much.  Both formats required video processing and programming which requires both  software.

What does matter is that Microsoft is interested selling Windows & Windows-based software.  Microsoft’s contribution to HD DVD was HDi, the Dynamic HTML-based interface development specification that enables overlays & menu interfaces for HD DVD movies.  It’s HDi that enables the picture-in-picture functionality, the telestrator markup that director’s do on movies during director’s commentary tracks, the split screen that one sees when two streams play at the same time, the floating pictures and text that shows on the screen like pop ups.

HDi is also what makes it so easy to make sure that one HD DVD disc plays in all players.  Complete cross compatibility from day one.

Sony & it’s Partners just accelerated On-Demand
It’s been said several times:  Is the high definition media format discussion moot?  Does anyone really care any more?  With the movie & television market quickly moving to an on-demand model, do people really need HD DVD or Blu-ray?

On-Demand requires 3 things:

  1. Networking
  2. Customers
  3. Distribution

From a networking perspective, right now, typical Internet speeds to DSL-wired households deliver 1.5Mb-6Mbps.  On cable networks, you can see up to 12Mb, and on Fiber-connected networks (AT&T UVerse, Verizon FiOS) the sky’s the limit.

From a customer perspective, any cable customer, any satellite customer, and any Xbox 360 customer are connected to on-demand networks so there’s a very rich set of available customers for on-demand content.

From a distribution perspective, this is usually the most difficult hurdle:  The networks generally have to negotiate contracts (legally) to distribute content on their networks assuming they have the datacenter facilities to send the content to people.

QUESTION:  Who’s got the #1 on-demand video distribution network in the world?
Lo-and-behold, the largest on-demand content network is owned by none other than Microsoft.  The Xbox 360 Marketplace for Videos has TWICE as much content as any other on-demand service on the planet… and it’s cross-publisher meaning it has content from Fox, Disney, Universal, ABC, NBC, CBS, Dreamworks, Paramount, Warner, MTV, Comedy Central, and virtually every major broadcaster out there.  This is more on-demand content than any network including Comcast, DirecTV, and the telcos.

In fact, HD content that is being broadcast on the Xbox Marketplace is already encoded in VC-1.  This begs the question:  If the HD content is already encoded and distributed to Xbox 360’s in VC-1, how hard would it be to send the entire HD DVD experience?

In other words, why couldn’t people get HDi menus, HDi interactivity, HD overlays, etc. all on-demand?

Why would on-demand HDi-enabled movies impact Media & Entertainment?
Look at it this way:  If you’ve built your entire HD media experience around Blu-ray, you’ve written it all in Java, and you’ve frankly locked your content into a specific JavaVM revision.  Good luck getting that onto other platforms – like cable/satellite on-demand video services or Xbox 360.

But if you built your HD media experience around HD DVD, all your existing HDi menuing, your HD interactivity, all that good stuff that you spent extra investment on will port over to an Internet-connected experience.  Why?  Because it’s all Dynamic HTML, right?  Any Xbox 360 will have the software to play back the whole HDi experience as well any moderately intelligent receiver.

Getting the picture now?

DVD Discs… losing money every month
The question will be, how will studios transcend the money-losing hard media formats of today? (i.e. DVD) One of the most inevitable factors of the future is that on-demand will be the next-gen delivery mechanism of video & audio content.  Even today, DVD sales – both TV & Motion Picture – are plummeting. 

High definition had the opportunity to potentially stave off some of these losses assuming that players were available cheaply, and media costs were low.  HD DVD provided this opportunity with players going for as low as $99 (right now they’re $139 at and movie selling for $14.99 each.

But if Blu-ray becomes dominant, we’re looking at expensive $429 players & $39.99 movies – not to mention legendary incompatibilities between players, terrible load times souring people on the experience, and lousy interactive experiences due to platform limitations.  But that’s the path that the studios are apparently taking.

What’s the silver lining for HD DVD Supporters
HD DVD supporters today may be glum as the spectre of Darth Sony comes down upon them with a light saber worth $500M, but the fact is the very media companies that are pushing this direction are the ones that have doomed themselves by pushing an expensive, DRM/media-company-centric format.

