Mauriat Miranda     mjmwired

Paying to watch Game of Thrones

For fans of the show, it should be no surprise that Game of Thrones was the most pirated show of 2012. Though I had absolutely NO interest whatsoever, during my seasonal cable usage I received 3 months free of HBO and decided to watch Game of Thrones. And ... now I'm hooked. I surprised myself, as I didn't expect to enjoy this genre of television.

So today (3/31/13) is the premiere of Season 3 of Game of Thrones. I do want to watch it, but subscribing for HBO (and the update to my cable) does not sound appealing. I thought through my options:

  • Subscribe to cable and HBO for 10 weeks. This comes out to apx $75 total.
  • Wait for the Bluray: This comes out to apx $45. However I have to wait till apx 1 month before the next season. So that would be around February/March of 2014.
  • I could purchase it through some streaming method (Amazon VOD/iTunes). This comes out to about $40 and has a similar delay as the Bluray.

The down sides to each of those options:

  • The cable companies are downright evil. Paying for cable annoys me.
  • I personally don't like to own unnecessary physical items. If I had Blurays I doubt I would actually ever watch them more than once.
  • Streaming, while great in general, is lower quality video. (Though to be fair some cable providers do a poor job encoding their HD television broadcasts.)

So my compromise is to sign up for HBO only for the last half of the season. Since Comcast provides OnDemand playback of episodes of the current season, I can easily watch all 10 episodes over the course of a month or so. The cost would be closer to $25-35 depending on when exactly I sign up. And overall, the delay of another month or so seems reasonable.

I'm not sure why I didn't consider this in the past. I've been paying for Showtime for 10 weeks out of the year to watch Dexter and probably will do the same.

Yes, I know that I could join the piracy, but I choose not to.

Posted in: Television, Internet, Random,

10 Years

I registered this domain name mjmwired.net 10 years ago to this date. My younger brother helped me pick out the name. This was after spending several months asking people who owned various domains with 'mjm' (which were unused) if they would agree to sell them to me. Nothing worked out. I ended up using a registrar that my older brother used, and used first paid hosting service I could find that allowed shell access. It only cost me $40/year.

Back then, blogs I read mostly existed on Blogger (which Google had acquired only a month earlier) and other cheasy sites (like Xanga). I remember most self hosted blogs/sites I read used MovableType, but I found the software a little difficult and I wasn't much for Perl. I was too cheap to purchase Radio Userland. I remember looking at WordPress which had not even reached a 1.0 yet (which happened 3 months later) and found it missed a few critical features.

So, I downloaded some tutorials and started hacking away at some code. It would take me 2 months before I could say "I'm Done". Those were 2 fun months. I miss the enthusiasm I had back then even though some of the self inflicted torture makes me wince. I ended up installing Apache/MySQL on Windows 2000 just to do web development! My Linux (RedHat 7.3 at the time) would have been much more suitable but the web was dominated by Internet Explorer (Netscape 7 was struggling).

Lots has happened since those few months in 2003. I don't think my site ever made a significant impact (though I'm somewhat proud my resources pages have had several million views in the past 10 years) but I'm happy with what I've done. The last few years haven't been as productive as they could have been, but its never too late to start again.

I hope to be writing more, I really do.

Posted in: Website,

The Little Things Add Up

A year ago today, I quit my job of over 6 years. In the 12 months following, so many things both positive and negative occurred that I can't honestly decide if it was a good year or a bad one. The only certainty is that it will forever influence my life.

When I think about any of the situations I faced last year, I realize that either I was ready or not. Everything I had done up to a certain point prepared me for it. This maybe obvious in a job scenario, but it applies equally well to health issues or personal matters. It really isn't an excuse for someone to say that they didn't have time to prepare. Every day we automatically prepare ourselves for tomorrow.

I don't have any advice or motivational message here. Just that when I pause and look back I know I'm glad I did do some things correctly and took care of myself. And when the situation was bleak, only then do I begin to see the negative things left to fester.

The little things, good or bad, they all add up.

Posted in: General, Life, Philosophy,

The Box Set

I recently went through the Sopranos Box Set (83 hrs over 30 dvd's). I could write novels on the subject matter, but this post has nothing to do with that. Rather I would like to share a greater frustration: Swapping so many discs is the most annoying experience when watching a full television show.

