Tuesday May 12, 2009

Multiple Sources and Simple Gadgets

At North Hall, professors constantly remind the students of the importance of multiple sources in getting to the story.

Some 6 years ago, soon after I installed our Free-to-Air (FTA) stallite dish and box, the remote control to the set top box broke. Without a remote control, it was impossible to "program" the box and I had to rely on factory settings for channels and occasional updates through a pre-canned search of the channels.

Last week, I had a brief moment to order a new remote control by phone. It arrived yesterday, and I "programmed" the box yesterday evening to receive FTA channels Press TV (Iran) and Russia Today (Russia). These are both English channels hosted by professional journalists, with quality productions of a whole range of forums and views one rarely finds in British or American mass media. I'm not sure if these channels are also available through community cables.

These days, among other topices, Press TV reports on Iran's presidental elections, 2009. RT is currently broadcasting a whole range of reports, including some from Moscow's Eurovision 2009.

I am also able to receive Al-Jazzira in English and a wide range of Arabic TV. I have had to adjust and search about 4 different satellites for these FTA channels.

A simple little tool, like a proper remote control, can do wonders to one's capabilities to get to things.  Without the remote, it was impossible for me to edit satellite transponder settings.

Wednesday Mar 18, 2009

Simon on the WSJ

Simon Phipps, Sun's Chief Open Source Officer, speaks to The Wall Street Journal.

Thursday Sep 25, 2008

The Echo Chamber

Paul Jay, CEO of The Real News Network, talks to Daljit Dhaliwal about the echo chamber:

Tuesday May 06, 2008

Connecting News Sources

As I was driving back from Java One in San Francisco Monday evening, I listened to the BBC report on KQED.

The BBC carried a 5-minute-long report on Iraq, describing the "conflict" there and the immense rise in poverty and lack of basic services, without once managing to mention that taboo word: "occupation".

In the morning, Financial Times carried a picture on the front page describing how sophisticated military equipment was being used to create an exclusion zone around the oil terminals in southern Iraq, from whence 1.5  million barrels of oil were carried away every day on British, Australian and American ships.

For how long can a country be dispossessed of its resources, supply the world with vast quantities of oil and live under military occupation by foreign powers, with vast parts of its population reduced to abject poverty with every passing day?

Sunday Feb 03, 2008

Rotating Videos in the World of Images

Tonight, I discovered that the m.youtube.com works extremely well with Sony-Ericsson P1i. The quality and rendition far exceeded my expectations.

Some P1i users have complained on the internet that m.youtube.com does not work well with their P1i even when using WiFi but it worked fine for me when the device connected with my WLAN at home, which runs on a 6-year-old NetGear MR314 wireless router.  In fact, I was able to watch the m.youtube.com mobile version of the video to the left, which could not be rotated, at least not trivially, either by youtube, by my camera or by my home iMac. However, it could still be viewed on the P1i in the correct direction—just turn the mobile device 90 degrees!

I should note that it appears m.youtube.com encodes and streams the video using 3gp and  RTSP. Either the P1i does much better at rendering the 3gp format with its Media Viewer or it has a much better RTSP stack than the RealPlayer (on my iMac). The image quality is much sharper and jitter almost non-existent with with Media Viewer on the P1i! In fact, the image quality on the RealPlayer on iMac pales by comparison. Who would have guessed?

Finally, and again as can be seen in the embedded video here, I shot it with a simple mobile camera (DSC W-30), but in the "wrong" direction.

It is so much easier to rotate a mobile device that it is to rotate a desktop screen! 

Wednesday Oct 03, 2007

New Media: From Blog to Online Newspaper

The newspaper format responds to real demands, and as popular blogs grow, they gravitate to that format. See the Financial Times piece by Joshua Chaffin, "Blogs get the old-media habit," which reports changes at the Arianna Huffington's Post. (Should we guess the exit strategy to be an acquisition of the type that gripped the WSJ?)

Monday Sep 17, 2007

UK Bank Run or the Advantage of Reading Two Papers

I subscribe to two papers that are delivered every morning at my doorstep: The Wall Street Journal and Financial Times

For three days now, Financial Times has carried stories and pictures of a bank run in the UK, involving Northern Rock, a financial institution focused on savings and loans geared to the mortgage market. (Some have argued that if there's only a single bank run, we do not have a bank run. However, financial crisis have their own way of diffusing to neighbors.) This morning, FT carries, above the fold, a 1/4 page picture of a crowd waiting to withdraw their savings from a Northern Rock branch. Cambridge - Customers of Northern Rock waiting patiently to withdraw their savings.