Meanwhile HD DVD supporters may find that they will take a hit in the interim with potentially declining HD DVD sales if things remain status quo, however their investment in HD DVD development and content creation will blossom as they move into the on-demand market.  And most importantly, the movies already created for HD DVD will find new life as on-demand purchases on various networks – not just XBox 360, and will include interactivity – not just video content.

Wait a sec.  Don’t the Media Companies win anyway with On-Demand?
Sure they’re gonna make money on on-demand purchases, and rightly so.  If people rent movies on-demand at $3.99, there’s very little cost-of-goods and a lot of licensing resulting in pretty good profit margins on that $3.99.

But remember that that’s in trade of a $19 HD DVD disc.  And while there are costs associated with production and distribution of HD DVD or Blu-ray discs, reducing that $19 take to sub $10, it’s still more than the ~$3 that would have been had from a disc purchase.

No, the media companies have essentially pushed themselves into the on-demand world whether they like it or not.  And that means lower operating costs, but lower margins as well.

And that means less money is coming in from the buying public.

That’s it?  That’s the reason the Media Companies should have chosen HD DVD?
But the most important point is…  I’m not done yet.  There are still 2 other ways in my view that media companies will find their lunch eaten into as a result of pushing Blu-ray over the less expensive and more easily accessible HD DVD.

And I’ll get to those in parts 2 & 3 of this post.

DEAL: Buy one get one free HD DVD’s at Best Buy

January 29, 2008

Some of the biggest titles on HD DVD are available for purchase with the ability to get a free HD DVD with each purchase.  Check it out:

INFO: Why you should never play a 6:5 Blackjack game

January 20, 2008

You’ve probably seen them before in Las Vegas.  A felt gaming table that reads:

Single deck Blackjack
Blackjack pays 6 to 5

image_thumb1If you see this, DO NOT PLAY THIS GAME.  Avoid it like the plague.  The casino has a drastic advantage over you and there is no real way for you to win even if you play perfectly.

That’s right.  Playing the "pass/don’t pass" line on craps requires little actual skill and thus you can’t ever screw it up, unlike blackjack where poor gameplay can drastically affect your odds of winning.  More importantly, if you go to a casino and you see a blackjack game that pays $6 for every $5 (aka 6:5) that you bet for natural blackjacks, you would be better off playing craps because the odds no matter how intelligent a player you are – will always be better.

Craps has a casino advantage of 1.4%, meaning that for every $100 bet on "red" or "black", a player can expect to lose $1.40.  This doesn’t require any sort of thinking or decision making… just betting on "pass" or "don’t pass" will net the player a disadvantage that will never exceed 1.4%.

CASINO ADVANTAGE WHEN PLAYING 6:5 BLACKJACK = 1.64%-5.39% (Depending on skill)
Assuming that the player is playing at a blackjack table that pays 3 to 2 for natural blackjacks, the average casino player has about a 4.0% disadvantage against the casino.  An ‘intelligent’ blackjack player that has a good idea of how to play basic strategy has about a 2.00% disadvantage against the casino.  But an EXPERT player that plays absolutely perfect blackjack strategy has about a .25-.50% disadvantage against the casino, depending on table rules.

But the moment, the table pays 6 to 5 (6:5) for natural blackjacks, the casino edge skyrockets by an astounding 1.39%.  This means that even the most expert players that never make mistakes play at a 1.64% disadvantage.  Even professional blackjack players that use their skills at watching the cards can at their very best can only narrow this gap to about a casino edge of .83%.

Comparison chart of Casino Edge taken from

Because the existence of a 6:5 Blackjack table is the casino deliberately attempting to squeeze you, the unknowing, out of a lot of money. 

It starts with the premise that in the game of Blackjack, the casino has an advantage over the player because of this specific situation:

If both the dealer AND the player ‘bust’ and go over 21, the dealer still wins

Think about it:  If you take a card, and you go over 21, you lose the hand.  The dealer however always goes last and if the dealer subsequently draws to finish the hand and busts as well, you STILL LOSE YOUR MONEY.  After all, you don’t get your money back if the dealer busts after you bust, do you?  There’s no such thing as a tie… and this little fact provides an advantage to the casino over ~2.0%.

However a large part of what makes Blackjack a more ‘balanced game’ to play in a casino is the 3:2 payoff you USUALLY get from natural blackjacks.  The additional winnings you get from blackjacks provide the player with what is essentially the weight that "balances the scales" against the casino.