I would have rather spent a few days ripping all discs to some home networked media server or even paid $$ to have the episodes streamed online (but I can't since I have to subscribe to HBO). Swapping discs at the end of every 2-3 episodes created an artificial boundary to stop or continue watching. If there was 1 more episode on the disc I might continue but if I was at the last one, I would have to flip through the catalog to find it. Furthermore if I ever wanted to go back to an old episode - not even worth the hassle. Worse yet, when I was traveling I had to have the physical discs and managed to lose (and later recover) them on more than one occasion.

Compare this to Lost which is actually worse: 84+ hrs over 38 discs. But I never went that route, instead I watched all 120 episodes via Netflix. Some nights on a binge I could watch 4 or 5 episodes in succession. Other times I might start watching on my PS3 and continue days later on my laptop (if I were still watching now, I can even use my cell phone).

Watching a complete television show after it is complete in my opinion is much more satisfying than waiting till next week after a good episode or next season after a cliff hanger. You can set your pace. If you have all (or almost all) the seasons in front of you it can be pretty easy to just ignore cable and just watch a few episodes a night, like you can do with Netflix.

Currently I am subscribing to Comcast Cable, just so I can subscribe to Showtime, just so I can watch Dexter. I hate the arrangement. I will cancel cable after the season ends (but most likely repeat again next year). However with Comcast, you get "On Demand" where I can watch every past episode of Dexter for free with my Showtime subscription. Sounds great, BUT ... I can only watch it on my single Comcast HD box. I have to scroll through dozens of menus to get to the later episodes, then repeat those steps to get to the next episode. I can only pause for 1 day and fast forward at 1 speed. ALL using an interface that was outdated 5 years ago!

Watching On Demand cable shows are frustrating.

DVD Box Sets are a further relic of the past.

Sadly Netflix Streaming lacks the catalog of DVD's and the new releases of On Demand, but the experience and convenience are leaps and bounds ahead of either alternative. Netflix recently increased prices for customers with both DVD and Streaming subscriptions, but decreased prices for customers with streaming only. As annoying as price change is, it pales in comparison to the yearly price hikes I've endured from Comcast (e.g. "HD Technology Fee: $8.95/mo").

Imperfect as Netflix is, it is the future. I don't see a future in the DVD Box Set or Cable subscriptions. They both are becoming obsolete.

Server Upgrade, Technology and Bandwidth

My previous post was my first new entry after recently upgrading servers (I ran out of space on the old one and the software was getting too old). This switch compared to past occurrences was significantly more work and more costly. I say more work because I had over 5 years of different sites, tools, configurations and accounts scattered all over and I had to ensure that each piece migrated without disruption. I say more costly because for all the time I have not completely migrated, I need to pay to run 2 servers.

The cost issue is important because I chose a server from the same company at approximately the same price as I did in 2006. The only difference is that I now get 2x CPU, 2x Memory, 4x Disk Space and 10x Bandwidth. Someone might say: "good deal", but that would be incorrect, they should say: "good technology". As technology evolves in a free market, products and services should become less expensive over time.

My site went on-line in 2003, and I can recall when I first used 100MB bandwidth in a month. A few years later I was exceeding 1GB in a single day. While that order of magnitude may not be common, the observation is simple: "needs change". Demand can grow or users can grow.

Read the analysis from any ISP or TelCo about the bandwidth needs of their customers. They give so many (questionable) reasons about costs while intentionally ignoring a basic tendency: needs change. The bandwidth caps which meet the current customer usage will most likely last for years and are becoming more restrictive. New brilliant technologies (for example Netflix) will never flourish (some won't get off the ground), or advanced features like HD Streaming just won't work for more and more consumers.

I understand web-hosting and ISP bandwidth are not technically identical, but the illustration on usage change is the same. I cannot imagine setting myself limits for the next 5 years. I for one have a great deal of new ideas and different uses of my server. Hopefully a new reader won't hit their bandwidth limit before they make it to my site or the countless wonderful services that have come on-line recently.

Posted in: Website, Internet, Technology,