No two industrial economies or countries are as intertwined as the UK and the US. Yet, if you read The Wall Street Journal this morning, you would hardly notice anything going amiss in the UK. On the front page, the news of the bank run is reflected only in a two-sentence paragraph falling on the fold, making it hardly visible, with a jump to page 3 of section C ("Money & Investing"), a section which bills an educational piece on yield curves on top of its own fold. On page C3, two short columns summarize the least salient parts of story, with no mention of a bank run.

I should end this by noting that the electronic version of FT, accessible here in California, has no images like the ones in the print edition on its front "page" today. However, one can find relevant images on Flickr -- like the one I've posted here.

Wednesday Aug 08, 2007

Sometimes, pictures ...

Sometimes, pictures can tell or cover-up whole stories—more than any news report or any press conference can.

In the English-speaking world, John Berger, more than any art critique I know, has shown how pictures and looking can disclose a great deal about events, people and places. (See his Ways of Seeing and class of the same name by Professor Lori Landay at UC Berkeley.)

When I write this entry, i.e. during lunch hour on August 8, 2007, two of the three pictures above are less than 24 hours old.

What do these pictures tell you?

Saturday Aug 04, 2007

Aljazeera on the Net

As far as I know, no major U.S. cable carrier currently offers Aljazeera English, but if you are in the U.S., you can still watch Aljazeera English programs on YouTube or directly from Aljazeera.net/English.

Friday May 04, 2007

News, Blogs and Sun Microsytems Inc.



We are witnessing the close of a decade when blogs might begin to mirror meaningless news and when meaningful news might begin to appear as blogs, like these Reuters Alternet Blogs.

Note that Sun Microsystems Inc. powers Reuters Alternet for the Reuters Foundation.

With its independent board, Reuters continues as one the most independent media and news organizations in the world. 

Tuesday May 01, 2007

Dow Jones, Wall Street Journal and News Corp

Financial Times has several stories about the recent News Corp bid for that American tradition of a newspaper, The Wall Street Journal. (Earlier I wrote about the Journal's recent redesign here.) Perhaps, now, some folks will put greater value on the independence of the Reuter's board.

Tuesday Apr 17, 2007

The Kingdom of Content

Thomas Hazlett, professor of law and economics at George Mason university, writes about how "content" has become "king": 

In 1983, US cable operators paid an average of just $2 annually per subscriber in license fees – and over $238 in 2005. In aggregate, total payments to cable programmers from cable operators went from just $60m in 1983 to $16bn in 2005.

The advent of cable brought forth many legal questions: 

Where it all comes out is difficult to tell. In the early days of cable television, US law was a puzzle. Should cable systems be allowed to abscond with over-the-air signals of broadcast TV stations, re-transmitting them to subscribers? Or should cable operators – then called “Community Antenna Television” (CATV) systems – give broadcast TV stations a slice of the subscription fee pie?

This question went to the US Supreme Court in 1968 and again in 1974, an era when cable TV delivered only broadcast TV signals (ESPN, CNN, Discovery, A&E and the rest were to come years later). Both times the court held that cable operators retransmitting local signals owed nothing. In extending broadcast signals they improved reception for households, like a large antenna.

Now, we have a battle between the super copy-and-distribute machine and the "copyright-protected" content. As many have argued, in the case of the Internet, the increasingly more strict protections granted through copyrights can put stringent constraints on  cultural creativity.

Wednesday Apr 11, 2007

Mobile Media and RSS Readers

Mobile RSS readers and aggregators seem to have come of age. For example, take a look at the list here. Many modern phones, like this one, carry browsers capable of loading RSS feeds.

On the other hand, many sources of news media are beginning to use a similar naming convention for their mobile editions:


These are no-nonsense text editions that are easy to load and read. Using this de facto naming convention seems like a good idea and a tradition that should probably spread and continue.

Friday Apr 06, 2007


In his MetaMedia blog, Thomas Crampton gives a nod to Joost, and the folks behind it, who also brought Kazaa and Skype to the Internet users.

By the way, did you know that Skype uses PostgreSQL as its system DB?