When a casino pays only 6:5 for natural blackjacks, this ‘unbalances’ the game.

You see, when you bet $10 a hand and get a Blackjack, you win $15.  This is $5 extra over a normal win against the dealer.  And because statistically on average, a player gets 4 blackjacks an hour, this amounts to an extra $5×4=$20/hour in extra winnings.

When you play a 6 to 5 Blackjack game, things are very different.  If you bet $10 a hand and get a Blackjack, you win only $12 instead of $15.  This is only an extra $2 over a normal win against the dealer.  And over the span of an hour assuming 4 Blackjacks per hour, this amounts to only an extra $2×4=$8/hour in extra winnings.

Usually people see this on ‘single deck’ Blackjack games and think that single-deck is some sort of major advantage when it’s absolutely not.  Over a 6-deck game, a single deck game has about a .12% advantage… nothing CLOSE to the 1.75% you give up with 6:5 Blackjack.  The only thing that really comes as a result of playing a single deck is that you have find the dealer shuffling a lot more, wasting your time at the tables resulting in ~30% fewer hands being dealt.

Imagine if you worked at a $20/hour job and your boss told you that you’d get 4 additional 20 minute breaks during a workday… but you’d be taking a 60% paycut from $20/hour to only $8/hour.  Would you still work for him?

Don’t just take it from me.  Read what the real experts say:

Seriously.  Don’t play 6:5 Blackjack.  Stay away from this game.  It’s toxic and a sign of a disingenuous casino.  And in case you think that your luck or your purported skill can somehow ‘crack’ a 6:5 Blackjack table, keep this fact in mind:

Even the best professional Blackjack card counters, cannot "beat" this game.  You will never find any Professional Blackjack players playing this game.

The “Noob Tables”: New York New York’s 6:5 Blackjack Games

January 20, 2008

I was just at New York New York in Las Vegas last week and I read an article online that hailed 6:5 Blackjack as the single worst thing to exist Las Vegas in 2007.  It rang so true that it inspired me.

I can’t say that I’ll be playing at your casino in the future.

Upon visiting your casino this past week it’s become readily apparent over my few past visits (and stays at you hotel) that you folk intend on squeezing the life out of Blackjack at your casino with your too-many-to-count 6:5 tables.

Paying 6 to 5 to patrons for receiving natural 21s is downright deceptive and the fact that your tables are not well labeled makes this practice even more horrid.  Your hotel’s overly aggressive usage of 6:5 blackjack tables places you in the realm of used car salesmen and boiler room telesales callers. 

It’s frankly almost a ‘bait & switch’ practice preying on the ignorance of the population:  It’s the same thing as a riding the hype behind a popular Dodge automobile and having a car salesman sell a 4 cylinder Hyundai that looks like 6 cylinder Dodge… and implying that ‘it’s all the same thing’ to unsuspecting buyers.

I understand that you’re a business and exist to make money – Lord knows, I’m a salesperson and no one understands this as much as I do.  But corporations generally also have character and ethics policies, and while Las Vegas isn’t known for it’s ethics, I think your prominent usage of 6:5 blackjack in tandem with your lackluster labeling of these tables says a lot about your hotel and MGM Mirage as a whole.

Basically it comes down to this:  In order to bleed your patrons dry more quickly, you’re willing to quietly & disingenuously change the odds of the game in a dramatic & substantial way – in your favor – and depend on people’s ignorance of the impact of your actions.  And that’s pretty sad.

The only people that willing play at 6:5 blackjack tables are… well… NOOBs:  People that simply don’t know any better.  People that are uneducated and ignorant enough that they don’t understand what it is that you’ve done.  People on vacation with their defenses down that have an expectation of fairness.

People that you take advantage of. 

It saddens me to say this too because I love eating at Sirrico’s Pizza after a couple hours at the tables at NYNY – win or lose.  It’s like a ritual for me.  And it’s better than eating at the Venetian’s food court after a night of play.  But no more.  I’d rather play the Venetian’s crummy double deck blackjack than your 6:5 tables.

UCLA hires Norm Chow as Bruin Football Offensive Coordinator

January 20, 2008

That’s right.  He’s coming.  Coach Norm Chow:  a_chow_i UCLABruinsLogo

  • former BYU offensive coordinator
  • former USC offensive coordinator
  • former Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator
  • former coach to 3 Heisman Trophy winners at USC

…is coming to coach the offense of the UCLA Bruins.


ARTICLE: “Gates’ philanthropy deserves emulation”

January 20, 2008

The dread Mercury News posted an interestingly positive article about Bill Gates – albeit not without taking the apparently irresistible jabs at Microsoft.  Who would have thought that Northern California’s notoriously liberal media would find themselves in a position where they’d have to lecture the wealthy in their own backyard to discover and contribute deeply to philanthropic causes with as broad reaching impact as ‘Bill & the Evil Empire’ has.

San Jose Mercury News – Editorial: Gates’ philanthropy deserves emulation:
"As Gates moves into Act Two of his career, he’s carrying out his philanthropic calling with sweeping goals and steadfast determination. He serves as an inspiration to other individuals – and companies – with business fortunes that could be channeled into saving lives, improving health and education or other good works. Silicon Valley executives (take note, people in Cupertino, Mountain View and Redwood Shores) should follow Gates’ example.

Gates’ philanthropy already has made a difference on a scale that dwarfs Andrew Carnegie or John D. Rockefeller. The Gates foundation, with $37.6 billion in assets, has donated $14 billion since 2000. Its mission is ramping up even more, after investor Warren E. Buffett in 2006 pledged more than $30 billion of his wealth to the Gates’ philanthropy. That means the foundation by 2009 will double its annual giving, to an awe-inspiring $3 billion-plus a year, comparable to last year’s revenue for Adobe Systems."

Note: For those of you without accounts on Mercury News, check:

INFO: Windows-based websites for understanding 2008 Presidential Race issues

January 19, 2008

Over the past decade, there’s been two non-partisan, Windows Server-powered web sites that I’ve used to help myself clarify and narrow my personal position on political issues and ultimately select a presidential candidate:


  • ONLINE quiz measuring your views on social, domestic, economic, and foreign issues
  • VoteMatch quizReport comparing your views against all parties candidates

On the Issues

  • Issues & topics in the news
  • Listing of candidates
  • Summary of primary debates for Republican & Democratic parties

The sites are actually related and cross-link between each of them.  It’s a great way for Americans to help understand and prioritize their own views on the issues and find the candidate that best reflects their own personal opinions.

It’s driven by an Windows Server 2000 Active Server Pages-based application that allows you to enter your opinions into a form and compare it against a database of known opinions and stances.

A good lesson for guys like me (i.e. Yet something else I received in my email)

January 17, 2008

Be nice to others because time will make a difference!

Some day you won’t be the big dog… just the old dog!

HOWTO: Figure out what side the gas cap is on your rental car

January 17, 2008

(I received this in the mail and found it to be entertaining and interesting enough to post)

clip_image001I have been driving (legally) for decades. One would think I would have noticed the little secret on my dash that was staring me right in the face the whole time.  I didn’t and I bet you probably haven’t either.


Quick question, what side of your car is your gas tank?

If you are anything like me, you probably can’t remember right away.  My solution is to uncomfortably stick my head out the window, strain my neck and look.  If you don’t do this in your own car you definitely have done it in a borrowed or rental car.

Well ladies and gentlemen, I’m going to share with you my little secret so you will no longer look like Ace Ventura on your way to the gas station or put your neck at risk of uncomforted or injury.

If you look at your gas gauge, you will see a small icon of a gas pump.  The handle of the gas pump will extend out on either the left or right side of the pump.  If your tank is on the left, the handle will be on the left.  If your tank is on the right, the handle will be on the right (see photo above). It is that simple!

Vegas Rule #56: “Don’t photograph & drink margaritas while in Vegas”

January 17, 2008

IMAGE_008 This is what happens when you attempt to take a photo while sipping Margaritas in Vegas.  This is a photo of my friend Chandler, and myself at the Pink Taco in the Hard Rock Hotel that we found on his camera phone.

While this is pretty representative of what CES was like throughout the whole trip, (Blurry, off-focus, and intoxicated) it’s further evidence that you should never photograph yourself while in Las Vegas.

No good can come of it.  <grin>

Once again… “Exactly right”.

January 15, 2008

Embrace the only real truth on the Internet.  Bow down before the God that is Tim Buckley.

Behold…  CTRL+ALT+DEL Online.  The only f-ing webcomic that matters.