Tuesday Feb 27, 2007

Design Advice for The Wall Street Journal Editors

Dear WSJ Editors,

Selectivity is the key to productive media consumption in the electronic age.

Since you already use HTML when sending the daily "IN TODAY'S PAPER from The Wall Street Journal Online" e-mail to subscribers like me, why not use the same variety of font types and sizes as the one appearing in the print edition.

The font size and type variety provide the readers with immediate visual evidence of what mattered to the editors, helping them select what they want to read. 


P.S. The same problem exists in the online edition of the WSJ: Little or no font size and type variety that would parallel the paper edition's. Is this a design puzzle or is there something else behind it? A look at the online edition of The Washington Post makes it clear that they have understood this problem and taken some serious steps towards solving it.

Thursday Feb 01, 2007

Print vs. Digital Media

Even as papers have gone far in changing their business models to accommodate to digital media, the paper editions remain superior to their digital versions targeted to desktop readers not only because of the technological qualities of paper but also because of the design of the paper editions.

Everything from font face and size of the headings to the arrangement of columns and stories on the print pages guide the reader to the intended destination. Take a paper edition of Financial Times, and you'll know what I mean. (Note that Financial Times has not yet broken the folding symmetry, which The Wall Street Journal did break on Jan. 1, 2007, by reducing its columns from an even to an odd number.)

Of course, I cannot help write about the paper edition without mentionting that while the designer of Financial Times does a good job, its opinion columns and editorials remain what they are as is expected in all papers with editors.

For example, one of the Financial Times opinion columnists, the slate.com editor Jacob Weisberg, seems to be on a solid contract to write a regular but a rather poor column on Iran in every so many issues.  While the intent of Weisberg's column reminds me quite a bit of Michael Ledeen's "work" on the opinion pages of The Wall Street Journal back in 2002 - 2003 era (before he got caught with the serial lies he kept stringing together almost at will), Wiesberg may yet prove to be a better poetic writer, has a better sense of drama (as in plays) and has taken upon himself to offer somewhat more fanciful strategum.

In all this, what surprises me most is that these writers actually get paid to feed propaganda to their hapless readers and write with confidence and an air of authority about subjects they know so very little about.

We can think of this nauseating activity in two apparently distinct ways: Propaganda for Pay or Pay for Propaganda. Take your pick -- but you need to pick one as if it matters. Any way, why does the first seem a bit more shameless?

In the same vain, I truly wonder and am quite curious to know whether Weisberg's dreamy columns on Iran actually see the light of the day in the European print editions of Financial Times or whether only we, the naive American readers of the print edition, have the fortune of being regularly subjected to the drama in his columns.

The topics captured in the above paragraphs remind me again that in the world I live, form, farce and fiction continue to matter way more than substance, seriousness and certainty.

Sunday Jan 28, 2007

Privacy and Data

Ellen Nakashima has been reporting on data and privacy for The Washington Post. See her reports on legal issues, delays and the EU scene.

As more data is collected by various web services, search engines, e-commerce web sites and portals, data and privacy questions continue to be debated.

If you are looking for a fresh perspective on data protection and privacy, you should also take a look at the weblog by Sun Microsystem's Chief Privacy Officer, Michelle Dennedy.

Thursday Jan 04, 2007

President on YouTube

Jeff Pulver asks some questions regarding Senator John Edward's candidacy announcement on YouTube.

Thursday Dec 14, 2006

Disruptive with TV

Roberto Chinnici puts some probing questions to non-mainstream English language TV channels. His solution to their problems to break into the U.S. market: Use the web to your advantage to be disruptive with conventional TV programming.

To address the complaint regarding economic cost of bandwidth, finding a way to include decent advertising may prove sufficient. Furthermore, there can be a web-based subscription model that collects small subscription fees (or micropayments) for access to programming. This will work because bandwidth will still be able to serve all users particularly if programming does not emphasize real, real-time news and breaks content into pieces available separately.

Thursday Nov 23, 2006

He Said, She Said

Besides Rob Hughes on soccer, IHT has fashioned "MetaMedia" with the back-and forth dialog-blogging by Eric Pfanner and Doreen Carvajal on convergence of media and technology. In other words, "convergence" becomes subject of itself, in action. It talks about itself and to itself. How good of a dialog can that be? Walt Mossberger of The Wall Street Journal will not be passe anytime soon.



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