And here’s the commentary that accompanies it:

VIDEO: “Daft Charleston”

January 13, 2008

We interrupt my normally petty and rant filled blog for a little bit of ancient history bliss.

Ladies & Gentlemen:  "Daft Charleston"

HD-DVD: 10 Mistakes that the DVD Forum Made with HD DVD

January 13, 2008

I’ll admit, I’m losing a little bit of confidence in HD DVD and it makes me sad.

The Media Companies Are Getting It Wrong Again
Oh, don’t get me wrong:  While I’ve made a substantial investment in HD DVD movies (probably a good $3000 worth) I’m fortunate enough to be able to "rebuy" those movies if the whole war goes the wrong way and head toward the Blu-ray camp.  But at the same time, it’s one of those things where the Media & Entertainment industry had their chance to do things right after royally screwing up with the music & MP3 market (which they’ve essentially lost and will probably never regain again)…

…but instead of choosing the format where people had the opportunity to easily watch their movies in the manner in which they’d like to (with ‘managed copy’, a facility that makes it possible on HD DVD to legally copy the HD movie to home video servers, portable media players, laptops, etc.) the Media & Entertainment industry chose a media format on the basis of it having "STRONGER COPY PROTECTION", and really no other reason.

Let’s not kid ourselves:  That’s the reason, plain and simple, that Disney & 20th Century Fox went with Blu-ray instead of HD DVD.  They wanted stronger protections for their video.. and now they’re going to get their just desserts for it. 

How?  Well, I’ll write about that in a later blog, but like Obi-wan Kenobi once said:

"You can’t win Darth… If you strike be down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine…"

The Warner Announcement "Bomb"
HD DVD is essentially the geeks, PC manufacturers, & consumer’s choice for high definition video disc formats while Blu-ray was the Sony & Motion Picture Industry’s choice.  I’ll concede that there are still a lot of things that could be done to pull HD DVD from the jaws of obsolescence against Blu-Ray but when you look down the gullet of a $500M monster bribe between Warner & Sony, you have to admit that things aren’t particularly looking good. 

In fact, this announcement of "going all Blu-ray" was such a shocker that immediately after the press release, even I have to admit that something is amiss.  Bill Gates’ keynote was really light on announcements:  Unlike previous years, there was no major announcement around our game console business other than the typical "we’re winning" statements.  The DVD Forum canceled their press conference abruptly and the HD DVD booth was devoid of any real content. 

For the record, I have no information to verify any of this but after reading some of the rumor mill web sites, it indeed looked as if something major got scrapped/removed from both Microsoft’s & the HD DVD’s booths at the last minute, along with Billg’s keynote.

Reviewing Sony’s crummy track record
Part of me feels lousy about this because say what you want about Microsoft:  Sony is without a doubt the bad guy when it comes to media formats and standards.  Let’s not kid ourselves:  With a history of being the creators of such closed market failures as:

  • Betamax
  • Memory Stick
  • Universal Mini Disc
  • Sony ATRAC Streaming Media format
    (Bet you never heard of this one ‘eh?  That’s because it was a DRM-enabled music format that was used only on Sony’s music site "Sony Connect" and no place else.  I don’t know how they ever expected to be successful with something only they used.)

Additionally, Sony’s systems are notorious for being proprietary to the point of being too difficult to use.  I mean, don’t get me wrong:  I LOVE Sony’s Vaio laptops and the beauty of their Bravia LCD TV line, but they’re so tied to Sony’s unique drivers and unique interfaces that their products are the quickest to fall into obsolescence.  And let’s not forget the infamous Sony Audio CD Rootkit, the software installation that silently opened customers up security threats.

10 ways the DVD Forum failed in promoting HD DVD
But nonetheless, the DVD Forum hasn’t helped themselves in promoting HD DVD.  At all.

  1. A horrible CES2008 booth
    This might not seem like a big deal but regardless of whether or not Warner had announced that they’d jumped ship, HD DVD’s booth would have been sparsely attended because frankly, next to Blu-Ray’s booth, HD DVD’s was a colossal JOKE.  It was clear that Disney and the other Blu-Ray partners has contributed a tremendous amount of monetary investment to demonstrate how purportedly exciting Blu-Ray’s capabilities were.  (The running joke in the CES community was how ludicrous Blu-ray’s "interactive DVD" demonstrations were:  One kiosk featured "Alien vs Predator vs You" where you watched the movie with a monster graphic overlay with a bitmapped "gun" and "knife" that you used to "hit" the Alien with.  It was so stupid it would have been sad had it not been funny.) 

    Meanwhile, there was only ONE demonstration location in the HD DVD booth and that was the actual demo theatre.  The result was that potential audiences felt that the HD DVD booth was like a morgue.  Not even their representatives were very engaging and it seemed that they’d essentially given up.  I talked to numerous pro-HD DVD attendees that said that it looked like the HD DVD folks were essentially packing it in and ‘just trying to get through CES’.  Even I found myself more entertained by the Blu-Ray booth.  Really pathetic planning, guys.  You need a serious lesson in product marketing.

  2. No marketing behind 3X DVD
    Did you know that you can burn HD DVD quality videos at 720p using traditional DVD burners and traditional SD DVD media? 

    Neither does most of the world.  The DVD Forum has done virtually nothing to educate people about this really great ability.  Instead, people are left asking the question:  "How do I burn HD DVD discs?  There aren’t any burners available."  In reality, most people could burn HD DVD videos on standard DVD media using their existing hardware but you’d never know it because there’s been no advertising of this capability.

    To this day, the only documentation I can find on this topic exists at:

  3. Where’s the HD DVD burners?
    And speaking of burning HD DVDs… where the hell are the HD DVD burners?

    That’s right.  You’d think by now you’d be able to online to Fry’s or Amazon and pick up an internal HD DVD burner but after 2 years, there’s STILL no burners available on the market.  In fact, the only production burner that’s readily available is in the $3200 Toshiba G45 Qosmio laptop.  Are you kidding me?  You have to buy a completely new laptop (albeit a really cool one)just to burn an HD DVD disc?  Screw that.

    Meanwhile, there’s a couple burners on display at CES, but none of them are available for purchase… not even from the Far East.  How the hell do you expect people to use a format if they can’t burn discs?

    I suspect that this was a strategic move on Toshiba’s part to prevent piracy but to be honest, that’s just stupid.  People can’t buy a format if they don’t have drives.  Period.  End of story.

  4. Complete lack of PC players
    I’ve gotten two new laptops from HP and Toshiba in the past two years an neither of them came with an HD DVD option.

    Frankly, there’s been a complete lack of PC HD DVD drives.  Are you kidding me?  How can you NOT ship HD DVD drives with every PC that ships in the HD DVD alliance?!?  Make the investment… take the hit… and get your "razors" out into the market for God’s sake.

    A long time ago, a company called ioMega had the opportunity to become the replacement for 3.5" floppy drives with their ZIPdisk format.  They had the form factor, they had the marketing name, and they had the "razors & razor blades" model.  But instead of making the "razors" i.e. the ZIPdrives cheap enough to compete with floppies, they kept the price high and people didn’t buy the drives with their new OEM PCs.  As a result, they never bought the "razor blades" i.e. the discs and ioMega drifted into obsolescence. 

  5. Poor evangelism of 51GB triple-layer capacity
    The one major ‘ding’ that HD DVD has always taken has been the fact that Blu-Ray as a format had a 50GB capacity.  This of course is idiocy being that Blu-Ray discs and players are much more expensive just to provide this capacity and meanwhile HD movies NEVER consume more than 15GB, making 50GB capacities completely irrelevant.

    That being said, all of this talk about Blu-Ray’s purported capacity superiority could have been nullified with the advancement of HD DVD’s triple layer technology providing 51GB per disc on the exact same HD DVD media being used today.

    Yet, you’d never know it with the poor way it’s been evangelized or brought to market.

  6. Losing the Warner Bro contract
    Yeah, this is the killer.  Sony snuck in and bought Warner Bros business with $500M dollars to support Blu-Ray exclusively.  That’s just sick.

    The fact that this happened right under the DVD Forum’s nose, and that the DVD Forum didn’t recognize that losing either Universal or Warner would be catastrophic to their efforts, is inexcusable.  Even if this whole move by Warner breaks existing contracts that they have with HD DVD and this all goes to court, the damage is done:  Blu-Ray has momentum.

  7. Where’s managed copy?
    HD DVD has always supposedly supported "Managed Copy", i.e. the ability to make a copy of a movie to a video server like a Windows Media Center… and yet, I’ve never seen it done.  Not once.

    Meanwhile, Sony is announcing that Blu-Ray discs will be able to make SD definition copies from specially created discs to PSP devices:  A lesser version of what managed copy purports to provide for HD DVD and video servers. 

    What the hell?  How did Sony become the promoter of ‘managed copy’ technology over HD DVD?

  8. Best Buy Blu-ray Sales Training
    If you walk into a Best Buy, the nation’s largest electronics store, and ask about High Definition movie playback, those ‘supposedly unbiased, uncommissioned’ sales reps sell Blu-ray technology.  They NEVER even give HD DVD a second thought.

    It would seem that the Best Buy folks are highly highly highly incented to pitch Blu-Ray and I’ve got a pretty good idea why.  Based on things I’ve heard, I strongly suspect that Sony has a Best Buy sales force directed campaign to provide Best Buy floor sales employees with:

      1. Formal, in person Blu-Ray training.  Most companies do some sort of retail training for Best Buy or Circuit City folks to get them excited about a technologies potential.
      2. Drastically discounted Blu-Ray players.  Usually these are promotional offers to get a Blu-ray player in the hands of the sales people i.e. buying the business.  The purchase is usually 25% of the cost of manufacturing, making a typical Blu-ray player $50 to a Best Buy employee.
      3. Free Blu-Ray movies to people that attend seminars.  If you come to a seminar on Blu-ray… we’ll give you 5 free Blu-ray discs.  Lord knows, I’m guilty of this one with regard to XBox 360 games.
      4. Online exams with further Sony-oriented incentives (like PSPs as prizes for passing online tests, etc.)  This keeps the retail folks thinking "Blu-ray" even after the seminar.
      5. Spiffs, spiffs, spiffs.  Spiffs are monetary incentives that retail sales people get for ‘pushing’ certain items that a store generally has overstock of.  A spiff on say on overstocked Nvidia Video Card for example might be $15/unit so a sales person might ‘subtly’ push a customer to get that card over an ATI card.
  9. XBox 360 Drive Distribution
    I would have thought that there would have been a LOT (and I mean a LOT) of HD DVD drive giveaways or better yet, HD DVD drive bundles with the Xbox 360.  Discounts… incentives… anything to get the drives into the hands of influential Xbox 360 owners.  It seems like a completely natural fit.  The attach rate for Xbox 360 games to consoles is an astounding 6.9 games per console, meaning people with Xbox’s have a lot of disposable income for impulse purchases… like movies!

    And why is the Xbox 360 drive $179?  That’s not a lot, but it’s not cheap either.  In fact, instead of giving away 8 free movies at a licensing cost of $10 each, why not simply discount the drive to $99?

    Oh, don’t get me wrong:  I know why they’ve bundled the discs with the drives and I’m pretty sure that it has nothing to do with wanting to provide a good incentive to people to buy the HD DVD player.  By bundling these videos with the drive:

    1. They can get contributions from the studios that cost them relatively little in actual commitment (they’re simply sacrificing movie sales they might otherwise not have had if HD DVD didn’t take off)
    2. They can get movies in the hands of owners to allow them to experience HD DVD in it’s glory and get higher satisfaction levels when surveyed by independents.
    3. They can get higher disc attach rates with each drive.  Attach rate (the number of movies that a person buys over the lifetime of the player) is an important statistic to media companies.
  10. Highlighting HD DVD Disc Features
    This one bugs the crap out of me:  Why aren’t they advertising the great in disc content on HD DVD’s?  And why aren’t they hiring more people to facilitate that content into more movies?

    The on-disc HD DVD interactive content is so good on discs like The Bourne Ultimatum… then it just sucks on the Bourne Identity?  It’s fantastic on movies like Transformers & The Fast & the Furious:  Tokyo Drift, and then it blows on Superman 2: The Richard Donner Cut and Waterworld.

    There’s an expectation that if it’s on HD DVD… it should be cool.  They should be running classes for studios on how to build great HD DVD content using HDi.

AMAZON: Toshiba HD-A3 720p/1080i HD DVD Player… now $139!

January 13, 2008

Toshiba HD-A3Wow.  A high definition DVD player that can play all your existing standard definition DVD titles and comes with 5 free HD DVD movies to boot.

Here’s CNet’s review: